Friday, April 30, 2010


I understand the tension between wrongful judging and instruction, correction, discipline, etc... yet I do not understand the Christian who says because we shouldn't judge at all (a wrong interpretation) I will not take a stand on a question of sin.

"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid." - Proverbs 12:1

Thursday, April 29, 2010

representative death

Relative to the atonement, The New Bible Dictionary on the representative nature of Christ's death:

It is agreed by most students that Christ’s death was vicarious. If in one sense he died ‘for sin’, in another he died ‘for us’. But ‘vicarious’ is a term which may mean much or little. It is better to be more precise. Most scholars today accept the view that the death of Christ is representative. That is to say, it is not that Christ died and somehow the benefits of that death become available to men (did not even Anselm ask to whom more fittingly than to us could they be assigned?). It is rather that he died specifically for us. He was our representative as he hung on the cross. This is expressed succinctly in 2 Cor. 5:14, ‘one died for all; therefore all have died’. The death of the Representative counts as the death of those he represents. When Christ is spoken of as our ‘advocate with the Father’ (1 Jn. 2:1) there is the plain thought of representation, and as the passage immediately goes on to deal with his death for sin it is relevant to our purpose. The Epistle to the Hebrews has as one of its major themes that of Christ as our great High Priest. The thought is repeated over and over. Now whatever else may be said about a High Priest, he represents men. The thought of representation may thus be said to be very strong in this Epistle.

his righteousness, our sin

“Now I should like to know whether your soul, tired of its own righteousness, is learning to be revived by and to trust in the righteousness of Christ. . . . My dear brother, learn Christ and him crucified. Learn to pray to him and, despairing of yourself, say, ‘You, Lord Jesus, are my righteousness, but I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given to me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not and have given to me what I was not.’ Beware of aspiring to such purity that you will not wish to be looked upon as a sinner, or to be one. For Christ dwells only in sinners. On this account he descended from heaven, where he dwelt among the righteous, to dwell among sinners. Meditate on this love of his and you will see his sweet consolation.”

Martin Luther, writing to George Spenlein, quoted in Theodore G. Tappert, editor, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel (Philadelphia, 1955), page 110. Language updated.


more injustice

Kevin DeYoung continues his fine analysis on social justice. His right conclusion:

Amos 5 reaffirms what we’ve seen in the previous Old Testament passages. God hates injustice. But injustice must be defined on the Bible’s terms, not ours. Injustice implies a corrupted judicial system, an arbitrary legal code, and outright cruelty to the poor.

Too many liberals and socialists have fallen into the typical trap of taking God's truth, distorting it, and then adding to it according to their own desires while still calling it from God. Wrong.

Here's the rest of DeYoung's post.

The fifth chapter of Amos contains some of the most striking and most famous justice language in the Bible. The Lord rebukes his people for turning “justice into wormwood” (7), for hating the one who speaks the truth (10), for trampling on the poor (11; cf. 4:1), for turning aside the needy in the gate (12). Because of their sin, the Lord despises Israel’s feasts and assemblies (21) and threatens to visit the land with darkness and not light (18-20). The only hope for God’s people is that they “seek good, and not evil,” that they establish justice in the gate (14-15). Or, to quote the concluding exhortation made famous by Martin Luther King Jr., Israel must “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

Clearly, God cares about justice and the poor. Conversely, his wrath burns against those who commit injustice and trample the poor. So what are the specific sins condemned by Amos?

1. Kicking the poor when they are down instead of giving them a hand up. It seems the wealthy were selling the poor into slavery even when the poor owed as little as a pair of sandals (2:6-7). This is cruelty instead of mercy.

2. Doing “justice” for the highest bidder. In ancient Israel the leading men of the town would gather at the city gate to decide the cases that came to them. Instead of making fair judgment based on the truth, the men of Amos’ day accepted bribes and paid no attention to the righteous plea of the poor (5:10, 12).

3. Arbitrary, excessive taxation on the poor to benefit the rich (5:11).

4. A smug assurance on the part of the rich who live in the lap of luxury on the backs of the poor. The wealthy in Amos’ day, like some in ours, were proud of their wealth. They reveled in it (4:1; 6:4-7). They felt secure in it (6:1). To make matters worse, their getting richer had been made possible by the poor getting poorer. They had cheated, perverted justice, and, according to one commentator, made their money by “outrageous seizure” and illegal “land grabbing” (cf. Isa. 5:8).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

christ's death sacrificial

The New Bible Dictionary speaks of Christ's death as being sacrificial in regard to the atonement:

Another thought that is widespread is that the death of Christ is a death for sin. It is not simply that certain wicked men rose up against him. It is not that his enemies conspired against him and that he was not able to resist them. He ‘was put to death for our trespasses’ (Rom. 4:25). He came specifically to die for our sins. His blood was shed ‘for many for the forgiveness of sins’ (Mt. 26:28). He ‘made purification for sins’ (Heb. 1:3). He ‘bore our sins in his body on the tree’ (1 Pet. 2:24). He is ‘the propitiation for our sins’ (1 Jn. 2:2; so, rightly, av). The cross of Christ will never be understood unless it is seen that thereon the Saviour was dealing with the sins of all mankind.

In doing this he fulfilled all that the old sacrifices had foreshadowed, and the NT writers love to think of his death as a sacrifice. Jesus himself referred to his blood as ‘blood of the covenant’ (Mk. 14:24), which points us to the sacrificial rites for its understanding. Indeed, much of the language used in the institution of the Holy Communion is sacrificial, pointing to the sacrifice to be accomplished on the cross. Paul tells us that Christ ‘loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’ (Eph. 5:2). On occasion he can refer, not to sacrifice in general, but to a specific sacrifice, as in 1 Cor. 5:7, ‘For Christ our paschal lamb (better, passover) has been sacrificed.’ Peter speaks of ‘the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot’ (1 Pet. 1:19), which indicates that in one aspect Christ’s death was a sacrifice. And in John’s Gospel we read the words of John the Baptist, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (Jn. 1:29). Sacrifice was practically the universal religious rite of the 1st century. Wherever men were and whatever their background, they would discern a sacrificial allusion. The NT writers made use of this, and employed sacrificial terminology to bring out what Christ had done for men. All that to which the sacrifices pointed, and more, he had fully accomplished by his death.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

why fight sin

I thought this post at Desiring God to be excellent. While timeless and applicable to approaching all areas of right living, it appears at an excellent time given the postmodern innovator's public confusion and fallenness regarding the sin of homosexuality. As I listen and read them I hear their fundamental failing to know the God of the Bible and to understand the authority of His written Word. John Piper hits the nail on the head in regard to the need to renew our minds.

The blog posts the edited transcript.

How would you encourage a Christian to resist sin while knowing that God will ultimately work it for their good?

That's really a good question.

Very practically, the devil and our own sin can incline us to use the sovereignty of God to justify complicity in sin. And it's at this point that we need to have a strong commitment to the authority of the Bible and the authority of God telling us how to live with the truth that he has revealed to us.

So many of us learn a fact, like "God is sovereign" or "God loves me" or "God hates sin," and we start spinning implications out of our brain, some of which aren't biblical!

They look rational. They look like they should be believed. "Well, if God is sovereign, then he is responsible for evil. Therefore we can't be responsible. Therefore let us sin that grace may abound," blah blah blah, and it's all unbiblical!

If we're going to latch on to big truths like the sovereignty of God, we've got to latch on to them the way God ordains for us to latch on to them. We've got to latch on to them biblically. That is, we have to see them in connection with all the other biblical truths.

Among those biblical truths is Paul contemplating the thought in Romans 3 and 6, "Shall we sin that grace may abound?" He just said in Romans 5:21 that where sin abounded, grace much more abounded. And here goes somebody with their logic: "Cool! I'll just make grace abound everywhere! I'll just click on as much pornography as I can, and commit as much fornication as I can, and steal as much as I can, and be as greedy as I can. Praise God's grace!"

