Posts tagged #Reformed

Why it is Best to Consider Yourself a Murderer

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Why it is best to consider yourself a murderer.

 

In the end, knowing that you are a murderer at heart opens the door to salvation.

 

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.[1]

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.[2]

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.[3] (RSV)

 

 What do you do when someone hits you, bumps you, insults you, or hurts you in any way? Or, make it simple, what do you think of the person who cuts you off in traffic?

When Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount he ushered in a new kingdom that turned the whole world upside down and inside out.[4] In his message he raises the standard of inter-relational ethics to impossible standards; well, at least impossible without God, but that is his point. He exposes the natural tendencies of the human heart and critiques the best that man can do with the help of laws to contain those natural impulses. Finally, he requires new attitudes that can only be found in the heart of a person who knows the love and grace of God and who has been transformed and equipped to live and love as a new creation.

Our normal human tendency, when we are slapped, is to escalate the violence. An accidental bump in the marketplace or an inadvertent word becomes an offense which leads to a grudge and becomes a feud which is passed on to the generations. The response to a slap is to find a baseball bat which leads to a bigger stick, and then a gun and finally, in the end, to murder. Murder leads to murder, family hates family, clan hates clan, and nations go to war long past the point where the original bump in the marketplace has passed into legend.

Understanding this natural tendency, God gave the ancient Israelites a higher standard of justice. In Exodus 21, the chapter right after the presentation of the Ten Commandments, God lays out a system of justice that was often summarized with verses 23 and 24, “But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” (ESV) Although the imagery is slightly gory, this simple statement is the starting point for any contemplation of justice. Rather than having an offense escalate, any system of justice should maintain a balanced system where the recompense for an offense is proportional and also satisfies the circumstance so there is no ongoing escalation of uncontrolled “repayments.”[5]
Jesus points to this view of the law as a useful starting point to overturn the self-righteousness of man. If someone hurts us, under the law, we want to pat ourselves on the back and say that we only took back what we deserved. “He slapped me, I slapped him. We’re even.”[6] At one level this is just; but Jesus has something so much greater in mind. In our normal, law-less mode we are slapped and we want to destroy our neighbor. Under the law we are slapped and after a slap back, we walk away hating each other. In the upside-down kingdom, Jesus wants us, when we are slapped, to return utter vulnerability in the hope that our response of grace will lead to a restored and improved relationship.

Jesus wants to set a new standard and a new goal. He wants the standard to be love matching God’s love and the goal to be new-found and restored relationship. In our natural state the goal is destruction and there is no hope of restoration or relationship, in fact, we don’t even seek it. Under the law we are slapped and we want to terminate the relationship on equal terms. The goal is to walk away hating each other but at least not making things worse. The best we can hope for is, “He slapped me, I slapped him, we’re even… the jerk.”

But in the upside-down kingdom Jesus wants us, in the face of an offense, to respond with love and get as compensation … nothing. Moreover, he wants us to offer more than what is expected or required. Instead of justice that is even[7], when someone hits us, he wants us to offer the other cheek also.

Let’s ponder why Jesus uses the image of a slap. Being slapped in the face is more than just painful, it is a challenge or an insult. It is an intimate gesture and a personal affront. Jesus raises the bar, using an image of a destruction of fellowship that is face to face, deliberate and coldly unavoidable. We know who struck us and we know the slap was delivered with a purpose. In return, the Godly response is not only that we don’t return the slap, which would be “just” under the law, but we don’t even try to defend ourselves against the indignity. We don’t seek to defend ourselves, because we have a new goal – restoration.

When someone strikes us, or insults us, or shuns us, or hurts us in any way, we are immediately placed at a relational crossroads. Our response will either end the relationship (or start down that road) or restore the relationship. Instead of being satisfied with the end of relationship, turning the other cheek means that we chase down the person who struck us and offer them a chance to try again and to not strike the other cheek. Our driving passion is to restore the relationship through the love of God with no immediate consideration given to what has been done to us or whether we have been hurt. There may be consequences or reparations or issues to resolve, but that is a later part of the process to be worked out later.

Even the most superficial evaluation of this upside-down way of living should stun us. Not only would this attitude transform all human relationships, but through careful assessment of our own selfish hearts, we immediately realize that this attitude is impossible to cultivate without a profound transformation, first, of our whole lives. We need a new understanding, a new perspective, one that overturns our natural way of thinking. We need our hearts totally transformed from self-centeredness to utter selflessness. Even our best actions and habits need to be re-directed as new fruit of a transformed concept of the goal of restoration. The action of turning the other cheek can only be the result of a revolutionized way of thinking and a heart that has been transformed by God.

Jesus knew this and made it clear as he ushered in the upside-down kingdom. He discusses murder as a way to reveal our hearts in a penetrating and inescapable way. We all know that murder is at the extreme end of relational destruction. Jesus uses murder because it is such an absolute that we all understand. He traps us because He he doesn’t want us to be able to somehow claim self-righteously, “I’m okay because I haven’t murdered anyone.” His new kingdom trap works like this; “If you even call someone a fool, that is the same a murder.”[8] This challenge does three things. First of all, we must realize that we are all guilty of murder – nobody can make the claim, “I’m okay.” To identify a murderer, we no longer need a dead body, the proof starts in our innermost thoughts.

Secondly, he pushes the ethical requirement off the scales (just like turning the other cheek). It isn’t good enough to not murder someone, you can’t even think ill of a person. This forces upon us a crushing implication – if we are not to think ill of a person, that means that we must think well of everyone. Jesus makes this clear when he talks about how to treat our enemies. Imagine someone who is deliberately pursuing your destruction. Not just careless, not merely thoughtless, not simply inconsiderate; the person wants to hurt you, destroy your reputation, take away your wealth and he is doing everything possible to carry out his harmful intentions against you. Jesus says, “Love that person.” <<Insert animated GIF of a jaw dropping here.>> And here is the shocker, to your enemy, to love your enemy, you can’t be careless, or thoughtless, or inconsiderate. It isn’t enough to merely not be offended – you can’t be indifferent. Your love needs to be thoughtful, purposeful, and deliberate. You need to do everything possible to carry out your loving plans to that enemy as he seeks to destroy you. Jesus wants you to pray for that person, give him your things, and invite him into your home. You don’t merely avoid your enemy, you chase after him to present your other cheek for slapping.

