Monday, December 26, 2011

Living the Christian Life: Lordship and Submission

Lordship and Submission

The attitude of gratitude in a person's life will overflow into obedience. Such obedience is expressed in a submission to God and an acknowledgment that He is the lord of one's life.

What do we mean by "submission" and "lordship"? By "submission," we refer to the attitude that one brings oneself under the authority, correction and lordship of another. By "lordship," it means that the lord has the right to command certain things which are to be obeyed.

In the ancient context, this relationship is expressed very clearly in the relationship between a master and the slave. The slave has to submit to the master whether willingly or unwillingly. Whatever the master says is Law and has to be obeyed. It is this part of the relationship that is picked up by the New Testament writers in the use of the Greek word doulos (δουλος), often translated "bondservant" or simply "servant" (see for example Rom. 1:1).

The Bible is not telling us that we are slaves just like the slaves of old times and thus must be mistreated as well. We should not stretch the metaphor that far. Rather, the analogy is this: Just as a slave obeys the master in everything, so also Christians obey the Lord in everything. Just as the slave has no natural rights to claim, so also Christians have no rights to claim before God.

We are purchased by Jesus' death and the pouring of His blood on the Cross, and we are not our own (1 Peter 1:18-19). The Scriptures use the imagery of slavery to illustrate our former condition as being slaves of sin (Rom. 6:17a). The imagery that it calls forth is that of God coming to the slave-market and buying us from the slave owner who is called "Sin." The purchase having been made, we are now owned by Jesus Christ, a kind master however whose burden is light (Mt. 11: 28-30).

Christians are saved and therefore are now bondservants/slaves of God. Therefore, submission is the primary attitude of the obedience that comes with being grateful of our salvation, a submission in everything to the lordship of Christ.

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[to be continued]

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Living the Christian Life: The obedience of faith

The Obedience of Faith

The person who is saved has been saved from the condemnation that he was in before. God did not have to do that; Jesus did not have to do what He did. What then should be the state of the new believer?

A person who truly understands this entire Gospel message and has responded to it in faith should be extremely joyful. He has faced the horror of his own sins. He has despaired of himself as he saw that all his efforts to do good were not perfect despite how good they may seem to be. He has seen the standard of perfection and knew there was no way he could achieve that. The work of the Law pierced his heart and drove him to despair of himself.

The Gospel message however shows him another way. To his amazement, God creates a way of salvation in which he does not have to do anything at all, but to believe in Christ who created that way. He clings to this message as that is the only way that could save him, like a drowning man clings to a lifeguard, and with great joy thank God for providing a way out of hopelessness.

With great joy comes gratitude and thanksgiving. The one saved is full of tears of thanksgiving to God who provides a way out. God did not have to do it. It would be perfectly just for God to leave all mankind to attempt to work for eternal life, an impossible task.

O my Lord, why did you save me? I deserve it not.
My sins so wicked and evil; Your Son so pure and good
You died the death I was supposed to; to merit for me new life
I live the life I deserved not; in hope and gratitude.

As Charles Wesley wrote:

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, should die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, should die for me?

With thanks to God, the one saved desires to know more about Him and how to please Him. As such, they would seek to grow into what is called in Scripture "the obedience of faith" (cf Rom. 1:5).

[to be continued]

Monday, December 19, 2011

Living the Christian Life: The first response of faith

[continued from here and here]

The first response of faith

We are sinners. God in Jesus Christ has given us a solution to our problem to fix it. What, then, should be our response?

This is the situation that all of us had faced or will face. Faced with how bad we actually are, there is no solution that we can see. But God has given us a way out in the Gospel, calling on us to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). This is what we are called to do in light of the Gospel message, in order to be saved.

First, we have to repent. In repentance, we admit that we are wrong and agree that what God says is correct. Therefore, we admit how bad we are. We agree with God that our good deeds are really wicked before God according to God's high standard. We agree with God's judgment that we deserve punishment in death and hell. We agree that we are helpless to save ourselves.

Next, we believe in Jesus, the opposite side of the coin of repentance. We agree with God of the truth of the Gospel message. We accept Jesus' life and death on the Cross as a fact. We accept Jesus as a person and all that He has ever said and did. We accept that He died to save sinners, of whom I am one of them. This act of belief is to put our trust in the person of Jesus, and in what He has done for us.

Secondly, the command is to be baptized. Baptism is the ceremony involving water whereby a person tells everyone by his or her participation that he or she is now a Christian and part of the community of Christians. Before baptism, a person can claim to be a believer but he is not officially considered as one. Baptism brings a person officially into the community of believers and thus the Church.

This then is the first response of faith, Through repentance and baptism, the person has indicated that he or she has believed in the truth of our sinfulness and the Gospel message. He has now started the journey of coming to know the God who has given His Son to save him from his sins (Mt. 1:21b).

[to be continued]

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Living the Christian life: The beginning

Part 1: Foundations

The beginning

We start up at the beginning. How does a person get saved? What do you mean by getting saved? Aren't we all in general doing fine?

The sad fact is that we are not. Most of us know we are not perfect, but certainly, don't we all agree that to err is human? All of us commit various wrongs in life. The key issue is that we learn from our mistakes and resolve to be better people next time. After all, don't the motives count? If we do wrong, we could just make up for it by doing more good works to balance out our evil works.

The truth of the matter is that we are not answerable to ourselves. Wrongdoing is wrong and deserves to be punished, while good works deserve to be rewarded. That is a truth. But why do we think our good works are truly good, and why do we think that our bad deeds are not very bad?

