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St_georges_church_graveyard_Carrington_Greater_ManchesterThe [Apostles’] Creed next mentions, that he “was dead and buried”. Here again it is necessary to consider how he substituted himself in order to pay the price of our redemption. Death held us under its yoke, but he in our place delivered himself into its power, that he might exempt us from it. This the Apostle means when he says, “that he tasted death for every man,” (Heb 2:9). By dying he prevented us from dying; or (which is the same thing) he by his death purchased life for us. But in this he differed from us, that in permitting himself to be overcome of death, it was not so as to be engulfed in its abyss, but rather to annihilate it, as it must otherwise have annihilated us; he did not allow himself to be so subdued by it as to be crushed by its power; he rather laid it prostrate, when it was impending over us, and exulting over us as already overcome. In fine, his object was, “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage,” (Heb 2:14-15).

-John Calvin

black-and-white-chains“La virulencia del pecado solo se revela por completo cuando llega en contacto con la ley.  Entonces la ley extrae todo tipo de deseo y suelta su furia completa contra el poder que procura dominarla.  Lo que se dice en 1 Corintios 15:56 tambien aplica aqui: ‘el poder del pecado es la ley.’  Sin la ley el pecado no hubiera podido incitar en el hombre tanta resistencia y rebeldia.  Por tanto se puede decir que el pecado enga   ̴a al hombre.  Presentando a la ley como el punto final de toda libertad, de la vida misma, el pecado trae al hombre bajo su poder embrujante.  Le promete las mismas cosas que la ley le aparece negar y asi lo guia a la muerte.”

-Herman Ridderbos (1909-2007)

“The virulence of sin only fully works [itself out] when it comes into contact with the law. Then does the law wring out all manner of desire and release its full fury against the power which seeks to curb it. What is said in 1 Corinthians 15:56 also applies here: ‘The power of sin is the law.’ Without the law sin would not have been able to incite man to such resistance and revolt. Hence it may be said that sin deceives man. By presenting the law as the terminating point of all freedom, of life itself, sin brings man under its bewitching power. It promises him the very things of which the law seems to deprive him and thus leads him to death.”

-Herman Ridderbos (1909-2007)

“Y acontecio en los días que gobernaban los jueces, que hubo hambre en la tierra. Y un varón de Beth-lehem de Judá, fué á peregrinar en los campos de Moab, él y su mujer, y dos hijos suyos” (Rut 1:1).

Se pregunto una vez, “Acaso puede salir cosa buena de Nazaret?” Asi de la misma manera, se puede preguntar, acaso puede salir bien de dias tan obscuros y malos los dias “cuando reinaban los jueces?” Despues de todo, aunque la edad de los Jueces fue marcada por victorias heroicas de la parte debil y actos de fuerza sobrehumana, aun eran espiritual y moralmente retrazados. Los dias de los jueces eran dias en que “no habia rey en Israel,” y cuando “cada hombre hizo lo correcto en sus ojos.” Eran dias de idolatria grosera, de guerra civil entre tribus, dias de invacion y ocupacion extranjera, y de abominaciones morales escandalosas. Pero en esos dias, hubo un gran cuento, el relato de Rut. Despues de el Libro de los Jueces sigue esta pequna, preciosa perla, el Libro de Rut. Como un diamante brillando entre lo aspero.

Realmente, es la respuesta al libro de Jueces! “Donde abundo el pecado, abundo mucho mas la gracia.” Aunque Israel habia descendido tan bajo, Dios intervino. Por medio de Rut la Moabita, conversa inesperada al Dios de Abraham, Dios restauro vida. El revivio una familia a la orilla de la extinccion. Y establecio la casa de la cual vino David—y el cimiente de David, el Senor Jesucristo!

Acaso puede salir bien de tiempos tan malos? “Ven y mira.”

“Find the door of your heart, you will discover it is the door of the kingdom of God.”

