Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mystics in Our Midst

The rejection of Sola-Scriptura, or the plenary sufficiency of scripture, has been arguably the greatest danger to orthodoxy and has been the favored midwife of heresy throughout history. Birthing such movements as the Montanists, Roman Catholic Church, Four-Square Church, Mormon Church, and Watchtower Society, the idea that God speaks in this covenant apart from the Bible has led to the eternal damnation of an innumerable multitude.

Hidden under the sheep-skins of “tongues”, “words from the Lord”, “leadings”, “Papal infallibility”, and well illustrated magazines, these godless utterances have infiltrated the church, led sheep out, and slaughtered them in cold-blood. And yet there is a general apathy towards these extrabiblical and personal revelations.

Check out what God says,

Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD. – Jeremiah 29:8
This is an Old Testament passage, when God actually was giving direct revelation to his servant Jeremiah, yet he points out that clearly there were men claiming to hear from him yet were actually not. In our New Covenant we have such a wonderful standard of faith in a closed canon,
We have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. – 2 Peter 1:19-21
This is the same Peter who spoke face to face with Jesus Christ, who heard from the Father from Heaven, who was made abundantly clear that he would die before Christ’s return, and yet he points us at the written word, which I believe he likewise wrote,
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… – Hebrews 1:1-2
And yet, despite this gloriously clear and adequate and sufficient and perfect and imperishable word, we still have preachers, and an overabundance of them, who preach from the book of Zedekiah. These are the words of the false prophet, the idea that God speaks individually and whimsically. (Confer Jeremiah 29:21)

These are the people who say, “God told me…” or “I was led by the Lord to…” or “God told me to tell you…” How are they claiming to receive this goofiness? Through prayer, through feelings, through dreams, through proof-texts found through flip-and-point methods or Bible-search software, and through outright fabrication. And in this, they are found to be misrepresenting God. Truly, he says,
they have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them. I am the one who knows, and I am witness, declares the LORD. – Jeremiah 29:23
Paul speaks with great fear and trembling at the very thought of misrepresenting God (1 Corinthians 15:15), yet these false-prophets brazenly and wickedly throw out God’s name in association with their strange leadings, feelings, and messages. Under a more perfect government they would lose their life for this blasphemy. (Deuteronomy 18:20)

And what is the danger except to their own soul? It is HUGE. Hananiah, false-prophet extraordinaire, took a wooden yoke off of Jeremiah as a prophecy for the salvation of Israel from Babylonian captivity. This lie led to the wooden bondage being replaced with iron bondage, as the people utterly trusted in Hananiah’s lie and were sold into captivity by God to Babylon. (Confer Jeremiah 27-28)

The false prophet of today who says “God is leading me…” sets themselves up as a prophet, as a super-spiritual leader, and as an example to follow. This leads others away from the rock of Sola-Scriptura, and as they step away from the foundation they quickly sink into the mire of unbiblical and ungodly doom. Many will never escape and their iron bars will only melt off in the fire of Hell.

So beloved, flee from any who claim personal revelation, despise all who speak for God apart from his explicit and inspired word, and do not find yourself among this number either misrepresenting God or believing a lie. If you refuse to repent of speaking for God apart from his word then I pray you meet the end of Hananiah and Zedekiah, dead at least and burned in the fire at most. (Jeremiah 28:17, 29:22)

We cannot begin to grasp the extent to which God esteems his word, by which he created the world, of which he promises it will not return void but will accomplish all of its purposes, and of which it will judge the quick and the dead. (John 1:1, 12:48, 17:17, Hebrews 4:12, 11:3, 2 Peter 3:5, Isaiah 55:10-11) Every major confession of faith begins with the scripture, which has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its content. If you misunderstand the word, you will misunderstand the Father, the Saviour, and the Spirit. For an immediate lesson, I implore you to read Psalm 119 soon and seriously.

All in all, in times past God spoke through sundry and amazing ways, but in these last days he speaks through the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, for faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Psalm 69 - the Agonies of Calvary

How many of you have seen the Passion of the Christ? That movie is pretty accurate as to what happened to Jesus Christ on the outside, but it utterly misses the point of his death, which was his spiritual torment and the wrath which was poured out on him for sin by his Father. So, since it is Good Friday, I want to look at Christ’s own words on that day.


If you have your Bible, and I hope you do, turn to Psalm 69…Psalm 69. This Psalm was written by David 1,000 years before Christ died on the cross, but in this Psalm we see Jesus’ prayer from the cross. The New Testament quotes this “chapter” of the Old Testament more than any other chapter, albeit Psalms aren’t really chapters, and everytime it is quoted it is pointed firmly at Jesus Christ. Every word in this Psalm is his own words. So this morning I want to read it in sections to you.


v.1-4 Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore?


In this passage introduces us to the event of the crucifixion. Jesus’ trial and scourging have already taken place, and he has been on the cross for a while. He describes his situation as the flood of death is about to overtake him. He has asked God at least once to save him, but then quickly turned the petition to “Not my will, but yours be done.” The pain is excruciating and Jesus very much would like it to stop if possible. The pain of the crucifixion is at hand, but look at the end of verse 4, “What I did not steal, must I now restore” points it at Heaven and the purpose of his sacrifice.


Jesus came to redeem his people, to ransom them from sin, to pay the debt to God which we owed. And what sort of things are these? Sin is transgression against the law, and the law is God’s righteous commandments. What was Jesus paying for on the cross? We start with what he says here, “What I did not steal, must I now restore?” He was crucified between two thieves, yet he never stole a single thing in his life, not a loaf of bread, not a song on the internet, not something from a store, yet he came to repay it. The Bible is clear that lying lips are an abomination to God and that all liars will have their place in the Lake which burns with fire and brimstone, and Jesus, who the Bible says it is impossible for him to lie died in place of liars. There was no deceit found in the mouth of Jesus Christ, he never took God’s name in vain, he never said, “O my God,” or “Good Lord,” or “Jesus Christ” without reverence, yet he was smitten and afflicted by God for blasphemy. Jesus said that you’ve heard it said of old, thou shalt not commit adultery, but then he said that if you look with lust you’ve committed adultery already in your heart. Jesus Christ, who is totally faithful to his bride the church died for every lustful glance, paying the debt against Heaven.


Now imagine I have a debt, say a parking ticket, and it has to be paid. If someone will take this parking ticket and go pay it, then justice is served. This is basically what Jesus did, but look at verse 5, he takes it one step farther.


v.5 O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.


Remember that this whole Psalm is Jesus speaking, so it points out that Jesus took our sins and called them his own, even though he was and is the perfect sinless Saviour. He was tempted in every way we’ve been tempted yet without sin. But here in this verse he took our sins from us and considered them his own. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that in him we can become the righteousness of God. He bore our sins in his body on that cross.


And at any given time he could have made it stop, he said he had 12 legions of angels at his beck and call to rescue him if he were to call. That is 70,000 angels, all perfectly capable and able to destroy entire cities, to crush Jerusalem and save Jesus at a moments notice...but if he had done that, we beloved, would be without hope, we would not have a sin bearer, our debt against Heaven would be unpaid, and so look at verse 6 and the gloriousness of Christ's prayer.


v.6 Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel.


If Jesus had chosen to save himself, then we would be put to shame because though we hoped in God, he would not have been able to forgive our debts. Jesus was tempted up to the point of death to forsake us and save himself, but he remained faithful.


v.7 For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face.


Jesus came for the main purpose of testifying to the truth, of honoring his Father, and here he says that he has born reproach, suffering, for the sake of his Father. This is just as important if not moreso than the prayer he just prayed about those who hope in God, because God's name as a saving and merciful God is at stake.


Let me give you two pictures of God, on one hand you have the God of Justice, the judge of all the earth who always does right, he says that he will by no means hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain, he must punish sin because he is a perfectly just God. But on the other hand you have the God of Love, who says though your sins were like scarlet they shall be made white as snow, who says your sins are put away, that says you are redeemed and forgiven. These two descriptions of God are entirely contradictory if not for one thing, because this God of Love can't overlook transgression without being a bad judge, and this God of Justice can't pour out justice and still be merciful...unless something big happens.


And that is what we are reading about Jesus on the cross, the God of the Universe manifest in the flesh, taking our sins on himself and having the full wrath of his Father poured out on him. Justice is served in the crushing of Jesus Christ, mercy is ours if we hope in him. Psalm 85 says that love and truth are met together, justice and peace have kissed each other on the cross. God is both just because he punished sin, and he is loving because he took the punishment himself.


v.8-9 I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother’s sons. For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.


He we see that this Psalm is definitely talking about Jesus. Even his own brothers turned on him and told people that he had lost his mind. But oh the glory, after Christ's resurrection James became the bishop of Jerusalem, preaching that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. The unconverted priests tried to get him to recant his belief and took him to the top of the Temple in order that he would either renounce Jesus Christ, or they would push him off. From the top of the Temple he preached that Jesus is the Messiah, that all must look to him in order to be saved, and one of the priests shoved him from the top of the Temple and then they beheaded him on the ground. Jude became a missionary all over the Middle East, and was eventually shot with arrows and beaten to death for his adherence to his Brother as the Sovereign Lord of all nations. But, at this point as Christ is dying on the cross, he is alone, both of these brothers had abandoned Christ and would have nothing to do with him.


Christ quoted verse 9 about zeal consuming him when he cleansed the temple, and because of his adherence to the truth and his refusal to compromise on who God is and that every idol is an abomination to him, they crucified him on the charge of claiming to be God.


v.10-12 When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach. When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them. I am the talk of those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me.


