Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Spurgeon vs. Hyper-Calvinism

(from Ray Ortlund)

In Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism, Iain Murray draws four lessons from that conflict:

1. “Genuine evangelical Christianity is never of an exclusive spirit. Any view of the truth which undermines catholicity has gone astray from Scripture.” Spurgeon regretfully disagreed with hyper-Calvinists who “made faith in election a part of saving faith and thus either denied the Christianity of all professed Christians who did not so believe or at least treated such profession with much suspicion.”

2. Spurgeon “wanted to see both divine sovereignty and human responsibility upheld, but when it came to gospel preaching he believed that there needed to be a greater concentration upon responsibility. The tendency of Hyper-Calvinism was to make sinners want to understand theology before they could believe in Christ.”

3. “This controversy directs us to our need for profound humility before God. It reminds us forcefully of questions about which we can only say, ‘Behold, God is great, and we know him not’ (Job 36:26).” “It is to be feared that sharp contentions between Christians on these issues have too often arisen from a wrong confidence in our powers of reasoning and our assumed ability to draw logical inferences.” Spurgeon saw “how a system which sought to attribute all to the grace of God had itself too much confidence in the powers of reason.”

4. “The final conclusion has to be that when Calvinism ceases to be evangelistic, when it becomes more concerned with theory than with the salvation of men and women, when acceptance of doctrines seems to become more important than acceptance of Christ, then it is a system going to seed and it will invariably lose its attractive power.”

Iain H. Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism (Edinburgh, 1995), pages 110-122. Italics added.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The kingdom of heaven is at hand....

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

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

Monday, August 23, 2010

Regarding Bible Translations...

Justin Taylor provides some helpful teaching from Bible scholar, Daniel Wallace, regarding the King James Version and other Bible translations.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dying to Self

“Christ says, ‘I don’t want some of your time & money, I want you. I’ve not come to torment your natural self but to kill it.’” -- C.S. Lewis

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"The Chief Work"

"[A]ll those who do not at all times trust God and do not in all their works or sufferings, life and death, trust in His favor, grace and good-will, but seek His favor in other things or in themselves, do not keep this [First] Commandment*, and practice real idolatry, even if they were to do the works of all the others Commandments, and in addition had all the prayers, fasting, obedience, patience, chastity, and innocence of all the saints combined. For the chief work is not present, without which all the others are nothing but mere sham, show and pretense."

-- Martin Luther, "A Treatise on Good Works"

*The First Commandment: "You shall have no other gods before me."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Deep Change

"The heart is so constituted that the only way to dispossess it of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one." -- Thomas Chalmers (Puritan pastor and author)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Just as I am....

“The gate of Mercy is opened, and over the door it is written, ‘This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.‘ Between that word ‘save’ and the next word ‘sinners,’ there is no adjective. It does not say, ‘penitent sinners,’ ‘awakened sinners,’ ‘sensible sinners,’ ‘grieving sinners’ or ‘alarmed sinners.’ No, it only says, ‘sinners.’ And I know this, that when I come, I come to Christ today, for I feel it is as much a necessity of my life to come to the cross of Christ today as it was to come ten years ago—when I come to him, I dare not come as a conscious sinner or an awakened sinner, but I have to come still as a sinner with nothing in my hands.”

-- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, preaching on John 3:18, 17 February 1861.

HT: Dane Ortlund; Ray Ortlund

Monday, August 16, 2010

Idolatry: the Sin Beneath the Sin

"Under every behavioral sin is the sin of idolatry, and under every act of idolatry is a disbelief in the gospel."

-- Tim Keller (paraphrasing Martin Luther), from his "Gospel in Life" teaching DVD (Zondervan)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

At the Center of the Universe...Self-Giving Love

“The Father . . . Son . . . and Holy Spirit glorify each other. . . . At the center of the universe, self-giving love is the dynamic currency of the Trinitarian life of God. The persons within God exalt, commune with, and defer to one another. . . . Each divine person harbors the others at the center of his being. In constant movement of overture and acceptance each person envelops and encircles the others.”

