Posts tagged #theology

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

1 John 2:25-25: Abide in Truth and Happiness

1 John 2:24-25: Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. [1]

 Based on the title, you might be cringing in fear that this is about to be a health and wealth devotional. But John’s message does not allow us to go that route. In fact, John’s message is much better than self-confidence, self-approval, and self-sufficiency. These verses remind Christians of the joys they will have from remaining faithful to the Gospel John taught them by the power of the Holy Spirit. [2] By continuing in a biblical understanding of the Gospel, believers have fellowship with the Triune God and enjoy “real happiness.” [3] This “real happiness” is not infatuation with whimsical desires, but rests on the tested, true, and tried Word of God that can weather any storm. [4]

 This is why good doctrine is so important. [5] When we are careless in understanding Scripture and get quickly attached to truths that seem biblical without examining them we rob ourselves of real happiness. [6] Are you struggling to understand the difficulties in your life? Are you itching for doctrines that promote yourself rather than the Gospel? Examine what you believe against the Bible so that lasting happiness can be yours. This happiness may not make you feel the way you think you should feel, but will free you from deception. Will you abide in truth and happiness that comes from God’s Word, pointing to Christ’s redemptive work on every page, or will lies consume 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] John Calvin. Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2018), Logos Bible Software, 198-199.

[3] Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 199.

[4] Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 198-199. See also Timothy Keller’s “Our Identity: The Christian Alternative to Late Modernity's Story” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ehw87PqTwKw.

[5] Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 198.

[6] Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 198.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

1 John 2:22-23: “Truly God and Truly Man” [1]

1 John 2:22-23: Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. [2]

 Throughout church history many people have denied Christ’s deity and/or humanity. [3] Even today, Mormonism claims that Jesus was once a man who became a god and we can become gods ourselves. [4] Other modern examples abound. What happens if we waver on the incarnate Christ’s being truly God and truly man? We worship a god who cannot save because he is powerless and cannot represent us. [5] John also teaches that we cannot know God the Father if we do not understand His revelation to us in His Son. [6] Loose/misguided Christology leads to eternal damnation, misunderstanding God, and creates lies. [7]

 Do you grasp how serious this is? These are not arbitrary opinions founded on subjective desires. This is eternal life or death. [8] This is the Gospel: how the eternal Son of God became man so His elect could be saved, sanctified, restored. [9] If you are a Christian, are you careful in articulating Christ so that you are presenting Him faithfully as much as possible? [10] If you are a non-Christian: do not be deceived by the many antichrists and lies about Jesus. [11] The LORD Jesus is the risen, incarnate, exalted Son of God Who saves sinners. Put your faith in Him, and you will be saved. [12]


This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] Stephen Nichols. “The Humanity of Jesus: The Ligoner Statement on Christology.” www.Ligoner.org. Accessed 1 August 2019. https://www.ligonier.org/blog/the-humanity-of-jesus-the-ligonier-statement-on-christology/.

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

[3] John Calvin. Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles. Trans. and ed.: John Owen. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), 195.

[4] Jeff Durbin. “The Gospel for Mormons.” Youtube.com. Accessed 1 August 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQNObk2qAwo.

[5] Carl Trueman. “Tertullian.” (Lecture: Westminster Theological Seminary, Glenside, PA, October 8, 2015).

[6] Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 197.

[7] Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 198.

[8] John 14:6; Acts 4:14.

[9] John 1:1, 3:16; Ephesians 1:3-14; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:1-4, 1 John 3:1-10; etc.

[10] Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 195.

[11] Matthew 7:15-20; Romans 16:17-18; Ephesians 5:6-13; Galatians 6:1-10; 1 John 4:1-6.

[12] Ephesians 2:1-10.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

1 John 2:18-19: God’s Good Purging

1 John 2:18-19: Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. [1]

 Some words can only be described as “theological grenades”: words that spark a series of often conflicting opinions. One of those words is “antichrist” and it is in verse 18. Why does John mention one antichrist then several in the same verse? John is helping us see that the antichrist is someone who denies Jesus Christ’s deity and work. [2] Verse 19 reveals these antichrists have come from the church. [3] This does not mean that the church is erroneous, but that there are people who are not saved in church. [4] The reality that unbelievers are in church, and they will leave and spread their sin should not alarm true Christians. [5] Rather, God’s purging His church calls real believers to thank God for His work in giving them salvation and perseverance, and to guard the church. [6]

 If John called his readers to rejoice in Christ’s salvation and to vigilance over doctrine years ago, how much more so should we? [7] We fail to love when we let someone live in improper doctrine. [8] While this is not ground for theological bullying, we cannot be cowards either. [9] One of the most loving things we can do is joyfully tell others about their need for Christ, as someone else lovingly told us.


