Apostasy, Our High Priest, & Our Participation

The book of Hebrews was of course written to Christians, but also very much with the doubting Jew in mind. With this observation as part of his basis, John Owen had what seems to be a unique perspective on one particular element of the following warning:

He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith He was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
Hebrews 10:28-29

“The last aggravation of this sin with respect unto the blood of Christ is that it is that ‘wherewith he was sanctified.’ This is not a real internal sanctification, but a separation and dedication unto God, in which sense the word is often used. Some have thought that this refers unto the person guilty of the sin here insisted on; but the design of the Apostle in the context leads plainly to another application of these words. It is Christ Himself who is spoken of, who was sanctified and dedicated to God to be an eternal High Priest by the blood of the covenant which He offered unto God. That precious blood of Christ whereby He was sanctified and dedicated unto God they esteemed an “unholy thing,” that is, such as would have no effect as to consecrate Him unto God and to His office.”
John Owen, from his commentary on the book of Hebrews

An earlier section of Hebrews directly confirms this:

For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this He did once, when He offered up Himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.
Hebrews 7:26-28

This actually renders the warning much more grave than it sounds on the surface, particularly against the religious deception of antichrists. The writer of Hebrews is saying that this apostasy from Christ is of such a nature that it denies not only the full legitimacy of Jesus’ high-priestly office, but also its absolute uniqueness.

For Christ’s own blood consecrated Him unto an office that can neither be substituted, nor shared with, nor acted within, by any other man. And to do so is to “do despite unto the Spirit of Grace.” For the Holy Spirit is the only rightful person by whose power we can be made partakers in the very same Indestructible Life according to which our High Priest made His intercession.

Therefore it is by the Spirit’s groaning within us that we are continually made both witness and subject to the transaction of Christ’s death and resurrection within ourselves, as we also groan with Him.

By this we eat of His bread, and by this we drink of His cup; for in this we discover and become a functioning member of His living body, which is thereby being perfected.

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
1 Corinthians 10:16 (ESV)

Will & Desire, Nature & Grace

Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Psalm 37:4

The heart which delights in the Lord will eat the fruit of Godly desires; but the heart which delights in itself will eat the fruit of sinful desires.

The sinful will desires not against its own nature, nor do the sinful desires will against their own nature.
Likewise, the sanctified will desires not against its own nature, nor do the sanctified desires will against their own nature.

But the will of each desires against the nature of the other, and the desire of each wills against the nature of the other; for two contrary natures cannot be at peace in one man.

Therefore God in Christ became man so that body soul and spirit might escape the sinful nature through the likeness of His death and resurrection by faith; and the God-man first became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God – not in ourselves – but in Him.

As the scriptures say,

For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
Galatians 5:17

If you have found a hunger and thirst for righteousness, it is His mercy alone to which you owe thanks, and His grace alone by which you must walk; only then will you find HIS righteousness bestowed upon you as a garment, and HIS holiness poured upon you as pure water.

There is no righteousness you can apprehend, no mercy you can earn, and no state of grace you can achieve. But that which Christ has apprehended, earned, and achieved, He now gives; and He gives it beginning in the seed of faith, which He alone also plants, waters and gives growth to: so that the man of faith might, by the application of grace, apprehend – and not apprehend that which God has already apprehended for him, but rather apprehend that which God has apprehended him for.

For that which the Spirit of God concieves is “born, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” And if such a thing born should become full-grown, it must not forsake, but rather mature in, the very same elements of the very same Christ. For His gospel is unto His own, and they hang upon it, and He is their vindicator unto life.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” We are not our own workmanship, nor can we ever be forged in the foundry of our own will unto these good works. For only His will is that which follows after His desire, and so proceeds from His divine nature. And this perfect cascade of nature down unto holy deeds cannot be ascended from deeds unto nature by any man, any more than a worm can ascend the watery steps, the grace and vigor for which is given only to the river trout.

It is our tendency, according to the flesh, to venerate the “free will” of man, which truly is free only within the realm of its given desires; so that we prove ourselves unfruitful in the actual works of God, building rather a faith unto ourselves (though we confess no such thing aloud), unto great and terrible disappointment.

For the will is free only to follow after the desires of the heart; and the desire is free only to follow after the dictates of nature.

Will is determined by desire, desire is determined by nature, and nature is determined by God.

Thou wilt say then unto me, “Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will?” Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, “Why hast Thou made me thus?”
Romans 9:19-20

God’s decree is not limited by the bounds of our desire; the bounds of our desire are rather set by God’s greater decree.

The soul which cries at the supposed “unfairness” of this arrangement has not considered the fierce wrath which he has deserved since before he was brought forth from the womb, and how merciful it is that divine justice has not yet been poured out upon him. For it is the kindness of God which leads us to repentance.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
Romans 12:1-3

What, according to this scripture, does our ability to sacrificially offer ourselves derive from?
“The mercies of God”!

And how are we freed from being conformed to this world?
Not by renewing our own minds (which men are tended towards), but rather “by the renewing OF” our minds (a work of the Word and Spirit of God); which then leads to the working out in us of the singular decreed will of God, which singular will is “good, acceptable, and perfect.”

And the command here is one toward humility before God, which can be genuinely and soberly practiced only in light of God’s graceful gifting of faith toward each one who has ever found it.

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
1 Corinthians 15:10

The Good Confession

I charge you before God, He making all things alive, and Christ Jesus, He witnessing the good confession to Pontius Pilate…
1 Timothy 6:13 (LITV)

With these words Paul exposes the folly of our trust in the understanding of the mere creeds and so-called “confessions” by which we have so often defined our faith. For what great theological oration did Christ Jesus give before Pilate? Yet it says, “He witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate.” A witness is one who has lived that of which they speak; and the life of which they speak is their confession. Christ witnessed the good confession to Pilate; Christ’s confession was the very Life of God by which He was obedient to His Father in all things.

The good confession of which He witnssed was that He was the Son of God in the flesh. Ours is likewise to be that that same Life of the Son of God is being manifested in the life of our own flesh. Just as God and man were fully present in Christ before Pilate, so also our witness to Him shall be no witness at all until the substance of our real lives is being transfigured by the substance of God’s real Life working in us through the obedience of faith.

The witness which John makes of the apostles’ confession is, “That which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you…” In God’s appointed order, there is no discrepancy, though there be a distinction, between His Word and Christ Himself. Christ is the Word of God. If then we be Christ’s, and His word dwells in us, how can we not be constrained by that Word? “Why do you call Me “Lord, Lord,” and not do the things I say?” We have taken the distinction between command and Commander as justification for the glaring discrepancy between them in our own lives. But God does not abide such hypocrisy.

The incarnation of Christ Jesus is in itself the ultimate rebuke for our rending of the Word spoken from the Word lived. For in Him the Word was born a man, true Divinity elevating true humanity in Christ to its proper place in absolute harmony with God; so that those likewise born again of His Spirit from above might become partakers in the same resurrection life TODAY.

For how does John describe those who abide not in that Life?

By this we know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ IS come in the flesh is from God. And every spirit which does not confess that Jesus Christ IS come in the flesh is not from God; this is the antichrist which you heard is coming, and now is already in the world.
1 John 4:2-3

Notice how John says that it is a spirit which either confesses or denies the good confession. For he who confesses is he in whom righteousness is seen in the flesh, and he is from God; but he who denies is he in whom righteousness is not found in the flesh, and that one is not from God. In the case of the first spirit, it witnesses truly of that which it has seen and heard: which is the Word of Life; and in them the Life is manifest. But in the case of the second spirit, they bear witness of no such Life in the flesh; and their words are empty, because the Life, which is the good confession, is not manifest in them. Such is the spirit of antichrist: it is contrary to Christ’s Life working in us, though we speak His Name.

And again, regarding this second spirit which confesses not: it could be a demon, or it could be the spirit of a man, and there would be no difference. For the true confession that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is a life being evidently lived in the flesh “by the faith OF the Son of God.” (Gal 2:20). Does the faith of Jesus Christ Himself ever fail? That is the faith by which we are to be living. Religion stops at faith in Christ; but the righteousness of God is “through the faith OF Jesus Christ toward all and upon all those believing…” (Rom 3:22)

John, as he does throughout his first letter, is saying that those who have the Life of Christ ought to walk even as Christ walked: who, though being God, became a man, so that we, being men, might become “the righteousness of God in Him.”

Such is the good confession. To truly confess His name is to have His Life at work even in our life in the flesh, just as He was always about His Father in His own flesh.

If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; because this is the witness of God which He has witnessed about His Son:
The one believing in the Son of God has the witness in himself.
The one not believing God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness which God has witnessed concerning His Son.
And this is the witness: that God gave us everlasting life, and this life is in His Son.
1 John 5:9-11 (LITV)

Indeed, I tell you truly: he that believes in Me, the works which I do, that one shall do also, and greater than these he will do, because I go to My Father.
John 14:12 (LITV)

Music: To Worship, Uplift, Distract, Or Subvert

A comparison of four classical composers, with observations on how their music either helps uplift the soul to God, or draws the mind down to wallow in the things below.


1 – Johann Sebastian Bach: The Harmony Of Logos


Examples of Bach:

Brandenberg Concerto No.3:

Bach’s beautiful choral arrangement of the Lutheran hymn “By The Rivers Of Babylon” (“An Wasserfl├╝ssen Babylon”):

Toccata & Fugue:

Bach’s music describes in vivid sonic detail the reality of God’s divine order and eternal truth. There is seemingly no phrase or note in his music not written to this one end; all has distinct purpose. There is no waste; and everything is addressed in a most dignified manner. In Bach’s music, the Light is spoken of with awe and reverence; and the darkness is spoken of within the context of God’s mastery over all. There is pure joy in the Lord, with nothing trite or frivolous. There is pure fear of the Lord, with no hint of despair. There is no glorying in man’s thoughts or strength; but much rather in God’s wisdom and power.

Bach is (among other things) the great exegete of the keyboard, and his extensive repertoire lays out for us, as it were, the divinely appointed boundaries of every note’s potential use in relation to another, with every measure of his many compositions effortlessly reflecting his own remark that “harmony is close to Godliness”. There is no flirtation with musical subversion or mindless dissonance; and the occasional unusual sound is employed only to serve the well-being of the hearer as far as it reflects the realities of God’s truth within the created order of the music.

“The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”
– Johann Sebastian Bach

How well indeed did his music fulfill that saying!
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2 – George Frideric Handel: The Sound Of Majesty


Examples of Handel:

Overture, from Messiah:

Comfort Ye My People, from Messiah:

Overture, from Alexander’s Feast of the Power of Music:

A contemporary and fellow countryman of Bach (though they never met), Handel’s music is hewn from the same substance, with an ever-present consciousness of honoring God’s glory. There is always a sense of divine majesty in his compositions, by which the sensitive hearer is at times made to feel that they tread on holy ground – and this without either pretension or any sense of overbearing forcefulness on the part of the music: it simply speaks for itself when played, as truth always does when uttered.

The instrumentation alone in his famous work “Messiah” can easily take one into the very holy of holies if the soul is prepared to heed its call; and the accompaniment of prophetic scriptures borne upon its heavenly melodies carries an anointing unparalleled in most hymnody. There is often a hush of awe which falls upon even the most secular of audiences when these pieces are performed in succession. That particular work was reported to have been written by Handel in the course of approximately 30 days (in its base form, without many of the large choral parts – still an astounding feat).
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3 – Ludwig Van Beethoven: The Self-Interest Of Man


Examples of Beethoven:

Piano Concerto No.1 – Allegro Con Brio:

Cello Sonata No.3 in A Major:

Beethoven’s music still lives within the world of reality and truth, but it often does very little to consciously acknowledge such. There is still an adherence to the orderliness and natural beauty of things; but the element of divine authority is replaced with a largely unanswered search for meaning. Vast portions of his compositions are dedicated to meander through the deep woods of a lonesomely reasoning mind; and their occasional discoveries, though useful, are usually not revelatory. There is natural light, but always the bright sun is hidden behind a blanket of cloud; and the divine is so distant that it need not be directly spoken of.

In Beethoven the transcendent is lost to long rabbit trails of thought, and, at times, impulsive little adventures in melody. Not that anything is ever objectionable to the hearing – there is still a clear appreciation for beauty – yet it is limited to created beauty, and seemingly not the Creator Himself. Beethoven does eventually come to an appropriately resolved end in his compositions; but we are usually left wondering what ultimate reason there was for much of the journey. There is a distinct sense of spiritual unfulfullment despite the typical excellency of his musical form.

One always remembers the feeling of Beethoven’s music; but only a few of his pieces leave a definite impression – and even where they do, all of his music is strongly laced with the sighing melancholy of humanism’s emptiness. Even where he breaks through his troubles into a happy theme, it is always with a certain dullness of heart. Even if the light is brilliant without, it is as though the eyesight remains dim from within. Any soul not lulled to a certain numbness by much of his music is left wanting for a warmth and wholeness that was not granted; and who now shall sing to that soul of the brighter Day?
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4 – Richard Wagner: The Madness Of Devils


Examples of Wagner:

Prelude of “Tristan und Isolde” – which has been cited by some as an early inspiration to Nietzsche’s trajectory of thought.* It is a daunting and tiresome listen:

The Ride of the Valkyries – known to often evoke in men a heightened desire for war and pointless worldly conquest:

Much of Wagner’s music (particularly as heard above) is the expression of the subversive amoral philosophy of will-to-power. There is no reality or truth there except whatever the soul desires to conquer and call its own. As an excellent example of this Satanic mindset, the starting notes of “The Ride Of The Valkyries” sound perfectly like the arousal of jealousy; and the ensuing journey is one of a constant blowing about in the swirling winds of the growing lust for power, which is the only meaning in this nihilistic worldview.

Therefore, its end is wanting of any real wholesome resolve; and throughout, the key signature changes frequently, but not often to a wholly related key. Its sense of mounting triumph has no source outside of what it has accomplished in itself by sheer will: the transcendent is drowned out completely by self-glory. At last, it crashes to an end after a swift tumble into darkness, having left the listener’s heart in great alarm. And after its echoes die off in the ears, one is left with no new thing to contemplate, no melody by which the soul is given a path toward the Logos of God. The divine is utterly cut off; the soul (if it has trusted the music) is left open to the first thought or spirit that may seek to lead it astray.

It is also worth noting that this Wagner, the composer, was a great personal influence upon Nietzsche, the philosopher; and a hefty portion of Wagner’s music certainly does seem to subvert divine order, just as the philosophy of that madman, leaving in its wake the chaotic void into which he himself no doubt gazed.
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There hasn’t been a time since the fall of man when music was not a battleground for men’s souls.
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Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!

Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!

With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the LORD, for He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 98:4-9

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*For some additional interesting information on this subject matter, listen to this interview which I came across recently. He lays out the history of the subversion of music in the late classical era quite well, and particularly touches upon the relationship between Wagner and Nietzsche.
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** I do not own any of the music or audio used in this post; it is herein used for reviewing purposes only. **

Thoughts on Hypocrisy & Repentance

It is the inconsistencies which we most tolerate within ourselves that make us the most hypocritical. These may even seem to be our smallest faults; yet no matter what they are, if we tolerate them the most, they render us more grievous hypocrites than the greatest failings of which we immediately repent.

Wickedness and idolatry will take whatever shape or form that it requires to survive; and subtlety is its greatest weapon.

Repentance is the destroyer of all hypocrisy, and righteousness fills the void left by its absence. Heavy lies the flesh of he who does not repent of every known fault; but free is the man whose slave-master is Christ.

“Come and Die”

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Luke 9:57-58 (ESV)

Men look for their own sense of purpose; but God wants to take His own beyond this into walking in the lively substance of He who is the very purpose. Your hopes of success or earthly blessing will not get you through the onslaught of the Devil when he with heaven’s approval tears all your hopes and dreams into pieces. And then, poor soul, what will you do? How long will you shake your fist at God? Not even the prospect of the grave shall give you solace thereafter, though you wished it would; for you have dug it far too shallow.

“But though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.” (Lam 3:32) To be raised up most fully into the heavens, you must pass most fully through the blackness of death itself. The cross’s work is not being finished until it has begun finishing you. You must be being crucified into the Life which is deeper than a mere sense of your own purpose. You must walk through hell’s onslaught, through the terrors of death itself; holding fast your flame before the cold black stare of Satan’s nothingness. Your sense of purpose is only as good as your ability to keep it; but if you would go to deeper and higher places with God, His depths and heights will demand of you its demise: for the kingdom of God is where men and their own aspirations go to die.

And He said to all, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.
Luke 9:23-24 (ESV)

God in Christ brings us into His purpose by bringing us beyond ourselves – if only we will allow His death to be ours in this life daily; so that His very Life might reign in us, and consequently, we in His Life. God Himself must become our only means to His only ends; our only vision and our only Hope beyond hope. If you have another plan, may God shatter it beyond repair! O, let nothing be of any use to us but the keeping of the presence of God with us! It costs absolutely everything else; but there is no other way. Only then are we no longer entrapped in this world by the selfishness of seeking our own things; only then are we sufficiently broken vessels to pour forth the sweet aroma of Christ’s work for the glory of God alone.

Obedience to God as the means of finding our own sense of purpose is idolatry. His ministration will not be mocked even by what men call “ministries.” But obedience to God because He is worthy is its own reward to the humble; for it is the power of God moving within a man beyond that man’s capabilities, and it is the Spirit of God unhindered even by a man’s most seemingly pious desires. It is the legacy of those who have counted all as loss; it is the result of men reaching the end of their own rope, and finally letting go.

There is nothing more embittering than the anguish of defeat and loss without purpose. But there is nothing sweeter to the soul than the continual repentance whose heavenly joy is birthed by God’s own hand through said anguish; which finds strength beyond strength in the admittance of defeat; whose purpose is wrapped up in the mystery of Godliness at the willing loss of all else.

Let this mind be in us, which was also in Christ Jesus.

True Religion

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
James 1:26-27

The religion toward which every man’s heart is naturally drawn is characterized by a boasting in his own spirituality through the outward show of lofty words, and even lovely deeds, while inwardly there dwells secret depravity unchecked. But true religion in the sight of God is characterized by the golden harmony of authentic selflessness and personal holiness.

There is a sureity of tongue that is born not of holy confidence, but of arrogance; and yet there is also a self-deprication that is born not of humility, but of sinful pride.
The spiritual worship that is to be the very walk of every child of God is a daily offering of life to receive Life; it is the fragrance of holy conduct born of the fear of the Lord’s mercy. For he in whom the demerrited mercy of God does not invoke a reverence unto obedience has not known God.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1

To “worship in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:24) is directly equivocal to living a selfless and holy life. For to be authentically selfless only flows from the shattering recognition of the mercy of God; and to be truly holy is to be wholly true – which is to be without mixture in one’s dealings before the eyes of He who is all-knowing.

How, therefore, does the selfish man walk humbly, and the sinner live holy? By the application of the cross to every facet of his life and being, spirit soul and body. For he to whom the cross of Christ truly applies shall bear his own cross also. And it is this bearing of the cross which promises the abundant entrance into the heavenly kingdom. In the urgency of such a life in God, there is found the foretaste of eternal rest; and in the overcoming obedience of such a faith, there runs a trust which takes hold of a purely God-ward contentment.

“The truly religious man does everything as if everything depends on himself, and then leaves everything as if everything depended on God.”
– Joseph Parker