Monday, February 27, 2012

yogrynch the philosopher 3

The element considered
In continuing consideration of the fact of an everlasting covenant of grace, it is now time to review and then consider a new element of the everlasting covenant of grace that has existed since before creation.  It has ALWAYS been God's purpose to redeem a people for Himself, regardless of the day-to-day affairs of men, and particular "deals" (my word) or other lesser covenants He made with particular individuals in a matrix of man's subsequent broken promises.  Understand that man is a covenant breaker, but that God is a covenant keeper.  God is the initiator in any covenental relationship.

To quickly summarize the points in the previous 2 blogs, I want to focus on Grace (comprehending the background of redemption - redemption being based on nothing but God's grace.)  To the left is a general consideration of the historic condition of grace, the primary recipient at the time is in brackets with its significance/explanation)

• Grace Purposed (by God to God)

• Grace Promised (by God to Adam)

• Grace Planned (History of Redemption to subsequent generations)

• Grace Secured (Incarnation/Cross to all the redeemed - past,present,future)

• Grace Realized (Glory/Consummation of the age to the Bride of Christ)

The element that I want to introduce is one that in over 40 years of church attendance I have heard preached on less than the fingers of one hand.  It is an element that Armenians - with their "works-based" (or man-centred) salvation - fear to contemplate lest they stumble over it (as it would tend to refute their idea of possible loss of salvation), and Reformed types are less than enthusiastic about because taken to its possible conclusion could lead to an extreme practice of hyper-Calvinism - the position that we might as well all go home and watch the ball game, because "what we do doesn't matter - salvation is of the Lord." 

Of extreme importance is to note that one’s adherence to Armenian theology does not necessarily exclude them from the kingdom of God, nor that an embrace of so-called Calvinistic theology necessarily renders one included in the kingdom of God.  YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN (John 3:3)  I tend to agree with C.H. Spurgeon, who once said:

We give our hand to every man that loves the Lord Jesus Christ, be he what he may or who he may. The doctrine of election, like the great act of election itself, is intended to divide, not between Israel and Israel, but between Israel and the Egyptians – not between saint and saint, but between saints and the children of the world. A man may be evidently of God’s chosen family, and yet though elected, may not believe in the doctrine of election. I hold there are many savingly called, who do not believe in effectual calling, and that there are a great many who persevere to the end, who do not believe the doctrine of final perseverance. We do hope that the hearts of many are a great deal better than their heads. We do not set their fallacies down to any willful opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus, but simply to an error in their judgments, which we pray God to correct. We hope that if they think us mistaken too, they will reciprocate the same Christian courtesy; and when we meet around the cross, we hope that we shall ever feel that we are one in Christ Jesus (New Park Street Pulpit [London: Passmore & Alabaster, Vol.6] p.303).
Also of extreme importance is to appreciate that one is not saved by a proper understanding of grace, election, Divine sovereignty, or the extent of the atonement. These issues are important, but they are not the core of the Gospel; rather they indirectly relate to the Gospel (as do many other Biblical teachings), but are not the primary essence of it. The puritan, John Bradford, stated: "Let a man go to the grammar school of faith and repentance, before he goes to the university of election and predestination."  In the same way that it is wrong to detract from the Gospel message, so it is wrong to add to the Gospel message one’s particular theology.  This is not to deny that what I am discussing in these blogs are not important matters; but simply to point out that the minute one makes mandatory for salvation a correct understanding of  grace, election, effectual calling, or the extent of the atonement (regardless of how true they might be), they are guilty of adding to the Gospel. This is usually the error of young, zealous Calvinists (although not always), but to use the words of James, "My brethren, these things ought not to be this way" (James 3:10).   One’s heart may be right, while one’s head may be wrong!

