oh snap

um. Just watch. This is precious.

Senator Biden

Let me tell you why I love the run-up to Presidential elections: I love to see Senator Joseph Biden pretend that he can legitimately run for the Oval Office.

I mean, you can't script stuff like this:
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., had this to say about fellow presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., during a recent interview:

"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy ... I mean, that's a storybook, man."
OK. Everybody Christian and all that, right? Gospel and love of fellow men?

Two questions:

[1] When you read this, who wasn't already thinking this? Especially among the Democrats?

[2] Do you think that Biden was serious about running for president in the first place -- or can we safely say that his job inside the Democratic party is the national political equivalent of a "bruiser" in NHL hockey?

Not not about love again

After reading my own post and thinking about that post for a bit, I had a couple of more thoughts I wanted to share, like this: my opinion is that covenant keeping is not a stoic endeavor of will and grit.

See – I think that covenants aren’t made as algebraic or actuarial transactions, or made just to make a point. A covenant isn’t a steely-eyed hedge against betrayal – as if it was only a contract, or a legal transactions between two disinterested parties.

There is something behind a covenant, or before a covenant, which seems to me to be necessary in order to even think of the matter of covenant making or covenant keeping.

Here’s what I mean:
    For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
The covenant of marriage “refers to” the covenant Christ made in His own blood with the church. And in that, Paul says, Nobody ever hated his own flesh.

To make that part clear, let’s think about me for a minute. I hate that I am overweight. Hate it! I hate this fat body. If I could change it like changing a suit of clothes, dude, I’d change it like soiled britches. But while I am disappointed in this fat slob-o-rama, and frankly scared about the implications of high blood pressure and the potential of diabetes in the long term, I still eat.

That is, I still take care of my body. It’s mine and I need it. I wash this blubbery mass daily. I brush its teeth. I cut my hair in a way that doesn’t look too bad. I wear clothes that somewhat conceal my lard.

No one ever hated his own flesh. Even if it was ugly flesh, he doesn’t hate it. He hopes for better, or hangs out with people even uglier than himself to make himself look good. Or maybe he works out and sticks to it so he can have arms like BlueCollar Baptist even if he (this person, not BC) has a face like ScoobyDoo.

So in that, the example is two-fold. The first level is that people don’t hate their bodies – they care for them. But in that, Christ cares for His body in a way which “nourishes” and “cherishes” the body. That word there – “cherishes” – doesn’t mean “stakes a high value on it, like a ruby or a bag of money”. It is related to the word “to keep warm”. It means “to foster with tender care”. Paul uses it in 1 Thes 2 to say, “a nurse cherisheth her children”. It’s loving care, a care motivated by something other than mere obligation. In fact, it might be said that it is a love which comes without any obligation and without duress – it is a willing love.

Christ loves the Church like that, and we ought to love our wives like that.

But here’s the other thing: this is not a matter of the will bending love. This is a matter of love bending and forming the will. I’m not talking about emotions leading the way here, because that’s a disaster waiting to kill you and your marriage. I’m talking about the affirmation that Love – like the love demonstrated at the Cross, and the love demonstrated in mercy, and the love demonstrated in the willingness to offer forgiveness for repentance – will change what you are willing to do.

You won’t do it with a big fat sigh and a mopey face. You won’t resign yourself to doing it. You will do it with the same zeal you blog – you might even give up a little blogging in order to do those things better. You’ll want to do it – both intellectually and personally.

Because you’ll love like Christ loves the church. Christ isn’t a stoic. He’s not a Vulcan. He doesn’t want you to live a rational transaction and every seven years either mate or die. Keeping the covenant is not merely a duty but a goal.

And that’s really the other thing: is a covenant like that established to force you to do something you don’t already want you to do, or is it for the sake of demonstrating to the world explicitly and propositionally what you’re doing here?

You know: God could have just made a plan to bless Abraham and kept it to Himself. God could have been a blessing to Israel and just not said anything about it – they’re His people, and He’s going to give them this and protect them from that, but it’s none of your business. It’s a private relationship.

But no: all the covenants – including the New one in Christ’s blood – are public expressions. Christ wasn’t knocked off in a corner, as Paul said to Festus and Agrippa – none of these things have escaped the notice of anyone who can read. The covenant is made to tell people what’s going on.

So the covenant is marriage is a public covenant – and the way you keep it says something about you, not about the covenant.

Did you make a covenant for the sake of love – Godly, incorruptible love – or did you make a contract that’s still under negotiation? You think about that, and then go do something about it – the right thing.

Not not about Love

At the risk of becoming a Piper mirror site, I give you this:
Christ Will Never Leave His Wife

Staying married, therefore, is not about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant. “Till death do us part,” or, “As long as we both shall live” is sacred covenant promise—the same kind Jesus made with his bride when he died for her. Therefore, what makes divorce and remarriage so horrific in God’s eyes is not merely that it involves covenant breaking to the spouse, but that it involves misrepresenting Christ and his covenant. Christ will never leave his wife. Ever. There may be times of painful distance and tragic backsliding on our part. But Christ keeps his covenant forever. Marriage is a display of that! That is the most ultimate thing we can say about it.
You should read the whole thing. The link to hear the audio of this sermon is there also.

My feeble commentary on that is this: we overlook the ways in which we can demonstrate our discipleship to Christ all the time. We want to build wells for Africans, and bring Bibles to Muslims in the 10/40 corridor, and we want to do all kinds of global acts of Holy Spirit proliferation -- and these are all good things -- but we are stumbling over the obvious and the immediate ways in which we are disciples.

Your husband is your outworking of Christ's New Covenant; you wife is your outworking of Christ's New Covenant. Go do that. Go stick to that. Go prove your faith with that by glorifying God in sacrificing your life for that person.

That's not about Valentine's Day love: that's about deep, abiding, eternal, incorruptible Love. It's about God's love. Try that out and see if your life doesn't change in some way.

Who loves whom

ome of you may
have thought I forgot about the conundrum I have posed in my own writing way back when the Chan video was causing the internet to start checking baptisms and requiring detailed statements of faith. (That was like 2 weeks ago). For those who have forgotten what I said, here’s what I said:
So the command is Love. You love people. You have to love that person – you have to give to them, and you have to do for them, and you have to be honest with them, and on and on through all of Leviticus. You have to love them – that’s the Law.

And this love is for their benefit, not for your benefit. This is the thing which kills me about this discussion. You (a person) don’t love them to be self-fulfilled: you love them so that they get something they didn’t have before. When we say, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”, we are saying, “God loves us by giving us something we couldn’t have without Him.” Love is not self-fulfilling: love is pouring yourself out for the good of someone else.

Now, let’s put one thing on the back burner before we go forward: the meaning of “love God” given this definition of Love. The really smart readers who are already mad at me for saying Love is glorious and gives Glory to God are already typing on this subject, and I will come back to it after I do the “common language” thing. Are we giving something to God He didn’t have before when we love God? Stay tuned.
Some of you, I am sure, lost sleep over this. Because, you know, if we have demeaned God by saying we give Him something He didn’t have before, we don’t have a reformed soteriology or we can’t really be monergists or some such other thing – there must be a heretic in there somewhere.

Please: let’s all go back to having a good night’s sleep. One of the great statements in the NT on this subject comes as Paul closes the letter to the Ephesians. And he says it almost off-handedly:

    Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.
Now, what is that all about? As Paul closes this letter to the church at Ephesus, he offers three things to the church – peace, love and faith. But from where? Peace in a quiet chair? Love from your own heart? Faith by means of your own IQ or study? No: peace, love and faith from God the Father and (from) the Lord Jesus Christ.

The peace they ought to have ought to be the peace the Father and the Son give. The faith they ought to have ought to be the faith the Father and the Son give. And, for the purpose of what we’re talking about here, the love they ought to have ought to be the love the Father and the Son give.

And this point is underscored boldly as Paul also offers them “grace” if they “love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.” Now, is human love “incorruptible”? When does the Bible ever call human love or the product of the human heart “incorruptible”? Never. Not ever once.

So the love we give back to Christ but be the Love God has already given to us. That is: we do not give something to God He never had or couldn’t get. We give, as is always true, what God has already given us. This love is from God, and belongs to God, and ought to come back to Him.

And that’s really the point here. Even going back to my oldest example of Jonah and what God does to sinners and why Jonah is mad-to-death over the matter of Nineveh, God has poured out love to the whole world. I was listening to an S. Lewis Johnson MP3 yesterday, and he was doing an hour on John 3:16, and he made the statement that the worst error anyone ever made – the common knowledge – about John 3:16 is that this verse says God loves everyone exactly the same way.

He’s right. This verse doesn’t say that. But it does say that God loves the world, and has given a special benefit of that love to all believers. God loves the whole world. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. God showed love by delivering Christ to the Cross so that the offer of repentance is made clearly and irrefutably. but it is one kind of love to actually make the offer, and another to actually save.

