Friday, August 29, 2008

Propitiation


Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

12 Q. According to God’s righteous judgment we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after: how then can we escape this punishment and return to God’s favor?

A. God requires that his justice be satisfied. Therefore the claims of his justice must be
paid in full, either by ourselves or another.

2) Scripture

Romans 3:23-25a: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”

Comment:

God is just. Everything he does is right and fair. He created us and therefore we answer to him as our judge. When he judges, he judges with perfect justice. Abraham, who was called the man of faith and the friend of God, knew this. Abraham said, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18:25).

But God’s justice creates a problem for sinners. According to God’s justice, sinners must be punished for their sin. God cannot simply overlook his justice. He must be true to who he is, and he is just.

So how does God remain just and yet save us from his righteous judgment? The answer is the cross of Christ. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, according to Romans 3:25, was a propitiation. This word means that Jesus took the judgment and punishment our sins deserved. In taking our punishment, Jesus satisfies God’s justice. God remains just, because his people’s sins have been punished through the sacrifice of his beloved Son!

Now that God’s justice has been met, united to Christ we now have God’s favor and blessing! If we have received Jesus as Lord into our hearts by faith, the favor and blessing God has toward his Son is now shared by us! God showed that he was pleased with Jesus when he raised him from the dead, and now united to Christ, we share in this favor that the Son has with the Father. The reason we delight in the cross as Christians is because it was there that Jesus changed God’s wrath to favor---his judgment to blessing!

Discussion: Explain the word propitiation in terms of God’s wrath and favor. Upon whom
did the wrath of God fall? Upon whom does the favor of God now rest? Why is the word
propitiation such a happy word for Christians?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank God for the fact that he is just, and yet has found a way to save us from our sins without compromising his justice. Pray for a person who needs Christ.

Christ's Directives to his Church

Search the Scriptures

Study 63 --- Luke 24:36-63

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.


44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”


50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.


Comment:

I want to focus our attention on verses 44-49. In these verses our Lord gives direction to his church—his people. Christ gives his people four things.


First, he gives his people a biblical theology in verses 44-46.


The Old Testament is an incomplete book. It is like the first act in a play. It ends with the book of Malachi waiting for the coming of the Lord to his temple.


In Jesus Christ the Old Testament is completed. The second act of the play is unfolded. Promise comes to fulfillment. The Lord himself comes to his temple. Jesus fulfills all the promises, events, offices, institutions, and themes of the Old Testament. He is the seed of the woman who crushes the head of the serpent. He is the One greater than Moses who accomplishes a greater exodus by his death and resurrection. He is the One greater than Joshua who brings his people into a better rest. He is the anointed King, whose heart is fully devoted to the Lord, and has won our battles. He is our high priest who enables us to enter into his Father’s presence by his perfect sacrifice. He is the true prophet, who not only speaks God’s words but is the Word incarnate. In other words, Jesus is the subject of the Bible. The Old Testament is about Christ in his suffering and glory. The Bible is the story of Jesus, and our great privilege is to enter into his story through our baptism/faith.


Second, Christ gives his people a gospel to proclaim to the world in verses 46-47.


Christ’s people are given a task, and that task is to faithfully proclaim the gospel for the salvation of sinful people. Although the overarching goal for the whole universe (ourselves included) is to bring honor to the triune God, yet the unique task of the church is to proclaim Christ’s gospel.
This gospel contains both facts and theology. The facts are Christ’s death and resurrection---his suffering and glory. The significance of those facts, that is, the theology of the gospel is that his death and resurrection were for the forgiveness of sins. We take hold of that forgiveness when we repent, which means to confess our sins and turn away from them as we turn to Christ as the new Lord of our lives.


We dare not get the gospel wrong. The Lord himself has given us the gospel, and it is his people’s responsibility to proclaim it without distortion.


Third, we are placed under the authority of the apostles in verse 48.


Only the first disciples were witnesses to the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we have no right to change their message or modify it in any way at all. The Christian faith is founded upon the eyewitness testimony of the apostles and first disciples. Everything that was preached and taught in the early church had to meet the test of apostolicity. In other words, the apostles possessed a Christ-given authority that continues on to this day. This apostolic authority is found in the New Testament. We are obligated to speak and teach in accord with that authority. We cannot deviate from New Testament teaching if we wish to be faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ.


Fourth, in order to live a faithful life as Christians we need the power of the Holy Spirit.


