9/22/2011

The Last Two Articles I Published On "Knowing God"

These are the last two articles I wrote for my local paper on J. I. Packer's book Knowing God.  These were written for a series of articles on Packer's book by members of my church.  The other articles can be found at this link.

Knowing God, Chapter Nineteen: Sons of God, Part One by John K. Jones


Last week we looked at what J. I. Packer calls the heart of the gospel, propitiation. Propitiation is the fact that “The wrath of God against us, both present and to come, has been quenched.” In essence, this Scripture means that the wrath we deserve due to our sin was transferred to Christ. If you have repented of your sin and placed your faith in Christ, God is not mad at you anymore.

This week we will briefly look at one outcome related to propitiation: adoption. The idea here is that God has become the Father of those who place their trust in Him. As John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Packer defines the very essence of the message of the New Testament in three words: “adoption through propitiation.” He says, “…I do not expect ever to meet a richer or more pregnant summary of the gospel than that.” In “adoption through propitiation,” not only is God no longer angry with us, God has given us a place in the family. We are children of God if we have trusted Christ to pay the penalty for our sins.

Even though, as Packer says, “We are not fit for a place in God’s family; the idea of his loving and exalting us sinners as he loves and has exalted the Lord Jesus sound ludicrous and wild,” Yet, God brings us into his family anyway.

I am an adoptive parent. A teacher in a Sunday School class asked me one time whether God could love us as much as he loves Christ. I responded by telling them of my love for my adopted daughter. “Her birth certificate has mine and my wife’s name on it. She is my child, and nothing will ever change that.”

Our spiritual birth certificate has God the Father’s name on it. We are his children. Let us never forget, and let us live to honor our Father.

Byline: John K. Jones is a Deacon at Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Troy where he attends with his family.





Knowing God, Chapter Nineteen: Sons of God, Part Two by John K. Jones

In our last article, we looked at the reason for and the permanence of our adoption in Christ. If we have true faith in Christ, God is our Father in heaven. This week we will look briefly at some of what that means.

As J. I. Packer says in Chapter Nineteen of Knowing God, The prospect before the adopted children of God is an eternity of love.” Our adoption is permanent, and it depends on the love of God for us and the grace of God to save us. God will not let us go. We are his children.

We can also have hope. Christianity is “a faith that looks forward.” For Christians, “the best is always yet to be.” We have the hope of an everlasting inheritance in Christ. During the time Christ was alive, parents adopted children to obtain an heir to whom parents could bequeath their earthly goods. In the same way, our adoption as God’s children guarantees our inheritance from him (Romans 8:16-17).

God’s wealth is immeasurable. As his adoptive children, we have limitless hope in an ideal heavenly Father.

Certain prominent atheists have ridiculed Christianity for being ‘pie in the sky by and by.’ Their idea is that Christianity is mere “wish fulfillment.” We could ask them if they wish that there were no God who would judge them. We could point out that their approach could be wish fulfillment just as they accuse ours of being. The idea cuts both ways. But Christianity is ‘pie in the sky by and by,’ and the ‘pie’ tastes great.

The Holy Spirit is given to us as “the Spirit of adoption” (Romans 8:15). The Spirit comes into our lives at the moment we trust Jesus, and there is nothing more of his presence that we can expect to get in a later second blessing or acceptance of Christ as Lord.

The Holy Spirit also helps us understand and learn about our relationship with God in Christ. This realization leads to true holiness of life. We have “an abiding obligation to keep the law, as the means of pleasing [our] newfound Father.” As his children, we feel joy when we please our Father.

Packer tells us to think often of the facts: “I am a child of God. God is my Father; Heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Savior is my brother; every Christian is my brother too.” Packer tells us to repeat these things to ourselves “over and over.”

What joy the Father has given to us! We can be sons and daughters of God.

9/19/2011

Do we help or hurt?

Steve Saint, of “End of The Spear” fame, has written a thought-provoking article for “Mission Frontiers” magazine this month that is found at this link. The article questions some approaches used to aid the “poor.”


Here is a section of the article:

Financial help that does not develop sustainable, local, financial self-sufficiency is much more likely to create poverty than it is to meet real needs. Until we realize that we can’t overcome poverty with handouts, we will never be much help in completing Christ’s Great Commission.

Can we do more damage by “helping” than by leaving alone?

9/15/2011

The Next Article for My Local Paper on "Knowing God"

This is the next article amoung four I have recently written for my local paper.


Knowing God, Chapter Fourteen: God the Judge by John K. Jones


Over the last two articles, we have looked in turn on God’s love and His grace. We have seen the beauty of Exodus 34:6-7: "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” This article turns to the second part of verse 7: “Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.” We too often revel in God’s love and grace while giving no thought to His justice.

