Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Abrahamic Covenant is One

The Disagreement Stated

In examining what Scripture teaches concerning God's covenant dealings with Abraham, Jeffrey Johnson finds a helpful conversation partner in Nehemiah Coxe, who was perhaps the chief architect of the Reformed Baptist Confession [the 1689 Confession]. However, there is a point of disagreement that Johnson notes between he and Coxe:

Coxe goes on to explain that God had established two distinct covenants with Abraham at two different periods in Abraham's life. Abraham received a covenant of grace in Genesis 12 and a covenant of circumcision/works in Genesis 17. Twenty-five years separated these two covenants from one another. According to Coxe, the first covenant was a covenant of grace and the second was a covenant of works, which he called a covenant of circumcision. The covenant of grace promised Abraham that in him all nations would be blessed.  This was in reference to Abraham's spiritual offspring, which would include believers out of every race of people. The covenant of circumcision, on the other hand, promised blessings to a single nation. This nation was limited to Abraham's physical offspring. [Jeffrey Johnson, The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism (Free Grace Press, 2010), 216.]
While in agreement with Coxe's main point (that we must differentiate between promises to Abraham's physical seed and his spiritual seed), Johnson writes:

Unlike Coxe, I hold that God's promises to Abraham in Genesis 12 and 17 cannot be separated. I believe that these promises recorded in these two chapters are a part of the same covenant. [Ibid.]
The Proof Considered

I believe that Johnson's view of this matter is correct, and provably so.

Let us consider: are readers to understand Genesis 15 and 17 as two distinct covenants? Should we think, speak, and write about Abrahamic covenants rather than the Abrahamic Covenant? I believe that, due to language found in the context of the Abrahamic Covenant, and due to how God later speaks of the covenant, we should view the Abrahamic Covenant as one.

In Genesis 17, God establishes or confirms His covenant with Abraham. This is different language from what was used in Genesis 15. In Genesis 15, the language of “cut” or “make” was used to describe God’s covenant-making activity. [I write of Genesis 15, rather than Genesis 12-as in the quotes above-because, while the promises of the covenant appear in Genesis 12, there is no formal inauguration of the covenant until chapter 15.] In Genesis 17, the language of “establish” or “confirm” is used. As noted regarding the language of the Noahic Covenant, “cut a covenant” refers to the initiation of a covenant, whereas “establish a covenant” refers to the renewal of a previous covenant arrangement.

A consideration of the term used in Exodus 2:24 and 6:4-8, along with the context of these verses, offers definitive proof that we should view the Abrahamic Covenant as one. In these verses, God refers to “covenant” in the singular, mentioning the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In the historical storyline of Scripture, the early chapters of Exodus are leading up to God’s delivering the Israelites from Egypt to bring them into the Promised Land. In making the covenant with Abram (in Genesis 15), God spoke of Abram’s descendants being enslaved in Egypt and then being delivered. In establishing the covenant with Abraham (in Genesis 17), God spoke of Abraham and his descendents receiving Canaan. These promises are inseparable, and they are part of a singular covenant with Abraham.

The Point

Understanding the Abrahamic Covenant as a singular covenant arrangement with distinct aspects is helpful when considering other covenants as well. An examination of the covenants with Adam and Noah reveal that there may be various facets to a covenant (the Adamic Covenant being both the Creation Covenant and the Covenant of Works) or different movements in God’s covenant-making activity (God began extending covenant words to Noah before the Flood, Gen 6:18, but the Noahic Covenant was ratified after the Flood, Gen 8:22-9:17). However, in each of these cases readers should consider that God was dealing with Adam, Noah, and Abraham not as private individuals to whom He was making various covenants. Rather, He was dealing with these men as federal representatives through whom certain promises would come to humanity.

The idea of a dichotomous nature to a single covenant may have implications to how we understand the Mosaic Covenant as well.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Noahic Covenant: The Renewal of the Creation Covenant for the Purpose of Redemption

In telling Noah how to escape the world-wide flood–the means that God had chosen to blot out life from the earth–God said, “But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you” (Gen 6:18). This is the first time the word “covenant” actually appears in the biblical text. Note, however, the phrase “establish my covenant;” this phrase is different than “cut a covenant,” which is used of the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 15:18. “Cut a covenant” refers to the initiation of a covenant, whereas “establish a covenant” refers to the renewal of a previous covenant arrangement.[1] The Noahic Covenant was a renewal of the Creation Covenant aspects of the Adamic Covenant. [2]

            The terms in which God established the Noahic Covenant were reflective of God’s original act of creation. When it was first made, the earth was formless and void: covered with water (Gen1:2). God made light and darkness–naming the day and night–then He made the sun, moon, and stars to govern the day and night, as well as the seasons, days and years. Following the flood in Noah’s day–in which the earth was returned to a watery, formless state, God re-established seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night (Gen 8:22).

