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!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ambrose on Revelation and Mystery

From Augustine's mentor, Ambrose of Milan:

“The things which God wishes to be hidden are not to be examined; and the things which He has made manifest are not to be rejected, lest we as ingrates be improperly curious toward the former and damnably ungrateful for the latter.” 
De Vocatione Gentium, Bk. 17 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

PARADOX FILES, Vol. 16 - Augustine of Hippo

Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) is held in high regard as one of the most profound and influential thinkers in the history of the Church. In 421 AD,  he wrote a short handbook on the Christian faith called Enchiridion of Faith, Hope, and Love. The book is a commentary on the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer, and contains some of Augustine's most foundational theological convictions in concentrated and abbreviated form. The excerpt below shows Augustine's incipient Calvinism and paradoxical compatibilism, as expressed in Chapter IX of the Enchiridion. In the midst of these thoughts, as he wrestles with the twin realities of God's sovereign mercy and man's responsibility to believe, we find Augustine almost unable to say anything beyond the words of Scripture themselves. He repeats the same Scripture verse 6 times in an attempt to explain the inexplicable! This cautious, God-honoring Biblicism is commendable, and it deserves a t-shirt.
But now, can that part of the human race to whom God hath promised deliverance and a place in the eternal kingdom be restored through the merits of their own works? Of course not! For what good works could a lost soul do except as he had been rescued from his lostness? Could he do this by the determination of his free will? Of course not! For it was in the evil use of his free will that man destroyed himself and his will at the same time. For as a man who kills himself is still alive when he kills himself, but having killed himself is then no longer alive and cannot resuscitate himself after he has destroyed his own life - so also sin which arises from the action of the free will turns out to be victor over the will and the free will is destroyed. "By whom a man is overcome, to this one he then is bound as slave." This is clearly the judgment of the apostle Peter. And since it is true, I ask you what kind of liberty can one have who is bound as a slave except the liberty that loves to sin?

He serves freely who freely does the will of his master. Accordingly he who is slave to sin is free to sin. But thereafter he will not be free to do right unless he is delivered from the bondage of sin and begins to be the servant of righteousness. This, then is true liberty: the joy that comes in doing what is right. At the same time, it is also devoted service in obedience to righteous precept.

But how would a man, bound and sold, get back his liberty to do good, unless he could regain it from Him whose voice saith, "If the Son shall make you free, then you will be free indeed"? But before this process begins in man, could anyone glory in the good works as if they were acts of his free will, when he is not yet free to act rightly? He could do this only if, puffed up in proud vanity, he were merely boasting. This attitude is what the apostle was reproving when he said, "by grace you have been saved by faith."

And lest men should arrogate to themselves saving faith as their own work and not understand it as a divine gift, the same apostle who says somewhere else that he had "obtained mercy of the Lord to be trustworthy" makes here an additional comment: "And this is not of yourselves, rather it is a gift of God - not because of works either, lest any man should boast." But then, lest it be supposed that the faithful are lacking in good works, he added further, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God hath prepared beforehand for us to walk in them."

We are then truly free when God ordereth our lives, that is, formeth and createth us not as men - this he hath already done - but also as good men, which he is now doing by His grace, that we may indeed be new creatures in Christ Jesus. Accordingly, the prayer: "Create in me a clean heart, O God." This does not mean, as far as the natural human heart is concerned, that God hath not already created this.

Once again, lest anyone glory, if not in his own works, at least in the determination of his free will, as if some merit had originated from him and as if the freedom to do good works had been bestowed on him as a kind of reward, let him hear the same herald of grace, announcing: "For it is God who is at work in you both to will and to do according to his good will." And, in another place: "It is not therefore a matter of man's willing, or of his running, but of God's showing mercy." Still, it is obvious that a man who is old enough to exercise his reason cannot believe, hope, or love unless he wills it, nor could he run for the prize of his high calling in God without a decision of his will. In what sense, therefore is it "not a matter of human willing or running but of God's showing mercy," unless it be that "the will itself is prepared by the Lord," even as it is written? This saying, therefore, that "it is not a matter of human willing or running but of God's showing mercy," means that the action is from both, that is to say, from the will of man and from the mercy of God. Thus we accept the dictum, "It is not a matter of human willing or running but of God's showing mercy," as if it meant, "The will of man is not sufficient by itself unless there is also the mercy of God." By the same token, the mercy of God is not sufficient by itself unless there is also the will of man. But if we say rightly that "it is not a matter of human willing or running but of God's showing mercy," because the will of man alone is not enough, why, then, is not the contrary rightly said, "It is not a matter of God's showing mercy but of a man's willing," since the mercy of God by itself alone is not enough? Now, actually, no Christian would dare to say, "It is not a matter of God's showing mercy but of man's willing," lest he explicitly contradict the apostle. The conclusion remains, therefore, that this saying, "Not man's willing or running but God's showing mercy," is to be understood to mean that the whole process is credited to God, who both prepareth the will to receive divine aid and aideth the will which has been thus prepared.

