Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Psalm 32:11 - A Changed Heart

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones
And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.

David finishes his celebration of repentance with a call for all repentant sinners to take stock of what God has done for them. He highlights the new thinking under which they now operate. This new thinking can be seen in their perspectives on righteousness, their own hearts, and God.

Repentant sinners know a different kind of righteousness

David addresses this verse to "righteous ones." Of whom does he speak? Our cultural conceptions of righteousness present some peculiar distortions. In North America, it is commonly believed that a "righteous one" is a person who is generally virtuous, is active in church, does not sin in overt ways or follows a strict moral code (also, he is boring, uptight, angry and out of touch). Biblical repentance knocks the stuffing out of that view. A person who fits the cultural definition has no need of repentance, he is probably too "good" for it. But the outward goodness man can achieve is very different from the righteousness God requires. What is the Biblical concept?

The words, "upright in heart" offer a clue as to what David had in mind when he spoke of "righteous ones." There is an inner righteousness which consists in aligning one's heart to the perfect standard of righteousness: God. This righteousness starts with a confession of our sinfulness. Compared to God, each one of us is a wretched mess. Whether we have sinned in gross and overt ways is not the point. There is a vast ocean of moral perfection separating God and man. Some are swimming in the water, and some are contentedly relaxing on the beach. But ALL are on the wrong side of the ocean and NONE can swim across it. At the end of the day, we all need a shower, and God's perfection remains way beyond the farthest horizon we can see.

True righteousness moves from confession of sin to an acknowledgement of God's perfect goodness. In and of Himself, He is pure, He is holy, He is good, He is the measure of goodness and truth. To make the point very clear to us, God has revealed His transcendent perfection through creation. But He didn't stop there - He also sent us the living epitome of righteousness in human form through the incarnation of Christ.

True righteousness finds its culmination in sinners being justified by grace through faith. Righteousness is not something we achieve and offer to God. It's what He has achieved and now freely offers to us as a gift. This is the simple and wonderful message of the Gospel. Verse 11 is tied to verse 10, and we see that the inner RIGHTEOUSNESS of the heart comes from the MERCY which is given to those who TRUST God. David succinctly expresses the Gospel in these two verses, and Paul later expands the concepts found here into the first 5 chapters of the book of Romans. Paul calls it "The Righteousness of God," a righteousness that is MORE THAN just. It justifies sinners, in spite of their sinfulness (meaning they don't deserve it) and because of their sinfulness (meaning they can't do it for themselves, only He could do it).

For believers, the outward acts of righteousness which form a righteous character are built upon this inner righteousness. They are the fruit of the righteousness which comes to them as a gift from God. Any other kind of outward righteousness is false and useless, as every repentant sinner knows.

Repentant sinners see the significance of the heart

David recognizes that his sinful choices were the natural outflow of a depraved heart. He has learned something new about himself: he is sinful to the core. Now he is much more aware of the desires of his heart, much more grateful for any evidence of grace, and much more deliberate about rooting out evil thinking.

When we see our hearts as the idol factories that they are, we stop believing our own selfish thinking and no longer trust ourselves. Instead, we believe the testimony of the Word of God. We give serious consideration to the advice of others who see us more objectively than we see ourselves. We cry out to God for mercy every day - knowing many seeds of wickedness lie within us. More than that: we confess that we don't even realize the seeds of wickedness that lie dormant in our hearts.

We also realize that the transforming work of God happens in our hearts as He creates new desires within us. All our desire for good is evidence of His inner work of grace.

Consider the meaning of the Hebrew word for upright:

Upright = Heb YASHAR - straight, level, smooth, by impl. pleasing.

YASHAR can describe a road that is clear and unobstructed, hence smooth. In the context of this psalm, the connotation is that God is pleased when our hearts have a clear, unobstructed path to Him. In other words, we must reveal our hearts to Him, leaving nothing hidden or unconfessed. We must keep open communication with Him. We must bring down every high thing (such as our proud, defensive thinking), and raise up every low place (our hidden deeds). In this way we will maintain an intimate communion with the Father, which is an unfailing spring of delight.

Repentant sinners find overwhelming joy in God

All joy has a cause, and David calls us to rejoice for the very best reason: God Himself. Earlier in the psalm God was pressing a firm hand down on us, bringing us to a barren and desolate place of intense thirst. He seemed to be terrorizing our consciences, and we found no joy in Him. But now He becomes the ground of our gladness, the reason for our rejoicing, the basis of our blessedness.

Here are a few reasons why you will see repentant sinners rejoicing with unbridled enthusiasm:

~ God was patient and did not give us what we deserve. While we sinned, He granted time for repentance.
~ God completely and freely forgave us for all the ways we sinned in act, word and thought.
~ God covered our sinful nature by imputing Christ's righteousness to us.
~ God made atonement for our sin by offering a perfect sacrifice in our place.
~ God proved the sufficiency of the atonement by raising our perfect representative from the dead, thereby guaranteeing our forgiveness and acceptance before Him.
~ God granted us renewed fellowship with Himself.
~ God accepts us exactly as we are.
~ God loves us too much to leave us as we are. He promises to change us as we walk with Him.
~ God has promised to help us in our ongoing struggle against sin. He has given us a great High Priest Who offers continued forgiveness and help.
~ As we struggle with the ongoing destruction of a sinful world, the spiritual powers of evil that rule here, and the corruptions of our own hearts, God remains the stable and steadfast ground of our hope, a changeless fountain of grace, our wise Guide, our caring Shepherd, our loving Father and our faithful Friend.

David ends on this triumphant note of joy to remind us that repentance is all about restored fellowship with God. As John Piper's famous axiom reminds us: sin is what we do when we are not satisfied in God. All our righteousness and joy come from being filled with Him, satisfied in Him, alive through Him, grateful for Him, focused on Him, thoughtful of Him, inclined toward Him, dependent on Him.

Dear friend, rest your weary soul in His everlasting grace today.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

It's amazing! Jesus Christ, God the Son, became the God-Man, was born of Mary, and offered Himself as our substitute. He lived and died in our place, rose victorious, and reigns in heaven now.

We wonder at the way He crossed from eternity into time. We marvel at His humility. We tremble before His unveiled glory. And we thank Him for His loving self-sacrifice - from the hour He was born until He gave up His spirit on the cross.

What a unique and unusual occurrence, this incarnation of Christ.

May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ bless you this Christmas. May you know the joy of His presence in the coming new year. It may come to you in paradoxical ways: wrapped in sufferings, and challenges, and trials, and humbling experiences. But under all that wrapping is the glory, the life, the very power of God. There's no greater treasure.

Grace to you, friends!


We took my son for a visit with the doctor yesterday. My son still has a good size lump on his neck, which the doctor believes is a "branchial cleft cyst." We're going to schedule him for surgery to have it removed sometime in January. The link below gives details about the condition and pictures of the required surgical procedure. Don't look if you're squeamish.

The doctor assures us that this is a fairly standard procedure. However, he warned us that sometimes these cysts can reach deep into the neck and even affect the tonsils. The tonsils sometimes have to be removed along with the cyst. And of course he mentioned that several vital structures are in the neck area, which can present some complications.

Thanks everyone for your prayers. I'm definitely praying for the doctor's mind, heart, and hands - along with my son's neck.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Psalm 32:10 - The Joys of Repentance

Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
But he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him.

By the time one gets to the end of Psalm 32, repentance starts to look wonderful. And it is.

Here in verse 10, we find that godly sorrow helps us to avoid ultimate sorrow. We see that repentance brings joy, while the anguish of sin only multiplies through unbelief and continued rebellion. It is indeed a paradox that our real and lasting joy rises out of sorrow. Until we have experienced sorrow for sin, we cannot know the joy of the Lord. Repentance is the way to true happiness - the abiding, eternal happiness that comes from a life lived in God's presence. Paul touches on this in 2 Corinthians 7:9-10

I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.

For believers, sorrow is a step on the path toward the good things that are coming. But for the world, sorrow is just a bleak reflection of the bad things that have happened - and a reminder that more bad things are on the way.

Psalm 32:10 is a good example of the inherent beauty of Biblical poetry. The Hebrews, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, were deft and careful with their words. They often used parallel constructions and grammatical structures to pack amplified meaning into every phrase. In essence, the parts of a verse become a lens through which the other parts are magnified and clarified. Consider this brief color-coded analysis:

Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
But he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him.

