Friday, December 31, 2010

The whole world worships

"...the whole world, Christian and non-Christian, worships. Everyone bows down before something; everyone adores someone or something to the point of surrendering to it and being mastered by it..."

-- Harold M. Best, "Music Through the Eyes of Faith"

Thursday, December 30, 2010

" justly..."

"We do justice when we give all human beings their due as creations of God. Doing justice includes not only the righting of wrongs, but generosity and social concern, especially towards the poor and vulnerable. This kind of life reflects the character of God...."

-- Tim Keller, "Generous Justice...."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Where your heart is...

"The disposition of one's possessions signifies the disposition of one's heart." - Joel Green

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Be Strong in His Grace

"You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:1

“First, then, there is a call to be strong. Timothy was weak; Timothy was timid. Yet he was called to a position of leadership in the church – and in an area in which Paul’s authority was rejected. It is as if Paul said to him, ‘Listen Timothy, never mind what other people say, never mind what other people think, never mind what other people do; you are to be strong. Never mind how shy you feel, never mind how weak you feel; you are to be strong.’ That is the first thing.

Second, you are to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. If the exhortation had simply been ‘be strong,’ it would have been absurd indeed. You might as well tell a snail to be quick or a horse to fly as to tell a weak man to be strong or a shy man to be brave. But Paul’s calling Timothy to fortitude is a Christian and not a stoical exhortation. Timothy was not to be strong in himself. He was not just to grit his teeth and clench his fists and set his jaw. No, he was, as the Greek literally means, to be strengthened with the grace that is in Christ Jesus, to find his resources for Christian service not in his own nature but in the grace of Jesus Christ.”

John Stott, Urbana 1967. Italics original.

Grace is not an excuse for weakness; it is an endless resource for strength.

HT: Justin Taylor.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Our Threefold Duty to the Gospel

from John Stott...

The gospel is good news of salvation. It was promised from eternity, was secured and purchased by Jesus Christ, and is now offered to friends.

First, we must communicate it faithfully, we shall undoubtedly suffer for it.

And when we suffer for it, we shall be tempted to trim it and to eliminate the elements that provoke opposition.

So then, third, and above all, we must guard it against every possible corruption, keeping it pure whatever the cost.

Guard it faithfully, spread it actively, suffer for it bravely—that is our threefold duty.

You can read below transcripts of Stott’s expositions of each chapter of 2 Timothy along these lines, first delivered over 40 years ago:

  1. Guard the Gospel
  2. Suffer for the Gospel
  3. Continue in the Gospel
  4. Preach the Gospel

In his final message Stott summarizes the exhortations of 2 Timothy as follows:

Guard it—the gospel is a treasure;
Suffer for it—the gospel is an offense to the people;
Be willing to suffer for it—the gospel is profitable;
Continue in it—proclaim it, for the gospel is good news.

HT: Justin Taylor

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Immanuel -- God with us

‘Immanuel, God with us.’ It is hell’s terror. Satan trembles at the sound of it. . . . Let him come to you suddenly, and do you but whisper that word, ‘God with us,’ back he falls, confounded and confused. . . . ‘God with us’ is the laborer’s strength. How could he preach the gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, how could the confessor own his Master, how could men labor if that one word were taken away? . . . ‘God with us’ is eternity’s sonnet, heaven’s hallelujah, the shout of the glorified, the song of the redeemed, the chorus of the angels, the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky. . . .

"Feast, Christians, feast; you have a right to feast. . . . But in your feasting, think of the Man in Bethlehem. Let him have a place in your hearts, give him the glory, think of the virgin who conceived him, but think most of all of the Man born, the Child given.

"I finish by again saying, A happy Christmas to you all!

-- C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of the Old Testament (London, n.d.), III:430.

HT: Ray Ortlund

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Make every effort...."

“Holiness and work are also closely related, especially the work of nurturing and persevering in personal discipline. Discipline takes time and effort. Paul exhorted Timothy, ‘Exercise they self rather unto godliness’ (1 Tim. 4:7). Holiness is not achieved sloppily or instantaneously. Holiness is a call to a disciplined life; it cannot live out what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace – that is, grace which forgives without demanding repentance and obedience. Holiness is costly grace – grace that cost God the blood of His Son, cost the Son His own life, and costs the believer daily mortification so that , like Paul, he dies daily (1 Cor. 15:31). Gracious holiness calls for continual commitment, continual diligence, continual practice, and continual repentance.”

-- Dr. Joel R. Beeke (Puritan Reformed Spirituality – Cultivating Holiness; p409)

(compare Titus 2:11ff.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

One Glorious Salvation

"All that Christ did and suffered, from the manger to the tomb, forms one glorious whole, no part of which shall ever become needless or obsolete; no part of which one can ever leave without forsaking the whole.

"I am always at the manger, and yet I know that mere incarnation cannot save; always at Gethsemane, and yet I believe that its agony was not the finished work; always at the cross, with my face toward it, and my eye on the crucified One, and yet I am persuaded that the sacrifice there was completed once for all; always looking into the grave, though I rejoice that it is empty, and that ‘He is not here, but is risen’; always resting (with the angel) on the stone that was rolled away, and handling the grave-clothes, and realizing a risen Christ, nay, an ascended and interceding Lord, yet on no pretext whatever leaving any part of my Lord’s life or death behind me, but unceasingly keeping up my connection with Him, as born, living, dying, buried, and rising again, and drawing out from each part some new blessing every day and hour.

— Horatius Bonar, "Not Faith, But Christ"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

This Age will give way to the Age to Come

The central and simple message of the New Testament is that the promised age to come has dawned, the promised victory over what has emptied life of meaning and filled it with confusion and dismay has been won.… Were it not for the resurrection, Paul suggests, abandoning ourselves to a life of empty party-making and a fatalistic sense of doom would be quite logical.

There is no hope in ‘this age.’ It lies under the judgment of God. It is all, despite its brilliance, now dying. It has no future. It can offer many pleasurable experiences, many momentary distractions, but it is doomed. It has no long-term future and can offer no meaning besides what it manufactures for the moment, which is as fleeting as the morning mist.

— David F. Wells
The Courage to Be Protestant
(Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 2008), 203

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas, Kingdom and the Consummation

John Piper (1981):

Creation out of nothing was an awesome event. Imagine what the angelic spirits must have felt when the universe, material reality of which they had never imagined, was brought forth out of nothing by the command of God.

The fall was an awful event, shaking the entire creation.

The exodus was an amazing display of God’s power and love.

The giving of the law, the wilderness provisions, the conquering of Canaan, the prosperity of the monarchy—all these acts of God in redemptive history were very great and wonderful. Each one was a very significant bend in the river of redemptive history, bringing it ever and ever closer to the ocean of God’s final kingdom.

But we trivialize Christmas, the incarnation, if we treat it as just another bend on the way to the end. It is the end of redemptive history.

And I think the analogy of the river helps us see how.

Picture the river as redemptive history flowing toward the ocean which is the final kingdom of God, full of glory and righteousness and peace. At the end of the river the ocean presses up into the river with its salt water. Therefore, at the mouth of the river there is a mingling of fresh water and salt water. One might say that the kingdom of God has pressed its way back up into the river of time a short way. It has surprised the travelers and taken them off guard. They can smell the salt water. They can taste the salt water. The sea gulls circle the deck. The end has come upon them.

