Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Passion of the Christian Saint

“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God…” Acts 1:1-3

The Passion of the Christ

In Acts chapter 1 Luke identifies the suffering of our Lord as “His Passion”.
The Word passion has several significations. In the Biblical sense, as it is used here, “passion” means to be “sore vexed”, to suffer intensively or to experience great pain and/or sorrow.

The modern use of the word, “passion” was adopted during the 16th century and is defined as having strong emotions as in a sense of great enthusiasm. The term today evokes sentiments of love and even sensual attraction. To be passionate about someone or something is to be “highly motivated toward that person or thing.” To be passionate about someone or something is to have that person or thing always dominating the mind and the actions.This idea is conveyed in Christ’s declaration: ”Where your treasure is – there will your heart be also”

Our Lord’s “Passion” must be considered as both a Biblical passion and a modern passion. In the sense that He suffered, we should use the Biblical term “Passion”.But in the sense that He was “Passionate”, i.e. to do the Will of His Father, we should use the modern version of the term.

In the most literal sense the Scriptures do not use the term “passion” or “passionate” in the modern fashion. In the Scriptures the Greek word is only used for “suffering”.

The Common Use of the Word Passion

The Word or phrase that best describes the modern use of the term “Passion”, or “Passionate Emotion” is found in Psalm 119.32.

“I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me. I have stuck unto thy testimonies: O LORD, put me not to shame. I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.” Ps 119:30-32

David uses the word “Enlarge” in regard to his heart

 "I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart." Ps 119:32.

The Hebrew word used for “enlarge” literally means “to make room” or “to open wide”.

David is asking God to actively move in his life so that he will be more passionate in his obedience and service.

Charles Spurgeon observes,

"Yes, when the heart is the master, the feet soon run when the heart is free and energetic. Let the affections be aroused and eagerly set on divine things, and our actions will be full of force, swiftness, and delight. God must work in us first, and then we shall will and do according to his good pleasure. He must change the heart, unite the heart, encourage the heart, strengthen the heart, and enlarge the heart, and then the course of the life will be gracious, sincere, happy, and earnest; so that from our lowest up to our highest state in grace we must attribute all to the free favour of our God. We must run; for grace is not an overwhelming force which compels unwilling minds to move contrary to their will: our running is the spontaneous leaping forward of a mind which has been set free by the hand of God, and delights to show its freedom by its bounding speed."

The Hebrew word used for “Heart”, however is actually referring to the understanding, and may include the entire fabric of man’s being. And so, David is asking God to open wide his understanding, in order for him to run in the way of God’s commandments.

It is the Understanding that Assist in Obedience.

The Hebrews were to be an understanding people in word and deed. This was their strength.

Moses declares in De 4:6 concerning God’s Law:

“Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”

Upon his call to be King, Solomon asked for understanding before anything else, knowing that understanding was the key to prosperity, and success God-ward.

"Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad:" 1Ki 3:9

David is asking God to enlarge his understanding.

CONSIDER Psalm 119 VERSE 32:

"I will run the way of thy commandments..."

David’s uppermost desire was to RUN (not merely keep or obey) But “to run” in the way of God’s Law. He uses the declarative “I WILL”. This is the voice of determination. He knew of his natural inability and lackadaisicalness, so he begs - he prays – he pleads – he declares, “I WILL”. In his “heart-felt” determination he asks God to enlarge his heart so that he might RUN in the way of His Law

Calvin comments:

“The meaning of the prophet is, that when God shall inspire him with love for his law, he will be vigorous and ready, nay, even steady, so as not to faint in the middle of his course. His words contain an implied admission of the supineness and inability of men to make any advancement in well-doing until God enlarge their hearts.”

The enlarging of the heart may also be identified as “Heartiness”.

To be “hearty” is to be robust, strong, bold, and healthy.An individual that is “hearty” is usually one who is full of life, rigor, passion, and conviction. A “hearty laugh” usually evokes a smile from others. It may even cause others to laugh as well. Heartiness is contagious.

