Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas is about Authority

Dr. Bruce Ware, professor at Southern Seminary, writes, “We live in a culture that despises authority at every level. (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, pg 137). This is a problem, for in God's eyes rebellion is cosmic treason. For this reason the Son of God became man, to make peace with those in rebellion against his gracious authority.

To a young virgin, the angel Gabriel announced this rescue mission. "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:31-33).

Jesus came to restore the throne of God's kingdom in the hearts of men. But here is the catch. He would exercise this authority as a lowly servant. It would mean a sinless life followed by the rejection of Israel, death on a cross, and resurrection from the dead.

How should we respond? Like the Wise Men we should bow low in worship, overcome with joy, eager to obey and serve our gracious sovereign.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Waiting For God!

If you are like me, you think of prayer as activity. We speak to God. We wrestle with God. He listens and answers. But prayer also involves waiting. “For you I wait all the day long” (Ps. 25:5). “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Ps. 27:14). “Our soul waits for the Lord. He is our help and shield” (Ps 33:20).

I just spent two days in silent retreat. By “silence” I mean, I was alone. For me silence is a difficult. I forced myself to slow down enough to sit before God in quiet expectation, waiting for him to speak, waiting for him to initiate.

This was not natural. I am a busy man. Productivity is my calling card. However, “waiting” nourished my soul. Waiting reminds me that nothing ultimately depends upon me. Waiting says God is faithful. He will answer. My petitions do not fall on deaf ears. God has heard, and in his own good time, he will graciously speak. Waiting reminds me that God is the Master and I am the servant. It says, apart from him I can do nothing.

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;” wrote the Psalmist. “My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning more than watchman for the morning” (Ps. 130:5-6).

May all of us learn the discipline of “waiting.”

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Big God and Small People

As the nineteenth century progressed, the immensity of the universe became increasingly clear. In its shadow we became increasingly small. As Winston Churchill quipped, we looked “specks of dust, that [had] settled in the night on the map of the world.”

This presented a problem for the doctrine of the Incarnation. Why would God descend from realms of infinite glory to save creatures so small and insignificant?

Here is how one nineteenth century theologian, R. L. Dabney (1820-98), answered. “When once it was found that this earth was a very small planet in our system, it would appear very absurd, that the Lord of all this host of worlds should die for a little speck among them… [But] to God’s immensity, no world is really great, and all are infinitesimally small.

Here is the thrust of Dabney’s argument. So what if we are so small it is ridiculous? Physical size just doesn’t matter. The entire universe, no matter how big is, by definition, infinitely small compared to a God who is infinite in power, majesty, knowledge, and grandeur.

That is the God we worship. My personal conviction is that we are small for God’s glory. Our smallness magnifies the humility and condescension revealed by the Incarnation. God descended an infinite distance to save creatures infinitely small. What will it be like to see this God face to face?

Adore him during this advent season.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Why did God become Man?

Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury
Christmas is coming, the day we celebrate the Incarnation, the doctrine that God became man. This raises a great question. Why would God become man? Wasn’t there an easier way? Surely God could have forgiven sin without taking on human flesh.

Like many before and after him, Anselm, the great medieval theologian, raised and answered this question. In his epochal work, Cur Deus Homo, he wrote, “No one, however, ought to make satisfaction for the sin of man except man; and no one can make this satisfaction except God Himself. He who makes satisfaction for human sin must therefore be God-man.”

Here is the idea. Because God is infinitely just, a man had to atone for the sins committed by man. But, because God is also infinitely holy, no one but God himself could make satisfaction to God for the infinite weight of human sin. Therefore, God had to become flesh.

Anselm’s crucial proposition is a window through which we see the infinite greatness of both God’s justice and his love. Both had to be satisfied, and God was willing to become man to get the job done.

Rejoice! This is no small God. It is the God we worship during this holiday season.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Who Commits Hate Crimes?

In his book, What Americans Really Believe, Rodney Stark, professor at Baylor University, makes an interesting observation. “The most virulent and common form of religious intolerance still to be found in America is that held by the irreligious toward the religious. As for the reverse, religious people express little hostility toward the irreligious.”

In our experience, many of us agree. The real "hate crimes" move from liberals to conservatives, not in the other direction. Has the speech perversion of George Orwells 1984 found a roost in contemporary culture? Those who patiently and mercifully object to deviant behavior are accused of hate, but those who try to censor the virtuous are now the practicioners of love.

Be wise as serpents but gentle as doves.

Monday, December 7, 2009

No Small Sins

There are no small sins. Either we repent  thoroughly or they grow and ultimately dominate our lives or the lives of our children. 2 Kings 3:2-5 describes the sons born to David while king at Hebron. "Third, Absalom the son of Maacah, the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur."

Despite clear biblical prohibition against marriages to unbelievers, David married the daughter of a foreign king. It was a small thing, you say. To the watching world it was small. David had many wives, they were all sons of Abraham except Maacah, but no sin is small to God, and God was watching. Sin has consequences, and they seldom appear immediately.

Thumb forward to 1 Kings 11. A couple of decades have passed. David is dead, and his son, Solomon, reigns in his place. Solomon is now eating from the tree his father planted. Solomon watched his father. There was no outward repentance about his marriage to Maacah. Solomon imitates his father. David's discreet sin now matures into full-blown, life-wrecking, culture-seducing idolatry.

"Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods." (1 Kings 11:1-8).

The consequences of David's little compromise was massive. The "high places" to these horrible idols were not removed  until the reign of King Josiah, almost 3 centuries later.
What small unconfessed sin lingers in our lives? What small compromises have captured our hearts? "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:7-8).

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Division that Unifies

We all want unity. No one wants schism, pain, or the resentment that comes from disunity. We live in an age that exalts "inclusivism," the attempt to include all and exclude none.

But, "inclusivism" as a goal is a problem for Christians. The gospel divides. It divides families. "And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted much in David" (1 Sam 19:1). The presence of David, God's anointed, divided Saul's family. David didn't want this. David didn't seek it. He wanted to be friends. However, God's anointing on his life separated people into two camps, those for and those against him.

So it is today. We cannot be good stewards of the gospel and and make inclusiveness our goal. Jesus warned us that this would be the case. "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26).

The gospel also provokes persecution from those we love the most. "Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”" (Luke 12:51-53).

If our gospel never divides or alienates it might signal unfaithfulness. The message that Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life does not alienate . What alienates is what Paul called the "offense of the cross" (Gal. 5:11), the doctrine that God is holy and demands perfection, that the wrath of God rests upon all men who reject this gospel, that the gate into Heaven is narrow, and few enter through it. If this is the case, human effort cannot make us right with God. Only faith in what Christ has done for us through his death and resurrection can close the gap between God and man.

Ironically, great unity, great inclusiveness belongs to those that embrace this "offense." This is the unity Jesus sought when he prayed "that they may be one even as we are one" (Jn. 17:13).

In the spiritual world painful division always precedes true unity.