Thursday, August 27, 2015

the gospel beautifies the church

Here are some great snippets from Ray Ortlund, Jr., from The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ (Crossway, 2014) ...

I want to be really forgiven of my real sins by a real Savior.

God's final category for you is not your goodness versus your badness, but your union with Christ versus your distance from Christ.

The beauty of human relationships, is the first thing that outsiders are likely to notice when they enter a church.

The household of God must offer a clear and lovely alternative to the madness of this world.

We either proudly believe we are too good to be judged, or we proudly believe we are too bad to be saved.

When a whole church luxuriates in Christ alone, that church embodies a gospel culture.

The beauty of love is the crown of a well-taught church.

The gospel never advances without someone paying a price.

The greatness of Christ creates courage in us.

he spoke and it came to be

For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.  
(Psalm 33:9 ESV)

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. (Revelation 4:11 ESV)

"The Bible affirms, and perhaps it is the only book that does so, that all things, visible and invisible, have originated from God by a free act of creation.  The Bible doctrine of creation is something more than the Mosaic cosmogony.

"For my present purpose it is indifferent how we interpret the first chapter of Genesis--whether as the result of direct Revelation, or as the expression of certain great religious truths in such forms as the natural knowledge of the age admitted of. I believe myself that the narrative gives evidence of its Divine original in its total difference of character from all heathen cosmogonies, but this is a view I need not press.  The main point is the absolute derivation of all things from God, and on this truth the Scripture as a whole gives no uncertain sound. Discussions have been raised as to the exact force of the Hebrew word (bara') used to express the idea of creation, but even this is of subordinate importance in view of the fact, which none will dispute, that the uniform teaching of Scripture is that the universe had its origin, not from the fashioning of pre-existent matter, but directly from the will and word of the Almighty.  'He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.' 

"Not only is this doctrine of creation fundamental in Scripture, but it is of great practical significance. It might be thought, of what practical importance is it to us to know how the world originated? Is not this a question of purely speculative interest? But a moment's reflection will convince us that it is not so. The vital thing in religion is the relation of dependence. To feel that we and our world, that our human life and all that we are and have, absolutely depend on God,--this is the primary attitude of religion. For if they do not thus depend,--if there is anything in the universe which exists out of and independently of God, --then what guarantee have we for the unfailing execution of His purposes, what ground have we for that assured trust in His Providence which Christ inculcates, what security have we that all things will work together for good? But to affirm that all things depend on God is just in another way to affirm the creation of all things by God. They would not depend on Him if He were not their Creator. They do depend on Him, because they are created by Him. The doctrine of creation, therefore, is not a mere speculation. -- Only this conviction that it is "the Lord that made heaven and earth" -- that 'of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things' -- that He has created all things, and for His pleasure they are and were created,  --can give us the confidence we need in a holy and wise government of the universe, and in a final triumph of good over evil."

~ James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

pascal's wager

Carl Henry, as a young man undergoing conviction of -- but struggling with -- the truthfulness of Christianity, reasoned along the lines of Pascal's "wager" (Pensees, #233)... This is a right use of that very good question, "what have I got to lose?" ... 

"I somewhat understated my readiness by a fallback to Pascal's wager.  'If I go ahead, and there's nothing to it, I have nothing to lose,' I said; 'if I don't go ahead, and there is something to it, I have everything to lose.'" 

~ Carl F. H. Henry, Confessions of a Theologian, p. 46.

Further thoughts from Pascal...

#236  "According to the doctrine of chance, you ought to put yourself to the trouble of searching for the truth. For if you die without worshiping the True Cause, you are lost. -- 'But,' say you, 'if He had wished me to worship Him, He would have left me signs of His will.' -- He has done so, but you neglect them. Seek them, therefore. It is well worth it."  

#237  "Chances.—We must live differently in the world, according to one of two different assumptions: (1) that we could always remain here in it; or (2) that it is certain that we shall not remain here long, and uncertain if we shall remain here even one hour. This last assumption is our real condition."

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

God true to himself

"Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" (Genesis 18:25 ESV)

"In our pagan way, we take it for granted that God feels as we do.  The idea that retribution might be the moral law of God's world and an expression of his holy character seems to us quite fantastic.  Those who uphold it find themselves accused of projecting onto God their own pathological impulses of rage and vindictiveness.  Yet the Bible insists throughout that this world which God in his goodness has made is a moral world, one in which retribution is as basic a fact as breathing.  

"God is the Judge of all the earth, and he will do right, vindicating the innocent, if such there be, but punishing (in the Bible phrase visiting their sins upon) lawbreakers (see Gen 18:25).  God is not true to himself unless he punishes sin. And unless one knows and feels the truth of this fact, that wrongdoers have no natural hope of anything from God but retributive judgment, one can never share the biblical faith in divine grace."

--J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1973, 1993) pp 130-31.

Painting above is "Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah" by Henry Ossawa Tanner. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

on justice

Carl Henry on why evangelical Christians should be concerned for public (social) justice... 

"Jesus' insistent requirement of the new birth and of a new lifestyle was set within the larger context of the 'gospel of the kingdom' that focuses on his victory over all the wicked powers arrayed against the will of God." 

~ Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, Vol. 3, p. 122.

Click on full quote below...

Monday, August 10, 2015

all learning for the sake of worship

"All Christian learning must be for the sake of worship and service of God in the world, and we are deceived if we think that our own schematic skills or speculative theories or politico-economic proposals make the Bible meaningful or credible to the contemporary world. The case for Christianity does not rest on our ingenuity; it rests upon the incarnate and risen Lord.  The Bible is meaningful and credible as it stands; it is we, not the Scriptures, that need to be salvaged.  Unless evangelical education understands Christianity's salvific witness in terms of the whole self -- intellect, volition, emotion, conscience, imagination -- and of the world in its total need -- justice, peace, stewardship and much else -- it cannot adequately confront a planet that has sagged out of moral and spiritual orbit."

~ Carl F. H. Henry, Confessions Of A Theologian (Word Books, 1986), p. 76. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Christ validates the Scriptures

Here are some reading highlights from Carl Henry's God, Revelation, and Authority, Vol 3.

"In Jesus Christ the source and content of [God's] revelation converge and coincide."  (III:9)

"The regenerate church is a transnational, transracial, transcultural beachhead for the transcendent kingdom of God." (III:68)

"The Christian fellowship knows that Jesus' incarnation, death, and resurrection are the turning point of the ages."  (III:73)

"The gospel is good news, news of Gods' grace to the unworthy, news of a victory of righteousness and love in which the people of God forever share.  It is the only news that endures." (III:74)

"The pledged work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the apostles would involve a superhuman recalling of Jesus' teaching and a superhuman illumination in articulating it."  (III:92)

"We have no way of returning to observe the historical Jesus except through the Bible." (III:95)

"We learn of Christ from Scripture and Christ validates the Scriptures."  (III:98)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

not one forgotten

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father." (Matthew 10:29 ESV)

This summer we have enjoyed watching birds drinking and taking baths in the birdbath on our deck.  The sparrows especially take energetic baths, spraying water everywhere.  This means, of course, having to fill the bath from time to time to accommodate all the feathered guests.  

It struck me that God the Father knows each and every sparrow in our entire world.  (I'm assuming this applies also to catbirds, blue jays, and doves, as well.)  And that not one of them dies apart from the knowledge and will of the Father.  What amazing attention to detail God has toward his creation!

Then this morning I read again Isaiah 40.  And in verse 26 we are told God has names for all the stars -- billions upon billions of them.  And he maintains the existence of each one.  "Not one" of them is missing...  

"Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing." (Isaiah 40:26 ESV)

"Not one."  Not one star is missing.  Not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from the Father. The sheer breadth his knowledge of creation is stunning. It's incalculable: height and depth, great and small, stars and sparrows.  Not one is missing, or forgotten, or unnamed, or uncared for.

So why do I wonder -- or worry -- if God cares about the details of my life or the lives of others?  Or if he is aware of all the ins and outs of our problems? Or does he truly understand, and truly care, about this or that one life?

Christopher Ash in his sermons on the book of Job, summarized God's speech in Job 38-41 in this way, "I am God; and you are not.  I understand fully; and you do not."  We need to humble ourselves before his infinite wisdom and knowledge.

And Jesus said, "Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:31 ESV)  We need to rest in that truth! 

Photo of song sparrow above by
Photo of Galaxy M101 from JPL.NASA.