Sunday, November 29, 2009

We shall thank Him for every storm

If we are true Christians, we must not expect everything smooth in our journey to heaven. We must count it no strange thing, if we have to endure sicknesses, losses, bereavements, and disappointments, just like other men. Free pardon and full forgiveness, grace by the way and glory to the end – all this our Savior has promised to give. But He has never promised that we shall have no afflictions. He loves us too well to promise that.

By affliction He teaches us many precious lessons, which without it we should never learn. By affliction He shows us our emptiness and weakness, draws us to the throne of grace, purifies our affections, weans us from the world, makes us long for heaven. In the resurrection morning we shall all say, ‘it is good for me that I was afflicted.’ We shall thank God for every storm.

-J.C. Ryle (H/T: J.C. Ryle Quotes)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Battle for Joy

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Matt. 13:44

And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Luke 1:43-44

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:10-11

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, "Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Nehemiah 8:9-10

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A help to the Prodigal

I read an abridgment of John Owen's masterful Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers a little over a month ago. This book was the most insightful and profound thing I have ever read on sin and the trials in the life of a believer. Modern evangelical writers could write an entire book with the content of one paragraph by Owen and have it be praised as a weighty thing. I knew that there was so much truth to be explored in this book so I hoped to go over it again slowly in the future. I did just that a couple of days ago, going over a small section with a friend who had also read the book. Many things stood out to me in the section we went over but the thing I want to discuss here is a brief mention by Owen of one of my favorite parables, the Parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15:11-32.

When the believer is aware of some sin in their life they know that it is God alone, by His grace, Who can change their heart and destroy their sin. It is God who sanctifies. It is God who removes the heart of stone and gives the heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). While any Christian must assent to this truth it has often been difficult for me to understand how, when dealing with sin, to simply look to God for the killing of this sin instead of looking to my own strength to be free of it. And this is the question that John Owen deals with here, how can we look by faith to Christ for the killing of our sin?

Firstly, Owen says that we must, by faith, fill our heart with a right consideration of the provision that God has made in the work of Christ for the mortification of our sins. It is in reference to these riches in Christ that Owen cites the Parable of the Prodigal Son and brings out an aspect of that story which I had never thought of before. It is an aspect that I think is very important in my own battles with sin and an instruction on how we "look by faith to Christ," to be free from sin.

Owen writes:
This helped the prodigal when he was about to faint, that there was enough bread in his father's house. Even though he was a great distance from home it relieved him and strengthened him that at home he would find help. In your greatest distress and anguish, consider the fullness of grace, all the riches and treasures of strength, might, and help that are laid up in Christ for our support. 'And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace' (John 1:16). 'For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell' (Col. 1:19).
I think what struck me about this was that Owen seems to suggest that, for the Prodigal, it was a knowledge of the riches of his father which was a motivation for him to leave behind his life of debauchery. It was not simply a feeling of guilt or his disgust with the depths to which he had fallen. I know that for me in dealing with sin it has been guilt or disgust with myself that has usually been my motivation for wanting to be free. But I think looking to the riches and complete sufficiency and provision in Christ is the motivation I should have in seeking freedom from sin. Guilt and disgust seem only to motivate after I have already failed but those motivations quickly fade. A continual knowledge of my "riches and treasures" in Christ is something that I think cannot fail in motivating me toward holiness.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Your Best Life Now

The martyrdom of Polycarp, who was stabbed to death after being burned at the stake for his unyielding faith in Christ.

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
"My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives."
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
-Hebrews 12:5-7

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
-Romans 8:16-17

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
-Jesus (Matthew 16:24b-25)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Luther's Wonderful Exchange

A while back I wrote a post where I quoted John Calvin where he speaks of a "Wonderful Exchange," in his Institutes. So as I was reading In My Place Condemned He Stood, I was surprized to see that Luther also wrote a passage where he speaks of a "Wonderful Exchange." Here's Luther's version:

This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ's: and the righteousness of Christ not Christ's but ours. He has emptied himself of his righteousness that he might clothe us with it, and fill us with it: and he has taken our evils upon himself that he might deliver us from them . . . in the same manner as he grieved and suffered in our sins, and was confounded, in the same manner we rejoice and glory in his righteousness.

