What is Holiness?

I think the puritans do such a better job of answering this question: What is holiness?  Their answer may surprise you.  We often think of the Puritans as stuffy, no-fun-allowed sort of folk.  That’s unfortunate.  Surely some of them were that way, just like some of us are, but the best Puritans actually made pleasure and joy central to our faith.  How they answer a question like “What is Holiness?” shows us a little of this.

Before I give you Jonathan Edwards and Thomas Goodwin’s answers, I want to ask how many people today would answer it.  What is holiness?  Is it primarily about whether and how much we sin?  Is it about ticking all the “thou shalt not” boxes?  What about God…what does it mean that He is holy?  Does it, primarily, mean that he can’t allow those who haven’t checked all those boxes in His presence?  I’ve said elsewhere that I often hear people say things like, “God is loving, but he’s also holy,” as if those things are opposites or mutually exclusive.  And that’s part of what’s wrong with our understanding of holiness.  So, let’s look at a couple of Puritans.

First, Jonathan Edwards. I’m going to invite Mike Reeves to share this as he’s who I first heart it from.  Go read his whole article at Desiring God, but here he is on Edwards and God’s holiness.

For the reality is that I am the cold, selfish, vicious one, full of darkness and dirtiness. And God is holy — “set apart” from me — precisely in that he is not like that. He is not set apart from us in priggishness, but by the fact that there are no such ugly traits in him as there are in us.

“God is God,” wrote Edwards, “and distinguished from [that is, set apart from] all other beings, and exalted above ’em, chiefly by his divine beauty” (for the connection between holiness and beauty, see verses like Psalm 96:9).2

God’s holiness, according to Edwards is primarily in His beauty, in His spreading and never changing goodness!  He’s not like us in our meanness, in all our ugly thoughts, words, and actions.  All the ways we hurt and hate others.  Isn’t that so much grander than “not sinning?”  Isn’t holiness as beauty just so much more, well, beautiful!!!

Now, Thomas Goodwin answers this question of God’s holiness as well (Vol 7, Book 1, Chapter 3).  Here’s what he says:

Matthew 19.17: “There is none good but God,” so therefore holy.  He is separate and alone in his holiness in the manner that he is alone in his (good) being.  And if he is the only one who is good, then much more is he the only holy one, for holiness is the height and perfection of goodness; it is so for man, and so in God.*

What does that mean?  It means that, at His core (in his being), God is good.  This is seen before creation ever existed as the Father, Son, and Spirit were in loving communion with one another, John 17 says, sharing glory and loving one another.  Before there were laws to give or keep, God was loving and sharing.  He was GOOD!  His holiness, then, can only be what is core to God.  What sets him apart?  His being, his nature, which we’ve just seen is loving, beautiful, and good.  And that is what sets him apart.  As you may know, holy means “set apart.”  His spreading goodness is what sets him apart, what differentiates God from us.

Holiness, then, according to these two puritans is beautiful goodness.  He’s not hot and cold towards us, he is consistently kind and good.  He’s holy.  In any day, I’m likely to despise and want ill for those that I should most love (sorry wifey and dear kiddos!), not to mention the random celebrity or Facebook stranger with whom I disagree.  Not so with God.  He’s holy.  He’s good.  He’s beautiful.

So, then, the invitation to be holy as God is holy becomes something amazing.  It’s now an invitation to share in the very goodness and beauty of God.  “Come, child, let me share my love and glory with you.  Let’s us experience unbroken, perfect love and fellowship.  Come, enjoy all this…that is, be holy like me.”

*I updated the language for clarity.  Italics are mine.

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Two Popular and False Views of Manhood

Before we can dive into understanding God’s view of manhood, we need to understand that we already have our own view of it.  Likely, we didn’t formulate this understanding after methodical reflection and study. No, chances are you were given your philosophy of manhood by others.

For some, it happens in an instant, perhaps when a parent or other relative decides it’s time for you to “understand how things work.”  For others, it’s a slow development, pieced together over time through what is said by family, teachers, schoolmates, at home, in the classroom, and on the playground.  Along the way, perhaps, you reject some pieces you hear and synthesize the others into a composite picture of manliness.

In one set of circumstances, the picture that may emerge, especially for young men who really enjoy sports and other outdoor activities, and from a family that does as well, is that of the Marlboro Man.  A self-sufficient, adventurous, unemotional, rugged man’s man. There are some good things about this man. He’s reliable and hard working. He’s brave and knows how to get things done.  And yet, something’s missing.

When this masculinity is taken to extremes, it can become misogynistic.  It can be cold. It’s hard for those around this man (and for the man himself) to know how he feels at any given time.  He’s an emotional guessing game for them.  By the time you realizes that he’s overwhelmed, he’s half way to a divorce or a mid-life crisis.  And he may not truly feel like a man unless he’s doing something that feeds the image he has of himself.  So, changing diapers takes a back seat to fixing up an old car. This is a truncated masculinity. Some of it is true and beautiful, but it is insufficient.

In a completely different set of circumstances, a boy may be given a picture of manhood that looks strangely foreign to Marlboro Man.  Perhaps he is raised by a single mother and/or his grandmother. Or perhaps he is raised in an environment that is simply trying to blur (or erase altogether) the lines between boys and girls, between masculinity and femininity.  The picture he acquires looks strangely like the picture of a female in his life. She’s kind and gentle. Relationships are important. Her interests aren’t sports or machinery, but shopping and coffee dates.

Perhaps this boy only has women role models in his life, perhaps he naturally gravitates to areas often thought of as feminine, or perhaps he’s been told explicitly that boys and girls are the same OR that boys should be more like girls.  However it happens, he comes to see that real men behave like real women…that there’s no such thing, really, as masculinity. This, too, is truncated – partially wonderful and partially destructive.

Both of these pictures are toxic.  In the next post, we’ll look at how different people are reacting to them and start to see a way forward.

Manhood 1: What is a Man?

“Am I a man?”  From my teenage years well into my thirties, this was a constant question for me.  There seemed to linger, somewhere deep in my soul, the fear that I wasn’t a man. That I didn’t even know what it meant to be a man.

Let’s be clear, the question isn’t, “am I male?”  That was determined about four decades ago thanks to my parents.  What I’m talking about is manhood, or you might call it mature masculinity.  What does it mean to be a man? What characteristics, qualities, and skills befit one so labeled: Man?

Sure, there were cultural markers meant to illustrate when a boy had crossed over that invisible line from child to adult, from a mere boy to manhood.  Every generation has these false markers. Most seem pretty childish to me now, like smoking your first cigarette or drinking your first beer. Others point to experiences that certainly should require a mature masculinity, but neither delivers it nor demands it, such as sex, a first job, getting married, and having a child.

No, this is certain, none of those things make a boy into a man.  We can all think of people who have crossed those boundaries, flown past them even, without acquiring one ounce of maturity in the process.

The older I get, the more I realize that I’m not the only guy asking this question.  In fact, the more men I talk to about these things (manhood, masculinity, maturity), the more I find that there are, in fact, very few men who feel like they have a firm grasp on what it means to truly be a man.  This isn’t just those who grew up without a father. Even those who would describe their father as a “pretty good dad,” say that the topic of manhood and maturity now seems to have been woefully neglected in their upbringing.

They still find themselves asking, “am I a man?”  It’s a powerful question.  It’s also a sad question.

The most fortunate can at least remember having “the talk” with their father.  You know the one, something about birds and bees. I say “most fortunate” with tongue in cheek, because it is a stinging indictment on fatherhood when the only conversation required to be a “pretty good dad” is one about sex.  What an even sadder statement about manhood – is sex really the only thing a man needs to know to be a mature man, a GOOD man…and are you sure you can cover it all in 10 minutes?

Well, from time to time, I still ask this question: am I a man?  But now, it’s different. I am beginning to understand what it means to be a man, a good man, a Christlike man.  I can see with greater clarity the qualities, characteristics, and skills needed to be what God has created me to be AS A MAN.  By His grace, I’m starting to see other men discover who they are meant to be as well, and we are walking together towards greater maturity.  And I hope this series helps you do that as well.

The series is shaped around a “model” for masculinity.  It will provide a visual picture of mature masculinity, and as we unpack it, we will begin to understand what manhood is meant to be.  You will see that the model is really an attempt to show us what God’s good design is for manhood. It is an attempt to see how He has instructed us to live as men.

And here’s the really important part, you’re going to see that the way God has designed manhood is based on something even more foundational, namely, His own character.  Manhood is the way it is because God is the way He is. Your mature life as a man is meant to reflect to the world the truth about God. And only when you understand the truth about who God is and what He’s like, will you begin to understand who you are meant to be and have the desire and ability to live it out.

And when you start to live out of that, that’s when everything changes.

A Model of Biblical Masculinity – Expanded

Hello friends, if you were around about a year ago, perhaps you saw me post something titled “A Model of Biblical Masculinity.”  One of the real burdens on my heart these days is manhood, especially Biblical Manhood.  I was excited to see David Murray announce the launch of his Christian Man Academy.  I also felt it was a good time to start sharing some more on what I’ve written on this topic.  So, below is a slight revision of last March’s post, and I’ll be expanding on some aspect of this model every few days.  So, enjoy!

A Model of Biblical Masculinity

At our church, we host a quarterly time for men to get together and pursue God’s vision for Biblical masculinity, so I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic.  I wanted to share a little “model” with you that is my attempt to capture, in visual form what Biblical masculinity looks like, as well as some description (as short as I could bring myself to it) of how it all functions together.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

A MODEL OF MASCULINITY

I’m a visual learner. I love charts, graphs, maps, and funny cartoon clippings. I also am a big-picture person. I struggle with details, but if you can give me a compelling overview, then I can begin to dig into the details in a way that keeps me from getting overwhelmed. So, when I began to ask, “what makes a good man” I quickly found myself trying to create some type of visual aid that would help me understand the big picture. Out of that, came the above Model.

