Monday, December 16, 2013

Jason Meyer on the Word

I have recently reviewed an excellent book on preaching by Jason C. Meyer titled Preaching: A Biblical Theology. I appreciate so much of what Meyer wrote including his high view of Scripture and how he articulates the grandeur of God and of God's Word. Consider:
Scripture is a story in which (1) God rules (what he does) (2) by his word (how he does it) (3) for his glory (why he does it). All three of these points shine as dazzling aspects of God’s unparalleled greatness. A greater King exists than the human mind could even imagine. He is self—existent. He rules over everything that he brought into existence (the what of Scripture). This greatest of all kings has a greater weapon than any has ever invented, called the word of God. This word is the  means by which God administers his reign (the how of Scripture). This great King has a greater cause than any ever conceived: the cause of filling the earth with the knowledge of his glory (the why of Scripture) (44).
The "why," "what," and "how" of Scripture that Meyer highlights makes God and His Word bold and beautiful. The Scriptures are inextricably linked to God as it should be; the two cannot be separated. Meyer goes on to describe the powerful efficacy of the Word:
Notice the role of the word in this drama. Its life-giving power is unparalleled because it brought all into being out of nothing. Its power to kill is also unrivaled. God brings judgment upon humanity through his word. It is often presented in Scripture as a weapon or a sword. This sword is more powerful than a ring of power, an atomic bomb, or any weapon that anyone could invent. The word is the instrument God uses to create the world (2 Pet. 3:5), rule over his world (3:6), and bring final judgment upon the world (3:7) (44).
But then Meyer introduces a grander and even more glorious aspect of God's Word. He speaks of the incarnation as the focal point of all history and all that God has done:
But there is even more! The word of God has a hinge point that changes everything. Indeed, we could call it the hinge of all history. There comes a point when the great weapon is revealed as a person! In other words, the how (the word of God) becomes the Who (Jesus as the Word of God incarnate). God administers his rule and reign through 1 the word of God in the Old Testament, and then God’s Son comes to reign as the incarnate Word of God that brings God’s kingdom to bear in the New Testament (John 1:1; Rev. 19:13) (44-45). 
The Word has become flesh. And this Person is powerful and his potency is seen in all He has done and all He will do. This is beauty. This is glory. This is the apex of adoration and adulation and it is God's Word bringing all things to fulfillment:
Jesus Will bring the story to a dramatic conclusion with his second coming. The ending is so great that We do not yet have categories to comprehend what it will be like. We have some pictures drawn from our present categories. The Bible says that the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the Waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). Talk about a thriller! Imagine standing in the middle of the sea. All you see in every direction is Water. God Wrote a story that will come to its climax when that happens: the filling up of all creation with God’s glory. Our joy will be unspeakably great and full of glory (45)!
I find this type of writing encouraging and edifying; it builds up my faith and motivates me to get into the Word and get into worship. And it is not hard to see why this perspective would help a preacher preach, and help a preacher preach the Word.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Divine grace alone prevails against sin

I highly recommend the series of theological books that fall under Crossway's collection labelled Theology In Community. I have read a couple of them and you can read my reviews of those volumes here and here. I also have their title The Kingdom of God on my Kindle, ready for reading. The most recent text from this series that I have read is Fallen: A Theology of Sin. It is an excellent resource that I have already made use of in my preaching and one that I am sure to revisit.

From this book comes the substance of this post. In a chapter entitled Sin in the Former and Latter Prophets and Writings, Paul R. House concludes his chapter by presenting a few summative statements about sin:

  1. Sin is perversion - Sin "distorts the people whom God made and thus the world over which they exercise stewardship" and it "harms people's relationship with God" (80).
  2. Sin is active - Sin is "thinking, planning, and doing" things god has prohibited as well as "not doing the good"  that God has prescribed and thus "the wrath of god is directed at people, not to sin in the abstract" (80).
  3. Sin is relational - "Sins committed by people harm people; sins committed by nations harm other nations" (81).
  4. Sin is pervasive - "Sin scars every person and portion of life" which is evident because "the scope of God's teaching indicates the multitude of ways one may sin" (81). Sin has its origin in the hearts and minds of humans and therefore "the types and effects of sin are as varied and creative as the human mind can conceive, and they are as dangerous as human opportunity allows" (81).
  5. Sin is deadly - "It harms what it touches, and it can kill wherever it goes" (81). 

And though these statements might cause one to despair and doubt, House reminds of the gospel which is neither despairing nor does it give reasons for doubting:
Because these principles are so sobering, the magnify God's redemptive work in Jesus Christ. Christians cannot really fathom all that it means to have forgiveness through the saving blood of Jesus. There is no way to fully comprehend how much each person sins and how those sins harm life. So, there is no way to thank God fully for what he has provided. Once again, only by faith can one respond to God's promises, covenants, and teaching. Sheer divine grace alone prevails against sin (81, emphasis mine).

Monday, November 25, 2013

Book Review - Preaching by Jason Meyer

I had numerous reasons for wanting to write a book review on Preaching: A Biblical Theology by Jason C. Meyer. First, my new position as apprentice pastor has me preaching regularly and I need all the help I can get. Secondly, I thoroughly enjoy reading biblical theologies and this book fit the bill. Finally, and probably most significantly, I wanted to get a feel for what the guy replacing John Piper is like. Who is this Jason Meyer and what is he like? Reading a book on preacher by the guy following Piper in the pulpit must make, for good or ill, some kind of impression!

Jason Meyer has written a compelling and convincing treatise on expositional preaching in the form of this biblical theology. Meyer comes across as an individual who is both knowledgeable and passionate about preaching and conveys both those qualities in a comfortable manner.

Meyer's book is divided into five sections, all of which I found helpful. The five sections include five chapters giving an overview of what the Bible says about preaching, eleven chapters of biblical theology that support part one, three chapters on preaching in today's context, a couple chapters related to systematic theology, and a final chapter and appendices for concluding thoughts.

The first section explains and elaborates on Meyers definition of preaching which he provides: Preaching, or ministry of the word in Scripture, is "stewarding and heralding God's word in such a way that people encounter God through his word" (21). I enjoyed the author's unpacking of the three main concepts in this definition and found the discussion informative and inspiring.

The second section surveyed Bible with respect to stewardship and heralding of the word while looking for the effects of doing this poorly or well. There is some depth to this section as Meyers thoughts on preaching are discussed with respect to the details of the Bible. He considers the ministry of the word as it shifts through ten biblical paradigms starting the covenant of creation and ending with the pastor of the New Testament. Those who enjoy biblical theologies will find much to like in this second section.

The third section considers the "what," "how," and "why" of expositional preaching in our day. Meyer is an unabashed believer in expositional preaching and makes strong case for it which I found very motivating. The authors high view of Scripture was also glaringly evident in this section; an endearing quality to me and others who preach and take the call to preach seriously. Meyers shares ideas and insights that were new to me and that I will make use of in my preparation and preaching.

The fourth section investigates the connection between preaching and two significant systematic topics; scripture and sin. It follows these two chapters with a fair and grounded evaluation of topical preaching. Meyer provides a balanced and nuanced view of topical preaching suggesting it has its place in churches and delivers some benefits providing the priority is given to expository preaching. There are some valuable perspectives on topical preaching given with some warnings which clearly locates this type of preaching in the authors philosophy.

The book ends with some concluding thoughts and encouraging words as well as several appendices.

I found this book well worth the time invested in reading it and it has affected my opinions on preaching and it will affect the way I preach. It also gave me some insight into the heir of Piper's pulpit and I think that the congregation of Bethlehem Baptist Church are in good hands. I recommend this book.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

His death or his resurrection?

