BELIEF: Hard work!

As believers, we all stand by grace answering the hardest call…”believe and be-living!”

What we experience when moving away from grace is not liberty, but the bonds of legality, whether formally or practically.  (Yes, licentiousness is a form of legalism.)  Where we are not overcome by the abundance of His life-giving love…we are apt to be found attempting to build ourselves up into His image.

Idolatry is banished only in the light of God’s glory beheld in the face of Jesus Christ.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you!

GRACE: Living with it!

Here’s another good program at the White Horse Inn.  Mike Horton interviews Elyse Fitzpatrick regarding her new book.  However, the conversation is not merely about the “new book” but more so about the nature of the Gospel as it bears upon our life…the whole of it, to include the struggle to trust in our approval in Christ alone (and not ourselves) and our failures in sin.

The program:  Give Them Grace

RIGHTEOUS: Trying to be?

I came across this recently in Piper’s book entitled Think.  In principle, this seems to apply quite well to believers, particularly as we struggle to live under grace and not the Law.

In relation to Rom.10.2-3…

“They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” 

Piper writes:

Here is the root of their suicidal zeal for God.  In all their thinking about God and his righteousness, they missed the main point – that it is a free gift for faith.  When they seek to establish their own righteousness, they are not submitting to the righteousness of God.  In fact, their effort to establish their own righteousness is rebellion and insubordination against the righteousness of God.  This is why they are not saved.

But you can hear the zealous kinsmen of Paul cry out in defense: “Wait a minute!  You do us entirely wrong.  It is precisely our efforts to establish righteousness in our lives that is our submission to God’s righteousness.  What else would subjection to God’s righteousness look like, except the zeal to establish righteousness in our lives so that it come into conformity to God’s righteousness?  What would you want us to do – be indifferent to whether we are righteous or not?”

But Paul says that when you live this way – when you labor to show yourself righteous so that God will accept you – you are not submitting to God’s righteousness; you are in rebellion against God.  Why?  Because God’s righteousness is a gift of free and sovereign grace, not a merited attainment by human effort – or even a Spirit-wrought performance of relative success in holiness (sanctification).  And since it is always and entirely a free gift, submission to it means receiving righteousness as a gift.

The way that gift comes is described in Rom.10.4 “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”  All of God’s law was leading to Christ for righteousness for all who believe.  By faith we receive Christ.  And in Christ we have the righteousness of God.  “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Cor.5.21). This is what they were ignorant of, and therefore, Paul says, they had a zeal for God and were not saved.

…Paul’s kinsmen needed to see that the righteousness of God that they lacked was a free gift of that same grace.  It comes only through union with Christ by faith.  And when it comes, it brings in its train the power to love (Rom.13.8; Gal.5.6).

NEW COVENANT: New or merely “Newer”?

In this broadcast (White Horse Inn: The New Covenant), it was mentioned at least twice, that, the New Covenant isn’t “NEW” but “NEWER”. Such a distinction makes Jesus to have inaugurated a new covenant that’s merely a refreshed understanding of the old covenant, rather than a new one that supplants an old one (Heb.8.13).

Mr. Riddlebarger made reference to both of the Greek terms for “NEW”, emphasizing one (kainos) and not the other (neos). This seems to miss that both apply to the New Covenant (see Heb.8.812:24), making this covenant both new in quantity (recent) and quality (fresh), not merely NEWER as stated.

TRUST: Reliability of Apostolic Witness

“The whole of the Christian faith is based on certain historical realities, occurrences and statements that happened sometime in the past.  These events have to do, fundamentally, with the identity of one man, Jesus of Nazareth.  Can we trust the information we have about Him?”

Read entire article:  Matthew and John on the Witness Stand

CHRIST: The Unity/Disunity of Old and New Covenants

* NCT on Continuity *

OC/NC continuity exists in the Person of Jesus.  He’s in the OC shadows and then comes forth in NC glory (Col.2.17; Heb.8.5; 10.1; 2Cor.3.10).  ALL of Scripture is the revelation of Jesus (Lk.24.27; Acts3.22; Jn.5.46).

