Friday, February 27, 2009

Personal Affection

If then you were raised up with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. – Colossians 3:1-2

It might appear that the throughts expressed here mind too much the perishing things of this present life. I admit to a rather morbid fixation on political corruption and its effect on the economy (in fairness to myself, it stems from economics being in my line of work). Yet, I am not convinced that the apostle Paul meant for believers to saunter through life ethereally-minded, oblivious to all that passes around us. We are, among many other things, to abhor evil, which requires some taking of stock. The secret to the Christian’s inner fortitude is found above, at God’s right hand. The joy of the Lord, as Ezra said, is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

My weekdays begin and end with the appointed scripture readings from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. On Sunday evenings I enjoy listening to the on-line sermons by Ed Robinson of St. Joseph’s Anglican Church in Trussville, Alabama. It is marvelous to hear a minister in a tradition not known for expository Bible teaching since the days of Bishop J.C. Ryle, preaching verse-by-verse and stressing a closer walk with Christ.

During my lunch hour I listen to two podcasts. One from Tom Soroka, an Eastern Orthodox priest, is called “The Path.” I discovered Fr. Tom several months ago on Ancient Faith Radio and have been impressed by his heart for the Lord Jesus and clear exposition of the Word. The other program is an old stand-by, “Thru the Bible” with Dr. J. Vernon McGee. I have listened to Dr. McGee for some 20 years, and his Texas drawl is as comfortable as an old shoe. At the present time he is going through a study of the Song of Solomon, and I would impress upon the reader the great blessing and benefit of listening to this particular series of programs. Dr. McGee’s theme is the altogether loveliness of Jesus Christ as typified in this ancient Hebrew song. He is stressing a personal satisfaction in the person of Christ that can uphold the believer through every circumstance.

Personal affection toward the Lord has been a recurrent theme in devotions since my days with the Plymouth Brethren. A favorite book back then was J.G. Bellet’s The Moral Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, concerning the Lord’s human perfections as prefigured in the meal offering (Leviticus ch. 2). As Dr. McGee would say, Jesus was not of “lumpy” character like the rest of us; his attributes were fine, withstanding the oven of earthly trials. One of the more memorable sections of Bellet’s book compares and contrasts the manner in which Jesus dealt with the grief shared by Martha and Mary at Lazarus’ tomb. Christ was (and still is) able to meet every need of soul, whatever its state.

Speaking of the offerings, it is a source of endless fascination to meditate upon each of the major Levitical sacrifices as they prefigure the endless merit of Christ’s death on the cross. The burnt offering speaks of Jesus offering his whole being as a sacrifice of sweet-smelling aroma exclusively to God (Ephesians 5:2; note that in Genesis 22, Abraham was prepared to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering). The peace offering, part of which was burned on the altar while the shoulder was eaten by the priests, depicts the communion believers share with God through Christ, in whom we obtain peace (Colossians 1:20). The sin and trespass offerings, of course, pertain to the propitiatory dimensions of the Lord’s substitution, having put to death sin at its root (Romans 6:6-11) and purging our actual sins committed (1 John 2:2). In every case the offerings were unblemished, speaking of the human perfection of the Lord.

This hardly scratches the surface of what the Lord Jesus means both to His Father and to us. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased,” and, “to you who believe, He is precious.”

Therefore, I must inquire: why in the devil would a large, evangelical church host a “patriotic” worship service, replete with fireworks, smoke, camouflage-clad soldiers repelling from the rafters, and military anthems? This actually happened in the metropolis where I work.

On another occasion when the brazenly statist “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was sung at a church service, I could only hang my head in silence.

Certainly we are to pray for government leaders, as well as for loved ones serving in the armed forces. God ordains earthly powers for specific ends (Romans 13:1-7). But let us not be confused: the State is competing with God for our affections. We should be keenly wary of that. And we have another king – Jesus.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Good Answer

In response to a skeptic in a talkback thread who challenged his certainty of what “the Word” is, the Underground Pewster cites a pair of choice quotations, presented below:

“Q. How do we recognize the truths taught by the Holy Spirit?”

“A. We recognize truths to be taught by the Holy Spirit when they are in accord with the Scriptures.” (1979 BCP page 853)

“If there were any word of God beside the Scripture, we could never be certain of God’s word; and if we be uncertain of God’s word, the devil might bring in among us a new word, a new doctrine, a new faith, a new church, a new god, yea himself to be a god. If the Church and the Christian faith did not stay itself upon the Word of God certain, as upon a sure and strong foundation, no man could know whether he had a right faith, and whether he were in the true Church of Christ, or in the synagogue of Satan.”

- Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556)