Drinking Deeply

Thursday, June 26, 2008 at 9:59 PM

The good news about my depravity.

The question came up on Sunday - Why is God's election good news? Why is it good news that Calvinism is true?

I think one point can be made (among many), and lest I be misunderstood, I want to make it clear here that I'm not arguing that Calvinists love God more than Arminians. I want to answer the question, "why is Total depravity good news?"

In Luke 7, Jesus has dinner with a Pharisee. And he makes the following point about the prostitute who was washing and kissing his feet.

47
Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Total Depravity is good news because it brings us face to face with the reality of who we are in order to make God big to us. We are able to love the Being most worth loving, because He shows us his love in saving us, utterly dead sinners.

The more we claim autonomous works, be it good works (like the Pelagians claim) or good works enabled by Christ (Catholics), or faith itself (Arminian), the less we see God's grace magnified, and the less we love God.

Total Depravity is good news because it magnifies the worth of God to us, so that we can testify that "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more." Paul is using that in a different context, but I think we can rightly say (based on this parable), "where our knowledge of sin increased, our knowledge of God's grace abounded all the more."

So we are utterly and hopelessly fallen, dead in water at the bottom of the ocean, blind with our eyes gouged out.

But God, who is rich in mercy, saved us, to the praise of His glorious grace.

Soli Deo Gloria

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 2:30 PM

The probation of Christ

Still working through Biblical Theology by Vos. I'm almost done with it! Wahoo!

One thing that struck me is his remarks on the probation of Christ (or Christ's temptation).

He points out that in Matthew 12:29 Jesus speaks about the binding of the strong man and the ability to plunder his goods after doing so. Vos points out that since Jesus is using this point to respond to those who accuse him of driving out demons by the power of Beezebub, it must be the case that Satan was at that time now bound and Christ was plundering Satan's house (driving out demons).

Vos then goes to connect that to the temptation of Jesus (where he faced Satan face to face) as really the beginning of the ministry (must have come prior to the driving out of demons), and uses that to conclude that it is at that time that Satan is bound.

That makes a lot of sense to me after reading it, even though I initially believed that the binding of Satan was at the cross (where he defeats death once and for all).

But there is one huge question mark I put at that area.

Speaking of how exactly the probation of Christ relates to the casting out of demons, Vos writes -
"Thus far we have only found that deliverance from demons is traced back to [the temptation]. But we must further ask: on what principle? The principle is that of an anticipation of the fruits of Jesus' work based on the partial anticipation in principle of the work itself." (p. 334)

To which I reply, "huh"?

Pretty cool. The book is hard, but worth reading. I would put it up on my shelf as some of the most informative books I've ever read outside of the Bible. Maybe a fuller review later.

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at 9:46 AM

Discipleship Class wk 3

I think this one is late.

Last week we read an excerpt from Bonhoeffer's "Life Together," where he puts forth his picture of the Christian community.

Ironically enough, within it, he argues that we should not have an ideal of what we're looking for. We should not be always pushing for something greater, but rather we should be content with what we have. I say ironic, because, it's pretty obvious he wrote the thing to spur us onto an ideal community.

I think what he wanted to say was that we should be giving up our human and personal ideals (like wanting the right music, or a specific persona behind the pulpit) and be seeking divine ideals instead (spirit vs. human). That's a good encouragement, but he isn't really clear on that, and if it is what he meant, I think some biblical principles on what is a spiritual ideal would have been nice.

All in all, he was spot on with regards to the blessings of Christian brotherhood. I pointed this out before, but I think the reason why we aren't so blessed usually is because all we do is do non-Christian things with Christian friends. We've turned our partnership for the Gospel into an ice cream social. We've turned our rewards from heaven into free movie passes. That's to our shame.

All in all, while I thought he did a much better job of using Scripture in the last reading, his terminology and language left a lot to be desired. I think we would be far better served with a Scriptural examination of "fellowship" or a treatment on ecclesiology instead of exhortations to repent of our ideals... because what if they are Christian ideals? And if we are to repent of them... then what? The Biblical model is always "don't do this, then do this instead." And no where in the Bible does Paul exhort his followers to repent of their ideals, instead, he rebukes them for not matching up to God's ideals. 1 Corinthians 11 comes to mind again with Paul's rebuke of their abuse of the Lord's table.

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Monday, June 09, 2008 at 11:13 PM

Discipleship Class wk. 2

Some thoughts on Dietrich Bonhoeffer from reading the introduction to his book "Life Together," where he thinks aloud on various things that he's learned after 10 years in prison.

All in all, it read much like a series of blog entries. The intent isn't to convince someone as much as to encourage and exhort those who already agree. It seems like there's a lot good there, but to be honest, I don't find him as compelling.

He has a way with words and brings up a lot of good thoughts, but I have some concerns which probably prevent me from appreciating him as much.

For example - the point about treating people not as they do or do not do, but rather in light of what they suffered.

Sounds great on paper, but I have to ask, "Is this Scriptural?" When in the Bible are Christians rebuked for looking upon people as they did or did not do? Where in the Bible are Christians encouraged to "see people as they suffered." I'm not arguing against "weeping with those who weep," but broad statements like that seem inaccurate at best, and misleading at worst.

After all, the prophet Isaiah rebukes Israel repeatedly for what she has not done -

Isaiah 1:

12 “When you come to appear before me,
who has required of you
this trampling of my courts?
13 Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.

And this isn't an isolated incident, rarely does the prophet exclaim to Israel, "you are prosperous, but look how you are suffering because you're so distant to God, come, I wish show you a better way," rather, Isaiah mocks Israel and calls down judgment upon her unrighteousness and declares that only a remnant will remain of what was a great nation. Nothing about having compassion or suffering alongside. Any suffering alongside seemed to be God enforced (as my servant walked naked for 3 years...).

Again, in 1 Corinthians 11 when Paul speaks of the Lord's supper, he rebukes the church for being disobedient and their lack of love. And after laying down a hand of rebuke, he addresses their suffering and using their sins as the reason for their suffering, "30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died," essentially laying forth another rebuke.

And this issue isn't an isolated incident with the Bonhoeffer reading, I just don't feel like he's very precise with his language and his Scriptural support is weak at times.

Another example: At one point he calls for an abandonment of the conscience and of virtue - and the way he put it, I kind of agree (we can't live just by what our heart tells us, or by what society says is "right", but we must live by the commands of the Lord), but the way he put it, it would seem that one must violate their conscience (!) and throw virtue to the winds (!!) in order to obey God. That seems like he's just trying to turn a nice phrase at the cost of throwing out biblical terminology. When in the Bible is the conscience supposed to be something that we go against? I don't disagree with the point, but the usage of terminology is subpar. We should strive for biblical usage of biblical terms in all that we do.

I'm not going to say I didn't learn anything from Bonhoeffer, but I wish I could have learned more.

I also still have the question about "when should we dust off?" As I said, it's easy to dust off when we're being openly reviled, but what about the kid who never goes to small group or bible study, who doesn't care too much for true faith and for God? We invite them, take our time to reach out to them, but is there a time when we dust off our cloaks?

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Sunday, June 08, 2008 at 2:03 PM

No man left behind

In Acts 18, Paul does something that often happens in his ministry, after getting rejected by the Jews, he wipes the dust off his feet and walks away.

5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue.

So that brings up a most interesting question. It certainly is appropriate to walk away and wash our hands when people revile us and reject the gospel, but how far does that go? What about the friend who decides that church isn't interesting anymore, that they are better off sleeping in on Sunday and getting some homework done. Who doesn't really attend church or fellowship at all, but only hangs out with a few Christian friends?

Ought we to wash our hands of that too? Or should we continue to sacrifice our time and effort trying to reach out to them and evangelize (or encourage) them?

From a pragmatic standpoint, it's a lot easier to give up on someone like that, and if we never gave up on anyone, we would hardly have time to pursue God and love our Christian neighbors, that's certainly not the biblical way.

So where's the line? Should we continue trying to reach out to (insert name here)? How long? And when do we move them from our list of priority A to B?

