Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Meditation on Christ

Yet he opened not his mouth. – Isaiah 53:7

When God said “Let there be light,” there was light. When God spoke, he created the world out of nothing. When God speaks, the whole earth trembles; mountains melt like wax and the seas roar. All of creation is as nothing before the might and power of our Lord and God. When he speaks, all power is exercised. When he speaks, all of nature is at his command. He is the Lord who calls from the east the bird of prey; the man of his own purpose, to accomplish his will. Opening his mouth, he declares, “I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me.” Again, he asks, “Who is like the Lord your God, and to whom will you liken me?” The Lord declares his own righteousness, his own power, glory and sovereignty, because we have collectively shut our mouths. We deny the truth of the God’s glory as he has revealed it. We shut our mouths when we should rightfully praise.

Christ—in whom dwelt the absolute fullness of deity—came to earth and humbled himself to obedience. In a world that we had corrupted, surrounded by his creation, which we have oppressed, he alone lived and existed as that which was innocent and pure. He alone was beautiful in a world marred with sin and the ugliness of evil. Yet Christ, the one and only who did not deserve death bore our sin. He, who alone deserved to live, was made to die. He, who alone was beautiful, was made to take on all the perverted image of sinful man. What a travesty of all that is good and pure! What violation of that which is right! And yet love prevailed. At that moment, when in all righteousness, he who alone was righteous could have called all creation to account, shut his mouth. He, while suffering, chose to remain silent before those who brought lies, slander, and curses upon him.

Though we may, at times, claim to be falsely accused, yet we do not know—nor have we ever known—what it means to actually be innocent. Yet here stands innocence and purity incarnate as all evil assaults and assails. If ever there was a just cause for crying out, here it is! If ever there was reason for opening one’s mouth in defence, here it is! Yet the very one who existed before creation, the very one in whom all things—including his accusers—hold together shuts his mouth.

Christian, behold your Saviour. Like a lamb being led to slaughter, he shuts his mouth. Though he could speak and all the world would come crashing down; Though he could speak and hosts of angels would descend, yet he remains quiet, head bowed in humility and submission to the Father. Sinner, behold the love of God. He opened not his mouth. He took on my sin. O my soul, may I never forget the love of God I have seen this day.

Monday, November 28, 2005

I believe in the Holy Trinity

Dr. Michael Haykin was at our church on this Sunday evening, preaching on the Trinity. His text was Matthew 28.16-20 (esp. v.19).

The message is a much needed one in today's church where the Trinity is often assumed, seldom taught. One cannot wonder how long such an essential doctrine as this can go on not being taught, but still being unquestioned. If we, as evangelicals, can learn from the past at all, we should learn that doctrine does not remain pure without being carefully guarded. And such a core doctrine as the nature and identity of our God must be protected at all costs.

By way of introduction, Dr. Haykin walked us through several New Testament passages which speak of God existing as Three-in-One, so as to show that Matt 5.19 is not simply a proof-text.

The first passage examined was Hebrews 9.11-14. It says that Christ's offering had secured eternal redemption. "For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God."

Thus, the cross is primarily and act of God, within himself. When the writer of Hebrews thinks about the economy of salvation, it is an act of God with reference to himself first and foremost. Only then does it apply to sinners like you and me. Interesting. That doesn't seem to line up with a lot of the "me-centred" church-life we tend to find in North America these days.

Lord willing, more reflections on the Trinity will follow.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Enjoying your Bible lately?

How are you doing in your own personal study of the Bible? Does it sometimes seem like a wearisome task? When personal Bible study becomes burdensome, and everywhere on the web people are downplaying the Bible and its profundity, I found these words particularly refreshing and encouraging. Hopefully you do too.

"In addition to all its other virtues, the Bible delights the people of God. Its pages brim with adventure, humour, and pageantry. It is a book of aesthetic beauty. Surely, God gave us this marvelous message to enjoy!" People savour the "artful narrative of the intrigues of Joseph and his brothers, and they admire Nathan's cunningly simple parable to King David. They appreciate the masterful poetry in the Psalms and delight in the parables of Jesus. The Bible's diverse literature--OT epics, strange apocalyptic prophecy, tightly reasoned epistles, the skillful sustained argumentation in Hebrews--inspires and captures our interest. The Book itself arouses intellectual and emotional enjoyment. It invites us to appreciate its multifaceted beauty. But above that, the Bible's beauty and the pleasure it promotes reflects the beauty and personality of the God who inspired it. Its beauty sings his praises just as the stars and planets do (Psa 19)."
--From Klein, Blomberg & Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, rev. ed., pg 475.

I think its particularly interesting that God would speak to us using written words that we will enjoy and delight in. He could have made the Bible boring, but he delights in giving us joy... and he gave us the Bible which inspires us to delight in him... What a great God!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What Controls You?

A couple of different events are converging at once, prompting this post. One of which is some recent reflections I've had on narrative theology (most recently, Justin Taylor brought out the connection between narrative theology and emergent/emerging). The other series of events that leads me to these thoughts is the series of sermons we find ourselves in at Grace Fellowship. We're currently in Romans 9 and working through what it means that God 'has mercy on whom he wills, and hardens whom he wills.'

It's a basic presupposition of many people that you must allow a certain set of texts (be they divided by genre, place in redemptive-history, author, whatever) to control the other sets of texts.

For example, because of their predisposition to narrative theology, open theists say that the 'divine repentance texts' must have priority over the seeming 'exhaustive detail sovereignty texts' in teaching us how God interacts with people. In fact, the narrative texts ultimately determine how we interpret those other texts.

