Saturday, August 23, 2008


Comic Art

Because, well, every good senior-in-charge, all-father type, in this case Odin, needs a nemesis of equal power - we have the Ice Giant Ymir. As the Marvel Universe Directory says:
he tends to focus all of his energies towards destruction and little else.
Makes "Hulk Smash" look quaint, does it not?

I must comment that Ymir is one of the least attractively rendered comic characters I know of. By that I do not mean the art is bad, I just mean - What is an ice giant supposed to look like that would be interesting? I mean the guy is a large walking undefrosted refrigerator. (If you are old enough to remember when refrigierators were not "frost-free."

Come to think of it - X-Men's "Iceman" kind of suffers from the same problem.

Ymir is; however, a most worthy adversary for not just Odin and the denizens of Asgard, but for the likes of the Avengers.

Nonetheless, I could not find any Kirby rendering of this character - What does that tell you?

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Friday, August 22, 2008


Secret Sin

If sin is indeed a state and not an action then it is worthwhile to examine our actions in the minutest detail to see what they reveal about our state? Like the pride of the Pharisees revealed their true state, despite their overt appearance of compliance with the requirements of the Law, so those of us that are long-time, well-behaved Christians may have revealed to us some astonishing facts.

Consider this post by Jim Broyles at CGO. After describing his perpetual lateness in college, we writes:
Epiphany: There isn’t just a lot I had heard taught in Bible studies or on Sunday mornings about punctuality, though there is much to say on God’s timing. Sure, I had heard about “respecting the time of others,” but that phrase had always been vague to me. I was pretty free with my time, so I wasn’t offended if people postponed or cancelled at the last minute. Time was a gift of God, owned by no one.

A closer look at my heart revealed something else about my idea about time. I, for one, disliked being alone. My freshman year, I walked around with the phone glued to my ear, liked finding people I knew in the library, and always made sure I sat next to someone I knew in each class. I honestly felt self-conscious or that others would think I wasn’t well-liked or had many friends if I was sitting alone. For me, to show up on time, or even early, meant that I would probably be waiting in a public place by myself for my friend; therefore I made certain that I showed up a little late, and as soon as I hung up the phone when I got to the restaurant I was shaking the hand of my buddy who was waiting, shrugging off his inconvenience. This was a deeper issue of rest and confidence in my identity – that I wasn’t just a first impression, sitting alone without any company, but I was God’s precious child, a beneficiary to Christ’s work, and I should beam with His love confidently, especially when it means by myself.
This piece originally caught my eye because punctuality is a pet peeve of mine. I work like a dog to always be on time. Raised in the era before cell phones, it is not an option to me to call someone and say "I'm running late." I feel insulted when people are late because from my perspective it says either "My time is more important than your time," or "I just don't care about you enough to make the effort to be on time."

You want to know the truth - this peeve of mine runs so deep that I have even experienced it at a United States Presidential candidate - seriously. When Mitt Romney was running he had an event in Burbank that I actually hustled through a client in San Jose, and did not invite a friend to lunch in the area that I usually do, just to catch an earlier plane to make the event. Mitt was about a half-hour late. I had met Governor Romney on several other occasions prior to this, so after the event, I walked out without even saying hello or shaking his hand. Didn't he know (of course not!) I had struggled to make this event? - I had work to do, and he had cost me a half-hour!

Which is the real point to all of this - my peevishness at lateness reveals my sinful state just as much as the lateness itself reveals a selfishness on the part of the late person. There is a whole lot of pride involved in being THAT offended by lateness.

There is a phrase I hear thrown around sometimes - "Secret Sin." It comes up when someone wants to admit they have a problem without giving us the details - in other words it comes up in the context of a pseudo-confession. Most times I hear it, it is sexual in nature.

But I think it should be about something else - not the sins we are too embarrassed to reveal to the world, but the sins we are too afraid to reveal to ourselves. I for example, hide, or make secret, my pride behind the "abuse of my time" thing in my punctuality peeve.

What's your secret sin?

