Category Archives: Cross

Christ: The Most Precious Remedy

old-medicine-bottlesWhat is the most precious remedy against the wiles of the devil and sin?

Seriously to consider, That even those very sins that Satan paints, and puts new names and colors upon, cost the best blood, the noblest blood, the life-blood, the heart-blood of the Lord Jesus. That Christ should come from the eternal bosom of his Father to a region of sorrow and death; that God should be manifested in the flesh, the Creator made a creature; that he who was clothed with glory should be wrapped with rags of flesh; he who filled heaven and earth with his glory should be cradled in a manger; that the almighty God should flee from weak man—the God of Israel into Egypt; that the God of the law should be subject to the law, the God of the circumcision circumcised, the God who made the heavens working at Joseph’s homely trade; that he who binds the devils in chains should be tempted; that he, whose is the world, and the fullness thereof, should hunger and thirst; that the God of strength should be weary, the Judge of all flesh condemned, the God of life put to death; that he who is one with his Father should cry out of misery, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46); that he who had the keys of hell and death at his belt should lie imprisoned in the sepulcher of another, having in his lifetime nowhere to lay his head, nor after death to lay his body; that that HEAD, before which the angels do cast down their crowns, should be crowned with thorns, and those EYES, purer than the sun, put out by the darkness of death; those EARS, which hear nothing but hallelujahs of saints and angels, to hear the blasphemies of the multitude; that FACE, which was fairer than the sons of men, to be spit on by those beastly wretched Jews; that MOUTH and TONGUE, which spoke as never man spoke, accused for blasphemy; those HANDS, which freely swayed the scepter of heaven, nailed to the cross; those FEET, “like unto fine brass,” nailed to the cross for man’s sins; each sense pained with a spear and nails; his SMELL, with stinking odor, being crucified on Golgotha, the place of skulls; his TASTE, with vinegar and gall; his HEARING, with reproaches, and SIGHT of his mother and disciples bemoaning him; his SOUL, comfortless and forsaken; and all this for those very sins that Satan paints and puts fine colors upon! Oh! how should the consideration of this stir up the soul against sin, and work the soul to fly from it, and to use all holy means whereby sin may be subdued and destroyed!

Thomas Brooks (1608-80), The Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices20.

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Friend of Sinners Forsaken to Save

Psalm 22

To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.

Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.

But you, O LORD, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the LORD!
May your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the LORD,
and he rules over the nations.

All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it.

See also Matthew 27.

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The Antiquity of God’s Love to Believers (The Father’s Bargain)

flavelHence, in like manner, you may be informed of the consistency of grace with full satisfaction to the justice of God. The apostle, 2 Tim. 1:9. tells us, “We are saved according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Jesus Christ before the world began.” I. e. According to the gracious terms of this covenant of redemption; and yet you see notwithstanding, how strictly God stands upon satisfaction from Christ; so then, grace to us, and satisfaction to justice… what was debt to Christ, is grace to us: when you hear men cry out, Here is grace indeed! pay me all, and I will forgive you; remember, how all mouths are stopped with that one text, Rom. 3:24. “Being justified freely by his grace;” and yet he adds, “through the redemption that is in Christ.”

Again, Hence judge of the antiquity of the love of God to believers! what an ancient friend he has been to us; who loved us, provided for us, and contrived all our happiness, before we were, yes, before the world was. We reap the fruits of this covenant now, the seed whereof was sown from eternity; yes, it is not only ancient, but also most free: no excellencies of ours could engage the love of God; for as yet we were not.

Hence judge, How reasonable it is that believers should embrace the hardest terms of obedience unto Christ, who complied with such hard terms for their salvation: they were hard and difficult terms indeed, on which Christ received you from the Father’s hand: it was, as you have heard, to pour out his soul unto death, or not to enjoy a soul of you. Here you may suppose the Father to say, when driving his bargain with Christ for you:

Father. My son, here is a company of poor miserable souls, that have utterly undone themselves, and now lie open to my justice! Justice demands satisfaction for them, or will satisfy itself in the eternal ruin of them: What shall be done for these souls And thus Christ returns.