- Cornelius Plantinga, quoted by Timothy Keller, in The Reason For God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 215.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Whole-hearted Devotion to Christ

To follow Christ is to commit ourselves wholly and entirely to Him as our only leader and Savior, and to submit ourselves to Him in every matter, both of doctrine and practice. “Following” is only another word for “believing.” It is the same act of soul, only seen from a different point of view. As Israel followed the pillar of cloud and fire in all their journeys – moving whenever it moved, stopping whenever it tarried, asking no questions, marching on in faith – so must a man deal with Christ. He must “follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” (Rev. 14:4.)

~ J.C. Ryle

Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John, volume 2, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1987], 85.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

J.I. Packer Describes Authentic Faith

(via Justin Taylor)...

J.I. Packer:

Christian faith is shaped, and its nature determined, entirely by its object, just as the impression of a seal is shaped entirely by the die-stamp that is pressed down on the hot wax.

The object of the Christian faith, Packer writes, is threefold:

first, God the Three-in-One, the Creator-become-Redeemer, who throughout history has been, and still is, transforming sinners into a new humanity in Christ;

second, Jesus Christ himself, God incarnate and Saviour, now absent from us in the flesh but personally and powerfully present with us through the Holy Spirit; and

third, the many invitations, promises, commands and assurances that the Father and the Son extend to all who will receive Jesus as their Saviour and Lord and become his disciples, living henceforth by his teaching in his fellowship under his authority.

Biblically, then, faith is a matter of

knowing the facts of the gospel (the person, place and work of Jesus Christ),

welcoming the terms of the gospel (salvation from sin and a new life with God) and

receiving the Christ of the gospel (setting oneself to live as his follower, by self-denial, cross-bearing, and sacrificial service).

Packer calls New Testament faith a “two-tone” reality:

Believing the biblically revealed facts and truths about God, and trusting the living Lord to whom these facts and truths lead us, are the two “tones,” the intellectual and relational aspects, of real faith, blending like a chord in music.

This is the understanding of faith that need to be re-established.

—J.I. Packer, Taking Faith Seriously (Anglican Essentials Canada, 2006), p. 5.

"Teens Want More Than Pizza"

Here's a good blog post from the youth pastor of a good church, linked also to an important article about youth ministry that appeared in "USA Today."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

So Flawed and So Loved

“The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued and that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time.”

- Timothy Keller, The Reason For God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 181.

To Serve Is to Suffer

Justin Taylor introduces key teaching from Ajith Fernando on key place that suffering has in authentic Christian life and ministry.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Faith That Works

It is a beautiful, convicting-yet-heartening thing to watch true faith at work in a family, producing trust, peace and gratitude even in the face of a very trying circumstance. I was reminded of this by a very special faith-full family tonight.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Martin Luther on Preaching and Preachers

Would to God that we could gradually train our hearts to believe that the preacher’s words are God’s Word and that the man addressing us is a scholar and a king. . . .

If someone . . . announced: “I know of a place in the world where God speaks and anyone can hear God there”; if I had gone there and seen and heard a poor pastor baptizing and preaching, and if I had been assured: “This is the place; here God is speaking through the voice of the preacher who brings God’s Word”–I would have said: “Well, I have been duped! I see only a pastor. . . .

In fact, we do not enjoy listening to any preacher unless he is gifted with a good and clear voice. If you look more at the pastor than at God; if you do not see God’s person but merely gape to see whether the pastor is learned and skilled . . . then you have already become half a Jacob. For a poor speaker may speak the Word of God just as well as he who is endowed with eloquence. A father speaks the Word of God as well as God does, and your neighbor speaks it as well as the angel Gabriel. There is no difference between the Word when uttered by a schoolboy and when uttered by the angel Gabriel; they vary only in rhetorical ability. It matters not that dishes are made of different material–some of silver, some of tin–or whether they are enameled earthen dishes. The same food may be prepared in silver as in dishes of tin. Venison, properly seasoned and prepared, tastes just as good in a wooden dish as in one of silver. . . .

