Archive for February, 2009|Monthly archive page

Christ’s Death Effects our Adoption

Romans 8:15-17 – For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba!  Father!”  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Christ’s death effects our adoption.  Consider the illustration of adoption in relation to our life in Christ.  Without Christ’s death on our behalf to pay for our sin, then we are not brought into God’s family as his children.  Adoption is a potent illustration of what happens in the life of a sinner when they are awakened to their need for Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross.  I recently heard of the experience of Dr. Russell Moore, the dean of the school of theology at Southern Seminary, when he adopted two Russian baby boys.  I heard this story and I saw my life portrayed in the experience of these two little Russian boys.  Dr. Moore writes:

When Maria and I first walked into the orphanage, where we were led to the boys the Russian court had picked out for us to adopt, we almost vomited in reaction to the stench and squalor of the place. The boys were in cribs in the dark, lying in their own waste. Leaving them at the end of each day was painful, but leaving them the final day before going home to wait for the paperwork to go through, was the hardest thing either of us had ever done. Walking out of the room to prepare for the plane ride home, Maria and I could hear Maxim crying out for us and falling down in his crib, convulsing in tears. Maria shook with tears and I turned around to walk back in their room just for a minute. I placed my hand on both their heads and said, knowing they couldn’t understand a word of my English, “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.” I don’t think I consciously intended to cite Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 14:18. It just seemed like the only thing worth saying at the time.
When Maria and I at long last received the call that the legal process was over, and we returned to Russia to pick up our new sons, we found that their transition from orphanage to family was more difficult than we had supposed. We dressed the boys in outfits our parents had bought them. My mother-in-law gathered some wildflowers growing between cracks in the pavement outside the orphanage. We nodded our thanks to the orphanage workers and walked out into the sunlight – to the terror of the two boys. They’d never seen the sun and they’d never felt the wind. They’d never heard the sound of a car door slamming or had the sensation of being carried along at a hundred miles an hour down a Russian road. I noticed that they were shaking and reaching back to the orphanage in the distance. I whispered to Sergei, now Timothy, “that place is a pit, if only you knew what’s waiting for you. A home. With a mommy and daddy who love you. Grandparents. And great-grandparents. And cousins and playmates. And McDonald’s Happy Meals.” But all they knew was the orphanage. It was squalid but they had no other reference point, and it was home.
We knew the boys had acclimated to our home, that they trusted us, when they stopped hiding food in their high chairs. They knew there would be another meal coming, and they would not have to fight for the scraps. This was the new normal. They are now thoroughly Americanized, perhaps too much so, able to recognize the sound of a microwave ding from 40 yards away. I still remember, though, those little hands reaching for the orphanage. And I see myself there.

Why do we not live for Christ as we ought?  Why do we not hate sin as we ought?  It is because lying in a bed of our own waste is all we know and we spend little to no time considering what it is like to live beyond the walls of our orphanage – to live outside of our slavery to sin.  We’ve come to love our sin more than the one who can free us from our sin, just as those little boys had come to love that squalid orphanage more than those who had come to free them from it even though they were crying out to be freed from it.  The reason we continue to fall back into sin as if we were enslaved to it is because without even knowing it, we have become so comfortable with the conditions in the orphanage and have spent so little time thinking about the reward – Christ, whose death effects our adoption.

Mark Dever and one of his “little loving protests”

Mark Dever also spoke at Commending Christ, Desiring God’s 2009 conference for pastors.  Having grown up a Southern Baptist, I really appreciated this tidbit from His message – “The Pastor and Evangelism“.

We cannot measure the correctness of what we do by the immediate response we get…If you grab a hold of this in a sanctified way, pastor, it will reduce your stress and anxiety and change, maybe for the worse, your relationship with your denomination. They want your statistics. We as a church (Capital Hill Baptist Church) just won’t give them. We don’t count. I don’t know how many people I baptized last year. So we certainly then do not send it in to the denomination. I don’t think it is wrong to do that. I don’t think it is wrong to count. I just know the temptation in our own sort of family of Christian churches and that’s one of my little loving protests.

If we get this wrong, I think what we see is we end up distorting well meaning churches into pragmatic, results oriented businesses. It also cripples the individual Christian with this sense of failure, aversion, guilt…I mean who can deny that much modern evangelism has become emotionally manipulative seeking only to get a momentary decision of the sinner’s will yet neglecting the biblical idea that conversion is the result of the supernatural gracious act of God toward the sinner.

