Saturday, August 30, 2008

Believe In Yourself!

The Eighth Word

Exodus 20:15 You shall not steal.

This is another commandment that seems very keepable on the surface even though you break it every day. You may not steal cars or even candy bars but you steal from your employer. You steal time. You don't put in an honest days work for an honest days pay. You socialize and gossip about your boss. If you are the boss, you steal from your employee by not providing him with enough money to raise his family. You become rich while your employees waste away. You fudge the numbers and cook the books. Manufacturing companies steal by building obsolescence into their products. As a consumer, you steal by getting around charges and fees. You steal time from your family to pursue leisure activities. You steal from the beggar by not providing for him. The beggar that can truly work but chooses to beg steals from those he begs from. You steal from God by not worshipping Him. You steal from God by not providing financially and in your prayers for the furtherance of the Gospel.

You are a robber just like Barabbas. The Lamb on the Altar is your substitute just like He is for Barabbas. You should be crucified, but the Lamb was crucified. The Lamb was crucified between two robbers. In the midst of their own sufferings for their own sins, they mocked the sinless one. You mock the sinless one when you groan and complain for the suffering that you experience. You mock the sinless one when you say that it's not fair and that the sinless one has a responsibility to stop all your suffering immediately. What kind of God would allow such things to happen? He must be defective. But the Lamb poured out his blood for mocking thieves like you.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Politics and the Lamb on the Altar

I'm generally critical of Rick Warren but he asked some very good questions at the Saddleback Presidential Forum. A full transcript can be found here. One of the questions that he asked both candidates was "At what point does a baby get human rights?" Warren could have asked "At what point does life begin?" or some other related question but instead he asked the right question. The question as asked fits right within the scope of the vocation of the presidency. The President is called to uphold the Constitution and must make sure that all who have constitutional rights receive them. So the question asks at what point a baby has those Constitutional rights. Obama responded by saying "Well, you know, I think that whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade." If the question of who has constitutional rights is above Obama's pay grade then perhaps Obama should seek other employment. It is also the job of a senator to uphold the Constitution. He is completely unqualified to be president if he doesn't even know who the people are for whom he is promoting Constitutional rights.

Obama believes that abortion is a Constitutional right. Obama has borrowed the line from Bill Clinton that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare." Are there any other Constitutional rights that anybody would say should be rare? If there is nothing morally wrong with abortion why should it be rare? Obama has never passed any legislation that would make abortion "rare." Obama's position on abortion as shown by his voting record is at the extreme end of the hyper-pro choice spectrum. Obama has been critical of any bans on partial-birth abortions. Despite the mantras in the pro-abortion camp, a partial birth abortion has never been necessary to save the life of the mother. The baby is almost all the way out. Why would you need to stab him in the back of the skull to save the mother?

Obama was the only verbal opponent of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act on the IL senate floor in 2001. The bill protected the lives of babies who survived an abortion. These were babies completely detached from their mothers, posing absolutely no health risk to their mothers at all. Hillary Clinton actually voted in favor of a similar bill which makes her more pro-life than Obama. When National Right to Life made Obama's voting record known, Obama said they were lying but the records are public and easily obtained. Eventually the Obama camp admitted to National Right to Life that National Right to Life was telling the truth but the Obama camp has not issued any public apology. The question still remains. Being born obviously doesn't guarantee any rights in the mind of Obama. So at what point does a baby have rights? There are professors at prominent universities who claim that a baby has no rights until several months or even years after birth. So the question is a real and important one. More people die each year from abortion than have died in any war so its hard to think of a matter that is more important.

McCain said that a baby has rights at the moment of conception. His position on stem-cell research is in conflict with his answer but at least he gave an actual answer and his voting record is pretty consistent with his position. I'm not endorsing him, I think Chuck Baldwin is a better choice, but I do see good reasons why someone might vote for McCain. Obama is right that we need to think about the "least of these." But the "least of these" clearly includes babies.

