Our family recently got away for a refreshing summer trip to the beach. With a lot of kids comes a lot of curiosity and imagination. The ocean proves to be a suitable playmate and stimulant for both. Add to this the summer news of shark attacks and you have the potential for some exciting moments on the beach.
One day one of our children recalled that they saw a shark fin sticking out of the water. After the story was told later in the day, a friend of ours who lives there on the coast asked a good question: “Did you tell anyone?”
Her point was clear: if you really did see a shark then you really should have run up and down the beach warning others to get out of the water. But, if you might have seen something or imagined it or hoped to see it–then you would probably just talk about it with friends and siblings.
As I thought about that exchange throughout the day the application for evangelism is appropriate. Do we really believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Do we really believe that he died on the cross for our sins? Do we really believe that Jesus is God in the flesh? Or do we just hope that it is true?
Similiar to potential shark sitings I guess you could tell by who you tell. Do you simply talk about it with friends and family–those in comfortable settings? Or, do you warn others–strangers and friends alike–because it is …
Yesterday I wrote about the perfect illumination and amplification of God’s attributes through the cross of Jesus. The contention is that the cross is the supreme demonstration of God’s attributes. Do you want to see God’s love? Look at the cross. Do you want to see holiness? Look at the cross. Do you want to see righteousness? Go to the cross.
In this post I want to continue on with the meditation and provoke worship from a slightly different angle. I want to “turn the diamond” of Calvary a bit that we might see and savor, as Piper would say.
Not only is the cross the supreme demonstration of God’s attributes but it is also the place where all of the divine attributes were operating in perfect harmony. And in my understanding of God’s attributes, the cross is the only way in which this could happen.
When we look at the cross we see the physical suffering of the Jesus. But, what caused him to sweat drops of blood in the garden? It was the cup. That cup of divine wrath that is due to sinners would be served to Christ. It is the impending wrath of God that makes the Savior cry out in prayer.
And upon the cross we see the wrath of God displayed. Reminiscent of Exodus the sky goes black in judgment. There on Calvary we see God’s righteous justice being uncorked and unloaded upon the Savior as he bears the sins of the world.
But, this is not …
Many have said that it is a study of the attributes of God that has been most impactful in their spiritual walk. No doubt it is when we, with eyes full of grace, look at God as he presents himself in his revelation that we are truly humbled and God himself is exalted in accordance with true knowledge of him.
I share these same sentiments. Several years ago, I began a home Bible study on the attributes of God. But a funny thing happened to me in this study. In preparing to teach on God’s holiness, I searched for the supreme representation and/or demonstration of divine holiness, I graciously stumbled upon what appeared to be the power cord that illuminated the divine perfections without rival.
As I studied the attributes of God’s holiness I found the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ to be the supreme demonstration of this eternal perfection of God. The same thing happened as I studied God’s righteousness, his love, his mercy, his wisdom, his sovereignty and so on. This birthed a wonderful study that focused specifically on the attributes of God in light of the cross. God has used this study to change my life and compel worship and awe. The cross of the Jesus is indeed the supreme demonstration of the divine attributes.
Consider God’s holiness. Where do we find God distinguished as holy more than through the transcendent requirements and achievement of perfection? Surely the priests in Leviticus knew much of God’s holiness, but they …
Enlarge my heart, warm my affections,
open my lips,
supply words that proclaim ‘Love Lustres at Calvary.’
There grace removes my burdens
and heaps them on thy Son,
made a transgressor, a curse, and sin for me;
There the sword of thy justice smote the man,
There thy infinite attributes were magnified,
and infinite atonement was made;
There infinite punishment was due,
and infinite punishment was endured.
We all have blind spots. We have our issues. Whether we are talking about personal, social, or theological blind spots, we have them. And to say you don’t, is to, well, make my point.
The important thing for us to look for said weaknesses, identify them and replace them. This is living life as a fallen sinner it is reality.
But sometimes our blind spots are our hobby horses. And this is a problem.
I can remember arguing about abortion with a friend who is pro-choice. In the midst of the discussion (it was civil) he called me out on my flippancy concerning life in the various wars that the US is involved in. He had a point. My issue was inconsistent. I had a blind spot.
Outspoken Bible Guys
I think there are people who are outspoken in their passion and devotion to the Bible. They are proponents of taking the Bible literally, being black or white and trying their best to obey what it says. We might call them evangelicals, fundamentalists, or simply Protestants. There really are many names and stripes available.
These guys (and ladies) will rightly go after those who compromise the Scriptures. They call out those who deny the Bible’s inspiration and inerrancy. They oppose people who inject their ministries with pragmatic methods. They decry the moral compromise in and around the professing church. All of this to say, no one would accuse them of being unbiblical. In fact, this is their cry, “we are just being biblical.”
