Category Archives: Creation

The Pulley (George Herbert)

George Herbert

When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
“Let us,” said he, “pour on him all we can.
Let the world’s riches, which dispersèd lie,
   Contract into a span.”
____
   So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure.
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
   Rest in the bottom lay.
____
   “For if I should,” said he,
“Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
   So both should losers be.
____
   “Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
   May toss him to my breast.”
____
George Herbert (1593-1633), “The Pulley”
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Sex is an Act of Worship

Paul David Tripp, in a series of videos, unpacks four worship principles and 2 commands/boundaries for our sexual lives sex & moneyfrom 1 Corinthians 6:12-20:

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body.

4 Worship Principles:

2 Boundaries/Commands for Our Sexual Lives:

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Filed under 1 Corinthians, Anthropology, Applied Theology, Bible, Christian Living, Christian Thinking, Christology, Commentary, Counseling, Creation, God, Gospel, Grace, Idolatry, Sanctification, Sexuality, Sin, Theology, Worldview, Worship

The Danger of Serpentine Words

serpent

Yesterday, as I was working through the Good Book Guide “Biblical Manhood” with a friend, we discussed what happened in Genesis 3 in the Fall.  In particular, we began to think about how the serpent (Satan) deceived Eve.  The guide led us to consider how Eve was tempted to think about God’s Word and how we are tempted to heed the same tempting words of the serpent.  After some discussion on our part, we turned to the guide, which summed up Satan’s temptations toward Eve as portraying God’s Word as unclear, untrue, and unfair.

First, the crafty serpent comes to Eve and tempts her to believe that God’s Word is unclear.  He asks “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  If you have read chapter 2, you know that God did not actually say that, but “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  Yet, Eve responds not with the clear word of God but with “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”  Whoa! Hang on a minute Eve, God didn’t say anything about touching it!  Sure it would be wise not to touch it or even go near it but that’s not what God said.  The serpent’s questioning of the clarity of God’s Word brought doubt to the mind of Eve, leading her to add to it and question her own understanding of it.

Next, we see Satan questioning the truthfulness of God’s Word.  After Eve’s first response, the serpent rebuts, “You will not surely die.”  Now we know we are in dangerous waters.  This is clearly not what God has said but Satan has already brought doubt concerning the clarity of God’s Word, so he has an open door to twist it to his own conclusions.  If it appears unclear to her what God has said, why couldn’t the serpent’s interpretation be valid or at least plausible?  But this is not what God has said.  He said if they eat of that one tree they WILL die.  No question. No ambiguous language.  Completely clear and, as they and all of mankind know, completely true, for death is the great leveler of all mankind.

Lastly, the serpent continues on, tempting Eve to believe that God’s Word and, therefore, God Himself is unfair.  After questioning the truthfulness Satan says, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  He is saying, “God doesn’t want you to eat because He is keeping something from you, something good, something you deserve.”  He questions God’s goodness and His truthfulness.  Yet the great deception here is not from God but from Satan, for Adam and Eve were already like God, made in His image.  His withholding was His protection over them, not an unfair keeping from them.  As their Creator, He knew what what they were created for and the best working out of that purpose, so their was even grace in the command not to eat.  Yet, Eve, turning from God and His Word, with the desire of the flesh (good for food), desire of the eyes (delight to the eyes), and the pride in possessions (desired to make one wise), took, ate, gave, and saw, plunging all of mankind into sin, death, and condemnation and bringing forth a curse upon all creation.

But the story does not end here.  The same temptations that the crafty one brought to Eve are temptations that each of us face.  We are constantly tempted to think of God’s Word as unclear, untrue, or unfair.  When it comes to the temptation to think God’s Word is unclear, we are often like Eve.  We either add to it, thinking we are clarifying  what was said or we doubt whether we can really understand it confidently, both of which are dangerous.  There is no doubt that there are things in God’s Word that are hard to understand, for Scripture declares such about itself but it never says that we won’t be able to understand or be confident in the clarity of it.  When such difficult things arise in the Word, or even at times things that are not so hard, we are tempted to add to it, thinking that we are really explaining more or better, while in reality we are explaining it away, making the divine human, robbing it of its power.  When we don’t agree with others on certain issues, rather than turning to the Word for understanding and correction, we merely claim that its a matter of interpretation or opinion, leading us to conclude that the Word is unclear and our comprehension can never be trusted.  This is a slippery slope that leads to all kinds of doubt and skepticism concerning God’s Word.  If God’s Word is unclear, how can we be sure we understand anything, particularly the essentials (God, man, gospel, salvation, Bible, etc.)?

