Thursday, February 25, 2016

he is and he is not silent

"Refuse to capitulate to the Kantian philosophy that says that ultimate truth about God is not accessible. He has been revealed. God is speaking and is not silent. He became flesh. He is risen. He has shown Himself. That not all see it is because the god of this age has blinded their minds, but as we preach Jesus Christ as Lord, God ‘has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Cor. 4:4-6)."

~ From Burning Hearts: Preaching to the Affections, by Josh Moody, Robin Weekes.

obsessing about the future

"We obsess about the future and we get anxious, because anxiety, after all, is simply living out the future before it gets here. We must renounce our sinful desire to know the future and to be in control. We are not gods. We walk by faith, not by sight. We risk because God does not risk. We walk into the future in God-glorifying confidence, not because the future is known to us but because it is known to God. And that’s all we need to know. Worry about the future is not simply a characteristic, it is the sin of unbelief, an indication that our hearts are not resting in the promises of God."

~ Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something, (Chicago: Moody, 2009) p. 48.  Quoted in Burning Hearts: Preaching to the Affections by Josh Moody, Robin Weekes. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

my candidate

This being an election year in the U.S., much of our attention is turned to the various candidates, the debates, the claims and promises, the sound bites, and the endless drama of self-promotion.  

I recently read a communion sermon by Jonathan Edwards, "Glorying in the Savior", preached in November, 1729, in Northampton.  I was arrested by the beautiful description of the Lord Jesus Christ and his reign, and the great blessing upon his people.  How wonderful to be under his spiritual reign now, and one day we shall see his Kingdom come in power and glory! ...

He is a "King of righteousness" (Hebrews 7:2) who is perfectly just in his government. He is the "Prince of Peace" [Isaiah 9:6], a king of the most unparalleled clemency and grace. Never was any kingdom ruled by a government so mild and gentle and gracious.

He is exceeding gracious in the manner of his ruling his people by sweetly and powerfully influencing their hearts by his grace: not governing them against their wills, but by powerfully inclining their wills. Psalms 110:3, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." 

The laws of his kingdom, they are most excellent; his commandments are pure and righteous, altogether exceeding perfective of our nature, and such as above the laws of all other governments tend to the peace, the flourishing, the beautiful order, the excellency and the happiness of his people.

The invisible church of God is by far the most happy kingdom in the world. He that is their king is their father, their brother and husband, one that has a love stronger than death to his people, has infinite wisdom to guide him in governing of them and infinite strength to defend them. The citizens of Zion have great cause to glory in their king.

~ Jonathan Edwards




some things haven't changed

C. S. Lewis wrote, "All that is not eternal is eternally out of date" (The Four Loves). Josh Moody and Robin Weekes, authors of Burning Hearts: Preaching to the Affections, would agree, and maintain that -- despite all our scientific and technological advances -- this age is pretty much like the ages before.  Therefore, "relevant" preaching will preach to those unchanging issues of greatest importance...  

"What is the same about our age? Everything of greatest importance. People are still made in the image of God. People are still fallen and depraved. The world and the whole universe is still created by God and sustained by the word of His power. All of reality still throbs to the beating heart of the living God. Jesus is still Lord. The cross is the centre of the universe and of all time and space. The Holy Spirit is the power for ministry, life, change and Christlikeness... Ecclesiastes is right when it says that ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ (Eccles. 1:9). Women are still women. Men are still men. Ambition, pride, deceit and all the devilish fears of humanity still dominate the world. The kingdom of God, though, is on the march. The gospel is preached. The church is being built. One day Jesus will return. Every knee shall bow. God will be glorified. Those who resist Him till the end will be cast into outer darkness. The dead shall be raised. Those who love Jesus till the end will join Him in the New Heaven and the New Earth to thrive in an eternity of joy, peace, love and endless glory in Christ. None of this has changed. None of it ever will."

Sunday, February 21, 2016

so much cause to glory

"What reason have we to praise God, who has given us so much cause to glory in Christ Jesus, that we that deserve so much shame should have so much cause to glory. We were in a forlorn condition: we were depressed to the lowest depths of misery and wretchedness; we were filthy and abominable, had made ourselves viler than the earth, and deserved nothing but shame and everlasting contempt; we had nothing to glory in, but all the circumstances of our case were such as administered to us just cause of shame and confusion of face.

