Saturday, August 31, 2013

god destroys

I love the following post by Andrew Wilson; not as a defense of John Piper but as an exposing of those that hate Biblical truth.

The question is familiar, at least to anyone who has met a biblically literate sceptic: "How can God wipe out men, women and children in the Old Testament?" This answer, from John Piper, shocks many with its bluntness and its implicit theology: "It's right for God to slaughter women and children any time he pleases. God gives life and he takes life. Everybody who dies, dies because God wills that they die." Eeek.

Unsurprisingly, that answer has produced expostulations of anger, astonishment and scornful criticism, not just of Piper but of Calvinism, inerrancy, biblical conservatism and anything else with which Piper is associated. Pete Enns shakes his head in pitying disbelief. Brian Zahn compares it to suicide bombing while shouting “Allah Akbar”, and says it entirely deserves the scorn sceptics will undoubtedly pour upon it. Many of us, intuitively inclined to give Piper the benefit of the doubt but nonetheless prompted to wince by the direct and robust way in which he answers, may find ourselves torn, either because we suspect he might be wrong, or (more uncomfortably) because we suspect he might be right but hope he isn’t. So without attempting to resolve or engage with all the issues here - and I’ve written or linked to numerous articles on this over the last year or so, as well as establishing my pacifist credentials on several occasions - here’s a question that Piper’s critics on this issue need to think seriously about. How many acts of slaughter constitute a mass slaughter?

“Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” (Acts 12:23)
“And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.” (2 Sam 6:7)

“Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.” (Acts 5:9-10)
“And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.” (Lev 10:2)

“For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” (1 Cor 11:29-30)

One man’s household?
“And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.” (Josh 7:15)

“And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon and struck down thirty men of the town and took their spoil and gave the garments to those who had told the riddle. In hot anger he went back to his father’s house.” (Jdg 14:19)

“And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.” (2 Kin 2:24)

“And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the LORD. He struck seventy men of them, and the people mourned because the LORD had struck the people with a great blow.” (1 Sam 6:19)

Two hundred and fifty?
“And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men offering the incense.” (Num 16:35)

Six hundred?
“And as the Egyptians fled into it, the LORD threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained.” (Ex 14:27-28; cf. v7)

Three thousand?
“And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell.” (Ex 32:28)

The entire city of Sodom?
“On the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulphur rained from heaven and destroyed them all.” (Luke 18:29)

Twenty three thousand?
“We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.” (1 Cor 10:8)

All the firstborn sons in Egypt?
“At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock.” (Ex 12:29)

One hundred and eighty five thousand?
“And the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.” (Isa 37:36)

The known world (minus eight)?
“He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.” (Gen 7:23)

You’ll notice that these examples come from both Old and New Testaments, and most of the Old Testament ones are quoted in the New. You’ll also notice that if we were to strike them (and the many other texts like them) from the record, we’d have no flood, no exodus, no judgments in the wilderness, no conquest narratives, and no historically reliable account of the patriarchs, the united monarchy, the divided kingdom, the exile of Israel and Judah, or the early church. Assuming we’re not prepared to go there, my question is: where, and on what basis, do we draw the line between “acceptable acts of divine judgment” and “indefensible acts of mass slaughter”? There are plenty of other questions, of course - acceptable to whom? is it ever legitimate for God to kill someone for their sin? who decides when it is or isn’t? isn’t what Jesus said about hell fiercer than any of these stories? why does Paul say that people who sin deserve to die? and so on - but one is enough for now.


Thomas R. Kelly in A Testament of Devotion:

The deepest need of men is not food and clothing and shelter, important as they are. It is God. We have mistaken the nature of poverty and thought it was economic poverty. No, it is poverty of soul, deprivation of God’s re-creating, loving peace. Peer into poverty and see if we are really getting down to our deepest needs in our economic salvation schemes. These are important. But they lie farther along the road, secondary steps toward world reconstruction. The primary step is a holy life, transformed and radiant in the glory of God.

Friday, August 30, 2013


John Piper in Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God:

[O]ur thinking should be wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things.


What do the terms heart, soul, and mind refer to? What is plain from the Bible is that they overlap in meaning. Nevertheless, they do have different focuses. Concerning heart and mind, consider that the one other place in the four Gospels where the word mind (dianoia) occurs, other than in the command to love God, is Luke 1:51. There it is translated “thoughts,” and these thoughts are happening, surprisingly, in the “heart.” “He has scattered the proud in the thoughts (dianoia) of their hearts.” So mind and heart overlap. The heart has its thoughts and the mind has its “spirit” or, you might say, its “heart,” as Paul says in Ephesians 4:23: “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds.” Nevertheless, the mind and heart are not identical.

Concerning the meaning of the soul, consider that Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). This implies that soul is the fullness of life or personhood apart from the body. The body can be killed and yet the soul still live. Therefore, the soul includes the heart and the mind, since Jesus says that though the body may perish, the soul is rescued, which would surely include the rescue of the heart and the mind as part of the soul.

What then shall we say about these terms? We may summarize like this: heart highlights the center of our volitional and emotional life without excluding thought (Luke 1:51). Soul highlights our human life as a whole (“man became a living creature,” Gen. 2:7), though sometimes distinguished from the body (Matt. 10:28). Mind highlights our thinking capacity. And when the term strength is added, as in Mark 12:30, it highlights the capacity to make vigorous efforts both bodily and mentally (Mark 5:4; Luke 21:36).

why didn't he?

This one came up just last night in small group ... Sam Storms on Why Didn't God Choose Everyone?

The one question I’m asked more often than all others combined is this: “If God could have chosen or elected everyone for salvation, why didn’t he?”

Or again: “If election is solely based on what God wanted and not anything in us that might differentiate the chosen from the un-chosen and thus account for why this one and not another, why didn’t God choose all? If he could have, why didn’t he?”

With this question we run headlong into the theological brick wall called “the secret things of God” (Deut. 29:29), on the other wide of which are mysteries inaccessible to the human mind.

