By Caleb Bobrycki
Meditation and the Word of God
Ever felt the warmth of the sun’s rays poke through the trees and land of your face in the morning? That's how it is with what the church has often referred to as the means of grace. Divine light shines through God’s appointed means into the soul, and the soul feels warmth. The means (some call them “disciplines”) of grace do not redeem sinners, but communicate the benefits of redemption to those who trust in Christ. In other words, these means are not meritorious. The Word of God, prayer, and the sacraments are like channels through which the soul, by faith, is reminded of the redemption that is in Christ, and is empowered to please God. In this second part in a series of articles, I hope to show how the practice of meditation and the Word are meant to go together.
Why We Should Meditate on the Word of God
The question then stands, concerning these few means of grace: where does meditation fall in their midst? Joel Beeke and Mark Jones hint that, for the Puritans at least, this practice usually centered around Scriptures (Jones and Beeke, 897). In his second section on Bible intake, Whitney writes his longest and, in my opinion, most helpful aspect of the subject. He takes it a step further and links the Word of God and prayer by the practice of meditation (Whitney, 46-47). He suggests that meditation is best understood as a way to soak in God’s Word, and not a separate discipline. The real means of grace to the soul from God is Bible intake; a proven way to take in the Scriptures effectively is through meditating upon them.
Whitney goes on to describe the practice of meditating on the Scriptures:
“A simple analogy would be a cup of tea. In this analogy your mind is the cup of hot water and the tea bag represents your intake of Scripture. Hearing God’s Word is like one dip of the tea bag into the cup. Some of the tea’s flavor is absorbed by the water, but not as much as would occur with a more thorough soaking of the bag. Reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word are like additional plunges of the tea bag into the cup… Mediation, however, is like immersing the bag completely and letting it steep until all the rich tea flavor has been extracted and the hot water is thoroughly tinctured reddish brown. When we meditate on Scripture it colors our thinking about God, about God’s ways, about his world, and about ourselves” (Whitney, 47).
The Word is the tea bag, our brain is the water, and meditation is letting the truth brew. Many Christians, even those familiar with Whitney’s book, suffer from not approaching the means of grace in the Word of God this way. We read the Bible, close it, murmur some prayers, and go on about our day. Meditation makes us stop and “soak” in the truth. This also applies to sermons, which is the Word of God explained and proclaimed to God’s people. Puritan James Ussher said, “Every sermon is but a preparation for meditation” (Ussher, 49). Ways of meditating would be murmuring the passage out loud after reading, rewriting the passage in your own words, memorizing the passage, or even praying through the passage. These methods and more will explained in a future article, but suffice it to say that when divine revelation is given, those in Christ should meditate on the Scriptures long for real prayer, praise, and life change.
The glory of God in Christ is a wonder to behold in the Word of God. So few Christians, however, miss the radiance of this glory because they treat the Bible as merely a scholastic discipline rather than a channel through which divine life may channel into the soul. Next, we will consider multiple methods for meditation, and connect them to prayer.
May we reform this area of our lives and interact with the living Word of God.
Beeke, Joel R., and Mark Jones. A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life. Grand Rapids, MI, Reformation Heritage Books, 2012.
Ussher, James. A Method for Meditation: Or, a Manuall of Divine Duties Fit for Every Christians Practice. London, 1657.
By Caleb Bobrycki
Content coming into the brain with no digestion creates an airhead; sadly, our schools today are full of content, yet lacking depth. Other than living in a broken system that teaches anti-God content, something that undercuts true learning is lack of meditation, or “brain digestion”. Some voices are yet helpful in rediscovering a solid intellectual identity for the regular Christian. Dr. Donald Whitney, professor of Biblical spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has helped recover many old disciplines for the laymen in his wonderful book Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life. Whitney is especially helpful in reminding readers of Jonathan Edwards’ masterful practice of meditation, encouraging them to press on in the practice. There are many in our church culture who would fit the title of “airhead” before they could be described as “sage”. Why? I contend that we are ill-equipped preachers, evangelists, and lay-Christians for lack of chewing and digesting divine revelation. Further, this leads to a lack of personable, prayerful, and imaginative engagement with the Scriptures. After briefly commenting on what meditation actually is, I hope to write a series of articles following to help others understand how to be more heartfelt with the text, and also to shed light on how I come away with the theological conclusions I do from movies.