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Friday Humor

Morris and his wife Esther went to the state fair every year, and every year Morris would say, 'Esther,I'd like to ride in that helicopter.' Esther always replied, 'I know Morris, but that helicopter ride is fifty dollars, and fifty dollars is fifty dollars' One year Esther and Morris went to the fair, and Morris said, 'Esther, I'm 85 years old. If I don't ride that helicopter, I might never get another chance.' To this, Esther replied, 'Morris that helicopter ride is fifty dollars, and fifty dollars is fifty dollars.' The pilot overheard the couple and said, 'Folks I'll make you a deal. I'll take the both of you for a ride. If you can stay quiet for the entire ride and don't say a word I won't charge you a penny! But if you say one word it's fifty dollars.' Morris and Esther agreed and up they went. The pilot did all kinds of fancy maneuvers, but not a word was heard. He did his daredevil tricks over and over again, but still not a word. When they landed, the pilot turned to Morris and said, 'By golly, I did everything I could to get you to yell out, but you didn't. I'm impressed!' Morris replied, 'Well, to tell you the truth, I almost said something when Esther fell out, but you know, fifty dollars is fifty dollars!'

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Thursday, August 21, 2008


Spirituality In A Bottle

Justin Taylor links to a "Spiritual Health Survey" and describes it as "very helpful."

Hmmmm....The "spiritual health" of a church, and the members thereof, reduced to 41 multiple choice questions with sub-questions. No thank you.

The survey is from "Tenth Presbyterian Church," apparently in Philly. The survey ends with the words "The Session of Tenth Presbyterian Church thanks you for your participation!" I wish they would do that in person.

To me, this sort of thing represents a failure in leadership, or at the very least a willingness to do it with full commitment.

We worship a God who incarnated - a God for whom it was insufficient to simply pass down words from above - who felt it necessary to "press the flesh" as it were. Does that not constitute an example for those of us that minister in His name?

It would be my hope that a Session would be broadly enough constituted that simply by reporting from each elders pool of contacts, the same picture would emerge as such a survey can produce. But that, of course, presumes that the elders mix and mingle among the masses. Which my personal experience tells me often does not happen. Many Presbyterian churches have a "ruling class" which is the pool of people from which the serving elders are chosen each year - they tend to hang around with each other and elevate an occasionally new member into their midst. Hardly a system that gives them a broad view of what is going on in the congregation, at least if it is of any size.

Then there is the message a survey like this sends to the congregation. It says, essentially, "you are material that is processed through this factory we call a church - we need to characterize you so we can know how to properly process you." I for one have no desire to be processed, thank you very much. I wish to be, oh I don't know, loved, appreciated, cared for, related to, listen to, and just flat out allowed my individuality. Surveying is something one does to the land.

You have probably figured out I am no fan of this stuff. The church is intended for people, not statistics.

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Illuminated Scripture

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008


The Six Million Dollar Monkey!?

It has long been the stuff of science fiction and military techno-thrillers, but now it seems reality. The BBC reports on monkeys able to directly "thought control" machinery - in this case a prosthetic arm.
Monkeys have been able to control robotic limbs using only their thoughts, scientists report.

The animals were able to feed themselves using prosthetic arms, which were controlled by brain activity.

Small probes, the width of a human hair, were inserted into the monkeys' primary motor cortex - the region of the brain that controls movement.
This is way cool and the benefits are obvious, but one has to wonder if the Cybermen are not far behind.

I link to this because it is first, very cool, but also because of the science fiction overtones, and how it illustrates a vitally important point. Technology is not good or evil - people are, it is how they use that technology that produces good or evil.

The other interesting question this raises is about defining what it means to be human. There are those that would contend that flesh is an essential part of our humanity and to give it up for mechanicals would make us lesser somehow. And that dear friends strikes right at the heart of some philosophical debate prevalent in Christian circles right now.

The whole worldview, two realms, thing is affected deeply by something like this. If indeed the spiritual and natural are indivisible and inseparable, then those that theorize that mechanical appendages make us less human have a heck of a point. But if indeed our spirit, that something essential that makes us - us, and God's children, remains intact and we reamin fully who we were created to be when we employ mechanical means like this, then we need to rethink the whole worldview question just a bit.

Should not the undivided spirit and nature types be protesting this development loudly? And then there is the compassion question - would it not be cruel to stand against something that could be such a blessing to people gravely injured?

Food for thought.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Gospel Forms?

