Strachan: Shame

There is no shame quite like the shame of Adam and Eve. We read of their sin in Genesis 3 and cover our mouths in horror. They heard the very voice of God call them to obedience, to abstain from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but they did not obey him. They listened, but not to God. They listened to the serpent and his antiwisdom. We should not think of ourselves as better than they were; we are Adam and Eve in our life’s story, not the hero.

But if their shame was great, the righteousness of God in response was greater. The Lord himself slaughtered animals and made garments for the man and the woman. He provided them with warmth and comfort, even after their titanic act of disobedience. They abandoned God, but he did not abandon them. This act speaks to the ultimate clothing, the “righteousness of Christ,” which God gives to all who will call upon him in repentance and faith.

The Lord himself provided the goats for Adam and Eve; the Lord himself has provided us with “the righteousness of him who is the Lamb of God, as Jonathan Edwards says. We lost our “primitive glory” in the Fall, the glory God gave to humankind before we trespassed. But though our loss was great, the weight of the second glorious gift far surpasses the first. We gain the very holiness of the Son of God himself. Even after our desecration of the will of God, he does not leave us alone, naked and without warmth. He gives the righteous robes of Christ to us, and never allows us to lose them.

In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. — 2 Corinthians 5:19

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands, 285.

Strachan: Trinitarian Teamwork

Growing up, it seemed that every basketball player wanted to be like Michael Jordan. They wore his jersey number (23) in youth sports; they bought his Air Jordan sneakers; and despite a distinct lack of Jordanesque ability, they shot the ball nearly as often as he did. There is something comical in watching a group of vertically challenged youngsters try to perform aerial leaps.

Nobody wants to be a mere “role player.” Yet Jordan himself was part of a team on which far less gifted players were able to contribute. We can all fall prey to a star mentality. This is true in every sphere of life—church, business, school, or even the family. Whether we have the skills or not, we want the spotlight. We crave attention. In ways we may not even see, we hunger to get the glory.

How stunning to consider the difference between the desires of our narcissistic hearts and how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit carry out the great work of redemption. Together, they share unity that nothing could dissolve and no one could break; yet each member of the Trinity “has a distinct part to act.” First Corinthians 11:3 tells us that the Father is “the head” of the Son; John 15:26 informs us that both the Father and the Son send the Spirit to the church. The members of the Trinity carry out one inseparable work, but fill their own individual roles. The Father plans and leads, the Son creates and saves, the Spirit regenerates and indwells. In a world where everyone wants to be a star, the Godhead shows us that we find true glory in serving, and in filling our God-given roles.”

When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 253.

Strachan: Actual Atonement

“The atonement doe not make salvation possible. When Christ died on the cross, he did not merely give us his best shot. He didn’t make a good faith gesture and hope things would turn out. He didn’t leave an offering of love and pine for us to take it. We cannot view the Cross as Jesus’ doing all he could to save us but without the actual power and ability to buy us back from the dead.

The Atonement does not make salvation possible; it makes salvation actual.

…Jonathan Edwards notes, the ‘precious blood of Christ’ has covered the sin of his ‘spouse,’ the collection of redeemed sinners known as the church. We are ‘redeemed’ in full by his work on the cross. We were in the worst state, the most desperate of circumstances; we had no hope, and no agency to spring ourselves from our miserable state. We were on our way to execution when Jesus suddenly intervened. He bought us for himself. He made us his own. He didn’t offer only the possibility of redemption; with a strong hand and a sure voice, he called us to himself, and we came.

When we think and sing of the Cross, we should know that our sin was canceled there, and our debts were removed (Colossians 2:13-15). There, the bride was washed (Ephesians 5:25-27). God effects and seals our salvation when he gives us faith to trust in the atonement of Christ—this is when we ‘become actually his,’ as Edwards makes clear. Ours is a sure and certain salvation.”

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. (Ephesians 5:25-26)

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 211.

Strachan: Once For All

“What a miracle the incarnation of Jesus Christ is. Jesus took on human form. We could think about this truth for the rest of our lives and never exhaust its depths. Jesus, the very image of God and true Son, came to bring the promises of God to fulfillment. As the great High Priest, he brought to an end the sacrificial system that formerly guided the people of God. In this role, he offered the ultimate sacrifice for sin, bringing to an end the practice of slaughtering bulls and goats to signal the remission of iniquity.

Jesus will never leave this role. He is our eternal High Priest. God will never ‘remove’ this priest, nor will he ‘introduce any other’ in the age to come. The finality of Christ’s work leads us to rest in him. We need to obey the Lord, but we have no responsibility for adding to the finished work of Christ. Nothing hangs in the balance; no accounts remain open. God sent the perfect sacrifice for sin, and in so doing completed the line of priests with Christ.

We are left to marvel at the ‘perfection’ of this offering. We have freedom from guilt, from the need to justify ourselves, from the desire to look good in front of others. What more could we want? What more could anyone give us Jesus’ work is so final, so perfect and complere, that it suffices for all eternity. Jesus is the Temple (John 2:19). Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). Jesus is our great High Priest (Hebrews 7:25). All that remains for us to do in the wake of his coming is to savor Jesus and walk as he walked.”

When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 10:12)

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 209.

Strachan: Pride vs. Humility

“Unfortunately…lack of pretense is in short supply today. Our sinful hearts struggle to embrace humility. Most people need no coaching on ‘Ways to Maximize Your Pride.’ Narcissism comes naturally to us….

…When our thoughts run to ourselves and our self-sufficiency, we need to dwell afresh on Christ… We remember the order of the Kingdom of Heaven: It is the lowly who inherit the earth. No one has ever ridden into the throne room of God on the wave of pride that surges in every human heart. Only the humble and the weak will see the Lord. Let us root out our pride with intensity…”

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands, 195.

Edwards and Strachan: Love Our Enemies

“Christ denied himself to help us, though we are not able to recompense him; so we should be willing to lay out ourselves to help our neighbor freely, expecting nothing again. Christ loved us, and was kind to us and was willing to relieve us, though we were very hateful persons, of an evil disposition, not deserving any good, but deserving only to be hated, and treated with indignation; so we should be willing to be kind to those that are an ill sort of person, of a hateful disposition, and that are very undeserving. Christ loved us, and laid himself out to relieve us, though we were his enemies, hated him, had an ill spirit towards him, had treated him ill; so, as we would love Christ as he hath loved us, should {we love those who are our enemies, hate us, have an ill spirit toward us, and have treated us ill}.”

-Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733.

“It isn’t hard to say that we’re Christians. If we keep the definition vague, the shoe seems to fit. We go to church, do what we’re supposed to do at work, and write a check once in a while to a worthy cause. With this low threshold, the faith doesn’t seem all that challenging; it fits comfortably into a typical American lifestyle, and we experience little discomfort.

But when we dig into the priorities of true Christianity, that laxness seems woefully deficient. The standard of Christ is not simply to love people who love us back, or to love humanity in a general sense. The standard of Christ is to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). Such teachings present us with a major challenge. It’s no easy thing to love someone who acts hatefully toward us. Our every instinct runs away from love in such situations.

Christianity brings about a quiet revolution in the human heart. One of its chief effects is to awaken a full range of compassion and kindness to the people we encounter. Faith grabs hold of the truly repentant, and upends us, making friends of those who once were enemies. “Christ loved us” when we “hated him.”

Now, God gives us the strength, the otherworldly ability, to emulate our Savior and love those who despise us. Few practices are more challenging—or more revealing of the authenticity of our faith.”

‘If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.’ (Romans 5:10)

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands, Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 167.

Edwards and Strachan: Examine Yourself

“Examine whether or no you are new born.

1. Whether or no you are, ‘as little children,’ humble (Matthew 18:3-4).

2. Whether or no ‘as new born babes,you desire the sincere milk of the word,’ whether [you are] governed by spiritual appetites (1 Peter 2:2).

3. Whether you are a ‘follower of God, as a dear child’ (Ephesians 5:1), and ‘walk as a child of the light’ and of the day (Ephesians 5:8), [and] follow God: [a] child with a filial disposition, [with] love, reverence, [and] dependence as a little child on a father, imitating, obeying in everything.”

-Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733. As recorded and commented on by Owen Strachan.

“The seriousness of Christianity is unlike anything else we’ve experienced. It’s true, Christians can sometimes earn the reputation of being overly uptight. We want to guard against that, especially because overflowing joy is a major gift of God to his blood-bought people. But we also stand apart from the world in fundamental ways. Life is not a joke. It is not a game. We are sinners. Eternal matters are at stake.

So it is that true religion marks us as different. Our faith is not a mere interest in heaven, but rather a matter of heaven and hell. Above all else, we are called to examine whether we are in Christ (2 Corinthians 13:5).

‘Test yourself,’ the apostle Paul tells us. So it was that Jonathan Edwards summoned his hearers in Massachusetts to examine their hearts. Were they humble? Did they desire to know God’s Word? Were they ‘governed by spiritual appetites’? Did they seek, at even a basic level, to follow their holy Father?

These were not trick questions. Edwards did not wish to bring his people down, but to lift them up. When we revisit such matters as these, we who are born again will remind ourselves of our first priorities.

Our present walk with Christ is not about having a position, or being listened to by others, or making ourselves great. It is about the simple things: humility, spiritual hunger for God, obeying the Father.

In a world prone to silliness, the Christian faith is serious, and it yields serious change, and serious joy.

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ JOHN 3:7

-Owen, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 135.

Strachan: Everlasting Security

“By looking to Christ, we find our lasting identity and everlasting security. We are no longer insecure, for we enjoy ‘perfect safety in Christ.’ Christ is our life (Colossians 3:4). The ‘evils’ and ‘misery’ we so long faced have met their match in our Savior. He has disarmed unrighteousness and made a mockery of pride.

These theological truths mean everything to us. We cannot be happy by looking to ourselves. We must look to Christ. We may struggle to feel settled and confident at time, but God is our father and Christ our ‘strong rock,’ the giver of ‘undisturbed tranquility’ in a place where nothing is stable.”

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 125.

Edwards: Quiet and Sure Rest and Peace

“The Saints receive by Christ the most quiet and sure rest and peace. By his redemption they obtain or will obtain the most perfect rest and sweet repose of mind.

They may lay themselves down and sleep and awake, the Lord sustaining of them. They may dwell quietly and without fear of evil. They may set their hearts at rest, and may enjoy undisturbed quietness without having anything to fear.

And that with good reason, for by Jesus Christ they enjoy the most perfect safety. They are thoroughly secured from all evil. He that is in Christ, he has the almighty God to be his defense. He is secured from all those evils and that misery he was exposed to while in a natural condition….

From the top of the highest mountain of God he may behold the dreadful work that storms make amongst miserable mankind below and himself be out of their reach, enjoying the most undisturbed tranquility in Jesus Christ, his strong rock.”

-Jonathan Edwards, in a sermon from 1730 as quoted by Owen Strachan in Always in God’s Hands, 125.