The Storyline of the Bible: Creation and New Creation

When warm air meets snowOne reason I love reading theology books is because they help me understand the Bible in ways that I could never know if I only read the Bible for myself. God gives understanding to all who read and think over what Scripture says, but sometimes what helps me understand the Bible better is reading those who have thought deeper about the Bible than myself rather than only reading the Bible itself.

This is one reason why Christian community is such a blessing. God has written a book and given it not just to one person, but to his people. Therefore, we would be foolish both to neglect reading his book for ourselves and to neglect insights others have about his book.

I have been reading G.K. Beale’s New Testament Biblical Theology, and I came across these three charts which I found absolutely fascinating. Beale argues that the theme of creation / new creation is essential to the biblical storyline and that this storyline follows this pattern:

  1. cosmic chaos followed by
  2. new creation
  3. commission of kingship for divine glory
  4. sinful fall
  5. exile

Beale then shows how this works in Genesis 1–3, Genesis 4 – Revelation 20, and in Revelation 21 (New Testament Biblical Theology, 59-61).

Beginning of History as the Inaugurated First-Creational Kingship in Genesis 1–3

first chaos of earth and waters
first creation
first commission of first Adam as king for divine glory
first Adam’s sin
first Adam’s exile and judgment

 

Cycles of Inaugurated Eschatology within Biblical History

chaos of earth and waters at flood chaos of oppression and Egyptian plagues chaos of exile in wilderness for second generation chaos of oppression and destruction in Israel’s land and exile chaos of oppression and destruction in Israel’s land as continuing exile
new creation exodus and new creation through Red Sea exodus and new creation through small Red Sea (Jordan) exodus and new creation through return from Babylonian exile escalated new creation in Christ’s life (and later in his death, and resurrection)
commission of Noah as new Adam for divine glory commission of Israel as a corporate Adam for divine glory commission of Israel as corporate Adam for glory (repeated promised commission of Israel as an eschatological corporate Adam for divine glory commission of Christ as eschatological Israel/Son of Man (“Adam”) for God’s glory
new Adam’s sin [Noah’s sin] sin of Israel (corporate Adam) at the “golden calf” episode and in wilderness repeated sin of Israel from Judges up to destruction in land and exile in Babylon Israel’s sin in the land and forfeiture of the eschatological role Christ as eschatological Israel and last Adam resists sin
judgment and exile throughout the earth at Babel judgment and exile in wilderness for first generation judgment in land and exile in Babylon judgment of continuing exile even though Israel had returned to the land continuing physical exile for God’s people in the world even though they had begun to be restored spiritually

 

Ending of History as Consummative Eschatology in Revelation 21

chaos of last destruction of heavens and earth
last new creation
last commission of saints
last resistance to sin by saints
last deliverance of saints from exile

Beale, of course, argues at length for the legitimacy of these parallels. But if his arguments are persuasive, and they are to me, then these charts give a staggering amount of unity to the storyline of Scripture. Adam, Noah, Israel, Jesus, and the church all follow a similar pattern and purpose. Adam, Noah, and Israel all fail and are types that are only fulfilled by Jesus, and the church, by the Spirit, follows in Jesus’s wake.

Image: g.m.kennedy 

 

Five Truths about the Wrath of God

Five Truths About the Wrath of God

The doctrine of the wrath of God has fallen on hard times. In today’s world, any concept of God’s wrath upsets our modern sentiments. It’s too disconcerting, too intolerant.

We live in a day where we have set ourselves as the judge and God’s character is on trial. “How can hell be just?” “Why would God command the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites?” “Why does God always seem so angry?”

The fact that so many people struggle with these questions, and many more like them, means that more than ever right thinking is needed about the doctrine of God’s wrath. It is needed for motivation for Christian living, fuel for proper worship, and as a toolbox to confront objections to Christianity.

Here are five biblical truths about the wrath of God:

1. God’s wrath is just.

It has become common for many to argue that the God of the Old Testament is a moral monster that is by no means worthy of worship.

However, biblical authors have no such problem. In fact, God’s wrath is said to be in perfect accord with God’s justice. Paul writes, “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:5). God’s wrath, then, is in proportion to human sinfulness.

Similarly, Proverbs 24:12 says, “If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs hearts perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?”

J.I. Packer summarizes: “God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil” (Knowing God, 151).

