Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Beyond all human understanding

The mystery of the humanity of Christ,

that He sunk Himself into our flesh,

is beyond all human understanding.

- Martin Luther (H/T: T19)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Good Tidings of Great Joy

. . . He took to Himself a body, a human body even as our own. Nor did He will merely to become embodied or merely to appear; had that been so, He could have revealed His divine majesty in some other and better way. No, He took our body, and not only so, but He took it directly from a spotless, stainless virgin, without the agency of human father - a pure body, untainted by intercourse with man. He, the Mighty One, the Artificer of all, Himself prepared this body in the virgin as a temple for Himself, and took it for His very own, as the instrument through which He was known and in which He dwelt. Thus, taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death in place of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished because, when He had fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men. This He did that that He might turn again to incorruption men who had turned back to corruption, and make them alive through death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of His resurrection. Thus He would make death to disappear from them as utterly as straw from fire.

- St. Athanasius (293-373 A.D.), from On the Incarnation

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nunc dimittis

In the quote below Lars Levi Laestadius, the great Swedish Lutheran revival leader, expresses the hope of the repentant sinner, that they would see "the Lord's Christ." Laestadius here must be taken to mean that the repentant who desire a savior will see Christ spiritually in this life when God gives them the grace to believe on Him. It is not that he was speaking of the time when all will see Christ at His return to judge the living and the dead. This is clear because near the end of the quote he speaks of those few who already "have seen Christ." As is often the case with Laestadius, perhaps because of poor translations, there is a sentence which I don't understand which reads, "They must also come into the temple through the effect of the Spirit, in that covenant when the Lord's Christ is carried in there." It is obviously a reference to Simeon being in the Temple and Christ being carried there by His parents but I'm not sure how it applies to the individual believer today.

But, on the whole, I felt that this was a good Advent quote and also appreciated the fact that he mentions one of the verses from Job I wrote about in my last post.

Then with better confidence than before he can say to the servant of self-righteousness, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." And as that saint Job had received that blessed assurance, that in his flesh he shall see God, so also old Simeon had received that assurance from the Holy Spirit that he should not taste death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And the same assurance is given even yet to all the sorrowful, penitent, and doubting souls who await the Consolation of Israel that they shall see the Lord's Christ before they leave the world. But in that seeing is needed the same kind of patience in tribulation as Job, the same kind of waiting and longing after the Lord's Christ as Simeon, for no one can receive that assurance from the Holy Spirit that he shall see God in the flesh, who has not awaited the Consolation of Israel in sorrow, penitence, and faith. And those few souls who await the Consolation of Israel in spiritual poverty, and who have the heartfelt desire that they can see Christ before they die, will soon receive that blessed assurance from the Spirit that they will not taste of death before they have seen the Lord's Christ in the flesh. They must also come into the temple through the effect of the Spirit, in that covenant when the Lord's Christ is carried in there. You sorrowful, penitent and doubting ones, have you waited a long time in spiritual poverty for the Consolation of Israel? Have you received that assurance from the Holy Spirit that you shall see Christ? And you few souls who have seen Christ and carried Him in your arms, pray as old Simeon, "Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all the people. A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel." Hear thou Consolation of Israel, the sigh of all the sorrowful, penitent, doubting and believing.

- Lars Levi Laestadius from his Sermon No. 65B from his Kirkkopostilla 1876

Monday, December 20, 2010


I know that my redeemer lives


To inaugurate what may be the last real Christmas Break of my life I headed up with some friends to Mammoth Mountain for a weekend of snowboarding. Mammoth is high in the Sierra Nevada in central California and is the most impressive ski resort I've ever seen. We got a good deal on a slopeside condo and our plan was to snowboard all day Saturday and Sunday. Four-and-a-half hours north of Loma Linda we drove into heavily falling snow in Mammoth Lakes, California as we arrived at the condo. The next morning we arose early to be the first on the lift to snowboard down untracked powder. The chest-deep powder was a challenge that morning but as the runs became more tracked-out and I adapted to the powder the day turned into an excellent day of snowboarding. The snow did not quit falling that day and fell all night Saturday night. When we headed up the slopes again Sunday morning we found that only two of the twenty-eight lifts were open because of wind and snow. It turns out that the storm we weathered in Mammoth has been part of the snowiest December ever recorded there (since record-keeping was started in 1969.) Between Friday and Sunday when we left the storm dumped 6 to 10 feet of snow.

I forgot my camera but snapped a few photos on the way out of town with my iPhone:

Some skiers make their way to the lift.

The road out of town, speed limit sign on right.

Digging one of our cars out of the snow.

After a full day of snowboarding Saturday we gathered, a group of 10, for a time of devotion, focusing on Old Testament prophecies concerning the incarnation, life and atoning death of Jesus Christ. We also read the Christmas story from Matthew and Luke. Some of the prophecies we read and meditated on were very familiar to me such as that from Genesis 3:15, ". . . he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel," and those from Isaiah and Micah. But I had not realized that the Book of Job also contains some words which seem to be Messianic in character. And certainly commentators such as Wesley and Matthew Henry saw some of these words as directly prophetic concerning Christ. It was Job 9:32-35 which especially affected me. In this section Job expresses his desire for an Arbiter between him and the holy and seemingly unapproachable God of the universe. As Job expresses his desire he says, "There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both (9:33)." Job confesses his need for an Arbiter between himself and God, the need of every sinner. But Job does not stop here. In 16:19 he confesses his hope that he does indeed have a "witness" in heaven, "Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and he who testifies for me is on high." In this verse Job seems to fit with the Old Testament saints mentioned in Hebrews 11 where the author of that book writes, "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth (11:13)." Therefore, from afar, Job sees and greets the One who is his Arbiter and Witness in Heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the "one mediator between God and men (1 Tim 2:5)." Later, in a statement that in my opinion points to Christ's incarnation and Job's eventual resurrection, (although the text note in my ESV Study Bible doesn't jump to that conclusion as it says, "Because of Job's earlier laments and the difficulty of the Hebrew in v. 26, interpreters have questioned the likelihood that Job is expressing in these verses a belief that God will redeem him after death."), Job wonderfully proclaims, "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another (Job 19:25-27a)." Job knew that he would, in the flesh, see his Redeemer, the One who said, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9b)."

