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.