Author Archives: Joshua Sercey

My Assurance of Salvation

“How did this happen?” That’s been a constant question in my mind over the past month. The past year or so has been a very rough time with the Lord for me. There has been nights I laid awake truly believing I didn’t know Jesus. I thought he left me. His voice was too faint, his grace too bland and my heart too hard for me to believe I ever actually knew the living God. But, here I am now, more vibrant in my faith than ever before. Here I am, experiencing the waterfall of God’s grace yet again. So this question bothers me. How did this happen? How did I make it through that? I have an answer, and I want to share it with you. I’m no fool. I know some of you believers have as cold a heart as any pagan out there. I know you’re doubting God’s faithfulness, and you need fresh wind in your sails. I know that’s out of my power to create that in you, but I’m here to use my gifts to share my experience and what I learned in hopes that God will do something in the hearts of my readers… even through a measly blog post.

How?

So first off, how do we get to places like this? Well to make it as short and simple as possible, there’s only one answer: the sovereignty of God. He is sovereign over your heart. He’s in control of your spiritual state and determines the amount of authentic joy in Christ you’re experiencing. He’s sovereign over that, but I think there are two different disposition of hearts that can be found in these dry seasons.

To the Unfaithful and Far Off

The first disposition is the consistently disobedient. Personal and habitual sin that we are absolutely responsible for has sent you into a dark place. The quickest way to to silent the Holy Spirit is to quench him with your constant disobedience. Most likely, there was some specific besetting sin that He called you to floor on, he called you to repent of, and you’ve been stubborn to repent. And as a result, that Holy Spirit that would illuminate, teach, and instruct has now gone silent, withdrawn His light and caused darkness. He that grieves the Spirit quenches it; and he that quenches the Spirit vexes it; and he that vexes the Spirit sets himself against it. So, sure enough, here you are, hard hearted as ever because of your unrepentant sin.

The Spirit called, you continually rejected, and the result is now a dull faith that’s too weak to trust in God. Christ seems so far off that you can’t even imagine that you ever truly knew Him.

Now, let me say, for some of you that’s the truth. You haven’t really come to know Christ. You thought you did because you answered a bogus and manipulative altar call. Maybe some of you came to Christ for some gift you thought He would give you. Your whole “faith” has just been an outworking of your idolatry. You had the same luggage, Jesus was just another bellhop. It was the same meal you wanted served, just a different butler. You never knew him, but that doesn’t mean you can’t now. Turn from your idolatry and in truth cling to Christ. He’ll take you in.

But for others of you, the accusation of a false faith is a lie. You have truly come to faith, and the Holy Spirit, though faint, still does reside in you. How do you know if that’s true for you? Well, the thought of being separate from Christ, what does it do to you? Does it make you fearful? It should. And if so, what kind of fear? Fear that makes you think you have to get yourself together or fear that makes you cling to Christ? Where does the fear find it’s end and is quenched? Is it calmed by a delusion of your ability to get good with God in your strength or is it calmed at the foot of the cross? The true believer will always make his way back to the cross, no matter how long it takes to get back.

So now, to you, the genuine believer in Christ, know you are loved deeply. I know you feel abandoned because of your sin. You aren’t. You are still covered. For you, the blood of christ is an objective reality, not subject to your emotions or feelings. Its there, covering you and pardoning you, whether you feel it or not. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful- for he cannot deny himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13. The Father gave up His own image, the Son, at the cross. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature..” Hebrews 1:3. It was that radiance of glory that took on the stench of your shame. It was this Blessed Name that became a curse for you. This sacrifice is too final and the blood of Christ too potent for you to wiggle your way out or wash it off with your sin. You, believer, are covered, redeemed, and kept. Persevere; He will be faithful to you.

To the Faithful Yet Cold

But then for some of us, God’s sovereignty has brought this about in a different way; He himself has hidden His face from the faithful. You’ve been faithful in trusting God’s promises in such a way that brought about obedience, yet the presence of God seems to have gone out from you. That flame is just a flicker, and you feel like one more day of desperation or silence will blow it out. Has God forsaken you? No. Quite the opposite.

God is good and He does good. You believe this. If you didn’t, you would have walked away a long time ago. God is good to his people and is in control of their experience of him. For you, God in his wisdom has hidden his face, regardless of you being obedient and not provoking such a season.

Be careful here. Yes you have been faithful, and at a surface level it seems like God has not been. That’s a lie. Don’t ever think you’ve been more faithful than him. He’s the perfect Husband. Never has he had eyes for someone other than His people. And quite honestly, you’ve been faithful cause he’s being faithful to you. He’s the one who worked that into you. It’s his hand thats held you up, and his strength that has brought you this far.

