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Posts Tagged ‘The Father’

Having spent considerable time and energy over the last weeks and months reading John Calvin, that great Genevan Reformer, I now have the splendid opportunity to study Martin Luther as well.  And oh what a joy! It’s as if someone should’ve said to me: “If you liked Calvin (for all the right reasons, of course, not the wrong ones) well you’re going to love Luther.” And they would’ve been right of course.

The same theological, hermeneutical, homiletical, and pastoral insight which made Calvin such a dear and shining light to many, is there in its brash and bold (and yet foundational) form in Luther. And is it ever encouraging to read.  Indeed I can think of few things as delightful to the soul. However, enough already… Let’s get to some Luther quotes.  From his “What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels” (1521).

After explaining how some confuse the Gospel as merely referring to the four first books of the New Testament, Luther wrote:

There is, besides, the still worse practice of regarding the gospels and epistles as law books in which is supposed to be taught what we are to do and in which the works of Christ are pictured to us as nothing but examples. Now where these two erroneous notions remain in the heart, there neither the gospels nor the epistles may be read in a profitable or Christian manner, and [people] remain as pagan as ever.

The stout German is obviously off to a good start. But one can leave it to the ‘wild boar’ to run a royal rampage across deception and unbelief. He then defines Gospel per se:

Gospel is and should be nothing else than a discourse or story about Christ, just as happens among men when one writes a book about a king or prince, telling what he did, said, and suffered in his day. Such a story can be told in various ways; one spins it out, and the other is brief. Thus the gospel is and should be nothing else than a chronicle, a story, a narrative about Christ, telling who he is, what he did, said, and suffered–a subject which one describes briefly, another more fully, on this way, another that way.

There you have it. The gospel is a story about Christ.

He then goes on to show that this same gospel is the one we get in the Old Testament as well:

Thus when Isaiah in chapter fifty-three says how Christ should die for us and bear our sins, he has written the pure gospel. And I assure you, if a person fails to grasp this understanding of the gospel, he will never be able to be illuminated in the Scripture nor will he receive the right foundation.

Be sure, moreover, that you do not make Christ into a Moses, as if Christ did nothing more than teach and provide examples as the other saints do, as if the gospel were simply a textbook of teachings or laws. Therefore you should grasp Christ, his words, works, and sufferings, in a twofold manner. First as an example that is presented to you, which you should follow and imitate. As St. Peter says in 1 Peter 4, “Christ suffered for us, thereby leaving us an example.” Thus when you see how he prays, fasts, helps people, and shows the love, so also you should do, both for yourself and for your neighbor. However this is the smallest part of the gospel, on the basis of which it cannot yet even be called gospel. For on this level Christ is of no more help to you than some other saint. His life remains his own and does not as yet contribute anything to you.

In short this mode [of understanding Christ as simply an example] does not make Christians but only hypocrites. You must grasp Christ at a much higher level. Even though this higher level has for a long time been the very best, the preaching of it has been something rare. The chief article and foundation of the gospel is that before you take Christ as an example, you accept and recognize him as a gift, as a present that God has given you and that is your own. [emphasis mine] – Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, ed. Timothy F. Lull, (Fortress Press, Minneapolis: 2005). 93-95.

Well, I don’t know how one could ever strike any more deftly at the very vitals and heart-beat of unbelief.  This penetrates to the core of all false teaching and apostasy which teaches us not to believe in Christ as everything for our salvation, but rather someone and something just shy of it.  Some thing (no matter how small or seemingly reasonable) must be left outstanding.  And just as surely one believes this then all one’s glorying in Christ and his cross falls faint to the ground.

And what’s more, the human heart, in its pride, ever resists such a free gift from our Gratuitous Benefactor and Heavenly Father. And as much as we might think we can today find evidence to the contrary, there’s nothing we like less than a free handout — and from God, least of all. It restlessly tugs against such an offer of absolute and unconditional grace. And of course our sinful hearts are joined in a distorted chorus by the world and the devil, ever providing a relentless deluge of resistance.

And yet the Gospel truly is good news… the best in the world…in all creation. May God by his mercy grant us ears to hear, and hearts to understand, how great and marvelous his love is toward us. Amen.

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ocean

I just got back from spending the afternoon at the ocean.  And I’m still struck with the glory and splendor of it. God surely is an awesome creator to fashion such a magnificent landscape and presentation. And to think that this is only the first-fruits, that He’s not done yet, and we’re only getting a taste of the new creation.  Why we don’t wrestle with elation is now quite beyond me.  However, perhaps what caused me to ponder such thoughts was that I was also blessed with the company of a copy of the Heidelberg catechism (part of the Three Forms of Unity) and was attempting to read through it for the first time (yes I admit it).  And what I found was joy beyond joy.  Oh the beauty and rapture of the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed to us miserable sinners, now saints — simultaneously sinful and yet justified.   I never knew there was so much gospel in the Heidelberg!  That’s what it is — amazing good news! A clear and precise explanation of the gospel!  One article after another. One (out of many) which stood out to me:

Question 26. What do you believe when you say, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”?

Answer: That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them;  who likewise upholds and governs the same by his eternal counsel and providence)  is for the sake of Christ his Son, my God and my Father;  on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt, but he will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body  and further, that he will make whatever evils he sends upon me, in this valley of tears turn out to my advantage;  for he is able to do it, being Almighty God,  and willing, being a faithful Father.

