Posted on Monday, September 05, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

[caption id="attachment_541" align="alignleft" width="224" caption="What's going on in there?"][/caption]

Okay, here’s where I might be misunderstood as a heretic, but my own imagination likes to relate the church to a speakeasy. Of course, I’m thinking of a speakeasy in a romantic way, as a whole world that is open to you by invitation and the correct password:  Jesus is Lord! (After that, my metaphor kind of falls apart.) But church really is a different world!  We are called out from all of our own working to receive. What are we receiving? It is so much more than moral instruction, or how to have Christ reign over your finances, fix your marriage, and help you have your best life now. We are actually receiving Christ and his benefits through the preached word and the sacraments. We come with our stories about nothing, and we are reminded that we are a part of a metanarrative, the story that encompasses all others. I’ve already alluded to this Horton quote from his book, People and Place in my last article; “The church is never the effectual agent; instead, it is the recipient and field of God’s sanctifying work in the world: the theater in which the Spirit is casting and staging dress rehearsals of the age to come (p. 197)”. 

The speakeasy is the reality; only, it isn’t us doing the speaking. Horton refers to God’s speech act in creating life as divine peosis. “Created by speech, upheld by speech, and one day glorified by speech, we are, like the rest of creation, summoned beings, not autonomous. We exist because we have been spoken into existence, and we persist in time because the Spirit ensures that the Father’s speaking, in the Son, will not return void (p. 61)”. Do you see the importance of being under the preached Word of God, and receivers of the sacraments that ratify his covenant—the privilege?  God’s Word actually changes us. We may come into the speakeasy as rebels, but we are being transformed into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.

HOW DOES THE CHURCH INFLUENCE THE WORLD?

Like a speakeasy, the church is countercultural (but, obviously, in completely different ways).  We are called out from our everyday work, to gather together as a peculiar people. We worship, as we are receivers of God’s grace. Equipped with the spiritual armor necessary, we are then sent back into the world with a benediction. We leave rejuvenated, encouraged to share the gospel with others.  But in the church, we are citizens of a kingdom ruled by grace, and in the world around us, we are also citizens of a kingdom ruled by justice. VanDrunen defines this distinction well in his book Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms: “God rules the church (the spiritual kingdom) as redeemer in Jesus Christ and rules the state and all other social institutions (the civil kingdom) as creator and sustainer, and thus these two kingdoms have significantly different ends, functions, and modes of operation” (p. 1).

Did you ever wonder why in his letter to the Romans, Paul teaches to submit to the government, whose authority is appointed by God, even to uphold justice to “execute wrath on him who practices evil” (13:5b)? And yet, he tells the Corinthians that it would be better for them to be offended or cheated than to take a fellow believer under the law to the court system? Or, we have Jesus telling the Pharisees to render to Caesar what is his, and yet, in his infamous Sermon on the Mount, we seem to be called to something much deeper than the law of justice requires—turning the other cheek, loving our enemies. This is because Jesus and Paul are clearly talking about our role in two different kingdoms.

I think it goes without saying that as Christians our responsibility to one kingdom ties stronger than to the other. However, this is a benefit to the civil kingdom, not a threat. Paul is encouraging us not to sue a fellow believer, because the world is watching us. The church has its own government, in which it is to rule and discipline its members for the purpose of reconciliation. In the spiritual kingdom, justice has already been served and grace reigns. If another professing believer is unwilling to submit, in most cases (there are obviously more severe cases in which discernment and wisdom would lead us to the civil government for protection or prosecution) we are to accept being cheated over displaying sibling rivalry to unbelievers watching. The church is an influence to the world by being the church

We no longer have a distinct land, like Adam or Moses, but we are a distinct people. Jesus points this out in his Sermon on the Mount. He said our goodness had to exceed that of the Pharisees; that we had to be perfect. He was describing himself. Jesus fulfilled the whole law that he portrays. It is with Christ’s righteousness that we are clothed in the spiritual kingdom. Therefore, we cannot impose our faith, and our redemptive way of government onto our unbelieving, fellow civil citizens. We cannot legislate the gospel. 

