Monday, August 29, 2011

sermon applications

"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'"  (John 1:29 NIV)

“Upon a life I did not live, upon a death I did not die; another’s life, another’s death, I stake my whole eternity.”  (Horatius Bonar) 

From Sunday's sermon by David Kingston:

Before we end let us make sure we understand the implications of John’s statements. There are two major claims that we need to understand and make part of our lives. There are probably some of you here this morning who are thinking “I would like to become a Christian, to know the forgiveness offered by Jesus. I can see the peace and joy in the lives of Christians that I know, and I want to have this same peace and joy. But how can I know this forgiveness? How can I stand before a holy God and know that my sins are forgiven?”  The apostle John gives us the answer in a nutshell right here at the beginning of the gospel by quoting John the Baptist. John called Jesus “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Here is your answer: God Himself has provided the lamb as a perfect sacrifice to pay the price that we could never pay. Jesus, the God-man, the one who was and is both wholly God and yet wholly man, paid the price that we could not pay. And this death was not just for the nation of Israel, it was not just for the Jews. The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus’ death was for everyone; there is no race, no nationality, no ethnicity, no socio-economic status excluded. And that, my dear seeking friend, includes you, whether you are from the wilds of SW Virginia or the urban chaos of northern Virginia, whether from the USA or from another country, whether male or female, old or young. If you are living and breathing you are part of the world that Jesus came to die for, and His death has paid the price for your sins.  As Horatius Bonar wrote “Upon a life I did not live, upon a death I did not die; another’s life, another’s death, I stake my whole eternity.”
But there is a second conclusion we need to draw. John understood his ministry to be that of getting a road ready for the king to ride on and to enter a city. In this analogy our lives are like cities, with roads leading up to the city gates. But if you are not a believer in Jesus, your road is full of potholes and the gate is locked shut against the king, so that he cannot enter. The potholes may be small or large, but they are there.  And how did John prepare the way? How did he get the road ready? He called people to repentance: Mark 1:4-5 “And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” And this is a perfect illustration of what it means to become a believer in Jesus and have him enter your life as king and emperor. Before Jesus can enter our lives as the king and LORD that He is, we need to make sure the road is ready for Him. And that means getting the potholes fixed and the boulders removed, or to change to biblical language, we need to repent of our sins and open up the gates of our town so that the rightful king Jesus can enter in and take control.  So if you want to become a Christian, the first step is to acknowledge that you are a sinner before a holy God, and come to him with a genuine sorrow for your sins and genuine desire for Him to take over your life as your Lord and your king. So there is road work ahead! 

Friday, August 26, 2011

watching irene

Interesting fact: "Irene" comes from the Greek, eirene, meaning "peace".  The New York Times has a great real-time map here that tracks the storm's progress.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

atheism or heroism, but not both

"If a consciousness of the eternal were not implanted in man; if the basis of all that exists were but a confusedly fermenting element which, convulsed by obscure passions, Produced all, both the great and the insignificant; if under everything there lay a bottomless void never to be filled what else were life but despair? If it were thus, and if there were no sacred bonds between man and man; if one generation arose after another, as in the forest the leaves of one season succeed the leaves of another, or like the songs of birds which are taken up one after another; if the generations of man passed through the world like a ship passing through the sea and the wind over the desert—a fruitless and a vain thing; if eternal oblivion were ever greedily watching for its prey and there existed no power strong enough to wrest it from its clutches—how empty were life then, and how dismal! 

"And therefore it is not thus; but, just as God created man and woman, he likewise called into being the hero and the poet or orator. ... The poet is the genius of memory, and does nothing but recall what has been done, can do nothing but admire what has been done. ... Therefore shall no one be forgotten who has done great deeds; and even if there be delay, even if the cloud of misunderstanding obscure the hero from our vision... No, no one shall be forgotten who was great in this world. But each hero was great in his own way, and each one was eminent in proportion to the great things he loved."

--Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

prologue themes

This is a very helpful chart, prepared by D. A. Carson, to show how the key themes from the prologue of Gospel according to John (1:1-18) are reiterated in later chapters.

Friday, August 19, 2011

stories within the Story

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men."  (John 1:1-4 ESV)

As I'm studying the prologue of the Gospel of John, I'm impressed that the grand story of history centers upon Jesus, who is the Word, the Logos, God the Son who was with his Father at the beginning of our universe. It all begins and ends with the Lord who was both Creator, and then Carpenter of Galilee. 

For our own life stories to make any eternal sense (or significance) they must be embedded within this one, great, central Story, and seen in its context... 

