Thursday, March 31, 2011


The blind man cried for mercy: And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:38 ESV)

The lepers cried for mercy: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” (Luke 17:13 ESV)

But I'm not needy like those people, am I?

As a matter of fact, I'm not. My need for mercy is
far greater than unclean skin and unseeing eyes. My sin gives me an unclean heart and blinds me to the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Jesus, have mercy on me.

Mercy in laughter, mercy in crying.
Mercy in living, mercy in dying.
Mercy at work, and mercy at play.
Merciful mercy all night and all day.
O Son of David, have mercy on me.
Merciful Savior, have mercy on me.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Does the believer have one nature or two?

Have you ever found the ideas and concepts of the old and new nature of Christians confusing.
  • Do we have one nature or two?
  • What is the old nature and what is the new nature?
  • Who is this 'old man' that Paul talks about?
  • What is the 'new man' referring to?
  • What is the 'flesh' and how does it work in me?
  • Aren't we a new creation?
I found the article found at this link very helpful: Does the Believer Have One Nature or Two?

There are still some questions I have, but this article cleared a lot of them up for me. Take a look at it!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

As I work through Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, I marvel at the high esteem that this man held the things of God with. Unlike me, he discusses everything with a profound reverence and seriousness. In the following passage, he discusses the inseparability of the Spirit and the Word. This discussion is aimed at those 'fanatics' who would claim that the Spirit communicates to them anything that Scripture does not agree with.

... the Holy Spirit so inheres in His truth, which He expresses in Scripture, that only when its proper reverence and dignity are given to the Word does the Holy Spirit show forth His power. And what has lately been said-that the Word itself is not quite certain for us unless it be confirmed by the testimony of the Spirit-is not out of accord with these things. For by a kind of mutual bond the Lord has joined together the certainty of his Word and of his Spirit so that the perfect religion of the Word may abide in our minds when the Spirit, who causes us to contemplate God's face, shines; and that we in turn may embrace the Spirit with no fear of being deceived when we recognize him in his own image, namely, in the Word. (Institutes, 1.9.3)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Assenting to the gospel

Most evangelical Christians would agree that we need to believe in and assent to the gospel. Bot HOW we assent to or believe in is of prime importance. Walter Marshall addresses this in the following excerpt from The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification:

Our assenting to, or believing the gospel, must not be forced by mere conviction of the truth, such as wicked men and devils may be brought to, when they had rather it were false.

Neither must our believing in Christ be only constrained for fear of damnation, without any hearty love and desire towards the enjoyment of Him;

but we must receive the love of the truth by relishing the goodness and excellency of it;

and we must 'account all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord, and count them but dung, that we may win Christ and be found in Him' (2 Thess. 1:10; Phil. 3:8, 9), esteeming Christ to be all our salvation and happiness (Col. 3: 11), 'in whom all fullness dwells' (Col. 1:19).

I found the idea that we must not believe in the gospel by 'mere conviction of the truth' quite shocking. My knee-jerk response would be "Why not?" As I considered it, I realized that this would be an assenting to the gospel in the same way that demons or evil men would assent to it; they are convinced of the truth of it, but do not love it.

Rather, we are called to lovingly embrace the gospel by 'relishing the goodness and excellency of it'.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kids hating church

Challies has a link to a blog post entitled 5 Ways to Make Your Kids Hate Church. Here are the five ways:

1. Make sure your faith is only something you live out in public

2. Pray only in front of people

3. Focus on your morals

4. Give financially as long as it doesn’t impede your needs

5. Make church community a priority... as long as there is nothing else you want to do

Read the whole article here.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A power, bent and propensity to the practice of holiness

Walter Marshall suggests, in his work The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, that it is in our union with Christ, and that alone, that we will find the capacity, motivation, and ability to resist sin and desist sinning:

If we are joined to Christ, our hearts will be no longer left under the power of sinful inclinations, or in a mere indifferency of inclination to good or evil; but they will be powerfully endowed with a power, bent and propensity to the practice of holiness,. By the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us, and inclining us to mind spiritual things and to lust against the flesh (Rom. 8:1, 4, 5; Gal. 5:17).

The work of sanctification, that is, the becoming like Christ, growing in godliness, and the fighting of sin, is not something we could do, or should try and do, in our own power; this would be futile. Yet, when we are quickened by the Holy Spirit and are led into this fray we can be confident that He who begins a good work in us will see it through until the end.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Our hopes are grounded

All our hopes from God are grounded upon the promises which He hath made us in Jesus Christ:
but He Who hath made those promises is faithful;
so faithful, that He " cannot lie,"
and therefore cannot but do what He hath promised,
if we do but that which is required on our parts,
even believe that He will:
and certainly we have all the reason that can be for it.

