Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Review: "The Art of Manfishing" by Thomas Boston

This is an impressive little volume considering the fact that Thomas Boston wrote it when he was only 22 years old. Also, considering the fact the entire book is written to himself, addressed to his own "soul", Boston's "The Art of Manfishing" is a fascinating window into the mind and inner machinations of a young Puritan.

Since "The Art of Manfishing" is a Puritan book, it is both deeply helpful and deeply flawed. The Puritans are deeply helpful in that their sobriety about life is contagious. They took life seriously and they took God seriously. They kept the reality of death and judgment to come in view in all that they wrote and did. We all can have more of this. On the other hand, the Puritans were deeply flawed in that they understood the gospel in a kind of schizophrenic way: on the one hand they believed in the gift of righteousness that is by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, but on the other hand they also believed that God would be angry with them and punish them if they sinned or disobeyed Him. Thus their joy in the gospel was practically nullified, and many Puritans lived discouraged lives, hoping in the grace of God yet lamenting the feeling that God was constantly displeased with them (see the case of John Bunyan in this regard).

The most valuable issue Boston raises in the book concerns Jesus' saying: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Boston asks the question, "How does Christ make men fishers of men?" Is it that He only makes them fishers by office, regardless of their success, or does He also make them successful fishermen? In other words, according to this saying, when a man follows Christ, does Christ promise success at fishing, or only that the person will become a fisher? This is an excellent question, worth asking. Boston answers affirmatively, that Christ will make a man both a fisher by office and also successful, provided that the man follows Christ and imitates Christ's example. Boston doesn't set out to prove his point in the book, but only proceeds to lay out the example of Christ for us to follow. Therefore the question remains an excellent question to explore with others.

Boston challenges preachers of the gospel to study the life of Christ, to examine why they are preaching (for what end and for whose glory?), and to see their need for following Christ's example in manfishing.

The example of Christ is laid out by Boston in eight points (the following is in my own words):

1. Christ preached because He was sent.
2. Christ sought to glorify God.
3. Christ had the good of souls in view.
4. Christ was emotionally affected by men's state.
5. Christ was much in prayer.
6. Christ shunned man's praise and material security.
7. Christ sought for souls in private.
8. Christ sought for souls in public.

These points are all very true and good. I especially thought his first point was profound, though I feel like he himself did not grasp the profundity of it. Boston made much of being ordained by the Church to preach, but didn't talk as much about the sense of being called by God to preach. According to the Scriptures the Church is commanded by Christ to preach the gospel into all the world. Stress does not need to be laid upon personal unique callings, but upon the universal call that we, the Body, have already received. Since Christ preached with the knowledge that He was sent, and with the awareness that He was not preaching of His own accord, so the Church must also preach with the crucial awareness that we are not preaching of our own accord and initiative, but that we, like Christ, are sent as well. Good preaching is preaching with this sense, or awareness, of calling.

Another good point Boston made was the need to care about souls and to be emotionally affected by their case. He highlights how Jesus had compassion for souls and wept over their case, and how Jesus was grieved for souls because of the hardness of their hearts. Christ was not careless and emotionally removed. He knew the value of souls. How can a fisherman be successful if he doesn't see the value of fish? He will not make a very good effort, and use all his skill in order to catch fish if he doesn't see the value of them. Boston exhorts us to have the mind of Christ in this regard.

Probably the main point Boston makes in the book is the need for prayer. One will not be successful in manfishing if one is not praying. Christ prayed. Prayer is so important to Boston, that little else is. We need to beseech God to use our preaching, to break hard hearts, to drive the fish into the net, to keep the devil away, to keep us healthy and capable, to give us clarity and power in preaching, etc. This can only be good advice. While we are prone to wonder what good prayer can do, and we wonder why God even wants us to pray since He already knows everything before we ask, nevertheless we have the example of Jesus Christ before us. If the Son of God prayed, it doesn't really matter what our doubts may be. We, too, need to pray.

"The Art of Manfishing" is a good book. I wouldn't say that it is a great book. It contains much of what you will find in any book on evangelism. Boston's Puritanism gets in the way too much of the time, and as I said, this has a good side and a bad side. Nevertheless, I appreciate our brother's passion for souls and his desire to follow Christ's example. His sobriety about life is so important for our age to understand. I pray that we may all have the same passion for souls in our hearts, and the same desire to follow the One who makes us fishers of men.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Socrates on the Existence and Goodness of the Divine

I came across this remarkable passage in Xenophon's Memorabilia, Book IV, Chapter 3, in which Xenophon records a dialogue he heard between Socrates and a young man named Euthydemus regarding the existence and goodness of the gods. It immediately made me think of Paul's saying in Acts 14:15-17,

"We preach unto you that you should turn from these vanities unto the living God, who made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He left not Himself without a witness, in that He did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness."


“Tell me,” said he, “Euthydemus, has it ever occurred to you to consider how carefully the gods have provided for men everything that they require?”    

“It has indeed never occurred to me,” replied he.

“You know at least,” proceeded Socrates, “that we stand in need, first of all, of light, with which the gods supply us.”

“Yes, by Jupiter,” answered Euthydemus, “for if we had no light, we should be, as to the use of our eyes, like the blind.”

“But, as we require rest, they afford us night, the most suitable season for repose.”

“That is assuredly,” said Euthydemus, “a subject for thankfulness.”

“Then because the sun, being luminous, shows us the hours of the day, and everything else, while the night, being dark, prevents us from making such distinctions in it, have they not caused the stars to shine in the night, which show us the night-watches, and under the direction of which we perform many things that we require?”

“So it is,” said he.

“The moon, too, makes plain to us not only the divisions of the night, but also of the month.”

“Assuredly,” said he.

“But that, since we require food, they should raise it for us from the earth, and appoint suitable seasons for the purpose, which prepare for us, in abundance and every variety, not only things which we need, but also things from which we derive pleasure, (what do you think of such gifts?)”

“They certainly indicate love for man.”

“And that they should supply us with water, an element of such value to us, that it causes to spring up, and unites with the earth and the seasons in bringing to maturity, everything useful for us, and assists also to nourish ourselves, and, being mixed with all our food, renders it easier of digestion, more serviceable, and more pleasant; and that, as we require water in great quantities, they should supply us with it in such profusion, (what do you think of such a gift?)”

“That also,” said he, “shows thought for us.”

“That they should also give us fire, a protection against cold and darkness, an auxiliary in every art and in everything that men prepare for their use, (for, in a word, men produce nothing of any consequence among the various things necessary to life, without the aid of fire,) (what do you think of such a gift?)”

“That, likewise,” said he, “excels in philanthropy.”

“That they should diffuse the air also around us everywhere in such abundance, as not only to preserve and support life, but to enable us to cross the seas by means of it, and to get provisions by sailing hither and thither among foreign lands, is not this a boon inexpressibly valuable?”

“It is indeed inexpressibly so,” replied he.

“That the sun, too, when it turns towards us in the winter, should approach to mature some things, and to dry up others whose season (for ripening) has passed away; and that, having effected these objects, he should not come nearer to us, but turn back, as if taking care lest he should hurt us by giving us more heat than is necessary; and that when again, in his departure, he arrives at the point at which it becomes evident that, if he were to go beyond it, we should be frozen by the cold, he should again turn towards us, and approach us, and revolve in that precise part of the heaven in which he may be of most advantage to us, what do you think of things so regulated?”

“By Jupiter,” replied Euthydemus, “they appear to be appointed solely for the sake of man.”

“Again, that the sun, because it is certain that we could not endure such heat or cold if it should come upon us suddenly, should approach us so gradually, and retire from us so gradually, that we are brought imperceptibly to the greatest extremes of both, (what do you think of that appointment?)”    

“I am reflecting, indeed,” said Euthydemus, “whether the gods can have any other business than to take care of man; only this thought embarrasses me, that other animals partake in these benefits.”

“But is not this also evident,” said Socrates, “that these animals are produced and nourished for the sake of man? For what other animal derives so many benefits from goats, sheep, horses, oxen, asses, and other such creatures, as man? To me it appears that he gains more advantages from them than from the fruits of the earth; at least he is fed and enriched not less from the one than from the other; and a great portion of mankind do not use the productions of the earth for food, but live by herds of cattle, supported by their milk, and cheese, and flesh; and all men tame and train the useful sort of animals, and use them as help for war and other purposes.”

“I agree with what you say on that point,” said Euthydemus, “for I see some animals much stronger than we, rendered so subservient to men that they use them for whatever they please.”

“But that, since there are numberless beautiful and useful objects in the world, greatly differing from one another, the gods should have bestowed on men senses adapted to each of them, by means of which we enjoy every advantage from them; that they should have implanted understanding in us, by means of which we reason about what we perceive by the senses, and, assisted by the memory, learn how far everything is beneficial, and contrive many plans, by which we enjoy good and avoid evil; and that they should have given us the faculty of speech, by means of which by information we impart to one another, whatever is good, and participate in it, enact laws, and enjoy constitutional government, what think you of such blessings?”

“The gods certainly appear, Socrates, to exercise the greatest care for man in every way.”

“And that, since we are unable to foresee what is for our advantage with regard to the future, they should assist us in that respect, communicating what will happen to those who inquire of them by divination, and instructing them how their actions may be most for their benefit, (what thoughts does that produce in you?)”

“The gods seem to show you, Socrates,” rejoined he, “more favor than other men, since they indicate to you, without being asked, what you ought to do, and what not to do.”

“And that I speak the truth, you yourself also well know, if you do not expect to see the bodily forms of the gods, but will be content, as you behold their works, to worship and honor them. Reflect, too, that the gods themselves give us this intimation; for the other deities that give us blessings, do not bestow any of them by coming manifestly before our sight; and he that orders and holds together the whole universe, in which are all things beautiful and good, and who preserves it, for us who enjoy it, always unimpaired, undisordered, and undecaying, obeying his will swifter than thought and without irregularity, is himself manifested (only) in the performance of his mighty works, but is invisible to us while he regulates them. Consider also that the sun, which appears manifest to all, does not allow men to contemplate him too curiously, but, if any one tries to gaze on him steadfastly, deprives him of his sight. The instruments of the deities you will likewise find imperceptible; for the thunderbolt, for instance, though it is plain that it is sent from above, and works its will with everything with which it comes in contact, is yet never seen either approaching, or striking, or retreating; the winds, too, are themselves invisible, though their effects are evident to us, and we perceive their course. The soul of man, moreover, which partakes of the divine nature if anything else in man does, rules, it is evident, within us, but is itself unseen. Meditating on these facts, therefore, it behoves you not to despise the unseen gods, but, estimating their power from what is done by them, to reverence what is divine.”

Monday, September 02, 2013

A New Heart I Will Give Them

Hey D----, thanks so much for the encouragement you've been to Brad and I. I thank God for the fellowship that we share in the knowledge of Christ, even though we've never met. My prayer is that our knowledge might become crystal clear in the great mystery of the gospel so that we may abound in love (Philippians 1:9-11). None of what we believe is merely mental: it is truth that is meant to fill our minds, then affect our words and actions. Unfortunately there are many obstacles each step of the way. May God enable us to clear them all!

Your question is so important, because this matter of the new heart is at the forefront of the New Covenant (Jer. 31:33). Obviously if we want to understand the New Covenant (and therefore Christianity) we must know what this means. It should be easy for us to see that misunderstanding this point will have tragic consequences. Since the Biblical language is not completely unambiguous, and since we all often approach the Bible with lots of preconceived ideas and/or lack of needed information, it is no wonder that there are different views, or absence of views, in the Church. I want to offer some observations that I hope will be helpful, and try steering the interpretive ship in what I believe is the right direction.

Though it may often be taken for granted, it is helpful to notice that the passages in Ezekiel (11:18-20, 36:25-28) and the Jeremiah/Hebrews passages are all speaking about the same thing, even though they use different wording. In fact, the different wording enables us to see multiple aspects of the same phenomenon. All of them are referring to the salvation of Israel, the phenomenon of conversion from darkness to light, of being delivered out from under the curse of the law into God's blessing. The knowledge of God is central to each of them; Israel goes from not knowing God to knowing Him. The forgiveness of sins is explicit in the Jeremiah/Hebrews passages and is the linchpin upon when all the other blessings depend. The forgiveness of sins is also in the Ezekiel passages, though implicitly and not explicitly. If it were not, then nothing that Ezekiel says would happen.

In Jeremiah/Hebrews, the wording is that God will "put His laws in their hearts, and write them in their minds." The fact that Heb. 8:10 and 10:16 reverse the order of "heart" and "mind" shows that they are synonymous. In the Ezekiel passages, the wording is different: "A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away your stony heart, and give you a heart of flesh." But though the wording is different, are they speaking about two different things? Or should we understand them to be speaking about one thing from different perspectives?

It has been my experience (maybe you have found otherwise?) that most commentators interpret the Ezekiel passages without any mention of the law. They tend to interpret the "heart of stone" being turned into a "heart of flesh" as a general transformation of the nature of man from being insensible to spiritual things (in general) to being sensitive to and conscious of spiritual things (in general). They draw much attention to the differences between "stone" and "flesh", as to how one is insensible to talk and touch while the other is sensible. Matthew Henry is typical - notice the key word "insensible" and the words that are related to it, as well as how generally he speaks:

"That, instead of a heart of stone, insensible and inflexible, unapt to receive any divine impressions and to return any devout affections, God would give a heart of flesh, a soft and tender heart, that has spiritual senses exercised, conscious to itself of spiritual pains and pleasures, and complying in every thing with the will of God." (Commentary on the Whole Bible, Ezekiel 36:26)

Actually, there are two distinct things that Henry points out. One is insensibility, and the other is inflexibility. The first has to do with the fact that a stone doesn't sense anything. The second has to do with the fact that a stone is difficult (if not impossible) to bend. A thing may be insensible and flexible, like clay. Most of what Henry says has to do with sensibility. Only the last phrase about "complying" has to do with flexibility, and that regarding generalities.

I personally believe that the emphasis upon "sense and sensibility" (to borrow a phrase from Jane Austen!) that pervades most interpretations is incorrect, and that the real point of Ezekiel's prophecy has to do with flexibility: a heart that listens, or complies in the words of Henry, versus a heart that is stubborn and rebellious. We seem to mean this when we speak of someone being "hard-hearted." We mean they are stubborn, and that they rebelliously won't listen, rather than that they can't listen. In fact, it would seem that, Scripturally, insensibility is the fruit of a stony rebellious heart (Ezekiel 12:2), and not to be equated with it. People cannot hear because they will not hear; so really, the emphatic problem is not insensibility but stubbornness. Now if this is true, we need to ask about what it is they will not/cannot hear. We need to ask whether Ezekiel is speaking in generalities or if he has something specific in mind. In Jeremiah/Hebrews the issue is specifically about God's law being written on their hearts and minds. But in Ezekiel, is it just that Israel will one day comply "in every thing with the will of God" generally? That is, for example: Israel will stop being stubborn and will believe in six-days creation, etc.

The context of Ezekiel 11:18-21 and 36:25-29 should provide us with sufficient clues that Ezekiel is not speaking generally but is speaking about the same specific thing that Jeremiah is talking about: God's law. In both passages, the converting, saving work of God immediately follows a time of judgment upon Israel in which they are scattered and afflicted throughout the nations. This should at once make us think about the law and the curses that were promised by God if Israel failed to obey the law. The final and most prominent curse is that Israel would be kicked out of their land and scattered among the nations (Lev. 26:33-39). But hear what God says next:

"If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; and that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land... and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity: because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes." (Lev. 26:40-43)

See how the heart is spoken of! The proud heart is humbled and thus it acknowledges that it has sinned and has been punished by God because of its sin. The humble heart accepts the truth of the law: 1) that it is guilty according to the law, and 2) that it has been punished according to the law. It accepts the truth that it has despised God's judgments and abhorred God's statutes. On the opposite hand, a proud heart refuses to acknowledge the truth that it is sinful, and that God has punished it on account of its sins. It refuses to accept the truth that it has despised God's judgments and abhorred God's statutes.

The fact that Ezekiel, in both passages, mentions Israel as scattered throughout the nations immediately prior to their salvation shows us that the central issue of the law is in view. Furthermore, both passages in Ezekiel tell us that the direct result of Israel receiving a new heart is complicity with the law:

"And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: that they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God." (11:19-20) "And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." (36:27)

This must not be missed: the new heart has everything do with the law. Once Israel receives the new heart, they will walk in the law of God. It is only when the law of God is kept that Israel can dwell securely in the land (11:17, 36:28) thus explaining the central place that this heart conversion has in relation to the land. I believe we can now safely say that when Ezekiel prophesies about God removing Israel's stubborn heart of stone and giving them a complicit heart of flesh, he is not thinking in generalities (i.e. that Israel will one day comply with God in a general way, as Matthew Henry said), but he is thinking in specific: one day Israel will humbly acknowledge what she has for so long been stubborn to acknowledge: God's law. Consider, as conclusive proof of this interpretation, the words of the prophet Zechariah who came some years after this prophecy of Ezekiel:

"But they refused to hearken, and pulled away their shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts has sent in His spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts." (Zech. 7:11-12)

Their heart is stone because they stubbornly refuse to hear the law of the Lord. One day they will have a heart of flesh, and they will humbly hear the law of the Lord.

So this brings us back to Jeremiah/Hebrews and the original observation that Jeremiah/Hebrews and Ezekiel are all talking about the same thing from different perspectives. All have to do with the heart, and all have to do with law. In one it is emphasized that Israel will have the law written in their heart. In the other the emphasis is that God will give them a new compliant heart that walks in the law. The one emphasizes God's saving action in changing a rebellious heart to acknowledge the law; the other emphasizes the law, the thing that is written in the heart by God. Put even more simply, Jeremiah says that the law will be written on Israel's heart by God. Ezekiel says that the law will be written on Israel's heart by God. Jeremiah is looking at the conversion of Israel from the perspective of what Israel will one day come to understand. Ezekiel is looking at that same conversion from the perspective of why Israel will one day come to understand it. Both Jeremiah/Hebrews and Ezekiel finish their "heart" prophecies by saying: "And I will be their God, and they will be my people."

In light of all this, how are we Christians, informed as we are by the New Testament, supposed to understand this salvation phenomenon?

First of all, we must acknowledge that the changing of a man's heart from proud (and therefore insensible) to humble (and therefore attentive) is the sovereign work of God. This, I believe, is the lesson we learn from Ezekiel. I am not now making any statement as to how God does this, but only that it is His work. God knows the ways to humble man and to get man's attention. But the truth is that He does this, because in His love and mercy God does not allow the entire world to plunge headlong into perdition through pride and folly. By doing this He is good, not obligated; treating us in a way that we do not deserve.

More important is Jeremiah's emphasis upon what is written in the heart. What does it mean that God's law is written in the heart? What does it mean that we shall walk in the law of God and do His commandments?

Let's consider Jeremiah 31:33-34, the New Covenant. There are four main elements to the New Covenant. I'll list them in the order that they appear in the passage, and apply them to the New Covenant member:

1) a man in the New Covenant has the law written in his heart
2) a man in the New Covenant is one of God's people
3) a man in the New Covenant knows the Lord
4) a man in the New Covenant has all of his sins forgiven

Every one of these things is true for any believer in Jesus. A Christian is a New Covenant man. A Christian is not trying to get his sins forgiven, is not trying to know the Lord, is not trying to become one of God's people, and is not trying to have the law written in his heart. These are all things that are already true for him.

Every one of these things is true for any believer in Jesus because of the blood of Christ. The New Covenant is in the blood of Christ: "This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, which is shed for you." (Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25) It came became a reality because of Jesus' death, and without that death there would be no New Covenant. We can therefore say that a Christian has his sins forgiven because of the blood of Christ, knows the Lord because of the blood of Christ, is one of God's people because of the blood of Christ, and has the law written in his heart because of the blood of Christ.
While all these things happen the very moment a person becomes a Christian, we can probably outline a cause and effect relationship between each of the elements. This is the logical order; it has nothing to do with time. First, God writes His law in our hearts. Then we receive the forgiveness of our sins. Then we know the Lord and become one of God's people. That the first and the last element are together in Jer. 31:33 shows that being God's people is the end result, and this happens, fundamentally, when the law is written in our hearts. This "having the law written in the heart" is obviously a huge deal that must be unpacked; it is shorthand for much; it contains everything that takes you from being without God to being God's own. God's people are the people who have the law written in their hearts. 31:34 is probably giving us more insights into the inner workings of verse 33. When God takes out my stony heart and gives me a heart of flesh, I acknowledge the law for what it is, moral perfection with wrath against disobedience; I see my guilt and I realize I am under condemnation; I then turn to Christ in order to be justified through faith, and am forgiven of all my sins through faith in Christ; having been forgiven, I have now come to know God for the kind of God that He is (Ex. 34:6-7, John 1:18), a God of perfect righteousness and grace; I am now one of God's people.

As you can see, I am interpreting "the law written in the heart" as acknowledging the law for what it is (or, understanding the law). Remember in Hebrews 8:10 and 10:16, how "mind" and "heart" were interchangeable? So also Jeremiah 31:33, the place where the law is written is in the "inward parts" and the "heart"; both which are interchangeable. The meaning of the Hebrew word "qereb" (translated "inward parts") is the thoughts of man. Beautifully, the Septuagint translates it as "dianoia", which explicitly means the mind (the author of Hebrews follows the Septuagint, using the word "dianoia"). "Heart" of course can mean many different things, from thoughts, to will, to emotions, etc. The context must determine which of these is being pointed to. What does "heart" mean here? Since it is paralleled and interchangeable with the mind, we are to understand "heart" as synonymous with the mind. Therefore (and not surprisingly when seen of the light of the New Testament!), the whole point of the New Covenant is that the law will be written in our minds.

Since the mind is in view, we are not to think that Jeremiah is talking about the law becoming an "inner principle" as opposed to an external commandment. Not only is that neglecting the key point of the mind in the passage, it does nothing to explain how the law becomes an "inner principle". Jeremiah would then be leaving us with an inexplicable statement. Does God just magically do it? Do I just suddenly and inexplicable want to obey the law from the heart once I become a Christian? Is the New Covenant really just about a mystical constitutional make-over? No! There is no bypassing of the moral universe here. The New Covenant is all about God humbling our hardened hearts so that we have ears to hear the law of His lips. The law of God tells us loudly and clearly that which our consciences whisper day in and day out: moral perfection, moral perfection, moral perfection (aka. righteousness), which mankind absolutely hates hearing about due to pride. They are stubborn and not complicit in their hearts toward this truth about righteousness, because they know that it will kill them, stamping out their pride. But it is hearing the truth about righteousness that not only kills us, but makes us alive. Through understanding righteousness we come to know ourselves to be sinners, but more than that, we come to know God as our Savior. By seeing righteousness we see our own unrighteousness, and we see His righteousness, and we see the gift of righteousness that His love wondrously provided for us through Christ. This is how crucial it is to understand righteousness, and this is what it is to have the law written on our hearts/minds.

"Hearken unto me, you that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law." (Is. 51:7)

There it is (the parallel)! Those who know righteousness are the people of God. To know righteousness is to have the law in your heart. To have the law in your heart is to know righteousness.

Now the effect of this knowledge, as I have said, is eternal salvation. However, included in this new mind is also is the key to a transformed life right now (Rom. 12:2). Every Christian has the law written in his/her mind, understands righteousness, and has consequently been justified through faith in Christ. No matter what kind of day they are having, good or bad, this is objectively true for them as members of the New Covenant. Yet every Christian has the daily task of remembering and reckoning these great objective truths to be so (Rom. 6:11, Eph. 2:11-13, Col. 3:1-3, Titus 3:8, Philemon 1:6, 2 Pet. 1:12, etc.). Forgetting them does not mean that you don't believe them, it only means that you cease to be affected by what you believe. Remembering and reckoning the truth about the law, righteousness and our identity in Jesus Christ is, according to the New Testament, what empowers and motivates our lives to serve God. The man who has learned to fill his mind with the things of the Spirit on a daily basis is the man who is keeping in step the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). The fruit of the Spirit are the fruits that blossoms when we remember the amazing gospel truths that we as Christians believe. This is the way that the New Covenant truth about the law written in our minds is practical. God's law is already in our minds if we are Christians. The question is: are we daily bringing it to remembrance?

Due to the fact that we live in a fallen world, have a fierce and powerful adversary, and are full of weaknesses, it is not likely that we will perpetually set our minds on things above so as to walk in unbroken perfection of love, joy and peace (though I think that some have gotten much farther than others settle for; for example, Paul).This shouldn't discourage us, because we are not saved through remembering but through faith. If anything, knowing these obstacles should stir us up to more diligence. One day, when we are face to face with Christ, forever beholding Him with our eyes, we shall be like Him, never again to sin, for everything will then be based upon sight, not faith. Then our lives will be practically what they are now objectively: blameless. Not that we will, at that future time, possess our own righteousness by which we can stand, but our lives will remain transformed only because we will ever see that there is no other righteousness except the one righteousness from God that is freely given through Jesus Christ. Our standing will be forever in grace, and our lives will be forever transformed by this truth. It will be true forever what is true today: the Lamb of God, Who is the revelation of God's law and God's love in the gospel, is He Who empowers us and inspires us to love (1 John 4:19).

This then is the meaning of Ezekiel's prophecy: "And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." (36:27) First, that through faith in Christ I am counted as righteous before God, as one who blamelessly walks before God without turning to the right hand or to the left, a man in whom the righteousness of the law is fulfilled. I have done righteousness when I put my faith in Christ. Through faith I join the ranks of Abel, Noah Abraham and Job. Through faith apart from my works, I am counted as having done all that is required. Secondly, the fruit of love (which is the essence of the law) is practically produced in my life at the present time through remembering and reckoning the truths that I believe. This is not now perfect, but one day it will be. In glory I will love God perfectly when I see His love for me perfectly, without weakness and distraction. Ezekiel is indeed referring to that future time when Christ returns and Israel will have this glorious vision. For us Christians today, we walk by faith and not by sight. By faith we know what will yet be seen. As for right now, we see through a glass dimly, and await the fullness of the glorious vision ourselves.

This is how I understand the "heart" prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. I'd love your feedback and any criticisms you might have. We are straining to see together, and if we can help each other clear away obstacles and misconceptions so that we can see the Lamb more fully, we will have done a great service.

In His amazing grace,