Wednesday, December 30, 2009

SILENCING THE MARTYRS

“Lord, open the King of England’s eyes” was the last sermon preached by William Tyndale. The motivation for this particular blog can attributed to two sources: my wife Laura, who is reading through Fox’s Book of Martyrs and my dissertation research which is in the field of hermeneutics. One might ask what one has to do with the other. By the end of this blog it is my hope that you will experience an epiphany of sorts. I hope that some things, which may be acknowledged in your daily observations of church life but not quite digested, will become somewhat less foggy as a result of what you read here.

William Tyndale was a reformation ‘giant’ among giant reformers. He was an English reformer as well as a bible translator. Tyndale graduated from Oxford in 1515, having studied the Scriptures in Greek and Hebrew. It was his lifelong goal to translate the Scripture into English. In a refutation with a clergyman who believed that only clergymen can rightly understand the Scriptures, Tyndale said, “If God spare my life, ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture than thou dost.” It is remarkably obvious to even the most casual reader of church history that churchmen like Tyndale had a burning passion for their cause. They believed in their mission with every fiber of their being. Tyndale fled to Germany where he successfully translated and smuggled fifteen thousand copies of his English translations from Germany into England between the years 1525 and 1530. In May of 1535, Tyndale was arrested and imprisoned near Brussels. On October 6, 1536, William Tyndale was strangled to death and burned at the stake. His final words were, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”

For what did William Tyndale die? Was his death necessary? Did Tyndale’s death actually mean anything? Or was it a tragic waste of human life? Did Tyndale die for a cause in a state of extreme ignorance and naivety? Jacques Derrida, the most prominent scholar of the new “literary philosophers” believes that “the mind may be a ‘mirror of nature,’ but what it reflects is ultimately not nature but its own capacities.” Nietzsche held that, in the absence of a Creator, it was up to human being to impose meaning and order on the world.” Since all views of the world, according to these philosophers, involve self-projections, reality in any objective sense does not exist and if it does, these projections preclude any possibility of knowing it. There is no “other” because the “other” is always part and parcel the result of our own projection. Hence, metaphysics dies a slow agonizing death under the rubric of agnosticism. What does this mean for truth? What are the implications for Scripture? Moreover, what does this mean to the martyrs of years gone by who defended and died for truth, most especially, that truth divinely revealed to us in Scripture? According Rob Bell’s (leading pastor in the emergent church) wife, Kristin, agnosticism is a virtue to be embraced when it comes to understanding and knowing the biblical text: “Now I have no idea what most of it [the Bible] means. And yet I feel like life is big again – like life used to be black and white, and now it’s in color.” [DeYoung & Kluck: Why Were Not Emergent, pg. 70]

Imagine that! William Tyndale is strangled to death and burned at the stake so that non-clergy may have access to the content and teachings of sacred Scripture only to have Kristin Bell say, no thank you. We are better off without it! If you give us this bible and force us to understand it, we will be in bondage to a black and white, right and wrong world. That is a nice gesture, Rev. Tyndale, but we much more prefer our liberating agnosticism which gives our world a variety of color.

If it is true that the Author, along with God, has died, and meaning is whatever the reader wants it to be, then William Tyndale and a host of other martyrs died in vain. If it is true that truth is unobtainable and that deriving meaning from the biblical text is beyond our grasp, then the very notion of translating the biblical text into any language becomes a fruitless waste of time. Certainly such a project would not be worth dying for. Tyndale said, “I perceived how that it was impossible to establish the lay people in any truth except the Scripture were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother tongue.” Apparently for Tyndale, establishing people in the truth of Scripture was a burning passion. Hence, this cause was so great for him that he lived and died for it.



The best way of silencing martyrs of years past and of eliminating the possibility of martyrdom in the future is to remove any cause worthy of “death” from the picture. That is to say, make everything negotiable or flexible. Take away truth and you take away the rock upon which martyrs die. Deconstructionism, also known as postmodernism does this very thing. It has slowly crept into the evangelical church over the last decade or two. It has pounded its fist on the table arguing that relationships are all that matter, and that doctrine is not only “not important” but that it gets in the way of the very thing that is: relationships. It severs relationships, splits entire denominations, and has led to the useless death of many good Christians. This ideology has turned up the heat as of late in the form of the emergent church which seems to ravel in ignorance of the biblical text. Moreover, many in the emergent camp vilify and denigrate anyone or anything that implies there is a fixed meaning in the biblical text that is actually discoverable. That is to say that the emergent idea mocks the very notion that one can obtain a working knowledge and understanding of biblical truth because truth, in the first place does not actually exist, and in the second place, even if it did, the best anyone can do is project their own ideas of truth onto the text as they see fit.

Where does this leave men like William Tyndale, John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other great truth reformers. The reformation was in fact, a hermeneutical revolution. The governing principle of the entire movement was Sola Scriptura! To these men, Scripture alone was the container and discloser of truth and that to disclose truth really mattered. It mattered to the biblical authors, it matter to Christ, it matter to the reformers, and it matters today. Without intending to do so, perhaps, the postmodern Christian (so-called), with one single sentence has brought to nothing the life and blood of thousands and millions of Christians the world over. Such a contention should be met with equal force, I submit, by those who have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and who have taken up the cause of biblical truth and hermeneutics in an age when the crisis of truth in hermeneutics threatens to collapse society as we know it. “And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God..” (Rev. 20:4)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pressing Into the Kingdom of God - Jonathan Edwards

By pressing into the kingdom of God is denoted a breaking through
opposition and difficulties. There is in the expression a plain intimation of difficulty. If there were no opposition, but the way was all clear and open, there would be no need of pressing to get along. They therefore that are pressing into the kingdom of God, go on with such engagedness, that they break through the difficulties that are in their way. They are so set for salvation, that those things by which others are discouraged, and stopped,and turned back, do not stop them, but they press through them.

Persons ought to be so resolved for heaven, that if by any means they can obtain, they will obtain. Whether those means be difficult or easy, cross or agreeable, if they are requisite means of salvation, they should be complied with. When any thing is presented to be done, the question should not be, Is it easy or hard? is it agreeable to my carnal inclinations or interest, or against them? But is it a required means of my obtaining an interest in Jesus Christ, and eternal salvation? Thus the apostle, Php. 3:11. “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” He tells us there in the context what difficulties he broke through, that he suffered the loss of all things, and was willingly made conformable even to Christ’s death, though that was attended with such extreme torment and ignominy.

He that is pressing into the kingdom of God, commonly finds many things
in the way that are against the grain; but he is not stopped by the cross that lies before him, but takes it up, and carries it. Suppose there be something incumbent on him to do, that is cross to his natural temper, and irksome to him on that account; suppose something that he cannot do without
suffering in his estate, or that he apprehends will look odd and strange in
the eyes of others, and expose him to ridicule and reproach, or any thing
that will offend a neighbour, and get his ill-will, or something that will be very cross to his own carnal appetite — he will press through such
difficulties. Every thing that is found to be a weight that hinders him in
running this race he casts from him, though it be a weight of gold or pearls; yea, if it be a right hand or foot that offends him, he will cut them off, and will not stick at plucking out a right eye with his own hands. These things are insuperable difficulties to those who are not thoroughly engaged in seeking their salvation; they are stumbling-blocks that they never get over. But it is not so with him that presses into the kingdom of God. Those things (before he was thoroughly roused from his security) about which he was wont to have long parleyings and disputings with his own conscience — employing carnal reason to invent arguments and pleas of excuse — he now sticks at no longer; he has done with this endless disputing and reasoning, and presses violently through all difficulties. Let what will be in the way, heaven is what he must and will obtain, not if he can without difficulty, but if it be possible. He meets with temptation: the devil is often whispering in his ear, setting allurements before him, magnifying the difficulties of the work he is engaged in, telling him that they are insuperable, and that he can never conquer them, and trying all ways in the world to discourage him; but still he presses forward. God has given and maintains such an earnest spirit for heaven, that the devil cannot stop him in his course; he is not at leisure to lend an ear to what he has to say.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Remembering the Reformer - John Calvin

The Life of a Christian Man [Calvins Institutes: 3.6.5

5. I insist not that the life of the Christian shall breathe nothing but the perfect Gospel, though this is to be desired, and ought to be attempted. I insist not so strictly on evangelical perfection, as to refuse to acknowledge as a Christian any man who has not attained it. In this way all would be excluded from the Church, since there is no man who is not far removed from this perfection, while many, who have made but little progress, would be undeservedly rejected. What then? Let us set this before our eye as the end at which we ought constantly to aim. Let it be regarded as the goal towards which we are to run. For you cannot divide the matter with God, undertaking part of what his word enjoins, and omitting part at pleasure. For, in the first place, God uniformly recommends integrity as the principal part of his worship, meaning by integrity real singleness of mind, devoid of gloss and fiction, and to this is opposed a double mind; as if it had been said, that the spiritual commencement of a good life is when the internal affections are sincerely devoted to God, in the cultivation of holiness and justice. But seeing that, in this earthly prison of the body, no man is supplied with strength sufficient to hasten in his course with due alacrity, while the greater number are so oppressed with weakness, that hesitating, and halting, and even crawling on the ground, they make little progress, let every one of us go as far as his humble ability enables him, and prosecute the journey once begun. No one will travel so badly as not daily to make some degree of progress. This, therefore, let us never cease to do, that we may daily advance in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair because of the slender measure of success. How little soever the success may correspond with our wish, our labour is not lost when to-day is better than yesterday, provided with true singleness of mind we keep our aim, and aspire to the goal, not speaking flattering things to ourselves, nor indulging our vices, but making it our constant endeavour to become better, until we attain to goodness itself. If during the whole course of our life we seek and follow, we shall at length attain it, when relieved from the infirmity of flesh we are admitted to full fellowship with God.


