hope


 

Great counsel from Jonathan Edwards’ classic Religious Affections

Forward to Christ

Forward to Christ 

When a newly-converted young lady from Connecticut wrote Jonathan Edwards a letter in 1741 seeking advice on growth in godliness and assurance, the venerable theologian wrote back and offered words that might be unconscionable in popular evangelical circles today.

Essentially, Edwards told her, “Don’t look back.”

In point 10 of his 17-point answer, Edwards advised the young matron regarding “times when you fall into doubts about the state of your soul” as follows:

It is proper to review your past experience; but do not consume too much time and strength in this way; rather apply yourself, with all your might, to an earnest pursuit after renewed experience, new light, and new lively acts of faith and love. One new discovery of the glory of Christ’s face, will do more toward scattering clouds of darkness in one minute, than examining old experience, by the best marks that can be given, through a whole year.[1]

For Edwards, “looking back” did little or nothing to imbue the believer with unshakable assurance of salvation. Edwards held that the believer must, by God’s grace, persevere in bearing fruit and then the evidence of a sanctified life would effectively assure the believer of his or her standing before God. Edwards understood the apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians and how he spoke of “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead:” the Christian pilgrimage is not a fifty-yard dash, but a rigorous marathon, fraught with obstacles and alternative dead-end paths. To stay such a treacherous course, Christians need objective marks of conversion, thus Edwards’ admonition for the young lady to apply herself to “new lively acts of faith and love.”

Read entire article by Jeff Robinson

Christians-and-the-New-CreationBeginning the new year with Paul Minear and his book on metaphors of transitions in the New Testament: chapter 5, From One Covenant to Another.

When you think about it, this is by far the most important transition time in human history and therefore deserving of our best attention, especially at the beginning of another year of life on planet earth.

By examining twelve Scriptural texts from seven different New Testament documents, Minear helps us visualize the contrast between the old age and the new.

I can’t think of a better wish for the new year than to be enriched and encouraged as we read authors such as Minear writing on Scriptural texts that inspire us to discover for ourselves the word of God.

Pope Benedict XVI’s second encyclical, Saved In Hope, (“Spe Salvi” in Latin) takes its title from St. Paul, who wrote, “In hope we have been saved”.

Love and Hope are closely related in the spiritual life. Love of God involves hope or trust in God. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man”.

Hope enables us to look to the next life, but it also inspires and purifies our actions in this life. Pope Benedict considers modern philosophies and the challenges of faith today in light of the virtue of hope.

“Confronted by today’s changing and complex panorama, the virtue of hope is subject to harsh trials in the community of believers. For this very reason, we must be apostles who are filled with hope and joyful trust in God’s promises. In contemporary society, which shows such visible signs of secularism, we must not give in to despair.” — Pope Benedict XVI

Related post: The Story of Man’s Glory

The proof that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ: the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit on earth in Christ’s Body, the Church.

The Day of Pentecost

Test the Spirits- I John 4

4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (ESV Bible)

According to the Biblical narrative, Pentecost literally represents the “crowning act” of the Incarnation on planet earth. The presence of God’s Holy Spirit in the new temple on earth is the only proof that we need that Jesus is who he said he was and did what God testified in Scripture that he did. We do well to forget about all other hopes for ever proving the Gospel story to the world’s satisfaction.

Rather as another celebration of the Day of Pentecost arrives, we should concentrate on what Jesus and his first disciples tell us about the inseparable connection of the Spirit’s coming to the story. The better we know the story-line in Scripture, the better we will understand the connection and the role of the Spirit in certifying Jesus as the exalted and enthroned Christ. Read for example God’s decree in Psalm 2:

“I have set my King on my Holy hill of Zion!

Read the Apostle Peter’s application of Psalm 2 to explain the coming of the Spirit in the very first sermon following the Ascension of Christ. (Acts 2: 32-36)

There are simply too many scriptures to list in one post that all come together in the story at this momentous historical event. Read the Apostle John’s record of the words of Jesus speaking of this event and what it would mean for his disciples in his ‘Upper Room Discourse’ on the night in which he was betrayed. (Gospel of John, 16:1 – 16).

Beginning with those first disciples, the incredible courage that enabled them to confront the very leaders that rejected Jesus and had him crucified was visible proof for all to see that the Spirit was in them and His power was their strength. This is seen throughout the Book of Acts, the epistles of Paul, and the Jewish epistles.

The ball, as they say, is in our court now. The burden of examining carefully the proof is on you and me. We are charged with “testing the spirits” in the visible community of the followers of Christ. This has always been necessary beginning with the first generation of Christians for the spirit of the world, which is the spirit of Anti-Christ, is present along side of the Holy Spirit.

So, how do we test the spirits? By observing the life of the churches! Beginning with the work the Spirit has come to do, reproduce the righteousness of Christ in His people; examine the very thing Christ himself gave us as the first thing to look for: His love for oneanother. (Read I John 3- 4) 

Little children, let no man deceive you.

I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; [1] believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? [2] 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (Gospel of John, ESV Bible).

