Luke 24:27  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

The Sunday School answer is correct:  Jesus.  But what is the question you ask.  Who is the Bible all about?

Too often the Bible is seen as only a manual for living, an ethics textbook.  This is a fundamentally flawed approach.  Jesus himself shows us how we are to read the Bible.  It is all about him.  Notice that the word all is used twice–all the prophets, and all the scriptures.  No section is left out.

Matthew Henry said, “a golden thread of gospel grace runs through the whole web of the Old Testament.”  If we fail to see the gospel and Jesus Christ in any particular passage in the OT we are reading it incorrectly!  The question then is how are we to read the OT so that we see Christ?

There are three key questions we can ask ourselves to guide our reading.  1)  What does this passage teach us about the nature of God?  2) What does this passage teach us about the nature of man?  3)  What does this passage teach us about the relationship between God and Man?

We either relate to God in terms of the covenant of works, which Adam violated in the Garden of Eden and cast all of humanity under the curse, OR we relate to God in terms of the covenant of grace, in which Christ perfectly kept the covenant of works on our behalf, and we are credited with his righteousness.

It is the third question that particularly drives us to Jesus since 2Corinthians 5:19 makes clear, “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.”  Apart from Jesus there is no reconciliation with God; outside of Jesus there is no right relationship with God.

Expressing Love

It took eight years for me to hear her.  From the very first Valentine’s Day after we met, every year I would buy my wife a white teddy bear.  The final teddy bear I bought her was about 40 inches tall.  She was gracious and appreciated the thought and the attempt at being romantic.  But when she came home from work stressed out and tired of sitting behind a desk, the affection that meant the most to her was a back and foot massage.  It took me eight years to hear her saying to me, “I love you means rubbing my sore feet and aching back.”

We often think that our expressions of love to God are sufficient and satisfying to God. Now, it is true that God does consider the intent of the heart.  However, God also tells us clearly how we are to express our love to him.  The expression of love toward God can be summarized under three headings.  1)  If you love God, you will love His Word.  2) If you love God, you will love who God loves.  3) If you love God, you will obey God.

Loving God’s Word

Fundamental to loving God is loving how God has revealed Himself and His will.  Apart from God’s revelation of Himself, we cannot know God.  (See Romans chapter 1 for the reason.)  I can only imagine what it was like during WW2 for the soldiers as they were fighting and thinking about home.  How precious were the letters from home, especially the letters from their wives, fiancés and girlfriends!  Those letters were the connection between them until they could be in each other’s physical presence.  In the longest chapter in the Bible, David wrote about God’s Word.  Psalm 119:103, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!  Then in Psalm 139:17 David reflected upon God’s thoughts again.  “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!”

Loving God’s People

If I were to ignore and disregard the things in my wife’s life that were important to her, what conclusion would she draw?  That I didn’t care about her!  But, precisely because I love her, I will treat with respect and reverence those things she holds to be important.  To an infinitely greater degree, this is true of God as well.  Ephesians 5:25 says, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  If we don’t honor and respect and prayer for and love the gathered body of believers –whom Jesus died for! — how much do we really love Jesus?

Loving God’s Commands

Throughout scripture there is a theme that connects love and obedience.  Love for those in authority over you necessarily requires obedience, especially God (Deut 11:1, 13; Josh 22:5; Psa 119:47-48; John 14:15; 1John 5:2-3; 2John 1:6.) Jesus even directly stated in John 14:21, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.”  1 John 5:3 says “1Jn 5:3  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”

As a dog lover, I was reminded of how a dog loves its master.  Even though it so desperately wants the biscuit sitting on his nose, because his master’s pleasure is more important than its own, it will wait until the master gives the command.

 

So here is how you can evaluate how much you love God.  1) How much do you love His word?  Do you read it daily, not out of mere obligation but out of a desire to be with God? 2) How much do you love what God loves?  Do you enjoy being in worship services, and fellowshipping with God’s people?  Is Sabbath keeping a high priority?  3) How much do you strive to please God in faith and obedience?  Is holiness on your radar?  Does sin against God sadden your soul?

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; Psalm 63:1 KJV

 

When we study God’s Word it is often beneficial to compare different translations.  The differences will frequently indicate that there are some interpretive issues lying under the surface of the translation.  Psalm 63:1 reveals just such a difference.  In the KJV we read, “Early will I seek thee.”  but in the ESV we read, “earnestly I seek you.”  There is a substantial difference between seeking God early and seeking God earnestly.

Seeking God earnestly reflects upon our desire to pursue God with sincerity.  If we stop and examine our walk with Jesus, we might very well be convicted of our lack of sincerity.  But seeking God early changes the way we read this verse and how it applies to us.  The primitive Hebrew word means, “dawn, or to be up early at any task.”  Instead of sincerity being the issue, priority becomes the issue.

David is reflecting upon his priority to seek God.  Before anything else takes place, “early will I seek thee.”  Is this the way we approach God?  Just as finding water is the highest necessity for surviving in a dry and weary land, seeking God first, must be the highest priority in our spiritual well-being.

When our dog gets sick, do we seek God first or the vet?  When our boss tells us we’ve been let go, do we run to God first, or the employee agency?  When our child comes home from school with the proverbial note from the principle, do we run to God first or to the school office?

This is the shape that true devotion to God assumes.  The more devoted to God you are, the higher your priority to run to Him.  So how do we increase our devotion to God?  How do we learn to run to Him first?

Aside from regular corporate worship, the next greatest benefit in our devotion to God comes from our daily devotionals.  Daily time with Jesus Christ is a necessity for increasing the affections of our heart towards Him.  But, a warning needs to be made here.  It is possible to have daily quiet times (ritual times) without growing in your devotion.  However, it is not possible to grow in your devotion to Jesus without a daily devotional life.

If you love someone, you desire to spend time with them, and you make the most of your time with them.  If you love Christ, you will look forward to spending time with Him.  Young fathers can sometimes be an excellent illustration of this truth.  A father that is forced to work late and is unable to spend much time with his children, will have an increasing desire to be with them if he loves them – even to the point of taking vacation days.

When it comes to our time with Christ, does our desire for “Bible time” increase when we are providentially hindered?  Or are we just content to start up again later?  David’s soul thirsted for God.  His devotion to God was not merely formal or ritualistic, but it was intrinsic to his regenerated soul.  He couldn’t imagine not seeking God first or early in every situation.

Daily devotions aren’t just a good idea.  For the heart thirsty for God, they are the refreshing waters drawn from the fountain of life. If it is our regular choice to sleep in rather than wake 30 minutes earlier, which do we love more, our bed or our Beloved?

Quiet times water our souls in three ways:  1) They increase our love for Jesus.  2) They increase our knowledge and understanding of our Beloved, thus enabling us to love Him more.  3) They increase our rate of change (sanctification) in the affections of our heart.

There is no shortcut because the goal is Christ!  It really is this simple.  If my heart longs to be with Jesus, I will spend time in His word.

Everyone agrees that daily devotionals are a good thing.  Yet the vast majority of people who call themselves Christians almost never open their Bibles.  And then, when people do begin to have devotions, the pressures of the fast-paced life, the ugly desires of the sinful flesh, and the brokenness of a fallen world, all conspire to end those quiet times.

So how do we go about having our quiet times with Jesus in a way that will mitigate the forces working against us?  Here are 5 tips to encourage you.

1) Opening Prayer – “Lord, Let me see Jesus in your Word today.” If you love someone, you will have a desire to be with them.  Therefore, if we wish our quiet times to be enjoyable, we must focus on being with the Christ whom we love.

2) Don’t be legalistic –  False guilt can quench good intentions quickly.  If you miss a day, it is not the end of the world.  The key is to be graciously habitual.  Start again.  Persistence is a necessary thing.  Jesus rewards those who diligently seek him!

3) Pick good material – Good material is that which focuses on addressing God’s Word to the issues of your heart.  This means that Scripture is an absolute necessity.  If the Bible is not being planted in your heart, then you are actually being drawn away from Jesus, regardless of how much christianese is being used.  Is the character of God being displayed?  Is your sin being exposed?  Is Jesus being lifted up?  If the answer is not ‘yes’ to all three of these questions, you should probably find other material.

Here are three highly recommended resources for beginning your daily devotions:  Voices from the Past, Tabletalk Magazine, Morning and Evening by Spurgeon.

4) Talk about your quiet times – Find a partner to whom you can explain your delight in Jesus to.  Expressing your daily encounters with the Jesus of the Bible will encourage.  For this purpose, I have started a near-daily texting to the readers of Voices from the Past, where I make comments about the day’s reading and encourage others to respond to the reading themselves.

5) Keep a record – By keeping a daily record, you will be able to see your successes and failures.  You will be able to evaluate patterns to either build upon, or work against.  For instance, if Saturday is the one day of the week you sleep in and therefore you find yourself forgetting your devotions, make special plans to get up on Saturday to study.

This past sunday I concluded my sermon, “Faith and Peace” with the story of Bartholomew Millon.  He was burned at the stake as a straightened soul in a deformed in body.  And now he walks in the uprightness of Jesus Christ.

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Bartholomew Millon had once been the man’s man of Paris.  He was said to have been the most handsome man in all of Paris.  But it wasn’t just his dashing good looks for which other men followed him. He was strong.  He was a fighter.  He was the ringleader.  He was the Arnold Schwarzenegger of Paris.  People followed him.  Anything he wanted he got.  He didn’t deny himself anything that his heart wanted.  Hollywood would have loved this man.

And on top of his brawn, he had a sharp mind.  One writer said he was ready at all times to deal a blow with his powerful arm, or let fly a sarcasm with his sharp tongue.  This man had it all.    But as I introduced him, he had once been the man’s man of Paris, but he was no longer.

We’re not sure how it happened, whether he was in a street fight, or whether in was in some sporting event, but Bartholomew fell and broke a couple of his ribs, and rather than getting medical attention, he decided to tough it out.  After all, he was the man!

But time wore on, and he wore out.  Those broken ribs never healed right, and he suffered all sorts of complications as his body withered away.  Finally he found himself sitting day after day in his shoemaker’s shop.  His stately form was now bent, his legs were paralyzed, and bitterness oozed from his crooked grin.

Everyone who entered his shop heard his wicked tongue lashing out at the protestants who thought to foolishly reform the church.  Then one day a Lutheran happened to be walking by the shop, when Millon began one of his expletive laden rants.  The man stopped to see who it was that was spewing such filth.  And then he saw the cripple and had compassion on him.

He went up to Millon and said to him, “Poor man, don’t you see that God has bent your body in this way in order to straighten out your soul?”  the Lutheran then gave him the New Testament to read.  For the next several days, Millon devoured this beautiful and majestic book.  And he discovered in the Word that not only was his soul was even more deformed than his body, but there was also a most powerful Physician that could heal even his soul.

The wretchedness of sin that perverted his crippled form was removed from him and in its place a joy and a peace welled up within him.  The wolf had become a lamb.  People began to come to his shop, not for shoes to comfort their feet, but for songs of praise to comfort their hearts.  Children who were once kept at a distance from him by their parents, were now brought to him to learn of the grace of God.

Then on November 10th of 1534, an officer of the king entered into his house because he was one of the heretics of the protestant church.  And the king’s officer in arresting Bartholomew Millon, a cripple, wholly helpless in body, said to him “Come, get up.”

To which Millon replied, “Alas! sir, it must be a greater master than you to raise me up.” The sergeants carried him out, but so full of peace and holy courage was Bartholomew, that his companions in prison grew firm through his exhortations.  Words of peace and kindness were the only things to come from his lips that day.  Formerly, when lifted by his friends, he felt pain in every limb, but the Lord in great mercy took that sensitiveness away, so that in prison he used to say, “the roughest handling seemed tender.”  He was burned at the stake as a straightened soul in a deformed in body.  And now he walks in the uprightness of Jesus Christ.

Millon apparently became the first martyr in the Year of the Placards, the event that sought to purge Protestantism from France.

Our Wednesday evening Bible class is going through the Basics of the Reformed Faith.  The topic for the next couple of weeks is Baptism.  Why Baptism?  There are many reasons, but one of the best reasons is because this one-time sacrament is the gift that keeps on giving.  I mentioned in class that the Westminster Larger Catechism makes the statement that we are to improve upon our baptism.  Here is the full question.

  1. How is baptism to be improved by us?    The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others; by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and by endeavoring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.

Below is an answer to a letter evidently asking for clarity regarding the language of “improving our baptism.”  This was re-posted on the Orthodox Presbyterian Church website.

http://www.opc.org/nh.html?article_id=590

It is a great answer in that it helps us to see how our baptism continues to serve as a means of grace, even years and decades after received.

 

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“Uncle Glen”

Dear James,

On one level, I’m glad you wrote with questions about what you’re hearing in Christian doctrine class. But, on another level, I wish you hadn’t written, because to hear what some professors say about Reformed theology is to hurt my jaw when it hits my desktop.

When your professor says that Roman Catholics or Eastern Orthodox who visit a Reformed congregation and participate in the Lord’s Supper are “improving” our baptism and should be encouraged to do so, he is making a great error in judgment. In point of fact, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox should not be encouraged to participate in the Lord’s Supper. When the Lord’s Table is properly fenced, everyone should be kept away who is not a baptized member of a church that preaches the gospel and that disciplines its officers and members who depart from it.

But in your letter you raised questions about this language of “improving our baptism,” because it sounds foreign and suggests that we can do something to add to what God does. This is a sound instinct. At the same time, the phrase “improving our baptism” is actually drawn straight from the Westminster standards. The Larger Catechism asks, “How is our baptism to be improved by us?” (Q. 167). Because all of our salvation comes from God, it does sound odd to imply that we can improve our baptism.

Now the answer to that question in the Larger Catechism is quick to correct any wrong impression. It is also rather long in its correction (which is why we call it “Larger”). It explains that we may spend our entire lives meditating on our baptism—not simply when we observe its administration, but also in times of temptation, when needing encouragement, and even simply when contemplating our belonging to Christ and his body.

This is not the place to try to explain all that is involved in baptism. Even then the nature and working of the sacraments is a great mystery. But I need to point you toward the Larger Catechism’s explanation of baptism as the basis for the idea of “improving” it. Baptism is “a sign and seal of ingrafting into [Christ], of remission of sins by his blood, and regeneration by his Spirit; of adoption, and resurrection unto everlasting life.” It is also the initiation of those baptized into the visible church, when they “enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord’s” (Q. 165).

Because of these realities, we may improve our baptism, for instance, by considering the “privileges and benefits conferred and sealed” in it. Baptism can also lead us to repentance by humbling us for our “falling short” of “the grace of baptism.” We are also comforted and reassured “by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized.” Baptism prompts us to live holy lives as those who have “given up their names to Christ,” and have through the Spirit entered into the body of Christ, the church. All of these realities are related to “improving our baptism” (Q. 167).

In effect, baptism is something we carry around all the time, and the idea of improving our baptism suggests that we should think more about this mark that we bear. I often liken baptism to those old WWJD bracelets that some teens in our church were wearing when you were too young to get caught up in the hype. I guess today they have been replaced by bracelets of various colors, standing for certain matters of social concern or good will. I am still perplexed by the popularity of WWJD bracelets among baptized Christians. The reality of baptism was even more present in the life of a believer than the reminder of a bracelet. Granted, the marks of baptism are invisible, compared to the visibility of a band. But the reality of baptism is so much more engrossing and encouraging than a flimsy strand of plastic or leather wrapped around one’s wrist.

In fact, the lesson of improving our baptism is much better than asking what Jesus would do. Much of what Jesus did, he did for us as our Redeemer, and so it is not something that we can repeat. To suggest that we could be like Jesus by emulating what he did is to lean strongly in the direction of the old liberal Protestant idea that Jesus is merely a moral example to be imitated by his followers. Better is the counsel to improve our baptism, because its reality reminds us of our sin, our need for a savior, and what he did to reconcile us to him, and also comforts us in times of doubt, encourages us when confronted by temptation, and points us toward a life a holiness.

So don’t take issue with your professor for advancing the idea of improving our baptism. It’s his theology of the Lord’s Supper that needs work.

Fondly,
Uncle Glen

Reprinted from New Horizons, January 2009.

 

http://www.opc.org/nh.html?article_id=590

Whatever fills our Sundays fills our hearts throughout the week.

Our Tuesday morning Men’s group, “The White Horse Stable,” has been working through Michael Horton’s book Ordinary.  In chapter 9 the topic is how God works to sanctify and grow believers in faith.  As part of this study, Horton addresses the right view of the Lord’s Day.  Here is an excerpt from that section.

Setting aside the ordinary callings and pastimes of the week, our calling on the Lord’s Day is to share, together with our coheirs, in the powers of the age to come.  It is not by simply emptying the day with a list of rules, but by filling it with treasure hunting, that the Christian Sabbath orients us, our families, and our fellow saints to our heavenly citizenship.  However, everyone around you sees it as the ideal day for a trip to the mall, sports, and other entertainments.  Whatever fills our sundays fills our hearts throughout the week.  The Lord’s Day is not a prison but a palace.  It is a wonderful gift to turn off the devices that interrupt our daily schedules and to push our roots down into the fertile soil that produces trees in God’s garden.  It is a delight to set aside our normal associations with friends and co-workers–even non-Christian family members– in order to commiserate with fellow heirs of the kingdom concerning the news we’ve heard about the age to come.

 

In light of this, how precious is the Lord’s Day to you and your family?

This past Sunday I explained how Jesus’  prophecy of the abomination of desolation and the great tribulation were fulfilled in AD 70 with the destruction of the temple.

For those who are interested, there are two excellent sources.

Bob Burridge of the Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies (GIRS) has written a concise paper the adequately deals with nearly all of the issues involved in interpreting Matthew 24.  Here is a link to his page:

http://www.genevaninstitute.org/syllabus/unit-seven-eschatology/lesson-2-the-great-tribulation-of-matthew-24/

Brian Schwertley has also written an excellent paper, or rather, an excellent book.  It is a 95 page pdf.  In this paper, Brian leaves no stone unturned.  Every phrase is chased down.  Every concept is cross-referenced.  And above it all, Brian lets Scripture speak for Scripture.  If you have the time, this needs to be read.

http://www.reformedonline.com/uploads/1/5/0/3/15030584/matthew_24_and_the_great_tribulation.pdf

There are three Lessons (at least) that we need to learn from the fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy regarding the Abomination of Desolation and the Great Tribulation.

  1. First, we need to recognize that prophecy is always a Call to faithfulness in the church.

When we consider the OT prophets and what their role was in redemptive history, we see that their concern was to call God’s people to covenant faithfulness.  For example, when Daniel delivered the prophecies concerning the abomination of desolation, he was writing in a time when the people were in exile and questions abounded about whether they would ever return home.   So the call to covenant faithfulness was also an encouragement to continue trusting in the fact that God was a covenant keeping God.

In Revelation’s 7 letters, we have this same principle being applied to the NT covenant people, the church.

The implicit warning was that if the local church did not remain faithful and obedient to God’s Word then they would go the same route of the OT people of God.  They would become a synagogue of Satan and God would remove their candlestick, i.e. their place as a True Church.

Therefore, even this prophecy concerning the abomination of desolation and the great tribulation, even though they have been fulfilled, is a call to faithfulness.   If any particular church doesn’t remain faithful and obedient to God’s Word, we should expect God to close it down because it has become a synagogue of Satan.

This is why truth/doctrine is so important.  Often times, the only difference between the synagogue of Satan and the True Church is doctrinal profession.   Many churches which were once part of the True Church are now satanic synagogues, yet they do a lot of socially good things.  [I am purposefully avoiding saying that they do good works, because ‘Good Works’ are done in obedience, faith and to God’s glory, which the Satanic synagogues can’t do. See the Heidelberg Catechism #91]  A church’s faithfulness is not determined by what social deeds it performs, or by the programs it offers, but by the truth/doctrine it proclaims.  Social works and social programs don’t conform or change people to the image of Christ, but only the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.    This is why it is dangerous to choose a church based on what they are doing or what they offer.

So at GCC, we are going to continue studying truth and proclaiming truth.  Jesus even prayed in his high priestly prayer, John 17:17, “Sanctify them in Truth.  Your Word is truth.”  So a church that deviates from the Word of God ceases to be a part of the True Church and instead becomes part of the synagogue of Satan.

  1. The second lesson we need to learn is the Cost of Discipleship.

The disciples of Jesus had to be prepared with God’s word to act obediently when the time came.  And, in order for them to be obedient, they had to be more concerned with faithfulness and love to Jesus, than with materialism and the love for worldly things.

Jesus said in Matt 24:17, when you see the desolation, “Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house.” What is more important, believing and acting upon God’s Word, or your material belongings?  This seems like such an easy principle to learn, yet because of the sinful remnant, the old man is still set on the things of the World and not on the things of God.  Therefore, in order to be prepared to obey, when the cost of obedience is the materials of this world, only a heart that loves Christ more will be able to obey.

There are so many ways this could be applied today, but I have to leave it at that.

  1. The third lesson we need to learn is the care of the Savior.

Jesus is speaking truth to his disciples in order to prepare them for what was coming.  He tells them in Matthew 24:16, when you see the desolation, “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”

The common sense of the day was to flee into the fortified city.  There was protection, water and some amount of food.  And Jerusalem had proved itself to be a city that could support those within her for an extended period of time.   When you couple the strategic abilities of Jerusalem with the religious arguments, the idea of fleeing away from Jerusalem would have been foolishness.

The religious argument being put forward was that Jerusalem was the place where God had set his name.  Therefore, God would not allow the city to be destroyed.  This was even the disciple’s expectation and understanding of the Messiah before Jesus opened their eyes to understand God’s plan of salvation!

But Jesus said when you see the desolation flee.  Some people have argued, if the desolation is going to surround Jerusalem, how can the Christians be obedient and flee?  Historically, and for reasons we will never know, the Roman Army pulled back for a time.  They marched on Jerusalem, and then the retreated.  Historians tell us that during that brief interlude and retreat, the Christians wholesale abandoned the city so that not a single Christian was left there.

Christians have a Great Shepherd who know everything, including what is best for us.  Though his council is often directly contrary to the wisdom of the world, He is always right.  And because He cares for the good of his people, He sometimes even delays and withholds his wrath from people who certainly deserve it.

This is the very meaning of Matthew 24:22, “And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.”

God’s wrath was delayed because evidently, there were still some of God’s elect among the city’s population.  Though the Christians had left, God would use the events of this devastation to bring His elect to himself.  Josephus records that over 1 million Jews were killed.  The wrath of God fell on them, yet because of the love and care of Jesus for his people, not only was the church protected, but even the unregenerate elect were saved.

So in the prophecy of the Abomination and the Great Tribulation, there is a great warning and a great cost to us to pursue faithfulness and obedience.  But there is also this great promise of comfort, that Jesus cares for his people and will work out all things as Romans 8:29 says, for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.

I have wondered when I should post my eulogy for my dad.  My dad died on March 1, 2015.  We held a memorial service for him at his home church in Texas a few days later.   In my dad, I saw several things that I wished every church member would emulate.  So, I wanted to highlight those things in my eulogy.

Now, a couple of months since then, I have wondered when would be an appropriate time to share my thoughts with those who didn’t know my dad or were not at his memorial service.  In light of several discussions I have had recently and the sermon I will be preaching on Sunday (Matthew 22:34-46), now seems like a good time.  At the end of this post I am going to follow it up with a couple of applications.

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My dad loved talking about theology.  He was an intellectual, there is no doubting that. (He had a Ph.D in Chemical Engineering and was recognized and ranked as 2nd in the world in his particular field.)  But that’s not why theology was such an interest to Him.  Theology, simply put, means the study of God.

That’s why my Dad loved theology; the God he loved, the Savior He cherished, theology is the term rightly given to describe knowing God.  And not just knowing God in an intellectual way, but knowing God within a covenant relationship.

My Dad and I had some long talks about things like unconditional election and particular atonement.  We even talked about reprobation, the doctrine that explains how God passes by some people with His saving grace (See Romans 9:20-23).  As you can imagine these were hard doctrines, yet, in all our talks there was behind, and underneath it all, a delight in Jesus Christ.  That’s where his study of theology took Him.

Psa 119:18  Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.

This is what God did for dad.  God enabled him to see the wonders of mercy and grace out of the Law/Word.

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  But, we live in a culture now that echoes Pilate’s Words of 2000 years ago, “What is truth?”  We hear people say, “What’s right for you isn’t right for me.”  That’s a denial of absolute truth. Even our school system and especially common core is teaching that there is no absolute truth.  Of course this is nothing new.

Solomon said 3000 years ago “There is nothing new under the sun.”  And, the denial of truth was one of the many things that Jesus had to deal with.  That’s why Jesus instructed his disciples in John 8:32, “”If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Many times we only hear the phrase, “The truth will set you free.”  But the truth Jesus was referring to was not mere fact.  It wasn’t points of information.  It was the absolute truth of God’s word.  Jesus said, “If you abide in My Word.”  That was the condition in order to know truth, and in order to be set free.  “If you abide in My Word.”

So this was why my Dad loved theology.  It was the study of God’s Word, so that my Dad would be free from the power and corruption of sin and so that He could KNOW and LOVE God.

By the grace of God, my dad was able to quote Jesus in John 17:17, “Your Word is Truth.”  That’s what he stood on.

The truth that my Dad clung to was this, “There is salvation in no one else.”   I know that such a position is not only unpopular today, but it can also be offensive.

But, there is no other name under heaven by which sinful man can be saved from the wrath of God.  That was my dad’s faith.

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So as I have reflected on this eulogy, there are several points of application I wish to make.

  1. One of the key tests to see if you are doing theology right is your study’s destination. Does your study of the Bible, including and especially the hard passages, does it lead you to delight yourself in the Lord?  Psalm 27:4 “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.”

One key place to test yourself is the Song of Solomon.  The SoS is one of the greatest places to find your heart wooed to Christ.  However, that assumes that you are reading the book looking for Jesus.  (Unfortunately most modern scholars and commentaries only/primarily see in the SoS a handbook on marriage.)

  1. Having theological knowledge doesn’t make a person a mature Christian. To be sure, theological knowledge is an absolute necessity for Christian growth. You will only be as mature spiritually as you are mature theologically.  However, having such knowledge is only the beginning.  Theological knowledge must teach us to love Christ.  And, the more we love Christ, the more we hate our sin.  How much we hate our sin is revealed in how often we repent of our sin.  Theological knowledge is again required to affect a deep and maturing repentance.
  1. The way to know Christ and to love Him is through thinking scripturally. Most Christians believe they think biblically. I would beg to differ because their minds are not “stayed upon Jehovah.”  Isaiah 26:3, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”  How often in the day do your thoughts run to a specific Scripture verse?  The mature Christian constantly has scripture in his mind because he can’t do otherwise.  He is memorizing, not simply a verse, but a passage of scripture and that passage of scripture is being applied to the circumstances of life, whether they are big events or small.

I was pondering our barbershop conversations on the way home from getting our hair cut, and I asked my son a question, “What’s the purpose and meaning of life?” After dancing around with some simple Sunday-school answers, he finally arrived at man’s chief end. [Westminster Shorter Catechism Question #1 – What is man’s chief end? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.]

My follow-up question was, “What does it mean to enjoy God?”

He allowed himself to become absorbed in his Nintendo 3DS and didn’t answer. So I pressed him a little bit. “To enjoy God means to delight in Him, just like you are doing with your 3DS. You are delighting in the challenge of the game. You are delighting in the adventures of Mario. The 3D graphics are stimulating. It is the same with God.”

“We are to delight in God by delighting in His graphics.” Consider all of the wonders of creation. For example, this morning the annual migration of robins stopped in our neighborhood. In years past we have had hundreds of robins on our street. This morning we had about 15 by our mailbox. How amazing that God designed these birds with instincts to migrate just ahead of warm fronts that cause earthworms to leave their burrows or drown in the rains to come.

“We are to delight in God by delighting in His adventures.” God’s providence accounts for all things that come to pass. In fact, the very definition of providence, according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, is God’s most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing of all his creatures and all their actions. So when we consider the course of our lives, we should be amazed at how God has laid out the course of history, even to the smallest detail, for His people’s good. (See Romans 8:29)

“We are to delight in God by delighting in even the challenges of this life.” Just as God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass, He has also ordained that his people would undergo trials of various kinds. And the reason God puts his people through challenges is to strengthen faith (James 1:3) and to purify our hearts (Malachi 3:3).

James 1:2-3: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Malachi 3:3: He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.

What divine adventures, challenges, and graphics are coming your way? These are some of the means by which God enables us to enjoy Him.