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