And Paul answers that in chapter 3 that those people deserve to be accursed. And he says in chapter 6, "Shall we sin that grace may abound? God forbid! For how can you who died still live in it?"

Now there's a truth as important as the truth of God's sovereignty.

Christian, you're dead. You've got to come to terms with what that means. You can't just say, "Well God is sovereign, therefore all my sins are his doing. Therefore I can sin." No! Be biblical. Think God's thoughts. This is complex. Don't depend on your own brain. Depend on God's brain. And God says, "Dead people don't sin" (Romans 6:3).

So you need to figure out what it means to be dead. And put to death what is earthly in you. "If we live according to the flesh, we will die. If we, by the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the body, we will live." That's a truth as big as the truth of God's sovereignty. You can't throw that out and just go do your own logical thing.

So my answer is, Be biblical. We're working here with infinite realities that our brains are not capable of managing on our own. You can't learn one truth from God and then manage it with your brain. You have to constantly submit every thought that you have about God to other thoughts about God so that God manages your brain. Otherwise you will take a truth and distort it in some sinful way.

This is really big. Bottom line: be thoroughly biblical. Test everything by the Bible.

the christian way

From C.S. Lewis's essay Is Christianity Hard or Easy as quoted by Tim Keller in The Reason For God (pp 171-172).

The ordinary idea which we all have is that…we have a natural self with various desires and interests…and we know something called “morality” or “decent behavior” has a claim on the self…We are all hoping that when all the demands of morality and society have been met, the poor natural self will still have some chance, some time, to get on with its own life and do what it likes. In fact, we are very like an honest man paying his taxes. He pays them, but he does hope that there will be enough left over for him to live on.

The Christian way is different - both harder and easier. Christ says, “Give me ALL. I don’t want just this much of your time and this much of your money and this much of your work - so that your natural self can have the rest. I want you. Not your things. I have come not to torture your natural self…I will give you a new self instead. Hand over the whole natural self - ALL the desires, not just the ones you think wicked but the ones you think innocent - the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead.”

The almost impossibly hard thing is to hand over your whole self to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is remain what we call “ourselves” - our personal happiness centered on money or pleasure or ambition - and hoping, despite this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you cannot do. If I am a grass field, all the cutting will keep the grass less but won’t produce wheat. If I want wheat…I must be plowed up and re-sown.

god's love in the atonement

The New Bible Dictionary describes God's love for mankind revealed through the atonement ...

All are agreed that the atonement proceeds from the love of God. It is not something wrung from a stern and unwilling Father, perfectly just, but perfectly inflexible, by a loving Son. The atonement shows us the love of the Father just as it does the love of the Son. Paul gives us the classic exposition of this when he says, ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’ (Rom. 5:8). In the best-known text in the Bible we find that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son … ‘ (Jn. 3:16). In the Synoptic Gospels it is emphasized that the Son of man ‘must’ suffer (Mk. 8:31, etc.). That is to say, the death of Christ was no accident: it was rooted in a compelling divine necessity. This we see also in our Lord’s prayer in Gethsemane that the will of the Father be done (Mt. 26:42). Similarly, in Hebrews we read that it was ‘by the grace of God’ that Christ tasted death for us all (Heb. 2:9). The thought is found throughout the NT, and we must bear it well in mind when we reflect on the manner of the atonement.

our house v. his house

We can live freely!

“Jesus Christ the Son of God descended into our house of bondage to bring us into the house of God the Father.” - T.F. Torrance.


Monday, April 26, 2010

gavin harrison

Some pretty fair drumming ... Gavin Harrison of Porcupine Tree ...

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atonement in the old testament

Continuing on the atonement, from The New Bible Dictionary (contrary to popular opinions that sacrifices were just pre-enlighted people trying to understand an angry God) ...

God and man, then, are hopelessly estranged by man’s sin, and there is no way back from man’s side. But God provides the way. In the OT atonement is usually said to be obtained by the sacrifices, but it must never be forgotten that God says of atoning blood, ‘I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls’ (Lv. 17:11). Atonement is secured, not by any value inherent in the sacrificial victim, but because sacrifice is the divinely appointed way of securing atonement. The sacrifices point us to certain truths concerning atonement. Thus the victim must always be unblemished, which indicates the necessity for perfection. The victims cost something, for atonement is not cheap, and sin is never to be taken lightly. The death of the victim was the important thing. This is brought out partly in the allusions to *blood, partly in the general character of the rite itself and partly in other references to atonement. There are several allusions to atonement, either effected or contemplated by means other than the cultus, and where these bear on the problem they point to death as the way. Thus in Ex. 32:30–32 Moses seeks to make an atonement for the sin of the people, and he does so by asking God to blot him out of the book which he has written. Phinehas made an atonement by slaying certain transgressors (Nu. 25:6–8, 13). Other passages might be cited. It is clear that in the OT it was recognized that death was the penalty for sin (Ezk. 18:20), but that God graciously permitted the death of a sacrificial victim to substitute for the death of the sinner. So clear is the connection that the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews can sum it up by saying ‘without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins’ (Heb. 9:22).

duren and wax on knapp

Well written post by Marty Duren on the Jennifer Knapp announcement. His summary;

I am not condemning Knapp or any person who is trying to seek Jesus and, simultaneously, working through issues of their own sexuality, especially in the time in which we live when many lines are less defined than in the past. What I do condemn is the idea that each of us can invent, create or imagine our own theology, call it Christian and expect other Christians to accept it uncritically. Some lines are blurred, but there still are lines and we do ourselves nor our culture any good by trying to move them or obliterate them altogether.

Right on! I'd only add one more comment, Knapp says to her criticizers, "you do not know me and you do not have the right to speak to me in the manner you have publicly." So she can say Christianity and homosexuality is consistent and those opposed cannot ... this is the new tolerance.

And since I've recently focused on bad advice given to those dealing with homosexuals, here's a great post by Trevin Wax offering advice to us as we interact on the issue.

1. We need to shift emphasis from the truth that “everyone is a sinner” to the necessity of repentance. ... Ultimately, the debate is not about homosexuality versus other sins. It’s about whether or not repentance is integral to the Christian life.

2. We must not allow ourselves to be defined by our sexual attractions. ... Our goal is not authenticity. It is to be true to the self that is redeemed, transformed by the gospel and the power of the Spirit, under the authority of God’s Word. That is why we must make distinctions between sexual urges and sexual behavior. One might not choose one’s temptation, but we do choose our behavior. ... it’s the traditionalist who has the high view of humanity, understanding that we are more than our sexual urges and we have an inherent worth and value that leads us to do more than simply act on whatever instincts we feel.

3. We must expose the arrogance and judgmentalism of those who would so flippantly dismiss the witness of Christians for two thousand years. ... Knapp has flippantly dismissed the consensus of two thousand years of Christian scholarship and witness, not to mention the vast majority of Christians outside the West who continue to see homosexual behavior as sinful. ... I’d like to see someone gently point out the implicit judgmentalism of the “homosexual behavior is legitimate” view.

4. We need soft hearts toward Christians struggling with same-sex attraction. ... Jennifer Knapp’s point of view appears to be liberating and compassionate. It’s actually condemning and dismissive. How so? Consider the people in our churches who are struggling with same-sex attraction and temptation. Consider these believers who are walking alongside other Christians, choosing daily to remain celibate, to crucify these desires as a part of their painful sanctification. Knapp dismisses the legitimacy of struggling with such attractions by saying that one should just give up the fight, for homosexual behavior is not even a sin. This kind of hard-heartedness toward fellow pilgrims is not coming from the traditionalist pastor, but from Knapp, who considers herself to be liberated from that struggle.

