Archive for the ‘Passage’ Category

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Thoughts of the Father

March 27, 2009

This struck me while reading John Owen’s Mortification of Sin (131, Crossway 2006). Luke 15:11-13a (emphasis mine)

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country

We find ourselves in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. Notice how the son abandons the father and goes to a far country.

Luke 15:17-20a

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 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.”‘ And he arose and came to his father.

Now notice the son, just by remembering the father and the father’s generosity. The son also understands the deep grace of his father, being willing to return such a great distance. And on the way back from this far country he has no money, no food yet he is sustained by the thought of the father. And he thought only of being a servant, not a son again!

How much more should we be sustained by thoughts of our Heavenly Father as we seek to follow our Lord Jesus through this life to live with Him forever as His adopted son, sharing in the great inheritance of our brother Jesus. It is worth so much more than this ragged, hungering, dirty, sin-stained walk through this far country.

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Reflecting with a friend (Galatians 3:23-29)

October 10, 2007

A friend posted yesterday with some frustration and encouragement for us to “read, interpret and apply the following passage to you and your relationship to 1) Christ, and 2) your church — especially verse 28, which I have highlighted in bold”. The following is that passage (the bold is retained), Galatians 3:23-29:

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

My reading of it went well. My interpretation will start with the context. The Holy Spirit wrote through Paul to the Galatians because they were assaulted by people teaching other gospels. Apparently these teachers said the law was an aid to or the entire basis of righteousness. In confronting this, Paul assured the Galatians that the promise of the gospel is fixed on the righteousness of Christ, unchangeable once it was ratified (v. 15). And even in its ratification, no one can alter it because it was made by God the Father to Abraham and Jesus Christ, no other (v. 16).

Verse 17 starts a brief interlude with the law. Even though we have the law, it cannot cancel the promise because it was not part of the promise. Nothing after the promise can alter that promise (v. 17-18).

Now, since this promise was given to Abraham and Jesus Christ, where are we? Are we excluded from the promise? Paul answers with a resounding “No!”. In verse 27 he explains that those who profess faith in Christ have “put on Christ”. In verse 29 Paul returns to addressing the promise – “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise”. We are recipients of God’s promise to Jesus Christ because we “put on Christ”.

So, where is verse 28 in all of this? In verse 28 Paul gives us a picture of what it means for people to be in Christ. The distinctions formerly thought to secure salvation among people are nullified. There are no distinctions, no lines of nationality or status or gender, by which the gospel is restricted.

How do we continue with this in order to apply it to ourselves in our relationship with Christ and His church? One application is that we must evangelize all people, regardless of nation/race, age, status, gender, etc. Second, God saves people sovereignly by giving faith and placing them in His Son Jesus Christ, therefore we are entirely dependent on His working. Third, in evangelism the law is vital as a guardian or school master that leads people to their need for Jesus Christ through knowledge of sin (also Romans 3:20). Fourth, our treatment of others must exemplify an undeniable equality of value in the church because all are equal in value who are in Christ. Fifth, we should live with confidence when we rely on Jesus Christ as the fully righteous recipient of God’s promise. Sixth, this passage (indeed the whole Bible) does not equate equality in value with equality in position (being of equal value in Christ does not mean submission to authorities in other positions is removed – husband and wife, parent and child, employer and employee, government and citizen, even Christ and us in Christ). Seventh, it seems more complete if I have a seventh application, oh well.

How is this passage improperly applied? In my limited experience I have heard this passage used to “trump” other parts of the Bible that establish roles according to gender. This presents several issues. One is that it causes the Bible to contradict itself. Two, it encourages poor interpretation (ignoring context and making the Bible to fit a view, instead of getting our views out of the Bible). Third, it causes uneven application of this text, i. e. when the gender line is incorrectly broken because of this passage, the status line is not also broken (the master-slave/employer-employee relationship is retained, employees are not encouraged to supplant employers because of this passage but instead to submit to them).

Of course this is not exhaustive, I look forward to others taking up the challenge.

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He bore our sins

October 9, 2007

And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.

Genesis 3:17-18 (ESV)

“And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him.” – Mark 15:17, ESV

It is amazing to contemplate the depth to which Jesus bore our sins.

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Psalm 44:6

June 8, 2007

“For I will not trust in my bow,
Nor will my sword save me.” – Psalm 44:6 (NASB)

Sin must be purged from our lives.

The verse, strictly, refers to the sons of Korah not trusting in their bow nor sword to save them in battle. The first part of the next verse tells us, “But You have saved us from our adversaries”, referring to God’s work to save them in battle.

I realized the impact of this verse as I read it. The fighting was being done. These men took up their bow. They took up their sword. They went out to battle their enemy. I had been doing the same in my life. I had geared up. I read my Bible. I meditated. I prayed. I worshiped. I confronted sin. I managed on occasion to defeat sin, or so I thought.

So by this time some of you can see my error. Do you see the depth of it?

