Sweet Deliverance

Hello,

Sorry for the recent inactivity. I’m a college student, and one without time management skills at that.

Reading Psalm 130 this morning, this phrase caught my eyes- “O Israel, hope in the Lord…he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”

As my friend David helpfully pointed out in the comment feed on a previous post, redemption language in the Old Testament usually refers to deliverance, most notably deliverance from Egypt in what was essentially the creation of the nation of Israel. Later on, God promises to redeem Israel from all his other enemies.

That makes this phrase in Psalm 130 so fantastic- God will deliver Israel from all his iniquities. I mentioned this in my other blog, that the theme of crushing or head-crushing, a concept usually applied to enemies, is also applied to our sin in Micah 7.

The reason I love this is because it gives full warrant for me to think of my sin as an enemy. When I sin against God, that is legitimately my sin, my fault. In that sense, I am the aggressor. But because I have been redeemed, made new, adopted, regenerated, etc., I can also speak as though I am the victim of my own sin. Satan is trying to hold us captive to this body of death, and God will have none of it. He will squash our sin underfoot like a bug, and redeem us from all our iniquities.

When I sin, I can repent and turn to God without feeling like I’m the enemy. I was; now I’m not. Sin is the enemy, and Christ is the Victor.

Praise God for sweet, sweet deliverance.

-Daniel

Thank You, Dr. Heimlich

Almost eight years ago, the beginning of the summer of 2005. I had just gotten my lifeguarding certification that spring, with the attendant oxygen administration and first aid/CPR certifications. I remember being in line for food at a huge picnic, when not ten feet away from me a woman started screaming. “Help! My baby’s choking!” My first instinct was to go over to her and tell her that I could help, when all of the sudden I froze. Agonizing seconds ticked by. That baby is choking! I said to myself. But I don’t remember what to do! Eventually someone else stepped in to help, and the baby was fine. But I was shaken up. My heart was pounding, adrenaline was coursing through my veins, and I felt like a failure.

Last night at work I was standing in at the front desk when a coworker came out of the break room and ran toward me in a panic, making the universal sign for choking. I positioned myself behind her and began performing abdominal thrusts until the food was dislodged. After she recovered, I realized that my heart rate hadn’t even gone up. In fact, I hadn’t even stopped to think about what to do; I just did it.

It’s amazing the difference between those two events. Years of training and countless calls on the ambulance have drilled certain skill-sets into my head. I think there’s a lesson there. If I had to go back and talk to 15-year old Dan Stanley, I would tell him that though the stakes were high that day, he should be comforted by the fact that it takes time to develop automatic responses. I would encourage him to keep on training, because someday the training would pay off.

I think the Christian faith is like that. We who trust in Christ are, right now, becoming what we will someday be (1 John 3:2-3). We are weak yet, but God is working in us that which is pleasing to him, namely, our growth in all things into Christ, who is our Head (Ephesians 4:15). We aren’t perfect in holiness yet. But we are being perfected. And the more that we follow the Spirit in denying the flesh, the more accustomed we will be to following the Spirit and denying the flesh.

So today’s little acts of holiness amid a sea of failure do count. It’s not in vain to deny the flesh this afternoon, even if you do give in tonight. You’re growing up. And that should be encouraging.

Nice Outfit

Hey!

I was just flipping through some old notes and I came across something in 1 John I want to float by you. 1 John 5:3 says “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”

Now, Greek, like English, has several different meanings for the genitive case- it can be possessive, as in “that bucket of yours;” it can denote content, as in “that bucket of metal,” i.e. filled with metal; it can mean material, as in “that bucket of metal,” i.e. made of metal; and it can mean about a hundred other things. It’s a broad case.

And so in 1 John. From a purely grammatical point of view, the phrase “love of God” in verse 3 could be referring to our love for God or to God’s love for us- it’s the same expression, grammatically. It does seem clear, given the context in verses 1-2, that John is speaking about our love for God, but the question does spark an interesting thought: Does part of God’s love for us include our obedience to his commandments? In other words, could it be that one facet of God’s love entails the gift of our ability to obey him?

Scripturally, I think the answer is yes. In Psalm 19 David speaks of God’s law as a beautiful, vivifying thing, not as a burden (in agreement with John). In Psalm 119, David always speaks of God’s law as a gift. This doesn’t mean, if course, that obedience to the law is a gift, but it ought to make us think positively about God’s law.

And enter Revelation 19. After the destruction of Babylon John gets let in on this cosmic worship service, and among the other songs, the multitude sings this: “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure-” and then the narrator comments, “for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints” (Revelation 19:7-8).

See that? It was given, granted to the Bride to clothe herself with linen, which is the righteous deeds of the saints- our good works, which we perform, are a gift! God truly is a God who takes his people from beginning to end. He has saved us; we are his.

-Daniel

Fear and Trembling

Just some late-night thoughts:

As I was just preparing for tomorrow’s class, I ran into this verse from Philippians: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).  It struck me just now because this came up in my small group tonight, and it was the subject of our devotional in class this morning. Now, I’m not the brightest crayon in the box, but I know what it means when God places a verse in front of a person three times in one day. Pay attention.

So what’s the point here? I asked myself. I’ve looked at these verses plenty of times, and heard all sorts of great stuff on them. What’s new tonight? And after a moment’s reflection, here’s where I was led:

1) Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, because God is nearer to you than your next breath. How sobering and amazing it is, that God is in every sense the closest, most present reality in my life right now, whether I acknowledge him or not. That causes me to fear.

2) Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work within you. God is holy, and yet he has condescended to dwell within me, and to work in me? I know my Old Testament well enough to know that that makes me holy- and holy things ought not to be used the way I use my body and mind. This makes me tremble.

3) You can work out your own salvation, because God is at work within you! I am a classic Romans 7 man, unable but for the grace of God to do anything good. And while I am not the man I ought to be, by the powerful working of God I am not the man I used to be! Hallelujah, God is doing marvelous things in my life! This makes me tremble too, though for different reasons.

Like a star in the glittering expanse of the cosmos (2:15), a light in the kingdom of light I shine, lit from within by the God who dwells in my and is even now at work in me to will in and to work for his good pleasure. So work out your own salvation with fear and with trembling- God is near.

Double Cure

This morning I was lifeguarding and letting my mind wander, like I do, and my mind wandered right on over to limited atonement, like it does (I’m glad the two of us are so predictable). I’ve been thinking for a few months about what comfort the doctrine of limited atonement holds for believers, and this morning I thought about something John Owen said in his book The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Owen said, in speaking of holiness, faith, and grace, “Now, where should a soul look for these things, but in the purchase of Christ? Whence should they flow but from his side? Or is there any consolation to be had without them? Is not the strongest plea for these things at the throne of grace, the procurement of the Lord Jesus?” (p. 307).

Indeed it is, John.

Thinking of that, I was struck by how sure the promise of holiness is to the believer, rooted in the death of Christ for him. When I’m struggling with sin and feel as though I’m fighting a losing battle, a general atonement will not help me. If Christ died for all without exception, then he has done all he’s going to do, and the rest is up to me. Even if I get some help from the Spirit, it is still my will which has to effect the benefits Christ purchased on the cross. But if Christ died for his elect, not so as to make them salvable but to actually save them, then his elect will be holy. I will grow and progress in sanctification, if I am his own, because he bought me for his own.

Of course this is not to say I don’t have choices, or that I don’t have any responsibility. It is to say, however, that even my right choices, my sweat, blood, and tears for the sake of holiness, were bought by his choice, his sweat, his blood, his tears. And that’s good news.

-Daniel