2. God’s wrath is to be feared.

God’s wrath is to be feared because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). God’s wrath is to be feared because we are justly condemned sinners apart from Christ (Romans 5:1). God’s wrath is to be feared because he is powerful enough to do what he promises (Jeremiah 32:17). God’s wrath is to be feared because God promises eternal punishment apart from Christ (Matthew 25:46).

3. God’s wrath is consistent in the Old and New Testament.

It is common to think of the Old Testament God as mean, harsh, and wrath-filled, and the God of the New Testament as kind, patient, and loving. Neither of these portraits are representative of Scripture’s teaching on the wrath of God.

We find immensely fearful descriptions of the wrath of God in both the Old and the New Testament. Here are just a few examples:

“Behold the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked.” (Jeremiah 30:23)

“The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.” (Nahum 1:2)

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18)

“From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” (Revelation 19:15)

4. God’s wrath is his love in action against sin.

This is counter-intuitive, but hear me out.

God is love, and God does all things for his glory (Romans 11:36). He loves his glory above all (and that is a good thing!). Therefore, God rules the world in such a way that brings himself maximum glory. This means that God must act justly and judge sin (i.e. respond with wrath), otherwise God would not be God. God’s love for his glory motivates his wrath against sin.

Read the rest here. 

Christmas in October? (Or, J. I. Packer on the Incarnation)

imageMy wife, Martha, recently purchased Sovereign Grace’s newest Christmas album, and we’ve already listened to it about twenty-three times in the past week. It’s really good. And although I’m usually against much of the commercialism that’s associated with the Christmas season (especially before Halloween!), I whole heartedly believe in celebrating the Incarnation all year round. Hence us enjoying the Chrismas album in October.

Another source of my Christmas cheer in October is my recent reading of J. I. Packer’s Knowing God. In this classic, I read these three paragraphs that both convicted my soul and helped my heart soar in worship:

  1. Here are two mysteries for the price of one—the plurality of persons within the unity of God, and the union of Godhood and manhood in the person of Jesus. It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. “The Word made flesh” (Jn. 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation (53).
  2. The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity–hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory—because at the Father’s will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard, or will hear (63).
  3. It is to our shame that so many Christians—more specific: so many of the soundest and most orthodox Christians—go through this world in the spirit of the priest and the Levite in our Lord’s parable, seeing human needs all around them, but (after a pious wish, and perhaps a prayer that God might meet those needs) averting their eyes and passing by on the otherwise. That is not the Christmas spirit. Nor is it the spirit of those Christians—alas, they are many whose ambition in life seems limited to building a nice middle-class Christian home and making nice middle-class Christian friends, and bringing up their children in nice middle-class Christian ways, and who leave the submiddle-class sections of the community, Christian and non-Christian, to get on by themselves  (63).

So marvel with me today at God’s grace to us in Jesus, his Son.  We have hope today because God became man two thousand years ago, the first step in reconciling us to God. And let us incarnate the true spirit of Chrismas, the spirit that Jesus embodied, and of which Paul writes: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (1 Corinthians 9:8).

(Here’s one of our favorite songs from the album.)

Image: Wikipedia

20 Quotes from The Mortification of Sin

John_Owen_by_John_GreenhillI recently had the privilege of reading John Owen’s classic The Mortificaiton of Sin.

I really do mean it was a privilege. The version I read was lightly edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor, and it was easier to read than I anticipated. More than that I was really helped  in seeing the seriousness of my sin afresh, the glorious balm that is ours in the gospel, and specific strategies in how I can kill my sin.

Here are twenty quotes from The Mortificaiton of Sin, which I pray are helpful for you as you strive to “put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit” (Romans 8:13).

1. Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it while you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you (50).

2. Sin does not only still abide in us, but is still acting, still laboring to bring forth the deeds of the flesh. When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone; but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times and in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion (51).

3. Sin sets its strength against every act of holiness and against every degree we grow to. Let not that man think he makes any progress in holiness who walks not over the bellies of his lusts. He who does not kill sin in his way takes no steps toward his journey’s end. He who finds not opposition from it, and who sets not himself in every particular to its mortification, is at peace with it, not dying to it (55).

