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November 06, 2007

The Five Dilemmas of CalvinismThe doctrines that together form what we call “Calvinism” have always been controversial. Since the time of the Reformation, they have brought out both the best and the worst in Christians. Critiques of Calvinistic theology tends to focus upon certain areas, certain questions that continue to confuse and continue to cause people to insist that Calvinism cannot be biblical. In The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism, a short book published by Ligonier Ministries, author Craig R. Brown turns to five of the most common questions and seeks to show that these are not true dilemmas but are, rather, simple misunderstandings. “This book has two purposes,” says the author. “First, I want it to be a resource for people who are struggling with the answers to the five ‘dilemmas’ that I have put forward. Second, I want it to be an incentive for thought. In other words, I hope it will be an encouragement to Christians to think through what they believe about these issues and attempt to come to God-honoring conclusions about them.”

November 05, 2007

It was near the end of the book of Hebrews that I found some verses that have been bouncing around in my head for some time now. With the epistle drawing to a close, the pastor who authored this letter exhorts the believers to remember the men who had once led the church, to consider how these men lived, and to imitate their faith. “Remember your leaders,” he says, “those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

That verse has given me a lot to think about. God, working through the written words of an anonymous pastor who lived 2,000 years ago, challenged me to consider men who once spoke the word of God—men whose lives I should consider that I might imitate their faith. Unlike the recipients of this letter, I do not have a long legacy of being in a church where leaders have served for decades and have finished well. I have been more of a church pilgrim, often moving from one town to the next through my childhood and early years of my marriage. At long last we’ve settled in a town and in a church where we hope to remain for the long haul. But as I considered these verses I thought of a church like Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, a church that has prospered under the long ministries of men like Donald Barnhouse (33 years), James Montgomery Boice (32 years) and Phillip Ryken (12 years and counting). People who attend churches like that and who have been members of such churches for many years will be able to look to the past and to consider how these men lived. From there they can learn about the faith that sustained these pastors and then imitate that faith.

Not all of us have been so privileged. But we have the ability to find heroes in history by reading good biographies. And this is, I think, one of the reasons I am so often drawn to biographies of great Christians. Through these books we are able to read about the faith of Christians who served God through their lives and then finished strong. John Piper says, “This is why dead heroes are more important than living heroes. Living heroes are important, but they might cease to be heroes before they die. They might let you down. Rather, he says, ‘remember’ - that’s a word that reaches into the past. Remember those whose conduct you can survey from beginning to end, and consider all of it - especially how it ended.” It is really only when the final chapter has closed in death that we may know how a man has lived. Dead heroes harbor few surprises.

It is important to note that the exhortation is not to imitate these men—it is not to ponder their lives and then to imitate their conduct. Rather, the author exhorts people to ponder the outcome of these lives, to see how these men finished their races, and, having found worthy examples, to imitate their faith. John Piper sounds an important warning about imitating the conduct of others. “If you try to imitate their conduct, you become a religious fake, a spiritual counterfeit. This is a frightening reality when you see it - people who have learned the forms of godliness and know nothing of the power that comes from genuine faith. Instead he says: look at the whole course of their conduct and how they finished their course, and get the same motor that made them what they were: their faith.”

Verse seven cannot be separated from the verse that follows. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Jesus Christ is the same today as He was when these men led the church and when they encouraged your faith. Jesus was worth serving then and He is worth serving now; Jesus sustained these men even through times of hardship and He can and will sustain you in the same way. Though months and seasons and years come and go, Jesus remains the same—still available, still powerful, still in control. Richard Phillips writes, “The writer’s confidence is not in men of God; it is in the God of men.” Though we are to imitate the faith of these men, we are to see this faith as a gift of God and to place our confidence in God who gives faith, not in men who express it.

By way of conclusion, Richard Phillips says, “This is the greatest legacy any of us can impart from the pattern of our lives, and it is by providing such examples that Christian leaders most powerfully serve the Lord and his church.” The questions I had to ask myself were these: First, whose faith am I imitating? Who are the Christians of days gone by whose faith serves as an example to me. And second, what will my legacy be? Will I leave behind a pattern of trust and faithful service that another person may find worthy of imitation, or will I be fearful and faithless, leaving behind a legacy I’d want no one to imitate?

Perhaps your faith would also be served by pondering those same questions in light of Hebrews 13.

