Friday, August 22, 2008

The Hill Called Difficult

Yesterday was Convocation at Southern Seminary, my first day of chapel. Dr. Mohler called for this to be "The Year of Living Dangerously." I was challenged to think, "What if my default is to go instead of stay?" As he pointed out, this is where in the history of the church (and as I reflected, in my life) that it is hardest to "let goods and kindred go."

This morning as I read in Pilgrim's Progress, I came across this passage which gets to the heart of Dr. Mohler's point and convicts me of laziness and the temptation to be comfortable:

From A Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan:

I beheld then, that they all went on till they came to the foot of the hill “Difficulty,” at the bottom of which was a spring. There was also in the same place two other ways besides that which came straight from the Gate; one turned to the left hand, and the other to the right, at the bottom of the Hill: but the narrow way lay right up the Hill (and the name of the going up the side of the Hill, is called Difficulty.) Christian now went to the spring and drank thereof to refresh himself (Isaiah 49:10), and then began to go up the Hill; saying,
This Hill, though high, I covet to ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way to life lies here;
Come, pluck up, Heart; lets neither faint nor fear:
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.

The other two also came to the foot of the Hill. But when they saw that the Hill was steep and high, and that there was two other ways to go; and supposing also, that these two ways might meet again with that up which Christian went, on the other side of the Hill; therefore they were resolved to go in those ways (now the name of one of those ways was Danger, and the name of the other Destruction.) So the one took the way which is called Danger, which led him into a great Wood; and the other took directly up the way to Destruction, which led him into a wide field full of dark mountains, where he stumbled and fell, and rose no more.

"Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

How Much Do You Really Love God?

I tell myself that I love God. But how do I know how much I truly am loving God. In other words, is there a way to measure how much I love God? I believe so. I agree with Jerry Bridges when he says so in The Discipline of Grace (p123):

Jesus said, "He who has been forgiven little loves little" (Luke 7:47). In the context of that statement He essentially said the converse is also true: Those who have been forgiven much love much. Therefore, we can say that the extent to which we realize and acknowledge our own sinfulness, and the extent to which we realize the total forgiveness and cleansing from those sins, will determine the measure of our love to God.

I don't love God as I ought—with all of my heart, soul, and mind. The extent to which I realize and acknowledge my sinfulness is not vast: I tend to focus on particular areas and think that the others are okay or I euphemize my sins. The extent to which I actually—not just say I do— realize the total forgiveness and cleansing from my sinfulness is not great either: I tend to try to clean up my act in order to compensate for other areas of failure. So what am I to do? Bridges goes on to say:

So if we want to grow in our love for God and in the acceptable obedience that flows out of that love, we must keep coming back to the Cross and the cleansin blood of Jesus Christ. That is why it is so important that we keep the gospel before us every day. Because we sin every day, and our consciences condemn us every day, we need the gospel every day.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

It's All Coming Back To Me Now

As the great poet, Meat Loaf, sang, it's all coming back to me now! (Okay, so it's an entirely different context...) I've been spending some time digging back into recesses of my mind to recall my first semester of Hebrew which I took in the fall of 2006. A week from now, I'll take Hebrew Syntax & Exegesis at Southern and have to be up-to-speed by then. Thankfully I was taught by a brilliant teacher, Dr. Roy Beacham. As I was looking over his handouts tonight, I was reminded of what a fantastic job he did of imparting his "tricks of the trade" because it all flooded back in! So, thank you, Dr. Beacham!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

How Much Did Christ Endure On the Cross?

As I was thinking this morning about the Gospel while reading A Gospel Primer for Christians, I began thinking about the wrath of Christ endured on the cross. I deserve the wrath of God put on me for all my sin: every sin I've ever committed, every sin I'll commit today, and every sin I'll commit in the future. However, because of the faith that God put in me to hope in Christ alone, I have been justified by grace alone: Every single one of those sins have received their just penalty. I cannot mess up my position before God by wallowing around in the mud of sin today because He has already punished me for all those sins vicariously through Jesus Christ, my Proxy. The verdict that will be rendered to me on judgment day is innocent—the penalty (a blood sacrifice of infinite worth) has been paid for me.

Now here's the thought that sunk in pretty well this morning: The atonement on the cross covered all my sins and sealed my pardon on judgment day—in other words, my forgiveness was actually (for theologians, I realize that's where the rub is: actual versus potential, but I don't think that potential atonement has any ground to stand on Biblically) accomplished on the cross. Given that proposition, we have only two options in understanding who Jesus died for on the cross: If we say that Jesus died for every single human being, then we have to say that since Christ accomplished my forgiveness on the cross, then He accomplished forgiveness for everyone on the cross. If that's true, then on judgment day, everyone will be given a release pardon. Now if you think you can get a universal pardon out of texts like Revelation 20:15 then by all means, go ahead and believe that! (But personally I think you'd have to be smoking something illegal to get that kind of interpretation! J) Or, our only other logical option will be that Christ accomplished forgiveness for all those whom God predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.

To put it simply:

Christ's work on the cross releases someone from their just penalty.
All will benefit from Christ's work on the cross.
Therefore, all will be released from their just penalty.


Christ's work on the cross releases someone from their just penalty.
Only a certain number will benefit from Christ's work on the cross.
Therefore, only a certain number will be released from their just penalty.

If you're a little perturbed by this (that's a normal feeling!), you may be thinking, "That doesn't seem right, Paul. I don't agree with either of those." Here is likely what you believe then:

Christ's work on the cross made it possible for someone to be released from their just penalty.
Only a certain number will benefit from what was made possible for them on the cross.
Therefore, only a certain number will be released from their just penalty.

You wouldn't be heretical for thinking this. It's actually what most people I grew up with believe. For them, the "made possible" part is changed to "actualizes" once a person puts their faith in Christ. However, I cannot stand by that argument because of texts like Acts 20:28 where Paul says to the elders at Ephesus as he was leaving Miletus, "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood" The work of Christ actually obtained for Him the Church of God through the shedding of His blood. He actually paid the price.

This brings such comfort to my soul because it helps me know that my justification is not a once-in-the-past event. My justification is a past-now-and-future event that is as sure as God's promises. That means that I can never ever step out of God's favor. God will never be angry (in a wrathful disposition towards me) with me because He already poured out His wrath upon me via my Proxy. It does not mean that God is not saddened, deeply, when I sin. But it does mean that He will always look on me with lovingkindness because He will always look on His Son with lovingkindness since I died with Christ and have been resurrected with Him to walk in newness of life! Rejoice in your salvation!

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The everlasting righteousness By Horatius Bonar