Archive for the ‘God's love’ Category

The vocabulary of grace

19 October 2011

We’ve just finished a series in the book of Job at church. Many are familiar with the story of Job, but probably less have waded through the waters step by step with Job and his friends. If you were to take an hour or so and read all of the speeches of Job’s friends you’d find a mixed bag. Some wonderful things said, some confusion things said, and some awful things said. But one thing that would be missing from start to finish in these speeches is grace. Job’s friends had no vocabulary for grace, it was foreign to them and they were unfamiliar with it. In fact, the reason they were so oppressive to Job is because they kept throwing a graceless God at him. In their graceless worldview situations such as Job’s didn’t exist, hence their mistaken accusations of Job’s sin.

A wonderful old hymn that’s been given new life is Jesus, I my cross have taken.  There are 4 lines in the fifth verse of this hymn that would, I think, have been a wonderful balm for Job to hear rather than the drivel of his friends. Henry Lyte writes:

Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
Think what Father’s smiles are thine,
Think that Jesus died to win thee,
Child of heaven, canst thou repine (fret).

Those are words filled with grace, because they bring Jesus to the suffering (Job in this case).

Anyhow, what is fascinating at the end of the book is the vocabulary lesson Job’s friends get. Thankfully, for them, God is not like they imagined him to be. He is a God of grace.

Job 42.7   After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8 Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the LORD had told them, and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.

They’ve witnessed the innocent suffering of Job and could not make sense of it, and now they witness the innocent suffering of these animals. And I imagine through this vocabulary lesson in grace they understood, ‘unless I have a substitute I am doomed’. And they look in faith to the one whom Job so clearly pictures, the truly innocent sufferer, the Lord Jesus Christ. In one life only is Job excelled, in innocence and in grief. That is, of course, life of our Lord and Saviour Jesus. In is in Jesus’ perfection and in Jesus’ suffering that the questions of Job ultimately find their answer. And what is that answer? In a word, grace.

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Rob Bell gets the gospel right…

28 February 2011

…unfortunately, it is what he is arguing against, not for.

Musing on the thought that someone said Ghandi was in hell, Bell says, “Will only a few select people make it to heaven?…How do you become one of the few? Is it what you believe, or what you say, or what you do, or who you know?…or something that happens in your heart…converted, born again? How does one become one of these few?”

Not bad really. I’d give an affirmative to most all of that statement (Matt 7.21-23 and John 3.3 among others).

Then discussing the traditional explanation of the gospel he suggests that believing this message distorts who God is “What is God like?…God is going to send you to hell unless you believe in Jesus…Jesus rescues you from God.” His point, who would want to believe in a God like that?

It’s interesting, if I remember correctly one of the studies that put Rob Bell on the map was his series/tour on Leviticus. I think that one of the most frequent words in that book is ‘holy’. Maybe that tells us something about what God is like and why Jesus does need to rescue us from God’s holy wrath.

His book is called Love Wins. I wonder how Bell defines love. Suppose someone has had a spouse murdered. The widow is in the room with the killer. How do I show love towards the widow? Do I treat the killer that same as the widow? Is that truly loving?

Love wins, but justice is exterminated. If there is anything people want in the world today, it is justice. And rightly so, because we are made in God’s image. If Bell’s video preview accurately reflects the message of his book, then there is no such thing as justice, and Jesus is not returning to judge the quick and the dead, and there is no need to repent, and, oddly enough, in his attempt to be generous and get everyone in, Bell will most likely offer some system of works righteousness and requirements instead of the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation.

You can read more about this HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Particular and Free

2 February 2011

It is always interesting to see scripture writers, and indeed Jesus himself, speak of the particular electing love of God and the free offer and invitation of the gospel. Perhaps one of the clearest places where these two are seen together is Matthew 11.20-30.

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:20-30 ESV)

Jesus speaks of God hiding and revealing, of his will that some be saved and others not, and then he invites everyone within earshot to come to him for salvation. Particular and Free.

Common Grace in Leeds

14 January 2011

Just before moving to Leeds Illegal Jack’s came to Edinburgh. Well, it’s been a long 6 months here in Leeds, though I did manage a sneak up to Edinburgh and Illegal Jacks in November (I went for other reasons, but felt duty bound to eat there while in town). Yesterday, everything changed. I was meeting a chap in the city centre who is church planting in Leeds with Acts 29. Just before I got to the rendezvous point I walked past this

Two of these bad boys made it home with me and we feasted on our first barburritos of the year. No reason for our Edinburgh friends to not visit us now!

Christ’s death – what was it?

4 April 2010

Christ was not overcome by death. He did not give in to death. And he was not subdued by death as if it was something he could not avoid. He was not brought to death by him that had the power of death. Rather than being subdued by death, Christ “has borne the wrath. He has broken the strong bond of the curse. He has made an end of sin. He has vanquished Satan. He has spoiled principalities and powers. He has torn the handwriting of indictment that was against His people, and nailed it to the cross.” (Hugh Martin, The Abiding Presence 136-7)

These things are not a result of the death of Christ, as if his dying made them possible. Rather they are things he has done in dying. Someone other than Christ does not do these actions of bearing, breaking, ending, vanquishing, spoiling, and tearing. Christ performs these actions in dying.

Culturally constructed theology…

18 February 2010

rather than biblical theology. This review by Kevin DeYoung on Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity is worth taking the time to read. Of course, if you disagree with McLaren, you are thinking through a time-trapped greco-roman mindset, whereas he is free and sees clearly, unclouded by his own cultural context. Much more could be said, but DeYoung says it better. All I ask is that we get a CO2 count from McLaren to know he practices what he preaches.

See other reviews here, and here.

How do I know Christ loves me?

6 September 2009

By your being drawn to Christ: ‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.’ Have you seen something attractive in Jesus? The world are attracted by beauty, or dress, or glittering jewels – have you been attracted to Christ by his good ointments? This is the mark of all who are graven on Christ’s heart – they come to him; they see Jesus to be precious. The easy world see no preciousness in Christ; they prize a lust higher, the smile of the world higher, money higher, pleasure higher; but those whom Christ loves he draws after him by the sight of his preciousness. Have you thus followed him, prized him – as a drowning sinner cleaved to him? Then he will in no wise cast you out – in no wise, not for all you have done against him. ‘But I spent my best days in sin’ – Still I will in no wise cast you out. ‘I lived in open sin’ – I will in no wise cast you out. ‘But I have sinned against light and conviction’ – Still, I will in no wise cast you out. ‘But I am a backslider’ – Still the arms of his love are open to infold your poor guilty soul, and he will not cast you out.

~ Robert Murray M’Cheyne