Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Gospel and God's Righteousness

Without the righteousness of God, there is no gospel! If God merely passed over sin, he would not be God at all. This is one reason why many scholars have called Romans 3:21–26 the center of the book of Romans and why D. A. Carson has even called it the "Center of the Whole Bible."[1] In this passage we find that the good news of the gospel stands firmly upon the righteousness of God.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Essence and Evil of Sin

John Piper delivered a message at the Desiring God Pastors Conference yesterday entitled, "What is Sin? The Essence and Root of All Sinning" For the full explanation, sermon transcript, and a better exposition, follow the link above! What follows is an overview of Piper's sermon.

Piper points to the book Justification Reconsidered[1] by Stephen Westerholm as part of the impetus for the sermon. In Westerholm's work against the "New Perspective on Paul," chapters two and three deal with sin. The key quote comes from p. 34 of Westerholm's work, "For is precisely the 'essential sinfulness' of humankind that requires a salvation based on grace alone, apart from [all] human 'works.'"[2]

Piper then moves forward into an exegetical analysis of Romans 1:18–28, arguing that this passage—perhaps better than any other—demonstrates the bottom, the essence, of sin. This passage gets to the root of depravity. Paul gets at the sin in the heart which produces other sins (cf. Romans 7:8). So, let's look at the high-level overview of the argument.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Paradoxical Pleasures in God

Paradoxical Pleasures in God

"But the LORD was pleased to crush him, putting him to grief; when he makes himself a guilt offering, he will see his offspring, he will prolong his days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in his hand." — Isaiah 53:10

The prophetic allusions to Christ—the ultimate suffering servant—drip off this verse, but there remains a troubling question, "Why is the Lord pleased to crush Christ?" This question helps us to understand the two rival pleasures which please God that occur at this juncture. This tension is reconciled in the servant making himself a guilt offering as prophesied in Isaiah 53:10, but first let's observe the paradox of pleasure.
            On the one hand, God takes pleasure in his name and fame (1 Sam. 12:22), and, on the other hand, God takes pleasure in electing people unto himself (Deut. 10:14–15). The tension here is that all people exchange the glory of God for lesser things (Rm. 1:23 c.f. Rm. 3:23); therefore, God's pleasure in the fame of his name is at apparent odds with God's pleasure in choosing a people for himself. God is apparently in a paradox of rival pleasures . . .         
            They are paradoxical because if God vindicates his name then he would destroy the people he desires to elect, or if God justifies his people without vindicating his name then he is unrighteous (Pro. 17:15). Heads, he loses. Tails, he loses . . .  Isaiah 53:10–12 (c.f. Rm. 3:23–26) provides the answer to this paradox. The paradox is remedied during Christ's guilt offering at the cross because in Christ's dying to definitely atone for God's chosen people he was made their propitiation (God's wrath taken in their place). Romans 3:23–26 explains the significance in saying, "This [putting forward of Christ as propitiation] was to demonstrate God's righteousness . . . that he may be both just and justifier . . ." In short, God's pleasure in crushing Christ is the pleasure that comes at the climax of redemption where the vindication of his glory and the salvation of his people are reconciled. In other words, the pleasure in crushing the Son results from the consummation of the reality that God is both just and justifier.
            As a practical application, consider the term guilt offering in another light. A proverb which uses it is Proverbs 14:9, "Fools mock at the guilt offering, but the upright enjoy [God's favor]." Christ, according to Isaiah 53:10, is the only person in the Bible to offer himself as a guilt offering! Whose sin was the guilt offering for? Romans 8:3 says God condemned our sin in Christ's flesh. Whose sin? Not Christ's! Do you delight in what Christ has done? Not to delight is to mock. Christian, after meditating upon Christ's guilt offering on your behalf, rejoice with great joy because: it is finished, God is just, and God has justified you!

[This devotional was originally written for the FBS Friends Banquet 2014.]

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Lamb of God

Jesus | The Lamb of God

Easter is upon us, and Easter ushers in thoughts of its meaning, namely Jesus' passion. Let's set the scene for the story by identifying our state. Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." This death-penalty for sin comes from the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:17) and is inherited by all mankind via what is called original sin (Rom. 5:12). It can be seen based on the structure of the verse that since death is paralleled to life (see diagram below) the death referred to is an eternal death.

Romans 6:23 - Structured

The wages that are received are like any other wages: earned, deserved, and "what you have coming." This is a similar idea to earning a wage at a job, you've got your paycheck coming. In this case, however, what you did to earn the wages was sin. Sin is, or results from, an inward preference for anything above God (Romans 1:22-23,3:23). Sin is an exchanging of God for lesser things. This is why eternal death is necessary because God, infinite and all satisfying God, has be traded for things which are lesser and could never satisfy (Jeremiah 2:12-13). The Bible says we should be shocked and appalled that such a horror would happen.

But, thankfully the verse does not end there. God has a free gift (unearned, undeserved, something you don't have coming) which is paralleled to the wages (see diagram above). That free gift may only be bestowed by God and is not earned. As much as we receive the wages because of sin, so we receive the free gift because of God alone (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:10). The gift is Himself in the person of Jesus whom we get to spend eternity with, beholding His glory(John 17:24; Revelation 5:9-10,12).

Surely at this point you're asking yourself, "How do I exchange the wages, that I rightly deserve, for this free gift, which I could never earn?" The answer to that question (and there is an answer) is worth spending your life and energy to find. It is good to note here that you must answer the question for yourself. Not answering the question is accepting the wages you've earned...

The original answer to this question was to kill a lamb, and its blood would be a sign that God would pass over His people (Passover) and not kill them (Exodus 12:5-13). This answer was a picture of the true and perfect answer, who is Jesus Christ -- the Lamb of God. Consider the quoted commentaries here in comparison between Jesus' passion and the Passover lamb's passion, some meditation, and then application.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

God's Passion for His Glory in Corporate Worship

Corporate Worship: The Heart Hunger That Honors God
[Excerpted from: John Piper and Jonathan Edwards, God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 40–42.]

     I previously posted the implications which Piper lists, and this is the full piece on implication 10 which I've been reflecting over. Unless noted in [], the emphasis is mine. My prayer is that this would be as challenging and edifying a meditation as it has been for me. 

For His glory and your joy,

Without further adieu...
Implication #10. The essence of authentic, corporate worship is the collective experience of heartfelt satisfaction in the glory of God, or a trembling that we do not have it and a great longing for it.[italics original] 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ashamed to Ask for Help

Ashamed to Ask for Help

The Story:
This past week, as you may well know, Indiana and the neighboring states endured -- Snowpocalypse. Coming into the perfect storm, I asserted that God was sovereign over the snow by quoting Job 37:5-6.
What I didn't know then was that God was indeed as I had said and intended to teach me at least one lesson through the storm. The snow came in torrents from heaven as God told it to fall, and after our single church service in which our Pastor told of God's Creative Hand in the weather, my wife I hunkered down for what seemed to be a record snowfall. With the exception of an going out to attempt to minister to kids & parents who didn't have school on Monday, we did not leave our apartment or use our vehicle (which sits outside) for the better part of two days.

Tuesday morning arrives, and it is time to go to my Systematic Theology course taught by guest teacher Andy Naselli. I help with setting up the technology for our class and needed to arrive early for that reason. I awoke early and geared up for the cold journey ahead. After girding my loins to face the cold, I went outside into what was approaching -20°F (with windchill). I scraped what seemed like a giant plaster cast of snow off of our vehicle, my fingers freezing, and I jumped inside the vehicle. Slamming the key into the ignition, I wrenched then key forward.... Lights, sounds of car beginning to start....nothing.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Paycheck by Paycheck

Proverbs has a lot to say about wisdom (being wisdom literature after all), and it also has a number of things to say about finances. Lately, two passages have stuck out to me which I feel many forget about and/or don't apply when it comes to their functional way of "stewarding" the monetary resources God has given them. The first passage is from Proverbs 3:21-28:

[21] My son, do not lose sight of these—
keep sound wisdom and discretion,
[22] and they will be life for your soul
and adornment for your neck.
[23] Then you will walk on your way securely,
and your foot will not stumble.
[24] If you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
[25] Do not be afraid of sudden terror
or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes,
[26] for the LORD will be your confidence
and will keep your foot from being caught.
[27] Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to do it.
[28] Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.
(Proverbs 3:21-28 ESV)