Praising God For Breaking My Heart

John DrawingYesterday I read several chapters in Proverbs, carefully noticing all the verses on the sinfulness of anger and being a quarrelsome wife. I know all too well how weak I am in both areas. So I thought I approached them with humility, acknowledging my failures to honor the Lord by controlling my temper and respecting John.

Yeah,  well.  The wheelchair vendor put John in his new chair a few hours after I read those Scriptures. The new chair has multiple problems — far too many to enumerate here — that seriously impact John’s health. We’re talking life-threatening issues.

To make matters worse, his current wheelchair Continue reading

Flashback Friday: Neglected Trinity

Originally published on February 13, 2016.

“God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!” Hymn singers will undoubtedly recognize that majestic closing line from “Holy, Holy, Holy,” a hymn that praises the magnificence of God by exploring various aspects of His glory. Yet, could our familiarity with the hymn (for Shamrock Shadedthose of us who still sing hymns) cause us to gloss over its doctrinal declaration that the one and only God exists as three distinct Persons–God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit? And how often do we think about the Trinity anyway (except briefly when and if we sing “Holy, Holy, Holy”)?

The doctrine of the Trinity seems to receive very little attention in our present time, perhaps because our inability to “wrap our heads around it” embarrasses us. Of course our analogies of H2O (water, ice and vapor) and shamrocks fall short of providing adequate explanations of  how He could exist as three distinct Persons while being one in essence, and the shortcomings of those illustrations frustrate our desire to present convincing arguments. Mystery makes us uncomfortable. So we avoid the discomfort by simply minimizing or ignoring the topic altogether.

Additionally, few Scriptures state the doctrine in easy-to-use sound-bytes. Don’t misunderstand; the Bible certainly teaches that God is one Being in three distinct, co-existing Persons. But there’s no handy little proof-text to insert into a blog post to settle the question. We’d need separate essays examining the deity of the Father, the deity of the Son (Jesus Christ) and the deity of the Holy Spirit in order to clearly show that Scripture indeed teaches that God is a Triune Being.

Having said that, I’d invite you to examine Christian Apologetics & Resource Ministry‘s compilation of Scriptures at God As A Trinity. In authoring this article, Matt Slick links to several Scriptures that defend the doctrine of the Trinity, making it easy to study. He also counters common objections.

The strategy of neglecting the doctrine of the Trinity may buffer us from a good measure of intellectual discomfort. But that strategy also places people at risk of entering eternity without a true understanding of Who God is. Of Who Jesus is. And that’s very scary, since we must acknowledge Jesus as Lord (which necessarily assumes His deity) as a condition of salvation (Romans 10:9). So, while no human possesses the intellectual capacity to  comprehend how one God can exist in three Persons, it’s essential to understand that this doctrine is true. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are every bit as much God as the Father.

Having lost a dear friend who belonged to a cult that denied the Trinity, I believe it’s imperative that Christians regain an insistence on teaching this vital doctrine to young believers. A year before my friend’s death, I made the opportunity to tell her the true Gospel, and I emphasized the doctrine of the Trinity. Sadly, she gave no indication of accepting what I had to say, but I can hope that the Holy Spirit worked in her heart before she died.

And I pray now that evangelicals will increase the preaching of the Trinity, so people will know God fully. Rather than neglecting the doctrine for the sake of intellectual comfort, let’s boldly embrace it with joyful conviction, firmly established in the testimony of God’s Word. Oh, no one will actually comprehend how He could be a Trinity, since it is something far beyond the scope of our finite minds. But the very wonder of God in three Persons can draw us into worship.  “God in three Persons–blessed Trinity!”

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The Trinity On Sunday Mornings

Two weeks ago, our church sang a beautiful old hymn invoking each member of the Trinity to bless our worship of Him. I delighted in its descriptions of Father, Son and Spirit, intrigued by how each Person works during a church service. It deepens my sense of awe as I enter into corporate worship on Sundays.

Perhaps listening to this hymn, and thinking seriously about the words, will enhance your perspective on Sunday morning worship as you contemplate the Trinity’s intimate involvement in our prayers, our hearing of His Word and our response to Him. I know it gives me a greater sobriety about worship.

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A Wife, Sister And Aunt — But Am I Like The Trinity?

Shamrock ShadedThroughout church history, people have attempted to explain the Trinity. Patrick, the 5th Century missionary to Ireland, famously used the shamrock to illustrate how God can be three distinct Persons and yet one Being. Others have likened the Trinity to H2O (water, ice and vapor) or and egg (shell,  white and yoke). There are other analogies, most of which I happily don’t remember.

