The Lord Jesus died not only to be His people’s substitute but to be our example as well – we are to love one another even as He loved us, by giving Himself up for us. He came as one who served, and calls us to take the same posture (Luke 22:26-27). Some people say Jesus is only a good example, and so lose the gospel of a substitutionary atonement; others, to guard the gospel, are afraid to say “Be like Jesus.” Jesus had no problem telling His people to imitate Him. Let us trust in His merits and sacrifice alone for salvation, and seek to love as He loved this day.
“The great folly of even good men is that too often they forsake the rock of their salvation; they rely on works, so that the law with its sharp, flaming, two-edged sword must be called in to slay legal hopes as often as they revive. Whenever believers go to Sinai for salvation, its words of terror, its thundering and lightnings must be let loose upon them; if they cannot be drawn thence, hope will die within them, and terrors will consume them. Mount Sinai is far from Jerusalem; but Mount Calvary is hard by [very near] it. Ministers whose preaching discourages a law-work in the soul, are not wise; those, who have been the most soundly troubled in conscience, commonly cleave most closely to the gospel method of mercy. The law is still a schoolmaster to bring men to Christ; the nearer we are to the law as a covenant, the farther are we from Christ, from deliverance.”
“Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; for I trust in You; teach me the way in which I should walk; for to You I lift up my soul…Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground. For the sake of Your name revive me. In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble” (Ps. 143:8, 10-11).
David desires to experience God’s steadfast love anew each day; he confesses that God is his hope and trust; he postures himself as a disciple/learner/padawan, as one willing to be led; he commits himself to the Lord; he acknowledges the covenant of grace; he prays for revival and to be brought out of trouble. In this same psalm he declares himself to be sinful and worthy of judgment (143:2), and he proclaims his desire for the Lord Himself (143:6). He entrusts his enemies/trouble to the Lord (143:3-4, 7, 9, 11-12). May the Lord shape our prayers according to His word.
If you’re interested in C. S. Lewis and live in the Cookeville, TN, area, then you won’t want to miss this lecture on Lewis’ apologetic – it’s entitled “C. S. Lewis, Watchful Dragons, and the Baptized Imagination”.
“Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints; so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company” (Romans 15:30-32). Paul was on his way to Jerusalem to carry a contribution for the saints there that he had collected in Macedonia and Achaia (Rom. 15:26). As he closes the body of his letter to the Romans, he requests/urges the Romans to pray for him. Note several things about his request:
- He urges/appeals to/exhorts them to pray – Paul was desirous, even desperate for the prayers of God’s people. Rather than a “take it or leave it” attitude, he believed that the prayers of the saints was vital for his life and ministry (cf. also Col. 4:2ff.). Do you?
- He urges by the Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit – is the latter referring to the Spirit’s love for us, or our love for the Spirit (or both), or the love in us for God and neighbor created by the Spirit (cf. also Rom. 5:5; Gal. 5:22; Col. 1:8)? Whichever it is (on first glance I lean toward the latter), it is the basis of Paul’s appeal. Because of Jesus Christ – because of the Holy Spirit and His work in you – pray for me!
- We must strive/wrestle in our prayers (Cf. Col. 4:2) – a source of constant conviction for me.
- Paul was praying this for himself – strive “together with me” – don’t just rely on others to pray for you, pray for yourself!
- He asked them to pray that he would be rescued from the enemies of God, and that his service would prove acceptable to the saints. The former request was not granted in the sense that he was arrested in Judea (cf. Acts 21:11), but the latter was (cf. Acts 21:17). Remember, God doesn’t always answer all your prayers in the same way.
- The reason he wanted these things was so that he could come to them in joy by the will of God, and find refreshing rest in their company. The will of God wasn’t exactly what Paul probably envisioned – he was arrested in Jerusalem, had to appeal to Caesar to make it to Rome, nearly died in a shipwreck and a poisonous snake bite on the way to Rome, and then finally made it to Rome, where Acts 28:15 tells us, “The brethren, when they heard about us, came…to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.” Knowing Paul, though the circumstances of his arrival in Rome were not pleasurable, yet I imagine his heart was filled with joy, and he did find refreshing rest in the company of the saints there. In a roundabout way, Paul’s prayers were answered, just not how he might have thought they were. Ultimately, our prayer must be Jesus’ in the garden of Gethsemene: “Not my will, but yours be done.”
Stuart Robinson, a 19th century Southern Presbyterian, in his Discourses of Redemption, describes how the whole gospel system is found in Genesis 3:15, even as the oak is in the acorn (he wrote this some 80 years before Geerhardus Vos’ Biblical Theology!):
“Thus is will be seen, on careful analysis of these words, and deducing the truths embodied by implication in them, that they set forth these eight points of the gospel creed:
1. That the Redeemer and Restorer of the race is to be man, since he is to be the seed of the woman.
2. That he is, at the same time, to be a being greater than man, and greater even then Satan; since he is to be the conqueror of man’s conqueror, and, against all his efforts, to recover a sinful world which man had lost; being yet sinless, he must therefore be divine.
3. That this redemption shall involve a new nature, at “enmity” with the Satan nature, to which man has now become subject.
4. That this new nature is a regeneration by Divine power; since the enmity to Satan is not a natural emotion, but, saith Jehovah, “I will put enmity,” etc.
5. This redemption shall be accomplished by vicarious suffering; since the Redeemer shall suffer the bruising of his heel in the work of recovery.
6. That this work of redemption shall involve the gathering out of an elect seed, a “peculiar people” at enmity with the natural offspring of a race subject to Satan.
7. That this redemption shall involve a perpetual conflict peculiar people, under its representative head, in the effort to bruise the head of Satan, that is, “to destroy the works of the Devil.”
8. This redemption shall involve the ultimate triumph, after suffering, of the woman’s seed; and therefore involves a triumph over death and a restoration of the humanity to its original estate, as a spiritual in conjunction with a physical nature, in perfect blessedness as before its fall.
Such, then, is the gospel theology here revealed, in germ, through the very terms of the curse pronounced upon the destroyer of the race. It will be seen that here are all the peculiar doctrines of salvation, by grace, which every Christian accepts, who exercises the faith which is unto salvation. And in the broader and higher sense of the terms, Moses, as truly as Mark at the opening of his evangel, might have prefixed to this third chapter of Genesis the title, ‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.’”
For more on the biblical theology of the Southern Presbyterians, see C. Nick Willborn, “Biblical Theology in Southern Presbyterianism,” in The Hope Fulfilled (2008).
The language of this poem is stark, even shocking – yet the imagery Donne uses wakes us up out of our worldly stupor and reminds us that no man can serve two masters, and that God’s ways for our soul’s good are often painful. Are you willing for God to batter your heart and life that He might be all in all to you?
Batter my heart, three person’d God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow mee, and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weake or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved faine,
But am betroth’d unto your enemie:
Divorce mee, untie, or breake that knot againe,
take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.