To reiterate and emphasize, Scripture alone is the final standard of authority for doctrine and practice.  God has spread His truth throughout various theological traditions (Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Reformed, etc.) so that we might not put our singular trust in men or institutions, but in the testimony of God’s Word.  Let us not make a "pope" out of Calvin, Luther, Penhearow, McManus, Carson, Billson, Yogrynch (well, maybe Yogrynch is okay...) or any other mere mortal - be they Pastor, Elder or Deacon, Evangelist or Television Personality, Author or Blogger!  (Jeremiah 17:5) Though God does choose to reveal Himself to nations/peoples/congegations He primarily directs Himself to individuals (Matthew 16:15) and reveals Himself to individuals (Matthew 16:17.)

The element revealed
What is this mysterious element?  The book of life.  Sometimes referred to as the Lamb's book of life, heaven's book, the book of remembrance or simply the book, or referred to as one's being  enrolled in heaven.

The difficulty in understanding the significance of the existence of this "book" is the correlation it has with the elect.  In most passages it is used in the negative sense, that is "the damned are not in it" kind of sense, rather than the "redeemed are in it" kind of sense.

It is most talked about in Revelation, the "end" (my word) book of Scripture.

Let's begin with Revelation 20:12 - 15  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.   And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.   Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.   And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Next we look at Revelation 13:8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it (yogrynch note - "it" refers to the beast, not a good thing!), everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.

Consider next Revelation 21:27  But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

From these passages alone we can glean a few things.

1.  There is a book, an important book containing some names.
2.  Significantly for the concept of an everlasting covenant of grace/redemption it was written "before the foundation of the world."
3.  It is connected to "the Lamb", ie Jesus Christ.
4.  It is bad not to be written in it.
5.  It is good to be written in it.

Next we should consider other verses concerning the book written for our benefit and assurance.

Malachi 3:16-17  Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. 17  “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.

Philippians 4:3b the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Luke 10:20b but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

Hebrews 12:23a and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven
The response to the element
Wow.  Grace, magnificent grace!  Blessed assurance, Jesus is MINE and I am HIS!  Marvelous Grace!  Wondrous Grace!  Oh what a foretaste of Glory Divine!

Psalm 107:2a  Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,

Romans 15:4  For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

In Christ we have incredible hope!  By His grace we can endure the many trials that daily confront us.  There may be many uncertainties in this life - salvation of the redeemed is not one of them!  How do you glory in the Grace that has been shown to you since before the creation?  How should you?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

spousal tribute

A spousal tribute to Grannymom
Here it is a blustery cold February morning, and instead of re-loading the wood stove & convincing it to pump out hellish amounts of heat I am sitting at a computer keyboard and typing out my thoughts.  Yes, I do have them now and again, despite my facial expression that generally registers a "duhhhhh?" look.  (Note, to be spoken starting in a low tone, ending with a higher tone.)

To what do I attribute this moment of cold-tolerating diversion?  Blame the Maclean’s magazine.  Now from time to time, despite Canada Post's best efforts, it arrives on time on Friday - giving me Friday, Saturday & Sunday to browse its (usually) informative pages in my designated "reading room"  (a.k.a. the bathroom.)  This week featured an article on how some parents regard the loss of unborn children, and the emotional roller-coaster some feel after the event.
Now, I can tell you that before the last of our children was born, we (as husband/wife, father/mother) suffered the unexpected termination of a pregnancy, blaming what we understood as the extreme emotional upheaval caused by the imminent death of my mother-in-law, and the several weeks my wife spent at her mother's trying to aid/comfort her dying parent.  Nevertheless, the memory of these sad events caused me to reflect on what I would tell this unborn one about the "family" he/she would be a part of, had not circumstances been as they were.

Let me begin by reminding the reader that many years ago, a decision was reached that this husband and wife team would have as many children as the Lord would permit.  This DOES NOT mean that we regard those of a different personal persuasion of being sinful or lacking in any spiritual competence.
Having "lots" of kids has brought (mostly) joy and (sometimes) not so much!   It has been an exercise of overwhelming trust and confidence in the Lord, beginning with the prayerful request (prior to each pregnancy) that the Lord in His mercy and grace would grant that the soon-to-be-child would find favour in His sight and "be" a Christian.  This was done from a purely selfish motive.  As a "Christian" family, the hope was that the combined "Christian-ness" would be an influence for good, to both the family as a unit and the broader community at large.