But the Word of God is clear.  Again, I acknowledge that there are things that are hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16), but that in no ways means it is unclear.  God says His Word makes wise the simple and is pure enlightening the eyes (Ps 19:7-8), gives light and imparts understanding to the simple (Ps 119:130), able to make one wise for salvation and is God-breathed and therefore able to teach, reprove, correct, and train in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:15-17), brings freedom from darkness and sin (John 8:31), renews the mind (Rom. 12:1-2), brings forth faith and new birth by the work of the Spirit, (Rom. 10:17, 1 Peter 1:23), in it we find all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and on and on.  If God’s Word is unclear and we cannot stand confidently on it how could the Word accomplish any of those things?  More than that, Scripture is God’s Word – it is His communication to us that we might know Him, love Him, and be reconciled to Him.  Clarity is a must.  Though there will be those who come to differences when seeking to understand the Word, the problem is not with the Bible but shows the presence of the effects of sin on our minds, our own ignorance, assumptions, and attempts to make the infinite finite.  God has been gracious in that, even with these hindrances, He has given us His Spirit in Christ to give us understanding as well as teachers within the church to guide us in the truth and clarity of the Word.

We also face the crafty words of the devil like Eve, tempting us to believe that God’s Word is untrue.  This is extremely deadly.  We are tempted to deny parts that make us uncomfortable whether it concerns who God is and what He has done or whether is concerns who we are, what’s wrong with us, and what we need.  Any denial of its truthfulness leads to death, as seen with Adam and Eve.  It doesn’t matter if you understand it when determining its truthfulness.  It is only by faith that we can understand it (Heb. 11:3).  We are finite, fallen creatures holding before us the pure and authoritative words of God.  Who are we to question, criticize, or deny His Truth?  He spoke and it was!  His Word is unfading, imperishable, unchanging, truth for He is Truth.  The truthfulness of God’s Word flows from His character, for He is a “God, who never lies” (Titus 1:2), and “cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).  “Every word of God proves true” (Prov 30:5; Ps 12;6, 119:42; John 17:17).  Leading from the question of the Word’s clarity, to deny it is to deny its truthfulness, for as shown, it declares itself to be clear and true.

Finally, we are tempted to question the fairness of God’s Word.  Whether it be a concern for the justice of a situation (e.g. destruction of whole cities or God’s choosing of Israel) or commands exhorting right action or prohibiting desirable actions/things (e.g. roles of men and women or lust), we can be easily tempted to think God is unfair and therefore not good for withholding what we think we should have or not doing what we think He should do.  Rereading that sentence may reveal the problem.  Who is the determining factor on what is right, just, or fair?  We are not the determining factor, nor are our conceptions of what is right, just, or fair, but God is – His person and His character determine what is right, just, and fair, which He shows forth in His actions.  Don’t think something God did is just?  Time to adjust your concept of justice to His.  Don’t think something He says or did is right or fair?  Time to adjust your understanding of what’s right and wrong to Him.

Fairness is not a biblical concept but justice and righteousness characterize God and are to characterize His people.  If we want to demand the justice and righteousness of God under the guise of fairness, we need to understand that we are calling down wrath on all of us.  As sinners before a holy and righteous God, all anyone deserves is wrath nothing more.  Want to talk of entitlement?  Before God, in your sin, you are only entitled to wrath.  But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love for us shown in Christ, has reconciled us to Himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  It is by Him and through Him that we are made new, given eyes to see, ears to hears, and minds renewed that we may stand confidently by the Spirit on the clarity, truthfulness, and justice of God’s Word.

Do not heed the deadly words of the serpent but cling to the living Word of God.

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True Manhood & Womanhood Found In Christ

collegebmw

True Manhood

True Womanhood

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Filed under Anthropology, Applied Theology, Bible, Big Picture, Christian Living, Christian Thinking, Christology, Counseling, Creation, Family, God, Gospel, Sexuality, Theology, Worldview

Fascination with Fireworks and the Wonder of God

Summer heat holds the air.  The bronzing sun falls beneath the horizon.  As the blanket of darkness is pulled across the sky people young and old flee their homes seeking wonder.  Masses gather gazing towards the heavens anticipating the genesis of their amazement.  The hush of the crowd is broken by a cannon-like burst followed by a breach in the night.  The blackness of the evening’s ceiling is in a moment undone by the flash of multicolor pearls of light.  One after the other, the sky is illuminated, leaving children and the aged awestruck alike.  With mouths gaping and eyes fixed, everyone’s mind is filled with wonder and their hearts are carried away for a brief time.  As the sky darkens once again the multitude hastens back to their dwellings, singing the praises of the glorious display of power and artistry they have just witnessed.

