Category Archives: Scripture

What Sin Requires

Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.

Death is the end of sin (Rom. 6:23; James 1:15). Sin has entangled into humanity to such an extent that death is required to rip it out. Sin is a part of humanity’s DNA. You cannot be human and not not sin. In other words, if you are human (and if you are reading this, I assume you are human!), you sin because you are a sinner. You cannot never sin. This is why we must all die; because we are sinners by nature, by our corrupted humanity, by our DNA.

The great Puritan thinker, John Owen, says it this way:

“The body is not only doomed to death by reason of original sin, as death entered upon all on that account; but the body must be brought to death, that sin may be rooted out of it. Sin has taken such a close, inseparable habitation in the body, that nothing but the death of the body can make a separation. The body must be dead because of sin. … Here lies the great mystery of the grave under the covenant of grace, and by virtue of the death of Christ. … A secret virtue shall issue out from the death of Christ unto the body of a believer laid in the grave, that shall eternally purify it, at its resurrection, from every thing of sin.

Be not afraid to enter into darkness: as there is no sting in death, so there is no darkness in the grave. It is but lying so long in the hands of the great Refiner [Jesus}, who will purge, purify, and restore you. Therefore, lie down in the dust in peace.”

And this is why Jesus came, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, fulfilled the whole law God required of humanity, paid the penalty of sin by dying on the cross, was raised from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures, and ascended to the right hand of the Father, and is seated now representing us in Heaven with glorified body.

The Most Important Lessons Children Should Learn Before They’re Adults

1) That Children Would Fear the Lord

Colossians 2:2-4
“…that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments….”

Colossians 1:28
“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with >all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”

Colossians 3:16
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

1 Corinthians 1:30-31
“And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Proverbs 22:4
“The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.”

Proverbs 15:33
“The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.”

Proverbs 19:23
“The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm”

Psalm 111:10
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!”

Proverbs 1:7
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Proverbs 2:5
“then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”

Proverbs 14:27
“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.”

Proverbs 9:10
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

Psalm 103:17
“But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,”

 

2) That Children Would Love God and Others as They Love Themselves

Mark 12:30
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”

Matthew 22:37
“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

Luke 10:27
“And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

1 John 4:7
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

Deuteronomy 6:5
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Leviticus 19:18
“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”

Matthew 19:19
“‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Matthew 22:37–39
“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Mark 12:30–31
“‘And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Luke 10:27
“So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.'”

Romans 13:9
“For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5:14
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

James 2:8
“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well …”

3) That Children Would “One Another” Others
Greet one another – Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Peter 5:14
Comfort one another – 1 Thessalonians 4:18
Forgive one another – Colossians 3:13
Build one another up – Romans 15:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Serve one another – Galatians. 5:13
Bear one another’s burdens – Galatians 6:2
Encourage one another – Hebrews 10:25
Meet with one another – Hebrews 10:25
Be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving toward one another – Ephesians 4:32; Romans 12:10
Receive (welcome) one another as Christ received us – Romans 15:7
Care for one another – 1 Corinthians 12:25
Minister one to another – 1 Peter 4:10
Show hospitality to one another – 1 Peter 4:9
Pray for one another – James 5:16

 

And I pray we adults may learn these, too.

A Reflection on James 1

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. ~James 1:19-27

Most anger is a fleshly anger, an anger produced of man not of the righteousness of God. The point I want to bring out is being a doer of the Word also includes being quick to hear (Proverbs 18:13) and being slow to anger (Proverbs 14:29), as well as, bridling the tongue (Proverbs 12:23; Proverbs 13:16; Proverbs 15:2; Proverbs 15:14). Visiting orphans and widows in their affliction does not outweigh the folly of allowing anger to flourish and the tongue to be unbridled (Proverbs 17:12; Ecclesiastes 10:1).

Other passages to note:

If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. ~1 John 4:20-21

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. ~Matthew 5:43-48 (Luke 6:27-31)

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. ~Matthew 5:22

from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. … Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. ~Ephesians 4:16, 25-27

We must be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only. But if we do get angry, let not the sun go down on our anger; remember, “my little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 2:1).

Reading the Bible – Chronologically

Reading the Bible just makes sense. Reading plans are a dime a dozen. This does not negate or lessen their value, however. But it does make for difficult decisions on which reading plan you use.

This year, I’m using a two-year chronological reading plan (pdf) provided by Providence Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Concord, NC.

