Wednesday, September 30, 2009
"Membership matters more than most people think. If you really want to be a counter-cultural revolutionary, sign up for the membership class and join your local church."
From The Reason for God:
It is crucial at this point to remember that the Christian faith has always understood that Jesus Christ is God. God did not, then, inflict pain on someone else, but rather on the Cross absorbed the pain, violence, and evil of the world into himself. Therefore the God of the bible is not like the primitive deities who demanded our blood for their wrath to be appeased. Rather, in order to honor moral justice and merciful love so that someday he can destroy all evil without destroying us.
Therefore the Cross is not simply a lovely example of sacrificial love. Throwing your life away needlessly is not admirable-it is wrong. Jesus' death was only a good example if it was more than an example, if it was something absolutely necessary to rescue us. And it was. Why did Jesus have to die in order to forgive us? there was a debt to be paid-God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be born-God himself bore it. Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering. (200)
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.
4. One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement: friends of the clean air movement.
5. A person who buys you Institutes of the Christian Religion
Thanks Rich. Can't wait.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
I am sitting in the Calgary airport waiting for a connecting flight home. The return trip from any conference is always longer than the one going it seems. There is also that perplexing feeling that the place you were just visiting is already fading from your recollection. On this particular trip, I enjoyed some time in Victoria, British Columbia. A beautiful spot and I would encourage anyone who has any appreciation of the beauty of nature to visit BC. Before you think you have accidentally linked to Expedia or I’m taking kick-backs from Trip Advisor, I’ll get to the point. Long plane flights afford you the opportunity to read undisturbed (apart from bad coffee service, cookies and the occasional West Jet cabin crew joke) and I just closed the back cover on DeYoung and Kluck’s Why We Love the Church.
I took some pictures on my trip. In about 48 hours or so, the vividness of a BC sunset or the spectacular transient killer whales I saw will be almost gone but I expect as I review the images, some of the memories, sounds, smells and sensations will return.
From Why We Love the Church p225
Life is usually pretty ordinary, just like following Jesus most days. Daily discipleship is not a new revolution every morning or an agent of global transformation every evening; it’s a long obedience in the same direction. Of course we never want to lose our sense of wonder at the gospel. Which, come to think of it may be why the same old hymns and some old liturgies and same old sermons start sounding stale. It’s possible the church needs to change. Certainly in some areas it does. But it’s also possible we have changed - and not for the better. It’s possible we no longer find joy in such a great salvation. It’s possible that our boredom and restlessness has less to do with the church and its doctrines and more to do with a growing coldness toward the love of God displayed in the sacrifice of His Son for our sins. We cannot afford to be fuzzy about the gospel or speak of it with ambiguous euphemisms.
I picked up my bible and read the words of God. It makes me love God more by reminding me what He transacted on my (and your) behalf. I expect we’ll have communion at my local church sometime in the next month. It makes me remember the pain filled substitution that Christ mad on the cross for us. I bet I’ll see someone from my local church in the next few days and be reminded of the eklesia Christ commands us to.
If I don’t look at the pictures of Victoria again for another year, my memories will have all but faded and along with them the memories, sounds, smells and sensations and I might add ‘affection toward’.
Ever heard someone say that? I have. It sounds large-hearted, but it's wrong. It can even be destructive.
Suppose I said, "My passion isn't to build up my marriage. My passion is for Marriage. I want the institution of Marriage to be revered again. I'll work for that. I'll pray for that. I'll sacrifice for that. But don't expect me to hunker down in the humble daily realities of building a great marriage with my wife Jani. I'm aiming at something grander."
If I said that, would you think, "Wow, Ray is so committed"? Or would you wonder if I had lost my mind?
If you care about the Kingdom, be the kind of person who can be counted on in your own church. Join your church, pray for your church, tithe to your church, participate in your church every Sunday with wholehearted passion.
We build great churches the same way we build great marriages -- real commitment that makes a positive difference every day.
See the post here at Ortlund's blog Chris Is Deeper Still.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
7 Reasons We Need Small Groups
He has given pastors to the church “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). I believe in what I do. And I believe that it is not enough. Here are the seven reasons I gave the small group leaders.
- The impulse to avoid painful growth by disappearing safely into the crowd in corporate worship is very strong.
- The tendency toward passivity in listening to a sermon is part of our human weakness.
- Listeners in a big group can more easily evade redemptive crises. If tears well up in your eyes in a small group, wise friends will gently find out why. But in a large gathering, you can just walk away from it.
- Listeners in a large group tend to neglect efforts of personal application. The sermon may touch a nerve of conviction, but without someone to press in, it can easily be avoided.
- Opportunity for questions leading to growth is missing. Sermons are not dialogue. Nor should they be. But asking questions is a key to understanding and growth. Small groups are great occasions for this.
- Accountability for follow-through on good resolves is missing. But if someone knows what you intended to do, the resolve is stronger.
- Prayer support for a specific need or conviction or resolve goes wanting. O how many blessings we do not have because we are not surrounded by a band of friends who pray for us.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Many preachers, afraid of being thought arrogant, avoid talking about preaching. They prefer to think of what they do as ’sharing.’ In some limited contexts, doubtless there is nothing wrong with ’sharing.’ But something important is lost if we never speak or think of preaching and proclamation. That is our job, our calling. It is not arrogant to re-present as forcefully as we can God’s gospel; it is simply faithful stewardship. Further, if we focus on the powerful proclamation of the gospel, we shall be less likely to be seduced by siren calls to soften the sheer non-negotiability inherent in preaching. (37)
Thursday, September 24, 2009
"Why is it that we constantly parade Christian athletes, media personalities, and pop singers? Why should we think that their opinions or their experiences of grace are of any more significance than those of any other believer? When we tell outsiders about people in our church, do we instantly think of the despised and the lowly who have become Christians, or do we love to impress people with the important of the men and women who have become Christians? Modern Western evangelicalism is deeply infected with the virus of triumphalism and the resulting illness destroys humility, minimizes grace, and offers far too much homage to the money and influence and "wisdom" of our day." (The Cross and Christian Ministry - Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians, 29)
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I have never considered myself high-maintenance. As a matter of fact, I often prefer to be left alone. I'm not like those people who require tons of attention. I don't need to be coddled or constantly praised due to insecurity. I don't require constant care. Shoot me an email every 6 months and we're good. High-maintenance? Not me.
And then I realized it took nothing less than God sacrificing himself on the cross to maintain me in a right relationship with my Sovereign. It took the atoning work of the Son of God to keep me in a justified position before the righteous Father. It took the death of the infinite Christ to reconcile me to God. Infinite. That is pretty much excessive attention and effort on my Savior's part on my behalf. The price for my "maintenance" was infinitely high.
I guess I am high-maintenance. Thankfully, my Redeemer was up to the task!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Why So Many Cross-Centered Songs?
by C.J. Mahaney
9/4/2009 2:57:00 PM
Many of the songs we sing here, and many of the songs written by people in Sovereign Grace, have the gospel as a key component to them. There are all kinds of themes in Scripture, and there are all kinds of songs in Scripture. Why should we have so many songs about the cross? Why should the cross play such a central role in our singing when there are so many other things we can sing about?
This is an important question. Here was the essence of my answer:
First, since the cross is the storyline of Scripture, it should be the storyline of our corporate worship. The cross is the matter of “first importance” and it should be reflected in our singing on a weekly basis (1 Corinthians 15:3).