Jesus said it when he said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” As physically dependent creatures who depend on the Lord for our next heart beat or breath, we surely cannot expect to be independent of the Lord when it comes to spiritual life and strength! The fact is, like Paul we must confess, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” Therefore, we need new life and power for a new heart. We look to Christ for such a heart.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Measuring the Infinite Glory and Majesty of God

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

11. Q. But isn’t God also merciful?

A. God is certainly merciful, but he is also just. His justice demands that sin, committed against his supreme majesty, be punished with the supreme penalty---eternal punishment of body and soul.

2) Scripture

Psalm 90:11: Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?

Comment:

In our criminal justice system there is a simple rule: the greater the crime committed, the greater the punishment imposed. The worst crime in our criminal justice system is murder, which sometimes is punished by death or lifelong imprisonment. What makes murder so wrong?

Man was created in the image of God. An attack against man is an attack against God, in whose image we were created. This makes the murder of a human being much more serious than killing a grasshopper or an ant, for example.

If it is a great crime to sin against man because he is in God’s image, then consider how great a crime it is to sin against God himself! And, in a sense, all sin is directed against God.

There is an order or hierarchy in God’s creation from the lowest amoeba to cats and dogs to human beings. Even among humans there are policemen, judges, and leaders who deserve special honor, and a crime against them calls for even harsher punishment. But God deserves total honor from human beings. God deserves an absolute reverence, fear, and love that reaches the heavens!

The point is that human rebellion against God’s supreme majesty deserves the supreme penalty. If you can measure how valuable God’s name and glory are, then you can measure the punishment people deserve for their dishonor of God’s glory and name. My guess is that we can’t measure his infinite name and glory, therefore we can’t measure his punishment, which, amazingly, Jesus Christ took in our place!

Discussion: In Q&A 11, what two nouns does the adjective supreme modify? In Q&A 11, how long is the punishment of hell? Why is killing an ant not a terribly big deal, but murdering a human being results in harsh punishment? Why is sin against God worse than sin against a human being? Have you learned anything about how serious sin against God is?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer praise God for his supreme majesty. Ask him to help you
understand and know the reverence you owe him. Confess areas of your life where you haven’t honored him as you should. Thank the Father for Jesus Christ who honored God in our humanity and who bore the punishment that we deserved on the cross.

Christ's Life to Us Via His Word

Search the Scriptures

Study 62 --- Luke 24:13-35

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.


28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Comment:

All spiritual and physical life flows to us through the resurrected Christ. But this life of Christ comes to us via words---God’s words. This is seen when we compare two descriptions of the hearts of these two disciples:

  • Verse 25: And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
  • Verse 32: They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
What will warm our cold hearts? What will bring life to our spiritually dead hearts? What will move us from foolish to wise people, who understand life and its meaning? The answer is the word of Jesus Christ! Life and wisdom is found in Jesus Christ, but he communicates his life to us through his word.

So let’s seek the life, love, and wisdom that are found in Christ by feeding on the Word of God. Let’s pray that the resurrected Christ will open our eyes and hearts to see and feel, so that we might know Christ in a transforming way.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Sola Panel | When too much Word is never enough

It is probably impossible to overemphasize the importance of the Word of God in our walk with the triune God. This post from The Sola Panel emphasizes the point that Jesus made that man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Mat. 4:4)

The Sola Panel When too much Word is never enough

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Thinking About God's Justice and Mercy

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

11. Q. But isn’t God also merciful?

A. God is certainly merciful, but he is also just. His justice demands that sin, committed against his supreme majesty, be punished with the supreme penalty---eternal punishment of body and soul.

2) Scripture

Exodus 33:18-19: Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”

Comment:

Some people picture God as kind of like a sentimental old grandfather who winks at sin. In this false view of God, sin really isn’t that serious, and therefore sin is easy to forgive or overlook.

But the truth about God as he tells us about himself in the Bible is different. Yes, God is merciful and loving, but he is also just and holy. The Lord can’t simply overlook sin and rebellion. If the Lord is going to be merciful, he must do it without compromising his justice. God can’t stop being just, in order to be merciful!

This is why the only way to save the human race was through the cross. At the cross the justice of God was satisfied, so that his mercy and grace could flow to sinners. Do you remember how the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side on the cross? Out of his side flowed blood and water, symbols of the mercy and grace now available to us from the Lord.

It is important to see, however, that no one deserves God’s mercy and grace. When Christ judges the human race at the last day, no one will be able to accuse him of being unjust. He will give rebellious sinners what they deserve, and that is justice. But, also, no one will be able to accuse God of being unmerciful, for God is under no obligation to be merciful to guilty sinners. Mercy and grace for God involve the choice to give to someone what they don’t deserve. If the Lord chooses to be merciful and gracious to us, then he is giving us what we don’t deserve. He is giving us grace, which none of us deserve to receive from God.