            When God made human beings, He directed them to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28), and He gave them instructions concerning the food that they were to eat (Gen 1:29). Likewise, in the context of the Noahic Covenant, God directed people to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 9:17), and He instructed them concerning the food they were to eat (Gen 9:3). The most basic human functions–eating and procreation–are circumscribed by God’s commands, both according to God’s original dealings with humanity in creation and according to the Noahic Covenant.

Some parallels between the context of God’s work in His original creation and in His dealings with Noah:

-The earth was formless and void: covered with water. Gen 1:2
-The earth was entirely covered with water. Gen 6:17-20

-God made light and darkness–naming the day and night–then He made the sun, moon, and stars to govern the day and night, as well as the seasons, days and years. Gen 1:3-5, 14-19

-God re-established seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night. Gen 8:22
-God directed people to be fruitful and multiply. Gen 1:28
-God directed people to be fruitful and multiply. Gen 9:17

-God instructed people concerning the food they were allowed to eat. Gen 1:29
-God instructed people concerning the food they were allowed to eat. Gen 9:3

The Gracious, Unconditional Nature of the Noahic Covenant

            Spirit-inspired Scripture declares, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). There would be one exception to this rule (Heb 4:15), but Noah was not that exception. God’s choosing of Noah was an act of His grace (the word translated “favor” may be translated “grace”).

            God had told Adam that he would face death for eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil on the day that he ate the fruit (Gen 2:17). Adam indeed experienced the condemnation of death, the curse of suffering, and forsakenness from God from the very day that he broke God’s command. But Adam did not immediately drop dead; he was not immediately cast into Hell, which is what he deserved. Instead–even as God was pronouncing curses on Adam, Eve, and the serpent–God also issued a promise. God promised that a seed from the woman would–though having His heel bruised by the serpent’s seed–nevertheless bruise the head of the serpent’s seed (Gen 3:15). This seed, who would break the serpent’s head, had not yet been brought into the world during Noah’s time. Therefore, the Covenant of Redemption–as it first began to be revealed in God’s promise concerning the seed of the woman–came to depend on God’s gracious, covenantal dealings with Noah. If Adam had immediately been destroyed in the Garden of Eden, then he would have had no hope of salvation; if all mankind had been destroyed in the flood, then God’s eternal plan (the Covenant of Redemption) would have been frustrated, and His promise concerning the seed of the woman would have been broken.[3]

            Seen in this light, the Noahic Covenant was a means used by the Father, by which He (re-)set the world-stage in order to fulfill His eternal decree concerning His Son (the head of the Covenant Redemption and the promised seed). For this reason, the Noahic Covenant–unlike some other covenants–did not include a curse that would be given if people broke this covenant. The Noahic Covenant “was simply a unilateral promise to save Noah and his family and never destroy the world by water again. God Himself even supplied the ‘sign’ of the covenant (Gen 6:18-22; 9:8-17).[4] Man could do nothing to break the covenant so that God would destroy the world by water again as a curse.”[5]

            As a unilateral covenant given for the purpose of redemption, the Noahic Covenant (which was given in connection with an acceptable sacrifice, Gen 8:20-21) was similar to a later covenant: the New Covenant established in Christ. The similarity between the Noahic Covenant and the New Covenant is not just something that modern scholars may “read-in” to the text. Rather, the Spirit-inspired Prophet, in a passage predicting the New Covenant, declared, “This is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you” (Isa 54:9). The Noahic Covenant set the stage for and pointed forward to the New Covenant: the Covenant of Grace by which the blood of Christ removes God’s wrath toward elect sinners.

            [1]Peter J. Gentry, “Kingdom Through Covenant: Humanity as the Divine Image,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology Volume 12, Number 1 (Spring 2008), 20.

            [2]There is a single Noahic Covenant. Though the “covenant” with Noah was first mentioned in Genesis 6:18, the covenant was not ratified, along with the covenant sign being given, until Genesis 8:22­­-9:17. God gave an initial expression of a covenant commitment to Noah before the flood, followed by a formal inauguration of the covenant after the flood. Robertson notes: “This covenantal activity fits a frequent pattern of covenantal administration in Scripture. It is not necessary to posit two covenants with Noah, one preceding the flood and one following the flood” (Robertson, 110n2). Likewise, Goldsworthy notes that God spoke of the covenant using the singular: though the details were different each time God spoke of the covenant with Noah, and the covenant is revealed in several places, we must think of it as one covenant. Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991), 114-115.