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] 1 John 2:22. See also John Calvin. Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles. Trans. and ed.: John Owen. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), 190-191.

[3] Calvin. Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 191.

[4] Calvin. Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 191-192.

[5] Calvin. Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 192.

[6] Calvin. Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 192.

[7] Calvin. Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 191.

[8] Bruce K. Waltke. The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1-15. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 440-441.

[9] Charles Bridges. A Commentary on Proverbs. (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2008). 87.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

1 John 2:14-15: Undivided Love

1     John 2:14-15: I write to you, fathers,

because you know him who is from the beginning.

       I write to you, young men,

because you are strong,

and the word of God abides in you,

and you have overcome the evil one.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. [1]

 If a husband told his wife, “I love you and this person I met online” would you believe him? No! Similarly, you would not believe a Christian who said they loved the Trinity but lived like the world. That is John’s message in verses 14-15. [2] John’s repetition in verse 14 reinforces the importance for spiritual fathers to continuing growing in Christ, and that young Christians only conquer through devotion to God and His Word. [3] Verse 15 clarifies that if we live in the things the LORD hates we cannot please Him. [4]

 Do you view Jesus as so holy and worthy that you want to be more like Him? Everyone could grow in this area, but if it is not a concern to you then you should be worried about your soul. Claiming to love God while walking in darkness is a dangerous lie for your soul. [5] If you are a Christian struggling to love God, pray that He would renew your love and He will gladly send His Holy Spirit to help you. Speaking to your pastor can also help, especially if there are worldly loves pulling you from Christ. If you are not a Christian, know that your love for what God hates results in death. [6] You can have life by confessing your sinful loves and need for Christ’s perfect work. When you embrace Christ, your affections for the things that are killing you will decrease, and your love for the Triune God will increase.


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. Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles. Trans. and ed.: John Owen. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), 187.

[3] Simon J. Kistemaker. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986), 268.

[4] Calvin, Catholic Epistles, 187.

[5] 1 John 1:5-10.

[6] Romans 6:23.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

1 John 2:9-11: Christians Loving Christians

1 John 2:9-11: Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. [1]

 Keeping up the discussion on darkness in verse 8, John teaches that when Christians fail to love each other they are in sin’s darkness. [2] One scholar explains, “Whoever hates a Christian brother breaks God’s commands, is devoid of truth, and lives in spiritual darkness.” [3] When Christians love one another in action, they are walking as Christ did (hence the analogy of light in verse 10). [4]

 Loving Christians can be trying. Many believers have been hurt by other Christians—perhaps you have been hurt. If this is true, please know that others’ sin against you breaks Jesus’ heart. Also, Christ has promised to be near you and comfort you in this season. [5] Further, in God’s providence, even in these trials the LORD is not defeated nor surprised. [6] He is so powerful and wise He can turn these sins into opportunities to grow in Him. [7] May the Triune God also guide you to a church with wise elders who can help you as much as possible. [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] Simon J. Kistemaker. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986), 263.

[3] Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 263.

[4] Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 263.

[5] Psalm 34:18.

[6] Herman Bavinck. Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2 & 3, ed. John Bolt. Trans. John Vriend. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2011), Vol. 2 God & Creation: 173, 191, & 253. Vol. 3: Sin & Salvation in Christ: 29.

[7] Romans 8:28; James 1:2-4; 1:12-15; and The Westminster Standards: The Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism, & the Shorter Catechism. (Philadelphia, PA: Great Commission Publications, 2011), The Confession of Faith, chapter V.

[8] Romans 12:18.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

Psalm 27:13-14: God Is Always Enough

Psalm 27:13-14: I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living!