"But God has been pleased to provide one for us to take away our guilt and disgrace, and to be the glory in the midst of us; to put great honor upon us, to be as a covering to hide our nakedness, and not only so, but to adorn us and make us glorious; to be to us wisdom, to bring us from our shameful ignorance and darkness; to be our righteousness for the removal of our guilt and to procure acceptance with God for us; to be our sanctification, to change us from sinful and loathsome to holy and amiable; to be our redemption, to deliver us from all trouble and danger, and make us happy and blessed forever; to bestow upon us gold tried in the fire, that of poor we might become rich, and that he might exalt us from the dunghill and set us among princes. That God should take us, who were under bondage to sin and Satan, and give us such a glorious victory over our adversaries, and cause us thus to triumph over those that had us captives and were so much stronger than we; that God gives us so much greater privileges than others, that we should have such a king, is reason to praise God."

~Jonathan Edwards, "Glorying in the Savior", a communion sermon at Northampton, November, 1729. 

From Sermons and Discourses: 1723-1729 (WJE Online Yale Vol. 14). 










no mere mortals

Here's a quote from Sunday's sermon...

“Remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”  

― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory



Friday, February 19, 2016

pursuing holiness

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV) 

While going over 1 Corinthians 6 in my daily Bible reading, I was impressed with the reasons the Apostle Paul gives for the pursuit of holiness.

He points out two big problems in the church at Corinth: legal conflicts among the people (1 Cor 6:1-8), and sexual immorality (6:12-18)  The Corinthian believers needed to pursue meekness, forgiveness, and reconciliation with one another, and in the second case, sexual purity.  



Here are 8 reasons to pursue holy character:
  • We should so live as to be good examples before unbelievers (6:6)
  • We belong to a kingdom where unrighteousness does not belong, and such character will be judged (6:9-10)
  • We have a new identity in Christ -- cleansed, sanctified, justified (6:11)
  • We are to pursue things which are helpful and freeing (6:12)
  • We are to live within the good purposes God has designed (6:13)
  • Our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit (6:19)
  • We have been purchased (redeemed) and do not belong to ourselves any longer (6:19-20)
  • We are redeemed to live for God's glory (6:20)


Monday, February 15, 2016

not your little goodness and mine

"Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness." (Romans 4:4-5 ESV)  

This is a summary statement of the principle of justification by faith in Christ.  God does not wait for someone to become morally righteous before he declares him or her justified, that is, righteous in his sight.  He justifies the ungodly -- while still ungodly -- by their trust in him. They are united by faith to the Righteous One, Jesus Christ, who covers them with his righteousness (Jer. 23:6; 33:16; 2 Cor. 5:21). This means we may come freely to the One offering himself freely to us. If we try to earn this gift, it is proof that we do not think we are as hopeless as we are, nor do we think he is as gracious as he is.  

Two quotes from Martyn Lloyd-Jones are helpful here... 
  
To make it quite practical I have a very simple test. After I have explained the way of Christ to somebody I say “Now, are you ready to say that you are a Christian?” And they hesitate. And then I say, “What’s the matter? Why are you hesitating?” And so often people say, “I don’t feel like I’m good enough yet. I don’t think I’m ready to say I’m a Christian now.”   And at once I know that I have been wasting my breath. They are still thinking in terms of themselves. They have to do it. It sounds very modest to say, “Well, I don’t think I’m good enough,” but it’s a very denial of the faith. The very essence of the Christian faith is to say that He is good enough and I am in Him. As long as you go on thinking about yourself like that and saying, “I’m not good enough; Oh, I’m not good enough,” you are denying God – you are denying the gospel – you are denying the very essence of the faith and you will never be happy. You think you’re better at times and then again you will find you are not as good at other times than you thought you were. You will be up and down forever.   How can I put it plainly? It doesn't matter if you have almost entered into the depths of hell. It does not matter if you are guilty of murder as well as every other vile sin. It does not matter from the standpoint of being justified before God at all. You are no more hopeless than the most moral and respectable person in the world.   

~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression.

"This is Christianity: not your little goodness and mine: not what I am doing and what I am not doing.  Not how much better I am than somebody else; not how much better I am than I once was.  No, you forget it all and look to Him.  You see His perfect spotless righteousness and you know that if you believe in Him it is given to you and you are clothed with it."  

~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Kingdom of God.

the power of new affection



“It is seldom that any of our bad habits or flaws disappear by a mere nature process of natural extinction. At least it is very seldom it is done by the instrumentality of reasoning or by the force of mental determination. What can not be destroyed however may be dispossessed. One case may be made to give away to another and to lose its power entirely has the reigning affect of the
mind. Here’s an example: A youth may cease to idolize sensual pleasure but it is because of the idol of wealth. The desire to make money has gotten ascendancy, so he becomes disciplined.  But the love of money might have ceased to be in his heart if he was draw to ideology and politics.  Now he is lorded over by the love of power and moral superiority instead of wealth. But there is not one of these transformations in which the heart is left without an object. The human heart’s desire for one particular object is conquered. But its desire to have some object of adoration is unconquerable. The only way to dispossess the heart of all its affection is by the explosive power of a new one. Thus is it not enough to hold out to the world the mirror of its own imperfections, it is not enough to come forth with the demonstration . . . of the character of their enjoyment, it is not enough to just simply speak the conscience, to speak its follies. Rather, you must seek, as a preacher, every legitimate method of finding access to the heart for the love of Him who is greater than the world.”  

~ Thomas Chalmers, as quoted by Tim Keller in Gospel-centered Ministry

The complete text of "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection" by Thomas Chalmers, 1780-1847, can be found here.  



Saturday, February 13, 2016

ten evidences

"O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?  Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?"  (Galatians 3:1-3 ESV)




In studying this passage in Galatians, I was thinking, what are some of the evidences that the Holy Spirit is at work in lives of believers?  This is not exhaustive, I'm sure, but here are ten...

When we experience conviction of sin, not mere guilt and desire to escape punishment, but an awareness of sin against God which draws us to Christ for forgiveness and reconciliation – this is the work of the Holy Spirit.  (John 16:8-11)

When Jesus Christ becomes attractive to us, and we begin to see him as impressive, powerful, beautiful, and glorious (John 16:14; 1 Cor. 1:23-24) – this is the work of the Spirit. 

When God’s love is so understood and felt in the heart that we are moved to call out to God as our Father – this is the work of the Holy Spirit.  (Rom. 5:5; Gal. 4:6) 

When we joyfully believe and confess that Jesus is Lord – this is the work of the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:3; 1 John 4:2-3) 

When we have felt the truthfulness of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ and inwardly experience the authority of God’s word – this is the work of the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 1:13; 1 Thess. 1:5; 2:13)

When we have freedom, even boldness, to speak of Christ to others – this is the work of the Holy Spirit.  (Acts 1:8; 4:31).  

When we are receiving insight and understanding into God’s word, so that we are sensing its truth, power, and application to us – this is the work of the Holy Spirit.   (1 Cor. 2:12; Eph. 1:17-18; 1 John 2:27; 4:6)

When we turn away from fleshly desires, and are being led and empowered to manifest God’s character in our lives – this is the work of the Holy Spirit.  (Rom. 8:1-17; Gal. 5:16-23)

When we truly desire to sing God’s praise and join with believers in corporate worship – this is the work of the Holy Spirit.  (Eph. 5:18-20)

When our service to others brings God’s blessing to the body of Christ, and gifts that he has given us work supernaturally to build up others – this is the work of the Holy Spirit.  (1 Cor. 12:4-11)



Thursday, February 11, 2016

good prayers unanswered

Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, 
for he will speak peace to his people, 
to his saints; 
but let them not turn back to folly."  

(Psalm 85:8 ESV)

One of the more difficult things to face in the Christian life is when good prayers are seemingly unanswered.  We can understand why the Lord would not answer prayers that request harmful things, but what about prayers for those things that God seems to approve?  

Puritan Thomas Goodwin, in his work, The Return of Prayers, notes...

"God approves many things he decrees not." 

That is, though he may not give us what we are asking, the things we have asked for are good and he is pleased that we have asked him for them.  It is important, Goodwin notes, to see that God does respond in answer by revealing himself, his peace, or with a sustaining promise...

