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Archive for the ‘Atonement’ Category


Here are some of the quotes I ran across as I looked at this parable.  The parable is simple, yet humbling in so many ways.  It exposes our tendency toward self-righteousness, and points to God’s incredible disposition towards mercy toward the humble.

From Turning Your World Upside Down by Richard Phillips

“Pride is one of the greatest and most deeply embedded sins in human nature.”  Richard Phillips

“Pride is the worst viper in the heart … nothing is so hateful to God, contrary to the spirit of the gospel, or of so dangerous consequence…”  Jonathan Edwards

“The Pharisee is self-righteous because his standard of comparison is other people, and especially those who stand out in depravity.”  Richard Phillips

From Love Walked Among Us by Paul Miller

“Self-righteousness is like bad breath.  Others can smell it but you can’t.”

“Getting in touch with your inner tax collector makes room for God’s energy in your life.”

Jerram Barrs’ book The Heart of Prayer provided this great one.

“The most basic of all sins is seeking to live independently of God: to live pretending that we do not need him, to live as if we owned the world, to live as if we could make happen whatever we desire, to live as if we were in full control of our lives.”

And lastly there is this gem from Concerning the True Care of Souls by Martin Bucer.  It bears much meditation and attention, though it is quite simple.

“Thus the health and life of the inner man consists in a true living faith in the mercifulness of God and a sure confidence in the forgiveness of sin which Christ the Lord has acquired and earned for us.”

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On Nightline, there was a Face Off regarding the reality of Satan.  Mark Driscoll was one of the participants.  Mark did a great job integrating the reality of the Evil One with a presentation of the gospel.  He offered hope in the midst of our personal and societal struggles.

And then there was Deepok Chopra gave a bunch of ying & yang psycho-babble (quoting Freud, but in line with Jung’s work) about how “healthy people don’t need the devil.”   Bishop Pearson forsakes his calling based on a false stereo-type.  Nice.  Another “bishop” denying the teaching of Scripture.  I guess we solve the problem of evil by just not thinking about it.

Both of argue against the belief in the devil on the basis of wars- religious wars.  just because some nuts believe you can drop the bomb on the devil to destroy him does not make this a reason to deny personal evil.  It is a Straw Man argument, fallacious to the core.  The devil is not material, can’t be bombed, shot or drugged out of existence.  Only Jesus destroys the work of the devil (Hebrews 2, I think), which Pearson forgot to mention when saying Jesus would not be pleased by all that bomb dropping.  I’m pretty sure Jesus isn’t pleased with those who think dropping bombs (or flying planes into sky scrappers) is the way to defeat The Great Satan.  Now, legitimate governments bearing the sword against those who pose a threat against those they are charged to protect (Romans 13) is another story.  But the ultimate solution is only Christ and Him crucified to destroy, among other things, the hate in our hearts and the evils that flow from that.

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Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Way back in 1517, Luther attacked the use of indulgences by the Church of Rome.  They were used to provide a false hope, and a steady flow of cash for Papal building projects.  The Reformation was born.

Many, Cavman included, think we need a new (or renewed) Reformation since the doctrine of justification by faith alone as fallen on hard times in evangelical circles.  People have once again put sanctification prior to justification, just in a different form than Rome did.

But the Church of Rome has made a change that was not expected by many people.  Indulgences are back.  Yes, like the Terminator they have returned, and that is not a good thing either.

“Why are we bringing it back?” asked Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn, who has embraced the move. “Because there is sin in the world.”

Like the Latin Mass and meatless Fridays, the indulgence was one of the traditions decoupled from mainstream Catholic practice in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council, the gathering of bishops that set a new tone of simplicity and informality for the church.

(more…)

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Window in the Skies is becoming one of my favorite U2 songs.  I don’t own the CD single.  But it pops up periodically on my Slacker Radio stations.  While working on other matters, the words seep into my soul.  That’s is what is getting to me.  Other songs of theirs are much better musically.  But the lyrics remind me of the hope I have.

The shackles are undone
The bullets quit the gun
The heat that’s in the sun
Will keep us when it’s done
The rule has been disproved
The stone, it has been moved
The grave is now a grove
All debts are removed

Bono rehearses the Gospel- Christ’s work for us.  Because of the empty tomb, our debts have been removed if we trust in Him.  We have freedom, the shackles of guilt, fear, shame and condemnation are done.

But Bono does not remain stuck in the vertical.  He brings this grace into our horizontal relationship.

Love makes strange enemies
Makes love where love may please
The soul and its striptease
Hate brought to its knees
The sky over our head
We can reach it from our bed
If you let me in your heart
And out of my head

The redemption purchased by Christ means the end of hate in those hearts captured by love.  Bono takes the voice of a man wanting to see reconciliation, admitting his failings.

Oh, can’t you see what love has done
What it’s doing to me

Oh, can’t you see what love has done
I know I hurt you and I made you cry
Oh, can’t you see what love has done
Did everything but murder you and I
Oh, can’t you see what love has done
But love left a window in the skies

This love (not that we loved God, but that He loved us and gave His Son as an atoning sacrifice- 1 John) is changing the man in the song.  He wants his lover see what love in doing in him.  He hurt her, nearly killing their relationship.  He wants to experience with her what he has experienced with God. 

I particularly like that line: love left a window in the skies.  God left a testimony of His love.  Faith opens the window that grace may blow like a breeze into this world and remove that funk that comes from a sealed home.  The time has come to air things out- repair & refresh the relationship with grace.

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The second main section of Anthony Selvaggio’s book A Proverbs Driven Life addresses work- work as divine calling & working with integrity.  Both of these are important subjects in our day and culture.

Let’s not think simply about “job” because we work when we clean up the house, do laundry, mow the law or take on volunteer ministry tasks.  For instance, I am called (voca) to work as pastor, husband, father, homeowner, son, brother, pet owner … I think you get the point.  Each takes time and requires integrity.

Selvaggio does this by defining work as “any set of tasks to be performed in the pursuit of a particular goal.”  That is a good, broad definition.  We tend toward extremes in regard to work:  Why?! and Why stop?!  Some of us are lazy and need to get off our duffs in front of the TV and get to work.  Others of us make an idol of work, resist rest and need to slow down for the sake of our spiritual lives and family life.

When I look at how others may have ‘prospered’, I am tempted to think I’m lazy.  But CavWife reminds me that I put more time into parenting than they do.  I’m working, just at different things- things that don’t necessarily generate income.  But work is never to be measured by income alone, but by what God has called us to do.  Yet, most of us need to hear the warnings about sluggards.

“What an ironic testimony to the extent of our fallen nature!  Here the book of Proverbs calls for humanity, the very pinnacle of God’s creation, to be instructed by a mindless, soulless, tiny insect.  Man, who was placed on earth to have dominion over all creation, must sit at the feet of the ant to learn a rudimentary lesson on work.”

Oh that more of us would listen.  Notice the homes, families, businesses and churches that are in a state of serious neglect and disrepair.  But this is a gospel issue, as Selvaggio notes:

“Refusal to embrace a diligent work ethic is sinful because it violates a primary call God has given to us as Christians- to echo our Creator who works.  The sin of the sluggard (like all sin) has consequences – poverty and want.”

The gospel, when preached for sanctification, points to Christ’s work in us to apply His work for us such that we become like Him.  He works (and rests).  As we are conformed to His likeness, we will work and rest properly.

Selvaggio does not fool around.  He goes for the throat- calling out our excuses, lack of initiative, pride and idolatry.  He preaches the law to drive us to Christ in this area.

“Both (the sluggard and workaholic) are interested in avoiding responsibilities that don’t interest them.  The workaholic simply avoids things by a different technique- crowding them out of his calendar.  And where the sluggard is sure to suffer economic loss, the workaholic suffers losses that are often more relational than monetary, but nevertheless real, lasting, and painful.”

He points to Jacob to illustrate the change that can happen in a person.  Jacob was a man who lacked integrity.  After God descended and wrestled him into submission, Jacob becomes a man of integrity (though not perfectly).  We can work, by God’s grace, with integrity.  This is about working hard and working honestly.

“Greed can tempt us to seek an unfair advantage whenver we buy and sell.  Laziness or malice toward employers can tempt us to cut corners in the quality and quantity of our work. … Much of our sin is simply an effort to gain by sinful means the satisfaction or security that God has promised to give us freely.  (Make no mistake- all our grasping, selfish, Jacob-like sins are among those for which Christ died, and his forgiveness is freely available.)”

Anthony Selvaggio once again does us a service by not just summarizing the teaching regarding work from Proverbs, but by putting them within the context of the gospel.  I recommend this to all who work- which is nearly 100% of us.

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I was pondering this from A Gospel Primer for Christians yesterday.

“According to Scripture, God deliberately designed the gospel in such a way as to strip me of pride and leave me without any grounds for boasting in myself whatsoever.  This is actually a wonderful mercy from God, for pride is at the root of all my sin.  … Therefore, if I am to experience deliverance from sin, I must be delivered from the pride that produces it.  Thankfully, the gospel is engineered to accomplish this deliverance.

Preaching the gospel to myself each day mounts a powerful assault against my pride and serve to establish humility in its place.  Nothing suffocates my pride more than daily reminders regarding the glory of my God, the gravity of my sins, and the crucifixion of God’s own Son in my place.  Also, the gracious love of God, lavished on me because of Christ’s death, is always humbling to remember, especially when viewed against the backdrop of the Hell I deserve.”

He points to a few important ways that the gospel undercuts my pride, which is a source of many/most of my sins.  My sin was so awful that its forgiveness required the death of God’s own Son.  Yet He loved me in my unloveable condition.  My pride & His gracious love put Jesus on the Cross.  I have nothing about which to boast- except Christ.

“Pride wilts in the atmosphere of the gospel; and the more pride is mortified within me, the less frequent are my moments of sinful contention with God and with others.  Conversely, humility grows lushly in the atmosphere of the gospel, and the more humility flourishes within me, the more I experience God’s grace along with the strengthening His grace provides.  Additionally, such humility intensifies my passion for God and causes my heart increasingly to thrill whenever He is praised.”

You can tell whether the gospel is being preached and believed or not by the level of pride and demandingness in a congregation or person’s life.  This is part of the problem with Joel Osteen (and other prosperity teachers).  They demand things from God that He has not promised.  Their doctrines promote pride and selfishness- which are diametrically opposed to the sound living produced by sound doctrine in accordance with the gospel.

It is this pride which drives the fights and battles we find in James 4.  They have made good things ultimate things (as Keller would say).  The cure is to humble yourself before God.  The gospel is God’s means to humble us (and how it plays out in providence).  As humbled people, we submit to God rather than clamor for our way.  We become gentle as we plead for others to submit to God’s way.

I suspect we could all use more gospel humility.

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I finished reading Love Walked Among Us: Learning to Love Like Jesus by Paul Miller just before heading off to New York for a week.  Paul is the son of C. John (Jack) Miller, and has a ministry, See Jesus,  that offers 2 helpful small group programs.  The Person of Jesus is based on this book, and PrayerLife.  Both are interactive studies that come from a strong grace-orientation.  But, back to the book.

One of the things I found interesting was the variety of endorsements.  It does my heart good to see Tremper Longman, Steve Brown, Jerry Bridges, Dan Allender and Joni Eareckson Tada endorsing the book.  Max Lucado … not someone whose opinion really matters to me.  Brian McLaren … interesting choice.  Glad he endorsed it, it may mean he’s keeping his toe within the bounds of historic Christianity.

That last sentence is indicative of why a guy like me needs to read this book.  It reveals just how little I love like Jesus.  I can see why Brian McLaren would like most of the book- but he probably struggled with the last few chapters.  You’ll see why.

Paul’s 2 main premises is that Jesus alone shows us what true love looks like in action, and that we can only love well because we have been loved perfectly (including thru his penal substitutionary atonement- which is something McLaren has discounted publicly).  To bring us along, Paul uses numerous incidents from Jesus’ life to show us the richness of variety in his love, and the many barriers we have to showing love to others.  So this book is often convicting as our judgmentalism, self-righteousness, legalism and more are put on display as violating the 2 great commandments upon which all the Law and the Prophets hang.

But the emphasis is positive- love shows compassion, speaks the truth, depends on God and is energized by faith.  Miller weaves those biblical accounts from the life of Jesus with personal stories (he is not the hero of any of them), and some great quotes by various figures from history.  So you will find that it is an easy book to read, even if it hits you hard at times.

But it is not a self-help, try harder book.  The book ends with a section on how love moves from life to death.  It is about the centrality of Jesus’ sacrificial death, and how our lives are intended to follow that same track.  He is our model as well as our Substitute (see 1 Peter for plenty of that tension).  As a result, the book challenges those of us who err toward Phariseeism AND those who err toward a more “liberal” view of Jesus that maximizes his Incarnation while rejecting his finished work.  Miller does a great job of maintaining that tension of a suffering Savior whose love is rich and varied, perfectly suitable for the differing needs of its object.   So the book is biblical, accessible and applicable.  I heartily put my name up there with the other endorsees (even McLaren).  See, God’s using it in my life too.

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