So dont’ believe the lie that he’s forsaken you. It’s impossible for him to forsake you; he made you his child through his Son. And he is a good Father who gives good gifts to his children, and this season is a good gift for you. It doesn’t feel like it, but it is. And the only thing the Enemy wants you to believe is that it’s not good. If it’s not good, then he must not love you. As with a deadly wound, he taunts you all the day long, asking, “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:10). Your tears have been your food day and night as he pesters you, “Oh he’s forsaken you. He’s forgotten.” It’s a lie. God will vindicate you (Psalm 43:1), and will break the teeth of your accuser. (Psalm 3:7). He will not delay forever. “For the LORD will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love…” Lamentations 3:31-32. His love is in abundance for you. He showed that at the cross. He who gave up his Son initially, how could he not now give you himself eternally? (Romans 8:32). He didn’t spare his Son, and because of that we can have confidence he won’t withhold any and every grace he has for us. He will make his presence known. He will deliver you from the deadly pestilence of doubt and unbelief in his love for you. (Psalm 91:3). Hope in him. In him is your salvation from dullness.

My Assurance

So I realize I haven’t answered my question yet. How did this happen? After all those nights I was pestered with lies of abandonment and condemnation, how am I still here? The answer is simple, and it’s found in John 17. Jesus prays:

I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name… John 17:9-11

What’s interesting about this is when Jesus says “Holy Father.” This is the only time in the New Testament that this form of address is used with reference to the first person of the Godhead. It’s an echoe of the assertion of God’s awesome purity described in Lev. 11:44. God is our Father, but he’s a Holy Father. His Fatherhood is set apart from and transcends any other weaker and less pure father. So here again we see, he is the perfect Father.

But more than that, Jesus says, “keep them in your name…” He’s asking God, in and by his name, to keep those of true faith. And what’s his name?? Yahweh. I AM. His name is “I AM.” Jesus is asking the Father to preserve his people by his very Being. By the absolute reality of the existence of God, believers are kept. That’s what Jesus is praying for here. To say it more clearly, because God is still God, believers are kept. The day God stops being God is the day true believers will fall away from the faith.

So why am I still here? Because God is still God. He’s still reigning, which means he’s still sustaining. The assurance of my salvation is, at it’s core, tied into the very Being of God. Oh, believer, what a sure and firm Anchor of hope you have.


Debt Cancelled

This is from a Good Friday service by Pastor Rick Gamache at Sovereign Grace Church. It’s too good not to share:

 

 

 

Jesus is bowed and bloody. One hundred and ten pounds of lumber is strapped across his shoulders. The weight of the rough wood proves too much as it grinds against the lacerations left by the Roman scourging. Pain explodes like light in his brain, and Jesus crumbles under the beam. When he comes to himself, Jesus feels somehow weightless and he realizes the wooden crossbeam has been cut from his back. Another man is carrying it now, a dark man who’s face he cannot see, but he does see the face of another. Mercifully, a Roman centurion bends and takes Jesus under his arm to lift him gently to his feet again. Jesus looks up and holds the soldier captive in his gaze. The victim’s eyes does not pierce the centurion with the hatred he expects. Instead he finds love in those eyes; love mingled with pain yes, broken-hearted love, but love nonetheless. And not love excited by one mere act of kindess, this love preceded the moment, this love preceded his existence, this love preceded the existence of the world. Somehow the centurion knows that these are the eyes of eternal love. Jesus holds the soldier’s gaze as long as he can, but the blood that dripped off the ends of his hair to the ground when he was bent low under the cross beam now drops into his eyes. The blood mixed with sweat stings and Jesus blinks. By this time Friday Jesus was familiar with this sting, but it was a new sensation on Thursday  night in the garden.

There in the garden he walked with his friends singing hymns and speaking quietly. They passed through the city gate and walked up the hill to Gethsemane through the olive trees. But there were only eleven friends with Jesus, not twelve. One of the twelve chosen proved no friend at all. Satan already held Judas the betrayer by the hand then and now he has him by the neck. Judas hangs pale and gasping, swinging from his belt under the limb of a tree, the flames of hell already lapping at his feet. It would of been better if he had never  been born. Eleven remained then, but soon there would be none. Not one friend would stay. Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter. One would run terrified out of the garden naked and the rest would follow. Jesus fell on his face in prayer. He tasted the dirt as he fought for the eternal destinies of his eleven sleeping sheep only a stones throw away. “Let the cup pass!” he cried, “Father if possible let the cup pass!” The Father gazed lovingly at his Son, and the Son stared back knowingly. “Your will be done, Father” whispered the Son. And the Father held out the cup, Jesus looked in. What he saw there flung him into the throws of agony. He pressed his forehead deep into the dirt which softened to mud when mingled with his tears. Jesus felt several small explosions of pain under the skin on his face. The tiny capillaries in his sweat glands burst under the stress, blood flowed through his pores and dropped in his eyes, and it stung. Jesus lifted his head to the sky and cried out, “I will drink from this cup Father, I will drink from this cup so that your glory may be vindicated and my name may be glorified. And so that the sheep you have given me will see our glory and enjoy it forever. I will drink on behalf of our rescue mission.” Just then, through blurry eyes, Jesus saw the lines of torches slithering like a snake up the hill to the garden. The mob arrived, Judas kissed, friends fled, soldiers arrested and Jesus’s world became a swirl of torment and mockery.