Wait for the Lord;

be strong, and let your heart take courage;

wait for the Lord! [1]

 When we watch movies, we might want clear, complete, and comforting conclusions. Just as every film does not have a happy finish, neither does every Psalm. [2] Psalm 27 ends on “naked faith,” trust when suffering seems to have no certain culmination insight —something that believers “may have to” exercise. [3] But Psalm 27 does not end with blind fatalism. David wraps up his Holy Spirit inspired poem resting on “the assurance that God is worth waiting for.” [4] David’s faith, like the Old Testament saint’s faith, led to rest on Christ even in uncertainty, [5] and Christians should do the same.

 Is God always enough for us even when the future is questionable? Is the life, death, and resurrection of the incarnate Christ all we need when anxieties are aggravated and fear infests fickle hearts? When there are bills to pay, difficulties in the office, or bullying at school do we have a theology that believes the Triune God can resolve our trials when we do not know how? If you are like me, then the honest answer is no. We might confess our faith, but when the explosion erupts we can react faithlessly. At the root of this sin, and all others, is unbelief. [6] We need to cry out to the Holy Spirit, asking that He would help us put to death unbelief, so that in every season we can believe God is always enough.

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] 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), 122.

[3] Kidner, Psalms 1-72, 122.

[4] Kidner, Psalms 1-72, 122.

[5] Hebrews 11.

[6] John Colquhoun. Repentance. (London, England: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1965), 118.

Treasuring God's Truth In Your Hearts

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

Psalm 27:10-11: God’s Shield

Psalm 27:11-12: Teach me your way, O Lord,

and lead me on a level path

because of my enemies.

Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;

for false witnesses have risen against me,

and they breathe out violence. [1]

 

Often in life we do not always understand why the LORD tests us. Job was not explicitly told why He suffered. [2] On occasion, Scripture gives us some explanations for trials. James 1:2-4; Romans 8:18-39; 2 Corinthians 1:3-10; etc. help us see some ways the Triune God is greater than suffering and can use it in believers’ lives. Arguably, Psalm 27:11-12 is one of those passages. [3] David does not get an outright answer, [4] but John Calvin explains this passage is a comfort for modern Christians. [5] Calvin teaches, “. . . this prayer was dictated for our comfort, to intimate that God can maintain our innocence, and oppose the shield of his protection to the cruelty of our enemies.” David’s suffering and prayer are recorded so Christians can see and believe that the Trinity is able to save His children.

 

Calvin also reminds us that Jesus Christ faced the ultimate suffering from lying and violent people. [6] Because of Immanuel’s murder, we are able to walk in the LORD’s ways, even when we suffer. [7] When our faith is founded on Christ’s redemptive work alone, we will face suffering, [8] and see the ways God uses suffering to refine us, and show us His power. [9] Believer in Jesus Christ, no matter what you are suffering, the Trinity’s shield is sufficient to guard you. Pray that you would believe it more.

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] Job 38-42.

[3] John Calvin. Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Vol. I. Trans. James Anderson. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), 461-462.

[4] 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), 122.

[5] Calvin, Psalms, Vol. I, 462.

[6] Calvin, Psalm, Vol. I, 461-462. See also Acts 2:14-42 (esp. v. 23), 3:11-26 (esp. vv. 13-16).

[7] 1 Peter 2:21-25, 4:12-19; 5:9-10.

[8] 2 Timothy 3:12.

[9] Calvin, Psalms, Vol. I, 461.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

Psalm 27:9-10: In Case of Emergency: Pray

Psalm 27:9-10: Hide not your face from me.

                        Turn not your servant away in anger,

O you who have been my help.

                        Cast me not off; forsake me not,

O God of my salvation!

            For my father and my mother have forsaken me,

but the Lord will take me in.  [1]

 

In these verses, David gives those of us facing difficulty two principles for praying during trials. First, David teaches us to pray urgently: he knows that if God is not with him there is no hope. [2] Second, in his urgent prayer, David leans on God’s promises, trusting that the Trinity will keep His Word. [3]

 

No one lived these principles better than Christ Jesus. The Lord Jesus prayed earnestly before going to the cross, to the point He sweat as if He were bleeding. [4] But before entering the garden He also prayed resting on what He knew to be true. [5] Though Christ was abandoned far worse than David, His trails in life and on the cross made real hope possible for those of us facing trials. [6]

