Influences: Ruth

A few years ago, I was given the opportunity to lead a Bible Study. The very first book we studied through was the book of Ruth. Verse by verse. Chapter by chapter.

Given our group consisted of young adults, most of them were single, it was easy to quickly identify with, or want to be identified with, each of the key figures in this little story in the Bible.

Feeling like a stranger in a strange land.

The yearning to be married.

The wanting to be like a worthy and godly man.

Identifying some of the bitterness in our own lives when we think God is not coming through.

Those elements and so many more is what drew in the reader. But what surprised me is just how much of it was an obvious foreshadow to Christ.

Naomi, the Israelite, with the promises of the Lord but had to wait on the Lord.

Ruth, the Gentile, who knew nothing of the Lord but was saved in the midst of her desperate time.

Boaz, the Kinsmen Redeemer, who brought both Naomi and Ruth into family together, was the prelude to Christ, being our Kinsmen together, saving both Jew and Gentile alike.

If that wasn’t obvious enough, just the fact that they had a child together and he ends up being the grandfather of David from whose bloodline Christ was born into.

This is a story that one of the prime examples of Sola Fide.

Ruth 1:15-17 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

What Ruth is saying here is exactly the same sentiment that Paul talks about in Romans 6:

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

In other words, there is nothing for our old selves. I see that Paul goes so far as to call our past lives ‘self’ rather than ‘life’. Why? Because what we had before knowing Christ was no semblance of kind of life we know now. Sure, our lungs breathed air and our hearts pumped blood but is that life? Surely not.

Ruth is saying here what should be the mark of every Christian: “My old self has nothing for me. My old idols have had their brains blown out and now they sit somewhere as a rotting corpse. My old gods are not coming back to life. They couldn’t save me. Christ died on the cross so that I might have life. Jesus slaughtered all of my iniquities and sin so that I might live in him forever.”

Influences: No Condemnation in Christ Jesus by Octavius Winslow

Why haven’t you read this book yet?

If I had to recommend just one book not including the Bible, it would be this book—above all other works and above all other commentaries. Many call Romans 8, “The Mount Everest of the Bible”. Martin Luther called it, “the clearest gospel of all”.

It is with this little paperback Octavius Winslow separates himself from the pack of scholars and theologians. I feel like it wasn’t that Winslow had to explain the depth and weight of Romans 8 for the scholarly purposes but he had to write this book because if he did not, his heart would have burst in worship and love to our sweet God and Lord. Let me contend that his heart did burst and this book was the result.

Winslow’s love for God drips and flows over every single page of this book. If you love to highlight important passages, you will soon be wishing for a device that will highlight entire pages. (I thought it might be more convenient just to dip pages into a vat of highlighter ink. But I digress.)

That’s what makes this book so special. You start with the chapter that is the richest source of the plenary doctrines of our Christian and dare I say the framework of our Biblical and Systematic theology. Romans 8 covers it: Gospel, Trinity, Perfect Atonement, Justification, Regeneration, Adoption, Redemption, Grace, Law, Creation, Fall, Depravity, Sin, Suffering, Intercession and Love. Not that Romans 8 is complete in these things but it when the reader, blessed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit or even the non-believer blessed with being pursued by the same Holy Spirit, that you have suddenly realized the glitter in the ground are not mere shards of glass but a path leading to a gem mine that knows no depths and knows no limit on the treasure that can be only in found in Jesus Christ. This book written by a man of God who has descended into the depths of that mine shaft and has only come back to the surface to share with the world with what the author has found in Him.

I ask you, dear reader, have you read this book yet? No? Then why are you not doing so now.

To the Christian, it is a full-blown out description of Christ as the path of life, the fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). This is a book that cries out, “See what God has done! Come to Him, one who gives great love and sweet rest for your tiresome soul!”

For here is love: “I will put enmity between you and the woman,
   and between your offspring and her offspring;
  he shall bruise your head,
   and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15

And here is love: “She shall bare a son and you shall call his name Jesus for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

And here is love: “For our sake, He made Him to be sin who knew no sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

And here is love: “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” Ezekiel 11:19-20

And here is love:
… Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
   and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
  “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
   there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” Romans 9:25-26

And here is love: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

And here is love: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

And here is love: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

To the non-believer who denies the Triune God, this book displays the empirical evidence that you have been seeking that, yes, God does exists and He is not far. May the Holy Spirit show you the power of God by which you can be saved if you would only trust in Him!

