His Banner Over Me

He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. (Sol 2:4 KJV)

Here’s an astounding thought. God is the creator and sustainer of the universe. We are all his workmanship, and he can do with us as he pleases. He has every right to command, to exact obedience and even to kill and destroy. He is a just God. He is a holy God. He cannot dwell with sin. He hates the wicked with eternal, unquenchable fire. And we are all sinners.

But it is God’s will to be merciful. He longs to restore fellowship with his people. But in order for God to restore relationship with His people, his people must put away their evil deeds and obey. They must be cleansed from their sins. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked and he calls all of us to obey, to submit, to “circumcise the foreskins of our hearts and no longer be stiff-necked.”

But here is the problem. God’s law requires us to love him with all of our hearts, with all of our souls and with all of our minds. And the relationship between God as a holy lawgiver and his people as sinners is not a relationship that is conducive to love. The more we try to appease a holy God by external law-keeping, the more we invoke his wrath. For he is beautiful and good. He alone is worthy of love and he desires that his creatures love him. Anything less is an affront to him, and he is just and holy.

In the Old Covenant, God loved his people and exercised his holy right to command and expect obedience. His people broke his covenant, even though his banner was over them. They bore his mark; they were his people. they were circumcised, and to them were committed the oracles of God. But they broke his covenant and rebelled against them, even though he was their master and husband.

He cast them away, and he was just and good to do just that. But God promised them a new covenant. In the new covenant, God said,

And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali. (Hos 2:16 KJV)

The King James wisely just left these two words untranslated, because the English doesn’t quite have words to capture them. Both words can mean “my husband”.  But Baali is “husband” in a legal sense. The head of the home, the boss.  This was God’s relationship to the Old Covenant people. He indeed loved them, but was their commander and master. God said that the new covenant would not be like the old:

Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: (Jer 31:32 KJV)

Here the word for “husband” is also Baal. A legal husband – one with the rights of the husband under the old covenant.

But Hosea said the new covenant would not be like that. Instead, God would be “ishi.” Ishi means “my husband”, but the first time we see the word “ish” is used is in the institution of marriage in the garden of Eden:

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. (Gen 2:23 KJV)

`Ish here has the meaning of “man”; and it is contrasted with `ishshah (woman). It emphasized NOT the legal and headship/submission aspect of marriage, but the aspect of lovers becoming one flesh.

God would become “one flesh”, a lover, to His people, and this would mark the difference between the old covenant and the new.

Eternal, almighty God, who dwells between the cherubim, who commands the earth and the sun and the stars in their orbits, who tears down rulers and sets up rulers, who so governs the earth that all the nations are as grasshoppers in his sight – this God – became flesh in the womb of Mary so that we would no longer know him as Baali, but as Ishi.

His banner over me is love. The law could only make slaves. But the gospel makes lovers. He unites us to himself by his Holy Spirit so that we are truly flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, as Paul writes,

30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Eph 5:30-32 KJV)

A banner is a standard, a flag marking the nation or tribe to whom one belongs. We bear the mark of our Lord Jesus and that mark is the mark of his love. His banner over us is love. He loved us, and gave himself for us. He loved us and washed our feet.

He had every right to command us and to expect obedience. He could justly have committed each one of us to hell forever and ever and would not have diminished his love or his goodness one bit to have done so.

And yet he chose, in his infinite love, to put his mark of love on us. What the law could never do, God did, by sending his only begotten Son to bear the sins of many.

The law could never change a heart. You can lock a murderer up and keep him from committing another murder if you have a strong enough cell, but locking the murderer up can never change a heart.

And God desires hearts that love him, not serve him out of slavish fear.

And, you husbands, this is what Christ requires of you. Your example is Christ. Your banner over your home is to be a banner of love. This is how the gospel of Christ is shown in your home. Not by your “right to command and expect obedience”, but by your responsibility to love, as Christ loved the church. And, no, these aren’t the same things.