Second, we must never leave the impression during corporate worship that we do not need a mediator. There isn’t a moment where I don’t need a mediator. In light of the Father’s holiness and my sinfulness, I cannot approach him directly apart from Christ. It is quite possible for us to sing songs that are accurately extolling the attributes of God. But if the cross is absent, we leave the unintended impression that somehow I can approach the Father apart from a mediator—that I can experience intimacy with God apart from the One who died for my many sins.
Third, cross-centered songs imitate the heavenly model. In Revelation 5:1-14, for example, we catch a glimpse of eternal worship and our heavenly future. Jim Elliff has written, “One is taken aback by the emphasis upon the Cross in Revelation. Heaven does not ‘get over’ the cross, as if there are better things to think about; heaven is not only Christ-centered, but cross-centered, and quite blaring about it.” Amen! Every Sunday should be a heavenly preview as we survey the wondrous cross and as we sing of the Lamb who is worthy of our praise.
Forth, cross-centered songs affect our souls. You’ve heard the Martyn Lloyd-Jones quote about how most of our unhappiness comes from listening to ourselves more than we talk to ourselves. In light of this, corporate worship is a serious gift! Singing in corporate worship is a means of talking to yourself. This provides us an opportunity to stop listening to ourselves, to stop listening to sin, legalism, condemnation, and to begin singing and talking to ourselves. And by the end of corporate worship there is a good chance that we will experience the joy of the gospel. Not very often in our noisy world do we have such an opportunity to talk to ourselves. So what your church is saying in these moments of corporate singing is very important. And what a unique opportunity worship leaders have to transfer the hope of the gospel to people in corporate worship. And to think, you can do this each and every Sunday!
Cross-centered worship songs are vital to the life of the church.
I am so grateful to God that Bob has led Sovereign Grace Ministries into gospel-centered worship music, and has served the church with the writing and producing of many such songs and albums.
You can listen to the full audio recording of our discussion on this and other topics at the WorshipGod09 conference here.
Monday, September 21, 2009
“God, will you answer me when I call (Ps. 4:1)?” Yes!
“God, will you be my refuge in the face of my enemies (Ps. 7:1)?” Yes!
“God, can you actually make known to me the pathway of life (Ps. 16:11)?” Yes!
“God, will you be for me fullness of joy and pleasures evermore (Ps. 16:11)?” Yes!
“God, can I count on you to be my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my shield and my stronghold (Ps. 18:2)?” Yes!
“God, will you be there, with me and for me and beside me, as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 23:4)?” Yes!
“God, will you satisfy my heart with ravishing revelations of your beauty (Ps. 27:4)?” Yes!
“God, if I delight myself in you alone, will you truly grant me the desires of my heart (Ps. 37:4)?” Yes!
“God, does your steadfast love endure all day long (Ps. 52:1)?” Yes!
“God, will you be the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps. 73:26)?” Yes!
“God, what of your promise not to deal with me according to my sins or repay me according to my iniquities (Ps. 103:10)? Is that really true?” Yes!
“God, is it true that your mercies never come to an end; are they literally new every morning (Lam. 3:22)?” Yes!
“God, will you continue to sing over me with joy and delight, in spite of my brokenness and weakness and immaturity (Zeph. 3:17)?” Yes!
“God, are you really committed to orchestrating all things in my life for my ultimate spiritual good (Rom. 8:28)?” Yes!
“God, will you always comfort me in my affliction so that I may be equipped and qualified to comfort others in theirs (2 Cor. 1:4)?” Yes!
“God, are all the spiritual blessings in heavenly places already and absolutely mine (Eph. 1:3)?” Yes!
“God, will you always be present to do for me far more abundantly than all I can ask or think (Eph. 3:20)?” Yes!
“God, if I work out my salvation with fear and trembling, can I know with unassailable confidence that it is you who are already at work in me to will and to do for your good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13)?” Yes!
“God, if I pour out my heart to you with thanksgiving, will your peace guard my heart now and forever (Phil. 4:6-7)?” Yes!
“God, is it still the case that you plan on sanctifying me wholly, in spirit and soul and body (1 Thess. 5:23)?” Yes!
“God, are you actually committed to never leaving me or forsaking me (Heb. 13:5)?” Yes!
“God, if I draw near to you, will you really draw near to me (Js. 4:8)?” Yes!
“God, if I confess my sins, will you forever be faithful and just and forgive me of them (1 John 1:9)?” Yes!
“God, is it still your intent to wipe away every tear from my eyes and to banish pain and sorrow and death (Rev. 21:4)?” Yes!
“God, are you coming soon (Rev. 22:20)?” Yes!
I want to believe you, God. I long to trust your promises. How can I know for sure? To whom can I look for assurance? What guarantee will your provide?
“Jesus! For all my promises find their Yes in him!”
Thus the demand for signs becomes the prototype of every condition human beings raise as a barrier to being open to God. I will devote myself to this God if he heals my child. I will follow this Jesus if I can maintain my independence. I will happily become a Christian if God proves himself to me. I will turn from my sin and read the Bible if my marriage gets sorted out to my satisfaction. I will acknowledge Jesus as Lord if he performs the kind of miracle, on demand, that removes all doubt. In every case, I am assessing him; he is not assessing me. I am not coming to him on his terms; rather, I am stipulating terms that he must accept if he wants the privilege of my company. (21)
Sunday, September 20, 2009
I have yet to read a book by J. Gresham Manchen. But I want to. So many of the theologians and pastors who I admire have mentioned Manchen as one to whom they are indebted. So I have to get to him...eventually.
Here are the first 3 paragraphs of an essay of Manchen's entitled Christianity and Culture:
One of the greatest of the problems that have agitated the Church is the problem of the relation between knowledge and piety, between culture and Christianity. This problem has appeared first of all in the presence of two tendencies in the Church—the scientific or academic tendency, and what may be called the practical tendency. Some men have devoted themselves chiefly to the task of forming right conceptions as to Christianity and its foundations. To them no fact, however trivial, has appeared worthy of neglect; by them truth has been cherished for its own sake, without immediate reference to practical consequences. Some, on the other hand, have emphasized the essential simplicity of the gospel. The world is lying in misery, we ourselves are sinners, men are perishing in sin every day. The gospel is the sole means of escape; let us preach it to the world while yet we may. So desperate is the need that we have no time to engage in vain babblings or old wives’ fables. While we are discussing the exact location of the churches of Galatia, men are perishing under the curse of the law; while we are settling the date of Jesus’ birth, the world is doing without its Christmas message.
The representatives of both of these tendencies regard themselves as Christians, but too often there is little brotherly feeling between them. The Christian of academic tastes accuses his brother of undue emotionalism, of shallow argumentation, of cheap methods of work. On the other hand, your practical man is ever loud in his denunciation of academic indifference to the dire needs of humanity. The scholar is represented either as a dangerous disseminator of doubt, or else as a man whose faith is a faith without works. A man who investigates human sin and the grace of God by the aid of dusty volumes, carefully secluded in a warm and comfortable study, without a thought of the men who are perishing in misery every day!