            [3]Coxe and Owen, 65.

            [4]That is, unlike the Abrahamic Covenant–in which people had to administer the covenant sign of circumcision–the sign of the Noahic Covenant–the rainbow–was unilateral (Gen 9:12-13).

            [5]Malone, 59-60.


Monday, November 09, 2015

A Meditation on Psalm 37:4

Delight yourself in the LORD,
and He will give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:4)

As we come to Holy Scripture, we seek to hear the voice of God. We do not want to impose our own meanings upon the text, but we want to hear from Him. Through the God-breathed word (2 Tim 3:16)–this vehicle of the Holy Spirit–we receive the comfort that only He can give. As we approach this particular text, we must pray for the illumination of the Spirit, considering carefully: (1) what does it mean to “delight yourself in the LORD?” (2) what does it mean for the LORD to “give you the desires of your heart?”

Delight yourself in the LORD

In Psalm 37, delighting in the LORD is contrasted with anxiety and envy regarding evildoers (Psalm 37:1). Our focus is to be on the LORD, not on the wicked. David, the author of this Psalm, was provoked in his spirit due to his enemies. When we are tempted toward stress or covetousness due to others’ evil plans or the good things bad people receive, we must re-focus our heart on God.

Psalm 37 defines “delight” towards the LORD in terms of trusting Him and doing good (v.3). Like David, we must believe in God’s covenant promises, even when we cannot see how those plans are coming to pass. Our beliefs, affections, and actions must be focused on glorifying God.

He will give you the desires of your heart

Once our focus is on the LORD, His Word will shape our desires, and we can trust in Him to bring about the fulfillment of our God-honoring desires. What does the psalmist desire in this passage? He desires to see the manifestation of God’s covenant promises. In Psalm 37, David desires God’s abundant provision (vv. 18-19; 25) and peace (vv. 10-11) in the Promised Land. These blessings may not be immediate, and they may be accompanied by trials, but God is faithful (v. 24).


“You” in this passage is singular, not plural. Each one of us, encountering this verse, is accountable to the command to delight in the LORD. But all of us have turned aside, delighting in other things, seeking fulfillment in creation rather than the Creator. It is only in the New Covenant work of Christ, who always delighted Himself in His Father, that we can receive forgiveness and the new hearts that we need. In Christ, as we humbly trust in Him, we can receive abundant, eternal life. In Christ, we inherit the fulfillment of all God’s covenant promises, receiving a new and better country (Heb 11:6), seeing Him face-to-face (1 Cor 13:12).


Saturday, November 07, 2015

Response to Seth Meyers Defense of HERO

Today, the following video from Seth Meyers has been trending on Facebook. Though told in a comedic manner, these are EXACTLY the arguments that supporters of the "Houston Equal Rights Ordinance" (HERO) were giving in its defense. Because Houston's mayor has vowed to continue to fight for HERO-and she has been joined by liberal voices across the nation-those of us who believe that the law is an affront to common decency must be ready to give a response. Following the video are some quotes pulled directly from the video, along with responses.

"The HERO law had a wide base of support across the country:"

-So we should all just jump on the bandwagon? Why should we believe that current popularity indicates that a law is just or good? What reasons do people have for supporting the law? Are these reasons better than those given by those who opposed the law?

"President Obama said he supported it, and a long list of companies came out in favor of it too."

-Why should we accept President Obama or the industrial complex as valid authorities concerning whether this law would be just or good for Houston?

"So what did the law do? It prohibited discrimination in housing and public accommodations, such as bathrooms, on the basis of fifteen different characteristics, including race, age, and sexual orientation, but it was gender identity that opponents had a problem with."

-Discrimination on the basis of race and age were already clearly prohibited under other federal and local laws, so those categories were just a smoke-screen for the actual purpose of this law.

"Opponents of the law claimed falsely that the bill would allow anyone of any gender to walk into any bathroom they wanted. The idea is known as the bathroom myth."

-Meyers says "falsely" and "myth" (he sounds persuasive, doesn't he?), but he does not give any proof as to why the law would not do EXACTLY what its opponents claim.

"There's also no evidence that this has ever been a problem in places that DO have these laws."

-Despite Meyers' claim, notice the analogous situation of Illinois' largest high school district, which has recently come under scrutiny for not allowing a transgender student into the girls' locker room and shower area. (See the Chicago Tribune story HERE.) If laws like HERO are passed across the nation, then lawsuits based on the prohibition of boys and men from the locker rooms and restrooms of women and girls would indeed, inevitably, become commonplace.

"Moreover, the idea that you can go into a bathroom and do anything other than use the toilet is ALREADY illegal in Houston."

-One problem with this line of argumentation is that it assumes that, as long as no mischief is occurring, gender doesn't matter in public restrooms. News-flash, Seth Meyers: if my daughter is in the public restroom, then I don't want a man walking in on her for any reason WHATSOEVER. Also, Meyers wants to claim that a person can't see anything inappropriate in the restroom anyway. However, as noted above, this issue has already reached to locker rooms and shower areas. The rationale behind this law has ALREADY resulted in government officials attempting to force a situation in which boys and girls would change clothes or shower in each others' presence. Furthermore: Meyers wants to say that the laws already on the books are sufficient to prevent mischief while ignoring the fact that there are laws already on the books that prevent true discrimination. His views are self-contradictory on a number of levels.

After the above quote, the rest of Seth Meyers' video is just a series of ridiculous ad hominem attacks.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Humility, Pride, and the Cross

[The following was originally posted on 10/30/13. I'm looking back over this as I prepare to teach Sunday school tomorrow morning from James 4:1-10 at Kosmosdale Baptist Church.]

It is probably safe to say that humility is the one character trait that will enable us to be all that Christ wants us to be. Without humility, we cannot come to God. Without humility, we cannot truly love and serve God. Without humility, we cannot truly love and serve others. A lack of humility will render us unable to communicate properly and will prevent us from resolving conflicts that are sure to come in our lives. In short, we must understand, embrace, and live out true humility in order to truly live and to be who God means for us to be for the magnification of His glory.[1] That is why Scripture says:

God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble
 (James 4:6b NIV 1984)

Now, let me make this clear at the outset– I am NOT writing this today as someone who is under the delusion that I have somehow ‘mastered humility:' I’m not claiming to be an expert on this subject, as if I perfectly understand and perfectly apply everything God has revealed about being humble. Rather, as C.J. Mahaney has said, “I’m a proud man pursuing humility by the grace of God… [I’m] a fellow pilgrim walking with you on the path set for us by our humble Savior.”[2] As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (cf. Phil. 3:12 NKJV).

And so I would now like to share with you a story– a parable that Jesus told about humility:
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." 
Luke 18:9-14 (ESV)
In this parable, Jesus brought together two individuals that we would consider to be complete opposites­- one that would be considered notable and one that would be considered notorious:

  • First, we have a Pharisee. Now the Pharisees, as you may know, were the religious leaders of the land during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Many of the Pharisees sought to know God’s Word, to understand it, and to apply it to every aspect of their daily lives. And for the most part the Pharisees held to sound biblical doctrine. For this reason the Apostle Paul, when on trial in Jerusalem, was not ashamed to refer to himself as a Pharisee, as we read in Acts 23:6.
  • In stark contrast to this Pharisee the other character that Jesus confronts us with is known as a tax collector– or, to use the old King James Version term– a publican. Now the publicans, as you may or may not remember, were Jewish people who were working for the Roman Empire, which was the tyrannical government that was keeping the Jewish nation in slavery. Publicans were tax collectors for the Roman government, and they were infamous for hiring mercenaries to aid them in their work and to extract much more than their fair share from the taxpayers around them. As Martin Luther noted when preaching on this text, those hearing this parable of Jesus would have known the publicans to be a group of people “living in open sin and vice… [serving] neither God nor man” and making it their business to rob, oppress, and harm, their neighbors.
Now this word “justified” mentioned by Jesus at the end of the parable means that the publican was counted as righteous in God’s sight. God considered this known sinner– this man who had lived in open rebellion against His Law until this time– to be completely free from sin, whereas the Pharisee, who had devoted his life to keeping God’s Law, went home without even having his prayers heard by God.

How can this be?! As Martin Luther asked of this passage, “Will God now speak and decide against his own law, which justly prefers those who live according to it, to those who live opposed to it in open sin? Or does God delight in those who do no good and are nothing but robbers, adulterers and unjust?” No, beloved, but there is a higher Law at work here– a Law that can only be apprehended by faith– a Law that Christ refers to at the end of this passage, when He teaches, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

This Law– the Law of humility– is absolutely crucial to your life if you wish for your life to have eternal value and to be accepted by God.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, taught concerning this Law of humility:

You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
"God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:4-10 NIV 1984)

If you become familiar with the book of James, it becomes obvious that James immersed himself in his half-brother’s teaching. In the last sentence quoted above James wrote, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up,” which seems to be an echo of the words of Jesus from Luke 18:14, mentioned above, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

James 4:4-10 also contains another statement which is crucial in gaining God's perspective concerning humility, specifically, the phrase,

"God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble
In the first half of this statement, we are exposed to God’s opposition of the proud. So, the first question here is: what does the word “proud” mean? What is “pride”?

From the very construction of the sentence, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble", it is obvious that the word “proud” is to be understood as the opposite of the word “humble”. And so “pride” is the opposite of “humility”.

According to Strong’s New Testament Greek Lexicon, the word we have translated “proud” is used of one who seeks to be “conspicuous above others” and “pre-eminent” the proud person is one with “an overweening estimate of [his or her own] means or merits,” one who “despis[es] others or even treat[s] them with contempt”.

In the booklet From Pride to Humility pastor and teacher Stuart Scott observes that pride is “the desire to lift up self and serve self.” For “[w]hen someone is proud they are focused on self. This is a form of self-worship.” It is also the inclination of pride to forget about God or [to] want to be above God” as the Puritan Tom Watson said, “Pride seeks to ungod God." And as C.J. Mahaney notes, “The proud person seeks to glorify himself and not God, thereby attempting in effect to deprive God of something only He is worthy to receive.”

Hearing these definitions of pride, we naturally shrink away from identifying ourselves as proud or prideful. None of us would like to admit that we wish to be “conspicuous above others," that we treat others with contempt, or that we worship ourselves more than we worship God. But pride is a universal epidemic. This is true to the extent that the Apostle John taught that the entire world system is composed of “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (cf. 1 John 2:15-16). For some reading this, your pride may not be as obvious as in the lives of others, but it is still there all the same. I implore you to examine yourself in the light of God’s Word and see if pride has manifested itself in your life in any of the following ways:
  • First, have you ever complained against or passed judgment on God? As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 9:20, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to the molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” If you have complained against God, you are implicitly making the prideful assertion that you know better than He does and that you could run the universe better than God if you only had the power. Similarly, if you clearly understand a ‘hard doctrine’ from the Bible, such as the doctrine of reprobation, or that everyone who fails to believe in Jesus Christ is destined for Hell, and you say, ‘Well, my God would never do that!’ then you are passing judgment on God and are strongly implying that you are better than God.
  • Second, have you ever failed to express gratitude toward God for something He has given You? Have You ever failed to express heartfelt thanks to God? The Apostle Paul again teaches in Romans 1:21 that God’s wrath is against those who knew Him, but did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him. And in 2 Chronicles 32:25 a direct connection is made between a lack of gratitude and pride.
  • Third, do you lack a focus on the practice of biblical prayer in your life? Do you pray very little? When you pray are your prayers self-centered– like the prayer of the Pharisee mentioned earlier from Luke 18:9-14– or do you truly call out for God’s mercy– like in the prayer of the publican?
No matter how free from pride your life may seem, if your life is characterized by complaining against God or judging Him, if you fail to express gratitude toward God on a regular basis, or if your life lacks regular, biblical prayer, then you can be sure that pride has a foothold in your life and you are in danger: danger of the opposition of God.

Paul Stith, pastor of Grace Heritage Church in Auburn, AL, has noted four ways in which God opposes the proud:

1. By refusing to speak to the proud. (Example: Luke 23:8-9, in which Jesus refuses to speak with Herod while Herod was exalting himself above Christ.)
2. By ridiculing their schemes (Example: Psalm 2:1-4, in which God laughs at those who exalt themselves against Him.)
3. By ruining their success (Example: 2 Chronicles 26, in which God curses King Uzziah’s pride when he taking a priestly job for himself.)
4. By removing their status (Example: Daniel 5, in which Nebuchadnezzar’s loses his sanity and his kingdom due to his pride.)

But there is further way that God opposes the proud, which is more terrifying than all the others: more terrifying than His silence or His ridicule; more terrifying than having Him ruin your success or remove your status. This most terrifying way in which God may come in opposition against you if you persist in pride against Him is for Him to harden your heart against His Word. We see this opposition by God in the life of Pharaoh in the Old Testament book of Exodus. When God’s people were kept in slavery down in Egypt, God sent His servant Moses to deliver the message from Him: “let My people go!” Pridefully, Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, refused to listen to the Word of God, though Moses spoke to him several times and the LORD brought numerous plagues against Egypt. The Bible repeatedly says that “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened,” making it clear that God was hardening Pharaoh’s heart in order to bring judgment against Egypt. And this hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, due to his pride, was so severe that Pharaoh would not release God’s people until his firstborn son was killed in a plague from God. And even then, Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and having released God’s people from bondage, he led his army to pursue them in order to recapture them, at which time God destroyed Pharaoh and the entire Egyptian army in the Red Sea.