"That God reveals himself is the answer he intends to some prayers, and it is answer enough."

"For God to quiet, and calm, and give contentment to the heart seeking him is to find an answer."

"When he recalls a promise to our minds, this is an answer, and is precious." 

Sometimes the answer to a prayer is God himself.  There may be an issue of timing with the answer we expect, or perhaps the good thing we seek may not be actually good for us.  But one thing we can be sure of is that our Father hears us, that he is pleased when we call upon him, and he will give us what we need for that moment.  

As a good father he always gives of himself to sustain his children, whether with the answer expected or with his presence, his peace, or his promises. We need to be alert and thankful to the ways in which he answers us with himself.  




Monday, February 8, 2016

election, and elections

"...even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him."   (Ephesians 1:4 ESV)

We are in the midst of a national campaign to determine candidates for our upcoming presidential election.  I've been reflecting -- in light of Ephesians 1 and Romans 9 -- on the differences between the "election" of God and the "elections" of people.  As difficult as this truth of election may be to understand fully, there are a few things that are clear from the Scriptures: 

People elect people they deem worthy;
God elects the unworthy.

People elect people based upon merit;
God elects people based upon mercy. 

People make choices based on limited knowledge;  
God chooses in accordance with infinite wisdom.

Sometimes people choose others in an arbitrary way;  
God elects in accordance with his divine purpose and plan.  

People elect people to positions of power and license;
God elects people to be holy and blameless. 

When people elect people, pride is often the result; 
When God elects people, there is never room for pride.   

People elect people to special privileges;
God elects people to know and serve his beloved Son, Jesus. 

People elect others with a view to their own self-interest;  
God elects people to the praise of grace, glorious grace.  

Hear C. H. Spurgeon's words on the biblical doctrine of election:

"I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love. So I am forced to accept that great Biblical doctrine."







Friday, February 5, 2016

one theme

"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)

"That is the characteristic of this age. We have a tabloid mentality. We want to know a little bit of information about everything. But that is the exact opposite of what we have here. Take this book the Bible, the great old book of sixty-six books, written at different times by different people in different circumstances. In this book there is a great variety of subjects. There is much about creation and history; there is much about births and marriages and deaths and wars. And yet this book is not an encyclopedia. It is a very specialized book. It is the manual of the soul. This book has only one theme from beginning to end, and that one theme is God and man, or man in his relationship to the eternal God. It is not a book that tells you a little about many things. It is a book that tells you everything about that one central theme, and it keeps itself to that. It is a specialist book. And what is true of the book is true of the Master of the book. If ever there was a specialist in this world, it was the Lord Jesus Christ. Look at the things he might have done. Look at the ability, the knowledge, at his command. Yet he deliberately keeps himself to one theme. Had you ever noticed that as you read the four Gospels? There is a sense in which it is true to say that the Lord Jesus Christ had only one sermon, and he went on preaching that one sermon for three years. He varied his illustrations, but there was only one point. And that one essential sermon was about this whole question of the human soul in its relationship to the everlasting God."

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

The complete text of this sermon has also been republished in the Christ-centered Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Crossway, 2014), and this particular sermon is available online here and free in this PDF.  

Etching above is "The Wicket Gate", by Robin Tanner.



Wednesday, February 3, 2016

brief and eternally relevant words

I have been reading in the Gospel of Mark recently.  I've been impressed how eternally relevant and fresh his Word is.  And in Mark, Jesus utters some very brief statements that bring amazing comfort, or questions that bring sharp conviction.  The Holy Spirit applies them as powerfully now as he did then.  I need to hear these brief -- but eternally relevant -- words often:

For comfort and courage: 

"Son, your sins are forgiven." (Mark 2:5 ESV)

"Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease." (5:34)

"Do not fear, only believe." (5:36)

"Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." (6:50)

“All things are possible for one who believes.” (9:23)

"Go your way; your faith has made you well." (10:52)

For conviction and searching the heart: 

"Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" (4:40)

"Why are you making a commotion and weeping?" ("The child is not dead but sleeping.")  (5:39)

"Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?" (8:17)

"But who do you say that I am?" (8:29)

"What do you want me to do for you?" (10:51)

"Are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour?" (14:37)




Tuesday, February 2, 2016

on the two natures of Christ

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."  

