Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Love (page 2 of 3)

Newsflash: The New Testament is Shorter

Call me Captain Obvious if you like, but the New Testament is shorter than the Old Testament. I was thinking about this the other day and it occurred to me that in some sense the length of the two covenant documents speaks to the relationship between the covenants themselves and what is required of the people who are part of those covenants.

Simply asking the question, ‘Why is the New Testament shorter?’ helps us to see the nature of the covenants in contrast. For example, here are at least two parts of the answer that I would give you to that question:

1. There are no genealogies in the New Testament

One of the things that makes the Old Testament longer is the accumulation of stories of family lines. So, for example, the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38 is vital because it records God’s preservation of the line of Judah. The Old Testament is filled with both genealogies and narratives that preserve bloodlines.

The New Testament, on the other hand, has no genealogies (except for that of Jesus, which is the climax of the Old Testament). There are no stories of fathers and children, no stories of family lines being preserved.

This makes the New Testament shorter. It also illustrates one of the fundamental differences between the covenants. The older covenant was passed on from generation to generation through bloodlines and families (Gen 15.3-5), while the newer is passed on through gospel proclamation and faith (2 Tim 2.2). Therefore, the New Testament simply has the book of Acts which records how the gospel was proclaimed and believed. That’s all there is for narrative. There is no ongoing record of families which must be saved because God’s people will now be made up of ‘all nations’ as they become disciplines… adopted children.

2. There is no case law in the New Testament

A second reason why the Old Testament is longer is because Moses and many prophets after him are forced to belabour the teaching of the Law in any and every imaginable context (and even some rather unimaginable ones!). Every time I read through the Old Testament I’m amazed at some of the case law and think to myself, ‘Really? Someone did that? And they needed to set a precedent law against it?’

In the New Testament, however, there is a distinct lack of laws (note: I didn’t say distinct lack of Law). You would think that as the New Covenant was being received and applied across cultural boundaries and geographical regions and religious backgrounds there would be a lot more Acts 15-type-moments. But in reality, there aren’t, simply because the New Covenant isn’t about setting case law. That’s not the nature of this covenant.

For example, when the Corinthians ask Paul about whether or not they are free to eat meat sacrificed to idols, he does not deliver case law that is binding on all Christians. Rather, he holds up the ideal of freedom and then allows it to be swallowed up by the law of love so that individual Christians simply cannot answer the ethical question without coming face to face with the question, ‘What is love and am I willing to be governed by it?’ (see 1 Corinthians 8-10). He does the same thing again when it comes to the exercise of spiritual gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12-14). Love is the law that governs all of Christian behaviour in the New Testament (John 13.34-35).

And so it is written…

When you’ve only got one law that trumps in any and every situation, and you don’t have to record genealogies and family histories spanning thousands of years, you can write a much shorter covenant document. Which is precisely what we have.

My Kids

** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

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I love my children. I absolutely delight in them. There are so many reasons why; I thought I’d list just a few.

1. They Reflect Me

Okay, this sounds really bad. But I see myself in my kids, and that makes me love them. That’s natural. That’s what all parents love to see. To be honest, I think that’s why parents often think their own kids are the cutest… because they look like the parents! I’ve always thought to myself, ‘How narcissistic is that!

But then I got to thinking about that. Why do parents take so much delight in having children who look like them? Because our heavenly Father delights in having children who look like him. And because we bear his image (even now in a distorted way) we have his heart-impulses. When I see myself in my kids or my wife in my kids and my heart warms toward them, now it doesn’t make me think I’m narcissistic so much as it turns my mind to my God who created me in his image and who finds delight in me resembling him (really, this is at the heart of the gospel!). And it makes me hope I can train my kids to reflect their heavenly Father… not just their earthly one.

2. They Don’t Reflect Me

Here’s the funny thing about kids. Even though they’re fallen and depraved, there is still a sense of innocence and purity about them; they are willing to receive and believe what they hear with all their hearts. They trust. They forgive. They are willing to be comforted by words of truth. They believe the best about people and love with all their unbroken hearts. That doesn’t reflect me. I’m stubborn and heart-hearted, slow to forgive, slow to believe, slow to respond to truth. I’m jaded when it comes to people; it is easier to look at other people as ‘sinners’ than it is ‘image-bearers.’ Jesus commended children as those to whom we should look to know how to receive his kingdom. It’s not hard to see why. My kids are not perfect — far from it. But they do show me how I should love and trust my God and love and trust others.

3. They Give Me An Excuse to Be a Kid

I often ‘joke’ about this, but it’s true. I love being a kid. Playing, running, climbing trees, telling crazy imaginary stories… I love it! But if I did that on my own, people would think I’m weird — even more so than they already do! So I’m glad my kids give me an excuse to still be a kid. I love playing with them.

4. They Show Me My Weaknesses

Inasmuch as God calls me to father like he is a father to me, my children provide me with ample opportunities to show the world that I am not my heavenly Father. I fall so far short. He is so patient with me; my impulse is to chastise right away. He is so loving with me; my impulse is to be harsh with them. He is so wise in the dispensations of his providence, leading me in ways that I will grow; I give so little foresight to the ways I lead my children. He sacrificed his most treasured possession for me; I ask my four year-old when she’ll get a job and start helping to pay some bills. He is endlessly kind; I get grouchy at the drop of a hat when my kids won’t eat, sleep, or jump right when I say. He is always available; I’m so often distracted. There is no doubt about it: my kids show me my need for grace every single day.

5. They Are Ever-Present Accountability

And not just because they’ll point out every single thing you do that they’re not allowed to do (‘Daddy, “stupid” is a bad word!’; ‘Daddy, how come you are having two bowls of ice cream?’ ‘Daddy, we’re not allowed to climb up there like that!’). They’re also a source of accountability because everything I do and say now is filtered through the grid of, ‘What example am I setting for them?’ and ‘Is this the kind of husband I want my girls to look for?’ That little check keeps me on the straight-and-narrow many times.

6. They Make Me Laugh Like Crazy

People have actually commented to me that being in my house is like living in a sitcom. A lot of days I can’t disagree. I laugh pretty hard in my home. It is full of joy and I have my children to thank for that.

7. They Help Me Understand Women

I had no sisters growing up. As a young man I clearly had no idea how to understand the first thing about women. So God made me live with four of them. One of the things I’ve learned about girls is that they’re definitely female from the time they’re born on up. I’ve had to grow in my understanding of how the fairer sex thinks, learns, interacts, expresses love, receives love, hears correction, processes reality, experiences the world… the list goes on and on. My girls have (I think) helped me to understand women better. I love them for that.

8. They Bring Me to My Knees

They make me pray. My heart is immediately broken before my God when I think of those three tender little souls. I am quickly moved to pray, casting all my cares on my Father, casting all my hope for their protection, for their future, for their little hearts on him. They make me desperate, which makes me pray, which makes me love them more.

9. They Make Me Love More

I could go on all day, but I’ll end here. They make me love my them: their smiles, their joys, the way they look to me for care and guidance, their little quirks. They make me love my wife: as I watch her care for them and treasure them and bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, I grow in my love for her. They make me love my God: Who am I that I should be blessed with such wonderful little blessings as them? I am a man too blessed for words. They increase my love a hundredfold.

My Disordered Heart

** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

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Something funny is going to happen tonight. The Vancouver Canucks will play the Boston Bruins in game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. From the time the national anthems play, right before the drop of the puck, I’ll be on the edge of my seat. My mind will be focused, my eyes locked on, my whole body ready to cheer, jeer, or boo, as events unfold. My heart will be engaged. I will yell and holler and make a fool of myself by getting so upset about a game. But it will grip me, engage me, affect me.

Why in the world would this be? I’m not even a Canucks fan (and goodness knows, like any Christian, I’m definitely NOT a Bruins fan!). So why would it grip me? Maybe we could chalk it up to the sport of hockey. Except that’s not right either. Last night I was overjoyed to see the Mavericks demolish the Heat and their thugs team. But I’m not a basketball fan, or a Mavs fan. So why would my heart be engaged by such irrelevant foolishness?

