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)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

What Is the Attraction?

"It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting [i.e., a worship service] where the only attraction is God." -- A.W. Tozer

Friday, September 3, 2010

Best of all....

John Piper:

We need to ponder the superiority of God as our great reward over all that the world has to offer.

If we don’t, we will love the world like everyone else and live like every one else.

So take the things that drive the world and ponder how much better and more abiding God is: take money or sex or power or popularity. Think about these things.

First think about them in relation to death. Death will take away every one of them: money, sex, power, and popularity. If that is what you live for, you won’t get much, and what you get, you lose. But God’s treasure is “abiding.” It lasts. It goes beyond death.

It’s better than money because God owns all the money and he is our Father. “All things are yours, and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:22-23).

It’s better than sex. Jesus never had sexual relations, and he was the most full and complete human that ever will exist. Sex is a shadow, an image, of a greater reality—of a relationship and pleasure that will make sex seem like a yawn.

The reward of God is better than power. There is no greater human power than to be a child of the Almighty God. “Do you not know that we shall judge angels” (1 Corinthians 6:3)?

It’s better than popularity. Fame is a pipe dream if you are only known by human nobodies. But if the greatest beings know you, that is a popularity of another kind. The greatest popularity is to be known by God (1 Corinthians 8:3; Galatians 4:9). And when it comes to angels: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14)?

And so it goes on and on. Everything the world has to offer, God is better and more abiding. There is no comparison. God wins—every time.

The question is: will we have him? Will we wake up from the trance of this stupefying world and see and believe and rejoice and love? And suffer?

HT: Justin Taylor

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Preaching About Hell

This month's online journal from 9Marks Ministries focuses on the difficult, essential, Scriptural teaching about Hell. Sinclair Ferguson's article, "What Then Shall We Preach on Hell?" is full of Biblical wisdom and pastoral concern.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Abiding in Obedience, in Love

from "A Daily Dose of Spurgeon"

If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love. (John 15:10)

These things cannot be parted—abiding in obedience and abiding in the love of Jesus. A life under the rule of Christ can alone prove that we are the objects of our Lord's delight. We must keep our Lord's command if we would bask in His love. If we live in sin we cannot live in the love of Christ. Without the holiness which pleases God we cannot please Jesus. He who cares nothing for holiness knows nothing of the love of Jesus.

Conscious enjoyment of our Lord's love is a delicate thing. It is far more sensitive to sin and holiness than mercury is to cold and heat. When we are tender of heart and careful in thought, lip, and life to honor our Lord Jesus, then we receive tokens of His love without number. If we desire to perpetuate such bliss we must perpetuate holiness. The Lord Jesus will not hide His face from us unless we hide our face from Him. Sin makes the cloud which darkens our Sun: if we will be watchfully obedient and completely consecrated we may walk in the light, as God is in the light, and have as sure an abiding in the love of Jesus as Jesus has in the love of the Father. Here is a sweet promise with a solemn "if," Lord, let me have this "if" in my hand; for as a key it opens this casket.