Friday, May 30, 2008

Idolatry, Legalism and the Gospel

I ran into this YouTube video the other day with some helpful comments by Darrin Patrick. Ironically, he said in five minutes what I've been trying to say for five weeks in the book of Hosea. He said it better and more clearly. The gospel isn't just to get me saved--the gospel is for Christians. As Martin Luther pointed out "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said "Repent," he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance."



Idolatry.
Here are some of the things he said that I really like:

'As human beings we are constantly faced with worshipping God or worshipping or anything else.' 'these idols in the Western world are not sticks and stones but things that we have' 'they are subtle'. Like my sermons in Hosea, he points out that these things are often good things in a of themselves. Patrick was going off of Romans 1, which I have found extremely helpful for reflection as I work through Hosea.

He gives some helpful questions for how we mine our heart for idols (God-substitutes and functional saviors). I found these to be so helpful, I hope to mention them in a sermon:
  • "What do you worry about the most?"
  • "What if it was taken away would make you feel a little suicidal?"
  • "What prayer if God didn't answer it would make you seriously think about turning away from Him?"
  • "What things do I day dream about?"
  • "Where does my mind go when it is free?"
He talks about needed to repent deeply and basque in our acceptance in Christ.
"Christians don't understand the gospel for Christians--they understand the gospel for non-Christians."

"The Gospel is for Christians not just non-Christians."

This is so true, this is reflected all the time with the attitudes of 'I know I'm a sinner and Jesus died for sins' now that I'm a Christian feed me with the more "practical stuff". There is of course nothing more practical for daily living than the gospel. We have lost sight of the sufficiency of Christ and the sufficiency of the gospel for the Christian.

This of course leads to self-righteousness and legalism, particularly in a context where we are seeking to obey God. There is absolutely nothing wrong with obeying God. Indeed, as the spirit transforms my heart I am lead to obey God and the fruit of the Spirit are cultivated in my life. And yet "simul iustus et peccator". No matter how much my sanctification grows, I am still a sinner before God dependent upon an alien righteousness that is Christ's.

We need to use the gospel on ourselves.

"We need to repent deeply. I want to understand that I am a bigger sinner than I thought and He is a greater Savior than I thought. I want to get that every day."
Patrick points out that we are to base identity, acceptance, worth, signifiance and security on Jesus and what He has done for us. He is right that contemporary evangelicals have not really made the gospel for Christians.

Living in the gospel erodes self-righteousness. It cuts down distinctions of race, age, socio-economic groups. Reminds me of the church in the NT.

Legalism.
Moving on, here is a helpful quote from Trevin Wax:
Ironically, legalism is not cured by lessening the Law’s demands but by seeing the demands satisfied in the perfect life and substitutionary death of Jesus.
Christians today will talk about lessoning the demands of the Law in favor of 'love'. But really what we fail to realize is that the ultimate demand of the Law is that we 'love'. Of course, the Law was powerless in itself to bring this love about. We need to be careful that as ministers of the gospel we do not put our people back under law. Rather, we are under the Law of Christ. It is the indicative of the gospel that brings the imperitives. Christ has met the requirements of the Law (justification) and the Spirit transforms me to bring about obedience (sanctification) to the Law--even though we are not under Law/Old Covenant.

If however, we preach moral imperitives "Love others" "Be content" "Be happy" "Serve God" without grounding things first in the gospel which says "I cannot do these things but Christ my Covenant head/Second Adam has done them perfectly and I am united to Him."

This makes how we apply the sermon crucial: Do I apply it out of the gospel? To often we look for things to "go and do"--yet this can to easily create a performance based Christian. Granted some texts give clear commands and we dare not shrink from them. Yet do we apply Scripture through the lens of the gospel?

This means teaching people to believe and trust Christ. The true believer will of course act a certain way. Yet it is possible in some circumstances to act a certain way without truly believing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sermon Applications 5/25/08

TEXT: Hosea 5

a) We are to recognize the sinfulness of sin. This is another passage that describes to us the utter wickedness of sin before God. Sin disrupts and destroys our relationship to God. When God’s own people have sin, harlotry and defilement in their life, He turns from being “God for us” to “God against us”. Hosea is all about idolatry and part of the enslaving power of idolatry is that it keeps us from seeing the sinfulness in our sins.

In our day and age, a big idol is the worship of self. In this pursuit of self we are lead to worship our own happiness and seek our own glory. Suddenly, the language of “sin” and “guilt” go out the window because such things do not affirm the self. How can I worship an the ‘me-idol’ if I suddenly realize the world doesn’t revolve around me and I am not all “I’m cracked up to be”?

This worship of self in our day and age has lead to a new ‘decay’ and ‘rottenness’ inside of us. This focus on self has lead to a new moral order and brought on a new disease. David Wells puts it this way describing the debilitating effects of this new self worship:

In the 1960s, these [new kinds of] patients often had fragmentary selves, weak or vacant consciences, and they exaggerated in covering up their inward deficiencies, their sense of anxiety, by exaggerating their accomplishments. They were filled with a vague dis-ease. Dissatisfaction like a fog had a pervasive feeling of emptiness. Their self-esteem oscillated between a sense of self-importance that was either greatly enlarged or greatly diminished. They were chronically bored, restless, uprooted, always seeking instantaneous gratification without emotional involvement… In a remarkable way, this constellation of traits has become a much more widely evident trademark of our passage through modernized culture, in which personality now eclipses character. If the narcissist classically has a shrunken, fragmentary self, our culture has similarly become hollowed out and lost its core. If the narcissist covers up the emptiness by exaggerated self-importance and fantasies of power, our culture is covering up its hollowness by fads and fashions, ceaseless consuming, and the constant excitement of fresh sexual conquest… (Losing our Virtue, p.107-8).


It is that sin that is enslaving us and blinding us. We think they behaviors are now normal. We call it the “American dream” or maybe “the power of choice”. Our new God’s leave us rotting on the inside. It is God handing us over to our sin. Wells says this pervasive narcissism “is going to lead…to an entirely new understanding of salvation” (p. 108). Like Israel, the American church seeks God but we do not know God. We often seek for God but cannot find Him because we have this spirit of harlotry. Our pride keeps us from humbly repenting before the true God. We redefine redemption, salvation, repentance, faith. We turn to our Assyria: forms of therapy and spirituality that are on a whole anti-God. Religion (or 'spirituality' as it is called) is now defined around experience and my subjective feelings regardless of truth. Why? Because we have a spirit of harlotry—in this we will not find God.

b)We are to recognize the ensnaring power of sin. John Owen has said: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” In this passage, Israel stumbles in her pride. She is so ensnared by her sin that it chokes her and kills her. Like Israel, we think we can seek God without putting to death the sinful flesh. The reality is that only Christ and our union with Christ puts this to death. BUT this must be put to death if we are going to truly worship and seek God.

i) What sins do I tolerate in my life? What sins do I “keep private”? Do I even leave them unconfessed before God?

ii) Is my heart sensitive to sin? Do I bring my sin before Jesus Christ and confess it? Do I recognize that only the blood of Christ removes sin? Do I trust Christ?

