Thursday, March 27, 2014

No More Sinai

 From my readings the other day of Exodus. I was reading from the Gospel Transformation Bible (ESV translation).
16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. 19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. 20 The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.
Ex. 19:16–20 The picture of God given here is one of awesome glory and stark holiness. When the Lord came down on Mount Sinai, it was accompanied by thunder and lightning, fire and smoke, trumpets blasting louder and louder. And the result was that God’s people trembled (v. 16) and the whole mountain trembled greatly (v. 18).

Though God’s glory and holiness have not changed—he still remains “a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29)—he has made a way to come into his presence without fear. For through Jesus, we do not come to Mount Sinai, but to Mount Zion. We do not come to gloom and tempest but to “festal gathering.” We do not come to a voice, but to Jesus himself through his sprinkled blood (Heb. 12:18–24). Is it any wonder that Hebrews warns us not to refuse Jesus and his great salvation? He himself has made a way into God’s presence for us (Heb. 10:19–25)!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Book Review - The Final Days of Jesus

In The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived the authors, Andreas Kostenberger and Justin Taylor, give us a book that is simple yet profound, and modest yet informative. This book provides an account of the final week of Jesus. It takes into consideration the people and events surrounding Christ from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday.

The book is organized around each day of the week with each particular day, if applicable, divided up into major events. Significant selections of Scripture, as well as  maps and charts, add to the effective commentary by the authors.

The writing and explanations throughout this valuable work are simple and unembellished. And this somewhat unadorned style is very persuasive. The authors discuss the main people and events of Jesus' last week and do not veer from this central narrative. The book is not bereft of exposition; the authors explain things when necessary. But, for the most part, they let the Gospel accounts speak for themselves. The austere-ness of this book does not inhibit the book from moving the reader. This story, unadorned, is captivating and thrilling; just having the facts presented without overmuch fanfare effectively conveys the gravity and wonder of this King of the Jews and his final seven days. Where the authors do wade in to longer discussions, it is helpful and informative.

The somewhat modest approach employed by this book does not disappoint in terms of the information it conveys. The aggregation of the the different accounts in the Gospel gives an in-depth and clear picture of the last days of Jesus. When appropriate, the authors explain how the Gospel's seemingly different versions can be harmonized. Historical background is provided by the when the reader's lack of knowledge may undermine the narrative. The authors have found a balance in terms of helping the reader understand and letting the original authors, the writers of the Gospel, tell their story.

This book will be valuable for all Christians as well as non-believers interested in the last days of Christ on earth. Its simplicity enhances the beauty and wonder of the story. Its lack of verbosity does not prevent it from being informative and helpful. This is a wonderful book at any time, and is of particular value now during Lent and leading up to Easter. I recommend this book.

This book was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What's Best Next

I recently picked up a copy of Matt Perman's What's Best Next. I was intrigued as it received rave reviews from Piper, among other guys I really appreciate. The book tackles the topic of productivity from a Christian perspective. More than that it seems like it will try and offer ways to implement the gospel message in everything we do. I've just started reading it so I figured I'd share a few of things that jumped out at me in the first number of pages.

And sometimes when things get overwhelming, it is suggested that we need to "take a retreat with Jesus."
But maybe we've had enough retreats with Jesus. Maybe Jesus wants us to learn how to get things done. Further, we often come back from such retreats with loads of new things to do. How do we make those things actually happen? We need to know how to execute—how to get things done and manage ourselves. Developing a great vision for the next quarter or year or season of our lives and ministries will not help much if we don't know how to translate that vision into action.
In fact, I would argue that this downplaying of the pracitical is not only discouraging but actually an (unwitting) failure of love. It's a failure of love because part of biblical conception of love is giving practical help to those who need it, and in our modern society this more and more needs to involve concrete insight on how to get things done and stay above water without burning out or ignoring your family.
Managing ourselves well is foundational to all we do. The importance of these things becomes more clear when we realize that our ability to lead, manage, spend undistracted time with friends and family, and do everything else we do depends largely upon a skill that goes underneath all of those things and makes them all possible—the cross-functional skill of knowing how to manage ourselves.

We weren't made to simply respond to stuff all day, but to take action and move things forward. If we don't give attention to the discipline of personal effectiveness but instead let the flow of events determine what we do, we will likely fritter ourselves away doing all sorts of urgent things that come our way while never getting to the truly important things.

The key for me was going back to the Scriptures. It wasn't until I more fully understood God's purposes for our lives and how they relate to the things we do every day that I was finally able to prioritize more effectively, get off the hamster wheel, and feel confident that the things I was getting done were actually things God wanted me to get done.

