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Archive for February, 2007

How Do You Approach Theology?

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In Robert Reymond’s New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith he begins his section on the Doctrine of God with a quote from Donald Macleod. Maclead states:
“God is not simply a great sight, the object of speculative curiosity. The revelation of His glory and the whole theological process which legitimately follows from it is holy ground. We cannot stand as superiors over God or His Word. We may not coldly and detachedly analyse and collate the great self-revealing deeds and utterances of Jehovah. We may not theologise without emotion and commitment. The doctrine must thrill and exhilarate. It must humble and cast down. . . . Theology has lost its way, and, indeed its very soul, if it cannot say with John, “I fell at his feet as dead: (Rev. 1:17).”

I am frightened that indeed with us, a majority of the time, theology has lost its way among us because of the way we approach it. I fear that a great amount of time studying these things is for the purpose of staying up to par with others, wanting to prove to people that we are knowledgable in the “things of God” and His word, or wanting to better prove an argument. I myself have often approached theology with a heart that simply wants to show others that I am knowledgeable and do not just hold positions blindly. Now I know we should be able to go to scripture and show others why we believe what we say and practice, and that we should not ever hold a position blindly, but a question remains.

Do we really realize who we are dealing with when we study theology? Does who what we study enrapture and change us? We are dealing with the great, sovereign, holy God of all that ever was, is, or will be! We do not come to some finite person in history who did great things and was gone and now we can talk and learn about him. We come to the God who before anything as we know it was, existed eternally in perfect, loving relationship with Himself. The Father gave the eternal Son a bride, and the Son with the same will as the Father knew He would pay the bride price and buy her with His blood, bearing the sins of his people upon Himself and being crushed by the wrath of the Father for those sins. The Holy Spirit with the same perfect will knew he would come and regenerate the hard hearts of these people and give them faith in Himself. He has chosen a people, but he has not chosen them to be people who sit in front of a book proclaiming things about Himself and walk away as if it were nothing special. As John Piper has said, “God must be heralded, not just analysed and explained.”

This great God has revealed Himself to us in His word. He has also given us many people in history and currently to learn from. We must not waste this treasure in front of us by coming to it with wrong hearts and motives. The doctrines much change us, down to the very way we live our lives. Whether we are studying the doctrine of God, the work of Christ, the church, man, sin, the atonement, anything that the scriptures reveal to us, we must all seek to come with hearts that long for God and to be changed by Him. Theology must cease to be purely academic.

We will wholeheartedly agree that God is omnipresent, but do we act as if He is with us when we do all things? Do you live in the light that even as you read this you are in the presence of the one Holy God?
We will fight for the truth that God is sovereign over all things, but does this affect the way we pray? Does this affect how we react to all of the circumstances in our lives? When things don’t come about how we want or expect, do we believe this?

This kind of application should take place with every bit of Scripture, and any other book that helps to explain and apply it.
This can only happen by the power of God, so let us pray that we would be a people who are truly changed and exhilarated with the amazing truths that we learn about our great God, and all that he has revealed to us. This is a struggle I am sure we all have, so let us spur one another on to live this way, seeking to know God and His word more fully, and all to His glory. We must be always finding ourselves echoing the words of Paul:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor? (Rom. 11:33-34)

(P.S. Thank you all for bearing with me, as I am not that great of a writer. I hope to improve in this and pray the Lord helps me to do so. Any helpful suggestions are fully welcomed. Love you guys.)

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Wisdom from Bunyan

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This is a great excerpt from The Pilgrim’s Progress that I found helpful. Let us spur each other on to beneficial conversation.

FAITH. “Friend, whither away? Are you going to the heavenly country?”
TALK. “I am going to that same place.”
FAITH. “That is well. Then I hope we may have your good company.”
TALK. “With a very good will will I be your companion.”
FAITH. “Come on then, and let us go togethor, and let us spend our time in
discoursing of things that are profitable.”
TALK. “To talk of things that are good to me is very acceptable, with you
or with any other; and I am glad that I have met with those that incline to so
good a work. For to speak the truth, there are but few that care thus to spend
their time (as they are in their travels) but choose much rather to be speaking
of things to no profit, and this hath been a trouble to me.”
FAITH. “That is indeed a thing to be lamented; for what things so worthy
of the use of the tongue and mouth of men on earth, as are the things of the
God of Heaven?”
TALK.”I like you wonderful well, for your saying is full of conviction; and I will add,
what thing so pleasant and what so profitable, as to talk of the things of God?
“What things so pleasant (that is, if a man hath any delight in things that are
wonderful)? For instance, if a man doth delight to talk of the historyor the mystery
of things, or if a man doth love to talk of miracles, wonders, or signs, where
shall he find things recorded so delightful, and so sweetly penned, as in the
Holy Scripture?”
FAITH. “That’s true; but to be profited by such things in our talk, should be that
which we design.”
TALK. “What is it that I said; for to talk of such things is most profitable, for by so
doing, a man may get knowledge of many things, as of the vanity of earthly things,
and the benefit of things above. Thus in general but more particularly, by this a man
may learn the necessity of the new birth, the insufficiency of our works, the need
of Christ’s righteousness, etc. Besides, by this a man may learn by talk, what it is
to repent, to believe, to pray, to suffer, or the like; by this also a man may learn
what are the great promises and consolations of the Gospel, to his own comfort.
Further, by this a man may learnto refute false opinions, to vindicate the truth,
and also to instruct the ignorant.”
FAITH. “All this is true, and glad am I to hear these things from you.”
TALK. “Alas! The want of this is the cause that so few understand the need of
faith and the necessity of a work of grace in their soul in order to eternal life,
but ignorantly live in the works of the law, by which a man can by no means
obtain the Kingdom of Heaven.”
FAITH. “But, by your leave, heavenly knowledge of these is the gift of God; no
man attaineth to them by humane industry or only by the talk of them.”
TALK. “All this I know very well. For a man can receive nothing except it be
given him from Heaven; all is of grace, not of works. I could give you an
hundred scriptures for the confirmation of this.”
FAITH. “Well then,” said Faithful, “what is that one thing that we shall at this
time found our discourse upon?”
TALK. “What you will. I will talk of things heavenly or things earthly, things
moral or things evangelical, things sacred or things profane, things past or
things to come, things foreign or things at home, things more essential
or things circumstantial, provided that all be done to our profit.”

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Psalm 77

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1: I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me.
2: In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night
my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul
refuses to be comforted.
3: When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints.
Selah

Verses 1-3 reveal to us Asaph’s groanings on this day of trouble. Let us see how he begins this song.

Verse 1 – He begins with crying aloud to God. He does not turn to man, or to money, or to the comforts of women or food, but he belts his cry out to his God and trusts in Him to hear. We must each look at God’s word here as a mirror and see ourselves in light of it. In our “day of trouble”(v2), what do we turn to? I myself can say that sometimes I immediately turn to the Lord, but the vast majority of times I immediately turn to my own flesh and what I, another person, or some other plastic thing can do for the situation.

Verse 2 – During this day of distress and trouble he sought the Lord, and his hands were outstretched without getting tired, showing that “his prayer ceased not, but with uplifted hand he continued to seek succour of his God.” His soul refused all comforts, both the comforts of this world and the comforts which he should have known, and will know soon enough.

Verse 3-“When I remember God, I moan.” I must quote Spurgeon here: “He who is the wellspring of delight to faith became an object of dread to the Psalmist’s distracted heart. The justice, holiness, power, and truth of God have all a dark side, and indeed all the attributives may be made to look black upon us if our eye be evil; even the brightness of divine love blinds us, and fills us with a horrible suspicion that we have neither part nor lot in it.”

4: You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that
I cannot speak.
5:I consider the days of old, the years long ago.
6: I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search:
7: “Will the Lord spurn forever,and never again be favorable?
8: Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
9: Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah

Verses 4-9
These verses continue the despair, with the writer stating that he is so troubled that he does not sleep, or speak. He continues to dwell on the fact that God is now not being favorable to him, and he is not feeling any peace.
Personally, I have had many days where I have felt this way. Where I feel as if God is not even a present reality, and that even if I struggle to pray it just goes into the walls of my closet and not anywhere else.

10: Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11: I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12: I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
13: Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
14: You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
15: You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

Verses 10-15
What an amazing turning point for us in this psalm.

Verse 10-11: In the midst of this despair, this trouble and fear that makes Asaph shut is mouth and not sleep in agony, he decides to appeal to what the Lord has done. He begins to remember what the Lord has done instead of keeping his focus on himself and his own agony, because God is better. This is a great lesson for me, that in the midst of even the greatest despair I can, and should bring my mind back to what our great God has done in the past.

Verses 12-13: Not only does he bring his mind back to what the Lord has done, but he chooses to even ponder and meditate on them, spending much time dwelling on the past great acts of his faithful God. After, and while pondering on these things he concludes that there is nothing like God, and he alone is holy, separated from all other things in all of his attributes.

Verse 14-15: This God is not weak, not a God who is not impressive. This God has made himself known as powerful among many peoples. And what else to conclude this section, but that he is the God who has redeemed his people!

16: When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
indeed, the deep trembled.
17: The clouds poured out water;
the skies gave forth thunder;
your arrows flashed on every side.
18: The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
19: Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
20: You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Verses 16-20: Here again, he is meditating on what God has done. He had done great works in the earth to bring about the redemption of his people Israel. This is a powerful God who shakes the earth and causes the deep the tremble yet remains unseen.
This psalm ends abrubtly, not with Asaph saying that he was comforted greatly by dwelling on these things that God has done, or it ending in a praise of how he now feels incredibly happy because of what the Lord has done in the past. He simply ends it with his meditation on what God did.

Application:
We as Christians must be sure to apply what Asaph portray’s in this psalm. In the midst of his despair, even the deepest despair of feeling that the Lord is angry at him and not in favor of him, Asaph chooses to dwell on the mighty work God has done in the past. He dwells on what God has done, even when it when previously his thoughts of God were not pleasant to him.
What do we turn to in our times such as this, or any type of heartwrenching struggle that we face? Do we turn to ourselves and our own grief, dwelling on our situation alone and disregarding God while doing it? Do we shop? Do we watch television or go on the internet and ignore it? Or do we take how we feel and the situation and dwell on the great things the Lord has done?

What has he done for us? He has redeemed his people and led them as his flock!

We as God’s people now are able to read this in light of the coming of the promised Messiah. If you be in Christ, you can now dwell on what he has done for you as his bride. Take comfort that not only has Christ been raised from the dead and seated with the Father in the heavenly places, but we have also been raised from the dead and have been seated with Christ as well (Ephesians 1:20, 2:6)! Look at what has been done for you! He has taken his Father’s wrath upon himself that you deserve, his life is counted as yours, his righteousness is imputed to you, and one day you will stand before the Father not only sinless, but righteous with the righteousness of Christ! It is finished! It is completed! The Father looks upon you with pleasure, inspite of who you are all because of how great His Son is! Now, let us as God’s people take what we know God has done, from Genesis to Revelation, from the Exodus of Israel to your sin’s being paid for by Jesus, and dwell on all his great works in our times of great struggle.

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