Love and Not-so-Nermal

I started reading this book by D.A. Carson titled The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. People today see nothing difficult about the love of God. God loves everybody. And that is just the problem. The love of God shocks no one. The love of God is normal.

We are like Nermals, the kitten on Garfield that constantly proclaims how cute he is (I know, I always thought he was a she too, consult the ‘W‘). How could God not love us, we are so cute. Sure there are some despicable people in the world, but most of us are ok, and our faults, they’re cute – right?

We often sacrifice God’s attributes, His holiness, His righteousness, His sovereignty, His justice at the expense of His love. God is never divided in His attributes. His love never works against His righteousness, never undermines His holiness, and never negates His justice. This is why there is no love extended toward mankind outside of the cross.

This is why many hate the cross or want to reduce it to a simple display of affection. If the cross is vicarious penal substitutionary atonement; propitiating God’s wrath, reconciling us to an alien Deity, redeeming us from bondage to sin, and justifying us before a righteous Judge whom we have infinitely offended, then we are infinitely far from cute!

This is why God’s love should shock us! His love did not constrain Him to make atonement for our sins. God is not obligated to love us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.   More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.  – Romans 5:6-11

His love is His sovereign choice to love the very not-so-Nermal.

Galatians 3:10-14 & Cursed

What’s your curse?

I have this hex on me, that every time a waiter comes by the table to ask me something I have taken a massive bite of food that seems to take five minutes to chew while they impatiently stare at me. It is impossible to enjoy food while being the subject of someone’s gaze.

I also have this curse of forgetting everything. Like forgetting a pot of boiling water. I have recently twice forgotten about leaving the watering hose for about four hours. This has recently become more annoying since we have stairs. I ask myself “why did I come up here?” only to remember after having given up and journeyed back downstairs.

So what is your curse? Body odor? Stinky feet? Hairy toes? Public flatulence? Protruding nasal hair? The curse of the black pearl? Zits on picture days? Always forgetting to pack a toothbrush and secretly borrowing one?

What is the true nature of a curse? What does it mean that Christ became a curse? Why did He have to become a curse?

Isn’t it funny that we think we are accursed when we get a flat, a zit, a ‘d’, an insufficient funds notice, etc? Jesus shows us the true nature of a curse. What he suffered is the curse we all deserve. I’ve recently noticed how little the gospels speak of Christ’s physical sufferings. All of the gospels spend the majority of their time recording this event, but little detail is given regarding HIS physical suffering. There is much more that reveals the agony of His soul as He drank from the bitter cup of His Father’s wrath.

So bring on the waiters, the zits, and the flats I am blessed. My sins have been atoned for. The Father has been propitiated. Christ became my curse so that I may approach the throne in boldness.

Rejoice in this… but still I am absolutely curious,

What is your “curse”?

Galatians 3:7-9 & The Kind My Daddy Likes

Perhaps I was six, I can’t remember.

I was staying with my aunt Brenda. Like most human children I was inclined to rapidly burn calories and soon require nourishment. Upon questioning me regarding my need to consume sustenance they discovered that I liked pizza.

“Do you know what kind of pizza you like?”

“Yes!”

And so we ventured to the hut of pizza.

A menu was then set before me, beverages were served, the order was soon to be taken:

“So what kind of pizza do you like?”

“The kind my daddy eats!”

“What kind is that?”

“I don’t know.”

And so began a series of pointing to pictures and explaining various toppings. I then discovered that it was hamburger pizza which I and my daddy enjoyed (I have since come to find that pepperoni is far superior to all varieties of pizza).

The Judaiziers were all about being “Jewy”. They didn’t want to part with the law and be like gentile sinners (2:15, 17). But in trying to be so “Jewy” they became less so. Their daddy came to God simply on faith. The law came after and was an addendum to Abraham. Faith preceded law. This has always been the gospel.

Ours is a vintage faith. The faith of our fathers. It is an old faith. It has not changed. It’s what our Father likes. And we like it too.

I left hamburger to discover other pizzas. They were much more delicious. I have found nothing sweeter than this ancient faith. New is not always better.

Galatians 3:1-6 & Stupid

I have been bewitched several times, this is one:

I was bewitched that if I was a cowboy I would be cool. So I bought wranglers, a big belt with a big buckle, and a hat. It was painful to wear these items. This is not meant to be offensive to wrangler wearers or cowboys, only to say that I find this attire equally as painful as a suit and tie. I was duped.

I’m listening to this great British guy named John R.W. Stott on my iPod right now. He wrote a book about the cross that I am mad I went through seminary without someone telling me “you must read this book before you graduate and we will make you wear a cowboy hat until you do”. Anyway, back to my listening. I downloaded a few of his sermons on the cross (you can do so here for free after registering). I love Stott because the cross is central, essential to everything for him.

I have never left the theology in this text as a cherished doctrine. I leave it as a lifestyle. I leave it as a love. I leave it as my focus. I think of it too little. I try to commune with God based on other means. I forget the depth of love and holiness shown there. I am stupid. If ever there was a time to identify one as stupid it is when a Christian forgets the centrality of the cross.