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gay jesus

The Cathedral of Hope, a UCC church, is hosting a play casting Jesus and his disciples as being homosexual ... and still we have professed Christians acting confused on where to stand regarding this issue of sin. There's no confusion. Homosexuality is sin. Now let's act like Christians and offer love and redemption that comes through Christ. Stop allowing our false sensitivities to portray some lack of clarity. And let's also not get tangled up in the "if you love me you wouldn't judge me", "why would God make me this way if it was a sin", and "you're condemning if you say homosexuality is sin" smokescreens.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

unhelpful advise offered to homosexuals 2

To continue thinking through unhelpful advice offered homosexuals, here's my next installment ...

First a short one ... in response to Jennifer Knapp's coming out, "fantastic news" ... what is fantastic about someone announcing that they do not find open sin as inconsistent with life in Christ? Of all the things we could debate her, the one I am simply left without words for is the professed Christian applauding another announcing there sin with no interest or acknowledgement of the need for repentance. I get the desire to not condemn but what is being celebrated here. This is a sad, somber announcement and yet those calling themselves believers celebrate it. Unfortunate.

After that one comes Christine who recalls when she "irrevocably came to terms with being gay and thought God condemned it outright." Christine explains that she wasn't angry with God for making her gay, she was mad at Him for telling her she "couldn’t have the one love in my life that had made me feel at peace with myself." First, she is reinforcing the common notion which many liberal christians are afraid to refute and that is God didn't make her a sinner and neither did God tempt her with sin. She was born a human and since the fall, we are slaves to sin and tempted by Satan, his minions, and our own flesh. Second, she repeats another common error which is also rarely confronted and that is the idea that her peace is higher than God's will and worse, that it could ever really be achieved outside of His will.

He failure to understand the nature of God's unconditional love and His conditional covenants for relationship are further demonstrated as she continues:

I was angry that after God had told me so many times that He loved me unconditionally, wanted the best for, and that after Jesus we were to live in Spirit and not by the law, He would throw out this wonderful love, and make me walk alone and heartbroken, just because of an arbitrary rule.

As with the commenters before and after her. Their real issue is with the nature of man, the fall, God, and redemption. This is not an issue with homosexuality, it's a fundamental failing to understand God and His grace.

She then relates what is ultimately my real issue with so many Christians on this topic. She tells us how she met with her pastor on the topic and he helped her see Scriptures were unclear and that it was more important to be at peace with herself than to experience the pain caused by trying to conform with her former understanding of God's attitude toward homosexuality.

This pastor helped her to stop wrestling with conviction from the Holy Spirit as she grappled with temptation and helped her be at peace and practice sexual immorality as well as opening the door to questioning all else in Scripture on the same basis, her personal comfort.

My friends, we are surrounded by false teachers seeking only to be friends with the world and spread the lies that ultimately lead to destruction. This pastor had the opportunity to help her realize true love and begin a journey with her of resisting temptation and possibly finding healthy sexual desires but instead the easy path was chosen and darkness has been embraced.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

stupid advise offered to homosexuals 1

Here's the first of the stupid responses to the Knapp post I am thinking through. This one is by Allyc.

I can’t help but wonder just how many other prominent Christians need to come out before evangelicals realise that sexuality is not such a black and white issue?

What is Allyc saying? First, who is saying that sexuality is black and white? What does that even mean? And what would the number of any type of people confessing to have given in to a particular sin have to do with the complexity of sexuality? And what does the complexity of a thing have to do with whether or not there is a right versus wrong?

One of the issues I run into a lot when interacting with people regarding sin is they don't first settle in their mind what God's attitude is toward a given issue. They look at the complexity, and believe me, it can be complex, and then try to formulate truth. I recommend first settling what we know about a given topic and then try to sort out the fuzzy edges.

Bottom line, Allyc is one that harbors disdain toward evangelicals, doesn't understand the clarity of Scripture on this topic, and is moved by the opinion of others over and above what Scripture teaches.

Allyc later writes:

Who the hell had the right to tell us we’re so unloved, rejected by God? We’re not created for all this shame, it’s not ours to hold. I say this as someone who is still very much in the midst of the struggle to relearn the Truth… but this much I do know. We are His. Beloved. Redeemed. Forgiven. We are His.

He is responding to a practicing homosexuality who said, "I’m tired of going to family functions where those closest to me think I have been deceived by satan." Allyc takes issue with the Apostle Paul, etc... He demonstrates his own lack of understanding of basic Christianity and confuses not only the issue of homosexuality but also salvation. Allyc thinks all are forgiven and redeemed. Apparently he has not read the Bible.

He proves these assumptions more true as he interacts later in an attempt to define sin. He thinks that sin is "a thought, action, or behaviour that hurts another person." And then wonders why being gay is a sin. He's right, if one discounts God's Word, then that's a good question. But I cannot do that so all he does here is show us that he is simply one dressed up as a Christian with little to no knowledge of truth and happy to encourage others in their sin.

To further reinforce, he later talks about how much he has learned from Rob Bell in Velvet Elvis and that the fall wasn't so much about disobedience as it was about a shift in the balance of a good creation to one that wasn't. Oh oh ... no time for Rob Bell here ...

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a suffering man responds

This post will look at the first comment to the Jennifer Knapp blog post I referred to earlier. Personally, this was a tough one in the sense that unlike many of the other commenters, this person didn't strike me as attempting to promote homosexuality or undermine Scripture, the Church, or the power of the Gospel. It seemed more like a heart-felt reflection of a person who has and is struggling a lot.

I say that to emphasize that this is not an assault on this person or his motives, it's me thinking out loud as I work through his statements.

Here is the opening phrase:

Growing up as a pastor’s son

The relevance is unclear to me. It's a loaded statement that without more discussion could mean many different things - or nothing. But to a large number of people, this reinforces their "see what happens when you grow-up in religion" prejudice. They will be fast to jump to that conclusion without really knowing what kind of father or pastor this man was. Separately, we have no reason to expect that because one has a great father that we are free from the bonds and pains of sin. In fact, we are all born into that condition regardless of our father. So without belaboring this point, this phrase without more information is meaningless but some will use it to support their bias.

The next phrase:

... knowing I was gay robbed me of my self worth and belief that I could be unconditionally loved by God and family.

Another loaded phrase.
  • Being gay didn't rob him, being a sinner, not receiving forgiveness and healing from God, and not understanding true identity in Christ robbed him
  • There's confusion between unconditional love and relationship. We are loved and we love unconditionally but our relationships are conditional. This is not contradictory and the liberal mind fails to understand this.

In addition, the phrase starts with a very common error. If he is truly in Christ, then he needs to stop defining himself by his temptations. Sinners and many who call themselves christian miss what it means to be in Christ. Many believers try to help those wrestling with temptation or who have sadly succumbed but fail to identify that the real issue is the persons failure to properly identify who they are by the power of God. At best they become worldly counselors who can offer only advise rather than power and at worse, they reinforce the person is what Satan is preaching.

Also note, that thus far, this is not limited to the particular issue of homosexuality. Those dealing with all areas of sin have made these claims - yet for some reason professed believers think this holds greater validity for homosexuals.

The commenter continues:

I didn’t think His grace was big enough to cover me and my sin.

The good news, he sees homosexuality as sin. I wish someone would have responded to him that God's grace is big enough if he is repentant. Sadly subsequent commenters only reinforce that homosexuality isn't a sin in need of grace or at least in need of repentance. Separately, I'm not sure why this commenter refers to his "sin" because I do not detect that he practiced homosexuality and he doesn't even indicate he had on-going, lustful thought patterns. He talks more of what I would call same sex attraction which I would call temptation not sin.

Interestingly, this man speaks of the rejection of others yet he tells us that they didn't really know for sure about his temptations. The point here is that his guilt and separation from others was self-induced. The pain he felt wasn't from the lack of love but from the sting of sin (if he actually did) and failure to understand the redeeming power of the Gospel. Again, true for any sin issue.

