Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Christ Centeredness of Scripture

Before I came to the reformed tradition, I failed to appreciate the Christ centeredness of all scripture. The Old Testament was useful in understanding the history of the Jews, and some good moral insights might be discerned from the characters, but the New Testament was really all I needed. Looking back, it is not difficult to see how those from the same theological camps, or lack thereof, could also come to the conclusion that only the red letter passages in their bibles are the truly significant ones. That is, if Jesus did not set forth the proposition it could not be trusted as the word of God. The result is a very small and incomplete version of the scriptures. Vos addresses this gross error brilliantly in the following passage:
"To take Christ at all He must be taken as the centre of a movement of revelation organized around Him, and winding up the whole process of revelation. When cut loose from what went before and came after, Jesus not only becomes uninterpretable, but owing to the meteoric character of His appearance, remains scarcely sufficient for bearing by Himself alone the tremendous weight of a supernaturalistic world-view. As a matter of fact, Jesus does not represent Himself anywhere as being by his human earthly activity the exhaustive expounder of truth. Much rather He is the great fact to be expounded. And He has nowhere isolated Himself from His interpreters, but on the contrary identified them with Himself, both as to absoluteness of authority and adequacy of knowledge imparted [Luke 24:44; John 16:12-15]." Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2004, p. 302.
By better understanding this essential truth, - i.e., Christ is the center of all scripture, the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is so much richer. God has given His people the wonderful story of how he has, is, and will redeem His people. Let us tell it often, lest we forget His incomprehensible grace, mercy, and love.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Naughty or Nice?

My oldest daughter and I were out shopping for Christmas gifts a few days ago when I heard the song "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" over the store's stereo system. I was singing a long with it in my head when I came across the line "he's making a list, and checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty and nice. . ." It dawned on me for the first time, what a horrible position to put children in - i.e., to ask them whether they have been "naughty or nice." If they are honest with themselves, they are sinners just like their parents. However, if they want any presents under the tree, children are not only encouraged to lie about their sinfulness to themselves, but to argue a case for their own self-righteousness while sitting on the knee of this jolly old elf. Is this not the exact opposite of how we should be training our children? Should we not hope and pray, as they mature, they will begin to be convicted more and more by the Holy Spirit of their own sinfulness and prompted toward true repentance? It is at that point we must be ready to point them to the cross - to point them to a righteousness outside of themselves. They need to be reminded of the promises of God, as we do, every day.

I guess if we are honest with ourselves we all should be getting switches and ashes this year. However, for those that believe we look forward to a crown.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Consider the Offense

"'Ah! The Ring! said Boromir, his eyes lighting. 'The Ring! Is it not a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt for so small a thing? So small a thing!'" J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring.

I think that we oftentimes, if ever, fail to consider how great the offense of our sin is to a holy God. Did Christ go to the cross out of disappointment? Was His blood spilt because he was sad? Rather, it was to appease the wrath of a holy God for my sin. God is not simply disappointed or saddened by my sin, he is righteously angry. On the cross, Jesus drank that cup of wrath that was set out before me.

Isaiah certainly understood the offense of his sin when he cried "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. Geerhardus Vos writes, "Being not merely holy but majestic in holiness, Jehovah upholds and asserts his ethical glory for the punishment of sin. Isaiah has felt most keenly that God would not be God, would not respect his own divinity, did he not avenge evil. Because he is the absolutely good, because his name, the essence of his being is holy; therefore in him holiness in attended with the sovereign right to vindicate its own supremacy." A Geerhardus Vos Anthology, P&R Publishing Company, 2005, p. 138.

Once we begin to understand the greatness of our offense, we can then begin to appreciate the true sacrifice of the cross and the blessings of his mercy and grace. Once we understand this, the gospel is a much sweeter fruit.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Gospel Confusion

Ask any three (3) Christians to define the gospel and you will get four (4) different answers. It seems that a term so frequently used and so important to defining our faith would have a more universally accepted definition. Graeme Goldsworthy points out that some confuse the gospel with the proper response to it.
"But it is important to keep the gospel itself clearly distinct from our response to it or from the results of it in our lives and in the world. If our proper response to the gospel message is faith, then we should not make faith part of the gospel itself. It would be absurd to call people to have faith in faith!. . .[W]hat you or I do in response to the gospel is not itself the gospel. You cannot say that repentance and faith are the gospel. They are what the Holy Spirit enables us to do about the gospel." According to Plan, InterVarsity Press, 1991 p. 81,83.
So how do you define the gospel? Goldsworthy defines it in part as follows:
"It [the gospel] deals with the problems that he [God] perceives and defines. It does not primarily deal with our needs as we perceive them - how can I live a better life, overcome my hang-ups, make sense of my existence - although it may include these. The gospel is God's way of dealing with his 'problem' of how he, a holy and just God, can justify and accept the sinner." Id. at 81-82.
Of course, the cross was His complete and perfect solution.

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