And quite frankly, …
It is a problem that all pastors doubtless face, “How can I make sure that I am feeding all of the people that God has given me?”
When I look out upon our congregation on Sunday morning I see a wide spectrum. I see faithful and mature folks who have been walking with the Lord for decades and then some who have been Christians for only a few months. I see people in their 60’s and then folks in their 20’s. In addition to that there are many little 5 year-olds staring up at me trying to understand. There are people from a completely biblically illiterate background and then there are those who have grown up in evangelical churches but never heard the gospel. Then there are many guys who are running hard theologically and wanting to be challenged and fed.
And so I push back from the table, exhale, put my hands behind my head, and wonder to myself about how to best deal with this good problem.
I was sharing this dilemma with a friend recently. He would be in the ‘running hard theologically’ category. He smiled and said, “Just make good fish and chips every week. If you make fish and chips well then we will all be happy and fed.”
His point was this, regardless of what you are used to, expecting, or really want, you always appreciate a well-made plate of fish and chips. It seems to have that unique ability to simply ‘hit the spot’ every time …
We have all heard the expression, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” This may be good advice for elementary school children but it is not preferred for husbands.
Am I saying, “Feel free to insult your wife.” Hardly. Instead I am saying that we need to try harder, look deeper, pay more attention.
Along these lines Timothy Witmer writes to husbands in his book Shepherd Leader At Home, (p.40):
You should thank her just for her willingness to have hitched herself to you!…There are plenty of (other) things you can say to build up your wife. When is the last time you complimented her appearance? When is the last time you thanked her for all she does in taking care of you and the children? Even more important is taking the opportunity to praise her for her character qualities. Be sure to be specific. The writer of Proverbs 31 was very specific about the praiseworthy traits of an excellent wife. She is praised for everything from being a good seamstress to being a good businesswoman. However, the summary statement focuses on the most essential thing. ‘Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.’ (Prov. 31.30)
It seems that everyone has an opinion about Gay Marriage, and these opinions are rarely ambivalent. Christians have (and rightly so) been outspoken in their opposition to a redefinition of marriage. This recasting of the institution of marriage is not, we would argue, a progressive and healthy advancement but rather a disastrous detour from what biblical, therefore, right and good.
At the same time and while marriage is on the front burner, particularly the undermining of God’s plan for it, let me ask a question. Are Gay and Lesbians the only ones who undermine God’s plan for marriage?
The answer is, “Of course not!” Just because you are hetero-sexual does not mean that you are reflecting God’s plan for marriage. You don’t get a pass just on marriage because you are not Gay. The basis of a marriage reflecting God’s plan is how it reflects the gospel. In other words a marriage is reflective of God’s plan in so far as it reflects the marriage between Jesus the husband and the church the bride.
This is where it gets quite personal for us inside the Christian camp. God’s plan for marriage includes the following:
Years ago I worked in a financial brokerage. In particular I worked in compliance. We were very meticulous about ensuring that we said and did everything right. One phrase I remember seeing regularly is, “Past performance is not indicative of future results.” In other words, just because a fund or company has done well in the past does not mean that it will do well in the future. Typically this is appended to data that demonstrates solid past performance.
In the Christian world however, this phrase is turned on its head. It is in fact very much non-compliant with the Scripture.
What the writers of Scripture tend to do is unload piles of data upon us to show us that this God who has worked powerfully in the past will in fact do so in the future.
Just this morning I was reading the 77th Psalm in my devotions and I saw this same tactic. The Psalmist is, in the present, crying aloud to the Lord (v.1). He is feeling the pinch. Things are hard.
So what does he do? In both verses 5 & 11 we see him looking at the historical data for present comfort (Ps. 77.5, 11).
This quote greatly encouraged me to rest in the perfection of Christ’s work. This resting brings me to treasuring him. I pray it encourages you too. (the emphasis in underlining is my doing)…
At the cross this “righteousness” was found; human, yet divine: provided for man and presented to him by God for relief of conscience and justification of life. On the one word, “It is finished,” as on a heavenly resting place, weary souls sat down and were refreshed.
The voice from the tree did not summon them to do, but to be satisfied with what was done. Millions of bruised consciences there found healing and peace.
Belief in that finished work brought the sinner into favor with God, and it did not leave him in uncertainty as to this. The justifying work of Calvary was God’s way, not only of bringing pardon, but of securing certainty.
It was the only perfect thing which had ever been presented to God in man’s behalf; and so extraordinary was this perfection that it might he used by man in his transactions with God as if it were his own. –Horatius Bonar, The Everlasting Righteousness