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study-of-arms-and-hands“With our body we see, we speak, we walk, we descend, we climb, and so much more.  And in the Holy Scripture, all these functions, and so many more, are ascribed not only to our God, but they are ascribed in terms of the same senses and members of the body that we use for them. God also hears with his ear, sees with his eye, walks with his feet, strikes with his hand, saves with his arm, points with his finger, feels with his heart, moans in his inner parts, shows wrath in his face, and so much more. Of all these expressions and manifestations of life in God, an imprint has been put in man, and this imprint expresses itself through the members and senses of the body. And for this reason it won’t do to say that our body as such has nothing to do with the image of God.”

-Abraham Kuyper, Common Grace, 1:187

Altar-of-Sacrifice“And when our iniquity had been fully accomplished, and it had been made perfectly manifest that punishment and death were expected as its recompense, and the season came which God had ordained, when henceforth He should manifest His goodness and power (O the exceeding great kindness and love of God), He hated us not, neither rejected us, nor bore us malice, but was long-suffering and patient, and in pity for us took upon Himself our sins, and Himself parted with His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy for the lawless, the guileless for the evil, the just for the unjust, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal. For what else but His righteousness would have
covered our sins?

“In whom was it possible for us lawless and ungodly men to have been justified, save only in the Son of God?

“O the sweet exchange, O the inscrutable creation, O the unexpected benefits; that the iniquity of many should be concealed in One Righteous Man, and the righteousness of One should justify many that are iniquitous!”

Epistle to Diognetus, 5:2-5 (ca. 150 A.D.)

“Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect. For instance, when you have grasped that the earth and the other planets all go round the sun, you would naturally expect that all the planets were made to match-all at equal distances from each other, say, or distances that regularly increased, or all the same size, or else getting bigger or smaller as you go farther from the sun. In fact, you find no rhyme or reason (that we can see) about either the sizes or the distances; and some of them have one moon, one has four, one has two, some have none, and one has a ring.

“Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all these boys’ philosophies-these over-simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either.”

– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

1280px-AuthorityOfLawIn the last several weeks, we’ve seen several states struggling to come to terms with the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell vs. Hodges decision. Most recently, Mississippi has passed a law protecting the freedoms of pastors, florists, and bakers, who do not wish their consciences implicated by the new reality. They have lost the battle but  are hoping to safeguard their right of dissent and simple non-participation. Let anyone who wishes to support same-sex marriages do as they please, but these folk simply want left out of it. That, however, is bringing down quite the storm of righteous protest from all quarters, from entertainers, to big business, to those in public office. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is just the most recent to join in the denunciation, backing it up with the rod of discipline for his errant, backward un-Americans.

Yes, Obergefell vs. Hodges was truly a watershed moment; but really, one could see it coming miles away. The court of public opinion had already ruled before Justice Kennedy penned his majority opinion. Kennedy only enshrined into law – by judicial fiat, no less – what had already become the new righteousness of modern America. It scratched the itch. Not an itch for true justice.  Yes, many would think that’s just what it was.  A fundamentally good America was simply becoming more consistently good. This was Civil Rights redivivus. But I see it differently – America was instead itching for justification.

Here’s the problem. We are not the impeccable, squeaky-clean nation that we’d like to imagine ourselves to be. We are rather depraved. And I’m not just speaking theologically here. We are actually, tangibly, viscerally depraved. The disease has reached the skin, and the stinking wounds are drawing flies. It has become painfully obvious. We are dirty, down to the fingernails. And when we look in the mirror, we just don’t like what we see.  We want to be clean. We want innocence back. We want to be rid of the nagging voice of conscience that rings in our ears, “We have abandoned God and played the prodigal. We have lost our spiritual virginity and have defiled the core of our beings.” But that’s just way too painful. So we desperately reach for cosmetics. We look for a new justification, to vindicate our consciences short of coming clean before God and the world.

Many Americans try to project their dirtiness on to others – playing some psychological slight-of-hand.  “It’s really the politician.” The voter is innocent. The polls are never wrong (and the customer is always right)!  But once that voter becomes elected and enters the Beltway, he falls from grace. At term’s end, a righteous, holy majority may well vote him or her out of office as a punishment for going bad.

