Friday, February 27, 2009

R.C. Sproul and Coram Deo: The Essence of the Christian Life

What great insight; and what a great reminder to all of us of the true essence, the ultimate goal, of the Christian life!

Coram Deo, Ya'll!

"I remember Mama standing in front of me, her hands poised on her hips, her eyes glaring with hot coals of fire and saying in stentorian tones, "Just what is the big idea, young man?"

Instinctively I knew my mother was not asking me an abstract question about theory. Her question was not a question at all--it was a thinly veiled accusation. Her words were easily translated to mean, "Why are you doing what you are doing?" She was challenging me to justify my behavior with a valid idea. I had none.

Recently a friend asked me in all earnestness the same question. He asked, "What's the big idea of the Christian life?" He was interested in the overarching, ultimate goal of the Christian life.

To answer his question, I fell back on the theologian's prerogative and gave him a Latin term. I said, "The big idea of the Christian life is coram Deo. Coram Deo captures the essence of the Christian life."

This phrase literally refers to something that takes place in the presence of, or before the face of, God. To live coram Deo is to live one's entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God.

To live in the presence of God is to understand that whatever we are doing and wherever we are doing it, we are acting under the gaze of God. God is omnipresent. There is no place so remote that we can escape His penetrating gaze.

To be aware of the presence of God is also to be acutely aware of His sovereignty. The uniform experience of the saints is to recognize that if God is God, then He is indeed sovereign. When Saul was confronted by the refulgent glory of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, his immediate question was, "Who is it, Lord?" He wasn't sure who was speaking to him, but he knew that whomever it was, was certainly sovereign over him.

Living under divine sovereignty involves more than a reluctant submission to sheer sovereignty that is motivated out of a fear of punishment. It involves recognizing that there is no higher goal than offering honor to God. Our lives are to be living sacrifices, oblations offered in a spirit of adoration and gratitude.

To live all of life coram Deo is to live a life of integrity. It is a life of wholeness that finds its unity and coherency in the majesty of God. A fragmented life is a life of disintegration. It is marked by inconsistency, disharmony, confusion, conflict, contradiction, and chaos.

The Christian who compartmentalizes his or her life into two sections of the religious and the nonreligious has failed to grasp the big idea. The big idea is that all of life is religious or none of life is religious. To divide life between the religious and the nonreligious is itself a sacrilege.

This means that if a person fulfills his or her vocation as a steelmaker, attorney, or homemaker coram Deo, then that person is acting every bit as religiously as a soul-winning evangelist who fulfills his vocation. It means that David was as religious when he obeyed God's call to be a shepherd as he was when he was anointed with the special grace of kingship. It means that Jesus was every bit as religious when He worked in His father's carpenter shop as He was in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Integrity is found where men and women live their lives in a pattern of consistency. It is a pattern that functions the same basic way in church and out of church. It is a life that is open before God. It is a life in which all that is done is done as to the Lord. It is a life lived by principle, not expediency; by humility before God, not defiance. It is a life lived under the tutelage of conscience that is held captive by the Word of God.

Coram Deo . . . before the face of God. That's the big idea. Next to this idea our other goals and ambitions become mere trifles."

(R.C. Sproul, What Does "coram Deo" Mean?, Posted February 23, 2009)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Applause Between Songs: What Are You Thinking?

How common it is in most Evangelical churches for the congregation to clap their hands during the time of "praise and worship." And how often have I seen in the churches to which my family attended growing up (and even many of the churches which I've attended as an adult) the congregation clapping in between the songs. As the congregation is led from one song into another, sometimes there's a gap in time, a gap that is filled with clapping, i.e., applause.

And what's that applause for? It's not for the worship team, or singers, or choir is it? Is it applause to God for His goodness and Gospel? How many who clap during this time of transition between songs really give it any thought whatsoever as to why they're applauding/clapping?? Not many if any, I'd presume. I dare say that most just do it because that what they've always done, or because everyone else is clapping too.

I remember a chapel service while attending Oral Roberts University, when the late Ed Cole (author of Maximized Manhood) was our guest speaker. It was during our opening time of singing that, as usual, the students applauded between each song that was sung. But after the 2nd or 3rd time this happened, Mr. Cole stepped forward and stopped us. I wish I could remember exactly what he said, but he basically told us to stop it - to stop always clapping and applauding after each song by default, without thinking. His admonition was that such conduct was really rather lazy - rather than worshiping Him in spirit and in truth, with our heart, soul and mind, we just fill this time with mindless, uninformed clapping. He challenged the student body to think and not just react. To think and not just do what we've always done - always done without question or thought.

So, why do we do it - why do we so often automatically clap or applaud between songs during our church services? Should we do it? And if so, for what purpose - to what end?

And if you so applaud, why do you? What are you thinking while you're applauding, or what are you intending by your applause? Have you given it any thought from a scriptural standpoint?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

(Ok, you may clap now.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Two Songs: Two Different Messages

One album. Two songs. Two different messages?

Which of these lyrics gives a more scripturally supported view of a regenerate heart? Which should be our prayer; our proclamation? One, the other, both?

Your Love is Too Pure
Your love is too pure to ever force me to love You.
But, Lord, this is my heart’s true desire.
To love You beyond my human reason.
Burn it deep into my heart.
With your love’s holy fire.

Break My Heart, O God
Lord, You save every tear when I cry.
Knowing You love me leaves me wondering why You do.
For I know You know I don’t really love You.
For if I loved You I would lay my life down.
And if I loved You I would share what I’ve found in You.
Lord, show me every way that I don’t love You.

