Monthly Archives: August 2007

Biblical Counseling

I’ve been reading David Powlison’s Seeing With New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition Through the Lens of Scripture (Resources for Changing Lives) and it’s truly phenomenal. I’ve always thought that “Christian” psychology was just Dr. Phil dressed up in Christianese. But Powlison has reoriented my thinking in this area, providing a robust Gospel centered approach to Biblical counseling.

Take the following quote on page 147:

The first unique thing God show us about human psychology [is] this comic battleground is something none of the secular psychologists have seen or can see, because they can’t see that deeply why we do what we do. Their own motives give them reasons not to want to see that deeply and honestly. It would mean admitting sin.

 

He continues on the same page:

The second unique thing God shows us about human psychology [is that] we can be fundamentally rewired by the merciful presence of the Messiah. None of the secular psychologists say this or can say this. They have no power to address us so deeply, and they don’t want to address us at the level of what we (and they) live for. It would mean confessing Christ.

Amen!


Some Summer Reading

School’s back for me. I wasn’t able to read much this summer, but was able to chew on some very good books. Here are the best that I read (no order):


A God of Love … and Wrath

Most people think that by definition the love of God must be in opposition to the wrath of God. “If God is loving, He can’t be wrathful!”

Leon Morris in Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (pages 208-209) provides a helpful commentary on this false belief:

Perhaps the difficulty arises because we are making a false antithesis between the divine wrath and the divine love. We are handicapped by the fact that we must necessarily use terms properly applicable to human affairs, and for us it is very difficult to be simultaneously wrathful and loving. But, upon analysis, this seems to be largely because our anger is such a selfish passion, usually involving a large element of irrationality together with a lack of self-control. … Those who object to the conception of the wrath of God should realize that what is meant is not some irrational passion bursting forth uncontrollably, but a burning zeal for the right coupled with a perfect hatred for everything that is evil. It may be that wrath is not a perfect word to describe such an attitude, but no better has been suggested, and we must refuse to accept alternatives which do not give expression to the truth in question. … We sometimes find among men an affection which is untempered by a sterner side, and this we call not love but sentimentality. It is not such that the Bible thinks of when it speaks of the love of God, but rather of a love which is so jealous for the good of the loved one that it blazes out in fiery wrath against everything that is evil.

Good stuff.


For the Love of God

It doesn’t matter who you talk to in the U.S., if you ask them one thing that they know about the God of the Bible—whether Christian, atheist, pagan, etc., is that He is a God of love.

Now this is definitely true (1 John 4:8, 16). However, as J.I. Packer as said, a half truth masquerading as a full truth becomes an untruth.

When a person mentions or thinks that God is a God of love, they are imputing their views of love on God. Basically, as loved is (mis)construed in our nation, the reason that anyone loves anyone is because that person is lovely. Thus, this same thinking is foisted on God: “God’s loves us because we are lovely. And therefore, why wouldn’t love me or you? We’re basically good people.”

However, the Word of God clearing contradicts such a notion of God’s love. In 1 John 4:10 we get a clear definition of God’s Love, as two verses before God is declared a God of love. It says:

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

We see from “not that we have loved God but that he loved us” that love by definition does not have to reciprocate. In order to give love, one does not have to be loved back. Thus, true love is not contingent on being loved back. Unlike our culture’s definition of love, the love of God is still manifested in and to those who don’t love him and do not have the qualities that would be considered loveable. In fact, we are sinners and from God’s point of view we are so incredibly horrid and evil. It isn’t that we loved God but that He loved us first (cf. 1 John 4:19).

In Deuteronomy 7:7-8 we see that God did not love Israel because of their number or any other factor. He loved them because He loved them. There was nothing intrinsic in this nation that drew forth God’s love. Rather, God chose to love them for His own reasons and glory. He loved because he loved them, because He loved them…

Moreover, in the love of God He sent “His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Propitiation means an appeasing, a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath so that God becomes “propitious” or favorably disposed toward us; the claims of divine justice are satisfied. Propitiation is the wrath of God satisfied because of Jesus.

Wrath is God’s intense hatred of sin. If God did not hate sin He would either enjoy it or be indifferent to it. Either way, it is a horrible act of injustice. God must hate sin and we know what it is like to do so as well. As D.A. Carson says wrath “is a function of God’s Holiness against sin. Where there is no sin, there is no wrath… The price of diluting God’s wrath is diminishing God’s holiness.

So we see that God’s love must be put in place with His holiness. You cannot just have a God of love but He doesn’t exist. In fact, God’s love is highlighted and heightened in light of His holiness, our sin, and therefore His wrath. We deserve nothing but damnation: to receive the complete and total wrath of God. The most terrifying thing in existence is God’s wrath.

But since God is loving, He saves people in Christ from His wrath. God’s love and wrath are not antithetical. Because we are sinners and He is holy and righteous they cannot ever be divorced. Rather, in a fallen world they always work in tandem.