The short answer is that I don’t know; I just simply don’t understand my heart and why it reacts the way it does. The long answer has to do with Eve and Adam eating a piece of fruit, and plunging the world and all their children into the disordered chaos that we know as life.

One of the things I came to see early on in my pursuit of theology was the Noetic effects of sin. That’s the doctrine which says that our minds don’t work like they should–our thoughts are corrupted–because of the fall. What came much later, but I now see with even more clarity, is the emotional equivalent (although I don’t know if it has a name). What I have observed in myself is that my heart–the centre and source of my affections and desires–is fundamentally disordered.

The classic contrast illustrating this is the Saturday night hockey game to Sunday morning church. On Saturday night I’m engaged and excited, jumping up and down, raising my arms, calling out spontaneously, enjoying every moment. On Sunday morning I struggle to stay focused and I’m embarrassed to lift a hand or make a noise that isn’t ‘pre-approved.’ How sad that my heart finds more to delight in in a useless game than the glorious gospel of God become man, crucified for sinners, risen to given us joy and life!

There are many more examples. Why am I quicker to cry because of a movie than because of my sin? Why do problems with our house make me sadder than problems with our marriage? Why, when I talk about Jesus, do I care more about what people think of me than I care what they think of Jesus? Why am I so often driven to despair by the smallest of problems? The list goes on and on… The things that I know matter most don’t affect me most and the things that affect me most often don’t matter at all. My heart is disordered.

Of course, the only remedy for this is the gospel. My heart is just like everything else in creation. Though it was created to be ordered, because of the fall it is subject to futility, corruption, and disorder. But the gospel makes all things new. The gospel promises the Spirit of God ‘circumcising our hearts’ and making us new creations in Christ. The whole of our life now is a process, a growth, becoming more and more conformed to the image of Christ. Not just in the ways I think or in the ways that I act–but also in the ways that I feel. I want my heart to be like his heart. I want to be moved to love and compassion and anger by the things that move his heart to love and compassion and anger.

I pray that if God gives me more time on this earth, it would be a journey towards Christlikeness of life, thought, and emotion; that my disordered heart would be increasingly ordered after his own.

Friendship

** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

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I can remember a time not too long ago when I had no true friends. And I was happy. Or, at least I thought I was. If anyone had asked me, I would have quickly replied that I’m an ‘introvert’ and would prefer to be alone. I spent a lot of my life with people around, just from being a part of a church, and that was enough for me. I wasn’t a fan of having people around me for extended periods of time, or in private moments, or at all involved in my private life.

Then I realized that being an ‘introvert’ was really, for me, simply an excuse for my pride and selfishness. I like being able to present myself in a specific way for people to see and approve. I don’t like being open, I don’t like people seeing awkward things about me, and I don’t like them feeling free to speak a word of counsel to me. That’s all pride. And that kind of life is–simply put–unchristian.

I’ve had opportunities to write about friendship (here historically, and here more reflectively). I’ve even had opportunities to preach a series of sermons on friendship (find them here). So I don’t intend on teaching anything new or profound on friendship again. Rather, I wanted to offer two reflections on friendship in my own life.

1. I never cease to be amazed at how influential and beneficial friendship is. Hugh Black wrote the following in his book, Friendship:

A faithful friend can be trusted not to speak merely soft words of flattery. It is often the spectator who sees most of the game, and, if the spectator is at the same time keenly interested in us, he can have a more unbiased opinion than we can possibly have.

The true friend sees deeply, both the good and the bad. The friend who is with us in private moments and feels the intentions and longings of our soul is the friend who can at once identify with the same love our strengths and our weaknesses. That is the friend the Scriptures prize, who will speak words that faithfully wound, and words that will build up in love. Five words from that friend mean more than five thousand from another acquaintance. They have an incalculably influential position in our hearts.

2. I never cease to be amazed at how bad of a friend I am. The more I’ve had to think about friendship and study it biblically and historically in order to teach on it, the more jealous I am of those for whom it comes easily. While my being introverted was (is) an excuse for my being unskilled as a friend, it is still a reality with which I need to continually wrestle. I want to be private. I want to be elusive. I want to control how people know me. Plus, being introverted can also be an excuse for being relationally lazy. Those are realities with which I need to fight everyday. And those are realities that have won too many times in my life.

As I survey the 30 years of my life, and as I study the ideals of friendship, I’m constantly amazed at how bad of a friend I am to those who love me; how unfaithful I am in my love to those closest to me, and yet, how I’ve seen the forgiving and reconciling and longsuffering power of friend-love at work in them. It is humbling. God has blessed me with so many amazing friends who love me more than they should, and I’ve been such a poor friend in return. I’m thankful for all of the grace of God they have shown me in extending patience and kindness in spite of my failures as a friend.

If Jesus gives me life for another 30 years, and does not return, I pray that he will give me grace to kill sins which hinder friendship, and to treasure and nurture the love of those closest to me, so that my friendships run deeper and truer and purer in the next era of my life.

After the Last Tear Falls…

Even though the album came out some time ago, lately I’ve been loving this song by Andrew Peterson. I thought I’d post the video here for you to hopefully be blessed as well.

Remembering Five Years Ago

* UPDATE, 3/12/09 * The embedded media player has been disabled because some silly people still use Internet Explorer and apparently it was playing the music all the time. You can download the mp3 here and listen to it with your own player. Sorry for the inconvenience! *

1833 days ago, I made the best decision I’ve ever made. On January 24, 2004, I proposed to the love of my life. I was astonished when she said ‘Yes.’

Come to think of it, she never actually did say ‘Yes,’ but she did hug me, so I took that as a good sign. Turns out I was right to assume she meant to say yes because she actually married me. By the grace of God, we were married that summer (June 19, 2004), after 5 excruciatingly long months of engagement and anticipation of taking my bride.

Tonight my bride is out of town with some of her friends on a mini-retreat of sorts. That leaves me at home alone listening to love songs and pining after her. Seriously.

In particular, ‘Astonished,’ by Kepano Green caught my attention tonight as I was finishing up the dishes. It tells the story of meeting a girl, falling in love–being amazed by love–and beginning a life together. That gave me pause to reflect back on the days when I first began to fall in love with my wife.

I think their word is ultimately suitable. I was ‘astonished.’ I remember that after each date, when I was driving home, I would think to myself, ‘How can this be real? How could God have blessed me with this amazing woman? Why in the world does she seem to like me too?’

After we’d been dating for about a month or two, I wrote her a poem. I never showed it to her until the night when I proposed, though, because it talked about us being married, beginning a family, and loving Christ together till old age. I waited to show her to protect her heart, but I knew from the outset that she was the one for me.

I don’t think it took Adam very long to figure out that Eve was his completion (Gen 2.22-23), and it didn’t take me long either. I know it doesn’t work that way for some people, but I knew as soon as I met Stacey that God had made her to be my glory (1 Cor 11.7).

Tonight, five years later, I remain astonished at no less than three things.

  1. I’m astonished that she still loves me.
  2. Time after time I have sinned against my bride. Over and over again some horrid sin has overtaken me, or some deep-rooted sinful heart idolatry has been exposed, and I’ve thought, ‘That’s it; she can’t possibly love me anymore. I’m absolutely unlovable.’ But every single time she has shown me love and forgiveness that I can’t justify or rationalize. Her love for me has been gospel-love: undeserved and overwhelming. It is enduring and steadfast and forgiving. I’m astonished she still loves me.

  3. I’m astonished that I could let a love so extraordinary become ‘ordinary.’
  4. Days turn into weeks turn into months turn into years. As time goes past, the things that were once unexpected become expected. Things that were novel become mundane. I begin to expect things from her that I have no right expecting. I don’t know how, but somehow in my apathy, I get used to ‘being in love.’ The admonition I once found superfluous has now become a rebuke: ‘Rejoice in the wife of your youth’ (Prov 5.18). God forgive me for taking for granted a love that you have so graciously given.

  5. I’m astonished at the wisdom and mercy of God in giving her to me.
  6. Of all the lessons I have learned over the past five years since I have proposed, this may well be the one I’ve learned the most number of times: God made her for me. She is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. She is the one created to be at my side. She completes me. She is perfect for me. The wisdom of God in giving her to me is mind-blowing. The areas where she is strong compensate for my weaknesses; her few flaws are in areas where I can assist her, by God’s grace. And those areas where we are both weak have caused me to grow in my sanctification in ways that I never would have been motivated to, had God not given her to me. Day after day, year after year, I’m increasingly astonished at the wisdom of God in creating her to be the perfect partner for me.

Praise God for his grace! Tonight I’m praising him for my wife.

Click here to go to Kepano Green’s site and buy their CDs. Here are the words to their song ‘Astonished.’

Oh the first time I wrote your name on a paper, you were astonished
And we went down and ate by the sea and there you were astonished
When in so many words, I told you how my heart was yours
And me, the stranger, finding favour, there… in your eye

We watched stars and they crossed there in the sky, look there, well I was astonished
And you grew in my heart every night and I was astonished
So I wrote in the air how I was feeling, you wondered what I’d said
Though unaware we were beginning something that would never, never end

I have evidence framed in my room… there you stood so astonished
When I asked you to be with me soon, oh, you were astonished
And I promise you there, we were not dreaming, diamonds were on the sea
And we were aware that this was beginning something that was surely meant to be

Beware the Pendulum

It seems that in theology, as in the rest of life, we’re constantly riding a pendulum. The more we run from doctrinal error that we see in others, the more likely we are to fall into the opposite error ourselves.

If we reject an over-emphasis on God’s love as the basis of his character, we run the the risk of focusing too much on his justice or transcendence. If we seek to reject the feminist tide of our culture and hold to biblical distinctions between male and female, we run the risk of keeping women back from the legitimate ways that they are to serve and minister in the body of Christ. The examples are endless, and for every false doctrine there is an equally-wrong opposite reaction offered in an attempt to correct it.

Tim Challies made a comment once, when reviewing a Brian McLaren book, that McLaren appears to love Jesus, but to hate God (i.e. the Father). Bruce Ware made a nearly identical statement in a theology course I took with him recently. They both made the statement because… well… it’s true. But here’s what concerns me–I wonder how far we are from being the same.

I would never suggest that anyone at GFC or in our circles hates the Father. But I do wonder how our love for him compares to our love for Christ.

For whatever reason, the tide of our Christian culture seems to be waxing strong in our love for and devotion to Christ. Perhaps because of the resurgent emphasis on biblical as opposed to systematic theology. Maybe it is the fact that we tend to focus more on the fulfilment of our salvation, rather than the promise and story leading up to it. Maybe it is our culture’s disdain of authority (and especially authority held by a male, patriarchal figure). Maybe it is just the fact of Christ’s ‘like-us-ness’ that makes it easier for us to imagine him. Regardless of the reason, it is far more common to hear a Christian these days talking about their love for Christ than it is to hear a Christian talk about their love for the Father.

Growing in our love for Christ is always a good thing. But growing in our love for Christ at the expense of our love for the Father is not a good thing. But is this a genuine problem?

Think through the songs you sing in church. Think through the Bible reading you like to do most. Think through your conversations you’ve had recently with fellow believers. How central to your conversation, your reading, or your worship is Father himself, distinct from the other members of the Trinity? Are the affections of your heart warmed the same way when you think of God the Father as when you think of Jesus?

It was the Father’s will to create. It was the Father who chose us to be in Christ before the foundations of the world. It was the Father who planned in eternity past to send Christ, the Father who promised Christ, and the Father who carried out that plan. It was the Father’s will to crush Jesus to save you. It was the Father who had to withhold his wrath for thousands of years and then bear it all on his only true Son, thus breaking an eternity of perfect union and unbroken fellowship. It was the Father who looked away from Christ in anger in order to look to you with grace.

It was the Father’s plan to send his true Son to make you an adopted Son. It is the Father who gives you his Spirit. It is the Father who holds the king’s heart in his hand, who governs all this according to the counsel of his will, and who will bring about the end of all things in the fulness of time. It is the Father’s throne on which Christ sits, and to whom Christ will return the kingdom at the end of time. 

How is your love for the Father?

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