Monday, August 29, 2011

Three Leaps For Joy

"An evil man is snared in his own transgressions, but a righteous man sings and rejoices" (Proverbs 29:6). 

I am musing on this verse from my morning's reading in Proverbs. First of all (I muse), it should be noted that the righteousness of this righteous man is not his own but is a gift. This man's righteousness was received; in the Old Testament and today, this imputed righteousness is the free gift of God, bestowed because of his lavish mercy, on un-righteous former transgressors! The righteous man of Proverbs 29:6 has been declared right with God through faith in Christ's atoning work. He is a humble man, grateful and astonished at the grace given to him in Christ.

So this happy man, though beset by many afflictions and trials, goes singing and rejoicing on his way. The evil man, in the meantime, is the one who loves and clings to his sin. He believes that to give it up and put his trust in this Jesus would be the ultimate folly. Ironically and tragically, the very sin he clings to constantly proves to be a snare and a trap to him. He becomes entangled and ensnared. There is no song in his mouth and no rejoicing in his heart. Declaring in his heart that for him "there is no God," he sadly becomes the ultimate fool (Psalm 14:1).

Reading of the other man, the righteous man, I was reminded of Christian in Pilgrim's Progress. Though afflicted by temptations and trials on his journey to the Celestial City, Christian and his companions could often be heard singing and rejoicing as they went. Here John Bunyan describes the way Christian came to be relieved of his heavy burden of sin, declared clean and right before God, and the glad song he sang about it:

    Now I saw in my dream, that the highway up which Christian was to go, was fenced on either side with a Wall, and that Wall is called Salvation. Up this way therefore did burdened Christian run, but not without great difficulty, because of the load on his back.

    He ran thus until he came at a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a Cross, and a little below in the bottom, a Sepulcher. So I saw in my Dream, that just as Christian came up to the Cross his burden loosed from off his Shoulders, and fell from off his back; and began to tumble; and so continued to do, till it came to the mouth of the Sepulcher, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.

    Then was Christian glad and lightsom, and said with a merry heart, He hath given me rest, by his sorrow; and life, by his death. Then he stood still a while, to look and wonder; for it was very surprizing to him, that the sight of the Cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks.

    Now as he stood looking and weeping, behold three shining ones came to him, and saluted him with Peace be to thee: so the first said to him, Thy sins be forgiven. The second stript him of his Rags, and clothed him with change of Raiment. The third also set a mark in his forehead, and gave him a Roll with a Seal upon it, which he bid him look on as he ran, and that he should give it at the Celestial Gate: so they went on their way. Then Christian gave three leaps for joy, and went on singing.

Thus far did I come loaden with my sin, 
Nor could ought ease the grief I was in, 
Till I came hither: What a place is this! 
Must here be the beginnning of my bliss? 
Must here the burden fall from off my back? 
Must here the strings that bound it to me, crack? 
Blest Cross! Blest Sepulcher! blest rather be 
The Man that there was put to shame for me.

Three leaps for joy!

(Text from Oxford World's Classics 2003 The Pilgrim's Progress)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Reading In Matthew

I love the gospel according to Matthew. It's my favorite of the gospels (because it's the one I'm reading right now!). In it, as in all of the gospels, the mighty deeds of the Lord Jesus Christ are recorded. In Matthew, a very long discourse of the wise words of the Lord Jesus are also recorded. It begins in Chapter 5, verse 2, "And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying...".

He opened his mouth! The fountain of life was opened up to those disciples up on the mountain. His words came out, instructing them, surprising them. "You have heard it said... but I say...", and such things as that. He had come to set them straight about what makes men right with God. The traditions they'd been taught had obscured God's true plan. Those disciples' world was beginning to get turned upside down, as happens when Christ's words and deeds are comprehended by faith in the human heart.

The sweetest thing I got from my reading in Matthew this morning was really two things: the comfort, hope and reward of heaven for these temporary sorrows and suffering we endure (Matthew 5:3-11); and the great way our Lord gets across the fact that the righteousness that pleases God is not based on anything done "before other people" (Matthew 5:20-6:16). All human pride is laid low here, for who can manifest such genuine humility and sincerity as Jesus commands? Only someone to whom another's righteousness has been given as a gift--the free gift of  God through his Son.

"You therefore must be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect," Jesus said (Matthew 5:48). Thanks be to our heavenly Father, then, that he sent this perfectly righteous One to do what we are not able to do. He perfectly fullfilled all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17) on behalf of all those who will believe in him and thus receive the free gift of his very own righteousness, procured for helpless sinners through his death on the cross.

What a wonderful Savior.

Sermon On The Mount wordle (click for a bigger image)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Change

I changed the name of my blog. It comes from Psalm 71:20-21:

You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
 will revive me again;
 from the depths of the earth
 you will bring me up again.
 You will increase my greatness
        and comfort me again.

Psalm 71 speaks to me of God's sovereignty and goodness in both making us see many troubles and in reviving us again. It speaks to me of our great hope in the coming of Christ and in the resurrection from the dead, comforted then forevermore! It speaks to me of God's great faithfulness to his pilgrim people as we sojourn on through a difficult landscape, and of the hope I have that even though I'm growing older, God isn't through with me yet! Until the last breath I can speak with is done, I hope I am still praying, trusting, and proclaiming this way:

 O God, from my youth you have taught me,
    and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
 So even to old age and gray hairs,
    O God, do not forsake me,
    until I proclaim your might to another generation,
    your power to all those to come. Psalm 71:17-18