Interestingly he talks of getting involved in controlling religious organizations. I'm not sure if they really were or not but certainly that would be consistent of one who does not understand freedom in Christ. It is typical for fallen man to turn to works for the approval of God and of others. Again, not a homosexual issue and not the direct fault of these others.

In regard to this religious organization, he mentions that "the leaders knew it [homosexuality] was in my background, but thought I had “overcome” it." Well, in a sense if he wasn't living it he was overcoming. On another level however, he clearly wasn't free from temptation. On one hand, we never are this side of glory ... on the other hand our new nature becomes more manifest and our response to temptation becomes more right, quicker, and more natural. So here I am picking up on a false expectation that temptation never comes and more important, there is a growing disdain for the Church. And again, nothing here is unique to homosexuality.

This disdain becomes even more evident when he continues, "The leader even asked me once, “How do you get through to those people?”, figuring gay people who needed to hear the Gospel were somehow different from anyone else." Well come on, the Gospel wasn't in question. The question was how do I rightly show up and present it. Is anyone naive enough to really think we show up the same to all? The issue here is this person is building resentment - a typical symptom of a guilty heart. He needs healing. He does not need a bunch of believers to pile on and talk about the wrongs of the church.

The disdain continues. Later in his life he goes to a group for help. Again, he uses loaded words.

When someone had heard second hand that I had been seen at a gay establishment, I was sent to a retreat 3,000 miles away to “make me straight”.

He says "someone heard second hand" indicating his focus is placing blame on others. That plus "seen at a gay establishment" indicates he isn't coming clean with his being tempted versus his flirting with a sinful lifestyle versus his giving in to that lifestyle. And he caps it with "was sent" and mentions how far away - again, building the blame and insinuating guilt of others rather than talking his role in this. He was an adult at this point so I'm unclear what "was sent" could even mean and regarding the distance, he seems to be implying people wanted to be rid of him and were ashamed of him but we don't know that was the case. It could be simply that's where a good place was located. The point is meaningless in and of itself.

Then he caps it with a statement that depending on ones preconceived ideas is either great or not. I take it as the former.

The group I went to was not for gay people but for people struggling with their relationship with Christ. They knew I was gay, but did not even focus on that. They focused on the cross of Christ, the simplicity of the Gospel, and unconditional love. It was the first time in my life I felt I actually saw the Gospel LIVED by people in spiritual leadership.

He needed the Gospel not only a focus on a particular sin. But sadly what he understood as a Gospel lived was not. He confused approval of sin and blame of others who hold to Scripture as the Gospel. And belies his disdain with sarcasm.

They told me those who sent me to the retreat (at their expense) were the ones who were dysfunctional! God DOES have a sense of humor.

Without other information, it could be that it was the folks that paid for him to go to this "camp" that were the ones that loved him. From one perspective, it is those that encouraged his sin that were deceived by the wicked one whose only interest is to destroy this man and keep him in bondage. He bought it. My point here is again, this could be about any sin and if homosexuality is sin, then this person and his sympathizers are getting this backwards.

The commenter then reveals that he doesn't see continued life of both denial of sin and participation in it as inconsistent with life in Christ. He writes, "there are plenty [of gay Christians] out there, including my own brother. My gay brother accepted his homosexuality years ago and has been living with his partner for 10 years and is an ordained UCC pastor." This evidences that the embracing of sin by the Church has not had the affect of promoting righteousness as we are called to do but instead is taken as evidence that holiness is not the call of the people of God. Worse, that salvation does not bring about changed life, only life at peace with sin. This is backwards. It is only the fallen who are at peace with sin. Christian's tolerating sin are not showing true love, they are promoting a different Gospel. They are denying the freedom that comes by the power of God.

The commenter adds:

I was even involved in a ministry to gays for a year in Australia who tried to teach people they could be free from homosexuality & even become heterosexual. Of course, this is not possible, nor was there anyone in the group who had claimed to have reached that point.

Again, missing the power of the Gospel.

If we sinned sexually, we were just encouraged to once again renounce our homosexuality, keep clear of the person we had been with, regardless of our feelings for them and be celibate.

And confusing falling with being. That is, he missed that even if he sinned, if he repented, he would be forgiven and can continue to grow in Christlikeness.

He writes more:

It made me wonder, as man’s greatest desire is to love & be loved, if God just wanted us to be alone, even if we met another person of the same sex we were attracted to and could have developed a monogamous relationship with. I wonder, now that I am in my 50’s, had I embraced as a young age that being gay was normal for me, how my life would have been different. I will never know. I still feel I am very much emotionally scarred and disabled.

He misunderstands man's real greatest desire, that is to be in right relationship with God. And he compounds that now by allowing his desire to question what God said, not unlike Adam and Eve in the garden. He is hurting because he is missing the true freedom found only in Christ. Sadly, he is blaming his family, friends and church and now questioning if embracing the sinful desire of his heart would have been better.

Unfortunately his follow commenters do not shout a resounding "no" and point him toward Christ. They sadly encourage him to pursue sin. And it is in that that they sin themselves.

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love and obey

Jesus told us it is the one that keeps His commandments that loves Him (John 14.15, 21; 15.10). The postmodern innovator is anxious to speak of God's love and loving God but not of God's commands. They do this because the rightly reject the legalism that is often found in religion but sadly also because they do not know true love and the true God who can have obedience and love go hand-in-hand without contradiction.

Kevin DeYoung, basing his thoughts on Ecc 12.13, reminds us of how we are to live our lives:

So the end of the matter is this: Live for God. Obey the Scriptures. Think of others before yourself. Be holy. Love Jesus. And as you do these things, do whatever else you like, with whomever you like, wherever you like, and you’ll be walking in the will of God.

And R.C. Sproul posts a piece on Defining God's Will.

“It is the will of God.” How easily these words fall from the lips or flow from the pen. How difficult it is to penetrate exactly what they mean. Few concepts in theology generate more confusion than the will of God.

One problem we face is rooted in the multifaceted way in which the term will functions in biblical expressions. The Bible uses the expression “the will of God” in various ways. We encounter two different Greek words in the New Testament (boule and thelema), both of which are capable of several nuances. They encompass such ideas as the counsel of God, the plan of God, the decrees of God, the disposition or attitude of God, as well as other nuances.

Augustine once remarked, “In some sense, God wills everything that happens.” The immediate question raised by this comment is, In what sense? How does God “will” the presence of evil and suffering? Is He the immediate cause of evil? Does He do evil? God forbid. Yet evil is a part of His creation. If He is sovereign over the whole of His creation, we must face the conundrum: How is evil related to the divine will?

Questions like this one make distinctions necessary—sometimes fine distinctions, even technical distinctions—with respect to the will of God.

Coram Deo: What is your response to the questions raised in this reading: How does God “will” the presence of evil and suffering? Is He the immediate cause of evil? Does He do evil?

Psalm 40:8: “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.”
Psalm 143:10: “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.”
Matthew 6:10: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Note that loving God and living His life is integral with obedience. I integrate this with Mt 22.40. Postmoderns love to quote Mt 22.36-38. The problem is the put a period there. Jesus is clearly saying that without love, the following of the rest of commands are empty, results in bondage, and is impossible. But, He is in nowise saying that we stop at love. In fact, he is reinforcing the link between love and obedience. He is clearly saying, out of love flows these behaviors/commands. If you are not doing them, you have not love. And even better, in Mt 22.29 he reminds us that it is in Scripture and the POWER of God that we find life and freedom to both love and obey. The postmodern innovator cannot speak of sin and absolutes because their version of love is not based on either Scripture or power, it is a false warm fuzzy human sensation that is defined by their own set of rules. In rejection of today's pharisees, they have become today's pharisees.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

want love?

“When we go to the cross, we see our God dying for us. If you let any other god down, it will beat you up. If you live for people’s approval or your career or possessions or control or anything else and you don’t make it or you mess up, then you’ll be left feeling afraid, downcast, or bitter. But when you let Christ down, he still loves you. He doesn’t beat you up; he died for you.

