Thursday, June 29, 2006

Thoughts on Poverty of Spirit - 2

So how could it be that Christians would become proud? Having started with nothing, how could receiving freely give us reason to boast? It seems that pride is the sneakiest of all sins, working from the core of the heart, seeking any opportunity to morph and reappear undetected.

I think the first step in losing poverty of spirit is losing sight of who God is and what he demands.

The two most famous theophanies seem to be Moses on Sinai and Isaiah's vision in the year that Uzziah died. With everything in me, try as I might, I can't imagine a way that a person could remain proud in those circumstances. Even Moses, with whom God would speak(!) could not see him or else he would die.

In Isaiah's vision even the creatures around Jesus' throne could not look upon him, but were forced to cover both their faces and their feet. When Christians fail to recognize that it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God who is a consuming fire, we cease to lose touch with the God of the Bible. When we forget that we ought rightly to be afraid of him, we are venturing toward pride.

But not only do we need to remember who God is, but we also need to remember what he demands of us. Throughout the Old Testament God thundered down the Law and declared through the prophets, 'Be holy, as I am holy! It startles me to think that we as Christians can be so easy on our sin when we read this. Do we not realize what it says? And it is not merely an 'Old Testament' thing, either! Jesus declares that we must 'Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.'

In other words, the standard is God. Now, if you haven't rightly evaluated who God is, that's not that big of a deal. But if you have truly seen the God of the Bible for who he is, and then have realized that he himself is the standard, then you realize quite quickly why exactly Isaiah cried out 'woe is me!' and why Paul could so brazenly say 'all have fallen short of the glory of God' because all have broken the law. The law is not the standard... the law bears witness to the standard, but the standard is God himself!

I may think that I measure up okay in my Christian life... I don't sin openly. I've read more books than other Christians (and better books too!). I go to church all the time, I teach Sunday school, all my friends are Christians... But in reality, how I measure up against other Christians is never, ever used as a realistic standard by which we ought to measure ourselves.

If we evaluate ourselves against others around us we might think we're doing alright. In reality, however, we ought to be measuring ourselves against God, because he is what he demands from us, and nothing less.

Honestly comparing ourselves to the God of the Bible should produce poverty of Spirit where nothing else will. Once again, our greatest need is to turn to the word of God, to behold God, to know him for who he is. Only that will make us who and what we need to be.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Some Thoughts on Poverty of Spirit

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

With these words our Lord's ministry began in earnest. The long-awaited promised one brings the fulfilment of all that was foreshadowed in the Law and the Prophets in his person and his kingdom, and these are those to whom his kingdom belongs: those who are poor in spirit.

In the plainest sense poverty of spirit is simply the heart of contrition and repentance that God has always required from his people (a few examples). God has always declared that he would dwell with the humble and cast out the presumptuous and haughty, those who think that they have no need of God: Christ did not even come for those who don't need a physician.

So first and foremost, to have any part in the kingdom (saving reign) of God (in Christ) we must recognize that he is holy, and that we are sinners without a plea before him. We deserve nothing from him, plain and simple, but come to him fully knowing that it would be good and right of him to damn me to hell. He would be just and good and righteous and glorified to send me to the place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, to the Gehenna of fire, where the worm is never satisfied.

But this is nothing new, of course. If you're a Christian, you've already been here and known this to be true in your own heart. So why doesn't it last? How could it be that having come through the front door of utter humility and contrition we now think it appropriate to dwell in the room of luxurious pride and haughtiness of thought? What would possibly cause a Christian to ever think of himself as better than anyone else?

It seems that the nature of the gospel which Christ brings is such that pride in a Christian should be an impossibility. It begins with humility, continues in self-sacrificing love, and concludes with eternal praise--it is never about self; not for a moment.

Over the next couple of posts I hope to put forward a few thoughts about poverty of spirit: Why Christians lose it and how to further affect it.

Monday, June 26, 2006

"Please show me your glory!"

Every child knows the story from Sunday School. From the time we're little we picture it... Moses goes up the mountain to speak with God. God is there, in a cloud, fire, and lightning and the people are afraid. But God speaks with Moses. Amazing!

