eternal life


 

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

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 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?

 

 

Most of our American calendars do not even have this very special day in the Christian Faith marked. Too many Christians don’t celebrate the significance of what that historical day means.

” But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.  Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”

John’s Gospel, 16:6,7

But the Ascension, just like the birth, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ has a vital part of the Biblical narrative to contribute. The ancient Christian Faith cannot do without it. And if we want to understand our role in that faith tradition, we must search out what was happening on this historic occasion. So I urge you to search the Scriptures with the help of  some of the excellent resources available to inform yourself of how this part of the Jesus story expresses God’s wisdom for His creatures. I found this excellent meditation from Robert Hart. He provides us the kind of resources that makes the journey a little easier and enjoyable.

“When we consider the Ascension, we must pay attention to the emphasis given by these scriptures to the coming of the Holy Spirit, so that the Apostolic Church would continue the ministry of Christ as an extension of his incarnation in the fallen world.
(To Continue reading)

There is a lot to discuss these next ten days before Pentecost. That event is also full of significance in the Biblical story as we tried to speak to last year. Keep your Bibles open and keep reading together with the Church.

A matter of life and death

 Following our introduction of hell into the Lenten meditations, I can’t think of a better subject than that of the “provision of love” of the very God who is “angry”; the God who has prepared hell for the devil and his demons.

That in a nutshell is what the Cross of Jesus Christ is all about. That is what we must think of during this concentrated time called Lent. So how does the gift of life that is in Christ alone become ours? Here again, by lifting parts out of the Biblical narrative and out of their natural context, the Church of Jesus Christ continues to debate the “how-to”of escaping hell. This debate is so serious that the very symbol Christ gave us of our unity in Him, continues to be “a thorn in the flesh” to keep the churches from celebrating this sacrament together. And the watching world looks on amazed and amused.

Here is a brief look inside the Anglican discussion. It reminds me of a conference that Touchstone Magazine sponsored in 2001 on our “unity & the divisions” and why they must be sustained.

“In my preaching I have emphasized how much our service of Holy Communion stresses the Gospel message of Christ’s sacrifice, and also of the partaking/communion/fellowship we have with Him by receiving His life-giving Body and Blood. Our service emphasizes that we are celebrating a sacrament “generally necessary to salvation,”1 and that by faithful eating and drinking of it we have eternal life, feeding a future immortality that will be given to us by the Resurrected Christ when he comes on the Last Day. 2 In short, the emphasis of the Holy Communion service in Book of Common Prayer has everything to do with our salvation.” – Robert Hart

Read the full post and discussions,”Because He first Loved Us“.

I love and appreciate the ministry of Robert, but I would humbly submit to him and others, it is exactly because Christ and His Father loved us first that simply cannot remain divided before the watching world; especially over our different understandings/interpretations of the celebration of the Lord’s Table. We cannot and must not insist on the past luxury of remaining with those “just like us”; we must go forward to a “greater loyalty“(see earlier post).

Getting a week’s jump on Mardi Gras.

If I’m not mistaken, this is the best time of the year to bring up the whole problem the Christian faces in living in the world (old creation) while possessing eternal life in Christ which is the life of the new creation: The conflict between living in the spirit and living in the flesh and the never ending battle in this present evil age.

Saint Paul constantly wrote about this conflict of the Christian in all of his epistles and he referred to this old Adamic nature (life-style) in various ways. From just two chapters in the Roman letter come these terms: Old man,Old self, Body of sin, Slaves of sin, wretched man, and Body of death.

The spotlight on the Superbowl this year has become a spotlight on this central theme of the Christian life. First and foremost because of the convergence of two major factors: the New Orleans Saints are playing there for the first time in their franchise history, and the fact that they are doing so only one week before the Mardi Gras week-end. So its only natural (to the men of flesh) for the Saints to taste victory and think about stepping up the celebration by one week. I find all kind of ironies in this whole scene-not the least of which is the franchise name, “The Saints”.

Let me suggest that this is indeed the perfect time for American Christians to rediscover their basic identity in Christ in the light of the American culture. All of this has a great deal to do with the theme of unity which is advocated on this blog. It has a great deal to do with what has been called “the Great Christian Tradition” and it has a lot to do with the controversy raised this year about  those certain Superbowl ads. The latest issue of Touchstone Magazine  suggests just how serious these things are in America and have taken a stand on what they perceive are the critical issues they have with their STATE.

Has the State gone too far?

“On November 20, 2009, Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical leaders released the Manhattan Declaration at a press conference in Washington, D.C. Among the 148 original signatories are fourteen Roman Catholic bishops, two Eastern Orthodox bishops, and Evangelical leaders from various ministries, churches, seminaries, and colleges, many quite well known, including J. I. Packer, Charles Colson, and James Dobson. The coalition of signatories is the strongest expression yet seen in this country of the new ecumenism of Christians dedicated to the Great Tradition.”

(Touchstone Magazine- “The Audacity of the State“.

I do not agree with all said in this issue-in fact I would want to contend that “the strongest expression…of the new ecumenism of Christians dedicated to the Great Tradition” is not in fact these issues involving the so called culture-wars, but rather what myself and others are calling the Missional-ecumenism. But the two agendas are in fact related and the Christians in America cannot get on with their God-given mission in the world without dealing with the question of unity and life in the Spirit, not in the flesh.

Read the Manhattan Declaration

Related post: A Script to Live by

What did the wise man of Proverbs have in mind?