And we cannot confuse law with gospel. The church proclaims the gospel. As an individual Christian sent out into the world, the law guides me. I graciously try to obey God’s law as I follow the Great Commandment given to all mankind (Matt. 22:37-39). But in light of the gospel, I know that I cannot try to earn my salvation by keeping the law. In this manner the law only condemns me.  Thankfully, by God’s grace I am united to Christ who has fulfilled the law. I am now free to serve my neighbor in gratitude.

Here are some more questions to ponder in further reflection:

1.      God is graceful in both the spiritual and civil kingdoms of his majesty.  What are the similarities and differences of how his grace affects believers and unbelievers? 

2.      How are our responsibilities as a citizen of Christ’s spiritual kingdom stronger than our civil kingdom citizenship?  What may be some circumstances where this would become apparent?  How does this actually benefit unbelievers?

3.      Do you find it hard to offer grace within God’s spiritual kingdom, even taking an injustice rather than asserting your own righteousness?  Do you teach this to your children?

4.      How has the church throughout history tried to impose its kingdom on the world?  What dangers have come from that?  Do you struggle with confusing the two kingdoms in your own politics?  What are the particular challenges for this as American Christians?

Posted on Friday, September 02, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

(Yes, Again!) Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, David VanDrunen (Crossway, 2010)

Sunday really is an important, meaningful day for worship. Have you ever wondered why the Sabbath changed from Saturday to Sunday after Christ’s death and resurrection? It’s really quite amazing. As noted earlier, there is a distinction between the common and the holy after the Fall.  Adam failed to earn for himself and his prodigy the new heavens and earth. In the Old Testament, Saturday worship correlated to that testimony—modeled after creation and the covenant of works unfulfilled, man is to work six days and rest on the seventh. Throughout the Old Testament this was a gift to God’s people, both a rest for their labors and a way to separate them from pagans.  Along with this day of rest, there was the year of Jubilee.  This was a year of liberation from debt after the perfect cycle, seven years times seven days, the fiftieth year. Now we can see that pointed to Christ, our true liberation!  Through his resurrection, Christ has accomplished this for us and reversed the observance of the Sabbath.   I’ll let VanDrunen enlighten you:

What was the meaning of this different kind of Old Testament Sabbath? It pointed ahead to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. During his earthly ministry, Jesus announced on a Sabbath day (Saturday) the fulfillment of the proclamation of liberty, “the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:19; see vv.16-21). Jesus pointed Israel to himself as the one who brings the true and ultimate Jubilee for his people…He did it through the resurrection. Jesus rose “after the Sabbath” (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:1), on the “first day of the week” (Luke 24:1; John 20:1)—Sunday. The timing is truly amazing. The day that Jesus lay dead in the tomb turned out to be the last Sabbath of the Old Testament era (for after his resurrection the old covenant was no more). Remember that the Old Testament Year of Jubilee had occurred on the fiftieth year—that is, the year immediately after the “perfect” number of Sabbath years (7 x 7 = 49). And thus Jesus rose from the dead on the day immediately after the number of Old Testament seventh-day Sabbaths had reached their complete and perfect number! His resurrection was the true Year of Jubilee. The weekly Old Testament Sabbath had looked back to God’s work of creation (Ex. 20:8-11) and reminded God’s people of the first Adam’s original obligation to work perfectly in this world and then obtain his rest. The resurrection now announces that Jesus, as the last Adam, has completed the task of the first Adam and has attained his reward of rest for the world-to-come…

As the seventh-day Sabbath of Old Testament testified that the task assigned to the first Adam remained uncompleted, so the first-day Sabbath of the New Testament testifies that the last Adam has fulfilled it. By resting first and then working, the Christian doctrine of salvation is portrayed in live action. God first justifies us by uniting us to his resurrected Son in heaven apart from any work of our own, and then he calls us to work obediently in this world, not to earn our rest but to express our gratitude that the rest has already been earned by the work of another. We are still image-bearers of God, thus we are still Sabbath-keepers by nature. But we no longer bear the image after the pattern of the first Adam but after the pattern of Christ, the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:47-49; Rom. 8:29). We keep the Sabbath in a way that shows that the true rest has already been attained. We rest by free grace, and only then do we work (139-140).