 

Prayer may not remove our trials, but when we pray to Christ we communicate with someone Who has suffered as we have, and Whose death gives us hope. [7] A hope that our present sufferings are not worth thinking about with Christ’s coming restoration. [8] A hope that the Holy Spirit meets us in our struggles and helps us in them. [9] A hope that there is a good God orchestrating His children’s suffering for their benefit because nothing is greater than Christ’s finished work. [10] This hope is for all who embrace Christ. If you desire this hope, confess the false hopes you have held to and cling to Christ as your exclusive hope for forgiveness before a just God. If you believe but wrestle, you are not alone. I encourage you to memorize Romans 8 and to urgently pray and believe it in your trials.

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] William S. Plumer. Psalms: A Critical and Expository Commentary with Doctrinal and Practical Remarks. (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2016), 361.

[3] Plumer, Psalms, 361, Joshua 1:5; Psalm 27:10;

[4] Luke 22:44.

[5] John 17.

[6] Plumer, Psalms, 361.

[7] Hebrews 4:14-16.

[8] Romans 8:17-25.

[9] Romans 8:26-27.

[10] Romans 8:28-39.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

Psalm 27:7-8: True Prayer

Psalm 27:7-8: Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;

be gracious to me and answer me!

            You have said, “Seek my face.”

                        My heart says to you,

“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”  [1]

 

After seeing the confidence in verses 1-6 you might read this passage and think: “David, what happened?” David prays so passionately because he knows prayer communicates with the Triune God Who hears. [2] Verse 8 teaches us to listen to God’s call to seek Him, and shows David’s heart in his quick response to seek the LORD. [3]

 

When we pray we can have the same assurance that we will be heard, and should expect to be heard. [4] Do we pray that way? When pain strikes, and the way we understand the world is rocked, do we pray expecting God to answer? If this is an area where you struggle, or if you are in a hard season where you need wisdom, please pray this whole Psalm regularly. Lord willing, Psalm 27 will teach you David’s confidence, earnestness, and seeking the Trinity as you pray to the God Who hears because of His Son Jesus Christ. [5] Notice: David does not appeal to His righteousness but looks to what God has said. Pray confidently because Jesus has reconciled us who were God’s enemies. [6] Your life does not need to be in order. You do not need to be perfect. Come to Christ, and you have everything you need to pray.

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] C.H. Spurgeon. The Treasury of David, Containing An Original Exposition Of The Book Of Psalms; A Collection Of Illustrative Extracts From the Whole Ranger Of Literature; A Series Of Homiletical Hints Upon Almost every Verse; And Lists Of Writers Upon Each Psalm In Three Volumes, Vol., 1 Part 2: Psalm XXVII to LVII. (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Pub, 1876), 4.

[3] Spurgeon, Treasury, 4.

[4] Spurgeon, Treasury, 4. See also 2 Kings 19:14-37; 2 Chronicles 20.

[5] Hebrews 4:14-16.

[6] Romans 5:10-11.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

Psalm 27:5-6: More Than Human Victory

Psalm 27:5-6: For he will hide me in his shelter

in the day of trouble;

       he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;

he will lift me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up

above my enemies all around me,

       and I will offer in his tent

sacrifices with shouts of joy;

       I will sing and make melody to the Lord. [1]

 Those who do not believe in the Triune God of the Bible may look at these verses and think that David is deceiving himself—that the King of Israel was grasping at straws to endure suffering. Are these the words of someone pretending away pain, or looking to a greater strength than his own? The world cannot understand David’s joy because it is lost in darkness. [2] David’s hope comes from being in Christ, which allows him to “fearlessly disregard the darts of his enemies, which might have otherwise pierced him.” [3]

  Christian hope, like David’s, is insanity to unbelievers. [4] Those who are dead in their sins [5] cannot be expected to have the perseverance believers have in trials. [6] But disbelief is never a reason to lose delight in God. [7] When believers treasure their union with Christ, they have hope in suffering that goes beyond the grave. [8] Truly, when Jesus Christ is the exclusive rock of our salvation we have a more than human victory. [9]

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] Romans 3:9-23. See also John Calvin. Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Vol. I. Trans. James Anderson. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), 456.

