Saturday, November 03, 2007


Comic Art

Here endeth the series on the "Omnipotents," with the character that gave me my first totally visceral reaction to a comic book image. The character - ETERNITY, who first appeared in a Doctor Strange comic, I think the one you see here on the right. The character is fundamental to the universe and is an anthropomorphism of the timelessness. Yeah, go ahead and try and wrap your head around that.

But that is not what blew me away about the character - it was the visualization. Far and away the best thing to ever come from the pen of Steve Ditko, the character is a person shaped hole through which one gazes at, well, everything - hence the name - Eternity.

Like most omnipotent characters, Eternity was a plot device early on, and much has been done over the years to expand the story, he has been paired with Infinity, for example, but the story is almost irrelevant to me. The first time I saw this character I sat and stared at the page for many, many minutes.

To understand the amazement you need to remember that back then comic books were printed on newsprint with four color web presses. The ink rubbed off on your fingers. There were tons of fun, but not the seeming masterworks of art you see today. But look at Eternity with Dormannu above or the black and white image just above, also from the early era, and Ditko's pen. The three dimensionality to this art is amazing. Somehow the simplicity of the design given the medium of the time made him better than the modern renderings. One was almost tempted to look at the back of the page to see it there was a hole there.

Never a big fan of the mystic characters, the image of Eternity had me buying Doctor Strange comics for months, hoping for another glimpse. For me that is the essence of the comic experience. Stories come and go, comics eat material and story lines like no other medium. It is the image that keeps you coming back and this is one of the greatest.

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Friday, November 02, 2007


Is This Sacramental?

The London Telegraph reports on a new Protestant trend.
Americans are flocking to confess their sins as Protestant churches have joined their Catholic counterparts in modernising the sacrament of penance.
But what they are talking about is something that just makes my skin crawl:
New technology is fuelling the boom, but so is clever marketing by Churches that are portraying confession as a form of self-improvement — always popular with Americans — rather than some sort of punishment.

Church leaders also attribute the boom to the fashion for self-analysis peddled by daytime television programmes such as The Jerry Springer Show and to a wider theological trend in which Christians are looking for firmer moral guidance.
It's not that I am opposed to the use of technology, it's that confession is most certainly not about SELF-improvement. That may be a side effect, but that is not what it is about.

Being a good reformed Protestant, I am willing to say that confession never was about penance and the priestly role of Roman Catholic confession is troublesome, but confession, the laying of oneself, naked as it were, before the Lord for His work to be done upon you is something that is holy.

This strikes me as just profane. There is little the church needs more than a return to a genuine understanding of confession and its role in our lives both individually and corporately, but this is not it. This is an admixture of pop psychology, television garbage, with a light sprinkling of theological goobeldy-gook.

Just some things to think about when it comes to confession:

Lord, save us from ourselves!

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Friday Humor

The elderly minister was searching his closet for his collar before church one Sunday morning. In the back of the closet, he found a small box containing 3 eggs and 100 $1 bills. He called his wife into the closet to ask her about the box and its contents.

Embarrassed, she admitted having hidden the box there for their entire 25 years of marriage. Disappointed and hurt, the minister asked her, "WHY?"

The wife replied that she hadn't wanted to hurt his feelings. He asked her how the box could have hurt his feelings. She said that every time during their marriage that he had delivered a poor sermon, she had placed an egg in the box.

The minister felt that 3 poor sermons in 25 years was certainly nothing to feel bad about, so he asked her what the $100 was for.

She replied, "Each time I got a dozen eggs, I sold them to the neighbors for $1."

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Thursday, November 01, 2007


What Are You Building?

Russ over at Eagle and Child looks at Kuyper and Calvin and wonders what we are building.
Thus, Calvinism, taught rightly, ought to produce the best most engaged citizens out there. People who are involved in the community, working in the schools, investing in the public institutions. Simply put, we as Christians ought to be builders. (Yes, I'm well aware that there are diseased and unhealthy institutions and organizations in society that are beyond repair -- a part of healthy building is selective pruning out of what isn't working).

Contrast that with the ethos of destruction. This is the ethos of "I'm going to have mine, and the rest of you can play with a rusty chainsaw, for all I care." This is the ethos that spawns the latest crop of "torture chic" films (like Saw, Hostel, The Hills Have Eyes, etc). This is the ethos that turns a diverting video game like Second Life into a den of depravity, exploitation, and selfishness.
I am struck by how often we has Christians engage in destruction rather than building, and it is destruction for destruction sake. It is especially true in blogging where criticism seems to be the "call" of all. After all, it is so easy.