"wicked" is put against "He who trusts in the LORD." These are contrasting phrases, showing us these things: at a root level, the only way to turn from wickedness is to trust in the LORD. Trustful dependence (a.k.a. "faith") characterizes those who repent, while wickedness characterizes those who do not trust God. Faith always treats sin with repentance, and repentance always defeats sin with faith. All sin reveals our lack of trust in God, and unbelief always leads toward sin. These are broad principles that give us direction when we are at our wits' end, struggling with the turmoil of life's challenges. These truths form the subject matter of our confession before God. "Lord, I lied because I do not trust You as I should. I should have spoken the truth as You command. Please forgive me, and help me to change."

"Sorrows" is put against "lovingkindness." Another set of telling contrasts. Here David uses the word HESED, the famous Hebrew term for mercy (it's discussed at length in the post on verse 6). The sorrow brought on by sin is a result of separation from God's mercy. Repentance and faith reconnect us with that mercy. Put another way, our relationship with God is governed by this principle: BY GRACE (or MERCY), THROUGH FAITH (or TRUST). The reformers cried out "Sola Gratia" (by grace alone) and "Sola Fide" (through faith alone), reflecting Paul's words in Ephesians 2:8-9. These principles pervade the whole of Scripture from beginning to end.

"Many" is placed parallel to "surround." Rather than a contrast, here we have mutually descriptive terms (i.e., the two words function as synonyms). From this we understand that the wicked are surrounded by many sorrows, and those who trust in the LORD receive many mercies - so many that they become surrounded by them.

Note the double-edged promise in this verse. For the unrepentant, many sorrows are forecast. But for those who repent, mercy is guaranteed. And it is not guaranteed on the ground of our good works, but on the ground of our faith.

All of this leads us back to the overall theme of Psalm 32: God's mercy is so great that we can trust Him with our worst sins. We can go to Him. We can confess. We can find His forgiveness. We can have restored fellowship with Him. We can be changed through repentance and faith. We can overcome sin. We can walk with God. All of these things we CAN do because of His unfailing mercy, which surrounds us and prevails over us like a flood.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Prisoners Find Hope in Christ

My Father-in-Law has spent most of the last 30 years in prison. He's a prison chaplain.

Now in his 70's and supposedly retired, he is unrelenting in his passion to reach out to what he calls "the Matthew 25 people."

Seven years ago, after many years of faithful service in upstate New York, he and his wife moved to a small town near Springfield, MO. In "retirement," his ongoing ministry is so impactful that a local news station recently did a story on him. You can watch the video here:

You may be startled when he says, "What they need first and foremost is a friend." Don't let it bother you. Bob is not a word-perfect theologian, and doesn't try to be one. He's a tried and tested servant of God who knows the real Friend prisoners need is Jesus Christ. God has given him a tremendous gift for reaching out to those who have been cast off by others. He shares God's kindness with them, and he shares the Gospel with them. For Bob Reed, this is the only way to be a friend.

Among his many contacts over the years, he became a confidant of the much-publicized former satanist, Sean Sellers, who was later executed for his crimes.

Bob and his wife Jeanetta are available for speaking engagements, missions conferences, short term overseas missions teams, concerts (Bob is a GREAT singer) and other events and outreaches. If you'd like to get in touch with the Reed's and learn more about their work, I can email their contact info to you.

I'm grateful to have the Reed's as my in-laws. They are an inspiration to me, and a godly example for my children.

Grace & peace,

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Psalm 32:9 - The Results of Repentance

Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding,
Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check,
Otherwise they will not come near to you.

In verse 8, God promises to personally teach and train the repentant sinner. Now He gives us the details of this training, and the intended results of repentance, including a contrasting example of what our training does NOT involve. This path leads us to a change which affects our entire person - mind, will, and affections.

Before we examine this, let's remind ourselves of one clear fact drawn from verses 1, 2, and 5: the person in this training program is already forgiven. He does not embark on this path to obtain clemency - he follows the divine teaching because he has already received mercy and now trusts his Teacher to steer him right. He is a HASID - a person whose identity is grounded in divine mercy.

Repentance brings a lasting change of mind with new thinking.

God's teaching moves us from folly to wisdom. The horse and mule have no wisdom or understanding. They act according to their nature and instincts, not a reasoned course of intelligent reflection. The animal's life is a continual quest for survival and is aimed at preserving independence. But Christ calls His followers to death and surrender.

Matthew 16:24-25 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."

Luke 14:33 "So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions."

For the Christian, life is paradoxically found only through dying with Christ, and freedom is attained only by surrendering to the sovereign God. And the only way to arrive at this enlightened view of things is by divinely imparted wisdom. Fallen human nature cannot comprehend the things of God, and will instead rise up in pride, independence, self-reliance and the perpetual pursuit of easy pleasure. Our sinful flesh despises the hard road of discipleship.

Animals can be tamed and domesticated so that they will outwardly conform to the demands of their masters, but they will never voluntarily surrender themselves. Amazing tricks can be achieved by channeling an animal's instincts, but this is not the result of any wisdom they have gained. It is nothing more than the same old animal thinking brought into a new set of circumstances which are carefully manipulated by the master. God's ways are higher than this. He does not "break" us like a horse is broken. He aims for inward transformation. He does not employ threat and manipulation to force us into behavioral change. Rather, He invests us with His Own Spirit and renews our minds through His Word to bring about an entirely new nature - one that loves Him and receives His teaching with delight.

Psalm 51:6 Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.

Psalm 51:12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.

God teaches our hearts so that we become willing to do His will.

Repentance brings us beyond mere external motivation through a transformed will.

There is hardly a more stubborn animal than a mule. These creatures are uncommonly recalcitrant. Yet with the use of a painful bit and bridle, even this beast will become obedient - at least on the outside. When repentance is external and fear-driven, our obedience is all on the surface. But when repentance reaches our hearts, we become obedient from within (Romans 6:17). Our will changes. The desire for sin decreases, the choice to sin becomes less appealing, and the love for sin gets broken. We grieve over our sin, not because it wreaks havoc on our happiness, but because it breaks God's heart. We cannot conceive of any happiness apart from Him. Sins like pride and envy become abhorrently abominable to us, even though they do not seem to affect our outward lives in dramatic ways. We plead with God to help us overcome these sins. We hate our sin because we look at the cross and see what it did to Jesus Christ. We loathe our sin because it works death in us, leaving us with a tormenting sense of separation from God. Only the Gospel can cure this.

At the same time, we begin to love God because we find Him to be pure and untainted and utterly innocent. We delight in His Word because it is completely holy. We are captivated by an incarnate Christ Who walked spotlessly through our fallen world. The temptations that have so easily capsized us didn't even draw his interest.

Has curiosity taken us into sin? He limited His knowledge and yet did not succumb to sin through curiosity. Has pleasure carried us to sinful excess? He experienced daily suffering and never turned to sinful pleasure for relief. Have bodily drives and hungers driven us into wickedness? He had all of them, too, yet He never made provision for the flesh. Have riches become a snare to us? He became entirely poor, and never once complained or worshipped the Mammon idol of money that makes the world "go 'round." Has loneliness opened a door for evil in our lives? After half a lifetime filled with rejection, the God-Man Jesus Christ hung on the cross by Himself and endured the ferocious and hellish alienation brought about through rejection by both God and man - without ever having a stray thought, word or deed. His is a perfect and intrinsic and inherent and irresistible holiness.

When we see the destructiveness of sin, and when we see the pure magnificence of Christ, our will changes. Not because we are threatened, but because we are captivated. We do not hate sin because it "hurts" us in this life (though it certainly does). We hate sin because sin is Christ's enemy, and we have become His friends. This changes our will, so that we are transformed from the inside out.

Repentance brings us near to God with new affections.

God points our attention to a specific characteristic of horses and mules: of their own accord, they will not come near you. A wild horse can only run wild. A wild mule will only resist. Fear drives these animals and causes them to keep their distance from us.

In the same way, all fallen human beings are averse to God. We naturally despise, hate and turn from Him. We naturally view ourselves as His mortal enemies. But for a repentant sinner there is one important difference: grace. By grace, we have the ability to draw near to God. By grace, the dividing wall of hostility is removed. By grace, He forgives us. By grace, He draws us. By grace, He accepts us. By grace, He makes us His own children. We are not His pets, or work animals, or slaves, or prisoners. We are beloved sons!

And when we realize just how loved and forgiven we are, we willingly submit to our Father and offer ourselves as His slaves. We WANT to be kept in the boundaries of His will. We LOVE to be His.

What sweet joys fill our hearts as we walk with Him. It is not under the restraints of bit and bridle that we walk, but in the light and easy yoke of Christ. In this yoke, He walks next to us all the way, lending the strength we lack and encouraging our weary hearts to keep on. There can be absolutely no freedom for man, except in being bound to Christ by the eternal bonds of love and mercy. In these blessed bonds, we are freed from the slavish drudgery of sin and secured forever by grace.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


My son was released from the hospital last night! The lump on his neck has considerably reduced in size. He is energetic and full of life.