This post will obviously not resolve all (or perhaps any) of the problems raised within these issues. That being said, I want to suggest that we sometimes overlook basic rules of logic when it comes to interpreting the Bible. In other words, sometimes we think that we have to have an entirely different type of thinking cap on when we're reading God's word.

Here's an example of what I mean. One of my all-time favourite bands is braveSaintSaturn (although I think they may be defunct now...?). I love this band so much because I can identify with the poetry, allegory, images, and emotions conveyed in their art. It pulls at my heart. As they sing, I interpret everything that they say... and to be honest, I think I get it. I think I totally understand what the author of that song was trying to get across.

But I could be wrong. The other day I read an interview with Reese Roper, the lead singer of the band, and the guy that writes most of their lyrics. He started talking about what the symbols meant, and what he was trying to get across in various songs. Now, if he had've explained that a certain image meant something completely different than what I had expected, who would be right? Should I still insist that the image is what makes sense to me? Or should I understand that in his mind, he meant to convey something else, and let his explanation govern my interpretation?

Basically, my point is this: We sometimes forget that all revelation did not always exist (it came in sequence) and that not all Scripture is equally clear (2 Pet 3.16). Just as poetry provides brilliant images and draws on emotions and encourages audience involvement, so does the narrative of the OT (and gospels and Acts). But, if we understand the concept that there is one author of the whole Bible--as there was one author who both wrote the braveSaintSaturn songs and spoke about them in the interview--(see 2 Pet 1.16-21; 2 Tim 3.16; and Heb 1), then we must understand that what comes later, and clearly interprets all of narrative history (cf Romans and Hebrews for example), is intended to control our theology. This is especially true of theology proper.

What in the world does all that mean? Simply this: When we read things in the Bible that confuse us about God, we allow the newer revelation to control the older (cf Heb 1.1-2) because it is better. It interprets what came before. This is a simple principle that we apply all the time to other things we read, we just seem to miss it somehow when we read our Bible. Maybe we have a 'presupposition-driven theology.'

Friday, November 18, 2005


Ever feel like you don't quite measure up? Recently, in Dr. Haykin's lectures at school, I've been overwhelmed by the reality of the nature of the trinity. It is incredible to me how a doctrine like this could be so incredibly central to everything that we believe, and yet, the average Christian knows so little about it.

Perhaps it's partially because of the cultural mindset that says, "I like the spiritual thoughts and ideas that I come up with." Or the other attitude, "I can't understand it, so I don't want to deal with it."

But we're talking about the very nature of God here... this is not something that you can take or leave and it has no consequence. We must (in Luther's words) "beat importunately upon" the Bible at all places where it speaks of God, so that we might better understand him.

To that end, Dr. Haykin will be coming to preach at our church in the evening on Nov. 27, on the trinity. No matter how much we want to say "I'm not a theologian, just an everyday Christian," these are things we need to stretch ourselves to understand.

In the end, however, we recognize that "The secret things belong to the Lord our God" and that we must be content with that. We seek to understand the revelation that we have, but in humility, we never to speculate. As someone (I forget who) has said, with regard to the trinity, "Try to explain it, and you'll lose your mind; But try to deny it, and you'll lose your soul."

Perhaps most appropriately, Spurgeon himself said (of the phrase "today I have begotten thee," from Psalm 2), "If this
refers to the Godhead of our Lord, let us not attempt to fathom it, for it is a great truth, a truth reverently to be received, but not irreverently to be scanned. It may be added, that if this relates to the Begotten One in his human nature, we must here also rejoice in the mystery, but not attempt to violate its sanctity by intrusive prying into the secrets of the Eternal God. The things which are revealed are enough, without venturing into vain speculations. In attempting to define the Trinity, or unveil the essence of Divinity, many men have lost themselves: here great ships have foundered. What have we to do in such a sea with our frail skiffs?"

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I wonder if God...

I wonder if God could cause plants to grow without rain. I think most people would say that if God could create the earth just exactly how he did, out of nothing, then he could have created it many other ways as well. He could have made it so that the earth would be watered without rain. So why would he send rain?

There is a friend of mine who is teaching a college & careers class on evangelism. Some of the people in the class found out that he believes in God's sovereignty in salvation. They began to argue with him (as I'm sure we've all heard before) that if God elects unconditionally from eternity past all who will ever have a saving faith in him, then why do we preach? Why even bother with evangelism?

God waters the earth with rain because that's the way he's chosen to work. Precipitation is simply the means that he has seen as most fitting for what he wants to accomplish.

Evangelism is the means of bring sinners to saving faith in Christ because that's the way God has chosen to work. God has ordained that we evangelize because he has elected, and the preaching of his word is the way in which he will bring his own people to himself.

In Acts 18 we find Paul beginning his ministry to the Gentiles in Corinth, because the Jews there have rejected his message. It says that many of the people there, "hearing Paul believed and were baptized." In other words, Paul evangelized and sinners were saved. Was that "free will that triumphs over election"? No... keep reading.

Verse 9 says that "the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, 'Do not be afraid,and no one will attack you to harm you (ie. keep evangelizing), but go on speaking and do not be silent for I am with you, for I have many in this city who are my people.'" Paul's response to God's revelation of his elect being present in the city? "And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them."

In other words, when Paul understood God's plan of salvation for the people in Corinth (ie. God had some of his elect there in that city), he kept preaching the gospel, trusting God to save his own.

Election is motivation for evangelizing the lost, not the other way around. God has ordained the rain as much as he has ordained the plant's growth.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Back to the Future?

So... after starting on blogspot, I left for what I thought was greener grass. As it turns out, I didn't know what I was doing with the templates and what-not, so this seemed easier. I'll be blogging on this site, rather than the other one from here on in. You can still click here for all the stuff I've blogged up until this point.