Monday, June 23, 2008

Moving Day

After spending a couple of weeks trying to decide which blog site works better for me, I've decided to move.

I'll keep everything I've written to this point here, but will make no new additions on this page.

All new posts will now be made at the Words of Grace site hosted by WordPress.

That site also contains a full archive of everything posted on this site. It's all there. And now, so am I.....

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sunday Leftovers (6/15/08)

Galatians says much about the Fatherhood of God, but not everything. One more truth that is found elsewhere is this: God loves and is (and always will be) “well-pleased" with His Son (2 Pt. 1:17); we are in His Son (Eph. 1:17; Col. 2:20) — therefore He loves us with a Son-like love!

The pleasure that He finds in His sons is found in the familiar parable of the waiting father and the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). Of that story, author Philip Keller writes this:

…despite all that the profligate son did to dismay his father, the parent's attitude toward him never deviated. In spite of all the shame, suffering, scandal, and loss, the father's love never minished. Instead there went out from him forgiveness, compassion, love, and concern.…[But the older brother's] pride and self-esteem prevented him from enjoying all the benefits at his disposal. This was simply because he did not believe what his father said. He was trying so hard to earn and merit by diligent service what was already rightfully his as the elder son. His plight is almost the more pathetic of the two. It shows us a man who really never got to know his father. The picture painted for us is that of a person who sees God as his Father, as someone harsh and hard and very demanding. He has never sensed His love, compassion, generosity, and fantastic forgiveness. And because he keeps his father at arm's length there has never been that wondrous sensation of feeling those open arms flung about him. He has never felt accepted. He has never felt wanted.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A few more thoughts about God and His holiness

As I reflected on last night’s study, along with the tension of covering much material far too quickly, I believe I left some confusion about the sovereignty of God. So let me attempt to un-muddy the waters for you.

When we speak of the sovereignty of God, we are saying that God is in control, governing every circumstance of life. There is nothing that escapes His control and dominion. The life of Nebuchadnezzar was an excellent illustration of this truth (Dan. 4:35). We find this truth throughout the pages of Scripture:

All these verses, and many more combine to paint a picture of the absolute control, authority, and governance of God over all His created world. (Another very helpful resource on this topic is Jerry Bridges’ book, Trusting God; I have read and referred to it many times and am always challenged and encouraged by it.)

That was what I was trying to say last night. And where I got side-tracked, creating confusion, was how men attempt to discover and know that sovereignty, which is where the terms “preceptive (moral) will” and “decreed will” entered the discussion. I should have just left that out — while a related topic, it is not central to the discussion of God’s sovereignty. [If you wish to read more about how to discover God’s will, read either Garry Friesen’s Decision Making and the Will of God (the older version is better than the newer version) or Garry Gilley’s Is That You, Lord? (a more concise explanation of the same topic covered by Friesen).

I hope that helps a little.

Then as I was reading my Bible this morning, I was struck by the repeated emphasis in the passages I was reading on the holiness of God. They are not inherently connected to each other, yet the themes of the greatness of God and His holiness run through them. This is what I wrote in my journal about God’s holiness as it was revealed in what I was reading

  1. The motive for obedience to God is because His people have been set apart to Him (Dt. 14:21). The reason Israel had strict dietary laws was because they were holy to Him — set apart to His purposes, which is still true for believers (and me!) today.
  2. In a similar vein, Isaiah notes that God says, “I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness…” (42:6). The purpose of His calling is to produce righteousness (cf. also Titus 2:14); the authority for His calling men to that righteousness is His position as Lord (Yahweh — the covenant God of Israel). Yet in His authoritativeness, He also provides the ability for His people to be righteous.
  3. His holiness is revealed to His people to evoke praise and gratitude (Ps. 99:8-9; 100; 103:1). We dare not come to His Word or presence only with a desire for knowledge and not also a corresponding zeal for worship and gladness in Him.

