Our Marveling Mechanisms
There is a simple way to avoid becoming bird food (Revelation 19:17, 21). There is a clear way to avoid being thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). The way is the way of faith in the Lamb. He is the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6). Those who love the Lamb more than their own lives will conquer (Revelation 12:11), and cannot be captured or condemned.
This is not primarily a word of warning to fear the eternal torments of fire, though the threat is real. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about the day
when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, (2 Thessalonians 1:7–10)
What I am calling us as Christians to do is to be preparing our marveling mechanisms. We will marvel at the Rider. We will marvel at the Lamb. We will marvel at His wrath. We will marvel at the banquet table of His love for His Bride, for us.
At that table there will be redeemed kings, captains, mighty men, free and slave, small and great. There will be Jew and Greek, male and female (Galatians 3:28). Who knows if we will recognize each other as old and young. What we hold onto in common is Christ. We are not merely fugitives from hell but sons of our Heavenly Father (Galatians 3:26). As many as of who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Galatians 3:27). We will all be in His presence and astonished by the glory of His might.
April 13, 2021
I had a moment of providential connection at our small group meeting last Friday that, I believe, has application on a few fronts, for wisdom and courage and holiness, which are distinguishable fronts but also share the same heart.
We were talking about our Christian responsibilities in a world of lies and trouble and tyrants. This is where wisdom is so necessary, for sake or recognizing our situation and knowing how to respond. It reminded me of a phrase and condition I had read about: hectic fever.
Niccolo Machiavelli described it in his book on statecraft, The Prince (AD 1532).
hectic fever…in its beginning it is easy to cure, but hard to recognize; whereas, after a time, not having been detected and treated at the first, it becomes easy to recognize but impossible to cure.
Machiavelli meant it as counsel to rulers to be wise in how they deal with disorder below them.
The same condition, however, was also referred to by Junius Brutus less than 50 years later in his Vindicia Contra Tyrannos (AD 1579).
For tyranny may be properly resembled unto a fever hectic, the which at the first is easy to be cured, but with much difficulty to be known; but after it is sufficiently known, it becomes incurable.
Machiavelli was looking down, Brutus was looking up, both ways could go bad. For leaders, and for those who would not be overrun by bad leaders, early wisdom and quick courage are advantageous.
But the image also applies regarding sin. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils (1 Timothy 6:10), kill it quickly. There is a root of bitterness that springs up into great trouble (Hebrews 12:15), pluck it out. One too many glasses of wine? Too loose with your timecard, stealing from your employer? A small sin can grow into a devouring dragon. Be honest, be ruthless for your sake, for the body’s sake. As John Owen wrote, “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”
April 12, 2021
The Price of Passion
It is good to remember where certain things come from.
The week between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday is often called Passion Week. It’s called passion because of Latin, and in many copies of God’s Word in the first few centuries of the church pastors would preach about Jesus’ passionem, a Latin word meaning suffering.
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/passionem of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:9)
While most English speakers today think of passion as an intense desire, it originally referred to painful endurance. Jesus taught His disciples about it before it happened.
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer (a verbal form of passionem) many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (Matthew 16:21)
That’s the background of the word passion. But this passion, this suffering, is the background for Jesus’ glory. It was due to His humble death on a cross that “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:8-9). It is because of Jesus’ suffering that He is “crowned with glory and honor” (Hebrews 2:9).
And Jesus’ passion is the background for our joy.
Jesus loves you, and suffered to bring You to the Father (1 Peter 3:18). God loves Your sanctification, and His Son suffered to make it secure (Hebrews 13:12). God loves to share His joy with you. God sent His Son to suffer, die, and rise again to show it. How will He not with Him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
April 9, 2021
Know, Reckon, Yield
When I was a child I thought like a child, which meant I thought it was more common to be on fire. I say that because we were regularly drilled in the fire safety trifecta of: Stop. Drop. and Roll. Since fire feeds on oxygen, the emergency procedure aims to suffocate the fire. As it turns out, by God’s grace, I have never needed to apply these instructions, but they certainly have been memorable.
What I really wish is that I would have been similarly drilled as a disciple of Christ. There is a three-fold set of commands in Romans 6 that I would have used much more often, even daily, and numerous times throughout the day in dealing with sin and temptations to sin. The sanctification trifecta is: Know. Reckon. Yield.
We Know not only the truths of the gospel, but our union with Christ in the gospel events. “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:6).
We Reckon or deliberately deliberate on this new reality. “So you also must consider (reckon in the KJV), from λογίζομαι, meaning count it to be so) yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).
And then Yield to the new way. “Present (yield in the KJV), put at His disposal) yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life” (Romans 6:13).
Every believer has been baptized into Christ’s death, and we have been raised from the dead to walk in the newness of life (Romans 6:3-4). Are you hot with with offense or bitterness? Are you engulfed with guilt and regret? Are you consumed with anxiousness or doubt? Confess your sin, and then Know. Reckon. Yield. Today we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, and ours in Him.
April 8, 2021
There is a new podcast in the world.
My wife and one of her good friends had been talking about the possibility of podcasting, and then were prodded by one of the young ladies in our church/school to record their first episode at her birthday party.
These are ladies worth listening to. Along with a guest, they talk about dealing with temptations to sin as a mom, and in particular as an intellectual or at least intellectually interested mom, and then finish off with some direction for younger girls on thinking about how they invest their attention dollars as sisters in Christ.
If you’re interested then listen, subscribe, and share.
April 8, 2021
On Palm Sunday Jesus rode a young beast of burden into Jerusalem to applauding cheers. The crowds cried out, “Hosanna!” (Matthew 21:9) Five days later the crowds cried out, “Crucify Him!” (Matthew 27:22)
It has been popular for preachers in the past to identify the crowds as the same, a lesson about the fickleness of men and mobs. It has become popular these days for more preachers to distance themselves from such a simple platitude, as if it was silly even to suggest the crowds were the same.
There’s no need to throw the baby out with the palm branches, so to speak. We don’t have to say that every single person who praised Jesus on Sunday then cursed Jesus on Friday. We also don’t have to say that no single person who praised Jesus then cursed Him, which requires proving a negative. What’s more, Jesus’ own teaching, and Jesus’ own disciples, point toward the possibility of flaking out.
In His parable of the sower one type of person heard the seed of the word and received it with joy and then at some point later, the story doesn’t stipulate the amount of time, the same person got tired of troubles associated with that word and fell away (Matthew 13:20). Why couldn’t a mob be rocky soil? A mob could be overwhelmed with hate after being overwhelmed with joy. And every one of Jesus’ disciples, those who had been following Him for three years, abandoned Him, at least temporarily, when their shepherd was struck (Matthew 26:31, 56).
A couple things: First, as a church we have affirmed the faith and joy of some who then turn against Christ. We baptized them as believers, and sadly, some have later denied that profession and have fallen away. We pursue their repentance according to Matthew 18, and yet some must be removed from being under the spiritual protection of the church (1 Corinthians 5:4-5) and are no longer welcome to share the Lord’s Table with us. It is always sad, even if it isn’t surprising.
Second, the problem with the crowd on Palm Sunday was not their praise, the problem with the rocky soil was not the joy in the word, the problem is not with professions of faith. The problem was not living by faith. So, Christian, keep praising, keep receiving the word with joy, and keep feeding on the true bread of life and drinking the true drink of Jesus’ blood. Keep abiding in Him and you will live forever (John 6:52-58).
March 31, 2021