-John Chrysostom (c. 349-407)

“The last time I saw your father [Cotton Mather] was in the beginning of 1724, when I visited him after my first trip to Pennsylvania. He received me in his library, and on my taking leave showed me a shorter way out of the house through a narrow passage, which was crossed by a beam overhead. We were still talking as I withdrew, he accompanying me behind, and I turning partly towards him, when he said hastily, “Stoop, stoop!” I did not understand him, till I felt my head hit against the beam. He was a man that never missed any occasion of giving instruction, and upon this he said to me, “You are young, and have the world before you; STOOP as you go through it, and you will miss many hard thumps.” This advice, thus beat into my head, has frequently been of use to me; and I often think of it, when I see pride mortified, and misfortunes brought upon people by their carrying their heads too high….”

-Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Samuel Mather, 1784

* * *

Friend, Benjamin Franklin passes on good advice.  Yet sadly, from what I know if him, he did not stoop far enough.  We as sinners must stoop, indeed, bow down in the dust before God in Christ, begging for mercy. Only when we are hopelessly prostrate in the dust, looking for free and sovereign grace in the blood of Christ, can we be lifted up and spared for time and eternity.  So stoop, sinner, stoop!

There are many stories out there that challenge the dominant LGBTQ narrative, that those with Same-Sex Attraction (SSA) can in fact live within a full, complete, and joyful marriage to those of the opposite sex. Oh, and be a Christian too!  Doesn’t fairness require that their story be heard as well?

Listen to this piece from NPR (and kudos to them for demonstrating something of classic journalistic impartiality!).

And check out this too.

I hardly deny that many may suffer from SSA.  While I’ve never experienced it, I can empathize with those who do.  And in a sense, I can sympathize. There are many things that I am tempted to do that I simply don’t do.  If I acted on all my impulses and were thus “true to myself,” you would probably like me a lot less than you actually do.  (And if you don’t like me at all, well, you’d have even more compelling reasons!)  I’m afraid if I were true to myself, I wouldn’t have the lovely wife and beautiful children I do now. Every day I resist temptation, fighting against what some might call “natural” desires. But I distinguish between natural-good and natural-bad instincts. Eating food is a natural-good.  Being intimate with my wife is a natural-good. Yelling at my children when I am tired and haggard, however, is a natural-bad. It’s natural in the sense that it’s human, but human in the fallen sense.

And this leads us to yet another narrative that needs to be heard. The great ‘meta-narrative’ of the Bible. It is a story that explains exactly how this world ended up as a big, messy jumble of natural-good and natural-bad instincts. Here’s the basic plot: Creation – Fall – Redemption.  God created everything good, in proper harmony, with a perfect unity and complementing diversity. Mankind was at one with itself, at one with its environment, and above all, at one with its God. Mankind, though, transgressed, listening to the lies of the Tempter. And so our first parents fell into sin and misery, and we their offspring, fell in them. Inheriting their nature, we acted out the unnaturalness of our own sinful bent. We polluted the pristine waters of nature, we dirtied our souls!  But God, planning to redeem, made sure that man didn’t gaffe up everything. In His common grace, He hemmed in and restrained something of the natural-good, that it may continue until He sent His Son to fix the brokenness once and for all.  By the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, God broke into this disordered world to get back what He made.

Conversion gives the believer a radical new start.  They are a new creation in Christ. Yet, Christians aren’t perfected; they walk to heaven with a limp.The old man has been dealt a mortal blow, but he is still striving to regain control. The Christian struggles with temptations every day.  Temptations that the world will call “natural.” But he knows, she feels that this needs major qualification. That “natural” was then, this is now. And the now is natural-good, and good getting better every day!

Augustine, the great catholic teacher of the Church, was quite the womanizer prior to his conversion.  I suppose he was being true to himself. But after his conversion, things had changed from the inside. One day, an old flame found him on the street, came up to him, embraced him and exclaimed, “O Augustine!  It’s me!” To which he replied, “Yes, but it’s not me!” The old Augustine was gone (though I doubt not the old man wanted to rekindle the former romance). But he had embraced his new nature, a nature not unnatural, not repressed, not denied, but reborn.

 

 

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.