Saturday, February 23, 2013

Guilt Versus Sorrow

Because Christ has taken our guilt on himself and payed for it, we no longer have any guilt to feel guilty about. If we have been saved, then, to call ourselves guilty is to stand over ourselves as judge, rather than to allow God to do so and say "forgiven." For a Christian, to say "I am guilty" is lying, since God has judged us to have the righteousness of Christ. It is not, however, therefore wrong to mourn, to be grieved, by our sins. Sin remains bad, though God reveals his glory by judging sin. Indeed, our opinion of sin ought to be the same as God's: we ought to hate it, because it is evil, and thus we ought to consider it worthy of judgment. This is our sorrow: that something which speaks against God came to be. This, then, our comfort: that our sin has been judged by God in the body of Christ who took the sin on himself of those joined into his body by the Holy Spirit, to save us to himself.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Worry Versus Sorrow

Do not worry about anything. Weep with those who weep.

God does not worry, since he is in control, thus we need not worry, since he is good. God does weep for the wrongs of the world, indeed, he rights wrongs, because they displease him. Our reactions to the wrong of the world, then, ought to be sorrow, even anguish, because this is not how things ought to be.

To worry is to doubt the sovereignty of God. To not feel sorrow is to act as if it is not wrong. To feel glad is to act as if it is right. Rejoice in the Lord always, he is right. Weep for the evils of the world, with sorrow and even anguish, because those evils, those wrongs, speak against the glory of God, and rejoice, for God will set all things right, judging the evil and healing the broken. Glory be to God.

Work and Grace

One of the hardest thing to phrase is the distinction between law-doing and grace-doing. It is so easy to say "try," but try is so often heard as law, not gospel. What is the difference between them? How does one say "you should do this," without bringing law down on them? Even more practically, how does one act in grace? If I say "I should do this," how do I do so in the law of grace, and not the law of works?

We are saved, and so live, by the power of the Holy Spirit. If our life is because of the Spirit, then all that we do should be impelled, propelled, by the Spirit. How do I live like this? I pray for the Spirit to indwell me more and more, to impel and propel me to good works more and more. How do I pray? By the Spirit, who, even if we do not know how to pray, intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Thus, in all that we do, it is no longer we who do, but Christ who does in us. To respond to questions with "I'm trying," is good in the willingness to be unfinished, but all our trying must be God working in us. It is not that I am still trying to do this thing, since it is impossible for me, but it is God who is still working on, even in me, since all things are possible for, and thus with, him. Depend, therefore, on God, who raises the dead, to enliven you to good works, not done by yourself, but done as a gift from God, that is, good works given by God, which he has prepared for us, to give them to us to walk in. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10. This verse is not a command that we ought to do, but a promise that God has set us to do, by his power, that is, by our being created in Christ Jesus. "That we should walk in them" not that it is dependent on our will, but that, because we walk in Christ, we will walk into, through, in, the good work which have been prepared for us--not in a way that removes our responsibility, but in a way that makes us able, indeed, unable not to do the good which has been set in our way to do because of our being in Christ and thus walking by the Spirit, which we do by the will of the Father who set us apart for salvation.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Brokenness and Gospel-Revival

I have said before that when I hear people pray for revival, I often think they don't know what they are praying for. Revival looks like broken people seeing their brokenness and turning in repentance to our Savior, Christ Jesus.

Just as the prophets bounce back and forth between condemning God's people and promising God's grace to them, so, in lives, when God tears people's lives down, and apart, so that they have nothing to stand on, he so often follows it by setting them on Christ as the rock and foundation of their lives. Yes, there are times when people's lives fall apart and they reject Christ, but then it is not our Christ they reject, but a false Christ. Or why do they expect an easy life? We are saved by a suffering king, one who took on himself our pain. Do we expect to be greater than our savior? So we rely on him, the powerful and good God of the universe. Because he is powerful and good, we need not fear when evil surrounds us, for he is with us. Therefore, depend on him when evil does surround you, for he is there. Not because you will see him act--praise God if you do--but because he will act. Therefore we act in faith, assuming that God works in that, not that we will necessarily see it, but because we will praise God for it because he has told us that he works in and through us. Indeed, to see God work in us is for God to work through us in those who see God's great power work to miraculously change lives.

