Sunday, November 28, 2010

Grace That Hides

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. My thoughts are in red.

Hide your face from my sins.
Psalm 51:9

It seems like the last thing you would want to pray. It seems like it would be the thing that you'd fear the most. Who would want God to "hide his face?" God "shining the light of his face" on us is a picture of acceptance and blessing. The darkest moment of suffering for Christ was when God turned his back on him in those final moments on the cross. In a horrible moment of grief Christ cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). Yet, as David stands before God as a humble repenting man, he does what seems to be unthinkable; he asks God to hide his face. What is it that David is pleading with God to do?

Sin causes us to hide from God. It may be a closing of our heart towards Him or dropping out of church or staying away from godly friends. Would we want Him to hide His face so He doesn’t see what we are doing or have done?

On the other side of lust, adultery, and murder, David is filled with the sense of the enormity of his sin. The weight of what he's carrying isn't just about how he used his God-given position to take a woman who wasn't his and use her for his pleasure. The weight on him wasn't just about how he plotted the death of Uriah, Bathsheba's husband. The weight had to do with his understanding of the extent of his problem with sin. David acknowledges the fact that he came into the world with this profound moral problem (Psalm 51:5). He scans back across his life and can't recognize a point where sin wasn't with him. But there's an even deeper awareness that sits on David's heart like a lead weight. He's come to understand that his sin was directly and personally against God. What he did, he did in the face of God. He rejected God's authority and made himself his own master. He rejected God's wisdom and acted as if he knew better. He rejected God's call and decided to do what pleased him rather than what pleased God. In the middle of the outrageousness of his rebellion, how could David ever stand before a holy God?

I think ultimate repentance is when we recognize and admit that our sin is against God, that it hurts Him and others and that it ceases being about us such as when we are sorry for having been caught or that we are now suffering some consequence. But why was David asking God to hide His face?

This confusing request actually demonstrates that David gets it right. He understands the comprehensiveness and the directness of the rebellion of his sin. He understands that as a sinner he can't stand in the presence of a holy God. What David doesn't understand is that when he prays for God to hide his face, he's praying for the cross. Something needs to come between God's holiness and my sin. Something needs to happen so that sinners, like David, can stand in God's presence and be completely unafraid. David couldn't possibly have known where the story of redemption was going, so he asks the only thing that makes sense to him: "Lord, won't you please hide your face from my sin, because if you don't, I am doomed."

Knowing what was accomplished on the cross gives us a completely different perspective than what David had but sometimes we don’t live with that understanding. We may hide or want God to hide or feel there is something we need to do to help take care of our sin. Maybe we need to beat ourselves up for awhile to show we are really sorry?

The cross was what David was pleading for. The cross provides our covering. The cross provides our cleansing. The cross makes it possible for God to accept us fully without compromising his holiness. The cross allows us to be accepted, not based on what we've done but based on what Christ has done. The cross allows sinners to be declared righteous! Christ covers us, so that as God looks on us he sees the perfect righteousness of Christ that's been given to our account.

So because of the cross we can admit our sin in confession and then be forgiven and cleansed; that is the reality. But everything in us fights against such an idea.

Isn't it amazing that the life, death, and resurrection of Christ mean that sinners no longer have to be afraid of God's face? Christ has answered David's prayer. He took the Father's rejection so that we'd be able to stand in the Father's presence and be unafraid. We don't have to ask God to hide his face, and we don't have to search for ways to hide from God. Jesus has made it possible for sinners to stand before a holy God and rest until the sin inside those sinners is no more.

This is amazing grace. It’s not about me cleaning up me, or perfecting me. It’s all about what God has done and the power now available in me through Him.

A question from the meditation:

Have you embraced the fact that your acceptance with God is not based on your position or performance but on the righteousness of Christ that has been given over to your account?

I have but it can still be a battle. Will I ever get completely away from the idea that there is something I should do; something from me that I can add to what Jesus did? That I somehow have to say I’m sorry more that once to show I really mean it.

Philip

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Colossians 3:15

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Philippians 4:6

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
Colossians 4:2

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57

I am very thankful for salvation and the process of sanctification. I am thankful for the family that God has given to me. I am thankful for friends that inspire me to walk closer to Jesus. I am thankful for a good job. I am thankful that I got to spend a lot of time with my dad before he died.

I am thankful for this long weekend, that we will be able to feast later today, good music, silence, running water, good coffee, good books, Samson Society, that I was adopted and for money in my pocket.

Thankfulness gives me perspective.

Philip

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Grace?

Sometimes we’ve been churches that preach a grace up front for those who aren’t Christians and a grace at the end for those who follow the rules and are “good Christians,” but we’ve tragically neglected the people in between. The truth is that none of us, even on our best, “holiest” days – the days we don’t cuss or look at porn or yell at our spouse or at the idiot who cut us off in traffic – even our best days aren’t holy enough to be looked at by God.

Anne Jackson
Permission to Speak Freely

Forgiveness

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. The devotional is abbreviated and my thoughts are in red.