J. I.Packer writes on the death and resurrection of Christ:
It is sometimes asked whether Christ's death or his resurrection is what directly brings about the sinner's salvation. The answer is both, and to minimize either's importance in relation to the other is to begin to falsify that answer. In other words, Christ died for our sake as our representative and substitutionary Sin-Bearer, and it is one facet of our faith in him to see and think of ourselves as having died with him, in the sense of having voluntarily ended the life we were living in our unbelief. But that is not all. Christ was raised from death for our sake as our forerunner and life-giver, and it is a further facet of our faith in him to see and think of ourselves as having been raised with him in union with him, so that now we participate in his resurrection life in terms of desire, direction, and divine energy. When Paul declared that in his ministry he toils, "struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me" (Col. 1:29), it is this supernaturalizing service that he refers to" (Packer, J. I. Weakness Is the Way. N.p.: Inter-Varsity, 2013. Print. 38-9)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Book Review - Fallen: A Theology of Sin

In Fallen: A Theology of Sin, Crossway and the editors Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson deliver another valuable and useful book to add to the Theology In Community series that has also given the church books on the deity of Christ, suffering, God's glory, and the kingdom of God. This is another treasure trove of practical information that exudes solid doctrinal teaching on the overlooked and under-studied topic of sin. I reviewed The Deity of Christ and found it immensely helpful and highly recommended; this volume follows suit.

The books first chapter is written by world renowned scholar D. A. Carson. This theological heavyweight considers the intrinsic and contemporary significance of sin and in all too typical fashion his work is both helpful and enjoyable. I am particularly fond of authors whose writing reminds me of their preaching; in the sentences and paragraphs I could almost hear Dr. Carson's talks on the same topic. Carson represents sin as it is understood in the Bible and reflects on our society's spiritual poverty as a result of being bereft of this knowledge.

Chapters 2 and 3 are written by Paul R. House. This is my first acquaintance with his writing but it will assuredly not be my last. In chapter 2, House discusses the treatment of sin in the Old Testament Law while noting how incomplete such an endeavour will be in the small space allotted. Nevertheless, House offers a summary that is beneficial and enriching. House looks at the definitions of sin the Law offers and traces the themes surrounding sin in the texts under consideration. In chapter 3, House moves on to discuss the treatment of sin in the prophets. This chapter looks at contributions towards the Old Testament's teaching on sin from each book of the Former Prophets as well as highlighting the books of the Latter Prophets and their demonstration of the universal scope of sin. I appreciated his contribution to the discussion and will not hesitate to read more of his work if the opportunity arises.

Robert W. Yarborough is passed the baton and endeavours to investigate sin in the New Testament without interacting with any of the writings of Paul. He considers the indirect evidence of sin from these books by investigating invitations to repent as well as instances of conversion. He adds to his observations a concise summary of 2 word groups associated with sin; the hamartia word group and the adikia word group. This chapter was artfully written and its presentation helps with an understanding of sin that has breadth and depth.

Concerning chapter 5, I'll get right to the point: Douglas J. Moo's chapter entitled Sin in Paul is alone worth the price of the book. I do not consider myself overly intelligent, but I do consider myself fairly well-read. However, this chapter provided me with some "wow" moments; I encountered ideas and explanations that I had never come across before. The style is winsome and the content is top tier. Moo deals with the vocabulary of sin, the nature of sin, the larger environment of sin, and the consequences of sin among other topics the apostle to the Gentiles grappled with in his writings. To belabour the point, in my copy there is an almost unhelpful amount of marginalia, underlining, circling and highlighting; I might have been better off noting what was not extremely helpful. If for this chapter alone, buy the book!

Christopher Morgan, in the sixth chapter, looks at sin with the metanarrative of the Bible in mind. He considers sin in light of creation, the fall, redemption and the consummation. This section offers the reader a wide-ranging assessment of sin in Scripture. This chapter contains several lists and charts that are excellent summaries and provide me, as a teacher, with valuable tools.

A very delightful and informative presentation of sin in historical theology is Gerald Bray's contribution to this collection. Chapter 7 offers an intriguing perusal of sin through the ages of church history. Bray writes in a manner that is easy to read and the information he conveys captivated my attention.
Chapter 8 contains a thorough exposition of what a theology of sin for today should look like. His explanation and investigation into sin in its pre-fall context was fascinating and memorable. Of note, this chapter contained some memorable illustrations that I intend on using in some sermons in the near future.

Sydney H. T. Page investigates the relationship between Satan and sin and evil. He looks at Satan's roles in regards to sin; tempter, deceiver, accuser, afflicter. But he also reminds the reader of the defeat of Satan, sin, and evil through the work of Christ on Calvary.

The next chapter, the tenth, is practical and pastoral and perceptive in regards to its topic; temptation. The author, Davis B. Calhoun, produces a wide range of encouraging and informative quotes from church history. After the Moo chapter, this was the most edifying chapter as it adroitly answered numerous question about temptation: What is temptation?; What does the bible say about temptation?; How could Jesus be tempted?; What are the source or causes of temptation?; How do the world, the flesh, and the devil tempt us?; When does temptation become sin?; How can we overcome temptation?; What happens when we Confess our sins?; and what are the results of temptation? As is obvious, Calhoun covers a lot of ground and he does so in an engaging way.

Finally, the smooth and soothing prose of this chapter, courtesy of Bryan Chapell, is reminiscent of his excellent verbal communication skills. Entitled aptly Repentance That Sings, this final section offers are harmonious finish to the book. Though delivering a comfortable read, this chapter was, for me, very convicting. Though I enjoyed the skilful writing, I could feel the God's thumb of conviction gently pressing on my heart as the chapter progressed. The editors prove their worth by choosing this chapter to end on; it was full of practical application and powerful motivation to take our own sin seriously and, by the grace and mercy of God, deal with it.

I highly recommend this book as valuable resource on the doctrine of sin. Its able authors deliver another valuable contribution to the Theology in Community series. Let these words of D. A. Carson convey the importance of understanding sin and the value of a book such as Fallen: "It is impossible to gain a deep grasp of what the cross achieves without plunging into a deep grasp of what sin is" (22).

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The love of God in Delighting in the Trinity

In Delighting in the Trinity, Michael Reeves discusses how God's triune-ness and God's love go hand in hand. God has been loving within the trinity since eternity. The Father loves the Son and the Spirit; the Son loves the Father and the Spirit; the Spirit loves the Father and the Son. God is love, and always has been love and loving.

With this in mind, Reeves brings up the idea of humanity's fall; part of that picture is the idea of Adam and Eve directing the love they had for God to something other than God: ourselves and anything but God. To this catastrophic event, God responded in love. Reeves writes,
Astonishingly, it was this very rejection of God that drew forth the extreme depths of his love. In his response to sin we see deeper than ever into the very being of God. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that We loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 Jn 4:8-10). 
The God who is love definitively displays that love to the World by sending us his eternally beloved Son to atone for our sin. (68)
And so, it is in the cross-God's remedy for sin-that we see God's love poured out most profoundly and prolifically. Reeves continues:
Without the cross, we could never have imagined the depth and seriousness of What it means to say that God is love. “This is how we know What love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 Jn 3:16). On the cross we see the great holiness of God’s love, that the light of his pure love will destroy the darkness of sin and evil. On the cross we see the intensity and strength of his love, that it is not an insipid thing at all, but majestically strong as it faces death, battles evil and gives life. For Christ was not bound against his will and dragged to a crucifixion he did not choose. Nobody could take his life from him, he said. “I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (Jn 10:18). Jesus’ self-giving love is entirely unconstrained and free. It comes, not from any necessity, but entirely out of who he is, the glory of his Father. Through the cross we see a God who delights to give himself.
Thus, the triune God who has been love since before creation, demonstrates that He is love most gloriously in the cross of Christ. I highly recommend this book by Michael reeves!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Lloyd-Jones on our union with Christ

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the well-known expository preacher of Westminster Chapel, addresses the topic of union with Christ in a sermon entitled In Christ Jesus. He engages this doctrine as he expounds Ephesians 2:4-7 which reads, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."

Of this doctrine, Lloyd-Jones declares:
Here we are undoubtedly face-to-face with one of the greatest and most marvelous of all the Christian doctrines, one of the most glorious beyond any question at all. It is the whole teaching of the Scripture with regard to our union with Christ. It is a teaching that you find in many places. I would refer you to the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, which is in many ways the most extended statement of the doctrine to be found anywhere. But it is to be found in exactly the same way in the sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. It is likewise found in 1 Corinthians 15, the great chapter that is read so often at funeral services; but it is seen equally clearly in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5. Similarly it is the teaching found in those beautiful words at the end of the second chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). This is the most wonderful and the most amazing thing of all, and to me it is always a matter of great surprise that this blessed doctrine should receive so little attention! For some reason or other, Christian people seem to be afraid of it… [Yet] according to this teaching in Ephesians 2 and elsewhere, you are not Christians at all unless you are joined to Christ and “in Him”…
This preacher excitement and joy is evident in the words of his address. Lloyd-Jones recognizes, as many Christians before and after him have realized, that union with Christ is a doctrine that forms the basis for our relationship with Christ and therefore the entire Christian faith.

Lloyd-Jones sees two ways in which we can understand our union with Christ. The first he calls "federal sense, or, in other words, a covenant sense." This sense considers the representative nature that Christ demonstrated in his life, death, and resurrection. Lloyd-Jones proclaims:
Adam was constituted and regarded by God as the head and the representative of the human race. He was the federal head, the federal representative, the covenant head. God made covenant with Adam, made an agreement with him, made certain statements to him as to what He would do, and so on. Now that is the first sense in which this doctrine of union is taught. And what is said, therefore, about the Lord Jesus Christ is that He is our Federal Head, He is our Representative. Adam, our representative, rebelled against God: he sinned, he was punished, and certain consequences followed. But because Adam was our representative and our head, what happened to Adam also therefore happened to all his posterity and to us.
The second aspect of our union with Christ that Lloyd-Jones points out is what he calls a "mystical" or "vital" union. He preaches:
This is something that was taught by our Lord Himself in the famous words in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel according to John, where He says, “I am the vine, ye are the branches” (John 15:5). The union between the branches and the vine is not mechanical: it is vital and organic. They are bound together: the same sap, the same life is in the stock as in the branches.
Thus, Lloyd-Jones sees in our union with Christ a two-fold understanding of how this union works. His exhilaration is heard again as summarizes this section of the sermon exalting that,
All these blessings that we enjoy become ours because we are joined to Christ in this double manner: in the forensic, federal, covenant manner, but also in this vital and living manner. We can therefore claim that what has happened to Christ has happened to us. This is the marvel and mystery of our salvation, and it is the most glorious thing we can ever contemplate!
I have engaged our union with Christ this past week after having touched upon it during a sermon I gave last week. It is clearly something I need to study more, and Lloyd-Jones has me excited to do just that.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Ineffability of God's Beauty

The book Eyes Wide Open, among other things, is a treatise on beauty. It concerns itself with many aspects of beauty including beauty's origins and essence. For author Steve DeWitt, the essence and origin of all things beautiful and beauty itself is God.

In discussing the beauty of creation-the vastness of the universe or the intricate design of a water crystal-DeWitt makes a clear assertion: "Creation is beautiful precisely because its Creator is beautiful" (15). That is, things are beautiful as they relate to God because "God defines beauty by His very essence. He is the source and standard of all beauty" (15).

However, God's beauty causes us some problems. And one of those problems is that beauty in general, and specifically God's beauty, is difficult to understand. God's beauty, like many things about Him, is ineffable. Ineffable is an appropriate term; it means beyond comprehension or inexpressible. The author continues, "A popular phrase captures the ineffability of God's beauty: It blows our minds. We cannot see God's beauty (God is spirit); we can not evaluate it (God transcends humanity's ability to critique); and we cannot comprehend it (God is infinite, we are not)" (16).

But despite beauty's mind stretching effect, we are still drawn to it, compelled to discover and apprehend it. This is seen nowhere more profoundly than in our searching and longing (whether we recognize it or not) for God:
We seek out these expressions of beauty because what we can see and comprehend draws us to wonders too awesome not too enjoy. Their ineffability is entwined with their desirability. What I cannot see is mysteriously interesting to me and compels me to look all the more. The same is true of God's beauty and attributes.He is more than we can know and beyond our capacity to absorb. Our finitude limits our comprehension, but what we can see and understand draws us to wonder-which is the prelude to worship.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

To Wonder and Worship: God's Condescension in Covenantal Apologetics

The writing ministry of Scott Oliphint has been a great influence on the way I think about God and understand who He is. One of the most enriching aspects of Oliphint's teaching pertains to God's condescension in His dealings with humanity and all of creation. Oliphint teaches, through his books and lectures, on this subject better than anyone that I have come across. His book, God With Us, is a phenomenal treatment of this subject and I consider it a "must read." In his most recently published offering, Covenantal Apologetics, Oliphint returns to this topic and the following paragraph is an clear explanation of God's condescension:
The Bible, from beginning to end, is replete with instances of God's covenantal condescension. The Bible itself is a product of that condescension. Covenantal condescension is a necessary aspect of his binding himself to his creation. Once he (freely) chose to create, he would need to "stoop down" in order to relate himself to his creation. This "stoop" in no way modified or diminished his aseity. Rather, it gave us, his human creatures, a revelational way to understand his majestic character. It revealed that character to us to see his condescension for what it really was--his merciful determination that we have fellowship with him. Apart from that condescension, as the Confession says, "we could have no fruition of him as our blessedness and reward." (62)
God is glorious in his stooping down. God is gracious and merciful beyond measure as he condescends to relate to us creatures. The pinnacle of this condescension is, of course, the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of God the Son who humbled himself in coming to save us. There is no greater love than this. The condescension of God should fill us with wonder and worship!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Hebrew Heart

In Wellum and Gentry's Kingdom Through Covenant the author's deal with the comand in the book of Deuteronomy which they consider the very centre of the book: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength." In discussing the focal point of Deuteronomy, a discussion of the meaning of heart ensues:

In Hebrew, the word "heart" refers to the core of who you are, the centre of each person. It refers, in particular, to the place where we feel, where we think, and where we make decisions and plans, i.e., emotions, mind, and will. This can be easily seen from the following illustrative passages: 
A glad heart makes a cheerful face,
but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is crushed. (Prov. 15:13, ESV) 
A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Prov. 17:22, ESV) 
When these proverbs refer to a "glad heart" or a "joyful heart" they are clearly referring to one's emotions and feelings in terms of a healthy psyche. 
But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear. (Deut. 29:4, ESV) 
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed. (Isa. 6:10, ESV) 
In both Deuteronomy 29:4 and Isaiah 6:10, one understands with the heart; surely then what is being referred to is what we normally call the mind. This is the place where we reason and think and understand. 
The heart of a man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps. (Prov. 16:9, ESV) 
May he grant you his heart's desires
and fulfill all your plans! (Ps. 20:4, ESV) 
Proverbs 16:9 and Psalm 20:4 show that the "heart" makes plans and has desires; it is the place where we make decisions. (366-7)

They then highlight a key difference between how we often think about the "heart" in contrast to how the Hebrews thought about it:
We should note, then, that the biblical language differs markedly from our own in the Western world. For us, the heart is associated with emotions, feelings, love, and Valentine's Day. Conversely, for the Bible, the heart is where we reason and think and make decisions and plans. We can frequently speak f people who cannot bridge the eighteen-inch gap between the head and the heart. The ancient Hebrews knew no such gap. The heart is the centre of one's being and the place where the emotions, mind, and will operate in harmony and union. (367-8)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Thanksgiving Poem

This poem was handed to me a church member on her way out the doors this Sunday past.


Thank You for Your healing touch
Thank You for Your mercy that I need so much
Thank You that You love me so
Thank You that You'll never let me go
Thank You that You're always near
Thank You that my prayer You'll hear
Thank You that I'm Yours today
forever, now, and for always
Thank You for the joy You bring
Thank You for the presence of my King
Thank You for true freedom's song
Thank You Father, that to You I belong
Thank you for the power that you bring
to live for You through everything
Thank You even for sorrow and pain
For it is through these things I truly gain
A deeper understanding, and a close walk with You
My God, my Lord, my very life
Thank You for just being You
And thank You Lord for one final thing
The privilege and pleasure of bringing glory to my King
The One all-deserving and worthy of my praise
Who up out of the pit of sin my life You did raise
But thank You most of all for Jesus, who gave and still gives
My light and my salvation, and Who in my heart does live
Does live to forgive and pardon, and set this captive free
From every form of bondage and doubt every pain and misery
Who heals the heart that's broken, speaks peace in the troubling storm
Who promises to never leave his child helpless and forlorn
And best of all the promises, when I call upon Your name
The gates of Heaven open, and life is never the same
For Your presence transcends everything of this world's estate
And I await and relish the promises of one day walking through the gates
To stand before and meet again, the One Who is the Gate
To see my blessed saviour and Friend, then forever face to face

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Weakness: Our Great Strength

From the recently released Weakness Is the Way by J. I. Packer:
Often linked with the sense of weakness--sometimes as cause, sometimes as effect--is the feeling of failure. The memory of having fallen short in the past can hang like a black cloud over one's present purposes and in effect program one to fail again. Christian faith, prompting solid hope and promising present help, should dispel all such fears and expectations, but does not always do so, and the encouragement that one Christian should give to another who needs it is frequently in short supply. 
The truth, however, is that in many respects, and certainly in spiritual matters, we are all weak and inadequate, and we need to face it. Sin, which disrupts all relationships, has disabled us across the board. We need to be aware of our limitations and to let this weakness work in us humility and self-distrust, and a realization of our helplessness on our own.Thus we may learn our need to depend on Christ ... to practice that dependence as one of the constant habits of our hearts ... (15-6)
Like so much of Packer's writing, this excerpt is packed full of good stuff. There are, however, a couple things that jumped out at me:

  1. Weakness and failure are a part of life; since the Fall, we have had these two debilitating companions walking alongside us on life's journey. That's just the way it is.
  2. Faith should dispel the fears of weakness and failure, even while we understand that they will visit us again.
  3. Brothers and sisters of faith can help us with this through encouragements and exhortations; but, this happens with less frequency than it ought to.
  4. Facing our weakness can actually help us. It can help us be humble. It can help us be distrustful of self-sufficiency. And it can teach us to depend on Christ.

What's the take away from this? For me, I want to be a person who encourages others. I am learning to take every opportunity to encourage and exhort those around me. I often think of nice, helpful, upbuilding things to say to friends and family, but I often leave them unsaid. I want to encourage others with the knowledge that Jesus is there for them and they ought to lean on him. I want to inspire and strengthen others with the understanding that they are weak and that their weakness is strength when they trust in Christ. And I want ot remember that myself.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

All creation displays God's love

The second chapter of Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves deals with the trinity (obviously) in regards to creation. The chapter's title indicates its direction: The Father's Love Overflows. Reeves sees creation as an overflow of the eternal love of the Father for the Son. He writes, "The Father so delighted in his Son that his love for him overflowed, so that the Son might be the firstborn among many sons" (43). God the Father has been eternally loving God the Son, and the overabundance of this love overflowed to creation giving another object for the Father's love.

Reeves ends the chapter with an encouragement for us as we live in this creation:
The triune God has not merely put a star here and there; he has lavished the skies with millions and billions of them. As Psalm 19 goes on to say, there in the sky he has placed the sun, which gives warmth, light and life to the world. There too are clouds which drop down rain to make things grow. The heavens declare the loving generosity of God. And that is why he created.

So next time you look up at the sun, moon and stars and wonder, remember: they are there because God loves, because the Father's love for the Son burst out that it might be enjoyed by many. And they remain there only because God does not stop loving. He is an attentive Father who numbers every hair on our heads, for whom the fall of every sparrow matters, and out of love he upholds all things through his Son, and breathes out natural life on all through his Spirit. (62)


Monday, September 23, 2013

Athanasius on the knowledge of God

Here is an excerpt from Athanasius' On the Incarnation:
When God the Almighty was making mankind through His own Word, He perceived that they, owing to the limitation of their nature, could not of themselves have any knowledge of their Artificer, the Incorporeal and Uncreated. He took pity on them, therefore, and did not leave them destitute of the knowledge of Himself, lest their very existence should prove purposeless. For of what use is existence to the creature if it cannot know its Maker? How could men be reasonable beings if they had no knowledge of the Word and Reason of the Father, through Whom they had received their being? They would be no better than the beasts, had they no knowledge save of earthly things; and why should God have made them at all, if He had not intended them to know Him? But, in fact, the good God has given them a share in His own Image, that is, in our Lord Jesus Christ, and has made even themselves after the same Image and Likeness. Why? Simply in order that through this gift of Godlikeness in themselves they may be able to perceive the Image Absolute, that is the Word Himself, and through Him to apprehend the Father; which knowledge of their Maker is for men the only really happy and blessed life.
Athanasius says several things about the knowledge of God in this passage. First, an existence without the knowledge of our Maker is a life to be pitied and a life a futility. He asks, " For of what use is existence to the creature if it cannot know its Maker?"

Second, our faculty of reason is comes from our knowledge of God; this separates us from all other earthly creatures and is surely part of God's image in us: we "would be no better than the beasts."

Third, our existence is defensible only because we can know God. Athanasius queries, "why should God have made them at all, if He had not intended them to know Him?" This is so contrary to modern sensibilities that think we are the be all and end all of our existence. Rather, we were created for Another.

Fourth, the reason we have been made in the image of God, distinct from the rest of creation, is that we might " be able to perceive the Image Absolute, that is the Word Himself, and through Him to apprehend the Father." Thay is why we exist; because of Him.

Finally, this ability to know God is the path to a fulfilling and purposeful life. Indeed, this is the only "happy and blessed life" available to us.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An expression and reflection of God

I have recently began reading the highly-acclaimed book, published in 2012, by Steve DeWitt: Eyes Wide Open: Enjoying God in Everything. In the introduction DeWitt introduces what I suspect is a key theme for his book and one that resonates with me. Consider the following excerpt:
I sometimes wonder how it is possible that our culture and society could have missed this truth on such a massive scale. When every popular beauty and pleasure in our culture shouts that God is beautiful, how can so many millions of people completely miss the point? How can they not hear? How can they look and listen and touch and taste and not get it? 
What if the Grand Canyon isn’t just a hole in the ground but an expression of divine vastness? God’s self-portrait draws millions, but do they really see it? What if we were to recognize that the world’s music rings with a spiritual echo of the harmonies of the Trinity? What if the millions Who attend a NASCAR race this year would come to understand that they are doing more than cheering a favorite driver—-that they are seeking intimate connection With the ultimate Great Person. 
What if we were to realize that every sunset viewed, every sexual intimacy enjoyed, every favorite food savored, every song sung or listened to, every home decorated, and every rich moment enjoyed in this life isn’t ultimately about itself but is an expression and reflection of God’s essential character? Wouldn’t such beautiful and desirable reflections mean that their Source must be even more beautiful–and, ultimately, most desirable?
Dewitt is clearly suggesting that all good things, all beautiful things, all worder and awe-inspiring things, ultimately reflect the good, beautiful, wonderful creator of the universe. To paraphrase Matt Chandler, these things should not terminate on themselves but rather cause us to worship God. This idea is well worth some careful thinking and reflection as it pertains to your own life. Take a moment and consider all the great things in your life and how they reflect your amazing God.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sin; not superficial, partial, or self-remedial

In preparing for a few sermons I am to preach on the trinity, I began reading The Trinity by Edward Bickersteth. It is a thoroughly biblical investigation into the trinity and I am finding it immensely helpful. To set some groundwork before proceeding into his investigation of the triunity of God, Bickersteth writes about sin. Here is a notable excerpt:

This evil of sin is not superficial, but radical. It pervades human life from the cradle to the grave: [Psalm 51:5] “Behold I was shaped in iniquity; and in sin did my [Proverbs 24:9] Mother conceive me. The thought of foolishness is sin. Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child. [Proverbs 22:15] The imagination of Man’s heart is evil from his youth. [Genesis 8: 21]. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately [Jeremiah 27:9] wicked. From within, out of the heart of men, proceed [Mark 7:21,23] evil thoughts . . . . all these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” 
This evil is not partial, but universal. None have escaped from it. “There is not a just man upon [Ecclesiastes 7:20] earth, that does good and sins not. There is [Romans 3:10] none righteous, no, not one. All the world becomes [Verse 19] guilty before God. All have sinned, and come short [Verse 23] of the glory of God.” 
This evil is not self-remedial; but so far as lies in man, incurable. “Who can bring a clean thing out of [Jeremiah 30:15.] an unclean? Not one. How then can man be just [Job 14:4] with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a [Job 25:4] woman? Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may you also do good that are [Jeremiah 8: 23] accustomed to do evil.” 
This evil is fatal. “In the day that thou eats thereof [Genesis 2:17] of dying thou shall die, “ was the warning of faithful love to Adam. And upon the fall moral and spiritual death marched like a pestilence through man’s noble soul. The land was as the Garden of Eden before it, and behind it a desolate wilderness. Hence disease and decay, those symbols of a deeper malady. “And sin, when it is finished, brings forth death. Death [James 1:15] passes upon all men. for that all have sinned.” And to [Romans 5:12] those who die in their sins, this death of the body is the awful introduction of that second death, of which the apostle writes, “Whosoever was not found written [Revelation 20:14,15] in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (14-5)

Nearing the end of his chapter discussing sin, he summarily writes, "All other facts are trivial compared with this--we are sinners--for sin uncleansed and unchecked is present defilement and final death" (16). It seems to me I profit most when reading writers whose perspective on sin is deadly serious; for, that is clearly the condition we find ourselves in.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Are you struggling? Great!

Are struggling in your Christian walk? Do you battle daily with internal doubts and desires? According to J. C. Ryle, that is a good thing. Huh? That's right. The author of the Christian classic on sanctification, called Holiness, suggest that our internal struggles are a sure reason for hope in that they indicate we are in a battle and not mired in apathy and deadness. Consider the words from Holiness and let your struggles be a cause for hope and faith in your life:

We may take comfort about our souls if we know anything of an inward fight and conflict. It is the invariable companion of genuine Christian holiness. It is not everything, I am well aware, but it is something.  
Do we find in our heart of hearts a spiritual struggle? 
Do we feel anything of the flesh lusting against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, so that we cannot do the things we would? (Gal. v. 17.) 
Are we conscious of two principles within us, contending for the mastery? 
Do we feel anything of war in our inward man? 
Well, let us thank God for it! It is a good sign. 
It is strongly probable evidence of the great work of sanctification. All true saints are soldiers. Anything is better than apathy, stagnation, deadness, and indifference. We are in a better state than many. The most part of so-called Christians have no feeling at all. We are evidently no friends of Satan. Like the kings of this world, he wars not against his own subjects. The very fact that he assaults us should fill our minds with hope.  
I say again, let us take comfort. The child of God has two great marks about him, and of these two we have one. HE MAY BE KNOWN BY HIS INWARD WARFARE, AS WELL AS BY HIS INWARD PEACE. (55, line breaks mine)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Gracious Cascade

To the question “What was God doing before He made heaven and earth?” Augustine answered humourously: “He was preparing hell,” saith he, “for those who pry into mysteries.” A witty response from one of the church's greatest theologians. However, the Bible does give us some indication of God's activity before creation. Michael Reeves, in Delighting in the Trinity, notes,
Jesus tells us explicitly in John 17:24. "Father," he says, "you loved me before the creation of the world." And that is the God revealed by Jesus Christ. Before he ever created, before he ever ruled the world, before anything else, this God was a Father loving his Son. (21)
Reeves builds on this idea moving to the idea that the overflow of the loving relationship between Father and Son "begins a gracious cascade, like a waterfall of love" (28) under which we are showered with the mercy of God. That is,
as the Father is the lover and the Son is the beloved, so Christ becomes the lover and the church the beloved. That means that Christ loves the church first and foremost: his love is not a response, given only when the church loves him; his love comes first, and we only love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). (28)
Reeves summarizes this section writing,
For eternity, the Father so loves the Son that he excites the Son's eternal love in response; Christ so loves the church that he excites our love in response ... Such is the spreading goodness that rolls out of the very being of this God. (29)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Dilemma and Its Solution

In the second chapter of On The Incarnation, appropriately titled The Divine Dilemma and Its Solution in the Incarnation, Athanasius presents the predicament that is a result of humans and their sin.
He saw how the surpassing wickedness of men was mounting up against them; He saw also their universal liability to death. All this He saw and, pitying our race, moved with compassion for our limitation, unable to endure that death should have the mastery, rather than that His creatures should perish and the work of His Father for us men come to nought, He took to Himself a body, a human body even as our own.
The incarnation of the Word of God should cause us to wonder and worship; we were destined to death only had he not come to save us; Athanasius writes, "For the human race would have perished utterly had not the Lord and Savior of all, the Son of God, come among us to put an end to death." That was our inheritance as a result of sin. But, he loved us. And so he condescended and became one of us that he might live, die, and be raised for our salvation.
This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be  abolished because, having fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men. This He did that He might turn again to incorruption men who had turned back to corruption, and make them alive through death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of His resurrection.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Dividing laws in to moral, civil, and ceremonial

In their massive work Kingdom Through Covenant, authors Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum address the oft-procured argument that the laws of the Old Testament are divided into three categories: moral, civil, and ceremonial. The most common purpose for which these divisions are that I come across is to decipher what laws from the Old Testament are still in effect and applicable to New Testament believers. To that end, the authors write the following:
It is common to categorise and classify the laws as (a) moral, (b) civil, and (c) ceremonial, but this classification is foreign to the material and imposed upon it from the outside rather than arising from the material and being clearly marked by the literary structure of the text. In fact, the ceremonial, civil, and moral laws are all mixed together, not only in the Judgments or ordinances but in the Ten Words as well (the Sabbath may be properly classified as ceremonial). Those who claim the distinction between ceremonial, civil, and moral law do so because they want to affirm that the ceremonial (and in some cases, civil) laws no longer apply but the moral laws are eternal ... This is an inaccurate representation of Scripture at this point. Exodus 24 clearly indicates that the Book of the Covenants consists of the Ten Words and the Judgments, and this is the covenant (bot Ten Words and Judgments) that Jesus declares that he has completely fulfilled and Hebrews declares is now made obsolete by the new covenant. What we can say to represent accurately the teaching of Scripture is that the righteousness of God codified, enshrined, and encapsulated in the old covenant has not changed, and that this same righteousness is now codified and enshrined in the new. (355)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A singing heart

"For my own part I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await others. I believe that many who find that "nothing happens" when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand." - C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

God's transcendence and immanence as seen in the burning bush

As I have mentioned before, Scott Oliphint writing on certain things is extremely helpful. For instance, on the topic of God's condescension I have not come across anyone's writing or teaching which is more enriching or engaging; it might be out there, I just haven't come across it. Part of his discussions and writings on condescension pertain to God's aseity or transcendence. If God is a God who condescends, or stoops to our level, then he must be above, beyond, and other than us. I really appreciate Oliphint's approach on this aspect of God's character.

