Friday, December 31, 2010

Jesus' Soul-trouble

Consider Jesus—in Soul-trouble

"Now My soul is deeply troubled."—John 12:27

In this lay our Lord's greatest suffering—His soul-sorrow. Compared with this, the lingering, excruciating tortures of the cross—the extended limbs, the quivering nerves, the bleeding wounds, the burning thirst—were, as nothing.

This was physical, the other spiritual; the one, the suffering of the body, the other, the anguish of the soul.

Let a vessel traversing the ocean keep afloat, and she may still plough the deep and brave the tempest; but let the proud waves burst in upon her and she sinks.

So long as our blessed Lord endured outwardly the gibes and insults and calumnies of men, not a complaint escaped His lips; but, when the wrath of God, endured as the Surety-Head of His people, entered within His holy soul, then the wail of agony rose strong and piercing—"Save Me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to My neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can't find a foothold to stand on. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm Me. I am exhausted from crying for help; My throat is parched and dry. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help Me." Psalm 69:1-3

How true is God's word—"The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit, who can bear?" Such was Christ's.

And why was His soul troubled?

One rational answer alone can be given—He was now bearing sin and, consequently, the punishment of sin—the wrath of God overwhelming His soul. This was the 'cup' which He prayed might, 'if possible, pass from Him.' Divine justice, finding the sins of God's elect meeting on His holy soul, exacted full satisfaction and inflicted the utmost penalty.

And thus a glorious gospel truth shines out of this terrible cloud of Jesus' soul-sorrow—that is, the substitutionary character and the atoning nature of His sufferings and death.

Upon no reasonable ground other than this can we satisfactorily account for His language—"My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death."

(From Octavius Winslow's Consider Jesus, line breaks mine)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top Books I read in 2010

10) Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl by N. D. Wilson

Great writing! A fun and novel read on a much written about subject. A fresh view of topics such as suffering and the existence of God. I get the feeling that Wilson, at least in this book, might be the type of writer one loves or hates. I loved this book.

9) Epistle to the Romans (NICNT, Volume 2) by John Murray

8) Epistle to the Romans (NICNT, Volume 1) by John Murray

Working through these commentaries was one of the best choices of reading I made in 2010. I appreciated Murray's writings in other books and articles and this was no different in the commentaries. Murray's concise and articulate style will always endear him to me. The thorough explanation of “the most important letter ever written” was invaluable to me.


7) The Meaning of the Pentateuch by John Sailhamer

In many ways, this book was over my head. A more learned scholar would have appreciated the life's work that went in to this book in a way I never could. Nevertheless, this was a fascinating read. Sailhamer reflects a high view of Scripture and a love for God's Word. And his ideas and theories were very intriguing and eye opening. This book was well worth the work!


6) The Justification of God by John Piper

Another tough read; this took all the attention I could give it. It taught me about, arguably, the most important Christian doctrine; justification. It also taught me about the concepts surrounding justification such as righteousness and glory. A must read.


5) God's Passion for His Glory by John Piper

An enlightening look at man's chief end, and God's chief end. And an intriguing and compelling look at North America's greatest philosopher and theologian; Jonathan Edwards. Another proof for me that if Piper wrote it, I need to read it.


4) One Thing by Sam Storms

This has been the book I have recommended to more people than any other in 2010. A very readable style, One Thing is another book by Storms that will have a permanent place on my bookshelf. This is another powerfully compelling book by one of the "New Hedonists"; of the Christian variety, of course.


3) Reemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray

A classic. This book covers many major doctrines with thoroughness and clarity. As I have mentioned, Murray does not waste words, but neither is he dry or uninteresting. He deals with the subject at hand without playing games; you can tell this is serious stuff for him. I will use this book as a reference for years to come.


2) God is the Gospel by John Piper

I could clearly see God's providence in my reading this book when I did. It came at just the right time. Thus, it had a significant impact on me. The point of everything we do and believe is ultimately God. God is the gospel. The gospel is good news because of God and would not be good news otherwise. It sounds so obvious as I type it but that idea is often overlooked in our passion for gospel-centeredness and cross-centeredness. It is about God and His glory. This book works through that idea in many different areas. I was particularly helped by Piper's explanation of how this plays out in sanctification. Don't miss this one by “Pipes”.


1) A Praying Life by Paul Miller

This, if I could only read one, would be the book of choice for me in 2010. This book took a sledgehammer to some ungodly thought patterns in my life that undermine prayer. And then it edified me to a place where I was praying more, particularly in supplication, than I have in quite some time. It bolstered my faith thereby adding a vitality to my making requests of my God. It was informative, motivating, and produced practical results in an much-neglected area of my Christian walk. Read it.


Fiction

I don't read much fiction, but the best work I read in this genre was The Death of Ivan Iliych by Leo Tolstoy from a compilation of some of his short stories. An unflinching and gut wrenching look at the futility of life. Wow! You will not forget this piece of fiction should you choose to read it. It made me wondrously glad that my life has purpose because of my union with Christ.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Our Reading for 2010

Our Reading for 2010

Below you will find a list of the books read in 2010 by the four bloggers that blog here. We share this list for several reasons.

Why we share this?

  • To give glory to God – it is by grace that we read, desire to read, learn from our reading. Books would burst into flames instantaneously in hell, thus, even the fact that we hold books in our hand is a testament to God's grace.
  • To encourage – if we can read more, so can you. We are not special; just four sinners reading books. We want you to read more because we believe it is a significant tool of God for your sanctification and ours.
  • To remember – reflecting on the books we read reminds us of God's goodness in our lives. He helps us grow in likeness to His Son through beholding His Son; and we behold Him in books.
  • To promote – we want to promote the idea of reading in community. We read books together intentionally and unintentionally. And we encouraged and urged each other on, sometimes solemnly and sometimes sarcastically, to read to the glory of God. We think you should find some like-minded brothers or sisters and read together.

A few more things: if a book appears more than once it is because more than one of us read it. The commentaries were read in their entirety. There were a few more books started in 2010, but not finished. Look for them in the 2011 list.