For man's good will comes before many other gifts from God, but not all of them. One of the gifts it does not antedate is - just itself! Thus in the Sacred Eloquence we read both, "His mercy goes before me," and also, "His mercy shall follow me." It predisposes a man before he wills, to prompt his willing.
(Augustine, Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love, translated by Albert C. Outler, c. 2006 Relevant Media Group, pp. 38-42)

As I was beginning to set down a few comments on this ancient affirmation of theological paradox, I turned to the end notes and found this astute analysis from the translator, which says it better than I could:
From the days at Cassiciacum till the very end, Augustine toiled with the mystery of the primacy of God's grace and the reality of human freedom. Of two things he was unwaveringly sure, even though they involved him in a paradox and the appearance of confusion. The first is that God's grace is not only primary but also sufficient as the ground and source of human willing. And against the Pelagians and other detractors from grace, he did not hesitate to insist that grace is irresistible and inviolable. . . . But he never drew from this deterministic emphasis the conclusion that man is unfree and everywhere roundly rejects the not illogical corollary of his theonomism, that man's will counts for little or nothing except as passive agent of God's will. He insists on responsibility on man's part in responding to the initiatives of grace
(ibid. 74-75)
There you have it - an undeniably compatibilistic Augustine. Share this with your Arminian  and hyper-Calvinist friends, and invite them to embrace the beautiful balance which fully recognizes divine sovereignty and human responsibility with a modest, Biblical sensibility that acknowledges every good gift - including the gift of faith - as originating in God alone.

And, if you are a believer, thank God for giving you this good gift in Christ.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thank You for the Bitter Trials, They Work for My Good

Hezekiah's prayer after his recovery from imminent death is worth reflecting upon this Thanksgiving. Hezekiah thanked God for the bitter trial he suffered, and recognized that God had used it for his good. Sometimes we have plenty of prosperity and enjoyment to thank God for. At other times it seems we have only trouble, sorrow, and affliction. But we can thank God for these, as well, for they are His tools to make us in the image of His dear Son. The Son who suffered with us, and for us. 

I'll never forget the moment I recognized that my most bitter and vexing affliction - one which I had endured for several years in brokenhearted agony - was from God, for my good, and I thanked Him for it from my heart for the very first time. That day I thought the tears would never stop, but they were tears of inexplicable JOY! And I rested, finally, in His grace and sovereignty. At last, some words from Elisabeth Elliot that had previously lodged themselves in my heart became reality, something about acceptance being the way to peace. And I think Hezekiah would know very well what is meant by that.

Here is a portion of Hezekiah's grateful prayer . . .

Hezekiah's Prayer
Isaiah 38:15-20

What shall I say? For he has spoken to me,
and he himself has done it.
I walk slowly all my years
because of the bitterness of my soul.

[affliction comes from God, leading us to hear His voice, pause, and consider]

O Lord, by these things men live,
and in all these is the life of my spirit.
Oh restore me to health and make me live!

[affliction can be life-giving, and God restores His beloved]

Behold, it was for my welfare
that I had great bitterness;
but in love you have delivered my life
from the pit of destruction,
for you have cast all my sins
behind your back.

[affliction works for our good, and God lovingly saves us from destruction and sin]

For Sheol does not thank you;
death does not praise you;
those who go down to the pit do not hope
for your faithfulness.

[gratitude, praise and hope are the good results of persevering under affliction]

The living, the living, he thanks you,
as I do this day;
the father makes known to the children
your faithfulness.

[giving thanks is a sign of life and a cross-generational language of faith]

The LORD will save me,
and we will play my music on stringed instruments
all the days of our lives,
at the house of the LORD.