Let his love win your love, and let that love replace all other affections. The secret of change is to renew your love for Christ as you see him crucified in your place.”

- Tim Chester, You Can Change (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2010), 128.

Monday, April 19, 2010

more reaction to knapp

I recently interacted with a blog post regarding Jennifer Knapp's coming out. As I should have expected, it did not go well. I write the following to clarify my thinking and will likely write more after this to deal with the comments to that original post.

In his Knapp post, the author wrote of Elton John’s ex-partner's suicide saying, "Was there a church community that respected him as he was without condemnation or the pressure to change?"

First, the majority of my issue has nothing to do with homosexuality. This is more about the role of the believer, the community of faith, and how we interact with those dealing with temptation and sin. As I think about my first point of contention, we could just as easily be speaking of someone wrestling with pornography, stealing, lying, etc... I will deal separately with the issue of homosexuality but here I'd like to focus on the misdirection (intentional or not) often employed by those seeking to defend homosexuals. I find their approach to be less loving and less life-giving than the alternatives they confront.

The quote mixes respect and condemnation with pressure to change. Since we are God's image bearers, we honor God when we honor others because this reflects His image. And vice-versa, because others are made in His image, we honor God when we honor them. Disrespect and condemnation should never flow from us ... but what is pressure to change? It depends on what pressure means. Clearly I cannot and should not pretend to be the Holy Spirit to someone else. At the same time we are called to instruct, exhort, and confront. We are to be instruments of change toward good works in the lives of others.

And what does respected him as he was mean? Does it really mean respect or is that code for approve? Often it is the latter.

To be part of someone's life to resist temptation is absolutely what we do. To be part of someone's life for the confession of sin and repentance is absolutely what we do. To be part of the subsequent healing and forgiveness process is absolutely what we do. To claim to not is to deny a significant aspect of what we the Church are. And to imply that doing so violates respect and brings condemnation is to twist the very heart of Scripture.

So as I read this I see reaction to the ugly side of historic church life. But rather than returning to the life-giving practices of what God intended for the Church, many are suggesting something far less and in doing so, they are becoming false-teachers.

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the bible on homosexuality

Thanks Melinda for posting this video on The Bible on Homosexuality. I recently interacted with a blog post on Jennifer Knapp's coming out and planned to deconstruct the post and subsequent comments. This video should make a good primer.

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building v. receiving the kingdom

Too many are trying to build the Kingdom. We see conservatives making this mistake though their church structures and we see liberals making that mistake through their government.

Here is Michael Horton on Building a Kingdom vs. Receiving a Kingdom ...

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at the cross

While many continue to deny atonement and penal substitution, I found this helpful.

“How can God have mercy on sinners without destroying justice? What can it mean that God forgives iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clears the guilty (Ex. 34:7)? How can a righteous and holy God justify the ungodly (Rom. 4:5)?

The answer to all these questions is found at the cross of Calvary, in Jesus’ substitutionary death for his people. A righteous and holy God can justify the ungodly because in Jesus’ death, mercy and justice were perfectly reconciled. The curse was rightly executed, and we were mercifully saved.”

- Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel? (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2010), 69.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

why atonement

Why do we need atonement? From The New Bible Dictionary:

The need for atonement is brought about by three things, the universality of sin, the seriousness of sin and man’s inability to deal with sin. The first point is attested in many places: ‘there is no man who does not sin’ (1 Ki. 8:46); ‘there is none that does good, no, not one’ (Ps. 14:3); ‘there is not a righteous man on earth, who does good and never sins’ (Ec. 7:20). Jesus told the rich young ruler, ‘No one is good but God alone’ (Mk. 10:18), and Paul writes, ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Rom. 3:23). Much more could be cited.

The seriousness of sin is seen in passages which show God’s aversion to it. Habakkuk prays ‘Thou who art of purer eyes than to behold evil and canst not look on wrong’ (Hab. 1:13). Sin separates from God (Is. 59:2; Pr. 15:29). Jesus said of one sin, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, that it will never be forgiven (Mk. 3:29), and of Judas he said, ‘It would have been better for that man if he had not been born’ (Mk. 14:21). Before being saved men are ‘estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds’ (Col. 1:21). There awaits the unrepentant sinner only ‘a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries’(Heb. 10:27).

And man cannot deal with the situation. He is not able to keep his sin hidden (Nu. 32:23), and he cannot cleanse himself of it (Pr. 20:9). No deeds of law will ever enable man to stand before God justified (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16). If he must depend on himself, then man will never be saved. Perhaps the most important evidence of this is the very fact of the atonement. If the Son of God came to earth to save men, then men were sinners and their plight serious indeed.

the gospel lost

Pete Cockrell reminds us that "losing the gospel doesn't happen all at once ..." The process is more like the following:
  • The gospel is accepted
  • The gospel is assumed
  • The gospel is confused
  • The gospel is lost
J. Mack Stiles in Marks of the Messenger asks the following diagnostic questions (there's more to it but these are great indicators):

  • Was the gospel in the sermon Sunday morning?
  • Could the uninitiated hear that sermon and come to real faith in Christ?
  • Are gospel principles governing organizational decisions?
  • Do you hear the gospel in people’s prayers?
  • Does your fellowship encourage you to say the gospel? And then is it more than just a memorized sketch? Sure, it may follow the form of “God, Man, Christ, Response,” but is it in people’s own words?
  • Furthermore, do you see it in their actions? Is the gospel lived out?
  • Is membership based on a true commitment to the gospel or just because someone wants to join an organization—or maybe write an expose?
The healthy evangelist is asking these questions and looking for answers so as to guard the gospel. Here is the critical test.
  • Could you have preached that sermon if Christ had not died on the cross?
  • Could you have developed that leadership principle had Christ not been crucified?
I’m not saying be impractical—the Bible has much to say about being practical—but make sure that the practical is tied to the message of Jesus. Otherwise we are on the road to an assumption that will lose the gospel.

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God doesn't love us because we obey. But because He loves us and we love Him we obey. Failure to do so is an indication that we may not love Him. He doesn't love us more when we obey, but as we obey we complete the relational covenant and are in a better place for it.

“On the basis of who he was and what he accomplished, Jesus made his demands. The demands cannot be separated from his person and work. The obedience he demands is the fruit of hisredeeming work and the display of his personal glory. That is why he came — to create a people who glorify his gracious reign by bearing the fruit of his kingdom (Matt. 21:43).” - John Piper, What Jesus Demands From the World (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2006), 23.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

atonement defined

Sad how postmodern innovators seek out to attack a simple and foundational doctrine in order to reconstruct their foolish notion of god and love.

From The New Bible Dictionary:

ATONEMENT. The word ‘atonement’ is one of the few theological terms which derive basically from Anglo-Saxon. It means ‘a making at one’, and points to a process of bringing those who are estranged into a unity. The word occurs in the OT to translate words from the kpr word group, and it is found once in the NT (av), rendering katallagÄ“ (which is better translated ‘reconciliation’ as rsv). Its use in theology is to denote the work of Christ in dealing with the problem posed by the sin of man, and in bringing sinners into right relation with God.

first come

"No sinner ever comes to Christ until the Holy Spirit first comes to him." —A. W. Pink (1886–1952)


Friday, April 16, 2010


"Our hearts are restless till they find their rest in Thee!" ~ St. Augustine

who should we help

"Are Christians responsible for everyone in the world? Everyone in society? I would argue there is an obligation first to our family (1 Tim. 5:8) and then to our brothers in the church (1 John 3:17; Gal. 6:10). Also, we should respond to urgent needs right in front of us when our assistance will be helpful (Luke 10:29-37). Finally, we should do good to everyone as we have opportunity as shaped by our vocation and calling (Gal. 6:10)." ~ Kevin DeYoung

jeremiah and deyoung on social justice

I like Kevin DeYoung's take on social justice according to Jeremiah. From Jeremiah 22, DeYoung writes;

The basic command for this unit is given in verse 3: “Do justice and righteousness.” So there it is: God’s people (technically the kings in this verse) are commanded to do justice. We cannot obey God and ignore the divine call to justice.