Yours truly, E4Unity

Yours truly, E4Unity

I’m going to have another birthday in a few days so I guess that explains why I’m doing a little more cogitating than usual, thinking about life and how to live in a manner pleasing to the Creator and Sustainer of all life.
This phrase which comes from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament,
caught my eye and off I went looking for just what the wise man meant.
There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death”. (14:12 and 16:25)
If you have a couple of minutes I’ll try to tell you the gist of my thoughts and then tell you what I discovered, from all people, Charles G. Finney, who seems to have come to the same answer.
I always took it for granted that in keeping with so many of the wise sayings about life by the wise man of Proverbs, that this “right way” of living was in stark contrast to all those he labels as “foolish”, “wicked”, “sinner”, “scoffer”, or even “backslider”, etc. It just made sense that this expression also referred to a specific, observable class of individuals who seemed to be radically different (by observation) than these others. And yet it struck me that he says these folks, living a way that seems to them to be the right way to life, ended up instead coming to the same end- death.
So I thought about other parts of the Biblical narrative, wondering if the answer was not clearly revealed in other places both in the New as well as the Old Testaments. Could it be, I mused to myself, that this has reference to the “religious” folks- those that not only believe this is the right way to live, but actually practice a specific codified system of rules of an organized religious order? In the context of the Old Testament, the keepers of the Old Covenant-those who lived by the rule of law?
Now I’ve speant a lot of time in Paul’s letter to the Romans over the last forty years or so, and I remember that part of Paul’s thesis in that letter is that there is something that the law, as perfect as it is, just can’t produce: the right way of living before God (righteous living). So to make a long time of meditating as simple as I can, that is exactly the conclusion I came to, not only reflecting upon one book of the Bible, but reflecting on the entire story-line. The reason why the announcement to the Shepherds that Jesus had been born was such good news, “tidings of great JOY to all peoples” makes sense to me now as I prepare for Advent season. Read the following Scripture and see if you see what I see:
“2) For the law of the Spirit of life has set you  free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (3) For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,  he condemned sin in the flesh, (4) in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”  (Romans 8:2-4)
FinneyTo see what Finney said about
this in July, 1859, Go Here! (approaching his 67th birthday)

THIS PRAYER WAS ANSWERED!

I receive a very interesting mailing every fifteen days from a man named David Wilkerson. For those of you who do not recognize the name, I will just say he is a godly evangelist that began a ministry years ago among the gangs of New York City (see, The Cross and the Swithchblade) which is now global in its impact.

The message in this mailing made reference to the prayer of Christ for his disciples just before he was taken to be condemned and crucified. What caught my attention was the observation of the status of his disciples at that moment in the Gospel narrative: they were in fact already possessors of what we call ‘saving faith’. As Jesus prays, he tells his Father that he has given these men the words (testimony) that his Father had sent him into the world with and that they had  received that word, believing that he was in fact the Messiah, the sent One of God. Peter, for example, had made his profession days before upon which Christ made then his declaration that he would build his Church on the rock of Peter’s (and the other Disciples) confession of faith.

While he was with the disciples, he himself had been like a shepherd, keeping them safely within the sheepfold of salvation. Now Jesus knew that his hour had come to die for the sins of the world as The Lamb of God. This prayer is first and foremost about Jesus asking the Father which sent him into the world, on the basis of his perfect obedience in fulfilling his mission, to keep forever these that believed on him. Whatever it would take in the days to come, including their denial and abandoning him in the face of death, he was then and there making full provision for their eternal destiny as children of God. He was in essence, asking God to never abandon His People.

Two thousand years of subsequent experience of countless disciples of Jesus Christ in every part of humanity has demonstrated that this prayer was heard; begining with the first generation of disciples who received the gift of Christ’s own Spirit and were strengthened to testify of Christ and his original message against all odds, and then those that received the message from these first disciples and believed on the Christ for their own salvation.

The take away for us who have initially put our faith and trust in Him is a powerful assurance that this prayer was for us as well and secures from God the keeping of our soul in this present evil age. Every provision for our salvation from initial faith to final glory is the direct result of this prayer.

“Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”        -Romans 8:34,35

see original post: Glorify Thy Son

Michael Card sings about one of the first ‘BELIEVERS‘ in the Gospel narrative. (video)

Readings from Saint Paul’s Writings

After one week of  meditating on chapters from Saint Paul’s epistles, I am having a very profitable Lenten observance. I have put a live link on the chapter to be read each day and if you move your mouse over the link you will see it takes you to that chapter over at the ESVersion of Holy Scripture. If you click on it you can read the chapter on-line or click on the listen option and it will be read for you. I find listening to God’s Word read very helpful.

I found at least one local church that has incorporated the observance of the “Year of Saint Paul” into their church calendar, Saint Paul Episcopal Church. I really like their introduction:

“It is impossible to overstate the effect and impact of Saint Paul the Apostle on the early Christian Church. His bold proclamation of the Gospel, his challenge to paul-called established thought, and his unwavering commitment to Jesus Christ changed the early Church and enabled it to spread to every part of the known world.

Our world today needs more Christians to act like Saint Paul. Our world, so filled with hatred, prejudice, violence, injustice, needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we don’t become a Saint Paul for our world – who will?

Our Year of Saint Paul will celebrate Saint Paul the man – his power; his accomplishments; his writings; his mission; and his ministry. We will stand ‘boldy before the Throne of God’ and take pride that our parish family is named in honor of this great Saint of an undivided church.”

Week Two:

Wednesday – I Thess. 4  Taught by God

Thursday – I Thess. 5  Preserved blameless

Friday – Rom 2  The Coming Judgment of God

Saturday – II Thess 2   Mystery of Lawlessness

Sunday – I Tim 4  Why Godliness matters

Monday –  Titus 2  Adorning the Gospel

Tuesday – I Tim 6  Lay hold of eternal life