Daily Light – Sept 20, 2019

Get to the Cross and Never Leave

Article by David Mathis, Executive Editor, desiringGod.org

Christians, in theory, cling to an “old, old story” in an era freshly fixed on what’s new. As a society, we are increasingly like — and now perhaps exceed — those ancient Athenians who “would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). The information and digital revolutions have conspired to create a veritable vortex of telling and hearing new things (“news,” for short). Meanwhile, we Christians cling to our admittedly (and gloriously) ancient truths — truths both out of step with the news milieu, and precisely what we most need to regain our bearings and restore spiritual sanity.

In the early 1990s, D.A. Carson identified a danger now all the more pressing a generation later: “The cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight” (The Cross and Christian Ministry, 26). And the temptation goes back even further than that. Pastor and poet Horatius Bonar (1808–1889) wrote in 1864 in the book God’s Way of Holiness,

The secret of a believer’s holy walk is his continual recurrence to the blood of the Surety, and his daily [communion] with a crucified and risen Lord. All divine life, and all precious fruits of it, pardon, peace, and holiness, spring from the cross. All fancied sanctification which does not arise wholly from the blood of the cross is nothing better than Pharisaism. If we would be holy, we must get to the cross, and dwell there; else, notwithstanding all our labor, diligence, fasting, praying, and good works, we shall be yet void of real sanctification, destitute of those humble, gracious tempers which accompany a clear view of the cross.

Bonar’s charge cuts painfully across the grain of our day, and perhaps his antiquated language might give us a much-needed angle of focus as we cling to the ancient center in the era of media inundation.

All Springs from the Cross?

What is the biblical support for such a claim that all true holiness and good works “spring from the cross”? For the early Christians, that Jesus had been crucified was not simply a singular event, but it quickly became part of his identity, and theirs. Everything changed when God was crucified.

“Other world systems of belief will dream up resurrection. Only Christianity puts God on the cross.”

“Crucified” became a kind of identifying descriptor of our Lord even in the immediate aftermath of his resurrection, when the angel speaks to the women at the empty tomb: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen” (Matthew 28:5–6; so also Mark 16:6, “Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified”). Then, fifty days later, at the climactic moment of his Pentecost address, Peter declares, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).

Soon after, in Acts 4, when Peter has healed a lame beggar and been arrested, and now stands before the council, having been asked, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7), he answers, “By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead” (Acts 4:10). “Crucified,” as an identifying marker of Jesus, then came into its own in the ministry of the apostle Paul, who writes to the Galatians that, in his preaching, “Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” (Galatians 3:1).

For the apostles and early church, that Jesus was crucified was not accidental or peripheral; it was profoundly revealing. Counterintuitively, the early church didn’t try to hide his crucifixion but push it front and center. The Son of God had not only taken on our flesh and blood, but he had given himself, sinless, in our stead, to execution at the cross — which revealed to us, through Jesus, the very person and heart of God for his people (Romans 5:8). As Carson says about the cross, this was “the most astonishing act of divine self-disclosure that has ever occurred” (16).

Christ and Him Crucified

The signature meditation on Christ crucified came to 1 Corinthians 1:18–2:5, where Paul speaks to the startling, counterintuitive, revelatory nature of the cross. “The word of the cross” — the gospel message of a crucified Christ — “is folly to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18). For natural people, the cross turns the world upside down. In the cross, God makes foolish the world’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:20) as Christians “preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23). Apart from new birth, sinners reject the cross as folly or a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:23), but by the Spirit, we see the glory and receive the crucified (and risen) one as “wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

“For the apostles and early church, that Jesus was crucified was not accidental or peripheral; it was profoundly revealing.”

The cross is not simply a component of the gospel message that tips nonbelievers into the kingdom through faith. Rather, the cross reveals to us God himself and his ways in the world (“wisdom”), and how to get right with him (“righteousness”) and be holy (“sanctification”) and be bought back from the world (“redemption”). Which is why Paul would go on to say, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2) — not because his preaching was so narrow and restrained, but because the cross is so massive and all-pervasive.