[That] he will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body.

and…

…for he is able to do it, being Almighty God,  and willing, being a faithful Father.

This is just so encouraging and true.  We need to be reminded of this… That God surely will look after us and provide all that we need… All things for our good, in this life and surely, in the life to come — eternal salvation.   And that he not only is capable of doing this (being all-powerful and sovereign, not letting any slightest thing happen outside of his will) but that he is also willing!  Brothers and sisters, do you know how encouraging this is?  We can think of Christ our Lord when he spoke that if our earthly fathers give good gifts to their children, how much more will our heavenly father give good gifts to those who ask him. (Mat 7:11) And what greater gift then life everlasting? Indeed we have a most wondrous God. Most gracious and good.  How can we not worship? How can we not adore?

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“Consider that it is the greatest desire of God the Father that you should have loving fellowship with him. His greatest desire is that you should receive him into your souls as one full of love, tenderness and kindness to you. Flesh and blood is apt to think hard thoughts of God, to think that he is always angry and incapable of being pleased with his sinful creatures, that it is not for them to draw near to him, and that there is nothing in the world more to be desired than never to come into his presence. ‘Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?’ say the sinners in Zion. ‘I knew that you were a hard man’, said the evil servant in the gospel.

Now, there is nothing more grievous to the Lord, nothing that serves the purposes of Satan more than such thoughts as these. Satan rejoices when he can fill your hearts with such hard thoughts of God. Satan’s purpose from the beginning was to fill mankind with lies about God. The first blood that murderer shed was by this means. He led our first parents into hard thoughts about God. ‘Has God said so? Has he threatened you with death? He knows well enough that if you eat of this fruit, it will be much better for you.’ With these lies he succeeded in overthrowing all mankind at once. And remembering this great victory, he readily uses the same method with us.

Now it is exceedingly grievous to the Spirit of God to be so slandered in the hearts of those whom he dearly loves. How he remonstrates with his people. ‘What iniquity have you seen in me?’, he asks. ‘Have I been a wilderness to you, or a land of darkness?’. But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me’. And see the Lord’s reply: ‘Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you’ (Isa. 49:14-16).

The Father knows that his people can bring no greater hurt to his loving heart than to have such hard thoughts of him. He knows full well what fruits this bitter root is likely to bear. He knows what alienations of heart, what drawing back, what unbelief this bitter root will bring forth. And worst of all, he knows how it leads us to avoid walking with him. How unwilling is  a child to come into the presence of an angry father! Consider, then, that receiving the Father as one who loves us gives him the honour he desires and is exceedingly pleasing to him. Scripture sets out his love in a noteworthy way. ‘He commends his love towards us’ (Rom 5.8). ‘Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us’ (1 John 3.1). Why, then, this foolishness? Why are we afraid to have good thoughts of God? Is it too hard to think of God as good, gracious, tender, loving and kind? I speak of saints. How easy we find it to think of God as hard, austere, severe, unable to be pleased and fierce, which are the very worst characteristics of men and therefore the most hated by God (Rom 1.31; 2 Tim 3.3). How easily Satan deceives us! Was it not his purpose from the beginning to inject such thoughts of God into our hearts? Assure yourself, then, that there is nothing more acceptable to the Father than for us to keep our hearts filled with him as the eternal source of all that rich grace which flows out to sinners in the blood of Jesus.

Many saints have no greater burden in their lives than that their hearts to not constantly delight and rejoice in God. There is still in them a resistance to walking close with God. Why is this? Is it not because they are not skilful and so neglect having loving fellowship with the Father? But the more we see of God’s love, so much more shall we delight in him. All that we learn of God will only frighten us away from him if we do not see him as loving and merciful to us. But if your heart is taken up with the Father’s love as the chief property of his nature, it cannot help but choose to be overpowered, conquered and embraced by him. This, if anything, will arouse our desire to make our eternal home with God. If the love of a father will not make a child delight in him, what will?

So do this: set your thoughts on the eternal love of the Father and see if your heart is not aroused to delight in him. Sit down for a while at this delightful spring of living water and you will soon find its streams sweet and delightful. You who used to run from God, will not now be able, even for a second, to keep at any distance from him.”

John Owen ‘Communion with God.’ Pages 31-33.
Abridged and made easy to read by R.J.K. Law. Banner of Truth Trust 1991, 2008.

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Here is something I was reading today from John Owen:

The Father himself loves us. In John 16:26, 27, Jesus said, ‘I do not say that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came foth from God.’

Bot doesn’t Jesus contradict himself? Has he not plainly said, ‘I will pray the Father for you’ (John 14:16)?

Jesus had spoken many gracious words to his disciples. He had given them many comforting and faithful promises. He had revealed heavenly truths to them. So they were fully convinced of his great love for them and that he would continue to care for them. They knew that he would not forget them when he had gone from them back into heaven. But now all their thoughts were on the Father. How would he accept them? How would he treat them?

Jesus, in effect, says, ‘Don’t worry about that. I do not have to pray that the Father may love you, for this is his special attitude towards you. He himself loves you. It is true indeed that I will pray the Father to send you the Spirit, the Comforter. But as for that free, eternal love, there is no need for me to pray for that, because above all things the Father loves you. Be fully assured in your hearts that the Father loves you . Have fellowship with the Father in his love. Have no fears or doubts about his love for you. The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to him is not to believe that he loves you.’

– John Owen, Communion with God.

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