Saturday, February 28, 2009

Comforting Words: "You are a sinner."

“Luther taught that every time you insist that I am a sinner, just so often do you call me to remember the benefit of Christ my Redeemer, upon whose shoulders, and not upon mine, lie all my sins. So, when you say that I am a sinner, you do not terrify, but comfort me immeasurably.”

—Thomas Oden, The Justification Reader (Grand Rapids: Eeerdmans, 2002), 5
posted at "Of First Importance"

Guy Waters Critiques N.T. Wright's Latest Book

Guy Waters is the latest guest on the Christ the Center podcast, analyzing N.T. Wright's latest book on justification.

HT: James Grant; Justin Taylor

Friday, February 27, 2009

Lives Molded By the Gospel

“The doctrines of the gospel are meant to mould us so that our lives begin to ’set’ in the likeness of Christ. We have made little or no impression upon the world, for the very reason that the gospel doctrine has made a correspondingly slight impression upon us. It cannot be overemphasized that men and women who have accomplished anything in God’s strength have always done so on the basis of their grasp of truth.”

- Sinclair Ferguson, The Christian Life (Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 1981), 8-9.
posted at "Of First Importance"

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Our Complete Happiness in Him

John Calvin on piety: "For this sense of the divine perfections is the proper master to teach us piety, out of which religion springs. I call 'piety' that reverence joined with love of/for God which the knowledge of his benefits induces.

"For until men recognize that they owe everything to God, that they are nourished [or, cherished] by his fatherly care, that he is the Author of their every good, that the should seek nothing beyond him -- they will never yield him willing service.

"Nay, unless they establish their complete happiness in him, they will never give themselves truly and sincerely to him."

--"Institutes of the Christian Religion, ch.2"

The Enslaving Power of Idols

"If we try to make something finite fill the place that only God can fill, we will try to extract an unrealistic level of meaning from that idol. When it does not work, it invites us only to try harder. It should not surprise us in a deeply idolatrous society that books on codependency and addiction form a growth industry. People feel enslaved to substances, to unwanted behavior, and to each other. These idols have promised life, but are death-dealing, anti-human, and constricting. It seems to be exactly this role-reversal that the Psalmist has in mind when in discussing idolatry he writes, ‘Those who make them will be like them and so will all who trust in them’ (Psalm 115:8). The idol begins as a means to power, enabling us to control, but then overpowers, controlling us.”

~Richard Keyes, “The Idol Factory” in No God But God: Breaking with the Idols of Our Age, Os Guiness & John Seel, eds. (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1992), 45.
posted at "The Big Picture"

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Poetry of the Cross

Yea, once Immanuel's orphaned cry
his universe hath shaken;
it went up single, echoless,
"My God, I am forsaken!"

It went up from the Holy's lips
Amid his lost creation,
That, of the lost,
No son should use those words of desolation....

-- Elizabeth Barrett Browning
from "Cowper's Grave"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"O God, Beyond All Praising"

Tullian Tchividjian shares his favorite hymn:

O God beyond all praising,
we worship you today
and sing the love amazing
that songs cannot repay;
for we can only wonder
at every gift you send,
at blessings without number
and mercies without end:
we lift our hearts before you
and wait upon your word,
we honor and adore you,
our great and mighty Lord.

Then hear, O gracious Savior,
accept the love we bring,
that we who know your favor
may serve you as our king;
and whether our tomorrows
be filled with good or ill,
we’ll triumph through our sorrows
and rise to bless you still:
to marvel at your beauty
and glory in your ways,
and make a joyful duty
our sacrifice of praise.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Sample "Church Covenant"

Last Sunday evening, we studied what it means to live together as God's people in the fellowship of his church. We used a 'standard' church covenant to guide our thinking about this. (I've added relevant Scripture references.)

"Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour; and on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we do now in the presence of God, angels and this assembly, most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another, as one body in Christ.We engage, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian love; to strive for the advancement of this Church in...

