Monday, January 31, 2011

He wins back truant hearts

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you. Jeremiah 31:3.

The law of love is the law of Gods moral government of His people. By this, and by this alone, He rules them. All that is disciplinary in His conduct is resolvable into love. It is by kindness, loving-kindness, yes, marvelous loving-kindness, that He wins back their truant hearts, and binds them closer to Himself. I am the Lord, who exercise loving-kindness. Oh, to imitate Him in this particular!- to be like God in His kindness to the children of men. Then would there be less sitting in the judgment-seat; less readiness to cast the first stone; less harshness and censoriousness in our conduct and spirit towards others; and more of that self-judging, self-condemning, and self-abasement, before the holy, heart-searching, all-seeing Lord God, without which we may be awfully deceived.

- Octavius Winslow

Sunday, January 30, 2011

An apology

A good reason to blog or journal comes from John Calvin, via Augustine, in his notes to the reader section of Institutes:

"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

An overdue read!

I began reading The Institutes of the Christian Religion this morning. Here is a brief intro by Brittanica:
Institutes of the Christian Religion, Latin Christianae Religionis Institutio, French Institution De La Religion Chr├ętienne, John Calvin’s masterpiece, a summary of biblical theology that became the normative statement of the Reformed faith. It was first published in 1536 and was revised and enlarged by Calvin in several editions before the definitive edition was published in 1559.

The first edition, written in Latin and published in Basel, where Calvin was in exile, included a dedication to the French king Francis I. Calvin intended his work to be a statement of French Protestant beliefs that would refute the king, who was persecuting French Protestants and incorrectly calling them Anabaptists (radical Reformers who wished to separate the church from the state). It consisted of six chapters that discussed the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, disputed sacraments, and Christian liberty. Most of the themes of Calvin’s mature thought were contained in the first edition.

The first French edition, prepared by Calvin and published in Basel in 1541, was the first great work in argumentative French prose. It influenced French thought and literary style.

The final edition, in Latin and published in Geneva in 1559, was more than four times longer than the first edition. It was organized into four books concerning Creator, Redeemer, Spirit, and church. The dominating themes dealt with God’s sovereignty, his grace, and his redemption of undeserving sinners. This edition was published in French (1560), in English (1561), and eventually in many other languages.

I'm looking forward to this journey!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Due estimate

Thomas Goodwin on a Christians highest privilege and greatest interest, namely, patience and suffering:

If you are true and right Christians, and you know,as the apostle says, how to put a due estimate on what is your greatest interest and privilege in this life-

the proof and trial of your graces, and of the grace of patience above all, as the highest perfection of a Christian, yea, of Christ Himself, and the most eminent praise of prophets and apostles -

and if you value being rendered most pleasing to God, then count it all joy when you fall into temptations.

For now you have God and Christ, the great, the Chief Master Orderer and Designer of these conflicts, setting His most gracious eye on you, pleasing Himself to behold how valiantly, wisely, and gallantly you behave and acquit yourselves. (61, line breaks mine)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Piper answers: Can a True Believer be Fooled by the Prosperity Gospel

Our current youth series is called "Demolishing Strongholds" and it's essentially about reclaiming a biblical worldview... think The Truth Project geared towards a teenage audience.

Anyway, this past Sunday evening we focussed specifically on how Christians have allowed doubts to seep in to our minds about the Old Testament accounts: "Did God really create the world in 6 days?"; "Did Jonah really spend 3 days in the belly of a fish?" or "Did the walls of Jericho really fall down simply because Joshua and company walked around the walls a few times and started shouting?"

Our premise was, when you start doubting anything in the bible, how and when do you start to draw a line? It's a slippery slope.

I was really happy with the discussion that followed. The teenagers began to point out areas in our culture and lives that are affected by such doubts. For example, favouring evolution instead of a 6 day creation can lead to defending abortion. That seems like a large leap to make, but there is a caption at the Smithsonian Museum that reads: "Human DNA closely resembles the DNA found in the average fruit fly, reminding us of our common ancestry."

The question then becomes: WHat do you do with a bothersome fruit fly? Destroy it. (Usually with your thumb) What do you do with unwanted babies? Destroy them.

Before I continue in to a full rant, how I came across this video by John Piper was when I was asked something along the lines of: "What did we start to doubt in order to get such a skewed version of the gospel?"

Great question. The gospel the young man was referring to was the "health, wealth and prosperity gospel", which I make sure to teach against whenever I am trying to remind a group of teenagers that they are sinners in need of a saviour.

The discussion that followed was fantastic. I allowed time and room for the teenagers to navigate through the idea and they concluded that Genesis tells us what our purpose is: to glorify God, and what we needis : Reconciliation to God.

When we begin to doubt our purpose and our needs, or begin to think our purpose is something other than what God's word says than we begin to think differently about our needs. It becomes less about glorifying God and more about glorifying ourselves. It becomes less about finding Him as the treasure, and more about using Him to obtain our treasure.

The question was then asked: "Are people who believe the prosperity gospel truly Christians?"

Another great question.

I love my group of teenagers.

That's how I came across this video, and what I love about the video is when Piper says: '...we need to teach. Because it's amazing how many people, when they hear solid teaching, wake up! They don't say, "I just got saved!" They say, "I knew deep down something was wrong. I just couldn't articulate it. It just didn't feel right.'

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/can-a-true-believer-be-fooled-into-believing-the-prosperity-gospel#ooid=BmcnhxOm8W569x-STZoi7ZWzI1NXwgie

Perhaps there are alot more elect that have been truly led astray, and we're leaving them in the hands of the enemy because we are too scared, uneducated or uneasy teaching truth.