Job's desire for an Arbiter between himself and God, one who could, "lay his hand on us both," reminded me of something I had just read from St. Irenaeus last week. He wrote, concerning Christ:

[In this way] He attached and united man to God. Had man not vanquished the enemy of man, the enemy would not have been justly vanquished. On the other hand, had it not been God who granted salvation, we could never have possessed it securely. And if man had not been united to God, he could never have become a partaker of incorruptibility. It required the Mediator of God and men, through His kinship with both, to bring back both to friendship and concord, presenting man to God, revealing God to man.

During Advent as we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation of our Lord and also look forward to His glorious Parousia, it is good to be reminded of the necessity of God the Son becoming fully and truly man to redeem sinners. Christ's Incarnation was not some arbitrary choice of God in determining how He would save sinners but it was necessary and the only fitting manner in which God would accomplish His sovereign purpose.

When I arrived back in Loma Linda I opened my copy of Pascal's Pensées, which I had recently purchased and came across a quote which fit very well with our recent devotional time focusing on the prophecies concerning Christ. Pascal wrote:

If a single man had written a book foretelling the time and manner of Jesus' coming and Jesus had come in comformity with these prophecies, this would carry infinite weight.

But there is much more here. There is a succession of men over a period of 4,000 years, coming consistently and invariably one after the other, to foretell the same coming; there is an entire people proclaiming it, existing for 4,000 years to testify in a body to the certainty they feel about it, from which they cannot be deflected by whatever threats and persecutions they may suffer. This is of a quite different order of importance.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Star with royal beauty bright

there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel
- Numbers 24:17 (KJV)

How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment. And all the rest of the starts, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike to everything else [in the heavens]. Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life.

- Ignatius of Antioch (First Century Apostolic Father and martyr) from his Letter to the Ephesians

Saturday, December 11, 2010

New Blog

My good friend Josh just started a new blog called Beyond Clichés. He is a very good writer and a man who loves the Lord. I encourage you to check it out.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Irenaeus and the Wonderful Exchange

I was looking for a good advent quote to put up on my blog but couldn't find anything that seemed very fitting. As I was flipping through some stuff on my bookshelf I came across a collection of writings by the 2nd Century Christian St. Irenaeus. Irenaeus had been a student of the martyr Polycarp who, in turn, had known the Apostle John. One theme in theology I've become interested in is the idea of a "Wonderful Exchange" which took place between God and man in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Luther and Calvin both write on this theme, along with Patristic writers. Irenaeus touches on this theme, perhaps a bit more obliquely than those mentioned, in his most famous work, Against Heresies. Here are a few short quotes which I found interesting:
The Son of God became the Son of Man, so that through Him we might receive adoption. This takes place when man receives and bears and embraces the Son of God.

Spiritual though it was (Rom. 7:14), the law only manifested sin; it did not suppress it, for sin did not hold sway just over the spirit, but over the [whole] man. It was necessary, therefore, that the One who came to slay sin, and to redeem man deserving of death, should become precisely what man is, namely man. It was man who was dragged by sin into slavery and held fast by death, and so it had to be a man by whom sin was slain, a man who went forth from death.

There was no other way for us to receive incorruptibility and immortality than to be united to incorruptibility and immortality. But how could we be united to incorruptibility and immortality without incorruptibility and immortality first becoming what we are, the perishable putting on imperishability, the mortal putting on immortality (cf 1 Cor. 15:54), 'so that we might receive adoption as sons' (Gal. 4:5)?

Monday, December 6, 2010


Lately I've been trying to do an in depth study of Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians. I've been going slowly section by section, praying verse by verse and then writing out what I'm seeing as I read - basically writing my own commentary. It is amazing the depth of truth you begin to see when you actually spend some time and energy in one place in Scripture - and I feel like I've barely scratched the surface.

Recently a friend gave me the gift of a commentary on Ephesians. It is Charles Hodge's commentary from the Crossway Classic Commentaries series edited by Alister McGrath and J.I. Packer. This is a really excellent series and includes commentaries on various books of the Bible by J.C. Ryle, Luther, Calvin, John Owen and Spurgeon among others.

I was reading Hodge's excellent introduction to his commentary and I was impressed by something he wrote as he argued against the theological liberals who even at his time were trying to cast doubt on all the books of the Bible. Ephesians did not escape the attacks of these liberals who made various arguments contending that the book had not really been written by the apostle Paul as it claims to be. Hodge does an excellent job of taking apart the arguments of these men. The quote that really stood out to me comes from a section where Hodge is arguing for the genuineness of the letter as truly being written by Paul the apostle. Hodge wrote of Ephesians:
Finally and mainly, the letter reveals itself as the work of the Holy Spirit, as clearly as the stars declare their maker to be God. In no part of the sacred Scriptures are the self-evidencing light and power of divine truth more concentrated than they are here. Had it been first discovered in the nineteenth century in a forsaken monastery, it would command the faith of the whole church.
After spending a good amount of time in this letter recently all I can say to that is "amen."

Friday, December 3, 2010


As with many other times during the past three and a half years, the relative dearth of posts in the past week has been related to an increased level of busyness on my part. My busyness is secondary to the rotation I'm now on - Nephrology, medicine dealing with the kidneys. I was scheduled to be on this elective rotation for two weeks but I extended it to a month because I was learning a lot. A nephrologist I'm working with recently remarked that nephrology is the "final common pathway" of internal medicine patients. I think this remark has a lot of truth to it. It seems like almost every patient I've seen in internal medicine has some electrolyte or acid-base issue, all of which relate to the kidneys. If someone's potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, etc., etc., is too high or too low it almost invariably has something to do with their kidneys. If someone's blood is too acidic or too basic it often has to do with their kidneys. If someone can't hold onto their water so they have to drink all the time or if they can't get rid of extra water and they swell up - yep, the kidneys. This is one organ you don't want to screw up. But unfortunately some of the diseases that are becoming more and more common like diabetes and high blood pressure directly affect the kidneys and basically destroy them.

I chose this rotation because I know this is an area of weakness for me. The kidneys are extremely complex. During our second year of med school we had to memorize a much more complicated version of the schematic of a nephron below. Some of it is slowly coming back to me on this rotation.

As with many other parts of the body, when you look at them in detail you can't help but exclaim with the Psalmist that we are, "fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14a)."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Delight in Assertions!

Luther's The Bondage of the Will has turned out to be a captivating read. One aspect of it which I find somewhat amazing is that it seems Luther speaks to the situation in the Church today no less than he did 500 years ago. In the section below Luther reprimands Erasmus for minimizing the importance of assertions or belief in objective statements of truth from God's Word. Erasmus' goal in downplaying the importance of these assertions seems to have been, to some degree, a desire for unity among Christians - a desire for unity between Luther and the pope. But ostensibly good ends (unity among Christians) do not justify evil means (compromising on truth). I found this reminder from Luther very timely as this lack of respect for right assertions, that is, right doctrine (orthodoxy), seems rampant within Evangelicalism today. As in Luther's day, minimizing the importance of right doctrine today is often done in the name of unity.
To take no pleasure in assertions is not the mark of a Christian heart; indeed, one must delight in assertions to be a Christian at all. (Now, lest we be misled by words, let me say here that by 'assertion' I mean staunchly holding your ground, stating your position, confessing it, defending it and persevering in it unvanquished. I do not think that the term has any other meaning, either in classical authors or in present-day usage. And I am talking about the assertion of what has been delivered to us from above in the Sacred Scriptures.) . . .

. . . Away, now, with Skeptics and Academics from the company of us Christians; let us have men who will assert, men twice as inflexible as very Stoics! Take the Apostle Paul - how often does he call for that 'full assurance' (Col. 2:2, 1 Thess. 1:5; Heb. 6:11, 10:22) which is, simply, an assertion of conscience, of the highest degree of certainty and conviction. In Rom. 10 he calls it 'confession' - 'with the mouth confession is made unto salvation' (v. 10). Christ says, 'Whosoever confesseth me before men, him will I confess before my Father' (Matt. 10:32). Peter commands us to give a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15). And what need is there of a multitude of proofs? Nothing is more familiar or characteristic among Christians than assertion. Take away assertions, and you take away Christianity. . .

. . . The Holy Spirit is no Skeptic, and the things He has written in our hearts are not doubts or opinions, but assertions - surer and more certain than sense and life itself.

-Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good...

. . .for his steadfast love endures forever!
-Psalm 107:1

O my God,

Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects,
my heart admires, adores, loves thee,
for my little vessel is as full as it can be,
and I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow.
When I think upon and converse with thee
ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
crowding into every moment of happiness.
I bless thee for the soul thou hast created,
for adorning it, sanctifying it,
though it is fixed in barren soil;
for the body thou hast given me,
for preserving its strength and vigour,
for providing senses to enjoy delights,
for the ease and freedom of my limbs,
for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;
for thy royal bounty providing my daily support,
for a full table and overflowing cup,
for appetite, taste, sweetness,
for social joys of relatives and friends,
for ability to serve others,
for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,
for a mind to care for my fellow-men,
for opportunities of spreading happiness around,
for loved ones in the joys of heaven,
for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.
I love thee above the powers of language to express,
for what thou art to thy creatures.
Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.

- From: The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

Monday, November 22, 2010

Who Maketh Thee to Differ?

Yesterday I was blessed by a great time of fellowship and Bible study, the topic of which was the sin of pride. This is a sin which vexes me and I was surprised by the "divine appointment" of walking unexpecting into this Bible study. I saw it as a "divine appointment" because I have felt particularly convicted of this sin this week and I had just asked a brother pray for me earlier that day that God would humble me. Asking for humbling from God is not something that I take lightly at all and it is actually a prayer that causes me to fear. A brother once prayed for me that I would be humbled a few years ago, without my asking, and the Lord did humble me, and it was painful - a necessary and painful blessing. But that is not really the topic I want to write about now.

As we were talking about pride yesterday one portion of Scripture which came up was the beginning of 1st Corinthians chapter 4. The context of this passage seems to me primarily to be Paul's concerns about the divisions in the Corinthian church and the prideful sects that had arisen, saying things like "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos (3:4)." Paul points out that he and Apollos were nothing but servants who "planted" and "watered," and that "God gave the growth (3:5, 6)." Paul then concludes that, "neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth (3:7)." Paul then seems to diverge briefly in verses 11-20 but then comes back to writing about the sects that had arisen. In verses 21-23 he writes, "So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future - all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's." The thing that caught my eye in these verses was Paul's mention of boasting. I think the idea of boasting is very important for understanding the nature of God's grace and the salvation of sinners. Paul uses a word translated as "boast" or "boasting" at least 37 times in his letters in the ESV. Often he speaks of boasting as it is related to our salvation which is by grace alone in Christ alone. In communicating the kind of salvation which sinners have in Christ, Paul writes that it is a kind of salvation, "so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:9)." We can offer nothing for the procurement of salvation, it is only a free gift from a merciful and just God, therefore we have nothing in ourselves of which to boast. And the salvation which God freely makes available by His grace was purchased with an infinite price, the shed blood of the spotless Lamb of God and King of the Universe, Jesus Christ.

