Post tenebrias lux
After Darkness, Light
You might think it strange. It is quite out of the norm. Every year our family celebrates the events surrounding the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. We do so for a variety of reasons. The most important reason, however, is the fact that the gospel rightly understood and applied affects our lives this very day. If the reformers proclaimed any truth, it was that of justification by faith. As opposed to the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification–a never-ending process by which believers maintain their standing before God–men like Martin Luther, Philip Melancthon and John Calvin taught that justification is declarative–a legal announcement coming forth from the throne of God which states that all those who have genuine faith in Jesus Christ are–once-for-all–made and proclaimed to be righteous.
Many passages could be employed to prove this wonderful doctrine. I tend to utilize Romans 3:21-26. This wonderful text follows a thorough description of the sinfulness of man, whether they be Jew or Gentile. The Word of God states,
“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Did you notice how that passage began? “But now…”! The law proved the need of a justification apart from obedience. The prophets proclaimed that a God-wrought justification would indeed come. And it did come– “in Jesus Christ“! Justification cannot be understood (or experienced) unless it is inseparably connected to the person and works of Christ. That’s why the reformers of the 16th century put such an emphasis on the Lord Jesus and His ministry–particularly His ministry through the cross. It was through refocusing upon these essential truths that the light began to shine among the people of God once again.
Today–Reformation Day 2012–finds me celebrating light!
Below is a link to a forty-minute sermon by Alistair Begg entitled “After Darkness, Light.” I would encourage you to watch it. He not only reviews the context of the Reformation, but he also aptly illustrates our need for justification and the glorious provision of justification by faith.
It has finally happened! My firstborn has turned thirteen!
Happy Birthday, Celena!
I am so encouraged to see the young woman God is in the process of creating. I am grateful that you truly seem to prefer good over evil. Your willingness to help your mother is worthy of praise. The extent to which you assist your baby sister is invaluable to our family. Your neatness is much-appreciated. Without a doubt, I could go on.
Today finds me thankful for you–my firstborn–my first teenager!
Today also finds me hopeful. My hope is quite simple. My hope is that you will increasingly look like your mother. Please study her example. You have been given a gift from God–a mother worthy of imitation. Like your Mom, you already possess outward beauty. Concentrate your efforts on cultivating inner beauty. Many parents find themselves frustrated as their children become teenagers. My challenge for you is to live in such a way that you both glory in Christ and glorify Christ. As you do, your family–your most important ministry opportunity–will be greatly blessed.
Have a great day, Celena. I look forward to celebrating YOU today and for the days to come!
“I only met one consistent Christian.”
Those are the words of an agnostic one of my student’s recently interviewed.
Charles Spurgeon wrote,
“Nothing has injured the cause of Christ more than the inconsistencies of His avowed friends.”
Today finds us celebrating another Lord’s Day–a day set apart for physical rest and spiritual refreshment. My hope is that the end result will be me becoming a more God-glorifying, people-blessing individual. In other words, I have a passion to grow in my consistency.
The Apostle Paul penned the following:
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained” (Phil. 3:14-16).
What did Paul desire to do? Press on. What did he want the believers in Philippi to do? Press on. If nothing else, however, professing Christians should “live by that same standard to which we have attained.” The Message renders that in these words:
“Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.”
That’s my plan this week–to stay on the right track! This past week Jodi and I have been meditating upon the New Testament book of Jude. It was written to exhort the believers to contend earnestly for the faith–for their faith (Jude 1:3). They were to continue to believe the truth, build themselves up in the truth, and pray (Jude 1:17, 20). If they would do so, their lives would more and more conform to the image of Christ.
Isn’t that the hope of all Christians?
On an exam, my students were required to complete this statement: “Devotion to Christ leads to…
The answer is: “Christ-likeness.”
It is discouraging to hear an agnostic state that he has only met one consistent Christian. I wonder what he would think of me. What would be his evaluation of Jodi? I can tell you what Jodi and I would want him to say!
May God continue that good work He has begun in us (Phil. 1:16) as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil.2:12). May this last week of October find us pressing on as we live up to the truth we have been taught. May the last two months of the year see us believing truth, building ourselves up in the truth, and praying. May our devotion to Christ lead to Christ-likeness.
Would you consider these to be priorities as well? If so, what’s your plan? How will you flesh these activities out in your life?
(The Saint and His Saviour: The work of the Spirit in the life of the Christian, Christian Focus Publications, 2005, p.186).
Do you know anyone you would describe as having “volcanic anger”?
I do. Her anger often erupts on Facebook. Recently she decided to clear out some of the “worthless people” in her life by posting a very offensive picture on her Facebook page. It wasn’t the first time. In the past, I had decided not to respond, choosing to allow her to remain connected to us with the hope of ministering to her. The other day, however, I decided to grant her wish. She no longer has to spend the time reading my thoughts about God, God’s Word, or the events of our lives. My guess is that others choose to “unfriend” her as well.
Life is too short.
Yet even as I write these words, I am grieved that she has such bitterness, such a critical spirit. Believe me when I tell you that–from a simply human perspective–she has ammunition for her feelings. Life hasn’t been particularly easy for her. And–like each of us–some of her wounds are self-inflected.
What is a professing agnostic to do?
I guess that is why my feeling for her is one of pity. Because God has yet to open her eyes, she hates Him. All unbelievers do–even if they cannot put their finger on the object of their intense emotion. She is deeply disturbed and, as a result, she wants to disturb others. Pray for her if you would. Thank you.
Let’s take this opportunity to do a little self-examination.
Which of the following best describes us: Blessing or Cursing?
I choose those words carefully. Both Jesus and Paul contrast the two activities, calling followers of Christ to bless. Consider:
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. “Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. “Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:29-31).
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 14:12-21).
So–which are we consistently doing–blessing or cursing?
Are you on a mission to make a positive difference in the lives of those in your sphere of influence? Or would you rather offend? Do you prefer to irritate–making someone’s life more difficult than it already is proving to be?
Please know–I do not believe that only Christians can make a difference. We all bear the image of God. We all know how to add a smile to the face of others. Inherently we know that building up is to be preferred to tearing down. Each of us should strive to do no less. But Christians are commanded to do so. Jesus’ words are not suggestions. Paul’s words are not open for debate. Followers of Christ are to treat others as they want to be treated (Luke 6:31). They are to be people of humility, living peaceably with as many people as possible (Romans 12:16, 18).
If you are a Christian, join me in examining the fruit. Our production should match our profession. If we truly know Jesus, we should show Jesus. And–Jesus is perhaps most clearly seen in us in our relationships with others.
Beloved–let us bless and not curse.
I missed autumn. For ten years in Las Vegas I felt as if summer abruptly transitioned into winter. The lack of deciduous trees, changing in colors from green to yellow and red, gold and brown, caused me to miss the four seasons I experienced as a child in Wisconsin. In 2006, however, we returned to Tennessee. The first fall we celebrated our outdoor sanctuary, praising God for His artistic hand upon the beautiful, rolling hills, and it seemed God lengthened that time that particular year as well–just for us. Normally it lasts around 2 weeks. That year it was very gradual and lasted around 3 to 4 weeks. We relished God’s handiwork!
We find ourselves once again in autumn. The trees are changing before our very eyes. Yesterday we went for a drive as a family, enjoying the transformation. Cascade particularly enjoyed pointing out the red trees.
Now I am struck by the concept that autumn is a multi-colored allegory of life.
Life changes. Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic philosopher, described life as constantly in flux. His comment, “You never step into the same river twice” rings with truth. There is indeed a fluidity to what we experience on this journey. We change. Others change. Circumstances change. Environments change. The process of transformation does not stop.
Do you find that encouraging or discouraging?
Perhaps your answer to that question depends–in large part–on whether the change you are experiencing is positive or negative. Some of life’s transitions are very difficult. Bankruptcy. Betrayal. Cancer. Divorce. Rebellion. The list could continue.
This past Tuesday my college students presented skits on the material we covered in the first three weeks of class. One group’s presentation was especially poignant. The five students portrayed the seasons of life. Ryan presented life from a teen’s perspective who didn’t really know or care yet what his worldview was. Sabrina acted like the carefree college student who complained about not having more time for her friends and social networking. Tim was third to present. He began the autobiographical portion of the skit, covering his late twenties and early thirties. He enjoyed the relative ease of survival though he was beginning to sense responsibility. His comments of being a father of a newborn were honest and hilarious. Finances had finally become tight. Sleep was elusive. Life was truly beginning to present itself as a challenge. Tim was followed by Nicole and Kim. That’s when the presentation became emotional for us all. I do not feel the freedom to describe why that is so. Needless to say, both women have experienced their share of pain. Nicole is in her forties. Kim has reached her fifties. Life has thrown more than a few curve balls.
Can you relate?
Has your life turned out as you had hoped? Have your dreams and plans come to pass? I trust that–if we were truly honest this weekend–we would admit that life has been, or is becoming, difficult indeed.
How do we carry on? How do we find the strength to get up and live another day?
It’s a very familiar verse. I’ve quoted it often. I’ve quietly claimed it on many an ocassion.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
Those famous words were written by a man who experienced more than a few difficulties. One day his life abruptly transtioned from summer to winter. Then he found change inevitable, and some of it was tough. Yet–even from prison–he boldly asserted that he could do all things through his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He had found contentment in every circumstance (4:11) because of Christ (4:13).
I don’t know about you, but I find Paul’s life and Paul’s words to be instructive. His example and his exhortation challenge me to guard against disillusionment. Jesus strengthens me. He does so (a key to understanding the Bible is context) as I rejoice (4:4), pray (4:6), meditate upon truth (4:8) and live out what I have been taught (4:9). In other words, I can gain perspective and strength as I seek to glory in God and glorify God.
I can attest–Life is tough. But I can also attest–God is present. Jesus brings tranquility to trials. And although I often find myself confused at His plan for my life, I know that He is good and does good (Ps. 119:68). Today as the trees change and as my life continues to ebb and flow, my calling is clear: Seek the face of the Father through the person of Jesus Christ (1 Chr. 16:11; John 14:6).
I heard an ad yesterday which stated, “Life is a road trip. Come on!”
My response: Seriously–Have you ever been on a road trip?
I have. Road trips are fun, carefree experiences typically done without children. Life is a lot of things. Many metaphors could be used to describe life. Road trip isn’t one of them. It’s more of a move across country with a van full of tired children.
I know what you are thinking: Those are the words of a pessimistic guy in the middle of his life striving to provide for his family and hoping not to mess things up too badly.
Guilty as charged.
“Life is pain” (said the Dread Pirate Roberts to the Princess).
I recently finished reading a book entitled God At Work. It’s a book on vocations–callings of God upon our lives which require our dedicated efforts. Gene Veith, the author, mentions the vocations of marriage, parenting, church involvement and citizenship among others. One of the latter chapters in the book is “Bearing the Cross in Vocation.” After admitting that faithfulness in vocations is difficult in our fallen world, Veith recommends prayer and faith. Amidst the challenges of our callings, we are to seek the face of God. Rather than relying upon our own strength, we are to “lean on the everlasting arms” of our omnipotent God.
What are your vocations? Which of the following apply to you: Christian, Spouse, Parent, Church member, Employee, Citizen? I trust you agree with Veith–that all should be taken seriously. I also trust that I do not need to convince you of your need of Christ in the process. In order to have any hope of glorifying my God in the vocations named above, I need to be refueled by my God. The final chapter in God At Work is entitled, “Resting in Vocations.” Although Veith briefly mentions God’s gift of a day of rest from our labor (which only specifically relates to our work context), he particularly challenges us to find contentment where God has placed us.
Allow me to illustrate.
It is 3:22PM on Sunday afternoon (the time of this writing). Blogging for me is rest. Watching a sermon this morning was rest. Attending church was rest. I am choosing not to work on my full-time job and on the two classes I am currently teaching. Believe me when I state that all three jobs are demanding my attention. Once I begin the process–once I pick up the hammer–I won’t put it down for another six days. So–I’ll wait a few more hours. However, some of my vocations do not allow me to take one day off in seven. I am always a Christian. I do not take a break from being a husband or a father. These callings are 24/7. Thus–my need for God.
Life isn’t a road trip. It’s a lifelong move with a final destination. I don’t want to carelessly cruise around for the weekend, ending up where I began. Rather, I want to make it safely to the Celestial City and hear, “Good servant! Great work!” (Lk. 17:19; The Message).
Let’s be serious about our trip this week!
As He began working with people, God decided to employ a device which would most glorify His name and best allow His people to both see and proclaim His excellencies. I am speaking of God initiating and utilizing covenants to call, purify, and glorify a people for His own possession. Tuesday night I taught a college class about the covenants as described by the Scripture. We briefly studied the covenants God made with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David. And while I mentioned the designations employed by traditional Covenant Theology (Covenant of Redemption–Covenant of Works–Covenant of Grace), I prefer to simplify things and speak in terms of Old and New Covenants. I especially prefer to present the topic in that manner because I personally believe it makes much of Christ. Rather than making the New Covenant the covenant of consummation under the covenant of grace, I find it more appropriate to consider it as a self-sufficient, covenant of fulfillment which exalts Jesus Christ as the reality of all of God’s dealings with mankind.
Having said all of that, I also enjoyed describing the New Covenant realities. They can be located in Jeremiah, chapter thirty-one. I mentioned three of the obvious:
- The law of God will be internalized
- True intimacy with God will be experienced by all, as each will know the Lord.
- Complete forgiveness of sins by God Who will actually choose not to remember them
After mentioning these three realities, God unequivocally states that He will keep His Word (32:35-37). The promises of the New Covenant will come to pass. And–this side of the life, sufferings, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Christ–shadow has become reality! Promise has been translated into experience.
- The law of God is within me as the Spirit of Christ now resides
- True intimacy with God the Father has been made possible through the work of God the Son
- Complete forgiveness is proclaimed as the atonement offered by Jesus was clearly proven sufficient
The Great King of the Universe initiated several covenants and proved Himself faithful. Then–to put a bow upon them all, and tie them up with a perfect plan of fulfillment, Christ appeared and declared, began, and sealed the New Covenant. I am blessed through the covenants described in the Old Testament, but my life is deeply affected by the covenant promised in Jeremiah 31!
Is that true for you as well?
Think about it.
“Can I mess up it?”
Cascade asked me that quirky question Sunday afternoon after we played Sequence. For some odd reason, the order of the chips caused her to desire to “mess up” the board. I said, “Sure.” Then there were colorful chips all over the living room floor. The event reminded me what things must have been in the Garden of Eden. First there was beautiful order. God had made everything “good.”
Creation was good.
Humanity was good.
Relationships were good.
Then Adam and Eve tossed chips everywhere! They didn’t ask. They didn’t consider the consequences. It would be a serious understatement to say that they “messed it up.” In fact, they ruined it.
Creation was cursed.
Mankind became sinful.
Relationships were immediately dysfunctional.
On Tuesday night I will be teaching about the covenants God has made with man. Commenting upon this great subject, the 1689 London Baptist Confession remarks,
“The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience to Him as their Creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which He hath been pleased to express by way of covenant” (chapter seven, point one).
I love this part: “but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part”! The Great King of the Universe came to disobedient, fallen man and announced promises based upon His unchanging character!
Adam was informed that Jesus would crush Satan’s head.
Abraham was told that Jesus would be the “seed” in Whom all the promises would be fulfilled.
Moses would eventually see that Jesus would perfectly live the Law and then nail it to the cross.
David would be given the amazing assurance that Jesus–his descendant–would reign forever on the throne.
Man messed it up. God fixed it, and ultimately that “fix” in Christ will be experienced in glorious colors. The game of Sequence will be concluded. Order will be restored–forever! To God be the glory!
“I don’t really see any major changes which need to occur in my life.”
Someone recently wrote that after sitting thourgh one of the Bible courses I teach for a local college. This is the same individual who publicly stated that she had had too much to drink at a local club and, as a result, needed assistance driving home. This is also the same person who was required to read Psalm 119 and the Gospel of John. Surely she is in a precarious place.
Anyone who humbly reads God’s Word can quickly see that there is a stark contrast with that which is commanded and that which is cultivated.
We are even commanded to be perfect (Mt. 5:48). And Jesus meant “perfect”! That’s why need HIM–someone–the ONLY ONE Who could be perfect for us (2 Cor. 5:21). But now we are to be perfect practically. In other words, we are to be mature believers living out what we have been taught. And–as believers–there is always room for maturing, for growing. That’s why we are all exhorted to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).
We have not arrived.
We all have major changes which need to occur in our lives.
I do. You do.
Do we walk as Jesus walked (1 Jn. 2:6)? Do we truly love the Lord with all of our heart, soul and mind (Mt. 22:37)? Do we consistently guard our hearts and our lips from grumbling and complaining (Phil. 2:14)? Do we always consider others more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:14)?
We do not.
Please tell me that you are honest enough to admit that your walk does not perfectly match the walk of Jesus! You can see that you haven’t quite arrived yet, can’t you? Deep down we all know that there is only one perfect being in the universe and we ain’t HIM. At our very core, we grasp what one author entitled “the mysterium tremendum” (the tremendous mystery affiliated with the existence of a holy God [Rudolf Otto]). We get: God is holy. And most of us get: We are not. If the Bible teaches us anything, it teaches us these basic truths. The Scripture presents us with the facts–God is sinless. We are sinners.
And that’s why some rather major changes need to take place in our lives!
Dayton and I just listened to Romans 12-16 on Bible Gateway. After laying the theological foundation of the Christian life, the Apostle Paul commanded the believers in Rome to live it out. Those commands apply to me as well. Although many verses stood out to me this morning, two, in particular, challenged me. Consider my Monday Morning Motivation from verses eleven and twelve of Romans 12:
From the King James:
Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
From the New International Version:
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
From The Message:
Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.
The following comments were made by pastor and theologian John Gill:
Rejoicing in hope: Of the glory of God, than the hope of which nothing can make a believer more cheerful in this world; the saints’ joy is therefore called the “rejoicing of the hope.” This is placed between serving the Lord, and being patient in tribulation; for nothing tends more to animate the people of God to a cheerful serving of him, or to make them more patient under afflictions, than a hope of being for ever with the Lord:
Patient in tribulation: whilst the saints are in this world they must expect tribulation; their way to heaven lies through it; and it becomes them to be patient under it, not murmuring against God, on the one hand, nor reviling of men, on the other.
Continuing instant in prayer: prayer is needful at all times, but especially in a time of tribulation and distress, whether inward or outward. This should be made without ceasing; saints should watch unto it with all perseverance; men should pray always, and not faint; never give out and over, or be discouraged. This advice is rightly given and placed here, to teach us that we are to go to the throne of grace continually for fresh supplies of grace, and strength to enable us to exercise the grace, and perform the duties exhorted to both in preceding and following verses.
Should there be any question in my mind as to how I should live today? No! I am to be passionate for God, keeping myself fueled and aflame. I am to remain engaged in ministry, striving to make a difference. I am to be joyous, knowing God’s promises will indeed come to pass. I need to endure the trials sent my direction. And I need to pray all the harder.
Like many of you, I have a full-time job. I will be there in an hour. My goal will be to glory God by blessing my boss, co-workers, clients and customers. That is a noble goal. But I have also been commanded to practically live out my faith no matter the circumstances or the place. I am thankful for the reminder this morning–for a Monday Morning Motivation. I am grateful to remember that my labor in the Lord is not in vain, that God keeps His promises, that all things work together for my good, that God both hears and answers the prayers of His children.
I can go forward! I can press on toward the goal (Phil. 3:14)!
And–if you are a believer–so can you!