Thirdly, and this is true any time we see the standard of God, we are faced with our absolute helplessness and our desperate need for God’s grace to be in us and filling us. On our own we are the murderers, we are the enemy to those around us. Under the Law, the best that we can hope for is to produce a legalistic response where we restrain physical murder. But mere restraint will never free us from being murderers in our hearts nor will it free us to love anyone else no matter who they are. C.S. Lewis wrote a poem that brings this to life, As the Ruin Falls. In it he says,

 

“All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.[9]

 

This is why Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The only love that we can produce on our own is a self-centered, self-seeking, greedy love of Me. That is our natural state. Under the law we can (maybe) rise high enough to keep our external actions from revealing the inner selfishness. To love our neighbors and enemies, to turn the other cheek, to free ourselves from murder, we need to be transformed into people who are filled with the grace of God and live by it.

What Jesus said in these verses is hard to take. Most of us see ourselves as “really a pretty good person.” Human culture shoves this concept down our throats. We are endlessly pummeled with the message that we are “basically good” from psychologists, politicians and celebrities.[10]  It is pleasant and comforting and nice when people say this to us, because it is what we want to believe anyway. However, in our more private and introspective moments we sometimes admit that we have “made mistakes.” This statement is normally linked most logically to some kind of statement like, “but everybody makes mistakes,” which is supposed to justify our littler less significant mistakes. Or if someone presses us into a corner, we admit that we “might have done something wrong,” but in the perfect extreme defense we add, “well, maybe, but I haven’t killed anyone.” And at long last, we are finally trapped by the words of Jesus.

Physical murder is not the standard anymore. It is easy for most of us to keep from actual murder. But, if you murder someone in your heart, if you look down on someone, if you dismiss or disregard someone, ignore or show indifference, you are a murderer. And ironically our primary defense reveals that this is what we do all the time. We explain away our sins by comparing ourselves to someone else. In the end, we exalt ourselves in the condemnation of others. We see that we are a little bit wrong, but that other person is the real fool. Raca! If only those people were like me! Raca! That jerk cut me off! Raca! We condemn everyone as a fool every time they don’t meet up to our standards. And when we do that, we become murderers.

Jesus wants us to see ourselves as murderers because that strips away all of our self-confidence and self-sufficiency. If you see yourself as a murderer, you realize that you are worse off than your worst fears.[11] This gives us a desperate humility. We gain a new perspective of ourselves, a new perspective of others, a new perspective on our situation, and a new appreciation of our need for the grace of God.

Your new self-perspective, crushing as it is, puts you at the utter bottom of the moral stack, where you can finally be free and stop thinking so highly of yourself. You certainly can’t look at anyone else and claim that you are somehow better. From this point of view, when someone slaps you, the indignation is gone, because you know that you are a slapper, too. Still though, it is hard being slapped. How do we overcome?

The only deliverance from our state of desperate humility is through faith in Jesus Christ. He received the Ultimate Slap, the rejection of his own heavenly Father and the punishment of all the sins of mankind. He bore every insult, bump, anger, murder, hatred, and indignation, so that we don’t have to. When we look at Jesus and seize desperately upon his nail-scarred hand, we can finally find what we need to overlook the bump, terminate the feud, and chase down our enemies to offer them another swing at our cheek.

This blog was written by Charles Fox

[1] The Holy Bible: New International Version. 1984 (Mt 5:21–22). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Blomberg, C. (1992). Vol. 22: Matthew. The New American Commentary (113). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[3] The Holy Bible: New International Version. 1984 (Mt 5:43–45). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] It is important to note that all of these principles were already revealed in the Old Testament, the difference is that the nature of the kingdom changes when the King arrives.

[5] Please note that there is NO sense of punishment in this system. Compensation and restoration is the assumed purpose of justice. The goal is never to “make him pay for what he did.” Jesus, of course, pushes that to the limit in the Sermon on the Mount. It is valuable to note that as a culture moves further and further from God, this sense of proportion is increasingly lost.

[6] Which misses the point anyway. Even this view of law should awaken us to an “Aha!” moment. How does hitting someone back accomplish anything of value? Any opportunity for reconciliation, or to show the other person their fault through our grace and forgiveness is lost.

[7] At home, the natural tendency is that everyone gets the exact same amount of cake. The proper response is that if someone takes ALL of the cake and I don’t get ANY, that is ok. As Christians, our goal is not “what is fair in my eyes,” but sacrifice for the delight of others.

[8] A spoken word is more than just noise that comes out of our mouths. What we say reflects the profoundest beliefs and commitments of our hearts. When we call a person “Fool!” we are making a pronouncement of purpose and commitment. When we denigrate another, we are saying what we think they are worth, and what they deserve, and what we would do to them if we had the means. In the context of our discussion, it makes us the enemy who wants to destroy the person, that is, we are the murderer. Jesus nails us and our narcissistic world further when he uses the word “Raca.” Raca means empty, that is, you are “Raca,” you are nothing. This passive indifference that treats someone as if they are nothing is perhaps even worse than murder. Every human is of infinite consequence, and for us to dismiss anyone as meaningless is as far from love as you can get.

[9] C.S.Lewis, Poems, “As the Ruin Falls” (1st pub. 1964), pp. 109-110.

[10] The irony is that what they are really saying is, “I am a good person,” with no basis for such a preposterous claim. Since there is no way to prove this, the only remaining logic left is to make a claim that all people are good, and it is just the rare other person who has somehow gone wrong. Five minutes in the real world dispels the fantasy that bad people are “rare.”

[11] Jack Miller would tell us in church over and over – “Cheer up! You’re a worse sinner than you dared imagine, and you’re more loved than you ever dared hope.”

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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1 John 1:9-10: Christ’s Finished Work

I John 1:9-10: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. [1]

 John continues affirming sin and grace [2] in these final verses. Verse ten makes certain that you cannot deny sin and trust God and His Bible because denying sin throws away the Bible and its Divine author. [3] Simultaneously, the second half of verse nine portrays God’s forgiveness and cleansing as completed and not ongoing. [4] John’s language communicates that we need to grow, and makes definitive that the result of confessing our sins is a once and for all cleansing, forgiving, and purifying. [5]

 This is wonderful news for us because we continue warring with sin. [6] Nothing needs to be added to Christ’s finished work. Our sanctification does not earn salvation. [7] We strive to become more like Christ out of love for Him. [8] Today if you are in Christ you can face your challenges and grow in grace knowing that your standing before God never changes because He sees Christ’s light on you. [9] May that joy empower you.