Blot out all my iniquities. Psalm 51:9

If the universe weren't ruled by a God of forgiveness, there would he no Psalm 51. It would be an act of self-destructive irrationality to stand before the One who controls it all and admit that you've willingly rebelled against his commands, but that's exactly what David does. He embraces the two realities that, if understood and acted upon, will fundamentally transform his life. The narrative of redemption, that is, the core content of Scripture, is the story of the interaction of these two themes.

To admit sin or rebellion puts you at the mercy of the one you confess to. They have the goods. If they want they can use it against you.

By coming to God with humble words of confession, David demonstrates that he's embraced the unique answers that God in his Word gives to these universally asked questions. What's wrong with people? The Bible is very clear and very simple; the answer is sin. The Bible directs us to look inside of ourselves and not outside. The Bible calls us to admit that we are our greatest problem. And the Bible chronicles how sin within distorts our thoughts, desires, choices, actions, and words. But the Bible does more. It shows us how sin puts us at war with God. It demonstrates to us how sin causes us to want to be self-sovereigns and our own lawgivers. Scripture pictures what happens when we try to set up our own little claustrophobic kingdoms of one, rather than living for the kingdom of God. The Bible requires each of us to accept, at the most practical of levels, that we have profound moral flaws within us that we can do absolutely nothing in ourselves to solve.

I’ve seen the distortion of sin first hand this week. Thoughts, desires, choices, actions, and words all warped. A family member is being completely ravaged. It started a long time ago with small diversions from God’s truth and then church was dropped. From active pursuit of God to coasting to flying backwards. Previously unthinkable things are being embraced. Self has become god.

So if sin is my problem then what do I do? The world tells us to hide behind an excuse. Religion tells us we need to beat ourselves up; show we are really sorry; do something to make up for it.

But David's words of confession prove that David has embraced something else. He comes because he really does believe that there's hope and help to be found. He knows that admitting sin is not a death sentence. He knows that, although he can't solve his greatest problem, there's a place where the solution can he found. The only hope for sinners is forgiveness. To put it even more forcefully, the only hope for sinners is that the One who's in charge of the universe is a God of forgiveness. The bottom line is this: if God is unwilling to forgive, we are doomed. But he's willing! The story that winds its way across the pages of the Bible is a story of God's active willingness to forgive. He controls the forces of nature and directs human history to bring the universe to the point where the Final Priest—the Sacrificial Lamb, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ—comes to earth, lives a perfect life, and gives himself as a sacrifice for our sins. All of this is done so that our deepest problem, sin, will find its only solution, forgiveness, without God compromising his character, his plan, or his law in any way.

This changes everything. We don’t have to be afraid to come clean. Repentance brings forgiveness.

The content of the Bible is the worst of news (you are a sinner) and the best of news (God is willing to forgive). It's only when you're ready to admit the worst that you then open yourself up to what's best. All of this means that you and I don't have to live in denial and avoidance. We don't have to play self-excusing logic games with ourselves. We don't have to give ourselves to systems of penance and self-atonement. We don't have to point the finger of blame at others. We don't have to perform our way into God's favor. No, we can come to him again and again just as we are, flawed, broken, and unclean, and know that he'll never turn away anyone who comes to him and says, "I have sinned; won't you in your grace forgive?"

I think it can be hard because we are so used to our experience with other humans. We have all experienced coming clean on something and then it becomes a club to beat us down. But Scripture shows that it is not that way with God. He longs to forgive, to wash away the sin and to reconcile us to Him.

There's no sin too great, there's no act too heinous, and there's no person beyond hope. The offer is open and free. There's no requirement of age, gender, ethnicity, location, or position. God welcomes you to come. He asks only that you admit your sin and seek what can be found only in him—forgiveness. He is able, he is willing, and with grace that we will maybe never be able to fully grasp, he says, "Come."

What a sweet promise that is and after forgiveness He never brings it up again. Amazing!

A question from the meditation:

Do you really believe that you can stand before God just as you are and be unafraid? Pray that God would fill you heart with this assurance.

This is an area I have never had a problem with. I have always understood that God does want to forgive and I have been able to accept it. Now with people it is another story.

Philip


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Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Amazing Grace of Self-knowledge

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. The devotional is abbreviated and my thoughts are in red.

For I know my transgressions. Psalm 51:3

I have counseled people for many years, and one of the things that has impressed me over and over again is how self-deluded people (including me) can be. It's amazing how hard it is to see ourselves with accuracy. It's been my experience over and over again that we see the other person with a fairly high degree of accuracy but can't seem to see ourselves with the same precision.

This is why we need other people in our lives. They can see what we can’t.

I have had angry people get quite angry when I've suggested that they are angry! I've had controlling people posit that they think themselves to be quite serving. I've watched vengeful people seem unaware that they lived to settle the score with others. I've worked with men eaten with the cancer of lust who tell me that sex isn't a big struggle for them. I've had bitter wives give me the litany of ways they think that they are loving their husbands. I've counseled a gymnasium full of teenagers who really do think that they are wiser than the surrounding authorities. I've sat with ungracious and legalistic pastors and heard them talk of their allegiance to a theology of grace.