[thanksgiving unites all gathered believers]

To augment this meditation, here is a great song of praise from Canadian singer/songwriter Steve Bell - stringed instruments and all. Have a wonderful, blessed, and peaceful Thanksgiving holiday!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tell People Jesus Loves Them

Below is my response to a recent post at the Defending and Contending blog. The author admonishes us not to tell people Jesus loves them. Yes, you read that correctly. It's Calvinism gone bad, with a TULIP that is unfortunately planted in the shallow sand of human logic, arguing backwards from assumptions concerning the mystery of divine election and God's disposition toward the non-elect. (NOTE: upon further reflection, I think the sentiments may have been born more from a distaste for shallow, Gospel-deficient evangelism than an excessive dependence on human logic or a harsh brand of Calvinism. And I share the distaste.) The TULIP grows and shows its vibrant color best when it is cultivated in the life-giving ground of Revelation and Grace. God's disposition toward the reprobate is a topic that needs to be handled with special prudence and care (can you guess which Reformed theologian I am paraphrasing?). The thoughts below are not comprehensive, but they are an attempt to present the other side of the Biblical teaching that is sometimes ignored and must be brought back into the equation if we are to be Scripturally balanced.
Just a few things to consider here. I think we might be in danger of throwing the baby out with the proverbial bath water . . . (and I apologize in advance for this long comment – thanks for your patience).
First, it is true that glibly telling people Jesus loves them is not the same as preaching the Gospel. It is also true that the Law can be a great tool to lead people to Christ. And it is true that God does not love every person in a way that ultimately ends in his or her salvation. But the love of God for all of His creatures is evident in the fact that he bears patiently with the reprobate while meeting their needs Providentially, and in some sense desires their repentance. He certainly commands it (Acts 17:30) – even if He does not effect it.
Is it possible that there is a logical fallacy behind the conclusion that Jesus does not love all people? Why can’t there be a sense in which God loves and hates all sinners? Do we have to make the categories mutually exclusive? Can’t there be a sense in which God loves all people as His creatures, and another sense in which He hates all sinners as rebels against Him and destroyers of His work? I find this is the only way to reconcile all of the Biblical statements about God’s disposition toward sinners.
If God had only hatred for the reprobate, and no real love for them at all, would he not have great pleasure in their destruction? Yet He says He has NO PLEASURE in it, but rather would have pleasure in their repentance.
Ezekiel 18:23 “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”
Ezekiel 33:11 “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?”
This expression of hypothetical pleasure on the part of God surely indicates love for those He calls “wicked.” Unmingled hatred would never invite an enemy to repentance and reconciliation. But God loves His enemies, and even blesses them (Mt. 5:44-45).
Consider this: we do not know whether Adam and Eve were ultimately saved. But God certainly loved them by pursuing them, calling to them, clothing them, giving them instructions and promises, granting them children, etc. They may both have been reprobate in the end (we don’t know), but that does not mean God couldn’t rightly claim to have loved them. Do we assume that because God showed love to them they must have been saved?
If God says He “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” we ought to have no qualms about telling the entire world (all the progeny of Adam and Eve) that God loves them. And to be accurate we must not forget to mention the thrust of the rest of the chapter: the fact that God’s love will not prevent Him from finally condemning all those who do not respond to His love with repentance and trust in Christ. But by all means teach children to sing, “Jesus loves the little children.” Let us not fall into the same trap the disciples did, when they tried to push the children away from the Lord. Jesus didn’t say, “Let the elect children come.” He simply said, “Let the children come to Me.”
Sharing God’s love can be an important part of evangelism, as Paul noted it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. (Romans 2:4)
Reformed theologians have historically maintained a distinction between the general love of God and His effectual working of salvation in an individual’s life. God loves all sinners; He loves and justly judges some, while He loves and graciously saves others. But all of them have been sustained and blessed by Him all along the way. He takes pleasure in their repentance. He doesn’t delight in their destruction, though He delights in His justice when they do not repent.
So, I say we should tell the whole world about the love and judgment of God, and especially about the way both were demonstrated in the cross of Christ, to the glory of our great God and Savior. The Gospel isn’t “For God hated most of the people in the world . . .”
I agree that the angle of God opposing the proud is of great use in evangelism. This is a useful observation. But even here we must be careful, for what does His opposition say? It says, “Repent, or perish. Humble yourself, and receive grace!” If there was no love, there would be no such warning. If there was no love, there would be no confrontation. If there was no love at all, there would be no breath, no heartbeat, no patience, no warning, no command to repent, no Providential care.
Why do we share the Gospel in the first place? Because we love others, in obedience to God’s command. Is this love from ourselves only? That can hardly be. It is an expression of His love, even for those who turn away and go on hating Him.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Jim Elliot on the Sinner-Saint Paradox

Here is an interesting quote from one of Jim Elliot's sermons. The sermon is about the life of Peter, based on I Peter 1:3.
There is mercy for you in that God is picking you out to do a job you never could do before. Great mercy, Peter. But, "I am a sinful man. Oh Lord." "Fear not." Interesting words from the lips of Jesus Christ, for that person who confesses that he's a sinful man is the first man to receive great mercies. Such a person who owns up to his waywardness and his unbelief, who is impetuous enough to confess his own feeling and his own conscience and say, "I am a sinful man," that individual will always hear the words of Jesus the Christ saying, "Fear not. Fear not. Peace." Because God is at peace with those men who will confess themselves to be sinners.
Interesting paradox. A man who has made God his enemy, that man has a chance with God. A man who admits that he has offended God and has terribly outraged His law, that man has an opportunity to lay hold of the compassion in the Godhead. But conversely the man who refuses to admit his sin, the man who says everything is all right between him and God, the man who recognizes no breach of fellowship between his Creator and himself, that man never hears the word of Christ, "Fear not."
But let a man once confess that he is a sinner, that he is disobedient, that he is an unbeliever, and that man hears from Christ the word as Peter heard in great mercy, "Fear not." 
(Jim Elliot: A Christian Martyr Speaks to You, Edited by Robert Lloyd Russell, Xulon Press, 2010, pp. 55-56)
Special thanks to Robert Lloyd Russell, who was kind enough to let me know about the recently published collection of Jim Elliot's sermons, and granted permission for this quotation.

You can buy the book direct from the publisher here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The First and Last Entries

Below is an excerpt from the first entry in Jim Elliot's Journal, followed by the final entry, which was written about one week before his martyrdom by the Auca Indians in South America:
January 17, 1948
What is written in these pages I suppose will someday be read by others than myself. For this reason I cannot hope to be absolutely honest in what is herein recorded, for the hypocrisy of this shamming heart will ever be putting on a front and dares not to have written what is actually found in its abysmal depths. Yet, I pray, Lord, that You will make these notations to be as nearly true to fact as is possible so that I may know my own heart and be able to definitely pray regarding my gross, though often unviewed, inconsistencies. . . .

Help me, Lord, not to "mourn and weep" only for those things, once precious, which You teach me are but dead (whether desires, pleasures, or whatever may be precious to my soul now), but give me a willingness to put them away out of my sight (Gen. 23:4). Burying places are costly, but I would own a Machpelah where corpses (dead things in my life) can be put away.

December 31, 1955
A month of temptation. Satan and the flesh have been on me hard. How God holds my soul in His life and permits one with such wretchedness to continue in His service I cannot tell. Oh, it has been hard . . . I have been very low inside me struggling and casting myself hourly on Christ for help. Marriage is divorce from the privacy a man loves, but there is some privacy nothing can share. It is the knowledge of a sinful heart.
These are the days of the New Year's Believers' conference on the Sermon on the Mount. Yesterday I preached and was helped on "whoever looks upon a woman . . ."!
"Let spirit conquer though flesh conspire."
Out of such humility came fierce preaching and a willingness to die for the cause of Christ.

Below are the three parts of a sermon preached by Elliot in 1951.

The Resurrection - Jim Elliot (Part 1)

The Resurrection - Jim Elliot (Part 2)

The Resurrection - Jim Elliot (Part 3)

Certainly a passionate, Scripture-saturated preacher! Some thought-provoking things here. And some real challenges, too.

Friday, November 19, 2010

In the Mail

Mostly bills and assorted junk mail. But since so many bloggers are in the habit of posting useless lists of books they have on order, I thought I would join the bandwagon with my own "In the Mail" post. I already have about 16 Bibles and more devotionals, commentaries, textbooks, theological treatises, and other assorted works than I will ever read in a lifetime. This doesn't stop me from looking for more of these treasures, mostly at garage sales and used book venues, and occasionally at the discount Christian bookstore (where I have to sift through stacks of "pop" Christianity books to find anything of substance). So the only things I have "in the mail" these days are not worth talking about. You needn't worry that this kind of thing will become a habit around here. This will be my first and last "In the Mail" post. Because nobody cares what anybody else has in the mail.