Paul came to Corinth and Ephesus and everywhere he went with “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). It’s not that he limited his scope in Corinth, but that the cross was so central, so omni-relevant, so deeply revelatory, that all he had to say, about any subject under the sun (“I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable,” Acts 20:20) did indeed “spring from the cross,” in the words of Bonar. As Carson comments on 1 Corinthians 2:2, “What [Paul] means is that all he does is tied to the cross. He cannot talk long about Christian joy, or Christian ethics, or Christian fellowship, or the Christian doctrine of God, or anything else, without finally tying it to the cross. Paul is gospel-centered; he is cross-centered” (38).

Early on, the cross became the symbol of Christianity, and has remained so to this day, not simply because it was easier to depict graphically than an empty tomb. The cross represents the whole of the Christian faith not to minimize the resurrection, or to in any way downplay its cataclysmic importance and essentiality, but because it is the cross that slays worldly wisdom and expectations. Resurrection displays an otherworldly power, but the cross puts to shame human vision. We will not see power in the resurrection until we have seen God’s upbraiding wisdom in the cross. Which makes the cross especially distinctive and appropriately representative. Other world systems of belief will dream up resurrection (even though they can’t produce it). Only Christianity puts God on the cross.

Fancied Sanctification vs. Real

In 1 Corinthians 1:30, Paul says that this crucified Christ “became to us . . . sanctification,” or literally, holiness (Greek hagiasmos). Bonar speaks to two sanctifications: real and fancied. “Fancied sanctification,” he says, “does not arise wholly from the blood of the cross.”

With this, John Owen would agree. Commenting on Psalm 130:4 (“with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared”), he expresses how essential it is to approach God on the basis of forgiveness: “Now, the psalmist tells us that the foundation of this fear or worship, and the only motive and encouragement for sinners to engage in it and give up themselves unto it, is this, that there is forgiveness with God. Without this no sinner could fear, serve, or worship him” (Works of John Owen, 6:469).

For Christians, true worship and “real sanctification” not only flow from the purchase of the cross, but also draw strength from conscious faith in the crucified Christ. We know our former selves to be crucified with him (Romans 6:6). “I have been crucified with Christ,” Paul says. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). So also for us: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

The Secret?

Practically, then, how do we “get to the cross, and dwell there,” as Bonar commends? Again, he claims, “The secret of a believer’s holy walk is his continual recurrence to the blood of the Surety, and his daily [communion] with a crucified and risen Lord.”

“God will see to it that our hearts never tire of knowing our Lord as crucified.”

“The Surety” here is a reference to the cross as an objective event and fact, and demonstration of God, in history, of his gracious heart toward his people, and the guarantee of his everlasting favor. Bonar commends “continual recurrence” to the cross in daily communion with our crucified and risen Lord. Similarly, in holding up Paul’s cross-centered vision, Carson commends we “constantly reappropriate” the reality of the gospel, and particularly the cross (25).

Neither Paul, nor Bonar, nor Carson then turns to prescribe to every Christian what “continual” and “constant” getting to the cross must look like in every time and season and life. The precise means of your dwelling at the cross may look different than mine. But Christians in every time and place might benefit from asking themselves, Am I indeed getting to the cross? Do I really dwell there? What would it take for me to do so? How constant and how continual our approach may vary, but we either “get to the cross, and dwell there” or not. And our holiness is either real or fancied.

Bonar does mention one other general indicator: “daily.” And I can testify that daily is not too often. God will see to it that our hearts never tire of knowing our Lord as crucified. Having lived with this old, old truth now for almost fifteen years, I can say it’s never grown close to old.

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org and pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.

Daily Light – Sept 19, 2019

Doctrine of God, pt 11: God’s name

Taken from a study provided by David Niednagel, Pastor and Teacher, Evansville, IN.  (David uses the S.O.A.P. method in his daily study time:  Study, Observe, Apply, Pray)

The English word “god” is a generic word meaning a supreme being, but it is not God’s name. The Hebrew word for God is EL, (the Arabic word Allah comes from that root) but the word normally used is Elohim, which is plural. Even so, it does not normally refer to multiple gods, but the the one true God. It is what we call a “Plural of majesty” – the way the king or queen of England sometimes refers to him/herself as “we”. The plural Elohim, does not explicitly refer to the Trinity, but it does allow for it. In Gen 1:26 Elohim said “Let us make man in our image”.

