Tag Archives: Love

Heaven is a World of Love

 

On this day 309 years ago Jonathan Edwards was born.  He was a pastor, a theologian, and a missionary in colonial New England. Edwards wrote voluminously, preached widely, and pursued God and the truths of his Word vigorously.  He is sadly most popularly known for his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  While worthy of attention, this one sermon does not adequately represent the mind or ministry of this pillar of the Christian faith.  In fact, he spent much energy writing and preaching some of the most beautiful sermons and books about heaven and the love of God.  In honor of Jonathan Edwards’ birthday and his legacy I would like share a snippet of one of his sermons, “Heaven, a World of Charity or Love”:

[The] God of love himself dwells in heaven. Heaven is the palace or presence-chamber of the high and holy One, whose name is love, and who is both the cause and source of all holy love. God, considered with respect to his essence, is everywhere – he fills both heaven and earth. But yet he is said, in some respects, to be more especially in some places than in others. He was said of old to dwell in the land of Israel, above all other lands; and in Jerusalem, above all other cities of that land; and in the temple, above all other buildings in the city; and in the holy of holies, above all other apartments of the temple; and on the mercy-seat, over the ark of the covenant, above all other places in the holy of holies. But heaven is his dwelling-place above all other places in the universe; and all those places in which he was said to dwell of old, were but types of this. Heaven is a part of creation that God has built for this end, to be the place of his glorious presence, and it is his abode for ever; and here will he dwell, and gloriously manifest himself, to all eternity.

And this renders heaven a world of love; for God is the fountain of love, as the sun is the fountain of light. And therefore the glorious presence of God in heaven, fills heaven with love, as the sun, placed in the midst of the visible heavens in a clear day, fills the world with light. The apostle tells us that “God is love;” and therefore, seeing he is an infinite being, it follows that he is an infinite fountain of love. Seeing he is an all-sufficient being, it follows that he is a full and overflowing, and inexhaustible fountain of love. And in that he is an unchangeable and eternal being, he is an unchangeable and eternal fountain of love.

There, even in heaven, dwells the God from whom every stream of holy love, yea, every drop that is, or ever was, proceeds. There doth God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, united as one, in infinitely dear, and incomprehensible, and mutual, and eternal love. There dwells God the Father, who is the father of mercies, and so the father of love, who so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son to die for it. There dwells Christ, the Lamb of God, the prince of peace and of love, who so loved the world that he shed his blood, and poured out his soul unto death for men. There dwells the great Mediator, through whom all the divine love is expressed toward men, and by whom the fruits of that love have been purchased, and through whom they are communicated, and through whom love is imparted to the hearts of all God’s people. There dwells Christ in both his natures, the human and the divine, sitting on the same throne with the Father. And there dwells the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of divine love, in whom the very essence of God, as it were, flows out, and is breathed forth in love, and by whose immediate influence all holy love is shed abroad in the hearts of all the saints on earth and in heaven. There, in heaven, this infinite fountain of love – this eternal Three in One – is set open without any obstacle to hinder access to it, as it flows for ever. There this glorious God is manifested, and shines forth, in full glory, in beams of love. And there this glorious fountain for ever flows forth in streams, yea, in rivers of love and delight, and these rivers swell, as it were, to an ocean of love, in which the souls of the ransomed may bathe with the sweetest enjoyment, and their hearts, as it were, be deluged with love! (Charity and Its Fruits, 326-28)

Our God is love and we do not have to wait until heaven to begin to enjoy and experience it. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).  Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and through faith we are united to the perfect, loving relationship of the triune God and to all believers of all times and places.  We are to be eagerly awaiting the appearing of our Lord Jesus wherein he will deliver us unto that eternal existence of perfect love but even now we are ,with the love given first to us by God in Christ, to love those with whom God has united us in Christian fellowship, reflecting the perfect love and fellowship that is to come.  As we do this, we will not only begin to experience more of the fullness of God’s love here but we will begin to long for that day when all sin and selfishness will depart and we will see him who first loved us, wounds and all, and dwell with him and all the saints forever.

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The Crushing Weight of Love

[A] mistake that many people make: we tend to read 1 Corinthians 13 as an encouraging, feel-good Bible passage full of happy thoughts about love. Instead, I find the passage to be almost terrifying, because it sets a standard for love I know I could never meet.