I want to be thoughtful when I read, and I did not want to rush through it.

Today’s reading is Genesis 1-2. Will you join me this year?

Romans Tag Cloud

created at TagCrowd.com

This tag-cloud series is to help us understand books of the Bible in summary / theme level understanding.

Living with Kingdom Distinctiveness

There is something significant that happens in Daniel 2 that the English reader typically misses.

When Daniel 2:4 says: ‘The Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic’, the entire text thereafter shifts from Hebrew into Aramaic all the way until Daniel 7:28. Why? Aramaic was the language of the international world of the time (as Latin later became and as English is today).

It was the language that the elites of every country could speak.

Daniel is the only book of both the Old and New Testaments that is written in two languages. It is intentionally a bi-lingual book. What does this tell us? Well, it tells us that the message of Daniel is not just intended for believers/Jews but for all the nations of the world. The book of Daniel is very much a book about how believers are to live “life in the real world”. It is meant to show the entire world through narrative what kingdom distinctiveness (Christian distinctiveness) looks like.

Read Daniel 2:1-49

Notice the two things we must come to terms with if we are to live with distinctiveness:

1) The Location of our Identity

2) The Depth of our lack

Question: Why was Nebuchadnezzar so anxious and troubled? We know that his inner turmoil was great because he’s losing sleep over it. So why was he so troubled in spirit?

It is important to remember that whenever we have negative emotions like this it is usually because we have exalted something finite to a pretended ultimacy. Tim Keller writes,

One of the signs that an object is functioning as an idol is that fear becomes one of the chief characteristics of life. When we center our lives on the idol, we become dependent on it. If our counterfeit god is threatened in any way, our response is complete panic. We do not say, ‘What a shame, how difficult,’ but rather ‘This is the end! There’s no hope!’

Another quotation is very insightful and helpful. Thomas Oden says,

When I interpret some particular possibility as a threat to some value I consider necessary for my existence, I experience anxiety . . . Anxiety becomes neurotically intensified to the degree that I have idolized finite values that properly should have been regarded as limited. The more I worship finite gods, the more I make myself vulnerable to intensified anxiety (Two Worlds, p. 97).

What Thomas Oden is saying is that when something that we consider essential to our existence (i.e. something that we believe we can’t live without) is threatened, we become anxious. And the more our confidence is placed in that finite value (god) the more anxious we become. This is why Nebuchadnezzar is losing so much sleep.

He has placed his confidence in a finite god.

Question: So what is Nebuchadnezzar’s finite god?

Power and Success

Nebuchadnezzar was finding his identity in his achieved power and success as a leader, and he ultimately became unreasonable in his requests (Daniel 2:12).

Usually anxiety comes directly from having our identity in the wrong place

Where might your identity be if you are experiencing intense anxiety at the thought that you might have done very poorly on a test?

Where might your identity be if you are experiencing intense anxiety at the thought of having to speak in front of a group of people?

Where might your identity be if you are experiencing intense anxiety at the thought of not being able to fix something you think you ought to be able to fix?

Where might your identity be if you are experiencing intense anxiety at the thought of your political party losing an election?

You see if you are seeking your identity in anything other than Christ, you will not be able to live in a secular culture with kingdom distinctiveness

The location of your identity is absolutely crucial if you are to live with kingdom distinctiveness. When we build our lives on earthly success, relationships, approval, comfort, popularity, political power, and the like, we lose our distinctiveness though we may engage in a million different Christian activities. Christian distinctiveness is not really seen in what you do.

Christian distinctiveness is seen in where you find your identity

In other words, the distinctiveness of your Christianity is seen at the motivational level because you do not become anxious when you lose power, success, approval, acceptance, comfort, or whatever. That is what shows us to be different and it is what demonstrated Daniel to be different.

Daniel 2:9 If you do not tell me the dream, there is just one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.” 10 The astrologers answered the king, “There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. 11 What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men.” 12 This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon.

What does the word “this” reference? I think we find what “this” references in verse 11.

Daniel 2:11 What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men.”

I believe that it is this statement that enrages him (in verse 12) and leads to the death decree. What does this tell us?

Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful man on earth, but now he is being brought up against the fact that he is still just a man

The dream was bringing him to terms with his limits and finitude. The wise men in v.12 bring up a very sore subject with a powerful person–”you are just another human being”–there are limits to what human beings can actually accomplish. Nebuchadnezzar knows this dream as something to do with his own fall from power, but his inability to discover the meaning is driving the nail deeper with the additional reminder that he is not God.

