Magistrates Must Be Well-Governed, To Govern Well

“Then Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship, and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the LORD. Then Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his home” (1 Samuel 10:25).

In keeping with the stipulations set forth in the books of Moses, Samuel the Levite, makes available to the new king a copy of the law.

“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:18–20). 

Israel’s king is not a king like the other nations, from the very beginning. Israel’s king is a vice-regent, under the law of Yahweh, Israel’s true King. Royal submission to God’s law should protect Israel from tyranny and abuse. The Law establishes the longevity of the throne. Saul is under a law, that governs the kingship, not to destroy his kingship but to allow it to function properly.

A constitutional Monarchy was the form of government in Israel from the beginning. This understanding of law and authority was expressed in a theological work called, Lex Rex – The Law is King – by theologian Samuel Rutherford, who helped shape the Christian conception of republican government as a protection against sinful men, who seek absolute authority over their fellow men. Men are sinners and must be governed well by law, to govern well. What kind of tyrant is a father or husband or pastor or boss or government official, if there is not some law to govern their actions?

Men must be governed well to govern well.  

The belief that the magistrate, the person, is the law, is not an uncommon belief throughout history and is the common political view of many evangelicals.  But it is false. Law establishes the authority of men and acts as a final appeal. This is the biblical understanding of government. A man’s government of his home is not above God’s law or state law. Neither is a pastor’s, president’s, governor’s, County Sherriff, etc. The Law of God and the Law of the land establish authority. Like the scriptures amongst Christians, the law is the final arbiter. 

Twice the disciples, under the pagan roman rule and Israelite religious leadership, demonstrated that the laws were above men, no matter the office of the man. Passages like Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 exist within a context in which no authority is absolute. 

“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:27–29).

The apostles owed obedience to God over men, when the magistrate’s orders were contrary to God’s law.

Furthermore, Paul appealed to the Roman Law as a Citizen of Rome. “But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” (Acts 22:25). The centurion’s authority was not absolute. It was subject to Roman law. Paul had a right to due process. No roman magistrate was above the Corpus Juris Civilis, or the twelve tables.  Paul did not say, “well you’re the magistrate so have at my back with that whip.” He appealed beyond the man to the law of the land. 

Texts like Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 cannot be isolated from the rest of the Old and New Testament, which teach that no human institution is absolute. Everyone is governed by Law, Christian or Pagan. Israel was a kingdom of laws, not men. The reason for this, is that magistrates must be well-governed to govern well.  

A Righteousness That Works

 “We are not to conceive the Christian faith as a bare knowledge of God which rattles around the brain and affects the heart not at all…but it is a firm and solid confidence of the heart by which we securely repose in God’s mercy promised us through the gospel.”

John Calvin wrote these words in his Catechism of 1538. “Ideas” or “information” about God, are not the same thing as faith. Faith is a firm and solid confidence, security and repose. These are not disembodied “ideas.”

Knowledge is nothing, unless it becomes understanding. And understanding is action.

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; (Proverbs 1:8–11).

Parents who instruct their children, are teaching them how to react to the enticement of sinners. Its real-world, right-now, practical – action. Habakuk 2:4 and Romans 1:17 both state it plainly, “the righteous live by faith.” Living is action.

Calvin explains in his Institutes, “The word is not received in faith when it merely flutters in the brain, but when it has taken deep root in the heart, and become an invincible bulwark to withstand and repel all the assaults of temptation.[1]

Turning away from temptation is an expression of faith. Putting the beer down, before it becomes one too many. Closing your mouth when the opportunity to gossip presents itself. Telling the truth. Confessing sin. Putting a filter on your computer. Reinforcing your children’s good behavior instead of yelling at them for their bad behavior. Complimenting your spouse. Taking out the trash. Putting the phone down, to play with your kids. Folding your hands in prayer. Taking up the bible to read. These are all actions of faith and righteousness.