When Moses asked the God who spoke to him from the burning bush His name, He said “I AM who I AM.” (Ex 3:14). I am the real one, the God who is! All the other gods of the nations are idols, but not the Creator who made a covenant with Abraham. The KJV used Jehovah for His name, but Hebrew scholars today say it should be pronounced more like Yahweh, which comes from the Hebrew verb “to be”, the One who really IS. We are told the Jews revered God’s name so much they did not pronounce it, (but they often did not revere Him enough to obey Him!) but used a substitute word for lord or master (Adonai). So our English Bibles substitute the word LORD (all capital letters) whenever the Hebrew uses Yahweh. But most English readers don’t realize that or think about it. We refer to God as “The Lord” which He is, but we don’t think of the full significance of that word or of His name. 

Even if the word Lord only meant master, we don’t think of it that way. In much of the world’s history, most people were not free to make their own choices. Most lived under the authority of Lords/Masters, who could command anything they wished, and who had complete control over the will and choices of the masses. Even most Christians (especially in America) don’t really believe God has absolute authority over everything we do. We believe it is ok to make our own decisions about the use of our time, our money, our relationships, and just about everything else. We pride ourselves in our freedom and independence. Most people in the history of the world have never enjoyed those freedoms or thought that way. 

But more, Yahweh is the name of the God who made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants. It makes God personal, and in relationship, not just distant and powerful. There is a great difference in calling someone “teacher” or “professor” and becoming their friend with the permission to call him/her by his/her personal name – even first name. God is transcendent and omnipotent, and He is also close and personal, but He is not our “buddy” or “the man upstairs”, He is the sovereign LORD of the universe who has provided a way for us to come into relationship with Him. Amazing! Beyond anything any creature would ever imagine.

LORD Yahweh, Thank You for not only creating us and revealing Yourself to us, but for entering into a covenant relationship with us – plain ordinary people! Thank You that we can know You and communicate with You, knowing You care about us! As we enjoy that relationship, help me/us also think of You as the Sovereign LORD of the universe – the Creator and Master over everything. Help me think and speak of You in a way that accurately “hallows Your name” – that communicates to the world who You really are and what You are like. The more we study Your Word and learn about You the more beautiful Your Name. There is no one else like You! Hallelujah!  Amen

Daily Light – Sept 18, 2019

We Yawn Because We Forget

Uncovering the Wonder of Christ

Article by Marshall Segal, Staff Writer, desiringGod.org

Of all the wonders in the world — the steepest mountains, the grandest canyons, the widest oceans — none compares with the Son sent from heaven. If we think we have seen the full extent of who he is, we are deceived. We cannot fathom just how breathtaking he is. Have we forgotten? When was the last time you were mesmerized by Jesus?

If he does not captivate us anymore, it is not because he lacks anything. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus radiates the beauty and worth of God, embodying infinite wisdom, justice, strength, and love perfectly and forever. He carries every continent, planet, and galaxy with less than a pinky — with just a sound from his mouth.

He orders each wave in the Pacific Ocean to rise and fall as he pleases. He feeds every blue jay and hummingbird every single meal, and decides the height and hue of each blade of grass in every field on earth. Seven billion people will take their next breath because, and only because, he gives it to them (Acts 17:25).

And yet, we often yawn.

When You Could Not See

Sometimes we yawn because we forget what it means to see at all. We were born so blind that even the blazing brightness of his glory could not break through (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan had boarded up every sliver of every window in our hearts. Our retinas saw everything they see now, and yet, nothing. We saw the surface of reality, but missed the source of reality. But then the Author of sight gave us a new prescription and introduced us, for the first time, to true wonder.

“We yawn before Christ because we do not give ourselves time to wonder.”

“God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). If light has flooded your heart, God put it there. God ended your aching search for happiness, and mended the shattered pieces of your heart. He pulled back the curtains of sin and shame, held up the brilliance of his Son, and sent his Spirit to open your eyes wider and wider to himself.

