April “Tabletalk”: Tackling Shame – W. Duncan Rankin

Tackling Shame by W. Duncan Rankin | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-April 2015The fourth and final featured article in the April issue of Tabletalk is penned by Dr. W.Duncan Rankin, a PCA pastor and associate professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and at Reformation Bible College.

His article is titled “Tackling Shame”, and in it Rankin sets out to give us the Christian (biblical) answer to the reality of shame. Tracing the broad lines of this consequence of sin (“The Problem of Shame” and “The Secret to Shame”), Rankin shows us again that any hope for deliverance from this “binding and demoralizing” reality is not to be found in man but only in Christ:

So, how do we unravel our shame? Hope in self only maddens, as learned through our repeated failures and frustration. The secret to shame must lie outside of ourselves, in the only hope we have ever had—Jesus Christ our Lord. Through His cross, Jesus relieves our guilt, as well as its cousin, shame.

And so the author shows us how Jesus by His perfect work of suffering and dying for His people answers to our need for shame-deliverance:

Identifying with us in our shameful condition, Jesus represented and substituted for His own people. In His lifelong active obedience, He earned the perfect righteousness that grounds their peace and can transform their shame (2 Cor. 5:21). In His passive obedience, He took the highest and most monstrous form of our human shame personally to Himself; as the eternal Son of God, He embraced disgrace stretching from the depths of earth to the heights of heaven as no one else could do. On Calvary alone can the cruelty of human shame be rightly felt and measured. There our bounty is great (Rom. 6:23).

Our shame begins to unravel as we see His dear person and know His matchless work to be our own. United to Him by faith through the Holy Spirit, our whole position changes (Eph. 2:4–9). Redeemed and reconciled to our heavenly Father by the Son of His love, the basis of our true shame is dealt with and our alienation removed.

With this in view Rankin ends with these thoughts – good ones for all of us burdened with our own shameful sins – past and present:

Believers tackle shame in this way as they live the rest of their Christian lives by His grace and strength. This means that we need the means of grace that He has appointed—the Word read, preached, sung, prayed, and seen in the sacraments. We also need those secondary means of fellowship (Acts 4:32) and church discipline (Gal. 6:1). Using all these practical answers to our shame, we can sit up, crawl, walk, and run to God’s glory, unraveling and despising the shame that so easily entangles us.

April “Tabletalk”: What Shame Does – James Coffield

What Shame Does by James Coffield | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-April 2015Last week Monday we began to take a look at the April 2015 issue of “Tabletalk”, with its theme of “shame.”

The second featured article on the subject I found to be rather “dark”, even difficult to read. That is due to the fact that the author (Dr. James Coffield serves as professor and director of counseling at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL) relates “what shame does” by means of a concrete example – a young man who took his life last year in part because of the shame of his sins.

As he explains the power of shame in the human soul, Coffield lays out the evil ways in which we can allow shame to control our attitudes and behavior. These steps are graphic – and realistic (isolation, fear of exposure, self-hate, etc.). While hard to read, it is necessary for us to understand “what shame does”, that is, when it is not handled with the grace and wisdom of God as found in the gospel of Christ.

Do not take this as criticism of Coffield and his article. The devastating power of shame needs to be exposed and addressed – concretely and biblically. For those who know this power of shame, we need to know there is comfort and hope in Christ alone.

Here is part of Coffield’s analysis of shame’s activity in sinners – and the answer that may be found in the gospel. To read the full article, visit the Ligonier link above.

Shame paradoxically gives the shame-based person the illusion of control. It allows us to feel as if we are capable of digging our own cisterns—If the problem is me, I can fix it. I don’t need to be dependent upon God or anyone else. I can fix me. A principle of life is that we only fight battles that we think we can win, and shame allows us to restructure reality and believe that we are the problem and the solution; therefore, we can win. Shame invites a person to carry the weight, and in doing so, provides a false sense of control. The shame-based person is allowed to carry this weight and not trust God or others, ever again. Luke’s story of glory was hijacked by shame, whereas the gospel of Luke tells us of glory burst forth from stories that were initially bathed in shame.

The biblical gospel of Luke includes stories of the disenfranchised: the leper, the paralytic, the infirm woman. Luke’s stories invite his readers to see Christ as the transformer and healer. Luke even begins the grand story of glory in a place that many would consider shameful: a stable with shepherds. God’s great story of glory is teeming with stories of the poor, the ill, the neglected, the scorned, but His presence turns the lowly into the exalted. As believers, our stories will be woven together and end in glory.

