Thursday, December 31, 2009
Faith and Repentance
Wayne Grudem defines conversion as a willing response to the gospel call, in which we sincerely repent of sins and place our trust in Christ for salvation. By that definition one can see that true conversion includes both repentance and faith; one repents of sin and trusts in Christ.
In chapter four of Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Murray, John. Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Boston: Wm. B. Eerdmans Company, 1984), author John Murray discusses faith an repentance as the next step in the 'order of salvation'. Faith and repentance, sandwiched between regeneration and justification, is a product of that very life-changing, life-altering, and life-giving process called regeneration. Being born again naturally, and yet inevitably, leads to conversion. "Regeneration is inseparable from its effects and one of the effects is faith. Without regeneration it is morally and spiritually impossible for a person to believe in Christ, but when a person is regenerated it is morally and spiritually impossible for that person not to believe...Regeneration is the renewing of the heart and mind, and the renewed heart and mind must act according to their nature." (106)
Murray discusses faith first. He begins writing, "Regeneration is the act of God and God alone. But faith is not the act of God; it is not God who believes in Christ for salvation, it is the sinner. It is by God's grace that a person is able to believe but faith is an activity on the part of the person and him alone. In faith we receive and rest upon Christ alone for salvation." (106) According to Murray, faith is defined as "a whole-souled movement of self-commitment to Christ for salvation from sin and its consequences." (107) This 'whole-souled self-commitment' has warrant due to the universal offer of the Gospel and the all-sufficiency and suitability of the Saviour (107-110). The nature of faith is such that it includes knowledge, conviction, and trust
Murray moves on to repentance and begins by appealing to the unity of conversion in that, despite dealing with the concepts separately, faith and repentance are inseparable. "The question has been discussed; which is prior, faith or repentance? It is an unnecessary question and the insistence that one is prior to the other futile. There is no priority. The faith that is unto salvation is a penitent faith and the repentance that is unto life is a believing repentance." (113) He continues, "It is impossible to disentangle faith and repentance. Saving faith is permeated with repentance and repentance is permeated with faith." (113) Murray goes on, as he did with faith, to define repentance: "Repentance consists essentially in change of heart and mind and will." (114) Furthermore. Murray adds that the change of heart and mind and will principally respects four things: "it is a change of mind respecting God, respecting ourselves, respecting sin, and respecting righteousness." (114)
Grudem's definition of repentance: a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ. He adds that repentance includes intellectual understanding that sin is wrong, an emotional approval of the teachings of Scripture regarding sin (including a heartfelt sorrow for sin and fear that one has offended a holy God), and personal decision to turn from sin and seek forgiveness from God. The joined concepts of faith and repentance, which constitute conversion, are powerful reminders of God's efficacious grace in our lives and understanding them is clearly integral to begin to fully appreciate the ordo salutis.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Not all the vials of judgement that have or shall be poured out upon the wicked world, nor the flaming furnace of a sinner's conscience, nor the irreversible sentence pronounced against the rebellious demons, nor the groans of the damned creatures, give such a demonstration of God's hatred for sin, as the wrath of God let loose upon His Son. Never did Divine holiness appear more beautiful and lovely than at the time our Saviour's countenance was most marred in the midst of His dying groans. This He Himself acknowledges in Psalm 22. When God had turned His smiling face from Him, and thrust His sharp knife into His heart, which forced that terrible cry from Him, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" He adores this perfection-"Thou art holy" (v.3).
This is the prime way of honouring God. We do not so glorify God by elevated admirations, or eloquent expressions, or pompous services of Him, as when we aspire to a conversing with Him with unstained spirits, and live to Him in living like Him.
Quotes from Christless Christianity (Horton, Michael Scott. Christless Christianity the alternative gospel of the American church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008) by Michael Horton:
"Our default setting is law rather than gospel, imperatives ( things to do or feel) rather than indicatives (things to believe)...Everyone assumes the law. It is the gospel that is a surprising announcement that none of us had a right to expect. As such, it has tobe told again and again. And the only people who can tell it are those who themselves have heard the story, sung the story, and can herald it to others." (131)
"In my experience, this is where a lot of Christians are living today: not quite accosted by the death sentence of the law, they are also not regularly hearing the liberating Good News of the gospel. Our intuition tells us that if we just hear more practical preaching (that is, moving exhortations to follow Jesus), we will improve. When this becomes our main diet, however, we do not find ourselves improving. We neither mourn nor dance. But bring me into the chamber of a holy God, where I am completely undone, and tell me about what God has done in Christ to save me; tell me about the marvelous indicatives of the gospel-God's surprising interventions of salvation on the stage of history despite human rebellion-and the flickering candle of faith is inflamed, giving light to others." (132)
"This characteristically American approach to religion, in which the direct relationship of the soul to God generates an almost romantic encounter with the sacred, makes inner experience the measure os spiritual genuineness. Instead of being concerned that our spiritual leaders faithfully interpret Scripture and are sent by Christ through the official ordination of his church, we are more concerned that they exude vulnerability, authenticity, and the familiar spontaneity that tells us they have a personal relationship with Jesus. Everything perceived as external to the self-the church, the gospel, the Word and sacraments. the world and even God-must either be marginalized or, in more radical versions, rejected as that which would alienate the soul from its immediacy to the divine." (169)
"The focus of faith and practice is not so much Christ's objective person and work for us, outside of us, as it is a personal relationship that is defined chiefly in terms of inner experience." (171)
"Just as there are legalistic and antinomian versions of ancient Gnosticism, contemporary spirituality can take fundamentalist and liberal forms. Yet they all give precedence to inner experience over external norms, the individual over the communion of saints, the immaterial over the material; the immediate, spontaneous, ever-new, and ever-unique personal experiences over the ordinary means of grace that God has provided for our maturity together in the body of Christ." (179)
"The net effect of this pevasive American spirituality has been to assimilate God to ouer own experience, felt needs, and aspirations." (180)
"When our churches assume the gospel, reduce it to slogans or confuse it with moralism and hype, it is not surprising that the type of spirituality we fall back on is moralistic, therapeutic deism." (247)
"Because believers remain sinner and saint simultaneously, they never outgrow their need to be fed by the gospel through these divinely instituted means of grace. Not only at their conversion but throughout their pilgrimage the gospel alone is "the power of God for salvation" (Rom. 1:16). If Christ is clearly proclaimed each Lord's Day from Genesis to Revelation, believers will be strengthened in faith and good works and unbelievers will be exposed to his regenerating Word. (252)
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
- Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper
- This Momentary Marriage by John Piper
- Finally Alive by John Piper
- The Justification of God by John Piper
- God's Passion for His Glory by John Piper
- Between Two Worlds by John Stott
- Preachers and Preaching by D. M. Lloyd-Jones
- The Glory of Christ by John Owen
- Altogether Lovely by Jonathan Edwards
- Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
It's going to be a good year!
Monday, December 28, 2009
"Three things merit our consideration concerning keeping this word: knowing it, valuing it, and obeying it." (179)
- "First, anyone who desires to keep this word must know it...As a word of grace and mercy, the word of Christ's patience saves us...As a word of holiness and purity, it sanctifies us...As a word of liberty and power, it ennobles us and sets us free from the guilt of sin and wrath...As a word of consolation, it supports us in every circumstance so that we lack nothing." (179-180)
- "Second, we must value the word of Christ's patience, keeping it as a treasure (1 Tim. 1:14)." (181)
- "Third, we must obey the word of Christ's patience." (181)
If we have intimate acquaintance with the gospel in all its excellence, knowing the word as one of mercy, holiness, freedom. and consolation, we will value it as our chief and only treasure. We will also make it our business to give ourselves to it in absolute obedience. Then when there is opposition and apostasy that tests the patience of Christ to the utmost, God will preserve us from the hour of temptation. (181)
Sunday, December 27, 2009
From The Justification of God by John Piper (Piper, John. The Future of Justification A Response to N. T. Wright. New York: Crossway Books, 2007)
A few quotes from the Conclusion of Piper's work on justification in regards to "THE PLACE OF OUR GOOD WORKS IN GOD'S PURPOSES" (184).
Our relationship with God is with One who has become for us an omnipotent Father committed to working all things together for our everlasting enjoyment of him. This relationship was established at the point of our justification when God removed his judicial wrath from us, and imputed the obedience of his Son to us, and counted us as righteous in Christ, and forgave all our sins because he had punished them in the death of Jesus. (185)
All the benefits of Christ—all the blessings that flow from God being for us and not against us—rest on the redeeming work of Christ as our Substitute. If God is for us, who can be against us? With this confidence—that God is our omnipotent Father and is committed to working all things together for our everlasting joy in him—we will love others. God has so designed and ordered things that invisible faith, which embraces Christ as infinitely worthy, gives rise to acts of love that make the worth of Christ visible. Thus our sacrifices of love do not have any hand in establishing the fact that God is completely for us, now and forever. It’s the reverse: the fact that God is for us establishes our sacrifices of love. If he were not totally for us, we would not persevere in faith and would not therefore be able to make sacrifices of love. (185)
Our mind-set toward our own good works must always be: These works depend on God being totally for us. That’s what the blood and righteousness of Christ have secured and guaranteed forever. Therefore, we must resist every tendency to think of our works as establishing or securing the fact that God is for us forever. It is always the other way around. Because he is for us, he sustains our faith. And through that faith-sustaining work, the Holy Spirit bears the fruit of love. (186)
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Thus the moral righteousness he requires of us is the same—that we unwaveringly love and uphold the glory of God. He does not demand that we glorify him part of the time or that we glorify him with pretty good zeal. His demand is unwavering and complete allegiance of heart, soul, mind, and strength. But we have all failed. That is our unrighteousness. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men . . . they did not glorify him as God . . . and [they] exchanged the glory of the immortal God” (Rom. 1:18, 21, 23, author’s translation). This is why we are on trial in God’s law-court. We have exchanged the glory of God for images and failed to glorify and thank him but have dishonored God by breaking the law (Rom. 2:23) and caused his name to be blasphemed among the nations (Rom. 2:24). So none of us is righteous, not even one (Rom. 3:10). That is the charge against every member of the human race. (164-5)
The question, then, that we posed earlier is: When the Judge finds in our favor, does he count us as having the required God-glorifying moral righteousness—an unwavering allegiance in heart and mind and behavior? And does this counting us as righteous happen because we meet this requirement for perfect God-glorifying allegiance in our own heart and mind and behavior, or because God’s righteousness is counted as ours in Christ? (165)
Yes, the latter is what I believe happens in justification. God counts us as having his righteousness in Christ because we are united to Christ by faith alone. That is, we are counted as perfectly honoring and displaying the glory of God, which is the essence of God’s righteousness, and which is also a perfect fulfilling of the law. This is what God imputes to us and counts us as having because we are in Christ who perfectly honored God in his sinless life. It is not nonsense. It is true and precious beyond words. (165)
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
One of the biggest hurdles I had with reformed theology in general, and Calvinism in particular, revolved around the fact that I wanted to participate in my own salvation. I was 'OK' with my role being minuscule and even secondary, but I wanted a part to play in my redemption and in my being 'born again'. I used to think that this desire was acceptable, intelligent, and even noble. As I look back on the years of wrestling with this concept, I realize that it was pride alone which fueled the need to believe that I was participating in a significant way in my regeneration. But now I can say, "Salvation is from the Lord." And I say it without reservation. However, not too long ago, a chapter like the one on Regeneration by Murray in Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Murray, John. Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Boston: Wm. B. Eerdmans Company, 1984)would have caused no small amount of consternation.
Murray brings this issue to the forefront in an interesting way. He begins by presenting a problem to the reader:
An effectual call, however, must carry along with it the appropriate response on the part of the person called. It is God who calls but it is not God who answers the call; it is the person to whom the call is addressed. And this response must enlist the exercise of the heart and mind and will of the person concerned. It is at this point that we are compelled to ask the question: how can a person who is dead in trespasses and sins, whose mind is enmity against God, and who cannot do that which is well-pleasing to God answer a call to the fellowship of Christ?...And how can a person whose heart is depraved and whose mind is enmity against God embrace him who is the supreme manifestation of the glory of God? (95)
Murray 'rolls up his sleeves' and begins the serious work with the answer to that question: "The answer to this question is that the believing and loving response which the calling requires is a moral and spiritual impossibility on the part of one who is dead in trespasses and sin." (95) Murray, in his style that I am beginning to appreciate more and more, makes his position clear stating, "The fact is that there is a complete incongruity between the glory and virtue to which sinners are called, on the one hand, and the moral and spiritual condition of the called, on the other." (95) Murray furthers the discussion with another question: "How is this incongruity to be resolved and the impossibility overcome?" (95)
The answer to this questions strikes at the heart of the dilemma I struggled with when I wanted to believe that I participated in a primary manner in my own salvation.
It is the glory of the gospel of God's grace that it provides for this incongruity. God's call, since it is effectual, carries with it the operative grace whereby the person called is enabled to answer the call and to embrace Jesus Christ as he is freely offered in the gospel. God's grace reaches down to the lowest depths of our need and meets all the exigencies of the moral and spiritual impossibility which inheres in our depravity and inability. And that grace is the grace of regeneration. (96)
Murray goes on, adding,
God effects a change which is radical and all-pervasive, a change which cannot be explained in terms of any combination, permutation, or accumulation of human resources, a change which is nothing less than a new creation by him who calls the things that be not as though they were, who spake and it was done, who commanded and it stood fast. This, in a word, is regeneration. (96)
This, in another word, is glorious. What once sounded to me ridiculous and ignorant, now sounds to me like God's wonderful and beautiful, logical and necessary, grace.
Murray goes on to sum up my sentiments nicely:
It has often been said that we are passive in regeneration. This is a true and proper statement. For it is simply the precipitate of what our Lord has taught us here. We may not like it. We mat recoil against it. It may not fit into our way of thinking and it may not accord with the time-worn expressions which are the coin of our evangelism. But if we recoil against it, we do well to remember that this recoil is recoil against Christ. And what shall we answer when we appear before him whose truth we rejected and with whose gospel we tampered? But blessed be God that the gospel of Christ is one of sovereign, efficacious, irresistible regeneration. If it were not the case that in regeneration we are passive, the subjects of an action of which God alone is the agent, there would be no gospel at all. For unless God by sovereign, operative grace had turned our enmity to love and our disbelief to faith we would never yield the response of faith and love. (99-100)
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
From The Future of Justification (Piper, John. The Future of Justification A Response to N. T. Wright. New York: Crossway Books, 2007).
Piper is discussing how God's righteousness should be defined. He begins with a 'simple' definition: "The simple way is to say that God’s righteousness consists in his unswerving commitment to do what is right." (63)
Piper, however, recognizes that this definition, though true, may not be satisfying.
"It is not very satisfying simply to say that God’s righteousness is his commitment to do what is right, because it leaves the term “right” undefined. We don’t feel like we have gained very much in defining “righteousness” if we use the word “right” to define it." (63)
And this definition, according to Piper, may not be ultimately satisfying because it leads one to questions such as these: “How does God decide what is right? Who tells God what is right? Is there a book of laws or rules that God has to obey?” ((63) The answer to these questions is where Piper is heading, "Answering those questions gets at the deeper meaning of righteousness. What is the “right” to which God is unswervingly committed?" (64)
And the following is the conclusion, written as only Piper can write it, to the investigation into God's righteousness:
The answer is that there is no book of laws or rules that God consults to know what is right. He wrote the book. What we find therefore in the Old Testament and in Paul is that God defines “right” in terms of himself. There is no other standard to consult than his own infinitely worthy being. Thus, what is right, most ultimately, is what upholds the value and honor of God—what esteems and honors God’s glory.
The reasoning goes like this: The ultimate value in the universe is God—the whole panorama of all his perfections. Another name for this is God’s holiness (viewed as the intrinsic and infinite worth of his perfect beauty) or God’s glory (viewed as the out-streaming manifestation of that beauty). Therefore, “right” must be ultimately defined in relation to this ultimate value, the holiness or the glory of God—this is the highest standard for “right” in the universe. Therefore, what is right is what upholds in proper proportion the value of what is infinitely valuable, namely, God. “Right” actions are those that flow from a proper esteem for God’s glory and that uphold his glory as the most valuable reality there is. This means that the essence of the righteousness of God is his unwavering faithfulness to uphold the glory of his name. And human righteousness is the same: the unwavering faithfulness to uphold the glory of God. (64)
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Most scholars are aware that methods and categories of thought taken from historical and systematic theology may control and distort the way one reads the Bible. But we don’t hear as often the caution that the methods and categories of biblical theology can do the same. Neither systematic nor biblical theology must distort our exegesis. But both can. (33)
Piper goes on to explain three ways in which biblical theology, in contrast to systematic theology, might be distorted.
- Misunderstanding the Sources
- Assuming Agreement with a Source When There Is No Agreement
- Misapplying the Meaning of a Source
First, the interpreter may misunderstand the first-century idea. It is remarkable how frequently there is the tacit assumption that we can be more confident about how we interpret secondary first-century sources than we are of how we interpret the New Testament writers themselves. But it seems to me that there is a prima facie case for thinking that our interpretations of extra-biblical literature are more tenuous than our interpretations of the New Testament. In general, this literature has been less studied than the Bible and does not come with a contextual awareness matching what most scholars bring to the Bible. Moreover, the Scripture comes with the added hope that there is coherency because of divine inspiration and that the Holy Spirit will illumine Scripture through humble efforts to know God’s mind for the sake of the glory of Christ. (34-5)
A second reason why an external first-century idea may distort or silence what the New Testament teaches is that while it may accurately reflect certain first-century documents, nevertheless it may reflect only one among many first-century views. Whether a New Testament writer embraced the particular way of thinking that a scholar has found in the first century is not obvious from the mere existence of that way of thinking. (35-6)
A third reason why external first-century ideas may distort or silence what the New Testament teaches is that while the New Testament writer may embrace the external idea in general, a scholar may misapply it to the biblical text. (36)
Monday, December 21, 2009
"It is not enough to watch our circumstances to detect the times of temptation. We must also watch our hearts to know when temptation might approach us." (170)
"It is an advantage to know oneself, because temptations often lie in one's natural disposition and personality." (171)
"To avoid temptation, we each need to understand our natural temperament. by doing this, we guard against the natural treacheries within us" (171)
"Just as people have differing and distinctive personalities, so they are also affected by distinctive temptations. These relate to their nature, education, and other factors. Unless we are conscious of these propensities, relationships, and dynamic possibilities, temptation will constantly entangle us. This is why it is so important to know ourselves-our temperaments and our attitudes." (171)
"If people did not remain strangers to themselves, they would not maintain all their lives in the same paralyzed state. But they give flattering names to their own natural weaknesses. They try to justify, palliate, or excuse the evils of their own hearts, rather than uproot and destroy them ruthlessly. They never gain a realistic view of themselves. Ineffective lives and scandal grow like branches out of this root of self-ignorance. How few truly seek to know themselves or possess the courage to do so." (172)
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
"God is perpetually the same: subject to no change in his being, attributes, or determinations."
"Thirdly, God is immutable in his counsel. His will never varies. Perhaps some are ready to object that we ought to read the following: "And it repented the Lord that he had made man" (Gen. 6:6). Our first reply is, Then do the Scriptures contradict themselves? No, that cannot be. Numbers 23:19 is plain enough: "God is not a man, that he should lie, neither the son of man, that he should repent." So also 1 Samuel 15:29, "The strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent." The explanation is very simple. When speaking of himself, God frequently accommodates his language to our limited capacities, He describes himself as clothed with bodily members, as eyes, ears, hands, etc. He speaks of himself as "walking" (Ps. 78:65), as "rising early" (Jer. 7:13); yet neither slumbers nor sleeps. When he institutes a change in his dealings with men, he describes his course of conduct as "repenting.""
"Change and decay in all around we see, may he who changeth not abide with thee."
"Herein is solid comfort. Human nature cannot be relied upon; but God can! However unstable I may be, however fickle my friends may prove, God changes not. If he varied as we do, if he willed one thing today and another tomorrow, if he were controlled be caprice, who could confide in him? But, all praise to his glorious name, he is ever the same. His purpose is fixed, his will is stable, his word is sure. Here then is a rock on which we may fix our feet, while the mighty torrent is sweeping away everything around us. The permanence of God's character guarantees the fulfillment of his promises: "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, nether shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee" (Isa. 54:10)."
"Should someone ask, But what is the use of praying to one whose will is already fixed? We answer, Because he requires it. What blessings has God promised without our seeking them? "If we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us" (1 John 5:14), and he has willed everything that is for his child's good. To ask anything contrary to his will is not prayer, but rank rebellion."
This is an excerpt from Christless Christianity by Michael Horton. This is good stuff:
The question for us all is whether we believe the church is the place where the gospel is regularly preached and ratified to Christians as well as non-Christians. Like many Emergent Church leaders, Kimball invokes a famous line from Francis of Assisi that I also heard growing up in conservative evangelicalism: "Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." Kimball goes on to say, "Our lives will preach better than anything we can say." (We encountered a nearly identical statement from Osteen in the previous chapter.) If so, then this is more bad news, not only because of the statistics we have already seen, which evidence no real difference between Christians and non-Christians, but because despite my best intentions, I am not an exemplary creature. The best examples and instruction-even the best doctrines-will not relieve me of the battle of indwelling sin until I draw my last breath. Find me on my best day-especially if you have access to my hidden motives, thoughts, and attitudes-and I will always provide fodder for the hypocrisy charge and will let down those who would become Christians because they think I and my fellow Christians are the gospel. I am a Christian not because I think I can walk in Jesus's footsteps but because he is the only one who can carry me. I am not the gospel; Jesus Christ alone is the gospel. His story saves me, not only bringing me justification but by baptizing me into his resurrection life. (Horton, Michael Scott. Christless Christianity the alternative gospel of the American church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008. p117)
Friday, December 18, 2009
From Counted Righteous in Christ (Piper, John. Wheaton: Crossway Books. 2002). Footnotes and bracketed material in other languages removed by me.
Death is not first, and most deeply, owing to our own individual sinning, but to our being connected with Adam in such a way that his sin really made us guilty and liable to condemnation. (100-1)
The judicial consequences of Christ’s righteousness are experienced by all his people not on the basis of their doing righteous deeds like he did, but on the basis of their being in him and his righteousness being imputed to them. (101-2)
So the problem with the human race is not most deeply that everybody does various kinds of sins. Those sins are real, they are huge, they are enough to condemn us, and they do indeed play a role in our condemnation. But the deepest problem is that behind all our depravity and all our guilt and all our sinning there is a deep mysterious connection with Adam, whose sin became our sin and whose judgment became our judgment. And the Savior from this condition and this damage is a Savior who stands in Adam’s place as a kind of second Adam (or “the last Adam,” 1 Corinthians 15:45). By his obedience he undoes what Adam did. By his obedience he fulfilled what Adam failed to do. In Adam all men were appointed “sinners,” but all who are in Christ are appointed “righteous” (5:19). In Adam all received condemnation; in Christ all receive justification (5:18). (102-3)
Thursday, December 17, 2009
This effective calling is the topic of the current chapter under consideration as I am "Reading the Classics with Challies." The chapter comes from John Murray's timeless piece entitled Redemption Accomplished and Applied.
In this chapter Murray discusses the following:
- the universal call
- the effectual call
- the author of the call
- the nature of the call
- the pattern of the call
- the priority of the call
There are some things in the "golden chain of salvation" that we do participate in; repentance and faith, sanctification. But the sovereign grace of God is the only cause of our effectual calling, regeneration, justification, adoption, and glorification. This truth was one of the issues that I struggled with most when considering reformed theology. I wanted to play a role in my own redemption, even if it was a small part. And yet, this sounds so ridiculous to me now. Nevertheless, I held on to that belief far too long.
Murray concludes the chapter strongly:
...there is good warrant for the conclusion that the application of redemption begins with the sovereign and efficacious summons by which the people of God are ushered into the fellowship of Christ and union with him to the end that they may become partakers of all the grace and virtue which reside in him as Redeemer, Saviour, and Lord. (94)
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
In Triumph Over Temptation, John Owen encourages the reader to be aware of, and alert to, the time of temptation:
- We face temptation in times of prosperity. "Satisfaction and delight in creature comforts-the poison of the soul-tend to grow upon us. A hardness or lack of spiritual sense develops with success. We need to watch and fear always, but especially in times of prosperity." (168)
- We face temptation in times of indifference to grace, neglect of communion with god, and formality in duty. "We need to ask, "Is my zeal cold?" Is my heart not warmed by the love of God? Are we negligent in duties of prayer or of listening to the Word? Have we become feeble in our profession of the faith? Is our delight in God's people faint? Has it grown cold? Is our love for them merely carnal? If we find ourselves in such a lethargic condition, we need to wake up!" (168)
- We experience temptation after experiencing great fellowship with God."Sometimes God gives us special discoveries of Himself and of His love and fills our hearts with His kindness. We experience unspeakable, glorious joy. One might think this is the most secure condition in the world....Yet frequently some bitter temptation approaches us. Satan will see that we neglect many opportunities of fellowship with God in such times, so that he can enter and take advantage of us." (169)
- We face temptation in times of self-confidence. "Let us take heed about overconfidence. Let us also consider the times when temptation makes it approaches to the soul and fortify our heart against them." (170)
Monday, December 14, 2009
In the epilogue of Counterfeit Gods Keller addresses the question "How can we discern our idols?"
Four ways to discern one's idols:
- Consider your imagination. "...the true god of your heart is what your thoughts effortlessly go to when there is nothing else demanding your attention. What do you enjoy daydreaming about? What occupies your mind when you have nothing else to think about?...what do you habitually think about to get joy and comfort in the privacy of your heart?" (168)
- Consider how you spend money. "Your money flows most effortlessly toward your heart's greatest love. In fact, the mark of am idol is that you spend too much money on it, and you must try to exercise self-control constantly...Our patterns of spending reveal our idols." (168)
- Consider your daily functional salvation. "What are you really living for, what is your real-not your professed-god? A good way to discern this is how you respond to unanswered prayers and frustrated hopes...when you pray and work for something and you don't get it and you respond with explosive anger or deep despair, then you may have found your real god." (169)
- Consider your most uncontrollable emotions. "Just as a fisherman looking for fish knows to go where the water is roiling, look for your idols at the bottom of your most painful emotions, especially those that never seem to lift and that drive you to do things you know are wrong." (169)
Sunday, December 13, 2009
A book makes a natural and meaningful Christmas gift, but finding the right one is not always an easy task. Here are a few suggestions, a list of a few of my favorite wee books. These books are each short, affordable, and likely to appeal to a broad audience. Listed in no particular order:
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Tim Keller. A wonderful book that articulates the free grace of God and exposes legalism in the sinner’s heart. $11.57 each or 24 for $239.40 (WTSB).
The Loveliness of Christ by Samuel Rutherford. Christ’s beauty displayed in this collection of choice descriptions of Christ taken from the writings of the noted Puritan. $8.40 (WTSB).
Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul Tripp. One of my favorite books on grace. Tripp uses diverse writing styles to communicate the many features of God’s forgiving grace. $9 (WTSB).
Heaven: A World of Love by Jonathan Edwards. A glimpse of heaven so large you will be amazed it fits into a book you can slide into your pocket. $4.20 (WTSB).
Living Faith by Samuel Ward. Another book that you can carry in your pocket. For about 2 months I carried this little book on my travels and read it over and over. Few books have more built my faith. $4.20 (WTSB).
The Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney. Perhaps the best of all my boss’s books. Transforming look at how the cross alters the way we live. $7 (WTSB).
Caleb’s Lamb by Helen Santos. A family favorite book. The fictional book centers on a little boy, his spotless lamb, and the news that God is coming to deliver him and his family from the bondage of Egypt. A wonderful cross-centered book for family reading time. It’s available only from the publisher for $7.50 (RHB).
Children of the Living God by Sinclair Ferguson. On the doctrine of our spiritual adoption into God’s family, this little book is one of the best. $5 (WTSB).
The Heidelberg Catechism. Perhaps the warmest and most devotional of all the catechisms. This little version is my favorite. $5.50 (Amazon).
Chequebook of the Bank of Faith: Daily Readings by C.H. Spurgeon. A wonderful collection of faith-building promises from God expounded by the prince of preachers. Take these divine promises to the bank! $14 (WTSB).
Morning by Morning and Evening by Evening (two volumes) by C.H. Spurgeon. Spurgeon’s classic devotional [Morning and Evening] updated into more contemporary language and divided into two volumes. One of the richest devotionals available. $26 for the set (WTSB).
The Cross: The Pulpit of God’s Love by Iain Murray. A brief meditation on the centrality and importance of the work of Christ. $2.80 (WTSB).
Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace (3rd Edition), by Joseph Williams. Figured I would throw one book into the list for the writer in your life. One of the most helpful little guides for those who seek to improve the clarity of their writing. $16 (Amazon).
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Here is a book review of Timothy Keller's most recent book Counterfeit Gods. I found it at The Gospel Coalition website here.
This is Tim Keller’s third book published by Dutton. His first two were The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (2008)—a New York Times bestseller—and The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith (2008). Counterfeit Gods is about our idols, namely, what they are, how to discern them, and how to remove and replace them.
Keller defines idols from multiple angles. “The human heart” is an “idol factory” that takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them. (p. xiv)
An idol is something we cannot live without. (p. xv)
We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. . . . Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life. (p. xvii)
[An idol is] anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. . . . If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol. (pp. xvii–xix)
Idolatry is always the reason we ever do anything wrong. . . . [Martin Luther argued that] the fundamental reason behind lawbreaking is idolatry. We never break the other commandments without breaking the first one. (pp. 165–66, emphasis in original)
Idolatry is not just a failure to obey God, it is a setting of the whole heart on something besides God. (p. 171)
Keller gives more than one typology of idolatry. Idols are personal, cultural, and intellectual (pp. xix–xx). Identifying our idols is complicated because they are complexly interwoven: theological, sexual, magic/ritual, political/economic, racial/national, relational, religious, philosophical, cultural, and deep (pp. 203–4n119). “Deep idols” are motivational drives and temperaments—such as power, approval, comfort, and control—that we make absolutes, and they seek fulfillment through “surface idols” like money, family, or careers (pp. 64–66). Counterfeit Gods focuses most on four idols: love, money, success, and power.
Diagnostic questions help us discern our idols (pp. xxi–xxii, 168–70). (1) What do you characteristically daydream about? (2) What do you most fear? What could you lose that would make life not worth living? (3) What fills you with irrational anger, anxiety, despondency, or guilt? (4) What do you effortlessly spend too much money on?
Keller illustrates his analysis of idolatry with stories about Bible characters: Abraham, Jacob, Leah, Zacchaeus, Naaman, Nebuchadnezzar, and Jonah. It occasionally seems like Keller turns to these stories to support his conclusions about idolatry rather than starting with the Bible to reach his conclusions, but perhaps that is a misperception stemming from the way he arranges the material.
Understanding, identifying, and even removing idols is not enough. They must be replaced, and Col 3:1–5 explains how: uproot idols by repentance, and replace them with rejoicing in Christ (pp. 171–73). But “be patient,” Keller warns, because “this process will take our entire lives” (p. 175).
Keller, who first pastored in Virginia and then planted Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan in 1989, writes with a mature pastoral warmth and insight. He offers an unusual blend of pastoral experience, theological acumen, penetrating cultural analysis, disarming explanations of views he rejects, clear prose, and compelling arguments. Counterfeit Gods is an incisive, accessible, and convicting exposé of our deeply rooted, widespread idolatry and what we should do about it.
Friday, December 11, 2009
- "God may deliver you, first of all, by sending you an affliction to mortify your heart toward that temptation. While before it was a sweet morsel to your tongue, now you have no further taste or relish for it. Your desire for it has been killed." (176)
- "Second, God may by some providence alter the source of your temptation. When He takes the fuel from the fire, it goes out." (176)
- "Third, He may tread down Satan under your feet if he should ever dare to suggest anything that is to your disadvantage. When the God of peace does this, you will not hear from Satan anymore." (176)
- "Fourth, He may give you such a supply of grace that you will be free, not perhaps from the temptation itself, but from the tendency and the danger of it." (176)
- "Fifth, He may also give you such an assurance of success in the issue that He leaves you refreshed in the midst of your trials." (176)
- "Sixth, God may utterly remove the temptation and make you a complete conqueror." (176)
"Remember whenever temptation surprises you and makes entry into your soul, that you have all the resources, with all speed, to repair the breach. Close up that passage where the waters have begun to flood. Deal with your soul like a wise physician. Inquire when, how, and by what means you fell into this sickness. If you find that negligence or carelessness in keeping watch over yourself is at the bottom of it all, then focus upon this tendency or weakness. Lament before the Lord; then proceed to the work that lies before you." (176)
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Chapter 1 - The Order of Application
This chapter concerns itself with proving, defending and supporting the concept or doctrine that there is an order of salvation. That is, that redemption is applied as a "series of acts and processes" (Murray, John. Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 1955. p80) and not as one "simple and indivisible act." (80) He suggests that "we have calling, regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, glorification. These are all distinct, and not one of these can be defined in terms of the other. Each has its own meaning, function, and purpose in the action and grace of God." (80)
He beautifully describes this idea early in the chapter:
The provision which God has made for the salvation of men is even more strikingly manifold. For this provision has in view the manifoldness of man's need and exhibits the overflowing abundance of God's goodness, wisdom, grace, and love. The superabundance appears in the eternal counsel of God respecting salvation; it appears in the historic accomplishment of redemption by the work of Christ once for all; and it appears in the application of redemption continuously and progressively till it reaches its consummation in the liberty of the glory of the children of God. (79, emphasis mine)
Murray goes on to explain the ordo salutis by opening up Scriptures that deal with the subject. He says,
These few texts have been appealed to simply for the purpose of showing there is order which must be maintained and cannot be reversed without violating the plain import of these texts. These texts prove the fact of order and show that it is not empty logic to affirm divine order in the application of redemption. There is a divine logic in this matter and the order which we insit upon should be nothing more or less than what the Scriptures disclose to be the divine arrangement. (82)
In essence he suggests that in calling, regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification we have "a chain of unbreakable links beginning with foreknowledge and ending with glorification." (83)
In summation he writes,
With all these considerations in view, the order in the application of redemption is found to be, calling, regeneration, faith and repentance, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, glorification. When this order is carefully weighed we find that there is a logic which evinces and brings into clear focus the governing principle of salvation in all of its aspects, the grace of God in its sovereignty and efficacy. Salvation is of the Lord in its application as well as in its conception and accomplishment. (87)
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Jesus warns people more often about greed than about sex, yet almost no one thinks they are guilty of it. Therefore we should all begin with a working hypothesis that "this could easily be a problem for me." If greed hides itself so deeply, no one should be confident that it is not a problem for them. (Keller, Timothy. Counterfeit Gods. Dutton: New York. 2009. p52)
The idol of success cannot be expelled, it must be replaced. The human heart's desire for a particular valuable object may be conquered, but its need to have some object is unconquerable. How can we fix our heart's fixation on doing "some great thing" in order to heal ourselves of our sense of inadequacy, in order to give our lives meaning? Only when we see what Jesus, our great Suffering Servant, has done for us will we finally understand why God's salvation does not require us to do "some great thing." We don't have to do it, because Jesus has. (93)
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
- Acts 2:23
- Romans 8:29-30
- Romans 11:2
- 1 Peter 1:2
"Another thing to which we desire to call particular attention is that the fist two passages quoted above show plainly and teach implicitly that God's 'foreknowledge' is not causative, that instead, something else lies behind, precedes it, and that something is his own sovereign decree. Christ was "delivered by the (1) determinate counsel and (2) foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). His "counsel" or decree was the ground of his foreknowledge[...] God foreknows what will be because he has decreed what shall be."
"If it were true that God had elected certain ones to be saved because in due time they would believe, then that would make believing a meritorious act, and in that would make believing a meritorious act, and in that event the saved sinner would have ground for "boasting" which Scripture emphatically denies: Ephesians 2:9"
From Chapter 10 of Triumph Over Temptation:
How then can we be vigilant against the dangers of temptation?
- Always remember the great danger it is for anyone to enter into temptation. "It is sad to find most people so careless about this. Most people think about how to avoid open sin, but they never think about the dynamics of temptation within their hearts." (Owen, John.Triumph Over Temptation. Colorado Springs: Victor.2005. 162)
- Realize we cannot keep ourselves from falling into temptation. "If we commit ourselves to God in this way, three things will follow. First, we will experience the reality of the grace and compassion of God...Second, we will be conscious of our danger and of our need for God's protection. Third, we will act in faith on the promises of God to keep us. To believe that He will preserve us is, indeed, a means of preservation."(163-4)
- Resist temptation by making prayer of first importance. "If we do not abide in prayer, we will abide in temptation." (165)
Monday, December 7, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
What's one of greatest doctrinal threats facing the church today, doctrinally speaking?
I really do believe we are facing the same doctrinal crises that the Reformers faced, only in some respects it's worse because Rome never questioned the authority of Scripture or the inerrancy of Scripture. Both are widely disputed in Protestantism generally, and increasingly in evangelicalism particularly. If we lose the authority of Scripture and the sufficiency of Scripture, then what's the point? There would be no point in trying to understand what we believe and why we believe it--no point in even talking about a Gospel because there would be no authority for this Gospel. Then justification is as much up for grabs today as it has ever been. According to all the studies I've seen, most American evangelicals believe that they save themselves with God's help. That's the prevailing view in all the studies that have been conducted. Do your best. That's why Jesus is no longer seen as the only way, truth, and life. And that wasn't up for grabs in the Reformation--that Jesus is the only way of salvation--that wasn't up for grabs. The issue in the Reformation was how salvation is applied to us, but everyone believed Jesus was the only way of salvation. Today, that's no longer taken for granted. We have to fight for it.
Religious pluralism has not only made us more aware of other beliefs, which is good, so that we're explicit about what we believe and why, it has made us more vulnerable to the belief that religion is really about morality. It's about being nice. It's about being good. It's about loving each other. It's not really about the intervention of God in human history, assuming our flesh, dying on the cross, and being raised the third day for our justification, His return in judgment, and a real Heaven and a real Hell. To the extent that we've already turned religion into morality--something we do rather than something that God has done for us--to that extent, religious pluralism will mean, not only that there are lots of people of different religions we must respect and to whom we have to witness, but rather that there are all of these wonderful people who have their sources of morality just as we do, and we need to realize that there are different paths to God. Increasingly that's where we're going with a lot of pastors, telling believers that Jesus is the best way of pursuing community and self-sacrifice, but not the One who was sacrificed for our sins and raised for our justification.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
If you could have a one-hour discussion with any living person in the world today, who would it be?
Pope Benedict XVI. He's a very interesting theologian whom I've quoted in my book on justification in the covenant and eschatology series. I interact extensively with Pope Benedict; it's amazing--he really is the best theologian the Papacy has seen since I don't know when, and he loves covenant theology. He has read a lot of the same authors Reformed theologians have read, and he even comes to the conclusion: I can see how the Reformation happened; I can see how the Reformers made the conclusions they did.
Well, thank you, Pope Benedict, too bad it's now been five hundred years, but what is your conclusion from all that? If you say you agree with the exegesis, does dogma trump exegesis? It would be very enjoyable to have a conversation with him, not adversarial but to ask him some questions. I just endorsed a book Scott Hahn wrote on the Pope's biblical theology. By "biblical theology," I don't necessarily mean that it's biblically accurate! Biblical theology is a sub-discipline that follows the development of a doctrine or biblical motif from Genesis to Revelation. Pope Benedict does a lot of that and even when I disagree (quite often!), it's serious and well-argued.
Read the interview in its entirety here:
Friday, December 4, 2009
Owen proceeds to consider some "inadequate safeguards against the power of temptation" (151) thus further warning and cautioning the reader of the danger of entering into temptation. Here is his list:
- The love of honor in the world. "Those who have no better defenses than the love of honor are inadequately equipped to deal with temptation. Sadly, it is possible for those with great reputations to suffer destruction when their only defense lies in their own good name." (152-3)
- The fear of shame and reproach. "This motive proves useless when dealing with sins of conscience or with sins of the heart. Innumerable excuses are offered to the heart when one relies on this as the predominant defense against temptation." (153)
- The desire to not disturb one's peace of mind, wound one's conscience, or risk the danger of hellfire. "There is no saint of God who does not value the peace he enjoys. Yet how many fall in the day of temptation!" (154)
- The thought of the vileness of sinning against God. "Unfortunately, we see that even this is not a sure and infallible defense. No such defense exists." (154)
Thursday, December 3, 2009
"He is perfectly acquainted with every detail in the life of every being in heaven, in earth, and in hell."
"The apprehension of his omniscience ought to bow us in adoration before him. Yet how little do we meditate upon this Divine perfection! Is it because the very thought of it fills us with uneasiness? How solemn is this fact: nothing can be concealed from God! "For I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them" (Ezek. 11:5)."
"Here is encouragement to prayer. There is no cause for fearing that the petitions of the righteous will not be heard, or that their sighs and tears shall escape the notice of God, since he knows the thoughts and intents of the heart."
"Were it in anywise possible for something to occur apart from either the direct agency or permission of God, then that something would be independant of him, and he would at once cease to be Supreme."
"None of his decrees are left contingent either on creatures or secondary causes. There is no future event which is only a mere possibility, that is, something which may or may not come to pass: "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning" (Acts 15:18)."
"It should, however, be pointed out that neither God's knowledge nor his cognition of the future, considered simply in themselves, are causative. Nothing has ever come to pass, or ever will, merely because God knew it. The cause of all things is the will of God."
"The apprehension of God's infinite knowledge should fill the Christian with adoration. The whole of my life stood open to his view from the beginning. He foresaw my every fall, my every sin, my every backsliding; yet, nevertheless, fixed his heart upon me. Oh, how the realization of this should bow me in wonder and worship before him!"
Chapter 4 of John Murray's book, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, considers whether or not the atonement is universal. Or, in other words, it considers the question "For whom did Christ die?"
Murray makes it quite clear where he stands:
We can readily see, therefore, that although universal terms are sometimes used in connection with the atonement these terms cannot be appealed to as establishing the doctrine of universal atonement...It is necessary for us to discover what redemption or atonement really means. And when we examine the Scripture we find that the glory of the cross of Christ is bound up with the effectiveness if its accomplishment... The atonement is an efficacious substitution. (75)
Murray discusses a topic in this chapter that I had not come across in my reading by those who are proponents of limited or definite atonement. Not that they don't hold to or believe what Murray suggests, rather that I had not read this particular topic in writings against universal atonement. A quote from Murray defines the topic best:
The question is not whether many benefits short of justification and salvation accrue to men from the death of Christ. The unbelieving and reprobate in this world enjoy numerous benefits that flow from the fact that Christ died and rose again. The mediatorial dominion of Christ is universal. Christ is head over all things and is given all authority in heaven and in earth. It is within this mediatorial dominion that all the blessings which men enjoy are dispersed. (61)He goes on to say:
Consequently, since all benefits and blessings are within the realm of Christ's dominion and since this dominion rests upon his finished work of atonement, the benefits innumerable which are enjoyed by all men indiscriminately are related to the death of Christ and may be said to accrue from it one way or another... It is proper, therefore, to say that the enjoyment of certain benefits, even by the non-elect and reprobate, falls with the design of the death of Christ. The denial of universal atonement does not carry with it the denial of any such relation that the benefits enjoyed by all men may sustain to Christ's death and finished work. (62)
Despite describing some universal aspects of Christ's work, Murray clearly holds to a view of atonement which history has generally labeled 'limited'. Of the many quotes in this chapter that reference Murray's stance on this matter, this one I liked:
It is to beggar the concept of redemption as an effective securement of release by price and by power to construe it as anything less than the effectual accomplishment which secures the salvation of those who are its objects. Christ did not come to put men in a redeemable position but to redeem to himself a people. We have the same result when we analyse the meaning of expiation, propitiation, and reconciliation. (63)
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
All of God's attributes are glorious beyond the limits of my understanding. But, at different times and in different ways, certain and specific characteristics become more glorious in my apprehension.
For instance, 1 John 1:9 says "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Now, for me at this moment, the glory of 1 John 1:9 is not so much that God is faithful; that is expected. But, that in forgiving my sins God is also just is incredible. How can that be? I am are horrible sinner. How could God forgive me and still be just?
A few verses later we find out how this could be: "But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins..." Now that is glorious! God is just in forgiving my sins is the result of my Advocate's work on my behalf! Glory!