He touches upon this in his most recent offering, Covenantal Apologetics. Speaking of the difference between us and God he writes, "Every experience that we [humans] have in all of creation is an experience of utter dependence. But the Lord is not one who depends on anything; he, and he alone, is who he is" (60).

Oliphint sees this attribute of God in many places and in many ways in the Scriptures. But one of the examples that is a memorable one for me deals with Moses and the burning bush. Oliphint writes,
The revelation that Moses has of what is really the unburning bush is, in part, designed to reveal to Moses both of these truths [God is transcendent and immanent]. The fire, which represents the Lord himself, is in no way dependent on the bush in order to burn. The fire is, in that sense, a se [other, transcendent, independent]. It does not need the bush for fuel; it is able to burn in and of itself. But it is also with the bush. It could easily appear on its own, because it is in need of nothing to burn. Or it could appear beside the bush. Instead, it is linked inextricably with the bush, even as the Lord himself-who is who he is-has bound himself inextricably to his people. (60)
This is a beautiful picture of both God's transcendent otherness and his condescending, immanent covenanting with us.

Monday, August 26, 2013

80 tweets from Michael Reeves' Delighting in the Trinity

Here is another post that simply lists short quotes from a book I have recently read. Before the actual quotes, or tweetables as I like to cal them, I thought I might give a few reasons on why I would actually blog a post such as this.

There are two main reasons I think posts like these are worthwhile; one, they are helpful to me, and two, they are helpful to the reader.

I find this exercise of collecting short, significant quotes and organizing them in a list is beneficial for me in a couple of ways. First, it is a great way to review a book that I recently read. We all know how little we retain from what we read and how quickly we might even forget the main ideas and themes in a book. Compiling these quotes refreshes the memory and brings some of the key elements of the book back to the surface. Also, it is often helpful to have a resource which contains the memorable sentences from a book for future use. In the list below I can quickly find a quote I'm looking for without flipping the pages of the book. For me, those two reasons justify the work in creating this post even if nobody ever reads it. But, I also think these posts are helpful for the reader.

This type of post gives the reader a good sense and feel for what a book is like; a little taste-test as it were. This might be just the thing to encourage some one to get their hands on a book. The quotes are also usually encouraging and edifying in and of themselves. I marked these quotes as I was reading the book so they obviously had an impact on me and hopefully will do the same for someone visiting this post. Finally, this is a resource for others who might actually want to tweet some quotes from this book. The work of getting them digitalized is done; the reader can copy and paste away and share these with the Twitterverse if they like.

So, with that explanation, here are 80 tweetable quotes from Delighting in the Trinity:
  • “…the truth is that God is love because God is a Trinity.” (9)
  • “… it is only when you grasp what it means for God to be a Trinity that you really sense…beauty…kindness…loveliness…of God.”
  • “… God is triune, and it is as triune that he is so good and desirable.”
  • “Christianity is not primarily about lifestyle change; it is about knowing God.” (10)
  • “Knowing the love of God is the very thing that makes us loving.”
  • “No exaggeration; the knowledge of this God turns lives around.”
  • “God is a mystery, but not in the alien abduction, things-that-go-bump-in-the-night sense.” (12)
  • “God is a mystery in that who he is and what he is like are secrets, things we would never have worked out by ourselves.”
  • “Which God we worship; that is the article of faith that stands before all others.” (15)
  • “… because the Christian God is triune, the Trinity is the governing center of all Christian belief, the truth that shapes and beautifies all others.”
  • “The Trinity is the cockpit of all Christian thinking.”
  • “So used are we to fashioning God according to our assumptions that our minds simply rebel at the thought of a God who is not as we would expect.” (17)
  • “Neither a problem nor a technicality, the triune being of God is the vital oxygen of Christian life and joy.” (18)
  • “That is who God has revealed himself to be: not first and foremost Creator or Ruler, but Father.” (21)
  • “The most fundamental thing in God is not some abstract quality, but the fact that he is Father.” (23)
  • “Since God is, before all things, a Father, and not primarily Creator or Ruler, all his ways are beautifully fatherly.”
  • He is Father. All the way down. Thus all that he does he does as Father. That is who he is.”
  • “For if, before all things, God was eternally a Father, then this God is an inherently outgoing, life-giving God.” (24)
  • “This God, [John] says, is love in such a profound and potent way that you simply cannot know him without yourself becoming loving.” (26)
  • “Before anything else, for all eternity, this God was loving, giving life to and delighting in his Son.”
  • “The Father…is the Father of the eternal Son, and he finds his very identity…in loving and giving out his life and being to the Son.” (27)
  • “…the Son is of the Father, and that the Father is never without the Son; for it is impossible that glory should be without radiance.” (Gregory of Nyssa)
  • “…the Son also loves the Father-and so much so that to do his Father’s pleasure is as food to him.” (28)
  • “…the shape of the Father-Son relationship begins a gracious cascade, like a waterfall of love…”
  • On losing 3 distinct persons: “The trouble is, once you puree the persons, it becomes impossible to taste their gospel.” (32)
  • “Single-person gods, having spent eternity alone, are inevitably self-centered beings, and so it becomes hard to see why they would ever cause anything to exist.” (41)
  • Single-person gods create “out of an essential neediness or desire to use what they create merely for their own self-gratification.”
  • “Loving others is not a strange or novel thing for this God at all; it is at the root of who he is.”
  • “…the Father has always enjoyed loving another, and so the act of creation by which he creates others to love seems utterly appropriate for him.” (42)
  • “The Father so delighted in his Son that his love for him overflowed, so that the Son might be the firstborn of many sons.” (43)
  • “The God who loves to have an outgoing Image of himself in his Son loves to have many images of his love…”
  • “That is why the Son goes out from the Father, in both creation and salvation: that the love of the Father for the Son might be shared.” (44)
  • “It was his overflowing love for the Son that motivated the Father to create, and creation is his gift to his Son.” (50)
  • “…because the Father’s love for the Son has burst out to be shared with us, the Son’s inheritance is also shared with us.”
  • “The very nature of the triune God is to be effusive, ebullient and bountiful…” (56)
  • “Creation is about the spreading, the diffusion, the outward explosion of that love [the Father for the Son].”
  • “The Father, Son and Spirit have always been in delicious harmony…” (59)
  • “There is the deepest and most alluring beauty to be found in the heavenly harmony of the Trinity.” (61)
  • “…but the fact that the God in whose image we are made is specifically the triune God of love has repercussions that echo all through Scripture.” (64-5)
  • “Lovers [people who must love] we remain, but twisted, our love misdirected and perverted.” (65)
  • “[Eve’s] act of sin was merely the manifestation of the turn in her heart: she now desired the fruit more than she desired God.”
  • “Astonishingly, it was this very rejection of God [in Eden] that then drew forth the extreme depths of his love.” (68)
  • “The God who is love definitively displays that love to the world by sending us his eternally beloved Son to atone for our sins.”
  • “…through the sending of the Son for our salvation we see more clearly than ever how generous and self-giving the love of the triune God is.”
  • “…the Father so delights in his eternal love for his Son that he desires to share it with all who will believe.” (69)
  • “[God’s] love for the world is the overflow of the almighty love for his Son.” (70)
  • “The Father so loves that he desires to catch us up in that loving fellowship he enjoys with the Son.” (71)
  • “In fact, I can know the Father as my Father.”
  • “Indeed, for when a person deliberately and confidently calls the Almighty “Father,” it shows they have grasped something beautiful…” (76)
  • “Knowing God as our Father not only wonderfully gladdens our view of him, it gives the deepest comfort and joy.”
  • “To be the child of some rich king would be nice; but to be the beloved of the emperor of the universe is beyond words.”
  • “In short, if God had no word to say to us, we simply would not know him or dream of his deep benevolence.” (80)
  • “…when the triune God gives us his Word, he gives us his very self…”
  • “…we all come into the world spiritually stillborn, dead in our transgressions and sins.” (85)
  • “Our problem is with our desires, that naturally we have no appetite for God, and we place all of our affections elsewhere.” (87)
  • “…the Spirit’s work in giving us new life, then, is nothing less than bringing us to share in their [the Father and Son’s] mutual delight.”
  • “… [the Spirit] enlightens us to know the love of God, and that light warms us, drawing us to love him and overflow with love to others.” (91)
  • “The very beholding of Christ is a transforming sight.” (92)
  • “My new life began when the Spirit first opened my eye (there’s the light) and won my heart (there’s the heat) to Christ.” (93)
  • “By cultivating in us a deepening taste for Christ… the Spirit polishes a new humanity who begins to shine with his likeness.”
  • “Our love for the Son, then, is an echo and an extension of the Father’s eternal love.” (94)
  • “The Father’s very identity consists in his love for the Son, and so when we love the Son we reflect what is most characteristic about the Father.”
  • “At the heart of our transformation into the likeness of the Son, then, is our sharing of his deep delight in the Father.” (95)
  • “…the Spirit is not about bringing us to a mere external performance for Christ, but bringing us actually to love him and find our joy in him.” (99)
  • “…the Spirit’s first work is to set our desires in order.” (100)
  • “I will, then, always love sin and the world until I truly sense that Christ is better.” (101)
  • “The Spirit shares the triune life of God by bringing God’s children into the mutual delight of the Father and Son…” (107)
  • “…if God were just one person, then love of the other would not be central to his being.” (112)
  • “[God’s] holiness is the lucidity and spotlessness of his overflowing love.”
  • “The wrath of the triune God is exactly the opposite of a character blip… It is the proof of the sincerity of his love…” (120)
  • “[God’s] love is not mild-mannered and limp; it is livid, potent and committed.”
  • Glorifying “God cannot be about inflating, improving or expanding him. That is quite impossible…” (121)
  • “…when we give God the glory, we simply ascribe to him what is already his, declaring him to be as he truly is.”
  • “…the glory of God is like radiant light, shining out, enlightening and giving life.” (123)
  • “…the very glory that is the fragrance of life to some is the smell of death to others.” (125)
  • “[God] is all light-but that is terrible for those who love the darkness.”
  • “Through Jesus, the Father shows us his innermost being-in the form of a servant, dying to give us life.” (126)
  • “On the cross we see the glorification of the glory of God-and it is all about laying down life to give life, to bear fruit.” (127)
  • “Who God is drives everything.” (129)
  • “…our churches…our marriages, our relationships, our mission: all are molded in the deepest way by what we think of God.”

Friday, August 23, 2013

Book Review - Covenantal Apologetics

Since reading his exceptional book on God’s condescension, God With Us, I have been compelled to get my hands on and read all of Scott Oliphint’s material. I have finished several of his other books and have others in queue. And for this reason-a desire to become familiar with all of Oliphint’s writings-I have been eagerly anticipating his 2013 offering, Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith. I have now crossed this book off my “to read” list and gladly endorse it.

Oliphint sets out two main goals for this book: “to lay out the primary biblical and theological principles that must be part of any covenantal defense of Christianity and then to demonstrate how these principles might be applied against certain objections” (29-30). As the book’s subtitle suggests, this work is about the principles and practice of covenantal apologetics.

In the first chapter Oliphint lays out some key concepts and ideas as he introduces his self-named approach to apologetics. He indicates immediately that there is a conflict which all humans participate in and as Christians we are called to the task of “defending and commending the truth of Christianity” (32-3). We are to defend and commend the Christian truth which is the only true and real perspective available to humans. Oliphint introduces covenantal apologetics by looking at ideas around God’s aseity, His condescension, covenant, sin, and humanity’s innate knowledge of God and our suppression of that knowledge. Perhaps the most important content in this book comes in this chapter with Oliphint revealing the Ten Tenets of covenantal apologetics. Oliphint delivers these crucial tenets and effectively explains them. This first chapter does a thorough job of demonstrating the author’s apologetic approach.

The second chapter expounds on ideas integral to this defense of Christianity that were introduced in the first chapter. Oliphint discusses the transcendent otherness of God and God’s condescension in creating and relating to creation (He is excellent on these topics…as good as or better than anyone I have read).  Oliphint then moves from principles to practice and gives two examples where we can see this defense in action. He also considers two foundational tactics; undermining erroneous presuppositions (non-Christian) and reinforcing true presuppositions (Christian).

Chapter three attempts to clarify how the ten tenets of Oliphint’s apologetic relate to proofs for arguments by elaborating on the principles themselves and locating them in some historical debates. His analysis of Paul’s address to the Athenians in Acts 17 is enlightening and enjoyable. He presents what it means to prove things in general and to prove the existence of God in particular. And he demonstrates how this might work with actual recorded discussions between a humanist and a Christian. The discussion is evaluated and then reconfigured from the Christian’s perspective in a manner that is more aligned with Oliphint’s own approach. These examples are very helpful in bringing clarity.

Chapter four is an in-depth look at how we are to persuade others as we defend and commend our faith. This was a fascinating chapter that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and contemplating. Oliphint discusses the ethos of persuasion which is basically the persuader’s character, the pathos of persuasion which involves an understanding of those being addressed, and finally the logos of persuasion which is the content in defense which is, of course, God’s Word. This paradigm was new to me but I found it aptly explained and quite intriguing.

Chapters 5-7 are mostly concerned with the practice of this apologetic and in them we are given detailed examples of covenantal apologetics in action. Sometimes the imagined scenarios became quite complex, but I never felt lost or in the dark even though it was some intellectual work to get through. It is encouraging to see how this defense deals with some of the most difficult questions and attacks a Christian will face. Though the responses given in defense of Christianity might be largely beyond what the reader is presently capable of, they give a would-be apologist hope and direction.

This book was, as I said earlier, eagerly anticipated and it did not disappoint. It successfully delivers and defines the principles of covenantal apologetics and demonstrates how they could work in the real world. Oliphint brings clarity with his concise and accessible explanations and his examples are readable and relatable even if they are beyond what many of us are capable of. It is clear that Oliphint hopes that Covenantal Apologetics will be used by the Lord to help the reader generate “a holy, persuasive, gentle and respectful response to unbelief” (262). I believe his hope is not in vain. I definitely recommend this book.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Excerpts from introduction of Church Discipline

I have recently finished reading Jonathan Leeman's excellent book on church discipline aptly titled Church Discipline: How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus. I have gleaned some important ideas and quotes from the book and here I share those that come from the Introduction:
  • "Church discipline, both formative and corrective, is an implication of the gospel." (17)
  • there is no a formula for formal church discipline, but a theological-framework is suggested
  • in regards to details concerning discipline, we must not demand certainty and specifics where none is offered
  • God's Word provides BROAD guidelines
  • Church discipline is loving, showing love for:
    • the individual - giving a warning, encouraging repentance
    • the church - weak sheep are protected
    • the world - can better see Christ's transforming power
    • Christ - upholding his name, being obedient to his commands
  • "By abstaining from discipline...we claim we love better than God loves." (23)
  • Churches should practice discipline because it:
    • is biblical
    • is an implication of a well-rounded, robust gospel
    • is concerned with promoting the health of the church and its members
    • clarifies and shines church's witness to the world
    • warns sinners of greater judgment
    • protects the name and reputation of Jesus
  • "Church discipline, fundamentally, is about making sure that Jesus' representatives on earth represent Jesus and not someone else." (24)

Monday, August 19, 2013

25 Tweets from the first chapter of Covenantal Apologetics

I am really enjoying Covenantal Apologetics by Scott Oliphint. I thought I would share some shorter quotes and excerpts from the first chapter of the book.

  1. Christian apologetics is the application of biblical truth to unbelief (29).
  2. The entrance of sin in the world was also the initiation of a cosmic war (30).
  3. [Sin] marks the beginning of a radical and all-encompassing war (32).
  4. ...every person on the face of the earth is defined, in part, by his relationship to a covenant head (32).
  5. Suffering is clear evidence that Christ is Lord; it is not a testimony against that truth (34).
  6. It is the clear and steadfast conviction that Christ, and Christ alone, is Lord that has to motivate our Christian defense (34).
  7. We are to think about and live in the world according to what it really is, not according to how it might at times appear to us (35).
  8. The lordship of Christ is the conclusion to, the end result of, his own suffering and humiliation (35).
  9. So wherever you go, to whomever you speak, Christ is Lord there, and he is Lord over that person (35).
  10. The power of sin in us makes us adept anosognosiacs (people unaware of, or denying, our own disease) (36).
  11. Anyone who wants to argue that truth is relative betrays, by that argument, that it cannot be (36).
  12. The Bible is authoritative not because we accept it as such, but because it is the word of the risen Lord (37).
  13. ...we must base our defense of Christianity on reality, and reality is what God says it is (37).
  14. We view our apologetic, and proceed in it, as in the rest of life, through the corrective lenses of Holy Scripture (37).
  15. Since God is Totally Other from creation, our understanding of him and our communication and communion with him can take place only be his initiative (41).
  16. ...part of what it means to be created in God's image is that man inescapably knows God (42).
  17. The problem is not with the evidence, but with the "receptacle," (the sinful person) to which the evidence constantly comes (44).
  18. Trying to make ourselves out to be gods, we distort both who we are and who God is (45).
  19. Always and everywhere, in covenant relationship with God our Creator, we seek the utterly impossible and unobtainable; we seek autonomy (45).
  20. Man's denial of God is not something done in ignorance (45).
  21. is incumbent on the apologist to ask the unbeliever to justify his own position (45).
  22. Generic theism is no part of the Christian faith (48).
  23. ...any defense that does not include the triune God is a defense of a false theism (48).
  24. ...we cannot begin our discussion with the assumption that the intellectual, moral, or conversational ground on which we and the unbeliever are standing is the same (49).
  25. ...all people, just because they are image of God, are responsible to God for everything they are, do, and think (49).

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

God himself is the supreme good

Yesterday I shared a Jonathan Edwards quote that explained the great good of the Gospel is God. He is the ultimate gift won for us by Christ when He gave his own life for us. I thought I would continue on that theme and share some quotes from Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck pertaining to the goodness of God. They come from his systematic theology Reformed Dogmatics.

  • God's goodness is perfection, the sum of all goodness. "No one is good but God alone" (Mark 10:18); Luke 18:19) ... His goodness, accordingly, is one with his absolute perfection. In him, "idea" and "reality" are one. (204)

  • God is the blessed One because he is at rest in the plentitude of his perfections. When God loves others, he loves himself in them ... (204, emphasis mine)

  • God himself is the supreme good of all creatures, the object of every creature's desires. (204)
  • Above all, God's goodness is manifested in his grace, his demonstration of voluntary, unmerited favor shown to undeserving sinners. (205)

  • When God's goodness conveys not only benefits but God himself, it appears as love. (205)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

God himself is the great good

In God Is The Gospel, one of my favourite John Piper books, the author shares a wonderful excerpt from a Jonathan Edwards sermon (God Glorified in Man's Dependence). The book by Piper contends that the gospel is about getting God. The gospel is about reconciling us to God; God is the good of the gospel. The Edwards quote below is a encouraging reminder that ultimately the gospel is not a moral improvement plan or a eternal punishment avoidance prerogative or anything else that falls short of returning us to a favourable relationship with God. Enjoy.
The redeemed have all their objective good in God. God himself is the great good which they are brought to the possession and enjoyment of by redemption. He is the highest good, and the sum of all that good which Christ purchased. God is the inheritance of the saints; he is the portion of their souls. God is their wealth and treasure, their food, their life, their dwelling-place, their ornament and diadem, and their everlasting honour and glory. They have none in heaven but God; he is the great good which the redeemed are received to at death, and which they are to rise to at the end of the world. The Lord God is the light of the heavenly Jerusalem; and is the “river of the water of life” that runs, and “the tree of life that grows, in the midst of the paradise of God.” The glorious excellencies and beauty of God will be what will forever entertain the minds of the saints, and the love of God will be their everlasting feast. The redeemed will indeed enjoy other things; they will enjoy the angels, and will enjoy one another; but that which they shall enjoy in the angels, or each other, or in any thing else whatsoever that will yield them delight and happiness, will be what shall be seen of God in them.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The good fight

Holiness by Bishop J. C. Ryle is a tried and true Christian classic. It is a masterful work on the topic of sanctification. One of the aspects of the book that I appreciate and that resonates with me is the author's perspective of fighting or battling for holiness in our Christian walk. The third chapter of Holiness is titled The Fight. And it is my favourite chapter in the book. For Bishop Ryle, Christianity is a fight:

True Christianity! Let us mind that word “true.” There is a vast quantity of religion current in the world which is not true, genuine Christianity. It passes muster; it satisfies sleepy consciences; but it is not good money. It is not the real thing which was called Christianity eighteen hundred years ago. There are thousands of men and women who go to churches and chapels every Sunday, and call themselves Christians. Their names are in the baptismal register. They are reckoned Christians while they live. They are married with a Christian marriage service. They mean to be buried as Christians when they die. But you never see any “fight” about their religion! Of spiritual strife, and exertion, and conflict, and self-denial, and watching, and warring, they know literally nothing at all. Such Christianity may satisfy man, and those who say anything against it may be thought very hard and uncharitable; but it certainly is not the Christianity of the Bible. It is not the religion which the Lord Jesus founded, and His Apostles preached. It is not the religion which produces real holiness. True Christianity is “a fight.” 
The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. He is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence, and security. He must never imagine for a moment that he can sleep and doze along the way to heaven, like one travelling in an easy carriage. If he takes his standard of Christianity from the children of this world, he may be content with such notions; but he will find no countenance for them in the Word of God. If the Bible is the rule of his faith and practice, he will find his course laid down very plainly in this matter. He must “fight.”

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Theological discussions

Bruce Ware on theological discussions:
So often we consider theological discussions a waste of time or, worse, divisive and hurtful. But, oh, how our understanding of theological discussions needs to change. We should see such discussions of weighty biblical truths as opportunities for growth in our understanding of God and his Word, along with subsequent growth in our application of that Word to our lives and ministries. As with every other good thing in life, theological discussions can deteriorate into something harmful. But it need not and should not. Rather it can be the very thing that God would call us to do for the sake of being refined in our understanding and encouraged in our faith. (Ware, Bruce A. The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013. Print. 56)