Why Do You Look at Me That Way?

Don’t you hate it when your significant other gives you that look? You know what they mean. Maybe what you’re doing is something they warned you off months ago and there you are doing it again. They told you about how it hurt them when you did it. You even had words over it. May be you told them you’d never do it again.

The Apostle Peter had a similar experience but the stakes were much higher. Warned by Christ that the devil sought to have him and sift him like wheat, Peter said he’d follow Him to prison and death, if necessary. Then the Lord told Peter he’d deny Him three times.

He followed the Lord into the High priest’s courtyard after His arrest. There, Peter was confronted by three people about his association with Jesus the Galilean. He denied Him each time. The final encounter went like this:

And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.

And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Luke 22:59-62 English Standard Version (ESV)

All four Gospel accounts report Peter’s denial.

The pastor and preacher, John Calvin, draws insight from Peter’s denial and repentance.

And Peter remembered the word of Jesus. …Which of us does not pass by with indifference and with deaf ears…[to] even the voice of God, which is heard clearly and distinctly in the doctrine of the Law and of the Gospel? Nor is it for a single day only that our minds are held by such brutal [senselessness], but it is perpetual until he who alone turns the hearts of men [condescends] to look upon us.

…Observe, however, that this was no ordinary look, for he had formerly looked at Judas who, after all, became no better by it. But in looking at Peter, he added to his eyes the secret efficacy of the Spirit, and thus by the rays of his grace, penetrated into his heart…Therefore know, that whenever anyone has fallen, his repentance will never begin, until the Lord has looked at him.

As Calvin says, this was no ordinary look that Christ gave Peter but one leading to repentance.

And he went out and wept bitterly. It is probable that Peter went out [to weep] through fear [and weakness] …We infer that he did not deserve pardon by satisfaction, but that he obtained it by the fatherly kindness of God…By this example, …we ought to [have] confident hope [that] God does not despise even weak repentance, provided that it be sincere.

…For we see many who shed tears purposely, so long as they are beheld by others, but who have no sooner retired than they have dry eyes. …Tears, which do not flow on account of the judgment of God, are often drawn forth by ambition and hypocrisy.

But, is weeping requisite in true repentance? …Believers often with dry eyes groan before the Lord without hypocrisy, and confess their fault to obtain pardon; but in more aggravated offenses they must be in no ordinary degree [thoughtless] and hardened, whose hearts are not pained by grief and sorrow, and who do not feel ashamed even so far as to shed tears…

Though tears should flow at our grieving the Lord with our sin, He is gracious to forgive us in light of even the weakest repentance if it proceeds from a sincere heart. My wish is for His look to drive me to repentance as often as I need. Is that yours?

Peter's Denial - Rembrandt

St. Peter’s Denial, Rembrandt (1606–1669), public domain in the United States

Why We Use Scripture Extensively in Our Posts

It’s not because we’re lazy (but, if you knew me better, you might disagree.) Nor is it because we can’t write well; though you may disagree with this as well. It’s because His word is what He says He will use to save us from the penalty of death which our sins against Him alone so richly deserve. He says:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven

   and do not return there but water the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

   giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

   it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

   and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11 English Standard Version (ESV)

His purpose, His eternal purpose is realized in Christ and the Church. The Lord alone is the objective source of knowledge and action who has entered into what we consider our world. Of course, it is His and is His forever.

When He was drawing me to Himself, He made my reading from the scriptures irresistible. I remember dwelling in long passages from a large bible at the front of a main line church sanctuary so many years ago. Months later, when He was ready for me to submit to Him in repentance, He sent an evangelist who read from the scriptures in answer to my doubting questions. And I trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ that evening after that sent one left.

You might think: “What does this have to do with me; I’m doing okay. It’s you, Adolphus, who needs a crutch to face the inevitability of death.” Well, I thought the same back then; so did everyone who professes belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is His sovereign will that chooses and saves you. No one, by strength of will, can save themselves. Everyone, whether saved or not, will stand before God’s judgment seat and give an account of ourselves. It is only by the merit of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, conferred to us through faith that we can face that judgment and live. All others will be sent away from His presence.

I offer you, not only the links above, but this verse for your consideration:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (ESV)

Please, we beg of you, repent and believe.

Albert Mohler: The Authority of Scripture, Ligonier Ministries

It’s Not About You

We live in a self-centered world. From identity politics to Twitter, FoMO to twenty-four-hour cable news, safe spaces to speech codes, we focus on what pleases us, amuses us, or fills us with self-importance. We think everything revolves around us and if it doesn’t, it should. We see it on campuses, on the campaign trail, and at international summits that ultimately do little to mitigate climate change in the end.

