In John 17, Christ prayed:
John 17:22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; so that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
For those who may suggest that we have yet to be glorified with Christ, or that He has been glorified, but we have not yet, please pay attention to this (and by all means, look at the entire context in John 17):
The glory which God the Father had given Christ...
He was giving to His disciples...
they would be one...
with each other, and with Him.
AND so that...
He would be in them.
AND so that...
the world would know that God sent Christ...
and that God loves them....
Now, regardless of the verb tenses here, and the timing of the accomplishment of this glory, the goal of it is our oneness.
Are we one in Christ? Then we have been glorified. With the same glory that the Father gave the Son. If we have not been glorified, then we have not yet been made one in Christ. And the world cannot yet see that "You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me."
Does He dwell in us, and us in Him? That is our glorification.
This series of four sermons is without a doubt the clearest and most beautiful presentation of the gospel and grace of God that I have heard in my life:
Total Depravity and the Gift of Faith
And I grew up in church. And heard "the gospel" preached practically from infancy. Or I should say, that I heard many adulterated versions of it. The thing about the truth of God, is that it pierces my heart to its core. And the way that I have learned to recognize the truth of God, is that it alone tells me the truth about myself. It tells me who I really am. Which is really not who I most often think I am, or who others tell me I am. One might suppose it would be hard to sort through all of this other, to find the truth. But it's not hard to find, because it's in the Bible. Every other version of "truth," even within the context of "Christianity" and "church," and in the context of "Scripture" selectively presented, stops short of piercing through our hearts to show us who we really are. And it seems that is not by accident. There is purposeful attention given, great care taken, to change the truth of God into a lie. The lie tells us we are something more than we are (apart from Him), and that He is something less than He is. And the result is that there are relatively few in "Christianity" who know and understand to worship Him both for who He is and for what He has done. And by extension, there are so few who know how to treat others in Him, according to the new creation that they are, and the very righteousness of God which they have become.
Having said that, there really is such a thing as false humility. It's the flip-side of the pride coin for a Christian. Because while it's true that we must be confronted with who we are in God's eyes, by dropping every other comparison to see ourselves naked before Him, in order to recieve His mercy; having received it, we are now righteous--holy, unblameable, unreprovable--in His sight. The only view that matters. But as soon as we start comparing ourselves outwardly to others, we tend toward one of two extremes--"better than" or "worse than" --but both are equally prideful because they both effectually diminish the glory, and despise the victory, of the cross.
Well the messages may offend. I am actually hard pressed to name anyone in my own Christian community, with whom I regularly fellowship, who would not find them offensive to some degree. The truth does offend. It offends our very nature apart from Christ. But the amazing thing about that is that this same truth is the only place we can find rest. Real rest for our souls, every day. In His "mercies new every morning."
"Oh, Lord in the morning, will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up"..."You are my glory, and the lifter of my head."
The thing about all of those other versions of the gospel? There is no rest in any of them. That is why I love the real one so much.
I hope some of you will check out that series, and may it be a blessing.
Sickness and Sin
We recently received this question:
Since Christians still get sick, isn't this proof that we are still suffering from the effects of the "fall" and from our sinfulness?
Here is my brief response:
With regard to "sickness" being the result of sin: It is true that "spiritual sickness" is the result of sin, or perhaps we should say that those terms are synonymous. But in the New Heavens and New Earth, ie the New Jerusalem, ie Heaven, no one is *ever* sick:
Isaiah 33: 24 And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.
Sickness ended with the forgiveness of sin. That is why the psalmist says that He heals all our diseases:
Psalm 103: 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: 3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
If the benefits of salvation (the forgiveness of sin) are that all of our diseases have been healed, and we are never sick, then we cannot say that physical sickness is caused by sin. Anymore than we can say that the physical planet is "fallen" from the the "good" creation because of sin. (Otherwise we would be looking for a future redemption of it, thereby denying the cross has already accomplished this.)
I think our bodies get sick because they are frail, decaying, and as ordained by the natural created order, they will return to dust.
(I know there are passages which speak of physical sickness as chastisements, or discipline from the Lord toward His children, but that is a separate issue and not the same thing as attributing sickness in general to a "fallen" nature--which has been resurrected to new life in Christ; or to "sin"--which for God's people has been forgiven once and for all.)
A response to Ward Fenley's article, "Isaiah 40 and the Exaltation of the Valleys, part 3"
Comfort My People: Isaiah 40 and the Exaltation of the Valleys, part 3
by Ward Fenley
This is a completely wonderful article; I would just like to interact a bit with a few specific things that especially intrigued and stirred me. One thing you do often when discussing redemption in light of these Old Testament passages, is to identify the “problem” that redemption was ordained and accomplished by God to solve. While we “evangelicals” may think we have a handle on that (who can’t quote Romans 3:23 from memory?); I think there has been somewhat of a disconnect between how the Gospel is traditionally presented and the full extent of the hopelessness of our condition apart from Christ. Studying these Old Testament prophets brings that into focus. Because they got it. They understood the impact of their guilt, they felt the fear and shame and fully recognized their complete helplessness and hopelessness and total dependence upon God’s mercy--the mercy Christ performed. It is only to the extent that we appreciate the impact of what it means to be lost, that we will begin to see and experience the impact of being saved….and truly appreciate and celebrate the miracle of our redemption. The prophets help us see these things; they help us see as you have said, how “eternal life is contrasted with that which every Old Testament believer feared under the Mosaic Covenant: death,” and the “magnitude” of that contrast.
You wrote: “…it is when we connect righteousness with the abrogation of shame and the fear of death that we become amazed at what Christ has actually fulfilled in reference to Old Testament prophecies.” Truly. Amazed and in awe.
I also appreciate the way you have shown that it is the righteousness of Christ (and nothing short of that, and most certainly not any ‘righteousness’ that we could perform) that is the complete and permanent remedy for shame. And since righteousness is all the work of God, there is nothing we could do by outwardly performing to add to it, or take away from it. Our righteousness will never be our own and will always and only be in Christ, Whom Jeremiah calls “The Lord Our Righteousness.” This will remain true of course, even after we physically die. Which I think is very important because it seems that sometimes even “Preterists” present the idea that after we shed the physical body, something will change with regard to our human nature. I even heard one say recently that after we physically die, we will “finally be free from sin,” as if that has not already been accomplished in Christ. And to me, to attach such significance to our physical death and in so doing claim we are now lacking, is to take away from what HE HAS DONE. And it is to fail to give Him the glory that all and only belongs to Him.
I was intrigued by what you said about ‘idols’ and how the idolatry of the Pharisees was to worship the law over the One the law pointed to, or the “creature” over the Creator (awesome connection between Jeremiah 2 and Romans 1); and more specifically to look for salvation in their own ‘righteousness’ under the law, thereby rejecting the salvation of Christ, and rejecting Him. They exalted the shadow over the substance, the copy over the true…they sought to make themselves righteous in that which “could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.” And in so doing they rejected Christ, who came “an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us”(cf. Hebrews 9). I guess if there was ever a definition of ‘idolatry’ that would be it.
Thank you again for this article Ward, as it has truly caused my spirit to rejoice in God my Savior.
I have been married to my loving husband Keith for 26 years. We have three beautiful and brilliant children, ages 24, 22 and 20. Nothing cheers my heart more than having them all at home, yet nothing is more satisfying to my mind than watching them grow from afar. My personal passion is theology: the knowledge and experience of the Truth and Mercy found only in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and displayed in the lives and communion of His people. My husband and I love to travel, and because our children are often out and about in the world, we get lots of opportunities to see it! And we also love to fill our home with friends who love us, and love our wine collection.