Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day, like the drumbeat of an advancing army, we proclaim the Lord’s Death. The death of the babe born in Bethlehem, the death of the Christ, the death of the King of the Jews, the death of Jesus of Nazareth. The Death which all peoples of the earth must reckon with. Here we proclaim it. Next week we proclaim it. Until He comes again we proclaim the death which defanged Death itself.
While our focus during the Advent season is upon Christ’s incarnation and birth, we should ever be mindful that He was born to die. As we come to this table, it should be noted that we are commanded to keep this Supper until Christ comes; and in our partaking of it, we show the Lord’s death.
There is poignancy in the Lord’s death. To state the obvious, death isn’t possible unless He was first born in the likeness of human flesh, and then lived a truly human life. And so, it’s the death of the Lord which we declare each time we partake of this bread & wine.
The church makes a corporate proclamation whenever we take this meal. We proclaim that God became a man and died.
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By Dr. Michael LeFebvre — 1 year ago
Written by Dr. Michael LeFebvre |
Friday, November 5, 2021
To understand the function of Torah in its Old Testament context is to discover the basis for its New Testament reception by the followers of Jesus. The Apostles saw the person of Jesus in the Law (Matt. 22:37–40). And when Christians understand the Law in its ancient Near Eastern context, it continues to be a source of delight for those who hope in Christ and wait for his Kingdom to be finished.
In 1922, archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. Once the tomb was opened, Carter uncovered piles of breathtaking treasures inside. Among those treasures, he found 130 ornately carved staffs.
Some believed those staffs were symbols of power, like scepters. But in 2010, CT scans of the pharaoh’s mummy revealed that he had a malformed foot. This finding combined with others confirmed that the staffs were walking sticks the pharaoh actually used. They weren’t symbols of power after all, but reminders of frailty.
Interpreting the artifacts of past cultures requires alertness to their original context—as well as caution against imported assumptions.
One of the most important biblical artifacts to understand in context is the “Torah,” Israel’s law collection found in the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch). The Hebrew word torah roughly translates to “law” in English. But biblical law is not like modern legislation.1
To understand the Torah, we must observe how it was used in its own context in Old Testament Israel—and how law in the New Testament period came to be used differently. In fact, distinguishing the original use of the Law from its reinterpretation in the Greco-Roman era offers important insight into the conflicts between Jesus and the Temple leaders of his day. Many who read how Jesus challenged the scribes and pharisees think that Jesus was introducing new interpretations of the Law in the New Testament. It turns out, Jesus was reaffirming the original understanding of the Law.
Law Books, Now and Then
Today, law books are used for regulation. Modern nations compile law codes to establish social order, and they enforce those law codes by police and courts. But nowhere in the biblical narratives do we find law writings used in this way. Israel’s written law served several purposes, but not as legislation to be used by judges and cited in courts.
One of the scholars working in this field, Bernard Jackson, catalogued references to judges and to law books in the Bible. He found that Israel’s law books were used for archival, didactic, and ritual purposes, but not to adjudicate justice.2 Based on the records in the Bible, Hebrew judges enforced unwritten norms, but there is no indication that they enforced law using written texts. When some of those unwritten norms were written down (as in the Mosaic law writings), they were written for public instruction not for judicial enforcement. Thus the written law faithfully reflects Israel’s judicial norms, even if not itself the basis for rendering verdicts.
In fact, as far as we know, written law was not used in courtrooms anywhere in the ancient world until the fifth century B.C. That was when Greece invented democracy and the rule of law.3 Law collections in Israel and other ancient lands were compiled to inspire the people’s hope and to instruct their obedience to God’s ways, but not for civic regulation.
The Psalms as Guide to the Law’s Use
The Psalms provide a helpful window into Israel’s use of the Torah. In fact, the book of Psalms is structured into five parts as a companion for the five-book Torah.4 And the first psalm introduces the Law’s purpose to inspire hope. “Blessed [or happy] is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked . . . but his delight is in the law of the Lord” (Psa 1:1–2).
The individual in that psalm is surrounded by injustice. Wickedness, sin, and scoffing are on every side (v. 1). The Law is clearly not regulating that society. Nor is the Law something the person in that psalm appeals to for justice in court.
By Michael Kelley — 10 months ago
Christian, you may or may not be feeling rightly today. Regardless, make sure you are “looking” rightly. No matter what you’re feeling, turn your eyes upon Jesus. And find that those things of earth which might be making you feel this way or that will slowly but surely grow strangely dim.
Helen Howarth Lemmel wrote the lyrics to “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” in 1922. She loved music her entire life and even studies vocal music in Germany for a time. But by the time she was 55, she had become blind, been abandoned by her wealthy husband, and suffered various other tribulations. And that’s when she came across a little tract that deeply impressed her. The pamphlet read:
“So then, turn your eyes upon Him, look full into His face and you will find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness.”