And so if you allow pride to go unchecked in your life, you should take care. For the opposition of God may mean that your heart becomes hardened to His Word, and you will not hear God’s message of grace until it is too late, and you are destroyed. This is serious, for if you die in opposition to God, then you will remain in opposition to Him for eternity, a fate that the Bible calls Hell: an existence that is completely devoid of the goodness, love, kindness, and blessing of God, which you have benefited from in this life, and yet you have despised due to your pride. Once you begin to recognize pride in your life and to realize the weight of the opposition of God against pride, it is vital that you do not move ahead too quickly. It is of the utmost importance that you truly see pride for what it is in God’s sight and that that you understand just how deeply it runs in your life. You must be ready to confess your pride before God and to truly repent. You must acknowledge that pride is an offense against God, rightly earning His opposition, and you must humble yourself before God.

It is only once you have been convinced of your own pride that you are prepared to hear the message of grace. Grace is the unearned favor of God. God’s favor must be unearned, for all of our works are tainted with pride. The exaltation of self plays some role in any ‘good’ thing that we do. And so, there is nothing that we can do on our own to earn God’s favor. For if we rely on our own strength, we only earn the opposition of God. And so, if we are to be found acceptable in God’s sight, it has to be by His grace: by His unmerited favor. Martin Luther taught that grace “denotes God's kindness or favor which He has toward us and by which he is disposed to pour Christ and the Spirit with his gifts into us… grace takes us up completely into God's favor for the sake of Christ.” An acrostic that is helpful in understanding God’s grace teaches us that grace is “G-R-A-C-E”: “God’s Riches AChrist’s Expense”. For whereas we cannot do any good work untainted by selfish pride, Jesus Christ truly humbled Himself and was completely submissive to the will of God our Father. Jesus practiced perfect humility, as He stated in Mark 10:45, in that He came “not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Jesus came as a ransom on our behalf, for whereas we had earned the opposition of God due to our pride, Jesus took God’s opposition upon Himself, suffering death and Hell on the Cross for our sake, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

James 4:6b proclaims that God gives grace to the humble, and it is only by the Holy Spirit working a realization of the truth of the Cross into our lives that we can have true humility. As Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote:
Nothing else can do it. When I see that I am a sinner… that nothing but the Son of God on the cross can save me, I’m humbled to the dust… Nothing but the cross can give us this spirit of humility.

And the Reverend Doctor John Stott explained:
Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to be saying to us, “I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.”
Our pride is only dealt with by God’s grace, benefits us only as we humble ourselves before the Cross of Christ. We must see ourselves on the Cross: for due to our pride, which has earned the opposition of God, we deserve to have borne His holy wrath against sin. And we must see Christ on the Cross, practicing perfect humility, dying in our place, bearing the opposition of God on our behalf, that the Father may regard us as completely righteous if we place our hope in His Son.

In order to make practical application of the statement in James 4:6b, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble," we must continue on to examine James 4:7-10:

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:7-10 NIV 1984)

This passage gives us six actions that we should take in response to the truth that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble:”

  1. We must submit to God: James 4:7a, “Submit yourselves, then, to God." We must surrender our plans for our lives to the will of the Father, forsaking all of our ungodly desires and acknowledging our dependence upon Him each day.
  2. As we submit to God, we must resist the Devil: James 4:7b, “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” We resist the Devil and cause him to flee through avoiding temptations that are possible to avoid– for example, as the Bible says, “flee from sexual immorality” (cf. 1 Cor. 6:18) so that we do not, for instance, view movies that we know will tempt us through the lust of the eyes. If there are temptations that we cannot flee, we must stand firm and refuse to compromise to sin. (Since we can’t flee every temptation: for example, if someone on your job is acting rudely toward you and tempting you to sin by becoming bitter or hateful toward them, you can’t necessarily 'flee temptation' by walking out of your workplace, but you CAN continue to remember that Your heavenly Father is watching and that He is in control, and you can turn your cares over to Him, standing firm through the temptation.)
  3. As we resist the Devil, causing him to flee from us, we also must draw near to God. James 4:8a, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” As Pastor Stith of Grace Heritage Church pointed out when preaching through this passage, we sometimes fail on this point because we do not 'feel close' to God. But notice the order of this statement. In context of our growth in grace, we first obey the command to draw near to God and then He fulfills His promise of drawing near to us. Drawing on the familiar parable of the prodigal son, found in Luke 15:11-32, Pastor Stith said, ‘I see the prodigal son sitting in the pigsty and saying to himself, you know, I just don’t feel that close to my father, so I’ll just wait until I feel close to him before I start on the road back to his house.’ But we know that in the actual story, when the prodigal came to the end of his pride and recognized his need for the father, he immediately set out on the road to the father’s house, and the father ran to meet him, to kiss his face and forgive him. So we must draw near to God through the means He has given us– through the regular fellowship of believers on the Lord’s Day, through the ordinances of the Church, through calling out to Him in humble prayer, and through studying His Word.
  4. Drawing near to God, we must cleanse our hands: James 4:8b, “Wash your hands, you sinners.” This phrase speaks of having unblemished, holy works of service before God. As was stated before, this is absolutely impossible in our own strength, but as we draw near to God, He gives us His grace and the gift of true repentance so that we may please Him, even with our imperfect works.
  5. Cleansing our hands, we must also purify our hearts: James 4:8c, “and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” We cannot truly serve God, we cannot draw near to Him, or resist the Devil, or even submit to Him if we remain double-minded. In order to grow in God’s grace, we must have a single-minded passion for His glory: we must desire Him above all things, so that our love for God shapes all of our decisions.
  6. Finally, in purifying our hearts, we must mourn over the sin in our lives: James 4:9, “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.” We cannot fight against sin– we cannot cast away our pride and our lusts– if we are still content in our pride and entertained by our lusts. We must strive with all of our might to develop holy attitudes so that we see our sin as God sees it– as something that is vile, detestable, and responsible for the death of His Son.

