Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Law and Grace

I was led to a good (are there any other kind) sermon by Charles Spurgeon to do with Law and Grace.

I think this quote from the sermon does a good job of explaining the law for the Christian:

" What is God's law now? It is not above a Christian-it is under a Christian. Some men hold God's law like a rod, in terrorem, over Christians, and say, "If you sin you will be punished with it." It is not so. The law is under a Christian; it is for him to walk on, to be his guide, his rule, his pattern. "We are not under the law, but under grace." Law is the road which guides us, not the rod which drives us, nor the spirit which actuates us. The law is good and excellent, if it keeps its place.”

This sermon helps me better articulate how the Law and Gospel work together. Not to mingle them but see their correct place, not by minimizing either but seeing God’s plan under the New Covenant for each.

When seen in light of the New Covenant (Jer 31:31ff) we see that the law is not abrogated (antinomianism) but is followed out of love and devotion for God not out of working for acceptance. His law is not burdensome (1 Jn 5:1-5) because we are not the ones that have to find the strength to follow it.

I was reading an article by Tom Ascol (A Neglected Topic for Needy Times )on this subject and came across this prayer from John Calvin:

Grant, Almighty God,
that as thou hast made known to us thy Law,
and hast also added thy Gospel,
in which thou callest us to thy service,
and also invitest us with all kindness to partake of thy grace,--
O grant, that we may not be deaf,
either to thy command or to the promises of thy mercy,
but render ourselves in both instances submissive to thee,
and so learn to devote all our faculties to thee,
that we may in truth avow that a rule of a holy and religious life
has been delivered to us in thy law,
and that we may also firmly adhere to thy promises,
lest through any of the allurements of the world,
or through the flatteries and crafts of Satan,
thou shouldest suffer our minds to be drawn away from that love
which thou hast once manifested to us in thine only-begotten Son,
and in which thou daily confirmest us
by the teaching of the Gospel,
until we at length shall come to the full enjoymentof
this love in that celestial inheritance,
which has been purchased for us by the blood of thy only Son.

The fact we are under grace does not remove the law but lets us relate to it in a better and grace related manner.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort Interview on ABC Nightline

I just watched a tape of Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort (Way of the Master) that was recently done on ABC Nightline. It was a good interview and it was quite obvious that the interviewer just did not understand why Kirk does what he does. The interviewer saw much of what Kirk and Ray did as inciting rather than inviting but Kirk answered well that his job is not to avoid polarization; the Gospel does that, but to deliver the message of the Gospel truthfully.

You can read a transcript here and even see the video at this link: Kirk Cameron, From Sitcom Star to Evangelist.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sin and Sacrifice (Hebrews 9:15-28)

I was reading Hebrews 9:15-28 and as I read about the sprinkling of blood in the OT sacrificial system and how it symbolizes the need for a perfect sacrifice, I was reminded of how this offends so many non-believers. Often this is hard for believers to defend or have an answer for as even for us it is a little grotesque.

The answer is we are not to defend it since it is meant to be grotesque. If we truly comprehended the amount of blood that would stream out of the temple and the ensuing stench during sacrifices, as the readers of Hebrews would recall, we are meant to see it, the sacrifices, as vile and uncomfortable. The reason is to remind us of our sin and the vileness of it. The death of Christ for that sin is to be remembered that way as well. All too often we see grace as the “Get Out of Jail Card” and in doing so neglect to see the darkness of our sin. The same sin Christ had to die for.

It is healthy to see our sin for what it is as this is what God uses to remind us of what we are not to be and to remind us of the changed hearts of the New Covenant that Christ ushered in at his death, burial, resurrection and ascension. We do need to glory in the grace of God but in doing so not neglect to see sin for what it is. Read Hebrews 9 and reflect on what the original sacrifices were to symbolize and how Christ fulfilling those symbols does not negate the vileness of the sin. Sin under the Old Covenant is no different than under the New as they are both to be cleansed by the death and shed blood of Christ, however, the cleansing of the Old Covenant sacrificial system was only a symbol of what was to come. That is why Hebrews lets us see that the sacrifices had to keep being offered until the perfect sacrifice, Christ Jesus, came. His sacrifice was a one time sacrifice and is not to be recreated over and over again or we miss the point of the perfect sacrifice.

So, when someone is offended by the whole issue of sacrifice for sin and the whole issue of blood help them see that this should remind us of what sin really is. I do not say they will buy the answer but if God is working on their heart they will come to see what their sin really is and repent.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Around the Blogosphere

News from around the Blogosphere:

Soulforce is to make a bus tour, I mean Equality Ride, of those colleges and universities that disagree with their views and have what they feel is anti-gay bias.. It would seem that we should be praying for those campuses that are going to as they stand for truth and that they will be firm yet loving in their conversations. Overall this tour is to gain publicity and to try and make out that those schools that stand for what scripture says are intolerant and harmful to society. The goal of the universities should be to do what is necessary to allow as little press as possible and still stand their ground and in the process show the visiting students that scripture denies what they are trying to promote.

Here is a report how things faired at Liberty University.