Take a fresh look at this text from what we call the “Upper Room Discourse”; the intimate conversation Jesus had with his disciples, following the inauguration of the New Covenant and just before he went out to his enemies to be crucified.

What did Jesus mean when he said,” I go to prepare a place”?

Why was it necessary that he ascend into heaven for the duration of this present age? What is he accomplishing in his new role at the “right hand of the Father?” These are very important questions to meditate on and see what answers you can come up with in the Biblical narrative. You can start by reading Revelation 5 and get the heavenward perspective. Here are some more starters-

  • His office/function as our Mediator between the Father and humankind.(see Hebrews)
  • His perfect communion as the beloved Son on behalf of his followers on earth.
  • His role as carrying out the Father’s Kingdom rule as he told his disciples: “All authority has been given me in heaven & on earth”.
  • His role as the Head of the Church which he actively engages in through His Spirit (see letters to the 7 churches of Asia minor of the Apostle John, and the Ephesian letter of the Apostle Paul).
  • His role of judging the nations (see John 5:16-47).

These consequences, and much much more, directly flow from the victorious Christ above to us here on earth because he did win the decisive victory on planet earth & then ascended into heaven to carry on the battle:  ” Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when he puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign till he has put all enemies under his feet!”

The tragedy is, The Ascension is probably the most neglected event in the Church’s liturgy. Please don’t neglect it on May 9, 2013!

see related post: What is Jesus Doing?

see also the article at Wikipedia

 

A Faithful Minister grapples with the meaning of tragedy. In 1756,  a

Rev.Samuel Davies (1723-1761)

Presbyterian minister was sharing with his congregation in Virginia his conclusions from Scripture after agonizing over the tragic losses in the great earthquake which had struck Lisbon, Portugal in December of 1755.  In 1759 this same Minister, Samuel Davies, would become the 4th President of Princeton University, then known as the College of  New Jersey. His Biblical text:

“Those who flee in terror will fall into a trap, and those who escape the trap will step into a snare. Destruction falls on you from the heavens. The earth is shaken beneath you. The earth has broken down and has utterly collapsed. Everything is lost, abandoned, and confused. The earth staggers like a drunkard. It trembles like a tent in a storm. It falls and will not rise again, for its sins are very great!”

Isaiah 24:18-20

There are several blogs as well as an op-ed in the Washington Post that are speaking of this tragedy in 1755 and its effects on philosophers and clergymen alike and suggesting contrasts with the way such news is received today. Basically,  Samuel Davies is representative of Pastors all along the east coast following the time of the Great Awakening (ref. Jonathan Edwards sermon, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God”). They openly and clearly spoke of such tragedies as ‘judgments’ of the Providence of God and they got their ideas from their interpretation of the Holy Bible.

Without posting any of the sermon here, I will make the entire sermon available to E4Unity readers and urge you to read it in light of recent tragedies that have come to pass in our world. It also makes a serious read for the true spirit of the Lenten season.

Sermon Lisbon Earthquake

Farewell Sermon, July 1, 1759, to Hanover, Virginia congregation.

Note: Young Samuel Davies is one of a number of outstanding Ministers in Church history who died an ‘early’ death. He was only 37 years old.

 

January was a much needed Sabbatical @E4Unity

I don’t know if you missed me, but I sure missed posting for you. I have been busy refilling the tank, as they say, by reading a lot of blogs and tweets and adding new friends.

from phoenixmasonry.org

So now I think we’re ready to get back to blogging about humankind and the universal conditions we’re all faced with in the new year. To start us off, with an eye to the Lenten season coming up fast and the present situation in Egypt and the mid-east, I hope this will interest you. Comments from the Letter to the Hebrews:

The preacher finds in these antitheses the basic truth of the matter. His weakness in dying defined his power in ruling. With all other New Testament witnesses he was obsessed with the paradox of the passion story. It was by sharing in flesh and blood that Jesus became a faithful and merciful high priest; it was by being tempted that “he is able to help those who are tempted” (2:18). The devil had tempted him to fear death and thus to become enslaved to the devil; but by resisting this temptation Jesus had received power to free men from that fear, that bondage. So, in the sequence of images by which the preacher gave tribute to Jesus’ glory in 1:1-4, we must give full weight to the mention of the “purification for sins”. This action of expiation explains Jesus’ power to uphold the universe, his work in the creation of the world, his appointment as heir of all things.

Paul S.Minear writing in “God’s Glory in Man’s Story”.

 

 

A Christmas Day Essay

What does Christmas mean to me personally? Actually today is not really more significant as a day in the calendar than any other except for the fact that it allows many Christians to concentrate on one day out of all the others and focus on that day when The Christ actually came into this world in human flesh.

That is what the whole Christmas season means to me this year; a focus on the first Advent of Christ and I have been engaged in that for some time. For me it really is a case of Holy Obsession! Being possessed in my spirit by this great event in world history. Or as the Apostle Paul put it, being astonished in utter awe:

Great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifested in the

flesh…seen by angels, preached

among the nations, believed on in

the world, received up in glory!  

