Today's sermon was based on Phil 3:12-21.

These verses are very encouraging words from Paul to the Philippians; and to me in the light of what was on my mind lately.

Paul letter to the Philippians is a letter on Christian practice and experience. Paul is very close to these converts in Philippi and his letter comes to them in joy and familiarity. He expresses his earnest hope that the Philippians would abound more and more in knowledge, and be without offence to the day of the Lord. The letter is filled loving exhortation to the carrying out various Christian duties and the exhibition of Christian virtues, to holy living, and to an effort to make great attainments in the divine life.

And how Phil 3:12-14 an encouragement to all of us?

Not that I have already obtained - the aorist obtained indicates that we do not all at once attain a fully sanctified life at the point of conversion - nor have we been made perfect - nor have we in the present state, already perfect - but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me - but to pursue the eschatological goal as a response to Christ's work. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. - we may not have yet attained heaven, the finish line - But one thing I do: - we don't give up, we don't lose heart in our trials and tribulation - Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, - we do not worry about how we started the race, we do not distract ourselves with other things, like the runner in the lead who does not look back to see where his competitors are but - I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus - to run with one goal in mind, that is to complete the race to win the prize, the ultimate reason for running: to gain Christ fully and completely.

The preacher asked us one question, "what is your goal in life?"

My goal in life is to gain Christ fully and completely. Like in all races, it is not going to be easy. It will take a lot of hard work, disappointments, lessons and pain. But also in all races, we have each other to support us and cheer us on, to encourage and motivate us to run and run to win the prize. How marvelous it will be on that day when we congratulate each other in winning the race.

Maeghan
Picture courtesy of Julia Esmilde (http://jewels.esmilde.com/2006/03/run-eddie-run.html)

What is life
That I am
What is this
That I was
What is there
That I want
What is here
'Tis God

Maeghan
Picture by Chris Potter

I watched Luther last night, late into the night in fact (as I need to return the DVD today). While I am not too impressed with the screenplay and dismal character development, it is a good introduction/revision to church history. However, I had a difficult time figuring out who's who having forgotten most of what I had briefly studied on Church History.

Here are what I thought were memorable scenes.



The first one, while Luther was translating the bible into German. Spalatin (I figure) came visiting:

How's the work?

Tricky.

Words are like children... the more care you lavish on them, the more they demand. Rather like women. I wouldn't know. Take this verse in Saint Luke... "It is the father's will that nothing be lost." In our language, the word "will" denotes strength, willpower, bending someone to your will. But in the original Greek, this three-letter word denotes passion, fire, inner organs. It can mean beloved, desire, even sexual desire.

Eat your porridge.

You're not even listening.

Besides, porridge does nothing for my bowels.

No, it's not the word that's important, but what it's saying about God.



The second one, when his fellow ex-monk was about to take leave:

Stay, Ulrick, stay. Please. Marry one of these lovely young women. I know there's at least one left.

I'll bring God's word to my homeland.

No, this is not a good time. No prince can protect you there.

I want the Dutch people to know what I experienced when I read His word for the first time.

Then God be with you.

And with you, Martin.


Maeghan

We have came up with a more complete to-do obedience list, the few of us (but nowhere near complete, you'd agree).

1) Raise our children to know and love God
2) Live a life reflective of God's gift of salvation: be a walking testimony
3) Spread the good news of eternal life
4) Be a person of integrity
5) Preach only the word of God
6) Love recklessly, expecting nothing in return
7) Give generously to those in need
8) Be quick to listen, slow to anger
9) Do everything everyday as an offering to God: be a living sacrifice
10) Fix your attention to God in all you do
11) Live in harmony and love with one another as the body of Christ
12) Sing hymns and spiritual songs, in worship as one body
13) Teach, minister and counsel one another
14) Persevere and pray
15) Meditate on his word day and night: know it, study it, defend it
16) Readily recognise what he wants from us and go do it

The next thing I suppose we ought to do is to mark ourselves on how much we do vs. how much we have not done; not to make us guilty but to compel us into obedience with the living out and working out of our salvation with fear and trembling.

Maeghan (with Doug, Julia, Rich and Milly)
Picture by Don Whitaker

One of my church friend’s cousin was just diagnosed of 2nd stage testicular cancer. We are all praying for him and the family who are terribly devastated.

My morning thoughts as a result centered mainly on life and its purpose thereof. In line with what has been in my mind lately – some jumbled-up thoughts of why am I doing so much and being so busy but yet still feeling I am not doing enough – I began to list down what God would have us do with our lives as revealed to us in his word. So far, I managed to come up with these, in no particular order. I am merely listing out visible and outward acts of obedience; faith and trust are all regarded as given.

I am sure there are more; you can add on to it.

1. Give to the poor and those in need, wherever they are: feed them, clothe them, provide for them

2. Spread the good news of eternal life, make disciples of all men: the great commission

3. Meditate on his word day and night: know it, study it, defend it

4. Sing hymns and spiritual songs: in worship to our God, in edification and fellowship of the body

5. Teach and minister: teach the word, counsel and minister to the people

Life is fragile, life is short;
Make it worthwhile, waste it not.

Maeghan
Picture by Penelope Berger

According to Cranfield, there are 4 different senses to απεθανομεν τη αμαρτια, dead to sin: juridical, baptismal, moral and eschatological. Let's take a look and see how it can be squared off with the fact that we are still being influenced by sin.

Juridical Sense
We died to sin in God's sight, when Christ died on the cross for us. This is a matter of God's decision to take our sins upon himself in the person of his Son. It is in God's perspective that we are in fact dead to sin as Christ is dead to sin once and for all, on the basis and only on the basis of his work on the cross. So even though we live in the influence of sin coming on to us from every side, Christ has already died to sin and so have we on his account.