Discussion: How do we see God’s justice displayed at the cross? How do we see God’s mercy displayed at the cross? At the last day, will anyone be able to complain that God did not deal justly with him? At the last day, will anyone be able to complain that he deserved mercy from God?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank God that he is a just judge and that his ways are always
right, even if the reasons for his decisions are partially hidden from our view. Thank him for the cross where his mercy and justice are displayed. Praise him for his glory that both his mercy and justice show. Ask for the humility to let God be God in his role as judge, and to trust and depend on the Lord as a creature, who sees God’s good will toward him in the cross.

Judgment and Salvation


Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

10 Q. Will God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?

A. Certainly not. He is terribly angry about the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit. As a just judge he punishes them now and in eternity. He has declared: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the Law.”


2) Scripture

Acts 10:42-43: “And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Comment:

Sin is always punished by God. Does this surprise you? According to God’s Word, all disobedience and rebellion is punished by God. In a certain sense, God has no choice to punish sin, because he is our judge and he is holy. As the holy judge, Jesus Christ must give sin what it deserves, and God’s Word clearly tells us that sin deserves death, which is eternal separation from God.

This truth that all sin is punished by God flows from two facts. The first fact is that the punishment of believers’ sins was placed on Christ at the cross. Jesus bore the punishment we deserved. So some people’s sins received their punishment at the cross. But, second, the ultimate punishment for the sins of unbelievers is delayed until Christ returns “as judge of the living and the dead.” Some people’s sins are punished at the last day. So the punishment of sins in a sense is hidden from many people’s eyes, until it is made known through the preaching of the law and the gospel.

Remember that we are still in the law section of the catechism. The law of God accuses and threatens. The law’s threats of punishment are real and we will experience them unless we turn to Christ and his gospel.

In Acts 10:42-43 we see how closely linked are the law and the gospel, and how they must be preached together. God has commanded us to preach that Jesus is the “judge of the living and the dead.” Ministers who avoid preaching about judgment are disobedient. People who proclaim the gospel without warning of judgment are disobeying God’s own command, according to Acts 10:42! We must be willing to endure the world’s hatred along with Christ when he said, “The world . . . hates me because I testify that what it does is evil” (John 7:7). The good news is that if a person will come to Jesus and welcome him as Lord of his life, then that person will experience the complete forgiveness of his or her sins.

Discussion: Why can we say with such certainty that God punishes all sin? Why is God’s punishment of sin hidden from the eyes of so many people? What command does God give about judgment in Acts 10:42, and why are people/ministers tempted to disobey this command?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank the Father that Jesus was willing to take the punishment
our sins deserved. Pray that the Lord would make you and Christian ministers faithful in telling others the truth about God’s judgment and salvation, which sometimes makes us unpopular. Pray for a non-Christian you know.

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?"

Search the Scriptures --- Study 61, Luke 24:1-12

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

Comment:

I want to focus our attention on these words of the angels: “Why do you seek the living among the dead.”


The resurrection shows that Jesus Christ is the living Lord. Death could not hold him, for he is the living One. Many times in the Old Testament the Lord is described as the living God. By his resurrection it was shown that Jesus is not only the Christ, but also the living God. Jesus is the source of all physical and spiritual life in the universe.


In the Old Testament we also learn that our God is the living Lord in contrast to the dead idols. The Old Testament teaches that idols are non-entities or nothings. There is only one true God and he is the living God, Israel’s Lord. Baal and Zeus, Woden and Thor have been relegated to the dust heap of history, for they never existed. By his resurrection, Jesus is shown to be the living Lord in contrast to these dead idols.


And yet, we are told again and again to be on our guard against these dead idols (for example, 1 Jn. 5:21). But if these idols have no existence, then why must we guard ourselves against them?
The answer is that even though idols are non-entities, they did represent certain powers of the created order. For example, Baal was the storm god who was thought to bring rain and fertility in the agricultural sphere. Powerful created forces like rain, sex, wealth, authority, emotions, reason, and tradition were the sorts of powers that the gods personified. When people worshipped Baal, they were really worshipping the creation and their own desire to control the earth and its production.


Today we have forsaken the names of the gods, but we still worship creatures like rain, sex, love, authority, and reason. In fact, we can worship practically any created thing---seeking life among dead idols rather than the life found in the living, resurrected Lord.


When the angels teach us that Jesus is the resurrected and living Lord, are they not also implicitly teaching us to look for life only in him? Surely the Christian must look for physical and spiritual life only in Jesus Christ who is the living Lord by virtue of his resurrection. If we look anywhere else for life, then we are seeking life among dead idols.


