Wednesday, April 30, 2014

If we are on the wrong road...

"We all want progress," C.S Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity....

"But progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be and if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. We have all seen this when we do arithmetic. When I have started a sum the wrong way, the sooner I admit this and go back and start over again, the faster I shall get on. There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistakes. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

'Get a Clear Perception of His Glory'

Charles Spurgeon:  

YOU HAVE A VERY VIVID IDEA of the sufferings of Christ. Your faith has seen him sweating great drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane. You have looked on with amazement while he gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them who plucked off the hair, and hid not his face from shame and spitting. With sorrowful sympathy you have followed him through the streets of Jerusalem, weeping and bewailing him with the women. You have sat down to watch him when he was fastened to the tree; yon have wept at his hitter complaint—"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" and you have rejoiced in his shout of victory—"It is finished!" With Magdalene and Nicodemus, you have followed his dead body to the tomb, and seen it wrapped about with spices, and left to its lonely sleep.

Are your perceptions quite as keen concerning the glory which did follow and is following?

Can you see him quite as distinctly when on the third morn the Conqueror rises, bursting the bonds of death with which he could not be holden? Can yon as clearly view him ascending up on high, leading captivity captive? Can you hear the ring of angelic clarions, as with dyed garments from Bozrah the Yictor returns from the battle, dragging death and hell at his chariot wheels? Do you plainly perceive him as he takes his seat at the right hand of the Father, henceforth expecting until his enemies be made his footstool? And can you be as clear this morning about the reigning Christ as you have been about the suffering Christ?

Lo! my brethren, "the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof!" At this hour he goeth forth, riding upon his white horse, conquering and to conquer. Lo! at his girdle swing the keys of heaven, and death, and hell, for "the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." "God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow."

Behold him, my brethren, in his present plenitude of glory, and endeavor to get as clear a perception of it as you have had of his shame. Not only weep at his burial, but rejoice at his resurrection; not only sorrow at his cross, but worship at his throne. Do not merely think of the nails and of the spear, but behold the imperial purple which hangs so nobly upon his royal shoulders, and of the divine crown which he wears upon his majestic brow....

-- from the Spurgeon sermon, "Christ Is Glorious -- Let Us Make Him Known"

The Irony of God's Inescapability

"Men despise religion; they hate it and fear it is true." -- Pascal

Monday, April 28, 2014

John Owen on Christ's Ascension

"This assumption of our Lord Jesus Christ into glory, or his glorious reception in heaven, with his state and condition therein, is a principal article of the faith of the church—the great foundation of its hope and consolation in this world. . . . The darkness of our faith herein is the cause of all our disconsolations, and most of our weaknesses in obedience." -- John Owen

"Was the Ascension Bad Evangelism Strategy?"

'Let's be honest: the ascension of Jesus is weird. It's the story of a man taken up into the clouds. I remember reading the story with a friend who is not a Christian, and she looked at me with pity as if to say, "You don't really believe this wacky stuff, do you?" I was about to object to her unspoken accusation when I thought, Yes, actually, this is pretty weird.

'The two men at the ascension scene, probably angels, don't seem to help matters. "Why do you stand here looking into the sky?" they ask. Surely the answer is obvious. The apostles have just seen a man taken up into the clouds, so I'd probably be looking up to see what happens next, too. The point these men are making, of course, is that what happens next—what their attention should be focused on—will take place on earth because Jesus is sending the Holy Spirit to empower his people to become his witnesses.

'So, again, the ascension is weird. But it can also feel a bit disappointing. For example, you may have had conversations that went something like this:

'"If God exists, then why doesn't he make himself known? Why doesn't he write a message in the sky? Surely he could if he were God."

'"But he has made himself known," we say. "He sent his Son, Jesus. Jesus is God among us. He made God known."

'"So you say, but how can I know that? Jesus died a long time ago."

'Or, something like this:

'"How can you be so confident there's life after death?"