* NCT on Discontinuity *

ALL prior covenantal form/function is transformed (reformed – Heb.9.10; 7.12; Jer.31.31-34) in the Person of Jesus, who is the New Covenant himself (Isa.42.6; 49.6,8; Zec.9.11; Lk.22.20; Heb.13.20).

* NCT on OC Law *

1)      Provoked sin/Promised life

2)     Represented Adam

3)     Prefigured Christ (then)

4)     Incarnate in Christ (now)

* NCT on CT *

1)      CT emphasis = continuity of covenants

2)     NCT emphasis =  FULFILLMENT in Christ!

* NCT on God’s one eternal purpose *

1)      Fulfilled in Jesus (Eph.3.11)

2)     Fully revealed thru Jesus (Eph.1.9-10)

Jesus is our covenant and our law, just as he is our union and our righteousness.

QUESTION: Eternal Law?

In response to a question from a friend at church, about the notion of an Eternal Law and Romans 5 & 7:

Personally, I don’t believe Paul’s (pre-Christian) existence was ever apart from the Mosaic Law. As was Jesus, so too Paul was “born under the law”…all Jews were. (Consider Gal.4:4; Phil.3:5) Gentiles, though not having been born under the Law, per se, were born under the condemnation of Adam’s law-transgression. So they all, Gentiles and Jews are born condemned by the transgression of another. More about this below.

As for the “eternality” of law…we know that the Mosaic Law wasn’t eternal, in that it was set in place over Israel 50 days after the Passover and not before. As for the Law of Christ…it (the Rule of the Spirit) was given 50 days after his becoming the Passover, at Pentecost. At Pentecost, the Lord held forth his Scepter, Rule, in the sense that he sent forth his Spirit to now indwell (rule-within) his people. This new law, Holy Spirit Indwelling, operates antithetically to the Old Law, Mosaic.

The Mosaic Law-Precept: which provokes the Flesh unto Sin – being merely external demand of righteousness. (note: all external laws have this same impact on believer and unbeliever)

The Messianic Law-Spirit: who promotes a faith unto righteousness – being an internal creator of righteousness.

(Consider 2Cor.3:3)

I follow the reasoning…God is eternal…therefore…his law is eternal. It seems a rational inference, but I’m not sure it is a biblical one. Rather, I think Paul would have us to see the Mosaic Law typologically…being a shadowy reflection of that righteousness which is revealed in the person Jesus Christ. (Consider Rom.3:21-22)

Now, Israel was once without the Law…pre-Exodus captivity in Egypt. Once the Law came…they sinned instantly. (Consider Ex.32:4) Note: in Ex.19:7-8 the people had already begun to receive the Law, though it was yet (Ex.20ff) to be engraved in stone. It was the actual giving of the Law in Ex.19 that provoked Israel to idolatry, golden calf. (Consider Rom.5:20; Gal.3:19)

Those who lived prior to this covenant law giving, are those who lived from Adam to Moses. They lived under the death-reign earned by Adam because of his one transgression, though their individual sins were not counted as command transgressions as was Adam’s, who was like the One to come, Christ. We believe then that Adam and Christ both function as representative heads under two particular commands. How each succeeded under his respective command determined the fate of all those whom they represented, even though those represented did not themselves transgress or uphold the particular command. (Consider Rom.5:14-19)

The Law was given then (Rom.5:20) to increase the trespass of Adam, confirming that all men are condemned in Adam, apart from Christ. Israel then typified Adam as Adam prefigured Christ. Israel was created under a command context like the one Adam was created under, and hereby God illustrates in one people (Israel) the nature and effect of Adam’s one transgression, thus setting up a command context in which the Messiah would fulfill all righteousness, thereby winning salvation and bearing our sin.