Lord, give me a yearning for You today — not for Your benefits alone, but because You have created me to enjoy You and Your perfections.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sunday Leftovers (6/8/08)

Why is substitutionary atonement so important? Two reasons — one theological and one applicational.

For the first, J. I. Packer offers a summary definition of the atonement in his article, "Sola Fide: the Reformed Doctrine of Justification":

This is the characteristic doctrine of the Reformation concerning the death of Christ. It was an act of obedient substitution on his part, an acceptance in his own person of the penalty due to us, in virtue of which the holy Judge declares guilty sinners immune from punishment and righteous in his sight. The great exchange is no legal fiction, no arbitrary pretense, no mere word-game, on God's part, but a costly achievement. The divinely established solidarity between Christ and his people was such that he was in truth "made sin" for us, and "bore in his soul the dreadful torments of a condemned and lost man," so that in our souls the joy of knowing God's forgiveness and favor might reign forever. This, to the Reformers, was the heart and height of the work of divine grace, not to be wrangled over, but to be trusted and adored.

For the latter, Milton Vincent, in his book A Gospel Primer, offers a summary application of the gospel — preach it to yourself every day:

There is simply no other way to compete with the forebodings of my heart, and the lies of the world and the Devil than to overwhelm such things with daily rehearsings of the gospel.…As long as I am inside the gospel, I experience all the protection I need from the powers of evil that rage against me. It is for this reason that the Bible tells me to "take up" and "put on" the whole armor of God…

That God would tell me to "take up" and "put on" this gospel armor alerts me to the fact that I do not automatically come into each day portected by the gospel. In fact, these commands imply that I am vulnerable to defeat and injury unless I seize upon the gospel and arm myself with it from head to toe. And what better way is there to do this than to preach the gospel to my self and to make it the obsession of my heart throughout each day?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A few more thoughts about God's attributes

A couple more thoughts after last night's study of the attributes of God —

No, we didn't get finished with the notes, but I'm okay with that, even if it means that we won't be able to cover some other things in as much detail at the end of the summer. There is nothing more important than getting right our understanding of the Godhead. We struggle spiritually because we don't think rightly about God and His Word. [I read this morning that God let the nation of Israel be hungry in the wilderness for the express purpose of teaching them that "man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord" (Dt. 8:3). We need more of God, not less.]

Twenty years ago, R. C. Sproul summarized the problem of man well: "The root problem is that man lives in an environment where many human beings experience a profound sense of the absence of God." Perhaps the reason so many (even more today than when Sproul wrote that sentence) live without God is because they are seeking the wrong kind of God:

Many people, both believers and unbelievers, are confidently gripping an image of God that simply doesn't square with the God of the Bible. One of the most common of these images is that of a God who is only love and kindness, a kind of deified Mister Rogers. C. S. Lewis said it well:

We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in Heaven — a senile old gentleman who, as they say, 'liked to see young people enjoying themselves,' and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, 'A good time was had by all.' [Dwight Edwards, Revolution Within.]

So if we take an extra week or two or three talking about God, the Trinity, Christ and His work of salvation, and the transforming, indwelling work of the Spirit, I'm okay with that.

Finally, as I studied, I found that invariably the best synthesizing quote I had on a given attribute of God was penned by A. W. Tozer, and most of those statements came from The Knowledge of the Holy. What a gift of God's grace that book is to the church. So last night I ordered several copies of it for the book cart — hopefully they will arrive in time for next week's study.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Decline of Evangelicalism

Yesterday, Christine Wicker wrote an interesting piece published in the Dallas Morning News entitled, "The Great Evangelical Decline.

The basic theme of the piece is that evangelicals are not as prominent in America as published reports indicated (i.e., there aren't really as many believers in America as most people suppose). That's something I've been suggesting for a long time.

Wicker then offers three reasons why that is so:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous and all its 12-step offspring…
  • The second attack came within the church as American evangelicals themselves became less willing to proclaim that they are the only ones saved.
  • And along comes The Pill. It's merely one of the insidious attacks science has launched against traditional religious faith, but it is surely the most successful. Nothing in history has changed human relations as much as that little white pill.