- William Beveridge, Sermon 83, line breaks mine

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Importance of Conversation

Conversations about differing beliefs matter. The firestorm of internet activity that has erupted from Rob Bell's newest book, Love Wins, is proving why such conversations are important. A little piece from a recent essay by Al Mohler explains why:

We are talking about two rival understandings of the Gospel here — two very different understandings of theology, Gospel, Bible, doctrine, and the totality of the Christian faith. Both sides in this controversy understand what is at stake.
A conversation has finally opened up between the Protestant Liberal Emergent Churches and mainline Evangelicals. Took long enough!

I'm happy to see the willingness of some Emergent figures, such as Brian Mclaren, in joining the discussion and laying out all his cards. I can only hope that the conversations will continue! To get up to date with the discussion between Mohler and Mclaren just follow the links.

For the initial review of Love Wins by Al Mohler click here
For Mclaren's essay in response click here
For Mohler's response to Mclaren click here

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Free Will

I stumbled across an interesting article on free will in the New York Times.

Here an excerpt:

At an abstract level, people seem to be what philosophers call incompatibilists: those who believe free will is incompatible with determinism. If everything that happens is determined by what happened before, it can seem only logical to conclude you can’t be morally responsible for your next action.

But there is also a school of philosophers — in fact, perhaps the majority school — who consider free will compatible with their definition of determinism. These compatibilists believe that we do make choices, even though these choices are determined by previous events and influences. In the words of Arthur Schopenhauer, “Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills.”

Does that sound confusing — or ridiculously illogical? Compatibilism isn’t easy to explain. But it seems to jibe with our gut instinct that Bill is morally responsible even though he’s living in a deterministic universe. Dr. Nichols suggests that his experiment with Mark and Bill shows that in our abstract brains we’re incompatibilists, but in our hearts we’re compatibilists.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


The Gospel Coalition has an interesting post about teaching. Here is an excerpt:

Similarly, in order to be a good teacher, you don’t have to be a Christian. But you must model Christian principles. For Christianity is not just a religion, or some compartmentalized facet of existence. Rather, it testifies to reality itself, the true nature of all that exists. So when we teach according to Christ’s example, we teach more effectively. As such, we shouldn’t be surprised when sincere secular sources echo biblical assertions. For instance, in the book What the Best College Teachers Do, Ken Bain concludes after much observation, research, and analysis that humility is crucial to good teaching. He found that unsuccessful teachers trade this trait for arrogance and pride. They desire to be “the star of the show,” working to impress students with their expertise and knowledge, all the while instilling in students a sense of insecurity at their own informational deficit. Ultimately this constructs a hierarchy of subservience with the teacher on the top and the students on the bottom, a comprehensive contrast to the model of Christ but quite in line with that of Pharisees.

Read the rest of the article here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Men may ascend

More from William Beveridge's Sermon 83 (line breaks mine):

That this Divine Person, in that nature, lived several years upon earth, and then died for the sins of mankind, in whose nature He did it:

that in the same nature He rose again from the dead, ascended up to Heaven, and is there set down at the right hand of the throne of God:

and, that He is there now the Mediator between God and men, having given Himself a ransom for all, to make up all differences between them, and so to reconcile both God to men, and men to God :

so that by Him, as a middle person between both, God is pleased to condescend so low as to manifest Himself to men, and men may ascend so high as to behold and enjoy God.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

William Beveridge

In preparing for a sermon on Hebrews 10:19-25, I came across a sermon by William Beveridge. William Beveridge(1637–1708) was an English Bishop of St Asaph. He was born at Barrow, near Leicester, and baptized there February 21, 1637. He was educated at St John's College, Cambridge,[1] and was rector of Ealing, 1661–72, and of St. Peter's, Cornhill, London, 1672–1704, when he became bishop. He died in London March 5, 1708. In his day he was styled "the great reviver and restorer of primitive piety" because in his sermons and other writings he dwelt on the Church of the early centuries.

Here is an excerpt from his introduction to Sermon 83:

THAT most Glorious and Almighty Being Which we worship and call God, although He be not only infinitely above us, but of a nature quite contrary to ours ; His being purity, holiness, perfection itself; ours weak, corrupt, and sinful: yet so great is His love to mankind, that He Himself hath found out a way whereby we may come so near to Him, as to see and enjoy Him, which is so high a mystery that human reason, in its highest perfection, could never have reached it ; neither could we ever have thought it possible, or so much as thought of it at all, if God Himself had not revealed it to us in His Holy Word ...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

On Pride

Last week at Church in the Oaks we started a series on the biblical basis of community. This week is my turn in the preaching rotation and the topic I have is "Humility".