When we got home, we sat down in front of the computer and looked at the analytics for THEOparadox, marvelling at how many people might have been praying. My son was amazed to see all the little dots on the map which likely represent caring people who were showing God's love to him during his time of need.

While we still do not know exactly why there is a lump in his neck, the doctors are hopeful that surgery - if needed - will be much easier with a smaller lump. The doctors would like to see him in about a week for another evaluation.

Throughout this time, we have seen God's hand at work. He has united our family in new ways, given us great favor with the doctors and hospital staff, and caused us to sense the peace of Christ reigning in the midst of our chaos. God worked through my son's Pediatrician to get us into the best children's hospital in North Florida. And he worked through many of you to show us His great kindness - thank you!

Grace & peace,

Sunday, December 07, 2008


So much for "normal" blogging . . .

We have spoken with our son's attending physician this afternoon, and it sounds like surgery is still a possibility for tomorrow . . . but nothing's definite at this point. The doctors are feeling a bit exasperated by the fact that they cannot make a firm diagnosis. They're trying to determine whether it is more risky to do surgery now or to wait. So, your continued prayers are appreciated. We especially need wisdom for whatever decisions we will have to make tomorrow.

The medical scenarios seem to change too easily, but we are resting in the firm hands of the living God.

Some may trust in horses, some in chariots, some in doctors and nurses . . . but we will trust in the NAME OF OUR GOD.

Perhaps this would be a good time to talk about the paradoxes of divine healing, of the excesses and imbalances and heresies in some modern theologies, of God's direct intervention in some cases, of His use of medicine and doctors, of His use and allowance of suffering in the lives of His chosen ones, in the lives of their children, in the life of His Own Dear Son, etc. But in the end, it would all come back to this: we pray, we trust God, and we hold fast to His sovereign grace. We thank Him for every day of life, and that even in our worst sickness - even in death - we never get what we deserve. We get GRACE! And our hearts are ultimately filled with joy no matter what happens. My son and I have been having some great discussions about the incarnation, Jesus' sufferings for us, and the triumph of resurrection. 4 year olds are so smart about these things - I'm learning a lot!

Interestingly enough, we read the account of Hezekiah's illness and recovery in our family devotions last week. That ancient Hebrew king set a great example for us.


The doctors have asked to keep my son under observation and IV antibiotics for one more day, and plan to send him home tomorrow. His swelling is markedly decreased. The doctors would like to see him back in about one week for a surgery consultation.

As for a diagnosis, the most likely culprit is a cyst that may have been present at birth and has now become infected. The doctor would like to surgically remove the cyst in the near future, after the swelling has gone down. Please pray that God will give us and the doctors wisdom in how to proceed. We are praying for divine healing in the meantime.

My wife and I thank you for your prayers. The situation could have been much worse, but all seems to be progressing at a stable course for now. We still don't have a "for sure" diagnosis (is such a thing possible?), but at least the condition is at a manageable level. I'll resume "normal" blogging now, and post updates on my son if there are any significant developments.


Saturday, December 06, 2008


My son has been under observation and receiving various diagnostics as the doctors try to discover the exact nature of his condition. He's been quite a little trooper and not even afraid of the needles. I am sure he will be quite a man someday! And, prayerfully, a fearless man of GOD.

For today at least, the doctors have chosen not to do surgery. The lump on his neck is getting slightly smaller, so there is evidence of prayer and antibiotics and rest doing their work. I've now been at the hospital for 22 hours. I'll stay here with him again tonight while his sister and my lovely wife rest up at home. We all have to be ready for a possible surgical option tomorrow.

In the morning, the doctors will re-evaluate him for surgery. We hope it's not needed, as it would involve cutting into his neck. I'll give another update tomorrow if I can. Since I may have a bit of time on my hands, I might even be able to put up a new Psalm 32 post while I'm here.

Thanks so much for your prayers. I have been encouraging my son with the fact that people from all over the world whom he has never met have been praying for him - simply because they love Jesus like Mommy and Daddy do.

In this photo, you can see the huge wrapping they are using to hold the IV attachment in place. Poor little guy misses his right hand quite a bit.

The doctors have drawn a line around the swollen area. It's gradually getting smaller, all glory to God.