To those who are strong in the faith, it book will only serve to prepare your heart to anchor in Christ alone against any stormy gale and fill your heart with such sweet truths.

To those who are weak in the faith, it serves as the sweet, joyous rest for your soul as you lay your head against the bosom of God and rest in the His finished work.

Among my other favorite books, I cannot recommend any one of them to every single person. Yet, No Condemnation in Christ Jesus by Octavius Winslow, is the first Christian book I have read outside of the Bible that I can fully recommend to anyone who can read English.

Likewise, most of the modern Christian self-help books have fallen short in displaying the marvelous and weighty beauty and majesty of our sweet Savior, King and Lord. Those self-help books are just that: about self, in vain and encourages no one. This book is godly encouragement that is rooted in the very breath of God himself (2 Timothy 3:16).

Get this. Read this book. Be encouraged and lifted to the heights of the heavens.

Influence: Genesis

Nine times out of ten, every other story not in Genesis can be traced back to Genesis. (I logically suspect that that other one time is simply because I am a novice scholar.)

Forgive me as I do this off the top of my noggin but if I am not mistaken, all Biblical doctrines originates in Genesis in a very direct way. 1

Doctrine of creation: Genesis 1 & 2

Doctrine of the imago Dei (or the theological, doctrinal, logical, empirical, rational reason why it is pure ignorance for you to be a racist): Genesis 1:27

Doctrine of sola fide is easy. Genesis 15:1-6 because Paul in Romans 4:4-5 references it.

Doctrine of marriage: Genesis 2:25

Hmm, let me try something more organized like ordo salutis:

Love –  Genesis 1:1, Genesis 3:21

Election – Genesis 6:8; Genesis 12:1-3

Vocation – Genesis 12:1-3, Genesis 17:19

Justification – Genesis 32:22-32

Atonement – Genesis 22:13

Propitiation – Genesis 15:1-31; Genesis 22:13

Expiation – Genesis 15:1-31; Genesis 22:13

Sanctification – Genesis 37:2-36; Genesis 39-41:36

Glorification – Genesis 41:37-50:26

That worked out rather easy.

I am convinced that any topic or passage preached in the Bible can be have a passage in Genesis as a starting bullet point.

Hence, it what makes Genesis so weighty with truth and doctrine and preaching through Genesis would be no small task.

Of course, this would be for naught except Christ has revealed how he complete the thoughts begun in Genesis.

Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 

Notes:

  1. Heads up: there are so many doctrines (if not all of them) that originate in Genesis that I am going to use this post as a way of tracking them all. If you visit this post from time to time, it will have grown.

Influences: Jeremiah

The Prophet Jeremiah by Michelangelo Buonarroti
In and around April 2007, I was saved. In and around May 2007, it occurs to me that I should start reading the Bible. I prayed and I felt like I should start with Jeremiah.

Every since reading Jeremiah, there were four truths that did a number on my freshly renewed mind (oddly enough, Jeremiah 29:11 was not one of them):

1. God appoints us to Him before we were born:

Jeremiah 1:4-8 Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
  and before you were born I consecrated you;
 I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me,
 “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
  for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
  and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
 Do not be afraid of them,
 for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord.”

2. All wisdom, strength, and riches come from God alone and even that pales in comparison to knowing and understanding God:

Jeremiah 9:23-24  Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

3. Sometimes God’s directions are weird. Answer the question: Where is your trust?

Jeremiah 16:1-4  The word of the LORD came to me: “You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place. For thus says the LORD concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and concerning the mothers who bore them and the fathers who fathered them in this land: They shall die of deadly diseases. They shall not be lamented, nor shall they be buried. They shall be as dung on the surface of the ground. They shall perish by the sword and by famine, and their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth.

4. God unequivocally takes care of His sheep even when shepherds don’t. In this passage I was both frightened and adamantly sure that I was called to be an under-shepherd:

Jeremiah 23:1-4 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD.

Influences: Blissful Contentment – Psalm 17:15

myboy by © Amber Louthan

A sight for sore eyes.

No words have rang truer except for the Son of Man.

The One God who cross the infinite just to save me.

Now my eyes bleared at the first site of him.

The loveliness of his face.

I look into His eyes and my soul is complete. My heart is joy-filled. My mind now knows fully.

I am content.

I am satisfied.

God is perfect in his work in me.

Now, I will stay this way forever.

Forever, I will stay with Him.

Psalm 17:15
 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
  when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.