You have the love of God shown to you in Jesus Christ, and in the mercy upon mercy God provides to you every day. God is showing you love right now – the same kind of love He showed to Nineveh. Receive it and show it back to Him – do something about God’s mercy today. Believe that His Son is the ultimate and final act of mercy, and that if you admit your sin to Him, and turn away from your human love of things to a divine love of the Creator who made you, He will not turn you away.

He loves you. Right now. Show Him the love He is showing you.

Where are they now?

So I was on the phone with this guy I know (to whom I am a lousy friend -- completely useless), and he tells me that I should read this link to find out about a mutual acquaintance.

Give it a visit, but I'm not sure that the FDA has approved all the health claims made on that site. And I have no idea what shipping and handling costs. And I am sure he's not building a well with the profits. And he really does believe this stuff. All of it. Even the regular blog posts.

So whatever.

Monday Piper

He said this in his Podacast on Friday, and it bears deeper consideration:
I am only going to touch on this today and save most of it for the next two weeks. Two simple points:

First, not everyone can say, "There is now no condemnation over my life." Only those "who are in Christ Jesus." Some are in him and some are not. Paul assumes this everywhere in his writings. There are those "in Christ" and there are those "outside." Paul is not a universalist. He says explicitly in Romans 9:3, with grief, that there are those who are "accursed, separated from Christ." The opposite of the precious phrase "in Christ" (en kristõ) is the terrible phrased "[separated] from Christ" (apo tou Kristou) Where are you? In Christ? Or separated from Christ?

The second point is this: only by being in Christ does Christ's condemnation become your condemnation. If you want to be able to say now and at the last judgment, "There is no condemnation for me, because Jesus endured it for me," then you must be "in Jesus." If you are in him, what happened to him, happened to you. If you are "separated from him," you have no warrant for saying that what happened to him happened to you.

If you say, "Ah, but he died for the whole world. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." Yes, indeed. And what that means is that there is infinite room in Jesus. Christ is not a small hotel. There is room for everyone. And everyone is invited and commanded, "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden. . . . Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. . . . The one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out" (Matthew 11:28; Revelation 22:17; John 6:37).

But what if you don't come? What if you don't believe? What if you don't receive the free gift? Jesus tells us in John 3:36, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." The wrath of God – the condemnation of God is taken away in Christ. Not outside Christ.

So where are you? In Christ? Or outside Christ? Free from condemnation? Or under condemnation? You don't have to stay under condemnation. There is room in Christ. There is always room in Christ. And Christ's word to every sinner is, "Come! Trust me! Enter! I will be your life, your righteousness, your pardon, because I have been your condemnation."[Desiring God Radio, 1/26/07]

One Percent

Does it surprise anyone that Bono is just like any other rich person?


So what was he saying about America?

It's not even worth ranting about, really ...

Babdists and their kin

Let me just say officially that I'm glad Jimmy Carter is going to be working on the public image of Baptists. With help like this (read the link -- it's not what you think), how far wrong can we go?

What's up with that?

TeamPyro is taking a 2-week hiatus?

Yeah, I know that's not right. But when you're a sidekick, you do what you're told. And being Phil's sidekick, I do what I'm told.

So Phil gets a 2-week break, and Dan and I get to take up the slack, and Pecadillo gets to dodge bullets and bust crack heads and gang bangers.

It's not right, but since when did Alfred compain about how Batman treats him?

This just in

K-Fed is an insult to fast food workers.

Pheh. I say get a thicker skin.

words like "annihiliate"

I wrote this back in August 2006, and now we get this, which makes perfect sense. See: the first one demonstrates that was stalling to get his stuff in a box that will blow up. The second one demonstrates that he thinks he has a box which will blow up like Rosie on Trump.

The only real hope we have, you see, is that Ahmadinejad got all his tech help from the reputable nuclear team of Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine and Dr. Howard who produced the nuclear dud for North Korea. There's no chance in this world or the next that the U.S. now has the political will to destroy his science project -- and that means the U.N. will sleep through whatever this loon does with his enriched uranium. Including the nuclear bombing of London, Jerusalem and any major US City (my guess is that A-jad will pick NY or DC because he thinks that if he blows up either MTV or the US Congress and Senate, we'd be mad at him. Heh).

And it comes down to this: he doesn't think either Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi are half the man Margaret Thatcher was. He thinks -- and he's right -- that if the decision to fight him or die is left to the American Left, we'd rather die.

Think about this: nobody uses a word like "annihiliate" in a normal conversation. It's a guild word. The problem is that 90% of the people in this world think that guild is never serious, and the other 10% are left holding the bag.

Well. And You?

This is the sales summary from CafePress on what we have sold since 12/27/2006. I guess that's better than nothing ... you still have a week to buy junk and give people water in the process.

Noble Cause

There's no question: this presentation is, by far, more theologically rich than anything in dispute at this or any other blog in the last 3 weeks.

No question.
Why am I a Christian? I can give you lots of reasons why the Bible is word of God; I can give you lots of reasons why I believe Jesus rose from the dead; I can … I can argue all those things, but fundamentally, why am I a Christian? Because I believe fully by God’s grace, as a very young person, I recognized that if God is good, if God has all power, then if I break God’s rules, if I rebel against the one who made me, there are dire consequences to doing that. I was a very young child, so I – I couldn’t use real complex language to describe that, but I do remember to this very day, realizing that because I was who I was, I had done things in God’s sight that were wrong. And from the world’s perspective I was a good little boy, but I knew in my heart of hearts that I did things that I knew were wrong. And I knew if God was truly good that he would have to punish me. And I didn’t like that idea. And I thankfully had heard the Christian message, and talked to my parents, and I said, “I don’t want to be punished by God. What do I do?” And they explained to me that there is only one way of escaping the punishment of God. It was – Jesus took it in my place. Will you believe in him, follow him?

And as a child, I said, “yes, I will.”

Now, you need to understand one more thing. When you say, “why are you a Christian?” There is a very real sense in which the reason that about 4 decades have gone by in my walk with the Lord that I’m a Christian today. It actually has nothing to do with me. What I mean by that is, that faith which expressed itself as a very young child in fear of punishment from God and the desire to know who Jesus was and to know how he can save me, that faith has continued not because of anything special about me but because that faith comes from God. It’s by something we call grace.

Grace is God’s way of working with people who don’t deserve anything from him, in fact they deserve his wrath, but instead for reasons that glorify him and him alone, God is gracious to people who don’t deserve anything but God’s wrath. And so the reason that even that day my heart was opened to understand the danger of the situation that I was in as a sinner, and why to this day I continue to believe, it all goes back to that one word “grace”. God has sustained me; God has kept me as a Christian. He’s done what I could not do in and of myself.

And so, why am I a Christian? On the one hand you might say it’s because I have seen all of these things, and I’ve agreed that these things are true. And in another sense, the reason I’ve done all of those things is because God in his grace has been merciful to me.

And so I ask a question of you: if you are not a Christian, why are you not? You know that God is holy. You know that God is your creator. You know that he is there; you’ve always known that he is there. Every time that you have sinned, every time you have gone your own way, there has been the sense that you’re being watched. Even when you were alone, you felt that guilt. You know God is there. And you know that you’re not at peace with him. So why aren’t you a Christian? Have you found some other way that can actually give you true peace with God? Is there truly any foundation that you’ve found to believe that by doing something in some religion you can buy peace with God?

Isn’t it obvious that the only way that you could ever have peace with God is if God is the one who provides it? And that in a very special way?

You say, “what am I supposed to do?” Cry out for mercy. Cry out for mercy!

You say, “that’s all?” The person who cries out for mercy is the person who has already confessed, “I need mercy. I’m justly condemned. I need mercy.” I can tell you this: God has never ever ever rejected one who has come to him in the name of his son seeking mercy. And he will not reject you.

So one last question you might ask is, if you’ve told many people this, why aren’t everybody Christians? Because sometimes you can tell this to someone and they’ll honestly look you in the eye and say, “I don’t care. I love myself. I love my life. And I’m not going to give it up for anything.”

Which one are you? If you realize, if you sense, if you know, if you recognize, “yes, I have broken God’s law – I – I know what’s right and wrong, and I know, I know the only God who makes sense is a God who must punish sin.” Does that make you numb? Does it make you want to run away and have nothing to do with it? If in your heart of hearts you desire to cry out for mercy, remember he will always, always be found in mercy for those who cry in mercy.
Amen. Who can argue with that?

South Park

I'm starting a pool about this news item and whether or not we'll see a South Park about this in the next 6 months.

Not that I watch South Park. I'm just saying.

About Apologies

On the one hand, Robert Redford thinks President Bush owes us an apology, which is an opinion he is entitled to. Right or wrong, that's his opinion.

On the other hand, I think that before Robert Redford starts asking anyone for apologies, he out to review the list of movies playing at Sundance -- here it is -- and see if he doesn't owe the English-speaking world an apology for calling pornography and violent exploitation films art.

