Tuesday, April 21, 2009

1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven (Ps. 32)

Psalm 32 is in today's M'Cheyne reading calendar... it hit me with a reminder of God's glorious grace. May it similarly impress upon you the wonder of His love and mercy. I have no need to add anything to the thoughts expressed in this wonderful Psalm - only to reflect upon its truth and the peace that it brings to the mind of a sinner like me.
Psalm 32 (ESV)

1 j Blessed is the one whose k transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord l counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit m there is no deceit.

3 For when I kept silent, my n bones wasted away
through my o groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your p hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up [2] as by the heat of summer. Selah

5 I q acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I r will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

6 Therefore let everyone who is s godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you t may be found;
surely in the rush of u great waters,
they shall not reach him.
7 You are a v hiding place for me;
you preserve me from w trouble;
you surround me with x shouts of deliverance. Selah

8 I will y instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will z counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 a Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with b bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.

10 c Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who d trusts in the Lord.
11 e Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
and f shout for joy, all you g upright in heart!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

1 Strength in the Lord and The Difficulty of Accepting It

For many of us who have been steeped in Reformed thought for a long time, the fact that we can do nothing without the Lord - that our strength is in Him and in Him alone - is a no-brainer. We have learned this and it is second nature to us; we readily respond to questions about salvation and our own ability to do good with nary a hiccup; our answers are always correct, e.g., "It is the Lord who granted me the grace to do what I needed to do in that situation." I get the nagging feeling, though, looking into my own life, that such statements are much easier to make than it is to actually put the fact into practice. It is so easy to fall prey to the sinful temptation to be a self-made man, and to act in our own strength.

One of the first points William Gurnall makes in his Christian in Complete Armor is exactly this - that we must consciously resist our predilection to self-assurance and self-sufficiency, and place all hope for salvation, and all expectation of strength in the Lord's hands.
We cannot worship rightly, resist sin effectively, or do anything that is good apart from the Lord's working in us. There is no hope for any of this apart from His grace active and living in us through the indwelling Holy Spirit and the intercession of the Lord Jesus.

A helpful reminder comes in Gurnall's application section for this doctrine. He writes,
Is the Christian's strength in the Lord, not in himself? Surely then the Christless person must needs be a poor impotent creature, void of all strength and ability of doing anything of itself towards its own salvation. If the ship launched, rigged and with her sails spread cannot stir, till the wind come fair and fill them, much less can the timber that lies in the carpenter's yard hew and frame itself into a ship. If the living tree cannot grow except the root communicate its sap, much less can a dead rotten stake in the hedge, which hath no root, live of its own accord. (p. 23, Christian in Complete Armor, William Gurnall)
This drives home the point so clearly. Our life is in HIM. Who derives life and strength? The branch that is drawing life and strength through the sap of the vine. The branch doesn't live by himself... it doesn't do anything apart from that life-giving "spirit". Our self-motivated and self-appointed efforts to do what we think we ought serve to show how poorly we understand this metaphor for Christian life. When we launch out on our own to achieve ends that we have in mind, doing so in our own strength, we pretend in some way as though we are capable apart from Him, even if we confess that doctrine with our lips.

We so desperately want to be in the driver's seat, and to feel capable. The Christian's walk is one of incapability, though, at least as the Bible presents it to us. All we have, all we're able to do, all is the Lord's - our role is one of accepting our own limitations, and receiving His grace, all the while admitting our own state as a humble, unprofitable servant. Nothing more can we be - nothing less should we aim to be - for with our humble acceptance of God's grace and in His strength, we are able to do His work, pleasing and glorifying the Lord of Glory, and building up His Kingdom to His eternal praise. Let it so be, for this is His wonderful and wise decree.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

0 Passing on "Spirituality"?

Briefly overheard this morning on an NPR report: "I'm passing on spirituality to my children, more than any one religion." This seems to be a more and more laudable (in the world's eyes) position. What a sad situation this is. Parents have not only abandoned their responsibility to direct their children's education, giving it wholly over to others and blaming those others when things go poorly, but now they are leaving religious choice up to their children, too? They want their kids to be "spiritual" but don't particularly care if they become Muslim, Christian, or agnostic? What commitment do people have to their faith anymore?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

0 A Wise Perspective from Thomas Chalmers

In preparing to teach Sunday School tomorrow on 1 John 5:7-21, I found the following quote from Thomas Chalmers in Joel Beeke's "Epistles of John". I'm in conversation with someone who asked about praying that God would show him a sign that He was working out answers to his prayers. I had responded that to ask God in that way was unsound, and was an expression of unbelief - to put God to the test in that way is simply not something we ought to do. Providentially, then, I happened upon the Chalmers quotation, in which the subject of prayer and God's answers to prayer was mentioned. Chalmers wrote in his diary, "Make me sensible of real answers to actual requests, as evidences of an interchange between myself on earth and my Saviour in heaven." (quoted in Beeke, The Epistles of John, p. 207)

THIS is an honorable prayer - that God would remove our blindness so that we could see more clearly the answers He is giving to our intercessory prayers. We are never to tell God to give us some sort of sign so that we know He is answering our prayers - that is what He promises to do as our God, for us as His people. To ask for signs is, in my view, to ask God to prove that He is trustworthy. Isn't that simply unbelief? Seems that way. Let us be prepared, rather, to ask God to open our eyes and help us to see, that we might glorify Him as we recognize His work in our lives. Gideon's example, in which the man's weakness of faith is displayed for us, is not one for us to follow.

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