Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Seven suggestions from Paul Miller

Here are seven suggestions from Paul Miller as they appear in his book A Praying Life.

  • Get to bed. What you do in the evening will shape your morning. The Hebrew notion of a day as the evening and morning (see Genesis 1) helps you plan for prayer. If you want to pray in the morning, then plan your evening so you don't stay up too late. The evening and the morning are connected.
  • Get up. Praying in bed is wonderful. In fact, the more you pray out of bed, the more you'll pray in bed. But you'll never develop a morning prayer time in bed. Some of my richest prayer times are at night. I'll wake up praying. But those prayer times only began to emerge because I got out of bed to pray.
  • Get awake. Maybe you need to make a pot of coffee first or take a shower.
  • Get a quiet place. Maybe a room, a chair, or a place with a view. Or maybe you do better going for a walk. Make sure that no one can interrupt you.
  • Get comfortable. Don't feel like you have to pray on your knees. For years I was hindered from praying because I found it so uncomfortable to pray on my knees.
  • Get going. Start with just five minutes. Start with a small goal that you can attain rather than something heroic. You'll quickly find the time will fly.
  • Keep going. Consistency is more important than length. If you pray five minutes every day, then the length of time will slowly grow. You'll look up and discover that twenty minutes have gone by. You'll enjoy being with God. (p50-51)

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Praying Life

From A Praying Life by Paul Miller:

1) If God is sovereign, then he is in control of all the details of my life.

2) If he is loving, then he is going to be shaping the details of my life for my good.

3) If he is all-wise, then he's not going to do everything I want because I don't know what I need.

4) If he is patient, then he is going to take time to do all this.

(p22, numbering and line breaks mine)

I appreciate this four-fold outlook by Paul Miller on how God works in our lives. The foundational truths of God's sovereign control and his loving benevolence are pillars to build your life on. Add to that his perfect wisdom and time-defying patience and we have good reason to trust in God with a realistic optimism. Our lives are in good, great, perfect hands.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Recommended listening

I had the opportunity to do a lot of driving yesterday, approximately 7 hours, and used the time to listen to some sermons. I enjoyed and was edified by what I heard and so I thought I would pass on the info.

The three sermons/lectures were delivered at 1988 Desiring God Conference for Pastors. They were delivered by J. I. Packer.

Here is a brief bio of Packer for those of you who do not know of him:
James Innell Packer (b. July 22, 1926) is a conservative evangelical Anglican, author, and theologian in the Calvinist tradition. He currently serves as the Board of Governors' Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is considered to be one of the most important evangelical theologians of the late 20th century.

The son of a clerk for the Great Western Railway, Packer won a scholarship to Oxford University. It was as a student at Oxford where he first met C.S. Lewis whose teachings would become a major influence in his life. In a meeting of the Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union, Packer committed his life to Christian service.

After briefly teaching Greek at Oak Hill College in London, Packer entered Wycliffe Hall to study theology and was ordained in the Anglican church. He became recognized as a leader in the Evangelical movement in the Church of England. In 1978, he signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which affirmed the conservative position on inerrancy.

In 1979, Packer moved to Vancouver to take up a position with Regent College. A prolific writer and frequent lecturer, Packer is widely regarded in Protestant circles as one of the most important theologians and church historians of the modern era. He is a frequent contributor to and an executive editor of Christianity Today. In recent years, he has become an outspoken proponent of the ecumenical movement but believes that unity should not come at the expense of orthodox Protestant doctrine. Nonetheless, his advocacy of ecumenicism has brought sharp criticism from some conservatives.

Packer served as general editor for the English Standard Version of the Bible (2001), an Evangelical revision of the Revised Standard Version of 1971.

The three addresses which I listened to are listed and linked below:

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Romans 8:16,17
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

"Believers do not contribute to the accomplishment of expiation, propitiation, reconciliation, and redemption. Nowhere are their sufferings represented as having such virtue or efficacy. The Lord laid his people's iniquities upon Christ alone and in him alone did God reconcile the world to himself. Christ alone redeemed us by his blood. Nevertheless there are other aspects from which the sufferings of the Children of God are to be classified with the sufferings of Christ himself. They partake of the sufferings which Christ endured and they are regarded as filling up the total quota of sufferings requisite to the consummation of redemption and the glorification of the whole body of Christ (cf. Col. 1:24). Again union and communion with Christ are the explanation and validation of this participation." John Murray in The Epistle to the Romans, Volume II

Friday, August 27, 2010

Eight Questions to Ask in Making a Moral Decision in the Category of Liberty

I really appreciated this post I came across at Between Two Worlds:

John Feinberg suggests eight tests for moral decision-making in matters that are not absolutes:

The first question is, am I fully persuaded that it is right? Paul says (Rom 14:5, 14, 23) that whatever we do in these areas, we must be persuaded it is acceptable before God. If we are not fully persuaded, we doubt rather than believe that we can do this and stand acceptably before God. If there is doubt, Paul says, there is sin (v. 23). So if there is any doubt, regardless of the reason for doubt, one should refrain. In the future, doubt might be removed, and then one could indulge; but while there is doubt, one must refrain.

Second, can I do it as unto the Lord? Whatever we do, Paul says, we must do as unto the Lord (Rom 14:6–8). To do something as unto the Lord is to do it as serving him. If one cannot serve the Lord (for whatever reason) in the doing of the activity, he should refrain.