Two thousand years ago this would sound like an appearance of angels, possibly to shepherds on a hillside, but today this is a yearly occasion for Americans – any one of the Fourth of July events centered upon a fireworks display.  The question that arises from such an occasion is why do we find such wonder and amazement in fireworks?  Why do they, year after year, from our youngest days to the day of our death, cause us to stand in awe? I do no think it is not simply because they are loud to the ears or spectacular to the eyes, though they are.  It is not simply because fireworks awaken the inner child within us all, who finds amazement in the simple pleasures of life, though they do.  I believe it is something deeper.  Something deep within us as well as something greatly outside of us.

The reason, I believe, we find such wonder in fireworks is their shadowy reflection of our Creator and mankind’s universal knowledge of Him.  Just think about it for a minute.  We were created by God, bearers of His image, to know Him and to enjoy fellowship with Him.  Mankind was appointed as vice-regents of creation, to be under-creators, being made in His image.  But something terrible happened.  Mankind was not satisfied with his position and sought to become more like God through his own efforts.  Rebelling against his Creator, the human race fell from its exalted position, marring the image of God though not destroying it.  While, before the fall, all human creativity and work was to be a reflection of God Himself, bringing Him glory, now, after the fall, mankind creates and works for his own glory, though a tension or better yet an unfulfilled desire exists.  Since all of creation was meant to point to and be a testimony to God’s glory and might, when we enjoy, find amazement in, or set our affections on something/one created our hearts cry out for something greater.  Something greater than ourselves.  Something greater that the world around us.  Our hearts cry out for God.

So how do fireworks fit into this picture.  Who is praised after the fireworks are over?  The manufacturers, the firework technicians, or the proprietors of the place putting on the show are all the usual recipients, but rarely ever is God praised.  Fireworks are a creation of man for the praise and enjoyment of man.  Still bearing the image of our Creator, we create and continue to do so unknowingly as a reflection of Him.  Fireworks are mere glimmers of creativity and power in comparison to God and His creation.  Just look past the fireworks and you will see the wonder, the beauty, the power of  God in the expanse of the heavens and the heavenly bodies that fill it.  The Psalmist proclaimed, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).  While fireworks come and go in an instant, God’s creation continues on.  Stars continue to shine, planets perpetually revolve, and we, here on this earth, minuscule in comparison to all things, still live.  It is He who in the beginning “created the heavens and the earth”, who spoke and said, “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light”, and who at the very moment “upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Amazing!  This, I believe gets at the root of our awe of fireworks.  In those moments we catch a glimpse of the most spectacular fireworks display ever, God creating.  To ignore this is to deprive ourselves of seeing and enjoying God’s glory in creation reflected through His image bearers.  It is to deny the very reason we were created.

This God is still at work today, not only upholding all things but is at work undoing the effects of our sin in us as well as in the world.  Not only do we need to stand in awe of the Creator of all things, we need that same God to illuminate our hearts through the work of the Holy Spirit, for our hearts are a dark void just as the world was before God spoke light into existence.  We all need what Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  Without this light given by the grace of God the only wonder and joy we will ever find in this world and for eternity will be in fleeting flashes, shadows of beauty, and quiet echoes of something more.

Enjoy the show, stand in awe and wonder, but remember that behind all that you see is the hand, the reflection, the presence of God.

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, Bible, Christian Thinking, Creation, Culture, Epistemology, God, Gospel, Knowledge of God, Psalms, Sin, Theology, Worldview, Worship

The Severity of Separating One Flesh

He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

The Christian idea of marriage is based on Christ’s words that a man and wife are to be regarded as a single organism—for that is what the words “one flesh” would be in modern English. And the Christians believe that when He said this He was not expressing a sentiment but stating a fact—just as one is stating a fact when one says that a lock and its key are one mechanism, or that a violin and a bow are one musical instrument. The inventor of the human machine was telling us that its two halves, the male and the female, were made to be combined together in pairs, not simply on the sexual level, but totally combined. The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union. The Christian attitude does not mean that there is anything wrong about sexual pleasure, any more than about the pleasure of eating. It means that you must not isolate that pleasure and try to get it by itself, any more than you ought to try to get the pleasures of taste without swallowing and digesting, by chewing things and spitting them out again.

As a consequence, Christianity teaches that marriage is for life. There is, of course, a difference here between different Churches: some do not admit divorce at all; some allow it reluctantly in very special cases. It is a great pity that Christians should disagree about such a question; but for an ordinary layman the thing to notice is that Churches all agree with one another about marriage a great deal more than any of them agrees with the outside world. I mean, they all regard divorce as something like cutting up a living body, as a kind of surgical operation. Some of them think the operation so violent that it cannot be done at all; others admit it as a desperate remedy in extreme cases. They are all agreed that it is more like having both your legs cut off than it is like dissolving a business partnership or even deserting a regiment. What they all disagree with is the modern view that it is a simple readjustment of partners, to be made whenever people feel they are o longer in love with one another, or when either of them falls in love with someone else.