But the facts tell a different story. No-fault divorce is now the norm. Porn is now the norm. Shacking up is now the norm (if you have to Google that, you’ve proved my point). Governor Cuomo is doing just that. No commitment, free sex. How noble!  But I wish I could say he’s any different from Joe Six-pack. Children across the United States are now accustomed to being tossed around like a Frisbee from home to home because their parents act like spoiled children. Is it any wonder this new generation is so troubled? Yet, at least they’ve survived the abortion epidemic.

To me, it seems rather obvious. Our nation joins the latest crusade in order to find justification on their own terms. It finds a new cause, a new righteousness – however warped. By championing that new righteousness, dignity is restored. The feeling of worth and value comes back with a flush. And when the baddies, who hold out for an older righteousness, speak their mind, they are shouted down. At best, they are marginalized – haters gonna hate!

I have little confidence in the American public, apart from God’s restraint. The jury is corrupt, full stop. But I have every confidence that when a sovereign God hears the prayers of His people, when He freely chooses to have mercy on whom He will have mercy, that nothing will stop the revolution in the minds of the people. That He can – when He pleases – stop the madness and bring back a prodigal nation in the mud of the pigpen to its senses. He can persuade America to renounce its new righteousness, its new justification, and receive His through Christ.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:23-26)

Jacopo_Bassano_workshop_-_Animals_boarding_the_Noah's_Ark_-_Louvre“Y se arrepintio Jehova de haber hecho hombre en la tierra” (Gen. 6:6).

El arrepentimineto que aqui se atribuye a Dios no pertenece propiamente a el, sino tiene referencia a nuestro entendimiento de el. Pues porque no podemos entenderlo como es, es necesario que para nuestra ayuda, en un sentido, se transforme. Que el arrepentimiento no puede suceder en Dios, aparece facilmente de esta consideracion que nada sucede que es por el inesperado o no previsto. El mismo razonamiento, y comentario, aplica a lo que sigue, que Dios fue afectado por tristeza. Ciertamente Dios no siente pesadumbre o tristeza, pero permanece para siempre como si mismo en su reposo celestial y contento: no obstante, porque de ninguna otra manera se podria saber cuan grande es el odio y la detestacion de Dios para el pecado, el Espiritu se acomoda a nuestra capacidad. Por tanto, no hay necesidad de involucrarnos en preguntas dificiles y espinosas, cuando es obvio a que fin se emplean estas palabras de arrepentimiento y dolor; lo que es, para enseñarnos que desde el tiempo en que al hombre fue tan grandemente corrompido, Dios no lo contaba entre sus criaturas; como si dijera, ‘Esta no es mi maniobra; este no es el hombre que forme en mi propia imagen, y a quien adorne con tales dones excelentes: no me digno ahora reconocer esta degenerada y contaminada criatura como mia.’ Semejante a esto es lo que dice, en el segundo lugar, acerca del dolor; que Dios estuvo tan ofendido por la impiedad atroz del hombre, como si hubiesen herido su corazon con angustia mortal: Hay aqui, por lo tanto, un antitesis inexpresado entre esa naturaleza justa que habia sido creada por Dios, y la corrupcion que broto del pecado. En lo mientras, a menos de que queremos provocar a Dios, y causarle dolor, aprendamos aborrecer y huir del pecado. Ademas, esa bondad y ternura paternal debe de, en forma no leve, sojuzgar en nosotros el amor al pecado; puesto que Dios, para mas efectualmente penetrar nuestros corazones, se viste de nuestros afectos. Esta figura, que representa a Dios como transferiendo a si mismo lo que pertenece a la naturaleza humana, se llama anthropopatheia.

Juan Calvino (1509-1564)

In our morning message, we considered Genesis 7, the ancient story of the Flood. On that day of reckoning, sinners saw God for what He is – God.  And then they breathed their last. All this fell out just as God predicted, with zero “margin of error.” Here’s a short clip:

To listen to the complete sermon, click here.

 

 

Jacopo_Bassano_workshop_-_Animals_boarding_the_Noah's_Ark_-_Louvre

“And  it  repented  the  Lord  that  he  had  made  man  on  the  earth.”