We must be careful not to think that we are any different than Nebuchadnezzar. Our own desire to be God is seen in numerous ways. Our worry and anxiety often reveals that we are sure we know better than God how our life should go. Much of our drive for beauty or success is a desire for a ‘glory’ and importance that only belongs to God.

People who live with kingdom distinctiveness are well aware of their lack and limits

Anytime we get overly upset at the loss of control in a situation, or the interruption of our plans or schedule, we are demonstrating that we have the same problem as Nebuchadnezzar.

How are you when someone interrupts your plans for a nice leisurely day?

How are you when your political party loses an election?

So if we are to live with kingdom distinctiveness we must come to terms with the location of our identity and our own personal lack. When we do, we hold everything in this world loosely. Nothing really rattles us.

How did kingdom distinctiveness play out in Daniel’s secular context?

I want you to notice the similarities and differences between Daniel’s behavior in chapters 1 and 2.

Similarities:

In chapter 1, Daniel was very tactful. We see this again in chapter 2:14. He is very “tactful” with a pagan (Arioch) who had power over him. He must have been a very winsome, persuasive man, since he knew how to talk attractively to people who should not have been inclined to listen.

Also, we again see Daniel depending on God to reveal that His wisdom is greater than their wisdom. Both chapter 1 and chapter 2 is a ‘wisdom contest’–of God’s wisdom against the Babylonians. In both situations, Daniel literally ‘stuck his neck out’, and if God had not answered or intervened, he would have been lost.

Both times there is both a compliance-and-yet-defiance balance. On the one hand, he is simply doing what the king has demanded–interpreting the dream as a wise man. He is doing his job. Yet on the other hand, he lets it be known very clearly that it is God who is the sole source of what he is doing. “no wise man, enchanter, or magician can explain to the king this mystery.” (v.27)

Daniel is giving God public credit

Differences:

In chapter 1, Daniel does not ‘make a federal case’ out of his conscience problem with eating the king’s food. He does everything he can not to publicly, dramatically profess his faith. He is not needlessly ‘showy and loud’ about his faith. In chapter 1 he only talks to the chief official about it. He does not crow, ‘We are believers! We will not eat defiled food!” There is no note of anything like that.

But here now, in chapter 2, the situation calls for tremendous boldness. He certainly could have told the king the dream without making such a strong statement as he does in v.27-28. He could have easily said, “King, here’s the dream and the interpretation”, instead of loudly saying, “what I am about to do should show you that my God is superior to all the learning and philosophy and religion of your Babylonian civilization!”

It is breath-taking to compare v.27 and v.12. When he says, “no human being can answer your question—only God” in v.27, he is saying exactly what the astrologers said in v.11 that set him into a rage. So Daniel, though he does not have to make such a bold public witness here–does so. While in chapter 1, when he could have done so—he did not.

Why not?

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. 21 He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. 22 He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. 23 I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

I think the answer is that he was a man who sought for mercy and wisdom in prayer (ala Proverbs 26:4-5).

Daniel 6:10 tells us that he prayed three times a day. Daniel was a man of prayer and you can be sure that every time he prayed he was asking God for mercy and wisdom.

It’s important to realize that Daniel did not only seek for mercy and wisdom in prayer. He was also a man who prayed with a spirit of worship and adoration. His prayer of praise in vv.20-23 shows that in prayer Daniel did not only make petitions and requests, but he sought fellowship with and experience of God’s presence. It is not ‘petition’ but adoration that makes a person into the kind of greathearted courageous person that Daniel shows himself to be before the king.

What must we do to pull it off ourselves? How do you actually live with distinctiveness? How do we become people like this?

The answer is found in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The important thing to understand is what the head of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue represents.

Daniel 2:36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37 You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.

So the gold head is Nebuchadnezzar. The point of the gold is to say that this kingdom of the world is considered a dazzling and awesome kingdom. It’s attractive and powerful. It’s where dreams can come true and life can be lived to the fullest. That is some of what the symbolism of the gold points to.

But notice what the feet are made of.

Daniel 2:32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay.

Question: What does this tell us? The very foundation of this dazzling kingdom of man is
weak and fragile. It has no lasting or abiding quality. It will crumble and fall. It’s just a
matter of time.

But notice what we learn in verse 34.

