The Cross and Affliction

We sung, ‘Deep in my heart there is a cry, a longing Lord for thee.’ Highly appropriate for the topic.
Jeff explained that we were reaching further than a merely academic appreciation of the doctrines, so we had a brief time of open prayer.
From John 18:11 the determination of the Saviour to drink the ‘cup which my Father hath given me’, we observed that the sympathy of Christ for our afflictions works both ways. Although we never approach the levels of it that he did, as we are afflicted, we enter into a fellowship of sufferings with him (Phil 3:10).

We then worked steadily through the notes that Jeff had made on the chapter by Octavius Winslow: The Cross and Affliction.

  1. A right view of affliction.
  2. God chose His people in affliction.
  3. The wisdom of God in choosing affliction.
  4. Examples of affliction.
  5. Spiritual growth in affliction.
  6. The privilege of affliction.
  7. The danger of underrating affliction.
  8. The danger of overrating affliction.
  9. The faithfulness of God in affliction.
  10. Humility in affliction.
  11. Holiness in affliction.
  12. Affliction and the righteousness of Christ.

Further comments upon the points in the notes arose as follows:

  1. We had already covered the first point a couple of weeks ago.
  2. Isaiah 48:10 Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. Affliction is not a ‘happenstance’, or an afterthought. God choses us; we’re used to that idea. But he has chosen us in affliction.  One of us mentioned how that there are parallels with conversion in the sense of sometimes it takes a crisis to lead us to Christ in the first place.
  3. The wisdom of God. Affliction would not be the natural choice of anyone, least of all the World. The object is to ‘be happy’. And yet it is within a trial/affliction that we learn contentment with God. An example given was where one of our number were unemployed for a while and had to take a job that they disliked… until the point that they saw God’s hand in it and became more appreciative in general.
  4. We were asked to think of more examples of affliction and several prominent ones came to mind: Paul, David, Job, etc. But the outcome was the same:
    It is good for me that I have been afflicted; That I might learn thy statutes.
    Psalm 119:71http://kingjbible.com/zechariah/1.htm
  5. Purging and refining – we observed how saints are driven on in their endeavours for Christ. Howell Harris, for example. And Paul: motivated by at least two things said that the terror of the Lord (2 Cor 5:11) and the love of Christ constrained him (2 Cor 5:14)
  6. Privilege – we talked about the high calling to suffer in full view of the church and the world and yet, still bringing glory to God. As Isobel Kuhn’s book, ‘In the Arena’, and as John Paton gained the sympathy of some of the New Hebridians.
  7. Danger of under-rating affliction – of not recognising God’s hand in the affliction. Or from those observing affliction, of offering glib phrases to comfort the afflicted. There is a fine line between being glib and offering genuine comfort. Job’s friends were to be commended for sitting with him in silence for 7 days and nights.
  8. Danger of over-rating affliction – of being absorbed by grief, entertaining hard thoughts of God. Note David’s words of complaint to God in the Psalms, but these are just that – he never gets to the point of jibbing/balking at the circumstances and God in particular, shutting off communion with Him. Job rent his clothes and fell down in worship (Job 1:20)
  9. ‘Have faith in the faithfulness of God’. The Saviour endured a baptism of suffering.
  10. Humility – not that we are at all worthless, on the contrary, but we are to keep a low view of ourselves, as earthen vessels containing treasure of vast worth (2 Cor 4:7).

 


Question 1d – How may we glorify God?

Hymn: Praise my soul the King of Heaven

Announcement that Jeff Gilbert will be taking next week. Introductory remarks about the Catechism.

We are still on question 1. So far we have explored

  1. What is the chief end of man? (What are humans for)
  2. What is it to glorify God? – the 4 words we used were: Appreciation Adoration Affection Subjection
  3. Why we must glorify God? That God is essentially 1. Because he gives us our being, 2. Because he made all things for his own glory, 3. He is intrinsically glorious, 4. Everything else glorifies God, 5. All our hopes hang upon him.