Friday, December 05, 2008


My 4 year old son, who is featured in one of the videos in the sidebar, needs your prayers. He had what appeared to be a swollen gland on his neck about two weeks ago. The doctor said it was not serious and he did not need any treatment. A few days later it swelled up like a balloon, and when he developed a 104 degree fever we took him to the Emergency Room. That was Thanksgiving Day.

Now my son has been on strong antibiotics for a week, but his swelling is still very high. Today he saw the doctor and they are recommending immediate consultation for surgery. We will be taking him in to the hospital today, and they will be doing some tests and possibly operating today or tomorrow. We are somewhat in the dark as to the nature of his condition, so it's a bit scary. Please, friends, pray for my son if you are able.

I Sam. 2:2, 4-8 "There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, nor is there any rock like our God. . . . The bows of the mighty are shattered, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry cease to hunger. Even the barren gives birth to seven, but she who has many children languishes. The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts. He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of honor; for the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and He set the world on them."

We are trusting in the Name of the One true sovereign and loving God, through His blessed Son and in the strength of His Spirit.

Thank you for your prayers,

The Wittenburg Church Door

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is only a tongue-in-cheek bit of fun, based on my experiences and observations of theological trends. If you're offended by this, please try to lighten up. If you've abandoned sound doctrine in favor of modern trends and worldly fads, repent.
The year is 1517. In a historic act of Biblical courage, Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses to the Wittenburg Church Door . . .
Terrified peasants rejoice at the good news and run into the safety of the cathedral.
An angry Roman Catholic theologian rips down the 95 Theses and uses them to make a paper hat. He puts the hat on his head and stands outside the cathedral windows looking in. Later, Luther's friends put the 95 Theses back on the door.
A Calvinist goes through the door and tells everyone inside, "God sovereignly planned long ago for you to be here. You are here by His pleasure and will."
An Amyrauldian Calvinist stands up and says God made it possible for everyone outside to come in also.
A Hyper Calvinist opens the door and walks through it. He leaves the door open, waiting for God to close it for him. He turns around and tells the crowd outside they are probably not invited to come in.
A second Hyper Calvinist who is standing outside slams the door shut and boards up the church entrance.
An early Arminian takes the boards off the door and then cuts the door in half, beckoning everyone to enter. He takes the other half of the door to the local morgue and encourages the dead people to get into the church at any cost.
Later, a militant Arminian breaks the door down and stands on it, declaring that he is free to enter or leave the cathedral at will and no one can stop him. He then clarifies his meaning by saying this happens "by grace alone." He goes to the morgue to see if some of the dead people are just sleeping.

An Open Theist says God did not know about the cathedral or the door until they happened, but now He is glad they are there. He builds a robot and programs it to respond to every person's movements. He calls the robot "G.O.D."
A Universalist stands outside and tells bystanders that the Wittenburg Church door is no different from any other door in the world, but the important thing is to choose a door and go through it. He also assures those who want no door at all that this is a perfectly good option.
A "Free Grace" Antinomian stands on the church steps and tells everyone that they need only believe they are inside the cathedral, and they are. Anyone who says they have to actually enter the cathedral is a deceiving, graceless legalist.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer hits the "Free Grace" Antinomian over the head with a hardcover copy of his book, "The Cost of Discipleship." After that, Bonhoeffer disappears and everyone wonders where he went.
A Calvinistic Antinomian decides to go up the cathedral steps with a fire hose. He tells everyone inside to pretend they're in an amusement park. He then turns on the water and blasts every sacred thing in sight until it is completely waterlogged. He believes his insurance company will pay for the damages.
A Charismatic reads the first thesis and gets so excited he bursts through the door and dances around the cathedral shouting at the top of his lungs. He knocks over several candlesticks in the process. When someone tries to draw his attention to the other 94 theses, he declares they are unimportant and starts dancing again with his eyes closed.
A Reformed Charismatic walks to the microphone with the 95 Theses in hand. He shares a dream he had about the third thesis, and all of his friends start hopping and singing for sheer joy (with their eyes wide open).
A Pentecostal jumps over three pews and starts swinging from a gold chandelier. He appears to be completely unharmed when the chandelier falls to the ground and crushes him.
A Oneness Pentecostal notes that there are not three doors, but one. He ignores the three windows above the door.
An Independent Fundamentalist preacher stands up and delivers a fiery sermon about the fact that the door is wooden and rigid. Two of the three points in his sermon are about the splinters one might expect to get from handling such a door. In conclusion, he burns some "false doors" on the church steps.
A KJV-only preacher stands at the door demanding that everyone who tries to enter must use a secret password. The password is "Thou."
A Fundamental Baptist preacher tells everyone they must take a bath and wear nice clothes if they want to come inside the cathedral. He also convinces several bystanders to place one foot inside the door and assures them that they are now "eternally secure" inside the cathedral no matter what they do.
A Neo-orthodox theologian stands in the doorway with one foot on each side of the threshold. He declares that he is both "within" and "without" the cathedral at the same time.
Two Southern Baptists get into a shoving match with the Neo-orthodox theologian. One is trying to push him out of the cathedral, while the other is trying to push him in.
A Liberal Theologian sits on the church steps and writes a long article about the many possible interpretations of the word "door" as it is used in Scripture and church history. None of these interpretations has any resemblance to the actual Wittenburg church door, but they do sound quite scholarly and lead many intelligent people away from the door.
A Neo-evangelical pastor passes a survey around to everyone standing outside the church. He then places silver wallpaper over the door, sets a welcome mat in front of it and launches a full scale remodeling project using the survey as a blueprint. The sign over the church door now reads "Wittenburg Creek Community Church - home of the High-Bells."