Calvin, J. (1997). Institutes of the Christian religion. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Are We There Yet? Part II

To continue with the list of vices that Paul warned Timothy would serve as an indication that we are living in the last days, I pick up where I left of:


Men will be without self-control. The Greek word is AKRATES and it means, without self-control, dissolute; unable to govern one’s appetites; without command over oneself. The idea suggests that a person is unable to possess of their appetite, their proclivities, and their own self. A famous golfer comes to mind that seemingly was not able to control his own appetite for women who were not his wife.

Men will be brutal. The Greek word is ANEMEROS and it means untamed. The comparison is with the wild beasts of the field who are vicious, without conscious or discernment or compassion. The false teachers have no fear of God whatsoever and no regard for the damage they do to men’s souls with their pernicious teachings. Are we there yet?

Men will be haters of good. The Greek word is APHILAGATHOS and it means a lack of generous interest in the public good, without interest in the public good. Here Paul seems to use a satirical sketch of persons who are actually the opposite of public expectations.

Men will be treacherous. The Greek word is PRODOTES and it means traitor, betrayer. What does it mean to betray someone? It means to violate a person’s trust and confidence. Our society does this all the time. Any time a person enters into a contract or covenant with another and then changes their mind, they are behaving treacherously with the other person. Some people do this intentionally from the outset. Their treachery is calculated and deliberate and even premeditated. Others simply don’t place the same value in covenant making and as soon as there is a good enough reason, the covenant is abandoned. This behavior litters American Politics. Self-interest supersedes all else. In fact, treachery is one of the most selfish acts humans engage in. Let us love as Christ loves. His love nailed Him to a cross in unspeakable suffering. The minute love costs us anything whatsoever, we find an alternative path that is more convenient and one that does not involve self-sacrifice in the slightest.

Men will be reckless. The Greek word is PROPETES. This word literally means falling down or forward. The idea is one of recklessness, rash, thoughtless. We should never rush to judgment, but always consider the facts before taking action. Paul is saying that men will not give the same weight to the discipline of thinking and that judgment will suffer. Men will behave recklessly.

Men will be conceited. The Greek word is TUPHOO and it means becloud, delude. The idea is that one will have a deluded understanding and estimation of their own self- importance or significance. It likely means mentally ill in 1 Tim. 6:4 which I think is kind of humerous in a way. Are we there yet?

Men will be lovers of pleasure. The Greek word is PHILEDONOS and it means a particular or specific love for pleasure. The idea is one who is given over to a fondness for pleasure. And in this sense they are said to love pleasure more than they love God. Whatever brings them pleasure becomes more important to them than God. In fact, loving God is no longer viewed as being an act that pleases or brings pleasure.

Finally, men will have a form of godliness. The Greek word for form is MORPHOSIS and it means that state of being formally structured, embodiment, formulation, form. Philo used this language to refer to a semblance of piety. There is, among these men, a real outward form of what appears to be true religion. The Greek word for godliness is EUSEBEIA and it means piety, reverence, loyalty exhibited toward parents or deity, fear of God. Here it means to be devout only in appearance. The idea is that one follows external routines that would typically be expected in those who actually are devoted to God, but indeed their heart is actually not seeking God at all. The glaring truth is that these people are not external to the Church. They are actually members of the visible body of Christ. By all appearances they look like they are a valid part of the Christian community. In fact, they are greater enemies of the faith than those who are clearly not participating in the body. For these possess deceptive powers that those outside the body do not typically have at their disposal. A wolf is not so dangerous as long as you can see his fangs. But nothing is quite as dangerous as the wolf that pants and whines as if he wants affection when what he is really after is blood.

One of the more fascinating features of this text of Scripture is the number of hapax legomena that appear. A hapax legomenon is a word that appears only once in the Greek NT.

Are we there yet? It seems clear that these behaviors in men have marked the last days since the time of Timothy. They are visible markers of false teachers and believers and serve as warning signs to those who are legitimate members of the body of Christ. We should react to them accordingly. Not only this, they also serve as a list of vices that we as Christians should always be aware of. These behaviors constantly war against our own souls, tempting us to behave autonomously, selfishly, in subtle or even open rebellion against our God. May God grant us His mercy and grace by providing us with the Spirit who will shape us and mold us with God’s word into the image of Christ He has called us to be.

People LIVE what they believe: EVERYTHING else is just noise!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Are We There Yet?