When you open the Bible looking for Jesus, remember that not everyone can see him like you can. If we knew what we have been given, we would not take it for granted — we would not yawn. We would tremble, and rejoice, and gaze at him in his word.

When Did You See?

We also yawn before Christ because we do not give ourselves time to wonder.

When did you see him for the first time? For every follower of Jesus, there was a time when he went from interesting to stunning, from intriguing to mouth-stopping, from inspiring to everything — from great man to God himself. When we fed on his word those first few weeks, we ate like we had never had a real meal. When we drank the living water from his well, we barely stopped to breathe. Like the man who sold all he had, we had found our pearl of great price, our treasure beyond compare. Wasn’t he marvelous?

We lose that sense of awe when we don’t give ourselves time to gaze. How extravagant could he possibly look if we only ever give him a few minutes here and there? A thousand other things eat away at the precious minutes we used to spend at his feet. If Satan cannot keep us from seeing the light of Christ, he will do everything he can to direct our attention elsewhere — to fix our eyes on anything but Jesus.

If we want to see the wonders in him, if we want him to take our breath away again, we will have to keep Satan (and everyone and everything else) at bay long enough each day to see.

Lovely and Relentless

Give your life to gazing at Jesus in his word, and you will not be bored — and you will not see all of him. “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). If we yawn, shame on us.

“When you open the Bible looking for Jesus, remember that not everyone can see him like you can.”

There is more power in him than in all the waves in all the oceans. There is more wisdom in him than in all the world’s universities. There is more purity in him than in the finest pearl or diamond. There is more courage in him than in the bravest soldiers in the fiercest wars. There is more gentleness in him than in a mother with her newborn. There is more justice in him than any human court or judge. There is more love in him than we have ever known or felt. And that power, that wisdom, that love — that radiance — came to earth and died for you, “making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20).

He is wonderful and beautiful, righteous and mighty, marvelous and holy. Isn’t he?

Marshall Segal (@marshallsegal) is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Faye, have a son and live in Minneapolis.

Daily Light – Sept 17, 2019

The New Math of the Gospel

Article by Jared C. Wilson

Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” — Luke 7:49

The Puritan preacher Thomas Watson once said, “Until sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.” What he meant was, until we see ourselves for who we truly are apart from Christ—considering the depth of our need, the extent of our brokenness, the totality of our depravity and the condemnation we deserve—we will not see Christ for all that he truly is.

In Luke 7:36-50 we see the curious story of the “woman of the city” interrupting Jesus’s meal in a Pharisee’s home to wash his feet with her tears and precious ointment. The Pharisee of course objects. But the woman he there declares a sinner understands the great divorce between herself and Jesus. For this reason she has determined to serve him and bless him. The Pharisees, on the other hand, thought themselves Jesus’s peers at best, so of course they probably thought they were doing him a favor letting him come eat with them.

The dinner host, Simon, grumbles inwardly, not just because he doubts Christ’s holiness in allowing this scandalous scene, but because he considers himself to have higher standards than Jesus has. He knows what this woman is up to. He knows this woman’s sin. If Jesus knew like he knew, he reasons, he wouldn’t allow her to touch him.

But the gospel turns our religious math inside out. There are not “good people” and “bad people” in the mathematics of the gospel. There are bad people and Jesus. So the story Jesus tells about the man with two debtors serves a dual purpose: it reminds us that we all stand indebted to Christ. Religious or irreligious, people far off and people nearby, “prodigal sons” and “older brothers”—we are all debtors to grace. But the parable also shows us that the more mindful of our indebtedness we are, the more of God’s grace we will know. We are in big trouble if we think we only need a little bit of God!

When we are on spiritual autopilot, trusting in our own wisdom and relying on our own strength, it is fundamentally because we don’t think we need God all that much. This is functional self-righteousness. But the more in tune with our inner inability and spiritual poverty we will get, the more of Christ we will experience and the more honor we will give him.

Jared C. Wilson is the director of content strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, and author of more than ten books, including Gospel WakefulnessThe Pastor’s Justification, and The Prodigal Church.

Daily Light – Sept 16, 2017

How Does ‘Willful Sinning’ Threaten My Salvation?