I always puzzled over why a man would want a wife’s slavish obedience rather than her freely given love. Perhaps because of the blindness of sin. Whenever I write on marriage, someone will always say,

“But doesn’t a husband have the right to command his wife?”

Is that how Christ treats us? Commands never create hearts of love, and God desires hearts that serve him out of love. For this reason, he became our man, our lover, our friend. His banner over us is love. Christ does indeed have the right as our creator to command us. He is the king of kings. But it is not kingship that we are commanded to exercise in the home, but love. Love has power that nothing else has – it was the love of God that changed the world, and this is what we are to show in our homes.

This should mark our homes. We should have homes where those outside say of us, “That guy really loves his wife!”

If you do not know this kind of love, I would urge you to come to Christ and be reconciled to God. Come to the one who so loved the world that he laid down his life for his sheep. Come to him in repentance and faith. Learn at the foot of the cross what love truly is. You cannot truly love anyone else until you learn to submit yourself to the love of Christ. So come and learn. His yoke is easy; his burden is light.

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Meditations on TULIP, Part three

By anonymous

See part one and part two here.

Irresistible Grace – There is no formula known to man that explains the the timing or how the call will be answered. After hearing the gospel, which draws the elect by the Holy Spirit, many begin a very unexpected journey. Some cry out to him, then are allowed to continue on for some time- wrestling – working out their faith – feeling the crushing despair of unbelief. Others are immediately struck with a deep and abiding faith. God knows every struggle and knows what each individual needs to be refined.

Even those who appear to be strongest in their faith will admit that, in weak moments, they struggle and wrestle with unbelief. As they go through this, their cries don’t go unnoticed by God. His saving grace, once poured out, saturates believers to the point that even though part of them doubts, the overwhelming and irresistible grace of God always wins out.

Sometimes our doubt or sinfulness manifests itself in actions that bring shame or even horrible consequences but for true believers, it never wins. As we grow in grace and knowledge, this becomes clearer. God’s gracious grip on us does not let up -no matter how hard we may squirm to get away.

Perseverance of the Saints – This is often flippantly dismissed by those who say -”Once saved always saved”. True believers cannot claim to be saved then go about living life in whatever way they please because now they’re saved. It cannot be reduced to a simple and trite slogan. No, to persevere implies struggle.

Saints- that’s all believers – will struggle. They will recognize their own depravity. They will gratefully and thankfully recognize that God chose them unconditionally. They didn’t have to do something or prove themselves. The sacrifice of Christ, the atonement is for them. God has given them this and set them apart from those who have made themselves gods.

God gives them everything they need to persevere. Some limp along with physical pains and struggles that discourage and pull them down, others wrestle with emotional or inward grief that they may feel is unspeakable. There are those who deal with both physical and emotional pain. But God never leaves. He never forsakes his people. There are scores of testimonies of many Christians slaughtered throughout history for their faith. Their stories are lost to us but these souls are dear to their Heavenly Father.

We only persevere through the strength and grace that God gives us. Through everything, we keep moving along with our eyes on the cross – knowing He cares for us.

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Meditations of TULIP, part 2

See part one here.

by anonymous:

Unconditional Election – The mention of this term is often the springboard for arguments for and against predestination. To me, the word “unconditional” underlines the importance of understanding the previous point -Total Depravity. God’s election or choosing is not based on conditions – such as those who keep his law perfectly or those with bloodlines to Abraham. He doesn’t choose the best of the best. This is obvious if you know any true believers. They are not the best. God is choosing from a world full of depraved people. Unfortunately, His choosing is assumed to be accomplished in the same way that we might choose something – “Let’s see, I’ll try one of these people because they’re charming and maybe a few of these funny people, oh, and lots of these blonde people. I really love blonde people! And, I guess I have to take all of these outwardly pious people. They try so hard.” Again, we try to squeeze God into our tiny little minds.

It seems that too much time and energy has been put into coming up with an explanation of how and why God might choose certain people. Humans try to pin God down. How could he do this? How can he choose, yet, also say that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. But maybe we should ask, “what right do we have to question or ask how this works?”

