Wednesday, May 30, 2007

When Hate is Love

This week I've been doing a lot of reading for a class I'll be taking in August. The book I was reading last night, Christ and the Covenants, is fantastic. I'd recommend it to everyone. Last night I was reading about the curse of Genesis 3 and it brought to mind this reflection I wrote last summer. I post it again with some additional comments:

One of the things that has been brought to light and I have found so profound is that in the midst of the curse, there is hope and promise. Genesis 3:15 sounds like an awful verse on the surface, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel"(ESV). God begins a war here - he places hatred and hostility between the woman and the serpent (and Satan whom it served as a tool). Yet, this is actually a great blessing. God wouldn't let Eve, or any of his chosen people, be friendly with Satan. In the words of Ligon Duncan, "for God to put enmity between Satan and the woman is to drive a wedge between the woman and the enemy of her soul".

This passage has long been called by theologians the protoevangelium - the first (proto) good news (evangelium, from which we get the word evangelism - the proclamation of the good news). I've known this and seen it in this text, even preached it from this text before, but this week it has taken on new hues of meaning (the gem has been turned!).

Look at the verse again. There are three levels of enmity. First, it is between Satan and Eve personally, individually. Second, it is between Eve's seed (plural) and Satan's seed (plural). Third, this hostility between progeny will culminate in one specific Seed of Eve who will crush the head of Satan, being wounded in the process (Christ). "He (singular) will crush your head (singular) and you (singular again) will strike his heel (singular)." Here is announced the defeat of Satan, and this is good news!

But look at that second level of enmity - the enmity God puts between the seed of Eve and Satan's seed. Let me ask you, do all of Eve's physical descendants have this enmity towards Satan. The answer is: no. Why? Because not all of Eve's children are her seed. There is something going on here that transcends typical physical categories, but one that lays the groundwork for a thoroughly biblical doctrine - the doctrine of election.

What I'm saying is that the principle of God choosing some and not others to be his is already here in the earliest chapters of the Bible. Look at the first two children of Eve, Cain and Abel. Was Cain a physical child of Eve? Yes. Was he an heir to the promise of Genesis 3:15? No. God didn't put enmity between Cain and Satan; in fact, we are told in 1 John that Cain was a "of the evil one" (1 John 3:12), so he became a murderer. Cain was a physical descendant of Eve, but not the seed of Eve, just as Ishmael was the descendant of Abraham but not an heir, just as Esau was the descendant of Isaac but not an heir to the promises, just as there were some of Israel who were not true Jews, etc. In other words, all of Eve's seed are those in whom God puts enmity towards Satan. Satan's seed are those whom God did not put this enmity in. What reason stands behind God's choice to place this enmity in one and not another? Let me borrow a phrase used in Romans in answer to the question as to why God chose Jacob and not Esau to answer this question of why God puts enmity towards Satan in some and not others - "in order that God's purpose of election might continue" (Romans 9:11, ESV)

We can expand this and ask, "why do people reject Christ?" Listen to Jesus response to the unbelief of the Pharisees:

They answered him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing what Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing what your father did." They said to him, "We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father - even God." 42 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God." (John 8:39-47, ESV).

Based on Jesus's words, they do not receivee him or his word because they are of their father the devil (his seed). That enmity is there, but it is not directed towards Satan - they are in league with him because he is their father. Their enmity, hatred, is directed towards Christ, the Seed of Eve. Moreover, you see the principle of a "spiritual seed" emerging again here. The Pharisees were claiming that Abraham was their father, and they are right in the physical sense. However, Jesus says that if they were truly (spiritually) the children of Abraham, they would be doing what he did (having faith). Again, if they were children of God, they would accept him because he is also of God.

They do not accept Jesus because God did not put enmity towards Satan in their heart - they are not the seed of Eve (or of Abraham, or of God). They are, instead, the seed of Satan and are hostile to God and Christ, the Seed of Eve! God would not allow his people, the seed of Eve, to fall into friendship with Satan - the great enemy of God and of their souls. Instead, he places a hostility within his people towards Satan and all his work. How great a blessing is that!