"Because someone came back from the dead," we respond. "The resurrection of Jesus is key to the claims of the Christian gospel. Our faith stands or falls on this historical event."

"But how do you know that wasn't just a made-up story?"

"Because the tomb was empty and eyewitnesses saw Jesus alive. And those eyewitnesses weren't gullible people, desperate to believe. Thomas in particular, one of the Twelve, doubted the news until he saw and heard and touched Jesus for himself. His life was changed, just as meeting the risen Jesus changed the lives of countless other witnesses. Many went from hiding in fear to boldly proclaiming the story of Jesus even when faced with persecution, imprisonment, and martyrdom."

"Yeah, but coming back from the dead? There's no scientific proof for anything like that."

'These conversations meander around a similar refrain: wouldn't evangelism be a whole lot easier if Jesus were still on earth? Imagine he was still living somewhere in Palestine so that people could go to see him. Imagine scientists had studied him over the years and could verify that he was more than 2,000 years old. Or imagine Jesus himself was on tour, performing miracles and preaching the gospel.

'The ascension seems like bad evangelism strategy. It removes the key piece of evidence that substantiates the claims of Christianity. It's like our best player got subbed out as the game was just beginning.

Startlingly Good News

'But in Scripture and for the Christian, the ascension is startlingly good news. In fact, there could be no salvation or mission without the ascension. The great Puritan theologian John Owen affirmed the same when he said:

'This assumption of our Lord Jesus Christ into glory, or his glorious reception in heaven, with his state and condition therein, is a principal article of the faith of the church—the great foundation of its hope and consolation in this world. . . . The darkness of our faith herein is the cause of all our disconsolations, and most of our weaknesses in obedience.

'That said, what was the immediate effect of the ascension on the first disciples?

"Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God" (Luke 24:52-53).

'Their response was worship, joy, and praise. Their Lord and friend had been taken from them, but they understood enough of what had happened for the ascension to produce in them worship, joy, and praise.

'Why? They believed Jesus when told them: "But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you" (John 16:7). This exhortation remains true for us as well; Jesus' physical absence is better for us than his continued physical presence.

'As we think about the ascension, we must rediscover the great comfort it brings. Diplomats and reporters often talk about "their man in Washington" or "their man in Tokyo." For Christians, Jesus is "our man in heaven." He is there for us, on our behalf. He's our representative, securing our salvation by his very presence in heaven.

'But we must also discover the ascension as a great challenge. Jesus receives all authority and sends us out to declare that authority to the world. The ascension, then, is the beginning of mission.

[originally posted at "The Gospel Coalition Website"]

This article has been adapted from Tim Chester and Jonathan Woodrow's new book The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God (Christian Focus, 2013).

Tim Chester is pastor of The Crowded House in Sheffield, UK, and the author of a number of books including You Can Change, A Meal with Jesus and Everyday Church. Jonny Woodrow is associate director of Porterbrook Seminary and part of the leadership team of The Crowded House church planting network.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The abandoning of self-trusting efforts

"At the root of all our disobedience are particular ways in which we continue to seek control of our lives through systems of works-righteousness.

"The way to progress as a Christian is to continually repent and uproot these systems the same way we become Christians, namely by the vivid depiction (and re-depiction) of Christ’s saving work for us, and the abandoning of self-trusting efforts to complete ourselves.

"We must go back again and again to the gospel of Christ-crucified, so that our hearts are more deeply gripped by the reality of what he did and who we are in him."

— Tim Keller
Galatians For You

HT:  Of First Importance

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Value of Secret Piety (Matt. 6:1-4)

"One of the greatest fallacies of our faith, and actually one of the greatest acts of unbelief, is the thought that our spiritual acts and virtues need to be advertised to be known. The frantic efforts of religious personages and groups to advertise and certify themselves is a stunning revelation of their lack of substance and faith. . . .

"Secrecy rightly practiced enables us to place our public relations department entirely in the hands of God, who lit our candles so we could be the light of the world, not so we could hide under a bushel (Matt. 5:14-16). We allow him to decide when our deeds will be known and when our light will be noticed.