Thomas Watson asks the question, ‘In how many ways may we glorify God?’ and then lists 17 (!) of them, followed by 3 ‘uses’…

    1. By aiming purely at God’s Glory
      1. Preferring God’s glory above all other things
      2. Content for God’s will to be done instead of our own
      3. Content to be ‘outshined by others in gifts and esteem’, so that his glory may be increased.
    2. By an ingenuous confession of sin
    3. By believing
    4. By being tender of his glory
    5. By fruitfulness
    6. By contentedness with our state in providence
    7. By working out/promoting our own salvation
    8. By living to God
    9. By walking cheerfully
    10. By standing up for his truths
    11. By praising him
    12. By being zealous for his name
    13. By having an ‘eye to God in our natural and civil actions’
    14. By labouring to draw others to God
    15. By suffering for God
    16. By giving God the glory of all that we do
    17. By a holy life

Use 1. Our chief end should not be to lay up treasures on earth
Use 2. It reproves such: as bring no glory to God, as rob God of his glory or fight against his glory
Use 3. Exhortation: to magistrates, ministers, heads of families

Considering for a moment the Glory of God – reading Vine’s comments on the term ‘glorify’:

As the glory of God is the revelation and manifestation of all that He has and is …, it is said of a Self-revelation in which God manifests all the goodness that is His, John_12:28.

That is the glorifying of God that only God can do. It reminded me of Moses boldly requesting ‘shew me thy glory’ in Exodus 33, and the response, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live (v20). In that sense, the glory of God is something way beyond us and our ability to experience, still less exhibit. We behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6).  How great is this glory, it ought to make us ambitious to throw ourselves in to fulfilling our chief end, even as our blessed Forerunner did, who could say, ‘I have glorified thee on the earth’ John 17:4

Taking up the theme of that Voice in John 12:

Father, glorify thy name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

Again, this sense of ‘glorifying’ is God’s work, yet, in the ways outlined by Watson, are we not enjoined to energetically pursue the same end. We marvel at the thought of being useful in the work of the church, furthering the advance of the Word of God in whatever small way we can. But what higher calling can there be than to join our ends with that of our All-glorious Maker?

We may sometimes wonder what/how to pray according to God’s will. In another passage from John, the Holy Spirit’s work is said by Jesus to be that ‘He will glorify me.’ (John 16:14)  If this is the Holy Spirit’s work, will he not be pleased to help us if we also make it our business?

Psalm 119: 33-40

Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.
34Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
35Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.
36Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.
37Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.
38Stablish thy word unto thy servant, who is devoted to thy fear.
39Turn away my reproach which I fear: for thy judgments are good.
40Behold, I have longed after thy precepts: quicken me in thy righteousness.


Cross and Affliction

Jeff Gilbert’s notes from the doctrine class 10/7/2011 on ‘Cross and Affliction’ are attached to this link: The Cross and Affliction


Aspects of the Atonement

Jeff Gilbert took the doctrine class this week. We sang – 389 ‘Glory Glory Everlasting’
He started a series looking at aspects of the atonement. The first session was based around Octavious Winslow’s chapter ‘The Sympathy of the Atonement’ which you can read online at:
http://books.google.com/books?id=JHYEAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA161#v=onepage&q&f=false
We started by thinking about experimental religion – it was suggested that it is about the experience of God, but this is perhaps what experiential religion is. In science, experiments are done to prove something and must be repeatable in order to verify the findings. There is a sense in which we make an experiment of religion, not to dabble with it but in order to verify the reality of Christian experience – that true religion is ‘more than notion’ (more than an idea), ‘something must be known and felt’ (Joseph Hart).
The topic in hand was the sympathy of Christ in the atonement and this is something we have to experience for ourselves to ‘make our calling and election sure’ (2Pet1:10). Clearly Christ exhibits the highest form of sympathy in his atonement, fully identifying with our ‘infirmities’ (Hebrews 4:15 ‘For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.’)
But also, we are called to partake in affliction as Christians, in sympathy with the atonement and passion of Christ.
It was asked, what is the common view of affliction? That the sufferer must have sinned wickedly to be suffering. Yet the scripture challenges us to ‘count it all joy when you enter manifold temptations (Jas 1:2). We listed various kinds of afflictions: physical, spiritual, psychological. One of us added that it was when they were in the deepest despair, through illness, that God was all they had left. Indeed, His nearness transformed the situation into one of delighting in God.
This was more than mere ‘mind over matter’ or delirium.
We sang 716 ‘Deep in my heart there is a sigh’ The 3rd verse struck me particularly:

There is a fellowship of pain
Deep in Thy heart of love,
Of suffering sweet, eternal gain,
The tears of heaven above.
O grant me, Lord, to feel this joy,
These tremors of Thy grace;
Engraved by Thee, none can destroy
The riches I embrace.

After this, two of us prayed, and Jeff added a closing prayer.


‘Wordle’ of Watson on Shorter Catechism Q1

Wordle: Shorter Catechism Question 1 by Thomas Watson

Why must we glorify God?
1. Because he gives us our being
2. Because he made all things for his own glory
3. He is intrinsically glorious
4. Everything else glorifies God
5. All our hopes hang upon him.


Question 1c – Why must we glorify God?

As people were arriving we sang 491, Come Holy Spirit, God and Lord. Then, after some announcements, 530, God of the Covenant.

Although we’d dealt with this topic a little in the first meeting, it is well worthy of expending another session upon. We approach this question, not from impudence, but with awe, penitential fear and love.

The whole is excellent and so it is with some reticence I have copied excerpts of Thomas Watson’s work on this topic below and interspersed this with material from our own meeting:

[1] Because he gives us our being. ‘It is he that made us’ (Ps. 100:3). Should we not live to him, seeing we live by him? ‘For of him, and through him, are all things ‘ (Rom. 11:36). God is not our benefactor only, but our founder, as rivers that come from the sea empty their silver streams into the sea again.

The water cycle provides an good analogy of a couple of aspects of this topic. I could imagine the various rivers all boasting of their different attributes: one so vast or so clear, another full of life, or surrounded by and giving life to majestic forestry. But all of them find their origin in the clouds and empty themselves into the sea – the most mighty becoming a literal ‘drop in the ocean’. So we may boast, but all our gifts and graces come from God. And, no matter how much we are polluted as we wend our way back to the Sea, the water from the clouds returns crystal clear to replenish.

[2] Because God has made all things for his own glory. ‘The Lord hath made all things for himself’ (Prov. 16:4); that is, ‘for his glory.’ ‘This people have I formed for myself, and they shall shew forth my praise’ (Is. 43:21). It is true, they cannot add to his glory, but they may exalt it; they cannot raise him in heaven, but they may raise him in the esteem of others here.


[3] Because the glory of God has intrinsic value and excellence; it transcends the thoughts of men, and the tongues of angels. His glory is his treasure, all his riches lie here; as Micah said, ‘What have I more’ (Judges 18:24)? So, what has God more? God’s glory is more worth than heaven, and more worth than the salvation of all men’s souls. Better kingdoms be thrown down, better men and angels be annihilated, than God should lose one jewel of his crown, one beam of his glory.

It was thought that this third point should be the first if any ranking in the points were intended.

From this I asked, if God’s Holiness is his ‘crowning attribute’, what is his ‘Glory’?

But we are not really comparing like with like here. As one member noted, ALL God’s attributes are glorious.

[4] Shall everything glorify God but man? It is a pity then that man was ever made. (1) Creatures below us glorify God, the inanimate creatures and the heavens glorify God. ‘The heavens declare the glory of God’ (Ps. 19:1). (2) Creatures above us glorify God: ‘the angels are ministering spirits’ (Heb. 1:14). If then the angels bring glory to God, much more should we, being dignified with honor above angelic spirits.

The Saviour took up our cause and descended to the earth as a man to save us. He did not do this for the devils. How exalted is humanity by this act. If only men could see more of their position in God’s order, they would be less demeaned and hopeless.

[5] We must bring glory to God, because all our hopes hang upon him.

I doled out the pens and paper and asked everyone to write one thing down that they were hoping on God for. Two or three were willing to share what they’d written but there was no obligation. The fact was the point, God is glorified when we place our hopes upon him.

Two of our number prayed and I gave the benediction.