With all of these things in mind, last night during this Bible study I read 1st Corinthians 4:7, "For who makes you to differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" First of all I must point out that I was reading an NKJV last night as my trusty ESV is currently MIA. So perhaps the reason this verse, which I've read many times, stood out to me so profoundly was that I read it in a version I'm not used to reading. And with further research on this verse today I see that there is a lot of variation in the way it's translated in different versions. The line which stood out particularly to me was, "For who makes you to differ from another?" Had I been reading my ESV I would have read, "For who sees anything different in you?" Without my ESV I've also been using my NLT a lot lately which has, "For what gives you the right to make such a judgment?" The NIV is surprisingly close to the NKJV with "For who makes you different from anyone else."

But it was the NKJV which struck me last night so I'll focus on that translation. Once again 1 Corinthians 4:7, "For who makes you to differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" When Paul asks that question in the last part of the verse, "why do you boast as if you had not received it?" I think the same thought could be expressed positively as, "why do you boast as if you had whatever you're boasting of as an inherent quality or possession in yourself." It is clear that Paul is saying that whatever the Corinthians have, that it is a gift from God and therefore something they have no right to boast about. The second part of this verse helps to clarify the first part. Paul asks, "for who makes you to differ from another?" Paul obviously asks this question with various blessings a person might possess in mind. I think this question, "who makes you to differ from another?" is applicable to every gift we have from God whether it be some "innate" ability in areas such as academics or sports or more particular spiritual gifts like healing, prophecy or tongues (1 Cor. 12:9-10). But above our "natural" abilities and spiritual gifts is the gift of salvation in Christ itself.

It is this gift of salvation which I first thought of when I read, "who makes you to differ?" I thought of this because about five years ago when I vehemently claimed the label "Arminian" for myself, I asked a friend this very question as I wrestled with what I saw as the inconsistency of Arminianism with salvation by grace alone. I asked my friend, a man whom I respect greatly to this day and who remains an Arminian, a question very similar to the one Paul asked in 1 Corinthians 4:7. We were talking about "prevenient" grace and salvation and I asked him, if I and another man both heard the gospel preached and both received the grace to either decide to follow Christ or to deny him, what was it in me that caused me to follow Christ while the other man rejected Him? I was asking my friend, what made us to differ? To me this question, which I think is inevitable in the Arminian system, is a significant problem. It seems to me that if this question can even be asked it must imply that there was something better in those who in the end choose Christ even if they were brought to that point of decision by God's grace. They must be smarter or holier or luckier but the thought of any of these things being a cause of salvation must be rejected in light of Paul's rejection of boasting in ourselves concerning our salvation. If I chose Christ, if I "differed," because I was smarter or holier or luckier then I have something to boast of in myself and I have my own self to thank for my salvation. But boasting is excluded. And it is obvious what the answer is to Paul's question, "who makes you to differ from another?" The answer is that God by His grace makes you to differ. The answer to Paul's rhetorical question, "what do you have that you did not receive?" is "nothing."

So it was surprising to me to see Paul asking in Scripture the very question I had posed years ago and years prior to my rejection of Arminianism or a least what passes for Arminianism today. My friend didn't have any answer for my question, by the way, and if I remember right he basically said that it was a question that shouldn't be asked. Maybe he is right but at least for the present I have come to different conclusions. Whenever I think I see something in Scripture which I hadn't seen before I always like to check and see if others have seen the same thing. I think this is especially important in a verse like 1st Corinthians 4:7 where there is a lot of variation in the way it is translated. So as usual I went to my favorite Bible commentator, John Calvin, to see what he had to say. What I found did not disappoint. In regards to the words. "to differ," or in Calvin's version, "to distinguish," the reformer wrote:
To distinguish here means to render eminent. Augustine, however, does not ineptly make frequent use of this declaration for maintaining, in opposition to the Pelagians, that whatever there is of excellence in mankind, is not implanted in him by nature, so that it could be ascribed either to nature or to descent; and farther, that it is not acquired by free will, so as to bring God under obligation, but flows from his pure and undeserved mercy. For there can be no doubt that Paul here contrasts the grace of God with the merit or worthiness of men.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Books! #3

4th year of medical school is somewhat more laid-back than the first three years so I'm planning on getting some good reading in before the start of internship in June. I'm excited to get started on the two most recent titles I picked up:

I'm already about halfway through J.I. Packer's and O.R. Johnston's magisterial introduction to Luther's The Bondage of the Will. This book would have been worth purchasing for the introduction alone. In this introduction I recognize the same passion for truth that I saw in J.I. Packer's In My Place Condemned He Stood. Especially interesting has been reading about the great intellectual humanist Erasmus and his complicated relationship to Luther. One of the most powerful lines I've read in the introduction was penned by Erasmus when Luther went missing after his appearance at the Diet of Worms before Emperor Charles V. Erasmus wrote in a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Warham, concerning Luther, "It's all up with that spark of gospel love, that tiny star of gospel light." Packer and Johnston, who I believe to be worthy interpreters, understand Erasmus to be showing genuine regret about what seemed to him to be imminent - the burning of Luther.

I also bought a copy of Pascal's Pensées, a classic I've long wanted to check out. Pensées should give me a good diversion from all the Reformed stuff I've been reading lately.

Monday, November 15, 2010

George MacDonald: Doubt

. . . but some doubted.
- Matthew 28:17b
Thou doubtest because thou lovest the truth. Some would willingly believe life but a phantasm, if only it might for ever afford them a world of pleasant dreams: thou art not of such! Be content for a while not to know surely. The hour will come, and that ere long, when, being true, thou shalt behold the very truth, and doubt will be forever dead. Scarce, then, wilt thou be able to recall the features of the phantom. Thou wilt then know that which thou canst not now dream. Thou hast not yet looked the Truth in the face, hast as yet at best but seen him through a cloud. That which thou seest not, and never didst see save in a glass darkly - that which, indeed, never can be known save by its innate splendour shining straight into pure eyes - that thou canst not but doubt, and art blameless in doubting until thou seest it face to face, when thou wilt no longer be able to doubt it. But to him who has once seen even a shadow only of the truth, and, even but hoping he has seen it when it is present no longer, tries to obey it - to him the real vision, the Truth himself, will come, and depart no more, but abide with him for ever.

