Is the Lamb’s blood daubed on your doorposts and lintel?

From D.A. Carson’s book Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus.

This illustration makes it very clear what it means to be a Christian. It shows what it means to be found in Christ, to rest in him, to be covered by his blood:

Picture two Jews with the remarkable names of Smith and Jones. They live in the land of Goshen almost a millennium and a half before Christ. It is early evening, and they are talking to each other near the end of the ten plagues. Mr. Smith says to Mr. Jones, ‘Mr. Jones, have you daubed the two doorposts and the lintel with the blood of the lamb tonight?’

Mr. Jones replies, ‘Oh, yes, I certainly have. You heard what Moses said. The angel of death is passing through the land. Some of the plagues have afflicted just the Egyptians, but some of them have been over the whole land. Moses insisted that this plague was going to run throughout the entire land of Goshen where we live, as well as the rest of Egypt. The firstborn of people and of cattle are going to be killed. The only exceptions are in those homes that have been daubed with the lamb’s blood, the way Moses prescribed.’ He pauses and then adds, ‘I’m really excited about this because this means that our redemption is drawing near. Of course, I’ve slaughtered the lamb. My friends and relatives are all here, and we’re ready to go. I’ve daubed the blood of the lamb on the two doorposts and on the lintel. How about you, Mr. Smith?’

Mr. Smith replies, ‘Well, of course, I’ve done the same thing. But boy, am I worried. Have you seen the things that have gone on around here the last few months? Frogs, lice, hail, death. Now Moses is talking about every firstborn. Look, I’ve only got one son; you’ve got three. I love my Charlie, and I don’t want to lose him. I’m scared witless. There’s not going to be any sleep for me tonight.’

Rather surprised, Mr. Jones replies, ‘What are you worried about? God himself has promised through his servant Moses that if you daub the blood on the two doorposts and on the lintel, you are saved. Your child will be saved. Charlie will be here tomorrow morning. You’ve already put the blood on the two doorposts and on the lintel.’

Mr. Smith replies, ‘Well, you’ve got that last bit right. I’ve certainly done that, but I’m scared witless just the same.’

That night the angel of death passes through the land. Who loses his son? Mr. Smith or Mr. Jones?

The answer, of course, is neither–because the promise was based not on the intensity of their faith nor on the joy of their obedience but on whether or not they hid under the blood of the lamb.

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In Christ Alone

An excerpt from a sermon by Rich Owen:

My hope is Christ living the Christian life, Christ living Christ’s life. Christ’s obedience alone is my hope in life. My righteousness, my holiness, my Christian life, is also in Christ alone because he lived a life. We trust in his death alone — we get that as evangelicals — but do we trust in his life alone as well?

Knowing that Jesus has lived a perfect Christian life for me — it frees me from the guilt of not doing that because he’s done that for me. It liberates me to serve with freedom and obedience because I know that when I mess up it doesn’t affect my status before my Father, because my relationship with God isn’t based on how I do. It’s based on what Christ did. In Christ alone. And there is immense security here isn’t there?

God apprehended by the believer as God in Christ

This is from Thomas Chalmers’ sermon entitled “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection“. Chalmers says we all must love something. It is in our nature that something always occupies the throne of our hearts. If this were not true our hearts would be reduced to barren wilderness. No heart will ever voluntarily do that to itself and so it keeps grasping, wanting, yearning.

How can we avoid being ruled by such desires and affections? How do we get rid of them?

We can achieve temporary change through resolve or as a result of strong feeling stirred up in us. Perhaps you leave church sometimes having been “challenged” or you’ve had a good prayer time, or Bible study and feel a new sense inner strength. You may go on well for some time. But the reality is that whenever we succeed in beating a wrong affection or an idol, it either rises again, or, another idol (often different in nature, perhaps even unseen) rises and takes its place.

What is the real solution to this cycle of defeat then? How can we be freed from this slavery?