Interview with John Piper

Christians struggle with sin because we, in this life, are still sinners. The presence of sin in us will not be eradicated until that glorious day when we see Jesus face to face. What a day that will be! But until then, we fight sin by faith, and we can experience assurance inside the fight. But we also believe there are forms of “willful sin” that evidence a heart that has not been saved. Which leads to today’s question.

The question is regarding some of those hard verses in the book of Hebrews, specifically Hebrews 10:26–29. The writer seems to be speaking about the ability to lose salvation by engaging in ‘willful sin,’ as it has been called. The question: What is the opposite of a ‘willful sin’? Is it an accidental sin? Or something else? It seems to me that, due to the presence of the Holy Spirit’s conviction, all sin done by the believer is done willfully. Is there something I am not seeing within these verses?”

Hebrews 10 and Hebrews 6 often give people the impression that a person possesses the fullness of salvation and then loses it. These texts can even look that way, but there are clues that this is not what the author of Hebrews wants to communicate.

The question is twofold:

1. Do these verses teach that we can lose our salvation?

2. What does Hebrews 10:26 mean by referring to “sinning deliberately” (or “willingly”), since in one sense all sin is an act of the will and thus deliberate?

Two Kinds of Willing

The key verse that he’s referring to goes like this: “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:26). In other words, we’re beyond salvation.

“What destroys the soul is an eager, deliberate, willing, persistent, settled pattern of sin.”

Now, two observations about this phrase “go on sinning deliberately” are really important.

First, the word deliberately translates the Greek hekousiōs. This word is used in 1 Peter 5:2 like this: “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly [hekousiōs].” Willingly — here is the same word that we translate as deliberately in Hebrews 10:26.

Now, what this usage shows (and the reason I cite it) is that there are two different kinds of willing, aren’t there? One is eager and wholehearted, and the other is under compulsion.

In both cases, one could argue that the elders are in fact exercising their will to shepherd the flock of God. In the one case, it’s glad. It’s an act that engages the whole will. It’s happy and energized. In the other case, it’s begrudging, an act that evidently goes against significant parts of the will because they would rather be doing something else. They don’t really want to shepherd the flock of God, but for money or for fame or to avoid guilty feelings they gut it out and shepherd the flock of God.

Sins That Destroy

This is a correction to Josh’s assumption that all sinning is equally willing — or all human acts are equally willing — since all acts, including sin, are acts of the will. That’s true. They are acts of the will. We choose them.

This text, Hebrews 10:26, is saying something more than that the sin which destroys the soul is an act of the will. Of course, it is, but it’s more than that. All sins are acts of the will, and not all sins destroy. It’s a more intentional, eager, wholehearted act of the will. An act which shows there isn’t a real identity of spiritual newness inside, which acts as a constraint holding back the will, at least in part.

Patterns of Sin

Now here’s the second thing to notice in the phrase “go on sinning deliberately” [or “willingly” or “eagerly”].” It’s that phrase “go on sinning,” which is a good translation of the present tense of the Greek verb for sin.

In other words, it’s not a single act; it’s not a few acts; it’s not periodic acts. It’s rather a settled, persistent continuation in sin. What destroys the soul, what puts it beyond forgiveness in verse 26 is not sin per se, but an eager, deliberate, willing, persistent, settled pattern of sin.

“If we don’t hold fast to the end, then we never had come to share in Christ.”

We can see how serious this is by looking at what comes just before and what comes just after verse 26. Verse 26 begins with the word for, which shows what kind of sin is being referred to in the preceding verses — namely, the sin of forsaking the Christian fellowship and rejecting all brotherly exhortation. In other words, this person is walking away from Christ and his church.

Then if you look after verse 26, especially at verse 29, you see that the pattern of sin is so deep and repeated that it’s called “trampling underfoot the Son of God” and “profaning the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified,” and “outraging the Spirit of grace” (see Hebrews 10:29).

Right here is where it looks like we can lose our salvation because of the reference “by which he was sanctified.” By such a deliberate, continued, settled pattern of sin, you can profane the blood of the covenant by which you were sanctified. Which sounds like, “Oh, well, he was saved. But now he’s beyond forgiveness. So you can lose your salvation.”

There are two passages in Hebrews that keep me from going there.