In fact, the Lord tells the kings of Judah that judging the cause of the poor and needy (rightly) is to know him (15-16). It didn’t matter their titles, their wealth, or their religious observance, if the kings oppressed the poor instead of treating them fairly and mercifully, they proved their own ignorance of God. And if they continued in such flagrant disobedience, the kings and their kingdom would be wiped away (24-30).

But what is doing justice? To understand, DeYoung outlines what the Kings were doing that was not considered justice and makes the following conclusion.

... kings would do the following: judge the poor fairly instead of exploiting them, stop cheating the poor and lining their own pockets through oppression, and quit snuffing out the weak in order to get their land or the stuff. No king, or any Israelite for that matter, guilty of these sins could possibly know, in a covenantal sense, the God of Israel. To know God was to obey him.

So here’s my unsexy, but hopefully exegetically faithful conclusion to this passage and others like it: Christians who do not cheat, swindle, rob, murder, accept bribes, defraud, and hold back agreed upon wages are probably doing justice. Christians guilty of these things are probably not Christians at all.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

sin according to kierkegaard

Timothy Keller in The Reason for God:

The famous Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote a fascinating little book called The Sickness Unto Death in 1849. In it he defined "sin" in a way that is rooted in the Bible but also is accessible to contemporary people. "Sin is: in despair not wanting to be oneself before God. ... Faith is: that the self in being itself and wanting to be itself is grounded transparently in God." Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity, apart from him.

What does this mean? Everyone gets their identity, their sense of being distinct and valuable, from somewhere or something. Kierkegaard asserts that human beings were made not only to believe in God in some general way, but to love him supremely, center their lives on him above anything else, and build their very identities on him. Anything other than this is sin.

Most people think of sin primarily as "breaking divine rules," but Kierkegaard knows that the very first of the Ten Commandments is to "have no other gods before me." So, according to the Bible, the primary way to define sin is not just the doing of bad things, but the making of good things into ultimate things. It is seeking to establish a sense of self by making something else more central to your significance, purpose, and happiness than your relationship to God.

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covenant season ... week 1

Our Scripture for small group tonight is Exodus 19.1-6:

On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

What did the Lord do? He sent the ten plagues, He destroyed the pursuer, and He set His people free. And He made conditional covenant with them. His people were to image His character to the world, i.e., they were to reflect His glory. They do this because of who they are as freed people. Those that were not truly freed in their being would not obey and were not truly His people.

As His people, we are a treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. As treasured possessions we have immense value, we are coveted and prized, we are cared for and sought after when lost, etc... As a kingdom of priests we represent God and He represents us. We mediate between God and the rest of the world and vice versa. As a holy nation we have special purpose. We are unlike any other people and are set apart. We act in a way that images the one who set us apart. This is not a morality that we build but a righteousness that we live out. We live in the light of who we are as opposed to to working to become who we are. We become more Christ-like, not just moral.

The backing Scripture is Deuteronomy 7.6-11:

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.

Why did God choose us? One obvious answer is because He loves us. But there's an and in there. More than He loves us, He is keeping His covenant. And why would He have made this in the first place? For His glory. If was only that He loved us, why isn't each one included? Somehow He is most glorified by choosing who He does. I cannot understand that but it is not for me to understand. He is most glorified in this and that is sufficient. And with that, it is ok that He destroys those that He hasn't set free, those that hate Him. Thank God that He choose us not because of our number, nor for our goodness, etc... He choose us because its His perfect plan.

And our response to that indicates our heart. We are either freed to embrace that and obey Him or we rebel by rejecting His plan and disobeying Him to our eternal destruction.

do not dispair

As I read the sad, sad excuses for denying the existence of sin, for denying the incongruence of sin and the call to right living in Christ, for using all the wrong behavior of others to justify sin, for the denial of clear Biblical teaching, blah blah blah, in relationship to Jennifer Knapp's "coming out", I found the following refreshing and once again, as with all Biblical truth, freeing.

“Christ has been judged in order to free us from the judgment of God. He has been prosecuted as a criminal so that we criminals may be pardoned. He has been scourged by godless hands to take away from us the scourge of the devil. He called out in pain in order to save us from eternal wailing. He poured out tears so that he could wipe away our tears.

He has died for us to live. He felt the pains of hell through and through, so that we might never feel them. He was humiliated in order to bring forth the medicine for our pride; was crowned with thorns, in order to obtain for us the heavenly crown.

He has suffered at the hands of all so that he might furnish salvation for all. He was darkened in death so that we would live in the light of heavenly glory. He heard disgust and contempt so that we might hear the angelic jubilation in heaven.

Do not despair then, O faithful soul.”

—Johann Gerhard, Sacred Meditations VII


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

piper on forgiving v. forgiving

John Piper on forgiveness. First the definition ... It comes from Thomas Watson about 300 years ago. He is commenting on the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our debts as we for give our debtors," and asks,

Question: When do we forgive others?

Answer: When we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemies mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them. (Thomas Watson, Body of Divinity, p. 581)

I think this is a very biblical definition of forgiveness. Each of its parts comes from a passage of Scripture.

1) Resist thoughts of revenge: Romans 12:19, "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord."
2) Don't seek to do them mischief: 1 Thessalonians 5:15, "See that no one repays another with evil for evil.
3) Wish well to them: Luke 6:28, "Bless those who curse you."
4) Grieve at their calamities: Proverbs 24:17, "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles."
5) Pray for them: Matthew 5:44, "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you."
6) Seek reconciliation with them: Romans 12:18, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men."
7) Be always willing to come to their relief: Exodus 23:4, "If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him."

Here is forgiveness: when you feel that someone is your enemy or when you simply feel that you or someone you care about has been wronged, forgiveness means,

1) resisting revenge,
2) not returning evil for evil,
3) wishing them well,
4) grieving at their calamities,
5) praying for their welfare,
6) seeking reconciliation so far as it depends on you,
7) and coming to their aid in distress.

All these point to a forgiving heart. And the heart is all important Jesus said in Matthew 18:35—"unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

What Forgiveness Is Not

But now notice what is not there in this definition. Notice what forgiveness is not.

1. Not the Absence of Anger at Sin

Forgiveness is not the absence of anger at sin. It is not feeling good about what was bad.

... You are not expected to feel good about what happened. Anger against sin and its horrible consequences is fitting up to a point. But you don't need to hold on to that in a vindictive way that desires harm ... You can hand it over to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23) again and again, and pray for the transformation [of the offending party]. Forgiveness is not feeling good about horrible things.

2. Not the Absence of Serious Consequences for Sin

... sending a person to jail does not mean you are unforgiving to him. My pastor friend has been part of putting two of his members in prison for sexual misconduct. Can you imagine the stresses on that congregation as they come to terms with what forgiveness is!

More Help from Watson

Thomas Watson was helpful to me again on this point. He asks,

Question: Is God angry with his pardoned ones?

Answer: Though a child of God, after pardon, may incur his fatherly displeasure, yet his judicial wrath is removed. Though he may lay on the rod, yet he has taken away the curse. Correction may befall the saints, but not destruction. (Thomas Watson, Body of Divinity, p. 556)

This gives us a pointer to how we may at times have to discipline a child in the home, or a leader in the church, or a criminal in society. We may prescribe painful consequences in each case, and not have an unforgiving spirit.

The biblical evidence for this is found in numerous places.


One example, in the book of Hebrews. On the one hand the book teaches that all Christians are forgiven for their sins; but on the other hand it teaches that our heavenly Father disciplines us, sometimes severely. In Hebrews 8:12 it says, "I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." Then in Hebrews 12:6, 10 it says,
Those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives . . . [Our earthly fathers] disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.

