FAITH: To Live By

Romans 4:20-21 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, (21) fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

How lovely. This is the faith (confidence) the justified LIVE by. God can give us a strong faith (thru the word of Christ, by the Spirit) in God, that He can deliver on His promises (which flow from Christ, the Amen!). This is the faith that glorifies God. This is the faith wherein we are sanctified.

SLIPPING: Need Chains?

Where the Gospel “seems” to lose traction – failing to “improve” our lives – we are apt to apply the chains of the Law in some form.

However, the believer’s traction, in whatever degree God causes it, is never apart from the Gospel itself.  In our beholding the person and work of Christ, the treads of the Gospel grip upon our lives, causing our minds and hearts to genuinely love God and neighbor.

The treads of the Spirit leave the marks of the Gospel.  So, let’s hang those Law-chains where they belong…upon the Cross.

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!

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).

REALITY: Grasping it with both Faith and Reason

The following are notes based upon a Ken Samples lecture, which can be listened to here:  Dangerous Ideas (part 4)

NOTES on Making Sense of Reality from a Christian Perspective – Compatibility of Faith and Reason

1)      Ultimate Metaphysical Question:

  1. Why is there “something” instead of nothing?
    1. Why does anything exist?

2)      The existence of God is the best explanation of reality.

  1. A cumulative argument is sufficient
    1. Being more plausible, credible, and reasonable
    2. Having ‘explanatory power’
    3. Not arguing for certainty, but plausibility
  2. We believe that to make sense of the world “faith” is essential
    1. Denial is a willful choice
      1. Fool: suppresses the truth
    2. Atheism requires a great faith
      1. They too have to bear the burden of proof, in explaining God’s alleged nonexistence in light of reality

3)      Reason does not cause faith, but reason supports faith

  1. Reason = general revelation
  2. Faith = special revelation
    1. The latter is in itself reasoning, but more particularly on the basis of special revelation and divine intervention
    2. The former reveals that it is epistemologically and morally inexcusable to reject a biblical faith; particularly that it would be irresponsible to do so without giving due consideration to the true nature of reality and how well a Christian faith coincides with it.

4)      C.L.E.A.R.

Cosmos: cosmological argument

Life: meaning realities

Ethics: objective, prescriptive realities

Abstractions: ultimate source of conceptions

Religion: sense of the divine

  1. COSMOS
    1. Cosmological Argument
      1. Singular beginning (origin)
      2. Order and elegance
      3. Fine tuning
    2. “Almost everyone believes there was a beginning of the Universe and Time.” Steven Hawking
      1. Matter, Energy, Space, and Time
        1. All have a mysterious origin
    3. Big Bang
      1. Bible: only holy book to address the particular dynamics of this
      2. Universe: 13 Billion years old
      3. Earth: 4 Billion years old
    4. A look into outer space displays an undeniable order
      1. The universe is just the right place for life
      2. Laws of physics do not demand a universe as such as we have.
        1. It doesn’t have to be the way it is to exist
        2. It does have to be the way it is for us to exist
        3. Extremely complex design requires an explanation that is not bound by the laws of physics
  2. LIFE
    1. Meaningful Realities
      1. Human consciousness; free-agency; and meaning
        1. Materialism, etc. cannot give us a plausible explanation for their existence.
  3. ETHICS
    1. Objective, prescriptive ethics
      1. Duties and Human Values
        1. Universally objective law
        2. Murder is always wrong
        3. Moral values are built into reality, our existence
        4. Why is there not absolute moral chaos?
          1. Atheism: Morality is invented, descriptive, and subjective
          2. Nazism could have been considered right, if they won the war!
    2. Problem of Good
      1. Why is there good?
      2. This is equally as important to answer as is the question of ‘why there is evil?’.
  4. ABSTRACTIONS
    1. Numbers; Logic; Propositions
      1. Conceptual realities
        1. Never in your life have you seen a number
          1. “9” is a symbol that represents a notion of nineness
          2. These make life meaningful and intelligible
            1. These come from the mind of God
            2. They are unexplainable on the basis of matter alone
              1. Physicalism; Materialism
  5. RELIGION
    1. Sense of the divine
      1. Awareness of God
      2. Universal religiosity of humanity
        1. Inherent in man
        2. Intuitive awareness
    2. Jesus Christ
      1. Called himself “God”
        1. “I am.”  (Jn.8)
        2. Matchless moral character
          1. In three years…turned the world upside-down
          2. Prolific miracle work
            1. His enemies never denied that He did them!
            2. Messianic prophecies
              1. Fulfilled
            3. Empty tomb
              1. Post-mortem appearances
              2. 500+ witnesses
            4. Paul’s conversion
              1. From Judaism to Christianity
                1. The equivalent of Hitler becoming a Jew!