These surely are not the only reasons, but I would agree that they are contributing causes; and I don't agree with all her conclusions:

Evangelical leaders defend their stance by claiming that God doesn't change and that neither does sin. But sin does change. Slavery wasn't sin once. Now it is. Taking a wife and a concubine wasn't sin once. Now it is. And God – or our understanding of what God is, which is all we actually have – changes, too.

I think that the Scriptures are quite emphatic that neither sin nor God are mutable. Nor were slavery, adultery and fornication once right in the eyes of God and now they are wrong. They have always been sin and always will be.

However, the piece is worth reading for the thought it provokes about what has gone wrong in the evangelical church.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Thinking about a blog change

I'm thinking about changing my blog address.

I've set up the new page at Wordpress already. Would you let me know what you think? Is one easier to navigate than the other? Both have features that I prefer; neither have all the features I want. Hmmm.

What thinkest thou?

Sunday Leftovers (6/1/08)

Communion is remembrance and celebration not only of what Christ has accomplished already at the cross, but also an anticipation of what will yet be fulfilled completely. Thinking about the themes concerning the cross we have already talked about the last several weeks, that means:

  • we recall His work of salvation and anticipate salvation from all the consequences of sin.
  • we recall the necessity of His death and anticipate the necessity of our own death — and the necessity of our glorification.
  • we recall the willingness of His sacrifice as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world and anticipate the complete removal of the flesh of sin.
  • we recall His sparing us from judgment and anticipate His full work of righteous judgment.
  • we recall His fulfillment of the Law and await the completion of His imputed righteousness.

A remembrance of Christ's work on the cross is incomplete without also remembering His future work, and trusting it completely.

That is, remembering the past with gratitude will become a stimulant to anticipating the future with trust. One reason believers fail to persevere in trust is that they have failed to cultivate gratitude in the past. They are ungrateful for the past (and don't see God's graciousness at work), so they worry about the future (fail to see the potential for God's sovereign ability to act with grace).

John Piper says it this way:

…the great redemptive works of past grace — for example, the death and resurrection of Jesus — are indispensable foundations for our faith in future grace. But their power resides precisely in that — they purchase and certify future grace in which we hope. The life and death of Jesus were God's Yes to all his promises (2 Corinthians 1:20). Christ came into the world 'to confirm the promises given to the Fathers' (Romans 15:8). Because of Christ's death, God will 'with him freely give us all things' (Romans 8:32). Those whom God has justified, he will most certainly glorify (Romans 8:30). Past grace is the foundation of life-transforming faith in future grace.…True gratitude exults in the riches of God's grace as it looks back on the benefits it has received. By cherishing past grace in this way, it inclines the heart to trust in future grace. [Future Grace]

Communion is valuable not only because it is an act of obedience to Christ, and not only because it stimulates us to remember Christ's past work, but also because it stimulates us to trust Him for His future provision.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A few more thoughts about the Bible

A few more thoughts (from people who said it better than me) about the Bible (these are "leftovers" from the theology Bible Institute class last night):

"I am a Bible-bigot. I follow it in all things, both great and small." [John Wesley.]

"Contemporary evangelicalism has been beguiled and sabotaged by a ruinous lack of confidence in God's Word. I'm not talking about the question of whether God gave us an inerrant Bible. Of course He did. And the great majority of evangelicals accept that without question. But many who would never doubt the Bible's authenticity as God's Word or distrust its essential authority as a guide for righteous living have nevertheless accepted the notion that Scripture simply does not contain all we need to minister well in these complex and sophisticated modern times." [John MacArthur, Our Sufficiency in Christ.]

"The whole Bible maintains this insistence that God's word is His exclusive instrument in all human affairs. Of Him, as of no one else, it is true that what He says goes. It is in truth the word of God that rules the world, and that fixes our fortunes for us." [J. I. Packer, Knowing God.]

Wherever in the church biblical authority has been lost, Christ has been displaced, the gospel has been distorted, or faith has been perverted, it has always been for one reason: our interests have displaced God's and we are doing his work in our way. The loss of God's centrality in the life of today's church is common and lamentable. It is this loss that allows us to transform worship into entertainment, gospel preaching into marketing, believing into technique, being good into feeling good about ourselves, and faithfulness into being successful. As a result, God, Christ and the Bible have come to mean too little to us and rest too inconsequentially upon us." ["The Cambridge Declaration," from the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.]

"It's always best to drink at the well and not from the tank. You shall find that reading the Word of God for yourselves, reading it rather than notes upon it, is the surest way of growing in grace. Drink the unadulterated milk of the Word of God, and not of the skim milk, or the milk and water of man's word." [Charles Spurgeon, Counsel for Christian Workers.]

"For some years now, I have read through my Bible twice every year. If you picture the Bible to be a mighty tree and every word a little branch, I have shaken every one of these branches because I wanted to know what it was and what it meant." [Martin Luther.]

"The Scriptures are not provided to feed our gossipy curiosity or legislate our barnyard morals: they examine our lives and invite our faith." [Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles.]

"It's not so much what we read in the Bible that changes us, but what we remember. Doubtless there are many believers who should increase their daily intake of Scripture, but many others are devoting all the time they can. If you cannot possibly add meditation to the time you already spend reading, then read less in order to meditate more. The goal is not just to 'get through' a certain amount of pages, but to meet God and hear from Him." [Don Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life.]

Why we like the Psalms

In his most recent sermon, "Songs that Shape the Heart and Mind," John Piper notes the variety of emotions that are contained in Psalms — one of the reasons that we are all drawn to them, whether glad or sad:

One of the reasons the Psalms are deeply loved by so many Christians is that they give expression to an amazing array of emotions. Listen to this list of emotions I pulled together:

  1. Loneliness: “I am lonely and afflicted” (Psalms 25:16).
  2. Love: “I love you, O Lord, my strength” (Psalms 18:1).
  3. Awe: “Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him” (Psalms 33:8).
  4. Sorrow: “My life is spent with sorrow” (Psalms 31:10).
  5. Regret: “I am sorry for my sin” (Psalms 38:18).
  6. Contrition: “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalms 51:17).
  7. Discouragement and turmoil: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me” (Psalms 42:5)?
  8. Shame: “Shame has covered my face” (Psalms 44:15).
  9. Exultation: “In your salvation how greatly he exults” (Psalms 21:1).
  10. Marveling: “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalms 118:23).
  11. Delight: “His delight is in the law of the Lord” (Psalms 1:2).
  12. Joy: “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound” (Psalms 4:7).
  13. Gladness: “I will be glad and exult in you” (Psalms 9:2).
  14. Fear: “Serve the Lord with fear” (Psalms 2:11).
  15. Anger: “Be angry, and do not sin” (Psalms 4:4).
  16. Peace: “In peace I will both lie down and sleep” (Psalms 4:8).
  17. Grief: “My eye wastes away because of grief” (Psalms 6:7).
  18. Desire: “O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted” (Psalms 10:17).
  19. Hope: “Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (Psalms 33:22).
  20. Brokenheartedness: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalms 34:18).
  21. Gratitude: “I will thank you in the great congregation” (Psalms 35:18).
  22. Zeal: “Zeal for your house has consumed me” (Psalms 69:9).
  23. Pain: “I am afflicted and in pain” (Psalms 69:29).
  24. Confidence: “Though war arise against me, yet I will be confident” (Psalms 27:3).

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday Leftovers (5/25/08)

Sunday afternoon I began reading a book I bought about a month ago — Jesus Made in America: A Cultural History from the Puritans to the Passion of the Christ. The author, Stephen Nichols, is attempting to trace the history of American thought towards Jesus Christ and how that thinking was heavily influenced by contemporary cultural values. It has not made for a healthy understanding of Christ at the end of the first decade in the 21st century. It is that unhealthy and unbiblical thinking about Christ that has motivated my current sermon series, seeking to give us a more complete view of the magnitude of Christ's atoning work on the cross.

The last paragraph of his introduction sounded the warning for today's American church particularly well:

The history of the American evangelical Jesus reveals that such complexities as the two natures of Christ have often been brushed aside, either on purpose or out of expediency. Too often his deity has been eclipsed by his humanity, and occasionally the reverse is true. Too often American evangelicals have settled for a Christology that can be reduced to a bumper sticker. Too often devotion to Jesus has eclipsed theologizing about Jesus. Today's American evangelicals may be quick to speak of their love for Jesus, even wearing their devotion on their sleeve, literally in the case of WWJD bracelets. But they may not be so quick to articulate an orthodox view of the object of their devotion. Their devotion is commendable, but the lack of a rigorous theology behind it means that a generation of contemporary evangelicals is living off of borrowed capital. This quest for the historical Jesus of American evangelicalism is not just a story of the past; it perhaps will help us understand the present, and it might even be a parable for the future. This parable teaches us that Jesus is not actually made in America. He is made and remade and remade again. What will next year's model look like?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

More on being God- and Christ-centered

A few minutes after posting the quotation from Martyn Lloyd-Jones, I received this short, but helpful blog entry from John Piper, "What Does God-Centered Mean?"

Lloyd-Jones on emotions and happiness

To finish reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones' classic work,
Spiritual Depression, I am trying to read a couple chapters a week in conjunction with my morning devotional time. In my reading this morning, he wrote this (I don't agree with all of what he says, but the focus on making Christ the object of our affections when we are tempted to discouragement and despair is very helpful):
Better still, let me put it like this. If you want to be truly happy and blessed, if you would like to know true joy as a Christian, here is the prescription — 'Blessed (truly happy) are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness' — not after happiness. Do not go on seeking thrills; seek righteousness. Turn to yourself, I turn to your feelings and say: 'I have no time to worry about feelings, I am interested in something else. I want to be happy but still more I want to be righteous, I want to be holy. I want to be like my Lord, I want to live in this world as He lived, I want to walk through it as He walked through it. You are in this world, says John in his First Epistle, even as He was. Set your whole aim upon righteousness and holiness and as certainly as you do so you will be blessed, you will be filled, you will get the happiness you long for. Seek for happiness and you will never find it, seek righteousness and you will discover you are happy it will be there without your knowing it, without your seeking it.

Finally, let me put it in this way: 'Do you want to know supreme joy, do you want to experience a happiness that eludes description? There is only one thing to do, really seek Him, seek Him Himself, turn to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. If you find that your feelings are depressed do not sit down and commiserate with yourself, do not try to work something up but — this is the simple essence of it — go directly to Him and seek His face, as the little child who is miserable and unhappy because somebody else has taken or broken his toy, runs to its father or its mother.

So if you and I find ourselves afflicted by this condition, there is only one thing to do, it is to go to Him. If you seek the Lord Jesus Christ and find Him there is no need to worry about your happiness and your joy. He is our joy and our happiness, even as He is our peace. He is life, He is everything. So avoid the incitements and the temptations of Satan to give feelings this great prominence at the centre. Put at the centre the only One who has a right to be there, the Lord of Glory, Who so loved you that He went to the Cross and bore the punishment and the shame of your sins and died for you. Seek Him, seek His face, and all other things shall be added unto you.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Leftovers (5/18/08)

What does it mean that God is a righteous judge? John Piper offers this explanation:

God’s righteousness is essentially his unswerving allegiance to his own name and his own glory. God is righteous to the degree that he upholds and displays the honor of his name. He is righteous when he values most what is most valuable, and what is most valuable is his own glory. Therefore God’s justice, his righteousness, consists most fundamentally in doing what is consistent with the esteem and demonstration of his name, his glory. God would be unrighteous if he did not uphold and display his glory as infinitely valuable.

That righteousness to uphold and defend and honor His name and person as the most glorious treasure also necessitates the judgment of God — that is, His judgment of sin and unrighteousness (or "undelight" in Him — treasuring other possessions or people above Him) is right for Him.

So He pours out His wrath on unbelieving people.

And He pours out His wrath on Christ so that all who believe in Christ are spared His wrath and given His righteousness.

Do not miss this: there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). No condemnation. No disparaging looks. No regrets for His saving work. No further judgment. The lexicon for the Greek New Testament says that the word condemnation "does not denote merely a pronouncement of guilt, but the adjudication of punishment." This is Paul's very point in Rom. 8 — there is no longer any punishment to be passed down by the Judge. Judgment is done. We are free.

This is why we can say in response to the Biblical truth of the gospel — be joyful!


In one of my illustrations Sunday morning, I made passing reference to the number of believers now in China. Later in the day, I picked up my latest copy of Christian History & Biography and found that the entire issue was devoted to China and the influence of Christianity in that country, particularly over the past 100 years. I am a long way from finishing it, but it looks to be very interesting (at the moment, none of the articles are yet posted online, but over the next few weeks, they will post them).

Friday, May 16, 2008

California Supreme Court Decision on Homosexuality

Yesterday the California Supreme Court made a decision to legalize gay marriages. The chief justice of the court, Ron George, wrote in the majority opinion, "In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation."

This is obviously a highly significant decision, that has long-term consequences.

Al Mohler offers a brief, but worthy commentary on the subject.

John MacArthur offers a broader perspective, God's Plan for the Gay Agenda.

Both are worth reading.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Missions and children

Do you ever wonder how to stimulate your children (or yourself) to a greater love for missions?

A few weeks ago, Desiring God offered a list of 10 ways to help kids love missions. [These ideas might work for adults, too.]

Here is the list, without the additional notes of explanation:

1. Pray for missionaries as a family.

2. Read missionary biographies to your children.

3. Draw the whole family into supporting missionaries financially.

4. Find your child a missionary kid pen pal.

5. Entertain missionaries in your home.

6. Take risks as a family.

7. Affirm and nurture qualities in your children which could serve them on the mission field.

8. Teach your children to be world Christians.

9. Read missionary prayer letters to your children.

10. Use missions fact books and resources such as Operation World, the Global Prayer Digest, the Joshua Project, and Voice of the Martyrs (VOM). Kids of Courage is the youth-oriented arm of VOM and offers activity books, spotlights on the persecuted world, and more.

Sunday Leftovers (5/11/08)

A few thoughts about various items in Sunday's sermon —

Ransom is release from sin. And I need release from sin (though you and I are both want to admit it).
In a recent blog post on Desiring God, Abraham Piper helped me think clearly about this issue. We usually think ourselves to be more righteous than others who have more obvious demonstrations of inherent unrighteousness. But, reflecting on the story of the woman caught in adultery, Piper notes,

[Jesus] seems to have two categories in this story: perfect and not perfect. So what Jesus really suggests is, if you are in the latter category, what in the world do you think you’re doing judging other people who are also imperfect just like you?

The fact that I’m imperfect in a different way—that I don’t sin the same as the guy who gave me the old highway salute—is totally irrelevant to Jesus. As long as I’m any kind of sinner, no matter how benign my faults might seem, I am still just that—a sinner, the same as an adulteress or a gesticulatively angry driver.

There is only one place I belong, and it’s not standing with stones in my fists, threatening someone else in the “not perfect” category. No, the only place I belong is crouching in hope at the feet of Jesus with the adulteress, and hopefully, with that other guy on the interstate, too.