If one talks about God being loving and does not discuss the atonement and penal substitution of Christ, they are speaking out of both sides of their mouth. And the inseparable link between God’s love and wrath is abundantly evident in Scripture:

Ephesians 2:1-8: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Romans 5:6-9: For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

This truth is explicit in John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

The term “perish” presupposes judgment and the wrath of God, as “whoever does not believe is condemned already.” Later in the same chapter it says in verse 36, “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

This is the gospel! We deserve nothing but wrath and condemnation, as there is nothing intrinsically loving about us. In 1 John 4:10 we did not love God, and in fact we wanted nothing to do with Him period (Romans 3:9-20), as we were by nature children of wrath (Eph 2:3). God could have, and should have sent us all to Hell where we would experience His Holy unmitigated wrath for an eternity (and did so with the angels: Jude 6 & 7; 2 Peter 2:4). God is just and cannot look upon injustice and evil. He must punish injustice and sin in proportion to the crime.

With regards to a true understanding of God’s love James Denney in the Death of Christ poignantly states:

So far from finding any kind of contrast between love and propitiation, the apostle can convey no idea of love to anyone except by pointing to the propitiation—love is what is manifested there; and he can give no account of the propitiation but by saying , “behold what manner of love.” For him to say “God is love” is exactly the same as to say, “God has in His Son made atonement for the sin of the world.” If the propitiatory death of Jesus is eliminated from the love of God, it might be unfair to say that the love of God is robbed of all meaning, but it is certainly robbed of its apostolic meaning. It has no longer that meaning which goes deeper than sin, sorrow, and death, and which recreates life in the adoring joy, wonder, and purity of the first Epistle of John.

To never properly discuss the love of God in terms of His propitious death is to gut what is means that God is love. The grandest demonstration of love in existence was when Christ Jesus took on full strength the wrath of God we all deserved. To say, “God loves you” and to at the same time withhold or neglect God’s holiness and righteous is to preach a false Gospel meriting eternal condemnation (Gal 1:8-9).


Marriage Sermons

 

Here are some really good sermons from The Journey in St. Louis on marriage and related issues.

 

 


Veritas Forums

 

Here are some better talks from the Veritas Forums (see here). Not all talks are recommended (e.g. Mrs. Kroeger), but some are really good. Enjoy.

 


American Weddings = Idolatry

I’ll probably offend more than a few people with this post. Hear me out though.

I’ve heard it said that currently the annual revenue for weddings in the U.S. is more than 70 billion dollars. The average American wedding costs somewhere between 20,000 to 30,000 dollars (see here).

 

Now I love weddings as much as the next guy and I eagerly anticipate to have one someday soon. However, the more I contemplate the insanity of weddings in the U.S., the more idolatrous the whole thing becomes.

 

From what I’ve read, less than 10% (probably closer to 5%) of all couples get premarital counseling, with Evangelicals lower than the national average (see here). Thus, it is not surprising that most couples spend a significant more time preparing for their wedding than the actual marriage. People are so enamored with the glitz and glam that the culture presents about weddings (for its own finical gain), that an engaged couple’s focus is completely distorted. Many times I’ve seen it that it is as if people are getting married primarily for the wedding itself and not for the life long covenant relationship that it true is.

 

People might respond and say that it’s the bride’s day, she has been looking forward to it her entire life, and so she deserves to get whatever she wants.

 

I must say that it is this mentality that is so endemic in modern Christianity that just screams of idolatry.

 

Biblically speaking, a wedding is the commencement of a marriage covenant that is to reflect the covenant between God and His people. Marriage is in its high essence a microcosm of the Gospel. As Paul famously states in Ephesians 5: 31-32 about marriage:

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

 

Throughout Scripture the relationship between God and His people is typified as one of marriage, seen in Jeremiah, Isaiah, Hosea and Revelation. In Revelation 19:6-7 the wedding of Jesus and His Church occurs, signifying the end of this age, bringing in the New Heavens and the New Earth:

6Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,    “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God
   the Almighty reigns.
7Let us rejoice and exult
   and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
   and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
   with fine linen, bright and pure”

The question I keep asking myself is how come I do not often see an explicit attempt in Evangelical Christian weddings to portray it accurately for what it truly is. A wedding is first and foremost not meant to glorify the couple getting married. It is to glorify God and point explicitly to the majesty of the Gospel. A wedding is not about the bride, but rather The Groom—Christ Jesus and what He has done, does, and will do for His Church that He purchased with His own blood.

 

Young Christian girls from an early age must be taught this magnificent reality that their wedding is not ultimately about them. They should be excited not that they will be on display primarily, but that Christ and His fame will be magnified.

 

Anything less is most certainly idolatry, literally putting ourselves in the place where Christ should ultimately be. I can only wonder how this lack of understanding and adoration has contributed to (and/or endemic of ) a divorce rate comparable, if not higher, than the national average. If Christ is not exalted publicly and explicitly at the beginning of one’s marriage being the epicenter of the relationship, when does He begin having preeminence? After the reception? After the honeymoon?

 

A wedding is a celebration and pointer to what will happen on that day when Christ is revealed in full splendor. Only when this reality is put in its proper place with Christ being glorified, will the couple be most satisfied and get their most pleasure and enjoyment.