Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Michael Horton; Amazing Grace’

Putting Amazing Back into Grace

I mentioned on Facebook the other day that my new favorite book is Dr. Michael Horton’s, Putting Amazing Back into Grace. There are really good reasons that you should invest some easy chair time with this book.

Right now I am going through Chapter 3, called Rebels Without a Cause. The information in this chapter is specifically intended to teach about our identity — about who we are — inside and outside.

I truly believe there is an identity crisis in America today.  An identity crisis that is deep enough to cause depression.  My concern is that this identity crisis also exists within the evangelical church – a place where identity should be more than understood.  So, I specifically recommend this book for Christians who want to not only grow in their faith, but who desire to grow in their understanding of our relationship with God.

Too often in the Christian world, we define our relationship with God.  Does that sound right?  If God is the author of truth, then ask yourself, “Who defines the relationship?”

Chapter 3 focuses on original sin.  My guess is that most contemporary Christians really do not understand original sin.  Yet, unless you understand original sin, you cannot understand your identity in Christ.

We can really get bogged down in the truth of original sin, so one thing I love that Dr. Horton has done:  he opens the book by helping us to first understand creation.  The creation of the world.  The creation of our physical body.   It was good!  It pleased God.  We were created in His image!  God is our Creator – but we are the creature. Not only does this chapter on creation help us to see the beauty of God in ourselves, it helps us to see and love  those whom He has not called, because they are also his creation.

As John Calvin said, “We must now speak of the creation of man;  not only because among all God’s works here is the noblest and most remarkable example of His justice, wisdom, and goodness, but because…we cannot have a clear and compete knowledge of God unless it is accompanied by a corresponding knowledge of ourselves.”  (The Institutes of the Christian Religion)

Instead of further personal observation, I am going to put some quotes from Chapter 3.  Remember to keep in mind the beauty of creation as you read these quotes from Dr. Horton about creation and original sin.

  • Not only has God left his fingerprints all over creation, he has left upon the human heart a yearning that makes human beings dust the creation for them.  The majestic imprimatur of God’s handiwork that makes us so significant in the universe also holds us responsible for our response to the Creator.  “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”  (Romans 1:20)
  • We begin thinking, from birth, that we are the center of the universe.  But we know better.
  • God gave Adam his instructions:  “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die.”(Gen. 2:15-17)
  • Our fall was complete.  Every area of human life was affected and nothing created by God was left untouched.  Consequently, the stain of sin corrupts us physically, emotionally, psychologically, mentally, morally and spiritually.  That doesn’t mean, of course, that we are all brute savages who always carry out every possible evil; it does mean that each one of us is capable of doing so.  Further, it means that there is no hope for human beings to recover themselves or to make amends.  God demands a perfection of the qualities with which he endowed us, and we are corrupt in every chamber.  No part of us can rescue or heal the rest of us.
  • The Bible is a good deal more realistic about the human condition than is popular American culture.  Just because humanity declared independence does not mean that it became independent.  We can no more live independently of God than a fish can live independently of water.  “For in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
  • We need to stop running from God and from the guilt that we must all own.  We cannot find God for the same reason that a thief can’t find a police officer.  If we find him, or if he catches up to us, he will expose us for who we really are.  This is why Paul repeat the psalmist in lamenting, “there is no one who understands, no one who sees God.” (Romans 3:11)
  • Like the victims of a contaminated blood transfusion, we all have inherited Adam’s guilt and corruption.  This is what theologians call “original sin.”  Adam included us all in his decision and that decision was fatal for the entire race.  This concept is often hard to swallow — particularly in America, where we are saturated with the democratic ideal of being able to decide for ourselves what party we will join  But we did not decide whether we would belong to the Adamic party; we were born into it.
  • The psalmist confessed, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5)
  • When a corporation dumps toxic chemicals into one end of a stream, it’s not just that one area that is affected.  Soon the pollution washes all the way down the stream, and the entire river is polluted.  Adam’s rebellion had just this kind of effect.  Our whole race became corrupted – so much so that, viewing us collectively, God concluded, “Together they have become useless”(Romans 3:12) When we are born, then, we are born at odds with a God for whose pleasure we were created.  There are no “innocent little babies,” and the Bible knows of no age of accountability.  One can choose to believe, as I do, that all who die in infancy are saved, but one must credit that to God’s mercy, not to his justice.  God could condemn every infant5 for eternity; there is already enough evidence to make a conviction.  “Sin entered the world through one man  – the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men”(Romans 5:12-18)
  • Hence, the human will is in bondage to sin.  This does not mean that we sin against our will (i.e., by force); rather, our will is in bondage to sin, and when we do sin, our sin is in perfect harmony with the will which produced it.
  • What can we do?  Nothing!  That’s the point:  “Salvation comes from the LORD” (Jonah 2:9) “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Romans 9:16) “No one can come to me unless he Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44)
  • God does not help those who help themselves.  Why?  “For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His.” (Heb. 4:10)
  • One thing that the Bible makes absolutely clear is that we depend entirely on God, not only for food, air and shelter, but also for salvation.  Remember the confusion that resulted when people began building the tower of Babel, hoping to reach God.  He has never been fond of towers.  God is out of our reach, but we are never out of his.

Well, that’s enough for one post!  Have I whetted your appetite a bit?  Don’t you truly want to accurately understand this important doctrine of the faith?

You may think it’s a downer doctrine, but let me reassure you that it is not – it is an amazing doctrine.  It’s one of those doctrines that puts the amazing back into grace.

Amazing, amazing grace

How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now am found — ’twas blind but now I see.

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