GOSPEL: Up or Down?

  1. Many of us see the Law for the mountain it really is.  Some of us see the Gospel as a climb that it really isn’t.
  2. The Law is a mount like Sinai, which we could never climb.  The Gospel is not the backside of the Law (Sinai), a more gradual slope we climb.
  3. The Gospel is God having come down to us in Christ Jesus,  not another way of making our way up to God.
  4. Beware of those who get the Law right, but turn the Gospel upside-down, by turning it into another Law.

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).

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’!!!

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.

BOOK REVIEW: The Naked Gospel

AMAZON BOOK REVIEW:  The Naked Gospel

[The following is my own book review. mjm]

Please, listen closely to all reviews that deem this book as faulty! And, note well, how, what Farley is teaching bears upon the criticisms by others about this book.  Some will say: “The book is off-track!” This is exactly right…The Naked Gospel is far from the garden-variety preaching/teaching we all have been subject to within much of the church.

The Gospel remains a stumbling block for all those who would seek life apart from and not in Christ Jesus, himself.

Our default mode: LAW!

Thank you, Andrew, for laboring to bring to light the Truth of the Gospel…Jesus is Our righteousness, Our life, Our rest, Our Lord! And as Lord…he literally RULES in the lives of those who believe (take Him at his word, that, He is Life!).

I have lived long enough (within the realm of works-righteousness) and alongside others who do the same to see the truth of Scripture confirmed that man is incurably self-righteous (even when it appears “godly”).

Chief Problem: IDOLATRY!

As Christians, we exercise some of the most blatant forms of IDOLATRY. That is, mingling grace (God’s image-making) and works (Our image-making). Failing to give up on our own “image-making” project (fashioning ourselves into God’s image), while missing how it is that God in Christ (the expresses image of God) goes about making us into His image.

Every IMPERATIVE of Scripture is FULFILLED in Christ.
Ultimately, every IMPERATIVE of Scripture is DESCRIPTIVE of the work of Christ “for” and “in” us.

Man is innately most comfortable in his own image-making…being as God.

For those who can’t readily swallow naked (non-sugar-coated!) Gospel-Truth (even as a Believer!)…there remains a degree of blindness and deafness to the REALITIES of Christ as fulfillment of all shadows (The Law). We become what we behold! Blind, deaf, and dumb? Or, seeing, hearing, and praising?

Farley’s work here is a great beginning to our continuing to unpack the essence of Christ crucified and risen, the New Creation.

APOSTASY: Masquerading as Gospel

Essentially, anything that poses as the Gospel or its equivelent is simply unbelief.  The Gospel stands completely on its own and needs nothing but the cross/resurrection of Jesus Christ to substantiate it.  Only the Gospel is gospel…and everything else…is something other. 

Related thoughts:

“Any cultural or political agenda embellished with such authority is a manifestation of “works righteousness” and ipso facto an act of apostasy. This theological proposition, over and beyond all prudential moral judgments, “hits” in all directions of the ideological spectrum; it “hits” the center as much as the left or the right. “Different gospels” lurk all across the spectrum. No value or institutional system, past or present or future, is to be identified with the gospel. The mission of the church is not to legitimate any status quo or any putative alteration of the status quo. The “okay world” of bourgeois America stands under judgment, in the light of the gospel, as does every other human society. Democracy or capitalism or the particular family arrangements of middle-class culture are not to be identified with the Christian life, and neither is any alternative political, economic, or cultural system. The vocation of the church is to proclaim the gospel, not to defend the American way of life, not to “build socialism,” not even to “build a just society” – because, quite apart from the fact that we don’t really know what this is, all our notions of justice are fallible and finally marred by sin. The “works righteousness” in all these “different gospels” lies precisely in the insinuation that, if only we do this or refrain from doing that, we will be saved, “justified.” But, as Paul tells us, “by works of the law shall no one be justified.” [Berger, “Different Gospels: The Social Sources of Apostasy,” Erasmus Lecture, January 22, 1987]”

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!

Gospel: Wherein We Behold Christ’s Present Glory

Gerhardus Vos once preached:

 

“In the Judaistic controversy which shook the early church, forces and tendencies were at work deeply rooted in the sinful human heart.  In modernized apparel they confront us still to the present day. There are still abroad forms of Christless gospel. There prevails still a subtle form of legalism which would rob the Savior of his crown of glory, earned by the cross, and would make of him a second Moses, offering us the stones of the law instead of the life-bread of the gospel. Let us pray that it may be given to the church to repudiate and cast out this error with the resoluteness of Paul. Let us pray that the gospel of Christ might be preached by Christ’s servants and thus be what it was to Paul and his converts, a mirror of vision and transfiguration after the image of the Lord.”

Cross: Burden of Preaching

Horatius Bonar once wrote:

“Man, in his natural spirit of self-justifying legalism, has tried to get away from the cross of Christ and its perfection, or to erect another cross instead, or to setup a screen of ornaments between himself and it, or to alter its true meaning into something more congenial to his tastes, or to transfer the virtue of it to some act or performance or feeling of its own. Thus the simplicity of the cross is nullified, and its saving power is denied. For the cross saves completely, or not at all. …Christ crucified is to be the burden of our preaching, and the substance of our belief, from first to last. At no time in the saint’s life does he cease to need the cross….”