And Helen Lemmel responded with a song:
O soul are you weary and troubledNo light in the darkness you seeThere’s light for a look at the SaviorAnd life more abundant and free
Turn your eyes upon JesusLook full in his wonderful faceAnd the things of earth will grow strangely dimIn the light of his glory and grace
It’s a wonderful song, but it’s even better counsel. It is, in fact, very counsel we could receive during times of difficulty. During those days – during dark days – we will find that our feelings are spiraling out of control. And it’s during days like that which we must remember that even when we can’t make ourselves feel better, we can always control where our focus is. We can’t control how we feel but we can always control where we’re looking. And where we’re looking is actually more important than what we are feeling. Here’s why:
We cannot trust our feelings to tell us the truth:
The heart is more deceitful than anything else,and incurable—who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9).
This is indeed an uncomfortable truth. It’s a decidedly different truth than the version of truth we find anywhere else in the world. While movies, Hollywood, and self-help gurus will tell us to follow our own hearts, the Bible says we should follow Jesus.
By Brenda M. Hafera — 4 months ago
Written by Brenda M. Hafera |
Monday, September 26, 2022
The book does not aim to explain identity politics writ large or the evolution of feminism. Rather, Trueman’s niche is to explain expressive individualism, an important concept that touches both. This narrower focus fulfills the purpose of the book. As noted in the introduction, it is a concise book geared toward non-academics who are seeking to understand this strange new world that has seemingly come into being very rapidly.
While divided on certain issues, conservatives are generally united in the belief that French and German intellectuals are to blame for our current mess. Customary offenders include Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche. In this aspect, Carl R. Trueman’s Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution offers a familiar analysis.
Still, his arguments are profound, and the slender book is a valuable guide for understanding our tumble into this modern world, this woke wonderland. Trueman is an Englishman, a professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College, and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His latest book seeks to explain the Sexual Revolution and the assault on the human person. In doing so, he does not limit himself to feminist thinkers, providing the standard account of the development of the first, second, and third (or subsequent) waves of feminism. Nor does he delve into the Lockean debate that is so common among conservatives. His focus instead is on the ascendancy of secular “expressive individualism.” His is a unique, nuanced, and convincing contribution to the dialogue on the Sexual Revolution.
Prophets of Expressive Individualism
Trueman sketches an accurate portrait of our post-Sexual Revolution world and explains how the ideas of select intellectuals, strengthened by technological and historical developments, now almost instinctively inform our moral imagination (what he calls “social imaginary”). The examples pervade not only our politics, but also education, poetry, and literature.
The first portion of the book is an intellectual history of the progression of “expressive individualism,” which details how that notion was politicized and sexualized, using helpful examples to illustrate. The main culprits fall into three groups: René Descartes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and the Romantics; G. W. F. Hegel, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche; and Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Reich (with some Herbert Marcuse and Simon de Beauvoir sprinkled in later for good measure).
According to Trueman, the modern idea of the self is defined by expressive individualism. Descartes, Rousseau, and the Romantics are responsible for giving pre-eminence to feeling and the inner psychological life of the individual. By their account, our true self is characterized by our spontaneous emotions. Believing that human beings are born good and later corrupted by society, these thinkers insist that the inner self is inherently moral. Hence, tutoring or controlling one’s desires is an oppressive and backward approach that should not be used to subvert free and authentic expression.
Still, this first wave of thinkers stubbornly held to the belief that our common humanity provides a guiding moral structure. Confronted with nature, the French surrendered. Enter the Germans.
For Hegel, human nature evolves over time and will be fully realized at the end of history. His student, Marx, continued his work but insisted that economic relations have the most “profound impact upon our self-consciousness and our identity.” According to Marx, all human relations are economic relations, and when economics shapes everything, everything becomes political. Marx held that the advantaged secure their position by using religion and its inherent moral claims to subdue the masses. For example, the poor are taught they will be rewarded in heaven so they will accept their lower conditions in the city of man.
Nietzsche too views religion and morality as manipulative ways of maintaining power, because all human relations are fundamentally about power. God is dead, and so humans, free from all constraints, can create themselves in their own image, becoming gods themselves. The strong will do so, finally shattering religion’s residual moral (including sexual) codes, knowing that those codes are mere preferences and that human nature is malleable.
Trueman’s final intellectual stop is with Freud and Wilhelm Reich, a psychoanalyst even Freud considered extreme, who internalized and politicized sex. Freud believed that sex is foundational to human happiness, a happiness centered on seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. Reich was a Marxist who contended that sexual morals maintain the bourgeois capitalist structure. So for Reich, children are taught to be deferential to their fathers so that they will later bow to state leaders; the nuclear family is built on and enforces authoritarian principles and so must be dismantled.