Small Talk [2]

This post is sorta already made in the meta of part 1 (or maybe part 1.5), but here's what I'm thinking: does my mechanic ever say to me, "you should repent of missing your oil changes"? Or does your spouse ever say to you, "if you don't repent of your lousy attitude toward housekeeping, I'm going to stop helping with the laundry"? How about a police officer who gives you a warning instead of a ticket -- does here ever tell you, "you need to repent of driving too fast"?

My opinion -- and I use that word to qualify this post strictly -- is that "repent" became a Christian idiom, removed from normal conversation, some time in the late 19th century, but Christians -- being as in-touch with the culture as we are (cf. CCM, ECPA, CBA) -- didn't realize that people don't say "repent" to each other under any circumstances except during moments of extreme evangelism. So "repent" doesn't mean "turn away from sin and toward God by means of thought and action immediately" anymore: it means, "I'm going to use a King James word on you because that's how I think about this stuff -- it's ancient truth, and if you don't know what it means that's your fault."

Now, listen: plenty of people "get saved" by people giving them the perrenial "repent-and-believe", with "repent" meaning "pray a prayer" and "believe" meaning "WWJD bracelet - check!" So that's bad, right? And plenty of people have received the "wrath of God is upon you, so save yourself from this crooked generation" by hearing the word "repent" come from their "friendly" (Pro 27:6) neighborhood evangelist. So that's good, right? So what's at stake is really what people mean by "repent", isn't it?

Well, yes. In fact, this is what is at stake. What is at stake is if we are delivering the Gospel, no? So whether we use the word "repent" or the word "justification" or the words "penal substitutionary atonement" or the word "Christ" -- which will be the real rub for some people, certain to create its own pocket controversy in this hoopla -- is not half as important as making sure that when we say something to people about this, we are saying "turn away from your breaking of God's Law" and "be right with God by the means He has established" and "through the death of Jesus, which pays the price for our sins in a way which we could never pay ourselves" and "this Jesus who is the only son of God, and who was both wholly man and wholly God, whom God had planned from before there was even time to sacrifice for the sins of men".

Seriously: the small talk is good -- when I talk to other Christians, it's good to have a guild language we can use because the rest of that stuff is a mouthful. But should we talk to people who need this stuff but don't have it in the way l33t speak to n00bs -- that is, as if they should just get up to speed? It's good -- enriching, edifying, useful, and need I say God inspired -- to have words like "repent" and "justified". But you know something? I was a Christian a long time before those words were anything but buzzwords to me.

We have to speak to people about this stuff the way my doctor talks to me about being fat: clearly, and without the extensive human biology class or the first-year med-school vocabulary. People need to know that they have a problem to which only Jesus is the solution. They shouldn't think of Jesus and what He has done and is doing right now as religious artichocosis -- they should think of Him as the only one who saves men from their sins.

And how can they hear that unless someone tells them?

UPDATED: This is what I'm talking about.


No comment.

Small Talk [1.5]

I was reading a friend's blog, and he was very adamant that the offer of the Gospel is not free -- that is, it costs you your life. Let me go on-record here to say bluntly that I agree with what he has said in the way he has said it. There's not question about the cost of discipleship. No question.

Here is what Ryle says about the offer of the Gospel, to make clear what I mean when I say something like "the free offer of the Gospel":
the doctrine of Election was never meant to prevent the fullest, freest offer of salvation to every sinner. In preaching and trying to do good we are warranted and commanded to set an open door before every man, woman, and child, and to invite every one to come in. We know not who are God's Elect, and whom he means to call and convert. Our duty is to invite all. To every unconverted soul without exception we ought to say, God loves you, and Christ has died for you. To everyone we ought to say, Awake, repent, believe, come to Christ, be converted, turn, call upon God, strive to enter in, come, for all things are ready. To tell us that none will hear and be saved except God's Elect, is quite needless. We know it very well. But to tell us that on that account it is useless to offer salvation to any at all, is simply absurd. Who are we that we should pretend to know who will be found God's Elect at last? No! indeed. Those who now seem first may prove last, and those who seem last may prove first in the judgment day. We will invite all, in the firm belief that the invitation will do good to some. We will prophesy to the dry bones, if God commands us. We will offer life to all, though many reject the offer. In so doing we believe that we walk in the steps of our Master and His Apostles.
Every person ought to have this offer made to them, and there are no preconditions which they must first engage either to hear it or receive it. The "free offer" is not an offer in which there is no consequences of receiving this Gospel: the free offer is unbounded, and generous, and open-handed, and ample, and sufficient, and given to all.

So as we engage in small talks about the Gospel, let's not imply something which is not intended by anyone. I believe that the Gospel is costly -- it changes everything, from the way I choose to dress to the way I spend my money to the way I must treat other people waiting in line at the store. But the Gospel is presented to all men -- all. As in "everyone you meet".

Small Talk [1]

Let’s imagine I have this friend who’s a doctor – the kind who heals sick people, not the kind who writes books – and he’s telling me about this patient he’s treating who has a rather unique problem which is not “private”, if you know what I mean, but it’s interesting because it requires a good deal of technical knowledge to grasp the problem in the first place. There is a lot of testing involved, and the tests require a good bit of comparison to see what characteristics are showing up in common.

And he tells me these things because I’m a good listener, and I don’t blab. I seem interested in his stories, and in this one as he tells it. But I realize as I’m listening to him that what I am hearing is the brassy voice of Miss Othmar, Charlie Brown’s teacher. The things my friend is saying have stopped being interesting not because this is not about the life-and-death medicine he is obviously practicing, but because he’s using words which only appear in medical textbooks. He is obviously very excited about what he is telling me – he might win the Noble prize for medicine, I guess – but he might as well be speaking in Mandarin Chinese to me.

And he stops to take a breath, and he’s looking at me very intently. And then he looks at my hands, and then at me again.

“I’m sorry, Othniel,” I say to him, “I think I missed that last part.”

“Your hands, cent!” he says somewhat urgently. “Your hands!”

So I look at my hands, and they are clearly my hands. I recognize them. They feel a little cold to me because of the weather we’ve been having, but yes – they are my hands.

“What about my hands, Othniel,” I say to him, a little perplexed.

“Cent: your hands are just like his! You need to vacuate your clavicle before trombosis of the chestwood sets in!” I don’t know what he says, actually – that’s what it sounds like to me. Seriously – that may sound very serious to him, but to me it sounds, well, like Miss Othmar: wah wahwah wah, wah wah wah.

Othniel may have a good point – one upon which my life depends. But I have no idea whether or not I can vacuate my clavicle, or if trombosis of the chestwood is good or bad. It sounds bad, to be sure, but maybe it’s only bad for some people.

See: my doctor – the guy who looks at me and gives me diets and tells me that I should eat better and exercise more doesn’t talk like Othniel: he talks in small words that people who are not certified medical professionals can get their brain around. My problem is not that my diastolic return is elevated: my problem is that my blood pressure is too high; and the solution is not to relieve arterial distress, but to get the numbers on the collar to come down with medicine and exercise.

When he says it like that, I don’t feel like a science project. I feel like somebody who is receiving an important message which involves me. I’m not just a chassis they rolled in for a 10-point inspection. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I believe I am receiving love, but at least I am being treated like I am a living, breathing animal.

And let’s be honest about something: I have a 100,000 word vocabulary, which is pretty good for a guy who only speaks one language. If my doctor started talking to me in medical speak, if I didn’t know what he was saying, I could go find out – because he’s a doctor, and specifically my doctor, so I’m going to take particular interest when he starts talking about the thrombosis of any part of my body.

But what if he was just some guy at work? Seriously – what if some guy at work was talking to me and I started complaining about some ailment or other and he started gibbering medicalese at me? What does he know about trombosis or the difference between it and artichocosis? And why does he use words like that? Who’s he impressing? The next thing you know, he’s going to use the word “bifurcated” in a sentence and I’ll know he’s just a pompous windbag.

Personally, I’m not impressed when someone in the break room starts talking like Cliff Claven. Reading the Encyclopedia Britannica is a hobby for early-teen boys who can’t get girls to take an interest in them – and no, you cannot find out how I know that for a fact. My point is that big words don’t make your point in a conversation. You can’t win someone to your point of view by towering over them with vocabulary or jargon.

You have to demonstrate something else to them when you are talking to them. Like some indication that you are talking to them and not at them or toward them or about them. They are not a chassis parked at your tech station waiting for a read-out from your social or personal tri-corder.

They are human beings in the image of God.

Just to make sure I say this, let’s be clear: someone like me, who has elevated systolic and diastolic blood pressure and is receiving active treatment for hypertension needs to get involved in his treatment – that is, he needs to pick up some of the vocabulary in order to be a decent patient. If you have a beater car, and it needs parts, you probably should pick up some vocabulary so you know the difference between the wiper motor, the alternator and the gas cap. And if you are a Christian, you probably need to know the difference between atonement and justification, or the difference between repentance and regeneration – because you ought to be involved in being a Christian at least to the extent that you are involved in repairing your own car.