So our sins are forgiven and forgotten in the sense that they no longer bring down the wrath of a judge, but not in the sense that they no longer bring down the painful spanking of a Father.


Another example is found in the life of king David, the man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). He committed adultery and killed Uriah. Nathan the prophet came with stinging words to him in 2 Samuel 12:9, Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon.

David is broken by this indictment and says (in verse 13), "I have sinned against the Lord." To which Nathan responds on behalf of God, "The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die." But even though God had forgiven him—his sin is taken away—Nathan says (in verse 14), "However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die." In fact Nathan says that the consequences of the sin will be even greater. Verses 10–13: Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife . . . Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your companion, and he shall lie with your wives in broad daylight. Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.

Numbers 14

A third example is found in Numbers 14 where Joshua and Caleb tell the people of Israel that they can indeed go up and possess the promised land. The people are angry and want to stone them and go back to Egypt. God intervenes and says to Moses that he is about to wipe out the people and make him a nation greater and mightier than they (v. 12). But Moses pleads with God (in v. 19) for their forgiveness. "Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Thy lovingkindness, just as Thou also hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now."

So the Lord responds (in v. 20), "I have pardoned them according to your word." But this does not mean that there are no painful consequences for their disobedience. In verse 21–23 God says, As I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord. Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs, which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers.

They were forgiven but the consequence of their sin was that they would not see the promised land.

Psalm 99:8

Psalm 99:8 takes all these examples and sums them up like this: "O Lord our God, Thou didst answer them; Thou wast a forgiving God to them, and yet an avenger of their evil deeds."

So forgiveness is not the absence of serious consequences for sin.

3. Forgiveness of an Unrepentant Person?

One last observation remains: forgiveness of an unrepentant person doesn't look the same as forgiveness of a repentant person.

In fact I am not sure that in the Bible the term forgiveness is ever applied to an unrepentant person. Jesus said in Luke 17:3–4, "Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him." So there's a sense in which full forgiveness is only possible in response to repentance.

But even when a person does not repent (cf. Matthew 18:17), we are commanded to love our enemy and pray for those who persecute us and do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27).

The difference is that when a person who wronged us does not repent with contrition and confession and conversion (turning from sin to righteousness), he cuts off the full work of forgiveness. We can still lay down our ill will; we can hand over our anger to God; we can seek to do him good; but we cannot carry through reconciliation or intimacy.

Thomas Watson said something very jolting: "We are not bound to trust an enemy; but we are bound to forgive him." (Body of Divinity, p. 581)

You can actually look someone in the face and say: I forgive you, but I don't trust you. That is what the woman whose husband abused her children had to say.

But O how crucial is the heart here. What would make that an unforgiving thing to say is if you were thinking this: What's more, I don't care about ever trusting you again; and I won't accept any of your efforts to try to establish trust again; in fact, I hope nobody ever trusts you again, and I don't care if your life is totally ruined. That is not a forgiving spirit. And our souls would be in danger.

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the least of these

Kevin DeYoung does a nice job dealing with the oft misused phrase, "the least of these" by those zealous to find support for social justice. Please don't read this as me saying we ought not care for the oppressed, I'm simply saying we should do care for others, as with anything, for the right reasons rather than the coercion used by many.

be free

“Telling a slave to be free is to add insult to injury. But telling a liberated slave to be free is an invitation to enjoy his new freedom and privileges.” ~ Tim Chester, You Can Change (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2010), 49.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

forgiving v. forgiving

Tyler Kennedy blogging at Desiring God, in my opinion, has erred in the use of the word forgiving and is now scrambling to detangle himself. Kennedy very rightly posts:

If we tell others, "I forgive your sin" even though they refuse to acknowledge their sin, we remove the very incentive the gospel places upon them to confess their sins and to seek forgiveness. If we take preemptive action by granting forgiveness of sin to those who do not repent, on what basis could the church ever follow the procedures of Matthew 18:15-17?

There is a proper biblical or gospel order. We are to imitate God. God forgives the sins of those who repent (cf. 1 John 1:9). Likewise, we must always grant forgiveness to those who repent (cf. Luke 17:3).

In Mark 11:25 Jesus calls us to be forgiving. Scripture requires us to distinguish between being forgiving, which is the virtue of always being ready and eager to forgive, and the act of forgiving, which is the actual remission of the sin done against us. Thus, as God is always forgiving, which means that he is eager and desirous to forgive, and as God forgives those who repent, so godliness/Christlikeness is to be and to do the same.

It would just be easier if he would say we should have an attitude of love, graciousness, kindness, etc... One that is eager to bring reconciliation. And so on ... this would avoid the strain of having to deal with being forgiving and actually forgiving sins.

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human approval

Great post by Ray Ortlund.

1. Human approval is divided. Some like you, others dislike you. A split vote. Who can you believe?
2. Human approval is shallow. None of them know your deepest heart. What if they did?
3. Human approval is distorted. Your friends overlook — hopefully — some failings. Your enemies are blind to your merits. How do you sort it all out?
4. Human approval is unsatisfying. The need of your heart for belovedness goes far beyond anything another sinner can say or do.
5. Human approval is a blessing. The loving favor of true friends is a gift from God. Receive it cheerfully, with thanks to Him. And be sure to give it out to others in generous supplies every day.

“I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.” Philemon 7

Monday, April 12, 2010

repentance required

John Stott says that in following the Redeemer the forsaking of sin … “can in no circumstances be bypassed. Repentance and faith belong together. [True faith always leads to genuine repentance.] Moreover, repentance is a definite turn from every thought, word, deed and habit which is known to be wrong. It is not sufficient to feel pangs of remorse or to make some kind of apology to God. Fundamentally, repentance is a matter neither of emotion nor of speech. It is an inward change of mind and attitude towards sin which leads to a change of behavior. There can be no compromise here. There may be sins in our lives which we do not think we ever could renounce; but we must be willing to let them go as we cry to God for deliverance from them.” ~ John Stott, Basic Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1959), 112.


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Sunday, April 11, 2010

the cross and the unbeliever

I love this from John Piper ... an excellent perspective regarding the idea of common grace and more importantly, this provides clarity against the backdrop of the nuttiness I hear regarding forgiveness for each one at the cross.

Here's the text ...

What did the death of Jesus on the cross accomplish for the non-elect? Anything?

It's amazing how frequently that question is coming up recently. Somebody asked me after church last week, "Did Christ purchase common grace?" And we were talking about it at Table Talk with the students just a few weeks ago.

I'll tell you my reflection just as briefly as I can. Frankly, I'm not sure how to answer the question. But I think in telling you why I'm not sure you'll be able to get a grasp on it.

In one sense, as soon as we sin we should be punished eternally. We shouldn't get another breath. There should be no reprieve. There should be no time given to us. So clearly then, in some sense, the time given to us is grace. And grace for a sinner requires some kind of payment or purchase or warrant from a holy God. And Christ would be the one who provides that.

So I'm inclined to say, "Yes, the fact that the non-elect, the unbelievers all over the world are still breathing and have another chance to believe is a gift, just like the offer of the gospel is a gift. And that offer is provided by the cross."
Now here's the catch. Romans 2:4 says, "Don't you know that the patience of God is meant to lead you to repentance? But you, by your hard and unrepentant heart, are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when the righteous judgment of God is revealed."

So if a non-elect person spurns—which they do—they spurn this grace, the grace itself becomes added judgment. Which makes me wonder, "In what sense was it grace?" In some sense it is. It's a real offer, it's a real opportunity. But if you spurn it, if you reject it, it backfires and mounts up with greater judgment.

It's like the more kindness is shown to a person that they resist, then the more wicked they show themselves to be. And the more wicked they show themselves to be, the more judgment falls upon them.