Chalmers argues that Christ alone is the solution. He says the heart is only ever truly changed as the believer sees and knows God in Christ. Then, and only then, is a love kindled in our hearts that ousts our various desires for all that the world can offer. Christ himself becomes our true treasure and the trinkets the world promises us (wealth/financial security, comfort, power, sex, status), shiny as they are, pale in comparison to the riches we have in Christ. Enjoy:

We have already affirmed how impossible it were for the heart, by any innate elasticity of its own, to cast the world away from it; and thus reduce itself to a wilderness. The heart is not so constituted; and the only way to dispossess it of an old affection, is by the expulsive power of a new one. Nothing can exceed the magnitude of the required change in a man’s character – when bidden as he is in the New Testament, to love not the world; no, nor any of the things that are in the world for this so comprehends all that is dear to him in existence, as to be equivalent to a command of self-annihilation.

But the same revelation which dictates so mighty an obedience, places within our reach as mighty an instrument of obedience. It brings for admittance to the very door of our heart, an affection which once seated upon its throne, will either subordinate every previous inmate, or bid it away. Beside the world, it places before the eye of the mind Him who made the world and with this peculiarity, which is all its own – that in the Gospel do we so behold God, as that we may love God. It is there, and there only, where God stands revealed as an object of confidence to sinners and where our desire after Him is not chilled into apathy, by that barrier of human guilt which intercepts every approach that is not made to Him through the appointed Mediator. It is the bringing in of this better hope, whereby we draw nigh unto God – and to live without hope, is to live without God; and if the heart be without God, then world will then have all the ascendancy. It is God apprehended by the believer as God in Christ, who alone can dispost it from this ascendancy. It is when He stands dismantled of the terrors which belong to Him as an offended lawgiver and when we are enabled by faith, which is His own gift, to see His glory in the face of Jesus Christ, and to hear His beseeching voice, as it protests good will to men, and entreats the return of all who will to a full pardon and a gracious acceptance. It is then, that a love paramount to the love of the world, and at length expulsive of it, first arises in the regenerated bosom. It is when released from the spirit of bondage with which love cannot dwell, and when admitted into the number of God’s children through the faith that is in Christ Jesus, the spirit of adoption is poured upon us – it is then that the heart, brought under the mastery of one great and predominant affection, is delivered from the tyranny of its former desires, in the only way in which deliverance is possible. And that faith which is revealed to us from heaven, as indispensable to a sinner’s justification in the sight of God, is also the instrument of the greatest of all moral and spiritual achievements on a nature dead to the influence, and beyond the reach of every other application.

Romans 3 and Propitiation

In his sermon series “What is the gospel and how does it work?” Don Carson makes the point that Jesus’ death on the cross is propitiation, and not expiation only, as many have argued.

Expiation is simply the taking away or the cancelling of sin. Propitiation is that sacrificial act by which God becomes propitious — that is favourable.

Our biggest problem is that we are sinners and that our sin is against God. The result is that we incur God’s righteous wrath.

Expiation

Expiation alone takes away sin which is necessary, but it doesn’t deal with the problem of God’s wrath.

Propitiation

The cross is so powerful because there Christ was put forward as a propitiation. As a result God is made favourable. And this includes expiation — the taking away of sin. (The interesting thing is that nowhere do we see a dynamic where man offers God something that makes him propitious. Here God is doing all the work himself.)

Here’s Carson:

God offers sacrifice to make God propitious. That is the gospel. Because God stands over against us in wrath because of our sin and our guilt. [Paul spends] Two and a half chapters to establish that point. But God stands over against us in love because he is that kind of God.

And how do you put it together?

He stands over against us in wrath not because he’s bad tempered like neptune and has to be manipulated by an appropriate sacrifice for which you pay a fee in a temple where we offer the propitiation. God is bad tempered, and if somehow we can just offer the right sort of sacrifice, do the right sort of self denial, have our devotions properly, somehow God will be propitious [favourable].

He stands over against us in wrath not because he is bad tempered or whimsical, but because we are guilty. We are idolators, and there is no one righteous. No, not one. And the wrath of God does abide on us. But he stands over against us in love not because we’re so intrinsically loveable, but because he’s that kind of God. Full of compassion, plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide. He is the God who cries “turn, turn, why will you die?” The Lord has no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

And then in the fullness of time he sends forth his son, presenting him as the propitiation for our sins. That is the one who sets aside God’s wrath. God himself provides the sacrifice that satisfied God’s own sense of justice and sets aside God’s wrath.