While we could say much about the different pieces of this Model, I want to show how they all fit together here.

CORE IDENTITY OF WORSHIP

The Model consists of a core identity; namely, living in a loving relationship with the one, true God as a worshipper – one who delights in, who enjoys fellowship with the Triune God.

At the heart of every real man must be a heart of worship towards God. Not just any god will do, however, because we will become like what we worship. So, if the god I worship created mankind because he needed them (ancient Greek gods for instance), then I will become a needy, self-serving man who demands that others exist to fulfill me. If I worship a god who created mankind, but now keeps his distance (the god of Islam, deism), I will be a detached man who produces something (perhaps work, a child, a family) but then stands apart from it as if it must now continue without me. If I believe creation comes from an accident (new-age spiritualism, most forms of evolutionary theory, Gnosticism), then it doesn’t matter how I live. In this view, the fact that I’m a man is an accident any way. Finally, if I believe that creation isn’t a reality (Buddhism, Hinduism), but is a mirage, a façade, then my life isn’t real either, so the best thing I can do is ignore reality and spend my days seeking nirvana – whatever self-actualization plan I prefer. I will check out on my responsibilities because I don’t really believe in reality.

However, if I believe in the God of Christianity, the Triune God, who is real, who created with intentionality, who created not out of need but out of love, who created and then didn’t run away but remains active in the world, who takes all responsibility for what has been, what is, and what will be, and if I’ve been made in His image – to do his works, think his thoughts, and represent Him in the world – that makes all the difference. At the heart of every real man is a delight in the God who made him and all things. If that is missing, nothing else in the Model will work.

3 SECONDARY ROLES FLOW OUT OF WORSHIP

There are 3 other roles that every man must fulfill, represented by the outer circles of the Model. Every man must be a Shepherd, Soldier, and Sage. The core characteristics for these roles are Love, Courage, and Wisdom respectively. Certainly, each man will gravitate towards one of these roles more than another, but he is called to develop in and live out of all three.

And all three need to be tethered to Worship. Because God’s Wisdom, God’s Courage, and God’s Love are completely different from the world’s wisdom, courage, and love. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:25, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” If we start from any point other than the God of Scripture, we are hopeless. Our best love, courage, and wisdom, conjured up somewhere other than from the power of God, are faulty, weak, and foolish. And so to move out from that place spells doom. Soldiers will become dictators, Shepherds will love sporadically or with sappy sentimentality, and Sages will use their wisdom for their own good or for no one’s.

FIDELITY TO GOD’S COMMUNAL LOVE, KINGDOM MISSION, AND DIVINE TRUTH

In fact, these three roles are really responses to God. They exist because God exists and is who he says he is. God is love. That is the core of who he is, and so as those made in his image, we too are called to love (Shepherd). He is community, the Trinity, and so we were created to love in community. The Shepherd role reflects the appropriate response (relational fidelity) to God’s communal love.

So too, God is King of a Kingdom, and he is on a mission to establish that Kingdom. As citizens of that Kingdom and co-heirs with Christ, we are drafted into the Kingdom mission. We are His vice-regents. The Soldier role reflects the appropriate response (missional fidelity) to God’s Kingdom mandate.

Finally, God is true. Though every man be found a liar, he will be found true. And he not only knows the truth, but knows what to do with it, so he is also all-wise. His wisdom makes even the wisest man look like a fool. And so, He has given the Spirit of God to each of us, in short, he has given us the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:12-16). The Sage role reflects the appropriate response (theological fidelity) to the truth of God.

THE BALANCE OF THE 3 SECONDARY ROLES

Not only must they flow out of the heart of a worship, but these three roles also help balance each other. For instance, a Soldier who doesn’t use wisdom (Sage) will lose the battle, and one who doesn’t love (Shepherd) might win the wrong battle or win the right battle wrongly, believing that the ends justify the means. Similarly, a Shepherd who allows love to trump truth (Sage) has actually departed from real love. And a Shepherd, busy loving, who forgets his mission (Soldier) leads the sheep into danger or away from true blessing. Finally, a Sage who loves knowledge and wisdom, but forgets to employ that wisdom for the good of God’s people (Shepherd) and for his Kingdom (Soldier), fails. All three need each other.

THE INTERWOVEN BEAUTY OF THE 3 SECONDARY ROLES

And when they are working together, we see beautiful and critical activities flowing out, illustrated by the 3 outer rectangles. When courage (Soldier) and love (Shepherd) combine, the result is service – sacrificial, humble service to God, His Church, and humanity. When love (Shepherd) and wisdom (Sage) combine, the result is cultivation – that is, space for the things that make life beautiful and bountiful, from poetry to farming to government that is just. Finally, when courage (Solider) and wisdom (Sage) combine, the result is Christ-like leadership, resulting in the people of God wisely and boldly fulfilling their purpose.

