Gospel. Culture. Technology. Music.

Tag: righteousness


The Good News of the Kingdom of God

“Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God.” – Luke 8:1

The good news is not merely a pleasant report of reconciliation, though it is that, and in it we should and must rejoice. It is not merely a declaration of acceptance before Yahweh, though how extraordinary and wonderful it is indeed. It is not merely our statement of adoption by an awesome Father, now made his children.

Crescendo of Exuberance – The Gospel and Worship

worshipThe whole point of worship is looking outside ourselves to another, namely Christ. When you’re caught up in the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, you’re caught up to something outside yourself, its particular heights and depths, its colors, its sheer size. You’re not thinking about yourself or what you’re going to get out of it as a means to an end, emotionally speaking. You’re simply caught up in that object in itself. Now the effect of being caught up to an object so beautiful is emotion. Standing on the top of Long’s Peak causes me to weep, not because I went there for the emotional high, so to speak, but because it is awesome in itself. Emotion and the experience of it is the result though, not the end. Emotion happens naturally because the object of your focus is so incredible.

So it is with worship of God, particularly in a worship service, but even more generally in our daily lives. To the degree we’re enraptured by, or caught up in, the truth (doctrine) of who Christ is and what He’s done on our behalf, and to the extent we encounter Jesus himself in prayer in our daily lives is the extent to which we’ll be rightly emotive in our response at our worship services, I’m convinced. Music aids in that, but it is not an end unto itself (as most of us know), nor is it primary in kindling those emotions. Now music can be extremely encouraging of that goal when good or distracting if it’s bad and therefore should be done with excellence, absolutely. But my concern for the church is larger than the production of things: people can seem unresponsive in worship services because we’re not caught up in the excitement of the truth of the drama of the gospel and encountering the person of Christ in our lives. When we sing “God is good,” yes that’s absolutely true. But how is God good? What is it that makes Him so amazing and good? The job of the pastor and worship leader is to create these categories of thought as it pertains to the gospel. Being caught up in who He is and what He’s done, explained in a literary manner, with awesome music and a sermon centered on the Person of Christ? That’s a recipe for worship that’s honoring to the Lord, that looks outside ourselves to Another. There’s joy there, there’s excellence in music, which translates into some form of a response, which could be sitting down and weeping, or standing with arms lifted, or in some cases not showing emotion and yet exploding with joy inwardly.

This is where the hymns come in, as an example, particularly the more theological hymns. Sure, there are some dreadfully bad hymns, both musically and lyrically. But why are the hymns so great? Let’s take In Christ Alone, a modern hymn. The whole song, verse by verse, is a progressive explanation of the gospel, with a final crescendo of exuberance in our hearts at what God has done. That sings, that produces joy. Love Constrained to Obedience is about Christ fulfilling the law on our behalf, turning our duty into joyful choice now, something we desire to do out of love for the One who saved us. How Deep the Father’s Love is about the depth of His love, literally the theological nature of it, what composes it, its characteristics, its properties. Revelation Song is deeply theological and really just quoting Scripture to a great degree. Before the Throne of God is all about imputed righteousness, how Christ is our advocate, our high priest, how the Father sees us as He sees His own Son! When we think on these things in depth and combine that with the experience of prayer in our lives, it produces a something that wells up within us of love to God and sets our hearts ablaze with joy … and thus a response.

What I desire to see more of in my own life, as well as the larger church, is that we’re all becoming more gospel-centric, meaning marinading ourselves, our teaching and our music in these truths. Let every sermon point there as an application for the motivation unto obedience and worship, as opposed to being motivated by law. Let every song drip it. How does Christ fulfill the law for us? How is His obedience transferred to our account? Why is that amazing? How does that truth apply Wednesday afternoon? How can we take that application into our music? How does Jesus’s blood appease God’s wrath? Resurrection? On and on. These are themes that cause us to well up with joy. And joy is the end goal of the gospel. Joy in the face of Christ, seen in Scripture, experienced through the Spirit.

Political, Civil, and Ceremonial Righteousness versus the Righteousness of Faith – An Important Distinction From Martin Luther

This is an excerpt taken from the preface of Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians. He writes:

St. Paul sets about establishing the doctrine of faith, grace, forgiveness of sins, or Christian righteousness. His purpose is that we may understand exactly the nature of Christian righteousness and its difference from all other kinds of righteousness, for there are various sorts of righteousness. There is a political or civil righteousness, which emperors, princes of the world, philosophers, and lawyers deal with. There is also a ceremonial righteousness, which human traditions teach. This righteousness may be taught without danger by parents and schoolteachers because they do not attribute to it any power to satisfy for sin, to please God, or to deserve grace; but they teach such ceremonies as are necessary simply for the correction of manners and certain observations concerning this life. Besides these, there is another righteousness, called the righteousness of the law or of the Ten Commandments, which Moses teaches. We too teach this, according to the doctrine of faith.

Calvin on Man’s Righteousness Compared to God’s

Aroused consciences, when they have to do with God, feel this [free justification in Christ alone] to be the only asylum in which they can breathe safely. For if the stars which shine most brightly by night lose their brightness on the appearance of the sun, what do we think will be the case with the highest purity of man when contrasted with the purity of God? For the scrutiny will be most strict, penetrating to the most hidden thoughts of the heart.

Is anything too hard for the Lord?

“Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” – Genesis 18:14

My Bible reading plan for the year has started over and I am currently in the books of Genesis and Matthew. This verse made me stop and ponder for a second how absurd it is that I ever question God’s authority but also doubt His ability to carry out the impossible (or even sometimes the possible, sadly). Considering the fact that God is omnipotent, possesses infinite power to do whatever pleases Him, this question is a no-brainer, lay up shot of an answer. Of course, nothing is too hard for Him.  We can answer this in an instant from our minds and our hearts be far from resting in that truth.

How often my own heart forgets this truth throughout the day! May the Lord have mercy on me. Is this not the very root of sin itself, that is, doubt and unbelief that it is within God’s power to do the impossible, let alone just doubt and unbelief alone? Many times, the skepticism and practical atheism of our culture seeps into our own thinking and we can doubt God on a personal level which leads to anxiety and misery, a heart that ceases to be at rest in Christ Himself who controls all things with His powerful word. In many (if not most) spiritual circles of our society now, doubt is a virtue! Yet if doubt and unbelief are the roots of sin, our society is openly embracing unbelief.

A Beautiful Picture of Justification

“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?’ Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’ And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments.” – Zechariah 3:1-5

I came across this passage recently in my reading plan. This is such a wonderful illustration and picture of what being justified in God’s presence looks like. Notice Satan is there to accuse Joshua. By all means, Joshua was guilty of his own sins, being displayed in this passage by the filthy garments he was wearing. And then the angel of the Lord removes his dirty garments and puts clean garments on him instead, garments that he himself had not made clean by any effort of his own. It was all an external work on his behalf, given to him as a gracious gift.

The Great Divine Conundrum

“O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem…” – Daniel 9:16

In light of God’s justice and righteousness in the Old Testament, how he poured out his wrath on the nations surrounding Israel and even on Israel herself, this verse is such a radical, seemingly contradictory statement. If you simply do a surface-level study of what justice and righteousness actually means in theological terms, and particularly what it means for us sinners, it is goosebump-frightening to consider its reality. It should make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Seriously.

Think back to, or look up, Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1 and John’s response in Revelation to see what the reaction to God’s justice and holiness looks like. Or read this Jonathan Edwards sermon. It was one of His most famous. In it, Edwards expounds upon the awful wrath and fury of God we all deserve for our sin and how Christ is the only protector and shield from its horrors.

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