Many mistakenly assume that, if God is by nature loving, he must choose all, as if to say it would be a contradiction of the divine character were he not to love everyone equally. But this fails to note that the saving love of God is also sovereign. John Murray explains it this way:
"Truly God is love. Love is not something adventitious; it is not something that God may choose to be or choose not to be. He is love, and that necessarily, inherently, and eternally. As God is spirit, as he is light, so he is love. Yet it belongs to the very essence of electing love to recognize that it is not inherently necessary to that love which God necessarily and eternally is that he should set such love as issues in redemption and adoption upon utterly undesirable and hell-deserving objects. It was of the free and sovereign good pleasure of his will, a good pleasure that emanated from the depths of his own goodness, that he chose a people to be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. The reason resides wholly in himself and proceeds from determinations that are peculiarly his as the 'I am that I am’” (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, 10).
Thus, to say that love is sovereign is to say it is distinguishing. It is, by definition as saving love, bestowed upon and experienced only by those who are in fact saved (i.e., the elect). Although there is surely a sense in which God loves the non-elect, he does not love them redemptively. If he did, they would certainly be redeemed. God loves them, but not savingly, else they would certainly be saved. All this is to say that God's eternal, electing love is not universal but particular. Of this we may be certain: God was under no obligation to choose any. Were he to have chosen none, he would have remained perfectly just in doing so. That he chose some is a reflection of sovereign mercy.

“OK,” responds the inquiring soul, “I’ll concede that God doesn’t have to love everyone with the love of election, but that doesn’t tell me why he didn’t. It’s one thing to say God was under no obligation or necessity to elect all unto life. It’s another thing entirely to account for why he chose not to elect all unto life. Or again, it’s one thing to say he didn’t need to choose all. It’s something else entirely to say he didn’t want to choose all.”

But why would God not “want” to choose all? It can’t be because some are less worthy than others of being the objects of electing love, for all are equally deserving of wrath and condemnation. It can only be because there is something God “wants” more than whatever benefits might otherwise be gained by choosing all. But what could possibly be more important to God than delivering all hell-deserving sinners from their plight? The Arminian would say: the preservation of human free will. According to Arminianism, God won’t save all because to do so would require that he intrude upon and override the rebellious will of many unbelievers. God so values the purported dignity of libertarian freedom that he chooses only to save those who believe, although it would be possible to save those who don’t as well.

The Calvinist answers the question in a different way. Again, what could possibly be more important to God than delivering all hell-deserving sinners from their plight? The answer is: the display of the glory of all his attributes for his delight and that of those whom he has chosen to share it. Piper explains that although God is willing to save all he chooses not to do so,
“because there is something else that he wills more, which would be lost if he exerted his sovereign power to save all. . . . Both [Calvinists and Arminians] can say that God wills for all to be saved. But then when queried why all are not saved both Calvinist and Arminian answer that God is committed to something even more valuable than saving all. . . . What does God will more than saving all? The answer given by Arminians is that human self-determination and the possible resulting love relationship with God are more valuable than saving all people by sovereign, efficacious grace. The answer given by Calvinists is that the greater value is the manifestation of the full range of God’s glory in wrath and mercy (Rom. 9:22-23) and the humbling of man so that he enjoys giving all credit to God for his salvation (1 Cor. 1:29)” (“Are There Two Wills in God?” in Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge & Grace, edited by Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000], 123-24).
In no other area of theology do I feel so urgent a need to be cautious and humble in how I address this problem. What Piper has affirmed and what I am about to say invariably touches a raw nerve in the souls of many, if not all, Christians. I want to avoid sounding flippant or casual in my explanation, lest I give the slightest impression that this is anything less than an incalculably sensitive and explosive matter. How one answers this question, or attempts to answer it while acknowledging that it may well surpass our capacity to fathom, turns on one’s concept of God and the motivation for his having created the human race and sent his Son for the redemption of sinners. With that in mind, and with the unashamed acknowledgment that I may be wrong in the conclusion to which I’ve come, here is what I believe is most consistent with Scripture.

I begin by asking, “Is it truly the case to say God could have elected all unto life?” If by “could” you mean did he have the authority and right and power to choose all, yes. There was no power external to God that would have hindered him in making his electing love universal in scope. There was no deficiency in God’s inherent ability to choose all for life.

On the other hand, if God’s choosing was governed by his determination to glorify himself in the highest and most effective way possible by displaying all his divine attributes (including his righteous wrath and justice), I would reverently and humbly say No, he couldn’t have chosen all. That is to say, once divine wisdom determined that the choice of some but not all hell-deserving sinners would most effectively serve to magnify the plenitude of his glory (and of course that is very much the point in dispute), this was a path from which God “could not” deviate (so long, of course, as he retains his determination to achieve this end).

Those who take issue with my conclusion will undoubtedly question whether this was in fact the divine motive in creation and redemption. They will contend, in some way, that God’s pre-eminent goal was something other than the display of his own glory. I have attempted to defend this understanding of the ultimate aim of creation and redemption in my books Pleasures Evermore and One Thing and I will simply refer you to the relevant section in those volumes (Pleasures Evermore: The Life-Changing Power of Enjoying God [Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2000], 81-101; One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God [Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2004], 9-44).

Permit me to cite Jonathan Edwards’ explanation of this matter together with a few of my own observations, and then leave it with you to wrestle with the implications. Here is what he said.[I have taken the liberty of smoothing out Edwards’ prose in order to bring greater clarity to his theological argument. The full entry in his Miscellanies from which this has been taken can be found in Jonathan Edwards, The “Miscellanies,” edited by Thomas A. Schafer (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), no.348, 419-20.]
“It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God’s glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all, for then the effulgence would not answer the reality.”
Edwards argues elsewhere that it is more than “proper” and “excellent” that God’s glory shine forth in its fullness, it is essential. This isn’t because something other than and outside God requires it of him. Rather, it is the very nature of divine glory that it tends toward self-expression and expansion, not in the sense of growth or quantitative increase, but manifestation and display for the sake of the joy of God’s creatures in it. Not only that, but it is “proper” that all of God’s glory be seen that we may know God as he truly is and not simply in part. If one or several divine attributes were disproportionately dominant in their display (and others barely noted at all), an imbalanced and inaccurate view of God would emerge (this is what Edwards meant when he said that otherwise “the effulgence would not answer the reality”). He continues:
“Thus it is necessary that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all.”
In using the word “necessary” he is not suggesting that sin, considered in and of itself, has a right or inherent claim on existence. Rather, sin was “necessary” in the sense that in its absence there would be no occasion for the display of his righteous wrath, justice, and holiness as that in God which requires punishment (or at least no display sufficient for a “complete” or true knowledge of what God is like and why he is glorious). And without a revelation (or “shining forth”) of the wrath that sin deserves there would scarcely be a revelation of the true and majestic depths of goodness, love, and grace that deliver us from it.
“If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God’s justice in hatred of sin or in punishing it, . . . or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. No matter how much happiness he might bestow, his goodness would not be nearly as highly prized and admired. . . . and the sense of his goodness heightened. 
So evil is necessary if the glory of God is to be perfectly and completely displayed. It is also necessary for the highest happiness of humanity, because our happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love. And if the knowledge of God is imperfect (because of a disproportionate display of his attributes), the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect.”
This point is related to what we see in Romans 9:22-23. There we read that God desired to show his wrath and make known his power in order that his mercy and grace might be seen in unmistakable clarity and his glory displayed to his everlasting praise. Were he to have elected all, rather than some, to eternal life this goal would not have been attained nor would the plenitude of God’s glory been sufficiently seen.

only foundation

We must not be grieved, that we have nothing to trust upon besides Christ for our salvation; but rather we are to rejoice, that we need nothing else, and that we have a sure foundation to rely on, incomparably better than any other that can be imagined.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

compelling conversion

Good take by Mike Wittmer on Rosaria Bhampagne Butterfield's The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.