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] See blog on 1 John 1:7-8.

[3] Colin G. Kruse The Letters of John. General Editor: D.A. Carson. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), 66.

[4] Kruse, The Letters of John, 69.

[5] See Daniel B. Wallace Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament with Scripture, Subject, and Greek Word Indexes. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 473, 474, and 476. Also A.T. Robertson A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research Second Ed. (New York, NY: George H. Doran Co., 1915), 998.

[6] Romans 7.

[7] Galatians 2:20; Hebrews 8-10.

[8] Romans 8:9; Galatians 5:25; Hebrews 10:24; James 2:14-26; Revelation 3:22.

[9] Simon J. Kistemaker. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986), 243-244.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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1 John 1:7-8: Gospel Realities

I John 1:7-8: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. [1]

John unashamedly discusses sin’s reality. In fact, in verse eight John uses sin as a noun to describe humanity’s continued state of justly deserving God’s wrath for breaking His holy law. [2] Further, John argues that if any one denies sin, they are lying about their natural state (v. 6), lying to themselves (v. 8), and say God and His Word are lying (v. 10). [3] But in the Gospel sin is not the only reality: the Triune God’s redeeming grace tempers sin’s existence. [4] The Trinity’s promised cleansing in verse seven means God forgives us our sins “and cancels [our] debts.” [5]

Are the realities of sin and Jesus’ redemption ruling features in your life? Are you able to sincerely sorrow over sin while clinging to Christ’s compassionate cleansing? Even believers struggle to hold these two truths: some despair over their sins while others hardly acknowledge them. John wants us to see both because without both we will not see Jesus properly. If you are someone who struggles with these truths, please think on these passages this week: Isaiah 53:1-6; Romans 6 and 8; and Hebrews 13:8.

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] Joel Beeke. The Epistles of John. (Webster, NY: Evangelical Press, 2006), 41-42.

[3] Colin G. Kruse The Letters of John. General Editor: D.A. Carson. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), 66.

[4] John Colquhoun. Repentance. (London, England: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1965), 18-19.

[5] Kruse, The Letters of John, 69.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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1 John 1:5-6: God is Light

1 John 1:5-6: This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. [1]

We hear many competing stories about Who God is. Many are mistaken, some are blasphemous. John, one of the incarnate Son of God’s disciples, explains Who God is by calling Him light. God is uncreated light, Who has made Himself visible to the world through Jesus Christ. [2] Conversely, darkness in, John’s writing, is anything that opposes God. [3] But everyone is in darkness. [4] John says, “we” because “[our] lives are set against God because of a heart filled with hatred and a will inclined to disobedience.” [5]

This darkness is why Christ, the light of the world, had to come and rescue His children. [6] We cannot save ourselves because by nature we are dead in sin. [7] Christ had to rescue us, and when He rescues, God the Father no longer sees our darkness, but the light of Christ in us. [8] This undeserved gift [9] should make all of us want to live as those who are in the light. [10] This light is for all who believe that Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the light, Who reunites us to God, when our sins had separated us. [11] Living like the light does not earn salvation, but is a joyful reflection of it. [12] If you are in Christ, what sins can you put aside today? What Christ honoring actions can you take to live as one in the light, for God’s glory and your good?

This blog was written by Seth Dunn.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] Simon J. Kistemaker. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986), 242.

[3] Walter Bauer, William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: A translation and adaptation of the fourth revised and augmented edition of Walter Bauer’s Griechish-Deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur, Second Ed. Revised and Augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker. (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1979). (BAGD), 757.

[4] Ephesians 4:17-24; Titus 3:3-11, etc.

[5] Kistemaker, The Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 243.

[6] Kistemaker, The Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 242. See also Luke 19:10; John 3:16, etc.

[7] Ephesians 2:1-10.

[8] Kistemaker, The Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 243-244.

[9] Ephesians 1:3-11.

[10] Romans 6.

[11] John 14:6; Ephesians 2:11-14.

[12] Titus 3:3-7; 1 Corinthians 6:9-19; James 2:14-26; Galatians 2:15-21, etc.

Purposeful Praise: Making Sense of Congregational Singing

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The God of Abraham Praise: Our March Doxology

Fittingly, our hymn “The God of Abraham Praise” was inspired by a Jewish doxology. Tradition holds that Methodist preacher Thomas Olivers attended a service at the Great Synagogue of London at some point in 1770, where he heard the celebrated singer Meyer Lyon leading the congregation in the Yigdal prayer. Lyon generously shared his music with Olivers, who composed a hymn to it. (Here’s a video of a modern version of the Jewish hymn.)

The text of “The God of Abraham Praise” may also be loosely based on the Yigdal. Yigdal literally means “may he be magnified,” and—as you may have guessed—it’s the first word of the prayer in Hebrew. The entire prayer is a 14th century adaptation of a creed written by the philosopher Maimonides, the most significant medieval Jewish thinker.

Whether or not Olivers intended to paraphrase the Yigdal text, the lyrics of verse 6 constitute an explicitly Christian doxology. Where the Yigdal stresses only God’s unity—his “inscrutable and infinite … Oneness”—Olivers’s hymn takes care to praise our one God in three persons: “Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!”

Verse 6 also reflects the Revelation imagery of all the saints eternally praising God before his throne in heaven. Remember “Holy, Holy, Holy,” in which we join this congregation, echoing the words of the cherubim of Revelation 4:8. Verse 5 of “The God of Abraham Praise” sets up this same scene for us: “On Zion’s sacred height his kingdom [God] maintains, and glorious with his saints in light forever reigns.” So when verse 6 refers to “the whole triumphant host,” it means all believers—past, present, and future—singing together in heaven.

The second half of the verse makes this personal: “Hail, Abraham’s God and mine! I join the heavenly lays [songs] …” The same God who called Abraham out of his city to the promised land has called us to participate in his kingdom today.