iii)We often say that we trust Christ to remove sin but we allow sin to fester, we allow it to rot away inside of us… we allow our treachery before the LORD to continue. We do not believe that sin brings defilement and the purpose of God’s redemption in us is to create a new people to be holy.

c) We need to recognize the right of God to judge our sin. It is very easy to question the freedom of God to judge sin. This impulse in us is so strong people portray the God of the OT as mean and nasty and the God of the NT as loving and forgiving. Over and over again in the Bible, both Old and New Testament, we see a God would judges sin. He has wrath and hatred for sin not because he is mean and capricious waiting to ‘stick-it-to-us’. But God is holy and just in His character. Hence the cross. My sin is judged upon the cross and the innocent one bears it. But God does have an anger for sin.

d)The Lion against us becomes the Lamb for us. The lion in this passage is God’s actions towards us. His judging action of our sins. And yet, this God sets Himself under that very judgment. The Father and the Son decide together that effectively deal with our sin and their wrath for sin. The Father willing sends the Son because of His great love for us. The Son willingly lays down His life.

e) We are to examine our motives in seeking God. Do I seek God to enjoy God and know Him on His terms—or do I seek God on my own terms? Do I seek Him for myself? Do I seek Him out a spirit of harlotry? Do I seek Him in and through Christ?

Why is it that some of us hear of our sins and we are broken before God?—Like in verse 15.? Other people hear of their sin and they actually are kept from seeking God? As in verse 6? There is a true seeking vs. a false seeking.

f) True seeking vs. false seeking.

i) First, no one can seek God apart from God granting repentance.

ii) Second, the Puritans used to say “The same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay.” God can take the same message of our sin and when one person hears it they flee---they leave. “Don’t tell me how awful I am” –Don’t tell me about God’s wrath—I want a “safe” god—an easy god—a Santa clause god. It is idolatry; it is the spirit of harlotry that we are all bound into. When we catch glimpses of the holy, in our sinfulness we recoil—argh. Like Israel our sin keeps us from actually finding God. We feign to be ‘seeking him’ but we are really seeking to remake him into something we will like. And yet there are times when God according to His sovereign grace shows us our sin and through the Spirit breaks our heart… we are lead through our affliction not to recoil but to turn to God. Like Isaiah this true seeking cries out “Woe is me”.

iii)True repentance means lowering ourselves. The Christian life is to be one of true repentance. We exalt God—His holiness, His righteous wrath against sin. We lower ourselves… instead of stumbling over our pride and self-righteousness, we acknowledge and confess it. We reach up and trust Christ for a righteousness which is outside of ourselves and found only in Him.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Generation that does not know God

We are raising up a generation of young people that do not really know God. We live among a people where there is no knowledge of God. At least half of all adults believe that if we are good we will go to heaven. 40% of all adults believe that while Jesus was on earth he committed sins like the rest of us.

THINGS ONLY GET WORSE. In 2005, authors Christian Smith and Melinda Denton published Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Live of American Teenagers. They put themselves to study religion among American teens by conducting 3000 interviews. They found five basic beliefs:
1. “A god who created and order the world and watches over human life on earth.
2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about ones self.
4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.”

This five beliefs were not creedal statements per se. Rather these five tennants were the summation of the interviews. These are the summative categories for how young people from all sorts of religious backgrounds (especially including Christian and evangelical) understood 'god' and their beliefs.

Of the 3,000 Teens interviewed:
· only 47 mentioned sin or being a sinner. –that is 1.5%;
· only 13 said about obeying God; -that is .4%
· 12 spoke of repenting from wrong doing;
· 9 spoke of expressing love for God;
· only 7 spoke of the resurrection of Jesus;
· only 6 spoke of salvation;
· only 4 spoke of the Trinity;
· only 3 spoke of the grace of God;
· only 3 spoke of loving one’s neighbor (the 2nd greatest commandment)
· 2 spoke of God as Holy
· 2 spoke of God’s justice
· Justification: that heart of the gospel: 0

Smith and Denton call this Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. There is no knowledge of God. Smith says this in one summation article that can be found online:
“we can say with some confidence we have come to believe that a significant part of “Christianity” in the United States is actually only tenuously connected to actual historical Christian tradition, but has rather substantially morphed into Christianity’s misbegotten step-cousin, Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.”
Gone is personal God, gone is sin and grace, gone is salvation by faith. Gone is the notion of ‘bearing one’s cross as Christian discipleship. My purpose is not “to glorify God and enjoy him forever, but ‘the chief end of man is to be happy and feel good about yourself.’

Why do we have such moral problems in the church—we do not know God! May the Lord rebuke us.

Scary Statistics

Here are some statistics that I used in my sermon on 5/11/08:

The text was:

Hosea 4:6 6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.


My point was: Today we have a disobedience problem because we do not know God.

According to George Barna:
Here is the percentage of people who think it is ok to do the following:

To gamble:
Evangelical: 27%
"Born Again": 45%
All adults: 61%

Co-habitiation
Evangelicals: 12%
"Born Again": 49%
All adults: 60%

Enjoy Sexual fantasies
Evangelicals 15%
"Born Again" 49%
All Adults 59%

Sex without marriage
Evangelicals: 7%
"Born Again": 35%
All Adults: 42%

The statistics average 10-30% higher when you compare some one who is from the baby boomer generation with someone from the mosaic or ‘Generation X’. (i.e. young people). Here are percentages by generation who think certain habits are acceptable and totally permissible.

To gamble: Mosaic 75% vs. Elders 51%
Co-habitiation: Mosaic 75% vs Elders 41%
Enjoy Sexual fantasies: Mosaic 79% vs. Elders 40%
Sex without marriage: Mosaic 54% vs. Elders 24%
Abortion: Mosaic 54% vs. Elders 36%
Pornography: Mosaic 50% vs Elders 23%
Profanity: Mosaic 60% vs. Elders 20%
Drunkeness: Mosaic 50% vs. Elders 15%
Homosexuality: Mosaic 40% vs. Elders 14%

Here was some of the exposition I gave from Hosea 4:
FAILURE TO KNOW GOD DESTROYS BY BRINGING DISOBEDIENCE TO GOD’S LAW.

A. God’s Word brings a case against God’s people.

NAU Hosea 4:1 Listen to the word of the LORD, O sons of Israel, For the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land, Because there is no faithfulness or kindness Or knowledge of God in the land.

God is bring his “lawsuit” against the people. The idea here is that is a lawsuit for breaking the terms of the covenant. Covenants were legal and relational agreements. In the Old Testament, prophets often served like lawyers of the covenant. They prosecuted the case that God had against his people.

B. The people in the land do not know God and it is displayed in their character:

NAU Hosea 4:1 Listen to the word of the LORD, O sons of Israel, For the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land, Because there is no faithfulness or kindness Or knowledge of God in the land.

1. God’s people lack faithfulness to God. They were unable to habitually keep the law. They were unable to keep the commitments that are placed upon us in order to be obedience.

2. God’s people lacked kindness. Kindness is the word often translated loving kindness. Sometimes, when it is a character trait that refers to God it is translated graciousness. But in human relationships it also has the notion of loyalty, of fidelity. It is often used to speak of loyalty within relationships, particularly covenant relationships. God’s people lack loyalty to God and the bonds of covenant.