Our culture often frames this untenable condition in terms of unrequited love. The band, Scouting for Girls, sets this theme to a catchy tune. Please be aware that the lyrics contain mild innuendoes (yes, a trigger warning):

Scouting For Girls – It’s Not About You, Lyrics

To this situation we find ourselves in, we must say with the Apostle James:

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

James 3:10 English Standard Version (ESV)

Worse still, agreeing with the Apostle Paul, we see that we go along recklessly with them:

Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Therefore, you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.

Romans 1:32-2:1 (ESV)

But, the Lord Jesus, through the Apostle John, puts the matter in perspective:

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

John 12:25 (ESV)

Much has been written on the interpretation of this verse. Calvin says in part:

He who, under the influence of immoderate desire of the present life, cannot leave the world but by constraint, is said to love life; but he who, despising life, advances courageously to death, is said to hate life.

Not that we ought absolutely to hate life, which is justly reckoned to be one of the highest of God’s blessings;

but because believers ought to cheerfully lay it down, when it retards them from approaching to Christ;

just as a man, when he wishes to make haste in any matter, would shake off from his shoulders a heavy and disagreeable burden.

Further, we are to live for the good of others:

So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

Romans 12:5, 10, 16 (ESV)

Yet, if we’re honest with ourselves and others, we don’t give others honor or affection:

But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 5:15, 26; 6:2 (ESV)

But, if we trust the Father to do for us that which we do not do (i.e., change our behavior), then:

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

1 Thessalonians 5:11, 15 (ESV)

However, heed this admonition with a warning. Do not neglect it at your peril:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 4:7, 20, 21 (ESV)

The Lord Jesus Christ offers us an escape from our self-centeredness, if only we’d trust in His saving work on the cross.

Judgment and Condemnation

I was speaking with someone at church a few weeks back and we both wondered what 2 Corinthians 5:10 meant:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10 English Standard Version (ESV)

Are believers judged? Rather than guess, I offered to look into it. Here’s what I found Calvin had to say:

We must be manifested. Though this is common to all, yet all without distinction do not raise their views in such a way as to consider every moment, that they must appear before the judgment-seat of Christ…For then the books, which are now shut, will be opened (Daniel 7:10).

That every one may give account. As the passage relates to the recompensing of deeds, we must notice briefly, that, as evil deeds are punished by God, so also good deeds are rewarded, but for a different reason; for evil deeds are requited with the punishment that they deserve, but God in rewarding good deeds does not look to merit or worthiness.

For no work is so full and complete in all its parts as to be deservedly well-pleasing to him, and farther, there is no one whose works are in themselves well-pleasing to God, unless he render satisfaction to the whole law. Now no one is found to be thus perfect. Hence the only resource is in his accepting us through unmerited goodness, and justifying us, by not imputing to us our sins.

After he has received us into favor, he receives our works also by a gracious acceptance. It is on this that the reward hinges. There is, therefore, no inconsistency in saying, that he rewards good works, provided we understand that mankind, nevertheless, obtain eternal life gratuitously…

So, here, I think we have half the explanation. All humankind is judged for the good and bad that they’ve done in this life. Any good we can do is only good insofar as God does not count our sins against us. This is only possible through faith in Christ’s saving work on the cross. And that, too, is freely given by Him alone to those who do not merit it.

But what of the condemnation due for the bad that we do? The scriptures say:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. John 5:24 (ESV)

Calvin says about this verse:

He that heareth my word. Here is described the way and manner of honoring God, that no one may think that it consists solely in any outward performance, or in frivolous ceremonies. …But here Christ demands from us no other honor than to obey his Gospel…

Hath eternal life. By these words he likewise commends the fruit of obedience, that we may be more willing to render it…

And shall not come into condemnation. There is here an implied contrast between the guilt to which we are all naturally liable, and the unconditional acquittal which we obtain through Christ; for if all were not liable to condemnation, what purpose would it serve to free from it those who believe in Christ?

The meaning therefore is, that we are beyond the danger of death, because we are acquitted through the grace of Christ; and, therefore, though Christ sanctifies and regenerates us, by his Spirit, to newness of life, yet here he specially mentions the unconditional forgiveness of sins, in which alone the happiness of men consists. For then does a man begin to live when he has God reconciled to him; and how would God love us, if he did not pardon our sins?

…Though life be only begun in us, Christ declares that believers are so certain of obtaining it, that they ought not to fear death; and we need not wonder at this, since they are united to him who is the inexhaustible fountain of life.

But what shall we do with such confidence? I suggest, with Calvin, that we cast off fear and live a life worthy of our gracious God’s gift.

The Last Judgment, Martin, 1853

The Last Judgment, 1853, John Martin (1789-1854), Tate Britain, Public Domain in US

I’m Better Than You?