When people pray for revival, they expect changed lives. When there appears to be satanic attacks, praise God that we have been counted worthy to suffer for him, and that we are such an affront to the Enemy as to warrant it. And have hope: our Enemy is an idiot, when he most won, in killing the messiah, he killed himself. It is no different any other time. The great force of such attacks will press us to lean upon and rely on and worship and glorify our king. He may make us know our sin and death. That will cause us to realize our need of Christ's righteousness and life. And that will cause us to praise our great High Priest who intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father, and to rely on the Spirit who empowers us to act according to his will, and glory in our redeemer.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Why the Via Negativa Irritates Me

The Via Negativa or "Negative Way" is a way of speaking about God which limits itself to negative statements. The assumption is that we cannot say who God is, only what he is not. Thus, anything we can say about God is more wrong than right. Whatever similarity there may be between something we say and how God is, there is a much greater dissimilarity.

To show why I really hate much of any emphasis on this method of theology, let me point to a test case: God is love. The Bible has a huge number of positive statements about who God is, and only negatively in order to correct misunderstandings. The negative statements are often there to emphasize the positive ones. To follow the Via Negativa I would have to say that, when I say "God is love" I am speaking by analogy, that I mean that the closest I can come to expressing this emotion of God's is to call it love. What then? Are we not to love as he loved? Do not the Scriptures themselves define what we are to understand by this word "love"? I do say that God's love is greater than any mere human love can be, but I most definitely assert that it is of the same sort, but purer, greater, stronger, unflinching. So great that, even while we were yet sinners, he died for us.

This is a God we can know, not merely by the shadows he casts on the world, but by his entrance into the world. Yes he is greater than we are, but we are made in his image. We have, by the Spirit of God, the mind of God, to know God. Is God too weak to be able to communicate himself accurately in human language? Is he unable to lift us up by his Spirit to know him? Indeed, we will know him fully one day, just as we are fully known, but that is not to say that we do not know him now, we are in Christ, we see with his eyes. Whoever has seen the Son has seen the Father, and we who are saved by Christ have been made able to see Christ, the Son.

It may be appropriate to say that what we say may not communicate fully what we mean. We may find ourselves unable to quite articulate what we mean by what we say, but to infer from this that we ought to settle for this in any degree is to give up at some point. Rather, though we admit that we do not always succeed in saying fully who God is, yet we have tools given by God which we ought to therefore use to speak about God as much as possible. It may take a book to articulate to some degree of accuracy one point of one doctrine of some aspect of God, but the length does not mean it is impossible. If saying that God is such-and-such is so inaccurate, then write more, tell me in what ways it is inaccurate, or you have told me nothing useful. How can I worship a God for what I know he is not? That would be only to worship a lack of evil, not a fullness of God.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dangers of Revivalism

I am surrounded by people praying for revival. This is a good thing, but I am not always encouraged by it. I want the prayers to be answered literally, but fear that the people praying do not know what they are asking for. I am also sometimes concerned when we start expecting it with an attitude of ought, that is, when we start thinking that God ought to give us a revival. These are hard to avoid, and I have certainly fallen into them on occasion, but they are no better for that.

God owes us nothing. The gospel is that he gave us his only son. Now, if he has given us his son, anything more is as nothing in comparison. Thus we can pray boldly for revival. The problem is when we start viewing it as a right. Our faith is a gift, and with Christ comes all else. A revival in the church means nothing less than the resurrection of many dead who sit in the pews. To call it a revival is to admit that we once were, but are no longer, alive. That we need reviving is to imply that we are not vived, i.e., that we are not alive. To pray for revival, then, is to ask God to save those who sit under his word yet do not hear it. Why are we ever not praying for this? That many more would receive the gift of faith--that is revival. Revival is simply missions targeting the churched, and, through the churched becoming the saved, those who see the church being the church will know that we are Christ's church by our love.

This all sounds nice and pretty, but it is not really. Beautiful, yes, but not so much ordered, at least from what we can expect to see. To love one another is dangerous. We are still sinners. We will still rub each other the wrong way. We are all broken in our ways, and only Christ can fix us, and, though we are made new when we are saved by him, we are not quite as we will be. We are fixed, yet we are not fixed. We have been taken out from this world, yet we are still in it. We still struggle against sin, and some of us will not like to be around others of us, on account of our sins, yet we must see each other as forgiven, since that is how we are in Christ. Sinning, but also justified. Weep for the sin, weep with the sinner. Struggle to see in each person the image of God, how they reflect the nature of God in their life and in their works. May we be unwound to reflect him as we ought, and may we bear with one another as God bears with us, even though it costs us our lives.