Influences: What Else Can I Say? Psalm 16:11

The God who alone is awesome.

This is Love, Election, Calling, Atonement, Justification, Propitiation, Expiation, Adoption, Sanctification, and Glorification rolled into one.

Even typing these words, meagerly and fumblingly, is drawing away from the sheer beauty, breath snatching, eye-rubbing gorgeousness, ever-swelling joy, tear-pouring grace and heart-bursting love that is this one verse.

Psalm 16:11
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

All of God’s precious love and promises wrapped up nicely.

No other gods promise such things.

No other philosophies can even possibly obtain.

The world has none of this.

Knowledge lacks the science.

Literature lacks the story.

Poetry lacks the verse.

Entertainment is dull in comparison.

Religions fall short.

Man is without.

God is my all in all.

Influences: He Saved Us, Titus 3:3-7

All of our sins are laid bare before us.

When we truly see who we really are, we see our shunning of God’s wisdom; ignoring of God’s word; our turning away from His lovely face; our insistence to the crap the world has offer; our addiction to the pains and sickness; and our desires fueled by the love for ourselves at the increase of hate and apathy towards one another.

When we can honestly see, we see that these are the “gifts” we give to the Almighty God: the One True God who is swift in his justice, terrible in his holiness, unflinching in his righteousness and uncompromising to His own glory.

Why do we turn to such a God? He is the only one who can save us. He is the one who promises He will give life. He is the only one has the power to free us from slavery.

How do we turn to God? He said, “Ask of me, and it shall be done.” The moment we stop asking what He can give and ask for just Him, He gives exactly that. Himself. Himself truly and fully. He gave Himself over to us. Now we have him forever.

Our sins are long as the shoreline of all the worlds’ oceans. Our transgressions lay out from the beginning of the west and ending of the east. Our iniquities are as wide as the horizon.

The Majestic Triune steps into our broken lives, shattered cosmos and the fallen world and cuts that line into two.

 Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
  righteousness and peace kiss each other.
 Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
  and righteousness looks down from the sky.
1

When He appeared, He saved us.

One and done.

Forevermore.

Titus 3:3-7 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Notes:

  1. Psalm 85:10-11

Influences: Love Song – Psalm 119

Psalm 119 is the love song to God for all time.

It is the extended, smooth-out, quiet storm version. It’s the singer’s voice dropping to a bass-baritone. It is the passion towards the one the writer loves. It has the ultra-smooth whispers of sweet desires over the radio waves and the crackle of the vinyl in the extended beatdrop. This song is the mixtape track that says everything.

It was made for one person.

And it is all about His righteousness.

Why?

The psalmist is not in love with the law. The love was never directed towards a bunch of rules that they could never perfectly do. If I fail to do them all correctly, I have fallen. If I break one rule, I have failed. If fail to do one rule, then I separated from my precious love.

By the time I realized that there were some laws that supersedes my material reality, I have already failed. If I never realized the laws, then surely I have gone against my conscience and seared my conscience from time to time.

Damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

What hope do I have?

How can I have faith?

Ah, but I have love.

I have love for the One who did it all.

I love the King who wrote the laws and perfectly followed them to the letter. And my lawgiving King doesn’t hold His law over my head. Instead, He showers me with His banner of love over my heart.

My King has me. He has it all. He just needs me to look into His eyes, hold his hands, and trust Him when He says, “Everything’s gonna be alright.”


Continue reading Influences: Love Song – Psalm 119

Influences: The Apex of the Glory of God – Romans 8

All Scripture read.

Every instinct preached.

Every thought taught.

Any book studied.

Every sermon heard.

Every theology revealed.

Every doctrine learned.

Any and all things processed were with Romans 8 in my sight.

I have heard it said, “The Epistle to the Romans is the Himalayas of the Bible and with Romans 8 is the Everest.” Martin Luther calls Romans 8, “the clearest Gospel of them all”.

If I were to memorize any passage of Scripture, it is because I wanted to get to where I can memorize Romans 8.

Any passage memorized now is because I am camped out on the summit that is Romans 8.

Memorized it. Dwelled on it. Read about it. Focused on it. Prayed on it. Prayed using it. Recite it. Practiced preaching it.

I plan to write a multi-part blog series on the entirety of Romans 8 in a few weeks so I won’t expand on it here.

For now, enjoy your view of God’s glory.


Continue reading Influences: The Apex of the Glory of God – Romans 8