Baptismal Sense
We are buried into death through baptism and raised up into life through his resurrection. This dying to sin is a ratification of our own acceptance of God's decision. We regard Christ's death for our sins as our death and His risen life as our life. Through this baptism into his death, we declare ourselves dead to sin. Therefore, even though we live in the influence of sin, we take the decision of dying to it through Christ's death.

Moral Sense
We are called and have been given the freedom to die daily and hourly to sin by the mortification of our sinful natures, and to rise daily and hourly to newness of life in obedience to God. So even though we live in the influence of sin, we work it out to die to it every hour and every day and rise up to live a holy life in obedience to God.

Eschatological Sense
We will die to sin finally and irreversibly when we actually die, and will - equally finally and irreversibly - at Christ's coming be raised up to the resurrection of life.

I think I have reconciled it now. I think ...

Maeghan
Picture by João Estêvão A. de Freitas

"We died to sin, how can we live in it any longer." Romans 6:2

The phrase "died to sin" draws some interest. What does it mean and what does it imply when one is dead to something?

Albert Barnes for one felt that "to be dead to a thing is a strong expression denoting that it has no influence over us. A man that is dead is uninfluenced and unaffected by the affairs of this life. He is insensible to sounds, and tastes, and pleasures; to the hum of business, to the voice of friendship, and to all the scenes of commerce, gaiety, and ambition. When it is said, therefore, that a Christian is dead to sin, the sense is, that it has lost its influence ever him; he is not subject to it; he is in regard to that, as the man in the grave is to the busy scenes and cares of this life ... The apostle does not here attempt to prove that Christians are thus dead, nor to state in what way they become so. He assumes the fact without argument. All Christians are thus in fact dead to sin. They do not live to sin; nor has sin dominion over them. The expression used here by the apostle is common in all languages. We familiarly speak of a man’s being dead to sensual pleasures, to ambition, etc., to denote that they have lost their influence over him."

I think that he has taken the metaphor a little to far. Very few would disagree with me when I say that we are very much in every way being influenced and affected by sin. It is true that we do not live to sin but it would be a bit too farfetched to say that we are not influenced by it.

Adam Clarke would not go that far and commented that "the phraseology of this verse is common among Hebrews, Greeks, and Latins. To die to a thing or person, is to have nothing to do with it or him; to be totally separated from them: and to live to a thing or person is to be wholly given up to them; to have the most intimate connection with them."

Is it acceptable to say we have nothing to do with sin because we are totally separated from it? At least Clarke is right in saying that we should be already wholly given up to them and have no intimate connection with sin now that we are alive in Christ.

So, if we are dead to sin, how then are we still under its influence? Why do we still sin? The more I think about it now, the more confused I am over Paul's choice of words - we died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?

The adverb πως, how, denotes a rhetorical question: since you are already dead to sin, you no longer live in it. So if one of us are still living in it, it would mean that he is not dead to sin but alive to it. So does this mean that he has not died with Christ? The answer I believe would be yes.

And what if we are not living in sin but are influenced by it; that is, we are daily being seduced by it? Are we being dead to sin? Yes, I would say as long as we keep them at bay. We do not succumb to it and therefore do not live in it because we are dead to it, we have no connection to it.

But what if we succumb as we sometimes do? We will be living in sin, won't we; however small the sins are? Looks like I am back at square one! Oh dear ...

Maeghan
Picture by Bill Davenport

Our sermon today was a call for us to spread the good news of Easter: that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

When Lazarus had died, Jesus arrived at their home several days after. Martha, Lazarus' sister said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know whatever you ask from God, God will give you."

Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."

Martha said, "Yes, I know he will; in the resurrection on the last day."

And Jesus replied, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

What amazing words; but when you think about it, Jesus does tangent off with his words at the most unexpected places. If I were to imagine I'm Martha, I'd be devastated with the death of my brother, "Oh Lord, if only you were here earlier". But at Jesus words and reply, wouldn't you do a double take and "huh?" Listen to Martha: "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world." I don't really think she understood though she believed.

Jesus' words and response can be the most unexpected. So much more for us to realise that He speaks to us from above; from God whom we can only see through him.

A.T. Robertson: Jesus' reply is startling enough. They are not mere doctrines about future events, but present realities in Jesus himself. "The Resurrection is one manifestation of the Life: it is involved in the Life" (Westcott). Note the article with both αναστασις, resurrection and ζωη, life. Jesus had taught the future resurrection often (John 6:39), but here he means more, even that Lazarus us now alive.

M.R. Vincent: The words I am are very significant. Martha had stated the resurrection rather as a doctrine, a current tenet: Jesus states it as a fact, identified with His own person. He does not say, I raise the dead; I perform the resurrection, but I am the resurrection. In His own person, representing humanity, He exhibits man as immortal, but immortal only through union with Him.

B.W. Johnson: Christ makes the grand, striking declaration that he is the RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE, words that never could have fallen from the lips of a sane mortal. They mean that he is the power which opens every grave, gives life to the sleepers, and calls them forth to a new existence; that the life that endows men with eternal being is in him and proceeds from him. In the light of his own resurrection they mean that when he burst open the tomb he did it for humanity and in him humanity has won the victory over death.

This is the message of Easter: Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Spread his words, spread his life.

Maeghan
Picture by Bill Davenport

Continuing on Romans 6, I made a brief check into the origins of baptism to try to understand Paul's usage.

For a start, the Jews adopted the practice as part of their rite of initiation of new believers into the Jewish faith. There are however, differing thoughts on the origin of Christian baptism; but its practice among Jews to me is good enough evidence to assume that baptism was already a common thing in the apostolic times.