Antiques and Our Heritage (2) – The Sense of Sin

Two weeks ago we began to quote from a selection by John J.Timmerman, former English professor at Calvin College, found in a collection of his writings titled Markings on a Long Journey (Baker, 1982). It is an article he originally wrote for The Banner in September of 1972, and includes his thoughts on some things “old, precious, and beautiful” in the Reformed tradition.

The first one was the “antithesis”; the second one ties in well with our previous post today. Timmerman calls this “antique”, “the sense of sin and human limitation”. Here are his thoughts:

Markings on long journey-TimmermanSin is almost an obsolete word in our culture. We have criminals and lawbreakers, people have guilty feelings, often considered unjustified, but what newspaper would accuse the would-be assassin of Wallace as a sinner? The word would sound medieval. The exuberant religious movements don’t talk much about guilt. Sin as transgression of God’s law, as a cause of corruption, alienation, and human tragedy has a very limited circulation.

In the face of the most massive evidence of human greed and callousness, man seems to view sin as a myth. There is little talk about the endless, thorny battle with sin in our ordinary lives, little feeling of the enormous distance between the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount and our daily existence. I remember vividly the almost monotonous prayers to keep us from sinning in thought, word, and deed; prayers, however, that rose from hard and inescapable experience. I am not stressing the morbid preoccupation with sin that… approaches sickness of soul and exhibits ingratitude to our Lord’s redeeming power, but I am stressing the importance of a realistic and honest appraisal of the dark side of our daily lives and measureless need of daily forgiveness and daily repentance. Indeed Jesus has saved us once and for all, but He also saves us everyday. Nobody wears robes of stainless white this side of Jordan (p.157).

The Biggest Heresy In America | HeadHeartHand Blog

The Biggest Heresy In America | HeadHeartHand Blog.

David Murray (Puritan Reformed Seminary) comments (posted Nov.5, 2014) on a recent survey taken by Ligonier Ministries revealing what is “the biggest heresy in America” – one hardly surprising in the sea of heresies that envelope our society. What I appreciated about Murray’s response is the thoroughly biblical – and Reformed! – teaching concerning man’s depravity and inability.

Here is a part of what the survey found, along with a part of Murray’s summary of the Bible’s teaching on sin. Find the full post at the “HeadHeartHand” link above.

Thanks to a recent survey by Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research we now know the biggest heresy in America. Pushing errors regarding the trinity and the church into second and third place is the denial of the Bible’s teaching about the doctrine of sin, especially in the related areas of human depravity and human inability. I say “related” because what we believe about human depravity impacts what we believe about human ability; what we are determines what we can or cannot do.

Regarding human depravity, the research showed:

  • 67% agree “Everyone sins at least a little, but most people are by nature good.”
  • 40% agree “God loves me because of the good I do or have done.”

…But now, let’s turn from our culture and from the polls to the Word of God, to hear what God says about human depravity and human inability. As we will see, the Bible teaches that because of human depravity we have human inability. Here’s what the Bible teaches about our natural spiritual condition and abilities. Notice the repeated emphasis on what we cannot do.

1. You cannot think a good thought or desire a good desire: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).

2. You cannot bring anything clean out of your own heart or life: “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one!” (Job 14:4).

Nine statements by Obama made a mockery of God’s Word

Nine statements by Obama yesterday made a mockery of God’ ….

On Wednesday of this week I received this notice from the American Family Association. It points out how our president in a speech the day before openly defied the teaching of God’s Word on marriage and godly sexuality by boasting about the homosexual agenda he has promoted since becoming our nation’s leader. And this from a professing Christian who claims to be following holy Scripture and representing our Lord! He may mock but God is not mocked!

As we continue to watch the rapid anti-Christian moral decline in this land, we need to be courageous in defending and teaching the truth of God’s Word and we need to be mighty in prayer for the church, as well as for our leaders.

Here is the first part of the AFA post; find the rest at the link above.

June 18, 2014

Yesterday, President Barack Obama spoke at an LGBT fundraiser in New York City. You can watch or read the entire speech here.

I thought you might like to know what he said, so here are a few excerpts from the transcript of his speech:

– The day that the Supreme Court issued its ruling, United States v. Windsor, was a great day for America.

– So Pride Month is a time for celebration, and this year we’ve got a lot to celebrate.  If you think about everything that’s happened in the last 12 months, it is remarkable.  In nine more states you’re now free to marry the person you love – that includes my two home states of Hawaii and Illinois. The NFL drafted its first openly gay player. The U.S. Postal Service made history by putting an openly gay person on a stamp – the late, great Harvey Milk smiling from ear to ear.

– When I took office, only two states had marriage equality.  Today, 19 states and the District of Columbia do.

– But because of your help, we’ve been able to do more to protect the rights of lesbian and gay, and bisexual and transgender Americans than any administration in history.

Music Meditation: “He Was Despised” – Handel’s “Messiah”

In connection with our previous post on the aspect of our Lord’s suffering that involved being spit on, we also post this video of the solo pieces (alto) “He was Despised” and “He Gave His Back to the Smiters” from G.F.Handel’s “Messiah”.

You will notice that also this aspect of Christ’s suffering was prophesied of, in Isaiah 50:6. Every detail of his passion was purposed and providentially carried out by His sovereign Father. And to it all Jesus willingly gave Himself. Notice what that text says: He gave his back to the smiters and He hid not his face from the shame and spitting. He suffered not as a helpless victim but as God’s willing, submissive Servant. So that His whole life as well as His death could be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. He bore our shame and was spit on, so that we might have the smile of God’s face now and to all eternity.

May our music meditation on Christ’s suffering of “shame and spitting” also serve to humble us and drive us to the cross.

Here is the information that goes with the video:

Georg Friedrich Haendel (1685-1759)

air for alto: “He was despised and rejected of men” (Oratorio Messiah)

Grace Hoffman, mezzo-soprano

The Philharmonia orchestra and chorus,
Conductor: Otto Klemperer.
London, September 1964

He was despised and rejected of men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with
grief. (Isaiah 53:3)
He gave his back to the smiters,
and His cheeks to them that plucked off
the hair: He hid not His face from shame and spitting. (Isaiah 50:6)

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (4)

JesusKeepMeNear-NGuthrieOver the past few Sundays leading up to Good Friday and Easter (April 18 and 20 this year) we are doing a series of meditations centered on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. During this special season of reflection on the passion and victory of our Savior we are using as our source the little book  Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter, a wonderful collection of sermons and writings edited by Nancy Guthrie (Crossway, 2009).

Chapter seven (7) of this work contains a precious sermon of Charles H. Spurgeon, “Then Did They Spit in His Face”, based on Matthew 26:67. This verse reads (in the KJV): “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands.” This refers, of course, to that part of Jesus’ suffering when he was being tried by Caiaphas and the leaders of the Jews.

I have to remark here that I don’t believe I have ever heard (or read) a sermon specifically on this passage or on this part of our Lord’s suffering. Spurgeon’s treatment of this verse is powerful, pointing us both to the wickedness of man and the mercy of the Savior. I can only quote a portion of his sermon, but I choose that part where Spurgeon calls attention to the power of sin as it lies in our hearts and works in our own lives.

There are two or three thoughts that come to mind when I think that these wicked men did actually spit in Christ’s face – in that face which is the light of heaven, the joy of angels, the bliss of saints, and the very brightness of the Father’s glory. This spitting shows us, first, how far sin will go. If we want proof of the depravity of the heart of man, I will not point you to the stews of Sodom and Gomorrah, nor will I take you to the places where blood is shed in streams by wretches like to Herod and men of that sort.

No, the clearest proof that man is utterly fallen, and that the natural heart is enmity against God, is seen in the fact that they did spit in Christ’s face, did falsely accuse him, and condemn him, and lead him out as a malefactor, and hang him up as a felon that he might die upon the cross. Why, what evil had he done? What was there in his whole life that should give them occasion to spit in his face? Even at that moment, did his face flash with indignation against them? Did he look with contempt upon them?

Not he; for he was all gentleness and tenderness even toward these his enemies, and their hearts must have been hard and brutal indeed that ‘then did they spit in his face.’ He had healed their sick, he had fed their hungry, he had been among them a very fountain of blessing up and down Judaea and Samaria; and yet, ‘then did they spit in his face.’ Humanity stands condemned of the blackest iniquity now that it has gone as far as to spit in Christ’s face.

O my brothers, let us hate sin; O my sisters, let us loathe sin, not only because it pierced those blessed hands and feet of our dear Redeemer, but because it dared even to spit in his face! No one can ever know all the shame the Lord of glory suffered when they did spit in his face. These words glide over my tongue all too smoothly; perhaps even I do not feel them as they ought to be felt, though I would do so if I could.

But could I feel as I ought to feel in sympathy with the terrible shame of Christ, and then could I interpret those feelings by any language known to mortal man, surely you would bow your heads and blush, and you would feel rising within your spirits a burning indignation against the sin that dared to put the Christ of God to such shame as this. I want to kiss his feet when I think that they did spit in his face (pp.44-46).

May these thoughts humble us to the dust and lead us to godly repentance for our own spitting on Jesus’ face in so many ways (as Spurgeon also points out in the sermon). And may it drive us to the merciful Savior Who shed His blood for such sin-spitting sinners.

Eich Is Out. So Is Tolerance.

Eich Is Out. So Is Tolerance..

MoxFirefoxpicThis is another of those stories that will make you realize how intolerant and antagonistic our society has become toward those who support traditional marriage (Biblical, i.e., God-ordained and defined). This news item broke this week and it is just one more indicator of the fact that the pro-homosexual, anti-Christian crowd, for all its talk of tolerance and freedom, really only wants this for itself, not for those who stand for and support traditional values.

The fact that this man’s contribution “got out” because of an IRS leak only makes one more upset. With the continued slide into moral decay on the part of our country goes loss of freedom and privacy. We may expect more of this in the future. Signs of the times, these things are. Signs of Christ’s return – for judgment (on the impenitent) and salvation (for penitent believers). May our hope be fixed on that great day.

Here’s the story as posted April 3, 2014 at “The Foundry” (Heritage Foundation) – read the rest at the link above:

Mozilla Corp. co-founder Brendan Eich has resigned as CEO after a week of public pressure stemming from a campaign contribution he made six years ago. Eich supported the wrong cause; he supported California’s Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

For some who favor the redefinition of marriage, tolerance appears to have been a useful rhetorical device along the way to eliminating dissent.

Eich, on the other hand, seems to have been quite tolerant. As Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker, commenting on the development, said of  Eich’s 15 years at Mozilla:

I never saw any kind of behavior or attitude from him that was not in line with Mozilla’s values of inclusiveness.”

 

The outrageous treatment of Eich  is the result of one private, personal campaign contribution to support marriage as a male-female union, a view affirmed at the time by President Barack Obama, then-Sen.  Hillary Clinton, and countless other prominent officials. After all, Prop 8 passed with the support of 7 million California voters.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 129

Psalm129-2Our psalm for consideration today as we prepare to worship at our sovereign God’s footstool is Psalm 129. This is the tenth of the “song of degrees” or “ascent”, sung by the Israelite pilgrims as they journeyed to Jerusalem for the solemn seasons of worship according to the law of the Lord. As they made their way to the city of God, they were conscious of many things, including their enemies, as we have seen previously (see especially Psalms 120, 124).

According to Psalm 129 the people of God were conscious of these foes of the Lord and themselves again and sang this song along the way:

Psalm 129

Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say:

2 Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me.

3 The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.

4 The Lord is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked.

5 Let them all be confounded and turned back that hate Zion.

6 Let them be as the grass upon the housetops, which withereth afore it groweth up:

7 Wherewith the mower filleth not his hand; nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom.

8 Neither do they which go by say, The blessing of the Lord be upon you: we bless you in the name of the Lord.

 

Why sing of such haters of Zion? Why sing/pray for the ruin of these enemies of the church? Because Israel realized how important her cause and calling was. The worship of the one, true and living God was the highest activity in which Israel could be engaged. It is the chief purpose of the church to praise and glorify the God of the whole earth, the God Who is her Lord by creation and redemption in Jesus Christ. God must be exalted – in the church and among the nations. He must be shown to be God alone and all idols shown to be nothing.

And therefore, the worship of this one, true God was Israel’s holiest activity and her highest witness to the wicked world around her. And as the NT church, we must know that our worship of the Lord still is this.

Which is why this worship is so hated, so despised, and so opposed. This is why Zion, God’s true, worshiping church in the world is so afflicted, even from his youth (vss.1-2). Because the wicked and unbelieving cannot stand to see the one, true God exalted and praised and their own idols and worship condemned and put down. Their carnal enmity against God is roused when they see Zion marching to worship Him, and so they attack God’s people and try to prevent them from worshiping (v.3). They would never give their blessing and encouragement to the church in her journey to Jerusalem (v.8).No, they hate Zion and curse her (Remember Balak?!).

And again, as God’s NT church, we must know it is still the same. We may not experience that hatred and opposition so directly in this country (Though it is increasing all the time!), but in many parts of the world believers in the true God and Father of Jesus Christ do. The persecution of God’s true worshipers continues to this day.

And so the church then and now may and must sing the words of Psalm 129. Such words may be viewed as “intolerant” in our day; they may be viewed as “hate speech” on the part of the church. But these inspired words of God are also put into her mouth: “Let them be confounded and turned back that hate Zion.” For, yes, our God is righteous (v.4)! He is the just Judge of all men, including the wicked Who hate Zion.

In praying for the overthrow of her enemeies the church is not acting out of personal spite or revenge. She is commiting her way to the Judge of heaven and earth. She is seeking the revelation of the perfect justice of the righteous God, Who blesses and rewards good-doers and Who curses and punishes evil-doers. This God is the great Savior and Defender of His church (v.4). He protects His true worshipers so that the wicked do not prevail against them (v.2b). And therefore to this God Zion prays.

And so, as Israel sang this as she went up to Jerusalem, so do we who go up to the spiritual city of God. Conscious of our foes, as the OT church was, we sing with her, “Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth….” May our sovereign Savior and faithful Father hear our prayer and answer us in mercy. For Christ’s sake, because as sinners, we too are by nature the enemies of God. But now, for Jesus’ sake, we are covenant friends. Let us draw near and worship!

Psalter1912If you should desire to reflect on Psalm 129 through the music of the Psalter, I point you to this special versification of it found in the songbook the PRC uses in public worship. Below are the lyrics; at the link provided here you will also find piano accompaniment.

1. Through all the years, may Israel say,
My bitter foes have oft assailed,
Have sought my hurt in fierce array,
Yet over me have not prevailed.

2. Though scars of conflict and distress
Remain to tell of trials past,
Jehovah in His righteousness
Has safely brought us through at last.

3. The foes of Zion shall be brought
To hopeless flight and put to shame;
Their wicked plans shall come to nought
And all mankind forget their name.

4. To them no kindly friend shall say,
God bless you now and speed you well;
No grateful heart for them shall pray,
May God’s rich blessing on you dwell.

 

43 Books About War Every Man Should Read | The Art of Manliness

43 Books About War Every Man Should Read | The Art of Manliness.

WarBooksThough this guest article was posted a month ago on the AOM blog (Dec.3, 2013), it is still worth noting here. Yes, it is especially for you men, who need to be encouraged to read anyway and who ought to find the subject of war interesting for many reasons, not the least of which is to learn about manliness (in both its corrupt and sanctified forms).

But of course, as believers we also look at war through the lens of Scripture, remembering that it is our sovereign God Who controls the running of the red horse throughout history – all for the sake of the gathering of His elect church through Jesus Christ (Rev.6:2,4). That too ought to be incentive to read about war – to learn how God has used this means to save and preserve His church in every land and place.

There are a variety of books on war here, covering every major period of history. Plus, Mr.Holiday provides a brief synopsis of each title he recommends. Thus you men ought to find something to add to your reading list for 2014 here. What period of war history would you like to know about?

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Ryan Holiday.

War is unquestionably mankind at his worst. Yet, paradoxically, it is in war that men — individual men — often show the very best of themselves. War is often the result of greed, stupidity, or depravity. But in it, men are often brave, loyal, and selfless.

I am not a soldier. I have no plans to become one. But I’ve studied war for a long time. I am not alone in this.

The greats have been writing and reading about war — its causes, its effects, its heroes, its victims — since the beginning of written text. Some of our most powerful literature is either overtly about war or profoundly influenced by it. Homer’s epic poems are about war — first, ten years of battle against Troy and then ten years of battle against nature and the gods. Thucydides, our first great historian, wrote about the Peloponnesian War — the great war between Sparta and Athens. Rome was built by war and literature, and the world has been influenced by that ever since. The American Empire is no different — our men came home and wrote about the Civil War, about the Spanish-American War, about WWI, about WWII. A new generation has come home and has written (and is still writing) powerful books about the counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The study of war is the study of life, because war is life in the rawest sense. It is death, fear, power, love, adrenaline, sacrifice, glory, and the will to survive.

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