He looks at us in our suffering as he would have looked at Jesus had our sin not been imputed to him

I’ve written about this before HERE and HERE, but here’s another angle on it. Calvin on 2 Corinthians 1:5:

Verse 5

2 Corinthians 1:5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

For as the sufferings of Christ abound This statement may be explained in two ways — actively and passively. If you take it actively, the meaning will be this: “The more I am tried with various afflictions, so much the more resources have I for comforting others.” I am, however, more inclined to take it in a passive sense, as meaning that God multiplied his consolations according to the measure of his tribulations. David also acknowledges that it had been thus with him:

According to the multitude, says he, of my anxieties within me,
thy consolations have delighted my soul. (Psalms 94:19.)

In Paul’s words, however, there is a fuller statement of doctrine; for the afflictions of the pious he calls the sufferings of Christ, as he says elsewhere, that he fills up in his body what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ. (Colossians 1:24.)

The miseries and vexations, it is true, of the present life are common to good and bad alike, but when they befall the wicked, they are tokens of the curse of God, because they arise from sin, and nothing appears in them except the anger of God and participation with Adam, which cannot but depress the mind. But in the mean time believers are conformed to Christ, and bear about with them in their body his dying, that the life of Christ may one day be manifested in them. (2 Corinthians 4:10).

Samuel Bolton states a similar idea in The True Bounds of Christian Freedom:

…God has mercy for ‘can-nots’, but none for ‘will-nots’. God can distinguish between weakness and wickedness. While you are under the law, this weakness is your wickedness, a sinful weakness, and therefore God hates it. Under the Gospel He looks not upon the weakness of the saints as their wickedness, and therefore He pities them. Sin makes those who are under the law the objects of God’s hatred. Sin in a believer makes him the object of God’s pity. Men, you know, hate poison in a toad, but pity it in a man. In the one it is their nature, in the other their disease. Sin in a wicked man is as poison in a toad; God hates it and him; it is the man’s nature. But sin in a child of God is like poison in a man; God pities him. He pities the saints for sins and infirmities, but hates the wicked. It is the nature of the one, the disease of the other.

The main take-away I got from Calvin today is that God the Father somehow views the sufferings of his people as their share in the sufferings of Christ. In other words, the Father poured his wrath out upon Jesus in his suffering so that he could sympathize with us in our suffering. He looks at us in our suffering as he would have looked at Jesus had our sin not been imputed to him. He sees our failings and pains as weakness, not as wickedness. In doing so, he is the “God of all comfort.”

“I live in so many centuries…”

I live in so many centuries. Everybody is still alive.

-Barry Hannah, Ray, p. 41

Hannah is dealing with the ‘age of confusion’ that was/is post-Vietnam America as he saw it. I’ve never read it, but there is a book about the artwork of Douglas Coupland (an author I really enjoy) that’s title carries the same idea. It’s called Everywhere is Anywhere is Anything is Everything.

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The idea is also reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut’s Tralfamadorians:

The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist.

The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.

When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is “so it goes” (Slaughterhouse Five).

The overarching sense of all of this is that everything for the modern American is jumbled up, misunderstood, confused, etc. There’s a lot more than that, but for the sake of this post, that’s all I’m talking about.

There is something instructive, however. In his great book, Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton called Tradition the ‘democracy of the dead.’ Tradition means giving your predecessors a vote that is equally as valid as yours. C.S. Lewis made the point that books from the past are the only tool we have to check our own chronological-subjectivism (see HERE and HERE). Alister McGrath summarizes Lewis’ position by saying that reading old books “frees us from the tyranny of the contemporaneous” as it keeps “the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds.”

My point is that ‘living in so many centuries’ that everyone seems alive is not actually a bad thing. Confusion can be bad. Having a healthy relationship with history not so much. I feel like I know some dead people better than I know some of the living folks I talk to every day.

Christ’s Heart Surely and Speedily

Goodwin writes of the Holy Spirit’s continual work of shedding God’s love abroad in our hearts through Christ:

Him [i.e. the Holy Spirit], therefore, I shall send on purpose to be in my room, and to execute my place to you, my bride, spouse, and he shall tell you, if you will listen to him, and not grieve him, nothing but stories of my love…All his speech in your hearts will be to advance me, and to greaten my worth and love unto you, and it will be his delight to do it. And he can come from heaven in an instant when he will, and bring you fresh tidings of my mind, and tell you the thoughts I last had of you, even at the very minute when I am thinking of them, what they are at the very time wherein he tell you them…We are said to ‘have the mind of Christ’…for he [the Spirit] dwelleth in Christ’s heart, and also ours, and lifts up from one hand to the other what Christ’s thoughts are to us, and what our prayers and faith are to Christ. So that you shall have my heart as surely and as speedily as if I were with you; and he will continually be breaking your hearts, either with my love to you, or yours to me, or both…

-Thomas Goodwin, The Heart of Christ, pp. 19-20

The fact that the Spirit can come in an instant and declare Christ’s love gives us hope in the midst of emptiness and spiritual dryness. The imperatives are, Listen to Him and Don’t grieve Him.

