Thursday, August 21, 2014

God the Father treasures Jesus above all things.

Full disclosure: I have been immensely helped by the ministry of John Piper. So lots of what I have to say here is thanks to him. If you haven't read The Pleasures of God, you really should. It, like his other books, is a veritable treasure trove of truth. But I single out that book here because of its singular contribution in showing how God the Father treasures God the Son above all.

The Bible records two times when God proclaims his great love for his Son, Jesus (Matthew 3:17 and Matthew 17:5; cf. 2 Pet. 1:17). Both times, he said this:

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Translators only put a measly little period the end of that sentence. That's probably for practical reasons, like the fact that they can't fit ten million exclamation points at the end of all the sentences like this that deserve them. Otherwise, no one would be able to carry his or her Bible. And even if it were possible, ten million exclamation points would be a pitiful human attempt to express the infinite, divine love that God has for Jesus.

It's not just that he's well pleased with him. He is so well pleased with Jesus, he treasures him so much, that he could not love him more. His love for him is unparalleled. That's not to say he doesn't also likewise cherish God the Holy Spirit. But when it comes to what the Bible says, as it has been inspired by the Holy Spirit, we see that the Holy Spirit has been absolutely effective in glorifying God the Father by putting God the Son on display. And the Bible shows that the love that the Father and Son share subsists as the eternal, divine person of the Holy Spirit.

God loves his neighbor as himself. The Bible shows us that he has always had this neighbor. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God" (John 1:1-2). He has always been "with God." But John 1:1 clarifies the identity of this person who has always been with God. It says he "was God."

God has always had a "Word" who "was God." If the Word was God, then he has certainly always had him, for God is the uncreated Creator. It was through this Word that God created the universe (cf. Genesis 1; John 1:3; Colossians 1:15).

But John 1:1-2 gets at something in God that is far deeper than simply the fact that he is Creator. For creation has not always existed. God has not always created. And creation is a free act for him, not a necessary one. John 1 shows us what is necessary, though, that he always has a neighbor to love as himself. Otherwise we could not say "God is love" and have that love be eternal and independent of his creatures.

But by saying that God has always had a Word with him who was also God is not to say that there is more than one God (cf. Deut. 6:4). It is rather to say that the one and only God exists as multiple persons. Three persons. God, the Word, and their shared Love they have enjoyed throughout eternity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is one in three and three in one. This is called Trinity.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, drawing from the creeds of the ancient church, which relied on the Bible's own testimony, has put the doctrine of the Trinity like this:
In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: the Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.
If God were to cherish anything other than God more than God, he would be an idolater. But this is so far from ever possibly being the case that such a thought is ridiculous. (Which is why it's so mind-boggling when John 15:9 and John 17:23 say that believers are loved as God the Son is loved. But I'll have to say more about that in another post.)

And the glowing terms he uses in Scripture to describe his great love for his Son makes one thing very clear. His most prized possession, his greatest treasure is his Son.

And the good news is that his Son came as our neighbor and loved us as himself, giving his life in our place for our sins, in his obedience unto death on a cross. He loved us, and he still loves his people, because God the Father raised him from the dead.

So why don't we follow the Father's lead and take Jesus as our own most valued possession? If here we see what Almighty God values most, then why would we ever choose anything else as our greatest treasure?

- - - - -

John Piper puts this all way better than I can, as he follows in Jonathan Edward's (and the apostle Paul's) footsteps. Here's a video of him giving a lecture about essentially this very thing, entitled, The Glory of God and the Gladness of Man.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Be Still My Soul

When my wife and I became parents, we looked for songs to sing to our children. Even while in the womb we started singing selections from hymnals. One of my pastors said he sang "Be Still My Soul" to his girls, and it seemed like a really great lullaby.

So we started singing it to them around the time that they were born, and they've been hearing it since then for about three years (with other songs of course).

I share it here not only because it's a beautiful hymn, but also as another kind of lullaby, for those children who have fallen asleep in death prematurely, at the hands of evil men. I'm thinking particularly of the demonic terrorists in Iraq who have murdered little ones and others. May our heavenly Father comfort their parents and loved ones, who should never have had to deal with something like this. May God still the shaking souls of these parents, and give them persevering faith to hold on to him, especially now that they cannot hold on to their children.

You can hear three verses of the hymn here: 

You can read all four verses here:

"Be Still, My Soul"
by Catharina von Schlegel, 1697-?
Translated by Jane Borthwick, 1813-1897
1. Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.

4. Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Hymn #651
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Psalm 46:10
Author: Catharine Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel, 1752, cento
Translated by: Jane Borthwick, 1855
Titled: "Stille, mein Wille"
Composer: Jean Sibelius, b. 1865, arr.
Tune: "Finlandia"

Friday, August 1, 2014

What's this blog all about?