When people question God’s actions, they make themselves as God. They judge him, using feeble minds and tangled arguments, to justify themselves. Imagine your reaction if someone who has openly hated you, and with whom you had no relationship, demanded to know how you decided who is invited to a party at your home. What if they mocked you and said you were unfair while demanding an explanation and questioning your authority to invite specific people into your home. Your reaction…? Would you feel like you owed them an explanation? It is very shaky ground for humans to question God, trying to find inconsistencies as if they can trip Him up and then demand He provide an explanation. This is frightening stuff.

We do this to God when we question and argue with each other. Even the “best” Christians feel somewhat exasperated and wish God would have made it more clearly in line with their own thinking. Again and again, we refuse to believe that God’s ways are not our ways.

So do we argue with God about how people are saved? Do we proudly claim to be the elect, resting on our heritage, while patronizingly accepting that even minorities and bad people are sometimes saved? At some point we have to own up to the repugnant ideas we have accepted for years. We should collapse in fear at the thought of where God could have left us.

Yes, I am one of the elect……I met no conditions or qualifications……unconditionally elected!

Limited Atonement – Not to mean God is limited – God’s hands are not tied. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was not barely enough to squeak the elect into heaven. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. There is never a question of His death and resurrection being incomplete or an atonement that could only handle a percentage of sinners. Jesus’ sacrifice was complete – more than enough for all. Just as when he broke the bread and pieces of fish – He started with a small portion and ended with food left over. His grace has no limits and spills out to even the unbelievers and those who persecute the church.

The atonement, however, is limited to those who call on his name. The limits stem from the sinfulness of people. There will always be wicked people – sons of belial – who have a deep and abiding hatred for God. They hate God and want nothing to do with the saving grace of Christ. They work overtime in their evil ways and justify their actions by saying there is no God. They attack the gospel with vicious and mocking criticism and glory in their own intellect. God is completely and perfectly just and fair to limit the atonement to those who call upon His name. He requires only that we call on him and even gives us what we need in order to do this.

Those who have made themselves into god, angrily and jealously look on Christians as fools, who in weakness, have chosen to believe on the one true God. The wicked believe we live in a dream world – that we believe a fairy tale. But it’s the very weakness, the crying out, the begging for forgiveness, that brings us to our knees, that ultimately gives us strength in Christ.

God is completely just in his actions. Again, the limits come from those who refuse him.


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Meditations on TULIP, Part 1

In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the Reformed Churches in Holland were fighting for survival. Among many of the political dangers of the day, a minister named Jacobus Arminius was teaching doctrines that had not been taught since the days of Pelagius. The churches were concerned. As these doctrines began to take hold in the churches, the Church determined that a Synod must be held to examine these teachings in the light of scripture. The Synod took place in the town of Dort in the year 1618-1619.

The “Remonstrants”, as the followers of Arminius were called, took issue with five points of Reformed Theology. They “remonstrated” against them – hence the name. They taught that man is not completely depraved, but has the power within himself apart from any divine intervention to choose what is good. They taught that God’s election was was based upon foreseen faith, and other such things.

In response to these teaching, the Synod of Dort formulated to Canons of Dordt, with five heads of doctrine answering the remonstrance of the Remonstrants. All five points of the Remonstrants were condemned as contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. These Canons are readily available and are still confessed by confessional reformed churches. If the reader is interested, you can find them here.

These five heads of doctrine, as the canon puts it, were later turned into a mostly unfortunate acronym for the education of children. The acronym is TULIP. Total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. Much harm, though, has been done by misunderstanding the teachings of scripture and trying to fit these wondrous and profound truths into a five point acronym.

I would recommend that if you wish to fully examine these doctrines by the light of scripture, that you do so with the teachings of the Canons, rather than the acronyms of pop theology.

