Sunday, February 26, 2012

blessings and curses

Eschatology ... it's all about eschatology ...

Deuteronomy 27–30 is important for an understanding of biblical eschatology because it contains God’s pronouncement of the blessings that will result from obedience to the stipulations of the Mosaic covenant and the curses that will result from disobedience (cf. Lev. 26). In chapter 27, Moses commands the people to set up plastered stones at Mount Ebal upon which they are to write all the words of the law (vv. 1–8). After the people enter the land, six of the tribes are to stand on Mount Gerizim and six are to stand on Mount Ebal (vv. 11–13). The Levites are then to recite a summary of the curses of the covenant (vv. 14–26). Chapter 28 outlines in great detail the blessings for obedience to God’s covenant stipulations (vv. 1–14) and the curses for disobedience (vv. 15–68). Among the curses is the ultimate punishment, namely exile from the land (vv. 36, 64–65).

The lengthy recitation of blessings and curses is followed in chapters 29–30 by Moses’ third major address to the people. In this final address, he reminds them of all that God has done for them and appeals for covenant faithfulness (ch. 29). He then places before them a choice between life and death and demands a decision (ch. 30). In his final address, Moses foresees that the people will not remain true to God and that the curses of the covenant, including exile, will ultimately fall upon them (cf. 30:1). But he also foresees that Israel will eventually repent and be restored from exile (vv. 2–10).i This foreseen restoration from exile, however, raises an important question. McConville explains,

Deuteronomy 30:2–3 pictures the people’s repentance in exile, which in turn precipitates a restoration of their fortunes, here explicitly involving a return to the land. This structure immediately raises the question how that new restored situation might be any different from the old, the one that had had such wretched and apparently inevitable results.ii

In other words, even if Israel repents and is restored from exile, what is to prevent the entire cycle of disobedience and curses from occurring again?

An answer to the problem is found in Deuteronomy 30:6 where Moses declares, “And Yahweh your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” What God had commanded in Deuteronomy 10:16, he promises that he himself will do in 30:6. The answer to the problem of Israel’s stubborn infidelity ultimately rests in God himself. “He will somehow enable his people ultimately to do what they cannot do in their strength, namely, to obey him out of the conviction and devotion of their own hearts.”iii God’s promise to circumcise their hearts anticipates the promise of a new heart and new covenant found in the prophets (Jer. 31:31–34; Ezek. 36:22–28). In effect, God is telling Israel in Deuteronomy that she cannot in her own strength obey the very law that he is giving her. Because of Israel’s stubborn self-confidence, however, this is something that she will have to learn the hard way.

i T. D. Alexander, From Paradise to the Promised Land: An Introduction to the Pentateuch, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 275.
iiJ. Gordon McConville, Grace in the End: A Study in Deuteronomic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 136.
iiiMcConville, Grace in the End, 137.

serious leadership

Do you take your leadership role seriously?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

cell phones

Turn off your mobile phone during church services ...

most important questions for a small group

  1. Is he or she a follower of Christ? If a small group leader realizes that a group member has not yet crossed the line of faith and become a Christ-follower, the leader needs to 1) make the most of every opportunity the Holy Spirit creates to voice the gospel to that group member, 2) watch the group member closely during group meetings and capture a transformational moment when it occurs, 3) carefully answer any question the group member has and bathe that answer in the person and story of Jesus. 4) Integrate the Gospel into every group conversation when it is possible and appropriate.
  2. Is there a past experience the Enemy, Satan, is using to hold the group member captive? Some group members are Christ-followers but the Enemy is using a past experience or past experiences to keep the group member from realizing the joy and peace that Jesus promised. Past experiences might include ongoing verbal, physical, or sexual abuse by a family member or someone else, a group of high school friends defriending the group member, a church spiritually abusing, etc... Satan uses such experiences to demean the person and destroy the new heart one receives when adopted by God. Realizing whether or not a group member is in this situation will explain their attitudes and reactions to many conversations and will make it possible for the group leader to point them toward the help they need that can aid them in their movement toward freedom.
  3. Is he or she proactively on a journey toward Christ-likeness? Many believers received Christ and are active in church but are not proactively striving to become Christ-like. When a group leader is aware of spiritual apathy that group leader then begins to do whatever is necessary to motivate the group member to be involved in spiritual disciplines, spend time conversing about the things of God, and slowly move the person toward a walk with Christ that is real and passionate and transformational.
  4. What can I do to help the group member take the next step? Once a group leader is aware of the answer to the three questions you just read, the group leader must ask herself/himself how they can help the group member to commit to taking whatever the next step is for them. Helping group members commit to next steps is the first step toward transformation that is real and eternal.

Friday, February 24, 2012

righteous standing

Milton Vincent, in A Gospel Primer, writes:

The gospel encourages me to rest in my righteous standing with God, a standing in which Christ Himself has accomplished and always maintains for me. I never have to do a moment's labor to gain or maintain my justified status before God! Freed from the burden of such a task, I now can put my energies into enjoying God, pursuing holiness, and ministering God's amazing grace to others.

The gospel also reminds me that my righteous standing with God always holds firm regardless of my performance, because my standing is based solely on the work of Jesus and not mine. On my worst days of sin and failure, the gospel encourages me with God's unrelenting grace toward me. On my best days of victory and usefulness, the gospel keeps me relating to God solely on the basis of Jesus' righteousness and not mine.


long to see him

J. Gresham Machen wrote:

[H]eaven is communion with God and with His Christ. It can be said reverently that the Christian longs for heaven not only for his own sake, but also for the sake of God. Our present love is so cold, our present service so weak; and we would one day love and serve Him as His love deserves. It is perfectly true that the Christian is dissatisfied with the present world, but it is a holy dissatisfaction; it is that hunger and thirst after righteousness which our Savior blessed. We are separated from the Savior now by the veil of sense and by the effects of sin, and it is not selfish to long to see Him face to face. To relinquish such longing is not unselfishness, but is like the cold heartlessness of a man who could part from father or mother or wife or child without a pang. It is not selfish to long for the One whom not having seen we love.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

horoscope preaching


force in the christian life

On faith, love, and the force of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life, J. Gresham Machen writes:

Thus the Christian life, though it begins by a momentary act of God, is continued by a process. In other words—to use theological language—justification and regeneration are followed by sanctification. In principle the Christian is already free from the present evil world, but in practice freedom must still be attained. Thus the Christian life is not a life of idleness, but a battle.

That is what Paul means when he speaks of faith working through love (Gal. v. 6). The faith that he makes the means of salvation is not an idle faith, like the faith which is condemned in the Epistle of James, but a faith that works. The work that it performs is love, and what love is Paul explains in the last section of the Epistle to the Galatians. Love, in the Christian sense, is not a mere emotion, but a very practical and a very comprehensive thing. It involves nothing less than the keeping of the whole law of God. “The whole law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Yet the practical results of faith do not mean that faith itself is a work. It is a significant thing that in that last “practical” section of Galatians Paul does not say that I faith produces the life of love; he says that the Spirit of God produces it. The Spirit, then, in that section is represented as doing exactly what in the pregnant words, “faith working through love,” is attributed to faith. The apparent contradiction simply leads to the true conception of faith. True faith does not do anything. When it is said to do something (for example, when we say that it can remove mountains), that is only by a very natural shortness of expression. Faith is the exact opposite of works; faith does not give, it receives. So when Paul says that we do something by faith, that is just another way of saying that of ourselves we do nothing; when it is said that faith works through love that means that through faith the necessary basis of all Christian work has been obtained in the removal of guilt and the birth of the new man, and that the Spirit of God has been received—the Spirit who works with and through the Christian man for holy living. The force which enters the Christian life through faith and works itself out through love is the power of the Spirit of God.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

paul the murderer

John Piper wrestles with the question, Why did God let Paul become a murderer?

We know that before Paul was born God had set him apart for his apostleship.

He who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles. (Galatians 1:15–16).

And we know that Paul became a Christian-hating (Acts 9:1), Christ-persecuting (Acts 9:5), zealot (Philippians 3:6; Galatians 1:14) before he was converted. Forever after he would call himself “the chief of sinners” because of these wicked days (1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Corinthians 15:9).

We also know that God broke into Paul’s life dramatically and decisively to bring him to faith (Acts 9:3–19). Which means that he could have planned the Damascus Road encounter before Paul imprisoned and murdered Christians. But he didn’t.

His purpose, therefore, was to allow Paul to become the “chief of sinners” and then save him, and make him the apostle who would write thirteen books of the New Testament.

Why? Why do it this way? Why choose him before birth to be an apostle? Then let him sink into wicked and violent opposition to Christ? And then save him dramatically and decisively on the Damascus road? Why.

Here are six reasons. The first two are explicit in the biblical text. The last four are clear inferences from the first two. God did it this way . . .
  1. To put the perfect patience of Christ on display. “I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience.” (1 Timothy 1:16)
  2. To encourage those who think they are too sinful to have hope. “I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16)
  3. To show that God saves hardened haters of Christ, who have even murdered Christians.
  4. To show that God permits his much-loved elect to sink into flagrant wickedness.
  5. To show that God can make the chief of sinners the chief of missionaries.
  6. To show a powerless, persecuted, marginalized church that they can triumph by the supernatural conversion of their most powerful foes.


Holiness starts and continues in Christ. JC Ryle wrote the following in Christ is All:

I pity those who try to be holy without Christ! Your labor is all in vain. You are putting money in a bag with holes. You are pouring water into a sieve. You are rolling a huge round stone uphill. You are building up a wall with untempered mortar. Believe me, you are beginning at the wrong end. You must come to Christ first, and He shall give you His sanctifying Spirit. You must learn to say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13)

the bible has errors

Jonathan Dodson writes:

So, when someone asserts that the Bible has errors, we can reply by saying: “Yes, our Bible translations do have errors, let me tell you about them. But as you can see, less than 1% of them are meaningful and those errors don’t affect the major teachings of the Christian faith. In fact, there are 1000 times more manuscripts of the Bible than the most documented Greco-Roman historian by Suetonius. So, if we’re going to be skeptical about ancient books, we should be 1000 times more skeptical of the Greco-Roman histories. The Bible is, in fact, incredibly reliable.”

Contrary to popular assertion, that as time rolls on we get further and further away from the original with each new discovery, we actually get closer and closer to the original text. As Wallace puts it, we have “an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the biblical documents.” Therefore, we can be confident that what we read in our modern translations of the the ancient texts is approximately 99% accurate. It is very reliable.

Monday, February 20, 2012

object of faith

J. Gresham Machen writes of the object and result of our faith in Christianity & Liberalism:

Faith is often based upon error, but there would be no faith at all unless it were sometimes based upon truth. But if Christian faith is based upon truth, then it is not the faith which saves the Christian but the object of the faith. And the object of the faith is Christ. Faith, then, according to the Christian view means simply receiving a gift. To have faith in Christ means to cease trying to win God’s favor by one’s own character; the man who believes in Christ simply accepts the sacrifice which Christ offered on Calvary. The result of such faith is a new life and all good works; but the salvation itself is an absolutely free gift of God.

Very different is the conception of faith which prevails in the liberal Church. According to modern liberalism, faith is essentially the same as “making Christ Master” in one’s life; at least it is by making Christ Master in the life that the welfare of men is sought. But that simply means that salvation is thought to be obtained by our own obedience to the commands of Christ. Such teaching is just a sublimated form of legalism. Not the sacrifice of Christ, on this view, but our own obedience to God’s law, is the ground of hope.

In this way the whole achievement of the Reformation has been given up, and there has been a return to the religion of the Middle Ages. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, God raised up a man who began to read the Epistle to the Galatians with his own eyes. The result was the rediscovery of the doctrine of justification by faith. Upon that rediscovery has been based the whole of our evangelical freedom. As expounded by Luther and Calvin the Epistle to the Galatians became the “Magna Charta of Christian liberty.” But modern liberalism has returned to the old interpretation of Galatians which was urged against the Reformers. Thus Professor Burton’s elaborate commentary on the Epistle, despite all its extremely valuable modern scholarship, is in one respect a medieval book; it has returned to an anti-Reformation exegesis, by which Paul is thought to be attacking in the Epistle only the piecemeal morality of the Pharisees. In reality, of course, the object of Paul’s attack is the thought that in any way man can earn his accep- tance with God. What Paul is primarily interested in is not spiritual religion over against ceremonialism, but the free grace of God over against human merit.

The grace of God is rejected by modern liberalism. And the result is slavery—the slavery of the law, the wretched bondage by which man undertakes the impossible task of establishing his own righteousness as a ground of acceptance with God. It may seem strange at first sight that “liberalism,” of which the very name means freedom, should in reality be wretched slavery. But the phenomenon is not really so strange. Emancipation from the blessed will of God always involves bondage to some worse taskmaster.

called to preach

One possible way to recognize a call to preaching ...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

applying the atonement

In Christianity & Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen writes the following on the atonement:

The atoning death of Christ, and that alone, has presented sinners as righteous in God’s sight; the Lord Jesus has paid the full penalty of their sins, and clothed them with His perfect righteousness before the judgment seat of God. But Christ has done for Christians even far more than that. He has given to them not only a new and right relation to God, but a new life in God’s presence for evermore. He has saved them from the power as well as from the guilt of sin. The New Testament does not end with the death of Christ; it does not end with the triumphant words of Jesus on the Cross, “It is finished.” The death was followed by the resurrection, and the resurrection like the death was for our sakes. Jesus rose from the dead into a new life of glory and power, and into that life He brings those for whom He died. The Christian, on the basis of Christ’s redeeming work, not only has died unto sin, but also lives unto God. ...

But how is the redeeming work of Christ applied to the individual Christian man? The answer of the New Testament is plain. According to the New Testament the work of Christ is applied to the individual Christian man by the Holy Spirit. And this work of the Holy Spirit is part of the creative work of God. It is not accomplished by the ordinary use of means; it is not accomplished merely by using the good that is already in man. On the contrary, it is something new. It is not an influence upon the life, but the beginning of a new life; it is not development of what we had already, but a new birth. At the very center of Christianity are the words, “Ye must be born again.”

These words are despised today. They involve supernaturalism, and the modern man is opposed to supernaturalism in the experience of the individual as much as in the realm of history. A cardinal doctrine of modern liberalism is that the world’s evil may be overcome by the world’s good; no help is thought to be needed from outside the world.

stuff calvinist say

My friend Geoff Hill tipped me off to this one. Excellent!

how to overcome

First, as side note, I'm an Amillennialist, so this post from Jonathan Parnell rings true on multiple levels. Also, in our small group we just discussed Genesis 3.1-13 (noted here already), and in that talked what is it Adam and Eve thought they were really going to gain. We contrasted the temptation in Gen 3.5 with the truth found in Gen 1.26. We then asked how we are any different given the truth found in passages such as 2 Tim 2.10-13  and Rev 22.5. Ok, that aside, here is Parnell's post with it's excellent warning that we must know the true Word of God.

Tribulation is here, and we need to know God's word.

This is the gist of chapter 7 in Greg Beale's A New Testament Biblical Theology. In 37 pages, he lays out how the eschatological tribulation has been inaugurated with Jesus and the church. It's here, now.

Tribulation Already

Tell tale marks of the tribulation, according to Daniel 7–12, include persecution and deception through false teaching. The apostles were mindful of how present these things were in their own day, especially the rise of false teaching. John even drops the A-word (antichrist) in 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 1:7. Though it seems to have not yet reached its climax, the tribulation clearly has begun (the whole period between Christ’s two comings), and Christians are called to persevere.

On the corporate level, a major part of this perseverance is church elders (gently) correcting insidious doctrines that raise their head within the covenant community (see 2 Timothy). As individuals, the best antidote is to understand temptation — and know the Bible.

Deception All Over Again

Beale observes that the same ways Satan deceived Adam and Eve at the beginning of history are reproduced by the biblical authors to characterize his deception at history's end. On this note, Beale shows how we can learn from the initial failure to trust God's word:

Eve was deceived because she did not know God's word sufficiently or did not esteem it highly enough. . . . [W]hen confronted by the satanic serpent, Eve either failed to remember God's word accurately or changed it intentionally for her own purposes. First, she minimized their privileges by saying, “We may eat,” whereas God had said, “You may eat freely.” Second, Eve minimized the judgment by saying, “Lest you die,” whereas God said, “You will surely die.” Third, she maximized the prohibition by affirming, “You shall not . . . touch” (becoming the first legalist in history), whereas God originally said only, “You shall not eat.”

If Adam remembered God's word, then he did not trust it, since he did not come to Eve's aid when she failed to recollect the word rightly in the face of the serpent accusations. Adam and Eve did not remember God's word adequately, and they “fell.” When the defense of God's word is taken away, all kinds of satanic lies come to fill the void, the desire to resist temptation breaks down, and sin inevitably occurs. (222)

Beale explains, "Jesus Christ, however, knew the word and, by obeying it, established himself as God's true last Adam and true Israel. . . . Jesus succeeded against exactly those temptations in which Adam and Israel failed because he remembered God's word and obeyed it" (222).

Know and Believe God's Word

Beale concludes with application for where we live:

The heart of the matter is this: do Christians know God's word, do they believe it, and do they do it? If not, then the lies of the evil one will slip into our lives and churches ever so subtly. When this happens and the process goes unchecked and uncorrected, then the deceptions begin to pour in like an overflowing river (cf. Revelation 12:15). . . Do Christian families make God's word the center of their homes? Do pastors set aside sufficient time to study God's word in preparation for Sunday sermons in order to "be diligent to present yourself approved to God as workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15)? If not, then the false teaching of those "who have gone astray from the truth" will make inroads into the church (2 Timothy 2:18). (223)

irish confessional

Irish Confessional Box

An Irishman goes into the confessional box after years of being away from the Church. He is amazed to find a fully equipped bar with Guinness on tap. On the other wall is a dazzling array of the finest cigars and chocolates in the world. When the priest comes in, the Irishman excitedly begins...

Father, forgive me, for it's been a very long time since I've been to confession, but I must first admit that the confessional box is much more inviting than it used to be."

The priest replies, "Get out. You're on my side."

Saturday, February 18, 2012

sexuality and the covenant

In holiness and sexuality, David Peterson writes on Sexuality and the covenant in the Book of Leviticus:

Leviticus 1-16

The first sixteen chapters of Leviticus deal with laws of sacrifice, the institution of the priesthood, and various regulations about uncleanness and its treatment. By preserving Israel’s purity, these cultic provisions would enable her ‘to remain in contact with God and witness to his presence in the world.’[Cf. G. J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), p. 5. Note Wenham’s examination of holiness and purity in Leviticus (pp. 18-25).] The New Testament points to the fulfilment and replacement of this tabernacle or temple cult in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ (e.g. Heb. 9:1 – 10:18). Under the New Covenant, definitive cleansing and sanctification is available for Jews and Gentiles alike through the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 1:2, 30; 6:11). Continual access to God ‘with a true heart in full assurance of faith’ is possible because of the high-priestly ministry of Jesus the exalted Messiah (Heb. 10:19-22).

Leviticus 18 and practical holiness

Leviticus 17-27 offers various prescriptions for practical holiness, covering every area of Israelite life. Chapter 17 gives basic principles about food and sacrifice, chapter 18 deals specifically with sexual behaviour, and chapter 19 articulates what it means to be a good neighbour, including the famous injunction to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (v. 18). The list of capital and other grave crimes in Leviticus 20 includes religious and sexual behaviour, showing again how family and sexual matters were central to the Old Testament view of holiness.

Seven times in Leviticus 18 the Israelites are warned not to behave like the nations who occupied Canaan before them (vv. 3 [twice], 24, 26, 27, 29, 30). The fundamental reason is simply stated: ‘I am the Lord (your God)’ (vv. 2, 4, 5, 6, 21, 30). This phrase recalls the revelation of the name of God to Israel, associated with the promise of redemption from Egypt and settlement in the promised land (Ex. 3:13-17; 6:2-9; Lev. 19:34, 36; 23:43; 25:38, 55; 26:13, 45; cf. Nu. 15:41). In Leviticus it is regularly linked with the general command to be holy, because the Lord himself is holy (Lev. 11:44-5; 19:2; 20:7-8, 24). The phrase is also linked with specific instructions to indicate that ‘the people of God were expected to keep the law, not merely as a formal duty but as a loving response to God’s grace in redemption.’[Wenham, Leviticus, p. 251]

Negatively, therefore, there is a continuing challenge in Leviticus 18 to turn away from the practices of the nations, including incestuous relationships (vv. 6-18), adultery (v. 20), offering children in sacrifice (v. 21), homosexual behaviour (v. 22), and bestiality (v. 23). Positively, there is the continuing challenge to be different because of who God is (vv. 2-4) and because his rules offer true life (v. 5, cf. 26:3-13), rather than uncleanness, which leads to judgement (vv. 24-30).

Homosexuality in this context

Homosexuality is described as ‘an abomination’ (18:22, cf. 20:13; Heb. tô‘ēbâ), meaning something abhorred or hated. The implication is that certain practices are hated by God and should therefore be hated by his people. In 18:26, 27, 29, 30, the term is employed to describe everything prohibited in the chapter. In biblical usage, it does not simply speak of idolatry, as some have argued, nor does it limit the prohibition against homosexuality to cult prostitution.[The noun tô‘ēbâ (‘abomination’) is related to the verb t‘b (‘abhor, detest’). In the OT, ‘pagan worship practices, deceit and insubordination within the covenant nation, and superficial worship of Yahweh constitute three major realms of abhorrent activities.’ (M. A. Grisanti, NIDOTTE 4: 315)]

Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 both use the general term ‘male’ (Heb. zākār, as in Gen. 1:27), thus forbidding every kind of male-male intercourse. Both partners are equally condemned in 20:13. Furthermore, both texts use the term ‘lie with’ (Heb. škb with a preposition), rather than a verb which may suggest rape or any kind of forced relationship.[W. C. Williams NIDOTTE 4:102 overstates the case when he concludes that, ‘when used to denote sexual relations, the idiom “lie with” and its derivatives denote sexual relations that are illicit.’ Exceptions such as Gen. 30:15-16; 2 Sam. 11:11; 12:24 show that the expression can be used of legitimate sexual relation.] The phrase ‘as with a woman’ indicates that what is condemned is sexual activity in which a male puts another male in the position of a female. In short, these texts condemn homosexual intercourse where both parties consent, whether it is practised privately or in connection with pagan worship.

Gordon Wenham explains the distinctiveness of these prohibitions in the light of what can be known about attitudes towards homosexuality amongst Israel’s neighbours:

‘The ancient Near East was a world in which the practice of homosexuality was well known. It was an integral part of temple life at least in parts of Mesopotamia, and no blame appears to have attached to its practice outside of worship. Those who regularly played the passive role in intercourse were despised for being effeminate, and certain relationships such as father-son or pederasty were regarded as wrong, but otherwise it was regarded as quite respectable.’[Wenham, ‘Homosexuality’, p. 361]

Set against this background, the Old Testament laws are very striking. They ban every type of homosexual activity, not just forcible intercourse as the Assyrians did, or sex with youths as the Egyptians did.

Reflecting the perspectives of Genesis

This distinctiveness cannot simply be explained in terms of Israel’s aversion to the customs of her neighbours. Many of the most fundamental principles of Old Testament theology are expressed in the opening chapters of Genesis. The biblical view of creation is that God created the different plants and animals to reproduce according to their own particular type. ‘Hence the law forbids any mixed breeding or acts that might encourage it (Lev. 19:19; Dt. 22:5, 9-11).’[Wenham, ‘Homosexuality’, p. 363] Genesis speaks of the creation of mankind in two sexes, in order to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ (1:28), but also so that male and female might relate together in total intimacy and become ‘one flesh’ (2:18-24). Wenham concludes:

‘It therefore seems most likely that Israel’s repudiation of homosexual intercourse arises out of its doctrine of creation . . . To allow the legitimacy of homosexual acts would frustrate the divine purpose and deny the perfection of God’s provision of two sexes to support and complement one another.’[Wenham, ‘Homosexuality’, p. 363. Leviticus refers to incest as literally sex with your ‘own flesh’ (18:16-17; 20:19). Homosexuality is similarly rejected because it involves intercourse between beings that are too much alike. By contrast, bestiality is condemned because it is sex between beings that are too much unlike.]

More generally, Mary Douglas makes the same point. Holiness means keeping distinct the categories of creation:

‘It therefore involves correct definition, discrimination and order. Under this head all the rules of sexual morality exemplify the holy. Incest and adultery (Lev. 18:6-20) are against holiness, in the simple sense of right order. Morality does not conflict with holiness, but holiness is more a matter of separating that which should be separated than of protecting the rights of husbands and brothers.’[M. Douglas, Purity and Danger (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966), p. 54. Note that bestiality is condemned in Lev. 18:23 because it is literally ‘a confusion’ (Heb. tebel from bālal, ‘to mix’). EVV translate ‘perversion’. Cf. 20:12, where the same word is used in connection with a man having intercourse with his daughter-in-law.]

The apostle Paul seems to reflect this view of creation when he describes homosexual behaviour as ‘contrary to nature’ (Gk. para physin, Rom. 1:26). I deal with this issue more fully in an article entitled Same-sex unions and Romans 1. Sanctification under old and new covenants involves God’s enabling to live according to the ‘right order’ that he has established for relationships (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

bethke after hating religion

After his viral video Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus, Jeff Bethke posts this excellent article of his thoughts after the video. Interesting and worth the read.


We read Gen 3.1-13 in small group this week. One of the questions discussed was if God was culpable for our sin and why did He let it happen in the first place. Justin Taylor just reposted a portion of a message from John Piper. Here are the relevant thoughts:

[Jonathan] Edwards answers, “If by ‘the author of sin,’ be meant the sinner, the agent, or the actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing . . . it would be a reproach and blasphemy, to suppose God to be the author of sin. In this sense, I utterly deny God to be the author of sin.”

But, he argues, willing that sin exist in the world is not the same as sinning. God does not commit sin in willing that there be sin. God has established a world in which sin will indeed necessarily come to pass by God’s permission, but not by his “positive agency.”

God is, Edwards says, “the permitter . . . of sin; and at the same time, a disposer of the state of events, in such a manner, for wise, holy and most excellent ends and purposes, that sin, if it be permitted . . . will most certainly and infallibly follow.”

He uses the analogy of the way the sun brings about light and warmth by its essential nature, but brings about dark and cold by dropping below the horizon. “If the sun were the proper cause of cold and darkness,” he says, “it would be the fountain of these things, as it is the fountain of light and heat: and then something might be argued from the nature of cold and darkness, to a likeness of nature in the sun.” In other words, “sin is not the fruit of any positive agency or influence of the most High, but on the contrary, arises from the withholding of his action and energy, and under certain circumstances, necessarily follows on the want of his influence.”

Thus in one sense God wills that what he hates come to pass, as well as what he loves. Edwards says,

God may hate a thing as it is in itself, and considered simply as evil, and yet . . . it may be his will it should come to pass, considering all consequences. . . . God doesn’t will sin as sin or for the sake of anything evil; though it be his pleasure so to order things, that he permitting, sin will come to pass; for the sake of the great good that by his disposal shall be the consequence. His willing to order things so that evil should come to pass, for the sake of the contrary good, is no argument that he doesn’t hate evil, as evil: and if so, then it is no reason why he may not reasonably forbid evil as evil, and punish it as such.

This is a fundamental truth that helps explain some perplexing things in the Bible, namely, that God often expresses his will to be one way, and then acts to bring about another state of affairs.

God opposes hatred toward his people, yet ordained that his people be hated in Egypt (Genesis 12:3; Psalm 105:25—”He turned their hearts to hate his people”).

He hardens Pharaoh’s heart, but commands him to let his people go (Exodus 4:21; 5:1; 8:1).

He makes plain that it is sin for David to take a military census of his people, but he ordains that he do it (2 Samuel 24:1; 24:10).

He opposes adultery, but ordains that Absalom should lie with his father’s wives (Exodus 20:14; 2 Samuel 12:11).

He forbids rebellion and insubordination against the king, but ordained that Jeroboam and the ten tribes should rebel against Rehoboam (Romans 13:1; 1 Samuel 15:23; 1 Kings 12:15-16).

He opposes murder, but ordains the murder of his Son (Exodus 20:13; Acts 4:28).

He desires all men to be saved, but effectually calls only some (1 Timothy 2:4; 1 Corinthians 1:26-30; 2 Timothy 2:26).

What this means is that we must learn that God wills things in two different senses. The Bible demands this by the way it speaks of God’s will in different ways. Edwards uses the terms “will of decree” and “will of command.” Edwards explains:

[God's] will of decree [or sovereign will] is not his will in the same sense as his will of command [or moral will] is. Therefore it is not difficult at all to suppose that the one may be otherwise than the other: his will in both senses is his inclination. But when we say he wills virtue, or loves virtue or the happiness of his creature; thereby is intended that virtue or the creature’s happiness, absolutely and simply considered, is agreeable to the inclination of his nature. His will of decree is his inclination to a thing not as to that thing absolutely and simply, but with reference to the universality of things. So God, though he hates a things as it is simply, may incline to it with reference to the universality of things.

Friday, February 17, 2012

in and through christ

All the good that [we] have is in and through Christ; He is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. All the good of the fallen and redeemed creature is concerned in these four things, and cannot be better distributed than into them; but Christ is each of them to us, and we have none of them any otherwise than in him. He is made of God unto us wisdom: in him are all the proper good and true excellency of the understanding. Wisdom was a thing that the Greeks admired; but Christ is the true light of the world; it is through him alone that true wisdom is imparted to the mind. It is in and by Christ that we have righteousness: it is by being in him that we are justified, have our sins pardoned, and are received as righteous into God’s favor. It is by Christ that we have sanctification: we have in him true excellency of heart as well as of understanding; and he is made unto us inherent as well as imputed righteousness. It is by Christ that we have redemption, or the actual deliverance from all misery, and the bestowment of all happiness and glory. Thus we have all our good by Christ, who is God.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

mainstreaming homosexuality

Once again I completely agree with Mr. Wittmer; let us be on-guard.

Last night I witnessed another significant step in our culture’s embrace of homosexual practice. You can tell a minority group has achieved cultural power when it unapologetically ridicules another minority group. And last night the homosexuals of Modern Family took aim at Appalachians, apparently the one remaining group that even enlightened liberals enjoy mocking.

In case you haven’t heard of America’s favorite sitcom, Modern Family is a well-written story about three inter-connected families, one of whom is a union of two homosexual men. Last night the men wanted to have another child, and rather than adopt this time, they considered artificially inseminating the egg of one guy’s sister with the other guy’s sperm. After the wine wore off they concluded that having a child whose aunt is also its mom seems like a “freak show” only found in “Appalachia.”

And there it is. Homosexual practice is so well established that now gay characters are free to make fun of others. And I’m betting that most viewers didn’t even catch this. Modern Family has slowly accustomed its viewers to accept the homosexual lifestyle. The first season the men rarely touched or showed affection, but now they kiss and behave like a normal married couple.

Most viewers probably accept that they have a bona fide marriage, in part because Modern Family wisely never shows them in the act of marriage. Last month Newsweek ran a column asking why you never see homosexual acts in movies. Unlike heterosexual acts, which are often pornographically displayed on screen, homosexual acts always happen off camera and are only implied in the story. The reason, as the homosexual creators of Will and Grace concede, is that audiences would be grossed out and turned off by the homosexual agenda. As long as people don’t think about what homosexuals actually do, they will gladly accept their right to be married.

The strategy is working, for homosexual practice has apparently finally and irretrievably arrived. Just ask the picked-on people of Appalachia.

There's an agenda here and it isn't good.

And in Barbara Walter's interview ... well see for yourself ... stick with it through the end ...

And for those that think I'm biased against this particular sin, there are many other things in the show to also be concerned about.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

rudd on group health

David Rudd modified Rick Warren's Seven Marks of a Healthy Small Group. Here's Rudd's list.
  1. Healthy small groups study the Bible. Acts 2:42 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching …” The teaching of the apostles is what we call the New Testament today. Every week at Calvary, we provide small group questions that focus on the same passage that was preached on Sunday. The benefit of this is that it helps people focus on one Bible truth, instead of having them try to focus on 5-6 different ideas each week.
  2. Healthy small groups share life together. The Book of Acts says the early believers were devoted to fellowship (Acts 2:42). Notice the Bible says they were devoted to the fellowship, not just to fellowship. In other words, fellowship is not just something the church does; we are the fellowship. Jesus calls us to be committed to one another, and it is through small groups that we learn the skills of relationship. Small groups are laboratories of love, where we learn to obey the command of Jesus to love your neighbor as you love yourself.
  3. Healthy small groups remember Jesus together. The Bible says the early believers devoted themselves “to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). Communion is an important ceremony that reminds us of Christ's work on our behalf. Spending time to remember this together is a great way to grow together.
  4. Healthy small groups pray together. The Bible says the early believers devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 2:42). In the intimacy and confidentiality of small groups, we can pray for each other as we share our hurts, reveal our feelings, confess our failures, disclose our doubts, admit our fears, acknowledge our weaknesses, and ask for help.
  5. Healthy small groups are generous. The Bible says these small groups gave “to anyone who had need” (Acts 2:45 NIV). Small groups allow us to help each other with practical needs. Can I loan you a car? Can I provide you with some meals when you are sick? The early Church had decentralized ministries, people just took care of one another as they were able. The small group model enables this kind of care and generosity.
  6. Healthy small groups worship together. The Bible says the New Testament small groups worshiped together, “praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:47). We need to worship God more than once a week, and small groups offer an opportunity to worship together. Worship is more than just singing songs. Worship can be a time of thanksgiving, or just recounting the blessings God has provided over the course of the previous week.
  7. Healthy small groups witness together. As these small groups met together, “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). They were inviting others to join them. One of the proofs of a healthy small group is that it grows. True Christianity is contagious, the excitement of new life in Christ should spread outward from every small group and into the community.

eye of christ

From JC Ryle in Are You Fighting?

Let us remember that the eye of our loving Savior is upon us morning, noon, and night. He will never suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear. He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, for He suffered himself being tempted. He knows what battles and conflicts are, for He Himself was assaulted by the prince of this world. Having such a High Priest, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.


Monday, February 13, 2012

on denying the atonement

In Christianity and Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen writes:

[T]o deny the necessity of atonement is to deny the existence of a real moral order. And it is strange how those who venture upon such denial can regard themselves as disciples of Jesus; for if one thing is clear in the record of Jesus’ life it is that Jesus recognized the justice as distinguished from the love of God. God is love, according to Jesus, but He is not only love. Jesus spoke, in terrible words, of the sin that shall never be forgiven either in this world or in that which is to come. Clearly Jesus recognized the existence of retributive justice; Jesus was far from accepting the light modern view of sin.


Modern liberal teachers are never tired of ringing the changes upon this objection. They speak with horror of the doctrine of an “alienated” or an “angry” God. In answer, of course it would be easy to point to the New Testament. The New Testament clearly speaks of the wrath of God and the wrath of Jesus Himself; and all the teaching of Jesus presupposes a divine indignation against sin. With what possible right, then, can those who reject this vital element in Jesus’ teaching and ex- ample regard themselves as true disciples of His? The truth is that the modern rejection of the doctrine of God’s wrath proceeds from a light view of sin which is totally at variance with the teaching of the whole New Testament and of Jesus Himself. If a man has once come under a true conviction of sin, he will have little difficulty with the doctrine of the Cross.

But as a matter of fact the modern objection to the doctrine of the atonement on the ground that that doctrine is contrary to the love of God, is based upon the most abysmal misunderstanding of the doctrine itself. The modern liberal teachers persist in speaking of the sacrifice of Christ as though it were a sacrifice made by some one other than God. They speak of it as though it meant that God waits coldly until a price is paid to Him before He forgives sin. As a matter of fact, it means nothing of the kind; the objection ignores that which is absolutely fundamental in the Christian doctrine of the Cross. The fundamental thing is that God Himself, and not another, makes the sacrifice for sin—God Himself in the person of the Son who assumed our nature and died for us, God Himself in the Person of the Father who spared not His own Son but offered Him up for us all. Salvation is as free for us as the air we breathe; God’s the dreadful cost, ours the gain. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Such love is very different from the complacency found in the God of modern preaching; this love is love that did not count the cost; it is love that is love indeed.

prayer whining

Yep ... been there ... prayer whining ...

in his image

Speaking of the communicable attributes of God, Kim Riddlebarger does a nice job teasing out what it means to be made in God's image. Below are his thoughts:

With the language of the eighth Psalm clearly in mind (“you have made [man] a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor” v. 5), Reformed theologian Cornelius Van Til once declared that Adam was created to be like God in every way in which a creature can be like God. These words sound rather shocking when we first hear them. And yet as Van Til goes on to point out, because Adam is a creature, he will never be divine. Adam will always be a creature. Therefore, Christians cannot talk about the creation of humanity without first being clear about the fact that God is distinct from his creation, and cannot be identified either with the world around us or its creatures.

That said, the biblical account tells us that Adam was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), which indicates that Adam is neither divine, nor the product of some unspecified primordial process. Adam was created by a direct act of God in which Adam’s body was created by God from the dust of the earth, while his soul was created when God breathed life into the first man (Genesis 2:7). The divine image extends to Eve as well (Genesis 2:4-24). To be human then, is to be male or female and to bear God’s image in both body and soul, which exist as a unity of both spiritual (the soul) and material (the body) elements. To be a divine image bearer is to be an ectype (copy) of which God is archetype (original).

Because all men and women are divine image-bearers we are truly like God, and we possess all of the so-called communicable attributes of God–albeit in creaturely form and measure. This is what constitutes us as “human” beings, distinct from and superior in moral and rational capabilities to the animal kingdom. In fact, the creation of Adam and Eve marks the high point of the creation account (Genesis 1:28-31), as God pronounced the first man Adam to be “very good.”

The ramifications of the fact that we are divine image bearers are multifaceted and profound. First, the creation reveals that Adam is both the biological and federal head of the human race. To put it another way, Adam was the first human being, and all humans are his biological descendants. This speaks directly to the question of the unity of the race (despite our different skin colors and physical appearances), and to the equality of persons before God. Second, as the biological head of our race, Adam represented the entire human race before God during the period of probation in Eden when Adam was commanded not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Adam was assigned the role of acting for and on behalf of all those who are his descendants. What Adam did in Eden, he did on our behalf, as our representative. This fact alone implies a number of additional considerations, including the fact that Adam was created in righteousness, holiness, and possessed true knowledge of God (cf. Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10), which means that Adam was righteous before God as created. Adam was not merely innocent before God, but holy and upright, possessing the natural ability to obey all of God’s commands and to fulfill the cultural mandate (Genesis 1:28).

The spiritual nature of Adam (as seen, for example, in the fact that the soul lives on after the death of the body) further reflects this element of human nature. Our souls are invisible, indivisible, and immortal. In addition, we are created as rational beings with great intellectual abilities, as well as the moral ability to determine right from wrong (Romans 2:12-16). This also indicates that all men and women are capable of receiving the revelation that God gives through the created order (general revelation) and through his word (special revelation). Reformed theologians have long argued that our bodies are fit “organs” of the soul. And it is especially through the body-soul unity that these communicable attributes are manifest.

As the divine image-bearer possessing such original righteousness, holiness, and knowledge, Adam was given dominion over all of creation as God’s vice-regent. Not only did God make all things good, he assigned his unique divine image-bearer the role of ruling over the world and all of its creatures. Adam was given all the plants and animals for food, and was assigned the task of naming the animals over which he was given dominion (Genesis 2:19). It is because Adam was a divine image-bearer that he was fit and equipped for this task.

This is what the Psalmist means when he says that man is but a little lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5). The creation of Adam was the high point of all of God’s creative activities, not an after-thought. As the divine-image bearer, Adam is to rule and subdue the earth in the name of his creator. He possesses true righteousness, holiness, and knowledge, and his task is to build the temple garden of God on earth in Eden. And he is fit for the task in every way.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

historical adam

I believe that believing in a historical Adam has salvific relevance. Kevin DeYoung outlines 10 reasons to believe in a historical Adam:

In recent years, several self-proclaimed evangelicals, or those associated with evangelical institutions, have called into question the historicity of Adam and Eve. It is said that because of genomic research we can no longer believe in a first man called Adam from whom the entire human race has descended.

I’ll point to some books at the end which deal with the science end of the question, but the most important question is what does the Bible teach. Without detailing a complete answer to that question, let me suggest ten reasons why we should believe that Adam was a true historical person and the first human being.
  1. The Bible does not put an artificial wedge between history and theology. Of course, Genesis is not a history textbook or a science textbook, but that is far from saying we ought to separate the theological wheat from the historical chaff. Such a division owes to the Enlightenment more than the Bible.
  2. The biblical story of creation is meant to supplant other ancient creation stories more than imitate them. Moses wants to show God’s people “this is how things really happened.” The Pentateuch is full of warnings against compromise with the pagan culture. It would be surprising, then, for Genesis to start with one more mythical account of creation like the rest of the ANE.
  3. The opening chapters of Genesis are stylized, but they show no signs of being poetry. Compare Genesis 1 with Psalm 104, for example, and you’ll see how different these texts are. It’s simply not accurate to call Genesis poetry. And even if it were, who says poetry has to be less historically accurate?
  4. There is a seamless strand of history from Adam in Genesis 2 to Abraham in Genesis 12. You can’t set Genesis 1-11 aside as prehistory, not in the sense of being less than historically true as we normally understand those terms. Moses deliberately connects Abram with all the history that comes before him, all the way back to Adam and Eve in the garden.
  5. The genealogies in 1 Chronicles 1 and Luke 3 treat Adam as historical.
  6. Paul believed in a historical Adam (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45-49). Even some revisionists are honest enough to admit this; they simply maintain that Paul (and Luke) were wrong.
  7. The weight of the history of interpretation points to the historicity of Adam. The literature of second temple Judaism affirmed an historical Adam. The history of the church’s interpretation also assumes it.
  8. Without a common descent we lose any firm basis for believing that all people regardless of race or ethnicity have the same nature, the same inherent dignity, the same image of God, the same sin problem, and that despite our divisions we are all part of the same family coming from the same parents.
  9. Without a historical Adam, Paul’s doctrine of original sin and guilt does not hold together.
  10. Without a historical Adam, Paul’s doctrine of the second Adam does not hold together.
Christians may disagree on the age of the earth, but whether Adam ever existed is a gospel issue. Tim Keller is right:

[Paul] most definitely wanted to teach us that Adam and Eve were real historical figures. When you refuse to take a biblical author literally when he clearly wants you to do so, you have moved away from the traditional understanding of the biblical authority. . . .If Adam doesn’t exist, Paul’s whole argument—that both sin and grace work ‘covenantally’—falls apart. You can’t say that ‘Paul was a man of his time’ but we can accept his basic teaching about Adam. If you don’t believe what he believes about Adam, you are denying the core of Paul’s teaching. (Christianity Today June 2011)

If you want to read more about the historical Adam debate, check out Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? by C. John Collins. ...

can i have homosexual friends

Alan Shlemon continues his series addressing common challenges pertaining to homosexuality. Here is his handling of Can You Have Gay Friends If You Think Homosexual Behavior is a Sin?

A youth leader wrote me: “I would say that the issue of homosexuality is THE #1 BARRIER for teenagers…that keeps them from believing the gospel.” I can see why he said that. It’s a simple cost-benefit analysis. You can keep your faith or you can keep your friends and family. You pick. Well, the answer for many people is obvious: relationships are more important than a theological idiosyncrasy. So, they either compromise on the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality or they ditch their faith altogether.

Part of the problem stems from the belief that if you keep your convictions about homosexuality, then you can’t stay in relationship with your friends and family who say they’re gay. But this isn’t the biblical view.

The New Testament doesn’t prohibit Christians from friending (I know, I know…that’s so Facebook-ish) homosexuals. Paul, writing about a sexually immoral man in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10, tells Christians that they are “not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world." Notice how Paul clarifies that we don’t have to avoid relationships with non-believers (who he calls “people of this world”). After all, we can’t influence them if we’re not involved at all.

There is a group of people that Paul warns Christians to avoid. Continuing his discussion on sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 5:11, Paul explains, “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of a brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” The people Paul warns us to avoid are Christians who engage in sexual immorality. Why? Because sin left unchecked within a body of believers is like cancer. It spreads and harms those around them (1 Corinthians 5:6-7).

That doesn’t mean we are to end all relationships with Christians who have committed sexual sin. Paul is talking about unrepentant Christians. People who know the biblical standard but thumb their nose at it and continue in the illicit behavior. That’s the context of 1 Corinthians 5.

It does mean that people who claim to be Christian and engage in willful, unrepentant homosexual behavior fall under the jurisdiction of this command. Friends like that can influence us and other believers in negative ways. But this rule applies to any sexual sin, not just homosexuality.

In all other circumstances, there’s no reason to choose between your faith and your friends. Keep them both so you have a chance to be a positive influence in your relationships. That’s the point of being an ambassador for Christ.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

god's attributes

An excellent graphic on the communicable and incommunicable attributes of God.

history marches

All of history marches toward two moments. The first is the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross of Calvary. The price of sin had to be paid, so God sent his Son to be the final sacrificial Lamb to bear our punishment and to purchase our acceptance, our righteousness, and our deliverance. The second event is the final defeat of sin and the welcome of all who believe into their eternal home free of sin, sorrow, suffering, and death.


myths or half-truths

R.C. Sproul Jr writes briefly on Five Evangelical Myths or Half Truths. While his explanations can stand to be teased out a bit more, I agree with his summaries. I find it bothersome when I hear well-meaning believers making these statements. And as Sproul writes in his conclusion, "The devil isn’t lazy. He will take the breaks we give him. Myths and half-truths are perfect opportunities for us to miss who we are, who God is, and how He reconciles His own to Himself. Perhaps were we more faithful to His Word, we might just be more faithful."

1. “All sins are equal in the sight of God.”

Well, no. It is true enough that every sin is worthy of God’s eternal wrath. It is true enough that if we have broken part of the law we have broken the law (James actually says this.) It is true enough that unjust anger is a violation of the commandment against murder (Jesus actually says this.) None of this, however, means all sins are equal in the sight of God. To say that because all sins deserve eternal wrath means they are all equal is like saying that all numbers over 100 are equal. The truth is that Jesus said of the Pharisees that while they rightly tithed their mint and their cumin, they neglected the weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23). No sin is weightless, but some weigh more than others.

2. “Hell is the absence of God.”

Well, no. If God is omnipresent, and He is, is there anywhere He can not be? David understood this, and thus affirmed, “If I make my bed in Sheol, Thou art there” (Psalm 139:8). Hell isn’t the absence of God, but the presence of His wrath. God is there, but His grace, His kindness, His peace are not. God is the great horror of hell.

3. “Jesus saves us from our sins.”

Well, no. It is absolutely true that Jesus saves us. When we face trouble, He is the one we should be crying out to for deliverance. But the great problem with our sins isn’t our sins, but the wrath of God. The trouble I need to be delivered from is the wrath of God. Hell is not my sins, but the wrath of God. We don’t need to be saved from our sins. We need to be saved from the wrath due for our sins.

4. “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”

Well, not if your name is Esau. Okay, there certainly is a kind of universal love that God has for all mankind. And certainly all those who repent and believe will be blessed. And certainly God calls all men everywhere to repent. But it is also true that God has prepared vessels for destruction (Romans 9:22). Being prepared for destruction likely wouldn’t be considered “wonderful” by anyone. We don’t know God’s hidden plans, and thus should preach the gospel to all the world. But we shouldn’t, in so preaching, promise what He hasn’t promised.

5. “Money is the root of all evil.”

Well, no. Actually this one is wrong on two counts. First, the text (I Timothy 6:10) tells us that it is the love of money, not money, and that it is all sorts of evil, not all evil. If money were the root of all evil, all we would need to do to bring paradise on earth would be to have no more money. If money were the root of all evil, the problem would be out there, rather than in our hearts. Sin is not an it problem, but an us problem.

Friday, February 10, 2012

profound in our generation

Ray Ortlund on Francis Schaeffer in 2 Contents, 2 Realities:

Asking the question, What is the Christian’s task in the world today?, Francis Schaeffer’s answer was not evangelism. Evangelism too often seems canned and mechanical, Schaeffer said. But when evangelism is pursued as part of a larger whole, it will be more convincing. What is that larger whole, embodied in a healthy church? Two contents and two realities, Schaeffer proposed.

Two contents

1. Sound doctrine

“The first content is clear doctrinal content concerning the central elements of Christianity.” This strong message stands in contrast to the content-weak philosophical and pragmatic rolls of the dice people are settling for all around us.

2. Honest answers to honest questions

“The second content is . . . honest answers to honest questions. . . . Christianity demands that we have enough compassion to learn the questions of our generation.” We must listen respectfully to all around us and try to satisfy their questions from the full biblical gospel.

Two realities

1. True spirituality

“There must be something real of the work of Christ, something real in Christ’s bearing his fruit through me through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. . . . There is nothing more ugly in all the world, nothing which more turns people aside, than a dead orthodoxy.”

2. The beauty of human relationships

“True Christianity produces beauty as well as truth. . . . If we do not show beauty in the way we treat each other, then in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of our own children, we are destroying the truth we proclaim.”

“When there are the two contents and the two realities, we will begin to see something profound happen in our generation.”

false doctrine

J.C. Ryle in Hold Fast wrote:

If we would hold fast that which is good, we must not tolerate any doctrine that is not the pure doctrine of Christ’s Gospel. There is a hatred that is downright charity: that is the hatred of erroneous doctrine. There is an intolerance which is downright praiseworthy: that is the intolerance of false teaching in the pulpit. Who would ever think of tolerating a little poison given to him day by day? If men come among you who do not preach “all the counsel of God,” who do not preach of Christ, sin, holiness, of ruin, and redemption, and regeneration, – or do not preach of these things in a Scriptural way, you ought to cease to hear them. You ought to carry out the spirit shown by the Apostle Paul, in Gal.1:8: “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached, let him be accursed.”


2012 wp photo contest

Great photos from the 2012 World Press Photo Contest at The Big Picture.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

god's sons

In his A Guide to Christian Living, John Calvin writes:

Ever since God exhibited himself to us as a Father, we must be convicted of extreme ingratitude if we do not in turn exhibit ourselves as his sons. Ever since Christ purified us by the laver of his blood, and communicated this purification by baptism, it would ill become us to be defiled with new pollution. Ever since he ingrafted us into his body, we, who are his members, should anxiously beware of contracting any stain or taint. Ever since he who is our head ascended to heaven, it is befitting in us to withdraw our affections from the earth, and with our whole soul aspire to heaven. Ever since the Holy Spirit dedicated us as temples to the Lord, we should make it our endeavour to show forth the glory of God, and guard against being profaned by the defilement of sin. Ever since our soul and body were destined to heavenly incorruptibility and an unfading crown, we should earnestly strive to keep them pure and uncorrupted against the day of the Lord. These, I say, are the surest foundations of a well-regulated life, and you will search in vain for any thing resembling them among philosophers, who, in their commendation of virtue, never rise higher than the natural dignity of man.