Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The LORD Loves the Gates of Zion

One of my favorite psalms is found in Psalm 87:2-3 where the LORD speaks of His violent affections for the church.  "The LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the other dwelling places of Jacob.  Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God.  Selah."  The "selah" here is especially important.

To read over this too quickly would be to miss the marrow of this passage.

Israel was the church in the O.T.  She was a shadow of the church to come.  She was the church and a sign pointing to the future church who surpassed her in glory.  Just as the exodus was a real deliverance that Moses secured for Israel and at the same time served as a sign pointing to the true deliverance that Jesus Christ secured for all the people of God; so Israel is the church in the O.T and a sign pointing the church in the N.T. (cf. Acts 7:38; 1 Cor. 10:1-4)  The O.T. is banquet table full of signs pointing to the greater reality in the N.T.   It serves as "...a copy and shadow of the heavenly things..." Hebrews 8:5.  It was "...only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things..."  We must adopt this view of the relationship between the Old and the New Testaments if we are going to understand what the Psalmist is saying, ultimately.  

No doubt when the psalmist originally spoke of the "..gates of Zion" he had a physical reality in his mind.  But we must ask: what did that physical reality represent to him?  It represented the corporate worship of the living God.  The gates of Zion was where the gathered people of Israel worshipped the one true and living God.  It was more special than all the other dwelling places of Jacob, because this was the place of sacred communion.  This was the place where the ancient church gathered to offer their hearts, their minds, their souls, their strength to the Lord of hosts.  That is why the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all other places.  The community of believers joined with the community of the Trinity, and loved and adored and delighted in God together!

This verse equally applies to the church today.  Sure we have our private devotions, and we gather the family to worship, and we commune with God throughout the week.  But more than these, the Lord loves the gathering of the church—the gates of Zion.  He loves the "place" where His people corporately gather to receive fresh grace from Him.  "Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God."  God loves the Lord's day more than all the other days (although all equally belong to Him) because it is on that day where His church gathers, militant and triumphant, to fellowship, to pray, to praise, to preach, to listen, to love, to learn, to heal, to be made holy, and to prepare for that Day when we will meet the Bridegroom.  What a treasure the "gates of Zion" is.  The LORD loves it more than all other dwelling places.

Is that your heart for the church?  Are you a person who longs for the gates of Zion, and aches for the place where God's special presence dwells?  I hope so friend.  To discover this truth is to discover heaven on earth.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

Heaven is a World of Love

One of the things that has struck me about the differences between this life and the next is that in this life everything is mixed.  With the sweet comes the bitter.  With the joy comes the sorrow.  There is never a time on this side of Jesus' return where there is a full consummation of love and joy and peace.  It is true that our Heavenly Father often gives us glimpses of that type of consummation.  Seasons where love for God is ardent, and the fellowship with the saints is sweet, and compassion for the lost is violent.  But these are just glimpses.  There is no sustained, unbroken harmony with those experiences because of the remaining corruption in all of us.  But in heaven, all mixture disappears.  There is only a pure concentration of love, joy, peace, harmony, holiness and happiness.  We will be in the presence of God Himself. The air of that place will be a fragrance of perfect enjoyment with no mixture of envy or enmity.  There will not be the slightest feeling of discontent.  Those are things that belong to this world.  That world will have no mixture of sweet with bitter.  Only perfect sweetness, perfect harmony, and perfect love.  Jonathan Edwards in his sermon entitled "Heaven a World of Love" puts it like this...

"In heaven all things shall conspire to promote their love, and give advantage for mutual enjoyment.  There shall be none there to tempt any to dislike or hatred; no busybodies, or malicious adversaries, to make misrepresentations, or create misunderstandings, or spread abroad any evil reports, but every being and everything shall conspire to promote love, and the full enjoyment of love.  Heaven itself, the place of habitation, is a garden of pleasures, a heavenly paradise, fitted in all respects for an abode of heavenly love; a place where they may have sweet society and perfect enjoyment of each other's love.  None are unsocial or distant from each other.  The petty distinctions of this world do not draw lines in the society of heaven, but all meet in the equality of holiness and of holy love."

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Justification is a Friend to the Heart and to Holiness

Many have charged the doctrine of imputed righteousness of producing an antinomian spirit.  If, it is reasoned, there is nothing left for the believer to do in order to inherit eternal life, then there is no motive for holy living.  Therefore this doctrine can't possibly be the correct doctrine regarding our justification.  Sure we must believe, they say, but we must continue to be righteous in order to maintain our right standing with God.  However, the shoe is on the other foot.  It is a denial of imputed righteousness that actually produces the antinomian spirit.
A couple of questions must be asked at this point.  1)  What type of righteousness does God demand from the christian?  2)  Can that type of righteousness be achieved by a christian?  To the first, it is clear that they only type of righteousness that God will accept is a perfect one.  He is holy and cannot look upon even the slightest whisper of unrighteousness with approval (Hab. 1:13).  To accept a less than perfect righteousness is to profane His name and to deny His glory (2 Tim. 2:13).  Secondly, it is clear that a mere mortal cannot achieve this.  Even if we were to grant that all sins are put away with at the type of conversion to Christ, and that the slate is clean moving forward, all the works of righteousness that we perform are continually shot through remaining corruption.  "All our righteousness is as filthy rags" Isaiah 64:6.  Filthy rags is not a currency that God recognizes.  Only the spotless righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed (credited) to the believer at the moment of faith and repentance.  A denial of this produces an antinomian (anti-law) spirit.  It denies part of God's law (i.e. that part that demands perfect obedience) and replaces it with it's own standard (i.e. a standard that accepts imperfect and corrupt obedience).  A denial of imputed righteousness produces antinomianism in the form of legalism.  However to accept imputed righteousness is to find all the reason we need to pursue holiness from the heart.   We are freed from comparing our selves amongst ourselves for the righteousness that God demands and instead we look to Christ.   Herman Bavinck remarks on this point:

"To correctly assess the benefit of justification, people must lift up their minds to the judgment seat of God and put themselves in his presence.  When they compare themselves with others or measure themselves by the standard that they apply to themselves or among each other, they have some reason perhaps to pride themselves in something and to put their trust in it.  But when they put themselves before the face of God and examine themselves in the mirror of his holy law, all their conceit collapses, all self-confidence melts, and there is room left only for the prayer: "Enter not into the judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you." (Job 4:17-19; 9:2; 15:14-16; Ps. 143:2; 130:3), and their only comfort is that "there is forgiveness before you, so that you may be revered." (Psalm 130:4)   [Herman Bavinck Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 4 Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic 2008) pg. 204