Posted on Sunday, September 11, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

The Fruitful Life, Jerry Bridges (NavPress, 2006)

We are using this book for a small group study in church.  Here was one of my favorite sections in the first chapter, Taking on God’s Character:

Growth in godly character not only is progressive and always unfinished, it is absolutely necessary for spiritual survival. If we are not growing in godly character, we are regressing; in the spiritual life we never stand still. The word train in Paul’s admonition to Timothy, “Train yourself to be godly,” occurs only four times in the New Testament: 1Timothy 4:7, Hebrews 5:14 and 12:11, and 2 Peter 2:14. In three of those instances, the result of such training is positive and God-honoring.

But consider the fourth passage, 2 Peter 2:14. The context is Peter’s sharp denunciation of and warning against false teachers. He refers to them as “experts in greed.” The word expert is the same word translated in the other three passages as “train.” In fact, the English Standard Version renders it, “They have hearts trained in greed.”

The implication of Peter’s use of the word train is very sobering. It is possible to train ourselves in the wrong direction! That is what these false teachers had done. They had practiced greed so well that they had become experts in it—they had trained their hearts in greed (23-24)!

So often we deceive ourselves into thinking we can reach an acceptable plateau in our spiritual lives. Bridges reminds us that this is not so. Although our sanctification is in full dependence on Christ through his Spirit, we are commanded to train ourselves. This reminds me so much of the analogy it lends to physical training in fitness. Our fitness level is a testament to our aptitude. As we look to the One who was completely fit to bear our sin on the cross, propitiate the Father’s wrath, and procure our salvation with his own righteousness, we have complete confidence that the author and finisher of our faith will take us to the finish line.

 When I first started this blog, I did a four-part series on theological fitness. You can find it here. One article is on aptitude, and one is on training.

Posted on Friday, September 09, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

It seems like every TV show targeted for children propagates the all important message to “follow your dreams.” It’s become an American virtue. Our children grow up with the message that they can be anything they want to be. Usually, their favorite singers and shows are painting the message that their greatest aspiration should be fame. Even the so-called reality shows feed the cultural hunger for celebrity and attention. The worst cultural sin to commit these days would be to squelch a young person’s dream.

I’m not saying that ambitious personal aspirations are a bad thing. But I do want to spend this article considering the proper value of dreaming and the actual business of discerning its fruit. Countless four-year old girls dream of someday becoming a princess (thanks to Disney). We buy them fancy dress-up clothes knowing it is mainly harmless fun and that one day they will grow out of it. For Halloween, we let our kids dress as astronauts and professional athletes even though their odds of actually becoming one are 13,200,000 to 1 and 22,000 to 1, respectively.

When is it okay to pursue a highly unlikely ambition? Well, there are some obvious indicators: special talent, work ethic, and recognition. But even if all of these line up to a career that fulfills their biggest aspirations, what is the perceived value in that achievement? I join with the others lamenting that back in the day, one chose their career path according to the gifts and opportunities they were given to best serve their community. Now the message seems to be, “how can you best serve yourself?” Career paths are made according to highest salary, status, or acclamation. We are looking for personal fulfillment in our jobs in a very self-centered fashion. And, of course, we are finding ourselves in despair when encountered by rejection of our dreams, or dissatisfaction in their attainment.

I have found Dave Harvey’s book, Rescuing Ambition, to be very helpful in this area. He points out that our ambitions should not be so much about what we achieve, but rather about who we are.

God has an agenda: it’s to change us into the image of his Son. And one way he brings about this change is through our dreams and ambitions. God works in us through that which we aspire.

Sometimes God brings our dreams to life; sometimes he doesn’t. But how we respond to his work becomes an important intersection for change in our lives. As we cooperate with him, we discover that it’s not ultimately about nailing the promotion, or raising well-behaved kids, or winning the Daytona 500—as good as all those things may be. It’s about something much bigger: how I become like Christ while I pursue those dreams (70).

God gifts us all with particular talents and opportunities to serve in his civil kingdom. As we serve our neighbor we have multiple vocations: husbands, mothers, brothers, aunts, students, teachers, entertainers, and even a few princesses. Some pay well, and many are pro bono. But they all come with their crosses to bear in this sinful world. Even in a wonderful marriage, it’s certainly not always wine and roses. The best of careers come with high responsibilities and burdens. Many times, we will be pursuing a path that is laden with God’s blessing, only to find him closing that door for another direction. Some vocations seem to find us when we are not even looking in that direction. Oftentimes, God seems to put the pause button on many of our aspirations.

So how do we direct and encourage our children (and ourselves for that matter) when it comes to all their wildest dreams? We can help them pursue their greatest enjoyment in every vocation, and that is Christ himself:

As we cooperate with God’s work, what delights us is no longer indulged ambition, or even ambitions for God, but God himself.

So let me ask you: What lies at the end of your ambition? Are your goals built around that job you’ve got to have, the weight you’ve got to lose, that position in church with your name on it?

Or are your dreams increasingly built around God and his life-shaping activity in you (p.79)?

Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Think, John Piper (Crossway, 2010)

This book is meant to encourage thinkers. To be honest, I’m not a big reader of Piper’s books. One thing that I do appreciate from him that I forgot about was his passion for God. It is so apparent on every page. Here is one excerpt of the book geared toward those who believe knowledge is cold, and love is all you need:

The main reason that thinking and loving are connected is that we cannot love God without knowing God; and the way we know God is by the Spirit-enabled use of our minds. So to “love God with all your mind” means engaging all your powers of thought to know God as fully as possible in order to treasure him for all he is worth.

God is not honored by groundless love. In fact, there is no such thing. If we do not know anything about God, there is nothing in our mind to awaken love. If love does not come from knowing God, there is no point calling it love for God. There may be some vague attraction in our heart or some unfocused gratitude in our soul, but if they do not arise from knowing God, they are not love for God (90).

This is why it is necessary for us all to be good theologians. We are commanded to love God with all of our mind and with all of our heart. Piper does a good job in this book by expositionally directing the reader to the sweet spot where they meet. Knowing a person is an intimate engagement. I am so glad that I am first truly known by God, and that his initiating love has led my sinful heart to forever want to know more of him. The more my knowledge of God grows, the more I cling to his irresistible grace. And the more fully I know him, the more he is glorified.

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.