  1. Evangelism is a violent activity
  2. The homosexual community often excels at hospitality in a way that puts some churches to shame
  3. We need to saturate our interaction with gay people with love

Read his full post. My only add - this is not limited to our interaction with those in bondage to this particular sin/temptation.

the preacher at his best

This by Kevin DeYoung (I wish preachers in my area could hear this message):

Permit me a brief word about a disconcerting trend I see in young, and sometimes very popular, preachers. I mention this concern knowing full well my own temptation to it. Let me pose the problem as a question:

Preacher, are you at your best when you are closest to the text?

Too many preachers are at their best when they are telling a personal anecdote or ripping into some sacred cow or riffing on in a humorous fashion. There is a time for all of that, but we ought to beware if those times are when we are at our best. We can be orthodox preachers of good, gospel truths and still tickle people’s ears. If we’re not careful, we’ll train the large conference audience and our local congregation that the time to really pay attention is when we start drifting not when we start digging.

“Got it. Understood. Text means this, not that. Sound good. Now get back to that funny, over the top, in your face thing you do.”

I’ve done that thing; probably will again. If the rant is honest and true, the Lord can use it. But, again, I repeat myself, it must not be the best we have. The congregation should be most aflame with gospel zeal when they are beholding new things in the chapters and verses at the end of their noses. God uses all of the preacher–personality, humor, gestures–all of us. But the indelible impression left on our people must be a sense of the presence of God arising from careful attention to the word of God. If the best stuff we have every Sunday is disconnected from our hard won exegetical work, our people will learn to trust us and not the Book. They will look forward to our new antics, not our new discoveries in the text.

Ask yourself this Saturday: “Can I make my best point–the one I’m most excited about, the one I can’t wait to deliver–without noting anything from this week’s passage?” Everything you want to say isn’t everything you should say. We must be constrained by what we can sincerely say from these verses. If we want fresh power from the pulpit let us labor to demonstrate that our most passionate appeals come from the most precise exposition.

The best preacher is the preacher who is at his best when he is closest to the text.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

gay mirage

Michael Belote takes us back (thankfully) to the basics. It's not that complicated. Here he responds to the oft asked misdirection regarding homosexuality and "The Law" ...

Gay Marriage: The Scripture Everyone Seems to Forget

As I'm sure you might be aware, the gay marriage debate is a pretty lively one in our world today. I have written about the topic a few times before, and I think all of them are worth reads: 
  • In this article, I argue that Christianity's lax attitude toward other sexual sins in marriage (fornication, adultery, divorce) have left us without much of a leg to stand on in this debate;
  • In this article, I argue that both sides of the debate are filled with arguments that make no sense and in fact derive from Greek philosophies rather than Christian ones;
  • In this article, I argue that boycotting a company because you disagree with their stance on gay marriage (or any other topic) is silly and ridiculous and counter-productive; and
  • In this article, I examine the Scriptures that pro-LGBT Christians like Rob Bell claim are misinterpreted to see if he's right. (Spoiler alert: he's not.)
But still, my wife reminds me that one of my key arguments about homosexuality--and in my opinion the most devastating one--has still not been posted. I think it is time to fix that.

One of the most common things you will hear skeptics (or even believers) say is this: "Why do you follow Levitical prohibitions of homosexuality, but not eating shellfish or other ritual purity acts?" Indeed, this popular (if silly) article over at Buzzfeed makes exactly this common claim, and many Christians even make the same argument.

The basic sense of the argument goes like this: since Gentiles are not held to the Law post-Jesus, then why do we still follow Leviticus 18, when it condemns homosexuality?

To a lot of people, this argument makes sense. Sadly, too few Christians are Biblically-literate enough to know that there is a very relevant New Testament passage to answer thisprecise question.

The Background

If you've read my post here, then you can probably skip this section. But if not, let's briefly cover what happens in the first half of the book of Acts.

After Jesus is resurrected and spends time with His apostles, He leaves to go to heaven until His Second Coming, and instead gives the apostles the Holy Spirit to guide their decision-making. These apostles begin to form a synagogue of Messianic Jews in Jerusalem, preaching Jesus as Messiah. For three or four years, Christianity existed merely as a Jewish sect. (They did not call themselves Christians yet; they called themselves Jews who followed "The Way of Yeshua", or "The Way/Path of Jesus".)

Then, sometime around 37 AD, Peter gets a vision to preach to the Gentiles. He begins spreading Christianity among the Gentiles, and--much to everyone's surprise--these non-Jewish people start receiving the Holy Spirit too! This Gentile movement continues as a small side-thing for several years, until eventually Paul and Barnabas in 48 AD start their missionary journeys. Paul and Barnabas start preaching to the Gentiles as well, and find the Holy Spirit spreading like wildfire among them--without them converting first.

Why is this important?

Well, by 49 AD this had kicked off the first doctrinal controversy in the early Church. The question was: what to do with Gentile believers? Some, called the Judaizers, believed that the Gentiles must first convert to Judaism and follow the Mosaic Law--then and only then can they be true Christians. Others, like Paul and Barnabas, taught that they were not Jewish and therefore should not have any of the Law's demands.

Eventually, it erupted into such a controversy that a council of leaders was called in Jerusalem, in 49 AD. The purpose of this council was to answer a single question: are Gentile believers in any way bound to the Mosaic Law of Leviticus and Deuteronomy? Note that this is the same question Buzzfeed and others asked above!

How in the world this Scripture is not studied and memorized by Gentiles, I'll never understand: it is a key part of the New Testament for us, perhaps the most important part other than the whole "Jesus being resurrected" thing. This section of Scripture details out exactly the manner in which Gentiles are allowed to join the faith of Christ. It should be memorized in every youth group and church in America. But I digress.

The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15)

The head of the meeting was James the Just, Jesus' brother and head of the church at Jerusalem. He, John, and Peter meet together in a private meeting to hear the testimony of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:2-12, Gal 2:4-10).