4. Men in [old] age do not usually persist in the pursuit of youthful lusts, although they have never mortified any one of them. And the same is the case of bartering of lusts, and leaving to serve one that a man may serve another. He that changes pride for worldliness, sensuality for Pharisaism, vanity in himself to contempt of others, let him not think that he has mortified the sin that he seems to have left. He has changed his master, but is a servant still (71).

5. Now the first thing in mortification is the weakening of this habit of sin or lust, that it shall not, with that violence, earnestness, frequency, rise up, conceive, tumultate [agitate], provoke, entice, disquiet, as naturally it is apt to do (74).

6. To labor to be acquainted with the ways, wiles, methods, advantages, and occasions of its [sins] success is the beginning of this warfare. So do men deal with enemies. They inquire out of their counsels and designs, ponder their ends, consider how and by what means they have formerly prevailed, that they may be prevented. In this consists the greatest skill in conduct. Take this away, and all waging of war, wherein is the greatest improvement of human wisdom and industry, would be brutish. So do they deal with lust who mortify it indeed (76).

7. Frequent success against any lust in another part and evidence of mortification. By success I understand not a mere disappointment of sin, that it be not brought forth not accomplished, but a victory over it and pursuit of it to a complete conquest. For instance, when the heart finds sin at any time at work, seducing, forming imaginations to make provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof, it instantly apprehends sin and brings it to the law of God and the love of Christ, condemns it, follows it with execution to the uttermost (77).

8. A man may easier see without eyes, speak without a tongue, than truly mortify one sin without the Spirit (80).

9. When the Jews, upon the conviction of their sin, were cut to the heart and cried out, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37), what does Peter direct them to do? Does he bid them to go and mortify their pride, wrath, malice, cruelty, and the like? No; he knew that was not their present work, but he calls them to conversion and faith in Christ in general (v. 38). Let the soul be first thoroughly converted, and then, “looking on him whom they had pierced” [Zech. 12:10; John 19:37], humiliation and mortification will ensue (81).

9.  Hatred of sin as sin, not only as galling or disquieting, a sense of love of Christ in the cross, lies at the bottom of all true spiritual mortification (87).

10. If you hate sin as sin, every evil way, you would be no less watchful against everything that grieves and disquiets the Spirit of God, than against that which grieves and disquiets your own soul (87).

11. No. God says, “Here is one, if he could be rid of this lust I should never hear of him more; let him wrestle with this, or he is lost” (88).

12. That God does sometimes leave even those of his own under the perplexing power of at least some lust or sin, to correct them for former sins, negligence, and folly, I no way doubt (94).

13. Examine your heart and ways. What was the state and condition of your soul before you fell into the entanglements of that sin which now you so complain of? Have you been negligent in duties? Have you lived inordinately to yourself? Is there the guilt of any great sin lying upon you unreported of? A new sin may be permitted, as well as a new affliction sent, to bring an old sin to remembrance (95).

14. Is it not enough to make any heart to tremble, to think of being brought into that estate wherein he should have slight thoughts of sin? Slight thoughts of grace, of mercy, of the blood of Christ, of the law, heaven, and hell, come all in at the same season. Take heed, this is that [which] your lust is working toward–the hardening of the heart, searing of the conscience, blinding of the mind, stupefying of the affections, and deceiving of the whole soul (99).

15. Among those who walk with God, there is not greater motive and incentive unto universal holiness, and the preserving of their hearts and spirits in all purity and cleanness, than this, that the blessed Spirit, who has undertaken to dwell in them, is continually considering what they give entertainment in their hearts unto, and rejoices when his temple is kept undefiled (102).

16. Suffer not your heart one moment to be contented with your present frame and condition… Longing, breathing, and panting after deliverance is a grace in itself, that has a mighty power to conform the soul into the likeness of the thing longed after (106).

17. Rise up with all your strength against [your sin], with no less indignation than if it had been fully accomplished what it aims at. Consider what an unclean thought would have; it would have you roll yourself in folly and filth. Ask envy what it would have–murder and destruction is at the end of it. Set yourself against it with no less vigor than if it had utterly debased you to wickedness. Without this course you will not prevail. As sin gets ground in the affections to delight in, it gets also upon the understanding to slight it (110).

18. I say, to keep your heart in continual awe of the majesty of God, that persons of the most high and eminent attainment, of the nearest and most familiar communion with God, do yet in this life know but a very little of him and his glory… we speak much of God, can talk of him, his ways, his works, his counsels, all the day long; the truth is, we know very little of him. Our thoughts, our meditations, our expressions of him are low, many of them unworthy of his glory, none of them reaching his perfections (111).