The fact that abortion is a moral issue does not mean that you cannot legislate in regards to it. Moral issues are the only issues that you can legislate on. Anyone who says "You can't legislate morality" is either an anarchist or a liar. The feeding of the poor, national health care, speed limits, and anything you can think of are all promoted based upon the idea that there is some moral necessity. There was a time at which slaves were not regarded as people, but property. The issue over whether or not slaves are people or only property was a morally divisive issue. If we went the route of Obama, America would have decided that Slave-masters are the ones who must make the decision over whether or not slaves are people or property and that such a decision is above a president's pay grade.

As a citizen, the Christian votes for different reasons than everyone else does (or at least he should). Everyone else votes for his own self-interest. The Christian follows the example of the Lamb on the Altar and lays aside his own self-interest. The Christian votes for the good of his neighbor. His neighbor includes babies.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Seventh Word

Exodus 20:14 You shall not commit adultery.

This is a another commandment which seems pretty simple and easy to keep. You pull your checklist out and say, "Okay, I won't have sex with another man's wife." Today's culture is more tolerant of adultery and is more accepting of it as a form of entertainment than it is of murder but it is still generally recognized to be a bad thing.

Jesus went against the popular thinking during his time and ours when he said
"whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery." Society views marriage as a human institution that can be dissolved at will. Jesus says that God unites a man and woman in marriage and only God can dissolve that bond when He kills one of them. The self-deception that man can dissolve a marriage at will can be observed in all the broken homes.

You might read this far and still be convinced that you are innocent of ever having committed adultery. Jesus says that whoever lusts after a woman has already committed adultery. Adultery starts in the heart. Lust creates a multitude of problems that are very similar to the problems associated with abortion. Pro-abortionists do not regard the unborn baby as a person. When you lust, you are not regarding the woman as a person but as an object of pleasure. When you lust you are not looking out for the welfare of the object of your lust and you become guilty of murder.

In the Old Testament adultery is often equated with idolatry. People who worship false gods are said to go whoring after idols. When you commit adultery, lust is your god. When you commit adultery you are taking a member of the body of Christ and joining it to a prostitute (1 Cor. 6). When you commit adultery you are destroying that beautiful picture of Christ and His church that God has given you in marriage.

Praise be to God that the Lamb poured out His blood for whores like you.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

St. Nathan Bartholomew's Day

The Sixth Word

Deuteronomy 5:17 You shall not murder.

This is a very short commandment. In the Greek and the Hebrew it only amounts to two words. On the surface it seems like something that you could keep pretty easily. This commandment is specifically against illegal killing. The executioner and the judge don't stand guilty of this commandment when they rightly put a criminal to death. The soldier doesn't stand guilty of this commandment when he kills the enemy in war.

Those who wage unjust wars do violate this commandment. Abortion kills more people each year than have been killed in any war. Many don't realize it, but birth-control pills cause an unknown number of abortions. Despite the church-world's relatively recent acceptance of birth control, most in the church see nothing wrong with birth control in any form.

Perhaps you have read this far and concluded that your are completely innocent of committing murder. In Matthew 5 Jesus says that anyone who is angry at his brother without a cause is guilty of breaking this commandment and worthy of God's judgment. If you call your brother something like "numskull" or "fool" then you are worthy of the fires of hell. Driving on the highway could lead you to the fires of hell. Jesus goes to the heart of the matter and shows how your very thoughts are what make you guilty of murder and worthy of hell. In fact, failure to help your brother and failure to promote your brother's welfare makes you guilty of murder.

The ultimate act of murder was committed against the Lamb on the Altar. The Lamb was completely innocent. But the civil government and the church joined together to murder Him. They murdered Him because their heart's desire was to murder God--and they did. But don't fool yourself by thinking "those stupid Jews" or "that weak Pontius Pilate." Ultimately it was your sin that murdered the Lamb on the Altar. It was your hatred against God. It was your desire to kill God that murdered the Lamb on the Altar.