Christmas is not another bend in the river. It is the arrival of the salt water of the kingdom of God which has backed up into the river of history. With the coming of Christmas, the ocean of the age to come has reached backward up the stream of history to welcome us, to wake us up to what is coming, to lure us on into the deep.

Christmas is not another bend in the river of history. It is the end of the river. Let down your dipper and taste of Jesus Christ, his birth and life and death and resurrection. Taste and see if the age to come has not arrived, if the kingdom has not come upon us. Does it not make your eyes sparkle?

HT: Justin Taylor

Sunday, December 19, 2010

'Don't presume to be the governor of the world...'

"...When Melanchton was oppressed with cares and doubts about the distracting affairs of the church in his time, Luther thus chides him out of his not thou presume to be the governor of the world, but leave the reins of government in his hands that made it, and best knows how to rule it." (cited by Jerry Bridges)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Simplicity in our search for God

“If we would find God amid all the religious externals, we must first determine to find him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity. Now as always God discovers himself to ‘babes’ and hides himself in thick darkness from the wise and the prudent. We must simplify our approach to him. We must strip down to essentials, and they will be found to be blessedly few. We must put away all effort to impress and come with the guileless candor of childhood.”

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (London, 1961), page 18.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Irrationality of Our Sinful Autonomy

"Paul tells us in Romans 1:18-32 that human beings know God clearly from his revelation to them in creation, but that nevertheless they choose to repress this knowledge and exchange it for a lie. How could anyone imagine that contradicting the Master of the universe could be a wise decision?"

-- John Frame, "The Doctrine of the Word of God" (P&R), p. 16

Monday, December 13, 2010

"We are not yet what we shall be..."

"This life, therefore,
is not righteousness but growth in righteousness,
not health but healing,
not being but becoming,
not rest but exercise.
We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it.
The process is not yet finished, but it is going on.
This is not the end but it is the road.
All does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified."

-- Martin Luther, “Defense and Explanation of All the Articles,” Second Article (1521).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Luther: "we are to be 'little Christs' to our neighbors"

"As Christ demonstrated his kingship and power by death on the cross, so the believer does so by giving himself or herself unconditionally to the aid of others. We are to be, as Luther puts it, 'little Christs' to our neighbors, for in so doing we find our true identity as children of God."

-- Carl Trueman

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Authentic Spiritual Warfare

Justin Taylor's intro to his helpful post focusing on the teaching of David Powlison...

Several years ago I read David Powlison’s book, Power Encounters: Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare. (Sadly, no longer in print—though I believe a second edition may be forthcoming.) I found it extremely helpful and persuasive. I took notes, and thought it might be worth posting them....

You can read the rest here.

Conversion is no small matter...

“Conversion is another kind of work than most are aware of. It is not a small matter to bring an earthly mind to heaven and to show man the amiable excellencies of God, to be taken up in such love to him that can never be quenched; to make him flee for refuge to Christ and thankfully embrace him as the life of his soul; to have the very drift and bent of his life change so that a man renounces that which he took for happiness, and places his happiness where he never did before.”

Richard Baxter( Puritan Evangelism; A Biblical Approach; p. 48)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Three Things Are True of Someone Truly Saved

Kevin DeYoung reflects on a key insight of J.C. Ryle...

J.C. Ryle:

There are three things which, according to the Bible, are absolutely necessary to the salvation of every man and woman in Christendom.

Ok, don’t read on yet. What do you think the three things are? Keep in mind he doesn’t say three “grounds” for salvation or that we are saved on the basis of each one. But Ryle believes every true Christian will have these three things. What are the three?

These three are justification, regeneration, and sanctification. All three meet in ever child of God: he is both born again, and justified, and sanctified. He that lacks any one of these three things is not a true Christian in the sight of God, and, dying in that condition, will not be found in heaven and glorified in the last day.

If Ryle is right, we would do well to have these three things as three of the great themes in our churches. How are we doing?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Amazing Savior...Amazing Grace

"How astonishing is it that a person who is blessed forever and is infinitely and essentially happy should endure the greatest sufferings that ever were endured on earth! That a person who is the supreme Lord and Judge of the world should be arraigned and should stand at the judgment seat of mortal worms and then be condemned. That a person who is the living God and the fountain of life should be put to death. That a person who created the world and gives life to all his creatures should be put to death by his own creatures. That a person of infinite majesty and glory, and so the object of the love, praises and adoration of angels, should be mocked and spit upon by the vilest of men. That a person infinitely good and who is love itself should suffer the greatest cruelty. That person who is infinitely beloved of the Father should be put to inexpressible anguish under his own Father’s wrath. That he who is the King of heaven, who has heaven for his throne and earth for his footstool, should be buried in the prison of the grave. How wonderful is this! And yet this is the way that God’s wisdom has fixed upon as the way of sinners’ salvation, as neither unsuitable nor dishonorable to Christ.”

-- Jonathan Edwards, “The Wisdom of God Displayed in the Way of Salvation,” in Works (Edinburgh, 1979), II:144.

HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Monday, December 6, 2010

"What we owe the poor..."

In this CT Online interview, Tim Keller, the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, says seeking justice is not optional for the person saved by grace.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Justification and Sanctification Always Go Together

“If we say we have faith, but no works follow, that is clear evidence that our faith is not genuine. True faith always produces real conformity to Christ. If justification happens to us, then sanctification will surely follow. If there is no sanctification, it means that there never was any justification.” – R.C. Sproul (The Holiness of God, p.166, 2nd Rev.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Trusting God Alone

“Pseudo-faith always arranges a way out to serve in case God fails it. Real faith knows only one way and gladly allows itself to be stripped of any second way or makeshift substitutes. For true faith, it is either God or total collapse. And not since Adam first stood up on the earth has God failed a single man or woman who trusted him.”

A. W. Tozer, “True Faith Brings Committal,” In The Root of the Righteous (Harrisburg, 1955), pages 49-50.

What are you doing, in obedience to the Word of God, that positions you for either God or total collapse?

-- from Ray Ortlund

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Spirit's Persuasive Work

"God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Romans 5:5

“The Comforter gives a sweet and plentiful evidence and persuasion of the love of God to us, such as the soul is taken, delighted, satiated withal. This is his work, and he doth it effectually. To give a poor sinful soul a comfortable persuasion, affecting it throughout, in all its faculties and affections, that God in Jesus Christ loves him, delights in him, is well pleased with him, hath thoughts of tenderness and kindness towards him; to give, I say, a soul an overflowing sense hereof, is an inexpressible mercy.”

John Owen, Works (Edinburgh, 1980), II:240.

-- from Ray Ortlund

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Season Devotional

From the faculty of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary...

"The season of Advent has traditionally been a time of preparation for Christians. During the four weeks leading up to Christmas, we have looked forward toward the second coming of Jesus Christ, even as we celebrated His first coming as a child in the manger. The faculty of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary are again pleased to have prepared 27 daily meditations for use from the Sunday after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve. Our hope is that you would be fulfilled and edified as you contemplate God's goodness, provision and mercy. If you would like to receive this daily email devotional, please fill out the form on this page. (We will not sell or release your information.)

"Please join us as we Journey to the Manger."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

President Obama's Thanksgiving Proclamation

Here's a brief excerpt:

"...As Americans gather for the time-honored Thanksgiving Day meal, let us rejoice in the abundance that graces our tables, in the simple gifts that mark our days, in the loved ones who enrich our lives, and in the gifts of a gracious God...."