19. We may suppose that we have here attained great knowledge, clear and high thoughts of God; but, alas! when he shall bring us into his presence we shall cry out, “We never knew him as he is; the thousandth part of his glory, and perfection, and blessedness, never entered into our hearts” (113).

20. Let a man make what application he will for healing and peace, let him do it to the true Physician, let him do it the right way, let him quiet his heart in the promises of the covenant; yet, when peace is spoken, if it not be attended with the detestation and abhorrence of that sin which was the wound and caused the disquietment, this is no peace of God’s creating, but of our own purchasing (121).

Image: Wikipedia

Remember the Resurrection

6341953204_3d48fd0110_zI’m a forgetful person. I forget where I place my keys, my wallet, my glasses. I forget much of what I read. And much, much more. Sometimes it can be a blessing to forget, but more often than not it gets me in trouble.

I don’t think I’m alone in having problems with forgetfulness. And most people’s forgetfulness, including mine, is not just limited to things like keys and glasses. Jon Bloom has said that we are all “leaky buckets.” We all tend to forget gospel truths that we hold dear and so we need to be filled daily lest we run dry. We need to remember what God has done for us in Christ. We need to remember who we are in Him. We need to remember what God promises to be for us in Christ. We need to remember over and over again because we forget.

Resurrection is at the core of the Christian faith. Therefore, it is worth revisiting often given our tendency to forget. There are five aspects of the resurrection that are essential for the Christian life. Let’s remember these again and again.

  1. Jesus’s Resurrection

The Christian faith is at its core a historical religion. So we need to remember what happened in history in order to see rightly. If Jesus didn’t walk in the flesh two thousand years ago, then Christianity is a sham and is not worth the dust on your shoe. However, if Jesus not only lived two thousand years ago, but also died and rose again, then Jesus’s claims about his who he is and what he has done have been vindicated, and he demands everyone’s worship and obedience.

  1. Our Present Resurrection

More than remembering the historical fact of Jesus’s death and resurrection, we need to remember what it means for us. Jesus’s resurrection is the foundation for the Christian life. Look at these two verses from 1 Corinthians 15:

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:20).

Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45).

First, notice in verse 20 Paul says that Christ’s resurrection is the firstfruits of what’s to come for all of those in Him. In other words, Christ has inaugurated the age of resurrection. Second, in verse 45 Paul says that Christ has become, by virtue of his resurrection, a “life-giving spirit,” the very foundation for the Christian life. In the resurrection Christ and the Holy Spirit have become unified in their work (cf. Romans 8:9–10). Thus the resurrection is not something that is only for the future, but Christians participate in it now because of their union with Christ.

Richard Gaffin explains,

The place of the Christian, their share, in the harvest that is now—not only in the future, but presently. The Christian life is a manifestation, an outworking, of the resurrection life and power of the resurrected Christ, become the ‘life-giving Spirit’ (1 Cor. 15:45). It is in this light that statements like Galatians 2:20 (‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’)—autobiographical, but surely applicable to every Christian—ought to be read. (By Faith, Not By Sight, 77).

  1. The Power of Christian Living

We all have a present, daily battle with our sin, the world, and the devil so it is imperative that we remember how the resurrection shapes the Christian life.

It is not an overstatement to say that Jesus, by virtue of his death and resurrection, is our sanctification. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:30 that Jesus has “became for us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption”. There are two ways Christ becomes our sanctification.

  • Jesus’s death and life breaks our slavery to sin. Paul writes in Romans 6:7–8: “For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we also live with him.”

John Murray explains,

[I]t is by virtue of our having died with Christ, and our being raised with him in his resurrection from the dead, that the decisive breach with sin in its power, control and defilement has been wrought, and that the reason for this is that Christ in his death and resurrection broke the power of sin, triumphed over the god of this world, the prince of darkness, executed judgment upon the world and its ruler, and by that victory delivered all those who were united to him from the power of darkness, and translated them into his own kingdom. So intimate is the union between Christ and his people, that they were partakers with him in all these triumphal achievements, and therefore died to sin, rose with Christ in the power of his resurrection, and have their fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life (Collected Writings; Volume 2, 289).

  • Jesus’s death and life enables progressive growth in Christ-likeness. Christians are those who have the Spirit of the resurrected Christ, the life-giving Spirit (Romans 8:8–9, 1 Corinthians 15:45). And they are those in whom God is “working both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). God’s work through Christ by the Holy Spirit is the foundation and fuel for the Christian’s work.

Because of Christ the Christian life should not be a life characterized by giving into temptation. The Christian life is, as Gaffin says, the “resurrection life” (By Faith, Not By Sight, 77). Yes, sin indwells the believer, but Christ has crushed its power, and he has given us his Spirit so we can better reflect His image (Romans 8:29).

What Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:13 should frame the way we think about our present life of being united to Christ and our ongoing sin and temptation:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

In this verse God promises (1) Satan and his minions cannot tempt us beyond our Spirit-given ability to resist, and (2) he will provide a way of escape when we are tempted. So, Christian, when temptation comes, and it will come with a fury at times, remember: you don’t have to sin. Sin’s power has been broken. God has given you the Spirit of the resurrected Christ to help you escape! And when you face temptation God promises to provide an escape hatch.

While the goal of the Christian life is to live a perfectly holy life before God, it is unrealistic to expect to ever attain it in this life (1 John 1:8). As Martin Luther said: “[T]he whole of Christian life should be repentance.” The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is not that one sins and the other doesn’t sin. The difference is that the Christian repents from his sin and looks to Christ for his life whereas the non-Christian does not (Proverbs 24:16).

  1. The Content of Christian Living

If the risen Christ and his Spirit are the power of our present resurrection life, then what code of ethics are followers of the resurrected Christ supposed to obey? It is instructive to begin by what Christian ethics are not. Oliver O’Donovan is helpful:

Paul did not tell the Galatians that now, in the power of the Spirit, they could keep the circumcision and food laws of the Old Testament without being overwhelmed by the burden of them. Nor did Saint Peter conclude that the Gentile Christians were perfectly able, in the power of the Spirit, to bear the yoke ‘which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear’ (Acts 15:10). If they had, their gospel would have been a gospel of the Spirit alone (Resurrection and Moral Order, 23).

Jesus, in his death and resurrection, has established the New Covenant thereby rendering the Old Covenant obsolete (Luke 22:20, Hebrews 8:6). Along with this change in covenant comes a shift in law-code—Christians do not follow the Law of Moses, but the Law of the risen Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21), which is shaped by “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).

  1. Our Future Resurrection

We will not always have the battle that we have today with sin and temptation. Jesus’s resurrection assures us that we too will have a resurrected body like him—Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection crop that all believers participate in (1 Corinthians 15:20).

Yes, we will all taste the bite of death, but its venomous fangs have been removed.

Death is gain for believers because we will be ushered into the presence of Christ. And not only that, but Christians will one day be bodily resurrected and reign with Christ forever (Revelation 21:1–4). In that day we will have no more pain (whether it be physical, emotional, or psychological), no more mourning, no more crying. More than that, we will be transformed to image Christ perfectly; we will love him purely, and see Him face to face.

Remembering the resurrection helps us remember the truth. We remember what God has done in the person of Jesus; we remember what God has done with us in uniting us to him and raising us from the grave; we remember that God has broken the power of sin in our lives and given us his Spirit; we remember that we are under obligation to the law of Christ that is fulfilled through love; and we remember the hope that is ours in the future.

Image: Peter

Three Reasons God Loves You

2889222240_29f8e6c12e_zMost Christians have a hard time believing that God loves them. I know I do.

Reasons for this are likely many, and they tend to change depending on our circumstances. Sometimes we struggle believing that God loves us because of bad teaching. Sometimes we can’t accept that God loves us because of a heart-wrenching accident that happened to us or someone we love. And sometimes our fleshly pride tells us that we are simply unlovable.

Whatever the reason, Scripture teaches us to know, believe, and feel that God loves us. Here are three reasons that you can use to fight when doubt assails you..

  1.  God Loves You Because He Created You

In the first pages of Scripture we learn that God is a creator God. He created the sun, the moon, the stars, the sea and everything in it, and the dry land and everything on it. But he only created men and women in his image (Genesis 1:27). Being created in God’s image means that men and women have the unique capacity and responsibility to represent, resemble, and reflect God in the world.