The Lamb suffered the punishment for your murder by being murdered by you, so that you would be declared innocent at the judgment.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Fifth Word

Deuteronomy 5:16 Honor your father and your mother, as Yahweh your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which Yahweh your God is giving you.

Up until this point the commandments have dealt primarily with your responsibilities towards God. Now the commandments teach you about your responsibilities towards your neighbor. God commands you not only to love our parents, but to honor them. Your parents may be complete idiots and unworthy of any honor whatsoever. But God requires you to honor them because of their office. God has placed them in that position over you. They stand in the place of God before you. Children are commanded to honor their parents by obeying them. When people marry and move out of the house, this method of honoring parents no longer applies, but you are still called to honor them. Adults are commanded to honor their parents by taking care of them in their old age.

This commandment extends beyond the family unit and into every aspect of society. You are called to honor the earthly rulers who have authority over you. You are called to honor your boss. You are called to honor those in the church who have authority over you. None of this is dependent upon how well the recipient of the honor carries out his office. Our egalitarian society hates this notion that office means anything.

If you live a life of dishonor to authority you will reap God's temporal and eternal punishment. You will suffer in this life and in the life to come. Those who hate authority lead miserable lives. As John Mellencamp said when "I fight authority, authority always wins." If you fight authority, you end up in jail. If you fight authority, you end up in hell.

The only one who has carried out this commandment perfectly is the Lamb on the Altar who honored His Father to the point of death.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Fourth Word

Exodus 20:8-11 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of Yahweh your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days Yahweh made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as Yahweh your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of Yahweh your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and Yahweh your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore Yahweh your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

In passing, it should be noted that this passage puts to rest (pun fully intended) any notion that the six days of creation are anything other than regular days. God was not commanding Israel to work for six million years and then rest for one million.

In its strictest sense this commandment does not apply to the New Testament Christian. Some small Christian sects, such as the Seventh Day Adventists, attempt to follow this commandment and accuse all others of apostasy. This attempt to bind the consciences of others places them in direct conflict with the writings of the New Testament (Col. 2:16). The inner Pharisee loves these things. The inner Pharisee loves to make God's law doable so that the Lamb on the Altar becomes unnecessary.

A larger group of Christians, especially among the Reformed and Presbyterian churches, teach that Sunday is the new sabbath and so we shouldn't work or engage in leisure activities on that day. They also teach that Sunday must be the day of worship. They tend to ignore the prohibitions against food preparation and a number of the other sabbath laws.

The inner Pharisee can be seen in many of the "blue laws" that still remain. It is probably a good thing for a society to close down most of its businesses on Sunday to give people an opportunity to worship but in most cases now we just have remnants of these laws. I don't think that prohibiting sales of alcohol and ATVs on Sunday does anybody any good.

From the very beginning, the church did begin to worship on Sunday in celebration of the day in which our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead. But we find no evidence in the New Testament or the early church that Sunday absolutely had to be the day of worship. It was a convenient day and unique day but there was no condemnation of those who worshipped on a different day. In fact, Col. 2:16 says that its wrong to judge people based upon their day of worship. Actually, the early church met daily and Sunday was the day in which the Eucharist was celebrated (sometimes more than once a week in depending upon the location). Calvin, Luther, Ursinus, the Lutheran Confessions and the Reformed Confessions all teach that Sunday is not some sort of binding day on which a person must worship. The Heidelberg Catechism explains the commandment as teaching primarily that the "ministry of the gospel and the schools be maintained." It does refer to Sunday as the sabbath but does not describe it a day of rest from earthly labors. It also teaches that every day we should yield ourselves to the Lord in order to begin the eternal sabbath.

