Thursday, January 28, 2016

why does God allow war?

From whence comes wars and fightings among you?  Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?  (James 4:1)

As war loomed over Great Britain in 1939, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the new pastor at Westminster Chapel in London, preached four sermons beginning in October of that year.  The words you read below were spoken only months before the Germans began the aerial bombardment of London.  And yet, the words are very timely for us today, as well.  The sermons were subsequently published as Why Does God Allow War?

"Under the blessing of peace, men and women, in constantly increasing numbers, have forsaken God and religion and have settled down to a life which is essentially materialistic and sinful. Ever since the First World War-- thinking that this was indeed 'war to end war,' with a false sense of security, buttressed also by insurance schemes and various other provisions to safeguard themselves against the possible dangers that still remained--men and women in this and in every other country have given themselves to a life of pleasure-seeking, accompanied by spiritual and mental indolence.  This became evident not only in the decline of religion, but still more markedly in the appalling decline of morals; and indeed, finally, even in a decline in a political and social sense.  It was a life of purely selfish and carnal enjoyment, with all the slackness in every respect that such a life always produces.  It led to the decadence on which the rulers of Germany banked, and on which they based their calculations.  Then came a crisis in September, 1938.  Men and women crowded to places of worship and prayed for peace.  But was it because they had decided to use peace for the one and only true purpose, namely, to 'live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty'?  Was it in order that they
might walk 'in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost'?  The facts speak for themselves.  Thus I ask the questions: Had we a right to peace? Do we deserve peace? Were we justified in asking God to preserve peace and to grant peace? What if war has come because we were not fit for peace, because we did not deserve peace, because we by our disobedience and godlessness and sinfulness had so utterly abused the blessings of peace?  Have we a right to expect God to preserve a state of peace merely to allow men and women to continue a life that is an insult to His holy name?"

~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "Why Does God Allow War?" (October 1939)

Photograph above of Heinkel bomber over Wapping, East London. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)

"My text is not a negative text but a very positive text. It tells us that we must not only not be afraid of being called narrow, but it actually goes on to say that if we really want to be Christians worthy of the name, we must go out of our way to become narrow: we must enter in at the strait gate and walk on the narrow way! Now this, surely, is rather a startling and amazing thing. Is it not wonderful that when our Lord came to choose the designation to express his way of life, he selected the very word by which we are most frightened—that the very word of which we tend to be afraid is the very word in which he exults, the very word that he puts upon his flag? I would say also, for the purpose of encouraging and stimulating any frightened Christian, the next time one of these so-called men of the world tells you that you are narrow, instead of trying to run away, just stand your ground, look him straight in the face, and say, 'Of course I am narrow, and it would be a very much better thing for you, and for your wife and children, if you also became narrow and ceased to boast of a largeness and a breadth that are in reality nothing but a cloak for laxity and looseness.' He would not worry you quite so frequently in the future!

"Oh, that we would all begin to seek and to covet this narrowness instead of boasting of a breadth and a width and a largeness of outlook that leads to moral and political and social and international chaos—the horrors of which we are so aware in our modern world.

"Yes, look at the crowd. The vital question to ask about a path is not so much about its width as its destination. 'Wide is the gate, and broad is the way'—but where does it lead?—'that leadeth to destruction.'"

~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "The Narrowness of the Gospel" (1935) from Evangelistic Sermons at Aberavon.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

culturally conditioned or divinely given?

Carl Henry observed that contemporary culture considers itself to be "culture-transcending."  That is, people who approach uncomfortable content in the Bible will dismiss it as being culturally-conditioned, while assuming their own viewpoint as being above or transcending cultures.  

He warns that evangelical scholars particularly -- what he calls "evangelical mediating scholars" -- are being tempted to divide certain apostolic statements, for example, as coming from "Rabbinic Paul" versus "Christian Paul."  He writes,   
"The notion that the Apostle Paul compromises New Testament christology under the influence of the rabbinic ethos is often advanced by critical theologians in connection with various biblical emphases that they find personally distasteful.  If what Paul teaches about evangelical women or about Christians and divorce, or about homosexuals, is to be comprehended by dismissing the authority of the biblical teaching, the axe surely is laid to the root of the tree.  Evasion of the authority of Scripture can only lead eventually to an apostate church.  It is one thing to affirm that the Bible exhibits progressive divine revelation, but quite another to posit contradictions in that revelation..." 

(Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, IV:63)

Friday, January 22, 2016

no racial superiority

"[You] have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.  Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all."  (Colossians 3:10-11 ESV)

From the Bible's perspective few things are more prideful and foolish than racism. All are descended from one man (Adam), and all will be restored in the One Man (Christ). There is only one humanity. 

Whatever the cultural strengths or weaknesses of any race, it remains that human beings were created in the image of God, and however distorted, all humans still bear that image (Gen. 9:6; Acts 17:22-31).

Even when God dealt specifically with the nation of Israel, he made it very clear to them that he was not blessing them because of any superiority they possessed (Deut. 9:4ff).

Every human being who comes to Christ comes with the full awareness and admission of having no superiority.  We come to the level ground before the Cross with our own sin, our own rebellion, our own guilt.  If we feel superior in any way to any other human, then simply put, we have not come to the cross of Jesus Christ.

And in the end all races will be represented in the Kingdom of Christ...

And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth." (Revelation 5:9-10 ESV)

The many tribes and peoples and nations become one kingdom to inherit the earth.  R. B. Kuiper observes, "The ultimate solution to the race problem is found in Christianity.  No matter how great the differences among the races may be, in Christ they are one, and believers of all races are members of His body."   (The Glorious Body of Christ) 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

the burning heart

They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?" And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, "The Lord has risen indeed...!"

(Luke 24:32-34 ESV)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, 

"The great need of the church today, in our sadness and in our slowness, is to discover the secret of the burning heart.

"We are so aware of the problems, so immersed in them, that we have forgotten all of the glory that is around us and have seen nothing but the problems that lead to this increasing dejection.

"And the first thing we must do is wake up and gird up the loins of our minds and think and understand the truth and begin to apply it to the situation in which we find ourselves, instead of giving way, instead of giving in, instead of just commiserating with one another.

"Slowness of heart. Now this is something we must be conscious of. It is not enough to say, 'Well, I don’t feel like it now.' I should ask myself, 'Why don’t I feel like it now?' Slowness of heart is a condition that must be dealt with.

"They failed to take in all that the Scriptures had written. Is this failure not the real explanation of the state of the Christian church today? 

"Higher criticism is man picking and choosing out of the Scriptures, believing what he likes and rejecting, or ignoring, the rest.

"We are so anxious to please the modern scientists, the modern educated people, that we have lost our gospel.

"If you begin to pick and choose from the Scriptures, you will soon end in a state of dejection.

"We must submit to the Scriptures completely, entirely, whether we understand them or not.

"There is a unity in the Scripture that must never be broken. There is a wholeness and a completeness, and it is only as we submit to this that we can look to the real solution of our problems.

"Their hearts were burning when they still regarded him as a stranger. It was as he was opening the Scriptures when they were walking together on the way.

"You do not need to have a vision. You do not need to see him with your natural eyes. There is only one thing that is necessary for this burning heart, and it is this—that you look in the Scriptures.

"He [John Wesley] said, 'My heart began to burn within me. I knew that my sins, even my sins, were forgiven.' The cold iceberg of a heart began to melt, and the fire came in, and the man became a flaming evangelist.

"The burning heart is the one great need and necessity of every one of us. Do you have it? If you have not, realize why you have not. You are a fool! You are not giving your time to this. You are spending your time with your television or your radio or your newspaper. Give time to the Scriptures. Bring your mind at its best. Discipline it. Read the Scriptures. Start in Genesis and go all the way through. But never read without praying for the Spirit to enlighten your eyes and to open them and to give you understanding. Ask for this blessed unction and anointing that alone can enable you to find Christ. Look for him, the living Christ, the resurrected Christ. Look for him everywhere in the Scriptures." 

~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Setting Our Affections upon Glory: Nine Sermons on the Gospel and the Church.

Drawing above is a detail from Rembrandt's "Emmaus." 

so great a salvation

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. 

(Hebrews 2:1-4 ESV)

"The Christian message is a message of salvation. It is deliverance, emancipation, healing, liberty, health, vigor, power. ... Do you habitually think of your own salvation as the greatest and the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to you? I will ask a yet more serious question: do you give your neighbors the impression that you have found the most magnificent thing in the world? I have already said this, but it merits repetition. I have a terrible fear that many people are outside the Christian church because so many of us give them the impression that what we have is something very small, very narrow, very cramped and confined. We have not given them the impression that they are missing the most glorious thing in the entire universe."  

(~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

dying to self

"We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin."  (Romans 6:6-7 ESV)

Here's Francis Schaeffer on dying to self...

We are to be willing to say no to ourselves, we are to be willing to say no to things, in order that the command to love God and men may have real meaning...

We do not come to true spirituality or the true Christian life merely by keeping a list, but neither do we come to it merely by rejecting the list and then shrugging our shoulders and living a looser life…

As I have said, Romans chapter 6 begins with many strong negatives, and though we may want to rush on to the second half of verse 4 ("As Christ was raised from the dead . . . even so we may walk in newness of life"), actually we are in peril if we ignore the element of "dying." "Buried with him in baptism," "dead to sin," "baptized into his death": the way into the freedom of the second part of verse 4 is through these, not around them…  We must walk through the first half ("Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him") before we can get on to the second half: "That the body of sin might be made powerless, that henceforth we should not serve sin." I think I perceive that most Christians even read the first half of these verses faster, in order to get to the second "happy" part of the verses, but this is a mistake. We love to skip along, but one does not get on the other side of a door without going through it, and we do not get to the joyous second part of these verses without passing through the first part.  

This is, first of all, true absolutely and once for all at justification, but then it is true moment by moment in practice in the Christian life. Let us not be confused here. The moment we accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior we were justified and our guilt was gone once for all. That is absolute. But if we want to know anything of reality in the Christian life, anything of true spirituality, we must "take up our cross daily." The principle of saying "no" to self lies at the heart of my attitude toward the world as it maintains its alien stand in rebellion against the Creator. If I use my intellectual capacities to make myself respectable to the world, as it is in revolution against the one who created it, then I have failed. It is equally true if I use my ignorance for the same purpose. I am to face the cross of Christ in every part of life and with my whole man. The cross of Christ is to be a reality to me not only once for all at my conversion, but all through my life as a Christian. True spirituality does not stop at the negative, but without the negative-in comprehension and practice-we are not ready to go on.  

(--Francis Schaeffer, in True Spirituality)

Friday, January 8, 2016

what's with all the names?

Anyone reading the Bible, especially the Old Testament, becomes aware that many names, numbers, genealogies, and locations have been recorded in Scripture. How tempting to skip over these in our reading.  How many small group participants have dreaded being called on to read one of these passages filled with hard-to-pronounce names!

These names and listings are important for several reasons:

1) The Old Testament, specifically, is the national archive of Israel's history.  All the names, places, numbers, and genealogies remind us that we are reading real history, sometimes in much detail, even down to the number of camels! (Ezra 2:67) 

2) The covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David -- and especially the promises regarding the coming of Messiah -- take place along the lines of clearly-marked family descent. It was important to preserve not only the prophecies, but also God's providence over unfolding history, to assure us of the correct identification of the Messiah when he came. (See Matthew 1 and Luke 3, for example.)  

3) To be a part of the covenant community of God, people needed to know, and be able to show, where they fit in those genealogies. This was an important part of their identity as the people of God and allowed access to the temple for worship (Nehemiah 7:61).  Of course, in the New Testament, membership in the covenant community is validated by the seal of the Holy Spirit, rather than by family lineage. (Ezekiel 36:26-28; 2 Corinthians 1:22)

4) The importance of the individual and his/her name. This is a very key reason that the Bible is filled with names.  God is relational.  He knows and relates to people as individuals.  He calls people by name, and gives his own name to them that they might know him and call upon him.  (Isaiah 44:5; John 17:6)  At the end of history, at the final judgment, God will open a book filled with names. (Revelation 20:15)  Ponder the following verses...

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine." (Isaiah 43:1b ESV)

"Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." (Luke 10:20 ESV)

"To him [the Good Shepherd] the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." (John 10:3 ESV)

"...who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life." (Philippians 4:3 ESV) 

"Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:14-15 ESV)

Here's a suggestion: every time you come to a list of names in the Bible, stop and remind yourself that God knows you by name.  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, rejoice that your name is written in his book of life! Take time to thank God that the Good Shepherd knows you and calls you by name. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

bible reading 2016

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night." (Psalm 1:1-2 ESV)

"So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, 'If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'" (John 8:31-32 ESV)

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (Colossians 3:16 ESV)

This year I am recommending the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan.  Four chapters a day will take you through the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice. Here's some background information on this Bible reading plan. 

I downloaded the reading plan for my phone (Android) through the Google Play store.  It's working well. 

If you use the ESV Bible online, here is the link for this plan

Here is a PDF schedule that can be printed out. 

Crossway also is making available the ESV Audio version of this on iTunes

Bible Gateway also has the M'Cheyne reading plan in a variety of versions

D. A. Carson has spread this plan out over two years (two chapters a day), and this can be read in tandem with his free online devotional, For The Love of God

a new year