This is just an overview.  I will seek to unpack these primary and secondary pieces in the days ahead, so stay tuned!

 

Exhausted, Anxious, and Depressed – Thoughts on why we feel how we feel

Hello friends, this is a little bit different than most of my posts.  But over the last few years, thoughts have been crystallizing around this question:  Why are we so tired? Anxious? Depressed? Overwhelmed as a society?  I don’t want to oversimplify any individual experience, but I want to try and put my finger on some reasons why collectively, we are moving towards being a burned out and overwhelmed society.

For a moment, imagine that you are alive in the year 1900.  Certainly, it had it’s own challenges, but you would not experience the following:

  • If there were a hurricane/tsunami/earthquake/etc. in another part of the world, you wouldn’t ever hear about it.  If you did, it would be long after any sort of response from your part of the world could be a part of the recovery.
  • You wouldn’t have any idea what career sculpting is.  You wouldn’t be worried from day to day if there were an open job that used  your strengthfinders, enneagram, or MBTI results more fully.  You’d already know pretty much everything you’d need to do the job you have, which is the job that you’ll likely end your career with.
  • Similarly, you would not encounter a new endless call to personal development.  Whether further education, certification, or equipping…you’d likely never be invited to consider any of it.  Why?  Because you are already sufficient for the time that you live in.
  • Finally: if you were a woman (and we could write a similar line for men), you would not be bombarded every second of every day with a whole host of things that collectively call you to be the omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent Messiah.  Likely, your mother would have taught you all that really is to know about being a good woman, and you’d spend the rest of you life living out of that competency instilled in you early on.  Perhaps it included a career, family, education, but maybe not.  You would know what a woman was and that you were one.

Instead, you live in 2019, and here’s the reality:

  • Not only do you hear REAL TIME reports about disasters in every country on the planet, you are expected to personally care and do something about it.  And if you don’t, you are then labeled many unflattering things.  And, you can’t just pick one or two areas to care about…no, you must be omni-concerned.  On Facebook, I saw someone post “50% of Syrians are now displaced…half the country is without a home. This breaks my heart”   The first response to this heartfelt post was this: “What about the millions of babies who have been aborted in this country!”  Both are worthwhile concerns.  How did a refugee crisis become the enemy of unborn children?!?!  But, our culture of over-care and over-engage means you have to crusade for any and every injustice.
  • In today’s marketplace, you’re told that you better keep an eye out for a chance to move up and move on.  Don’t settle in.  Don’t get comfortable and competent.  Keep climbing the ladder which is really more like a spider web these days with myriad ways to go.  Career change isn’t just possible, but expected, encouraged.  Oh, and btw, you should care about your career more that you do AND you should make sure that your career doesn’t interfere with your self-actualization either.  Finally, make sure that your little job in Mena, Arkansas (for instance) isn’t affecting the economy in Mali, Latvia, or Indonesia.
  • YOU are the problem.  You are being crushed under the weight of being a better you.  Why?  Because, according to some, the you that you already are is not up to the task of living in this globalize, fast paced society…or so you’re told.  We’ve been convinced that working hard at a job that produces something that society needs and provides for my family is selling out.  We’re preached a self-god gospel: the world NEEDS YOU, your unique, one of a kind contribution to the planet.  They forget to tell you that discovering this will often be harder than actually just holding down a good job, and in the end, you’re wasted from the effort.
  • I ache for women today.  From healthy eating, to career building, to child-rearing, to love making, to beauty and weight and passion and hobbies and home making and blogging and leading and self-fulfillment, you are deluged with all of this in 2019.  Not just that it’s available, but that you must master all of it…for yourself, your family, your neighbors, your local school, and the random stranger.  Be WONDER WOMAN!

So, why are we the way we are – brittle, fragile, and exhausted?  I think a lot of it has to do with expectations.  I think a lot of it has to do with being in a world, now, that is real time and global and not knowing how to live.  And the call to do more, care more, give more, and be more is nonstop.  We haven’t learned to think globally but act/live locally.  The call from society is demonic.  It’s calling you to try and replace God, to be the Messiah, to save the world, and look good doing it.  It’s a lie from the pit of Hell.  The Sabbath was made for man.  Man’s limitations, his finiteness, is a gift from God.  We can never do enough, control enough.  Not as individuals or as society.  We NEED God.  We have to close our eyes, fall asleep, and trust that He’s in control.

One last caveat, some of the things about, if selectively and meaningfully engaged, are good things.  Let’s pray for the suffering, that’s good, but then let’s trust them to God.  When it makes sense for us to involve ourselves in some of the good causes out there, steward your life well.  Personally, I like personal development, but it can be an idol.

If you’re looking to move deeper into this whole topic, Reset by David Murray has been helpful for me.  It’s less about personal development and more about stewarding the life God has given you.

The Love of God and our Feelings

Here we are at the end of our blog series on Psalm 45.  I hope it’s blessed you.  If you haven’t, be sure to read those because they’ve been leading us to this point.  We just found out that because of the love of King Jesus for us, His Bride, we are adorned.  We are completely majestic.