3. God’s people did not know God. Knowing God denotes a relationship with God. The heart of being in a covenant with God is to know God, to commune with God.

4. God had put his people in the land so that they would obey Him and know Him:

Deuteronomy 4:34-35 34 "Or has a god tried to go to take for himself a nation from within another nation by trials, by signs and wonders and by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors, as the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35 "To you it was shown that you might know that the LORD, He is God; there is no other besides Him.

Deuteronomy 4:39-40 39 "Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other. 40 "So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time."

Deuteronomy 5:1 Then Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully.


C. God’s people to not know the Law and this is evidenced by disobedience to it.

NAU Hosea 4:2 There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed.

The sins of the people evidence that they did not know God or God’s law (as we see in verse 6). Cursing/swearing: a violation of the 3rd commandment to not take God’s name in vain. Deception/lying: a violation of the 9th commandment—“You shall not bear false witness.” Murder: Breaks the 6th commandment. Stealing: breaks the 8th commandment. Adultery: breaks the 10th commandment.

The failure to know God, which is essentially a violation of the first commandment, ‘to have no other gods before me’ brings about the violation of the other commandments.

D. The result of the people’s disobedience is the curse being manifested on the land.

NAU Hosea 4:3 Therefore the land mourns, And everyone who lives in it languishes Along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky, And also the fish of the sea disappear.

The land languishing, writing in pain and torment, is a good summary of what happens under the curses of Deuteronomy. This is a small picture of the much larger story: what happens to Adam when He is cursed? The ground it curse. All creation suffers. Romans 8

NAU Romans 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.


All of God’s creation, land, animals, and fish, suffer the curse of our sins. Our disobedience to God manifests itself in all creation.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sermon Applications 5/18/08

A. We do not believe or acknowledge that God identifies idolatry. We live in a day and age where we think humanity has reached an apex. At least socially and technologically we buy into evolution. We think that because we do not have Baal temples and Asherah poles we are not idolatrous.

Rarely do we look inside our heart and say “Where are my idols?” Rarely do we identify those things in the church that have become cultural idols. We tend not to call into questions the things we do everyday: “Is buying this best way to spend my money?” “Should I gratify this desire to have this or do that?” “Am I loving myself or God and my neighbor?”–We tend to look at the culture first and say, “How can I fit better; How can I be more appealing?” This is true of our personal lives and our corporate body.

B. Functionally we do not believe God judges idolatry. We may say that we believe God judges idolatry but we do not act like it. The way we act identifies what we really believe—it shows the sincerity of our beliefs. We tend to think that as American Christians we have a privileged status before God. As Christians we tend to think God would never cause the church to decline—guess what Evangelicalism, Biblical belief, it is declining. As Americans, we tend to think that we have conquered idolatry because we say “In God we trust” or “God bless America”. BUT THE GOD THAT MOST PEOPLE MAKE THIS PLEA TO IS AT LEAST FUNCTIONALLY AN IDOL. People got all upset when they heard Jeremiah Wright’s YOUTUBE clip ‘God damn America’. I would suggest most people didn’t get upset because Wright preaches a false gospel—which so far as I understand it, he does. Most people got upset because of the very notion that God could damn someone—‘who is He to damn me?’ We do not believe God judges idolatry.

C. We do not believe that we are idolatrous. We have become so blind to what goes on in the world around us—but more than that we are blind to what rages in our hearts. If the idolatry in the world around us is bad it is because of the idolatry in the hearts of the people—in us! We need to let Word of God pierce our hearts. We need to repent and cry out for the mercy of Christ. The problem of idolatry is not “out there” the problem of idolatry is “in here”—my heart. I want other things to function as my Savior—I want to delight more in other things. Do I preach this to myself? Do I preach this to unbelievers?

D. My purpose—that which keeps me from idolatry—is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. To do this I need the redemption of the Gospel.

E. The Gospel roots out idolatry. See yesterday where I outline four common idols in our culture. We must repent and believe.

1. The idol of self is overcome by the glory of Christ. We need to see that only in Jesus Christ do we bear the image of God. I need to become more sensitive to the idol of selfishness. How? The answer is true worship:

Romans 12:1-2 Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

2. The idol of money is rooted out by personal sacrifice. The gospel teaches us that if we’ve experienced God’s mercies, we know that everything is a gift from God. If it is a gift, we should be concerned with sharing not hoarding. Why is it the early church shared their property and there money? You need to ask yourself: what has God given me that I need to (a) give away; (b) share with others; or (c) use for his glory not for myself.

3. The idol of spirituality is rooted out by the Word made flesh. Spirituality and this notion of ‘awakening’ to God is really a new form of Gnosticism. Christianity teaches that God came to us not that we can come to God. True spirituality focuses on the ways God has spoken to us! It is a Word of God that comes from the outside. False spirituality focuses on the inside.

a. Do I attend worship services believing that in the preaching I hear from God?
b. Do I read my Bible anticipating that God has spoken in it?
c. Do I prayer with a fervency that indicates that I know God hears me?
d. Do I honestly examine the sin in my heart and confess it because I know that is true spirituality?

4. The idol of church is rooted out by God’s ordaining ‘the means of grace.’
a. Do I eagerly seek to gather with the saints?
b. Do I believe that it is irreplaceable in my life to worship with the visible body and hear the Word preached in a communal setting?
c. Do I really believe that Sunday morning is irreplaceable? That if it was gone my spiritual life would suffer dramatically?
d. Do I believe that to hear God’s Word preached I receive God’s grace? “Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God.” Or

1 Peter 1:23 23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

e. Do I believe that if I am going to grow in the knowledge of God, I need to take communion with the body of Christ?

F. If I believe these things, how is this reflected in my regular practice?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

White Horse Inn Listening

This week on the White Horse Inn deals with the church "selling Jesus". A lot of what they are saying goes right in line with what I was saying on Sunday about the idol of consumerism inside the church. I'd invite you to listen to this weeks program (May 18, 2008).

Interestingly this weeks program is also on video so you can also watch the discussion.

My contention, along with the guys on White Horse Inn, is that we fail to realize how much the consumer culture impacts the way we do things inside the church and it is wrong.

Idolatry in Hosea 4


BELIEVE THAT GOD GIVES US THE SIGNS OF IDOLATRY.

A. Idolatry is worshipping anything rather than exclusively worshipping God.


Hosea 4:11-12 11 Harlotry, wine and new wine take away the understanding. 12 My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner's wand informs them; For a spirit of harlotry has led them astray, And they have played the harlot, departing from their God.

Idolatry towards false gods perverts our understanding of the true God. The activity of worshipping idols in harlotry, or celebrating in pagan parties to the god actually caused the people to lose their understanding of the true God. In Hosea’s day and age people would go and seek an idol for advice and even allow magically practices to inform them. Remember what Saul did:

1 Samuel 28:8-11 8 Then Saul disguised himself by putting on other clothes, and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night; and he said, "Conjure up for me, please, and bring up for me whom I shall name to you." 9 But the woman said to him, "Behold, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off those who are mediums and spiritists from the land. Why are you then laying a snare for my life to bring about my death?" 10 Saul vowed to her by the LORD, saying, "As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing." 11 Then the woman said, "Whom shall I bring up for you?" And he said, "Bring up Samuel for me."