I am constantly encouraged at the very real conversations I have with these teenagers... sometimes I wish their parents were more open to hearing truth.

The Spirit fires our hearts

From Thomas Goodwin's Exposition of Ephesians as relayed in A Habitual Sight of Him edited and introduced by Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones:

You see, the heart is made the subject of Christ’s dwelling; it is not to dwell in the notion, in your brains. You have no indwelling of Christ unless your hearts are affected.

This is expressly said:
“We all, beholding with open face the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3118).

First, there is spiritual beholding, he speaks of Christ, not only of His person, but of all that is to be known of Christ. Adam’s graces had no glory, but all of Christ’s do.

Such a beholding, letting Christ and His glory into the soul, changes it, turns it, and leaves impressions on it. This is done by the Spirit of the Lord. By “the Spirit of the Lord” the apostle does not mean the Holy Ghost, for he said in the words before, “The Lord is that Spirit.”

It is Christ Himself, by His force and power when He comes into the soul, who changes it, fills it, quickens it, strengthens it, and leaves impressions on it.

As the burning glass contracts all the beams of the sun to a point, but it is the beams of the sun that set on fire the cloth, so it is the Spirit of the Lord that fires our hearts. Thus, to know Christ is to dwell in Him. (57, line breaks mine)


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ortlund on Phillipians

In his chapter from For The Fame Of God's Name entitled The Pastor as Worshipper, Ray Ortlund Jr. considers the book of Phillipians and draws out what the Phillipian believers can put their faith in. He writes,

"Taking into account only this letter from the apostle, they have reason to believe that:
  • he who began this good work in them will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (1:6);
  • they are all partakers of grace together (1:7);
  • they are experiencing the affection of Christ Jesus himself through their relationship with Paul (1:8);
  • they will be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (1:1O);
  • human opposition, far from defeating the gospel, is serving to advance the joyous spread of the gospel (1:12-18);
  • should life be lost, Christ is gained (1:21);
  • temporary survival is gospel opportunity (1:22);
  • to depart and be with Christ is far better than this life (1:23);
  • the further one goes with Christ, the more joy one experiences (l:25);
  • the gospel of Christ is an uplifting power (1:27);
  • opposition to gospel witness presages the doom of the opponents and the glorious destiny of the faithful (1:28);
  • it is a God-given privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ (1:29);
  • union with Christ brings encouragement, comfort from love, participation in the Spirit, affection, and sympathy (2:1);
  • Christ Jesus himself is living proof that the arrogance of this world is doomed and that gospel humility is the path of great reward (2:6-9);
  • Jesus is King, and he will have every rational creature in the universe know it and own it, to the greater glory of God the Father (2:10-11);
  • the Philippians do not need Paul always present to lead them by the hand; God himself is deeply at work in them (2:12-13);
  • knowing Christ Jesus the Lord redefines all trophies of self-exaltation as “rubbish,” for he gives true righteousness and participation in his death and resurrection; he is so superior to all things in this world that, whatever path one may take into the resurrection of the dead, the price to be paid is small in comparison (3:7-11);
  • in conversion, Christ Jesus takes eternal possession of the believer (3:12);
  • the call of God in Christ Jesus offers a prize far beyond this world, worthy of the believer’s all (3:14);
  • to whatever extent any believer struggles to grasp the upward call, God will reveal all that that believer needs revealed (3:15);
  • to settle for the rewards of this world is to make oneself an enemy of the cross of Christ and to make a god of one’s earthly appetites, which is the path of destruction and the reversal of a truly human life (3:18-19),
  • those who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh also find their citizenship in heaven, from which they await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will raise even their lowly bodies into his immortal glory by his power over all things (3:3, 20-21);
  • their names are written in the book of life (4:3);
  • the Lord is at hand (4:5);
  • God receives the prayers of his people and sends his overruling peace to guard their hearts when the circumstances of life would have them frantic (4:6-7);
  • if believers will follow the apostolic example of lovely heavenly-mindedness, they will experience the presence of the God of peace (4:8-9);
  • Christ strengthens his people to accept with contentment whatever life may bring (4:11-13);
  • when the Philippians support Paul’s ministry, the fruit increases to their own credit (4:17);
  • God receives their partnership with Paul as a sacrifice pleasing to himself (4:18);
  • God is committed to the Philippians’ own needs with all his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (4:19);
  • in it all, God will get glory for himself forever and ever (4:20);
  • in the meantime, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ will steadfastly be with their spirit (4:23)." (p411-12)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What is it to have Christ dwell in the heart by faith?...
First, it is to have Jesus Christ continually in one's eye, a habitual sight of Him ... you should carry along and bear along in your eye the sight and knowledge of Christ, so that at least a presence of Him accompanies you... (55)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Failure to use means

"The name of Jesus is discovered to be strangely adapted to men of every race and of every kind of previous education. And the Church has ample means, with promise of God's Spirit, to bring the name of Jesus to all. If, therefore, this way of salvation is not offered to all, it is not the fault of the way of salvation itself, but the fault of those who fail to use the means that God has placed in their hands." - J. Gresham Machen

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Endless Eschatology

On Wednesday I blogged about eschatology and the small group study we were doing on it. I thought I would pass on 2 more resources I used in preparing for the evening.