In light of this, look around amidst your brother and sisters in Christ at your next worship service. You are among a community of people who bear the name of your Savior.  Are you not highly privileged that your Father in heaven has set aside a holy day for you to gather in concert to worship him, together tasting that royal rest that is to come?

 Now that I’ve posted a few articles and reflections on the church, here are some questions for further consideration:

1.      How would you describe your current attitude in regularly attending church on Sunday mornings?  How do you think your attitude affects your family’s view of the church service?

2.      Do you consider the church as consisting of both holy people and holy place?  How would that then affect:

          ·         Your preparation before you go

          ·         The way you view and treat others there

          ·         How you would protect this time and space

3.      How is God uniquely present with us in our worship service in a way that is different from the rest of the week?  How are we much more privileged in this way than the believers of Old Testament times?

4.       Why is the language of the temple so important throughout scripture?  What is the meaning of the temple and why is it so significant?

5.      How is your own weekly routine a story about nothing?  Is that what Monday through Saturday is supposed to be for us—insignificant? 

6.      What difference does Sunday make to our story?  In other words, how is our worship service an act of the future breaking into the present, reorienting our thinking and living between the “already” and the “not yet”?

Posted on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

In my last article I began a series on the church. What makes Sunday different from the rest of the week, and why do we need to go to church instead of worshipping God in our own private way? I built upon the idea of the temple as I began by showing how the first temple-garden was a holy space. We no longer worship in the garden because the secular world as we now know it is common. 

After his work in the resurrection, Jesus established a new creation. He is rebuilding a new temple. Where Adam failed to earn a new cosmos for his progeny, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, succeeded. Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 5:17 that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” In the next chapter, he tells the Corinthians they are the temple of the living God. We have Paul saying in his first letter to the Corinthians that they are God’s building (3:9), describing himself as the master builder who has laid no other foundation than Jesus Christ. Then he goes on in proclaiming to the church, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (3:16-17). In his Great Commission, Jesus proclaimed:

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:18-20).

We see how Christ as the new Adam is expanding God’s presence, fulfilling the spiritual part of the mission given to Adam in the Cultural Mandate. He is enlarging God’s presence on earth through the church. In our unity to Christ, we are part of that temple, even priests, “mediating God’s presence” (G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission) to the world. As Christians, we are not to transform the world, redeeming all parts of culture for Christ. No, Christ is redeeming us; he has made us new creations which will one day dwell with him in the new heavens and new earth. 

And what will that be? Revelation 21 and 22 describe the new heavens and earth as the new temple encompassing the whole earth. Biehl refers to it as the “reestablishment of the Garden of Eden temple sanctuary on Mt. Zion.” He goes on to say that “Eden served as a little earthly model of the temple in heaven which will eventually come down and fill the whole earth.” As glorious as the Garden of Eden sounded, Adam was actually working for a new heavens and earth. The author of Hebrews alludes to this when he says, “For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to the angels” (2:5, emphasis mine).  He goes on to quote from Psalm 8, describing the creation of man. Adam, who was made a little lower than the angels, was under a covenant of works in which his kingship in the garden pointed to a rule much greater, even over the angels in the world to come (see David Vandrunen, Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, p.40-41). Jesus, our faithful King, has now earned that for us and now sits at the right hand of our Father.

So here we are in the already and not yet. As frustrating as that can be, isn’t it also mysteriously fascinating? How do we convey something as marvelous as the temple of God in our common, everyday life? And, the point of this article, how does God convey to us Christ and all his benefits as we live as sojourners in this world? He gives us Sunday. 