This blog was written by Corrie Schwab

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Hearts

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1 John 1:3-4: Real Fellowship

1 John 1:3-4: That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. [1]

 

The last blog discussed how John is trying to keep believers from leaving the church by defending his apostleship. [2] In verses 3-4, John continues to counter false beliefs about Christianity by explaining that true fellowship with God and Christians, and true joy only come through the apostles’ teaching—teaching that is affirmed by the whole Bible. [3] The crucial key to biblical fellowship hinges on knowing the Triune God in Christ: that His blood pays for the forgiveness of sins, and His continued work in our lives. [4] Any fellowship claiming to be Christian that lacks these elements is not true biblical fellowship.

 

This is why doctrine is so important! If we do not rightly understand Scripture, how can we claim to fellowship with God and His people and have His joy? [5] Whether or not you would call yourself a Christian, you need to study the apostles’ teaching. What Christ’s apostles taught is in harmony with the whole Bible, which reveals our sin and our need for a Savior. [6] What Christ’s apostles taught is that that Savior is exclusively Jesus, Who alone brings us into fellowship with God and man. [7] What Christ’s apostles taught leads to lasting joy even in suffering. [8] These things are yours only in Christ, as the apostles taught.

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] Colin G. Kruse. The Letters of John. General Editor: D.A. Carson. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), 52-53.

[3] Joel Beeke. The Epistles of John. (Webster, NY: Evangelical Press, 2006), 25-26.

[4] Beeke, The Epistles of John, 26.

[5] Beeke, The Epistles of John, 27. See also John 15:11, 16:24, 17:21; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 John 1:1, 2:24.

[6] Luke 24:39-50; Acts 2-3; Galatians 3; 1 Peter 2, etc.

[7] John 14:6; Acts 2:42, 4:12; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 1:3-10, 2:1-10, 1 John 1:5-10.

[8] 2 Corinthians 1:3-10; Philippians 4:11-13; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:3-12.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

1 John 1:1-2: For Real   1 John 1:1-2: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—  2  the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us.  [1]   If you were to write a letter to help a friend who was making a bad decision, what would your letter say? 1 John is a letter to remind Christians of the Gospel’s truth and keep them from making the very poor decision of leaving the church.  [2]  The author, John the apostle, starts his letter by affirming that he and the other apostles are eyewitnesses to the “Word of life.”  [3]  This Word of life is not an “impersonal” force, but the Son of God incarnate—the person of Jesus Christ.  [4]   Clear truths and application flow from these facts. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, is alive and is Lord as taught by His witnesses, Scripture, and history.  [5]  Because Christ reigns, His statements about being the exclusive way to salvation are true, which means everyone must follow Him or face the consequences.  [6]  But serving Jesus is not impersonal. He cares for us, understands our trials, and intercedes for us.  [7]  Christ’s loving kindness is enough to keep anyone in the church and sustain them for all of life. Are you willing to trust Him today by the power of His Holy Spirit?  This blog was written by Seth Dunn   [1]    The Holy Bible: English Standard Version  . Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016). All Scripture References will be ESV unless noted otherwise.   [2]  Colin G. Kruse.  The Letters of John . General Editor: D.A. Carson. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), 51.   [3]  Kruse,  The Letters of John , 52-53.   [4]  Kruse,  The Letters of John , 57.   [5]  Luke 24:36-53; John 19:35; Acts 4, 5:27-32, 26; 1 Corinthians 15:3-9; Hebrews 11-12:3; 1 Peter 5:1; 2 Peter 1:16.   [6]  John 14:6; Ephesians 1:3-2:16; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-2:15; Hebrews 1:1-3:6; 1 Peter 1:13-23; 1 John 2:1-3, 3:1-10; Revelation 21:1-8.   [7]  Psalm 34:18; John 11:5, 35, 17:1-26; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 4:14-16.

1 John 1:1-2: For Real

1 John 1:1-2: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us. [1]

If you were to write a letter to help a friend who was making a bad decision, what would your letter say? 1 John is a letter to remind Christians of the Gospel’s truth and keep them from making the very poor decision of leaving the church. [2] The author, John the apostle, starts his letter by affirming that he and the other apostles are eyewitnesses to the “Word of life.” [3] This Word of life is not an “impersonal” force, but the Son of God incarnate—the person of Jesus Christ. [4]

Clear truths and application flow from these facts. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, is alive and is Lord as taught by His witnesses, Scripture, and history. [5] Because Christ reigns, His statements about being the exclusive way to salvation are true, which means everyone must follow Him or face the consequences. [6] But serving Jesus is not impersonal. He cares for us, understands our trials, and intercedes for us. [7] Christ’s loving kindness is enough to keep anyone in the church and sustain them for all of life. Are you willing to trust Him today by the power of His Holy Spirit?

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016). All Scripture References will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] Colin G. Kruse. The Letters of John. General Editor: D.A. Carson. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), 51.

[3] Kruse, The Letters of John, 52-53.

[4] Kruse, The Letters of John, 57.

[5] Luke 24:36-53; John 19:35; Acts 4, 5:27-32, 26; 1 Corinthians 15:3-9; Hebrews 11-12:3; 1 Peter 5:1; 2 Peter 1:16.

[6] John 14:6; Ephesians 1:3-2:16; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-2:15; Hebrews 1:1-3:6; 1 Peter 1:13-23; 1 John 2:1-3, 3:1-10; Revelation 21:1-8.

[7] Psalm 34:18; John 11:5, 35, 17:1-26; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 4:14-16.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

Worship During War

Psalm 63:7-8: for you have been my help,

and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.

My soul clings to you;

your right hand upholds me. [1]

As we continue memorizing and studying Psalm 63, we repeatedly see David’s confidence and worship of God. [2] David’s assurance and devotion are seen in his trusting and clinging (v.8) to the Lord. [3] While the Trinity is David’s hope, he also fulfills his duty of pursuing and trusting. [4] We also see David is thinking of formal worship in the LORD’s temple. [5] The language of the Almighty having “wings” can signal tender protection, but may also point to the cherubim wings on the ark of the covenant. [6] Despite being far from the temple, David still longs to worship and keeps his faith exclusively in the Triune God. [7]

While we may not face the specific challenges David did, we all are daily engaged in worship wars. In all circumstances, we are tempted to turn from Christ to idols. [8] How do you want to do battle? Without the Creator who made you or with His help that has sustained His people like David throughout the centuries? May the Holy Spirit help all of us to cling to Christ more and more.