Daniel 2:34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them.

Verses 44-45 tell us more about this cut out rock.

Daniel 2:44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands– a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. “The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.”

Notice that . . .

This stone is “cut out, not by human hands” (v.34). This is in complete contrast to the statue, which is a work of the greatest human art, skill, and craftsman ship.

Stone is the least valuable of all the substances. So the kingdom of God is considered (by the world’s standards) to be something small and insignificant.

In actuality, the kingdom of God is eternal and unconquerable.

But here is the most significant thing we must recognize:

Matthew 21:42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”

Jesus is the stone that (1) the kingdom of God is built upon, and (2) crushes the kingdoms of this earth.

If we are to live with kingdom distinctiveness, we must daily remember that there is no salvation to be found in the world—no lasting identity, no lasting satisfaction, no wholeness.

These things are only found in Jesus.

Why Christianity is True

People are diverse: hair color, hair texture, eye color, shapes of the mouth, one ear is slightly higher than the other, one foot is bigger than the other, not to mention personalities, social scenes we involve ourselves, among a myriad of many other things which make us all different.

But much of the time, our diversity exists at the expense of unity

People long for unity. People long for acceptance. People long to love and be loved, real love.

We see a glimpse of this longing in the Olympics. One good friend connects the 2012 Summer Olympic opening with Revelation 7:

Pondering the desire in every single one of us to see “people of every kindred, tongue, and nation” come together as one.

This is what Revelation 7:9 says,

I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes,

The imagery is stunning. Breathtaking. Real.

Notice there is a crowd of people in which the number of those people cannot be counted! Did you get that? There are so many people present, you cannot count them all. But more importantly,

the people are clothed in white robes

It is possible the people will wear real white robes; I think, though, there is a more important role of these robes. White robes of righteousness because of the Lamb Who is Jesus.

The Prophet Isaiah speaks to this Lamb:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. ~Isaiah 53:7

And Matthew 8:17 alludes to it: This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.’ ~Matthew 8:17; See also Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37; John 12:38; Romans 10:16; Acts 8:32-33; 1 Peter 2:22, 24

The unity of this great, diverse innumerable people is Jesus

The great thing about Christianity is how diverse people are, yet they gather as one in unity around Jesus.

Continued…

Luke 15: The Prodigal Sons

The Prologue and Context of Luke 15

“10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments [robes] of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth her bud, and as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations” (Isaiah 61:10-11)

I’m a huge Lord of the Rings fan – the books, and the movie. And if you’ve watched the movie, at the very beginning is what they call the prologue – which actually takes you back 4800 years from the main events of the Lord of the Rings. And here’s why it’s doing this, it talks about the forging of the one ring and the nine rings and the rings that were given to the elves, it takes you through this massive history up to this battle for Middle Earth, and the reason it does that is it sets the entirety of the story in context. So if you don’t have the prologue and you just jump right in to Frodo, and Gandalf, and Sam, if you don’t know the prologue then you might as well be watching Mary Poppins. With a few more decapitations, obviously. The prologue is so massively important.

The Prologue for the Parable of the Two Sons is Genesis 3

The Fall
1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
(Genesis 3:1-7)

This is a description of our fallenness. Our nothingness.There are some things we need to recognize in what happens in this passage:

1) God’s Word was questioned – “hath God said,…”
2) God’s Word was twisted – “Ye shall not surely die:”
3) Man was said to be lifted up to be like God – “ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”
4) Adam and Eve exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served a created thing rather than their Creator (Romans 1:25)
5) They are now characterized by worldliness

Life on the outside (of the garden) is dominated by worldliness. Let me repeat that. Life is dominated, on the outside, by worldliness. So, really the question is, how do we define worldliness? There are lots of definitions out there. What I want to do here is to give us a bottom line description of worldliness. And here it is – worldliness is performance based living. Worldliness is performance based living.

20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.(Romans 3:10-20)

23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;6 But we are all as an unclean thing , and all our righteousnesses [righteous deeds] are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.7 And there is none that calls upon thy name, that stirs up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.(Isaiah 64:6-7)

12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:(Romans 5:12)

Question: What is all of this saying?
1) Our sin is far worse than we can imagine.
2) Our sin touches every part of our being.
3) Our most righteous deeds are as a polluted garment.
4) Our sinfulness demands punishment by wrath and fury.

