30 June 2010

You: Burden

by Frank Turk

I'm short on time (again) this week, so I am pre-blogging my Wednesday entry in the hopes of getting it out there for your edification, and so that I can work 12 hours on Wednesday and hopefully get my desk cleared off so I can go on vacation.

Here's the thing: yesterday, Dan had a great post in which there was this bit:
And then I saw Romans 15:13 — "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." God gives joy and peace. Thank God. How does He give joy and peace? In believing. But wait — I'll believe when I feel joy and peace! That will tell me I'm really a child, an elect child of God!

"No," Paul would say to me, to you: "you have it backwards. You don't get joy and peace, and then believe. Believe, and then you will know joy and peace."

Right? Amen?

In which Dan rightly intended for you, the smoldering wick, the bruised reed, to take refuge. How you "feel" should be about knowing Christ is the one who gives you what you need, not in how you have given what you need to give.

And many people needed to hear that. I needed to hear that. Inside my personal echo chamber, the me I see in there is the me who doesn't do what he ought, and does what he ought not to do, and who can save me from this wretched state? Praise be to God: it's the Lord Jesus Christ.

And I can see me that way. You can see you that way.

But the real trick in the Christian life is to see others that way. That is: just as you are Christ's in spite of your pitiable state, the other believers you encounter are Christ's in spite of their pitiable state. Maybe they work too much. Maybe -- though of course this can't be true in Reformed circles -- they are social misfits. Maybe they are essentially emotionally blank. Maybe they have never thought about a stranger's impressions of their actions.

Maybe they are just tired and they don't have the energy for you. You are a burden, you have to admit, even after a good night's sleep.

So that refuge in which we can rejoice in Christ for our own personal sake, and escape the real and right fear of our sins in Christ -- it's actually bigger than us. It's bigger than one person.

Paul said it this way:
But now in Christ Jesus you-all who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

And he came and preached peace to you-all who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you-all are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you-all also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. [Eph 2]
See: it's somewhat basic to say, "Christ died for me." It's probably the most basic thing you have to get to start this discussion. But Christ didn't die for "me" -- He died for "US".

If there's a refuge against the dark shadow of doubt in Christ for you personally, it should be greater than just you personally. It should be the place where you overcome the smallness of you and get joined together in the holy temple of our God -- which is not a building, but a body and family.

The joy for you is all our joy. You should come and see it with us -- in spite of us, and because of Christ.


Christopher said...

Frank: If there's a refuge against the dark shadow of doubt in Christ for you personally, it should be greater than just you personally.

Good line.

Mike said...

Seeing others in this way is exactly what I have been struggling with lately. It is so easy to start sliding down the slope of conceit. I too easily get lost in my own "echo chamber" as you called it. We are taught that if we were the only person in the world, Christ still would have died for us. We hear that so much that it gets lodged into the back of our brains, leaking into all of our other thoughts until we've so personalized the salvific work of Christ that we find it hard to believe He would save such unloveable sinners as the world (and church) has. God, knock us all off our high horses. Deliver us from our self-built ivory towers and humble us, not only before you, but also before our fellow man until there is no righteous foot that we will not wash.

donsands said...

I have a freind who messed up big time. He then thought he wasn't perhaps a Christian. He was very downcast.

I saw then how I needed to help him be restored. And the Lord helped me encourage him.

And at other times when I blow it, here comes a brother or sister to help me in the truth with love.

We need each other don't we, as we lean on our Father together, and trust in Christ together.

Good post. Thanks.

FX Turk said...

I almost said something about this statement in the post:

We are taught that if we were the only person in the world, Christ still would have died for us.

I chose not to.

I'm sure someone else will shake a sword at it.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Great message - and the toothless kids graphic really drove the point home.

CGrim said...

Just heard a sermon preached on Sunday entitled "Why Jesus Wants Y'all To Speak Southern" - basically covering how when the writers of the epistles use the word "you" we tend to interpret it as individuals, i.e. as "me." But in the majority of instances, they actually meant "you" in the plural sense ("y'all" down south, "youse" where I grew up in south Jersey).

When difficult times come, be it illness, loss, depression, persecution, etc, God by his grace has given us other imperfect people in his church to help us, and by his grace, we will be able to help them at some point down the road.

Mike said...

Frank, that's what I was trying to do subtly. We take statements like that, that contain sideways nuggets of truth and write songs like "Your own personal Jesus" and in so doing we swallow the postmodern concept that God is something WE own. It's a dangerous thing.

DJP said...

Good word.

"he came and preached peace to you-all who were far off," etc. - is that the ASV (Arkie Standard Version)?

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Since it is not about just ME or about just YOU, but more of an US type thing (community), can we ALL go on YOUR vacation with YOU?

Just kidding! Great post, Frank. Love it!

David Kyle said...

Is anyone else bothered by the phrase:

Accept Jesus Christ as your own personal Savior."

Maybe I am just uptight, but to me that phrase sounds like I can own Christ like a gym membership or something.

Aaron Snell said...

I actually really like the use of "you-all" here. It has been frustrating to translate the Greek 2nd person plural pronoun as "you" and lose the plural sense, yet I can't quite bring myself to write or say "y'all" - even though my wife is from Arkansas (sorry, hon). One professor I know underlines the singular you to differentiate, but I think I like "you-all" better. Thanks Frank!

David Kyle said...

My point, which I left out, is that if I adopt the attitude that Jesus is my own personal Savior, then I have already lost sight that Christ came to save sinners (note plural).

It then becomes far easier to forget my responsibility to evangelize and love others. I mean after all... I'm in.

DJP said...

Hendriksen spaced the plural occurrences (i.e. y o u). Never really caught on.

David Kyle said...

Be careful ye mayest be making a case for the KJV only folk!

Aaron Snell said...

Actually, yeah - maybe we should lobby for a return to "thou/thy/thee" as the 2nd person singular and "ye/your/you" as the plural.

Tom Austin said...

RE: "y'all" - Note that the Lord's Prayer is said in the first person plural. "forgive us our trespasses".

Barbara said...


I'm with you on that. That phrase is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me for more reasons than one.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Frank Turk: "But the real trick in the Christian life is to see others that way. That is: just as you are Christ's in spite of your pitiable state, the other believers you encounter are Christ's in spite of their pitiable state."

Indeed. There are other believers who are Christ's in spite of their pitiable state of being in the Roman Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox Church.

John said...

OK, a question for you and Dan - just what exactly is "assurance", and why does it matter? I feel like a moron, because I have been hearing this language for twenty something years and never really understood it at all.

philness said...


Let me take a stab at what assurance is. Assurance is the joy and peace that comes from belief. Objectively we read gods word and belief it and through the help of the holy spirit we subjectively are enabled to believe these truths into action and behavior. The result of these things are joy and peace filtered through both objective truth and subjective truth. All of this so we can give a defense of the hope that is in us.

Aaron said...

I was born and raised in CA. As such, I don't care for the use of y'all. But my daughter was born in Texas (I moved there the year she was born). She started using y'all when she was two. I cringe everytime I hear it.

Ok..only a little off topic.

Jim Pemberton said...

Assurance is 1 John 5:13. I know that because 20 years ago when I fell deep into sin and lost my assurance it was this verse that brought me back after I had repented and needed to know that I was forgiven. This letter the apostle John wrote is all about how to know you have eternal life.

Amen! Even before I read what you wrote I saw the photo of the two young men and my heart went out to them. In some ways they remind me of my oldest son, Luke, who just turned 14, and I would that they had the same opportunities to grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord if they don't already have that. It's not that I'm a great dad, but I do care for my children and earnestly contend for their spiritual development.

Just a few days ago Luke told me that he hoped the end times were not as the Left Behind series portrayed them. I let him read the series and taught him about other views. (I'm currently leaning toward post-trib.) But my son said that if there's going to be a tribulation of sorts then he wants to be here for it. He said he thought it would be a great time to proclaim the gospel.

Oh for all to know such joy as to supersede considerations of personal comfort in favor of glorifying God, and such as represented by those young men in the photo are no different.

Bobby Grow said...

I've said this before:

The Son, the second person of the trinity, is whom salvation revolves around; it is His obedience, His sin-bearing, His resurrection that provides the framework for any discussion on salvation. He included us, by becoming “us” in the incarnation, in becoming the first fruits of His salvation.

And this is the point of “Christ-centred” salvation, it is His salvation, His plan, His gift, His triumph, His victory that we have been united to. Any time that we start thinking that salvation is mine, or that “I” am at the center of salvation; we fail to grasp the point of salvation, and that is to magnify the name of Jesus.

Salvation starts in God's life; "our" salvation is grounded in Christ's life for us. I think if this is central then "assurance" becomes a non-issue.

Also, if we don't follow Limited Atonement assurance becomes a non-issue at a methodological level (although maybe not an existential one).

DJP said...

That some asinine attempt would be made to blame assurance-struggles on the Biblical doctrine of Christ's targeted and efficacious atonement was a given. The only questions were By whom?, and When?

Both are now answered.

Is the next step an opened floodgate of off-topic, pretentious verbage?

donsands said...

"..if I adopt the attitude that Jesus is my own personal Savior, then I have already lost sight that Christ came to save sinners (note plural)." -witness

Not really. Paul said this: "..I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

There are times we need to know Christ died personally for me. It's important for us to understand Jesus is my Savior, as much as it is important that He is our Savior.

We need both mind-sets, and heart-felt truths settled in our souls methinks.

Bobby Grow said...


I don't think this is off-topic, at all. The post continues the issue of "assurance;" and it references the atonement.

William Perkins and others within the Calvinist tradition dealt specifically with the "pastoral" issue of assurance; it only became a problem because of the Logical progression of things like Perkin's Golden Chaine, as later captured in the logical progression of the TULIP. Assurance became a major issue (even the Westminster Confession of Faith reflects this) for saints because they were led to wonder if Christ actually died for them; if in fact they were truly one of those "unconditionally elect." Of course the only remedey was to check if they were persevering in good works (this was what the practical syllogism was about). English Calvinism in this era became characterized by what they called experimental predestiniarinism; which means that folks were experimenting to see if they had "real faith" or "temporary faith" --- experimenting to see if they were indeed one of the elect (thus the problem of assurance).

It's easy to see how this touchstone teaching of Calvinism led to issues surrounding assurance. There's no doubt that Christ's sacrifice was efficacious, that's not under consideration; instead it is the issue of "assurance," and whether or not Christ indeed died for me (what Frank sounds like, and I like what He's saying in general, is a notion of "corporate election" which is completely at odds with what is communicated in the TULIP).

Dan, why can't folks simply disagree here; i.e. w/o you trying to frame those folks (like me) as pretentious?

I see doctrinal/dogmatic issues fostering real life spiritual consequences. All I'm underscoring is that there is a history to the issue of "assurance;" a history rooted in ideas, which have consequences indeed.

donsands said...

"..if in fact they were truly one of those "unconditionally elect.""

Or if Jesus is MY Savior for real. He is the Savior, but do I love Him as my Savior and Lord. If i do love Him, then I will hate sin, and repent. i will love that Christ saves sinners, and will love to see sinners repent and believe the Gospel.

"I lay it down fully and broadly, as God's truth, that a true Christian, a converted man, may reach such a comfortable degree of faith in Christ, that in general he shall feel entirely confident as to the pardon and safety of his soul, shall seldom be troubled with doubts, seldom be distracted with fears, seldom be distressed by anxious questionings and, in short, though vexed by many an inward conflict with sin, shall look forward to death without trembling, and to judgment without dismay. This, I say, is the doctrine of the Bible." -JC Ryle, From 'Holiness'.

(Ryle does have much more to say about assurance in this classic book of his. I encourage any who have not read it to do so.)

Jim Pemberton said...

No, I think it is off topic. Assurance is aimed at the individual because we struggle with assurance individually on the basis of our personal sin. But the point of this article is the joy we have in the corporate body of Christ. We tend to personalize the effects of our faith because no one can have faith for us. However, a key result of our faith is inclusion in a corporate body such that we delight in the activities of that body and the other members therein.

For example, when I minister the gospel to those who do not yet exhibit faith in Christ, I do so with the hope and expectation that I may get to worship God with them for all eternity. I've been in the spiritual darkness and lost in my sin and I pity such who are not yet part of the body of Christ.

But even those who are believers are yet undergoing sanctification. I'm not perfect and neither are they. So it is my goal for such as them to work with the Holy Spirit to help them grow and mature according to the direction of the Holy Spirit so as not to inadvertently throw a spiritual challenge at them that would prove to be a stumbling block. It takes much prayer and discernment.

We sorely neglect this aspect of Christian life especially in the Western Church. Frank pointed out that it's a matter of grace ('How you "feel" should be about knowing Christ is the one who gives you what you need, not in how you have given what you need to give.') and we typically don't do an adequate job of dealing graciously with each other. ('But the real trick in the Christian life is to see others that way.')

DJP said...

Me: Is the next step an opened floodgate of off-topic, pretentious verbage?

Followed by a ~300 word response doubling-down about "William Perkins and others within the Calvinist tradition."

So, that'd be a "yes."

Bobby Grow said...


DJP said...

Now that, I can't refute.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Thank you for this post Frank. We've been members at our church for nearly 3 years now (since we moved,) and it's been frustrating at times to not know people in the body well enough to let them minister to us in our times of need, and vice-verse. It's been a slow process. Too slow. But we've been here long enough to not get the free pass to complain about it, and I realize it's time to do something about it. Because sometimes you're the Louisville Slugger and sometimes you're the ball. But either way, we all (I Do prefer y'all, personally) need to be in the game, as it were.

FX Turk said...

Aha. You're saying that we aren't supposed to watch the game on TV, nor sit in the stands with the crowd, nor even sit on the bench: we're supposed to be in the game.

I like it.

David Kyle said...

Jim P.

Thanks for this...

"So it is my goal for such as them to work with the Holy Spirit to help them grow and mature according to the direction of the Holy Spirit so as not to inadvertently throw a spiritual challenge at them that would prove to be a stumbling block."

We would all do well to keep this at the fore front of our minds as we interact with the Body of Christ.

FX Turk said...

On the sub-thread regarding Assurance:

1. For anyone who says there is no "me" in "us" or "we" in Christ, give me a break. There is not merely "me" for those who repent and believe, but there is most certainly "me".

2. Assurance is in fact for "me". Think Zaccheus; think Mary Magdeline; think Peter; think Paul; think, for heaven's sake, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These are all "me"s upon whom those who come later can say, "because my faith is like that faith, I find my rest in Christ."

3. Think about #2 for a minute. Abraham was a serial adulterer; Jacob, a Liar; Isaac prefered his rough and red-y son, whom God did not prefer. Peter was, let's face it, a bit of a dunce and a coward. Mary Magdeline was a prostitute. Zaccheus was a thief and a traitor to Israel as a servant of Rome. There's no one brave enough to say these people did not have good faith, faith in Christ, faith which saves. The lessons there are manifold, but here are three:

3a. - You are simply not too sinful for Christ. You personally. That doesn't mean you should test that limit, but if you know that your sin is great, you must know that for it to be forgiven requires a savior greater still. This is a cause for rejoicing, not bitter fear.

3b. Other people are simply not too sinful for Christ. They may be unrepentant, which is a different matter, but if they are seeking a savior, they are like you. If Christ's mercy can save you -- and look at you, really -- it will save them. You are the one who maybe can't see it that way, and that's your problem.

3c. - It is right to make our assurance of Christ's work the basis both of self-respect and acceptance of others. It is the way we can get over our guilty and move on to reconciliation both between ourselves and God, and also ourselves and others. Re-read Ephesians 2 if you can't figure this out.

John said...

So, Phillness says assurance is joy and peace, and Jim says it is knowledge of one's own eternal life. I think this is beginning to clarify things, because it explains why the language of assurance is so confused. We are talking about slightly different things. I personally have never doubted my eternal life, because God's promise is so clear, and because I believe that I can't do anything anyway to "get myself saved". However, I have often lost the joy and peace that accompanies that knowledge. Interesting conversation.

Aaron Snell said...


In other words:




This consistent bent towards the heart in your posts is something I appreciate most about you.

Jim Pemberton said...

You start out with a fallacy and accidentally draw a conclusion that's mostly true. Your initial statement is akin to saying "Philness says that m&ms are candy coated and Jim says that they are chocolate. We're talking about slightly different things here." Only in the sense that these are different aspects of the same thing.

You're happiness may wax and wane, but biblical joy and peace are not physical emotions as much as they are a spiritual condition. So it's a good observation that your emotions are not consistent, but we are given more than mere emotion to establish our affections.

Nevertheless, it's still off topic.

Anonymous said...

Timely post. We need to each leave the sinful pride of self and its centeredness (whether that's actually a word or not), and repent and join the body of Christ!