The Christian faith, based upon the Holy Bible, makes the most sense of life, of reality.

GOSPEL: Moral Living or More on Him

Came across this quote a week ago or so:

“We do tend to reduce the Gospel to moral living and the American way of life. Even those of us in the church act as if God is powerless and we have to do everything for Him.  The early church knew a supernatural God who didn’t always do things the way they thought He ought to.  Maybe we should look to and rely more on Him and less on ourselves.”

LIFE & LIVING: Thru Faith in Christ

Question: “Does the Law serve ‘to correct and discipline’ Christians?”

Answer by St. John’s (abbreviated):


We are God’s children now…and hoping in Him…purifies us;

…believing in his Son Jesus Christ…is obedience.  (1Jn 3:2,3,23)


We live through Him…believing the love that God has for us

…having confidence for the day of judgment

…having no fear in love…for His perfect love casts out fear.

We love because He first loved us in Christ.  (1Jn 4:9,16-19)


We overcome the world, [flesh and devil]…by being born of God.

The victory?  Our faith…believing that Jesus is the Son of God!  (1Jn 5:4-5)

So then:  Whoever has the Son has Life! (1Jn 5:12)

We are from God!  Not as those living under the power of the evil one.  (1Jn 5:19)

My confidence:  Having faith in Christ, we know ourselves to be alive toward God and neighbor, governed by the Rule of His Spirit, even now.  (mjm)

FAITH: Thru the Spirit by Faith

God’s ways work God’s way:

Spirit of God is received by hearing with faith (Gal.3.2);

Spirit of God is supplied by hearing with faith (Gal.3.5);

Spirit of God is received by faith (Gal.3.14);

through the Spirit of God, by faith, we remain focused upon Christ (Gal.5.5);

in this way God sends the Spirit of His Son into our hearts (Gal.4.6);

and it is by this very Spirit we will be made to walk (Gal.5.16),

bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5.22).

So then, by faith, we both live by and walk by the Spirit (Gal.5.25).

Or, as Paul says elsewhere, it is by faith in Christ that the righteous shall live (Gal.3.11).

Having begun (justification) in the Spirit, we continue (sanctification) in the Spirit, and finish (glorification) in the Spirit (Gal.3.3).

Whereas, the Law (striving by/under it) isn’t of faith (Gal.3.12)!!!

DOGMATISM: Flesh-beat-en(-ing)

A thought or two regarding Fundamentalism.

A leading characteristic of Fundamentalism would be Dogmatism.  This is really nothing more than a Letter-driven (as opposed to Spirit-driven (Gospel-based and -contextualized)) approach.  Instead of a ‘faith’ in Christ orientation, the Dogmatist’s way is generally one rooted in ‘fear’ – though lip service is paid to the Gospel.  The latter has a way of *driving* sheep (the believer, the local church) this-way-and-that, whereas the former sees the Gospel ministry as one of *guiding* the sheep in the Way (in faith toward Christ…for all of salvation…sanctification included). 

Here’s what I’m getting at… anything that is said/done in the name of Christ that isn’t consciously and intentionally – rooted and grounded in the Gospel – is something other than a Gospel ministry, no matter how “moral”/”biblical” it sounds.  Ours is not to be “biblical” but “Christian” and I think we can be found standing in the former without possessing the latter necessarily.  We are not then to be found in Moses seat (Mt.23.2).  Subscription to “biblical norms” does not mean one is clinging in faith to Christ for each and every aspect of salvation…including His growing us up grace and knowledge of Him (i.e., sanctification, godliness). 