Trust what the Lord has provided and is providentially doing. Do not seek the desires of your fleshly heart. Deny those desires, instead believe that the good and powerful God of the Old and New Testaments, is your God.

C.S. Lewis wrote that for the saved, “‘Works’ have no ‘merit’, though of course faith, inevitably, even unconsciously, flows out into works of love at once. He is not saved because he does works of love: he does works of love because he is saved. It is faith alone that has saved him: faith bestowed by sheer gift. From this buoyant humility, this farewell to the self with all its good resolutions, anxiety, scruples, and motive-scratchings, all Protestant doctrines originally sprang.”[2]

We are not talking about works righteousness. We are talking about a righteousness that works. Obedience is what we all need a great deal more of, at the moment. Let us grab hold of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and continual mediation for us before the Father.

And get to work. 

Prayer

Blessed God! I flee to your almighty power.

You see me surrounded with difficulties and dangers, and stretch out your omnipotent arm to save me.

Today I put myself under your protection. Let me make the shadow of your wings my refuge. Let your grace be sufficient for me, and your strength be made perfect in my weakness.

I dare not say, “I will never forsake you, I will never deny you,” but I hope can truly say, “Lord, I resolve not to do it. I would rather die than offend you.”

Root out the corruption from my heart. In an hour of pressing temptation it might sway me to view things in a different light, and so might betray me into the hands of the enemy!

Strengthen my faith, Lord, and encourage my hope! Inspire me to opposing every thing that blocks my way to heaven. And let me set my face against all the assaults of earth and hell.

If sinners entice me, let me say no. If they insult me, let me ignore it. If they threaten me, let me not fear!

Give me instead a holy and ardent yet prudent and well-governed zeal to see others convicted and turn to you.

Let me never be ashamed to plead your cause against those who oppose the faith. As the psalmist says, “Make me to hear joy and gladness in my soul, and I will teach transgressors your ways, that sinners may be converted to you.”

My fears continue, Lord, but there is no one to blame but myself. I join you in blaming me for my folly.

Keep me, O Lord, now and always. Whatever age or place in life I attain, never let me think I am strong enough to maintain the combat without you.

And even in my young faith, never let me imagine myself so weak that you cannot support me.

Wherever you lead me, let me follow. Wherever you take me in life, let me work there faithfully. Let me fight the holy war against the enemies of my salvation. And let me fall fighting rather than abandon my post.

You are my glorious Redeemer, pioneer of my salvation, the great Author and Finisher of my faith. When I am in danger of denying you, as Peter did, look on me with your majesty and tenderness. Keep me from falling, or quickly lift me back up to God and my duty again!

Show me how to learn from my missteps and to humble myself in even greater diligence and caution. 

Amen.[3]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beveridge, H. (1845). Institutes of the Christian religion (Vol. 2, p. 139). Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society.

[2] Lewis, C. S.. A Mind Awake: An Anthology of C. S. Lewis . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

[3] Doddridge, P. (2019). I Need Your Protection. In R. Elmer (Ed.), Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans (pp. 84–85). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

This is My Body, Broken For You

Ephesians 5:15-17 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

That’s the challenge; understand the will of the Lord and walk and act accordingly. But our flesh likes easy, safe, selfishness.

We have our own desires. We have our own wills, and they struggle against the Spirit and our faith every day. 

The mission of the Lord is others-focused. The love of the Triune God faces out. 

The will of the Father is that His children will lay down their lives for others just like our older brother Jesus laid down is His life for you. 

The calling of the Christian Faith is “This is my body broken for you…”

Husbands, Wives, Parents, Masters, servants, friends…this is your calling. Everyone, this is your calling. This is a calling so heavy only the humble can carry it. It will break the backs of the proud. “This is my body broken for you…”

Author N.D. Wilson wrote, “Lay your life down. Your heartbeats cannot be hoarded. Your reservoir of breaths is draining away. You have hands, blister them while you can. You have bones, make them strain – they can carry nothing in the grave. You have lungs, let them spill with laughter…I can be giving my fingers, my back, my mind, my words, my breaths, to my wife and my children and my neighbors, or I can grasp after the vapor and the vanity for myself, dragging my feet, afraid to die and therefore afraid to live. And, like Adam, I will still die in the end. Living is the same thing as dying. Living well is the same thing as dying for others.