-George MacDonald from his novel Lilith

Thursday, November 11, 2010

There may I though vile as he

In honor of the thief and to the infinitely greater honor of Christ the Lord.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Chrysostom: On the basis of faith alone

Let us see, however, whether the brigand gave evidence of effort and upright deeds and a good yield. Far from his being able to claim even this, he made his way into paradise before the apostles with a mere word, on the basis of faith alone, the intention being for you to learn that it was not so much a case of his sound values prevailing as the Lord's lovingkindness being completely responsible.
What, in fact, did the brigand say? What did he do? Did he fast? Did he weep? Did he tear his garments? Did he display repentance in good time? Not at all: on the cross itself after his utterance he won salvation. Note the rapidity: from cross to heaven, from condemnation to salvation. What were those wonderful words, then? What great power did they have that they brought him such marvelous good things? "Remember me in your kingdom." What sort of word is that? He asked to receive good things, he showed no concern for them in action; but the one who knew his heart paid attention not to the words but to the attitude of mind.
-John Chrysostom, who lived from 347 - 407AD and was Archbishop of Constantinople from his Sermon 7 on Genesis, in St. John Chrysostom, Eight Sermons on the Book of Genesis

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Calvin: Salvation by free grace

What follows is a quote from Calvin's commentary on Luke 23:42-43, "Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' Jesus answered him, 'Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.'" It is longer than most quotes I post but I think it is an excellent analysis of the passage by Calvin. The Reformer expands here on the Thief's salvation through faith alone.

Though Christ had not yet made a public triumph over death, still he displays the efficacy and fruit of his death in the midst of his humiliation. And in this way he shows that he never was deprived of the power of his kingdom; for nothing more lofty or magnificent belongs to a divine King, than to restore life to the dead. So then, Christ, although, struck by the hand of God, he appeared to be a man utterly abandoned, yet as he did not cease to be the Savior of the world, he was always endued with heavenly power for fulfilling his office. And, first, we ought to observe his inconceivable readiness in so kindly receiving the robber without delay, and promising to make him a partaker of a happy life. There is therefore no room to doubt that he is prepared to admit into his kingdom all, without exception, who shall apply to him. Hence we may conclude with certainty that we shall be saved, provided that he remember us; and it is impossible that he shall forget those who commit to him their salvation.

But if a robber found the entrance into heaven so easy, because, while he beheld on all sides ground for total despair, he relied on the grace of Christ; much more will Christ, who has now vanquished death, stretch out his hand to us from his throne, to admit us to be partakers of life. For since Christ has, “nailed to his cross the handwriting which was opposed to us, (Colossians 2:14,) and has destroyed death and Satan, and in his resurrection has triumphed over the prince of the world, (John 12:31,) it would be unreasonable to suppose that the passage from death to life will be more laborious and difficult to us than to the robber. Whoever then in dying shall commit to Christ, in true faith, the keeping of his soul, will not be long detained or allowed to languish in suspense; but Christ will meet his prayer with the same kindness which he exercised towards the robber. Away, then, with that detestable contrivance of the Sophists about retaining the punishment when the guilt is removed; for we see how Christ, in acquitting him from condemnation, frees him also from punishment. Nor is this inconsistent with the fact, that the robber nevertheless endures to the very last the punishment which had been pronounced upon him; for we must not here imagine any compensation which serves the purpose of satisfaction for appeasing the judgment of God, (as the Sophists dream,) but the Lord merely trains his elect by corporal punishments to displeasure and hatred of sin. Thus, when the robber has been brought by fatherly discipline to self-denial Christ receives him, as it were, into his bosom, and does not send him away to the fire of purgatory.

We ought likewise to observe by what keys the gate of heaven was opened to the robber; for neither papal confession nor satisfactions are here taken into account, but Christ is satisfied with repentance and faith, so as to receive him willingly when he comes to him. And this confirms more fully what I formerly suggested, that if any man disdain to abide by the footsteps of the robber, and to follow in his path, he deserves everlasting destruction, because by wicked pride he shuts against himself the gate of heaven. And, certainly, as Christ has given to all of us, in the person of the robber, a general pledge of obtaining forgiveness, so, on the other hand, he has bestowed on this wretched man such distinguished honor, in order that, laying aside our own glory, we may glory in nothing but the mercy of God alone. If each of us shall truly and seriously examine the subject, we shall find abundant reason to be ashamed of the prodigious mass of our crimes, so that we shall not be offended at having for our guide and leader a poor wretch, who obtained salvation by free grace.

-John Calvin, Commentaries

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Faith Alone

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved
- Sts. Paul and Silas (Acts 16:31a)

A classmate and I have been meeting with a group of unchurched kids from San Bernardino for Bible studies for almost two years now. It has been a challenging and rewarding ministry. Recently we discussed a passage from the Gospel of Luke which gives me much joy and hope. It is a passage that speaks strongly against those religious people who would add in various works or rituals or ceremonies as prerequisites for salvation in Jesus Christ.
The passage we talked about was Luke 23:39-43. This passage recounts the crucifixion of our Lord and it is here in Luke's gospel that we get some added details about Christ's interactions with those who were also crucified near Him.

As we've done this Bible study with these kids it has been our goal to preach the gospel every time we meet. We aren't trying to give them some kind of Sunday school style moralism where we just tell them they should obey their parents because the Bible says so or something like that. Of course we encourage them to be good people and to do the right thing but we also try constantly to convey the truth that we can never live up to God's standards and that we are all guilty sinners, deserving of hell, before His perfect holiness.

This is where we tried to start when we discussed this passage from Luke. We actually started in Isaiah, with the prophet's vision of God in Isaiah chapter 6. We read Isaiah 6:1-5 and tried to convey a sense of God's greatness and holiness. We were on a large hill, overlooking Loma Linda, Redlands and San Bernardino when we did our study so we asked these kids to imagine looking out at an enormous throne of God, larger than the San Gabriel Mountains to the north, with angels encircling it, shielding their faces from His glory. After talking about Isaiah's fear before the throne of God where he said, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts! (Isaiah 6:5)," we asked them to imagine standing alone before God's throne, being judged. We pointed out that Isaiah, who said, "Woe is me!," was a "good guy" when compared to most people. He was a prophet of God. He wrote a book of the Bible. We asked them, "if Isaiah (a "good" guy) was fearful before God's throne, what hope would a man who had been a criminal his whole life have before the throne of God?" I don't remember their answers but it was at this point that we had one of them read the passage from Luke 23.

After reading the passage, ending with verses 42 and 43, "And he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' And he said to him, 'Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise,'" we asked them, at this point what did the thief have to do to get to heaven? The obvious answer to this question was "nothing." We then asked, after this thief died and he was standing before God's throne, what would have been his hope of salvation? We asked specifically whether some good deed he had done in life would be his hope for salvation when he stood before God's throne. Their answer was that Jesus said he would be in paradise that day and because we have taught them that Jesus is God, obviously His word is trustworthy, therefore Christ's decree would be the thief's hope. We next asked whether the thief had to pay for his sins or be punished by God for his sins. It is true that he was being crucified for his crimes but I think they realized that if this thief was going to be in paradise that day then he was not going to pay for his sins or be punished by God. We then asked if someone else payed for the thief's sins or if someone else suffered in his place. I think no other place in Scripture illustrates more vividly the substitutionary atonement, "and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. . . Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him (Isaiah 53:6b and 10a)." At this point we again shared the gospel with them.

In our study we did not forget that "we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph. 2:10)." I used our taking time weekly to lead a Bible study as an example of obedience to God. But I said that this obedience to God was only out of gratitude for the cross and His grace and had nothing to do with any hope of earning or contributing to my salvation. And I think the same is true for that thief on the cross who was saved by grace alone through faith alone. Had he somehow been taken off of that cross prior to his death but after putting his faith in Christ, I certainly believe he would have been baptized, he would have participated in the Lord's Supper and he would have led a life characterized by repentance. But it would have been clear that none of these works had earned his salvation. They would have been things done in love for God in response to his salvation and because he was a new creation in Christ.

The fact that some who claim to follow Christ debate about whether we are saved by grace alone through faith in Christ alone versus being saved by our works or some contribution of our works amazes me on the one hand but doesn't surprise me on the other. It amazes me because I think this truth, of salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ alone is essential to the gospel and is expressed so clearly by the apostle Paul, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph. 2:8-9)." It doesn't surprise me though, that this would be controversial, because the idea of salvation by grace alone through faith alone runs so contrary to the natural way of thinking according to our sin nature. I think this is evident in the fact that every other world religion, as far as I know, is some form of works-righteousness and this heart of the gospel is under constant attack even within Christendom and has been since Pentecost. This heart of the gospel which is, "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes," that salvation is by God's grace alone through faith in Christ alone and purchased for us by His atoning death, has even been mostly lost at times in the history of the Church. This was the case prior to the Reformation, that great outpouring of God's grace which we celebrate today. And I think that today even in so-called Evangelicalism most churches assume that everyone already believes the gospel and consequently the true gospel is rarely preached. But I also think the simple heart of the gospel is such a tremendous and glorious truth which we are so prone to forget or underestimate that it is something we can never get past and must constantly hear preached.

When I first started thinking about this text from Luke as a defense of salvation by grace alone through faith alone I wanted to make sure that other Christians had seen the same thing in this passage. So it was a great joy to read commentaries on this passage by two men of God, both of whom I respect greatly. The first I read was by John Calvin. Calvin wrote:
And this confirms more fully what I formerly suggested, that if any man disdain to abide by the footsteps of the robber, and to follow his path, he deserves everlasting destruction, because by wicked pride he shuts against himself the gate of heaven. And, certainly, as Christ has given to all of us, in the person of the robber, a general pledge of obtaining forgiveness, so, on the other hand, he has bestowed on this wretched man such distinguished honor, in order that, laying aside our own glory, we may glory in nothing but the mercy of God alone.
Calvin calls us all to follow in the path of the robber and glory in nothing but the mercy of God alone. Calvin has many other wonderful things to say about this passage in his commentary and, Lord willing, I will quote some more of what he wrote in the coming week. The second commentator I ran into, which in some ways brought me even more joy than Calvin's writing, is a great Patristic voice, John Chrysostom who lived between 349 and 407 A.D. Chrysostom was the Archbishop of Constantinople and writes with great clarity on the subject of salvation through faith alone. Chrysostom in his Sermon 7 on Genesis writes:
Let us see, however, whether the brigand gave evidence of effort and upright deeds and a good yield. Far from his being able to claim even this, he made his way into paradise before the apostles with a mere word, on the basis of faith alone...
I'll also post a longer and more complete quote from Chrysostom in the coming week.

Happy Reformation Day!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In Honor of Estes

My last post about my old seminary chapel at Asbury started me reminiscing about the blessings of being able to worship there. One of my favorite hymns to sing in that chapel, packed with seminarians and our professors and with Albin Whitworth playing the pipe organ, was Charles Wesley’s And Can It Be.

