Monday, December 31, 2012

"Joyful Tidings"

“‘Evangelion’ (that we call the gospel) is a Greek word, and signifieth good, merry, glad and joyful tidings, that maketh a man’s heart glad, and maketh him sing, dance and leap for joy.”

-- William Tyndale, quoted in Iain H. Murray, Evangelicalism Divided (Edinburgh, 2000), page 1.

"Today some of us are preaching the gospel.  May we announce to the people one utterance, at least just one, that has the power to make a reasonable, thoughtful, respectable adult want to stand up and shout for joy.  Not that they will.  But they should be thinking, “Hold on here, buddy.  I know how you feel, but don’t let this joy carry you away.”  And if we never say anything that makes that impact on a reasonable adult, are we preaching the gospel?

"Let’s preach to sinners the news so good that we ourselves must struggle against the magnitude of its joy."

-- Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Spirit Works through the Word

“Spiritual experience that does not arise from God’s word is not Christian experience. . . . Not all that passes for Christian experience is genuine. An authentic experience of the Spirit is an experience in response to the gospel. Through the Spirit the truth touches our hearts, and that truth moves our emotions and effects our wills.”

- Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church (Wheaton, Ill.; Crossway Books, 2008), 31.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Convicted by mercy

"Repentance out of mere fear is really sorrow for the consequences of sin, sorrow over the danger of sin — it bends the will away from sin, but the heart still clings. But repentance out of conviction over mercy is really sorrow over sin, sorrow over the grievousness of sin — it melts the heart away from sin. It makes the sin itself disgusting to us, so it loses its attractive power over us. We say, ‘This disgusting thing is an affront to the one who died for me. I’m continuing to stab him with it!’"

— Tim Keller
Church Planter Manual

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The relief of poverty, hunger and injustice

"God created both soul and body, and the resurrection of Jesus shows that he is going to redeem both the spiritual and the material. Therefore God is concerned not only for the salvation of souls but also for the relief of poverty, hunger, and injustice.

"The gospel opens our eyes to the fact that all our wealth (even wealth for which we worked hard) is ultimately an unmerited gift from God. Therefore the person who does not generously give away his or her wealth to others is not merely lacking in compassion, but is unjust.

"Christ wins our salvation through losing, achieves power through weakness and service, and comes to wealth through giving all away. Those who receive his salvation are not the strong and accomplished but those who admit they are weak and lost. We cannot look at the poor and the oppressed and callously call them to pull themselves out of their own difficulty. Jesus did not treat us that way."

— The Gospel Coalition
"Theological Vision for Ministry"

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

"Christmas Is for Those Who Hate It Most"

from Matt Redmond:

We are by now accustomed to hearing about how Christmas is difficult for many people. The story of Scrooge and his—ehem—problems with this season is no longer anecdotal. It is now par for the course. Maybe it always has been. Maybe the joy of the season has always been a thorn in the side of those who can scarcely imagine joy.

Not too long ago, I heard from someone about how difficult Christmas would be because of some heartbreak in their family. There was utter hopelessness and devastation. Christmas would be impossible to enjoy because of the freshness of this pain. It's been a story very hard to forget.
I get it. I mean, it makes sense on the level of Christmas being a time in which there is a lot of heavily concentrated family time. The holidays can be tense in even the best of circumstances. Maneuvering through the landmines of various personalities can be hard even if there is no cancer, divorce or empty seat at the table. What makes it the most wonderful time of the year is also what makes it the most brutal time of the year. My own family has not been immune to this phenomenon.
But allow me to push back against this idea a little. Gently. I think we have it all backwards. We have it sunk deep into our collective cultural consciousness that Christmas is for the happy people. You know, those with idyllic family situations enjoyed around stocking-strewn hearth dreams. Christmas is for healthy people who laugh easily and at all the right times, right? The successful and the beautiful, who live in suburban bliss, can easily enjoy the holidays. They have not gotten lost on the way because of the GPS they got last year. They are beaming after watching a Christmas classic curled up on the couch as a family in front of their ginormous flat-screen. We live and act as if this is who should be enjoying Christmas. 
But this is backwards. Christmas—the great story of the incarnation of the Rescuer—is for everyone, especially those who need a rescue. Jesus was born as a baby to know the pain and sympathize with our weaknesses. Jesus was made to be like us so that in his resurrection we can be made like him; free from the fear of death and the pain of loss. Jesus’ first recorded worshipers were not of the beautiful class. They were poor, ugly shepherds, beat down by life and labor. They had been looked down on over many a nose. 
Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness. Jesus came for daughters whose fathers never told them they were beautiful. Christmas is for those who go to "wing night" alone. Christmas is for those whose lives have been wrecked by cancer, and the thought of another Christmas seems like an impossible dream. Christmas is for those who would be nothing but lonely if not for social media. Christmas is for those whose marriages have careened against the retaining wall and are threatening to flip over the edge. Christmas is for the son whose father keeps giving him hunting gear when he wants art materials. Christmas is for smokers who cannot quit even in the face of a death sentence. Christmas is for prostitutes, adulterers, and porn stars who long for love in every wrong place. Christmas is for college students who are sitting in the midst of the family and already cannot wait to get out for another drink. Christmas is for those who traffic in failed dreams. Christmas is for those who have squandered the family name and fortune—they want "home" but cannot imagine a gracious reception. Christmas is for parents watching their children’s marriage fall into disarray. 
Christmas is really about the gospel of grace for sinners. Because of all that Christ has done on the cross, the manger becomes the most hopeful place in a universe darkened with hopelessness. In the irony of all ironies, Christmas is for those who will find it the hardest to enjoy. It really is for those who hate it most.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Let us treat men as men and God as God...."

I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; and forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor? (Isaiah 51:12-13)

"Let the text itself be taken as the portion for today. There is no need to enlarge upon it. Trembling one, read it, believe it, feed on it, and plead it before the Lord. He whom you fear is only a man after all; while He who promises to comfort you is God, your Maker, and the creator of heaven and earth. Infinite comfort more than covers a very limited danger.

"Where is the fury of the oppressor?" It is in the Lord's hand. It is only the fury of a dying creature; fury which will end as soon as the breath is gone from the nostril. Why, then, should we stand in awe of one who is as frail as ourselves? Let us not dishonor our God by making a god of puny man. We can make an idol of a man by rendering to him excessive fear as well as by paying him inordinate love. Let us treat men as men, and God as God; and then we shall go calmly on in the path of duty, fearing the Lord and fearing nobody else."

-- Charles Spurgeon

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Let's Re-think Our Holly-Jolly Christmas Songs"

-- from Russell Moore:

"Sometimes I learn a lot from conversations I was never intended to hear. This happened the other day as I was stopping by my local community bookstore. It’s a small store, and a quiet store so it was impossible not to eavesdrop as I heard a young man tell his friend how much he hated Christmas. And, you know what, the more he talked, the more I understood his point.

"This man wasn’t talking about the hustle and bustle of the holidays, or about the stresses of family meals or all the things people tend to complain about. What he hated was the music.

"This guy started by lampooning Sting’s Christmas album, and I found myself smiling as I browsed because he is so right; it’s awful. But then he went on to say that he hated Christmas music across the board. That’s when I started to feel as though I might be in the presence of the Grinch. You know, when every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing; they’d stand hand-in-hand. And the Who’s would start singing. The sour old green villain didn’t like that.

"But then this man explained why he found the music so bad. It wasn’t just that it was cloying. It’s that it was boring.

"'Christmas is boring because there’s no narrative tension,' he said. 'It’s like reading a book with no conflict.'

"Now he had my attention.

"I’m sure this man had thought this for a long time, but maybe he felt freer to say it because we were only hours out from hearing the horrifying news of a massacre of innocent children in Connecticut. For him, the tranquil lyrics of our Christmas songs couldn’t encompass such terror. Maybe we should think about that.

"Of course, some of the blame is on our sentimentalized Christmas of the American civil religion. Simeon the prophet never wished anyone a “holly-jolly Christmas” or envisioned anything about chestnuts roasting on an open fire. But there’s our songs too, the songs of the church. We ought to make sure that what we sing measures up with the, as this fellow would put it, “narrative tension” of the Christmas story.

"The first Christmas carol, after all, was a war hymn. Mary of Nazareth sings of God’s defeat of his enemies, about how in Christ he had demonstrated his power and “has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate” (Lk. 1:52). There are some villains in mind there.

Simeon’s song, likewise, speaks of the “fall and rising of many in Israel” and of a sword that would pierce the heart of Mary herself. Even the “light of the Gentiles” he speaks about is in the context of warfare. After all, the light, the Bible tells us, overcomes the darkness (Jn. 1:5), and frees us from the grip of the devil (2 Cor. 4).