Our contemporary practice of baptism on the other hand, has reached to a point where it has very little to do with the original meaning of the rite in the apostolic community. Understanding the baptismal practice of the biblical times would help us have an idea how and why Paul uses it in Romans 6 and how the hearers of the word would understand the message of Paul.

According to Ward, the basic truth is that the meaning of baptism is rooted in the baptism of Jesus - not only his baptism in Jordan - but his baptism of death, to which his water baptism was a prelude. As such, the people's understanding of baptism is tied to the death of Christ - a participation of Christians in the death of Jesus Christ - as the very core of the meaning of Christian baptism. It is the very heart of baptism.

With that, Romans 6 is not at all a surprise to the hearers. The point in Paul's words however, is that when an individual has been baptised as a sign of his death with Christ, the sign must be an expression of what actually is, i.e. death to the old way of life; therefore, there is no way one should sin so grace may abound.

Maeghan
Picture by Tara R

My Book Nook


I buy books faster than I can read them. Nevertheless, I still buy them and lay them on the shelves waiting for the right time and moment they will in turn find me.

Pearlie's Book Nook
(My list is now maintained in goodreads.com - check here for the latest.)

1 Corinthians. J. I. Packer, Charles Hodge
24 Italian Songs and Arias - Medium Low Voice
A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament.
A Brief History of Christian Music. Andrew Wilson-Dickson
A Burning and a Shining Light.
A Call to Spiritual Reformation. D. Carson
A Concise Exegetical Grammar of New Testament Greek. Jacob, Harold Greenlee
A Grief Observed. C. S. Lewis
A History of Israel. John Bright
A Model of Christian Maturity. D. Carson
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. W. Phillip Keller
A Year with C. S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis
Acts. John Calvin, J. I. Packer
All the Prayers of the Bible. Dr. Herbert Lockyer
Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible. John W. Haley
An Introduction to Wisdom and Poetry of the Old Testament. Donald K. Berry
Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament, The. William D. Mounce
Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?.
Baptism and Fullness. John R. W. Stott
Basic Christianity. Rick Warren, John R. W. Stott
Basics for Believers. D. Carson
Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church. D. Carson
Behind the Scenes of the New Testament. Paul William Barnett
Beliefs of a United Methodist Christian. Emerson Colaw
Believing and Belonging. Richard Bingham Gorrie
Believing God. R. T. Kendall
Bethlehem to Patmos. Paul Barnett
Between Two Worlds. John R. W. Stott
Beyond the Bible. Marshall, I. Howard Marshall, Stanley E., Kevin J./ Porter, Howard I./ Vanhoozer, I. Howard/ Marshall
Biblical Inspiration. I. Howard Marshall
Born for Battle. Arthur R. Matthews
Brother of Jesus, Friend of God. Luke, Timothy Johnson
C.S. Lewis & Francis Schaeffer. Jerry L. Walls, Scott R. Burson
C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea. Victor Reppert
Calling Christian Leaders. John Stott
Can Man Live without God. Ravi Zacharias
Can We Believe Genesis Today?. Ernest Lucas
Celebration of Discipline. Richard Foster
Christian Apologetics. Norman L. Geisler
Christian Ethics. Norman L. Geisler
Christian Theology of the Old Testament. George Knight
City of God. Augustine of Hippo, G. R. Evans
Compelling Reason. C.S. Lewis
Complete in Christ. Nigel M. De S. Cameron, Nigel M. Cameron
Contagious Holiness. Craig L. Blomberg
Continuity and Discontinuity. C. Samuel Storms, John A. Sproule
Cover to Cover Through the Bible. Selwyn Hughes
Creating God in the Image of Man?. Norman L. Geisler
Creation Regained. Albert M. Wolters
David. Stuart Briscoe
Deliver Us From Evil. Ravi Zacharias
Deuteronomy. Christopher J. H. Wright
Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-45,. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Divine Foreknowledge.
Doctrines That Divide, The. Erwin Lutzer
E M Bounds. Harold J. Chadwick, E. M. Bounds
Emotions - Can You Trust Them?. Dr. James Dobson
Encountering the Manuscripts. Philip Wesley Comfort
Epistles of John. I. Howard Marshall
Every Name Of God In The Bible Everything In The Bible Series. Larry Richards
Evidence for Jesus. R. T. France, France
Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Josh McDowell
Exegetical Fallacies,. D. Carson
Five Festal Garments. Barry G. Webb
Five Views on Law and Gospel.
Five Views on Sanctification.
For the Love of God. D. Carson
For the Love of God. D. Carson
Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World. Alister McGrath
From God To Us. Norman L. Geisler, William Nix
Fundamentalism and the Word of God. J. I. Packer
Gagging of God Ivp UK. D. Carson
God Has Spoken. J. I. Packer
God in the Dock. C. S. Lewis
God the Creator, God the Redeemer. John Calvin
Gospel According to Matthew. R.T. France
Graded Reader of Biblical Greek, A. William D. Mounce
Grammatical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek. Walter Mueller
Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. Wallace, Daniel B. Wallace, Daniel B.
Hard Sayings of Jesus. Frederick Fyvie Bruce
Hard Sayings of the Bible. Frederick Fyvie Bruce, Peter H. Davids, Manfred T. Brauch
Harry Potter and the Bible. Richard Abanes, J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter, Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings. Richard, Richard Abanes, J. K. Rowling, Abanes
Hearing God's Voice Above the Noise. Stuart Briscoe
Hearing God's Words. Peter Adam
His Greatest Sermons. Jonathan Edwards
Historical Survey of the Old Testament, An,. Eugene H. Merrill
How Do You Know Youre Not Wrong?. Paul Copan
How On Earth Did Jesus Become A God?. Larry W. Hurtado
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Gordon D. Fee, Douglas Stuart
How to Read the New Testament. Etienne Charpentier
Humility. Andrew Murray
In the Beginning. Alister McGrath
In Understanding Be Men. T. Hammond
Intro to Old Testament Theology. J. N. Schofield, Schofield
Introducing New Testament Theology. A M Hunter
Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Craig L. Blomberg, Robert L. Hubbard, William W. Klein
Introduction to Christian Worship. James F. White
Introduction to Philosophy. Norman L. Geisler, Paul D. Feinberg
Introduction to the New Testament, An. D. Carson, Dr. Leon Morris, Douglas J. Moo
Israel and the Nations. Frederick Fyvie Bruce, David F. Payne
Its Still Greek to Me. David Alan Black
Jerusalem. Amos Elon
Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity. Paul Barnett
Jesus according to Scripture. Darrell L. Bock
Jesus and His Friends. D. Carson
Jesus and the Logic of History. Paul Barnett
Jesus Christ the Witness of History. Sir Norman Anderson
Jesus Spells Freedom. Michael Green
Jesus Under Fire. James Porter (EDT), Michael J./ Moreland, Michael J. (EDT)/ Wilkins, Wilkins
Jewish Antiquities. Flavius Josephus
Joy Unspeakable. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Justification.
Keep in Step With the Spirit. J. I. Packer
Knowing God. J. I. Packer
Last Supper and Lords Supper. I. Howard Marshall
Lead on. John Edmund Haggai
Let's Weigh the Evidence. Barry Burton
Listening to the Spirit in the Text. Gordon D. Fee
Love in Hard Places. D. Carson
Men and Women of the Old Testament. Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Mere Christianity. C.S. Lewis
Message of the New Testament. Frederick Fyvie Bruce
Methodism. Rupert Davies
Mid-Course Correction. Gordon MacDonald
Miracles. C. S. Lewis
Morphology of Biblical Greek, The. William D. Mounce
Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. William D. Mounce
My Utmost for His Highest. Oswald Chambers
Names Of God. Nathan Stone
Neither Poverty Nor Riches. Craig L. Blomberg
Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Manners And Customs How The People Of The Bible Really Lived. Howard F. Vos
New Testament Commentary Survey. D. Carson
New Testament Exegesis. Gordon D. Fee
New Testament Interpretation. I. Howard Marshall
New Worship, The, exp. ed.. Barry Liesch
None of These Diseases,. David E. Stern, S. I. McMillen
Now My Eyes Have Seen You. Robert Fyall
Old Testament Exegesis. Stuart, Douglas K. Stuart, Douglas K.
Old Testament Survey. David Allan Hubbard, William Sanford La Sor, Frederic William Bush, Leslie C. Allen, William Sanford Lasor
One hundred and one hymn stories. Carl Fowler Price
Ordering Your Private World. Gordon MacDonald
Out Of The Saltshaker And Into The World. Rebecca Manley Pippert
Parables of Jesus. Dwight Pentecost
Paul's Letter to the Philippians. Gordon D. Fee
Paul, Apostle of God's Glory in Christ. Thomas R. Schreiner
Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God. Gordon D. Fee
Paul, Women, and Wives. Craig S. Keener
Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees in Palestinian Society. Anthony J. Saldarini
Philippians. J. B. Lightfoot, Alister McGrath
Philosophy and the Christian Faith. Colin Brown
Prayers from the Heart. Richard J. Foster
Praying God's Will. Lee Roberts
Preaching from the Old Testament. Elizabeth Achtemeier
Preaching Hard Texts of the Old Testament. Elizabeth Achtemeier
Predestination and Free Will. David Basinger, Randall Basinger
Psalms. J. I. Packer, Charles H. Spurgeon
Reading Scripture With the Church Fathers. Christopher A. Hall
Reasonable Faith. William Lane Craig
Reasons. Josh McDowell, Don Stewart
Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. John Piper
Redemption Accomplished and Applied. John Murray
Reinhold Niebuhr 1892-1971,. Reinhold Niebuhr
Resurrection The Capstone In The Arch Of Christianity. Hanegraaff, Hank Hanegraaff, Hank
Runaway World. Michael Green
Scaling the Secular City. James Porter Moreland
Science & Christianity.
Selected Books. C.S. Lewis
Sermon on the Mount. D. Carson
Shorter Life of Christ, A. Dr. Donald Guthrie
Showing the Spirit. D. Carson
Solid Answers. James C. Dobson
Sophie's World. Jostein Gaarder
Studying the Historical Jesus. Darrell L. Bock
Studying the Synoptic Gospels,. Robert H. Stein
Surprised By Joy. C.S. Lewis
Systematic Theology. Wayne Grudem
Table Talk. Martin Luther
Talking with Catholic Friends and Family. James G. McCarthy
Testimony of the Evangelists, The. Simon Greenleaf
That Hideous Strength. C.S. Lewis
The Abolition of Man. C. S. Lewis
The Acts of the Apostles. Ben Witherington III
The Authority of the Old Testament. John Bright
The Believer's Prayer Life. Andrew Murray
The Bible Application Handbook. J. I. Packer, Derek Williams
The Book of Revelation. Canon Leon Morris
The Book of the Acts. Bruce, Frederick Fyvie Bruce, Frederick Fyvie
The Business of Heaven. C.S. Lewis
The Case for a Creator. Lee Strobel
The Case for Christ. Lee Strobel
The Case for Faith. Lee Strobel
The Christian Doctrine of Reconciliation. James Denney
The Christian's Secret to a Happy Life. Hannah Whitall Smith
The Complete Worship Leader. Kevin J. Navarro
The Cross and Christian Ministry. D. Carson
The Cross of Christ. J. Stott, D. Stone
The Cross of Jesus. Leon Morris
The Dawkins Delusion?. Alister E. McGrath, Joanna Collicutt Mcgrath
The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. D. Carson, Carson, D. A.
The Divine Conspiracy. Dallas Willard
The Epistle of James. Peter Davids
The Epistle to the Hebrews. Bruce, Frederick Fyvie Bruce, Frederick Fyvie
The Epistle to the Romans. Douglas J. Moo
The Epistle to the Romans. Leon Morris
The Epistle to the Romans. C. E. B. Cranfield
The Epistle to the Romans 1-8. C. E. B. Cranfield
The Four Loves. C. S. Lewis
The God Delusion. Richard Dawkins
The Gospel According to John. Leon Morris
The Gospel According to Mark. William Lane
The Gospel of Luke. Joel B. Green
The Gospel of Mark. R. T. France
The Great Divorce. C. S. Lewis
The Great Omission. Dallas Willard
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Craig L. Blomberg
The History of the Church. Eusebius
The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts. Max Turner
The Incomparable Christ. John R.W. Stott
The IVP Bible Background Commentary. Victor H. Matthews, John H. Walton, Mark W. Chavalas
The IVP Bible Background Commentary. Craig S. Keener
The Justification Reader. Thomas C. Oden
The Language of God. Francis S. Collins
The Letter to the Ephesians. Peter T. O'Brien
The Magic Never Ends The Life And Works Of C.s. Lewis. John Ryan Duncan
The Message of Romans. J. Stott
The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict Fully Updated To Answer The Questions Challenging Christians Today. Josh McDowell
The New Testament Documents. F.F. Bruce
The New Testament Story. Ben Witherington III
The Old Testament & Criticism. Carl E. Amerding
The One Year Book of Poetry. Philip Wesley Comfort, Daniel Partner
The Origin of the Bible.
The Oxford Companion to the Bible.
The Parables of Jesus. Arland J. Hultgren
The Power of a Praying® Husband Book of Prayers. Stormie Omartian
The Power of a Praying® Parent. Stormie Omartian
The Power of a Praying® Wife Book of Prayers. Stormie Omartian
The Problem of Pain. C.S. Lewis
The Progress of Redemption. Willem VanGemeren
The Psalms. James L. Crenshaw
The Psalms. Samuel Terrien
The Screwtape Letters. C.S. Lewis
The Soul of Prayer. Eugene H. Peterson, P.T. Forsyth, P. Forsyth
The Spirit of Hinduism. David Burnett
The Spirit-controlled woman. Beverly LaHaye
The Story of Christian Theology. Roger E. Olson
The Strong-Willed Child. James C. Dobson
The Trinity. Christopher A. Hall, Roger E. Olson
The Weight of Glory. C. S. Lewis
Theology for the Community of God. Stanley J. Grenz
Three Views on Creation and Evolution. Paul Nelson, Howard J. Van Till, John J. Davis
Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond.
To Everyone an Answer.
Total Truth. Phillip E. Johnson, Nancy R. Pearcey
Trinitarian Doctrine for Today's Mission. Lesslie Newbigin
Two Views on Women in Ministry (Counterpoints.
Unapologetic Apologetics.
Understanding the Bible. Dr. John R.W. Stott
What about Other Faiths?. Martin Goldsmith
When Skeptics Ask. Norman L. Geisler, Ronald M. Brooks
Which Bible?. David Dewey
Who Made God?. Norman L. (EDT), Ravi K. (EDT)/ Geisler, Zacharias
Who Needs Theology?. Stanley J. Grenz, Roger E. Olson
Witchcraft Goes Mainstream. Brooks Alexander
Your Temperament. Tim F. LaHaye