Oh what a reception the King of kings received from the people, utterly scorning him at every turn, calling him every manner of wickedness and name. The only hope of mankind pushed away as an impotent and sinful man, and yet these are the very sins he was paying for as he hung on Calvary's cross.


v.13-19 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness. Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me. Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. Hide not your face from your servant; for I am in distress; make haste to answer me. Draw near to my soul, redeem me; ransom me because of my enemies! You know my reproach, and my shame and my dishonor; my foes are all known to you.


Oh beloved, I hope you see the agony which your Saviour went through to bring you to God. He prays to be saved, but not now, when it is pleasing to God. And he would be saved, but not from the excruciating pain of the cross, but from death when three days later the same God who put him to death would raise him to life forevermore. Remember that Jesus Christ very easily could have saved himself, yet entrusted himself wholly to God, knowing that the purposes of God will be accomplished to perfection.


On the cross your major enemy is not blood loss or exposure or exhaustion, but it is suffocation. With your arms stretched out and your full body weight hanging from your shoulders you can breathe in all you want, but beloved, you cannot breathe out. In order to breathe out, you have to prop yourself up on the nails driven through your feet in order to alleviate the strain on your chest muscles. Every time you would do this oxygen would surge through your system awakening numbed nerves, and every breathe would bring a new surge of pain. On the Passover that Jesus died on, it was against Jewish law for dead bodies to be left outside past sunset, so while it normally took someone up to three days to die of crucifixion, they decided to break the legs of the condemned so that they would suffocate to death and could be taken down. But when they got to Jesus, he was already dead, look at verse 20;


v. 20-21 Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.


Remember that this was written a thousand years before Christ died, yet it knew he wouldn't die of suffocation, but of a ruptured heart. In order to make sure that Jesus was actually dead the Roman Soldiers thrust a spear under his ribs into his heart, and blood and water poured out, which is caused when the heart muscles rupture, and it takes about an hour, so Christ died of a ruptured heart about an hour before the thieves on either side of him.


The Roman Soldiers kept vinegar near the crucifixion sight in order to give to prisoners to dull the pain and help them die quicker, they offered some to Jesus but he refused, he would not let the pain be blunted which he was suffering for the effects of sin. How would David know about this soured wine? Crucifixion wasn't even invented until 600 years after David penned this Psalm!


And now we turn to the controversial part of this Psalm. When Jesus died he died for a very specific purpose, to secure the salvation of all who believe. In John 17 you can see Jesus praying for all saints, for all who will believe, but he is very specific that he is not praying for those who will not believe. In verses 22 through 29 Jesus Christ specifically prays against those who will not believe, in verse 27 asking that they be cast into Hell. Revelation 14:10 speaks of this again that in the presence of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, the full undiluted wine of God's wrath is poured out on those who would not believe.


v.22-28 Let their own table before them become a snare; and when they are at peace, let it become a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see, and make their loins tremble continually. Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them. May their camp be a desolation; let no one dwell in their tents. For they persecute him whom you have struck down, and they recount the pain of those you have wounded. Add to them punishment upon punishment; may they have no acquittal from you. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous.


It's a powerful verse, and one that only Jesus Christ can pray because he knows who will be saved or not, and it shows that he was saving a very specific people, and that in order to be amongst that people you must trust in him, putting your hope in God.


v.29-31 But I am afflicted and in pain; let your salvation, O God, set me on high! I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs.


In the midst of his afflictions Jesus Christ shows that his affections are still on Heaven, that he remains trusting in God and with his obedience to his Father. His perfect sacrifice is pleasing to God more than any other, because he willingly went to the cross to shed his blood for the remission of sins of many, for without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.


How can anyone possibly look at the cross and be glad? It was an instrument of extreme torture, yet verses 32 and 33 say when we see the crucifixion we will be glad.


v.32-33 When the humble see it they will be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive. For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.


On this cross, where Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied. He has reconciled us in his body of flesh through his death, he will save his people who are prisoners in sin and revive those who are dead in sin. Beloved, if this is not you, then I implore you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to be reconciled to God, to repent towards God and put your full trust in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone that his payment on Calvary's cross was entirely sufficient to pay your way into Heaven. After Christ died they took his body down and laid it in the tomb of a rich man, and there it stayed for three days. It looked like the end, it looked like the man who claimed to be God really wasn't God but an imposter. But on the third day, in the darkness of a sealed tomb, the most glorious sound, better than the songs of angels, the world has ever heard was heard faintly in the bosom of the Lord of Glory, a heart-beat. Silently at first, then undeniable, the King was alive!


And this concludes our study with verse 34-36,


v.34-36 Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them. For God will save Zion and build up the cities of Judah, and people shall dwell there and possess it; the offspring of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall dwell in it.


When we read this as pointing to Jesus Christ we see it as the heavenly New Jerusalem, where all of his saints will dwell for eternity, where we will praise our King who sought us and bought us, who endured the agony of Hell on the cross, who was faithful unto death, and who lives forevermore to make intercession for his saints.


Beloved, trust in this Christ, preach his gospel, he is worthy, and those who trust in him will not be despised.