What is Meditation?
Before defining what meditation actually looks like, we first must acknowledge that it is practiced and commanded in the Scriptures. My personal favorite is Psalm 1, verses 2 and 3, which say that the blessed man is he who meditates on God’s Word like a tree that drinks water. What imagery! Yet, there is more; as precious as that verse is, the Bible almost exhausts the concept of meditation. There are numerous other instances in the Bible that command or describe meditation, such as:
4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
- Deuteronomy 6:4-6
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
- Joshua 1:8
For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.
- Ezra 7:10
12 Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers,
13 consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation
- Psalm 48:12-13
When I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
- Psalm 63:6
15 I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
- Psalm 119:11-16
On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
- Psalm 145:5
20 My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.
21 Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart.
22 For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.
- Proverbs 4:20-22
But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
- Luke 2:19
Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
- 2 Timothy 2:7
The first thing that pops into someone’s mind when he or she hears the word is the middle-eastern practice of transcendental meditation. The Biblical understanding of meditation is, in fact, the opposite of some new age cult. Some understand it to be the emptying of one’s mind, however the Christian approach is filling the mind, particularly with the things of Christ in the Scriptures. The word literally means “to murmur”, and in this context, we are to murmur to ourselves the things of God revealed to us. Meditation is so important because it takes the truth of God’s Word and sinks it down into our hearts; and the above quoted Scriptures clearly demonstrate that Christians are expected mull over truth during private devotions.
Conclusion: Consider Zion
As always, the church should take responsibility for the lack of uprightness in this area of life. We have let yoga clubs snatch this out of our hands and suppress the truth. We can, however, appreciate the world’s discipline in this area, and learn from them in many ways. We have so much to cover in future articles, so stay tuned as we discuss many other things that pertain to meditation, like the means of grace, imagination, creation, the Puritan practice of meditation, and more. Let us change this about our church culture today, and become a people who “considers well the ramparts of Zion” (Psalm 48:13)!
Whitney, Donald S. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2014.
By Caleb Bobrycki
It is always very interesting to survey history and notice the ways in which Christians have interacted with the world. If I had to sum up the way in which most Protestant ministries relate to the culture we live in, it would be (not to put it too simply) “All of Christ for all of life”. In my very bluntly, yet intentionally, worded phrase here, I mean that this approach acknowledges the fallenness of the world and attempts, healthily, to expose the darkness and show the truth and light.
I am so glad to see the multitude of media-ministries teaching Christians how to engage effectively with a dysfunctional world-system. A good example of this would be the more than exceptional The Briefing, hosted by Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. On the show, Dr. Mohler interacts with daily, current events occurring on a national and international level, through a Christian worldview. What is so helpful about Dr. Mohler’s ministry is that he gives Christians an opportunity to engage a broken world’s political system with a redeemed framework in a productive way. Utilizing his ministry has helped countless Christians identify the flaws in our nation’s philosophies, and offers the church Biblical tools to piece the world back together in a lasting way. The church could honestly use many more Mohler’s, and it seems to me that Christ is raising them up. And yet, I contend, this is not enough.
Do We Bring Christ, or is He Already There?
