In Pursuit

The Bitter Cup is Filled by His Hand

For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid an oppressive burden upon our loins. You made men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water, yet You brought us out into a place of abundance.

Psalms 66:10-12

God is not without putting His children through trials. Often, we mistakenly view trials as merely something God uses and helps us work through - as if God was simply rolling with the punches in our life. Yet, the Psalmist proclaims that God’s hand is causally involved in our trials. God has brought us into the net. God has made men trouble us; He has laid the affliction on our bodies. These are direct circumstances given to men from God.

Nevertheless, this is where comfort is found in the trial. As God’s children, we recognize that the trial is for God’s purpose of refining us. It is a molding, forming, and opportunity for growth. What better news is there within the troubles?

"It would be a very sharp and trying experience to me to think that I have an affliction which God never sent me, that the bitter cup was never filled by his hand, that my trials were never measured out by him, nor sent to me by his arrangement of their weight and quantity"

Charles Spurgeon (Darrel W. Amundsen, “The Anguish and Agonies of Charles Spurgeon,” in: Christian History, Issue 29, Volume X, No. 1, p. 25)

This perspective only comes through trusting and loving God, being His child. Once one has been adopted as a son in the family of God, the Scriptures promise ultimate prosperity - a goodness that extends beyond circumstances unto an eschatological hope, which instills faith and joy within any circumstance.

 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His reproof, for whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

Proverbs 3:11-12 (cf. Hebrews 12:5-11)

Often, it takes a trial to reinforce our dependence on God. We are such flimsy creatures, and sometimes we require a divine shaking. And once we embrace this refining work of God, we will delight in the place of abundance to which He has brought us.

Desire God

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

Psalm 73:25

God is not merely a better desire, He is the primary desire. All other desires and pleasures must be rooted within the desire for God.

There is a common Christian idiom that reads, “God ought to be first in your life.” The purport is good-natured, with hopes of instilling an utmost desire for the One who is fully worthy. I do not want to discredit the entirety of the adage, but I would like to clarify the teaching.

God is not merely the first item on our priority list. He is not a task to mark off and then move on to our next positioned desires - a wife or husband, family, friends and relationships, a career, etc. The Psalmist declares that God is our only desire

Of course, the desire for a godly wife or husband is a good pursuit, and family intimacy is an admirable quest; but these are not desires apart from the ultimate desire of God; they are within our desire for God.

In your desire for God, desire a godly wife or husband. In your desire for God, desire to fulfill the great commission. In your desire for God, desire to excel in the workplace. All of these secondary desires are to no avail if they are not rooted in the primary desire for God.

We will never experience satisfaction in these good and secondary desires as they were designed by God if they are not rooted in a desire for Him. God is good, and goodness is joy; there can therefore be no joy if our desires are without the desire for God.

The hungry do not need to be paid to feast.

"One who truly loves God asks no other recompense than God Himself."

Nicolas of Cusa

Disappointed With Jesus

Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

John 11:32

God’s love (cf. John 11:3, 5) will sometimes ‘break your heart,’ because God’s love is beyond emotional therapy; it is en route to His glory (cf. John 11:4).

Simply because biblical characters have been disappointed with Jesus does not standardize the practice as permissible. If anything, the Scriptures present the illustration as to point us beyond the faults of those characters. Why should we ever be disappointed with Jesus? What gives us that right? This assumes that our emotional pleasure is above His will and work, when truly, it is within His will and work.

Ideally, if Mary and Martha knew what Jesus was working in the death of Lazarus, which was ultimately a revelation of his supreme authority and glory, then Mary and Martha could have taken great pleasure in the death of Lazarus; they would have known that he would have been resurrected and that Jesus’ glory would be magnified. Knowing who Jesus was, they could trust that He was working to the ultimate end of His glory. The future vision of God’s glory is an opportunity for His creatures to delight in Him in any circumstance.

If you are disappointed with God, then your motivations, intentions, or pursuit is askew. Dependence on Christ implies a trust beyond temporal satisfaction and apparent understanding. Having trust in Christ, which is truly an eschatological hope, will instill the emotional delight; it will relieve the frustration of misunderstanding in the present circumstance. One must look up and out to be joyful within the now.

God is Good & God is Great

God is good. God is great. God’s goodness is great. God’s greatness is good. What profit is His greatness to His creatures if it is not good? What profit is His goodness to His creatures if it is not great? We can find comfort in the sufficiency that God is great enough to fulfill His goodness. We can find comfort in the peace that God is good enough to route His greatness. Any negation of either greatness or goodness renders us a God that is incapable of being trusted. His promises are full.

God is my goodness. God is my greatness. God is the fountain from which all of virtue and strength stream forth springs of delight. God is the light from which all morality and might emanate into vessels of praise. My source of such things can only be found in treasuring the one whose being and essence consist only in such exercises.

Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promises, and the mediator of my union with these promises. In Christ, God’s greatness and goodness culminate. In Christ, my greatness and goodness are found.

Never forgot that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the human to take the pleasure which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula. It is more certain; and it’s better style. To get the man’s souls and give him nothing in return — that is what really gladdens Our Father’s Heart.

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, 44.

Distinctive Teachings in the Epistle to the Philippians

In view of the harmony of Scripture, to identify the teaching of Philippians is to focus on its distinctive ideas. A summation of such an examination is in observing its canonical function in elucidating the gospel. Silva notes two factors that “have hindered students in this endeavor.”[1]

Firstly, given the joyful attitude Paul has towards the Philippians, many have assumed that the Philippian assembly is paradigmatic for Christian community; they have few problems, which are relatively inconsiderable. Moreover, in light of the same reasoning, doctrinal clarification is positioned secondary, or merely consequential, to the apostle’s true intention of the letter. Lightfoot has, nonetheless, agreeably emphasized this truth in his comparison of Galatians and Philippians:

As we lay down the Epistle to the Galatians and take up the Epistle to the Philippians, we cannot fail to be struck by the contrast. We have passed at once from the most dogmatic to the least dogmatic of the Apostle’s letters, and the transition is instructive.[2]

Among this statement, one ought to find some inescapable issues - some through Lightfoot’s blatant statement, and others by his neglected truths. 1) The heavily-dogmatic nature of Galatians does not nullify the simple doctrinal truths of Philippians; 2) Romans, by far, is the ‘most dogmatic’ of Paul’s letters, not Galatians; 3) Even if Philippians is analytically rendered the ‘least dogmatic’ of Paul’s letters, this does not instinctively conclude its ‘instructive’ exclusivity.

Secondly, on the other extreme, the supposed “excessive attention” of the Carmen Christi (the Christ-hymn; 2:6-11) has possibly buried other important accents of the epistle.[3] Despite the tendency of scholarship in dealing with this passage, Christology is not the main concern of Philippians. The ‘Christ-hymn’ “is but one paragraph in a larger section that may be considered the heart of the epistle” concerning Christian sanctification.[4] It is within this section (1:27-2:30), following the apostle’s call to unity and humility (2:1-4), that Paul uses Christ as a model to such mention calling.  Christian sanctification is the main focus whereby it gets narrower, but not negated, in the call to unity, humility, and the illustrative ‘Christ-hymn.’ “The point of the Carmen Christi is not primarily to make a statement regarding the nature of Christ’s person (ontology), but to impress on the Philippians the pattern to which they must be conformed.”[5] Thus, the clear image of Christ, methodically depicted with doctrinal verbiage, functioned to inspire Christian obedience’s founded in theological truths. Theology is designed to catch flame; it is to be implemented consequentially to its affectation of the heart and renewal of mind.

φρονέω

Moreover, Silva builds his analysis of φρονέω (phroneo, think) and its emphatic use throughout the epistle (1:7; 2:2, 5; 3:15, 19; 4:2, 10). English readers tend to miss this word’s frequency “because the verb, which can be used in a variety of contexts, requires more than one rendering.”[6] In 1:7, Paul being the Philippians’ paradigm of conduct (cf. 3:17; 4:9), rightly ‘feels’ (φρονεῖν) about them (specifically their perseverance, cf. 1:6) – he harbors a correct perspective of them. In 2:2 and 2:5, φρονέω follows an imperative by the apostle (2:2, πληρώσατέ [aorist]; and 2:5, φρονεῖτε [present]). In 2:2, it is used to express the desire and command of Paul for the community to ‘be of the same mind’ (φρονῆτε). In 2:5, Paul commands the Philippians to have the same ‘attitude’ (φρονεῖτε), which was exemplified in Christ. In 3:15, φρονῶμεν and φρονεῖτε represent the correct Christian ‘attitude’ in contrast to those whose end is destruction and have an ‘earthly mindset’ (φρονοῦντες, participle), depicted in 3:19. In 4:10, Paul rejoices in the Philippians’ revived ‘concern’ (φρονεῖν ) for him, just as they had previously expressed ‘concern’ (ἐφρονεῖτε).

Further, these concepts of ‘concern’ and ‘attitude’ are reflected in similar diction used by Paul. γέομαι (hegeomai, regard, consider) is noted importantly amidst the contexts of 2:3, 6 and 3:8. σκοπέω (skopeo, notice, consider) appears in 2:4; 3:17 and λογίζομαι (logizomai, reckon, consider) 3:13; 4:8.

“We find in Philippians an abundance of ‘knowledge’ terminology, especially in 1:9-11 and 3:8-10. All of these references include, but are not restricted to, purely intellectual concerns. The main point is expressed by Paul elsewhere with military and atheletic imagery (1:27, 30; 3:12-14; 4:1, 3). The focus on the mind, therefore, has much to do with mental determination.[7]  

As previously noted, this community in Philippi was not inept to spiritual struggles. Thus, ‘perseverance’ was not a subliminal or trivial topic for Paul; the Philippians must have been experiencing a similar tendency that the Galatians suffered in entertaining the thought of abandoning the faith. Such issues would account for the apostle’s call to joy, perseverance, and “mental determination.”[8] Apparently, spiritual ‘effort’, ‘insistence’, and ‘work’ are dominant exhortations for Paul. These urgencies do not, however, minimize the doctrine of grace; they are coupled with the empowering grace of God to accomplish endurance (cf. 1:6, 19-20; 2:13; 3:12; 4:13, 19). “The twin truths of human responsibility and divine sovereignty thus turn out to provide the theological underpinnings for the teaching of Philippians.”[9]


[1] Silva, Philippians, 20.

