Monthly Archives: June 2008

A Spiritual Classic?

Yes indeed.

I have just finished reading through Knowing God by J.I. Packer, and am still blown away by the book. The exposition he gives on key Biblical truths is at once simple yet undoubtably profound.

To be honest, I’ve always wondered at what the big fuss was over this book. But it’s just one of those books you have to read to comprehend why it has been lauded so much over the decades. I think I might just go through the book again sometime.

A personal extended review here.

There were four truths in the book that blew me away. Namely, the miracle of the Incarnation, propitiation as the heart of the gospel, our adoption as sons (and daughters) of God as the highest privilege God has graciously bestowed on us, and an amazingly simple exegesis of Paul’s epistle to the Romans that primarily caught my attention. It’s a bit hard narrowing down the profound content of this book to these four truths as there are many other eye-openers, both big and small, but for me these four stand out.

The book in general is really simply about ‘knowing God’ – the title does accurately capture the content. It’s a book about who He is and what He has done. And the way in which our lives should relate to Him. As shown to us in the Bible. All the good things you’ve heard about this book are probably on the mark. All the bad things you’ve heard about it are most likely false. I would truly regard it as a spiritual classic, and it’s a book that I believe every Christian would benefit from reading. It will likely challenge some, if not many, of your conceptions, and it will most certainly challenge the way you live right now. But some challenges are profitable, and this is one of them. If you don’t read it, I really think you’re missing out.

The literary style is very much targetted at the layman reader. But I think it would be a clear sign of how far reading standards have fallen if a book like this is classified as ‘heavy-reading’. Regardless, for those who somewhat comprehend my reading preferences, it is still a book I would recommend people to buy and to read diligently. If your reading skills aren’t great, then the only difference it’ll make is you’ll take longer to finish it. And if your reading skills are top-notch, don’t go too fast either! You might just miss that gold nugget in your mad dash through.

The Wrath of God

I know I said that the Supremacy of God was up next, but I will have to renege on that promise. It is a tough subject to approach, not that any other attribute of God is easy to understand. But much more thought needs to be placed into it. So instead, we look at the wrath of God, something I have thought about for quite a bit.

Here’s a question: Does the church in general today ignore this attribute of God?

There is much talk of love, but there is more talk of wrath than love in the Bible. Arthur Pink, in his book, The Attributes of God (a recommended read I would say), brings up this point, stating that a careful search of the concordance shows us that the Bible speaks more of the wrath, anger and fury of God than His love or tenderness.

The subject of wrath has become taboo in some Christian circles. Man cannot reconcile an angry God with a loving God. And they would rather have a loving God than an angry God.Therefore the God of love, the God who IS love, can’t possible be the God of wrath.

The problem with this seeming contradiction lies in a deficient misunderstanding of the holiness and goodness of God and the depravity of man. God is morally perfect. He is good. And as such He cannot, nor will He tolerate evil. Evil must be dealt with. And the ‘dealing with’ is the manifestation of the wrath of God.

But then man surely is not subject to the wrath of God. After all, we’re not all evil. There are some good people. Yet again, the Bible states otherwise – “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We are evil creatures. We have rejected the source of all life, our Creator and Sustainer. That is evil. We may beg to differ – after all we do not go around committing what we consider evil acts, such as killing or raping. But we have committed the ONE supremely evil act of rebellion against God. And it is from this act that all lesser evils against our fellow Man flows forth.

So we have a good, holy and loving God, who will not allow evil to persist forever. He will bring down His fist and crush evil forever. There is joy in this fact, that evil will not go unpunished. That there is justice. The God of wrath is the God of justice.

Taking this down to a personal level, this is somewhat coloured by the reality which we find ourselves living in. We want a God of justice, but we don’t want to let judgment fall on us. Yet we can’t have one without the other. All will be judged. And we will be found wanting. The God of wrath, the God of justice is a terrifying prospect in this light.

But the God of wrath is the God of love. He has provided a means of escape. He has provided a Redeemer. Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sin, if we put our faith in Him and follow Him. Propitiation is a word that supposes wrath. It means the appeasement of wrath. And I believe it also signifies the restoration of joy. The God of wrath is a reality worth rejoicing in yet again, because we know history will terminate in judgment, that there will be moral retribution. Good is repaid with good. Evil is repaid with evil. We no longer need to be terrified, having escaped from the consuming fire of the wrath of our God, and we know that our good works are not in vain.

The unchanging God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Revealing Himself to Moses, He proclaimed His name as such – “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. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”

He is the God of love. And He is the God of wrath. But note one more thing – He is a patient God. He is slow to anger. That’s for the next post.