Hebrews 4 does speak of a Sabbath rest that still remains. In the context, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews is writing to Christians who still want to go to the temple and offer sacrifices to God even though the one true sacrifice of the Lamb on the Altar has already taken place. Hebrews 4 says that is through faith in the Lamb on the Altar that we will enter into the eternal Sabbath-rest when the Lamb returns. The Epistle to the Hebrews makes it abundantly clear that we will not enter that Sabbath-rest by our own works. Hebrews 10 does tell us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together and says some pretty harsh things about those who do but it does not teach what the Westminster Confession and the Puritans teach in regards to Christian sabbatarianism.

The command to observe the sabbath day is fulfilled in principle in the worship of the Lamb on the Altar. Ultimately, if you view worship of the Lamb on the Altar as a commandment to be obeyed then you are breaking that commandment. Worship is receiving by faith what the Lamb gives. Worship of the Lamb doesn't make the Lamb any better and it doesn't earn you any points with the Lamb. Worship is for your benefit. The Lamb has rescued you from sin, death, and the power of the devil and now he gives you His Gospel in His Word and in His body and blood. Why would you even need anyone to command you to take these awesome gifts? Why wouldn't you want to carry this Word around with you every day?

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Third Word

Exodus 20:7 You shall not take up the name of Yahweh your God in emptiness, for Yahweh will not hold him guiltless who takes up His name in emptiness.

This commandment condemns all light use of God's name. It's difficult to find a television show or movie where this commandment is not broken--even in children's programming. On television words for things like dung which God's Word does not condemn are censored, but not the empty use of God's name. Children on the playground break this commandment when they make oaths over trivial matters and say "But I sware to God that it's true." Every day people lie in courts after taking oaths. Pastors and religious leaders break this commandment when they teach people false things about God. The teachers of religion break this commandment because they find the Lamb on the Altar offensive.

As you stand in horror at all the sinfulness around in the culture and even in the church, remember that you stand guilty of this commandment every day and every hour. Every time you commit sin, you show that you do not honor God's name. You call yourself a Christian but you do not live as a Christian--you take up the name lightly and falsely.

Yahweh does not take the breaking of this commandment lightly. Yahweh does not wink at this sin. Yahweh says He will not hold the person guiltless who misuses His name. You are worthy of God's temporal and eternal punishment for every single time you misused God's name.

The Lamb on the Altar bore the punishment for your misuse of God's name. The Lamb on the Altar suffered God's wrath for your blaphemies. Apart from the Lamb it is impossible to use God's name rightly. The Lamb on the Altar allows you to rightly use God's name in reverent worship and praise and supplication. The Lamb on the Altar has been given the name which is above every name (Phil. 2:9).

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Second Word

Exodus 20:3-6 You shall have no other gods before My face. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

Your mind is an idol factory. If you only had to contend with he temptation to worship wood and stone figures your life would be easy. However, your mind makes an idol out of everything. With your lips you confess that you worship God alone, but your mind and actions tell a different story. Money is the greatest American Idol of all time. With your lips you claim that you do not worship money, but what happens when gas prices go up? or food prices? or you lose your job? What happens when the stock market crashes? Why do you think that you would be happy and content if only you had just a little more? Yahweh does not say that we can have a collection of gods with Yahweh at the top. You shall have NO other gods before His face. You take the good gifts that Yahweh has given you and worship them. Family, work, and career become part of your idol collection. The modern church practices missiolatry. The church is constantly diverting its eyes from the worship of the Lamb on the Altar and engaging in idolatry.

From the time of the beginning of the New Testament church, the church argued over whether or not images could be made of Christ. One side argued that since the commandment prohibits making images of God and Jesus is God, we cannot make images of Jesus. The other side rightly pointed out that the prohibition existed because God had not taken any form when this commandment was written. God did take form in the incarnation.
Deuteronomy 4:15-19 Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when Yahweh spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth or the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground or the likeness of any fish that is in the water beneath the earth. And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the LORD your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage.
Philippians 2:7-8 Instead, He emptied Himself, by taking the form of a slave and being born like other human beings, and being recognized as a human being. He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Yahweh says He is a jealous God. Yahweh does not want us looking for help from anyone or anything but Him. Through the Lamb on the Altar He is the only one who can help us. Yahweh does not tolerate idolatry. Sins get passed down from generation to generation. But God's mercy is infinitely greater. The Lamb on the Altar is the ultimate expression of God's mercy and love. God's love is displayed towards all whose robes have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. The Lamb is the only one who has kept Yawheh's commandments.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The First Word

The First of the Ten Words (Commandments) is:

Exodus 20:2 I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of slavery.

The First Word says that God is not just some impersonal force. Yahweh is YOUR God. "Yahweh is your God" forms the basis for everything that follows in the Decalogue. Yahweh's claim upon you is both Law and Gospel. Because Yahweh is your God, you must be holy as He is holy. Because Yahweh is your God, He gets to make the rules. Because Yahweh is your God, you are worthy of Yahweh's temporal and eternal punishment for disobeying God's commandments. The Gospel is found in that because Yahweh is your God, He is also your deliverer who brought you out of the house of slavery through the Blood of the Lamb. The Israelites were slaves to the Egyptians. In the last plague, Yahweh delivered the Israelites from death through the blood of the Passover Lamb. Yahweh delivers you from death through the blood of Christ--your Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7). Through the death of the firstborn Egyptians, the Israelites were released from slavery to the Egyptians. Through the death of the Firstborn from the dead you are released from slavery to sin and death. Through the baptism in the Red Sea (1 Cor. 10:2), God freed the Israelites from their bondage to the Egyptians. Through the waters of holy baptism God saved you from bondage to sin, death, and the devil (1 Peter 3:21, Titus 3:5).

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dormition of the Theotokos

Today, the church celebrates the Dormition of the Theotokos--the falling asleep (death) of Mary the Mother of God. Rev. Weedon provides us with a wonderful meditation.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

An introduction to the Decalogue and the Lamb

The Ten Commandments are a summary of God's Law. The Ten Commandments are more literally the Ten Words. Scripture is clear that the Words are ten in number but does not say how to divide them. Jews, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic/Lutheran, and Protestants each have their own way of dividing the Ten Words. Here is a helpful table showing the differences. For reasons which may become more apparent when I explore the doctrine of Scripture, I will be following the Jewish method of division.
The Law has three uses. 1. The Law curbs sin in the civil realm. 2. The Law shows us our sin. 3. The law provides the Christian with a guide to regulate his life.
The first use of the law by itself doesn't save anyone from eternal damnation. The first use helps to maintain good order in society so that the Gospel can be preached freely. Also, the Law is still the Law. Disobedience against the law in the civil realm is disobedience against God. The Lamb paid for these civil sins because they are ultimately sins against God. The temporal punishments given out by earthly judges remind us that we will have to stand before the far more powerful Lamb who sits on the judgment throne.
The second use of the Law is the most important in Christian preaching--it drives us to the Lamb on the Altar. If God had not provided us with an explanation of His Law it would still be His Law, but we would be foolish enough to think that we are pretty good people. The Law shows us our need for the slain Lamb on the Altar. The second use of the Law shows us that we deserve God's temporal and eternal punishment.
The third use of the law is as a guide to Christian living and for doing good works to help our neighbor. We never attain perfection--we continually struggle against our sinful nature. We never outgrow our need for the second use of the law--we sin daily. But the blood of the Lamb works in us and we do grow ever so little in holiness. Through our growth we are driven back to the second use of the law as we become more and more aware of our own sin and more and more aware of our need for the Lamb on the Altar. Through the sacrifice of the Lamb on the Altar, in a relatively insignificant way we learn to sacrifice ourselves for our neighbor.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Doctrine of Man and the Lamb

The Lamb on the altar stands opposed to all the false ideas you have about yourself. The Lamb on the altar stands opposed to all religions. All religions teach that you can save yourself. All religions teach that you just need a little help in seeing who you really are. The Lamb on the altar shows that the problem is who you really are. By nature you're not just a little sick--you're dead! If you were just sick the Lamb would have just had to get a little sick to save you. The Lamb had to die for you to live. The Lamb on the altar shows you how bad your sins really are. You don't need a Purpose-Driven Life. You need the Life received from the Blood of the Lamb on the Altar. You don't need You're Best Life Now. You need the Lamb's Life Now!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mystery, Paradox, and the Lamb

Our language is limited. You can only study theological matters so much and then you just have to stand back in awe. The Lamb on the Altar doesn't really make sense. The Lamb is conquering by being slaughtered. Is this a mystery? A mystery can usually be solved by gathering clues and and piecing them together. Paul uses the term "mystery" in reference to the Lamb on the altar in Romans 16 and elsewhere. Paul says that the mystery has been revealed. Certainly the mystery of how God would save has been revealed but we are still left with the question of "Why?" Why would God want to save us miserable sinners?

The modern church doesn't really care about the Lamb on the altar. All of the major controversies in the early church dealt with who the Lamb on altar. Is he man? Is He God? Is He half-man and half-God? These questions were not abstract questions only significant to men in ivory towers. These questions were asked because they deal with our salvation. How can the Lamb save us if the Lamb is not fully God and fully man? The church rightly confessed on the basis of Scripture that the Lamb is fully God and fully man. The church rightly taught on the basis of Scripture that these two natures are united but not mixed and not confused. Every Christian ought to believe this but can any Christian fully understand it?

After the controversy as to the identity of the Lamb was settled, the church debated the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Are they subordinate to one another? Is the Holy Spirit even a person? Is the Son inferior to the Father? Once again, these questions are all tied to our slavation. Once again, the church on the basis of Scripture and the tradition handed down by the Apostles confessed that God is one in being (or essence) and three in person. The debate continues to this day as to how of these terms is to be understood. A modalistic god that is just one person with three modes of existance would be much easier to understand. A modalistic god fits into our brains alot easier. But Scripture is clear that God is one in being and three in person. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, etc. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God (not just a third of God) and yet there are not three Gods but one God. Every Christian must confess this but what Christian can completely understand it? This is not really a mystery. God has revealed Himself as one in being and three in person. There's no mystery to solve. It's not really a paradox. God is one and God is three but He is not one in the same way that He is three. I suppose we could call it a veridical paradox and that might make us sound smart but I don't think that would help us understand God any better. The problem is not in the revelation that God has provided us. The problem lies in our own inability to comprehend it.

The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most neglected teachings in the church. It's neglected because we can never fully explain it and we don't like things that we can't fully understand. But could a god that we could fully understand ever be able to save us? The doctrine of the Trinity is a necessary starting point for an understanding of all other aspects of theology. It's easy to start with the doctrine of election or the doctrine of eschatology and find inventive ways to twist passages to fit your system and make pretty graphs and maps. It's impossible to do this with the doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity and the Lamb on the Altar force you to recognize how insufficient and stupid you really are. When you look to the Trinity you are forced to affirm what Scripture teaches and deny what Scripture denies without being able to fully comprehend how it works. Since the doctrine of the Trinity provides a foundation for the rest of theology you must do the same with the rest of theology. You can't make soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) fit into a convenient box where everything makes sense in your head. All salvation starts with the Triune God and the Lamb on the Altar.

God is love. God is love within Himself. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father. Why would the Father sacrifice His only-begotten Son whom He loves for you? He loves you. But why?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

What is at the center?

In astronomy, whether a person believes that the solar system (or universe) is heliocentric(centered around the sun) or geocentric (centered around the earth) or none of the above will greatly affect their understanding of the solar system (or universe) as a whole.

Think of a bicycle wheel. What would happen if you moved the location of the hub from the center to somewhere on one of the spokes? The bike would not function properly at all.

The same is true of theology and worship. "We just preach the Bible" doesn't work in real life. Everybody worships and preaches with something at the center. The center may be there consciously, unconsciously, or subconsciously. The center may even change from day to day. But you can't avoid the center!

Left to our own devices we could develop an infinite number of centers: the covenant, eschatology, the nation of Israel, moral teaching, etc. But praise be to God that he tells us where to find the center. God's Word tells us that Jesus Christ crucified must be the central point of all preaching:

1 Corinthians 2:2 For I did not resolve to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and this [Jesus Christ] crucified.

Failure to preach a crucified Christ is antichristian preaching. We also learn from Jesus Christ Himself that all of the Scriptures are about Him.

NKJV Luke 24:44-46 Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. 46 Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day..."

Jesus Christ crucified is the central theme of all of Scripture and ALL of the Scriptures are about Jesus. Failure to recognize that ALL of the Scriptures are about Jesus results in a failure to comprehend the Scriptures.

NKJV John 5:39-40 "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 "But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

Apart from Christ, the Scriptures bring death.

The same is true of worship. Worship must be centered upon Jesus Christ crucified. From the book of Genesis through Revelation we learn that true worship is centered upon the Lamb on the Altar--the crucified Christ.

NKJV Genesis 4:1-5 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, "I have acquired a man from the LORD." 2 Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

The offering of Cain was the offering of his own works to God. Cain worked hard to till the ground and bring forth fruit. God has no need for our good works. God is not benefitted by anything that we do. In true worship faith receives God's good gifts. God is the giver and we are the receiver. We are benefited by worship, not God. Abel offered up what God had given to him. Abel did no work to make the lamb. God made the lamb.

NKJV Exodus 12:3-11 "Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: 'On the tenth day of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. 4 'And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man's need you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 'Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 'Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. 7 'And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. 8 'Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 'Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire -- its head with its legs and its entrails. 10 'You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire. 11 'And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD's Passover.

In the Passover we find the lamb on the altar again. Each household was told to eat the lamb. Through the worship in the Passover, the Israelites were fed by God. God was not fed by the Israelites.

NKJV 1 Corinthians 5:7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.

Christ is our Passover lamb.

Revelation 5:6-13 And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living beings, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, being sent out into all the earth. 7 And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. 8 And when He took the book, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one of the elders holding a harp, and golden bowls filled with incenses, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sing a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the book, And to open its seals; Because You were slain, And purchased us for God by the price of Your blood From every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10 And made them kings and priests to our God; And they will reign upon the earth." 11 And I looked, and I heard as it were a voice of many angels around the throne and the living beings and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousands of ten thousands, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a great voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive the power and the wealth and wisdom, And might and honor and glory and blessing!" 13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and the things in them, I heard all saying: "To Him who sits upon the throne, And to the Lamb, Is the blessing and the honor and the glory and the dominion Forever and ever. Amen!"

Revelation 7:9-17 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one was able to number, from every nation, and all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and they cry out with a great voice, saying: "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" 11 And all the angels stood around the throne, and around the elders and the four living beings, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, 12 saying: "Amen! The blessing and the glory and the wisdom and the thanksgiving and the honor and the power and the might, Belong to our God forever and ever. Amen." 13 And one of the elders answered, saying to me, "These who are clothed in white robes, who are they and where did they come from?" 14 And I said to him, "My lord, you know." And he said to me, "These are those coming from the great tribulation, and they washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 For this reason they are before the throne of God and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits upon the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. 16 They will neither hunger anymore, nor will they thirst anymore; nor by any means will the sun smite them, nor any scorching heat; 17 because the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shepherds them, and He will lead them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

In Revelation we find that the Lamb on the altar is still the central focus of all true worship. Worship is centered around the Lamb and recounts the deeds that the Lamb has accomplished. Worship is not centered around our emotions or what we do or plan to do. Worship is all centered around the Lamb!

In future posts I hope to explore the various topics of theology and how they relate to the central theme of the Lamb on the Altar.