His trial was a sham as liars lied and mockers mocked. God claimed to be God, and it was called blasphemy. And the face that Moses longed the see, the face that he was forbidden to see was slapped and spit on. More blood in the eyes, more stinging. As he was dragged from the high priest’s house, Jesus managed a bloodied eye glance at Peter. This friend ran from the garden but this friend followed as well. And this friend had done the unthinkable three times, and now, the cock crowed, and Jesus held Peter captive in the gaze of eternal love. But Peter looked away and ran. Just outside the city gate he stumbled and fell to the ground, heaving sobs, and considered joining Judas on his tree. But he pleaded to the Father for forgiveness instead, and the Father looked a few hours into the future, to Friday afternoon, and on behalf of what He saw there, He granted Peter the forgiveness he requested.

The governor of Judea was up early this cold, wet, gray Friday morning. The city still sleeped as the the priests and soldiers led Jesus to the palace of Pontius Pilate. But soon the priests would have a sympathetic crowd as news of Jesus’s arrest moved from house to house. They leveled their charges, “This man forbids us to pay tribute to Caesar and he calls himself a king.” Pilate stares intently at Jesus, he questioned him, and found no guilt. Neither did King Herod. So Pilate offered to release Jesus to the swelling crowd, but they chose freedom for the murderer Barrabas instead. “Then what should I do with Jesus of Nazareth,” Pilate shouted to the mob. The mob thundered back, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” And their voices prevailed. Pilate washed his hands, and delivered the innocent one to death.

Now, Jesus was stripped, and his hands were tied overhead to a post. A large shirtless Roman soldier stepped forward towards Jesus, fondling a short whip. Several heavy leather thongs hung off the handle, weighed down by the small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The muscles in the soldier’s back and arms bulged as he brought down the heavy whip with full force again and again and again across Jesus’s shoulders and back and buttocks and legs. The Jews would of been more merciful; no more than 39 lashes, but the Romans extended no such mercy. And the balls of lead yielded large, deep bruises, only to be broken open by the endless blows as the thongs cut through the skin, and then they cut deeper into muscles. From behind, Jesus no longer looked human, his skin hung in long bloody ribbons of tissue. Fearing they had gone too far and kill Jesus before it was time, the soldiers cut him loose, he fell in an unconscious heap at their feet. Jesus was forced to stand. A purple robe not his own was wrapped around him and clung to his open wounds. They made him hold a stick; a mock scepter. And now the King of Jews needed a crown. One of the soldiers picked up a thorn branch from a pile of firewood and braided it into a circle. Never did thorns compose so rich a crown. Another soldier took the scepter from the hand of the King of Kings and beat the crown into his skull. Bloody sweat blinded him and his stinging eyes momentarily took his mind off the pain in his back. And then the purple robe was torn from Jesus, and ribbons of flesh that adhered to the cloth were ripped off with its removal. Each wound had a voice of it’s own to shriek it’s pain, and Jesus collapsed again.

Now Jesus is dressed in his own clothes again, and before the merciful centurion can move Jesus along behind the dark man now carrying the cross, an old woman approaches and wipes his face with a linen cloth. Jesus looks into her eyes and then looks to the crowd of weeping women behind her. And he says, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children. The days are coming when they will say blessed are the wombs that never bore and and the breast that never nursed. They will say to the mountains, ‘fall on us’ and to the hills ‘cover us.'” And to the old women he adds, “If they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it’s dry?” Then Jesus walks on beyond the city gates. It’s nine ‘o clock in the morning Friday. Through the steady rain Jesus glances up from the base of a rocky hill, it’s name Golgotha, “the skull.” At the top he sees several posts fixed in the ground, three of those poles stand ready to receive their cross beams and the tattered body of Jesus and the two criminals behind him. At the top of the hill the merciful centurion hands Jesus a cup. Jesus sniffs the liquid; it’s wine mixed with myrr, a mild narcotic to dull the pain. But Jesus is meant to feel all the pain, so he hands the cup back, this is not the cup of the Father.