[3] Calvin, Psalms, Vol. 1, 455-456.

[4] 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.

[5] Ephesians 2:1-10.

[6] Romans 8; Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Peter 1:3-5.

[7] Psalm 14.

[8] Calvin, Psalms, Vol. 1, 455. See also John 3:16, 36;

[9] Deuteronomy 32:4; 1 Samuel 2:2; 2 Samuel 22:2, 32; Psalm 18; 28:1; 62:7, 118:22; Isaiah 28:16; Acts 4:10-12; Romans 9:33; Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:4-8; Revelation 19-22.

Why it is Best to Consider Yourself a Murderer

Add a heading.png

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

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

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

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

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

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

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.

AgapeStorm

agapestorm.jpg

The Calm, Crazy, Whirlwind of Love

Read 1 John 4:7-21 and John 3:16 3 times, slowly.

As soon as we say the word, love, we find ourselves, metaphorically, on a rickety rope bridge swinging and creaking wildly in a tempestuous wind, dangerously high above treacherous rocks of meaning. We all think we know where we are, and despite the danger, we feel that simple calm and confidence; love is so familiar. We all know what love is, surely. It is stamped into our DNA so securely that, when we were young, we would ask, “How do you know love when you see it?” The answer is always the same, “Oh, yoU’LL know…”

And we do, kinda. Love is a feeling and a commitment, a force and a goal. When we’re “in it,” love makes our knees weak, or strong, depending on the situation. We become heroic, or bashful; silly or serious or forgiving. Love somehow breaks us and re-makes us, wherever it takes us. It generates more poems and songs and purpose and confusion than even our pets or our cars. We know with confidence from some mystical feeling that the Beatles were right, love really is all we need, or, for a song reference with far too many artists to mention; love does make the world go round.

The irony of the lyrics to these sappy songs is that, for a Christian, these largely superficial sentiments ring true in Jesus Christ. Since God is Love, love truly is all we need, and since Jesus is God, love actually does make the world, indeed, the entire universe, go ‘round. The rest of the irony, however, is that apart from God, love is confusing and difficult to define and understand. Of course, confusion is not God’s purpose, because love is central to who he is and at the core of his plan.

So, it is no surprise that for something so critical, God has a lot to say. Love is at the very core of the eternal, triune relationship (More on that in a future blog), such that, when God decides, together, to create and sustain an entire history of the cosmos, love explodes from within the Godhead and washes over every aspect of that story. In many ways, love is the why of everything God does for us. (Footnote: His own glory could also be used as the why of everything he does.) How do we know this?

There are three ways that God reveals love to us.

First, God demonstrates love in all he does. When you open the Bible, you see what God does. Every action is that of a loving father with his treasured children. The list of ways that he does this is endless, because every action he takes is an act of love. He walked with Adam and Eve, then disciplined them, banishing them from the garden. He called and protected Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their families, and their descendents; the judges, Saul, David, Solomon, and Ezekiel, Isaiah, Hosea - everyone of his children. He listens to prayers, delivers from distress; heals, guides, teaches. He also punishes, disciplines, reconciles and restores. Every single action of God is ultimately a model of what love looks like in action. There is no better way to see what love looks like than to see everything that God does.

Second, God defines love over and over in his word. The passages abound. He tells us the characteristics of love and how to recognize it clearly. He tells us what love is, and what it isn’t. In his word, we learn why love has power and how to wield it for the good of others. Stay tuned, we are going to wade into many passages that will threaten to drown us.

Third, God incarnates love in Jesus Christ. Although I mention this last, it is by far the first in priority. It is no stretch to say that Jesus is the perfect expression of love, because Christ’s incarnation is how God chose to show us his love; a love that for us in the loftiest, most profound, and most intimate possible expression. And wonder of wonders; the eternal, triune love that Jesus has for us is best experienced through personal relationship as we are united to God through faith in Jesus. This is why John 3:16 is so precious to the church, God so loved the world that he gave his son. Wow! Suddenly, Love makes sense, but when held in contrast, this true love of God demolishes every other lesser concept of love.