People, however, do not recognize the person of God but only stare at the person of man. This is like a tired and hungry man who would refuse to eat unless the food is served on a silver platter. Such is the attitude that motivates many preachers today. Many, on the other hand, are forced to quit their office, are driven out and expelled.

That is done by those who do not know this gift, who assume that it is a mere man speaking to them, although, as a matter of fact, it is even more than an angel, namely, your dear God.

–Martin Luther, preaching on John 4:10, in Luther’s Works, 44:526-29

HT: Dane Ortlund

Saturday, August 7, 2010

What is faith?"

"Faith is believing that Christ is what he is said to be, and that he will do what he has promised to do, and then to expect this of him."

-- Charles Spurgeon ("All of Grace")

Created for Something Bigger Than Ourselves

“We were created for something bigger than ourselves. The Bible reveals the true story that is to capture our lives. We are ambassadors of the King, proclaiming to broken and sinful people the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his lordship over all creation until he comes again.”

- Michael R. Emlet, CrossTalk (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2009), 59.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Right Kind of Rebel

"A praying Christian is a constant threat to the stability of Satan's government. The Christian is a holy rebel loose in the world with access to the throne of God." -- A.W. Tozer

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Friendship with God Begins with His Communication to Us

"God's friendship with men and women begins and grows through speech, His to us in revelation, and ours to Him in prayer and praise. Though I cannot see God, He and I can yet be personal friends, because in revelation [via Scripture] He talks to me."

-- J.I. Packer, "God Has Spoken" (IVP)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Justified...the Supreme Victory of Faith

“Among all the realities of the invisible world, mediated to us by the disclosures and promises of God, and to which our faith responds, there is none that more strongly calls into action this faculty for grasping the unseen than the divine pronouncement through the Gospel, that, though sinners, we are righteous in the judgment of God. That is not only the invisible, it seems the impossible; it is the paradox of all paradoxes; it requires a unique energy of believing; it is the supreme victory of faith over the apparent reality of things; it credits God with calling the things that are not as though they were; it penetrates more deeply into the deity of God than any other act of faith.”

—Geerhardus Vos, Grace and Glory: Sermons Preached in the Chapel of Princeton Theological Seminary (Reformed Press, 1922), 135.

HT: Tony Reike

Monday, August 2, 2010

Recommended reading

I've just begun reading D.A. Carson's new book, "The God Who Is There -- Finding Your Place in God's Story" (Baker Books).

I agree with Tim Keller's recommendation: "A unique an important volume in many ways. As a ministry tool, it can be used for evangelism, since it so thoroughly lays out the doctrine of God. And yet it also does what the catechisms of the Reformation churches did: give Christians a grounding in basic biblical beliefs and behavior. By all means, get this book!"

Sunday, August 1, 2010

C.S. Lewis: The First Things First Principle

C.S. Lewis:

The woman who makes a dog the centre of her life loses, in the end, not only her human usefulness and dignity but even the proper pleasure of dog-keeping.

The man who makes alcohol his chief good loses not only his job but his palate and all power of enjoying the earlier (and only pleasurable) levels of intoxication.

It is a glorious thing to feel for a moment or two that the whole meaning of the universe is summed up in one woman—glorious so long as other duties and pleasures keep tearing you away from her. But clear the decks and so arrange your life (it is sometimes feasible) that you will have nothing to do but contemplate her, and what happens?

Of course this law has been discovered before, but it will stand re-discovery. It may be stated as follows: every preference of a small good to a great, or partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice is made.

. . . You can’t get second things by putting them first. You get second things only by putting first things first.

—C.S. Lewis, “First and Second Things,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Eerdmans, 1994), p. 280.

(HT: Joel Willitts; Justin Taylor)