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), Mere Christianity, 104-05.

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From Glory to Glory: Beholding a Better Vision & Becoming Like Christ, Part 2

In the previous post we looked at a summary theme of the word of God: from glory to glory.  Specifically, our concern was this theme as a summation of the Christian life.  In Christ we move from the beginning with the glory of regeneration to our final hope in the glory of our glorification.  And we left off answering the question of its relevance  to us here and now, in the already but not yet, concluding that we have been redeemed that we would be sanctified – that this sojourn from glory to glory is about our being transformed into the image of God’s Son.

So, how are we to pursue sanctification?  What has God provided that we might be sanctified?  Look back to 2 Corinthians 3:18:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

This one verse contains so much truth concerning the Christian life.  Particularly, it reveals three aspects of our sanctification.

3 Aspects of Our Sanctification:

1. The Procedure of Sanctification – Beholding a Better Vision

How are we to pursue sanctification?  2 Corinthians 3:18 declares, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image.”  As mentioned earlier, at regeneration God does a gracious work of unveiling our eyes by His illuminating Spirit through the gospel (2 Cor. 4:3-6).  Now that the veil has been lifted we may behold the glory of the Lord and by that vision we are transformed.  There is a direct connection between beholding the glory of God and being sanctified.  We mentioned the glory of God above but it is referring to something specific here.  2 Corinthians 4:6 tells us that “the glory of God” is “in the face of Jesus Christ.”  What this is saying is that we are to behold Christ that we may be transformed.

Thomas Chalmers, in his sermon The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, said that it is insufficient to say to someone or to yourself, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15), and think that is the end of sin.  Rather, that affectionate vision of the world must be replaced with a better vision.  He writes:

The love of the world cannot be expunged by a mere demonstration of the world’s worthlessness. But may it not be supplanted by the love of that which is more worthy than itself? The heart cannot be prevailed upon to part with the world, by a simple act of resignation. But may not the heart be prevailed upon to admit into its preference another, who shall subordinate the world, and bring it down from its wonted ascendancy?

Chalmers gives the solution to the problem – the gospel:

But the same revelation which dictates so mighty an obedience, places within our reach as mighty an instrument of obedience. It brings for admittance to the very door of our heart, an affection which once seated upon its throne, will either subordinate every previous inmate, or bid it away. Beside the world, it places before the eye of the mind Him who made the world and with this peculiarity, which is all its own – that in the Gospel do we so behold God, as that we may love God…. It is God apprehended by the believer as God in Christ, who alone can dispost it from this ascendancy.

How are we to pursue sanctification?  How do we put off sin and put on holiness?  How do we become more like Christ?  We must behold a better vision – Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.  We behold Christ in His works in the world (creation), in His work of redemption on behalf of sinners, in His work in the world through the church, and in His word as we read it, obey it, and share it with others.  Struggling with sin? Look to Jesus.  Desire the world?  Fix your eyes upon Christ, “the founder and perfecter of our faith.”  Want to change?  It is a battle but eternal worth the fight (2 Cor. 4:16-18).  Behold a better vision and become like Christ.

2. The Product of Sanctification – Becoming Like Christ

The result of beholding Christ in all His glory is that you will be “transformed into the same image.”  When you take your eyes off the world, sin and self and perpetually gaze at the Savior you will be transformed into His image.  Beholding is becoming.  John Owen, in The Glory of Christ, wrote:

It is by beholding the glory of Christ by faith that we are spiritually edified and built up in this world, for as we behold his glory, the life and power of faith grow stronger and stronger. It is by faith that we grow to love Christ. So if we desire strong faith and powerful love, which give us rest, peace and satisfaction, we must seek them diligently beholding the glory of Christ by faith. In this duty I desire to live and to die.

On Christ’s glory I would fix all my thoughts and desires, and the more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes and I will be more and more crucified to this world. It will become to me like something dead and putrid, impossible for me to enjoy.

When we behold the glory of God in Christ we become like Him “from one degree of glory to another.”

3. The Producer of Sanctification – Bestowed by the Spirit

We must behold Christ to become like Him.  We must, as Paul wrote, “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”  We must strive for holiness.  Yet at the end of the day we must proclaim with Scripture that whatever holiness or victory over indwelling sin exists it is “by the grace of God.”  Though we work, it is “God who is at work in us to will and to work for His good pleasure.”  2 Corinthians 3:18 says that our hearts and eyes being unveiled, our beholding of the glory of God in Christ, as well as our being transformed into that same image “comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”  As we set our gaze upon Christ’s person and work, the Holy Spirit will transform us into the very image of the One we behold. All this is “to the praise of His glory” (Eh. 1:12,14).

Let us all, for the glory of God and for our good behold a better vision in the glory of God in the gospel and become more like Christ.

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