A friend recently reminded me of an analogy that used to be my favorite. I would explain that, though I’m DebbieLynne in all situations, I am a wife, a sister and an aunt. As such, I have three different roles. Ignore all my other roles (friend, employer, niece, blogger, church member, patient to my doctors and  so on).

Obviously the analogy breaks down very quickly. And it should for a few reasons. Two of those reasons particularly trouble me, and I think they should trouble most Christians who really give serious thought to their implications.

Firstly, my roles as wife, sister and aunt depend on how my husband, sister and nieces are related to me. Apart from John, I would not be a wife. If John dies before I do, I will cease to be a wife. Therefore, my identity as wife relies completely on John rather than being intrinsic to my nature.

Yet the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit exist independently of Their roles in relating to the Church. They have definite roles in bringing about salvation and in sanctifying believers, certainly, and we ought to rejoice in how intimately each Person of the Trinity works in our lives. But if God had never created anything, each Person of the Trinity would still exist in His fullness, not needing us to define Him. My various roles hinge on my relationships with others, but God is Father, Son and Spirit eternally, with or without us.

Secondly, and more importantly, it borders on blasphemy to compare ourselves to the Triune God. I tremble in shame at the thought that I ever did such a presumptuous thing! Although He created us in His likeness, we cannot — and indeed, must not  — consider ourselves models for describing anything about Him. Especially the Holy Trinity!

God commands Christians to reflect His character qualities like love, righteousness, patience and above all holiness. But He never suggested that anything about us could explain His very essence. My roles as wife, sister and aunt in no way demonstrate the astounding mystery of the Holy Trinity, and God never intended them to do so. Again, the very idea creeps dangerously close to blasphemy, in my opinion.

Many non-Christians dare us to defend the doctrine of the Trinity because they view it as illogical. Consequently, we concoct analogies that seem nifty, supposing that we can convince people with our little illustrations. But in truth, the Trinity lies well beyond the grasp of human reason. Instead of presuming to explain God’s triune nature, maybe we should stand in awe of this marvelous mystery.

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Perspectives In Titus: Faithful Words On Profitable Teachings

Titus 3 8

Once again, we’ll only get through a single verse in our study of Titus today, but in this verse Paul reaches the zenith of his letter to Titus. Given the climactic nature of Titus 3:8, I believe we need to take our time looking at it, remembering that Titus pastors several churches in Crete with two major problems.

First of all, false teachers known as Judaizers have infiltrated the churches, teaching that Gentile Christians must observe Jewish law. Second, the Cretan culture outside the church is marked by self-indulgence. Paul left Titus the task of putting that region’s churches in order so that they could resist the corrosion of false teaching and thus live in contrast to the unbelievers who surrounded them.

With that refresher on the reason for Paul’s letter to Titus, let’s look at today’s verse within its immediate context.

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. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. ~~Titus 3:4-11 (ESV)

Verse 8 begins by telling us “The saying is trustworthy.” The saying Paul refers to is, of course, Titus 3:4-7 in its assertion that God’s justifying grace leads Christians to live in ways that reflect His holiness. Paul reminds Titus that this understanding of grace is trustworthy. Thayer’s Dictionary brings up the idea that the Greek word carries the sense that we can rely on this saying. In other words, we can rely on the declaration that grace will produce works according to God’s nature.

As an aside, Psalm 19:7 assures us that the testimony of the Lord is sure, again underscoring that Scripture is trustworthy. So we can completely trust Paul’s saying in Titus 3:4-7, confident because the Holy Spirit included the passage in His Word.

Paul wanted Titus to insist on the truths of Titus 3:4-7. Pay attention to the word “insist” here, as it’s pivotal to Paul’s point. The King James Version translates it as “affirm constantly,” leading Barnes to comment that Paul’s intent was that Titus make these doctrines of grace “the constant subject” of his preaching. Indeed, our pastors should repeatedly preach on God’s sovereignty in bringing us to salvation.

The reason for insisting on the doctrines of grace is to encourage believers to good works. Barnes says that the good works here are not “merely to acts of benevolence and charity, but to all that is upright and good – to an honest and holy life.” His interpretation best fits the context of this letter. These good works, remember, don’t merit salvation.  Rather, they verify that the Holy Spirit has truly regenerated us.