Friend, I implore you now– anyone reading this post– search your heart: if you have never acknowledged your sinfulness before God, if you have never called out for His mercy and submitted your will to Him, then do so right now. Do not delay out of pride and risk having your heart hardened against God’s grace when He is so near to you at this moment. You can call out to Him right where You are, offering your own heart up to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I plead with you, too. Do not become complacent in God’s grace, but be diligent to search out any areas of pride in your hearts. Meditate on James 4:7-10 and put these verses into practice, submitting to God and drawing near to Him, resisting the Devil, washing your hands and purifying your hearts, mourning over Your sin.

Above all else, I hope that we will all make a regular practice of looking to the Cross and allowing the message of the Cross, the message of perfect humility, to transform our lives. And I would like to close this post with the words of the Apostle Paul from Philippians 2:5-11:

Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death--even to death on a cross. For this reason God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow-- of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth-- and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11 HCSB)

[1] From Pride to Humility booklet by Stuart Scott (Bemidji, MN; Focus Publishing, 2002), 1.
[2] Humility: True Greatness (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2005), 13.


Tuesday, September 08, 2015

When Insanity is Substituted for Duty

Over the weekend, I read a couple of well-written articles (written by evangelicals) about the situation regarding Kim Davis. These articles, like some that I'd read before, were asserting that Kim Davis
should have resigned if she found herself unable to fulfill her duty of issuing marriage licenses. Now, I don't think that a person whose conscience was bothered at issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples would necessarily be committing a sin if he or she DID choose to resign. But MUST such a person resign? The argument for the "resign!" position says that since she was hired to do a certain job-a job that includes the issuing of marriage licenses-then, upon finding herself unable to do an important aspect of her job, she should have resigned. But notice: when she was elected to office, her job did not include participating in the re-definition of marriage. Also: it is debatable whether the Supreme Court has the authority to change her job in the way that it attempted to do.

For those who think that, beyond a doubt, Kim Davis should have resigned, I would like to pose the following question. How many basic definitions regarding a person's job could the courts change before some action could reasonably be taken by that person in protest? Say that Kim Davis had been elected as a dog catcher in her county and that part of her job included shooting rabid dogs. If the Supreme Court had come along and said, "The definition of 'rabid dogs' now includes people with blonde hair and blue eyes," then should Davis have felt conscience-bound to either comply or resign? Couldn't she appropriately resist without resigning?

In Obergefell, the Supreme Court declared a re-definition of a basic human institution. The idea of heterosexual marriage is not just the doctrine of some religious sect. "Marriage" is defined by moral law, natural philosophy ("the light of nature"), and thousands of years of tradition to be between man and woman. The Supreme Court of our nation has made a declaration that equates to moral and legal insanity. Kim Davis and other conscience-stricken government officials are trying to act in a sane manner given an insane situation. I believe that we would be wise to be careful in criticizing their choices in this matter.


Friday, September 04, 2015

Re: Kim Davis. Thinking Through Some Ramifications of Saying She Should Have Resigned

From NBC News, via Denny Burk:

A federal judge has ordered a Kentucky clerk to jail after she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who has turned away same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses, was found in contempt of court and taken into custody on Thursday.
Davis, 49, was in federal district court to appear before a judge after refusing to issue licenses to gay and lesbian couples in Rowan County. Davis, an Apostolic Christian [a charismatic group], has said doing so would “violate God’s definition of marriage” and infringe on her personal religious beliefs.
District Court Judge David Bunning said that she is bound by an oath of office to perform her duties under the law, and ordered her to jail.