Paul puts it this way…there are those of us who “have the form (appearance) of godliness, but essentially deny its power” (2Tim.3.5).  For godliness is not ours to strive after as some commodity on the shelf that is just there for our taking, but the very working of God in us a faith and love, that, consistently beholds Christ’s righteousness/godliness (1Tim.1.4), and are thereby sovereignly and progressively brought into the likeness of His Image (2Cor.3.18).  In this way, Paul thought of Christ as our sanctification (1Cor.1.30).  The Gospel itself (the truth about Christ’s incarnation, righteousness, death, resurrection, and ascension…His doing not ours) is the only thing whereby God brings about the peaceable fruits of righteousness among His people (Phil.1.11; Col.1.6).

In other words, the Flesh can strive in form and yet never connect to the Source…Christ crucified and risen (Rom.8.3-15).  How we answer the following betrays our actual stance toward God and our brother:  “Are disciples of Christ made by 1) inputting the right commands, or are they 2) fashioned by beholding (Christ’s glory in the scandal of the Cross) and thereby found living in the Way?”

As I’ve said before…fundamentalism is readily found wherever people are finding their hope to be in their law-keeping and not Christ’s (even where we don’t do this in regards to justification, but more so sanctification). This is true of even we who claim to embrace the doctrines of grace.  A sounder grasp of the relationship of the Law/Gospel (particularly what the two have to do with Christ himself) genuinely and lastingly keeps things in a Christian perspective.

Just two cents worth.

MUSING: Less is More

A few random thoughts from this past week (or two) loosely tied together: 

We all are wired for self-righteousness, regardless of what form it most manifests itself in…legalism or licentiousness.  Fact is, we as believers will always (this side of Glory) struggle with what we do RIGHT and WRONG, both.  Granted, daily we’re faced with our own shortcomings.  Yet, Mr. RIGHT has the same fundamental problem…SELF-righteousness.  Either way, Christ’s righteousness is always alien.  But for His ongoing graciousness, we’d have ZERO participation in the Kingdom.  ZERO! 

Do not kid yourself for a moment, brethren; all of us are struggling to live according to faith in Christ.  He who does not think so is the greater fool.  Faith does not come as a commodity we pull off the shelf at Wal-Mart.  So yes, there are God given means to His giving/sustaining/nurturing us in faith, but the measure too is His, not only the means

As someone once said, our growing in grace is about our becoming more realistic (honest) about our being human.  Becoming a Christian is about our no longer “being as gods”.  It is tough for us (and understandably so) to get very comfortable with ourselves, even in Christ.  The entirety of our days are spent laboring according to a performance model.  No labor, no pay!  Yet, the whole of the Christian Faith is hinged on an entirely different model…Christ crucified for sinners (which we remain while here).  So, daily we struggle between (confusing) the two, on top of the fact that the world goes round and round like this, we have a natural inclination to perform and be stroked for doing so.  God’s plan is different.  He does all the essential work!  He does all the salvationing.

So then, let us not get bogged down in wondering too long, about how self-righteous we might still be.  ALL of us are Selfish and everyday this kills us; and boy does it ever hurt.  I hate it!   

I hope that anyone who hears me is reminded of at least two things: 1) God saves, and 2) We are sinners (and we never quite get over either one).  

The world (and sadly much of the Church) hates it when we say…screw that idea of our “measuring up!”  Christ is our measure and may this – by His mercy – become something central in our lives.  We who hate this have a common response: “What, aren’t you going to do anything?!”  NO.  NO.  NO.  HE HAS!  Get over it!  God help us to think in this way without lacking due charity.

The equation then is this: 

Less = More  (< = >). 

Less of us, and the totality of Christ! 

Christ then is our YES! YES! YES!

Depths: Of Sorrow and Joy

Octavius Winslow once wrote:

 “As our deepest sorrow flows from a sense of sin, so our deepest joy springs from a sense of its forgiveness…This comfort have all the saints. Your sins, O believer, are forgiven. ‘I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins,’ says God (Isa. 44:22). You are not called upon to believe that God will pardon, but that He has pardoned you. Forgiveness is a past act; the sense of it written upon the conscience is a present one. ‘For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified’ (Heb. 10:14), has forever put away their sins…

“Thus, beloved, God comforts His conscience-troubled people. He loves so to speak to their hearts! Is it any delight to Him to see you carrying your burden of conscious sin day after day and week after week? Ah, no! He has procured the means of your pardon at a great price-nothing less than the sacrifice of His beloved Son- and will not the same love which procured your forgiveness, speak it to your heart?…Is sin your trouble? Does conscious guilt cast you down? Look up, disconsolate soul! There is forgiveness with God. It is in His heart to pardon you.”

Assurance: Christ Centered (not yoU-turned)

John Piper once said:

“Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being changed from one degree of glory to the next,” Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18. And we see the glory of the Lord, as he says five verses later, in the knowledge of the gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

“So fixing our minds and our hearts mainly on the center of the Bible—which is Christ crucified, risen, reigning, and providing an alien righteousness that we have by faith alone—this glorious center of the gospel is where hope is awakened, preserved, kindled, and assurance is maintained.

Gospel: ‘A’ or ‘Z’ (all or zilch)

Horatius Bonar once wrote:

“The truth is, that all that Christ did and suffered, from the manger to the tomb, forms one glorious whole, no part of which shall ever become needless or obsolete; no past of which can ever leave without forsaking the whole. I am always at the manger, and yet I know that mere incarnation cannot save; always at Gethsemane, and yet I believe that its agony was not the finished work; always at the cross, with my face toward it, and my eye on the crucified One, and yet I am persuaded that the sacrifice there was completed once for all; always looking into the grave, though I rejoice that it is empty, and that “He is not here, but is risen”; always resting (with the angel) on the stone that was rolled away, and handling the grave-clothes, and realizing a risen Christ, nay, an ascended and interceding Lord, yet on no pretext whatever leaving any part of my Lord’s life or death behind me, but unceasingly keeping up my connection with Him, as born, living, dying, buried, and rising again, and drawing out from each part some new blessing every day and hour.

Faith: Greatest Grace!

John Owen once wrote:

“Wherefore we say, the faith whereby we are justified, is such as is not found in any but those who are made-partakers of the Holy Ghost, and by him united unto Christ, whose nature is renewed, and in whom there is a principle of all grace, and purpose of obedience. Only we say, it is not any other grace, as charity and the like, nor any obedience, that gives life and form unto this faith; but it is this faith that gives life and efficacy unto all other graces, and form unto all evangelical obedience.

“…if it be intended that they are such a condition of the covenant as to be by us performed antecedently unto the participation of any grace, mercy, or privilege of it, so as that they should be the consideration and procuring cause of them, – that they should be all of them, as some speak, the reward of our faith and obedience, – it is most false, and not only contrary to express testimonies of Scripture, but destructive of the nature of the covenant itself.

Debate: Baptism

Here are links to the *baptism debate* between Schreiner and VanDrunen.

Here: Grace Reformation Church

Here: Introduction

Here: Credobaptist View: by Tom Schreiner

Here: Paedobaptist View: by David VanDrunen

Here: Q&A Session

 

Both of these men expressed in a most charitable manner their own particular views.  Well done!

Personally, I most appreciate Schreiner’s argument.  In these sessions he accomplishes more to define a sound biblical/theological view than even the book he co-edited, entitled Believer’s Baptism.  The book was decent, but here in this debate he presents a rather cogent argument of faith in the *word* of the Gospel preceding the *sign* of the Gospel. 

At the end of the day, Schreiner demonstrates what a consistent redemptive-historical scope of Scripture should look like, particularly as it applies to Christ’s person and work being the resolve of all Old Testament covenants.  Schreiner’s thinking maintains the biblical-theological momentum that sets the context for understanding New Covenant baptism.

VanDrunen’s comments certainly have appreciable value.  And, he demonstrated well, within his demeanor, the graciousness of the Gospel ministry. 

Elsewhere, Lee Irons explains how that circumcision and baptism are not equal, as is commonly thought among paedoists.  Of course, Lee isn’t arguing a credoist position but is honest enough to admit that this circumcision/baptism line of thinking doesn’t hold up.   (Sorry, I don’t recall exactly where Irons makes such comments, but it is somewhere within his lengthy The Unfolding Mystery series.

A hearty thanks to Grace Reformation Church for hosting and sharing this debate.  It provides a great resource for us who once baptised our infants and now understand differently.  As we listened to the entirety of the debate, my 13yr old twins and 15yr old had opportunity to hear both sides and be able to see something of the concerns that dear old dad (and mom!) had/has, which disrupted our relations with the local Presbyterian church.  It was interesting to hear their comments that were prompted by the arguments themselves. 

