The Wardrobe Wars

In case you missed it, here’s another post from last month over at Some, uh, Theologica. Enjoy!

Over the course of church history, there have arisen numerous hot-button issues within Christian theology and practice which have provoked widespread disagreement and often intense controversy among believers—issues like the two natures of Christ, the function of the Eucharist, the character of the atonement, the baptism of covenant children, the form of church music, and bikinis.

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Smoke and Prayers

Attention COYN faithful:
If you’ve noticed a relative dearth of posts in recent months (aside from the two sermons), it’s because I’ve been writing for a new blog since the beginning of the summer.  As with the sermon posts, there may be some things that still find their way to this blog instead; but most of my writing from here on out will be found over at Some, uh, Theologica.  I’ll plan to reblog my next several posts here so you don’t miss them; but I encourage you to check out Some, uh, Theologica for other posts from me as well as from my illustrious associates.  Thanks again for all your support!

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35).

Several years ago I heard a parable of sorts which has often returned to mind in my subsequent ruminations on the practice of prayer. I can no longer recall the source of the apocryphal anecdote (feel free to identify yourself!), but I thought it well worth sharing with you.

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Sermon 2: This Time, It’s Not Sermon 1

In lieu of much ado, I give you Sermon 2.  This was the fourth and final sermon of my church’s intermittent summer evening intern preaching series on the mighty little epistle of Titus (yeah, adjectives!), given on August 18, 2013.  As before, I would ask you not to listen simply as a curious onlooker of my professional progress, but rather as a humble creature before the holy Word of our great and sovereign God.  “To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.”

Baby’s First Sermon

As many of you already know, last week (July 14) I had the privilege of preaching in Sovereign Grace’s evening worship service—my first sermon ever given outside a classroom setting.  A number of folks have asked me for a recording of the sermon, and I thought that publishing it here would be the easiest means of distribution for any interested listeners.  [As a side note, you can listen to all of Sovereign Grace’s regular sermons (i.e. not by interns) here; I offer them with my highest commendation.]

Having now thoroughly reviewed the sermon on my own and with pastor Dean (my internship adviser, and in no small part a spiritual father to me here in Charlotte), I am intimately familiar with the sermon’s many shortcomings.  Needless to say, I have already learned so much from this first preaching experience—lessons which I am anxious to employ as I prepare to preach again next month.  I am immensely thankful that I live and serve in a congregation of believers who truly love and support me, and who have so eagerly invested themselves in my growth and maturation as a hopeful pastor.  Any additional feedback you might offer would be valuable to me and much appreciated, to be sure.  That said, I would encourage you not to listen simply as a curious onlooker of my professional progress, but rather as a humble creature before the holy Word of our great and sovereign Lord.  “To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.”

The Eternal Marks of the Risen Savior

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will certainly not believe.”
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them.  Although the doors were locked, behold, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.  Do not disbelieve, but believe.”  Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus said to him, “You have believed because you have seen me.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
–John 20:24-29

The above passage from John’s Gospel displays a number of remarkable features, each of which could ably serve as a  launching point for an entire book of doctrinal study:

  • In the first place, there is Jesus’ immeasurable compassion in returning to the disciples specifically to redeem the faith of one of them–and he a shamefully stubborn doubter, no less.  
  • There is the clear demonstration of Jesus’ omniscience, having known the demands and indeed the exact words of Thomas while bodily absent.  
  • There is the immense theological significance of Jesus’ continuing to have a truly human nature and form even after His resurrection.  
  • There is the incarnational paradox evident in Thomas’ response to seeing Jesus’ physical body: “My Lord and my God.”  
  • There is even a direct reference to John’s readers in the historical words of Jesus, as He calls them blessed who have believed on the basis of His apostles’ witness without requiring to see the risen Christ.

Again, any of these facets of the text could amply fill a dozen blog posts, but there is one other element that specifically caught my eye today.  (Behold, visual puns!)  While it may not seem like much at first glance, it is absolutely astounding that Jesus’ glorified resurrection body forever retains the marks of His crucifixion.  Taken together, the descriptions we have in the Scriptures of the post-resurrection human body (cf. Rom 8:21-25; 1 Cor 15; 2 Cor 5:1-5; etc.) indicate a perfect wholeness, an ideal beauty, and a functional perfection.  The word Paul uses over and over in 1 Corinthians 15 is phthartos (a mouthful even for native Greek speakers, I reckon), which can be rendered either imperishable or incorruptible.  The teaching is clear: When our bodies are transformed into their everlasting, glorified forms at the dawn of the new heavens and new earth, they will be without blemish or defect, a stainless reflection of our finally-stainless hearts.

Such will be the blessed estate of all who belong to Jesus by faith–but not, it seems, of Jesus Himself.  In the irony of ironies, the Lord will bear the physical marks of His execution forevermore.  Why should this be?  It seems altogether unfitting for Jesus’ eternal body to have any defects–let alone to be the only body with defects.  That’s shameful and backward!

Well…

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
–Philippians 2:5-11

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written,
     “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
          and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise?  Where is the scribe?  Where is the debater of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
–1 Corinthians 1:18-25

In God’s economy, the way up is the way down.  The Philippians passage above confirms for us that Jesus’ exaltation is in fact a result of His humiliation on the cross.  Ultimately, there is nothing more glorifying to God than the redemption of His people, as appointed by the Father, accomplished by the Son, and applied by the Spirit.  Thus, Jesus retains the marks of His crucifixion on His resurrected body, as a permanent sign of that eternally efficacious sacrifice which purchased and purifies His heavenly bride.  Because of Jesus’ character and work, the marks of the nails and spear are neither a blemish nor defect; indeed, they are the richest testaments to His perfect wholeness, ideal beauty, and absolute perfection as our Savior and Lord.

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Amen.

On Internet Saturation

There are few high-profile blogs I frequent, and even fewer I would recommend to a wide audience; but The Gospel Coalition is just such an exceptionally worthwhile site.  Virtually everything I’ve come across there has been valuable and preeminently biblical–which is saying a lot, given the quantity and variety of content they regularly put out.

Of particular note on TGC is the blog of pastor Kevin DeYoung.  In the course of my own blogging, I’ve already linked to DeYoung on two occasions: once in discussion of pastor Rob Bell’s woefully unbiblical Love Wins, and again in response to the tidal-wave popularity of Jefferson Bethke’s video “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.”  A couple weeks ago, DeYoung published a brief and insightful pair of posts called “Don’t Let the Screen Strangle Your Soul.”  In them, DeYoung describes his realization of just how techno-centric and internet-saturated his daily life has become in recent years and discusses some of the more treacherous liabilities of such a mode of living.  Without condescension, he succinctly describes the fascinating and troubling effects of constant internet exposure on an ever-increasing segment of our culture, a segment which admittedly includes both him and me.

As I read DeYoung’s posts for the first time, my heart resonated so deeply with the problems he describes that I was appropriately frightened.  I saw how my habit of staying constantly connected to facebook, email, and my cell phone was not so much a well-intended effort to “make myself available to others” as it was a desperate desire to maintain a constant buzz of interaction, no matter how (typically) trivial.  I have learned all too well how easy it is to seek insulation from true and vital solitude through the endless parade of hollow amusements that the internet offers; and I have grown pitifully accustomed to the siren call of cyberspace haunting the back of my mind whenever I try to focus exclusively on a book or assignment.

Thus, in this matter I find myself needing not only repentance but reprogramming–a difficult process which nevertheless promises true life and peace.  As the Lord says,

“Whatever one sows, that will he also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.  And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:7-9).

“[The Father] disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:10-11).

I have joined DeYoung in the confessional; let me now join him in striving for maturity and renewed obedience in Christ.  We will reap, if we do not give up.  What about you?