Idolatry is putting up things that take a place that only God should hold. In our day and age many Christians are talking about how we should incorporate Eastern forms of worship into Christian worship. So meditation is no longer concentrating on God’s Word and seeking to understand the meaning—meditation becomes emptying our thoughts. This entails nothing more than ancient divination redress in modern sensibilities.

Notice that this harlotry is a departure from God. Idolatry is really a destruction of the relationship that God has designed for us to have with him. Augustine said: “our hearts are restless until we find rest in you.” Why is it that we wander? Why is it that our generation has virtually every physical desire and pleasure at our finger types and we are wasting away? We are dying? We lack “self-esteem”? We are psychological messes. Therapy is a booming business but why? Because we are craving to be fulfilled by idolatry. We’ve lost understanding; we’ve gone astray; we’ve departed. Augustine understood the idolatry of our hearts: “See how abject and helpless the soul is before it learns to cling to the solidity of truth.” Or as God said through Hosea: “My people perish for lack of knowledge.”

B. Idolatry involves wrong worship, either in place or manner.

Hosea 4:13 13 They offer sacrifices on the tops of the mountains And burn incense on the hills, Under oak, poplar and terebinth, Because their shade is pleasant. Therefore your daughters play the harlot And your brides commit adultery.

So here God’s people went to place other than the temple to worship. In these places, there was forms of temple prostitution probably but more than that worshipping in these places was spiritual harlotry—seeking other gods.

C. Idolatry is something permeates all levels of society.

Hosea 4:14 14 I will not punish your daughters when they play the harlot Or your brides when they commit adultery, For the men themselves go apart with harlots And offer sacrifices with temple prostitutes; So the people without understanding are ruined.


D. Four ways idolatry permeates our culture:

1. The idol of self.
We worship the self. How do I feel? We have a whole industry that focuses on keeping people happy and keeping people well adjusted. Instead of taking our identity from God, being made in His image and redeemed in Christ. We have a religion of therapist. We become the idol. Why has the health industry boomed in the last 20 years? Most of it is not about taking care of God’s gift to me rather our bodies have become our new temple. David Wells’ says this “the vision that grows with the new preoccupation with personality is one of unlimited self-expression, self-gratification, and self-fulfillment. The pursuit of pleasure has taken the place of moral nurture, the expression of emotion [has replaced] that of more reticence.” [The Courage to be Protestant, p.151]. ‘the chief end of man is to be happy and feel good about yourself.’

2. The idol of consumerism. We want, want, want. We are not happy until we get it. No longer is this called greed. We believe it is our destiny to ‘have the finer things of life.’ This flows out of the focus on self and keeping self happy. We do not have wooden idols rather we have ipods and Cadillacs. Nothing wrong with those two per se—just like an idol is made out of perfectly good wood. But we seek the object and rewards rather than seeking God. We live in a consumer culture and it feeds our greed and caters to the self. How can we really ever crucify ourselves and follow Christ without replacing such gods? We think that things will fulfill us most—that I can enjoy stuff. The chief end of man is to glorify my pocket book and buy lots of stuff.

3. The idol of spirituality. This is the new buzz word. It has little to do with godliness and character. It has nothing to do with suffering with Christ and bearing our Cross. In this spirituality we indulge the self. The goal of spiritualities is to actualize our full potential. We need “the power of awareness”. We need to evolve to a higher realization of who we are. Eckart Tolle, whose spirituality is preached religiously by Oprah, has said ‘our ultimate purpose is to bring the power of awareness into this world.’ SO we feed the self. John Calvin and 1,000 of other Christians before us have said the sum of the Christian life is: the denial of self (Institutes, Book 3.7). The new spirituality engages the self—it feeds the monster and erects the idol.

4. The idol of the new church. Just like Israel sought new ways to worship, we are told that church has to change or it will die. A ‘postmodern’ world requires a new ‘postmodern church.’ This comes out in 2 ways:

a. The temptation for a church to compete like a business. We must market the church. We must sell our product. We must attract a customer. Rather than defining a successful church on God’s marks: preaching the Word, the ordinances, and church discipleship/discipline; we use other gauges.

b. Replacing the church with new measures. Let me ask you this: do we need to the church to worship? The answer is a bit complicated: John 4:24 24 "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. Certainly, we can worship in any place. But do I need the church? Is there something that happens in the worshipping church that doesn’t happen in my private worship? By “church” I mean a community of believers wherever they may gather.

George Barna has said this: “In just a few years, we will see millions of people will never travel physically to a church, but instead roam the Internet in search of meaningful spiritual experiences.”…”If we rise to the challenge, Americans will witness a moral resurgence” and will “regain respect.” Intimate worship does “not require a worship service.” The idea of Barna’s book Revolution is that we get rid of the assembling of the body and just do house churches or internet discipleship. We do not need the trappings of a worship service with preaching from a pastor.

"Ours is not the business of organized corporate worship, or Bible teaching. If we dedicate ourselves to such a business we will be left by the wayside as our culture moves forward. Those are fragments of a larger purpose to which we have been called by God's Word. We are in the business of life transformation."--George Barna.

Barna quotes from his books The Second Coming of the Church and Revolution can be found here in an online article by Michael Horton.

I would suggest this is a new idolatry. Has God established the church? Has God established the visible church? Some would say ‘find your church/spirituality on the internet’—you can even give with pay-pal. The internet is a great tool—but it can’t replace the visible meeting together—the God ordained role of elders/pastors/teachers. It cannot replace the body taking communion together or celebrating a baptism. If Hosea’s people were leaving the temple to worship wherever they fancied, in our day people our unplugging from the church to find their spirituality not in community, not through practicing what the Reformers called the ‘means of grace’ but by hitting the internet. Church is now a product and just like I can now shop online, I can now go to church online. This is evidence of a new idolatry. It is creatively restructuring God’s pattern for worship.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sermon Applications 5/11/08

Text: Hosea 4:1-6

APPLICATION.
A. Scripture rebukes us because we have not instructed them in the ways of the LORD. Some ways we reject the knowledge of God today:

1. In family: When was the last time you reviewed the 10 commandments in your family? Have you ever discussed the meaning of them? When was the last time we discussed the Trinity? Salvation by grace? Justification by Faith? We have raised children who know neither God nor the ways of God.

2. In the church: Most churches do not even teach much beyond the Bible stories. Most times the Bible stories are taught in such a way that we do not focus on sin or salvation. We focus on “moralism”—we tell the story of Daniel and we say ‘you can be a Daniel, things will work out in your life’—then we wonder “Why do are kids think the goal in life is to be happy?”

3. In the sermon: We like short sermons. They aren’t supposed to tell me what God says—they are supposed to make me feel good. They are supposed to ‘cheer me up’. The sermon is supposed to preached—like a prophet of old we stand and say ‘thus sayeth the LORD’. The preacher is not Oprah or Dr. Phil. He is not your theraupist ‘tell me how you feel’—is the heralder of the Word of God.