The repentance which is here ascribed to God does not properly belong to him, but has reference to our understanding of him. For since we cannot comprehend him as he is, it is necessary that, for our sakes he should, in a certain sense, transform himself. That repentance cannot take place in God, easily appears from this single considerations that nothing happens which is by him unexpected or unforeseen. The same reasoning, and remark, applies to what follows, that God was affected with grief. Certainly God is not sorrowful or sad; but remains forever like himself in his celestial and happy repose: yet, because it could not otherwise be known how great is God’s hatred and detestation of sin, therefore the Spirit accommodates himself to our capacity. Wherefore, there is no need for us to involve ourselves in thorny and difficult questions, when it is obvious to what end these words of repentance and grief are applied; namely, to teach us, that from the time when man was so greatly corrupted, God would not reckon him among his creatures; as if he would say, ‘This is not my workmanship; this is not that man who was formed in my image, and whom I had adorned with such excellent gifts: I do not deign now to acknowledge this degenerate and defiled creature as mine.’ Similar to this is what he says, in the second place, concerning grief; that God was so offended by the atrocious wickedness of men, as if they had wounded his heart with mortal grief: There is here, therefore, an unexpressed antithesis between that upright nature which had been created by God, and that corruption which sprung from sin. Meanwhile, unless we wish to provoke God, and to put him to grief, let us learn to abhor and to flee from sin. Moreover, this paternal goodness and tenderness ought, in no slight degree, to subdue in us the love of sin; since God, in order more effectually to pierce our hearts, clothes himself with our affections. This figure, which represents God as transferring to himself what is peculiar to human nature, is called anthropopatheia.

– John Calvin (1509-1564)

 

“But the proof of the possibility of the resurrection of the flesh I have sufficiently demonstrated, in answer to men of the world. And if the resurrection of the flesh is not found impossible on the principles even of unbelievers, how much more will it be found in accordance with the mind of believers! But following our order, we must now speak with respect to those who think meanly of the flesh, and say that it is not worthy of the resurrection nor of the heavenly economy, because, first, its substance is earth; and besides, because it is full of all wickedness, so that it forces the soul to sin along with it. But these persons seem to be ignorant of the whole work of God, both of the genesis and formation of man at the first, and why the things in the world were made. For does not the word say, Let Us make man in our image, and after our likeness? Genesis 1:26 What kind of man? Manifestly He means fleshly man, For the word says, And God took dust of the earth, and made man. Genesis 2:7 It is evident, therefore, that man made in the image of God was of flesh. Is it not, then, absurd to say, that the flesh made by God in His own image is contemptible, and worth nothing? But that the flesh is with God a precious possession is manifest, first from its being formed by Him, if at least the image is valuable to the former and artist; and besides, its value can be gathered from the creation of the rest of the world. For that on account of which the rest is made, is the most precious of all to the maker.”

-Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.)

An ever so small tribute to someone much smaller – yet surpassingly more wonderful!

2941204143_4280c3f48c_oWho wouldn’t?  Who doesn’t?

Well, too many.  Strange thing, indeed!  And yet it makes some sense, when we consider happiness as God defines it.  Happiness is keeping God’s law.

And that’s where pleasure-seekers draw the line.  “Time out!  You mean happiness lies in law-keeping?  Commandments?  That’s too restrictive.”  And yet, it’s precisely within the orbit of a devout and conscientious walk with God that true happiness is found.  Counter-intuitive, but true.

Hear the ancient wisdom-words of Psalm 34:

What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?  Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.  Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.  The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry.   The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

The pleasure-seeker fights the fences.  He tramples them down in defiance.  And yet O how we need fences to be happy!  Oddly enough, in God’s world (is there another?), boundaries bless.  They protect, they channel, they guide, they consecrate.  But remove them, and pleasure-seeking runs headlong from good, green pastures into the wilds of insecurity, anxiety, directionlessness, and depression.  And that’s just the beginning.

Who wants to be happy?  Then think outside the box.  Way outside.

* * *

This Lord’s day (Sunday), August 2, we will be treating this text, as it is quoted by the Apostle Peter.  You are very welcome to join us.

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