The amplified bible says it like this:

O you poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians!

Or JB Phillips put it this way:

O you dear idiots of Galatia

We must fight against being duped. May our eyes constantly be fixed upon Christ and Him crucified.

Galatians 2:15-21 & Air

Justification by faith…

How many times a week do you reflect on that phrase?

Rarely? What has so happened to evangelical Christianity that we scarcely reflect, understand, and love this doctrine? Martin Luther said:

If the article of justification be once lost, then all true Christian doctrine is lost.

Do we treat this doctrine like that? Or has it become as light as air to us. I rarely appreciate breathing. Usually it takes a punch in the gut, choking, or being held underwater for me to think, “You know this whole air thing is pretty great, I sure would love to put some of that in my lungs right now.” Have we taken this whole thing for granted? Are we acting as if this air is something that should always be there for us? “He gave us lungs; He ought to give us air.”

How can a generation be awakened to see the preciousness of this truth like Luther did?

I think we need to realize that because of sin we are not on the surface, we are underwater. Air is precious. We are:

swimming,

drowning,

sinking in sin.

We live in this water of sin. There is no surface. We need air or we die. Justification is this air, and it comes completely by grace and faith. We have been given an air hose in promise that upon death we will surface never to swim in this liquid sin again.

To see the beauty of this gift we must see the depths of our sin.

We must remember we need this work of Christ like we need air, continually.

Today I urge you:

Breathe!

Galatians 2:11-14 & Paul or Peter

Paul loved the gospel. Paul loved for people to be genuinely riveted to the gospel. Peter loved the gospel. Peter loved for people to be genuinely riveted to the gospel.  But in this moment, one loved their ego, reputation, or standing more than they loved to see people genuinely rived to the gospel.

Which one are you?

A courageous lover of men (Paul)?

Or a cowardly lover of self (peter)?

I think I am Peter too often. Many people think that conflict is incompatible with love. Often because of our depravity much conflict occurs because of hate. But that is not to say it is incompatible with love. When a mother has conflict with her child over playing with matches this is not driven by hate, but by love. Often it is the person who avoids conflict that is the least loving. They care more about their appearance than your good.

I read a book by Francis Schaeffer (see pg. 17, 18 of don’t waste your life) this week titled The God Who is There. I mean look at the guy. Are you not absolutely assured that his writing must certainly be a blast? It is like seeing David Crowder, Bob Dylan, or Charles surgeon – these people just have an appearance about them that says fun.

Anyway here is this amazing smart man who sees huge holes and inconsistencies in modern philosophy and yet he confronts them in such gentle love:

When we have the opportunity to talk to the non-Christian, what (if not the formula mentality) should be the dominate consideration? I think this should be love. I think these things turn on love and compassion on people not as objects to evangelize, but as people who deserve all the love and consideration we can give them, because they are our kind, and made in the image of God. They are valuable, so we should meet them in love and compassion. Thus, we meet the person where he or she is.

Earlier, after speaking of the despair modern man comes to he says:

These painting, these poems, and these demonstrations which we have been talking about are the expression of men who are struggling with their appalling lostness. Dare we laugh at such things? Dare we feel superior when we view their tortured expressions in their art? Christians should stop laughing and take such men seriously. Then we shall have the right to speak again to such men seriously. These men are dying while they live; yet where is our compassion for them? There is nothing more ugly than a Christian orthodoxy without understanding or without compassion.

So do we confront? Yes, but only with our hearts full of compassion and love. Hearts that realize that the depths of the depravity we see in the world lie in our hearts and would take us over if not for the grace of God, the very grace they too need. Our love for the gospel should always be in obedience to the first and second commandment.

Galatians 2:1-10 & Me, Me, Me Pt.2

We are now homeowners. And I am terrified. Not at the expense. Not at signing an endless amount of paperwork. Not at the massive amount of debt that we are now committed to. Not at all the painting that needs to be done. Not at the work of moving. No these things may cause stress, but they are not the source of my fear. I deeply long to communicate to the world that my ultimate treasure is in God, that heaven is my home, that my happiness flows from above, that I am not banking on this life. Bethany and I happened to find a large home in our price range; a home we hope to grow into, but still much more home than we needed. My fear is that when people see such a large home (realize large is relative) they will think that:

1) I love my Jesus because I believe that He gives me good things such as this house

2) I love the things of this world and Jesus is just a nice thing to tack on, like an insurance policy.

3) That following Jesus and prosperity are synonymous or that following Jesus does not involve sacrificial living.

It terrifies me to think that I might shame the gospel. So I must fight. At all cost I must seek ways to communicate that I am not living for my house, or my car, or my iPod. I want to give more than I have received. I want to sacrifice. And I pray that my heart does not grow fond of painted wood and the glory of man.

The gospel I love is bigger than any comforts, joys, or pleasures in this life. In all of my living I hope to put the gospel first. To put its proclamation above all that I may desire. I hope I have not run in vain (Gal. 2:2). I pray I yield not to a false gospel (2:5). I desire that I always remember the poor (2:10).