Third, can I do it without being a stumbling block to my brother or sister in Christ? Much of Romans 14 (vv. 13, 15, 20–21) concerns watching out for the other brother’s or sister’s walk with the Lord. We may be able to indulge, but he or she may not have faith to see that the activity is morally indifferent. If he or she sees us participate, he or she may be offended. As much as possible, we must avoid giving offense in these areas. This, however, does not mean one must always refrain. Paul’s advice in 14:22 is helpful. For one who believes he can indulge, his faith is right, but let him have it before God. In other words, he need not flaunt his liberty before others. It is enough for him and the Lord to know he can partake of these practices. In sum, if one truly cares about his brother’s or sister’s walk, sometimes he will refrain, and at other times he will exercise his liberty privately.

Fourth, does it bring peace? In Rom 14:17–18 Paul says the kingdom of God is not about things such as the meat we eat or what we drink. Instead, it is about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Thus, believers should handle these matters so as to serve Christ. How would one do that? Paul instructs us (v. 19) to do what brings peace. Certain practices may be acceptable for one person, but if others saw him indulge, it might stir up strife between them. Hence, one must do what brings peace.

Fifth, does it edify my brother? The command to do what edifies is in the same verse as the charge to do what brings peace (14:19). By juxtaposing the two demands, Paul makes an important point. Some activities may not create strife with another Christian, but they may not edify him either. One must choose activities that both bring peace and edify.

Sixth, is it profitable? In 1 Cor 6:12 Paul addresses the issue of Christian liberty, and he reminds believers that morally indifferent practices are all lawful, but they may not all be profitable. They may be unprofitable for us or for our brother. For example, no law prohibits moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages or social dancing, but if my indulgence in either of these activities causes a brother to stumble, it is unprofitable for me to indulge. If the act is unprofitable, I must refuse to do it.

Seventh, does it enslave me? (1 Cor 6:12). Many activities, wholesome and valuable in themselves, become unprofitable if they master us more than Christ does. As John warns, Christians must not love the world, but are to love God instead (1 John 2:15ff.). It is not that everything in the world is evil and worthless. Rather, our devotion and affections must be focused first and foremost on God. If we are to be enslaved to anything or anyone, it must be Christ.

A final test is, does it bring glory to God? Paul discusses Christian liberty in 1 Corinthians 10, and in verse 31 he sums up his discussion by saying that whatever we do in these areas should bring glory to God. How does one know if his actions bring God glory? We would say at the least that if one answers any of the other seven questions negatively in regard to a particular activity, he can be sure he will not bring God glory if he indulges. Conversely, if the activity is acceptable on those other grounds, it should be acceptable on this ground as well.

In sum, Scripture distinguishes between actions covered by moral absolutes and those that are not. Believers must make up their own minds (under the Holy Spirit’s leading) on what to do in matters of Christian liberty. Personal preferences must not be imposed on others. In deciding what to do, one should use these eight tests taught by Paul. Each one must answer those questions honestly before God. Whatever decision stems from that process of questioning, each must have the integrity to obey.

From the second edition of Ethics for a Brave New World, due out in November.

I think this quote from Doug Wilson gets the difficult balance of legalism and liberty largely right: “The way others are to view your liberty is not the same way that you should view your liberty. Other Christians should let you do what you want unless the Bible forbids it. That’s how we guard against legalism. But you should use your liberty differently—you should be asking what the reasons are for doing it, and not what the reasons are for prohibiting it.”

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Muggeridge on the Incarnation -The man and his story are inexhaustible

In the exposition and portrayal of it, literally billions of words, oceans of paint, acres of canvas, mountains of stone and marble, have been expended, not to mention, in recent times, miles of film. Is there, then, anything left to say? I ask myself rather disconsolately, and decide that there is—not because of me, but because of him. The man and his story are inexhaustible, and continue to attract the minds and the imaginations of the pious and the impious, of believers and unbelievers, alike; mine among them. -Malcolm Muggeridge in Jesus Rediscovered, emphasis mine

Wednesday, August 25, 2010



Hang around an operating room long enough and you will get to enjoy hearing some surgical bravado. Before I give you some specific examples, I need to set the the scene a little. Usually these little ditties come out between 0400-0500 when we have been operating for twenty hours straight. The general surgery clerk arrives in the OR to report yet another emergency case to be booked. Rather than openly admit what everyone in the operating room is secretly yearning, namely, to finish this current operation and go to bed even for a few hours, someone will drop one of these lines. You know what is left of the night is going to be a “no sheeter” (you won’t see your bed) and these lines ceremonial seal the deal so to speak. Before you get too uptight these are for the most part said in jest except from the most junior surgical trainees who don’t know any better yet. So with that background I provide you with the following examples: “The only problem with 1 in 2 call is you miss half the good cases” or maybe “The only way to heal is with cold hard steel”. Perhaps my favourite is “A chance to cut is a chance to cure”. There is a certain hint of truth in this last comment and although it is usually delivered with some swagger and sleep-deprived machismo, the hint of truth remains. There are some conditions that require cutting to cure.

Hebrews 4:12 says the following...
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The fallen, sinful human is precisely a patient that requires a cut to cure. God in his mercy first choses to operate on us in our helpless sinful state and continues to operate on us throughout our sanctification. What does He use as his surgical instrument? His living and active word. Every time we are exposed to the living active word of God, that word is piercing, dividing and discerning our intentions. If preaching of the word is an opportunity for God to operate, then consider the following. No surgeon operates with inferior equipment given his choice. Preaching that does not utilizes the word of God as its primary instrument, is using inferior equipment. I don’t know if the author of Hebrews knew much about orthopedic surgery but dividing joints and marrow is pretty nasty business requiring saws, drill bits and reamers - and all of them are sharp! You can’t separate joints and marrow with a soup spoon. Likewise, God can’t change lives with opinions, witty anecdotes, platitudes, good intentions, emotional appeals or even surgical bravado. He still changes lives by his living and active word. A chance to cut is a chance to cure.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Look ... and despair?