Our passage from first John is a warehouse of content regarding love, but for now, we need to cook up two concepts from the passage and season it with a few other familiar ideas. Verse 11: Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another, and verse 19, We love because he first loved us. These two verses simmer in the pot and we are led to two inescapable conclusions. First, God wants us to love others the way that HE loves others (and us, by the way.) Second, God is the source of that love. The seasonings for this verse-stew are the two Great Commandments and loving our enemies. We must love God first (heart, soul, mind, strength). We must love our neighbors as ourselves. We must love our enemies.

This is a high calling. Love everyone the way God does.

Let’s cut to the chase. What is Love? What is God’s Love? What characterizes the love that God demonstrates, defines, and incarnates? What is the nature of the love we need to hold for everyone?

Here goes: God’s love is fervent, sacrificial, purposeful, gracious, expressive, bold, and covenantal. That is AgapeStorm. That is the challenge. We will begin to tuck in to this feast in the next blog.

This blog was written by Charles Fox

Posted on January 25, 2019 and filed under Teaching.

Proc Talk: Theology and Current Events at Proclamation

Proc Talk_ Theology and Current Events at Proclamation.png

Not Your Fine China

In early December over 100 members of the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, in Sichuan province, China, were arrested and detained by the Chinese government. Among the detainees was the Pastor Wang Yi and his wife, Jiang Rong. Their son is currently staying with the Pastor’s mother. The arrest included church leaders, seminary students, and worshippers at the church, many who were in a worship service, but also many were arrested in their homes or on the city streets. As is typical of religious persecution in closed nations, there has been no way to make contact with the people arrested and there have been reports of torture and coercion.

Although the church in China is often understood as the fastest growing in the world, this is often matched with wave upon wave of official persecution from the Chinese government. It is remarkable that the church in China wears their persecution proudly like a badge of honor, and the members have stood strong and faithful. The government allows the church to meet in an “official” capacity where the teaching and worship is carefully controlled by the government. In contrast, there is a thriving unofficial church that loves the Bible, teaches the gospel, and worships the risen Jesus. The unofficial church has a stance of “faithful disobedience” to the government, which brings a heightened level of animosity upon the church. This latest round of persecution and incarceration of the church is part of a concerted action against all religions which include a massive round up of Muslims who are being held in retraining camps.

As always, God has worked in both ordinary and miraculous ways in and through this persecution. The stories of God’s faithfulness and the perseverence of his people are painful, touching and awe inspiring. We need to pray. We need to be aware. We need to worship God for his wisdom and love.

For an article that contains far more details and a copy of Wang Yi’s letter to his church, navigate to the following link: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/persecuted-chinese-pastor-issues-declaration-faithful-disobedience/

This blog was written by Charles Fox

Communion with God Chapters 23&24

Jo.png

Here we are in the last two chapters of "Communion with God". I hope you enjoyed reading along this summer through both the book and this blog. It's always a privilege to read and blog on these books!
Chapter 23 continues Owen's discussion on communion with the Holy Spirit. The title of the chapter is "The Behaviour of the Saints towards the Holy Spirit", but really, the chapter is about what we strive to not do towards the Holy Spirit. Owen lists three things.

1-We strive to not grieve the Holy Spirit. Now, Owen is careful here. We have to speak of grieving the Holy Spirit carefully, lest we come away with the impression that the Spirit is manipulated emotionally. This is not true. The Westminster Confession states this clearly by saying that God is without passion. That does not mean God is without emotion or passions, but it means that he is not controlled emotionally by external forces. And yet, there is a very real sense where the Spirit does indeed grieve when we, as the blood-bought people of God, do not pursue holiness in our life. Owen offers up a meditation on this topic:


The Holy Spirit is infinite love and kindness to me. He has wonderfully chosen to be my Comforter. He does this work willingly, freely and powerfully. What great things I have received from him! How often has he comforted my soul! Can I live one day without him? Shall I not care what he wants to do in me? Shall I grieve him by my negligence, sin, and foolishness? Shall not his love constrain me to walk before him in such a way that brings him great pleasure?

2-We strive to not quench the Spirit. Drawing off of Old Testament imagery where the Holy Spirit was typified by the fire that was always burning on the altar in the tabernacle and temple, Owen here is speaking specifically about not suppressing the works of the Spirit. If we resist the Spirit's work, it would be as if we're throwing wet wood on a fire to smother it. 