If you're just getting acquainted with my blog, then this post is probably the best place to start.

Welcome! This blog is dedicated to the glory of God. He has made himself known by sharing his most prized possession with us, his one and only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said, "Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father" (John 14:9). So my goal with this blog is to show you God by showing you Jesus.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high  
(Hebrews 1:3)
If God really let's us see him, then our lives will be irrevocably transformed (cf. John 4:10; Romans 12:1ff).

We all are in desperate need of God, whether we realize it or not. "In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Your life, the fact that you lived through last night, your every breath and heartbeat, your ability to go to work, your very existence--it all depends on the One who created all things and keeps all things in existence (cf. Hebrews 1:3). It would behoove you then to get to know him and understand what he wants of you and the world. We all, whether we think we know him or don't--we all need to know him more and more. And so we all need to know Jesus, the radiance of his glory.

And think of how greatly our need for him is amplified when we consider our sin problem. The Bible says "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:21). And although it says that "the wages of sin is death," it also says that "the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). Jesus is the definitive answer to our sin problem. Since he willingly died on the bloody cross we can come to God as a welcoming, holy, good Father (1 Peter 1:17-21; 3:18).

So we must turn from our sins and trust in Christ as our Lord and Savior and Treasure. That's the aim of this blog. I want to help you know God in and through Christ, as he has made himself known infallibly in the Bible that has been breathed-out by God's Spirit (cf. 2 Timothy 3:15-17).

Find a Good Church

But before Christians tried making Christ-centered blogs, God made a Christ-centered community. God's word does God's work today best in the context of a local church. In our individualistic time after the enlightenment, and after the internet, where so much cheap info is available, some people might be tempted to think they can get all the truth their souls need by being consumers of blogs and listening to sermons online. But the Bible says we can only fully appreciate all that God is for us in Christ together with the church. For example, the apostle Paul prayed,
that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 
(Ephesians 3:16-19)
So don't avoid or postpone finding a gospel-proclaiming church to become a member of because you think it's sufficient just to roll out of bed on a Sunday, plop down in front of your laptop, and listen to sermons or read Christian blogs online. That's a dumb idea. If you can't get to a church, like if you're homebound, that's one thing. But if you're perfectly able to join a church, do so! Even if you are homebound, find a church that you can connect to, who will minister to you and whose ministers will come and visit you and remind you of the gospel--or even find a way to bring you into the fellowship on the weekend. 

The point is, it's not a good idea to use internet resources as an excuse for not connecting with the the community of Jesus. Proverbs 18:1 says the person who does stuff, who "isolates himself" like this, "breaks out against all sound judgment." So it would be a bad judgment call to isolate yourself from the church because you've figured out another way to get your spiritual fix (cf. Proverbs 14:12). Hebrews 10:25 warns us against "neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some," and says that instead we need to be "encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

Serving the Church

But of course I still think there's a legitimate place for reading gospel-proclaiming blogs. Hence, this one. They shouldn't take the place of the church; they should serve the church. For example, that's why I have listed a bunch of good churches and church networks on one of the pages of this blog. Check 'em out, especially if you are not yet a baptized member of a local fellowship. Get connected to the church, "the body of Christ" (1 Cor. 12:27)! And let me know if you need help finding one in your area.

The content on this blog is for you to ruminate on, discuss, and apply, to strengthen the church of the Living God. And I believe it will, because I intend on saturating it with Scripture. Scripture (synonymous with the Bible, God's word) feeds our souls. As God says through Moses and Jesus,
"It is written,
'Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the
mouth of God.'" 
(Matthew 4:4; cf. Deut. 8:3)
And it feeds our souls because it showcases the Lord Jesus Christ, the bread from heaven, the treasure of God.

Another benefit of a Scripture-saturated blog is that it will help this not be just another place on the internet with someone airing out his opinions. The Bible says, "A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion." (Proverbs 18:2) So if there's anything I write here that seems weird to you, don't just take my word for it. Take God's. Use it as an opportunity to grab a Bible, ask God to help you understand it, and study how God has guided others to understand it in the church from history to the present.

"The unfolding of your words give light..." (Psalm 119:130)

Since this is my introductory post, one "housekeeping item" is necessary. As I mention above, I plan on quoting Scripture a lot. As my dad used to say, "When Scripture speaks, God speaks." God does his work through his word. If anything good is to come from this blog, God's got to do it. I have no power with my thoughts that I share. He alone has the ability to speak light into someone's heart, just as he spoke the entire universe into being. Unless otherwise noted, I plan on quoting God's word as it's been faithfully translated in the ESV (Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2001.) or a newer update of that translation.

Now may the Lord Jesus lift up the light of his glorious countenance upon you through his word. And as the light of his face dawns upon your soul, may you prize and praise him as your greatest treasure.