Everything God created on the first six days of creation he pronounced “good”; when God created man and woman, he was extra pleased with what he had done and said his work was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). God providentially cares for and loves all of his creation, but he has special regard for humankind.

  1. God Loves You Because He Redeemed You

Whenever you doubt whether or not God loves you call to mind Ephesians 5:25, which says: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”. Call to mind the fact that Christ came to die on your behalf. He chose you. He gave himself up for you. He bore the punishment you deserved.

Paul similarly says in Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Besides affirming God’s love for us by pointing to the cross , Paul removes any reason for boasting. He didn’t love us and die for us because we were the best of the best. He chose us in spite of ourselves, when we were his enemies. In the shadow of the cross there is no room for boasting and no room for denying we are loved.

  1. God Loves You Because You Obey

Obedience is not just something tacked on to the Christian life, it is a part of what it means to love Jesus (John 14:15). And based on our obedience we can either be in God’s love or, in some sense, outside of it. Jesus says, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:10)

D. A. Carson explains how this works for the Christian,

“God’s discipline of his children means that he may turn upon us with the divine equivalent of the ‘wrath’ of a parent on a wayward teenager” (The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, 24).

Jesus isn’t saying our disobedience means we are no longer Christians. No, our disobedience means that God will act towards us in a way that a parent might act toward a son or daughter who has broken a rule—he disciplines in order to bring us back into conformity to God’s will and into his love.

The world, the devil, and our sin all conspire against us to make us doubt the fact that God loves us. This unholy trinity wants us to feel worthless, unloved, and unwanted. But God has not left us in the dark about his love. We can know God loves us because he is our good creator; we can know he loves us because he is our savior; and we can know he loves us because we are his disciples who follow his commands.

Image: Broken Wing Productions

 

 

Faithful in Little, But How?

 

2680204486_188ed5040f_zJesus says in Luke 16:10: “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”

The core question when it comes to this verse is: “What does it mean to be faithful?”

Being faithful requires three elements :

  1. Knowledge of what is required.
  2. A belief that God has called you to do a certain task and it is for your good.
  3. Obedient actions that correspond with the knowledge and trust that God has given you.

(Prayer must cover each of these steps. We should pray that God would reveal to our minds what he requires to us. We should pray that God would awaken us the truth of his commands and the reality of the rewards that flow from obedience. And we should pray that his Spirit would empower us for obedience.)

Revelation 2:10 is a good example of all three elements being displayed. Jesus exhorts the church at Smyrna by saying,

“Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Being faithful in Revelation 2:10 requires the knowledge of (1) what it means to be faithful, (2) it means you have to trust that God is speaking through the letter and obedience is for your good, and (3) it requires actual obedience.

How this Works

Pursuing faithfulness takes intentional effort. It doesn’t come out of the blue one morning. If it is not pursued, it will not happen.

But how can we pursue being faithful? Here’s how I suggest going about being more faithful in reading Scripture.

  1. Knowledge: The road to faithfulness in reading Scripture begins with the knowledge—perhaps it is the knowledge that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17) and that we get no clearer picture of Christ than God’s revelation of him in the Scriptures. And our knowledge of how important faith is becomes clearer when we read in Hebrews 11:6 that “without faith it is impossible to please him [God].” Faith is no secondary matter for the believer.
  2. Belief: It is one thing to understand that the Bible compels its readers to read the Scriptures regularly; it is another to believe it is indeed God giving the command and to know that it is for our good. This happens by meditating on God’s promises and by praying for God to open your eyes to believe his promises. Perhaps God would use this promise to stir your heart: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:106). After reading this verse you might pray: “God, help me believe this promise. Help me to believe that your word shows the way of life to me in a dark world.” And God meets you as you pray and you freshly see the importance of knowing and being shaped by God’s word.
  3. Obedience: The final step is moving from knowledge and believe to action. Perhaps it means setting your alarm 30 minutes earlier than you normally wake up, getting out of bed, and reading God’s word. As you shut off the alarm remember the promises that compelled you to set the alarm and let them fuel you to stay awake and study God’s word.

If you aren’t convinced that being faithful in the little things is a big deal, then hear what Jesus promises for those who are not faithful: “If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:11-12). These are sobering words. Being faithful in little is a weighty task for the Christian. Don’t overlook it.

Image: Adam Dimmick