Sunday, June 25, 2017

From The Mortification of Sin

"The battle is not against any particular lust but against all sinful lusts which war against the soul. . . True mortifying of sin deals with the entire body of sin. It goes to the heart of the matter and lays the axe to the root of the tree. This is the mortification which the Holy Spirit drives the believer to do.

Mortification of particular sins arises from a guilty conscience. But mortification arising from the gospel principle deals with the whole body of sin in its opposition to the renewing of the image of God in us."

John Owen, The Holy Spirit: pp168-169

Friday, June 23, 2017

Rewards from the King

All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid. And the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father's house free in Israel.” And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” And the people answered him in the same way, “So shall it be done to the man who kills him.” (1 Samuel 17:24-27)

So, the man who kills Goliath will get three things from the king:

a. riches
b. the king's daughter
c. freedom within Israel

When we put our penitent faith in Christ we get

a. riches. This is not material prosperity in this life.  In fact, one has a better chance of getting true riches through material poverty.  But mainly, we are talking about spiritual riches that are only found in Christ.  2 Corinthians 8:9 reads, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." Paul is not talking about material riches.  See what he says about Jesus himself in Philippians 2:

Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11)

Jesus gave up heavenly riches to impoverish himself on our behalf on earth.  Now he is exalted with heavenly riches, so that we might, too, be exalted with heavenly riches.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his disciples

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

Our heavenly treasure is Jesus himself.

b. The king's daughter.  This doesn't mean that God gives us a new spouse in heaven.  It doesn't mean we get "72 virgins."  This means that we become part of the church, which is the bride of Christ.  Remember, David, the victor of Goliath, is a type and shadow of Jesus, the victor over Satan.  Jesus gets the king's daughter, which is the church, to be his bride.  Ephesians 5:25 reads, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word."  When we put our faith in Christ, we are putting our faith in his word, and we seal this faith with our baptism.

c. Freedom. This is one of the most misunderstood aspects of Christianity on the part of the world.  The world believes that by becoming part of a religion, we lose our freedom, because now we have to obey some set of arbitrary rules. Luther and the other reformers demonstrated that this wasn't so.  Because of sin, we are incapable of choosing "the good."  We choose selfishly, and if that decision happens to be a good one, and we help others through that decision, it is still a sinful and bad decision in God's eyes, because we were doing it for ourselves, not because we truly loved God or our neighbors.  It's like staying in a relationship only because it makes you feel good.  Once the feeling goes, and you're not enjoying yourself, we find it easy to break off the relationship.  This is what sin does to us, and we are incapable of choosing the good for God's sake and our neighbor's sake.  We are incapable of loving our neighbor as ourselves.  This is slavery, not freedom.

But Jesus sets us free.  Faith in Christ's blood gives us the freedom to choose the good, to love our neighbor as ourselves, many times at the expense of our own happiness and enjoyment. As Jesus says in John 8:31-32, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  This connects freedom with being the bride of Christ.  We are washed with the word, cleansed, and when we abide in this same word, we are truly Christ's disciples, the church, and we will know the truth and with that truth comes freedom, the freedom for do good works, which God as given us to do.

All three of these kingly rewards are found in Christ.  Jesus does the work, the heavy lifting.  He defeats Goliath for us.  He gets the riches, bride, and freedom.  It is our faith in Christ that puts us IN CHRIST, and so we get those rewards, too, through faith.  We get heavenly riches through Christ.  We become the bride of Christ and are cleansed through Christ.  And we have real freedom in Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life.

Saturday, June 10, 2017


I'm going to be spending the next few weeks on different aspects of the David and Goliath narrative.  The first one clobbered me over the head, so I'll start with that one.

Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul the man was already old and advanced in years. The three oldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. David was the youngest. The three eldest followed Saul, but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem. For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening. (1 Samuel 17:12-16)

We have established Saul as the "old Adam" and David as the "new Adam" or Christ. Although David has been anointed king already, Israel still follows Saul, the old Adam, and David's brothers are included.  These followers of Saul are metaphorically unconverted souls, just like all of mankind was at one time, including us before Christ knew us.  Now, watch how the unconverted soul responds to Christ in David:

Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” And David said, “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?” And he turned away from him toward another, and spoke in the same way, and the people answered him again as before. (1 Samuel 17:28-30)

Woe to you who call good evil and evil good.  Here Eliab assigns evil to David, just as the Pharisees assign evil to Jesus when he casts out a demon.  They say it is by the devil that he casts out devils.  Look at how Jesus' own brothers respond to him when he is with them:

After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the Jews' Feast of Booths was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee. (John 7:1-9)

They know that he will be arrested and killed, and yet they encourage him to go and reveal himself loudly.  Now, Jesus knows that his time has not yet come, but see how his own flesh and blood not only rejects him but desires his death.  Doesn't this remind you of Joseph's brothers desiring his death, dropping him in a pit, and selling him into slavery?  The point is, blood relations do not respond to Christ in the same way.  We all have relations who irrationally reject Jesus outright. This cause us great pain, because we have been taught that "blood is thicker than water" and that "if you don't have your family, who do you have?"  Well, listen to Jesus again:

While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50)

Who are your true family?  Fellow believers!  These are the ones to whom you can truly expose your heart.  They will never forsake you, if they also believe in the Jesus of the Bible.  Paul explains in Romans 6:

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:15-23)

Conversion is a "setting free" from the old Adam, from following Saul.  Now we are free to follow Righteousness, David historically, Jesus in actuality.  What about our brothers and sisters of the flesh?  Are we to reject them?  No, we are to pray for them, because no matter what they have done, God can change their hearts, too.  Remember, all of us were haters of Christ until God changed our hearts.  Just because we were converted sooner, does not mean they cannot be converted later.