Furthermore, these doctrines, being excellent because they accentuate God’s sovereignty, are profitable, in contrast to the unprofitable types of conversations outlined in the next verse. Vincent’s Word Studies cross-references 1 Timothy 4:8 as evidence that godliness is of greater value than even physical fitness because godliness holds both temporal and eternal value. As we exercise the doctrines of grace by keeping them constantly on our minds, we profit immensely.

It seems fitting that last Monday and today we’ve talked about grace, justification and the trustworthiness of God’s Word. Tomorrow marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, a work of God that restored these crucial doctrines to the church. What a blessing to see that these doctrines benefit Christians even now.

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Perspectives In Titus: Salvation, Courtesy Of The Trinity

Titus 3 4 thru 6

When we think of our salvation, we typically attribute it to Jesus. This perspective is altogether proper, and Jesus definitely deserves all the glory and praise for His atoning work on the cross. But our study in Titus today shows us that the Father and the Holy Spirit also had a hand in saving us.

Let’s again read Titus 3:1-7 in order to keep the three verses we’ll examine today in their context.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 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.   ~~Titus  3:1-7 (ESV)

In verse 4, the word “but” indicates a transition from our pre-conversion state of wretchedness. Just as the Christians in First Century Crete differed from their unsaved counterparts, so we differ from the world because of the Lord showing us His mercy. Paul’s emphasis on the goodness and loving kindness of God keeps us from congratulating ourselves on our personal holiness. Consequently, as Matthew Henry makes clear, we should feel compassion for non-Christians.

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown correctly point out that here the phrase “God our Savior” refers specifically to the Father, giving us our first glimpse of the Trinity’s activity in bringing about salvation. The goodness and loving kindness of God appeared, or was manifested. The Cretan Christians didn’t conjure it up; the Lord manifested His grace because He, by nature, is good and loving. Again, the focus on His goodness steers us away from claiming any credit for His work in redeeming us.

Paul insists that God does the saving, elaborating that He did so because of His mercy rather than as a response to our good works, as verse 5 demonstrates. Remember that the Judaizers were disrupting the churches in Crete, teaching that the work of circumcision was necessary for salvation. That fact, coupled with their new behaviors, opened the door to pride. Refer to Ephesians 2:8-10 for a fuller explanation of the sequence of salvation and works. Salvation comes about according to God’s mercy, not our efforts.

The Lord accomplishes our salvation by the “washing of regeneration,” which several commentators understand as a reference to baptism. Believers Bible Commentary, however, argues that this phrase describes the cleansing from sin that results from Christ’s shed blood. This interpretation seems more consistent with the context of this passage.

Paul also attributes salvation to the “renewal of the Holy Spirit.” At regeneration, the Holy Spirit transforms us into totally new creations, as seen in 2 Corinthians 5:17. Thus the Cretan Christians differed from their unsaved counterparts only because of the Holy Spirit’s work of transformation in each of them.

The Lord pours His Holy Spirit on the Church, as evidenced at Pentecost, but also on individual members at regeneration. Furthermore, Paul says in verse 6, He isn’t stingy, but rather He pours Him out abundantly. Barnes comments that the Holy Spirit had been so generously given to the Cretan Christians in order to help them overcome their wicked manner of life, adding that this principle applies to all Christians.

Jesus Christ our Savior is the “channel and Mediator of the gift of the Holy Ghost,” say Jamieson, Fausset and Brown. Indeed, Jesus promised in John 16:7 that He would send the Holy Spirit. So while most of the New Testament rightly emphasizes Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf, here Paul points to His work of sending the Holy Spirit  to regenerate us.

Paul credits the entire Trinity with bringing Christians to salvation. In verse 4, he calls God the Father Savior. In verse 5, he teaches that the Holy Spirit regenerates and renews us. And in verse 6, he reminds us that Jesus Christ is our Savior. His exaltation of the Trinity strengthens his case that salvation comes completely from God. Next Monday we will discuss His wonderful purpose in showing us such grace.

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Visions of Holiness

Few of us (perhaps none of us, actually) really comprehends God’s holiness. We read Isaiah 6 without really visualizing the ground shaking and the Temple filling with smoke as the Lord, attended by angels who declare His holiness, reveals Himself in such a way that Isaiah crumbles under the weight of his sinfulness. How many of us, however, honestly believe we would be so completely undone if we experienced a vision of how holy the Lord really is?

Yet in His compassion  and grace, the Lord has shown us that the same holiness that brings us to our knees in repentance also fills us with wonder. We worship this thrice holy God joyfully, admiring His splendor and relishing His glory. And so we sing today’s beautiful hymn with eager anticipation of enjoying His holiness throughout eternity.

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