The lyrics of this hymn are very rich and I always loved singing the very monergistic recounting of Charles' own conversion:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
fast bound in sin and nature's night;
thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
my chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Importance of a Chapel

In recent days I've been reading on a couple of Anglican blogs about the fire and destruction of the chapel at Virginia Theological Seminary. Many commenters reflected on their experiences in that chapel and how it was an important place for them. Reading these comments made me realize how much of a loss I would feel if I heard that the chapel at Asbury Theological Seminary, Estes Chapel, was destroyed. Estes Chapel is a very significant place for me when it comes to God's work of grace in my own life. The stained glass portrait of Christ on the upper right-hand corner of this blog is the stained glass window at the front of Estes Chapel. In my house in Loma Linda I have a picture of Estes Chapel hanging on my wall as a reminder of my two years at Asbury in Wilmore, Kentucky. I pray for the Lord to comfort all of those who feel a great loss in the destruction of the chapel at Virginia Theological Seminary and I thank Him for the blessing He's given me in also knowing a seminary chapel which is such an important place for me.

Estes Chapel at night.

Inside of Estes, that circular window in the front is the same as the picture in the upper right-hand corner of this blog.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


For the last two weeks I've been back in Loma Linda completing my required Emergency Medicine rotation of 4th year. It has been an interesting change of pace from the last 6 months which was filled with Internal Medicine and IM related fields. The pace of the first day in the ER was a bit of a jolt but it's been a good two weeks. I've seen quite a few interesting patients. The first patient I saw was a pretty classic presentation of acute appendicitis. CT confirmed the appy and he went to surgery that night. Some of the other stuff I've seen in the past two weeks includes...

1. Multiple fractures including a patient who had a complete transverse femur fracture.
2. Multiple patients with chest pain, none of whom were having a heart attack.
3. A patient without chest pain who was having a STEMI (heart attack.)
4. Parkinson's disease decompensation
5. A needle stick injury to a healthcare worker
6. Crohn's disease exacerbation
7. A kid with the flu
8. Cervicitis
9. A kid with an asthma attack
10. A kid with croup
11. DKA
12. A good number of patients with various pains without obvious diagnoses.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Burning trust in the mercy of God

There is also the passage in James 2:17: "So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." He did well to say this, for he was reprimanding those who thought that faith is merely a historical opinion about Christ. For just as Paul calls one type of faith "true," and the other "feigned," so James calls the one kind "living" and the other "dead." A living faith is that efficacious, burning trust in the mercy of God which never fails to bring forth good fruits. That is what James says in ch. 2:22: "Faith was completed by works." Likewise, because his works declared that Abraham had this living faith, Scripture was fulfilled where it says (v. 23): "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." Therefore, the whole point that James is making is that dead faith, that frigid "opinion" of the Parisian theologians, does not justify, but a living faith justifies. But a living faith is that which pours itself out in works. For he speaks as follows (v. 18): "Show me your faith apart from works, and I by my works will show you my faith." But he does not say: "I shall show you works without faith." My exposition squares most harmoniously with what we read in James: "So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." Therefore, it is obvious that he is teaching here merely that faith is dead in those who do not bring forth the fruit of faith, even though from external appearances they may seem to believe.
- Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560), Loci Communes Theologici

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Therefore, we are justified when:

Therefore, we are justified when, put to death by the law, we are made alive again by the word of grace promised in Christ; the gospel forgives our sins, and we cling to Christ in faith, not doubting in the least that the righteousness of Christ is our righteousness, that the satisfaction Christ wrought is our expiation, and that the resurrection of Christ is ours. In a word, we do not doubt at all that our sins have been forgiven and that God now favors us and wills our good. Nothing, therefore, of our own works, however good they may seem to be, constitutes our righteousness. But faith alone in the mercy of and grace of God in Christ Jesus is our righteousness.

- Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560), Loci Communes Theologici

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Precious Blood

Blessed Lord Jesus,

Before thy cross I kneel and see
the heinousness of my sin,
my iniquity that caused thee to be
'made a curse',
the evil that excites the severity
of divine wrath.

Show me the enormity of my guilt by
the crown of thorns,
the pierced hands and feet,
the bruised body,
the dying cries.

Thy blood is the blood of incarnate God,
its worth infinite, its value beyond all thought.

Infinite must be the evil and guilt
that demands such a price.

Sin is my malady, my monster, my foe, my viper,
born in my birth,
alive in my life,
strong in my character,
dominating my faculties,
following me as a shadow,
intermingling with my every thought,
my chain that holds me captive in the
empire of my soul.

Sinner that I am, why should the sun give me light,
the air supply breath,
the earth bear my tread,
its fruits nourish me,
its creatures subserve my ends?

Yet thy compassions yearn over me,
thy heart hastens to my rescue,
thy love endured my curse,
thy mercy bore my deserved stripes.

Let me walk humbly in the lowest depths
of humiliation,
bathed in thy blood,
tender of conscience,
triumphing gloriously as an heir of salvation.


From: The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Last weekend I made it to the last location I had planned to see while at Ft. Bliss. I headed out to Carlsbad Caverns on Saturday but upon arrival found that the elevators were malfunctioning and they weren't letting anyone down. I elected to stay in Carlsbad, New Mexico with the hope of seeing the caverns the next day. I was disappointed not to be back in El Paso for church on Sunday as I had been very blessed to worship at the Anglican Church of St. Clement on my first Sunday in the city and had hoped to return there. But on Sunday they were allowing people to hike in and out of the caverns as the elevators were still not working. I was not disappointed by what I saw upon descending 750 ft below the ground.

The entrance to the caverns

Carlsbad Caverns

Ansel Adams described the caverns more eloquently than I ever could. He described the caverns as, "something that should not exist in relation to human beings. Something that is as remote as the galaxy, incomprehensible as a nightmare, and beautiful in spite of everything."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

No angel in the sky can fully bear that Sight

Crown Him the Lord of years
The Potentate of time
Creator of the rolling spheres
Ineffably sublime!