Unfortunately, the later history of Reformed Churches showed that we also of the Reformed tradition are totally depraved, and prone to the same illness as the rest of the world. We can become proud, condescending, harsh and argumentative, forgetting our own teachings of God’s unconditional election. Thus, far too often, these five points were turned into intellectual exercises used to hammer unsuspecting Arminians into compliance. We have, not surprisingly, been relatively unsuccessful.  I say this with self-deprecating humor, and speak from my own history.

It was with tremendous joy that I recently received a personal devotional from a friend. He was seeking to understand the doctrines of scripture and examine his own soul, using the TULIP acronym. He has given me permission to reprint it here, but would rather stay anonymous.

I am showing this to you to show you that there is no true doctrine that does not stir the soul, condemn the flesh, and exalt us to the throne room of God, where he alone is glorious. May we all examine these things as my friend has, and glorify our wonderful savior, who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sin.

I shall present these meditations in five parts, and it is my prayer that they will be as encouraging, stirring and exalting to you as they were to me. The rest of this blog are the words of my friend, offered without edits.

Total Depravity

Total Depravity – It sounds so completely and irreversibly evil, that the average person would obviously not want anything to do with it, let alone be labeled with it. After all, most of us try pretty hard to get along and be kind or civil to those we meet. We don’t feel inclined to run around bashing people’s brains in. Total sounds final….depressingly finished.

I have to step back from the term to understand it. When I back away from all my “wonderful” qualities and contemplate honestly what I am – search for my flaws – if I pray “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” I am asking God to reveal my true nature –to show me my faults. Pondering this and fervently desiring truth will reveal the ugly things that most don’t want to admit.

Sin in the world has corrupted everything – including things we can’t control. Our bodies aren’t perfect. Yes, we can exercise and workout to the point that we have what the world sees as an attractive and fit body. But, we know its flaws. We know the odd little things we try to keep hidden….a little pocket of fat, oddly shaped feet, lack of hair, too much hair, strange pigmentation, intestinal disorders, dandruff, psoriasis, bad breath, constipation…..the list can go on and on. I believe everyone has some physical characteristic that makes them embarrassed or ashamed. We are discontent with the body which is actually “Wonderfully Made”. There is no perfect body. Only Adam and Eve got to try those out.

Our minds suffer from all manner of depravity- the root of which is deprave: to pervert the meaning or intention of something. The intention of our minds in their perfect state, before the fall, wouldn’t have been to be forgetful, lazy and prone to wander. Our minds wouldn’t have wasted time stroking our egos or imagining the variety of warped desires that so easily pop into our heads and to which we gladly succumb. Our minds are weak. We can pretend to understand the things of God and even argue theological points that aren’t completely revealed, convincing ourselves that we have great understanding, while actually creating a god that fits into our tiny little minds……back to that first sin…..we will be as God.

I know that I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor. Hate is a strong word but if we’re honest, we must see how often we use our minds to rationalize a way around God’s law. We often see God standing between us and great pleasure. How can He frown on something that on the surface seems so delightful? He must not understand me. Why do I have to feel so guilty? I’m not a bad person…..I just want to break his laws and suffer no consequences. Yes, I want God to go away. I know I didn’t choose Him. There was no little spark of goodness and sweetness that made me make a decision to join up with those fine Christians. They’re often annoying as hell. No, I didn’t decide. Jesus Christ grabbed my heart with a strong hand and tightened his grip. Sometimes he shakes me out of my stupor with that same grip as if saying, “Hey, where is your brother? where is your sister? where are the poor? Where is the orphan? Where is the widow? Are your children crying? Does your wife need you? Quit thinking about yourself. You are not God.” Yeah, I’m pretty much, totally depraved.

Surely Christ could not have been tempted in all points but without sinning. Could he have been tempted like me? Really? It says so. But, I want to feel alone – as if I’m the only one who ever had to deal with this. Then, I can sin and say no one understands. No one has ever felt like this……not true. That one who died for me knows. He knows. He suffered and died so that I could look at my life, my body, my DNA, my mind, my desires and say, “I am depraved….yep, pretty much totally.” But, I’m not left there. It isn’t complete and irreversible. It’s not final. I am damaged goods which appear perfect before God – washed in the blood of Christ. It is astounding! I can’t even imagine what it would be like for God to see me without sin. I don’t know what that person looks like…..not, yet.

Go to Part 2 here:

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I Am Dark, But Lovely

I’m feeling quite blue today. I am very tired. My wife has had a very painful weekend, which doesn’t seem to let up. I am feeling very unlovely.

In the middle of my blues, I am also studying the Song of Songs for the class I am teaching tomorrow, and I was struck by this passage (as well as my studies in an excellent commentary by Iain Duguid):

5 I am very dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon.
6 Do not gaze at me because I am dark, because the sun has looked upon me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept!
(Sol 1:5-6)

The girl is dark because she works in the vineyards all day. She is poor (therefore working) and socially inferior. A mark of wealth and status was fair skin. Only one who had servants to do the hard work in the sun had fair skin, so that was what was considered beautiful. Beautiful socialites in ancient Israel did not sun themselves on the beach.

This girl had neither status nor wealth. And she did not meet the standards of loveliness in her culture. She was used to being “gazed upon” with contempt by the social elite in Jerusalem.

But she was loved by her beloved. And her beloved thought her beautiful. And her beloved TOLD her she was beautiful. So she WAS beautiful.

And this thought brings to mind another thought. Our God also loves us and thinks us beautiful. When we are unlovely, broken, discouraged, and bitten by the sun of tribulation, our beloved calls us his bride, and he longs for the consummation as much as we do! (Eph. 1:23)

Isn’t that an astounding thought? Our God, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, considers himself incomplete until His bride is by His side. He calls to us. He sanctifies us. He loves us. He considers us beautiful!

Therefore we are beautiful and loved. We are chosen by name and loved by the one we love. He calls us beautiful, and adorns us as a bride for her husband!

17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zep 3:17 ESV)

Amen! Come quickly, Lord Jesus. How our flesh and blood and souls cry out for the Living God!


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An Uncomfortable Truth

By Sam Powell

As I watch this election unfold, there is something that repeats continually that is bothersome to me. I’ve been trying to put my finger on it. But I think I have finally pinpointed what is causing me grief.

This is not a political post. If you have good reasons to vote for Hillary, go for it. If you have good reasons to vote for Trump, go for it. I don’t care. Neither one will destroy or advance the kingdom of God. Christ’s throne is in heaven, and is not touched or threatened by anything on this earth.

What bothers me is not the candidates for this year’s election. What bothers me is the state of the church and the state of conservative America. I have always considered myself a conservative. I was, until recently, a registered Republican, and that was a large part of my identity, I say with a small amount of shame.

Here’s what bothers me in this election. We all know that Hillary Clinton is morally bankrupt. I agree that she will say and do anything for power. I also do not believe her to be a champion for women’s rights, or anyone’s rights, for that matter. Her relentless attack on the women abused by her husband adequately demonstrate that she is only concerned about power.

As Horatio said to Hamlet, “There needs no ghost come from the grave to tell us that, my lord.”

What bothers me is not that. It’s that we, the church, who are supposed to be salt and light, who are supposed to bind up the broken-hearted, who are called release those in bondage, and be a voice for the voiceless – we have actually shown our true colors, and that greatly concerns me.

What I mean is this. We, the church, have relentlessly attacked the left for their slaughter of the unborn, the redefinition of marriage, the unbridled grab for more and more power. But at the same time we defend Donald Trump as the champion of America. Make America great again, right?

But Donald Trump has relentlessly oppressed the poor, abused and despised the weak, attacks and degrades women, and is currently being sued in Federal court for the rape of a child.

The answer from those who support Trump is that these are unsubstantiated, that the media lies, or that he has changed. But the moral failings of Trump are at least as bad as those of Hillary Clinton. Again, the church, who should be salt and light, is mostly silent on his past abuses and criminal activity, and instead strongly support him. In fact, some influential and loud voices in the evangelicalism are openly and actively supporting Donald Trump for president.

