Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Truth is personal

Here is a short paragraph from Vern S. Poythress' book Inerrancy and the Gospels that you can ponder for a few minutes...or a few years:
First, the involvement of persons and their perspectives in knowledge does not in itself undermine the validity of knowledge. An impersonalist worldview may suggest that truth ultimately be impersonal. But God is the ultimate standard for truth, and he is personal. We may express this reality by saying that truth is what God knows. So personal involvement, namely God's involvement, is necessary for the existence of truth. And of course, human persons must become involved as persons when they come to know something true. This involvement takes place according to the design of God. It is not innately alien or corrupting. (34)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Authenticity

Fake watches and ersatz purses. They were everywhere. Imitation perfumes and copy-cat colognes lined the shelves of the many stores. Vendors hawked their wares making note of the excellent prices of their "authentic" goods. Such was the scene on Canal and Broadway in Manhattan. I was there as a supervisor for a group of 44 students on a field trip to the Big Apple. The visit to Chinatown's purse peddlers and scent sellers was frustrating for me. There is something bothersome, even with the cheap prices, about knock-offs and fakes. They lack authenticity. There is something inside of us that yearns for the real deal. Inside, we long to be authentic people; people with integrity and a deep-down realness. But at our core, apart from Christ, we realize that authenticity, being who we are supposed to be, has eluded us. Jonathan Dodson touches upon this idea as he writes,
Sin stands in the way of authenticity. It is a silent, spiritual rejection of our identity in Christ. It denies judgment and grace. However, when we confess our sin in true repentance, we come to our senses in Jesus. We return to our selves. Confession of sin is a kind of repentance from being inauthentic ... Both the religious rule keeper and the confessionless rule breaker are inauthentic. They choose "sinner" over "son." The difference between the two is that the rebel avoids God while the religious person tries to impress him. One runs away from him, while the other runs past him. Instead, rebels and the religious need to run straight to God in confession of their sin and in confidence of his forgiveness. (Dodson, Jonathan K. Gospel-centered Discipleship. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 68-9)
Our authenticity, our stepping into who we really are meant to be, is only possible through the forgiveness of sin. For this, we can only turn to Christ.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why Did Jesus Have to Suffer?

After such a horrendous act of evil the world is left with so many questions. How can a family move past a day like yesterday? Jesus is the only answer. At face value it may seem like a simple answer, a cop out maybe, but it's not. John Piper has a great blog post that I found very moving. Please continue to pray for those families in Connecticut.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Blogged Through Books - Chosen For Life

Blogged Through Books is a series that I hope to continue regularly. I will use posts from this blog that have already been produced for a particular book and will compile them all in one post. This will give the reader access to all of the content concerning particular books, as it appears on this blog, in one convenient location. This edition of BTB engages with many posts on one of my favourite pastor-theologians, Sam Storms, and his book Chosen For Life.

Three Impossibilities from John 6
Spurgeon on Election
Chosen For Life - Chapter 6 - Amazing Grace
Sam Storms' problems with the Arminian view of election
Summer of Sam
Ten Characteristics of Grace
Ten Characteristics of Grace
Ten Characteristics of Grace
Ten Characteristics of Grace
Ten Characteristics of Grace
Ten Characteristics of Grace
Ten Characteristics of Grace
Ten Characteristics of Grace
Ten Characteristics of Grace
Ten Characteristics of Grace

Monday, December 10, 2012

Blogged Through Books - Altogether Lovely

Blogged Through Books is a series that I hope to continue regularly. I will use posts from this blog that have already been produced for a particular book and will compile them all in one post. This will give the reader access to all of the content concerning particular books, as it appears on this blog, in one convenient location. This edition of BTB covers over 20 posts I, or other bloggers, wrote while reading a collection of Jonathan Edwards sermons entitled Altogether Lovely.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Blogged Through Books - A Praying Life

Blogged Through Books is a series that I hope to continue regularly. I will use posts from this blog that have already been produced for a particular book and will compile them all in one post. This will give the reader access to all of the content concerning particular books, as it appears on this blog, in one convenient location. This edition of BTB deals with the best book on prayer, tied for first with Bill Hybel's Too Busy Not To Pray, that I have read recently; A Praying Life by Paul Miller.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fighters, Beholders, Believers

I love this excerpt from Gospel-centered Discipleship by Jonathan Dodson. It touches on the battle of our faith, the battle to behold the Beautiful One. There is a sublimity to the Christian walk. There is battle, blood, and beauty in this life we are called to.

In summary, disciples of Jesus are called to fight, not in physical or virtual combat, but for the noble cause of everyday faith in Jesus. We are called to beauty, not through performance, but by beholding Jesus. We fight to behold the image of the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ. This faith fights not for perfection, but for belief. We fight to believe that Jesus is more precious, satisfying, and thrilling than anything else this world has to offer. This is faith in the gospel-the grand announcement that Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil through his own death and resurrection and is making all things new, even us. When we believe the gospel, we get to enjoy the promises of God's grace, peace, and joy. When we don't believe the gospel, we move away from these things. most of all, we move away from Jesus, who is worth our every effort, every gaze, and every belief.

(Dodson, Jonathan K. Gospel-centered Discipleship. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 59-60)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Blogged Through Books - A Body of Divinity

Blogged Through Books is a series that I hope to continue regularly. I will use posts from this blog that have already been produced for a particular book and will compile them all in one post. This will give the reader access to all of the content concerning particular books, as it appears on this blog, in one convenient location. In the near future I hope to write a post about the benefits of blogging through a book. This edition of BTB lists all of the posts that pertain to a classic Puritan work by Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity.




Friday, November 30, 2012

Submit and cherish

I recently finished reading and reviewing Vern S. Poythress' book on the harmonization of the Gospels entitled Inerrancy and the Gospels. It was an interesting and informative read which introduced me to several new concepts of harmonization as well as reminding me of some I have encountered before. The most compelling part of the book for me was the attitude that the author demonstrated in regards to Scripture. Pervasive throughout the book is Poythress' determination to submit himself to God's Word, and to cherish God's Word. His posture in relation to the Bible is one of humble deference and exalting admiration. This brief except gives you the idea:

The Gospels, since they are written with God's authority, deserve our ultimate allegiance and trust. They are therefore more ultimate and more reliable accounts of the events of the life of Christ than is any humanly constructed harmonization, which would try to figure out "what really happened." It is legitimate for us to try to see how the various Gospel accounts fit together into a larger picture. But this larger picture should include everything that the Gospels give us, rather than only a minimum core in the form of our modern human reconstruction of what happened. (Poythress, Vern S. Inerrancy and the Gospels: A God-centered Approach to the Challenges of Harmonization. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 32)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The long-suffering of God

I regularly recall the marrow of lesson that Wayne Grudem taught on the common grace of God in which he vividly describes God's great mercy and patience in how he deals with mankind. To paraphrase his point, God's common grace-his mercy and long-suffering with sinful humanity-is evident every time we look outside and see something other than flames, every time we smell something other than smoke and burning sulfur, every time we feel something other than excruciating burns, every time we hear something other than screams of pain and suffering. God is patient with mankind; he does not immediately give us what we deserve.

This idea that originally came from the teachings of Grudem came to mind when I read the following quote by Jonathan Edwards from his book of lectures called Charity and Its Fruits:

If we consider the wickedness that there is in the world, and then consider how God continues the world in existence, and does not destroy it, but showers upon it innumerable mercies, the bounties of his daily providence and grace, causing his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sending rain alike on the just and on the unjust, and offering his spiritual blessings ceaselessly and to all, we shall perceive how abundant is his long-suffering toward us.

God's abundant and merciful patience is remarkable in light of all our sin. His gracious care is magnified when the transgressions and evil in this world is considered.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

We fight, contend, and struggle

"...we have been called to "take hold" of eternal life. There is urgency in our faith. True faith struggles to pry our hands off the old life and keep them on our eternal life. Biblical faith fights to believe the gospel to such a degree that it is reflected in our practice. Disciples fight to believe that Jesus' death and resurrection is our death and resurrection. His death is our death and his life our life (Romans 5; Galatians 2). As a result, the lie-believing, image-distorting life is dead, and in its place we have received a truth-believing, Christ-adoring life (Eph. 4:20-24). However, because of our tendency to return to the old image, we walk by faith until we see Jesus, when faith will correspond with sight (2 Cor. 5:6-7; Gal. 2:20). Until then, we fight, contend, and struggle. Believing the gospel is not a passive, one-time decision; it is an active, continual fight for faith in what God says is noble, true, and good."

(Dodson, Jonathan K. Gospel-centered Discipleship. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 58)


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Book Review - Inerrancy and the Gospels



Book Review – Inerrancy and the Gospels

I am not overly interested in biblical inerrancy though I certainly hold to it and have read several books, as well as essays and articles, discussing it; that is not why I requested to review this book. Neither did I request a copy of Inerrancy and the Gospels: A God-Centered Approach to the Challenges of Harmonization from Crossway because I needed convincing of the legitimacy of the Gospel accounts. My main interest in this book had to do with its author. Vern Sheridan Poythress, professor of New Testament interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, has impressed me with his brilliant mind, his precise teaching, and most of all his love for God’s Word. I wanted to hear what he had to say about reconciling the differences in the Gospel narratives. His work on this topic as expressed in this book is notable, in my opinion, for three reasons: its presentation of principles for harmonization, its practically helpful examples, and its clear respect and reverence for God and his Word.

Principles
Obviously, a book discussing the harmonization of the Gospels should introduce and explain some of the various principles that theologians and apologists use to reconcile difficult passages in these canonical narratives. Poythress elucidates many of these principles in a manner that is interesting and easily understandable, even for a layman such as I. Most of these principles are covered in Part Two of the book which is simply Principles for Harmonization. Poythress introduces initial principles that discuss the trustworthiness of the Bible, the use of help from past scholars, differing incidents confused as the same event, omission of details, and the theological emphasis of the writers. He moves from these to consideration of history, theology, artistry, and the genre’s effects on harmonization. His chapter on mental-pictures and how we use and misuse them in regards to interpretation was very enlightening for me and it alone made reading the book worthwhile. Explanations of the principles of contrast, variation, and distribution are elaborated as are ideas of compression and precision. Principles are adeptly explained by the author and examples from Scripture anchor these concepts for the reader. This material will provide solid reference fodder for future study.