You are all dying, right now, by the very fact that you are mortal living creatures. Living well is dying for others. You were given bodies, strength and voices to give away. 

Be as generous as your King. 

Look around. Look around your family. Look around your church. Look around your neighborhood. 

You were not given bodies and redeemed for mere pleasure or self-centered pursuits. Life was poured into you so that you could pour it out in the service of others.  

“This is my body, broken for you…”

It requires prayer and repentance. 

It requires faith and the Lord’s Spirit.

It requires rejecting the easy safe selfishness that our flesh loves so much. 

It requires looking up and looking out. To the condition and welfare of others.

Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 

Let us confess and ask God to forgive us for our selfishness and ask for the Spirit of God to reveal and lead us in understanding the will of our Lord. 

I Don’t Need to Repent of That

A middle schooler sits in PNW history reading, for the first time, about the internment of Japanese Americans during world war II.  He is horrified to learn that 120,000 innocent people were rounded up and imprisoned because some of them might be spies. He thought to himself, “how could the US fight to liberate Europe while simultaneously committing atrocious war crimes against its own people?” 

One of his best friends is a second generation Japanese American. One day after school, at the friend’s house, this young man apologizes to his friend and his whole family, including his grandma, for what Americans had done to their people. 

The family just looks at him in awkward and stunned silence. “but,” his grandmother says, “you didn’t do that…your parents weren’t even alive. And our family was still in Japan, enemies of the United States. But I heard you and my grandson talking about how you were treating your classmate poorly; tomorrow, apologize to him for what you actually did do.” The boys go out to play basketball. 

When we say the United States sinned, what does that mean? The United States isn’t a person. So, who did the sinning? 

When we say that non-Japanese Americans sinned against Japanese Americans who did the sinning? Every non-Japanese american? Against every Japanese American alive then and now? In the case of the Japanese prisoners, US politicians, military officials, local government officials and normal citizens who claimed the businesses and homes of those interred Japanese Americans all participated in particular sins against particular individuals. Specific crimes against Specific people. Who is responsible for those sins? Those war crimes? 

We live in the information age in which we know a great deal about what happened 300 years ago and what is happening 3000 miles away. Meanwhile, we hardly know what is going on 3 houses down our street. When we hear of atrocities, crimes, sins, injustices and wrongs what is our responsibility? 

We are not responsible for the sins of every American or everyone who shares our ethnicity, our language, our creed, etc. 

During the first Crusade, the Christian soldiers marched into the Middle East and promptly slaughtered 30,000 infidels. The problem was, well there are lots of problems with that, but one of them is that they weren’t infidels, they were all Christians who dressed and talked differently than the Germanic soldiers. The first massacre of the first crusade were Christians slaughtering Christians because they looked and talked different. So, you are Christians. Are you responsible for that? 

Does the bible have anything to say about this? Covenantal theology is necessary at this point. A husband is responsible for His wife, a free agent who commits sins. His responsibility does not mean his wife will not answer for her sins, it means he will answer for his sins and her sins. Add children. Add greater and greater spheres of authority and responsibility. 

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. 

Your pastors will give an account for their own sins and yours. This is federal headship, covenantal headship. FDR will give an account for His own Sins and the sins of his administration for Interring Japanese Americans. Mayors, presidents, generals, husbands, mothers, pastors – anyone who has authority and responsibility will give an account for the sins of those in their care. 

We must repent of our worldly thinking. The false belief that the bible has nothing to say about the most difficult questions that face us right now. God’s word is sufficient for the problems of our age, if we have the courage and humility to study it and apply it no matter how unwelcome in the public sphere, we are people of the word. 