Now when we want to resist fire, we quench it. So the opposition made to the Holy Spirit working in us is called 'quenching the Spirit', as wet wood will do when it is cast into the fire. So we are said by the same picture to 'stir up with new fire' the gifts that are in us. The Holy Spirit is striving with us, working in us, encouraging growth in grace and the production of his holy fruit in us. 'Take heed,' says Paul, 'lest by the power of your lusts and temptations, you do not pay attention to him, but quench his works of good will in you.'

3-We do not resist the Holy Spirit. Owen's point is so good here. Stephen accused the Jews of "resisting the Spirit" by rejecting and killing the prophets of God. How might we resist the Spirit? By holding the preaching of the Word of God up with contempt. 

When the Word of God is preached, the authority, wisdom and goodness of the Holy Spirit in setting up this ordinance is to be recognized and respected. For this reason, obedience is to be given to the Word when it is preached, because the Holy Spirit and he alone gives gifts fro the Word to be preached. When this truth keeps us humble and dependent on the Holy Spirit, then we have holy fellowship with him in this ordinance.

Chapter 24, the last chapter of the book, really focuses in on worshiping the Holy Spirit as God. We'll close this blog with these words:

Our fellowship or communion with the Holy Spirit should stir us to give him praise, thanks glory, honour and blessing for the mercies and privileges we receive from him, as we do the Son for his work of Redemption (Rev. 1:5-6). Are not the same praises and blessings due to him who makes Christ's work of redemption effectual to us? The Holy Spirit undertook to be our Comforter with no less infinite love than the Son who took it on himself to be our Redeemer. When we feel our hearts warmed with joy, strengthened in peace and established in obedience, let us give him the praise that is due to him. Let us bless his name and rejoice in him.

This blog was written by Andy Styer

Communion with God chapters 11&12

There's a lot in these two chapters to reflect upon, but I really want to focus the theme of prayer that Owen hits on in chapter 11. 

Owen begins his exhortation on prayer with this simple statement: 

Christ delights to reveal his kingdom to his saints...Christ enables his saints to reveal their minds and souls to him that they might walk together in intimate love and friendship...But to know this truth will not avail us if we do not know how to open our hearts to him. this we do in prayer. To Christ, the prayers of his saints are like incense...If we would open our hearts to Christ, we need help to pray.

Two things. First, notice here that Owen is saying that Christ makes himself and his Kingdom known to the saints, and the saints make their minds and souls known to him through prayer. Prayer is how we share in a deep, intimate love and friendship with Jesus Christ. But secondly, notice Owen fully recognizes that we are weak in prayer and that we need help. And here, Owen reminds us that the Holy Spirit, the "Helper" as Christ referred to him, is the one who helps us in our prayers. 

I'm encouraged by these two points. First, doesn't it make our hearts sing to know that Jesus Christ makes himself known to us, and delights in having us make ourselves known to him in an intimate friendship? The one who in and through whom all things were made, the eternal Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the very image of the invisible God delights in us. He delights in having an intimate friendship, a deep rooted love, and communion with us. That fact alone should give us great delight in the act of prayer! 

And yet, all of us still struggle with prayer, don't we? We are tempted to see prayer as a chore. We don't delight in prayer as we should. We may know that through prayer we are having sweet communion with God, and yet how many of us are eager to go before the Lord in prayer? How many of us struggle to even know what to say and how to say it? And here is the encouraging reminder from John Owen that Jesus, who knows our weaknesses first hand, has sent a Helper-the Holy Spirit of Christ. He writes:

...we need help to pray. This help we have by the Spirit of Jesus. All attempts at praying without the help of the Spirit working in us a prayerful spirit are of no avail and of no value. Christ greatly delights in the prayers of his saints when they truly open their hearts to him. When the soul is driven to hide from Christ, then Christ calls it out and enables it to pray by giving it the help of his Spirit."

If we (when we...) struggle to pray, let us all look to the power of the Holy Spirit, who is working in us. He is the one who will help us to pray! The Spirit gives us the help and power we need to pray, which leads to sweet communion and fellowship with Jesus Christ, through whom we are able to come into the presence of the Father who sits upon a throne of grace, to which we draw close with confidence!

This blog was written by Andy Styer