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Saturday, June 07, 2008 at 4:20 PM

Friend of sinners

A long time ago (well, relatively), I made the remark that Jesus didn't so much seek out sinners, as they sought out him, that Jesus was a friend of repentant sinners, and not just a friend of sinners in general. Jesus, as is far more likely for a righteous man, acted like Lot, greatly distressed at the sinfulness and corruption of those around him. (2 Peter 2)

Someone asked me (at that time) where I got that, and I don't think I really answered him, but today our pastor preached on the text that I thought was relevant.

Usually, when people say that Jesus ate and partied with sinners, it's based loosely around the passage where the Pharisees grumble against Jesus, saying that Jesus ate and drank with sinners. A quick look at that passage supports my view -

Luke 15:1-7

15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Context context: What prompts the Pharisees to grumble? The fact that these tax collectors and sinners were drawing near to hear him. Not that Jesus was going out of his way to watch immoral people, but that they were coming to Him.

And the parable that Christ tells to rebuke the Pharisees ends with the line that "there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." The emphasis is not just upon the fact that they were sinners, but that they were repentant sinners.

So that parable is directed by Christ against the Pharisees because they were accusing him of eating with sinners, but Christ is replying, "no, there is great joy in eating with sinners, just like there is joy in finding a lost son, because he is found."

While there may be other passages that disagree with the assessment that Christ only ate with repentant sinners (or those who had come to listen), this one passage certainly support that those there were repentant.

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at 2:12 AM

A universal answer

One of the kids I tutored (she's taking her last SAT this week and won't need help anymore... ever again *tear) mentioned to me during one of her fits of "I hate AP Physics so I am going to ask random questions and try to distract my tutor" that Christianity seems to provide the universal answer to everything. And I think that's totally right.

For a Christian, there really isn't anything to worry about. And even if we don't know the answers, we can still entrust it all to God. Why did this happen? Why did that happen? What is going on?

God, through all, in all, and over all. To Him be the glory forever. Whatever happens to my physical body, to my family, to my friends, to my church. God.

I still can't get away from the Heidelberg Catechism q: 1
Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, (a) am not my own, (b) but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; (c) who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, (d) and delivered me from all the power of the devil; (e) and so preserves me (f) that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; (g) yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, (h) and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, (i) and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him. (j)

Not, "what is thy main comfort?" nor "what is thy only comfort in life?" but in life or death, a Christian has one comfort. One peace, one joy. Wow how easy it is to forget those precious truths. Things at work will blow up, or people will get annoyed, or siblings will bicker and bam that's gone.

But thankfully we don't find that rest in our ability to sustain that peace, but in God and His preservation of His people. Not a hair from my head can fall apart from His will.

Soli Deo Gloria To God alone be glory

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008 at 10:32 PM

Discipleship Class wk. 1

Last Sunday KCPC had it's first meeting for the discipleship class. The meeting was at 4pm on Sunday, and intended to last til 5:30. I figured more or less that I had done enough complaining about the church and I ought to be part of the solution, so I went, expecting a few people, maybe 5 or 6.

I showed up and there already were around 10, and more kept coming in. All told, we had 20 people total. Wow. Who stays at church til 4pm when service ends at 11am? Or who goes home and then comes back? How crazy!

How awesome! I'm just so thankful to God for providing at a most opportune time too. It has been easy to be discouraged about the church. Easy to be disappointed with the church, to think that I'm so alone (with a few exceptions of course). But 20 people who want to love God together? Who are committed enough to stay at church for hours when they could have gone home and watched ESPN and played video games (well, I could have=p). Praise be to the Lord! Preserving a remnant.

I'm excited. We've got a great group of people ranging from college to young adult and I'm looking forward to the discussions and study about God and His Word. The first week we studied the glory of God from Piper's book "Let the Nations be Glad." And it was just filled with verse after verse declaring God's glory. I know sometimes we complain that verses aren't explained enough, but when you have so many of them, they really don't need to be explained. Praise the Lord.

I'm hoping that not only will we get a chance to study this, but also spend time in prayer for our church. Not just for one another (we always need that), but for God's Kingdom, for KCPC, for FiCS and FiCB... that would just be amazing. I've had the opportunity to sit in a time of extended prayer, and it was always a blessing.

So I'm excited. w00t!

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