The Pastor and Evangelism, by Mark Dever

Piper on Whitefield on not Being a Velvet-mouthed Preacher

Dr. John Piper spoke on the life of George Whitefield at the most recent Desiring God Conference for Pastors, Commending Christ.  I highly recommend listening to it, especially if you are a preacher.  Piper references a quote from Whitefield:

I’ll tell you a story. The Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 1675 was acquainted with Mr. Butterton the [actor]. One day the Archbishop . . . said to Butterton . . . ‘pray inform me Mr. Butterton, what is the reason you actors on stage can affect your congregations with speaking of things imaginary, as if they were real, while we in church speak of things real, which our congregations only receive as if they were imaginary?’ ‘Why my Lord,’ says Butterton, ‘the reason is very plain. We actors on stage speak of things imaginary, as if they were real and you in the pulpit speak of things real as if they were imaginary.’ Therefore I will bawl [shout loudly], I will not be a velvet-mouthed preacher.

The Piper comments;

This means that there are three ways to speak. First, you can speak of an unreal, imaginary world as if it were real—that is what actors do in a play. Second, you can speak about a real world as if it were unreal—that is what half-hearted pastors do when they preach about glorious things in a way that says they are not as terrifying and wonderful as they are. And third is: You can speak about a real spiritual world as if it were wonderfully, terrifyingly, magnificently real (because it is).

The Life and Ministry of George Whitefield: Living and Preaching as Though God Were Real (Because He Is), by John Piper

Mahaney on Receiving God’s Gifts

When a child receives a birthday present accompanied by a card, a wise parent teaches their child to first open the card and read the card and thank the person for the card and gift before opening the gift.  Because, properly understood, gifts should draw our attention to the one giving the gift and create affection for the one giving the gift, not reinforce the self-centeredness of the child.  Each day, I/you/we receive innumerable gifts from God – each and every one intended to draw our attention to God resulting in gratefulness to God.  But how often do I go through my day tearing the wrapping paper off of one gift after another not reading the card – not thanking God.

C.J. Mahaney, Don’t Waste Your Sports

Christ’s Death and Sanctification

Romans 6:15-23

John Owen says that Christ’s death effects our sanctification.  So what is “sanctification”?  Wayne Grudem‘s definition of sanctification – “a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives.”  Now, how does Christ’s death effect the progressive work of God and man making us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives?  To see how Christ’s death effects our reconciliation and justification is obvious.  However, it is not immediately obvious how Christ’s death effects our sanctification.  Spending some time in Romans 6 is helpful in trying to understand this connection though.

As I had been struggling with this for a few days, the Lord providentially brought it together for me on Sunday morning as I listened to the preacher.  He spoke of an individual’s perpetual state of enslavement – the preacher said, “We never stop being slaves.”  This thought does not occur to many Christians.  Yet this is the word picture Paul uses in Romans 6.  Either you are a slave to sin or to righteousness but you never stop being a slave.  It seems that many “Christians” love to speak of the freedom we have in Christ and, as a result, conveniently forget that when we were granted freedom from sin we became slaves of righteousness.  That is the key here to understanding why John Owen says that Christ’s death effects our sanctification.

Though I’m not at all familiar with the details, I’m aware that some believe a Christian to be sinless once they are regenerate.  From what I understand of the false-teaching is that when someone is saved from their sins, they no longer sin.  That kind of theology doesn’t fly when you consider what Paul writes in Romans 6 and 7.

Yes, the Christian is set free from sin by Christ’s death.  But the Christian doesn’t get set free from sin so that he/she can be in a state of spiritual anarchy.  We are set free from sin so that we can be free to obey God.  Christ’s death purchased our freedom from sin and made us slaves to righteousness when, by faith, we trust in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins.  Without this freedom from slavery to sin, the process of sanctification can never start.  I used to serve sin but God saved me from that fruitless way of life so that I could serve Him, as I was created to do, for all eternity.  So once we are saved from sin, we spend the rest of our lives proving it by living according to the Spirit and His sanctifying power at work in our lives.  Verse 22 sums it up for us – “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”  Christ’s death effects our sanctification.