But for someone who’s new to any of these things, should we expect them to go get the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms by Donald K. McKim to get up to speed when we start talking to them about this God who we say “loves them”, but what we say is, "God demands repentence for sin, and offers atonement by the substitutionary sacrifice of the Christ"?

Think about that this weekend as you go to the Lord’s house on the Lord’s day to be with the Lord’s people. And try not to think about whether you have artichocosis or not -- it'll kill you before you recognize any of the symptoms anyway.

Command and Conquer [2]

After yesterday’s post about the substance of the Law, I want us to hone in on a certain aspect of that which I think gets overlooked, and my good friend Gene Bridges has already posted some very helpful (if bookish – no offense, Gene) comments about the matter of Law vs. Grace.

Here’s where I’m coming from on this: God’s Law commands us to love. The command of the Law is to love God completely and without any obstacles or qualifications, and then love other people as we love ourselves. When Jesus sums it up, He says that; when the Lawyer who is testing Him sums it up, that’s what he says, and Jesus commends him for it.

That’s the command: Love.

But let’s face it – in this day and age, we have to define what that means if we are to say that to people. The ideal of “Love” has been watered down significantly over time – especially in my generation and the generation before it – to mean “a warm gushy feeling which makes us happy”. But the definition which the Bible gives us is a different one which some people will actually see as unloving and unkind and burdensome.

The place to start with this definition is, of course, here:
    God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
You might also like this one:
    By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
The definition of Love – the way we know what love is – is in the example of Christ’s death for us. For us.

Yes, yes: particular redemption. That’s fine. But that doesn’t make my point any less forceful: it actually makes my point more forceful. Christ was doing something in particular and did it for particular receivers. The act of love is not some dandelion that is blown into the wind with the optimism that some of the fluff will tickle somebody’s face. The act of love is done for the purpose of accomplishing something in the one you are doing it for.

So the command is Love. You love people. You have to love that person – you have to give to them, and you have to do for them, and you have to be honest with them, and on and on through all of Leviticus. You have to love them – that’s the Law.

And this love is for their benefit, not for your benefit. This is the thing which kills me about this discussion. You (a person) don’t love them to be self-fulfilled: you love them so that they get something they didn’t have before. When we say, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”, we are saying, “God loves us by giving us something we couldn’t have without Him.” Love is not self-fulfilling: love is pouring yourself out for the good of someone else.

Now, let’s put one thing on the back burner before we go forward: the meaning of “love God” given this definition of Love. The really smart readers who are already mad at me for saying Love is glorious and gives Glory to God are already typing on this subject, and I will come back to it after I do the “common language” thing. Are we giving something to God He didn’t have before when we love God? Stay tuned.

Love is the command of the Law. But why? Why is Love the command of the Law? It is in order to conquer all things out of the power of sin, and bring them under the order of the Love of God.

Now the righteousness of God has been shown and displayed apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets tell us all about it-- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no double standard: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His good will and favor – His Grace -- as a gift, through the payment-like-a-ransom that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a satisfaction-of-justice by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in His divine patience and endurance He had passed over sins which have already happened. It was to show His righteousness right now, so that He might be right and good, and the rightness and goodness of the one who has faith in Jesus.

You know: the Gospel is “good news”, right? But the Greek word under “gospel” (from the old English “good spell” or “good telling”), before it meant “the good news about Jesus Christ and the Kingdom”, it meant “good news of victory” or the reward for a messenger who brings such news.

The victory has come, and we are declaring it – but it’s a victory of love over death and love over sin and love over enmity and love over lawlessness. It gives us a beautiful head-dress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.

Eventually, in our knowledge of the Gospel, in our knowledge of God, we have to decide that God did these things to us and for us for a reason which involves us. The reasons are not completely transcendent. It turns out that at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

God is saving us. The Gospel is the power by which we are being saved, right now. This results in the idea which some call “Lordship”, but what does that mean? Does it mean that we are just spiritual marionettes now dancing for the Holy Spirit rather than the Devil, or does it mean that we have been moved from a position of willing disobedience to a position of willing obedience?

The command is to love, and love conquers – it puts us on the other side of the battle not just was POWs but as workers for the cause of Christ.

Now, before anyone gets an idea that this is the precious moments gospel, or that I’m talking about your best life now, let me reiterate: which love conquers? That is: is it the love by, from and for men, or is it the love by, from and for God?

If Christ is right about the commandments, it is the love by, from, and for God. But that love redeems men. It is from God and pointed at men. It is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. It is according to God’s own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior. This is a glorious love, and a gracious love, and an unmerited love, and a love which wins us out of damnation and into eternal life.

And this love is offered as forgiveness for repentance. To everyone. The offer is open. Jesus is not asking to come in: He has come. He’s telling you that He’s here, through me, through Steve Camp, through Francis Chan, through any ambassador of Christ. Now you have to do something about it – you, the sinner whom God ought to judge as guilty.

Them's the breaks

I read this today, and I'm wondering what the fuss is about.

Listen: isn;t the thing about evolution that species are supposed to die out? Isn't that the given? That's how it works, right? Species are not equipped for the environment, and they die. Teir death changes the environment, and the remaining species are either equipped, or nearly-equipped, to survive, and they adapt.

Doesn't protecting vanishing species disrupt the way evolution works? I'd be interested to find out ...

J.C. Ryle on Election

Election according to the Bible is a very different thing from what [some] suppose it to be. It is most intimately connected with other truths of equal importance with itself, and from these truths it ought never to be separated. Truths which God has joined together no man should ever dare to put asunder.

(a) For one thing, the doctrine of Election was never meant to destroy man’s responsibility for the state of his own soul. The Bible everywhere addresses men as free-agents, as beings accountable to God, and not as mere logs, and bricks, and stones. It is false to say that it is useless to tell men to cease to do evil, to learn to do well, to repent, to believe, to turn to God, to pray. Everywhere in Scripture it is a leading principle that man can lose his own soul, that if he is lost at last it will be his own fault, and his blood will be on his own head. The same inspired Bible which reveals this doctrine of Election is the Bible which contains the words, “Why will ye die, O house of Israel?” — “Ye will not come unto Me that ye might have life.” — “This is the condemnation, that light is come into tire world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (Ezek. xviii. 31; John v. 40; iii. 19.) The Bible never says that sinners miss heaven because they are not Elect, but because they “neglect the great salvation,” and because they will not repent and believe. The last judgment will abundantly prove that it is not the want of God’s Election, so much as laziness, the love of sin, unbelief, and unwillingness to come to Christ, which ruins the souls that are lost.

(b) For another thing, the doctrine of Election was never meant to prevent the fullest, freest offer of salvation to every sinner. In preaching and trying to do good we are warranted and commanded to set an open door before every man, woman, and child, and to invite every one to come in. We know not who are God’s Elect, and whom he means to call and convert. Our duty is to invite all. To every unconverted soul without exception we ought to say, “God loves you, and Christ has died for you.” To everyone we ought to say, “Awake, — repent, — believe, — come to Christ, — be converted, — turn, — call upon God, — strive to enter in, — come, for all things are ready.” To tell us that none will hear and be saved except God’s Elect, is quite needless. We know it very well. But to tell us that on that account it is useless to offer salvation to any at all, is simply absurd. Who are we that we should pretend to know who will be found God’s Elect at last? No! indeed. Those who now seem first may prove last, and those who seem last may prove first in the judgment day. We will invite all, in the firm belief that the invitation will do good to some. We will prophesy to the dry bones, if God commands us. We will offer life to all, though many reject the offer. In so doing we believe that we walk in the steps of our Master and His Apostles.

(c) For another thing, Election can only be known by its fruits. The Elect of God can only be discerned from those who are not Elect by their faith and, life. We cannot climb up into the secret of God’s eternal counsels. We cannot read the book of life. The fruits of the Spirit, seen and manifested in a man’s conversation, are the only grounds on which we can ascertain that lie is one of God’s Elect. Where the marks of God’s Elect can be seen, there, and there only, have we any warrant for saying “this is one of the Elect.” — How do I know that yon distant ship on the horizon of the sea has any pilot or steersman `on board? I cannot with the best telescope discern anything but her masts and sails. Yet I see her steadily moving in one direction. That is enough for me. I know by this that there is a guiding hand on board, though I cannot see it. Just so it is with God’s Election. The eternal decree we cannot possibly see. But the result of that decree cannot be hid. It was when St. Paul remembered the faith and hope and love of the Thessalonians, that he cried, I “know your Election of God.” (1 Thess. i. 4.) For ever let us hold fast this principle in considering the subject before us. To talk of any one being Elect when he is living in sin, is nothing better than blasphemous folly. The Bible knows of no Election except through “sanctification,” — no eternal choosing except that we should be “holy,” — no predestination except to be “conformed to the image of God’s Son.” When these things are lacking, it is mere waste of time to talk of Election. (1 Pet. i. 2; Ephes. i. 4; Rom. viii. 29.)

