Monday, January 28, 2008

My Will/ God's Will

I recently bought a new house. During the course of the negotiations with the seller, my real estate agent made a comment to me that, “if it is the Lord’s will that you get this house, you will get it.” This common piece of advice was appreciated. It is good at all times to be reminded of God’s sovereignty over all things.

As I later sat at the bank, preparing to sign closing documents, I recalled that common piece of advice. However, in this later context, the comment took on a new flavor. The comment was not so much an expression of trust in God as it was an intellectual question. As I sat ready to sign the deed of trust and the many other documents that would make the property mine, the only thing that would indicate God’s will was my action. Potentially I could choose not to sign and the house would not become mine, subject of course to all of the legal ranglings that would ensue. Or I could sign and the house would be mine. In a sense, my will became God’s will.

Now I am certainly not arrogant enough to claim that I can veto the sovereign God who foreordains whatsoever comes to pass. He ordains my thoughts, attitudes and desires by making me who and what I am. He ordains my every action. And, yet, He works it out in my daily life so that I freely implement his decree. My actions become his decreed will in real space and time. I signed the closing documents and so the Lord’s will was that I should have the house.

In the contemporary debate regarding the efficacy of the sacraments, know as the Federal Vision debate, the claim is often made that to grant that the sacrament saves is to grant a salvation based on works. When I baptize my children, when I teach them to honor their father and mother, when I remember the Sabbath day before them, when they respond by honoring my wife and me, and when they respond by receiving faith in Christ, is their salvation based on works? Yes and no. Salvation is by faith alone, but faith is never alone. The sovereign Lord foreordains whatsoever comes to pass. The problem is that we do not know what His decreed will is until it happens. We must work His will out in real space and time. "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29.

There is really no difference between this and basing a claim of salvation on belief in Jesus by an adult. In that case, the “decision for Christ” is just as much a work as the baptism, the nurturing, the discipling and the decision. The only difference is that we live in the post modern era in which the intellect, “the decision.” is given ascendency on all matters. But if Scripture says, “Baptism now saves you” (I Peter 3:21), what am I to do with that passage? I must work it out. I will use God’s ordained means of grace to implement His decree in space and time, that I may do all the words of this law, which is Christ.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

But what we suffer from to-day is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt -- the Divine Reason. Huxley preached a humility content to learn from Nature. But the new sceptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. Thus we should be wrong if we had said hastily that there is no humility typical of our time. The truth is that there is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it is practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether.

Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton

Friday, January 25, 2008

Why The Linton Village?

Why the “Linton Village?” Someone once said that it takes a village to raise a child. I don’t know whether this is true or not. I do know that it takes a family to make a village, even a nation. At least it was so with Abraham.

9And God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant." Genesis 17:9-14.

There are many things to note here but the one that I would like to highlight is that Yahweh (LORD) covenants with Abraham to be God to Abraham’s offspring. God declares that He will make Abrahams offspring into nations and that kings will come from him.

As you read through the rest of the OT, Scripture often portrays covenantal faithfulness of the people of Yahweh as a generational thing. The generation of the Exodus was unfaithful in not entering into the Promised Land, so that generation died in the wilderness so that the next generation could take it. The generation that knew Joshua knew Yahweh and was faithful. The generation that followed Joshua did not know Yahweh and was not faithful. Aaron and Eli were both faithful priests and yet their sons were unfaithful. Oftentimes, the prophets compare their audiences to their forefathers. This is consistent with the tenor of Genesis 17. Each male born in the house “shall be circumcised.”

Exodus 20 elaborates on the generational aspect of the covenant. Note the relationship between the fourth and fifth commandments.

8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. Exodus 20:8-12

In the fourth commandment, Yahweh instructs the Israelites to remember the Sabbath in the presence of their sons and daughters. The fifth commandment then directs the younger generation to honor the older generation. This is an obligation of the sons and daughters to respond appropriately to the remembrance of the Sabbath. These are reciprocal obligations that cannot be avoided. The two work together to the continuance of the covenant. As the Book of Deuteronomy elaborates on the commandments, it sets forth a rhythm of life that the generations were to follow--a dance, if you will, one generation leading another. This is the village that Abraham started, Jesus Christ fulfilled, and the Church nurtures.

10"You are standing today all of you before the LORD your God: the heads of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, all the men of Israel, 11your little ones, your wives, and the sojourner who is in your camp, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water, 12so that you may enter into the sworn covenant of the LORD your God, which the LORD your God is making with you today, 13that he may establish you today as his people, and that he may be your God, as he promised you, and as he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 14It is not with you alone that I am making this sworn covenant, 15but with whoever is standing here with us today before the LORD our God, and with whoever is not here with us today.