Overlooking Glory

There is a stage of development as Christians are learning to love righteousness that can cause its own kind of damage. There is no way to not love righteousness and have that be good. There is also a way to love righteousness that is not as good as it could be. It can happen between peers, it can happen from parents and pastors, and really anytime someone watches someone else sin.

Here are two ways to state it positively, one from Proverbs and one from an apostle. Solomon said,

Good sense makes one slow to anger,
and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
(Proverbs 19:11)

And Peter said,

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

In each circumstance there are real problems: an offense was committed and sins were multiplied. These are not okay, and they are virtually impossible to avoid in a community or a classroom or around a kitchen table. Yes, we are to help one another recognize and repent from sin. Yes, we are to train our kids to obey and respect. Yes, we are to be a people who love righteousness.

But how can we have the glory of overlooking an offense without anyone committing an actual offense against us? And are we loving earnestly by always grinding confession out of others? It is not good sense, let alone our glory, to be fussy with the fussers. We may have been sinned against, but we may sin in being so easily offended.

The Fruit of the Womb

November is National Adoption Month and in this first week of the month elections took place across our country. It may be too much to tie together an exhortation to confess from these two threads, and yet they may be in a knot already.

When we worship God we not only see what He is like but also what He likes. More than that, we begin to like the same things. It is possible to study His interests without becoming interested in Him or the subjects, but we will not sing from our souls about Him having certain loves and then act as if our loving the same persons or things is inconsequential. The godly will be like the God they praise.

Our God cares about the fatherless. In Psalm 10 David celebrated that the LORD “will incline [His] ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed” (verses 17b-18a). He “settles the solitary in a home” (Psalm 68:8). Widows and orphans are His cause (James 1:27).

So then must we also care for the fatherless. It may be providing permanence. It may be helping in transition. It may be working at prevention. It could be adopting, fostering, providing emergency care or respite care, or just helping financially in any part of the process.

We also ought to be voting for officials who will not kill our children before they are born (or kill our widows because they are a “drain on society”). How the wicked have been making men fatherless, not because men grow up without fathers, but because the wicked urge fathers to kill their kids. When men worship the god of their belly (more money and time for themselves) they hate the fruit of the womb. But God cares about them.

Our kids are not a hindrance to our fruitfulness, they are our fruitfulness. Until we get (or regain) that perspective, one that can only come as we worship God, our nation will continue to be barren and barbaric.

Everything in Subjection

Though David wrote Psalm 8 about man as in mankind, the author of Hebrews also recognized a unique application for the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere,
“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
putting everything in subjection under his feet.”
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:5–9)

God gave man dominion on earth, but God gave His Son dominion over the dominion-takers, the history-makers, and even over the nay-sayers. “At present we do not see everything in subjection to him.” Sinners still live and sin and stand against the Son of Man. Men still reject their Creator and suppress the truth they know about Him.

We have not reached the final chapter, but we will see all things in subjection, we will see God’s will on earth as it is in heaven, because Christ’s dominion is not potential. It is established; He is risen from the dead.

All things, including governments and businesses and neighborhoods, will be in service to the Son because He already suffered, died, and rose again. He did it as grace. He did it as a substitute. He did it to redeem “many sons” and bring them to glory through sanctification (Hebrews 2:10).

He is helping the tempted now (Hebrews 2:17-18). He is changing us now. He is identifying with us, unashamed to call us brothers now (Hebrews 2:11), even as He invites us to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

At present we do not see everything subjected to Him. But the world ought to see us in subjection to Him as we gather at His Table.

Protecting Our Talk

The doctrine of creation does more than provide science with the origins of the universe. Because we know the first cause, in particular, because we know the first Who, we know that we are not alone. We are not alone and we exist for someone else’s purpose. That means that we all exist for Him, each and every one of us, and that means that we should be careful how we talk about His stuff.

Again, Genesis 1 and 2 reveal how we got here, who we are, and what we’re supposed to do. God made us, He made us in His image, and He commanded that we be fruitful and take dominion. There are now over 7 billion people living on the planet. Many of us have cell phones bouncing off of satellites to order our food via voice activation. Yet there’s one area of stewardship that we still struggle with.

[N]o human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. (James 3:8–9)

Creation establishes morality, both in terms of to Whom we give an answer and for what we will answer. Morality belongs with how we respond to God and how we relate to one another. We have more means of communication today than at any other time in history, but there is no technology that can protect our talk. Only theology can protect our talk. Whether we text, post, call, or whisper about someone else, only one type of thing should come out.

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:10)

How you think about and talk about your neighbor starts with worship. We should take our talk seriously because God has authority over us and because God has given dignity to those around us.

The Son and the Psalter

Psalm 2 sits in a special place in the Psalter. In fact, based on early manuscripts of Acts 13:33 that quoted Psalm 2:7 as being in the “first psalm,” Psalms 1 and 2 were seen as one song, starting in 1:1 with “blessed” and ending in 2:12 with “blessed.” Though they are divided in our copies, Psalm 2 clearly provides another entrance into the entire Book. If Psalm 1 stresses the goodness of singing the Scriptures, Psalm 2 stresses the goodness of singing the Son. Psalm 1 makes men wise and fruitful who delight in the law of Yahweh. Psalm 2 makes men wise and joyful who submit to the rule of Yahweh’s anointed.

Whoever put Psalm 2 in this place put HOPE in the Son’s reign as the a banner over ALL the other songs! While we anticipate the personal blessings of present fruitfulness in the world according to Psalm 1, so we anticipate the global blessing in the future rule of the Messiah over all the world as Psalm 2 describes. He will bring peace among men.

Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
(Psalm 2:11–12)

Serve Him, rejoice before Him, kiss Him, and trust Him. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Refuge is a constant refrain in the Psalms. It implies that we need help, that we are in trouble. It also means that He is the salvation, protection, safety we need. He doesn’t get irritated that we need help. He makes us happy when we run to Him for it.

Psalm 2 doesn’t mention the cross or the resurrection, true, but the Savior and King is the same person, the same chosen and anointed Son. This song reveals the problem: rebellion against the Lord. This song reveals the answer: submission to God’s Son. Psalm 2 also reveals the future as we look forward to the Son’s certain reign. Christ received His throne by going to the cross first, and we celebrate both His sacrifice and His government at the Lord’s Table.

Three Nots

The blessed man in Psalm 1 is known by three “nots”.

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
(Psalm 1:1)

First, he walks not in the counsel of the wicked. He does not follow advice from the ungodly. He doesn’t listen to their opinions.

Can you imagine what the writer of Psalm 1 would think about talk radio, cable news, podcasts and vodcasts, or the magazine wall at the airport? Then add to those inputs the narrative lessons of so many sitcoms, summer blockbusters, and Pandora playlists. We walk into the road without looking either way and get hit by the media truck that imprints its godless perspective across our face.

The blessed man also does not stand in the way of sinners. Stand is not simply stopping, it means taking up a certain perspective. We could say that he doesn’t join the gang of those who regularly disobey. Standing with rebels on the wrong side of the lines God draws is no good.

And third, he does not sit in the seat of scoffers. The scorner or scoffer is at the boldest stage of disobedience where he mocks righteousness and/or God Himself. Scoffing doesn’t have to be loud or obnoxious. Scoffing in a story looks like laughing at the guy who thinks marriage is only between one man and one woman. The scoffer jokes about holiness. The blessed man avoids the cynics. He’s alright standing out.

Walking, standing, and sitting represent all of life. The unblessed man is immersed in a corrupt culture, tuned in to a particular worldview channel. The blessed man disassociates with the advice, the approach, and the assembly of the wicked. The blessed man delights in the law of the Lord. How much junk have we welcomed into our hearts this last week?

A Zero Ego Party

We will never be really happy without being really humble. Only humble eyes seen how many things there are that are amazing. A proud person’s expectations are rarely satisfied. A humble person enjoys everything as unexpected or undeserved. He gives thanks always and everywhere because he knows he’s getting great stuff.

It is the humble man who does the big things. It is the humble man who does the bold things. It is the humble man who has the sensational sights vouchsafed to him, and this for [these] obvious reasons: first, that he strains his eyes more than any other men to see them; second, that he is more overwhelmed and uplifted with them when they come…. (Chesterton, Heretics, 28-29)

whereas it had been supposed that the fullest possible enjoyment is to be found by extending our ego to infinity, the truth is that the fullest possible enjoyment is to be found by reducing our ego to zero. (Chesterton, ibid., 69)

True happiness it isn’t about having a lot. More is not a way to be more merry. Nor does gladness perforce come from giving up what we’ve got. It’s just as easy to be a hoarder when you only have one precious than when you have a kingdom.

It’s why communion has every reasonable and dangerous expectation of turning into a party. If every sin is paid for, then we have nothing whatsoever to boast in. We cannot take any credit for anything good. The cross of Christ humbles us before our guilty sentence and eternal punishment. All of pride is killed. Seen from that angle, how could we possibly be more happy?

Only those who know they don’t deserve it can really delight in it.

I Am Not My Own

One of the greatest comforts in life is knowing that we are owned. As disciples of Christ, we were the Father’s and the Father gave us to the Son. He did it in such a way that both Father and Son possess us. Jesus described this reality in John 17 as He narrowed His prayer list. He prayed for His own.

The Heidelberg Catechism, written in 1563, begins with this encouragement, affectionately referred to as “Heidelberg One.”

Question: What is thy only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yeah, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth to live unto Him.

I think this comfort has great theocentric, Trinitarian, and Calvinistic clarity. The comfort is objective and durable. At the same time, I also feel its warmth. The comfort is deeply personal. We are not our own; He bought us with a blood-expense. We belong to Him; He wills and works in us to live unto Him. That is truth not only worth believing, it is the only truth that leads to life.

We are in for a great death of futility and frustration if we try to ignore or forget or deny God’s ownership. God intends for us to see His ownership as a blessing, as life, rather than a burden.

Have we been submitting to His ownership? Have we been comforted by His ownership?

Making Himself Known

When Jesus instituted the Supper of remembrance He told His disciples, “this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). What was the new covenant and how is the Lord’s Table connected with it?

The New Covenant was God’s promise to “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31; Ezekiel 36:22, 32) to do for them what they failed to do in the previous covenant. Ezekiel described how God would give them a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), which they could not do for themselves. Jeremiah described it differently. He wrote that God would put His law into them, He would write it on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33a). The prophecy goes further.

I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:33b–34, quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12)

God makes a promise to make Himself known. In light of what knowing God means in John 17:3, God makes a covenant to give eternal life.

The New Covenant belongs to the nation of Israel. The sun will stop and the heavens will be measured before that changes (see verses 35-37). But God gives life through the knowledge of Himself to all His people, including the “children of God scattered abroad” (John 12:52). God is gathering His people from every tribe, tongue, and nation with a special fulfillment still to come among Israel. This is His own covenant at His own cost because it is His own character. He is making Himself known.

Jesus’ death on the cross not only purchased our forgiveness, it is part of knowing Him. In his book Delighting in the Trinity, Michael Reeves wrote, “On the cross, Christ the Glory puts to death all false ideas of God.” He makes Himself known so that we can have life and our life brings Him glory as the life-giver. This meal of remembrance that Jesus instituted is our life because here we know God and here we glorify God.

Racing Back for More

We’ll be studying John 17 as a church for a while on Sundays and taking our exhortation to confession cues from Jesus’ prayer. What He wants for us should be valued and pursued by us. If we’re not desiring in the same direction that He is supplicating, we have something to examine, and possibly to confess. Last week we focused on His prayer for our sanctification. This week let us consider that He prays for His own glory.

It may seem out of place to point out our need to glorify Him when we have gathered together to glorify Him. The dentist doesn’t need to give me grief about teeth care, “I’m here, aren’t I?” And yet religious people don’t always care correctly. Take, for example, the Jews who killed Jesus to honor God.

Jesus prays that the Father would glorify Him (John 17:1, 5). Do we want the Father to glorify His Son? And how does the Father do that? What part do we have, if any?

The Father lifts up the honor of His Son by making Him known. “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Light reveals, knowledge clarifies and distinguishes, the face makes it personal. The Father removes the veil that keeps men from seeing “the gospel of the glory of Christ” (verse 4).

Knowing Christ, as we esteem His features and enjoy His fellowship, brings Him glory. So Peter commanded, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). How about us? Are we resting in our collection of knowledge relics or are we racing back to learn of Him in the Bible, more by day by week by year? Are we gathering to say things about Him or are we gathering to see Him, know Him, and give Him the sort of glory He asks the Father for?