Question: What does all of this mean?
1) Your best and most righteous thought this moment is so tainted with sin, it is still enough to condemn you.
2) Your most thoughtful and selfless deed is still so tainted with sin, it is worthless before God.
3) Our worship and praise to God today is worthless because of our sin.

Hang with me! I know there are red flags waving in your head right now! Don’t worry! Stick with me, here! Now THIS is what I want you to get. THIS is what I want you to understand:
There. is. HOPE!

3 For what says the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.(Romans 4:3)

23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Romans 4:23-25)

11 And he (Jesus) said, A certain man had two sons:

12 And the younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.” And he divided unto them his living.
The younger son outright rejected the Father.
The Father divided his possessions between the sons.
13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
The younger son squandered his inheritance.
14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
17 And when he came to himself, he said, “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.’”
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21 And the son said unto him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.”
The licentious / liberal / squanderer / care free [insert descriptions here] type of person is more apt to come to his / her senses and repent.
22 But the father said to his servants, “Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” And they began to be merry.
25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
27 And he said unto him, “Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.”
28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.

The elder son was angry because the Father took a portion of the elder son’s inheritance and gave it to the younger son. In other words, the younger son received more than what was traditionally provided when receiving an inheritance.

29 And he answering said to his father, “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.”
31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
(Luke 15:11-32)

Today I want to dive into worldliness. Well, not into worldliness but the subject of worldliness. Back to the Lord of the Rings, some of the most intriguing characters in that story are the Ring Wraiths, these nine human kings, great kings of old I think they’re called, who were given rings from the Dark Lord Sauron. And when they were given these rings they were bewitched by Sauron, they were enslaved by Sauron, and they actually became less than human. So that now they were no longer visible to the human eye. They were kind of in between physical existence and this other world, and they were enslaved to do his will. And you know, if you’ve seen it, they have these suped up monk robes, where the hood comes down and you can’t see the inside and they have these massive arm holes in the robes. And I remember asking the question, why are they wearing these robes? Well, Tolkien actually tells us why they’re wearing these robes. Listen to this, he says, “The black robes are real robes that the Wraiths wear to give shape to their nothingness.” These fallen men have a profound sense of their fallenness. They have a profound sense of their nothingness. And they wear these robes, not because they like robes, but these robes are their way of covering that fallenness, of covering this profound sense of nothingness.

You know the story of the Ring Wraiths is really not a fictional story. Well it is a fictional story, but it’s not because it captures all of our experience this side of the Fall. That we wear robes, we have a profound sense, we can’t articulate it and it takes years in your 20’s and 30’s and 40’s before you can really begin to get a sense of the depth of your own fallenness. But we wear these robes to cover our fallenness. We put on the robe of sex, we put on the robe of money, we put on the robe of power, we put on the robe of vocational achievement, we put on the robe of educational achievement, we put on this robe and that robe and we’re wearing all these different robes in an attempt to cover our fallenness, in an attempt to cover our nothingness. But we do not only put on robes of sex, money and power, we also put on religious robes. This is why James, for instance, talks about pure and undefiled religion, because we are a people, I am a person who will put on religious activity, I will put on social concern as a robe that is my attempt to cover my own sense of fallenness and brokenness. That is worldliness.

Younger Brother
There’s a great little book by Sinclair Ferguson entitled, Children of the Living God. Fairly early on in the book he talks about the prodigal son in Luke 15 to help us understand a little more about ourselves and how we Christians often perceive our relationship with God. He notes that when the prodigal son finally decided that it was time to return to his father, his plan was to tell his father that he was no longer worthy to be called his son. The prodigal son’s thinking was, “I really messed up. I dishonored my father profoundly when I asked for my inheritance and left with it. I’ve blatantly squandered and belittled his love. So, when I return, I’ll return as his slave not his son. It’s the right thing for me to do.” The reality is that the prodigal is absolutely blind to the enormity of the father’s love for him. “After all that I have done, he certainly cannot treat me or love me any longer as a son!”Sinclair Ferguson sees something in the prodigal’s thinking that parallels how we as Christians often think of God and His fatherly love for us: “Jesus was underlining the fact that – despite assumptions to the contrary – the reality of the love of God for us is often the last thing in the world to dawn upon us. As we fix our eyes upon ourselves, our past failures, our present guilt, it seems impossible to us that the Father could love us. Many Christians go through much of their life with the prodigal’s suspicion. Their concentration is upon their sin and failure; all their thoughts are introspective” (Children of the Living God, 27).When the prodigal son says, “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants’” (Luke 15:18-19), he is thinking in terms of wages earned rather than extravagant love and grace received.The only people who are truly able to turn their eyes outward in mission are those who knowingly live within and enjoy the loving gaze of their heavenly Father. If we are not confident of His love, our eyes will turn inward, and our primary concerns will be our needs, our lack, our disappointment, rather than the needs of those around us. As a result, we’ll be afraid to risk or do the hard thing even if it needs to be done. Or we will do the externals of missional living as an attempt to earn God’s acceptance or to keep him and our fellow-Christians off our back. We will relate to him as if we are wager earners rather than as His dearly beloved children, the ones in whom He delights. Granted, we may not know that this is why we’re doing what we’re doing, but it is what drives us from deep within. At best our hearts will be secretly ruled by thoughts like this, “I will pour myself out for the mission of God. Maybe then, if I do that, God will be pleased with me.” These ways of thinking or living do not flow out of the gospel of grace. The gospel is good news. It’s joy-news because it speaks to us of the Father’s love that has come to us in Jesus Christ.

