The Other Side to Christianity: The Call to Suffer

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If I were to tell you that walking with Christ is all about suffering, I would be lying, and I would have betrayed a generation. The truth is – and I will quote the Master here – “There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive more now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30). So, there is promise for life now, and that more abundantly. But that is not the point of this post. The point of this particular post is suffering, and its uncanny ability to sift well, the wheat from tare.
 
Suffering, in all its various forms, and with all of its profound and deep hurting, probably best validates whether or not our claim of being Christian is true. The trial will either prove us a liar, or else suffering will be a sort of schoolmaster to our sanctification, and vindicate us in the end (See Jesus’ own commentary on it in the Parable of the Sower). Let suffering, therefore, have its perfect work, in order that we might say with the mighty and inconsistently wonderful warrior poet, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:71).
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When God Spanks Us

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How wretched is the sin which causes the saint separation from his Savior! Does it not cause us to speak as the woman in Song of Solomon? She says, “I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned and gone…I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer” (Son 5:6). Is this not what happens when we grieve the Spirit, by whom we are sealed? Indeed, it is.

Thus, the Christian proves himself different than that of an ordinary sinner. For when he sins, he is not so much in dread over judgement, but is in agony over sinning against the Lord whom he loves. Therefore, beloved, despise not the Lord’s discipline, and remember these words:

“For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love” (Lam 3:31-32).

Why I am No Longer A Christian

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What reasons have we to leave Christ? “Oh,” you say, “I am not being fulfilled, and since following him, my life is hard.” Yet he has already explained, saying, “anyone who would follow me, must deny self” (Matthew 16:24). And again, he said, “the way to life is hard” (Matthew 7:14). Then I ask again: What reasons have we to leave Christ? Still, someone else says, “since coming to the Savior, I am hated for His sake, and I receive persecution.” But this too, he has promised. Have you not read, “you will be hated for my name’s sake” (Matthew 10:22)? My friend, tell me, what reasons have you to leave Christ? Will poverty prevail over you? Will you leave the Lord because he has not made you rich, or because he has not saved you from some physical sickness; even when he has made no such promises?

What then will be your reason for leaving Jesus? I will tell you why you will leave him. You will leave him because you never loved him. Indeed, you will leave him because you never knew Him. You will leave him to demonstrate that you were never of him (1 John 2:19). Oh, you may have known a religion, and you may have experienced emotional highs from church, but you have never known the Lord. You have never loved him. You have not known what it is like to see your sins for what they are before a Holy God, and then to find out about the wonder of wonders: That Christ died for you. You have not known what it is like to yearn for him. Not things, but Him. You have not known sweet communion with Christ. You have not known hatred for sin; indeed, you love your sin. You have not left Christ for lack of legitimate evidences concerning Him, but you have left him because you desire your own ways above His will. Come now, and be honest with yourselves. You left the Lord because you would not have him to rule over you, and because you were never a Christian. That is why you are no longer a Christian.

A Small Look At God’s Sovereign Acts

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“Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. Then he came up and told his father and mother, ‘I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.’ But his father and mother said to him, ‘Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?’ But Samson said to his father, ‘Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.’ His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines” (Judges 14:1-4).

So supreme and sovereign is God over every situation, that scripture says, the reason for why Samson wanted a Philistine wife, was because “the Lord was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines.” So Samson spoke words of his own accord. Yet, superintending those words, was the will of God. That is to say, God through Samson was seeking an opportunity to fight against the Philistines. Well, then, did the prophet Jeremiah say, in rhetorical question form, “who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come” (Lam 3:37-38)? So Samson spoke words which his own will wanted, yet above and beyond his desires, was God working in and through his wants.

As the Apostle Paul wonderfully put it, “oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:33-36). See it? From HIM, and through HIM, and to Him are “ALL things.” Dear Reader, if you are not yet found in Christ, you remain an enemy of this God. What will you do? Indeed, what can you do? I will tell you want to do: Abandon any ideas of hiding from God, or ignoring him. Throw away any notions of appeasing him apart from the one way he himself proposes. That is to say, bow the knee in surrender to his Son, and you will find mercy. Apart from this way, there is only weeping and gnashing of teeth in eternal torment. Today, run to Christ will he can still be found!

What is the Glory of God?

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“Moses said, ‘Please show me your glory.’ And he said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name The LORD. And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy'” (Exo 33:18-19).

What can I say about the former part of this passage, that has not already been said, and stated by better men? Moses asked to see the glory of God, and all saints can relate. Having  tasted of his goodness, we yet hunger for more; having seen his splendor through a dim glass, we strain to see more clearly; and having felt something of his presence, we now groan inwardly, awaiting our glorified bodies, with which we will fully behold his glory. But now we ask, “what is his glory?” Consider God’s response for the answer:

“And he said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name The LORD. And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”

In granting Moses’ request, God revealed himself as the God of grace. We see this more clearly in the preceding chapter where the scripture says, “The LORD passed before [Moses] and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation'” (Exo 34:6-7).

