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.