Again, neither candidate will change God’s plan one bit. Vote your conscience. You have every right to do so. This post really isn’t about that.

Here’s my main problem. Evangelical support for Donald Trump, a known abuser, a serial sex offender, and oppressor and a thief, illustrates a very large problem in the church today.

The problem is a lot deeper than simply choosing the lesser of two evils. The problem is this. It seems to me that we have sunk to this: as long as we preserve our lifestyle, our ministries, and our culture, the oppression and abuse of the weak don’t matter.

This is what it seems to me. I am seriously asking the question why Hillary is continuously attacked by Christians for her moral failings, when Donald Trump’s failings are ignored and minimized?

And the only answer I can come up with is this: Hillary’s moral bankruptcy affects ME. My pocketbook, my ministry, my place in the culture. Donald Trump promises to preserve my place and my nation.

So we can overlook Trump’s active and unapologetic abuse of women and children as long as he “makes America great again”, whatever that means.

Do you see what the bigger problem is? This election is simply mirroring what goes on in evangelical circles continually. In our churches, women can be degraded or physically assaulted in our homes, children can be raped or beaten, abusive speech is toleratedas long as our ministries aren’t threatened.

Remember that the reason the leaders of the Jews betrayed Jesus to be crucified?

48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. (Joh 11:48 KJV)

So much violence has been tolerated for the sake of personal safety, wealth and position. We become afraid that our ministries will be taxed, our positions of power will be taken away, that things will be uncomfortable. And here comes a man who promises to make us great again. So what if the poor, the women, the children, the foreigner and the outcast are destroyed, violated, abused and driven away. We have to look at the big picture. At least Hillary won’t be president.

“All this I will give you, if you just bow down and worship me.”  It sounds eerily familiar.

Instead of jumping on the Trump bandwagon, I have a better suggestion from the scriptures:

16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. (Isa 1:16-17 KJV)

As long as children have a far greater chance of being molested in church than in a transgender bathroom, we have no moral ground to stand on. Until we get this right, we might as well close the doors anyway.

God is far more concerned with how we treat the oppressed and outcast than he is with our ministries and lifestyles. It’s time we got that straight.

So if your conscience allows you to vote for either candidate, go ahead. But please quit looking the other way at such great evil. If the salt loses its saltiness, what will it be salted by? If the light is under a bushel, who will see it?

Evangelical America, it is time to be salt and light. We have far bigger problems than transgender bathrooms, gay marriage and Hillary Clinton.


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This Is What It Means To Be Included

Beautiful thoughts from Tim Fall.

Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another

“This is what it means to be included.”

The mother’s words jumped out at me from the radio.


Two year old Tatum Bakker had never been able to swing on a playground swing set until they visited Brooklyn’s Playground on their way through Pocatello, Idaho. It’s a playground designed for children who are physically able and for those who are less able to play on together, named for the little girl who started it all, Brooklyn Fisher.

Photo: http://brooklynsplayground.org/ Photo: http://brooklynsplayground.org/

Kids with conditions like spina bifida usually can’t take part in playground games and activities, kids like seven year old Brooklyn and two year old Tatum, but in Pocatello they can. As Tatum’s mother explained:

And I put Tatum in a swing and kind of sat back and absorbed it all, and looked up and saw an older child, maybe 10 or 12 – a little girl – in a…

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This Is What It Means To Be Included

“This is what it means to be included.” The mother’s words jumped out at me from the radio. Included. Two year old Tatum Bakker had never been able to swing on a playground swing set until they vis…

Source: This Is What It Means To Be Included

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How Fear Can Lead to a Denial of the Gospel

By Sam Powell

Since man fell in the Garden of Eden, we’ve been in trouble. We are a weak and foolish species without power to stand even for a moment.

We have all sorts of reasons to fear. We fear enemies, we fear pain, we fear loss of identity. But usually these are the wrong things. There is only one problem with all of mankind. Our sins have separated us from God.

But it is even worse than that. There are many who will freely confess that our sins have separated us from God, but they still believe that they can do something about that. We’ll just try harder. We’ll offer the right sacrifices. We’ll separate ourselves from bad influences.