The hearty passion for the Kingdom’s advancement is also contagious.

P.B. Powers considers this aspect of life and asks observes:

a. What Heartiness is
b. What Heartiness does?
c. Where does Heartiness come from.

1. What is Heartiness:

a. This may be defined as a passionate cheerfulness in doing God’s will according to His Written Commandment.

b. It is an intense desire to serve God in every way and at every season.
Heartiness is robust faith. It is constant faith and diligent service.

c. It is the life of True and Honest Christianity and it is exercised in every sphere of life.

d. True Heartiness is very difficult to quench – It is a strong man, and a strong tower.

e. Heartiness is living energy, derived from the transforming power of Atoning Grace and Sanctifying Love.

2. What Heartiness does?

a. Heartiness is being always ready to do whatsoever God commands. It prepares the saint to act whenever the opportunity arises. It is the saint’s motivating power.

b. The hearty saint stands ready and observant to opportunities for ministry and service.

c. Heartiness has a positive effect upon others God-ward. It is an encouraging trait that causes a man to be productive in his Kingdom work and brings others along with him.

d. Heartiness encompasses many and it expands throughout the family circle to the church, and then into the community.

e.Heartiness stands strong in the face of oppression.

f.It stands tall in times of great darkness.

g. It holds fast to Christian testimonies in faith amidst mockers.

h. It studies so as to be prepared for every good work and to be ready to answer every man for the hope of the Gospel.

i. A hearty saint is able to comfort those that are weak.

j. Heartiness enables a man to go to his extremes for others in the cause of Christ, and for the Kingdom’s Glory. Heartiness knows no bounds.

k. It believes that whatsoever is impossible with man is possible with God.

l.Heartiness is always giving to others in the Name of Christ.

m. A hearty saint is not weak – rather he is strong because he is mature.

n. A hearty saint is able to “Take Heart” when the wicked rise up in authority.

He Is not discouraged by these set backs (or any set back for that matter)
He knows that God is seated upon the Throne of His Majesty working all things for His Glory

o. Heartiness leads in the battle of worldviews, and is strong to meet the foe on the battlefield of ideologies.

Finally: Where does this heartiness come from?

Heartiness comes from God. When the Spirit of God comes in contact with the human heart upon conversion, there is a transforming event that is life changing.

That Sanctifying Spirit (The same Spirit that Enlarged Christ’s heart in the days of His flesh enabling Him to face His sufferings courageously) is the same Spirit that is given to each and every saint.

Objection: “Yes – this is true. But even though the Spirit is given, the fruit to some is 30, or 60 fold - not always 100”.

Answer: The fruit spoken of is the fruit resulting from the preaching of the gospel. It has nothing to do with the diligence and devotion of the individual.

While resulting fruit may vary from one to another – the work done by all saints is to be performed heartily in a focused and continuous fashion.

There is nothing in Scripture that excuses the saints from a hearty profession and a hearty life in the service of Christ the King.

David asked God to enlarge his heart. His reason was simple. He desired to run in the way of God’s commandments. He desired to live passionately according to the Law of God and declare it among many nations. By the Grace of “Passion”, he would run to do this.

This was his life’s hope. This was his life’s dream, and fulfillment.This is the testimony of God’s True saints. This should be ours as well.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Wise & Mysterious Providence of God

