Wednesday, December 30, 2009

unpacking forgiveness review

Chapter 5 of Chris Brauns' Unpacking Forgiveness begins with a handy summary of the book thus far.
  • Christians accept Jesus' invitation to find rest by actively taking his yoke upon themselves and learning from him. If you are burdened with the baggage of broken relationships, then know this: rest will be found when, in an ongoing process, you immerse yourself in the Word, involve yourself in a local church, pray, and worship. Forgiveness is unpacked by following Jesus.
  • The basic motivation for unpacking forgiveness is to glorify our God and maximize our joy. Don't approach living out Christian forgiveness with a sense of dread. God will be most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him. Be excited to live for Christ. There is nothing better.
  • The foundational principle for understanding forgiveness is that Christians are call to forgive others as God forgave them. God's forgiveness is a commitment by the one true God to pardon graciously those who repent and believe so that they are reconciled to him, although not all consequences are eliminated.
  • Therefore Christian forgiveness is a commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated. Christian forgiveness must be gracious, but it is not automatic. Christian forgiveness values reconciliation, but it does not negate the reality of consequences.
So far, so good.

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christianity is exclusive

I like Tim Keller's reply to the argument that Christianity and in particular the concept of hell is exclusive as compared to other more tolerant perspectives.

Nothing is more characteristic of the modern mindset than the statement: "I think Christ is fine, but I believe a devout Muslim or Buddhist or even a good atheist will certainly find God." A slightly different version is: "I don't think God would send a person who lives a good life to hell just for holding the wrong belief." This approach is seen as more inclusive.

In preaching about hell, then, I need to counter this argument:

The universal religion of humankind is: We develop a good record and give it to God, and then he owes us. The gospel is: God develops a good record and gives it to us, then we owe him (Romans 1:17). In short, to say a good person, not just Christians, can find God is to say good works are enough to find God. You can believe that faith in Christ is not necessary or you can believe that we are saved by grace, but you cannot believe in both at once. So the apparently inclusive approach is really quite exclusive. It says, "The good people can find God, and the bad people do not." But what about us moral failures? We are excluded. The gospel says, "The people who know they aren't good can find God, and the people who think they are good do not." Then what about non-Christians, all of whom must, by definition, believe their moral efforts help them reach God? They are excluded. So both approaches are exclusive, but the gospel's is the more inclusive exclusivity. It says joyfully, "It doesn't matter who you are or what you've done. It doesn't matter if you've been at the gates of hell. You can be welcomed and embraced fully and instantly through Christ."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

cheap grace

"Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.

Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."

-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

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wrath in a tolerant age

In Preaching Hell in a Tolerant Age Tim Keller writes:

People ask, "What kind of loving God is filled with wrath?" But any loving person is often filled with wrath. In Hope Has Its Reasons, Becky Pippert writes, "Think how we feel when we see someone we love ravaged by unwise actions or relationships. Do we respond with benign tolerance as we might toward strangers? Far from it… . Anger isn't the opposite of love. Hate is, and the final form of hate is indifference." Pippert then quotes E. H. Gifford, "Human love here offers a true analogy: the more a father loves his son, the more he hates in him the drunkard, the liar, the traitor." She concludes: "If I, a flawed, narcissistic, sinful woman, can feel this much pain and anger over someone's condition, how much more a morally perfect God who made them? God's wrath is not a cranky explosion, but his settled opposition to the cancer of sin which is eating out the insides of the human race he loves with his whole being."

In Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Abingdon, 1996), pp. 303-04, Miroslav Volf writes:

If God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make a final end to violence—that God would not be worthy of worship…. The only means of prohibiting all recourse to violence by ourselves is to insist that violence is legitimate only it comes from God… My thesis that the practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many… in the West…. [But] it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human non-violence [results from the belief in] God’s refusal to judge. In a sun-scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die… [with] other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.

That is, it is the lack of belief in a God of vengeance that secretly nourishes violence.

what we need

"...There is nothing that our generation needs more than to hear the Word of God -- and this at a time of biblical illiteracy rising at an astonishing rate. Moreover it needs to hear Christian leaders personally submitting to Scripture, personally reading and teaching Scripture -- not in veiled ways that merely assume some sort of heritage of Christian teaching while actually focusing on just about anything else, but in ways that are reverent, exemplary, comprehensive, insistent, persistent. Nothing, nothing at all, is more urgent."

-- D.A. Carson (commenting on 2 Chron. 34) in "For the Love of God" reading for December 29 (Crossway: 1998)


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sanctity of human life

January 24 is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. The below video shows the nature of the enemy we are dealing with.

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one bible

The more I read it the more amazed I am with its unity. The Bible is an amazing revelation of the one true God. I posted recently about it not being a divided book. Yesterday, Tullian Tchividjian reminded us "the Bible tells one story and points to one figure: it tell it tells the story of how God rescues a broken world and points to Christ who accomplishes this."

Sally Lloyd-Jones, author of The Jesus Storybook Bible, writes in the Introduction of that book:

Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose), they get afraid and run away. At times, they’re downright mean.

No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne–everything–to rescues the ones he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about this Story is–it’s true.

There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling on Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.
It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in the puzzle–the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.

chividjian concludes, "My hope and prayer for all of you this upcoming year is that you would come to a bigger, better, deeper, and brighter understanding of this remarkable Story and its infallible Hero!"

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Monday, December 28, 2009

bonhoeffer on suffering

"It is not a religious act that makes the Christian, but participation in the sufferings of God in the secular life. That is metanonia [repentance]: not in the first place thinking about one's own needs, problems, sins, and fears, but allowing oneself to be caught up in the way of Jesus Christ. ... Pain is a holy angel. ... Through him men have become greater than through all the joys of the world. ... The pain of longing, which often can be felt physically, must be there, and we shall not and need not talk it away. But it needs to be overcome every time, and that there is an even holier angel than the one of pain, that is the one of joy in God." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, p. 418

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

healthcare flaws

From Mike Shedlock: The Healthcare Bill does not open up competition between states; the Senate version of the bill does not provide for group bargaining of drugs by Medicare and that is what will likely pass, it does not allow drug imports in from Canada, drugmakers won a 12-year period of exclusive sales for brand-name drugs before facing competition from generic rivals which benefits companies like Amgen and Genentech while driving up costs for consumers (Obama wanted a 5-7 year period), it will hurt struggling small business owners who already are reluctant to hire, it allows states to opt out of paying for abortions but that's folly given the huge ongoing costs of unwanted births, and the senate bill granted special favors to senators from several states to buy their vote.

Arguably, one of the few good things in the bill is coverage of preexisting conditions. The rest looks like rancid sausage. The biggest problem is there is not a single thing in the bill guaranteed to lower health care costs. We have to take it on faith that the plan will save money. It won't. However, when your goal is to get something (anything) passed it should be no surprise that the package is as flawed as it is.

Still many Americans are proud {sigh}.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

quality of mercy

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

Shakespeare, The Merchant Of Venice Act 4, scene 1, 180–187

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fruitcake wise man

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"Unbeknownst to most theologians, there was a fourth wise man, who was turned away for bringing a fruitcake."

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

joseph holding jesus ... again

Well, it's that time of year, time to post the Joseph Holding Jesus painting ... enjoy. Merry Christmas!

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

parachutes, fish, and freedom

I've told the parachute analogy many times before. Two guys jump out of an airplane; one has a parachute and one does not. The one without the parachute mocks to the other bragging that he is free from the encumbrance of the parachute. Which man is really free? Which one understands the laws of gravity and physics? Which one is truly free to enjoy the event with the assuredness of safety in the end?

The point of course is disciplines and constraints actually liberate us when (and only when) they fit with the reality of our nature and capacities.

So I enjoyed reading Tim Keller's fish story. A fish, because it absorbs oxygen from the water rather than the air, is only free if it is restricted and limited to water. If we put it out on the grass, its freedom to move and even live is not enhanced, but destroyed. The fish dies if we do not honor the reality of its nature.

