How does all this fit together?

Have you ever looked at the Bible and thought, “How does all this fit together?” This is an honest question and many theologians have used the diversity of the Scriptures to force their views of disunity on Scripture. However, is there a theme that displays the unity of diversity in the Bible? Dr. John Frame of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando highlights how Reformed theologians have found the covenant motif as a helpful way to see unity in Scripture:

Traditionally, these writers have found in Scripture two major covenants, sometimes called the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The former embraces the pre-fall period. In it God offers an eternal life of blessedness (symbolized by the tree of life) to Adam and Eve on the condition that they abstain from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. After the fall into sin, God sets forth the covenant of grace: a promise of redemption through the divine Messiah received through faith alone. 

The covenant of grace, in turn, encompasses, on the traditional view, all the post-fall historical covenants, including those with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David, and the “new covenant” effected by the blood of Jesus himself, of which the earlier covenants are but anticipations. 

On this understanding, the whole Bible, diverse in content as it may appear at first sight, can be seen as a story of God making covenants and man responding to them. The books of law show what God expects of his covenant people. The books of history indicate man’s actual response. The psalms contain the praise, the laments, the questionings, the blessings and cursings that should be on the lips of a covenant people. The wisdom books contain applications of the covenant lawsuit against the covenant-breakers while at the same time promising covenant renewal. The Gospels and Acts present the history of the new covenant, which is applied to believers and to world history in the Epistles and Revelation (John Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God, p.146-147)

I found this explanation helpful and I pray it blesses you. If this is true and I believe it is, how will we respond to the contra-conditional and covenantal love of our Triune God?

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8 ESV).

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Sweet spot? The Bible by Chapter 3, Verse 16

Your favorite album, your second favorite album, and that album that you really hate for the most part has a sweet spot in it. If you haven’t already noticed, it’s track 8. Track 8, 94% of the time, is the sweet spot. I was noticing that the Scriptures have an interesting, not-to-be-taken-so-seriously similarity. Of course we must feel the truth of 2 Tim 3:16, but the third chapter and 16th verse of each book (where possible) seems to be quite the sweet spot. In other words, verses that we hold quite dear.

I’ll include just the NT in this post. Hopfully this will encourage you dig further into those passages, for a verse alone is only part of a whole truth being communicated by God. So, dig in, drink deep, and be satisfied. Enjoy!
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[All verses are from the English Standard Version translation, Chapter 3 verse 16, unless otherwise noted]
Matthew
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;

Mark
He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter);

Luke
John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

John
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Acts
And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

Romans
in their paths are ruin and misery,

1 Corinthians
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

2 Corinthians
But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Galations
Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.

Ephesians
that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

Phillipians
Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Colossians
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

1 Thessalonians (3:13)
so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

2 Thessalonians
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

1 Timothy
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

2 Timothy
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

Titus (3:15)
All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith.

Phelemon (1:16)
no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

Hebrews
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses?

James
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

1 Peter
having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

2 Peter
as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

1 John
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

2 John (1:13)
The children of your elect sister greet you.

3 John (1:15)
Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, every one of them.

Jude
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

Revelation
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

Freedom to Say Life is Hard

I saw this article bouncing around Facebook the other day, Don’t Carpe Diem. The author was writing about experiences she has had when older ladies have stopped her and her small children in stores and said,  “Sugar, I hope you are enjoying this. I loved every single second of parenting my two girls. Every single moment. These days go by so fast.”

The author comments,

“Everywhere I go, someone is telling me to seize the moment, raise my awareness, be happy, enjoy everysecond, etc, etc, etc.

I know that this message is right and good. But, I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn’t work for me. It bugs me. This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. Especially during this phase of my life – while I’m raising young kids. Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I’m not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I’m doing something wrong.”

This article seemed to resonate with lots of young moms who found in this article the freedom to say that they “don’t carpe diem”, the freedom to say life is hard. It resonated with me as well. She captures grace and expresses it in real world terms.

I wonder, do we give people this freedom in the church, or do people feel the pressure to have it together all the time? Do people feel like they are doing something wrong if they don’t  live up to the qualifications we have set for being a “good” Christian? What does it say about the gospel if people don’t have this freedom?

The Trinity and Humility

I have been given the opportunity to lead a Sunday morning group on the basic doctrines of the Christian faith this semester. Last week I asked my good friend, Justin Kohns, who is in this group to be prepared to discuss how an understanding of the Trinity ought to produce humility in Christians. God blessed Justin with some great content and he has allowed me to share it with you. I hope you enjoy what Justin has to say on this subject as much as I do. 

The Trinity and Humility 

by Justin Kohns

Sometimes studying doctrine can seem disconnected from our personal holiness. The Bible even says that knowledge can “puff up” our minds if it is independent of us growing in love. To be on guard against this, we should always seek to connect what we know with how we live. Our doctrine should shape our thoughts, attitudes and actions. Our “head” must inform and transform our “hands.” This is a brief explanation of how the doctrine of the Trinity can and should produce humility in us.

How does a deeper understanding of the Trinity produce humility in us?

I can answer this question a couple ways.   First, there is a sense of mystery to the doctrine of the Trinity, and our inability to fully grasp it should produce humility in us.  The doctrine of the Trinity transcends reason and logic.   It is hard to fully comprehend or easily explain.   Yet it is true.   So when studying the Trinity we are confronted with a truth that our minds are too small to fully grasp or explain.   We are left with this realization:  ultimate truth is not found at the apex of human thought.  There is truth that is beyond us.   Knowing our limits produces humility.  While we are privileged that God has revealed himself to us, and given us capacities of intellect and reason, we should be reminded that those capabilities are a gift from God (so that no one should boast) and that they are limited.   A study of the Trinity can be a healthy reminder that we don’t fully comprehend all things, which hopefully produces humility.