...knowledge (cp. Acts 2:42; Col.3:16)

…holiness (2 Cor.7:1; 1 Thess.4:1-3ff.; Heb.10:24 1 Pet.1:14-17)

…and comfort;… (Acts 9:31; 1 Thess.4:18; 5:14)

….to promote its prosperity and spirituality…Acts 2:44-45; Gal.6:9-10; contrast 1 Cor. 3:17

to sustain its worship (Acts 2:46-47; 1 Cor.14; Eph.5:19-20; Heb.10:24-25); ,

…ordinances,… (Matt.26:26-29; 1 Cor.11:23-33; Matt.28:19; Acts 2:38,41)

…discipline… (Eph.4:11ff.; Col.1:28; 2 Tim.3:16; 4:2; Heb.13:17; 1 Cor. 5: Matt.18:15ff.; Titus 3:10-11)

… and doctrine;… Acts 2:42; 2 Tim.1:13-14; Titus 1:9

…to contribute cheerfully and regularly, as God has prospered us, toward its expenses, (Mal.3:8-10; Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37; 2 Cor.8-9)

… for the support of a faithful and evangelical ministry among us, the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel throughout the world. (Matt.28:18-20; Acts 1:8)

In case of difference of opinion in the church, we will strive to avoid a contentious spirit, (Gal.5:13-15, 20b; cp. Jas.3:17-18) and if we cannot unanimously agree (2 Cor.2:6; Phil.3:15-16), we will cheerfully recognize the right of the majority to govern.We also engage to maintain family (Dt.6:4-9) and secret/personal devotion (Matt.6:5ff, 9-13; Ps.1; 119:11, 18, 97, 105, ; Jn.17:17; Eph.6:18; Col.4:1)

….to study diligently the word of God; … (Ps.1; 19:7ff.; 119; Acts 2:42; Col.3:16; 2 Tim.3:14-4:6)

…to religiously educate our children;…( Prov.22:6; Eph.6:4)

to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances;… (Matt.28:18-20; 1 Pet.3:1-2ff.;

… to walk circumspectly in the world;…(Eph.4:17-24; 5:15-18; 1 Pet.2:11)

… to be kind and just in our dealings,…(Prov.11:1; Col.3:22-23; Tit.2:5, 9-10; 1 Pet.2:11-12)

…to avoid all tattling, backbiting, and excessive anger;…(Ex. 20:16; Prov.6:16-19; 12:18; 16:28; 20:19; Matt. 12:36; 1 Cor.6:9-10; Eph.4:29-31; Col.3:8; Jas.1:19-20; 4:11)

… to seek God's help in abstaining from all drugs, food, drink, and practices which bring unwarranted harm to the body or jeopardize our own or another's faith], (Eph.5:18; 1 Cor.6:19-20; 10:31; Rom.14)

….endeavoring in the purity of heart and good will towards all men to exemplify and commend our holy faith. (Matt.5:16; Tit.2:10; 1 Cor.11:1)We further engage to watch over, to pray for, to exhort and stir up each other unto every good word and work; (Heb.13:17; 1 Thess.5:12-15; Heb.10:25)

….to guard each other's reputation, not needlessly exposing the infirmities of others;…(Prov.10:12; 17:9; 1 Pet.4:8; 1 Cor.13:6-7)

… to participate in each other's joys, and with tender sympathy bear one another's burdens and sorrows;…(Ro.12:15-16; Gal.6:1-2)

… to cultivate Christian courtesy;…(1 Cor.13:5; Col.3:12-14)

…to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation, and being mindful of the rules of the Saviour, to seek to secure it without delay. (Matt.5:23-28; 18:15ff.)

We moreover engage that when we remove from this place, we will unite with some other church of like faith where we can carry out the the spirit of this covenant reflecting the principles of God's word."