"Freedom is not so much the absence of restrictions as finding the right ones, the liberating restrictions. Those that fit with the reality of our nature and the world produce greater power and scope for our abilities and a deeper joy and fulfillment." Keller concludes, "Instead of insisting on freedom to create spiritual reality, shouldn't we be seeking to discover it and disciplining ourselves to live according to it?"

It is the love of Christ that constrains us (2 Cor 5.14).

no christian culture

Andrew Walls in The Expansion of Christianity:

One must conclude, I think, that there is a certain vulnerability, a fragility, at the heart of Christianity. You might say that this is the vulnerability of the cross. Perhaps the chief theological point is that nobody owns the Christian faith. That is, there is no "Christian civilization" or "Christian culture" in the way that there is an "Islamic culture," which you can recognize from Pakistan to Tunisia to Morocco. ... [C]ultural diversity was built into the Christian faith with that first great decision by the Council in Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 15, which declared that the new gentile Christians didn’t have to enter Jewish religious culture. ... [C]onverts had to work out, under the guidance of the Holy Spilt, a Hellenistic way of being Christian.

archaeology of repentence

Ray Ortlund posted this timely (for me) reminder regarding the archaeology of repentance.

In a sermon preached during the First Great Awakening, George Whitefield laid bare the four archaeological layers always uncovered in true repentance. Preaching on “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14), Whitefield said that before we can speak peace to our hearts:

One, “You must be made to see, made to feel, made to weep over, made to bewail, your actual transgressions against the law of God.” The dawning of non-denial. Realism. Honesty. Brokenhearted self-awareness. “Was ever the remembrance of your sins grievous to you? Was the burden of your sins intolerable to your thoughts? Did ever any such thing as this pass between God and your soul? If not, for Jesus Christ’s sake, do not call yourselves Christians.”

Two, “You must be convinced of the foundation of all your transgressions. And what is that? I mean original sin.” We realize that, even when we haven’t acted on our impulses, the very fact that our hearts rise up against God is itself damning. All self-hope stripped away. “When the sinner is first awakened, he begins to wonder, ‘How came I to be so wicked?’ The Spirit of God then strikes in and shows that he has no good thing in him by nature.”

Three, “You must be troubled for the sins of your best duties and performances.” Our righteous self-images start to deconstruct, our excuses, our rationalizations, our entitlements. Every false refuge gives way. “You must be brought to see that God may damn you for the best prayer you ever put up. Our best duties are so many splendid sins. There must be a deep conviction before you can be brought out of your self-righteousness; it is the last idol taken out of the heart.”

Four, “There is one particular sin you must be greatly troubled for, and yet I fear there are few of you think what it is. It is the reigning, the damning sin of the Christian world, and yet the Christian world seldom or never thinks of it. And pray what is that? It is what most of you think you are not guilty of, and that is the sin of unbelief.” Treating God as unreal at a functional level in our hearts and lives and churches and strategies. “Most of you have not so much faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the devil himself. I am persuaded the devil believes more of the Bible than most of you do.”

“One more then. Before you can speak peace to your heart, you must not only be convinced of your actual and original sin, the sins of your own righteousness, the sin of unbelief, but you must be enabled to lay hold upon the perfect righteousness, the all-sufficient righteousness, of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then you shall have peace.”

Select Sermons of George Whitefield, pages 75-95.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

common message

Matt Dabbs posted a great reminder today, i.e., there is unity in Scripture. The Old and the New Testament are not separated books about a God with two different histories with man. The Old being about law keeping and little to do with love and grace as opposed to the New being all about love and grace. There is not a scary old judge in the sky God in the OT with a kind, gentle Jesus in the NT.

Instead, as Dabbs points out, the unity in both Testaments is "God created us, loves us, liberates us ... and seeks to bring restoration to the world and that we respond in a way that is fitting with those godly priorities and objectives." He reminds of Jesus' challenge in John 14.15, 21; i.e., love and obedience go hand-in-hand.

Kim Riddlebarger helped me see this truth with greater clarity than I had before back in October 2008. I think I've sensed this for some time but he helped me get my mind more clearly wrapped around it. This is an important concept. I know far too many Christians who miss a fuller understanding of God because of their view of Scripture as separate books. One postmodern even recently summarized the OT as (1) humanity realizes something untrue and dies and (2) humanity invents religion and the law to solve the problem. This guy flat missed the big picture. Too bad.

the indicative

John Piper gets it ... the indicatives of the Gospel.

  • the gospel is a plan, i.e., it was predetermined and foretold by God
  • the gospel is an event in history, i.e., Christ died
  • the gospel is an achievement in and through that event, i.e., sins were paid for and righteousness was completed
  • the gospel is the achievement is extended to the world and it is free
  • the gospel is the application of the achievement, i.e., we are forgiven and justified
  • the gospel is we are forgiven and justified to bring us to God, i.e., He is the end, not simply our forgiveness and justification
I love that. We must understand the indicative before we can move to the imperative. Sadly, the conservative (some in the evangelical world) and the liberal (some in the emergent world) to exactly that. They see and live only the imperative. For the conservative, the result is works (confess this document, get baptized this way rather than that, pray this way rather than that, wear this rather than that, preach in this style rather than that, etc.) - hard cold legalism built on tradition and law - and all without a true knowledge of God. For the liberal, the result is works (care for the environment, embrace and promote the homosexual life, learn faith from other faiths, etc.) - squishy borderless inclusivism - and all without a true knowledge of God.

Both land in the world of works and both end far from the true knowledge of the living God. So to Piper's indicative I only add, only on that base, go, love, live.

the nature of love

“Love is not the upward ascent of our souls that sublimates us into union with the deity. Rather, love is the descent of God’s royal grace that conquers our rebellion, atones for our guilt, and draws us into sonship.” - Edmund P. Clowney, Christian Meditation


law as a storm

"The law is a storm which wrecks your hopes of self-salvation, but washes you upon the Rock of Ages." - Spurgeon


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

error in community

It is my perception that many in the Christian community have done harm toward those outside (and even inside) that community. As a reaction to that, the postmodern innovator has rightly reacted. But sadly in doing so, instead of bringing correction into the community, they have brought error into it. That is, rather than helping us live more rightly among those in need of redemption, they have embraced the faith of the fallen.

In The Reason for God, Tim Keller writes:

Any community that did not hold its members accountable for specific beliefs and practices would have no corporate identity and would not really be a community at all. We cannot consider a group exclusive simply because it has standards for its members. Is that then no way to judge whether a community is open and caring rather than narrow and oppressive? Yes, there is. Here is a far better set of tests: Which community has beliefs that lead its members to treat persons in other communities with love and respect – to serve them and meet their needs? Which community’s beliefs lead it to demonize and attack those who violate their boundaries rather than treating them with kindness, humility, and winsomeness? We should criticize Christians when they are condemning and ungracious to unbelievers. But we should not criticize churches when they maintain standards for membership in accord with their beliefs. Every community must do the same.

Volf writes in Exclusion and Embrace:

Radical indeterminacy … is correlate of a consistent drive toward inclusion that levels all boundaries that divide. [But does this] … not determine from within the idea of inclusion, however? Without boundaries we will be able to know only what we are fighting against but not what we are fighting for. Intelligent struggle against exclusion demands categories and normative criteria that enable us to distinguish between repressive … practices … and nonrepressive ones … “No boundaries” means … neither happiness nor pleasure, neither freedom nor justice, could be identified.

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truth is unavoidable

Tim Keller writes in The Reason for God, that Foucault wrote: “Truth is a thing of this world. It is produced only by multiple forms of constraint and that includes the regular effects of power.” We see many in the postmodern world embracing that. They see truth-claims as power plays. Of course the problem with this claim is that it falls prey to itself. What surprises me more is that these well-read postmoderns not only miss the fallacy of their argument but they somehow imagine they are onto something new and revolutionary.

C.S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man:

But you cannot go on “explaining away” forever; you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on “seeing through” things forever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? … a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To “see through” all things is the same as not to see.

One hundred years ago G.K. Chesterton made the same point:

The new rebel is a skeptic, and will not trust anything … [but] therefore he can never be really a revolutionary. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind … Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything … There is a thought that stops thought. That is the only thought that ought to be stopped.

sin, forgiveness, and consequences

It seems popular these days to speak of love but to do so without speaking of the problem and consequences of evil. In my view, one cannot know the fullness of love without understanding just how undeserving we are of it.

One postmodern innovator notes that the Bible uses the word heart 743 times and that this is significant; that God is trying to tell us something. I agree. That report alone wouldn't normally garner my attention but this particular individual has a skewed definition of love. He, and many like him, also deny the reality of Hell in spite of Scripture’s use of the word 331 times and Jesus' over 70 references to it.

Many like this postmodern cannot conceive of the idea that error can be confronted and that consequences and/or discipline can exist in an environment of love. I think the opposite of them. I contend that only in that kind of environment can true love be known.

Related to this, one of these postmoderns proffers that “spanking” is abuse. Of course he does – his start point is that discipline and consequence are unloving. As I observe some parents, with or without spanking, I’ve seen abuse. It’s not necessarily the format of the discipline. I think the key is the spirit and intent by which any form of discipline is administered. Confrontation should be loving, properly motivated, with right end-goals in mind.

David realized the magnitude of his sin only after being confronted by the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12.7-12). It was only in his repentance that God would forgive David (2 Samuel 12.13). But even after forgiveness there were severe consequences; violence in his family (2 Samuel 12.10), death of his baby (2 Samuel 12.14), his son raped his daughter (2 Samuel 13.1-22), another son killed by a son (2 Samuel 13.23-33), and finally a son tried to take over his kingdom (2 Samuel 15-18).

God does in fact discipline but this is not for the purpose of punishment, it is for his glory and our future joy. This is one method used by God to train and teach. In fact, I would be very concerned if not disciplined by God (Hebrews 12.5-12; Proverbs 3.12). Please note that verse 6 uses both discipline and chastise – the second of which implies that it will be painful.

I have a friend who was married, divorced, and remarried. His first marriage was a sinful situation and in that he had two children. Both of them grew up to be wild. He is quick to tell how God has forgiven him for the sins in his first marriage but the consequences of that, his insufferable girls still remain – and he is glad. He looks forward to the day of their salvation and reconciliation with him and God.

Why does God do this? He does it for our own good and to show His glory (Hebrews 12.10-11). The postmodern mind cannot understand this so they simply handle it as they do other portions of Scripture; they dismiss it.

They miss that discipline is the loving correction of a parent and it doesn’t equate to penalty that is the required price for an offense.

Chris Brauns offers this as a definition of God’s forgiveness: A commitment by the one true God to pardon graciously those who repent and believe so that they are reconciled to him, although this commitment does not eliminate all consequences.

godly man

Jeff Robinson outlines what a godly man looks like here and here based on the writings of Thomas Watson.

  • A man of knowledge. He knows God in Christ and is being transformed into the image of Christ by this knowledge. Possession of such knowledge must make him humble: “True knowledge brings a man out of love with himself. The more he knows, the more he blushes at his own ignorance,” writes Watson.
  • A man moved by faith. His trust in God is a living principle. “He who believes that God is his God, and that all providences work for his good, patiently yields himself to the will of God.”
  • A man fired with love. “A godly man loves God, though he is reduced to straits.”
  • A man like God. “Holiness is a man’s glory…The goodness of a Christian lies in his holiness, as the goodness of air lies in its clarity, the worth of gold in its purity.”
  • A man careful about the worship of God. “A godly man dare not vary from the pattern God has shown him in Scripture.”
  • A man who serves God, not men. Here, Watson uses servant as a synonym for “fear.”“A godly man leaves the service of sin and betakes himself to the service of God.”
  • A man who prizes Christ. “Put a glass under a still (water container) and it receives water out of the still, drop by drop,” Watson writes. “So those who are united to Christ have the dews and drops of his grace distilling on them. Well, then, may Christ be admired by all those who believe.”
  • A man who is an evangelical weeper. What is meant by ‘evangelical weeping?’ Watson says a man who weeps in an evangelical way sheds tears over indwelling sin, over clinging corruption, over the notion that he is not more holy, over God’s amazing love for him, because, in some sense, the sins he commits are worse than the sins of others. Watson calls it “sorrow of the soul.”
  • A man who loves the Word of God. Watson said a godly man loves: the counseling part of the Word, as it is a directory and rule of life, he loves the threatening part of the Word and the consolatory part of the Word—the promises.
  • A man who has the Spirit of God residing in him. “I conceive that the Spirit is in the godly, in whom he flows in measure,” Watson writes. “They have his presence and receive his sacred influences. When the sun comes into a room, it is not the body of the sun that is there but the beams that sparkle from it. Indeed, some divines have through that the godly have more than the influx of the Spirit, though to say how it is more is ineffable, and is fitter for some seraphic pen to describe than mine.”
  • A man of humility. “He is like the sun in the zenith, which when it is at the highest, shows lowest,” he writes. “St. Augustine calls humility the mother of the grace.” But Watson also warns of the existence of a false humility: “A man may be humbled and not humble. A sinner may be humbled by affliction. His condition is low but not his disposition. A godly man is not only humbled but humble. His heart is as low as his condition…A humble man is always preferring bills of indictment against himself. He complains, not of his condition, but of his heart.”
  • A man of prayer. “As soon as grace is poured in, prayer is poured out…Prayer is the soul’s traffic with heaven. God comes down to us by his Spirit, and we go up to him by prayer.”
  • A man of sincerity. In modern parlance, he is what he is. Watson writes, “A godly man is plain-hearted, having no subtle subterfuges. Religion is the livery a godly man wears and this livery is lined with sincerity.”
  • A heavenly man. “Heaven is in him before he is in heaven...A person may live in one place, yet belong to another…A godly man is a while in the world, but he belongs to the Jerusalem above. That is the place to which he aspires. Every day is Ascension Day with a believer.” He lines out six ways a man is to be heavenly: In his election, his disposition, his communication, his actions, his expectation and his conduct.
  • A zealous man. “Grace turns a saint into a seraph,” Watson writes. “It makes him burn in holy zeal. Zeal is a mixed affection, a compound of love and anger. It carries forth our love to God and anger against sin in the most intense manner. Zeal is the flame of the affections; a godly man has a double baptism—of water and fire. He is baptized with a spirit of zeal; he is zealous for God’s honor, truth , worship.”
  • A patient man. A godly man is patient in: waiting, bearing trials, when God removes any comfort from him, when God inflicts any evil on him.
  • A thankful man. “Praise and thanksgiving is the work of heaven and he begins that work here which he will always be doing in heaven.”
  • A man who loves the saints. “The best way to discern grace in one’s self is to love grace in others.”
  • A man who does not indulge himself in any sin. “Though sin lives in him, yet he does not live in sin. Every man that has wine in him is not in wine. A gladly man may step into sin through infirmity, but he does not keep on that road.”
  • A man who is good in his relationships. Two of the most crucial relationships for Watson are marriage and fatherhood. A godly man, Watson says, fills up the marital relationship with love in accord with Eph. 5:25. “The vine twisting its branches about the elm and embracing it may be an emblem of that entire love which should be in conjugal relationship. A married condition would be sad, if it had cares to embitter it and not love to sweeten it. Love is the best diamond in the marriage ring.” A father’s duties to his children are threefold: “he must drop holy instructions into his children, he must pray for his children and he must give his children discipline. Of the latter, Watson writes, “The rod beats out the dust and moth of sin. A child indulged and humored in wickedness will prove a burden instead of a blessing.”
  • A man who does spiritual things in a spiritual manner. “Spiritual worship is pure worship…A wicked man either lives in the total neglect of duty or else discharges it in a dull, careless manner…A godly man spiritualizes duty; he is not only for the doing of holy things but for the holy doing of things.”
  • A man who is thoroughly trained in religion. “A godly man strives to walk according to the full breadth and latitude of God’s law. Every command has the same stamp of divine authority on it, and he who is godly will obey one command as well as another.”
  • A man who walks with God. Walking with God, for Watson, includes five things: Walking as under God’s eye, the familiarity and intimacy that the soul has with God, walking above the earth (has his heart fixed ultimately on eternal matters), visible piety and continued progress in grace.
  • A man who strives to be an instrument who makes others godly. “He is not content to go to heaven alone but wants to take others there. Spiders work only for themselves, but bees work for others. A godly man is both a diamond and a lodestone—a diamond for the sparkling of grace and a lodestone for attractiveness. He is always drawings others to embrace piety. Living things have a propagating virtue. Where religion lives in the heart, there will be an endeavor to propagate the life of grace in those we converse with.”

Monday, December 14, 2009

the gospel antidote

Contrary to what many Christian’s have concluded, the gospel doesn’t just ignite the Christian life; it’s the fuel that keeps Christians going every day and in every way. Once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel but to move them more deeply into it. After all, the only antidote to sin is the gospel—and since Christians remain sinners even after they’re converted, the gospel must be the medicine a Christian takes every day. Since we never leave off sinning, we can never leave the gospel. ~ Tullian Tchividjian

HT:CL via PC

everything sad

In The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee finds Gandalf was not dead as he had thought. He proclaims, "I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself! Is everything sad going to come untrue?"

In Matthew 19.28 Jesus tells us the answer, "Yes!"

Sunday, December 13, 2009


L. Gregory Jones in Embodying Forgiveness.

People are mistaken if they think of Christian forgiveness primarily as absolution from guilt; the purpose of forgiveness is the restoration of communion, the reconciliation of brokenness.

seek happiness

“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.” – Blaise Pascal

Now read 1 Corinthians 10.31 and Ephesians 1.6, 12, 14.


Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology regarding our role in sanctification.

The role that we play in sanctification is both a passive one in which we depend on God to sanctify us, and an active one in which we strive to obey God and take steps that will increase our sanctification. We can now consider both of these aspects of our role in sanctification.

First, what may be called the “passive” role that we play in sanctification is seen in texts that encourage us to trust God or to pray and ask that he sanctify us. Paul tells his readers, “Yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life” (Rom. 6:13; cf. v. 19), and he tells the Roman Christians, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Rom. 12:1). Paul realizes that we are dependent on the Holy Spirit’s work to grow in sanctification, because he says, “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live” (Rom. 8:13).

Unfortunately today, this “passive” role in sanctification, this idea of yielding to God and trusting him to work in us “to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13), is sometimes so strongly emphasized that it is the only thing people are told about the path of sanctification. Sometimes the popular phrase “let go and let God” is given as a summary of how to live the Christian life. But this is a tragic distortion of the doctrine of sanctification, for it only speaks of one half of the part we must play, and, by itself, will lead Christians to become lazy and to neglect the active role that Scripture commands them to play in their own sanctification.

That active role which we are to play is indicated by Romans 8:13, where Paul says, “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” Here Paul acknowledges that it is “by the Spirit” that we are able to do this. But he also says we must do it! It is not the Holy Spirit who is commanded to put to death the deeds of the flesh, but Christians! Similarly, Paul tells the Philippians, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12–13). Paul encourages them to obey even more than they did when he was present. He says that obedience is the way in which they “work out [their] own salvation,” meaning that they will “work out” the further realization of the benefits of salvation in their Christian life.13 The Philippians are to work at this growth in sanctification, and to do it solemnly and with reverence (“with fear and trembling”), for they are doing it in the presence of God himself. But there is more: the reason why they are to work and to expect that their work will yield positive results is that “God is at work in you—the prior and foundational work of God in sanctification means that their own work is empowered by God; therefore it will be worthwhile and will bear positive results.

There are many aspects to this active role that we are to play in sanctification. We are to “Strive...for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14); we are to “abstain from immorality” and so obey the will of God, which is our “sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3). John says that those who hope to be like Christ when he appears will actively work at purification in this life: “And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). Paul tells the Corinthians to “shun immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18), and not to have partnership with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14). He then says, “Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). This kind of striving for obedience to God and for holiness may involve great effort on our part, for Peter tells his readers to “make every effort” to grow in character traits that accord with godliness (2 Peter 1:5). Many specific passages of the New Testament encourage detailed attention to various aspects of holiness and godliness in life (see Rom. 12:1–13:14; Eph. 4:17–6:20; Phil. 4:4–9; Col. 3:5–4:6; 1 Peter 2:11–5:11; et al.). We are continually to build up patterns and habits of holiness, for one measure of maturity is that mature Christians “have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:14).

The New Testament does not suggest any short-cuts by which we can grow in sanctification, but simply encourages us repeatedly to give ourselves to the old-fashioned, time-honored means of Bible reading and meditation (Ps. 1:2; Matt. 4:4; John 17:17), prayer (Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:6), worship (Eph. 5:18–20), witnessing (Matt. 28:19–20), Christian fellowship (Heb. 10:24–25), and self-discipline or self-control (Gal. 5:23; Titus 1:8).

It is important that we continue to grow both in our passive trust in God to sanctify us and in our active striving for holiness and greater obedience in our lives. If we neglect active striving to obey God, we become passive, lazy Christians. If we neglect the passive role of trusting God and yielding to him, we become proud and overly confident in ourselves. In either case, our sanctification will be greatly deficient. We must maintain faith and diligence to obey at the same time. The old hymn wisely says, “Trust and obey for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

One more point must be added to this discussion of our role in sanctification: sanctification is usually a corporate process in the New Testament. It is something that happens in community. We are admonished, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24–25). Together Christians are “built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5); together they are “a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9); together they are to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thess. 5:11). Paul says that “to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1) is to live in a special way in community—“with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:2–3). When that happens, the body of Christ functions as a unified whole, with each part “working properly,” so that corporate sanctification occurs as it “makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love” (Eph. 4:16; cf. 1 Cor. 12:12–26; Gal. 6:1–2). It is significant that the fruit of the Spirit includes many things that build community (“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” Gal. 5:22–23), whereas “the works of the flesh” destroy community (“fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like,” Gal. 5:19–21).

Chris Brauns uses this analogy in Unpacking Forgiveness.

Suppose you are in a boat and you have to travel an incredible distance. And to further complicate things, you don't even know there is such a thing as sailing.

What would you do? You would try and paddle the boat in all kinds of futile ways. You might lie on your stomach and paddle over the side. If you were a little more creative, you might use a stick as an oar and row in circles. But soon you would be worn-out and frustrated.

But then imagine that someone stepped onto your boat and said, "I see that you are exhausted. How about I teach you how to get somewhere?" He would show you how to raise a sail and catch the wind.

Sailing is still hard work. But it is not futile work. Hoist the sail into the breeze, and soon you are gliding forward in a strength that is beyond yourself.

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Monday, December 07, 2009

arminian plots

gospel saves

“Some think of the gospel as so slender it does nothing more than get us into the kingdom. After that the real work of transformation begins. But a biblically-faithful understanding of the gospel shows that gospel to be rich, powerful, the wisdom of God and the power of God, all we need in Christ. It is the gospel that saves us, transforms us, conforms us to Christ, prepares us for the new heaven and the new earth, establishes our relations with fellow-believers, teaches us how to work and serve so as to bring glory to God, calls forth and edifies the church, and so forth. This gospel saves — and ’salvation’ means more than just ‘getting in,’ but transformed wholeness.” - D. A. Carson, “Four Questions with D. A. Carson“

Sunday, December 06, 2009


"I wanted to cast doubt on the step he was about to take, to help him see there are other ways to live, other ways to seek knowledge, love ... even self-transformation. I wanted to convince him his dignity depended on maintaining a free, skeptical attitude towards doctrine. I wanted ... to save him ...

Doubt, like faith, has to be learned. It is a skill. But the curious thing about skepticism is that its adherents, ancient and modern, have so often been proselytizers. In reading them, I've often wanted to ask: "Why do you care?" Their skepticism offers no good answer to that question. And I don't have one for myself." — Mark Lilla

Doubts about Christianity are learned alternatives to faith. I wonder why professed Christians pride themselves in promoting doubt?


"Suppose we concede that if I had been born of Muslim parents in Morocco rather than Christian parents in Michigan, my beliefs would be quite different. [But] the same goes for the pluralist...If the pluralist had been born in [Morocco] he probably wouldn't be a pluralist. Does it follow that...his pluralist beliefs are produced in him by an unreliable belief-producing process?" — Alvin Plantinga

The point being that one cannot say all claims about religions are historically conditioned except the one being made now. Truth-claims are hard to sort but we must do so rather than giving up.


”If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.” – George S. Patton


Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola in A Jesus Manifesto ...

Jesus Christ is the gravitational pull that brings everything together and gives them significance, reality, and meaning. Without him, all things lose their value. Without him, all things are but detached pieces floating around in space.

It is possible to emphasize a spiritual truth, value, virtue, or gift, yet miss Christ . . . who is the embodiment and incarnation of all spiritual truth, values, virtues, and gifts.

Seek a truth, a value, a virtue, or a spiritual gift, and you have obtained something dead.

Seek Christ, embrace Christ, know Christ, and you have touched him who is Life. And in him resides all Truth, Values, Virtues and Gifts in living color. Beauty has its meaning in the beauty of Christ, in whom is found all that makes us lovely and loveable.

What is Christianity? It is Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. Christianity is not an ideology. Christianity is not a philosophy. Christianity is the “good news” that Beauty, Truth and Goodness are found in a person. Biblical community is founded and found on the connection to that person.

Conversion is more than a change in direction; it’s a change in connection. Jesus’ use of the ancient Hebrew word shubh, or its Aramaic equivalent, to call for “repentance” implies not viewing God from a distance, but entering into a relationship where God is command central of the human connection.

I know for many the names Viola and Sweet alone invoke vitriol. But aside from what you think about them and what you believe they mean by these words, the above is beautiful and true.

Our message this morning revolved around the question, "Do you long for Christmas or Christ?" As humans, we are made to long for Jesus and we become what we desire and long for.

As A.W. Tozer wrote in The Pursuit of God;

God formed us for His pleasure, and so formed us that we as well as He can in divine communion enjoy the sweet and mysterious mingling of kindred personalities. He meant us to see Him and live in Him and draw our life from His smile.

And Thomas Merton;

Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.

And finally, Jeremiah 29:13. "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all of your heart."

Let us therefore long for Christ and seek Him and His Kingdom above all.

Friday, December 04, 2009

women with paul

Jeff Breeding wrote What About the Women Who Served Alongside the Apostle Paul? He poses the question, "doesn't the fact that women played a significant role in ministry alongside Paul indicate that his teachings do not mean women should be excluded from ministry?" And allows John Piper and Wayne Grudem to reply:

Yes. But the issue is not whether women should be excluded from ministry. They shouldn't be. There are hundreds of ministries open to men and women. We must be more careful in how we pose our questions. Otherwise the truth is obscured from the start. [Read that paragraph again!]

The issue here is whether any of the women serving with Paul in ministry fulfilled roles that would be inconsistent with a limitation of the eldership to men. We believe the answer to that is No. But we can perhaps illustrate with three significant women in Paul's ministry.

Paul said that Euodia and Syntyche "contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers" (Philippians 4:2-3). There is wonderful honor given to Euodia and Syntyche here for their ministry with Paul. But there are no compelling grounds for affirming that the nature of the ministry was contrary to the limitations that we argue are set forth in 1 Timothy 2:12. One must assume this in order to make a case against these limitations. Paul would surely say that the "deacons" mentioned in Philippians 1:1 along with the "overseers" were fellow workers with him when he was there. But if so, then one can be a "fellow worker" with Paul without being in a position of authority over men. (We are assuming from 1 Timothy 3:2 and 5:17 that what distinguishes an elder from a deacon is that the responsibility for teaching and governance was the elder's and not the deacon's.)

Phoebe is praised as a "servant" or "deacon" of the church at Cenchreea who "has been a great help [or "patroness" ] to many people, including me" (Romans 16:1-2). Some have tried to argue that the Greek word behind "help" really means "leader." This is doubtful, since it is hard to imagine, on any count, what Paul would mean by saying that Phoebe became his leader. He could of course mean that she was an influential patroness who gave sanctuary to him and his band or that she used her community influence for the cause of the gospel and for Paul in particular. She was a very significant person and played a crucial role in the ministry. But to derive anything from this that is contrary to our understanding of 1 Timothy 2:12, one would have to assumeauthority over men here since it cannot be shown.

We are eager to affirm Priscilla as a fellow worker with Paul in Christ (Romans 16:3)! She and her husband were very influential in the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:19) as well as Ephesus. We can think of many women in our churches today who are like Priscilla. Nothing in our understanding of Scripture says that when a husband and wife visit an unbeliever (or a confused believer-or anyone else) the wife must be silent. It is easy for us to imagine the dynamics of such a discussion in which Priscilla contributes to the explanation and illustration of baptism in Jesus' name and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Our understanding of what is fitting for men and women in that kind of setting is not an oversimplified or artificial list of rules for what the woman and man can say and do. It is rather a call for the delicate and sensitive preservation of personal dynamics that honor the headship of Aquila without squelching the wisdom and insight of Priscilla. There is nothing in this text that cannot be explained on this understanding of what happened. We do not claim to know the spirit and balance of how Priscilla and Aquila and Apollos related to each other. We only claim that a feminist reconstruction of the relationship has no more warrant than ours. The right of Priscilla to hold an authoritative teaching office cannot be built on an event about which we know so little. It is only a guess to suggest that the order of their names signifies Priscilla's leadership. Luke may simply have wanted to give greater honor to the woman by putting her name first (1 Peter 3:7), or may have had another reason unknown to us. Saying that Priscilla illustrates the authoritative teaching of women in the New Testament is the kind of precarious and unwarranted inference that is made again and again by evangelical feminists and then called a major Biblical thrust against gender-based role distinctions. But many invalid inferences do not make a major thrust.

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why he died

Apart from the purpose for which Christ died, Kevin DeYoung wrote an interesting post on Why Did They Kill Jesus? He opens with:

It is sometimes stated, and at other times implied, that Jesus was killed for opening the doors of God’s mercy to prostitutes and tax collectors. This is sort of true, but mostly misleading. It’s true to say, and needs to be said (as I will in my sermon this upcoming Sunday), that Jesus upset some of the Jewish leaders because he extended fellowship and mercy beyond their constricted boundaries. But it is misleading to suggest that Jesus was killed for just loving too much, as if inclusive tolerance were the chief cause of his enemies’ implacable intolerance.

He then expounds on several reasons Jesus was opposed but concludes:

Jesus is not charged with being too welcoming to outsiders ..., but with being a false king, a false prophet, and a false Messiah (Matt. 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:66-71; and less clearly in John 18:19-24). In short, they killed Jesus because they thought he was a blasphemer.

... it was the implicit and explicit claims Jesus made to authority, Messiahship, and God-ness, not his expansive love, that ultimately did him in. This is certainly not an excuse for our own hard-heartedness. Conservative religious people are often prone to distancing themselves from “sinners and tax collectors.” We need Jesus’ example to set us straight. But we must put to rest the half-truth (more like a quarter-truth really) that Jesus was killed for being too inclusive and too nice. True, the Jewish leaders objected to Jesus’ far-reaching compassion, but they wanted him dead because he thought himself the Christ, the Son of the living God. If Jesus simply loved people too much he might have been ridiculed by some. But without his claims of deity, authority, and Old Testament fulfillment, he would not have been murdered.

So as we tell people about Jesus, let’s certainly talk about his compassion and love (how could we not!). But if we don’t talk about his identity as the Son of God, we have not explained the reason for his death, and, just as crucially, we have not given people reason enough to worship him.

christ's death

I still don't get what folks that call themselves Emerging think that is about. One friend recently wrote in reference to the Manhattan Declaration, "there [are] some things "emerging" about the declaration, with emphasis on human dignity." I don't get that. Human dignity as in we are God's creation is not Emerging, that's Christianity 101 (granted it is missed by many). On the other hand, human dignity as in we get to do what we want because God just loves us and feels all squishy and nice in spite of our rebellion and we should reinforce that so as to not offend ... well that does feel consistent with what I read from some postmodern innovators ... but then that's not new either, is it? So anyway, I just don't get it.

Which brings me to the real point this morning, I read with interest one leading Emergent voice quote someone else, "The cross was not necessary, and yet it was inevitable." He then explained that, "She's talking about Barth's view of atonement, and that Jesus saves us not just in the cross, but in the whole fact of Incarnation. He rejected the idea that the cross was some sort of metaphysical necessity so that God would be able to forgive us (contra Anselm), but rather was the inevitable outcome of Jesus' life which was lived as a demonstration of God's unconditional forgiveness and acceptance of us." And later, "I'm ambivalent on whether it was necessary or not, but if it was, I think it's important to say WHY it was necessary. Is it necessary because God was pissed off about sin and needed to punish someone before he could forgive us? Or was it necessary because God had to go to the ultimate extreme of suffering our rejection of him in order to fully demonstrate the depths of his already-offered forgiveness?"

In effect, this leading thinker in the conversation is saying that the purpose of the cross was to demonstrate ultimate love (which by the way I agree with) but not to actually accomplish anything. Oh, and he is saying that there is forgiveness (in the final sense?) without the cross. Then, in an effort to dance out of the contradiction to Scripture, he adds, "I agree that the cross and resurrection are all part of the biblical drama that the OT points to, and that the gospel narratives all build up to, and that they are essential parts of the work God did in and through Jesus. But again, Barth's point is to ask "essential in what way?" Was God constrained by some necessity to make it play out exactly this way in order to achieve his goal of reconciliation? Or is God free to work in whatever way God wants, and in that freedom chose the cross as the fullest expression of what was already true from eternity - i.e. our redemption in and through the humanity of Jesus Christ?"

So I'm left with, God said it was necessary, therefore it is, but because he's God he didn't have to do it that way, so it isn't. Which brings me what is this Emerging thing about. All I see are statements counter to Scripture followed by a bunch of babble to make it not sound so. I remain unclear why the folks in the conversation cannot just align with Scripture ... oh now I remember, they think sola Scriptura is dead ... whatever that's supposed to mean ...

Thursday, December 03, 2009

to become a ransom

Given the continued vilification of the atonement, I found this by John Piper in “The Passion of Jesus Christ: Fifty Reasons Why He Came to Die” especially refreshing ...

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, And to give his life as a ransom for many. – Matthew10:45

There is no thought in the Bible that Satan had to be paid off to let sinners be saved. What happened to Satan when Christ died was not payment, but defeat. The Son of God became human so “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). There was no negotiation.

When Jesus says that he came “to give his life as a ransom,” the focus is not on who gets the payment. The focus is on his own life as the payment, and on his freedom in serving rather than being served, and on the “many” who will benefit from the payment he makes.

If we ask who received the ransom, the biblical answer would surely be God. The Bible says that Christ “gave himself up for us, [an] . . . offering . . . to God” (Ephesians 5:2). Christ “offered himself without blemish to God” (Hebrews 9:14). The whole need for a substitute to die on our behalf is because we have sinned against God (Romans 3:23). And because of our sin, “the whole world [is] held accountable to God” (Romans 3:19). So when Christ gives himself as a ransom for us, the Bible says that we are freed from the condemnation of God. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). The ultimate captivity from which we need release is the final “judgment of God” (Romans 2:2; Revelation 14:7).

The ransom price of this release from God’s condemnation is the life of Christ. Not just his life lived, but his life given up in death. Jesus said repeatedly to his disciples, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him” (Mark 9:31). In fact, one of the reasons Jesus loved to call himself “the Son of Man” (over sixty-five times in the Gospels) was that it had the ring of mortality about it. Men can die. That’s why he had to be one. The ransom could only be paid by the Son of Man, because the ransom was a life given up in death.

The price was not coerced from him. That’s the point of saying, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” He needed no service from us. He was the giver, not the receiver. “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18). The price was paid freely; it was not forced. Which brings us again to his love. He freely chose to rescue us at the cost of his life.

How many did Christ effectively ransom from sin? He said that he came “to give his life as a ransom for many.” Yet not everyone will be ransomed from the wrath of God. But the offer is for everyone. “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). No one is excluded from this salvation who embraces the treasure of the ransoming Christ.

judge and savior

G. Campbell Morgan on God as judge and savior ...

"The Gospel is the good news that God has made righteousness available to sinful men through Christ. But the Gospel is also the declaration of the fact that men will be judged by the One through Whom that grace has been made available. There we see the finality of the Gospel message. The Saviour is to be the judge. Let us put that in another way. The judge is the Savior.

He Whose eternal right it is to sit as judge of men has in His Son provided perfect redemption for men. By so doing He has not relinquished His right as judge, but has established it. If men refuse His salvation, the justice of His sentence against them cannot be called in question. All men must meet Him as judge, but before they do so He comes to meet them with a righteous and just way of saving them from their sins. If they refuse that salvation, the Gospel declares that by so doing they have not escaped Him as judge.

The Gospel never lowers the standards of Divine requirements. It makes them possible of realization. If it be refused, then the Saviour as judge condemns and punishes."


sproul on scripture

Though these are perilous times for the church with regard to the normative function of the Bible in our lives, we remain optimistic about the future. That optimism is grounded in our conviction of the providence of God. It was by His singular providence that the Bible was given under His superintendence and by His inspiration. It was also by His providence that the original books of the Bible were preserved and accorded the status of canon. It is in Providence that we trust for the future of the church. The Westminster Confession of Faith declares: "As the providence of God doth, in general, reach to all creatures; so, after a most special manner, it taketh care of his church, and disposeth all things to the good thereof." -- R. C. Sproul

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

global warming what's up?

Here's the latest ...

From the Daily Express, "The scientific consensus that mankind has caused climate change was rocked yesterday as a leading academic called it a “load of hot air underpinned by fraud”.

It's not with glee that I watch the man-made global warming theory disintegrate. I pray Christians will continue (or in many cases begin to) care about God's wonderful creation. I also pray that those distracted by this theory will refocus on the same. Bottom line, as believers, global warming or not, this is God's creation and how dare we destroy it.

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"For the classic Protestant, though the individual believer has the right to the private interpretation of Scripture, he is capable of misinterpreting the Bible. But while he has the ability to misinterpret Scripture, he does not have the right to do it. That is, with the right of private interpretation comes the responsibility of making an accurate interpretation. We never have the right to distort the teaching of Scripture. Both sides agree that the individual is fallible when seeking to understand Scripture, but historic Protestantism limits the scope of infallibility to the Scriptures themselves. Church tradition and church creeds can err. Individual interpreters of Scripture can err. It is the Scriptures alone that are without error." -- R. C. Sproul

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A leading voice in the Emergent Conversation yesterday, "there's a lot of things Christians could learn from Buddhism... wish we were more open to that kind of stuff."

Either this is watered down in the context that God can teach us anything (except the core of the Gospel) through anything and thereby becomes rather meaningless at best and generally misleading. Or this means that Buddists can really teach Christianity out of Buddism and seriously fails because Buddists cannot love God the way God really is.

Net, I remain, confused and bothered by the EC penchant to promote other religions as sources of truth.


Evangelism According to the Book of Acts by Nathan W. Bingham:

Evangelism according to the Book of Acts:

  • Proclaim the judgment of God on all mankind.
  • Proclaim the Gospel truth, which is that Christ has fulfilled the Scriptures.
  • Baptize the many who, convicted of their sin and of the truth of the Gospel, cry out in belief, throwing themselves upon God's mercy in Christ.
Todd Pedlar suggests the above pattern [adapted from Michael Horton's Gospel-Driven Life (p.93)] and then comments:

Why can't we do it that simply? If the Word of God is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe, why can't its simple proclamation (in the whole counsel thereof) be sufficient for us? God cannot be marketed. The Truth simply must be proclaimed, and the results left to God.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

why jesus

"Jesus does not speak mainly to create controversy. He speaks to call sinners to himself, and to humble the proud, and to glorify his Father. This is why he lived. This is why he died. This is why he rose again. Come to him. Be satisfied in him. Be humbled by him. Give glory to God because of him. Amen." - John Piper, Skeptical Grumbling and Sovereign Grace


sola scriptura

"As with all elements of Christian truth, full examination will always support, uphold, and verify that sola Scriptura has long been the rule of believing Christian people, even before it became necessary to use the specific terminology against later innovators who would usurp the Scriptures' supremacy in the church. It is the teaching of the Scriptures about themselves (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Matt. 15:1-9, etc.), and we find a broad and deep witness to it in the early church fathers. Let us be thankful to God for the gracious gift of His sufficient and life-giving Word, the Holy Scriptures." -- James White

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parental duty

From J.C. Ryle in The Duties of Parents ...

It is a true proverb, ‘Who sins before a child, sins double.’ Strive rather to be a living epistle of Christ, such as your families can read, and that plainly too. Be an example of reverence for the Word of God, reverence in prayer, reverence for means of grace, reverence for the Lord’s day. — Be an example in words, in temper, in diligence, in temperance, in faith, in charity, in kindness, in humility. Think not your children will practise what they do not see you do. You are their model picture, and they will copy what you are. Your reasoning and your lecturing, your wise commands and your good advice; all this they may not understand, but they can understand your life.

Children are very quick observers; very quick in seeing through some kinds of hypocrisy, very quick in finding out what you really think and feel, very quick in adopting all your ways and opinions. You will often find as the father is, so is the son.

Remember the word that the conqueror Caesar always used to his soldiers in a battle. He did not say ‘Go forward,’ but ‘Come.’ So it must be with you in training your children. They will seldom learn habits which they see you despise, or walk in paths in which you do not walk yourself. He that preaches to his children what he does not practise, is working a work that never goes forward. It is like the fabled web of Penelope of old, who wove all day, and unwove all night. Even so, the parent who tries to train without setting a good example is building with one hand, and pulling down with the other.


Monday, November 30, 2009

proper dress

They call it underwear for a reason.

what binds

“What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. Christians come together . . . because . . . they have all been loved by Jesus himself . . .. They are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.” - D.A. Carson, Love in Hard Places


Friday, November 27, 2009


"The Statistics on Sanity are that one out of every four people is suffering from a mental illness. Look at your 3 best friends. If they're okay then it's you." - Amy Wright

lord vader

mahaney on small groups

C.J. Mahaney lays out four Scriptural goals that should be accomplished in small groups. These goals are
  • Progressive Sanctification -- an ongoing work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives. (in regards to Sanctification, Mahaney later says, "Small groups are not primarily intended for teaching and preaching; those functions are the responsibility of your pastor. Rather, small groups are designed for application.")
  • Mutual Care -- the practical outworking of our sacrificial love for each other which results in meeting one another's needs and carrying one another's burdens.
  • Fellowship -- participating in one another's lives because of the unifying bond we share in Jesus. This is more than just friendship or social activity, it is an active pursuit to see and be Jesus in the lives of other believers.
  • The Ministry of the Holy Spirit -- using the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit to enhance our fellowship together and to accomplish Jesus' mission together.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

wide awake

Wide Awake: The Life Giving Power of Worship

The following article was written by Casey Corum.

"The glory of God is man; fully alive" - St. Irenaeus of Lyons

At first reading, this often-quoted phrase can be interpreted in a number of ways. Let's explore this from a couple of different angles.

The glory of God is man - fully alive. In other words, it can be put forward that there is a measure to which God is glorified when we are fully being ourselves. God is glorified as we express our God-given gifts, talents, quirks and personalities. In other words, we are us being truly "us." I'm reminded of the quote from the 1981 movie, Chariots of Fire, when the character playing runner Eric Liddell expresses this thought:

"I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."

I think this quote gets at the heart of this idea - that God can be glorified when we express how He has made us. It is a powerful idea, indeed.

Another angle we can observe this quote from might be better understood if we turn St. Irenaeus' quote around on itself this way:

"Man fully alive, is man glorifying God."

I also love this interpretation because I believe it digs into the heart of our higher purpose and calling as the children of God. This is to say that our highest and most noble purpose, the place where we truly find that for which we are made, is to be found in that place of worship, glorifying God with all we are. This is the place we find His life in exchange for our own.

We can sense some of the deep joy to be found in this place of worship expressed in the words of Paul found in Romans 11:33,

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!"

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J.I. Packer writes, "We should not think of our fellowship with other Christians as a spiritual luxury, an optional addition to the exercises of private devotions. Fellowship is one of the great words of the New Testament; it denotes something that is vital to a Christian's spiritual health, and central to the Church's true life... The church will flourish and Christians will be strong only when there is fellowship."

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mercy based repentance

“Repentance out of mere fear is really sorrow for the consequences of sin, sorrow over the danger of sin — it bends the will away from sin, but the heart still clings. But repentance out of conviction over mercy is really sorrow over sin, sorrow over the grievousness of sin — it melts the heart away from sin. It makes the sin itself disgusting to us, so it loses its attractive power over us. We say, ‘this disgusting thing is an affront to the one who died for me. I’m continuing to stab him with it!’” - Timothy Keller, Church Planter Manual

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

evil for good

John Piper ...

The heart of the Bible is not an explanation of where evil came from, but a demonstration of how God enters into it and turns it for the very opposite - everlasting righteousness and joy.

God takes what we meant of evil at one level and turns it into good (Gen 50.20; Acts 2.23, 4.27-28; Isa 53.10). Piper again ...

This is why Jesus came to die. God meant to show the world that there is no sin and no evil too great that God cannot bring from it everlasting righteousness and joy. The very suffering that we caused became the hope of our salvation. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23.34).

past, present, and future

John Piper in Reason 47 of Why Jesus Came to Die - To Rescue Us From Final Judgment ...

The Christian idea of salvation relates to past, present, and future. The Bible says, "By grace you have been saved through faith" (Eph 2.8). It says that the gospel is the power of God "to us who are being saved" (1 Cor 1.18). And it say, " Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed" (Rom 13.11). We have been saved. We are being saved. We will be saved.

At every stage we are saved by the death of Christ. In the past, once for all, our sins were paid for by Christ himself. We were justified by faith alone. In the present, the death of Christ secures the power of God's Spirit to save us progressively from the domination and contamination of sin. And in the future, it will be the blood of Christ, poured out on the cross, that protects us from the wrath of God and brings us to perfection and joy.


Those who reject Christ and give their allegiance to another "will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and ... will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night" (Rev 14.10-11).

good deeds

We were not saved by good works but for good works (2 Tim 1.9; Titus 2.14, Eph 2.10). We are not to merely avoid evil, we are to pursue good - and we are to do that to the glory of our Father (Matt 5.16).

To achieve this, as John Piper puts it, "first comes the pardon of Christ, then the pattern of Christ." Paul tells us in Phil 3.9-10 that his ambition was first to share in Christ's righteousness by faith, and then to share his sufferings in ministry. Again, Piper, "Justification precedes and makes possible imitation. Christ's suffering for justification makes possible our suffering for proclamation. Our suffering for others does not remove the wrath of God. It shows the value of having the wrath of God removed by the suffering of Christ. It points people to him. ... Our suffering is crucial (2 tim 2.10), but Christ's alone saves. Therefore, let us imitate his love, but not take his place."

In Christ, we use our freedom to serve one another (Gal 5.13).

the new gospel

Kevin DeYoung on the "New Gospel":

The New Gospel generally has four parts to it.

It usually starts with an apology: “I’m sorry for my fellow Christians. I understand why you hate Christianity. It’s like that thing Ghandi said, ‘why can’t the Christians be more like their Christ?’ Christians are hypocritical, judgmental, and self-righteous. I know we screwed up with the Crusades, slavery, and the Witch Trials. All I can say is: I apologize. We’ve not give you a reason to believe.”

Then there is an appeal to God as love: “I know you’ve seen the preachers with the sandwich boards and bullhorns saying ‘Repent or Die.’ But I’m here to tell you God is love. Look at Jesus. He hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors. He loved unconditionally. There is so much brokenness in the world, but the good news of the Bible is that God came to live right in the middle of our brokenness. He’s a messy God and his mission is love. ‘I did not come into the world to condemn the world,’ that’s what Jesus said (John 3:17). He loved everyone, no matter who you were or what you had done. That’s what got him killed.”

The third part of the New Gospel is an invitation to join God on his mission in the world: “It’s a shame that Christians haven’t shown the world this God. But that’s what we are called to do. God’s kingdom is being established on earth. On earth! Not in some distant heaven after we die, but right here, right now. Even though we all mess up, we are God’s agents to show his love and bring this kingdom. And we don’t do that by scaring people with religious language or by forcing them into some religious mold. We do it by love. That’s the way of Jesus. That’s what it means to follow him. We love our neighbor and work for peace and justice. God wants us to become the good news for a troubled planet.”

And finally, there is a studied ambivalence about eternity: “Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in life after death. But our focus should be on what kind of life we can live right now. Will some people go to hell when they die? Who am I to say? Does God really require the right prayer or the right statement of faith to get into heaven? I don’t know, but I guess I can leave that in his hands. My job is not to judge people, but to bless. In the end, God’s amazing grace may surprise us all. That’s certainly what I hope for.”

Wow!!! That's all too familiar these days. I see that everyday in the blogsphere and even in my personal interaction with Christian friends. They seem almost unaware of how their thinking has be affected by the weltgeist. DeYoung explains how this can easily happen.

1. It is partially true. God is love. The kingdom has come. Christians can be stupid. The particulars of the New Gospel are often justifiable.
2. It deals with strawmen. The bad guys are apocalyptic street preachers, Crusaders, and caricatures of an evangelical view of salvation.
3. The New Gospel leads people to believe wrong things without explicitly stating those wrong things. That is, Christians who espouse the New Gospel feel safe from criticism because they never actually said belief is unimportant, or there is no hell, or that Jesus isn’t the only way, or that God has no wrath, or that there is no need for repentance. These distortions are not explicitly stated, but the New Gospel is presented in such a way that non-believers could, and by design should, come to these conclusions. In other words, the New Gospel allows the non-Christian to hear what he wants, while still providing an out against criticism from other Christians. The preacher of the New Gospel can always say when challenged, “But I never said I don’t believe those things.”
4. It is manageable. The New Gospel meets people where they are and leaves them there. It appeals to love and helping our neighbors. And it makes the appeal in a way that repudiates any hint of judgmentalism, intolerance, or religiosity. This is bound to be popular. It tells us what we want to hear and gives us something we can do.
5. The New Gospel is inspirational. This is what makes the message so appealing to young people in particular. They get the thrill and purpose of being part of a big cause, without all the baggage of the Church’s history, doctrine, and hard edges. Who wouldn’t want to join a revolution of love?
6. The New Gospel has no offense to it. This is why the message is so attractive. The bad guys are all “out there.” This can be a problem for any of us. We are all prone to soft-pedaling the gospel, only presenting the attractive parts and failing to mention where Christ does not just comfort but also confronts. And it must confront more than the sins of others. It is far too easy to use the New Gospel as a way to differentiate yourself from all the bad Christians. This makes you look good and confirms to the non-Christians that the obstacle to their commitment lies with the hypocrisy and failure of others. There is no talk of repentance or judgment. There is no hint that Jesus was killed, not so much for his inclusive love as his outrageous Godlike claims (Matt. 26:63-66; 27:39-43). The New Gospel only talks of salvation in strictly cosmic terms. In fact, the door is left wide open to imagine that hell, if it even exists, is probably not a big threat for most people.

So what's wrong with that? As usual, DeYoung has a few suggestions ...

It shouldn’t be hard to see what is missing in the new gospel. What’s missing is the old gospel, the one preached by the Apostles, the one defined in 1 Corinthians 15, the one summarized later in The Apostles’ Creed.

“But what you call the New Gospel is not a substitute for the old gospel. We still believe all that stuff.”

Ok, but why don’t you say it? And not just privately to your friends or on a statement of faith somewhere, but in public? You don’t have to be meaner, but you do have to be clearer. You don’t have to unload the whole truck of systematic theology on someone, but to leave the impression that hell is no big deal is so un-Jesus like (Matt. 10:26-33). And when you don’t talk about the need for faith and repentance you are very un-apostolic (Acts 2:38; 16:31).

“But we are just building bridges. We are relating to the culture first, speaking in a language they can understand, presenting the parts of the gospel that make the most sense to them. Once we have their trust and attention, then we can disciple and teach them about sin, repentance, faith and all the rest. This is only pre-evangelism.”

Yes, it’s true, we don’t have to start our conversations where we want to end up. But does the New Gospel really prime the pump for evangelism or just mislead the non-Christian into a false assurance? It’s one thing to open a door for further conversation. It’s another to make Christianity so palatable that it sounds like something the non-Christian already does. And this is assuming the best about the New Gospel, that underneath there really is a desire to get the old gospel out.

Paul’s approach with non-Christians in Athens is instructive for us (Acts 17:16-34). First, Paul is provoked that the city is so full of idols (16). His preaching is not guided by his disappointment with other Christians, but by his anger over unbelief. Next, he gets permission to speak (19-20). Paul did not berate people. He spoke to those who were willing to listen. But then look at what he does. He makes some cultural connection (22-23, 28), but from there he shows the contrast between the Athenian understanding of God and the way God really is (24-29). His message is not about a way of life, but about worshiping the true God in the right way. After that, he urges repentance (30), warns of judgment (31), and talks about Jesus’ resurrection (31).

The result is that some mocked (32). Who in the world mocks the New Gospel? There is nothing not to like. There is no scandal in a message about lame Christians, a loving God, changing the world, and how most of us are most likely not going to hell. This message will never be mocked, but Paul’s Mars Hill sermon was. And keep in mind, this teaching in Athens was only an entre into the Christian message. This was just the beginning, after which some wanted to hear him again (32). Paul said more in his opening salvo than some Christians ever dare to say. We may not be able to say everything Paul said at Athens all at once, but we certainly must not give the impression in our “pre-evangelism” that repentance, judgment, the necessity of faith, the importance of right belief, the centrality of the cross and the resurrection, the sinfulness of sin and the fallenness of man–the stuff that some suggest will be our actual evangelism–are outdated relics of a mean-spirited, hurtful Christianity.

A Final Plea

Please, please, please, if you are enamored with the New Gospel or anything like it, consider if you are really being fair with your fellow Christians in always throwing them under the bus. Consider if you are preaching like Jesus did, who called people, not first of all to a way of life, but to repent and believe (Mark 1:15). And as me and my friends consider if we lack the necessary patience and humility to speak tenderly with non-Christians, consider if your God is a lopsided cartoon God who never takes offense at sin (because sin is more than just un-neighborliness) and never pours out wrath (except for the occasional judgment against the judgmental). Consider if you are giving due attention to the cross and the Lamb of God who died there to take away the sin of the world. Consider if your explanation of the Christian message sounds anything like what we hear from the Apostles in the book of Acts when they engage the world.

This is no small issue. And it is not just a matter of emphasis. The New Gospel will not sustain the church. It cannot change the heart. And it does not save. It is crucial, therefore, that our evangelical schools, camps, conferences, publishing houses, and churches can discern the new gospel from the old.

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