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To view original article, please click on the following link: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/what-have-you-done/

 

by David VanDrunen

Get a group of conservative Christians together and before long someone will probably express shock at the latest evidence of cultural decline: “Can you believe what they did?” It’s not nearly as common in such settings for someone to say, “Well, of course outrageous things happen in society — we’re all a bunch of rotten sinners.”

From a biblical perspective, perhaps what is really surprising is not how morally corrupt things can be but how well they often turn out. Many societies have legal, economic, and healthcare systems that, however imperfect, provide tremendous benefits for large numbers of people. Given the moral state of humanity — “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5) — this is remarkable.

Christians have appealed to several theological concepts to explain the existence of these wholesome aspects of human culture. By His providence God works out good results from wicked human intentions. God’s common grace restrains the full outbreak of evil and showers many non-saving blessings upon human life. And many Christian theologians have pointed to natural law to explain the moral instincts and insights of so many non-Christians. Natural law is simply an aspect of natural revelation. God reveals Himself and His moral law in the structure of the created order, including human nature itself as it reflects the image of God. Natural law does not reveal the gospel and has no power to regenerate fallen human hearts. Though natural law does not save, it does press God’s moral claims upon the conscience of all people, even those unaware of God’s revelation in Scripture.

The New Testament refers to Christians as “sojourners and exiles” in this world (1 Peter 1:1, 17; 2:11). By God’s grace in Christ we are already citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), but we live temporarily away from home, “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” (Phil. 2:15). Natural law must surely play an important role as we seek to live “peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18) in such a world.

Though Scripture never uses the term “natural law,” it refers to the concept of natural law on all sorts of occasions. Some of the most interesting and relevant occur in the stories about the patriarchs in Genesis. When the New Testament calls us “sojourners,” it points us back to the experience of the patriarchs, the original “sojourners” (Gen. 12:10; 15:13; 20:1; 21:34; 23:4). The patriarchs were believers in the true God, living amidst pagans and without a true home in this world. Scripture wishes us to learn something about our life in the present world by observing the patriarchs in their world. How did the reality of natural law shape their sojourn?

The fascinating encounter between Abraham and the pagan king Abimelech in Genesis 20 is an illuminating example. Fearing for his own life when he entered Gerar, Abraham announced that his wife Sarah was his sister, and Abimelech promptly took Sarah for himself. Informed by God that Sarah was Abraham’s wife, Abimelech confronts Abraham: “What have you done to us?” (v. 9). The pagan king is apparently shocked by this reckless disregard for marriage. He accuses Abraham: “You have done to me things that ought not to be done” (v. 9). Abraham replies, “I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place” (v. 11). As it turns out, Abraham was wrong. These pagans actually did fear God (in some sense) and understood that people should not do certain things to one another. Natural law had impressed fundamental moral truths upon their consciences.

There are certainly things to learn from this story that are relevant for Christian sojourners today. First, natural law gives unbelievers a sense of moral boundaries that people simply should not cross. Even pagans like Abimelech are sometimes appalled when such boundaries are transgressed. This should provide encouragement and remind us that it is possible to have meaningful moral conversations with unbelievers.

Second, people often transgress these moral boundaries, though they know better, and this can bring great hardship for believers. Jacob’s daughter Dinah was raped by a pagan prince, though “such a thing must not be done” (Gen. 34:7). Sodom and Gomorrah grossly violated social propriety and Lot was forced to flee (Gen. 19). Natural law will never usher in utopia. We should be sober-minded with respect to this world and remember to set our hearts upon the city that is to come (Heb. 13:14).

Third, believers themselves, sadly, sometimes transgress fixed moral boundaries. Abraham and Isaac tried the wife-sister stunt three times and were rightly rebuked by pagans on each occasion (Gen. 12:18; 20:9; 26:9–10). In response to cultural decline, Christians can be self-righteously quick to denounce others for moral degeneracy. But we are often the ones who do terrible things, and we shouldn’t think that unbelievers don’t notice. Christian sojourners should live with circumspection and humility. We must always remember that our own true righteousness is not of ourselves but is a gift of Christ to which we cling by faith.

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Dr. David VanDrunen is Robert B. Strimple Professor of systematic theology and Christian ethics at Westminster Seminary California. He is contributor to By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification.  

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By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

(From: Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution)

Out of the Jewish leadership of Jesus’ day had risen teachers of the law who did not know what the law meant. Jesus found himself saying things like ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?’ ( John 3:10 ESV). Some of the teachers had lost all sense of biblical proportion, ‘straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!’ (Matt 23:24 ESV). And as they lost their bearings, they came under Jesus’ most serious charge: ‘You have made void the word of God’ (Matt 15:6 ESV).

Emotionally, Jesus’ response was a sinless combination of grief and anger. ‘He looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart’ (Mark 3:5 ESV). Why both anger and grief?

The anger was because people were being hurt – eternally. These teachers were supposed to know what the word of God meant, but instead Jesus said they were ‘like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing’ it (Luke 11:44 ESV). This made Jesus angry. Their job was to teach what God had said. Instead, they were blind guides and were leading others with them into the ditch. Jesus loved people. Therefore, he was angry with professional teachers who imperiled people with biblical blunders.

But Jesus was not only angry; he was ‘grieved at their hardness of heart’. These were his kinsmen. These were the leaders of his people. These were the representatives of the Jerusalem he loved and wept over. ‘Would that you . . . had known . . . the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes’ (Luke 19:42). The condition of their heart and the blindness of their eyes were a grief to Jesus.

This is how I feel today about teachers of Christ’s people who deny and even belittle precious, life-saving, biblical truth. When a person says that God’s ‘punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed’ would be as evil as child abuse, I am angered and grieved. For if God did not punish his Son in my place, I am not saved from my greatest peril, the wrath of God.

In part, I write this foreword to defend my Father’s wrath against me before I was adopted. He does not need my defence. But I believe he would be honoured by it. On behalf of my Father, then, I would like to bear witness to the truth that, before he adopted me, his terrible wrath rested upon me. Jesus said, ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey . . . the wrath of God remains on him’ (John 3:36; italics added). Wrath remains on us as long as there is no faith in Jesus.

Paul puts it like this: We ‘were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind’ (Eph. 2:3). My very nature made me worthy of wrath. My destiny was to endure ‘flaming fire’ and ‘vengeance on those . . . who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus . . . [and who] suffer the punishment of eternal destruction’ (2 Thess. 1:8-9 ESV). I was not a son of God. God was not my Father. He was my judge and executioner. I was ‘dead in . . . trespasses and sins’, one of the ‘sons of disobedience’ (Eph. 2:1-2 ESV). And the sentence of my Judge was clear and terrifying: ‘because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience’ (Eph. 5:5 ESV; italics added).

There was only one hope for me – that the infinite wisdom of God might make a way for the love of God to satisfy the wrath of God so that I might become a son of God.

This is exactly what happened, and I will sing of it forever. After saying that I was by nature a child of wrath, Paul says, ‘But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ’ (Eph. 2:4-5 ESV). What a grievous blindness when a teacher in the church writes that the term ‘children of wrath’ cannot mean ‘actual objects of God’s wrath . . . [because] in the same breath they are described as at the same time objects of God’s love’. On the contrary. This is the very triumph of the love of God. This is the love of God – the ‘great love with which he loved us’. It rescued me from his wrath and adopted me into sonship.

‘But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son . . . to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons’ (Gal. 4:4 ESV). God sent his Son to rescue me from his wrath and make me his child.

How did he do it? He did it in the way one writer slanderously calls ‘cosmic child abuse’. God’s Son bore God’s curse in my place. ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”’ (Gal. 3:13 ESV; italics added). If people in the twenty-first century find this greatest act of love ‘morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith’, it was not different in Paul’s day. ‘We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles’ (I Cor. 1:23 ESV; italics added).

But for those who are called by God and believe in Jesus, this is ‘the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (I Cor. 1:24 ESV). This is my life. This is the only way God could become my Father. Now that his wrath no longer rests on me (John 3:36), he has sent the Spirit of sonship flooding into my heart crying Abba, Father (Rom. 8:15). I thank you, heavenly Father, with all my heart, that you saved me from your wrath. I rejoice to measure your love for me by the magnitude of the wrath I deserved and the wonder of your mercy by putting Christ in my place.

Those who try to rescue the love of God by minimizing the wrath of God, undermine not only the love of God, but also his demand that we love our enemies. It is breathtaking to hear one of them say, ‘If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies, and to refuse to repay evil with evil.’ Those are deadly words, which, if they held sway, would take enemy love out of the world.

Why? Because Paul said that counting on the final wrath of God against his enemies is one of the crucial warrants for why we may not return evil for evil. It is precisely because we may trust the wisdom of God to apply his wrath justly that we must leave all vengeance to him and return good for evil. ‘Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him”’ (Rom. 12:19-20 ESV). If God does not show wrath, sooner or later we shall take justice into our own hands. But God says, ‘Don’t. I will see to it.’

Every section of this book yields another reason to thank God for the labours of the authors and for IVP in Britain. I pray that the Lord will give the book success in the defence and honour of God, and that Jesus Christ will be treasured all the more fully when he is seen more clearly to be Pierced for our Transgressions.

 

This book is important not only because it deals so competently with what lies at the heart of Christ’s cross work, but because it responds effectively to a new generation of people who are not listening very carefully to what either Scripture or history says.”
D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

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Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit – Psalm 32:1-2

The heading for this psalm says it’s a maskil of David.  Whether this is a musical or a liturgical term, both are true as this song embodies a form of worship to the Lord who alone can forgive sin.  Man, in his fallen nature, can somehow bestow upon another human being a certain type or amount of forgiveness but it infinitely falls short of the glory of the one true forgiving God. We were not told of any particular sin here but sin is sin nonetheless regarding of its type, and it ultimately is a transgression against God.  Psalm 51:4 tells to whom do we sin  ultimately,

 Against You , You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.”

Reading Psalm 32, we are informed on the following: 

  • (v.1-2) the blessedness of the God-forgiven man,
  • (v.3-4) the burden of unconfessed sin that weighs so heavily upon the soul and body,
  • (v.5) sincere acknowledgement of sin and promised forgiveness received,
  • (v. 6) the sin-liberated man’s call to everyone to seek the Lord before judgment day,
  • (v. 7) freedom from judgment for those who sought the Lord (followed perhaps by a moment of reflection as suggested by selah which is already an unknown term today),
  • (v.8-9) God leads the steps of the forgiven man (through the Word),
  • (v.10) contrasting situation between the unrepentant person and the forgiven man, and
  • (v.11) the rejoicing unto God of the one whose sin has been removed.

Note that the word transgression is singular as in many cases in the New Testament which uses sin. Man is always called through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to repent from their sin.  The two-fold implication of the singular form sin has to do with man, firstly as being sinful, and then his sins.  It is worth repeating here that man sins because he is a sinner;  his sinful actions are a proof of his fallen nature. By nature, he is a slave to sin hence the thoughts of his heart and his deeds are continually evil in God’s eyes.  Anyone who disagrees will only have to hear what Lord says about humanity in Genesis 6:5 (continually evil), Matthew 7:11 (who are evil), and no one does good nor counted righteous in the sight of God (Psalm 14:1-3; Romans 3:11-12)

With our fallen nature touching every facet of our lives and the consequential living charaterized by sin, we are truly in a wretched state. But blessed is the man whose sin God does not count against and the solution is, and will always be, outside ourselves.  God who is just is also the justifier (Romans 3:26).  He condemned us yet  He provided the atonement (Psalm 65:3) through His Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 2:8). Through God the Son alone is the blessing graciously granted and received by faith in Him and His finished work on the cross of Calvary.

Not only does forgiveness in Christ Jesus sets us free from the slavery of sin, condemnation and judgment, but also sets us free to seek Him continuously, to understand the Word and be led by the  Holy Spirit  to walk in the path of righteous living, and to live in continual fruitful repentance.

Today, the world pursues blessings and you hear people left and right talk about it. And hey, we even receive emails that commands you to ‘pass this message to 10 people and you will be blessed’, which to the discerning heart is a form of sorcery.  But the world is only after its own lust, always giving itself to pursuit of earthly pleasures rather than God. Wordly blessings are not only measured in fame, health and wealth but wickedness that sinful humanity so hotly pursue.  A fornicator considers his partner a blessing.  A beauty queen considers her scantily-clad body paraded before the world her blessing. A successful singer consider his voice a blessing while songs so devoid of godliness are sung for all to hear. The successful CEO considers his business a blessing even as he abandons every conduct of honesty and integrity. Every person considers his earthly freedom a blessing even though each one rejects the only true spiritual liberation Jesus Christ can give.   All humanity considers its growing unity their blessing even when they have all together ignored and sneered at the Gospel of  Jesus Christ. All these will perish and become meaningless in the face of eternity.  God’s Word tell us plainly that the world and its desires will perish (1 John 2:17).

But to the one who repents and has faith in Jesus Christ, he is the truly blessed person, whose sin God remembers no more (Isaiah 43:25) –

I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

Indeed this is the blessing that exceedingly matters.  May God bless you in His Son.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace…” – Ephesians 1:7

 

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