Here is my suggestion: there is another side to the coin of redeeming culture. Certainly, one side is exposing Christ where he is not; but the other side is exposing where Christ is. Here is where the list of ministries dwindles. We have a plethora of ministries offering a Christian perspective that will expose a fallen universe, but little-to-none showing where good theology has been hidden in creation. Let’s call this side of the coin un-suppressing the truth. Romans 1:18 says that unbelievers are suppressing the truth, and my suggestion is that those in Christ play the part of scraping away the filth of that dishonor and redeeming it. Before this suppression of truth, the invisible attributes of God were clearly seen (Romans 1:20), and believers should be aiming at making them clear again. And if Christ is the full revelation of God, will not all creation stream back to the excellent fullness of Christ?
Edwards and the Harmony of All Knowledge
Consider, briefly, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), Congregationalist Protestant Theologian and Pastor, who believed that the universe was God’s language. Historian George Marsden helpfully pens, “Typology, a long staple of Christian thought, was central to Edwards’ conception of the universe.” In other words, the created order we see today is made up of ideas that stream back to true knowledge of God.
“God had created lower things to be signs that pointed to higher spiritual realities. The universe, then, was a complex language of God. Nothing in it was accidental. Everything pointed to higher meaning. Scripture, which itself was filled with types, was the key to reading the true meaning of everything else. The types in Scripture (for example, Joshua leading the people of Israel into the promised land) all pointed either to the need for redemption or to some aspect of God’s character and the redemptive love in Christ.” (Marsden, 4:77)
And, though Edwards dealt more specifically with Science and Metaphysics than we are likely to in Conservative circles, an entry by Edwards, titled “Things to be Considered and Written About”, smells quite Christocentric, and exposes our lack of engaging the world around us as redeemed persons:
“This list… eventually grew to nearly one hundred short expositions of puzzling natural phenomena or their philosophical implications. Many are thoroughly practical. Why is air necessary to preserve fire? Why are all mountains pitched westward? Why are no two trees exactly alike? What makes a bubble break? Why is the heat of the sun’s rays greater near the surface of earth than higher up? Why do waves form as they do? Why does lightning not travel in a straight line, and why do repeated flashes follow the same pattern?" (Marsden 4: 67).
Edwards was always asking “Why” everywhere he looked in creation, and with such creative and philosophical vigor, because he saw that all light in this world is borrowed light if Christ is the true light (John 1:4-5). Therefore all knowledge leads to him because he is the fullness of knowledge. So, to state the question again: “Do we bring Christ with us into the world, or is he already there?” The answer is “Yes.” He is there, and he is not. Christ is the True Light, and the remedy for where that borrowed light is suppressed is both exposing the darkness and the light that is already there. Some of this has yet to be more fully discovered and explained, but it remains: when we awake and walk on stage of the drama of life, our job is to un-suppress the truth, and to uncover that Christocentric theology that has been clogged with sin since the fall.
Marsden, George. Jonathan Edwards: A Life. Yale University Press, 2003.
By Caleb Bobrycki
Many are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). Indeed, I have written briefly on this topic before, which received many warm comments, probably because of the sweetness of the prayer on the memory and heart. Christ was a prolific speaker and theologian, yet a palatable and gentle pastor, which is seen in how he so wisely condenses much light and heat in few words on prayer. One of the most striking things about this paragraph of petitions is how the prayer seems to be written primarily for the sons and daughters of God. That is not to say that an unbeliever or stranger to the things of God cannot pray these words and be brought to Christ, but simply that our Lord Jesus assumed that those for whom he instructs to pray are those who have been brought into a saving union with himself. Two particular phrases in his prayer that standout are “Our Father” and “Our Sins”; not that the other “our” statements aren’t precious, but these seem to presuppose some startling realities concerning union with Christ.
