Authority

This week’s sermon on authority (as something that Jesus has yesterday, today, and forever)  made me think about the words and concepts associated with authority.

authority dominion sovereign lord

power control command master redeemer

The above are graphs that show the frequency of those words appearing in the Bible. All these related concepts are used in the Bible to describe God’s status and they all relate to power and ownership. If you click on the word links above they’ll take you to the graphs where you can play around with which word you want graphed out.

Compare those graphs to saviour.

Not saying at all that ‘saviour’ is not an important aspect. But typically, I hear the name saviour talked about a lot more than master, or a sovereign lord with authority, dominion, power, control and command.

Maybe add save and salvation to the mix:

Still comparatively sparse.

The last word on the list though – redeemer – is a little different. Redeeming is to recover ownership of something. In my mind it seems to connect this authority dominion sovereign master idea with that of saviour.

Anyways, in sum, the only point I was trying to make is that I don’t dwell proportionally on the power and authority attributed to God so much as the saving aspect. Perhaps many of us don’t, hence why the quote “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46) strikes such a chord.

Hosea, the prophet

I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me. --Hosea 5:15

[This is a little piece of art I googled, just because people like to see images.]

As one of the lesser-read books of the Bible, Hosea shocks within the first two verses.

2 When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD.”

It then alludes to God’s provision of salvation by verse 7.

7 Yet I will show love to the house of Judah; and I will save them—not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but by the LORD their God.”

The first chapter concludes on the bizarreness of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

9 Then the LORD said, “Call him Lo-Ammi, [c] for you are not my people, and I am not your God.

10 “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’

The Book of Hosea uses the ‘adulterous woman’ in chapter 2 as another version of the ‘prodigal son’.

7 She will chase after her lovers but not catch them;
she will look for them but not find them.
Then she will say,
‘I will go back to my husband as at first,
for then I was better off than now.’

Note the similarity to the following extracts from Luke 15:11-32.

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.13″Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’

Hosea recounts why God loves us and wants us to be with him and how this is possible: it is because of and through God’s righteousness, justice, love, compassion, and faithfulness. Because of what God does, we acknowledge him.

19 I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you [with] righteousness and justice,
[with] love and compassion.

20 I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the LORD.

There are many more interesting things to note in Hosea, but I will only note three more. A reference in Chapter 6 – although it takes some allegorical reading (thanks, Augustine) – cannot refrain from shouting out JESUS, who rose on the third day…

2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.

Chapter 10 also echoes the Eden narrative.

13 But you have planted wickedness,
you have reaped evil,
you have eaten the fruit of deception.
Because you have depended on your own strength…

Finally, I’ll end this post with an accurate illustration in chapter 13 of careless human nature and how quickly we forget our benefactor in our limited ‘personal’ focus.

4 “But I am the LORD your God,
who brought you out of Egypt.
You shall acknowledge no God but me,
no Savior except me.

5 I cared for you in the desert,
in the land of burning heat.

6 When I fed them, they were satisfied;
when they were satisfied, they became proud;
then they forgot me.

Hopefully this inspires your interest in reading Hosea in its entirety (plus other parts of scripture).

Jesus on Isaiah

“…the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.

For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (Matt 13:14-17)

Does that make you want to try harder to make Christ known, or does it cause you to shrink back?

There are many ‘good people’, but not all are chosen as children of God. Maybe that is unfair? Or would equality mean that there is nothing you can do to save yourself? Not even in choosing. You must be saved – entirely apart from your own input?

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)

I must finish this post by saying that this is still an unfinished thought topic for me. (Hence all the questions.)

The Pulley (by George Herbert)

With the traffic this post gets, I’ve started to wonder whether readership is from the high school and university academic community trying to write their essays / exams on George Herbert. Well, I hope you find this analysis useful to your understanding, but it’s quite a personal take on the poem.

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/20279

When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
“Let us,” said he, “pour on him all we can.
Let the world’s riches, which disperséd lie,
Contract into a span.”

So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honor, pleasure.
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
Rest in the bottom lay.

“For if I should,” said he,
“Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
So both should losers be.

“Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness.
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to my breast
.”

First let me add a good diagram I found:

Pulley System

Pulley System

Here’s how I can interpret this poem.

The title: a wheel and cable pulley. The more you pull towards yourself on one side, the further it goes on the other; only let go and…

What is the “Rest” that in the bottom lay? Satisfaction. If you think of rest, you only rest after finishing a piece of work, and you only finish a piece of work when you are satisfied with it. (Supposing you care about this work.)

You can work hard for anything, be it a decent paycheck, good grades, quitting a bad habit, living a good life, or even prominence in ministry. When that happens it is essentially you working – you may not have rest (i.e. be satisfied), but you can have all ‘the rest’ of God’s gifts (beauty, wisdom, honour, pleasure). We can do any number of good things, and make any amount of effort aspiring to those things, but this cannot bring us close to God (make us presentable before Him). All that we can aspire for can leave us restless for that which satisfies our souls and puts them to rest – the oxymoronic servant-king that is Christ, who in one death accomplished and finished all that we cannot do in our entire life.

The paradox of salvation in the gospel is that I must admit that no effort of mine in pulling the pulley will bring me the Rest I seek. Christ came to us; we did not merit Him by our efforts. I can pull much yet not have what I need: the grace and mercy of Christ who justifies me by dying the death I should die for my sin and rebellion from God. Rather, when I admit weariness and let go of my progress, however far the pulley has gone in my own strength, that is when I get the satisfaction I tried to work for. It’s a little bit of the puzzle.

