Third Advent – Micah 4 “The Mountain of the Lord”

My sermon for the third week of advent.  If you have not read David Chilton’s book Paradise Restored, please slap yourself, then read it ASAP.

Advertisements

The Bible Story is OUR Story

A Latin American theologian has said that the important thing for the student of the Bible is not to understand the text but to understand the world through the text. Of course the second is not possible without the first. In this respect the Bible functions in the life of the Church like the language we use. Of course we have to learn the meaning of words and the rules of grammar and syntax. But when we are actually speaking, writing or reading, we do not attend to these things. We attend through them to the meaning, through which we deal with the situation ‘out there’. All knowing, and all human dealing with the world is conducted by means of a language. We do not think about the language so much as live in it. It is part of ourselves. In an analogous fashion we need to live in the Bible so that its language, its images, its histories, its prayers, its songs become our way of understanding and dealing with the world.

There is obviously no short cut to the recovery of the Bible as ‘Holy Scripture’ for modern secularised Europeans. Much will depend upon faithful biblical preaching by our pastors. And this must encourage the daily reading of the Bible in our homes. When you read a good novel you come to know the hero of the, story as if you had actually met him. No description of him, for example in an obituary notice, can be a substitute for this. It is as you watch him dealing with actual situations and people that you come to know him. So it is, I think, in reading the Bible. As you read and re-read and go on reading, you come to know God. He is the one whose nature the Bible discloses. You come to know him personally. And because this is the whole story from the beginning of the world to its end, I who am now part of this story, feel that I know the one who is the author of the story and that I can trust him. I do not find infallible answers to be questions or solutions for my dilemmas. But I can go ahead, take risks, with the sort of confidence that is expressed in the apostle’s word: “I know whom I have believed”. It is when there are congregations of men and women and children who are living the story now, here, that the Bible will become good news for secularised people.

Quoted from Leslie Newbigin, “The Bible: Good News for Secularised People”

Well, Cut Me Up and Place Me on the Altar!

Leviticus 1:3-13

 1 The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, 2“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock.

 3“If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. 4 He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.

 5Then he shall kill the bull before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 6Then he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces, 7and the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. 8And Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head, and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; 9but its entrails and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

10“If his gift for a burnt offering is from the flock, from the sheep or goats, he shall bring a male without blemish, 11 and he shall kill it on the north side of the altar before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw its blood against the sides of the altar. 12And he shall cut it into pieces, with its head and its fat, and the priest shall arrange them on the wood that is on the fire on the altar, 13but the entrails and the legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer all of it and burn it on the altar; it is a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

In the Levitical sacrifice (Leviticus 1:1-13), particularly the Ascension Offering (incorrectly translated as “Whole Burnt Offering”) the animal was cut up into pieces and arranged a specific way on the altar. Head first was placed on the altar, then after washing, the body second. Now interestingly this corresponds to the pattern of resurrection as recorded for us in the New Testament (1 Cor. 15:23), Christ first (who is the head), and then us, only after we (the body) have received the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).

As interesting as that is, I want to focus on something a bit more pastoral.

Hebrews 4:12 says,

12For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 

I believe that what this is alluding to is the cutting up of the Ascension offering. The Ascension offering represented the believer’s whole (total) dedication and complete surrender to God. The sacrificer understood that it was himself, in a symbolic way, being cut up into pieces and arranged on the altar and being consumed by the fire of the Holy Spirit and sent up as smoke into the presence of God.

What the author of Hebrews is saying here is, that the knife, or the sword that was used to cut apart the Ascension Offering, now in the New Covenant is to be understood as the Word of God. It is the sword of the Spirit which “cuts us up into pieces”, dividing even our very soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerns even the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. It is the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit that the minister is to wield on Sunday Mornings in order to “cut up God’s people” and “present them as a living sacrifice to God” “which is our spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).

The worshiper then, is to prepare his heart and soul for the cutting that is about to take place. When the Word of God is read, and sang, and preached, and taught, we are all supposed to submit ourselves to the sharp blade of the sword of the Spirit, completely dedicating ourselves to God. We are to heed the word and search our hearts and see where we have fallen short in our duty, and see where we have sinned, and see where we need correction. And in so doing, we repent, and rededicate ourselves to God, being forgiven of our sins.

Let us then with all due diligence place ourselves on the altar, and present our minds  and bodies, souls and spirits, wholly to God, subjecting ourselves to that blade which is sharper than any two edged sword, or flaying knife. For then we make ourselves ready to be consumed by the fire of the Holy Spirit on the altar of our hearts and become a sweet smelling savor to our Lord.re his heart and soul for the cutting that is about to take place. When the Word of God is read, and sang, and preached, and taught, we are all supposed to submit ourselves to the sharp blade of the sword of the Spirit, completely dedicating ourselves to God. We are to heed the word and search our hearts and see where we have fallen short in our duty, and see where we have sinned, and see where we need correction. And in so doing, we repent, and rededicate ourselves to God, being forgiven of our sins. Only then can we ascend into the throne room of God as a sweet smelling aroma. If we reject the sharp cutting blade of God’s sword, and by so doing reject the Holy Spirit of God, we will be found to be a sacrifice which is a stench in God’s nostrils.


Infallibility: An Inescapable Concept

    As Christians, we believe that the Bible is infallible. We believe the Bible to be true, unerring, and authoritative in all that it teaches, because it is the Word of the One True God. Atheists and Agnostics do not believe this to be the case. They claim that since the Bible is written by humans, and since humans err, the Bible has to by necessity contain errors. They also make claims as to the scientific and historical inaccuracies, the mythological nature of the Bible, and the downright foolishness of the Bible and its ridiculous stories, leaving the Bible far from being infallible or authoritative.

    Whatever their arguments are, the inevitable conclusion of their claims is simple, “The Bible is not infallible, because I am.” This might sound strange and even somewhat silly at first, but it is no doubt true.  When the unbeliever makes an absolute claim such as, “the Bible is not the word of God” he is making himself out to be his own god, determining for himself what constitutes good and evil, right and wrong, true and false.

The unbeliever has thus become his own infallible source of truth. He has transferred infallibility from God to himself. Granted, he might appeal to another person or even a whole group of people as the basis of his authority and the reasons for not believing in God or the Bible.

As R.J. Rushdoony states in his Systematic Theology, pg 2.

The doctrine of the infallibility of Scripture can be denied, but the concept of infallibility as such cannot be logically denied.  Infallibility is an inescapable concept.  If men refuse to ascribe infallibility to Scripture, it is because the concept has been transferred to something else.  The word infallibility is not normally used in these transfers; the concept is disguised in and veiled, but, in a variety of ways, infallibility is ascribed to concepts, things, men, and institutions.

But in order for persons to speak an infallible word, they must meet the prerequisites to do so. Sadly for them, only God can do that. Let’s look briefly look at 5 foundational characteristics that one must possess in order to speak infallibly on any matter.

    Omniscience: In order to speak authoritatively on any matter, one must know absolutely all there is to know. Only God knows everything, therefore He alone has the ability to speak an infallible word. His understanding is limitless (Ps. 147:5).

    Truthfulness: God indeed does know all things, but if He were capable of lying (as Allah is) than even if He knew everything, when He spoke on a matter there would be no reason for us to believe Him because He could very well be lying. But the Triune God of Scripture cannot lie (Heb. 6:18). Thus, when God speaks He speaks as one who knows all things, and as one who can only tell the truth.

    Omnipotence: Scripture declares over and over again that God is Almighty. In order for there to be any authority anywhere, there must necessitate first some power and strength to bring about what would be commanded. God is all-powerful, and therefore has supreme power and ability to bring about whatever is consistent and compatible with the rest of His attributes.

   Sovereignty: Sovereignty goes hand in hand with Omnipotence. God not only has the power to bring about whatever He desires, He actually does it. All things that happen, happen because God is controlling all things to bring about His plan. Man can’t do this.

   Immutability:  God cannot change (Mal. 3:6). If He could, then we could not be confident that God will always be truthful. We could not be confident that God really does know all that there is to know, and He could then, hypothetically, come into new knowledg

The atheist does not believe in God. He seeks to disprove God and the Bible by use of reason.  For him, reason is his authority. He proves the reliability of his reason by his reason. This is circular reasoning, which is a logical fallacy. But the believer does the same thing. We believe the Bible to be God’s Word. How do we go about proving it? By the Bible. But, it is through the Bible that the Holy Spirit testifies to the truthfulness of God’s Word. Since God is the only one who can speak an authoritative infallible word, God is the only one who can testify to the truthfulness of the word that He has spoken. This is the role of the Spirit of God, providing an infallible testimony to the truthfulness of the Scriptures in the hearts of all believers.  As Scripture itself testifies:e that could change His perception. If God could change, then there would be something that caused Him to change, and that thing would then be more powerful than God.

11For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.14The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

                                                    ~ 1 Corinthians 2:11-16 ESV