Son. O my Father, such is my love to, and pity for them, that rather than they shall perish eternally, I will be responsible for them as their Surety; bring in all your bills, that I may see what they owe you; Lord, bring them all in, that there may be no after-reckonings with them; at my hand shall you require it. I will rather choose to suffer your wrath than they should suffer it: upon me, my Father, upon me be all their debt.

Father. But, my Son, if you undertake for them, you must reckon to pay the last mite, expect no abatements; if I spare them, I will not spare you.

Son. Content, Father, let it be so; charge it all upon me, I am able to discharge it: and though it prove a kind of undoing to me, though it impoverish all my riches, empty all my treasures, (for so indeed it did, 2 Cor. 8:9. “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor”) yet I am content to undertake it.

Blush, ungrateful believers, O let shame cover your faces; judge in yourselves now, has Christ deserved that you should stand with him for trifles, that you should shrink at a few petty difficulties, and complain, this is hard, and that is harsh? O if you knew the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in this his wonderful condescension for you, you could not do it.

John Flavel (1628-91), exert from sermon, “The Covenant of Redemption between the Father and the Redeemer“.

HT: Matt Sliger – referenced in a wonderful sermon on “The Justifying Work of God”

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Good Friday: Divine Love vs Guilty Humanity

Good-Friday-2013-Banner

Easter, with the joy at the coming of spring, with all the happiness with which the sun warms our hearts, has become for each of us since childhood a festival dear to our hearts, a festival filled with warm memories from which we do not want to part.  Who among us would want to lose even a single spring from our lives?  But to say that our entire life depends upon Easter, that our existence would be threatened if there were no Easter – who among us would want or even could bear such a thing?  But Paul did indeed say it.   And because he reflected a bit more thoroughly on this question than we tend to do, we may assume that such a statement does indeed harbor a certain meaning about which one might perhaps reflect further.  “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile.”

Hence, all apparently depends upon our understanding of exactly what Paul meant by the word “raised.”  What does resurrection mean and what can it mean for us?  These are the old Easter questions that we cannot avoid unless we are thoughtless.  The overwhelming phenomenon of perpetually self-renewing spring enables humanity throughout the world to sense something of the primal struggle between darkness and light in which, after intense fighting, light emerges victorious – spring emerges form the dark winter.  Each year renews this colossal spectacle of nature, awakening in humankind an intimation of hope in resurrection.  All that is dark must ultimately become light.  This is a law of nature; indeed, darkness is not really an entity in an for itself; it exists only as the absence of light.  A single ray of sunlight destroys it.  And the sun comes, comes most assuredly, and with it the resurrection of nature.  The seeds of life are already contained in the death of nature.  Indeed, death is not really death at all, but a stage of life that abides in embryonic form within the seemingly rigid bodies.  Life and light must emerge victorious, and death and darkness are merely their manifestations.  These ideas are the common property and primal possessions of humankind, even back to its most primitive spiritual and intellectual life, and it is form such ideas that our own modernized Easter faith draws without noticing that Christianity has far different things to say about Easter.

Easter is concerned not with a struggle between darkness an light, which ultimately light will win in any case since darkness is, after all, actually nothing, because death is already life; nor with a struggle between winter and spring, between ice and sun, but with the struggle of guilty humanity against divine love, or better: of divine love against guilty humanity, struggle in which God appears to be vanquished on Good Friday and in which God, precisely by losing – wins – on Easter.  Is God victorious – or is Prometheus (representing un-Christian cultural piety) victorious?  That is the question that is answered on Easter by God’s mighty deed.  Good Friday is not the darkness that must necessarily yield to light.  It is not the winter sleep that contains and nourishes the seed of life within.  It is the day on which human beings – human beings who wanted to be like gods – kill the God who became human, the love that became a person; the day on which the Holy One of God, that is, God himself, dies, truly dies – voluntarily and yet because of human guilt – without any seed of life remaining in him in such a way that God’s death might resemble sleep.  Good Friday is not, like winter, a transitional stage – no, it is genuinely the end, the end of guilty humanity and the final judgment that humanity has pronounced upon itself.  And here only one thing can help, namely, God’s own mighty deed in the midst of humanity from within God’s eternity.  Easter is not an immanent or inner-worldly event, but a transcendent, world-transcending event, God’s intervention from eternity through which God professes loyalty to God’s Holy One and raises that Holy One from the dead.  Easter speaks not about immortality but about resurrection, resurrection from the dead through God’s mighty deed, from death that is genuinely death with all its horrors and terrors, death of the body and of the soul, of the entire person.  That is the Easter message.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1909-45), “3/31 Sermon on 1 Corinthians 15:17” in Barcelona, Berlin, New York, 1928-1931, Works Vol. 10, 486-7.