Here is an example. Deuteronomy 21:1–3 “If in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess someone is found slain, lying in the open country, and it is not known who killed him, then your elders and your judges shall come out, and they shall measure the distance to the surrounding cities. And the elders of the city that is nearest to the slain man shall take a heifer that has never been worked and that has not pulled in a yoke.

Did the whole town repent? No, the elders and judges of the nearest town repented. How were they responsible? They were covenantally responsible, sice the unsolved murder happened in their jurisdiction. Do we want more justice in our community? Then the mayor and judges of Lynnwood ought to repent, on behalf of the city, for every unsolved murder and cold case on record right now. That is biblical justice. And this is just one example. Let us shape our cries for justice with a biblical standard rather than the standard of academics, sociologists, race-baiting social Darwinists. We have a great deal to learn about how to process the injustices we learn about. Whether through history books or the nightly news. 

The struggle is real though, because our culture does not recognize God, his law or the responsibility leaders owe for the sins of their administration. We are tempted to make justice solely an issue of this age. We want vindication now, but we are not promised vindication now. We ought to cry out against injustice, but all injustice will not be reconciled in this age. We can be neither complacent nor without hope. 

In the age to come all injustices will be dealt with by Christ. If that isn’t our ministry than we have a gospel problem. And if that isn’t enough, then we have a gospel problem. We see here an opportunity to pray for our leaders, but prayer doesn’t seem like enough. It seems futile. We want to grasp the levers of power and reshape this world. 

Being a just person is harder than bewailing the injustice we so readily see in others. There is a great temptation in national or ethical repentance. C.S. Lewis sums it up in his essay on national repentance.

 “When we speak of England’s actions we mean the actions of the British Government. The young man who is called upon to repent of England’s foreign policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbour; for a Foreign Secretary … is certainly a neighbour. And repentance presupposes condemnation. The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing—but, first, of denouncing—the conduct of others.

National repentance can rob us of the crucial virtue of charity. There is a great deal everyone needs to take responsibility for. But does that include you and I repenting for the trail of tears or wounded knee or the Tuskegee Experiment? Those are all hard and important lessons from history. Those kinds of injustices are happening today and there are covenanted authorities responsible for them. 

How about the Chief of the Minneapolis Police department repenting publicly for the negligent homicide of George Floyd? The Obama Administration repenting for the fast and furious program? Every government official who has supported the murder mills of Planned parenthood? 

Want to address injustice? Pray that those who are in authority would count the cost of their authority and responsibility for which they will give an account? That they would be converted and seek to obey God’s law in their office?  

Pray that we all would stop being distracted by things three thousand miles away and things that happened three hundred tears ago and start concerning ourselves a lot more about what’s going on three doors down the street. 

What are the sins of millennials? Gen X-ers? Baby boomers? Things they actually participated in?  

What are the national idols and what is the spirit of the age with which you and I are actively whoring ourselves with right now? We can’t let injustice across the country distract us from the most important injustices that involve each one of us – those injustices we ourselves commit. Those sins of omission and commission affecting our spouse, children, friend, family, neighbors and our larger communities.

Are You Stumbling?

1 John 2:9–11 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

In John 8:12, Jesus says that he is the light of the world. Romans 6:12 says those who believe in Christ are alive in Christ. If we abide in Christ, we abide in the light. Love for your brothers and sisters is one of the primary ways that you know that you are abiding in the light, abiding in Christ. The one who is in darkness has no capacity to love because his eyes have been blinded by the darkness. If you are walking in the light, then you have no cause for stumbling.

On Good Friday I called our current circumstances a hearing test. Faith comes through hearing and so circumstances that test our faith are a test of our hearing. Likewise, if loving your brother is how you know you are abiding in Christ, then circumstances that test your love for the brotherhood are a test of your life in Christ. Grumbling, complaining, Judging, avoiding, back-biting your brothers and sisters to whom Christ as united to you in Himself? Are you stumbling over your brother’s theology? Over what he calls clean and unclean? Are you stumbling over what your Sister isn’t saying? Are you stumbling over your brother’s foolishness?

