The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘God

Sanctifying God’s name at the Lord’s supper

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What is going on when a believer comes to the Lord’s table? What should be gripping your heart – your thinking, feeling and willing – when you come to the Supper? According to Jeremiah Burroughs, in his book on Gospel Worship, it is imperative that we come to the table with understanding. Burroughs says:

I must know what I do when I come to receive this holy sacrament; knowledge applied to the work that I am about; when some of you have come to receive this sacrament, if God should have spoken from heaven and have said thus to you, what are you doing now, what do you go for, what account had you been able to have given unto him, you must understand what you do when you come thither. (244)

So, what might your answer be? Here is Burroughs’ quite magnificent answer, given – I suspect – not to be parroted without understanding, but used as a model for the kind of thoughtful engagement by which we sanctify God’s name in coming to the Lord’s table:

First you must be able to give this account to God, Lord, I am now going to have represented to me in a visible and sensible way the greatest mysteries of godliness, those great and deep counsels of thy will concerning my eternal estate, those great things that the angels desire to pry into, that shall be the matter of eternal praises of angels and saints in the highest heavens, that they may be set before my view; Lord, when I have come to thy word, I have had in mine ears sounding the great mysteries of godliness, the great things of the covenant of grace, and now I go to see them represented before mine eyes in that ordinance of thine that thou hast appointed.

Yea Lord, I am now going to receive the seals of the blessed covenant of thine, the second covenant, the new covenant, the seals of the testimony and will of thine; I am going to have confirmed to my soul thine everlasting love in Jesus Christ.

“Yea Lord, I am going to that ordinance wherein I expect to have communion with thyself, and the communication of thy chief mercies to my soul in Jesus Christ.

I am going to feast with thee, to feed upon the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Yea I am now going to set to the seal of the covenant on my part, to renew my covenant with thee, I am going to have communion with thy saints, to have the bond of communion with all thy people to be confirmed to me, that there might be a stronger bond of union and love between me and thy saints then ever; these are the ends that I go for, this is the work that I am now going about, thus you must come in understanding; you must come with understanding, you must know what you are going about; this is that which the Apostle speaks of, when he speaks of the discerning the Lord’s body; he rebukes the Corinthians for their sin, and shows them that they were guilty of the body and blood of Christ, because they did not discern the Lord’s body, they looked only upon the outward elements, but did not discern what there was of Christ there, they did not understand the institution of Christ; they did not see how Christ was under those elements, both represented, and exhibited unto them, that’s the first thing, there must be knowledge and understanding. (244-45)

When you come next to the communion service, you might consider the question: “What are you doing now, what do you go for?” You are not required to be able to give Burroughs’ answer in its entirety, but it would be good to consider how we, too, need to come with understanding, that we might not only benefit ourselves but also, and especially, sanctify the name of God in our worship.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Sunday 3 November 2019 at 09:30

Selfies at Niagara

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IMG_3917There are some things that I could simply stand and stare at for hours. A natural fire. A storm-tossed sky. A coursing stream. Niagara Falls would drop into the category. It is an instantly and constantly fascinating sight, a stable flow of endless variety, an infinitely interesting glory of God.

I had the opportunity to be there again recently, watching from the Canadian side where you get the most immediate views of the falls. I love the great tumble of rocks at the foot of the American falls that churns the waters as it falls. I love the power of the water that pours over and the swirl of the cloud that boils up from the Canadian falls. Give me a little space and a little peace, and I could gaze endlessly.

As I strolled among the tourists, I was struck by the number of people who were not actually looking at this wonder of creation. Of course, the vast majority were looking at it largely through a screen. What struck me particularly, though, were the number of people who were not looking at it at all. In some spots, about a third of the crowd had their backs to the water. With arms or sticks extended, they were trying to angle their bodies so as to get themselves front and centre in a photo or video of themselves with Niagara in the background. I will barely mention the gentleman who was standing on the path with a high end camera concentrating on a series of shots of … the Marriott hotel blocks towering alongside the river!

I know many love to complain at the way we view the wonders of this world through a lens or a screen. But this was something else. Given the opportunity to drink in something of the majesty of the Creator’s work, the concern of so many was to get themselves into the picture. As one friend asked, “Exactly how do they think that their face is going to make that picture better?”

We do much the same with the Creator himself. For most, he is not to be personally adored, but the imposing subject of a passing snapshot rather than the enduring object of deep engagement. For far too many, even Christians, our ideas of dealing with God are like the person at Niagara with the camera in hand, or attached to the end of that glowing wand of Narcissus. We are impressed by God, but he is in the background of a picture of me. We see him in the Bible, but we need to be the central character in the narrative. God is my backdrop. It is our presence in shot that makes him relevant. It is profoundly selfish, blindingly self-centred, genuinely tragic. We have not known him as we should.