 

A second truth that we see in the Trinity is this:  God has been eternally fulfilled and he has eternally lived in community.  God lacks nothing yet lives interdependently.  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have been forever united.  We need to realize that truth about God so we realize this about us:  we don’t need each other because we’re sinful.  We need each other because we are human.  It’s in our nature.  Even before sin entered the world, God knew “it is not good for man to be alone.”   The idea of the “independent man” goes against our very nature.   We are designed to live interdependently.  That is the whole basis of marriage, family, church, and nation.   Humility is realizing that God created me to be interdependent rather than independent.  I am neither self-sufficient nor self-fulfilled.  I must humbly pursue to live interdependently.

 

The third, and I think primary, lesson for us is this:  God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are in all ways equal in their divinity, yet they display submissiveness and humility.  They are equally holy and equally powerful.   There is no distinction between them in value, goodness or love.  Yet this is true:

“though he (Jesus) was in the form of God, (he) did not county equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, 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.” (Php. 2: 6-8).

Jesus’ humility has nothing to do with his worth.  Jesus is God!   Yet he humbled himself, taking the form and role of a servant.    True humility is not something that others press into you, and it’s certainly not a feeling of worthlessness within you.  Humility is choosing to honor others ahead of yourself.  Humility is gladly serving and submitting to authority.  And here’s the thing worth wrestling with in your own heart.  Taking the role of a servant does not indicate a lack of significance.   Jesus was submissive to the Father’s will, but he was no less divine.   Role and authority are not the same thing as value and worth.  If the God of the universe exercises authority, and practices submission and humility, we as his family should do the same.

“Therfore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Eph. 5: 1-2)    

Humble yourself, even as Christ humbled himself to the Father, and love others, even as Christ has loved you.

A Cry for Deliverance

Heavenly Father,

Save me entirely from sin.

I know I am righteous through the

righteousness of another,

but I pant and pine for likeness to thyself;

I am thy child and should bear thy image,

Enable me to recognize my death unto sin;

When it tempts me may I be deaf unto its voice.

Deliver me from the invasion as well as

the dominion of sin.

Grant me to walk as Christ walked,

to live in the newness of his life,

the life of love, the life of faith,

the life of holiness.

I abhor my body of death,

its indolence, envy, meanness, pride.

Forgive, and kill these vices,

have mercy on my unbelief,

on my corrupt and wandering heart.

When thy blessings come I begin to idolize them,

and set my affection on some beloved object –

children, friends, wealth, honour;

Cleanse this spiritual adultery and give me chastity;

close my heart to all but thee.

Sin is my greatest curse;

Let thy victory be apparent to my consciousness,

and displayed in my life.

Help me to be always devoted, confident, obedient,

resigned, childlike in my trust of thee,

to love thee with soul, body, mind, strength,

to love my fellow-man as I love myself,

to be saved from unregenerate temper,

hard thoughts, slanderous words, meanness,

unkind manners,

to master my tongue and keep the door

of my lips.

Fill me with grace daily,

that my life be a fountain

of sweet water.

Valley of Vision – A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

Learning Evangelism From Jesus

I just finished reading, Learning Evangelism From Jesus by Jerram Barrs. This is an excellent and challenging book on evangelism. This isn’t a book about technique or methods or programs. In it, Barrs examines passages of Scripture  looking at Jesus’ interaction with people to challenge our assumptions, heart, and approach to non-believers. Will you agree with all of his conclusions? Maybe, maybe not, but you will have to wrestle deeply with what it means to be a sinner, redeemed by God who has been blessed to be a blessing in this lost and hurting world. When looking at Jesus’ practice of spending time with the outsiders, tax collectors, etc… and the criticism Jesus received from the Pharisees for spending time with “sinners”, Barrs challenges us with this…

“What God desires from every true Christian believer is mercy for sinners. This, after all, is who God is, someone who delights in showing mercy to sinners. If it were not so, there would be not a single Christian in the world. Even if the friends we have appear to be so sinful that they scandalize some of our fellow believers, we need to be ready to endure criticism and persevere in loving those whom others may consider unlovable. “

I’m I ready to do this? Am I doing it? It got me thinking about the friendships I have or don’t have and why I have and don’t have them. Who would I have trouble being friends with and why? Who, by appearance or lifestyle, do I immediately dismiss the idea of being friends? Why?  What am I affirming or denying about the Gospel by my friendships or lack thereof?

Wondrous Cross

As of late I have been doing a lot of thinking about what type of music I fill my head with.  Does this mean I have given up the relm of secular music, No.  I still love the Allman Bros, Railroad Earth, Country Music, but I will be trimming down some of my selection of the other stuff.  In particular most of what is on the radio today, which leaves much to be desired in regards to wholesome lyrics.  So leaves me looking at new “Christian” music (I use that term loosely) on the market which also leaves much to be desired.  Maybe I’m getting old or maybe it is as bad as I think both lyrically and quality!  Not much compares to the lyrics of Psalms and Hymns to contemporary music IMHO.  Speaking of which there is a group called Page CXVI that is on task to make hymns known and accessible again.  Novel concept huh!?  Make music which deep and rich lyrically known in what appears to be a shallow and wide world.  One of my favorites by them is the remake of When I Survey the Wonderous Cross by Issac Watts.  So much truth.  Enjoy the lyrics by Watts and Page CXVI version to music below.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

To Christ, Who won for sinners grace
By bitter grief and anguish sore,
Be praise from all the ransomed race
Forever and forevermore.

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