THOUGHTS ON: NC Thinking

From a discussion held elsewhere:

The COG paradigm is not going to be found in NC thinking.  Though there are of course gracious elements to the Old Covenant…that Covenant itself wouldn’t be seen as gracious, as is the New Covenant.  OC is per Code (Do this and live!).  NC is per Christ (Having done this that we might live!).

The driving force behind NC thinking is “Christ as the unity of all redemption and revelation.”  This makes the idea of “covenant” to be something other than a primary motif, though it certainly factors into the role of Christ as hermeneutical key.

Unity is thought to be in Christ himself, filling up and fulfilling all covenants leading unto the Incarnation.  Essentially, Christ is understood to be the incarnation of all that the OC Law demands and OC Prophets promise.  Hence, typologically speaking, Christ is the link between the OC covenants as they unfold throughout the OT.

All OC typological (ectypal) realities are subsumed in Christ, the archetypal reality.

Christ would be understood as the colligate of all redemption and revelation, and not a theological category of ‘covenant of grace’.

LAW: of Christ

A few thoughts on the Law of Christ:

1) Law of Christ is not essentially an external ‘code’ we abide by.
2) Law of Christ is not merely an ethic.
3) Law of Christ is Christ, indwelling by the Spirit, thereby ruler of our hearts through faith, bearing fruit unto God.

The Law of Christ/Spirit/Faith is the personal work of God within those he possess, the results of which bears out a two-fold love, of God and neighbor. The former being generated by his love *for* us; the latter being his love shed *in* us.

The Law of Christ is the Indwelling Incarnate (Spirit written on the heart) to which former shadowy types pointed. This New Law differs in *form*…being the living God in us, not merely his code outside of us. This New Law differs in *function*…causing his own people to obey, not provoking them to sin.

The New and Old Law bear the likeness to their respective covenants. The New is the fullness of all prior covenants, in Christ’s fulfilling all the old Law and Prophets, which testify to him. The New Law and Spirit of Prophecy is Christ himself. Christ is the Incarnation of all former types: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, etc; none of which covenants continue binding in form or function upon the people of God under the New Covenant.

Code or Christ?

Another helpful article by John Dunn:  Puritan Experientialism

John provides some insight into the legal focus of Subjectivism practiced by Puritanism and its heirs.

Our attention is drawn to the realities of the Gospel…and not the Law…as the sufficient and effective revelation of God’s righteousness.  Fact is, that Christ himself is the incarnate revelation of God’s righteousness.  Righteousness is a Person.  Righteousness is not a precept, though the former precept bore witness to the Person of Righteousness.  This Person not only fulfilled all righteousness, but is the Fullness of Righteousness.  He is the Standard, not merely as code-keeper and code-enforcer, but in and of Himself.  This King is personally the Rule(r).

Seeking a ‘standard’ (code) of righteousness to keep us in line with God or a misinformed conscience, is not the way of Christ for us.  Rather, Christ himself indwells us by the Holy Spirit, as our Ruler, not merely informing us in precept, but calling us to faith that He is Righteousness in us.

These things are the Apostle Paul’s refrain:

Rom 3:21-22
(21) But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it–
(22) the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
Rom 1:16-17
(16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
(17) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Rom 10:3-4
(3) For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.
(4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
 

This is the Rule of Faith in which we must persevere, hold fast to…Christ is righteousness ‘for us’ and ‘in us’!!!

NCT: Christ Over All Things

A must read:  Chad Bresson: What is New Covenant Theology

Excellent; excellent!

I trust this will prove to be something of a catalyst in aiding people to think seriously about the NEWNESS of the NC in Christ.

Appreciate the labor! May the Lord continue to bless, providing us a clearer vision of God’s face in Christ Jesus. He continues to rend the veil that we might behold, believe and be-formed.

LEGALISM: Of the Gospel

The Progression of LEGAL-ism

Legalizing the Gospel,

leads to a legalization of the Church,

which leads to a legalization of the Christian,

who in turn lives to legalize the World.

—-

PS

By the phrase “legalizing the Gospel” the following is meant:

1) Either the Law is viewed as the Good News that converts

the soul;

2) Or, the Law is added to the Gospel (making it no gospel).