These men--in other words, all of the key church leaders who had spent years studying under Jesus--pray and fast and review the testimonies of Peter and Paul. Upon reviewing the testimony, Peter argues that since the Gentiles are not descended from Moses, they should in no way be burdened with the Mosaic Law (Acts 15:7-11). James agrees, seeing this as compatible with Jesus' teaching and the Old Testament prophesies (Acts 15:13-18). 

The Council decides that Gentile believers don't have to take on the weight of the Mosaic Law. They say that only the universal parts of the Old Testament apply to Gentiles: specifically, we are told to avoid idolatry/blood worship, and sexual immorality (Acts 15:19-21).

One of the most key passages in all Scripture for Gentile believers is this:
“For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.” (Acts 15:28-29)
This confirms what most Christians exegete from the Gospels and teachings of Jesus regarding Gentiles: we are still bound to the covenant of Noah (so no murdering or idol worship), and we are bound to the code of sexual immorality, which is universal in nature.

What does this have to do with gay marriage?

Well, this means that we Gentiles are only held to two parts of the Mosaic Code: the Noahic Laws, and the Jewish sexual immorality laws. Which are what, exactly? Well I'm glad you asked: Leviticus 18, that's what.

You see, we Christians still follow one chapter--and only one--of Leviticus because that is what the New Testament commands of us in Acts 15. We are told that these two codes are the universals which bind us.

And thus, we reject bestiality, sex outside of marriage, incest, polygamy, adultery, and--yes--homosexuality.

Far too often this is left out of our teaching in churches, and Christians skim this section of Acts without understanding its importance: and if we do not know, how can we teach the world?

So no, Christian: we do not arbitrarily choose just one chapter of the Mosaic Law to follow and ignore the rest just because it's inconvenient. We don't do it to annoy those who are gay. We don't do it because we're homophobic or old-fashioned.

Our religion is based upon freedom from sin and remarkable grace, and we are only asked (as Gentile believers) to do some VERY basic things with regard to the entire 600+ commandments of the Mosaic Law: avoid idolatry, avoid murder, avoid sexual immorality as defined in Lev 18. That's it--it isn't arbitrary, it is explicitly commanded of us. There is no argument around Acts 15 that I have ever heard.

sola scriptura

Michael Patton posts Six Myths About Sola Scriptura:

The Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura is one of the most misunderstood doctrines I know of. The misconceptions come not only from those who repudiate the doctrine (such as Roman Catholics), but also from those who affirm it. Here is a list of some myths regarding sola Scriptura.

1. Sola Scriptura means that Scripture is the only source of spiritual insight.

Spiritual insight can come from any number of sources, both secular and Christian. I remember in 1995, I received quite a bit of spiritual motivation and inspiration from the movie Braveheart. My thoughts and hopes were infiltrated by the idea of a person giving up his life for something bigger than himself. There are many things – songs, wise words, books, and movies (Christian and secular), to name a few – that can be sources of insight and inspiration. Remember, all truth is God’s truth. It does not have to be in the Scriptures to be true.

2. Sola Scriptura means that there are no other authorities in our lives.

We believe that the Scriptures are our final and only infallible authority, but not that they are our only authority. For example, we believe that our pastors and church leaders have authority in our lives. Hebrews 13:7 says that we are to obey our leaders. Wives are to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:2). People are to obey the government (1 Pet. 2:13). Children are to do what their parents say (Eph. 6:1). There can be no excuse like, “Dad, the Bible does not say I have to clean my room, so I choose not to.” Or “Officer, it says nothing specific about running red lights in the Bible.”

As well, tradition (church history) is an authority in our lives. Those who have gone before us in the faith must be respected. Their collective and unified influence creates an authority which, I believe, is second only to Scripture. After all, they had the same Holy Spirit as us, didn’t they? The Holy Spirit does not teach us everything new as individuals, but educates and inspires us in and with those who have gone before us. That is why I love dead theologians!

As I read through John Calvin’s Institutes a couple of years ago, I did so with a fine-toothed comb, underlining every time another source was referenced, especially a source from another church father. One cannot study the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura and come away with the idea that the Reformers ever meant that the Scriptures were our only authority. Ultimate, yes. Only, no.

None of these are our final authority, and if the Scriptures contradict what these authorities say, the Scriptures trump.

3. Sola Scriptura means that if it is not in the Bible, it is not divinely binding.

Romans 1 speaks of the binding authority of the message of creation: “For since the creation of the world, his eternal attributes, divine power and nature have been clearly understood so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). As well, in Romans 2, we are told that our conscience testifies to us about God’s will (Rom. 2:14-16). As Christians, we must be willing to take our cue from all forms of what we call “general revelation”: rationality, moral conscience, and the message of creation all qualify.

Whether it is rationality or the message of creation and the conclusions drawn from it, we cannot turn a blind eye and say that since it is not in the Scripture, it does not make any difference.

4. Sola Scriptura means that the Scriptures are an exhaustive source for us to know how to live our lives each day.

Think about how many things the Bible does not tell us. It does not tell us any particulars about where to work, whom to marry, what to eat, how often to shower, how many elders to have, or how, exactly, to conduct a Sunday morning service. It gives us general principles and then extends lots of freedom for us to use our wisdom to work out the details.

The Scriptures equip us spiritually for every spiritual service (2 Tim. 3:17). There is no knowledge deposit or missing database which contains essential information about how to have a right relationship with God. In this, Scripture is completely sufficient for every spiritual task.

5. Sola Scriptura was invented by Protestant Reformers

While it is true that sola Scriptura is confessed exclusively by Protestants, it is not true that the Reformers invented this doctrine. It was articulated in the sixteenth century to a greater degree than ever before, but this was only because of the abuses of the institutionalized church (primarily beginning with the Gregorian reforms in the eleventh century). Therefore, like all doctrine, it went through a maturation. But we can find the seed principles of the doctrine of sola Scriptura throughout the history of the church. Here are some examples:

Basil the Great (379)

“Enjoying as you do the consolation of the Holy Scriptures, you stand in need neither of my assistance nor of that of anybody else to help you comprehend your duty. You have the all-sufficient counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead you to what is right” (Letter CCLXXXIII, ANCF, p. 312).

In the end, the doctrine of sola Scriptura means that the Bible is the final and only infallible source of divine revelation and is, therefore, the ultimate guide for the conscience of the Christian.

Gregory of Nyssa (335-394)

“We make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet.”

Augustine (354-430)

“In the innumerable books that have been written latterly we may sometimes find the same truth as in Scripture, but there is not the same authority.” (Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, 11:5)

There are many more examples here.

As a matter of fact, there are some joint declarations between Protestants and Eastern Orthodox which demonstrate that when properly understood (all myths aside), there is great agreement on this doctrine. Roman Catholics, who hold to a dual-source authority (Tradition + Scripture interpreted by the church), are the only ones who outright reject sola Scriptura.

6. Those who hold to sola Scriptura are uncertain about the canon of Scripture.

The whole idea here is that if the Scriptures are the only infallible authority, then there are no Scriptures since there is no infallible authority who can tell us which books belong in the Scriptures (since the table of contents is not inspired). While it is true that there is no infallible canon or list of books that comprise Scripture, this does not mean we have to be forever uncertain about what books belong in the Bible. We can have strong and binding conviction without having infallible knowledge of many important things. We don’t have infallible knowledge that our interpretation of Scripture is correct; however, when the Scriptures are clear there is no need for an infallible interpreter.

But, more to the point: even if we have an infallible definer and interpreter of Scripture (e.g. Pope, Watchtower, Councils, church, etc.), this does not mean we infallibly interpret these sources. For example, who interprets the Roman Catholic catechism? How does one know they are interpreting it correctly? As well, while there is no infallible canon of books that belong in the Bible, there is also no infallible canon of dogmas the Pope has made. Even Roman Catholics can’t agree about when the Pope has spoken infallibly. Therefore, having an infallible interpreter has not solved as many problems as people like to think. In short, we don’t need an infallible list of books in order to be convicted that we have the right books.

I think this is an accurate way to put it:

The Bible is carried by reason, aided by experience, guarded by tradition, but ruled by none.

some will not be convinced

Why Some People Simply Will Not Be Convinced

I spent last week with Frank Turek (at the CrossExamined Instructors Academy) and Bobby Conway (the One Minute Apologist) training and talking about the evidence for God’s existence and the reliability of the Gospels. The three of us have dedicated ourselves to helping people overcome their skeptical objections to the Christian worldview, but all of us recognize that some people will simply not be convinced by our arguments and presentation of evidence. In fact, I know that most people will not be convinced. Why? Because (as I’ve written inCold Case Christianity) there are three reasons why someone will “shun” (reject) a truth claim:
Some Reject Ra”shun”ally
Sometimes folks simply have rational doubts based on the evidence. You’ll recognize this form of resistance when you hear someone say something akin to, “I need more evidence. I’m not convinced.” For those of us who have taken the time to prepare ourselves as good Case Makers, this is the kind of skeptic we are hoping for; someone who’s resistance is grounded in a lack of information. Unfortunately this seldom the kind of person we encounter.

Some Reject Emo”shun”ally
Many people have doubts that are purely emotional. You’ll recognize this form of resistance when you hear someone say something like, “I know a lot of hypocritical Christians. If that’s what Christianity is about, I want no part of it.” Some skeptics have been injured or offended by Christians and now struggle to overcome negative feelings that prevent them from evaluating the case fairly.

Some Reject Voli”shun”ally
When I was an atheist, I denied the truth for volitional reasons. I was willfully resistant and refused to accept any argument offered by Christians I knew. In fact, I actually hated the idea of God and all it represented. I was happy running my own life; I was stubbornly independent. People like me typically say things like, “I don’t care if it is true, I’m not changing my life.”
If you’re a Christian trying to make the case for what you believe, recognize that your jury is filled with all three kinds of people, and only the first group will probably be willing to listen to your presentation. I’ve discovered most people actually fall into the third category; their willful resistance to the truth actually prevents them from fairly examining the case for Christianity. Frank Turek offers an excellent example of this in his “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” presentation. As part of his four step argument, he engages the issue of miracles, and offers a brief example of how a volitional presupposition can actually prevent you from recognizing a miracle, even if one occurred in your own life.
Circular Reasoning
David Hume famously argued against miracles, on the basis that we humans have no “uniform experience” of such events. But if we start with a volitional presupposition against the miraculous, this willful foundation will prohibit us from any fair, rational inference from our observations. In other words, we know the experience against miracles to be “uniform” only if we accept all reports of miracles as false. And we know all reports to be false only if we begin from the position miracles have never occurred. In essence, our volitional resistance leads us to reason in a circle.
While you and I can do our best to present the evidence to our unbelieving friends, there is clearly a foundational, presuppositional problem in the heart of man. Our own desires and love of autonomy (our rebellion from God) typically stand in the way of our investigation. I am an evidentialist; I believe in the power of the evidence when presenting the case for God’s existence. But I know that God had to do something with my heart before I could see the evidence fairly, and no friend of mine could accomplish this with his or her evidential presentation. So as I share the case with my skeptical friends, I begin by praying God will remove their enmity so they can hear my words with clarity and interest. I know volitional and emotional resistance is often the reason some people will not be convinced.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


In the eleventh century, one of the church’s most brilliant thinkers, Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, wrote three important works that have influenced the church ever since. In the field of Christian philosophy, he gave us his Monologium and his Proslogium; in the field of systematic theology, he penned the great Christian classic Cur Deus Homo, which being translated means “Why the God-Man?”

In this work, Anselm set forth the philosophical and theological foundations for an important aspect of the church’s understanding of the atonement of Christ, specifically the satisfaction view of the atonement. In it, Anselm argued that it was necessary for the atonement to take place in order to satisfy the justice of God. That viewpoint became the centerpiece of classical Christian orthodoxy in the Middle Ages, in terms of the church’s understanding of the work of Christ in His atonement. Since then, however, the satisfaction view of the atonement has not been without its critics.

In the Middle Ages, questions were raised about the propriety of thinking that the atonement of Jesus was made necessary by some abstract law of the universe that required God’s justice to be satisfied. This gave rise to the so-called Ex Lex debate. In the Ex Lex debate, the question was raised as to whether God’s will functioned apart from any law or outside of any law (ex lex), or whether the will of God was itself subjected to some norm of righteousness or cosmic law that God was required to follow and, therefore, His will was exercised under law (sub lego). The question was: Is God apart from law or is He under law?

The church’s response to this dilemma was to say basically “a pox on both houses,” and to declare that God is neither apart from law nor under law in these respective senses. Rather, the church responded by affirming that God is both apart from law and under law, in so far as He is free from any restraints imposed upon Him by some law that exists outside of Himself. In that sense, He is apart from law and not under law. Yet at the same time, God is not arbitrary or capricious and works according to the law of His own nature. The church declared that God is a law unto Himself. This reflects not a spirit of lawlessness within God, but that the norm for God’s behavior and God’s will is based on what the seventeenth-century orthodox theologians called “the natural law of God.”

The natural law of God, as a theological expression, can be easily misunderstood or confused with the broader concept that we encounter in political theory and in theology of the so-called “law of nature” (lex naturalis). In that sense of the phrase, the law of nature refers to those things that God reveals in the world of nature about certain principles of ethics. In distinction from this common use of the term natural law, what the seventeenth-century Westminster divines had in view when they spoke of the natural law of God was this: that God operates according to the law of His own nature. That is to say, God never acts in such a way that would contradict His own holiness, His own righteousness, His own justice, His own omnipotence, and so on. God never compromises the perfection of His own being or character in what He does.

When the church confesses the necessity of the satisfaction of God’s righteousness, this necessity is not something that is imposed upon God from the outside, but it is a necessity imposed upon God by His own character and nature. It is necessary for God to be God, never to compromise His own holiness, righteousness, or justice. It is in this sense that an atonement that satisfied His righteousness is deemed necessary.

In more recent times, modern thinkers have objected to the satisfaction view of the atonement on the grounds that it casts a shadow over the free grace and love of God. If God is a God of love, why can He not just forgive people gratuitously from the pure motivation of His own love and grace, without being concerned about satisfying some kind of justice, whether it’s a law of His own nature or a law imposed from without? Again, this view of the atonement fails to understand that God will never negotiate His own righteousness, even out of His desire to save sinners.

In the atonement, we see that God both manifests His gracious love towards us and yet at the same time, manifests a commitment to His own righteousness and justice. Justice is served by the work of Christ who satisfies the demands of God’s righteousness, thereby maintaining God’s commitment to righteousness and justice. God satisfied the demands of His righteousness by giving to us a Substitute who stands in our place, offering that satisfaction for us. This displays marvelously the graciousness of God in the midst of that satisfaction. God’s grace is illustrated by the satisfaction of His justice in that it is done for us by the One whom He has appointed. It is God’s nature as the Judge of all the world to do what is right. And the Judge who does what is right never, ever violates the canons of His own righteousness.

The Bible explains the cross in terms of both propitiation and expiation, the twin accomplishments of Christ in our behalf. Propitiation refers specifically to Christ’s work of satisfaction of God’s righteousness. He pays the penalty for us that is due our sins. We are debtors who cannot possibly pay the moral debt that we have incurred by our offense against the righteousness of God, and God’s wrath is satisfied and propitiated by the perfect sacrifice that Christ makes on our behalf. But that’s only one aspect of the work. The second is expiation. In expiation, our sins are removed from us, remitted by having our sins transferred or imputed to Christ, who vicariously suffers in our stead. God is satisfied, and our sin is removed for us in the perfect atonement of Jesus. This fulfills the dual sense in which sin was atoned for on the old-covenant Day of Atonement, both by the sacrifice of one animal and the symbolic transfer of the sins of the people to the back of the scapegoat, who was then sent into the wilderness, removing the sins from the people.

Monday, August 26, 2013

gray matters

A teaser for Brett McCracken's Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism & Liberty.

once saved always saved

I prescribe to the doctrine of eternal security, aka "once saved always saved". Michael Patton posts his concerns with that phrase. The following is most of his post starting with a helpful parable:
In a town of ultimate boredom called Mundane, there was a great announcement. It was the announcement of a race. A great race that all could enter. A race that would rescue them from boredom. Most people did not believe that such an event would be held in Mundane so they scoffed. Others immediately prepared with great enthusiasm and joy. 
Both the scoffers and the enthusiasts arrived at the appointed place on the day of the race. The scoffers sat and watched while the others prepared to run by stretching and making sure their shoes were tied. They lined up looking ahead with the intensity, fear, and excitement that accompanied such an event. 
The gun sounded and off they went. Yet something very curious and unexplainable happened. They all stopped running after they had passed the starting line. Not only this, but they acted very peculiar. One person fell on his knees crying, thanking God that he crossed the starting line. Others gave each other high fives and hugs shouting, “Hooray, we are now race runners, we are now race runners.” Some shook hands and congratulated each other. One group relaxed and complemented one another on how well they crossed the starting line. Five or six others all gathered together and formed a prayer circle. They prayed that others would cross the starting line as they had. 
Many others wanted to experience this joy so they decided to start the race as well. They were immediately stopped by the well-wishers who had started before them. They decided to stay as well. After a few days, there were people handing out pamphlets along with a certificate to all those who crossed the starting line. The pamphlet told them that once they had started the race they were guaranteed to finish. The certificate was to recognize their achievement in finishing the race even before they finished. It became very high on the agenda of all the race runners to make sure that people who had started knew of their assurance of completion. So much so that there was a printing press built right at the starting gate which produced millions of the pamphlets. 
After a few months, there were so many who had crossed the starting line that they decided to build a town right there. They called this town “Starting Line Village.” 
The spectators were confused. “I thought a race had to be finished,” they said to one another. They interviewed the people of Starting Line Village. “Why did you start the race and not continue?” they would ask. This made the people of Starting Line Village very uncomfortable. They would immediately show their certificate saying that they were guaranteed to finish. When people would encourage them to run the rest of the race, they would be ridiculed for not trusting the pamphlet. They were called legalists and were accused of trusting too much in their own ability to finish the race rather than the words on the pamphlet. 
Finally, many of the watchers in the crowd became fed up with those in Starting Line Village and decided to run the race themselves with the intent to finish. They refused the certificates and left the people of Starting Line Village to hand out the pamphlets alone.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

made in his image

Trevin Wax posts some quotes on God's image.

“The most distinctive feature of the biblical understanding of man is the teaching that man has been created in the image of God.” - Anthony Hoekema

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit.” - C. S. Lewis

“To live was to enjoy – when every faculty was in its perfection, amidst abundance of objects which infinite wisdom had purposely suited to it… when he was at full liberty to enjoy either the Creator or the creation – to indulge in rivers of pleasure, ever new, ever pure, from any mixture of pain.” - John Wesley

“Leave the works in one class. Consider one as good as another. Fear God, and be just, as has been said. And then do whatever comes before you. This way all will be well done even though it is no more than loading manure or driving a mule.” - Martin Luther

“The great God of the universe who heaped up the mountains, scooped out the oceans, and flung out the stars wants to have a relationship with you.” - Adrian Rogers

“This sense of being made in God’s image calls us all constantly to look for it in others and to do what we can to help them acknowledge it and to realize it by joining in worship. We thereby carry to others the answer to their inmost longing, a yearning for union with the Trinity, a thirst to respond with adoration to the God who made them.” - Marva Dawn


Jonathan Leeman on penal substitution:

The "penal" in the doctrine of penal substitution, being tied to God's wrath, has long been a source of controversy inside the church and out. It's criticized as overly "legal" or "forensic." People want to look to the cross and talk about Christ's love, not his enduring the divine penalty.

