Life Theology

Psalm 96 and Jesus

I don’t often share my journal entries from my times in the word, but I am compelled to today. Here are my thoughts/notes on Psalm 96.

This Psalm is a celebration and proclamation of how great God is.  He is worthy to be sang to and worshiped and praised and adored.  The Israelites–and we–are told to sing three times in the first 2 verses and we are told to declare his glory and works among the nations and peoples.  Why do we sing and declare? For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods (v. 4).  All other gods are idols but the LORD made the heavens (v. 5).  Unlike other gods who are surrounded by sinful and fragile men who made them, the LORD is surrounded by splendor and majesty…strength and beauty (v. 6).  Man can only create what he knows, which is why idols are always something that has already been created. Man never worships an original idol. The Israelites worshiped a golden calf.  Americans worship money and nice cars.  There is nothing new under the sun.

The psalmist then bursts out into exclamatory praise/exhortation to the people of God: Ascribe…to the LORD glory and strength…the glory due his name (vv. 7-8).  The word “ascribe” in Hebrew means “to acknowledge or give what is due.”  Acknowledge God, with my being, not just my mind, that he is worthy of praise for his glory, strength, and name.  He is worthy, because he has created the heavens and because he is holy (v. 9).  And because of this picture of who God is, the nations are called to tremble before him (v. 9), not out of paralyzing fear, but in humble reverence and awe.

The LORD, Yahweh, is also due praise and worship because the world has been founded on his unchanging character (v. 10).  Because of this, he is able to judge with equity. A God who could change and did not stand for righteousness would not be worthy of glory, strength, and honor, for he would not be holy. If God could change, then what he is tomorrow could be better than today (or vice versa), and therefore, he might not be “the best” thing in the universe. He would be at the whim of his emotions or desires.  But our God is not changeable, and because of this truth–that God has founded the earth and will judge it according to his unchanging character–there is a worshipful response in creation. Let the heavens be glad…let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar…let the field exult…all the trees of the forest sing for joy (v. 11-12).  The reason for this singing and praise is that the Lord judges the world in righteousness and faithfulness (v. 13).  If inanimate nature is called to sing and be glad, how much more God’s people, who wait with anticipation and expectation for his coming!

Now we ask, “How will God judge the world?”  Ultimately, he will judge the world through Jesus.  Paul writes in Acts 17:30-31, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (my emphasis). And lest I think this is a Pauline construction, Jesus himself says in John 5:25-29:

Truly,  truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now where, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment (my emphasis).

But what about what Jesus said in John 3 to Nicodemus?  “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (v. 17). If Jesus were to judge, wouldn’t he be obligated to condemn, too? But look at what Jesus does. He puts the correct framework on “judgment.”  He says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil” (vv. 18-19, my emphasis).

Jesus judges, not as a cruel, unjust, bloodthirsty dictator, but as one who identifies what is already in the heart of man. Jesus doesn’t make up a judgment on a whim on that “fixed day” Paul describes. No, he already knows the judgment. The judgment is the answer to: “Do you believe?  Do you believe that Jesus is King, Lord, Savior, Treasure, Judge, Creator?  Do you believe Jesus’ name is due glory, strength, and honor and have you worshiped him–not other gods of your own making–as your supreme delight because of who he is and what he has done?”

God will judge the world in righteousness and faithfulness someday. I will die, and I will rise again and give an account to a Man, the only one who fully and completely gave God’s name the glory he deserved. He is the only one who perfectly embodied righteous and faithful living. And it is he who took all of my unrighteousness and unfaithfulness to the cross, becoming my substitute, absorbing the wrath of God in judgment, reconciling me to God, and making me his friend, not an foe.

I ask myself, and you the reader: Will you have Jesus today?


John Shore: You Can’t Know If Hell is Real

John Shore has been writing a little bit about hell lately. He has written a response (reaction?) to a promo video by Francis Chan about his new book Erasing Hell.  Hmmm, a quick, public response to a promo-video about a book about hell. Sound familiar? (Funny how people criticize others for doing the same thing, but when the ball is in their court…)

In another article on his personal blog, Shore writes about if hell is real. In typical liberal fashion, he avoids the answer and claims the Bible does as well:

Asking whether or not hell is real is like asking your teammates in a football huddle during a game whether or not they think it’s possible, from your guys’ current position on the field, to sink a three-point basket.

Wrong question.

Wrong game.

Missing the point.

Life Theology

Do you hope in the resurrection?

One of my favorite moments in the Gospels is from John 11 when Jesus is about to raise Lazarus from the dead. Martha had just told Jesus that if he would have been around, Lazarus wouldn’t have died. Jesus says to Martha, “Your brother will rise again,” and she replies, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

And Martha was right. She just lost her brother, and her only hope was that she would see him again in the new age–the resurrection, when Lazarus will rise from the dead and get a remodeled body. But Martha missed the point Jesus was making. He couldn’t have made it more clear when he answered her hopeful (yet hopeless) confession:

I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

Jesus is the reason Lazarus would rise again. Why? Because he himself is the resurrection. Jesus will die and be raised–not by another’s power (as Lazarus was), but by his own Spirit’s power. He will die and be raised–not to die again (as Lazarus did), but to reign triumphantly over death.  Lazarus came out of the tomb still bound with linen (Jn. 11:46). Jesus came out of the tomb with his linens left in the tomb (Jn. 20:7).  And this risen Jesus will give life to all who believe in him so that even though they die physically, they will live spiritually and rise again to live forever with a resurrected body that is not perishable like our fragile earthly bodies.

This doctrine of resurrection is incredible–for everyone, because we are more broken than we realize. Nevertheless, it is particularly appealing if you are ill, poor, downcast, crippled, homeless, stricken by disaster, hungry, addicted to substances, or destitute.  One day, this world and all who believe in Jesus will be restored. You and I will be made new.

No cancer. No bankruptcy. No tornadoes. No earthquakes. No floods. No car accidents. No murders. No rape. No blindness. No deafness. No speech impediments. No Downs Syndrome. No miscarriages. No downsizing. No hunger. No thirst. No paralysis. No stock market crashes. No divorce. No orphans. No selfishness. No addiction. No drunkenness. No suicide. No child abuse. No pride. No exploitation. No fraud.

Try to wrap your mind around that. I can’t.

In Romans, Paul tells us that this hope of resurrection is what saves us, and that we yearn for it. “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (8:22-24a).

The world as we know it (including you and me) is out of whack. There is no rhythm; shalom has been disrupted. It is not operating the way it was designed to operate. It must be restored, and it will be, at the resurrection.

For many people in the West–even self-proclaimed “Christians”–Jesus is boring because life is cushy and easy, so the hope of resurrection is not appealing to them. If you make this world your home, if you make this life comfortable, why would it be? If you isolate yourself from the brokenness around you and deny the brokenness in you, you will never realize that you need redemption, resurrection, and restoration.

Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live…Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:25, 28-29)

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev. 21:5a)


Tim Hawkins on Noah’s Ark

If only our children’s Bible’s told the actual story.

Life Theology

Three Questions about God’s Wrath

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18).

Three important questions need to be answered:

1. Who is it revealed against? Paul writes that God reveals his wrath against ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.  He is revealing his wrath against those who are not believers—those who do not believe the gospel.  In 2 Thessalonians 1:5-9, Paul says that “God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict [Christians], and to grant relief to you [Christians] who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”  In 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 Paul writes, “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”  In our verse, of course, God is revealing his wrath against those who “suppress the truth.”  Those who belong to Satan, not God, who are perishing, not living, are those who are the recipients of God’s manifested wrath in the world.

2. How is it revealed? Paul does not give us much as for how God’s wrath is revealed.  But from the immediate context, we do have some clues.  The word revealed in Greek is in the present tense.  And I believe it is more than just a cognitive disclosure to the mind.  Just like the same word in verse 17, it has some historical reality to it, letting us know that something is physically being manifested in the world.  Verses 24-28 in chapter 1 tell us that God has given people to the lusts of their hearts to commit impurities (v. 24), to the dishonoring of their bodies (v. 24), to dishonorable passions (v. 26), and to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done (v. 28).  All of these things show us two paradoxical, yet non-contradictory facts: 1) God is sovereign over man’s sin, yet 2) people are to blame, not God.  Though God, in his sovereign wisdom and insight, causes people to be given over to depravity, he is never to blame.  We are sinners by nature and by choice.

In Romans 1, God’s wrath is something that is real, not just cognitive, something historical and not just futuristic.  It is something that is being manifested in the daily life of unregenerate people.  We can say that God’s wrath is revealed as a constant, ongoing reality in and through a sinful, unhappy, wasted life that is lived for the pleasing of self and not God.

At this point it might be helpful to say something to those who would think that a God who is full of wrath is either an archaic, mystical God, or simply no God at all.  First of all, think of this question.  If you were holy, perfect, and righteous, had never committed sin, and were completely and utterly pure, would you get angry at things that were not perfect, holy, and pure?  I’m willing to bet you would.  So God, in his perfection and righteousness, gets angry at all that is not righteous.  Paul David Tripp has said, “You wouldn’t want to worship a God who didn’t get angry.”  Some people would not argue with God getting angry at rape, murder, theft, or other “awful” vices.  But when it comes to them personally, whether it is abortion, domestic violence, drunkenness, gluttony, impatience, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, or any number of other sins, they would say, “It’s my life.  A God who gets angry at me is no God at all.”  But turn the table.  What if one of those awful things happened to you or someone you loved.  Wouldn’t you want God to get angry at that sin?

The other problem is so-called Christians who don’t believe the God of the Bible gets angry.  The problem above is one thing.  This is altogether another.  To say that the God of the Bible is not an angry God is simply nonsense.  From Genesis to Revelation we see God hating sin, punishing unrepentant people, and destroying those who will not turn to him.  Moo (p. 100) points out that “the OT regularly pictures God as responding to sin with wrath” (see Ex. 4:14; 15:7; 32:10-12; Num. 11:1; Jer. 21:3-7).  He also notes that Paul stresses “the working and effects of God’s wrath.  Paul speaks of wrath as a present reality under which people outside Christ stand” (see Rom. 3:5; 4:15; 9:22; Eph. 2:3).

3. When is it revealed? The tense and mood of the verb “revealed” tell us when God’s wrath will be manifested.  The verb shows us that God’s wrath is continually being revealed. It is a present tense verb in the indicative mood (the exact same as verse 17).  Moo said that it is difficult to give the same form of the same verb a present reference in one and a futuristic reference in another (p. 100).  Paul does teach a lot about future, cosmic events that will bring God’s wrath once and for all at the end of history (e.g. Rom. 2:5, 5:9; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 1:10).  However, in this verse, it is an actual, present reality for people who are not believers.  They are feeling God’s wrath now in an unhappy, wasted life—even if they don’t see it that way.  And at the same time, as we know from other Pauline Scripture, they are also storing up wrath for themselves on Judgment Day (see the passages above).

These people upon whom God’s wrath is resting are experiencing this because they (literally) “hold in the truth in unrighteousness” (that is, to “suppress” [ESV]).  God’s “truth” is not something that simply needs to be acknowledged or memorized.  It is something that needs to be believed as true and obeyed.  When someone suppresses a truth they are not giving themselves over to it in order to be developed and shaped by it.  They are not living by that truth and thus make a mockery of God and all that he is and stands for.  Finally, what is causing this suppression?  Their very own unrighteousness.  They are blind and dead, in the darkness of sin, and have no excuse (see 1:20; 2 Cor. 4:4-6; Eph. 2:1-5; cf. John 3:19).  Their inability to make themselves believe the truth does not alleviate their guilt.  It only increases it.  It shows how totally depraved man is.