1) An Evening of Eschatology - Two of my favourite theologians who happen to be pastors, are John Piper and Sam Storms. In this video, they are joined by two more winsome scholars in Doug Wilson and Jim Hamilton. Piper, via the Desiring God website descibes the event as such,
"On September 27, 2009, Desiring God and Bethlehem College & Seminary hosted “An Evening on Eschatology” at the Downtown Campus of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. It was attended by about 800 people who sat in the darkened sanctuary while six cameras were trained on the brightly lit roundtable where the four participants sat in a circle.

For two hours I moderated, more or less, a discussion among Jim Hamilton (professor of New Testament at Southern Seminary in Louisville), Sam Storms (pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City), and Doug Wilson (pastor of Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho).

You can find the audio and video here.

2) Another helpful resource can be found at David Murray's Head Heart Hand blog. There he provides an eBook entitled End Times Q & A. It is easy to understand, and gives a fair overview of the four main eschatalogical camps; historic premillenialism, dispensational premillenialism, amillenialism and postmillenialism. Here is some info I gathered from his work:


The four (main) millennial views differ in these eight areas:

...the length of the 1000 years,
Is this a symbolical number for a long period of time, or a literal 1000 years?

...the nature of Christ’s kingdom on earth
Is it spiritual, physical, or both?

...the relationship between Israel and the Church,
Is the Church the fulfillment of Israel, a replacement for Israel, identical with
Israel, or distinct from Israel?

...the role of the devil,
When he is bound, when he is let loose, and what can he do?

...the tribulation,
When is it and who goes through it?

...the endtime signs,
Are they past, present, or future? What is the order and intensity?

...the number and timings of Christ’s coming(s).
How many comings and what order?

Amillennialism believes that the 1000 years of Revelation 20 is a figurative term for Christ’s present kingdom on earth and in heaven between his first and second comings, during which the devil is significantly bound, and which will be concluded with these coincidental climactic endtime sign: the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, and the everlasting kingdom.

Postmillennialism believes that many of the signs of the times have been fulfilled, and that the thousand years is a figurative term for a future golden age of Christianity on earth, when the devil will be almost totally bound and the earth almost totally Christianized, followed by a brief period of Satanic loosing and the Lord’s return to earth for the final judgment.

Historic Premillennialism believes that after the end time signs, including the great tribulation, Christ will return to earth to bind Satan, resurrect His people, and reign on earth for 1000 years; after which Satan will be released for a little season before the resurrection of all at the final judgment, and the return of the Kingdom to the Father.

Dispensational premillennialism teaches that Christ’s second coming will occur in four phases: Christ’s rapture, Christ’s revelation, Christ’s reign, and Christ’s renewal. Without any precursory signs, Christ will return for His church, resurrect all dead believers, transform all living believers, meet them in the air, and return to heaven with them, while the 70th week begins on earth.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Episodic Christian thinking

As I continue to enjoy For The Fame Of God's Name, I am being exposed to some great writers. One of those is Albert Mohler. Mohler's contribution to the book is a chapter on worldviews entitled A God-centered Worldview. Here is an example of his writing:

A God-centered worldview brings every issue, question, and cultural concern into submission to all that the Bible reveals and frames all under-standing within the ultimate purpose of bringing greater glory to God. This task of bringing every thought captive to Christ requires more than episodic Christian thinking and is to be understood as the task of the church, and not merely the concern of individual believers. The recovery of the Christian mind and the development of a comprehensive Christian worldview will require the deepest theological reflection, the most consecrated application of scholarship, the most sensitive commitment to compassion, and the courage to face all questions without fear.

Christianity brings the world a distinctive understanding of time, history, and the meaning of life. The Christian worldview contributes an understanding of the universe and all it contains that points us far beyond mere materialism and frees us from the intellectual imprisonment of naturalism. Christians understand that the world—including the material world—is dignified by the very fact that God has created it. At the same time, we understand that we are to be stewards of this creation and are not to worship what God has made. We understand that every single human being is made in the image of God and that God is the Lord of life at every stage of human development. We honor the sanctity of human life because we worship the Creator. From the Bible, we draw the essential insight that God takes delight in the ethnic and racial diversity of his human creatures, and so must we. (364)
.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Abortion Is About God: Piper’s Passionate, Prophetic Pro-Life Preaching

I have been reading through For The Fame Of God's Name the past few weeks and came across this post by one of the books editors, Justin Taylor:

Given Sanctity of Life Sunday this weekend, Crossway kindly gave me permission to post online a PDF of my chapter, “Abortion Is About God: Piper’s Passionate, Prophetic Pro-Life Preaching” (in For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper, ed. Sam Storms and Justin Taylor [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010], 328-350).

Here are the opening paragraphs:

Evangelicalism—in the Reformed camp or elsewhere—is not exactly overflowing with models of how to preach exegetically faithful, powerfully prophetic, culture-engaging, hope-giving, gospel-centered sermons on the politically charged and personally painful topic of abortion. But for the past twenty years John Piper has been doing just that. In this chapter I want to survey Piper’s sermons and writings on abortion as an encouragement and a model for preachers—and all believers—to honor God and defend the defenseless by proclaiming God’s Word and engaging the world on the issue of abortion.

In order to let Piper speak as much as possible, I’ll quote and paraphrase him extensively in what follows. I begin with a bit of biographical overview, sketching Piper’s development as a pro-life pastor. I’ll then attempt to summarize the main exegetical arguments in his pro-life sermons, since expositional preaching on abortion is a challenge. Finally, I will suggest some application lessons that pastors can learn from Piper’s pro-life preaching.

You can read or listen to all of these original sermons here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Solomon's Solidarity with Shakespeare

Macbeth, in Shakespeare's famous tragedy of the same name, becomes aware of the futility of life as his world begins to crumble around him. He has lost his wife to an apparent suicidal act. His conscience is seared with cruel acts of murder and treason. His newly acquired kingdom is under an attack lead by some who are highly motivated by revenge. He speaks,

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. (V, v, 19-24)

This soliloquy reminded me of Solomon's writings in Ecclesiastes. For example, "For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow?" (Ecc. 6:12) The metaphor of life being a shadow images what both authors are getting at. Similarly, Solomon also touches upon the idea of life amounting to nothing: "As he came from his mother's womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand." (Ecc. 5:15)

It seems that both writers shared similar sentiments about life's futility.

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaks to life and it's supposed futility: "The backdrop of eternity puts the span of human life into perspective. Our time on earth is short, but eternity dignifies time even as it reminds us of our finitude." (Mohler, R. Albert. For the Fame of God's Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010. Print. 364)

Eternity, won and bought by Christ for us, dignifies life! Yes, we are finite. Yes, life is a vapor, a shadow. But Christ's work, wrought on the cross and resulting in eternal life, removes futility from the equation. More than that, the cross infuses life with meaning and purpose beyond our understanding or imagination. For those who are perishing, life is futile. But for those who are being saved, life is full of meaning.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Eschatology

Our Life Group is looking at the End Times this week. The following is a note I put together using information at Monergism. It considers how the four major millenial views answer questions concerning Revelation 20. If you care, I am a former dispesational premillenialist now turned historic premillenialist.

The Millennium – Major Views

by Aaron Orendorff @ Monergim.com

The Questions – Revelation 20:1-8
(1) When is the millennium – past, present and future?
(2) When will Jesus return – before or after the millennium?
(3) What does the binding of Satan refer to (v. 2)?
(4) Is the thousand years a literal period of time (v. 2)?
(5) What is the “first resurrection” (v. 4-6)?
(6) What is the “second death”?
(7) What and when will the rapture be?
(8) What will the world be like until Christ returns?



The Answers
Amillennialism
(1) The millennium is now, the entire period of time from the Jesus’ first coming to His second.
(2) Jesus will return after the millennium.
(3) The binding of Satan refers to the gospel’s worldwide advance.
(4) The thousand years is a figurative number indicating a long period of time.
(5) The first resurrection refers to:
a. The intermediate (after-death) state of believers.
b. The spiritual coming to life (i.e. regeneration) of those who believe the gospel.
(6) The second death refers to hell.
(7) The rapture is a public event that takes place at Christ’s second coming when believers who are still living are “caught up” and transformed.
(8) Both evil and good will increase side-by-side until Christ returns.


Postmillennialism
(1) The millennium is future – a period of worldwide Christian triumph when the Kingdom of God is dramatically unveiled in history.
(2) Jesus will return after the millennium.
(3) The binding of Satan refers both to the gospel’s worldwide advance as well as a sever limiting of his power – both spiritually and physically.
(4) The thousand years is a figurative number indicating a long period of time.
(5) (See Amillennialism)
(6) The second death refers to hell.
(7) (See Amillennialism)
(8) Good will triumph over evil as the millennium approaches and continues.


Premillennialism (Historic or Classic)
(1) The millennium is future.
(2) Jesus will return before the millennium.
(3) The binding of Satan refers to his power and presence being completely removed from the earth.
(4) The thousand years may be literal or it may be figurative.
(5) The first resurrection refers to the physical resurrection of all the “dead in Christ” when he returns.
(6) The second death refers to hell.
(7) The rapture is a public event that takes place at Christ’s second coming when believers who are still living are “caught up” and transformed.
(8) Evil will increase until Christ returns.


Premillennialism (Dispensational)
(1) The millennium is a future time when God will literally fulfill his OT promises to national Israel.
(2) Jesus will return once at the rapture (secretly) and again before the millennium (publically).
(3) The binding of Satan refers to his power and presence being completely removed from the earth.
(4) The thousand years is a literal period of time.
(5) The first resurrection refers to the physical resurrection of Christian martyrs and OT saints.
(6) The second death refers to hell.
(7) The rapture is a secret event that takes place at Christ’s first second coming when the church is silently removed from the earth:
a. Pre-tribulation
b. Mid-tribulation
c. Post-tribulation
(8) Evil will increase until the great tribulation begins – a seven year period of satanic dominance.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The immediate effectiveness of the gospel

In this excerpt, from J. Gresham Machen's classic tome Christianity and Liberalism, discusses the immediacy of the gospel. The gospel is historical fact; it really did happen so many years ago in such-and-such a place. But so what? Who cares? Socrates drank hemlock, John Lennon was killed by a deranged fan, and Jesus died on the cross. What is all the fuss about? The fuss is about a real event that happened in real time that effects us profoundly right now. The gospel saves me from sin and brings me to God today! And that is good news. Here is what Machen had to say:

It is true that the Christian gospel is an account, not of something that happened yesterday, but of something that happened long ago; but the important thing is that it really happened. If it really happened, then it makes little difference when it happened. No matter when it happened, whether yesterday or in the first century, it remains a real gospel, a real piece of news.

The happening of long ago, moreover, is in this case confirmed by present experience. The Christian man receives first the account which the New Testament gives of the atoning death of Christ. That account is history. But if true it has effects in the present, and it can be tested by its effects. The Christian man makes trial of the Christian message, and making trial of it he finds it to be true. Experience does not provide a substitute for the documentary evidence, but it does confirm that evidence. The word of the Cross no longer seems to the Christian to be merely a far-off thing, merely a matter to be disputed about by trained theologians. On the contrary, it is received into the Christian's inmost soul, and every day and hour of the Christian's life brings new confirmation of its truth.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Shakespeare on stuff

With this there grows
In my most ill-composed affection such
A stanchless avarice that, were I king,
I should cut off the nobles for their lands,
Desire his jewels and this other's house:
And my more-having would be as a sauce
To make me hunger more; that I should forge
Quarrels unjust against the good and loyal,
Destroying them for wealth.

(Macbeth, Act IV, Scene iii, Lines 76-84, emphasis mine)

In the excerpt above, Malcolm, the son of the traitorously slain King Duncan and rightful heir to the throne, is describing what his reign would be like should he ascend to the throne. He is not speaking honestly. He is testing Macduff to be sure that Macduff is trustworthy and a true friend.

When the class I teach studied this act of Shakespeare's famous tragedy, these lines jumped out at me. Shakespeare has shown great insight to the nature of wealth accumulation; the things of this world do not satisfy. The "more-having" would not sate the desire for things, rather, it would, as Malcolm puts it, "make me hunger more."

An interesting reminder from the Bard of the fleetingness of possessions. There is only one truly satisfying thing: God!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Stott on three Phases of our Salvation

Without referencing my long absence, or commenting on whose harsh words have prompted my return to the blogosphere, I’m just going to jump right in if it pleases you.

If you have never experienced the strange amalgamation of both joy and conviction while reading John Stott, I would recommend first and foremost “The Cross of Christ” – a book I recently lent to a former youth of mine who has “graduated” from my ministry and is currently going to school in Ohio. A book I am very much looking forward to dissecting through e-mails. I have no doubt it will bear much fruit in his life, as the books I fill his hands with every time he heads back to college always seem to.

If you want to experience more of John Stott, may I recommend “Men Made New”, which is a short 100 or so page booklet that explores Romans 5-8.

Romans 5 starts out: “ 1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

Stott writes: “On closer examination these appear to relate to the three tenses or phases of our salvation. 'Peace with God' speaks of the immediate effect of our justification. We were ‘enemies’ of God (verse 10), but now the old enmity has been put away by God’s forgiveness and we are at peace with Him. The immediate effect of justification, then, is that enmity has given way to peace.

Secondly, ‘this grace in which we stand’ speaks of the continuing effect of justification. It is a state of grace to which we have obtained access and in which we continue to stand. This is how the New English Bible puts it: “We have been allowed to enter the sphere of God’s grace.” And, of course, having entered it, we continue in it. We stand in it today.

Thirdly, ‘the glory of God’ for which we hope speaks of the ultimate effect of our justification. ‘The glory of God’ here mean heaven, for in heaven God will be fully revealed.”


Stott goes on to describe how we can be sure of each stage of justification. Because we experience justification in its initial, immediate form, that is, that our hearts are regenerated and our affections are changed. We have all experienced that at some point haven’t we? A desire to please God, even though we may not know how, or have the will or self control to actually follow through with that desire.

But Stott reminds us that even though sanctification is “a difficult and arduous process that renders many Christians inactive in their faith”, because Paul assures us of these truths, and we honestly experience the fulfillment of the first phase of justification, “we can put faith in the fulfillment of the second phase, that is, the Holy Spirit conforming us to the image and likeness of The Christ.”

Once again, because we see sanctification at work in either our lives or the lives of those around us, we can again, put faith in the fulfillment of the third phase of our justification, which is glorification in heaven.

The rest of the book explains how our confidence in the work of our justification as we look backwards to its three effects empowers us to actively involve ourselves in partnering with the work of the Holy Spirit in the one area God Sovereignly invites us to participate in: our sanctification.

I definitely recommend this book, as it articulates well what it looks like to “put on” our “new self”, and how working to do so with the proper perspective is not legalism, but simply fighting to become what we already are in Christ.

The Courtroom


Thomas Oden, in his book The Justification Reader, says "The heart of the gospel idea of uprighting (justification) cannot be penetrated without pursuing carefully the metaphor of a courtroom verdict." (53)

Oden continues by expanding and explain the whole courtroom metaphor. This is a longer excerpt, but well worth the read:
All the elements of the courtroom situation are presupposed in salvation teaching: The judge is God: “You have come to God, the judge of all” (Heb. 12:23). The defendant is I and everyone else who has become enmeshed in the history of sin. “The whole world” is being “held accountable to God” (Rom. 3119). The plaintiff or accuser is personified as Moses, or generalized as “the law”: “Your accuser is Moses” (John 5:45).

The internal Witness is conscience, the moral testimony of the heart, or moral reasoning: “the requirements of the law are written on their hearts,” “their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them” (Rom. 2:15).

In this court an indictment is being read according to “the Written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us” (Col. 2:14). A sentence is being delivered: “Indeed, in our hearts We felt the sentence of death” (2 Cor. 1:9). The defendant is as good as dead: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Eph. 2:1).
Fortunately for us, in this courtroom metaphor, and in real life, we have an advocate:
In this courtroom an incomparable Advocate has appeared. “We have one who speaks to the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1). A satisfaction is offered, substituting another’s suffering for the penalty due to sinners: “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 2:2). The sacrifice of one is accepted for many: “Through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19).

On this basis the judge reverses the judgment, grants a full acquittal, and justifies the accused: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). The sinless One has become sin for us, taking punishment on our behalf, so that we might live to him. (54-55)

Friday, January 14, 2011

More from Machen on the Word

From J. Gresham Machen's Christianity and Liberalism:
The Christian man, on the other hand, finds in the Bible the very Word of God. Let it not be said that dependence upon a book is a dead or an artificial thing. The Reformation of the sixteenth century was founded upon the authority of the Bible, yet it set the world aflame. Dependence upon a word of man would be slavish, but dependence upon God's word is life. Dark and gloomy would be the world, if we were left to our own devices and had no blessed Word of God. The Bible, to the Christian is not a burdensome law, but the very Magna Carta of Christian liberty.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Piper on beholding, becoming, seeing, savoring, and showing

AN ENDLESS WAVE OF INCREASING REVELATION OF DIVINE GLORY

Woe to us if we speak of our existence, or our being, for its own sake. God has given us existence. It is a great wonder, full of trembling and awe. We exist by him, through him, and for him (Rom. 11:36). The ultimate and greatest good of the gospel is not self-admiration or self-exaltation, but being able to see the glory of God without disintegrating, and being able to delight in the glory of Christ with the very delight of God the Father for his own Son, and being able to do visible Christ-exalting deeds that flow from this delight. So being like God is the ground of seeing God for who he is, and this seeing is the ground of savoring and delighting in the glory of God with the very delight of God, which then overflows with visible displays of God’s glory.

In this way the gospel of God reaches its final goal in a universal and corporate reality, not just an individual one. A wave of revelation of divine glory in the saints and in creation is set in motion that goes on and on and grows for all eternity. As each of us sees Christ and delights in Christ with the delight of the Father, mediated by the Spirit, we will overflow with visible actions of love and creativity on the new earth. In this way we will see the revelation of God’s glory
in each other’s lives in ever new ways. New dimensions of the riches of the glory of God in Christ will shine forth every day from our new delights and new deeds. And these in turn will become new ways of showing and seeing Christ that will elicit new delights and new doings. And so the ever-growing wave of the revelation of the riches of the glory of God will roll on forever and ever. And it will be made plain that the great and final good of the gospel is God.

(Piper, John. God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. Print. 162)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

15 biblical reasons for fasting

In Pleasures Evermore, Sam Storms provides 15 biblical reasons for fasting:
  1. Fasting was practiced to avert God's judgment and displeasure against His people.
  2. The people of God often fasted in preparation for war, with a view to seeking God's protection and blessing.
  3. Fasting was one way of seeking God's help for deliverance from personal troubles and oppression.
  4. Fasting was often an expression of sincere and heartfelt repentance from sin and humility before God.
  5. Fasting also signified or expressed mourning, sorrow, deep grief, and sadness.
  6. Ezra fasted as part of his request that God provide him with a safe journey.
  7. Fasting is a way of expressing one's concern for the success of God's work.
  8. Fasting serves to humble and rebuke us as it reveals how much of our happiness depends on the external pleasures of eating.
  9. Fasting teaches us self-control and self-discipline.
  10. Fasting is a powerful weapon in spiritual warfare.
  11. Fasting opens our spiritual ears to discern God's voice.
  12. Fasting sharpens and intensifies our intercessory prayers.
  13. To fast is to worship.
  14. Fasting can be an expression of our generosity and compassion toward those in need.
  15. Fasting is feasting!

The book provides much commentary, Scripture references, and explanation which is too extensive for this post.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Gospel for believers

I have created a new term: enjedification. Its meaning comes from the two words that were joined in its formulation. Enjedification is the process by which one is edified in a manner that is enjoyable. So, instead of saying a book was both enjoyable and edifying, I can simply say "I found that book enjedifying." This random word-generation came as I was contemplating the book For the Fame of God's Name. Edited by Sam Storms and Justin Taylor, the book is full of essays by a group of highly esteemed theologians and pastors. I have, thus far, really appreciated this work; it has been enjoyable and edifying - enjedifying!

D. A. Carson authored a chapter entitled What Is The Gospel?-Revisited. It is from this chapter that I share the following passage:
The gospel is not a minor theme that deals with the entry into the Christian way, to be followed by a lot of material that actually brings about the life of transformation. Very large swaths of evangelicalism simply presuppose that this is the case. Preaching the gospel, it is argued, is announcing how to be saved from God's condemnation; believing the gospel guarantees you won't go to hell. But for actual transformation to take place, you need to take a lot of discipleship courses, spiritual enrichment courses, "Go deep" spiritual disciplines courses,and the like. You need to learn journaling, or asceticism, or the simple lifestyle or Scripture memorization; you need to join a small group, an accountability group, or a women's Bible study. Not for a moment would I speak against the potential for good of all of these steps; rather, I am speaking against the tendency to treat these as postgospel disciplines, disciplines divorced from what God has done in Christ Jesus in the gospel of the crucified and resurrected Lord.
Carson goes on to say that having this perspective, one that relegates the gospel to a message for getting into heaven, has "huge and deleterious consequences." First, "if the gospel becomes that by which we limp into the kingdom, but all the business of transformation turns on postgospel disciplines and strategies, then we shall constantly be directing the attention of people away from the gospel, away from the cross and resurrection. Soon the gospel will be something that we quietly assume is necessary for salvation, but not what what we are excited about, not what we are preaching, not the power of God."

The gospel is for believers every bit as much as it is for non-believers; an enjedifying reminder for us all.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Is God capricious in His sovereignty?

From Donald J. Westblades essay in For the Fame of God's Name entitled The Sovereignty of God in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards:
The threat of capriciousness in God might stand if reason were to permit Edwards to ascribe an Arminian view of freedom to God, as though God begins his choices from a position of utter indifference. A God unconstrained not only by the laws of nature he authored but also by his own nature and loves and sense of order, whose will made its choices spontaneously apart from any motives, would indeed be utterly free-even of the consistency of keeping promises and covenants. To such a God his subjects may be obliged to bow. They surely, however, would find in him few grounds for trust. (118)
Read the excerpt again. Amazing. We can be thankful that God is constrained by His nature, His good and perfect and holy nature, because if He was not he would be directing things out of indifference. How is that a praiseworthy action? However, we can trust God because He makes decisions with motives, preferences, commitments, and most of all, His love. This is magnificent! We serve an awesomely sovereign God!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

In the presence of something majestic

Being loved by God is the wonderful replacement of self as the foundation for our joy. In the place of self comes the glory of God. Most people know that the greatest experiences of joy in this life—the ones that come closest to being pictures of perfect joy in heaven—are not experiences of self-affirmation, but of self-forgetfulness in the presence of something majestic. Those moments are few in this life. Most of the time our joy in some splendor outside ourselves is contaminated by self-awareness and the craving of our ego to have some share in the wonder.

- John Piper, God is the Gospel, p151

Friday, January 7, 2011

God's Poetry

Fellow blogger Jude bought Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl for me for Christmas. A few posts ago he slotted it in the #10 spot in his years best list. If this book keeps going it's going to be very high on my list for 2011. Here are a couple quotes:

"This ocean, tiny in the universe, is here because it's beautiful. This word, these words that keep surging and crashing and grinding against the contrast of cliffs, they are strong and guttural, like the taste of Anglo-Saxon. This is poetry, but it is not delicate and fragile, a placid ocean beneath a Bible verse on an inspirational poster.This poetry has testicles. It's rougher than rodeo. Which is why the cliffs are crowded with spectators."

"On the jetty, I turn for a final look. The storm is filling the harbour with sand. Rain drips off my hood and runs down my nose. My legs chafe as they shift inside wet denim.The ocean sprawls. At the horizon, the gray sky meets with the gray sea and the two become one, a seamless wall of storm. Closer, spray rises behind the lighthouse.
"Cold," I say.
Cold, God says. And wet.
The rhythms are rough. I am part of a line, one word in a collection chosen for this day, this scene. His salty syllables sting my cheeks, and He continues to speak—The beaches must be tilled, He says. The kelp beds have grown too thick. The cliffs need new holes. The cliff-dwelling rich needs new leaks. The seas have been asking to toss. The sharks need to fee small. The seals and dolphins are laughing. They always are. You could learn from them."Cold," my wife says. And we turn."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Not merely a legal fiction

From The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden:

"What is justification? Justification is the declaration of God that one who trust's in Christ's atoning work, however sinful, is treated or accounted as righteous. This credited righteousness is received by faith.

This is not to be viewed as if it were merely a legal fiction, or as a fantasy imagined in God's mind, or as a human hypothetical conjecture. This uprighted relation with the holy God comes about as a decisive, merciful, divine act, an actual event in history that occurs on the cross.

Justification is the reversal of God's judgment against the sinner, in which the sinner is declared to be no longer exposed to the penalty of the law, which is ultimately spiritual death, but restored to divine favor. Justification is that divine act by which one stands now in a right relationship with God. It is an act of God's free grace through which the sinner is absolved from guilt and accepted as righteous on account of the Son's atoning work." (36)

Another important doctrine to keep at the forefront of one's mind throughout 2011 and beyond.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Infallible

As a matter of fact, the doctrine of plenary inspiration does not deny the individuality of the Biblical writers; it does not ignore their use of ordinary means for acquiring information; it does not involve any lack of interest in the historical situations which gave rise to the Biblical books. What it does deny is the presence of error in the Bible. It supposes that the Holy Spirit so informed the minds of the Biblical writers that they were kept from falling into the error" that mar all other books. The Bible might contain an account of a genuine revelation of God, and yet not contain a true account. But according to the doctrine of inspiration, the account is as a matter of fact a true account; the Bible is an "infallible rule of faith and practice." - J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism

How often does this perspective get challenged in our lives. Directly, maybe not so much. But indirectly, this doctrine is under constant assault ... constant. Everything our society stands for and propagates, everything our sinful nature promotes, every idea our adversary propagandizes is undermining to the Bible and silently screams "His Word is not true." We would do well in 2011 to regularly remind ourselves that " The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times (Psalm 12:6 ESV).

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Your Conversion

And have you not reason to praise God for YOUR CONVERSION?

Oh, what a wonder of sovereign grace that ever you were brought out of nature's
darkness into God's marvelous light!

That, ever divine power drew you,
and divine love chose you,
and divine blood cleansed you,
and a divine righteousness was imputed to you!

That, ever you did hear the voice of Jesus,
when lying in your blood,
cast out to the loathing of yourself,
saying to you,
"Live!"

And that then He washed you,
and clothed you,
and decked you with
ornaments,
and put a fair chain on your neck,
a crown and a mitre on your head,
and you became lovely through His loveliness put upon you—a king and a priest unto God!

Praise, oh, praise Him loudly for that happy day when,
having betrothed you in eternity,
He savingly drew you to Himself,
and you became His.

Can you recall the memory of that blissful hour, and not make the desert ring with your loudest, sweetest praise?

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

Monday, January 3, 2011

Reading plans for 2011

Reading Plan for 2011

I have read a lot of books the past 2 years. I have intentionally tried to push myself in terms of the quantity of books I read. I feel like I am making up for lost time; I should have been reading more. In line with being intentional about reading, I made goals the last 2 years that pertained to reading a certain number of books. This year, I continue with the purposeful intentionality by planning a few different reading goals.


The Bible

This year I plan to follow Professor Horner's reading plan. Here is an explanation, found at Tim Challies' blog, of the plan as provided by it's developer:
Each day you will read one chapter from each of ten lists. That’s right — ten chapters per day!!! Use ten bookmarks or sticky notes with the individual lists on them to keep track of your locations. Or use the set of bookmarks provided on the last page of this document.

On day one, you read Matthew 1, Genesis 1, Romans 1, and so forth. On day 2, read Matthew 2, Genesis 2, etc. On day 29, you will have just finished Matthew, so go to Mark 1 on the Gospel list; you’ll also be almost to the end of 2nd Corinthians and Proverbs, you’ll be reading Psalm 29 and Genesis 29, and so forth. When you reach the last chapter of the last book in a list - start over again. Rotate all the way through all the Scriptures constantly.

Since the lists vary in length, the readings begin interweaving in constantly changing ways. You will NEVER read the same set of ten chapters together again! Every year you’ll read through all the Gospels four times, the Pentateuch twice, Paul’s letters 4-5 times each, the OT wisdom literature six times, all the Psalms at least twice, all the Proverbs as well as Acts a dozen times, and all the way through the OT History and Prophetic books about 1 12 times. Since the interweaving is constantly changing, you will experience the Bible commenting on itself in constantly changing ways — the Reformer’s principle of ‘scriptura interpretans scripturam’ — ‘scripture interpreting scripture’ IN ACTION!

After you’ve read any particular book once or twice, your speed in that book usually doubles or triples because you’re familiar with it and can move quickly and confidently — because you are no longer merely decoding the text but thinking it through in the context of all of the scripture!

Even an ‘average’ reader, if focusing on moving through the text, rather than trying to figure everything out, can usually do this in about an hour a day - 5-6 minutes per chapter. Many people report moving confidently through the ten chapters in 35-40 minutes. If it is taking you longer, then you are ‘reading wrong’ - stay relaxed, focus, and just keep it moving. Moderate but consistent speed is the key. This is “gross anatomy” — looking at the whole body; you’re not closely studying organs or systems or tissues or cells — it is not microbiology. BUT — microbiology and the study or organs makes more sense when you know what the whole structure of the human body is like, and how all the parts, large and small, relate in perfect interdependence.

After just a few days the reading gets much easier; in a month it will be a habit, and in six months you’ll wonder how you ever survived before on such a slim diet of the WORD. And then — you’ll tell others to start the system!

I began in 1983 as a new Christian and have now read (most of ) the Bible hundreds and hundreds of times. You also need to get ONE Bible, keep it, and do all your reading in it, so you learn where everything is. I’ve had the same Bible since 1983 and I know it intimately. If you keep switching Bibles, you ‘lose’ this intimacy with the text. Find a translation and format you like and stick with it. THIS IS CRUCIAL.

Your Bible is the only thing on Earth that, as you wear it out, will actually work better and better.

Big Books

The second part of my reading plan involves reading some big books. Instead of reading a large amount of 'regular-sized' books, I plan to tackle some larger tomes. So far, my list is as follows:
  • Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
  • A Theology of the New Testament by George Eldon Ladd
  • The Doctrine of the Word of God by John Frame

We'll see how those go and then add to the list as I progress. But I will definitely be focusing on major works of importance; any suggestions out there?

I will also be continuing on with community reading with the guys who blog here. We have not decided on our first book for 2011 yet.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Consider Jesus in Forgiveness

Consider Jesus—in the Forgiveness of Injury

"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."—Luke 23:34

If the Christian precept of FORGIVENESS be estimated by the magnitude of
the injury forgiven, then these words of Jesus present to our view a
forgiveness of an inconceivable and unparalleled injury. The greatest crime
man ever committed was the crucifixion of the Son of God; and yet, for the
forgiveness of that crime, the Savior prays at the very moment of its
perpetration, fully persuaded of the sovereign efficacy of the blood His
enemies were now shedding, to blot out the enormous guilt of the sin of
shedding it.

(from Octavius Winslow's Consider Jesus)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New beginnings

Through the first few weeks of December, southwestern Ontario was pummeled with snowstorms that led to people referring to the winter blasts as "Snowmageddon". I, along with many others, was hard pressed to stay on top of snow removal around my house. There were many areas in which the snow, despite my best snow-thrower-aided efforts, accumulated and could not be removed.

The past 2 days we have had a thaw which has included temperatures in the positive range as well as significant amounts of rain. This provided an opportunity, which I took advantage of this morning, to complete nature's work in removing the snow and ice from around my residence.

The snow will be back. But the thaw has allowed me to clean up and start over in terms of keeping my home's driveway, walkways, and entrances free from the remnants of Snowmageddon's fury. This is a fresh start.

And today represents, though in Christ every day represents the same thing, a fresh start in our walks with Christ. A day to resolve to pursue Christ, behold Christ, love Christ, commune with Christ, and preach and proclaim Christ. This is primarily a process of allowing the Holy Spirit to submerge us in the deluge of Christ's grace. We come under this grace in His Word, in His body, in His sacraments, and in His presence.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14 ESV)

Piper returns

In my first post of 2011, I'd like to say, "Read this!"