pearlie

While working out Romans 6:4, it reminded me of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe movie. I love the book and the movie, no doubt about that.

Firstly, a slight detour: my favourite scene is the one when the White Witch was demanding for Edmund. She said, "... the boy belongs to me . That boy will die on the Stone Table ... You think that a simple threat will deny me my right, little king ? Aslan knows that if I do not have blood as the law demands, all of Narnia will be overturned, and perish, in fire and water."

In effect, it is blood for blood, live for live: the heart of the gospel. I am simply amazed at the movie: how it carried the message of the Saviour Lord Jesus Christ.

The only scene however, I was not satisfied with was the resurrection one. I thought it was underplayed - I just felt that the Lion did not "die enough", for the lack of a better phrase. But I could not really pin it down and explain it any further.

Now I can, after working out Romans 6:4.

The verse says, "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."

The key word is buried. Jesus was placed in a tomb, he really died. The tomb brings forth the completeness and finality of death - it is not momentary, it is final. He is buried.

Therefore, his resurrection was even more glorious. He arose! He is not here!

Compare that with the Lion, there is no such finality to its death. He looks more like he passed out on the stone table and got up the next day. No wonder I felt shortchanged there. (I forgot how it was in the book, I must go check it shortly.)

The point is, Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26)

Maeghan
Picture from www.narniaweb.com/

I am not sure if this is important since I have sort of worked out the doctrine of justification to a level comfortable for my understanding, but I am simply curious with regards to the relation between justification and judgment.

Firstly, when one is justified – deemed righteous by what Christ has done – I suppose all past sins are forgiven. We are buried with him and died with him and rose to a new life. Sins are forgiven and forgotten. So I assume these will not be judged upon.

Subsequently, we are called to live a sanctified life – we still tend to fall into temptation and sin. So there is the working out of our salvation with fear and trembling. We work at pleasing our God who has saved us, seeking for his forgiveness as we forgive others who sin against us. God promised he will forgive us of our sins.

What then final judgment? What will we be judged upon? Is it not then justification by faith as the entrance into living a life in Christ and justification by works as the entrance into his eternal glory?

Maeghan
Picture by Maria Alcala

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Rom 6:4)

Jesus' death on the cross is not the whole story. His death and resurrection is one complete act of God - not two. It has a purpose, with a view to something further.

