Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Subject of Sin Is Vital Knowledge

"The subject of sin is vital knowledge. To say that our first need in life is to learn about sin may sound strange, but in the sense intended it is profoundly true. If you have not learned about sin, you cannot understand yourself, or your fellow-men, or the world you live in, or the Christian faith. And you will not be able to make head or tail of the Bible. For the Bible is an exposition of God’s answer to the problem of human sin and unless you have that problem clearly before you, you will keep missing the point of what it says."

-- J.I. Packer

Friday, July 29, 2011

Family Values

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:26
God gave us family.  And what a precious gift!  But it is a gift, not the Giver.  Jesus will not allow himself to be demoted to High Priest in the Temple Of Family Values.  When we come to Christ, we leave that Temple behind, never to return, and we spend the rest of our lives recruiting our families to worship Jesus.
It means, for example, we choose a church not primarily for how it can serve our family but primarily for how our family can serve Christ.  It means we sometimes say to our wives, “Honey, I’m going to my discipleship group now.  I know it’s been quite a day with the kids.  And I will make this up to you tomorrow.  But the Lord will give you extra strength this evening.”  Then, as you’re walking out the door, she turns and says cheerfully to the kids, “Hey kids, aren’t we lucky to share our daddy with others, for Jesus’ sake?”  And the kids growing up in that family understand that Jesus is the center of the universe, and they are better off with reality arranged that way.
Yes, we disciple our kids too.  But if we never put them second for the Lord’s sake, is he really first?  Yes, it is possible to neglect family for ministry.  That is a real danger.  But it is also possible to exalt family above Christ.  That too is a real danger.  And, knowing our need, Jesus warned us about it in Luke 14:26.
C. S. Lewis, “When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.”
HT:  Shawn Newby; Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

He endows us with all He is and has...

The sway of Jesus rules an innumerable multitude of all nations and kindreds, and people and tongues. He endows them with all He is and all He has. His every perfection is for their enrichment. His wisdom is theirs to guide and teach. His power is theirs to defend. His grace is theirs to beautify. His righteousness is theirs to clothe. His life is theirs that they may live forever. His death is theirs that they may never die. 
— Henry LawGleanings from the Book of Life
HT: Of First Importance

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An introverted church??

"An introverted church, pre-occupied with its own survival, has virtually forfeited the right to be a church, for it is denying a major part of its own being. As a planet which ceases to be in orbit is no longer a planet, so a church which ceases to be in mission is no longer a church.” John Stott

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

True Spirituality

A good post from Justin Taylor about the life and ministry of Francis Schaeffer.  Here's an excerpt:  

"...finally the sun came out. I saw that my earlier decisions to step from agnosticism to Bible-believing Christianity was right, and I also discovered that I had been missing something vital in my biblical understanding. It was this: that the finished work of Christ on the cross, back there in time and space, has a moment-by-moment meaning. Christ meant His promise to be taken literally when He said that He would bear His fruit through us if we allowed Him to do so, not only in our religious life but in all of our life. Christ meant to be Lord of my whole life. This brought my life to a great shattering moment. What began as struggle ended in a song. Without that crisis, I could never have written True Spirituality, for that book is the outcome of that personal struggle." -- Francis Schaeffer

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Your righteousness is in heaven..."

“One day as I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience, fearing lest all was still not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, Your righteousness is in heaven.  And I thought as well that I saw, with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God’s right hand.  There, I say, is my righteousness, so that wherever I was or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, he lacks my righteousness, for that was just before Him.  I also saw that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday and today and forever.
"Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed. . . . I went home rejoicing for the grace and love of God. . . . Here I lived for some time, very sweetly at peace with God through Christ.  Oh, I thought, Christ! Christ!  There was nothing but Christ before my eyes.”
-- John Bunyan, Grace Abounding (Philadelphia, 1859), page 75, edited slightly.
HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Paul on Romans 6:17

Paul does not say that becoming obedient is what saves a person, but he most definitely says that when a person is saved, he or she becomes obedient!

Friday, July 22, 2011

A summary of the New Testament in Three Words....