"In a time of obvious tragedy, the unbearable lightness of Christmas seems absurd to the watching world. But, even in the best of times, we all know that we live in a groaning universe, a world of divorce courts and cancer cells and concentration camps. Just as we sing with joy about the coming of the Promised One, we ought also to sing with groaning that he is not back yet (Rom. 8:23), sometimes with groanings too deep for lyrics.

"The man in the bookstore knew that reality is complicated. There’s grit, and there’s tension. Without it, Christmas didn’t seem real to life. It’s hard to get more tense than being born under a king’s death sentence (Matt. 2:16), and with an ancient dragon crouching at the birth canal to devour you (Rev. 12:4). But this man didn’t hear any of that in Christmas. I’m glad I overheard him.

"We have a rich and complicated and often appropriately dark Christmas hymnody. We can sing of blessings flowing “far as the curse is found,” of the one who came to “free us all from Satan’s power.”

"Let’s sing that, every now and then, where we can be overheard."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Bow Low Before Baby Jesus"

A good essay from David Shrock ends like this:  "...May we not fawn over him with mere sentimentality this Christmas, but bow low and adore him as our Savior and King."

Read the entire essay here.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Our Merciful High Priest

"Trained, too, by a protracted discipline in the school of affliction, He knows the temptations of our race--He knows what it is to weep, He knows the burden of a heavy heart. It was, perhaps, one design of the varied scenes of trial through which He passed to give Him that experience of our state which should call into the liveliest exercise the exquisite sympathy of His soul. In generous natures common troubles and afflictions have a tendency to knit them together; it is only where the heart has been seared by sin and immersed in selfishness that it can look with indifference upon struggles of others similar to those through which it has passed. The Apostle assures us that Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest. And those who have felt His presence in their trials can appreciate the priceless value of His sympathy. He has gone before us through every path of sorrow, and we cannot utter a groan nor heave a sigh which does not go to His heart. His pity for the guilty is as tender as His sympathy with the saints." -- James Henley Thornwell

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Scandal, Shame and Shock at Christmas"

From "Christmas Uncut," a short evangelistic book presenting the heart of the gospel message from the Christmas narratives, for churches and Christians to give away to non-believing visitors and friends.


It's the height of ambition for most 5-year-old girls---and often their mothers, too. But in every school and church, only one girl each year can reach the dizzying height of being Mary in the nativity play.

Yet in a way, it's not such a prized role at all. In fact, it's quite strange that parents want their daughters to be Mary. We're essentially dreaming that our child will play a teenage mum who got herself pregnant in a very suspicious way, and whose life nearly fell apart because of it. Because that's what happened to the real Mary.

A nativity play begins with smiles and carols. The real Christmas began with scandal, shame, and shock.


Here's the scandal. Mary was a normal girl living in a nothing town called Nazareth, in the north of Israel. She was probably 14 or 15---and (as was normal in that society) engaged to be married. But, before Joseph had touched her, she fell pregnant.

Today, that might prompt a bit of gossip, nothing more. Then, it was hugely scandalous. They took marriage seriously in Israel---so seriously that adultery could get you stoned to death.

And that's what Mary faced. Not just dirty looks and cutting comments from other women, but a lifetime of struggle and loneliness, and the real possibility of death. But they don't mention those things in nativity plays.


Here's the shame. Imagine being Joseph. Everyone would know that Mary so hated the thought of being with you that she'd decided to go elsewhere. There aren't many things more humiliating than your girl sleeping around; and that's what the neighbors would assume Mary had done. It's amazing that Joseph was prepared to split up quietly, rather than letting everyone know what Mary did. It's even more amazing that he ended up sticking by her.

They don't mention those things in nativity plays, either.


And here's the shock. All this was God's doing.

I don't know how you imagine God, if you do at all. Maybe some old guy sitting up in the sky? Maybe some amazingly powerful force who quite frankly has more interesting things to do than care about our little lives? Maybe some distant being who really has no idea what life is actually like here on planet earth?

But here's the God of the Bible. He's a God who gets involved. Who turns lives upside down. Who doesn't act as we might expect.

He's a God who came and lived on earth, as a human.

That's the big shock. Not that a teenage girl got pregnant, and the father wasn't her boyfriend. Not that a young guy decided to stick by his girl, even though he wasn't the father.

No---the shock is that the baby "will be called the Son of God."

Who Is God?

This baby was God coming to live in human history. This baby would be human (Mary was his mother); but he would also be God. He was God's Son, who had existed with God the Father (whom we normally just call God) and God the Holy Spirit since before the creation of the world, since eternity.

And so here's a glimpse of who God is. He's Father, Son, and Spirit. He's existed as this three-in-one God, in perfect love and relationship within himself, for eternity.

That sounds quite strange. And it is! But it's also exciting. Because if this God is all about love and relationships, then the universe he's made will be about love and relationships too. It's not about power, or possessions, or just pointlessness. The God of love and relationship has made us to enjoy a life of love that lasts and of relationships that work.

That's a God worth knowing. And that's the God who was going to be born to Mary; God the Son come to live on earth.


I don't know about you, but I struggle to get my head around that news. The God of eternity, who knows and controls everything, becoming a baby who needs changing, feeding, burping. My mind can't work that out!

But then, there are lots of things that overload my brain---like the fact that light can travel from here to the sun in 8.3 minutes. That's a speed of 186,000 miles per second. My mind can't really understand how something can travel so fast (science was never my strongest subject at school). Yet I know it does travel at that speed.

We'll never understand how God could travel so far---from his throne in heaven to the womb of a woman in Israel. But he did. The angel said that this baby "will be called the Son of God." God came to earth, as one of us, to live in the world he created.

So what will God as a human be like? What does he want to tell us? What has he come to do?

At this point, Mary could only have had only a vague idea. But the night he was born, things would start to become clearer . . .

From The Gospel Coalition Website

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Infinite..and an Infant

"I do believe that the very angels have never wondered but once and that has been incessantly ever since they first beheld it. They never cease to tell the astonishing story, and to tell it with increasing astonishment too, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born of the Virgin Mary, and became a man. Is he not rightly called Wonderful? Infinite, and an infant — eternal, and yet born of a woman — Almighty, and yet hanging on a woman’s breast supporting the universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother’s arms — king of angels, and yet the reputed son of Joseph — heir of all things and yet the carpenter’s despised son. Wonderful art thou O Jesus, and that shall be thy name for ever."

— Charles Spurgeon
"His Name - Wonderful!"

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Who in his right mind would believe......?

“. . . that God could become a Man in a particular place and at a particular time, . . . could be nailed to a cross and left to die, only to rise from the dead and . . . disappear into heaven, there to watch over mankind forevermore.  Who in his right mind could believe such a story?  Well, to begin with, all those who have believed it.  That is to say, the greatest artists, mystics, sculptors, saints, builders – for instance, builders of the great medieval cathedrals – over the Christian centuries, not to mention the Christians of all sorts and conditions whose lives, generation after generation, have been irradiated, given a meaning and a direction, through the great drama of the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.”

-- Malcolm Muggeridge, Confessions of a Twentieth-Century Pilgrim (San Francisco, 1988), pages 65-66.
HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The choice between God and idolatry

"One has only the choice between God and idolatry....  If one denies is worshiping some things of this world in the belief that one sees them only as such, but in fact, though unknown to oneself imagining the attributes of Divinity in them."

-- Simone Weil (quoted by Tim Keller in "The Reason for God," p. 166)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Hope of Heaven

“It has pleased our Father to open his counsel and to let us know the very intent of his heart and to acquaint us with the eternal extent of his love; and all this, that our joy may be full and we might live as the heirs of such a kingdom [of heaven].  And shall we now overlook all this, as if he had revealed no such matter?  Shall we live in earthly cares and sorrows, as if we knew of no such thing?  And rejoice no more in these discoveries than if the Lord had never written it?  If your prince had promised you some lordship, how often would you be casting your eye upon it and making your daily delight to study it, until you come to possess that dignity itself.  And has God promised you heaven, and do you let it lie there, as if you had forgotten it?  Oh, that our hearts were as high as our hopes, and our hopes as high as these infallible promises!”

-- Richard Baxter, Practical Works (London, 1838), III:276.  Style updated.
HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Bible's Message of Christmas

The Biblical message about Christmas is the wondrous truth of the Son of God becoming man to save sinners from the guilt and misery of their sin.

It is about the profound mystery of the Incarnation – the Word becoming flesh, God becoming man, dwelling among us, as one of us, fitting Him to be our sympathizing Savior and interceding High Priest.

