This Mystery

reflections on theology and life

Category: Theology (page 2 of 5)

Loving God, loving neighbor

In Defense of Jesus, the New LawgiverI was revis­it­ing John G. Reisinger’s In Defense of Jesus, the New Law­giver tonight, par­tic­u­larly his dis­cus­sion of .

He is pretty much on the mark (more on that after the quote.) And it’s why in our sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion, we look to Christ and not a check­list, because it’s not a check­list writ­ten on our hearts.

[W]e are just as emphatic that it does not mean that God inscribes a New Covenant list of rules on the heart of a Chris­t­ian. We are skep­ti­cal of any attempt to cre­ate a new list to replace the old list. There is no New Covenant Deca­logue. We dis­avow the way some NCT peo­ple use the term law of Christ. We do not think there is a con­crete, unchang­ing, all-inclusive, revealed list of the spe­cific laws of Christ any more than there was a con­crete, unchang­ing, all-inclusive list of God’s moral law revealed at Sinai. Under the New Covenant, God puts “love God, love neigh­bor” into the heart of every per­son in Christ by the Spirit. There is a sense in which the com­mands to love God and love neigh­bor are as suf­fi­cient as a com­plete list would be.

– Reisinger, John G. In Defense of Jesus, the New Law­giver. Fred­er­ick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2008. Print. p. 117–8.

I say “pretty much on the mark,” because it is the giv­ing of the Holy Spirit to dwell in the heart of the believer that ful­fills . The very nature of God — His love — in the Spirit of Christ is His law writ­ten on our hearts.


31 “Behold, the days are com­ing, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their hus­band, declares the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my peo­ple. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neigh­bor and each his brother, say­ing, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the great­est, declares the Lord. For I will for­give their iniq­uity, and I will remem­ber their sin no more.” (ESV)


31 “Behold, the days are com­ing, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their hus­band, declares the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my peo­ple. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neigh­bor and each his brother, say­ing, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the great­est, declares the Lord. For I will for­give their iniq­uity, and I will remem­ber their sin no more.” (ESV)

The inheritance of the saints

Charles Spur­geon called Christ and the Inher­i­tance of the Saints: Illus­trated in a Series of Dis­courses from the Colos­sians, the expo­si­tion and devo­tional on by Scot­tish divine Thomas Guthrie, “brilliant.”

Thanks to Google books, it’s avail­able as a free down­load.

And it is brilliant.


12 giv­ing thanks to the Father, who has qual­i­fied you to share in the inher­i­tance of the saints in light. 13 He has deliv­ered us from the domain of dark­ness and trans­ferred us to the king­dom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemp­tion, the for­give­ness of sins.

15 He is the image of the invis­i­ble God, the first­born of all cre­ation. 16 For by him all things were cre­ated, in heaven and on earth, vis­i­ble and invis­i­ble, whether thrones or domin­ions or rulers or authorities—all things were cre­ated through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the begin­ning, the first­born from the dead, that in every­thing he might be pre­em­i­nent. 19 For in him all the full­ness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to rec­on­cile to him­self all things, whether on earth or in heaven, mak­ing peace by the blood of his cross. (ESV)

An audacious statement

Studies in the Sermon on the MountOne of the most trea­sured the­o­log­i­cal tomes on my book­shelf is D. Mar­tyn Lloyd-Jones’ Stud­ies in the Ser­mon on the Mount, a work col­lected from 60 ser­mons by the Doctor.

In a recent dis­cus­sion on the role of law in the believer, I was reminded of some quotes from that book.

First, is the auda­cious state­ment of in which Jesus declares Him­self to be the ful­fill­ment of the Hebrew Scriptures:

It is, in other words, that all the law and all the prophets point to Him and will be ful­filled in Him down to the small­est detail. Every­thing that is in the law and the prophets cul­mi­nates in Christ, and He is the ful­fill­ment of them. It is the most stu­pen­dous claim that He ever made. (p. 163)

Is the Ser­mon on the Mount cod­i­fi­ca­tion, or is it a descrip­tion of the believer?  The “blessed are” state­ments of the Beat­i­tudes are indica­tive in the Greek; they are descrip­tive of the new crea­ture that is the believer.

About the Law — which Paul calls our pedagogue/tutor/guardian, Lloyd-Jones wrote:

The gospel of Jesus Christ does not treat us like that. It does not treat us as chil­dren. It is not another law, but some­thing which gives us life. It lays down cer­tain prin­ci­ples and asks us to apply them. Its essen­tial teach­ing is that we are given a new out­look and under­stand­ing which we must apply with respect to every detail of our lives. That is why the Chris­t­ian, in a sense, is a man who is always walk­ing on a kind of knife edge. He has no set reg­u­la­tions; instead he applies this cen­tral prin­ci­ple to every sit­u­a­tion that may arise. (p. 216)

Lloyd-Jones fur­ther explains:

What is of supreme impor­tance is that we must always remem­ber that the Ser­mon on the Mount is a descrip­tion of char­ac­ter and not a code of ethics or morals. It is not to be regarded as law – a kind of new “Ten Com­mand­ments” or set of rules and reg­u­la­tions which are to be car­ried out by us – but rather as a descrip­tion of what we Chris­tians are meant to be, illus­trated in cer­tain par­tic­u­lar respects. It is as if our Lord says, “Because you are what you are, this is how you will face the law and how you will live it.” (p. 21)

It is not a new set of let­ters (“For the let­ter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” ESV).