Coram Deo

An essay by R.C. Sproul on what it means to live life 'before the face of God.' Here's the main idea:

"To live coram Deo is to live one's entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Prayer for Those Who Want to Want God

From A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God:

O God, I have tasted Your goodness,and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace.I am ashamed of my lack of desire.O God, the Triune God,I want to want You;I long to be filled with longing;I thirst to be made more thirsty still.Show me Your glory, I pray,so I may know You indeed.Begin in mercy a new work of love within me…Give me grace to rise and follow You up from this misty lowlandwhere I have wandered so long.In Jesus’ name. Amen.

HT: Grace Community Bible Church; Justin Taylor

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009

Is God's Love "Unconditional"?

Justin Taylor points to wise answers to that question from David Powlison and John Piper.

Here is an excerpt from Powlison:

"We can do better. Saying “God’s love is unconditional love” is a bit like saying “The sun’s light at high noon is a flashlight in a blackout.” Come again? A dim bulb sustains certain analogies to the sun. Unconditional love does sustain certain analogies to God’s love. But why not start with the blazing sun rather than the flashlight? When you look closely, God’s love is very different from “unconditional positive regard,” the seedbed of contemporary notions of unconditional love. God does not accept me just as I am; He loves me despite how I am; He loves me just as Jesus is; He loves me enough to devote my life to renewing me in the image of Jesus. This love is much, much, much better than unconditional! Perhaps we could call it “contraconditional” love. Contrary to the conditions for knowing God’s blessing, He has blessed me because His Son fulfilled the conditions. Contrary to my due, He loves me. And now I can begin to change, not to earn love but because of love.

". . . You need something better than unconditional love. You need the crown of thorns. You need the touch of life to the dead son of the widow of Nain. You need the promise to the repentant thief. You need to know, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” You need forgiveness. You need a Vinedresser, a Shepherd, a Father, a Savior. You need to become like the one who loves you. You need the better love of Jesus."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Interview with Dr. John Stott

Dr. Art Lindsley, of the C.S. Lewis Institute, interviews Dr. Stott. Here's an excerpt:

Dr. Lindsley: What legacy would you like to leave with
the leaders, with whom you have been involved?

Dr. Stott: I would urge upon them the priority of
preaching. It is the Word of God which matures the
people of God. As Jesus said, quoting Deuteronomy,
human beings do not live by bread alone, but by
every word which comes from the mouth of God.

Moreover, what is true of individuals is equally true
of churches. Churches live, grow, and flourish by
the Word of God; they languish and perish without
it. Of course the Word of God can reach people both
in private Bible study (if they are literate and have
a Bible) and in Bible study groups. But the major
way in which the Word of God comes to the people
of God worldwide is through preaching.

I am an unrepentant believer in the power of the pulpit. I
long to see a recovery of faithful biblical preaching
from the pulpits of the world; the result would be a
dramatic growth in mature discipleship.

Read the entire interview.

Monday, February 16, 2009

"The Cambridge Declaration" on Scriptural Authority in the Church Today

from "The Cambridge Declaration" (the opening section deals with the erosion of Scriptural authority within evangelical churches):

"Scripture alone is the inerrant rule of the church’s life, but the
evangelical church today has separated Scripture from its
authoritative function. In practice, the church is guided, far too
often, by the culture. Therapeutic technique, marketing
strategies, and the beat of the entertainment world often have far
more to say about what the church wants, how it functions and
what it offers, than does the Word of God.

"Pastors have neglected their rightful oversight of worship, including the doctrinal content of the music. As biblical authority has been abandoned in practice, as its truths have faded from Christian consciousness, and as its doctrines have lost their saliency, the church has been increasingly emptied of its integrity, moral authority and direction.

"Rather than adapting Christian faith to satisfy the felt needs of
consumers, we must proclaim the law as the only measure of true
righteousness and the gospel as the only announcement of saving
truth. Biblical truth is indispensable to the church’s
understanding, nurture and discipline.

"Scripture must take us beyond our perceived needs to our real
needs and liberate us from seeing ourselves through the
seductive images, cliches, promises and priorities of mass
culture. It is only in the light of God’s truth that we understand
ourselves aright and see God’s provision for our need.