A few other questions for you to ponder:

  1. Why is the wrath of God such a taboo subject? Would you bring it up as you tell the gospel to your friends?
  2. What sort of balance should we aim for in a gospel presentation? Yes, God is a God of love and grace. But He is also a God of wrath. And we cannot understand grace and love in their proper context without first comprehending the reality of God’s wrath. How do we incorporate both elements?
  3. The wrath of God is surely one of God’s many perfect attributes. Yet we may not perceive it as such. Why? What should our attitudes be towards the wrath of God? What are our attitudes like?

Finished!

Wow. This is amazingly anti-climatic.

So the 5 papers were pretty good. Not sure how well I did overall, but I was pretty happy. One or two mess-ups here and there, but I figured I did the best I could at the moment.

I’m currently sleep-deprived. I slept 6-7 hours the first night – micro – was too excited! It rapidly disintegrated after that. Namely 5 hours the next night – history. 4 the night after – macro. 3 before the politics paper. Oh. And 4-5 yesterday. Today was the math paper.

But yeah. I’ve finished my first year of uni. Time really does fly.

Now to figure out what to do next week…

You’ll never believe this…

You can see me on one of the brief video clips Passion filmed in London!

Yeah. A big black blob.

Lol.

But seriously, if there were more pixels, and a bit more light, you could make me out clearly.

In case you’re wondering what videos, check out their MySpace page.

Facing the stage, I’m on the far right of the first tier. I’m on the corner nearest to the bathroom (that lit up green sign on the right wall). Well technically Cheryl’s on that corner, but I’m just one to the left. And in case you’re wondering which videos, the first is O Praise Him, taken from the left side of the stage. And the second is How Great is Our God, taken from somewhere behind me. I’m one of those big black blobs, somewhere in that indistinguishable mass of darkness. I was trying to work out which pair of hands, or hand I was, but it’s a bit hard with that many up in the air. You can also barely make out my general position from Blessed Be Your Name. Heh.

OK. Back to revision now…

Passion London

I’m still feeling the WOWness from last night.

So in the end it was 3000 students in the Hammersmith Apollo for one loud night of worship. Here are several thoughts about the event in no order whatsoever:

He is here.
Our God is a God who saves.
Your grace is enough.
It’s rising up all around, it’s the anthem of the Lord’s renown.
David Crowder has life-size tattoos of Chris and Matt on each shoulder.
Sing Sing Sing.
You alone can lift us from the grave.
Mighty to save.
Shine your light.
Yes, Lord!
Fruitcakes and ice-cream.
LOL.
Blank blank.
If we’re out of our mind, it’s for God’s sake.
Grace.
God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
Christ’s love compels us.
David Crowder*Band! ๐Ÿ™‚
Here is our King
There is no one like You
How could You be so good to me
You are my JOY
Exuberant violin.
After all our hands have wrought He forgives
Banjo – Instrument of the future!
I saw the light.
O praise Him.
Manila! Manila! Manila!
Greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city.
How great is our God!

It was an amazing night of worship. Crazy powerful. And loud. I lost my voice. In hindsight, a bit unwise to blast it all out at Sing Sing Sing, which was only the 4th (or 5th) song of the night. But we were seated near the front, far right. And that was where the bass speakers were located. So you couldn’t help but sing a bit louder, just so you could hear yourself and be sure that there was still something coming out of your open mouth.

Louie has a gift for inspiring people to live for Jesus. And he told Ashley’s story at the end of his talk. I never knew the depth of it aside from one or two blog posts, but hearing the whole story for the first time left me in tears. Literally. Especially the fact that I already knew the ending just made it all the more poignant.

Matt Redman’s new song is still replaying itself over and over in my head.

And my voice recovered in time for the David Crowder end to the night. Ah. What joy!

You can probably catch the podcast in a day or two. Don’t miss it! ๐Ÿ˜€
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Oh. And I suppose a comparison with Passion 2007 in Atlanta would be nice to add. They were two totally different events really, and I enjoyed both for different reasons. So it’ll be like comparing apples with oranges. But I’ll try.

Passion 2007 was a turning point in my walk with Jesus. It’s been a long time since Passion 2007 and God has taught me a lot since then, so to use C.S. Lewis’ idea, it’s not that Jesus has grown, but it is we who grow and we see Him as bigger and bigger. In that sense, Passion London was just massive!

Passion London, First Thoughts

Wow. This was an amazing night. Will need time to process (and to wait for Louie’s official count of students and things like that.)

I’ll just end this post by posting up the chorus and bridge from Matt Redman’s new song. Simply amazing.

1st Chorus:

You alone can rescue
You alone can save
You alone can lift us from the grave
You came down to find us – led us out of death
To You alone belongs the highest praise

2nd Chorus:
Now we are more than conquerers through your deathless love
And nothing Lord will have a hold on us
Youโ€™re the saving promise – You will never fail
To You alone belongs the highest praise

Bridge:
We lift up our eyes, we lift up our eyes, You are the giver of life

The Empty Cross

So I lied. The next post wasn’t on the Supremacy of God. It’s in the works, by which I mean, not quite started, by which I mean it’ll come out when it’s ready. But this one has been churning in my heart for days.