It is about the fulfillment of promises and prophecies and about the inauguration of a new covenant, with the covenant gifts of forgiveness of sin and the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit.

It is about the drawing near of the reign of God in the person of the Messiah whom God had promised to send.

It is about the glory of God in the way that he brings peace – shalom (the way things are supposed to be) – to earth.

It is about the momentous decision that his coming presents to every human being – will they receive or reject Him? Will they repent and believe the Good News?

And the Good News is that a Savior from sin has come – and this One who is Savior/Redeemer is also Messiah, King and Lord. Those who refuse Him will bring final judgment and everlasting ruin upon themselves. Those who receive Him are actually made the children of God!

The Biblical stories surrounding the birth of Christ also give us compelling examples (in the responses of Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Simeon etc.) of what it means to trust and obey God, and to submit to his will even when that submission is very difficult. And these examples teach us about what it means to care more about the interests of the kingdom of God than our own individual concerns.

These are the themes that the faithful church joyfully and reverently proclaims in music and message at Christmas time!

Friday, December 7, 2012

What does it mean to trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord?

“’Trusting in Jesus’…means firmly believing certain things to be true about Jesus – that he came into the world as God’s Son, that he died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins, that he rose again to be God’s king, and that he is the only one who can stand as a priest before God on my behalf – and then acting in dependence and reliance upon those things about him….

“Because I know and trust that Jesus is God’s good and  perfect king, I  will fall down before him and submit my entire life to him, knowing that whatever he tells me to do will be excellent and for my good.  And because I know and trust that Jesus has died and risen and ascended to God as my priest, I will completely depend upon him for the forgiveness of my sins and eternal life.  I will place my life in his hands, knowing that he will save me from the judgment I deserve and that submitting to him as my king will mean ‘life’ with a capital L.”

“What part does the Spirit play in this?  He’s the one who changes us on the inside so that we put our trust in Jesus….  By his Spirit, God brings us to  the point where we put our trust in Jesus, making him the king and savior of our lives….  When the Spirit brings you to trust in Jesus, he actually begins a new life in you….  God works in you so that you start living how you were meant to live – with Jesus as the king of your life.  God makes you his by joining you to Jesus in such a way that his death is your death – all your sins are paid for; and his life is your life – you begin to live as someone who loves God.”

-- Paul Grimmond, "Right Side Up: Life as God Meant It to Be" (Matthias Media, pp. 71-73)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What is true repentance?

Q.  What is repentance unto life?

A.  Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of and endeavor after new obedience.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, #87.

(from Ray Ortlund, Jr.)...  Two observations:

One, the motive for repentance is not only sorrow for sin but also a sense of the mercy of God in Christ.  We have zero motivation to repent, unless we see the mercy of God awaiting us.  Not the slap of God, but the embrace of God.  Repentance is not just turning from sin, not even that primarily.  Repentance is primarily turning to God, moment by moment, because he has promised his mercy to the penitent.

Two, the outcome of repentance is not a restored status quo, getting back to “normal,” getting back to where we were before we sinned, evading the consequences of sin.  The outcome of true repentance is new obedience, unprecedented obedience, perhaps unheard-of obedience.  Newness of life.

True repentance is hope-inspired and newness-creating.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pastors, Sheep and Goats

"The pastor is called to feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let the goats entertain goats, and let them do it out in goatland. You will certainly not turn goats into sheep by pandering to their goatishness".

- William Still, "The Work of the Pastor", p. 23

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"Come to Christ Himself"

via Ray Ortlund, Jr.

“He that . . . wants relief must come to Christ himself.  He must not be content with coming to His Church and His ordinances or to the assemblies of His people for prayer and praise.  He must not stop short even at His holy table or rest satisfied with privately opening his heart to His ordained ministers.  Oh no! . . . He must go higher, further, much further than this.  He must have personal dealings with Christ Himself.  All else in religion is worthless without Him.  The King’s palace, the attendant servants, the richly furnished banqueting house, the very banquet itself — all are nothing, unless we speak with the King.  His hand alone can take the burden off our backs and make us feel free. . . . We must deal directly with Christ.”

J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Old Tappan, n.d.), pages 266-267.

"If we go to church just to be with one another, one another is all we will get.  And it isn’t enough.  Eventually, our deepest unmet needs will explode in anger at one another.  Putting community first destroys community.  We must put Christ himself first and keep him first and treat him as first and come to him first and again and again.  He can heal as no other can.  Can, and will.  If we come to him."

Monday, December 3, 2012

Heroes of Faith

"Men dream that heroes are only to be made on special occasions, once or twice in a century; but in truth the finest heroes are home-spun, and are more often hidden in obscurity than platformed by public observation. Trust in the living God is the bullion out of which heroism is coined. Perseverance in well-doing is one of the fields in which faith grows not flowers, but the wheat of her harvest. Plodding on in hard work, bringing up a family on a few shillings a week, bearing constant pain with patience, and so forth - these are the feats of valour through which God is glorified by the rank and file of His believing people...we will not pine to be great, but we will be eager to be good. For this we will rely upon the Lord our God, whose we are, and whom we serve." - Charles H. Spurgeon, "Around The Wicket Gate"

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Spirit and the Word

"There is no deeper revelation of the Spirit beyond the revelation of the Bible. The authentic work of the Spirit is seen, not when people get excited by some new message or miracle, but rather when their eyes are opened and their hearts are filled with an ever-deepening appreciation of the Bible's teaching about what God has done for them in Christ and a growing longing to live in light of all they have received from him."

-- Vaughan Roberts. Authentic Church: True Spirituality in a Culture of Counterfeits. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2011

Thursday, November 29, 2012

When the promise seems unlikely

“I am the Almighty God, able to fulfill your highest hopes and accomplish for you the brightest ideal that ever my words set before you.  There is no need of paring down the promise until it squares with human probabilities, no need of relinquishing one hope it has begotten, no need of adopting some interpretation of it which may make it seem easier to fulfill, and no need of striving to fulfill it in any second-rate way.  All possibility lies in this: I am the Almighty God.” [Gen. 17:1]

-- Marcus Dods, The Book of Genesis (New York, 1902), page 161.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How to Read the Bible (and How Not to)

from Ray Ortlund, Jr....

“Against those forms of Judaism that saw the law-covenant not only as lex [law] but as a hermeneutical device for interpreting the Old Testament, Paul insists that the Bible’s story line takes precedence and provides the proper hermeneutical key.”

-- D. A. Carson, “Reflections on Salvation and Justification in the New Testament,” JETS 40 (1997): 585.

'There are two ways to read the Bible.  We can read it as law or as promise.

'If we read the Bible as law, we will find on every page what God is telling us we should do.  Even the promises will be conditioned by law.  But if we read the Bible as promise, we will find on every page what God is telling us he will do.  Even the law will be conditioned by promise.

'In Galatians 3 Paul explains which hermeneutic is the correct one.  “This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.  For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise” (Galatians 3:17-18).

'So, if we want to know whether we should read the Bible through the lens of law or grace, demand or provision, threat or promise — if we want to know how to read the Bible in an apostolic rather than a rabbinic way — we can follow the plot-line of the Bible itself and see which comes first.  And in fact, promise comes first, in God’s word to Abram in Genesis 12.  Then the law is “added” — significant word, in Galatians 3:19 — the law is added as a sidebar later, in Exodus 20.  The hermeneutical category “promise” establishes the larger, wraparound framework for everything else added in along the way.

'The deepest message of the Bible is the promises of God to undeserving law-breakers through his grace in Christ.  This is not an arbitrary overlay forced onto the biblical text.  The Bible presents itself to us this way.  The laws and commands and examples and warnings are all there, fulfilled in Christ and revered by us.  But they do not provide the hermeneutic with which we make sense of the whole.  We can and should understand them as qualified by God’s gracious promise, for all who will bank their hopes on him.'

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Conversion: a total turning to God

“The whole proclamation of Jesus…is a proclamation of unconditional turning to God, of unconditional turning from all that is against God, not merely that which is downright evil, but that which in a given case makes total turning to God impossible…." [cp. the 'rich young ruler' -- Matt.19:16-29; Mk. 10:17-30; Lk. 18:18-30]

--"Repentance (metanoia)" in “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament” (Kittel)

Monday, November 26, 2012

"The only reason I can sleep well at night"

My conscience does not render a positive verdict in God’s courtroom when I look inside myself. The only reason I can sleep well at night is that even though my heart is filled with corruption and even though I am not doing my best to please him, I have in heaven at the Father’s right hand the beloved Son, who has not only done his best for himself but has fulfilled all righteousness for me in my place.