In days gone by, we had doctrinal sermons that said what God said and then told us the implications: what should I believe, how should I respond, what should I think about God—and if I have a right knowledge of God how do I obey. Now, we live in a day and age where “doctrine” is a bad word. We’ll say: “Just give me what is practice.

Doctrine simply means teaching. It doctrine gives us the core truths about God—the knowledge of God. It instructs us in the ‘law of God’. “Theology,” according to William Ames, “is the doctrine or teaching of living to God” BUT in our day we don’t want theology—we don’t want this sweat treasurous knowledge of God. What do we get? Christian lives and beliefs that reflect this.

B. We need to come before God and repent. We have failed! We have failed the LORD miserable. We have not taught our children to know God. Knowledge of God comes only through Jesus Christ and His Spirit working in us. We need to be a repentant people.

C. What do I look for in my church and in the sermon? Do I crave the knowledge of God? Yes, the sermon should never merely a lecture. I am not giving you the technicalities of Hebrew or extensive background into Israelite history. We are seeking to bring the text to bear. We are seeking to hear God’s Word. Preaching is also not a therapy session, in the secular sense. Preaching is not a pep talk. Am I sitting there today and recognizing that I have heard from God?

D. Is my home a place of Christian discipleship? This is really quite a depressing sermon for mother’s day. But there is really no better place than in the Christian home to teach our children a knowledge of God. Only part of the job is done in Sunday School—unless the Bible is opened and the doctrines discussed in the home there is really no point. The mother can be crucial in this. I remember my own mother reading and teaching the Word of God to me.

E. Study the Word of God as a family and in private worship. Let me give you some practical tips:

1. Set up a time and place to regularly read God’s Word. Read and study God’s Word regularly and systematically. Read through the Bible in a year.

2. Do not simply read God’s Word without discussing the themes of Scripture—man’s sin, God’s grace, salvation in Christ alone.

3. Think and talk about doctrines: what is the Trinity? How many God’s are there? How many persons in the Godhead? Who are they?

4. Review the catechism. Tools like this guide you into what is most important.

5. Memorize the 10 Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer (see the Catechsim)

6. Learn the Apostle’s Creed.

7. Review the sermon later in the week.

8. Read good Christian books that introduce you to basic doctrines, things by R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, J.I. Packer.

a. If you don’t have time to read books read some sermons…
b. If you don’t have time to read sermons there are some great Christian blogs and websites that I’d be happy to recommend…
c. If you don’t like to read, take your IPOD and download sermons from Godly pastors… I can give you a list of suggestions…

F. Do not merely study to retain information about God, study to build a thorough knowledge of God. Seek to put into practice those things which you do know.

G. Pray: the knowledge of God does not root in our hearts apart from being prayed in!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Review: A Reader's Hebrew Bible

A Reader's Hebrew Bible (RHB). I think that in many ways, this book has been a long time coming. At least since the Reader's Greek New Testament came out, I think many of us who enjoy the original languages wished there would also be one for the Hebrew Bible. Philip Brown II and Bryan Smith are to be commended for their work.

If your like me you've felt the frustration of lugging around the BHS along with a reader's lexicon, after all this takes up too much space in one's bag. Now, essentially the reader's lexicon and the Hebrew text are combined into one text, and it even has the look a feel of a regular Bible with thin pages (like an English text), a leather bound cover and even silver trim with a cloth book mark. Unlike some texts in the original languages, this Bible looks and feels like a Bible not merely a study tool. It is portable, although the size is like that of an English Study Bible. I look forward to "breaking it in" a little and trust, given my current level of use and examination, that the binding should prove ready for such a task.

More importantly is what is inside the book. We have the whole Hebrew Text along with an easy to use footnote feature. The introduction includes not only prefaces by the authors (compilers?) who insert these footnoted definitions. The words footnoted are vocabulary words that occur 100 times or less in the Old Testament. The basic sources for the definitions are The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament and Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon.

The general pattern in the footnoted definition is to give the lemma stem, the verb stem (if applicable), the definitions usually HALOT; BDB and then any alternate if relevant. This is helpful because often times the definition is a little bit more expansive than one sometimes sees in a reading lexicon. Seeing the Lemma Stem of the verb helps the reader with his parsing the unfamiliar word. Of course, a translator will still want to look up the word in a lexicon. The Reader's Hebrew Bible only provides a gloss and a translator must consult a lexicon to understand the range of meaning a word will have.

Helpfully the RHB formats prose like prose with running it together and poetry is formatted roughly by stanza or verse.

One other great feature is that proper nouns (names and places) are printed in gray scale so they are easily identifiable. This is a huge help, for I thought I was only one who got stuck on these and can remember being in a panic in my Hebrew final when I encountered several proper names and thought I was going to flunk translation because I forgot a vocab. After talking to several pastors about the RHB, I realized that I'm not the only one who gets stopped up at times. It seems now small stretch to say that one can hardly underestimate the value of this feature.

To save space the RHB cannot have a textual apparatus so the BHS is still indispensable for study. Also Kethib-Qere readings are marked with a superscript K and Q respectively. The user of the Reader's Hebrew Bible will want to consult the Quick User's Guide and the Introduction in order to be able to use the RHB at its full potential.

Finally, there are two appendixes. The first one has words that occur over 100 times just in case you forgot some your Hebrew vocab from seminary (myself included here). Second there is and appendix which notes the 27 places where the BHS differs from the Westminster Leningrad Codex and highlights the word that is different. This is important to note that the RHB does use the electronic text of the Westminster Leningrad Codex. Noting these 27 places, while important to note especially for the scholar and text critic, are probably not of great consequence to the average reader, teacher or preacher. Either way this should not keep any reader from actively using the RHB, just as one does not stop using say the NA27 because one disagrees with a variant reading or a text critical issue.

I highly recommend this book. I wish it had come out while I was in seminary so that I might not have let my Hebrew slip somewhat. This book will however serve a huge service in my life and the lives of user as we regular engage the Scriptures in their original language. May we savor all the more the sweetness of God's Word, particularly in the original languages.

We might take Machen's reflection on the minster and his Greek Testament and apply them to the Hebrew:
"The widening breach between the minister and his [Hebrew Testament] may be traced to two principle causes. The modern minister objects to his [Hebrew Old Testament] or is indifferent to it, first because he is becoming less interested in his [Hebrew], and second, because he is becoming less interested in his [Old Testament]...

If the student keeps a "morning watch," the [Hebrew Testament] out to be given a place in it; at any rate the [Hebrew Old Testament] the [Hebrew] should be read devotionally. The [Hebrew Testament] is a sacred book, and should be treated as such. If it is treated so, the reading of it will soon become a source of joy and power."

--J.G. Machen, Selected Shorter Writings, ed. D.G. Hart, 210 and 213 respectively.