The Purpose-Driven Life is an extremely popular book. There are some nuggets of truth in there. But I had my reservations about it when I first read it. Why? Because it appeared to be a book that some people treasured more than the Bible.

In my opinion, it does more harm than good. The misuse of Scripture is deceiving. And what’s worse is that there’s no mention of the cross. Of its necessity. That Jesus had to die to take away our sin. There is no gospel without Christ crucified. The Bible calls it the stumbling block. And for good reason. It is weakness and foolishness to those who do not understand it. But it is the power and wisdom of God for those who are saved.

Christian book marketing is becoming viral nowadays. There’s Bruce Wilkinson’s the Prayer of Jabez – another terrible book, and there’s Joel Osteen’s – Your Best Life Now – probably the worst of the lot. In Rick Warren’s defense, he does not commit the errors of these two books – that of a prosperity, health and wealth movement – I won’t call it Gospel, because it is in no way good news.

But he still omits the cross. Whether this is a worse offense than misusing Scripture, I will not be able to say. But if at any time I ever present the gospel to anyone and leave out the cross, feel free to admonish me.

I heard this rhetorical question once. “Would a book titled the Cross-Driven Life sell as well?”

I know it’s rhetorical, but the answer must still be said. No.

I am trying to bring across the central importance of the cross to the gospel. Without it, we are still sinners, and we have no claims to the promises of God. And I’m trying to highlight how culture, and what’s worse, those purporting to be Christian culture, are beginning to twist or omit it. Be wary when you read books on ‘Christian Living’ – I am not sure what the category specifically entails, but it seems to classify those books which addresses the question of how the Christian life should look like – and there is no mention of the cross. And be especially wary when you read books that talk about Evangelism and the Gospel, and there is no mention of the cross.

I’ve written on how the cross is omitted today. I’ll move on to address how it is twisted.

I’m sure many of the people reading this would have remembered watching the Passion of the Christ. Now, while I do not seek to downplay the physical suffering of Jesus, the film is disappointing on three aspects. The first is that it is extra-biblical. People always wonder why they never read some of the scenes in the Bible. They are in fact the writings of a Catholic nun, Anne Emmerich. So be wary of taking the film as truth. The second is somewhat related to the first. I am unhappy at how it ‘plays up’ the physical suffering of Jesus. The reason for this is its Catholic roots, and their focus on the ‘Passion’ or Sufferings of Christ. The third is that it ‘plays up’ the role of Mary – again another Catholic thing.

Being in danger of turning this into a Catholic-bashing post, I want to first add that I do not agree with the main doctrines of the Catholic Church, or at least the beliefs which they appear to hold fast to today. That being said, like many other denominations, just because one’s church is labeled Catholic does not mean you hold to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. There are definitely those that have remained faithful to the Bible and to the Gospel.

It is the second point I want to expound on. I have heard many stories of people being moved to tears by the movie. I have also heard many stories of people being horrified by the sheer brutality of the movie. I myself was a bit shocked and horrified and a bit wet around the eyes, but I was not a big fan of the movie. There was something wrong with it.

I identified why properly sometime last week. While we should never dismiss the physical sufferings of Christ, it is the spiritual suffering he went through that is of greater weight. On Good Friday, we remember not the Passion of Jesus Christ in its physical sense, but in its spiritual sense, in the separation he endured from the Father that our sins might be paid for. For while Jesus was human, I do not see his physical suffering to be of the import as portrayed in this Catholic film, given that he had shown tremendous control over his body when he was tempted by Satan in the desert. In this time, he had sustain himself with the Word of God. At Calvary, I believed He lost the same sort of comfort: “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?”

The Bible does point to the sufferings of Christ as important. Hebrews 2:18 tells us: “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 4:15-16 says that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

But I want to point out the reason why our symbol is an EMPTY cross. Not the crucifix of the Catholic church. For while Christ suffered and died for us in order to pay the price for our sin by the shedding his blood, and while his sufferings gives us the assurance that he is able to help us, it would have been in vain if he had not risen. His resurrection is the Father’s stamp of approval on the work of His Son.

This is why we have the empty cross. It is proof that Jesus has triumphed over sin and death, and that His promises are true. That whoever knows Him will have eternal life. We do not celebrate the suffering man on the cross. We celebrate the empty cross.

So the next time you see the cross, remind yourself of these two glorious facts. The first fact is that it is a reality. There is a cross. It was necessary to pay the price for our sin. There is no gospel when there is no cross. The second fact is that it is empty. The price for our sin was indeed paid for, and we have the assurance of a living hope. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus – He is Lord over all, even death.