We also look at how the only way to be productive is to realize that we don't actually have to be productive (our goal is to please God, not to appease God), and how the gospel continues to give us peace of mind even when everything is blowing up around us.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Chapter seven of Redemption Accomplished and Applied explains the doctrine of sanctification. Below are some of the quotes that really grabbed me.

There must be a constant and increasing appreciation that though sin still remains it does not have the mastery. There is a total difference between surviving sin and reigning sin, the regenerate in conflict with sin and the unregenerate complacent to sin. It is one thing for sin to live in us: it is another for us to live in sin. It is one thing for the enemy to occupy the capital; it is another for this defeated hosts to harass the garrisons of the kingdom. It is of paramount concern for the Christian and for the interests of his sanctification that he should know that sin does not have dominion over him, that the forces of redeeming, regenerative, and sanctifying grace have been brought to bear upon him in that which is central in his moral and spiritual being, that he is the habitation of God through the Spirit, and that Christ has been formed in him the hope of glory. This is equivalent to saying that he must reckon himself to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ the Lord.

It is by grace that we are being saved as surely as by grace we have been saved. If we are not keenly sensitive to our own helplessness, then we can make the use of the means of sanctification the minister of self-righteousness and pride and thus defeat the end of sanctification. We must rely not upon the means of sanctification but upon the God of all grace. Self-confident moralism promotes pride, and sanctification promotes humility and contrition.

God works in us and we also work. But the relation is that because God works we work. All working out of salvation on our part is the effect of God's working in us, not the willing to the exclusion of the doing and not the doing to the exclusion of the willing, but both the willing and the doing. And this working of God is directed to the end of enabling us to will and to do that which is well pleasing to him.

Sanctification involves the concentration of thought, of interest, of heart, mind, will, and purpose upon the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus and the engagement of our whole being with those means which God has instituted for the attainment of that destination. Sanctification is the sanctification of persons renewed after the image of God in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. The prospect it offers is to know even as we are known and to be holy as God is holy. Every one who has this hope in God purifies himself even as he is pure (1 John 3:3).

Friday, March 14, 2014


Chapter six of Murray's Redemption Accomplished and Applied covers adoption. Below is the summarizing paragraph found at the end of the chapter.

But though the relation of Fatherhood differs, it is the same person who is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ in the ineffable mystery of the trinity who is the Father of believers in the mystery of his adoptive grace. God the Father is not only the specific agent in the act of adoption; he also constitutes those who believe in Jesus' name his own children. Could anything disclose the marvel of adoption or certify the security of its tenure and privilege more effectively than the fact that the Father himself, on account of whom are all things and through whom are all things, who made the captain of salvation perfect through sufferings, becomes by deed of grace the Father of the many sons of whom he will bring to glory? And that is the reason why the captain of salvation himself is not ashamed to call them brethren and can exult with joy unspeakable, "Behold I and the children whom God hath given me" (Heb. 2:13).

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Here for the Show

A excerpt from a post by Jonathan Parnell at Desiring God. Find the post in its entirety here.

So we know overall, because of the Psalms and how it plays out in the other Gospels, this sour wine is a bad move. It is yet another sting in the excruciating cross of our Savior. And I think Mark, in particular, shows us how. Theologically, we can understand it’s heinous role in the mockery, in the Messiah’s suffering, but then Mark brings us down to the ground of Golgotha. Again, the details are important.

According to Mark’s account, there is more rationale for why the bystander, after mistaking Jesus to be calling for Elijah, offers him the sour wine. We see it in his words. He offers the sponge to Jesus and says, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come take him down” (Mark 15:36). Wait, he says. Wait. Jesus is nearing his final breath, as the next verse says, “he breathed his last” (verse 37). And this bystander says to wait.
Wait, in other words, let’s not let him die yet. Let’s help him hang on a little longer to see if Elijah might really come.

We don’t know exactly what this bystander had seen. Presumably he had at least heard that Jesus worked wonders. Thousands had eaten when there wasn’t any food. Real people who once could not walk, or see, now could. Whether witnessed or heard, this bystander knew the dying man on the tree had a reputation for the miraculous. And here, in the intensity of Jesus’s passion, just before he breathed his last, the bystander wanted to squeeze him just one more time for some good glitz. He didn’t really think Elijah would come, but maybe. Jesus had done some amazing things. But now, the bystander didn’t really hope for his rescue, he wanted his dazzle. He didn’t want a suffering Savior, he wanted a spectacular stunt. He didn’t want Jesus, he wanted his show.
And so did we.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Below is a collection of quotes from chapter five of Murray's Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Murray does a great job at starting from the ground up in building his definition of justification. This has been one of the most helpful pieces of writing I've read on this topic as it lays everything out clearly and concisely. Enjoy!

If we are to appreciate that which is central in the gospel, if the jubilee trumpet is to find its echo again in our hearts, our thinking must be revolutionized by the realism of the wrath of God, of the reality and gravity of our guilt, and of the divine condemnation.

That justification does not mean to make holy or upright should be apparent from common use. When we justify a person we do not make that person good or upright. When a judge justifies an accused person he does not make that person an upright person. He simply declares that in his judgement the person is not guilty of the accusation but is upright in terms of the law relevant to the case. In a word, justification is simply a declaration or pronouncement respecting the relation of the person to the law which he, the judge, is required to administer. 

This is what is meant when we insist that justification is forensic. It has to do with a judgement given, declared, pronounced; it is judicial or juridical or forensic. The main point of such terms is to distinguish between the kind of action which justification involves and the kind of action involved in regeneration. Regeneration is an act of God in us; justification is a judgement of God with respect to us. The distinction is like that of the distinction between the act of a surgeon and the act of a judge. The surgeon, when he removes an inward cancer, does something in us. That is not what a judge does; he gives a verdict regarding our judicial status. If we are innocent he declares accordingly... Justification means to declare or pronounce to be righteous.

In God's justification of sinner's there is no deviation from the rule that what is declared to be is presupposed to be. God's judgement is according to truth here as elsewhere. The peculiarity of God's action consists in this that he causes to be the righteous state or relation which is declared to be. We must remember that justification is always forensic or judicial. Therefore what God does in this case is that he constitutes the new and righteous judicial relation as well as declares this new relation to be. He constitutes the ungodly righteous, and consequently can declare them to be righteous. In the justification of sinners there is a constitutive act as well as a declarative. Or, if we will, we may say that the declarative act of God in the justification of the ungodly is constitutive. In this consists its incomparable character.

It is clear that the justification which is unto eternal life Paul regards as consisting in our being constituted righteous, in our receiving righteousness as a free gift, and this righteousness is none other than the righteousness of the one man Jesus Christ; it is righteousness of his obedience. Hence grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 5:21). This is the truth that has been expressed as the imputation to us of the righteousness of Christ. Justification is therefore a constitutive act whereby the righteousness of Christ is imputed to our account and we are accordingly accepted  as righteous in God's sight.

Justification is both a declarative and constitutive act of God's free grace. It is constitutive in order that it may be truly declarative. God must constitute the new relationship as well as declare it to be. The constitutive act consists in the imputation to us of the obedience and righteousness of Christ. The obedience of Christ must therefore be regarded as the ground of justification; it is the righteousness which God not only takes into account but reckons to our account when he justifies the ungodly.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Faith and Repentance

From Murray's Redemption: Accomplished and Applied

The sufficiency of his saviourhood rests upon the work he accomplished once for all when he died upon the cross and rose again in triumphant power. But it resides in the efficacy and perfection of his continued activity at the right hand of God. It is because he continues ever and has an unchangeable priesthood that he is able to save them that come unto him and to give them eternal life. When Christ is presented to lost men in the proclamation of the gospel, it is as Saviour he is presented, as one who ever continues to be the embodiment of the salvation he has once for all accomplished. It is the Saviour himself and therefore salvation full and perfect. There is no imperfection in the salvation offered and there is no restriction to its overture; it is full, free, and unrestricted. And this is the warrant of faith.

Repentance we must not think of as consisting merely in a change of mind in general; it is very particular and concrete. And since it is a change of mind with reference to sin, it is a change of mind with reference to particular sins, sins in all the particularity and individuality which belong to our sins. It is very easy for us to speak of sin, to be very denunciatory respecting sin, and denunciatory respecting the particular sins of other people and yet not be penitent regarding our own particular sins. The test of repentance is the genuineness and resoluteness or our repentance in respect of our own sins, sins characterized by the aggravations which are peculiar to our own selves.

The broken spirit and contrite heart are abiding marks of the believing soul. As long as sin remains there must be the consciousness of it and this conviction or our own sinfulness will constrain self-abhorrence, confession, and the plea of forgiveness and cleansing. Christ's blood is the laver of initial cleansing but it is also the fountain to which the believer must continuously repair. It is at the cross of Christ that repentance has its beginning; it is at the cross of Christ that it must continue to pour out its heart in the tears of confession and contrition. The way of sanctification is the way of contrition for the sin of the past and of the present.