J. I. Packer:
Were I asked to focus the New Testament message in three words, my proposal would be adoption through propitiation, and I do not expect ever to meet a richer or more pregnant summary of the gospel than that. (Knowing God, p. 214)
And a test for how well you understand Christianity:
You sum up the whole of New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator.
In the same way, you sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father.
If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father.
If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.
For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. (Knowing God, p. 201; my emphasis)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Where true freedom begins...

True freedom begins when slavery to sin ends, and slavery to sin ends only when we have become the slaves of God. But ... we are not just the slaves of God. We are also His citizens, friends, and family members. All of this is possible because He chose us and called us to Himself, redeeming us from our slavery to sin and granting us eternal life through His Son.

-- John MacArthur (2010). Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ (p. 142).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Status of God's Children

“The adopted status of believers means that in and through Christ God loves them as he loves his only-begotten Son and will share with them all the glory that is Christ’s now” -- J.I. Packer,  (Concise Theology [Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993], 167). 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Enslaved to God

“True Christianity is not about adding Jesus to my life. Instead, it is about devoting myself completely to Him—submitting wholly to His will and seeking to please Him above all else. It demands dying to self and following the Master, no matter the cost. In other words, to be a Christian is to be Christ’s slave.” [Rom. 6:17-22] 

-- John MacArthur, "Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ"

Monday, July 18, 2011

By Dying, Set Free

“All human selves, with all the powers of remembering, relating, learning, purposing and enjoying that make us who we are, survive death, and by dying are actually set free from all shrinkings of personal life due to physical factors — handicaps, injuries and deteriorations of body and mind; torture and starvation; Alzheimer’s disease, Down syndrome, AIDS and the like.  This was true for both Jesus and the believing criminal to whom he said, as crucifixion drained their lives away, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise’; and it will be just as true for you and me.”
J. I. Packer, “Did God die on the cross?”, Christianity Today, 5 April 1999, page 70.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

"We shall see Him as He is..."

"The head that once was crowned with thorns,
Is crown'd with glory now."

    We shall see the hand, and the nail-prints too, but not the nail; it has been once drawn out, and for ever. We shall see his side, and its pierced wound too, but the blood shall not issue from it. We shall see him not with a peasant's garb around him, but with the empire of the universe upon his shoulders. We shall see him, not with a reed in his hand, but grasping a golden sceptre. We shall see him, not as mocked and spit upon and insulted, not bone of our bone, in all our agonies, afflictions, and distresses; but we shall see him exalted; no longer Christ the man of sorrows, the acquaintance of grief, but Christ the Man-God, radiant with splendour, effulgent with light, clothed with rainbows, girded with clouds, wrapped in lightnings, crowned with stars, the sun beneath his feet. Oh! glorious vision! How can we guess what he is? What words can tell us? or how can we speak thereof? Yet whate'er he is, with all his splendour unveiled, all his glories unclouded, and himself unclothed—we shall see him as he is.

"No more the bloody spear,
The cross and nails no more;
For hell itself shakes at his name,
And all the heavens adore."

-- Charles Spurgeon,  "The Beatific Vision" (sermon from 1 John 3:2)

The History of Our Hopes

"When Christ died on the cross our hopes began, when he rose they were confirmed, when he went up on high they began to be fulfilled, when he comes a second time they will be realized." -- Charles Spurgeon

Friday, July 15, 2011

"By grace subdued"

The rebel soul that once withstood,
The Savior’s kindest call,
Rejoices now by grace subdued
To serve Him with her all.

-- John Newton

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lord and Master

"As those who confess the lordship of Christ, believers are duty bound to obey Him in everything. Along these lines, the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament explains: 'With his work of redemption Christ has made believers his own possession and now gives them the goals that shape their lives. This new commitment, which is a commitment to righteousness (Rom. 6:19), holiness (1 Thess. 3:13), and newness of life (Rom. 6:4), finds expression in the description of Christians as Christ’s do├║loi [slaves] (1 Cor. 7:22; Eph. 6:6).'”

John MacArthur,  (2010). "Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ" (p. 89). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What follows from the reality that "Jesus is Lord"

"The claim ‘Jesus is Lord’ is not simply a confession of his deity. It is that and more. The important eschatological point that this claim makes is that in Jesus Christ the threats to God’s promises being fulfilled have been conquered objectively and will be realized fully in the age to come. There are no powers, authorities, thrones, or dominions that can thwart his purposes, although they may present fierce opposition until they are finally destroyed."

— Michael HortonThe Christian Faith(Grand Rapids, Mi.: Zondervan, 2011), 527

Monday, July 11, 2011

John Piper on how to recognize a 'wolf' in the making...

"Let me just mention one feature to watch out for in the recognition of wolves. As I have watched the movement from biblical faithfulness to liberalism in persons and institutions that I have known over the years, this feature stands out: An emotional disenchantment with faithfulness to what is old and fixed, and an emotional preoccupation with what is new or fashionable or relevant in the eyes of the world.
"Let's try to say it another way: when this feature is prevalent, you don't get the impression that a person really longs to bring his mind and heart into conformity to fixed biblical truth. Instead you see the desire to picture biblical truth as unfixed, fluid, indefinable, distant, inaccessible, and so open to the trends of the day.
"So what marks a possible wolf-in-the-making is not simply that he rejects or accepts any particular biblical truth, but that he isn't deeply oriented on the Bible. He is more oriented on experience. He isn't captured by the great old faith once for all delivered to the saints. Instead he's enamored by what is new and innovative.
"A good elder can be creative. But the indispensable mark when it comes to doctrinal fitness is faithfulness to what is fixed in Scripture—disciplined, humble submission to the particular affirmations of the Bible—carefully and reverently studied and explained and cherished. When that spirit begins to go, there's a wolf-in-the-making."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

When you said you are a Christian, is this what you meant?...

From our New Horizons teaching today, we began with a good blogpost from Tony Payne: explaining the gospel and the right response to it in light of 1 Thessalonians 1:  

Payne writes, "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 judgment, because Jesus died to deliver us from that. [And it was God the Father’s own love for sinners that led to the saving sacrifice of the Son.]  So these [believers] 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?"

Then I shared an analogy from military service (since I had just performed a wedding where both the bride and groom are Navy pilots).   At one point, they 'enlisted' into the Navy, and from that point on their whole life situation was different, under a new authority that impacted every sphere of their lives.

In an even more intensive and comprehensive way, that's what Paul says a person does when they become a Christian.  They enlist as servants of the living and true God (1 Thess. 1:9; compare Rom. 6:17-22).  From then on the true Christian is under a new authority (the Lordship of Christ) that is to be intentionally and comprehensively lived out '24/7' (which is very different than the 'a la carte/smorgasbord/pick and choose' pseudo-Christianity that is so prevalent today.

So, have you enlisted into the service of the only living and true God?  Is THAT what you meant when you said that you're a Christian?

(See also Matt. 7:21-23; 28:18-20).

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Why wisdom is so valuable...

"Wisdom is man’s true strength; and, under its guidance, he best accomplishes the ends of his being. Wisely handling the matter of life gives to man the richest enjoyment, and presents the noblest occupation for his powers; hence by it he finds good in the fullest sense. Without wisdom, man is as the wild ass’s colt, running hither and thither, wasting strength which might be profitably employed. Wisdom is the compass by which man is to steer across the trackless waste of life; without it he is a derelict vessel, the sport of winds and waves." -- Charles Spurgeon

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

If God has forgiven you...

 “If God has forgiven you the grisly things you’ve done, you must learn to be at peace with yourself now that you’re at peace with God.” -- J.I. Packer

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Grace: Jesus Christ in redeeming action

In grace, God gives nothing less than Himself. Grace, then, is not a third thing or substance mediating between God and sinners, but is Jesus Christ in redeeming action. 
— Michael HortonThe Christian Faith(Grand Rapids, Mi.: Zondervan, 2011), 267-268
HT:  "Of First Importance"