I had thought that my own actions, even with the proper tools, were sufficient to fend off sin. You may run right to the conclusion – oh, God has to do it, not you. But isn’t there more? After all, how does God “do” these things? They are the right tools, right actions. What is left? They are done poorly. No matter how diligently I read, pray, meditate or worship, it is still me doing it. Whether you or I or anyone else, except Jesus Himself, attempts these things – we fail. It is utterly impossible for us to read or pray or meditate or worship or anything to the satisfaction of God Almighty. We are not able to fully satisfy God in anything we do. For this reason, all our spiritual discipline is infused with sin to some extent. How then does God accept these works? The same way He accepts us, through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus has paid for these sins, the sins that infuse our imperfect devotions to our God. Jesus makes these devotions valuable and pleasing to God through His perfect life and His death on the cross. We must acknowledge our incapability to satisfy God. We must also acknowledge that only through Jesus Christ are any of our actions acceptable to God. Then we must request that God continue to work through us to use even our sin-ridden devotions for our enrichment and sanctification through our worthy mediator Jesus Christ.

It is not our bow nor our sword that we trust in. Instead we trust in God to work sanctification through our bow and through our sword; not that our bow or sword could achieve sanctification but the Lord makes our feeble attempt worthy through Jesus. This is what the sons of Korah understood.

(Please note the difference between justification – God’s initial saving of us unassisted (Romans 3:24) – and sanctification – God’s work as described above(Philippians 2:12-13))

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God made… Gen. 1:25

May 12, 2007

“God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:25, NASB)

After verse 24, there is confirmation that “it was so” (v. 24). Each group of animals was made by God’s word. Each group was made after their own kind, again denying any dependence on previous creatures for their development or attributes.

After these creatures are made, God sees Himself in His creation and relates to Moses (who is still in undoubted amazement) that He saw it was good.

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Psalm 136 – a series, 1

March 8, 2007

I thought I’d do a series of reflections on Psalm 136. I’m not currently inspired to do a book or anything so there probably won’t be much order to it. This Psalm caught my attention a few days ago as a great Psalm for many different situations, personalities and times of Christian growth.

I encourage you to read the entire Psalm 136 first.

Certainly the refrain is obvious, “for His steadfast love endures forever”. As I read this over and over I found myself almost skipping it. I had to go back and read it carefully again. When God repeats a phrase, especially in the same chapter of the Bible, some 26 times then there is surely some deep meaning that He does not want us to miss.

The “His” refers to God, the Lord God, the creator of all the earth, the sustainer of all that is, the savior. When the Lord revealed His name to Moses, He used the Hebrew for “I AM WHO I AM”. This made vivid the eternal and unchangeable nature of God (Exodus 3:14). The Lord’s unchangeable, also called immutable, nature is set prominently in the verses of Psalm 136. He makes careful mention of being “steadfast” in His love. God’s love cannot be moved or altered. His immutable nature extends to His love. Unless we misunderstand and think that God’s immutable love can end, He adds that it “endures”. And again, lest we think that our immutable God with His steadfast and enduring love will at some point become tired, bored or careless, the Lord adds “forever”. The love we now experience as believers saved by God is the steadfast, enduring, unending love of the God who cannot change. Truly we are secure in the love of our Father, God of heaven and earth. We are taken still deeper into this revelation in Romans 8:38-39 where God’s love in Christ Jesus is shown – immutable forever!

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Genesis 6:5 and the mind

February 22, 2007

My quick reflection on Genesis 6:5, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (ESV)

This is just before the Lord decides to flood the entire earth due to the wickedness on it. He saves Noah and His family out of the flood, only eight of the many thousands living on the earth.

There is no reason to think that this does not apply to all of mankind/humankind. The scope is verified in many other passages like Romans 3:10-18, 23. We also find the complete inability of all unsaved people to please God, Romans 8:8. These give us insight into unsaved man’s inability to please God in any way, by action or by thought.

Why is this? Fallen man suppresses the knowledge of God, Romans 1:18,21. Without the knowledge of God unsaved man is always motivated incorrectly in his/her actions. Instead of being motivated to glorify the one true and living God, the unsaved are motivated to glorify themselves or some other distortion, which is sin. So while feeding a hungry child may be good in itself and God is glad that the hungry child is fed, He is not pleased with the feeder unless he/she feeds to His glory, i.e. the feeder is saved and in the right frame of mind toward God.

It is very interesting to note the way Paul speaks about his mind, Romans 7:21-23,

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

Paul sees another law which wages war against the law of his mind. And what does this law do? It makes him captive to the law of sin. So the law of his mind is the opposite of the law of sin – the law that wants to do right. This is the law of the mind, which is renewed by God in our sanctification, Romans 12:2. By the renewing of our minds through the Holy Spirit we are able to know/think and do good works. This is the first time we know of good works because it is the first time we can gauge what is good and what is evil by the only standard, which is God. As we draw closer to God, we are better able to discern good from evil. For we were saved to do the good works appointed to us by God, Ephesians 2:10 (see also v. 8-9).