Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Eternity with God

from here:

In his little book Fear Not!, an examination of death and the afterlife from a Christian perspective, Ligon Duncan writes about the horrors of hell. Having done so, he offers a final reflection on the ultimate difference between heaven and hell. And, though I’ve read extensively, I do not recall ever hearing someone express it quite like this. These are words that are worthy of some reflection. Though he has already discussed hell, there is one more thing he wishes to say.


It is a surprising thing to note, because so often we speak of hell as a place where God is not. Let me, however, say something provocative. Hell is eternity in the presence of God without a mediator. Heaven is eternity in the presence of God, with a mediator. Hell is eternity in the presence of God, being fully conscious of the just, holy, righteous, good, kind, and loving Father’s disapproval of your rebellion and wickedness. Heaven, on the other hand, is dwelling in the conscious awareness of your holy and righteous Father, but doing so through a mediator who died in your place, the One who absorbed the fullness of the penalty of your sin. Heaven is eternity in the presence of God with the One who totally eradicated sin from your life, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Hell is eternity in the presence of God without a mediator. Heaven is eternity in the presence of God with a mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ.


Glen's additions here:

In terms of our doctrine of God - what sense can be made of ‘God without a Mediator’? Trinity means that mediation goes way back. WAY back. And WAY forwards. 1 Corinthians 8:6 - all things have always been from the Father and through the Lord Jesus. All things. And all things always will be. Who is this God who is without His Mediator. I simply can’t recognize ‘God without a mediator’ as the Christian God.

In terms of our christology - does this sentiment give Christ His due?It could lead people to suppose that Christ is simply the wrath-averter. Now of course He is the wrath-averter. And if He was only the wrath-averter we would still praise Him into eternity for it. But He is far more than this. He is the Mediator of all the Father’s business. Christ does not exist for our benefit - we exist for His. The saying above could be easily misconstrued to mean that the Mediator is extremely important for us - but not so important for God. No. He is essential to the divine life before we ever consider His importance for us.

In terms of Scripture - 2 Thes 1:9 “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” (KJV) There’s a translation issue about the preposition (’apo’). Should it be translated ‘from’ or ‘away from’? I favour ‘from’ - ie implying that Christ is present in judgement. This goes with Revelation 14:10 where the damned are tormented in the presence of the Lamb. See also Rev 1:18 where Jesus is presented as the Jailor of death and hades, and Rev 6:16-17 where it’s the wrath of the Father together with the Lamb. Jesus expressly says in John 5:22 that the Father has entrusted all judgement to Him.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Learning from Christ

Great post from Glen about reading the Psalms:

Following on from my last post - Psalms are about Christ. They tell of the interaction between the LORD, the King through Whom He rules, the righteous who hide in Him and the wicked who rebel.

These interactions are pictured from many angles. But one key perspective is for the King Himself to speak. This most often happens in the Psalms ‘Of David’.

Of course all the kings reigned under the knowledge that they were simply throne-warmers for the King to Whom universal tribute was due. (Gen 49:10) But David was the most idealized of these kings. The Messiah is often spoken of simply as David. (e.g. Ezekiel 34:23f; 37:25). And David himself is aware of his idealized role. Just before his death he said: “The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; His word was on my tongue.” (2 Sam 23:2) He didn’t speak better than he knew, but he certainly spoke better than he lived. In the Psalms the king most often spoke as The King. The anointed one spoke most often as The Anointed One.

Peter confirms this for us in Acts 2. Even when David spoke in the first person he was speaking the words of Christ (see Acts 2:25). Quoting Psalm 16, Peter makes it clear that David was not describing his own experience. (Paul underlines this in Acts 13:36-37). Rather, David “was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ” (Acts 2:30-31).

Does this mean that such Psalms have no application to David? No of course they do - but such application runs from Christ to David rather than David to Christ. This is the nature of the whole of David’s life - from shepherd boy to rejected ruler, to reigning king to his death, he is a shadow of the Coming King.

This is my understanding anyway. Whether you take the Psalms from David to Christ or Christ to David, I hope we can all agree that the emotions and experiences of ‘The King’ are ultimately taken up and owned by Christ.

All of this is just a precursor to what I really want to discuss… What do we do with the Psalmist’s intense desire for the LORD?