(d) Last, but not least, Election was never intended to prevent men making a diligent use of all means of grace. On the contrary, the neglect of means is a most suspicious symptom, and should make us very doubtful about the state of a man’s soul. Those whom the Holy Ghost draws He always draws to the written Word of God and to prayer. When there is the real grace of God in a heart, there will always be love to the means of grace. What saith the Scripture? The very Christians at Rome to whom St. Paul wrote about foreknowledge and predestination, are the same to whom Ire says, “Continue instant in prayer.” (Rom. xii. 12.) The very Ephesians who were “chosen before the foundation of the world:’ are the same to whom it is said, “Put on the whole armour of God — take the sword of the Spirit — pray always with all prayer.” (Ephes. vi. 18.) The very Thessalonians whose Election Paul said he “knew,” are the Christians to whom he cries in the same Epistle, “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thess. v. 17.) The very Christians whom Peter calls “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” are the same to whom lie says, “Desire the sincere milk of the Word — watch unto prayer.” (1 Pet. ii. 2; iv. 7.) The evidence of texts like these is simply unanswerable and overwhelming. I shall not waste time by making any comment on them. An Election to salvation which teaches men to dispense with the use of all means of grace, may please ignorant people, fanatics, and Antinomians. But I take leave to say that it is an Election of which I can find no mention in God’s Word.

Reasonable Question #3

Our faithful friend JIBBS has asked a question in the meta which needs to come to the front page:
Dumb question:

Does God intend to save the non-elect? If so, then why does Paul go to such lengths to teach the doctrine of election? Why did Jesus anger all the folks in the synagogue with his teaching on election recorded in Luke 4?

If not, then in what sense is the "offer/command" distinction to the non-elect germane to this discussion? Is God insincere? Schizophrenic? It can't be both ways.
I think the answer to this question comes in three parts:

[1] the Definition of the doctrine of election and what it means to the Christian.
[2] An examination of Luke 4 (briefly)
[3] A consideration of the “offer/command” to repent.

To answer [1], I have recently received what I would call “da bomb” on the subject of this doctrine, written by J.C. Ryle. It is now permanently linked at the top of the right sidebar, but I’ll link it here for your convenience in case the template gets updated or something.

That’s good reading on what election ought to mean and what it ought not to mean – meaning, how much and what kind of influence should the doctrine of election have on the way we think about theology. I’d give the HT for it here, but I can’t remember who steered me to that essay or where they did it.

Given Ryle’s extensive notes on what the doctrine of election is useful for, let’s look at Luke 4 briefly. Here’s what JIBBS is talking about:
    And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
    "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

    And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

    And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, "Is not this Joseph's son?" And he said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, 'Physician, heal yourself.' What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well."

    And he said, "Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian."

    When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.
It’s that highlighted part which JIBBS is referencing, and JIBBS’ question is, “why did the Jews get all bent out of shape when Jesus preached to them about the doctrine of election here?”

I think the answer is, “because Jesus is telling them that God’s choice to save is not as small as their picture of what God’s choice looks like, but sadly God’s choice doesn’t include them.” See – in this passage, the people in Jesus’ home town demanded signs to substantiate His claim that He is here to fulfill the prophet Isaiah (sadly, He didn’t get the verse numbers in there), and Jesus’ reply is somewhat harsh. He says, in effect, that God saves those whom He will -- God is not at the beck and call of men.

That’s monergism, amen? God saves whom He will. He doesn’t save because of what family you belong to – Zarephath had no family, no pedigree. And He doesn’t save based on what you do – because Naaman was an enemy of Israel, and a keeper of Israelites as slaves. So the Jews in Nazareth couldn’t demand salvation from God – they had no basis to do so.

So what’s up with [3] then? If Jesus is here saying, “you cannot demand salvation from God,” how can we take the offer to forgive inherent in the command to repent seriously? Does it mean that God is somehow teasing men with His offer?

I think this forgets that the monergistic view is that salvation is God’s work alone. Solo Christo, sola gratia, sola fide. In that order.

If we asked JIBBS, “Hey JIBBSy: since man is T-TULIP Totally depraved, where does God get off handing us the Law? If we will not obey it, isn’t God just teasing us?” And JIBBS, being of a sound mind and body [sic], would say, “God gives us the Law for a two-fold reason: the first is to prove to us we are lawless men, and the second is to prove He is a Holy God.” And if JIBBS had had his coffee that morning, he might add: “And lest we forget, Ps 119 tells us that God’s word is also given to us for our own good as instruction, and Lev 19 underscores that by noting that the basis of lawful treatment of others is love – the way we know how to treat each other is by asking the question, ‘does this action demonstrate love?’”

JIBBS would “get it” about God and the Law – man can’t keep the Law, but that doesn’t mean God is a shyster or a bully for providing it. God is a provider -- El Shaddai, Yahovah Jirah. So why does JIBBS (though not only JIBBS) not get it when it comes to the repent/forgive aspect of what God does?

I think it is because JIBBS is concerned that God giving us things which we cannot do for ourselves is somehow stingy. If God makes an offer we cannot take up, isn’t that a tease?

Here’s the problem with that question: while it is ultimately true that we cannot take up the offer, it is not because we cannot see the choice or recognize its value: it is because we are not willing to take it up, and that’s a whole other ball of wax.

Let’s imagine me for a second – a guy of average height who is overweight. My choices to eat, because I live in America, are pretty wide open – I could eat a healthy diet which includes only 6 ounces of meat each day and less than 1800 calories (to maintain a decent weight; it’ll take less than 1200 to get down to 170 – that and a miracle) and like 50 servings of vegetables, but what I choose to do is eat Cheeseburgers, and Italian subs, and french-fries with extra salt, and KFC, and that wicked gravy on the biscuits, and sausage, and eggs, and … well, you get the idea: left to my own devices, eventually I’ll look like the Kingpin or (more likely) Homer Simpson.

So my doctor intervenes – he tells me, “cent: dude, if you don’t lose this weight, you’re going to die young and leave your family fatherless and husbandless. And dude – your kids are great and your wife [if you’ll forgive me] is hot. Don’t die young – eat right and lose the weight. Here’s a diet you could follow – and you just have to ballpark your calorie count each day. Do this because it is good for you.”

So I read the diet, and he’s right – I’ll bet that would be better for me. But after trying it for one day, I am insanely hungry. Just one McD 99-cent cheeseburger isn’t going to break the bank. But two weeks later, I’m up 2 lbs.

Now, listen: we have to ask ourselves: is it the Doctor’s fault that I will not follow the diet? His diet is good, and for those who follow it, it achieves the right end. But he gave it to me, and while I can agree that if the really, really fat guy over there followed it he wouldn’t have to wear a size “Goodyear” with a digital sign on the posterior, I think I’m not that fat and what’s a pound a week every week until I die at 53 and they have to cut a garage door into the living room to lift me out with a Bobcat?

It’s not the Doctor’s fault I will not follow the diet. I will not follow the diet – I choose based on what I like and who I really am. I may look like a slightly overweight middle-aged guy, but I am really a giant house of flubber in a 7-X sweat suit just waiting to arrive.

Man’s inability is not a prohibition: it is a choice. Man eats cheeseburgers rather than spinach salads because man likes cheeseburgers and doesn’t like spinach salads. That’s who man is.

And in exactly the same way, God’s offer to save men – that is, to forgive them, to accept repentance and return forgiveness for repentance – is a choice. But it is not man’s choice. It is God’s choice to give man something he lacks.

And that’s not the offer: That’s the salvation for men who refuse the offer. It’s the consequences of what God will do in spite of man’s bad, um, taste.

The consequences of the offer – that is, someone is actually and finally saved – is not the same as the act of offering. The reason is that all men, instinctively, refuse the offer at face value. And if God was only concerned about Justice and Holiness and Wrath, He could commence with the fireworks. But God is also concerned with Mercy and Love – and that means He’s not only concerned with offering forgiveness, but He is also committed to making salvation and actually forgiving. He is going to save – even those who, when they first hear about this salvation, would rather kill the messenger. You know: like Paul.

The offer is one thing: the actual saving is another. God is merciful and kind to offer forgiveness for repentance; God is loving and generous to save those who even refuse the offer because God seems like spinach salad to these cheeseburger eaters. And for those who are curious, I’m glad that God changed me from a guy who loves moral cheeseburgers to a guy who loves moral spinach salads instead. Because I recognize what I used to be as compared to what I am now.

Thanks for asking a reasonable question. I hope that’s a reasonable answer.