"The Bible, therefore, must be taught and preached in the church. Sermons must be expositions of the Bible and its teachings, not expressions of the preacher’s opinions or the ideas of the age.
We must settle for nothing less than what God has given.

"The work of the Holy Spirit in personal experience cannot be
disengaged from Scripture. The Spirit does not speak in ways
that are independent of Scripture. Apart from Scripture we would
never have known of God’s grace in Christ. The biblical Word,
rather than spiritual experience, is the test of truth."

Critique of N.T. Wright's Lastest Book

Theological scholar Douglas Wilson has been doing a helpful, balanced review and critique of N.T. Wright's latest book, in which he responds to those (like John Piper) who have criticized his view of justification (etc.).

It's on his blog, "Blog and Mablog" -- look for the topic entries "N.T. Wrights and Wrongs."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"On Christ, and what he has done..."

“On Christ, and what he has done, my soul hangs for time and eternity. And if your soul also hangs there, it will be saved as surely as mine shall be. And if you are lost trusting in Christ, I will be lost with you and will go to hell with you. I must do so, for I have nothing else to rely upon but the fact that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived, died, was buried, rose again, went to heaven, and still lives and pleads for sinners at the right hand of God.”

- Charles Spurgeon
posted at "Of First Importance"

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Spirit and Word

It is through the Word of God that the Spirit works, so that ‘spiritual’ does not mean that which is vague and inaccessible and unknowable. It means ‘related to the Holy Spirit.’ And the Spirit works by the inscripturated Word he inspired. It is a Word/message that can be heard, read, studied, considered, explained, proclaimed, believed and obeyed.

It is by His Word that God creates, sustains, calls, saves, sanctifies, guides, revives, judges….

And so Spirit-filled/controlled means Word-filled/controlled (Eph.5:18; Col.3:16). And that is why ‘fundamental’ Christians of the past (and present) who may not have overtly emphasized the work of the Spirit, were nevertheless Spirit-filled people with Spirit-filled ministries, due to their commitment to learning and living by the Scriptures, focused on the Gospel.

On the other hand, those that were virtually only hearers of the Word, and not doers, or that did not remain truly Gospel-centered (which is the Word rightly interpreted), fossilized into a fundamentalist pharisaism. And Christians more oriented to the charismatic movement, and thus more open to the work of the Spirit, no doubt sometimes in reality quenched his true working among them by a similar disconnect with the Word he had inspired.

That means, too, that insofar as I am deliberately disobeying the Word, I am therefore, at the same time quenching and resisting and grieving the Spirit, and thus diminishing/disrupting his influence in my life.

It must be remembered too that walking by the Spirit, according to the Word/Gospel has as its goal a growing love for God and others (Matt.22:37ff.; Gal.5:16ff.)

Friday, February 13, 2009

'Spirit' versus 'flesh'

While reading John Piper's latest book, "Finally Alive" (see previous post), I was struck by Jesus' words in John 6:63-64, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.”

Or as the Good News Translation puts it, “What gives life is God's Spirit; human power is of no use at all. The words I have spoken to you bring God's life-giving Spirit.”

In worship (John 4:24), in understanding God’s truth (1 Cor.2:12-14), in the pursuit of holiness (Rom.6,8; Gal.5:16ff.), in effective evangelism (Acts 1:8) in the preaching of the gospel (1 Cor.1:18ff.; 2:1-5), in the ministry of the Word (1 Thess.1:4; Eph.5:18; Col.3:16), in leadership (Acts 6:3-4) and fruitful service to others (1 Cor.12:4-7ff.) we must always bear in mind the crucial distinction between ‘flesh’ (what man is, and what man can do, apart from God) and ‘Spirit’ (what God is and what God can do).

First it is crucial to really recognize the significance of that absolute distinction between Spirit and flesh in terms of what can be achieved/given when it comes to ‘life.’ (Cp. Jn.3:5-6)

Then it is crucial to see the connection between Spirit/life and Jesus’ words. Only what is Scriptural is Spirit-ual. What is unscriptural is fleshly/carnal. The Holy Spirit consistently works through the powerful words he inspired (2 Tim.3:16; 2 Pet.1:21).

And true life comes when the words of Jesus are received with faith/believing (Rom.10:17; 1 Pet.1:23-25).

When Christians and churches fail to take the ‘flesh vs. Spirit’ distinction seriously, a whole range of fatal mistakes are made (in all the areas listed above). When Christians, including ministry leaders, imagine that they can do 'in the flesh' (with human methods and techniques) what only God the Spirit can do, man-made results are substituted for authentic, lasting spiritual fruit.

"Finally Alive" (John Piper's new book about the new birth)

John Piper's new book on the new birth--"Finally Alive"--is now available.

Here are just a few endorsments for this important, helpful book:

“Regeneration, or new birth, meaning simply the new you through, with, in, and under Christ, is a largely neglected theme today, but this fine set of sermons, criss-crossing the New Testament data with great precision, goes far to fill the gap. Highly recommended.
- J .I. Packer, Professor of Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, Canada

“When I was a boy my grandmother asked me, ‘Have you been born again?’ Though I didn’t understand what she meant at the time, that question led to my conversion to Christ. In this wonderful book, Pastor John Piper rescues the term ‘born again’ from the abuse and overuse to which it is subject in our culture today. This is a fresh presentation of the evangelical doctrine of the new birth, a work filled with theological insight and pastoral wisdom.”
- Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

“I cannot too strongly celebrate the publication of this book. Owing in part to several decades of dispute over justification and how a person is set right with God, we have tended to neglect another component of conversion no less important. Conversion under the terms of the new covenant is more than a matter of position and status in Christ, though never less: it includes miraculous Spirit-given transformation, something immeasurably beyond mere human resolution. It is new birth; it makes us new creatures; it demonstrates that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. All the creedal orthodoxy in the world cannot replace it. The reason why “You must be born again” is so important is that you must be born again."
- D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

The book is available through Desiring God Ministries, Westminster Bookstore, Amazon...

Christ's Resurrection: "Nothing Else Matters"

“If Christ is risen, nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen— nothing else matters.”

—Among the last words of Jaroslav Pelikan (1923-2006)
posted at "Of First Importance"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Assumed Evangelicalism: Some reflections en route to denying the gospel

from David Gibson, postgraduate student & editor of

"We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." Hebrews 2:1


You may have heard the story of the Mennonite Brethren movement. One particular analysis goes like this: the first generation believed and proclaimed the gospel and thought that there were certain social entailments. The next generation assumed the gospel and advocated the entailments. The third generation denied the gospel and all that were left were the entailments. [1]

Another story. In 1919, Trinity Great Court in Cambridge saw a meeting between Rollo Pelly, the Secretary of the liberal Student Christian Movement, and Daniel Dick and Norman Grubb (President and Secretary of the evangelical Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union). The meeting was to discuss the re-unification of the two movements that had split in 1910. Norman Grubb's account of the meeting is infamous:

After an hour's talk, I asked Rollo point blank, 'Does the SCM put the atoning blood of Jesus Christ central?' He hesitated, and then said, 'Well, we acknowledge it, but not necessarily central.' Dan Dick and I then said that this settled the matter for us in the CICCU. We could never join something that did not maintain the atoning blood of Jesus Christ at its centre; and we parted company.' [2]

In its earliest days the SCM believed and proclaimed the atoning blood of Jesus. The next generation assumed it but did not make it central. The following generations have rejected and denied the apostolic gospel. [3]

Proclaiming, assuming, denying. This description of a movement's history is admittedly something of a caricature - any such development would always be the result of many complex factors. Nevertheless, it is a useful way of attempting to identify defining decisions that profoundly shape a movement's evolution and it has lessons for us about the dangers and challenges facing other similar movements.....