Do you believe that?  I struggle to sometimes.  Many times, I feel like I’m being tolerated by Jesus instead of being his beautiful Bride that causes His pupils to dilate.  But, friend, THAT IS THE TRUTH!  He’s not just putting up with us.  He’s enamored with us!

You may not feel completely majestic.  Sometimes is so hard just to lift you eyes off of your own SHAME, SCARS, WHAT YOU’VE DONE, WHAT’S BEEN DONE TO YOU to see the love in the eyes of your King.  He’s taken all of that on himself. See what the King says about you in Song of Songs. Listen, Christ says this about YOU:

SoS 4.7, 9

You are altogether beautiful, my love;
    there is no flaw in you.

You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride;
    you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes,

The King doesn’t rescue the street girl so that she can just have a clean, well-provided room in his castle.  NO. He rescues her so that he may never be parted from her again. He desires you. He longs to have you with him.

13 All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold.
14     In many-colored robes she is led to the king,
 with her virgin companions following behind her.
15 With joy and gladness they are led along
    as they enter the palace of the king.

And she doesn’t just want his stuff, remember, she wants HIM!  The Christian doesn’t just want forgiveness or righteousness or to get out of Hell free.  NO NO NO!  WE WANT GOD.  WE DELIGHT IN GOD. WE NEVER WANT TO BE PARTED FROM GOD. HE IS OUR BELOVED, THE LOVER OF OUR SOULS.  HEAVEN, WHATEVER BLESSINGS IT MIGHT HOLD, WITHOUT JESUS, WOULD BE NO PARADISE AT ALL.

He wants us, His Bride, and we want Him!  And because of this marriage, the Sons of Korah, our authors, now speak to the King again:

16 In place of your fathers shall be your sons;
    you will make them princes in all the earth.

What are they saying?  Basically: You and your bride will bear fruit together.  Friends, you were meant to be united with Christ so that HE MIGHT MAKE YOU FRUITFUL.  In fact, this is why creation exists. Jonathan Edwards put it this way:

“The spouse of the Son of God, the Lamb’s wife…is that for which all of the universe was made.” and “God created the world for His Son, that He might prepare a bride for Him to bestow His love upon; so that the mutual joys between this bride and bridegroom are the purpose of the creation.”

Do you believe that?!?!?!  That Jesus might enjoy you!  That the Father might call you to be the Bride who will be joy to His Son!  THAT is the purpose for which the world was created.  Oh, how weak is our faith.  Oh, how hard it can be to believe, and therefore feel this passion of Jesus.

And the Sons of Korah, these men delivered from death, out of the very pit of the earth…men who love the King, who BOIL OVER with affection for Christ, end their song this way:

17 I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.

This love they feel for the King will fill the earth!  They will declare this love for ALL who will come to the King, for all the people that God will bring to be a part of the Bride of Christ, His Church!  And that’s evangelism.  Not a grit your teeth and just share.  Not a fearful thing.  But a joyous recounting of how your King found you in the gutter and now calls you magnificent!  It’s not a chore or a duty, but a delight to speak of your lover, your treasure!  I pray that you would believe it and that you’d feel it, because Jesus does.  He’s overwhelmed with affection for His Bride – and that’s you.

Church, get ready to blush…

In our previous posts we’ve seen

  1. The Sons of Korah (SoK), men who deserved death but had reserved mercy wrote Psalm 45 a song to the King
  2. Deep affection that was being communicated to the King, in fact, it is a love song, with words that only a lover would use.
  3. That the King in the Psalm is Jesus and he’s described as smelling like an altar, temple, incense, and dead body.
  4. That King Jesus astonishes us with His, beauty, grace, and power.

Now, the Sons of Korah are about to change the subject…but not really.  This still has everything to do with the goodness of the King, but now we get to see what His goodness is after – what his beauty and grace are seeking to accomplish.

This King that smells like salvation, who loves righteousness and hates evil, and lays his life down…He’s done it all to win a people, more specifically, to win a Bride.  THE KING IS GETTING MARRIED

8 your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.
 From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;
9 daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; 
 at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.

Who is the bride of King Jesus.  It’s the people of God. It’s the Church…it’s us.  This is consistent throughout the entire Bible. Here are a couple of examples.

JEREMIAH 31.31-32

31 “Behold, the days are coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.

ISAIAH 54.5

For your Maker is your husband,
 the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
 the God of the whole earth he is called.

ISAIAH 62.5

5 As a young man marries a young woman,
 so will your Builder marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
 so will your God rejoice over you.

EPHESIANS 5.32

32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Back here in Psalm 45, in verse 10, speaking to the Queen to be, the Sons of Korah say this:

10 Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear:
 forget your people and your father’s house,

God first called his people to himself in GENESIS 12.1.  He calls Abraham and his descendants, Israel, to be his people.  What’s he say there? Leave your country, your people, and your father’s house.  When he calls a people, he calls them away from who they were and what they were IN ORDER TO be with him.  Now, notice this summons:

HEAR, CONSIDER, INCLINE

Notice the repetition.  Hear, Consider, Incline your ear. The Sons of Korah are trying to get her attention – YOUR attention.