But it's worth stopping for a moment and meditating on what is behind a penalty. What is behind wrath? The answer is God's worthiness or God's worth. God's wrath is equal to God's worth, and that the "penal" in penal substitution therefore reveals this very worth. 

Wrath and worth are perfectly matched together. The former takes the measure of the latter and expresses itself accordingly. One is as precious as the other. 

So drop the "penal" from penal substitution and you diminish God dramatically. Despise his wrath and you despise his worth. 

To see this, it’s worth meditating for a moment on what the purpose of law is. The Reformers talked about the law as restraining sin, condemning sin, and revealing God’s character. Political and legal philosophers will point to the law’s role in maintaining order, protecting the defenseless, or guaranteeing freedom. Each of these is helpful for its part. 

But a theme that runs through all of these explanations is the idea of protecting something precious or worthy.

It’s against the law to murder because life is precious. It’s against the law to steal because property is precious. It’s against God’s law to lie because truth is precious. Every five year old who values his toys and every king who values his gold understands this much about law. That’s why both will declare, "Don’t touch these things, or else!" One might say that laws function like a castle wall or a security systems. People erect walls and install alarm systems when they want to guard something precious.

This is why breaking a law results in a penalty. Penalties are typically measured to match the significance of the violation, that is, the preciousness of the thing being protected by the law. The more precious the thing being protected, the severer the penalty. When no penalty follows a broken law, one assumes the matter must not be that important or precious.

Penalties teach. They declare the worth of something.

My siblings and I discovered at a young age that lying to our parents yielded a stronger penalty than squabbling over a toy. The lesson we learned from the difference? The truth is more precious than toys.

No one likes the idea of penalties, of course, but a penalty is the very thing that makes a law meaningful as a guardian of worth. If the law is the sentry guarding that which is precious, the penalty is the sentry’s pointy bayonet. It gives the law its prick, substance, meaning.

Looking at God's law from this angle, we see that God’s law is the infinitely high wall that protects his infinite worthiness and glory. It’s the guardian and revealer of his glory. To contravene his law is to disregard his infinite worthiness. When you say "no" to God, you effetively say, "God, what you think doesn’t mean much to me, because you don’t mean much to me."

Though Anselm’s satisfaction theory of the atonement didn’t say everything that should be said about what happened at the cross, what he said, I think, captures an element of Christ’s work that formulations of penal substitution sometimes forget to mention: God’s honor is impugned by sin. And that honor must be vindicated, or satisfied. And that satisfaction must be infinite. The doctrine of penal substitution fills out the details of Anselm’s theory by observing that the offense against his honor is made manifest, as it were, through the transgression of God’s law. The law requires a penalty. The penalty is God’s wrath. God’s wrath, after all, is the jealous guardian of God’s glory. God’s glory was then demonstrated at the cross—among other ways—by showing that God’s law really did require a penalty for transgressions against it (Rom. 3:25-26).

Why do we want to preserve a "legal" or "forensic" understanding of the atonement and a strong concept of wrath? Because, unless we want to be idolaters, we must concede that the most precious thing in the universe is God and his glory. God’s infinite worthiness and preciousness will, intrinsically to itself, yield a counterpart—God’s law. God’s law is the fitting and perfectly matched protector of God’s infinite worthiness. To depreciate God’s law is to depreciate God’s worthiness, plain and simple.

The penal in penal substitution, likewise, is matched to the infinite preciousness and worthiness of God. His wrath is an indication of how infinitely glorious and precious he is.

To say that Adam’s sin should not have resulted in death; to say that our sins do not result in God’s wrath; to shy away from mentioning God’s wrath in private or public; to say that penal substitution is overly obsessed with legal categories or overemphasizes the role of God’s law; to say that the significance of Christ’s death is diminished by bringing it into the realm of the law court; to say that the demands of God’s law do not have to be satisfied; to declare a forensic declaration of "righteous" merely a "legal fiction"; to caricature the Son’s propitiation of the Father’s wrath as "divine child abuse"—all this is to miss the role of God’s law in protecting and declaring the worthiness of God; and therefore it is to belittle his ineffable worthiness and glory, like trampling on a precious flower times infinity.

Let me ratchet it up one more notch: if the world, the flesh, and the devil desire, above all else, to diminish the godness of God, and to deceive us into thinking we can be "like God," there can be no more dangerous lie in the universe than to deny God's wrath and to redefine the gospel in a way that subtly massages the penal out of penal substitution—kind of like when someone said to Eve, "You will not surely die."

But in a world of self-justifiers and wannabe gods, the idea of God's wrath will always be the first domino the devil tries to topple. "You surely won't die. Nah, you are worth far too much!"


No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
“No temptation.” I love that phrase. It covers them all. But the temptations that Paul is talking about specifically in the preceding verses are sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 10:8) and grumbling (1 Corinthians 10:10).

These are not grand temptations like jumping off the temple into angel arms or denying Jesus when threatened with torture. These are “common to man” temptations. These are the temptations you and I will face today. And tomorrow. And the next day. They dog at our heels and whisper in our ears at the slightest glance or inconvenience.

Common to Man Temptations Are the Most Dangerous

And they are the most dangerous temptations we face because they’re aimed at where we are weakest: our profound, pathological fallen selfishness. This is why Satan concentrates most of his efforts on them. They encourage us to nurture a fantasy that the world we perceive is our world. And in this fantasy-world we ought to possess what we desire and things ought to go our way.

The more we indulge this fantasy the more we want it to be true. It feeds and expands our sinful desire-appetites. It increasingly shapes our thinking and behavior. If not resisted and battled vigorously, we will eventually pursue as real an image we created.

This is rank idolatry, which is why Paul makes a connection between these temptations and Israel’s golden calf a few verses earlier (1 Corinthians 10:7). We are not to play with these “common to man” fantasy-idols. They are lethal. They destroy people every day. They “[bring] forth death” (James 1:14–15).

Look for the Escape

So what do we do when we feel like grumbling or when we’re enticed by some lustful indulgence today? We look for the escape. There’s gospel in 1 Corinthians 10:13:
God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape.
God promises to always provide an escape. But what kind of escape does he promise? God’s escape is almost always a promise to trust.

Temptations are promises. The temptation to sinfully grumble is a form of the promise that if you can be your own god and have your own way you will be happy. Grumbling is a form of rebellion against the incompetence of God. The way of escape is trusting promises such as,
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5–6)

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
The temptation to indulge in sexual immorality is the promise that a forbidden sexual experience or the selfish use of someone else’s body for your own pleasure regardless of how it affects them will make you happy. The way of escape is trusting promises such as,
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)
For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:5)

Every escape will be slightly different. But it will be there in the form of promises. When temptation hits look for the promises.

Prepare to Not Want Escape

The hardest part about fighting these temptations is that we often don’t feel like we want escape in the moment. Don’t be surprised. Remember. Fighting temptation means trusting promises over perceptions. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Follow the promises of truth, not the appetites of error. Joy will come with the former and horrible regret with the latter.

And when we’ve failed and fallen into sin, we are invited to go straight to the cross where our cancelled sin has been paid in full. There, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

So today, let’s trust that Jesus, “who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15), will provide a way of escape that is more persistent (Hebrews 13:5), far more powerful (1 John 4:4), and far more satisfying (Hebrews 11:25–26) than what our “common to man” temptations are promising.


Michael Green:

This is the age of the sermonette, and sermonettes make Christianettes.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

history repeats - not

Dennis E. Johnson in Him We Proclaim:

The biblical understanding of history is not cyclical but linear. Thus the element of resemblance or similarity that is highlighted when the New Testament interprets an Old Testament event, person, or institution as a typos [type] - a preview pattern of Christ and his redemptive work-is not based on the perspective of the common cliché, ‘history repeats itself.’ Rather, history has a direction. It is moving toward a specific goal, the triumph of God and the universal acknowledgment of the kingship of God.

prophecy in small groups

Great practical points by Sam Storms on the prophetic in small groups:

Three Foundational Principles
  1. The primary purpose of prophetic ministry is to edify, encourage, and comfort God’s people (1 Cor. 14:3). 
  2. All believers are exhorted to earnestly seek after spiritual gifts, especially prophecy (1 Cor. 14:1).
  3. All prophetic words must be judged/weighed by the body of Christ (1 Thess. 5:19-22; 1 Cor. 14:29-35).
Three Suggestions for facilitating the Prophetic
  1. In order to encourage prophetic ministry (see 1 Cor. 14:1), leaders must create a “safe” environment where people are willing to take risks.
  2. Leaders must also be intentional in “making space” or creating opportunities for it to occur: “Does anyone have a sense from the Lord about the direction of our meeting tonight?” “Is anyone hearing from the Lord for ministry?” “Did anyone have a dream recently or feel burdened or impressed in some way?”
  3. Don’t be afraid of or offended by silence. Maybe God isn’t speaking at this time.
How to Introduce and Deliver a Prophetic Word

“I have a strong inner impression that I believe is from the Lord.” “I have a picture in my mind that I think may be for someone here.” “I had a sense from the Holy Spirit about what he wants to accomplish tonight.” “I had a dream which involved several of you, and I would like to share it.”

Avoid using dramatic and overly authoritative pronouncements like “Thus says the Lord” or “This is the word of the Lord” or “God told me to tell you.”

Seven Guidelines for testing/judging/weighing Prophetic Words
  1. Does it align with Scripture?
  2. Does it confirm what the Holy Spirit is already doing?
  3. Does it edify, encourage, and comfort (1 Cor. 14:3)?
  4. If the word is predictive, does it actually come to pass?
  5. Is it spoken in love and for the welfare of the recipient, or is it manipulative and serves only to draw attention to or promote the speaker (1 Cor. 13)?
  6. Does the broader believing community (the church) endorse the word?
  7. Does it correspond to personal experience (cf. Acts 21:3-4; 21:10-14 with Acts 20:22-23)?
Four Suggestions for handling questionable “words” or those that lack the anointing of the Spirit
  1. Be gentle, kindhearted, and encouraging. Don’t crush the spirit of the person or respond in a way that would make them fearful and hesitant to ever prophesy again.
  2. Some “words” need immediate correction, especially if they are biblically misguided.
  3. If the “word” is general or vague or merely a repetition of some biblical text or principle already well known, don’t dismiss it, but commit as a group to pray about it and re-visit it at a later time.
  4. If the “word” is weird or unintelligible or embarrassing, simply say: “Thanks for sharing. Let’s discuss this in private at a later time. I’m not sure this is the direction the Spirit is leading us at this time.”
Fifteen Practical “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of Prophetic Ministry
  1. Do not publicly criticize or correct church leadership by name. Take such “words” privately to the Elders. The NT doesn’t say "Be subject to the prophets" but rather "Be subject to the Elders" (1 Pt. 5:5; Heb. 13:17).
  2. Do not expose someone’s sin or identify them by name. Speak of sin in general/anonymous terms and ask the Spirit to bring conviction (1 Cor. 14:24-25).
  3. Don’t prophesy marriages, babies, moves, or job changes.
  4. If God reveals a person’s physical affliction, don’t immediately assume or suggest he intends to heal them. But of course pray for them!
  5. Unless you have explicit biblical warrant, do not tell a person what “God’s will” is for their life.
  6. Be careful about prophesying public, political, or natural disasters.
  7. Avoid using prophecy to establish doctrines, practices, or ethical principles that lack explicit biblical support.
  8. Don't appeal to prophecy to set behavioral standards on secondary issues (e.g., whether Christians should attend R-rated movies, drink alcohol in moderation, listen to secular music, etc.).
  9. Be cautious about excessive dependence on prophetic words for making routine, daily decisions in life. There are, of course, certain exceptions to this "rule".
  10. Always resist the pressure to prophesy on demand, in the absence of a divine revelation. At all costs, resist the temptation to speak when God is silent. Some of the most severe denunciations and warnings of judgment are reserved for those who claim to speak for God, but don't (see Ezek. 13:1-9; Jer. 23:25-32).
  11. Don’t let your identity be dependent on your gifting. Remember that prophetically gifted people are often more sensitive than others and can be self-defensive. They are easily wounded by criticism. Remind them lovingly that they are not their gift!
  12. Don’t despise prophetic utterances when things go badly or when people are offended or when someone gets it wrong (1 Thess. 5:19-22).
  13. Resist the temptation/pressure always to interpret and apply the revelation you’ve received. Share what God has shown you and be quiet! Again, there are occasional exceptions to this “rule”.
  14. Devote sufficient time to helping visitors, unbelievers, or cessationists understand prophetic ministry. They will often feel confused or find it weird. Make sure there is time to dialogue and debrief about what has (or has not) happened.
  15. Don’t let prophetic ministry dominate the meeting. There are other spiritual gifts!