Of such are the plans of mice and men!  The problem with dreams of this sort is that the reality of the in-born sinful nature of mankind as a whole becomes more and more apparent.   This becomes more and more of a reality in close proximity.  It is no vain observation that "absence makes the heart grow fonder" - it is only in day-to-day proximity that the Christian context of "as iron sharpens iron" becomes apparent.  Sparks fly.  Tempers rage.  Mean-spirited things are said - and remembered - for far too longer than is required.  Forgiveness becomes conditional, if given at all.  Why is it that the "bad" memories outlast the "good" memories?  As we age, the absence makes the heart grow fonder changes to "absence make the heart grow stronger in contempt" and "Oh what a relief it is (that I don't have to put up with your face, and by the way, GET OUT OF MY FACE, BITCH!)"
This is where I am extremely thankful for my spouse.  She is a high-spirited crusader to my lackluster attempts.  She is reconciliatory and expects the same from me.  I often and mostly disappoint her in that regard!  I usually try to see the opposing view in an attempt to diffuse a bubbling/boiling/turbulent situation.  Generally I am not very good at that either!

I say with great sadness that I see the beginnings of a great breach in this family's Christian cohesiveness.   Unfortunately, the ones at the heart of the breech are, in relative terms, ignorant, alas, blissfully ignorant, of the damage being done - not only to the "family" as a unit, but to the over-all Christian testimony of the family collectively and individually.  This process, in my estimation, began over a year ago, for reasons that I will not get into here, apart from an oblique comment regarding inflated egos.
So what would I say to the unborn one?  In much love I would say, "Listen to my wife.  Expect Godly counsel.  She’s in it for you, and for the Lord.  Love your brothers and sisters.   Forgive the pettiness as it rears its ugly head.   Expect and understand “sibling rivalry”.  Be bold, yet tempered in your Christian speech.   “Slow to speak, slow to wrath."  Practice and contemplate love and what it looks like.  Be different.  Honour your mother and your father.  Use triple-ply bathroom tissue – it’s worth the extra!  Finally, welcome to the family, flawed as it is, there is hope...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hypercalvinism & the family effect

I LOVE discussions about the day-to-day nuances of Christianity.  Not only has covenant theology been a recent hot topic of discussion/dissension (yes, there are erring people out there!), lately there has been a discussion in the cause/effect relationship inter-family on the salvation of individual members of said family.

Now, believe it or not, souls can be saved apart from attending church.  This is because witnessing on behalf of one's Saviour can take place outside of church.  Indeed, fathers in particular are called/ordained/appointed to take the LEAD RESPONSIBILITY in presenting the truth of the gospel to the family unit - at home.  This will be disconcerting to some.  Some would rather listen to voices from the pit of hell who would advocate that church is the place, the only place, where "biblical truth" can be presented and the ONLY presenter can be the "pastor" of such a group.  Balls!  Understand that the "primary" cause of salvation is the Holy Spirit, acting in accordance with the wishes/will/purpose of God the Father and Our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit, believe it or not, operates globally and is not limited to a particular place, time or circumstance.

I want to look at a few Scriptures, particularly in the light of recent accusations directed at myself and my spouse that we somehow personally take responsibility for the salvation of some of our children, if not all.  I do not understand where this accusation comes from, as to the best of my knowledge, we have always maintained the supremacy of Christ in all aspects.  Nevertheless, I want to look at the Apostle Paul, who seemed in particular to present himself as the lead cause of salvation - in conjunction with the Lord.  This Apostle seemed not to take offense at himself.  Indeed, his call to action demonstrates a rebuttal to those hypercalvinists who would stress that "we" do nothing because it is, after all, the sole responsibility of the Holy Spirit to effect the new-birth.  Do not misunderstand.  It IS the Holy Spirit who initiates the new birth and ultimately brings it to fruition (this goes back to the ole'  made in the image of God, in His likeness covenant promise God made to Himself before creation.)  Yet, as we examine Paul, one can conclude the Holy Spirit does not, in normal circumstances, act alone.

Firstly, we all must be aware of the dangers of self-deception.  This reminder is given us in 1Timothy 1:5-7   The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6  Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion,
7  desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

An additional reminder is given to us in Ephesians 4:14  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Personally I think these verses reinforce the idea of "Shut up stupid, give yourself time to mature and gain understanding before you attempt your hobby of injecting (what you think is) biblical truth into any and all discussions." 

The familial ownership of the Apostle Paul
Now, to return to the main discussion.

Consider 1Corinthians 4:4-17
14   I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.15  For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
16  I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
17   That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.

Notice the role Paul claims for himself.   What does he mean when he says "I became your father in Jesus Christ"?  Why would he take this title?  Who is he considering when he talks about "countless guides in Christ"?  Is he not also just a guide?  Why claim the singleness of "father" instead of "fathers"?  What does he mean when he says "Be imitators of me"?  In what role?  As admonishers?  As writers?  As imitators?  As "father(s)"?  Isn't it obvious, especially given his perceived relationship with Timothy?  "I sent you Timothy", he says, "MY beloved and faithful child..."  (See also 1Timothy 1:2)  What kind of ownership is this?  What does he mean "my ways in Christ" with the back-drop of the urging to be imitators of (not Christ) but himself, Paul?  What does this speak to as far as an individual's purpose (perhaps the literal physical father and/or mother) in the gospel plan?

We MUST also consider the beginning of Paul's Christian journey by considering how he first saw himself.   Have a look at Romans 15:16-17 where he sees himself 16  to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17   In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.

To me it is interesting to consider that, as he matured, Paul became aware of the true role he was given - as a "father" figure - and that, as a literal father, I must also become engaged in the presentation of the gospel to my children and others in my sphere of influence.  No hypercalvinism here.  No regarding my off-spring as burdens-that-the-Lord-will-spiritually-take-care-of-as-long-as-I-go-to-the-right-church-because-it-will-be-responsible-for-them-since-I-have-no-influence, but rather as offspring sent as blessings-to-be-trained-in-the-way-of-the-Lord-as-my-primary-function-as-father-and-provider.

Does this mean, using Paul's example, that I and/or my spouse can take "credit" (a poor word, I know) for the salvation of my physical children?  Yes, of course!  Do not my "physical" children at some point become my "spiritual" children, if perchance the saving grace of Christ falls upon them while they make their domicile under my roof and sit under my or my spouses's teaching?  Yes, of course!  Is it not my responsibility/calling/duty to pray for and take all necessary steps to "lead" (another poor word, I know) my physical children to being spiritual children as well?  Yes, of course!

By the grace of God alone, I would say it has been my happy circumstance (along with my spouse) to say that at this point in time, my children (practicing and lively sinners that they are) have experienced salvation and that I and my spouse in Christ Jesus are proud of our work for God.

Friday, February 17, 2012

yogrynch the philosopher 2

In continuing (which I am again daring to do) consideration of the fact of an everlasting covenant of grace, as opposed to a dispensational line of bull-crap of various covenants (notwithstanding the concept of a "new-covenant" which is merely a different manifestation of presenting the everlasting truth of grace that was there before the "beginning") I present some supporting scripture.

Consider Proverbs 8:22-36

“The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work,
    the first of his acts of old.
23  Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

24  When there were no depths I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs abounding with water.
25  Before the mountains had been shaped,
    before the hills, I was brought forth,
26  before he had made the earth with its fields,
    or the first of the dust of the world.
27  When he established the heavens, I was there;
    when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28  when he made firm the skies above,
    when he established the fountains of the deep,
29  when he assigned to the sea its limit,
          so that the waters might not transgress his command,
    when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30  then I was beside him
, like a master workman,
    and I was daily his delight,
          rejoicing before him always,
31  rejoicing in his inhabited world
    and delighting in the children of man
32  “And now, O sons, listen to me:
    blessed are those who keep my ways.
33  Hear instruction and be wise,
    and do not neglect it.
34  Blessed is the one who listens to me,
    watching daily at my gates,
    waiting beside my doors.
35  For whoever finds me finds life
    and obtains favor from the LORD,
36  but he who fails to find me injures himself;
    all who hate me love death.”