Let me ask you: have you left your life without God in order to do life with God?  Have you given up control of your life so that you might have Jesus as King? Or are you clinging to your control, your pretend gods, your sin?  Hear, Consider, Listen. Leave that life and believe in Jesus. Take him as your own.

Now, look at VERSE 11: FOR ME, THIS IS THE CLIMAX!  Why would you ever want to leave your old life?

11     and the king will desire your beauty.

HE DESIRES YOU…LITERALLY this phrase means he “GREATLY DESIRES/YEARNS FOR/CRAVES YOUR BEAUTY”

WOW!  He desires to be with you.  Not like, for instance Zeus or Allah or Shivah – these gods all need something from you.  It was thought that if all of Greece stopped believing in the gods of Greece, that would cease to exist.  The Greek gods desired their people, in a way, and that is NOT at all how Jesus desires you.

In his book, The Freedom of a Christian, Martin Luther compares salvation, the Christian teaching of justification by grace through faith, to a marriage between a great King and His bride, a woman of ill repute, a harlot.  For the rest of this post, I’m really going to be leaning on Luther as well as Michael Reeves.

The Great King doesn’t need this woman, but his massive heart is turned to her, he has compassion on her, and his chooses her to be with him as his very bride.

Now, if that’s happened, what does she want of him?  He’s been the first man to ever really love her.  The first man that was safe for her.  To see her and love her for her own sake.  He’s rescued her.  He’s provided for her – safety, sustenance, and affection. What do you think she wants from him?  Gold? A Palace? or…Him? That’s exactly right, her response to his unbelievable love is that she adores him.

11     and the king will desire your beauty.
 Since he is your lord, bow to him.

The word for BOW there is actually the word for Worship.  Jesus loves you, desires you, has set his affection on you, and in response, you worship him.  You adore him. This is exactly what happens in the Song of Songs…the bride of the King says:

SONG OF SONGS 5.16

   he is altogether lovely.
This is my beloved, this is my friend,

You see, he moved first…he came to her and set his delight on her…that’s grace.  She couldn’t make herself a queen. Acting more queenly wouldn’t do it. Sipping tea with the pinky out.  That doesn’t make you a queen. She could dress up in a queen’s dress, but she still wouldn’t be one. What’s the only way to become a queen?

Only by His word, only when he looks at her and makes his vows.  “I take you as my bride.”

And in THAT MOMENT, she is queen.  And when she speaks un-queenly, that won’t change the fact that she is the queen.  When she stumbles over her new queenly robes, that doesn’t change the fact that she is queen.  By His Word, because of His great love, she has BEEN MADE queen. But that’s not all…

He also clothes her, or said another way, He makes her beautiful!

13 All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold.
14 In many-colored robes she is led to the king,



“All glorious,” it could also be translated Completely Majestic.  He clothes her with beauty. Specifically, with his very own goodness, his very own righteousness.

We call this the Great Exchange.  When he says, “All that I am is yours and all that I have I give to you.”  All my love, my blessing, my righteousness. They are yours.

And she says to him, “All that I am is yours and all that I have I give you.”  All my brokenness, shame, sin, regrets, and debt.

And he took all of that from her and paid it in full on the Cross, dying the death she should have died so that he might be with her forever.  And he clothes her with his righteousness.

ISAIAH 61.10

I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Now, you may not feel beautiful, and adorned.  I get that.  So please be sure to come back for the next, and final, post in this series on Psalm 45!

How to Walk in the Spirit

In a recent conversation, a friend said, “I want to grow in walking in the Spirit” a couple of times.  It’s a Biblical phrase for sure, and one you hear in my part of the US quite a lot, but I started thinking, “what does that mean?”  And I wanted to write out a few thoughts.

First, here’s what I think people mean (at least here in the Southern part of the US, you tell me if it applies in your context) when they say, “walk in the Spirit.”  I think they mean a kind of relationship with the Holy Spirit that is marked by an ongoing input from the Spirit, particularly as it pertains to what that person should be doing at a given moment.  Said another way, walking in the Spirit is often meant to communicate a Spirit directed life, especially through responding to inner promptings that the person feels/experiences throughout the day.  Does that sound like what you’re hearing as well?

After reflecting on that, I thought, “Is that what the Bible means by walking in the Spirit?”  So, I went to the Word.   Here are the 3 places in the New Testament where walking in the Spirit might be understood.