The Bible says that we are much more wicked than we ourselves think. It is not that God does not reward good works. On the contrary, God does give eternal life to those who are truly good (Rom. 2:6-7; Lev. 18:5) But what good works are agreeable to God? Why should God think that our good works are good enough? On the contrary, our righteous acts are as disgusting to God as menstrual rags (Is. 64:6). Whatever is not done according to the perfect standard of God is not acceptable to him (Jas. 2: 10) and this standard can be expressed in many ways, one of them being the 10 commandments (Ex. 20: 3-17)

Many times we think of God as being a nice old man in the sky, just wanting to help us. But reality is not for us to decide. The standard of God is fixed apart from the decisions of Man. Rather, the standard by which works are judged as good or bad are fixed by the God who transcends this entire creation. This same God created us and He sets the standard for His creation. We who are created by God have no right to dispute His authority, because we are created by Him.

Once we see ourselves using the proper objective standard, then we must admit that we are not as good as we make ourselves. In fact, we find that all of our good works are not good according to God's standards. For example, the standard for doing any good work is that it ought to be done not that we feel we have to make up for our bad works or for our good reputation, but for God's glory (Rom. 14: 23). On the one hand, even one of our bad deeds cancel out any good that we have done (Jas. 2:10). On the other hand, not one of our good deeds are truly good according to God's standard.

This is the problem all men naturally face. You can pour contempt on it, deny that such a God exists, or deny that God will ever set such a high standard. Regardless, you are like an ostrich putting its head into the sand. For your (and mine) affirmations and denials mean absolutely nothing. You can deny gravity all you want, but gravity will still work when you jump off a cliff. Whether you like it or not, the fact of the matter is that everyone is held to the perfect standard of justice, and everyone fails.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the center of Christianity. It is the message of the one way whereby any solution is possible. The reason why Christianity is the only truth is that no other way can solve the problem of our condemnation. It is not that Christianity excludes people from heaven. Rather, it is the only way whereby Man can go to heaven. Bring all your other religions and philosophies. If anyone can solve the problem of condemnation, they are surely welcome to be held to and embraced. Can anyone of them solve the problem of condemnation? Present your case. What solution do you as a follower of this religion or this philosophy present for this condemnation? How are you able to help Man to be right before God? Are you able to come up with a solution, any solution, at all?

Christianity presupposed the reality of the condemnation of Man. As it is summarized for us, "there is no one righteous, no not one" (Rom. 3:10b). The issue to be addressed is the reality of condemnation that is already present on all mankind.

The Gospel message is this: Jesus was born into this world 2000 years ago by the virgin Mary and her husband Joseph. He was born into a Jewish family in the town of Bethlehem in modern-day Israel. When he grew up, he was nailed to a cross by his enemies the leaders of the Jews and the Romans, who wanted to make the Jews happy and not revolt. This death on the cross was however the way by which we can be saved from the present condemnation.

How is that possible, you may ask. Jesus' death was actually part of the plan of God to save us sinners under condemnation. In God's plan, Jesus dies on the cross as a substitute. We were supposed to die because of our bad deeds. But instead, Jesus' death as a substitute means that for all who believe the Gospel message, their punishments were given to Christ instead and Christ's death satisfies justice. The eternal punishment that we should have faced is now no more for all who believed in the Gospel. Instead of facing punishment, Jesus has merited true righteousness and gives it to all who believe the Gospel.

The history of the death of Christ and the divine exchange it delivers is the substance of the Gospel message. It is this message that has to be believed in. For those who believe in it, they have received the deliverance from the state of condemnation all men and women are born in. This is how Jesus has came up with the solution, the only solution that works, for the state of condemnation everyone is in because of their bad deeds.

[to be continued]

Living the Christian life: Introduction

How is the Christian life to be lived? That is probably the most asked question for all Christians. Yet it seems that for many Evangelical Christians, the Christian life consists of data mining the Bible for principles to live by. Is that however the way Christians are to live?

It is my contention that such is not the biblical way to find out the way the Christian life is to be lived. In fact, I would even venture to say that it is probably the most un-Christian way of finding out what the Christian life is about. The method is just about as able to discern the biblical principles of Christian living as it is able to discern how to fry an egg from examining the molecular differences between a raw and a fried egg.

The data-mining approach to Christian living has resulted in the re-definition of Christianity as the religion of Moral Therapeutic Deism. Christianity has become it seems the religion of the philosopher Immanuel Kant. Christianity is all about being moral and being good in this life, with an additional benefit of going to heaven after death. Jesus saves us from hell, so after we have our hell insurance, it's about time we brush up our lives in our growth in (moral) sanctification.

This however is a lie from the very pits of Hell itself.

This is about as far from true biblical spirituality as you can get.

This if taken to its logical conclusions damns the professional believer to an eternity without Christ.

We should see why this topic should interests us. And I intend to therefore cover the topic of Christian living. How are Christians to think of and behave, in a manner that is true to Scripture?

We will cover the topic in 2 main sections. Section 1 will be the basis of the Christian faith and life, while section 2 will focus on the implications it has for us.

As this is called pre-prolegomena, I would try to write this using simple vocabulary and simple concepts as much as it is possible for me to do so. I will try to write shorter paragraphs and shorter sentences to aid comprehension.

With this, let us begin.

[to be continued]

Friday, December 16, 2011

Purpose of this blog

This blog is meant for me to post issues regarding Reformed theology and Reformed practice of the Christian life, in an easier to understand format. While there is no guarantee that understanding is always attainable, language use should not be an issue here.

We do know that most of the time theological issues and practices are written and discussed in words that the uninformed Christian could not understand. In an effort to make these important truths available to Christians, I have created this blog for that very purpose. It is my desire that many people will come to embrace the Reformed truths of the Christian faith, which I am convinced is Christianity in the form most in line with what Scripture itself teaches.