But sin lies in the heart of men. It is so ugly, so ingrained, so deep in our hearts that there is and always has been only one solution. The Son of God suffered and died in our place. The problem is that we are all under the penalty of eternal death, and there isn’t a thing that we can do about it.

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.1 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)1 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Eph 2:1 KJV)

This is the Gospel. We were dead in trespasses and sins, but God has made us alive in Christ. He died in our place, that we might be raised to a new life.

This shocks and stuns the natural man. It is repugnant to everything we hold dear. Our natural religion states that we have to DO something.

We as Christians confess that our salvation is the free gift of God, and that our righteousness can only ever be the imputed righteousness of Christ, but we still have the remnants of our flesh that cling to us. So often, I present the gospel. I speak of the glorious, free salvation that we have in Christ. And there are always those who will forever repeat, “But we still have to keep the law, though…right?”

How do you answer that? No. The gospel doesn’t make us lawless. The gospel establishes the law. The gospel is about a change of nature. The gospel is about the law written on the heart, not tables of stone. The gospel is about becoming new creatures, new trees, that no longer bear thorns and thistles, but fruit. Fruit of love and joy and peace and longsuffering.

Isn’t it beautiful and wonderful! Our salvation freely and perfectly provided for us in Christ.

And yet, there’s that critic again. “But we still have to keep the law, right? What will happen if we quit telling people what to do? Our kids will be out of control. Society will crumble. People will live just like animals. We aren’t lawless. Those gay fellows, and those gangsters and those Syrian refugees and those Moslems need to be told what to do. What we need is stronger laws!” These are the church leaders that monitor skirt lengths, talk about what to watch on TV, speak incessantly about man-made rules that can never ease the weight of sin. And we do it because we are afraid. And we are afraid because we don’t believe that the Holy Spirit can actually change a heart.

20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,1
21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;
22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.1 (Col 2:20-23 KJV)

Paul is saying that all of these things look very good and holy. They look like they have such a zeal for righteousness. But they are of no value in the subduing of the works of the flesh.

I would submit to you that the repeated question, “But the husband is still in charge, right?” is of the same caliber. It shows a total lack of the understanding of the dynamics of love, and is of no value to peace of the home. It also cannot be answered satisfactorily from the perspective of the gospel-driven home.

Do I mean by this that the husband has no authority? Of course not. I mean that the question becomes irrelevant in a home ruled by love, just as the questions concerning which laws you have to keep become completely irrelevant in a heart ruled by the gospel. The law in a gospel-ruled heart is kept out of love, not coercion. And service in a gospel-ruled home runs on the same principle. This is why Paul said that the husband is to LOVE the wife, as Christ loved the church, not rule over the wife as Moses ruled over Israel.

Before Christ came into the world, God gave Israel the perfect code of law. He enforced it Himself on tables of stone, thundering from Mt. Sinai. All Israel heard the voice of God from the top of the mountain.  And within days they were dancing around a golden calf.

“Righteousness never comes by the law.”

Ever. Can’t happen. Something far deeper, far greater, are far more miraculous must happen. We don’t need better enforcement. We need new hearts, which is precisely why Jesus came into the world.

We as Christians should know this. And yet we still catch ourselves thinking like the natural man. “We’ve got to do something or everything will get completely out of control.”

Fear is a powerful motive.

I have recently received a great deal of correspondence that bothers me. I have written over and over again that the headship of the husband means service in love, and Christ loved the church. And men all over everywhere went nuts.

The response was everything from polite and courteous, to vicious assaults on my character. But when you cut through it all, the question was always the same, “But men are still in charge, right?”

As I distilled and thought about the massive assault of words that came my way, I began to understand the fear. The idea is this. If men aren’t in charge, then the home will disintegrate, society will crumble, the women will take over, the kids will rebel, and the woman will become a manipulative, domineering shrew.

Some have gone so far as to say that the man must remain in charge (according to Gen. 3:16) to keep the woman from messing up creation again.

My response is this, “I thought that you married a Christian.” But that falls on ears as deaf as the ears of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time. The natural religion is hard to get out of a heart.

Men, if you honestly believe that you must lay down the law to your wife in order to protect her from sin, then you do not understand the gospel. And further, you are as obdurate as the legalist repeating incessantly, “But you still have to keep the law, right?”

Did Christ die only for the man? Did he withhold the gift of the Spirit from the woman? Does righteousness come by grace to men, but by the law to women?

Is your wife incapable of growing in peace and joy and love apart from the decree of the man?

I actually received a comment from one man who said, “You say that the husband is responsible for the peace of the home, but how can he do it if you give him no authority?”

Peace to this deluded man only comes by a strong and firm hand of an authoritarian male. But Moses was the strongest leader there was. Gifted by God, backed by miracles and the staff of Jehovah. All Israel knew that he was God’s prophet. And their carcasses fell in the wilderness. If righteousness could have come by the law, then Christ died in vain.

Peace in the home comes only one way. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon us by the gospel of Jesus Christ. And don’t miss this next point, for eternal salvation is at stake:  The gospel never comes by the law. Never. The law only brings condemnation. The law can only make good slaves. A slave works either for hope of reward, or for fear of punishment. But a slave never works because he loves.

A son, on the other hand, works because he loves the father. The gospel takes us from being slaves, to being sons. The difference is everything.

Our wives are not slaves. They are not to be treated as those who will only serve if they are properly under authority of male leadership. They are to be treated, in Peter’s words, as “co-heirs” of eternal life. That is, they are also directly led by the Holy Spirit, firstborn sons of God and heirs according to the promise with no other mediator than Jesus Christ, son of Mary, and the eternal Son of God. Martha was busy with much worry and business. But Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. A patriarchalist would have rebuked Mary and told her to get to work. But Jesus praised Mary. She chose the better part. Love for Christ is everything, and take precedent even over the duties of the home!

To put this very practically: If a wife does what she does in the home because she is afraid of the wrath of the husband, or because she wants to earn a bit of quiet, or perhaps wants to gain a word of encouragement and love from her husband, then your home is a home of slavery, not a home of the gospel.

On the other hand, if the wife does what she does because she loves her husband and loves the Lord, and if she isn’t trying to earn her husband’s favor, because she knows she is loved and honored in the home already, then the home is a gospel centered home where Christ is preeminent. I don’t love my wife because of what she does. I love her for who she is, a child of God and an heir of eternal life. Her character shines through every pore and she brings peace and love wherever she goes. How she longs to be able to cook again – because she loves me and I love her. But she is physically incapable.

There is a group of men who have repeatedly asked me a question, and incessantly demanded an answer. The question is this: “What does wifely rebellion look like? Is it possible for a woman to rebel?”

Now that we understand what the gospel is, and what a gospel home looks like, the question can be answered. “Wifely rebellion” looks like any other creaturely rebellion: violation of the laws of God. A wife can commit adultery, murder, revile, lie, steal, cheat and take God’s name in vain just like a man, because she is also a creature under God and answerable to him.

But a man laying down the law won’t ever change that, anymore than Moses could change the hearts of Israel. Righteousness never comes by the law. Ever.

What she needs is what every other person under heaven needs: the gospel of Jesus Christ, who gave himself for me that I might be raised up to everlasting life and begin to walk as a new creature, in love.

An authoritarian can create an obedient slave. This is not, however, what a Christian marriage is. A Christian marriage is based upon faith working together with love.


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Whom Will You Serve?

From last year, but still pertinent.

My Only Comfort

8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
(Matt. 4:8-10)

When Jesus was born, the angels told Mary that God would give Him the kingdom of His father David.  Jesus came to do the will of His Father in Heaven and He knew that this will would lead Him to the cross.  Only by suffering the death of the cross would He inherit the kingdom through the resurrection from the dead.

The kingdoms of the world had been given into the hand of Satan as…

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