On one level that’s simple - copy it. Be challenged by it. Be inspired by it. Seek it for yourself.

Well, yes, ok. But here’s the question - what do I do when I don’t earnestly desire the LORD? Because maybe once or twice in your life your white hot devotion to God has dipped below the zeal of the Psalmist. What do you do then?

Here’s the first level of my response: When I don’t desire God, first I need to see that Christ does. And He does so for me.

What do I mean?

Well take a favourite Psalm of mine: Psalm 63

Here the Psalmist says:

1 O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.

3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.

4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.

Now be honest, doesn’t some part of you go “Really? Have I really beheld His power and glory? Really? Have I in the past and will I in the future praise Him so wholeheartedly? Really? As long as I live? Am I perjuring myself here??”

But friend, read on to the final verse…

11 But the king will rejoice in God

These are the words of the king - the king on whose lips are the words of The King. And He has beheld the power and glory of the LORD in the ultimate sanctuary. He is the ultimate, white-hot Worshipper of God. These words are not a guide to human worship so much as a window onto divine worship.

So what should be our response?

Sit back and be awed by The King’s desire for the LORD. You don’t yet feel such intense passion. Well alright. In the deepest sense you never can match His devotion. But let the King’s worship be enough for you. Don’t despise his devotion like Michal (2 Sam 6:16). Simply allow your King to offer what you cannot summon up yourself. Know that He offers in your place a worship you could never initiate. And if the Praise-Worthy does not elicit your praise, let the Praise-Giver show the way. In ourselves we could never work up the right response. In Christ we see what reckless and joyful abandon to God looks like.

He is like the first Dancer onto the floor, moved by the Music, laughing and clapping and dancing as we never could. The more you watch Him dance, the more your foot starts to tap, then you start clapping. Pretty soon you’ll link arms and join in. The Music itself should get you on the dance floor. But in fact the Music never does - not really. It’s the Dancer who inspires, who links arms and who leads.

Read Psalm 63 again. And add your own Amen. For now that is enough. If these words were simply the prayer diary of an ancient near eastern ruler, your Amen would mean nothing. If these were just passionate words from an inspired and inspiring devotee they could only judge your apathy. But they’re not. This is the worship of The King. Your King. This is Christ your Substitute, your Priest, your Vicarious Worshipper. He bears your name on His heart as He comes before the LORD in joyful abandon. For now just allow Him to offer the praise you cannot find in yourself. In time you’ll join the dance.


Let me just add to that
Even the Psalms that deal with sin
we learn from the one who united with sinful humanity
we learn from the sin bearer
therefore even Psalms like this:

Psalm 69:5-6 5 O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. 6 Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel.

The New Testament explicitly quotes that this Psalm is about Jesus

One wonders if even Psalms like Ps 51 are His own words!
Since after all, He is our representative - He interceeds as one of us...

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The Danger of Spiritual Myopia

I recently gave a sermon on Mark 8:22-26

in the Scripture just before that - Jesus rebukes very sternly His disciples for not understanding - He is cut to the heart by their blindness since they are the ones closest to Him

He teaches them about short-sightedness by the blind man - healing Him twice - the first healing (with remnants of the misty-clay moulding in Genesis) shows a myopic man - the man that is not intimate with Jesus - He cannot see His face

The 2nd healing - by coming to Jesus again, and receiving the Holy Spirit (hands) to enlighten Him to the knowledge of Christ - He sees Jesus clearly

The lesson
- the disciples see only to their stomachs
- the villagers to the earthly kingdom
- Peter to the earthly Messiah

Jesus's response to them - BE SILENT

Anyone who preaches a gospel that is not beyond the cross needs to be silent - whatever the context

The gospel is always through death - through the cross - the kingdom of heaven - anyone who lives a life not of the cross - go home.

Any ministry from any Christian must be heavenly, cross-based and eternal.
Earthly Christian 'gospels' are the most damaging thing on the planet to the real gospel - they have tremendous adverse effects... so much so that it is even better not to say anything at all!

The way we live also displays short-sightedness (cf. 2 Pet 1) - when we have a full view of Jesus from Jesus, we live like Jesus - otherwise we might as well be blind
and are certainly of no use to anyone else...