For me personally, it was coming to understand the currents of redemptive history that caused me (after years of consciously embracing a paedoist systematic) to question the validity of what is now seen as a rather mono-lithic view, paedoism.  Actually, as I studied Vos, Kline, Ridderbos, Calvin, Goldsworthy, Irons, Riddlebarger and others, their fine two-age/two-adam/two-kingdom/law|gospel hermeneutic began to cause me to question their handling of the promise/fulfillment in Christ as it pertained to baptism.  As this developed over the course of a few years, I began to take a closer look at the ‘proof texts’ for paedoism, and became convinced otherwise.  It was then, that, I began to listen to what Baptist’s had to say and found some of it to be quite weak.  In time, I happened upon materials by folks like Schreiner, which helped confirm what I was now seeing in the Text. 

 

Get over it…NOT!

Gerhard Forde wisely stated:

“In this life, we never quite get over grace, we never entirely grasp it, we never really learn it. It always takes us by surprise. Again and again we have to be conquered and captivated by its totality. The transition will never be completed this side of the grave. The Christian can never presume to be on the glory road, nor to reach a stage, which now forms the basis for the next stage, which can be left behind. The Christian who is grasped by the totality of grace always discovers the miracle anew. One is always at a new beginning. Grace is new everyday. Like the manna in the wilderness, it can never be bottled or stored. Yesterday’s grace turns to poison. By the same token, however, the Christian never has an endless process of sanctification to traverse. Since the totality is given, one knows that one has arrived. Christ carries the Christian totally.”

Just do it!

John Piper once preached:

What Then Shall Those Who Are Justified Do with the Law of Moses?

Read it and meditate on it as those who are dead to it as the ground of your justification and the power of your sanctification. Read it and meditate on it as those for whom Christ is your righteousness and Christ is your sanctification. Which means read and mediate on it to know Christ better and to treasure him more. Christ and the Father are one (John 10:30; 14:9). So to know the God of the Old Testament is to know Christ. The more you see his glory and treasure his worth, the more you will be changed into his likeness (2 Corinthians 3:17-18), and love the way he loved – which is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:10).

I say it again. What shall you do with the law – you who are justified by faith alone apart from works of the law? Read it and meditate on it to know more deeply than you have ever known, the justice and mercy of God in Christ, your righteousness and your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gospel Connection

Tim Keller had said,

“…in the gospel, repentance reconnects you to the source of your power and your confidence and your joy. Why? Because the source of your self image, the source of your power, the source of your confidence is not your record, but his record. Not what you have done, but what he has done.”

Christians, Partly Unbelievers

Mk.9.24. “I believe; help my unbelief!”

 

John Calvin, commenting on the text, stated:

“He declares that he believes, and yet acknowledges himself to have unbelief.  These two statements may appear to contradict each other, but there is none of us that does not experience both of them in himself. As our faith is never perfect, it follows that we are partly unbelievers; but God forgives us, and exercises such forbearance towards us, as to reckon us believers on account of a small portion of faith. It is our duty, in the meantime, carefully to shake off the remains of infidelity which adhere to us, to strive against them, and to pray to God to correct them, and, as often as we are engaged in this conflict, to fly to him for aid. If we duly inquire what portion has been bestowed on each, it will evidently appear that there are very few who are eminent in faith, few who have a moderate portion, and very many who have but a small measure.”

 

Kim Riddlebarger on Mark 9.24, goes on to say:

“Calvin had it right.  Because of indwelling sin, each one of us remains partly an unbeliever until we die. This means that we will constantly struggle with faith, doubt, and with indwelling sin. Remember that the law is written on our hearts. The gospel is not. This is why we need to continually hear the word preached, and why we need to receive the sacraments on a regular basis. When we do so, we are saying “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” This man’s words are very much our own–or they should be. This should be our confession….

 

“It is precisely because we are partly unbelievers that we need to hear the gospel…. As partial unbelievers, our faith is weak and we go about the motions without the power and blessing of God, we will fail. But in Jesus, we have every resource we will ever need, and that without limit or measure.”

 

“Jesus knows we are partly unbelievers. It is not the strength of faith, nor the intensity of faith, that he’s looking for. It is the presence of faith. He simply asks us to trust in him, and seek his power through prayer. And when we do so, everything is possible. But it is only possible when we confess, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”