Ulti­mately, the eter­nal stan­dard of right­eous­ness is Christ Him­self, the rev­e­la­tion of and reflec­tion of God, the per­fect image (Greek eikon) of the Father. He is and always has been the right­eous­ness that the Law pointed to. And He is the stan­dard of our right­eous­ness. No law has ever encom­passed His holi­ness, the only stan­dard that mat­ters.  No law, no let­ters can encom­pass the right­eous­ness that exceeds the scribes and the Phar­isees.  Only the liv­ing Torah, Christ whom the writ­ten Torah pointed to, is that righteousness.

Christ’s teach­ing, Paul’s exhor­ta­tions, all point to being that which we as new crea­tures are recre­ated to be.

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; lis­ten to him.” ( ESV)

The Spirit of Christ, indwelling the believer and inform­ing him in His word is not a set of rules. Look­ing at God’s law merely as rules to fol­low inher­ently misses the heart and focuses on the exter­nal. What the Law pointed to was ful­filled in Him and in is being ful­filled in us. While it is shrouded in this body of death now, it is real­ized fully in glory.


17 “Do not think that I have come to abol­ish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abol­ish them but to ful­fill them. (ESV)


He was still speak­ing when, behold, a bright cloud over­shad­owed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; lis­ten to him.” (ESV)

His glory is the center

I’ll say it up front. I love Bib­li­cal The­ol­ogy. The under­stand­ing that Scrip­ture has a com­plete, dis­cernible and con­tin­u­ous story line is essen­tial to under­stand­ing God’s work to restore cre­ation and redeem a peo­ple for himself.

One recent BT book I enjoyed read­ing and con­tinue to ref­er­ence is James Hamilton’s God’s Glory in Sal­va­tion through Judg­ment: a Bib­li­cal Theology.

This snip­pet sum­ma­rizes the preser­va­tion of a rem­nant through their return from exile — a return that leaves them under­stand­ing that some­thing, Some­one, else is yet to come.

The story line of the prophets is straight­for­ward. The peo­ple of Israel enter the land promised them by God. In doing so, they are like a new Adam in a new Eden. Their task is to rule over the earth and sub­due it, but they fare no bet­ter than Adam did. The ini­tial con­quest under Joshua is sub­verted by the Canaaniza­tion of Israel in Judges, and then the nation rejects Yah­weh for a king like all the other nations. Hav­ing removed Saul, Yah­weh mer­ci­fully raises up David and promises that his seed will rule. Solomon builds the tem­ple, but then he wor­ships the gods of his many wives. The nation is rent aus­nder. Israel falls to Assyria, Judah to Babylon.

Along the way, Isa­iah, Jere­miah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve call the kings, priests and peo­ple to repen­tance. They also proph­esy that Yah­weh will redeem his peo­ple after the exile. Just as he brought his peo­ple out of Egypt, he will bring them back from all the lands in which he scat­tered them. Just as he shook heaven and earth at Sinai, he will once again shake heav­ens and earth, and once again enter into a covenant with Israel, and the peo­ple will know Yah­weh. … Through the judg­ment of exile, Yah­weh will purge his peo­ple, bring them to final sal­va­tion and his glory will be the cen­ter­piece of praise, as it is the cen­ter of bib­li­cal theology.

Hamil­ton, James M. God’s Glory in Sal­va­tion through Judg­ment: a Bib­li­cal The­ol­ogy. Wheaton, IL: Cross­way, 2010. Print. p. 267

Not the time for NCT to build fences

As one of many in New Covenant The­ol­ogy cir­cles who is try­ing to push the dis­cus­sion for­ward while see­ing a stronger Bib­li­cal Theology/Redemptive His­tory case made for what we believe to be the best under­stand­ing of Scrip­ture, it grieves me to see those who advo­cate NCT — even some of its pio­neers — aim to shut down the dis­cus­sion, ostra­cize broth­ers, or toss peo­ple out of the movement.

On one hand, there are those in what has been called the “Clas­sic NCT” camp who would like to shut down any dis­cus­sion of what is the nature of the Law of Christ. So-called Clas­sic NCT wants to find a new set of statutes in the teach­ings of Jesus and the apos­tles. I’m among those who would respond that Jesus did not come to die for sin, rise from the grave and ascend to the Father only to bind peo­ple to a more strin­gent law, but that He came as the One with all author­ity to free us to walk in the light, live with­out fear, and love with­out limit. Christ is the enflesh­ment of the law.

Fur­ther­more, He gave us His Spirit to dwell in us as the ful­fill­ment of ff and ff; the Holy Spirit is Him­self the promise fulfilled.

(Pas­tor Todd Braye has sum­ma­rized this argu­ment well in a recent out­line at Christ My Covenant, Five Rea­sons Why I Object to Clas­sic NCT’s Def­i­n­i­tion of the Law of Christ.)