More and more the church tries to emulate the world in how it draws its consumers, and there is there is the rub, “consumers.” On Slice of Laodicea there is an article that deals with a church that has what would be considered a suggestive billboard that is supposed to draw people to a website and then to church. But in all of this is missed the Gospel and instead the focus in marketing. Is the Bible to be a source of info on our sex lives or to reveal the redemptive plan of God through His son Jesus Christ? There may be info in the scriptures that will help our relationships but all of this is secondary to the life changing effect of the Gospel. At the heart of this is, in my opinion, who one relies on to build the church: us or GOD.

Tom Ascol gives a heads up on what is to be taught at Centrifuge this year and shows that we need to be wary of the content that comes from the SBC as well as other places. I know after reading some different books about children and youth in the 1600’s ( A Token for Children ) and 1700’s ( To the Rising Generation ) it becomes apparent that we are much worse than shallow today we are not even in the water.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Women, Ministry and the Church

Having gone to the Shepherd’s conference Saturday and listened to Ligon Duncan speak on the issue of women in ministry and the importance of dealing with the subject, it reminded me of how the church today wants to do things the easy way. If you take a stand that women have roles to fill, just as men do, you will often be labeled as subjugating women. The issue is all too often laden with emotion and the simple fact that one might say that some ministry is not permissible is not acceptable in today’s culture. The church has bought into the world’s idea that if it is something you desire you should be able to “do it.”

What is amazing is that when it is said that there are limits to women’s ministry people forget that the same is to be said for men. Not all men can be elders no matter how good they teach or how successful they are in business. However, the church has missed the boat in that arena as well. At the heart of this all is that the heart of mankind desires to do whatever it pleases and if they are told no that just does not sit well. The whole issue of entitlement permeates the church and everyone feels they are entitled to do as they please.

We miss the point of observing the Trinity in that the 3 are one in essence, all God, but all have a role to fulfill. We do not see Jesus telling the Father, “no I would rather have your position because that is what I feel called to and who are you to say no since I am God.” Each member did as they were called to in the relationship: The Father sent the Son and the Son sent the Holy Spirit. So it is with us, we all have a part in the church and God has designed those parts not us. Once we start messing with the church to make it in our own image what a mess it becomes.

As a side note, this is not just an issue of women in ministry it is also about interpreting scripture. I think it is not a coincidence that those denominations that now ordain women now either condone homosexuality or are having to deal with the issue on a very serious basis. Once you start making everything in scripture culturally relevant there is really no end to what will happen as culture continually changes.

I do not say any of this is easy but if we truly see God’s word as it is, I can say it is not a burden. Nike’s saying does have merit in that when it comes to scripture we do need to “Just Do It.” Not without study and prayer but when the plain truth of scripture stares us in the face we need to comply and thankfully we are given that ability as believers due to the hearts we have being changed by God to allow us to comply and desire to do so.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Family Friendly II

More thoughts on what is actually being "Family Friendly:

As I further think about how the church is to rightly deal with families it does seem that the essential question to ask first is: What is the purpose of the church? If the purpose is to provide a slew of activities and allow parents a time of “spiritual renewal” then sending the children off in every direction would be a logical result. Now, I referenced “spiritual renewal” but I do not think that this has to be done apart from the family. We, the church, have in our day of the “individual” redefined things in such a way that if anything appears to get in the way of ones personal aim then it needs to be either eliminated or at least abated for some time frame. Thus having children in a service or at some specific age in a general Sunday morning study is seen as distracting and thus to be eliminated. Of course things are not worded this way and the common claim is that since differing ages learn differently then they need to be divided. While there is some truth to this it does not necessarily have to end in separation.

This is not an issue that only applies to children. I hear adults complain that group studies just slow down their spiritual walk. This individualistic approach neglects to see that the community grows together as well as individually. So while a group may slow one individual down that individual may actually increase the growth of the slower members of the community. Thus the church as whole grows much faster and more deeply and the individual grows in that they actually use the gifts they have for the benefit of others ( 1 Cor 12 ). This applies to children as well as adults so that if these differing groups learn together the growth will be so much more as a whole.

I do believe that there are times for groups to be built around specific needs, common life experiences and mutual goals not at the expense of the church as a whole. By constantly separating the church we in essence create many smaller churches that lack the discernment that others may provide but due to this separating is not possible.

I am sure that for many this sounds like an old fashioned, one school room, way of seeing church but let me assure you I do not think this is so. My goal in trying to see how this is too truly work is to see how God has designed the family and thus the church family and then make sure that we are doing all we can to help it grow. I do not think that on the sermon on the mount there was a separate children’s mini sermon on the mount or youth sermon on the mount with culturally correct lingo but those that were there sat and listened together. The parents were then tasked with explaining what was heard and this is how I think the main teaching in church should function. This way the teaching of children and youth is not abrogated and given to some other person but the parents are intimately involved in the discipleship of their children.

What is actually just as hard a problem is not in seeing how the church should function with regards to families but seeing how the church is to move to what is truly a “Family Friendly” church. This separation has gone on so long and become so ingrained moving people from this is a difficult task. This is true also for the teaching of younger people in the church. We so often dumb down the message to children that over time this is what is expected and all that can be handled but children can learn so much more.

I will have to think through this more as the more I ponder what God desires from His church all too often I see the church taking it’s cues from the world rather than scripture. Yes we have to deal with a fallen world but we as a church do not need to take on fallen principles but instead need to work at moving God’s people to God’s design.