Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I began my Christian life shooing out of the gate like a rocket...or so I thought! It was something new that I could pour myself into...as I had done with swimming and basketball and academics throughout my life. It wasn't too long into the Christian-life-thing that I realized it was different. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't seem to maintain a sense of peace before God based on my performance and effort...as a matter of fact, the harder I tried, often the more defeated I felt!!
It was years before I realized that I had never visited the truths of the Gospel that must lay the foundation of Christian living...above all, the truth of justification by grace through faith...the promise of the Gospel of grace that through hope in Christ, God looks at me "just-as-if-I'd" never sinned and "just-as-if-I'd" perfectly obeyed His commands (see the Heidelberg Catechism Question #60!).
When I began to be gripped by such a gospel, my spiritual life changed, and it was as if for the first time, as Francis Schaeffer wrote in True Spirituality, "the sun came out and the song came!"
My first thought was, "If THIS is the Gospel, then how come I haven't heard it before?" I soon learned that lessons of grace had been all around me, I just didn't have the eyes to see or the ears to hear...I stood "next to the truth" and did not see it! Here's one example: as a new believer in Christ I read Oswald Chambers' devotional, "My Utmost for His Highest." Just this morning my sweet bride sent me this morning's devotional from that classic work...read it slowly, especially in light of what I've just written:
"I realize I am saved by believing. It isnot repentance that saves me, repentance is the sign that I realize what God has done in Christ Jesus. The danger is to put the emphasis on the effect instead of on the cause. It is my obedience that puts me right with God, my consecration. Never! I am put right with God because prior to all, Christ died.
When I turn to God and by belief accept what God reveals I can accept, instantly the stupendous Atonement of Jesus Christ rushes me into a right relationship with God; and by the supernatural miracle of God's grace I stand justified, not because I am sorry for my sin, not because I have repented, but because of what Jesus has done. The Spirit of God brings it with a breaking, all-over light, and I know, though I do not know how, that I am saved.
The salvation of God does not stand on human logic, it stands on the sacrificial Death of Jesus. We can be born again because of the Atonement of Our Lord. Sinful men and women can be changed into new creatures, not by their repentance or their belief, but by the marvellous work of God in Christ Jesus which is prior to all experience. The impregnable safety of justification and sanctification is God Himself. We have not to work out these things ourselves; they have been worked out by the Atonement. The supernatural becomes natural by the miracle of God; there is the realization of what Jesus Christ has already done - "It is finished.""
I had read that devotional as a young believer...probably multiple times! It went right over my head...it slipped right off my "teflon" heart!
So, how can you stand next to the truth and not see it...easily...VERY easily....
Monday, October 26, 2009
One of the things that is hotly debated, however, is baptism...the mode and the subjects of baptism. Baptists assert that the only subjects of Baptism are people who profess faith in Jesus Christ and the only Biblical mode is immersion. Presbyterians believe that people who profess faith in Jesus Christ AND THEIR CHILDREN are the proper subjects of baptism and the truly Biblical mode is sprinkling.
Let me say that no one's eternal destiny depends on where you come down on this issue. Let me also say, however, that I do believe there are huge practical implications and even "blessings of grace" involved in where we stand on this doctrine. The only thing that I really get bothered by in this discussion is thoughtless blather that doesn't even take the debate to Scripture. Tradition alone is not where the debate should take place...for any Christ-follower the discussion must take place at a Biblical/Theological level.
So, for those of you who are desiring some real substance to the debate, let me offer what I feel are some important passages to consider:
I would always begin with Colossians 2:11-12 where Paul basically equates circumcision and baptism (which then begs the question of who the proper subjects of baptism are because circumcision was applied to 8 day old male infants as well as adult men who would convert to Judaism);
Then I would turn to Acts 2:38-39, where ALL the Jews at Pentecost understood the Covenant language of baptism as referring to Abraham and circumcision and children of believers; children Peter even expressly refers to. No Jew present could fail to make the connection between Genesis 17 and the baptism that Peter is talking about in Acts 2; Genesis 17, which alongside Romans 4:11, answers the Baptist objection that baptism is an outward sign of an already inwardly present faith. We know that saving faith that brings a right relationship with God could NOT be present when circumcision was applied to an infant...yet it WAS still the sign of faith and the righteousness that comes by faith...and was commanded by God to be applied to the infant!
Then I would refer you to Ezekiel 36:24-32 as a passage that brings the symbolism of both circumcision and baptism together.
Finally, I would also say that the mode of SPRINKLING is present in the statements made in Hebews 9:13,19,21, Hebrews 10:22, Hebrews 11:28, Hebrews 12:24 and 1 Peter 1:2.
In my mind, especially in light of Acts 2:38-39, NO LONGER INCLUDING CHILDREN OF BELIEVERS IN THE COVENANT SIGN OF THE RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT COMES BY FAITH would be a change among God's people so incredibly dramatic, that a change of such magnitude would have to be PLAINLY AND CLEARLY taught. It is NOT clearly taught in the New Testament. Therefore, apart from such clear teaching, the evidence is clearly on the side of infant baptism continuing the Biblical tradition of infants of believers being recipients of the sign of grace. I would say to my Baptistic friends (and they ARE friends and fellow family members in Christ!), I don't need to show you where infant baptism is taught in a verse; rather, you would need to show me clearly that the covenant sign applied to children of believers has ceased.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
I had the privilege of seeing U2 perform in Dublin at Croke Park on July 24. The local papers summed up my own assessment...perhaps one of the greatest U2 gigs ever! Now I get the chance to see them again in Atlanta tonight...with my youngest son.
One of the things that struck me during the concert in Croke Park was how many times the screens flashed a countdown; a stopwatch-like clock running down. I wondered during the concert what it meant, and I've thought about it several times since. I'm looking forward to seeing it all again tonight!
But what does it mean? Last night, I was reading Psalm 90, A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. In verses 12-13, Moses writes these words:
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O LORD! How long?
The clock is ticking…so we must number our days…We only have so many days. Do we live in light of that reality?
We are to live in light of the fact that we only have so many hours to make a difference in this life. The more we live in light of our mortality, often the more wisely we live out our days. When we realize the clock is ticking, we more easily focus on what is important.
The clock is ticking.
Notice the line that we see several times in U2 lyrics: “How long?” In Sunday Bloody Sunday, in 40, we sing along with U2, “How long? How long to sing this song?” The clock is ticking...the Return of Christ is nearer today than it was yesterday. Moses prays: Return, O LORD! How long?
Perhaps U2 is calling us all to think about numbering our days. The time is short. Live in such a way to maximize your minutes. Make a difference! Live with purpose! Don't just exist…live!
If you’re going to the concert (or have already been), notice the emphasis on time. Even if you are NOT going to the concert…Time is winding down.
Time is running out…will you number your days?
See 1 Corinthians 7:29-31!
The clock is ticking...