What a broad topic and why did I ever agree to preach on it?! As soon as someone claims to have some insight or advice on the topic of humility I would assume that person automatically disqualified from teaching on it!

I have struggled through that thought quite a bit this week as God uses this opportunity to expose the deep seeded rebellion and pride in my heart.

James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 are familiar passages to most of us: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

If you're like me and grew up in church a lot of these incredibly powerful verses no longer penetrate the heart as they should. Think about what that is saying though...

The all-powerful Creator of the universe stands in opposition to the proud but grants extended grace to those who come before Him humbly.

First of all, it is a terrifying thing to think that my pride puts me at opposition with God. CJ Mahaney gives an explanation for why this is when he explains that pride is, "at its root, me competing for supremacy with God." Imagine the righteous opposition that would arise as a created being battles in His own mind and heart and spirit with the omniscient God for areas of supremacy.

On the positive end of this promise however, it is amazing think that we can strive for a virtue that catches the gaze of our Creator. That He pours out His grace and bolsters the efforts and spirits of the man who seeks humility before God.

This verse is an incredible insight in to the character of God. It makes my prayer all the more fervent: "May I love the things you love and hate the things you hate". This week has certainly expanded my love for and desire to obtain humility, and expanded my disdain for the pride so prevalent in my own life.

I will end with insight by Jonathan Edwards:

· [Pride is] “the worst viper that is in the heart”, and “the greatest disturber of the soul’s peace and sweet communion with Christ”; he ranked pride as the most difficult sin to root out and “the most hidden, secret and deceitful of all lusts, for what a foolish, silly, miserable, blind, decieved, poor worm am I, when pride works within me."


Friday, March 18, 2011

Marriage Life Group

Week 2 of our marriage life group is coming up this Friday night. As Jude has already mentioned we are going through Dave Harvey's When Sinner's Say I Do. Here's a few of the points I felt were notable from Chapters 1 and 2


p. 14 Gal 5:17 For the desires of the flesh are against the spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do

p. 15 To say “I am a sinner” is to stare at a fundamental reality that many people don’t even want to glance at.

p. 16 “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.” (Thomas Watson)

Chapter 1 What Really Matters in Marriage

Theologians at the Altar

p. 20 What we believe about God determines the quality of our marriage

p. 21 So make no mistake about it. How a husband and wife build their marriage day-by-day and year-by-year is fundamentally shaped by their theology. It governs how you think, what you say, and how you act. Your theology governs your entire life and it determines how you live in your marriage.

p. 23 We obviously live in a day when the meaning of marriage is up for grabs. Unfettered from any source of authority, marriage follows culture…no matter where culture goes.

p. 25 The gospel is therefore central to all theological truth, … The gospel is the fountain of a thriving marriage. (This paragraph is the main connection to the message we listened to from Mike Bullmore on The Functional Centrality of The Gospel)

p. 25 God is the most important person in a marriage. Marriage is for our good, but it is first for God’s glory.

p. 26 Christ is the reference point for all our actions in marriage (Eph 5)

p. 27 The ‘mystery’ of marriage is that when God designed it, he had Christ and the Church in mind.

p. 28 Marriage is street level theology – i.e. a great spot to see your theology in action. …Christ certainly saved us but he does not transform us instantly and completely into non-sinners. (Justification vs sanctification)

p. 29 There needs to be an ongoing awareness of our need for ongoing grace and mercy.

p. 29 A really challenging thought… What if you saw your problems as they truly are: caused by a was within your own heart?

Chapter 2 Waking Up With the Worst of Sinners

p. 35 I Tim 1:15 (Paul – the worst of sinners) …This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (p 36 and 37 breaks this down a little further)

p. 37 A great awareness of one’s sinfulness often stands side by side with great joy and confidence in God.

p. 38 I recognize the enormity of my sin, seeing myself as the worst of sinners, then I understand I have been forgiven much.

p. 40 (This made me laugh) “Christ Jesus came into the world to … meet my needs, of which I have the most!”

p. 41 (The crux of the argument) Once I find 1 Tim 1:15-16 trustworthy, then my spouse is no longer my biggest problem: I am. And when I find myself walking in the shoes of the worst of sinners, I will make every effort to grant my spouse the same lavish grace that God has granted me.

p. 41 In reference to God and sin, I am not a neutral actor. (This is interesting. You ought to ask yourself what you truly believe about people? Is your feeling that people are inherently good, neutral or inherently bad? Now try and support your view biblically. Keep in mind that the bible also has plenty of directions about how we should behave towards one another. So your answer to this question doesn’t immediately give you license to treat anyone in a particular manner which you see as fit)

p. 42 Sin is always aimed first and foremost at God

p. 42 Dave describes using “asking forgiveness” as a means to an end or “a tool” by leaving God out of his considerations

p. 43 …anything we do that isn’t sin is simply the grace of God at work (see discussions on common grace from previous life groups)

p. 44 “There are two things that are suited to humble the soul of men, a due consideration of God, and then ourselves. Of God, in his greatness, glory, holiness, power, majesty and authority; ourselves, in our mean, abject and sinful condition”

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Guys, the radiant woman on whose finger you slipped that wedding ring? ... sinner. Ladies, the man who offered you a vow of perfect faithfulness and lifelong sacrifice? ... sinner. In ceremonies all over the world, every day, without exception, it is sinners who say, "I do." It is sinners who celebrate their tenth anniversary, their twenty-fifth, and their fiftieth. It is sinners who share a final kiss at a spouse's deathbed. It is a sinner who wrote this book. And it is sinners who are reading it. (Harvey, David T. When Sinners Say "I Do": Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage. Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd, 2007. Print. 28)

Wedding Day by Laura Barbosa

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I am really enjoying the work it is taking to get through The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification by Walter Marshall. It is an in-depth look into many facets of our growth in godliness. I'm glad I can blog about some of it because the process causes me to remember and reflect on what I have read; I seem to forget much of what I read. One issue that strikes me periodically has to do with assurance of salvation and healthy self-evaluation of the current state of my Christian walk. I believe the following quote by Marshall is a good issue to consider in regards to my current affections:
If we are joined to Christ, our hearts will be no longer left under the power of sinful inclinations, or in a mere indifferency of inclination to good or evil; but they will be powerfully endowed with a power, bent and propensity to the practice of holiness,. By the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us, and inclining us to mind spiritual things and to lust against the flesh (Rom. 8:1, 4, 5; Gal. 5:17).
I take this quote to mean that I should not be indifferent to behaving as a Christian should. I should have strong affections towards holiness, obedience, and Christlikeness. If I don't, as my students would say. "It's time to check myself before I wreck myself."

Let your current spiritual temperature be measured by a inclination-to-holiness-thermometer. And then cry for mercy and grace to press on.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bangladesh and Japan

As part of my morning devotions, I have been reading A Godward Life, volume 1, by John Piper. It is a book of short articles, letters, and musings by its author. It serves well as a devotional offering things to thinks about, pieces to praise about, and ideas to be inspired about.

This morning I read a passage about the 1991 flooding in Bangladesh that took hundreds of thousands of lives. Piper, to help him deal with this devastating deluge, searched the Scriptures for solace.

Some of his comments are applicable to the tragedy in Japan so I thought I would share them this morning.
Life is not something we possess by virtue of our merit. We do not "own" our life in relation to God ... Life is God's and is on loan to us freely so that we might enjoy glorifying God with it. It is always and totally at his disposal, never rightfully at his disposal. Life belongs to God.

The heart of God is large and complex. He is able to be grieved over the pain of his creatures, while at the same time ordaining that this very pain and death take place for a higher and greater purpose that brings him more joy than if he had run the world in another way.

Our response therefore should be to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15) and not to delight callously in the destruction of anyone n this age, but to extend the love of Christ and the hope of salvation as long as we can to those who live. When confronted with the reason why we must look to the God who has absolute rights over us and take heed to ourselves knowing that our time will be very soon.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Social Network and loving this world

My wife and I-sans kids thanks to their aunt and uncle-sat down and watched The Social Network last night. It was OK. Some good acting and a current connection made it more interesting than it might have been otherwise.

However, I like a good ending. What would have made me happy is if the two friends had of reconciled in the end, thus not allowing money and pride to come between them. Oh well.

Along with the disappointment of broken friendship, by the end of the movie I was also left with a bad taste in my mouth; the lingering flavours of love of this world left on my palate. All the talk of the millions and billions of dollars left me pining for possession and thirsting for things. It left me with a passion for personal possessions which so often deadens our desire for delight in our Deity.

The residue of relish for real estate and wistful wishing for wealth was washed away this morning.

I read in Psalm 73 the following:

Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them.
And they say, “How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.
If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed the generation of your children.

But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.
(Psalm 73:1-17 ESV, emphasis mine)

Being jealous of the wealthy wicked is quickly exposed as futile and foolish when their end is considered. These worldly enjoyments are but trinkets and baubles; they pale and fail in light of and in the light of God's glory. As I read some more of God's word I came across Proverbs 11:4 which confirms and reinforces the idea from the Psalms of keeping the end of all things in view:

Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death.
(Proverbs 11:4 ESV)

My hope is found, and should remain, in nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. And the wrath of God should not be allowed to stray far from our thoughts. Thoughts of the afterlife are a ground for our thinking and a ballast for our affections.

These passages helped restore the "exile orientation" that John Piper's book, A Godward Life, also reminded me of this morning as I read a chapter as part of my devotions.

Finally, Kevin DeYoung's review of Rob Bell's book Love Wins put the final nails in the coffin where the mortified musing on fleshly fixtures that I had been fixated on now lay. In exposing the problems with Bell's book, DeYoung reiterated the importance of the orthodox belief in heaven. hell, and God's wrath; the very tonic for the toxic taunting I had exposed myself to in The Social Network.

King David, King Solomon, John Piper, and Kevin DeYoung played a secondary role to God and His Word in rinsing the residue of love of this world from my heart and mind. A great start to the day!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Righteous Love

How can a loving God send people to Hell? People that he even says himself he wants to be saved (1 Tim.2:4)??

Over the past couple of weeks it seems like you can't turn on the tv or computer without having some form of this question put in your face. A version of this question even made it onto Good Morning America! So how do we answer this? In Paul's first letter to Timothy that is what he writes. It's not a mistake, it's not a contextual issue, so what now? How can we wrap our minds around the fact that God is love but is also righteous and demands justice? In typical RC fashion, the great preacher/theologian breaks it down for us.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Here is Piper’s prayer for Japan:

Father in heaven, you are the absolute Sovereign over the shaking of the earth, the rising of the sea, and the raging of the waves. We tremble at your power and bow before your unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways. We cover our faces and kiss your omnipotent hand. We fall helpless to the floor in prayer and feel how fragile the very ground is beneath our knees.

O God, we humble ourselves under your holy majesty and repent. In a moment—in the twinkling of an eye—we too could be swept away. We are not more deserving of firm ground than our fellowmen in Japan. We too are flesh. We have bodies and homes and cars and family and precious places. We know that if we were treated according to our sins, who could stand? All of it would be gone in a moment. So in this dark hour we turn against our sins, not against you.

And we cry for mercy for Japan. Mercy, Father. Not for what they or we deserve. But mercy.

Have you not encouraged us in this? Have we not heard a hundred times in your Word the riches of your kindness, forbearance, and patience? Do you not a thousand times withhold your judgments, leading your rebellious world toward repentance? Yes, Lord. For your ways are not our ways, and your thoughts are not our thoughts.

Grant, O God, that the wicked will forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Grant us, your sinful creatures, to return to you, that you may have compassion. For surely you will abundantly pardon. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus, your beloved Son, will be saved.

May every heart-breaking loss—millions upon millions of losses—be healed by the wounded hands of the risen Christ. You are not unacquainted with your creatures’ pain. You did not spare your own Son, but gave him up for us all.

In Jesus you tasted loss. In Jesus you shared the overwhelming flood of our sorrows and suffering. In Jesus you are a sympathetic Priest in the midst of our pain.

Deal tenderly now, Father, with this fragile people. Woo them. Win them. Save them.

And may the floods they so much dread make blessings break upon their head.

O let them not judge you with feeble sense, but trust you for your grace. And so behind this providence, soon find a smiling face.

In Jesus’ merciful name, Amen.

HT: Challies

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Life group on marriage

We began a marriage-focused life group last week that will be using Dave Harvey's book When Sinners Say "I Do". I have begun re-reading the book and will be sharing some quotes from the book.

Early on in the book, Harvey expresses his belief that theology is and underlying yet governing aspect of our marriages. He quotes R. C. Sproul in this chapter, writing,
No Christian can avoid theology. Every Christian is a theologian [... ] the issue for Christians is not whether we are going to be theologians but whether we are going to be good theologians or bad ones.
He proceeds with his argument:
How a husband and wife build their marriage day-by-day and year-by-yearn is fundamentally shaped by their theology. It governs how you think, what you say, and how you act. Your theology governs your entire life. And it determines how you live in your marriage. (21)
What a great way to start a book on marriage.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Spirit superior to reason

John Calvin, though clearly a great mind himself, recognizes that ultimately we cannot rely on rational proofs and only human reason to convinces us of the veracity of God's Word. We certainly need to use our minds and reason, but we are unable to comprehend fully without God's Spirit:

... the testimony of the Spirit is superior to reason. For as God alone can properly bear witness to his own words, so these words will not obtain full credit in the hearts of men, until they are sealed by the inward testimony of the Spirit. The same Spirit, therefore, who spoke by the mouth of the prophets, must penetrate our hearts, in order to convince us that they faithfully delivered the message with which they were divinely entrusted. (Institutes 1.5.4)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Union with Christ; too good to be true?

Union with Christ is a wonder too magnificent for words. Walter Marshall, in his well-known book on sanctification called The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, discusses union with Christ and the possibility we might think it too good to be true:
And though this union seem too high a preferment for such unworthy creatures as we are, yet, considering the preciousness of the blood of God, by which we are redeemed, we should dishonour God, if we should not expect a miraculous advancement to the highest dignity that creatures are capable of through the merits of that blood.
Were the union based on our merit, it would literally be too good to be true. But the merits of Christ, and thus the merits of His blood, are infinitely good and therefore we should not be surprised, but rather expect, something of the magnitude of excellency as we see in the union with Christ.

Monday, March 7, 2011

All that we have

All that we have,
wisdom and the pardon of sin,
deliverance from hell,
acceptance in gods favor,
grace and holiness,
true comfort and happiness,
eternal life and glory,
we have from God by a mediator; and this mediator is God ...
Jonathan Edwards

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Let hin give God all the glory

Hath any man hope
that he is converted and sanctified,
and that his mind is endowed with true excellency and spiritual beauty,
and his sins forgiven,
and he received into God's favor,
and exalted to the honor and blessedness of being his child,
and an heir of eternal life:

let him give God all the glory;

who alone makes him to differ from the worst of men in this world ...

Jonathan Edwards

Saturday, March 5, 2011

God's display of glory

One of the nagging questions of theology that continues to present profitable opportunities to think hard is the existence of sin. Why did God allow it in the first place? This is a tough question, but John Piper has helped me partially answer this. I believe, as per my understanding of Piper's stance on this, that the world we live in will reflect the glory of God in the highest possible degree. That is, at the end of time when all is said and done, God will be revealed as more glorious then He would be in any other world. Christ's atonement will be seen with the uttermost glory possible. So, somehow, sin had to be part of that picture. Along those lines, I present this quote from Jonathan Edwards which declares that it is a more glorious work to uphold our souls in grace than it would have been had we never sinned to begin with; the display of God's grace and glory is greater in our sinning then it would be in an Edenic innocence.
So 'tis a more glorious work of power to uphold a soul in a state of grace and holiness, and to carry it on till it is brought to glory, when there is so much sin remaining in the heart resisting, and Satan with all his might opposing, then it would have been to have kept man from falling at first, when Satan had nothing in man. Jonathan Edwards, Sermon - God Glorified in Man's Dependence

Friday, March 4, 2011

Weighing in on Hell

Well there has certainly been a lot of buzz on the blogosphere about Rob Bell's newest book. I was actually thinking I'd like to start writing formal book reviews on here a bit more, so I'll leave any comments on Bell or his theology to such a time... I do agree with Chris as he said that confrontations like this should get well intentioned Christians in to their own bibles, reaffirming what they believe, and that's good.

I thought I'd share a few thoughts I had and a few, far more intelligent thoughts, some other theologians have had concerning the doctrine of Hell.

First, for those who may cite John Stott, or Martin Lloyd-Jones as other theologians who have questioned the doctrine of Hell (as I've read on several uninformed comments of blog posts that have criticized Bell) , remember that both Stott and Jones publicly contemplated the doctrine of
Annihilationism. Annihilationism IS NOT universalism, nor does it renounce the doctrine of Hell... it simply says that sinners are destroyed rather than left to eternal suffering. It argues eternal separation can look like non-existence, or existence that is separate from God.

(It is also important to point out that neither theologian publicly supported this doctrine... it was a thought, or an idea that they gave some credence to. I've wrestled though this doctrine myself and would lean more towards a traditional view now.)

Now, a few things about Hell.

The bible doesn't exactly give us a detailed exposition of hell, but it does describe the fate of it's inhabitants and what they will experience while there with several adjectives, including: fire (Matt 13:42; 5018:8-9 and Rev 19:20), darkness (Matt. 25:30; Jude 13), punishment (Rev 14:10-11), exclusion from the presence of God (Matt 7:23; 25:41; Luke 16:19 and 2 Thess. 1:9), restlessness (Rev 14:11), second death (Rev 2:11; 20:6,14; 21:8), and the weeping and gnashing of teeth we all hear (Matt 13:42 among others).

I like what Richard Niebuhr said of the ongoing attempt from liberal Christianity to ignore the bibles clear teachings on Hell. He says they teach of "a God without wrath who brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross." (The Kingdom of God without America)

Interestingly, all the buzz in liberal Christianity is just being a follower of Jesus and loving people. It seems as though the issues emergent types have with the bible primarily comes from Paul's teachings (church discipline, celibacy, sobriety and clear condemnation of homosexuality) but Niebuhr goes on to remind us that Jesus talked more of Hell than he did Heaven, or the Kingdom and he speaks more on Hell than anyone else in Scripture.

Mark Driscoll, in DOCTRINE, says "Amazingly, 13 percent of anything [Jesus] says is about hell and judgment; more than half his parables relate to the eternal judgment of sinners." (Cited in Doctrine by Mark Driscoll, from "What Ever Happened to Hell?" by John Blanchard)

Another interesting point that Driscoll makes in "Doctrine" is reminding us that hell isn't anything like the cartoons or modern pop-culture depicts it to be. It IS NOT a place where Satan rules. The devil ruling in hell (like so many of our theological assumptions, look for the term "apple" in Genesis in a real translation of the bible-- no I don't consider NLT or The Message real translations) is an idea we get from John Milton's Paradise Lost, in which the Devil arrogantly declares: "It's better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven".

The Devil, like all who die separated from Christ, are describes as those who:

"will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
11And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name."
Revelation 14:10-11

Hell is real and terrible. It is eternal. There is no possibility of amnesty or reprieve.

I think our attitude towards hell ought to be the same as our Father's... who takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked but pleads with them to turn from their evil ways (Ezek 18:23; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).

Jesus weeps for Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44)

Paul has "great sorrow and unceasing anguish" in his heart. (Rom 9:2-3)

Charles Spurgeon rightly began a message on the eternal, conscious torment of the wicked in hell this way: "Beloved, these are such weighty things that while I dwell upon them I feel far more inclined to sit down and weep than I do to stand up and speak." (Spurgeon, The Final Separation)

No Hell, No Cross

I have mixed feelings about this scuffle that has recently surfaced regarding Rob Bell and his upcoming book Love Wins.

I'm thankful for two reasons. 1)Now that some of the guess work has been taken away from Bell's theology my hope is that his errors can be addressed with grace and love. He's been described as the rock star of the modern church; he influences a lot of people. My prayer would be that the criticism he receives from this would cause him to reevaluate some of his doctrinal positions. 2)This has encouraged a lot of Evangelicals (including myself) to revisit their beliefs concerning the doctrine of Hell. This is one of those instances that forces us to stick our nose back into our Bibles, maybe even underline a verse of two, and figure out what it has to say about the issue at hand.

However, there are some negatives. I hate to see people inside the church fighting. I think that articles or blogposts written with intelligence, grace, boldness, and empathy are greatly needed, but we could do without the bickering that usually follows in the comments.

Tim Keller has a great article titled, "The Importance of Hell" which can be found here. Read it!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

1000 posts!


Eight Reasons Why We Need the Wrath of God

As some of you may already know, Rob Bell has finally taken a position on something. In his upcoming book Bell takes on the doctrine of Hell. It would seem from his promo video that Bell holds to a universalist view.

In light of this view, here are eight reasons on why we need to believe in the doctrine of Hell and why God must display his wrath and not just his love. These reasons can be found in Why Were Not Emergent and on Kevin DeYoung's blog.

First, we need God’s wrath to keep us honest about evangelism. Paul reasoned with Felix about righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment (Acts 24:25). We need to do the same. Without the doctrine of hell, we are prone to get involved in all sorts of important God-honoring things, but neglect the one thing that matters for all eternity, urging sinners to be reconciled to God.

Second, we need God’s wrath in order to forgive our enemies. The reason we can forgo repaying evil for evil is because we trust the Lord’s promise to repay the wicked. Paul’s logic is sound. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). The only way to look past our deepest hurts and betrayals is to rest assured that every sin against us has been paid for on the cross and or will be punished in hell. We don’t have to seek vigilante justice, because God will be our just judge.

Third, we need God’s wrath in order to risk our lives for Jesus’ sake. The radical devotion necessary to suffer for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus comes, in part, from the assurance we have that God will vindicate us in the end. That’s why the martyrs under the throne cry out “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Rev. 6:10) They paid the ultimate price for their faith, but their blood stained cries will be answered one day. Their innocence will be established when God finally judges their persecutors.

Fourth, we need God’s wrath in order to live holy lives. Paul warns us that God cannot be mocked. We will reap what we sow. We are spurred on to live a life of purity and good deeds by the promised reward for obedience and the promised curse for disobedience. If we live to please the flesh, we will reap destruction from God. But if we live to please the Spirit, we will reap eternal life (Gal. 6:6-7). Sometimes ministers balk at the thought of motivating people with the threat of eternal punishment. But wasn’t this Jesus’ approach when he said “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28)? Sometimes we need to literally scare the hell out of people.

Fifth, we need God’s wrath in order to understand what mercy means. Divine mercy without divine wrath is meaningless. Only when we know that we were objects of wrath (Eph. 2:3), stood condemned already (John 3:18), and would have faced hell as God’s enemies were it not for undeserved mercy (Rom. 5:10), can we sing from the heart “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!”

Sixth, we need God’s wrath in order to grasp how wonderful heaven will be.Jonathan Edwards is famous (or infamous) for his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” It’s still read in American Literature classes, usually as a caricature of the puritanical spirit of colonial New England. But few people realize that Edwards also preached sermons like “Heaven is a World of Love.” Unlike most of us, Edwards saw in vivid colors the terror of hell and the beauty of heaven. We can’t get a striking picture of one without the other. That’s why the depiction of the heavenly New Jerusalem also contains a warning to the cowardly, unbelieving, vile, immoral, idolaters, and liars whose place is in “the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (Rev. 21:8). It’s unlikely we will long for our final salvation if we don’t know what we are saved from.

Seventh, we need the wrath of God in order to be motivated to care for our impoverished brothers and sisters. We all know the saying that Christians are so heavenly minded they are of no earthly good. The idea is that if all we think about are heaven and hell we’ll ignore ministries of compassion and social justice. But what better impetus for social justice than Jesus’ sober warning that if we fail to care for the least of our brothers we will go away to eternal punishment (Matt. 25:31-46)? The wrath of God is a motivator for us to show compassion to others, because without love, John says, we have no eternal life, and if we don’t share our material possessions with those in need we have no love (1 John 2:17).

Eighth, we need God’s wrath in order to be ready for the Lord’s return. We must keep the lamps full, the wicks trimmed, the houses clean, the vineyard tended, the workers busy, and the talents invested lest we find ourselves unprepared for the day of reckoning. Only when we fully believe in the coming wrath of God and tremble at the thought of eternal punishment will we stay awake, keep alert, and be prepared for Jesus to come again and judge the living and the dead.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Watson on Sanctification

I have spent a lot of time digging in to the doctrine of sanctification over the past several months, John Stott helped me out with "Men Made New" and now Thomas Watson is helping me out as well.

When we think about sanctification we seem to shy away a bit don't we? We think of everything it will cost us. It costs us time, energy, we need to will ourselves to study more, pray harder and give up some of our desires... we always seem to focus on what it costs us.

Most of the time you are encouraged to look above that. Look to the exceeding joy of knowing Christ and look at fulfillment and peace and living as we were meant to as the fruit of the process of sanctification.

Watson also has us look up, at what sanctification costs God. He argues that making the entire universe cost God MUCH less than what it costs Him to make one "new creature (2 Cor. 5:17):

1. When God made the world He met with no opposition—but when God is about to make a new creature He meets with opposition. Satan opposes Him, and the heart opposes Him.

2. It cost God nothing to make the world—but to make the new creature costs Him something. Christ Himself was glad to become man. In making the world, it was but speaking a word; but, in making of the new creature, it cost Christ the shedding of His blood!

3. God made the world in six days—but He is carrying on the new creature in us all our lives long. The new creature is but begun here; it is not perfected or fully drawn in all its orient colors—until it comes to heaven.


To paraphrase D. A. Carson, every sin at its most basic level is in essence a 'de-Godding of God'. We are, in our natures, idolaters. We do not recognize the true God for who He is. Rather, we fabricate our own gods. John Calvin writes,
To the darkness of ignorance have been added presumption and wantonness, and hence there is scarcely an individual to be found without some idol or phantom as a substitute for Deity. Like water gushing forth from a large and copious spring, immense crowds of gods have issued from the human mind, every man giving himself full license, and devising some peculiar form of divinity, to meet his own views. (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.5.12)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

He first loved us

Where does the knowledge, the desire, the motivation, and the wherewithal to love God come from? Was it a choice I made? Did I finally figure things out? Not likely. As my kids would say, my attempts to love God = FAIL. You see, I didn't even attempt it. I was concerned about loving myself. So how was it I came to love God?

We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19 ESV)

I love because He first loved me. His love opened my eyes to know that I should love God and how I should love God. His love gave me the desire and the motivation to love Him back. His love gave me, and gives me, the wherewithal to love Him.

In his work The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, Walter Marshall addresses how the duty of love is found in us writing, "... the duty of love cannot be extorted and forced by fear, but it must be won, and sweetly allured by an apprehension of God's love and goodness towards us ... ."

God won my love and allured my affection by loving me first!