I’m con­vinced that this under­stand­ing lays great ground­work for the pio­neer­ing thought and study that has pre­ceded us. Unfor­tu­nately, instead of open­ing up dia­log, it has caused those who advo­cate this under­stand­ing to be made tar­gets by some of those who cham­pion so-called Clas­sic NCT.

Cer­tainly dis­cus­sion and cri­tique of any view should be wel­comed. But putting peo­ple out­side of the camp should not be tolerated.

Sim­i­larly, another assault has been made — unnec­es­sar­ily — on those in NCT who hold to a pre­mil­len­nial view, sug­gest­ing that they should not be part of NCT. I’m not a pre­mil­len­nar­ian myself, but I see no need to push peo­ple out of the dis­cus­sion who are.

This move­ment is too new and its foun­da­tions still are being con­structed. It is sin­ful to ostra­cize those work­ing to grow the move­ment and build its foun­da­tions. And it is most egre­gious to see those who have them­selves been ostra­cized take part in it.

 


33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my peo­ple. (ESV)


25 I will sprin­kle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your unclean­nesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. (ESV)

180

Porterbrook ROC brings Porterbrook Network to Rochester, N.Y.

We’re very excited at Evan­gel­i­cal Church of Fair­port to be the 11th Learn­ing Site in the U.S. for the Porter­brook Net­work.

Our first fall term begins Oct. 3.

Update: we’re post­pon­ing the launch until Jan­u­ary 2 so that we can get the largest pos­si­ble participation.

More about the Porter­brook Net­work may be found on our local site’s web­site, porterbrookROC.com.

Porter­brook Net­work is a two-year church-based the­o­log­i­cal train­ing pro­gram with a sup­ported self-study struc­ture with oth­ers who are train­ing in a sim­i­lar field, church or geo­graphic affiliation.

Steve Tim­mis and Tim Chester, co-authors of Total Church and founders of The Crowded House, cre­ated The Porter­brook Net­work in the U.K. in 2006 in response to a con­vic­tion for churches to become more Gospel-Centered and for new Gospel-Centered churches to be planted.

The vision of Porter­brook is to equip indi­vid­u­als and churches to redis­cover mis­sion as their DNA, to become bet­ter lovers of God and lovers of oth­ers, and to pro­claim the Gospel through word and action for the Glory of God. Porter­brook is being used in the U.K., U.S., Canada, Italy, Ukraine, India, South Africa, and Aus­tralia, and Porter­brook Learn­ing mate­r­ial is cur­rently being trans­lated into Chi­nese, Russ­ian, and Italian.

Setting things straight on ‘contextualization’

The folks at Grace to You fre­quently con­demn the con­cept of “con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion” and do so by defin­ing it in light of those who abuse the term. John MacArthur and Phil John­son in par­tic­u­lar have por­trayed con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion as water­ing down the mes­sage so peo­ple aren’t offended by it.

Ed Stet­zer cor­rectly defines con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion and the need for it on his blog today:

I have said it many times, but it always seems to bear repeat­ing — con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion is not water­ing down the mes­sage. In fact, it is exactly the oppo­site. To con­tex­tu­al­ize the gospel means remov­ing cul­tural and lin­guis­tic imped­i­ments to the gospel pre­sen­ta­tion so that only the offense of the cross remains. It is not remov­ing the offen­sive parts of the gospel; it is using the appro­pri­ate means in each cul­ture to clar­ify exactly who Jesus was, what He did, why He did it, and the impli­ca­tions that flow from it. Often­times, it is unclear com­mu­ni­ca­tion (and a lack of con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion) that con­tributes to some reject­ing some­thing they do not under­stand. If the feet of those who bring the gospel are beau­ti­ful upon the hills, it is at least partly due to the fact that those who hear the gospel under­stand and appre­ci­ate its life trans­form­ing truth. This often occurs through crit­i­cal contextualization.

My often-used def­i­n­i­tion of con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion: com­mu­ni­cat­ing in a way so as to make the offense of the gospel most clear.

Piper: How do you talk to people for whom God is unreal?

John Piper posted a video — which looks like he recorded him­self in his study — about talk­ing to peo­ple for whom God is unreal. They say “don’t give me that God talk. This is a real prob­lem.” It’s an “over­flow” from his ser­mon of this past weekend.

When Talk­ing to Folks for Whom God Is Unreal from John Piper on Vimeo.

Completed by the Spirit Part 21: Do Not Submit Again to a Yoke of Slavery

This is the 21st part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Given all that we’ve stud­ied in this series, how do we apply what is shown to us about sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion in Scripture?

How do we grow in holi­ness or coun­sel those who are com­bat­ing sin by rely­ing on the Holy Spirit and fol­low­ing imper­a­tives grounded in the indica­tive of the gospel and the gift of the Spirit of Christ to dwell in us?

Our study has pro­vided us two answers: one pos­i­tive and one negative.

We do focus on the gospel.

We do not focus on the law.

When we set our eyes on Christ and look at His per­son and work, we behold more and more what it is that our union with Him has granted to us. Con­tinue reading

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