None of us lives with this kind of love, and there is an easy way to prove it: start reading with verse 4 and insert your own name into the passage every time you see the word “love.” For example: “Phil is patient and kind; Phil does not envy or boast; he is not arrogant or rude. He does not insist on his own way; he is not irritable or resentful; he does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Phil bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Phil never fails.” Do the same thing for yourself and you will know how I feel: not very loving at all….

It reads very differently, though, when we put Jesus in the picture. If 1 Corinthians 13 is a portrait of love, then it is really a sketch of the Savior we meet in the Gospels: “Jesus is patient and kind; Jesus does not envy or boast; Jesus is not arrogant or rude. Jesus does not insist on his own way; he is not irritable or resentful; he does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Jesus never fails.”

Paul encourages us to read the Love Chapter in a Christ-centered way by the dramatic shift he makes between verses one to three, where he speaks in the first person, and verses four to eight, where love is personified. First the apostle tells us what he cannot do without love; then he tells us what only love can do. And the reason love can do all these things is that it has become incarnate in Jesus Christ. Jesus is everything that I am not. He alone has “love divine, all loves excelling.” This realization does not crush me; it liberates me, because the love of Jesus is so big that he loves even me. And because he loves me, he has promised to save me, to forgive me and change me. We are nothing without love. But when we know Jesus, who does nothing without love, he will help us love the way that he loves.

Philip Graham Ryken, Loving the Way Jesus Loves, Chapter 1.

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5 Ways the Bible Speaks of God’s Love

5 distinguishable ways the Bible speaks of the love of God:

(1) The peculiar love of the Father for the Son, and of the Son for the Father. John’s Gospel is especially rich in this theme. Twice we are told that the Father loves the Son, once with the verb aj gapa ́ w (John 3:35), and once with oile ́w (John 5:20). Yet the evangelist also insists that the world must learn that Jesus loves the Father (John 14:31). This intra-Trinitarian love of God not only marks off Christian monotheism from all other monotheisms, but is bound up in surprising ways with revela- tion and redemption. I shall return to this theme in the next chapter.

(2) God’s providential love over all that he has made. By and large the Bible veers away from using the word love in this connection, but the theme is not hard to find. God creates everything, and before there is a whiff of sin, he pronounces all that he has made to be “good” (Gen. 1). This is the product of a loving Creator. The Lord Jesus depicts a world in which God clothes the grass of the fields with the glory of wildflowers seen by no human being, perhaps, but seen by God. The lion roars and hauls down its prey, but it is God who feeds the animal. The birds of the air find food, but that is the result of God’s loving providence, and not a sparrow falls from the sky apart from the sanction of the Almighty (Matt. 6). If this were not a benevolent providence, a loving providence, then the moral lesson that Jesus drives home, viz. that this God can be trusted to provide for his own people, would be incoherent.

(3) God’s salvific stance toward his fallen world. God so loved the world that he gave his Son (John 3:16). I know that some try to take kosmos (“world”) here to refer to the elect. But that really will not do. All the evidence of the usage of the word in John’s Gospel is against the suggestion. True, world in John does not so much refer to bigness as to badness. In John’s vocabulary, world is primarily the moral order in willful and culpable rebellion against God. In John 3:16 God’s love in sending the Lord Jesus is to be admired not because it is extended to so big a thing as the world, but to so bad a thing; not to so many people, as to such wicked people. Nevertheless elsewhere John can speak of “the whole world” (1 John 2:2), thus bringing bigness and badness together. More importantly, in Johannine theology the disciples themselves once belonged to the world but were drawn out of it (e.g., John 15:19). On this axis, God’s love for the world cannot be collapsed into his love for the elect.

The same lesson is learned from many passages and themes in Scripture. However much God stands in judgment over the world, he also presents himself as the God who invites and commands all human beings to repent. He orders his people to carry the Gospel to the farthest corner of the world, proclaiming it to men and women everywhere. To rebels the sovereign Lord calls out, “As surely as I live . . . I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11).9

(4) God’s particular, effective, selecting love toward his elect. The elect may be the entire nation of Israel or the church as a body or individuals. In each case, God sets his affection on his chosen ones in a way in which he does not set his affection on others. The people of Israel are told, “The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deut. 7:7-8; cf. 4:37). Again: “To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descen- dants, above all the nations, as it is today” (10:14-15).