ADDENDUM: Just as a note, I'm finding this to be very helpful for my reading as I work my way through Hosea.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Pastoral Ministry and Ph.D. work

As one who wanted in college and seminary to do Ph.D. work and as one who has been serving in the pastorate for five years now (and who still wants to get a Ph.D.), Sean Michael Lucas has written an incredible essay on the issue here.
He writes,
For these, I simply rejoice and try to encourage them not to allow the apparent blandishments of academic life to sway them from the God-given trajectory they are pursuing. For what our churches need are pastors who can bring the critical thinking skills that PhD studies teach to their tasks. Notice that I didn't say pastor-scholars: I fear that all too often we say that and the mental picture that forms includes academic (biblical or theological) essays for sermons; thirteen hours in the study each day; and a focus on the call of the academy instead of the needs of the church. But what PhD studies do provide are critical thinking skills--the ability to discern and divide issues, the larger and more sharply honed knowledge base, and the writing skills which should translate into preaching--all of which strengthen pastoral ministry, all of which strengthen the church of Jesus.
His essay is wonderfully uplifting and encouraging. It is also sobering. It is too easy to run into Ph.D. work for the wrong reasons, a sort of 'grass is greener on the other side of the fence,' namely the academic world and not the pastorate. Lucas' essay is written by a scholar in the seminary field but drips with the wisdom of a pastor.

In my own life, several academics, including Steve Nichols, have counselled me in similar ways. Another major thing that helped me was sitting under and being mentored by a pastor who had an incredible teaching ministry. He had great critical thinking skills and exegetical ability (like I was exposed to in seminary) but had an ability to bring the Word to the average Joe in the pew.

Lucas' article has an excellent quote about God's calling:

I think it is probably by taking another part of Burroughs' direction for contentment to heart: "Exercise faith by often resigning yourself to God, by giving yourself up to God and his ways. The more you in a believing way surrender up yourself to God, the more quiet and peace you will have" (Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 219).

I still long to do Ph.D. work, but I pray that I can resign myself to God's calling.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hosea 3

GOD EXTENDS LOVE TO HIS PEOPLE.

I. FIRST, GOD EXTENDS LOVE TO HIS PEOPLE DESPITE THEIR SIN.

A. Hosea is told to take back his wife who was living as a prostitute.

Hosea 3:1 Then the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes."

Gomer had gone out from Hosea and lived her life as a prostitute. Like Israel she had been unfaithful to her marriage vows. Remember Hosea was told to marry Gomer in chapter 1 even though she was already unfaithful—so her again she has gone out from her husband in great unfaithfulness

B. Hosea is to love Gomer like the Lord loves Israel.

Hosea 3:1 Then the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes."

Israel had gone after other gods while she was “married” to the LORD. He had redeemed her and made a covenant with her. God had in effect entered into a marriage union with her.

Israel had turned to other gods. Raisin cakes were probably items associated with cultic worship. Israel had violated the command of God and worshipped other gods, particular the Canaanite god baal. So Israel is the woman who was loved by the LORD yet she acted as a harlot—even though God had made her his own.

Exodus 20:3 "You shall have no other gods before Me.

Hosea 2:16 "It will come about in that day," declares the LORD, "That you will call Me Ishi And will no longer call Me Baali.

Hosea 11:2 The more they called them, The more they went from them; They kept sacrificing to the Baals And burning incense to idols.

Hosea 13:4 Yet I have been the LORD your God Since the land of Egypt; And you were not to know any god except Me, For there is no savior besides Me.

C. Hosea obeys the LORD

Hosea 3:2-3 2 So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley. 3 Then I said to her, "You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you."

D. Here we see a picture of God’s grace. God does not come to us because we are lovable. Sin is a gross offense against God and His holy character. We were created to be in a relationship with Him—like a marriage relationship with Him. We are the ones who have gone out and sinned. Our sin is like playing the whore. We are supposed to look at harlotry and sexual immorality and go “ewww” but then we need to take our same disgust and look at our own sinfulness before God.

Our sinfulness is of great disgust in the eyes of God. And yet, despite this great disgust—despite all of our ‘stabbing God in the back’ and ‘sticking it to Him’—He loves us and is willing out of His great love to come to us and extend forgiveness.

II. SECOND, GOD EXTENDS LOVE TO HIS PEOPLE WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS.

A. Hosea goes to Gomer in her sin.

Hosea 3:2-3 2 So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley. 3 Then I said to her, "You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you."

The price is not all that much. A homer and a half is about 15 shekels of silver. 30 shekels is according to Exodus 21:32 the price one was to pay for a slave if he died accidentally. Lev. 27:4 prices a female slave at about 30 shekels. This is important because the price Hosea pays hints that in her adultery Gomer had become a slave. Either she was slave in terms of her bondage to sin, or perhaps in her adultery and sexual service to someone she had become indebted. The picture along with the prices is designed to show us God’s love. Just as Hosea buys his wife out of her slavery, so also God buys His people out of their slavery to foreign gods and sin.

Gomer is to come back. This entails three things: (1) She dwells with him for many days—i.e. she will live in his house under his roof and care. (2) She will not play the harlot—i.e. no more sleeping around. (3) She will not have any man. The grammar could mean other that Hosea but it is more likely that it means she will not have relations with anyone including her husband. There will be a period of abstinence. Two things lead me to favor this interpretation. (a) The use of the Hebrew “gam” suggests sequence in the next clause. (b) This fits the pattern of Israel’s exile ‘for many days’.

Gomer will be with Hosea but without relations. There will be no union between the two for a period and then “I will be towards you”. This is suggestive of a coming together once again. This may have echoes of the covenant formula “I will be your God and you will be my people” once again Hosea says “I to you”.

B. The children of Israel will be exiled from God.

Hosea 3:4 4 For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or household idols.

The sentence starts with the word “for” which clearly connects the analogy. Why is Hosea taking Gomer back in this way? Why buy her? Why bring her into the house but make her wait until you unite with her?

Just as Gomer is in the house for many days but not ‘with Hosea’—so Israel will be for many days without ‘king, prince, sacrifice, pillar, ephod or idol’. This is suggestive of exile. All the religious cultic ceremonial sights would be destroyed to the ground. The northern kingdom would have no king at all. It is the judgment of God. This however gives way to hope.

However, there is unique suggestion here. God’s first act of bringing his people back was to cut her off. In the symbolic act, Hosea buys back Gomer and she is in his house for many days. In the story of Israel—for many days Israel is cut off with nothing. All of God’s actions her are taken so that Israel will go back to her first husband—so that she will seek Him. God extends love while His people are rejecting Him… there is a sense where God’s love is going to the “tough love” of exile in order to buy back his people.

C. While we were still sinners Christ died for us:

Romans 5:6-10 6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

1 John 4:9-10 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

In our day and age, there is this novel idea that God loves us because we are loveable. That because we are made in the image of God, God is obligated to show everybody love. “God is love” we say…this is certainly true. However,

(1) We cannot forget to balance God’s love with his other attributes: particularly God is holy. Holiness means “to be set apart”. This radical holiness of God cannot stand the presence of evil. God’s holiness brings a good anger: anger at sin. The Bible says God is “slow to anger” but He does have anger:

Exodus 34:6-7 6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations."

God’s holiness brings a standard of justice. Guilty people cannot go unpunished.