Just think about it. Building in blogging would requires being widely read, and maybe even doing research. Criticism, as it is most often practiced, simply means someone else's statements and more or less intellectually sticking your tongue out at them. The most widely read blogs, with a few notable exceptions, are that way for a reason - they are constructive.

Think about what passes for growth in churches today - it is most often poaching from other churches. Is that building or destroying?

Even when criticism is right and appropriate such can be done in a constructive or a destructive fashion. Isn't doing so constructively the very essence of grace? Let's think about this for a minute.

What is the purpose of criticism, or correcting error? Is it not ultimately to help those holding the error towards the correct view? Yet if we criticize destructively, rather than invite them into the fold, we drive them away.

Russ has struck on something very deep here. Building lies at the very heart of what it means to be a disciple. It may be building a relationship, or building a correction, but we are always building. Even when "pruning" it is for the sake of construction.

We would do well to remember tha.

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Illuminated Scripture

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007



Over at the Eagle and Child Russ Smith took a look at books about computers doing human things. Back in the old days, we called this Artificial Intelligence, or AI. This field of study has gone from wild dreams and imaginations to some very limited, but practical applications. Russ looks at current expectations for the field (e.g. databases large enough to do medical diagnosis) and wonders at the possibility.

I dabbled in AI a bit back in the '80's. The masterwork on the subject then was called Godel, Escher and Bach by Douglas Hofstatder. The book won a Pulitzer, but warning, if you don't know abstract math, you'll be skipping big portions. He actually goes through the proof of Godel's Incompleteness Theorm, one of the crowning mathematical achievements of the last century. I corresponded with Hofstadter a bit, learned the then linga franca of AI, a programming language called "LISP," and even wrote a program that spoke in tongues. I probably insulted a bunch of my readers right now, sorry, but it was fun.

In his piece, Russ discusses "The End of Intuition." The problems with AI go much deeper that mere intuitive leaps in insight. Such leaps in human thinking usually are cognition, it just happens so rapidly, or on an unconscious level. A sufficiently large database in diagnostic situations could give that appearance.

No, the problems lie in the stuff of our humanity. We are more than material, but computers are wholly material. As Michelangelo's David is the perfect representation of a man, it can never be man because it is not made of the same stuff. There is stuff of which we are composed that we cannot reproduce. Only God can make us in His image, we can only create in our own.

Some years ago a friend of mine had a stroke. He was a young man so none of the doctors even considered a stroke. They figured his symptoms just had to be from some other cause. Then another friend of mine came calling. This friend was a doctor. We had all known each other for more than 20 years, been in Bible studies together, travelled together. My doctor friend diagnosed my ill friend in about one half hour. Not because he was a better doctor, but because he knew the totality of my ill friend. He could see the part of him that was not of nature, but of God's super-nature.

AI work is fun, but it will never be completely serious. We are more than the sum of our parts. Despite Hofstadter's arguments in the book, the Incompleteness Theorm does show that there is more here than meets the eye. We cannot be reduced to material things and reproduced - Because we are in God's image. Our problem is we forget to cling to that fact for dear life.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007



Jollyblogger took a look at Christian infighting and what error is worth correcting and what is not. David is convicted on this matters through a reading of Second Timothy. David thinks:
And I am not saying we shouldn't confront error, there is still plenty of error out there that needs to be addressed. Yet I don't think we have a proper sense of what is error and what is not. My favorite example of this is to compare Paul's reaction to the envious, selfishly ambitious preachers in Philippians 1:15ff with the Galatians. He let the envious, selfishly ambitious guys off easy because they were preaching the gospel, but put the hammer down on the Galatians who compromised it.

In other words, we need a better handle on what is worth confronting and what is not. Every disagreement is not a matter of gospel compromise.
Which raises and interesting question in my mind, what is the gospel that is worth quarreling for? Particularly in light of 2 Tim 2:14 which David also quotes
2 Tim 2:14 - Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge {them} in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless, and leads to the ruin of the hearers. [emphasis added]
This contains a specific prohibition against arguing about "words." Now, I am no Greek scholar, I am just working with reference books here, but here's what Strong's Dictionary says about the word so translated:
From a compound of "logos"...
Which it then defines:
3056 logos (log'-os);

from 3004; something said (including the thought); by implication a topic (subject of discourse), also reasoning (the mental faculty) or motive; by extension, a computation; specifically (with the article in John) the Divine Expression (i.e. Christ):

KJV-- account, cause, communication, X concerning, doctrine, fame, X have to do, intent, matter, mouth, preaching, question, reason, + reckon, remove, say (-ing), shew, X speaker, speech, talk, thing, + none of these things move me, tidings, treatise, utterance, word, work.
Now if I understand this correctly, what Paul is saying is that spending too much time arguing doctrine when it is transformation that matters is not productive. To borrow David's phraseology, it looks to me like correcting error in understanding is way down the list of priorities when compared to producing the fruits of the gospel in our hearers.