Command and conquer [1]

God is glorified by a lot of things. For example, God is glorified in nature by the fact that He created it, and it speaks about Him. (Rom 1:19-20) God is glorified in the fact of man’s creation (Ps 139) – not just in an ontological sense either, but in the continuous sense that every one of a man’s days are written out by God’s plan. God is glorified by the fact of the Bible (Ps 119), and that God has bothered to speak to people for their own good.

But there’s a way in which God is glorified which, I think, we overlook pretty regularly. And I have a passage of Scripture about that which I’d like to present and discuss:
    And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live."
You all know that part, right? It’s a redaction of Deu 6 and Lev 19 – but not in such a way which harms Scripture. Jesus says so Himself – if the lawyer who was testing Him lived this way (loving God and loving men), he’d be all set.

Think about that: for Jesus, it was enough to say that loving God greatly (with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind) and loving men particularly (that is, the same way you love yourself) is enough to warrant the inheritance of eternal life. There’s no mention there of resurrection or repentance, is there? Yet Christ says, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

Was Jesus preaching “sloppy agape”? Where’s the Glory of God? Where’s the law, and man’s inability? Doesn't this conersation intimate a suneristic view? How could the lawyer who was testing Him be “correct” to say that the Law demands love -- in the right way, and two different kinds of love to be sure – and that this is enough to gain eternal life?

I am certain – as certain as I am that when I press “t” on my KB, a “t” will appear – that all the people who reject the Chan video as being harmful to the Gospel can provide an answer to this question, and it would be a 100% orthodox answer. The problem, I think, is that I believe they will miss the point of this exchange as demonstrated by the parable which Christ uses to explain the answer.

Here’s where that story goes, for those of you who haven’t read it lately:
    But [the lawyer], desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

    Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

    “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.'

    “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?"

    He said, "The one who showed him mercy."

    And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." [Luke 10, ESV]
Now, think on this: the matter of loving God as it is manifest in loving people is what is at stake here. The lawyer asked the question “who is my neighbor” to “justify” himself – that is, either to demonstrate that his first question was not a trap, or to demonstrate that he is not himself a fool for asking a ridiculously simple question.

So the matter of “who is my neighbor” is about how we keep the commandment to love God and love our neighbor. And in that, Christ [as Luke tells it] gives us 3 examples of men who have some relationship with God and with an actual person.

You’ve heard this sermon before, I am sure: the priest avoided the man; the Levite avoided the man. But the Samaritan did not avoid the man. It seems like a kindergarten Sunday school lesson, I am sure, but let’s think about this for a minute. In John 4, the woman [a Samaritan] at the well said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans, John makes clear) That is, the Samaritans worship God apart from the Jews, and the Jews think that because of this, there is enmity between them – the Samaritans are rather less than lovers of God.

But it is the Samaritan who, as Jesus says, “proved to be a neighbor”.

Look: I haven’t jumped ship here. I’m not saying that Jesus endorses the idea that it doesn’t matter which god you worship as long as you do nice things for people. I think what Jesus is saying is that even a Samaritan who is not a Levite or a priest can prove to be a neighbor, and in that why can’t the priest and the Levite prove to be a neighbor? If they love God, they ought to be loving their neighbor.

Consider it: the Levite and the priest have the temple, and its sacrifices – but what do those things cause them to do? The Lawyer can cite the Sh’ma, and connect the admonition of the Sh’ma to obey God and His law to the broad command of Lev 19 which says, frankly, that you shall you your neighbor as yourself in a concrete way. Don’t lie; don’t steal; don’t cheat; care for the poor from your own portion; do not take vengeance, and do not do injustice in court. But Christ tells him that loving God requires you to love people. You can't be doing the former unless you are doing the latter.

So the matter of the temple is not at stake; the matter of Unitarian inclusivity is not at stake; the matter of Christology is not at stake; the matter of symergism vs. monergism is not at stake. What is at stake in this example is whether we can say we love God if we do not do what He has said to do – specifically, to love your neighbor. That is, the matter of rightly obeying all the Law as the Law presents itself is at stake.

See: God is glorified when we love. That may seem somewhat uncontroversial to some people, but there’s a reason God is glorified when we love: it is because God loves. We have already talked about how God loves the Ninevites; we will talk about some more people whom God loves. But the fact – the indisputable fact of the Bible – is that God loves men, and that love is glorifying to God.

So yes: God’s wrath is glorifying to Him. God’s Justice is glorifying to Him. God’s Holiness is glorifying to Him. But God’s Love is also glorifying to Him because it is as great as His Holiness. It is as great as His Justice. It is as great as His Wrath.

And it is glorifying to Him when we show it to others. We can show them His Wrath by walking them through the Law, and through Revelation, and by presenting the Cross as the object of His wrath. But if we do those things and omit the Love which is evident in those things – evident because it seeks to set aside wrath by mercy, and patience, and a public declaration – what have we done? What kind of God have we declared? Without calling anyone any names, does this put us in danger of making the same kind of mistake Jesus accuses the religious leaders in Mat 23 of making -- neglecting the more important matters of the law: justice, mercy and faithfulness as thing people do?

And I promised that I’d talk about common language today, and I didn’t get to it. I won’t get to it tomorrow because this post has a second half which is actually the point. But let’s stop here for now and see what comes up.

Reasonable Question #1 & 2

We get letters. I have received the first reasonable question today from a long-time reader, and it goes like this:
I'm re-reading your Jonah series, and I'm very confused. I don't know what it's about really. Are you saying that some people who disagree with you about the Francis Chan video are not delivering the Gospel, or are slack in evangelism?
The answer, in one word, is "no". I have said over and over in many different forums at this point that we cannot question the evangelism credentials of the men who are currently advancing opinions against the Francis Chan video. Not only is that frankly slanderous, but it is also not an argument: it's an accusation which doesn't do anything but polarize.

To be clear, the point of the Jonah series is, and was, to point out that God has enough love for all sinners to make a free offer of repentance to them. Whether we want to agree with that or not, the motive behind the call to repentance is the willingness to forgive -- and for the Calvinist, the reformed guy, the willingness to forgive is founded on the work of Christ.

Christ's work is done in love. That is a legitimate and theologically-sound view of the work of God in Christ -- and the Gospel offer is founded on that love. See: the standard texts we would go to in order to talk about evangelism, without a doubt, are about the penal aspects of substitionary atonement. And that method, without any question, is sound.

The question is if positioning the Gospel as an expression of God's love, and as an expression that man lacks something that only God can give, and God wants to give it to him, is a valid expression of the Gospel. My position is that the story of Jonah tells us that God wants to forgive out of steadfast love. You are welcome to disprove that, if you have that kind of time.

Another question:
I go to a church where the Gospel is barely preached at all, and they never mention sin. They never bring up repentance. They are more worried about having a smile on their faces at all times. I watched the Chan video and it reminded me of what's going on at my church, and it made me sad. I think it's the same kind of junk.
I sympathize with this person who is hungry for discipleship in the Gospel. I have been one of those. However, I think it is a mistake to translate a certain media smoothness with shallow theology.

The video makes some unfortunate mistakes, right? How many times does that have to be said? But the questions of whether men are sinful, and whether God will judge, and whether Christ has atoned, and whether God now offers, and whether man can accept, are all answered in this video. That's the Gospel. If it's not the whole narrative, the whole story, the Bible is over 2000 pages long in two columns and single-spaced type. You can't get the whole story in at one pass.

Thanks for asking reasonable questions.

Quality Time [2]

Yes. Where was I?

Last time, I was underscoring the Gospel as it was delivered in Acts 7 by Stephen – and I was trying to say (I think I didn’t say this explicitly) that the second thing evident in Stephen’s message was that Stephen did not cover every systematic category in his presentation, and included at least two categories – that is, the matter of sequential covenants, and the omnipresence of God – which have only secondary importance to the matter of the Gospel. They are important matters, and they can be matters in which someone errs terribly even into heresy, but they are not central to the Gospel.

And ironically, Stephen never says the words “resurrection” or “repent”. Stephen who was discipled by the apostles. I am sure some people will find that troubling.

But that brings us to the matter of the first thing which Stephen does in his message, which is of critical importance to the actual point of the discussion which is all over the place. Stephen takes special consideration to frame his message in terms that his listeners will immediately connect to.

You know, for the Jews, the matter of Abraham and/or Moses are definitely facts of history – and for us Christians who have been following Christ for more than a brief time, they are critical for us, too. But Stephen doesn’t start by presenting to the council of the High Priest the matter of their sinfulness under the law: he begins by telling them that God is faithful.
    The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, 'Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.' Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living. Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot's length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child. And God spoke to this effect--that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years. 'But I will judge the nation that they serve,' said God, 'and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.' And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day, and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.
That is, God made a promise to Abraham, and Abraham believed the promise, and in that Abraham implemented the circumcision. And God made a prophecy to Abraham, and was going to fulfill it.

