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Archive for the tag “theology”

God’s Gracious Curveballs

“Either we believe Rom 8:28-29, or we don’t: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose; for those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

What this means is that God is writing your life script. It means God is writing your story. And it means that your story is not without purpose – not your comfort, but your conformity to the image of Jesus Christ.

So when you wake up in the morning and something unexpected, surprising, horrifying, grievous, extreme, trying, terrible or shocking happens to you, you can know that it is coming from the hand of your good God. It’s a gracious reminder that you are not writing your life’s story. God is – the God who loves you so much that he sacrificed his son for your salvation. And the reason it’s a gracious reminder is that the greatest problem we have is that we spend far too much of our lives with self at the center, believing the lie that my life is my own, that I am in charge of my destiny, that I have life firmly in my control. These lies are just that – lies! And they only destroy us in the end.

So be thankful today for God’s gracious curveballs. They are the evidence that your loving Father is writing the story of your transformation from what you once were to all you were meant to be in Jesus.”–RW Glenn

Is Doctrine Important?

In short, the answer is, “Yes.”

Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t things that we should be willing to concede among brothers & sisters in Christ, but we must be careful to hold to the truths of God’s Word.

So, what can happen if we don’t maintain that doctrine is important? I submit for example an excerpt from a message someone I know (I don’t think I need to be any more specific than that for this person’s sake & because ultimately it’s not important to this post) sent me a few days ago:

“We had a ‘church consultant’ come in today to help ‘healing,’ but instead of talking about forgiveness and things that would have been relevant, he talked about ‘woman speak’ and ‘man speak (of course, woman speak is the one where someone says one thing but means and expects another– you know, ‘No, you don’t have to get me anything,’ etc. So basically, women are manipulative liars, and men are the hapless, direct creatures that have to follow them around and guess). It was bad enough, until he actually started saying that this could be avoided in marriage by occasionally giving a flower– ‘Not even a rose! Just one single flower!’– on some day where your wife isn’t expecting it, and then you’re out of the dog house for a while. THEN he said that that’s how we should view Jesus: He commands certain things for us, but he actually wants different things from us, and we should guess what that is. Obedience isn’t enough for him to love you, and neither is love; it takes weirdly spontaneous action that no one can predict or understand.”

How do you ever come to a conclusion like this unless you have abandoned doctrine & God’s Word completely?!

Read the Word. Study it. Think about doctrine. Work through those things that you have questions about. Ask questions of wise men & women who have spent much time studying these things. Pray.

How Could One Not Believe?

Psalm 19:1-6

During the drive home from work today, I was listening to a Wayne Grudem systematic theology lecture (you can get all 119 lectures free + shipping on mp3 CD or download each one free here) about the arguments for God, and as I listened I was thinking about Psalm 19 (I had been studying it last night, & Dr. Grudem mentioned it during this particular lecture), thinking about the expanse of the universe, thinking of the miniscule building blocks of our bodies and other things, & thinking of various things in between.

Do you know what struck me as I pondered these things? I was amazed! But maybe not by what you may think…

Yes, I was amazed at the beauty & intricacy of God’s creation. I was floored by the unfathomable depths of God’s creativity.

But…

I was even more astonished that there are those out there who do not believe there is a god. And, not only that, but there are those who go to great lengths to “prove” that we came to be by some unintelligent (this does not seem like an appropriate word choice) means.

I find it hard to believe that you can look at the vastness of space & the beauty of the stars; that you can see the sun rise & set; that you can hear the birds sing (& not just one kind of bird, but thousands upon thousands of different kinds); that you can study the complexity of the human body (not just the multitude of organ systems working together in harmony, but also the varied individual cells & the DNA & the processes that create energy & the billions of neurons in the brain…); that you can see the variability of the plant life & animal life & insect life; that you can study the structures of compounds & how atoms stick together in different structural arrangements; and that you can hear, see, smell, taste, & feel a thousand other things and not see proof that there is a God & that He is good.

And, yet, although I cannot understand that from a human perspective when I take the time to look & think about God’s creation, even God’s Word tells me it is this way:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Romans 1:18-23 (ESV)

I am thankful for God’s grace & mercy upon me, undeserving though I am, that I have been blessed by God to be able to see Him. I have some friends that I would love to argue into God’s kingdom using various “proofs” & thoughts,  but I realize that no matter how good or how logical my argument may be, God is the one who calls & He does so via His Word.