Which raises a more fascinating question - is ours really a "doctrinal" faith? Are we what we believe, or are we who God makes us into? We are indeed transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2) but there are limits to that because there are limits to our minds. There are no limits to Christ's power to transform us. God will renew us in ways and through means that we cannot comprehend. In fact to try to comprehend it is to try to control it, which in the end is the REAL problem.

I do love learning things, but in the end, that is not what makes me God's man - nor does agreement on matters of our understand make or break someone else as God's person.

To put it bluntly, I'll take a graceful Catholic over a jerk of a Southern Baptist any day. (Before the hate mail arrives, not all Southern Baptists are jerks, but they seem to have a significant share)

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Kitty Kartoons

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Monday, October 29, 2007


Science and Naturalism

Two of the better thinkers in the Godblogosphere, Joe Carter and Matt Anderson, have written recently about methodological naturalism, and specifically, it's limitations. Said Joe:
If God can be discerned from the evidence of creation, than the evidence of God is detectable by empirical observation and study of the natural world. The Christian must therefore completely reject philosophical naturalism. We might also conclude that methodological naturalism is flawed and a hindrance to science. Though the method may be adequate for some purposes, it is unnecessarily self-limiting and should be rejected.
Said Matt:
In other words, asking some questions of nature and not others will inevitably lead to an incomplete–and in that respect, inaccurate–model. What this means, however, is that the notion that we can understand the material composition of a thing abstracted from its form or purpose is questionable. We will certainly learn a lot about the material composition–we may even be able to manipulate that object in interesting and “productive” ways. But we will not understand that which we are manipulating. The formal and final causes–the “what is it” and “what is it for”–relate to the material and efficient causes. To see them as isolated divides reality from itself, giving us a stunted impression of both the material and efficient causes on the one hand, and the formal and final causes on the other. (This may be the difference between modern and medieval science: the medievals wanted understanding, leaving the control to the magicians, whereas moderns more often allow the desire for control to motivate their scientific endeavors).
These are really smart guys and far better philosophers than I am, but, as far as I know, they have never done actual science, something I do routinely.

Methodological naturalism is a an a priori agreement about what science does, and does not do. Yes, that means a priori limitations to science, limitations they rightly point out, but that does not make the approach somehow invalid, just limited. Yes, it is true, many get too big for their britches and think that they can answer everything naturalistically, but they simply make the mistake of conflating a self-imposed limitation as the edge of reality.

Science is about measurement, as such it must remain naturalistic in its approach. One simply cannot measure the other-than-natural. Science without its methodological naturalism will become something other than science. Science is limited, but it is not "wrong." Some scientists are.

The biggest problem with this discussion in that it has no endpoint because the answer lies in the a priori assumptions. There is other-than-nature or there is not. Science will never prove the proposition one way or the other, and religion/philosophy will never be able to demonstrate the reality of other-than-nature with the rigor that science demands.

I have seen this discussion/debate carried out in various settings and with various people for years and years. The debate is never settled, but what does happen is Christ reigns, most often in the lives of the people most vociferously opposed to it initially, and yet they still do not have the debate resolved. How does that work?

Simple, because the people involved in the discussion are used by the Holy Spirit to reach people on levels they did not even know existed. I have found that in such debates it is far more important to work on my gracefulness and love and other fruits of the Spirit than it is to hone my arguments. I do not herein imply that Joe or Matt lack these things, they are both gracious gentlemen.

But I do often wonder about the energy put into the discussion? Can that grace be communicated in the written word? Well, certainly the Holy Spirit can communicate however He sees fit, but can I? Not sure, just know where I want to put my energy.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007


Sermons and Lessons


David James Burrell was born at Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, in 1849. He graduated from Yale College in 1867. From 1891 to 1909 he was pastor of the Marble Collegiate Church, New York, which was founded in 1628. Dr. Burrell was unusually popular as a pulpit preacher, and attracted many young people to his evening services. His delivery was clear-cut and vigorous, and often he rose to dramatic heights of eloquence. His gesture was marked by grace and appropriateness, and his illustrations were always chosen with felicity. His sermons were stenographically reported and printed each week in pamphlets for wide distribution.


And there arose no small stir about that way. - Acts 14:23.

The name by which the early Christians were familiarly known was “The people of that way.” In the year 36 the San¬hedrin issued a commission to Saul of Tarsus authorizing him to arrest any whom he might find “of the way, whether they were men or women, and to bring them bound unto Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:2.) In the year 58, twenty-two years later, the same Saul, now an apostle of Christ, made a defense from the steps of the Castle of Antonia, in which he said, “I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prison both men and women” (Acts 22:4).

The name thus given to the followers of Christ is significant for many reasons. The question has been raised in some quarters as to whether religion is dogma or life. In fact, our religion in the last reduction is neither dogma nor life; it is a way from sin into the Kingdom of God. Its bed-rock is truth, its pavement is character, its destination is eternal life.

It is a plain way; as indicated in the prophecy, ‘‘A highway shall be there and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the wayfaring man though a fool shall not err therein.” Nevertheless, to the unsaved no question is more bewildering than this: “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” In the Pocono Mountains, last summer, I found it very difficult to keep in the old Indian trail; though it was easy enough for my comrade, who had been born and bred in the vicinity. A letter lies before me, written by a man of affairs, in which he says, “All my life I have been an attendant at church; I would like to be a Christian, but I confess that I have never yet learned how to set about it.”

It is my present purpose to make this matter as clear as I can. Let it be said at the outset that one thing only is needful in order to become a follower of Christ - to wit, that one shall believe in him, but, before we come to that, we must touch upon a matter of preliminary importance.

A man must repent before he believes in Christ (Mark 1:15). Now repentance is not a saving grace, having value only as it leads to something further on. The pain of a physical malady has no curative virtue; but it is this pain that inclines the patient to ring the doctor’s bell. So John the Baptist goes before Christ with his cry, “Repent ye!” Since without repentance there is no adequate sense of need, nor disposition to accept Christ.

Let us get a clear understanding of repentance. It suggests at the outset, an apprehension of sin as a fact; not a figment of the imagination, not “a belief of mortal mind”; not an infection due to environment, and therefore involving no personal accountability; but a distinct, flagrant violation of holy law, by which the sinner is brought into rebellion against God.

And sin must be apprehended, furthermore, as a calamitous fact, that is, involving an ade¬quate penalty: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” A true penitent recognizes the justice of the punishment which is imposed upon him; as did the repentant thief, when he said to his comrade, “We indeed are condemned justly.” One who spends his time in trying to explain away hell and “the unquenchable fire” and “the worm that dieth not,” is not a penitent man.

And sin must be furthermore recognized as a concrete or personal fact. It is not enough to acknowledge the incontrovertible presence of sin in the world around us. The important thing is, that this sin inheres in me. So David prayed, “Have mercy upon me, 0 God, according unto thy loving kindness; for I have sinned and done this evil in thy sight.” He had always known, in general terms, that adultery was a fearful thing; but when it pointed its gaunt finger at him in the watches of the night and hissed, “Bathsheba!” it brought him to his knees.
And this conviction of sin must be followed by a resolution to forsake it. The true penitent fears his sin, hates it, loathes it, abhors it, and determines to quit it.

But observe, all this is merely preliminary to the one thing needful. There is no virtue in repentance per se. The penitent is not saved; he has only discovered his need of salvation. He knows his malady; now how shall he be cured of it? To pause here is death. One in a sinking boat must not be satisfied with stopping the leak; the boat must be baled out. A man head over ears in debt can not recover his credit by resolving to pay cash in the future; he must somehow cancel his past obligations. If a penitent were never to commit another sin, the “handwriting of ordinances” would still be against him. The record of the past remains; and it will confront him in the judgment unless it be dis¬posed of. The past. The mislived past! What shall be done about it?

This brings us to the matter in hand: What shall I do to be saved? or How shall I become a Christian?

Our Lord at the beginning of His ministry said to Nicodemus, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And to make the matter perfectly clear to this learned rabbi, He resorted to the kindergarten method, using an object-lesson: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up (that is, crucified), that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” So the one thing needful is to believe in Christ.

The same truth was repeated over and over in the teachings of Jesus and of His disciples as well. To the jailer of Philippi who, in sudden conviction, was moved to cry, “What shall I do?” the answer of Paul was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

But what is it to “believe in Christ?” It is easy to say, “Come to Christ” and “Accept Christ” and “Believe in Him”; but just here occurs the bewilderment. These are oftentimes mere shop-worn phrases to the unsaved, however simple they may appear to those who have entered on the Christian life.

To believe in Christ is, first, to credit the historic record of His life. Once on a time He lived among men, preached, wrought miracles, suffered and died on the accurst tree. So far all will agree; but there is clearly no saving virtue in an intellectual acceptance of an undisputed fact.

It means, second, to believe that Jesus was what He claimed to be. And His claim is perfectly clear. To the woman of Samaria who sighed for the coming of Messiah He said, “I that speak unto thee am he.” No reader of the Scripture could misunderstand His meaning, since the prophecy of the Messiah runs like a golden thread through all its pages from the protevangel, “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent‘s head,” to the pre¬diction of Malachi, “The Sun of righteous¬ness shall arise with healing in his beams.”

But, more than this, Jesus claimed that as Messiah He was the only begotten and coequal Son of God. He came forth from God and, after finishing His work, was to return to God and reassume “the glory which he had with the Father before the world was.” It was this oft repeated assertion which so mortally offended the Jews as to occasion His arrest on the charge of blasphemy. He persisted in His claim, and was put to death for “making himself equal to God.” It must be seen, therefore, that no man can be said to believe in Christ who is not prepared to affirm, without demur or qualification, that He was what He claimed to be.

It means, third, to believe that Jesus did what He said He came into the world to do. And here again there can be no doubt or peradventure. He said, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many.” His death was to be the purchase price of redemption. In the wilderness He was tempted to turn aside from His great purpose. The ad¬versary led Him to a high place, and with a wave of his hand, directed His thought to the kingdoms of this world, saying, “All these are mine. I know thy purpose: thou art come to win this world by dying for it. Why pay so great a price? I know thy fear and trembling - for thou art flesh - in view of the nails, the fever, and dreadful exposure, the long agony. Why pay so great a price? I am the prince of this world. One act of homage, and I will abdicate. Fall down and worship mc!” Never before or since has there been such a temptation, so specious, so alluring. But Jesus had covenanted to die for sinners. He knew there was no other way of accomplishing salvation for them. He could not be turned aside from the work which He bad volunteered to do. Therefore He put away the suggestion with the words, “Get thee behind me, Satan! I can not be moved! I know the necessity that is laid upon me. I know that my way to the kingdom is only by the cross. I am therefore resolved to suffer and die for the deliverance of men.”

On a later occasion, on His way to Jerusalem - that memorable journey of which it is written. “He set his face steadfastly” to go toward the cross - He spoke to His disciples of His death. He had been with them now three years, but had not been able fully to reveal His mission, because they were “not strong enough to bear it.” A man with friends, yet friendless, lonely in the possession of His great secret, He had longed to give them His full confidence, but dared not. Now, as they journeyed southward through Caesarea Philippi, He asked them, “Who do men say that I am?” And they answered, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elias; others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.” And be saith, “But who say ye that I am?” Then Peter - brave, impulsive glorious Peter - witness his good confession: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!” The hour bad come. His disciples were beginning to know Him. He would give them His full confidence. So as they journeyed on toward Jerusalem He told them all how He had come to redeem the world by bearing its penalty of death; “He began to show them how he must suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed.” At that point Peter could hold his peace no longer, but began to rebuke him, saying, “Be it far from thee, Lord! To suffer? To die? Nay, to reign in Messianic splendor!” And Jesus turning, said unto him, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” - the very words with which He had repelled the same suggestion in the wilderness. As He looked on His disciple, He saw not Peter, but Satan perceived how the adversary had for the moment taken possession, as it were, of this man’s brain and conscience and lips. “Get thee behind me, Satan! I know thee! I recognize thy crafty suggestion; but I am not to be turned aside from my purpose. Get thee behind me! Thou art an offense unto me. Thy words are not of divine wisdom, but of human policy. Thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men!”

From this we conclude that the vicarious death of Jesus is the vital center of This gospel, and that any word which contravenes it is in the nature of a Satanic suggestion. It follows that no man can truly believe in Christ without assenting to the fact that the saving power is in His death; as it is written, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin,” and, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” He came into the world to die for sinners, that they by His death might enter into life; He came to take our place before the bar of the offended law, to be “wounded for our transgressions arid bruised for our iniquities, that by his stripes we might be healed”; He came to “bear our sins in his own body on the tree”; and to believe in Christ is to believe that He did what He came to do.

It means, fourth - and now we come to the very heart of the matter - to believe that Christ means precisely what He says. He says to the sinner, “The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins.” He says, “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” Tie says, “He that believeth in me bath everlasting life.” At this point belief means personal appropriation; acceptance, immediate, here, now. It is to make an end of doubt and perplexity and all questionings, by closing in with the overtures of divine mercy. It is to lay down one’s arms and make an unconditional surrender. It is to take the proffered band of the Savior in an everlasting covenant of peace. It is to say, “My Lord, my life, my sacrifice, my Savior and my all!“

But just here is where many hesitate and fail. They do not “screw their courage to the sticking point.” They come up to the line, but do not take the step that crosses it. They put away the outstretched hand, and so fall short of salvation.

The will must act. The prodigal in the far country will stay there forever unless his resolution cries, “I will arise and go!” The resolution is an appropriating act. It makes Christ mine; it links my soul with His, as the coupler binds the locomotive to the loaded train. It grasps His outstretched hand; it seals the compact and inspires the song:

‘Tis done, the great transaction’s done,
I am my Lord‘s and He is mine!
He drew me, and I followed on,
Charmed to confess the voice divine.

High heaven that hears the solemn vow,
That vow renewed shall daily
Till in life ‘a latest hour I bow
And bless in death a bond so

Now this is all. The man who really bielieves on Christ is saved by that alone. He can never be lost. As Wesley sang, “Christ and I are so joined, He can’t go to heaven and leave me behind.” But salvation from the penalty of sin is not the whole of salva¬tion; only the beginning of it.

The sequel to “becoming a Christian” is following Christ. “Salvation” is a large word, including growth in character and usefulness and all the high attainments which are included in a genuine Christian life. This is what Paul means when he says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you.” Work it out! Work your salvation out to its uttermost possibilities! Be a maximum Christian; not content with being saved “so as by fire,” but craving~ “an abundant entrance” into the kingdom. All this is accomplished in the close and faithful following of Christ.

This “following” is the sure test and touch¬stone by which a man determines whether he has really come to Christ and believes in Him. Our “good works” are not meritorious as hav¬ing any part in our deliverance from condem¬nation; but they are the acid test of our faith; and they also determine the quality of the heaven that awaits us. And, in this sense, “they shall in no wise lose their reward.” To use a rude figure; a man going to an entertainment gets a ticket of admission, but for his reserved seat he pays something more. “The just shall live by faith;” but the abun¬dance of their life is determined by the product of their faith. Wherefore, he loses much who, while believing in Christ, follows Him afar off.

To follow Christ at the best, means to regard Him as our Priest, our only Priest, whose sacrifice is full and sufficient for us. We forsake all other plans of salvation and trust simply and solely to the merit of His atoning blood.

To follow Christ means to regard Him as our only Prophet or Teacher. All preachers, ecclesiastical councils, historic creeds and symbols are remanded to a subordinate place. His word is ultimate for us.

To follow Christ means to regard Him as our King. He reigns in us and over us. His love constrains us. This wish is our law. his authority is final. “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”

And to follow Christ means to do all this in the open. It may be that some who refuse to confess Christ are ultimately saved by Him; but the presumption is immensely against the man who lives that way. “Stand forth into the midst!” “Quit thyself like a man!”

In closing, we return to iterate and reiterate the proposition that our salvation from sin and spiritual death is by faith in Christ and by that only. Let no side issues enter here to confuse and bewilder us. “He that believeth shall be saved.”

That is final and conclusive. Our deliverance is wholly of grace: we do not earn it. “The wages of sin is death: but the gift of God is eternal life.”

Long as I live, I‘ll still be crying
Mercy’s free!

And therefore all the glory is unto God: “Of whom are we in Christ Jesus, who is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption; that, according as it is written, if any mail glory, let him glory in the Lord.”

Nevertheless, the benefit of the gift is con¬ditioned on our acceptance of it. The manna lies about our feet “white and plenteous as hoar frost,” but it will not save us from famishing unless we gather it up and eat it. Time water gushes from the rock, but we shall die of thirst unless we dip it up amid drink it. Christ on the cross saves no man; it is only when Christ is appropriated that He saves us. We must make Him ours. We must grasp His extended hand. Luther said, “The important thing is the possessive pronoun, first person singular.” One of the fathers said, “It is the grip on the Blood that saves us.” Christ stands waiting - he offers life for the taking. Who will have it? The worst of sinners can make it his very own by saying with all his heart, “I will! I do!”

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