Today I read again the parable of the prodigal son. The prodigal leaves his father to find life in a foreign land. But eventually he finds himself famished and hungry. So after coming to his senses, he decides to return to his father. He says to his father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Having returned, the father graciously received his son back into his favor, and then he says this about his son: “For this my son was dead, and is alive again.”


Now, in this parable, the father stands for our heavenly Father; the son stands for the person who has repented and returned to the Lord seeking forgiveness and pardon. But what do we learn from this line: “For this my son was dead, and is alive again.”


Don’t we learn, first, that true, satisfying life for human beings is found only in relationship with the living God?


We were created to live all of life in relation to God. Every area of our lives---those things we mentioned earlier like sex, authority, wealth, emotions, reason, tradition, and every area of our lives must be lived in relation to the living God. The moment we sever any part of our lives from the Lord and begin to live autonomously and independently, we are involving ourselves in idolatry. We are seeking life among dead idols rather than seeking life in relation to our living, resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.


Second, don’t we learn from this line, “my son was dead, and is alive again,” the need for repentance and God’s sheer grace?


In our society today we are taught a self-esteem, self-worth gospel. But did the prodigal son think he was worthy? No. He said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Our sin has made us unworthy of a relationship with God our Father. Sin is a heinous thing because it separates us from God.


But when we repent and confess our sin and unworthiness, the Lord in his sheer grace accepts unworthy sinners. He brings us back into communion with himself, so that we enjoy an ever-present feast of fellowship with the Father and the Son. In Luke 15:22, the father says, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.”


This symbolism is surely pointing to restored fellowship with our heavenly Father on the basis of the sheer grace that Jesus Christ merited for us by his atoning sacrifice.


Have you and I come to the place where, truly, we who once were dead are now alive, because we have acknowledged our unworthiness and have come to know the gracious acceptance of our Father for Christ’s sake? If we are now alive in Christ, then let’s live all of our life in relation to our living Lord and heavenly Father. Let’s not seek life in dead idols, but only in our living and resurrected Lord! Let the angels sound the warning in our ears and let us heed their message: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

Monday, August 18, 2008

Voting for the Right Representative


Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

10 Q. Will God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?

A. Certainly not. He is terribly angry about the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit. As a just judge he punishes them now and in eternity. He has declared: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the Law.”


2) Scripture


Romans 5:12-19: Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.


15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.


18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.

Comment:

Our tendency as sinful human beings is to fight against God and his ways. This comes so naturally to us as sinners that we fail to see how wrong it is. Q&A 10 shows us the way things really are. We can fight against the way things really are to our own harm or we can accept the truth revealed to us from God in his Word.

Two difficult to accept truths are taught in Q&A 10. The first difficult truth is that God is angry about sin. Scripture is replete with the truth that God hates sin and that his holy reaction to sin is anger or wrath. The catechism says that God “is terribly angry about the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit.” The good news is that the Son of God himself came to take away God’s anger through his atoning or propitiatory sacrifice.

The second difficult truth is that we are guilty in Adam, i.e., “the sin we are born with.” The original sin that we received from Adam not only poisons our nature, but it also makes us guilty before God. God is angry, not just about the sins we personally commit, but also about the original sin we inherited from Adam. How can this be?

Adam was our representative. Just as in the United States our representatives vote for us in congress, so Adam voted for us in the garden. His vote in the garden was for sin and rebellion, rather than for obedience and love to God. We voted in Adam, and with Adam.

Before we complain this isn’t fair, remember that God provided a second representative named Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has also voted for his people. His vote was not a “no” to God like Adam, but a “yes” to God. Jesus chose to obey and love God the Father. Through this second representative we are justified as Christ’s blood and righteousness are imputed to us, just as Adam’s guilt and unrighteousness were imputed to us before we came to Christ.

The question for all people today is a simple one: Who will you vote for? Will you vote for Adam or Christ? By coming to Jesus as your Lord, you can have a new representative. You can leave the representation of Adam, for a new representative and government with Jesus as your Lord and Savior! Won’t you vote for Jesus Christ, by placing your faith in him?

Discussion: Why is it hard for us to accept the way things are, namely, that God is angry about sin and that Adam was our representative? How does the cross where Jesus died, bearing God’s anger, help us to accept the difficult truth of God’s righteous anger against sin?
How does God providing Jesus as our new representative help us to accept the fact that Adam was our first representative?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank the Father that Jesus is your new representative, who
frees you completely from God’s anger against sin and gives you his perfect favor instead. Pray for a family member or church member who is hurting.

