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Changed By Glory

"And we all… beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another." II Cor. 3:18

Month

January 2012

My Feeble Exegesis: The Comfort We Are Comforted By

II Corinthians 1:3-10

    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
    For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”

   God is the God of all comfort just as he is the Father of mercies manifest in Christ which was discussed in the last exposition. Just as the death of Christ on the cross was the apex of God’s mercy and the perfect demonstration of a mercy that agreed with God’s character so the resurrected Christ is the perfect manifestation of God’s eternal comfort amidst and following suffering.

  The distinction between this comfort and the comfort of a nice mattress  or easy-chair is that this comfort comes in the midst of suffering and brings relief (vs 4) which is not an immediate escape from suffering (vs 5) but a sure hope that as Christ endured suffering “for the joy that was set before him” (Heb 12:2) so also we may be comforted with the hope set before us (vs 9).

  The comfort that we are comforted by amidst our affliction is not an escape from that affliction, but a comfort to endure it (vs 6). Sharing in and not escaping from the same sufferings that Christ suffered (scorn, rejection, torture, and even death) we can have confidence that we will also share in Christ’s comfort, which is our resurrection from the dead and eternal bliss in the presence of His glory. Christ is the source of our comfort because he is proof that God raises the dead (vs 9). Christ is the first-fruits of those that sleep and Paul points out that if Christ is only dead and not risen that we are of all men most to be pitied (1 Cor 15:19, 20).

   Those of us that are in Christ should not expect to share in this comfort without also sharing in his affliction (vs 5). Also, just as the comfort with which we are comforted is not for us to hoard so also our suffering is not for ourselves (vs 4, 6). Our affliction comforts others as they behold and hear of our comfort, which is ultimately our confidence that God raises the dead and will deliver us. This comfort is experienced as we patiently endure suffering. Affliction and comfort go hand in hand. Without the affliction Christ endured there would be no comfort, without the affliction of the Apostles there would have been no comfort conveyed to others throughout the world. The invitation to comfort is an invitation to suffering. It is only by picking up our cross that we may experience resurrection, it is only by losing our life that it may be save it. We do not seek out suffering as the legalistic monastics of old did, for this would defeat the purpose. Just as Christ took on flesh and suffered and was afflicted so that we may be comforted, we comfort others in the same fashion. Our lives as comforted ones should be marked by sharing in the afflictions of Christ so that others may be comforted in their affliction. This is the rondoesque pattern of Christ’s church, suffering but being comforted in order that we may comfort others who are suffering.

   Let us not be afraid to experience the comfort of Christ knowing that it is born of affliction. We dare not think that God has called us to stay held up in a fortress of our own fabrication that we think to be the comfort of God, but let us go outside the gates in order that others may be comforted. May we set our hope and confidence in the God of all comfort, that is that God raises us from the dead (vs 9). Because Christ who was so greatly afflicted is being comforted, so we may hope in the same! Praise be to God for His Son who was the original one to be afflicted in order the we may be comforted and comforted so that we may have a sure comfort that touches us even now in the midst of our affliction.

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Resolved – Reflections of the Life & Writings of Edwards

Leadership: Aspiration & Preparation

As I read about the rigorous road of academia that was Edward’s path to the pulpit, I was struck with the amount of preparation that was expected of those that would take the noble office of pastor and teacher. There was no Sunday morning pep talk about how everyone is a leader that was followed by a sign-up sheet and a weekend long crash course on biblical leadership; there was only a long road of becoming grounded in the word and skilled in how to exposit scripture that eventually led to the right to stand at the lectern and magnify the glory of God to his elect.

In the 21st Century American church it seems that we have perhaps taken the ideology of empowering everyone to be a leader too far or not far enough.

By too far I mean that we have swung the door open wide, regardless of qualification, for people to exercise spiritual, ecclesiastical leadership in the context of small groups. In the effort to mass produce leaders, especially in the context of mega-churches that are trying to manage their exponential growth, leaders are commissioned in an assembly line fashion with little penetration into whether they meet biblical criterion (i.e. 1 Timothy 3,  Titus 1). Many fail to exhibit spiritual maturity or have situations that would historically disqualify them from leadership (i.e. divorce & remarriage is the most common in America). This loose and easy approach to leadership, especially in the absence of mature accountability, can have manifold damaging effects.

