Happy birthday to my dear, beautiful, funny, encouraging, hard-working, thrifty, creative mom, Myrna Mae Anderson LeClerc (1942-2004). I love and miss you very much.
Archive for July, 2012
I’ve seen t-shirts that say “Jonathan Edwards is My Homeboy” which makes me laugh. Well…Jonathan Edwards is my Facebook friend. I, therefore, receive occasional posts which included this insightful one-liner:
“This world is all the hell that ever a true Christian is to endure, and it is all the heaven that unbelievers shall ever enjoy.”
C.S. Lewis puts a twist on this in The Great Divorce, his treatise on heaven and hell. He wrote:
“That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.1
“And of some sinful pleasure they say ‘Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences’: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of sin.
“Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness.
“And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say ‘We have never lived anywhere except Heaven,’ and the Lost, ‘We were always in Hell.’ And both will speak truly.”
1 [This is why John Piper says we are more than conquerors. We not only are conquerors, ultimately triumphing in eternity because of Christ, but more than conquerors as he turns even our earthly agonies to his great purpose of bringing us good and him glory.]
Returning to Edwards, we are challenged to consider our given path and its ultimate end when we read his one-liner within its context, the sermon he wrote, “Dying to Gain,” when he was but 19 years old. I stumbled upon an excerpt of the sermon on a beautiful gem of a site called Tolle Lege, meaning (which I love) “Take up and read.” The blog’s author, Nick Roarke, shares the context for Edward’s one-liner which should cause us all to pause and consider our ends:
“What a vast difference is there between the death of a child of the devil and a child of God! The one leaves all his troubles and afflictions behind him, never to feel them more; the other, he leaves all his pleasures behind him, all the pleasure that ever he will enjoy while God endures.
The one leaves all his temptations forever, but the other instead of that falls into the hands of the tempter, not to be tempted but to be tormented by him. The one is perfectly delivered from all remainders of corruption; the other, he carries all that vast load of sin, made up of original sin, natural corruption, and actual sins, into hell with him, and there the guilt of them breaks forth in the conscience and burns and scorches him as flames of hell within.
The filthiness of sin will then appear and be laid open before the world to his eternal shame. Death to the true Christian is an entrance into eternal pleasures and unspeakable joys, but the death of a sinner is his entrance into never-ending miseries. This world is all the hell that ever a true Christian is to endure, and it is all the heaven that unbelievers shall ever enjoy.
‘Tis a heaven in comparison of the misery of the one, and a hell in comparison of the happiness of the other. The sinner, when he dies, he leaves all his riches and possessions: there is no more money for him to have the pleasure of fingering; there is no more gay apparel for him to be arrayed in, nor proud palace to live in. But the Christian, when he dies, he obtains all his riches, even infinite spiritual, heavenly riches.
At death, the sinner leaves all his honor and enters into eternal disgrace; but the Christian is then invested with his. The one leaves all his friends forever more: when he sees them again at the resurrection, it will be either glorifying God in his justice in damning him, or else like furies ready to tear him.
But the other, he goes to his best friends and will again meet his best earthly friends at the resurrection in glory, full of mutual joy and love. The death of a believer is in order to a more glorious resurrection, but the death of a sinner is but only a faint shadow and preludium of the eternal death the body is to die at the great day and forever more.
So great is the difference between the death of the one and the other, ’tis even as the difference between life and death, between death and a resurrection. Wherefore, now you have both before you—the glorious gainfulness of the death of a Christian, and the dreadfulness of the death of a sinner—or rather you have life and death set before you, to make your choice: therefore, choose life.”
[Illustration: Marvelous Journey by Dehong He]
First, the psalm (ESV)…
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
Now the richly beautiful hymn…
I have two favorite lines in the hymn. One is taken from v.4 of Psalm 51 “I confess Thy judgement just; speechless, I Thy mercy trust.” This is the heart of repentance, recognizing how our sins assault a holy God. They are odious to him and affront the very nature and character of Him who created us. Our sins, all of our sins, are ultimately against God himself and he is just and right in meting out punishment. In our carnal state we can do little else, but stand without a defense. However, for those who have received Christ, his sacrifice has purchased the mercy we need and that mercy is as trustworthy as the God who provides it.