This blog was written by Seth Dunn.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software 7. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] Willem A. VanGemeren The Expositor’s Bible Commentary with the New International Version of the Holy Bible in Twelve Volumes: Vol. 5 (Psalms-Song of Songs). General Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corporation, 1991), 427. See also The Reformation Study Bible. General Editor R.C. Sproul. (Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries, 2005), 789-790.

[3] VanGemeren, Psalms, 427.

[4] VanGemeren, Psalms, 427.

[5] The Reformation Study Bible, 790.

[6] The Reformation Study Bible, 789.

[7] The Reformation Study Bible, 790.

[8] Ecclesiastes 1:8; Jeremiah 2:13; Jonah 2:8-9; Ezekiel 36:25; Matthew 6:21-23, 33; Acts 20:24; Philippians 4:10-14; 2 Timothy 3:1-2; Hebrews 12:1-17; 1 John 2:15-17, 5:4.

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

Purposeful Praise: Making Sense of Congregational Singing

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Gloria Patri: Our February Doxology

Our February doxology, the Gloria Patri, happens to be one of the oldest continuously sung doxologies in the Christian tradition.* At least one record suggests that the first half appeared before A.D. 100, and the entire text has been chanted since the fourth century at latest. Today it is regularly sung all over the world in Catholic churches, in Eastern Orthodox churches, and in countless Protestant churches.

For the non–Latin scholars among us, the doxology’s title—Gloria Patri—is simply the first line in Latin, “Glory be to the Father.” The first half of the song, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,” reflects the language of the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” When we sing this we’re affirming our identity as disciples.

When we sing the second half, we’re affirming the Trinity by acknowledging that Christ and the Holy Spirit are eternally deserving of glory alongside God the Father—past, present, and future. Indeed, this line was probably added during the Trinitarian controversies of the early church, when this hymn may have served as a sort of “fight song” for orthodox Christians!

The last phrase of the doxology (well, not counting amen) is particularly interesting. The phrase we sing as “world without end” is a translation of the Latin in saecula saeculorum, which in turn is a translation from Greek. In both Latin and Greek, the phrase literally means unto ages of ages, and is normally translated to English as forever and ever. You may be familiar with this phrase: it occurs many times in the New Testament, including 12 times in Revelation. For instance, “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Rev. 7:12).

So the second half of the Gloria Patri encompasses all of Scripture, in a sense: from “in the beginning” (Gen. 1:1) to “forever and ever” (a continual refrain in Revelation, finally in Rev. 22:5).

 

* Here’s a challenge: find an even older doxology! Remember, doxology simply means a brief expression of praise to God. By this definition, any Scripture passage that praises God counts as a doxology. If you consider only doxologies that are sung by churches today, what’s the oldest doxology you can find? Please share your discoveries in the comments.

This blog was written by Corrie Schwab

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

Suffering in Hope

Psalm 63:5-6: My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,

and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,

when I remember you upon my bed,

and meditate on you in the watches of the night. [1]

When we are anxious, two desires we may have are food and sleep. Both of these are desires David may have had, and both could be denied him because he was fleeing his conniving son. [2] Food can be hard to find when fleeing in the desert. Sleep can be illusive when life is in danger. Yet, David does not feast on worry but on God’s soul-satisfying favor that sustained him each moment. [3] When David knew he might struggle to sleep, he committed himself to thinking on Who the Triune LORD is rather than his circumstance. [4]

Please understand: David’s behavior is not escapism, and ours should not be either. David understood that “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” [5] The God Who created David sustained and suffered with David. This is especially true for the elect because of Christ’s earthly sufferings and crucifixion. [6] We as believers suffer with hope because Jesus has endured the greatest trials and has given us the Holy Spirit to comfort and sustain us. [7] If you suffer apart from Christ, there is every reason to fear because your hopes lack eternal benefit. [8] Turning to Christ as your only Savior from sin will not end suffering.[9] However Jesus gives you the hope of maturing and guarantees eternity without suffering. [10] Why suffer without hope?

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016). Logos Bible Software &. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] John Calvin & J. Anderson. Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Vol. 2. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software 7, 2010), 438-440.

[3] Calvin, Psalms, Vol. 2, Logos Bible Software 7, 438-440.

[4] Calvin, Psalms, Vol. 2, Logos Bible Software 7, 438-440.

[5] Psalm 34:18.

[6] Isaiah 53; Matthew 8:17; Romans 4:13-25; 1 Peter 2:18-25.

[7] John 14-17; Romans 8; Hebrews 4:14-16.

[8] Psalm 16:4, 118:8-9, 146:3; Jeremiah 17:5-6; Jonah 2:8; Micah 7:5; John 14:6; Acts 4:12, etc.

[9] Genesis 39-40; 2 Timothy 3:12-17.

[10] Romans 5:1-5, 15:1-7; Colossians 1:3-14; James 1:2-4; etc.

Treasuring God's Truth In Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

Psalm 63:3-4: “The Whole Church Says, “Amen!”

Psalm 63:3-4: Because your steadfast love is better than life,

my lips will praise you.

So I will bless you as long as I live;

in your name I will lift up my hands. [1]

What an incredible statement of faith from an exiled king! [2] These verses reflect the church’s heart, especially for martyrs. [3] Holding God’s love in Christ as more precious than anything is core to Christianity. [4] Also, verse 4 shows David’s private devotional life “was completed by what was outward and corporate, as verse 2 has shown, the one reinforcing the other.” [5] “Lift up my hands” refers common actions in congregation worship. [6] This language is in the New Testament, and shows the mutual relationship between personal and “corporate” worship. [7]

What is the application from these verses? First, God’s love is superior to everything. We know this because of the Trinity’s love toward us in Christ. [8] Consequently, every other love is secondary. If we love finances, personal security, other beliefs, other people, etc. more than the Triune God, we sin. Here is where all can fall. May we repent and turn to Christ. For the unbeliever: you must turn because eternal life is at stake. [9] For sinners and saints: suffering is worsened when we distrust Christ—may He spare us from false hopes. [10] Lastly, if we claim to follow Christ, our private devotion must be reflected in our corporate worship. If we lack in one, we might also lack in the other. Complete your worship by having both.

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016). All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] Derek Kidner. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Psalms 1-72, An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms. General Ed: D.J. Wiseman. (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), 224.

[3] Kidner, Psalms, Vol. 1, 225.

[4] Job 13:15; Proverbs 14:32; Matthew 19:38-30; Mark 10:29-31; Philippians 3; Hebrews 10, Revelation 6:9-11, 20:4, etc.

[5] Kidner, Psalms, Vol. 1, 225-226.

[6] Kidner, Psalms, Vol 1, 226.

[7] Kidner, Psalms, Vol. 1, 226.

[8] John 3:16; Ephesians 1:3-14; 1 John 4:7-11.

[9] John 14:6; Acts 4:12.

[10] Psalm 16.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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Help for All Times

Psalm 63:1-2: O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you;

         my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

       So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,

beholding your power and glory. [1]

 

Imagine that a close relative tried to kill you and chase you from home? What would you be thinking? Where would your heart turn? What would drive your behavior and choices? Although most of us have never faced such a painful and intimate threat, this is what happened to the writer of Psalm 63, King David. [2] In fact, David had to leave everything and escape to the wilderness because his own son wanted to kill him and usurp the throne. [3] But look at the heart of David. What does David want as betrayal drives him from his home to the Judean desert? He longs for God and wants to worship the LORD in Jerusalem. [4] David so desperately desires to worship his Maker that he compares his longing for worship to someone in the desert looking for water. [5] Further, David uses this psalm to remember God’s past (verse 2), present (verses 3, 6-8), and future (verse 5) faithfulness. [6] In immense suffering, David remembers his God, he believes and trusts in the Lord.

What do you look at when you suffer? This Psalm, as well as other Scriptures, is a challenging reminder that only God sustains us through suffering. [7] When you trust in finances, people, human philosophy, politics, etc., you may find comfort (see below) for the moment, but you will not receive the enduring hope because true security is found in Christ. [8] Only by trusting Jesus as exclusive Savior and Restorer can people truly face and grow in trials, and enter eternal rest. [9] Those in Christ have a hope clearer than David did because they know Christ, and all who hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness as David did are promised “they will be satisfied.” [10]

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016). All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] James Montgomery Boice. Psalms, Vol. 2: Psalms 42-106. (Grand Rapids, MI: Bake Books a division of Baker Book House Co, 1996), 516. See also 2 Samuel 16:14, 17:2, 29.

[3] Boice, Psalms, Vol. 2, 516.

[4] Boice, Psalms, Vol. 2, 517.

[5] Boice, Psalms, Vol. 2, 517.

[6] Boice, Psalms, Vol. 2, 518.

[7] Boice, Psalms, Vol. 2, 518. See also Psalm 16:4, 130; 1 Peter 1:3-9, etc.

[8] John 14:6, Acts 4:12; Romans 8, Ephesians 1:3-23, 2:1-14; 1 Peter 1:13-25.

[9] James 1:2-4; Philippians 1:6; 1 John 3:1-10; Revelation 21:1-8.

[10] Matthew 5:6; Hebrews 11.

Purposeful Praise: Making Sense of Congregational Singing

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Holy, Holy, Holy-Our January Doxology

When I was a child, if you had asked me to sing a doxology I would have used the following words: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise him all creatures here below; praise him above, ye heavenly host; praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” Thousands of English-speaking congregations around the world treasure this poem and sing it regularly. Yet the term doxology does not refer to these specific words; it simply means a brief expression of praise. The word is derived from the Greek doxa, meaning glory, and logos, meaning word or speaking.

Verse 4 from “Holy, Holy, Holy!” makes an excellent doxology. Note how the traditional words cited above urge God’s earthly and heavenly creatures to praise him: “praise him all creatures here below; praise him above, ye heavenly host.” When we sing “Holy, Holy, Holy!” we join the chorus of creaturely voices already singing God’s praise on earth and in heaven.

“Holy, holy, holy” echoes the refrain of the cherubim John saw in his vision of heaven, endlessly praising God from before his throne: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev. 4:1). Isaiah similarly saw a vision of seraphim before God’s throne crying “holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Is. 6:3). These passages lend even more of their imagery to verse 2 of the hymn, which not only pictures the cherubim and seraphim worshipping God, but also refers to “all the saints … casting down their golden crowns before the glassy sea”—the calm-as-crystal sea John describes in front of God’s throne (Rev. 4:6).

John’s “twenty-four elders” who “cast their crowns before the throne” (Rev. 4:10) represent all the saints—that is, the complete church past and present, two-times-twelve suggesting the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles. As Andy Styer explained in week 5 of his Revelation class, Revelation 4 reminds us that God is receiving the worship he is due right now, in heaven, by the whole gathered church and all the angels. So when we sing our doxology to God, this is the congregation we are joining.

And what do we join all God’s works in calling him? “Merciful and mighty,” and—most emphatically—“holy, holy, holy.” We tend to think of holiness as synonymous with righteousness, but it more properly refers to being set apart: a holy object is set apart from common use, and a holy person is set apart from common existence (including sin). To call God “holy” is to acknowledge his transcendence and his absolute superiority to his creation.

Finally, who is the God we are praising? Our God has graciously identified himself to us in his three persons, and so we take care to address our praise to the Trinity explicitly.

This blog was written by Corrie Schwab

Posted on January 11, 2019 and filed under About Proclamation.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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Mark 10:43-45: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.”

Mark 10:43-45: But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”[1]

If anyone in the history deserved to be served it was Jesus Christ. As the eternal Son of God, “by whom all things were created,” He warranted the respect of all His creation. [2] But Jesus did not come demanding His due. Instead, He washed feet, healed the sick, and lived in poverty. [3] But His serving did not end there. As the end of Mark 10:45 indicates, Christ died to save His people from their sins. [4] Christ’s death was intensely painful, but more importantly He bore the just wrath of God the Father so that we could approach Him in peace. [5]

Why does this matter? First, if you follow Christ, there is a clear command to grow to be like Christ. [6] You will never do it perfectly in this life. [7] But as people in Christ we can grow in the fruits of the Spirit to minister to our families, communities, and the world at large. [8] Perhaps you, like me, can begin by patiently listening to everything your spouse has to say before responding. But what if someone does not follow Christ? Can she or he borrow Christian principles without Christian spirituality? The Holy Spirit is needed to have the benefits of Christian living, and you cannot have the Spirit of Christ without Christ. [9] Christian disciplines without Christ are merely morals. But there is another important matter: Christ will return. [10] He will save His people and require His due from those who are not His followers. [11] Will you serve the Servant peacefully or be forced into submission?

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016). All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] Colossians 1:15-20.

[3] John 13:4, 13-15; Matthew 8:16; Luke 9:58, etc.

[4] Mark 14:24; John 10:15, 11:51-52; Romans 4:25, 5:15; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Galatians 1:4, 2:20; Titus 2:14, 3:4-8; 1 Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 2:10, 9:28; Revelation 5:9, etc.

[5] Isaiah 52:13-15; Matthew 26:67; Mark 15:15; Luke 23:34; Matthew 27:46; Hebrews 4:14-16.

[6] Philippians 2:1-11.

[7] Romans 7.

[8] Romans 6; Galatians 5:22-23.

[9] John 14-16; Acts 2:38-39; Romans 8; Galatians 4:4-7; etc.

[10] Matthew 24:23-31; John 14:6; Acts 1:10-11; Revelation 19:11-21.

[11] Hebrews 9:28; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:9-11.

Posted on January 4, 2019 and filed under Devotions.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

Matthew 1:22-23: The Greatest Rescue

Matthew 1:22-23: All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). [1]

Matthew 1:20-21 teaches that salvation in Christ brings God’s elect freedom from the darkest evil and makes them possessors “of the greatest good.” [2] How did the Lord make this great rescue possible? By becoming man—as the Old Testament promised. [3] The virgin birth shows that God keeps His promises, and that salvation needed to come through a sinless redeemer. [4]

The Gospel is the greatest rescue because our sins are so awful. [5] The reality that the Son of God had to become human to redeem humans shows how far we all are from perfection. [6] The marvel of Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1 is our sins had separated us from God, and the Triune God rescued us. [7]

So what does the Trinity’s redemption mean for us? Christ’s work demands that all people believe in Him exclusively for salvation from their sins, put sin to death, and live as God calls us to live. [8] Only in Jesus can we be forgiven and spared from God the Father’s wrath and have the Holy Spirit to live as Scripture calls us to live. [9] Cry out to the Triune God of Scripture, because He will hear and act. [10]

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software 7. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] William Hendriksen. Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1987), 133.

[3] Hendriksen, Matthew, 133 and 143-144.

[4] John Calvin. Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke Vol. 1. Trams. William Pringle. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984, 98-99.

[5] Romans 5:6-11. For background, please see Genesis 3:1-15; Romans 3:9-23; 8:7-8.

[6] Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, 98-99.

[7] Ephesians 2:1-10.

[8] Luke 13:1-5; Acts 2:14-40; Romans 6; Galatians 5:16-26.

[9] Ephesians 1:7; Romans 8:1-2, 9; Ephesians 1:17; Galatians 4:4-11.

[10] Psalm 116; 1 John 1:9-2:2.

Posted on December 27, 2018 and filed under Devotions.

Purposeful Praise: Making Sense of Congregational Singing

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What Child Is This: All Hail the … Baby?

It’s easy to forget just how incongruous Christ’s birth must have seemed at the time. The long-awaited Messiah, the son of David, the king with angel heralds—introduced as a helpless infant sleeping in a feeding trough! And of course that incongruity pales in comparison to the paradox that this human child was God himself.

The question-and-answer format used in “What Child Is This” serves to revive our sense of awe and wonder at Jesus’s identity. Each verse juxtaposes signs of Christ’s majesty with signs of his humble position. I’d like to focus on the carol’s second verse, which is packed with meaning.

Why lies he in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding?

Mean estate means a humble, lowly, or impoverished condition. This phrase brings to mind Mary’s hymn of praise (the Magnificat), in which she glorifies God for singling her out for blessing: “he has looked on the humble estate of his servant” (Luke 1:48). It also brings to mind Paul’s meditation on Christ’s humility: Jesus, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6–7). (More on this later.)

Good Christian, fear; for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.

In normal syntax, this sentence might run something like this: “Fear, Good Christian, because the silent Word is pleading for sinners!” The Word refers to Christ, identified as the “ultimate truth” sought by Greek philosophers—though they conceived of the Word as an impersonal force. In his very personal role as the mediator between God and his people, Christ pleads our case before God’s judgment seat (Rom. 8:34). And what does Jesus plead? He pleads for God to show us mercy because he (Jesus) has satisfied God’s law on our behalf. This is why, even as a speechless baby, the then-silent Word was pleading for sinners by his righteous life.

Christ’s accomplishment should inspire fear, in the sense of reverential awe of God.

Nails, spear, shall pierce him through; the cross be borne for me, for you …

Going back to Philippians 2, “And being found in human form, [Christ] humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (v. 8). Becoming human wasn’t enough, becoming a helpless baby wasn’t enough, even becoming a poverty-stricken, homeless baby wasn’t enough. Jesus came to endure the most shameful death imaginable.

And now we come to the answer to the question posed in the first line of this verse: the reason for Christ’s “mean estate,” the explanation for the incongruity of God the Word as a human baby destined to be crucified, is that he bore all these things out of love “for me, for you.”

Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the babe, the son of Mary.

Our response is decreed by Philippians 2: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (v. 9–11). In the last line of the carol’s second verse, as in the last lines of the other two verses, we urge creation to join this chorus.

This blog was written by Corrie Schwab

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Hearts

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

Matthew 1:20-21: Not Heartbreak But Heart Rescue

Matthew 1:20-21: But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”[1]

Joseph was likely heartbroken: the woman he loved was pregnant and the baby was not his. Matthew 1:19 helps us see Joseph’s struggle as he wants to protect Mary and honor God’s design for marriage. [2] The angel’s message would have been a huge comfort to Joseph because he could still marry his love. [3] But Joseph’s marital bliss would take second fiddle in the orchestra of God’s redemption: this unexpected pregnancy would result in the Trinity’s people being saved. Bible scholar William Hendriksen teaches, “To be saved means a. to be emancipated from the greatest evil: the guilt, pollution, power, and punishment of sin; and b. to be placed in possession of the greatest good.” [4]

The good news that Joseph received is good news for all who believe in Christ. If Jesus is your exclusive means of salvation and forgiveness from sin you are liberated from the greatest evil and own the greatest good. You no longer need to live in guilt nor sin’s control. [5] You have everything you need to live as God has called you to live. [6] If Jesus is not your only Redeemer, then you lack the greatest good and are still enslaved to sin. [7] When people who say they believe in Jesus walk unrepentant in sin, they are returning to the slavery from which God freed them. [8] We all must pray to the Spirit of Christ, asking for help so that we can be rescued from sin’s heartbreak to have Christ’s heart rescue—either for the first time for salvation, or as sinning saints fleeing their former master.

