Thursday, May 29, 2014

Faith comes by hearing? ... or heeding?

On Sunday, I heard a sermon preached on Acts chapter 13.  It was titled "Heed the Message of This Salvation!", along with the following summary:

"The message of the gospel presents each one of us with a choice – will we embrace God’s salvation in Jesus for eternal life, or will we reject that salvation and be rejected ourselves?"

Now listen to what the preacher had to say as he expounded on verse 48 of Acts 13:

Audio: 50 sec.

"And it says, 'as many as them were appointed to eternal life, believed.' "  There's abolutely no getting around this statment.  God is the one who appointed them to eternal life.  And in consequence, they believed.  Had He not appointed them, they would not have believed.  God determined, God took the initiative, God brought the gospel to them, and they responded in faith.  Notice how there's absolutely no tension for Luke between divine election, and human responsibility.  The unbelievers are utterly responsible for their scoffing unbelief.  They have judged themselves unworthy of eternal life.  And yet those who have believed do so because they have been appointed to that same eternal life, by God."

Here is a question. Is there, for you, a tension regarding our "choice"?  The preacher puts forth that there is no tension "between divine election, and human responsibility". The bible is pretty clear about this with regard to our guilt. But what about in regard to the role of our "choice"? I invite you to an exercise in discernment as you listen to snippets from another sermon I listened to on Sunday.  Do they compound the tension?  Do they relieve the tension?

As always, the purpose of these posts are to catch a glimpse of "the subtle wonders of the good news".

Audio: 3m:31s

You've probably noticed these days, that everybody seems to think they have to do something to be a christian.

And this gets us into the real issue here with Nicodemus.

And so he says to Nicodemus, "well, you know, it's sort of like the wind blowing, Nicodemus".  Isn't that frustrating?  Really, that's just frustrating, isn't it?  If there's any place in the gospels, where it would have been the moment for Jesus to have said, "Here's how you get in, Nicodemus ... you accept me as your saviour."  He didn't do that.  Because after all Nicodemus, even when it comes down to this final and important relationship between God and you, you are not in charge.  You have nothing to say.  And that really offends us.

And that's why it's just so tempting to say there's only one thing you have to do.  Just one little thing.  God's done everything else, 99.9%.  Everything, but that one little thing now ... you have to do to close the deal.

...But if there's even a little bit left for you or I to do, then as Paul was to say ... Christ is of no benefit.

...Now Luther called it a myth.  The myth of free will.  Because he understood quite properly that to claim to have a choice before God is blasphemy.  It is acquiring unto yourself an attribute that belongs to God alone...freedom. Only God is free.  So to suggest to sinners that they have something within them that is able to flip a switch in heaven, to make God respond to them ... well Luther said again ... it's the worst form of blasphemy.

There was a free will decision made all right.  And it was God's free will to choose me as His child.  And I will stand on that promise, and that choice, rather than my own.  Because I know what my choices are all about and so do you.  If you make some decision for Christ because you're afraid of going to hell ... what kind of decision is that, for example?  That's about you ... fear ... self concern.  But to make choices in life based on the promises of God for you, that came to you before you could understand, before you could say anything.  To build a life on that kind of foundation, is to build on the foundation that no one else can lay, and that is Jesus himself.  And His promises to you, and for you.

You see, that leaves us with nothing to say and nowhere to go and nothing to do, and that's exactly what makes it so uncomfortable, this gospel business.  It enters us into a new reality called grace. It's not a seemless movement from the world I'm putting together for myself out there, into the church, and back again.  I'm now confronted with something that stops my mouth, that shuts me up, that kills my action, and says ... "Receive" ... what you and the world could never buy, the gracious forgiveness of your sins, the un-merited mercy of God in Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Your sin must be first and foremost ...

Your sin must be first and foremost ...  pardoned.

No sin can be crucified in heart or life, unless it is first pardoned in conscience.  If it not be mortified [put to death] in its guilt, it cannot be subdued in its power.

--Robert Haldane
Commentary on Romans

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

In acquiescence, this alone is my liberty

You are dead. In and with Christ you are habitually, constantly, dead. You are dead, and this very death is, in truth, your life.

For who shall slay you now, seeing you are dead already? He who is already and always dead, what fear can he have of any farther death? Does the law again point against me the thunders of its deadly threatenings of wrath? I am dead, and against the dead no charge can be brought. I am dead, and over the dead no enemy has power. I am dead, and to the dead there is no more fear of death.

This is my safety. This alone is my liberty... to be always, in myself, dead. It is only as one dead that I am freed from sin, from its terrors, its temptations, its triumphs; and the more I die with Christ, entering into the meaning of his cross, reckoning myself to be condemned with him, the more am I able to defy every attempt to subject me anew, in any other way, to condemnation.

To every challenge at any time which would require me now to answer for myself as a criminal or as a rebel doomed to death, my reply is that I am dead already. Or rather, it is Christ’s reply for me. “He is dead in me. My death is his.” And I, believing through grace, acquiesce: “Yes; Lord, I am dead in thee. I live no more myself. It is thou who art my life. I live; yet not I: thou livest in me.

--Robert S. Candlish
Sermon, "Death and Life with Christ"

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Patients don't serve their physicians

What is God looking for in the world? Assistants? No. The gospel is not a "help wanted" ad. Neither is the call to Christian service.

God is not looking for people to work for him. But isn't there something we can give to God that won't belittle him to the status of beneficiary?

Yes. Our anxieties.

It's a command: "Cast all your anxieties on him" (1 Peter 5:7). God will gladly receive anything from us that shows our dependence and his all-sufficiency.

Christianity is fundamentally convalescence. Patients do not serve their physicians. They trust them for good prescriptions. The Sermon on the Mount is our Doctor's medical advice, not our Employer's job description.

Our very lives hang on not working for God. "To one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but as his due. And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness" (Romans 4:4–5).

Workmen get no gifts. They get their due. If we would have the gift of justification, we dare not work. God is the workman in this affair. And what he gets is the glory of being the benefactor of grace, not the beneficiary of service.

-- John Piper