A fine example is Esau.  He does not repent when he tries to get his blessing from Isaac in Genesis 27, and, according to Hebrews 12, he is too late to acquire the blessing.  Romans 9 even says that Jacob was accepted but Esau is rejected.  Does this mean Esau is destined for hell?  Not necessarily. In Genesis 33, 20 years have passed since Esau and Jacob have seen each other.  20 years of being outside of the presence of God have broken Esau, and God has turned his heart in some way.  Is it a saving faith that Esau has now when he embraces his brother in tears after 20 years?  Perhaps.  Has he repented? Perhaps.  Is he saved now?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  It is not our place to say, but this lies under the secret knowledge of God.  What we do know is that Esau and Jacob buried their father together, which points to their reconciliation lasting. Our job as slaves to righteousness is to pray for the Esaus in our life and hope that Christ's blood is applied to them, too.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Narrow Way

It is Whitsunday, also known as Pentecost, and so we celebrate the Holy Spirit, but since we are going through the life of David, I don't want to leave him out, so he his going to teach us about the Holy Spirit through one of his Psalms.

Let us begin with these verses in Matthew:

"Enter by the narrow gate.  For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matthew 7:13-14)

What does this verse have to do with the Holy Spirit?  Remember, we are saved by faith alone.  We need to have faith in God.  Those outside the church are through the wide gate on the easy way that leads to destruction, because they have no faith in God.  Also, those in the church who have faith in a false version of God are through the wide gate.  This is why mere membership in a church does not save you.  Remember, the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life.  Believing in "Jesus" is not enough.  You must believe in the Jesus of the Bible.

An example: Jesus feeds the 5000 in John 6.  In response, they try to make him king.  Jesus tells them that they are seeking the wrong things.  They are seeking the bread of the flesh.  They are seeking "Genie Jesus" who will grant them wishes and make every earthly dream come true.  No, he tells them, they must seek Jesus himself.  He IS the bread of life, and whoever believes in HIM (not his ability to create miracles) will have eternal life.  This is the difference between believing in a false Jesus (a magic Genie, in this case) and the true one of the scriptures.  Faith in the true Jesus brings earthly suffering and persecution but in the long run, eternal life.

Our second example is from Acts 2.  The Holy Spirit comes upon the congregation, and they begin speaking in tongues.  As soon as this miracle takes place, Peter stands and begins to preach.  He begins his sermon with the supernatural event that has just taken place, but he immediately afterward turns everyone's attention to the Jesus of the Bible:

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it." (Acts 2:22-24)

The miraculous work of the Holy Spirit is not an end, in and of itself, but it points ultimately to Christ himself and the gospel.  The disciples suddenly being able to understand foreign languages was a miracle that pointed to the fact that Jesus performed miracles to prove he was God, and WE KILLED HIM ANYWAY.  The Holy Spirit leads us right to the crucifixion, the atonement, and the salvation of all who believe.  Christ defeated death by dying, a miracle that puts to shame the speaking and hearing of foreign languages we haven't studied.  But the latter miracle is a launching pad for the former.

Now, Peter uses Psalm 16 to show that David, too, was pointing to Christ.  Breaking down this psalm, we see that

1. Christ is the ark of the faithful.  Inside him is the only place we can find refuge from the wrath to come.

2. God is the source of all goodness.  Without him, all is darkness.

3. All believers are a source of encouragement and gospel-sharing with each other.

4. All unbelievers are a source of despair and eternal sorrow.  Our faith deteriorates in their presence, and our faith strengthens in their absence.

5. All of our earthly life should be lived for God.  He is our cup, our sustenance, and our lot, our destination.  As we make him our life goal, he grants us an eternal inheritance.  Our gifts are not the goal but the tools God gives us to glorify him.  He, himself, is who we seek.

6. The Lord directs us through his written word, but he has placed his Spirit in our hearts, also.  The Holy Spirit guides us, and we know it is God when we are directed to Christ.  If we are directed to something or someone other than Christ, we are still following our sinful desires.

7. Without God we can only feed our flesh.  With God, both spirit and flesh are nourished.  Christ's resurrection gives us assurance that death has been defeated and that we are destined for eternal life.

8. Christ's presence for us this day is the Holy Spirit.  He makes known to us the narrow gate and the hard way (the path of the true Christ) and he brings us a spiritual joy that assures us we are on the correct path.  This is joy in suffering.  Our flesh may be burned, but we have the love, the deep charity of Christ that sustains us with an exquisite joy that cannot be replicated by the world.

Peter finishes his sermon by reiterating that the primary reason God has poured out his Spirit on all flesh is so that they may understand the gospel, that Jesus is both Lord and Christ, and that we crucified him.  "Now, when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' And Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.' (Acts 2:37-38)" The Holy Spirit makes alive our awareness of our own sinfulness.  He brings us to a penitent faith in Jesus.  And he provides us assurance of persevering into eternity.