Soldiers strip Jesus, again his back is set on fire as skin tears away with the cloth. Jesus now lays naked in the dirt as the dark man places the cross beam by his head, this time Jesus sees his face. It is Simon of Cyrene, Jesus knows him by name and did before there was time. The beam becomes his pillow now. Two men take hold of his hands. The soldier on his left yanks his arm as far as it will go, but the soldier to his right is gentler. Jesus turns to him, it’s the merciful centurion again. He picks up a cold spike and places it to Jesus’s wrist, then he picks up a hammer. Their eyes meet and eternal love shines forth again and the centurion is undone, he looks away and lifts his hammer. In that moment Jesus hears his own word of power. The word of power that holds the merciful centurion in existence, the word of power that causes the hammer to be; he’s speaking it all into being. The soldiers, the priests, the thieves, the friends, the mothers, the brothers, the mob, the wooden beams, the spikes, the thorns, the ground beneath him and the dark clouds gathering above. If he ceases to speak they will all cease to be. But he wills that they remain, so the soldiers live on and the hammers come crashing down.

Jesus is lifted on his cross beam to the post. He sags, held only by the spikes in his wrist. Jesus designed the median nerves in his arm that are working perfectly now; the pain shoots up those nerves and explodes in his skull as the cross beam is set in place. His left foot is now pressed against his right foot, both feet are extended toes down and a spike is driven through the arch of each. His knees are bent. Jesus immediately pushes himself up to relieve the pain in his outstretched arms. He places his full weight on the spikes in his feet and they tear through the nerves between the metatarsal bones. Splinters from the post pierce his lacerated back; searing agony. Quickly waves of cramps over take him, deep throbbing pain from  his head to his toes; he’s no longer able to push himself up and his knees buckle. He’s hanging now by his arms. His pectoral muscles are now paralyzed and his intercostals are useless, Jesus can inhale but he cannot exhale. His stressed heart is struggling to pump blood to his torn tissue. He fights to raise himself up in order to breathe, and in order to speak. He glances down at the soldiers now gambling for his clothes, he pushes himself up through the pain to pray aloud. “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they do.” Then he sags back into silence. But the crowd is not silent, though  he can barely hear their taunts through the dim of his pain. “He saved others, let him save himself! If you’re the Christ come down off the cross. Save yourself King of the Jews!” The criminal on the cross to his left joins the mockery, but the thief to his right repents. Jesus pushes himself up to say, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

It’s noon now. The rain falls harder and the clouds blacken. Jesus looks down through wet strands of hair into the familiar face of a woman. A new pain grips him, greater pain than all the whips and spikes in the empire of Rome; it’s his mother. She’s sobbing so hard that her breathing is as labored as his. Without word she looks into his eyes and begs to know why, he longs to hold her and tell her it’s all for her. He pushes upward and says as he looks toward John, “Woman, he is now your son.” Then to John he murmurs, “And she is now your mother, take her away from here.” And he sags back into silence, back into countless hours of limitless pain.

Then Jesus is startled by a foul odor. It isn’t the stench of open wounds, it’s something else, and it crawls inside him. He looks up to his Father, his Father looks back but Jesus doesn’t recognize these eyes. They pierce the invisible world with fire and darken the visible sky, and Jesus feels dirty. He hangs between heaven and earth filthy with human discharge on the outside, and now, filthy with human wickedness on the inside. The Father speaks:

               Son of Man, why have you sinned against me and heaped scorn on my great glory? You are self-sufficient and self righteous, consumed with yourself and puffed up with yourself in selfish ambitions. You rob me of my glory and worship what’s inside of you instead of looking out to the one who created you. You are a greedy, lazy, gluttonous slanderer and gossip. You are a lying, conceited, ungrateful cruel adulterer. You practice sexual immorality, you make pornography, you fill your mind with vulgarity. You exchange my truth for a lie and worship the creature instead of the Creator, and so you are given up to your homosexual passions, dressing immodestly and lusting after what is forbidden. With all your heart you love perverse pleasure. You hate your brother and murder him with bullets of anger fired from your own heart. You kill babies for your convenience. You oppress the poor and deal slaves and ignore the needy. You persecute my people. You love money and prestige and honor. You put on a cloak of outward piety but inside you are filled with dead men’s bones, you hypocrite. You are lukewarm and easily enticed by the world. You covet and can’t have so you murder. You are filled with envy and rage and bitterness and unforgiveness. You blame others for your sin and are too proud to even call it sin. You are never slow to speak, you have a razor’s tongue that lashes and cuts with it’s criticism and sinful judgement. Your words do not impart grace, instead your mouth is a fountain of condemnation and guilt and obscene talk. You are a false prophet leading people astray. You mock your parents, you have no self control. You are a betrayer who stirs up division and factions. You are a drunkard and a thief. You’re an anxious coward, you do not trust me, you blaspheme against me. You are an un-submissive wife, you are a lazy, disengaged husband. You file for divorce and crush the parable of my love for the church. You are a pimp and a drug dealer. You practice divination and worship demons. The list of your sins goes on and on and on; and I hate these things inside of you, I’m filled with disgust and indignation for your sin consumes me. Now, drink my cup!

And Jesus does. He drinks for hours. He downs every drop of the scalding liquid of God’s own hatred for sin mingled with his white-hot wrath against that sin.  This is the Father’s cup. Omnipotent hatred and anger for the sins of every generation past, present and future. Omnipotent wrath directed at one naked man hanging on a cross. The Father can no longer look on His beloved Son, His heart’s treasure, the mirror image of Himself; and he looks away. Jesus pushes himself upward and howls to heaven, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” Silence. Separation. Jesus now whispers he’s thirsty and sags. The merciful centurion soaks a sponge in sour wine and lifts it on a reed to Jesus’s lips. The sour wine is the sweetest drink he ever tasted. Jesus pushes himself up again and cries, “It is finished!” And it is. Every sin of every child of God has been laid on Jesus and he drank the cup of God’s wrath dry.

It’s three ‘o clock Friday afternoon. Jesus finds one more surge of strength as he presses his torn feet against the spikes, strains his leg and with one last gasp of air cries out, “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.” And he dies. The merciful centurion sees his body fall forward and his head drop low. He thrusts a spear up behind Jesus’s ribs; one more piercing for our transgression. Water and blood flow out of his broken heart. In that moment mountains shake, and rocks split; veils tear and tombs open. The merciful centurion looks up at the lifeless body of Jesus and is filled with awe. He drops to his knees and declares, “Truly, this man was the Son of God.” Mission accomplished. Sacrifice accepted.


Still Not There

This post has been in the making for a long time. But it took some thought before I could decide whether or not to post it. The whole point of this blog is to resist wasting our words. To me, for me to waste my words would be anything, written or spoken, that’s not in step with the gospel or geared toward building others up to pursue Christ more vigorously. So is this a waste of words? Absolutely not. This is me coming to tear myself down, in the hopes of building you up. I want to publicly humble myself, and that is certainly not a waste of words.

Preface

I realize there will be two responses to this. Some of you will hopefully be encouraged and built up. And for those, I thank you for the grace you show me that allows you to rejoice in what God is doing in me. But I also know I might get some backlash for this. I’m okay with that; I’ve prepared myself for it. I realize there may be a lot of eyes rolled at the end of this post. But let me warn you, you’re on dangerous ground. In order to hold a grudge against someone, you have to see yourself as morally superior to them. Welcome to pride. Be careful how you read this.

My Apology

The biggest means God used to save me was through study. To keep it short, all of my life I thought that I knew Christ, when in reality I believed in some ethereal Jesus I had always heard about. Because of only hearing of him and not actually knowing him, I had no foundation of truth. It was almost this mystic Christianity. I had plenty “warm fuzzies” to point to, but none of them came from an actual knowledge of who God is. After realizing this, I was encouraged by a brother to go and study. Go and seek; go build up that foundation of truth and pray the Spirit would come and blow you up. And He did. After about 2 months of dull, dry gathering of kindling, the Holy Spirit came and ignited everything I had been learning. Finally, the new birth occurred. I could see and savor the saving merits of Christ Jesus.

I don’t regret any of that. I shouldn’t regret any of that. But it’s what came after that I’m here to apologize for. Just for a timeline’s sake, this was August of 2009. I was just moving up to Denton and getting into college. After seeing what God could do with the little bit of truth I had come across, I wanted more. I wanted to know and soak up all I could. From this came a lot of growth, intellectually at least. I began to build up this reservior of knowledge, and began to look on it with pride. I understood things very quickly and could grasp some difficult things. I looked down on those who didn’t have that same capacity to understand as if they were lesser. They were second-hand citizens in the kingdom of God. It’s for this that I apologize. I hurt some of you, and I ruined a lot of meaningful relationships. When my tongue should of been salivating with grace, I began to spit the poison of condemnation. I made some of you feel lesser. You are a fellow heir with me. We are both adopted children of God. But I treated you as the outcast in the family. I may even of made you feel as though God didn’t quite love you as much because you weren’t as quick to understand. It was a disgusting display of pride and clear evidence that I myself didn’t understand the things I came across. I spoke of the doctrines of grace with zero grace. It wasn’t just a contradiction, it was a blatant sin against God and against you. I’m here to confess these things to you and to ask for your forgiveness. I hate that I can’t make it clear enough how sorry I am. I was an ignorant, loud mouthed fool dishonoring the grace God had shown both of us. For that, I’m sorry.


Pity Party?

There a couple things I wanna make clear before I close this out. This is not me inviting you to my pity party. Pity?? What do I have to feel self-pity about? God has still forgiven me for these things. Christ, the eternal Son of God who “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3), has given up his life for me. He’s saved me. I’ve been bought with the blood of Christ. Adopted, sonship, an “[heir] of God and fellow [heir] with Christ.” (Romans 8:17). You have no reason to feel pity for me. I’m not asking for your pity, I’m wanting joy. Joy in that we serve a God who is continually patient in our pride, yet shows his might in bringing down the eyes of the haughty. Rejoice with me.