The striking thing about these passages is that when Israel is contrasted with the universe or with other nations, the distinguishing feature has nothing of personal or national merit; it is nothing other than the love of God. In the very nature of the case, then, God’s love is directed toward Israel in these passages in a way in which it is not directed toward other nations.

Obviously, this way of speaking of the love of God is unlike the other three ways of speaking of God’s love that we have looked at so far. This discriminating feature of God’s love surfaces frequently. “I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated” (Mal. 1:2-3), God declares. Allow all the room you like for the Semitic nature of this contrast, observing that the absolute form can be a way of articulating absolute preference; yet the fact is that God’s love in such passages is peculiarly directed toward the elect.

Similarly in the New Testament: Christ “loved the church” (Eph. 5:25). Repeatedly the New Testament texts tell us that the love of God or the love of Christ is directed toward those who constitute the church.

(5) Finally, God’s love is sometimes said to be directed toward his own people in a provisional or conditional way—conditioned, that is, on obedience. It is part of the relational structure of knowing God; it does not have to do with how we become true followers of the living God, but with our relationship with him once we do know him. “Keep yourselves in God’s love,” Jude exhorts his readers (v. 21), leaving the unmistakable impression that someone might not keep himself or herself in the love of God. Clearly this is not God’s providential love; it is pretty difficult to escape that. Nor is this God’s yearning love, reflecting his salvific stance toward our fallen race. Nor is it his eternal, elective love. If words mean anything, one does not, as we shall see, walk away from that love either.

Jude is not the only one who speaks in such terms. The Lord Jesus commands his disciples to remain in his love (John 15:9), and adds, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:10). To draw a feeble analogy: Although there is a sense in which my love for my children is immutable, so help me God, regardless of what they do, there is another sense in which they know well enough that they must remain in my love. If for no good reason my teenagers do not get home by the time I have prescribed, the least they will experience is a bawling out, and they may come under some restrictive sanctions. There is no use reminding them that I am doing this because I love them. That is true, but the manifestation of my love for them when I ground them and when I take them out for a meal or attend one of their concerts or take my son fishing or my daughter on an excursion of some sort is rather different in the two cases. Only the latter will feel much more like remaining in my love than falling under my wrath.

D.A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, 16-20.

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Forgiveness: What It Is & Isn’t

In the previous post we concluded that all forgiveness requires death.  We are to forgive as we’ve been forgiven by God.  While we experience forgiveness as a gift from God in Christ, it is not without cost – the death of Christ on the cross.  To forgive others, we must put to death our pride and inclination to seek vengeance by the power of the Spirit. Refusing to forgive puts us at odds with God’s work and results in our own sin not being forgiven.  As those who have been forgiven, forgiveness is not an option.

How does this apply to us individually?  You’ve been hurt, offended, gossiped about, slandered, abused, rejected, betrayed, and on and on.  So how do you practically forgive those who offend you as Jesus commands – “as the Lord has forgiven you”?

First, so there is not confusion, look at three things forgiveness is NOT:

1. Forgiveness is NOT a Feeling – We are not commanded to wait until we feel like forgiving someone to forgive them, just as we are not command to wait until we feel like we love someone to love them.  Forgiveness, like love, is an active choice.  If our forgiveness of others was dependent upon our feeling like forgiving them then we would possibly never be able to do it. God’s forgiveness is not seen in a feeling but in His active choosing to send Christ to die on our behalf, call us to Himself, redeem us, cleanse us of our sin, and keep us until the end.

2. Forgiveness is NOT Forgetting – In forgiving another, we are not called to forget.  You may object, saying that “God remembers our sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34; Isaiah 43:25) isn’t that God forgetting?  Being perfect in knowledge God cannot forget.  He does not get a case of divine amnesia when He forgives. Rather than passively forgetting, God’s forgiveness (“remembering our sin no more”) comes from His active choosing not to remember them, not to bring them back up or hold them against us in the future.  While time and reconciliation may bring you to forget even the greatest offenses, forgiveness does not necessitate forgetting but is completed by love in that it does not keep record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).  We must not burden ourselves thinking forgiving entails forgetting but rather focus on loving them through forgiveness by relating to them as God does to those in Christ – as though they have not sinned.

3. Forgiveness is NOT Excusing Sin – When you have been hurt by someone, it does neither you or your offender any good to act as though what they did was not wrong/sinful.  This happens often when the offender comes to apologize for the offense or we try to suppress the hurt they haven’t acknowledged and we say something like, “It’s okay, it was no big deal.”, “Don’t worry about, you didn’t really do anything wrong.”, “Don’t feel bad, I’m ok, really.”, or anything of the like.  Forgiveness does not entail ignoring or denying wrongdoing and when we do so we miss an opportunity to be blessed through forgiving our offender and we can hinder the work of the Spirit in our offender.  God does not ignore our sins against Him or others but shines the light of His truth that we would experience the blessedness that comes from confession and forgiveness (Psalm 32:1,2).

So then, what is forgiveness?  There are three aspects involved in forgiving someone that reflect God’s forgiveness by which we can discern whether or not we have truly forgiven.

1. The Mind of Forgiveness – One way that we forgive and know that we have forgiven is the way we think about those who have offended us.  Are you harboring thoughts of revenge, anger, bitterness, or murder (wishing they did not even exist)?  Or are you imitating God and choosing not to remember their wrong and desiring good for them?  Philippians 4:8 commands, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  When you forgive you are choosing to release your offender from their debt not to dwell on it or use it against them (1 Corinthians 13:5).  You seek to begin the reconciliation process in your mind, thinking of ways that you could bless them rather than curse them.  You turn your mind from complaining about them to God to finding ways to thank God for them.  This is not easy but it is possible with a mind being renewed by the Word of God and a heart made new through the gospel of the glory of Christ.

2. The Mouth of Forgiveness – Another way that you know you have forgiven is by the way you speak about and to your offender.  Are you gossiping about an offense, slandering your offender, or gathering up sympathetic ears to your cause?  Are you constantly reminding your offender of their offense, trying to evoke repentance from them, or seeking to bring the conviction of the Holy Spirit by your words? Or are you imitating God’s words of forgiveness to us, seeking to comfort, encourage, and restore your offender?  Ephesians 4:29 demands of believers, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  A heart that has been forgiven spills out forgiveness and grace.  A heart that does not know the forgiveness of God and the freedom that comes from it will be hard pressed to speak grace to its offender. True forgiveness comes with affirmation of that forgiveness.  Though the feelings of hurt may remain for some time, one way you begin the restoration process in your own heart is by speaking grace to your offender and about your offender, for in this you are reminded of the grace you have been freely given in Christ.  Think of the many times in Scripture that we are reminded of what God in Christ has done on our behalf to make reconciliation.

3. The Motions of Forgiveness – The third aspect of forgiveness by which you can discern whether or not you have forgiven is by the way you act towards your offender.  Are you ignoring, avoiding, excluding, or withholding reconciliation?  Or are you imitating God’s action towards us in forgiveness, seeking peace in relationship, working towards restoration, and serving your offender?  Romans 12:9-21 describes the actions of grace and peace by a people who have been given grace and peace:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (cf. Luke 6:27-36)

Forgiveness is not passive but requires action.  God’s forgiveness is seen in His gracious acts towards us, therefore your forgiveness of others will be genuine insomuch as your actions match your words, heart, and mind.

So ask yourself: do I have a mind of forgiveness, loving my offenders with my thoughts?  Do I have a mouth of forgiveness, speaking grace to and about my offenders?  And, do I have motions of forgiveness, loving, serving, and pursuing peace with others?  If you, in honesty before God, had to answer “no” to any of these questions God calls you to repent and to forgive.  Do not withhold forgiveness for in doing so you are asking God to withhold His forgiveness from you (Matthew 6:14-15).

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Making the Connection with Your Kids (or Even Yourself), Part 2

In the previous post we introduced the practice of making the connection between Christ and the OldTestament, following the way of interpretation of Jesus and the apostles.  Seeking to understanding how to do this as well as how to help others see the glory of God’s revelation to us, we looked at the first principle for making the connection: we must love Christ.  Now we will consider the last two principles.

2. Love the Gospel

This leads us to our second principle: we must love the gospel.  You see, the greatest revelation of God in Christ is in the gospel.  Before we can talk about loving the gospel we must know what it is.  In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Paul writes:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

Jared Wilson writes concerning the gospel:

This is the basic, nonnegotiable truth of the news that God declares good. Notice that it is not advice, not suggestion, not instruction. Nor is it vague spirituality, steps to enlightenment, skills to implement, or precepts to practice. It is information; it is an announcement. It is news. News to be believed, yes, but it is not news of something that has yet to happen or something we can make happen, but rather something that has already happened and was made to happen by God himself. (Gospel Wakefulness)

Narrowly, the gospel is the event of the coming, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus for the purpose of redeeming His people and His glory.  Just as loving Christ begins and consists of trusting Him for who He is and what He has done, loving the gospel begins and consists of trusting it as the power of God to save, keep, and bring you to completion.  You do not merely come to the gospel to be saved, but it is the very life source of the Christian.  We never move beyond the need of God’s grace and therefore we never move beyond our need of the gospel.  The more we dig into the truths of and around the gospel (God’s plan of redemption, His faithfulness, His sovereignty, man’s depravity, the incarnation, substitution, propitiation, reconciliation, sanctification, and so much more) the more we will come to love the gospel and the more we will love Christ, resulting in seeing more of Him in the Old Testament.

While to love Christ is to love the gospel, loving the biblical gospel secures a right understanding of the very purpose of the Scriptures – God’s revelation of Himself and His work on behalf of His people.  Jesus illustrates this as He speaks to two men on the road to Emmaus:

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)

If we are to make the connection with our kids we must show them our love for the gospel through our own need of and dependence upon God’s work in Christ in our daily lives.

3. Love the Old Testament

The last principle (though not exhaustive) to make the connection between Christ and the Old Testament is that we must love the Scriptures, especially the Old Testament.  The reason I highlight the Old is due to the assumption that most Christians have rightly strong affections toward the New Testament but feel strangely, at least, reading or understanding the Old.  You see, the Old Testament is not merely writings that point to Christ, they are about Him.  Roger Nicole estimates that more that 10 percent of the New Testament is made up of either direct quotations of or allusions to Old Testament texts, validating the need to know and love the Old as much as the New.

So how do we come to love the Old Testament?  Goldsworthy is helpful here:

As Christians, we must return to he principles of Old Testament interpretation dictated by the New Testament.   When Jesus says that he gives the Old Testament meaning, he is also saying that we need the Old Testament to understand what he says about himself.  Jesus drives us back to the Old Testament to examine it through Christian eyes, teaching that it leads us back to him.

In doing biblical theology as Christians, we do not start at Genesis 1 and work our way forward until we discover where it is all leading.  Rather we first come to Christ, and he directs us to study the Old Testament in the light of the gospel.  The gospel will interpret the Old Testament by showing us its goal and meaning.  The Old Testament will increase our understanding of the gospel by showing us what Christ fulfills (According to Plan, 54-5).

Once again we have a self-sustaining method here.  Just as love for the gospel increases our love for Christ, love for the Old Testament fuels our love for the gospel and Christ.  If you only read the New Testament the gospel of the glory of Christ will not be seen in all its glory, for it was not a mere plan B for God but was His choice before the foundation of the world and has been progressively revealed since He, through Christ the Word, spoke everything into being.

Yes, of course, read the New Testament for it is the promise fulfilled and applied but to see the depths of God’s wisdom, power, and grace we must read and glory in the history of redemption as revealed in the Old Testament.  Do this and you will find your love for the New Testament, your love of the gospel, and your love for Christ stronger and spilling over into the lives of your kids and those with whom you come into contact.

Helpful Resources:

For Adults:

Grame Goldsworthy, According to PlanChrist-Centered Biblical Theology

Edmund Clowney, Unfolding the Mystery, Preaching Christ in All of Scripture

Mark Dever, The Message of the Old Testament, The Message of the New Testament

Nancy Guthrie, The One Year Book of Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament, The Promised One

For Kids:

Marty Machowski, Long Story Short, The Gospel Story Bible

Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible

Crossway Bibles, ESV Seek and Find Bible

Susan and Richie Hunt, Discovering Jesus in Genesis, Discovering Jesus in Exodus

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Making the Connection with Your Kids (or Even Yourself), Part 1

As I was driving around with my oldest daughter (7 1/2) a few days ago, out of nowhere she strikes up a discussion about David and Goliath.  She asks, “That rock could’t really have killed Goliath, could it?”  Assuring her of the deadly capabilities of the rock, I explained that it was not merely the stone flung by David’s sling that brought the fatal blow, but God had helped David defeat Goliath to save His people.  Then, as though a streak of lightning flashed across her mind, she said enthusiastically, “Jesus is like the rock.”

While desiring to correct her theology a little (being the doctrinal nitpicker that I am), I sought to affirm her line of thinking first.  She was making the connection between an Old Testament story and Christ.  This was surely laudable and I told her that it was a reason to thank God, for it is only by His help that she could begin to discern such things.  After that I began to help her make a better connection, telling her that rather than the stone being like Jesus, it was David, the soon to be king of God’s people.  You see, David was a type (a physical representation of some type of spiritual/physical reality for future application) of Christ.  He was God’s chosen king to rule over His people in His place (the promised land).  In the event of David and Goliath, we see God’s chosen man defeating the enemy of God’s people so that they may be saved.  This typologically represents Christ, as He was and is God’s chosen One (1 Peter 2:4) sent to defeat the enemies of God’s people (sin, death, and the devil – Hebrews 2:14-18) that they may be saved through His life, death, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  In Christ we have a much better David, a much better king, a much better victory, and all of this is foreshadowed by the Old Testament narrative.

Now you may be thinking what I just said is crazy or at least a far reach in understanding Scripture.  Or maybe you are wondering how someone comes to view the Bible as a whole as well as its particulars in such a way as mentioned.  Look, with me, to John 5:39 where Jesus declares:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me…

Referring to the Old Testament Scriptures, Jesus rebukes the Jewish religious leaders of His day for not reading the Word of God rightly.  They saw it as a book of law through which they could find eternal life rather than a drama unfolding before their eyes of the promise and fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption.  You see, the Old Testament is not merely writings about laws, covenants, historical events and peoples, but it is primarily a book about the promises of, the need for, and the coming of Christ, seen in a multitude of types and symbols.  To miss this inherent connection evokes a similar rebuke from Jesus as that to the Jews.

So, how do we make the connection with our kids and even ourselves?  How do we keep from using the Old Testament as a book of moral/character lessons? How do we come to see, understand, and stand in awe of the revelation of God to us through Jesus Christ from the beginning of Scripture to the end?

Principles for Making the Connection between Christ and the Old Testament:

1. Love Christ 

If we are to make the connection between Christ and the Old Testament we must love Christ.  What I mean is this: you are not going to see, understand, or glory in God’s unfolding plan of redemption if you have not become a partaker of the very redemption He has brought in the person and work of Jesus.  2 Corinthians 4:3-6 proclaims:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 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.

Jesus said, in John 14:21:

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.

When I say you must love Christ I am referring to whether you know and have come to trust Him for who He is: the divine Word become flesh, fulfiller of all righteousness, bearer of the wrath of God for sin, the innocent Lamb voluntarily led to the slaughter, risen Lord and reigning King of all, and your only hope of life everlasting.  If you do not love Him in this way, you will not see Him revealed in the Scriptures, for you cannot, being blinded by your hardened heart, the deception of sin, and the work of the devil.  It is only through the gospel of the glory of Christ that eyes are opened, hearts made to love, minds renewed, and the Word truly appreciated and understood as God intends.  All this comes as a gracious gift from God by the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2).

If you are going to make the connection between Christ and the Old Testament with your kids you must love Christ.  They need to see and hear of your love for Him and His Word.  Most people’s trouble in seeing the connections is not that they are hidden gnostic treasures but that we have had very little good examples to follow in their homes and churches.

In the next post we will look at the last two principles in making the connection between Christ and the Old Testament and some resources to aid you in this endeavor.