So God made his goodness known to Moses by proclaiming his name “The Lord,” and by showing how His name is manifested in His attributes; namely, his mercy, grace, love, faithfulness, and even his anger or wrath. Therefore, in answering the question, “what is the glory of God,” I must posit, at least in part, that the glory of God is the attributes of God. But now, let us consider another text: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). Here we see that the glory of God is shown clearly in the face of Christ. What does it mean that the glory of God is shown in the face of Christ? Here, again, I posit the attributes of God as seen in the gospel.

Consider the cross on which Christ was crucified for our propitiation. What did God demonstrate about his character as Christ suffered for our sins? Was it not what he showed to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7? Indeed, it was! For we saw God’s wrath against sin (as Christ was made sin for us, and suffered the consequence thereof- see 2 Cor 5:21), as well as God’s love and mercy for sinners. Thus, in answering the question, “what is the glory of God” – and now I might ask it as follows – “who is the glory of God,” I posit that the glory of God is the attributes of God shown in Christ and the gospel. Therefore, believer, do not suppose God’s glory to be any sort of anthropomorphic sign or symbol, but look long and attentively upon your sin, and see God’s willingness not only to overlook it for Christ’ sake, but to deal with it in Christ. Behold, then, the Glory of God: The gospel!

 

God Is Faithful Primarily For God’s Sake

for-his-glory“The Lord said, ‘shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him'” (Gen 18:17-19).

I could begin this blog by saying that God is first and foremost God-centered, and that everything he does, whether he blesses man or damns him, is primarily done for his own glory. I could also state, at the onset – especially for those who may find the previous sentence glib, or down right heretical – that God’s glory is bound up in displaying infinite love and blessings for those whom he has accepted in Christ. That, while true, however, is another topic for another time.  For now, I want to ask the following question, and hopefully make a good argument for the answer. The question is as followed: What is the central theme of the bible? Some may make an argument for God’s love, and I suppose they are right in that regard. Yet, I think there is something higher; albeit something by which even God’s love is govern. What, then, do I propose this thing to be? I am arguing that the central or most common theme in scripture is God’s glory. I will make an argument for my case using the aforementioned verse above.

First, consider how God mentions that Abraham would become a great and mighty nation, and that “all the nations of the earth would be blessed in him.” Those of us who have just an elementary understanding of the New Testament, will understand the fulfillment of this statement in the gospel of Christ, who is Abraham’s seed (see, for example, Gal 3:29). Second, let us consider a question. Namely, how is it that Abraham, who, by this time, had become an old man, would become so mighty a nation? Note that the answer is in the preceding verse. Hear it again: “I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

So then, the answer to how Abraham would become so great is not because of Abraham’s merit or deeds that he would do, but because God chose him to do righteousness and justice. Or, as God himself put it to him in the chapter before, “walk before me and be blameless” (Gen 17:1). What precious words! Incidentally, these are words given to all of Abraham’s seed (that is to say, all those who believe in Christ). We who trust in Christ for the forgiveness of our sin, hear the words in the following manner: “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” (John 15:16). Different words, but the same message. That, again, is this: The reason why Abraham would grow into a mighty nation and be holy, etc., was because God chose him.

Lastly, let us answer the question, “to what end did God choose Abraham for holiness, and to be a father of many nations?” This too is answered in the verse. We read, “so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” So we see that God had chosen Abraham for righteousness or holiness, and for the purpose of being a means of blessing to the whole world. But why? So that God might bring to Abraham what he himself promised him. I posit, therefore, that the graces and mercies given to Abraham for himself, and for the sake of all believers of every time (i.e.his children), was given that God may be seen as a promise-keeping God. Isn’t that what the verse says? God, therefore, is seen as blessing people as a means to glorify himself.The purpose for understanding this truth, at the very least, may be used to lead people away from the small genie-type idol god that so commonly taught in our churches today. And if this short blog is used to that end, I would be exceedingly glad!

For Whom Did Jesus Die?

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“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”- Matthew 1:21

For whom die Christ die? Well, simply stated, the the specificity of the text leaves no room for speculation. Let us now consider some things. Note the words “will save,” “his people, ” and “their sins.” First, concerning the words “will save,” we see no room for failure, or potentiality. In other words “will save,” is not univocal to “might save.” Hence the scriptures say, “out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be  satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isa 53:11).

Christ is satisfied because of the surety of his mission. As he himself put it, “I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39). Second, consider the words “his people.” Once again, notice the specificity in the words. Now let us ask the question: “What is meant by “his people?”

Obviously, the words are meant to distinguish one group – namely, his people, from another group; that is to say, those who are not his people (people who don’t love him). Finally, note the word “their,” and let us bring the whole text together as a cohesive whole. The word “their” is in reference to the words “his people,” of whom we are told that Christ “will save.” Well, then, is it really any wonder as to whom it is that Christ tasted dead? Perhaps? I know that some will say that Christ died for all men, but I do not see that being sustained by scripture, so much as I see it expounded from emotion. For me, I see that Christ died for his people; that is to say, the elect of God.