Whatever we may personally think of the social distancing standards, the six-foot rule really is too shallow a grave for our unity. If you are stumbling, then you are walking in the dark. You are not walking in the light of a Gracious God. You are not walking in the light of the love that you have received.

Love is not an emotional response to beauty, merit or kindness, but a moral attitude dedicated to another’s good, whether or not that other is lovable, deserving, or responsive. Divine love means to love the undeserving, despite disappointment, worthiness or rejection.

1 Corinthians 13:4–7 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The circumstances we find ourselves in are the judgement of a good God. The chastisement of Christ. It is discipline for our lack of wisdom. As I said, long before Gov. Inslee said all Israel to her tents in division and confusion – we had already made it a way of life. What confirmation bias is being revealed in your brothers and sisters as these events unfold? Do you love them enough to say something about that confirmation bias? Do you love them despite it? What ignorance, presuppositions, foolishness and worldliness is being revealed in your brothers and sisters? What is likewise being revealed in you? Because your sin is showing.

Jesus associated with the foolish things of the world to humble the wise. That means you. So why are you looking across the aisle thanking God for not making you like that fool over there? The unity of every fool who is hearing my voice right now, and we are all of us fools – our Unity is Jesus Christ.

The moon reflects the light of the sun. It is the lesser light. In the dark of night, the moon is a guiding light. The church is the lesser light that reflects the light of the sun of righteousness. In these dark times are we fulfilling that role? That calling? Showing that we stand in the light of God’s unconditional love? Or is the sky clouded by the billows of our own judgements, preferences and suspicions. Our cumulus clouds of self-righteousness?

John says that those who walk the light know where they are going. Do we know where we are going?  Where we will stand together, eyes fixed, not on one another, but on Christ for eternity? Is there anything so vile, so foolish, so selfish, so unholy that your brother or sister can do – to fall from Christ in whom they abide? So how can they fall out of fellowship so easily with you?

Do we remember where we are headed?  Where we will stand together, eyes fixed, not on one another, but on Christ for eternity? John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Let us repent of our lack of love for one another, our lack of abiding in the light, our lack of abiding in Christ – and get started, together, today.

Trained by Grace

Grace appears, A Cornucopia of Blessings.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11–14 ESV)

 In verse 11 it says the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people. The grace of God that brings salvation for all people is obviously Jesus Christ. God so loved the world, He gave us His son. God restores man through Jesus. Truly this is unmerited favor, which is what grace means.  This is Good news.

The grace of God that saves us has appeared. We need to look at what this word appear means. The word in Greek is where we get our English word epiphany, which means “a striking revelation.” This Greek word is most frequently used in reference to the sun, as in; when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned (Acts 27:20 ESV). 

But the word is also used poetically in reference to Jesus, as in; because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:78-79 ESV)

“To give” light, there is the same word translated as “appeared” in Titus 2:11. To appear is to spread light. This is predicated on John 8:12 when Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”

So, going back to Titus 2, Paul is telling us something else that God’s grace does. The grace of God has dawned; it has lit up the world. The grace of God, in a sudden burst of illumination, has come onto the scene of human history like the sun at sunrise. The grace of God is the light we see by. Believers see by Grace. C.S. Lewis wrote at the end of his essay, Is Theology Poetry; I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”[1]

Lewis means that he sees the light of Christianity, but he also sees or understands everything else by that light. Continue reading “Trained by Grace”

I Believe So That I Know

A child is told their toy is a red car by their doting parents. The child has no frame of reference for either the words, the concepts or the significance. Reinforced by repetition, the child who loves and trusts his parents, believes the object is a red car. His belief is the basis of his knowledge about toys, red, cars and numerical values. Similarly, our Father places in us the seed of knowledge about himself. That seed takes root and reaches up toward Him, seeking Him out like a plant seeks the sun. Understanding the connection between faith and knowledge is essential to evangelism, apologetics and discipleship. Faith is the basis of knowledge, not the conclusion of it. A person’s knowledge begins with faith. We believe before we know. This presuppositional framework is a design feature.

In The Light of the Mind, author Ronald H. Nash asserts that “Augustine makes it clear that man can know this present temporal, corporeal world only because he first knows the eternal, incorporeal, intelligible world of ideas that exists in the mind of God.”[1]

Man is born with seed-knowledge of God which sprouts upward within him searching for God, just as a plant shoots up in search of light while pressing roots down searching for living water. We see these concepts reflected in our pursuit of understanding in Jesus (2 Cor. 4:6; Psalm 1:3; Ephesians 3:17). The possibility for learning of the eternal God is only possible because human beings are born in possession of a seed of this truth (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Augustine argues that “before an architect builds an edifice, he must first have a model of what he intends to build. Similarly, God had a plan before he created the universe. His creation is patterned or copied after the divine ideas[2]…these rationes[3]subsist in God’s intellect.”

Marriage is one example of a created relationship that teaches eternal truths about the unity and diversity of the Triune God (Ephesians 5:32). But the idea that God creates things on earth based on a “copy,” in heaven is also seen in the building of the Tabernacle and the Temple which were copies of the true temple in Heaven (Hebrews 8:2, 9:24; Exodus 25:9, 40). Jesus is the greatest example of this poetic revelation. Jesus is the greater Adam, Moses and David. Kingship, priesthood and the prophetic office – are all types and shadows of the second person of the Trinity.

In Augustine’s theology, truth does not consist of abstract platonic concepts. Truth is personal; the person of God as revealed in Jesus Christ (John 14:6), the Logos of John 1. “Knowledge occurs when the personal God illuminates the minds of human persons to understand him and to understand the world he has made. So, Augustine maintains the Creator-creature distinction and makes our thoughts a servant knowledge, part of our discipleship.”[4]

In Anselm’s Prayer, the Proslogion, we see this connection between faith and knowledge expanded; “For I do not seek to understand so that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand. For I believe this also, that ‘unless I believe, I shall not understand’ [Isa. 7: 9].”[5]

Thus our faith is the basis or presupposition of all rational study.

How does this work? Faith is ontological. Luther wrote in The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, “Where there is the word of God, who makes promises, there must necessarily be the faith of the person who accepts those promises.”

Faith lays hold of the promises of God, as if they are solid objects and historical dates within human history. Assurance is not established on reason, or science, but on the apprehension and acceptance of the word of God. Continue reading “I Believe So That I Know”

You Get as Much as You Need

Ephesians 3:16 and 19 “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being…. to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

The ultimate goal of Christ indwelling His people is that they might experience the fullness of God.

But we don’t experience the fullness of God, do we? So, is God a liar? Is His spirit weak and ineffectual? Or, do we experience all of God that we need?

We don’t need him much, so we don’t experience Him much. How much we know of Him, how much His fullness fills us is proportional to our need of Him. We all fall into the need trap. We all know how much we needed Jesus for salvation. To enter the narrow gate. To draw near the Father. In the bloom of our first awakening to God we were all magnificently aware of our need, but now that we are through that narrow gate we get along on our own strength and understanding. The less of Him we need the less of Him we experience.Then we wonder why we lack the kind of fullness described in the New Testament.

Remember Matthew 13:58 “And [Jesus] did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.” 

God’s presence in your day to day life is directly proportional to your need of and belief in Him. Do you need Him to get up in the morning? Do you need Him at work? At the water cooler? In the laundry room and at the homeschooling table? Do you need Him to get your homework done and read to the kids? Do you need Him in the front yard? Do you need Him at the kitchen table and in the marriage bed? Do you need Him to pay the bills?

