Gareth

Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word

Athanasius, On the Incarnation“For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God entered our world. In one sense, indeed, He was not far from it before, for no part of creation had ever been without Him Who, while ever abiding in union with the Father, yet fills all things that are. But now He entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us. He saw the reasonable race, the race of men that, like Himself, expressed the Father’s Mind, wasting out of existence, and death reigning over all in corruption.

He saw that corruption held us all the closer, because it was the penalty for the Transgression; He saw, too, how unthinkable it would be for the law to be repealed before it was fulfilled. He saw how unseemly it was that the very things of which He Himself was the Artificer should be disappearing. He saw how the surpassing wickedness of men was mounting up against them; He saw also their universal liability to death. All this He saw and, pitying our race, moved with compassion for our limitation, unable to endure that death should have the mastery, rather than that His creatures should perish and the work of His Father for us men come to nought,

He took to Himself a body, a human body even as our own…. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished because, having fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men. This He did that He might turn again to incorruption men who had turned back to corruption, and make them alive through death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of His resurrection. Thus He would make death to disappear from them as utterly as straw from fire.”

— Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word

 

Originally posted on my blogspot site

Living Stones

Peter having spoken of Christ as a living, precious stone, adds, “You also as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5

WHAT ARE BELIEVERS? “Stones,” for every Christian has that in him which is solid, durable, and ornamental.

The grace of God gives a man solidity–he cannot be as light, trifling, and vain as he used to be. He has solid and settled thoughts upon high and holy subjects; he has solid hopes and joys. He is not carried about with every wind of doctrine–but becomes established and settled in the faith.

He is durable too. Others fall away–but he endures to the end. Once fixed on the foundation, once really united to Christ, he remains built on Christ forever.

He is ornamental too. Some stones are capable of taking a very high polish, and so is the Christian. The polished stones in God’s temple will catch the rays of His glory and reflect them; and in every stone, the great Builder will see His own lovely likeness reflected.

They are living stones. They are living, each one being quickened by divine grace, and made new creatures. They are lively, made so by divine communications, and kept so by fellowship with Jesus, the life-giving stone.

These living stones are not thrown together in confusion–but each one is fitted for his place before he is put into it. Every separate stone is laid on the foundation, which bears the entire weighs of the whole building. All the stones are united to the foundation, by a cement so strong, that nothing can ever separate them. The Holy Spirit acts as the cement in this spiritual building. He . . .
brings us to Christ,
lays us on Christ,
unites us to Christ, and
keeps us in eternal union with Christ!

These living stones are a holy priesthood.
Being stripped of their natural and carnal coverings,
being washed in the laver of regeneration,
being clothed with the garments of salvation,
and covered with the robe of righteousness,
and being consecrated by the application of the blood of atonement, and the holy anointing oil, the unction from the Holy One–they are prepared and qualified to officiate in this living temple.

These living stones are to offer up spiritual sacrifices. This they are to do continually, the sacrifices of prayer and praise, which like holy incense, ascends as a precious perfume to God.

 

James Smith, “Gleams of Grace” 1860

This is copied straight from a recent Grace Gem. In case you are unaware, Grace Gems are emailed daily and for free from gracegems.org. They are short quotes from past Godly men, mainly puritans, and I highly commend them to your attention and recommend you sign up.

The Sufferings Of This Present Life

Cheer up Christian, every day you are so much nearer to your eternal home! Never was the end of the journey so near as now; never were there so many troubles behind you, and so few before you, as now. It is all up hill until you reach the celestial city–you will therefore find it more or less difficult unto the end. But,
when you arrive at home,
when you enter into the holy city,
when you see your precious Lord Jesus,
when you enjoy the presence of God
–then all will be well, and well forever!

You will be in your Father’s house–your holy, happy home! You shall know no lack, nor will your desires remain ungratified. There will be . . .
no toil there,
no crosses or burdens to carry there,
no foes within nor without to face there,
no tears or pains there,
no conflicts to endure there.

Five minutes with Jesus–and then what shall you think of all your earthly temptations, toils, trials, and troubles? One hour in Heaven, with the certainty of being forever holy, and forever happy–what will all your earthly afflictions be then?

Then, then, shall you understand the apostle when he says, “I consider that the sufferings of this present life are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be conferred on us!” Romans 8:18

(James Smith, “Gleams of Grace” 1860)

This is copied straight from a recent Grace Gem. In case you are unaware, Grace Gems are emailed daily and for free from gracegems.org. They are short quotes from past Godly men, mainly puritans, and I highly commend them to your attention and recommend you sign up.

Our Own Health, Wealth, And Gratification

By nature, every man is nothing but a mass of selfishness, seeking self-gratification in a variety of ways!

The less we indulge SELF, the better. Selfishness is . . .
the bane of our happiness,
a bar to our usefulness, and
renders us unlovely to both God and others.

One of the most beautiful traits in the character of our Lord and Savior, was His unselfishness. He never seemed to please Himself, or consult His own ease. He was everyone’s servant, and everyone’s friend. Through His whole life, His own testimony was illustrated, “The Son of Man did not come to be served–but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28

We are naturally selfish, and seek our own health, wealth, and gratification, as our grand end. Selfishness clings to us, and appears more or less in our whole conduct.

But the gospel calls for self-denial, and bids us take up our cross, and follow our self-denying Master. The gospel requires dedication to God, that we may live to Him and for Him; and it directs us to seek the good of others–of all that are around us. What the gospel requires–true grace produces; and it will struggle and fight with all our selfish principles until it prevails.

We have lived long enough for ourselves! Would not we be more happy, and profitable to others–if we were less selfish, and more thoroughly imbued with the self-denying spirit of Christ?
Do we not live too much to ourselves? Do we not think too much of our own comfort, and pleasure, and ease?

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:3-5 

(James Smith, “Gleams of Grace” 1860)

This is copied straight from a recent Grace Gem. In case you are unaware, Grace Gems are emailed daily and for free from gracegems.org. They are short quotes from past Godly men, mainly puritans, and I highly commend them to your attention and recommend you sign up.

Grace Gems: True Consecration

J.R. Miller, “The Shining Light” 1911

“It is the Lord’s will. Let Him do what He thinks best.” 1 Samuel 3:18

The heart of consecration is not devotion to this or that kind of service for Christ- but devotion to the Divine will, whatever God may ordain. It may not be any form of activity–sometimes it is quiet waiting. Consecration is not bringing a great many souls to Christ, attending a great many religious meetings, or teaching or preaching.

Some weary one, shut away in the darkness, in the chamber of pain, may be illustrating true consecration far more beautifully than those whose hands are fullest of Christian activities in the bustling world.

Consecration is devotion to the will of God. It is readiness to do, not what we want to do in His service–but what He gives us to do.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away! Blessed be the name of the LORD!” Job 1:21

“Father, if You are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Nevertheless, I want Your will to be done, not Mine!” Luke 22:42

“Let the Lord’s will be done!” Acts 21:14

Your way, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it be,
Lead me by Your own hand,
Choose out the path for me.

I dare not choose my lot,
I would not, if I might;
Choose for me, my God;
So shall I walk aright!
Horatius Bonar
This is copied straight from a recent Grace Gem. In case you are unaware, Grace Gems are emailed daily and for free from gracegems.org. They are short quotes from past Godly men, mainly puritans, and I highly commend them to your attention and recommend you sign up.

If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10

The Importance of the Church

I just recently began reading Mark Dever’s book: The Church – The gospel made visible. The following is based on an excerpt from the preface*

The church should be regarded as important because to Christians because of its importance to Christ

  • Christ founded the church – Matthew 16:18
  • Christ purchased it with His blood – Acts 20:28
  • Christ intimately identifies himself with it – Acts 9:4
  • The church is the body of Christ – 1 Corinthians 12:12,27;  Ephesians 1:22-23 et al
  • The church is the dwelling place of His Spirit – 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Ephesians 2:18, 22, 4:4
  • The church is the chief instrument of glorifying God in the world (Ezekiel 36:22-38; Ephesians 3:10
  • The church is God’s instrument for bringing both the gospel to the nations and a great host of redeemed humanity to himself – Luke 24:46-48, Revelation 5:9

 

I trust that I bring you a few more tidbits from this book soon

 

*The Church, The gospel made visible; Dever, Mark (2012); B&H Publishing house; Page x-xi

Trusting God Through The Numbers

The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side. Those to camp on the east side toward the sunrise shall be of the standard of the camp of Judah by their companies, the chief of the people of Judah being Nahshon the son of Amminadab, his company as listed being 74,600. Those to camp next to him shall be the tribe of Issachar, the chief of the people of Issachar being Nethanel the son of Zuar, his company as listed being 54,400. Then the tribe of Zebulun, the chief of the people of Zebulun being Eliab the son of Helon, his company as listed being 57,400. All those listed of the camp of Judah, by their companies, were 186,400. They shall set out first on the march. “On the south side shall be the standard of the camp of Reuben by their companies, the chief of the people of Reuben being Elizur the son of Shedeur, his company as listed being 46,500. Numbers 2:1-11

bible-and-coffeeIf like me you have read the bible through at least once, you would have read through the numbers lists and genealogies, such as the verses quoted above. And like me, you probably found it very difficult reading. Keeping concentration is hard and we struggle to put into perspective why these texts are a part of the bible. So why did God include in His word, large parts of Genesis, Chronicles, Numbers and even a chapter in Luke and Matthew each such lists? And what can we learn from them? In literature, I am unaware of any other work that labours so hard with lists, genealogies and numbers, except Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and then only in the appendixes. So why does the bible have them? And does it benefit us to read them through, and as often as we read the rest of the bible? I came up with four reasons why they are important.

  1. The genealogies and number lists demonstrate that the bible is a historical document, comprising of multiple genres of writing and written down by many different people over many many years rather than a complete fabrication out of the heads a person or group. As you know, the genres include writings, historical accounts, poetry, proverbs, law, genealogies, court records, letters, public proclamations written down and so on. Even a cursory glance through the bible will reveal this is so, and in examining some texts will Illustrate what I mean.
    Some verses are written from the first person:

    In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal. Daniel 8: 1-2

    or from the third person such as:

    Then Joshua rose early in the morning and they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan, he and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people, “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. Joshua 3:1-3

    And then there is songs:

    Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD! Psalm 150

    Or proverbs:

    Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored. A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools. Proverbs 13:18-19 

    And finally (by way of example) prophecy:

    The word of the LORD came to me:
    “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, declares the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Ezekiel 18:1-3


    Besides all this, we see order, an account of God’s interaction with the world, from the day He created it, till the day He will destroy and remake it. And His salvation plan, starting with the Woman’s seed (Genesis 3:15) to the calling of Abraham, and his descendants, ultimately climaxing in Christ, and the events soon thereafter. No work of fiction would be able to encompass so much differing content and still be even remotely coherent.

    432072_661548717204336_1878007460_n

  2. This is probably the most important reason why genealogies and numbers are important. They tell us, Christians today in the 21st century that we are connected to an actual, unbroken and continuous line of saint, men of old who were just as much in awe and in love with our God as we were. We are connected to an actual history, and its our history. The events of the early church are the events of our church’s past. indeed, while we are not Israel, the various events of the Old Testament is part of the history of a believer. If nothing else, this should give us tremendous trust in God’s faithfulness. If He can keep the world spinning, and keep His people for so many centuries, He will certainly keep us, as He has promised. (Hebrews 13:5).
    Have you ever read your family tree? My family has several volumes covering some of the branches of my family history. I remember pouring over these books, reading about the first member of my family in South Africa (One of the 1820 Settlers in the Eastern Cape if you’re interested). Thomas Hartley and his sons, and their exploits, and how they settled, and what they did and so on. I’m sure you know what I mean. In the same way, we read of (for example) Steven, the first Martyr, and realize that he is our Ancestor in the faith, a man who, like I am, was called and converted to Jesus Christ, who boldly proclaimed Him and, as I may be, was called to lay his life down for his Lord.
  3. The numbers and genealogies is one of the nails in the coffin of the debate “Is the bible the word of God?” Because of the number of authors, as well as the different genres and the number of years over which the full text of the bible was written and compiled, the idea that it would be cohesive, let alone coherent is very difficult to imagine. It is totally understandable that unbelievers can look at the bible from a far perspective and reject it out of hand for this reason. Except when you read and study it you find it to be both coherent and cohesive, in both small portions and as a whole. God wrote it, The incredibly complex detail is impossible otherwise. And it all hangs together. Part of this coherence is the genealogies, it tells us people are involved, and that they were involved in events planned and played out by our Lord. At such and such a time, such and such happened.
  4. Finally, it tells us that the bible is not fiction. I have, in reality been saying this is the previous 3 points, but allow me to summarize in this way, because by noting it directly we can draw some particular applications. If the bible isn’t fiction, then we can, in the first place, take it seriously, knowing that its author intended it to be understood as truth. It certainly claims to be true and I have found many many reasons to believe that it is true. And if true, because of its claims, it most certainly must have and effect on our lives, it cannot help but do that.

300px-900-158_Ahnentafel_Herzog_Ludwig

So in summary, God wrote the bible, and He is the author of all of it. This includes long lists of names, numbers and details of people. Boring as this may be, in the literary sense it nevertheless can teach us a number of things. It tells us about an actual history that actually happened. And we are connected to that story, we are part of the story which ultimately God is playing out. God’s word is true, trustworthy and needed for knowing God. Get hold of one and read it regularly, and remember as you read through it, especially through Chronicles or Numbers, this is from God.

Fighting Sin In The Moment

I had the pleasure of spending two days listening to Mark Dever and Kevin DeYoung expound and proclaim the gospel over and over as part of the Durban leg of the Rezolution 2013 conference. However the final session was preached by Kevin DeYoung and using Hebrews 12:14 he preached on holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. He painted a convicting picture of just how exactly holiness is an essential aspect of being a Christian. You cannot be a Christian and not grow in holiness. Then he gave a personal illustration of how, at the moment of temptation, to remain holy and pure, and its been buzzing around my head ever since.

Fighting-Sin-In-The-Moment

This is the principle: When faced with temptation, quote to yourself Matthew 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.  Now lest you think that this is simply a mantra which cures everything, let me explain whats behind this. As a Christian, I want to see God. He is my Lord, my saviour, the one who removed my sins and my adoptive Father. I suspect that upon entering heaven and seeing Him, I will fall on my face and it will take quite a few years before I get up from that. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.

KevinDeYoungDeYoung explained that there are two aspects of holiness. Firstly the holiness which come from Christ, purchased by Him on the cross of Calvary. But secondly, there is holiness which we develop as God sanctifies us. This holiness is not saving, we can’t in any way use it as part of a ticket to heaven, but it is the natural fruit of an increasingly sanctified life. This is the holiness primarily referred to in Hebrews 12:14, the holiness without which nobody will see the Lord.

Now let me emphasis something. No amount of personal holiness, either worked for knowingly or not, can ever add even the smallest part to your salvation, that was solely and completely earned by the atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross. However, every single Christian, without exception, will always, always, over time, become progressively more holy and righteous. The improvements may be small enough that you don’t notice them in the short term, but over the medium term, your friends and family will notice them. A Christian dies, more holy than when they were saved. This process is called sanctification. To put it another way, this is what James is referring to in James 2, where he describes faith without works as being dead. Again, not that works saves the person, but it ALWAYS accompanies salvation.

So what of saying Matthew 5:8 to yourself. Let me explain it using DeYoung’s analogy. Sin offers pleasure. Hebrews 11:24-25 describe how Moses chose rather to suffer as a Hebrew rather than “enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” Sin is pleasurable, for a short time; This is why people look at pornography. This is why a person will commit adultery or commit an act of violence. Often it is the reason why people steal. Very often, people addicted to alcohol or drugs, is because the substance somehow dulls the pain, makes them feel better or gives them a high of some kind. People lie because, at the time, it is more comfortable to tell a falsehood than the uncomfortable truth. The problem is, sin requires wages, and those wages are always death. Romans 6:23

But because sin is pleasurable, we are tempted to do it. We have to replace that desire for a fleeting pleasure, with a greater one. I want to see God. That is a great desire. So when tempted, I remind myself of a particular beatitude, which says. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. I remind myself with these words that what I want is to see God rather than this temporary, death bringing sin.

Punching-Out-SinJust one other thing, and that just to say, this in not a quid pro quo system, its not a mantra that just makes you holy if you say it enough times. The moment it becomes some kind of mantra, it looses its gospel potency. But its is a most excellent bullet to put in the gun used for fighting sin in the moment. It doesn’t remove the temptation, but it does serve as an effective tool for keeping clear of it, especially those sins of a visual nature. Its a way of renewing your mind day by day.

Till He returns

The Joburg version of the Rezolution comference is happening this week, if you are in the area it is well worth going to listen to Kevin DeYound, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan & CJ Mahaney preach at this conference. More information here

Mercy and Grace: God’s Grace

Grace: grace is really a different thing altogether. We can define it as “getting something that you don’t deserve.” The man in Matthew 18 did not technically receive grace, all that happened was that his account returned for zero. His debt removed. But grace goes further, it then gives the debtor credit. It not only wipes out the unpayable debt but then adds currency into the account so that his balance is positive. A different analogy, a school child who has spent the whole day messing around, being disruptive, and doing no work. This person has wasted the class’s time, the teacher’s attention is divided and time is wasted on trying to get this kid to behave. Also the child has wasted his own time and his parent’s money spent on his education. At the end of the day, the teacher, dismissing the rest of the class keeps that child back.

images

The teacher then, instead of dressing the kid down and giving out punishment, buys him a Coke, and spends time helping him catch up on work missed and time squandered. The kid didn’t deserve anything but punishment, and punishment more than the loss of a day’s work. Instead he got a bonus, something he absolutely didn’t deserve.

What this means for the Christian is that, when God saves him, he doesn’t just have his slate cleaned, he is given a full and inexhaustible measure of righteousness earned for him by Christ at the cross. (Romans 10:12, Ephesians 1:18, etc.)

having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, Ephesians 1:18

iStock_000012634913XSmall

Another aspect of God’s grace is that it is put in stark contrast to works. Some examples are Ephesians 2:8-9 and 2 Timothy 1:9 as well as the following:

So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. Romans 11:5-6

Not the first verse everyone thinks of when we think of grace, but it makes an interesting point. Paul is discussing the relationship between the Jews and the gentiles. The remnant he refers to in verse 5 is those few Jewish believers in Jesus Christ and Paul is comparing them to the 7000 who did not bow the knee to Baal during Elijah’s day. But Paul’s point is hammered home in verse 6. If by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works. Works and grace are polar opposite as far as salvation is concerned. Either you can be saved by grace, or by works, but NEVER both. And the problem with being saved by works is that it never possible, you have to be perfect, and none of us are (Romans 3:23). So grace is our only option. The problem is, and this is what Paul addresses in Romans 7, is that many Christians try to maintain and earn their salvation by works. If you’ve ever thought (as a Christian) thoughts similar to this: “I’ve committed that sin again, I can’t be a Christian, a Christian wouldn’t do that…” then you’ve made the mistake of trying to be saved by works. Now the Christian life is not without good works (read James and 1 John), a Christian is not, can not, and can never be saved by works.

Elijah-MtCarmelThis is a mistake made by other religions and pseudo-christian groups. For example the Roman Catholic Church is very adamant that works are required for salvation. Consider this quote from the council of Trent

“If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema” (Sixth Session, Canons Concerning Justification, Canon 24). (Read more quotes at this website).

But ever more a Christian, a believer is Christ, is saved by grace, and grace alone.

Finally I have an admonition. Mercy and grace are two of the most wonderful aspects of God. They are gifts from the Lord and are at the center of our hope. But we have to remember that both mercy and grace are attributes of God, that is, they are a part of who He is. The danger for us is, on the one hand, to think of His grace and mercy as simply things we receive, gifts from God (which they are) which we are to spread around. This doesn’t go far enough. Our God is merciful; He is gracious. He is those things. On the other hand, the second ditch we fall into is that of thinking of Mercy and Grace, simply as doctrines. They are doctrines, but like all doctrines do, they describe the reality, our God is merciful; He is gracious. He also shows mercy and gives us grace. If you don’t go farther than the paper on which the doctrine is written, you’ve missed the point.

So mercy is not getting what we do deserve and grace is getting what we don’t deserve. We deserve hell for our sin; those sins are removed. We certainly don’t deserve heaven, He freely and graciously grants us access to His heavenly throne.

grace1

 

Page 1 of 2012345...1020...Last »