In Rom 6:4, as a call to Christians to live a new life, Paul uses aorist verbs - συνεταφημεν, were buried and ηγερθη, was raised - that give a note of decisiveness to the rising to new live.

(More on aorist verbs later - I have forgotten most of my Greek!)

Maeghan
Picture by Bhaskar Vijay Singh

I was preparing for my Romans class reading up on the 6th chapter (even though my turn will not come till July). What Paul wrote to the people in Rome speaks to us even today - the resurrection of Christ and life in him.

Following up on my previous posts and discussion with Doug, it is important to realise that sometimes we do really spend too much attention on the cross without equal emphasis on the empty tomb.

Paul in Romans 6 speaks of the death and the resurrection many times over; emphasising that while we died with him we shall also live with him.

This is the good news of God. Not only has he sent his one and only Son to die for us but raised him from the dead so that we may live a new life in him. O Amazing Lord!

Maeghan
Picture by Terry Smith
(www.churchmedia.net)

It's Easter today! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!
The message rings so true in the second half of the Easter piece we did this morning. And because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

Who will roll the stone away?
Roll the mighty stone away?
Pondered the women that first Easter day
Spices tenderly they bear
For the Saviour lying there
They are among the few who care
What a wonderful surprise
Now awaits their saddened eyes
They will see a shining angel sent down from the skies
He will roll the stone away
Roll the mighty stone away
They will enter in and see the place where once the Saviour lay

Alleluia! Alleluia!
This is the glad song they soon will sing
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Soon over the whole world the echo will ring!

He is not here, he is not here
For He is risen as He said!
He is not here, he is not here
For He is risen from the dead!
Redemption’s work is finished now
The Victor’s crown is on His brow His Kingly brow
He is not here, he is not here
For He is risen from the dead!

Alleluia! Alleluia!
Come see the place where the Saviour once lay
Jesus is risen oh, wonderful day!

In the garden’s lonely ground
Nevermore will He be found
By the dreadful chains of death He could never be bound
Dying once – no more to die
Rising now to justify
Winning pardon for a world of sinners – oh, the message cry

Alleluia! Alleluia!
Come see the place where the Saviour once lay
Jesus is risen oh, wonderful day!
Wonderful day!

Lift up a song of joy – its message sing
For all the world around should hear
The Saviour lives again – oh, praise his name!
He conquered death and His foes
Rejoice forevermore, the timeless truth proclaim
Our mighty Lord arose!
Dark were fears He banished
Quickly they fled away
Black was the night that vanished
In the light of that bright and happy day
Lift up a song of triumph – let it ring
Till heaven echoes back, and then
Repeat glorious chorus, with the angels sing
The Saviour lives again!

Open wide, ye everlasting doors
Let the King of Glory in
Now returning from His earthly wars
He the victory did win
See the rich, red wounds He bears
Sears of battle now wears
He has wrested Satan’s throne
He must reign and He alone!
Rise to meet and welcome Him
Crown Him and saints and seraphim
Open wide, ye everlasting doors
Let the King of Glory in
Now returning from His earthly wars
He the victory did win

And some day – oh, thrilling truth to ponder
Christ coming back again!
Breaking through the silent sky up yonder
Every eye shall see Him then
Coming back in power to reign
Myriad armies in His train
All the earth shall know Him away
Every knee will bow that day
Even so, come, Love divine
Take the throne that’s rightly Thine
Glorious promise that cannot be broken
How it cheers the hearts of men!
Christ Himself the blessed truth has spoken
He is coming back again!

Behold your King! Your glorious King!
Behold your King! Your thorn crowned King!
Behold your Redeemer King!
Behold your King! Your risen King!
Behold your King! Your conquering King!
Behold your coming King!
Behold your King! Behold your King!

~ from Behold Your King, by John W Peterson, 1960

Maeghan
Picture by xAi Shonato

There are times in my life that I am not so sure where I am. This is such a time. Have I done enough? Is there more? Am I in the right direction? Am I doing the right things? And having said that, am I not too full of myself? Or am I worrying too much?

Psalm 29 (NASB)
The Voice of the LORD in the Storm.
A Psalm of David.

1 Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty,
Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name;
Worship the LORD in holy array.
3 The voice of the LORD is upon the waters;
The God of glory thunders,
The LORD is over many waters.
4 The voice of the LORD is powerful,
The voice of the LORD is majestic.
5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
Yes, the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
And Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the LORD hews out flames of fire.
8 The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
The LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the LORD makes the deer to calve
And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple everything says, "Glory!"
10 The LORD sat as King at the flood;
Yes, the LORD sits as King forever.
11 The LORD will give strength to His people;
The LORD will bless His people with peace.

Maeghan
Picture by Václav Pastucha

Today is Good Friday. I took the day off from work but I ended up being busy with the house and my son as well as running errands for the church. I am being a busy Martha and of all days on Good Friday.

This brings to mind what I was thinking about a few days ago. I know that I have been too occupied lately to keep a close tab on my relationship with my God. But while I was busying myself with work and errands and stuff, I was also busy reading and thinking about bible passages, doctrines and all. I am just not sure if those count as being "close" to God. I do try to be careful not to become too academic and lose it in the relationship, but I am finding it hard to really know for sure which is which and what is what.

Maeghan

Today is Maundy Thursday. Our pastor shared a sermon focussing on Judas and the dynamics of betrayal. I have to admit that I'd rather spend the evening meditating on Jesus himself and the final hours before crucifixion.

If only he had at least applied Judas to us - for how many times in our lives have we betrayed our Lord Jesus?

