Saturday, June 30, 2012

idolatry


Robert Gagnon shares "a real-life story from the mid-first century A.D. about a shocking case of sexual immorality in a Christian community."

Paul, God’s chief Apostle to the Gentiles, warned the church at Corinth (Greece) about tolerating an actual case of incest between a self-professed believer and his stepmother (1 Corinthians 5). In that context he added:
Stop deceiving yourselves: Neither the sexually immoral [note: the incestuous man is called ‘a sexually immoral person’ in 5:11], nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor ‘soft men’ (malakoi; i.e. men who feminize themselves to attract male sex partners), nor men who lie with a male (arsenokoitai), nor thieves, nor greedy defrauders [or: extortionists], not drunkards, not those who viciously slander others, not robbers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10; emphasis added; translations of NT texts throughout this article are my own from the Greek)
What did Paul mean by “Stop deceiving yourselves”? He meant: Thinking that self-professed believers in Christ could live unrepentant, egregiously immoral lives and get away with it. It is not surprising that Paul in this offender list puts first sexual offenses along with idolatry. The issue at hand is one of sexual immorality; moreover, idolatry and sexual immorality were always one-two (in either order) in Paul’s vice or offender lists. In a letter that nearly everywhere else was about unity and that was constantly addressing the Corinthians’ sins, only here in a case of gross sexual immorality did Paul go so far as to recommend removal from the life of the community as a temporary remedial measure to call the offender to his senses (1 Cor 5:2-13). Paul hoped that the offender’s spirit might yet “be saved on the Day of the Lord” when Christ came to judge the world (5:5).

Had Paul forgotten about his message of grace and love when he wrote the warning? No, the warning was part of that very message. Paul loved the incestuous man enough to send him a wake-up call before it was too late and the offender would lose everything. Paul knew that God’s grace existed not to promote immorality and other forms of unrighteous conduct. It existed, rather, to lift a people out of sin’s lordship by conforming them into the image of his Son through the power of Christ’s Spirit. Thus he could say about himself later in the same letter (incidentally, the place in 1 Corinthians with the greatest concentration of the Gk. word charis, grace):
I am the least of the apostles, I who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace that (was poured) into me did not become empty; but I worked hard, more abundantly than them all—not I but the grace of God with me. (1 Cor 15:9-10; emphasis added)
Paul knew that God’s grace poured into his heart was unmerited. He was unworthy, especially so because of his persecution of the church before becoming a believer. But Paul’s experience of that grace led him to “work hard,” harder than any of the other apostles. Hard work did not mean “works righteousness.” Paul knew that this hard work was energized by God’s gracious gift of the Spirit.

The problem with the incestuous man was that the grace of God, which not only brought forgiveness of sins but also empowered a transformed life, had become “empty” (Gk. kenÄ“) in him: “in vain, ineffective, for nothing, wasted.” Why? His life was given over to an egregious form of sexual immorality: incest. This was all the evidence that Paul needed to deduce an absence of a sufficiently transformed life and a severely truncated (or possibly non-existent) faith. There was now a real danger that the grace poured into the incestuous man’s life was becoming “empty, for nothing, in vain.”

As with the analogy of a believer having sex with a prostitute, the incestuous man was doing something very sacrilegious, though he didn’t see it that way. Despite being joined to Christ and “one spirit” with him, he was now becoming “one body” with another, his stepmother, in an immoral sexual union (1 Cor 6:15-17). Some of the Corinthians may have believed that sexual behavior had no impact on their relationship with Christ. After all, they reasoned, we have already received the symbols and benefits of salvation (6:12; 10:1-5). Paul thought differently. He reminded them that sexual immorality was a particularly potent sin against the very body that served as a temple for Christ’s Spirit (6:18-19). Being a believer didn’t make the sexual immorality a lesser offense. It made it worse since in a perverse way it involved Jesus in the offense. It was tantamount to having immoral sexual intercourse on the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. Believers who were “bought with a price,” the price of Christ’s amends-making death, belong to God for the purpose of “glorifying God in [their] body” (6:20), not engaging in sexual immorality. So they must “flee sexual immorality,” an injunction that not coincidentally parallels the later command, “flee idolatry” (10:14).

The warning and the remedial measure of church discipline had as their purpose reclaiming the immoral man for God’s kingdom. That is true grace and love. Love “does not rejoice in unrighteous conduct, it rejoices together with the truth” (1 Cor 13:6). Paul didn’t have to write such strong words about the incestuous man and the sin of sexual immorality. He could have made life easier on himself and avoided any tension with the Corinthian house churches by writing to them something like the following: “I want to make known to you that, while God does not want this man to be having sex with his stepmother (much less mother), he can be assured that his relationship with Christ will not be interrupted by such behavior. He’ll come out of it if we focus on grace.” He didn’t write this because he knew that the man had already abused the concept of grace. Now the man’s very life was at stake, which he is why Paul could chastise the Corinthians for not “mourning” over the condition of the incestuous man (5:2; one mourns at a funeral).

Even for his own life Paul recognized the need for vigilance. Imagine that: Paul, the great apostle whose life appeared to be one unending experience of self-sacrifice, suffering, and deprivation in the cause of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost world (1 Cor 4:9-13; 2 Cor 2:14-16; 6:4-10; 11:23-33; 12:7-10). If anyone should have been able to “rest on his laurels” and slack off, that person would be Paul. Yet Paul applied an athletic image to himself, one which the Corinthians would well understand since the Isthmian Games at Corinth were superseded in importance only by the Olympic Games in Athens:
Do you not know that those who are running in a stadium are all running but (only) one receives the prize? Be running like this in order that you may convincingly receive it. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in every way. So those people (do it) in order that they may receive a perishable wreath but we an imperishable one. Hence I am running like this: … I whip my body into shape and bring it into subjection (as though my slave), lest somehow, after proclaiming to others, I myself should come to be disqualified. (1 Cor 9:24-27; emphasis added)
Here again Paul could have said something much different: “My brothers and sisters at Corinth, don’t put your focus on sin management. And certainly don’t think about being disqualified from receiving eternal life because eternal life is already guaranteed. Do what I do: Focus on the fact that your victory wreath of eternal life is already won, knowing that no bad behavior on your part can ever change that fact. Don’t get involved in a works-righteousness mode of thinking, as if you have anything to do with whipping your body into shape.” But Paul said something quite different. He communicated to them that the race wasn’t over and that even he, a hard-working apostle, couldn’t now slack off. He was still in rigorous training, like an Olympic (here Isthmian) athlete.

It wasn’t just for his own benefit that Paul made these remarks. Paul used this athletic metaphor as a lead-in for another warning to the Corinthian believers (10:1-13). Paul recounted to them the Old Testament story of the destruction of the wilderness generation as God’s judgment for their involvement in idolatry and sexual immorality. “These things,” Paul said, “were written for our admonition…. So let the one who thinks that he stands watch out lest he falls” (10:11-12). What is at stake for the Corinthian believers? Paul has already told them in 6:9-10: The sexually immoral and idolaters will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Similarly, in his next extant letter to the Corinthians, Paul expresses his fear that when he comes again he “may have to mourn over many who have continued in their former sinning and did not repent of the sexual impurity (akatharsia), sexual immorality (porneia), and sexual licentiousness (aselgeia) that they practiced” (12:21). Why mourn over those who do not repent of engaging in sexual immorality? Again, as with 1 Cor 5:2, one mourns at a funeral. The very lives and eternal destinies of the offenders are at stake.

held in honor


John Piper's fantastic sermon entitled "Let Marriage Be Held In Honor".

Hebrews 13:1–6; Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Today’s message is built around eight points designed to give a biblical vision of marriage in relation to homosexuality, and in relation to the proposed Marriage Amendment in Minnesota. I asked that Hebrews 13:1–6 be read not because I will give an exposition of it, but to highlight that one phrase in verse 4: “Let marriage be held in honor among all.” That is what I hope to advance, for the glory God and for your guidance and your good.

1. Marriage is created and defined by God in the Scriptures as the sexual and covenantal union of a man and a woman in life-long allegiance to each other alone, as husband and wife, with a view to displaying Christ’s covenant relationship to his blood-bought church.

This is seen most clearly from four passages where these truths are woven together.

1. Genesis 1:27–28;  God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”

2. Genesis 2:23–24; And then God linked his design in manhood and womanhood with marriage in Genesis 2:23–24. When the woman is created from his side, the man exclaims: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

In other words, God created man male and female so that there might be a one-flesh sexual union and covenantal cleaving with a view to multiplying the human race, and displaying God’s covenant with his people, and eventually Christ's covenant with his church.

3. Matthew 19:4–6

Remarkably Jesus picked up on this link between creation and marriage and life-long covenant, weaving together these very two texts from Genesis.

Matthew 19:4–6; Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female [Genesis 1:27], and said [quoting Genesis 2:24], “Therefore [linking creation and marriage] a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.

And in our cultural setting, the words “Let not man separate the male and female that God has joined together,” has vastly greater significance than anyone ever thought it would.

4. Ephesians 5:24–32

One more text on the meaning of marriage makes the distinction between male and female — husband and wife — covenantally significant as a portrayal of Christ and the church.

Ephesians 5:24–32; Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. . . .  “Therefore [quoting Genesis 2:24] a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

In other words, from the beginning there has been a mysterious and profound meaning to marriage. And Paul is now opening that mystery. And it is this: God made man male and female with their distinctive feminine and masculine natures and their distinctive roles so that in marriage as husband and wife they could display Christ and the church.

Which means that the basic roles of wife and husband are not interchangeable. The husband displays the sacrificial love of Christ’s headship, and the wife displays the submissive role of Christ’s body. The mystery of marriage is that God had this double (of wife and husband) display in mind when he created man as male and female. Therefore, the profoundest reality in the universe underlies marriage as a covenantal union between a man and a woman.

2. There is no such thing as so-called same-sex marriage, and it would be wise not to call it that.

The point here is not only that so-called same-sex marriage shouldn’t exist, but that it doesn’t and it can’t. Those who believe that God has spoken to us truthfully in the Bible should not concede that the committed, life-long partnership and sexual relations of two men or two women is marriage. It isn’t. God has created and defined marriage. And what he has joined together in that creation and that definition, cannot be separated, and still called marriage in God’s eyes. [More here]

3. Same sex desires and same sex orientation are part of our broken and disordered sexuality owing to God’s subjection of the created order to futility because of man’s sin.

In Genesis 3 we read about the catastrophic moment when the first man and woman rebelled against God. The effects on them and on the world are described in chapters 3 and 4, and then illustrated in the sin-soaked and death-ridden history of the Old Testament — indeed the history of the world.

The apostle Paul sums it up like this in Romans 8:20–21; The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

And we know from verse 23 that part of the creation that was subjected to death and futility was our own bodies — and he stresses, yes, the bodies of the redeemed. “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23).

And I am arguing that same sex desires and same sex orientation are in that category of groaning — waiting for the redemption of our bodies. Which means they are in the same broad category with all kinds of disordered bodies and minds and emotions. If we tried to make a list of the kinds of emotional and mental and physical brokenness of the human family the list would be unending. And all of us are broken and disordered in different ways. All of you are bent to desire things in different degrees that you should not want. We are all disordered in our emotions, or minds, our bodies.

This is a call for careful distinctions lest you hurt people — or yourself — unnecessarily. All our disorders — all our brokenness — is rooted in sin — original sin and our sinful nature. It would be right to say that same-sex desires are sinful in the sense that they are disordered by sin and exist contrary to God’s revealed will. But to be caused by sin and rooted in sin does not make a sinful desire equal to sinning. Sinning is what happens when rebellion against God expresses itself through our disorders.

4. Therefore, same-sex intercourse, not same-sex desire is the focus of Paul’s condemnation when he threatens exclusion from the kingdom of God.

The clearest statement is found in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10; Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

The words, “men who practice homosexuality” is a translation of two Greek words which refer to the passive and active partners in homosexual intercourse. See Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001], 306–331). The focus is not on same-sex desire, but on same sex practice. And notice that homosexual practice is not singled out but included with other ways of sinning: idolatry, adultery, stealing, greed, drunkenness, reviling, etc.

The point is not that one act of homosexual or heterosexual experimentation condemns you, but that returning to this life permanently and without repentance will condemn you. “Men who practice — who give themselves over to this life, and do not repent — will not enter the kingdom of God.” They will perish.

5. Therefore, it would contradict love and contradict the gospel of Jesus to approve homosexual practice, whether by silence, or by endorsing so-called same-sex marriage, or by affirming the Christian ordination of practicing homosexuals.

We must not be intimidated here. The world is going to say the opposite of what is true here. They are going to say that warning people who practice homosexuality about final judgment is hateful. It is not hateful. Hate does not want people to be saved. Hate does not want people to join the family. Hate wants to destroy. And sin does destroy. If homosexual practice (and greed and idolatry and reviling and drunkenness) leads to exclusion from the kingdom of God — as the word of God says it does — then love warns. Love pleads. Love comes alongside and does all it can to help a person live — forever.

6. The good news of Jesus is that God saves heterosexual sinners and homosexual sinners who trust Jesus, by counting them righteous because of Christ, and by helping them through his Spirit to live lives pleasing to him in their disordered brokenness.

After warning the Corinthians not to fall back into lives of sinful practice Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 6:11, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

This is the heart of biblical Christianity. “Such were some of you.” There are Christians in the church at Corinth who were fornicators and adulterers and thieves and drunkards and "men who practiced homosexuality." They were not driven away. They were folded in.

And the way they were folded in was that they were “justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." That is, they put their trust in Jesus, they turned from their practice, they renounced sinful pursuit of their desires, and God justified them — he imputed to them the righteousness of Christ, and counted them as acceptable in his sight, and adopted them into his family — our family.

They were washed. That is, God took away all their guilt and shame. “Christ himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). So when they trusted Christ, all that he did counted for them, their sins were washed away.

And then they were “sanctified” — God set them apart for himself and gave them his Spirit and was working in them a power for holiness that would swallow up their disordered desires in something greater and more beautiful and more desirable so that they could walk in a way pleasing to God, even in their brokenness.

The heart of Christianity is that God saves sinners through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The best news in all the world is that Jesus Christ died and rose again so that the most bizarre sexual predator — homosexual or heterosexual — can be rescued from his path of destruction, washed, justified, sanctified and given a place in God’s all-satisfying presence, by faith in Jesus Christ. This is the heart of our message.

7. Deciding what actions will be made legal or illegal through civil law is a moral activity aiming at the public good and informed by the worldview of each participant.

Minnesota citizens are being asked this November to vote yes or no on this question: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?” And a blank vote is a no vote. If passed section 13 will be added to Article xiii of the State Constitution which reads: “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.”

How should Christian citizens decide which of their views they should seek to put into law? Which moral convictions should Christians seek to pass as legal requirements? Christians believe it is immoral to covet and to steal. But we seek to pass laws against stealing, not against coveting. One of the principles at work here seems to be: the line connecting coveting with damage to the public good is not clear enough. No doubt there is such a connection. God can see it and the public good would, we believe, be greatly enhanced if covetousness were overcome. But finite humans can’t see it clearly enough to regulate coveting with laws and penalties. This is why we have to leave hundreds of immoral acts for Jesus to sort out when he comes.

Laws exist to preserve and enhance the public good. Which means that all laws are based on some conception of what is good for us. Which means that all legislation and all voting is a moral activity. It is based on choices about what is good for the public. And those choices are always informed by a world view. And in that worldview — whether conscious or not — there are views of ultimate reality that determine what a person thinks the public good is.

Which means that all legislation is the legislation of morality. Someone’s view of what is good — what is moral — wins the minds of the majority and carries the day. The question is: Which actions hurt the common good or enhance the common good so much that the one should be prohibited by law and the other should be required by law?

Here are a few thoughts to help you with that question.

  1. A constitutional amendment should address a matter of very significant consequence. To give you an idea of what has been regarded as worthy inclusion in the state constitution, Section 12 of Article xiii was passed by voters in 1998. It reads as follows: “Hunting and fishing and the taking of game and fish are a valued part of our heritage that shall be forever preserved for the people and shall be managed by law and regulation for the public good.” In deciding whether the meaning of marriage is significant enough to put in the constitution one measure would be to weigh it against hunting and fishing.
  2. The recognition of so-called same-sex marriage would be a clear social statement that motherhood or fatherhood or both are negligible in the public good of raising children. Two men adopting children cannot provide motherhood. And two women adopting children cannot provide fatherhood. But God ordained from the beginning that children grow up with a mother and a father, and said, “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). Tragedies in life often make that impossible. But taking actions to make that tragedy normal may be worth prohibiting by law. That's a factor to consider.
  3. Marriage is the most fundamental institution among humans. It’s origin is in the mind of God, and its beginning was at the beginning of the creation of humankind. It’s connections with all other parts of society are innumerable. Pretending that it can exist between people of the same sex will send ripple effects of dysfunction and destruction in every direction, most of which are now unforeseen. And many of those that are foreseen are tragic, especially for children, who will then produce a society we cannot now imagine.
  4. Before now, as far as we know, no society in the history of the world has ever defined marriage as between people of the same sex. It is a mind-boggling innovation with no precedent to guide us, except the knowledge that unrighteousness destroys nations, and the celebration of it hastens the demise. (Deuteronomy 9:5; Proverbs 13:34; Romans 1:24–32)

8. Don’t press the organization of the church or her pastors into political activism. Pray that the church and her ministers would feed the flock of God with the word of God centered on the gospel of Christ crucified and risen. Expect from your shepherds not that they would rally you behind political candidates or legislative initiatives, but they would point you over and over again to God and to his word, and to the cross.

Please try to understand this: When I warn against the politicizing of the church, I do so not to diminish her power but to increase it. The impact of the church for the glory of Christ and the good of the world does not increase when she shifts her priorities from the worship of God and the winning of souls and the nurturing of faith and raising up of new generations of disciples.

If the whole counsel of God is preached with power week in and week out, Christians who are citizens of heaven and citizens of this democratic order will be energized as they ought to speak and act for the common good. I want to serve you like that. And so does Jason Meyer.

Marvin Olasky expressed this well in this week’s WORLD magazine:
Wise pastors prompt [Christians] to form associations outside the church, and leave the church to its central task from which so many blessings flow. That pattern in the 18th and 19th centuries worked exceptionally well. New England pastors in colonial times preached and taught what the Bible said about liberty, and the Sons of Liberty—not a subset of any particular church—eventually sponsored a tea party in Boston harbor. Pastors through America during those centuries preached about biblical poverty-fighting, and in city after city Christians formed organizations such as (in New York) the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor. (WORLD, June 16, 2012, 108)
There is so much more to say and I plan to write more on the Desiring God Blog this week, especially as it relates to personal relationships with people who have same-sex attraction. There is more hope in those relationships than you may think. And I would like to help as much as I can.

For now, remember, you who trust in Jesus, "You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). Be amazed that you are saved. And offer this to everyone.

fruit bearing

JC Ryle in Authentic Religion:

The Christianity which is from above will always be known by its fruits. It will produce in the person who has it repentance, faith, hope, love, humility, spirituality, kindness, self-denial, unselfishness, forgiving spirit, moderation, truthfulness, hospitality, and patience. The degree in which these various graces appear may vary in different believers. The germ and seeds of them will be found in all who are the children of God. By their fruits they will be known. Is this your faith? If not, you should doubt whether it is authentic.

bull moose

Teddy Roosevelt's Strong as a Bull Moose speech ...



(HT)

Friday, June 29, 2012

prophecy

Some thoughts by Glenn Davis on prophecy today ...

Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil. 1 Thes. 5:19-22 NLT



The gift of prophecy defined (1 Cor. 12:10, 14:1-5):

The word of prophecy is spontaneous, Spirit-inspired, intelligible speech, orally-delivered to the church gathered intended for the building up of the people of God [Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 595].

In other words, the gift of prophecy is not planned, we cannot make the Holy Spirit give us a word. Properly, the word is not self-generated, but insight and instruction from the heart of God for the people of God. Biblically, the word of prophecy is shared by an individual for the whole Body of Christ in a language that everyone can understand. A word of prophecy, even if given to just one individual, should be submitted to the whole congregation for discernment (1 Cor. 14:29). Last, a word of prophecy, even if corrective, will encourage the people of God being seasoned with grace and hope.

Prophecy can be both foretelling, insights into the plans of God; and forthtelling, God’s word for our present circumstances. Prophecy is an important gift for the Apostle Paul encouraged us to “earnestly desire” the gift of prophecy (1 Cor 14: 1) and prophecy has the ability to “strengthen, encourage, and comfort” the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 14: 3). New Testament prophecy is not inspired like scripture, but insights from the Lord for personal guidance and corporate direction.

The word of prophecy is hope: knowledge that God is aware of our need and actively working to meet that heart-cry. The gift of prophecy points the Church to Christ, calls for obedience to his commands bringing healing and restoration. The gift of prophecy reminds believers of their call to holiness, their dependence on God’s grace, and the faithfulness of God’s promise. Corporately, the prophetic gift calls forth repentance, restoration, and renewal in the Body of Christ. The prophetic gift builds up the Church in her call to be God’s witness to the world (1 Cor. 12:31, 14:1, 39; Heb. 2:3-4).

The purpose for the gift of prophecy: First, the word brings encouragement and direction to the church. Second, prophecy brings comfort that God cares and knows the needs of his children. Third, God can warn us if we are straying from the truth or living lives inconsistent with the life of Christ. Fourth, prophecy confirms direction already received from the Holy Spirit. Prophetic words are not to be directive or used in a manipulative fashion. The word should line-up with what God has been consistently saying to us, individually, and to the church corporately. Last, the prophetic is not to replace or contradict the Bible, the Word of God. We need to be mindful that a prophetic word is not inerrant or infallible, it needs to be constantly weighed.

Evaluating a word of prophecy involves three elements: revelation, interpretation, and application. Revelation: Is a prophetic word genuinely from the Holy Spirit having a sense of eternity? Interpretation: What does the word mean to us? The correct interpretation is important as the revelation. Application: What do we do with this word? (Acts 11:27-30, 21: 7-15).

Now, how do we handle personal prophecy? First, we receive God’s word with joy. Second, we pray for the correct interpretation. Third, we ask God for the right application. Fourth, submit to leadership of the church for confirmation. Since, the gift of prophecy needs to be discerned or weighed its best not to use the expression, “Thus saith the Lord” as an introduction to the delivery of a word (1 Thes. 5:19-22; 1 Cor. 14: 29; 1 John 4:1-3).
Should you introduce your prophetic message by saying, “Thus says the Lord”? The Old Testament prophets frequently did. The New Testament counterpart is, “The Holy Spirit says” (Acts 21:11). When the prophets used this phrase, they were claiming to speak the precise words of God, not their interpretations or applications of the revelation they had received. “Thus says the Lord” allowed no debate. It meant, “This is exactly what God has said. The matter is settled.” The prophets who used the phrase were not usually speaking words of personal prophecy. They had been given divine authority to speak God’s works over nations.

They had proven character and track records. Most were persecuted, and some became martyrs. In my opinion, we should be quick to copy their passion for God, and slower to use their vocabulary.

When we say “Thus says the Lord” to someone, we have left the person no room to disagree. He or she may feel controlled or manipulated because it is intuitively obvious, even if they can’t express it, that we don’t have the same authority as the prophets who spoke over nations. I am not saying that it is always wrong to use “Thus says the Lord,” just that most of us using it do not have the authority to use it. Even the prophets I know who have the most authority rarely use the phrase.

On the other hand, I know good prophets who disagree with me on this issue. They use the phrase constantly when they prophesy. And I’m not going to let their style of prophesying cause me to lose the blessing of their friendship or ministry.

words are necessary


I appreciate the phrase "preach the gospel, use words if necessary"as much as the next guy. At the same time, this in my list of often misused and abused expression. Therefore I appreciate Ed Stetzer's clarification of the issue.

There's a popular saying often repeated by Christians. It has found new life on Facebook and Twitter. Maybe you have even uttered these words, commonly at tributed to Francis of Assisi: "Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary."

I think we can appreciate what many are getting at when they say something like this. As Christians, we should live in such a way that our lives point to the person and work of Jesus. However, good intentions cannot overcome two basic problems with this quote and its supposed origin. One, Francis never said it, and two, the quote is not biblical.

Mark Galli has pointed out that there is no record of Francis, a member of a preaching order, uttering anything close to this. In fact, everything we know about the man suggests he would not have agreed with his supposed quote. He was well known for his preaching and often preached up to five times a day.

The idea may not have resonated with Francis, but for many today, wordless ministry is a compelling approach. "Words are cheap," we like to say, and "Actions speak louder than words." Galli explains that the sentiment complements our culture rather well:
"Preach the gospel; use words if necessary" goes hand in hand with a postmodern assumption that words are finally empty of meaning. It subtly denigrates the high value that the prophets, Jesus, and Paul put on preaching. Of course, we want our actions to match our words as much as possible. But the gospel is a message, news about an event and a person upon which the history of the planet turns.
And this is the real problem -- not from whom the quote originally came, but just how it can give us an incomplete understanding of the gospel and how God saves sinners. Christians are quick to encourage each other to "live out the gospel," to "be the gospel" to our neighbors, and to even "gospel each other." The missional impulse here is helpful, yet the gospel isn't anything the Christian can live out, practice, or become.

The Apostle Paul summarized the gospel as the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, through whom sin is atoned for, sinners are reconciled to God, and the hope of the resurrection awaits all who believe.

The gospel is not habit, but history. The gospel is the declaration of something that actually happened. And since the gospel is the saving work of Jesus, it isn't something we can do, but it is something we must announce. We do live out its implications, but if we are to make the gospel known, we will do so through words.

It appears that the emphasis on proclamation is waning even in many churches that identify themselves as evangelical. Yet proclamation is the central task of the church. No, it is not the only task God has given us, but it is central. While the process of making disciples involves more than verbal communication, and obviously the life of a disciple is proved counterfeit when it amounts to words alone, the most critical work God has given the church is to "proclaim the excellencies" of our Savior.

A godly life should serve as a witness for the message we proclaim. But without words, what can our actions point to but ourselves? A godly life cannot communicate the incarnation, Jesus' substitution for sinners, or the hope of redemption by grace alone through faith alone. We can't be good news, but we can herald it, sing it, speak it, and preach it to all who listen.

In fact, verbal communication of the gospel is the only means by which people are brought into a right relationship with God. The Apostle Paul made this point to the church in Rome when he said:
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? (Rom. 10:13-14, HCSB)
If we are to make disciples of all nations, we must use words. Preaching necessitates the use of language. So, let me encourage us to preach the gospel, and use words, since it's necessary. But let me also say that agreeing to the centrality of proclamation is not enough. We need to move from agreement with the idea to effective execution of it. Let me encourage us to be a people who not only use gospel words but use them in four ways.

1. Let your gospel words be comprehensible.

In our bid to be accurate about theological issues, we must also make certain we are comprehensible. We want to declare the biblical gospel in a culturally accessible manner. This requires us to define theological words as well as embrace the language of the people to whom we speak wherever appropriate. I find it ironic that some who love the Puritans sometimes betray the Puritan practice of speaking "plainly." Gospel words should be offered, as much as possible, in the common language of the listeners. How shall they hear if we speak in another language?

2. Let your gospel words be earnest.

We communicate that the gospel is a serious matter because it is a serious matter. I'm not suggesting that everyone should have the same temperament, but I am saying that life-saving "good news" should be offered with sobriety, sincerity, and zeal. No one listens to proclamation about serious issues presented in frivolous ways. When preaching Christ, we need clarity and sincerity.

3. Let your gospel words be heard outside the local church.

Making disciples means giving the gospel to those outside the church. Since we believe that the only Godgiven means of transferring people from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light involves the preaching of the gospel with words, we should be compelled to speak such words to any who will listen. As the ones sent by God (that's us), we should be ready to "tell the story" to the unconverted people in our neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces.

4. Let your gospel words be heard inside the local church.

The gospel should be spoken in the church because even the redeemed can drift back toward the opposite temptations of legalism and lawlessness. One of the most important things a Christian does is to redirect other Christians back to Jesus though the good news of the gospel. And, we need to speak it in the church so that the unbelievers visiting among us can hear how precious it remains to our lives, that it is not merely a way station on our spiritual journey. The gospel is spoken in the company of faith for both our sanctification and our worship.

The gospel requires, demands even, words. So, let's preach the gospel, and let's use words, since they're necessary. May they be clear and bold words that call those inside and outside the church to follow Jesus.

microscope photography

Cool snaps at The Big Picture ...


the short story

The short story of all things, the hero kills the dragon and gets the girl. Here's a video just over 3 minutes from The Gospel Project explaining the story followed by DA Carson's 221 word summary of the same.


God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath.

But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects.

In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).

Thursday, June 28, 2012

doug wilson in bloomington

Over 3 hours of video but I benefited greatly. Doug Wilson did a great job representing The Way at Indiana University in Bloomington. This link contains his full lectures along with Q&A. Great stuff. Pray for him.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

soccer

I've been missing the Euro 2012 Football/Soccer Championships ... major sad face ... but The Big Picture has some great snaps ...


one road



Before the mountains were brought forth, or the earth and world were formed, Jesus Christ was like the Father, very God. From the beginning He was foreordained to be the Savior of sinners. He was always the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, without whose blood there could be no remission. The same Jesus, to whom alone we may look for salvation, that same Jesus was the only hope of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and all the patriarchs; what we are privileged to see distinctly they doubtless saw indistinctly – but the Savior both we and they rest upon is one. It was Christ Jesus who was foretold in all the prophets, and foreshadowed and represented in all the law – the daily sacrifice of the lamb, the cities of refuge, the brazen serpent, all these were so many emblems to Israel of that Redeemer who was yet to come, and without whom no person could be saved. There never was but one road to heaven: Jesus Christ was the way, the truth and the life yesterday as well as today.

what's at stake


Great post by Tony Reinke on What's At Stake in the Homosexuality Debate:

The stakes could not be higher in the homosexuality debate, because — to put it rather bluntly — homosexual activity is a sin that parallels idolatry. The Apostle Paul seems to draw this connection in Ephesians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5, and he certainly does in Romans 1:18–27.

Robert Gagnon, a leading scholar on sexuality in Scripture, says these themes are closely related for Paul because both idolatry and same-sex intercourse equally oppose the designs of the Creator. He sees several strong connections that link Romans 1 to the creation account in Genesis 1–2. In his acclaimed book The Bible and Homosexual Practice, Gagnon writes, "Idolatry and homosexual behavior are in some measure parallel (not just successive) phenomena since both are presented as willful suppression of the obvious truth about God and God's design in the natural world."[1]

Pagan idolatry is twisted because it is the act of rejecting the Creator and replacing worship of him with the worship of what he has made. Similarly, homosexual acts are twisted because they reject God's natural design for human sexuality.[2] Thus, homosexuality and idolatry are related. Both are evidence of a twisted distortion of God's design for men and women, both dehumanize men and women, both are rooted in a rejection of the Creator. That is to say, the distortions of idolatry and same-sex intercourse are foremost rooted in a worship disorder (Romans 1:21, 24–25).

An Obstacle to the Full Life

And there isn't a disorder more serious than a worship disorder. The stakes could not be higher for sinners who refuse to honor and thank God for his created design. And when worship disorders spread, and souls hang in the balance, loving Christians speak up, not with voices of spite or hatred but with voices of love and compassion.

This is a point Gagnon makes:
Without taking into account God's will for holy living, love turns into affirmation of self-degrading and other-degrading conduct. This means that true love of one's neighbor does not embrace every form of consensual behavior. What constitutes an expression of love to one's neighbor depends significantly on how one assesses the benefit or harm of the neighbor's behavior. If indeed homosexual behavior is sin and an obstacle to the fullness of life available in Christ, then the church has an obligation both to protect the church from the debilitating effect of sanctioned immorality and to protect the homosexual for whom more is at stake than the satisfaction of sensual impulses.[3]
Yes. That last sentence is critical.

Homosexual intercourse is an obstacle to fullness in Christ, in fact it is an empty faux-replacement for the good design of the Creator. To seek happiness in homosexual activity is a replacement god, it kicks against the Creator, it is a rejection of the Creator just like idolatry.

Opposed to What Kills Joy

John Piper is right when he says, "God's judgment on homosexual and lesbian relationships is not because he is a killjoy, but because he is opposed to what kills joy."[4] Fullness of joy in Christ is at stake. And fullness of joy will never be found in crossing the wires of God's created intentions.

Heterosexual sin and homosexual sin alike are ultimately rooted in a worship disorder, a worship disorder that robs the soul of joy now and robs the soul of joy eternally. The fullness of joy we all long for is reserved for those sinners who, by God's grace alone, have been healed from this worship disorder, who are rightly oriented with the Creator, and who turn away from selfishness that kicks against the created order.

High Stakes

The gospel of Jesus Christ offers us victory in our worship disorders. By Christ's death and resurrection and through our union with him, we turn away from the wisdom of our own eyes, we turn from idols, and we turn from what contradicts God's beautiful design. We continue to battle sinful sexual impulses and all sin, and we fight sin together as brothers and sisters in Christ who look forward to a day when all temptations will be gone and we will enjoy eternal pleasures forever in the presence of our Creator (Psalm 16:11). That is why this topic matters, because eternal happiness is ultimately what's at stake in the homosexuality debate.

__________________

1Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Abingdon Press, 2001), 286.

2"In effect, Paul is saying: Start with the obvious fittedness of human anatomy; when done with that, consider procreative design as a clue; then move to a broad range of interpersonal differences that define maleness and femaleness. These are much better clues to God's will for human sexuality than preexisting, controlling passions — which can be warped by the fall and shaped by socialization factors." [Robert A. J. Gagnon, "Sexuality," in Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible (Baker Academic, 2005), 745–746.]

3Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Abingdon Press, 2001), 34.

4John Piper, sermon, "Let Marriage Be Held in Honor Among All" (August 11, 1991).


(HT)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

sinful and proud

Great photos at The Big Picture of, sadly, LGBT Pride Events ... proud to sin ...


limited atonement

Sadly, even after Phil Johnson's retirement, Teampyro demonstrates an inability to stop dispersing unredeemable garbage amidst solid Biblical teaching. Oh well, it's meant to be ...

Speaking of meant to be, and case-in-point (albeit minor this time), the latest post by Dan Phillips addresses an article by Roger Olson's article Is God's Love Limited to the Elect? in the Assemblies of God publication Enrichment.

Phillips starts his article, which ends very well, by disparaging the AOG. His defenders would point out that he didn't actually saying anything bad, he just listed some people that have come out of that denomination; anything negative one thinks speaks for itself. But of course that is nonsense and one of the continued sad tactics employed by these guys.

But that aside, here's the meat of his post and it really is good:

... Olson ... states "It is possible for the same sins to be punished twice." Yes sir, yes ma'am, you read that right. Read it again. "It is possible for the same sins to be punished twice." That, my friend, is a direct quotation, not a parody nor a paraphrase. Here it is in full context:
It is possible for the same sins to be punished twice and that is what makes hell so absolutely tragic — it is totally unnecessary. God punishes those with hell who reject His Son’s substitution. An analogy will help make this clear. After the Vietnam War, President Jimmy Carter gave a blanket amnesty to all draft dodgers who fled to Canada and elsewhere. By presidential decree they were free to come home. Some did and some did not. Their crime was no longer punishable; but some refused to take advantage of the amnesty and punished themselves by staying away from home and family. Believers in universal atonement believe God allows sinners who refuse the benefit of Christ’s cross to suffer the punishment of hell in spite of the fact it is totally unnecessary. [emphases added]
I quoted that at length because, if I hadn't, many would assume that I'd pulled an MSNBC and edited the quotation to make Olson look silly. But that is really what he says. In fact, I make out two arguments, both absolutely absurd, insulting to God, and harmful to Scripture:
  1. God pours out the full measure of His wrath for sins on Jesus (1 Cor. 15:3), Jesus says "It is finished" (Jn. 19:31), God declares that He has accepted the sacrifice (Rom. 4:25) — and then He punishes people for those same sins — forever. If the Arminian wants to call the Biblical God affirmed in Calvinism "unloving" (because He actually saves some, though not all), I will call Olson's god unjust.
  2. God is, in any way, like Jimmy Carter? Ouch. But that aside: the analogy breaks down. People in Hell are punishing themselves? That man-centered absurdity is not what I read (Matt. 25:41; Jn. 3:36; 1 Thess. 1:10; 2 Thess. 1:8-9). They're either not suffering for sin at all, or God is inflicting punishment for sins that are already paid for, on Olson's model. To make the analogy work, you'd have to have President Carter issuing an amnesty for draft dodging, then heading off to Canada to arrest and imprison for the already-pardoned crime of draft-dodging those who refuse to accept the pardon. Carter has wiped the books of the crime, then imprisons them for that same crime.

Olson tells us, Believers in universal atonement believe God allows sinners who refuse the benefit of Christ’s cross to suffer the punishment of hell in spite of the fact it is totally unnecessary." So they are suffering "punishment." For what, exactly? For sins for which Christ already satisfied God's justice? Then God is unjust. (I speak as a fool.) For what sin? For rejecting Christ? But since that is disobedience to a direct command (1 John 3:23), isn't that a sin, by any sane definition? And did Christ make full satisfaction for sin, or did He not?

Ah, me. Does it get any better?

Olson denies the Calvinist criticism that the Arminian construct only gives "people an opportunity to save themselves," calling that assertion " totally fallacious reasoning."

But then he immediately confirms that very reasoning.

That's right. Again, let us quote Olson in full, to be fair:
Arminians (those who follow Jacob Arminius in rejecting unconditional election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace) believe Christ’s death on the Cross saves all who receive it by faith. Christ’s death secures their salvation — just as much as it secures the salvation of the elect in Calvinism. It guarantees that anyone who comes to Christ in faith will be saved by His death. This does not imply they save themselves. It simply means they accept the work of Christ on their behalf.
So in other words, Christ dies equally for Bob and for John. Christ does not do one more thing for Bob than He does for John. But Bob goes to Heaven after he dies, and John goes to Hell. Why? Clearly, not because of anything Christ did, because Christ did exactly the same for both. So who supplied the missing ingredient that meant Heaven for Bob? Who? Anyone? Bueller? That's right: Bob supplied the all-important ingredient that determined his future in Heaven. The missing ingredient that meant salvation for Bob was supplied — not by God the Father, not by God the Son, not by God the Holy Spirit, but — by Bob himself.

So who gets credit for Bob's salvation according to Olson's statement? I am sure every Arminian would say "Jesus does." I am sure that every Arminian would deny that they are teaching that the sinner deserves partial credit for their salvation. But ours is not a psychological interest, but a Biblical and logical interest, and we must follow out the logic of the system, whatever its advocates affirm or deny.

And according to that system, Jesus gets some credit, of course. He did a big thing. It was important, what Jesus did. But He didn't "pay it all." John goes to Hell in spite of what Jesus did, and Bob goes to Heaven, instead — because of what Bob added to what Jesus did. Jesus really couldn't have done it without Bob's help.

According to Olson's logic.

Monday, June 25, 2012

reconciled to reconcile

Matt Chandler in The Explicit Gospel:

Thinking about gospel reconciliation in concentric circles, we are reconciled first to God in Christ, then to one another in covenant community, and third to what God is doing in the renewal of all creation. To put it another way, think of the gospel as a stone landing in a pond. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are the cause of many ripples; they are the epicenter of God’s work in the world. The first ripple is our personal reconciliation to God. The second ripple establishes the body of Christ, as we are reconciled to each other. The third ripple is the missional posture of the church as we mobilize to proclaim the fullness of reconciliation in the gospel. In essence, we are reconciled to reconcile.

dropped the charges

Oh yes! Jesus Dropped the Charges by the O'Neil twins!  :)



(via)

B-A-C-O-N

BACON - the new TULIP ...



(via)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

faith in christ


Christ given to us by the kindness of God is apprehended and possessed by faith, by means of which we obtain in particular a twofold benefit; first, being reconciled by the righteousness of Christ, God becomes, instead of a judge, an indulgent Father; and, secondly, being sanctified by his Spirit, we aspire to integrity and purity of life.

core proclamation



The core proclamation of the gospel declares that God made amends for human sin while humans were still ungodly and hostile sinners, that God experienced the pain and agony of offering Christ up to death in order to rescue the maximum number of people from sin and transform them into Christ's image. To denounce same-sex intercourse and then stop short of actively and sacrificially reaching out in love and concern to homosexuals is to have as truncated a gospel as those who mistake God's love for "accepting people as they are" and who avoid talk of the gospels transformative power. It is to forget the costly and self-sacrificial work of God in our own lives, past and ongoing. . . .

This book has been aimed at showing that affirming same-sex intercourse is not an act of love, however well meaning the intent. That road leads to death: physically, morally, and spiritually. Promoting the homosexual "rights" agenda is an awful and harmful waste of the church's energies and resources.

What does constitute an act of love is befriending the homosexual while withholding approval of homosexual behavior, working in the true interests of the homosexual despite one's personal repugnance for same-sex intercourse, pursuing in love the homosexual while bearing the abuse that will inevitably come with opposing homosexual practice. It is the harder road to travel. It is too hard for many people to live within that holy tension. Yet it is the road that leads to life and true reconciliation; it is the calling of the church in the world.

The real difficulty for the church lies not in assessing whether the Bible's stance toward same-sex intercourse is unremittingly negative, nor even (as is increasingly being suggested) in assessing whether the hermeneutical appropriation of the Bible's stance for our contemporary context sustains that witness. No, the real difficulty for the church lies in the pastoral dimension: the "nuts-and-bolts," day-to-day compassionate response to people whose sexual actions are recognized to be sinful and harmful to themselves, to the church, and to society at large. (492–493)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

bullets on marriage


Tim Challies summarizes 8 bullet points on marriage (well done):

couple of weeks ago I offered a series of bullet points on the subject of death. I guess it’s no less strange to equate bullet points with marriage. Nevertheless, according to the Bible, marriage is…

…Instituted by God, Uniting One Man and One Woman Matthew 19:4-6 - “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ [Genesis 2:24]? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

…A Portrait of Christ and His Bride, the Church Ephesians 5:31-32 - “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ [Genesis 2:24]. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

…To Be Honored Hebrews 13:4 - “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”

…A Source of Trouble, Divided Interests, and Anxiety 1 Corinthians 7:28, 33-34 - “But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. … But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.”

…Not Every Person’s Calling 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 - “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.”

…Meant to Be Permanent in This Life Mark 10:11-12 - “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (cf. Luke 16:18; Matthew 19:8-9; Romans 7:2-3)

…Impermanent in Eternity Matthew 22:30 - “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (cf. Mark 12:25; Luke 20:35-36)

…Fulfilled In Christ’s Return Revelation 19:6-9 -

“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

‘Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure’—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’”

Saturday, June 16, 2012

way of peace

JC Ryle in Are You Looking?

Look steadily at Jesus on the cross, if you want to feel inward peace. Look to anything of your own, and you will never feel comfortable. Your own life and doings, your own repentance and amendment, your own morality and regularity, your own church-going, your own Bible-reading and your prayers, your own almsgiving and your charities, – what, what are they all but a huge mass of imperfection? Rest not upon them for a moment, in the matter of your justification. As evidences of your wishes, feelings, bias, tastes, habits, inclinations, they may be useful helps occasionally. As grounds of acceptance with God they are worthless rubbish. They cannot give you comfort; they cannot bear the weight of your sins; they cannot stand the searching eye of God. Rest on nothing but Christ crucified, and the atonement He made for you on Calvary. This, this alone is the way of peace.

horton on sola scriptura


Michael Horton writes the following theses to summarize some of the issues regarding authority:
  1. The Reformers did not separate sola scriptura (by Scripture alone) from solo Christo (Christ alone), sola gratia (by grace alone), sola fide (through faith alone). As Herman Bavinck said, “Faith in Scripture rises or falls with faith in Christ.” Revealed from heaven, the gospel message itself (Christ as the central content of Scripture) is as much the basis for the Bible’s authority as the fact that it comes from the Father through the inspiration of the Spirit. Jesus Christ, raised on the third day, certified his divine authority. Furthermore, he credited the Old Testament writings as “scripture,” equating the words of the prophets with the very word of God himself and commissioned his apostles to speak authoritatively in his name. Their words are his words; those who receive them also receive the Son and the Father. So Scripture is the authoritative Word of God because it comes from the unerring Father, concerning the Son, in the power of the Spirit. Neither the authority of the Bible nor that of the church can stand apart from the truth of Christ as he is clothed in his gospel.
  2. Every covenant is contained in a canon (like a constitution). The biblical canon is the norm for the history of God’s saving purposes in Christ under the old and new covenants. The Old Testament canon closed with the end of the prophetic era, so that Jesus could mark a sharp division between Scripture and the traditions of the rabbis (Mk 7:8). The New Testament canon was closed at the end of the apostolic era, so that even during that era the Apostle Paul could warn the Corinthians against the “super-apostles” by urging, “Do not go beyond what is written” (1 Co 4:6). While the apostles were living, the churches were to “maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you” (1 Co 11:2), “…either by our spoken word or by our letter” (2 Th 2:15). There were indeed written and unwritten traditions in the apostolic church, but only those that eventually found their way by the Spirit’s guidance into the New Testament are now for us the apostolic canon. The apostles (extraordinary ministers) laid the foundation and after them workers (ordinary ministers) build on that foundation (1 Co 3:10). The apostles could appeal to their own eye-witness, direct, and immediate vocation given to them by Christ, while they instructed ordinary pastors (like Timothy) to deliver to others what they had received from the apostles. As Calvin noted, Rome and the Anabaptists were ironically similar in that they affirmed a continuing apostolic office. In this way, both in effect made God’s Word subordinate to the supposedly inspired prophets and teachers of today.
  3. Just as the extraordinary office of prophets and apostles is qualitatively distinct from that of ordinary ministers, the constitution (Scripture) is qualitatively distinct from the Spirit-illumined but non-inspired courts (tradition) that interpret it. Thus, Scripture is magisterial in its authority, while the church’s tradition of interpretation is ministerial.
The balance of the thesis is an brief history overview and an interesting read.

Friday, June 15, 2012

the only way


JC Ryle in One Blood:

Only the blood of Christ can cleanse us; only the righteousness of Christ’s can clothe us; Only the sacrifice of Christ can give us a title to heaven. Jews and Gentiles, educated and uneducated, rich and poor—everyone, no matter what their position or standing in life must either be saved by Jesus Christ or lost forever. And the Apostle emphatically adds, “There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” There is no other person commissioned, sealed, and appointed by God the Father to be the Savior of sinners, except Christ. The keys of life and death are only found in His hand, and all who want to be saved must go to Him.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

the problem with the internet


The problem with the internet is ... ok, it's not really the internet in-and-of-itself, it's us. When we post, we typically have one audience or another in mind - or worse, we have no audience in mind. Certainly when we comment we have no grace or understanding toward the author's intent.

Melinda Penner, in addressing Christians and Homosexuality, wrote this list of possible audiences and approaches. It could have been written for addressing any sin issue we face (not restricted to homosexuality).
  • If we are speaking to cultural elites who despise us and our beliefs, we want to be bold and courageous.
  • If we are speaking to strugglers who fight against same sex attraction, we want to be patient and sympathetic.
  • If we are speaking to sufferers who have been mistreated by the church, we want to be apologetic and humble.
  • If we are speaking to shaky Christians who seem ready to compromise the faith for society’s approval, we want to be persuasive and persistent.
  • If we are speaking to liberal Christians who have deviated from the truth once delivered for the saints, we want to be serious and hortatory.
  • If we are speaking to gays and lesbians who live as the Scriptures would not have them live, we want to be winsome and straightforward.
  • If we are speaking to beligerent Christians who hate or fear homosexuals, we want to be upset and disappointed.

She then outlines a fairly decent list of commitments we should hold to as we navigate this terrain ...

1. We will preach through the Bible consecutively and expositionally that we might teach the whole counsel of God (even the unpopular parts) and to avoid riding hobby horses (even popular ones).
2. We will tell the truth about all sins, including homosexuality, but especially the sins most prevalent in our communities.
3. We will guard the truth of God’s word, protect God’s people from error, and confront the world when it tries to press us into its mold.
4. We will call all people to faith in Christ as the only way to the Father and the only way to have eternal life.
5. We will tell all people about the good news of the gospel, that Jesus died in our place and rose again so that we might be set free from the curse of the law and be saved from the wrath of God.
6. We will treat all Christians as new creations in Christ, reminding each other that our true identity is not based on sexuality or self-expression but on our union with Christ.
7. We will extend God’s forgiveness to all those who come in brokenhearted repentance, everyone from homosexual sinners to heterosexual sinners, from the proud to the greedy, from the people pleaser to the self-righteous.
8. We will ask for forgiveness when we are rude, thoughtless, or joke inappropriately about homosexuals.
9. We will strive to be a community that welcomes all those who hate their sin and struggle against it, even when that struggle involves failures and setbacks.
10. We will seek to love all in our midst, regardless of their particular vices or virtues, by preaching the Bible, recognizing evidences of God’s grace, pointing out behaviors that dishonor the Lord, taking church membership seriously, exercising church discipline, announcing the free offer of the gospel, striving for holiness together, and exulting in Christ above all things.

kingdom secrets


Ed Stetzer:

The kingdom of God …

  • is informed and initiated by the Word of God.
  • is designed to take place in the midst of the world.
  • uses small things to grow big things and impact lives.
  • offers a joy that’s otherwise unavailable to the human heart.


perspicuity


Heman Bavinck on the perspicuity of Scripture:

The doctrine of the perspicuity of Holy Scripture… means only that the truth, the knowledge of which is necessary to everyone for salvation, though not spelled out with equal clarity on every page of Scripture, is nevertheless presented throughout all of Scripture in such a simple and intelligible form that a person concerned about the salvation of his or her soul can easily, by personal reading and study, learn to know that truth from Scripture without the assistance and guidance of the church and the priest. The way of salvation, not as it concerns the matter itself but as it concerns the mode of transmission, has been clearly set down there for the reader desirous of salvation. While that reader may not understand the “how” of it, the “that” is clear.

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