Lost and Found

I have two passages that stop me from saying that his reference to some kind of sanctified condition for the person who is lost means that we can have the full experience of salvation in Christ and be lost or lose it. There are two passages, Hebrews 10:14 and Hebrews 3:14.

Here’s Hebrews 10:14 (see what you think): “For by a single offering” — that’s the offering of Christ — “[God] has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” In other words, there is a kind of being sanctified that absolutely guarantees perfection for all time. In other words, nobody is lost who is experiencing this kind of sanctification.

“There is a kind of sinning that is more deliberate, more eager, more persistent than the way a genuine believer sins.”

Here’s the second one, Hebrews 3:14: “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”

Note, it doesn’t say, “We will come to share in Christ if we hold fast to the end.” It says, “We have come to share in Christ if we hold fast to the end,” which means that if we don’t hold fast, like the person in Hebrews 10:26, then we never had come to share in Christ. That’s the clear teaching of Hebrews 3:14.

We didn’t lose our share in Christ. We never had it.

United with Christ

My conclusion is that the experience of sanctification referred to in the lost person of Hebrews 10:26 and 10:29 is a measure of God-influenced moral renovation in a person that has been absorbed by being part of the church, professing some kind of faith, being attracted by many things about the Christian faith and Christian people, but never really coming to believe in Christ in such a way as to be united to him — to have a share in him and his eternal life and salvation.

My answer is:

1. No, I don’t think genuine believers in Christ lose their salvation.

2. I think there is a kind of sinning that is more deliberate, more eager, more persistent than the way a genuine believer sins — sins that are confessed and forgiven.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Why I Love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons.

Daily Light – Sept 6, 2019

Today’s Daily Light 

(Friends:  I will be taking a break from posting until September 16 😊)

How to Restore Your Spiritual Sanity

A Prayer for Those Feeling Fragile

Article by David Mathis, Executive Editor, desiringGod.org

The most common type of song in the Psalms is not praise, or even thanks, but lament.

While that may seem strange to us at first, it begins to make more sense when we pause to think about our lives in this fallen age and the kind of prayers we pray. Living in this age, ravaged in various measures by sin, with fears within and fightings without (2 Corinthians 7:5), we are not always poised to offer praise and thanks. Often we find ourselves — if not most often — in the posture of lament, pleading with God to help, to heal, to remedy, to rescue.

The glory of psalms of praise is that God deserves our praise at all times, regardless of our circumstances, whether all feels right in our little worlds or not. The glory in psalms of thanks is that God, our Savior, has acted on our behalf. The glory in laments is that despite our pain and difficulty, and struggle and doubts, we still turn Godward. Our faith is being tested, and in the very act of turning to our Lord, rather than elsewhere, there is hope. In lament is often where we find him to be our greatest Treasure.

When We’re Languishing

As glorious as praise and thanks are, it is fitting in this age that the book of Psalms contains more laments — what Walter Bruggemann calls “psalms of disorientation” — than any other type of psalm, because we are, in truth, so often disoriented.

“Spiritual sanity is restored in the very act of addressing God and rehearsing what he has promised.”

Take Psalm 6, for instance. Hard circumstances in David’s life (whether related to his son Absalom’s rebellion or not, we do not know) have led him to see his sin, and to cry out to God for rescue. Some consider this to be the first of six “penitential psalms” (Psalms 32, 38, 51, 130, and 143), which focus on repentance. But David also has been sinned against, and gravely. So his pain and confusion in Psalm 6 are great. And in such a whirlwind of disorientation, God doesn’t tell him, and us, to just grit our teeth, put on a smile, and sing a happy song. God invites us, as Aslan says to Shasta in The Horse and His Boy, “Tell me all your sorrows.”

God sees and knows our confusion, and doesn’t sweep it under the rug, but acknowledges it with the most common type of psalm in his inspired songbook. He calls us to more than just rehearsing our pain, though. David does cry out in his despair in the psalm’s first seven verses — such pleading with God is typical of laments. But then the beloved king changes his key with a surprising burst of confidence in the final three (verses 8–10). Ending on a resounding note of confidence (in God) is also typical in laments.

God means for us to move beyond the disorientation that prompted our lament. In fact, God designed the very nature of biblical lament to be a channel of his grace to help us along the path to spiritual reorientation.

God Hears Our Prayer

In Psalm 6, the transition from David’s rehearsing of his pain and confusion to his burst of confidence in God is really quite startling. He has just said he is languishing and troubled (Psalm 6:2), even “greatly troubled” (Psalm 6:3); that he is weary with moaning and floods his bed with tears every night (Psalm 6:6). Then he turns on a dime and declares,

The Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
     The Lord has heard my plea;
The Lord accepts my prayer. (Psalm 6:8–9
)

Now, the tides have turned, and he announces that all his enemies will be ashamed and “greatly troubled” (Psalm 6:10). But how does David know, with such confidence, that God has heard him, and that his Lord will indeed respond, that it’s just a matter of time? Where does this newly expressed confidence come from?

It’s not from new revelation, as if God whispered something to him after his pleas and groanings in the first seven verses. And we do not have any indication that this surprising turn comes after some delay in time, as if David came back and added the final three (verses 8–10) later on, after God had answered. In fact, verse 10 twice indicates (“shall” in the ESV) that the deliverance is still future, not past. How does David get this burst of confidence? Don’t we all want access to this next time we find ourselves languishing?

How God Turns the Tide

The answer is that the psalm itself — the recalling of the truth of God’s covenant (the repeated mention of his covenant name, Yahweh), and God’s commitment to his glory (Psalm 6:4), along with David’s fresh honesty about his spiraling self — is the channel through which the grace of faith, and confidence, flows. Spiritual sanity is restored, in the midst of disorientation, in the very act of addressing God and remembering who he is and rehearsing what he has promised.

Laments, like this, are not exercises in wallowing or making things worse. Rather, they are exercises in the Godward restoration of spiritual sanity. They are divinely appointed means of grace through which we first move in spirit from disorientation to reorientation, and in doing so regain the strength of soul to endure until God addresses our external circumstances in his good timing.

Who Compares to the King?

You might say, That’s all well and good for David. He was the king of God’s chosen people. Of course God heard his prayers. But I’m just a footman. I’m literally one in a billion professing Christians worldwide. How do I know that God receives my prayers? Can I say with David, “The Lord has heard; he accepts my prayer”? Can I have anything close to the confidence David has?

You can have every bit as much confidence as David. In fact, in Christ, we have more.

“God’s timing is not ours, but he will deliver, and may very well do so all at once.”

Jesus Christ is great David’s greater son. He is the total fulfillment of all David embodied, and of all God promised to David, as the king of his people. Jesus is not great because his ancestor is David. Rather, David is great because his descendant is Jesus. When we believe in Jesus — when we trust him as our Savior, Lord, and Treasure — that faith, by the power of the Holy Spirit, joins us spiritually to him, so that we are in him. Not only does our sin become his, and he puts it to death on the cross, but also all that is his becomes ours.

The question about our confidence isn’t a question about how we compare to David. The question is about how David compares to Jesus. By faith, we are in Jesus. And if God heard the sound of David’s weeping, and heard David’s plea, and accepted his prayer, will he not hear and accept the prayers of those whom he sees in his Son? He will. As sure as God heard and accepted David’s prayer, even more so does he hear and accept the prayer of those who are Christ’s.

God’s Stunning Invitation

God’s timing is not ours, but he will deliver his people, and may very well do so all at once, as Psalm 6:10 says, “in a moment.” If you are languishing, and you are in Jesus, and you have cried out to him and asked, “How long?” (Psalm 6:3), know that he has indeed heard and accepted your prayer. That doesn’t mean he will change your circumstances immediately or in precisely the ways you want. He typically does not. David’s confidence and hope came not on the other side of external deliverance but on the other side of reorienting on God through this prayerful song of lament, which gave him the spiritual wherewithal to endure until full deliverance finally came.

God’s stunning invitation to us to have his ear in prayer is not just a summons for praise and thanks. He invites us to cry out to him. He bids us come to him with our pain, to tell him all our sorrows, knowing that he hears, that he will act in his timing, and that he will give us what we need to endure until that day.

