Knowing I am Growing in Grace

Often the strongest evidence of my growth in grace is my growth in the knowledge of my need for grace.
 
Quoted from Greear, J. D. (2013).  Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved . Nashville: B & H Pub. Group, p. 103.
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Satan, Suffering and God’s Sovereignity

Notice, too, the instructive tension presented in this passage between Paul seeing this affliction as a messenger from Satan while praying to the Lord to remove it. This helps enormously in understanding Paul’s mindset as he considered the nature of the suffering he currently underwent. In the midst of his suffering, Paul did not look to God merely to comfort him during this time of supposedly unwanted and purpose, affliction that had been brought to him exclusively from Satan. On the contrary, Paul prayed to God to remove the affliction, believing that God had full power and authority over this affliction and could remove it if he wished. So then, while this affliction came directly from Satan to harm Paul, indirectly and ultimately this affliction was permitted by the intentional agency and sovereign ordination of God, who could allow it to be given at all, could remove it when and if he wished, and would ordain that Paul experience it only if it served the good purposes that he (God), not Satan, designed it to bring.
 
Quoted from Ware, B. A. (2004).  God’s greater glory: The exalted God of Scripture and the Christian faith . Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, p. 176.

How the Trinity Embues Hope to a Society

If trinitarian theology is an answer to the question, “Given the gospel story, who must God be for this to be possible?” I wish to broaden the question beyond the narrative of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection to ask, “Given the biblical vision of history and eschatology, who must God be for this to be possible?” The answer is the same in both cases: the immanent Trinity is manifested in and is the ontological ground and condition for the possibility not only of the death and resurrection of the Son, but of a world-history that moves from Eden to New Jerusalem. Paganism’s tragic view of history is allied with a tragic metaphysics and theology, while Christianity has a comic view of history because it has a fundamentally comic theology proper (doctrine of God).

 

Quoted from Leithart, P. J. (2006). Deep comedy: Trinity, tragedy, and hope in western literature . Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, pp. xii-xiii.


Jesus: The True Exodus

  • Just as Israel left Egypt and came to the Red Sea (Exod. 14), Matthew immediately follows the account of Jesus’ return from Egypt (the only reference he makes to the boyhood of Jesus) with his coming to the Jordan for baptism (Matt. 2:23; 3:1).
  • Just as Israel emerged from the Red Sea to go into the wilderness (Exod. 15:22), so Jesus went from the waters of baptism into the wilderness (Matt. 4:1).
  • Israel experienced in turn absence of water and food (Exod. 15:23; 16:3), as did Jesus during his first temptation (Matt. 4:1—4).
  • Israel came to the place where they put the Lord to the test (Exod. 17:2), something that Jesus refused to do in his second temptation (Mart. 4:7).
  • Israel arrived at Mount Sinai (Exod. 19) where, promptly, they turned from the Lord to worship an idol (Exod. 32:1—6), whereas, by contrast, looking on all the kingdoms of the world from a ‘very high mountain’ Jesus insisted that only the Lord is to be worshipped (Matt. 4:8—1O).

In other words, Exodus is the story of the son of God who stands in need of salvation, failing at every point of life and even of privilege; Matthew tells of the Son of God who brings salvation (Mart. 1:21), perfect and righteous at every point and in every circumstance and test.

 

Quoted from Motyer, J. A. (2005). The message of Exodus: The days of our pilgrimage. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press , pp. 22-23.


Becoming Truly Human Through Obedience

In the life of obedience, therefore, two things come together: man in the image of God, and the law in the image of God. In declaring his law, the Lord declares what he is; in obeying the law we are being fundamentally true to what we are. Because the law reflects his image, it is the true law of our true nature. In obedience we are living according to our revealed definition, we are ‘being ourselves’ law of the Lord is the ‘Maker’s Handbook’ for the effectuation of a truly human existence and personal human fulfillment.
 