Examples
Inerrancy and the Gospels delivers what many readers will be looking for; examples. Throughout the book, Poythress demonstrates harmonization and addresses many of the seemingly erroneous or contradictory passages in the Gospels that those familiar with their Bibles will recognize. These are tackled with intelligence and an approach that endeavours to be realistic in terms of the difficulties that really exist. Some of the  parallel passages that Poythress engages with are: the healing of the Centurion’s servant, the cleansing of the Temple, the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth, the cursing of the fig tree, the commissioning of the twelve, the stilling of the storm, the rich young ruler, Jarius’ daughter, blind Bartimaeus, and several others. These examples are necessary when you consider the topic at hand, but they are also successful in demonstrating how the principles brought forth work in the harmonizing of the passages.

Reverence
The most enamouring aspect of this book is the attitude that Poythress takes in regards to Scripture. The professor’s stance goes beyond a high view of Scripture; it is clear the author admires and adores God’s Word as he admonishes and advocates for the reader to do the same. This is evident throughout the book, but is most poignant in the third section entitled Attitudes in Harmonization. The author reminds readers that though we wrestle with doubt, neutrality is not an option. One should read the Bible with submission and receptivity while rejecting the current trend to try and be autonomous in our approach to Holy Writ. We should accept the limits of our sin-stained and derivative knowledge while anticipating difficulties and suffering in our intellectual pursuits. These are not just any books, the author regularly reminds us, but they are the very words of God written to us. Poythress’ posture when it comes to Scripture is an edifying glimpse into the heart of a professional interpreter who clearly recognizes God’s sovereignty and grace directed towards us. I will not soon forget this.

Inerrancy and the Gospels is a formative work that succeeds due to, among other things, lucid teaching of harmonization principles, practical demonstration of those principles at work, and a refreshingly uplifting attitude toward the Bible. I recommend this book.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Who but the God-man?

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin addresses why it is that humans needed God to become man in order to mediate our reconciliation to God successfully.
...it was also imperative that he who was to become our Redeemer be true God and true man. It was his task to swallow up death. Who but the Life could do this? It was his task to conquer sin. Who but very Righteousness could do this? It was his task to rout the powers of world and air. Who but a power higher than world and air could do this? Now where does life or righteousness, or lordship and authority of heaven lie but with God alone? Therefore our most merciful God, when he willed that we be redeemed, made himself our Redeemer in the person of his only-begotten Son [cf. Rom. 5:8].

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mystery and Magnificence

God has given us His Word that we might be fully equipped in our understanding. However, the fullness is not exhaustive. We are given everything we need to know, but not everything. There are some things we will likely never understand. Oliphint, in his book Reasons for Faith, writes:

Though arguments for God's character can be, and is, profound and complex at times, we may need to realize that arguments concerning exactly how, for example, the Son of God can be one person who is both created and uncreated, sovereign and limited in power, a se and hungry, may never be forthcoming.

The incarnation teaches us that God can be in ways that simply are not readily conducive to intellectually satisfying argumentation. The fact, for example, that God can remain eternal while at the same time interacting with his creation on a day-to-day basis does not always make for good philosophical fodder. It does, however, (if we are correct here) make for the truth of the matter, and we would be hard pressed to want anything less from our theological and philosophical meanderings. (254-5)

Though we should strive to understand all we can, and unravel the complex mysteries of our faith to the best of our abilities, we must realize and accept that we will not intellectually master all there is to know about our great God. And we should be fine with this. Professor Vern Poythress, in his newly published book Inerrancy and the Gospels writes, "Any difficulty that does not quickly yield to our investigation testifies to the fact that God is greater than we are and that he understands what we do not." (107)

Mysteries and lack of complete clarity should be expected and exulted in; we serve an awesome God. If we could completely grasp our Creator, he would not be infinite and eternal and therefore not fit to be worshiped. Let the mystery and paradox that surround our God propel us to more study and more worship.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A vision correcting gospel

This is a fantastic excerpt by Jonathan K. Dodson from his book Gospel Centered Discipleship. Every sentence in this passage is worth contemplating. The Piperian paradigm of sanctification (Piper didn't invent it, but I first encountered it through him), beholding-is-becoming-ism, has become something that I find very helpful. In his book, Dodson formulates helpful discipleship issues and ideas along the same lines.

Only by looking to Jesus can our disfigured image be restored and our contemptuous disregard forgiven. When we look away from ourselves into the face of Christ, we behold "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). This gospel knowledge corrects our vision so that we not only behold but also become the image of the glory of God in Christ. True nobility and beauty converge in the image of Jesus.

It is a fundamental truth that we become what we behold. Children become like their parents; interns become like their mentors. If we behold the beauty of Christ, we become beautiful like Christ. While it is true that our first glance into the face of Christ restores our image (Rom. 5:1-2; 8:29-30), it is also true that we drift back into fashioning our own distorted image. We slip into our own distorted forms of masculinity and femininity. The gospel calls us back to look at Jesus over and over again. A disciple of Jesus is a person who so looks at Jesus that he or she actually begins to reflect his beauty in everyday life. The gospel gives us the eyes to Jesus as well as the power to look like him. It changes us into the image of his glory: "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another" (2 Cor. 3:18). This transformative vision comes from the presence and power of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17-18) ... gospel-centered disciples rely on the Spirit, who focuses our hearts' attention on Jesus, where beholding him results in becoming like him. This goal is worth fighting for.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Are you busy?