Self-Projection?

This could very easily be interpreted as boasting in humility. Excuse my poor writing here, but ppssshhhh. Any true humility that ANYONE has is created in us by God and God alone. It’s a gift of grace that God gives us. It’s not something I could conjure up in myself. It’s been born from a clear vision of who God is and how low I really am. Besides, being prideful in humility is not humility. And prideful? What do I have to feel prideful for? I killed Jesus. I’m so wicked that it took the Son of God being tortured and killed to save me. The day I project myself on this blog is the day I’ll quit writing. I have nothing to proclaim in life except Christ and him crucified. It’s all I have to give, and it’s all I want to give.

Come Walk With Me

This wasn’t easy for me to write. Having to think again on the ways I’ve used theology to look down on God’s people and treat them as lesser Christians is not a fun experience. But in the end, this was a joyful experience. It’s been painful to think on just how sinful I have been and still am, but it’s life-giving to know Christ still covers me. Christ is deeper still. So come rejoice with me. I’d love to talk with some of you in person. This isn’t me hiding behind a keyboard so I don’t have to face you. I would love to talk with you if you have any questions or comments. So let’s do this. Let’s walk together. Not one standing over another, but side by side as we press on to know Christ Jesus in His fullness.


If God is For Us…

I’ve been a believer for about 2 years now. As I’ve gotten deeper and deeper into biblical community and seen more and more of my own sinfulness, I’ve noticed one sin that seems to creep in on every believer, anxiety. Whether anxiety as to physical needs (or wants), or being anxious in doubting our full forgiveness. The Bible answers this. Quite a few times actually, but nowhere as profoundly than Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Anxiety is a fruit of distrust. My hope is to lay out why the Christian has every right to confidently let go of anxiety and trust God.

Now, this is a very well know verse, which is why I worry most of us breeze over it without catching the weight of what it proclaims. To catch it, we’ll need to point out two key statements.

If God..

Okay stop. God. Who is God? Paul is speaking of the God of the Bible and the Gospel, “the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Ex. 34:6). This is the God who has announced his sovereignty: “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” (Is. 46:9-10).

He is the Creator and Sustainer of all creation. It was by his word he spoke all things into being, and still by the word of his power he sustains all. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” (Is. 40:28).

This is the God who showed his sovereignty in bringing Israel out of slavery in Egypt and later in Babylon, and who brought Jesus up out of the grave. He is sovereign in salvation. He’s the God who calls, justifies, and glorifies all who “he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” (Rm. 8:29). He is the God who says to you, “you have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save. (Is. 46:3-4).

If God is for us…

For us? What does that mean? “The words for us declares God’s covenant commitment to us. The goal of grace is to create a loving relationship, and the bonds of fellowship by which God binds himself to us is his covenant.” It is a unilaterally imposed covenant. Like when God says to Abraham in Gen. 17, “I am God Almighty… I will establish my covenant between you and me… to be God to you and to your offspring after you…I will be their God…you shall keep my covenant.” (vv. 1,7-9).

Covenant is an odd word to use in our culture today. The idea of covenant has been defamed and belittled, similar to the ways ‘love’ has. But, regardless of how light our culture views covenant, this covenant is an enduring one. The way it was meant to be. You see, covenant isn’t just an idea for the believer, it’s a reality. And it’s a reality because it was blood bought. We are partakers in the new covenant. The binding agreements have been made and held up by the blood of Christ. Sweet, precious blood of Christ, which holds me fast and covers me in the many moments I am unfaithful to this covenant. But God is not like me, he is ‘whole otherness.’ I can’t let my unfaithfulness be a gauge on how faithful the Lord will be. He has, is and will forever be faithful in carrying out his end of this blood bought covenant, to be ‘my God.’

Think

So think. That’s what Paul is trying to get you to do here. Compare the two sides. Your enemy/enemies, and God. The ‘who can be’ translation actually misses the point. What Paul is asking for a is a realistic review of the opposition, human or demonic, not a romantic pretense that it does not exist. Are you afraid of ‘them?’ You need not be. Whoever or whatever circumstance it is, God is greater. Fear not Christian, the Lord your God is for you. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” (2 Chron. 32:7-8).

A sovereign protector I have,

Unseen, yet for ever at hand;

Unchangeably faithful to save,

Almighty to rule and command.

He smiles, and my comforts abound;

His grace as dew shall descend,

And walls of salvation surround

   The soul He delights to defend.

                -Toplady

 

 

Note: In the interest of full disclosure, this framework has been adapted from J.I. Packer’s chapter ‘The Adequacy of God’ in Knowing God. Any unclaimed quotations are from him.