[2] Ibid., 20. From Lightfoot’s preface. 

[3] Ibid.,20.

[4] Ibid.,20.

[5] Ibid.,, 21.

[6] Ibid.,, 21.

[7] Ibid.,21.

[8]Ibid., 22.

[9] Ibid.,22.

Church Structure in the Book of Acts

  • Does the Book of Acts give a clear pattern for the proper structure of Church government?

The book of Acts has a higher purpose than constructing a strict ritualized structure for the church. Its greater theme is theological, not ecclesiological. In the book of Acts, ecclesiology is often the mere byproduct of a theology. "Luke often reveals his theology through the examples of the individuals he discusses" and authority they possess.[1] Therefore, the perceptive pattern is simply a consequence of Luke’s consistent theology; his aim is to reinforce the greater theological principle. It is no moot point that God never sets out to give stringent guidelines or laws for the Spirit’s working in the body of Christ, despite what “early-Catholic” views suggest.[2] Simply put, “the apostles drop from the account after Acts 15 and execute no clear administrative authority other than occasionally to affirm the message’s expansion.” Thus, the hierarchal structure of Acts is simply non-existent in its latter half. This freedom permits the Spirit its relativity in correspondence to different cultures throughout the progress of history. It relieves those of us living in the modern era (retrospective to the history of the book of Acts) from the temptation of instituting a religiosity in the dispensation of grace and the Spirit.

  • Is it appropriate to use the book of Acts as a guide to establishing and operating a Church today?

This question naturally follows from the previous question. Being that Acts is not a strict guideline to ecclesiological structure, it would be narrow and outdated to attempt and mimic the outward structure presented in the book. The church in Acts’ culture and historical background is much different, vastly different, from the culture and situation of the church today. Thus, one must take the theological underpinnings and principles of wisdom – those eternal standards of prayer, dependence on God, empowerment of the Holy Spirit, etc. – and properly redeem them in our time and culture. The message within the preaching, the truth within the teaching, are items that we ought to take and impress into our ministries. Salvation in regards to the historical truth of Jesus Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension is the foundation for ecclesiological establishment, and this is found in the message of Acts (cf. 2:38; 3:16; 4:12; 11:14; 15:1, 11; 16:30-31; 28:28).

 

[1] Darrell L. Bock, A Theology of Luke and Acts: Biblical Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 371.

[2] Bock, Acts, 39-40.

spiritualinspiration:

“…His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23, NAS).
Today’s verse tells us that God’s mercies are new every morning. He’s not ever going to run out of compassion. He’s not ever going to run out of forgiveness. He’s not ever going to say, “Well, this is the last time I’m going to give you mercy.” No, you can have a new beginning every single day!

spiritualinspiration:

“…His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23, NAS).

Today’s verse tells us that God’s mercies are new every morning. He’s not ever going to run out of compassion. He’s not ever going to run out of forgiveness. He’s not ever going to say, “Well, this is the last time I’m going to give you mercy.” No, you can have a new beginning every single day!

Source forgemusicuk

Reblogged from

…No sinner ever does believe until God gives him faith; just as no man sees until God gives him sight. Sight is God’s gift, seeing is the consequence of my using His gift. So faith is God’s gift (Eph. 1:8,9), believing is the consequence of my using His gift.

The Attributes of God, by A.W. Pink (via superfuzzball)

Reblogged from Soli Deo Gloria

Reflections on Edwards’ Freedom of the Will

This is my brief (very brief) reflection on Jonathan Edwards’ Freedom of the Will. I completed the book about a month ago and suggest that everyone, who is willing to read it, do so.

The Will is the ability to choose.

Freedom is that which allows us to choose what we want or prefer.

The Freedom of the Will then is the ability to choose what we want or prefer.

As Edwards notes, we always choose according to our inclinations and affections; and our choice is always determined by the strongest motive or what seems most favorable to us. “The will is always as the greatest apparent good is.” The ‘greatest good’ is that which most agrees with one’s inclination or affection; and these affections are determined by one’s understanding. Thus, our will is necessarily submissive to our own affections and inclinations, determined by our motives.

To clarify, the will cannot be free on its own. It most be governed by a preceding cause or motive. Logically, it cannot be self-determined (this is the Arminian notion); the will must be caused by something outside of itself. It is not an autonomous faculty detached from the mind; rather it is cooperative with the mind, affections, inclinations, etc. Indeed, the will is the ability to choose, but our will does not choose; we as the agents choose.  Thus, even the phrase ‘Freedom of the Will’ has ambiguous and perplexing connotations.

Read More