Now, why start there? Why not start with God the Creator, or God the Eternal, of God the Powerful, or God the Just? Aren’t these the attributes which call to mind the glory of God? Shouldn’t the Gospel be presented in order to glorify God?

“Yes” to both of those questions, amen? “Yes” these attributes glorify God; “yes” the Gospel should be presented to glorify God. But it is a mistake to think that the only attributes of God which glorify Him are the attributes which make Him transcendent. I will submit something to you which is hardly radical or unorthodox today: Jesus Christ is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death.

Now, what does that have to do with Stephen? Stephen, as I astutely pointed out, barely gets to Jesus at the end and only points out that the Jews have killed Him as they did all the other prophets. He mentions Christ resurrected only by way of reporting his vision of the Son at the right hand of the Father.

It has this to do with Stephen: the glory of God is demonstrated to us in real, historical ways, and in them we are given real, historical events by which God is glorified. God has given us quality time. So, for example, God is glorified by making and keeping promises to Abraham; God is glorified by keeping His promises to Abraham’s offspring; God is glorified by prophesying through Moses, and fulfilling that prophecy; God is glorified even by the sinful acts of men who treat all His messengers the same way; God is glorified when someone like Stephen forgives those who hate him with his last dying breath.

And my point here is not to start ranting about objective signs of anything: my point here is that God is glorified by what God does. The quality the the ways in which God has demonstrated Himself to man in time glorify Him. So if we are seeking to discover in what way God is glorified by Stephen, we have to admit that He is glorified by Stephen’s exhortation that God does things – specifically for the nation Israel – which are glorifying to Himself.

So the matter of effectual calling never comes up; the matter of the limits of the atonement don’t come up; the matter of whether or not those saved can ever be lost doesn’t come up. The matter of the sole sufficiency of the Bible doesn’t come up; the matter of Christ’s uniqueness never comes up; the matter of God’s glory alone never comes up. What comes up is the singular truth that God is faithful to His promise and that fidelity is manifest in Jesus Christ.

Now listen: there’s no way I’d say “that’s all the Gospel”. It’s not! But it is enough of the Gospel to point men at God for salvation. We shouldn’t stop there – and I suggest that if he hadn’t been dragged out and stoned, Stephen wouldn’t have stopped there. But what he said was enough of the Gospel to the Jews to want to stone him!

Think about that – they killed Stephen because he said, directly, that they rejected the promises of God because they killed the Christ in exactly the same way their fathers had killed the prophets. The people at Pentecost heard that and said, “Oh no! We’re doomed!” and the council of the High Priest said, “Shut up! We’ll kill you!”

Was there reason to kill Stephen apart from the truth that Jesus is Lord and Christ? I can’t think of one. Maybe you can – I’d be glad to hear other views of this.

My point in speaking to this passage is that the method by which we will deliver the Gospel will undoubtedly change when we encounter different people - some people have contextual need to know God is Just, and Christ fulfills the justice of God; some people have a contextual need to know that God is faithful, and Christ fulfills the faithfulness of God. But some people have the problem that they know love ought to exist, but they can't see it in God's creation. Guess what: Jesus Christ fulfills the love of God.

Let me end today with this about that, which ought to be enough to keep everyone from crawling out of their skin: someone has asked, in one place or another, “Does God love all men exactly the same?” And the answer has to be “no”. It cannot be true. But if God loves all men enough to offer them the opportunity to repent and believe, how does that disrupt the fact that some will never accept? How does that denigrate God? Doesn’t it glorify God that He can still make this broad an offer out of love and can love His enemies?

This is not about the census at the end of time and how many there are saved: this is about calling all men to the same offer. God is making His appeal to you through me right now: I implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. That offer is not made as a grudge or as a token: it is made at the price of the blood of Christ.

The blood of Christ was spilled to offer you forgiveness through repentance, dear reader -- and more than that, it saves the believers, gives forgiveness that cannot be removed. But if the sacrifice of the one and only son cannot be called an offer made in love and out of love, I have no idea what it can be called. God loves you, and is making this offer to you right now. Do something about it.

I’ll do something about this blog tomorrow, probably late. There are literally dozens of loose ends to clean up, and I am sure this post will create more. Anyone with direct questions can ask them here in the meta, or you can e-mail me.

Day Off

I am sure many of you are dying for the next installment of whatever it is we're talking about here.

I am out of pocket today. We have ice cancellations, and I have a project at work that, in spite of ice, has to be finished. That means the blog gets another day off. And that also means that e-mails for which I promised an answer today will be delayed. Sorry! I didn't check my planner before I said, "I'll be back on Monday."

Maybe you should take another day off from the blog, too, just to freshen up. I am sure the topic won't go away, and maybe you can get some fresh eyes with which to look at it by doing something different today.

If you got the ice we got, you're probably without power right now. I'm praying for those without power, and you should be, too.

The Best policy

In my previous post, I said this:
See: James has used this to extoll the necessity of a specific kind of Gospel presentation -- one which is systematically rich, and makes sure that we get all 5 solas plus TULIP into our message when we speak to the lost. The truth is, I don't disagree that this is a very useful and very powerful way to present the Gospel. But it is one way, and as a tool, what it does is save people with a healthy knowledge of theology.
James has just blogged about this, and clearly he took offense to what I said -- because he believes it misrepresents him.

It was not my intention to misrepresent him, but I think it was my intention to take a shot at him. Either way, that was wrong, and I apologize with no qualifications. James: please forgive me. I know you better than that.

This discussion has become very high profile, and my normal M.O. and penchant for sarcasm will get in the way. When it does, may God be willing that I have the right heart and apologize for taking a stick to a brother in Christ.

God be with you all as you are with His People on His day. Even iMonk.

{doh} Sorry.

Quality Time [1]


Listen: I want to agree with something James White said in that MP3 about the presentation of the Gospel, and expand on it for the sake of what has become the topic of discussion in the theological blogosphere: James quoted his fellow elder at Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church Don Fry as saying, about the Gospel, "What you save them with is what you save them to."

The position of the prepositions notwithstanding, I agree. There's no question -- you have to agree with this simple and elegant statement of how methods yield results. The irony, I think, is that it cuts both ways.

See: James has used this to extoll the necessity of a specific kind of Gospel presentation -- one which is systematically rich, and makes sure that we get all 5 solas plus TULIP into our message when we speak to the lost. The truth is, I don't disagree that this is a very useful and very powerful way to present the Gospel. But it is one way, and as a tool, what it does is save people with a healthy knowledge of theology.

But there is at least one other kind of evangelism given to us in the Bible -- which still presents the Gospel. It occurs in Acts 7 when Stephen stands before the High Priest, and it is a beutiful example two things, and I want to underscore the second thing first, and talk about the first thing in terms of the second.

The second thing this passage, which is Stephen's message, does is say this:
Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness,
just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it,
according to the pattern that he had seen. Our fathers in turn
brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations
that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days
of David, who found favor in the sight of God and asked to
find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon
who built a house for him. Yet the Most High does not dwell
in houses made by hands, as the prophet says,

'Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,
or what is the place of my rest?
Did not my hand make all these things?'
Now, this is a discourse to the Jews, right? To the council of the High Priest, before whom Stephen was brought on charges of blaspemy. And this passage in particular is about the patriarchs building a temple to God even though God doesn't have one home on Earth.

But look: Stephen's plea to the council is about where the Lord dwells, and goes from there to the accusation that they have even put Christ to death! After saying that God doesn't live in a human-made house (and boy -- could we do 3 posts on that?), Stephen concludes that these men killed all the prophets (through their fathers), and killed the Christ, and that they don't keep the law which they were given.

Now, some will say: "Cent, my brother, the Bible never calls this 'the Gospel'. You can't call this the Gospel. It's flawed to do so." But to that noble brother in Christ, I say this: Stephen's speech in Acts 7 takes exactly the same form of Peter's speech at Pentecost, with the only difference being that the listeners, rather than being convicted to repentence, are hardened unto evil deeds.

I mean, seriously: they then tear their clothes and take Stephen out and stone him. Nobody saved there.

So how do we call this the Gospel? And what manner of Gospel is this? And how does this relate to agreeing with James White that the Gospel with which we save people is the Gospel to which we save them?

I will answer the first question here, and then the weekend kicks in at my house. We can call this the Gospel because it preaches the Christ to people in terms they will understand. Now, you would think that, for example, if NPP was true, Stephen would have given a discourse here on the variegated nomism of second-Temple Judaism. But instead he gives the history of nation Israel from Abraham to Solomon and the first temple.

It's a somewhat brilliant idea, Sanders, Dunn and Wright notwithstanding. In the same way Peter tells the crowd on Pentecost that prophecy is being fulfilled here today, and that prophecy is to witness to the coming of Christ, Stephen tells the council that God made a covenant to Abraham, and kept it through Isaac, Jacob, Jospeh, and then after the prophecy of the captivity was fulfilled through Moses.

But there's an interesting part in that Moses bit: "This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge?'--this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush." Ruler and Redeemer? Does that sound familiar to anyone? I mean, Stephen doesn't say that Moses was the Christ, but it seems transparent -- and is totally a vanilla statement of orthodoxy -- to say that Moses is a type of Christ, right? Why make that point here when Stephen is talking to the Council?

See: Stephen is telling the Council -- like Jesus did, btw, in Mat 23 -- that God was willing to save the people, but they (the council) are not. God has sent one who has the authority to judge, and the willingness and ability to save, but it's not a human priest. moses was like Him, but Moses was not Him. To make that clear, Stephen puts in Moses' own prophecy of the Messiah, "God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers."

Stephen is talking about the Messiah. Stephen is telling these men that God has made promises He is determined to keep. And Stephen is telling them, as Christ did before him, that they are just like their fathers who murdered every prophet sent to them from righteous Abel to Zechariah the son of Barachiah. So when the final statements come from him -- "I see Him at the right hand of God!" and "Lord, do not hold this sin against them" -- They have been given everything they need to know.

I mean: they are Jews. They have all the Scripture the Apostles had. They had Jesus right there. But when Peter said, "He is now Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified," that was the Gospel. The question is whether they receive it or not.

When Peter said what he said, people were cut to the heart -- so he answered their question "how can we be saved?" When Stephen gave the bottom line, the whole lot listening were enraged -- so Stephen didn't tell them anything except that Christ is glorified, and then, before dying at their hands -- you know, like all the prophets -- he asks God not to hold this against them.

Listen: that's the Gospel. God made promises to Abraham, and kept them through Moses who prophecied of a ruler and redeemer -- a Lord and Christ -- who would come after him. And though God was faithful even to David and Solomon, and there was a temple built for God, Israel rejected the covenant of God through Moses. But God doesn't live in a house: God lives in all the earth. And His Christ has come, but Christ has been killed by men just as all the prophets have been killed -- because men resist the work of God, they are wicked exactly as their fathers have been. But Christ is glorified at the right hand of God.

And the messengers who come to you -- they come out of love. They pray from you even when you are killing them, that God will not hold it against you.

See: I agree with Dr. White. The Gospel you save them with is the Gospel you save them to. But who are you saving? I mean, are we declaring the Gospel to a universal ampitheater of identical men, or are we declaring it to every tribe, tongue and nation?

Is it not the Gospel when we tell the Jews that God keeps His promises in spite of man's sin and infidelity rather than "the basis of justification is the substitutionary atonement of the one-in-substance person of the Son who is raised from the dead as sign of God's acceptance of His death as sacrifice"?

Isn't it?

Not enough love [4]

OK -- so we get it, right? God shows mercy to Jonah, and to Ninevah, and then Jonah is a bit of a twerp about it and gets huffy. If it were right to say this about God, I would say He snarks Jonah about his attitude, but it's not right to say that about God -- so we'll say that God chastizeth Jonah, and chideth him with the holy sarcasm. And Jonah, after two doses of the holy sarcasm, snarks God and says, "yes, it suits me fine to be this angry, and I'm angry enough to die.

But why is Jonah so worn out again? First, it's because God is steadfast in love to the enemies of Israel -- to the Assyrians, whose king lives in Nineveh. But as if that wasn't bad enough, Jonah also had this vine that God "appointed" (what a curious word) to give Jonah shade, and God "appointed" a worm (again -- curious) to kill the vine, and then God made it even hotter than before with a wind hot with the hotness of hot that He controls because, of course, God is God -- sovereign, omnipotent, holy, just God. So Jonah is twice-vexed (that's "vex-ed" for those who cannot read the KJV) over God -- first for not killing the Ninevites (whom Jonah hates), and then for killing the vine (for which he was exceeding glad, again from the KJV).

Now, this is God Jonah is talking to and mad at. Jonah is mad at God because God proved His love for sinners by sparing the repentent Ninevites and then killed a vine which God appointed in the first place. God. The God for whom we ought to have the highest view, and always keep His glory in sight. Yahovah God. Elohim. El Shaddai. Addonai. Yahovah-Tsidkenu. Yahovah Sabaoth. Kadosh. Shaphat. El-Gibhor. "Sh'ma-Yisrael-Adonai-Elohaynu-Adonai-Echad" God.

And Jonah is mad at Him. You'd think that Yahovah would have something to say about that -- because when Job is mad at Yahovah-Tsidkenu, He (God) makes a little bit of a scene and makes Job -- the righteous man Job -- give an account for himself.

But Yahovah has something else in mind here, because He says this instead:

    Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?
God says this -- in Hebrew anyway, if not the KJV English. And the first thing which is clear here is that God is a little concerned that Jonah has all this good tidings for a weed which appeared out of nowhere.

Listen: Jonah didn't build his booth under a shady spot and God took it away in a kind of tug-of-war. Jonah was sitting there skulking over the Ninevites in repentence, and God grew a vine up there -- if we take the text seriously here -- overnight one night to give Jonah a little respite, and Jonah "had pity of the gourd". That is, this thing which appeared out of nowhere, and like the grass it withereth, and the flower thereof it falleth away, Jonah got attached to the vine. But somehow, Jonah can't get excited about the sinners in the city. He's all angry eyebrows at God for being steadfast in love.

That's sort of jarring, if you're reading this story with me. Jonah, says God, cares more about the weed than he does about people -- because the weed makes him feel good (or better, anyway), and the people make him mad. And listen: God says that Jonah's "pity" is a pity for something which he never raised a finger to see come to this place. The weed came out of nowhere, and Jonah thought it was dandy, but Jonah had nothing invested in the weed.

But God doesn't stop there. He says to Jonah, listen, little fella: it's one thing for you to be attached to the weed which you didn't do anything to nuture, but look at that city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand. (For you who cannot count in King James, "sixscore" is 6 x 20 = 120, so 120,000 people)

The implication is not that this city sprung up out of nowhere and suddenly God pitieth it: the implication is that there are 120,000 people in there, and God has been working on them a long time. The contrast is that Jonah can have pity on this thing which is just hay waiting for the baler, but then shouldn't God -- who has been working on this city a long time, because He's El Shaddai, Addonai, Yahovah-Tsidkenu, Yahovah Sabaoth, Kadosh, Shaphat, El-Gibhor, "Sh'ma- Yisrael- Adonai- Elohaynu- Adonai- Echad" God -- have some kind of pity on these people upon whom He has been working a long time.

You know: steadfast in love kind of working. The kind of work Jonah accuses God of doing in the first place. God's mouth is here telling Jonah -- and us -- that we ought to check ourselves if we think that God doesn't have enough love. We are the ones who do not have enough love -- because let's face it: we are like Jonah. We are the ones who are somewhat enthralled with the idea that God is coming to knock over the idols in everyone else's temple, that God is going to pour out the winepress of His wrath on the unjust. We think we will be his Beautiful feet, and everybody else is going to get under the footstood of the Lord.

But God says, "I have spent a lot of time -- which I created, btw -- in steadfast love for these people. For the ones you think are ready for the threshing floor." Somehow Paul was willing to say

    in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God
but we find ourselves unwilling to implore anyone or imply that Christ is making this appeal to every man, woman and child.

And for what? Seriously -- what is the issue? That God is not Holy? That God is not Just? That God is not Creator and can do as He sees fit? Dude: what God sees fit to do is offer an appeal to all men, and that appeal is to be reconciled unto Himself. It is exactly equal to and demonstrative of the same principles inherent in declaring, "repent and be saved!" Be reconciled to God!

Those people over there in that city which has historically tried to kill us and trash the name of God. Those people over there who think that think pornography is a valid form of entertainment. Those people in that city where sin is named as a virtue. Those people who are no different than us, except that God has sent us to them.

We can sit here, with God asking us, "so is that anger good for you? How about that weed that is dying which you thought was cool -- being angry about that is good for you, too?" Or we can throw our arms around this God, this Lord our Righteousness, the Lord of Hosts, The Holy One and Judge, Mighty God, -- and one more who for the ones who don't have a full scorecard yet: this resurrected Lord and Christ, born of a virgin, who did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, and who humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross -- and say to Him, "you're working that long and hard, but I'm not gonna tell them you love them. You only love me -- well, us. You only love us, the ones who are already saved to eternal life."

Can you do that? I can't do that. I'm going to be in the Lord's house on the Lord's day with the Lord's people -- including the ones which are in church right now, who got baptized by accident, but don't actually have the Gospel. Because God loves them, and to say otherwise sounds like I care more about the leaves I still have to rake up in my yard than it does about the appeal God is making to people.

That's not an argument, btw: that's what I'm going to do. You choose for you, and when Jesus comes back, we can ask Him whether we should have been more cautious about whether we could tell people that the Cross is a sign of love to all people.