Jesus is right: worldly leadership is proud, authoritative and "tyrannical," and not servant-hearted. I thought much about verse 42 in this passage, and thought about numerous secular books on leadership that often tout something akin to what we would recognize as servant leadership. Is Jesus' statement accurate?, I wondered. Then I thought of the implications of the words are recognized and lord it over them and great men and exercise authority. What Jesus is pointing to is the issue of pride and self-exaltation (and not Christ-exaltation) and self-dependence (and not Christ-dependence).

And then I thought of a book written 20 years ago by historian Paul Johnson, in which he sought to examine the personal lives of those who have significantly influenced intellectual thought in Western culture. He examined the lives of men like Rousseau, Shelley, Marx, Tolstoy, Hemingway and Sartre, asking the question, "How did they run their own lives? With what degree of rectitude did they behave to family, friends, and associates? Were they just in their sexual and financial dealings? Did they tell, and write, the truth? And how have their systems stood up to the test of time and praxis?"

This is how he concludes The Intellectuals:

What conclusions should be drawn? Readers will judge for themselves. But I think I detect today a certain public scepticism when intellectuals stand up to preach to us…The belief seems to be spreading that intellectuals are no wiser as mentors, or worthier as exemplars, than the witch doctors or priests of old. I share that scepticism. A dozen people picked at random on the street are at least as likely to offer sensible views on moral and political matters as a cross-section of the intelligentsia. But I would go further. One of the principal lessons of our tragic century, which has seen so many millions of innocent lives sacrificed in schemes to improve the lot of humanity, is — beware intellectuals. Not merely should they be kept well away from the levers of power, they should also be objects of particular suspicion when they seek to offer collective advice. Beware committees conferences and leagues of intellectuals. Distrust public statements issued from their serried ranks. Discount their verdicts on political leaders and important events. For intellectuals, far from being highly individualistic and non-conformist people, follow certain regular patterns of behaviour. Taken as a group, they are often ultra-conformist within the circles formed by those whose approval they seek and value. That is what makes them, en masse, so dangerous, for it enables them to create climates of opinion and prevailing orthodoxies, which themselves often generate irrational and destructive courses of action. Above all, we must at all times remember what intellectuals habitually forget: that people matter more than concepts and must come first. The worst of all despotisms is the heartless tyranny of ideas. [my emphasis]

Those who serve as worldly leaders — those who are esteemed as "great men" — are, in fact, unworthy as leaders because they are unworthy servants. Just as Jesus said.

Because Christ paid such a great price to redeem us from sin, our hearts should abhor that sin. Yet so often we are inclined to and even love the very thing Christ has redeemed us from. Spurgeon said it well —

Do you roll sin under your tongue as a sweet morsel and then come to God's house on Sunday morning and think to worship Him? Worship Him! Worship Him, with sin indulged in your life! If I had a dear brother who had been murdered, what would you think of me if I valued the knife that had been crimsoned with his blood?...Sin murdered Christ; will you be a friend to it? Sin pierced the heart of the incarnate God; can you love it? Oh, that there was an abyss as deep as Christ's misery, that I might at once hurl this dagger of sin into its depths, whence it might never be brought to light again! Begone, 0 sin! You are banished from the heart where Jesus reigns!

Monday, May 05, 2008

A few verses on the sacrifice of Christ

Here is the list of verses that I came up with from the Gospels that either directly stated or implied the sacrificial work of Christ (these are the verses that were the foundation for yesterday's message):

  • Matthew 16:21ff
  • Matthew 17:9-12
  • Matthew 26:26-29
  • Luke 2:34-35
  • Luke 17:31
  • Luke 22:37
  • Luke 23:15
  • Luke 23:28
  • Luke 24:6ff, 26ff
  • John 1:29, 36
  • John 1:39
  • John 2:19ff
  • John 10:11-18
  • John 16:17ff
  • John 18:32
  • John 19:11
  • John 12:7
  • John 19:30

Audio on the cross

I have recently come across several audio sermons that deal with themes related to the cross that I have found exceedingly helpful and encouraging.

At the recent Together for the Gospel conference, virtually all the speakers dealt with topics related to the cross and the atonement; I found particularly helpful the messages by Al Mohler, R. C. Sproul, and John MacArthur (though they were all excellent and worth listening to more than once).

I have also listened to a couple sermons lately by C. J. Mahaney, and been reminded how effectively he communicates themes about the cross. One three-part series that he did at Covenant Life Church is "Christ and Him Crucified."

Sunday Leftovers (5/4/08)

Since I didn't quite finish my sermon, here are a couple of thoughts that remain in my mind from this great passage:

What is interesting to note is that not only does the NT picture Christ as the lamb sacrificed, but also as the priest who offers Himself as that sacrifice (Heb. 9:10ff). It is a reminder that Scripture uses as many different pictures as possible for us to understand the depth of Christ’s work. There is no one image that is adequate for portraying the infinite wonder of Christ's atoning work (in fact, Eph. 2:7 suggests that it will be our eternal preoccupation and that the Lord will eternally unfold the riches of His grace extended through the cross).

Not only is Jesus Christ the Lamb of God, but He is the eternal Lamb. Revelation 13:8 tells us that there are names that have been written in the Lamb's book of life from the foundation of the earth. That is, already in the eternal past, God had ordained the coming of Christ and the sacrifice of Christ and the salvation of those who would trust in Christ — the Lamb of God. The sacrifice of Christ was not an afterthought on God's part, nor was it a secondary plan after the intrusion of sin "messed up" His plan. That Christ would be the sacrificed Lamb has always been God's eternal plan and purpose. John Piper said it this way:

…before the world was created there was a book called the “book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” The Lamb is Jesus Christ crucified. The book is the book of Jesus Christ crucified. Therefore, before God made the world he had in view Jesus Christ slain, and he had in view a people purchased by his blood written in the book. Therefore, the suffering of Jesus was not an afterthought, as though the work of creation did not go the way God planned. Before the foundation of the world God had a book called “the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” The slaying of the Lamb was in view before the work of creation began.

And one final implication of Christ's sacrifice: If I am in conflict with another believer, or if I do not "like" (or love!) another believer, or if I am harboring unkind thoughts and judgmental attitudes toward another believer, I must recognize that the person I dislike is the person that was loved by the Triune Godhead in eternity past to the point that Christ joyfully and willingly endured the sacrifice on the cross to redeem and save that person for His glory! So on what basis might I say that it is acceptable to be purposefully out of fellowship with such a person. Yes, that person may think and act very differently than me, may have different priorities and desires than me, and may even be difficult to engage in conversation, but that is the very person that is the object of God's eternal and divine affections. How can I remain out of fellowship with Him and in fellowship with Christ?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sunday Leftovers (4/27/08)

As I mentioned in my message, I have long been struck by the repeated emphasis on the necessity of Christ's death.

He had to go to the cross. It was not optional.

Why is it important to stress the necessity of the cross? Because there is a connection between what we believe about the cross and the way we live. And if we preach the necessity of the cross as, well — necessary, then we will be dependent on Christ for everything.

But if we do not recognize His necessary death, then we will be prone to two different kinds of temptations: 1) the assumption that we are satisfactory in our spiritual state and not dependent on God. He is good and helpful, but we do not need Him or His work. And, 2) in opposition to that idea, we might be subject to legalism as a means of spiritual life, with the resultant joylessness of a life that is completely dependent on our own work and merit, knowing that in no way do we measure up to the divine standard of holiness.

Interestingly, as I was preparing for this sermon on Sunday evening, I did a little surfing on the internet and found a series of five sermons on the necessity of Christ's death, preached by S. Lewis Johnson. His concluding statement to the series reflects what I have just noted: "Come to Christ, trust him, and rest on what he’s done. And know, by virtue of the fact, that he’s paid that penalty in full. Your debts paid. You’re free. Enjoy your forgiveness of sins."

Christ had to go to the cross. And now we live in liberty!