Christ is the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16); not begotten as though created, but as an eternal generation (See Edward Leigh). What is most striking about this phrase is that out of the mouth of the very fullness of God, Jesus Christ, comes this precious word “Our.” Now, he was teaching the corporate body how to pray, but is he not by extension including himself, as he is head of the body? And is this not signified by his own words when he prays, “My Father, and their Father…” What does this mean? It means that Christ’s very own treasure and inheritance, namely the Father himself, is, through our union with Christ, ours as well. It means that we have a right to the Father, as much as Christ. The beauty of this treasure in Christ is highlighted further by a later petition in the prayer: “Forgive our sins…”
Christ allows we sinful creature to join him in calling upon his Father because he joins us in redemption for sin; more than that, he claims us and our sins as our representative head in his death on the cross. We claim the Father as our treasure because Christ claimed responsibility for our sins. He was not only teaching the corporate body to acknowledge their sins before God, but also, as head of the Church, was demonstrating his intercessory heart to his people, for their encouragement in prayer.
Do we see the assumed reality of union with Christ in these two phrases? Because of our union with Christ, his Father is ours also, and our sins are imputed to him; even more, he is made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). The next time we approach our Father in prayer with Christ, let us immerse ourselves in this breathtaking reality: we are hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).
Edward Leigh, A Treatise of Divinity Consisting of Three Bookes… London, 1647, 2:137
By Caleb Bobrycki
“My sheep hear my voice.”
- John 10:27 (esv)
My wife and I have made it back from a refreshing time at the 2017 National Ligonier Conference (which we plan to attend in 2018, and you should join us!) The refreshment from constant preaching (26 sermons in three days, to be exact!) is unmistakable, but seems to me that many Christians find such a vacation as burdensome! It occurred to me that week the most refreshing times for the sheep of Christ are those in which they put themselves directly in the line of fire of his voice. And perhaps this is why conferences such as these, sabbath rests, Christian fellowship, and so on, are exceedingly helpful. Our problem lies not in our troubles, but in the desire to find refreshment from sources other than God’s Word. Not that God cannot use the theme park or beach to pine the pining (on the contrary, we quite enjoyed the beach and Universal Studios on our trip as well!), but that we usually are compelled to run to the world first, and sometimes not Christ’s voice at all! I feel compelled to pen down simple consolations for the afflicted, and remind them that the sermon, the daily reading of Scripture, the sacraments, and all the ordinary means of grace, are sufficient remedies for the downtrodden soul. Christ’s voice is precious to the sheep! For those that are confused by the berating of the world, their own conscience, or the condemnation of the devil take heart this day that Christ’s voice is louder still, if only we have ears to hear.
These extra things may help, but our flesh quickly sets them up as idols at the expense of Christ, and so subtly that we did not realize it has happened! If your soul is weary, turn your eyes from the fleeting things of earth for a moment and draw your attention to this little phrase: His sheep hear his voice, dear ones! Oh, and not the devil’s, nor not any false teachers’; those may merely pass through the hearing, but bear not significance in the mind of the sheep. Those who belong to Christ will hear his voice as sufficient. And they that belong to this Shepherd effectually hear him, meaning with faith, for faith comes by hearing his words of life (Romans 10:17)! They believingly hear their Master’s call, and no one else’s leading means much at all to them, if anything. Now, other things may vye for their heart's affections, indeed, but Christ’s beauties always outshine the allurements of the world. The Spirit of Christ continually calls them back to him, though not audibly on this side of eternity, but deafeningly loud to the soul by the still waters of the Word of God. This Word eclipses all the treasures of Egypt, deceits of the devil, and lusts of the flesh. Throughout every pilgrim’s life, he or she will find Christ’s voice persistently romancing away from the call to conform to the world. May he lead you to the precious Scriptures, morning by morning, which will shine brighter to the sheep than all the vain glories of the World.
Do not put all your trust in failing friendships, theme parks, beaches, and medication, but put all your trust in the gentle and firm voice of Christ. Set yourself up to hear him daily, and never stop feeding on his Words of life.
By Caleb Bobrycki
God does the saving, and we do the sinning. If it’s good, it’s God; if it’s bad, it’s us. I am the sinner, and God is the savior. For every grace, there is a darkness; and for every virtue, a vice. It seems that we frail human beings cannot seem to meet grace with a smile, but are always contriving a way to add to God’s precepts, to take what has been sent to us from above and twist it into our own gods. Psalm 105 describes Israel’s history through the perspective of a faithful God; but after that great light is shed, Psalm 106 describes the same, yet with a horrible theme of the rebellion of the people. It’s a great rule of thumb to let the light of the Godhead reveal our own wickedness and confess it back to God. And all this, aside from the daily grind! Oh, what any of us would give to just have one whole day with no stress or wind of change. All of us long to have more strength to face the uncertainty of tomorrow. These forms of darkness and suffering, whether in barking consciences, fear of future sin, or simply tomorrow’s pains and suffering, drive men mad without the hope of the gospel.
After Darkness, Light!
Do we see it reversed once again in the gospel? In Romans 5:15, Paul writes that the free gift is not like the trespass. And continues the thought more elaborately in verse 20: “...but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” So, when light shines, it reveals darkness, yes; and more than that, repels it! The gift of eternal light doubles over on darkness and swallows it up, lest we begin to think that darkness is even close to a match to light!
The Light of a Trinitarian Gospel
My heart has been singing much this week the practical life giving to believers when saved by a Triune God. To point this out as clearly as possible, let me state a vice, then show how it has been demolished in the gospel by each person of the Trinity, and let your soul be ravished by grace on every side:
I pray that we get this. When you see tomorrow (new job, no job, hard test, difficult marriage), the Father is on your side to provide for you, both spiritually and physically. When you see your current sin, Christ is there to intercede in your place. When you see future sin, the Spirit is there, ready to deliver you in the moment. Name your vice, your fear, your darkness, and let the light of the Trinitarian Gospel vanish it all away. I understand, this day, a little more why there are 366 commands in the Bible not to fear: God has promised grace for our souls on every side.
“Provide our daily bread. Forgive our sins. Lead and deliver us. Amen.”
By Caleb Bobrycki
Believers: Not Depraved, but Passionate
One of the things I have loved about working is seeing so many different personalities and characters. One common trait that I have constantly come in contact with is anger, which has also brought out much contention in myself, and has shown me how some vices have carried over even into the saintly life. Now, I do not believe that Christians are still totally depraved and have the same degree of anger as the world; I believe that we have a new nature and we are growing into the likeness of the image of God Son (Romans 8:29). But I do believe that there are certain corruptions that stick a round and poke at the spiritual man many of his days. So mine has often been anger.
I do not think anger is the greatest sin, but I do believe it's the firstborn of pride and unbelief. You may not agree, but as I see it, it seems that after the foundational corruptions of pride and unbelief, anger is often a characterization of the wicked and foolish (Ecclesiastes 7:9). And for me personally, anger has often come from frustration at a lack of control. Not all anger is that way, but for many it is. Often, people get frustrated because things are not going their way, including myself, and may come to show said frustration in expressive passions to the point of sin. Again, the believers I know do not express anger to the same degree or in the same way that the world does. I can testify to this from first-hand experience. Though the bride of Christ is often tainted with many sins, expressively selfish controlling is less evident. This comforts my soul. Still, we struggle with desire for control, and I think we can see how believers ought to approach this and its two forms in the Bible. This is clear in at least two passages in the NT: Ephesians 4:26-27, and James 1:19-20. I would like to connect these two and address how believers ought to behave angrily.
Concerned With the Right Kingdom
Let me state the two passages and then we will connect them. Ephesians 4:26-27 (ESV) says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil a foothold.” James 1: 19-20 (ESV) says, “Know this my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” What is astonishing in the Ephesians reference is that Paul actually commands believers to feel anger. Often times we just command to not be angry and leave it at that. But that's not what the apostle says. He actually says that we ought to be angry, and for the right reason. The way he does this is he says to be angry, but not from a sin. But still, there seems to be a question, at least in my mind: how do we actually avoid the sinfulness mentioned here? If we connect “sin” in Ephesians 4, and “anger of man” in James 1 together, we see that anger that comes from man is the kind to avoid. In other words, if we want to feel good anger, we need to feel the anger of the Spirit.
