Archive for June 2008
Resolved, Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.
- Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Hendrickson: Peabody, 2000), 1.lxii.
The last hour of your life. It is sobering to think about. But what is so sobering about it is the finality and brevity that last hour represents. Edwards exhorts himself here to live the entirety of his life in that kind of God affected sobreity; harnessing every moment as if it were his last.
Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.
- Synod of Dort, 2.5
Because the gospel is completely dependent on the atoning death of Jesus Christ it can and should be offered to all people. All men approach God as wretched sinners. All have fallen short of God’s glory no matter their nationality, geography, intellect, ability, or finances. It by God’s good pleasure alone that men are welcomed into salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. And it is God’s good pleasure that the gospel should be preached to all men…without differentiation or discrimination.
I preached this sermon this past Sunday evening. It is the second in my series on Psalm 84.
I went back in forth, laboring over the interpretation of David’s metaphor in verse 3. There we have sparrows and swallows nesting near the altar. Some commentators explain the oddity of this metaphor by suggesting that these nests were in the upper portions of the tabernacle rather than around the altar. But it is difficult to square this interpretation with David’s specific mention of the “altar”.
It is ridiculous to think about birds nesting near the altar for at least two reasons. First, it was a place of sacrifice. It seems odd that a bird would nest near an altar at which birds themselves–in addition to other animals–were sacrificed. Secondly, it would seem odd for the priests to allow the altar of the Lord to be so desecrated by nesting birds.
So what does David mean?
He means that the altar is a place of peace. Birds only nest where there is peace and security. Why then does David think the altar is a place of peace? I answered that question with three reasons.
- The altar is peaceful because it is where God meets with man.
- The altar is peaceful because it is where man finds a mediator with God.
- The altar is peaceful because it is where man finds a penal substitutionary atonement.
I then showed how all of these things found their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
Psalm 84 – The Peace of God
While my senior pastor is out of town, I have the opportunity to preach morning and evening on two different weekends. The first was this past weekend. The next will be July 6. Instead of doing four different sermons I decided to do one series of four sermons on Psalm 84.
In seminary, I took the advice of a seminary professor to make a psalm my family’s psalm. It was to be a psalm that marked us, that we memorized, that we talked about. We chose Psalm 84. Since then I’ve always wanted to preach on it. This summer I get my chance.
I broke the series down as follows:
- The Presence of God (v 1-2)
- The Peace of God (v 3)
- The Pilgrim of God (v 4-7)
- The Praise of God (8-12)
My goal in this series is three fold.
- Explain Psalm 84 focusing on the glory of the presence of God
- Show how psalms are Christo-centric
- Provide a method for interpreting psalms especially as we apply them to new covenant living
Last Sunday I preached on the first two verses of Psalm 84. I was captivated by David’s utter joy at the presence of God. That lead me to ask, “What is so great about the presence of God?” The answer to that question is what formed the structure of my sermon.
- What is so great about the presence of God?
- Where is the presence of God?
- What should our response be to the presence of God?
If you want to listen to the sermon you can find it below in the web player or for download.
Psalm 84 – The Presence of God
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous. Do you know anything about affliction? As you read the post, are there nagging problems pulling at your attention? There is not enough money in the bank account. Relationship carnage surrounds you. Your body malfunctions and you have the medical tests to prove it. Sin has has come to visit and taken up residence in the guest bedroom of your heart.
All Christians are weighed down in afflictions. But not every Christian truly believes that “the Lord delivers him out of them all.” How can we be sure that our present suffering is actually the veiled but powerful deliverance of God?
We can know by looking at the cross.
David wrote this psalm when he was on the run from Saul (1 Samuel 21). It was a humbling moment for David. He was the annointed king of Israel. God promised him the throne. Yet here he was in Gath–forced to flee to the Philistines. To immediate execution, David acts like a mad man, feigning insanity, spit running down his beard. Imagine that, the most important man in the world, the anointed king of Israel, acting like a crazy man to save his own hide. Affliction. And God saved him out of it. God brought him safely to the throne…eventually.
But the story does not stop there. When penning verse 20 of this psalm, David spoke not only of himself, he spoke of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. On the cross, this Messiah bore the full anger and punishment of God for the sins of all who would be saved. The Father poured out the cup of complete vengeance on his beloved Son. The covenant of grace was fulfilled by that simultaneously glorious and gruesome act.
But none of Jesus’s bones were broken. The apostle John is very specific on this point. He quotes Psalm 34:20 as fulfilled at the cross (John 19:36). Has there ever been an affliction greater than the cross-work of Jesus Christ? Yet God’s promises stood. Though the full weight of divine wrath was poured upon Christ in aggressive affliction, God’s promise stood. The weight of our sins could not break one bone of Jesus’s body. That ossific promise of God stood firm. He delivered Christ out of every affliction.
So I ask you, dear Christian, if the weight of your sin could not break the bone-promise of God then why do you doubt his deliverance in whatever you suffer today? God confirms his faithfulness to you in the cross. Do you need a down payment on God’s love? You have it in Christ. Do you need confirmation of his faithfulness? You have it in Christ. Do you need strength to bear up under the affliction that will press you down tonight? You have it in Christ.
Christ is the fulfillment and proof of all the promises of God. Because, not one of his bones was broken.
Now we shall possess a right definition of faith if we call it a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence towards us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
- John Calvin, The Institutes of Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, tr. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press), III.II.7.
Note in Calvin’s definition, his empahsis on the gospel and the Trinity.
On June 24, 2000 a guy just out of college married the woman of his dreams. Today marks the eigth anniversary of that amazing day. So I wanted to pause to note the particular grace that God has given me in my wife. So much of what I like about myself and what I consider to be my usefulness to other people I directly attribute to her influence.
It would not have been good for me to be alone. So the Lord gave a wife suitable for me. She has on countless occasions lived out the gospel before me as wife and mother. She encourages me to run to the cross. She prays for me. And beyond my wildest dreams, she loves me.
I am truly blessed.
An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
The concept of a summer reading list is somewhat humorous. It seems that the only people who actually do “summer reading” are people who are involved in academia. I’m guessing that scholars and students make up a small percentage of the population over the age of 22. Nevertheless, June through August have become a cultural reading fest. Though my reading really doesn’t change throughout the year, I thought I’d list some books I hope to finish this summer.
- Calvin’s Institutes – I have read all of the Institutes before just not straight through. I hope to remedy that in the coming month as I’m plowing into book three today.
- Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood – This is Piper and Grudem’s definitive work on complementarianism. The more I do pastoral ministry the more I realize gender issues are going to be major topics of discussion within the church for the next 30 years.
- The Bible – Why doesn’t anybody put the Bible on their reading list?
- The smattering of books I received from Together For the Gospel - I’ve been chipping through these in between the bigger works I’ve been reading.
- Thomas Boston’s sermons on the Shorter Catechism – These comprise volumes one and two of his Works. They are gold!
What about you? What books are you planning on reading over the next few months?
This death is of such great value and worth for the reason that the person who suffered it is—as was necessary to be our Savior—not only a true and perfectly holy man, but also the only begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Another reason is that this death was accompanied by the experience of God’s anger and curse, which we by our sins had fully deserved.
-Synod of Dort, 2.4
People die all the time. Death is the one great inevitability. Death is common and though significant does not carry great value. But the death of Jesus was something completely different. It is–as was mention in 2.3–of infinite value. Why infinite value? For two reasons.
First, he was, is, and continues to be God and man. Jesus is ultimately valuable because he is God. Therefore the death of Jesus is an infinitely valuable death.
Secondly, he atoned for sin against God. Offense is not valued by what is done but by who is offended. Sin–offending an infinitely holy God–bears an infinite debt. The payment of that debt in the death of Jesus must also be infinite.
In both of these things we see the infinite value of the death of Jesus Christ.
Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.
- Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Hendrickson: Peabody, 2000), 1.lxii.
If there is blood in your veins, it is your privilege and duty to live unto God. There is no age exemption for service in Christ’s army. You are enlisted at salvation. There is no retirement or emeritus status for the elderly saint. You serve God on earth until you serve him before his very throne.
The days allotted to us are number and passing. While you live them, live them with all your might.
I have been a devout fan of Robert Murray M’Chyene’s Bible reading plan. I’ve used it sporadically since I discovered it in seminary. But I found a number of difficulties with the plan–or rather my ability to follow it.
- Major and minor life events (moves, birth of children, vacations) would cause me to miss a few days. Due mainly to my personality, I couldn’t just allow those days to be skipped. So I ended up trying to dig myself out of the “devotion debt” that I had wracked up.