November 02, 2007

All Scripture is breathed out by God…

In my personal devotions I’ve recently begun a study of Esther. Since it is a short book and one that is entirely narrative, I do not anticipate being in the book for long—probably just about one day per chapter. Esther is probably best known among Christians as being a book of the Bible that never mentions God, either explicitly or even implicitly. But though His name is never mentioned, His hand is all over the book. His name does not need to be mentioned for us to see Him in, over and behind the story. His providence and His care for His people is as clear in Esther as it would be if His name was mentioned throughout.

Yet it’s still easy to miss God in the story. The evidence of this is in how little attention we give to this book. It is rarely spoken of and rarely preached. I don’t know if, through all my years of going to church, I’ve ever heard a sermon that looked primarily to Esther. But there is a reason that Esther is in the Bible. Like each of the other sixty five books, its author is God—the God who is unafraid to leave His name out of this story.

A few weeks ago I spent a few days staying at the home of my aunt and uncle. They live in the countryside, far from any major urban center. They embrace country living, growing vegetables on their farm, allowing a giant, furry, stinky dog to roam and protect the property, and keeping a small collection of potent firearms. While not a seasoned hunter, my uncle does enjoy heading out into his property to chase down the occasional deer. One evening he and I sat outside while he grilled some steaks and he told of how he killed a deer on his property the year before. After killing it, he knew that he would need to figure out how to butcher the thing. So he loaded it onto a little tractor and drove it up to his barn. There he hoisted it up so it hung from a rafter, and he set to work.

Thankfully, he had had the foresight to get a copy of a book that gave step-by-step instructions on how to properly butcher the deer and prepare the meat. As he described the butchering process, he disappeared into the house for a moment and returned with the book. I began to flip through it, turning past chapters on how to butcher cows, pigs, sheep, rabbits, raccoons and chickens. It wasn’t hard to tell when I came to the portion on butchering a deer—those pages were covered in blood. Obviously my uncle had kept this book with him through the butchering process and had turned to it often. There were bloody fingerprints on the edges and drops of blood smeared across the pages. It looked well-used. Apparently it served as a good guide because my uncle managed to properly butcher the deer and prepare it for eating. The week we were there he was preparing a pit in which he could smoke the meat from the next deer that found itself in his crosshairs.

I thought about that book later and thought about the difference between the pages that are covered with blood and those that are still pristine (and which will no doubt remain that way until a hapless sheep happens to wander through my uncle’s property during hunting season). I thought of that book as I began my study of Esther, pondering the difference between the pages that show evidence of use and those that do not. There are some pages in my Bible that are covered in blood, so to speak. They are pages that I use to proclaim or defend my faith; they are pages with verses that uplift and inspire; they are the pages with verses that people like to adapt as their “life verses.” I turn to these pages often and love to learn from them.

But then there is Esther. I’ve rarely turned to the book at all. There is no blood on the pages of Esther, at least in my Bible. There is little evidence that I have learned from those pages and that I use them to bolster my faith. There is little evidence that I have used those pages to teach me more about the God I serve. But even from this brief study (in which I’m being guided by the commentary of Iain Duguid) I’m learning again that God didn’t put any unnecessary chapters or any empty narratives in His book. After all, this is the God who says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Even Esther, the book that does not mention God, is given for teaching, reproof, correction and for training in righteousness. It exists to make me competent and equipped to live in the way God wants me to live.

I’ve become convicted that I can’t leave Esther until there is some blood on those pages.

October 31, 2007

Reformation Day 2007

Today is Reformation Day—the 490th anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg’s Schlosskirke. That small act triggered a series of events that forever changed the world. It stands as one of the most important events in all of history—though an event that has been largely forgotten. Today we remember that day and express our gratitude to God for raising up men such as Martin Luther.

As I spent time alone with God this morning, my thoughts and prayers turned continually to the word “reform,” but with -ing appended to it instead of -ed. I love to claim the title of “Reformed,” but today my prayer was that God would continue reforming me. I am a work in progress and pray that God will continue to reform me and to reform the church. Perhaps He will work through some of these great articles that are coming in from the far reaches of the blogosphere as part of this Reformation Day Symposium. Each of these articles was prepared by a different blogger. Each makes a unique contribution. I’d encourage you to read at least a few of them.

If you have prepared an article you’d like to share, let me know and I will update this list throughout the day.

Additions at 4 PM

Here are a batch of additions at around 4:30 PM EST. This will be the last batch added, so if you still have something to share, post a comment with a link.

Grace Notes says “If you have a Bible on your shelf, or somewhere in your home, you owe a great debt of gratitude to Martin Luther.”

