Friday, October 30, 2009

God is the Gospel: The Power of God Unto Sanctification

This post is working double duty. First, it's the final post in the series in which I've commented on John Piper's God is the Gospel. But also it fits nicely with what I've been talking about in the series on Regeneration. Specifically, the last two posts (one, and two) have talked about how the root of our spiritual death is that we can't see things for what they are, and that the giving of spiritual life is the giving of the spiritual light necessary to see Reality; namely, that Christ is utterly and incomparably glorious.

That's our justification. This post shows the implications of the nature of our justification on the nature of our sanctification. It shows a great continuity between how we begin to see and believe in Christ, and how we become more like Him as we progress in our Christian life.

A Personal Introduction

The doctrine of sanctification has been of great interest to me since I became a Christian. Once I believed, I knew that things weren't over. I never had the idea: "Well, I'm saved now. I'm in the door. No need to do anything else! I'm set!" Not at all. My first thought was, "Well, what now?" I was wondering how I was supposed to live my life now that I was a Christian -- now that my life was entirely different. How was I to relate to people? How was I to hang out with my friends? How should my conversations with my parents change? How should this affect my (then-teenage) romantic interests? I read the Bible, so I knew that I was supposed to obey Christ (Luke 9:23-26, 14:25-35; John 14:15, 21, 23).

And so I started in with the efforts of reforming myself. Many aspects of my life changed, even if not immediately. But very quickly, I became very good at telling other Christians (usually those my age) what to do. See, I read the Bible. I knew what was required of me. But by and large I had never seen the kind of obedience the Bible prescribes wrought in anyone around me. And so here I was, a new Christian, looking for some direction from those who'd been Christians longer than I had. My thought process was, "Be ye therefore holy, for I want to be holy, too!"

Anyway, by God's grace I began seeing my sin in all areas of my life. And I wanted to do something about it. So I'd recognize it, realize it shouldn't be there, confess it, pray, ask for freedom from it, and I began to focus my efforts on rooting it out. And to make a long story only a bit shorter, that was a constant thing for me, even with the same sins. And I'd feel terrible about it. I mean terrible. Like, "How can I keep sinning so grievously like this, after all Jesus has done for me? Doesn't He deserve more than this? Aren't I supposed to be a new creature (2Cor 5:17)? Hasn't the old self been crucified (Rom 6:6)? Isn't 1 John 3:8 true?
'No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God'? If so, am I even a Christian?"

And so my Christian life went on like that for years, seemingly without freedom from particular besetting sins. I wanted to be more like Christ, and it seemed like I was trying everything to make it happen, but there I'd find myself confessing the same sins over and over again.

The problem with the way I was going about my sanctification, friends, is that I wasn't seeking to cut off sin at the root, but only at the fruit. The reason why I kept sinning in the same ways for long periods of time was because in my heart I still loved those sins. I still desired them. They still looked really good to me. But even though I loved my sins, I knew I wasn't supposed to do them. And so I was enslaved. My Christianity was: "Don't do anything you like to do; and do other things that you don't like doing." And I thought, "Well, that's my 'cross to bear.' If God wants me to be miserable, so be it. I've got to do this for Him after all He's done for me." I was a Pharisee. Just a real bad Pharisee. I was trying to work out my sanctification in my own power and by my own efforts. I was trying to prune the external without attacking my sin at the level of my desires. And I wasn't even good at it.

The Remedy: Discovering the Motivation and Means of Sanctification

Things began to change in my thinking about the Christian life, sanctification, and how I'm to go about pleasing my Lord, by a number of Providences that I'm extremely grateful for. Good preaching, John Owen's Mortification of Sin, John 6, Piper's sermon series on Romans 6 through 8, and a flood of tremendous Biblical fellowship all seemed to invade my life at the same time. I began to see how I was going about my sanctification all wrong. And in God Is the Gospel, Piper explains how the notion 'God-is-the-Gospel' revolutionizes our approach to the Christian life.

On page 90, he says:
The gospel is central not only in conversion but also in the ongoing transformation of believers. Understanding the decisive purpose of the gospel as the revelation of the glory of Christ is the biblical key to Christian holiness.
So the things we've said in this series about the Gospel as it relates to our justification all relate in an essential way to our sanctification. Our justification came to us by grace and through faith. There was a revelation of the glory of God (John 1:14, 16; 2:11) as presented through His Word (Rom 10:17; 1Pet 1:23-25; Jas 1:18). And by His grace our eyes were opened! And we saw the most beautiful thing we had ever seen! And we said, "I want Him!" And in that moment all our sin looked so paltry. All its resplendent luster was like the grayest of clouds, and the Sun was shining on us in all the fullness of Its brightness! And so we believed in Him, and were saved! Praise God!

But what Piper is saying now, is that key to our justification is the very same key to our holiness. He continues:
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18)

The pathway to Christ-likeness is "beholding the glory of the Lord" (2Cor 3:18). Beholding is becoming. We are transformed "into the ... image" of the Lord by means of fixing our attention on His glory. (p. 90)
Grasp what Paul is saying in this passage. We, beholding the glory of Jesus, are being transformed into that image of glory. The method of becoming conformed to the image of Christ, is to look at that image! He goes on:
We are transformed into Christ's image -- that's what sanctification is -- by steadfast seeing and savoring of the glory of Christ. ... This is the work of the Spirit: to shine the light of truth on the glory of Christ so that we see it for what it really is, namely, infinitely precious. The work of the Holy Spirit in changing us is not to work directly on our bad habits but to make us admire Jesus Christ so much that sinful habits feel foreign and distasteful. (p. 91)
Oh let that land on you, Christian! The work of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying us is not to work directly on our bad habits! His work is not behavior modification! Instead, His work is to "shine the light of truth on the glory of Christ so that we see it for what it really is." You see? Our problem is that we don't see correctly. The nature of our flesh is to look at something glorious and be unaffected or unmoved, but then to look at something disgusting and be ignited with pleasure. Oh how pitiful a condition!

And so the way to holiness is to have our eyes fixed, not by reforming my behavior from the outside in. Sanctification is by grace, the same way justification is. Reality is that we all worship what is most pleasing to us. Grace in sanctification is increasing my spiritual eyesight to see Christ with greater precision, accuracy, and clarity, so that He looks like He actually is: more pleasing, delightful, and enticing than all my sin!
This is crucial to understand. It shows how Christ-exalting the Holy Spirit is. He will not do His sanctifying work by the use of His direct divine power. He will only do it by making the glory of Christ the immediate cause of it. This is the way He works in evangelism, and this is the way He works in sanctification. (p. 91)
And this is in total accord with how Jesus said the Spirit would work: "He will glorify Me"! The Spirit works, riding the coattails of the glory of Christ. He will not work without it. Just like people don't get ::zap!:: saved!, -- but rather there are means to salvation (i.e., the preaching of the Word, Rom 10:17; 1Pet 1:23-25) -- neither do we get ::zap!:: sanctified!. The Holy Spirit honors Christ by only working where the glory of Christ has been seen and savored.


The implications of this understanding of Biblical sanctification are absolutely life-altering. Our fight of faith (2Tim 4:7), our running the race (Phil 3:12-16), our striving according to His grace (Col 1:29), all look different!
Now when we pursue sanctification -- the fight for holiness and the fight against sin -- we will fight by means of the gospel perhaps differently than we ever have. In our own struggles, and in our counseling, and (for some of us) in our preaching, we will realize that the power of the gospel to transform us into radically loving people lies not only in our being forgiven and our being counted righteous, but also in our seeing and savoring the glory of Christ in the gospel.
We will elevate 2 Corinthians 3:18 to a place of paramount importance in our practical pursuit of love and justice. "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another." In other words, the fight to become like Christ will be, as never before, a fight to see and savor Jesus Christ. (p. 168)
I pray that you perceive the weight of those words. Piper goes on to give a helpful example:
When, for example, we try to help a teenage boy triumph over pornography, we will work and pray to help him see and savor the glory of Christ. We will not merely use accountability structures and filters and human reasonings. We will seek to saturate his mind and heart with the enthralling vision of the all-satisfying Christ. We will not assume it is easy. We will remember that the god of this world wants to blind our minds from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (2Cor 4:4). But now we know where the battle is mainly to be fought. It is fought at the level of spiritual sight. This is the path of gospel freedom and radical Christ-like love. (pp. 168-169)
Oh this is so glorious! Biblical sanctification is to be rigorously fought for! Don't any of you hear me as saying that we don't have to work out our salvation, or that we just need to "let go and let God." We must fight this fight of faith with everything we've got! But this battle is to be fought on the level of spiritual sight. When we do this, we experience sanctification in gospel freedom!!! As I told my story above, there was no freedom in my efforts of sanctification. I was fighting this fight like a slave, all the while being a freedman. When we realize that we already have been given eyes to see and savor the glory of Christ in the Gospel, we focus our efforts to live in the reality of what God has already done. We just need to look!

Every Christian will struggle with sin until we die or Jesus returns. But we are commanded to -- and God gives us grace to -- become increasingly more like Christ as time goes on. The key to experiencing real progressive sanctification is to know the means of that process. The means of becoming more like Christ is just to see and enjoy His glory. There was a time when we could look right at Him and not see and enjoy that glory (John 3:2-3; see this post). But the Good News of the Gospel is that God has opened our eyes! He has given us eyes to see things as they actually are! There's nothing more you've got to do except look!

, then, your mind and heart with the enthralling vision of the all-satisfying Christ!

Beloved, now we are children of God,
and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.
We know that when He appears, we will be like Him,
because we will see Him just as He is.
And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself,
just as He is pure.

- 1 John 3:2-3 -

But we all, with unveiled face,

beholding as in a mirror the
glory of the Lord,
are being
transformed into the same image
from glory to glory,
just as from
the Lord, the Spirit.
- 2 Corinthians 3:18 -

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Regeneration and Faith: Temporally Simultaneous but Logically Distinct

Last time, I discussed the freedom of God in salvation. Namely, man is neither the decisive determiner of who is born again, nor the initiator of his new birth. God, and God alone, is the sole agent working in the miracle of regeneration.

Now, discussions about monergism and synergism, Calvinism and Arminianism, God's freedom and man's freedom, etc., usually bring up the question of the ordo salutis, or the order of the events of salvation. Some people wonder if faith is the cause of regeneration, or if faith is a product of regeneration. Which comes first? In other words, are we born again because we believed, or do we believe because we have been born again?

The synergist’s answer is that faith precedes regeneration. We believe in Christ, and then are born again based upon our faith in Christ. I hope, from what I've presented over these past two weeks, that it is obvious to you all that this view does not accord with Scripture.

The monergist’s answer is a bit more complicated. The Bible teaches that regeneration and faith are temporally simultaneous, but regeneration logically precedes faith. Now, what does that mean? It means that in terms of a chronological, time order, there is no distinction between regeneration and faith. No time passes between the new birth and faith. There is no possibility of someone being born again but not having faith yet. Neither can someone have faith without first having new life (which is the synergist’s error).

But they are logically distinct. We would say that the new birth logically – not temporally – comes before faith.

Using the illustrations provided by the text of Scripture itself, we can see that the implications of such passages require this position.

The illustration of being born again is such a wonderfully precise illustration. Understanding that the Lord Jesus Himself describes regeneration in terms of being re-born, I ask: Does a baby have life and then breathe, or does he breathe and thereby have life?

It’s really impossible to separate temporally. Breathing is the definition of being alive. So temporally we don’t separate the two. But logically, do you breathe and then become alive? No. Because before you do anything you have to be alive. So it is with faith. The definition of a person who is born again is a person who believes the Gospel of Christ, but you must be granted life before you believe.

As we have seen, Jesus also describes not being born again as blindness. Following Jesus' own illustration, I ask: Are you given the gift of sight, and then see, or do you see and thereby gain sight? And even further, which happens first: The opening of one’s eye, or the perception of light?

Same thing here: it’s impossible to separate these events temporally. The definition of having open eyes is perceiving light. The definition of sight is being able to see actual things. So temporally we don’t separate the two. But logically, do you see and then get the gift of sight? No. Because seeing in the first place logically depends on being granted the ability to see. So it is with faith. The definition of being born again is seeing, but you must be granted the gift of sight before you actually see anything.

There are also Scripture passages that speak directly to this issue.

The ESV translates 1 John 5:1 correctly: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been (passive perfect) born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.

This verse teaches that faith is the result of having been born of God. Everyone who at this present time believes (present tense), has been -- in the past -- born of God.

If it was the other way around, and faith caused our new birth, this verse would have to be rendered: "Everyone who is born of God has believed that Jesus is the Christ." Another option would be, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ will be born of God." But neither of those alternatives is the case.

Another passage of Scripture which speaks directly to this issue is in the narrative of Lydia's in Acts 16:14. It says, "[She] was listening, and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul." Lydia's heart was closed. If left to herself, she would not have responded to the things spoken by Paul. Then, in the grace of regeneration, God opened her heart. Now that her heart was opened, she then responded in faith. It was not the other way around. The text does not say, "She responded in faith to the things spoken by Paul, and then the Lord opened her heart." This is another text, then, which affirms an ordo salutis consistent with monergistic regeneration.

And thus ends the doctrinal/theological section in our series on the new birth. Here is what we've gone over so far.

  1. All people are born spiritually dead (Rom 5:12-21; Rom 3:10-18; Eph 2:1-3; Col 2:13; Ps 51:5; 58:3).
  2. That spiritual death manifests itself in the inability to see Jesus Christ as He actually is (John 3:3; John 1:4; Mt 13:13-14; Deut 29:2-4; 2Cor 4:3-6).
  3. Therefore, to have any fellowship with God (i.e., to be saved from the just punishment of God's wrath against our sin), we must be born again. Nothing short of an entire new birth will save us (John 3:3, 5; Rom 14:23; Is 64:6).
  4. This work of regeneration is entirely the work of God; it is not dependent upon anything in man (John 3:8; Ezek 36:25-27; Ezek 37:1-14; Jas 1:18; 1Pet 1:3; John 1:12-13).
  5. Our faith in Christ does not effect (or cause, or bring about) our regeneration. Believing is the result of our regeneration (1Jn 5:1; Ac 16:14), which is granted by the Father (John 6:37, 44-45, 65) through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 3:8).

1. The Theology of the New Birth
1.1. Man's Spiritual Death (Total Depravity)
1.2. The Dead Cannot See
1.3. The Wind Blows Where it Wishes: The Freedom of God and Irresistible Grace
1.4. Regeneration and Faith: Temporally Simultaneous but Logically Distinct

2. Implications for the Christian Life
2.1. God Grants What He Requires
2.2. The Impossible is No Longer Burdensome
2.3. The Means of Justification is the Means of Sanctification

3. Implications for Gospel Ministry
3.1. Introduction
3.2. Evangelism
3.3. Apologetics

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Wind Blows Where It Wishes

The Freedom of God and Irresistible Grace

Last time, as we considered one of the most foundational aspects of one of the most foundational doctrines of the Christian faith, I ended the post talking about the moment of conversion -- that moment when spiritual life is given to a dead heart. The eyes of your heart are finally opened, and you can finally evaluate reality as it is, and not how it looks to someone who's blind. Namely, you see sin as disgusting and repulsive as it is, and more importantly you see Christ as He is: gloriously compelling and supremely desirable. And you prefer Him over your sin.

I wrote about that event very carefully in the following string of sentences. I want to repeat these because they get at another foundational aspect of this wonderful doctrine of regeneration. I said, "And because you finally see Him, He is so sweet to you. You love Him! You can't resist Him!"

You can't resist Him.

I want to jump off of that to address something really crucial. Remembering Piper's quote, I want those who are truly born again to exult in what has really happened to them. Because it's true that many who are indeed born again don't know the nature of this new birth. And as he says, "It is a good thing to know—so that Christ can be honored for the fullness of his glorious work, and so that people can enjoy the assurance of being the objects of that miraculous act."

What I spoke about last time -- and what I sort of recapitulated above -- is why we Calvinists describe the new birth as Irresistible Grace. It's not because somebody forced it down our throat, but because the grace that we were given was grace that opened our eyes so that we could actually see the gloriousness and pleasantness of Christ and the total absence of any gloriousness or pleasantness of sin! And so seeing rightly, we can never choose anything but Christ! It’s not against our will… at that point. It’s that our will has been changed [by grace] to want what we now see as most desirable!

Grace is irresistible because Jesus is irresistible!

Calvinism & Arminianism

But do you know what? There is a teaching that is very popular in evangelicalism -- perhaps more popular than the one I just laid out -- called Arminianism. And Arminianism teaches that grace is resistible. They almost certainly wouldn't articulate it this way, but essentially they teach that God can open your eyes enough that you can see Jesus for who He is and that you can see sin for what it is, and that you could still choose to remain in sin. And many people that we know – many people in our churches, and many teachers, and bible study leaders, and apologists that we like to listen to – believe this. And they are wrong, dear friends. They're wrong.

But the reason they say this is because they say that God chooses to "respect" our "free will." Now, I know why they want to say that. But love for them and love for others requires that we explain why that is unbiblical.

First of all, God is not a respecter of persons (Ac 10:34, KJV) that He would respect our "free will." Instead, the Scriptures teach that God chiefly regards Himself in all He does. Ephesians 1:11 says that God "works all things after the counsel of His will."

Secondly, our will is not free, nor has it been since Genesis 3:7. It’s in bondage to sin (spiritually dead, remember?). So this is not even an issue of human autonomy. It’s not about whether or not we have a choice. The issue is: You can see now! You can see Christ for who He is! To say that we can see this Christ and choose anything but Him demeans His Glory. And so this is not a minor issue. This is not just some abstract, impractical, heady, theological discussion. The glory of God is at stake. And we want to glorify God in everything (1Cor 10:31; Eph 3:21). We need to get this right!

Monergism & Synergism

Now these two views – that I referred to as Calvinism and Arminianism – really have more precise names than that. (Because both of those theological systems involve more than a view of regeneration.) The view of regeneration consistent with Calvinism is called monergism, which is a big word that means “one agent is working.” Synergism, on the other hand, is the opposing view which encompasses many theological 'camps.' Synergism just means that there is more than one agent working, that there are multiple agents working in cooperation with each other.

So, which one is the right view? Is regeneration monergistic or synergistic? Well, back in John 3, when Jesus tells Nicodemus that he has to be born again to see the kingdom of God, Nicodemus asks Jesus how it’s possible for a man to be born again. "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?" In response to this, Jesus says, most interestingly, "The wind blows where it wishes."

So this idea of irresistible grace brings up the issue of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. And in this passage, Jesus makes it plain that this act of regeneration is entirely a work of the Spirit, conditioned upon absolutely nothing about us.

John 3:5-8 - Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

In other words: The Spirit (which, in Greek, is the same word for breath or wind) doesn’t submit to any man. He is not subject to the will of man, but blows where He wills! The wind blows where it wishes. Jesus is teaching that the miracle of regeneration is just that: a miracle. We don't cause ourselves to be born again any more than we can make the wind blow. We indeed must be born again, but this new birth is not of ourselves, it is a gift of God (Eph 2:8).

The question this all comes down to is this: Are we free, or is God? Does the Spirit submit to our will, or do we submit to His? Does the Spirit blow where He wishes, or where we wish?

Consider these passages (mouse over the references):

  • Ezekiel 36:25-27 – God says, "I will" five times. In these three verses, there are eight active verbs where God is the subject. There are no active verbs where man is the subject.
  • Ezekiel 37:1-14 – We’re dry bones. The point of Ezekiel’s hesitance to answer the question about whether they can live shows that he thinks they can’t live, but struggles to say something can’t happen in front of an omnipotent God.
  • Acts 16:14 – God opened her heart to respond, which was otherwise closed.
  • James 1:18 His will is exercised and He brings us forth.
  • 1 Peter 1:3 – He causes us to be born again according to His great mercy.
  • John 1:12-13 – Not of the will of man, but of God. Also, notice the backwards progression: Children of God <-- Receive Him <-- Believe in His name <-- Born of God.
  • John 6:44-45, 65 – None come unless drawn by the Father, which means the people who don’t come are not drawn. The Father “gives” the elect to Christ. And their identity as the elect – a specific group of people known by the Father – is further testified to by John 6:45, in which Jesus quotes Jeremiah 31, thereby identifying those who come to Christ as the elect of the New Covenant.

A word about this verse. The word translated "draw" in verse 44 is far from an ineffectual wooing. It's the Greek word helkĊ, which means to drag, as one hauls in a fishing net (John 21:6, 11), as one draws a sword from a sheath in the midst of battle (John 18:10), as angry men who just lost their money drag a foreigner before their court (Acts 16:19), and as Jewish men drag a traitor out of their city, intending to kill him, believing that he preaches against the Law of God and has defiled the holy place (Acts 21:30).

Apart from Him, You Can Do Nothing

We often quote John 15: "Apart from me you can do nothing." What does that actually mean? Can we do nothing? At least we recognize that we can do nothing good. Nothing of spiritual significance. But do we really believe that? Specifically, do the implications of the truth of that verse control our theology of humanity's natural condition as it relates to our theology of evangelism?

Let me ask you this, Christian. Considering this verse – "Apart from me you can do nothing" – I ask you, Can we believe apart from Jesus Christ? I don’t mean, "Can we get to heaven without Jesus Christ." We’re all going to agree with a resounding, "No!" to that one. What I mean is, can we as sinful human beings, come to a point in our lives and in our understandings, where we can, without already having Jesus and the Holy Spirit, decide to put our faith and trust in Jesus or accept Him as our Lord and Savior?

I’m going to assume that the answer to that is no. So what I think we’d all agree upon is that it takes a work of the grace of God for anyone to believe in the Gospel. So the question is: What is this grace like? Who receives this grace? There are
two possible answers: 1) Everybody, 2) Only those who believe, the elect.

If everybody receives this kind of general grace, why doesn’t everybody believe? If God determines that He will give every human being throughout history enough grace that they can make the choice to believe in or reject Christ, why doesn’t every single recipient of that grace (i.e., everyone) believe in the Gospel? If we’ve all received the same grace – the same kind of grace and the same amount of grace – what is the difference maker in salvation? Ultimately, the answer must be something in us.

But if the nature of this grace that we receive is an effectual, efficient, powerful, effective grace, then we must say that the only people who receive it are those who believe. Now, remember! They don’t receive it because they believe. That’s backwards. They only can believe by this grace. This grace has to come before belief, otherwise John 15 isn’t true and we can do something apart from Him. So if the only people who receive it are those who believe, we must say that the determining factor is the grace, and the results are the believing. Faith is a result of having received a special, effectual grace from God.

That grace is called the new birth, or regeneration. And just as a baby’s will is not consulted before being born, so are we born again, "not of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13).

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Dead Cannot See

Last time, we talked about the concept of spiritual death, or what's often called "total depravity." We saw that the Bible's assessment of humanity is that we are spiritually dead, and that if we are going to have any access or relationship with God, we must be born again. This doctrine vividly illustrates how absolutely powerless we are to gain favor from God. We do not contribute to our salvation any more than a baby contributes to being born. Or, said another way, we don't contribute to our salvation any more than a corpse contributes to being resurrected. For these reasons, this doctrine is also often called "total inability."

But as I started to say at the end of the last post, what does it mean to be spiritually dead? I mean, non-Christian people are alive, right? They’re walking around, going to work, having families, doing things. What in the world does the Bible mean when it says that people are dead? Well, in Jesus' interaction with Nicodemus, we find some insight into the nature of this spiritual death, as well as the nature of the new birth that He says is necessary.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Now, why in the world does Jesus respond to Nicodemus in such a way? Nicodemus comes to Him respectfully. He calls Him, "Rabbi," and "teacher." He even comes praising Him for the signs and wonders that He’s performing. And he even testifies of Jesus' divinity, acknowledging that God is with Him! You might think Jesus would respond by commending Nicodemus. But He doesn't. Not even close. He tells him, "Unless you're born again, you can't see the kingdom of God." What is that about?

Jesus chooses His words quite purposefully here. He responds the way He does because Nicodemus can’t really see these miracles he’s talking about for what they are. What do I mean?

Well, in Matthew 12:28 Jesus says, "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." He identifies the miracles he works with the kingdom of God. So when Jesus tells Nicodemus, who is praising Him for His miracles, that he can't see the kingdom of God, it's not a coincidence. In effect Jesus is saying to Nicodemus, “Listen, you might think you’re coming here praising me for this signs that I’m doing, but you can’t really see those signs for what they are and for what they were intended to do. Because you're spiritually dead. You need to be born again to see these things, to see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus is telling Nicodemus that He can't believe because He can't see. He talks like this elsewhere.

  • John 8:43-47 – Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. … He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.
  • John 10:24-29 – … But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. …

"You don't understand me because you can't hear my words" (John 8:43-47). "You don't believe me because you're not of My sheep, and only My sheep believe me" (John 10:24-29). And so here: "You don't believe because you can't see."

So Jesus is telling Nicodemus -- and all of us -- “Unless you’re born again, you can’t see the kingdom of God.” There is a connection here between new spiritual life and the ability to see. That connection is also borne out in John 1:4: "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men."

So here we have these two concepts intertwined again: Life, and Light. John 1:4 teaches that true, spiritual life is found only in Jesus. And so Jesus Himself is the Light that rescues men from the darkness. He is the Light that enables them to see (cf. also John 8:12, 12:46).

"But wait a second. What do you mean Nicodemus can't see? He's looking right at Him! If He can't see the miracles, how'd he even know to praise Jesus for them?" "What do you mean, 'You can't hear My words' (John 8:43)? If they can't hear You, why are You talking to them?"

These are legitimate questions. Evidently, all of us can look at something, perceive it with our eyes, and not really see it. Apparently we can listen to someone speak, and not really hear them. The Bible often speaks this way.
  • Matthew 13:13-14: Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE.
  • Deuteronomy 29:2-4 – And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all his servants and all his land; the great trials which your eyes have seen, those great signs and wonders. Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.”

We can hear with our ears, but not understand with our heart. We can see with our eyes, but not perceive with our heart. Because our heart is dead. One more verse:

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 – And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

So what do we mean when we talk about spiritual death? How does spiritual death manifest itself?

Spiritual death is the absence of the Light necessary to see Jesus and His kingdom as they actually are, namely, as glorious and supremely desirable.

Spiritually dead people can look directly at the glory of Christ -- whether they be rulers of the Jews in the Ancient Near East witnessing miracles, or Americans reading their Bibles -- and they can be entirely unaffected. Jesus looks foolish. Or He looks like a mythical, psychological crutch made up for weak people. Or He's just boring. Because unless we're born again, we can't see Christ for what He is.

So these passages teach us that faith in Christ -- our spiritual life -- is the same thing as seeing Jesus Christ as ULTIMATELY and INCOMPARABLY GLORIOUS!

So here’s the picture. The picture is: we are dead, which means we can’t see things as they are. When we are regenerated -- when God decides to graciously grant new life -- we get new eyes so that we can see. Now, we’re able to evaluate things as they truly are… to evaluate sin as it truly is, and to evaluate Jesus as He truly is, compare the two, and make a choice. And now, finally seeing the perfect glory of Jesus in all His fullness, and seeing the rotting garbage of sin and worldly “pleasures” right next to Him, with your brand new eyes that can actually see things, you choose Jesus.

That is the moment of faith. You are spiritually awakened, which means you are given eyes that can actually see. You see the beauty of Christ, and you believe that He is the Son of God who became man, who lived a perfect life and died in your place to pay the penalty that you incurred for your sin. You believe that there's no other way to commend yourself to God than on the basis of His righteousness. And because you finally see Him, He is so sweet to you. You love Him! You can't resist Him! And you embrace Him with the glad, open arms of faith, and you are saved.

If that's happened to you, I rejoice with you! Let me exhort you to understand your new birth in this way, that is, as finally being given eyes to see the glory of God in the face of Christ for what it is.

If that's not happened to you, I rejoice that you've read this. Let me exhort you to recognize and admit that you are, as the Bible says, spiritually dead. Recognize that you've never been given eyes to see, and so Jesus hasn't ever been this compellingly glorious, supremely desirable person; He's been boring, or foolish, or silly. Confess that to God. Tell Him that you're sorry that you've never regarded His Son as He deserves, and pray that He'd grant you spiritual life, that He'd give you eyes to see.

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,”
is the One who has shone in our hearts
to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God
in the face of Christ.

- 2 Corinthians 4:6 -

For this is the will of My Father,
that everyone who beholds the Son
and believes in Him
will have eternal life,
and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.

- John 6:40 -

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken

One thing I hope to eventually get around to doing on here is to post worship songs and their lyrics along with some (hopefully) edifying comments. When I actually have the time for the comment part, this may be the first song I comment on.

I sang it for the first time in chapel last Thursday at TMS, and listened to it again as I prepared the post. It affected me similarly both times, though this second time a bit more intensely. This is a worship song, friends. Please listen to it (click the link below) while reading the lyrics slowly and meditating on them.

Verse three isn't sung, but the rest are. (I can't figure out why we don't always sing all the verses of songs this good.) As you listen, if it doesn't cause you to (1) smile, (2) cry, (3) repent, and (4) long with joy for our Savior from the depths of your heart, well, you're different than I am. I pray that God would grant you especially #3 and #4.

Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition,
All I’ve sought or hoped or known.
Yet how rich is my condition!
God and heaven are still my own.

Let the world despise and leave me,
They have left my Savior, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me;
Thou art not, like them, untrue.
O while Thou dost smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love, and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me,
Show Thy face and all is bright.

[Man may trouble and distress me,
’Twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me;
Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, ’tis not in grief to harm me
While Thy love is left to me;
Oh, ’twere not in joy to charm me,
Were that joy unmixed with Thee.]

Go, then, earthly fame and treasure,
Come disaster, scorn and pain
In Thy service, pain is pleasure,
With Thy favor, loss is gain
I have called Thee Abba Father,
I have stayed my heart on Thee
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather;
All must work for good to me.

Soul, then know thy full salvation
Rise o’er sin and fear and care
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
Think what Father’s smiles are thine,
Think that Jesus died to win thee,
Child of heaven, canst thou repine.

Haste thee on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith, and winged by prayer.
Heaven’s eternal days before thee,
God’s own hand shall guide us there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission,
Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope shall change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Leviticus at a Glance

In the book of Leviticus, Yahweh reveals His character and mind to the sons of Israel in the form of His holy Law.

He reveals Himself to Israel to impress upon them the standard of His holiness to which, as His people, they are held (Lev 10:3; 11:44-45; 20:7, 25-26; 22:32).

He reveals Himself to Israel to impress upon them the severity, seriousness, and pervasiveness of their sin before a holy God through very particular and arduous means of atonement.
  • Leviticus 1-7: The offerings for atonement (burnt, grain, peace, sin, and guilt offerings).
  • Leviticus 8-10: The priests' role in the offerings and in the atonement.
  • Leviticus 16: The laws for atonement in general and the holy Day of Atonement are instituted.
  • Leviticus 17: Yahweh requires that whatever sacrifices for atonement that are made must be made at the tent of meeting and nowhere else.
  • Leviticus 22: The animals that are sacrificed must be without defect.

And He reveals Himself to Israel to point them to a coming Great High Priest (Heb 2:17; 4:14; 6:20; 7:26; 8:1; 10:21) who would make a perfect and final atonement for them (Heb 7:25; 8:6; 9:23-24 10:12-14; John 19:30) something neither they nor their priests could ever do themselves (Heb 9:9-10; 10:1-4, 11).

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
- Hebrews 10:19-23 -

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Theology of Regeneration: Man's Total Depravity

The place to begin when speaking about the doctrine of regeneration (or the command to be born again) is to ask, "Why?" Why do we need to be born again? That’s a bit of a radical thing to say, isn’t it? "Born again? Is there something wrong with the way I was born the first time?"

Well, yes, actually, there is.

If we see nothing else up front in Jesus' statement that Nicodemus needs to be born again (John 3:3, 5, 7), we need to see that that statement is a woeful diagnosis of our condition. There is something so profoundly wrong with us -- with the entire human race -- that no natural remedy exists. We can't just be reformed. We can't just work on ourselves a bit. Far from finding that people are "basically good" people who just do bad things sometimes, Jesus' diagnosis of humanity is that we're so terribly messed up that no amount of behavior modification will fix what is wrong with us. According to Jesus, the only way to be right with God our Creator, and thus be able to see and enter the kingdom of God, is if we are born again.

To put it in spiritual terms, we must be born again because we are born the first time spiritually dead.

But how did that happen? Well, in Romans 5, the Bible teaches that spiritual death entered the world through sin. "OK, so where did sin come from?" Well, in that same passage, the Bible says that sin entered the world through a man. Here's what it says:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin...

So there we have it. Death came through sin, and sin entered the world through one man. That one man was Adam, the first human being ever created. And we all know about Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, the serpent, the forbidden fruit, etc. God created Adam and Eve as innocent before Him, and they enjoyed perfect fellowship with God in His garden of Paradise. He gave them one command, which they broke: at the temptation of Satan, they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the tree, of which God said, " the day that you eat from it you will surely die" (Gen 2:17). And so we see right there, death came through sin which came through Adam.

But that's not the end of the verse in Romans 5. It also says this:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned...

So not only did sin enter through Adam, and death through sin, but then death spread to all men. This is how we become spiritually dead even before we are born. When Adam sinned, death not only entered the world, but spread to all of humanity. There was no person who would ever be created that wasn't affected by this original sin.

Now, you might be thinking that that isn't fair. I mean, you didn't eat the fruit. You didn't disobey the one command God gave in Paradise. Adam did. Why should you be held responsible for his sin? Well, the answer to why death spread to all men is given in that verse. It says, "because all sinned" (Rom 5:12).

"All who?" Every human being who ever lived. It's interesting, isn't it? The text there teaches that every human being in history sinned (past tense) when Adam sinned. "But I wasn't even there!" Well, this text teaches that in some mystical, yet very real, sense, you were. Death spread to every human being because every human being was reckoned, or counted, as being in Adam when he sinned. Adam was the representative of all human beings. And we were "in his loins" when he rebelled against God and sinned against Him.

As so as a result of the Fall, all human beings are totally depraved (spiritually dead) even from the womb. There is no aspect of our being that this spiritual death, this depravity, has not reached and corrupted. All that we are, no matter how good we look to other people, is fatally tainted by our sin.

And that's the reason why Scripture speaks the way it does about humanity. We are spiritually dead.

  • Romans 3:10-12 – As it is written, "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one."
Have you ever thought at any point in your life you were seeking God? Well, this text teaches that that's entirely false, if you're outside of Jesus Christ. There is none who seeks for God.

Have you ever thought that you've done good? Well, certainly on a human, horizontal level that's true. But on the level that
counts, on the level of reality, in God's sight, there is none who does good. "None?!" Nope, not even one.
  • Colossians 2:13a – When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh…
  • Ephesians 2:1-3 – And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
Here is the truth we've been speaking about now presented in the language of Scripture. We were dead in our trespasses, transgressions, and sins. And not only that, but Ephesians 2:3 says that we were by nature children of wrath. That means that without anything happening out of the ordinary, we, by default, are born under the wrath of God. If we are born, and nothing happens to overcome our sinfulness, we will suffer the wrath of God. That's why John says, "He who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36). It abides, or remains on him. It's already there, because we are by nature children of wrath.
  • Psalm 51:5 – Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
  • Psalm 58:3 – The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth.
These verses demonstrate, again, that we are not born innocent and then become sinful. Rather, we were all conceived in sin. We are estranged and go astray from the womb, from birth.
  • Romans 8:6-8 - For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Here again is the testimony of our death. But here, God tells us that we're not just passive. Our death isn't just a neutral lying around and not doing anything. He tells us that our spiritual death causes us to be hostile toward God. We actively hate Him by continuing in our natural state of depravity. And because we're as sinful as we are, we aren't even able to submit to the law of God. There is no way for depraved sinners to please Him.

This is Jesus' sad, condemning diagnosis of humanity: "You are
dead. You are totally depraved. And because of that you can do nothing to improve yourself to gain acceptance with Me or My Father. In fact, you are so hopeless that the only thing that's going to make any bit of difference is if you are born again."

It is of
paramount importance that we understand this diagnosis of our spiritual condition from the Great Physician. If we don't understand the nature of humanity -- our nature -- we'll never understand God, ourselves, or anything about our lives.

Because that's true, I want to take some more time to contemplate what it means to be spiritually dead. What is the nature of this death? I mean, I'm not saying that people are actually
dead, right? They breathe, they walk, they talk, they go to work. They do stuff! How can I say they're dead!

That's coming for next time. Until then, meditate on what the Scripture has to say about your condition by nature, without a Savior. You need to be born again.

The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
- Jeremiah 17:9 -

Monday, October 12, 2009

Exodus at a Glance

In the book of Exodus, Yahweh demonstrates His sovereign power, His great compassion, and that there is no god but Him as He reveals Himself to the sons of Israel through Moses, delivers them from their oppression in Egypt, brings them to Himself in covenant, and leads them to the land He promised to their fathers.

Concerning Israel’s deliverance, the book of Exodus reveals that it is Yahweh who delivers (or redeems) them from the oppression they suffered under the power of Egypt. In Exodus 9:16 Yahweh explicitly reveals to Pharaoh the reason for His dealings with Egypt on behalf of Israel: “But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth” (cf. also Ex 7:17). Yahweh is consumed with demonstrating His power (in contrast to that of any professed gods of the nations) as well as bringing fame and glory to His great covenant name.

This notion of making His name known has preeminent importance in His design of deliverance. This becomes most apparent in the opening verses of chapter six (Ex 6:1-8). God speaks to Moses, and opens and closes His discourse by proclaiming His name: “I am Yahweh” (Ex 6:2, 8). He goes on to tell Moses that He revealed Himself to the patriarchs, but not by name (Ex 6:3). This is curious, because a simple reading of Genesis 15:1-8 shows that Abraham knew God by His name, Yahweh. What He is intending to communicate is that though He made a covenant promise to the fathers that they would inherit the land, they had only sojourned there (Ex 6:4); they hadn’t received the promise yet. As such, they didn’t know the name of Yahweh in the sense that they didn’t know Him in His covenant faithfulness. But by Yahweh’s deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, the giving of the covenant Law, and finally the conquest of the Promised Land under Joshua, He declares that they will know Yahweh in the essence of His character; i.e., One who keeps covenant.

Yahweh also desires to make His name known among Pharaoh and the inhabitants of Egypt. When Moses first entreats Pharaoh to let the sons of Israel go and sacrifice to Yahweh, Pharaoh responds, “Who is Yahweh that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know Yahweh” (Ex 5:3). From this point forward, Yahweh declares that one of His designs in Israel’s deliverance is to make His name known to Pharaoh (Ex 7:1-5) and the Egyptians (Ex 14:4, 18). And by the end of the Israelites’ deliverance, Pharaoh and his people do know Yahweh’s name (Ex 10:16-17; 12:30-31; 14:24-25).

Finally, Yahweh designs that His name be proclaimed and known among all nations, and not just Israel and Egypt. We see this in His declaration in Exodus 9:16: “…to proclaim My name through all the earth.” And by the second chapter of Joshua, we see that the fame of Israel’s deliverance has accomplished this (Josh 2:8-11).

Yahweh’s purposes for the sons of Israel are revealed throughout the book. First, His deliverance and redemption of Israel is designed to fulfill His covenant promises to the patriarchs. They are to be to Him a special treasure, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation (Ex 19:5-6). He does this by bringing them into the land He swore to their fathers by His covenant (see Ex 2:24; 3:15-17; 6:3-4, 8; 32:13; 33:1-3), thereby establishing the faithfulness of His name. Secondly, He clearly reveals that His design is to set apart the people of Israel among the nations as the people of God (Ex 9:4; 11:7; 19:6). In chapter thirteen, He commands that the firstborn be sanctified to Him so that they remember that He delivered them. He tells them they must not worship the gods of the land they will inhabit, but to remain distinct from the nations by worshiping Yahweh (Ex 23:23-33). He renews His covenant with them in Exodus 34:11-27 as a means of keeping them distinct from other nations, and reveals that the name of Yahweh is Jealous (Ex 34:14). This purpose is reaffirmed as the Torah develops and as the purposes for the Mosaic covenant are further made plain (Lev 10:10; 11:47; 20:25).

Friday, October 9, 2009

An Update

First, let me offer my apologies. Today I intended to have the first post (after the introduction) of the series on the doctrine of regeneration that I promised a week ago. But this week has actually been extraordinarily busy and I haven't had time to get it ready to be posted. So please forgive the delay. In its place, I thought I'd give sort of an update on where we are and how we're doing out here.

So we've been in Southern California for about seven weeks now, as I've started seminary at The Master's Seminary. Attending there has been a wonderful time. Classes are great, professors are great, chapels with the students and faculty are great, going to Grace Church is great. It's been really fun.

Classes are indeed a lot of work. I only have classes three days out of the week (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday), but I'm kept busy for what seems like my entire week. In a usual week, I do no work on Saturday or Sunday, but pretty much every other day I'm pretty pressed for any free time. It can get overwhelming, and as a fleshly man, I can complain. But when I think about it rightly, I'm extremely busy doing exactly what I've wanted to be doing for a while now. I'm reading books I've always wanted to read. I'm writing more. I'm studying the Old Testament in depth. I'm learning Hebrew. I'm interacting with other godly young men (the other students) and godly older men who all share a passion for the glory of Christ and for proclaiming that glory to all peoples. God is good to me.

Janna has also been kept busy, for the most part. She's probably not as busy as I am, but she's not far off. She's been looking for a nursing job since we got out here. Early on, that involved researching positions online from different hospitals' websites. Later it involved actually going to those hospitals with her resume and trying to get an interview. As far as a nursing job goes, it's a long story, but because of the amount of experience she got in New Jersey, hospitals want her to start in a new graduate orientation program when she starts at the hospital. Problem is, those are only at certain times of the year (August and February, the times when most graduates graduate). So we're waiting for a nursing job to come in February. Please be praying as you think of it.

In the meantime, she's been interviewing for other part time positions. One thing that looks promising is tutoring K-8 students at Grace Community School. That will provide some income, an opportunity for her to get out of the house, help kids in their school work, and perhaps most importantly create relationships in which Janna can live and proclaim the Gospel to younger children. That's exciting just writing about it. Please pray that that follows through.

So those things have kept her busy. Along with doing the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and other such things, she's not exactly been bored. I thank God for my wife. She's been so faithful and such a servant to me in the last year and three months, and especially so in these last 2 months as we've had to lean on each other pretty hard and pretty exclusively. He who finds a wife finds a good thing.

In light of that I'd appreciate prayer for us in our marriage. Don't worry. We're not on the rocks or anything. I'm just more and more aware of the necessity of shepherding one's family before even supposing to shepherd the house of God (1Tim 3:5), and the reality that the marriage is a prime target of Satan's scheming and of my own selfishness in my flesh. Pray that I'd love my wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. Pray that God would give me the grace to lay down my life in service to my family, and that He would cause me to recognize the distinction between that, and laying down my family's life for my own benefit and ease. Pray that I'd be faithful in sanctifying time for Janna and me to spend together doing fun things, talking, praying, reading together, and enjoying each other and growing with each other.

Pray for my laziness. Man, am I lazy. And I really have no excuse for that; I'm so busy! But my heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer 17:9). I really can tend to be lazy and selfish when I get just the least bit tired, worn out, have a little headache, etc. Pray that God would grant me endurance, fueled by the sight of His glory, that I might run in such a way as to get the prize (1Cor 9:24ff; Phil 3:13-14).

And if I could submit one more prayer request, please pray for us in the area of getting plugged into fellowship and ministry. Grace is huge. They definitely work hard about making it not seem so ominous; they have various fellowship groups, Bible studies, men's and women's groups, and things like that. But the reality is that on Sunday morning there are six to seven thousand people swarming around. Even when you break things up into 2 services, 10 small fellowship groups, each with their pastors, it's big. So we've been going around and visiting different fellowship groups and Bible studies that break out from those fellowship groups and will need to make a decision soon about where to land. We want to be in a place where we'll be discipled and grown, as well as be in a place where we can serve Christ and minister to His body.

And above all things and in all things please pray along with us that Christ will be honored and glorified during our time here. Please pray specifically that He would get what He's worthy of from us, and from all His people. Pray that our hearts would be soft, near the cross, daily amazed at the Gospel, and moment-by-moment delighting in Jesus Christ. Pray that He'd give us eyes to see the Light of the Gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ, that we might behold His glory and so be transformed into the very image of that glory, and thus be honoring and pleasing to Him.

Thank you all for reading, for praying, for talking with us. If you're back in New Jersey, we miss you, think about you often, and hope to see you soon. Grace be with you all.

The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.
- Numbers 6:24-26 -