July 29, 2007 Commentary:
Hello and welcome to another broadcast of the White Horse Inn. You know sometimes in certain areas of life we don't have a choice. A prisoner, for example, has no choice over whether the governor will grant a pardon. The decision is completely out of the prisoner's hands. But the prisoner was able to choose whether he'd commit the crime that merited his sentence. And in the same way Adam was free either to sin or not to sin and he chose the former. Since Adam's choice we're all born with a will that is in bondage to sin, able only to choose from among different types and degrees of sin. What sort of choices can a person make who is after all dead in trespasses and sins? Plenty, actually. He can choose whether to wear green socks or red socks. He can choose his house, career, spouse, and so on. But even those choices are determined by personal will and one's will is determined by one's preferences. So even if we can choose what socks we're going to wear tomorrow, that doesn't mean that we can choose Christ apart from Christ's work, by His Spirit, of making us who were dead in trespasses and sins, alive in Him. Hence our Lord's remark to the Pharisees, "You are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire." Because they are of their father, the devil, it follows that their desires are his desires. And he says, you notice, you want to carry out your father's desire. You really want to obey the one to whom you are bound. That's the whole point. If God left you to your self to decide whether you would choose God or reject Him, you would always refuse God as long as you belong to your father, the devil. As long as you are a child of Adam, Jesus said, you are unable to hear what I say. Our will always follows what we love. It follows our heart and our heart, says Jeremiah, is desperately wicked above all things. And that means that even the decision that we make to embrace Jesus Christ is because of the grace that is founded in a decision he has already made to embrace us. This is love, says John, not that we love God, but that He loved us. And that's what makes grace, grace. That's what we're talking about in this edition of the White Horse Inn where we're talking about the radical character of grace. Grace is not something we give ourselves. Grace is not human cooperation. Grace is God's favor towards sinners on account of Jesus Christ.
July 22, 2007 Commentary:
A Radical View of Grace
In this program we are going to talk about the radical character of grace, the grace of God in the gospel.
In a Time magazine essay titled, "What Really Matters", Robert Rosenbladt (no relation to Rod) sought to define the idea characterizing our age. The essay suggests that the twentieth century spirit is distinguished by its determination to break away from all norms "and eventually from any constraints at all"; and that the basis of this determination is the assumption that "what was not free ought to be free, that limits were intrinsically evil." This provocative critique of modern culture draws its conclusion about our age of self-confident autonomy by noting, "When people are unfettered they are freed, but not yet free."
The essayist certainly understood more about freedom of choice than Adam and Eve did that day when they gave in to Satan's grandiose notion of self-confident autonomy. Yet it's precisely that notion that has kept God and humans apart since the Fall in Eden, apart from Christ. Adam and Eve resented God, "how dare God withhold from us the knowledge of good and evil." That's where it starts, where we want to be in charge, where we want to experience things directly ourselves and not heed the word that God has spoken. "Your eyes will be open," Satan promised, but then, he's always been a liar.
I found the following lines written on a painting in one of my cafés, "I've taken the pill, I've hoisted my skirts to my thighs, dropped them to my ankles, rebelled at the university, skied at Aspen, lived with two men, married one, earned my keep, kept my identity, and frankly, I am lost." We've fallen a long way. We were created with class in the image of God as God's own trophies, and yet, like a mean vase in a museum we have fallen, crashed to the floor, and it was not at all a foregone conclusion that God would pick up the pieces. And yet, in his grace he has. And so grace and sin is the topic that we're going to be unpacking in this program.
July 15, 2007 Commentary:
Grace & Law
We are in our year long series "A Time for Truth" and the heart of the truth that we're talking about in this particular section is sola gratia, grace alone. We've talked about sola Scriptura, Scripture alone, solo Christo, by Christ alone, and now we're taking up sola gratia, by grace alone.
As he lay dying, Duke John's son was comforted with the gospel that Luther's ministry was then making plain. Although the Reformation wasn't yet fully tolerated in the empire, overwhelmed by the sheer good news of it all Duke John's daughter-in-law asked, "Father, why cannot this be preached to everyone?" The Duke replied, "It is to be told to the dying, not to the living."
There's always been a suspicion that grace is a little too comforting. That the news is too good, it's a little dangerous to tell people that it's all of God, all of grace. Unleashed in its full force such preaching would surely undermine all sense of moral earnestness. The fear of punishment and hope of rewards is the only thing that can really get us off the dime, even though on our deathbed we may be told that Christ is enough after all. A lot of Christians today can tell similar stories, when they became a Christian they were told that Christ died for their sins past, present, and future, and promised eternal life to all who believe. But then, after their conversion, they were gradually buried under a weight of conditions. If you follow these steps you can live the victorious Christian life. If you do this God will smile upon you. What, you're not living in victory? Perhaps you're not following the steps. Start over. Rededicate yourself, try harder. It's actually pretty easy, you know, especially with the help of the Holy Spirit. Eventually, having begun in the Spirit, they're trying to be perfected in the flesh, because that's the message they're getting, or at least thinking they're getting, in church.
Well the Apostle Paul proclaimed the gospel in a similar setting. Like the Pharisees in Jesus' famous parable, Paul's opponents in the Galatian church were outwardly pious. They even thanked God that they were not like the others, apparently paying lip service to grace. But crying out, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner", the bartender went home justified rather than the Pharisee that day, says Jesus. Is grace really enough? Is the good news really that good? Are our works responses of gratitude or the meeting of conditions? Just how amazing is grace after all? That's our subject in this program.
July 8, 2007 Commentary:
An Interview with Anne Rice
On this edition of the White Horse Inn we’ll be talking with Anne Rice, author of numerous books in the Vampire chronicles series and now the author of Christ the Lord, Out of Egypt. In fact, she wrote this book after she lost faith in atheism, as she puts it, and came back to the faith of her childhood. We’re going to talk to her about her conversion and in particular with her coming to a conservative view of the Bible and its historical reliability as well as with her frustration with much of what passes for contemporary New Testament scholarship. So stay with us as we talk with author Anne Rice on this edition of the White Horse Inn.
Well we have the privilege of having a conversation with Anne Rice. Many of you are probably familiar with Anne Rice in relation to the Vampire chronicles, particularly Interview with a Vampire which was made a full length motion picture a number of years ago. Most recently, however, she’s written a very intriguing book called Christ the Lord, Out of Egypt.
July 1, 2007 Commentary:
Him We Proclaim
Hello and welcome to a special edition of the White Horse Inn. Jesus abraded the religious leaders of his day for their devotion to the Bible without evidently knowing the point. You search the Scriptures diligently, he told them, thinking that you have eternal life in them. Yet it is they that testify concerning me. But you will not come to me that you may have life. In other words, they were Bible centered without being Christ centered. But is that really possible? Can we be diligent searchers of Scripture and miss the point that from Genesis to Revelation the whole story is about God finding us? It's an unfolding plot of redemption centering around the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus evidently thought that the Scriptures, which of course meant our Old Testament, proclaimed him throughout. In his ministry, Jesus and the gospel writers are constantly drawing our attention back to the promises of the Hebrew Scriptures that were being fulfilled in their presence. Ask a lot of Christians today what they think is the central theme or who is the central character and you'll probably get a lot of very different answers. Some may say it's the nation of Israel. Others say principles for living. Still others will say it's a blueprint for revolution. Many read the Bible as a collection of timeless doctrines and moral rules. Even if we say that Christ is the center of Scripture, it's easy to miss him in all the distractions that preoccupy us today. How then can we become better readers and hearers of the Word and not miss the main point? How can we better see Christ as the beginning, middle, and end of the biblical story? To help us with that important task we have the good services of Dr. Dennis Johnson, Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Seminary California and the author of a very recent book, Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ From All The Scriptures.