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The Book of Ruth: Reigning Providence

Sermons on Ruth – John Piper

In my yearly trek through the Scriptures, I have come today to the book of Ruth. I have read this book many times, but never studied it in depth. So I thought it would be good to look up a sermon series on this book and I came across some sermons by none other than John Piper, who preached on this book in four sermons in 1984. I really was taken aback by the first one in how he displays so clearly the beautiful providence of God in the midst of deep, bitter trial, designing and intending it for good. There are so many things I have missed in this wonderful little book. I highly recommend these sermons.

Hosea: A Story of the Worst Marriage in History

This past week, I’ve been reading through Hosea. The language God uses to speak of Israel is quite striking. “For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore” (Hosea 4:12). The Lord, over and over in this book, describes His relationship with Israel as that of being married to a whore. And not just a one time affair or adulterous short-term fling. It is serial adultery He speaks of, a pursuit after whoredom. That is strong language to describe Israel’s unfaithfulness.

In letting this passage of Scripture read our own hearts, if we are honest with God and ourselves, we are the unfaithful one’s as well. We are the serial adulterers. We are … the “whores.” Ouch. And this isn’t just an overstatement. It is the reality. We are unfaithful to our great Husband and it breaks His heart in a way I don’t think we can comprehend. We get hints of how much it breaks His heart in seeing or experiencing the break up of a marriage due to adultery. But this is just an analogy to our relationship to God that has an eternal weight to it. And yet in spite of this He still pursues us.

American Patriot’s Bible – Words Cannot Describe II

America has a rich history rooted in the Christian faith, drawing many principles from Scripture. And while this is true, it does not lend us the conclusion that America was a “Christian nation,” even at our founding. Such an assumption is absurd and presents a misguided interpretation of history and a misunderstanding of the nature of how people are converted and saved. Many of the founding fathers were deists, an ideology which runs counter to the Biblical portrayal of an all-sovereign God, which necessarily affects our understanding of the Gospel.

The assumption that this was a Christian nation, displayed prominently within this Bible version, will hurt the cause of the Gospel in that it delivers the understanding to the unconverted that if you are an American and support the Constitution, you are a Christian and are “in” God’s favor. This is blatantly fallacious and patently unbiblical. American Religion is opposed to the Biblical Gospel. The Biblical Gospel critiques American Religion much in the same way Jesus critiqued the Pharisees.

American Patriot’s Bible – Words Cannot Describe

American Patriot’s Bible: combining God’s infallible Word with the idolatry of American nationalism.

If there is anything that really gets my blood boiling, it is any piece of merchandise or any program or movement that holds up the idea that being an American equals being a converted, born-again Christian, something plaguing many of our churches to this day. And this Bible version (particularly as it pertains to the commentary contained within) is no exception, but in fact, is the ultimate example of exactly what I am talking about.

Don’t get me wrong here on this point: I love this country. In addition, this in no way negates my support for our troops or my desire to see this country continue in its current (hopefully improved) state. If you have read any of my political entries, you will know this is the case. This is merely about God’s Word being used as a platform for another agenda.

The Singularity of Israel for All Time

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles … were … separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” – Ephesians 2:11-12

When reading this statement by Paul, in his mind, being separated from Christ means being separated from the commonwealth of Israel and the covenants of promise. They are all one in the same. The promise made to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the prophets, is the same promise we Gentiles inherit through faith alone in Christ alone. We are grafted into the Vine, which is Christ. We become a part of Israel, that is, God’s saved people for all time. There is no segmentation of Israel versus Gentiles. Christ has brought that wall down and we are the same: Israel, the people who have believed God and are reckoned as righteous on the basis of the righteousness of Another, Christ.

David, the Bread of Presence and the King of Glory

Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech came to meet David trembling and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” And David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has charged me with a matter and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.’ I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.” And the priest answered David, “I have no common bread on hand, but there is holy bread—if the young men have kept themselves from women.” And David answered the priest, “Truly women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition. The vessels of the young men are holy even when it is an ordinary journey. How much more today will their vessels be holy?” So the priest gave him the holy bread, for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the Lord, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away. – 1 Samuel 21:1-6

The Soap Opera of the Old Testament

When we read Scripture and particularly the Old Testament, it is so easy to automatically view those heroes of the faith, those glowing golden embossed characters we have all read about as kids as if they did no wrong. Sadly, a lot of times, we carry those portrayals with us into adulthood. Sure they made “mistakes,” the thinking goes, but they are people who kept their act together 99% of the time and are worthy of imitation as a result. And unfortunately, this is where we think the teaching stops.

The natural result of this thinking and its resultant teaching is that the historical characters of the Scriptures merely become our models for how to live, people we should imitate in faith and good works. Now of course, to a certain extent that is true. Yet, is that all there is to these narratives? I thought the Bible was a book about God and His works? Does this not apply to every square inch of Scripture including every single narrative?

You Never Know How the Holy Spirit May Move

Yes, his mind was not changed toward theism (let alone the Gospel), yes, he’s still a confident atheist … yet this act of kindness from a believer very well could be the planting of a seed that the Holy Spirit will use to later bring him to faith. May we pray this happens. Sometimes the best apologetic for our faith are not air tight logical arguments (though those are necessary for removing stumbling blocks and giving clear testimony to the Gospel) but genuine kindness and care for the souls of others. Our hope for his salvation is not in his “decision” or will to believe, for they both are in bondage to the blindness of sin and the hardness of the wrath of God that rests on him even at this moment (John 3:36). Our hope in evangelizing and apologetically defending the faith lies in the power of the Holy Spirit to grant those we come into contact with the eyes to see Him, the ears to hear Him, and a new heart that is submissive and responsive to God. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” – John 3:8 … and the reason this is so is because God is sovereign in salvation, not us.