Justin Taylor links to a Tim Keller piece in Leadership called, "The Gospel in All its Forms":
The gospel has been described as a pool in which a toddler can wade and yet an elephant can swim. It is both simple enough to tell to a child and profound enough for the greatest minds to explore. Indeed, even angels never tire of looking into it (1 Peter 1:12). Humans are by no means angels, however, so rather than contemplating it, we argue about it.

A generation ago evangelicals agreed on "the simple gospel": (1) God made you and wants to have a relationship with you, (2) but your sin separates you from God. (3) Jesus took the punishment your sins deserved, (4) so if you repent from sins and trust in him for your salvation, you will be forgiven, justified, and accepted freely by grace, and indwelt with his Spirit until you die and go to heaven.

There are today at least two major criticisms of this simple formulation. Many say that it is too individualistic, that Christ's salvation is not so much to bring individual happiness as to bring peace, justice, and a new creation. A second criticism is that there is no one "simple gospel" because "everything is contextual" and the Bible itself contains many gospel presentations that exist in tension with each other.
As I read through the rest of Keller's thoughts, I could not help but be struck about how our categories and summaries are often as much obstacles as they are aids. Keller's opening about our human, not angelic, nature is so right on, that it emphasizes the futility of the remainder of the article because he tries to reformulate the categories somehow.

I have spent the last several years trying to find a Chesterton quote I think I read. (If anybody has a hint - please sing out!) Anyway, in it, Chesterton talks about how religion, and specifically Christian religion, is the only thing properly balanced to be what it needs to be to whom needs it in the circumstances they find themselves in. I have phrased that very badly, but it is something of a corollary to the Apostle Paul's:
1 Cor 9:22 - To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.
Implicit in Paul's utterance, and Chesterton's writing (if I remember correctly) is the thought that the biblical narrative, "the gospel" if you will, is just not that simple. Keller successfully argues that there is but a single "gospel":
Now hundreds of websites of young Christian leaders complain that the older evangelical church spent too much time reading Romans rather than Jesus' declaration that "the kingdom of God is at hand." But to be true to first-century Christians' own understanding of the gospel, I believe we must side with Dodd over Dunn. Paul is emphatic that the gospel he presents is the same as the one preached by the Jerusalem apostles. "Whether it was I or they," Paul says, referring to Peter and the others, "so we preached and so you believed" (1 Cor. 15:10-11). This statement assumes a single body of gospel content.
But he then goes on to try and reduce that gospel to a few bullet points. The gospel is indeed unified, but to achieve that unity it is far more complex that can possibly be summarized in a few bullet points. Keller tries to handle this by discussing "forms" of the gospel, but this remains a unity of a few simple messages. He tries to unify the few forms he cites, but even that effort excludes others. It just is not that simple. The formulation he uses, "one gospel, many forms" does track some biblical language, but I think it messes the bigger point. The unity of the gospel lies not in ideas, but in people.

The different nature of Peter and Paul's gospel forms may not be reconciled, but Peter and Paul were reconciled.

Efforts to intellectually reconcile different gospel forms are doomed to failure, but with the power of the Holy Spirit, efforts to reconcile the holders of those forms need not be.

At the base of such efforts to reconcile people lie the essential understanding that no matter how much we know, we do not know enough. The "forms" are not the truth because the total truth is beyond our comprehension. Our intellectual capabilities are limited.

My response to the problems Keller rightly cites is not to reconcile the different views, but to confess my own lack of humility concerning what I hold to be true.

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Kitty Kartoons

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Monday, August 18, 2008


The Opposite Of Faith...

Mark Daniels concludes a recent sermon this way:
The opposite of faith isn’t unbelief. The opposite of faith is worry. May we live in the assurance that God has given us eternity and so, free from worry, glorify the God Who gives us everything! May faith supplant fear. When we do worry, may God help us remember all His blessings, including our crucified and risen Lord. And may we, instead of worrying about tomorrow, learn to truly live.
Words that make my heart sing with joy!

Says Mark about worry:
We worry, let’s face it, because we’re control freaks.


It’s good for us to make plans and it’s good for us to be engaged in trying to solve problems. But we need to realize that worrying about things solves nothing. The number one fact of the universe is that God is God and we’re not.