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
You’ll notice that the first is actually walking in the comfort of the Spirit, so that idea’s a little different.  It could mean that you are experiencing comfort that the Spirit is applying to your life OR it could mean that you are experiencing comfort because the Spirit is bringing to mind all the spiritual blessings that belong to us in Christ.  The first is saying that the Spirit is making you feel comforted, the second is that the Spirit is bringing God’s truth to light and that you are being comforted by that truth.  It’s easy to assume the first, but I actually think that, when the Spirit is involved, the second is much more likely.  I’ll say why later on.
In the other two passages, walking in (literally: by or according to) the Spirit is contrasted with walking according to the flesh, which Galatians defines as walking to “gratify the desires of the flesh.”
In context, the Romans passage seems to be saying that if you are born again, you are set free from slavery to sin and the flesh.  Therefore, walk not in the flesh, that is: not in sin, but walk in the Spirit, that is: in holiness, as those that are born again.  In no sense does this seem to say that if we listen closely enough with our hearts throughout the day, then the Spirit will give you promptings as to what to do in a given situation.  No, this passage seems to say: Walking in the Spirit means, simply, walking in obedience to God.
Likewise, Galatians pits walking in the Spirit against gratifying the desires of the flesh.  Paul here, in the wider context, also uses language like “led by the Spirit,” and “live by the Spirit,” and “keep in step with the Spirit,” but each time he clarifies what he means by the examples and instructions he gives.  Here’s what it looks like:
  • 4.16 Walk by the Spirit – the result will be that you won’t gratify the desires of the flesh.
  • 4.18 Be led by the Spirit – the result will be that you won’t perform the deeds of the flesh (listed in vv 19-21), but instead you’ll produce the fruit of the Spirit (vv 22-23) because you have “crucified the flesh along with its passions and desires” (v 24).
  • 4.25-26 – Live by the Spirit/Keep in Step with the Spirit – the result will be that we won’t “become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Every example seems to be saying that walking with/in the Spirit is a Biblical phrase that means walking obediently or living holy lives.  That’s easier said that done!  I do think Piper has been helpful on how the Spirit’s work empowers that.  You can listen here.  So, where do we get the idea of the Spirit giving us real time, internal promptings/instructions as a way of living that we should aspire to.  Perhaps it’s in the Bible but just not in these passages?  That’s my next step of inquiry.  Stay tuned AND let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Marvelous Grace & Beautiful Wrath

In our previous posts we’ve seen

  1. The Sons of Korah (SoK), men who deserved death but had reserved mercy wrote Psalm 45 a song to the King
  2. Deep affection that was being communicated to the King, in fact, it is a love song, with words that only a lover would use.
  3. That the King in the Psalm is Jesus and he’s described as smelling like an altar, temple, incense, and dead body.

Now we want to look more deeply at WHY the Sons of Korah are so crazy about Jesus.  Let’s start back in Verse 2.

2 You are the most handsome of the sons of men;
 grace is poured upon your lips;
 therefore God has blessed you forever.

That first line is striking.  Dudes don’t describe other dudes that way any more.  Is that manhood?  YES, this is absolutely the MOST MASCULINE inclination you could ever have.  This is no mere mancrush! The SoK aren’t just praising him for a great fastball, big biceps, or an impressive intellect.

Friends, this is serious.  Right now, how do you feel about Jesus.  When Bible translators throughout the centuries have tried to capture this in English language, they’ve really struggled!  Our language can’t capture the height of beauty that is being communicated.

  • KJV – Thou art fairer than the children of men
  • Chaldee – Thy beauty, O King Messiah, is above that of the sons of men
  • Mudge – Thou art wonderfully fair beyond the sons of men
  • Alexander – Beautiful, beautiful art thou above the sons of men
  • ESV – You are the most handsome of the sons of men
  • NASB – You are fairer than the sons of men

Those last two, newer translations really seem to fall flat, don’t that.  Now, when William Plummer, 19th century scholar, tried to capture the point of this passage, listen to what he said:

In true religion, everything turns on our views of Christ, v.2.  What do we think of him?  Is he in our opinion and thinking incomparable?  Do we regard him as “fairer than the children of men?”  Is he, or is he not the chiefest among ten thousand and altogether lovely?  If you don’t love him, if you don’t admire him, if you wouldn’t, in a fair trial, die for him, you are not his. Luke xiv. 26, 27, 33.

So again: How do you feel about Jesus?  Don’t tell me you’re just not an emotional person.  I use to say that…I invented that. Let’s not fool ourselves.  How we feel about Jesus is a striking indicator of the reality and quality of our faith.

So, what was it about Jesus that the SoK wanted to highlight?

GRACE

Grace was on his lips!  Grace! He came to us with grace.  We are so broken, but he has healing.  We are vicious to each other, but he’s tender.  We get angry, defensive, and mean at the drop of a hat, but he is patient.  Notice what the Gospels say:

And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.  LUKE 4.22

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth, for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. JOHN 1.14, 17

He wasn’t just being nice…he was bringing the very goodness of God, the word and presence of God to us.  He was the very embodiment of the grace of God.  The kindness and tender compassion of God.

Children ran to him, prostitutes found him to be the safest place they’ve ever known, people wanted to be with him.  They all found in him the answers to their deepest longings: how can I be right with God?  How can I know peace?  How can I have God as my very own?