You can read the entire proclamation here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Blessing of Gratitude

A good meditation for Thanksgiving Day: "Why Jesus commands us to be thankful" by Stan Guthrie

Christ Saves Completely

"Because Christ lived perfectly, died sufficiently, and rose victoriously, you and I can come out of hiding. We are free to own up to, without fear, the darkest of our thoughts and motives, the ugliest of our words, our most selfish choices, and our most rebellious and unloving actions. We are freed from our bondage to guilt and shame. We are freed from hiding behind accusation, blame, recrimination, and rationalization.

"Confession is powerful and effective. It turns guilt into forgiveness. It turns regret into hope. It turns slavery into freedom. It turns you from mourning over your harvest to planting new seeds of faith, repentance, and hope. You see, you are not trapped! Things are not hopeless! The Lord, the great Creator and Savior, is the God who never changes, but at the same time he is the God who promises and produces deep personal change. The changes he makes in us are so foundational that the Bible’s best words describing them are ‘new creation.’ God’s plan is to change us so fundamentally that it is as if we are no longer us; something brand new has been created!"

— Paul David Tripp
Lost in the Middle: Midlife and the Grace of God
(Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd Press, 2004), 124

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"A Hole in Our Holiness"

A good post from Kevin DeYoung.... Here's the gist:

"I have a growing concern that younger evangelicals do not take seriously the Bible’s call to personal holiness. We are too at peace with worldliness in our homes, too at ease with sin in our lives, too content with spiritual immaturity in our churches."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Preachers who desire nothing but God...

“No, Aleck, no! The danger of ruin to Methodism does not lie here. It springs from quite a different quarter. Our preachers, many of them, are fallen. They are not spiritual. They are not alive to God. They are soft, enervated, fearful of shame, toil, hardship. . . . Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven upon earth.”

John Wesley, writing at age 87 to Alexander Mather, quoted in Luke Tyerman, The Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley (London, 1871), III:632.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Faith, leading to informed obedience

D.A. Carson shares an insightful meditation on 1 Chronicles 15, leading to this conclusion...

"...Here is a profound lesson. At one level, doubtless God approves childlike praise and enthusiastic zeal. But he expects those with authority among his people to know what his Word says and obey it. No amount of enthusiasm and zeal can ever hope to make up for this lack. Zeal that is heading in the wrong direction never reaches the goal. It must either be redirected in the direction staked out in God’s Word, or however enthusiastic, it is still wrong-headed and misdirected. There is no substitute for faith working itself out in informed obedience."

Friday, November 19, 2010

"We care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering..."

From John Piper’s address to the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization:

One truth is that when the gospel takes root in our souls it impels us out toward the alleviation of all unjust suffering in this age. That’s what love does!

The other truth is that when the gospel takes root in our souls it awakens us to the horrible reality of eternal suffering in hell, under the wrath of a just and omnipotent God. And it impels us to rescue the perishing, and to warn people to flee from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10).

I plead with you. Don’t choose between those two truths. Embrace them both. It doesn’t mean we all spend our time in the same way. God forbid. But it means we let the Bible define reality and define love.

Could Lausanne say—could the evangelical church say—we Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering? I hope we can say that. But if we feel resistant to saying “especially eternal suffering,” or if we feel resistant to saying “we care about all suffering in this age,” then either we have a defective view of hell or a defective heart.

I pray that Lausanne would have neither.

HT: Justin Taylor

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Justin Taylor outlines a thoughtful article from Ted Turnau on how to partake in, engage, and respond to pop culture.

Whatever else popular culture is, it is not trivial, because it is an expression of faith and worship.
  • Not all popular culture is equally meaningful.
  • Not every piece of popular culture is appropriate for engagement.
  • Popular culture works by creating imaginative landscapes for us to inhabit.
  • When thinking about a piece of popular culture, it pays to know the tricks of the trade.
  • Every piece of popular culture is a complicated mixture of grace and idolatry.
  • Think carefully about how to undermine the idol, and how the gospel applies to the piece of popular culture you’re sharing with friends.
  • Look for occasions where you can experience popular culture together with friends and family (both Christian and non-Christian).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why Jesus Came

“Jesus Christ came to blind those who saw clearly, and to give sight to the blind; to heal the sick, and leave the healthy to die; to call to repentance and to justify sinners, and to leave the righteous in their sins; to fill the needy, and leave the rich empty.”

-- Pascal, Thoughts (New York, 1910), #771.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New Online Bible Study Resource

The folks at Lifeway Publishing have produced an impressive new online Bible study resource (using the Holman Christian Standard Bible). You can find it at

Monday, November 15, 2010

Looking forward in faith...

“It is one of the devil’s oldest tricks to discourage Christian believers by causing them to look back at what they once were. It is indeed the enemy of our souls who makes us forget that we are never at the end of God’s love. No one will make progress with God until the eyes are lifted to the faithfulness of God and we stop looking at ourselves! Our instructions in the New Testament all add up to the necessity of looking forward in faith-and not spending our time looking back or just looking within.” -- A.W. Tozer

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Christ's Hope for the Hopeless

Whatever a man’s past life may have been, there is hope and a remedy for him in Christ. If he is only willing to hear Christ’s voice and follow Him, Christ is willing to receive him at once as a friend, and to bestow on him the fullest measure of mercy and grace. The Samaritan woman, the penitent thief, the Philippian jailor, the tax-collector Zaccheus, are all patterns of Christ’s readiness to show mercy, and to confer full and immediate pardons. It is His glory that, like a great physician, He will undertake to cure those who are apparently incurable, and that none are too bad for Him to love and heal. Let these things sink down into our hearts. Whatever else we doubt, let us never doubt that Christ’s love to sinners passes knowledge, and that Christ is as willing to receive as He is almighty to save.

~ J.C. Ryle

Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John, volume 1, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1987], 207, 208.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Grumblers in the Refiner's Fire"

Kevin DeYoung is a clear, relevant teacher of God's Word. On his own blog he's been doing a series from the Book of Malachi. Here's an excerpt:

"You have wearied the Lord with your words." (Malachi 2:17)

"God’s people have a history of grumbling. Things were no different in Malachi’s day. In this fourth argument, the people voiced two main grumbles against God. “First, Lord, you’re treating the bad guys like the good guys. Second, you’re sitting in heaven doing nothing when you should come and judge the wicked.” They wanted the God of the ten plagues and Mt. Carmel to zap their enemies. It’s not that they were consumed with zeal for the Lord’s glory. They just wanted their problems to go away. So they grumbled.

"We are grumblers too. We’re too busy, too bored, we don’t have enough money, we’re not appreciated, we don’t like our church, our sports teams stink, we don’t look good, don’t feel good, we’re too skinny, too fat, too short, too tall, our clothes are worn out, our car’s a lemon, we’re single and we wish were married, we’re married and we wish we had kids, we have kids and we wish we could be single again. We moan and murmur like a whiney two year old.

"But God calls us to patience and longsuffering. And he calls us to confidence too. When we are assured that God is working all things according to his good purpose, we are freed to 'do everything with grumbling or complaining' (Philippians 2:14)."

You can read the entire blog post here.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"...enjoy Him forever."

"If I were to ask you why you have believed in Christ, why you have become Christians, every man will answer truly, 'For the sake of happiness.'"


Monday, November 8, 2010

"The thing just isn't there."