The second line I love is taken from v.13 of this very public confession. After being forgiven and restored, David finds hope that “sinners then shall learn from me, and return, O God, to Thee.” This is the power of humbling ourselves before God and our fellow men, relying on the very nature of God to grant us mercy, and training our tongues to “sing aloud of his righteousness” (v. 14). This is God doing what he does best, converting all things for our good and his glory.
1. God, be merciful to me;
On Thy grace I rest my plea
Plenteous in compassion Thou,
Blot out my transgressions now;
Wash me, make me pure within;
Cleanse, O cleanse me from my sin.
2. My transgressions I confess;
Grief and guilt my soul oppress.
I have sinned against Thy grace,
And provoked Thee to Thy face.
I confess Thy judgement just;
Speechless, I Thy mercy trust.
3. I am evil, born in sin;
Thou desirest truth within.
Thou alone my Savior art,
Teach Thy wisdom to my heart;
Make me pure, Thy grace bestow,
Wash me whiter than the snow.
4. Broken, humbled to the dust
By Thy wrath and judgment just,
Let my contrite heart rejoice,
And in gladness hear Thy voice;
From my sins O hide Thy face,
Blot them out in boundless grace.
5. Gracious God, my heart renew,
Make my spirit right and true.
Cast me not away from Thee,
Let Thy Spirit dwell in me;
Thy salvation’s joy impart,
Steadfast make my willing heart.
6. Sinners then shall learn from me,
And return, O God, to Thee
Savior all my guilt remove,
And my tongue shall sing Thy love
Touch my silent lips, O Lord,
And my mouth shall praise accord.
Here’s a post from Ray Ortlund, lead pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Even though it is addressed to men, I’m a bit nostalgic today and with a few pronoun changes it works for me as I remember the husband of my youth.
_____ _____ _____
“Rejoice in the wife of your youth.” a
It does not say, “Rejoice in your young wife,” though that is biblical and delightful. b It says, “Rejoice in the wife of your youth” — that girl you married when you both were younger. By now, time has gone by. Maybe a lot of time. But nothing important has changed. She is still that girl who gave herself to you on your wedding day. She put herself in your arms. She could not have been more vulnerable and trusting. Remember that. Dwell on that. Marvel at that.
Remember how you used to laugh and have fun, because you so liked each other? You can have that again. Go back there. Yes, so much in life has changed. You both have seen trouble and sorrow, maybe more than you ever dreamed you would. But you still have her, and she counts for more than all the troubles in the world. Look at her. Look closely. Notice how much about her has not changed. Dwell on that. Think about her faithfulness to you through the years, despite your weaknesses and failings, through the many hardships, all by the grace of God. Meditate on the divine mercy she represents to you. Let your heart melt again, and rejoice in God and in her.
Your marriage is not a prison, and you have not received a death sentence — except to your selfishness. Your marriage can be a God-given source of rejoicing. How wonderful of God that release from shallow Self is a pathway into ever deeper joy with her, as long as you both shall live.
_____ _____ _____
Ladies, besides recalling the things that made you fall in love with your husband, it has been suggested by at least one author that we take stolen opportunities to really look at our husbands now and again. Find a vantage point unbeknownst to him and try to use fresh eyes to really look at him. [For some reason I remember this author suggesting to observe our husband’s hands as a window to the younger man we married years ago.]
With a bit of creativity, Dr. Ortlund can remind us women, too, that nothing important has changed. He is still that boy who did all those funny, kind, sometimes crazy, things to make you love him—and it worked! He is still the same boy who caused you to see life with him as better than life without him and to joyfully tie your fate to his—“all my fortunes at thy foot I’ll lay and follow thee my lord throughout the world.” c
Remember that. Dwell on that. Marvel at that.
And Dana…I still would and do (including “plight thee my trough”).
c Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet: Act 2, Scene 2 (Juliet to Romeo).
The temple represented here is the one spoken of in the New Testament built by Herod the Great, c.19 AD. It was actually a rebuilding and enlargement of Zerrubbabel’s temple built c. 536 BC, and meant to rival and supersede Solomon’s sacked temple built in the 10th century BC.