HT: Tony Reinke

Image Credit: Missio Dei Church

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The Reward of His Suffering

Nikolaus von Zinzendorf was born in 1700 to Austrian nobility.  After Zinzendorf had finished the university, he took a trip throughout Europe looking at some of the cultural high-spots. And something very unexpected happened. In the art museum at Dusseldorf he saw a painting by Domenico Feti entitled “Ecce Homo” (“Behold the Man”). It was a portrait of Christ with the crown of thorns pressed down on his head and blood running down his face.

Beneath the portrait were the words, “I have done this for you; what have you done for me?” All of his life Zinzendorf looked back to that encounter as utterly life-changing. As he stood there, as it were, watching his Savior suffer and bleed, he said to himself, “I have loved him for a long time, but I have never actually done anything for him. From now on I will do whatever he leads me to do.”

He was raised in a strong Pietist tradition, Zizendorf felt a strong inclination toward religious work. But as a count, he was expected to follow his late father’s footsteps into government. He did as he was told and in October 1721 became the king’s judicial counselor at Dresden.

After less than a year at court, he bought the estate of Berthelsdorf from his grandmother, hoping to form a Christian community for oppressed religious minorities. They named it Herrnhut—”the Lord’s watch.”

In 1727 the community started a round the clock “prayer watch” that lasted unbroken for 100 years. There were about 300 persons in the community at the beginning, and various ones covenanted to pray for one of the 24 hours in the day.

Visiting Copenhagen in 1731 to attend the coronation of King Christian VI, Zinzendorf met a converted slave from the West Indies, Anthony Ulrich. The man was looking for someone to go back to his homeland to preach the gospel to black slaves, including his sister and brother. Zinzendorf raced back to Herrnhut to find men to go; two immediately volunteered, becoming the first Moravian missionaries—and the first Protestant missionaries of the modern era, antedating William Carey (often called “the father of modern missions”) by 60-some years.

In 1792, 65 years later, with the lamp of prayer still burning, the little community had sent out 300 missionaries to the unreached peoples of the West Indies, Greenland, Lapland, Turkey, and North America. They were utterly, and radically dedicated to making Jesus known.**

Purchase “The Reward” by Matt Papa here – all money goes to global missions.

Citation:

*Christian History – Nikolas von Zizendorf

* John Piper – “At the Price of God’s own Blood

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Jesus Paid It All

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. –  Colossians 2:13-15

  • I hear the Savior say,
    “Thy strength indeed is small;
    Child of weakness, watch and pray,
    Find in Me thine all in all.”
  • Refrain:
    Jesus paid it all,
    All to Him I owe;
    Sin had left a crimson stain,
    He washed it white as snow.
  • For nothing good have I
    Whereby Thy grace to claim;
    I’ll wash my garments white
    In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.
  • And now complete in Him,
    My robe, His righteousness,
    Close sheltered ’neath His side,
    I am divinely blest.
  • Lord, now indeed I find
    Thy pow’r, and Thine alone,
    Can change the leper’s spots
    And melt the heart of stone.
  • When from my dying bed
    My ransomed soul shall rise,
    “Jesus died my soul to save,”
    Shall rend the vaulted skies.
  • And when before the throne
    I stand in Him complete,
    I’ll lay my trophies down,
    All down at Jesus’ feet.
  • Chorus: O Praise the one who paid my debt
    And raised this life up from the dead
    O Praise the one who paid my debt
    And raised this life up from the dead
    O Praise the one who paid my debt
    And raised this life up from the dead
    O Praise the one who paid my debt
    And raised this life up from the dead.

Elvina M. Hall, 1865.

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The Depression Defying Power of Preaching to Yourself

The depressed self tries to take over. Don’t listen to him. Talk to him. Yes, those who fear for your stability may think your depression means you’re crazy. Risk confirming their suspicions by talking to yourself! You have Psalm 42’s permission.