- Martin Luther

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How deep the Father's love for us

I'm still slowly reading Packer's In My Place Condemned He Stood and I recently came across a section which I think speaks well to an unfortunate error that is often made by people trying to grasp what happened when Jesus died. Instead of writing a big intro I'm just going to quote Packer and then leave you with a quote from John Owen which I think also goes well with with this passage. Packer writes:
It was not man, to whom God was hostile, who took the initiative to make God friendly, nor was it Jesus Christ, the eternal Son, who took the initiative to turn his Father's wrath against us into love. The idea that the kind Son changed the mind of his unkind Father by offering himself in place of sinful man is no part of the gospel message - it is a sub-Christian, indeed an anti-Christian, idea, for it denies the unity of will in the Father and the Son and so in reality falls back into polytheism, asking us to believe in two different gods.
Packer then quotes John Murray writing:
The doctrine of the propitiation is precisely this: that God loved the objects of His wrath so much that He gave His own Son to the end that He by His blood should make provision for the removal of His wrath. It was Christ's so to deal with the wrath that the loved would no longer be the objects of wrath, and love would achieve its aim of making the children of wrath the children of God's good pleasure.
Here's John Owen on the Father's love:
First, then, this is a duty wherein it is most evident that Christians are but little exercised — namely, in holding immediate communion with the Father in love. Unacquaintedness with our mercies, our privileges, is our sin as well as our trouble. We hearken not to the voice of the Spirit which is given unto us, “that we may know the things that are freely bestowed on us of God” (1 Cor. 2:12). This makes us go heavily, when we might rejoice; and to be weak, where we might be strong in the Lord. How few of the saints are experimentally acquainted with this privilege of holding immediate communion with the Father in love! With what anxious, doubtful thoughts do they look upon him! What fears, what questioning are there, of his goodwill and kindness! At the best, many think there is no sweetness at all in him toward us, but what is purchased at the high price of the blood of Jesus. It is true: that alone is the way of communication; but the free fountain and spring of all is in the bosom of the Father. “Eternal life was with the Father, and is manifested unto us.” (1 John 1:2). Let us, then—

Eye the Father as love; look not on him as an always lowering father, but as one most kind and tender. Let us look on him by faith, as one that has had thoughts of kindness toward us from everlasting. It is misapprehension of God that makes any [to] run from him, who have the least breathing wrought in them after him. “They that know you will put their trust in you” [Ps. 9:10]. Men cannot abide with God in spiritual meditations. He loses soul’s company by their want of this insight into his love. They fix their thoughts only on his terrible majesty, severity, and greatness; and so their spirits are not endeared. Would a soul continually eye his everlasting tenderness and compassion, his thoughts of kindness that have been from of old, his present gracious acceptance, [then] it could not bear an hour’s absence from him; whereas now, perhaps, it cannot watch with him one hour.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mammoth and Mono

I've spent the last six weeks on my general surgery rotation and now I'm heading to six weeks of sub-speciality surgeries before Christmas. But this weekend I celebrated the end of g-surg with a great trip to the eastern Sierra Nevada. I went with a group from a local Bible church where many of my friends in med school attend. We stayed in Mammoth Lakes Friday and Saturday night. On Saturday I got my first taste of fly-fishing at Lake Mary and then in the Owens River. I didn't catch anything but I learned a lot about casting with a fly-fishing rod and look forward to trying it again in the near future.This morning we started the day with a time of worship and Scripture reading and then a few of us headed up to Mono Lake. Mono is a very unique place - it is a large alkaline, hypersaline lake at an elevation of 6,300 ft surrounded by peaks of the Sierra Nevada. The lake has areas of interesting rock formations called tufa formed by precipitation of calcium carbonate from underwater springs. Here are some pictures from the trip:

Learning to fly-fish at Lake Mary outside of Mammoth Lakes.

The banks of the Owens River where we spent the afternoon fly-fishing. One of my classmates caught a couple of fish in here.

A chilly morning on the banks of Mono Lake.

Some tufa towers at Mono Lake. It's hard to see but the moon is in between the two towers.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Orombi: Faith of our fathers

A man whom I respect greatly, the Anglican archbishop of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi recently gave a message in Geneva, Switzerland. When I was confirmed as an Anglican I was confirmed by a pastor in the Church of Uganda serving under Archbishop Orombi so in some way he is a spiritual father to me. Here are some excerpts from his message:

Part of the difficulty we have today is that the word of God is not preached with the faithfulness of John Calvin, with the faithfulness of Martin Luther, with the passion that they had, with the desire that they had. They believed the word of God. And today the church of Christ does not believe with that passion that this is the transforming word of God...

... I speak to you because you brought us the gospel. I speak to you still because at the time you brought the gospel Africa was called the dark continent. Not because the sun does not shine in Africa. The sun shines 365 days a year but we were in perpetual spiritual darkness. Your ancestors brought the gospel to us. I'm eternally grateful. But where is that passion today? Where is that faith today? Where is that love of the word of God today? Where is that spiritual inquisitive desire that your ancestors had today? I believe with all my heart that something must be recaptured, that the whole world is waiting for the global West to rise up again and follow the footsteps of their ancestors.

-Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi

I love that line "rise up again and follow the footsteps of their ancestors," especially after talking of the faithfulness of men like Calvin and Luther. While so many in the western church strive for a man-centered "relevance" which is always seeking the newest gimmick or watered-down false gospel, Archbishop Orombi calls us back to the faith of our faithful fathers. Listen to the full message here.