There have been some busy months in the St. John house this fall. The past month has been particularly crazy. Some respite is in sight, however. The secondary school football team I coach plays in the "B Championship" this Saturday. The end of our football season, hopefully a win, will free up 3 hours a day. That alone will lighten the burden of business the last few months has included.

Hopefully my contributions to this blog will increase in frequency and regularity next week.

That being said, I recognize that pretty much everyone is busy; we fill our schedules with meetings, work, play, children's activities, church duties, and whatever else we might feel obligated to do. There can sometimes emerge a certain smug sense of accomplishment in the performance of all these duties. As if, in the simple acts of doing them, we have accomplished much. We can subtly believe that we have merited much in our dutiful fulfilling of our obligations.

Not so says Jonathan Edwards. In his second lecture on love in Charity and Its Fruits, Edwards deals with the misconception that performance of tasks is in and of itself profitable. The title of the lecture, "The Greatest Performance or Sufferings in Vain without Charity," gives an indication of Edwards' direction. He writes,
And as there is nothing profitable to God in any of our services or performances, so there can be nothing profitable in his sight in a mere external action without sincere love in the heart, "for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward apperance, but God looketh on the heart." The heart is just as naked and open to him as the actions. And therefore he sees our actions, and all our conduct, not merely as the external motions of a machine, but as the actions of  rational, intelligent creatures, and voluntary free agents; and therefore there can be, in his estimation, no excellence or amiableness in anything we can do, if the heart be not right with him.
Thus, we are called to act our actions and do our doings with proper motivation; love. Let's not think that in simply performing our duties we have accomplished much.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Does God really repent? "Yes" says Oliphint

I can't stress enough how helpful I find the writings of Professor Scott Oliphint. His books have been very formative in my understanding of God. In the following excerpt, Oliphint explains that though some characteristics of God are covenantal as opposed to essential, this does not mean they are any less literally true. Consider this quote from Reasons for Faith,
Well there can be no question that there are truths given to us in God's revelation that point to his essential character, and others that point to his covenantal character, we should be careful to note that those covenantal attributes of God are no less "literal" than are his essential attributes. Repentance, then, is not simply something that "seems to us" like repentance. It is literal repentance, he is (covenantally) changing directions because of his faithfulness to his covenant. But it is repentance of a condescended, covenant God who has come down, taking on the form of a creature, in order to glorify himself, and it is repentance that does not in anyway sacrifice, undermine, or otherwise alter his essential character as a se. He repents, all the while remaining the eternal, immutable "I AM." (253-4)
Is this easy to understand? No. But I think it remains faithful to the biblical record.

The sovereign, omniscient God of the universe condescendingly repents. Amazing!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fighting for something

So you see, everyone fights for something. The desire to fight isn't masculine or feminine; it is human. Deep down we all want to be noticed, for our lives to count for something. We want to be beautiful or noble. The problem is that we direct our fighting desires toward the wrong things. We work hard at being noticed or entertained. We fall short of beauty and nobility. What would happen if, instead of spending hours in front of the video screen or mirror, we spent hours in front of the gospel? What if we fought for a more noble cause ... I need to fight for the nobility of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and to be ravished with the image of his glory shining in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). (Dodson, Jonathan K. Gospel-centered Discipleship. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 53-4)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fun weekend!

It was an exciting weekend at the ice rinks for two of the St. Johns. My two oldest girls competed in tournaments in Oshawa, Ontario and both girls' teams went undefeated for the three days resulting in gold medals. Both girls work hard and enjoy their sports. It was a lot of fun for dad.







Friday, November 2, 2012

We have an advocate

From James Durham's collection of 72 sermons on Isaiah 53 entitled Christ Crucified:

For your encouragement, consider that it is most advantageous and profitable. These words in the promise are broad and full, Whatsoever ye ask in my name, I will do it. And the promise is frequently repeated in these core cited chapters of John. O what calmness, tranquility, peace, victory over anxiety, what patience in waiting, whether when in bonds or liberty, do flow from the exercising of faith on this ground, to wit, that we have an advocate in heaven with the Father! (emphasis mine)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The gospel-centered Great Commission

The Great Commission is not evangelism or discipleship centered; it is gospel centered. It calls us to make disciples by being a people who orbit around Jesus and his blood-bought benefits, not performance and self-made efforts. Disciples are gospel people who introduce and reintroduce themselves and others to the power of Jesus over and over again. A disciple of Jesus never stops learning the gospel, relating in the gospel, and communicating the gospel. (Dodson, Jonathan K. Gospel-centered Discipleship. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 41)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Unique condescension

The incarnation of Christ is a perpetual spring of encouragement and source of amazement; that He would become like us is too wonderful for words. Regular reflection on Christ's adding human nature to himself will do the soul great good. Here, Scott Oliphint discusses the incarnation in terms of the great humiliation and condescension of Christ and notes that it did not have to be so:
 
The triune God made a decision-a decision of humiliation. That decision has its focus on the second person of the Trinity, who would uniquely condescend. This decision carried with it no necessity; it was not necessary for the second person of the Trinity to decide to humble himself. He had every right to refrain from such a decision and not add himself to the humiliating status of humanity. But he determined not to. This second person-one who is equal to God, who is in the form of God, who is himself God (John1:1)-did not stop being God (such a thing would be impossible), but rather he took on something that was not part of his essential character previously. He took  on human nature. (Oliphint, K. Scott. Reasons [for Faith]: Philosophy in the Service of Theology. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Pub., 2006. Print. 242)

Monday, October 29, 2012

I dont believe we’d make it a day otherwise


I recently finished the first volume of Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy called All The Pretty Horses. It was a very enjoyable read and it further solidified my appreciation for the author. This quote is indicative of a recurring theme throughout the book: Though things may appear to be random and chaotic, there is purpose and order in the universe.

You think God looks out for people? said Rawlins.

Yeah. I guess He does. You?

Yeah. I do. Way the world is. Somebody can wake up and sneeze somewhere in Arkansas or some damn place and before you’re done there’s wars and ruination and all hell. You dont know what’s goin to happen. I’d say He’s just about got to. I dont believe we’d make it a day otherwise.

John Grady nodded.

McCarthy's characters, for the most part, seem to understand that there is purpose in life, and particularly in suffering and trials. The characters seem, as opposed to many modern sentiments, grateful for their time on earth. Though there is no indication that these characters are Christian per se, they exhibit hope in light of difficulties and faith in light of despair.

One facet of my faith journey over the past 5-6 years has been the developing of a biblical theology of God's sovereignty. The beliefs I used to have regarding God and his reign were inherited, but not investigated. When I studied the Scripture and writings of respected theologians, my stance changed dramatically.

I now find God's meticulous sovereignty over the universe a source of assurance and faith. He is in control. Whether it be superstorms or silly circumstances, He is sovereign. And that is good, because "I dont believe we’d make it a day otherwise."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

For what doth he intercede?

Puritan pastor James Durham, in his monumental work on Isaiah 53, addresses Christ's intercession as our Mediator. In his book entitled Christ Crucified: The Marrow of the Gospel in 72 Sermons on Isaiah 53 Durham delineates what Christ intercedes for:

For what doth he intercede? In general, for all that is conditioned to him in the covenant, for the behoof of his people; he prays for the fulfilling of all the articles of the covenant as: that all the elect, who are not  regenerate, may be regenerate, and made believers; that many through his knowledge may be justified; that they that are regenerate, and believers, and by faith have betaken themselves to him, may be justified,  pardoned, and received in favour, friendship, and fellowship with God; that believers may be keeped from temptation; that temptations may be prevented, and they made to persevere, that Satan may not make their faith to fail them, as he designs; that they and their prayers and service may be accepted; that the fruits and supplications that they present, and put up in his name, may get a hearing; that they may be armed against the fear of death; that they may be carried on in the gradual advances of sanctification, to the end of their faith,  the salvation of their souls; that they may be glorified, and be where he is, to behold his glory. In a word, he  intercedes for every thing needful, and for everything promised to them, his intercession being as broad as his purchase.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The image of God and miracles

Jonathan Edwards, in his classic Christian work on love called Charity and Its Fruits, gives charismatics a good reminder "wherein the spiritual image of God consists" in the following excerpt:
That grace or holiness, which is the effect of the ordinary influence of the Spirit of God in the hearts of the saints, is that wherein the spiritual image of God consists; and not in these extraordinary gifts of the Spirit. —The spiritual image of God does not consist in having a power to work miracles, and foretell future events,but it consists in being holy, as God is holy: in having a holy and divine principle in the heart, influencing usto holy and heavenly lives. Indeed, there is a kind of assimilation to Christ in having a power to work miracles, for Christ had such a power, and wrought a multitude of miracles (John xiv. 12) — " The works that I do shall he do also." But the moral image and likeness of Christ does much more consist in having the same mind in us which was in Christ ; in being of the same Spirit that he was of; in being meek and lowly of heart ; in having a spirit of Christian love, and walking as Christ walked. This makes a man more like Christ than if he could work ever so many miracles.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

No cheerleaders

Many Christian have the mistaken notion that if only we were better Christians, everyone would appreciate us. They don't realize that holiness comes with a cost. Sure, you can focus on the virtues the world likes. But if you pursue true religion that cares for orphans and promotes purity (James 1:27), you'll lose some of the friends you were so desperate to make. Becoming a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, requires you to resist the world which wants to press you into its mold (Rom. 12:1-2). Saving yourself for marriage, staying sober on Friday night, turning down a promotion to stay at your church, refusing to say the f-word, turning off the television-these are the kinds of things the world doesn't understand. Don't expect them to. The world provides no cheerleaders on the pathway to holiness. 

(DeYoung, Kevin. The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 38)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Delighting in the law

Sealed in my heart that day was the truth that unless the gospel is made explicit, unless we clearly articulate that our righteousness is imputed to us by Jesus Christ, that on the cross he absorbed the wrath of God aimed at us and washed us clean-even if we preach biblical words on obeying God-people will believe that Jesus's message it that he has come to condemn the world, not save it.