Behold, they are all a delusion;
their works are nothing;
their metal images are empty wind. Isaiah 41:29

“I think one may be quite rid of the old haunting suspicion — which raises its head in every temptation — that there is something else than God, some other country into which he forbids us to trespass, some kind of delight which he ‘doesn’t appreciate’ or just chooses to forbid, but which would be real delight if only we were allowed to get it. The thing just isn’t there. Whatever we desire is either what God is trying to give us as quickly as he can, or else a false picture of what he is trying to give us, a false picture which would not attract us for a moment if we saw the real thing. . . . He knows what we want, even in our vilest acts. He is longing to give it to us. . . . The truth is that evil is not a real thing at all, like God. It is simply good spoiled. . . . You know what the biologists mean by a parasite — an animal that lives on another animal. Evil is a parasite. It is there only because good is there for it to spoil and confuse.”

-- C. S. Lewis, in Walter Hooper, editor, They Stand Together (New York, 1979), page 465. Italics original.

HT: Ray Ortlund

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Are you still amazed by grace?

“Being amazed by God’s grace is a sign of spiritual vitality. It is a litmus test of how firm and real is our grasp of the Christian gospel and how close is our walk with Jesus Christ. The growing Christian finds that the grace of God astonishes and amazes.”

- Sinclair B. Ferguson, By Grace Alone (Orlando, Fl.; Reformation Trust Publishing, 2010), xiv.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pray for the Advance of the Gospel

Prayer is one of the best and most powerful means of helping forward the cause of Christ in the world. It is a means within the reach of all who have the Spirit of adoption. Not all believers have money to give to missions. Very few have great intellectual gifts, or extensive influence among men. But all believers can pray for the success of the Gospel, and they ought to pray for it daily. Many and marvelous are the answers to prayer which are recorded for our learning in the Bible. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16.)

~ J.C. Ryle

Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke volume 1, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1986], 345.

"Be Prepared" (for college profs....)

R.C. Sproul gives some helpful advice to young people and their parents about what typically can happen as Christian students encounter professors hostile to Christian belief....

Thursday, November 4, 2010

All Legislation is Moral

Micah Watson—William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Affairs at the James Madison Program at Princeton University and Director of the Center for Politics & Religion at Union University—has a helpful essay today on “Why We Can’t Help But Legislate Morality.”

Here’s the conclusion:

To legislate, then, is to legislate morality. One can no more avoid legislating morality than one can speak without syntax. One cannot sever morality from the law. Even partisans of the most spartan libertarian conception of the state would themselves employ state power to enforce their vision of the common good. Given this understanding, the term “morals legislation” is, strictly speaking, redundant. The real question is not whether the political community will legislate morality; the question is which vision of morality will be enforced and by what sort of government.

You can read the whole thing here.

(from Justin Taylor)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

You have to trample on Him to go there...

“The gospel does not say, ‘There is a Savior, if you wish to be saved’; but, ‘Sir, you have no right to go to hell — you cannot go there without trampling on the Son of God.’”

-- John Duncan, quoted in Iain H. Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism (Edinburgh, 1995), page 97.

HT: Ray Ortlund

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

God's children are pleasing to Him...

“God’s children are pleasing and lovable to Him, since He sees in them the marks and features of His own countenance.”

- John Calvin, Institutes, 3.17.5

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Worst Thing That Could Happen to World Evangelization

"...the worst thing that could happen to the future of world evangelization is to bring in 100 million new 'converts' like the last 100 million, since their superficiality obscures rather than reveals the glory of God."

-- S. Douglas Birdsall, the executive director of the Lausanne Movement, describing part of his motivation in working to bring about the third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town (2010). (Cited by Scott Hafemann in "For the Fame of His Name" [Crossway], p. 251, n.19)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Confidence and Allegiance

“By establishing his kingdom, God reveals his glory in the world through creating a people who will obey his commands as an expression of their confidence in his sovereignty.”

-- Scott Hafemann, p. 237 “For the Fame of His Name”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Worship is theology set to music..."

"Worship is theology set to music. The praises of Christ are christology in song since we praise him for who he and for what he has done. Praise is therefore energized and expanded by an increased vision of his accomplishments, and correspondingly limited whenever it fails to show forth the totality of his work."

-- Sinclair Ferguson, "For the Fame of God's Name" (Crossway), p. 186

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Martin Luther's 95 Theses

This Sunday is Reformation Sunday. Here is an interview with Carl Trueman about the event that triggered the Reformation -- Martin Luther's posting of his 95 Theses....

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Song Has Become a Groan

"...Out of God’s own freedom he made creatures in his image; he created us to walk with him, to commune with him as we enjoy his presence and blessing. But we have rejected his love and his
lordship, which has resulted in death and disaster. We have turned from the One to whom we belong. As a result of our sin and rebellion the great song of creation turned into a deafening moan. This rejection of God’s kingship caused a rupture in the entire cosmos, for, if you could hear it, even the rocks and the trees began to cry out against this fissure between the Creator and his creation."

-- Kelly Kapic, "God So Loved He Gave" (Zondervan)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Bible-believing" Churches Aren't Always Shaped by the Bible

"....every Christian must be shaped from the inside out by a set of convictions about who God is and what he has accomplished in Jesus Christ. As Christians we should be animated (given life) and motivated (compelled to action) by a core of doctrinal truths–truths like God is loving, sovereign, and holy; God created the world and created it good; as a result of Adam’s sin humans are bent toward evil; Jesus Christ was God’s Son, begotten not created; Jesus suffered and died on the cross for sins and rose again on the third day; the Holy Spirit is God and fills us with power, enables us to believe, equips us with gifts, and bears fruit in our lives; the Bible is God’s word; Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead, and justification is by faith alone.

"These truths need to be more than a set of beliefs we assume. They should be the lens through which we look at ourselves and the world. There are many Christians and churches that don’t deny any cardinal doctrine of Christian faith, but they still don’t have a theological core. They have, instead, a musty statement of faith they barely understand and hardly believe and wouldn’t dare preach. They are animated and motivated by politics, church growth, relational concerns and the like, but the gospel is merely assumed. “Yes, yes–of course we believe in the Virgin Birth, and the atonement, and the resurrection, and heaven and hell,” they say. But its all periphery, not core. It’s all assumed, not all-consuming. Theologically hollow congregations and pastors may like to think they will bequeath a gospel legacy to the next generation, but the truth is we only pass on what is our passion. New converts and new kids won’t think and live and love like mature Christians, let alone be able to articulate the Christian story, if our beliefs rest in a pamphlet and not in our hearts."

-- Kevin DeYoung

Friday, October 22, 2010

Our conscience is proof that our communion with God has been brokien

Interesting point here by the great Herman Bavinck (Reformed Dogmatics 3:173):

Before the fall, strictly speaking, there was no conscience in humans.

There was no gap between what they were and what they knew they had to be.

Being and self-consciousness were in harmony.

But the fall produced separation.

By the grace of God, humans still retain the consciousness that they ought to be different, that in all respects they must conform to God’s law. But reality witnesses otherwise; they are not who they ought to be. And this witness is the conscience.

The conscience . . . is proof that communion with God has been broken, that there is a gap between God and us, between his law and our state. . . . The human conscience is the subjective proof of humanity’s fall, a witness to human guilt before the face of God.