But then the unthinkable happens: Moses dares to ask for even more! Now he wants to see God!

We tremble to think of how daring this is--but what if...

So God causes his glory to pass by Moses. You can read about it here. But here's the thing that I wonder. I know the way I pictured this when I was little. I know how I think God must've looked to Moses as he passed by. And then I think, "If only I could see God like that, it would totally change the way I live! I would never struggle with sin again!"

But maybe I need to reevaluate the way I think about this.

How about this: Have I thought that I have beheld more of God than Moses? I'm sure Moses saw Jesus, but did he see calvary? Did he see God dwelling with man in the New Jerusalem? He did not see the fullness of the revelation that we have in the completed Old and New Testaments. (If you think this isn't a valid comparison, check this out.)

What have I seen of God? If I haven't seen him, it's probably because my eyes aren't open. What Moses saw part of, while hidden in a rock on a mountain, we leave on our bookshelf gathering dust.

And then we wonder why we struggle with indwelling sin...

If we want our faces to shine, we must behold more of God--we must find him in his Word.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Abandonment of Christian Atonement

Christians never cease to amaze me. In our contemporary 'conversation' we find people rejecting the idea of penal substitution, the imputation of righteousness, justification by grace alone, through faith alone, etc., etc., etc.

The thing that really bothers me about this is the arrogance with which such historic Christian doctrines are tossed aside in such a cavalier manner. We are told that these ideas of God being 'angry' and desiring to make his Son pay the 'punishment' as a 'substitute' to give us a 'forensic', 'legal' righteous standing before God are western, modern, and un-nuanced. We are told that for hundreds of years we've been reading the New Testament through the eyes of Luther, rather than first-century Judaism.


Below is an excerpt from the Epistle to Diognetus, written in the second-century AD, one of the earliest extant apologies for the Christian faith outside of the New Testament. In this section the author discusses the nature of the atonement, as taught in the New Testament. What this is an attempt to show is that the abandonement of penal substitutionary atonement which accomplishes justification (including the imputation of righteousness) by grace alone through faith alone is not just an abandonment of modern, western Christianity, but is an abandonment of historic, biblical Christianity at its very core.


But when our iniquity was fulfilled and it had been made fully manifest that its reward of punishment and death was awaited, and the season came which God had appointed to manifest henceforth His own goodness and power (O the exceeding kindness and love of God!), He did not hate us or repel us or remember our misdeeds, but was long-suffering, bore with us, Himself in mercy took on Him our sins, Himself gave up His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for the wicked, the innocent for the guilty, “the just for the unjust”, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for mortals. For what else could cover our sins but his righteousness? In whom was it possible for us, wicked and impious as we were, to be justified, except in the Son of God alone? O the sweet exchange, O work of God beyond all searching out, O blessings past our expectation, that the wickedness of many should be hidden in one righteous Man and the righteousness of the One should justify many wicked!

-- Taken from The Epistle to Diognetus, IX.2-5. The is one of the earliest extant apologies for the Christian faith, written in the second century ad, within decades of the death of the apostle John.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Myth of Homophobia

I don't believe in homophobia.

I know there are people who don't like homosexuals. I know there are people who are incredibly uncomfortable with the thought of being "hit on" by a gay person. I know there are people with all kinds of bizarre ideas about what "causes" one person to be homosexual while the majority of people remain straight. But I don't believe in what is commonly referred to as homophobia.

People throw this word around as a term of derision at anyone who expresses discomfort or displeasure or disapproval with the prevalence, common acceptance, and forceful agenda-pushing of homosexuality. It somehow seems ironic for "them" to give such a derogatory label to those who disagree with them. Isn't it they who desire for openness?

The common use of this word "homophobia" is propaganda, plain and simple. If you disagree with the proposition that homosexuality is a "legitimate alternative lifestyle" then you are a homophobe. No one wants to be a homophobe. So if it's a choice between the two, people will just simply choose to accept homosexuality--not because they feel comfortable with it, but because they don't want to be labelled "bigot", "homophobe", "religious fundamentalist", etc.

Like any sin, homosexuality is built off of and continues to feed off of pride. If I can make everyone else accept my sin then maybe I'll feel better about myself and my conscience will quit bothering me.

The truth of the matter, however, is that homosexuality is sin. It flies in the face of all that God created humanity to be. It pushes men to not be men and women to not be women--but God created us to be those so that we could bear his image! Being gay destroys the image of marriage as a picture of Christ and his bride (if you read Eph 5 carefully you'll see that the marriage of Adam and Eve was designed in order to represent the relationship that God would one day have with his people... it's not like God saw marriage and then one day thought, "hey that's kinda like a metaphor for me and them!").

It is natural that what remains in us of the image of God would be repulsed by what is so blatanly ungodlike. This is especially true for Christians, because we have seen the wonder and the beauty and the infinite wisdom of God in his creation. We have seen from his word the kind of people--men and women distinct, yet equally wonderful--he wants us to be. We have seen that there are reasons for all that God requires of us, and that all these things are beautiful.

In this culture, in this day, in this city everyone says it is wrong to be repulsed by homosexuality. "Don't speak about it loudly... someone might hear." It has gotten to the point now where I've caught myself (a) not being repulsed by blatantly gay things around me, and (b) feeling bad when I am repulsed by it.


I'm not homophobic, but it grosses me out and I think it should! It is an abomination before the Lord, a perversion of the created order, and blatant, proud, boastful, haugty, flagrant sexual immorality in the heart of men and women who care nothing for God or the wonder and splendour of his righteousness and who presume on his patience and forebearance.

To speak of this sin as what it actually is is not homophobia and I will not be ashamed to declare that homosexuality is wrong. I don't hate anyone for their sin, but I will no longer shrink back from calling a spade what it rightly is... no matter what.

T-Minus Two Days

Pro-choicers, Protestors, and Praised Evangelist

My friend David Rainer over at "A Far Green Country" has an insightful lament over the Southern Baptist Convention. It was an eye-opener for me. Definitely worth checking out.

A Far Green Country: Pro-Choicer, Protestors, & Praised Evangelist

Injury Wars (Concluded)

So it turns out that even first thing on a Monday morning, there is still the sound of great winds coming from the jetport. It never ends.

But because he was so kind as to post this picture (a bruise... hmmm... has anyone else ever had a bruise?), I thought I would post an update as well. (Ken and David asked for me to post updates too, so in deference to them...)

Check this out:
As if anyone could suggest that a little bruise is worse than POISON IVY BETWEEN YOUR TOES!!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Comparing Ankles

So kerux thinks he's got it rough, eh?

Poor baby. Come on... honestly. Which one looks worse to you?

This little ankle sore?

Or this nasty POISON IVY?!!?
BTW, it is getting better even though I did not solicit sympathy for my pain via my blog.


Just for comparison's sake, here's my poison ivy from a few years back, just as it was breaking out.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Context: The Ultimate Trump Card

I was talking with my good friend Jim the other day after church and he said something quite humorous and very insightful. Since he didn't post it, I thought I would steal that thought from him and use it on my blog.

In our conversation we were discussing a bizarre post I read on another blog. Even more bizarre than the post itself was an open theist who responded to it. I replied (I think graciously :-) ) to this comment with many biblical texts which fly in the face of a 'god' who doesn't know the future.

In particular I challenged him to examine Is 45-48 where God (YHWH) is presented as the true, real, and living God over-against all false gods because he can declare what will come to pass (he has declared it from the beginning!). The argument, then, is that in order to be truly God, he must know the future!

Our friendly open theist's response: 'You've taken all those verses out of context!'

Blast! That darned context trump card! He got me... well, I guess there goes the argument for classical theism.

Jim's insight: People don't even know what 'out of context' means anymore. They've just heard it bantered around so much that they figure it can disprove (trump) any statement of the Bible that leads to a conclusion different than the one they want to draw.

Unbelievable. Get a hermeneutic, would you?!