Now in fact that is done by cancelling sin and its debt so there is expiation that takes place. That is, in the one act there is both propitiation and expiation.

C.S. Lewis on friendship

“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald…In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each of us has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another (Isaiah 6:3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall have.”

Christ as our example?

Some thoughts on what the gospel is, and what it isn’t:

The gospel is not that we’ve been given a second chance to live as we should have done the first time around — only this time with Christ as our model. The Christian life is not to try to copy Christ in order to please God as he did. This “gospel” leads to a lack of assurance when failure comes, and spiritual pride when I feel I’m doing well.

Neither result leads to us to laying hold of Christ himself. And if I were ever to be “successful” in obtaining righteousness and acceptance from God this way it would a righteousness that is outside of Christ. In my desire to serve God under this “gospel” I would actually be rejecting the cross.

These are both law-based gospels.

They lead to insecurity and guilt, and/or judgementalism and pride. If you think along these lines you’ll probably swing between the two extremes depending on how well you think you’re doing.

The true gospel is something else:

Romans 3:21-23a

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.

How can we be sure we’re saved?

This is from a Don Carson talk entitled “What is the gospel and how does it work? Part 2”.

How do you know that you’ve done enough — to testify that the saving grace of God that has justified you and has given you new birth, has transformed you enough so that you know that your profession of faith is credible?

How do you know?

Listen. The ground of your acceptance before God is always the cross. It’s always Christ. It’s always Christ. It’s always Christ. Nothing but Christ.

When you get to heaven if, as it were, Saint Peter stands at the door and says “Why should I let you in here?” your answer is not “Well, you know, I think there are quite a lot of evidences that I have been born again”. Your answer is “I have no other argument, I need no other plea. It is enough that Jesus died, and that he died for me.”

God sent forth Christ to be the propitiation for our sins. My confidence is there. On the other hand there will be some evidence that you have been transformed and I love the way [John] Newton … puts it. He says, “I am not what I used to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what one day I will be. But I am not what I was, and by the grace of God I am what I am”.

That’s how Christians continue to walk in humility, looking at the changes that God has made, deeply ashamed of the things that still need changing as we press on for the final transformation still to come.

What does it mean that Christ has observed the law fully?

Christ has observed the law fully. He has met every single requirement down to the tiniest detail.

Here are some thoughts on what that means for the Christian.

Christ does not manage just to do nothing wrong, resulting in a sort of moral neutrality. No, BEYOND THAT Christ loves his Father fully — perfectly. That is with all his heart, his mind, his soul, and his strength. This is what it means to fulfill the law.

So it’s not just that Christ isn’t under God’s wrath because of the absence of sin in him. It’s that he loves God perfectly and is in turn the worthy recipient of God’s fatherly love. Jesus is the perfect Son who has loved the Father perfectly from eternity and who, through the incarnation, has lived a perfect life, offered a perfect obedience, and has offered himself as the perfect atoning sacrifice in accordance with the Father’s will.

And so the Father’s love for the Son is absolutely beyond question. The Father delights in him.

Christ is worthy.

The law no longer condemns the Christian because it has been fulfilled by Christ, who is worthy, and the Christian has been joined with him.

We are more than acceptable.

Union with Christ doesn’t mean that God merely accepts us because we’ve been made inoffensive to him. Sometimes we imagine that God has a sort of duty-bound love for us — little more than a grudging acceptance that we’ve just about qualified for now that we are no longer under wrath. But is this really how our God feels about us?

No. The Father delights in us, loving us with the overwhelming fatherly love that he has had for his Son for all eternity. We are counted as sons because we are in the Son who loves his Father perfectly, who has gone down into death, has risen to new life and glory, and who is worthy of his Father’s love.

Christian, begin to grasp how worthy Christ is and you will begin to grasp how loved you are, and how sure your salvation is. You will also begin to delight in Christ, in the things Christ delights in, to hate the things Christ hates, and you will long to go out into the world and share the good news about who God is and what God has done.