Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New Desires That Will Stand In The Judgment

"Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment" (Ecclesiastes 11:9).

The only thing that makes sense of this counsel— to follow your own desires, knowing that God will bring you to account for them at the last Day— is to have right desires. And the only way to have right desires is to desire what God approves. And the only way to desire what God approves is to be given new desires. And the only way to have new desires is through the new birth. 

How gracious of God that the young may rejoice and be cheerful in good ways that will stand before His judgment. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

1 Peter 2:18-3:6 (Or, Let Hope In God Make You Pretty)

Submission to your husband— a command from Scripture every wife knows is true, yet finds so very difficult, at least at times (if we're honest). Submission means so much more than gritting one's teeth and perfunctorily going along with what one's husband says or wants to do. Biblical submission is from the heart, and evidences itself in true respect and love for our husbands; but this submission is contrary to what we might think, and must be based on truth about God, not on what we see in our husbands.

Submission is based on something we know, on something from Scripture we have grasped both intellectually and with spiritual affection. This knowledge is about God and Christ. One passage that makes it clear is in 1 Peter 2:18-3:6. If what is taught in this passage can be grasped and applied, one can make a lot of headway in having the kind of attitude in marriage that pleases God and brings good to the church and family.

Peter starts by speaking of servants being "subject to" (submissive and obedient to) their masters, with all respect. God is not interested in the mechanical obedience, or lip service, of these slaves to their masters; he wants their hearts and minds engaged and doing spiritual battle so that they display all respect. This requires a change of mind and heart, which can only come about by the Spirit of God working through the word of God.

Peter wants slaves to show this submission and respect not only to the good and gentle masters but also to the unjust ones. Under an unjust master, a slave may expect to endure sorrows while suffering unjustly. When this happens, Peter says it is a thing of grace, and of credit to the believer who suffers so. It is, in fact, his calling, because "Christ also (in the same way) suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps" (2:21). Peter goes on to portray how Christ paved the way for us to learn to suffer unjustly: "When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly" (2:23).

This entrusting of oneself to God is the key. Peter says that it is in this same way that a wife is to go about submitting to her husband. Even a Christian husband may sometimes fail in obeying God's word; his wife may suffer unjustly sometimes because of it. When that is the case, the wife has an example to follow: the Lord Jesus Christ! He has both set the example and made it possible. "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps... when he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly."

Just like Sarah, as Peter explains in 3:5-6. "For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening." If you know anything about Abraham's failure in passing Sarah off as his sister, you see that Sarah's hope in God (not in Abraham's stellar performance) brought her through some harrowing times. Hope in God creates in us "the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious"— makes us pretty in an eternal and imperishable way. Moths and rust can't corrupt such beauty.

Hope in God and in all his promises is what frees wives to biblically submit to and respect their husbands. If we suffer sometimes because of their failure to obey God's word, we are only being given the privilege of following in our Master's footsteps. And one important thing to remember: unlike our Master, "who committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth," we wives are not innocent! Christ's guiltlessness is our boast and our hope, but we have many remaining faults and failures, which should keep us humble and realistic if we are sometimes called to suffer. Most of the time I can see twenty ways in which I've also inflicted suffering upon my poor husband!

Just become a regular reader of Proverbs, and you'll see what I mean! :)

Now go out and adorn yourselves with what really makes you pretty.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Salvation Is Of The Lord

Michaelangelo's Jonah on the Sistine Chapel Ceiling

"I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD" (Psalm 118:17).

"'But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD.' And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land" (Jonah 2:9, 10).

God kept Jonah, who thought he knew better than God and who thought he could get away with it, safe in a death trap— the belly of a fish big enough to swallow a man whole. Three days and three nights in a horror of darkness were required in which Jonah learned to fear God, to "remember the LORD" (repent), to be brought to a vow. To see what before had only been heard of: that salvation is of Yahweh.

Then and only then did the fish spit Jonah out upon the dry, ready land.

(Here's a nice article on Michaelangelo'splacement of the painting of Jonah in the Cistine Chapel: Jonah, The Lynchpin Of The Cistine Chapel Ceiling. I think Michaelangelo understood.)