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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.

light_up_the_dark_by_xdante_stock“Mere nothing is a servant to Omnipotency. He sendeth his mandate or statute of heaven to mere nothing; and darkness, as the sergeant and pursuivant [officer of arms] of God, must send out light, by virtue of a creating mandate.”  – Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661)

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to givethe light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:6).

From flickr.comYou desperately need Holy Scripture.  Yes, you need it much more than you think.

Now, you don’t need Holy Scripture to improve your self-image.  (It doesn’t attempt to do that anyway; it is quite the equal opportunity offender.)  You don’t need it to make friends and influence people.  Jesus was no motivational speaker and didn’t put much stock in popular thought.  You certainly don’t need it to entertain you.  You’ve got satellite T.V.  You’ve got social media. You’re well connected.  No, the Bible is quite dispensable when it comes to this short-sighted, consumerist litmus test for relevance.

Ah, but once we factor in what we need the most, that is, salvation from an offended God, then the importance of Holy Scripture is magnified.  So magnified that it dwarfs everything else.

You are a sinner.  So am I.  Not by our own self-flattering and comparative measurements, to be sure.  But according to the standards of God, sin is sin.  Full stop.  And “the wages of sin is death.”

We turn in vain to nature for help.  Nature can tell volumes.  “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handywork.”  “For the invisible things of [God] from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that [men and women] are without excuse.”  But that’s the kicker.  When we, a guilty, ungodly race, seek to get information on how to approach God, all we find is how good, how pure, how holy, and how inflexibly righteous God is.  And by contrast, how dirty and defiled we are.  “And if thou shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who shall stand?”  God is a “consuming fire” and we are dry stubble.  Nature can only echo the voice of our conscience, that we have trespassed the divine law.  And we are under God’s wrath.   “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”

How, then, can we escape His unsparing Day of Judgment?  How can we pacify our consciences?  How can we once again walk with God in the cool of the day, as friends – as it once was and ought to have been?

Deus dixit.  God spoke!  And the word He spoke was of mercy and grace.  He has “spoken comfortably to His people,” proclaiming pardon, freedom, and liberation through His Son.

 “Although the light of nature and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leaven men unexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation.  Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church …” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1.1)

So, although in God there can be no suffering, and patience has its name apatiendo, from suffering, yet a patient God we not only faithfully believe, but also wholesomely confess. But the patience of God, of what kind and how great it is, His, Whom we say to be impassible, yet not impatient, nay even most patient, in words to unfold this who can be able? Ineffable is therefore that patience, as is His jealousy, as His wrath and whatever there is like to these. For if we conceive of these as they be in us, in Him are there none. We, namely, can feel none of these without molestation: but be it far from us to surmise that the impassible nature of God is liable to any molestation. But like as He is jealous without any darkening of spirit, angry without any perturbation, pitiful without any pain, repents Him without any wrongness in Him to be set right; so is He patient without anything of passion.

-Augustine

 

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