— Michael Horton
Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church
(Grand Rapids, Mi.: Baker Books, 2008), 88

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Spurgeon: 'Unbelief a Great Sin'

“Beloved friends, let us never look upon our own unbelief as an excusable infirmity, but let us always regard it as a sin, and as a great sin, too. Whatever excuse you may at any time make for others—and I pray you to make excuses for them whenever you can rightly do so—never make any for yourself. In that case, be swift to condemn.

"It is a very easy thing for us to get into a desponding state of heart, and to mistrust the promises and faithfulness of God, and yet, all the while, to look upon ourselves as the subjects of a disease which we cannot help, and even to claim pity at the hands of our fellow-men, and to think that they should condole with us, and try to cheer us.

"It will be far wiser for each one of us to feel, ‘This unbelief of mine is a great wrong in the sight of God. He has never given me any occasion for it, and I am doing him a cruel injustice by thus doubting him. I must not idly sit down, and say, This has come upon me like a fever, or a paralysis, which I cannot help; but I must rather say, This is a great sin, in which I must no longer indulge; but I must confess my unbelief, with shame and self-abasement, to think that there should be in me this evil heart of unbelief.’”

—Charles Spurgeon, “Unbelievers Upbraided” (a sermon on Mark 16:14)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Sense of God's Holiness

Cornelius Plantinga reflects on the story of Jacob's ladder (Genesis 28) and what it teaches Christians today about the fear of the Lord:

"It's a great tragedy that, in an age of instant friends and popular democracy, many Christians are losing the sense of God's holiness.

"We pray against television background noise. We come into a sanctuary and yak and grin and clap our friends on the back. Our sense of God's holiness has becomes so weak that we are able to speak familiarly of 'the Lord' while stretching our limbs and chewing our gum.

"Jacob cannot worship the Lord until he has know the fear of the Lord. He has a hard night of his stone pillow, a night full of dreams and whisperings and old memories. It is an unholy night until Jacob begins to dream. For this shfity, tainted man, it may have been the turning point. It is not that Jacob is able to climb up and lay hold of God. Not at all. He never could. Jacob's God is far above Jacob's ladder. Yet by this dream and by this ladder, the Holy One of Israel descends to reach for one of his children.

"Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, 'Surely the Lord is in this place -- and I did not know it!' And he was afraid and said, 'How awesome is this place!'"

-- "Assurances of the Heart" pp.30-31 (Zondervan 1993)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Where Worldliness Hides

"If we know the characteristic sins of the age, we can guess its foolish and fashionable assumptions -- that morality is simply a matter of personal taste, that all silences need to be filled up with human chatter or background music, that 760 percent of the American people are victims, that it is better to feel than to think, that rights are more important than responsibilities, that even for children the right to choose supersedes all other rights, that real liberty can be enjoyed without virtue, that self-reproach is for fogies, that God is a chum or a gofer whose job it is to make us rich or happy or religiously excited, that it is more satisfying to be envied than respected, that it is better for politicians and preachers to be cheerful than truthful, that Christian worship fails unless it is fun."

-- Cornelius Plantinga, "Not the Way It's Supposed to Be,"

Thursday, November 22, 2012

7 Ways to Kill the Thanksgiving Impulse in Your Life

from Jared C. Wilson

“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

– Philippians 4:5-7

This is an excellent recipe for what it itself describes: a Spiritual settling of the heart, thankfulness, closeness to God. But let’s suppose you didn’t want those things, you didn’t want to be thankful in all circumstances (as God commands through Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5). How would you design your system in order to crush any impulse of thanksgiving in your heart?

1. Freak out about everything.
Let your unreasonableness be known to everyone. Be unreasonable about everything. Turn everything into drama, everything into a crisis.

2. Practice practical atheism.
The Lord is at hand, which is certainly something to be thankful for. Our God isn’t just transcendent, but immanent. He wants to be known. You could therefore intellectually acknowledge God is there, but act like he’s not. Assume he has no interest in you or your life. If you pretend like God’s not there, you don’t have to thank him for anything.

3. Coddle worry.
Be anxious about everything. Really protect your worry from the good news.

4. Give God the silent treatment.
The best way not to give thanks is not to talk at all. That way you’ll never give thanks accidentally.

5. Don’t expect anything from God.
Don’t trust him for anything. Normally we do this so we don’t have to feel disappointed, but another reason to do it is so he won’t give you anything to be thankful for. If you pray for something, he just might say yes, and then you’d be obligated to thank him.

6. Relentlessly try to figure everything out.
The peace of God is beyond our understanding. He is bigger than our capacity to grasp him. The closer we get to God, the bigger he gets. An immense vision creates immense reaction. So if you want to crush that reaction before it has a chance to start, ask as many “why” questions as you can, and don’t settle for the answers Job or Habakkuk or David did. Best to think you’re better than them and deserve an explanation from God. If you really want to kill thanksgiving, act like God owes you. Leave no room for the possibility you might not know or understand something. And one of the best ways to crush thankfulness is to take credit for everything you can.

7. Focus on anything other than the gospel of Jesus.
God owes us nothing but has given us every good thing in Christ. If you’re not interested in thanksgiving, by all means, pay no attention to that. Concentrate on your problems. Don’t concentrate on Jesus, or you might accidentally end up thankful in all circumstances.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Just in time for family gatherings: "Blessed are the peacemakers"

“Blessed are the peacemakers…”

Blessed are those who build shalom (the way things are supposed to be).
Blessed are those who defer and cooperate and compromise.
Blessed are those who are reasonable and respectful.
Blessed are the joyful and the grateful and the kind.
Blessed are those who shun drama, and the only games they’ll play during the holiday are games like Monopoly, Wii tennis or Rook.
Blessed are those who are a blessing to be with, because they make you laugh or make you think or make you want to be a blessing yourself.
Blessed are the ones who tell the truth, and who face facts, but with gentleness and grace.
Blessed are the solution-seekers and problem-solvers.

“Blessed are the peacemakers.”

(Matthew 5:9; James 3:17-18)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The value of faith

"To say ‘justification by faith’ is merely another way of saying ‘justification by Christ’. Faith has absolutely no value in itself; its value lies solely in its object. Faith is the eye that looks to Christ, the hand that lays hold of him, the mouth that drinks the water of life."

— John Stott
The Cross of Christ
(Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 187

Monday, November 19, 2012

An Atheist Philosopher Predicts Scientific Naturalism Will One Day Be Laughable

via Justin Taylor, where you'll find a link to Plantinga's entire review:

Alvin Plantinga reviews Thomas Nagel’s new book, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False (Oxford University Press, 2012) in The New Republic. Here’s how it begins:

According to a semi-established consensus among the intellectual elite in the West, there is no such person as God or any other supernatural being. Life on our planet arose by way of ill-understood but completely naturalistic processes involving only the working of natural law. Given life, natural selection has taken over, and produced all the enormous variety that we find in the living world. Human beings, like the rest of the world, are material objects through and through; they have no soul or ego or self of any immaterial sort. At bottom, what there is in our world are the elementary particles described in physics, together with things composed of these particles.

I say that this is a semi-established consensus, but of course there are some people, scientists and others, who disagree. There are also agnostics, who hold no opinion one way or the other on one or another of the above theses. And there are variations on the above themes, and also halfway houses of one sort or another. Still, by and large those are the views of academics and intellectuals in America now. Call this constellation of views scientific naturalism—or don’t call it that, since there is nothing particularly scientific about it, except that those who champion it tend to wrap themselves in science like a politician in the flag. By any name, however, we could call it the orthodoxy of the academy—or if not the orthodoxy, certainly the majority opinion.

The eminent philosopher Thomas Nagel would call it something else: an idol of the academic tribe, perhaps, or a sacred cow: “I find this view antecedently unbelievable—a heroic triumph of ideological theory over common sense. . . . I would be willing to bet that the present right-thinking consensus will come to seem laughable in a generation or two.” Nagel is an atheist; even so, however, he does not accept the above consensus, which he calls materialist naturalism; far from it. His important new book is a brief but powerful assault on materialist naturalism.

Plantinga goes on to summarize and interact with Nagel’s arguments and alternatives. Along the way he excerpts a quote from one of Nagel’s books written in 1997 which offers some insights into Nagel’s rejection of theism:

I am talking about something much deeper—namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. . . . It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What Everyone Needs

"It’s what everyone needs.  Everyone.  Gospel + safety + time.  A lot of gospel + a lot of safety + a lot of time.

"Gospel: good news for bad people through the finished work of Christ on the cross and the endless power of the Holy Spirit.  Multiple exposures.  Constant immersion.  Wave upon wave of grace and truth, according to the Bible.

"Safety: a non-accusing environment.  No finger-pointing.  No embarrassing anyone.  No manipulation.  No oppression.  No condescension.  But respect and sympathy and understanding, where sinners can confess and unburden their souls.

"Time: no pressure.  Not even self-imposed pressure.  No deadlines on growth.  Urgency, but not hurry, because no one changes quickly.  A lot of space for complicated people to rethink their lives at a deep level.  God is patient.

"This is what our churches must be: gentle environments of gospel + safety + time.  It’s where we’re finally free to grow."

-- from Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Resolved....(from J. Edwards)

"Resolved, to live so at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world."

-- Jonathan Edwards

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"...make every effort..."

 "Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence -- yea, violence -- I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of." (Jonathan Edwards) Compare 2 Peter 1:5-11.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Why your church matters"

from Ray Ortlund, Jr.:

“. . . the church of the living God, the pillar and buttress of the truth.”  1 Timothy 3:15

". . . the church of the living God.  A church is where the idols of our culture can be cogently discredited and the living God rallied around, rejoiced in, worshiped, studied, loved and obeyed.  If the church is dead or dormant, God’s own appointed testimony to his living reality powers down.  The felt reality of God in the world today is at stake in our churches.

". . . the pillar and buttress of the truth.  A “pillar” holds something up high for all to see.  In this world, the one truth that will outlast the universe needs to be put on clear display rather than submerged under all the stuff that’s demanding our attention week in and week out.  A church can make the gospel obvious and accessible through preaching, teaching, memorizing, catechizing, blogging, etc.

"A 'buttress' firms something up, makes it strong.  For many, the gospel does not feel strong.  Other things hold them together.  But a church buttresses the gospel by showing that it really works.  Not only does the gospel create the church, but a church also buttresses the gospel.  The gospel starts feeling solid and believable and urgently needed as our greatest resource in all of life.

"By divine appointment, the church makes the real Jesus seem real, it makes the truth visible to busy people, and it embodies living proof that the gospel enriches real people living real lives today.

"The church matters.  Your church matters.  In these powerful ways."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"Never the Same"

From the Desiring God website:

In 1962 Don and Carol Richardson came into contact with a remote tribe in West New Guinea known as the Sawi people. They were cannabilistic headhunters without a written language, nor any clue about Jesus.

The Richardsons, along with their three children, preached the gospel to the Sawi people and witnessed a remarkable movement of God. The story is told in the best-selling book Peace Child and has inspired many to take the gospel to the furthest ends of the earth.

Just recently — fifty years after they first met the Sawi — the Richardsons returned to the village they once called home. This short 15-minute film from Pioneers documents that experience. It is one of the most amazing things you will ever see.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Christian Church as Counter-culture

"The world’s illegal rebellion [against God] is illegitimate. It certainly feels real, of course—IS real—but it doesn’t change the reality that God is still Ruler of everything. Though people may think they have rebelled, they have not—and cannot—ultimately escape the fact that King Jesus still is sovereign. And though we feel outnumbered and highly unpopular at times by clinging to our Christian ideals, though we make ourselves subject to all kinds of criticism and misunderstanding by resisting the widely held opinions of our friends and neighbors, we can’t help but recognize a tension that keeps us from following where the leader of this rebellion wants to take us. As much as we may feel obligated by our family histories, or as willing as we may be to at least consider the validity of these differing viewpoints, there’s no common ground for us to stand on. Our aims are incompatible. As Christians, we don’t join an illegitimate rebellion. Instead, we live for King Jesus in contrast to those around us. We live in loyalty to the very One the world rebels against. We’re in rebellion against the rebellion."

-- Ed Stetzer, "Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation"   (pp. 5-6). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A prayer for grace to live a life of love

from Scotty Smith:

"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And live a life of love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God". Eph. 4:30-5:2

     Merciful Father, mighty Holy Spirit, most compassionate Lord Jesus, I praise you today for the love with which you love us, in which you have rooted us, and by which you are transforming us. It took the whole Trinity to redeem me, and it will take the whole Trinity for me to live this life of love to which you have called us. There’s no other way I will even begin to be an “imitator of God.” So hear my cry.
     Father, I don’t want to live today just with a theoretical or theological awareness of being your dearly loved child. Let it be deeply experiential and existential—very real, very encouraging, and very humbling. Your lavish love for us is the greatest convicting power this side of the new heaven and new earth. Stun my heart afresh—show me yet again, and even more of the height, depth, width and breadth of your love for us in Jesus.
     All day long, let me hear you serenading me in the gospel, that I might be filled with joy and peace, and that I might grieve the ways I grieve the Holy Spirit—with my thoughts, with my words, and with my actions. Without the incontrovertible convicting work of the Spirit, I might seek to justify the ways I love poorly—blaming others for my bad attitude and grace-less manners.
     Lord Jesus, you are so kind, compassionate, and forgiving of me. May the fragrant aroma of the sacrifice you made for me on the cross to permeate all my relationships. You’re not calling us to change or fix anyone. You’re calling us to live as a broken perfume bottle, through whom the aroma of grace will bring your gentling and transforming presence. Show me how to boast in you and in my weakness, that I might freely and gladly live as a servant of others.
     God the Holy Spirit, you who raised Jesus from the dead, give me the power I will need today to rid myself of all bitterness, anger, rage, brawling, slander, and malice and all the other ways I love poorly. Indeed, Triune God, the life of love you live for me, please live through me. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ peerless and loving name.

-- from Pastor Scotty Smith

Saturday, November 10, 2012

One Solitary, Matchless, Divine Transaction

"Vicarious sacrifice is not only not the law of being, it is not a law at all. It is one solitary, matchless, Divine transaction—never to be repeated, never to be equaled, never to be approached. It was the splendid and unexpected device of Divine wisdom, which in its disclosure flooded the minds of angels with the knowledge of God."

— John Murray
Redemption Accomplished and Applied

Friday, November 9, 2012

As when I'm at my best....

"Resolved, to live so at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world."

-- Jonathan Edwards

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Relationship Idols?

“No human being was ever meant to be the source of personal joy and contentment for someone else. Your spouse, your friends, and your children cannot be the sources of your identity. When you seek to define who you are through those relationships, you are asking another sinner to be your personal messiah, to give you the inward rest of soul that only God can give.

"Only when I have sought my identity in the proper place (in my relationship with God) am I able to put you in the proper place as well. When I relate to you knowing that I am God’s child and the recipient of his grace, I am able to serve and love you.

"However, if I am seeking to get identity from you, I will watch you too closely. I will become acutely aware of your weaknesses and failures. I will become overly critical, frustrated, and angry. I will be angry not because you are a sinner, but because you have failed to deliver the one thing I seek from you: identity.

"When I remember that Christ has given me everything I need to be the person he has designed me to be, I am free to serve and love you. When I know who I am, I am free to be humble, gentle, patient, forbearing, and loving as we navigate the inevitable messiness of relationships.”

-- Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp,

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Present Power of the Gospel

"If you are not reminding yourself again and again of the now-ism of the gospel, that is, the right-here, right-now benefits of the grace of Christ, you will be looking elsewhere to get what can be found only in Jesus. If you are not feeding your soul on the realities of the presence, promises, and provisions of Christ, you will ask the people, situations, and things around you to be the messiah that they can never be. If you are not attaching your identity to the unshakable love of your Savior, you will ask the things in your life to be your Savior, and it will never happen. If you are not requiring yourself to get your deepest sense of well-being vertically, you will shop for it horizontally, and you will always come up empty. If you are not resting in the one true gospel, preaching it to yourself over and over again, you will look to another gospel to meet the needs of your unsettled heart."

-- Paul David Tripp, "Dangerous Calling"

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Certainty and Openness

from Ray Ortlund, Jr.:

Some Christians seem “all certainty.”  Maybe it makes them feel heroic.  But they see too few gray areas.  Everything is a federal case.  They have a fundamentalist mindset.

Other Christians seem “all openness.”  Maybe it makes them feel humble.  But they see too few black-and-white areas.  They have a liberal mindset — though they may demonstrate a surprising certainty against certainty.

The Bible is our authority as we sort out what deserves certainty and what deserves openness.  1 Corinthians 15:1-4 defines the gospel of Christ crucified for our sins, Christ buried and Christ risen again on the third day, according to the Scriptures, as “of first importance.”  Here is the center of our certainty.

From that “of first importance” theological address, we move out toward the whole range of theological and practical questions asking for our attention.  The more clearly our logic connects with that center, the more certain and the less open we should be.  The further our thinking extrapolates from that center, the less certain and the more open we should be.  When a question cannot be addressed by a clear appeal to the Bible, our conclusions should be all the more modest.

The gospel requires us to have high expectations of one another on biblically central doctrines and strategies, and it cautions us to be more relaxed with one another the further we have to move out from the center.

Building our theology is not like pushing the first domino over, which pushes the next over, and so forth, down the line — each domino of equal weight and each fall equally inevitable.  Rather, building our theology is more like exploring a river.  We start out at the mouth of the river.  It is wide.  There is no decision to make.  All is unmistakably clear.  But then one starts paddling up-river.  As each tributary forks into the river, one must decide which way to go.  Indeed, it may eventually become difficult to distinguish between the river itself and a tributary.  But many decisions must be made along the way, not every one equally obvious.

This is why we need a map of the whole, noting the main features of the topography, such as 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 provides.  There are other scriptures that help us globalize our biblical thinking.  For example, Exodus 34:6-7 is quoted multiple times throughout the rest of the Old Testament.  Clearly, it is an atomically weighted passage that other biblical authors treated as a sort of theological North Star for guidance.  There are other passages meant to help us develop a wise sense of overall theological proportion.

A church or movement may desire, for its own reasons, to define secondary and tertiary doctrines and strategies as important expectations within their own ministry.  That’s okay.  But then it’s helpful to say, “We know this isn’t a dividing line for Christian oneness.  It’s just a decision we’ve made for ourselves, because we think it will help us in our situation.  We realize that other Christians will see it differently, and that’s no problem for us.”

May we become more certain where we’ve been too open and more open where we’ve been too certain, according to Scripture.  And where it seems helpful to provide further definition on our own authority, may we do so with candor and humility but without apology.

Friday, November 2, 2012

If You Call Jesus "Lord"...

"You can’t call Jesus Lord [= Master] without declaring yourself his slave. Does that make sense? If you hear a little girl in the mall call me 'Dad,' then she has identified herself as my daughter. When you call Jesus 'Lord,' you aren’t [just] saying, 'He’s the teacher— and I’m the student.' You are saying, 'He’s the master and I am the slave.'"

 -- Kyle Idleman, "Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus" (p. 151). Zondervan.

Fan or Follower?

It may seem that there are many followers of Jesus, but if they were honestly to define the relationship they have with him I am not sure it would be accurate to describe them as followers. It seems to me that there is a more suitable word to describe them. They are not followers of Jesus. They are fans of Jesus. Here is the most basic definition of fan in the dictionary: “An enthusiastic admirer”…

But Jesus was never interested in having fans. When he defines what kind of relationship he wants, “Enthusiastic Admirer” isn’t an option. My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him. The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them….

-- Kyle Idleman “Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus”  (Zondervan)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Baptists and the Reformation

October 31, 2012 by Nathan Finn:

"Baptists are Protestants. I know there are some Baptists out there who don’t believe we are Protestants, but their rejection of this truth betrays a bapto-centric bias and ignores history. It is one of those beliefs that my colleague Keith Harper calls “history as apologetics”–using (or misusing) history (or alleged history) to make a theological point.

"The first Protestants were theological and moral dissenters who ultimately left the Catholic Church and started new movements. Most Protestants continued to embrace some form of church-state union (or at least close partnership) and, like Catholics, used the state’s power to coerce religious conformity. Lutherans and most Calvinists could be included in this group. A few Protestants, such as the Anabaptists, embraced the believer’s church model and rejected the idea of territorial churches. These “Free Church” Protestants were typically abused by the “Magisterial” Protestants who were fans of state churches.

"In England, Protestants were active from at least the 1520s, though it wasn’t until the 1530s that the Church of England withdrew from the Catholic Church and embraced a cautious Protestantism. After a period of religious and political turmoil, England emerged as a Protestant nation from 1559 onwards, combining a moderately Reformed view of salvation with a moderately Catholic view of worship and the church. This compromised Protestantism, more formally known as the Elizabethan Religious Settlement, pleased few of those folks who wanted to see England become Geneva or Zurich with a cockney accent and afternoon tea.

Most of the “hot” Protestants in England wanted to transform the Church of England into a Presbyterian state church–we call them the puritans, though there were some early puritans who were cool with bishops. Other staunch Protestants agreed with the Calvinism of the early puritans, but rejected the Presbyterian commitment to state churches. These Separatists, so-called because they left the Church of England and formed independent congregations, were in many ways similar to the Anabaptists in their ecclesiology, though they still held to covenantal infant baptism based upon their Reformed soteriology.

"During the first half of the seventeenth century, some of the Separatists came to embrace credobaptism, which they added to their prior commitments to regenerate church membership, congregational polity, local church autonomy, and religious liberty. We call these folks the Baptists. While there is some debate about what influence, if any, the Continental Anabaptists had on at least some of these Separatists, at the end of the day the first Baptists were in fact Separatists who adopted confessor’s baptism. And by the 1640s, the mode of their baptism reflected the New Testament practice of full immersion.

"So Baptists are Protestants. To be specific, we are third generation Protestants who in many ways represent an attempt to reform the Reformation. In the Baptist movement, the very best of the Magisterial understanding of Scripture and salvation was combined with the very best of the Free Church understanding of the church and discipleship. The result was a new movement that represented a further reformation among some of the Reformed churches in England. These Baptists were a diverse lot, they didn’t always play nicely with one another, and some of them chased some admittedly troubling tangents, especially in the eighteenth century. But Protestants they remained, albeit a different Protestant movement than the Lutherans, Calvinists, and Anabaptists of Continental Europe.

"So on this Reformation Day, I’m thankful for the Protestant heritage we Baptists enjoy. We stand with Luther and Calvin on justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. We stand with the Anabaptists on a believer’s church committed to radical discipleship and confessor’s baptism. We stand with all three of these groups in their commitment to the supreme authority of Scripture. And as good Protestants, we ultimately stand where we stand, not because others stand there as well, but because we believe the Spirit still speaks through His Word to guide Christ’s people on the narrow way.

"Happy Reformation Day."

Reformation Day -- a brief and beautiful summary


Reformation Day is a religious holiday celebrated on October 31st or the last weekend in October in remembrance of the Reformation.

Martin Luther posted a proposal at the doors of a church in Wittenberg, Germany to debate the doctrine and practice of indulgences. This proposal is popularly known as the 95 Theses, which he nailed to the Castle Church doors. This was not an act of defiance or provocation as is sometimes thought. Since the Castle Church faced Wittenberg’s main thoroughfare, the church door functioned as a public bulletin board and was therefore the logical place for posting important notices.  Also, the theses were written in Latin, the language of the church, and not in the vernacular.

Nonetheless, the event created a controversy between Luther and those allied with the Pope over a variety of doctrines and practices. While it had profound and lasting impacts on the political, economic, social, literary, and artistic aspects of modern society, the Reformation was at its heart a religious movement.

The Reformation was the great rediscovery of the good news of salvation by grace through faith for Christ’s sake. For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church had been plagued by false doctrines, superstition, ignorance, and corruption. Since most ordinary Christians were illiterate and had little knowledge of the Bible, they relied on their clergy for religious instruction and guidance. Tragically however, monks, priests, bishops, and even the popes in Rome taught unbiblical doctrines like purgatory and salvation through good works.

Spiritually earnest people tried to justify themselves by charitable works, pilgrimages, and all kinds of religious performances and devotions, but they were left wondering if they had done enough to escape God’s anger and punishment. The truth of the gospel — the good news that God is loving and merciful, that He offers each and every one of us forgiveness and salvation not because of what we do, but because of what Christ has already done for us — was largely forgotten by both clergy and laity.

The Holy Spirit used an Augustinian monk and university professor named Martin Luther to restore the gospel to its rightful place as the cornerstone doctrine of Christianity. Martin Luther and his colleagues came to understand that if we sinners had to earn salvation by our own merits and good works, we would be lost and completely without hope. But through the working of the Holy Spirit, the reformers rediscovered the gospel — the wonderful news that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again to redeem and justify us.

As Luther wrote in his explanation of the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed: I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.

This is most certainly true. On Reformation Day, we glorify God for what he accomplished in 16th century Germany through His servant, Dr. Martin Luther — the recovery of the gospel of salvation by grace through faith for Christ’s sake. We also earnestly pray that God would keep all of us faithful to the true gospel and help us to joyfully declare it to the world.

HT:  Mark Chanski

Sunday, October 28, 2012

For Reformation Sunday

"This one sentence, 'The just shall live by his faith,' produced the Reformation. Out of this one line, as from the opening of one of the Apocalyptic seals, came forth all that sounding of gospel trumpets, and all that singing of gospel songs, which made in the world a sound like the noise of many waters. This one seed, forgotten and hidden away in the dark mediƦval times, was brought forth, dropped into the human heart, made by the Spirit of God to grow, and in the end to produce great results."