If you have children and you have had the unique experience of moving those children from point A to point B, the distance of which only need be slightly more than say 20-30 minutes, then you have no doubt had the pleasure of experiencing this question: "Are we there yet?" And once it begins, it seems to flow, as if scientifically timed, every 2 minutes until in fact, we are finally there.

As I read Paul's last instructions to the young pastor Timothy, I admit I find myself asking this very same question: "Are we there yet?" And I do believe we are clearly there. Beginning in Chapter three of his final written work, Paul issues a most ominous prediction to young Timothy. Paul warns Timothy that "difficult times will come." The Greek word diffcult is CHELPOS and it means that which causes hardship and trouble. Paul issues this warning and then he explains himself with the epexegetical "for" which connects this prediction to the foreseen condition which he is about to describe. The reason troubling and difficult times are coming is because the condition of men will reach the state which immediately follows.

First, men will be lovers of themselves. They will look out for numero uno. We know that people in our culture practice this all the time. People go out of their way, mostly because it is actually self-serving. They do not do it out of a pure love of others. There is mostly (not always) an angle to be worked. You be the judge, are we there yet?

Second, men will be lovers of money. Man cannot serve God and money for he will either love the one and hate the other. The same is true of loving self of course. We must die so that He can live through us.

Men will be boastful. And wow, are we! While I didn't verbalize it, I was proud of how patient I was while Christmas shopping. What is the difference? Being too impatent or being prideful? They are both sinful behaviors. But we have a way of making some sins worse than others and looking down on people who commit the ones we hold out as worse and think more highly of ourselves because we avoid the ones we deem to be unacceptable. I have news for you: God sees all sin equally as filth and it all smells the same to Him. If we are guilty of one, we are guilty of all. A boastful person is one who is pretentiously prideful and braggs about it. They are constantly bragging about their accomplishments and failing to notice anyone else's. If you get two boastful people together, you won't be able to get a word in edgewise because they will continually be trying to one-up each other on their accomplishments. Are we there yet?

Men will be arrogant. An arrogant person is one who thinks of himself or herself as being superior to others. They look down and talk down on others for a variety of reasons. It could be because the person doesn't have just the right job, the right education, the right family background, earn the right amount of money, etc. We attached significance to things that God does not. And then we aquire them and look down on those who don't.

Men will be revilers. The word revile is BLASPHEMOS and it means defaming, demeaing, and denigrating. It is blasphemy quite plain and simple. When you think of this behavior, it is the one behavior that dominates comedic entertainment today. We amuse ourselves by being blasphemous. And Christians fill their minds and spirits with this filth in the name of Christian liberty and think grace looks past it.

Men will be disobedient to parents. Do I really need to comment on this one?

Do you think we there yet?

Men will be ungrateful. Buy your child a car and they want a 30k BMW. Give a man a job and he is not satisfied with a paycheck. He wants power or more, or you name it. We are ungrateful! We cannot stand the slightest disappointment in our lives without having a nervous breakdown. This is a clear indication that we are ungrateful. Take a teenager's cell phone away for one day and you will see what I mean.

Men will be unholy. One of the most vilified doctrines in the church today is the doctrine of holiness. It is ipso facto dismissed as legalism. The effort in science around evolution is designed to get rid of the holy demand of a righteous God. The effort in hermeneutics around deconstructionism and post-modernism is to remove the oversight of a God who demands holiness from His subjects. Are we there yet?

Men will be unloving. And how! as Spanky from the little rascals would say.  The Greek word is ASTORGOS and it means of one who is lacking in good feeling for others, thereby jeopardizing the maintenance of relationships that are essential to a well-ordered society; hardhearted, unfeeling, without regard for others. Someone once said the Christian church is the only organism that kills its own wounded. And this appears to be true. An absence of love for one's brother indicates an absence of love for God. Sorry, you can't have your cake and eat it too. I cannot hate you and love God. Nor can you hate me and love God. And I cannot love you with my mouth only and hate you with my heart and love God at the same time. It simply doesn't work that way. Are we there yet?

Men will be irreconcilable. The Greek word is ASPONDOS. It means one who is unwilling to negotiate a solution to a problem involving a second party. This will be the disposition of sinful men in the last days. They will have a spirit so hard and determined that they are unwilling to work toward a resolution in order to solve problems. Problems are unavoidable. The question is how we respond to them. What causes us to stiffen our will and refuse to even work toward a solution? It is our sinful nature along with its extreme demands. We insist on having our way and refuse to consider a different perspective. I have lived this one personally. Christians are not ummune to these behaviors. At least this Christian is not immune to this sin. We would prefer to indulge our flesh rather than be sensitive to our spouse's worries about the potential conseqences of leading an unhealthy lifestyle. Are we there yet?

Men will be malicious gosssips. The Greek word is DIABOLOS. It pertains to one who is engaged in slander. Never, ever speak ill of your brother or sister in Christ. If you have an issue with someone, you are supposed to go to that person in love and be reconciled to them. It is the only way to handle matters of dispute and offense. But before you go to the alleged offender, you should ask yourself this question: "should I have an issue with this person?" Make sure you are justified in approaching your brother or sister over the matter at hand. Examine your motives and be sure you are not going to them because they bruised your blown up ego or violated something that is on your personal sin-list and not God's. Do not speak evil of another person behind their back. And certainly do not pretend to know someone's motives and then speak evil of them. This is not loving, Christ-like behavior. We have become far too comfortable and too complacent in our slanderous remarks of fellow believers in the Christian community. I am not saying that you should never name names because that, too, is unbiblical. There is a time and a place for sharp rebuke. But it is one of the highest offenses to God for a brother or sister in Christ to engage in the personal assassination of another brother or sister's character behind their back. If you believe someone is in sin, you have a responsbility to go to them in love and help them see their sin and help them out of their error. If you don't have enough love for Christ and for His body to do that, then you should keep you mouth shut for you are absolutely not the least bit better than the one caught up in the sin. Moreover, your actions may be worse than your brothers actions. He may be acting in blindness, not realizing what he is doing. God placed you in a position to help him see his sin, and instead, you watch him drown, criticizing him for not being able to swim all the while standing on the life jacket he needs to be saved.  Here is the bottom line: those who choose to talk about people behind their back rather than go to them in love, as Christ commanded, showing them their error, are cowards of the worse sort. These are the same cowards who criticize people who do confront and help others out of their sin, accusing them of being overly crticial and unloving. There is hardly anything less loving than knowing your brother or sister is in trouble, and refusing to lift a finger to help. What is worse; withholding physical needs or withholding spiritual needs? You decide; are we there yet?
These are not so much general sins as they are specific sins visible every day in Ephesus as Timothy deals with the false teachers who wear a veneer of piety but by their sin show that there is no substance, no power, to their religiosity. [William Mounce: The Pastoral Epistles, pg. 551]
As it was the design of Paul to brand false prophets with such marks, that they might be seen and known by all; it is our duty to open our eyes, that we may see those who are pointed out with the finger. [John Calvin: Commentary on 2 Timothy, pg. 239]
To be sure this passage describes false teachers who would come to Ephesus teaching and preaching damnable heresies and exhibiting behavior that is in every way inconsistent with the Christian worldview. We must recognize these behaviors in those sorts of teachers and respond accordingly. Secondly, we should also recognize that our own sin nature, as obstinate as it is, has its own proclivity toward some of these behaviors. Let us be on guard to keep ourselves unsoiled from the love of this world and the service of sinful flesh.
 
Part II to follow within the week.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Proud of my Patience

Christmas shopping is one of my most favorite things to hate. I loathe having to take time out of my schedule to go to the mall, (which is one of my most favorite places to hate) in order to stand in line for hours just to buy gifts that will be forgotten in less time than in took me to make it through the check-out process at the store. I know what your thinking: Ed sure is selfish. If I were more like Christ I would gladily endure the brutal torture of the "Christmas shopping experience" to bring a smile to the faces of those I love. To be sure there is undoubedtly a hint of selfishness in my complaint. I will work that out with my Heaven Father later today. But I fear that when next Christmas arrives, should God still have me on this planet and have blessed me so that I am able to live this annual "experience" once more, that my attitude toward this experience is likely to remain unchanged. However, I admit that God could bring about circumstances in my life in a way that my attitude toward Christmas shopping could change forever. Speaking of changing attitudes, as providence would have it, God has me working with not one, but two behaviorial scientists presently. The scientific data regarding change indicates that people do change. But that it takes consequences in order to help them to change. If a person really doesn't like the consequences of an action, they are not likely to repeat it. But they have to really dislike the consequences more than they like the actions that produced them. As far as my attitude changing toward Christmas shopping, God's will be done. Now on to the point of my post.

I drove to the mall yesterday to finalize my shopping. My first objective was a book from Books-A-Million. But the line was longer than I would have anticipated. I decided pateince was the order of the day. So I relaxed and waited and waited and waited and then paid for my book. I felt good about not allowing my blood pressure to increase.

Then I went to buy a gift card at the customer service desk. There was one person in front of me. But she was purchasing eight cards. Twenty minutes later, I purchased my one card in about 90 seconds and was on my way. Again, I did not allow my blood pressure to increase. Once again I felt good about the patience I had exhibited.

Finally I went to the Dollar Store to purchase some wrapping paper. I discovered I was behind a group of mentally challenged adults and obviously it would take some time to go through the check-out process. Once again, the Spirit was gracious and God helped me to move through the process with patience. And once again, I was proud of my patience.

As I moved through the mall, heading back to my car, I felt good about myself. My first sin was that I took credit for what the Spirit had produced in me as if I had produced it myself. And then I realized that while the sin of impatience was avoided, the sin of pride was glaringly pronounced in my attitude of accomplishment. On the one hand I could not help but feel somewhat helpless. Yet on the other hand I realized that utter dependence on the Spirit is essential if I am to maintain a right perspective on my nature and my actions as a sinner. The sin nature is such that it continually struggles to have its way. There is no such thing as rest against resisting sin for the believer in this life. That day comes when we are no longer living in this fleshly body. My experience at the Mall demonstrated to me that I must always be on my guard, not just against a particular sin, but against all my sinful tendencies.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Passions from Puritans

I have posted an except from John Owen's work on "Mortification of Sin in Believers." The puritans understood that Scripture was not something simply to be mined for all the treasure of knowledge and wisdom it contains, but that this knowledge and wisdom is intended to be understood which for the puritan is indelibly connected to appplication. Pay Particular attention to the Owen's very last thought, which I have highlighted. Enjoy!

Mortification of Sin in Believers:
The Necessity, Nature, and Means of it:

"For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body you will live."
In the words peculiarly designed for the foundation of the ensuing
discourse, there is, —

First, A duty prescribed: “Mortify the deeds of the body.”

Secondly, The persons are denoted to whom it is prescribed: “Ye,” —
“if ye mortify.”18

Thirdly, There is in them a promise annexed to that duty: “Ye shall
live.”

Fourthly, The cause or means of the performance of this duty, — the
Spirit: “If ye through the Spirit.”

Fifthly, The conditionality of the whole proposition, wherein duty,
means, and promise are contained: “If ye,” etc.

1. The first thing occurring in the words as they lie in the entire
proposition is the conditional note, Eij de<; “But if.” Conditionals in such propositions may denote two things — (1.) The uncertainty of the event or thing promised, in respect of them to whom the duty is prescribed. And this takes place where the condition is absolutely necessary unto the issue, and depends not itself on any determinate cause known to him to whom it is prescribed. So we say, “If we live, we will do such a thing.” This cannot be the intendment of the conditional expression in this place. Of the persons to whom these words are spoken, it is said, verse 1 of the same chapter, “There is no condemnation to them.” (2.) The certainty of the coherence and connection that is between the things spoken of; as we say to a sick man, “If you will take such a potion, or use such a remedy, you will be well.” The thing we solely intend to express is the certainty of the connection that is between the potion or remedy and health. And this is the use of it here. The certain connection that is between the mortifying of the deeds of the body and living is intimated in this conditional particle. Now, the connection and coherence of things being manifold, as of cause and effect, of way and means and the end, this between mortification and life is not of cause and effect properly and strictly, for “eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ,” <450623>Romans 6:23, — but of means and end. God hath appointed this means for the attaining that end, which he
hath freely promised. Means, though necessary, have a fair subordination to an end of free promise. A gift, and procuring cause in him to whom it is given, are inconsistent. The intendment, then, of this proposition as
conditional is, that there is a certain infallible connection and coherence between true mortification and eternal life: if you use this means, you shall obtain that end; if you do mortify, you shall live. And herein lies the main
motive unto and enforcement of the duty prescribed.

2. The next thing we meet withal in the words is the persons to whom this duty is prescribed, and that is expressed in the word “Ye,” in the original included in the verb, qanatou~te “if ye mortify;” — that is, ye believers; ye to whom “there is no condemnation,” verse 1; ye that are “not in the flesh, but in the Spirit,” verse 9; who are “quickened by the Spirit of Christ,” verses 10, 11; to you is this duty prescribed. The pressing of this duty immediately on any other is a notable fruit of that superstition and self-righteousness that the world is full of, — the great work and design of devout men ignorant of the gospel, it; 451003 > Romans 10:3, 4; <431505>John 15:5. Now, this description of the persons, in conjunction with the prescription of the duty, is the main foundation of the ensuing discourse, as it lies in this thesis or proposition: — The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.

3. The principal efficient cause of the performance of this duty is the Spirit: Eij de< Pneu>mati — “If by the Spirit.” The Spirit here is the Spirit mentioned verse 11, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, that “dwells in us,” verse 9, that “quickens us,” verse 11; “the Holy Ghost,” verse 14; f2 the “Spirit of adoption,” verse 15; the Spirit “that maketh intercession for us,” verse 26. All other ways of mortification are vain, all helps leave us helpless; it must be done by the Spirit. Men, as the apostle intimates, <450930>Romans 9:30-32, may attempt this work on other principles, by means and advantages administered on other accounts, as they always have done, and do: but, saith he, “This is the work of the Spirit; by him alone is it to
be wrought, and by no other power is it to be brought about.” Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false
religion in the world. And this is a second principle of my ensuing discourse.