We tend to focus so much on the tension of living in between the times of Christ’s first and second coming that we miss what Biehl calls the redemptive/historical/eschatological context.  Huh? Well, he profoundly articulates that “we actually are at a certain time. We are the beginning of the inaugurated eschatological temple. We really are a temple, we’re not just like a temple… because the essence of the temple is the presence of God breaking out.”

Our Sunday morning service is a reminder of the world interrupted. Michael Horton compares much of the life-scripts we write throughout the week to the “Seinfeld tagline, it’s the show about nothing” (The Gospel Driven Life, p.34). In our sinful nature, our default is always to look to righteousness of our own, searching for a meaning within. We get caught up in our week’s schedule, in all our business, and wind up missing the whole forest for the trees. But we are called out, at the beginning of the week, to an eschatological breaking in of our daily lives. We actually experience the future interrupting the present.

The gospel message is something that is outside of us. When we get caught up in our week’s activities, we tend to go back to that default of looking to ourselves. We need the covenant renewal ceremony that we are given on the Sabbath. Here we are reminded that church “is the exclusive site of God’s covenanted blessings in Christ” (People and Place, Michael Horton, p.194).  It is “Holy time and holy space—coordinates for the covenant people”(262). Under the preaching of God’s word I am stripped naked by the law and clothed by gospel. I need that interruption. Horton describes the worship service as a sort of dress rehearsal. On Sunday, I can have a taste of what is to come, basking in the Lord Jesus Christ’s redemptive rule.

Posted on Tuesday, August 30, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, David VanDrunen (Crossway, 2010)

Since I’m doing a couple of articles on church, I though VanDrunen’s book would be a good reading recommendation. Oftentimes, we want to know how our faith affects our life, but do not really spend the time learning the content of our faith.

Books about Christianity and culture often spend much time speaking about cultural activities such as education, vocation, and politics but say little about the church. Undoubtedly the authors of these books would profess that the church is important. But many of them seem to treat the church as of secondary importance for the Christian life and the various activities of human culture as where Christianity is really lived. In this book I defend the opposite position. The church is primary for the Christian life. Every other institution—the family, the school, the business corporation, the state—is secondary in the practice of the Christian religion. The church is where the chief action of the Christian life takes place. If we do not understand that fact, then we will also fail to understand secondary aspects of our Christian life, such as studying, working, and voting (132).

If we reduce Christianity and culture to a bunch of “shoulds” for our daily living, we miss the gospel. Even unbelievers have the law written on their hearts, and therefore their own ideas about how they “should” live. VanDrunen reminds us that “the church ought to be central to the Christian life because the church is the only earthly community that manifests the redemptive kingdom and grants us the fellowship of our true home, the world-to-come” (134).

Posted on Saturday, August 27, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Our weeks are busy with stuff. And the weekend comes, where we try to cram in more stuff…with the family. So where does church fit in? Is it just one more event to squeeze in the calendar? Oftentimes we find ourselves so tired from celebrating the end of the week, that the only motivational pull we conjure to drag ourselves into church on Sunday morning is a sheer sense of duty. Why do you go to church? Is it for moral instruction on how to live throughout the week? My neighbors are pretty moral people, and they don’t need church every Sunday for that. Maybe it’s because you look forward to seeing some friends there. Perhaps you go to church so that your children will learn about God.  Many of you are probably thinking the obvious; we go to church to worship God. Well, today, many feel free to worship God on the golf course, or even at a concert. Why do we need church? And why do we need Sunday worship, when we can worship our Creator and Lord throughout the week? What is it about Sunday?

In the next couple of articles, we are going to examine just that. For our first installment, I want to discuss idea of a temple.