There are all the infinite glories of his majesty by which to be entranced. There is the heaven-praised splendour of his glory instantly and constantly passing before us. There is an unchanging flow of endless depth, the infinitely interesting glory of God. And we, even if not taking pictures of the hotels, so often have our backs to God, angling to get ourselves front and centre.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 14 October 2017 at 11:04

Posted in General

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Grace and sin

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A number of pastoral issues have arisen recently which have brought home to me some particular truths and some particular emphases arising from them. Many of these situations are on the fringes of church life or outside it (though I sincerely hope that some of them might, under God’s gracious influences, come within it in due course). How much we need to grasp spiritual realities with scriptural definition! It is a great distress to see how often false religion dismisses the former and degrades the latter, but even more grievous is to see professing Christians mishandle matters of central importance. (Please understand that these are not veiled critiques of events in the Christian stratosphere, but observations about concrete situations in local churches, or at least those places which call themselves churches. But you are wise, and may apply it.)

One area where this has cropped up recently is in the matter of grace, what Matthew Henry somewhere describes as “the free favour of God and all the blessed fruits of it.” In common Christian parlance, grace seems to have become a catch-all noun to describe a certain kind of softness and carelessness with regard to sin. When acts and patterns of sin are exposed, we are encouraged to be gracious, but that grace is often not defined or ill-defined. When criticisms are made of certain acts and their actors, the rebuke is readily offered, “That is not gracious!” Grace, apparently, can ignore the sin that calls forth the critique, but not the sin of critiquing it!

So, for example, when there is gross sin in the church, we must show grace. When someone is acting wickedly, it is gracious not to condemn it. When a lie is told, grace will ignore the matter. When leaders fudge matters of righteousness, ignore God’s truth, and expose God’s flock to harms because they will not deal with transgressors, they are showing grace, and we must show grace by not charging them with any failings.

But this nebulous notion of grace is very far removed from the spiritual reality with scriptural definition that we find revealed and displayed in our Bibles. Gospel grace does not excuse or ignore or neglect sin. Gospel grace is never casual or careless with regard to transgression. Gospel grace, whether patterned in God or echoed in man, never pretends sin is not sin. Gospel grace does not expose the flock to harm because it will not identify error and heresy and defend against errorists and heretics, even in the name of love. Gospel grace suffers long, but it is not a disregard for iniquity that is dishonouring to God and dangerous to men. Gospel grace does not call evil good, and good evil; it does not put darkness for light, and light for darkness, or bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter (Is 5.20).

Gospel grace always faces and addresses sin, though it does so in a gracious way. If you want a seasonal example, think of that just man, who did not want to make the woman he loved a public example, despite what he was legitimately persuaded was the growing evidence of heinous sin, and “was minded to put her away secretly” (Mt 1.19). Grace took no delight in parading sin, but it did not pretend that it was not (as far as could reasonably be determined) sin. When Joseph was enlightened concerning the reality of the situation, would he not have been relieved that he did not have an immediately ungracious response, and make of Mary the most public example he could? Grace prevents us making errors born of harshness, and allows for the easy correction of mistakes.

Remember that fervent love is commanded among the saints, a love which will cover a multitude of sins (1Pt 4.8 cf. Prv 10.12), but consider that such love recognises sin as sin and chooses that, for good and proper reasons, it will be discreet in dealing with it or covering it. Again, to quote Matthew Henry, this love “inclines people to forgive and forget offences against themselves, to cover and conceal the sins of others, rather than aggravate them and spread them abroad.” We read that “the discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression” (Prv 19.11) – he decides, as appropriate, that this transgression is not something that needs to be dealt with immediately and publicly, though he still recognises it as transgression, and there may come a time when a pattern of transgression requires him to stop overlooking and start acting. We do not pull one another up on every slip of deed and word, but take account of our frailties and failings as sinful creatures, creatures with remaining sin even as redeemed men and women. This is the grace of God as Father, who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Ps 103.8–14).

Notice here the hints at the greatest expression of grace: the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in coming into the world to die on the cross for his wretched and sin-wrecked people was at once the clearest recognition of sin and the highest expression of mercy. God did not pretend that there was no sin; he saw it more clearly than we ever shall, but put it away by the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. The cross is at once the revealing of the sinfulness of sin and the demonstration of the graciousness of grace.