4. The duty itself, “Mortify the deeds of the body,” is nextly to be
remarked.
Three things are here to be inquired into: —
(1.) What is meant by the body;
(2.) What by the deeds of the body;
(3.) What by mortifying of them.

(1.) The body in the close of the verse is the same with the flesh in the beginning: “If ye live after the flesh ye shall die; but if ye.... mortify the deeds of the body,” — that is, of the flesh. It is that which the apostle
hath all along discoursed of under the name of the flesh; which is evident from the prosecution of the antithesis between the Spirit and the flesh, before and after. The body, then, here is taken for that corruption and depravity of our natures whereof the body, in a great part, is the seat and instrument, the very members of the body being made servants unto unrighteousness thereby, <450619>Romans 6:19. It is indwelling sin, the corrupted flesh or lust, that is intended. Many reasons might be given of this metonymical expression, that I shall not now insist on. The “body” here is the same with palaioav, the “old man,” and the “body of sin,” <450606>Romans 6:6; or it may synecdochically express the whole person considered as corrupted, and the seat of lusts and distempered affections.

(2.) The deeds of the body. The word is pra>xiv, which, indeed, denoteth the outward actions chiefly, “the works of the flesh,” as they are called, ta< e]rga th~v sako>v, <480519>Galatians 5:19; which are there said to be “manifest,” and are enumerated. Now, though the outward deeds are here only
expressed, yet the inward and next causes are chiefly intended; the “axe is to be laid to the root of the tree,” — the deeds of the flesh are to be mortified in their causes, from whence they spring. The apostle calls them
deeds, as that which every lust tends unto; though it do but conceive and prove abortive, it aims to bring forth a perfect sin. Having, both in the seventh and the beginning of this chapter, treated of indwelling lust and sin as the fountain and principle of all sinful actions, he here mentions its destruction under the name of the effects which it doth produce. Pra>xeiv tou~ sw>matov are, as much as fro>nhma th~v sarko>v,
<450806>Romans 8:6, the “wisdom of the flesh,” by a metonymy of the same nature with the former; or as the paqh>mata and ejpiqumi>ai, the “passions and lusts of the flesh,” <480524>Galatians 5:24, whence the deeds and fruits of it do arise; and in this sense is the body used, <450810>Romans 8:10: “The body is dead because of sin.”

(3.) To mortify. Eij qanatou~te, — “If ye put to death;” a metaphorical expression, taken from the putting of any living thing to death. To kill a man, or any other living thing, is to take away the principle of all his
strength, vigor, and power, so that he cannot act or exert, or put forth any proper actings of his own; so it is in this case. Indwelling sin is compared to a person, a living person, called “the old man,” with his faculties, and properties, his wisdom, craft, subtlety, strength; this, says the apostle, must be killed, put to death, mortified, — that is, have its power, life, vigor, and strength, to produce its effects, taken away by the Spirit. It is, indeed, meritoriously, and by way of example, utterly mortified and slain by the cross of Christ; and the “old man” is thence said to be “crucified with Christ,” <450606>Romans 6:6, and ourselves to be “dead” with him, verse 8, and really initially in regeneration, <450603>Romans 6:3-5, when a principle
contrary to it, and destructive of it, <480517>Galatians 5:17, is planted in our hearts; but the whole work is by degrees to be carried on towards perfection all our days. Of this more in the process of our discourse. The intendment of the apostle in this prescription of the duty mentioned is, — that the mortification of indwelling sin remaining in our mortal bodies, that it may not have life and power to bring forth the works or deeds of the flesh is the constant duty of believers.

5. The promise unto this duty is life: “Ye shall live.” The life promised is opposed to the death threatened in the clause foregoing, “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die;” which the same apostle expresseth, “Ye shall of the flesh reap corruption,” <480608>Galatians 6:8, or destruction from God. Now, perhaps the word may not only intend eternal life, but also the spiritual life in Christ, which here we have; not as to the essence and being of it, which is already enjoyed by believers, but as to the joy, comfort, and vigor of it: as the apostle says in another case, “Now I live, if ye stand fast,” <520308>1 Thessalonians 3:8; — “Now my life will do me good; I shall have joy and comfort with my life;” — “Ye shall live, lead a good, vigorous,
comfortable, spiritual life whilst you are here, and obtain eternal life hereafter.” Supposing what was said before of the connection between mortification and eternal life, as of means and end, I shall add only, as a second motive to the duty prescribed, that, —
The vigor, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the
mortification of the deeds of the flesh.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The High Cost of Loving God

"I love God, I really do. I can feel it down deep in my soul. I love God so much sometimes I cry when I think of Him when certain songs are playing. How do I know I love God? I know I love God because I feel it so strong in my heart and in my soul! I know what love feels like and that is what I feel toward God."
So goes the typical response of the western church-goer. The typical western Christian really isn't much, if any different than the typical western unbeliever. In a society conditioned on a predominately hedonistic worldview, it is to be expected that appeals to the senses would underpin reality and truth. Yes, appeals to emotions are primiarly appeals to the senses. The foundational problem is that appeals to truth and to "what is" should validate emotion rather than appeals to emotion validating truth and reality. The typical westerner orders their life by an ethical system that feels good.
Think about how we make decisions. Think about the entire idea of political correctness. We don't raise our hand to challenge a viewpoint because we don't want to offend anyone. We want them to feel good at all costs, even if feeling good leads to destruction. I read an article in the WSJ about the current economic crisis we are in and he blamed much of the crisis on political correctness in corporate board rooms. Strategies were posited and although several people in the room realized the risk involved, political correctness kept them from disagreeing with Senior Management. As a result we face the greatest economic challenge since the depression. Furthermore, one has to wonder how much of this political correctness being practiced currently is hindering or slowing our recovery. One thing seems sure: we have not learned our lesson.
Is it any different in the visible church of western culture? Are we not a product of the culture more than we are the product of the power of God's Spirit working in us to transform us into the image of Christ? When we have an opportunity to speak up about error, do we? Or would we rather avoid hurting someone's feeling and allow them to continue in error. And when someone does speak up about error, what are your immediate thoughts about that person? Do you step back and give the content of their conversation a fair hearing and assessment or do you immediate, in knee-jerk fashion, judge the person to be difficult, overly-critical, and just unattractive? Each of us must examine why we speak up and why we don't. But more than that, we must also examine why we adopt a certain attitude toward others who do speak up. What does the Scripture teach regarding these issues? Should not God's word be our standard? If not, what then is the standard? Moreover, we seem to have adopted the hyper-inidividuality of our hedonistic culture? We no longer think what other believers are doing in their personal lives (to include their doctrine) is any of our business. We think we have no right and certainly no obligation to correct those who are walking in moral failure or holding to outright doctrinal error. Biblically speaking, nothing could be futher from the truth. The situation is even worse than that. There are some people do state their opinion and love others enough to engage in the uncomfortable activity of confronting them in love. This takes real courage in our culture, but much more than that it takes genuine love. It takes biblical love to confront. Satan has played us for fools. He has convinced us that the activity of leaving others to themselves to tend to their own business is actual loving when the truth is that we are all to practice the Christian discipline of submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord. (Eph. 5:21)
The one quality, however, that should beautify every believer and every church, regardless of giftedness or personality, is love. [Strauch, Love or Die, pg. 11]
In Matthew 22:35-40, a lawyer tested Jesus with the question of which commandment is the greatest of all. Jesus answered and said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself." Wow! Jesus was communicating the high cost of loving God. Actually, Jesus was exegeting the greatest of all the commandments. This commandment leaves no room for autonomy. Moreover, hedonistic philosophy cannot stand up under the pressure of such a radical love for God. The Greek word for all as it is translated here is HOLOS. It's basic meaning is pertaining to the whole, complete, or entire, with the focus on unity.
D.A. Carson says, "From the viewpoint of biblical anthropology, "heart," "soul," and "mind" (v.37) are not mutually exclusive but overlapping categories, together demanding our love for God to come from our whole person, our every faculty and capacity." [Matthew, Expositors' Bible Commentary, pg. 464]
Jesus demands not that we partially work God into our lives, loving Him with some of our being. Jesus does not demand part of us. He does not demand that we set up a hard trichotomy between church, family, and work, relagating God to only the area of church. Jesus does not demand some external religious appearance from us where we simply go through the motions of church attendance, adopt bits and pieces of the Christian ethic where it suits us, and talk about Him from time to time under just the right circumstances. Jesus has acknowledged that the greatest commandment of all is for us to love God with the entirety of our very being and essence. God is to become everything to us. We are to meditate on him when we get up, when we go along during our day, when we eat, when we relate to others, and when we lay down to sleep. God is to be our all in all. His word is to become to us all that matters in this life. Pleasing Him is become the single greatest desire of our heart. All our actions and decisions center around the singluar unified purpose of glorifying God in everything we do, everything we say, and everything we are. Anything short of this is not loving God with our entire being.
John MacArthur comments, We can't know Jesus as the Messiah until we surrender to Him. I couldn't know Him as my Savior until I gave up my life to Him. Then I knew. Parading an infinite number of miracles in front of me wouldn't have proved anything. Miracles are beside the point. You will never know whether Jesus can save your soul from hell, give you new life, re-create your soul, plant His Holy Spirit there, forgive your sin, and send you to heaven until you give your life totally to Him. That is self-denial, cross bearing, and following Him in obedience.

Debate Review: Hernandez & Zachariades v. Flowers Pritchett

There has been some attention given to the recent debate on the subject of free will between Dr. Sonny Hernandez, Dr. Theodore Zachariade...