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 1 Cor 3:7 (ESV)

“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:8-17 (ESV)

Peace of Mind or the Peace That Passes All Understanding

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.[…] I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Phil 4:4-9 & 11b-13 (ESV)

Being at peace with a decision is not the same as having the peace that passes all understanding. Making a decision that falls in line with your own desires is likely to produce a peace about the decision, but having a peace that passes all understanding is being at peace with the God of the universe through Jesus the Christ even though we deserve no peace from Him because we have committed treason against His infinite attributes (in other words, we have sinned against Him). If you have THAT peace, you can be at peace no matter what situation you are in regardless of whether it lines up with your desires or not.

“It is a by-product of the presence of the ‘God of peace’ that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” The full reality of that peace comes to bear as we obey the command of verse 8 above: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”–in other words, saturate your thoughts in Christ & the Gospel. (Thank you Pastor Gary for that helpful insight!)

Who is Romans 7 about?

Stephen Altrogge has had an interesting series of posts in the past week over at The Blazing Center. I’m guessing the impetus for these posts came out of the discussion that ensued in the comments of his post “Don’t Mess With ‘Come Thou Fount’!” from a couple of weeks ago.

Anyway, over three blog entries he argues that contrary to the generally accepted understanding of Romans 7:7-25, it is not actually about Christians, but is about those who have not been saved (Romans 7 Is NOT About Christians!, Romans 7 Is Not About Christians (Part Deux), & So What’s Really Up With Romans 7?) & is specifically about “the experience of a pious Jew, possibly Paul himself before conversion, who is seeking to obey the law, yet finds himself unable to obey apart from Christ and the Holy Spirit.”

Here (as I understand it) is Stephen’s argument on why Romans 7 does not describe the life of a Christian in a nutshell:

  1. There is no mention of the Holy Spirit.
  2. The content of Romans 6 & Romans 8 negates chapter 7 describing the Christian experience
  3. We allow the bias of our own experience to bleed into our interpretation of the passage
  4. We have been heavily influenced (whether we realize it or not) by the Puritans’ understanding of this passage

On point #1, I’m not sure why there being no mention of the Holy Spirit would necessarily negate a particular passage from being about Christians; however, I think the argument could be made stronger by pointing out that the passage makes no mention of either the Spirit or Christ (until verse 25 where he is thanking God that through Christ he has been delivered from the law). I think it would be rather hard to describe anything about the Christian life without some mention of one or the other (though, you should feel free to direct me to passages  which may do just that).

In regards to point #2, he argues that since, in chapter 6, Paul says that “sin will have no dominion over you” because you are no longer “under the law” (Romans 6:14) & since, in chapter 8, we are told that we are free from the law of sin (Romans 8:2-3), then this passage in chapter 7 cannot be in reference to a Christian’s life. The argument goes that since, in verse 25, Paul says that he serves the law of sin with his flesh & in verse 23, he says that he is “captive to the law of sin”, if this passage were about Christians, it would contradict chapter 6 & chapter 8.

I think that up to a point #3 is probably true. How often have I thought about verses 15 & 18-19 applying directly to me because of how my own life is going? I have taken comfort in thinking that if the Apostle Paul struggled in this way, it must be normal that I struggle in the same way with sin.

#4 seems like it may be a valid argument as well, but I’m not directly familiar enough with the Puritan writers to really comment on this point.

So, I’ve already mentioned that I don’t think that having no mention of the Spirit would automatically make this passage about non-Christians so I’ll focus on other reasons why it seems to me that this passage is about Christians.

The present tense. Paul writes this passage in the present tense which would seem to mean he’s talking about what the Christian life is like currently for him. Now, I know the Greek has a lot of subtleties that don’t come through very well in English, & I’ve seen some things recently that indicate that the present tense was sometimes used to make the reader more acutely aware of what the author was feeling, but it seems as though the most straightforward reading would be best unless there is something that would indicate it should be read another way.

The phrases “the desire to do what is right” & “delight in the law[…]in my inner being”.  These 2 phrases are the clincher in my mind. If this passage was about an unsaved person, I don’t think these phrases could be included–especially that 2nd one. There is no delight or desire in one’s inner being to do what is right except by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 2:1, Romans 3:10-12, Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 8:7-8).

I’m not ready to throw out Mr. Altrogge’s thoughts on this section of Scripture; I think he may have been able to make his argument a little stronger with a few more supporting passages, but until I can study this in greater detail myself, I will keep an open mind on his theory.

(Note that I’ve written this post over a few days time & I’m quite exhausted at the moment so if my arguments don’t flow very well or don’t make sense, please forgive me & please let me know)

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