I’m Better Than You? I know I shouldn’t, but I feel hostile toward someone who indicates, through words or deeds, that they think they’re better than me. Perhaps they’ve denigrated my beliefs, or my world view, or maybe, my God. How dare they do that, I think. They’ll be sorry. God will get them. And I’m not going to warn or pray for them, either.

In his essay, ‘Can We be Good Without God,’ Glenn Tinder describes the setting in which we find ourselves:

The life of every society is a harsh process of mutual appraisal. People are ceaselessly judged and ranked, and they in turn ceaselessly judge and rank others. This is partly a necessity of social and political order… It is partly also a struggle for self-esteem; we judge ourselves for the most part as others judge us. Hence outer and inner pressures alike impel us to enter the struggle.

The process is harsh because all of us are vulnerable… The process is harsh also because it is unjust… Few are rated exactly, or even approximately, as they deserve.

In his book, Revolt Against the Masses, Fred Siegel warns that Nietzsche called for a new aristocracy; an elite to run the world, as H. G. Wells put it. Siegel shows convincingly that this spirit has been at work in the US political system since before World War One.  The C-SPAN talk, in its entirety, is found here.

In the midst of this and other movements, I worry we’ll give our democracy away to totalitarianism.

But Tinder reminds us that something different, sacrificial love, or agape, undergirds our Western moral system:

Agape is the core of Christian morality. Moreover, as we shall see, it is a source of political standards that are widely accepted and even widely, if imperfectly, realized…

Agape means refusing to take part in this process [of mutual appraisal]. It lifts the one who is loved above the level of reality on which a human being can be equated with a set of observable characteristics. The agape of God, according to Christian faith, does this with redemptive power; God ‘crucifies’ the observable, and always deficient, individual, and “raises up” that individual to new life. The agape of human beings bestows new life in turn by accepting the work of God.

So we have agape set against ruthless, condemning judgment. Note that condemning judgment is generally censured whereas discerning judgment is imperative if often lacking. The individual who is exalted by God is simultaneously fallen and at war with God. He or she must discern their entrenched faults to repent of them.

Returning to the initial theme of this essay, when I feel this way, I remember these truths:

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them… Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” Romans 12:14-21

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  Matthew 5:43-45

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” Luke 6:22-23

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? …But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:32-36

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” 1 Peter 4:12-13

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matt. 20:25-28; Mark 10:42-45; Luke 22:24-27

“[Peter to the elders] Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;  not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:2-3

“[Paul to the Corinthians] To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” 1 Cor. 4:11-13

“[Paul to the Philippians] Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” Phil. 3:17

“…[Make] supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings [to God]…for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way…” 1 Tim. 2:1-4

“Let us not grow weary of doing good…” Gal. 6:9-10

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. Rom. 16:20 …by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Rev. 12:11

This last one takes me aback, but it is as true as the others.

Archangel Michael, Guido Reni (1575–1642)

Archangel Michael, Guido Reni (1575–1642), painted circa 1636, public domain-US

After this life is over, the only thing I want to hear from my Lord is: “well done good and faithful servant…” knowing that, after doing all, I’ve done only what I was supposed to do. And I want that for you too. But that’s ultimately a transaction between you and Him.

This is my hope for you.

What Do You Really Want?

I bet you want life, deep, enduring, and fully satisfying life.

But you settle for shallow, fleeting and unsatisfying life.

If you search your conscience, you realize the things you do to “pass the time” are a waste.

How many vacations can you take? Does it really matter if you miss a television season’s premier? How much do you really need in your bank account, garage, storage unit or camp?

Do you need to mentally torture your sister, brother, roommate, wife or husband to feel better about yourself?

Do you do things when no one (that you can see) is looking that in a better moment you would say is wrong for others to do?

Where does this behavior come from?

They call it original sin. It’s not very original and no one has to teach you to do it.

Is there training for toddlers to learn how to pout and refuse to obey? Are there any classes for kindergarteners to learn how not to share? What about tutoring sessions for first graders to learn how to lie about not doing homework?

Supposedly, some folks in a Garden first disobeyed and passed down this inheritance of disobedience to us. Perhaps you don’t believe this could have happened.

Well, wouldn’t you like to be like God? What about not dying? These were the promises. Promises by half, unfulfilled and unfulfillable by the promiser.

However, God came to the Garden to look for His lost creations and He shed blood. Not theirs but from ones whose blood foreshadowed the blood shed for all who would believe in His atoning sacrifice that He would make in the fullness of time.

And what is the consequence of His sacrifice? It is deep, enduring, and fully satisfying life forever for those who bow their knee in surrender to Him now. And it is shallow, fleeting and unsatisfying life now for those who refuse. And they will bow to Him after death at the Judgment, when it is too late, and go away from Him forever.

So, do you want to live this shallow life forever until, of course, you die? Are you willing to gamble that we are extinguished at death with no consequences to you for what you have done?