(2) God’s love towards sinners is a free act. The only guarantee we have is that God keeps His promise—He has promised to save a people and He will do that. But this promise is based upon God’s mercy and grace not because of who we are. Just like Hosea, obeying God freely goes to Gomer and frees Gomer from her slavery so God frees us from our sin. Gomer cannot stand before Hosea and say “You must take me back”—she has betrayed him, she has no basis to appeal to him. She cannot say “I am worthy”. So also, we have as sinners no basis to appeal to God. YET GOD EXTENDS LOVE TO THE WICKED WHILE WE ARE STILL SINNERS.

III. THIRD, GOD EXTENDS LOVE TO HIS PEOPLE SO THAT THEY CAN SEEK HIM.

A. God will enable His people to seek them.

Hosea 3:5 5 Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days.

Israel will dwell in exile for many days, she will have no king, no ephod, no idols. This will lead to her return. She will come back to the LROD and the LORD will place a king on the throne of Israel. This king will be the son of David. It will be the Messianic king—‘Messiah’ means anointed one.

This is a clear allusion to Deut. 30.

Deuteronomy 30:1-6 1 "So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the LORD your God has banished you, 2 and you return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, 3 then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. 4 "If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back. 5 "The LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. 6 "Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.

Just as Gomer would not be with any man for a while and then Hosea would return to her, so also Israel would be in this exile for a while and then the LORD would return to her. God’s people would be led to repent and seek God. They would once again turn to the LORD. We see this attitude reflect in some of the prayers during the exile by men like Nehemiah and Daniel.

B. Jesus Christ is the Son of David on the throne:

The promise is then for “the last days”, some thing the New Testament refers to as “the last days” (Hebrews 1:1) or more common “the age to come”. It is the age of triumph when the Son of David is on the throne ruling in the kingdom as God intended. The New Testament shows us that God has begun to fulfill these promises in Jesus Christ. There is a sense that in the person and work of Jesus on the Cross these last days have begun. HE is the promised Davidic Messiah.

Through the person and work of Jesus Christ we do come before the LORD. We fall down before Him in worship. We are enabled to seek His faith. He is the mediator who has removed the guilt of sin and enabled us to boldly approach the throne of Christ. It is in Christ Jesus that we have been “blessed in the heavenlies with every spiritual blessing.”

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Emergent Atonement?

In a recent series between Collin Hansen and Tony Jones over at Christianity Today, Collin Hansen asks Tony Jones [pictured] the following about his book The New Christians:

"You wrote a section on Atonement that followed your story about meeting a pastor who "sits atop a pyramid of Reformed Christians." You contrast his view of substitutionary Atonement with Emergent Christians' views, which more commonly attribute the sins of the world "not to the distance between human beings and God but to the broken relationships that clutter our lives and our world." Can you help me understand how Emergent Christians tend to view the atoning work of Jesus?"

This question is hardly novel. Here is Tony Jones' response:

"There have been five or six major theological theories to explain the atoning work of Jesus on the cross over the last two millennia. Each of them, you might say, shines a spotlight on the cross from a different angle. Emergents want all those spotlights, figuring that the more light we can shed on the cross, the better we can understand it. One spotlight is fine. Six is better."

Church history is replete with various theories of the atonement. The NT does portray different aspects of the atonement. For example, Christ is clearly a propitiation for our sins (penal substitutionary). In Col 2:15--Christ triumphs over the principalities and powers (Christus Victor). In 1 Peter, Christians emulate the pattern of the cross in our suffering (similar to but not precisely like typical renditions of the 'example theory'). One could argue for a sort of recapitulation theory in that Christ goes through humiliation and exaltation as the second Adam, humbling himself unto death and being raised up and exalted to the right hand of the Father.

In the New Testament there are aspects of the atonement that are like petals on a flower. So for example, the atonement brings justification (legal standing) and sanctification (moral transformation)--in the application of redemption these two are forever distinct yet inseparable. However, despite Jones' analogy we should point out three things:

(1) In Church History, the theories of the atonement often get articulated over and against each other. For example, many today who articulate a Christus Victor theory do so over, above and against a penal subsitutionary atonement. If Jones would say 'hey that may be true in history but it doesn't have to be true today'--I'd agree.

(2) There are also other issues often at stake in the theories of atonement. For example, the Socinians adopted adopted an example theory precisely because in there view Jesus was not God. They rejected the Trinity and so this led to disastrous results in their theology of the atonement. Many (post-)moderns despise the notion of penal substitution and vicarious suffering and so they caricature 'the cross is not divine child abuse' --rejecting all concepts of Christ bearing the wrath of God for our sin.

(3) Pride of place in the New Testament is given to the penal substitutionary aspect of the atonement. For example: Romans 3:21-26; 1 John 2:2; 4:9-10; Hebrews 8-10. Most notably:

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you- unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

Part and parcel of the death-resurrection of the Christ is this substitutionary idea that he died for our sins--He took our sins and was cursed for them (Gal. 3:13 et al). Of course, this death and resurrection comes at the fullness of time, the climax of redemptive history and bears the curse that the Law had powerfully placed upon Israel (leading to her exile). But the curse of sin is equally powerful over Gentiles. To use Jones' analogy, one spot light shines a little brighter. We can say this without minimizing a Biblical theology of the atonement that accounts for other aspects.

The question I think we need to ask is not: in Scripture is there various 'perspectives on the atonement'. I think one could hardly find a Bible Scholar or a Reformed writer, theologian today who would not say 'yes' there is a 'multi-persepectivalism' on the cross in the NT in a way that these are non-contradictory. For example, see chapters seven, eight and nine in Michael Hortons' Lord and Servant: A Covenant Christology. He states things like: "Christus Victor must be part of our atonement doctrine, and it includes this element of sinned-against as well as sinners. His life, even before his death, is already a covenant identification with sinners, the outcasts"(p.248). Citing Col. 2:13-15 he rightly argues "conquest over the powers and substitutionary atonement are interwoven into one fabric" (p.249). He also argues that substitutionary atonement is the basis for a recapitulation model (p.252). Other evangelicals make the similar arguments. Thus, I think it is sort of a false assumption that evangelicals only believe in penal substitution to the exclusion of other aspects. John Stott's classic The Cross of Christ has a whole chapter entitled The Conquest of Evil. He states, "the New Testament does not oblige us to choose between them [the satisfaction and the victory motif] for it includes them both" (p.225). If Emergents view the atonement as having various aspects, I would say the same about evangelicals.

However, the real question is: will we give pride of place where Scripture gives pride of place? This is where I would see difference. Evangelicals, particularly confessional evangelicals and those within the Reformed orthodox world, seek to give pride of place where Scripture gives pride of place. We also, for good or bad, tend to defend that aspect of the doctrine which is most under attack.

Maybe Jones avoids the following trap, but too many who I see and read who embrace the 'multi-perspectivalism' and the 'models' also have the greatest disdain and hatred for the penal substutionary model where God the Father pours our the wrath we deserve upon the Son and the Son bears the wrath and exhausts the curse. It would seem that for many not all spotlights are equally valuable. Indeed, there today is the most hatred for the one that is brightest in Scripture [and church history (?)]. While we should never lose sight of the penal substitutionary aspects of the cross whereby God's wrath is propitiated, we must equally never loose sight of the Father's love in sending the Son to be the propitiation for our sins (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:10).

At this point someone might counter that this is merely my subjective reading as to what has pride of place. Fair enough, we would have to get down and get "messy" with the text (and a bit of church history) to establish this. But we cannot say that all are of equal weight and not handle the texts themselves. Presuppositions flow both ways. It is both Word and Spirit (objective and subjective) that should drive us towards our position and cause us to be self-critiquing of that which we hold.

If Tony Jones hits the balance, I say a hearty "AMEN". But lets not be naive there are those out there who cry "Peace, peace" between the 'models' and then slam their hands and fists hardest against penal substitution.

You can read Tony Jones' blog here.

UPDATE: Bob Hyatt has posted some helpful comments over on his blog in this post. His thoughts in reviewing Jones' A New Christians dovetail really well with the point I was trying to make regarding the CT interaction:

But Tony opens the door with this story and his statement that it's "arrogant and a bit deceptive to preach that one of them [theories of atonement] is the sole and exclusive means of understanding" what Jesus did... and then goes on to give us the one means of understanding what Jesus did, namely: "an act of divine solidarity with the suffering and broken world..." To be fair, he doesn't explicitly state that this is the only view (of course, it's the only one he mentions)- but his writing here is strikingly similar to Doug's much more expanded writing in A Christianity Worth Believing in which he out and out rejects the idea that the Atonement has anything to do with a legal transaction or our sin, and chalks up to Greek influence the idea of Jesus as a substitute who saves us from the punishment that was due us... an "innocent one chosen by God to pay the price for the sins of humanity" because "that's what the up-and-out, distant, vengeful God demanded."

I find Bob's comments in the article about swinging the pendulum too far the other way to be very helpful and quite refreshing no matter what one's position on certain issues. It reminds me of a comment I heard by a pastor the other week: "We don't formulate our theology by backing into it otherwise we will back ourselves into a corner where we don't really want to be." The idea was that if we are forming our doctrines by saying "I don't like this or that" and we are only being reactionary then we soon end up in an unBiblical position. Rather we form our theology by saying what does Scripture say and then setting that mark infront of us.

Check out Bob Hyatt's final review of The New Christians here.

Cited:
Michael Horton Lord and Servant: A Covenant Christology (Louisville, Kenn.: Westminster/John Knox, 2005).

John Stott The Cross of Christ: 20th Anniversary Edition (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity, 2006).

Monday, May 5, 2008

Sermon Applications 5/4/08

Text: Hosea 3


Hosea 3:1-5 1 And the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins." 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. 3 And I said to her, "You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you." 4 For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. 5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.

Applications:
A. Hosea shows us the beauty of the gospel. This passage we see the need for God to come to us. Here we need to contrast religion with the gospel.

1. Religions says: become a good person. ‘Clean up your life’. Religion tells us that we can seek God if we trust try hard enough. Religion tells us to look inside ourselves. Religion tells us that we are good enough. Many times as Christian we portray to non-Christians this idea that we are better than everybody because “we’ve found Jesus”—they hear us speak of our salvation but they hear us say “me, me” and “I, I” and then we say “Do what I did…” They here us speaking of “our heavenly reward” and it sounds like “I am special”. And “God loves me” or “God won’t love you until you believe”

2. –Certainly God shows no mercy on the unrepentant—but the reality is nobody would repent if God did not love us first.

3. The Gospel says: I have turned on God. I am wicked. I do not deserve any love and favor from God. I have cheated on God and stabbed Him in the back. He does not have to love me. I am the wicked harlot just like everybody. We are all equally wicked. I cannot clean up my life—I need someone outside of me to buy me from my harlotry.

4. The Gospel says: I did not love God but He loved Me. God came down to buy back a people for Himself. God extended love to me at the very moment I was doing those things that make me unlovable.

B. God’s love is by definition a sovereign love. God’s love is a free act extended to us despite our sin. The doctrines of grace found in Scripture teach us that I am truly horrible and corrupt. I deserve nothing. I do not seek God—rather I seek the Baals. I put up idols in my heart and pervert those things that God has given me. I take pleasure in things and in myself rather than in God. I delight in serving my own end rather than delighting in God. I worship me not God.

God sends His Son, the Son of David, to save me. This Son takes upon Himself the penalty deserve. The price paid for this son is thirty pieces of silver so that He can go to the cross. On this cross He bleeds and dies for my sin. The curse of the Law, the exile, is poured out on this Son so that I can enter into fellowship with God.

This free act of God’s love is manifest on the Cross. This free act of God’s love is manifest in the preaching of the Word of God. By the preaching of this word God brings people to faith. “Faith comes through hearing and hearing by the Word of God”. When the Word of God is preached we hear the command “repent” and “seek God”. God’s love sovereignly works and people come to faith. They return to God. We come and bow down and worship. Like Isaiah we cry “Whoa for I am a sinful man”—Like Paul we see the glory of God in the face of Christ.

This is the power of God—like Hosea—God seeks out His beloved. He buys them back from their slavery. The price is costly. Like Hosea, He comes back to us to establish a relationship. We like Gomer do not deserve. We like Gomer can do nothing to free ourselves.

C. Do I come before God trembling in worship? Do I have a sense of how truly undeserving I am? Do I recognize the sovereignty of grace?

1. Christianity is about God coming down in Jesus Christ and seeking that which is lost. Many today have turned it into something else. It is no longer about the outside-above God who comes to us but a sort of ‘inside feeling’—a ‘warmth’.

2. Martin Luther called this a ‘theology of the cross’ and he contrasted it with a theology of glory that says ‘I can get to God,’. In contrast, the theology of the cross says God is made known to us—His coming to us in love—the climax of the Hosea story is the cross.

3. As you take communion today, you have an objective sign of the God outside of us and beyond us who came down to rescue us. The God who returned to the unlovable in order to save us. He saves us not because of who we are but because of who He is.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Bavinck for Saturday

This week has been extremely busy with little time for blogging since we had three days of Bible Fellowship Annual Conference. To my delight I came home on Friday and found a new copy of Herman Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics Volume 4: Holy Spirit, Church and New Creation waiting on the table.
Here is a great quote from Volume 2, p.330:
"The thinking mind situates the doctrine of the Trinity squarely amid the full-orbed life of nature and humanity. A Christian's confession is not an island in the ocean but a high mountain top from which the whole creation can be surveyed. And it is the task of Christian theologians to present clearly the connectedness of God's revelation with, and its significance for, all of life. The Christian mind remains unsatisfied until all existence is referred back to the triune God, and until the confession of God's Trinity functions at the center of our thought and life."

Volume 4, p. 33

"God produces both creation and new creation by his Word and Spirit. By his speech he calls all things into being out of nothing (Gen. 1; Ps. 33:6; John 1:3; Heb. 1:3; 11:3); by the word of his almighty power he again raises up the fallen world....The covenant of grace is sustained by the cosmic covenant of nature. Christ, the mediator of the covenant of grace, is the same as he who as Logos created all things, who as light shines into the darkness, and who enlightens every human coming into the world. He leaves no one without a witness but does good from heaven and fills also the hearts of Gentiles with food and good cheer (Ps. 19:2-4; Matt. 5:45; John 1:5, 9-10; Acts 14:16-17; 17:27; Rom. 1:19-21; 2:14-15)."

"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...