I believe that the the main difference between the Spirit’s anger and man's anger is the righteousness of God mentioned in James 1:20. The Spirit’s anger is concerned with the righteousness of God, and the anger of man is concerned with the righteousness of man. It would be helpful if we understand the word “righteousness” as justice. In other words God's righteousness is God's just law; man's righteousness would be man's law. The implications are huge: we are either angry for the sake of our own selves, that our laws have been broken; or we are angry that God's infinitely perfect laws have been broken.
I think it is interesting that James says that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. It's thought-provoking to think of vices and virtues as producers. Ask yourself this question the next time you become expressively passionate about something: am I producing the righteousness of God, or my own; am I spreading God’s rules in the land, or my own; am I propagating purity and wholesomeness in the land, or am I tyrannically controlling everyone else to obey my own? These are startling questions, but these are the right questions to ask, lest we manipulate for the sake of our own kingdom. Let us pray with our Jesus: “Father in heaven, your kingdom come.”
By Caleb Bobrycki
Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. We have tasted and seen that you are good.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever.
And may your Kingdom come. We long to see the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven from God. Come, Lord Jesus! Come!
O, Lord, may your will be done. Give the world eyes to see and ears to hear the words of the covenant, that blessing may overtake them. May the world believe and know that Jesus loves his Father!
Give us this day our daily bread. We pray that you will clothe and feed us.
And, oh great God, that you will forgive all our sins as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. Forgive all our anxiousness about your provision. Send your Redeemer to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression.
Thank you for Jesus. And lead us not into further temptation, but deliver us from evil. Light up our eyes. Open them, that we may behold wonderful things from your Law. Sanctify us in the truth. Your word is truth.
Yours is the Kingdom, power, and glory forever. Father, you have given Jesus all authority. We ask this for the sake of his name, and therefore yours.
By Caleb Bobrycki
Ever read the Psalms? One really does not have to go far to see how intensely the Psalmists felt dark days. I am so thankful to God that he made sure to put the Psalms in the Bible: they are raw, yet undefiled, emotion. Here we see pure pain and anguish, and yet, not corrupted by the normal trajectory of the human heart, rather aimed at the Most High God. Normally when those days come, we get angry, bitter, passive aggressive, cynical, and/or emotionally imbalanced and sensitive; we act in our flesh. The Psalms are calling us to feel emotion the appropriately, on purpose, and toward God. There will be days when we simply jam our fingers, and within seconds we are on the ground in a pool of tears; the Psalms are calling us to cry to God while we are on the floor.
I recently realized that, one way to put it is, security in God looks like insecurity to the world. The world wants to deal with things on their own, not depend on another or be governed by someone higher than they. The thought of turning frequently to Christ in with a churning stomach, crying out for help in seasons of distress, is what really churns the stomach of the world. I have a few reasons for this pulled from different texts that have massively impacted my life over the years. When the Church prays, the world sees her depending, and dependence is seen as a weakness; they see her depending on things she does not see, which seems unstable; and they see a lack of freedom in surrendering to God.
The World Sees Dependance as Weakness
Psalm Three. That’s how far you have to go into your copy of the Psalms in your Bible to find someone crying out to God, sounding, to the world, like a whining child who fell off a bike. Verse one says, “How many are my foes! Many are rising against me.” The world, and your flesh in times of trouble, calls this narcissism; and yet Christ felt this more than anyone else could, and no one would dare call him such. “Many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.” How many people actually said there was no salvation from him? I do not find “many” saying this in the Bible. This is written when David flees from his son, Absalom, who is trying to kill him. What is so striking is that David may not have heard with his physical ears many, if any, say those actual words, seeing as how he fled society for his life. But he feels those thoughts deep down, the thoughts of people against him. And God, in his mercy, allowed the painful feeling that David felt from people possibly saying evil things about him to be recorded in his infinitely valuable Scriptures.
Verse three continues, "But you, O LORD, are a shield about me.” There it is. There is the difference between narcissism and depending on God. Narcissism is the insanity of circularly feeling others’ malicious thoughts, with no end; it is shot through with self, from beginning to end. But, dependance on God starts with malicious thoughts, feels it deeply, cries out to God honestly, and confesses that ultimately it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter! Not simply because it doesn’t matter, which is just a selfish as circularly thinking about it, but because “The LORD is a shield.” Those words have been balm to my soul in dark days. May they be so to you.
The World Sees the Church Depending On an Imaginary Friend
“The world cannot receive [The Spirit of Truth] since it does not see him” (John 14:17). We look even more childish to the world and our flesh when we consider that we cannot see God. “The lifeblood, warp and woof, and bulwark of your life, is some imaginary friend? That’s cute. Let us know when you grow up.” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1 that God chose what is foolish in the world to confound the wise. “The weakness of God is stronger than men” (25). Here we go again. God chose weakness to be the power of the church. The world laughs at the church, as though they have the secret, they are the adults, and we are the helpless little sheep who do not know how to handle pain.
But the joke's on them. And may our hearts ache for them to know it. May the world know that after a hard day, humans were not created to shrug off pain. Do not shrug it off. Shrug it off and your heart will harden; and hard hearts look strong to the world, but to God they look like tomb stones. Do not be hard. Be pliable, and run to God with everything.
To the World a Praying Church Has No Freedom
“Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). These are shocking words from Job’s wife. The world and our flesh look at the Church praying like children and see no freedom. Where is the liberty in taking matters to God? There is no fun in running to some greater being about all our problems. It is much better, and more interesting, to be God. How does praying make a good biography? the world thinks. Abraham Lincoln may have been known for many things, but it was not primarily praying. Praying and crying out to God over all problems is a waste of time and really is just sad.
But notice Job’s reply, and remember the above passage from Corinthians, “You speak as one of the foolish (worldly) women would speak. Shall we receive good from God and not evil?” (Job 2:10). Amen, Job. May we be like that. The world thinks crying day and night (Psalm 88:1) to God is weak and maybe even literally mental, but the foolishness of the world is the wisdom of God.
“O LORD, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you” (Psalm 88:1). Your flesh reads that and wants to vomit. Cry every day and night? Make mountains out of mole hills to God every day? Yuck! But I say to you, “Put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). You may say that God has got much greater things to do. And I say, “In everything make your requests known to God” (Philippians 4:6). But the world does it the complete opposite way, you say! Your Older Brother says, “[The Church] is not of the world, [Father]” (John 17:16).
By Caleb Bobrycki
(Photo Taken at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
Ever since the fall, God has been in the business of bringing his people back into his land to enjoy fellowship with him. But there is one very important fight in every individual that has slowed down the pace of this kingdom tremendously: our lack of prayerfulness and watchfulness against sin. Especially saddening is that much of our laziness is done in the name of gospel-centeredness. I have written about this recently, but one of my main questions lately is whether or not it is “gospel talk” to only speak in terms of our justification by faith. Saying that Christ has given us access to God does wonders for the guilty conscience, but is that all that we say in terms of our sin and fellowship with God? When we sin, in other words, is our fellowship with God hindered in anyway? Must we only speak in terms of “access to God” when we speak in terms of our sanctification? Should there a balanced view between our substitution and our sanctification? The following is my small attempt to practically bring together the wonderful doctrines of justification by faith and sanctification by the Holy Spirit.
Access to God in Christ
Interpreting Romans five and eight with one another has recently helped me understand the relationship that we have with our Father in this fight against sin. We are in good company when we struggle with doubts after specific and intentional crimes against God. Wrongfully, believers often believe they are denied access to God when they sin. Nothing could be further from the truth. Romans chapter five, verse one, reminds us that we have been justified by faith and we have peace with God through the blood of our Lord Jesus. Name your sin, your hostility toward God! Now go to the cross and see it nailed there, and see the blood pouring out your dear Savior’s side. It has been paid. It is finished! Verse two of Romans five further clarifies the point when it says that we have obtained access by that faith “into that grace”. And what a place that is, "his grace." When we sin against our gracious Father and grieve the Spirit, our flesh condemns us and prohibits us access to God; but this verse will not have it! This verse encourages our guilty conscience is, and reminds us that our access is not denied. Our sins may grieve the Spirit, and they may call for disciplinary action from the Father, but they do not deny us access to God. The blood of Christ nullifies all prohibitions from access to God. Do not undercut the gospel of the expiating blood of Christ, but go to God in Christ and know that the gospel of substitution warrants 24 hour access to God in Christ. We need no other mediator and no other high priest than the great Lord Jesus Christ. The grievances that we cause the Holy Spirit when we sin against our father spur us onto the blood of Christ rather than from it. Have you ashamed yourself? Do you feel as though you cannot come to God because of your sin? Be washed in the blood and remember your it has been paid and your access granted.
The Spirit, Our Guide
Furthermore, "access to God", namely the substitutionary atonement of the Lord Jesus, is not the end of the road. It is the road. And we would do well to remember that we have a guide along this path, namely the Spirit of God via the truth of God in his Word. To see this we must turn to Romans chapter eight, where, in the first four verses, Paul teaches that the Spirit has a law of life by which we must walk. I declare this to those who say that Christians are not under a law. These four verses in the beginning of Romans chapter 8 state that we are no longer under the law of the flesh but under the law of the Spirit of life. The first greek word for law is the same as the word for the Spirit’s law. We have a law in the New Covenant, namely live! Walk according to life! Do not walk according to the passions of the flesh, but according to the Spirit. The Spirit of Christ is our guide along the path of Christ, who is our access to God. I am reminded of John 14:16-17, where Jesus clearly states that we have another Helper, even the Spirit of truth. This is right on the heels of Jesus’ previous statement in the discourse, in which he says that he is the truth. Jesus Christ is the truth and he is our access to God. But, dear brothers and sisters, when we bring enmity and hostility between the Father and ourselves, we have a guide along our access to God, which is the Spirit.
What does this look like practically? Is there a balanced view of substitutionary atonement and the sanctifying work of the Spirit? Profoundly, yes! When we sin, let us go to the Father in prayer immediately. When we feel our consciences calling us to distance ourselves from our benevolent Father, we must approach God in Christ. Period. When sin shows its fangs at our conscience, telling us to run away from the courts of God, don't listen, but run to your Father through the blood of Christ. While in the courts of God, stand, as Romans five says, on your substitution and justification by faith in Christ. You have nowhere else to stand in the presence of God but on that finished work. As you are standing up on that finished, conscience clearing, sin, and death-defeating work, speak with God about your sin. Wrestle, as it were, with God, like your patriarchal forefather Jacob. Speak with your Father about your sin; it is there. God has forgiven you in Christ and you have access to God despite that sin, but, in his omniscience, he knows very well about your vice. Bring that vice by the power of the Spirit to death in prayer, while standing on the finished work of Christ.
It is a sad thing that so many Christians are lax in their faith and fight with sin because of simple laziness. All because we do not pray. We must deal with our sins in prayer by the power of the Spirit, and put to death the deeds of the flesh by the power of the Spirit and his Word. There is an emphatic declaration over the guilty conscience that our sins have been absolutely forgiven in Christ, and said sins do not prohibit access to God in Christ. That does not, however, mean we must not put those deeds to death practically. Go to God along such access in Christ and murder sin by the Spirit’s Word. Wait no longer, dear ones, and remember the hymn’s words, "What needless burdens do we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer."