Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Obedience is possible..."

A good post from Kevin DeYoung on the subject of the Christian's obedience.....  Here's an excerpt:
"I believe with all my heart that we can do nothing to merit eternal life. We are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. God accepts and declares us righteous not because of our good deeds, but because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We cannot earn God’s favor. We depend entirely on his gospel grace.
Full stop. Period. New paragraph.
We can also be obedient.
Not flawlessly. Not without continuing repentance. Not without facing temptation. Not without needing forgiveness. But we can be obedient.
Obedience is not a dirty word for the gospel-centered Christian. We are saved from the wrath of God by sovereign grace, and that sovereign grace saves us unto holiness. Our great God and Savior Jesus Christ has redeemed us from all lawlessness to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:14)."
Read the rest here....

Monday, May 30, 2011

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

for Memorial Day...

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Humor, Sarcasm and the Gospel

A good meditation regarding humor that does or doesn't fit with the Gospel.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

God and 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

Thursday, May 26, 2011

"He will save his people from their sins..."

“Who are his people?  We are eager to know who they are, and we are glad to find that his people need to be saved, and will be saved, for it is written, ‘He will save his people.’  It is not said, ‘He will reward his people for their righteousness,’ nor is it promised that he will ‘save them from becoming sinners,’ but ‘He will save his people from their sins.’ . . .
If you are righteous in yourself, you are not one of his people.  If you were never sick in soul, you are none of the folk that the Great Physician has come to heal.  If you were never guilty of sin, you are none of those whom he has come to deliver from sin.  Jesus comes on no needless errand and undertakes no unnecessary work.  If you feel yourselves to need saving, then cast yourselves upon him, for such as you are he came to save.”
C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, 1950), I:4-5.
HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Jesus Christ: the only Lord and Savior of the world

"The early Christians were not fed to wild beasts or dipped in wax and set ablaze as lamps in Nero's garden because they thought Jesus was a helpful life coach or role model but because they witness to him as the only Lord and Savior of the world.  Jesus Christ doesn't just live in the private hearts of individuals as the source of an inner peace.  He is the Creator, Ruler, Redeemer, and Judge of all the earth.  And now he commands everyone everywhere to repent."

-- Michael Horton, "The Gospel Commission"

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Our inconsolable secret

"What Augustine knew is that human beings want God…God has made us for himself. Our sense of God runs in us like a stream, even though we divert it toward other objects. We human beings want God even when we think that what we really want is a green valley, or a good time from our past, or a loved one. Of course we do want these things and persons, but we also want what’s behind them. Our inconsolable secret, says C.S. Lewis, is that we are full of yearnings, sometimes shy and sometimes passionate, that point us beyond the things of earth to the ultimate reality of God."

-- Cornelius Plantinga

Monday, May 23, 2011

What is Repentance?

Charles Spurgeon writes:
Repentance is a discovery of the evil of sin, a mourning that we have committed it, a resolution to forsake it. It is, in fact, a change of mind of a very deep and practical character, which makes the man love what once he hated, and hate what once he loved.
J. I. Packer writes:
Repentance means turning from as much as you know of your sin to give as much as you know of yourself to as much as you know of your God, and as our knowledge grows at these three points so our practice of repentance has to be enlarged.
John Piper writes:
Repenting means experiencing a change of mind that now sees God as true and beautiful and worthy of all our praise and all our obedience.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Second Coming of Christ – and how it should impact us in the present

In the teaching of Jesus and the apostles, focus on the End Times/Second Coming was to produce:

1. godliness – 1 Thess. 5:1-1 ; 2 Pet. 3:3-7, 8-15 (Rom. 13:11-14; 1 Jn. 3:2-3)

2. faithfulness and urgency in witness, doing God’s work of seeking the salvation of the lost -- Matt. 24:36-51; 2 Tim. 4:1ff.

3. comfort in the face of death -- 1 Thess. 4:18

4. hope in the face of trials, persecution -- 2 Thess. 1:5-11

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What is better than unconditional love?

“What happens to the Gospel when idolatry themes are not grasped? ‘God loves you’ typically becomes a tool to meet a need for self-esteem in people who feel like failures. The particular content of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—‘grace for sinners and deliverance for the sinned-against—is down-played or even twisted into ‘unconditional acceptance for the victims of others’ lack of acceptance.’ Where ‘the Gospel’ is shared, it comes across something like this: ‘God accepts you just as you are. God had unconditional love for you.’ This is not the biblical Gospel, however. . . .

“The Gospel is better than unconditional love. The Gospel says, ‘God accepts you just as Christ is. God has “contraconditional” love for you.’ Christ bears the curse you deserve. Christ is fully pleasing to the Father and gives you His own perfect goodness. Christ reigns in power, making you the Father’s child and coming close to you to begin to change what is unacceptable to God about you. God never accept me ‘as I am.’ He accepts me ‘as I am in Jesus Christ.’ The center of gravity is different. The true Gospel does not allow God’s love to be sucked into the vortex of the soul’s lust for acceptability and worth in and of itself. Rather, it radically decenters people—what the Bible calls ‘fear of the Lord’ and ‘faith’—to look outside ourselves.”

-David Powlison, “Idols of the Heart and ‘Vanity Fair,’” Journal of Biblical Counseling 13 (1995): 49.

Eric Ortlund adds: I realize this may be a shocking statement to some. In a sense, I suppose it’s true to speak of God’s unconditional love in the sense that his love rests on us irrespective of what we deserve. But the wisdom of Powlison’s quote is to expose that “unconditional acceptance” can possibly mask a refusal to repent, a holding onto who I am and refusing what God offers me in Christ.

Friday, May 20, 2011

"God moves in a mysterious way..."

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

God rules over his creation...

“To say that God foreordains all that comes to pass is simply to say that God is sovereign over his entire creation. If something could come to pass apart from his sovereign permission, then that which came to pass would frustrate his sovereignty. If God refused to permit something to happen and it happened anyway, then whatever caused it to happen would have more authority and power than God himself. If there is any part of creation outside of God’s sovereignty, then God is simply not sovereign. If God is not sovereign, then God is not God.”

– R.C. Sproul, Chosen By God (Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), p.16.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How would you explain what it means to be a Christian?

Here is an excellent, brief summary from Tony Payne. (Check out his previous post also.)

In my previous post, I painted a scenario: if you had the opportunity to open up one simple Bible passage, and briefly explain to someone what it meant to be a Christian, where would you turn?

I would turn to 1 Thessalonians 1, verses 8-10:

For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

And with all the boldness, fluency and clarity that I wish I had in real life but only ever have in scenarios, I would read the passage with my new friend, and then say something like this:

"This part of the Bible is a letter written by one of the early Christian teachers (named Paul) to some people who had become Christians after he had shared the Christian message with them. And as he writes to them, he reminds them exactly what they did to become Christians. So it gives us a very neat summary of what the Bible says it means to become a Christian.

"It basically meant doing three things.

"The first thing that these people did was to turn away from their religion and culture. They used to worship idols — fake gods. But then they turned their backs on all this. Becoming a Christian requires you to turn away from your old life, from all the things that are not really god that you used to worship and live for.

"The second thing follows on from the first. They stopped serving and living for false gods, and started serving the true and living God—the one, real and true God, who made everything and who is in charge of everything. To become a Christian is to put yourself at God’s service; to acknowledge that he is the one and only God, and that you are one of his servants.

"But there’s a third aspect. Even if they turned back to God to serve him, why would he accept them? After all, they’d been worshipping the opposition, ignoring him, sinning against him. He would have every right to be angry with them. So why should he accept them back? Because of what it says there in verse 10: God’s Son Jesus died to deliver them from the anger that was to come (that’s what ‘wrath’ means).

"That’s what it means when Christians talk about Jesus ‘dying for our sins’. It means that when we stand before God at the end, and give account for our lives, we don’t have to fear God’s anger or judgement, because Jesus died to deliver us from that. So these guys were waiting confidently for the end, for when Jesus would return, knowing that he would rescue them and save them when they stood before God.

"So there you go—a quick summary of what the Bible says it means to be a Christian: turn your back on the false gods you used to worship, start serving the true and living God instead, and put your trust in Jesus who will rescue us from God’s anger."

"Now when you said to me before that you were a Christian, is that what you meant?"

Tony Payne is an ordained minister who serves as the Publishing Director at Matthias Media. He has authored or co-authored numerous books, Bible studies and resources, including The Trellis and the Vine, Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face and Six Steps to Reading Your Bible. Tony is also a regular contributor to The Briefing, and lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife Alison and their five children.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thank you for this thorn... (2 Cor. 12)

Thank you for this thorn embedded in my flesh
I can feel the mystery, my spirit is made fresh
You are sovereign still and forever wise
I can see the miracle opening my eyes

To a proud heart so quick to judge
Laying down crosses and carrying grudges
The veil has been torn
And I thank you for this thorn

Thank you for this thorn fellowship of pain
Teaching me to know you more never to complain
Thank You for this love planted in my side
Faithful patient miracle opening my eyes
I never thought I'd say it without reservation
But I am truly grateful for this piercing revelation
Of a proud heart so quick to judge
Laying down crosses and carrying grudges
The veil has been torn
And I thank you for this thorn

And if You choose to take it, I will praise You
And thank You for the healing in Your name
But if it must remain, I thank You for Your rod
Evidence of Father-love for a child of God

I join You in the sorrow
So much less than You have borne
And I thank you, really I thank You
Lord I thank You, I thank You for this thorn

-- Twila Paris

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Secret of Contentment

Here are key excerpts from this morning's message on 'the secret of contentment'....

"Contentment is a disposition of the heart that freely and joyfully submits to God's will, whatever that will may be." -- Stephen Altrogge, "The Greener Grass Conspiracy"

The secret of contentment is believing that, in every situation and circumstance, my heavenly Father is ultimately in control and is at work for my ultimate happiness and truest good – training me to be able to better know, love and trust Him and His will for my life, as I rely on his grace and His Word, through Christ, in the power of the Spirit.
(Phil. 4:10-13; Deut. 8:2-9; Heb. 12:5-11; 2 Cor. 4:7-18; 12:7-10; Phil. 1:12-18)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Another reason we need the Bible...

“Without the Bible’s revelation of the majesty and holiness of God, man has no conception of the glory from which he has fallen, or of his present predicament. His need is for a reconciliation that will change both his status and nature as a sinner. It is a need that cannot be met without divine action. When Christianity ceases to be God-centered, a superficial understanding of sin will always follow; sin is treated as a mere unhappiness of dissatisfaction instead of rebellion against God. Consequently the wrath of God passes out of sight, and with it, the necessity of the substitutionary death of Christ. Men reject the penal sufferings of Christ ‘because they do not see the problem’.

"In the same way, low views of God and light views of sin bring superficial ideas of what is involved in regeneration, when sinners are brought from death to life and created anew in the image of God. God alone can achieve such a change: ‘With men it is impossible, but not with God’ (Mark 10:27). All is ‘to the praise of the glory of his grace’ (Eph. 1:6). ‘For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen’ (Rom. 11:36)."

– Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Lloyd-Jones – Messenger of Grace (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2008), p. 8.

Friday, May 13, 2011

My review of Wittmer's "Christ Alone"

Here is my review of Michael Wittmer's "Christ Alone: A Response to Rob Bell's Love Wins" (also published on The Gospel Coalition website).

Michael E. Wittmer, Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins, (Edenridge Press, 2011), 172 pages.

In his introduction to Christ Alone, Michael Wittmer affirms his respect for Rob Bell and for Bell’s purpose in writing Love Wins, namely, “to start a dialogue about the most important issues of our faith.” His own book, Wittmer says, is “my attempt as an evangelical to join that conversation” (1).

It is an understatement to say that the best-selling Love Wins has triggered conversation. Some of the response to the book has been essentially favorable, including from notables like Eugene Peterson and Richard Mouw. Examples of substantial critique (mixed with varying degrees of appreciation) include Mark Galli’s review in Christianity Today; an essay by James K. A. Smith of Calvin College (who wonders if “hoping” and “imagining” are the most reliable ways of doing theology); the blog posts of James Spiegel, professor of philosophy at Taylor University (focused on the logical fallacies of Love Wins); and Kevin DeYoung’s comprehensive critique that appeared soon after the release of Bell’s book.

It seems clear that Love Wins has generated such a fervent response because its ideas (and assumptions) go well beyond what first appears to be its major focus—whether or not there is really a hell and whether some will spend eternity there. As Wittmer writes,

It’s impossible to reassess the subject of hell without reevaluating our beliefs about Scripture, God, sin, Jesus, the cross, and salvation. . . . So in this book I will not only examine Bell’s provocative statements on hell, but even more importantly, I will provide a serious and fair critique of his new vision for the Christian faith (3).

As far as I know, Wittmer’s Christ Alone is the first book-length (158 pages) response, and even though he has responded quickly, he has not done so superficially. As a professor of systematic and historical theology at a conservative evangelical seminary in the same city as Bell’s Mars Hill Church, he was well-situated for a variety of reasons to write this rapid response. For example, Wittmer and Bell both grew up in essentially the same theological (evangelical/baptistic) and cultural (Midwest) environment. Both were educated at colleges and seminaries that are identified as evangelical. And both men have written previous books that include critique (to varying degrees and with differing intensity) of what they consider to be “mis-beliefs” that mark Bible-believing, evangelical Christianity. But as the contrasts in these two books show, their similarities are accompanied by profound differences, not only in their beliefs about crucially important realities, but also, it seems clear, in how they form those beliefs.

Even though this review is focused on Wittmer’s book, given that Christ Alone is a response to Love Wins, it is necessary to interact with Bell’s work as well. Still, my primary purpose is not to act as theological umpire between the two, but to summarize and assess Wittmer’s book on its own terms. He clearly states his two goals for the reader: First, “to help you understand the biblical and theological issues,” and second, “I hope to persuade you to side with what the Scriptures and the church have historically said about these issues” (3). Wittmer writes clearly, although I must confess I do not understand the specific relevance of the title. And he presents his arguments with as much simplicity as such weighty themes permit. So, along with pastors and theologians, the serious-minded layperson can most certainly benefit from the book as well.

Exegetical, Theological, Philosophical, and Pastoral

Throughout the course of Christ Alone, Wittmer interacts with Bell on a number of levels—exegetical, theological, philosophical, and pastoral. Of course it is crucial in such a book that he do so in a way that fairly represents Bell’s own work. Michael Horton, who wrote a very engaging preface for the book, highlights this and other key features of what constitutes a good critique, and, with Horton, I think that Wittmer succeeds in terms of his analysis and assessment of Bell’s ideas.

For one example of Wittmer seeking to be charitable (and not only corrective), he highlights his agreement with some of the key points that Bell makes about heaven, including important ways that evangelicals have misunderstood all that is really involved in “the new heaven and new earth” (see chapter 3). More generally, Wittmer credits Bell with asking a series of important questions that thoughtful Christians (and those considering Christianity) are bound to ask and seriously consider. But at this point Wittmer’s focus turns to substantial concern, as he writes,

Besides such enduring questions, however, Bell’s opening chapter raises many questions that few evangelicals are struggling to answer. In my view, these additional questions don’t drive us deeper into the mystery of God. Instead they seem to raise doubts about the evangelical view of salvation (8).

From Inference to Conclusion

In what follows, Wittmer essentially adheres to the trajectory of Love Wins, critiquing many of Bell’s major ideas along with the exegesis offered to support them. Along the way, Wittmer occasionally presses forward from Bell’s premises to inferences and conclusions that might make Bell himself uncomfortable. But if Wittmer’s own logical method in such instances is sound, then the inferences and conclusions are fair game for critique as well (see, p. 74, for example). In these instances, I think Wittmer usually gets it right, but on one matter (Why convert now if you’ll have virtually endless opportunities to do so in the future?) I thought he may have under-appreciated what Bell wrote to counter that perspective (29-30). On the other hand, Bell so frequently presents his ideas hypothetically and in the form of questions that it is often difficult to know what he is, or isn’t, asserting.

When it comes to his critique of exegetical arguments, briefly, there is the example of Bell’s unique treatment of Jesus’s story of the rich man and Lazarus (27-28). Likewise Wittmer disputes Bell’s assessment of the New Testament words that English translators have rendered to include (at the very least) the concept of “everlasting” existence (see also Wittmer’s rebuttal of Bell’s idiosyncratic treatments of 1 Cor. 10:4 and Heb. 9:26).

In theological terms, Wittmer summarizes and then critiques Bell’s ideas on doctrines as crucial as the nature of God, the nature of the effects of sin and man’s lostness, with the related questions of the identity and mission of Christ and the nature of his atoning work. In nearly all of these areas, Wittmer argues that Bell’s ideas are not new, but are strikingly reminiscent of misbelief that the orthodox church has considered and deliberately rejected before (from the Pelagianism of the post-apostolic period to the theological liberalism of the early 1900s). And in relation to one of the central controversies associated with Love Wins, Wittmer’s evaluation leads him to describe Bell as an “incipient” and “functional” universalist (71).

Not So Much Conversation as Debate

While interacting with both books for this review, it became increasingly clear to me that this “conversation” on matters so central to Christianity is, essentially, a debate. Moreover, it is a reprise of the recurring debate that manifested itself not all that long ago in J. Gresham Machen’s classic work, Christianity and Liberalism. For Wittmer’s conclusion includes this:

Besides its reimaging of God, the largest problem with Love Wins is that ultimately it changes the biblical meaning of the gospel. This is a serious, life-and-death matter (139).

But Bell’s estimation of the view Wittmer defends is no less negative, no less stark. Bell’s criticism comes to a crescendo when he describes (many would say caricatures) Wittmer’s traditional/evangelical view of God and then concludes, “That kind of God is simply devastating. Psychologically crushing. We can’t bear it. No one can.” (Love Wins, 173-174). And on the very next page, with that same traditional view of God in mind, Bell ominously continues,

At the heart of it, we have to ask: Just what kind of God is behind all this? Because if something is wrong with your God, if your God is loving one second and cruel the next, if your God will punish people for all eternity for sins committed in a few short years, no amount of clever marketing or compelling language or good music or great coffee will be able to disguise that one, true, glaring, untenable, unacceptable, awful reality (Love Wins, 175, italics added).

In the preface, Michael Horton framed the larger situation this way:

The current controversy will fade away as quickly as it burst on the scene, but the widespread doubts to which Bell gave voice are deeper and wider than we probably imagine. So in a sense, [Bell] gave us a wake-up call, and Michael Wittmer has answered it. Although he engages with Love Wins directly, Wittmer’s case is just as relevant for the many other expressions of Bell’s thesis that we are sure to encounter in coming years (viii).

I agree, which is why I highly recommend this book.

Horton then counsels concerned evangelicals to follow Wittmer’s lead, “making the most of the current controversy to deepen our understanding of what we believe and why we believe it” (x). Horton is right that what is at stake is not only what we believe about God and the gospel, Christ and the atonement, sin and salvation, heaven and hell, but also why we believe it. What is—or more pointedly, what ought to be—our actual authority and source for what we believe as Christians or as evangelicals? Answering “Scripture” is clearly not enough, for both Bell and Wittmer turn to the Bible as their source. But Scripture interpreted how? By what principles and by what process? Can there at least be a working consensus that theological discourse should be characterized by principles and values that include a commitment to painstaking biblical-canonical exegesis, logical reasoning, careful scholarship, and doing theology respectfully in community with the church universal (see, for example, the final section of the Athanasian Creed), towards the goal of a coherent fullness of doctrine that is marked by (in a phrase from Wittmer elsewhere) “the charity of clarity“?

And can we at least agree that when it is time for our theologizing to be turned into pastoral communication (which is the primary form of pastoral care), it is incumbent upon us not only to raise provocative questions, but also to provide the church with answers—answers that are contemporary expressions of soul-nourishing truths of the faith and of the good, sound teaching of the inspired, inscripturated, apostolic revelation that we "follow" (1 Tim. 4:6-7) rather than that which we hope or wish for or imagine on our own?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"Be appalled...."

“Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 2:12.

"These strongest terms in the language show how intensely amazed all the holy in heaven are at the monstrous folly of human sinning. That when men might have the infinite God for their Friend, they choose to have Him their enemy; that when they might have Him their exhaustless portion of unmeasured and eternal good, they spurn Him away and set themselves to the fruitless task of making some ruinous substitute: this is beyond measure amazing! Verily, sin is a mockery of human reason! It defies all the counsels of prudence and good sense, and glories only in its own shame and madness.”

– John Peter Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures – Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical (Zondervan Publishing, quoting Cowles)

Monday, May 9, 2011

There is not enough private prayer...

There are few professing Christians, it may be feared, who strive to imitate Christ in the matter of private devotion. There is abundance of hearing, reading, talking, professing, visiting, contributing to the poor, subscribing to societies and teaching at schools. But is there, together with all this, a due proportion of private prayer? Are believing men and women sufficiently careful to be frequently alone with God? These are humbling and heart-searching questions. But we shall find it useful to give them an answer.

Why is it that there is so much apparent religious working, and yet so little result in positive conversions to God – so many sermons, and so few souls saved – so much machinery, and so little effect produced – so much running here and there, and yet so few brought to Christ? Why is all this? The reply is short and simple. There is not enough private prayer. The cause of Christ does not need less working, but it does need among the workers more praying. Let us each examine ourselves, and amend our ways. The most successful workmen in the Lord’s vineyard, are those who are like their Master, often and much upon their knees.

~ J.C. Ryle

Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke volume 1, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1986], 139, 140. {Luke 5:12-16}

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The true goal of Bible scholars...

Scot McKnight:

"I don’t believe our goal as Bible or theology scholars is to be deemed among the finest of scholars or to find a place at the table, but to be faithful to Jesus Christ and to the gospel and to orthodox theology and to academic rigor. Yes, we are to work to discover and to be creative, but the driving passion to prove ourselves at the feet of others falls short of a true Christian telos. I’d put it this way: we are called to be faithful, whether we are accepted or not."

HT: Justin Taylor

Friday, May 6, 2011

"He who sits on the throne shall dwell among them"

‘He who sits on the throne shall dwell among them.’ (Rev 7:15)

They shall no longer walk by faith, and see through a glass darkly. They shall see face to face the God in whom they have believed, and behold His countenance as that of a familiar friend.

They shall have no more dark seasons, they shall never feel that their beloved Lord is at a distance, they shall never tremble lest they compel Him to withdraw Himself by their lack of service—but they shall see Him as He is, and be forever at His side.

And if, while presently groaning in their body of sin, the Christian finds such peace and comfort in drawing near to God in prayer—if even in the flesh he has tasted that it is a joyful thing to pour out his heart before the throne of mercy—oh! who shall describe his blessedness when he shall find himself forever in his Redeemer’s presence, and shall be told—It is finished, you shall never leave this holy place?

— J.C. Ryle
"The Blood of the Lamb"

HT: Of First Importance

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What of those who have never heard?

This essay by Robert Gundry is not necessarily easy reading, but it is a model of faithful exposition and explanation of Biblical truth -- and its practical application is an urgent reminder of the central importance of evangelism and mission.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Encouraging words for Christians sincerely seeking to follow...

"The gospel reminds you continually that you are found in Christ, that the Christ-life is being lived in you through the Spirit, and that the Father is therefore pleased with you. The more you look to Christ, the less you hide."
-- Russell Moore, "Tempted and Tried"

Monday, May 2, 2011

Justice and the Death of Osama bin Laden

Michael Horton's essay, appearing at Christianity Today online, is probably the best treatment I've seen when it comes to the death of Osama bin Laden.

Here is a key excerpt:

"...What does all of this mean for our response to the news about the most notorious terrorist in recent history?

"First, it means that we can rejoice that even in this present evil age, God's common grace and common justice are being displayed through secular authorities. 'For [the ruler] is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. … Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed' (Rom. 13:4, 7). Yet the divine wrath that rulers execute is temporal and finite rather than eternal and infinite. Such justice is never so pure that it is unmingled with injustice, never so final that it satisfies God's eternal law.

"In view of the image of God stamped on every person, justice must always be tempered by love. Commenting on Genesis 9:6, John Calvin reminded us that we cannot hate even our most perverse enemies, because of the image of God in them. In one sense, the creation of every person in God's image provokes the temporal sword against murderers. Yet in another sense, it also restrains our lust for revenge. 'Should any one object, that this divine image has been obliterated, the solution is easy; first, there yet exists some remnant of it, so that man is possessed of no small dignity; and, secondly, the Celestial Creator himself, however corrupted man may be, still keeps in view the end of his original creation; and according to his example, we ought to consider for what end he created men, and what excellence he has bestowed upon them above the rest of living beings.'

"Second, it means that we cannot rejoice in the death of the wicked any more than does God (Ezek. 18:23). We may take satisfaction that temporal justice has been served, but Christians should display a sober restraint. When Christ returns, bringing infinite justice in his wake, his saints will rejoice in the death of his enemies. For now, however, he calls us to pray for our enemies, even for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44). This is the day of salvation, calling sinners to repent and believe the gospel. We may delight in the temporal justice shown to evildoers, but leave the final justice to God.

"Third, it means that the mandate to believe and to proclaim the gospel to every person is all the more urgent. After all, where would we be ourselves if Christ, in his first advent, had brought final and infinite justice instead of bearing it on behalf of his people? On the cross, Christ willingly offered himself as the lightning rod for God's infinite wrath, rising triumphantly on the third day. The events of 9/11 did not change everything in the way that the events of 33 A.D. did. Nor will the death of Osama bin Laden on 5/1/11 satisfy the final justice that awaits him—and all of us—on the last day.

"So as we take satisfaction in the honorable service of U.S. forces in bringing a terrorist to justice in the court of the temporal city, let us never dare to confuse this with "the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God" (Heb. 11:10). In our response, let us use this opportunity to display to our non-Christian neighbors the radical contrasts between the biblical view of God, humanity, redemption, and the last judgment, and the religious and secularist distortions—even those that profess to be Christian."

You can read his entire essay here.

Salvation and the Fear of God

"What is your greatest fear? If I were asking that question in many parts of the world, answers would probably cluster around basic needs such as running water, food, vaccines, and shelter. For most of us in the United States, though, our greatest fears are more likely to be things like the fear of loneliness, some cataclysmic event that throws me off the ladder of upward mobility, divorce, or the inability to find any ultimate meaning in life. None of these fears is illegitimate, yet none is ultimate. These fears haunt us only because we have the luxury of having them haunt us.

"Until we are confronted with the reality of God—in all of his blinding majesty, weightiness, and frightful claim on our lives—we are overwhelmed by secondary troubles. But when for some reason there is the slightest glimpse of God in his holiness, we either do our best to domesticate him, turn him into a pet by suppressing the truth, or run for the hills to escape the confrontation.

"God should be your greatest fear. Yet there is no salvation from God's just judgment from anywhere else than God himself. Only the same God who fills us with fear is able also to give us peace. If we are to escape this judgment, it will only be the result of the greatness in God's heart and not something in our own.

"That God has moved toward us—even lunged toward us—not in judgment, as we should have expected, but in loving embrace and reconciliation, clothing us in Christ's righteousness so that we can be acceptable in his holy presence, is the good news that you are called here and now to embrace.

"Christ lived a perfect life in the place of sinners, bore their sins on the cross, and was raised again for our justification. This means that 'there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.' Not because of anything that you have done, experienced, attempted, or decided, but because of what he has accomplished for you, can you be assured of God's favor. It is good news, not good advice. It is not a call to self-improvement, but to die to self altogether and be raised a new person, in Christ. It is the free gift of forgiveness of sins, right standing with God, adoption as his heirs, and liberation from the tyranny of sin.

"As his ambassador, I am calling you in his name to be reconciled to God by turning away from all other saviors and lords and embracing Jesus Christ as your righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Come to him now. His love is greater than your enmity toward him; his grace is greater than your sin; his peace is greater than your fears."

-- Michael Horton

HT; 9marks journal

Sunday, May 1, 2011

When we see Jesus...

"When we see Jesus as he really is we must either turn away or shamelessly adore him."

-- Dallas Willard