Three Benefits of Christ and His Cross



Search the Scriptures

Study 60 --- Luke 23:44-56

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

Comment:

The cross was the most momentous event in the history of the world. It has dominated the book of Luke. Early on in Luke we saw the cross on the distant horizon when Simeon spoke to Mary about her baby son, saying, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” As we move forward in Luke’s book, the shadow of the cross increases. During his ministry, Jesus spoke continually of the cross, predicting his death upon it. For example, in Luke 18:31-33, we read his words: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” Finally in Luke’s Gospel, in verse 44, Christ enters the deep darkness of the cross, of which the darkness over the land was but a symbol.

Michael Wilcock writes of the cross this way: “Let no reader imagine that he has begun to understand the Christ of the gospel---or indeed the gospel of Christ---unless the cross has come to dominate his horizon also. Only when he has sought it, and reached it, and let it fill his vision, as it filled the vision of the Lord and of his evangelist, can he say that he is beginning to see what the Christian faith is about.”

Let’s notice three things about the cross from verses 44-46.

First, the cross presents a great crisis of decision for every person in the world (v. 44).

Darkness, in the Old Testament (OT), is associated with the coming day of the Lord. The day of the Lord was portrayed in the OT as a day of both judgment and salvation. It was a day of judgment for the enemies of Jahweh, and a day of salvation for his own people. Darkness and other cosmological events were commonly associated with this day.

In verse 44 we see that the cross was the day of the Lord. It was a day of both judgment and salvation. It was a day of judgment upon the Lord’s enemies and salvation for his people.
But what is exceptional is the person who is judged at the cross. It is the holy and innocent Christ who is judged. It is the righteous one of whom even his executioner, the centurion, said, “Certainly this man was innocent!” who is judged.

If he is innocent, then, why is he judged? He is judged on account of our sins. He is dying as our substitute---the innocent for the guilty. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

But if Christ is judged, then, who is saved? The answer is that all are saved who will receive him as Lord and Savior. Our sins need no longer bar us from salvation and God’s favor, for Christ has died for our sins. If we will but come to Jesus as our Lord, we can be saved and forgiven.

But this is where we see the crisis. For anyone who refuses to welcome Christ as Lord must face the judgment that Christ bore by himself or herself. The man who will not have Christ as his sin-bearer, must bear his sin and its punishment himself. This is why the cross presents a great crisis of decision for every person in the world.

Second, the cross enables us to live in the house of the Lord forever (v. 45).

That most beloved psalm, Psalm 23 ends this way:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

When the temple curtain was torn in two this symbolized that the way was now open into the heavenly temple above, where Christ dwells after his resurrection and ascension. Already by faith, believers dwell in the Lord’s presence above. Christians are heavenly people, who dwell continually in the Christ’s presence by faith.

Third, the cross shows us that we too have a heavenly Father we can trust (v. 46).

Jesus is quoting Psalm 31 in verse 46. Psalm 31 is a psalm of David, the righteous sufferer, who trusts in the Lord to deliver him from his enemies. Jesus is the true David whose suffering is merely foreshadowed by David. Even on the cross, Jesus trusted in his Father to deliver him, even from that final enemy of death. Thus, he trusts that the Father will raise him from death on the third day, even as he suffers death for our sake.

But now, Jesus’ Father is our Father too, if we have welcomed Jesus as our Lord of our lives. Our Father has delivered us from our great enemies of sin, Satan, and death. No longer do we have to fear these enemies for our Lord Jesus has conquered these enemies on our behalf. Having been freed, we can now live a new kind of life as we trust in our heavenly Father and his love and care for us.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Sola Panel | The evangelical inferiority complex

The Sola Panel | The evangelical inferiority complex

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God's Amazing Love: Satisfying His Own Righteous Wrath


Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

10 Q. Will God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?

A. Certainly not. He is terribly angry about the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit. As a just judge he punishes them now and in eternity. He has declared: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the Law.”

2) Scripture

1 John 4:10: In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Comment:

Q&A 10 is a shock to our system! Most people never consider the truth that God is “terribly angry about the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit.” Many unbelievers today would say to us, “How can you believe in a God who is angry over sin? I don’t want to worship a God who gets angry about sin. I don’t think sin is that big a deal.”

The problem with this attitude, however, is that sin is a big deal to God. In order to bring us forgiveness, God himself had to become a man and endure his own anger against sin! On the cross the Son of God was bearing the punishment and anger of God against our sin, so that we might have God’s favor instead of his anger. This is what 1 John 4:10 teaches us when it calls Christ’s sacrifice a “propitiation.”

Unbelievers may complain about God’s anger against sin, but no one can say that God does not care or love us, for he himself was willing to come and endure his own righteous anger against sin!

