Saturday, January 24, 2009

Exhortation- Third Commandment

Exodus 20:7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

When we think of this commandment, we tend to think in terms of someone using the word God or Jesus, or Christ, or Jesus Christ as epithets, swear words. Certainly, that is using the Lord’s names in vain. I condemn that kind of usage wholeheartedly. But we err if we think this sort of thing is the main or the worse form of taking the Lord’s name in vain.

I think we often have a psychological need to be able to blame others for committing sins so that we do not notice ourselves committing the same sins, and worse. When unbelievers dishonor the Lord by swearing with His name, it is not nearly so grievous a sin as when Christians use the Lord’s name in vain. This is true because when we take the Lord’s name in vain, it is something far worse than simply saying words that are course or foul; or using good words as foul words; words like God or Jesus.

Taking the Lord’s name in vain has to do with taking the Lord’s name upon us as a covenant member and then breaking the terms of the covenant. Most everyone in this room is a baptized believer. You have had God’s name placed upon you. You have taken His name. So, this commandment tells you not to use it in a vain way. Do not call yourself a Christian and then live as if you were a heathen. Do not use the Lord’s name to gain advantage in business or influence if you are not really living for and honoring the Lord. We see politicians pander to Christians all the time, using Bible words and claiming to be Christians, when their main or only desire is to get votes or get influence. This deceit is taking the Lord’s name in vain.

We also take the Lord’s name in vain when we put on a show of spirituality but are not living as we profess. We are telling a lie, on purpose, in order to be seen as men, women and children in good standing with the Lord, when we know that we are not so. We have a simple name for this, hypocrisy. This is taking the Lord’s name in vain.

The Lord gives us warning. He will not hold us guiltless who take His name in vain. Do not attempt to lie to God. Remember Ananias and Saphira? Do not play the game of trying to look the part when you do not live like a Christian. Do not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

Exhortation- Second Commandment

Exodus 20:4-6 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Dear Saints, we are making our way through the Ten Commandments, re-learning what God has told us to do and what not to do. We no longer have men in the public square carving literal idols for us to worship. We thank God for that great advancement in His earth. Jesus is putting down His enemies and subduing them beneath His feet.

But there is still reason for us to be on our guard. Not every idol is made of wood. Some idols are made of unfaithfulness. Some are made of ideas. Some are made of the blessings that accrue around us. God is our only hope and refuge. He alone can save us from our sins. We must be mindful when we fashion other gods with our minds, as if they could save us. We find safety in our homes, but Jesus had not to lay His head. We find safety in our friends but the disciples all fled and forsook the Lord. We find safety in our bank accounts but Jesus had to catch a fish to pay His taxes.

We also tend to fashion God after the imaginations of our heart. We think of Him as exacting, or kind, or benevolent, or lenient, or harsh, just as the need or the mood fits us. But God is all of these things at various times. We should not fashion Him as fits us. We need to be made in His image and shall not fashion Him after the image of man. The only way for us to conform to the image of God is to know Him through His Word and Spirit, to submit to His laws and obey His commands. Only then, can we be transformed into the image of God and cease transforming the god of our minds into the image of man.

We really do fashion images. Let us cease doing so, learning who God is and what He demands of us. Then, we shall be like Him because we will see Him and worship Him as He is.

Exhortation- First Commandment

Exodus 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
We live in an era in which we think we are impervious to breaking this commandment. We do not worship idols. But idolatry is not dead and gone and it even creeps into our lives with some regularity. We are to worship God in spirit and in truth. He calls us to follow Him, obeying all that He has told us. While we do not bow our knees to literal idols, we do have many opportunities to serve someone or something other than the one true God.

We are at the beginning of a new year and this is a good time to examine our hearts and to see if there are gods competing with the one true God for our affections. Jesus calls us to hate mother and father compared to loving and serving Him. This means that whenever you choose to love someone or do something different than how God has called you to love or to act, then you are choosing to follow a false God, whether that God is your own foolish wisdom or some other competing voice. It may be financial decisions where you have not been obedient. It may be listening to false friends or even family who have led you astray. Perhaps you have sought the approval of men or other women more than the approval of God? Perhaps base pleasures have taken hold of you?

There are many temptations in the world and there always will be. I am not speaking particularly, of being tempted. I am talking about when you are continuing in a disobedient behavior and have justified it somehow, outside of biblical grounds. Once you do that, you are serving a false god. The only option is to repent and to do right today. You may not get out of the mess you have made immediately but by choosing to do right, God will lead you into a land of blessing.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Things I Never Noticed in the Bible

Mark 10: 14-15 Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. 15Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

I have been noticing more and more the way that Jesus talks approvingly of children in the Bible. We should pay special attention to verse 15. We usually spiritualize it something like this, "Whoever does not receive the kingdom of in a childlike manner shall not enter into it." I suppose that is true enough but the verse says more than that.

It says, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child (receives the kingdom of God), he shall not enter therein. Notice what Jesus is saying. Little children, ones that Jesus can take up in His arms, infants, CAN receive the kingdom of God. This is profound and has profound results for our theology.

Things I Never Noticed in the Bible

Mark 9:5-6 And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. 6For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.

The thing I never noticed is that Peter said when we are expressly told that he didn't know what to say. How often we do this. We say things when we should keep silent and listen. Peter got a heavenly rebuke. Sometimes we need one, too.

Things I Never Noticed in the Bible

Boy, this really is slowing down my reading but with good effect.

John 1:15, Jesus says, "The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye and believe the gospel."

I had noticed Jesus saying this but I had always read into 'gospel' a particular meaning that I had been programmed to read into that Word.

That programmed meaning is that Jesus came and died for your sins, therefore, repent and believe that He died for your sins, so that you can be saved. While that statement IS true, it cannot be what Jesus means when He says repent and beleive the gospel. He is calling His disciples to believe the gospel right then, as He was preaching it. If that is true, then it cannot simply mean believing that Jesus died on the cross for your sins.

N.T. Wright does some great work on explaining that the gospel is mainly the message that Jesus Christ is the King. That fits with what Jesus says here, "The kingdom of God is at hand, therefore repent." Jesus is now on the scene and He is ushering in the Kingdom. That is the primary message of the gospel. And that message has far larger ramifications than simply believing in Jesus for salvation. Believing in Jesus for personal salvation is a wonderful subset of the gospel. But you can believe in Him without believing that He is King over all and that the Kingdom of God has infiltrated the world. If you believe the gospel as presented by Jesus here then you get all the glory, including salvation, and all the other LARGE ramifications of Jesus as King. A truncated gospel has caused us no end of headaches in the Amercian Church and it is about time we saw how big the true message of the gospel really is.

Friday, January 16, 2009

My brother got the goose.

Things I Never Noticed in the Bible

A small nugget but beautiful.

Acts 21:5

Paul was leaving Tyre and heading for Jerusalem. Along the way, he is making it clear to the disciples in the various places that he will not see them again. The elders from Ephesus wept with him.

Here in Tyre, the disciples accompany him with a great number of people as he leaves the city. The thing I never noticed before is that 'they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city.' What a beautiful picture of the church; husbands, wives and children sending off the apostle, walking with him to the outskirts of the city.

And Another-
Acts 24:7- Tertullus, the orator accuser of Paul, before Felix says, "But the chief captain Lysias, came upon us and with great violence took him away out of our hands." He accuses Lysias of great violence. Keep in mind that Lysias was the law keeper here. He was commissioned to keep the peace and he was doing so. Tertullus and his gang were the law breakers set on violence but he accuses the peacekeeper of being violent. How like those set on wickedness to call evil, good and good, evil.

Things I Never Noticed in the Bible

Having finished my Greyfriar’s list of reading, I am spending a great deal of time reading Scripture. We tend to get into a particular mode when reading Scripture of thinking we have read it before and already know it. Thus, end up not really reading it, we simply skim over what we think we already know. And this becomes more true, the more times we make it through.

One way to slow this down is to read a different version of the Bible on subsequent trips through. Another way, and the one I am currently attempting, is to try hard to take note of things that you never noticed before. So, instead of reading the Bible and simply getting out of it what you already know, you are actively working hard to pay attention to the things you never noticed before. As I have been doing this, I am finding out that there is a LOT of things I never noticed before. I am trying to read through the Bible quickly several times. The problem with writing about what I didn’t notice before, is that I didn’t notice a lot of things and it will really slow me down. But I trust I will profit greatly from the process.

So, these upcoming posts will be:

Things I Never Noticed in the Bible

Here’s the first one.

Acts 15- Before Paul and Barnabas head out to Jerusalem men from Judea had come to Antioch to dispute with them, claiming the disciples in Antioch needed to be circumcised in order to be saved. Of course, this precipitates the entire Jerusalem council.

The thing I never noticed before is verse 2, “When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain other of them should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.”

I had always been aware that Paul and Barnabas had gone up to Jerusalem to get the apostles’ take on the Gentile issue. But I had not noticed that they had already been in considerable difficulty with brethren from Judea about the issue. Apparently, even the Apostle Paul was not able to convince these men of the glory of God and the freedom of God to the Gentiles. He tried hard and failed at it. He needed more than just arguments. He also needed the authority of the Church to speak on the issue.

Since I am revealing my ignorance, I also never noticed that ‘other of them’ also went up with Paul and Barnabas. Not sure what that signifies but perhaps that Paul and Barnabas wanted to send a delegation of like-minded men to make their case, rather than simply come up there as the two Gentile missionaries.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

10 Year Reading Plan

Well, it's been ten years in the doing, but I finally finished my Greyfriars reading list. Greyfriars is the pastoral study program of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho.

Here's the List.

John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis
Craigie, Deuteronomy
Carr, Song of Solomon
John Calvin, Jonah, Micah, Nahum
Leon Morris, John
Haldane, Romans
Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation
Terry, Biblical Hermenuetics
Letus, The Ecclesiastical Text
Ryken, Literature of the Bible
Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students
Dabney, Lectures in Sacred Rhetoric
Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers
Apostolic Fathers, Irenaaeus through Clement of Alexdria, Volumes 1&2
Hippolytus, Cyprian, Vol.5
Augustin, City of God, On Christian Doctrine, Vol.2
Augustin, Confessions, Vol.1
Chrysostom, Vol. 13
Athanasius, On the Incarnation and others, Vol. 4
English Bible x 3
Vincent, Shorter Catechism Explained from Scripture
Calvin, Instiutes of the Christian Religion
Turretin, Institutes of Eclentic Theology, Vols. 1-3
Hodge, The Confession of Faith
Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms
Canons of Dordt
Baxter, The Reformed Pastor
Ryle, Holiness
Lewis, Four Loves
Burroughs, Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment
Henry, Method for Prayer
D. Wilson, Reforming Marriage, Standing on the Promises, Her Hand in Marriage and more.
Luther, Commentary on Galatians
Tyndale, Obedience of a Christian Man
Calvin, Necessisty of Reforming the Church
Owen, Death of Death
English BibleNew Testament x 8
Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion
Old, Reading and Preaching of Scriptures, Vols. 1&2
Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics
Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God
Vetih, Postmodern Times
Hagopian, Back to Basics
Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
Bastiat, The Law
Johnson, Modern Times
Sayers, Busman's Honeymoon
Wilson, Joy at the End of the Tether
Watson, All Things for Good
Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Lewis, The Discarded Image
Mencken, A Mencken Chestomathy
Shakespeare, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing
Erasmus, In Praise of Folly
Herbert, English Poems
D'Aubigne, History of the Reformation in England
Van Til, Defens of the Faith
Wodehouse, Leave it to Psmith
English BibleNew Testament x 4