Before the Fall, Adam actually did get to worship his Creator in his garden. Think about that—the garden was the temple. Bruce Waltke explains in his commentary on Genesis,

It represents territorial space in the created order where God invites human beings to enjoy bliss and harmony between themselves and God, one another, animals, and the land. God is uniquely present here. The Garden of Eden is a temple-garden, represented later in the tabernacle. Cherubim protect its sanctity (Gen. 3:24; Ex. 26:1; 2 Chron. 3:7) so that sin and death are excluded (Gen. 3:23, Rev. 21:8). Active faith is a prerequisite for this home.  Doubt of God’s word or character cannot reside in the garden (p.85).

In this paradise everything was holy. There was no distinction between the common and the sacred. This temple theme continues throughout scripture, but in a very different way after the Fall. Before the Fall, when Adam was given the Cultural Mandate (Gen 1:28), he was operating under one kingdom per se, the kingdom of God. Adam, as Dr. G. K. Beale puts it, was to “expand the garden and God’s sacred presence on earth" (see here). 

Of course, after the Fall Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden temple. Their relationship with God has changed now that they have sinned. “As priests and guardians of the garden, Adam and Eve should have driven out the serpent; instead, it drives them out” (Waltke, p.87). In God’s judgment, mankind will toil in their work to be fruitful and subdue the earth as the seed of the serpent battles the seed of the woman. “Humanity is now divided into two communities: the elect, who love God, and the reprobate, who love self (John 8:31-32, 44; 1 John 3:8)” (Waltke, p.93). Thankfully we have the promise of our Redeemer given at the same time (Gen 3:15), so that we know the outcome of this battle. Living in post-resurrection times, we have the beginning fulfillment of this promise.

We see this battle between the seeds immediately in Adam and Eve’s offspring. As Cain was sent away as a nomad, we find in Scripture God’s common grace both in his protection, and the abilities to create cultural goods. In his genealogy we are told that  Cain built a city, expanding dominion over livestock, music and the arts, as well as craftsmanship in bronze and iron (Gen 4:16-22). Meanwhile, the Godly line continued through Seth.

However, no more is the land sacred. God is no longer uniquely present as he was in the garden. Yet, Beale points out that throughout Genesis, when we see covenants made, they will be in the context of garden-like temples. He gives six elements that are common in the covenants God makes with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:  God appears, they pitch a tent (tabernacle) of the testimony, they are on a mountain, build alters and worship God, are located at Bethel (the house of God), and there is the presence of a tree. Beale explains that the patriarchs are Adam-like figures that are building “little temples” (Gen. 9, 12, 17, 22, 28).

These “little temples” point to the big temple in Jerusalem. And yet, the temple in Jerusalem is merely a shadow of the true temple, who is Christ. Jesus stumps the Jews when he alludes to this in John, chapter 2: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (v.19b). When we read in John, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…,”(1:14), the translation is that the Word “pitched His tent,” or “tabernacled” among us. Beale explains how this represents “God’s coming down to the Holy of Holies in Christ,” and that Jesus is the beginning of the new cosmos of which the temple was symbolizing. 

Now that we have this background on the temple, in my next article I will discuss the new creation that Christ has established, the new temple that he is rebuilding, and how Jesus Christ, the new Adam, is enlarging God’s presence on earth.

Posted on Thursday, August 25, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Knowing Scripture, R.C. Sproul (InterVarsity Press, 1977)

This book is an oldie but goodie (well, old for contemporary authorship that is). It is a great read on learning the basics of studying the Bible. But let’s look at the beginning problem:

It is important to note that the theme of this book is not how to read the Bible but how to study the Bible. There is a great deal of difference between reading and studying. Reading is something we can do in a leisurely way, something that can be done strictly for entertainment in a casual, cavalier manner. But study suggests labor, serious and diligent work.

Here then, is the real problem of our negligence. We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy…

If you have read the whole Bible, you are in a small minority of Christian people. If you have studied the Bible, you are in an even smaller minority. Isn’t it amazing that almost every American has an opinion to offer about the Bible, and yet so few have actually studied it (17-18)?

This might show my age, or lack of class, but does anyone out there remember Arsenio Hall’s, “Things That Make You Go Hmm...?” Sproul writes about the overwhelming majority of Christians he spoke with in groups haven’t read through the whole Bible.  This has to be a reflection of contemporary Christianity’s low view of biblical authority. Over thirty years later, has it changed? If a visitor came into your church, would they see that you value entertainment, good programs, and gourmet coffee higher than the Word of God? Are we passionately encouraging and equipping one another to be able to teach new believers the content of our faith? Do we truly believe the Bible is God’s Word?  

Posted on Tuesday, August 23, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

My last couple of posts have centered on how God talks to us today. You can click here for my article affirming the authoritative Word of God in Scripture. But we wonder, what about that urging we feel during prayer, that inner voice that some equate to be God speaking personally to them? How does the Holy Spirit communicate with us?

I think two terms will be helpful: inspiration and illumination. We learn in 2 Tim. 3:16 that all Scripture is inspired by God, God breathed. The words of God are very different from our own. They aren’t just words. God’s Word creates its intended purpose. It is holy and powerful; sovereign and authoritative. Michael Horton’s words in his book, The Christian Faith, are more polished than my own, so I am happy to share them with you:

Jesus regarded the words of Scripture as his Father’s own Word (Mt 4:4, 7, 10; 5:17-20; 19:4-6; 26:31, 52-54; Lk 4:16-21; 16:17; 18:31-33; 22:37; 24:25-27, 45-47; Jn 10:35-38). Peter insisted that the prophets did not speak from themselves, but as they “were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2Pe 1:21), and in 3:15-16 refers to Paul’s letters as “Scriptures” (graphas). Similarly, Paul refers to Luke’s gospel as “Scripture” in 1Timothy 5:18 (cf. Lk 10:7). Paul calls Scripture “the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus,” and adds, “All Scripture is breathed out by God [theopneustos] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2Ti 3:15-17). A doctrine of inspiration must take into account the “many times” and “many ways” that God has spoken in the past (Heb 1:1), which cannot be restricted to the prophetic model (“Thus says the Lord: `…’”). Nevertheless, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” As such, the Scriptures are not only a record of redemption but are themselves the primary means of grace, through which the Spirit applies redemption to sinners in the present (156).

God’s word does more than suggest. Horton describes it as “both the rod that parts the waters of death so that we may pass through safely and the scepter or staff by which he keeps us under his care until we reach the other side” (155). All persons of the holy Trinity are engaged in this speech act. Horton again:

Yet our Trinitarian coordinates are not set until we have included in our focus the perfecting agency of the Spirit. As the Spirit hovered over the waters in creation to prepare a place for the covenant partner, and “overshadow[ed]” Mary so that she would conceive the incarnate Son, the same Spirit breathed out these texts—and illumines hearers now to receive them as the Word of God. Largely because of our Greek heritage, we tend to identify the Spirit’s sphere of activity with that which is invisible, spiritual, and eternal. However, in the Bible, the Spirit is actively engaged in shaping matter and history according to the design of the Father in the Son…The locutionary act of speaking is the Father’s; the Son is the content or illocutionary act that is performed by speaking, and the Spirit works within creation to bring about the intended effect. For example, the Father gives the gospel, the Son is the gospel, and the Spirit creates faith in our hearts to receive it (157).

Anything that you or I say is not inspired, by its theological definition. “Revelation” is not the small voice inside of me. “Neither salvation nor revelation comes from within; they come to us from above” (166).  God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit interrupts our inward-centered thinking with his powerful Word through the ordinary means of preaching and the sacraments. “So inspiration is a characteristic of the biblical text, while illumination is the Spirit’s subsequent work of bringing us to an understanding and acceptance of its meaning. This is the doctrine usually referred to as ‘the inner testimony of the Spirit.’ The Spirit’s illumination is of two kinds, internal and external. The Spirit witnesses to the truth of Scripture and within us to win our consent…illumination affects us, not the Scriptures themselves” (167).

James explains to us that if we are to be doers of the Word, we are to ask in faith for wisdom, not a new Word from God. His Word revealed in Scripture is all we need for godly living to please the Lord. Walking in the Spirit is synonymous with submitting to God’s Word. It is a full reliance on the sufficiency of Christ. The Spirit leads by revealing His gospel (illumination), thereby transforming (sanctifying) us to do the walking. In this walking, we are empowered by the Spirit on the basis of Christ’s redeeming work.

So yes, we gain wisdom. I may feel prompted to encourage someone in a certain way, or ask for help, or recognize a new path that may be taken in my life. These are all spiritual results of wisdom discerned from God’s Word, led by His Spirit, based on the work of His Son. It is very humbling. A stranger reveals himself to us. We respond in awe of his grace. We submit to the authority of his Word revealed in Scripture. This Word has the power to change us into the image of his Son. My trust is not in something new I need to hear from him, but in what he has already given me.  

*This title is quoted from Horton’s, The Christian Faith, p. 168.

Posted on Sunday, August 21, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Made in America, Michael Horton (Wipf & Stock, 1991)

Okay, so I went digging for this excerpt and I own more Horton books than I realized. I’ve spent the better part of an hour sifting through underlined treasures of my favorite living theologian.  This one is pretty basic, but has always stuck with me:

When truth has been defined in such terms as, “The Lord spoke to my heart…,” and “The Lord revealed to me…,” the objective authority of Scripture loses its importance.  But we must contend for the fact that, just as God has acted and saved outside of us, in history, so he has spoken outside of us, in history.  From those who say, “God told me…,” I want the details.  What was his voice like? “Like the voice of rushing waters” (Rev. 1:15)?  What was his face like?  Even Moses couldn’t see God’s face, but evangelists based in Tulsa can. And how did you feel when God spoke to you?  Like Isaiah, who after seeing a vision of God, not even face to face, said, “Woe unto me. I am a man of unclean lips”? Nine times out of ten, the person will respond, “Well, the words, of course, weren’t audible. But you do believe that God still speaks to us, don’t you?” they ask. Of course I do. He has said more than I will ever in this lifetime be able to comprehend. But that voice is confined to holy Scripture (151-152).

This can be a hot topic.  I have certainly felt led by the Spirit in certain decisions and actions I have made.  But the fact is; these promptings cannot be immediately confirmed as authoritative words from God.  Since our own hearts and minds are corrupted by sin, we can actually be deceiving ourselves with these subjective experiences.  We can set ourselves up for some pretty serious spiritual manipulation by playing the “God told me” card.  Thankfully, he has given us objective revelation in his written Word. 

A friend once approached me with a struggle she was having.  I’ll call her Lola.  Apparently, someone at Lola’s church gave her a message they received from God.  God told them that he had plans for Lola to move.  Do you see the dilemma?  If God really gave that message to Lola’s friend, Lola would be sinning if she disobeyed.  It all starts to sound a little silly.  God did not set us up for such subjective nonsense.  His word is always true, always correct, and always authoritative.  It is also living and powerful (Heb. 4:12).  God’s word convicts and creates life.  It is holy and authoritative, not just some mystical suggestion.

Posted on Friday, August 19, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Do you think you would pay more attention if God spoke to you from heaven or through the voice of a living prophet than if he spoke to you from the written words of Scripture?  Would you believe or obey such words more readily than you do Scripture?  I did a study on this about 13 years ago with a group of young women.  We all had a hunger to learn more about God.  Coming from several different denominations, we really needed to start with what we believed about the authority of Scripture.  I was a budding housewife theologian at the time, attending a Baptist church.  Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology was a beginning guide to help me both learn and teach about the doctrine of the Word of God. (As a disclaimer, I will say that although I was blessed by the teachings and easy format of Grudem’s work, I do not endorse all of the theology in it.) 

Aren’t these good questions?  They were taken from Grudem’s Questions for Personal Application (p.51).  Before I get all into the theological “shoulds,” I want to address the personal aspects.  Many times I hear, or even say to myself in the midst of a major decision, “I wish God would just TELL me what to do…I want to do His will, I just don’t know what it is.”  Interestingly, God has revealed his declarative will to us in Scripture.  Much to our shock, he calls us to wisdom.  As we learn his precepts in Scripture, we gain knowledge about the character of God. 

I didn’t hear from God, “Thou shalt start a blog and thou shalt call it Housewife Theologian.”  But, just like a child who knows their parent’s character from their upbringing, I am able to make decisions in my life with liberty and confidence.  I struggled with the question of whether I should try to write a book, or start this blog.  While I do not know if God intends to bless my efforts with publication or high readership, I do know that I am not acting against his revealed will.  And I believe that the sign of wisdom in decision making lies in our own perception of how we are serving God in our choices and actions.  This could be related to choosing whom you will marry, whether or not to take a certain job, which house you are going to buy or rent, or if you should go back to school.  If we are within the bounds of obeying God’s precepts in his revealed Word (for example, he doesn’t tell us exactly who to marry, but he does tell us what kind of person to marry), we need to ask ourselves if the opportunities we are pursuing are for his glory or our own.

There may be nothing wrong with buying the house of your dreams.  But, are you planning on using it as a personal haven to escape from world, or would you be happy to share it in service and hospitality?  Even so, if circumstances changed, would you be willing to relinquish this blessing?  God in his glorious providence may take us through many circumstances in our lifetime.  If we sink our claws too deeply into even the good things in our life, they may become idols that we worship over our Creator, Lord, and Savior.

I’m always skeptical when people claim they heard a special message from God.  They might feel strongly led by the Spirit, but that is not the same as actual, authoritative words from God.  I am eager to discuss this more in my next article, but for now, I will share some verses on how God does speak to us authoritatively: through his revealed word in Scripture.  In Hebrews 1:1-2  we read, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom he also created the world.”  Here we learn that the many ways that God spoke long ago (dreams, visions, etc.) through the prophets were inferior to his final revelation through his Son.  Where do we learn about this revelation through Christ?

We have Jesus recorded in the gospel of John saying, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (14:25-26).  Christ’s words will not pass away (Matt.24:35), and he ensured through his Spirit that his disciples would be able to remember his words and teachings to equip the church with the completed New Testament Scriptures.  So, before we go looking for some new revelation from God, maybe we should ask ourselves what our disposition is toward the authoritative, revealed words he so lovingly provided for us in Scripture.

Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean (Oxford, 2010)

I’ve reflected on a portion of this book before, but in light of my last article, I thought Dean’s commentary on “nice” would be fitting.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH NICE?

As a social lubricant, “nice” is a cheap and versatile adjective; it offers a nod without a commitment, in religion as in other spheres.  Edward, a Hispanic seventeen-year-old from California, described his church as a place that is “warm and welcoming and people are nice.  Little groups send get well cards and stuff”…Faith is not a boundary either to claim or repudiate.  As we have mentioned, American teenagers “tend to view religion as a Very Nice Thing”—meaning that religion may be beneficial, even pleasant, but it does not ask much of them or even concern them greatly, and as far as they can tell it wields very little influence in their lives.

For all its incipient niceness, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’s superficial pleasantness pales beside Christian teaching on hospitality and compassion.  In the practice of hospitality, God sends me to strangers in the name of Jesus Christ, who calls me to recognize God’s image in them…The Bible has much to say about kindness and compassion but says nothing at all about being nice (p.33).

Hopefully I didn’t chop that up too much for you to feel a piece of the punch that I did in reading it.  Sure, we want joy in the Lord, but we do not want a bunch of God-bless-plastic smiles.  We don’t want to put bubblegum on the message.  And I’m afraid that our younger generation is not taking us seriously because many proclaiming Christian’s do not take God’s Word seriously.  If you think the Bible is a “nice” book, try opening it up and reading it at work or on the metro.  The gospel can be terrifying or glorious to a listening unbeliever, but certainly not nice.  Nice is entirely too comfortable for the Christian life.