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org and pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.

Daily Light – Sept 5, 2019

Let Your Internet Yes Be Your Real-Life Yes

Article by Jared C. Wilson

Perhaps the shift began when children stopped saying they wanted to be doctors, firemen, and teachers when they grow up and started saying actors, singers, and sports stars. Maybe it began with the manufactured reality of reality TV. Maybe it began when we stopped “going onto the internet” and the internet became the water we swim in. Maybe it began when, out of a need to be viral, every stay-at-home-mom turned her sassy-rants into YouTube shows and every upper-middle-class suburban family turned their life into a reality TV program. I don’t know when it began, but at some point we stopped living like persons and started living like personas.

And the persona has taken over.

The persona allows us to say and do whatever it is our desired audience desires, whatever it takes in fact to maintain the persona and—fingers crossed—turn the persona into a brand. Meanwhile, the person shrinks, and his or her soul along with it.

A couple of times in the last few years I’ve been told “You’re just like you are on Twitter” by people who seem surprised. I’m surprised that they’re surprised. But it’s not exactly true. I’m more extroverted on social media, though I’ve learned to say less about more things, and I don’t usually initiate conversations with people I don’t know. I’ve also been told that I am more ________ than I am online, or less __________ than I am online, suggesting that there is a measuring going on between the real me and the online me and the two me’s don’t exactly look the same. I have thought a lot about that.

Just the fact we think this way is telling. We expect people to be performing. Because a whole lot of us are.

This phenomenon is real. But it’s real the other way too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been contacted by someone concerned about someone they know is an acquaintance of mine who comes off like a jerk online, and I say, “They’re not really like that. If you just knew them, you’d see that’s just how they seem on Twitter,” or whatever. Tone speaks as loudly as text on social media, but perhaps even more loudly. And in any event, it’s easy for all of us to slip into soapbox mode, to battle mode, to “proverbial wisdom” mode in social streams, because the medium favors talking, not listening, and it strips away inconvenient things like looking somebody in the eye, reading facial cues, or even using our real names and faces in the first place. What takes over online is The Persona.

The danger, then, is that what will take over in real life is The Persona. What happens when we are so driven to be known a certain way, to build a certain audience, to accumulate a certain number of subscribers, to establish a certain kind of platform that the persona takes over our real life? We cease being able to see real-life people —whether online or in day-to-day life—as image-bearers, as people who don’t deserve to be used for our platform, derided for our pleasure, mocked for our exaltation, maligned for our advancement. When we think of ourselves as personas, we de-humanize ourselves, and when we de-humanize ourselves, we dehumanize others too. (This is the easy criticism of the anonymous trolls on Twitter—I mean, the ones who aren’t literally bots. They have de-personed their persona, and thus make it easy to dehumanize the real people they target every day.)

Jesus called the Pharisees “hypocrites.” Today we know a hypocrite to be someone who says one thing while doing another. This is a good understanding. But the word’s original meaning—and I think Jesus’s intent—comes from the concept of playacting: ὑποκριταί (hypokritai) refers to actors who painted their faces and played someone they really aren’t. For the Pharisees and scribes, the lie had taken over, become second nature. Outwardly they looked good, but inside they were rotting. But the rot began to seep out through the cracks in the facade. The makeup started running.

We weren’t designed to be double-minded. We weren’t made to playact, to posture. It’s impossible to keep The Persona from taking over. Whatever we put our heart into, whatever we worship, we will become. So if your online persona is abrasive, domineering, argumentative, critical, you don’t get to say for long, “That’s not really me.” You is who you is. Let’s take care that our online yes and no match up with real life, in the right way.

And if we don’t want to cringe when we hear that who we are in real life is who we are online (and vice versa), I suppose we ought to take care how we think, speak, and act in both places. We don’t check the fruit of the Spirit at the door of the login screen. Our obligation to “outdo one another showing honor” (Rom. 12:10) applies as much to our online selves as our in-real-life selves, perhaps more so given the greater temptation to treat people like less than people online.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. — James 4:8

Jared C. Wilson is the director of content strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, and author of more than ten books, including Gospel WakefulnessThe Pastor’s Justification, and The Prodigal Church