The other side of the coin is that perhaps we just don’t go far enough with our empowerment of leaders. It cannot be denied that there is a shortage of leaders and that problem must be addressed, but I don’t believe we should feel compelled to lower the threshold, but to make the biblical threshold for leadership more accessible through training and rigorous accountability. If I were the lead pastor of a church I would want to know that I was leaving my sheep in able hands and not just willing hands. The fact that currently many leaders are unqualified does not mean that they must always be unqualified. Knowledge and grounding in the scriptures can be obtained, sin can be repented of, and accountability can be reality. In this way we should seek to empower all believers to aspire to leadership and then set the bar for what that looks like. In 1 Timothy 3:1 Paul says that “Anyone who aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” We seldom aspire to things that are easily obtained. I have long aspired to be an airline pilot, but the long and expensive road of training makes it just that… an aspiration. I would not like the medical board to decide one day that anyone can be a doctor, give a couple of weekend classes to those interested and then set them lose to prescribe medication, perform appendectomies, etc! Imagine the absurdity! It should be our longing that many would aspire to church/spiritual leadership and that many would become qualified but it doesn’t come easy.

It is a “noble” things to aspire to a position of leadership, but I think we can learn a lot about how that desire is fulfilled by examining the lives of past church leaders and what was expected of them. Even on a small group level we are not dealing with cold and flu patients, airplane passengers, or social club members; we are dealing with eternal souls. I think the realization of that magnifies that importance of being trained, grounded, and qualified. I was immensely challenged as I considered the path that Edwards took to the pulpit, despite the advantage he had coming from a rich, godly heritage. I hope that I may with sobriety and tireless equipping serve the office I have been entrusted with well.

Intentional Education

~Resolved~

Reflections on the Life & Writings of Jonathan Edwards

Intentional Education

   Education is an ongoing part of our lives whether we want it to be or not. Each day we learn new things and implement them into our lives. Learning does not stop after we graduate from High School or College and so the things I learned from examining Edward’s early years in academia apply just as much to me as they do to my children, though I must admit that I found myself challenged as I consider the schooling process of my young children.  Edwards is regarded as one of the most intelligent people in the history of Christendom. His heady writings and ability for deep analyses give evidence of that. It is no accident that he was this way as we consider the foundation that was laid in his formative years. As this is not a biographical sketch of Edwards but merely my thoughts, I will avoid veering off into a history lesson.

  The observations here are really just a focused extension of the thoughts in the earlier post. A home that is rooted in the realities of life and objective truth is one that considers the purposes for the things that we pursue and effects the reasons and approaches that we take in our life choices. We could zoom out and see how living a life rooted in reality and objective truth impacts so many areas of our life, but for now I would like to observe how it shapes our approach to education.

   There is a valuable paradigm which begins with the question “Why do I seek to educate myself or my children?” There are many legitimate reasons why, but as believers our chief end should be to glorify God and reflect the radiance of Christ. With that as our focus we should be moved to approach education with a certain intentionality. If we are seeing life in light of reality and the concrete truth of the scriptures, then we know that all that we do here is in preparation for eternity, which we have already established should be a solid reality in our lives. I do not see in this as an argument to bury ourselves in the Greek lexicon and systematic theology only, for the truth is that we must work, live, and provide for our own. However, the way we approach that preparation is moved if we realize that our eternal destiny is just as much a reality as working a nine-to-five job. If we prepare for life here in a separate category as preparing for life there then we will be tend to take a carnal, temporal, and short-sighted approach to education.

   The content of our education will be dictated by the goals and objectives we set and will be absorbed based on the paradigm through which that content is delivered. Our goals should be rooted in Biblical reality and content/method chosen that best agrees with those goals.

   The problem that arises from considering this in such a simplified manner is that we must not assume that anyone was ever saved because they had a superior education, even one anchored in Biblical truth. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, made possible by the calling of God alone. Giving our children an education focused on eternity does not give them an advantage in that they are more “save-able” than others. If they are saved it will be totally on the basis of sovereign mercy by the provision of Christ’s atoning work on the cross.

   So why bother? Why not just let them go to fill their minds with all sorts of worldly knowledge and ambition, trusting that if they are numbered among the elect they will be saved and they will fulfill the good works they were created to do in Christ?

   This would seem to be a reasonable question, but such thinking is immensely flawed. Here are a couple of reasons why: (1) “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ”. Every person that was ever saved, as a result of the sovereign calling of God, was saved when they heard the preaching of the Gospel and believed. It should be our desire that our children would be drenched in the Gospel. Many are saved because they grew up in a Gospel-centered home that God sovereignly placed them in. Do not make the arrogant mistake of turning the doctrine of election on its head, removing the Biblical role of man and the will from the equation. Instead, praise God that he has placed children and students in your life, thus allowing you to be an agent in his great work of salvation. Educate them with eternity in mind. Fill their minds with spiritual knowledge having confidence from scripture that if they will only believe they will be saved. (2) Edwards began learning Latin at age seven and Greek/Hebrew at twelve. He knew the Bible inside and out as a result of his education, yet it would appear that he was not actually converted until late in his teen years. All of his knowledge to this point that had been God-ward focuses was not in vain. At the point of being saved it became useful, a glorious tool-kit of knowledge to be used for the glory of God. All education should be focused on biblical truth and reality for the purpose of when that truth meets a heart transformed by the Gospel it becomes a powerful weapon against Satan and a glorious bulwark against worldliness. This is why I do catechism with my daughter though she is only three and has little realization of what she is even saying. One day by the grace of God those truths in her head will spring to life and provide her with a rock-solid foundation to face life and eternity. Giving our children an intentional education rooted in biblical reality is a huge advantage to them and to the kingdom of God.

   It should be my goal to create an atmosphere of learning that is intentional and serious. Intentional with Biblical goals and truths and serious because life here is short and eternity is the epitome of reality that we want ourselves and our children to be anchored in.

My Feeble Exegesis: II Corinthians 1:3 ~ Christ: God’s Merciful Offspring

Christ: God’s Merciful Offspring

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort”

  What does it mean for God to be the “Father of mercies…”? There are perhaps manifold facets of this expression, but I think it does us good to examine what it means to be a father, especially in the divine sense. The inspired Apostle could have easily said “the God of mercy” but he does not. The Holy Spirit moved on Paul to call God the Father of mercies putting  God in a special category as he relates to the mercies that he shows to mankind. To examine this passage I would like to observe three things: (1) What does it mean to be  the father of something? (2) If mercies are offspring then how do they relate to their Father? (3) God’s mercy in the flesh.

What does it mean to be the Father of something?

  In a natural sense to be the father of something is to be the source of the seed from which the progeny is formed. The source of a continuous line of descendants that form a family. A father is a source of identity and provision, but ultimately a father is the source of existence.

If mercies are the offspring of God, the how do they relate to their Father?

  The offspring of God will never be something alien to his nature or contradictory or at odds with the other aspects of his nature. The mercies of God can only work in concert with and not against his eternal existence as a God who is holy and just. The offspring of God will be a reflection of his nature and be imprinted with facets of all of his divine attributes. Mercies that would be in rebellion to their father or the opposite who their Father has revealed himself to be would prove to be bastardly. In order for the mercies to be the offspring of God then they must agree with who God has revealed himself to be. They will bear his image.

God’s mercy in flesh

   The problem we then have with God being the Father of mercies to man is that man is by default deserving of wrath, rather than mercy (Romans 1:18; 3:9-18,23). If God is the Father of mercies to fallen man, then those mercies must reflect his nature, essence, and being. If God’s mercy is sheer mercy at odds with his justice then it proves itself not to be progeny of God because it does not display the unbroken DNA of God’s perfect righteousness and holiness. If God sacrificed the attribute of his justice in order to display mercy he would be unrighteousness. His merciful offspring must contain the stamp of all of his divine being with all of its manifold attributes.

  The good news is that God did that. It would seem that it is no accident that side by side are these two statements in the passage we are examining “…the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies….”. Christ the son of God is the son of mercy. In Christ is the sum of all of the mercies that God has shown to man. In Christ God’s mercy is justified, showing the ways of God to be inscrutable and above reproach. For Christ according to Hebrews 1 is the “exact imprint of his (God’s) nature”. Christ is very God of very God. The incarnation and sacrificial, propitiating work of Christ was the only way that God could rightly be the Father of mercies to a fallen mankind. In sending Christ, his offspring, to die for the salvation of man, he showed a mercy that was consistent with his justice and mercy. The only mercy that God could display and remain true to his nature was one that met the demands of his justice and holiness. Christ is God’s merciful offspring. All of the mercies of God are summed in this epitome of God’s nature, Jesus, who lived a perfect life and died a death to meet the demands of death that the law had placed on Adam’s race. The cross is the place where the mercy of God and the justice of God were perfectly displayed to their fullest measure.

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