I'm done blogging ... again. Since I normally do not create content but simply repost with a brief comment, I'll sink to Facebook for that ... sigh ...
Monday, October 06, 2014
A. W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God:
Ransomed men need no longer pause in fear to enter the Holy of Holies. God wills that we should push on into His Presence and live our whole life there. This is to be known to us in conscious experience. It is more than a doctrine to be held, it is a life to be enjoyed every moment of every day.
Monday, September 29, 2014
Our competency comes from God. He begins and will complete His good work in us. Here is Richard Phillips on God's faithfulness to preserve His own.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
Philippians 1:6 develops the theme of God’s preserving grace—which ensures the perseverance of His own—in three points.
First, Paul reminds us that since God has begun our salvation, we can rely on Him to complete it: “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.” God always finishes what He starts, especially the salvation of His people.
It is in this way that God’s preserving grace fits with the other doctrines of grace. God the Father chose us in eternity past, and the Bible says that God’s purpose in election must prevail (Rom. 9:11). God the Son offered an atoning sacrifice for these same elect people. Should they fall into condemnation, then His blood would have been shed for them in vain. But He insists that not one of them shall perish and none shall be plucked from His hand (John 10:28). Likewise, the Holy Spirit brought these same elect sheep to eternal life by the irresistible working of His grace. Should eternal life be lost, the Spirit’s work would prove ineffective. Therefore, as faith is the gift of God’s grace, the Christian’s perseverance is the work of God’s continuing grace.
Second, Paul says that God, having begun His work in our lives, “will bring it” to completion. This indicates that God not only guarantees the completion of our salvation, but is actively involved in the believer’s life to bring this to pass. God works in our lives in the way a craftsman works to finish a product he has created. He smooths out the lines, sands the rough places, and puts its pieces together in proper proportion. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes:
God does not merely initiate the work and then leave it, he continues with it; he leads us on, directing and manipulating our circumstances, restraining us at one time and urging us on at another. Paul’s whole conception of the Church is that it is a place where God is working in the hearts of men and women.
God’s work is manifested in His will playing out in our lives. This is what Paul says a bit later in Philippians: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:1–213). Being a Christian is not easy. Persevering in faith requires warfare with sin, labor in prayer, plowing in God’s Word, and performing His will in the world. We are God’s workmanship, Paul says, and this means we are called to “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). God will see to it that His work for each of us is carried to completion. By His preserving grace, He will carry us to our destination in heaven. We are called to work this out, but, Paul insists, God is all the while working it in us (Phil. 2:13).
Third, we can see in Philippians 1:6 our certainty of successful “completion” if God’s saving work truly has begun in us. Far from dreading the future, as we must if we look for signs of hope within ourselves, every believer possesses a hope that is certain for the most joyful, glorious, and holy destiny through faith in Jesus.
One of the reasons I love Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress is the portrait he paints of the eternity God has secured for every believer. Speaking of the believer’s entry into heaven, he writes:
I saw in my dream the two men enter the gate. As they did, they were transfigured. They had garments that shined like gold. Harps and crowns were given them. The harps for praise and the crowns for honor. Then I heard in my dream all the bells in the city rang again for joy. It was said to them, “Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
This may be a fanciful rendering from the Bible’s promises, but still it is our future history and not fantasy. For as Paul insists, God brings us to completion. One of the meanings of the Greek word translated as “bring to completion” is “bring to perfection.” That is what God has promised to do for every sheep who hears Christ’s voice and who shows the reality of his or her faith by following after Him through life. Whatever hardships, disappointments, or failures await us in this world, a Christian can anticipate the certain fulfillment of David’s exultant words in Psalm 16:11: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Terribly flawed though we all are now, God will bring our journey to completion and us to perfection, so that arrayed in perfect holiness we will live forever in His love.
This excerpt is adapted from What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard Phillips.
J.I. Packer in Truth and Power:
Bowing to the living Lord, then, entails submitting mind and heart to the written Word. Disciples individually and churches corporately stand under the authority of Scripture because they stand under the lordship of Christ who rules by Scripture. This is not bibliolatry but Christianity in its most authentic form.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
I'll admit it, I'm a John Piper fan-boy; and while it's rare, I find I have disagreed with him. Adrian Warnock just posted on one of those. The below is Warnock's post with a lot of great links worth following.
The three sessions in Romans with John Piper yesterday were food for the soul. They were enjoyable, engaging, and illuminating. In fact they were life-changing. Nothing I am going to say in this article should in an way take away from that. And I would urge everyone reading this article to take the time to watch the entire series of five talks from this conference online. Three of them are available already:
- Scripture: The Kindling of Christian Hedonism
- Free from Judgment, Fighting Sin, Full Assurance
- Groaning Creation, Groaning Saints, Groaning Spirit
What is crucial about these talks is that Piper opens the lid on how he approaches the text. These will not only teach you doctrine, they will teach you how to learn doctrine direct from the Bible. And crucially you don’t have to agree with him on every point to benefit from listening. I have already spoken about the strong impact that the first talk had on me.
The fact that I am not sure I agree on who the man of Romans 7 is doesn’t detract from the value of these talks one iota. When it comes to considering whether Paul is talking about his past, a hypothetical person, or himself as a mature Christian there are two dangers in my view. And they centre on the wretchedness of the man, crying out for deliverance. The key phrase reads as follows
“Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God!”
The question is at its core, is has this deliverance already happened? Or is Paul still in a state of wretchedness waiting for it?
There are some who do not think Paul is speaking of his current self, like me and heroes of mine like Terry Virgo and Lloyd-Jones. Our risk that we run is that we so want to focus on the deliverance, the new identity of the believer, and the victory against sin that Jesus has achieved, that we might neglect to mention that believers still do have a battle against sin.
Fellow Patheosian Theology in the raw also recently posted an article arguing for the position that I do tend to hold, that Romans 7 cannot be describing a mature believer.
The risk for those, like Piper, who think Romans 7 is as good as it gets, is that it can lead to the sense that even mature Christians can only expect to know defeat in their battle against sin.
However, Piper did not fall into that trap this weekend. In his talk Free from Judgment, Fighting Sin, Full Assurance, just as when he spoke previously about Romans 7 he made it very clear that he believes the Christian has been given a victory against sin. So he said, for example, ““Christ took my condemnation to set me free so that I might walk by his Spirit.” and ““Our victory in Christ is not a deliverance from the battle, but an assurance that we will win.””
So whilst I do disagree with Piper, it is mainly because I want to ensure Christians do not think being defeated by sin is the best they can hope for. And Piper does not believe that. He does believe that at conversion there is both a legal chance “there is therefore now no condemnation” (Romans 8:1) AND a genuine transformation, “set you free” (Romans 8:2).
This conversation about Romans 7 is worth having, mostly because of the errors we can be at risk of falling into on both sides. The conclusions you come to on this matter need not themselves lead to either error. And as I said when I first wrote about this matter,
Romans 7 and Romans 8 seem to be setting forth two different life styles that are mutually inconsistent. The man who knows no freedom in Romans 7 has been set free from the law in Romans 8. While it is true that without the Spirit we can have the will to do good, but lack the ability to do it, with the Spirit it is no longer true that we cannot carry out good. Paul seems to almost yell at us in Romans 8—you CAN do it! I am no believer in Christians becoming perfect, but I do so hope that your view of Romans 7 doesn’t lead you to a feeling of despair against ever enjoying living a victorious Christian life. READ THE REST
I hope you will follow the links in this article and enjoy studying this. Theology is not merely of academic interest, but it can help us in our walk with Christ.
Jonathan Edwards"Christians a Chosen Generation" in Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733:
Make God the peculiar object of your praises. The doctrine of electing grace shows what great reason you have to do so. If God so values you, set so much by you, has bestowed greater mercies upon you than on all the ungodly in the world, is it too little a requital for you to make God the peculiar object of your praise and thankfulness? If God so distinguishes you with his mercies, you ought to distinguish yourself in his praises. You should make it your great care and study how to glorify that God who has been so peculiarly merciful to you.
And this, rather, because there was nothing peculiar in you differing you from any other person that moved God to deal thus peculiarly by you: you were as unworthy to be set by as thousands of others that are not regarded of God, and are cast away by him forever as worthless and filthy.
Saturday, September 27, 2014
Good post by Russell Moore:
This week my denomination, through its executive committee, voted to “disfellowship” a congregation in California that has acted to affirm same-sex sexual relationships. This sad but necessary move is hardly surprising, since this network of churches shares a Christian sexual ethic with all orthodox Christians of every denomination for 2,000 years. One of the arguments made by some, though, is that this is hypocritical since so many ministers in our tradition marry people who have been previously divorced.
The argument is that conservative Protestants already embrace a “third way” because we’ve done so on divorce. Couples divorce, sometimes remarry others, and yet are welcomed within the congregation. We don’t necessarily affirm this as good, but we receive these people with mercy and grace. Why not, the argument goes, do the same with homosexuality.
The charge of hypocrisy is valid in some respects. I’ve argued for years and repeatedly that Southern Baptists and other evangelicals are slow-motion sexual revolutionaries, embracing elements of the sexual revolution twenty or thirty years behind the rest of the culture. This is to our shame, and the divorce culture is the number-one indicator of this capitulation. The preaching on divorce has been muted and hesitating all too often in our midst. Sometimes this is due to what the Bible calls “fear of man,” ministers and leaders afraid of angering divorced people (or their relatives) in power in congregations. Sometimes it’s due to the fact that divorce simply seems all too normal in this culture; it doesn’t shock us anymore.
A recovery of a Christian ethic of marriage will mean repentance, and a strong commitment by churches to courageously say, where applicable, what John the Baptist put his head on a platter to say to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” In that sense, the charge is correct.
But divorce and remarriage is not, beyond that, applicable to the same-sex marriage debate. First of all, there are arguably some circumstances where divorce and remarriage are biblically permitted. Most evangelical Christians acknowledge that sexual immorality can dissolve a marital union, and that innocent party is then free to remarry (Matt. 5:32). The same is true, for most, for abandonment (1 Cor. 7:11-15). If the church did what we ought, our divorce rate would be astoundingly lowered, since vast numbers of divorces do not fit into these categories. Still, we acknowledge that the category of a remarried person after divorce does not, on its face, indicate sin.
The second issue, though, is what repentance looks like in these cases. Take the worst-case scenario of an unbiblically divorced and remarried couple. Suppose this couple repents of their sin and ask to be received, or welcomed back, into the church. What does repentance look like for them? They have, in this scenario, committed an adulterous act (Matt. 5:32-33). Do they repent of this adultery by doing the same sinful action again, abandoning and divorcing one another? No. In most cases, the church recognizes that they should acknowledge their past sin and resolve to be faithful from now on to one another. Why is this the case? It’s because their marriages may have been sinfully entered into, but they are, in fact, marriages.
Jesus redemptively exposed the sin of the Samaritan woman at the well by noting that the man she was living with was not her husband. “You have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband” (Jn. 4:18). It could be that her husbands all died successively, but not necessarily. Christians are forbidden to marry non-Christians. This does not mean, though, that these are not marriages, or that, after repentance, these marriages are ongoing sins. Instead, the Scripture commands a repentance that looks like fidelity to that unbelieving spouse (1 Cor. 7:12-17; 1 Pet. 3:1-2).
Even if these marriages were entered into sinfully in the first place, they are in fact marriages because they signify the Christ/church bond of the one-flesh union (Eph. 5:22-31), embedded in God’s creation design of male and female together (Mk. 10:6-9).
Same-sex relationships do not reflect that cosmic mystery, and thus by their very nature signify something other than the gospel. The question of what repentance looks like in this case is to flee immorality (1 Cor. 6:18), which means to cease such sexual activity in obedience to Christ (1 Cor. 6:11). A state, or church decree of these relationships as marital do not make them so.
We have much to repent for in the accommodation to a divorce culture in our churches. And if we do not articulate an alternative gospel vision of the definition of marriage, we will see the same wreckage we’ve seen on so many churches’ capitulation on the permanence of marriage. But our attitude should not be that so many have shirked their churchly responsibility in some things, so let’s then shirk our responsibilities in everything. That would be the equivalent of someone saying, “Since I have had lust in my heart, which Jesus identified as root adultery, I should go ahead and have an affair” or “Since I am angry with you, which Jesus identified as springing from a spirit of murder, I should go ahead and kill you.
Instead, our response ought to be a vision of marriage defined by the gospel, embodied in local congregations. This means preaching with both truth and grace, with accountability for entering marriages and, by the discipline of the church, for keeping those vows. We don’t remedy our past sins by adding new ones.
J.I. Packer in Truth and Power:
When Christians affirm the authority of the bible, meaning that biblical teaching reveals God's will and is the instrument of his rule over our lives, part of what they are claiming is that Scripture sets before us the factual and moral nature of things. God's law corresponds to created human nature, so that in fulfilling his requirements, we fulfill ourselves. The gospel of Christ answers to actual human need, as glove fits hand, so that all our responses to God work for our good….
David Platt wrote the following list of seven activities that should be done by the Church:
- The church evangelizes: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . .” (Matt 28:19)
- The church baptizes: “ . . . baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matt 28:19)
- The church teaches: “ . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:20)
- The church nurtures: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship . . .” (Acts 2:42)
- The church worships: “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (John 4:23)
- The church prays: “And they devoted themselves to . . . the prayers.”
- The church multiplies: “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” (Acts 9:31)
What additional key activity (and supporting Scripture) would you add to this list?
Monday, September 15, 2014
Many are either criticizing or defending Gloria Osteen for saying, "I ... want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we're not doing it for God ... we're doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we're happy. That's the thing that gives Him the greatest joy. So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you're not doing it for God really. You're doing it for yourself, because that's what makes God happy."
I get the point of those that take issue. But since it is our habit to swing the pendulum too far, let's be careful, our happiness is important.
Here's Jon Bloom on Why Your Happiness is so Important to God.
No one puts it as bluntly as Blaise Pascal in his Pensées:
All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves. There you are. Warrior, pacifist, suicide, sluggard, workaholic; if you’re a human, you’re a hedonist. You can try to deny it, but you can’t change it.
If you want to try your hand at stoicism, forget the Bible. It has little for you. Scripture does not support the idea that our motives are more pure the less we are pursuing our own interested happiness. Nope. In fact, according to the Bible, unless we are pursuing our happiness we cannot even come to God: “for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
What Pleasure Measures
God blatantly entices us to seek happiness, joy, pleasure — whatever you want to call it — in him with verses like this: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4), and “in his presence is fullness of joy, and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). We’re supposed to want pleasure.
Why does God want us to want pleasure? Because it is a crucial indicator. Pleasure is the meter in your heart that measures how valuable, how precious someone or something is to you. Pleasure is the measure of your treasure.
Your treasure is what you love. Your greatest treasure is what you love the most. “For where your treasure is, there your heart [your love] will be also” (Matthew 6:21). You glorify your treasure by the fact that it’s the object of your pleasure.
And that’s why God is not indifferent about your joy. It’s a big deal to him. Your pleasure in God is the measure of how much of a treasure he is to you.
The Whistleblower of Your Heart
This also makes pleasure the whistleblower of your heart. If something sinful gives you pleasure, it’s not a pleasure problem. It’s a treasure problem. Your pleasure mechanism is likely functioning just fine. It’s what you love that’s out of whack. And pleasure is outing you. It’s revealing that, despite what your mouth says and the image you try to project to others, something evil is precious to you.
That’s what sin is at the root: treasuring evil. Which makes the fight of faith in the Christian life a fight for delight. It’s a fight to believe God’s promises of happiness over the false promises of happiness we hear from the world, our fallen flesh, and the devil. And yes, it often involves denying ourselves pleasure, but only denying ourselves a lesser, viler pleasure in order to have a much higher pleasure (Luke 9:23–25).
Wonderful and Devastating
This biblical truth that we call Christian Hedonism is both wonderful and devastating. It is wonderful to realize that God’s pursuit of Glory and our pursuit of joy is not supposed to be different pursuits, but the same! Because, as John Piper says, “God is most glorified in you, when you are most satisfied in him.” That means that God’s glory in us depends on our being as happy as we possibly can be for all of eternity! If you’ve never read the book, Desiring God, dive into it this Fall and revel in what makes the Gospel so good (take advantage of our free PDF version to read or browse).
“There is greater joy in God than you’ve yet known.” Tweet But the devastating thing is that as soon as we realize that God receives the most glory from our satisfaction in him, we also realize how far short we fall in so many areas of finding our satisfaction in him. And if you’re in a slough of discouragement over this, then put When I Don’t Desire God on your Fall’s must-reads list (we have a free PDF for this one too!). It will encourage your heart and equip you with weapons in the fight for the right joy.
Pursue Your Highest Pleasure!
Fight for the right joy! There is greater joy in God than you’ve yet known. Don’t give up. Don’t settle for the lesser joys. Make it your aim to be a full, unashamed, bold Christian Hedonist! Pursue your pleasure in God, the greatest Treasure that exists, with all your heart (Matthew 22:37). “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Christians being called intolerant haters - there's nothing new under the son.
The following is a great enjoinder from Amy Hall:
Christians: Intolerant Haters Since AD 33
Pliny the Younger, a Roman governor of Bithynia who, as Michael Kruger wrote in a recent post, thought that “intolerance of the Roman gods was enough of a reason to kill Christians, despite their [as noted by Pliny himself] holy lives,” commented back in the second century on the “stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy” of Christians who would not yield to the culture.
This obstinacy has been getting us into trouble for 2,000 years whenever a government makes the upsetting discovery that Christians place the authority of Jesus (as expressed in the unchangeable Bible) above that of civil authorities and so can’t be bent to their will no matter what. And I mean no matter what. The horrific tortures Christians have suffered over the ages are innumerable.
But guess what? We’re still here. And we’ll still be here 500 years from now, if Jesus hasn’t returned by then. I think our culture still does not know our God-enabled stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy. They still have hope that some pressure will convince us. But once it sinks in that they’ve met an immovable force…well, what happens next has not, in the past, proved to be fun for Christians. If a rock can’t be convinced to move along and stop impeding traffic in the middle of the road to progress, then the only thing left is to work at removing it.
Enter Michael Kruger’s post: “Regarded as ‘Intolerant Haters’: What’s New?”
In the midst of the high-octane cultural wars of the last several years—particularly the debate over homosexual marriage—evangelical Christians have been slapped with all sorts of pejorative labels. Words such as bigoted, arrogant, exclusive, dogmatic, and homophobic are just a few.But two labels particularly stand out. First, Christians are regularly regarded as intolerant. Christians are not only regarded as intolerant religiously—because they affirm the words of Jesus that “no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)—but they are regarded as intolerant ethically, because they refuse to approve any and all behaviors as morally good.Christians are also regularly (and ironically) regarded as haters. Apparently, our modern world regards the act of telling people they’re wrong as a form of hatred. It is never explained how the charge does not apply equally in the other direction, since those who make this charge are telling Christians they are wrong.Needless to say, such a situation can discourage Christians in the modern day. We might be tempted to despair and think that the church is entering into dark days. But a little historical perspective might be useful. Truth be told, this is not the first time Christians have received such labels. Indeed, pejoratives were given to Christians from the beginning.
Read the rest of what Michael Kruger has to say about two ancient leaders who accused us of hatred and intolerance. He says these stories are both frightening and encouraging.
Do I have the strength and courage to stand with Jesus no matter what? Absolutely not. Though I’m committed to it, I have no delusions of grandeur about my own ability to do so. But thank God, I know that I am kept for Jesus Christ, and I trust Him to give me what I need when the time comes for me to need it.