Gospel grace does not revel in the public exposure of sin and aggressive shaming of sinners, like a church boasting of how many cases of corrective discipline it has handled recently. But neither does it sweep sin away as if it were of no moment. True gospel grace, patterned in a gracious God and echoed in gracious men, always faces sin head on. It is patient and kind, slow to anger and abounding in mercy, but it is also fiercely committed to the glory of a God who is holy and to the good of those who are called to be holy just as he is holy. It calls sin sin, and it considers the nature, occasion and consequences of any particular sin and responds appropriately.

Grace is not, then, an excuse to downplay or dismiss sin as if it were of no consequence, to go on neglecting to deal with it. Grace does not make sin of no account. Grace is the most honest in dealing with sin. Grace always takes account of sin, it looks sin in the ugly eye and – one way or another – it puts it away, sometimes at great cost to itself, dealing fairly and even tenderly with those in whom that sin is discerned, as occasion demands.

Grace, ultimately, is Godlike. It is not a commodity, a mere thing, but an expression of the heart of God in Christ Jesus his Son. If we would have a pattern for gospel grace, we must find it in Christ crucified. Bring all sin into the light of the gospel, put all sin under the shadow of the cross, and there you shall find wisdom in how to deal with it. Deal with it graciously, but deal with it you must. There is nothing gracious about pretending otherwise.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 23 December 2014 at 10:01

Posted in General

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“The infinite Jehovah is become their God”

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Spendid and beautiful:

The true followers of Christ have not only ground of rest and peace of soul, by reason of their safety from evil, but on account of their sure title and certain enjoyment of all that good which they stand in need of, living, dying, and through all eternity. They are on a sure foundation for happiness, are built on a rock that can never he moved, and have a fountain that is sufficient, and can never be exhausted. The covenant is ordered in all things and sure, and God has passed his word and oath, “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us.” The infinite Jehovah is become their God, who can do every thing for them. He is their portion who has an infinite fulness of good in himself. “He is their shield and exceeding great reward.” As great a good is made over to them as they can desire or conceive of; and is made as sure as they can desire: therefore they have reason to put their hearts at rest, and be at peace in their minds.

Jonathan Edwards via The Old Guys.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 3 September 2012 at 09:14

Posted in While wandering . . .

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The perceived weightlessness of the Weighty One

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It is one of the defining marks of our time that God is now weightless. I do not mean by this that he is ethereal but rather that he has become unimportant. He rests upon the world so inconsequentially as not to be noticeable. He has lost his saliency for human life. Those who assure the pollsters of their belief in God’s existence may nonetheless consider him less interesting than television, his commands less authoritative than their appetites for affluence and influence, his judgment no more awe-inspiring than the evening news, and his truth less compelling than the advertisers’ sweet fog of flattery and lies. That is weightlessness. It is a condition we have assigned him after having nudged him out to the periphery of our secularized life.… Weightlessness tells us nothing about God but everything about ourselves, about our condition, about our psychological disposition to exclude God from our reality.

David Wells, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1994), 88, 90.

via RBF.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 5 May 2012 at 07:48

Posted in While wandering . . .

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When I am God

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Sin is inherently anti-God, inherently pro-self. Each time I sin I make a statement about myself and a statement about (and against) God. Each time I sin, I declare my own independence, my own desire to be rid of God; I declare that I can do better than God, that I can be a better god than God.

Tim Challies does an outstanding job of unpacking this declaration. Please check it out.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 23 March 2012 at 12:11

Posted in Christian living

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Review: “Is God A Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God”

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Is God A Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God

Paul Copan

Baker, 2011, 256pp., paperback, $14.99

ISBN 978-0-8010-7275-8

Responding to the charges of New Atheists like Dawkins, Hitchens and Dennett, our author sets out to demonstrate that the God of the Scriptures – particularly the Old Testament – is not the ranting bully and cruel tyrant he is often misrepresented to be. Trawling through the issues and the Bible, Copan tries to establish some foundational principles before assessing some of the particular charges levelled (concerning weirdness, barbarity, misogyny, polygamy, slavery, and genocide), concluding with some thoughts about the basis of morality. While there are some deft philosophical flourishes and some helpful exegetical insights and suggestions, I think that Copan gives too much to his opponents. We are never robustly confronted with a God who is altogether holy and above reproach, and the argument too often seems to sink to a relativistic level: “Things were pretty bad, the Lord had to improve it incrementally, and – besides – you should have seen the Hittites and the Amorites!” The book might have been better served with a more vigorous demonstration and assertion of the divine character and its consequent morality as the backdrop both to the principles and the arguments. Helpful at many points, I was nevertheless disappointed overall.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 21 March 2012 at 11:00

Posted in Reviews

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