I think the answer is yes. I think real grace, real common grace, real offer of salvation—right now, just watching this—is grace. And if you're a non-Christian, grace is being offered you at this very moment in my warning you that, if you spurn this, judgment will be greater.

And that's a gift to you right now that God may be pleased to then use to awaken you to say, "Whoa. I don't want to multiply my judgment. I want to respond to this moment of grace."

That's what I think the upshot of this conversation should be: respond to the grace. You're alive! There's still a chance to believe and be saved.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

luther on offerings

Yeah, I probably will not try this tomorrow morning when I do the announcements and collect offerings ...

“I understand that this is the week for the church collection, and many of you do not want to give a thing. You ungrateful people should be ashamed of yourselves. . . . I am sorry I ever freed you from the tyrants and the papists. You ungrateful beasts, you are not worthy of the treasure of the gospel. If you don’t improve, I will stop preaching rather than cast pearls before swine.” ~ Martin Luther, exhorting his congregation, according to Roland Bainton, Here I Stand (New York, 1950), pages 351-352.


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economics of god

“When sin is depicted as a debt, the New Testament calls Christ our Surety (Heb. 7:22). That’s an economic term, just as debt is an economic term. With this language, the Bible tells us that Christ is the One Who cosigns the note. He is the One Who stands there, backing up our indebtedness, taking on Himself the requirement of what must be paid.” - R. C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross (Orlando, FL; Reformation Trust Pub., 2007), 42.


are you a friend of god

From R.C. Sproul ...

As children we played games drawn from the scenario of war. When a friend approached we pretended that we were sentries. The dialogue was simple: “Halt! Who goes there? Friend or foe?” Our categories left no room for indifferent neutrality. They were restricted to two options, friend or enemy. Those are the only options we have in our relationship with God. No one is neutral. We are either God’s friends or God’s enemies.

Jonathan Edwards once preached a sermon titled, “Man, Naturally God’s Enemies.” In this sermon Edwards declared: “Men, in general, will own that they are sinners. There are few, if any, whose consciences are so blinded as not to be sensible they have been guilty of sin . . . And yet few of them are sensible that they are God’s enemies. They do not see how they can be truly so called; for they are not sensible that they wish God any hurt, or endeavor to do Him any.”

Yet despite human protestations to the contrary, Scripture clearly describes natural fallen men as enemies of God. Paul, in speaking of our salvation, wrote, “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom. 5:10). Again, “You . . . were alienated [from God] and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (Col. 1:21). Also, “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God” (Rom. 8:7).

Coram Deo: Think of the characteristics and qualities of intimate friendship, then apply these to your spiritual relationship with the heavenly Father. Are you truly a friend of God?

Romans 8:7: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.”

Colossians 1:21–22a: “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled.”

Romans 7:18: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”

acpeds on sexual orientation

The fallen have so confused the issue of sexuality that even the redeemed are unclear regarding what normal (or godly) sexuality is. This confusion has found a home in the liberal christians. It fits well with their modified understanding of love and of God. There are those who embrace that man is basically good, who reject the fall, who reject the wonder and power of Christ's substitutionary work, who cannot see that it is loving and right to confront sin in hopes of repentance and of accepting righteousness and forgiveness from God who would otherwise ultimately judge and pour out His wrath - it is these who want to forgive where there is no repentance, normalize and accept sin which is repulsive to holiness, and call it love to tell those trapped in sin's ugly grip that they are ok. It is these who enslave rather than participate in the freedom offered in Christ Jesus and His Kingdom.

Kevin DeYoung brings us the following (emphasis mine) from a post from Thabiti Anyabwile. My only point of disagreement with the below is that it is limited to human healing, i.e., therapy, whereas total healing is available through the mercy and power of God.

The American College of Pediatricians has cautioned “educators about the management of students experiencing same-sex attraction or exhibiting symptoms of gender confusion.” An April 5 press release explains.

"The College reminds school superintendents that it is not uncommon for adolescents to experience transient confusion about their sexual orientation [I'd say "sexuality" period] and that most students will ultimately adopt a heterosexual orientation if not otherwise encouraged. For this reason, schools should not seek to develop policy which “affirms” or encourages these non-heterosexual attractions among students who may merely be experimenting or experiencing temporary sexual confusion. Such premature labeling can lead some adolescents to engage in homosexual behaviors that carry serious physical and mental health risks.

There is no scientific evidence that anyone is born gay or transgendered. Therefore, the College further advises that schools should not teach or imply to students that homosexual attraction is innate, always life-long and unchangeable. Research has shown that therapy to restore heterosexual attraction can be effective for many people."

In their letter to school superindents, the College provides more rationale for their advice.

Dr. Francis Collins, former Director of the Genome Project, has stated that while homosexuality may be genetically influenced, it is “… not hardwired by DNA, and that whatever genes are involved represent predispositions, not predeterminations.” He also states [that] “…the prominent role[s] of individual free will choices [has] a profound effect on us.”

The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) recently released a landmark survey and analysis of 125 years of scientific studies and clinical experience dealing with homosexuality. This report, What Research Shows, draws three major conclusions: (1) individuals with unwanted same sex attraction often can be successfully treated; (2) there is no undue risk to patients from embarking on such therapy and (3), as a group, homosexuals experience significantly higher levels of mental and physical health problems compared to heterosexuals. Among adolescents who claim a “gay” identity, the health risks include higher rates of sexually transmitted infections, alcoholism, substance abuse, anxiety, depression and suicide. Encouragingly, the longer students delay self-labeling as “gay,” the less likely they are to experience these health risks. In fact, for each year an adolescent delays, the risk of suicide alone decreases by 20%.

In light of these facts, it is clear that when well-intentioned but misinformed school personnel encourage students to “come out as gay” and be “affirmed,” 8 there is a serious risk of erroneously labeling students (who may merely be experiencing transient sexual confusion and/or engaging in sexual experimentation). Premature labeling may then lead some adolescents into harmful homosexual behaviors that they otherwise would not pursue.

You can read the press release here.

For the letter to school superindents go here.

There’s also a fact sheet on what we should know about “Sexual Orientation of Youth.”

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Friday, April 09, 2010

god's love

David Powlinson:

The Gospel is better than unconditional love. The Gospel says, “God accepts you just as Christ is. God has ‘contraconditional’ love for you.” Christ bears the curse you deserve. Christ is fully pleasing to the Father and gives you His own perfect goodness. Christ reigns in power, making you the Father’s child and coming close to you to begin to change what is unacceptable to God about you. God never accepts me “as I am.” He accepts me “as I am in Jesus Christ.” The center of gravity is different. The true Gospel does not allow God’s love to be sucked into the vortex of the soul’s lust for acceptability and worth in and of itself. Rather, it radically decenters people—what the Bible calls “fear of the Lord” and “faith”—to look outside themselves.


John Frame answers the question, "How do you become Jesus' friend":

First, by recognizing that no matter how good you may be in your own eyes and in the eyes of other people, you are a sinful person in the eyes of a holy and righteous God (Romans 3:23). Second, by recognizing that sin against perfect holiness deserves death (Romans 6:23). Third, by recognizing that you can do nothing to prevent the eternal death that is coming to you, and by throwing yourself upon the mercy of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Fourth, by recognizing that Jesus died in the place of his people (Mark 10:45) and that he offers eternal life to all who trust in that sacrifice (John 3:16). Fifth, by personally trusting Jesus: asking forgiveness on the basis of his shed blood and seeking to obey him as your Lord, your supreme Master. Evangelical Reunion, page 15.


Thursday, April 08, 2010

god's discipline

"If you are a child of God then you are certainly going to be disciplined, because God is preparing you for holiness. He is not an indulgent father who hands out sweets indiscriminately and does not care what happens to us. God is holy, and He is preparing us for Himself and for glory; and because we are what we are, and because sin is in us, and because the world is what it is, we must needs be disciplined. So He sends us trials and tribulations in order to pull us up, and to conform us to 'the image of His Son'." ~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones