Thursday, August 29, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

The focus must be on the deep unknowable God


We Christians in the United States are more comfortable with focusing on the practical response to The Gospel of God than we are of delving deep into the the knowledge of God. J.I. Packer sounded this message clearly decades ago in his book "Knowing God."

"The modern way with God is to set him at a distance, if not to deny him altogether; and the irony is that modern Christians, preoccupied with maintaining religious practices in an irreligious world, have themselves allowed God to become remote. Clear-sighted persons, seeing this, are tempted to withdraw from the churches in something like disgust to pursue a quest for God on their own. Nor can one wholly blame them, for churchmen who look at God, so to speak, through the wrong end of the telescope, so reducing him to pigmy proportions, cannot hope to end up as more than pigmy Christians, and clear-sighted people naturally want something better than this. Furthermore, thoughts of death, eternity, judgment, the greatness of the soul and the abiding consequences of temporal decisions are all “out” for moderns, and it is a melancholy fact that the Christian church, instead of raising its voice to remind the world of what is being forgotten, has formed a habit of playing down these themes in just the same way. But these capitulations to the modern spirit are really suicidal so far as Christian life is concerned."
Packer, J. I. (2011-09-26). Knowing God (Kindle Locations 157-165). Intervarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

Instead of focusing on God and knowing God. We shy away from knowing the deep things of God. We say we have tiny little minds, we cannot understand. This is all true.
Yet God has revealed Himself in such a way that calls for us to focus upon Him and not ourselves. In fact the very nature of focusing upon ourselves is death and condemnation.
John Piper sounds the warning bells clearly in His book; "God is the Gospel."

The sad thing is that a radically man-centered view of love permeates our culture and our churches. From the time they can toddle we teach our children that feeling loved means feeling made much of. We have built whole educational philosophies around this view of love-curricula, parenting skills, motivational strategies, therapeutic models, and selling techniques. Most modern people can scarcely imagine an alternative understanding of feeling loved other than feeling made much of. If you don't make much of me you are not loving me.
Piper, John (2008-04-07). God is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself (p. 12). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.

"This distortion of divine love into an endorsement of self-admiration is subtle. It creeps into our most religious acts. We claim to be praising God because of his love for us. But if his love for us is at bottom his making much of us, who is really being praised? We are willing to be God-centered, it seems, as long as God is man-centered. We are willing to boast in the cross as long as the cross is a witness to our worth. Who then is our pride and joy?1"
Piper, John (2008-04-07). God is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself (pp. 12-13). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Yes the difference is subtle. Yet rather than delve deeply into the sovereign wealth of God's Love as a focus upon God, a focus upon His Love of The Son and The Focus of The entire Trinity upon conforming the saved to conformity with the Son, we focus upon our response to God because He loves us. "We are willing to be God-centered, it seems, as long as God is man-centered."

This yes, is a Biblical truth, God is Love, but it is often not understood or explained that His love for us is, in the end that He sees in our becoming full image bearers of Jesus, The Son. He is Absolute Love. His love is not subjective. God's Love is objective, emanating from His nature, focused on the object of The Son. We shy away from and pass by the depths of doctrine believing it gets in the way of the Gospel. People will not feel warm and fuzzy over that type of message. We must walk softly and temper the blow of eternal unimaginable truths. Yet doctrine more  pointedly Theology Biblical Theology is eternally undeniably essential to responding in the way of Romans 10; confess and believe must be linked to the context of God has foreknown, called, justified and glorified us intending us to be conformed to the image of His Son Romans 8. As John Piper puts it, God is The Gospel. The gospels is news, good news, but it is lost without doctrine, without a clear strong Biblical Theology.

"But the gospel is not only news. It is first news, and then it is doctrine. Doctrine means teaching, explaining, clarifying. Doctrine is part of the gospel because news can't be just declared by the mouth of a herald-it has to be understood in the mind of a hearer. If the town crier says, "Amnesty is herewith published by the mercy of your Sovereign," someone will ask, "What does 'amnesty' mean?" There will be many questions when the news is announced. "What is the price that has been paid?" "How have we dishonored the King?" When the gospel is proclaimed, it must be explained. What if the shortwave radio announcer used technical terminology that some of the prisoners were not sure of? Someone would need to explain it. Unintelligible good news is not even news, let alone good. Gospel doctrine matters because the good news is so full and rich and wonderful that it must be opened like a treasure chest, and all its treasures brought out for the enjoyment of the world. Doctrine is the description of these treasures. Doctrine describes their true value and why they are so valuable. Doctrine guards the diamonds of the gospel from being discarded as mere crystals. Doctrine protects the treasures of the gospel from the pirates who don't like the diamonds but who make their living trading them for other stones. Doctrine polishes the old gems buried at the bottom of the chest. It puts the jewels of gospel truth in order on the scarlet tapestry of history so each is seen in its most beautiful place.

And all the while, doctrine does this with its head bowed in wonder that it should be allowed to touch the things of God. It whispers praise and thanks as it deals with the diamonds of the King. Its fingers tremble at the cost of what it handles. Prayers ascend for help, lest any stone be minimized or misplaced. And on its knees gospel doctrine knows it serves the herald. The gospel is not mainly about being explained. Explanation is necessary, but it is not primary. A love letter must be intelligible, but grammar and logic are not the point. Love is the point. The gospel is good news. Doctrine serves that. It serves the one whose feet are bruised (and beautiful!) from walking to the unreached places with news: "Come, listen to the news of God! Listen to what God has done! Listen! Understand! Bow! Believe!"

Yes we must believe and confess but it must be clear what we believe about God and what we are confessing about Jesus' Lordship. It is clear that many people say they believe in Jesus, it doesn't, to many, have anything to do with becoming like Jesus. There are many who say Jesus is Lord, yet they continue to be their own measure of right and wrong. Jesus is Lord they acknowledge and yet they remain the captains of their own fate. It is their own will not be done, not "Your will be done." John Piper clearly laid out the claim of God in the Gospel is to put all of your trust in the final fulfillment of finding pleasure only in God.

"Someone may ask, “If your aim is conversion, why don’t you just use the straightforward, biblical command ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31)? Why bring in this new terminology of Christian Hedonism?” My answer has two parts. First, we are surrounded by unconverted people who think they do believe in Jesus. Drunks on the street say they believe. Unmarried couples sleeping together say they believe. Elderly people who haven’t sought worship or fellowship for forty years say they believe. All kinds of lukewarm, world-loving church attenders say they believe. The world abounds with millions of unconverted people who say they believe in Jesus. It does no good to tell these people to believe in the Lord Jesus. The phrase is empty. My responsibility as a preacher of the gospel and a teacher in the church is not to preserve and repeat cherished biblical sentences, but to pierce the heart with biblical truth. In my neighborhood, every drunk on the street “believes” in Jesus. Drug dealers “believe” in Jesus. Panhandlers who haven’t been to church in forty years “believe” in Jesus. So I use different words to unpack what believe means. In recent years I have asked, “Do you receive Jesus as your Treasure?” Not just Savior (everybody wants out of hell, but not to be with Jesus). Not just Lord (they might submit begrudgingly). The key is: Do you treasure Him more than everything? Converts to Christian Hedonism say with Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). This leads to the second part of my answer. There are other straightforward biblical commands besides “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” The reason for introducing the idea of Christian Hedonism is to force these commands to our attention. Could it be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion is not, “Believe in the Lord,” but, “Delight yourself in the LORD”? And might not many slumbering hearts be stabbed broad awake by the words “Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the kingdom of God”?
Piper, John (2011-01-18). Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Kindle Locations 855-873). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Yes the gospel demands a response of humility and surrender, but we will not get there by focusing on what the response should be to God's love for us. The proper response is only and always a response of looking deep into the person, majesty, and incomprehensible nature of God. Yes we have finite little minds. This is more a reason to spend more time in the depths and not a reason to bypass the depths. We will be amazed eternally learning of God forever in humility forever in glory.

The focus of evangelism on response produces what Dietrich Bonhoeffer has termed the dispensing and acceptance of "Cheap Grace." A grace without cost or change of direction.  Jesus words should ring loudly; Luk 14:27 - 33 "Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Unconditional Absolute Love Gospel Simply Stated

Everyone loves Romans 8:31

Rom 8:31  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Yet many gloss over or try to rationalize the clear meaning of Romans 8:29-30.

Rom 8:29, 30  "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."

This is the gospel simply stated.

An Absolutely Sovereign God, Creator and Ruler of the universe, has chosen from the overflow of His Absolute Love to create. In His creation He has determined to demonstrate to all His Absolute Love that by preconception and free choice, He has determined for some to become lovely in His sight, by planning a way for them to become conformed to the His image. His image is reflected in The Eternal Son. Upon this unconditional and absolute choice He brings His plan to completion by a process of calling to belief, justifying by applying the propitiation of His Son's sacrifice of shed blood and broken body and glorifying in the completed work of resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, Yeshua Messiah, Isa Al Masih; bringing the called to glorification.

This is what leads to Romans 8:31.

Some may argue that this act is for all and unconditional means "God loves everyone".

Doesn't it say so in the next verses?

Rom 8:32, 33  "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies."

Paul is very clear who are the "us all" in verse 32 it is "God's Elect".

Would we also presume that "graciously give us all things" is a literal "all the things we selfishly and sinfully want'?

No God's Unconditional Absolute Love is a reflection of His choice and that He chooses without respect of persons. His choice is free and unconditional graciously given apart from our worthiness. The worth belongs to Jesus and our becoming like Him through the transforming power of calling, justification and glorification.

All of God. All of grace.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

1Jn 4:7-19  "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.   Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.  By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us."

I  am taking a break from daily blogging my thoughts from Scripture, on God's Absolute Love. If you are interested please look back at the past two years of entries, there is much food for thought from God's Word and other authors. I pray my words do not detract from what The Spirit of God will do through the past posts.