But if the problem appears thus in the presence of different tendencies in the Church, it becomes yet far more insistent within the consciousness of the individual! If we are thoughtful, we must see that the desire to know and the desire to be saved are widely different. The scholar must apparently assume the attitude of an impartial observer—an attitude which seems absolutely impossible to the pious Christian laying hold upon Jesus as the only Saviour from the load of sin. If these two activities—on the one hand the acquisition of knowledge, and on the other the exercise and inculcation of simple faith—are both to be given a place in our lives, the question of their proper relationship cannot be ignored.
You can read the entire essay here.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
What we mean by the sovereignty of God is captured in paragraph 3.2 of The Bethlehem Baptist Church Elder Affirmation of Faith. The dozens of biblical passages used to support this paragraph are found in the online version.
3.2 We believe that God upholds and governs all things—from galaxies to subatomic particles, from the forces of nature to the movements of nations, and from the public plans of politicians to the secret acts of solitary persons—all in accord with His eternal, all-wise purposes to glorify Himself, yet in such a way that He never sins, nor ever condemns a person unjustly; but that His ordaining and governing all things is compatible with the moral accountability of all persons created in His image.
Why does it matter whether we believe this? Ten reasons.
1. The good news of God’s substituting his Son for us on the cross depends on it.
2. The perseverance of the saints in the fear of God depends on it.
3. Progress in holiness now, and the final perfecting of the saints in the end, depends on it.
4. The assurance of God’s final triumph over all natural and supernatural evil
5. The comfort that there is a wise and loving purpose in all our calamities and losses, and that God will work all things together for our good, depends on it.
6. The hope that God will give life to the spiritually dead depends on it.
7. Well-grounded expectation of answered prayer depends on it.
8. Boldness in the face of seeming hopeless defeat depends on it.
9. Seeing and savoring the revelation of the fullness of God’s glory depends on it.
10. Praise that matches the fullness of God’s power, wisdom, and grace depends on it.
For the full article with Scripture references, look here.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Though I didn't find The Death of Christ as helpful as The Cross of Christ, James Denney's book is still an excellent work and is well worth reading. I saved many quotes from the book into a WORD document and thought I would share a bunch of them with you. Peruse through these and get a 'feel' for the book:
If Christ died the death in which sin had involved us — if in His death He took the responsibility of our sins upon Himself — no word is equal to this which falls short of what is meant by calling Him our substitute. (103)
Access to God is to the Apostle the most sublime of privileges, purchased with an unspeakable price; for such as we are, it is only possible because for our sins Christ died. (103)
The doctrine of the death of Christ and its significance was not St. Paul’s theology, it was his gospel. It was all he had to preach. (109)
If God has really done something in Christ on which the salvation of the world depends, and if He has made it known, then it is a Christian duty to be intolerant of everything which ignores, denies, or explains it away. The man who perverts it is the worst enemy of God and men; and it is not bad temper or narrow mindedness in St. Paul which explains this vehement language, it is the jealousy of God which has kindled in a soul redeemed by the death of Christ a corresponding jealousy for the Savior. (110)
There can be no salvation from sin unless there is a living Savior: this explains the emphasis laid by the apostle on the resurrection. But the Living One can only be a Savior because He has died: this explains the emphasis laid on the Cross. The Christian believes in a living Lord, or he could not believe at all; but he believes in a living Lord who died an atoning death, for no other can hold the faith of a soul under the doom of sin. (123)
The death of Christ is an illustration or rather a demonstration of that love. It is a demonstration of it which can never be surpassed. There are great, though rare examples of love among men, but nothing which could give any suggestion of this. (124)
It was sin which made death, and not something else, necessary as a demonstration of God’s love and Christ’s. Why was this so? The answer of the apostle is that it was so because sin had involved us in death, and there was no possibility of Christ’s dealing with sin effectually except by taking our responsibility in it on Himself — that is, except by dying for it. (126)
But while it is right to say that death comes physically, that through disease, or accident, or violence, or mere physical exhaustion, it subdues to itself everything that lives, this does not touch the profounder truth with which St. Paul is dealing, that death comes from God, and that it comes in man to a being who is under law to Him. Man is not like a plant or an animal, nor is death to him what it is at the lower levels of life. Man has a moral nature in which there is a reflection of the holy law of God, and everything that befalls him, in eluding death itself, must be interpreted in relation to that nature. (127-8)
He took on Him not only the calling of a man, but our responsibility as sinful men; it is in this that His work as Redeemer lies, for it is in this that the measure, or rather the immensity, of His love is seen. To say, ‘He became a curse for us,’ is exactly the same as to say, ‘He was made sin for us,’ or ‘He died for us’ but it is infinitely more than to say, ‘He was made man for us’ — or even man bound to obedience to the law — a proposition to which there is nothing analogous in the New Testament. (156-7)
It is this which gives His death a propitiatory character and power; in other words, which makes it possible for God to be at once righteous and a God who accepts as righteous those who believe in Jesus. He is righteous, for in the death of Christ His law is honored by the Son who takes the sin of the world to Himself as all that it is to God; and He can accept as righteous those who believe in Jesus, for in so believing sin becomes to them what it is to Him. I do not know any word which conveys the truth of this if ‘vicarious’ or ‘substitutionary’ does not, nor do I know any interpretation of Christ’s death which enables us to regard it as a demonstration of love to sinners, if this vicarious or substitutionary character is denied. (176)
The simplest hearer feels that there is something irrational in saying that the death of Christ is a great proof of love to the sinful, unless there is shown at the same time a rational connection between that death and the responsibilities which sin involves, and from which that death delivers. Perhaps one should beg pardon for using so simple an illustration, but the point is a vital one, and it is necessary to be clear. If I were sitting on the end of the pier, on a summer day, enjoying the sunshine and the air, and some one came along and jumped into the water and got drowned ‘to prove his love for me,’ I should find it quite unintelligible. I might be much in need of love, but an act in no rational relation to any of my necessities could not prove it. But if I had fallen over the pier and were drowning, and some one sprang into the water, and at the cost of making my peril, or what but for him would be my fate, his own, saved me from death, then I should say, ‘Greater love hath no man than this.’ I should say it intelligibly, because there would be an intelligible relation between the sacrifice which love made and the necessity from which it redeemed. Is it making any rash assumption to say that there must be such an intelligible relation between the death of Christ — the great act in which His love to sinners is demonstrated — and the sin of the world for which in His blood He is the propitiation? I do not think so. Nor have I yet seen any intelligible relation established between them except that which is the key to the whole of New Testament teaching, and which bids us say, as we look at the Cross, He bore our sins, He died our death. It is so His love constrains us. (176-7)
Thursday, September 17, 2009
From The Death of Christ by James Denney:
Christ died for sins once for all, and the man who believes in Christ and in His death has his relation to God once for all determined not by sin but by the Atonement. The sin for which a Christian has daily to seek forgiveness is not sin which annuls his acceptance with God, and casts him back into the position of one who has never had the assurance of the pardoning mercy of God in Christ; on the contrary, that assurance ought to be the permanent element in his life. The forgiveness of sins has to be received again and again as sin emerges into act; but when the soul closes with Christ the propitiation, the assurance of God’s love is laid at the foundation of its being once for all. It is not to isolated acts it refers, but to the personality; not to sins, but to the sinner; not to the past only, in which wrong has been done, but to time and eternity. There will inevitably be in the Christian life experiences of sinning and being forgiven, of falling and being restored. But the grace which forgives and restores is not some new thing, nor is it conditioned in some new way. It is not dependent upon penitence, or works, or merit of ours; it is the same absolutely free grace which meets us at the Cross. From first to last, it is the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, which cleanses from sin. The daily pardon, the daily cleansing, are but the daily virtue of that one all-embracing act of mercy in which, while we were yet sinners, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son. (293)
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
From Confessions Book III Ch IV (Emphasis and comments are mine. )
How did I burn then, my God, how did I burn to re-mount from earthly things to Thee, nor knew I what Thou wouldest do with me? For with Thee is wisdom. But the love of wisdom is in Greek called “philosophy,” with which that book inflamed me. Some there be that seduce through philosophy, under a great, and smooth, and honourable name colouring and disguising their own errors: and almost all who in that and former ages were such, are in that book censured and set forth:
there also is made plain that wholesome advice of Thy Spirit, by Thy good and devout servant (referring to the apostle Paul in Col 2:8-9): Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
And since at that time (Thou, O light of my heart, knowest) Apostolic Scripture was not known to me, I was delighted with that exhortation, so far only, that I was thereby strongly roused, and kindled, and inflamed to love, and seek, and obtain, and hold, and embrace not this or that sect, but wisdom itself whatever it were; and this alone checked me thus unkindled, that the name of Christ was not in it. For this name, according to Thy mercy, O Lord, this name of my Saviour Thy Son, had my tender heart, even with my mother's milk, devoutly drunk in and deeply treasured; and whatsoever was without that name, though ever so learned, polished, or true, took not entire hold of meAugustine loved this work by Cicero of which apparently there are little or no full copies remaining. The writings of Augustine have been considered to be a significant source of quotations for this particular piece by Cicero. I like the way Augustine points out that while he loved reading this book (learned and polished) because the name of Christ was not in it, it did not take entire hold of him. In fact, apart from Christ, much inspirational reading does not take hold of me either. Christless literature and philosophy may make intriguing reading, great advice, increase you self esteem, purportedly make you a "better" you, colour and disguise your errors but it will not "take entire hold of you". In John Piper's words "When you get to heaven and God asks, 'What happened to you?', you're not going to respond with 'I got smart'". I got 'Christ' and that's why reading about him takes entire hold of me.
Gollum and Slavery to Sin
I'm reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring to my two older kids. Last night we read the passage in which Gandalf explains the history of the pathetic Gollum as well as story of the One Ring to Frodo. I thought the following description of Gollum's wretched state as a slave to the ring was an apt description of what it's like to be a slave to sin:
"All the 'great secrets' under the mountains had turned out to be just empty night: there was nothing more to find out, nothing worth doing, only nasty furtive eating and resentful remembering. He was altogether wretched. He hated the dark, and he hated light more: he hated everything ,and the Ring most of all.
"What do you mean?" said Frodo. "Surely the Ring was his precious and the only thing he cared for? But if he hated it, why didn't he get rid of it, or go away and leave it?"
"You ought to begin to understand, Frodo, after all you have heard," said Gandalf. "He hated it and loved it, as he hated and loved himself. He could not get rid of it. He had no will left in the matter." (page 54)
Isn't that what it's like when you're ruled by your sinful desires? (Eph. 2:1) All the promises of sin and illicit pleasure turn out to be "empty night" and the very things you once thought would satisfy you learn to despise. And yet you can't turn away. You have a desire to be free, a desire to do what's right, but lack "the ability to carry it out" (Rom. 7:18).
Without Jesus I am Gollum--calling what is killing me "my precious" and all the while hating myself. Praise be to God that Jesus Christ came to redeem sinners like me. He gave up his life on the cross so that I could be forgiven and freed to know and serve God forever.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Calvary and the Real World
“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross… In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in light of his.”
—John Stott, The Cross of Christ (IVP, 1986), pp. 335—336. As quoted in Randy Alcorn, If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil (Multnomah, 2009), p. 217.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C., did a recent workshop at the Sovereign Grace Pastor’s conference on “The Pastor and the Community: 35 somewhat overlapping statements as a pastor to pastors concerning the topic of the congregation’s responsibility for its wider community.”
I visited the link and began reading the 35 statements. I stopped at #7. I found it quite interesting. It reads as follows:
Individual conversions can have profound effects for good on people, not only in
eternity, but in this life, too. John Wesley observed in 1787 that “I fear, wherever
riches have increased . . . the essence of religion, the mind that was in Christ, has
decreased in the same proportion. Therefore, I do not see how it is possible, in
the nature of things, for any revival of true religion to continue long. For religion
must necessarily produce both industry and frugality; and these cannot but
produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world
in all its branches. How then is it possible that Methodism, that is, the religion of
the heart, though it flourishes now as a green bay tree, should continue in this
state? For the Methodists in every place grow diligent and frugal; consequently
they increase in goods. Hence, they proportionably increase in pride, in the desire
of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life. So, although the form of
religion remains, the spirit is swiftly vanishing away. Is there no way to prevent
this? this continual declension of pure religion? We ought not to forbid people to
be diligent and frugal; we must exhort all Christians, to gain all they can, and to
save all they can: this is, in effect, to grow rich! What way then, I ask again, can
we take that our money may not sink us to the nethermost hell? There is one way,
and there is no other under heaven. If those who gain all they can, and save all
they can, will likewise give all they can, then the more they gain, the more they
will grow in grace, and the more treasure they will lay up in heaven,” (Tyerman,
vol. III, p. 520). True or False? While conservative Christians are often said to be
more concerned about “saving souls,” religious liberals give a significantly larger
proportion of their income to alleviating poverty and meeting the needs of the
downtrodden and underprivileged. False. Conservative evangelicals tend to give
more to the poor than religious liberals. (See Journal for the Scientific Study of
Religion Sept. 1998; also Robert Wuthnow’s Acts of Compassion .) Many individual conversions have resulted in personal reformations and particular
social improvements. And we hope will result in good effects in this world.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.8By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?9And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death,although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors, yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
"The fact of the matter is that nothing can survive outside its environment. Can a fish live out of water? No, but it is still a fish."
Intrigued? Read the whole thing here.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus
Best used in conjunction with II Tim2:7
Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
“Such images [propitiation, redemption, justification, reconciliation] are indispensable aids to human understanding of doctrine. And what they convey, being God-given, is true. Yet we must not deduce from this that to have understood the images is to have exhausted the meaning of the doctrine. For beyond the images of the atonement lies the mystery of the atonement, the deep wonders of which, I guess, we shall be exploring throughout eternity.” (168)
“They [propitiation, redemption, justification, reconciliation] are not alternative explanations of the cross, providing us with a range to choose from, but complementary to one another, each contributing a vital part to the whole.” (168)
“First, the reason why a propitiation is necessary is that sin arouses the wrath of God.” (173)
“Secondly, who makes the propitiation…the initiative has been taken by God himself in his sheer mercy and grace.” (173)
Thirdly, what was the propitiatory sacrifice? It was neither an animal, nor a vegetable, nor a mineral. It was not a thing at all, it was a person. And the person God offered was not somebody else…distinct or external to himself…he was giving himself.” (174)
“So then, God himself is at the heart of our answers to all three questions about the divine propitiation. It is God himself who in his holy wrath needs to be propitiated, God himself who in holy love undertook to do the propitiating, and God himself who in the person of his Son died for the propitiation of our sins.” (175)
Friday, September 11, 2009
Here is my condensed form of Packer's article:
Two theological and pastoral caveats must precede our review of these arguments.
1) Views about hell should not be discussed outside the frame of the Gospel. Why not? Because it is only in connection with the Gospel that Jesus and the New Testament writers speak of hell, and the biblical way of treating biblical themes is in their biblical connections as well as in their biblical substance...The Christian idea of hell is not a freestanding concept of pain for pain’s sake (the divine “savagery” and “sadism” and “cruelty” and “vindictiveness” that annihilationists accuse believers in an unending hell of asserting), but a Gospel-formed notion of three coordinate miseries, namely, exclusion from God’s gracious presence and fellowship, in punishment and with destruction, being visited on those whose negativity towards God’s humbling mercies has already excluded the Father and the Son from their hearts...Hell, according to the Gospel, is not immoral ferocity but moral retribution, and discussions of its length for its inmates must proceed within that frame.
2) Views about hell should not be determined by considerations of comfort...Said John Stott:
Emotionally, I find the concept [of eternal conscious torment] intolerable and do not understand how people can live with it without either cauterising their feelings or cracking under the strain. But our emotions are a fluctuating, unreliable guide to truth and must not be exalted to the place of supreme authority in determining it . . . my question must be — and is — not what does my heart tell me, but what does God’s word say?
The Arguments for Annihilationism
1) The first argument is of necessity an attempt to explain “eternal punishment” in Matthew 25:46, where it is parallel to the phrase “eternal life,” as not necessarily carrying the implication of endlessness. Granted that, as is rightly urged, “eternal” (aionios) in the New Testament means “belonging to the age to come” rather than expressing any directly chronological notion, the New Testament writers are unanimous in expecting the age to come to be unending, so the annihilationist’s problem remains where it was...Though this assertion is constantly made by annihilationists, who otherwise could not get their position off the ground, it lacks support from grammarians and in any case begs the question by assuming that punishment is a momentary rather than a sustained event.
2) The second argument is that once the idea of the intrinsic immortality of the soul (that is, of the conscious person) is set aside as a Platonic intrusion into second-century exegesis, it will appear that the only natural meaning of the New Testament imagery of death, destruction, fire and darkness as indicators of the destiny of unbelievers is that such persons cease to be. But this proves on inspection not to be so. For evangelicals, the analogy of Scripture, that is, the axiom of its inner coherence and consistency and power to elucidate its own teaching from within itself, is a controlling principle in all interpretation, and though there are texts which, taken in isolation, might carry annihilationist implications, there are others that cannot naturally be fitted into any form of this scheme. But no proposed theory of the Bible’s meaning that does not cover all the Bible’s relevant statements can be true...Nowhere in Scripture does death signify extinction; physical death is departure into another mode of being, called sheol or hades, and metaphorical death is existence that is God-less and graceless; nothing in biblical usage warrants the idea...that the “second death” of Revelation 2:11; 20:14; 21:8 means or involves cessation of being...Annihilationists respond with special pleading. Sometimes they urge that such references to continued distress as have been quoted refer only to the temporary experience of the lost before they are extinguished, but this is to beg the question by speculative eisegesis and to give up the original claim that the New Testament imagery of eternal loss naturally implies extinction...So at every point the linguistic argument simply fails. To say that some texts, taken in isolation, might mean annihilation proves nothing when other texts evidently do not.
3) The third argument is that for God to visit punitive retribution endlessly on the lost would be disproportionate and unjust. Writes Stott: “I question whether ‘eternal conscious torment’ is compatible with the biblical revelation of divine justice, unless perhaps (as has been argued) the impenitence of the lost also continues throughout eternity.” The uncertainty expressed in Stott’s “perhaps” is strange, for there is no reason to think that the resurrection of the lost for judgment will change their character, and every reason therefore to suppose that their rebellion and impenitence will continue as long as they themselves do, making continued banishment from God’s fellowship fully appropriate; but, leaving that aside, it is apparent that the argument, if valid, would prove too much, and end up undermining the annihilationist’s own case...For if, as the argument implies, it is needlessly cruel for God to keep the lost endlessly in being to suffer pain, because His justice does not require this, how can the annihilationists justify in terms of God’s justice the fact that He makes them suffer any postmortem pain at all? Why would not justice, which on this view requires their annihilation in any case, not be satisfied by annihilation at death?
4) The fourth argument is that the saints’ joy in heaven would be marred by knowing that some continue under merited retribution. But this cannot be said of God, as if the expressing of His holiness in retribution hurts Him more than it hurts the offenders; and since in heaven Christians will be like God in character, loving what He loves and taking joy in all His self-manifestation, including the manifestation of His justice (in which indeed the saints in Scripture take joy already in this world), there is no reason to think that their eternal joy will be impaired in this way.John Stott's book The Cross of Christ is in my top 5 lifetime list. He is without question a godly man and a great mind. However, I think he got this one wrong.
After studying the three views, I found scripture to most support Annihilationism, though I've been recently challenged on this as it seems this is one of very few theologies I differ from the reformed thought bubble.
I recently discovered however that John Stott actually holds to Annihilationism. Here is a link to an essay which summarizes Stott's arguments, which he initially put forward in 1989:
Then, here is a link to Sam Storms website (Enjoying God Ministries) where he takes the time to provide answers to some of Stott's main points:
Storms rebuttal isn't direct, though apparently John Piper did write a specific letter to Stott about the ideas he put forward, I'd like to find that as I continue to form my theology.
CHAPTER IX – THE HOLY SPIRIT GLORIFYING THE REDEEMER
Complete as is the righteousness, efficacious as is the blood, and all-sufficient as is the grace of Christ, yet apart from the especial, effectual, and Divine operation of the Spirit upon the heart, they would remain to us as a robe unworn, a fulness untouched, a "fountain sealed." Thus, there is a beautiful relation, a sweet harmony, between the atoning work of Jesus and the official work of the Holy Spirit- "He will glorify me." (340)
But it is the office of the blessed and eternal Spirit to unfold, and so to glorify, Jesus in the Word. All that we spiritually and savingly learn respecting Him, through this revealed medium, is by the sole teaching of the Holy Spirit, opening up this word to the mind. He shows how all the luminous lines of Scripture truth emanate from, return to, and center in, Christ- how all the doctrines set forth the glory of His person, how all the promises are written in His heart's blood, and how all the precepts are embodied in His life. (342)
To the question often earnestly propounded- "What is the best method of reading, so as to understand the Scriptures?" I would, in this connection of our subject, reply- Read them with the one desire and end of learning more of Christ, and with earnest prayer for the teaching of the Spirit, that Christ may be unfolded in the Word. (342)
Passing by all human philosophy, and pouring contempt upon the profoundest wisdom and the mightiest power of man, He employs, in the product of a work, in comparison with which the rise and the fall of empires were as infants' play, simply and alone, the "truth as it is in Jesus." With this instrument He enters the soul- the seat of the greatest revolution that ever transpired. He moves over the dark chaos, without form and void, and in a moment, a world of immortal beauty bursts into view. He overshadows the soul, and a vital principle is imparted, whose stream of existence, once commenced, flows on with the eternity of God Himself. (344)
Divine as is the record, and precious as is the revelation it affords of Jesus, it yet is but an instrument, and nothing more. Unaccompanied with the power of the Holy Spirit, it is inactive, inoperative, a mere dead letter. It quickens not, it sanctifies not, it comforts not. It may be read constantly, and searched deeply, and known accurately, and understood partially, and quoted appropriately; yet, left to its own unassisted power, 'it comes but in word only,' producing no hallowing, no abiding, no saving results. If there be no other, especial and invincible, influence of the Divine Spirit, operating upon the mind, how comes it to pass that all who read the word are not instantly converted by the word? -that wherever these healing leaves are borne, wherever this precious seed is scattered, broad-cast upon the world, man's moral malady is not arrested, and a harvest of happiness to the creature, and of glory to God, springs not forth. (347)
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Some are great changes, some are difficult changes.
There is alot of joy and alot of turmoil.
It's been good for me to keep in mind that God is sovereign over it all. It makes you praise Him for both the good and the bad, knowing that suffering gives us opportunity to become more like Christ... even when it doesn't feel that way in the moment thoughts creep into my mind.
Part of the Westminister Confession of Faith has been very helpful:
"God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established" -- Westminister Confession of Faith, 3.1.
God determines whatsoever comes to pass:
Proverbs 16:1, 4, 7, 9, 33; 20:24; 21:1, Jeremiah 10:23, Lamentations 3:37, 38, Amos 3:6, Acts 17:26-27, Daniel 2:21; 4:35, Psalm 139:16, Ephesians 1:11, Romans 11:36 John 3:27, Job 12:9-10; 14:5
God is sovereign over (ordains) evil, sin, and calamity without ever being guilty of wrong:
Isaiah 44:18; 45:7; 19:2; 63:17, Job chapters 1 and 2; especially Job 1:11-12, 21-22; 2:3, 10 and Job 12:9-10; 42:11, Psalm 105:25, Exodus 4:11, 21; 7:2-4, 13, 22; 10:27 Romans 9:17, 18-23, 1 Kings 22:19-23, 1 Chronicles 21:1 with 2 Samuel 24:1, 2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12, Genesis 45:5-8; 50:20, Revelation 17:17; 13:5; 13:7, Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:27, 28, Luke 22:22, John 13:27-31; 19:11
CHAPTER VIII – THE GLORY OF THE REDEEMER IN HIS PEOPLE
"All Yours are mine!" It would be an act of the most daring presumption; it would be the very inspissation of blasphemy: but when our Lord asserts it- asserts it, too, in a solemn prayer, addressed on the eve of His death to His Father- what does it prove, but that a unity of property in the Church involves a unity of essence in being? (309)
Conversion is the commencement of an endless revenue of glory to Christ. (316)
Ah, yes! every corruption taken to His sanctifying grace; every burden taken to His omnipotent arm; every sorrow taken to His sympathizing heart; every need taken to His overflowing fulness; every wound taken to His healing hand; every sin taken to His cleansing blood; and every deformity taken to His all-covering righteousness, swells the revenue of glory, which each second of time ascends to our adorable Redeemer from His Church. (323)
To see how Christ can shut the mouth of the lion, and can temper the devouring flame, and can unbar the doors of the prison-house, how glorious thus appears His power! To mark the resigned will, the subdued spirit, the mute submission, the cheerful acquiescence in the deepest affliction, how glorious thus appears His grace! To behold the daily strength imparted, the precious promises applied, the soothing consolation experienced, how glorious thus appears His love! To see the chaff scattered, and the dross consumed, and the mind brought into perfect harmony with God's will, to say with David, "My soul is even as a weaned child," how glorious thus appears His wisdom! Oh, if these are the blessings which blossom upon the rod, then welcome the rod! If this is the glory brought to the name of Jesus by a process of sanctified affliction, then welcome the affliction! (329)
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
CHAPTER VII – THE GLORY OF THE REDEEMER IN HIS ASCENSION AND EXALTATION
Jesus, in every step of His life, acted as a public person, as a representative. He lived, He labored, He thought, He suffered, He died, He rose from the dead, and was received up into glory, not in His individual capacity, but as the covenant head of His covenant people. (265)
How proper, how righteous does it appear, that the crown of His glory should follow the cross of His humiliation! Toilsome and faithful had been His life; ignominious and painful had been His death. From both there had accrued to God, is now, and will yet be accruing through the countless ages of eternity, a revenue of glory, such as never had been His before. (268)
The glorious perfections of God! -never had they appeared so glorious as now. The mediatorial work of Jesus had laid a deep foundation on which they were exhibited to angels and to men in their most illustrious character. Never before had wisdom appeared so truly glorious, nor justice so awfully severe, nor love so intensely bright, nor truth so eternally stable. (268)
He led captivity captive," chaining to His triumphal car the principalities and the powers- Satan conquered, hell defeated, sin condemned, death vanquished, and the grave dismantled. (277)
Jesus is the glorious and the successful Advocate. He has never lost a cause entrusted to His advocacy, and never will. He pleads powerfully, He pleads eloquently, He pleads prevalently, because He pleads in behalf of a people unspeakably dear to His heart, for whom He "loved not His own life unto the death," and presses His suit, on the ground of His own most precious blood and accepted person, and with His Father and their Father, with His God and their God. (298)
If one of those given to Him by His Father- one whose sins He carried, whose curse He bore, whose soul He has renewed by the grace of His Spirit, were permitted finally and eternally to perish, where would be His glory? where the glory of His truth? where the glory of His power? where the glory of His love? where the glory of His work? Gone! Every perfection of His Divine being would be impeached, and every beam of His Divine glory would be tarnished. (302)
Yes! if you do see beauty in Jesus now, if your eye beholds glory in Emmanuel, feeble and dim though the view may be, so surely shall you be with Him where He is, and wander over the ceaseless unfoldings of His unclouded glory, and that through all eternity. (304)
But the ungodly, the impenitent, and the unbelieving! Ah! they, too, shall see His glory. But it will be the glory of His justice, in burning wrath, in quenchless flames. (304)
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
CHAPTER VI – THE GLORY OF THE REDEEMER IN HIS RESURRECTION
We now stand upon the threshold of a subject second to none, yet considered in the grandeur of its character, in the immensity of its results, and in the glory with which it encircles the person and the work of our adorable Redeemer. It is that single doctrine of the Bible, the existence of which authenticates the truth, and develops the beauty of all the others. Indeed, it is to Christianity what the soul is to the body, what the foundation is to the building, what the key-stone is to the arch- it would seem necessary to the very existence of revelation, imparting vitality, substance, and security to every doctrine of the inspired word. The life of Jesus is the life of the Bible- the life of the believer- the life of glory. The one fact- the resurrection of Christ- would appear to be the fountain of life to the Church of God in all ages of the world. (191)
August and convincing as had been all the previous attestations of His Godhead, His life one succession of the most astonishing and brilliant achievements of Divine power and goodness, diseases healed, sight restored, demons ejected, the dead raised, tempests hushed, and winds stilled, His death marked by prodigies of terrible and surpassing wonder and sublimity- the earth heaving beneath His feet, the sun darkening above Him, the graves opening around Him; yet never had His Godhead shone forth with such demonstrative power and resplendent glory, as when He broke from the tomb and rose triumphant over hell, death, and the grave. (203)
The emerging of the Redeemer from the grave, was the emerging of the redeemed from all condemnation. (207)
Until this moment, the Redeemer had all the appearance of one vanquished in the great fight. He was left slain upon the battle-field. Indeed, it would appear that He had really endured a momentary defeat. He was now under the dominion of death; and as death was the consequence and penalty of sin, so long as He was subject to its power, He still lay beneath the sins of His people. Cancelled although they were by the blood He had just shed, the great evidence of their remission did not, and could not, transpire until the resurrection had passed. What gloom now enshrouded the Church of God! The Sun of Righteousness was setting in darkness and in blood; and with it were descending into the tomb, the hopes of patriarchs and prophets, of seers and apostles. The "king of terrors" had laid low his illustrious victim; and the cold earth had closed upon His sacred body, mangled and lifeless. Oh, what a victory did hell and sin, death and the grave, now seem to have achieved! But the "triumphing of the wicked is short." In three days the tomb, at the mighty fiat of Jehovah, unveiled its bosom, and yielded back its Creator and Lord. The Sun of Righteousness ascended again in cloudless glory and peerless majesty, to set no more forever. (207)
For what is every successful conflict with our spiritual adversaries- what is every corruption mortified- what is every temptation resisted- what is every sin overcome- but a showing forth the great victory already won by the Captain of our salvation? (209)
Your peace of mind- your confidence in God- your thirsting for holiness- your filial access- your support in the deepest trial- spring from your soul's constant repose beneath the cross. (217)
Nothing short of Christ- Christ's righteousness, Christ's atonement, Christ's flesh and blood, Christ in us, Christ outside us, Christ risen, Christ alive at the right hand of God, yes, "Christ all and in all," can meet the deep immortal necessities of your soul. You need all that Christ is in the matter of pardon, and justification, and sanctification, and wisdom, and redemption. If anything less than Jesus had sufficed, if an expedient less magnificent, or if an expenditure less costly, had answered for God and man, then less would save you. But since the incarnate God alone is the Savior of a poor, lost sinner, see that you detract not from, or add to, this salvation by any works of human merit. (234)
Monday, September 7, 2009
"His desire was that news of his rescue from death be the impetus for the saints in Corinth to join together in prayer on his behalf, in response to which he hoped God would deliver him yet again should similar perilous circumstances arise. If a “blessing” (ESV) or “favor” (NAS) was to be granted Paul, if his ministry was to continue with success, these believers must intercede on his behalf. And not only would he prosper as a result, God also would be glorified by the many thanksgivings that were uttered for the blessings he bestowed on Paul through prayer."
"Do you see how prayer is always a win for all concerned? Look at the dynamics of intercession, how it works for the benefit of everyone involved:
The ones who pray (in this case, the Corinthians) experience the joy of being an instrument in the fulfillment of God’s purposes and delight in beholding how God works in response to their intercessory pleas (cf. Romans 10:14-15).
The one who is prayed for (in this case, the apostle Paul) experiences the joy of being delivered from peril or sustained in trial or being made the recipient of some otherwise unattainable blessing.
The one to whom prayer is offered (in every case, God) experiences the joy of being thanked, and thus glorified, for having intervened in a way that only God can in order to bless or deliver or save his people. "
"Paul was uncertain of the outcome. He hoped to be set free, but knew that it rested with God. The civil authorities in this case were mere intermediaries who could be moved to do God’s bidding in response to the petitions of God’s people. Is it too much to say that without their prayers, Paul had no hope? Is it too much to say that had Philemon and his family not prayed that Paul may well have remained in that prison? Perhaps God had purposed to secure Paul’s release through another means should the saints have faltered in their prayers for him. Perhaps. But not to pray on that assumption would have been presumptuous and sinful on the part of Philemon and his household. "
"Simply put, we must never presume that God will grant us apart from prayer what he has ordained to grant us only by means of prayer. We may not have the theological wisdom to fully decipher how prayer functions in relation to God’s will, but we must never cast it aside on the arrogant and unbiblical assumption that it is ultimately irrelevant to God’s purpose for us and others. "
"Here’s the bottom line: If we don’t ask, God doesn’t give. If God doesn’t give, people don’t receive. If people don’t receive, God won’t be thanked. Think about it. Better still, pray about it."
CHAPTER V – THE GLORY OF THE REDEEMER IN HIS HUMILIATION
That same glory is now presented for our contemplation, as assuming another and a different aspect- an aspect so opposite and strange that, but for express revelation, human imagination would never have conceived it, reason's unillumined eye could never have discerned it- the glory of the incarnate God, beaming forth with subdued yet burning luster from beneath His profound and mysterious humiliation! (133)
As we have just remarked, between two finite things there is always some relative proportion; thus a grain of sand bears some proportion to the Alps, and a drop of water bears some proportion to the ocean; but between the finite and the infinite there can be no possible proportion whatever. Now, in the person of the Son of God, the two extremes of being- the infinite and the finite- meet in Strange and mysterious, but close and eternal, union. The Divine came down to the human- Deity humbled itself to humanity. (136)
But behold the glory! My reader, it is your highest honor, as it was His deepest shame- your richest glory, as it was His deepest humiliation- that He literally did bear all the sins of all His Church. As truly as we are "made the righteousness of God in Him," He was "made sin," or a sin-offering, for us. Behold how beautifully has the Holy Spirit brought out the doctrines of substitution and union. Of substitution thus: "He has made Him (who knew no sin) to be sin for us." And of union thus: "That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." Oh amazing truth! Sinking Himself to our deepest dishonor, He raises us to His highest glory. Sinking Himself with our fallen humanity, He raises us to a union with God. Substituting Himself for us, He makes us one with Himself. (146-7)
Dear reader, behold the fountain-head, where arise all those precious streams of covenant mercy which flow into your soul- the electing love of God, which constrained Him to present His beloved Son as an atoning Lamb for the slaughter, from before the foundation of the world!... And when by faith you stand beneath the cross, and gaze upon its glorious Sufferer, remember that in His death were fulfilled the eternal purpose and counsel of the Triune Jehovah; and that to predestination- rejected and hated as this truth is by some- you owe all that is dear and precious to you as a ransomed expectant of glory. (151-2)
What was there above or below- in His previous state of glory, or subsequent state of humiliation, that He retained? What part of the price did He withhold? When He could give no less- for all angels and all men would not have sufficed- and when He could give no more, He gave Himself…With the burden of sin- the fire of justice- the wrath of God- the ridicule of man- the malignity of demons- the sorrows of Gethsemane- the pains of Calvary, and the sea of His own blood, all, all in vivid prospect before Him, He yet went forward, loving not His own life unto the death, because He loved ours more. (158)
Beloved, when God exalts you, remember it is because your Savior was abased. When your cup is sweet, remember it is because His cup was bitter. When you do press your mercy fondly and closely to your heart, remember it is because He pressed His heart to the spear. And when the eye of faith and hope looks forward to the coming glory, oh, forget not that because He endured your hell, you shall enjoy His heaven! (167)
Beloved, ponder this amazing truth. Sink down into it until you find it too deep for mortal thought to fathom; grasp it until its infinite dimensions expand beyond your powers of conception. God is love, and loving His Son, God loves you; and the strong and costly proof of it is, that He resigned Jesus to the shame and the spitting, gave up His darling One to the power of the dogs, and abandoned Him to darkness and woe upon the cross, withdrawing every beam of light from His mind, and every drop of consolation from His heart. (168)
Sunday, September 6, 2009
"We praise what we enjoy because the delight is incomplete until it is expressed in praise. If we were not allowed to speak of what we value and celebrate what we love and praise what we admire, our joy would not be full. So if God loves us enough to make our joy full, He must not only give us Himself; He must also win from us the praise of our hearts--not because He needs to shore up some weakness in Himself or compensate for some deficiency, but because He loves us and seeks the fullness of our joy that can be found only in knowing and praising Him, the most magnificent of all Beings. If He truly is for us, He must be for Himself.
God is the one Being in all the universe for whom seeking His own praise is the ultimately loving act. For Him, self-exaltation is the highest virtue. When He does all things "for the praise of His glory," He preserves for us and offers to us the only thing in all the world that can satisfy our longings. God is for us! And the foundation of this love is that God has been, is now, and always will be for Himself." (emphasis mine)
- Humility is glad that God gets all the credit for choosing us so that we boast only in him and not man.
- Humility happily admits that everything we have is a free gift from God, so that we can’t boast in it.
- Humility is glad to affirm that God sovereignly governs our heartbeats and safe arrivals, or non-arrivals.
- The root of Christian humility is the gospel that Christ died for our sins. That’s how sinful I was. That’s how dependent I am.
- Humility gives itself away in serving everyone, rather than seeking to be served.
- And humility is glad to affirm that this service is true greatness.
- Humility makes a person gloomy, dismal, downcast, unhappy
- Humility makes you fearful and timid
- Humility makes you passive and removes the driving motor of achievement
Gospel humility frees you from the need to posture and pose and calculate what others think, so that you are free to laugh at what is really funny with the biggest belly laugh. Proud people don’t really let themselves go in laughter. They don’t get red in the face and fall off chairs and twist their faces into the contortions of real free laughter. Proud people need to keep their dignity. The humble are free to howl with laughter.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
In Chapter IV - The Prophetical Glory of the Redeemer we are exposed to some wonderful quotes, some of which are compiled below.
How true is it that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy!" "To Him gave all the prophets witness." Of Him, as of one only glorious person, they delighted to testify- of Him, as of one only precious subject, they delighted to speak. Never did the Divine Spirit rest upon them with greater power- never did they strike their prophetic harps to strains so high, so rich, so sweet, as when Emmanuel was their theme. And is it too much to say, that magnificent as is the drapery in which their writings are clothed- gorgeous as is the imagery, and sublime the doctrines, in which these announcements are invested, they would possess no beauty, glory, or sweetness, but for- Jesus? (98)
You are that "tried stone,"- tried by the Father when He laid upon You all His people's sins and transgressions, bruised You and put You to grief. Tried by the law, when it exacted and received from You Your utmost obedience to its precepts. Tried by Divine justice, when it kindled around You its fiercest flame, yet consumed You not. Tried by the Church, built upon You so securely that the gates of hell shall never prevail against her. Tried by poor sinners, who have brought their burdens of guilt to Your blood, and have found pardon and peace. Tried by believers, who have taken their trials to Your sympathy, their sorrows to Your love, their wounds to Your healing, their weakness to your strength, their emptiness to Your fulness, their petitions to Your ear, and have never, never been disappointed. Oh yes, You are that "tried stone," to whom I would come moment by moment. (107)
Place no limit to your knowledge of Christ. Ever consider that you have but read the preface to the volume, you have but touched the margin of the sea. Stretching far away beyond you, are undiscovered beauties, and precious views, and sparkling glories, each encouraging your advance, inviting your research, and asking the homage of your faith, the tribute of your love, and the dedication of your life…You shall see greater things than you have yet seen: greater depths of sin in your fallen nature shall be revealed; deeper sense of the cleansing efficacy of the atoning blood shall be felt; clearer views of your acceptance in the Beloved; greater discoveries of God's love; and greater depths of grace and glory in Jesus shall be enjoyed. (128-9)
HOLINESS, springing from the fount of the Spirit's indwelling grace, cherished and matured by close views of the cross, and imparting a character of sanctity and beauty to every act of your life, will be the highest testimony you can bear to the Redeemer's glory. (130)
We bring so little glory to Christ, because we seek so much our own. (131)
Friday, September 4, 2009
1 Samuel 19:18-24
18 Now David fled and escaped, and he came to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and lived at Naioth. 19 And it was told Saul, “Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.” 20 Then Saul sent messengers to take David, and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as head over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. 21 When it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they also prophesied. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they also prophesied. 22 Then he himself went to Ramah and came to the great well that is in Secu. And he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?” And one said, “Behold, they are at Naioth in Ramah.” 23 And he went there to Naioth in Ramah. And the Spirit of God came upon him also, and as he went he prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. 24 And he too stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay naked all that day and all that night. Thus it is said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”
David lived with Samuel. Think about what that would be like; what you would learn, what you would see, what you would hear. Sitting at the feet of one of God's great prophets would be incredible. Look at what happened to Saul's messengers and Saul himself when they came in the vicinity of Samuel. This must have been an incredible time of growth in David's life. Perhaps this was the key development in his life which led to his future exploits for God. This would be discipleship in the extreme!
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Straight shooter: One who manifests honesty and directness.
Jeremiah Burroughs is a 'straight shooter'. He doesn't 'candy-coat' his words. He delivers the 'goods' without 'beating around the bush'.
Evidence of this can be seen in Part 7 of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. Part 7 looks at the excuses of a murmuring heart. Burroughs lists these excuses and then follows them up with some correction. His 'straight shooting' can be seen particularly when he speaks to the sixth excuse. The sixth excuse of a murmuring heart is:
Jeremiah doesn't 'pull any punches' in his response:
1. Let it be as great an affliction as it will, it is not as great as your sin. He has punished you less than your sins.
2. It might have been a great deal more, you might have been in Hell.
3. It may be it is the greater because your heart murmurs so.
So Jeremiah...tell us how you really feel.
To his third point Jeremiah makes a good argument:
Shackles upon a man's legs, if his legs are sore, will pain him more. If the shoulder is sore, the burden is the greater. It is because your heart is so unsound that your affliction is great to you.
This may seem like harsh council to some, but to me this is 'what the doctor ordered.' I really appreciate the style with which this Puritan writes: honest and forthright!
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Have you ever wondered why “sanctification” is missing from this golden chain in Romans 8:29-30?
Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Foreknown, predestined, called, justified, __________, glorified. Shouldn’t “sanctified" fill in that blank space? Romans 6:22 says that believers receive “sanctification and its end, eternal life.” And 2 Thessalonians 2:13 says that we are “saved, through sanctification by the Spirit.”
The answer is, no, “sanctification” does not belong in space because it is included in “glorified.”
In Paul’s mind the process called sanctification in this life—the process of transformation from one degree of holiness to the next—is the first stage of glorification. He says,
We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
The progressive change that happens in this life can be described in terms of holiness or glory—sanctification or glorification.
The age to come will be a place of great physical glory. But mainly it will be a place of infinite moral and spiritual glory. The main beauty will be the beauty of holiness.
Therefore be amazed and sobered that this life is not just a waiting period for that day. You are being changed now “from one degree of glory to the another.” You are being glorified. That is, you are being sanctified. That is, you are being made morally glorious for the age to come.