Instead of complaining about the just consequences of our sin, which the Lord plainly told us was death and the loss of his favor (Gen. 2:17), we should be thankful that our God cared enough to come to earth, take on our human nature, and suffer in our place! How great is God’s love for us that he bears his own righteous anger against sin in the person of his Son, at the cross. O how gracious and merciful this God is to take the punishment his creatures deserved because of their rebellion, so that we might not have to ever take this punishment ourselves!


Discussion: Do most people think that God is angry about sin? How does the cross show that sin is a “big deal” to God? Which attitude pleases the Lord, complaining about his anger against sin or thanking him that he was willing to bear his own righteous anger at the cross?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank the Father that the Son was willing to die as the one who
would turn away God’s righteous wrath/anger against our sin. Pray for an unbeliever you know, that they might realize the great love of God for them displayed at the cross.

A Post About Accepting Difficult Truths in God's Word

One of the hardest doctrines or truths to accept in the Bible is its teaching about hell. One objection thoughtful people have is that the punishment of hell does not fit the crime. In other words, Why should our sins in time be punished eternally?

There are two different ways to answer. First, our sins are committed against the infinite majesty of God. We all know that certain crimes are agrravated when they are committed against people with important offices such as judges, police officers, and presidents. But God's majesty is infinite, and so crimes against God deserve a punishment that is infinite. Consider Psalm 90:11:

Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?

God's wrath is equal to the fear and reverence he is due. But who can put a limit on the reverence due to the Creator, Sustainer, King, Delight, and Joy of the universe?

The second answer concerning problems with the eternity of hell is the consideration that rebels against God's majesty will continue in their rebellion. And, since their sin continues, so must the wages of their sin continue.

Below is a post from the blog In All Honesty. I can resonate with the sentiments in this brief post. As she correctly puts it, "If I am uncomfortable with the idea of hell . . . then that's my problem, not God's."

hell: too hard to believe?

I was enjoying an excellent Bible talk by our minister John on something completely unrelated, when my mind did a flip-flop, and I realised: it's the whole deal with God.

If I believe the Bible is God's word, and God speaks the truth, and nothing but the truth, then I have to believe even the bits of the Bible I'm uncomfortable with.

If I'm uncomfortable with the idea of hell (which I am) then that's my problem, not God's.

Do I trust God to be wiser than me? (Answer: yes.) Do I believe God speaks the truth in his word? (Answer: yes.) Do I know God is absolutely just, perfectly good, completely loving? (Answer: yes.) Do I trust God to have understood all the ins and outs of how something like hell can be just, fair and loving, even when it doesn't make sense to me? (Answer: yes.)

Do I believe that my loving Father, who sent his only Son to die on the cross, and suffer the agonies of hell for me, did this capriciously, unlovingly, or unnecessarily? (Answer: no way.)

So how can I possible think I'm justified in holding my own opinion about what's right, and my preferences for what's comfortable, and my feelings about what's acceptable, above God's love, goodness, and wisdom? How dare I prefer my wisdom to his?

Then why do I hold back part of my mind in reservation when it comes to believing in hell?

What else am I holding in reservation? In what areas am I saying to God "I will believe your word if it says ... , but not if it says ... ?" How am I saying to God "I am wiser / fairer / more loving than you?"

What parts of the Bible do I find it too hard to accept?

Questions worth asking.

Further reading on hell (and I admit here and now I have avoided this topic and only skim-read these excellent-looking posts - sorry my fellow bloggers!) include Gordo's posts on hell and Honoria's posts on hell. Here's an article by J.I.Packer on annihilationism and some helpful-looking links and articles on annihilationism and hell.

I should do some more reading on this topic, but I don't want to.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Sola Panel | The indivisibility of truth

This brief article is teaching us something vital about the truth of the Christian faith. It teaches us that by losing one Christian truth we lose other related truths, and the great danger is that we lose the Person who is the truth, in whom everything holds together.

The Sola Panel The indivisibility of truth

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Adam the Lead Sheep and Christ the Lamb of God and Shepherd of His People


Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

9 Q. But doesn’t God do us an injustice by requiring in his law what we are unable to do?

A. No, God created human beings with the ability to keep the law. They, however, tempted
by the devil, in reckless disobedience, robbed themselves and all their descendants of these gifts.

2) Scripture

Isaiah 53:6:

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on himthe iniquity of us all.

Comment:

When Adam was first created he was able to obey God’s commands. But after Adam sinned, a change took place. After his sin, Adam’s mind, emotions, desires, and will changed. He no longer wanted to obey God’s commands, and when he tried, he found he could not obey God’s commandments from a whole heart.

This change of heart is what the catechism refers to when it says we are unable to obey God’s law. Adam’s bad heart has been passed down to us. Just like our parents pass down certain characteristics like hair color or eye color or facial expressions, so Adam has passed down his bad heart or corrupt nature to the human race.

What this means is that God’s commands still stand, but we have no desire or ability to obey them. We are in a bad position, because God requires an obedience which we can no longer give, the way Adam could before he sinned.

Adam was sort of like the lead sheep. Sheep follow the leader. All of us followed Adam in his sin, because we inherited his nature. Just as Adam went astray, so we left God to follow after our sin.

Is there a way back to God? Yes, there is! Isaiah 53:6 talks about the way back. God sent his Son who became a man. At the cross all of our iniquity and sins were laid on Jesus, and all of his righteousness is laid on us if we put our trust in him. Peter puts the truth of our return to God, this way in 1 Peter 2:24-25:

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” Jesus is the lamb of God whose wounds heal us. But Jesus is also the Shepherd and Pastor (overseer) of our souls!

Discussion: When Adam was first created, was he able to obey God’s commands? After Adam’s sin, was he able to perfectly obey God’s commands? After Adam’s sin, did he want to obey God’s commands? Are we like Adam before or after his fall into sin? Look up 1 Peter 1:25. Does God change the requirements of his commands?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank the Father that Christ bore our sins so that we might return to him as the Shepherd of our souls. Pray that you “might die to sin and live to righteousness,” near Christ your Shepherd.

The Sola Panel | Dread, joy and Morning Prayer

As a golfer I found the illustration in this post by Tony Payne interesting. But as an unworthy sinner in need of God's unmerited grace, I found these gospel words much needed for my soul.

The Sola Panel Dread, joy and Morning Prayer

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Lessons from the Cross


Search the Scriptures



Study 59 --- Luke 23:32-43


Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”



39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”




Comment:


We can learn a number of lessons from this passage:

First, we see Jesus as a model for our lives as he forgives. Human beings were created to reflect God’s character in their lives. This idea of reflection or imitation is repeatedly taught in the Old Testament. For example, Leviticus 19:2: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Or, Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”


I have run into people who excuse their lack of forgiveness on the grounds that they cannot forgive as God forgives, because they are not God. But a key concept in the ethical teaching of Scripture is that human beings are created to reflect God’s character in their lives. Jesus is surely a model for us when it comes to forgiveness, for he teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”


Second, we see a false theology of glory in the words of Jesus’ opponents. First the rulers, then the soldiers, and then the criminals all give their counsel: “Save yourself.” The words are demonic, for if Christ would have saved himself, we would have perished forever, and God’s gracious plan of salvation would not have been accomplished.


This counsel continues to be part of the theology of glory that Martin Luther opposed. A theology of glory is a theology that says that we ourselves will ascend into heaven by something we are or do. The enemies of Jesus were counseling him to save himself by his own power.


Whenever we are told that we must save ourselves by our own goodness, reason,, deeds or piety we are buying into a demonic theology of glory. The truth is that we are saved by the cross of Christ, and not by anything we do. We ascend to heaven when we believe the gospel, not when we try to save ourselves.


Third, we see what is involved in the conversion of a sinner. Jesus is crucified between two criminals. One not only dies, but enters into hell. The other dies, but enters into paradise. How did this criminal, who had lived such a wicked life that he deserved the death penalty, enter into paradise with Christ?


  • First, this man was convinced of his sin. He came to realize what he deserved from the hand of God. He says, “We are receiving the due reward of our deeds.” Until we see ourselves in relation to God, we will never truly see ourselves. But when we see God’s sovereignty, holiness, and purpose for our lives, then we begin to see our rebellion, corruption, and the failure of our lives. Only then do we become candidates for God’s grace/favor.


  • Second, the man was convinced that Jesus was Lord or King. He may not have perfectly understood the substitionary atonement or the relation of the two natures of Christ, but somehow he came to believe that Jesus was the King who would soon establish his kingdom. That faith in Christ, imperfect though it may have been, was enough to bring him into God’s kingdom.

Fourth, we see that Jesus came to take away the effects of sin. Jesus’ use of the word paradise is noteworthy. It is the Greek word used to translate the Hebrew word for garden.


Our first parents lived in the garden of Eden in fellowship with God, but were forced to leave because of their sin and rebellion. Jesus came to bring us back into fellowship with himself and his Father through his work on the cross. The great barrier to fellowship with the triune God is sin, but at the cross our sin was laid on Christ, so that we might be forgiven, justified, and restored to fellowship with our God.