This is the temple in which Jesus was found speaking to the elders when but a boy of twelve. a It is this temple in which He drove out the marketers and opportunists who aimed to profit from their people’s religious obligations. b And it is this Temple in which Jesus entered and taught his last week before his death. c And when the Bible says Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem,” d it is imaginable that he had this temple in mind, as he resolutely gave himself to his mission—to become the once and forever, acceptable sacrifice for mankind. e
Although the scale of this temple was magnificent, it was only a mock version of Moses’ wilderness tabernacle f or what Solomon’s temple g had once been, for the glory of the Lord h was absent from this palatial complex. Indeed, this temple’s most holy chamber was empty. It was meant to house the ark of the covenant, i the covenant that God had made with his people. This ark upon which God claimed his mercy seat and upon which God’s glory had descended in bygone days, had long since been lost to the Jews. When the high priest entered this chamber once a year, he entered an empty room and could only imagine the awe-inspiring event this must have been for his predecessor priests.
This does not mean that there was not true faith in Israel in Herod’s day. We read of the dear old widowed Anna who “did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.” Upon seeing the baby Jesus in the temple, she gave thanks to God and began to prophesy “to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” j
There was the righteous and devout Simeon who had the Holy Spirit and who was waiting for the “consolation of Israel”—the rescue and hope to come through the Lord’s Christ. It was this Simeon who recognized God’s salvation in the newborn Jesus as he was brought by his parents to the temple for circumcision. Simeon knew Jesus to be the awaited deliverer—“a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” k
Of course there was Mary l who “found favor with God” and her just and obedient husband Joseph, m as well as the priest, Zechariah, and his good wife, Elizabeth, who were “both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” n
The temple was designed by God to be a microcosm for the people of Israel, an earthly representation of a greater reality—the Lord’s actual presence in his heavenly courts as witnessed by Isaiah. o It was to be a tool for the people; a visual reminder of the heavenly reality. But it was also to be a physical place of sacrifice and atonement. By it, the Messiah might be recognized p in his perfect, once-and-for-all sacrifice and atonement for the people as he fulfilled for all time the original meaning of the temple sacrifices.
Of course, many missed this. As we humans are want to do, the Jews made a religion of their worship and attached so many rules and regulations to it that it was a burden too heavy for the common person to carry. Some of Jesus’ harshest words were for the religious leaders of his day, who forced the Jews into this bondage of legalism and snuffed out the joys of knowing and serving the Lord. q
These religious leaders, these Pharisees and experts of the law put on a great show of devotion, but they themselves were not able to benefit from the Good News that came to them “because they were not united by faith with those who listened.” r Their dictated religion had simply become a checklist of do’s and don’ts with no need for faith or dependence on God. And as we are told, “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” s
So it was to this dark, dry shell of worship and sacrifice that our Savior came. But praise be to God, He came to make a new agreement—to make dry bones live again and to put his spirit in his people. t We should not be surprised that such a thing can happen, for it was Jesus, speaking of himself, who declared to the judgmental Pharisees, “something greater than the temple is here.”
a Luke 2:41-51
b Luke 19:45-46
c Matthew 21:23 – 26:2
d Luke 9:51
e Hebrews 9:24-26
f Exodus 40:34
g 1 Kings 8:11
h 1 Samuel 4:21-22
i Exodus 24:10-22
j Luke 2:36-38
k Luke 2:25-35
l Luke 1:30
m Matthew 1:19-25
n Luke 1:5-25
o Isaiah 6:1-4
p John 2:19-22
q Luke 11:37-54
r Hebrews 4:2
s Hebrews 11
t Ezekiel 37:1-14 u Matthew 12:6
“I must have the Savior indeed, for he is my All. All that others have in the world and in religion and in themselves I have in thee — pleasures, riches, safety, honor, life, righteousness, holiness, wisdom, bliss, joy, gaiety and happiness . . . . If a child longs for his father, a traveler for the end of his journey, a workman to finish his work, a prisoner for liberty, an heir for the full possession of his estate, so in all these respects I cannot help longing to go home.”
Howell Harris, quoted in D. M. Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans (Edinburgh, 1987), p. 300, as blogged by Ray Ortlund at the Gospel Coalition.
[Photo: The Way to Heaven by Rosita]