In both cases…Christ’s mercies and merits are trumped by Moses.

Kingdom: One or Two? (part 1)

Here is an interesting conversation over at Office Hours (WSC) on Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms.  Though I am not a fan of some of the Reformed (covenantal) distinctives presented here (e.g. Sabbath-keeping; strict Regulative Principle of Worship; etc) this conversation does help to sort out some of the distinctives of what I would consider a sound understanding of a New Covenant perspective on the Two Kingdoms.

Back on March 14, 2010, The White Horse Inn also hosted VanDrunen to speak about what natural law is and how it relates to the Lord Jesus Christ.

VanDrunen seeks to answer questions like:

What is natural law?

Is it consistent with Reformed theology?

How about the Two Kingdoms approach to the relationship between Christianity and culture?

Here are some of my notes from the March 14th White Horse Inn program:

  • To start out, VanDrunen takes time to explain the difference between the two distinct notions of 1) TWO CITIES and 2) TWO KINGDOMS
    • TWO CITIES
      • Regarding the TWO CITIES, we are talking about the CITY OF GOD and the CITY OF MAN
        • An individual is either a citizen of one or the other (not both!).
        • There is NO OVERLAP of the two cities.
  • TWO KINGDOMS
    • Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Man
      • KINGDOM OF GOD
        • Heavenly
        • Eternal
        • Holy Spirit-ruled in the light of the Gospel
        • Christ, Cult-centered
        • Sacred
      • KINGDOM OF MAN
        • Earthly
        • Temporal
        • Natural Law-ruled in light of nature
        • Culture-centered
        • Secular
    • An individual CHRISTIAN has a dual-citizenship, being related to both Kingdoms
      • There is an OVERLAP of these two kingdoms, within the people who are members of both, Christians.
      • The ‘unbeliever’ is not a member of the Kingdom of God, and is therefore a member of only the temporal Kingdom of Man.
    • All ‘unbelievers’ ultimately have but a ONE KINGDOM perspective, and so too many who are believers who adhere to non-biblical notions that blur the line of distinction between two real, biblically understood kingdoms (i.e., Christ and Caesar).
      • FUNDAMENTALISM (of whatever strip) is always a predominantly single kingdom perspective
      • NEO-CALVINISM (Theonomy; Dutch Transformationalism; etc) is typically a single kingdom perspective
      • BROAD-EVANGELICALISM is typically a single kingdom perspective
      • HIGHER-LIFE thinking runs along a single kingdom perspective
      • CHARISMATIC thinking runs along a single kingdom perspective
      • PIETISM/MORALISM also find their bearing to be more of a single kingdom perspective, making everything to be either holy or wicked, missing the biblical distinction between common, holy, and wicked

Stay tuned.  More to come on Natural Law and Religious Liberty!

GNOSTICISM: A Perennial Philosophy

An excellent lecture by Peter Jones: A Gnostic Gospel

As usual, Peter provides us an informed look at Gnosticism and its revival in our time.

A few notes from this lecture:

1)      Gnosticism:

  1. Dualism on the back of Monism
  2. A perennial philosophy
    1. Assuming a spirit behind everything
  3. Is the bridge for Paganism to enter into culture
  4. A parasite on the Church
    1. In “word” it pretends to be Christian
    2. In “spirit” it practices Paganism
  5. A “spiritual” view of existence
    1. A planetary vision
    2. Geo-logians propagate it
      1. Utilizing notions of “Mother Nature”
      2. Re-inventing humanity
  6. A “progressive spirituality”
    1. A worldwide scope; a cosmic view
    2. Not like the “New Age” which was particularly “self-centered”
    3. Two Tiers of Consciousness
      1. Myth (i.e., Theism, etc)
      2. Reality (i.e., Monism)
    4. Also described as “integral-spirituality”
  7. Manifests itself on two fronts:
    1. Inter-faith Mysticism
      1. A shared spiritual experience
      2. Uniformity of belief is not necessary
      3. Progressive-Christianity flows within this stream
      4. Intellect is not the medium, but Imagination is the way to mystery
      5. Experience is a higher authority than doctrine (i.e., Scripture, etc)
    2. Social Justice
  8. Pagan at its core
    1. A non-dualistic existence
      1. No Creator/creature distinction
      2. A non-binary world
    2. Seeking synthesis of everything through One-ism
      1. Syncretism: not in doctrine but experience
  9. Liberalism is always something of a form of Gnosticism, which seeks to sell social justice under the cloak of cheapened Christian jargon.