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God is Love

There are many today who talk about the love of God, who are total strangers to the God of love. The Divine love is commonly regarded as a species of amiable weakness, a sort of good-natured indulgence; it is reduced to a mere sickly sentiment, patterned after human emotion. Now the truth is that on this, as on everything else, our thoughts need to be formed and regulated by what is revealed thereon in Holy Scripture…. The better we are acquainted with his love-its character, fullness, blessedness-the more will our hearts be drawn out in love to him.

1. The love of God is uninfluenced. By this we mean, there was nothing whatever in the objects of his love to call it into exercise, nothing in the creature to attract or prompt it. The love which one creature has for another is because of something in the object; but the love of God is free, spontaneous, uncaused. The only reason why God loves any is found in his own sovereign will: “The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved thee” (Deut. 7:7-8). God has loved his people from everlasting, and therefore nothing about the creature can be the cause of what is found in God from eternity. He loves from himself: “according to his own purpose” (2 Tim. 1:9)…. What was there in me to attract the heart of God? Absolutely nothing. But, to the contrary, there was everything to repel him, everything calculated to make him loathe me-sinful, depraved, a mass of corruption, with “no good thing” in me.

2. It is eternal. This of necessity. God himself is eternal, and God is love; therefore, as God himself had no beginning, His love had none. Granted that such a concept far transcends the grasp of our feeble minds, nevertheless, where we cannot comprehend we can bow in adoring worship. How clear is the testimony of Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” How blessed to know that the great and holy God loved his people before heaven and earth were called into existence, that he had set his heart upon them from all eternity. Clear proof is this that his love is spontaneous, for he loved them endless ages before they had any being.

3. It is sovereign. This also is self-evident. God himself is sovereign, under obligations to none, a law unto himself, acting always according to his own imperial pleasure. Since God is sovereign, and since he is love, it necessarily follows that his love is sovereign. Because God is God, he does as he pleases; because God is love, he loves whom he pleases. Such is his own express affirmation: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:13). There is no more reason in Jacob why he should be the object of Divine love than there was in Esau. They both had the same parents, and were born at the same time, being twins; yet God loved the one and hated the other! Why? Because it pleased him to do so.

4. It is infinite. Everything about God is infinite. His essence fills heaven and earth. His wisdom is illimitable, for he knows everything of the past, present, and future. His power is unbounded, for there is nothing too hard for him. So his love is without limit. There is a depth to it which none can fathom; there is a height to it which none can scale; there is a length and breadth to it which defies measurement, by any creature-standard. Beautifully is this intimated in Ephesians 2:4: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us”: the word “great” there is parallel with the “God so loved” of John 3:16. It tells us that the love of God is so transcendent it cannot be estimated.

5. It is immutable. As with God himself there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17), so his love knows neither change nor diminution. The worm Jacob supplies a forceful example of this: “Jacob have I loved,” declared Jehovah, and despite all his unbelief and waywardness, he never ceased to love him. John 13:1 furnishes another beautiful illustration. That very night one of the apostles would say, “Show us the Father”; another would deny him with cursings; all of them would be scandalized by and forsake him. Nevertheless, “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” The Divine love is subject to no vicissitudes. Divine love is “strong as death … many waters cannot quench it” (Song of Sol. 8:6-7). Nothing can separate from it (Rom. 8:35-39).

6. It is holy. God’s love is not regulated by caprice, passion, or sentiment, but by principle. Just as his grace reigns not at the expense of it, but “through righteousness” (Rom. 5:21), so his love never conflicts with his holiness. “God is light” (1 John 1:5) is mentioned before “God is love” (1 John 4:8). God’s love is no mere amiable weakness or effeminate softness. Scripture declares that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb. 12:6). God will not wink at sin, even in his own people. His love is pure, unmixed with any maudlin sentimentality.

7. It is gracious. The love and favor of God are inseparable. This is clearly brought out in Romans 8:32-39. What that love is, from which there can be no “separation,” is easily perceived from the design and scope of the immediate context: it is that goodwill and grace of God which determined him to give his Son for sinners. That love was the impulsive power of Christ’s incarnation: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Christ died not in order to make God love us, but because he did love his people. Calvary is the supreme demonstration of Divine love. Whenever you are tempted to doubt the love of God, Christian reader, go back to Calvary.

A.W. Pink (1886-1952), The Attributes of God,  99-104.

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