"Secrecy at its best teaches love and humility before God and others. And that love and humility encourages us to see our associates in the best possible light, even to the point of our hoping they will do better and appear better than us. It actually becomes possible for us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than ourselves,” as Philippians 2:3 advises. And what a relief that can be! If you want to experience the flow of love as never before, the next time you are in a competitive situation, pray that the others around you will be more outstanding, more praised, and more used of God than yourself. Really pull for them and rejoice for their successes. If Christians were universally to do this for each other, the earth would soon be filled with the knowledge of God’s glory. The discipline of secrecy can lead us into this sort of wonderful experience."

—Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (New York: HarperCollins, 1988), 173-74.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Path to Spiritual Maturity

"The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian."
—A. W. Tozer

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How We Overcome

"How dare you approach the mercy-seat of God on the basis of what kind of day you had, as if that were the basis for our entrance into the presence of the sovereign and holy God? No wonder we cannot beat the Devil. This is works theology. It has nothing to do with grace and the exclusive sufficiency of Christ. Nothing.

"Do you not understand that we overcome the accuser on the ground of the blood of Christ? Nothing more, nothing less. That is how we win. It is the only way we win. This is the only ground of our acceptance before God. If you drift far from the cross, you are done. You are defeated.

"We overcome the accuser of our brothers and sisters, we overcome our consciences, we overcome our bad tempers, we overcome our defeats, we overcome our lusts, we overcome our fears, we overcome our pettiness on the basis of the blood of the Lamb."

— D. A. Carson
Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus
(Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 103

Sunday, April 20, 2014

"Christ the Lord Is Risen Today"

[Included below are more verses than are generally sung today....]

Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Lo! the Sun’s eclipse is o'er, Alleluia!
Lo! He sets in blood no more, Alleluia!

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Alleluia!
Christ hath burst the gates of hell, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail, the Lord of earth and Heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail, the resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing and thus to love, Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

But the pains that He endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation have procured, Alleluia!
Now above the sky He’s King, Alleluia!
Where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

–Charles Wesley
originally posted by Tullian Tchividjian

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Christ's Resurrection: The Enthronement of the New King

"The story of the Gospels is one in which Jesus inaugurates a new reign of God and deals a deathblow to the imposter king through his death on the cross. If the Cross is the defeat of the old king, the Resurrection is the enthronement of the new." -- J.R. Daniel Kirk

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday...Easter Sunday...But what about Saturday?

"Holy Saturday speaks a peculiarly needed word to a world that demands satisfaction now, immediately. It is a day of quiet waiting, when obedience to the command to rest, to observe Sabbath as the women did, is harder than ever in Israel’s history. The resurrection is not yet. Holy Saturday is quintessentially the day when the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper and God is silent. It is the day when 'the souls under the altar' are told to rest for a little while until their number is completed. It is in its own way the emblem of the entire present age." -- Jon Laansma

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How to be truly nourished by God's Word

“There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. . . . Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God's Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord. . . .” 

― Charles H. Spurgeon

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Resurrection and Kingdom Ministry

from Michael Bird ("Evangelical Theology")

...Finally, resurrection is an inspiration for kingdom ministry.

The resurrection is not simply an amazing fact that God brings dead people to life. It has a host of consequences. Jesus is risen; therefore God’s new world has begun. Jesus is risen; therefore the tyrants and despots of the world should tremble and quiver — because God has exalted Jesus and every knee will bow before him. Jesus is risen; therefore Israel has been restored and the plan for the nation is fulfilled in him. Jesus is risen; therefore death has been defeated. Jesus is risen; therefore creation groans in anticipation of its renewal. Jesus is risen; therefore we will be raised also to live in God’s new world. Jesus is risen; therefore go and make disciples in his name. The resurrection means that God’s new world has broken into our own world, and we are heirs and ambassadors of the king that is coming.