However, the Bible shows everywhere the terrible face of God as judge. As J. I. Packer notes in Chapter 14 of Knowing God, God judged Adam and Eve (Genesis 3), the entire world in Noah’s day (Genesis 6-8), Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19), Egypt (Exodus 7-12), those who worshiped the golden calf (Leviticus 10:1-3), and even His chosen people, Israel (Judges 2:1-15, 3:5-8, 4:1-3; 2 Kings 17, 32:15-17, 23:26-27). The Bible gives many more examples.

God is serious about judgment. No one ‘gets a pass.’ As Packer says, “…the heart of the justice which expresses God’s nature is retribution, the rendering to persons what they have deserved; for this is the essence of the judge’s task.” This judgment is “a revelation of the moral character of God, and an imparting of moral significance to human life.” As even Immanuel Kant admitted, we see in God’s judgment the eternal value of moral choices because of the punishments and rewards that God gives.

We all, in ourselves, are without hope. God’s standard for right behavior is perfection. Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48). And we all fall far short of this standard (Romans 3:9-20). But there is hope from outside of us, from someone else.

But God, the just judge, became a man in the Person of Jesus Christ (John 1:1-13). He came to earth, lived a perfect life, and died a death He did not deserve on the cross for the sins of His people. In the clearest example of God’s judgment in the Bible, Christ was judged for sin (Galatians 3:10-14). Christ was judged for those who place their faith in Him. He is our hope.

What are we to do since we are faced with God’s judgment? Packer writes, ”Call on the coming Judge to be your present Savior…Run from him now and you will meet him as Judge then-and without hope. Seek him now, and you will find him … and you will then discover that you are looking forward to that future meeting with joy, knowing that there is now “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus “ (Romans 8:1).”

Flee to Christ! Turn from your sin and turn to Him in simple trust that He paid the penalty for your sin. Turn the face of your Judge into the face of your Savior (John 5: 22-23).

 
[This is part of a series of acrticles the members of my church are publishing on Packer's famous book.  The other articles in this series can be found at this link.]

9/12/2011

An Article for my Local Paper - "Knowing God," Chapter Five

I have been helping the members of my church write a series of articles for our local paper on J. I. Packer's Knowing God.  I thought I would post the articles I have written here on "Fear and Trembling."


Knowing God, Chapter Five: God Incarnate by John K. Jones


What is light? What is matter? Science has long been puzzled by questions like these because, when we perform experiments, both light and the constituencies of matter behave like a particle some of the time and a wave some of the time. Particles are things that move in a straight line like small billiard balls. Waves are spread-out things that expand like ripples in a pond. In theory, something cannot be both. Science has its mysteries.

As J. I. Packer points out in Chapter 5 of Knowing God, Christianity has mysteries too. The supreme mystery of Christianity is the idea that God became a man to walk, talk, eat, sleep, hunger, thirst, hurt, and be all that it means to be human on this earth (Hebrews 2:17-18, 4:15-16).

Some try to deny that the Bible teaches that Christ was God and man, but they ‘run up against a brick wall’ erected by the First Chapter of John’s Gospel. Packer outlines seven things this chapter teaches us about Christ (The passages from the Bible are in italics.):

1.
Christ is eternal. “In the beginning was the Word…” Packer says Christ did not have a beginning, that, “when other things began, he – was.”

2. Christ is a personality separate from God the Father. “And the Word was with God…” Christ has his own distinct personality.

3. Christ possessed deity. “And the Word was God…” Christ is one with God the Father in being. Packer writes, “The mystery with which this verse confronts us is thus the mystery of personal distinctions within the unity of the Godhead.” God is one in being, but three in Persons.

4. Christ created. “Through him all things were made…” Packer writes, “All that was made was made through him.”

5. Christ is animating. “In him was life…” Packer states, “Here is the Bible answer to the problem of the origin and continuance of life, in all its forms: life is given and maintained by the Word.”

6. Christ was revealing. “And that life was the light of men…” All of us learn of God from the life and teachings of Christ.

7. Christ was the Word incarnate. “The Word became flesh…” Packer says the Christian’s message “rests on the staggering fact that the child in the manger was God.”


Christ laid aside his glory and submitted himself to God the Father ultimately so that he could die on the cross for our sins and rise from the dead (Philippians 2:5-11). Christ’s resurrection shows us that God accepted his death on our behalf.

Packer says Christ did not lay aside his “power and attributes” as God, instead he laid aside his “divine glory and dignity.” Yet Christ submitted to his Father’s will so perfectly that he did not “do all the things he could have done, because certain things were not his father’s will,” nor did he consciously know all the he might have known,” but only what the Father “willed him to know” (Matthew 26:53-54; Mark 5:30, 13:32).

This is the true spirit of Christmas: that we should lay aside our own glory for the good of others. “ You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9, NIV).


[The other articles in this series can be found at this link.]

9/10/2011

9/11

I wanted to say something about the 9/11 tragedy, but I realized that I had already said everything I wanted to at this post.

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