But the problem is deeper than that and more pervasive. If we don't make sure the gospel is explicit, if we don't put up the cross and the perfect life of Jesus Christ as our hope, then people can get confused and say, "Yes, I believe in Jesus. I want to be saved. I want to be justified by God," but then can begin attempting to earn his salvation. By taking the cross out of the functional equation, moral therapeutic deism promotes the wrong-headed idea that God probably needs our help in the work of justification and most certainly needs us to carry the weight of our sanctification, as well. The result is innumerable Christians suffering under the burden of the law's curse because they have not been led to see that gospel-centered living is the only way to delight in the law.

 (Chandler, Matt, and Jared C. Wilson. The Explicit Gospel. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 208-9)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Death, be not proud

Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10)

by John Donne

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou'art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy'or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Staying true to the message

From The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler:
Despite the fact that the history of our syncretism clearly shows us that removing the offensive parts of our faith in order to gain followers merely kills our faith, people continue to try this. As the slide down this slope continues, we see the adherence to substitutionary atonement disappear, because it is by far the most offensive doctrine. Once we remove the bloody atonement as satisfaction of God's wrath for sin, the wheels really come off. Where the substitutionary atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross is preached and proclaimed, missions will not spin off to a liberal shell of a lifeless message but will stay true to what God has commanded the church to be in the Scriptures. (197-98)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What does God's divine "stoop" look like?


From Reasons for Faith by K. Scott Oliphint:
What does God's divine "stoop" look like? From a biblical-theological perspective, it looks like the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8); it looks like the angel of the Lord (which is the Lord himself) calling to Abraham (Gen. 22), or to Moses (Ex. 3), or to Israel (Judges 2). Because of his voluntary condescension, the Lord protects and delivers his people (e. g., Ps. 34;7), and he fights for them (e. g., Is. 37;36). Supremely, it looks like Jesus Christ, the Son of God taking to himself the created properties of a human nature in order to accomplish what only he can accomplish, our redemption. All of this "relationality" on the part of Yahweh, the "I AM," can happen only because he willingly de idea to condescend to our level, to the level of the created. (239)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

We know of no other way

From an essay entitled The Expulsive Power of a New Affection by Thomas Chalmers:

We know of no other way by which to keep the love of the world out of our heart, than to keep in our hearts the love of God - and no other way by which to keep our hearts in the love of God, than building ourselves up on our most holy faith. That denial of the world which is not possible to him that dissents from the Gospel testimony, is possible even as all things are possible, to him that believeth. To try this without faith, is to work without the right tool of the right instrument. But faith worketh by love; and the way of expelling from the heart the love which transgresseth the law, is to admit into its receptacles the love which fulfilleth the law.

How do we desist from loving the world? Not by preaching a negative description of the world in order to convince ourselves of its unworthiness. Rather, we nurture the love of God in our hearts through the apostolically affirmed tools for "building up our most holy faith." That is, we pray, read our Bible, fellowship, and participate in the sacraments among other things. Inundating the heart with the superior object of desire, that being God, will displace the love of an inferior object of desire, the world.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Gospel going, gospel baptizing, gospel teaching

This is a great excerpt from Gospel Centered discipleship, a superb book by Jonathan K. Dodson that I have posted about before here and here. This passage looks at the Great Commission and considers the implications it makes in regards to the gospel. Dodson suggests, helpfully and correctly in my opinion, that the Great Commission is really a gospel commission. And he emphasizes that this commission is not just to make disciples, but also to baptize them and teach them, And this making, baptizing, and teaching is all in reference to the gospel, and thus is centered on the Person of the gospel, Jesus..
"At the risk of oversimplification, we could say that the Great Commission commands us to learn the gospel by the gospel. We learn the breadth and depth of the good news by continually situating ourselves in it, through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. Jesus is the gospel of our teaching and observing. It is this understanding of the gospel that makes disciples, which is why it would be better to refer to the [Great] commission as the "Gospel Commission." The Gospel Commission sends us to teach and observe the gospel.

With this all too brief explanation of the Great Commission directives, we must conclude that the gospel isn't just for evangelism, the initial making of disciples. It is also for discipleship, the continual making of disciples. Jesus' view of discipleship is radically gospel centered. The gospel is for not-yet disciples and already disciples. The gospel people believe to be baptized is the same gospel people believe to be sanctified (through the work of the Spirit). Followers of Jesus make and mature disciples by going with the gospel, baptizing disciples into gospel community, and teaching the gospel. We are to go in the power of the gospel, baptize into the grace of the gospel, and teach the Person of the gospel. Jesus is the ground of our going, the goal of our baptizing, and the gospel of our teaching. Making disciples is radically Jesus centered. This is how we make disciples-gospel going, gospel baptizing, gospel teaching." (35)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What are disciples?

From Gospel Centered Discipleship by Jonathan K. Dodson:
The word disciple is used more frequently than Christian to refer to believers in the Bible. This repeated usage tells us that disciple is a fundamental category for Christians. We are disciples first and parents, employees, pastors, deacons, and spouses second. Disciple is an identity; everything else is a role. Our roles are temporary but our identity will last forever. Marvelous. If this is true, it is incredibly important to have a sound definition for the word disciple. (29)

Dodson works his way through some foundational ideas about disciples and arrives at a definition of the word:
A disciple of Jesus, then, is someone who learns the gospel, relates in the gospel, and communicates the gospel. (38)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Blogged Through Books - The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Blogged Through Books is a series that I hope to continue regularly. I will use posts from this blog that have already been produced for a particular book and will compile them all in one post. This will give the reader access to all of the content concerning particular books, as it appears on this blog, in one convenient location. In the near future I hope to write a post about the benefits of blogging through a book. The third post in the series has Jeremiah Burrough's classic The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment as its focus.