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley

"What, then, does the Crucifixion signify in an age like ours? I see it in the first place as a sublime mockery of all earthly authority and power. The crown of thorns, the purple robe, the ironical title 'King of the Jews,' were intended to mock or parody Christ's pretensions to be the Messiah; in fact, they rather hold up to ridicule and contempt all crowns, all robes, all kings that ever were. It was a sick joke that back-fired. No one it seems to me, who has fully grasped the Crucifixion can ever again take seriously any expression or instrument of worldly power, however venerable, glittering or seemingly formidable." Malcolm Muggeridge, Jesus Rediscovered

Monday, August 23, 2010

Content To Be Palliated?

Palliation: to make a disease or its symptoms less severe or unpleasant without removing the cause.
Cure: to eliminate with medical treatment.

In discussing the Church in Christianity and Liberalism, J Gresham Machen makes the following assertions about the role of human institutions as a hope for societal change. He also states that Christians should see the value of these institutions as negligible in comparison to the power of the Gospel.
It is upon this brotherhood of twice born sinners, this brotherhood of the redeemed that the Christian founds the hope of society. He finds no solid hope in the improvement of earthly conditions, or the molding of human institutions under the influence of the Golden Rule. These things are to be welcomed. They may so palliate the symptoms of sin that there may be time to apply the true remedy; they may serve to produce conditions upon the earth favourable to the gospel message; they are even valuable for their own sake. But in themselves their value, to the Christian is certainly small. A solid building cannot be made when all the materials are faulty; a blessed society cannot be formed out of men who are still under the curse of sin. Human institutions are really to be molded, not by Christian principles accepted by the unsaved , but by Christian men; the true transformation of society will come by the influence of those who have themselves been redeemed.
I remembered as a child driving by hospitals, seeing ambulances in the loading bay and thinking to myself, ‘If I were really sick and made it to the hospital everything would be okay’. Now as a physician working in a major trauma center I frequently see that same thought in individuals desperately clinging to life. Their adrenal glands churning out epinephrine and norepinephrine maximally until they arrive at the hospital where they ‘relax’ because of a belief that ‘everything will be okay’. In some cases that ‘relaxation from relief’ can be dangerous. After exposure to numerous hours of clinical work, significant amounts of sleep deprivation and seeing many, many, many different patients, I now know differently about the society I had joined as a healthcare provider. There are some things the medical institution cannot fix - even if you do make it to the hospital. It is an institution filled with dedicated, hard working human beings practicing, researching and driven to cure disease of all kinds but by and large we are unsuccessful. We frequently deal with palliation rather than cure.

Machen made me consider how optimistically juvenile my thoughts remain regarding other social institutions in which I lack personal insight. As an inhabitant of Canada I am blessed with a plethora of social supports that produce favourable conditions for me(freedom of speech, freedom of worship, social services and welfare systems, robust financial institutions, exceptional infrastructure, advance telecommunications providing services that are allowing you to read this blog) It is painfully challenging to look through the ‘superficial goodness’ of all of this and realize that this is still social palliation if the centrality of the gospel of Christ is omitted. The encouragement of this circumstance is that I am afforded more time to “apply the true remedy”. The decision is whether I am willing to apply the true remedy or I am content for others to be unnecessarily palliated. In medical terms, that would be malpractice. I think it’s much worse in spiritual terms.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Jesus of good causes

I'm not against good causes per se; but they don't terminate on themselves. There is something bigger and more important, more integral and primary. That is, there is Jesus Christ and him crucified.

From Jesus Rediscovered by Malcolm Muggeridge:

In any case, I was generally uneasy, not just about Quakers, but about this whole concept of a Jesus of good causes. I would catch a glimpse of a cross, not necessarily a crucifix; maybe two pieces of wood accidentally nailed together, on a telegraph pole for instance and suddenly my heart would stand still. In an instinctive, intuitive way I understood that something more important, more tumultuous, more passionate, was at issue than our good causes, however admirable they might be.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hipster Jesus

I am currently typing this blog beside a beautiful lake in northern Idaho. My family and I are visiting my dad for a few days. This visit will pretty much finish off the summer vacation. With the sun setting over the mountains, following a day filled with hiking, fishing, swimming, and water tubing, I briefly pause before bed to share a quote for the morning's blog post.

The quote comes from the book Jesus Rediscovered by Malcolm Muggeridge. Here is a brief bio of Muggeridge:
Malcolm Muggeridge was born in 1903. His father was a member of the House of Commons and Muggeridge later described his upbringing as "socialist".

In 1924 Muggeridge left Cambridge University and worked as a teacher in India and Egypt. He also contributed articles for various newspapers including the Evening Standard and the Daily Telegraph.

In 1932 Muggeridge became a correspondent for the Manchester Guardian in the Soviet Union. He witnessed the Ukranian famine and wrote vivid accounts of this disaster. Muggeridge then returned to India where he became assistant editor for the Calcutta Statesman. He also published the book, The Earnest Atheist (1936).

On the outbreak of the Second World War, Muggeridge joined the Army Intelligence Corps and served in Mozambique, Italy, and France. He also worked for MI5 during this period.

After the war Muggeridge became a correspondent for the Daily Telegraph in Washington (1946-52). This was followed by a spell as editor of Punch Magazine (1953-57). He also worked as a television reporter for Panorama (1953-60). He also had two interview programmes: Appointment With (1960-61) and Let Me Speak (1964-65).

In later life Muggeridge became very religious and this is reflected in the books he published: Jesus Rediscovered (1969), Something Beautiful For God (1971), Chronicles of Wasted Time (1973), Jesus: The Man Who Lives (1975), Christ and the Media (1977), The End of Christendom (1980), A Third Testament (1983) and Confessions of a 20th Century Pilgrim (1988).

Malcolm Muggeridge died on 14th November, 1990.

In his book, Jesus Rediscovered, Muggerdige provides a great quote that is as applicable today as it was when it was written:
Each generation of Christians inevitably seeks to fashion its own Christ; from the austere figures carved in wood of the early Middle Ages, through the ebullient Renaissance Christs, to the weird efforts of our own time, sometimes clerically sponsored, to devise a Hipster Saviour.

It seems we will always reflect this famous quote by Rousseau: "God created man in his own image. And man, being a gentleman, returned the favor."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Psalm 119:2

Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him whith their whole heart.

It is not those who just hear the Word, but do it. Many have the Word in their mind and memory, but not in their lives. The truly blessed men are those that consider it a great obligation to obey it. God takes into sweet fellowship and communion those who keep his commandments. He will manifest himself in an intimate and gracious communion. The whole Trinity will come and dwell in his heart (John 14:23). We might consider two ways to keep God's commandments: legal and evangelical. By legal, I mean keeping them in perfect, absolute obedience. If this were intended, no one would be blessed. The best of believers have failures in obedience. By evangelical obedience, I mean someone who in love and sincerity seeks to obey fully, but enjoys the gracious pardon for his failures. The apostles had many failures, yet Christ speaks of them to his Father, 'They have kept your word' (John 17:6). When the heart is sincere, God will pass by our failings. 'You have heard of the patience of Job' (James 5:11), aye, and of his impatience too, and his cursing the days of his birth. But the Spirit of God puts a finger upon the scar, and takes notice of what is good. So long as we bewail sin, seek remission of sin, strive after perfection, and endeavour to keep close and sensitive to his commandments, though a naughty heart will carry us aside sometimes, we keep the testimony of the Lord in a gospel sense, and can be included in the compass of David's blessed man. If you bewail sin, seek pardon, and strive after perfection, this argues for sincerity and uprightness and honours the gospel. We have arrived at David's blessed man if we esteem God's testimonies and desire them to be impressed upon our hearts, and expressed in our lives.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Fourfold Salvation by A. W. Pink - Salvation from the Presence of Sin

In this final aspect of our salvation, as considered in A. W. Pink's article A Fourfold Salvation, Pink considers how we are, or better will be, saved from the presence of sin.

Pink begins by emphasizing that we do not currently live in the actualized fullness of this aspect of salvation:
We now turn to that aspect of our subject which has to do solely with the future. Sin is yet to be completely eradicated from the believer's being, so that he shall appear before God without any spot or blemish. True, this is his legal status even now, yet it has not become so in his state or experience. As God views the believer in Christ, he appears before Him in all the excellency of his Sponsor, but as God views him as he yet is in himself (and that He does so is proved by His chastenings), He beholds all the ruin which the Fall has wrought in him. But this will not always be the case: no, blessed be His name, the Lord is reserving the best wine for the last. And even now we have tasted that He is gracious, but the fulness of His grace will only be entered into and enjoyed by us after this world is left behind.
I love how Pink discusses Christ's impact and influence on our salvation:
Our salvation from the pleasure of sin is effected by Christ's taking up His abode in our hearts: “Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20). Our salvation from the penalty of sin was secured by Christ's sufferings on the Cross where He endured the punishment due our iniquities. Our salvation from the power of sin is obtained by the gracious operations of the Spirit which Christ sends to His people—therefore He is designated “the Spirit of Christ” (Rom. 8:9; and cf. Gal. 4:6; Rev. 3:1). Our salvation from the presence of sin will be accomplished at Christ's second advent: “for our citizenship is in heaven, from whence we also look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself” (Phil. 3:20,21).
Finally, Pink provides an excellent summation of our salvation when it is considered how it is applied to us in terms of the order of salvation:
Salvation from the pleasure or love of sin takes place at our regeneration ; salvation from the penalty or punishment of sin occurs at our justification ; salvation from the power or dominion of sin is accomplished during our practical sanctification ; salvation from the presence or inbeing of sin is consummated at glorification : “whom He justified, them He also glorified” (Rom. 8:30).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Fourfold Salvation by A. W. Pink - Salvation from the Power of Sin - part 2

A Fourfold Salvation by A. W. Pink - Salvation from the Power of Sin

Following up yesterday's post, we will look at the rest of Pink's explanation of our salvation from the power of sin. Pink differentiates between human responsibilities and Divine responsibilities in our salvation from sin's power. Yesterday we focused on the human side, today we will consider the Divine side.

"These two aspects (the Divine and the human) are brought together in a number of scriptures. We are bidden to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” but the apostle immediately added, “for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12,13). Thus, we are to work out that which God has wrought within us; in other words, if we walk in the Spirit we shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal. 5:16)."

Pink offers four ways in which God helps save us from the power of sin:
  1. "First , by granting us a clearer view of our inward depravity , so that we are made to abhor ourselves. By nature we are thoroughly in love with ourselves, but as the Divine work of grace is carried forward in our souls we come to loathe ourselves; and that, my reader, is a very distressing experience—one that is conveniently shelved by most of our modern preachers."
  2. "Second , by sore chastenings . This is another means which God uses in delivering His people from sin's dominion: “We have had fathers of our flesh which have corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness” (Heb. 12:9,10)."
  3. "Third , by bitter disappointments . God has plainly warned us that “all is vanity and vexation of spirit, and there is no profit under the sun” (Eccl. 2:11), and that by one who was permitted to gratify the physical senses as none other ever has been."
  4. "Fourth , it is by the gift of the Spirit and His operations within us. God's great gift of Christ for us is matched by the gift of the Spirit in us, for we owe as much to the One as we do to the Other. The new nature in the Christian is powerless apart from the Spirit's daily renewing. It is by His gracious operations that we have discovered to us the nature and extent of sin, are made to strive against it, are brought to grieve over it. It is by the Spirit that faith, hope, and prayer are kept alive within the soul. It is by the Spirit we are moved to use the means of grace which God has appointed for our spiritual preservation and growth. It is by the Spirit that sin is prevented from having complete dominion over us, for as the result of His indwelling in us, there is something else besides sin in the believer's heart and life, namely, the fruits of holiness and righteousness."
Pink sums up this aspect of our salvation with this: "Present salvation from the power of sin consists in, first, delivering us from the love of it, which though begun at our regeneration is continued throughout our practical sanctification. Second, from its blinding delusiveness , so that it can no more deceive as it once did. Third, from our excusing it: “that which I do, I allow not” (Rom. 7:15). This is one of the surest marks of regeneration."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Fourfold Salvation by A. W. Pink - Salvation from the Power of Sin

Salvation from the Power of Sin

As we continue to work through the A. W. Pink article A Fourfold Salvation, we come to the third aspect of our salvation which is
Salvation from the Power of Sin. Pink writes,
This is a present and protracted process, and is as yet incomplete. It is the most difficult part of our subject, and upon it the greatest confusion of thought prevails, especially among young Christians. Many there are who, having learned that the Lord Jesus is the Saviour of sinners, have jumped to the erroneous conclusion that if they but exercise faith in Him, surrender to His Lordship, commit their souls into His keeping, He will remove their corrupt nature and destroy their evil propensities. But after they have really trusted in Him, they discover that evil is still present with them, that their hearts are still deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and that no matter how they strive to resist temptation, pray for overcoming grace, and use the means of God's appointing, they seem to grow worse and worse instead of better, until they seriously doubt if they are saved at all. They are now being saved.
Pink goes on to some extent about the application of this aspect of salvation from the believer's standpoint. "What, then is the young Christian to do? Is he powerless? Must he resort to stoicism, and make up his mind there is naught but a life of defeat before him? Certainly not! " For Pink, there are several things the believer must do:
  1. The first thing for him to do is to learn the truth that in himself he is “without strength.”
  2. Next, we can strengthen and develop the new nature by feeding it through the Word, allowing it to breathe through prayer, and exercising it by walking with the Lord
  3. Finally, we must also starve the old nature by abstaining from everything that would stimulate our carnality including carnal entertainment, and worldly friendships
These are responsibilities on the human side of salvation from the power of sin.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Fourfold Salvation by A. W. Pink - Salvation from the Penalty of Sin

I really enjoy reading A. W. Pink; it is like taking a drink of cool, refreshing water. This "water" that Pink dispenses to the reader is crystal clear. That is, Pink is concise and easy to comprehend. And yet, his writing is not simple. This "water" comes from a well that is deep too. Good writers, in my estimation, are ones that can take profound and weighty truths and present them in a manner which the uninitiated can grasp, and yet the weightiness of the subject is not removed. Pink is this type of writer and his article A Fourfold Salvation is a great example of this.

The second application of salvation that Pink endeavors to explain is
Salvation from the Penalty of Sin. Pink writes, "This follows upon our regeneration which is evidenced by evangelical repentance and unfeigned faith. Every soul that truly puts his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ is then and there saved from the penalty—the guilt, the wages, the punishment—of sin." Pink indicates that there are two viewpoints through which we should contemplate this aspect of salvation: the Divine and the human.

The Divine:
The Divine side of it is found in the mediatorial office and work of Christ, who as the Sponsor and Surety of His people met the requirements of the law on their behalf, working out for them a perfect righteousness and enduring Himself the curse and condemnation which are due them, consummated at the Cross. It was there that He was “wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5). It was there that He, judicially, “His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree” (I Pet. 2:24). It was there that He was “smitten of God and afflicted” while He was making atonement for the offenses of His people. Because Christ suffered in my stead, I go free; because He died, I live; because He was forsaken of God, I am reconciled to Him. This is the great marvel of grace, which will evoke ceaseless praise from the redeemed throughout eternity.

The Human:
The human side of our salvation from the penalty of sin respects our repentance and faith. Though these possess no merits whatever, and though they in no sense purchase our pardon, yet according to the order which God has appointed, they are (instrumentally) essential, for salvation does not become ours experimentally until they are exercised. Repentance is the hand releasing those filthy objects it had previously clung to so tenaciously; faith is extending an empty hand to God to receive His gift of grace. Repentance is a godly sorrow for sin; faith is receiving a sinner's Saviour. Repentance is a revulsion of the filth and pollution of sin; faith is a seeking of cleansing therefrom. Repentance is the sinner covering his mouth and crying “Unclean, unclean!” Faith is the leper coming to Christ and saying, “Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.”

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I Have A Shelter

I have a shelter in the storm
When troubles pour upon me
Though fears are rising like a flood
My soul can rest securely
O Jesus, I will hide in You
My place of peace and solace
No trial is deeper than Your love
That comforts all my sorrows

I have a shelter in the storm
When all my sins accuse me
Though justice charges me with guilt
Your grace will not refuse me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
Who bore my condemnation
I find my refuge in Your wounds
For there I find salvation

I have a shelter in the storm
When constant winds would break me
For in my weakness, I have learned
Your strength will not forsake me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
The One who bears my burdens
With faithful hands that cannot fail you’ll bring me home to heaven

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Fourfold Salvation by A. W. Pink - Salvation from the Pleasure of Sin

The first application of salvation that is addressed by A. W. Pink in his article A Fourfold Salvation is Salvation from the Pleasure of Sin.

As per usual, Pink addresses the topic succinctly:
It is here that God begins in His actual application of salvation unto His elect. God saves us from the pleasure or love of sin before He delivers us from the penalty or punishment of sin. Necessarily so, for it would be neither an act of holiness nor of righteousness were He to grant full pardon to one who was still a rebel against Him, loving that which He hates. God is a God of order throughout, and nothing ever more evidences the perfections of His works than the orderliness of them. And how does God save His people from the pleasure of sin? The answer is, “By imparting to them a nature which hates evil and loves holiness.” This takes place when they are born again, so that actual salvation begins with regeneration.
Pink goes on to speak about this wonder of grace; that is, the new nature that we receive and how it accomplishes our salvation from the pleasures of sin.
The fact is, my reader, that we are not only born into this world with an evil nature, but with hearts that are thoroughly in love with sin. Sin is our native element. We are wedded to our lusts, and of ourselves are no more able to alter the bent of our corrupt nature than the Ethiopian can change his skin or the leopard his spots. But what is impossible with man, is possible to God, and when He takes us in hand, this is where He begins—by saving us from the pleasure or love of sin. This is the great miracle of grace, for the Almighty stoops down and picks up a loathsome leper from the dunghill and makes him a new creature in Christ, so that the things he once loved he now hates, and the things he once hated he now loves. God commences by saving us from ourselves. He does not save us from the penalty until He has delivered us from the love of sin.
Pink, in order to clarify, asks “And how is this miracle of grace accomplished, or rather, exactly what does it consist of ?” To which he provides the following answer: “Negatively, not by eradicating the evil nature, nor even by refining it. Positively, by communicating a new nature, a holy nature, which loathes that which is evil, and delights in all that is truly good. To be more specific.”

Pink explains,
  • First , God saves His people from the pleasure or love of sin by putting His holy awe in their hearts
  • Second , God saves His people from the pleasure of sin by communicating to them a new and vital principle: “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5), and where the love of God rules the heart, the love of sin is dethroned
  • Third , God saves His people from the love of sin by the Holy Spirit's drawing their affections unto things above, thereby taking them off the things which formerly enthralled them

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Fourfold Salvation by A. W. Pink - continued

A. W. Pink, in his article called A Fourfold Salvation, describes the multi-faceted causes of salvation. These causes correspond to the application of salvation. The following quote sums up the causes:
"... it may be shown from Scripture that the cause of salvation is not a single one, as so many suppose—the blood of Christ. Here, too, it is necessary to distinguish between things which differ. First, the originating cause of salvation is the eternal purpose of God, or in other words, the predestinating grace of the Father. Second, the meritorious cause of salvation is the mediation of Christ, this having particular respect to the legal side of things, or, in other words, His fully meeting the demands of the Law on the behalf of and in the stead of those He redeems. Third, the efficient cause of salvation is the regenerating and sanctifying operations of the Holy Spirit, which respect the experimental side of it; or, in other words, the Spirit works in us what Christ purchased for us. Thus, we owe our personal salvation equally to each Person in the Trinity, and not to one (the Son) more than to the others. Fourth, the instrumental cause is our faith, obedience, and perseverance: though we are not saved because of them, equally true is it that we cannot be saved (according to God's appointment) without them."
The application of that salvation is also fourfold:
  1. Salvation from the Pleasure of Sin
  2. Salvation from the Penalty of Sin
  3. Salvation from the Power of Sin
  4. Salvation from the Presence of Sin

It is important, as we continue to consider this article, to keep in mind that Pink emphasizes the "already-not yet" principle as it applies to salvation.
"First, salvation as an accomplished fact : “Thy faith hath saved thee” (Luke 7:50); “by grace ye have been saved” (Greek, and so translated in the R.V.—Eph. 2:8); “according to His mercy He saved us” (Tit. 3:5). Second, salvation as a present process, in course of accomplishment, not yet completed: “Unto us which are being saved” (I Cor. 1:18—R.V. and Bagster Interlinear); “Them that believe to the saving [not the `salvation'] of the soul” (Heb. 10:39). Third, salvation as a future process : “Sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Heb. 1:14); “receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls” (Jas. 1:21); “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Pet. 1:5).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Fourfold Salvation by A. W. Pink

I found an interesting article on Monergism.com by A. W. Pink entitled The Fourfold Salvation. I plan to provide several posts from the article, the first of which is this one which deals with the introduction of the article.

Pink admonishes the reader to pursue God through study, particulary the study of our salvation:
The subject of God's “so-great-salvation” (Heb. 2:3), as it is revealed to us in the Scriptures and made known in Christian experience, is worthy of a life's study. Any one who supposes that there is now no longer any need for him to prayerfully search for a fuller understanding of the same needs to ponder: “If any man think he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know” (I Cor.8:2). The fact is that the moment any of us really takes it for granted that he already knows all that there is to be known on any subject treated of in Holy Writ, he at once cuts himself off from any further light thereon. That which is most needed by all of us in order to a better understanding of Divine things is not a brilliant intellect, but a truly humble heart and a teachable spirit, and for that we would daily and fervently pray, for we possess it not by nature.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sam Storms on Historical-Cultural Analysis

Sam Storms' ministry website has a number of excellent articles pertaining to "Biblical and Theological Resources from the ministry of Sam Storms". I often visit this site for research on various topics. The articles are well-written, concise, and beneficial to those who would like to access the insights of this pastor-theologian.

For instance, Storms has an helpful article on Bible study pertaining to Historical-Cultural Analysis. In the article, he lists 11 primary issues:

1. Who is the author?

2. What do we know about his background, education, life in general, etc.'

3. Where was he when he wrote this text? Does the provenance of the book affect its interpretation?

4. What were his circumstances when he wrote this text?

5. When did he write this text?

6. Who are the recipients (addressees) of this text?

7. Where do they live?

8. What factors in their place of residence might influence what the author would say to them and how they might hear what he says?

9. What is the relationship between the author and those to whom he writes?

10. What were the circumstances, needs, or events that occasioned the text?

11. Identify any other significant people, places, or events mentioned in the rest of the book.

Consider visiting the Enjoying God Ministries website.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


"The most fundamental task of a mother and father is to show God to the children. Children know their parents before they know God. This is a huge responsibility and should cause every parent to be desperate for God-like transformation. The children will have years of exposure to what the universe is like before they know there is a universe. They will experience the kind of authority there is in the universe and the kind of justice there is in the universe and the kind of love there is in the universe before they meet the God of authority and justice and love who created and rules the universe. Children are absorbing from dad his strength and leadership and protection and justice and love; and they are absorbing from mom her care and nurture and warmth and intimacy and justice and love—and, of course, all these overlap." John Piper in This Momentary Marriage

Piper describes the responsibility, a serious and weighty matter, that parents have in introducing their children to God and instructing them about God. This is, at times, a burden. What if I screw up (and I know I will)? What if I scar them and scare them away from God? Am I fit for this? But I want to think about this 'burden' differently. I want to compare it to fuel for an airliner. The weight of fuel that an airplane, perhaps a 747, is enormous. A 747 can hold 50,000 gallons of fuel which would be around 350000 pounds for the plane to carry. A big burden. Yet, that burdensome load is also the fuel the jet needs to propel itself. And that is how I want to think about the responsibility of parenting children; the responsibility is a God-given burden that fuels me to be the parent I am called to be. Parenting is a serious endeavour, and that makes it, in some ways, a burden. But if it wasn't serious, what motivation would there be to do it well? This is a weight that, with the Holy Spirit's help, will not weigh me down but motivate me to soar. I'm thankful for my children and the responsibility that comes with them!

"The chief task of parenting is to know God for who he is in his many attributes—especially as he has revealed himself in the person of Jesus and his cross—and then to live in such a way with our children that we help them see and know this multi-faceted God." John Piper in This Momentary Marriage

Monday, August 9, 2010

A well worn path

Consider two quotes about preaching from well known preachers C. H. Spurgeon and Bryan Chapell:

"There are no dark passageways through twisted mazes of logic to biblical truth that require the expertise of the spiritually elite. There is only a well-worn path that anyone can follow if a preacher sheds some ordinary light along the way." Bryan Chapell in
Christ-Centered Preaching

"Now the learned tell us that the nineteenth century requires “advanced thought.” I wish the nineteenth century was over; I have heard it bragged about so much that I am sick of the nineteenth century. We are told that this is too sensible a century to need or accept the same gospel as the first, second, and third centuries. Yet these were the centuries of martyrs, the centuries of heroes, the centuries that conquered all the gods of Greece and Rome, the centuries of holy glory, and all this because they were the centuries of the gospel; but now we are so enlightened that our ears ache for something fresh, and under the influence of another gospel, which is not another, our beliefs are dwindling down from alps to anthills, and we ourselves from giants to pigmies. You will want a microscope soon to see Christian faith in the land, it is getting to be so small and scarce. By God’s grace some of us abide by the ark of the covenant, and mean to preach the same gospel which the saints received at the first." Charles H. Spurgeon as quoted at The Puritan's Woodshop

We don't need anything novel or new or new-fangled. We need the tried and tested, true gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a well-worn path path to follow. Keep in mind, it's lack of innovation does not equate to lack of transformation; it is the good news of God's transforming grace. Newness is found not in a neoteric 'gospel' created for the contemporary times. Rather, newness in the gospel of Christ is found in the regeneration and resurrection of dead souls.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Stunts and stupidity

I was helped by this post by Jared Wilson:

The Awesomeness-Driven Church

It is widely repeated that a Korean pastor once visited the United States and remarked at the end of his stay, "It's amazing what you people can do without the Holy Spirit."

Yesterday I watched a video of a motocross bike jumping over a pastor on stage. Now, I'm not saying that church or its pastor don't have the Holy Spirit, but I am saying that setting up a dirtbike track in your sanctuary is profoundly stupid.

What is profoundly stupid is the sheer amount of innovation, creativity, energy, ambition, and astounding levels of human wherewithal that go into crafting the most amazing worship experiences Americans have ever seen inside churches where the gospel isn't preached. I can say this because there's only one thing we hold that the New Testament calls "power," and that's the gospel.

In Ezekiel 37 we find that well-known prophetic vision of the valley of dry bones. I find verse 8 curious:
And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them.

Looks alive. Still: it isn't.

Is this what we've crafted with many of our ecclesiastic enterprises? Have we only set loose an army of shiny, platitude-dispensing golems?

Is this also true of even churches with "sound doctrine," where human ingenuity and personality and tradition reign?

What's the prescription for the awesomeness-driven church?
Ezekiel 37:9-10:
Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live." So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
The prescription is life-giving proclamation that pleads for the Holy Spirit and his reviving wind. And the result is a church alive, fired with gospel militancy and mobilized for kingdom mission.

Holy Spirit, come.

See it here.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Romans 5:18-21

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

"With Adam is bound up the entrance of sin into the world and the reign of sin, condemnation, and death. With Christ is bound up the entrance of righteousness and the reign of grace, righteousness, justification, life. These two heads of humanity and the two parallel yet opposing complexes bound up with them are the pivots on which the history of humanity turns. God's government of the race can be interpreted only in terms of these two headships and of the respective complexes which the heads set in operation. These are the pivots of redemptive revelation, the first as making redemption necessary, the second as accomplishing and securing redemption." (Murray, John. The Epistle to the Romans: the English Text with Introduction, Exposition and Notes. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968. p207)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Satan's Suicide

Great video from Piper. Some awesome points that I'd never really thought about before, but leave it to Piper to cover that ground for me and then bring it to my attention!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

All I have known is grace

I have really been enjoying a song from Sovereign Grace Music off of their album Sons and Daughters. The album is described at Sovereign Grace Music as such:
"These songs are meant to direct our attention to the unfathomable love God has shown us in adopting us through Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:5). We are now part of God’s family—in Christ we will forever be the objects of God’s particular and passionate mercy and love. That biblical reality, rather than leaving us focused on ourselves, drives us once again to proclaim the greatness of the God whose grace turns hopeless rebels into precious children."

Here are the lyrics :

"Completely Done"

What reason have I to doubt
Why would I dwell in fear
When all I have known is grace
My future in Christ is clear

My sins have been paid in full
There's no condemnation here
I live in the good of this
My Father has brought me near
I'm leaving my fears behind me now

The old is gone, the new has come
What You complete is completely done
We're heirs with Christ, the victory won
What You complete is completely done

I don't know what lies ahead
What if I fail again
You are my confidence
You'll keep me to the end
I'm leaving my fears behind me now

By Jonathan Baird, Ryan Baird, and Rich Gunderlock as recorded on the album Sons & Daughters.

One line that keeps coming back to me is "When all I have known is grace". Really, that is the sum total of my experience in life; God's gracious hand depositing on me an unfathomable and incalculable weight of compassion and mercy. It didn't, and doesn't, always seem so in the moment, but hindsight partially and Scripture definitively make it clear that this is the case.

You can download the song for free here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chapell's motives for obedience

In his book on expository preaching(Chapell, Bryan. Christ-centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005. Print.), Bryan Chapell differentiates between grace-based motives for change and obedience over and against those which are grace-less. He lists these positive reasons for change and obedience:
  • A response to the love shown us by Christ
  • A response through adulation of the mercy of God in Christ
  • A response of love to others loved by God
  • A response through a proper love for self in Christ
Previous to these points, Chapell writes, "Guilt for sin drives us to the cross, but love for God that is the fruit of his grace should propel us from it ... Obedience naturally follows as loving service to our faithful God becomes our delight ... When explanation of God's full provision and unfailing love does not accompany exhortations for corrected behavior and right conduct, then spiritual damage must occur." (318)

Though Chapell is writing to preachers, consider this as someone who preaches to yourself. Regularly and unceasingly remind yourself of God's great mercy, love, and grace extended to you in Christ. The gospel, which you should daily preach to yourself, is evidence of this. But, do not omit exhorting yourself to obedience and right behavior which are actions fueled by the motives listed above. For me, obedience stemming from desire and delight in my crucified and glorified Savior is the goal I am aiming at.

Monday, August 2, 2010


An excerpt from This Momentary Marriage (Piper, John. This Momentary Marriage: a Parable of Permanence. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009. Print.):

Indeed, the distance between what Christ expects of us and what we achieve is infinitely greater than the distance between what we expect of our spouse and what he or she achieves. Christ always forgives more and endures more than we do. Forgive as you have been forgiven. Bear with as he bears with you. This holds true whether you are married to a believer or an unbeliever. Let the measure of God’s grace to you in the cross of Christ be the measure of your grace to your spouse ... Marriage is meant to be a unique matrix for this display of God’s grace. This is what marriage is for ultimately—the display of Christ’s covenant-keeping grace. (46-7, italics Piper's, bold emphasis mine)

Who wields the prosaic two-by-four like John Piper? Thump! That was my forehead that received the communicative clubbing. I know that my wife meets my expectations far more regularly than I meet Christ's. And I hope, having read and wrote about this, I'll remember this truth more often.

I wonder if the two-by-four ricocheted off of the beam in my eye.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Reading for August

With the onset of the second month of my summer vacation(teaching has some benefits), I am beginning a new focus on reading. In July I worked towards clearing up the reading projects I was in the middle of; Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell, This Momentary Marriage by John Piper, God Crucified by Richard Bauckham, One Thing by Sam Storms, and Surprised by the Power of the Spirit by Jack Deere.

This month I hope to focus on reading about prayer. I have three books on prayer lined up. I will begin with a book given to me by good friend Tim Kerr who pastors at Sovereign Grace Toronto; The Hour That Changes The World by Dick Eastman. That will be followed by A Praying Life by Paul Miller and Hunger for God by John Piper.

My hope is that as I continue to align my mind with God's truth on prayer that the Spirit will continue to transform my heart with godly affections. These affections will motivate me to actually pray more and pray more effectively. The goal is not more knowledge of prayer, but I believe that is the first step. The destination is a more vibrant life of communion with my Redeemer.

Will you pray for my prayer life? Please do.

I'd love to hear what your reading list for the month of August includes.