Christ’s Death Effects Our Justification with God

Romans 3:21-26

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Justification is a forgotten, or at least a much neglected, necessity of the gospel.  Many speak of God’s forgiveness as though every human being needs it (after all – no one is perfect, right?) and every human being deserves it and every human being has it as his or her birthright.  I would agree that every human being needs God’s forgiveness (but it would be an understatement to say the issue only goes as deep as our “imperfection” – see this previous post).  However, we have no rights before God upon which we can claim his forgiveness or demand his forgiveness.  The scriptures are clear that we have no merits before God.  We are utterly undeserving of any of God’s gifts much more the free gift of his forgiveness.

This is why we should adore and tremble in the truth of Romans 3:21.  “The righteousness of God” – the standard we all must adhere to if we are to be justified before God.  Don’t be misled – because of God’s justice and holiness he does not just forgive sin.  The penalty for sin must be dealt out.  There must be justice.  And this is what makes v. 21 so sweet – because the righteousness of God came outside of the Old Covenant.  It was the righteousness of God that can be ours – not through works, but through faith in Christ.

The testimony of scripture is that we have all sinned and so there is no one who is righteous according to the law.  The imagery is of a courtroom.  The condemned, having been proven guilty, stand before the judge awaiting sentencing.  Imagine in our day a convicted murderer standing before a judge in one of America’s courtroom’s asking the judge to please forgive his murderous ways.  A judge who simply says, “you’re forgiven”, is no judge at all because, as a judge, his job is to deal justly with those who break the law.  Where is the justice in mere forgiveness?  You and I would not stand for such a thing even with our corrupt human standards.

You and I – we have broken God’s law and we stand before the Judge who is infinitely more righteous than any judge in the courtrooms of this world.  If the judges in this deal justly, how much more will The Judge of all the earth deal justly.  There is no sweeping of transgressions under the rug.  Justice must be executed.

The gospel does NOT mean that God merely forgives.  The gospel says that God justifies sinners – he makes us right with himself by pouring out the penalty for our sins upon the Holy One, Jesus Christ.  Sin’s penalty has been satisfied by a righteous substitute, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, those who will look to Christ’s death in faith as the means by which God’s wrath was absorbed (a propitiation) will not only be forgiven of their sins, but will receive the righteousness of God – 2 Cor. 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  That is justification.  Since God’s wrath is absorbed and the penalty for sins is dealt with in Christ, God is just in forgiving sins.  No one can say that God’s forgiveness granted to sinners is an injustice.  His forgiveness does not contradict his justice.  As Romans 3:26 says, he is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  Christ’s death effects our justification.

Some changes

I added some new links in the side bar under websites and blogroll.  I also added a couple of sermons to the sermons tab.

Also, another quote from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion:

Enlightened by him, we no longer believe, either on our own Judgment or that of others, that the Scriptures are from God; but, in a way superior to human Judgment, feel perfectly assured—as much so as if we beheld the divine image visibly impressed on it—that it came to us, by the instrumentality of men, from the very mouth of God. We ask not for proofs or probabilities on which to rest our Judgment, but we subject our intellect and Judgment to it as too transcendent for us to estimate. This, however, we do, not in the manner in which some are wont to fasten on an unknown object, which, as soon as known, displeases, but because we have a thorough conviction that, in holding it, we hold unassailable truth; not like miserable men, whose minds are enslaved by superstition, but because we feel a divine energy living and breathing in it—an energy by which we are drawn and animated to obey it, willingly indeed, and knowingly, but more vividly and effectually than could be done by human will or knowledge…Such, then, is a conviction which asks not for reasons; such, a knowledge which accords with the highest reason, namely knowledge in which the mind rests more firmly and securely than in any reasons; such in fine, the conviction which revelation from heaven alone can produce. I say nothing more than every believer experiences in himself, though my words fall far short of the reality.

Christ’s Death Effects Our Reconciliation to God

Romans 5:6-11

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Paul writes in this text about the ungodly…about sinners…about those who need to be saved from the wrath of God…about enemies of God.  He is talking about me and he is talking about you.  Many may say, “But I don’t feel as though I’m ungodly, or a sinner, or under his wrath, or his enemy.”  But the issue is not about how you feel toward God.  The issue is how does God feel toward you.  Now we think naturally that God will love us no matter what because God is love.  However, the fact that God is love is the reason why he hates what is wrong and he hates sin and he judges sinners and pours out his wrath on the ungodly.  But this is completely foreign to our concept of God.  However, our concept of God centers around us and our good and not on God and his glory.  Our concept of God is devoid of God’s revelation and is filled with this world’s philosophy.

We always take pleasure in seeing God as good and that is fine, however, the problem is that we deny reality and also take pleasure in seeing ourselves as good.  If God is good and we are good then who needs reconciliation?  If we don’t need reconciliation then we certainly don’t need God to come in the flesh and die on the cross in our place.  So eat drink and be merry, right?

But consider your heart for a moment…if we brought the evidence of your life into the courtroom would you be proven godly or ungodly?  Would you be proven righteous or a sinner?  Would you be proven justified or guilty?  Would you be under the wrath of God or would you be a friend of God?  The reality is that if you have spent a second of your life as ungodly – then it proves you to be ungodly.  If you have spent a second in disobedience to the Creator God – then it proves you are a sinner, you are guilty, you are under the just wrath of God and you are his enemy.  The Bible says, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it (James 2:10).”  The point of the law is not for you to keep it, but to demonstrate to you like a teacher, that you cannot keep it and so need to be reconciled to God.

I am ungodly.  I am guilty.  I spend most of my waking moments actively living with no regard for God and his glory.  And most of the time my life would not be considered “sinful” according to this world’s categories.  This is the essence of ungodliness.  If I drive home and do it in a way that gives no regard to God and his glory, or I watch a football game on TV and do it in a way that gives no regard to God and his glory – then I have been ungodly.  Now you may think – no big deal.  Does God really care about how we drive and how we watch TV?  But consider how many of us have done far worse – intentionally seeking worldly pleasures because it made us feel good and we had absolutely no regard for God and his glory in the process.  Really what is the difference – whether we actively sought base things or not we were still ungodly.  God says it like this in Isaiah 48:10 – “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned?  My glory I will not give to another.”  Sorry, you may think that you don’t need to be reconciled with God – but you would be wrong.  Jesus died for every single one of our ungodly moments – and there are too many for us to count, which makes us guilty before God and deserving of his just wrath.  And if you aren’t reconciled to God then you will stay in that condition for all eternity.  That is why Jesus died on the cross – 1 Peter 3:10, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…”

Be reconciled to God.  Let’s admit our ungodliness…our disobedience to God…our disregard for his glory.  And then let’s turn away from those things to trust in Christ’s death on the cross to bring us, reconciled, to God.

The Effects of the Death of Death (introduction)

I got John Owen‘s, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, for Christmas.  I spent many hours in J.I. Packer‘s introduction to the book and Owen’s note “To The Reader” (where Owen says, “If thou art, as many in this pretending age, a sign or title gazer, and comest into books as Cato into the theatre, to go out again, -thou hast had thy entertainment; farewell!”).  Packer’s intro is very instructive and if you get this book you should definitely get the one that has Packer’s introduction.  I’ll post more from Packer’s intro at at another time, although you can get a taste of it here.

After reading the first couple of chapters – and believe me…it is slow reading, I was just struck by this notion:  If you walked into your local Christian bookstore and went to the best seller rack you would not find as many scripture references in all the books on that shelf combined as there are in Owen’s first couple of chapters.  Every other sentence is straight out of the Bible.  It is remarkable.  What kind of Christianity is being sold to us on the best sellers rack in the Christian bookstore?  You could possibly make a case that it is not a biblical Christianity.

Anyways, back to Owen and his book…In the first chapter he talks about the end and the effect of Christ’s death.  Here are the effects that he lists:  Reconciliation, Justification, Sanctification, Adoption, and Glorification (though Owen does not use the word.  Instead he says it like this: “Neither do the effects of the death of Christ rest here; they leave us not until we are settled in heaven, in glory and immortality for ever.”)

A Quote from the Institutes

Since, I’m slacking on writing I thought I’d just share another quote from my reading of John Calvin’s, The Institutes of the Christian Religion:

At this day, however, the earth sustains on her bosom many monster minds—minds which are not afraid to employ the seed of Deity deposited in human nature as a means of suppressing the name of God. Can any thing be more detestable than this madness in man, who, finding God a hundred times both in his body and his soul, makes his excellence in this respect a pretext for denying that there is a God?

John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion