Saturday, October 31, 2009

Triumphal Procession

2 Corinthians 2:14

"But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere."

The Greek word translated "triumph" or "triumphal procession" (thriambeuo) is used in the NT only here and in Colossians 2:15. Most agree that the term refers to the Roman custom in which a victorious general would lead his conquered captives in triumphal procession, often to their execution.

The most probable interpretation is the one which recognizes an obvious paradox in Paul's use of this metaphor. On the one hand, it is God who leads Paul (and by extension, others who likewise preach the gospel as he does) in triumph. Yet, on the other hand, to be led in triumph by someone else implies captivity and suffering. Paul Barnett provides this helpful explanation:

“There is paradox here, as implied by the metaphor ‘lead [captive] in triumph,’ which points at the same moment to the victory of a conquering general and the humiliation of his captives marching to execution. The metaphor is at the same time triumphal and anti-triumphal. It is as God leads his servants as prisoners of war in a victory parade that God spreads the knowledge of Christ everywhere through them. Whereas in such victory processions the prisoners would be dejected and embittered, from this captive’s lips comes only thanksgiving to God [v. 14a], his captor. Here is restated the power-in-weakness theme (cf. 1:3-11) that pervades the letter. . . . [Thus], to be sure, his ministry is marked by suffering, but so far from that disqualifying him as a minister, God’s leading him in Christ as a suffering servant thereby legitimates his ministry. Christ’s humiliation in crucifixion is reproduced in the life of his servant” (150).

Thus Paul is not boasting of his victories but compares himself to conquered captives who are being treated rudely and subjected to humiliation while yet in the glorious service of God. Paul asserts that it is precisely in his weakness and suffering as a captive slave of Christ that God receives all the glory as the One who is triumphantly victorious

Piper on reading the Bible

Found this article at Desiring God:

Sometimes readers of the Bible see the conditions that God lays down for his blessing and they conclude from these conditions that our action is first and decisive, then God responds to bless us.

That is not right.

There are indeed real conditions that God often commands. We must meet them for the promised blessing to come. But that does not mean that we are left to ourselves to meet the conditions or that our action is first and decisive.

Here is one example to show what I mean.

In Jeremiah 29:13 God says to the exiles in Babylon, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” So there is a condition: When you seek me with all your heart, then you will find me. So we must seek the Lord. That is the condition of finding him.


But does that mean that we are left to ourselves to seek the Lord? Does it mean that our action of seeking him is first and decisive? Does it mean that God only acts after our seeking?


Listen to what God says in Jeremiah 24:7 to those same exiles in Babylon: “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.”

So the people will meet the condition of returning to God with their whole heart. God will respond by being their God in the fullest blessing. But the reason they returned with their whole heart is that God gave them a heart to know him. His action was first and decisive.

So now connect that with Jeremiah 29:13. The condition there was that they seek the Lord with their whole heart. Then God will be found by them. But now we see that the promise in Jeremiah 24:7 is that God himself will give them such a heart so that they will return to him with their whole heart.

This is one of the most basic things people need to see about the Bible. It is full of conditions we must meet for God’s blessings. But God does not leave us to meet them on our own. The first and decisive work before and in our willing is God’s prior grace. Without this insight, hundreds of conditional statements in the Bible will lead us astray.

Let this be the key to all Biblical conditions and commands: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13). Yes, we work. But our work is not first or decisive. God’s is. “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Piper contradicts Lewis on hell

I found this article interesting. In it, Piper begins by sharing his indebtedness to C. S. Lewis while at the same time indicating his disagreement with him on a certain issue:

C.S. Lewis is one of the top 5 dead people who have shaped the way I see and respond to the world. But he is not a reliable guide on a number of important theological matters. Hell is one of them.

Piper takes issue with Lewis' assertion that "all that are in hell choose it." Consider this excerpt:

The reason the Bible speaks of people being “thrown” into hell is that no one will willingly go there, once they see what it really is. No one standing on the shore of the lake of fire jumps in. They do not choose it, and they will not want it. They have chosen sin. They have wanted sin. They do not want the punishment. When they come to the shore of this fiery lake, they must be thrown in.

When someone says that no one is in hell who doesn’t want to be there, they give the false impression that hell is within the limits of what humans can tolerate. It inevitably gives the impression that hell is less horrible than Jesus says it is.

We should ask: How did Jesus expect his audience to think and feel about the way he spoke of hell? The words he chose were not chosen to soften the horror by being accommodating to cultural sensibilities. He spoke of a “fiery furnace” (Matthew 13:42), and “weeping and gnashing teeth” (Luke 13:28), and “outer darkness” (Matthew 25:30), and “their worm [that] does not die” (Mark 9:48), and “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46), and “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43), and being “cut in pieces” (Matthew 24:51).

Read the whole article here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Randy Alcorn and what he believes

I came across this interesting blog post at Challies. It is a post by Christian author Randy Alcorn on what he believes in terms of the Arminian/Calvinism debate. Here is a sample of the writing:

I came to Christ in a church that was Arminian, so that was naturally my early leaning. I went to a Bible college and seminary that were both middle of the road where neither hard core Calvinism nor Arminianism often surfaced in class, though on a continuum, some faculty would lean more toward one than the other.

As the years went by, struck by the power of God's sovereignty and grace, I became increasingly closer to what is called a Calvinist rather than an Arminian (though I dislike both labels). As I say in other articles on the EPM website, I believe that Christ died for all, not just the elect, which is the one and only major tenet where I depart from Calvinism (not for logical reasons, but simply because after studying the passages they still seem to me to be saying Christ died for everyone.) So I am what might be called a four point Calvinist, though many 5-point Calvinists hate that term, believing it all stands or fall together. Logically, I see what they mean, it's just my understanding of biblical passages that gives me pause. (It's not because I haven't read extensively and discussed the matter with many people I respectfully disagree with.)

I was also happy to read this:

The one systematic theology I love most and use most is Wayne Grudem's. Wayne is a Calvinist, but I like the fact that be seems always to seek first to be a biblicist. I get the feeling he doesn't take a position because that's what Calvinists are supposed to do, but because he thinks Scripture teaches it.

You can read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Free Will, Foreknowledge, and Waffles

Check out this great post by Kevin DeYoung. Great analogy to help understand the differing views of human free will and God's foreknowledge.

Sproul on Luke 13:1-5

Luke 13:1-5 - There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Note Jesus' response. He did not say, "I am very sorry to hear about this tragedy. These things happen, and there is not much we can do about it. It was fate. An accident. As good Chris­tians you have to learn to accept the bad with the good. Keep a stiff upper lip. Be good Stoics! I know I taught you that the One who keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. But that was a poetic statement, a bit of hyperbole. Do you realize what a difficult task it is for My Father to run the universe? It gets tiring. Every now and then He must take a nap. On the afternoon in question He was very weary and grabbed forty winks. While He was nodding, the tower fell. I am sorry about that, and I will report your grievance to Him. I will ask Him to be a bit more careful in the future."

Jesus did not say, "I know I told you that my father notices the landing of every sparrow and that He numbers the hairs on your head. Do you realize how many sparrows there are flying around? And the hairs on your head! The afternoon the tower fell, my Father was busy counting the hairs on the head of a particularly bushy-haired fellow. He was concentrating so hard on the fellow's head that He overlooked the falling tower. I will suggest that He get His priorities in order and not spend so much time with sparrows and hair."

No. Instead, Jesus rebuked the people for put­ting their amazement in the wrong place. He said, "Unless you repent, you too will all perish." In effect what Jesus was saying was this: "You people are asking the wrong question. You should be asking me, 'Why didn't that tower fall on my head?'"

In two decades of teaching theology, I have had countless students ask me why God doesn't save everybody. Only once did a student come to me and say, "There is something I just can't fig­ure out. Why did God redeem me?" (Sproul, R. C.The Holiness of God. Illinois: Tyndale.1998. 122)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Strategies of Satan

From Enjoying God Ministries, Storms writes about the methods that Satan uses to undermine all of creation. In one of his points, Storms expresses how even through Satan's attempts at causing us to sin, God remains sovereign. Using the example of Peter denying Christ three times, we see that Satan had a specific agenda, but God being sovereign, had an agenda that superseded that of Satan's, and taught Peter some valuable lessons.

"He tests or tries Christians, the malicious “sifting” “like wheat” of Peter’s faith being an excellent example (Luke 22:31). Clearly, Satan is unable to act outside the parameters established by the will of God but must first ask permission. He wanted to destroy Peter by inciting him to deny Jesus. But God's intent in permitting Satan to do it was altogether different. God's purposes with Peter were to instruct him, humble him, perhaps discipline him, and certainly to use him as an example to others of both human arrogance and the possibility of forgiveness and restoration. This points to the fact that often we cannot easily say "Satan did it" or "God did it". In cases such as this, both are true (with the understanding that God's will is sovereign, supreme, and overriding), but their respective goals are clearly opposite. Sydney Page's comments concerning this incident are important:

"Luke 22:31-32 reveals that Satan can subject the loyalty of the followers of Jesus to severe tests that are designed to produce failure. So intense are the pressures to which Satan is able to subject believers that the faith of even the most courageous may be found wanting. Satan is, however, limited in what he can do by what God permits and by the intercession of Jesus on behalf of his own [cf. Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 1 John 2:1]. Furthermore, those who temporarily falter can be restored and, like Peter, can even resume positions of leadership. It is implied that Satan cannot gain ultimate victory over those for whom Jesus intercedes" (124). "

William Lane Craig on The Michael Coren Show

I have often mused, while watching his talk show, that I wouldn't want to get into an argument with Michael Coren. Well, even less would I want to get into an argument with his guest in this video clip. William Lane Craig is an articulate and highly intelligent communicator which can be clearly seen in this piece from Coren's show.

William Lane Craig's appearance on The Michael Coren Show from Thursday January 29, 2009. Discussion and debate on the existence of God:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Insight from Triumph Over Temptation

From chapter three, The Deceit of Indwelling Sin:

Four ways sin seeks to accomplish its ends:
  1. Sin takes advantage of the weariness of the flesh.
  2. The deceitfulness of sin argues falsely about the pressing circumstances in life.
  3. Sin argues for compensatory duties.
  4. Sin feeds the soul with false promises and purposes.

Sin uses at least six ways to distract the mind:
  1. Sin persuades the mind to deal in generalities and to avoid particular duties.
  2. The mind feels content in performance of its duties while secretly sinning.
  3. The mind often becomes perfunctory in its performance of its duties.
  4. Sin distracts the mind from maintaining its diligence.
  5. Sin distracts the mind by using deceit to take it by surprise.
  6. Sin deceives the mind by frequent and lengthy solicitations.

In regards to the proper attitude towards duty:
  1. We must obey God wholeheartedly.
  2. We must depend on God in faith to obey Him.
  3. We must exercise our understanding and affections to obey God.
  4. We must obey God to bring Him glory.

Five ways to direct our minds against deceit that hinders us in our duties:
  1. We must consider the sovereignty of God.
  2. We must consider the punishment of sin.
  3. We must consider the love and kindness of God against whom sin is committed.
  4. We must consider the blood and mediation of Christ.
  5. We must consider the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

From Triumph Over Temptation

Some quotes from Triumph Over Temptation:

Sin seeks to divert the mind from God in various ways. This principally happens when sin argues that certain things are necessary and lawful for the mind to dwell on. (86)

Yet so readily does the deceitfulness of sin use duties to rob God of His due. (88)

The principal care and charge of the soul, as we have seen, lie then in the mind. If the mind fails in its duty, it is like a sentry who fails in his duty. All is lost because of his negligence. (88-9)

The stable, solid, resolved mind in the things of God is not easily moved, diverted, changed, or drawn aside. It is a mind that is not prone to listen to corrupt reasonings, false insinuations, or pretexts seeking to draw it away from its duty. (89)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Amazing God for the Next Generation

On Kevin DeYoung's blog, DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed he has been writing a series on how to present God to the next generation. Thought provoking for sure. Here's a quick quote from his latest post.

"Give them a God who is holy, independent, and unlike us, a God who is good, just, full of wrath and full of mercy. Give them a God who is sovereign, powerful, tender, and true. Give them a God with edges. Give them an undiluted God who makes them feel cherished and safe, and small and uncomfortable too. Give them a God who works all things after the counsel of his will and for the glory of his name. Give them a God whose love is lavish and free. Give them a God worthy of wonder and fear, a God big enough for all our faith, hope, and love."

Something scary

In his book The Holiness of God, R. C. Sproul discusses the scriptural account provided in Mark 4 of Jesus and the disciples being caught in a storm while crossing the Sea of Galilee:

What is significant about this scriptural story is that the disciples' fear increased after the threat of the storm was removed. The storm had made them afraid. Jesus' actions to still the tempest had made them more afraid. In the power of Christ they met something more frightening then they had ever met in nature. They were in the presence of the holy...Why would the disciples invent a god in the first place? We can understand if people invented an unholy god, a god who brought only comfort. But why a god more scary than the earthquake, flood, or disease? It is one thing to fall victim to the flood or to fall prey to cancer; it is another thing to fall into the hands of the living God.(53)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hate as a divine attribute of God

This is interesting:

"God is love," then, implies that from eternity past, God has had an implacable hatred of evil. That hatred is not separable from his perfect nature. It is a necessary and defining attribute, not a merely accidental or relational one. "God hates evil" gives us a profound description of his character. "God is hate," however, is not a helpful way of making this point, since it creates terrible confusion. But once we specify the objects of God's hate, we can state clearly that it is a divine attribute. (Frame, John M. The Doctrine of God. New Jersey: P&R Publishing. 463)

Frame gets to this point because he recognizes that God cannot love goodness without hating evil. Frame suggests that to say "God loves goodness" is one side of a coin; the other side says "God hates evil". These are positive and negative ways of describing the same virtue. From the same page Frame explains: "In the mind of God before creation, evil existed only as an idea in his mind, only as a possibility. But surely God regarded that possibility with hostility."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What a Gift

Colossians 2:13-15

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Thank you Lord that bringing the dead back to life isn't something you reserved only for your earthly ministry. Thank you that you still raise the dead in spirit today. Lord, when I reflect on my life I'm overwhelmed with all of the sin. Thank you Jesus that you died for my debt, though you were without any debt of your own. Even though the amount of my debt seems insurmountable sometimes, thank you that your sacrifice was enough not only for my sins, but the sins of the world. Lord, I ask that you continue to build up my faith, that I wouldn't believe these things in a wisdom that comes from man, but in a wisdom and a faith that comes only from you. Amen!

Virtues least practised

"My perception is that gentleness and humility are among the virtues least practiced by Christians today. If God himself can serve his creatures, surely we, who can boast of nothing except the cross, should be able to serve without seeking constantly to maintain or improve our own status and reputation." (Frame, John M. The Doctrine of God. New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2002. 443)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Frame on common grace

I am part of a small group that just finished an evening focused on common grace. It was an excellent evening of learning. The discussion was interesting and edifying! I was going through a book that I have been reading for the better part of a year and came across this:

So all the blessings of God come to us by God's sovereign grace. Without his grace, we are nothing. By grace comes the forgiveness of our sins, the power to do good works, and the ability to serve the people of God. And all of these come from the most amazing grace of all: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Cor. 8:9)...To my knowledge, Scripture never uses hen or charis to refer to his blessings on creation generally or on nonelect humanity. So it would perhaps be better to speak of God's common goodness, or common love, rather than his common grace. The word grace in Scripture tends to be more narrowly focused on redemption than goodness and love, although the latter terms also have rich redemptive associations. (Frame, John M. The Doctrine of God. New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2002. 429-430)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is God's love coercive?

Photo from

In his book The Doctrine of God, John Frame addresses this question:

But the issue is most clearly focused in this question: Does God violate our free will in converting us? Yes and no. He makes us believe in him, something we resist apart from grace. In that sense, he forces us to believe against our will. But when we believe, surely, we are doing something we want to do, for God's grace also changes our wants. In that sense, we believe willingly. In conversion, then, God brings us to act contrary to our depraved will, and in accord with a new will given by grace. (424)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Prayer Destroying Sin

We have seen four ways in which the spirit of true prayer helps the believer destroy sin. First, it exposes any secret sin lurking in the heart. Like wild beasts, the more earnestly they are pursued, the more likely they will be discovered. Second, prayer weaken a prevalent sin and develops an antidote to it. When the soul of a believer becomes sick with spontaneous languor or apparently causeless weariness, it is a sure sign some sinful disease remains within the soul. Third, as long as the soul engages itself with God, it is certain sin cannot rise up in ruinous dominance...Finally, when the heart remains undeceived by sin in its diligence before God, it receives a special diligence and watchfulness against sin. (Owen, John. Triumph Over Temptation. Colorado Springs: Victor. 86, emphasis mine)

The Desire of my Heart

Ephesians 1:17-19

17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe[...]

Sunday, October 18, 2009

R. C. Sproul on God's holiness

I have started to read a classic work on the holiness of God by R. C. Sproul. It is the first book that I have read by this highly esteemed author. I hope to share some more excerpts in the near future.

In Otto's study of the human experience of the holy, he discovered that the clearest sensation that human beings have when they experience the holy is an overpowering and overwhelming sense of creatureliness. That is, when we are aware of the presence of God we become most aware of ourselves as creatures. When we meet the Absolute, we know immediately that we are not absolute. When we meet the Infinite, we become acutely conscious that we are finite. When we meet the Eternal, we know we are temporal...When we encounter Him, the totality of our creatureliness breaks upon us and shatters the myth that we are demigods, junior-grade deities who will try to live forever. (Sproul, R. C. The Holiness of God. Illinois: Tyndale, 1998. 44-45)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

More from John Owen in Triumph Over Temptation

Weakening Deceit by Meditation and Prayer

It is the duty of the mind to keep the soul in a constant, holy concern for God and His grace. This is the essence of obedience to the gospel...But there are some godly duties that are particularly important in weakening and subduing the power of indwelling sin in the believers. These are first prayer and then meditation...By meditation I mean meditation on what respect and relevance there is between the Word and our own heart, so that they stay close together in conformity to each other...Thus meditation has the same intent as prayer, which is to bring our mind into a disposition that answers in all things to the mind the will of God. (82-3)

Rules for Meditation

  1. Meditate about God with God - "When we think about God and His excellencies, glory, majesty, love, and goodness, let it be done in such a way that we are speaking directly to God, in a spirit of deep humility and dependence before Him. This will fix the mind and draw out one thing after the other that gives glory to God in a fitting manner. This will affect the soul to exercise a holy admiration of God and a delight in Him that is acceptable to God. Meditate as you would pray or give praise, speaking with God." (83)
  2. Meditate on the Word in the Word of God - "Look to God to find help, guidance, and direction in the discovery of His mind and will within the Scriptures." (83)
  3. Endeavor to Meditate Frequently - "When we come short of prolonged sustained concentration in meditation, let us make up by frequency in meditation." (83)

"Although there are other spiritual duties, both meditation and prayer particularly oppose indwelling sin. They are always designing the destruction of sin." (84)

Friday, October 16, 2009

A true proposition to a false conclusion

A few more quotes from a book comprised of material from 3 of John Owen's treatises: Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers (1656), Of Temptation (1658), and The Nature, Power, Deceit, and Prevalency of Indwelling Sin (1667). The book, Triumph Over Temptation, was edited by James M. Houston.

In regards to how sin diverts the mind by emphasizing "cheap grace":

Here then is where the deceit of sin intervenes. It separates the doctrine of grace from its purpose. It persuades us to dwell upon the notion of grace and diverts our attention from the influence that grace gives to achieve its proper application in holy lives. From the doctrine of assured pardon of sin, it insinuates a carelessness for sin. God in Christ makes us a true proposition, but Satan with sin makes a false conclusion. (79)

The great affect of the gospel's wisdom and grace keeps the heart always in deep humility, in abhorrence to sin, and in self-abasement. This is the test of the real efficacy of the gospel: It keeps the heart humble, lowly, sensible to sin, and broken on that account. The Spirit of grace moves us to repentance and teaches us to detest sin. (79-80)

Sin deceitfully diverts Christians from a consideration of sin's true nature and real danger by several means:
  1. "First, the soul-needing frequently to return to the gospel grace because of guilt-allows grace to become commonplace and ordinary. Having found a good medicine for its wound, it then takes it for granted." (80)
  2. "Second, the deceitfulness of sin takes advantage of the doctrine of grace to abuse it, stretching the soul's sense of liberty beyond the limit that God assigns. Some never feel free from legalism unless they indulge in sensuality and plunge into its depths. Sin pleads that certain limits are unnecessary. "Shouldn't the gospel relieve one of such narrow bounds?" they argue. But does this mean as if we should live as if the gospel was unnecessary or as thought pardon of sin was nonessential? (80)
  3. "Third, in times of temptation, the deceitfulness of sin goes to such lengths as to actually plead the need to sin, in order to show the reality of the gospel of grace...The manner of vigilance against sin is over scrupulous, it argues...The mind thus becomes careless about sin, and the sense of sin's vileness is lost." (80-1)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Calling of John Piper

I found this article on Piper fascinating; well worth reading. It is by Justin Taylor and the whole article can be found here at his blog on The Gospel Coalition website. Here is the start of it:

In May of 1979 John Piper had completed his sixth year of teaching biblical studies at Bethel College (Saint Paul, MN) and was due for a sabbatical in the fall. In every class Piper had encountered students who sought to discount his Calvinistic interpretation of Romans 9. So he had one aim for his eight-month leave: “to study Romans 9 and write a book on it that would settle, in my own mind, the meaning of these verses.” Or put differently, “to analyze God’s words so closely and construe them so carefully that I could write a book that would be compelling and stand the test of time.”

The book–which Richard Muller would call “the most compelling and forceful exposition of Romans 9:1-23 I have ever seen”–was published four years later by Baker as The Justification of God.

But God had more designs for this sabbatical than the production of a book. He would use this time to call Piper away from being a professor to become a pastor.

Piper enjoyed college teaching in many ways. In addition to teaching through a number of New Testament books using an exegetical methodology called arcing, Piper was seeing the lives of some of his students transformed. He even saw some students converted in his NT History classes. And he was also involved at his local church, teaching a rapidly growing young-adults class at Olivet Baptist Church in Crystal, MN. Students unable to take his classes at Bethel (due to enrollment caps) were coming to hear him teach Sunday School.

But during his sabbatical a new desire was emerging: “to see the word of God applied across a broader range of problems in people’s lives and a broader range of ages.” In other words, he increasing longed “to address a flock week after week and try to draw them in . . . to an experience of God that gives them more joy in him than they have in anything else and thus magnifies Christ.” And he found that in studying the majestic, free, and sovereign God of Romans 9 day after day his “analysis merged into worship.”

The decisive night of wrestling was on Monday, October 14, 1979—30 years ago today. His wife and two young sons were asleep. But Piper was up past midnight, writing in his journal, recording the direction God was irresistibly drawing him to.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Deceit of Indwelling Sin

These quotes have been gleaned from Triumph Over Temptation by John Owen as edited by James M. Houston. They come from the third chapter entitled The Deceit of Indwelling Sin.

Every lust is deceitful-not inherently so, but because of what is communicated to it by this law of sin. (73)

The life of evil men consists of nothing but "deceiving and being deceived" (2 Tim. 3:13). This is also the character of our enemy. He is deceitful. Against such a one no security exists but vigilance. (73, emphasis mine)

The basis for the efficacy of deceit is its effect upon the mind. For sin deceives the mind. When sin attempts to enter into the soul by some other way (such as by the affections), the mind checks and controls it. But when deceit influences the mind, the chance of sinning multiplies. (74)

So sin aims first of all to distract and to divert the mind from the discharge of its duty...The duty of the mind consists of two things. God requires these of us in our obedience to Him. The first is to keep the mind in such a posture and framework that it is obedient and watchful against all sinful enticements. The second is to attend to and perform all particular actions as God requires according to His will...Indwelling sin tries to divert and to draw away the believer from doing these things. (77)

"Be clothed with humility" says the apostle (1 Peter 1:17). This is what becomes us as the only safe disposition...How is this humble disposition obtained? How is it kept? It is only achieved by a constant, deep apprehension of the evil, vileness and danger of sin. (78)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Grudem on Common Grace

This quote comes from an audio download of a lesson on Common Grace that Wayne Grudem teaches at Scottsdale Bible Church. This lesson, including many others, can be downloaded here.

Here is the quote:
Here's a quick way we can think about Common Grace. If you walk down Scottsdale Road, you see businesses, and cars, and people, and schools, and parks, and trees. If you walk down Scottsdale Road, everything that looks different from the fires of hell is a result of Common Grace. You see, the fires of hell is what the world deserves. (emphasis mine)
Grudem and Scottsdale Bible Church also provide a lesson outline which you can download as well. It looks like this:

Chapter 31: Common Grace

What are the undeserved blessings that God gives to all people, both believers and unbelievers?

I. Explanation and Scriptural Basis

A. Introduction: When people sin, they become worthy of eternal punishment and separation from God (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 6:23)

Angels experienced separation from God and from all good immediately: 2 Pet. 2:4
But Adam and Eve did not die and go to hell at once. Nor do people who sin today.

Why? How can God continue to give blessings to people who deserve only death and hell?
Answer: common grace

Def.: Common Grace is the grace of God by which he gives people innumerable blessings that are not part of salvation.

Common grace is different from saving grace in result, recipient, and source.

II. Examples of Common Grace

A. Physical Realm (Matt. 5:44-45; Acts 14:16-17; Gen. 39:5; Ps. 145:9, 15-16).

B. Intellectual Realm (John 1:9; Rom. 1:21; science and technology).
C. Moral Realm (Ps. 81:12; Rom. 1:32; 2:14-15; Luke 6:33; 2 Kings 12:2; warnings of final judgment).
D. Creative Realm.
E. Societal Realm (family – Gen. 5:4; government – Rom. 13:1, 4; other institutions).
F. Religious Realm (Matt. 5:44-45; 1 Tim. 2:1-2, 4; 4:10; Luke 4:40; 6:35-36; Matt. 7:22).
G. Common Grace and Special Grace Influence Each Other.
H. Common Grace Does Not Save People (Rom. 14:23; Matt. 22:37; cf. Rom. 2:4)

III. Reasons for Common Grace

A. To Redeem Those Who Will Be Saved (2 Pet. 3:9-10).
B. To Demonstrate God's Goodness and Mercy (Luke 6:35; Ps. 145:9; Mark 10:21; Ezek. 33:11).
C. To Demonstrate God's Justice (Rom. 2:5; 3:19).
D. To Demonstrate God's Glory.

IV. Our Response to the Doctrine of Common Grace

A. Common Grace Does Not Mean That Those Who Receive It Will Be Saved (Rom. 5:10; Eph. 2:3; Phil. 3:18-19).
B. We Must Be Careful Not to Reject the Good Things That Unbelievers Do as Totally Evil.
C. The Doctrine of Common Grace Should Stir Our Hearts to Much Greater Thankfulness to God.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sin is aversion of God

From Triumph Over Temptation by John Owen as edited by James M. Houston under the subtitle Sin Is Aversion of God:

"The actions and operations of sin are twofold: first by aversion and second by opposition." (57)

"Sin is first of all aversion of God. Sin is indisposed to duty whereby communion with God is obtained. All weariness of duty, all carnality, and all formality in duty spring from this root...In other words, God is saying, "Do you have any spiritual duty to perform? Do you propose to seek communion with God? Look then to yourself, to take care of the inclinations of your heart, for they will wander and be deflected by aversion to what you propose." " (58)

On keeping the soul from sin's aversion:
  1. Have a disposition of heart fixed upon God. "It is utterly impossible to keep the heart in a holy frame in any one duty, unless it is also in all duties before God. If sin entangles us in one area of our life,it will ensnare every area our life." (60)
  2. Labor to prevent the beginnings of the workings of this aversion. "Let grace proceed before every duty." (60)
  3. Although sin does its work, never allow it to make a conquest. "What is difficult to do now will increase in difficulty, if we give way to it now. But if we stand fast now, God promises we shall prevail later." (61)
  4. Carry always with you as a constant, humbling sense of the aversion sin has within our nature to true spirituality. "If these things [gifts from Christ] are so, why then should we harbor a cursed dislike of Him and His ways in our foolish and wretched hearts? we should be ashamed of this aversion." (62)
  5. Finally, let us labor to possess this mind with the beauty and excellency of spiritual things. "Cherish these things as desirable and lovely to the soul. It is an innate principle that the soul will not continue worshiping God if it is not discovering the beauty and comeliness of such worship." (62)

In the Spirit of Thanksgiving

We should be the most thankful people ever to walk the Earth. This thankfulness should be two-fold. One, that a sinless Saviour died to reconcile us to God. Through God's saving grace we were adopted back into the family as children of the Most High. Two, that every blessing...everything that's not evil...anything good, is a gift from God. Anything that this world enjoys in due to God's common grace for all people.

So even though this time of the year is often coated in a thick layer of gravy and whipped cream on that pumpkin pie (soooo good!), lets not lose sight of what we really should be thankful for.......everything! Because we definitely don't deserve anything but death, especially not pumpkin pie!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sin is universal and absolute in its enmity

From Triumph Over Temptation:
  1. Sin is universal in its enmity towards God. "If there were some attribute of act of God that was not enmity to sin, the soul could find shelter there. But there is none, for enmity lies against all of God and everything wherein or whereby we relate to God. Sin is enmity to God as God, and therefore to all of God-whether it is God's goodness, His holiness, His mercy, His grace, or His promises. There is nothing of God that it is not implacably against." (56)
  2. Sin is universal in its enmity against the soul. "Thus we find there is universal warfare in the soul of man. The mind contends with its own darkness and vanity. The will wrestles with its own stubbornness, obstinacy,and perversity. Every affection deals wioth its own willfulness, sensuality, and aversion of God. Thus our knowledge is imperfect, our obedience is weak, our love is mixed in its virtues, our fear of the Lord is not pure, and our delight in God is not free and noble." (57)
  3. Sin is constant in its power of enmity. "Sin never wavers, yields, or gives up in spite of all the powerful opposition it encounters from the law of the gospel." (57)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

More from Schaeffer

From A Christian Manifesto:

There is no way to mix these two [Christianity and humanism/materialism] total world views. They are separate entities that cannot be synthesized. Yet we must say that liberal theology, the very essence of it from its beginning, is an attempt to mix the two. Liberal theology tried to bring forth a mixture soon after the Enlightenment and has tried to synthesize these two views right up to our own day. But in each case when the chips are down these liberal theologians have always come down, as naturally as a ship coming into home port, on the side of the nonreligious humanist. They do this with certainty because what their liberal theology really is is humanism expressed in theological terms instead of philosophic or other terms. (21)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sin is enmity

In Triumph Over Temptation we are given a glimpse of some thoughts and ideas that John Owen had on Romans 8:7 which reads "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.". Or, as it is quoted in this book: "The carnal mind is enmity against God." Here are some quotes under the heading Sin Is Enmity:

The word enmity towards God suggests more than the hostility that enemies have toward one another. Enmity is the personification of all hostility. Enemies can be reconciled, but enmity is never reconciled.Indeed, the only way to reconcile enemies is to destroy enmity. (53)

Mortification abates its force, but it cannot deal with its nature. Grace changes the nature of man, but nothing changes the nature of sin. (54)

Here then is where much of the power of sin lies. Its enmity admits no terms of peace. There may be a truce where there is no peace. But with this enemy we can have neither truce nor peace. (54)

Sin fights the spiritual principle that is in us. It fights to destroy our soul. Although it opposes the work of grace in us, its nature and purpose above all is to oppose God. (55)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

John Murray on Common Grace

Originally published in Westminster Theological Journal 5, no. 1 (Nov. 1942):1–28.

Common Grace
by John Murray

The subject of common grace is not only of particular but also of very urgent interest to the person who accepts the witness of Scripture regarding the total depravity of human nature by reason of sin. For if we appreciate the implications of total depravity, then we are faced with a series of very insistent questions. How is it that men who still lie under the wrath and curse of God and are heirs of hell enjoy so many good gifts at the hand of God? How is it that men who are not savingly renewed by the Spirit of God nevertheless exhibit so many qualities, gifts and accomplishments that promote the preservation, temporal happiness, cultural progress, social and economic improvement of themselves and of others? How is it that races and peoples that have been apparently untouched by the redemptive and regenerative influences of the gospel contribute so much to what we call human civilisation? To put the question most comprehensively: how is it that this sin-cursed world enjoys so much favour and kindness at the hand of its holy and ever-blessed Creator?

Read the whole article here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More on the law of sin

From Triumph Over Temptation by John Owen as edited by James M. Houston:

The law of sin is not a written, commanding law so much as an inbred, impelling, urging law. It proposes in temptation, and because it is inbred, it is strongly compelling. That is why God makes His new covenant internal, implanting it in the heart. (46)

There are many outward temptations that beset men, exciting and stimulating them to do evil. But the root and spring of all these things lie in the heart. Temptations do not put anything into a man that is not there already. (48)

But the intrusion of sin has upset the harmony and the orderly union. So the will refuses to choose the good the mind discovers. The affections do not delight in what the will chooses. All rebel against one another. This is the result of not following God. Thus what makes the heart so deceitful is its inconsistency within itself. Its own conduct is not stable. (50)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Church Discipline...What Happened?

For the past few weeks at our young adults group, Nate and I have been leading the group through a study of 1 Corinthians. This past week we read chapters 5 through to 8. The majority of discussion this past week was spent on 5:1-5.
1It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 3For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
The sin is specific to a man in Corinth who thought it permissible to sleep with his stepmother. Paul then issues a challenge to their arrogant attitude, rather then the people showing sadness for the situation and trying to fix it. So Paul instructs the people to excommunicate him from the church body and give him over to his sins, in hopes that his sinful nature will be overcome before the day of the Lord.
This I think was a tough pill to swallow for some of the young adults in the group. This idea of excommunicating people is something that really doesn't happen anymore. But Mark Dever lists church discipline as an essential mark of a healthy church. So how is it to be carried out?
Jesus lays out the model in Matthew 18:15-17.
15 "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
  1. Private rebuke- this is to be between you and the one who wronged you. (18:15)
  2. Plural rebuke- this now involves two or three people, either people familiar with the situation and leaders of the church. (18:16)
  3. Public rebuke- bring the issue before the entire congregation. (18:17a)
  4. Excommunication- the person is told to leave the church. (18:17b)

What type of sins warrant this approach to discipline?

  1. Unrepentant moral evil (1 Cor. 5:1)
  2. Divisiveness and serious doctrinal error (Rom. 16:17-18, Titus 3:9-10)
  3. General transgressions (Gal.6:1, 2 Thes. 3:6-15)

It seems pretty clear to me that this is something that should be in place in churches everywhere. What happened?

Schaeffer on worldviews

These two world views [Christianity and materialism/naturalism] stand as totals in complete antithesis to each other in content and also in their natural results-including sociological and governmental results, and specifically including law.

It is not that these two world views are different only in how they understand the nature of reality and existence. They also inevitably produce totally different results. The operative word here is inevitably. It is not just that they happen to bring forth different results, but it is absolutely inevitable that they will bring forth different results. (A Christian Manifesto, 18)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Our creed, our body of divinity, our whole theology

I love this quote by C. H. Spurgeon that Ray Ortlund posted at his blog Christ Is Deeper Still:

"Our faith is a person; the gospel that we have to preach is a person; and go wherever we may, we have something solid and tangible to preach, for our gospel is a person. If you had asked the twelve Apostles in their day, 'What do you believe in?' they would not have stopped to go round about with a long sermon, but they would have pointed to their Master and they would have said, 'We believe him.' 'But what are your doctrines?' 'There they stand incarnate.' 'But what is your practice?' 'There stands our practice. He is our example.' 'What then do you believe?' Hear the glorious answer of the Apostle Paul, 'We preach Christ crucified.' Our creed, our body of divinity, our whole theology is summed up in the person of Christ Jesus."

C. H. Spurgeon, "De Propaganda Fide," in Lectures Delivered before the Young Men's Christian Association in Exeter Hall 1858-1859, pages 159-160.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Indwelling sin in believers

From Triumph Over Temptation by John Owen as edited by James M. Houston:

Owen responds to Romans 7 as it discusses indwelling sin.

  1. Indwelling sin is a law. "Worldly men, in spiritual and moral duties, act only according to this law and by this law. It is the ruling and prevailing principle in them affecting all moral actions with reference to a spiritual and eternal end."
  2. Believers must personally discover indwelling sin.
  3. Believers find this law present in them when they "would do good." "Grace has sovereignty in their lives...Thus a believer does not commit sin in a habitual and willful way. Grace enables him to have a constant and usually prevailing will of doing good.While the best a non-Christian can do is sin, the worst a Christian does is to sin."
  4. Observe the state and activity of sin within believers. "When we realize a constant enemy of the soul abides within us, what diligence and watchfulness we should have!" (pages 42-45)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sam Storms on Common Grace

This excerpt is from Sam Storm's website Enjoying God Ministries:

The common grace of God has been variously defined. According to Charles Hodge, the Bible teaches that

"the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth, of holiness, and of life in all its forms, is present with every human mind, enforcing truth, restraining from evil, exciting to good, and imparting wisdom or strength, when, where, and in what measure seemeth to Him good. . . . This is what in theology is called common grace" (II:667).

Abraham Kuyper defines common grace as

"that act of God by which negatively He curbs the operations of Satan, death, and sin, and by which positively He creates an intermediate state for this cosmos, as well as for our human race, which is and continues to be deeply and radically sinful, but in which sin cannot work out its end" (279).

A simpler and more direct definition of common grace is given by John Murray, Common grace, he writes, "is every favour of whatever kind or degree, falling short of salvation, which this undeserving and sin-cursed world enjoys at the hand of God" (II:96).

I see common grace manifesting itself in at least four ways.

(1) The first aspect of common grace is what we might call negative or preventative. Its essential characteristic is that of restraint. Although the restraint that God places upon sin and its effects is neither complete (else no sin would exist at all) nor uniform (else all men would be equally evil or good), it is of such a nature that the expression and effects of human depravity are not permitted to reach the maximum height of which they are capable. Thus, the most obvious manifestation of common grace is God’s exercise of restraint on the sin of man.

(2) There is a second manifestation of common grace. Besides placing restraint upon the ungodly tendencies of the human heart, God freely suspends the immediate manifestation of his divine wrath due unto sin. That is to say, in common grace God not only restrains the sin of man but also the ready execution of the full measure of judgment which sin demands. This latter element of restraint is especially evident in such texts as Genesis 6:3; 1 Peter 3:20; Acts 17:30; Romans 2:4; and 2 Peter 3:9.

(3) In addition to the manifestation of common grace in the relationship God sustains to his creatures, he also holds in check the destructive tendencies that are part of the curse of sin upon nature... The question we should ask is not, “Why did this hurricane occur?” but “Why do not more hurricanes with even greater destructive power occur?”

(4) The fourth and final aspect of common grace is more positive in thrust. God not only restrains the sinful operations and effects of the human heart, He also bestows upon both nature (see esp. Ps. 65:9-13; 104:10-30; 145:1-16; 136:25) and humanity manifold blessings both physical and spiritual. These blessings, however, fall short of redemption itself.

Read the whole article here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

No one gets out of Romans 7

More of J. I. Packer's introduction, in which he quotes John Owen, from the book Triumph Over Temptation:

The battle is lifelong. "Sometimes a soul hopes or thinks that it may through grace be utterly freed from this troublesome inmate. Upon some sweet enjoyment of God. , some full supply of grace, some return from wandering, some deep affliction, some thorough humiliation, the soul begins to hope that it shall now be freed from the law of sin. But after a while...sin acts again, makes good its old station," and the fight has to be resumed. No one "gets out of Romans 7" in this world." (27, emphasis mine)

Romans 7:15-25
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Triumph Over Temptation

"Man was made to know good with his mind, to desire it with his affections once he knows it, and to cleave to it with his will once he has felt its attraction. Accordingly God, who is the supreme good, moves man not by direct action on the affections or will, but by addressing His speech to man's mind, so bringing to bear on him the force of truth." - J. I. Packer (from the Introduction in Triumph over Temptation by John Owen as edited by James M. Houston, p24)

I have begun reading Triumph Over Temptation: Pursuing A Life Of Purity. This book, edited by James M. Houston, addresses 3 of John Owen's works of practical theology: Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers(1656), Of Temptation(1658), and The Nature, Power, Deceit, and Prevalency of Indwelling Sin(1667). Having read Owen unabridged, I am looking forward to this unabridged and 'modernized' version for comparison.

One more quote in which Packer, in the Introduction, quotes Owen: "When Christ comes with His spiritual power upon the soul to conquer it to Himself, He hath no quiet landing place. He can set foot upon no ground but what he must fight for." (23)