HT: Tony Reinke; Justin Taylor

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Fear of the Lord

Go here for an excellent, comprehensive survey of the Bible's teaching on the fear of the Lord from the late John Murray (who was professor of theology at Westminster Seminary in PA).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Lord, save me from my sins..."

from Charles Spurgeon:

He shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

Lord, save me from my sins. By the name of Jesus I am encouraged thus to pray. Save me from my past sins, that the habit of them may not hold me captive. Save me from my constitutional sins, that I may not be the slave of my own weaknesses. Save me from the sins which are continually under my eye that I may not lose my horror of them. Save me from secret sins; sins unperceived by me from my want of light. Save me from sudden and surprising sins: let me not be carried off my feet by a rush of temptation. Save me, Lord, from every sin. Let not any iniquity have dominion over me.

Thou alone canst do this. I cannot snap my own chains or slay my own enemies. Thou knowest temptation, for Thou wast tempted. Thou knowest sin, for Thou didst bear the weight of it. Thou knowest how to succor me in my hour of conflict; Thou canst save me from sinning and save me when I have sinned. It is promised in Thy very name that Thou wilt do this, and I pray Thee let me this day verify the prophecy. Let me not give way to temper, or pride, or despondency, or any form of evil; but do Thou save me unto holiness of life, that the name of Jesus may be glorified in me abundantly.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Re-assurance about being remembered....

“He will tend his flock like a shepherd.” Isaiah 40:11

“Jesus, the good shepherd, will not travel at such a rate as to overdrive the lambs. He has tender consideration for the poor and needy. Kings usually look to the interests of the great and the rich, but in the kingdom of our Great Shepherd he cares most for the poor. . . . The weaklings and the sickly of the flock are the special objects of the Savior’s care. . . . You think, dear heart, that you are forgotten, because of your nothingness and weakness and poverty. This is the very reason you are remembered.”

C. H. Spurgeon, Treasury of the Old Testament (London, n.d.), III:575-576.

HT: Ray Ortlund

Monday, October 18, 2010

Glorifying and Enjoying God, Here and Now

It is not a good sign when a professing Christian seems to be almost exclusively focused on whether or not they are 'saved' -- as if once that question is settled, they can pretty much relax spiritually. John Newton reminds us that a real conversion will entail a change, also, in a person's primary concern -- namely, that God be glorified....

"Whoever is possessed of true faith, will not confine his inquiries to the single point of his acceptance with God, or be satisfied with the distant hope of heaven hereafter. He will be likewise solicitous how he may glorify God in the world, and enjoy such foretastes of heaven as are attainable while he is yet upon earth." -- John Newton

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Amazing Grace Trains Us for Godliness

In his day, like ours, John Newton (who penned the lyrics to "Amazing Grace"), faced resistance when he preached on the need for holiness of life, as if such preaching was somehow a grace-less legalism.....

"...There are too many who would have preaching limited to the privileges of believers; and when the fruits of faith, and the tempers of the mind, which should be manifest in those who have "tasted that the Lord is gracious," are inculcated, think they sufficiently evade all that is said, by calling it legal preaching. I would be no advocate for legal preaching; but we must not be deterred, by the fear of a hard word, from declaring the whole counsel of God; and we have the authority and example of Paul, who was a champion of the doctrines of free grace, to animate us in exhorting professors to "walk worthy of God, who has called them to his kingdom and glory." And indeed the expression of a believer's privilege is often misunderstood. It is a believer's privilege to walk with God in the exercise of faith, and, by the power of his Spirit, to mortify the whole body of sin, to gain a growing victory over the world and self, and to make daily advances in conformity to the mind of Christ. And nothing that we profess to know, believe, or hope for, deserves the name of a privilege, farther than we are influenced by it to die unto sin and to live unto righteousness.

"Whoever is possessed of true faith, will not confine his inquiries to the single point of his acceptance with God, or be satisfied with the distant hope of heaven hereafter. He will be likewise solicitous how he may glorify God in the world, and enjoy such foretastes of heaven as are attainable while he is yet upon earth."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Preaching Christ and True Worship

"Preaching about Christ must be at the heart of a Christian theology of worship. As in the Old Testament, the word of the Lord is central to a genuine encounter with God. Those who are concerned about God-honouring worship will be concerned about proclamation of the gospel, in the world and in the church, in public teaching and private dialogue.

"If worship is engagement with God on the terms that he proposes and in the way that he alone makes possible, preaching Christ is a key to that engagement.

"[The Book of] Acts points to the proclamation of the heavenly rule of Christ, with all its implications, as the means chosen by God to draw people into relationship with himself, through Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. God's great act of redemption in Christ is the basis of a call to enter into and enjoy the blessings of the new covenant.

"Worship in New Testament terms means responding with one's whole life and being to the divine kingship of Jesus."

-- David Peterson, "Engaging with God" p. 144 (Eerdmans: 1992)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A new blog....

A good friend of mine who's a good young theologian has started a blog. Here's a sample -- a helpful review of an important little book by John Murray, "Redemption Accomplished and Applied."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What is really our G/god?

“What is it to have a god? What is God? Answer: A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.”

-- Martin Luther, The Large Catechism (Philadelphia, 1959), page 9.

It follows that one can worship a false god, with destructive impact, without intending to or even realizing it. Converting to Christ introduces us not only to him but also to ourselves and the false trusts/gods that lurk in our self-evident thoughts and natural feelings, especially our religious feelings.

-- Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

God's Kingdom and the Great Story of Salvation

“The kingdom of God is the new and final age that began with the coming of Jesus. His kingdom is not part of the present age — an age where the flesh reigns; where people are divided, relationships are broken, and suspicion and competition dominate; where money, sex, and power are abused; where leaders are first and servants are last; where behavior is controlled by laws, and identity is defined by race, gender, or social standing; and where gifts and resources are used for the advancement of oneself.

"Rather, the kingdom of God is the new age. It is the age of the Spirit (Matt 12:28). It is the age of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17). The kingdom of God is about the renewal, restoration, and reconciliation of all things, and God has made us a part of this great story of salvation.”

- Neil H. Williams, Gospel Transformation (Jenkintown, Pa.; World Harvest Mission, 2006), iii.

Monday, October 11, 2010

God and our happiness

"God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing."

-- C. S. Lewis

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Christian's New Identity

“The gospel is the best news we could ever hear. The gospel is about Jesus Christ and his power to transform our lives and relationships, communities, and ultimately, the nations. Through this gospel, we are freely given a new identity — an identity not based on race, social class, gender, a theological system, or a system of rules and regulations. Rather it is a new and perfect identity based solely on faith in Jesus — an identity that defines every aspect of our lives. We are now forgiven, righteous, adopted, accepted, free, and heirs to everything that belongs to Christ. So even our sin, weakness, and failures do not define who we are. Because of this good news, we no longer have to hide from our sin and pretend that we have it all together, for God knows and loves us as we are, not as we pretend to be.”

- Neil H. Williams, Gospel Transformation, 2nd ed. (Jenkintown, Pa.; World Harvest Mission, 2006), i.

Friday, October 8, 2010

No Fruit, No Conversion

Let it be a settled principle in our religion that when a man brings forth no fruits of the Spirit, he has not the Holy Spirit within him. Let us resist as a deadly error the common idea, that all baptized people are born again, and that all members of the Church, as a matter of course, have the Holy Spirit. One simple question must be our rule: What fruit does a man bring forth? Does he repent? Does he believe with the heart on Jesus? Does he live a holy life? Does he overcome the world? Habits like these are what Scripture calls “fruit.” When these “fruits” are lacking, it is profane to talk of a man having the Spirit of God within him.