The Christian's Obedience, Faith, and Glory are From God

Here's something I copied from one of Tony Hayling's articles awhile back:

"The mature Christian sees even his obedience as coming from God Himself. It is the obedience of Christ wrought in the heart of the believer by God through the faith He has given. Does the believer exercise his faith? Yes. Is he responsible to God for his obedience and disobedience? Yes. Is God alone due the glory for all of it? Yes. It is because this defies all we have learned from childhood about our own ability to effect results that even professing Christians have such difficulty with this principle. Men want it to be one way or the other and God says it is both ways. Men want to be able to get credit for their obedience and God says Christ gets the credit for everything - even though men must obey. It is unfathomable, but also liberating. And it is settled."

This is a balanced, Biblical view of the believer's sanctification, recognizing God Himself as the sole source of all good. Believers are the recipients of and the participants in the good supplied by God - but we are never the origin of it, and never the sustainer. The glory belongs to God alone.

In one sense, God will never share His glory, for it is His only. It would be detrimental to us as creatures to bear the heavy weight of responsibility entailed with being glorious. But in another sense, God is ever sharing His glory, always bringing us into it, continually blessing us by it, in it, and through it. Though we are not glorious, we are being glorified.

We relate to God's glory much as we relate to water. We can swim in it, drink it in, wash in it, and enjoy the refreshment of it. But if we look to ourselves as the source of it, we find only a degraded version that is tainted by our own pollution and contamination. We would not swim in urine, drink sweat, or wash with spit and mucous! We must always be hydrated, and always full of water, but we are not a reliable source of hydration. As we cannot create water, and only benefit from it when it is pure, so God's glory only helps us when we apprehend it purely, as His alone, and enjoy it as His gracious gift.

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Does God have Passions?

Please share your thoughts and insights on this . . .

I've recently read through (and thoroughly enjoyed) the Heidelberg Catechism, and have now started on the Westminster Confession of Faith. In chapter two of the WCF, it states that God is "without body, parts, or passions." I agree with the first two, but I'm not sure what is meant by "passions." Certainly our God has no sinful passions, but doesn't the very idea of His jealousy, anger, wrath, etc. imply a kind of divine passion for good? My understanding of the Hebrew term CHESED (mercy) is that it derives from a word meaning "to have an ardent desire," indicating that God's passion is to do mercy. The sum of John Piper's work would seem to point toward the idea that God has a passion to make His glory known.

So, am I misunderstanding the WCF? Am I interpreting "passions" wrongly? What does it mean to affirm that God is without passions, and why is it important? Do you believe God has holy passions? What were the Westminster divines getting at?

UPDATE: Tony Hayling sent a link to this article, which explains the probable meaning of the terminology used by the authors of the Westminster Confession. The article is very short, but quite good.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Isaiah 53:3 - The Discounted Savior

Editor's Note: For awhile now, I've been far too busy arguing (here and on other blogs) for inerrancy, six day creation, divine sovereignty, complementarian gender roles, and other Biblical doctrines that I consider basic and obvious. Meanwhile, the series on Isaiah 53 has been idle for too long. Where does the time go? I have learned at least three things through all of the debating and discussing. First, the deception and theological confusion in mainstream American Evangelical Christianity is so widespread that unbelief has become an accepted, unrestrained epidemic. It is the norm. Bible believers are pejoratively labeled "fundamentalists" and systematically marginalized in some circles. Second, it is God alone who can change the mind and heart of a person bent on disbelieving Scripture (myself included). Third, the Word of God itself holds the greatest potential to benefit sinners (myself included), in whatever state of belief or unbelief they find themselves. With that, I repentantly and deliberately move away from debating with other Christians, and take up the plain study of God's Word once again. I stand by my convictions as articulated, and I won't hesitate to proclaim the truth (and I may continue to selectively engage in some doctrinal discussions), but it's time for a change of focus. I pray that you, dear reader, will be blessed and encouraged by what is written here, and not turned aside to the quagmire of religious controversy that is perpetually fueled by doubt.