"Life is not random and meaningless. God tells us (and shows us) that there is a divine purpose at work behind all that takes place. This desire for meaning and purpose behind our individual stories is wired into us as humans. The stories of this world can never succeed at tying all our individual stories together into one great meta-narrative. But where the world’s great stories fail, the gospel story succeeds...

"Ironically, when we live as if our personal story is at the center of our universe, we struggle to find meaning and significance. But when Christ is at the center and we are pushed to the periphery, it is then—in that place of seeming obscurity and insignificance—that we find true worth and value, by giving glory to the crucified and risen King with whom we can become united through faith."

(Trevin Wax, Counterfeit Gospels)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

giving himself to comfort others

"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me." (John 14:1 ESV)

"He [Jesus] knew what was going to be involved on the cross; he knew he was being made sin for mankind. He knew that when God would lay on him the sins of us all, it would mean a terrible moment of separation from the face of God.  He knew all that, and as he said later on in the garden of Gethsemane, his soul was 'exceeding sorrowful' (Matthew 26:38); nevertheless he turned aside to comfort these unhappy followers of his [John 14:1ff].  He was more concerned about their unhappiness than his own immediate problem, and thus we have this wonderful view that on the very eve of the cross, our Lord gave himself freely in comfort and consolation to others.
"How typical and characteristic of him! He did the same thing on the cross itself, you remember, even after they had driven the cruel nails into his hands and his feet. There, dying on the cross, he had time to speak to that thief dying by his side. Bearing in his own body the sins of the world, he had sufficient compassion and love and sympathy and understanding to turn to the wretched man who was there being crucified with him."  
(--Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled)

Monday, August 8, 2011

no neutral characters

"Every man is a missionary, now and forever, for good or for evil, whether he intends or designs it or not. He may be a blot radiating his dark influence outward to the very circumference of society, or he may be a blessing spreading benediction over the length and breadth of the world. But a blank he cannot be: there are no moral blanks; there are no neutral characters."

(Thomas Chalmers)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

preaching the whole elephant

Tim Keller, on preaching in a pluralist culture...

About every other week, I confront popular pluralist notions, not with an entire sermon, but with a point here and there.

For example, pluralists contend that no one religion can know the fullness of spiritual truth, therefore all religions are valid. But while it is good to acknowledge our limitations, this statement is itself a strong assertion about the nature of spiritual truth. A common analogy is cited—the blind men trying to describe an elephant. One feels the tail and reports that an elephant is thin and flexible. Another feels a leg and claims the animal is thick as a tree. Another touches its side and reports the elephant is like a wall. This is supposed to represent how the various religions only understand part of God, while no one can truly see the whole picture. To claim full knowledge of God, pluralists contend, is arrogance.

I occasionally tell this parable, and I can almost see the people nodding their heads in agreement.

But then I remind them, "The only way this parable makes any sense, however, is if you've seen a whole elephant. Therefore, the minute you say, 'All religions only see part of the truth,' you are claiming the very knowledge you say no one else has. And you are demonstrating the same spiritual arrogance you accuse Christians of."

(Timothy J. Keller, Interview with CT Leadership, 2002) 

a plea for christian education

Machen concludes his work, Christianity and Liberalism, with a call for renewed commitment to Christian education, especially within our homes and churches.  Note especially the final paragraph:

[T]he most important thing of all--there must be a renewal of Christian education. The rejection of Christianity is due to various causes. But a very potent cause is simple ignorance.
In countless cases, Christianity is rejected simply because men have not the slightest notion of what Christianity is. An outstanding fact of recent Church history is the appalling growth of ignorance in the Church. Various causes, no doubt, can be assigned for this lamentable development.
The development is due partly to the general decline of education--at least so far as literature and history are concerned. The schools of the present day are being ruined by the absurd notion that education should follow the line of least resistance, and that something can be "drawn out" of the mind before anything is put in. They are also being ruined by an exaggerated emphasis on methodology at the expense of content and on what is materially useful at the expense of the high spiritual heritage of mankind. These lamentable tendencies, moreover, are in danger of being made permanent through the sinister extension of state control.
But something more than the general decline in education is needed to account for the special growth of ignorance in the Church. The growth of ignorance in the Church is the logical and inevitable result of the false notion that Christianity is a life and not also a doctrine; if Christianity is not a doctrine then of course teaching is not necessary to Christianity. But whatever be the causes for the growth of ignorance in the Church, the evil must be remedied. It must be remedied primarily by the renewal of Christian education in the family, but also by the use of whatever other educational agencies the Church can find. Christian education is the chief business of the hour for every earnest Christian man. Christianity cannot subsist unless men know what Christianity is.