Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Soldier's Message To Other Believing Soldiers Coming Home From Combat

The following was written by my son, Mark Daniel Waite, who at is at the time of this posting in Balad, Iraq waiting to come home to the States after 11 months in Iraq.

Don't Waste the Story of Your Deployment
Written August 18, 2009.

As I write, I have been deployed to Iraq for almost eleven months with the United States Army. I have eleven days until I begin the journey back to the United States. Prior to this deployment, I was busy writing and distributing a booklet that a few of my friends and I wrote called “Don’t Waste Your Deployment”. Throughout this deployment, I have tried to live in such a way as not to waste it. Now with a meager eleven days left of this deployment, my mind is filled with thoughts of how I can use the story of this deployment in such a way that will bring the most glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.

However you may feel about your time in this deployment, whether wasted or used to the max for Christ’s glory and your joy, we have now finished. We cannot go back and rewrite the story of this deployment. Arriving back home, friends and family will clamber to hear about our experiences and stories we have had the past year. And, whether we wasted or used well this deployment, we are presented with a huge choice now that we have finished this deployment…will we waste the story of our deployment, or will we use it for the glory of Christ and the advance of the joy of the gospel?

While the American people may have varied feelings on the war, Soldiers and military personnel are generally held in high respect. The people will listen to our stories of the deployment. Those who have never been to Iraq or Afghanistan will only have the pictures that the press and we paint for them. You may feel very strongly that we should or should not have entered the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but regardless, we did. You may or may not feel very negatively about your time spent in the Middle East. However we may feel, God in His grace has seen us through.

Regardless of our feelings on the subject of this deployment, we as Christians, as Soldiers in both the Heavenly Army and the U.S. Army, have a God-given duty to use the stories of our deployment in such a way that Jesus Christ is presented as the glorious treasure that He truly is! We may wish to complain about our time on this deployment, but I ask, is that really honoring to Christ? We may wish to forget our time spent in the “sandbox”, but I ask, does that make Christ look like the faithful sustainer that He has been every moment of this deployment?

Each and every one of us, who has been deployed, has people who will listen to our story of this deployment. We can speak of how much we hated Iraq, we can complain of how miserable it was, we can paint a very poor and negative picture of the Army, or we could resolve in our hearts to make the most of this extraordinary opportunity to have the attention of so many people and proclaim the gospel! We will forever be among those few Americans who have obeyed our nation’s call and entered combat. We will forever have the ear of our nation in regards to our deployment experience. So, I ask you, my Battle-Buddies, do not waste this story. Use this story to proclaim the excellencies and happiness of Jesus Christ.

Posted by Sgt. Mark Daniel Waite (US Army)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Jonathan Edwards on The Trinity

An Unpublished Essay on the Trinity
JONATHAN EDWARDS

IT IS COMMON when speaking of the Divine happiness to say that God is infinitely happy in the enjoyment of Himself, in perfectly beholding and infinitely loving, and rejoicing in, His own essence and perfection, and accordingly it must be supposed that God perpetually and eternally has a most perfect idea of Himself, as it were an exact image and representation of Himself ever before Him and in actual view, and from hence arises a most pure and perfect act or energy in the Godhead, which is the Divine love, complacence and joy. The knowledge or view which God has of Himself must necessarily be conceived to be something distinct from His mere direct existence. There must be something that answers to our reflection. The reflection as we reflect on our own minds carries something of imperfection in it. However, if God beholds Himself so as thence to have delight and joy in Himself He must become his own object. There must be a duplicity. There is God and the idea of God, if it be proper to call a conception of that that is purely spiritual an idea.

If a man could have an absolutely perfect idea of all that passed in his mind, all the series of ideas and exercises in every respect perfect as to order, degree, circumstance and for any particular space of time past, suppose the last hour, he would really to all intents and purpose be over again what he was that last hour. And if it were possible for a man by reflection perfectly to contemplate all that is in his own mind in an hour, as it is and at the same time that it is there in its first and direct existence; if a man, that is, had a perfect reflex or contemplative idea of every thought at the same moment or moments that that thought was and of every exercise at and during the same time that that exercise was, and so through a whole hour, a man would really be two during that time, he would be indeed double, he would be twice at once. The idea he has of himself would be himself again.

Note, by having a reflex or contemplative idea of what passes in our own minds I don't mean consciousness only. There is a great difference between a man's having a view of himself, reflex or contemplative idea of himself so as to delight in his own beauty or excellency, and a mere direct consciousness. Or if we mean by consciousness of what is in our own minds anything besides the mere simple existence in our minds of what is there, it is nothing but a power by reflection to view or contemplate what passes.

Therefore as God with perfect clearness, fullness and strength, understands Himself, views His own essence (in which there is no distinction of substance and act but which is wholly substance and wholly act), that idea which God hath of Himself is absolutely Himself. This representation of the Divine nature and essence is the Divine nature and essence again: so that by God's thinking of the Deity must certainly be generated. Hereby there is another person begotten, there is another Infinite Eternal Almighty and most holy and the same God, the very same Divine nature.

And this Person is the second person in the Trinity, the Only Begotten and dearly Beloved Son of God; He is the eternal, necessary, perfect, substantial and personal idea which God hath of Himself; and that it is so seems to me to be abundantly confirmed by the Word of God.

Nothing can more agree with the account the Scripture gives us of the Son of God, His being in the form of God and His express and perfect image and representation: (II Cor. 4:4) "Lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ Who is the image of God should shine unto them." (Phil. 2:6) "Who being in the form of God." (Col. 1:15) "Who is the image of the invisible God." (Heb. 1:3) "Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person."

Christ is called the face of God (Exod. 33:14): the word [A.V. presence] in the original signifies face, looks, form or appearance. Now what can be so properly and fitly called so with respect to God as God's own perfect idea of Himself whereby He has every moment a view of His own essence: this idea is that "face of God" which God sees as a man sees his own face in a looking glass. 'Tis of such form or appearance whereby God eternally appears to Himself. The root that the original word comes from signifies to look upon or behold: now what is that which God looks upon or beholds in so eminent a manner as He doth on His own idea or that perfect image of Himself which He has in view. This is what is eminently in God's presence and is therefore called the angel of God's presence or face (Isa. 63:9). But that the Son of God is God's own eternal and perfect idea is a thing we have yet much more expressly revealed in God's Word. First, in that Christ is called "the wisdom of God." If we are taught in the Scripture that Christ is the same with God's wisdom or knowledge, then it teaches us that He is the same with God's perfect and eternal idea. They are the same as we have already observed and I suppose none will deny. But Christ is said to be the wisdom of God (I Cor. 1:24, Luke 11:49, compare with Matt. 23:34); and how much doth Christ speak in Proverbs under the name of Wisdom especially in the 8th chapter.

The Godhead being thus begotten by God's loving an idea of Himself and shewing forth in a distinct subsistence or person in that idea, there proceeds a most pure act, and an infinitely holy and sacred energy arises between the Father and Son in mutually loving and delighting in each other, for their love and joy is mutual, (Prov. 8:30) "I was daily His delight rejoicing always before Him." This is the eternal and most perfect and essential act of the Divine nature, wherein the Godhead acts to an infinite degree and in the most perfect manner possible. The Deity becomes all act, the Divine essence itself flows out and is as it were breathed forth in love and joy. So that the Godhead therein stands forth in yet another manner of subsistence, and there proceeds the third Person in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, viz., the Deity in act, for there is no other act but the act of the will.

We may learn by the Word of God that the Godhead or the Divine nature and essence does subsist in love. (I John 4:8) "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." In the context of which place I think it is plainly intimated to us that the Holy Spirit is that Love, as in the 12th and 13th verses. "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us; hereby know we that we dwell in Him ... because He hath given us of His Spirit." 'Tis the same argument in both verses. In the 12th verse the apostle argues that if we have love dwelling in us we have God dwelling in us, and in the 13th verse He clears the force of the argument by this that love is God's Spirit. Seeing we have God's Spirit dwelling in us, we have God dwelling in [in us], supposing it as a thing granted and allowed that God's Spirit is God. 'Tis evident also by this that God's dwelling in us and His love or the love that He hath exerciseth, being in us, are the same thing. The same is intimated in the same manner in the last verse of the foregoing chapter. The apostle was, in the foregoing verses, speaking of love as a sure sign of sincerity and our acceptance with God, beginning with the 18th verse, and he sums up the argument thus in the last verse, "and hereby do we know that He abideth in us by the Spirit that He hath given us."

The Scripture seems in many places to speak of love in Christians as if it were the same with the Spirit of God in them, or at least as the prime and most natural breathing and acting of the Spirit in the soul. (Phil. 2:1) "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, any comfort of love, any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels of mercies, fulfil ye my joy that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." (II Cor. 6:6) "By kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned." (Romans 15:30) "Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit." (Col. 1:8) "Who declared unto us your love in the Spirit." (Rom. 5:5) "Having the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us." (Gal. 5:13-16) "Use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh." The Apostle argues that Christian liberty does not make way for fulfilling the lusts of the flesh in biting and devouring one another and the like, because a principle of love which was the fulfilling of the law would prevent it, and in the 16th verse he asserts the same thing in other words: "This I say then walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh."

The third and last office of the Holy Spirit is to comfort and delight the souls of God's people, and thus one of His names is the Comforter, and thus we have the phrase of "joy in the Holy Ghost." (I Thess. 1:6) "Having received the Word in much affliction with joy of the Holy Ghost." (Rom. 14: 17) "The kingdom of God is ... righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." (Acts 9:31) "Walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost." But how well doth this agree with the Holy Ghost being God's joy and delight, (Acts 13:52) "And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost"--meaning as I suppose that they were filled with spiritual joy.

This is confirmed by the symbol of the Holy Ghost, viz., a dove, which is the emblem of love or a lover, and is so used in Scripture, and especially often so in Solomon's Song, (1:15) "Behold thou art fair; my love, behold thou art fair; thou hast dove's eyes:" i.e. "Eyes of love," and again 4:1, the same words; and 5:12, "His eyes are as the eyes of doves," and 5:2, "My love, my dove," and 2:14 and 6:9; and this I believe to be the reason that the dove alone of all birds (except the sparrow in the single case of the leprosy) was appointed to be offered in sacrifice because of its innocence and because it is the emblem of love, love being the most acceptable sacrifice to God. It was under this similitude that the Holy Ghost descended from the Father on Christ at His baptism, signifying the infinite love of the Father to the Son, Who is the true David, or beloved, as we said before.

The same was signified by what was exhibited to the eye in the appearance there was of the Holy Ghost descending from the Father to the Son in the shape of a dove, as was signified by what was exhibited to the eye in the voice there was at the same time, viz., "This is My well Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased."

(That God's love or His loving kindness is the same with the Holy Ghost seems to be plain by Psalm 36:7-9, "How excellent (or how precious as 'tis in the Hebrew) is Thy loving-kindness O God, therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings, they shall be abundantly satisfied (in the Hebrew "watered") with the fatness of Thy house and Thou shalt make them to drink of the river of Thy pleasures; for with Thee is the fountain of life and in Thy light shall we see light."

Doubtless that precious loving-kindness and that fatness of God's house and river of His pleasures and the water of the fountain of life and God's light here spoken [of] are the same thing; by which we learn that the Holy anointing oil that was kept in the House of God, which was a type of the Holy Ghost, represented God's love, and that the "River of water of life" spoken of in the 22nd [chapter] of Revelation, which proceeds out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, which is the same with Ezekiel's vision of Living and life-giving water, which is here [in Ps. 36] called the "Fountain of life and river of God's pleasures," is God's loving-kindness.

But Christ Himself expressly teaches us that by spiritual fountains and rivers of water of life is meant the Holy Ghost. (John 4:14; 7:38,39).That by the river of God's pleasures here is meant the same thing with the pure river of water of life spoken of in Revelation 22:1, will be much confirmed if we compare those verses with Revelation 21:23, 24; 22:1,5. (See the notes on chapters 21, 23, 24) I think if we compare these places and weigh them we cannot doubt but that it is the same happines2 that is meant in this Psalm which is spoken of there.)

So this well agrees with the similitudes and metaphors that are used about the Holy Ghost in Scripture, such as water, fire, breath, wind, oil, wine, a spring, a river, a being poured out and shed forth, and a being breathed forth. Can there any spiritual thing be thought, or anything belonging to any spiritual being to which such kind of metaphors so naturally agree, as to the affection of a Spirit. The affection, love or joy, may be said to flow out as water or to be breathed forth as breath or wind. But it would [not] sound so well to say that an idea or judgment flows out or is breathed forth.

It is no way different to say of the affection that it is warm, or to compare love to fire, but it would not seem natural to say the same of perception or reason. It seems natural enough to say that the soul is poured out in affection or that love or delight are shed abroad: (Rom. 5:5) "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts," but it suits with nothing else belonging to a spiritual being.

This is that "river of water of life" spoken of in the 22nd [chapter] of Revelation, which proceeds from the throne of the Father and the Son, for the rivers of living water or water of life are the Holy Ghost, by the same apostle's own interpretation (John 7:38, 39); and the Holy Ghost being the infinite delight and pleasure of God, the river is called the river of God's pleasures (Ps. 36:8), not God's river of pleasures, which I suppose signifies the same as the fatness of God's House, which they that trust in God shall be watered with, by which fatness of God's House I suppose is signified the same thing which oil typifies.

It is a confirmation that the Holy Ghost is God's love and delight, because the saints communion with God consists in their partaking of the Holy Ghost. The communion of saints is twofold: 'tis their communion with God and communion with one another, (I John 1:3) "That ye also may have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ." Communion is a common partaking of good, either of excellency or happiness, so that when it is said the saints have communion or fellowship with the Father and with the Son, the meaning of it is that they partake with the Father and the Son of their good, which is either their excellency and glory (II Peter 1:4), "Ye are made partakers of the Divine nature"; Heb. 12:10, "That we might be partakers of His holiness;" John 17:22, 23, "And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one, I in them and Thou in Me"); or of their joy and happiness: (John 17:13) "That they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves."

But the Holy Ghost being the love and joy of God is His beauty and happiness, and it is in our partaking of the same Holy Spirit that our communion with God consists: (II Cor. 13:14) "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all, Amen." They are not different benefits but the same that the Apostle here wisheth, viz., the Holy Ghost: in partaking of the Holy Ghost, we possess and enjoy the love and grace of the Father and the Son, for the Holy Ghost is that love and grace, and therefore I suppose it is that in that forementioned place, (I John 1:3). We are said to have fellowship with the Son and not with the Holy Ghost, because therein consists our fellowship with the Father and the Son, even in partaking with them of the Holy Ghost.

In this also eminently consists our communion with the Son that we drink into the same Spirit. This is the common excellency and joy and happiness in which they all are united; 'tis the bond of perfectness by which they are one in the Father and the Son as the Father is in the Son.

I can think of no other good account that can be given of the apostle Paul's wishing grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in the beginning of his Epistles, without ever mentioning the Holy Ghost, - as we find it thirteen times in his salutations in the beginnings of his Epistles, - but [i.e., except] that the Holy Ghost is Himself love and grace of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; and in his blessing at the end of his second Epistle to the Corinthians where all three Persons are mentioned he wishes grace and love from the Son and the Father [except that] in the communion or the partaking of the Holy Ghost, the blessing is from the Father and the Son in the Holy Ghost. But the blessing from the Holy Ghost is Himself, the communication of Himself. Christ promises that He and the Father will love believers (John 14:21,23), but no mention is made of the Holy Ghost, and the love of Christ and the love of the Father are often distinctly mentioned, but never any mention of the Holy Ghost's love.

(This I suppose to be the reason why we have never any account of the Holy Ghost's loving either the Father or the Son, or of the Son's or the Father's loving the Holy Ghost, or of the Holy Ghost's loving the saints, tho these things are so often predicated of both the other Persons.)

And this I suppose to be that blessed Trinity that we read of in the Holy Scriptures. The Father is the Deity subsisting in the prime, un-originated and most absolute manner, or the Deity in its direct existence. The Son is the Deity generated by God's understanding, or having an idea of Himself and subsisting in that idea. The Holy Ghost is the Deity subsisting in act, or the Divine essence flowing out and breathed forth in God's Infinite love to and delight in Himself. And I believe the whole Divine essence does truly and distinctly subsist both in the Divine idea and Divine love, and that each of them are properly distinct Persons.

It is a maxim amongst divines that everything that is in God is God which must be understood of real attributes and not of mere modalities. If a man should tell me that the immutability of God is God, or that the omnipresence of God and authority of God is God, I should not be able to think of any rational meaning of what he said. It hardly sounds to me proper to say that God's being without change is God, or that God's being everywhere is God, or that God's having a right of government over creatures is God.

But if it be meant that the real attributes of God, viz., His understanding and love are God, then what we have said may in some measure explain how it is so, for Deity subsists in them distinctly; so they are distinct Divine Persons.

One of the principal objections that I can think of against what has been supposed is concerning the Personality of the Holy Ghost - that this scheme of things does not seem well to consist with [the fact] that a person is that which hath understanding and will. If the three in the Godhead are Persons they doubtless each of them have understanding, but this makes the understanding one distinct person and love another. How therefore can this love be said to have understanding, (Here I would observe that divines have not been wont to suppose that these three had three distinct understandings, but all one and the same understanding.)

In order to clear up this matter let it be considered that the whole Divine office is supposed truly and properly to subsist in each of these three, viz., God and His understanding and love, and that there is such a wonderful union between them that they are, after an ineffable and inconceivable manner, One in Another, so that One hath Another and they have communion in One Another and are as it were predicable One of Another; as Christ said of Himself and the Father "I am in the Father and the Father in Me," so may it be said concerning all the Persons in the Trinity, the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father, the Holy Ghost is in the Father, and the Father in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost is in the Son, and the Son in the Holy Ghost, and the Father understands because the Son Who is the Divine understanding is in Him, the Father loves because the Holy Ghost is in Him, so the Son loves because the Holy Ghost is in Him and proceeds from Him, so the Holy Ghost or the Divine essence subsisting is Divine, but understands because the Son the Divine Idea is in Him.

Understanding may be predicated of this love because it is the love of the understanding both objectively and subjectively. God loves the understanding and that understanding also flows out in love so that the Divine understanding is in the Deity subsisting in love. It is not a blind love. Even in creatures there is consciousness included in the very nature of the will or act of the soul, and tho perhaps not so that it can so properly be said that it is a seeing or undemanding will, yet it may truly and properly be said so in God by reason of God's infinitely more perfect manner of acting so that the whole Divine essence flows out and subsists in this act, and the Son is in the Holy Spirit tho it does not proceed from Him by reason ( of the fact) that the understanding must be considered as prior in the order of nature to the will or love or act, both in creatures and in the Creator. The understanding is so in the Spirit that the Spirit may be said to know, as the Spirit of God is truly and perfectly said to know and to search all things, even the deep things of God.

(All the Three are Persons for they all have understanding and will. There is understanding and will in the Father, as the Son and the Holy Ghost are in Him and proceed from Him. There is understanding and will in the Son, as He is understanding and as the Holy Ghost is in Him and proceeds from Him. There is understanding and will in the Holy Ghost as He is the Divine will and as the Son is in Him.

Nor is it to be looked upon as a strange and unreasonable figment that the Persons should be said to have an understanding or love by another person's being in them, for we have Scripture ground to conclude so concerning the Father's having wisdom and understanding or reason that it is by the Son's being in Him; because we are there informed that He is the wisdom and reason and truth of God, and hereby God is wise by His own wisdom being in Him. Understanding and wisdom is in the Father as the Son is in Him and proceeds from Him. Understanding is in the Holy Ghost because the Son is in Him, not as proceeding from Him but as flowing out in Him.)

But I don't pretend fully to explain how these things are and I am sensible a hundred other objections may be made and puzzling doubts and questions raised that I can't solve. I am far from pretending to explaining the Trinity so as to render it no longer a mystery. I think it to be the highest and deepest of all Divine mysteries still, notwithstanding anything that I have said or conceived about it. I don't intend to explain the Trinity. But Scripture with reason may lead to say something further of it than has been wont to be said, tho there are still left many things pertaining to it incomprehensible.

It seems to me that what I have here supposed concerning the Trinity is exceeding analogous to the Gospel scheme and agreeable to the tenor of the whole New Testament and abundantly illustrative of Gospel doctrines, as might be particularly shown, would it not exceedingly lengthen out this discourse.

I shall only now briefly observe that many things that have been wont to be said by orthodox divines about the Trinity are hereby illustrated. Hereby we see how the Father is the fountain of the Godhead, and why when He is spoken of in Scripture He is so often, without any addition or distinction, called God, which has led some to think that He only was truly and properly God. Hereby we may see why in the economy of the Persons of the Trinity the Father should sustain the dignity of the Deity, that the Father should have it as His office to uphold and maintain the rights of the Godhead and should be God not only by essence, but as it were, by His economical office.

Hereby is illustrated the doctrine of the Holy Ghost. Proceeding [from] both the Father and the Son. Hereby we see how that it is possible for the Son to be begotten by the Father and the Holy Ghost to proceed from the Father and Son, and yet that all the Persons should be Co-etemal. Hereby we may more clearly understand the equality of the Persons among themselves, and that they are every way equal in the society or family of the three.

They are equal in honor: besides the honor which is common to them all, viz., that they are all God, each has His peculiar honor in the society or family. They are equal not only in essence, but the Father's honor is that He is, as it were, the Author of perfect and Infinite wisdom. The Son's honor is that He is that perfect and Divine wisdom itself the excellency of which is that from whence arises the honor of being the author or Generator of it. The honor of the Father and the Son is that they are infinitely excellent, or that from them infinite excellency proceeds; but the honor of the Holy Ghost is equal for He is that Divine excellency and beauty itself.

'Tis the honor of the Father and the Son that they are infinitely holy and are the fountain of holiness, but the honor of the Holy Ghost is that holiness itself. The honor of the Father and the Son is [that] they are infinitely happy and are the original and fountain of happiness and the honor of the Holy Ghost is equal for He is infinite happiness and joy itself.

The honor of the Father is that He is the fountain of the Deity as He from Whom proceed both the Divine wisdom and also excellency and happiness. The honor of the Son is equal for He is Himself the Divine wisdom and is He from Whom proceeds the Divine excellency and happiness, and the honor of the Holy Ghost is equal for He is the beauty and happiness of both the other Persons.

By this also we may fully understand the equality of each Person's concern in the work of redemption, and the equality of the Redeemed's concern with them and dependence upon them, and the equality and honor and praise due to each of them. Glory belongs to the Father and the Son that they so greatly loved the world: to the Father that He so loved that He gave His Only Begotten Son: to the Son that He so loved the world as to give up Himself.

But there is equal glory due to the Holy Ghost for He is that love of the Father and the Son to the world. Just so much as the two first Persons glorify themselves by showing the astonishing greatness of their love and grace, just so much is that wonderful love and grace glorified Who is the Holy Ghost. It shows the Infinite dignity and excellency of the Father that the Son so delighted and prized His honor and glory that He stooped infinitely low rather than [that] men's salvation should be to the injury of that honor and glory.

It showed the infinite excellency and worth of the Son that the Father so delighted in Him that for His sake He was ready to quit His anger and receive into favor those that had [deserved?] infinitely ill at His Hands, and what was done shows how great the excellency and worth of the Holy Ghost Who is that delight which the Father and the Son have in each other: it shows it to be Infinite. So great as the worth of a thing delighted in is to any one, so great is the worth of that delight and joy itself which he has in it.

Our dependence is equally upon each in this office. The Father appoints and provides the Redeemer, and Himself accepts the price and grants the thing purchased; the Son is the Redeemer by offering Himself and is the price; and the Holy Ghost immediately communicates to us the thing purchased by communicating Himself, and He is the thing purchased. The sum of all that Christ purchased for men was the Holy Ghost: (Gal. 3:13,14) "He was made a curse for us... that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."

What Christ purchased for us was that we have communion with God [which] is His good, which consists in partaking of the Holy Ghost: as we have shown, all the blessedness of the Redeemed consists in their partaking of Christ's fullness, which consists in partaking of that Spirit which is given not by measure unto him: the oil that is poured on the head of the Church runs down to the members of His body and to the skirts of His garment (Ps. 133:2). Christ purchased for us that we should have the favor of God and might enjoy His love, but this love is the Holy Ghost.

Christ purchased for us true spiritual excellency, grace and holiness, the sum of which is love to God, which is [nothing] but the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the heart. Christ purchased for us spiritual joy and comfort, which is in a participation of God's joy and happiness, which joy and happiness is the Holy Ghost as we have shown. The Holy Ghost is the sum of all good things. Good things and the Holy Spirit are synonymous expressions in Scripture: (Matt. 7:11) "How much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him." The sum of all spiritual good which the finite have in this world is that spring of living water within them which we read of (John 4:10), and those rivers of living water flowing out of them which we read of (John 7:38,39), which we are there told means the Holy Ghost; and the sum of all happiness in the other world is that river of water of life which proceeds out of the throne of God and the Lamb, which we read of (Rev. 22:1), which is the River of God's pleasures and is the Holy Ghost and therefore the sum of the Gospel invitation to come and take the water of life (verse 17).

The Holy Ghost is the purchased possession and inheritance of the saints, as appears because that little of it which the saints have in this world is said to be the earnest of that purchased inheritance. (Eph. 1:14) Tis an earnest of that which we are to have a fullness of hereafter. (II Cor. 1:22; 5:5) The Holy Ghost is the great subject of all Gospel promises and therefore is called the Spirit of promise. (Eph. 1:13) This is called the promise of the Father (Luke 24:49), and the like in other places. (If the Holy Ghost be a comprehension of all good things promised in the Gospel, we may easily see the force of the Apostle's arguing (Gal. 3:2), "This only would I know, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?") So that it is God of Whom our good is purchased and it is God that purchases it and it is God also that is the thing purchased.

Thus all our good things are of God and through God and in God, as we read in Romans 11:36: "For of Him and through Him and to Him (or in Him as eis is rendered, I Cor. 8:6) are all things." "To Whom be glory forever." All our good is of God the Father, it is all through God the Son, and all is in the Holy Ghost as He is Himself all our good. God is Himself the portion and purchased inheritance of His people. Thus God is the Alpha and the Omega in this affair of redemption.

If we suppose no more than used to be supposed about the Holy Ghost, the concern of the Holy Ghost in the work of redemption is not equal with the Father's and the Son's, nor is there an equal part of the glory of this work belonging to Him: merely to apply to us or immediately to give or hand to us the blessing purchased, after it was purchased, as subservient to the other two Persons, is but a little thing [compared] to the purchasing of it by the paying an Infinite price, by Christ offering up Himself in sacrifice to procure it, and it is but a little thing to God the Father's giving His infinitely dear Son to be a sacrifice for us and upon His purchase to afford to us all the blessings of His purchased.

But according to this there is an equality. To be the love of God to the world is as much as for the Father and the Son to do so much from love to the world, and to be the thing purchased was as much as to be the price. The price and the thing bought with that price are equal. And it is as much as to afford the thing purchased, for the glory that belongs to Him that affords the thing purchased arises from the worth of that thing that He affords and therefore it is the same glory and an equal glory; the glory of the thing itself is its worth and that is also the glory of him that affords it.

There are two more eminent and remarkable images of the Trinity among the creatures. The one is in the spiritual creation, the soul of man. There is the mind, and the understanding or idea, and the spirit of the mind as it is called in Scripture, i.e., the disposition, the will or affection. The other is in the visible creation, viz., the Sun. The father is as the substance of the Sun. (By substance I don't mean in a philosophical sense, but the Sun as to its internal constitution.) The Son is as the brightness and glory of the disk of the Sun or that bright and glorious form under which it appears to our eyes. The Holy Ghost is the action of the Sun which is within the Sun in its intestine heat, and, being diffusive, enlightens, warms, enlivens and comforts the world. The Spirit as it is God's Infinite love to Himself and happiness in Himself, is as the internal heat of the Sun, but as it is that by which God communicates Himself, it is as the emanation of the sun's action, or the emitted beams of the sun.

The various sorts of rays of the sun and their beautiful colors do well represent the Spirit. They well represent the love and grace of God and were made use of for this purpose in the rainbow after the flood, and I suppose also in that rainbow that was seen round about the throne by Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:28; Rev. 4:3) and round the head of Christ by John (Rev. 10:1), or the amiable excellency of God and the various beautiful graces and virtues of the Spirit. These beautiful colors of the sunbeams we find made use of in Scripture for this purpose, viz., to represent the graces of the Spirit, as (Ps. 68:13) "Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold," i.e., like the light reflected in various beautiful colors from the feathers of a dove, which colors represent the graces of the Heavenly Dove.

The same I suppose is signified by the various beautiful colors reflected from the precious stones of the breastplate, and that these spiritual ornaments of the Church are what are represented by the various colors of the foundation and gates of the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21; Isaiah 54:11, etc.) and the stones of the Temple (I Chron. 29: 2); and I believe the variety there is in the rays of the Sun and their beautiful colors was designed by the Creator for this very purpose, and indeed that the whole visible creation which is but the shadow of being is so made and ordered by God as to typify and represent spiritual things, for which I could give many reasons. (I don't propose this merely as an hypothesis but as a part of Divine truth sufficiently and fully ascertained by the revelation God has made in the Holy Scriptures.)

I am sensible what kind of objections many will be ready to make against what has been said, what difficulties will be immediately found, How can this be? And how can that be!

I am far from affording this as any explication of this mystery, that unfolds and renews the mysteriousness and incomprehensibleness of it, for I am sensible that however by what has been said some difficulties are lessened, others that are new appear, and the number of those things that appear mysterious, wonderful and incomprehensible, is increased by it. I offer it only as a farther manifestation of what of Divine truth the Word of God exhibits to the view of our minds concerning this great mystery.

I think the Word of God teaches us more things concerning it to be believed by us than have been generally believed, and that it exhibits many things concerning it exceeding [i.e., more] glorious and wonderful than have been taken notice of; yea, that it reveals or exhibits many more wonderful mysteries than those which have been taken notice of; which mysteries that have been overvalued are incomprehensible things and yet have been exhibited in the Word of God tho they are an addition to the number of mysteries that are in it. No wonder that the more things we are told concerning that which is so infinitely above our reach, the number of visible mysteries increases.

When we tell a child a little concerning God he has not an hundredth part so many mysteries in view on the nature and attributes of God and His works of creation and Providence as one that is told much concerning God in a Divinity School; and yet he knows much more about God and has a much clearer understanding of things of Divinity and is able more clearly to explicate some things that were dark and very unintelligible to him; I humbly apprehend that the things that have been observed increase the number of visible mysteries in the Godhead in no other manner than as by them we perceive that God has told us much more about it than was before generally observed.

Under the Old Testament the Church of God was not told near so much about the Trinity as they are now. But what the New Testament has revealed, tho it has more opened to our view the nature of God, yet it has increased the number of visible mysteries and they thus appear to us exceeding wonderful and incomprehensible. And so also it has come to pass in the Church being told [i.e., that the churches are told] more about the incarnation and the satisfaction of Christ and other Gospel doctrines.

It is so not only in Divine things but natural things. He that looks on a plant, or the parts of the bodies of animals, or any other works of nature, at a great distance where he has but an obscure sight-of it, may see something in it wonderful and beyond his comprehension, but he that is near to it and views them narrowly indeed understands more about them, has a clearer and distinct sight of them, and yet the number of things that are wonderful and mysterious in them that appear to him are much more than before, and, if he views them with a microscope, the number of the wonders that he sees will be increased still but yet the microscope gives him more a true knowledge concerning them.

God is never said to love the Holy Ghost nor are any epithets that betoken love anywhere given to Him, tho so many are ascribed to the Son, as God's Elect, The Beloved, He in Whom God's soul delights, He in Whom He is well pleased, etc. Yea such epithets seem to be ascribed to the Son as tho He were the object of love exclusive of all other persons, as tho there were no person whatsoever to share the love of the Father with the Son. To this purpose evidently He is called God's Only Begotten Son, at the time that it is added, "In Whom He is well pleased." There is nothing in Scripture that speaks of any acceptance of the Holy Ghost or any reward or any mutual friendship between the Holy Ghost and either of the other Persons, or any command to love the Holy Ghost or to delight in or have any complacence in [the Holy Ghost], tho such commands are so frequent with respect to the other Persons.

That knowledge or understanding in God which we must conceive of as first is His knowledge of every thing possible. That love which must be this knowledge is what we must conceive of as belonging to the essence of the Godhead in it's first subsistence. Then comes a reflex act of knowledge and His viewing Himself and knowing Himself and so knowing His own knowledge and so the Son is begotten. There is such a thing in God as knowledge of knowledge, an idea of an idea. Which can be nothing else than the idea or knowledge repeated.

The world was made for the Son of God especially. For God made the world for Himself from love to Himself; but God loves Himself only in a reflex act. He views Himself and so loves Himself, so He makes the world for Himself viewed and reflected on, and that is. The same with Himself repeated or begotten in His own idea, and that is His Son. When God considers of making any thing for Himself He presents Himself before Himself and views Himself as His End, and that viewing Himself is the same as reflecting on Himself or having an idea of Himself, and to make the world for the Godhead thus viewed and understood is to make the world for the Godhead begotten and that is to make the world for the Son of God.

The love of God as it flows forth ad extra is wholly determined and directed by Divine wisdom, so that those only are the objects of it that Divine wisdom chooses, so that the creation of the world is to gratify Divine love as that is exercised by Divine wisdom. But Christ is Divine wisdom so that the world is made to gratify Divine love as exercised by Christ or to gratify the love that is in Christ's heart, or to provide a spouse for Christ. Those creatures which wisdom chooses for the object of Divine love as Christ's elect spouse and especially those elect creatures that wisdom chiefly pitches upon and makes the end of the rest of creatures.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Romans Message #54 Romans 5:5

The Believer’s Assurance


I have never been much of a T.V. watcher. Quite frankly, I find television to be a major waste of my time and really not as exciting as real life….so I don’t watch it very much at all.

However, during those few moments when I have sat down to numb my brain and move into a semi-comatose state of mind in front of the TV, the one show I will watch is Jeopardy.

And the reason I’ll watch Jeopardy every once in a while is because it’s the one game show that gives you an answer to the question you need to figure out is being asked.

Well…..this is can be fairly challenging especially when our brains are wired to look for answers rather than questions.

And this is one reason as well why Romans 5 is such a challenging chapter in the Bible to deal with, especially in verses 5-11.

You see, Paul in these verses is giving us answers to a question he has not asked directly but in effect is only implying in his answers.

And so the challenge of making sense of this chapter is discerning the questions Paul is answering.

In writing in this particular way, Paul is using a form of a literary device known as Prolepsis, in which he answers a question he has not asked.

The intended value of this literary device is that it forces the reader to ask numerous questions of the passage and thus, become very familiar with it before he finally figures out what the author’s intended question really was in the first place.

And let me tell you that what you are hearing today took several hours and a multitude of legal pads and ink to finally figure out.

In fact, this message is the fifth one that I wrote regarding this passage over the course of this week simply because when I would get done heading down one track and think I had the right question to the answer Paul is giving—I would realize I didn’t have it and back to the drawing board I went.

Well, finally, after much prayer, study, and even a certain sense of desperation the passage opened up like the layers of an onion and what a wonderful message I received from the Lord—one which should greatly encourage all of us in our Christian lives especially when we are struggling with the assurance of our salvation.

Turn with me to Romans 5:5-11.

Romans 5 is specifically dealing with “The Believer’s Assurance” and actually begins a new section in the Book of Romans that runs all the way to the end of Romans 8 dealing almost entirely with the believer’s assurance of his salvation.

Thus, in Romans 5 we’ll see that the believer is assured that he has been freed from the penalty of sin, which is an eternity in hell separated from the goodness and love of God forever.

In Romans 6, we will see that the believer is assured that he has been freed from the power of sin so as to truly be able to live a new life in Christ.

In Romans 7, we will see that the believer has been freed from the curse of the Law.

And finally, in Romans 8, we will see that the believer is assured that he is free from any divine condemnation for his sins and will indeed experience future glory with God in Heaven for all of eternity.

And intermixed within these four chapters on the believer’s assurance we’ll find a sections in Romans 6, 7, and 8 dealing with how we as believers are to deal with the sin issues we all struggle with as we grow in holiness before the Lord.

Today we are going to deal with the issue of “The believer’s assurance of God’s acceptance of him or her irregardless of how well he is living the Christian Life.”

In essence, Romans 5 could be described as the “What if” chapter in this four chapter section on the assurance of the believer’s salvation.

You see, Paul is really raising the question that most of us have asked at one time or another in our Christian experience and that is—

Is it possible for me to so badly screw up my Christian Life
that I out sin God’s grace and love and lose
my salvation in the end?

I mean, “what if” I don’t end up loving God with all my heart, mind, and soul over the long haul of my Christian experience? Will this result in me not being saved from the penalty of my sins?

Or, “what if” I fail to respond correctly to the tribulations and other tools God uses in my life to develop Christian maturity in me so that I never really see much spiritual growth in my life—could this effect whether I am ultimately saved from my sins and go to heaven?

Or, “what if” I commit the unpardonable sin—whatever that may be—would that cause me to lose my salvation?

Or, “what if” God just plain gets tired of me and my lack of spiritual desire, progress, and devotion to Him—could that happen—and if it did would I still be saved from my sins and go to heaven?

Or, “what if” I don’t ever get victory over this besetting sin that has had such a strong grip on me for years—in the end will this result in me losing my salvation?

These are the kinds of pertinent questions that Paul answers for us here in Romans 5 and especially in our text this morning, which is Romans 5:5-11.

In reading the first 11 verses of this chapter we see that Paul is urging us as believers to celebrate and rejoice in three things—

First, we see in verses 1-2 that we, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who are now at peace with God and standing in grace, are to celebrate our certain and expectant hope of experiencing the glory of God in Heaven at the end of our earthly lives.

This of course is a great contrast with what unbelievers will experience, which is the wrath of God for all of eternity in the Lake of Fire.

Second, we see in verses 3-4 that we are to celebrate and rejoice in our tribulations—because they are designed to produce perseverance, which reveals proven Christian character, which ultimately authenticates our faith in Christ as being genuine and real, which in turn results in an even more certain expectant assurance and hope that we have really been saved from the penalty of our sins and made into new creations in Christ who will go to heaven when we die.

And finally, in verse 11, we are to be celebrating and rejoicing in God Himself—because we really have been reconciled to Him through our Lord Jesus Christ.
And it is between this second and third exhortation that Paul answers the “what if” questions most of us have all asked at one time or another about the security of our salvation as he explains why we as believers should be celebrating and rejoicing in our great God.

Now let’s begin our study in the text by looking at Romans 5:5.

Paul, again in writing about this “hope” of our eternal security is referring to the certain and expectant hope that believers can have that they have been saved from the penalty of their sins and will go to heaven and be glorified with Christ when they die.

And what Paul tells us about this hope is that it will not disappoint us.

The word “disappoint” comes from the Greek word, kataischunei, which refers to the sense of disappointment a Christian would experience if instead of being welcomed into heaven by God when he died—he was instead shamed and disgraced as one who had either lost his salvation or was never ever truly saved in the first place.

It is the kind of disappointing shame and desperation that the people in Matthew 7:21-23 experience when told that they aren’t going to Heaven because they were never truly saved in the first place.

I mean these people are genuinely surprised to hear they aren’t going to Heaven but the fact of the matter is that their appeal to God for salvation was based upon their works (v. 22) rather than any trust in Christ.

And so, the question Paul is answering is—could such a thing happen to one who has trusted in Christ Jesus?

Is it possible that the believer could end up dying and not be eternally saved from the penalty for his sins?

Is it feasible that the believer could potentially lose his salvation and end up being shamed, disgraced, and consigned to hell rather than glorified and given a home in heaven?

And Paul’s answer to those questions is: “Absolutely Not! And here’s four reasons why.”

1. God loves you with a great love. (5a)
2. God has placed the Holy Spirit in you. (5b)
3. God loved you with a great love. (6-10a)
4. God has placed you in Jesus Christ. (10b)

Today we will deal with the first of these four reasons why the true believer in Christ Jesus will never lose his salvation and be disappointed at the end of his earthly life.

1. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we can have complete assurance of our salvation because God loves us with a great love. (5b)

Note that the very next phrase in verse 5 begins with the word “because”.

He starts this section with the word “because”, because he is going to give us the first reason why our eternal hope in Christ for salvation cannot be dashed, disappointed, ruined, or destroyed by anything we or anyone else, including God Himself can or will do.

Look at what Paul says is the basis of our eternal security: It is the Love of God for us.

He writes—“because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who was given to us.”

You see, the reason why we cannot lose our salvation is because God loves us with a great love, which is described here as being “poured out” within our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who was given to us.

In other words, God’s guarantee of our salvation is based upon the “amazing grace” of His divine love that has been poured out into our hearts.

In other words, the assurance of our hope of eternal salvation as believers has nothing to do with how well or how badly we have loved God but rather upon the fact that He loves us with a love that is greater than all of our sin.

The words “poured out within our hearts” mean to “flood our hearts to overfilling”. It has the idea of flooding an area to such an extent and for so long that whatever else was in that space has now been displaced and washed away.

With that picture in mind turn to 1 John 4:16-18.

Note the phrase in verse 18, “Perfect love—God’s Love—casts out fear.”

The words “casts out” come from the Greek word ballo, which means to throw, cast, vomit, push, propel, or displace.

It has the basic idea of forcing an object out of one place to another.

Thus, what God is saying in Romans 5:5 is that there is no need to be afraid of losing your salvation or having it diminished in any way because your salvation is secure in God’s love for you rather than in your love for Him and furthermore…

If you would just spend more time growing in your understanding and acceptance of His love for you than you do worrying about your love for Him you would come to experience His love in your heart, which when it is experienced displaces your fears of losing His acceptance and thereby losing your salvation.

But what about my sin issues? What about my besetting sins and lack of love for God? I mean shouldn’t I take these seriously and be concerned about them?

Sure, you should take them seriously and you should be working on them but as one old Presbyterian preacher put it--“The only people who get better are people who know that, if they never get better, God will love them anyway.”

Now that almost sounds like its OK to keep sinning as a Christian because God will love you anyway and if this is the case why not just keep on sinning?!

Well, after writing Romans 5 that is exactly the question Paul expected to hear, which is why he rhetorically asks in Romans 6:1 “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?”

And of course his answer in verse 2 was “May it never be!”

But people’s misunderstanding of “God’s grace” and “God’s love” so as to think that they produce an environment for more and even greater sin is no reason to quit preaching God’s Grace and God’s love and the fact that, people misunderstand what God’s grace and love is all about—thinking they will just lead to more sin—is the evidence that you are correctly preaching them.

Listen, whereas the true believer does not want to continue in his sin and desires with all of his heart to be delivered from his sin—he must grasp onto this truth with all of his might if he is to ever make progress against his sin and again this truth is that—

“The only Christians who ever truly defeat their sin are those who know and believe with all their hearts that if they don’t, God will love them anyway!”

These are the sentiments of a Christian who has come to know and believe the love God has for him and thus this is a believer whose assurance of salvation is grounded and rooted not in himself and his spiritual performance but in God and God’s love which is poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit of God.

CONCLUSION

One of the obvious questions that arises about this time is:

If the basis of my assurance of salvation is rooted and grounded in God’s love for me and furthermore, in experiencing His love for me…Can you tell me how I can know with some sense of objectivity that God’s love has indeed flooded my soul when my emotions are fighting against me?

Well, actually there are probably a number of ways to determine this but probably the best way is seen is described for us in 1 John 4:19, which teaches us that—

“We love God because He first loved us.”

In other words, the objective proof that God’s love has been poured out within your heart by the Holy Spirit of God is that as a result you love God.

Listen, if you have a desire for God. A desire to know Him, to obey Him, to worship Him, to praise Him, to commune with Him, to love Him more and more. . . . you need to realize and understand that the only reason you have these desires is because God’s love has been poured out within your heart.

As Blaise Pascal wrote: “Thou wouldst not be seeking Me unless thou hadst already found me.”

You see a person who desires Christ is a person who already has Him.

Is it possible for you as a Christian to so screw up your life that you lose your salvation?

Absolutely Not! Because God’s love for you as His child is greater than all your sin and shame.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sin Need Not Be Fatal! Psalm 85

When I mention the names Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds, those of you who follow baseball will quickly recognize these as Major League Baseball’s homerun record holders.

Now the interesting thing about these guys is that while many baseball fans have a good idea of how many homeruns they hit—very few have any idea how many strike outs they had.

In 10, 616 times at bat, Babe Ruth hit 714 homeruns but struck out 1330 times—he struck out more than twice as many times as he hit homeruns.

In 12,364 times at bat, Hank Aaron hit 755 homeruns and struck out 1383 times—again over twice as many strikeouts than homeruns.

And in about 10,000 at bats, Barry Bonds hit 762 homeruns and struck out 1539 times—again striking out twice as many times as he hit homeruns.

So these three great baseball homerun kings failed twice as much as they succeeded when it came to hitting homeruns.

And in their careers, when asked about all their strikeouts these homerun kings all made the point that failure was to be expected when you go to the plate over 10,000 times.

And I think they have a point there. Whenever you step up to the plate you may hit a homerun but you’re also twice as likely to strike out and fail.

And the only way to remedy the failure rate is to just not go to the plate and try anymore.

But, then none of them would have hit over 700 homeruns either.

You see, you can’t succeed without trying and you can’t try without failing, thus success at anything, including the Christian Life, encompasses a certain amount and degree of failure.

You know—that as Christians we cannot step up to the plate time after time and not strikeout once in awhile.

And if you’re like me, you’ll strikeout more than from time to time and may even find that your failures significantly out number your successes in living the Christian life.

The fact is, all of us as Christians strikeout and fail as followers of Christ and therefore, need to learn how to deal with those failures when they occur.

We have several young men and women who are leaving our church in the next few days and weeks who we all hope will succeed greatly as Christians but whom we also know may fail greatly as well.

And with all of our personal failures and knowing that our children will fail in some areas of their personal lives as well—it amazes me that so many Christians have never developed a theology of failure—In other words, a biblically sound plan for dealing with personal failures caused by personal sin.

Now the problem we have with even thinking about something like this is we really don’t want to deal with potential failure especially when it is caused by personal sin—because…….well…..we’re not supposed to sin……yet how many times do we sin and how many times have we really blown it so as to wonder if we were even recoverable?

Well listen…..my study of the Word of God and my experience in life causes me to believe that we all better have a plan and a strategy for dealing with our “sins” and in particular our “unmentionable hidden sins” so as to not become a permanent spiritual casualty whose life fails to reflect the grace and glory of God in being rescued from failing to live life God’s way.

All of us struggle with the remaining remnants of our sinful depravity imbedded in our sinful flesh in which we dwell.

And until we get to glory and are glorified we will struggle with the lust of our eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.

That’s just the way it is and because that is just the way it is, we better figure out what to do when we do fall and sin and thus fail because there is a good chance that whereas, every once in a while we knock a homerun out of the park—we are probably striking out a whole lot more.

When I was a police officer we had to train with our firearms on a regular basis. One of the drills we practiced was called "A Failure Drill". In this drill, we practiced the steps necessary to clear a jam in our weapon that made it inoperative during a fire fight. In other words, we had to be proficient in knowing what to do when our weapon failed to operate properly so as to get back in the fight and win. This is a good example of what Psalm 85 is all about--it is rehearsing the steps a Christian needs to take after he has failed to operate properly as a believer so as to get back in the fight and win the battle.

So, turn with me to Psalm 85 where we will learn how to successfully deal with the failure of having involved ourselves in personal sin and in particular the kinds of sin that threaten to undo us.

And what I mean by that, is those sins, which are of such a serious nature that they have the potential to and may very well have already done devastating and serious damage to our lives, relationships, and testimonies for Christ.

Now, the exact background of this Psalm is not known for sure.

We can see however that the occasion for writing the psalm appears to be sin of a serious nature that has caused the people of God to experience God’s displeasure with them. We see this in verses 4-7.

Therefore, this is a psalm dealing with the failure of God’s people to obey Him and how they successfully dealt with that failure so as to recover from it and not be sidelined by it.

Our outline will be pretty simple—we’ll simply ask and answer the question:

What does a believer need after he has sinned if he is to recover and not be sidelined by it.

So, let’s get started and find out…...

What a believer needs after he has sinned if he is to recover and not be sidelined by it is:

1. To Remember and Rehearse the Gospel to God and Himself. (1-3)

Using six past tense verbs, the psalmist in talking to God, rehearses what he knows God has already accomplished on their behalf as His people.

In verse 1, he remembers before God that God has already showed favor to their land and had restored them from the discipline of captivity—whatever captivity it was.

Then in verse 2, he remembers that God has already forgiven the iniquity of the people and covered all their sin.

And in verse 3, he remembers that God has already withdrawn all His fury from them and turned away from His burning anger toward them as sinners.

In other words, he remembers before God what God has already accomplished on behalf of His covenant people in terms of dealing with their sin.

And if you look at these verses again you’ll see that verse 2 is talking about “forgiveness” and “atonement” whereas verse 3 is dealing with “propitiation”.

Now, yes it is true that Jesus has not died yet, but so sure was the fact that He would die on the cross and pay the believers’ sin penalties that God could treat even these people with saving grace as they believed in Him.

The main point in this stanza is that if the believer is to deal effectively with the devastation and destruction caused by his sin so as to recover and not be sidelined by his failure—he must remember and rehearse to God, so as to rehearse to himself, that his sin has already been covered by the blood and God’s wrath toward it has already been removed.

This is the first aspect of preaching the Gospel to yourself.

It would go like this—O LORD, I have sinned so terribly against you—so badly that I am deeply ashamed of myself and detest what I have done to so dishonor your Name.

And Lord, I deserve nothing but wrath and eternal damnation but I know and I remember that You….

 Have already forgiven me of this sin.
 And have already covered this sin with the blood of Jesus.
 And have already withdrawn from me all your fury for this sin.
 And have turned completely away from me your burning anger for this sin.


2. To Seek Restoration to God’s Fellowship & Relief From His Indignation. (4-5)

Once our sin is realized, it needs to be repented of and confessed as we seek to be restored to fellowship with God.

And the fact of the matter is that the Bible promises that once we confess our sins to God that He does restore us to fellowship with Himself, however this does not mean that He always allows us to experience this restored fellowship right away.

You see, whereas, as believers we never have to worry about being brought under the wrath of God, we can find ourselves experiencing the indignation and the displeasure of God when we choose to disobey Him even after we have confessed our sin and had our fellowship with God restored.
This is sometimes the discipline that God brings into the believer’s life after he has sinned.

And this indignation and divine displeasure is miserable for it usually manifests itself as a sense of distance between you and God in which God seems far away.

In this position, you are unable to enjoy God or to sense His enjoyment of you.

And again as I said before this feeling of separation from God and the inability to experience His warm fellowship is often the very divine discipline He brings into our lives to teach us that sin is simply not worth it.

Consider Micah 7:7-9, where the prophet Micah admits that he has sinned and is having to bear the indignation of the Lord for his sin.

Furthermore, note that just because he confesses his sin and has repented of it that he still is having to undergo this sense of distance from and displeasure of the Lord.

In fact, he will undergo this discipline from the Lord until God sees fit to bring it to an end.

Isaiah made this same point when speaking on behalf of God’s people he wrote in Isaiah 8:17, “And I will wait for the LORD who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob; I will even look eagerly for Him.”

Consider also the words of Psalm 123:1-2 as well as Psalm 130.

These are prayers of confession yet the psalmist is still waiting for God to restore the joy of his salvation.

You know this is what happens when we sin. God has promised to discipline us and even after we have confessed our sin and turned from it we oftentimes experience God’s discipline in terms of a sense of distance from Him.

Don’t misinterpret that to mean that He no longer desires your fellowship or that He does not love you or that He is getting His revenge by giving you the “silent treatment”.

No…..what God is doing is teaching you and I that the sin we so desired because we thought it would make us happy has really robbed of us true happiness and joy that only comes when we are able to sense God’s presence in our lives.

While undergoing this divine discipline we should earnestly pray that God would bring it to an end at the proper time and restore us to a point of being able to experience and enjoy His fellowship again.

Even David, in his prayer of confession recorded for us in Psalm 51 had to ask God to restore to him the joy of his salvation because it was not automatically restored upon his confession of sin.

The sense of not allowing us to enjoy the “joy of our salvation” by being able to experience renewed fellowship with God is often the divine discipline that God teaches us about in Hebrews 12.

Listen, if indeed the greatest treasure and pleasure in life for the believer is the experience and enjoyment of God then what is the greater spiritual discipline for disobedience—taking your health, your job, consigning you to a life of bad consequences………

No…..the most severe discipline is the removal of your ability to enjoy God as your greatest treasure and pleasure.

All those other things can be used by God as divine forms of discipline as well but the most severe is not being able to experience the joy of your salvation.


3. To Pray for Personal Revival…….so that he may rejoice in God once again. (6)

Verse 6 shows us exactly what the discipline of the Lord is—the inability to rejoice in the Lord or as David put it—“the joy of my salvation”.

And again, this is a form of divine discipline that while necessary for the believer who has sinned is still something the believer is to seek relief from for in the seeking of relief from God’s hiding Himself from the believer the believer is demonstrating a renewed desire for God rather than sin.

Thus the believer is to seek revival.

This is a revival of the soul in which the soul that is under divine discipline and feeling separated from the Lord is given the strength to pursue God once again as his soul’s delight.

The trouble with most of us when we sin and sin greatly is that we do not feel we have the right any longer to rejoice in God and thus to pursue Him.

We feel that because of our sin God no longer accepts us and no longer is really interested in us and thus we pull away from Him.

Our shame over our sin causes us to retreat and run from the only One Who can help us and in this position we are really in a desperate state because our emotions are telling us that we have no right to come to God for help because it is He Whom we have sinned so greatly against.

But it is in this position of desperation that we must do the very thing the Psalmist does—we must go to God with our sin and all and ask Him to revive us—to strengthen us—to give us renewed resolve to pursue Him and His ways again even when we feel as though all is lost and unrecoverable.

That is the battle of faith when we have sinned.

You see before you gave into temptation and actually sinned the battle of faith was to believe obedience to God and His Word would make you happier than disbelieving Him and then sinning against Him.

But once you have sinned, the battle of faith is to believe God still wants you to pursue Him as your greatest treasure and pleasure in life and then to actually do so—even when under His divine discipline in which He is not enabling you to experience and enjoy Him in a positive manner..

But to do that—you must ask God to revive your heart and soul so as to give you the spiritual strength and might to overcome your emotions which are telling you that God no longer desires you or that you must prove yourself to God first.

And before we leave this verse, I want you to see that revival is not for unbelievers—it is for believers and specifically for believers who have lost the joy of their salvation in that they are no longer rejoicing in God.

Listen if that is you—regardless of how you got to this point—you need to start asking God to revive you and to give you a renewed taste and desire for Him.

Renewed spiritual passion does not come as a result of reading more, praying longer, serving harder, giving more, or sacrificing more…..it can only come from God as you beseech Him to bring revival to your life and then wait upon Him to do so in His perfect time.

4. Reassurance……….in terms of a renewed expression of God’s love and salvation. (7)

The believer who has sinned and returned to the Lord needs the reassurance of God’s lovingkindness.

Lovingkindness comes from the Hebrew word hessed, which means God’s eternal covenant love.

Thus, the Psalmist is asking God to give him a renewed vision of God’s eternal love for him that is not and cannot be affected by anything the Psalmist does or does not do—it is soley dependent upon God.

In asking to see this—the Psalmist is asking God for the reassurance of His salvation.

In asking God to “grant” us your salvation, the Psalmist uses a form of the Hebrew word Nathan.

Nathan means “God has given”. But this form that the Psalmist uses here means has the idea of God giving His people something that will serve as an expression of His preservation of them.

One example of this is found in Leviticus 26:4, where God promises to give rain to his people as a sign of his blessing and intent to preserve them.

Thus, what the Psalmist is asking for is not that God “save” him again—but rather grant him the assurance of his salvation.


5. Renewed Resolve……….in terms of wanting, needing, and demanding to hear what God has to say to him. (8-10)

And notice that the Psalmist knows that when he hears from God…when the silence of God’s discipline is over and God allows and enables the repentant sinner to hear His voice again—he will not hear words of condemnation or anger but rather words of peace.

God will speak “peace” to His people—His saved people.

And the Psalmist realizes that some would then say….”Well, if that is all God does why not just keep on sinning and coming back to the Lord to hear more words of peace?”

So he qualifies the statement by adding “But let them not turn back to their folly.”

In other words, God’s restorative discipline is for the purpose of breaking our bondage to sin and we must not see it as incentive to return to the stupidity of sin but rather as the means by which to walk away from our sin.

Then in verses 9-11, the Psalmist makes the point that in Christ and His salvation the truth of our sin and the truth of our ugly depravity—the truth about who we really are and what we have done and will do that may be hidden from everyone else…….has converged with God’s lovingkindness so that we are assured of our salvation….

Listen, God chose to save us with His eyes open to the truth of who and what we really are! God's lovingkindness did not act blindly. It acted in full knowledge of the truth of what we were before salvation and how badly we would fail as believers. The One Who knew and knows us best....saved us anyway!

6. Renewed Vision For the Future. (11-13)

Indeed the Lord does restore the years the locusts have devoured! And that is what verse 12 is talking about. God will cause our lives to yield spiritual fruit again after we have responded correctly to our failures. Oh, it may not be the same kind of fruit as before...but nevertheless, He will bring forth fruit.

You know we all carry the baggage of our sin. It is part of our story. Our sin is part of the "all things" of Romans 8:28. It in part is one of the tools God is using to conform you to the image of Christ. And whereas you and I cannot change our past God in His grace does change the meaning of our past. He brings forth new and beautiful fruit in the lives of those Christians who have failed and responded to their failures in a godly way.

CONCLUSION

Turn with me to Psalm 37:23-24. Note the passage does not say..."if he falls", but "when he falls". Listen folks, we have all failed and we will fail but the point is when we fail God is the One preserving us from ultimate and total failure. So don't quit living and "going to the plate" so as to keep from striking out. Rather, live your Christian life with the confidence that God knows all about our sin and loves us anyway and will not allow us to fail completely--He is indeed holding us by the hand.

Look at Luke 22:31-32 too. The interesting thing about Jesus' words to Peter is that He wasn't concerned with Peter failing (by denying Him). His concern was that Peter's faith not fail. And this is what Jesus said He would pray for. And since Jesus always gets what He prays for since His prayers reveal the Divine Will...Peter's faith was secure in the midst of his great sin of denying Christ.

If you are a true believer your sin failures are not fatal nor permanent. God has you by the hand and will preserve you and your faith. So whereas, it would be best not to sin...don't give in to despair when you do. Fight the fight of faith, believe the promises of God, get up off the ground, brush yourself off, and fight on to victory.....and be prepared to do it everyday!

Pursuing the Glory of Christ as though He were the most important pursuit in all the world--Because He Is!

" Looking for the Blessed Hope and the appearing of The Glory of our Great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." Titus 2:13