Saturday, March 8, 2014


It is the glory of the gospel of God's grace that it provides for this incongruity. God's call, since it is effectual, carries with it the operative grace whereby the person called is enabled to answer the call and to embrace Jesus Christ as he is freely offered in the gospel. God's grace reaches down to the lowest depths of need and meets all the exigencies of the moral and spiritual impossibility which inheres in our depravity and inability. And that grace is the grace of regeneration...God effects a change which is radical and all-pervasive, a change which cannot be explained in terms of any combination, permutation, or accumulation of human resources, a change which is nothing less than a new creation by him who calls the things that be not as though they were, who spake it and it was done, who commanded and it stood fast. This, in a word, is regeneration.

John Murray - Redemption: Accomplished and Applied

Friday, March 7, 2014

Effectual Calling

From Murray's Redemption: Accomplished and Applied

It is God the Father who is the specific agent in the effectual call. This aspect of Biblical teaching we are too liable to overlook. We think of the Father as the person of the trinity who planned salvation and as the specific agent in election. And we think properly when we do so. But we fail to discern other emphases of Scripture and we do dishonour to the Father when we think of him simply as planning salvation and redemption. The Father is not far removed from the effectuation of that which he designed in his eternal counsel and accomplished in the death of his Son; he comes into the most intimate relation to his people in the application of redemption by being the specific and
particular actor in the inception of such application.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ten duties of a godly man

From Thomas Watson's A Godly Man's Picture:

There are ten duties that God calls for, which a godly man will conscientiously perform, and indeed these duties may serve as so many other characteristics and touchstones to test our godliness by:

1. A godly man will often be calling his heart to account -

He takes the candle of the Word and searches his innermost being.

2. A godly man is much in private prayer -

He keeps his hours for private devotion.

3. A godly man is diligent in his calling -

He takes care to provide for his family.

4. A godly man sets bounds to himself in things lawful -

He is moderate in matters of recreation and diet.

5. A godly man is careful about moral righteousness -

He makes conscience of equity as well as piety.

6. A godly man will forgive those who have wronged -

A gracious spirit passes by affronts, forgets injuries.

7. A godly man lays to heart the miseries of the church -

Such a spiritual sympathy exists among Christians.

8. A godly man is content with his present condition -

If provisions get low, his heart is tempered to his condition.

9. A godly man is fruitful in good works -

A good man feeds the hungry, clothes the naked.

10. A godly man will suffer persecution -

He will be married to Christ, though he settles no other estate on him, than the cross.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

All as Loss

A great post at the Desiring God site today. Piper explained the application of counting everything as loss. He used four short points to cover it, the third really stuck with me.

3. Renouncing all (counting all as loss) means that we will seek to deal with the things of this world in ways that show that they are not our treasure, but rather that Christ is our treasure.
That is, we will hold things loosely, share things generously, and ascribe value to things in relation to Christ. We will seek to live the paradox of 1 Corinthians 7:30–31, “Let [Christians] buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it.”

"Hold things loosely" is the point that stood out for me. I'm a big golfer, would do it everyday if I could. Any person who plays, no matter how good or bad they are, knows that the way you grip the club is very important. Without thinking of any other swing flaws, the way you grip the club
has the ability to make the ball go in any direction.  Grip is key, and so is grip pressure. Too tight and you might hit it thin, slice it, hook it, the possibilities are endless. Too loose and your beloved 7-iron might end up in a tree or the lake. Firm enough to keep hold of it, but loose enough to let it do the work.

You will find more success on the golf course if you hold the club just a little looser. You will find your relationship with Christ better if you hold onto the world just a little looser. Firm enough to make it work, but loose enough to let Christ work in our life.

The full post can be found by following the link below:

Monday, March 3, 2014

One Source

From Murray's Redemption: Accomplished and Applied:

There is only one source from which we can derive a proper conception of Christ's atoning work. That source is the Bible. There is only one norm by which our interpretations and formulations are to be tested. That norm is the Bible. The temptation ever lurks near us to prove unfaithful to this one and only criterion. No temptation is more subtle and plausible than the tendency to construe the atonement in terms of our human experience and thus to make our experience the norm. It does not always appear in its undisguised form. But it is the same tendency that underlies the attempt to place upon the work of Christ an interpretation which brings it into closer approximation to human experience and accomplishment, the attempt to accommodate our interpretation and application of our Lord's suffering and obedience unto death to the measure or, at least, to the analogy of our experience. There are two directions in which we can do this. We can heighten the significance of our experience and doing to the measure of our Lord's or we can lower the significance of our Lord's experience and doing to the measure of ours. The bias and the final result are the same. We drag down the meaning of Christ's atoning work and we evacuate it of its unique and distinctive glory. This is wickedness of the deepest dye. What human experience can reproduce that which the Lord of glory, the Son of God incarnate, alone endured and accomplished?