Saturday, November 24, 2007

Grappling with Sin

If we are unfaithful,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny who he is.
2nd Timothy 2:13

"When I look to myself all is flesh, that is, sin,
but when I look to Christ all is righteousness."

- Martin Luther

This week I have failed in my thoughts and my actions. I have been reminded of my own self-centerdness and rebellion. It is times like these when I find the most joy in the fact that, "when we are unfaithful, he remains faithful." It is weeks like this that make me so thankful that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."

When we do evil He is still good.
When we do things deserving of hell-fire He is still interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)
He is still the God, "who wants all men to be saved." (1st Timothy 2:4)
He is still the God who, "takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked." (Ezekiel 33:11)
He is still the God who, "was pierced for our transgressions" and "crushed for our iniquities," for, "the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)
He is still the God who is utterly perfect and holy but who was made "to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2nd Corinthians 5:21)

Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—
yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
teaching me wisdom even there.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me—
now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.
Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
and they will return to you.
Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
Unseal my lips, O Lord,
that my mouth may praise you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More Asburians in L.A. . . . Well, actually Pasadena

I got to start my Thanksgiving break by hanging out with a good friend from Asbury, Anna and one of her friends, Allison, who is also in medical school in Texas. Anna is thinking of doing Ph.D. work at Fuller and was visiting there with Joel Green who used to be at Asbury. It was a lot of fun to see Pasadena and just to hang out and catch up.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Asburians in L.A.

Today I unfortunately did not get to worship with my brothers and sisters at Christ’s Church - Anglican, but I did get to go to Korea-town in L.A. and worshiped at the church of one of my classmates. It was a Korean Methodist Church that we went to and I had the great pleasure of meeting an Asbury Seminary graduate, Pastor Park. We chatted for a while and I found that he had gone to Asbury in the nineties and had lived in Larabee. He seemed also to have had a wonderful experience at Asbury as I had. I was impressed with his preaching and the ministry he has in L.A. to mostly Korean-Americans in their twenties. The ministry seems to emphasize the need for community among Christians and today he concluded a sermon series on friendship. He emphasized the need of cultivating friendships that will spur us on spiritually to draw closer to God and do his will. After worship, the church served everyone a very tasty Thanksgiving dinner.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Street Evangelism 101

“For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.’”

Last night I went out for the second time to do street evangelism at a popular street-market in the nearby city of Redlands. I went with a classmate who invited me to go with him and some other men from his Bible church. I have felt a desire to do this for a while, especially after hearing of the exploits of my friends Josh and Tres in their experiences of taking the gospel to the streets. We handed out tracts and used “The Way of the Master” technique when we got to have a conversation with someone. This involves confronting a person with their own sinfulness in order to try to bring them to realizing their need for Christ. I like this method because I don’t think it is possible to come to salvation in Christ if we don’t even know what we are being saved from, that is, the wrath of God(Romans 5:9). Last night we got to pray for a number of non-Christians and we got to share the gospel with around nine or ten people. I haven’t seen anyone actually come to Christ in my two times of going out but I know that a lot of good seeds have been planted. For God’s word will not return empty. My hope is that I can eventually witness to people who will want to meet again later. It is certainly not the easiest or most enjoyable thing for me to go up to random people and preach the gospel but I am praying that God will give me courage and a greater compassion for the lost. What inspires me most about going out though is thinking of God’s glory and the worship that He deserves. I find particularly inspiring a quote from John Piper, “Missions exists because worship doesn't.”

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Jesus Christ, Superfluous?

"...all things were created by him and for him."

Occasionally I hear a theology presented that just doesn't sit right with me even though I can't discern exactly why that is at first. This happened recently where I heard a theology presented which basically claimed that we have had a wrong understanding of the character of God and that Jesus' mission was to give us a correct understanding of God's character. Jesus' mission was to show that God is good and he is not a wrathful tyrant. In this system, sin was presented as a result of the misunderstanding. Part of the reason why I had a hard time articulating exactly what it was about this theology that seemed so wrong to me was that I agree that Jesus gives us a fuller and more accurate revelation of God's character than anything else. He is after all, God incarnate. But I think it becomes very problematic when Jesus' entire mission is reduced to revealing the character of God and sin is reduced to a misunderstanding. This system turns the Fall of Man into one big misunderstanding and, in my opinion, does away with any doctrine of the atonement, save perhaps Abelard's Moral Influence Theory. It seems to empty the cross of its power by its "human wisdom." (1st Cor. 1:17) To me it basically says, if Adam and Eve would have just had more or better knowledge then the Fall never would have occurred. Of course, it was desire for the knowledge of good and evil which led to the Fall in the first place.