Elder Brother
As Jesus makes clear at the beginning, this parable is about two sons (Luke 15:11), both of whom are estranged from their father. The younger son manifests his estrangement by breaking the rules and the older son by keeping them. Neither son lives his life in loving communion with the father, which is the point of the parable. Both sons are prodigals, not just the younger one. The older son may have been on “mission” with the father externally—doing what he was “supposed” to do—but he certainly wasn’t on mission with him internally. Once it became clear to him that the father deals with his sons according to grace and not according to merit, his emotional capital and commitment evaporated. No longer was he capable of “serving” the father, nor did he have any interest in aligning himself with the father’s agenda: welcoming home lost sons.Deep underneath the different externals of these two sons’ behavior was the fact that in reality they were both “sons of disobedience,” “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:2-3).

Both of them were profoundly “at odds” with the father. But the beauty, the wonder of the Parable of the Prodigal Sons is that it is ultimately about the father’s love. It is the father’s love that is on display in Jesus’ parable—a love that in uninhibited joy embraces the younger son (Luke 15:20) and goes out to entreat the older to come in and enjoy the celebration (Luke 15:28). In both cases, the father comes to these “sons of disobedience” to bring them into his joy, his home.As gripping as the Parable of the Prodigal Sons is, we must not forget that there is a story behind the story of the Prodigal Sons. Ultimately, the story behind the story is why this parable resonates with us so very deeply. The Story behind the story is the eternal love between God the Father and God the Son in the communion of God the Spirit. When the Son of God became man, he came from the Father’s side (John 1:14, 18).

In other words, the Son who became man was eternally “in the closest and most immediate proximity to the Father” (The Holy Trinity, 385-386), and he came that we might “receive the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).We are the prodigals (both younger and elder) and Jesus, the true and eternal Son, came to bring us home. Man was created in the image of God to participate in the communion between the Father and the Son, but we were cut off from that communion because of our sin and rebellion. As C.S. Lewis puts it, as a consequence of the fall, we all now have a “longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside (“The Weight of Glory”).

The inside of that door, and the story behind the story of the Prodigal Sons, is the communion of love between the Father and the Son. God the Father sent His only true and eternal Son on a mission, and that mission was to bring many wayward and rebellious sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10). That is the Story behind the story of the Prodigal Sons.George MacDonald sheds some light on what I mean:

“The secret of the whole story of humanity is the love between the Father and the Son. That is at the root of it all. Upon the love between the Son and the Father hangs the whole universe” (Proving the Unseen, 67) . . . “The love of God is the creating and redeeming, the forming and satisfying power of the universe . . . It is the safety of the great whole. It is the home-atmosphere of all life” (A Dish of Orts; Chiefly Papers on the Imagination, and on Shakespere, 103) . . . “The whole of the universe was nothing to Jesus without His Father. The day will come when the whole universe will be nothing to us without the Father, but with the Father an endless glory of delight” (Proving the Unseen, 72).

The Gospel of Isaiah

As my study of Scripture continues, my Gospel-Centered approach is evermore strengthened particularly in the Old Testament.

Generally speaking, every act of God consists of all three members of the Trinity. Each member participates- different roles in the same action. An obvious statement, yes; but a statement that must be presented again. The Triune God acts in such a way that the action is from the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit. We see this even at the creation of the universe (Colossians 1:15-19). We know, then, that because all acts of God are through the Son, He, that is Christ, fulfills His role as Mediator.