- It was beneficial to read in four different places of the Bible daily but I never saw the big picture of single books. I could trace major redemptive historical themes but struggled with running themes in particular books.
So, this year I decided to do something different and try to read as much of the Bible as possible by attempting to read individual books of the Bible in one sitting. I was hoping this would give me a feel for each book and at the same time keep a pace that would put a ton of Bible in my head. My plan was as follows:
- Read each book of the Bible in entirety and in one sitting–as was possible. For example, I read Titus this morning. For larger books–like Isaiah–I have to set aside more time or just read over successive days.
- Time myself as I read each book keeping a running log of how long it takes me to read through each book of the Bible. This way, if I know how much time I have to spend reading my Bible on any given morning, I can select a book I know I can finish in a single sitting.
- Read through the Old Testament in the order of the Hebrew Canon. This roughly places histories first, prophets second, and wisdom/poetry third. I’ve found this chronological and genre specific reading make reading the Old Testament more coherent and interesting.
- Aim to finish the whole Bible but don’t be afraid to reread books based on time constraints or interest.
Now that half the year is over, it is a good time for a status check on this Bible reading program.
- So far I’ve read through the entire Bible once, with many multiple readings of particular books–especially the Pauline epistles.
- I seem to have the Old Testament more “in hand” than I ever have in all my years of Bible study.
- I love the flexibility of this reading plan. Some morning I just needed to hear the succinct gospel. I feel perfectly comfortable on those morning simply reading Galatians or Romans. Some mornings I only have 15 minutes to spare. I know on those mornings that I can choose from 20 or so Bible books that can be read in less than 15 minutes.
- I have never read this much Bible in this short of time before. I thought at first that I would lose comprehension. This has not been the case. I still take time to think on specific verses but they are more appropriately set in the context of the whole book.
- I have been reminded that the Bible is a book. Etymologists will laugh at the end of that last sentence. Of course, the Bible is a book. Yet I often forget that it is a book. Like all books, specific sections carry great import but the work was meant to be read from front to back. Letters are meant to be read from “dear…” to “love, so-and-so”.
I add this description for any who have hit the mid-year slump with their Bible reading progam begun in January. The plan I describe above can be begun at anytime.
Or maybe you’ve never thought to begin a Bible reading plan. You read The Shack or The Last Lecture but your Bible grows dusty on the shelf. Why not pick up the greatest book ever written–still the number one seller–and read it. Read it front to back. Take it on vacation with you and read it at the beach. Read it in the evenings before you turn out the light. Just read it.
And as a last exhortation, make sure your reading plan does not become an idol. We read the Bible to see and savor Christ. We read the Bible to search out the blood stains from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22. You are not reading the Bible to check off a list or complete a plan. You are reading it to commune with the living God.
They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” Luke 24:32
This death of God’s Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for sins; it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world.
- Synod of Dort, 2.3
I love the word infinite. My calculus teacher–eccentric like most calculus teachers–once demonstrated to us infinity. At the beginning of class he began by drawing on the chalk board a single line. He continued the line off the chalk board, onto the classroom wall, and out the door. He didn’t come back for the rest of class.
Infinite describes the indescribable. It is a value so great that we have no way of placing a sufficient value on it. This is the value of the atoning death of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. It is so costly it cannot be calculated. It does not run out. It is limitless. In its value, it is enough to atone for the sins of the entire world.
In addition to our four sons we’ve had two other children staying with us for a few weeks–a 3-year-old girl and her 7-year-old brother. This has presented us with a great opportunity to teach our sister-less sons how a young man is to treat a young lady.
The other morning at breakfast, my 2-year-old son was pretending to hit his new female friend. To this apparent act of ungentlemanly conduct, my 4-year-old son exhorted,
David! We do not hit girls … unless there is a spider on them.
I had completely forgotten about the arachnid clause in biblical masculinity. I was pleased to see how thoroughly my son had thought through the implications of respecting and protecting a lady.
Resolved, never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.
- Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Hendrickson: Peabody, 2000), 1.lxii.
I love the phrase, “improve the time”. It views time as a shapeless resource given in equal abundance to all men. The question is not how much you have but what you do with the time you’ve been given. How will you improve it? How will you craft it to God’s glory? Here is Edwards’ desire to not spend a modicum of time on anything but the honor and glory of almighty God.