Jesus + A Pinch of Trouble

Donald Hiebert writes:   “They [Judaizers] worked within the framework of the Christian church and claimed to be Christians, acknowledging Jesus as Messiah. But while they professed to accept Christ, yet in theory and practice they tended to minimize and neutralize Him. They robbed Christ of His uniqueness by putting other things on a level with Him as necessary to salvation.”

Practicality = Tending toward a Low-view of Law

Mike Horton:  “…the Law is reduced to practical tips. As a result, the bad news isn’t really that bad, and the good news isn’t really that good… So when people preach (or read) the Bible as a handbook of helpful tips or as a practical guide for happier living, they are not really encountering the Bible at all, despite their appeal to it.  If one comes to the Bible always looking for the ‘practical,’ that usually means that one will come looking for watered-down ‘Law.’  Remember, this is already our tendency, as Calvin’s successor, Theodore Beza, reminds us: ‘The Law is natural to man…But the gospel is a supernatural doctrine which our nature would never have been able to imagine nor able to approve without a special grace of God.’” (Modern Reformation magazine, 1999)

The lesser becoming the Greater

It is sad as to how easily ‘fools gold’ becomes the treasure of those who profess an allegiance to Jesus Christ.  We find a prime example of this at the graduate ceremonies of Patrick Henry College.  – G’M

 

PHC Commencement 2008 Celebrates God, Service, and Love 

PHC Chancellor Michael Farris introduced the former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate (Mike Huckabee) as “a person who beautifully articulates and lives out the goal of this College… which is to take the truths of Jesus Christ and His Word and translate them to a world in a manner that is winsome and articulate, so that anyone listening can see the common sense of following God.”

“No one is kept from the will of God because He’s holding it back,” [Huckabee] explained. “It’s not because God is unwilling to reveal it but because we’re not willing to obey it. He will not reveal our true purpose until we’ve given Him an absolute commitment… to accept the task even before we know what it is.  …“Perseverance,” he concluded, “is one of God’s greatest challenges to you. If you’re willing to take on those things everyone else runs from, chances are we’ll salute you one day.”

“I’m here to warn you,” [Caleb] Jones [a graduating student] began, “that as you seek meaning and significance in your life’s works… it will be hollow if you do not love. Love is not shown through programs, through job titles, government reform, or well managed organizations. Love is sacrifice, it is patience, it is kindness, it does not envy, it does not boast.  …“It’s easy to remember to be motivated and productive. It is difficult to love. Don’t lose sight. Don’t give up. Fill your actions with meaning.”

Q&A by Huckabee:  Mike sadly defines things that are ultimate/permanent as “that which is going to last more than 100 years.”  He goes on to say: “These students look at the world and say lets go change it.” 

————-

G’M:  It’s very hard to walk the line between the two kingdoms (God/man) and not eventually find ourselves making the lesser the Greater and vise-versa.  We see some semblance of this here, where a hope is held forth that has little or nothing with the Cross-work of Christ, which at best is eclipsed here if not entirely missing.

For the full article go to: PHC Commencement 2008

 

Dead to the Law in Christ

The gist of it…Gentiles don’t have THE “written code” (Rom.2:27) but have THE “work” of the law on their heart, that is, no codified law of words but a functionality of right/wrong at work. There is a momentum within each and every person that reflects something of His maker’s original design, which is testified to by even their conduct (albeit not perfect) as its natural reaction to common injustice is retribution. Their consciences also bear witness to this reality in their inner man, though they do not credit God for such.

Those in Adam continue living according to the remnants of the first covenant made with man, that broken covt of works. Hence, fallen humanity limps along a path with some semblance of righteousness, and yet no law of Canaan or conscience will provide what it demands. These laws do not grant life but relentlessly demand what sinners cannot possibly render. Thus, *God did what the Law could not*, and He keeps on doing something within His people, even when they needlessly turn back to shadows and faded glory in hopes of becoming what they are.

God help us to understand that, what is obsolete (Mosaic covenant) is never to be resurrected, for it finds it’s end and incarnation in Chirst himself, the mediator of a better covenant.

 

Thoroughly Radical Antithesis

Chad Bresson:  “I don’t believe the scriptures would have us make a one-to-one correlation between what is written on the heart of flesh in the New Creation (2 Cor. 3) and what is written on the conscience of humanity.  2 Cor. 3 is making a stark, radical and antithetical contrast between “tablets” and “the Spirit of the living God”.  That kind of radical antithesis doesn’t just include form but also content.  The tablets have disappeared and with them what was written on them.  One cannot have one (form) without the other (content) because Paul makes no distinction here between them and in fact has both in mind (the content functions as a “letter of recommendation” — 2 Cor. 3:1,2).

Law inspired Hatred

It was added because of transgressions. [Gal.3.19]

Martin Luther:  “In other words, that transgressions might be recognized as such and thus increased. When sin, death, and the wrath of God are revealed to a person by the Law, he grows impatient, complains against God, and rebels. Before that he was a very holy man; he worshipped and praised God; he bowed his knees before God and gave thanks, like the Pharisee. But now that sin and death are revealed to him by the Law he wishes there were no God. The Law inspires hatred of God. Thus sin is not only revealed by the Law; sin is actually increased and magnified by the Law.”