He was despised and forsaken of men,

A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; 
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised,
And we did not esteem Him.
Humanity's rejection of Christ is on full display here. The Jewish leaders in Jesus' day did not accept Him. The Roman authorities passed a death sentence against Him. The people did not rise up to defend Him, but instead shouted, "Crucify!" Even the more stalwart disciples ran away and hid themselves. A tiny group of women, a condemned criminal and a surprised centurion were His sole supporters during His suffering on the cross (perhaps even they hid their faces in horror at the sight of His torment). He died alone, and He entered the grave without any companions.
Isaiah's words also remind us of His rejection in our day, by unbelievers and by professed believers who are not really believers. By brazen hypocrites who use Christian religion as a means of personal gain. And by sincere and growing Christians who fail to honor Him in many ways as we battle with idols of the heart, pride, selfishness and misdirected worship. We, too, are rejectors of Christ in some measure, and we need the continuous cleansing of the Gospel.
In these words His humanity is emphasized. He is distinctively a man of sorrows. In the incarnation, God presented Himself not as infinite God, but as finite man. His true deity was hidden behind, under, and within His real humanity. In Christ's ministry we see a compassionate gentleness that didn't blast sinful humanity with a divine "shock and awe," and presented truth with the padding of parables. The raw power of His Deity was presented selectively and with great purpose, and primarily to those who believed. Revelation dropped as gentle rain upon the weary, and only rarely did it thunder down over the heads of the stubborn. Jesus had not come to deal out wrath, but to absorb it.
His humility is presented. He is a man of SORROWS, SICKNESS, SADNESS, SOLITUDE, and SCORN.
He was despised, and counted as worthless. It is stated twice in this one verse. Perhaps it is repeated so we can first see the whole world's rejection of Him, and not fail to recognize our own personal rejection of Him as well. The subject of the verse moves from "men" in general to "we" in particular.
He was diseased. He Carried our spiritual sickness in His own body. He felt the weakness of our humanity.
He was depressed. The sad realities of our sin affected Him deeply and personally. Though He had joy in the Father's continuous embrace, He simultaneously apprehended the severity of the Father's displeasure against the sin He would bear in our behalf. The eternal embrace would be temporarily broken at the cross, where fierce wrath fell over Him. Not only men, but God also hid His face.
He was deserted. He was alone in His redeeming work. The Only Man, the One Mediator, the Sole Savior, our Great High Priest who went by Himself into the Tabernacle to make atonement for our sins.
He was disposable. He was considered by most to be little more than an interesting public figure, one of many who would come and go. Like all other men, He would die.
Think of the accusations made against Him by the religious elite, the spiritual leaders and the respected intellectuals of the day. They said He was demon possessed, insane, an alcoholic, not a true Jew, a law-breaker, a troublemaker, and a liar. He was despised.
He felt the pain of the sick, the disenfranchisement of the marginalized, the uncertainty of the poor, and the shame of the outcasts. He grieved over the dullness and doubting of the disciples. He agonized over the world's unbelief. He was crushed by the destructiveness of human sin. He was shattered by the Father's condemnation. Devastated by divine decree, and hated by humanity.
We are among the condemners. We have stood in the crowd shouting "Crucify!" We have not esteemed Him. We have worshiped Him falsely. All of our remaining sin is a result of not sufficiently valuing Him. All of our hypocrisy is a result of rejecting Him in some compartment of our lives. All of our sanctification struggles boil down to a view of Christ that is too low. We simply don't trust Him enough, don't love Him enough, and don't think highly enough of Him. He, for His part, still calls out, "Father, forgive them." He always makes intercession. He invites us to swim out to Him, through the sea of our failures, beyond the foaming waves of doubt, and draws us with the undertow of grace. Our hearts can be purified and are being purified.
We must renew our affection for Christ, revive our trust in Him, repent and return to our First Love. The remedy is to change our values so that nothing is above Him and He is valued above everything else. We must expand the practical boundaries of His Lordship and exaltation. All of life is worship, and the need of every fallen creature is to be restored to the true worship.
When we enter our heavenly rest, our present faith and struggle will culminate in an exclusive, uncompromising and eternal devotion to Him - never contradicted by disobedience, idolatry, or doubt - as we shout "Soli Deo Gloria" forever without ceasing.
In the meantime, we practice.