For those who place their faith in Jesus as King, asking for his mercy, everything changes. Forgiveness is granted. Fellowship with God is restored. Death is no longer to be feared, for it becomes an entrance into paradise.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Lord's Powerful Preaching of Law and Gospel


Reading:

1) Heidelberg
Catechism

8 Q. But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?

A. Yes, unless we are born again, by the Spirit of God.

2) Scripture

Genesis 3:8-15, 21: 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Comment:

Before their sin, Adam and Eve communed with the Lord without the dread of punishment. After they rebelled against the Lord through disobedience, all of this changed. Our first parents hid from the blessed presence of the God for whom they were made.

Because we have all inherited Adam and Eve’s sin, we do the same thing. We run from the triune God, rather than run into his wonderful presence. We no longer desire or enjoy the presence of a holy God, unless the gospel and Spirit of God changes our hearts. Because of punishment, we dread the presence of God.

If people are running from God and hiding from him because of inborn sin, then how does the Lord change us? How does the Lord change us so that we seek him, rather than running from his holy presence?

The answer is that the Lord calls us to himself by his words. Just as the Lord used words to call to Adam in the garden, so he still calls us today. The Lord uses words to change us.

We often think that words are weak and powerless. But when words are spoken by the Lord, they can create and bring about the new birth as the Spirit of God plants Christ’s gospel word in our hearts.

After Adam’s sin, in Genesis 3:9 we read: “But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” First, the Lord uses words to show us our true condition before him. Through the law, God shows us our sin and its dangerous consequences. The Lord wants us to consider our true situation before him. We are sinners who have rebelled against the loving rule of our holy God, King, and Father.

After the law does its work of showing us our sin and bringing us to confess our sins, the next thing the Lord does is to use the healing words of the gospel. The gospel tells us that it is safe for us to come back to God. God will receive us back into his favor, for he has provided for our forgiveness through a sacrifice.

How did the Lord provide for this forgiveness of sins? In Genesis 3:15, the Lord himself preaches the gospel. Genesis 3:15 points forward to the cross of Christ. At the cross Satan was crushed, even as he bruised our Lord’s heel. Even in the garden, forgiveness came through the work of Jesus Christ, though it lay in the future. The garments of skin that covered the first couple were provided by sacrificial animals. These animal sacrifices pointed forward to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and the way in which Christ’s blood and righteousness covers all of our sin, both original sin and actual sins! When we are covered by Christ’s sacrifice, then we are safe to enter once again into the blessed presence of the holy God and his communion.

Discussion: How does the Lord call people to himself? What do God’s holy law show us? What does God’s gospel show us? How do Genesis 3:15 and 3:21 point to Jesus Christ and his work for us?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank the Lord for calling you to himself by the gospel, which announces that it is safe to return to God through the sacrifice of his Son. Pray that you will continue to hear and believe God’s word of law and gospel to you all of your life.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Our Deepest Motivation


Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism


8 Q. But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?

A. Yes, unless we are born again, by the Spirit of God.

2) Scripture


Ephesians 5:8-10: for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

Comment:

Are people really unable to do any good? Q&A 8 of the catechism seems hard to believe at first, until we start to think about it. If a person does not belong to the Lord, then his motivation for doing good is not to please the Lord. Only a Christian is motivated by the desire to please the Lord. Therefore, we would say that non-Christians can do good things, but never from a right motive. Non-Christians never do anything out of love for their triune Creator and Lover of their souls, for whom they were made to live with in closest communion.

Without this motive of pleasing the heavenly Father and the Son whom he sent, people are corrupt at the very spring of their being, that is, in their deepest motivation. I was recently watching a documentary on the Olympics. The question was asked, what motivates an Olympic champion? Every former champion interviewed admitted that their motivation was selfish---to please themselves in some way. No one answered that their goal was to glorify and please their heavenly Father. How different was Jesus’ motivation! He said, “He who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (John 8:29).

The main thing that Q&A 8 is trying to show us is that no one can come to Christ without the working of the Holy Spirit. People are not seekers after the true God because of sin, which causes us to put self ahead of Jesus. Because of our sinful natures, “no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:11b). Apart from God’s Spirit, all people are doing exactly what Adam and Eve did in the garden --- running away from God and hiding from him. Apart from God’s Spirit, people are not seeking God and coming to him to receive mercy and pardon through the sacrificial work of his Son.

However, know this: If you do desire to come to the triune God for forgiveness and fellowship with the Father and the Son, then this is a sign that you have been born again. The Holy Spirit has done, and is doing, something wonderful in your heart. He is changing your deepest motivation from living for self to living for the Father and the Son!

Discussion: What should motivate a person to do good? Do non-Christians live their lives with the desire to please the Lord? What was Jesus’ motivation, and how should we be like him?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank the Lord for working in your heart, so that you seek to please him. Pray that the Spirit will continue to give you a new motivation. Pray for non-Christians you know who are running from the Lord --- that instead they might run to him.

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