~ J.C. Ryle

Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke volume 1, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1986], 192.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What Would Undo Us As a Nation

"We may please ourselves with the prospect of free and popular governments. But there is great danger that those governments will not make us happy. God grant they may. But I fear that in every assembly, members will obtain influence by noise, not sense. By meanness, not greatness. By ignorance, not learning. By contracted hearts, not large souls. . . . There is one thing, my dear sir, that must be attempted and most sacredly observed or we are all undone. There must be decency and respect, and veneration introduced for persons of authority of every rank, or we are undone. In a popular government, this is our only way.”

-- John Adams, writing to James Warren, quoted in David McCullough, John Adams (New York, 2001), page 106.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Source of His Love

"Knowing as we do our secret guiltiness, unfaithfulness, and black-heartedness, we are dissolved in grateful admiration of the matchless freeness and sovereignty of grace. Jesus must have found the cause of His love in His own heart, He could not have found it in us, for it is not there."

--C. H. Spurgeon

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Escaping Spiritual Depression -- The First Step

“Would you like to be rid of this spiritual depression? The first thing you have to do is to say farewell now once and forever to your past. Realize that it has been covered and blotted out in Christ. Never look back at your sins again. Say: ‘It is finished, it is covered by the blood of Christ.’ That is your first step. Take that and finish with yourself and all this talk about goodness, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only then that true happiness and joy are possible for you.”

-- Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression (Grand Rapids, 1965), page 35.

Monday, October 4, 2010

What is the Gospel?

D.A. Carson 're-visits' this crucial question in his contribution to a collection of essays in honor of the ministry of John Piper, entitled "For the Fame of God's Name" (published by Crossway).

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Worship: Human Acts of Submission and Homage

"True worship involves reverential human acts of submission and homage before the divine Sovereign in response to His gracious revelation of Himself and in accordance with His will."

-- Daniel Block (professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, see previous post)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

"How then should we worship?"

That's the title of a thought-provoking article in Wheaton College's current alumni magazine, from Biblical scholar, Dr. Daniel Block. (One brief quote: "I'm not against new; I'm against empty.")

You can access the online edition here, then scroll down to p. 51.

Should Churches Trade In Services for Serving?

Kevin DeYoung gives characteristically sane, Scripture-shaped perspectives on this question.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Remember...then Invite

“If ever we have known this wondrous compassion of God to ourselves, if ever we have tasted that the Lord is gracious, let us remember the relish we have had of this infinite compassion and condescending grace, when we were perishing under the power and guilt of sin; and with an imitation of that divine piety, let us entreat sinners to be saved. Let us remember all the alluring charms, the heavenly sweetness of forgiving, sanctifying and saving grace, and do our utmost to set them all before sinners in the most inviting light, that we may win sinful men to accept the same salvation.”

-- Isaac Watts, An Exhortation To Ministers (Swengel, 1970), pages 45-46.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What Troubles the Lord the Most...

“There is not any thing that, in our communion with him, the Lord is more troubled with us for, if I may say so, than our unbelieving fears, that keep us off from receiving that strong consolation which he is so willing to give to us.”

- John Owen, On the Mortification of Sin (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2000), 77.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Old or New Cross?

“Remembering my own deep imperfections I would think and speak with charity of all who take upon them the worthy Name by which we Christians are called. But if I see aright, the cross of popular evangelicalism is not the cross of the New Testament. It is, rather, a new bright ornament upon the bosom of a self-assured and carnal Christianity whose hands are indeed the hands of Abel, but whose voice is the voice of Cain. The old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it. The old cross brought tears and blood; the new cross brings laughter. The flesh, smiling and confident, preaches and sings about the cross; before that cross it bows and toward that cross it points with carefully staged histrionics—but upon that cross it will not die, and the reproach of that cross it stubbornly refuses to bear.”

-- A.W. Tozer "The Divine Conquest"

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Every Moment of Every Day

“Ransomed men need no longer pause in fear to enter the Holy of Holies. God wills that we should push on into His Presence and live our whole life there. This is to be known to us in conscious experience. It is more than a doctrine to be held, it is a life to be enjoyed every moment of every day.”

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (London, 1967), pages 36-37.

HT: Ray Ortlund

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What Our Generation Needs Most

"...There is nothing that our generation needs more than to hear the Word of God -- and this at a time of biblical illiteracy rising at an astonishing rate. Moreover it needs to hear Christian leaders personally submitting to Scripture, personally reading and teaching Scripture -- not in veiled ways that merely assume some sort of heritage of Christian teaching while actually focusing on just about anything else, but in ways that are reverent, exemplary, comprehensive, insistent, persistent. Nothing, nothing at all, is more urgent."

-- D.A. Carson (commenting on 2 Chron. 34) in "For the Love of God" reading for December 29 (Crossway: 1998)

Friday, September 24, 2010

"Come to Me..."

“Christ says, ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden,’ and it is as though he were saying: Just stick to me, hold on to my Word and let everything else go. . . . For when you suffer for my sake, it is my yoke and my burden which I lay upon you in grace, that you may know that this your suffering is well pleasing to God and to me and that I myself am helping you to carry it. . . . [May we] cling only to Christ’s Word and come to him, as he so lovingly invites us to do, and say: You alone are my beloved Lord and Master, I am your disciple.”

Martin Luther’s last sermon, in John W. Doberstein, editor, Luther’s Works, Volume 51 (Philadelphia, 1959), pages 391-392.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Timely Perspectives on Faithful Ministry Today

Here are some very worthwhile excerpts from D.A. Carson's excellent book, "The Cross and Christian Ministry."

Replacing The Primary with the Secondary
“It is at least possible that we are the generation of believers who will destroy much of historic Christianity from within - not, in the first instance, by rancid unbelief, but by raising relatively peripheral questions to the place where, functionally, they displace what is central.”

Are we Drawing Crowds or Converts?
“If the church is being built with large portions of charm, personality, easy oratory, positive thinking, managerial skills, powerful and emotional experiences, and people smarts, but without the repeated, passionate, Spirit-anointed proclamation of “Jesus Christ and him crucified,” we may be winning more adherents than converts.”

Broadening our Musical Palate
“Must we have fights over church music? We should have the best, the most God-centered, the most truthful, the most edifying. But must it all be in one style? Is there nothing to be gained from wide exposure to the company of saints in many parts of the world who have expressed their adoration of the Savior with richness of hymnody we can never exhaust, but which we ignore to our detriment?”

Leaving the Gospel Behind
“Do not think that you can adopt the philosophies and values of the world as if such choices do not have a profoundly detrimental impact on the church. Do not think you can get away with it. Do not kid yourself that you are with it, and avant-garde Christian, when in fact you are leaving the gospel behind and doing damage to God’s church.”

The Inconsistency of Admiring the World
“It is idiotic - that is not too strong a word - to extol the world’s perspective and secretly lust after its limited vision. That is what the Corinthians were apparently doing; that is what we are in danger of doing every time we adopt our world’s shibboleths, dote on its heroes, admire its transient stars, seek its admiration, and play to its applause.”