The Holy Spirit as Editor

I have left my Spirit to be your secretary and the inditer [i.e. composer] of all your petitions.

-Thomas Goodwin, The Heart of Christ, p. 21

Goodwin expounds Christ’s promise of the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete of his people. This ties into an idea I’ve written about before HERE: The Spirit ‘fixing our prayers on the way up.’ When you have an editor in the Holy Spirit, you should not fear boldness in prayer.

They are More Evil than the Rest of us Walking Pavement

In his novel/novella, Ray, Barry Hannah has a preacher with suppressed urges murder the love of the main character’s life (The ‘flying’ is a reference to being a pilot in WWII):

In their secret hearts, such perversities as Maynard know there are things they can never have, things they have wanted with all their hearts. So they kill them. Most preachers are this way. Their messages seem benevolent, but they are more evil than the rest of us walking pavement.

When I fly again, it will be against the preachers.

-Barry Hannah, Ray, p. 54

I am a preacher, so I take statements like this, even in a novel, to heart. Hannah had a love/hate relationship with the church for a long time. He openly confessed Christ later in his life (and I’m thankful for this), but that’s not what’s important here. The issue here is actually taking such a statement seriously: Preacher, be careful what you do with your urges, and how you mortify them. Suppression is not enough. The Apostle Paul called himself the chief of sinners. Do you think that you’re better?

Christ’s Love to Sinners in the Midst of Sin

Commenting on Peter’s three denials of Christ, and of the general abandonment of Jesus by his disciples during his passion (his greatest expression of his love), Goodwin makes the point that we learn something very important about the heart of Christ toward his people:

And by the way, so God often orders it, that when he is in hand with the greatest mercies for us, and bringing about our greatest good, then we are most of all sinning against him; which he doth, to magnify his love the more.

-Thomas Goodwin, The Heart of Christ, p. 28

 

 

Life-Lie

I heard Tim Keller use this quote in a talk recently and thought that it was worth saving and sharing. From the Norweigian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s play, Wild Duck:

If you take the life lie from an average man, you take away his happiness as well.

From Wikipedia (see ‘Wild Duck’ link above):

Different translations use different words for the “life-lie”. In Eva le Gallienne’s translation, Relling says “I try to discover the Basic Lie – the pet illusion – that makes life possible; and then I foster it.” He also says “No, no; that’s what I said: the Basic Lie that makes life possible.”

To Both God Spoke in their Own Language

The birth of Christ was notified to the Jewish shepherds by an angel, to the Gentile philosophers by a star: to both God spoke in their own language, and in the way they were best acquainted with.

-Matthew Henry on Matt. 2

Christ can meet you in unexpected places, such as where you currently are. In the field, in the stars, in the womb, on the back of a horse, in the fishing boat, in the tax booth, in a movie…even on a blog.

 

Most Viewed Posts 2016

2016 saw me reading and writing a lot less but getting more views – about 5 thousand more views than the previous best year. Here’s to a 2017 with more time to read and write. Most of these posts were written pre-2015. If you see something you haven’t read, give it a look.

1. The Misused Passages: 1 Corinthians 2:9, Eye Hath Not Seen, Nor Ear Heard

2. Myths About the Bible: Noah was Mocked (the Fight Against Apathy)

3. A List of Benedictions

4. God is Love, But Love is not God

5. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on C.S. Lewis

6. Him that is Unjust, Let Him be Unjust Still (What does it mean?)

7. Charlotte’s Web: Dr. Dorian, Miraculous Webs, and Talking Animals

8. The Whole Creation is on Its Tiptoes

9. On ‘On Lying in Bed’ by G.K. Chesterton

10. He Smoked Cigars and Drank Alcoholic Beverages

11. A Summary of John Owen on the Sabbath

12. Lewis and Chesterton: Reading Fairy Tales and ‘Mental Health’

13. Michael Polanyi: Subsidiary and Focal Awareness, Indwelling

14. The Mind of the Maker, by Dorothy Sayers: Summary of the Argument for Trinity in Creative Art

15. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Method of Pastoral Counseling and Diagnosis

Good Scholars should be Good Christians

[Note] that they were scholars. They dealt in arts, curious arts; good scholars should be good Christians, and then they complete their learning when they learn Christ.

-Matthew Henry on the Wise Men of Matthew 2.

I.e. Learning is not complete until it terminates in Christ.