Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Boring!

I am reading a book titled 'Boring' by Michael Kelley. 

So far as I have read, I surely did find it to be a treat. This book is all set to confront our customary complaining at the mundaneness of life.

Think about it. What is life to many of us? Mr. Average Joe wakes up early in the morning with a jolt. Randomly helps his wife in the kitchen. Gets his kids ready for school. He whirs through the incorrigible traffic, drops his kids at school and his wife at her office. He works his heart out at his and scoots off to home, waiting to meet his family. He ends up spending good time with this family and does a couple of chores. And yet at bed in the dark, he gets lost in his probing thoughts. "Is there more to life than what I've been going through?" he wonders. For Mr. Average Joe knows too well that, that day is going to repeat itself tomorrow. With a heart that is sunk in desperation and dissatisfaction he drifts to sleep, a seeming respite from his incessantly nagging thoughts. 

Michael Kelly offers a different answer to this boring(!) problem.
He asks,
"What if God actually doesn’t want you to escape from the ordinary, but to find significance and meaning inside of it?"

He goes on...
"The question isn’t whether or not God is present and active; the question is just how aware we are of that presence and activity"

"In all those dirty diapers, bill payments, e-mails, and daily commutes, God is there. He is intimately involved in the small, seemingly insignificant areas of our lives."

"God operates through, not in spite of, these seemingly ordinary circumstances."

"The work of God is not constrained to the big and audacious. His divine fingers steadily weave together the tapestry of the mundane and ordinary too."

"Jesus is the Hebrew equivalent of being named “Joe.” There were probably four other kids in His class with the same name. Nothing special there. But that’s how God works."

He challenges and also offers a perspective on perspective!! 
"We can easily say, with gusto even, “Yes! There is no such thing as ordinary!” but as soon as we say it, we will be confronted with an endless progression of the mundane. What changes isn’t so much the obligations and responsibilities of everyday life; those keep on coming as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow. What changes is the perspective with which we see those things."

Mr. Kelley quotes the prudent musing of the poet Elizabeth Browning, which to me too has become a favorite,
“earth is crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God, but only he who sees takes off his shoes, the rest sit around and pick blackberries.”

He also quotes Chesterton,
"...perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon.... God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them..."

He astutely says,
"We must, in a sense, fight to not fight to escape the ordinary. When we do, we’ll find the extraordinary lurking inside what has become ordinary to us."

Then he talks about the need for a Christian to be saturated with contentment. He says,
"The person of contentment isn’t constantly striving after something else." Whereas a person who strives after something he deems as 'better' is saturated with discontentment. According to Mr. Kelley chasing after something else betrays one's ignorance of appreciating the true value of what one already has in Christ and eventually ends up living a life that is irredeemably boring.

The lesson that I've personally learnt so far is 'to seek the extraordinary not in spite of but in the very ordinary, monotonous things of life'. Unfortunately our present-day Christianity has been indoctrinated with the crazy rush for the supernatural by despising the natural. Blessed is he who has eyes to see God in the very ordinary things of his life! May God help us to do so every other seemingly 'boring' day!


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Justification and Imputation

The doctrine of imputation is indispensable to comprehend the doctrine of justification.

What is justification?
Theologians say that this word is used in legal/forensic terms. Justification means being 'pronounced righteous'. Justification can be understood to have two elements viz., a)"Negative" element and b)"Positive" element. 
Both these elements include something known as imputation.

What is imputation? 
It is a word used in commerce meaning 'charged to an account.'


According to Paul, there are the three great imputations.
I. Imputation of Adam's sin to humanity (Romans 5:12)
II. Imputation of the sins of the believers to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21)
III. Imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the believers (Romans 5:19, 2 Corinthians 5:21)

a)Negative Element:
The negative element is the forgiveness/remission of sins based on the ground of the atoning work of Christ. The sin that Adam committed led to the fall of the whole humanity. Adam was the representative of the entire human race. In him the entire human race had to be born. God's creative order was that whatever that affects Adam had to affect the humanity as well.  Even Eve was formed out of Adam and hence Eve too found her head/representative in Adam.  Now that Adam had disobeyed and sinned, the whole of human race sinned (Imputation I). In justification this violation has to be taken care of and that is accomplished through the remission of sins.  The atoning work of Christ on the cross (Imputation II), also known as the 'passive obedience' of Christ, takes care of the remission of sins thereby offering forgiveness of all sins to the ones who believe in Christ. However this is only one side of the coin.

b)Positive Element:
Justification is not just about forgiveness of sins. It goes beyond mere pardoning of sins. The law not only condemns sin but also demands perfect obedience. Adam failed to uphold this demand of the law too. So this also had to be taken care of by our perfect Substitute. So the second Adam, Jesus Christ, in the place of first Adam fulfilled the demands of the law which is referred to as the 'active obedience' of Christ. This obedience of Christ is imputed to believers as positive righteousness (Imputation III). So this imputed righteousness makes the believers eligible in God's eyes to receive eternal life. The imputation of righteousness is a "constant" in the topic of justification.

So justification is twofold: the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of positive righteousness.

This subject is really massive and a blog post like this simply serves as a preamble to this great topic. For further reading, I recommend this book. - Jesus' Blood and Righteousness (Paul's Theology of Imputation) - Brian Vickers




Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness - Timothy Keller - A Review




A much-needed book to address the much-vaunted doctrine of self-promotion. The need of the hour for a society as well as, pathetic it may seem even for the Christendom, that is unabashedly bent on foisting on you marketing your 'self'. "If you have to get on to higher levels of your life you've got no choice but to promote yourself" sounds the clarion. But is this propagandizing worthy enough?  Is it real enough to fetch you the desired ends without dreadful consequences.

Timothy Keller, pastor and theologian, has written a concise book that should help rescue people from themselves. Some nuggets of wisdom from his book:

The Diagnosis:
"The image points to the fact that there is emptiness at the centre of the human ego."

"...human ego is built on something besides God. It searches for something that will give it a sense of worth, a sense of specialness and a sense of purpose and builds itself on that."

"...is always making us think about how we look and how we are treated."

"People sometimes say their feelings are hurt. But our feelings can’t be hurt! It is the ego that hurts"

"It is always drawing attention to itself."

"As Lewis (C.S.Lewis) says, pride is the pleasure of having more than the next person."

"Trying to recommend ourselves, trying to create a self-esteem résumé because we are desperate to fill our sense of inadequacy and emptiness. The ego is so busy. So busy all the time."

The Prescription:
"Paul’s self-worth, his self-regard, his identity is not tied in any way to their verdict and their evaluation of him."

"And then he goes one step further: he will not even judge himself. It is as if he says, ‘I don’t care what you think – but I don’t care what I think. I have a very low opinion of your opinion of me – but I have a very low opinion of my opinion of me.’"

"So, although he knows himself to be the chief of sinners, that fact is not going to stop him from doing the things that he is called to do."

"True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself."

"True gospel-humility means an ego that is not puffed up but filled up."

"The truly gospel-humble person is a self-forgetful person whose ego is just like his or her toes. It just works. It does not draw attention to itself. The toes just work; the ego just works. Neither draws attention to itself."

"When someone whose ego is not puffed up but filled up gets criticism, it does not devastate them. They listen to it and see it as an opportunity to change."

"Wouldn’t you like to be the type of person who, in their imaginary life, does not sit around fantasizing about hitting self-esteem home-runs, daydreaming about successes that gives them the edge over others?"

"Do you realize that it is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ that you get the verdict before the performance?"

"And now I perform on the basis of the verdict. Because He loves me and He accepts me, I do not have to do things just to build up my résumé. I do not have to do things to make me look good. I can do things for the joy of doing them. I can help people to help people – not so I can feel better about myself, not so I can fill up the emptiness."

This book is recommended to anyone who is experiencing  this struggle within. God bless!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

God's Sovereignty and Prayer

However, the question still returns on us, If God be the Predestinator of everything that comes to pass, and the Regulator of all events, then is not prayer a profitless exercise? A sufficient answer to these questions is, that God bids us to pray—"Pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). And again, "men ought always to pray" (Luke 18:1). And further: Scripture declares that, "the prayer of faith shall save the sick", and, "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:15, 16); while the Lord Jesus Christ—our perfect Example in all things—was pre-eminently a Man of Prayer. Thus, it is evident, that prayer is neither meaningless nor valueless. But still this does not remove the difficulty nor answer the question with which we started out. What then is the relationship between God’s sovereignty and Christian prayer?
First of all, we would say with emphasis, that prayer is not intended to change God’s purpose, nor is it to move Him to form fresh purposes. God has decreed that certain events shall come to pass, but He has also decreed that these events shall come to pass through the means He has appointed for their accomplishment. God has elected certain ones to be saved, but He has also decreed that these ones shall be saved through the preaching of the Gospel. The Gospel, then, is one of the appointed means for the working out of the eternal counsel of the Lord; and prayer is another. God has decreed the means as well as the end, and among the means is prayer. Even the prayers of His people are included in His eternal decrees. Therefore, instead of prayers being in vain, they are among the means through which God exercises His decrees. "If indeed all things happen by a blind chance, or a fatal necessity, prayers in that case could be of no moral efficacy, and of no use; but since they are regulated by the direction of Divine wisdom, prayers have a place in the order of events" (Haldane).
That prayers for the execution of the very things decreed by God are not meaningless, is clearly taught in the Scriptures. Elijah knew that God was about to give rain, but that did not prevent him from at once betaking himself to prayer, (James 5:17, 18). Daniel "understood" by the writings of the prophets that the captivity was to last but seventy years, yet when these seventy years were almost ended, we are told that he "set his face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes" (Dan. 9:2, 3). God told the prophet Jeremiah "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end"; but instead of adding, there is, therefore, no need for you to supplicate Me for these things, He said, "Then shall ye call upon Me, and ye shall go and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you" (Jer. 29:12).
Once more; in Ezekiel 36 we read of the explicit, positive, and unconditional promises which God has made concerning the future restoration of Israel, yet in verse 37 of this same chapter we are told, "Thus saith the Lord God; I will vet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for then;"! Here then is the design of prayer: not that God’s will may be altered, but that it may be accomplished in His own good time and way. It is because God has promised certain things, that we can ask for them with the full assurance of faith. It is God’s purpose that His will shall be brought about by His own appointed means, and that He may do His people good upon His own terms, and that is, by the ‘means’ and ‘terms’ of entreaty and supplication. Did not the Son of God know for certain that after His death and resurrection He would be exalted by the Father? Assuredly He did. Yet we find Him asking for this very thing: "O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine Own Self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was" (John 17:5)! Did not He know that none of His people could perish? yet He besought the Father to "keep" them (John 17:11)!
Finally; it should be said that God’s will is immutable, and cannot be altered by our crying. When the mind of God is not toward a people to do them good, it cannot be turned to them by the most fervent and importunate prayers of those who have the greatest interest in Him—"Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth" (Jer. 15:1). The prayers of Moses to enter the promised land is a parallel case.
Our views respecting prayer need to be revised and brought into harmony with the teaching of Scripture on the subject. The prevailing idea seems to be, that I come to God and ask Him for something that I want, and that I expect Him to give me that which I have asked. But this is a most dishonoring and degrading conception. The popular belief reduces God to a servant, our servant: doing our bidding, performing our pleasure, granting our desires. No; prayer is a coming to God, telling Him my need, committing my way unto the Lord, and leaving Him to deal with it as seemeth Him best. This makes my will subject to His, instead of, as in the former case, seeking to bring His will into subjection to mine. No prayer is pleasing to God unless the spirit actuating it is, "not my will, but thine be done". "When God bestows blessings on a praying people, it is not for the sake of their prayers, as if He was inclined and turned by them; but it is for His own sake, and of His own sovereign will and pleasure. Should it be said, to what purpose then is prayer? it is answered, This is the way and means God has appointed, for the communication of the blessing of His goodness to His people. For though He has purposed, provided, and promised them, yet He will be sought unto, to give them, and it is a duty and privilege to ask. When they are blessed with a spirit of prayer, it forebodes well, and looks as if God intended to bestow the good things asked, which should be asked always with submission to the will of God, saying, Not my will but Thine be done" (John Gill).
-- Excerpt from The Sovereignty of God by A.W. Pink

Graeme Goldsworthy on Biblical Theology

"Conversion to Christ, then, must affect the way people view the Bible. They may have come out of militant atheism, unreflective agnosticism, self-centred postmodernism, or just plain ignorance of all things Christian. But conversion will mean that the word through which Christ is made known to us will take on a growing coherence and authority. Unfortunately, it is true to say that in many evangelical congregations, while the authority of the Bible is usually asserted or implied, the coherence of the canon, its inner unity, is left largely to chance.
What, then, are the driving forces for doing biblical theology, and when did the discipline emerge? Craig Bartholomew, commenting on the frequently-made claim that Johann Philipp Gabler started it all with his inaugural address at Altdorf in 1787, says: “But biblical theology, in the sense of the search for the inner unity of the Bible, goes back to the church fathers.”1 That is undeniable, but where did the church fathers get this sense of inner unity from? Obviously, they were responding to what they perceived in the Scriptures themselves. I suggest that the emergence of biblical theology is a feature of the dynamic of revelation within Scripture itself, and it is in evidence the moment the prophetic word in Israel begins to link previous prophetic words and events into a coherent pattern of salvation history. This happens in the way the prophets, beginning with Moses, speak a “thus says Yahweh” word into the contemporary events and link it with what has preceded it. A case in point would be the unfolding of the significance of the covenant with Abraham as it governs subsequent events. The events of Genesis 12-50 cannot be properly understood apart from the initial promises to Abraham and their frequent reiteration. The narrative of Exodus is in the same way taken up under this covenant. The whole course of salvation history in the Old Testament from Moses onwards is an expansion of the words in Exodus 2: 23-25.