Worst of all though, I think this system does away with the need for Christ. After all, if sin is just a misunderstanding, then it is conceivable that an especially intelligent or enlightened person might come to the conclusion that God is good even without ever knowing anything about Christ. Maybe he would conclude this because of the beauty of nature or the pleasures of life. In this case, Christ would be unnecessary. In fact, the way in which this system was presented suggested to me that many Unitarians and liberal New-Agers are probably more sanctified than most Christians because the kind of god they believe in might seem more loving (in human terms) than a God who would send a world-wide flood, destroy cities with fire or command His people to wage war. I think what was presented was a kind of salvation by knowledge instead of salvation based on our relationship with Jesus Christ. So if certain facts about who God is are what saves us then it seems that relationship with Jesus Christ becomes unimportant. Jesus is useful but ultimately superfluous in this system.

A few years ago, at Asbury, I heard one of my more liberal-leaning classmates present a similar system (in that Jesus was superfluous). He argued that someone who loves and serves his neighbor, but who has never heard of Christ, is a better Christian than someone who has been converted to faith in Christ but who isn't as compassionate or giving. This kind of argument can be good if it inspires us to seek greater holiness and obedience to God but ultimately it has the same horrible ending as that "salvation based on knowledge" argument. While in the first argument salvation was based on knowledge of some general facts about God, now salvation becomes based on some general good works. In both systems Jesus is useful because he reveals correct facts and spurs us on to good works but Jesus in both systems is ultimately superfluous. He is unnecessary.

The only kind of theological system that will not lead to this is a system that sees Jesus as the beginning and end of all things and that does not underestimate man's fallenness and therefore his need for Christ. Either the Fall and its effects can be undone by some new knowledge or works [the general] or else they can only be undone by a relationship with a particular Person, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ [the specific]. In this day and age, systems that make Jesus superfluous are attractive to many because they are less offensive to our liberal and pluralistic sensibilities. But any system where Jesus is superfluous is not a Christian system. Christ and His glory must be at the center of everything we believe and do.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Michael Clayton

On Saturday night I enjoyed a movie with some friends from the medical school as we relaxed during our weekend after mid-terms. We ended up seeing the movie “Michael Clayton.” The movie, starring George Clooney, is a thriller and a drama involving a high-powered law firm based in New York City which is defending a corporation called U North. In my opinion, this was an excellent movie with some powerful spiritual themes. I would highly recommend it. The film painted a compelling picture of man’s utter lostness and depravity while also speaking of the spiritual desert that is Western society. The way in which these themes were presented reminded me of one of my favorite pieces of literature, The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. At one point the character, Arthur, who has become convicted about the vanity and evil of his life complains of feeling as if he were carrying a burden, as Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress did when he was made aware of the wrath to come by reading the Bible. In Christian’s case, he was blessed to meet Evangelist who directed him to the Wicket Gate on his way to Mt. Zion. The spiritual deadness of Western society was revealed in Arthur’s case where the only thing “spiritual” he found to direct him was a children’s fantasy book. We see this book later and it is marked-up and highlighted as are the Bibles of many Christians. Also, as in the case of Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress, all of Arthur’s associates believe that he has gone off the deep-end as he seeks to leave his former life behind. This, of course, is reminiscent of Paul’s writing to the Corinthians, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Making a break with the world-system, as Arthur did in the movie, will always look crazy to the worldly. Spurning the pleasures and treasures that Satan holds out to us if only we will deny our God by our actions looks crazy to those who are “doing what pagans choose to do - living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry,” as the apostle Peter said. In the end the movie has some very redeeming plot twists which I will let you find out about by watching it.

Friday, November 2, 2007

He shouts with joy because you give him victory

The Lord has brought me through my second week of medical school exams. I am overwhelmed by his providence. He has blessed me and given me my heart's desires. I will proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ, His Cross, His Resurrection and His Salvation, until I leave this world which is not my home.

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

How the king rejoices in your strength, O Lord!
He shouts with joy because you give him victory.
For you have given him his heart’s desire;
you have withheld nothing he requested.

You welcomed him back with success and prosperity.
You placed a crown of finest gold on his head.
He asked you to preserve his life,
and you granted his request.
The days of his life stretch on forever.
Your victory brings him great honor,
and you have clothed him with splendor and majesty.
You have endowed him with eternal blessings
and given him the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the Lord.
The unfailing love of the Most High will keep him from stumbling.