 -- Charles Spurgeon

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What Jesus Paid for He Will Surely Keep

"Would I gather arguments for hoping that I shall never be cast away? Where shall I go to find them? Shall I look at my own graces and gifts? Shall I take comfort in my own faith and love, and penitence and zeal, and prayer? Shall I turn to my own heart, and say, ‘This same heart will never be false and cold’?

"Oh, no! God forbid! I will look at Calvary and the crucifixion. This is my grand argument: this is my mainstay. I cannot think that He who went through such sufferings to redeem my soul, will let that soul perish after all, when it has once cast itself on Him. Oh, no! What Jesus paid for Jesus will surely keep. He paid dearly for it: He will not let it easily be lost. He died for me when I was yet a dark sinner: He will never forsake me after I have believed.

"Ah, reader, when Satan tempts you to doubt whether Christ’s people will be kept from falling, you should tell Satan that you cannot despair when you look at the cross."

— J. C. Ryle
Old Paths

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"It is still 'either-or'"

"I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, ‘with backward mutters of dissevering power’—or else not. It is still ‘either-or’. If we insist on keeping Hell (or even Earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell."

-- C. S. Lewis,  "The Great Divorce"

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Romans 8:28

"The fundamental thought [of Romans 8:28] is the universal government of God. All that comes to you is under His controlling hand. The secondary thought is the favour of God to those that love Him. If He governs all, then nothing but good can befall those to whom He would do good. The consolation lies in the shelter which we may thus find beneath His almighty arms. We are weak, we are blind; He is strong and He is wise. Though we are too weak to help ourselves and too blind to ask for what we need, and can only groan in unformed longings, He is the author in us of these very longings—He knows what they really mean—and He will so govern all things that we shall reap only good from all that befalls us."

“All Things Working Together for Good,” in Faith and Life: “Conferences” in the Oratory of Princeton Seminary (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1916), 204.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"I am early in my story...."

‎"I am early in my story, but I believe I will stretch out into eternity, and in heaven I will reflect upon these early days, these days when it seemed God was down a dirt road walking toward me. Years ago he was a swinging speck in the distance; now He is close enough I can hear His singing. Soon I will see the lines on His face." - Donald Miller

Monday, October 15, 2012

"Jesus: Sorrowful but Always Rejoicing"

Donald Macleod:

"Much has been made of the fact that Jesus is never said to have smiled or laughed. Linked to the description of the Servant as a ‘man of sorrows and acquainted with grieft’ it has furnished a basis for the idea that Jesus’ life was unremittingly joyless and stressful.

"But this is a serious over-simplification...."

See the entire blog post here.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Ajith Fernando: On the Anvil of Suffering"

Tim Stafford's compelling profile of a remarkable Christian leader, Ajith Fernando:

'...For many in the West, a message of holiness and servanthood is hard to preach and difficult to hear. In an affluent, entertainment-driven society, an affluent and entertainment-driven church can't get much traction on those topics. We flee frustration.

'Through Fernando, we hear an authentic voice restoring the truth to us, like an echo from our past. It happens because he made the choice to stay.'

Read the entire CT article here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"Is the Sabbath still relevant?"

From Ray Ortlund, Jr.:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”  Exodus 20:8

Let’s not dictate Sabbath observance today.  The point of the Sabbath is a dress rehearsal for a future eternity of glad rest in God.  So, for now, every one of us can work out the details personally.  But in our frantic modern world, the Sabbath offers wisdom that has lasted since the beginning (Genesis 2:2-3).  It is not written on our calendars as much as we are built into its calendar.  It seems to be part of the God-created rhythm for weekly human flourishing.

If we did set apart one day each week for rejuvenation in God, we would immediately add to every year over seven weeks of vacation.  And not for doing nothing but for worship, for friends, for mercy, for an afternoon nap, for reading and thinking, for lingering around the dinner table and sharing good jokes and tender words and personal prayers.

How else can we find quietness of heart in today’s world?  If anyone has a more biblical (and more immediately beneficial) place to begin, I’m open.  But raising hermeneutical objections to the Sabbath principle doesn’t in itself actually help any of us.

I wonder if the very concept of “the weekend” is biblical.  It seems to me that “the weekend” turns Sunday into a second Saturday.  Home Depot may gain, but we lose.  It turns Sunday into a day to catch up on what we didn’t do Saturday or a day to ramp up for what’s ahead on Monday.  It hollows out our whole week, because it marginalizes God and church and sermons and all the other vital things that happen in our lives only when we make the vital things also the central things.  If we accept the concept of “the weekend,” we risk “fitting God in” rather than centering our every week around him.  We risk living soul-exhausted lives, and wondering why God isn’t more real to us, why we’re grumpy.

If we want to find our way back into quietness of heart and reality with God, the first step might be simple.  Bold, but simple.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Excellency and Love of Christ

"The excellency of Christ, and the love of Christ, more appear in his yielding himself to be crucified for us, than in any other of his acts, so that these things, considered together, above all things tend to draw forth on our part the exercises of humble love."

— Jonathan Edwards
"The Excellency of Christ"

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Why Catechesis Now?"

...from Tim Keller:

"The church in Western culture today is experiencing a crisis of holiness. To be holy is to be "set apart," different, living life according to God's Word and story, not according to the stories that the world tells us are the meaning of life. The more the culture around us becomes post- and anti-Christian the more we discover church members in our midst, sitting under sound preaching, yet nonetheless holding half-pagan views of God, truth, and human nature, and in their daily lives using sex, money, and power in very worldly ways. It's hard to deny what J. I. Packer and Gary Parrett write:

Superficial smatterings of truth, blurry notions about God and godliness, and thoughtlessness about the issues of living---careerwise, communitywise, familywise, and churchwise---are all too often the marks of evangelical congregations today (Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way, 16).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Selfish to seek salvation??

“It is often ignorantly and frivolously charged against Christian men that it is selfish in them to seek heaven and glory for their own souls; but no man who is truly seeking salvation will be moved by that accusation.  When men really begin to seek their salvation, and to turn their faces to the glory of heaven, then it is that all selfish and ignoble desires receive their death-blow.  It is not selfish, surely, for the diseased to seek healing, or the hungry food, or the prodigal his father’s house.  So far from this being a sign that the heart is selfish, there is no surer sign that it is being sanctified.”

Alexander Whyte, An Exposition on the Shorter Catechism (Fearn, 2004), page 138.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Treating one another like God has treated us

from Ray Ortlund, Jr.:

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:31-32

The gospel is in these verses: “. . . as God in Christ forgave you.”  The rest of it is how we are to be true to that gospel, how not to be a living denial of the very gospel we profess, how to be living proof of that sacred gospel.

Faithfulness to the gospel is more than signing a doctrinal statement.  That’s a good thing to do.  But faithfulness to the gospel is more.  Far more.

Faithfulness to the gospel is also treating one another as God in Christ has treated us.  It is not that hard to sign a piece of paper or take a vow that we stand for the gospel.  Again, that’s a good thing to do.  But it is far more demanding to bear living witness to the gospel by denying the demands of Ego and treating one another with the grace God has shown us in Christ.

When the gospel actually sinks in, we change.  Winning no longer matters.  Getting in the last word no longer matters.  Payback no longer matters.  We now perceive such things as contemptible, compared with the display of God’s grace in Christ.

Unbelieving people are not impressed by our official positions on paper.  They will not pay attention – nor should they – until they see the beauty of the gospel in our relationships.

Jonathan Edwards, observing his wife under the influence of the Holy Spirit, noted this about her:

“There were earnest longings that all God’s people might be clothed with humility and meekness, like the Lamb of God, and feel nothing in their hearts but love and compassion to all mankind; and great grief when anything to the contrary appeared in any of the children of God, as bitterness, fierceness of zeal, censoriousness, or reflecting uncharitably on others, or disputing with any appearance of heat of spirit.”

Jonathan Edwards, Works (Edinburgh, 1979), I:377.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

When God Graciously Blesses Us in Spite of Ourselves

J. I. Packer:

“It is certain that God blesses believers precisely and invariably by blessing to them something of his truth and that misbelief as such is in its own nature spiritually barren and destructive.

“Yet anyone who deals with souls will again and again be amazed at the gracious generosity with which God blesses to needy ones what looks to us like a very tiny needle of truth hidden amid whole haystacks of mental error. . . .

“Every Christian without exception experiences far more in the way of mercy and help than the quality of his notions warrants.”

—J. I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 21-22.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

"The Bonds of Christian Freedom"

"There is paradox in the Christian understanding of what it means to be free."  A good essay from Roger Olson as part of Christianity Today's "Global Gospel Project."