Now the above verses can be understood in more than one way.  Yes, in the broad sense, it can be understood as referring to "wisdom".  Yet, "wisdom" can also be the understanding of "truth".  Is it not said of Jesus, John 1:14  "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
John 1:17  "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."
For  various additional verses, check your concordances for "wisdom" and see how many refer to the "Lord" and the connection with Him.

In the context of Jesus being talked about in the quoted verses from Proverbs, "Grace and truth", as possessed by and integral to the very being of Jesus, were present before the creation.  Therefore the correct biblical understanding of the everlasting "covenant of grace" is that it is the primary driver or root of any other subsequent so-called covenant presentation.  The purpose of such seemingly additional "covenants" was to reinforce the supremacy of the original "covenant of grace."    The original covenant of grace was not superseded!  God does not change!  He is the same yesterday, today and forever!  Grace promised.  Grace planned.  Grace secured.  Grace realized.  From creation to consummation (ie the return of Christ) it is all grace!  God's grace ALWAYS initiates ANY covenant!

Consider that the Apostle Paul understood this, in what I will refer to here as the Titus revelation. 
Titus 1:1 -3 "Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2  in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages beganand at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior..."
The promise "before the ages began" can only refer to grace, which preexisted in the nature, person and yet-to-be manifested-in-human-form presence of Jesus Christ.  The "manifesting in his word" refers to subsequent events and  explanatory other "covenants" that took place AFTER the creating of man "in his image, after his likeness" that was discussed in the previous blog.

This concept is further explained by Timothy.  Please see 2Timothy 1:9, "who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,"

The everlasting concept of the workings of grace is additionally confirmed in 2Thessalonians 2:16   "Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace..."

"Eternal" means eternal.  From everlasting to everlasting.  Grace.  Think on it and marvel at the conspicuous grace exhibited to and for us before the very foundation of the world!  I am sorry, but there it is, was, and ever shall be.   Grace.

The addendum
Let it be known that the existence from everlasting to everlasting of the covenant of grace IN NO WAY SUGGESTS UNIVERSAL SALVATION!  To suggest otherwise is STUPID!

Note that the very description of Christ as being "grace and truth" implies 2 things.  "Grace" suggests that there is to be judgment/justice/punishment/recompense.  "The wages of sin is death."  That all would be headed to a literal Hell - except for the saving grace of Christ on behalf of the elect - is not in dispute.

"Truth" suggests that there is to be lying/deception/untruth.  John 8:44  "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies."  1John 1:8  "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

yogrynch the philosopher

One of the hardest things for a Christian to do is sort through the smorgasbord of "philosophies" and "theories" of christianity, and as Sheldon from TBBT would say, find the "toad of truth", or as yogrynch would say, "burp out the element of truth."

One of the discussions various members of our family is having concerns the contentious issue of "covenants" - how many were there, how many are presently active.  The burp of truth is this:  There is, always has been, always will be only ONE covenant - the covenant of grace.

One need look no further than the Old Testament to discover this truth.  Before ever a living human walked the earth a promise was made, by God Himself, to Himself, and is the grandest expression of GRACE that has ever been uttered.  Simple in its elegance, profound in its implication, unyielding in its application, it is found in Genesis.  Chapter 1.  Verse 26.  'Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”'

Of no other element of creation was this said.  You and I, as humans (redeemed or not) live as testaments to this - we ALL are image bearers of God - created in His image and bearing His likeness.  Oh, understand this GRACE!  Yes, some fail to grasp this truth.  Yes, some will endure everlasting punishment because of this rejection.  Yes, some will experience the unlimited mercies and grace of God in perpetuity.