During the service, I did try to imagine Judas' mindset. The disciples for sure did not know that time is at hand: what Jesus had been telling them were already going to happen; they did not realise that everything in their lives would take a complete turn a few hours on. As with Judas, what was he thinking when he sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver? The gospels have records of how he was outraged at Jesus on finance matters and that he in fact was pilfering. At the table during the Passover, he actually asked Jesus if he is the one who will betray him and Jesus replied, "You have said so". Would Judas have expected Jesus to plead with him? And since Jesus had replied him that way, would Judas have resigned to himself, "Alright, so shall I".

His betrayal seem to be instigated by his realisation that his purpose in following Christ is not being fulfilled. I have seen this happen many times in churches: people who somehow felt they are not getting what they want by following Christ.

The way of Christ is the way of the cross. And the way of the cross is the way of suffering, of love and of a complete surrender to God.

This is what I need to meditate on.

Maeghan
Picture by D. Carlton

When o’er my sins I sorrow,
Lord, I will look to Thee
And hence my comfort borrow
That Thou wast slain for me;
Yea, Lord, Thy precious blood was spilt
For me, O most unworthy,
To take away my guilt.

Oh, what a marvelous offering!
Behold, the Master spares
His servants, and their suffering
And grief for them He bears.
God stoopeth from His throne on high;
For me, His guilty creature,
He deigns as man to die.

My manifold transgression
Henceforth can harm me none
Since Jesus’ bloody Passion
For me God’s grace hath won.
His precious blood my debts hath paid;
Of hell and all its torments
I am no more afraid.

Therefore I will forever
Give glory unto Thee,
O Jesus, loving Savior,
For what Thou didst for me.
I’ll spend my breath in songs of thanks
For Thy sad cry, Thy sufferings,
Thy wrongs, Thy guiltless death.

~ Justus Gesenius

We had our April session of the Greek Exegetical Study of the Book of Romans today, which we attempted on Romans 3. We spent some time discussing on:

1. The implication of the Psalms passages quoted from v.10-18
Discussion were on how these passages in the OT times were applied to the pagans but now Paul uses them on the Jews. Paul could have given it a shock treatment to press it upon the Jews that they too are unrighteous.

2. Righteousness apart from the law (v.21)
Some of us were thrown off by the word "apart" or χωρiς in Greek (separate, apart, without). Finally we agreed that it basically means that righteousness is not by works of the law. But what was brought up by one of us got me thinking too - were the Jews using works as a determinator of getting righteousness in the first place? It was concluded that with the sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross, the laws no longer hold any place in attaining a righteousness that is from God.

3. Passing over of sins previously committed (v.25)
This is new for me - for the fact that God's righteousness is revealed on account of the passing over of previous sins. God's act of not punishing those before Christ by their sacrifices is justified by the act of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.

But what really strike me most today is the realisation that I had not paid much attention to the Final Judgment of God. I had not thought much about it. At the back of my mind, even though I know that we will be facing God in the Last Day, I have always envisioned it to be - "Alas! I meet my God!" without much thought on the treatment of my sins, i.e. how holiness, who is God will treat unholiness, who is I.

But what about justification? Are we made righteous, therefore no judgment, or are we merely declared righteous? But even if we were declared righteous, there shouldn't be judgment and punishment, should there? Hadn't Christ already taken the punishment for us on the cross?

Maeghan
Picture by Robert Munson

I received an sms this morning from the bookstore I usually frequent informing me they are having sort of a clearing sale. I was there in less than 2 hours - only to complain that they have not managed to bring out more titles! I was there too soon!

Got several good ones though they are only on 5% discount - better than none, I'd say:

Jesus Christ: The Witness of History
by Sir Norman Anderson
Justification: What's at Stake in the Current Debates by Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier (Eds)
Five Views on Law and Gospel by Wayne G. Strickland, Jr., Dr. Walter C. Kaiser, Douglas J. Moo, and Wayne G. Strickland
Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray
Grammatical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek by Walter Mueller

Maeghan
Picture by Christophe Libert

My good friend reminded me of a very relevant verse: Rom 12:3

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

The measure of faith God has given you ...

Maeghan
Picture by Luc Sesselle

We will be presenting our Easter piece today. I pray that the love of the Lord through his sacrifice for us on the cross will touch many hearts and lives tonight.

Far, far away is one that touches my heart.




Far, far away
On a hilltop lone and grey
I can see by faith a cross erected high
Where the Lord of glory did for sinners die
Lingering I gaze
Till my wondering heart fills with praise
For the Saviour hanging there in agony
And the love that made Him suffer so for me
Glorious Calvary
Wonderful victory
Planned from eternity
I wonder oft how can it be

Far, far away
On a hilltop lone and grey
I can see by faith the Christ of Calvary
And that moment and trying
When men their hate were crying
And He, alone was dying on the tree
Glorious Calvary
Wonderful victory
Planned from eternity
I wonder oft how can it be

Far, far away
On a hilltop lone and grey
I can see by faith the Christ of Calvary
And that moment and trying
When men their hate were crying
And He, alone was dying on the tree
Glorious Calvary
Wonderful Calvary
Marvelous Calvary
Planned from eternity
Far, far away
On a hilltop lone and grey
Faraway, faraway

Maeghan

Following on from yesterday’s thoughts, if faith is a gift, it has to be received and accepted. Is faith something we receive or accept? Is it faith, if received?

Maeghan

What caught my attention today was Chrysostom’s interpretation of Eph 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” He takes the antecedent of “this” to be faith, while I think I have always understood it as grace; that is, grace is the gift that God gives us that allows us to be saved when we have faith.

Chrysostom said, “So that you may not be elated by the magnitude of these benefits, see how Paul puts you in your place. For ‘by grace you are saved,’ he says, ‘through faith’. Then, so as to do no injury to free will, he allots a role to us, then takes it away again, saying ‘and this is not of ourselves’ … Even faith, he says is not from us. For if the Lord had not come, if he had not called us, how should we have been able to believe?”