Friday, October 5, 2012

Discerning Crucial Distinctions

"A fine distinction is like a fine painting or a fine poem or anything else fine; a triumph of the human mind. In these days when large-mindedness is supposed to consist of confusing everything with everything else, of saying that a man is the same as a woman and religion the same as irreligion, and the unnatural as good as the natural and all the rest of it, it is well to keep in mind the great power of distinction; by which man becomes in the true sense distinguished."

-- G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"Hell Grasped a Corpse, and Met God"

"Let no one lament persistent failings, for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the death of our Saviour has set us free.

"The Lord has destroyed death by enduring it. The Lord vanquished hell when he descended into it. The Lord put hell in turmoil even as it tasted of his flesh.

"Hell was in turmoil having been eclipsed. Hell was in turmoil having been mocked. Hell was in turmoil having been destroyed. Hell was in turmoil having been abolished. Hell was in turmoil having been made captive.

"Hell grasped a corpse, and met God. Hell seized earth, and encountered Heaven. Hell took what it saw, and was overcome by what it could not see.

"O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are cast down! Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead."

— John Chrysostom
An Easter Sermon
(HT: Michael Potemra)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Jesus vs. Paul?

“A most astonishing misconception has long dominated the modern mind on the subject of St. Paul.  It is to this effect: that Jesus preached a kindly and simple religion (found in the gospels) and that St. Paul afterwards corrupted it into a cruel and complicated religion (found in the epistles).  This is really quite untenable.  All the most terrifying texts came from the mouth of our Lord; all the texts on which we can base such warrant as we have for hoping that all men will be saved come from St. Paul.  If it could be proved that St. Paul altered the teaching of his Master in any way, he altered it in exactly the opposite way to that which is popularly supposed. . . .

The ordinary popular conception has put everything upside down.  Nor is the cause far to seek.  In the earlier history of every rebellion there is a stage at which you do not yet attack the King in person.  You say, ‘The King is all right.  It is his Ministers who are wrong.  They misrepresent him and corrupt all his plans — which, I’m sure, are good plans if only the Ministers would let them take effect.’  And the first victory consists in beheading a few Ministers; only at a later stage do you go on and behead the King himself.  In the same way, the nineteenth-century attack on St. Paul was really only a stage in the revolt against Christ.  Men were not ready in large numbers to attack Christ himself.  They made the normal first move — that of attacking one of his principal ministers. . . . St. Paul was impeached and banished and the world went on to the next step — the attack on the King himself.”

-- C. S. Lewis, in J. B. Phillips, Letters to Young Churches (London, 1955), pages ix-x.

HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A hymn for when life is not terrific

When we are doing everything
which life and time demand,
eternal truths may soon depart
replaced with sinking sand.
Dangerous times so test us, Lord,
when Christ we cannot see.
Steady our nerve, O living Word
and teach us just to be!

When we are fighting smiling foes
who twist your word and ways,
help us repent when our sin grows,
o'erwhelmed by stormy days:
hardening our hearts with deadly force,
and lurking power of hell.
Bow our weak minds before the cross
to break, then make us well!

When we are broken send true friends
who love us for your sake:
patiently waiting, selfless prayers,
the warmth of real embrace.
Brothers' and sisters' words and deeds;
your gifts so kindly sent.
Calm our deep turmoil, bring us peace
which is your pure intent!

When we are shining like the sun
in bodies made to last,
glory to hold, your face to see,
all strife and suffering passed.
Then your full purpose will unfold,
all haunting questions gone;
Christ will be ours as we were told.
Come soon, eternal dawn!

A. Peter Dickson - September 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ray Ortlund Jr. on Fairness in Church Discipline

“In every conflict there is wrong on both sides,” someone says.  In every conflict?  “There’s enough guilt to go around,” someone else says.  Well, I guess that’s that.  Discussion over.

"When a church suffers internal conflict, these glib assertions often pop up to the surface.  But they are not biblical and not helpful.

"Was there wrong on both sides when Cain murdered Abel?  Was there wrong on both sides when Korah opposed Moses, when Saul pursued David, when Ahab and Jezebel accused and murdered Naboth, when the prophets were opposed, when Sanballat plotted against Nehemiah, when Alexander harmed Paul, when all the apostles were mistreated in city after city?  Every one of these people on the receiving end was a sinner.  But does their sin explain, much less justify, what was done to them?  Not according to Scripture.

"A thoughtless slogan, however well intentioned, can create a Kafkaesque environment of injustice.  There is a reason why God said, “Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked” (Exodus 23:7).  God our Judge instructs us that, even among sinners, categories like “false charge,” “innocent and righteous” and “wicked” are still meaningful and important to him — and to us.

"It is up to the elders in every church to slow the momentum of conflict down, get to the bottom of things, find out what is really going on, clear away every false accusation, and render a just judgment, so that their church can get back to positive gospel ministry in green pastures and beside still waters.

"Churches led by their elders into self-restraint and biblical clarity can create — or, if need be, re-create — a non-Kafkaesque environment of humaneness where everyone is safe from hasty misjudgments.  Such a church is where the presence of Jesus dwells."

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday is not just a second Saturday

solid pastoral wisdom from Ray Ortlund, Jr....

If we would stop treating Sunday as a second Saturday, one more day to run to Home Depot, one more day for the kids’ soccer games, another day for getting ready for Monday, if we would rediscover Sunday as The Lord’s Day, focusing on him for just one day each week, what would be the immediate impact between today and one year from today?

By one year from today, we will have spent 52 whole days given over to Jesus.  Seven and a half weeks of paid vacation with Jesus.

He’s a good King.  Maybe we should put him first in our weekly schedules.  Not fit him into the margins of our busy weekends, but build our whole weekly routine around him.
Just a thought.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The source of temptation's power

"The power of all temptations is the prospect that it will make e happier.  No one sins out of a sense of duty....  The Word helps me stop trusting in the potential of sin to make me happy.  Instead the Word entices me to trust in God's promises.'"

-- John Piper

Friday, September 28, 2012

God Is Also Glorified in His Wisdom

"We are puzzled sometimes because God could have shown his power by preventing tragedies and healing diseases, but chose not to. But power isn’t his sole attribute. He is also glorified in showing his wisdom. Sometimes in this life, but one day in his presence, we will marvel at his wisdom in not preventing certain evils that he used, in ways we could never have imagined, for our ultimate good."

 ~ Randy Alcorn

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Because God is God

“In the last resort forgiveness is always due to God’s being what he is, and not to anything that man may do.  Because God is God, he must react in the strongest manner to man’s sin, and thus we reach the concept of the divine wrath.  But because God is God, wrath cannot be the last word.  ‘The Lord is good; his mercy endureth forever’ (Ps. 100:5).”

-- Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (Grand Rapids, 1965), page 154.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Christianity is an education itself

"God has room for people with very little sense, but He wants everyone to use the sense they have. The proper motto is not, 'Be good, sweet maid, and let who can be clever [intelligent],' but 'Be good, sweet maid, and don't forget that involves being as clever [intelligent] as you can.'

'God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all....

'One reason why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself."

-- C.S. Lewis, "Mere Christianity" (New York: MacMillan, 1956), p. 61

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Luther on Resisting the Devil

". . . . When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell.  What of it?  Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means.  For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf.  His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Where he is, there I shall be also.’”

-- Martin Luther, in Theodore G. Tappert, editor, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel (Philadelphia, 1955), pages 86-87.
HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Freedom Requires Virtue

‎"A notion of ... freedom organized around achieving a good life can devolve into nothing more than a selfish and atomistic freedom from constraint. Such freedom will not last, because it cannot sustain itself. Should we set out to write the laws of politics based on experience and insight, surely one of them would look something like this: Freedom and virtue necessarily travel together. If a people possesses virtue, it has the capability to be free. The reverse is also true. If a people lacks virtue, then it will not be free for long. The choice is simple. We may govern ourselves, or we will be actively governed by the state." -- Hunter Baker, in his review of "A Free People's Suicide" by Os Guinness

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Because He Is Alive Forever

"Of first and basic importance is that the gospel centres on a life, namely the risen life of Christ. Without the resurrection of Jesus the death of Jesus would have no meaning and the cross would be devoid of its power. The crucified Christ whom Paul preached is the crucified and risen Lord.

"The uniqueness of the resurrection of Jesus does not lie just in his coming back to life, miraculous as that was. Jesus was no Lazarus, who came back to life only to die again. No, the uniqueness of the resurrection of Jesus lies in his having been raised to life and being alive for ever. Jesus is alive, and will be for all eternity.

"Because he is alive, not only sin but also death have been dealt with for ever. The resurrection of Jesus is the only hope for mortal men and women."

— Paul Beasley-Murray
The Message of the Resurrection
(Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000), 127