In his classic work Spiritual Depression, Martyn Lloyd-Jones reflects on Psalm 42 and advises thusly:

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: “Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you. . . .”

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: “Why art thou cast down”—what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: “Hope thou in God”—instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: “I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.”

The depressed person must defy his depressed self. Stop listening; start talking. Don’t blather. Don’t mumble. Take hold of yourself and preach! Proclaim glad tidings of great joy. (This is not the same as positive thinking or “word of faith” theology’s false doctrine of the tongue’s power. That is magic. This is preaching the sufficiency of Christ.) Tell yourself that you are loved by God, that Christ has died in your stead, that the Spirit lives in you, consecrating you to God and guaranteeing your salvation. Inform yourself that Jesus is your defense attorney, that he pleads his blood in response to every charge brought against you. Tell your depression that its days are numbered, and even if it should—God forbid—last till your dying breath, it will thus be vanquished for all eternity while you escape to everlasting joy. That’s thumbing your nose at it! It won’t win. Christ won, so Christ will. You will outlast your depression, because Christ in you, the hope of glory, will outlast it.

Most of us have a tape that plays in our head. The tape is set to repeat, and its accusatory message loops over and over. The tape may play a message from the Devil or perhaps something that has burdened us since childhood. I have a tape that plays in my head every now and then, something that comes from the neuroses of my childhood, my desire for significance, and my timidity. Your tape may say any of the following:

  • You can never be forgiven.
  • God doesn’t love you.
  • Jesus didn’t die for you.
  • You aren’t smart enough to trust Jesus.
  • You aren’t holy enough to trust Jesus.
  • You are the failures of your parents.
  • You are the failures of your children.
  • You are your failures.

Our devilish accuser and our accusatory self are very innovative. They hear from us what would be the most crushing thing to hear, and that is what they record for us to listen to.

My tape says this: You are only as good as what you haven’t done.

This toxic message wrecked my inner life as a child. I would achieve or express talent, but it never seemed good enough. The voice inside always asked, “But what else? Is that it? That’s the best you can do?” This voice has been with me a very long time. It plays sometimes at a whisper, sometimes at full volume, at inopportune moments. When I have made a mistake as a parent, as a husband, as a pastor, it may blare in my ear without warning. It says “so what?” about any success or affirmation I have had; it asks “what else?” It tells me that I am only as good a parent, a husband, a pastor, or a Christian as my failures in these areas.

Since my moment of gospel wakefulness, the tape plays much less often, but when it does, I know just what to do with it. I do what you ought to do when your tape plays. Don’t press pause. Press eject. Remove the tape, drop it to the ground, and crush it under the heel of Christ, who is your righteousness.

Don’t listen to your tape anymore. Don’t trust your own reasoning. You can’t trust yourself when you are depressed. Richard Sibbes wrote a powerful little meditation for the depressed and the discouraged called The Bruised Reed, in which he tells us:

We must not judge of ourselves always according to present feeling, for in temptations we shall see nothing but smoke of distrustful thoughts. Fire may be raked up in the ashes, though not seen. Life in the winter is hid in the root.

You can’t trust depression, no matter how “reliable” it is. Defy yourself by believing God is doing something in and through you that you can’t see. Gospel yourself!

Your proclamation to yourself may sound something like this:

My soul is cast down within me;

therefore I remember you

from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,

from Mount Mizar. (Ps. 42:6)

The psalmist is remembering something else now. He remembers times of God’s closeness. He remembers God’s historic faithfulness. He remembers the land of Jordan, where the river gives lush land, where the Israelites crossed from wandering to the land of promise. He remembers the land of Hermon, the pearly snow-capped summit, a height of heights. He remembers Mount Mizar, a smaller range, perhaps a place of exile and comfort. Whether these memories are personal recollections of places of intimacy with God or general recollections of God’s goodness to his people, the climax of God’s historic and localized act of faithfulness is this: the cross of Christ.

Is your soul cast down within you? Remember God, therefore, from the land of Judea and of Jerusalem, from Mount Calvary.

Always remember the cross, which is the historical verification of God’s justice and mercy. The cross is proof that God loves sinners.

Jared C. Wilson, Gospel Wakefulness, Chapter 8.

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