De Trinitate

Human language can be a very weak thing. There are those moments or thoughts in need of expression that human language simply cannot carry the weight of. This is one of those moments. My language is inadequate. But inadequacy does not mean useless. No doubt human language is inadequate to carry this deep reality, but you don’t throw out the love poem because it falls short of the love.

I don’t mean to bore you with a seminary like essay. I want to provoke worship. I want to bring some sort of clarity to what can very often be a foggy doctrine. All for the sake of worship. This isn’t a doctrine meant to stay in the classroom, it’s a reality the “everyday Christian” should be dwelling on and living in.

Thankfully, I don’t have to do this alone. I have much wiser and much holier men who have gone before me to stammer for an answer. Honestly, they will be doing most of the work of describing the Trinity, seeing as their language is much more beautifully descriptive than I am able. I’ll be using quotes from the two men who have influenced me most in my thinking of the Trinity, Jonathan Edwards and John Piper. Let’s hear what they have to say.

 

“In a nutshell, I would describe the Trinity like this: The Father is God existing in the primal, unoriginated, most absolute manner. The Son is God eternally generated by the Father’s having a clear and distinct idea or image of himself, so much so that his image or reflection of himself is God—the Son. The Holy Spirit is God existing as the infinite Spirit of love and delight flowing eternally between the Son and the Father.

The Father has always existed. And there never was a time when he did not have a perfectly exact and full Idea or Image of himself. This is the Son who therefore is equally eternal with the Father. “God’s idea of himself is absolutely perfect and therefore is an express and perfect image of him, exactly like him in every respect; there is nothing in the pattern but what is in the representation—substance, life, power nor anything else…But that which is the express, perfect image of God in and in every respect like him is God to all intents and purposes…” (Jonathan Edwards, An Essay on the Trinity, p. 101). Biblical passages that point to this understanding of God the Son are 2 Corinthians 4:4; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3.” -John Piper

“IT IS COMMON when speaking of the Divine happiness to say that God is infinitely happy in the enjoyment of Himself, in perfectly beholding and infinitely loving, and rejoicing in, His own essence and perfection, and accordingly it must be supposed that God perpetually and eternally has a most perfect idea of Himself, as it were an exact image and representation of Himself ever before Him and in actual view, and from hence arises amost pure and perfect act or energy in the Godhead, which is the Divine love, complacence and joy. The knowledge or view which God has of Himself must necessarily be conceived to be something distinct from His mere direct existence… If a man could have an absolutely perfect idea of all that passed in his mind, all the series of ideas and exercises in every respect perfect as to order, degree, circumstance and for any particular space of time past, suppose the last hour, he would really to all intents and purpose be over again what he was that last hour. And if it were possible for aman by reflection perfectly to contemplate all that is in his own mind in an hour, as it is and at the same time that it is there in its first and direct existence; if a man, that is, had a perfect reflex or contemplative idea of every thought at the same moment ormoments that that thought was and of every exercise at and during the same time that that exercise was, and so through a whole hour, a man would really be two during that time, he would be indeed double, he would be twice at once. The idea he has of himself would be himself again.” -Jonathan Edwards

So far we have the Father and the Son. The Father being God existing in the aboriginal, most absolute manner. And the Son, being God eternally begotten by the Father’s perfect and distinct image of himself. Now, as C.S. Lewis says, the Trinity is a dance of worship. The Father loves the Son (Ephesians 1:6; Matthew 3:17; John 5:20, 17:26), and the Son loves the Father (John 14:31). The Father eternally delights in the Son, and the Son eternally delights in the Father. God’s love for his own glory was satisfied from eternity in beholding his own image of his glory in the Son.

“Therefore, the Father and the Son never existed without an infinite delight and love flowing between them. It was not possible they could be indifferent to each other’s glory. 1 John 4:12-13 shows that the love that God is (v. 7) is the Holy Spirit: “If we love one another God dwells in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him…because he has given us of his Spirit.” The Spirit of God is the river of love and delight flowing between God the Father and God the Son. The Holy Spirit is the esprit de corps of the Godhead. In responding to each other’s infinite glory, the Father and Son put all that they are into the act of love. And therefore the Spirit is all that they are and exists as a Person in his own right, yet one with the Father and the Son.” -Piper

“The Godhead being thus begotten by God’s loving an idea of Himself and shewing forth in a distinct subsistence or person in that idea, there proceeds amost pure act, and an infinitely holy and sacred energy arises between the Father and Son in mutually loving and delighting in each other, for their love and joy is mutual, (Prov. 8:30) “I was daily His delight rejoicing always before Him.” This is the eternal and most perfect and essential act of the Divine nature, wherein the Godhead acts to an infinite degree and in themost perfect manner possible. The Deity becomes all act, the Divine essence itself flows out and is as it were breathed forth in love and joy. So that the Godhead therein stands forth in yet another manner of subsistence, and there proceeds the third Person in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, viz., the Deity in act, for there is no other act but the act of the will.” -Edwards

Have you ever been to a party and you can just sense the mood? Whether upbeat or boredom, you can almost feel the ‘spirit’ of the party. This is an infinitely tiny fraction of Who the Holy Spirit is. For eternity, at all times, the Father and Son have acted in love toward each other. This love is so strong, it is in itself another person in the Trinity. And because the love between the Father and Son is based on the attributes and characteristics of each other, the Spirit is of the same essence as the Father and Son, but distinct.