(Thanks for sending this my way, Ryan McCarthy)

Instructions For How to Live? Or Promises of Redemption?

Is the Old Testament just a bunch of stories and instruction for what we should and shouldn’t do? Or is it one big story compiled of smaller stories, that all make up an unfolding drama of redemption from Genesis to Revelation, in which God reveals hints and pictures that all point to the grand climax of this story: the perfect, law-fulling life, sacrificial death and hope filled resurrection, ascension and return of Christ? I would argue the latter. For instance, the writer of Hebrews says of Moses:

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. – Hebrews 11:24-26

When Our Faith and Practice Contradict Each Other

“Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations?” – Jeremiah 7:9-10

I have now arrived in the book of Jeremiah in my Scripture reading plan and came upon this really convicting verse. Sometimes we can feel ourselves removed from the context of the situations where God is condemning Israel in particular, in verses such as these. However, if we believe all of Scripture, we would also believe Jesus’s words in the New Testament concerning the Law in the Sermon on the Mount.

For instance, He says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21-22). In addition, He goes on to say, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).

With these words and other similar statements in the sermon, Jesus ratchets the Law up to a level that is absolutely impossible for us to keep, because within our hearts, we are sinning continuously, at least according to God Himself (Genesis 6:5), whose perspective and opinion on the matter seem to carry a bit more weight than what any man thinks, seeing as how God sees the depths of our blackened hearts. Not only does committing the act of murder or lust make you liable to judgment, but so does merely insulting someone in your heart or looking at a woman lustfully! According to Jesus, it’s the same as if you had committed these acts in the eyes of the Lord if you even think them in your heart.

So the verses from Jeremiah at the beginning do indeed apply to us in the Church today and are not just meant for the Israelites in their respective context. We evangelicals are the “Israelites”. We are the one’s who steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to other gods … and then go into the Lord’s sanctuary and say, “We are delivered … by Jesus.” Many times, we then leave the service without any conviction of our sin, only to go on doing those same things, either externally (through explicit acts) or internally (through explicit evil thoughts).

May God have mercy on all of us, on me. Our hearts are quick to run to sin and that must be a principle that is always on the front of our minds, which will drive us to constantly rely on the Holy Spirit for the ability to do what is right. In as much as I say this to anyone reading this, I say it to my own heart. We need His Spirit to not only restrain us, but then change us from the inside out so that we do not want to do things that are displeasing in His sight. We need desire-change, heart-change, thought-change, will-change, that is all renewed and regenerated in the likeness of Christ. Only then can we do what pleases the Lord.

This whole point of our faith and practice goes back to that DesiringGod video I posted a week ago, based upon James 3:10, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”

Praise God He does not leave us without hope though. If that was the stopping point of the message, it would just be conviction, guilt and shame without any resource for changing the source of our thoughts and actions: our hearts. We would still be left in our sin, without hope of recovering, only expecting to return to the same things again and again. Yet there is free grace extended to us in the Gospel, that we would repent of our wickedness daily, continuously even, and return to Christ for cleansing and forgiveness (knowing confidently that in Christ, we are fully acceptable to God because of His cross).

Our goal in coming to the Lord’s house, corporately with the people of God, or privately into His throne room in communion with Him, through the intercession of Christ’s blood, is not just to be forgiven of our wickedness and idolatry and then return to our vomit once again (Proverbs 26:11), abusing the grace of the Gospel and putting God to the test, just as the Israelites did in the desert.

But our goal is to come, be convicted of our sin by God’s Word, in light of His holiness, and ask the Lord’s forgiveness, knowing full well He is faithful and righteous to do just that because of the cross (1 John 1:9). Only then can we move forward in holiness by His power working in us, having been accepted in His presence because of Christ’s work in our place to save us. And all of this in light of God’s great mercy toward us that we are not owed or have earned in any sense. He freely gives it to those whom He pleases to give it.

If the Gospel is simply a means to the end of staying in your sin (which according to statistics recently by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life many evangelicals are doing just that), we should fear the wrath of God that is coming, for it exposes the possibility of our not having apprehended or accepted the Gospel of God’s grace and mercy with a living faith to start with. Sure, you can respond back with all of the answers from the Bible about what the Gospel is. But the question we should be asking is, “Have I personally received this Gospel by a supernatural work of God in me? Have I been born again by His power instead of my own?” This is the one of the themes in Hebrews, James and 1 John.

Now of course in no way are we going to achieve perfection until we are with Christ. But this is the point: if our hearts are not on track with the convicting and liberating message of the Gospel, we should examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith or not. The books of Isaiah and Jeremiah show us that it would not be out of the ordinary for those of us who claim to be redeemed to be far from the heart of God, just as the Israelites were.

Our lack of zeal for the Gospel and turning away from our sin exposes the fact that we have not been struck with the power of the Gospel in our hearts, by God’s Spirit. Yes, we can have down days or even seasons, for certain. But what is it that drives you in everything you do? The world or Christ? That is the issue. It should make us mourn that we don’t consider the work of Christ in everything we do, but at the same time we should not cower away from Christ, but instead return to Him that we may be healed and restored by His power. It is only His sustaining grace that will carry us through to the end.

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