Self delusion is a very powerful thing. The heart is deceitful above all things. Jeremiah 17:9

Why are we so deluded? The reasons are many. We make the mistake of comparing ourselves to the diluted standards of the surrounding culture, standards that fall far below God's will for us. We also make the mistake of comparing ourselves to others, always able to find someone who appears to be more sinful than we are. We spend so much time arguing for our righteousness that it leaves little time to reflect on the reality of remaining sin. Add to all of this the basic nature of sin. Sin is deceitful. It hides, it defends itself, it wears masks, it bends its shape into more acceptable forms, it points fingers of blame, and it even questions the goodness of God. Sin always first deceives the person who is sinning the sin.

The only good standard is God’s word. The world, the flesh and the devil will try to muddy the waters so we don’t see clearly. If we want to escape delusion then we need a daily immersion in the Word.

So, since sin is by its very nature deceitful, we need help in order to see ourselves with accuracy. Another way to say this is that personal spiritual insight is the result of community. We don't get it all by ourselves. We need a ministry of two communities in order to see ourselves with the kind of surgical clarity with which David speaks in this psalm. First, we need community with God. He's the ultimate opener of blind eyes. Through the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit we begin to see ourselves with accuracy and become willing to own up to what we see. But the Spirit uses instruments, and this is where the second community comes in. God employs people in the task of giving sight to other people. For David, that was the prophet Nathan.

Nathan was the voice of confrontation, exposure and judgment. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can voluntarily put people in our life to be the eyes we lack. We need someone to give a different perspective in our life. That can keep us from horrible situations and compromise.

There are a whole lot of people who are blindly stumbling their way through life. But their blindness is made even more powerful and dangerous by the fact that they tend to be blind to their blindness. A physically blind person is never blind to his blindness. He's immediately confronted with the fact that he's unable to see, and he gives himself a whole catalog of ways to live inside the boundaries set by this profound physical deficiency. The scary reality is that one of the things that keeps spiritually blind people blind is that they're not only convinced that they see, but they're also convinced that they see quite well! And so they don't seek help for their blindness. Why seek help for a condition from which you are convinced you don't suffer?

Again, the things we are blind to can be clearly seen by others around us. The wise person establishes a relationship with at least one other person to help fill that gap.

A question from the meditation:

In what ways has God's grace enabled you to know yourself better today than you once did?

Philip

Get this book and join the journey:

Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy

 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sacrifices


Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. My thoughts in red.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 51:17

Perhaps
if I give You
some of my time.
Perhaps
if I give You
some of my strength.
Perhaps
if I give You
some of my things.
Perhaps
if I give You
some of my thoughts.
Perhaps
if I give You
some of my success.
Perhaps
if I give You
some of my relationships.

Some…. We want to give some. We are afraid to give all. It happens repeatedly because there is always a new area of our life where we are being challenged and changed.

We don’t get it right one time and that’s it. We don’t one day become mature in Christ. We are constantly realizing that there is another area to work on.

Surely
these sacrifices
will bring You delight.
Surely
these offerings
will bring You joy.
I'm quite willing
to give a tithe
I'm quite willing
to interrupt
my schedule.
I'm quite willing
to volunteer
to serve.
I'm quite willing
to do
my part.

My part…. I want it defined so I can do it and then go on. I like my schedule. I want things to fit nicely. I don’t want my plans interrupted. I don’t like things left hanging.

But I get the sense
that You're not satisfied
with a piece of me.
I get the sense
that momentary giving
momentary service
momentary sacrifice
momentary ministry
the momentary turning
of my heart to You
will not satisfy You.

He wants it all and all the time. He wants me to yield, to let go, to open my hand, to close the schedule book.

But I must admit
that I'm afraid
of what You require.
I'm afraid of a
broken spirit.
I'm afraid of a
contrite heart.
I'm afraid to be
crushed by Your grace.
So I try to
distract You
with my service
distract You
with my time
distract You
with my money.

Again. I gave it all before but it’s new again; a new area where the light is shining; a new area to learn the same lesson again. It seems it should be easier.

Deep inside
I know what You want.
Deep inside
I'm sure of what You require.
I'm afraid
because I want to hold onto
my heart.
I want
to give it to other things.
I want to
pursue pleasures
outside of You.
I'm afraid
to give You
what would satisfy You.
I'm afraid of a
broken heart.
So I regularly offend You
with empty offerings
and vacuous praise.
Hoping
to my own destruction
that you'll be satisfied.

The common thread of all these lessons is I should trust. It’s new and unfamiliar but You are the same. I will be most satisfied when I am satisfied with You. I will be safe as I yield all to You.


Take a Moment

Stop and celebrate how Jesus' willingness to pay the ultimate sacrifice enables our sacrifices to be acceptable to God.

Philip


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