Pr 10:22 ¶ The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.
God’s Providence is usually defined as the “Will of God” exercised in time and history. As God, He does whatsoever He pleases.  God’s providential orchestration of all things is one of His many blessings to His Elect. It is a comforting reality to know that nothing can frustrate the Sovereign Will of God. As the apostle clearly declares, “All things work together for good to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Things do not simply work together for good as a result of God smoothing things over after they have occurred in an effort to fix human error. All things work together as a result of God’s fore-ordination of all things. No event just happens. It happens as a result of God’s consistent intervention in history. Both good and bad things are brought to pass according to a perfect plan and sovereign power. Whosoever happens on earth is a direct result of God’s Will being executed. Only those things that God has fore-ordained comes to pass, and they come to pass precisely according to His plan; nothing can thwart it.
Solomon states this clearly.
Ec 8:3 Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for He doeth whatsoever pleaseth him.
Ezekiel's Vision of God's Providence & Glory
But why is the Providence of God so comforting to “The Called”? What makes God’s control of every human event so comforting to the people of God? It cannot be because His will is all powerful. While this is true, that fact alone is not a comfort. Power alone does not comfort. Just because the Lord is all powerful does not indicate that His Will is good.
When Christ abandoned Himself to God’s Will, He was not abandoning Himself to the Power of God per se, but rather the Wisdom, Goodness, Mercy, and Love of God. The saint’s everlasting comfort comes by knowing that the Sovereign Will of God is perfectly wise, good, loving and mercifully kind. This is what led the Lord to bow to the Will of God during His passion, and this is the saint’s confidence when difficult providences occur. Christ knew that all earthly events are executed in wisdom, goodness, love and mercy – even those events which are hard to understand and difficult to handle. 

The power of God is the engine that guarantees the execution of His Will – but it is the power of God that does this in a wise, good, loving and merciful fashion.  
Arthur Pink put it this way:

"Contentment [comfort] is possible only as we cultivate and maintain that attitude of accepting everything which enters our lives as coming from the Hand of Him who is too wise to err, and too loving to cause one of His children a needless tear."

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Stabilty of the Christian Family

Christianity must be holistic in that it seeks to intervene into all spheres of the culture. We cannot think in a compartmentalized fashion when it comes to the advancement of Christ's Kingdom, as if it restricted to the church alone.
Since all spheres of life are to come under the authority of the Sovereign Lord, there is no sphere that is less important than another. That being said, we still must prioritize when we seek to advance His cause. That means we must have our families in order first. If we fail to bring our families under the rule of the Gospel, whatever cause we undertake for Christ will fail.

Ministry beings at home, then moves outward into the church, and then the community. I too have witnessed men, and women - even elders and deacons - rush to save the world while their families are languishing. In my 24 years of ministry I have witnessed such gross disconnect that it boggles the mind. The reason why our political and economic situation is in a tailspin is due to the apostasy of the church, which is a direct result of the lackadaisical attitude of family discipleship.

Christians must remedy the sins of the culture by first remedying the sins of the home. Christian fathers are called to sacrifice all for the family. Their first priority must be their wives, and then their children. Male Biblical leadership, initiated by the father, is absolutely essential. Husbands must minister to their wives by providing loving support in her responsibilities as governess of the home. He must be actively involved in the affairs of the household. In this way he can maintain control without which there can be real Biblical oversight. His support must be firm and resolute along Biblical lines and according to Biblical principles. Family communication, especially communication between husband and wife, is essential, as is family discipleship. All this must be instigated by the head of the home and executed seamlessly by both parents for complete Biblical continuity.

It is no wonder why Paul counsels Timothy as to the importance of Ecclesiastic leadership beginning at home.

“[A Bishop is] One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) “ 1 Timothy 3:4-5

C. S. Lewis rightly observed, “Because the family is so central to building up a godly society, it has always been under attack by unbelievers and is in particularly great danger today. At the root of outright hatred of family bonds lies sinful man's craving to be independent of God and his fellow men so he may do as he pleases and not be burdened or restrained by any responsibilities or obligations. Such individual anarchy and selfishness among ever growing numbers of people eventually leads to the breakdown of society at large.”

If Christendom is ever to see an advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on earth it must
re-examine its familial structure. If the Kingdom is ever to advance it will advance upon the shoulders of solidly structured Christian homes within the oversight of self-less, conscientious fathers and mothers who are willing to give all for the Glory of Christ. The hope of a Biblical postmillennial victory depends upon the stability of the Christian family.