There is one God, eternally existing in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We grope at understanding, but never fully have it. We stammer to express, but always fall short. Why? Because something has happened, an affection has come about. A passion has been placed by God for God. Passion sprouting from a love for the glory of God displayed in His saving work. Salvation: originates with Father, accomplished by the Son, communicated by the Spirit. Falling in love always precedes the love poems. Although communicated with the help of others, they’re writing is in sync with my heart. This is my love letter.

 

“Ascribe O church the greatness and the glory due His name, one God, one Being, one Essence, O Triune God proclaimed.”

 


Who Am I?

I’m going to need you to get out of your own world for this one. For these next few paragraphs you’ll need to sit back and actually contemplate the magnitude of what is going on around you.

 

As you read this, I assume you are sitting at a desk or in your living room. As you sit still, how fast are you actually moving? Yes, in an earthly, horizontal sense you are sitting still, but what about apart from the earth? As you sit still, you are sitting on a moving planet, so in reality, how fast are you actually moving? There are several different factors we need to consider to actually find out. First off, our planet rotates on it’s axis. But more than that, it wobbles as it spins on that axis. The speed of earth’s rotation is about 1,041.7 mph. Now secondly, the earth is also orbiting the sun at a speed of 69,360.73 mph. So, so far we have three different directions of motion, orbit, spin, and wobble. All put together for a combined speed of 70,402.3 mph. That’s the easy part. Everybody knows about wobble, spin and orbit. But there are a few more factors to take into account to calculate how fast you are actually moving as you read this.

For number four we need to take into account the center of our galaxy. The sun, and therefore the entire solar system, is actually drifting towards the constellation Hercules, more specifically the star Lambda Herculis, at an approximate speed of 43,200 mph. Now also we must consider that the solar system itself is actually moving upwards at 90 degrees to the plane of the Milky Way galaxy at 15,624 mph. The sixth factor we must consider is the orbit of the solar system around the Milky Way, at an approximate speed of 446,500 mph. Feeling a little sick yet? There’s one more to consider, but let’s add up what we have so far. From what we’ve said, as you read this, you are actually moving at a combined speed of approximately 574,585 mph, in six different directions.

Now for out last factor, we see that our galaxy itself is moving at 1,339,200 mph through the universe! So to add it all up, with wobble, spin, earth’s orbit, the solar system’s drift, the upward motion of the solar system, the orbit of the solar system, and the movement of our galaxy, you are actually moving at a speed of roughly 1,913,785 mph, but in seven different directions!

 

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that your care for him?” Psalm 8:3

This is what baffles me. No, not what I just explained, but what the weight of that verse in light of what I just explained. Not the speed of the universe or motion of our galaxy, those are mere shadows. What baffles me is, the Substance to whom those shadows point, He loves me? This is what I don’t understand. That God, who created these wonders, before he created anything, set His eyes on me. This puts in me the most profound and confounding question in Christianity. No, not the question of predestination. No, not the question of the inerrancy of Scripture. But this: who am I? Who am I that the Lord would choose me? Who am I that I would be the object of His grace and affection? Who am I that the Lord, would indeed, do “The Hardest Thing”? Who am I that men such as Stephen Hawking would be left to baffle in the shadow, yet I’m given the grace to see and praise the Substance creating those shadows? It certainly wasn’t anything in me that provoked this out of the Lord. I tell you now, with full confidence, I am in no way better than Stephen Hawking. I am no better than Sigmund Freud or John Wayne Gacy, Jr.

So why? Why would the Lord willingly choose the set his redeeming love and affection on mere wicked and needy sinners such as you and I? In all my prayer, in all my struggling with this question, I’ve found no other answer than Ephesians 1:6. For His glory! This is why. And when the Spirit gives me clear eyes, I see that His glory made it worth doing the hardest thing. Although agonizing, “it pleased the Lord to crush him…” (Isaiah 53:10). And that pleasure wasn’t flowing from how “awesome” or “worth it” I would be to save, but rather how unawesome and unworthy I am to be saved, and in that, have the glory of God shine brightest in the salvation of a wicked, perverse and rebellious soul! Praise the Lord that the very apex of the glory of God, namely His grace, would be set on and displayed in you and I.