Strategic Planning or the Cross?
“All of us need to understand the people to whom we minister, and all of us can benefit from small doses of such literature. But massive doses sooner or later dilute the gospel. Ever so subtly, we start to think that success more critically depends on thoughtful sociological analysis than on the gospel; Barna becomes more important than the Bible. We depend on plans, programs, vision statements - but somewhere along the way we have succumbed to the temptation to displace the foolishness of the cross with the wisdom of strategic planning.”

If you haven’t read this yet, put it on your reading list. You can get it from Amazon here.

The Holy Spirit's Floodlight Ministry

J.I. Packer:

The Holy Spirit’s distinctive new covenant role, then, is to fulfill what we may call a floodlight ministry in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. So far as this role was concerned, the Spirit “was not yet” (John 7:39, literal Greek) while Jesus was on earth; only when the Father had glorified him (see John 17:1, 5) could the Spirit’s work of making men aware of Jesus’ glory begin.

I remember walking to a church one winter evening to preach on the words “he shall glorify me,” seeing the building floodlit as I turned a corner, and realizing that this was exactly the illustration my message needed.

When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are so placed that you do not see them; you are not in fact supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and to maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you see it properly. This perfectly illustrates the Spirit’s new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior.

Or think of it this way. It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder, on Jesus, who stands facing us.

The Spirit’s message is never,

“Look at me;

listen to me;

come to me;

get to know me,”

but always

“Look at him, and see his glory;

listen to him, and hear his word;

go to him, and have life;

get to know him, and taste his gift of joy and peace.

Keeping in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God, 2nd ed. (GR: Baker, 2005), p. 57; emphasis original.

HT: Graham Cole; Justin Taylor

Monday, September 20, 2010

"Thinking and Faith"

from John Piper:

Paul commands us to think about what he says [2 Timothy 2:7]. Use your mind. Engage your reasoning powers when you hear the Word of God. In another place, Jesus warned what happens if we don’t and what blessing may come if we do. He told a parable about four soils (Matt. 13:3–9). When the seed of the Word is sown on the first three, it bears no fruit. Only the fourth soil bears fruit. What’s the difference?
We get a glimpse of the problem when we compare the first and fourth soils. Jesus said concerning the seed sown on the first soil, the path: “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.” Jesus focuses on the failure to understand. Not understanding the Word results in the Word being snatched away. Therefore, understanding with the mind is not optional. It’s crucial to conversion and fruit-bearing. Our lives hang on it. Then concern- ing the seed sown on the fourth soil, the good soil, he says, “This is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty” (Matt. 13:23). The difference between the soil that is lifeless and the soil that bears fruit is understanding.
It is true, as Paul says in Romans 10:17, that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” So hearing is important. But Jesus says that hearing without understanding produces nothing. When we hear the Word of God, Paul says, we must “think over” what we hear. Otherwise, we will fall under the indictment of Jesus: “Hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matt. 13:13).
So, even though our natural minds are depraved and darkened and foolish, the New Testament demands that we use them in coming to faith and leading people to faith and in the process of Christian growth and obedience. There is no way to awaken faith or strengthen faith that evades thinking.
- John Piper, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, p. 61, 62

HT: Vitamin Z

Sunday, September 19, 2010

C.S. Lewis on prayer

C.S. Lewis; Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on prayer.

From his fifth letter, (having to do with the Lord’s Prayer).

“. . . Thy will be done – by me – now” brings one back to brass tacks.

“But more than that, I am at this very moment contemplating a new festoon. Tell me if you think it a vain subtlety. I am beginning to feel that we need a preliminary act of submission not only towards possible future afflictions but also towards possible future blessings. In know it sounds fantastic; but think it over. It seems to me that we often, almost sulkily, reject the good that God offers us because at that moment we expected some other good. Do you know what I mean? On every level of our life, – in our religious experience, in our gastronomic, erotic, aesthetic and social experience – we are always harking back to some occasion which seemed to us to reach perfection, setting that up as a norm, and depreciating all other occasions by comparison. But the other occasions, I now suspect, are often full of their own new blessings if only we would lay ourselves open to it. God shows us a new facet of the glory, and we refuse to look at it because we’re still looking for the old one. And of course we don’t get that. You can’t at the twentieth reading, get agin the experience of reading Lycidas for the first time. But what you do get can be in its own way as good.

“This applies especially to the devotional life. Many religious people lament that the first fervours of their conversion have died away. They think – sometimes rightly, but not, I believe always – that their sins account for this. They may even try by pitiful efforts of will to revive what now seem to have been the golden days. But were those fervours – the operative word is those – ever intended to last?

“It would be rash to say that there is any prayer which God never grants. But the strongest candidate is the prayer we might express in the single word encore. And how should the Infinite repeat Himself? All space and time are too little for Him to utter Himself in them once.

“And the joke, or tragedy, of it all is that these golden moments in the past, which are so tormenting if we erect them into a norm, are entirely nourishing, wholesome, and enchanting if we are content to accept them for what they are, for memories. Properly bedded down in the past which we do not miserably try to conjure back, they will send up exquisite growths. Leave the bulbs alone, and the new flowers will come up. Grub them up and hope, by fondling and sniffing, to get last year’s blooms, and you will get nothing. ‘Unless a seed die . . .’” (P. 40-42)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Find Us Faithful

from Ray Ortlund:

“But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore, do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:3-5

"My brother pastor, tomorrow you will preach and lead. You desire to be found faithful. But by whose standards of faithfulness are you to be judged? Whose opinion finally counts?

"You desire, and rightly so, to please everyone in everything you do (1 Corinthians 10:33). But not even Paul succeeded in that desire. The Corinthians were so self-assured, they put even the great apostle under their negative scrutiny. I hope everyone in your church thinks you’re wonderful. If you are faithful to Christ, you are. But some might judge you. They might even attack you deeply and personally. Well, “So they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:12). Should you listen for whatever wisdom might be embedded in the criticisms? Sure. But don’t let anyone but Christ define you. Take those criticisms to him, looking honestly at his Word, looking humbly at yourself, and let him be the judge. Paul considered human criticism “a very small thing.”

"What others think of you does not determine who you are. What you think of yourself doesn’t even determine who you are and what you’re worth. You serve the Lord Christ. Be faithful to him, be set apart to him alone, and he will commend you. And with that assurance strengthening your heart, you can love your critics more than they expect to be loved."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

One of our worst blind spots as evangelicals...

"One of our chief evangelical blind spots has been to overlook the central importance of the church. We tend to proclaim individual salvation without moving on to the saved community. We emphasize that Christ died for us ‘to redeem us from all iniquity’ rather than ‘to purify for himself a people of his own’. We think of ourselves more as ‘Christians’ than as ‘churchmen’, and our message is more good news of a new life than of a new society.

"Nobody can emerge from a careful reading of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians with a privatized gospel. For Ephesians is the gospel of the church. It sets forth God’s eternal purpose to create through Jesus Christ a new society which stands out in bright relief against the sombre background of the old world. For God’s new society is characterized by life in place of death, by unity and reconciliation in place of division and alienation, by the wholesome standards of righteousness in place of the corruption of wickedness, by love and peace in place of hatred and strife, and by unremitting conflict with evil in place of a flabby compromise with it.
- John Stott, The Message of Ephesians, 9,10

HT: Zach Nielsen

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

We Belong to Him Totally

" every sense believers are [Christ's] special possession, a people of his very own, because he purchased them as his slaves (1 Cor. 6:19-20; 7:22-23) along with their freedom from all iniquity (Tit. 2:14).