But, it gets better There’s more good news.  He brings grace, but he also came with a Sword…wait, what?!

3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, 
in your splendor and majesty! 4 In your majesty ride out victoriously
 for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
 let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
 5 Your arrows are sharp
 in the heart of the king’s enemies;
 the peoples fall under you.

So, they also praise the King because he comes with a sword.  Does that seem shocking to you? I think part of the reason we find that shocking is because we continue to say things like: “God is loving, but he’s also just.”  As if those things are opposed to each other. Or “God is merciful, but he’s also holy.” Statements like that show how far from the Bible we’ve strayed.

God’s love is not opposed to his holiness, justice, or wrath.  No, God IS LOVE. This is 1 John 4.16. This is what he is like at his core.  In fact, John says if you don’t love, it’s certain that you don’t even know God because to know Him changes you and makes you loving.  God is love, at his core, and so EVERYTHING he does flows out of that, even wrath

God’s wrath isn’t opposed to his love.  No, Michael Reeves says it this way: wrath is what happens when a loving God encounters evil.  Wrath is the loving response to evil.  And we actually know this instinctively…

Imagine going outside in a few minutes and as you step out the door you see a man abusing a little child.   How would you respond?  How OUGHT you respond. What would loving behavior look like?  If you see it and turn a blind eye to it – you are not loving.  If you see it and say, “well, we all have our struggles” then you are not loving. Love would do everything it could to bring an end to evil.  It will judge it. And it will bring holy consequences against it. The King has a sword…hallelujah.

Let’s look a little more closely at this loving war that the King is waging:

4 In your majesty ride out victoriously
 for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
 let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!



What would you ride in the Ancient Near East?  A motorcycle? A segway? No, a chariot, and this king rides to victory on a chariot of truth, meekness, and righteousness.  He goes to war against evil by means of truth, meekness, and righteousness.  This is a different sort of King altogether.  He’s not a dictator simply hellbent on maintaining control.  He’s not Allah simply looking to make the world submit.

This King is the truth.

He is meek.

He is our righteousness.

What does he smell like? He smells like salvation for sinners!

The Psalm is about to change gears.  We’re about to find out something exciting:  The King is getting married!

The King Smells like a Corpse

Well, we’re back in Psalm 45.  In previous 2 posts, we discovered that the Sons of Korah, these dead men walking, are writing this Psalm as a love song to the King.  Today, I want to look a little closer and try to figure out who this King is.  Verse 2-5 says this:

2 You are the most handsome of the sons of men;
 grace is poured upon your lips;
 therefore God has blessed you forever.
 3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one,
 in your splendor and majesty!

4 In your majesty ride out victoriously
 for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
 let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
 5 Your arrows are sharp
 in the heart of the king’s enemies;
 the peoples fall under you.

Before digging into the details we need to ask, “who is this?”  If you’re not familiar with the Bible, you’re gonna miss this, I think.  Elsewhere in scripture, who would ever be talked about this way?  “Oh mighty one, in your splendor and majesty!  Ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness.”  It’s never a human talked about like this.  It’s always God.   And in case that wasn’t clear here, let’s look at the next couple of verses.

6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
 The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
 7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.




According to verse 6, the King is God.  “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever!” But in verse 7, we also see that the King is someone anointed by God.  “Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
 with the oil of gladness beyond your companions”

HOW DOES THAT WORK?  

Well, Hebrews 1.8-9 makes this clear.  The writer there tells us that this is God the Father speaking to God the Son.  This is the Father speaking to Jesus.

But of the Son he (the Father) says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
 the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
 therefore God, your God, has anointed you
 with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

So, who is the King in Psalm 45?  Jesus!  Now, BACK TO PSALM 45.  Let’s learn just a little more about this king.  What’s he like. In fact, what does he smell like? Look at verses 7 and 8:

Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; 8 your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.

That’s his fragrance.  Now, you should know…This is NOT Old Spice.  This is NOT typical kingly after shave. OK.  What are these spices and oils used for?

Well, MYRRH AND CASSIA are both used to create a special incense…an incense that can only be used in the Temple of God.  It is only made and used by the priests of God. It’s used to anoint everything in the temple, including the alter for sacrifices, and to sanctify everything…that is, to make it holy.  So this King, he smells like…the TEMPLE, he smells like a priest, he smells like an altar.  That’s Myrrh and Cassia.

To bring in aloes, let’s look at John 19.  We’re going to see there another use for Myrrh as well as Aloes.

38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight.

Oh, great KING – YOU SMELL LIKE A CORPSE and LIKE INCENSE TO GOD, sort of like an offering on an altar, like something that has died in the place of someone else.  Like a DEAD AND BURIED HIGH PRIEST KING?

Which is exactly how JESUS is described in the book of Hebrews!!!

So, we know who this is.  This is Jesus!  Now, we must ask, “why?”  Why are the Sons of Korah so excited to praise Jesus?  For the answer, in our next post on Psalm 45, we will rewind for a moment to Verse 2.