Christianity 201

June 27, 2016

The Psalms as a Microcosm of Biblical Theology

In this simple fractal, each individual section encapsulates in miniature the characteristic qualities or features of the whole.

In this simple fractal, each individual section encapsulates in miniature the characteristic qualities or features of the whole.

Today we’re paying a return visit to the blog Brothers of the Book, written by Bill Hood. In preparation, I read several of the recent devotionals there on the Psalms. Click the title below to read this one at source:

Go And Sin No More

Today’s Passage: Psalms 49-54

It seems to me that all the theology of the Bible is found in these Psalms. Take for example Psalm 49.

Psalm 49:7-9 ESV
“Truly no man can ransom another,
or give to God the price of his life,
for the ransom of their life is costly
and can never suffice,
that he should live on forever
and never see the pit.”

You and I cannot save ourselves or anyone else. Even if you and I sacrifice our life for the transgressions of someone else it is not enough to save them; our very life is not valuable enough to pay the high price required by sin. These verses tell us that in man there is no hope. Of course, that is not the end of the story. You see, while man cannot save himself, God can and does save man. God can and did pay the price required of sin.

Psalm 51 illustrates this fact perfectly. Remember back in 2 Samuel when David took another man’s wife and then had that man killed? We all know that by God’s standard both acts were heinous. What you may not have considered, however, is that as king, David was above reproach. In fact, what he did in this instance was not really an unusual act for a king of that era. By the human standards of the day, outside of God’s law, David didn’t do anything wrong. God’s standard, of course, is a different matter entirely. There is scriptural evidence to suggest that David was being eaten up by his sin prior to Nathan’s confronting him; it bothered him and he became quiet and withdrawn.

I think one of the things that has bothered many of us who have read about David, is that he seems to be such a great man of God and then, seemingly out of the blue, he commits two horrendous sins in succession. How can a man with such a close relationship with God, who clearly loves the Lord and has shown time and again an ability to deny his own self-centered desires in order to be true to God’s standard, drop the ball in such a catastrophic way? “He didn’t just tell a little white lie to keep from hurting someone’s feelings; he committed adultery and murder!”

Do you know how you can tell David loved God? His sin bothered him. When Nathan confronted him with his sin, he could have, like any other king of the day likely would have, had Nathan killed. Instead, David confessed his sin. You see, if you are God’s man, sin will bother you. If you are God’s man He will discipline you. If you are God’s man you will confess your sin from a broken heart with true regret and remorse. In verse 1-6 of Psalm 51 we find David’s confession. He admits he has fallen short of God’s standard and that he needs to be forgiven.

A man that does not belong to God does not feel he needs to be forgiven for his sinful behavior. How can one who feels they have done nothing wrong desire forgiveness? How can forgiveness be given if it isn’t requested? David is God’s man even though he sinned. And that is my point about the theology we see here in the Psalms. David, a hero of the Bible, is not good enough to save himself. Even with all of his great works and great Psalms of praise, he cannot save himself; he falls short of the mark and deserves the pit. What hope do you and I have if even one like David is not good enough? Our hope is the same as David’s; it is the fact that God convicts us of our sin and enables us to perceive our guilt. Our hope is in the fact that He loves us enough to discipline us and provide cleansing for us as a result of our requesting forgiveness. Listen to David’s words:

Psalm 51:7-12 ESV
“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.”

You see, David knows that God must do the work of salvation. God must cleans us and renew our spirits within us. Now I found a couple of more verses in this Psalm fascinating.

Psalm 51:16-17 ESV
“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.”

God has developed an entire system of sacrifice; burnt offerings and wave offerings and peace offerings and the like, but David says God will not delight in that sacrifice or he would give it. He says that the burnt offering is not enough. The sacrifice that God requires is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart. I worry about those that seem to come to God too easily. Is their spirit really broken? Do they really have a broken and contrite heart? It is not for me to say, but either it is or it isn’t. If they are not broken by their sin, how can they truly ask for forgiveness? We tend to say that all you have to do to be saved is accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. This is, of course, true, but a little over simplified. There must be confession and a changed heart. You cannot simply take Christ on as some kind of cosmic insurance policy without any sense of remorse or brokenness; it is not a sincere request.

As I did the dishes prior to sitting down to write this post, I listened to a song performed by Bob Carlisle entitled “We Fall Down”. It is the story of a man who trudges his way past a cathedral every day as he drags his wares to market. As he passes the cathedral he imagines how wonderful it must be to live in a place where you are warm and well fed and the burdens of the world are shut out. One day a priest passes by and the man asks him what it is like to live in such a place. The priest replied “We fall down, we get up. The saints are just the sinners who fall down and get up.”

We have to be careful about getting our theology from pop Christian songs; far too many of them are a little off, and one might find things in this song with which to disagree. Still the idea that the saints are just the sinners who fall down and get up is pertinent to what the lesson of David teaches us. When we accept Christ we are “reborn”; we are new creatures; the old is gone the new has come. Our problem seems to be we don’t understand the power of the new creature and we have phantom sensations that remind us of our old selves. I’ve heard it said that an amputee will often have a sensation that the removed limb is still attached. The limb is gone but the mind, for some reason, gives the sensation that it is still there. I think we can get that same kind of sensation after we have had the old self removed.

What this phantom sensation means is that we might, from time to time, fall down. The question here is what are you going to do once you’ve hit the floor? Will you deny your sin, or will you confess your sin and ask for forgiveness? The enemy is a dastardly creep. He will encourage you into a stumble and then condemn you in an effort to keep you down. David has shown us the proper response. We must confess, ask for forgiveness, and get back up and on with being a man of God. We will have to live with the consequences of our sin as David did, but we must rise in the victory already provided by Christ, go, and sin no more.

Have a blessed and righteous day!

March 12, 2013

What Christ’s Blood Did and Didn’t Accomplish

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18 NIV)

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Readers here at C201 are likely to encounter writing from the widest variety of sources.  I was intrigued by this post for a variety of reasons. First, its relevance to the season of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday we are approaching. Second,  Horace E. Smith is a bishop in the Apostolic Faith Church, a denomination we’ve never included here. Third, the article is about the blood of Christ and the author is, by trade a hematologist.  Here is the link for you to read this at source.  Note: This is part of a continuing series; if you wish to do a complete study on the blood of Christ, start with the link at the bottom.

Two Mistakes

People often make one of two mistakes when they think about the gospel message of Christ’s sacrifice of blood to redeem us. They are either romantic existentialists or religious moralists.

Existentialists live by their feelings, and they believe they deserve for God to give them a happy, prosperous life. The expectation of immediate gratification has crept into a few corners of the church. Some preachers proclaim a “prosperity gospel,” claiming that God’s chief purpose is to make his children happy and wealthy. People who buy what these preachers are selling have incredibly high expectations, and in fact, unrealistic expectations of God, and they become deeply disillusioned when God doesn’t dance to their tune.

The blood of Jesus promises us many things, but not health and wealth. It guarantees us entrance into the kingdom, and it provides peace during times of heartache and confusion. Jesus promises his presence in the midst of struggles, but he never promises the elimination of those struggles. Quite the opposite. When a man announced his loyalty to him, Jesus quickly saw that the man was an existentialist, and he needed a dose of reality. The man promised naively, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:57-58). Jesus always asks us to count the cost.

The second error, the mistake of religious moralism, is a very different problem. Some of us begin our Christian lives by trusting Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, but poor teaching, bad models, or indwelling sin causes us to think we can now earn God’s approval by doing enough right things. We live by the law, feeling powerful and righteous because we’ve done this or that good deed, and we’ve avoided this or that sin, so we can puff out our chests and prove that we’re acceptable.

To illustrate the damage done by moralistic rule keeping, Jesus told a story of a hated tax collector and a rule keeping Pharisee going to the temple to pray. He said, “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get’ ” (Luke 18:10-12).

Tax collectors weren’t like our IRS agents. They were traitors. They were Jews who collaborated with the Romans to extort extra taxes from their own people. They were the most hated people in the land. It was easy for a Pharisee, who kept hundreds of extra laws every week in addition to the laws of the Bible, to feel superior to a despised tax collector. But the parable doesn’t end here.

Jesus said that a few feet away, the tax collector looked down in shame and beat his chest. He pleaded, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). To the astonishment of the people listening to Jesus that day, he concluded, “I tell you that this man [the repentant tax collector], rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).

Question:

What are some negative evidences of romantic existentialism in spiritual life?
What are some evidences of rule keeping moralism?
Is either of these a struggle for you?
If so, explain you answer

Read another article by Bishop Smith.  (Ten to choose from in this series, click each month to open the menu of weekly articles.)