  1. Christian Beliefs by Wayne Grudem
  2. Consider Jesus by Octavius Winslow
  3. Think by John Piper
  4. Fifty Reasons Jesus Came To Die by John Piper
  5. An Antidote for Arminianism by Christopher Ness
  6. The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden
  7. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  8. Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen
  9. Pleasures Evermore by Sam Storms
  10. God is the Gospel by John Piper
  11. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  12. The Death of Ivan Iliych and Other Stories by Leo Tolstoy
  13. Seeing and Savouring Jesus Christ by John Piper
  14. The Search for God and Guinness by Stephen Mansfield
  15. Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl by N. D. Wilson
  16. A Hunger for God by John Piper
  17. A New Inner Relish by Dane Ortlund
  18. Rescuing Ambition by Dave Harvey
  19. Epistle to the Romans (NICNT, Volume 2) by John Murray
  20. A Praying Life by Paul Miller
  21. Jesus Rediscovered by Malcolm Muggerdidge
  22. Radical by David Platt
  23. The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne
  24. The King James Version Debate by D. A. Carson
  25. Which Version is the Bible? by Floyd Nolen Jones
  26. Epistle to the Romans (NICNT, Volume 1) by John Murray
  27. God Crucified by Richard Bauckham
  28. Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell
  29. This Momentary Marriage by John Piper
  30. Surprised by the Power of the Spirit by Jack Deere
  31. The Glory of Christ by John Owen
  32. One Thing by Sam Storms
  33. Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  34. The Excellency of a Gracious Spirit by Jeremiah Burroughs
  35. The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes
  36. The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (PNTC) by Douglas Moo
  37. The Hour that Changes the World by Dick Eastman
  38. Godly Jealousy by K. Erik Thoennes
  39. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  40. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
  41. 1 and 2 Thessalonians (TNTC) by Leon Morris
  42. The Meaning of the Pentateuch by John Sailhamer
  43. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  44. Altogether Lovely by Jonathan Edwards
  45. Mortification of Sin in Believers by John Owen
  46. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  47. Preachers and Preaching by D. M. Lloyd-Jones
  48. 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (NIBC) by Gordon Fee
  49. Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper
  50. The End for Which God Created the World by Jonathan Edwards
  51. God's Passion for His Glory by John Piper
  52. Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul by Octavius Winslow
  53. Paul's Letter to the Philippians by Gordon D. Fee
  54. Expository Preaching Plans and Methods by F. B. Meyer
  55. The Reason for God by Timothy Keller
  56. The Lost Virtue of Happiness by Moreland and Issler
  57. Finally Alive by John Piper
  58. Between Two Worlds by John Stott
  59. The Justification of God by John Piper
  60. Reemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray
  61. Living the Cross Centered Life by CJ Mahaney
  62. Attributes of God by AW Pink
  63. The Sovereignty of God by AW Pink
  64. The Life of Elijah by AW Pink
  65. 50 Reasons Jesus Came To Die by John Piper
  66. The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs
  67. Doctrine by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears
  68. Religion Saves by Mark Driscoll
  69. Pleasures Evermore by Sam Storms
  70. One Thing by Sam Storms
  71. God is the Gospel by John Piper
  72. Seeing and Savouring Jesus Christ by John Piper
  73. When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper
  74. Radical by David Platt
  75. Altogether Lovely by Jonathan Edwards
  76. The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne
  77. How Long, Oh Lord? by D. A. Carson
  78. The Cross by Martin Lloyd-Jones
  79. Preachers and Preaching by Martin Lloyd-Jones
  80. The Plight of Man and the Power of God by Martin Lloyd-Jones
  81. What is the Gospel by Greg Gilbert
  82. The Glory of Christ by John Owen
  83. The Excellency of a Gracious Spirit by Jeremiah Burroughs
  84. Gospel Fear by Jeremiah Burroughs
  85. Declaring a Cross-Centered Theology by Mark Dever
  86. How to Read the Bible Book by Book by Gordon Fee
  87. New Testament Prophecy by Wayne Grudem
  88. Christian Beliefs by Wayne Grudem
  89. The Hour that Changes the World by Dick Eastman
  90. Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper
  91. Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
  92. Gods Passion for His Glory by John Piper
  93. On Knowing Christ by Jonathan Edwards
  94. Think by John Piper
  95. The Cross of Christ by John Stott
  96. Men Made New by John Stott
  97. Pursuing God by A. W. Tozer
  98. Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer
  99. Chosen for Life by Sam Storms
  100. Unfashionable by Tullian Tchividjian
  101. The Reason for God - by Timothy Keller
  102. Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
  103. Altogether Lovely by Jonathan Edwards
  104. The Glory of Christ by John Owen
  105. Living the Cross Centered Life by C. J. Mahaney
  106. The Attributes of God by A. W. Pink
  107. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J. I. Packer
  108. The Abolition of Man by by C. S. Lewis
  109. What is the Gospel by Greg Gilbert
  110. I Wish Someone Would Explain Hebrews To Me! by by Stuart Olyott
  111. Think by John Piper
  112. Seeing and Savouring Jesus Christ by John Piper
  113. Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen
  114. Altogether Lovely by Jonathan Edwards
  115. This Momentary Marriage by John Piper
  116. When Sinners Say I Do by Doug Harvey
  117. The Reason For God by Tim Keller
  118. Just Do Something by Tim Keller
  119. The Glory of Christ by John Owen
  120. Think by John Piper
  121. He Is Not Silent by Albert Mohler
  122. Christian Beliefs by Wayne Grudem
  123. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  124. How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer
  125. The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis
  126. Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
  127. Why We Love The Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Relational Suffering

Octavius Winslow from Consider Jesus:

You are, perhaps, suffering from MISPLACED AND WOUNDED AFFECTION. You have naturally allowed the fibers of your heart to entwine around some object of its warm and clinging love; but chilled affection, or the whisper of envy, or the venomed tooth of slander, has wrenched those fibers from their stem, and trailed them, torn and bleeding, in the dust. How like Jesus now you are, of whose loved disciples it is recorded, "They all forsook Him, and fled."

Or, you are suffering from BETRAYED AND DISAPPOINTED CONFIDENCE. One you thought a friend, tender and true, has deserted you; a judgment upon whose guidance you leaned has misled you; a source upon whose supplies you depended has failed you; a confidence in which you too implicitly reposed has betrayed you; and thus you are learning the lesson Jesus learned when, "all His disciples forsook Him, and fled."

Cheer up, my soul! there is One who has promised never to leave you. When father and mother, husband and wife, lover and friend, forsake you, the Lord will take you up. He who was deserted by friends and followers, will cling to you in prosperity and in adversity, in weal and in woe, with unfaltering fidelity and unchanging love; and though all forsake you, yet will He not in life, in death, and through eternity. How great and precious the divine promise—"They may forget, yet I will not." "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever." Precious Jesus! though all forsake me, as all forsook You; yet YOU will never leave me, nor forsake me!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Beauty

Beauty is whatever stuns and surprises and tales our breath away, whether the golden glow of a lingering sunset, the cavernous depths of the Grand Canyon, or the inaugural steps of a first-born child. Beauty is whatever causes our hearts to beat with increasing rapidity and sends chills down our spines our causes goosebumps to rise on our arms. Beauty is whatever stirs up worth in the human spirit and enables us to feel the dignity of self and the hope of tomorrow. (147)

What will turn our hearts from the passing pleasure of sin? What can strengthen our wills to reject the temptations of the flesh? What will energize our souls to turn from worldly delusions? What has the power to transform our desires and reconfigure our longings and stir our emotional chemistry that we might love what God loves and hate what He hates? Only one thing. Jesus, in all His beauty. Jesus, in all that He is for us now and will be tomorrow. (163)


Storms, C. Samuel. Pleasures Evermore: the Life-changing Power of Enjoying God. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2000. Print.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas

An interesting article from this past week:

Canadians have weighed in on the "Christmas" versus "Holiday" label to describe this time of the year and there is a clear winner.

A fat majority of 71 per cent says it should be referred to as the "Christmas Season" because that is the "original meaning and purpose of the holiday," says a new Ipsos Reid poll conducted exclusively for Postmedia News and Global National.


Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Call+Christmas+Season+Canadians/4021994/story.html#ixzz19DSoKy7D


I guess the whole world isn't offended every time someone says Merry Christmas. Go figure.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Gift

Some Christmas gifts are expensive, others are priceless. Below is a story my son wrote for me as a Christmas gift.







Friday, December 24, 2010

Books

From Strawberry Rhubarb Theology:

Books, People

We must not live in the world of books, but in the world of real people. Yet, all that is worth saying to them of lasting value comes from books.
--William Still, The Work of the Pastor (Christian Focus, 2010), 101-2

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Grudem Q and A

Below are some videos of one of my favourite theologians, Wayne Grudem. The videos come from the Clarus Conference. Enjoy.





Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Frogs are better off


"I have heard it said, “God didn’t die for frogs. So he was responding to our value as humans.” This turns grace on its head. We are worse off than frogs. They have not sinned. They have not rebelled and treated God with the contempt of being inconsequential in their lives. God did not have to die for frogs. They aren’t bad enough. We are. Our debt is so great, only a divine sacrifice could pay it."
(Piper, John. Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006. Print. 29)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Winslow on our justification

From Octavius Winslow's Morning Thoughts for the 20th of December:

You are often in fear that the righteousness of the law will rise against you; and when you consider your many failures and short-comings, you justly tremble. But fear not; for in Christ the law is perfectly fulfilled, and fulfilled in your stead, as much as if you had obeyed in your own person. Is not this a sure ground of comfort? You see the imperfection of your own obedience, and you are alarmed; but have you not an eye also for the perfection of Christ’s obedience, which He has made yours by imputation? "There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus," because He has fulfilled the law’s righteousness in their behalf. You are cast down because of the law of sin, but the Spirit of life has freed you from the law. You are troubled because of the law of God, but that law, by Christ’s perfect obedience, is fulfilled in you. You desire a righteousness that will present you without spot before God; you have it in Him who is the "Lord our righteousness." Christian! Christ’s whole obedience is yours. What can sin, or Satan, or conscience, or the law itself allege against you now? Be humble, and mourn over the many flaws and failures in your obedience; yet withal rejoice, and glory, and make your boast in the fullness, perfection, and unchangeableness of that righteousness on the Incarnate God which will place you without fault before the throne.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Consciousness of sin


Two quotes from Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen:

The consciousness of sin was formerly the starting-point of all preaching; but today it is gone. Characteristic of the modern age, above all else, is a supreme confidence in human goodness; the religious literature of the day is redolent of that confidence. Get beneath the rough exterior of men, we are told, and we shall discover enough self-sacrifice to found upon it the hope of society; the world's evil, it is said, can be overcome with the world's good; no help is needed from outside the world.

The more one observes the condition of the Church, the more one feels obliged to confess that the conviction of sin is a great mystery' which can be produced only by the Spirit of God. Proclamation of the law, in word and in deed, can prepare for the experience, but the experience itself comes from God. When a man has that experience, when a man comes under the conviction of sin, his whole attitude toward life is transformed; he wonders at his former blindness, and the message of the gospel, which formerly seemed to be an idle tale, becomes now instinct with light. But it is God alone who can produce the change. Only, let us not try to do without the Spirit of God.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Doctrines of self-esteem

The God-centered love of God is foreign to fallen human beings, especially those who, like most of us, have been saturated for decades with doctrines of self-esteem. We have absorbed a definition of love that makes us the center. That is, we feel loved when someone makes much of us. Thus the natural, human definition of love is making much of someone. The main reason this feels like love is that it feels so good to be made much of. The problem is that this feels good on wholly natural grounds. There is nothing spiritual about it. No change in us is needed at all to experience this kind of “love.” This love is wholly natural. It operates on the principles that are already present in our fallen, sinful, and spiritually dead souls. We love the praise of man. It feels good. Praise is to the ego what sex is to the body. It just doesn’t get any better—as long as we are spiritually dead.

The ground of natural love is finally me, not God. If you make much of me, I feel loved, because I am the final ground of my happiness. God is not in that place. He should be, but he is not. That is what it means to be unconverted and natural. The deepest foundation of my happiness is me.


(Piper, John. God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. Print. 149)

Friday, December 17, 2010

The awful gulf

From beginning to end the Bible is concerned to set forth the awful gulf that separates the creature from the Creator. It is true, indeed, that according to the Bible God is immanent in the world. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without Him. But he is immanent in the world not because He is identified with the world, but because He is the free Creator and Upholder of it. Between the creature and the Creator a great gulf is fixed. (Machen, J. Gresham. Christianity and Liberalism. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2009. Print. 54)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sam Storms on Paul's confidence in the flesh

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:4-11 ESV)


This passage is all about a transformation, a personal revolution, a moral and mental 180 degree turn in one man’s life and how it can happen in our life as well. It is as if Paul envisions himself walking down a certain path in life, heading in a specific direction, believing certain things, honoring and valuing what he was convinced would bring him life, cherishing and nourishing his earthly achievements, only to find himself suddenly walking in the opposite direction. It is as if he is saying, “Those things of which I once boasted and loved and pursued, those things that energized me and gave me joy and got my juices flowing, I now look upon and say, YUK!”

How did he do it? Why did he do it? How do you explain this phenomenal experience that all of us yearn for so deeply?

First, We must look at what Paul used to prize. There are seven ,things in which he had once placed his confidence. The first four relate to birth and upbringing, the last three to personal choice:

l. He was circumcised the eighth day.
2. He was of the nation of Israel.
3. He was of the tribe of Benjamin.
4. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews.
5. He was, as to the Law, a Pharisee.
6. He was, as to zeal, a persecutor of the church.
7. He was, as to righteousness, blameless.

One can almost hear Paul’s prideful reminder: “No one did it better than I. I was the best. I was number one. If it is possible to have good reason and warrant for boasting in human achievement and religious excellence and ethnic purity, I did it!”

Perhaps it would be wise for each of us to pause at this point and draw up our own list. They will undoubtedly be different from Paul’s, but that’s OKAY. So let me ask you: What are the seven things in this world, in your life, that compete with the most intensity to win your heart away from Jesus? If you were of a mind to boast in earthly achievements and accolades, what would they be?

The second thing of importance is for us to recognize we are not going to simply wake up one morning and discover that we suddenly hate what we used to love. The things of this world will never appear as “dung” when viewed in and of themselves. They will smell good and taste good and feel good and bring satisfaction and we will treasure and value them and fight for them and work for them and find every excuse imaginable to get them at any and all cost; they will retain their magnetic appeal and allure and power until they are set against the surpassing value and beauty of Christ Jesus.

(Storms, C. Samuel. Pleasures Evermore: the Life-changing Power of Enjoying God. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2000. Print. 115-6. emphasis mine)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oden on Luther

In his introduction to The Justification Reader (Oden, Thomas C. The Justification Reader. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2002. Print.), Thomas C. Oden touches upon several thoughts Luther had on justification that I thought were worth sharing:

"Luther regarded justification as the "rule and judge over all other Christian doctrines." Of justification he wrote: "Nothing in this article can be given up or compromised. ... On this article rests all that we teach. ... Therefore we must be quite certain and have no doubts about it. Otherwise all is lost. ... Luther taught that every time you insist that I am a sinner, just so often do you call me to remember the benefit of Christ my Redeemer, upon whose shoulders, and not upon mine, lie all my sins. So, when you say that I am a sinner, you do not terrify, but comfort me immeasurably." (4-5)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Let us not deceive ourselves

Let us not deceive ourselves.

A Jewish teacher of the first century can never satisfy the longing of our souls.

Clothe Him with all the art of modern research,
throw upon Him the warm, deceptive calcium-light of modern sentimentality;
and despite it all common sense will come to its rights again,
and for our brief hour of self-deception-- as though we had been with Jesus
--will wreak upon us the revenge of hopeless disillusionment ...

Certainly we shall remain forever in the gloom if we attend merely to the character of Jesus and neglect the thing that He has done,
if we try to attend to the Person and neglect the message.

We may have joy for sadness and power for weakness;
but not by easy half-way measures,
not by avoidance of controversy,
not by trying to hold on to Jesus and yet reject the gospel.

(Machen, J. Gresham. Christianity and Liberalism. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2009. Print. 35, line breaks mine)

Monday, December 13, 2010

No stint

Some things in the economy of grace are measured; for instance our vinegar and gall are given us with such exactness that we never have a single drop too much, but of the salt of grace no stint is made, "Ask what thou wilt and it shall be given unto thee." C. H. Spurgeon

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Romans 1:2

From David Martyn Lloyd-Jones' exposition of Romans 1, The Gospel of God; specifically Romans 1:2.

Why was the gospel hidden?
  1. To reveal the depth of our sin
  2. To show mankind cannot save himself
  3. To show God’s lordship and sovereignty

Why does Paul appeal to the Old Testament?
  • To show the gospel was not something strange and new
  • To show the Bible as complete, authoritative, unified, essential
  • To show the New never contradicts the Old
  • To show the New fulfills the Old
  • To show salvation is for the world.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Botanical Biblical Theology

From Dane Ortlund at Strawberry Rhubarb Theology:

God placed mankind in a fruitful, lush garden, out of which he was kicked (Gen 2-3).

At important points in the developing story we hear of a world-tree (Dan 4) and a vine with many branches (Ezekiel 17), and of a coming Branch who will sprout from David’s line and restore God’s people (Isa 11; Jer 23; 33; Zech 6).

Christ arrives on the scene and not only teaches that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that becomes a huge tree (Mark 4:30–32) but also declares himself to be the vine (John 15:1), in whom we bear fruit. And along the way of faith, we are beset with 'thorns' (2 Cor 12:7-10) that ultimately make us more, not less, fruit-bearing (John 15:2).

Could it be that the very reason there is such a thing as botany--the very reason there is such a thing as a tree--is so that God might give one more picture to his people of his great salvation?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Super big nerd

As I have shared before, one of the blogs I follow and enjoy is Miscellanies by Tony Reinke. Here is a self-description Tony gives on his blog:
As you will soon see, I focus an inordinate amount of my life on the topic of books. I enjoy reading, reviewing, and talking about books (nerdness alert), sharing research tips and tricks with electronic reference books (big nerdness), photographing books (super big nerdness), censuring publishers for inferior book construction (hyper-extensive nerdness), and photographing the graves of dead writers (insert your own label here).
Taking into account that autobiographical definition, the blogger at The Puritan's Woodshop is a super big nerd. Brandon qualifies because he takes pictures of books. And they are amazing pictures at that. Below are a sample from his blog. If these pictures get your blood pumping, you just may be a super nerd too.







Thursday, December 9, 2010

The key to holiness

Volitional restraint and abstinence are only effective against sin when the soul embraces a pleasure superior to the one denied. there is little sanctifying value in depriving our souls of fleshly entertainment if steps are not taken to feast on all that God is for us in Jesus. Suppressed desire will always resurface, desperate for satisfaction. Finding fullness of joy and everlasting pleasure in God's presence alone will serve to woo our wayward hearts from the power of the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Therefore, falling in love with the Son of God is the key to holiness.

(Storms, C. Samuel.
Pleasures Evermore: the Life-changing Power of Enjoying God. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2000. Print. 103-104)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

An antagonistic principle

I really enjoy the writing style of Octavius Winslow. He is eloquent and honest, and writes things in such a way that his words resonate with me. I have read two of his books, The Glory of the Redeemer and Personal Declension and Revival, and I have been going through his morning devotional the past few months. Below is an excerpt from yesterday's devotional:

Regeneration does not transform flesh into spirit. It proposes not to eradicate and expel the deep-seated root of our degenerate nature; but it imparts another and a superadded nature—it implants a new and an antagonistic principle. This new nature is divine; this new principle is holy: and thus the believer becomes the subject of two natures, and his soul a battlefield, upon which a perpetual conflict is going on between the law of the members and the law of the mind; often resulting in his temporary captivity to the law of sin which is in his members. Thus every spiritual mind is painfully conscious of the earthly tendency of his evil nature, and that from the flesh he can derive no sympathy or help, but rather everything that discourages, encumbers, and retards his spirit in its breathings and strugglings after holiness. A mournful sense of the seductive power of earthly things enters deeply into this state of mind. As we bear about with us, in every step, an earthly nature, it is not surprising that its affinities and sympathies should be earthly; that earthly objects should possess a magnetic influence, perpetually attracting to themselves whatever is congenial with their own nature in the soul of the renewed man. Our homeward path lies through a world captivating and ensnaring. The world, chameleon-like, can assume any color, and, Proteus-like, any shape, suitable to its purpose and answerable to its end. There is not a mind, a conscience, or a taste, to which it cannot accommodate itself. For the gross, it has sensual pleasures; for the refined, it has polished enjoyments; for the thoughtful, it has intellectual delights; for the enterprising, it has bold, magnificent schemes. The child of God feels this engrossing power; he is conscious of this seductive influence.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Precious and precarious

Consider the following quote from John Piper's book, God is the Gospel:

All the enticements to God that are not God are precious and precarious. They can lead us to God or lure us to themselves. They may be food or marriage or church or miracles. All of these blessings bring love letters from God. But unless we stress continually that God himself is the gospel, people will fall in love with the mailman—whether his name is forgiveness of sins or eternal life or heaven or ministry or miracles or family or food. (143)


To drive home what Piper is suggesting, imagine a young lady who receives a Christmas gift from her fiancee who is temporarily out of the country. It is a beautiful gift that should indicate to the young lady how much her husband-to-be loves her. But in receiving this gift, the lady becomes captivated and falls in love with the gift. The gift becomes the foremost affection in her heart; she loves this present. Instead of seeing the gift as a token of her fiancee's love, and thus having her become more enthralled with him, she allows the gift to replace him in her heart.

Sounds crazy, doesn't it?

But, I think Piper is right in that, at least on a small scale, we do that all the time with God. We become enamoured with the gift instead of the Gift-giver. We 'seek first' the secondary things, and relegate the Primary One to a position of secondary importance.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Machen

"... the Christian movement at its inception was not just a way of life in the modern sense, but a way of life founded upon a message. It was based, not upon mere feeling, not upon a mere program of work, but upon an account of facts. In other words it was based upon doctrine."

So wrote J. Gresham Machen in his classic Christianity and Liberalism. I have long-intended to read this book and in the closing month of the year I have finally begun. So far, it is excellent. Machen is a concise writer; he doesn't waste words or take the long way around to get to a point. I enjoy this type of writing. Following are a few more quotes from the first chapter.

"
It is perfectly conceivable that the originators of the Christian movement had no right to legislate for subsequent generations. But at any rate they did have an inalienable right to legislate for all generations that should choose to bear the name of "Christian." "

"
What is it that forms the content of that primitive teaching? Is it a general principle of the fatherliness of God or the brotherliness of man? Is it a vague admiration for the character of Jesus such as that which prevails in the modern Church? Nothing could be further from the fact. "Christ died for our sins," said the primitive disciples, "according to the Scriptures; he was buried; he has been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." From the beginning, the Christian gospel, as indeed the name "gospel" or "good news" implies, consisted in an account of something that had happened. And from the beginning, the meaning of the happening was set forth; and when the meaning of the happening was set forth then there was Christian doctrine. "Christ died"--that is history; "Christ died for our sins"--that is doctrine. Without these two elements, joined in an absolutely indissoluble union, there is no Christianity."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

God's glory post fall

From John Piper:
... God went beyond the revelation of his glory in nature and in man by working redemptively in the material world after the fall. This was not just to recover for man the lost vision of God, but to reveal in the gospel vastly more of his glory than could have ever been known without the fall and the history of redemption. (Piper, John. God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. Print. 139)

From John Owen (quoted by Piper):
The revelation made of Christ in the blessed Gospel is far more excellent, more glorious, and more filled with rays of divine wisdom and goodness, than the whole creation and the just comprehension of it, if attainable, can contain or afford. Without the knowledge hereof, the mind of man, however priding itself in other inventions and discoveries, is wrapped up in darkness and confusion. (Piper, John. God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. Print.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

No great matter

“To be sovereign of the universe is no great matter to God.”

C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York, 1960), pages 175-176.

HT: Ray Ortlund

Friday, December 3, 2010

Where is the Savior


Where are the French Encyclopedists—the men of deep learning and brilliant genius, of moving eloquence, caustic wit, and untiring energy, who banded themselves together with a vow to exterminate Christ and Christianity? Where is the eloquent Rosseau, the witty Voltaire, the ingenious Helvetius, the sophistical Hume, the scoffing D’Alembert, and the ribaldist Paine? Their names have rotted from the earth, and their works follow them. And where is the Savior, whom they sought to annihilate? Enthroned in glory, robed in majesty, and exalted a Prince and a Savior, encircled, worshiped, and adored by countless myriads of holy beings, the crown of Deity on His head, and the scepter of universal government in His hand, from whose tribunal they have passed, tried, sentenced, and condemned, while He yet lives, "to guard His Church and crush His foes." - Octavius Winslow, Morning Thoughts for November 29

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What is God's greatest pleasure?

What is the preeminent passion of God's heart? What is God's greatest pleasure? How does the happiness of God manifest itself? In what does God take supreme delight? I want to suggest that the preeminent passion in God's heart is His own glory. God is at the center of his own affections. The supreme love of God's life is God. God is preeminently committed to the fame of His name. God is Himself the end for which God created the world. Better still, God's immediate goal in all He does is His own glory.

God relentlessly and unceasingly creates, rules, orders, directs, speaks, judges, saves, destroys, and delivers in order to make known who He is and to secure from the whole of the universe the praise, honor, and glory of which He and He alone is ultimately and infinitely worthy.

(Storms, C. Samuel. Pleasures Evermore: the Life-changing Power of Enjoying God. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2000. Print. 82)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Winter ...


Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season, and if it be upon thee just now it will be very painful to thee: but there is this comfort, namely, that the Lord makes it. He sends the sharp blasts of adversity to nip the buds of expectation: He scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes over the once verdant meadows of our joy: He casteth forth His ice like morsels freezing the streams of our delight. He does it all, He is the great Winter King, and rules in the realms of frost, and therefore thou canst not murmur. Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills, are of the Lord's sending, and come to us with wise design. Frosts kill noxious insects, and put a bound to raging diseases; they break up the clods, and sweeten the soul. O that such good results would always follow our winters of affliction!

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The master-work of Jehovah

From Morning Thoughts by Octavius Winslow:

NOVEMBER 29.

"But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of men, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." Galatians 1:11, 12

THE great and distinctive truth thus so broadly, emphatically, and impressively stated is the divinity of the gospel—a truth, in the firm and practical belief of which the Church of God needs to be established. The gospel is the master-work of Jehovah, presenting the greatest display of His manifold wisdom, and the most costly exhibition of the riches of His grace. In constructing it He would seem to have summoned to His aid all the resources of His own infinity; His fathomless mind, His boundless love, His illimitable grace, His infinite power, His spotless holiness—all contributed their glory, and conspired to present it to the universe as the most consummate piece of Divine workmanship. It carries with it its own evidence. The revelations it makes, the facts it records, the doctrines it propounds, the effects is produces, speak it to be no "cunningly devised fable," of human invention and fraud, but what it truly is, the "revelation of Jesus Christ," the "glorious gospel of the blessed God." What but a heart of infinite love could have conceived the desire of saving sinners? And by what but an infinite mind could the expedient have been devised of saving them in such a way—the incarnation, obedience, and death of His own beloved Son? Salvation from first to last is of the Lord.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Grounds for contrition

The implication of this truth for preaching the gospel is that God himself must be shown as the ultimate good news of the gospel. If people are not awakened to the preciousness of God and the beauty of his glory in the face of Christ, the sorrow of their contrition will not be owing to their failure to cherish God and prize his glory. It will be owing to the fear of hell, or the foolishness of their former behavior, or the waste of their lives. But none of these grounds for contrition, by themselves, is an honor to God. (Piper, John. God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. Print.109)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A sense of glory of the Divine Being

From the diaries of Jonathan Edwards:
The first that I remember that ever I found any thing of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things, that I have lived much in since, was on reading those words, 1 Tim. 1:17, “Now unto the king eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever, Amen.” As I read the words, there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused thro’ it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before. Never any words of scripture seemed to me as these words did. I thought with myself, how excellent a being that was; and how happy I should be, if I might enjoy that God, and be wrapped up to God in Heaven, and be as it were swallowed up in Him. I kept saying, and as it were singing over these words of scripture to myself; and went to prayer, to pray to God that I might enjoy Him; and prayed in a manner quite different from what I used to do; with a new sort of affection?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Busy day today...

Preparing to preach tomorrow.

I'd appreciate any prayers!

I'll be preaching a sermon entitled "Just Jesus: Sanctifier".

It comes from 2 Corinthians 3:18 and follows some thoughts I first came across in John Piper's book God is the Gospel and Sam Storms' book Pleasures Evermore.

I'll post up a link to it once it goes up on our church website.

Friday, November 26, 2010

What matters ...

I liked this post by Dane Ortlund:

Make up Your Mind about What Matters

I recently asked four brothers: What would you rather have--

One billion dollars deposited into your checking account when you roll out of bed in the morning

or

the assurance of Isaiah 43: 'But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you."'

Which one?

One billion dollars, or those two verses?

Remember, you can do a lot of good with a billion dollars.

As for me, if you told me that you were going to deposit that money in my account tomorrow, and I knew you were being truthful, and in return those two verses are going to be cut out of my Bible and wiped from my memory, while I could retain the remaining 99.99% of the Bible, I respond: no thank you.

Keep your money.

I want the real thing.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Beholding is becoming ... more from Storms

It has been a busy week as far as preparation goes. I have been preparing for a teaching on the existence of God for the Christian fellowship group at the high school I teach at. I have been preparing a small group lesson on "Who is Christ?". And finally, I have been preparing a sermon on "Jesus Our Sanctifier" for this coming Sunday.

For Sunday's sermon, the key text is 2 Corinthians 3:18 which is as follows, "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." (ESV)

The main idea of Jesus as our Sanctifier that I will put forth is the idea that "beholding is becoming". This is a foundational approach of Christian Hedonism as propounded by Jonathan Edwards, John Piper, and Sam Storms.

In his book Pleasures Evermore, Sam Storms presents this idea in many ways. here is one of them:
THE KEY TO HOLINESS, ONCE AGAIN, IS FALLING IN LOVE WITH Jesus. By “falling in love” I don’t mean mindless mush. I have in mind having in one ’s mind a passionate delight in the infinite excellencies of God in Christ. Falling in love with Jesus means having your heart and mind entranced, bedazzled, and captivated by the superlative beauty and sweetness of the Son of God. (81)
This is the beholding, a mindful delight in our awesome Saviour which causes our affections to rise in response, that will lead to our becoming like Christ.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The happiness of God

As I woke this morning, tired and sore, tired from getting to be after midnight and sore from an hour and a half of pick-up hockey, I fought to clear my mind and focus my energies on waking up. I began to prepare my mind for a day of work; always tougher after playing hockey the night before. I had some coffee, oatmeal, and toast, and sat down to get a post up on the blog. I opened God Is The Gospel to find something I uplifting and edifying. In the pre-dawn stupor and fogginess of my mind, I read this:
Imagine being able to enjoy what is infinitely enjoyable with
unbounded energy and passion forever.(102)
Considering my mental and physical state, this statement grabbed my attention. My, that type of enjoyment does sound wonderful. In this chapter of his book, Piper explains one of the grounds for God's joy and happiness:
The happiness of God is first and foremost a happiness in his Son. Thus when we share in the happiness of God, we share in the very pleasure that the Father has in the Son. Ultimately this is what makes the gospel good news. It opens the way for us to see and savor the glory of Christ. And when we reach that ultimate goal we will find ourselves savoring the Son with the very happiness that the Father has in the Son. (101)
This is Piper's starting point for the joy he asks us to imagine in the statement that caught my attention this morning. Infinite enjoyment and pleasure and happiness is only possible if the object of that joy is infinite, namely, Jesus Christ. Even in my morning grogginess of brain and body that sounds enticing. Piper goes on,
If God’s pleasure in the Son becomes our pleasure, then the object of our pleasure, Jesus, will be inexhaustible in personal worth. He will never become boring or disappointing or frustrating. No greater treasure can be conceived than the very Son of God. Moreover, our ability to savor this inexhaustible treasure will not be limited by human weaknesses. We will enjoy the Son of God with the very enjoyment of his omnipotently happy Father. God’s delight in his Son will be in us, and it will be ours. And this will never end, because neither the Father nor the Son ever ends. Their love for each other will be our love for them, and therefore our loving them will never die.

This is the ultimate reason why the gospel is good news. If this does not come true for Christ’s people, there is no good news. Therefore, preaching the good news must endeavor to lead people to this. We must make plain to people that if their hope stops short of seeing and savoring the glory of God in Christ, they are not fixing their hearts on the main thing and the best thing Christ died to accomplish—seeing and savoring the glory of God in the face of Christ with everlasting and ever-increasing joy. (102)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Beholding is becoming

One of the powerful truths in John Piper's book God Is The Gospel (Piper, John. God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. Print.) is "beholding is becoming." As we behold the glory of the gospel of Christ, hence Christ Himself, we are transformed. The main Scripture Piper uses in discussing this is 2 Corinthians 3:18 which reads, "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."

Piper explains,
We are transformed into Christ’s image—that’s what sanctification is—by steadfast seeing and savoring of the glory of Christ. This too is from the Lord who is the Spirit. This is the work of the Spirit: to shine the light of truth on the glory of Christ so that we see it for what it really is, namely, infinitely precious. The work of the Holy Spirit in changing us is not to work directly on our bad habits but to make us admire Jesus Christ so much that sinful habits feel foreign and distasteful. (91-2)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Storms on Christian Hedonism

In Pleasures Evermore, Sam Storms offers a summation gleaned from John Piper's book, The Pleasures of God, on Christian Hedonism:
  1. The longing to be happy is a universal human experience, and it is good, not sinful.
  2. We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. Instead we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction.
  3. The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only in God. Not from God, but in God.
  4. The happiness we find in God reaches its consummation when it is shared with others in the manifold Ways of love.
  5. To the extent We try to abandon the pursuit of our own pleasure, We fail to honor God and love people. Or, to put it positively: the pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue. That is, the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A few blog posts

Here are two posts I came across on different blogs that I thought were particularly good:

From Miscellanies,

Extrabiblical Books and Scripture’s Sufficiency

Without extrabiblical literature we cannot make use of the Bible, argues John Frame. He makes this point in a chapter on the sufficiency of scripture (ch 32) in his new book, The Doctrine of the Word of God (P&R, 2010), 220–238. On pages 232–233, Frame writes this of our need of extrabiblical books in order to properly apply Scripture to our lives:

All our use of Scripture depends on our knowledge of extrabiblical data. Scripture contains no lessons in Hebrew or Greek grammar. To learn that, we must study extrabiblical information. Similarly, the other means that enable us to use Scripture, such as textual criticism, text editing, translation, publication, teaching, preaching, concordances, and commentaries, all depend on extrabiblical data. So in one sense even the first premises of moral syllogisms, the normative premises, depend on extrabiblical knowledge. So without extrabiblical premises, without general revelation, we cannot use Scripture at all.

Then he writes:

None of those considerations detracts from the primacy of Scripture as we have described it. Once we have a settled conviction of what Scripture teaches, that conviction must prevail over all other sources of knowledge. So Scripture must govern even the sciences that are used to analyze it: textual criticism, hermeneutics, and so on. … Scripture must remain primary. …

Frame’s argument culminates here:

Certainly, it is a misunderstanding, then, to think that the sufficiency of Scripture rules out the necessity of extrabiblical information. At every stage of our use of Scripture, we should legitimately refer both to the content of Scripture and to extrabiblical revelation. But each in its proper place: when we are convinced that a teaching is the teaching of Scripture itself (even when we used extrabiblical information in reaching that conviction), that teaching must take precedence over any conclusion derived from outside Scripture.


And from The Resurgence,

The Six-Second Kiss

Jani Ortlund

Marriage

What can six seconds do for you? Woman to woman, let me encourage you that just six seconds a day can help safeguard your marriage.

How you say goodbye as you and your husband begin your day can help you build a lifelong romance. Ray and I say send each other off each morning with a six-second kiss, and after 39 years of marriage, I highly recommend it!

After years of a quick shout from somewhere near the back door, it started with “Goodbye, honey. See you tonight . . .” which left us both wanting more. It stopped when we decided that before we went out to face our day we would scout the other out, wrap each other up in a warm embrace, and begin our day with an intimate, very married, six-second kiss.

Try it. Tomorrow when you say goodbye, take your husband’s face in your hands. Look deeply into his eyes. Ask him to hold you for just six seconds. Tell him you love him. Admire him. Tell him you can’t wait until the day is done and you’ll have time together again, and then kiss him like you mean it.

Go ahead. Try it! Your young children will grow up feeling secure in the love between their parents. Your adolescents will blush, groan, and hope their friends don’t see you. Your teens will hope that someday they can build a marriage like their parents. And if there are no children around? Hmmmm, now there’s an interesting situation!

“Scarcely had I passed them when I found him whom my soul loves. I held him and would not let him go . . .” Song of Solomon 3:4

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Such is the glory of Christ

The spiritual beauty of Christ is Christ-in-action

Christ loving,

and Christ touching lepers,

and Christ blessing children,

and healing the crippled,

and raising the dead,

and commanding demons,

and teaching with unrivaled authority,

and silencing the skeptics,

and rebuking his disciples,

and predicting the details of his death,

and setting his face like flint toward Jerusalem,

and weeping over the city,

and silent before his accusers,

and meekly sovereign over Pilate,

and crucified, and praying for his enemies,

and forgiving a thief,

and caring for his mother while in agony,

and giving up his spirit in death,

and rising from the dead—

“No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18).

Such is the glory of Christ.


(Piper, John. God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. Print. 66. line breaks mine)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Castor oil or honey

Every syllable of every statute, every clause of every commandment that ever proceeded from the mouth of God was divinely designed to bring those who would obey into the greatest imaginable happiness of heart. Don't swallow God's law like castor oil. For when you understand His intent, it will be like honey on your lips and sweetness to your soul. (Storms, C. Samuel. Pleasures Evermore: the Life-changing Power of Enjoying God. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2000. Print. 75)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The goal of the gospel

John Piper, in his wonderful book God Is The Gospel, declares that the glory of the gospel is not raw power, but rather it is the "divine beauty of his manifold perfections. And thus, seeing the glory is not something that one can be forced or coerced into. If one is to see the glory of the gospel, one must have a change of heart.
The natural self-centered condition of human hearts cannot believe, because they cannot see spiritual beauty. It is not a physical inability, as though they can’t act even if they have a compelling desire to act. It is a moral inability because they are so self-absorbed, they are unable to see what would condemn their pride and give them joy through admiring another. That is why seeing the glory of Christ requires a profound spiritual change. (54)
Piper goes on to explain that the goal of the glory-filled gospel is "the display of God’s glory and the removal of every obstacle to our seeing it and savoring it as our highest treasure."
The ultimate good of the gospel is seeing and savoring the beauty and value of God. God’s wrath and our sin obstruct that vision and that pleasure. You can’t see and savor God as supremely satisfying while you are full of rebellion against him and he is full of wrath against you. The removal of this wrath and this rebellion is what the gospel is for. The ultimate aim of the gospel is the display of God’s glory and the removal of every obstacle to our seeing it and savoring it as our highest treasure. “Behold your God!” is the most gracious command and best gift of the gospel. If we do not see him and savor him as our greatest fortune, we have not obeyed or believed the gospel. (56)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

We admire Him

His glory, in his first coming, was the incomparably exquisite array of spiritual, moral, intellectual, verbal, and practical perfections that manifest themselves in a kind of meek miracle-working and unanswerable teaching and humble action that set Jesus apart from all men ... the glory of Christ, as he appeared among us, consisted not in one attribute or another, and not in one act or another, but in what Jonathan Edwards called “an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies” ... In other words,
• we admire him for his glory, but even more because his glory
is mingled with humility;
• we admire him for his transcendence, but even more because
his transcendence is accompanied by condescension;
• we admire him for his uncompromising justice, but even more
because it is tempered with mercy;
• we admire him for his majesty, but even more because it is a
majesty in meekness;
• we admire him because of his equality with God, but even
more because as God’s equal he nevertheless has a deep reverence
for God;
• we admire him because of how worthy he was of all good, but
even more because this was accompanied by an amazing
patience to suffer evil;
• we admire him because of his sovereign dominion over the
world, but even more because this dominion was clothed with
a spirit of obedience and submission;
• we love the way he stumped the proud scribes with his wisdom,
and we love it even more because he could be simple
enough to like children and spend time with them;
• and we admire him because he could still the storm, but even
more because he refused to use that power to strike the
Samaritans with lightning (Luke 9:54-55) and he refused to use
it to get himself down from the cross.
(Piper, John. God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. Print. 51-3)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Providence in reading

For the past while I have been incorporating 2 devotional writings into my morning prayer and reading time. I have been using Octavius Winslow's Morning Thoughts and Charles Spurgeon's Morning by Morning. You can access both of these online: Morning Thoughts, Morning by Morning.

This morning's writing by Spurgeon was particularly timely for me. It touched upon to concepts that I am currently reading about. The first idea is that of Christian Hedonism and I have been reflecting on that topic as I read Pleasures Evermore by Sam Storms. Spurgeon writes, "Well may we "delight ourselves in the Lord" who makes us to drink of the river of His pleasures."

Spurgeon also raises the main point that is the focus of a book by John Piper that I am also currently reading: God Is The Gospel. The following shares the theme of Piper's book: "It is not "The Lord is partly my portion," nor "The Lord is in my portion"; but He Himself makes up the sum total of my soul's inheritance. Within the circumference of that circle lies all that we possess or desire." God Is The Gospel is about God being the end of the gospel; that is, the gospel is 'good news' because it brings us to God. Anything short of God Himself is not the chief end of the gospel.

It is always exciting and encouraging when providence orchestrates 'coincidences' like these in our lives. He sees the sparrow fall, and He sees the books you are studying and the devotionals you are reading and blesses you as they coalesce at certain points. God is good.

I encourage you to consider readying both the devotionals mentioned above. I also strongly recommend both books.

Monday, November 15, 2010

His by conquest

According to Charles Spurgeon in this devotional, we are Christ's in three ways. First by His sovereign choice,; second, by his purchase of us by the paying of our debt; and thirdly, as I have shared here, we are His by conquest.

How are they His? By His own sovereign choice ... by purchase ... They are also His by conquest. What a battle He had in us before we would be won! How long He laid siege to our hearts! How often He sent us terms of capitulation! but we barred our gates, and fenced our walls against Him. Do we not remember that glorious hour when He carried our hearts by storm? When He placed His cross against the wall, and scaled our ramparts, planting on our strongholds the blood-red flag of His omnipotent mercy? Yes, we are, indeed, the conquered captives of His omnipotent love. Thus chosen, purchased, and subdued, the rights of our divine possessor are inalienable: we rejoice that we never can be our own; and we desire, day by day, to do His will, and to show forth His glory.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Get to God

From God is the Gospel:


My point in this book is that all the saving events and all the saving blessings of the gospel are means of getting obstacles out of the way so that we might know and enjoy God most fully.

Propitiation,
redemption,
forgiveness,
imputation,
sanctification,
liberation,
healing,
heaven—none of these is good news except for one reason: they bring us to God for our everlasting enjoyment of him.

If we believe all these things have happened to us, but do not embrace them for
the sake of getting to God,
they have not happened to us.

Christ did not die to forgive sinners who go on treasuring anything above seeing and savoring God.

And people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. It’s a way of overcoming every obstacle to everlasting joy in God.

If we don’t want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel.


(Piper, John. God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. Print. 47. line breaks mine)

Spurious humility

"Avoid a spurious humility. True humility consists not in denying the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, in under-rating the grace of God in our souls, in standing afar off from our heavenly Father, and in walking at a distance from Christ, always doubting the efficacy of His blood, the freeness of His salvation, the willingness of His heart, and the greatness of His power to save. Oh no! this is not the humility that God delights to look at, but is a false, a counterfeit humility, obnoxious in His sight. But to "draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith," in lowly dependence upon His blood and righteousness; to accept of salvation as the gift of His grace; to believe the promise because He has spoken it; gratefully and humbly to acknowledge our calling, our adoption, and our acceptance, and to live in the holy, transforming influence of this exalted state, giving to a Triune God all the praise and glory; this is the humility which is most pleasing to God, and is the true product of the Holy Spirit." - Octavius Winslow

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Universal art gallery

God has, as it were, placed Himself on display in the art gallery of the universe. He beckons His people, you and me, to stand in awe as we behold the symmetry of His attributes, the harmony of His deeds, the glory of His goodness, the overwhelming and unfathomable grandeur of His greatness; in a word, His beauty. God is infinitely splendid and invites us to come to bask in His beauty that we might enjoy Him to the fullest. (Storms, C. Samuel. Pleasures Evermore: the Life-changing Power of Enjoying God. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2000. Print. 54)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sin, holiness, the cross

From Octavius Winslow's Morning Thoughts for November 11, 2010:

"But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Galatians 6:14

CONFORMITY to the death of Christ can only be obtained by close, individual, realizing views of the cross. It is in the cross sin is seen in its exceeding sinfulness. It is in the cross the holiness of God shines with such ineffable luster. This is the sun that throws its light upon these two great objects—the holiness of God, the sinfulness of the sinner. Veil this sun, remove the cross, blot out the Atonement, and all our knowledge of holiness and sin vanishes into distant and shadowy views.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

ESV

From Justin Taylor's blog:

The ESV

Most readers of this blog know that I’m a fan of the ESV (English Standard Version) of the Bible. Here’s a new video from Crossway from various leaders explaining why they trust and appreciate this translation:









Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Gem from TPW

Here is a great post, and awesome photo, from The Puritan's Woodshop:

God Is Just And He Ordains Evil


His justice cannot be impeached, because he infuseth no evil, enforceth to no evil, only ordaineth what shall be; his goodness cannot be impeached for suffering things which he can turn to such advantage for his own glory and the creature’s good. And, therefore, as the sun shineth upon a dunghill without having his beams polluted by it, so God’s ordination taketh in the sin of the creatures without any blemish to itself. God’s decrees are immanent in himself, working nothing that is evil in the creatures. Other things might be said, but I would not perplex the matter.


-Thomas Manton; works, volume 3, page 374

Monday, November 8, 2010

Boredom - contrary to how God made us

We are thrill seekers and pleasure pursuers; that's how God made us. And we will pursue pleasure. The only question is where it will be found and how this desire will be satisfied. Boredom will not suffice. We need to purposefully pursue pleasure in God or boredom will eventually end up with us recklessly realizing our relish of pleasure in the deceitful destination of debauchery or being summoned by the scintillating siren's song of sin. Consider the following quote by Sam Storms from his book Pleasures Evermore (Storms, C. Samuel. Pleasures Evermore: the Life-changing Power of Enjoying God. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2000. Print)


"... one of the most serious threats to the human spirit is boredom. Boredom is the breeding ground for wickedness. Bored people are easy targets of the flesh and the Devil. It is like putting a bull ’s-eye on your chest with a sign: “Tempt me. I’m easy!” Why? Because boredom is contrary to the natural, God-given impulse for fascination, excitement, pleasure, and exhilaration. There are only three possible reactions to boredom:

  • You wither and die emotionally.
  • You wither and die physically (suicide).
  • You madly rush to whatever extreme and extravagant thrill you can find to replace your misery with pleasure, whether it be pornography, adultery, drugs, or fantasies of fame and power.

This is why people are so prone to an addictive lifestyle. Many people who fall into sinful addictions are people who were once terminally bored. The reason why addictions are so powerful is that they tap into that place in our hearts that was made for transcendent communion and spiritual romance. These addictive habits either dull and deaden our yearnings for a .satisfaction we fear we’ll never find or they provide an alternative counterfeit fulfillment that we think will bring long-term happiness, counterfeits like cocaine, overeating, illicit affairs, busyness, efficiency, image, or obsession with physical beauty. They all find their power in the inescapable yearning of the human heart to be fascinated and pleased and enthralled. Our hearts will invariably lead us either to the fleeting pleasures of addiction or to God." (51)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Gospel Doctrine Matters

Gospel doctrine matters because the good news is so full and rich and wonderful that it must be opened like a treasure chest, and all its treasures brought out for the enjoyment of the world.

Doctrine is the description of these treasures.

Doctrine describes their true value and why they are so valuable.

Doctrine guards the diamonds of the gospel from being discarded as mere crystals.

Doctrine protects the treasures of the gospel from the pirates who don’t like the diamonds but who make their living trading them for other stones.

Doctrine polishes the old gems buried at the bottom of the chest.

It puts the jewels of gospel truth in order on the scarlet tapestry of history so each is seen in its most beautiful place ...

The gospel is not mainly about being explained. Explanation is necessary, but it is not primary. A love letter must be intelligible, but grammar and logic are not the point. Love is the point. The gospel is good news. Doctrine serves that. It serves the one whose feet are bruised (and beautiful!) from walking to the unreached places with news: “Come, listen to the news of God! Listen to what God has done! Listen! Understand! Bow! Believe!” (Piper, John.
God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. Print. 22. line breaks mine)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Christian Hedonism ... more thoughts

"Your will is energized based on your belief that one pleasure (whether immediate or long-term) is better than others ... Satan isn't responsible for this. God is. God made you this way so that you would choose Him and His soul-satisfying pleasures in lieu of those that pass with the using and ultimately leave you empty and miserable. The alternative to resisting the passing pleasures of sin isn't religious misery but relishing the permanent pleasures of God." (Storms, C. Samuel. Pleasures Evermore: the Life-changing Power of Enjoying God. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2000. Print. 38)

So, assuming that we agree that we choose options based on pleasure-what makes us happiest is always what we will choose-one question that we are left with is do we believe that the ultimate pleasure and happiness can only be found in God.

Pascal addressed the assumption above saying "All men seek happiness, This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves."

So, with that in mind, do I believe the following: If I will pursue lasting and ultimate pleasure I will invariably choose God. This is a key concept in Christian Hedonism.

This leads to the the final statement in the Storms' quote above which suggests that the key to resisting sin is not primarily suppression of desire but rather finding desire's fulfillment in the only source of true pleasure and happiness. This is, along with several concepts of Christian Hedonism, significantly different from much teaching we get about battling sin.

Give it some thought.