Quoted from Motyer, J. A. (2004).  Look to the rock: An Old Testament background to our understanding of Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, Publications, pp. 77-78.

Now, the High Point of Secularism (?)

There’s a guy up at Harvard, Eric Kaufmann, who has written a book about religion and fertility, and what he suggests is that when you run the numbers and you look at three differential rates—they are the differentials between the secular fertility rate and the religious-practitioner fertility rate—then the differential between the attrition rate among religious believers (you know, how often they fall away) and then the pass-on rate of religion from the religious practitioners to their children, when you take all of those things into account, it is entirely possible that we are sitting at the high watermark of secularism right now in America. And that over the next 20-40 years we’re going to see the proportion of the country that are seculars, first, leveling off and then beginning a gradual decrease, and the proportion of the population which are orthodox practitioners of some faith increasing.

 

Jonathan V. Last on Thinking in Public, America’s Coming Demographic Disaster Transcript, April 1, 2013. Audio here.


Too Familar with Grace

Ephesians 5:1 states: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”

Now, let me ask you a question: What do you see?

When YOU read those eight words, what were you most impressed by? Close your eyes for a moment and try to recall its message.

If you are familiar with the New Testament, you might have recognized the passage and were probably most aware of the command to imitate God, both because a command to imitate God is astonishing and because it’s not something most of us would think we have mastered. Of course, we realize that there are other words in the verse—”therefore” and “as beloved children”—but because we think we have already understood or mastered the truth that God forgave us (4:32, to which “therefore” points), and that we are his beloved children, we gloss over them. The “therefore” and “as beloved children” are white noise to our spiritual ears. We filter these words out; they have become irrelevant. And when that happens, it changes the message of the verse and, ultimately, of the entire Bible.

When all we see in Ephesians 5:1 is the command to imitate God, our thoughts will turn inward onto ourselves, our efforts, and our record. If we fancy ourselves serious Christians and all we see in this verse is our duty, then we will probably spend a few moments thinking that we need to be more conscientious about obedience. Oh, yes, yes, I can see that I need to try harder at imitating God. Or, if we are painfully aware of our ongoing failure to be godly, despair will flood our hearts and we will feel confused and overwhelmed by such a command. Imitate God? How could I ever possibly do that? I’m already such a failure! However, if you are someone who helps others apply Scripture to their lives, you might immediately think, “Now, there’s a verse I could use with so-and-so!” thereby deflecting the command off of yourself.

You see, if certain concepts in Scripture have become white noise to us, it will be all too easy to read a verse like Ephesians 5:1 and see only its obligations. I, too, can see myself using the verse to implement those attributes in my daily life. God is holy, merciful, righteous and just. This month I will concentrate on being holy. I’ll research what it means and then I’ll try to implement it in my life. Next month I’ll. . . Because I’m like you, if you asked me what I saw in that verse I would tell you, “We’re called to imitate God.”

Our propensity to disregard the familiar can be so very detrimental to our faith. When the rest of the verse, “therefore” and “as beloved children,” has become white noise to our spiritual ears, we will quickly gloss over it without stopping to consider why it’s there or what it’s meant to tell us. We won’t think to ask why the Holy Spirit positioned such a daunting command in the context of such familiar words. Instead, we will be quick to strip out the familiar and boil down Scripture to a tidy little take-away list of do’s and don’ts.

What actually gets relegated to this position of irrelevance nothing less than the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, nothing less than Jesus’ accomplishments through his incarnation, sinless life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Because we are so familiar with the gospel message, it gets shoved to the periphery of our spiritual consciousness and becomes nothing more than words to be remembered at Christmas and Easter. The truths represented by “therefore” and “as beloved children” are like the constant din of the Interstate 15—unless someone draws your attention to them, they just don’t register.

 

Quoted from Fitzpatrick, E., & Johnson, D. E. (2009). Counsel from the Cross: connecting broken people to the love of Christ. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, pp. 23-25.