A Postmodernist rips the door off its hinges and burns it in the town square. Later, the pastor of a prominent Emergent Church scoops up the ashes and forms them into a statue resembling Gumby. Several thousand seekers come to his "campus" each weekend to enjoy the image he has made. The pastor calls this "reinventing" the Wittenburg door and insists that this is what God had in mind all along. He goes to Starbucks and starts a long, confusing conversation with his friends in which they "imagine" a Wittenburg Church door that is covered with pink velvet and has a "doggy door." Afterward, they visit their favorite tattoo parlor to get the word "relevant" inked permanently onto their foreheads.

Meanwhile, a few bedraggled peasants, bearing old rugged crosses on a narrow road, flee into the church to find refuge in the living and true, eternal, gracious, sovereign God.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Repentance, Substitution and Replacement

Here are a few thoughts to add to yesterday's post on Psalm 32:8 . . .

Repentance is turning, not just FROM SIN, but also TO CHRIST. In repentance, we turn from "irresistible" sin to an irresistible Savior. We draw back from the fleeting pleasures of sin and run headlong into the eternal joys of Christ. He becomes the object of our pursuit, the Friend from Whom we cannot bear to be distant, the delight and satisfaction of our souls. As we were smitten with sin, and willing to give all for it, we are now smitten with HIM and willing to give all for this Wonderful One. He amazes us! Repentance leads us to Christ, not merely as the Substitute Who was punished in our place, but as the replacement for the sin that we formerly cherished. Every desire we have had for sin should rightly have been directed toward Him. Every enjoyment of earthly pleasure should have been an enjoyment of Him. All the love we have had for worldly things should have been love for Him. The self-importance with which we puffed ourselves up should have been ascribed to Him as glory and honor and worship. The proud confidence we have wasted on ourselves should have been dependence on His grace and faith in His goodness. All the service and submission we have given to sin should have been His. Rather than slavishly laboring for sin, we should have surrendered to His sovereign lordship. Repentance says these things.

By our sin, we have expressed a low view of Christ. Now, in repentance, we again see Him enthroned, glorious, exalted, worthy, attractive, beautiful, capable, wise, desirable and perfect. He is the SUBSTITUTE for the sinner and the REPLACEMENT for the sin. He captivates us!

We are not to begin repentance by replacing sin with good works. We are to begin by replacing our love for sin with love for Christ, and we are to replace our acts of sin with acts of devotion to Him. As you read these words, do you see in yourself a lack of zeal and devotion for Jesus Himself? Do you seem to fall short of this high view of Him? Dear friend, do not despair - simply fall before Him and tell Him what you lack. Tell Him you don't even know what you lack. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Him, and He will give you whatever you need. He will BE whatever you need!

As we come to Christ in this way, new desires are born in us. We begin to taste the goodness of God and sin becomes less appetizing (and eventually downright disgusting). As I Corinthians 1:30 declares, Christ "has become for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption . . ." and whatever else we may need. It is all in Him. Until this truth becomes real to us, our repentance remains incomplete. But once it is embraced, the embrace is forever! You'll find it in the arms of Jesus, as He becomes more to you than He ever was before.