“I am weary of not being all I expect myself to be! I cannot pull satisfaction to myself!”

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”  – Romans 8:20-21

“… But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior…” – 2 Tim 1:8-10

[Interesting: Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 discuss “rest”; Sabbath-rest vs. God’s rest. Wonder if Herbert got the idea from here? “That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ” 3:10-11]

Cursory thoughts on Predestination, or Monergism

Been thinking more this past year about the issue of how responsible people are for choosing Christ, and at the Christmas eve service at church tonight, I came to a potential breakthrough in my own thought.

First, a definition. ‘Predestination’ is kind of a tricky term with too much baggage. For a similar sort of concept: Monergism, as defined by Wikipedia, “is the name for the belief held by some in Christian theology that through the preaching of the word, the Holy Spirit alone can act to effectually bring about the spiritual regeneration of people that they might understand and believe the gospel.”

I was caught up for a while by the lack of clarification in the simplification of this concept, where a person has no choice really, but is chosen by God to be a believer. It’s silly to say a person has ‘no role’. However, I do agree that it is the Holy Spirit alone that can bring about change, and that the person has no role here. It is not to a person’s credit that they are saved, or choose salvation.

You do ‘make a choice’ for Christ, and you are not a zombie programmed to obey an order. Your decision then would mean nothing. The thing is, the work that is mentioned that the Holy Spirit does, this work is what brings about that choice. It’s an “I really have no choice” kind of choice. God works in your life to bring about circumstances and experiences and stimulants and understanding, like it said in the definition, that the gospel may be obvious and irresistible. God’s workmanship is always something you can ask for. You can, as it were, ‘choose’ against all odds to believe in Christ, but it is not very well-founded as belief goes, and that choice may be a bit difficult for you to maintain faith to. That is why God is responsible. If we were, then the credit for our belief and our ‘strong faith’ would be to us and our efforts to seek God. As it is, our relationship with God is a gift of grace from God; we receive completely undeserved attention from a Holy God and pardon for our offences to his holiness. 

Not that I didn’t already know this prior to tonight, but it makes a lot more sense now, and is slightly more put-together. Oh Christmas eve. Nothing like the institutionally installed day of Christ’s birth to think about theological issues.

That is all for now. Wish I had more references to make this seem more scholarly. Oh well, just a ‘cursory thought’ post.

1 Peter 3:9

“…because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

The “this” refers to walking with God, basically. So we were called (“we being anyone who accepts that they are a part of the “we”) to live our lives like Christ so that we may inherit a blessing – that is, salvation. But when we veer and do wrong – do we get disinherited?

This faith vs works question can be answered simply by looking at the prodigal son parable, I realized the other day. (Luke 15:11-32) Prodigal was called to be a good son, as all sons are (or daughters). He wasn’t. But his dad still accepted him. His bitter elder brother – was he a good son then? Maybe. Better? Can’t say. Either way, good or bad, as long as they call their father “father”, they share in the inheritance. Like us. As long as we call God “Father” we inherit the blessing.

The question is: do we deserve it? That’s where the ‘calling’ is relevant – and that’s where our answer to the call is relevant.

How difficult it is to be saved! [Isaiah 1]

Many people’s reaction to the idea of salvation as a gift for repentance is not wonder, joy, or gratefulness. Rather, it is one of doubt and skepticism. “That’s too easy.” “Well then wouldn’t you just keep sinning and asking for forgiveness?” The feeling is that it is kind of cheap on our part.

But one must really consider what repentance actually means. It is not just admitting “Oh, that was wrong. I feel bad for it, and don’t want to do it again.” Someone who repents must, by definition, also actively turn from that of which he/she repented. An alcoholic may decide to quit. She may stop drinking for a day. Or two. But would she last for three? During those first few days would she be living a normal life, or would she be constantly thinking of alcohol and reproving herself every time she did? When we sin it is like pure silver that has become worthless slag. When we repent, we decide we want to become pure again, and turn to God, the refining fire. He says “I will melt you down and skim off your slag. I will remove all your impurities.” [Isaiah 1:25] Meanwhile, people say that being melted down and purified by God is “too easy”! No, salvation may be free, but it is not cheap. It costs you your old, familiar, comfortable life. (Dirty and unsuitable as it may be.)

No, changing your life hurts alright. It is truly difficult. It is different from making New Year’s Resolutions. It means following your NYRs.

It pains us when we fail. It pains God when we fail. It doesn’t mean we don’t try. We do something bad, and think that whatever good we do can balance out the equation. But what is done is done. We have no power to erase that bad, that unique action, that we have committed. “I am sick of your sacrifices,” says God. [Isaiah 1:11] and I think here he meant to add, “So I will give you my own.” (And yea that means Jesus.)

Only God can forgive our wrongs. But only we can accept that forgiveness (and first we have to admit that we need this stuff.) Then we have to go into the next, unknown room. We have decorated and set up our old room, and turned on the air conditioning. But God calls us to the next, empty, hot room. We do not want to sweat out our toxins; we want to stay comfortable. But God wants us to sweat, and toil, and make something good of ourselves. In the process we will deck out the room too. Then we must move on again, until we reach the final room.