I will take this on tomorrow to study the verse in greater depth.

Maeghan
Picture by Dimiter Tzankov

With my encounters with several theologians and speakers whom I feel are in the liberal camp, I need an insight into who they are:

Liberal theologians are those who are more interested in imposing their own modern theological on biblical texts rather than allowing them to speak for themselves. They usually use selected passages of Jesus and Paul filtered through a modern ideological sieve. Liberal theology commonly denies that the blood Christ shed on the cross was a payment for sins or a legal imputation of righteousness of Christ to sinners. They have been typically offended by the view that the holy God judges sin and prefer to talk exclusively of the love of God rather than placing the love of God in the context of God’s holiness and just judgment of sin. (Oden, 2002)

This reminds me of my reading and listening of Carson’s writings and sermons, where he is utterly adamant about it. Never ever forget that God is a God of wrath. He is both holy and love. There are no two ways about it. One of his book title, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, gives a clue as to the nature of the love of God which exist in parallel with his wrath and holiness.

God is love. God is holy.

Maeghan
Picture by Terry Eaton

Oden listed the following as the principal sources of classic Christian exegesis, those who early gained the most general consent throughout the Asian, African and western church traditions as universally esteemed: the eight great doctors of the church – Athanasius, Basil, Gregory Nazianzus and John Chrysostom in the East, and Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great in the West.

These people interest me because I was exposed to them during my Church History lectures but sad to say I have forgotten about most of what I have learnt. So it is now time for revision!

Maeghan
Picture by Anka Draganski

In my recent mulling over justification, I think I have made what would be called a word-study fallacy. I most probably would have paid too much attention on the word with regards to its common technical meaning without taking into account its exclusive usage and meaning in the Christian context.

It is most important to take justification in the Christian context because of its exceptional position among the Christian doctrines and dogma.

I spent the morning reading a book courtesy of a very good friend: The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

Oden values justification as the heart of the gospel. The first thing that came to my mind: the heart of the gospel? I know it is an important aspect of salvation but does it take so central a position?

I will reserve my opinion, a humble one at that, to the very end when I finish reading it, hopefully. I am however, beginning to realise that he would most probably be absolutely right in saying so.

Quoting here are what I have noted after reading merely a portion of the book’s introduction. A total of 4 pages in notes!

Until the believer has rightly understood what Scripture teaches on this “uprighting” or “justifying” act of God, one is likely to remain confused by much else that the New Testament teaches. We can come to God only by grace and only through trusting wholly in what God has already accomplished on the cross. No Christian teaching is more crucial to peace conscience than justification. The central blessing of Christian living hinges upon the proper understanding of the free grace of the sovereign God.

What is the effect of justification? Its effect is that we will be the ones whose sins the Lord does not count against. We are not trapped in the deceit that comes from defensive self-justification. Justification has its nature in pardon, sole condition in faith, sole ground in the righteousness of God, and its fruits in good works.

The Augsburg Confession has it that, “we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God by our own merits, works, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, when we believe Christ suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven, and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness, as Paul says in Roman 3:21-26 and 4:5” (emphasis mine).

Luther regarded justification as “ruler and judge over all other Christian doctrines … Nothing in this article can be given up or compromised … on this article rests all that we teach … therefore we must be quite certain and have no doubts about it. Otherwise all is lost”.

Justification is therefore central to the Christian teaching of salvation. So pivotal that if unbalanced teaching in anyway, reverberations are felt in the whole edifice of faith. It is the touchstone for testing at all times whether a particular interpretation of our relation to God can claim the name ‘Christian’. But much wrestling is needed to grasp these implications.

It also refreshing that Luther noted that every time another insist that we are sinners, we are called to remember what Christ has done for us on the cross, and that we will not terrified but comforted immeasurably! Justification brings us into a state of most blessed peace and favour with God and secures every other blessing needful for time and eternity. With this, being justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort.

To what problem is justification an answer? Justification answers the problem of sin. We cannot forgive ourselves, can we? None of our efforts at restitution, however sincere and serious, can ever be fully adequate to the sufferings we have caused. No payment will suffice for a damage that has ongoing and unpredictable consequences to others or even onto the next generation.

Only God’s gift of forgiveness is able to overcome our sin. We have all caused harm that can never be made up for by human hands or works.

That is why we stand in such dire need of justification by grace.

Maeghan
Picture by Rodolfo Clix

Thomas C. Oden, The Justification Reader, Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans (2002)


Going back to the original Greek word of justification, which is δικαιοσύνη, the Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament found in www.biblecentre.net, define the word as:

(1) righteousness, uprightness, generally denoting the characteristics of δίκαιος (righteous, just) (Matt 5:6);

(2) legally justice, uprightness, righteousness (Phil 3:6);

(3) as an attribute of God righteousness, integrity (Rom 3:5);

(4) of the right behavior that God requires of persons righteousness, good behavior, uprightness (Matt 5:20), opposite αδικία (unrighteousness, wrongdoing);

(5) in Pauline thought of the divine action by which God puts a person right with himself and which then becomes a dynamic power in the believer’s life making right(eous); state of having been made righteous (Rom 1:17)

Maeghan
Picture by Suphamongkhon Arwatchanakarn

I still have a question, which I am still not being satisfied with an answer.

The question is: if justified is taken in the legal sense, how are we actually justified if we are still sinners? We will never be legally proven sinless to be justified. Is justified even the right word? Wouldn't it be more akin to being passed over instead, rather than justified? Or can we see the blood of Jesus as the means for the declaration of righteousness of those who accepts it? But we will not be proven sinless; only declared righteous in God's sight.

So why justification?

Maeghan
Picture by Griszka Niewiadomski