"As a result of that purchase they belong to him totally, and only to him, a comprehensive ownership that his slaves voluntarily embrace [Rom. 6:17ff.]. He is their absolute and exclusive Master. His rights over what he purchased are unlimited and he tolerates no rivals to his lordship, for no slave can adequately serve two different masters.

"'Proof of purchase,' or the mark of this ownership, is the presence and activity of his Spirit in the believer's life [2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13-14]. And that same Spirit is the guarantee that this divine 'property' will reach its destination intact."

-- Murray Harris, "Slave of Christ" (IVP) p. 125

Great Advice for Theological Students and Pastors....

Kevin DeYoung is a good friend and a wise pastor. Here he gives some great advice to theological students and pastors.... Part 1; part 2.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Salvation: Satisfaction through Substitution

"We strongly reject, therefore, every explanation of the death of Christ which does not have at its center the principle of 'satisfaction through substitution,' indeed divine self-satisfaction through divine self-substitution.... The theological words 'satisfaction' and 'substitution' need to be carefully defined and safeguarded, but they cannot in any circumstances be given up.

"The biblical gospel of atonement is of God satisfying himself by substituting himself for us."

-- John Stott, "The Cross of Christ"

Monday, September 13, 2010


“Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather, it is the difference between right and almost right.” -- Charles Spurgeon

“The difference between truth and error is not a chasm but a razor’s edge.” -- John Murray

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Knowing About & Knowing

“In religion more than in any other field of human experience a sharp distinction must always be made between knowing about and knowing. The distinction is the same as between knowing about food and actually eating it. A man can die of starvation knowing all about bread, and a man can remain spiritually dead while knowing all the historic facts of Christianity. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” We have but to introduce one extra word into this verse to see how vast is the difference between knowing about and knowing. “This is life eternal, that they might know about thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” That one word makes all the difference between life and death, for it goes to the very root of the verse and changes its theology radically and vitally.”

- A.W. Tozer, Knowledge by Acquaintance

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Freedom in Slavery

“Just as the Christian’s strength comes to its zenith of perfection in the ‘weakness’ of acknowledged dependence on God, so the Christian’s freedom finds its consummation in exclusive and wholehearted devotion to Christ and his people…. The strength of freedom in Christ is displayed in the weakness of slavery to Christ.”

-- Murray Harris, "Slave of Christ" (IVP) p. 86

Friday, September 10, 2010

Faith and Thinking

This excellent post summarizes a crucial insight from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones about the critical relation between faith and thinking. It's especially timely in an era where careful thinking is no longer highly valued, nor seen to be as crucial for strategic living as it actually is.

Here is an excerpt:

"Faith according to our Lord’s teaching in this paragraph, is primarily thinking; and the whole trouble with a man of little faith is that he does not think. He allows circumstances to bludgeon him. . . .

"We must spend more time in studying our Lord’s lessons in observation and deduction. The Bible is full of logic, and we must never think of faith as something purely mystical. We do not just sit down in an armchair and expect marvelous things to happen to us. That is not Christian faith. Christian faith is essentially thinking. Look at the birds, think about them, draw your deductions. Look at the grass, look at the lilies of the field, consider them. . . .

"Faith, if you like, can be defined like this: It is a man insisting upon thinking when everything seems determined to bludgeon and knock him down in an intellectual sense. The trouble with the person of little faith is that, instead of controlling his own thought, his thought is being controlled by something else, and, as we put it, he goes round and round in circles. That is the essence of worry. . . . That is not thought; that is the absence of thought, a failure to think."

(Lloyd-Jones is commenting on Matthew 6:30 in Studies in the Sermon on the Mount:)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What makes something Christian?

from Ray Ortlund:

What makes anything Christian? Not that it has to do with theology, not that it has to do with ministry, not that it has to do with church business, and so forth. What makes anything Christian is that it reflects Christ. It is “according to Christ.”

“We reach the sacred watchword here, and pause to listen to it. ‘Not according to Christ,’ not on His line, not measured by Him, not referred to Him, not so that He is Origin and Way and End and All. The ‘philosophy’ in question would assuredly include Him somehow in its terms. But it would not be ‘according to Him.’ It would take its first principles and draw its inferences, a priori and from other regions, and then bring Him in as something to be harmonized and assimilated, as far as might be. But this would mean a Christ according to the system of thought, not a system of thought according to the blessed Christ. . . . It must have Him for Alpha and for Omega, and for all the alphabet between. It must be dominated all over by Him.”

H. C. G. Moule, Colossians and Philemon Studies (Grand Rapids, n.d.), pages 142-143.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thinking about the Kingdom of God

Matt. 4:17; 5:3-10, 19-20; 6:10, 33; 7:21; 10:7; 13:11, 19, 41,43,44; 18:1, 3-4; 19:23; 24:14; 25:34;26:29; Jn. 3:3,5; Acts 1:3,6; 8:12; 19:8; 28:23, 31; Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 6:9; 15:23-28, 50; Eph. 5:5; Col. 1:13-14; 1 Thess.2:12; 2 Tim.4:1, 18; Heb.12:28; 2 Pet. 1:11; Rev. 11:15ff.; 12:10; Rev. 19:6

KEY IDEA: The coming of the kingdom of God means God’s re-assertion of his rightful reign/rule (the way He wants things to be/Shalom) through His activities of saving and judging…. God saves those who repent and believe, and finally judges those who persist in rebellion and unbelief.

The kingdom of God means “…God’s people in God’s place under God’s blessing and rule (by His Word)” -- cp. Vaughan Roberts, “God’s Big Picture” (IVP)

“The [goal] of the divine rule is the redemption of men and their deliverance from the powers of evil [cp. 1 Cor. 15:23-28]. “As the dynamic activity of God’s rule the kingdom is supernatural. It is God’s deed – His action….

‘Only the supernatural act of God can destroy Satan, defeat death (1 Cor. 15:26), raise the dead in incorruptible bodies to inherit the blessings of the kingdom (1 Cor.15:50ff.) and transform the world, re-creating a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness is at home.’ (Matt.19:28; 2 Pet. 3:13)

“…Men may sow the seed by preaching the kingdom; they can persuade others concerning the kingdom; but they cannot build it. It is God’s deed…God’s work. Men and women can receive the kingdom, but they are never described as establishing it. Human beings can rejected the kingdom, and refuse to receive it or enter it, but we cannot destroy it.

“We can look for it, pray for its coming, and seek it, but we cannot bring it.

The kingdom of God is totally God’s work, and yet it works in and through his people. The Bible says that men and women can do things for the sake of the kingdom, work for it, suffer for it, but they are not said to act upon the kingdom itself. We can inherit it, but we cannot bestow it on others. Only God, the King, can do that.” – Evang. Dict. Of Theol., G.E. Ladd

Remembering the reality of the reign of God…

…is a call to authentic, God-focused worship, because our great and gracious King deserves to be praised and listened to, as we regularly re-affirm our devotion to Him, in response to the News of what He has done (Ps. 95; Rev. 5)

…is an incentive to trust (including as we serve), for God is the one who will establish his kingdom. (Isa.9:7; Rev.11:15ff.)

…and it is a motivation to obey, because the Lord is King! (Matt. 28:18ff.; 1 Thess. 2:12)

…and it is an incentive to serve, because one day the Master will call on us to give an account for the stewardship he entrusted to us, and because we know our labor in the Lord is not in vain (Matt.25:14ff.; 1 Cor. 15:58)