(Dennis Jernigan, Break My Heart [Word: Heart Cry 1991, ASIN: B00000317J])

>> I will note that I love this album! It has ministered to me for a number of years. Please check out Dennis Jernigan Ministries and read Dennis' testimony. What an example of God's sovereign, electing grace and redemption!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Evidences of Grace for 2009: How Are We Doing?

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:14-25 ESV)

We're now at mid-February, and I'm wondering how many of us are doing with our various New Year's resolutions? I can tell you that for me, I'm not doing so well. How about you?

It was my hope to grow in greater sanctification in the following areas, so that I could say that I was seeing great evidences of God's sovereign work in my daily living with others, with my family, my wife, and my kids.

I wanted to -

*take greater glory in my Redeemer who crushed the power of sin and death, and whose faithfulness is my standing place.

*be more thankful, more conscientious that my Savior’s sacrifice paid for all my sin and that the wrath of God, once meant for me, was all spent on Him.

*be more thankful that because my sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free; and that God, the Just, is satisfied because He looked on Him (not me) and pardon me.

*be daily mindful that I am a debtor to mercy alone, and that by His amazing grace, I now bear His righteous name (and because of that would start living like it!).

But, despite these desires and proclamations of the work of Christ in my life as one of His children, how many days go by with little to no acknowledgment on my part of the above in that 24-hour period. How often have I found by the end of the day that I've gone the entire day with no recognition of my utter dependence on Christ, the work of Calvary, and His redemptive work on my behalf?!

How are you doing with yours?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Hedge of Protection" - Praying for Shrubbery?

I grew up within a Christian/church tradition where I often heard prayers for a "hedge of protection" around children, spouses, etc. when going off to school or to work, or starting off on a long road trip - that the Lord "would place a hedge of protection over us with angels before us and behind us."

Hmmmm. What's the scriptural support for such a prayer? Where do we see evidenced in scripture any model or admonition for Christians to pray in this fashion? I know Satan spoke to God about a hedge around Job - but is that enough scriptural support for Christians to pray this way?

And another thing - Job needed a hedge as the fullness of time had not come - Christ had not yet come and shed His blood for His people. And Christ has done this for His church, and the scripture clearly says that we have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), that we have the full armor of God (Ephesians 6), and we are hid in Christ (Colossians 3:3). So, if all that is true (and it IS!), why do we need a "hedge" to protect us when we are "in Christ?!"

What say you?

Friday, February 06, 2009

More Spurgeon Gems

The Way to God
No man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)

But from the moment when Adam touched the forbidden fruit, the way from God to man became blocked up, the bridge was broken down, a great gulph was fixed, so that if it had not been for the divine plan of grace, we could not have ascended to God, neither could God in justice come down to us. Happily, however, the everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure, had provided for this great catastrophe. Christ Jesus the Mediator had in old eternity been ordained to become the medium of access between man and God.
(Sermon, Charles H. Spurgeon. Sunday, March 27, 1859. Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens)

The Sweet Pillow of God's Providence
He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness. (Psalm 106:9)

How sweet is providence to a child of God, when he can reflect upon it! He can look out into this world, and say, "However great my troubles, they are not so great as my Father's power; however difficult may be my circumstances, yet all things around me are working together for good. He who holds up yon unpillared arch of the starry heavens can also support my soul without a single apparent prop; he who guides the stars in the well-ordered courses, even when they seem to move in hazy dances, surely he can overrule my trials in such a way that out of confusion he will bring order; and from seeming evil produce lasting good. He who bridles the storm, and puts the bit in the mouth of the tempest, surely he can restrain my trial, and keep my sorrows in subjection. I need not fear while the lightnings are in his hands and the thunders sleep within his lips; while the oceans gurgle from his fist, and the clouds are in the hollow of his hands; while the rivers are turned by his foot, and while he diggeth the channels of the sea. Surely he whose might wings an angel, can furnish a worm with strength; he who guides a cherub will not be overcome by the trials of an emmet like myself. He who makes the most ponderous orb roll in dignity, and keeps its predestined orbit, can make a little atom like myself move in my proper course, and conduct me as he pleaseth." Christian! there is no sweeter pillow than providence; and when providence seemeth adverse, believe it still, lay it under thy head, for depend upon it there is comfort in its bosom. There is hope for thee, child of God!
(Sermon, Charles H. Spurgeon. Sunday, March 30, 1856, New Park Street Chapel, Southwark)

Search the Scriptures
To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (Isaiah 8:20)

I teach that all men by nature are lost by Adam's fall. See whether that be true or not. I hold that men have so gone astray that no man either will or can come to Christ except the Father draw him. If I be wrong, find me out. I believe that God, before all worlds, chose to himself a people, whom no man can number, for whom the Saviour died, to whom the Holy Spirit is given, and who will infallibly be saved. You may dislike that doctrine; I do not care: see if it is not in the Bible. See if it does not there declare that we are "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father," and so on. I believe that every elect child of God must assuredly be brought by converting grace from the ruins of the fall, and must assuredly be "kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation," beyond the hazard of ever totally falling away. If I be wrong there, get your Bibles out, and refute me in your own houses. And now I charge you that are now present to read your Bibles, for one thing. Read your Bibles to know what the Bible says about you; . . . I pray you, put not away your Bibles till their dust condemns you; but take them out, bend your knees, seek for the Spirit of divine teaching, and turn ye these pages with diligent search, and see if ye can find there the salvation of your souls, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Sermon, Charles H. Spurgeon, Sunday, January 17, 1858, Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens)