Sunday, January 31, 2010

F. B. Meyer and Keith Green

This quote by F. B. Meyer,

"In every sermon there should be a stained-glass window, through which the light should enter, dyed and saturated with the glow of colour."

Reminded me of this Keith Green song:

Stained Glass

We are like windows
Stained with colors of the rainbow
Set in a darkened room
Till the bridegroom comes to shining through

Then the colors fall around our feet
Over those we meet
Covering all the gray that we see
Rainbow colors of assorted hues
Come exchange your blues
For His love that you see shining through me

We are His daughters and sons
We are the colorful ones
We are the kids of the King
Rejoice in everything

My colors grow so dim
When I start to fall away from Him
But up comes the strongest wind
That He sends to blow me back into his arms again

And then the colors fall around my feet
Over those I meet
Changing all the gray that I see
Rainbow colors of the Risen Son
Reflect the One
The One who came to set us all free

We are His daughters and sons
We are the colorful ones
We are the kids of the King
Rejoice in everything

We are like windows
Stained with colors of the rainbow
No longer set in a darkened room
Cause the bridegroom wants to shine from you

No longer set in a darkened room
Cause the bridegroom wants to shine from you

Care for a listen:

Quotes from Expository Preaching Plans and Methods

Here are a few quotes from F. B. Meyers book entitled Expository Preaching Plans and Methods (Meyer, F. B. Expository Preaching Plans and Methods. London: Hodder and Stoughton. 1910) They come from the first chapter; A Plea for the Expository Method.

"THE one supreme object of the Christian ministry is to preach Christ, and Him crucified." (3)

"Our ministry also must be cruciform. The thought that our Master was crucified must never be far from our thoughts. Not primarily as teacher, prophet, wonder-worker, or social reformer, but as having been slain from before the foundations of the everlasting hills ! Christ, and Him crucified," the apostle said." (4)

"All the great churches of Europe are cruciform, and all our living and preaching must bear witness, first of all, to that which we also have received, "how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures."" (4)

"Similarly, in preaching, there are two, not one, in every pulpit where the true ideal is realized." (6)

"The ministry, therefore, which is most carefully based on Scripture and honours Scripture and saturates itself with Scripture is the ministry which the Spirit of Truth can cooperate with in the most perfect abandonment." (12-3)

"All we are advancing now is, that the more carefully we keep to Scripture, the more
of Scripture there is in our sermons, the more we deal with the whole tenor of the Word of God, the more probable it is that we shall supply the Holy Spirit with those arrows which He knows so well how to use, launching them into the hearts of sinners for their conviction, and the more we shall supply Him with the pure milk of the Word for the feeding of babes and the strong meat for the upbuilding of mature character." (13)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Packer on Evangelistic Sermons

From Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God:

It is a mistake to suppose that evangelistic sermons are a special brand of sermons, having their own peculiar style and conventions; evangelistic sermons are just scriptural sermons, the sort of sermons that a man cannot help preaching if he is preaching the Bible biblically. Proper sermons seek to expound and apply what is in the Bible. But what is in the Bible is just the whole counsel of God for man's salvation; all Scripture bears witness, in one way or another, to Christ, and all biblical themes relate to him. All proper sermons, therefore, will of necessity declare Christ in some fashion and so be more or less directly evangelistic. Some sermons, of course, will aim more narrowly and exclusively at converting sinners than do others. But you cannot present the Lord Jesus Christ as the Bible presents him, as God's answer to every problem in the sinner's relationship with himself, and not be in effect evangelistic all the time.

Fee comments on Philippians 1:3-8

Philippians 1:3-8
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,
always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,
because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
And I am sure of this,
that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

It is right for me to feel this way about you all,
because I hold you in my heart,
for you are all partakers with me of grace,
both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

For God is my witness,
how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

From Paul's Letter to the Philippians (Fee, Gordon D. Paul's Letter to the Philippians. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1995. 173) by Gordon Fee:

That Paul is not an academic, but a passionate lover of Christ Jesus, is made plain by the deep and uninhibited expressions of affection that permeate this thanksgiving, since academics tend to be embarrassed by such displays! But there is much here to be learned by those on the church who have pastoral care of any kind, including that of parents for their children. The emotion, after all, in Paul's case is simply the outflow of his theology and the spirituality that issues from such theology. The theology has to do with the gospel, which has God as its source and sustainer. Whatever else, those whom we love in Christ first of all belong to God. God has begun the "good work" in them that he has committed himself to concluding with eschatalogical glory. That "good work" is the result of "the affection of Christ Jesus," through whom God has brought about this "good news" on behalf of his people." (95)

Friday, January 29, 2010

From Faust by Goethe

From The First Part of the Tragedy

Chorus of Disciples.
Though He, victorious,
From the grave's prison,
Living and glorious,
Nobly has risen,
Though He, in bliss of birth,
Creative Joy is near,
Ah! on the breast of earth
We are to suffer here.
He left His very Own
Pining for Him we miss;
Ah! we bemoan,
Master, Thy bliss!
Chorus of Angels.
Christ is arisen
Out of Corruption's womb!
Burst bonds that prison,
Joy over the tomb!
Actively pleading Him,
Showing love, heeding Him,
Brotherly feeding Him,
Preaching, far speeding Him,
Rapture succeeding Him,
To you the Master's near,
To you is here!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Understanding the Gospel

From Timothy Keller's The Reason for God:

"When my own personal grasp of the gospel was very weak, my self-view swung wildly between two poles. When I was performing up to my standards--in academic work, professional achievement, or relationships--I felt confident but not humble. I was likely to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. When I was not living up to the standards, I felt humble but not confident, a failure. I discovered, however, that the gospel contained the resources to build a unique identity. In Christ I could know I was accepted by grace not only despite my flaws, but because I was willing to admit them. The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus has to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued and that Jesus was glad to die for me. The leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think myself less. I don't need to notice myself--how I'm doing, how I'm being regarded--so often."

Reading the Classics with Challies - Redemption Accomplished and Applied

Perseverance of the Saints

When I was a quasi-Arminian-semi-Pelagian, the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, or 'once saved always saved' as I referred to it, caused me no small amount of frustration. The clear Biblical teaching and simple logic that evidenced this great truth, and is an integral part of Murray's treatment of the order of salvation, was foreign to my way of thinking. As I look back on my ignorance, I can only be thankful that the Spirit of God helped me to see what I know consider the clearly obvious truth.

As with the rest of the book, Murray is concise and thorough in explaining and expounding this controversial doctrine. He begins like this: " In order to place the doctrine of perseverance in proper light we need to know what it is not. It does not mean that every one who professes faith in Christ and who is accepted as a believer in fellowship of the saints is secure for eternity and may entertain the assurance of eternal salvation." ((Murray, John. Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Boston: Wm. B. Eerdmans Company, 1984) The puritans would use an interesting term for those who professed Christ but were not regenerate; professors! In today's lingo we might call them 'posers'. Claiming one is a Christian and attending church does not assure on of eternal security. In fact, there is but crucial test according to Murray; "The crucial test of true faith is endurance to the end, abiding in Christ, and continuance in his word." (152)

According to Murray, this particular emphasis of Scripture should indicate two things: first, it provides one with the meaning of falling away, of apostasy; second it helps us appreciate the heights to which temporary faith may carry some. As to apostasy, the author writes, "It is possible to give all the outward signs of faith in Christ and obedience to him, to witness for a time a good confession and show great zeal for Christ and his kingdom and then lose all interest and become indifferent, if not hostile, to the claims of Christ and of his kingdom." (152)

Murray goes on to positively affirm what perseverance is. "The doctrine of perseverance is the doctrine that believers persevere; it cannot be too strongly stressed that it is the perseverance of the saints. And that means that the saints, those united to Christ by the effectual call of the Father and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, will persevere unto the end. If they persevere, they endure, they continue. " (154) This should be a clarion wake up call to all believers, for the saints must "recognize that we may entertain the faith of our security in Christ only as we persevere in faith and holiness to the end." (155)

And though the doctrine comes with warnings, it also comes with great assurances: "The guarantee of infallible preservation is that the persons given to the Son are in the Son's hand and though given to the Son they are still mysteriously in the Father's hand. From the hand of neither can anyone snatch them. This is the heritage of those given by the Father." (160)

Why John Piper writes

Here is John Piper explaining why he writes:

Why do I pursue writing in this way? There are other very important things to do. Here are the reasons that I am aware of, moving from general to specific.

1. I exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. Writing is one way of spreading this passion. God says I exist for his glory (Isaiah 43:7). Therefore, I write to make him look great.

2. I write to serve the church. Speaking the truth about important things is a good thing for the health of the church. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32). Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth (John 17:17). I pray that the church will be helped by what I write.

3. I learn most when I am writing. So since God commands me to grow in the knowledge and the grace of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18), it seems like a good method for me.

4. I find a good deal of pleasure in the craft of writing. Some people delight to paint. Others to sculpt. Others to remodel old furniture. Others to crochet and cross-stitch. I delight to make words effective in awakening passion for the sake of Christ-exalting truth.

5. I have been profoundly changed by reading books. So I know that God uses books to change people for his glory. I would like to see others experience some of the things I have experienced in seeing God through the eyes of others.

6. Finally, there is an inner impulse that I cannot explain that drives me to write. I would write if there were no possibility of publication. I have hundreds of pages that no one has ever seen but me, and it would not matter ultimately if they were destroyed. I wrote them not to be published but because there is an impulse from within.

He also shares some of his current writing projects:

  • First of all, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, which I wrote last year, is scheduled for publication in September and needs final editing. That will take some days.
  • Second, Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christians, which I also wrote last year, needs significant revision and will demand more work than Think to put it in a final form.
  • Third, Don Carson and I hope to turn our two talks on The Pastor as Theologian, and The Theologian as Pastor into one book. I need to expand my talk so that it’s worthy of being called half of a (small) book. We hope this will be useful and encouraging to many pastors.
  • The short piece I wrote the day before my surgery back in 2006, Don’t Waste Your Cancer, has proved surprisingly useful around the world. Crossway wants to put it in a small booklet. There are a few things that might make it better for that purpose.
  • Finally, after two books on the life-and-death doctrine of Justification (Counted Righteous in Christ and The Future of Justification), I have one more in mind. I will not finish it this year, but I would like to make a start. This Fall I am to lecture on justification at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society and serve on a panel with N.T. Wright. So I hope to combine forethought on that lecture with a start on the book.
See the whole article here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

God the Best Portion of the Christian - Jonathan Edwards

The last post I wrote on Altogether Lovely (Jonathan, Edwards. Altogether Lovely Jonathan Edwards on the glory and excellency of Jesus Christ. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997) considered Edwards' sermon entitled God The Best Portion Of The Christian. The sermon's first point was this;
  • A godly man prefers God before anything else in heaven.
Edwards' next point follows;
  • It is the temper of a godly man to prefer God before all other things on the earth.
Edwards 'fleshes out' his second point as follows;
  1. First, the saint prefers that enjoyment of God, for which he hopes hereafter, to anything in this world. "It is but a little of God that the saint enjoys in this world. He hath but a little acquaintance with God, and enjoys but a little of the manifestations of the divine glory and love. But God hath promised to give him Himself hereafter in a full enjoyment. And these promises are more precious to the saint, than the most precious earthly jewels. The gospel contains greater treasures, in his esteem, than the cabinets of princes, or the mines of the Indies."(5)
  2. Second, the saints prefer what of God may be obtained in this life before all things in the world. "There is a great difference in the present spiritual attainments of the saints. Some attain to much greater acquaintance and communion with God, and conformity to him, than others. But the highest attainments are very small in comparison with what is future. The saints are capable of making progress in spiritual attainments, and they earnestly desire such further attainments. Not contented with those degrees to which they have already attained, they hunger and thirst after righteousness, and, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby. It is their desire, to know more of God, to have more of his image, and to be enabled more to imitate God and Christ in their walk and conversation." (5-6)
  3. Third, the saint prefers what he hath already of God before anything in this world. "That which was infused into his heart at his conversion, it more precious to him than anything which the world can afford. The views which are sometimes given him of the beauty and excellency of God, are more precious to him than all the treasures of the wicked. The relation of a child in which he stands to God, the union which there is between his soul and Jesus Christ, he values more than the greatest earthly dignity. That image of God which is enstamped on his soul, he values more than any earthly ornaments. It is, in his esteem, better to be adorned with the graces of God’s Holy Spirit, than to be made to shine in jewels of gold, and the most costly pearls, or to be admired for the greatest external beauty. He values the robe of Christ’s righteousness, which he hath on his soul, more than the robes of princes." (7)

Piper on C. S. Lewis

From Don't Waste Your Life (Piper, John. Don't Waste Your Life. New York: Crossway, 2003)

"Someone introduced me to Lewis my freshman year with the book, Mere Christianity. For the next five or six years I was almost never without a Lewis book near at hand. I think that without his influence I would not have lived my life with as much joy or usefulness as I have. There are reasons for this.

He has made me wary of chronological snobbery. That is, he showed me that newness is no virtue and oldness is no vice. Truth and beauty and goodness are not determined by when they exist. Nothing is inferior for being old, and nothing is valuable for being modern. This has freed me from the tyranny of novelty and opened for me the wisdom of the ages. To this day I get most of my soul-food from centuries ago. I thank God for Lewis’s compelling demonstration of the obvious.

He demonstrated for me and convinced me that rigorous, precise, penetrating logic is not opposed to deep, soul-stirring feeling and vivid, lively—even playful—imagination. He was a “romantic rationalist.” He combined things that almost everybody today assumes are mutually exclusive: rationalism and poetry, cool logic and warm feeling, disciplined prose and free imagination. In shattering these old stereotypes, he freed me to think hard and to write poetry, to argue for the resurrection and compose hymns to Christ, to smash an argument and hug a friend, to demand a definition and use a metaphor." (19)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Edwards on God as our Portion

In the sermon entitled God The Best Portion Of The Christian, as presented in Altogether Lovely(Jonathan, Edwards. Altogether Lovely Jonathan Edwards on the glory and excellency of Jesus Christ. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997), Edwards addresses Psalm 72. Specifically, he considers verse 25 which reads "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee."

He begins by looking at the Psalm's author, Asaph, and taking into account what Asaph addresses in this writing: "In this psalm, the psalmist (Asaph) relates the great difficulty which existed in his own mind, from the consideration of the wicked." (1) Asaph was troubled by the apparent prosperity of the wicked as compared to the righteous. Edwards describes 3 ways the explain how Asaph dealt with this 'difficulty':
(1.) The consideration of the miserable end of wicked men. However they prosper for the present, yet they come to a woeful end at last, verses 18-20.
(2). The consideration of the blessed end of the saints. Although the saints, while they live, may be afflicted, yet they come to a happy end at last, verses 21-24.
(3.) The consideration, that the godly have much better portion than the wicked, even though they have no other portion but God; as in the text and following verse. Though the wicked are in prosperity, [they] are not in trouble as other men. (2)
Edwards moves from these considerations to this indicative: "That it is the spirit of a truly godly man, to prefer God before all other things, either in heaven or on earth." (2) And his first point with this in mind is related as follows:

A godly man prefers God before anything else in heaven. (2)

In an attempt to distinguish God above all things as the portion of the godly man, Edwards contrast God against even the blessedness of heaven. "Now, the main reason why the godly man hath his heart thus to heaven is because God is there; that is the palace of the Most High. It is the place where God is gloriously present, where his love is gloriously manifested, where the godly may be with him, see him as he is, and love, serve, praise, and enjoy him perfectly. If God and Christ were not in heaven, he would not be so earnest in seeking it, nor would he take so much pains in a laborious travel through this wilderness, nor would the consideration that he is going to heaven when he dies, be such a comfort to him under toils and afflictions."(3) Since Edwards has shown that the godly man prefers God over that which actually is in heaven, he finds it necessary to exalt God as the godly man's portion over anything that might be in heaven. "Not only is there nothing actually in heaven, which is in his esteem equal with God; but neither is there any of which he can conceive as possible to be there, which by him is esteemed and desired equally with God."(4)

Edwards finishes off this section with this: "Offer a saint what you will, [but] if you deny him God, he will esteem himself miserable. God is the center of his desires; and as long as you keep his soul from its proper center, it will not be at rest." (4)

Edwards' outlook, esteeming and relishing God above all things, is an encouragement and motivation to me; I am not like this. Reading such inspiring words helps me to desire such an approach. Even in this first small section of this sermon, I am compelled to seek God as my portion.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What won't we have with the new birth?

From John Piper's Finally Alive(Piper, John. Finally Alive. Minneapolis: Desiring God, 2009):

"What won’t we have without the new birth? First, negatively:
1. Without the new birth, we won’t have saving faith, but only unbelief (John :11–13; 1 John 5:1; Eph. 2:8–9; Phil. 1:29; 1 Tim. 1:14; 2 Tim. 1:3).
2. Without the new birth, we won’t have justification, but only condemnation (Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 2:17; Phil. 3:9).
3. Without the new birth, we won’t be the children of God, but the children of the devil (1 John 3:9–10).
4. Without the new birth, we won’t bear the fruit of love by the Holy Spirit but only the fruit of death (Rom. 6:20–21; 7:4–6; 15:16; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10; Gal. 5:6; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; 1 John 3:14).
5. Without the new birth, we won’t have eternal joy in fellowship with God, but only eternal misery with the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41; John 3:3; Rom. 6:23; Rev. 2:11; 20:15)." (60)

Piper goes on to state the positive of the 5 points from above:

"But I conclude here by saying them again, only this time positively and in the words of Scripture. Notice especially how each builds on the ones before.

  1. When God causes us to be born again, saving faith is awakened, and we are united to Christ. 1 John 5:1: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” Not will be born of God, but has been born of God. Our first faith is the flicker of life through the new birth.
  2. When the new birth awakens faith, and unites us to Christ, we are justified—that is, counted righteous—through that faith. Romans 5:1: “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” New birth awakens faith, and faith looks to Christ for righteousness, and God credits righteousness to us on the basis of Christ alone through faith alone.
  3. When new birth awakens faith and unites us to Christ, all the legal obstacles to our acceptance with God are removed We Are Willing Slaves to Sin and Satan through justification. So God adopts us into his family and conforms us to the image of his Son. John 1:12: “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” We are born again from God, not from the will of man, and we believe on Christ and receive him, and God makes us his legal heirs and spiritual children.
  4. When the new birth wakens faith and we are united to Christ, and all condemnation is replaced with justification and the Spirit of adoption moves into our lives, he produces the fruit of love. Galatians 5:6: “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” 1 John 3:14: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.” Where there is new birth, there is love.
  5. Finally, when the new birth wakens faith and unites us to Christ, who is our righteousness, and unleashes the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, we are on the narrow way that leads to heaven. And the pinnacle of heaven’s joys will be eternal fellowship with God. “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). The pinnacle of the joy of our new life is God himself.

This is what we will miss if we are not born again." (61-2)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Reading Together: Altogether Lovely

The four contributors of this blog (there our 4 contributors despite the lack of evidence for that claim, just look to the right side of this blog) have decided to, similar to last year, read a few books together. We are starting with Altogether Lovely (Jonathan, Edwards. Altogether lovely Jonathan Edwards on the glory and excellency of Jesus Christ. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997) . This is a collection of 9 sermons that focus on Jonathan Edwards' deep affection for the glory and excellency of Jesus Christ.

The four of us have often discussed the admiration the Edwards receives from some pastor/theologians/authors that we ourselves admire; John Piper and Sam Storms for example. R. C. Sproul wrote the forward for this book and his sentiments towards Edwards are similar. Speaking of Edwards, Sproul writes "...when we consider the sheer power of intellect, the native brilliance of mind, and the depth of ratiocination, three thinkers reach the acme of thought in church history. They are Aurelius Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Jonathan Edwards." (vii-viii) Even in this group of theologians, Sproul comments "Aquinas was more prolific in his literary productions than Edwards, but in terms of intellectual brilliance, Edwards was at least his peer, if not his superior. He was to theology what Newton and Einstein were to physics." (viii)

We are all anticipating great things in this communal reading project and you should anticipate some posts as we wade through these sermons. I hope you can share in some of the delight we experience. Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Conversation with John Wesley

From J.I. Packer's Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, an excerpt from John Wesley's journal is quoted. It's a conversation between John Wesley and Charles Simeon.

"Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. . . . Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put in into your heart?"
"Yes," says the veteran, "I do indeed."
"And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself by God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?"
"Yes, solely through Christ."
"But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?"
"No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last."
"Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?"
"What, then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as a infant in a mother's arms?"
"Yes, altogether."
"And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto his heavenly kingdom?"
"Yes, I have no hope but in him."
"Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification and by faith, my final perseverance; it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite those things wherein we agree."

I know I'm guilty of thinking only of the things I disagree with with certain people, I hope that these words with echo in my heart.

What does our deadness mean?

In Finally Alive (Piper, John. Finally Alive. Minneapolis: Desiring God, 2009), author John Piper offers a list of ten things that our 'deadness' (our unregenerated state) means:

"What does this mean? This deadness? There are at least ten answers in the New Testament. If we consider them honestly and prayerfully, they will humble us very deeply and cause us to be amazed at the gift of the new birth. So what I aim to do is to talk about seven of them in this chapter and three of them in the next chapter along with the larger question: Do we really need to be changed? Can’t we just be forgiven and justified? Wouldn’t that get us to heaven? Here are seven of the biblical explanations of our condition apart from the new birth and why it is so necessary." (48)

1. Apart from the new birth, we are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1–2).
"We are dead in the sense that we cannot see or savor the glory of Christ. We are spiritually dead. We are unresponsive to God and Christ and this word.” (48-9)

2. Apart from the new birth, we are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3).
"Not my deeds, and not my circumstances, and not the people in my life, but my nature is my deepest personal problem." (49)

3. Apart from the new birth, we love darkness and hate the light (John 3:19–20).
"We are not neutral when spiritual light approaches. We resist it. And we are not neutral when spiritual darkness envelops us. We embrace it. Love and hate are active in the unregenerate heart. And they move in exactly the wrong directions—hating what should be loved and loving what should be hated." (50)

4. Apart from the new birth, our hearts are hard like stone (Ezek. 36:26; Eph. 4:18).
"Our ignorance is guilty ignorance, not innocent ignorance. It is rooted in hard and resistant hearts. Paul says in Romans 1:18 that we suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Ignorance is not our biggest problem. Hardness and resistance are. "(50)

5. Apart from the new birth, we are unable to submit to God or please God (Rom. 8:7–8).
"His point is that without the Holy Spirit, our minds are so resistant to God’s authority that we will not, and therefore cannot, submit to him." (51)

6. Apart from the new birth, we are unable to accept the gospel (Eph. 4:18; 1 Cor. 2:14).
"This rebellion is so complete that the heart really cannot receive the things of the Spirit. This is real inability. But it is not a coerced inability. The unregenerate person cannot because he will not. His preferences for sin are so strong that he cannot choose good. It is a real and terrible bondage. But it is not an innocent bondage." (52)

7. Apart from the new birth, we are unable to come to Christ or embrace him as Lord (John 6:44, 65; 1 Cor. 12:3).
"It is morally impossible for the dead, dark, hard, resistant heart to celebrate the Lordship of Jesus over his life without being born again." (52)

8. Apart from the new birth, we are slaves to sin (Rom. 6:17).
"Until God awakens us from spiritual death and gives us the life that finds joy in killing sin and being holy, we are slaves and cannot get free. That’s why the new birth is necessary." (57)

9. Apart from the new birth, we are slaves of Satan (Eph. 2:1–2; 2 Tim. 2:24–26).
"It’s what happens when a person in the dark fondles an ebony brooch hanging around his neck, and then the lights go on and he sees it’s not a brooch but a cockroach, and flings it away. That’s how people are set free from the devil. And until God does that miracle of new birth, we stay in bondage to the father of lies because we love to be able to tell ourselves whatever we please. We keep fondling smooth roaches and warm fuzzy tarantulas in the dark." (58)

10. Apart from the new birth, no good thing dwells in us (Rom. 7:18).
"Now this is a statement that is unintelligible to the unregenerate who know very well that they do many good things and that they could do much more evil than they do. The statement makes no sense—that there is no good in us before new birth—without the conviction that everything good that God has made and that God sustains is ruined when it is not done in reliance on God’s grace and in pursuit of God’s glory." (58)

"The aim in this list is to give us an accurate diagnosis of our disease so that when God applies the remedy at great cost to himself, we will leap for joy and give him some measure of the glory he deserves." (56)

Friday, January 22, 2010

God must be who he is

"For God to condone or ignore the dishonor heaped upon him by the sins of men would be tantamount to giving credence to the value judgment men have made in esteeming God more lowly then his creation. It is not so much that he would be saying sins do not matter or justice does not matter; more basically, he would be saying that he does not matter. But for God thus to deny the infinite value of his glory, to act persistently as if the disgrace of his holy name were a matter of indifference to him-this is the heart of unrighteousness. Thus if God is to be righteous he must repair the dishonor done to his name by the sins of those whom he blesses. He must magnify the divine glory man thought to deny him.

It is pointless here to object that God is never trapped in a situation where he
must do something. This is pointless because the only necessity unworthy of God is a necessity imposed on him from causes not originating in himself. To say that God must be who he is, that he must value what is of infinite value and delight in his infinite beauty, this is no dishonor to God. On the contrary, what would dishonor God is to deny that he has any necessary identity at all and to assert that his acts emerge willy-nilly from no essential and constant nature." (Piper, John. The Justification of God. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1993. 148)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Reading the Classics with Challies - Redemption Accomplished and Applied

In chapter VII of Murray's classic work entitled Redemption Accomplished and Applied(Murray, John. Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Boston: Wm. B. Eerdmans Company, 1984), the author presents a study of sanctification. As clear and concise as ever, Murray considers this doctrinal issue under several headings; the presuppositions, the concern of sanctification, the agent of sanctification, and the means of sanctification. I have opted to focus on the concern of sanctification.

Murray ably defines exactly what sanctification is concerned with.
This deliverance from the power of sin secured by union with Christ and from the defilement of sin secured by regeneration does not eliminate all sin from the heart and life of the believer. There is still indwelling sin (cf. Rom. 6:20; 7:14-25; 1 John 1:8; 2:1). The believer is not yet so conformed to the image of Christ that he is holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. Sanctification is concerned precisely with this fact and it has as its aim the elimination of all sin and complete conformation to the image of God's own Son, to be holy as the Lord is holy. (143, emphasis mine)
If we take this idea seriously, as we should, we must recognize that our entire sanctification "...will not be realized until the body of our humiliation will be transformed into the likeness of the body of Christ's glory..." (144) Murray, through his handling of the subject, implores us to take seriously the gravity of this doctrine. This is evidenced by his few points.

Murray states that we must appreciate the gravity of that with which sanctification concerns itself.We do so, according to Murray, by viewing a few things:
  1. All sin in the believer is the contradiction of God's holiness; "But the sin which resides in the believer and which he commits is of such character that it deserves the wrath of God and the fatherly displeasure of God is evoked by this sin. Remaining indwelling sin is therefore the contradiction of all that he is as a regenerate person and son of God. It is the contradiction of God himself, after whose image he has been recreated." (144)
  2. The presence of sin in the believer involves conflict in his heart and life; "The deeper his apprehension of the majesty of God, the greater the intensity of his love for God, the more persistent his yearning for the attainment of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, the more concious will he be of the gravity of the sin which remains and the more poignant willbe his detestation of it." (145)
  3. There must be a constant and increasing appreciation that though sin still remains it does not have the mastery; "It is one thing for sin to live in us; it is another for us to live in sin." (145)
Realizing that, for the believer, Christ has been formed in him and he is the habitation of God is "...equivalent to saying that he must reckon himself to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God through Christ Jesus his Lord." (146)

Murray sums this section up succinctly, "It is the concern of sanctification that sin be more mortified and holiness ingenerated and cultivated." (146)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

You Big Meanie!

Great post on Kevin DeYoung's blog at the Gospel Coalition. Here's an excerpt and the link for the post in its entirety:

Offendedness is just about the last shared moral currency in our country. And, I’m sorry, but it’s really annoying. We don’t discuss ideas or debate arguments, we try to figure out who is most offended. Buddhists are offended by Brit Hume. Christians are offended that critics disparage Brit Hume. Republicans are offended by Harry Reid’s comments about President Obama. If the shoe were on the other partisan foot, you can bet Democrats would be offended for President Obama (who can legitimately be offended by Reid’s remarks). Whenever someone makes a public gaffe, whether real or perceived, critics storm the microphones to let the world know how offended they are. Why is everyone in such a hurry to be hurt?

For starters, being hurt is easier than being right. To prove you’re offended you just have to rustle up moral indignation and tell the world about it. To prove you’re right you actually have to make arguments and use logic and marshal evidence. Why debate theology or politics or economics if you can win your audience by making the other guys look like meanies?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Piperism #221 - Avatar is boring!

I saw Avatar this week. It was good. God's Word is better.

Science and Miracles

I am currently reading through The Reason for God and came across some interesting comments regarding the relationship between science and miracles. Many prominent atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, suggest that religion and science can have nothing to do with each other. This leads into the argument that miracles are scientifically impossible. But why?

John Macquarrie writes:
Science proceeds on the assumption that whatever events occur in the world can be accounted for in terms of other events . . . just as immanent and this-worldly. [So] . . . miracles [are] irreconcilable with our modern understanding of science and history.

Keller points out the circular reasoning in this argument. Macquarrie is stating that science cannot test for supernatural causes, therefore supper natural causes cannot exist.

In response to Macquarrie, philosopher Alvin Platinga writes:

Macquarrie perhaps means to suggest that the very practice of science requires that one reject the idea (eg.) of God raising someone from the dead. . . . [This] argument . . . is like the drunk who insisted on looking for his lost car keys only under the streetlight on the grounds that the light was better there. In fact, it would go the drunk one better: it would insist that because the keys would be hard to find in the dark, they must be under the light.

It strikes me as odd that some scientists are so quick to jump on Christianity for taking things by faith and yet believe that science has disproven the existence of miracles. That to me seems like a rather large leap of faith.

Fee's comments on Philippians 1:29-30

Philippians 1:27-30 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that e you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

"One of the reasons most of us in the West do not know more about the content of vv. 29-30 is that we have so poorly heeded the threefold exhortation that precedes: (1) to stand firm in the one Spirit (overall our pneumatology is especially weak); (2) to contend for the faith of the gospel as one person (the "faith of the gospel" has been watered down in so many ways, on all sides [not just by "liberalism", but by the blatant materialism that erodes the evangelical church], that it is sometimes not worth contending for; and our sectarianism has more often resulted in in-house furor than in contending for the gospel in the face of pagan opposition); and (3) to do so by not being intimidated in any way by the opposition (who tend to focus on our many weaknesses, so as to continually deflect our contending for the gospel of our crucified Savior per se)." (Fee, Gordon D. Paul's Letter to the Philippians. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1995. 173)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Desiring God interviews Sam Storms

A favourite of the contributors to this blog, Sam Storms is interviewed briefly at the blog for Desiring God. Here are the questions he answers:

Interview with Sam Storms
January 17, 2010 | By: Nick Laparra | Category: Conferences

Sam Storms will serve as the keynote speaker at our upcoming pastors conference. I had the privilege of conducting a brief interview with him. Please keep him in prayer as he prepares for the conference, and if you haven't registered for the conference, there is still room!

Nick Laparra: What do you love most about being Senior Pastor of Bridgeway Church?

Sam Storms: Without question what I enjoy most is the privilege of speaking the Word of God into the lives of our people. Even beyond this is the joy I experience in witnessing their joy in Jesus deepen and expand.

There’s something uniquely powerful and satisfying in watching lives change through the power of the Spirit operating by means of the Scriptures. I can’t describe the thrill I feel in watching their minds being enlightened with the truth of God, their hearts being warmed with the love of God, and their wills being energized for kingdom of God.

So, in a word, what I love most about being Senior Pastor here is preaching!

NL: I've read several of your books and am currently reading The Hope Of Glory. Do you have any other writing projects underway that you can tell us about?

SS: Crossway is publishing in two volumes my meditations on 2 Corinthians. I hope they will be available at the Pastor’s Conference. If not, they should be out a week or two later.

These are brief (well, not that brief; it did take two volumes rather than one to get all 100 in!) daily meditations that take a person through every verse of this incredible letter. The title is, A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ (taken from 2 Cor. 11:3).

I’m also working on a book on Eschatology, but I suspect it may be a year or more before I’m ready to go to the publisher with it.

NL: Are there one or two key ways the ministry of Desiring God or John Piper has impacted your life?

SS: Absolutely! I think the most important way John has affected me is in showing me from the Word that it is actually ok to “desire” God!

I was raised, as were many, thinking that to focus on my desires or passions or longing for happiness was probably selfish and sinful. How could I possibly be concerned with my own gladness if I was concerned with God’s glory?

John, especially in the book Desiring God, awakened me to the relationship between the two: that God’s glory is seen most vividly in my gladness in him. That was life changing in countless ways, many of which I’ll share at the conference.

NL: Can you give us a sneak peak into your upcoming talk at the pastors conference?

SS: My first talk will focus on the astounding truth that the purpose of pastoral ministry is actually identical to God’s purpose in creating the universe! That’s a breathtaking thought. I’ll be looking at how this worked itself out in Paul’s ministry to the Corinthians.

In the second talk I will try to explain the biblical and theological foundations of Christian Hedonism. What is it and what does it mean? I plan on setting this forth in seven theses.

Finally, I’ll wrap things up by looking at the practical side of Christian Hedonism, specifically, how it gives us a strategy for the war with the world, the flesh, and the Devil, and then secondly, what pastors can do in their own lives and ministries to deepen their joy in Jesus and in turn deepen that same joy in those whom they serve and to whom they preach.

One of the things I’ll focus on in particular is how suffering actually serves joy rather than suffocates it. But I’m giving too much away!

Chapter 17- The Contemplation of God

"It has been well said that, "Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued, investigation of the great subject of the Deity. The most excellent study for expanding the soul is the science of Christ and Him crucified and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity." (C. H. Spurgeon). Let us quote a little further from this prince of preachers.

The proper study of the Christian is the God-head. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the doings, and the existence of the great God which he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can comprehend and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go on our way with the thought, "Behold I am wise." But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, amid that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought "I am but of yesterday and know nothing." (Sermon on Mal. 3:6).
"He makes use of means and instruments to accomplish His ends, yet not from a deficiency of power, but often times to more strikingly display His power through the feebleness of the instruments."
"True happiness exists only in the enjoyment of God."
"A creature, considered as such, has no rights. He can demand nothing from his Maker; and in whatever manner he may be treated, has no title to complain. Yet, when thinking of the absolute dominion of God over all, we ought never to lose sight of His moral perfections. God is just and good, and ever does that which is right. Nevertheless, He exercises His sovereignty according to His own imperial and righteous pleasure. He assigns each creature his place as seemeth good in His own sight. He orders the varied circumstances of each according to His own counsels. He moulds each vessel according to His own uninfluenced determination. He has mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardens. Wherever we are, His eye is upon us. Whoever we are, our life and everything is held at His disposal. To the Christian, He is a tender Father; to the rebellious sinner He will yet be a consuming fire. "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen" (1 Tim. 1:17). "

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Six New Testament metaphors for preachers

In chapter four of Between Two Worlds ((Stott, John R. W. Between Two Worlds The Challenge of Preaching Today. Boston: Wm. B. Eerdmans Company, 1994), author John Stott presents 6 different images that the Bible uses to illustrate what a Christian preacher is.
  1. The Christian preacher is a herald. (1 Corinthians 1:23)
  2. The Christian preacher is a sower. (Luke 8:4-8)
  3. The Christian preacher is an ambassador. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
  4. The Christian preacher is a steward or housekeeper. (1 Corinthians 4:1)
  5. The Christian preacher is a pastor or shepherd. (John 21:15-17)
  6. The Christian preacher is an approved workman. (2 Timothy 2:15)
"What is immediately noticeable about these six pictures is their emphasis on the 'givenness' of the message. Preachers are not to invent it; it has to be entrusted to them. thus, good news has been given to the herald to proclaim, good seed to the farmer to sow and good food to the steward to dispense, while good pasture is available to the shepherd to lead his flock there. Similarly, the ambassador does not pursue his owm policy but his country's, and the workman cuts a way for 'the word of truth', not for his own word. It is impressive that in all these New Testament metaphors the preacher is a servant under someone else's authority, and the communicator of someone else's word." (136-7)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Chapter 16- The Wrath of God

"The wrath of God is His eternal detestation of all unrighteousness. It is the displeasure and indignation of Divine equity against evil. It is the holiness of God stirred into activity against sin. It is the moving cause of that just sentence which He passes upon evil-doers."

"The wrath of God is a perfection of the Divine character upon which we need to frequently meditate. First, that our hearts may be duly impressed by God’s detestation of sin. We are ever prone to regard sin lightly, to gloss over its hideousness, to make excuses for it. But the more we study and ponder God’s abhorrence of sin and His frightful vengeance upon it, the more likely are we to realize its heinousness. Second, to beget a true fear in our souls for God: "Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:28,29). We cannot serve Him "acceptably" unless there is due "reverence" for His awful Majesty and "godly fear" of His righteous anger, and these are best promoted by frequently calling to mind that "our God is a consuming fire." Third, to draw out our souls in fervent praise for having delivered us from "the wrath to come" (1 Thess. 1:10)."

"If we rejoice not "at the remembrance of His holiness" (Ps. 97:12), if we rejoice not to know that in a soon coming Day God will make a most glorious display of His wrath, by taking vengeance on all who now oppose Him, it is proof positive that our hearts are not in subjection to Him, that we are yet in our sins, on the way to the everlasting burnings."

"When I consider how the goodness of God is abused by the greatest part of mankind, I cannot but be of his mind that said, The greatest miracle in the world is God’s patience and bounty to an ungrateful world. If a prince hath an enemy got into one of his towns, he doth not send them in provision, but lays close siege to the place, and doth what he can to starve them. But the great God, that could wink all His enemies into destruction, bears with them, and is at daily cost to maintain them. Well may He command us to bless them that curse us, who Himself does good to the evil and unthankful. But think not, sinners, that you shall escape thus; God’s mill goes slow, but grinds small; the more admirable His patience and bounty now is, the more dreadful and unsupportable will that fury be which ariseth out of His abused goodness. Nothing smoother than the sea, yet when stirred into a tempest, nothing rageth more. Nothing so sweet as the patience and goodness of God, and nothing so terrible as His wrath when it takes fire." (Wm Gurnall, 1660).

Friday, January 15, 2010

Chapter 15- The Love of God

"The love of God is uninfluenced. By this we mean, there was nothing whatever in the objects of His love to call it into exercise, nothing in the creature to attract or prompt it. The love which one creature has for another is because of something in them; but the love of God is free, spontaneous, uncaused."

"God’s love for me, and for each of "His own," was entirely unmoved by anything in them. What was there in me to attract the heart of God? Absolutely nothing. But, to the contrary, everything to repel Him, everything calculated to make Him loathe me—sinful, depraved, a mass of corruption, with "no good thing" in me."

"How blessed to know that the great and holy God loved His people before heaven and earth were called into existence, that He had set His heart upon them from all eternity. Clear proof is this that His love is spontaneous, for He loved them endless ages before they had any being."

"Here then is abundant cause for trust and patience under Divine affliction. Christ was beloved of the Father, yet He was not exempted from poverty, disgrace, and persecution. He hungered and thirsted. Thus, it was not incompatible with God’s love for Christ when He permitted men to spit upon and smite Him. Then let no Christian call into question God’s love when he is brought under painful afflictions and trials. God did not enrich Christ on earth with temporal prosperity, for "He had not where to lay His head." But He did give Him the Spirit "without measure" (John 3:34). Learn then that spiritual blessings are the principal gifts of Divine love. How blessed to know that when the world hates us ,God loves us!"

God's righteousness, and man's

Therefore, these prophetic writings, along with many other texts, impress upon the careful reader of the Old Testament that all God's saving deeds spring ultimately form his loyalty to his own name. This impression then functions to confirm for the reader the insight derived elsewhere from numerous explicit connections that the righteousness of God consists most basically in God's unswerving commitment to preserve the honor of his name and display his glory. Thus if God ever abandoned this commitment and no longer sought in all things the magnifying of his own glory, then there indeed would be unrighteousness with God...To treat adequately the implications of this thesis for the righteousness of man in the Old Testament would require too much space here...The basic implication as I see it is that man's righteousness will be seen now as radically God-centered. The relational accent is in no way diminished, but it receives a distinct orientation: the righteousness of man in relation to God is (reflecting God's righteousness) to love the honor of God's name, to esteem above all things God's glory (especially as it has been mercifully experienced in his saving deeds), and, finally, to do only those things which accord with this love and esteem. (Piper, John. The Justification of God. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1993. 119)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Chapter 14- The Mercy of God

"In endeavoring to study the mercy of God as it is set forth in Scripture, a threefold distinction needs to be made, if the Word of Truth is to be "rightly divided" thereon. First, there is a general mercy of God, which is extended not only to all men, believers and unbelievers alike, but also to the entire creation: "His tender mercies are over all His works" (Ps. 145:9): "He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things" (Acts 17:25). God has upon the brute creation in their needs, and supplies them with suitable provision. Second, there is a special mercy of God, which is exercised toward the children of men, helping and succouring them, notwithstanding their sins. To them also He communicates all the necessities of life: "for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt. 5:45). Third, there is a sovereign mercy which is reserved for the heirs of salvation, which is communicated to them in a covenant way, through the Mediator."

What I found very interesting about the previous chapter on grace and this one on mercy is that Pink writes of a general and special mercy of God directed at all mankind, not just believers. He wrote in the previous chapter that he believes that grace is strictly for the believer and that it is through the mercies of God that unbelievers enjoy the blessings of this world.

"Again; though it be true, blessedly and gloriously true, that God’s mercy "endureth forever," yet we must observe carefully the objects to whom His "mercy" is shown. Even the casting of the reprobate into the Lake of Fire is an act of mercy. The punishment of the wicked is to be contemplated from a threefold viewpoint. From God’s side, it is an act of justice, vindicating His honour. The mercy of God is never shown to the prejudice of His holiness and righteousness. From their side, it is an act of equity, when they are made to suffer the due reward of their iniquities. But from the standpoint of the redeemed, the punishment of the wicked is an act of unspeakable mercy. How dreadful would it be if the present order of things when the children of God are obliged to live in the midst of the children of the Devil, should continue forever! Heaven would at once cease to be heaven if the ears of the saints still heard the blasphemous and filthy language of the reprobate. What a mercy that in the New Jerusalem "there shall in nowise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither worketh abomination" (Rev. 21:27)!"

"Unspeakably solemn is it to see so many abusing this Divine perfection. They continue to despise God’s authority, trample upon His laws continue in sin, and yet presume upon His mercy. But God will not be unjust to Himself. God shows mercy to the truly penitent, but not to the impenitent (Luke 13:3). To continue in sin and yet reckon upon Divine mercy remitting punishment is diabolical. It is saying, "Let us do evil that good may come," and of all such it is written, whose "damnation is just" (Rom. 3:8). Presumption shall most certainly be disappointed; read carefully Deuteronomy 29:18-20. Christ is the spiritual Mercy-seat, and all who despise and reject His Lordship shall "perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little" (Ps. 2:12)."

"The elect are designated "vessels of mercy" (Rom. 9:23). It is mercy that quickened them when they were dead in sins (Eph. 2:4,5). It is mercy that saves them (Titus 3:5). It is His abundant mercy which begat them unto an eternal inheritance (1 Peter 1:3). Time would fail us to tell of His preserving, sustaining, pardoning, supplying mercy. Unto His own, God is "the Father of mercies" (2 Cor. 1:3)."

Reading the Classics with Challies - Redemption Accomplished and Applied

Moving along the order of salvation, in chapter VI of part II of Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Murray, John. Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Boston: Wm. B. Eerdmans Company, 1984), Murray arrives at the doctrines concerning adoption. Adoption is an incredible doctrine; the best chapter of theological writing I have enjoyed is more than likely J. I. Packer's chapter on adoption in his book Knowing God. I recall reading that section in awe and wonder of God's grace. Murray's chapter on the adoption of the regenerated is another excellent piece of writing on this topic.

After defining adoption, one of Murray's clear goals for the chapter is to differentiate and distinguish adoption from both regeneration and justification. For the record, Murray defines adoption as follows: "By adoption the redeemed become sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty; they are introduced into and given the privileges of God's family." (132)

As to the relationship between adoption, justification, and regeneration, Murray makes some fascinating claims. "Adoption, like justification, is a judicial act. In other words, it is the bestowal of a status, or a standing, not the generating within us of a new nature or character. It concerns a relationship and not the attitude or disposition which enables us to recognize and cultivate that relationship." (133) So, adoption is clearly not regeneration; however, they are closely related. "When God adopts men and women into his family he insures that not only may they have the rights and privileges of his sons and daughters but also the nature or disposition consonant with such a status." (133) Thus we see that regeneration is the prerequisite of adoption.

Murray touches upon the great gloriousness of this doctrine in the following excerpt: "Adoption, as the term clearly implies, is an act of transfer from an alien family into the family of God himself. This is surely the apex of grace and privilege. We would not dare to conceive of such grace far less to claim it apart from God's own revelation and assurance. It staggers imagination because of its amazing condescension and love" (134)

When J. I. Packer was asked to define the gospel as precisely and concisely as possible he suggested propitiation through adoption was the best he could do; he clearly holds the doctrine of adoption in high regard. As does Murray. As should we.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Philippians 1:19-20 in the ESV is as follows:

... for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

In Paul's Letter To The Philippians (Fee, Gordon D. Paul's Letter to the Philippians. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1995), Fee paraphrases the section:

This whole affair will turn out to my ultimate salvation and present vindication, when, through your prayers and the supply of the Spirit of Christ my earnest expectation and hope are realized at my trial and not only am I not brought to shame but in a very open (or bold) way Christ is magnified in every way-whether I am given 'life' or sentenced to death. (132)

I enjoyed this paraphrase by Fee because it brought what Paul was saying into a more 'real' light for me. Sometimes, I think because of the wording, passages in the Bible come across as grandiose statements instead of what I believe they were; heartfelt words of the authors. In this case, Fee's paraphrase helped me to see that this was not just rhetoric for Paul; he desperately cared about the gospel and about Christ being magnified. He was not just 'tub-thumping' for his readers.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chapter 13- The Grace of God

"Divine grace is the sovereign and saving favour of God exercised in the bestowment of blessings upon those who have no merit in them and for which no compensation is demanded from them. Nay, more; it is the favour of God shown to those who not only have no positive deserts of their own, but who are thoroughly ill-deserving and hell-deserving. It is completely unmerited and unsought, and is altogether unattracted by anything in or from or by the objects upon which it is bestowed. Grace can neither be bought, earned, nor won by the creature. If it could be, it would cease to be grace. When a thing is said to be of grace we mean that the recipient has no claim upon it, that it was in nowise due him. It comes to him as pure charity, and, at first, unasked and undesired."

"To complain against the partiality of grace is suicidal. If the sinner insists upon bare justice, then the Lake of Fire must be his eternal portion. His only hope lies in bowing to the sentence which Divine justice has passed upon him, owning the absolute righteousness of it, casting himself on the mercy of God, and stretching forth empty hands to avail himself of the grace of God now made known to him in the Gospel."

"Thus we may say with the late G. S. Bishop,
Grace is a provision for men who are so fallen that they cannot lift the axe of justice, so corrupt that they cannot change their own natures, so averse to God that they cannot turn to Him, so blind that they cannot see Him, so deaf that they cannot hear Him, and so dead that He Himself must open their graves and lift them into resurrection."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Chapter 12- The Patience of God

"It is a part of the Divine goodness and mercy, yet differs from both. God being the greatest goodness, hath the greatest mildness; mildness is always the companion of true goodness, and the greater the goodness, the greater the mildness. Who so holy as Christ, and who so meek? God’s slowness to anger is a branch of His mercy: "the Lord is full of compassion, slow to anger" (Ps. 145:8). It differs from mercy in the formal consideration of the subject: mercy respects the creature as miserable, patience respects the creature as criminal; mercy pities him in his misery, patience bears with the sin which engendered the misery, and giving birth to more."

"Personally we would define the Divine patience as that power of control which God exercises over Himself, causing Him to bear with the wicked and forebear so long in punishing them. In Nahum 1:3 we read, "The Lord is slow to anger and great in power," upon which Mr. Charnock said,
"Men that are great in the world are quick in passion, and are not so ready to forgive an injury, or bear with an offender, as one of a meaner rank. It is a want of power over that man’s self that makes him do unbecoming things upon a provocation. A prince that can bridle his passions is a king over himself as well as over his subjects. God is slow to anger because great in power. He has no less power over Himself than over His creatures.""

"It is at the above point, we think, that God’s patience is most clearly distinguished from His mercy. Though the creature is benefited thereby, the patience of God chiefly respects Himself, a restraint placed upon His acts by His will; whereas His mercy terminates wholly upon the creature. The patience of God is that excellency which causes Him to sustain great injuries without immediately avenging Himself. He has a power of patience as well as a power of justice."

"Were God to immediately break these reprobate vessels into pieces, His power of self-control would not so eminently appear; by bearing with their wickedness and forebearing punishment so long, the power of His patience is gloriously demonstrated. True, the wicked interpret His longsuffering quite differently—"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Eccl. 8:11)—but the anointed eye adores what they abuse."

"How wondrous is God’s patience with the world today. On every side people are sinning with a high hand. The Divine law is trampled under foot and God Himself openly despised. It is truly amazing that He does not instantly strike dead those who so brazenly defy Him. Why does He not suddenly cut off the haughty, infidel and blatant blasphemer, as He did Ananias and Sapphira? Why does He not cause the earth to open its mouth and devour the persecutors of his people, so that, like Dathan and Abiram, they shall go down alive into the Pit? And what of apostate Christendom, where every possible form of sin is now tolerated and practiced under cover of the holy name of Christ? Why does not the righteous wrath of Heaven make an end of such abominations? Only one answer is possible: because God bears with "much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.""

Stott's Theological Convictions for Preaching

In Between Two worlds (Stott, John R. W. Between Two Worlds The Challenge of Preaching Today. Boston: Wm. B. Eerdmans Company, 1994), Stott begins his chapter entitled Theological Foundations for Preaching with this: "In a world which seems either unwilling or unable to listen, how can we be persuaded to go on preaching, and to learn how to do so effectively? The essential secret is not mastering certain techniques but being mastered by certain convictions." (92)

For Stott, these convictions fall under 5 headings: God, Scripture, church, pastorate, and preaching. Here are some quotes from each heading.

A Conviction about God
"A Christian must be at least an amateur theologian before he can aspire to be a preacher." (93)

A Conviction about Scripture
"Our responsibility as preachers now begins to emerge. This is not primarily to give our twentieth-century testimony to Jesus (most Western preaching today tends to be too subjective), but rather to relay with faithfulness to the twentieth century (and endorse from our own experience) the only authoritative witness there is namely God's own witness to Christ through the first-century apostolic eye-witnesses." (98)

A Conviction about the Church
"Doubtless we have numerous convictions about the Church. But for my purpose I have only this one in mind, that the Church is the creation of God by his Word. Moreover, God's new creation (the Church) is as dependent upon his Word as his old creation (the universe). Not only has he brought it into being by his Word, but he maintains and sustains it, directs and sanctifies it, reforms and renews it through the same Word. The Word of God is the sceptre by which Christ rules the Church and the food with which he nourishes it." (109)

A Conviction about the Pastorate
"In this situation, it is urgent to reassert the New Testament teaching that Jesus Christ still gives overseers to his Church and intends them to be permanent features of his Church's structure." (116)
""Moreover, gifted lay people should be encouraged to join the team, and exercise their ministry in a voluntary capacity according to their gifts. One of these is preaching, and the Church needs many more lay preachers." (121)

A conviction about Preaching
"It is my contention that all true Christian preaching is expository preaching." (125)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

John Owen on The Need for Mortification

The Need for Mortification

"The promise of life and vigor in our spiritual life depends much upon our mortification of sin. To gain spiritual strength, we must weaken sin, disentangle our hearts from false ambitions, and cleanse our thoughts. We must also mortify our affections so that we become more engaged in the worship of God than in the worship of our own idols. Mortification prunes indwelling sin and allows the graces of God to grow with vigor in our life." (201)

"Mortification robs sin of its debilitating, inharmonious, and emotionally distracting influences. Without mortification, sin darkens the mind, while the lusts of the flesh grow like weeds. Mortificati9on is the soul's vigorous opposition to the fruit-less self-life." (201)

The Daily Mortification of Sin

The most saintly believers, who appear free from the condemning power of sin, make it their duty every day to mortify the indwelling power of sin." (202)

"Since indwelling sin always abides in the believer, we always need to mortify it." (202)

"Sin is always acting, always conceiving, always seducing and tempting. To dare and stand still is to lose the battle." (202)

"It is our duty to "grow in grace" (2 Peter 2:18), to be "perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1) by "renewing the inward man day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16). We cannot do this without daily mortifying sin. Sin sets its strength against every act of holiness and against every step of faith. Thus in spite of the mortification exhibited in the cross of Christ for each and every sin, we must apply its efficacy by our daily mortification of the flesh." (203)

"Every professor of faith who fails to mortify sin daily exhibits two evil characteristics. First, he has little regard for the reality of sin in his own life. The cause of this indifference is his ability to adsorb and digest sins daily, without bitterness or repentance...Second, he deceives others in his unmortified state. He appears alright in comparison to others. He seems to walk separated from the world, yet he still lives in its ways. He talks spiritually, but he lives in vanity. He mentions his communion with God, but he in every way conformed to the world. He boasts of the forgiveness of God, but he never forgives others. He actually deceives himself into thinking he is a partaker of eternal life." (203, emphasis mine)

Quotes from Triumph Over Temptation (Houston, John M. Triumph Over Temptation. Colorado Springs: Victor, 2005)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Gordon Fee on Philippians 1:3-11

Philippians 1:3-11
Thanksgiving and Prayer

3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Comments on Philippians 1:3-11 by Gordon Fee in Paul's Letter To The Philippians(Fee, Gordon D. Paul's Letter to the Philippians. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1995), a volume in The New International Commentary on the New Testament:

"Since thanksgiving is also a part of the reason for the letter, one is not surprised to find the whole replete with expressions of friendship, and especially of the three-way bond - between himself, the Philippians, and Christ and the gospel - that informs every part of the letter." (73, emphasis mine)

"Joy, it should be noted, which occurs only here in the Pauline thanksgivings, lies at the heart of the Christian experience of the gospel; it is the fruit of the Spirit in any truly Christian life, serving as primary evidence of the Spirit's presence (Gal 5:22; Rom 14:17). Precisely because this is so, joy transcends present circumstances; it is based altogether on the Spirit, God's way of being present with his people under the new covenant." (81)

"It does not take much reading of Paul's letters to recognize that the gospel is the singular passion of his life; that passion is the glue that in particular holds this letter together." (82, emphasis mine)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Stott to Christian scholars

"Thirdly, we need to encourage Christian scholars to go to the frontiers and engage in the debate, while at the same time retaining their active participation in the community of faith. ..As part of their own integrity Christian scholars need to both preserve the tension between openness and commitment, and to accept some measure of accountability to one another and responsibility to one another in the Body of Christ. In such a caring fellowship I think we might witness fewer casualties on the one hand and more theological creativity on the other. " ((Stott, John R. W. Between Two Worlds The Challenge of Preaching Today. Boston: Wm. B. Eerdmans Company, 1994)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Reading the Classics with Challies - Redemption Accomplished and Applied

In CHAPTER V of the second part of John Murray's classic work entitled Redemption Accomplished and Applied, Murray covers the next link the the golden chain of salvation: justification.

I was very interested in reading this chapter as the past month had me reading two John Piper books on justification; Counted Righteous in Christ and The Future of Justification. This chapter did not disappoint.

One thing that has surprised me as I have learned more about justification is the lack of interest in this doctrine on the part of believers (including myself, or especially myself) and the lack of teaching on this doctrine on the part of leaders. Murray discusses why he believes this is the case.
"This is the reason why the grand article of justification does not ring the bells in the innermost depths of our spirit. And this is the reason why the gospel of justification is to such an extent a meaningless sound in the world and in the church of the twentieth century. We are not imbued with the profound sense of the reality of God, of his majesty and holiness. And sin, if reckoned with at all, is little more than a misfortune or maladjustment." (117, emphasis mine)
Murray's reasoning is as follows: We are sinners, and as sinners we are against God and He is against us; His perfection unavoidably recoils with righteous indignation; and this is His wrath which is poured out against all unrighteousness. This issue of our sin and God's wrath is not considered with the seriousness it should be. "Far too frequently we fail to entertain the gravity of this fact. Hence the reality of our sin and the reality of the wrath of God upon us for our sin do not come into our reckoning." (117) And this causes us to downplay, minimize, alter, ignore, or even deny the wondrous and beautiful doctrine of justification.

For Murray, there is but one solution:
"If we are to appreciate that which is central in the gospel, if the jubilee trumpet is to find its echo again in our hearts, our thinking must be revolutionized by the realism of the wrath of God, of the reality and gravity of our guilt, and of the divine condemnation. It is then and only then that our thinking and feeling will be rehabilitated to an understanding of God's grace in the justification of the ungodly." (118)
Murray continues to expound on this doctrine in the rest of the chapter. But this explanation of why justification does not produce grand and great gratitude in our churches was what captured my thoughts and stirred my heart. I pray that I would grow in my understanding, and thus also grow in my gratefulness, of this wonderful doctrine. For the bottom line is this; though we are ungodly and sinful beings on whom the wrath of God should and could justly fall, instead we are considered and declared, by God, righteous in Christ by faith, with the very righteousness of God. Glory!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Gordon Fee on Philippians 1:1-2

Philippians 1:1-2

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Comments on Philippians 1:1-2 by Gordon Fee in Paul's Letter To The Philippians(Fee, Gordon D. Paul's Letter to the Philippians. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1995), a volume in The New International Commentary on the New Testament:

"Paul and Timothy are thus to be thought of as "slaves/servants of Christ Jesus." Here is the absolute predominant motif in this letter. Everything is in, of, by, and for Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is the basis for their common existence; he is the focus and content of the gospel in which Paul, Timothy, and the Philippians are partners; and he is the Lord, to whom every knee shall bow..." (64)

"Exactly as one finds the earliest (1 Thessalonians) and later (1 Timothy) letters, both reference [to overseers] are plural. No evidence exists for a single leader as the "head" of the local assembly in the Pauline churches." (67)

"It is worth noting that this [Grace to you and peace] is the invariable order of Paul's words, not "grace and peace to you" as in most translations. Very likely there is significance to this order; the grace of God and Christ is what is given to God's people; peace is what results from such a gift." (70)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Biblical Definition of Mortification

Part III of Triumph Over Temptation(Houston, John M. Triumph Over Temptation. Colorado Springs: Victor, 2005) focuses on the work of practical theology by John Owen originally entitled Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers (1656).

Owen, via the editor James Houston, wants the reader to understand mortification before he begins to consider the need to practice the duty. He starts by refuting several false notions about it.

  1. "The first thing to remember is that the mortification of sin never means the death and final elimination of sin. This cannot be expected in this life." (195)
  2. "Second, mortification does not consist of pretending sin is removed. That would only add hypocrisy to iniquity." (195)
  3. "In addition, mortification does not mean the improvement of a quiet, controlled temperament." (195)
  4. "Moreover, sin is not mortified when it is only diverted...To change pride for worldliness, sensuality for Pharisaism, or vanity for contempt is not mortification of sin." (195)
  5. "Furthermore. occasional conquests of sin do not count as mortification." (195-6)

Following these considerations, Owen ventures the questions "What then is mortification? What does it mean to mortify sin?" (196) To which he answers that mortification consists in three things:
  1. Mortification is the habitual weakening of sin. "Now the primary task of mortification is to weaken this habit of sin so that its power to express itself-in violence, frequency, tumult, provocation, and unrest-is quelled...The first expression of mortification is to weaken these lusts." (196-7)
  2. Mortification is a constant fight and contention against sin. "First, it is necessary to recognize the enemy you face. Take sin seriously-most seriously indeed.When people view sin superficially, they have no sense of need or motivation to mortify sin...Second, it is important to learn the wiles and the tactics of sin before engaging in spiritual warfare...Third, severely attack it, loading against sin all the firepower most destructive to its survival." (197-8 emphasis mine)
  3. Mortification is evidenced by frequent success against sin. "By success, I do not mean the frustration of sin, but the pursuit of it for a complete conquest. When sin no longer hinders our duty or interrupts our peace of mind, then mortification has succeeded to some extent." (198)