( first letter to Timothy, chapter 3)

By considering what the Biblical narrative tells us about this “great mystery”, including the details of the event itself beginning with the announcements to Mary and Joseph, the journey to Bethlehem, the political context, the ancient promises to Israel fulfilled, and all that follows.

I am still learning the discipline required to not get lost on any of the details, such as the baby and his mother, as important as that is. But by keeping my obsession centered on Jesus Christ and the entire revelation of Him as it unfolds in the Biblical story from beginning to end. Certain selected Christmas music really enhances my obsession at Christmas, another reason why I love the Advent Season. Besides my all time favorite, which is to listen to Handel’s Messiah at this season (at least once), there are certain others that have become very special.

Several years ago my daughter gave us a Christmas album by the Irish Tenors. Of all the wonderful songs on that album, my favorite has become their version of “The Holy City”. I remember my dear Mother singing this song in Church more than once. The text is based on a ‘dream so fair’ that contains three different scenes. The first, is the glad occasion of Jesus riding into Jerusalem as the children sing Hosannah or what is now celebrated as Palm Sunday. The second scene is a very somber one which ends in the “shadow of a cross”. The final vision is of the New Jerusalem, the eternal vision of John’s Revelation, chapters 21 and 22. Listen to the music and see if you can sense the same “holy obsession” that I do on this Christmas day, 2010. And may I wish all those in the weblog family, a very obsessed Christmas!

” That they may behold my glory” – The Prayer of Jesus 


Gifts of the Ascended Christ

 

The greatest desire that Christ expressed in his prayer was that his people might be with him to behold his glory. It is clear that in this prayer the Lord Christ was referring to his own glory and the actual sight of it.

Only a sight of his glory, and nothing else, will truly satisfy God’s people. One of the greatest privileges the believer has, both in this world and for eternity, is to behold the glory of Christ.

Ever since the name of Christ was known on the earth, there has never been such direct opposition to the uniqueness and glory of Christ as the present day. It is the duty of all those who love the Lord Jesus to testify according to their ability to his uniqueness and glory.

I would therefore try to strengthen the faith of true believers by showing that to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ by faith is the climax of all Christ’s requests for his disciples in this present world. Here in this life, beholding the glory of the Lord, they are changed into his own likeness by his Spirit (2Cor.3:18). Hereafter, they will be like him for they will see him as he is (1 John 3:2). This knowledge of Christ is the continual life and reward of our souls.

If, therefore we would have a more active faith and a greater love to Christ, giving rest and satisfaction to our souls, we must have a greater desire to see more of his glory in this life. We should not look for anything in heaven other than what we have some experience of (by faith) in this life. If we were fully persuaded of this we would be more often thinking about heavenly things than we usually are.

– John Owen (1684) from The Glory of Christ, the theme of the final year of his life (d.1683).

If Owen found it difficult in England in his day, how much more in our day to keep the greatest gift of all our constant priority. The Advent season is the perfect time to evaluate the year and one’s own choices to judge how well we have resisted all the distractions of the world and kept our eyes on this Leader who is both the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

 

Watch ‘Jesu, Joy of man’s desiring’.

For Brazilians: YouTube honoring Nilson Fanini (1932-2009)  “Verei Jesus como Ele e’ ” e tambem “Para Que vejam a minha gloria” http://youtu.be/3HLhhHNDvxg

Related Post: What difference has looking made?

 

 

The Jewish Festival of Lights begins tonight at sundown and as I wish my Jewish friends a very Happy Hanukkah, I can’t help from thinking that here too is a perfect remembrance of the first Christmas.

Similar to my last post, in appreciating another faith tradition, I have little trouble in having my own Christian faith strengthened. For what was the Messianic Hope looked for when the darkness of sin and the Roman occupation seemed so hopeless? Was it not the faith that what God Himself had promised His people, He would one day give?

And then it happened-The Light of The World became human flesh and was announced by a brilliant light in the East. As I listened to a wonderful explanation of the Festival of Lights this a.m. on NPR, I was transported back in the Biblical narrative to that moment.

The word ‘anamnesis‘ perfectly describes for me now, not only the “Sacraments” of the Church that are so important to the Christian faith, but also the Advent season with all it’s expectation and joy. In fact, I happen to have a book out on my desk called, “Ecumenical Perspectives on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry” (1983 edition) and what I find in the description of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, pretty well sums up what I am remembering (recollecting, reminiscing) as I celebrate Advent.

” Christ instituted the Eucharist, sacrament of His body and blood with its focus on the cross and resurrection, as the anamnesis of the whole of God’s reconciling action in Him. Christ Himself with all He has accomplished for us and for all creation…is present in this anamnesis as is  also the foretaste of His Parousia and the consumation of the Kingdom.

The anamnesis in which Christ acts through the joyful celebration of His Church thus includes this representation and anticipation. It is not only a calling to mind of what is past, or its significance. It is the Church’s effective proclamation of God’s mighty acts. By this communion with Christ the Church participates in that reality.” (page 205)

 

2012 UPDATE the Festival of Lights began on December, 8, 2012.

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