But the resurrection implies something else. It means we have the task of proclaiming and embodying before the world exactly what this new creation is and what it looks like. We are a resurrection people, and we demonstrate how resurrection— as both a present experience and a future hope — impacts people when it is worked out in daily life, family life, and community life. If we are “children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36), we show the suitability of this name when we are committed to talking, taking, and turning our lives into a means of life-giving grace to those around us.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes his most extensive discourse on the resurrection— that it is intrinsic to the gospel, what the resurrection body looks like, and how it is part of God’s victory. Yet we must take to heart the application that the apostle makes at the end: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (15:58, italics added). Here Paul is telling the Corinthians that despite the world around them, pagan and promiscuous as it is, they must hold their ground, not let up, and not shut up, because they are the vessels of the same divine power exercised in the resurrection of Christ. The future horizon of resurrection gives purpose and drive to Christian living in the present.

If you’re contemplating missionary service, adding your name to rosters at church, learning to preach, becoming a Sunday school teacher, wondering what you can do to stop sex-trafficking, then do it. Here’s why: the resurrection moves us to take risks for God because the resurrection proves that God is behind us, before us, and with us. Our labor in the Lord in this life plants seeds that will sprout forth in the resurrection life; thus, what work we do in this age will flower in the coming age of new creation.

Furthermore, if the resurrection drives us to do anything, it must surely be worship. Look what happened when the women at the empty tomb met the risen Lord: “Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him” (Matt 28:9, italics added). Their first thought was not to hold a colloquium on the nature of the resurrection body or reconcile scientific notions of personal identity with molecular biology. I imagine that their knees bent with awe, their mouths opened with joy, and their arms were raised in adoration. Resurrection bids us to cling to Christ in joyous and exulting worship.

If our theology is gospel-driven, the resurrection will permeate every facet of Christian thought. We can contemplate Christ only as the risen Lord. We may speak of God’s kingdom only as it enters our world through resurrection power. We imagine the Spirit not as an impersonal force, but as the personal instrument of inward regeneration and physical resurrection. The church exists only upon the premise and in the power of resurrection. Indeed, we can only view the world around us through the lens of resurrection faith. John Chrysostom’s famous paschal homily speaks of the all-encompassing transformation of reality wrought by Christ’s resurrection:

Christ is risen! And you, O death, are annihilated!

Christ is risen! And the evil ones are cast down!

Christ is risen! And the angels rejoice!

Christ is risen! And life is liberated!

Christ is risen! And the tomb is emptied of its dead;

For Christ having risen from the dead,

Is become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and power, now and forever, and from all ages to all ages.

Amen. (pgs. 447-448)

- See more at:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

"A Prayer for Palm Sunday" (from Pastor Scotty Smith)

     Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double. Zech. 9:9-12

    Dear Lord Jesus, we’ll exhaust the wonder of this passage as soon as we drink Niagara Falls dry; as soon as we memorize the names of every star you’ve launched into the heavens; as soon as we finish climbing all the Alps in Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and France. You are the King of Zechariah’s vision, and on this Palm Sunday, we worship, honor, and bless you.

No other king could show up to conquer warhorses and warriors, humbly riding on the foal of a donkey. No other king could break the battle bow and the backbone of all warfare, by the brokenness of the cross. No other king could supplant the politics of evil and tyranny of power, with an eternal reign of peace.

No other king could offer his life and death, for the redemption and restoration, of rebels and idolaters like us. No other king could possibly make prisoners of sin, death, and “waterless pits,” into prisoners of hope.

Lord Jesus, you are that King—the King of glory, the King of kings and Lord of lords—the Monarch of mercy, the Governor of grace, the Prince of Peace. Great is our rejoicing, for you have come to us, righteous and victorious, loving and sovereign.

By the riches of your grace, continue to free us from waterless pits, broken cisterns and worthless idols. By the power of the gospel, enable us to live as prisoners of hope and agents of redemption until the Day you return to finish making all things new. So very Amen we pray, in your holy and matchless name.

-- Pastor Scotty Smith

Thursday, April 3, 2014