Thursday, January 26, 2012

Simple Gifts - an American song of Regeneration and Repentance

Before I get to the meat of this post I want to say that I'm well aware the shakers were fools, and if they were around in Paul's time he would have had strong words for them. I'm also pretty confident that this song probably means the opposite of what I take it to mean, but you know what, if the emergent junk crowd can appropriate our own language and vocabulary and make it mean something else we should be able to do the same. So I will.

Tis the gift to be simple (Ep 4:7)
Tis the gift to be free (Rom 6:7)
Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be (1 Cor 4:7)
And when we find ourselves in the place just right, it will be in the valley of love and delight (1 Cor 15:52)

When true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed (Ps 110:3)
to turn turn will be our delight (Ps 119:16)
Till by turning, turning we come round right. (Is 45:22,25)

While it's definitely a gift from above, I normally wouldn't think of regeneration as becoming simple, but maybe that's why it's so striking. When you are regenerated your old sin nature is pushed off, blown away, swept clean. Your life is uncluttered from a kind of necessary lusting after every horrid pleasure, and I suppose you could call that a kind of divine simplification.
Obviously the gift of freedom in Christ is ours by faith, and it is just that, a gift from above liberating us from wrath, and sin Rom 6:7, so that free like sons John 8:36.
The next thought is straightforward as well, God must grant us repentance from our pride 2 Tim 2:25, our inflated view of ourselves as God before we will come down to where we ought to be in His sight, but no sooner do we find ourselves there, then God lifts us up to new life and standing in Christ 2 Cor 6:18. And when we grasp that new life, it's sheer delight, it's being surrounded by love, it's like a warm sun lit valley where the trees are in bloom.

The next three lines collectively are simply an outstanding treatment of repentance. Once regenerated we are not too proud to beg, we are not too puffed up to demand an fair showing of our deeds and records before God, no, we are content to bow to Him and accept His charity. In fact, it's not mere contentment, it's a delight to lose your old nature, to hear His judgement concerning your hopelessness, of your evil deceptive heart, and to agree with Him. It's like getting out of old cold soaking wet clothes into a hot bath.
And repentance doesn't stop at conversion, on the contrary that's where it starts, it's something we always do from then on out, gradually becoming more sanctified, until we have grown to be like Christ in all ways Eph 4:13.

I'm going to hit play again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mediate or Immediate sin?

When Adam sinned, he plunged all his posterity, all mankind into misery and ruin says the catechism. By that one act Adam condemned me to hell before I was even born, because by that one act I gained a propensity to sin, and a stain against my record. Therefore for the following reasons I do believe we are justly condemned from our very birth:

Eph 2:3 "We were by nature children of wrath" 
Obviously, if we are by nature under wrath, then we are headed for hell, and since God is just it is for a sin.

Ps 51:5 "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me."
Not that the act of sex is evil, but that when David was knit together still in his mothers womb he was a sinner. He didn't have the competencies to carry out sin, but he was nonetheless a sinner.

Romans 5:18-19- "for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come"
The second best passage on the matter. The argument I have treated already here.

Is 43:25-27- "I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. Put me in remembrance; let us argue together; set forth your case, that you may be proved right. Your first father sinned, and your mediators transgressed against me."
Well it doesn't get any clearer than this. In this context Israel was bemoaning the fact that they were innocent of everything, and certainly did not deserve to have the Babylonians come cart them off. What is God's response? You are sinners in Adam. I appointed him as your spokesman, he stood before me and did what you wanted him to. He said what you wanted him to say.  He was our appointed mediator, and since God never makes a mistake Adam I had perfect representation in him. That's what I would have done exactly. His sin was my sin.

Does it therefore follow that since I am a guilty sinner by Adam that I am condemned to hell on the basis of Adams sin? No, and here is a very quick and by no means exhaustive set of why I don't think so:

Ecc 12:14- "For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil."
John 5:28-29 "Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment."

Rom 2:6- "He will render to each one according to his works:"
Rom 14:12- "So then each of us will give an account of himself to God."
Gal 6:7-8 "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption"
2 Cor 5:10 - "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil."
1 Peter 4:4-5 "but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead."
Rev 20:12 "the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done."

The notable thing is that God never condemns us for Adams sin, but for the ones we committed on our own, because the simple truth here is that hell is so awful, so amazingly horribly wretchedly awful that God will not send you there unless you ask for it. A lot. You must ask not merely ask with your mouth a few times, but continually, pleading to be away from Him. He demands that you first demonstrate your desire to go there by your actions, and not just with some actions, but a continual habitual lifetime of hatred toward Him. Then, and only then, after you have accumulated a humongous record of hostilities to God does He condemn you to a terrible eternity.