Nothing in Particular provides a Reformed analysis of the Catholic understanding of the doctrine of justification.

Everything Domestic says, “Let them sing psalms!” “How thankful we should be to have this continuing heritage of psalm-singing! We have such easy access to the Word of God, not just on paper, but set to music as well! I wonder if we recognize how blessed we are?”

Delighted says “Last of all, i remember the Reformation today, because Reformation should lead to reformission. The Word of God doing an unrestricted work of glory in our hearts should lead us to want to reach out to our lost, perverted, sick, devil worshipping towns and cities.”

Recover the Gospel posts an article by John MacArthur on “Unmasking the Pope.”

Additions at Noon

Here is the first round of updates, comprised of articles that have been forwarded to me as of noon (or so) EST.

Musings of the Dings goes for the brownie points by having the five-year old share his “My Little Martin Luther Book.” I’m quite sure he’s the youngest (and cutest) participant!

Reformed Evangelist asks “So what’s the point of celebrating Reformation Day? Especially when we already have an opportunity to witness to lost people on Halloween!”

Hiraeth writes about Albrecht Durer. “Did you know that Durer could be considered the ‘Artist of the Reformation?’”

Rebecca Writes writes about Jan Huss whom she calls “The Bohemian Morning Star.” “Luther was quite willing to acknowledge that his teachings were Hus’s teachings. “We are,” he said, “Hussites without knowing it.””

A Threefold Cord writes about John Knox, one of his heroes of the faith and one of the most influential reformers.

Allen Mickle asks “Are Baptists Part of the Protestant Reformation?” “If you are a Baptist this day (Reformation Day) take heart and rejoice in what God has done in history to rescue the truths of the Scriptures and bring them back into the church and thank God for the privilege of being part of that Reformation!”

Exploring Truth suggests “Evangelicalism: A Modern Day Tetzel?” “It’s my prayer that the Tetzelizing of Christendom will awaken more Luther’s and continue to raise that same ocean tide of fervency for truth in their hearts that marked the start of the great reformation.”

Relentlessly Biblical writes about Martin Luther’s holy matrimony.

Nauvoo Pastor remembers Matthias of Janow on Reformation Day one of the pre-prereformers who preceded even John Hus.

Wiser Time published “”I Will This Day Most Joyfully Die”: A Reformation Day Meditation on John Hus.”

The Lead of Love remembers “Promises Kept” as he focuses on Reformation Day.

Delivered by Grace writes that Luther’s legacy is love for the external Word.

Grace for Life celebrates Reformation Day with Abraham, Martin and John and invites you to do the same.

Kschaub marks the day with a review of Stephen Nichols’ The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World.

Glory and Gettysburg says “I thought it would be appropriate to write on something that I feel is the backbone of reformed theology, why we were chosen. I think it is described subtly in the Word like any other theological concept and is there in front of us waiting to humble us into submission to Christ.”

The Regrafted Branch says “Let us thank God for those down through the ages who—like that monk—have been called to steadfastly teach the greatest and most surprising truth of all: that salvation is by grace alone, a gift of God’s mercy whose splendour, beauty, and matchless value lies precisely in the fact that it is a work untouched by human hands.”

Reformation Day Symposium—Initial Entries

Gazing at Glory (Doug was kind enough to send along the graphic that heads up this article) writes about “The Danger of Getting Bored with the Gospel.” “Reformation Day is something to celebrate, because of the recovery of the Gospel. But this day also reminds us that there is something we must guard. We must guard the purity and clarity of the message of the Gospel. But we must also guard our own hearts so that we never become immune, inoculated, or bored concerning the wonderful news that Jesus Christ really does save sinners.”

Vine and Fig includes a poem but first writes, “Luther was a monk who re-discovered and proclaimed the wonderful, life-giving truth that we can be saved not by penance, not by pilgrimages, not by the excess merits of the saints, not by papal dispensations, but by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ who died for sinners and who rose up again, the proof that he’d paid in full for the sins of his people.”

Reformed Baptist Fellowship has a multi-part series on the Reformation with today’s article asking (and answering) “Why was Oct 31, 1517 so important?”

Eternally Significant posts a review of Here I Stand, Bainton’s classic biography of Martin Luther. “The greatest value of this book is the fuller understanding of the life of Luther… Although his work is over a half century old, those who study Luther, both detractors and sympathizers, will continue to be able to take Bainton’s biography and support their argument with facts.”

A Deeper Love writes about the confidence Christians can have when looking to the Bible. “The work that these people did has given many millions of people the gift of confidence in God’s saving work. No longer do God’s people have to labour under the burden of uncertainty about whether they have “measured up” to a standard that will allow them to enter heaven. They can have confidence that Christ has met that standard for them.”

The Blue Fish Project seeks Reformation for his own heart. “I’m the one who keeps changing, reverting to the easy path of walking out of step with the Spirit. What I need is men and women who will rub the grace of God in the gospel into my heart. Not just once a year, but daily. Not because I don’t know it but because I do.”

Biblical Thought makes a plea to Reformed Christians in the West. “To identify your theological heritage as “Reformed,” like I do, is O.K. as it pertains to doctrine and tradition, but may lead to a relaxed Christian life with potential vulnerability. I find it helpful to be in constant reform-ing mode because the objective standard to which the church reforms to (Scripture), remains as the lens through which all of life is viewed.”

Chris’ Considerations provides a brief history of the issues at stake in the Reformation and asks how these things shaped and should continue to shape the Church of England.

Semper Reformanda highlights one of the lesser-known figures, the pre-Reformer John Huss. “On the 490th anniversary of Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenburg, we also celebrate John Huss, an early advocate of sola Scriptura, who was willing to die a martyr’s death for the One who had died for him.”

Sola Gratia Grigoletti’s Christian Blog writes of “A Baptist’s Love of Philipp Melanchthon.” “The reason why I choose to write about Philipp Melanchthon on this special day for Christians is because recently I have began to read the Augsburg Confession and it is clear that Melanchthon defined sola fide in a more theologically precise than Dr. Luther and while Dr. Luther did indeed teach sola fide it is also true that Melanchthon expanded on the work and theology of Luther.”

Sweet Tea and Theology writes about the sinner’s justification saying, “It is probably even more important that the faithful get back to preaching this doctrine of justification in light of our sinfulness. Not only preaching it, but living it out in our local churches.”

A Reasonable Faith says “It seems to me that in these days when certain denominations seem to be going sideways, in need of a new Reformation for all intents and purposes, we might gain encouragement from God’s promise that He will not allow His true Church to die.”

Jollyblogger shares a Reformation Day sermon in which he covered the subject of Total Depravity.

On the Other Foot, writing from a Catholic perspective, wishes Protestants a happy birthday but tells us that we are really just daughters of the mother church.

Kingdom People posts the top ten moments of the Reformation and also writes about Justification: the Defining Doctrine of the Reformation.

Provocations and Pantings wants the SBC to move from resurgance to re-formation. “By re-formation I mean we must reconsider just how we function as Southern Baptists in cooperation with one another.”

Titus2Talk re-posts their excellent biographical sketch of Katie Luther.

The Thirsty Theologian shares Spurgeon’s cry for a new generation of Luthers and Calvins. “We want again Luthers, Calvins, Bunyans, Whitefields, men fit to mark eras, whose names breathe terror in our foemen’s ears.”

Whatever Things shares a short piece about John Hooper, one of the English reformers.

After Darkness Light writes about “Assurance and the Gospel: A Post in Celebration of Reformation Day.” “Today, even among many evangelical churches, assurance of faith is too frequently peddled to the masses in the guise of a gospel that is just as inadequate as the gospel Luther struggled against.”

Pastor Steve Weaver collects a number of sermons, papers and posts he has written related to Reformation themes.

Four Scores and Seven Films Ago continues a mock news story about Martin Erasmus Hinn, a young man who seeks to make people aware of the existence of Reformation Day.

John Dekker writes about “Reformed Unity #1: Remembering the Reformation.”

Darryl Dash writes about a rediscovery of the gospel. “What I’m thinking about most today, though, is what lay at the heart of the 95 Theses: a rediscovery of the gospel. The person who has helped me understand why this is so important is Tim Keller…”

Colossians Three Sixteen writes first about “The Five Points of What?” and then turns to Calvin’s Hands, Servetus’ Blood?.

October 30, 2007

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes…”

Dr. Criswell, long-time pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, was once traveling by plane to attend a speaking engagement on the East Coast. After boarding the aircraft and getting himself settled and situated, he was thrilled to recognize the man in the seat beside him as a well-known Christian theologian. Criswell greatly admired this man and was eager to get to know him. Soon the plane left the ground and after it settled into cruising altitude, Criswell introduced himself and the two began to speak.

The theologian told the pastor how he had recently lost his four-year old son to a terrible illness. It had begun innocently enough when the child was sent home from school one afternoon after developing a fever. At first the parents thought it was a typical childhood illness that would soon run its course. But the young boy’s condition continued to worsen and that evening his concerned mother and father took him to the hospital. The doctors ran a battery of tests and told the parents tragic news—their son had a virulent form of meningitis and there was nothing they could do for him. The child was beyond medical help and was going to die.

The loving parents did the only thing they could do, which was sit with their son in a death vigil. Not even a week later, in the middle of the day, the illness began to cause the little boy’s vision to fade. He looked up at his daddy and said softly,”Daddy, it’s getting dark, isn’t it?”

The professor replied, “Yes, son, it is dark. It’s very dark.” And for the father it was.

The little boy said, “I guess it’s time for me to get to sleep, isn’t it?”

“Yes son, it’s time for you to sleep,” said the father.

The theologian explained to Dr. Criswell how his son liked his pillow and his blankets arranged just so because he liked to lay his head on his hands while he slept. He told how he helped the child fix his pillow and how his boy rested his head on his hands and said, “Good night daddy. I’ll see you in the morning.” With that the little boy closed his eyes and fell asleep. Only a few minutes later his little chest rose and fell for the last time and his life was over almost before it began.

The professor stopped talking and looked out the window of the airplane for a good long while. Finally he turned to Dr. Criswell and with his voice breaking and tears spilling onto his cheeks gasped, “I can hardly wait for morning to come!”

Though it may merely sound like the cry of a grief-stricken parent, the father’s words speak of far more. They speak of a profoundly beautiful truth, for the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who cannot lie, promised us that the morning will come. Death has been defeated and even now we eagerly await the dawn when Christ will return and death shall be no more. Only through Jesus can we have the hope of eternal life that sustains the grief-stricken father. Only through Jesus can we have assurance that he “will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.” (Revelation 21:4) Little boys will be reunited with their fathers so together they can dance for joy before the One who tasted and defeated death so others could have life.

God offers such assurance only to those who will look to Him. Do you believe in Him? Have you looked to Jesus and cried out for Him to give you life? Call out to Him today and do business with God. He will give you hope and will give you the blessed assurance that the dawn will soon break. You’ll hardly be able to wait for morning to come.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).
October 28, 2007

King for a Week is an honor I bestow on blogs that I feel are making a valuable contribution to my faith and the faith of other believers…or sometimes just because I really like them. It is a way of introducing my readers to blogs that they may also find interesting and edifying. Every two weeks (or so. That is theoretical. Practically, I don’t get around to updating as often as I should and we’ve been know to have kings for a month or two!) I select a blog, link to it from my site, and add that site’s most recent headlines to my right sidebar. While this is really not much, I do feel that it allows me to encourage and support other bloggers while making the readers of this blog aware of other good sites.

This week’s King for a Week is The Blazing Center. This is a blog headed up by Stephen Altrogge but it also features increasing numbers of contributions from his father, Mark Altrogge. If you know of the music of Sovereign Grace Ministries, these names will be familiar to you. Mark has long contributed some of the finest songs produced by that organization and Stephen is now also contributing many good selections. The two also recently collaborated on an album titled In A Little While. When I read The Blazing Center I am always reminded of why I love the men and women of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Mark and Stephen love the gospel and are continually drawing their readers hearts and minds back to the cross and back to the good new of salvation through Jesus Christ. They take every day situations and use these situations as a bridge to teaching eternal truths. Though it is a relative newcomer to the blogosphere, this site is already making a mark and is fast becoming a personal favorite. I commend it to you.

In the coming days (and/or weeks) you will be able to see the most recent headlines from this blog in the sidebar of my site. I hope you will make your way over to look around.

October 27, 2007

Rather than attempt to answer a question today, I thought I’d ask one instead. This is a question primarily for people who read blogs, though certainly people who write them may be interested as well. The question is this: How much should bloggers disclose?

Let me explain. Bloggers tend to put a lot of work into their sites but receive relatively little in return. There are usually just a few options open to bloggers who wish to make a few dollars. One of the more popular of these are affiliate programs. Stores like Amazon and Westminster Books offer programs whereby anyone who links to them will receive a small amount of compensation. It’s usually a safe bet that if a blogger links to Amazon, he is doing so through his affiliate account, meaning that any items that are sold after people click through that link will kick back about 6%. Westminster’s program is a little different in that they tally clicks and pay out a certain amount at the end of the month based on the total number of visitors sent to them.

What I am asking today is whether you think bloggers should disclose when they are referring people to some kind of affiliate program. If a blogger writes a book review and links to a store for which he is an affiliate, should he disclose that he is part of the affiliate program?

I’d be interested in your responses to this.

Why? Well, there may be several ramifications. Here is just one: In theory, a person may direct visitors to a particular store or even a particular product he would not otherwise direct people to because he knows he will receive some kind of compensation. He may direct people to a store that offers higher prices or inferior service not because this represents the best deal but because he stands to benefit. Just take a look at the number of bloggers who chose to announce that Westminster Books (which has an affiliate program) upgraded their design compared to those who announced that Monergism Books (which at that time did not have a program) had upgraded. People stood to benefit directly from one announcement but not the other.

This is not to accuse anyone of dishonesty or deliberate deception. But it is definitely something worth considering as bloggers attempt to establish some kind of code of conduct and as they seek to find their place in this new media.

So let’s talk it through…

October 26, 2007

Lessons from an infant…

Michaela, my youngest daughter, is just about eighteen months old. She’s at the stage of infancy I enjoy the most—she is just starting to figure out how the world works and is just learning how to communicate. Her vocabulary is increasing by the day and so many of her attempts to use these new words leave us howling with laughter. A couple of times a week Aileen “puppysits” for some neighbors who just got a new puppy. Michaela likes to look at the puppy, but hates it when the dog comes over to her and tries to play with her or, even worse, lick her. So Michaela sticks her little finger in the air, waves it at the dog, and says with all the authority she can muster, “No, no!” Needless to say, the puppy couldn’t care less and continues to pounce and to play.

This morning Aileen was trying to get Michaela dressed and that little girl just wouldn’t play nice. She squirmed and wiggled and screeched, but refused to submit to having her little pink pants put on. It’s not that there was something else she wanted to wear, or not that we could tell. She just did not want to be jostled and cajoled. At eighteen months she was already demanding autonomy. Then, when it came time to get her out the door to walk the other children to school, she flopped to the ground, unwilling to have me help her put her coat on. Never mind that she loves the pink coat with the flowers on it, and never mind that it’s only ten degrees above freezing out there—she didn’t think she needed that coat and was not going to go down without a fight.

It was amazing to me to see this little red-headed, pig-tailed baby fighting for nothing more than her right to autonomy. I’m convinced that she did not really want to go out this morning wearing only her pajamas, a dirty diaper and no coat. The issue is that she did not want us, her mother and father, forcing her to do anything. And so she rebelled against our authority, preferring to think that she would be happier if she did things her own way. And she’s not even two years old.

Somehow this rebellion against authority is one of humanity’s besetting sins. When even the babies are doing it—the infants who can barely express themselves verbally—we know it has deep roots.

Of course I’m far from immune to this sin. I rebel all the time. I may not flop to the ground when it comes time to getting dressed, but I see these same seeds of rebellion in my heart. I see the same desire to be autonomous and to do the things I want to do, regardless of what I’m told by those who have authority over me.

Matthias Media’s “Two Ways to Live” presentation covers this well:

The sad truth is that, from the very beginning, men and women everywhere have rejected God by doing things their own way. We all do this. We don’t like someone telling us what to do or how to live—least of all God—and so we rebel against him in lots of different ways. We ignore him and just get on with our own lives; or we disobey his instructions for living in his world; or we shake our puny fists in his face and tell him to get lost.

How ever we do it, we are all rebels, because we don’t live God’s way. We prefer to follow our own desires, and to run things our own way, without God. This rebellious, self-sufficient attitude is what the Bible calls ‘sin’.

And what does God do about this sin and rebellion?

God cares enough about humanity to take our rebellion seriously. He calls us to account for our actions, because it matters to him that we treat him, and other people, so poorly. In other words, he won’t let the rebellion go on forever.

The sentence God passes against us is entirely just, because he gives us exactly what we ask for. In rebelling against God, we are saying to him, “Go away. I don’t want you telling me what to do. Leave me alone.” And this is precisely what God does. His judgement on rebels is to withdraw from them, to cut them off from himself—permanently. But since God is the source of life and all good things, being cut off from him means death and hell. God’s judgement against rebels is an everlasting, God-less death.

In my daughter’s rebellion against me I see just a shadow of her rebellion against God and from there, a glimpse of my own rebellion against Him. Some day my daughter will be glad that I did not say to her, “I will give you what you desire” and leave her to her own devices. She would not last a day. And I pray that she also sees in herself that the desire for autonomy is a desire for a Godless, rebellious existence at emnity with God. May she come to see the joy and the utter necessity of submitting to authority.