MATURITY: Christ-centered

A few insights into the nature of genuine spiritual maturity by Tullian T. (found here):

“It’s important to note that in these verses Paul doesn’t pray for something the Colossian Christians don’t have. Rather, he prays they will grow in their awareness and understanding of what they do have. Christian growth doesn’t happen by working hard to get something you don’t have. Christian growth happens by working hard to live in the reality of what you do have.

“I used to think that when the Bible tells us to work out our salvation, it meant go out and get what you don’t have-get more patience, get more strength, get more joy, get more love, and so on. But after reading the Bible more carefully I now understand that real gospel fruit happens, not as we “work harder” but only as we continually rediscover the gospel. You could put it this way: rediscovering the gospel is the hard work we’re called to.

“You see, the secret of the gospel is that we become more spiritually mature when we focus less on what we need to do for God and focus more on all that God has already done for us. The irony of the gospel is that we actually perform better as we grow in our understanding that our relationship with God is based on Christ’s performance for us, not our performance for him.

COUNTERFEIT: Gospels

A little something to ponder.  Another list (found here) that describes the typical ways we gravitate toward focusing elsewhere than upon Jesus Christ’s person and work:

Formalism. “I participate in the regular meetings and ministries of the church, so I feel like my life is under control. I’m always in church, but it really has little impact on my heart or on how I live. I may become judgmental and impatient with those who do not have the same commitment as I do.”

Legalism. “I live by the rules—rules I create for myself and rules I create for others. I feel good if I can keep my own rules, and I become arrogant and full of contempt when others don’t meet the standards I set for them. There is no joy in my life because there is no grace to be celebrated.”

Mysticism. “I am engaged in the incessant pursuit of an emotional experience with God. I live for the moments when I feel close to him, and I often struggle with discouragement when I don’t feel that way. I may change churches often, too, looking for one that will give me what I’m looking for.”

Activism. “I recognize the missional nature of Christianity and am passionately involved in fixing this broken world. But at the end of the day, my life is more of a defense of what’s right than a joyful pursuit of Christ.”

Biblicism. “I know my Bible inside and out, but I do not let it master me. I have reduced the gospel to a mastery of biblical content and theology, so I am intolerant and critical of those with lesser knowledge.”

Therapism. “I talk a lot about the hurting people in our congregation, and how Christ is the only answer for their hurt. Yet even without realizing it, I have made Christ more Therapist than Savior. I view hurt as a greater problem than sin—and I subtly shift my greatest need from my moral failure to my unmet needs.”

Social-ism. “The deep fellowship and friendships I find at church have become their own idol. The body of Christ has replaced Christ himself, and the gospel is reduced to a network of fulfilling Christian relationships.”

Oh, how subtle a shift it is from looking unto Jesus (worshipfully, etc) to embracing a counterfeit gospel.

CENTER: Of Gospel?

Recently came across the following list (go here); things that are NOT the center of the Gospel, yet are too often thought to be so.  I would add one more (perhaps its implied in the list): #56: The center is YOU!  Unfortunately, it isn’t all that uncommon to find folks who think the Gospel’s center is themselves (a.k.a. ‘My personal testimony’, etc.).

A shift from the True Center to a false center is hazardous to the well-being of both the Church and Christian.  Whatever supplants Christ’s person and work from the center becomes a so-called Gospel.  The implications of this idolatrous orbit around something other than Christ can be far-reaching, again, in the life of both the Church and Christian, and seemingly impossible to set right particularly if things have long centered on someone or something other than Jesus (incarnated, crucified, buried, risen, and ascended).  Fact is, the Gospel alone contains the truth and power to dislodge false-centers.

1. The center is what you do for society

2. The center is accepting all people through love

3. The center is the transformation of society so that we will we all live in peace

4. The center is separating ourselves from the sinful world

5. The center is about pointing out the sins of society

6. The center is about not pointing out the sins of society

7. The center is about maintaining the biblical view of the nuclear family

8. The center is about the sanctity of life and abortion

9. The center is about gender issues

10.  The center is political, voting Republican or Democratic, or not voting at all

11.  The center is social justice

12.  The center is being a good person

13.  The center is your devotion and piety

14.  The center is obeying the 10 commandments, and obeying the moral law of God

15.  The center is helping the church grow numerically

16.  The center is finding out new ways to help the church grow numerically

17.  The center is finding out works in the business world and bring into the church

18.  The center is finding out your generation’s needs, and give it to them in the name of Jesus

19.  The center is finding out what your culture needs, and give it to them in the name of Jesus

20.  The center is getting people involved in the church

21.  The center is about worshipping God

22.  The center is about contextualizing worship to each generation and culture, often through music

23.  The center is in political involvement to transform the values of society

24.  The center is studying the Bible

25.  The center is studying the commandments in the Bible so that we can figure out what we need to do in every situation in life

26.  The center is a literal hermeneutic

27.  The center is giving good exegetically sound sermons that help people understand God

28.  The center is giving encouraging sermons that cause people to action

29.  The center is giving encouraging sermons that are not over judgmental in tone

30.  The center is giving sermons that give insight and understanding in ways never realized by the audience

31.  The center is giving sermons that warn people about the judgment of hell to come

32.  The center is getting a top-notch preacher at your church

33.  The center is how to write exegetically sound and convincing papers on the problem passages in the Bible

34.  The center is the nature of God as Creator

35.  The center is a biblical worldview

36.  The center is having faith so that God will bless you materially and physically in this life

37.  The center is faith in the general attributes of God

38.  The center is faith in a specific attribute of God, such as omnipotence, holiness, graciousness, or justice.  This would lead to the spoken center being the sovereignty of God, the majesty of God, the adoration of God, the compassion of God, the grace of God, or the identification of the sins of the world

39.  The center is “trust and obey,” without a specific understanding of what we are trusting in.  The trust is usually the attributes of God, and that his commandments are true

40.  The center is spiritual-mystical, finding God through prayer and fasting

41.  The center is finding out what God is saying to you

42.  The center is that you are loved by God. The center is a good self-image and self-worth.

43.  The center is some theological system of understanding

44.  The center is the kingdom program of God

45.  The center is understanding a certain eschatological hope, or view on the Millenium.

46.  The center is the power of the Holy Spirit

47.  The center is spiritual warfare

48.  The center is having faith so that miracles can be done in your life

49.  The center is understanding the distinction, or non-distinction between Israel and the Church

50.  The center is accepting pre-determinism

51.  The center is Jesus, as he relates to compassion, but detached from his work on the cross

52.  The center is Jesus, as he relates to grace, but is detached from the work on the cross

53.  The center is Jesus, as he relates to discipleship and commitment, but detached from his work on the cross and the results of the triumph in his resurrection.

54.  The center is faith in Jesus, but this Jesus is vague and non-specific

55.  The center is all of the above

Principle to Hold: The Gospel Center is Jesus’ person, work on the cross for forgiveness of sins, and his resurrected triumph over death. From that center we understand the fuller work of the triumphant Christ, from his perfect life to his enthronement and return.  Again, some of the above statements are blatantly wrong, others have a high degree of truth in them.  Most are good, but good is not the center of the Gospel. It should be the goal of the theological student to understand how the Gospel Center relates to the above statements.

TIM KELLER on IDOLS:

We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case.  The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.  Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.