We also know that Jesus Christ Himself is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4), therefore, He is the face of God. One passage which conveys this thought is John 1:18 which explains, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” In other words, any time God is seen by a man (this would include anytime in the Old Testament), Christ is the One Who is seen because it is the Son Who reveals Him. Further, we have Jesus’ own words that “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” No one has directly seen the Father, except through the Son. As an example, John 12:40-41 tells us that when Isaiah saw the Lord, he was seeing Jesus (Isaiah 6:1-4).

6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.

This amazing vision displays Christ as reigning on high with the train of His robe, signifying his glory, filling the whole temple. This, in turn- I believe, is pointing to the presence of God among people. Christ, whose body being the true temple of God, is filled with all the glory of God and in turn, the presence of the glory of God dwells in believers among men (Colossians 2:9, 2 Peter 1:3-4).

Isaiah 6:2 further describes the scene the prophet saw. “Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.” Significance abounds in particular to these angels who are set apart for worshiping Christ. They too, however perfect and holy they may be, can not look God in the face- face to face as it were. There is a sense of humility these angels possess indicated by the wings which cover their faces, as well as the wings covering their feet and the wings with which they flew.

We are told in Exodus 33:17-23, “And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 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. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

We must note that Moses was not allowed to see God face to face otherwise he would die. Colossians 2:9 explains that, “in Him, that is Christ, the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily…” This is why Moses (and any human) would die if he were to look God in the face because the fullness of God’s glory dwells in Christ. In fact, no created being, however high, could of its own power and by its nature, behold God. None but God can, of himself, see God. Hence, this is why the angels who are set apart to worship Christ can not behold the fullness of God’s glory lest they die. And even more so, because of sin, mankind can not see God face to face lest they too die.

This theme of God’s holiness continues in verse 3, “And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

The holiness of God is such that of the highest degree, the whole earth is full of His glory; not just the temple. Along with the Seraphim, we are created for Christ’s glory and everything we do must proclaim His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). But to see God in all of His glory, that is, face to face, death is most assured.

Further, as a creature proclaims God’s holiness the very foundation of the temple begins to shake: “And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.” After seeing this vision, Isaiah is wrought with inadequacy and begins to understand the depth of his sin before a holy and righteous God and says, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

But how much mercy and grace pursues the prophet, “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” The altar, signifying Christ’s self-sacrifice on the cross, is even far reaching and sufficient for Isaiah! (Hebrews 13:10).

This same atoning work of which Isaiah experienced is also the same atoning work we experience. As John explains, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he, that is Christ, appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” Christ’s atoning work on the cross covers our sin by transforming us into the image of Christ thereby releasing us to do God’s work.

“Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!” Even the holiest of beings can not look Jesus in the face, but we who are lowly and sinful will be glorified, and we will be like Him because we shall see him as He is; we shall see God face to face.

What Christ accomplishes on the cross is the pinnacle of His fulfillment as Mediator. By His work in creation, all of creation declares the glory of God. And by His work of redemption, humanity, once again, declares the glory of God in Christ. As Paul says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’ …to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” This is why the writer of Hebrews can say, “Therefore he, that is Christ, is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”

This is our joy! This is our hope! This is our saving grace. This is our Savior.

Your Right Hand Upholds Me

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.

63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.

5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6 when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

9 But those who seek to destroy my life
shall go down into the depths of the earth;
10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
they shall be a portion for jackals.
11 But the king shall rejoice in God;
all who swear by him shall exult,
for the mouths of liars will be stopped.

The Gospel is so rich. You can not not find the Gospel in this Psalm. Here are my thoughts in bite-size thoughts on the first eight verses:

  • We can only seek God in the Gospel (through Christ) v. 1
  • Jesus is the water of life; He is the One we thirst after. v. 1
  • The sanctuary of God is wherever God lives more specifically with true believers. David looks upon God via memories of corporate worship. v. 2
  • God Himself is better than drawing breath. v. 3, 4
  • David finds all of his longings met in God. v. 5, 6, 7
  • David clings to God with all his might, yet God’s right hand upholds him. We cling to God but Jesus (God’s Right Hand) upholds us in our clinging. v. 8

This is the Gospel. The Gospel is the power unto clinging and the Gospel upholds us in our clinging. It is all of God in Christ.