How great is God's grace and purposes. At just the time man needed grace, at just the time man needed God to deliver, God provides! Celebrate his grace, his amazing, electing grace.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

You all know how much I love Piper - I consider him a mentor, though I've never met him. I'm glad he can appreciate people jabbing fun at him. Take a look:

"John Piper is Bad"

Oh, and bonus points to anyone who can identify all the faces in the video!

After you've laughed at that, look at this and let it all sink in:

"God exalting Grammar"

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Scary Thought

The other day on my Google homepage, this quote popped up in the 'Quote of the Day' box: "The second half of a man's life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half" ~ Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Uh, that's a scary thought for someone like me who is, honestly, coming painfully close to the middle point of life. (On a side note, why do we refer to people in their 50's as 'middle aged'. Are there a lot of people living to be 110 now a days?). If I was to be painfully honest, I don't have great habits that I'd like to see lived out over the next 40 years. I am woefully undisciplined in too many areas - exercise, eating,and study and prayer as well.

I haven't been able to get this quote out of my mind for the past four or five days. In addition to this quote, I finished a sermon by Edwards entitled "That Such Persons are Very Imprudent and Foolish who don't Consider their Later End". In the sermon, he encourages constant reflection and evaluation on one's life and the end to which it will lead. The connection between the quote and the sermon are obvious.

Along side that quote, and that sermon, the Resolutions of Edwards have been rattling around in my brain as well. Talk about good, Godly habits! (Especially on my mind is Edwards resolutions regarding meditation on death and hell: "Resolution 9 - Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death; Resolution 10 - Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell". As I've done that this week, I've been swept up in contemplating and appreciating the amazing grace of God all the more!)

So, I've determined that I must, and I mean must, work on being more disciplined. I still have a few years to develop some good habits! It may be that I write out my own resolutions here in the next few months.

Most of you who read my blog (all four of you, not counting my mom) are a decade or so behind me on the aging curve, so may I encourage you to think long and hard about the habits you're developing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Religious Tolerance

Recently, I was asked to participate in a blog for the IDS religious directory. I was/am hesitant because I know the controversy that can swirl around these kind of discussions. I did, however, decide to enter the fray by commenting on a blog about Religious Tolerance. Here is a quote from the post by Rev. Lynnette Carlson:
Are you aware of how similar the teachings of world religions are when you get to the heart of their messages? For example, many of them have a version of what Christians call the Golden Rule. Check out this website for a sampling: The days when we can afford to tout a single approach to ultimate reality as “the one true religion” are over. The world is at the same time too small and too diverse for such parochialism.

Read the rest of Rev. Carlson's comments and my response at the new Religion Blog from the IDS. I'd love to get your thoughts, either here or on the IDS spot.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Books on the Holy Spirit

I have plunged into quite a few good books on the person and work of the Holy Spirit in the past couple of weeks and thought I'd share my recommendations with you:

1. The Mystery of the Holy Spirit, RC Sproul. This is a good primer on the Spirit, but pretty simple. Also, Sproul definitely doesn't think the gifts of tongues, miracles, healing, prophecy, etc, are for today (I disagree, but still a good book)

2. Showing the Spirit, DA Carson. Fantastic, if you want to put in the work. This is a 200+ page book that is simply his exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14. He is convinced and convincing that the charismata are for today and offers a chapter full of pastoral implications. It is hard, rigorous, but rewarding reading.

3. Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God, Gordon Fee. Fee is a self proclaimed Pentecostal (minister in the Assemblies of God) and also a professor of NT at Gordon Conwell Seminary. This is the best book on the Spirit I've read (Carsons is great, but Fee is broader).

4. Keeping in Step with the Spirit, JI Packer. This is very good, though I don't agree with all his conclusions. He, like Sproul, don't believe the charismatic gifts are for today, though he is more open to the possibility. He stands outside of the Pentecostal movement and is critical of theological errors and excesses, yet, appreciates how they have called the church not to neglect the Third Person of the Trinity.

5. Baptism and Fullness, John Stott. This is also very good, and short. I would highly recommend it (though, again, I don't agree with his cessationist position).

6. Convergence, Sam Storms. The subtitle says it all: The Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist. He lives in two worlds, two worlds many think are incompatible. I like his position, but the book isn't all that good. I want him to convince me, but he tells a lot of his personal story. You may really enjoy it, and I would highly recommend most of Storms books, but not this one. Sorry.