Some of my brothers and sisters in Christ are agreeing with Rod Dreher and others who argue that, while they think Davis should not have been sent to jail, "as an officer of the state charged with upholding the law, she ought to resign her position if she cannot fulfill her duties."

Those who take this position MIGHT be correct, but we should notice what the "resign!" position entails. It is not just Davis who would have to resign, but (now that the Supreme Court has redefined marriage for legal purposes) ANY Christian in a public office that is involved with the institution of marriage-any Christian official in such a position, who has a conscience provoked at the thought of giving approval to sin (Rom 1:32)-would also need to resign.

Furthermore, what about the Christian police officer who will now be ordered to arrest people like Kim Davis? If his conscience is provoked, should he necessarily resign his position? What about the Christian D.A. who will be called upon to prosecute those who refuse to comply with Obergefell (or legislation that will be crafted with Obergefell in view)? Should a D.A. in that position necessarily resign rather than remain in office while refusing to bring charges? Followed to its logical conclusion, the position that 'Kim Davis should have resigned' is a position that would have Christians vacate large sectors of governmental employment. IF you believe that Christians of conscience do not necessarily need to abandon an increasing number of government jobs in our country, then you must think through another view regarding Kim Davis (and those like her). Practically speaking, this other view may need to include a willingness for Christians to occasionally face jail-time as a matter of conscience-driven civil disobedience.


Wednesday, September 02, 2015

God's Internal Dialogue in the Early Chapters of Genesis

In the early chapters of Genesis, God reveals some instances of His own internal dialogue.

God’s words to Himself concerning Man, Genesis 1:26: Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

God’s words to Himself concerning woman, Genesis 2:18: Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

God’s words of judgment against fallen Man, Genesis 3:22: Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 

God’s words of judgment against pervasive rebellion, Genesis 6:7: So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

God’s words of judgment against hubris, Genesis 11:6-7: And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.

I take it, based on passages such as Isaiah 55:8-9, that God is incomprehensible-the Creator is infinitely higher than His creation-and that these examples of internal dialogue, while revealing something true and beneficial about God, are adapted to our limitations.

I find it significant that each instance of God's internal dialogue concerning Man following humanity's descent into sin involves judgment.


Monday, August 31, 2015

"Where is the gospel in the Sermon on the Mount?"

The title of this post comes from a question that one of my friends placed on Facebook. I'm answering it here due to the length of the response. I wanted to give this careful consideration because my students at Sayers Classical Academy are currently memorizing Matthew 5.

Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount primarily to His disciples (Matt 5:1b): those who were already committed to following Him. Though His words were certainly intended to benefit the larger crowd as well (Matt 5:1a)-especially through bringing the conviction of a right understanding of the Law to bear upon them (Matt 5:21-48)-the focus on those who were already disciples meant that Jesus was not focused on evangelization in this sermon. Furthermore, the full revelation that the good news would involve His death, burial, and resurrection had not yet been given, and so the gospel-in a clear and specific way-was not revealed in the Sermon on the Mount. The closest thing that we have to a gospel word in the sermon is Matthew 5:17, as Jesus pointed to Himself as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. For those looking for Scripture to be fulfilled-and for those brought low by the Law-this is a word of good news.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Two Important Petitions, Re: Planned Parenthood

Since before he was elected president, Mr. Barack Obama has been bold in aligning himself with Planned Parenthood and in supporting "abortion rights" in general. It is not that surprising then, that as the Center for Medical Progress has been releasing undercover videos "documenting its 30-month undercover sting operation concerning Planned Parenthood's trafficking in fetal body parts," the Obama Administration has been exceedingly slow to respond. "Thus far, the White House has stated its belief, based on statements from Planned Parenthood, that the videos are deceptive and illegally obtained, but it has admitted it has not watched the videos." Currently, there is an active petition directing the Obama Administration to actually watch these videos. Yes, it is incredibly sad that it would take a petition to move our president to examine the gruesome facts concerning an organization that receives so much federal funding, but the White House has committed to responding to any petition that gets 100,000 signatures within 30 days on the "We the People" website.

I ask that anyone reading this would take a moment to sign the petition HERE.

An even more important petition (and one that has many more signatures at this time) directs the Obama Administration to "Order the Attorney General to Investigate Planned Parenthood's Sale of Aborted Baby Parts." I only mention this petition second because it might be easier (in some way) for an administration spokesperson to make some excuse as to why they can't have the Attorney General conduct an investigation into Planned Parenthood. However, it might be difficult for the President to explain why he can't watch a few videos.

Please take a moment to sign the other petition HERE.