(Read the entire article.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wanting Meaning on Our Own Terms

James Davison Hunter shows us something of the moral confusion that results from being made in the image of God on the one hand and sinfully suppressing the knowledge of God on the other. Morally, and in every other way, fallen humanity is a house divided against itself.

"We want character but without unyielding conviction; we want strong morality but without the emotional burden of guilt or shame; we want virtue but without particular moral justifications that invariably offend; we want good without having to name evil; we want decency without the authority to insist upon it; we want moral community without any limitations to personal freedom. In short, we want what we cannot possibly have on the terms that we want it."

~ The Death of Character: Moral Education in an Age Without Good or Evil (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2000), xv.
posted at "The Big Picture"

The Authority of Jesus

Jesus came and said to the disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

“The authority of Jesus cannot be validated by reference to some other authority that is already accepted. The naming of this name calls for nothing less than a fresh and radical decision about one’s ultimate commitment.”

- Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret, Rev. Ed. (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 1995), 15.
The Big Picture)

Monday, February 9, 2009

God-exalting Worship at a Memorial Service

Today I attended an extraordinary memorial service for the Rev. Dan Cummings, pastor of Five Points Community Church in Auburn Hills, MI. It seems to me that all that was said that honored Dan clearly was an act of praise to God for what His grace and truth had produced in his life and ministry. Each of the ‘tributes’ (testimonies) from friends, fellow-workers and especially his kids were so powerfully Christ-exalting and gospel-of-grace centered. (The letter he wrote his kids on the eve of his cancer treatment was one of the most moving, and theologically wise, expressions of parental guidance I’ve ever heard.)

The music was just right too, full of rich Biblical truth and marked by the best kind of emotive expression.

And the entire service came to its climax in the funeral message brought by Dr. James Grier (who has for years been a mentor to Dan, and to me, and to so many others). His declaration and description of the Gospel was God-exaltingly beautiful, true, convicting and comforting all at the same time.

I can’t remember being more moved by a message in particular or a service of worship as a whole than I was today. Please pray for Pastor Dan's wife and kids, and for the church family at Five Points. And pray for the impact of this powerful memorial service, and for the ongoing fruitfulness of Pastor Cumming's faithful, Christ-honoring ministry.

At the heart of that ministry and legacy was this central question: do you love Jesus more than anyone or anything else?

Reminder: "Magnifying God...." conference

South Church is teaming up with University Reformed Church (and other area churches) for a conference celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of Reformer, theologian and pastor, John Calvin. The focus of the conference will be the importance of Biblical truth and gospel-centered theology for Christians and churches today.

For information (or to register), you can go to the conference website. The conference will be held at Univ. Reformed Church on Friday and Saturday, February 20-21.

The primary speaker will be "Christianity Today" editor-at-large, Collin Hansen, author of "Reformed and Restless: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists." (Yours truly will also be presenting a seminar, "Calvin for the Whole Church: His Influence Among Baptists, Anglicans and Beyond.")

Saturday, February 7, 2009

'You will know them by their fruit...'

Yesterday I attended a memorial service for a godly Christian lady who went to be with the Lord at 92 years of age. Her Christ-centered, Bible-based, Spirit-led faith led her to be a loving wife and mother (and then grandmother and greatgrandmother). She served the Lord for decades in evangelism and Bible teaching.

She worked hard with the family business and even harder to care for her family.

She led many to faith in Christ, and by the end of her life, her family and friends loved her deeply and profoundly appreciated the legacy and example of love for God and for the gospel and for other people that she left behind.

Her life adorned the Gospel, because the Gospel had shaped her life.

So in the midst of all the new movements and perspectives pressing in on the evangelical church today, with the accompanying criticisms and calls for profound change, I think it's worth remembering that for this godly lady, and for so many, many people like her, it was the historic, orthodox, evangelical Biblical faith that transformed her into such an authentic follower of Jesus Christ.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Power of the Cross in Sanctification

“One moment’s believing, close contact with the cross will do more to break the heart for sin, deepen the conviction of its exceeding sinfulness, and disenthrall the soul from all its bondage and its fears, bringing it into a sense of pardon and acceptance and assured hope, than a lifetime of the most rigid legal duties that ever riveted their iron chain upon the soul.”

—Octavius Winslow, The Foot of the Cross

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Carl Trueman on "Virtual Friendships," Blogging, etc.

A very brief excerpt: "...while they may be a phenomena, I am not sure that the success of things like Facebook, texting etc. is entirely to be welcomed. True, there are advantages: for example, families and friends living at a distance can exchange photos and news with ease; but a touch of skepticism about these wonderful new webservices is perhaps overdue."

Read his entire essay.

HT: Justin Taylor

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Biblical Words, Beliefs, Transformation and Mission

The Gospel is a message and it is news that is to heralded and communicated in words by faithful ambassadors/stewards/heralds who are scrupulously concerned to tell the message of reconciliation faithfully (or else they are disqualified from functioning in that role). The saving, transforming Gospel is “the word of the cross.” (2 Cor.5:19-20; 2 Tim.1:11; 1 Cor.1:1:18).

Evangelical Christians have an incorrigible connection with words and beliefs rooted in the fact that the God of the Bible is a speaking (Heb.1:1ff.) and writing (Dt.32:16) God who chose to communicate to his covenant people through prophets and apostles. And so through Moses we hear, “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life.” (Dt.32:45ff.) And David rhapsodizes regarding the transformational power of the words of God (commandments, precepts, statutes) in Psalms 19 and 119.

And it was the Lord Jesus himself who, when he encountered those who no longer wanted to follow him because they were offended by the specific and theological “Jesus facts” he had spoken to them, turned to the twelve and asked, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Their reply is relevant to the discussion here: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (Jn.6:60-69)

The words of Jesus were the catalyst for their believing and their knowing, a knowing that was rich with content, and a believing that was the essential motivation for their following.
I think the reason evangelicals resist every trend or attempt to disconnect inscripturated words from life/transformation/mission is that we have come to believe, from Jesus himself, that the words of Scripture are living words that foster the faith and transformation that they describe and inspire.

No wonder then that Paul counsels the new covenant people of God too, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…” (Col.3:16). And the writer to the Hebrews reminds us that if ongoing conversion and transformation is indeed going to take place in our midst, it will happen in connection with the penetrating power of the living and active word of God (Heb.4:12).

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Emergents and Exegesis

Recently I've been commenting on Michael Wittmer's blog, engaging with an emergent philosophy professor from Calvin College. To be honest, my interactions with him have led me to question, even more deeply than before, whether the emergent/emerging movements are committed to careful exegesis of Scripture as they formulate and communicate their ideas. I say this after reading to a modest but meaningful degree authors (and bloggers) like Brian McLaren and Rob Bell.

Titus 1:9 and 2 Timothy 2:15 come to mind.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Kevin DeYoung's Book and Blog

Previously I have recommented the book, "Why We're Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be)" -- the authors are Kevin DeYoung (a friend of mine who is pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing) and Ted Kluck (a member at URC and an author of three previous books, also writing for ESPN the Magazine, etc.).

This is a very good book for understanding the serious concerns related to the emergent/ing church/movement. The authors focus on the weaknesses of the movement (although noting some strengths too), and they do so in a fair (and often funny) way that is easy to understand.So if you've been wondering what the Emergent Church is all about, and why some (like me) are so concerned about its serious flaws, this is a great book to read.

Kevin is a good friend, so I was happy to see that his book was selected for "Christianity Today" magazine's best book award in the category of The Church/Pastoral Leadership.

Kevin has also started a blog of his own with the clever (OK, that might be debatable) name, "DeYoung, Restless and Reformed."

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Same Message That Jesus Declared

“Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.”

- Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God
posted at "Of First Importance"