Monday, October 4, 2010

When we stand before Him - Part 2

Over the weekend I found myself with some unexpected free time without any of the books I had brought along to read. I stopped at a bookstore and picked up one of the few C.S. Lewis books I hadn't previously read, a collection of essays called The Weight of Glory. As I read the first essay I was surprised to see that Lewis was dealing with many of the same issues I wrote about in my last blog post. I think some of what Lewis wrote might serve as a bit of a corrective to the attitude I wrote with in that last post. I don't disagree with anything I wrote, at least not at the moment, but I think Lewis makes a good point about the glory that the Christian can hope for in heaven. Lewis writes:
. . . And that is enough to raise our thoughts to what may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that it is her doing. With no taint of what we should now call self-approval she will most innocently rejoice in the thing that God has made her to be, and the moment which heals her old inferiority complex forever will also drown her pride deeper than Prospero's book. Perfect humility dispenses with modesty. If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself; "it is not for her to bandy compliments with her Sovereign.". . .
. . . It is written that we shall "stand before" Him, shall appear, shall be inspected. The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God.
Lewis' Arminianism perhaps comes out in his line about anyone who "really chooses," and that is a whole other debate I don't mean to touch on here. But when it comes to a redeemed person pleasing God, "only possible by the work of Christ," I think Lewis' thoughts in light of the rest of his essay are well argued from Scripture. It's been a blessing to read Lewis', as usual, amazing thoughts in this essay and it's helped me to think more about how I should understand good works.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

When we stand before Him

I heard something the other day that really didn't sit well with me. It's a sentiment I've heard expressed on other occasions. In this recent situation, a person was talking about tithing. She was encouraging Christians to tithe or to offer a proper amount of money to God. In an attempt to be encouraging she made reference to the last day when we will stand before the Lord. She basically said that when we stand before the Lord we don't want to be ashamed of ourselves because we didn't give enough. When I heard this my stomach kind of turned. By this line of reasoning she was implying that instead of having something to be ashamed of when we meet our Lord (not having given enough money), we should strive to have something to be proud of (in this case having given enough money). If we have something to be proud of when we meet our Lord that means we have something to boast of. I think if a person can make a statement like this they have either forgotten, misunderstood or never really believed the gospel. I think this kind of thinking also stems from a popular misconception where people are seen as not really being as bad off as the Bible says we are without Christ. Instead of being spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1). Instead of believing what David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote about mankind, "there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They all have turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one(Psalm 14:1-3)." Instead of the total depravity of man which is revealed in Scripture, mankind is viewed as being injured or weakened. In an injured or weakened state we could contribute something, we could do something in obtaining salvation which we could boast of. But Paul clearly condemns all boasting about human ability or merit in light of the gospel. Paul writes, "Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law (Romans 3:27-28)." Paul also writes, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9)."

But this woman was not speaking specifically of gaining salvation. She was speaking of a work done by a Christian who has already received salvation in Christ. It could be argued that this case is different from salvation where it is obvious that boasting is excluded. But boasting about our works before the Lord, even if we have been born again and are new creations in Christ, seems also to be excluded. Paul, speaking of his apostleship and his works wrote to the Corinthians, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (1st Cor. 15:10)." So Paul gives the credit for his good works to the grace of God.

As I was thinking about this issue, two parts of Scripture came to mind. One from the 18th chapter of Luke's gospel and the other from the 119th Psalm. In both places a man speaks of his works or his obedience to God. In one place, in Luke, a man is condemned and in another place, the Psalm, we see worship acceptable to God. To be honest it was difficult at first for me to compare these two portions of Scripture and determine exactly how they differed. In Luke 18, in a parable of Christ, we find a pharisee who prays, "God, I thank you that I am not like other men." The pharisee goes on to list his good deeds and also to compare himself to a tax collector who is also seen praying. This tax collector, "would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'" Jesus teaches that it was the tax collector who went away justified, not the pharisee (Luke 18:9-14). The introduction to the parable reveals the sin of the pharisee, for we are told that Christ told this parable, "to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt (18:9)." In Psalm 119 verse 56 we find the Psalmist praying, "This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts." I think the difference between these two men, both of whom appear to be doing something similar, that is, thanking God for their obedience or good works, is the attitude of their hearts and their motivation for thanking God for their good works. The pharisee sought to be glorified. He wanted to be compared with those who on the surface appeared more sinful than he. The Psalmist, I think, has the same attitude as Paul which was expressed in 1st Corinthians where Paul implies that it was not him who should get credit for his good works but the grace of God that was with him. Paul and the Psalmist who wrote, "this blessing has fallen to me," direct all of the glory and the credit to God and away from themselves while when the self-righteous pharisee prays, he seeks to glorify himself. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches something similar about what the result of the good works of His followers should be. Jesus taught, "... let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:16b)." If God is getting the glory for the good works of the followers of Christ the implication is that God is ultimately responsible for those good works.

When we stand before the Lord it will not be for us to be proud of any amount of money or time we gave or any amount of good works we ever did. On the contrary we will only be able to thank the Lord for any good work we ever did because the only way any truly good work ever occurred was by His grace, purchased for us when He shed His blood on the cross and died for us. If we ever truly worship God, if we ever serve Him or desire Him or preach His gospel it is not for us to be proud of our actions. Instead we can only thank Him that He has given us the grace to do such a thing.

In Scripture there is talk of rewards and crowns which those in Christ might receive. Calvin, commenting on 1 Thessalonians 2:19 writes, "We must, however, infer from this, that Christ's ministers will, on the last day, according as they have individually promoted his kingdom, be partakers of glory and triumph." I know the redeemed can also look forward to on the last day hearing the words from our Lord, "well done, good and faithful servant." But when the redeemed stand before Him I think the last thought in our minds will be about whether or not we are proud or ashamed. When we stand before Him we will not be thinking about ourselves. Instead we will only want to cry out, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" We'll cry, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever! (Rev. 5:12-13)." As the hymn says, we'll see, "those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified." If we ever give any thought to our sins or our good works we'll know that those wounds were for our transgressions and we'll also know that it was those wounds which purchased any victory we ever had. The same hymn also says, "No angel in the sky can fully bear the sight, but downward bends his burning eye at mysteries so bright."