Friday, February 28, 2014

Why I Say What I Say

I talk a lot about freedom for the Christian here.

In fact, that's just about all I talk about. Not because I don't have anything else to say. It's just that I believe the lens with which we view any discussion must be the lens of the freedom we have been given in Christ. However, many discussions are put through a different lens - the lens of the Law. We are quick to speak of the "to do" in scripture all the while forgetting to speak about the "done" of the Gospel.

Our natural inclination (Christians and non-Christians) is to view everything through the lens of the Law. It is the way the world works. A system of fairness and justice resonates with us, so the law is appealing. We know where we stand with the Law. Scripture even points out that the Law is written on our hearts - it is our default mode. We have to be reminded that Christ has fulfilled the Law on our behalf so that we now operate apart from the Law. Grace has freed us from the Law in every way.

Ursinus, primary author of the Heidelberg Catechism, said that the Law-Gospel distinction has "comprehended the sum and substance of the sacred Scriptures," are "the chief and general divisions of the holy scriptures, and comprise the entire doctrine comprehended therein." Michael Horton provides further insight;

"To confuse them is to corrupt the Faith at its core. While the Law must be preached as divine instruction for the Christian life, it must never be used to shake believers from the confidence that Christ is their "righteousness, holiness and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30). The believer goes to the Law and loves that Law for its divine wisdom, for it reveals the will of the One to whom we are now reconciled by the Gospel. But the believer cannot find pardon, mercy, victory, or even the power to obey it, by going to the Law itself any more after his conversion than before. It is still always the Law that commands and the Gospel that gives."

The Bible is God speaking to us. He speaks with two words, always. He begins with a word and he ends with a word. It is the theme of the Bible. It is the plan of Redemption. So, I can't think of a better way to speak here than to speak about all things the way God does - with His first word Law, and His final word, Gospel.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

It's Free

The "nothing," the sola fide, dislodges everyone from the saddle, Jew and Greek, publican and pharisee, harlot and homemaker, sinner and righteous, liberal and orthodox, religious and non-religious, minimalist and maximalist, and shakes the whole human enterprise to the roots. It strikes at the very understanding of life that has been so engrained in us, the understanding in terms of the legal metaphor, the law, merit and moral progress. Justification, the reformers said, is by imputation, freely given. It is an absolutely unconditional decree, a divine decision, indeed an election, a sentence handed down by the judge with whom all power resides.

~ Gerhard Forde

Monday, February 3, 2014

God Does Not Wait Until Valentine's Day

It's here. Valentine's Day. You know, that day we all love to hate. When expectations sky rocket and disappointment is even higher. When visions of the perfect dinner, the perfect dozen roses and the perfect engagement ring turn into the reality of long lines, wilted flowers and not exactly the ring you had in mind.

I have been married a long time - almost 32 years. I remember our first Valentine's Day Celebration. I flew to the Bahamas to be with my sweetheart. We walked into his home and sitting on the counter was a beautiful vase of fresh vibrant red roses and next to it a romantic card. We celebrated that evening on the town with an exquisite meal and dancing afterward. It was a tropical, balmy evening and everything was right with the world.

Fast forward, thirty one years later. This Valentine's Day celebration was spent a bit differently. My husband and I were making our way back to our marriage. We were separated after a difficult few years, but working it out. We met for dinner at a local Italian restaurant. It was romantic in a completely different way. No fanfare, no roses. Just real conversation. But, no less longing in each of our hearts. How is it that years go by and yet...there remains a longing in our hearts. In all of our hearts. A longing for love. It is a deep sense of "Is this all there is?" Even when our hearts are full and our marriages or romantic relationships are most satisfying, we still yearn for "more."

That "more" I believe, is the one way love of God, in Christ. Don't you long to be accepted and completely welcomed in the midst of the reality of who you are? The good, the bad, the ugly...and yet still loved?

I do.

So, what kind of love are you hoping for this year? What grand display of affection are you anticipating?

Let this good news sink deep into your heart...

That love you long for looks more like Good Friday. On that hill called Calvary, God displayed the grittiest of all love. A love that did not wait for yours in return. It was unfair, unjust, disgraceful, yet full of grace. It was a nightmare kind of love for those watching. It was a betrayal kind of love, a horror of a Valentine's Day kind of love. Nothing that has or ever will happen on Valentine's Day can compare.

It is a love that shoots us in the heart. It wounds and afflicts, aiming for our certain death. A love that seeks our death? That doesn't sound like the sort of Valentine's Day celebration I am after. Who wants to die? Who wants to let go of the way things are? Our puny fantasies and ignorant wantings...who would choose to give them up?

It is a good thing this love is one way. We would not choose to have any part of it otherwise.

God does not wait until Valentine's Day to display an extravagant version of his love for us. The lavishness of his grace is not saved up for one special day. At Calvary, God's love for you in Christ, gushed forth and poured out literally from his hands and his feet and his side. The rich grace in the deep red blood of the Savior would forever be a sign of his undying love for you. It is the love we all long for.

Not just on one day, but every day, for all of eternity.

Fully known. Fully loved. Forever.

I have loved you with an everlasting love 
Jeremiah 31:3