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software 7. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] William Hendriksen. Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1987), 130.

[3] Hendriksen, Matthew, 131.

[4] Hendriksen, Matthew, 133.

[5] Romans 6:1-4.

[6] 2 Peter 1:3.

[7] Romans 3:9-23; 8:5-8.

[8] Romans 6:15-23; Galatians 5:1-6.

Purposeful Praise: Making Sense of Congregational Singing

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Of the Father’s Love Begotten: Praising God for the Mystery of the Incarnation

Near the close of the fourth century, a distinguished Roman official named Aurelius Prudentius chose to leave public life and spend his time writing poetry on Christian themes. The hymn we know as “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” is derived from one of these poems.

In this poem Prudentius meditates on the mystery of the incarnation and calls all creation to join in praise of Christ as eternal God, creator, prophesied savior, healer and miracle-worker, effectual sacrifice, victor over death, judge, and king. The hymn as we sing it today dwells on the same theme, though it has been heavily edited (not to mention abridged) over the centuries.

The first verse of our hymn emphasizes Christ’s nature as eternal God. “Of the Father’s love begotten ere [before] the worlds [planets—the universe] began to be” identifies Christ as the eternally begotten Son of God. The hymn goes on to call Christ Alpha and Omega, echoing Revelation 22:13: “I [Jesus] am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” By associating himself with the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, Jesus is asserting his deity—the history of the world is his story. By alluding to this passage and to Christ’s work as creator and sustainer of all things, Prudentius was explicitly rejecting the beliefs of the Arians, who held that Christ is not himself God but was rather God’s first creation.

The second verse, fittingly, focuses on Christ’s human nature through the miracle and mystery of his birth. (In a religious context, a mystery is something that we can’t fully understand, at least not yet.) The reference to Jesus revealing his sacred face is reminiscent of 2 Corinthians 4:6: “For God … has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” This, in turn, makes me think of God’s self-revelation to Moses, after Moses begged to be allowed to see God’s glory. Do you remember what God said? “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live. … Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen” (Ex. 33:20–23). Through the incarnation we can now experience the glory of God in Christ’s face.

The third verse draws together these two truths, Christ’s divinity and his humanity, by emphasizing that we’re talking about one person—“this is he”—who was anticipated by the angels and the prophets and merits praise by all creation now and “evermore.”

The fourth verse expands on this call to worship. Note all the entities that we are calling upon to praise Christ: “heights of heaven,” “angel hosts,” “all dominions,” “every voice.” And note what we are urging them to do: adore him, sing his praises, bow to him, extol him—loudly and “in concert” (all together)! When we sing this as a congregation, we’re getting a foretaste of the eternal heavenly worship we are destined to be part of forever: “I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’ ” (Rev. 5:13).

Finally, the hymn ends with a doxology to the Trinity, reaffirming Christ’s equality with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

This blog was written by Corrie Schwab

Posted on December 13, 2018 and filed under Devotions.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

Numbers 23:19: The Truth and Nothing But the Truth

Numbers 23:19:

God is not man, that he should lie,

or a son of man, that he should change his mind.

Has he said, and will he not do it?

Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? [1]

If you have been following the past couple blogs you may have noticed a theme: God’s dependability. We are focusing on the Trinity’s trustworthiness because that truth has profound implications for life. If the Lord speaks the truth and sticks to that trust (as Numbers 23:19 teaches) then His children will receive His blessings, can trust His help, will dwell in eternal paradise with Him, and nothing can ever change that. [2]

How can we be sure about these promises? Because God has secured them with “his blood.” [3] Jesus was crucified so Hell-bound sinners (like me and you) can receive forgiveness for the sins we committed against the Holy God. [4] Romans 8:31-39 summaries the hope the Trinity’s trustworthiness gives us. May these truths lead us into praise and submission to our Savior: [5]

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

            “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software. All Scripture References will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] Iain Duguid. Preaching the Word: Numbers: God’s Presences in the Wilderness. General Editor R. Kent Hughes. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), 279-280.

[3] Duguid, Numbers, 279.

[4] Romans 5:8.

[5] Duguid, Numbers, 280.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

Isaiah 41:10: Why Should I Trust God?

Isaiah 41:10:

Fear not, for I am with you;

be not dismayed, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.[1]

Trusting God can be difficult. We do not physically see Him. When we pray we do not get audible responses. Why should we trust the Trinity? Isaiah 41:10 explains why. [2] The promise “I am with you” is the foundation we need to endure all of life and battle every temptation. [3] This foundation is trustworthy because the Lord Who spoke the world into being [4] promises “I will help you” in trials and tests. The reminder that the Triune God’s righteous right hand upholds us is a reminder of His “equity” and “fidelity . . . in persevering his people.” [5] Believers in Christ are to trust God because He is the faithful, true, and sure foundation for every situation.

But there is more: God is with us in the person of Christ. [6] When we embrace Jesus by faith as He is presented in the Gospel, we are promised that the Trinity “will never leave [us] nor forsake [us.]” [7] Why should we trust God? Because He is the just and faithful foundation Who has paved the way of salvation for us in Christ. [8]

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] John Calvin. Commentary on the Prophet Isaiah, Vol. 3. Trans. William Pringle. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Co, 1981), 258.

[3] Calvin, Commentary on the Prophet Isaiah, Vol. 3, 258.

[4] Genesis 1-2.

[5] Calvin, Commentary on the Prophet Isaiah, Vol. 3, 259.

[6] Matthew 1:21-21.

[7] Joshua 1:5-9; Romans 8:28-39; Hebrews 13:5-6.

[8] John 3:16, 14:6; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 1:3-2:14.