Do you need Jesus? His power. His dependence on the Father and the Holy Spirit? Do you need His Love? The Fruit of His spirit?

We are the community of need living at the foot of the throne of Grace. Aren’t we? We act self-sufficient, self-willed, all-wise, strong and good. And in that pride of life we draw farther from grace and farther from God Himself.

In reality we are bound together by our need. We are united in our need of Him and our need of one another, because His fullness lives in His Body. We receive as much as we need. So, remember every day how much you need Him.

Every day pray Proverbs 30:8-9 “give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”

Come to Christ in your need. The more of Him you need, the more of Him you will recieve.

Preaching 101

I

Like any work, preaching is a craft that requires time and failure to get really good at. This thread will discuss what preaching is, what it ought to accomplish and how to develop it as a craft.

Of course, we turn to the Bible to discover what it is preachers are doing.

Nehemiah 8:1–8 And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose…They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (ESV)

So how did it work? The preacher stood on a platform before both men and women. He read the word and the people of God listened attentively. The preacher gave the sense of the words and the people understood the words.

This is preaching in a nutshell. Read the text. Explain the text clearly and the audience receives understanding.

Now let’s move into the NT. Let’s look at the master preacher.

Luke 4:16–22 …[Jesus] stood up to read. [17] And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. (ESV)

What pattern do we see in Luke 4? Jesus is handed the Scriptures from the attendant while standing. Jesus reads the Scripture. Jesus closes the book and hands it back to the attendant. Jesus sits down and begins to preach to them. At first they marvel but Jesus continues even thought he has already dazzled them. He isn’t satisfied with tickling their ears. He preaches the kingdom of God and repentance. Then we read,

Luke 4:28–29 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. (ESV)

The main thing we need to notice in these examples is how the sermon worked. The Word would be read, and then the preacher would teach the sense of the words, and preach an exhortation based on them.

But notice that Jesus’ conclusion infuriated the crowd, and they sought to kill him. That is why preaching takes a ton of prayer for boldness and wisdom. If it takes no courage to preach then you are doing it wrong, because if you go to the front lines, you can’t be surprised when the enemy starts shooting back at you. Sermons ought to ruffle feathers and mess up hair, because the preacher is a weapon in the hand of God.

Likewise, at the conclusion of Peter’s Sermon on Pentecost, we read,

Acts 2:37–38 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (ESV)

Read the word. Give the sense or the meaning of the word directed toward understanding, so that the crowd responds.

R.L Dabney, in Evangelical Eloquence, says of preaching, “its design is to evoke an act.”

Reading the word of God. Explaining the word of God. Giving an understanding of the word of God. Acting on the word of God.

This is preaching 101.

Plowing In A Straight Line

Luke 9:57–62 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

These verses are the conclusion of Jesus’ lesson that takes place throughout chapter nine. In Luke 9:1-6, Jesus sends the twelve out on a mission after giving them very specific orders and encouragement. In Luke 10:1-12 Jesus sends out seventy-two on a mission. Jesus wants the disciples to lead His people. Jesus wants them to feed His sheep and be examples of good discipleship, but the Apostles are not yet fully committed. They are not “all in.”

Jesus needs them to learn about devotion and focused obedience. Jesus needs them to internalize this lesson. He needs them to plow in a straight line. The Christian life is a long obedience in the same direction, but there is a lot that can distract us from Jesus – a lot that can keep us from being faithful and fruitful farmers.

Jesus needs the disciples to comprehend this. So, throughout Luke 9 Jesus drives this point home using varied and stark examples.

Luke 9:2–3 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.

Jesus commands the apostles to go on a preaching tour and tells them not to worry about anything; not clothing or food or where they will lay their head. He tells them how to handle rejection.

They find immediate success but very quickly we see how distractible and unfocused they can be. Continue reading “Plowing In A Straight Line”