Okay, you may say, worrying is a bad thing. But what’s that got to do with my relationship with God? A lot!

You see, in the final analysis, worrying is a form of self-worship. Whether we express our worry by saying things like, “What am I going to do?,” seemingly expressing helplessness, or, by trying to amass more money and power than God, the underlying assumption behind my worrying is that my immediate problems and, by extension, the long-term good of the known universe, depends on me.
Folks we could take a life time to unpack that! Just consider this Washington Post story on chemical regulation. It contrats the Europena approach to the American:
The new laws in the European Union require companies to demonstrate that a chemical is safe before it enters commerce -- the opposite of policies in the United States, where regulators must prove that a chemical is harmful before it can be restricted or removed from the market.
The philosophical difference between those two approaches is tremendous. The European approach tries to remove all risk - IT IS PREDICATED ON WORRY ABOUT WHAT MIGHT GO WRONG. The American approach acknowledges there might be a problem, but does not solve it until it presents itself.

Think about the number of products currently on the market to deal with potential germs. Water-less hand-sanitzers, disposable toilet bowl cleaners, disposable bleach based wipes, the list is endless. All designed to "prevent" getting the cold (that wasn't that bad to begin with) that you probably only got once a year, or less.

Worry sells. It sells products like we just discussed. It sells legislative action as we see in the chemical story, which means it can elect politicians. But the worst part - the absolutely worst, is we use it to sell the gospel. "Come to church so your kids will grow up as productive members of society." "Come to church and pray about your financial straights." And of course the ultimate, "Come to church so you do not have to worry about eternity any more."

We so often "sell" something other than the gospel because we fail to hold the gospel for ourselves. The gospel does not solve our problems, it does not mitigate our worries - it eradicates them. It changes us into people for whom such things are not handled, but non-existent. It could change the world in ways we cannot even imagine. Be we never seem to quite get there.

Maybe, just maybe, if we worried a little less about spreading the gospel, and lived it instead....

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Sunday, August 17, 2008


Sermons and Lessons


John A. Broadus was born in Virginia in 1827. His preeminence as a preacher was attained while he was chiefly occupied as professor of New Testament Interpretation and Homiletics in the Baptist Theological Seminary at Louisville, Kentucky. (Originally established at Greenville, South Carolina.) For many years Dr. Broadus was regarded as the foremost preacher of the South, and was in demand on many important public occasions for sermons and addresses. It has been said that “the thought and the language of his sermons lingered in the mind like strains of melodious and inspiring music.” The sermon here given is characteristic of the earnest simplicity of his style, and of the theological and philosophical bent of his homiletic methods. He died in 1895.

Let Us Have Peace With God

Therefore being justified by faith, let us have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.Romans 5:1

It is nearly four centuries ago now, that a young professor from the north of Germany went to Rome. He was a man of considerable learning and of versatile mind. Yet he did not go to Rome to survey the remains of antiquity or the treasures of modern art. He went to Rome because he was in trouble about his sins and could find no peace. Having been educated to regard Rome as the center of the Christian world, be thought be would go to the heart of things and see what he could there find. He had reflected somewhat at home, and had talked with other men more advanced than himself, on the thought that the just shall live by faith; but still that thought had never taken hold of him. We read - some of you remember the story quite well - how one day, according to the strange ideas that prevailed and still prevail at Rome, he went climbing up a stairway on his knees, pausing to pray on every step, to see if that would not help him about his sins. Then, as lie climbed slowly up, be seemed to hear a voice echoing down the stairway, “The just shall live by faith; the just shall live by faith.” And so he left alone his dead works, he arose from his knees and went down the stairway to his home to think about that great saying, “The just shall live by faith.”

It is no wonder that with such an experience, and such a nature, Martin Luther should have lived to shake the Christian world with the thought that justification by faith is the great doctrine of Christianity, “the article of a standing or a falling church.” It is no wonder that John Wesley, rising up with living earnestness when England was covered with a pall of spiritual death, should have revived the same thought - justification by faith.

Yet it is not true that the doctrine of justification by faith is all of the gospel. It is true that the doctrine of justification by faith is simply one of the several ways by which the gospel takes hold of men. You do not hear anything of that doctrine in the Epistles of John. He has another way of presenting the gospel salvation, namely, that we must love Christ, and be like Him, and obey Him. I think sometimes that Martin Luther made the world somewhat one-sided by his doctrine of justification by faith; that the great mass of the Protestant world are inclined to suppose there is no other way of looking on the gospel. There are very likely some here today who would be more imprest by John’s way of presenting the matter; but probably, the majority would be more imprest by Paul’s way, and it is our business to present now this and now that, to present first one side and then the other. So we have here before us to-day Paul’s great doctrine of justification by faith, in perhaps one of his most striking statements. “Therefore, being justified by faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

My friends, we talk and hear about these gospel truths, and repeat these Scripture words, and never stop to ask ourselves whether we have a clear idea of what is meant. What does Paul mean when he talks about being justified? There has been a great deal of misapprehension as to his meaning. Martin Luther was all wrong in his early life, because he had been reared up in the idea that a justified man means simply a just man, a good man, and that he could not account himself justified or hope for salvation until he was a thoroughly good man. Now, the Latin word from which we borrow our word “justified” does not mean to make just, and as the Romanists use the Latin, their error is natural. But Paul’s Greek word means not to make just, but to regard as just, to treat as just. That is a very important difference - not to make just, but to regard and treat as just. How would God treat you, if you were a righteous man; if you had, through all your life, faithfully performed all your duties, conforming to all your relations to your fellow beings - how would He regard and treat you? He would look upon you with complacency. He would smile on you as one that was in His sight pleasing. He would bless you as long as you lived in this world, and, when you were done with this world, He would delight to take you home to His bosom, in another world, because you would deserve it.

And now as God would treat a man who was just because he deserved it, so the gospel pro¬poses to treat men who are not just and who do not deserve it, if they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. He will treat them as just, though they are not just, if they believe in Christ; that is to say, be will look upon them with His favor; He will smile upon them in His love; He will bless them with every good as long as they live, and when they die He will delight to take them home to His own bosom, though they never deserved it, through His Son, Jesus Christ. That is what Paul means by justification. And when Martin Luther found that out be found peace. This Epistle to the Romans had always stopt his progress when reading the New Testament. He would read, in the Latin version, “For therein is revealed the justice of God,” and he felt in his heart that God’s justice must condemn him. But now he came to see what was really meant by the righteousness of God, the righteousness which God provides and bestows on the believer in Jesus. A sinful man, an undeserving man, may get God Almighty’s forgiveness and favor and love, may be regarded with complacency and delight, though he does not deserve it, if he believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is justification by faith.

It is one thing to take hold of this matter in the way of doctrinal conception and expression, and of course, God be thanked! it is another thing to receive it in the heart. There are many people who get hold of it all in the heart with trust and peace that never have a correct conception of it as a doctrine. Yet I suppose it is worth while that we should endeavor to see these things clearly. Other things being equal, they will be the holiest and most useful Christians who have the clearest perception of the great facts and truths of the gospel. So I recommend to you that whenever any one tries to explain to you one of these great doctrinal truths, you shall listen with fixt attention and see if you can not get a clearer view of the gospel teachings on that subject, for it will do you good.

Now let us come to the second thought here, viz., being justified by faith. A man might say, if God proposes to deal with those who are not just, as if they were, why does lie condition it upon believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ? Why can not God proclaim a universal amnesty at once, and be done with it, to all his sinful, weak children, and treat them all as if they were just, without their believing? I don’t think this is hard to see. God does not merely propose to deal with us for the time being as if we were just, but He proposes in the end to make us actually just. It would be an unsatisfactory salvation to a right-minded man if God proposed merely to exempt us from the consequences of our sins and not to deliver us from our sins. You do not want merely to escape punishment for sin without ever becoming good; you want to be righteous and holy; you want to be delivered from sin itself as well as from the consequences of sin. And this gospel, which begins by its proclamation that God is willing to treat men as just, although they are not just, does not stop there. It proposes to be the means by which God will take hold of men’s characters and make them just, make them holy. You may, for the moment, conceive of such a thing as that God should make a proclamation of universal amnesty, and treat all men as if they were just; but that would not make them any better. The gospel is not merely to deliver us from the consequence of sin, but to deliver us from the power of sin. You can conceive of an amnesty as to the consequence of sin, which should extend to persons that will not even believe there is such an amnesty; but you can not see how the gospel is to have any power in delivering us from the dominion of sin, unless we believe the gospel. It can do so only through belief. Therefore it is not possible that a man should be justified without belief. I think it is useful that we should thus try to see that this is not a matter of mere arbitrary appointment on the part of the sovereign Power of the universe, but that the condition is necessary - that it can not be otherwise. “Being justified by faith,” it reads; and we can not be justified without faith, because the same gospel is also to take hold of us and make us just.

And now, some one who feels a little freshened interest in this subject, some man who has never got hold of the gospel faith, says to himself: “I wonder if the preacher is going to explain to me what believing is, what faith is. I never heard any one succeed in explaining faith.” Well, if you will pardon me, the best explanation of faith I ever heard was given by a negro preacher in Virginia. As the story was told me, one Sunday afternoon, a few years ago, some negroes were lying on the ground together, and one of them spoke and said, “Uncle Reuben, can you explain this: Faith in de Lord, and faith in de debbil’?” “To be sure I can. There is two things: in de fust place, faith in de Lord, and then faith in de debbil. Now, in the fust place, fustly, there is faith. What is faith? Why, faith is jes faith. Faith ain’t nothing less than faith. Faith ain’t nothing more than faith. Faith is jest faith - now I done splain it.” Really, that man was right, there is nothing to explain. Faith is as simple a conception as the human mind can have. Now, then, can you explain faith - You are neither able to analyze it into parts, nor can you find anything simpler with which to compare it. So also as to some other things, that are perfectly easy and natural in practical exercise, and can not be explained. [ed note: I DID NOT WRITE THIS!]

What is love? Well, I won’t go into an elaborate metaphysical definition of love, but if I wanted a child to love me, I should try to exhibit myself in such a character to him and act in such ways that the little child would see in me something to love, and would feel like loving. There would then be no need of an explanation of what love is. Did you ever hear a satisfactory definition of laughter’! If you wanted to make a man laugh, would you attempt to define laughter to him? You might possibly succeed in making a laughable definition; but otherwise definitions won’t make a man laugh. You would simply say or do something ludicrous, and he would laugh readily enough if he was so disposed; and if the man be not in a mood for laughing, all your explanations are utterly useless. And so what is faith? There is nothing to explain. Everybody knows what faith is. If you want to induce a man to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you must hold up the Lord to him in His true character, and then, if he is in a mood to believe, he will believe, and if he is disinclined to belief, all your explanations will be fruitless. The practical result may even be obstructed by attempts to explain. What is faith’! You know what faith is. Every one knows.

Well, then, a man might say, “If you mean by faith in the Lord the simple idea of believing what the Scripture says concerning Him, the idea of believing its teachings about the Lord Jesus Christ to be true, if that is what faith means, then all of us are believers, all have faith.” I am afraid not. I am afraid there are some here who have not faith. Has a man faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who simply does not disbelieve in him? I may not deny that what the gospel says is true, but is that believing? Yonder sits a gentleman; suppose some one should come hastily up the aisle, calling his name, and say, “Your house is afire.” The gentleman sits perfectly quiet and looks unconcerned, as people so often do when listening to preaching. The man repeats it: “I say your house is afire.” But still he sits in his place. Some one near him says, “You hear what that man says. Do you believe it?” “Yes, I believe it,” he carelessly replies, and does not stir. You would all say, “The man is insane, or certainly he does not believe it; for if he did, he would not sit perfectly still and remain perfectly unconcerned.” Even so when the preacher speaks of sin and guilt and ruin, Qf God’s wrath and the fire that is not quenched; or when he stands with joyful face and proclaims to his hearers that for their sin and ruin there is a Savior; and they say they believe, and yet look as if it were of no concern to them at all; then I say they do not believe it - the thing is not possible. They may not disbelieve it; they may not care to make an attempt to overturn it; they may be in a sort of negative mood; but they do not believe it.

With that statement I suppose there are a great many of us who concur and who will at once say, “Often I fear that I do not really believe it. If I did believe it, the gospel would have more power over my heart and more power over my life than it does have. And what, oh, what shall I do?” The preacher has to remind you of that father to whom the Savior came when the disciples had tried in vain to heal his suffering child. Jesus said to him: “All things are possible to him that believeth;” and he replied: “I believe; help thou my unbelief.” That should be your cry: “I believe; help thou my unbelief.” The man would not deny that be believed, and yet felt bound to add that he knew he did not believe as he ought to. Now the comfort is, that He who sees all hearts accepted that man’s confessedly imperfect faith, and granted his request. That has often been the preacher’s comfort as he uttered the same cry, “I believe; help thou my unbelief”; and God give it as a comfort to you! But do not content yourself with such a state of things, with any such feeble, half-way believing. Nay, let us cherish all that tends to strengthen our faith in the gospel; let us read the Word of God, praying that we may be able to believe; let us say from day to day, as the disciples said: “Lord, increase our faith.”

The text proceeds: “Therefore, being justified by faith, let us have peace with God.” Instead of the declaration, “We have peace with God,” the best authorities for the text make it an exhortation, “Let us have peace with God”; and so the revised version reads. Some critics admit that the documents require us so to read, but say that they can see no propriety in an exhortation at this point - that it seems much more appropriate to understand the apostle as asserting a fact. Yet I think we can see meaning and fitness in the text as corrected: “Being justified by faith, let us have peace with God.”

Let us have peace with God, notwithstanding our unworthiness. My friends, we can not have peace with God so long as we cling to the notion that we are going to deserve it. Just there is the difficulty with many of those who are trying to be at peace with God. They have been clinging to the thought that they must first become worthy, and then become reconciled to God; and they will have to see more clearly that they must come to Christ in order that, being reconciled, they may be made good, may become worthy. We may say there are two conceivable ways to have peace with God. It is conceivable to have peace with God through our worthiness, and it is conceivable and also practicable to have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, though we be unworthy. Then let us have peace with Him, although so unworthy, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Again, let us have peace with God, though we are still sinful and unholy, though we know we come far short in character and in life of what God’s children ought to be. We must be, ought to be, intensely dissatisfied with ourselves; but let us be satisfied with our Savior, and have peace with God through Him; not content with the idea of remaining such as we are, but, seeing that the same gospel which offers us forgiveness and acceptance offers us also a genuine renewal through our Lord Jesus Christ, and promises that finally we shall be made holy, as God is holy, shall indeed be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect. Let us rejoice in the gracious promise of that perfect life, and, while seeking to be what we ought to be, let us have peace with God. Our sanctification is still sadly imperfect - the best of us well know that, and probably the best of us feel it most deeply; but if we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, our justification is perfect. We can never be more justified than we are now justified, though we shall be more and more made holy as long as we live, and at last made perfectly holy as we pass into the perfect world. My brethren, do think more and talk more of that. It is an intensely practical matter, not only for your comfort but for the strength of your life. If we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, although we are painfully conscious that we are far from being in character and life what we ought to be, yet, through the perfect justification which we have at once, we shall in the end by His grace be made perfectly holy.

Let us have peace with God, though we have perpetual conflict with sin. What a singular idea! Peace with God, and yet conflict, yes, perpetual conflict, with a thousand forms of temptation to sin, temptations springing from spiritual tempter - perpetual conflict, and yet peace with God. Is not that conceivable? Is not that possible? In this conflict we are on the - Lord’s side; in this conflict the Lord is on our side; and so, though the battle must be waged against every form of sin, we may have peace with God.

And finally, let us have peace with God the He leaves us to suffer a thousand forms of distress and trial. “Let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have had access by faith into this grace wherein we stand; and let us rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but let us also rejoice in our tribulations; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, proving; and proving, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God bath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Ghost which was given unto us.” Surely man may have peace with God, though he be left to suffer. For none of these things can separate us from God’s love. Who shall separate us from Christ’s love? “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities nor powers, neither things present nor things to come, neither height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” When we are in trouble, let us take fast hold upon that great thought, that trouble does not divide us from the love of God. Yea, God’s peace can conquer trouble, and guard us, as in a fortress, against its assaults. “In nothing be anxious; but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”

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