This is a wonderful book that had a profound effect on me when I read it. I will definitely be reading this book again in the future as I find that I need its profound effect to affect me again!

Friday, October 5, 2012

A motive for love

Jonathan Edwards on motivation for Christian living:

This spirit, even a spirit of love, is the spirit that God holds forth greater motives in the gospel to induce us to, than to any other thing whatever. The work of redemption which the gospel makes known, above all things affords motives to love; for that work was the most glorious and wonderful exhibition of love that was ever seen or heard.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What grace wasn't for

Grace was never preached, that men should grow cold and indifferent in the practice of good works, but that, through the laying hold on Christ's righteousness, God might be glorified. Therefore study the exercise of faith so as you seclude not holiness; and study holiness so as you mar not the freedom of grace; and put these two together, which are the compend of the gospel, when suitably practiced.

( Durham, James, and Christopher Coldwell. Christ Crucified: Or, the Marrow of the Gospel in Seventy-two Sermons on the Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah. Dallas, TX: Naphtali, 2001. Print. 520)



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fight to believe the gospel

From the introduction of a wonderful book on discipleship, written by Jonathan K. Dodson, called Gospel Centered Discipleship:
As we give and receive the gospel, we don't linger in imperfection, unbelief, disobedience, and failure. The Bible repeatedly tells us to fight. We have to fight to believe the gospel. Otherwise, we will slide back into individualistic, indifferent, or professionalized discipleship. This fight is a fight of faith. It is a struggle to believe what the gospel truly promises over what sin deceitfully promises. We need to remind one another that Jesus has not called us to performance or indifference but to faith in him. We need relationships that are so shaped by the gospel that we will exhort and encourage one another to trust Jesus every single day. (Dodson, Jonathan K. Gospel-centered Discipleship. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 18)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Blogged Through Books - The Doctrine of God

Blogged Through Books is a series that I hope to continue regularly. I will use posts from this blog that have already been produced for a particular book and will compile them all in one post. This will give the reader access to all of the content concerning particular books, as it appears on this blog, in one convenient location. In the near future I hope to write a post about the benefits of blogging through a book. This post focuses on a book that has been very influential in my Christian journey; The Doctrine of God by John Frame.

Here is a list of posts on The Doctrine of God:

I strongly encourage any and all of you to read this book! Perhaps a perusal of the posts above will whet your appetite for more of Frame's writing in The Doctrine of God.

Monday, October 1, 2012

All you need is love

Love to God will dispose a man to honour him, and heartily acknowledge his greatness and glory and dominion. And so it will dispose to all acts of obedience to God; for the servant that loves his master, and the subject that loves his sovereign, will be disposed to proper subjection and obedience. (6)

In some ways, The Beatles were right when they sang "All you need is love." Provided, of course, that love is directed towards God. The above quote by Jonathan Edwards is from his collection of lectures called Charity and Its Fruits.

Edwards grounds the doing of one's duties and obedience to our Sovereign in love. It is out of the overflow of love to God that we find the motivation to love God. Indeed, our sanctification is effective only through a Holy Spirit enabled delight in and desire for God. We can not will it, at least, a move of the will is not sufficient.

This resulting obedience through loving God is surely one of the reason Edwards emphasized delighting, relishing, being allured, and finding joy in God.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Does death have a sting?

As I blog through The Explicit Gospel, I am reminded how readable-fun, helpful, clear-this book is. It is definitely an book you could give as a gift to a wide audience; young, old, believer, non-believer, and almost anyone. Consider the following passage that is both humorous and helpful.

Commenting on 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 Chandler writes:

I have heard this text used shoddily at funerals. Preachers shout, "Where is your sting, O death?" just inches away from an occupied casket. I always want to shout back, "it's right there! There's the sting!"

Do you see in 1 Corinthians 15 when death loses its sting? Do you see when it's swallowed up in victory and can no longer create mourning? It is when we put on the imperishable. So, at funerals we mourn and we hurt; death stings, and there is a real loss. This text rightly used at a funeral should point us to the hope of the day where it won't sting any longer.

In that day, the victory of Christ over death will be tangible, palpable, and visceral. (169)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Blogged Through Books - God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment

Blogged Through Books is a series that I hope to continue regularly. I will use posts from this blog that have already been produced for a particular book and will compile them all in one post. This will give the reader access to all of the content concerning particular books, as it appears on this blog, in one convenient location. In the near future I hope to write a post about the benefits of blogging through a book. The first post in the series has Jim Hamilton's excellent biblical theology, God's Glory In Salvation Through Judgment, as its focus.

Here is a list of posts on God's Glory In Salvation Through Judgment:


I'd like to thank Dr. Hamilton for all of his tweets and retweets on Twitter, and the ensuing traffic that visited this blog as a result. This is a wonderful book that I'm sure will continue to bless many Christians should Jesus tarry.





Monday, September 24, 2012

The burning bush a revelational sign

Westminster Theological Seminary professor Scott Olphint introduces a very interesting idea concerning Moses and the burning bush. This appears in his book Reasons for Faith.

It is not an insignificant detail that what draws Moses into God's presence on that mountain is a picture of who God is. There is no analogy in the creation for the independent and the uncreated. So God creates a picture of his character in the burning bush. He gives Moses a sign: an "independent" fire. The fire does not derive its burning from the context in which it burns. It is self-generated, contradicting all rules of creation. The bush is on fire, but the fire is not dependent on the bush; it possesses its own energy. There is, it seems, a deliberate and revelational sign given by God to unveil the significance, both of God's covenantal revelation to Moses (because fire is with the bush), and of his revelation of the divine name-"I AM WHO I AM." (237)

The burning bush event encapsulates the God's self-revealing of his name I AM WHO I AM which is clearly a very significant moment in the relationship between God and Israel and thus is of massive import for all mankind. Thus, this event bears the study and intense gazing that the church has encumbered it with. Dr. Oliphint's insights are fascinating to consider.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Jesus's mission

We know this sounds heartless, but it's true: it simply was not Jesus's driving ambition to heal the sick and meet the needs of the poor, as much as he cared for them. He was sent into the world to save people from condemnation (John 3;17), that he might be lifted up so believers could have eternal life (3:14-15). He was sent by the Father so that whoever feeds on him might live forever (6:57-58). In his important work on the missions of Jesus and the disciples, Andreas Kostenberger concludes that John's Gospel portrays Jesus's mission as the Son sent from the Father, as the one who came into the world and returned to the Father, and as the shepherd-teacher who called others to follow him in order to help gather a final harvest. If Kostenberger is right, this is a long way from saying that Jesus's fundamental mission was to meet temporal needs. 
 
(DeYoung, Kevin, and Greg Gilbert. What Is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011. Print.55)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Religious versus Spiritual

I have never liked the whole religion vs. spirituality discussion. It is unhelpful to have discussions of this sort when terms are not defined. Am I religion? Do I support religion? Well, the answer is "yes" if when you say religion you are using the term the way the puritans used. That is, religion being the proper acting out of the Christian faith. But if you mean religion in the sense of legalism or man-centered pursuit of divinity then no, I'm not into religion.

Kevin DeYoung, in his newest book The Hole in Our Holiness, addresses this situation:

Has there been a phrase more adept at smuggling in doctrinal confusion and moral laxity than the slogan "spiritual, not religious"? Granted, for some people this means, "I want a personal, life-changing relationship with God, not mere church attendance." but more often than not the phrase implies a dislike for theological standards, moral absolutes, and organized religion. Being spiritual in contemporary jargon means you are open to mystery and interested in "spiritual" things like prayer, healing, and inner peace.

True spirituality means being transformed by the Spirit through communion with the Father and Son. If you are interested in spirituality, your priority should be to grow in the holiness that comes from the Spirit. (35)

His point is not to choose sides on the religion/spiritual debate; rather, he draws our attention to the fact that all Christians-religious, spiritual, or otherwise-should be pursuing holiness. All those who follow Christ should be looking to obedience to God as a goal for our times here on earth. I think he's right.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The wonder of the world reflects the wonder of the gospel

From Matt Chandler in The Explicit Gospel:
If you know somewhere in the world that is renowned for its spectacular views, what you see is nevertheless broken, and what is to come in the earth is far beyond what you can fathom or imagine. The work that God does in us through the power of the gospel of Jesus' redemptive work is a glorious mystery, a matter of eternal interest to curious angels (1 Peter 1:12). Is it any wonder that we must have a world to match the wonder of salvation? (164)


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Loving God aright

From Jonathan Edwards' first lecture in Charity and Its Fruits:
When God and man are loved with a truly Christian love, they ate both loved from the same motives. When God is loved aright, he is loved for his excellency, and the beauty of his nature, especially the beauty of the holiness of his nature; and it is from the same motive that the saints are loved-for holiness' sake. And all things that are loved with a truly holy love, are loved from the same respect to God. Love to God is the foundation of gracious love to men; and men are loved, either because they are in some respect like God, in the possession of his nature and spiritual image, or because of the relation they stand in to him as his children or creatures-as those who are blessed of him, or to whom his mercy is offered, or in some other way from regard to him (5-6).
If we love, or are loved, we should thank our gracious and merciful heavenly Father as all true love is related to God.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Oliphint on the trinity

This is an interesting point that Scott Oliphint makes while discussing God's character as it relates to the trinity in Reason for Faith:
While there is no way for finite human beings completely to circumscribe the relationship of the one God to three persons, we may rest content, with the history of the orthodox Christian tradition, with the fact of God's triunity and it's evidence of God's utter incomprehensibility (Rom. 11:33-34). (227)
If a astute mind such as the one in Oliphint's skull struggles with circumscribing the doctrine of the trinity, than the rest of us need not get to upset about our shortcomings in grasping this belief. Ultimately, God's "incomprehensibility" should offer us comfort; he is the transcendent deity the Bible claims he is. He is an awesome God.

We certainly should pursue our understanding of God to the limits we can given our natural proclivities and the Biblical account. But when we come up to an impassable chasm of mystery, we can be, and should be, content.