So are we guilty from Adam? Yes. Should we be condemned in Adam? Yes. Does our sin in Adam constrain God such that He can no longer be gracious but must necessarily punish us immediately for all our sins? I don't think so. Christ is the savior of all men, (but particularly of those who believe) and so I hold to the notion that while I am guilty for what Adam did, I am judged and justly condemned for my own personal sins, and not merely by my spokesman's actions.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Gospel preached by Enoch

Enoch, the seventh from Adam was a righteous man who trusted God "By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God." Heb 11:5, and that's about all we know of him really other than he was a preacher and was faithful to God's message. What message was the sermon exposition from? Why the protoevangel of course:

"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."

and from this he was able to construct this marvelous sermon, which called men to remember what God had spoken, and in light of it, to repent:

"Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him."

The savior will be a Lord, a great king, a king of righteousness, full of goodness. This great all powerful king will ride at the front of an overwhelming army with the sole intention of crushing the powers of evil, and He will reign forever. (Thus we have the OT designation of Lord of Hosts, meaning commander of the heavenly armies)  This was fulfilled in Christ who claimed to be the King John 18:37 over the angels Matt 26:53 reigning forever Rev 11:15.) His intent is not to set up a kingdom with a capitol in some stone fortress somewhere, but it is to set the world right, to convict men of sin, of their ruined standing before God.

And who is this that He will crush utterly? Who is His enemy? Satan's offspring! But that is not someone else, some distant third person whom He keeps a grudge against, no. His enemy is you wicked men in the world, you men who turn your back on the remembrance of this promise, who defy Him with your mouth. You say that things have gone on as they have before the foundation of the world but beware that His patience is not tread upon. We are not given the time this savior will come, so the only thing you can do therefore is repent now, now before His coming. If you have committed deeds of darkness then behold, you have joined up with the side that will strike at His heel and die- you have picked the wrong side, turn from your evil ways because He will crush your head. God has spoken it and it will come to pass. Though His judgment tarries you may trust in it, for He will surely bring this to pass.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Book Review- the World Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips

I don't think of Dan as the best writer or thinker, some of his historic sermons are terrible, when he is posting about the Bible on his blog he's usually wrong, (although at Pyromaniacs he's tolerably good) and his high Calvinism drives him to wonky conclusions.  That was my expectation going in, but I'm happy to say I was pretty wrong about it.  Here's what has stayed with me after reading the book.
When you open it you are treated to a very biblical, very basic, very concise, and yet very powerful summation of what it means to have life, what it means to die in Adam, what sin is, what total depravity means, and the necessity of being born again.  His exegesis is very moving and I found myself continually flipping pages. The only thing I could think to ding him for was a few minor misses, for example when he talks about the ancient concept of heart is really more akin to the modern concept of head and doesn't quote Luke 5:22 "Jesus asked them Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?" But that's superfluous. It's really one of the best sections in any book I have ever read.
And here is the but portion that causes me to rate it lower than 5 stars: the book doesn't keep the momentum up.  Had Dan been able to do so his book would go down as one of the few must reads that I'm going to make sure my children read alongside The attributes of God by Pink, The Holiness of God by Sproul, Knowing God by Packer, but it doesn't quite. 
There are really three books trying to come out of this one and it would have been better to pick one and make it happen: there is the book of Christ, where he goes through the prophecies in the Old Testament and shows how Christ is a savior, there is the explanation of the Ordo Salutis and what all the ancient doctrines mean and why they matter, and then there is a dressing down of the modern Charismatic movement.  (Obviously the first and second are somewhat related.) The third I have the most problem with, not because I disagree with his conclusions, but because they are in there at all, it makes less of scripture. Now don't misunderstand me, he is still using scripture, but he takes it out of the drivers seat and makes it subordinate to his logic. "I'm right, this scripture proves it" rather than "this is what it says, this is what that means and why it's important." There are a few gems, like the analogy of the dead fish floating belly up in a current to a spiritually dead person not struggling against the world, but by in large it's not that good.
So somewhere about the half way point the book falls apart and becomes something that was perhaps better posted on a blog. I'd rate it as a two stars not because it's bad per se, but because it's such a radical drop in quality from the amazing heights he was treading on. The very last chapter has much more in common with the first half of the book and it's once again excellent, the drop in quality is most noticeable at that point.
Oh and the personal touch he puts into the book is both hit and miss. I very much liked how he translated the Scriptures himself, it gave it a kind of "I worked really hard to understand this, and now I'm going to help bring out the obvious meaning" and I really disliked the colloquial slang. I mean really disliked. It sounded at times like a Californian surfer was writing it, thus taking the whole timelessness right out of the book.
Would I recommend it? Yes. Was it worth my time? Yes. If someone told me which chapters to read and which to skip would I have been happier? Yes. Should you buy it and read it? It's worth the money, particularly if you are like me and read things on your Kindle.

Arrival, Humanity, and Jesus

I recently rented Arrival (a worthy movie about aliens coming to Earth to communicate with us) and was immediately struck by the forcef...