(John 1:14 ESV) 

Here are some highlights from Herman Bavinck on the two natures of Christ...

At the Council of Chalcedon in 451 it stated that the one person of Christ consisted of two natures, unchanged and unmingled (against Eutyches), and not separated nor divided (against Nestorius), and that these natures existed alongside of each other, having their unity in the one person.

What difference does it really make, they begin by saying, whether we agree with this doctrine or not? What matters is that we ourselves possess the person of Christ, He who stands high and exalted above this awkward confession. But before long these same persons begin introducing words and terms themselves in order to describe the person of Christ whom they accept. Nobody can escape from this situation, for what we do not know we cannot claim to possess.

The Word did not later take a human being unto Himself, but became flesh (John 1:14). And therefore the Christian church in its confession said that the person of the Son did not assume a human person but a human nature, rather. Only in that way can the duality of the natures and the unity of the person be maintained. 

Still, in that Christ it always presents one person to us. It is always the same Self that speaks and acts in Christ. The child which is born bears the name of the mighty God, the everlasting Father (Isa. 9:6).

The same one who came down is the one who ascended up far above all heavens (Eph. 4:10). He who according to the flesh is from the fathers is according to His essence God over all, blessed forever (Rom.9:5).

The union which in His incarnation came to be effected was not a moral union between two persons, but a union of two natures in the same person.

A mingling or fusion [of natures]...impoverish the fullness which is in Christ. They subtract either from the Divine, or from the human, nature, or from both natures, and weaken the word of the Scripture that in Him, that is, in Christ, the fullness of the Godhead bodily dwells (Col. 2:9 and 1:19).

The same rich Christ who in His humiliation and exaltation commands the properties and powers of both natures and who precisely by that means can bring those works to pass, which, as the works of the Mediator, are distinguished on the one hand from the works of God and on the other hand from the works of man, and which take a unique place in the history of the world.

In short, to one and the same subject, one and the same person, Divine and human attributes and works, eternity and time, omnipresence and limitation, creative omnipotence and creaturely weakness are ascribed.

~ Herman Bavinck, "The Divine and Human Nature of Christ" in Our Reasonable Faith, pp 308-329. 

The painting above is "In the Beginning (Gospel of John)" by Makoto Fujimura



what is revival?

And the LORD said to Moses, "This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name."
  
Moses said, "Please show me your glory."
  
And he said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name 'The LORD.' And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.  But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live."  

And the LORD said, "Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen." 

(Exodus 33:17-23 ESV)

"What is revival? It is just a glimpse of God’s 'back parts.' It is just a sight of the glory of the eternal God. It is a glimpse of what awaits us all in the glory everlasting. And God, as he does this, pronounces his name, and he pronounces himself to be the sovereign Lord who says, '[I] will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.' When revival comes, it humbles us. That is always the first thing. 

"I believe our greatest need is to be humbled. We are much too healthy, much too confident, much too assured, much too bright and breezy. We need to be humbled to the dust and to be amazed at the power and the glory of God as we just see his back parts, as it were, passing by.

"And that is always the effect of revival. Its first effect is to humble us. We stop arguing, stop asking our questions, stop our self-justification, stop all our cleverness, and we are humbled and made to see that we are nothing. And then God pronounces the glorious truth and raises us up and sends us out."

~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "The Highway to Revival", from Setting Our Affections upon Glory: Nine Sermons on the Gospel and the Church.



Jan Domela's matte painting of Mount Sinai used in the movie, The Ten Commandments (1956). From nzpetesmatteshot.blogspot.com



Monday, February 1, 2016

greatest issue facing American church?



Dr. John Frame was recently asked, "What is the greatest issue facing the American church?"

His reply: 

"The greatest issue facing the American church is its fidelity to Scripture, its fidelity to its foundation.  It seems every time there's some social movement that comes along, churches cave.  They go along with cultural change rather than holding fast to Scripture.  I think we need to have a rebirth of conviction that the Scripture is the Word of God, that God won't be trifled with.  If it's not God's Word, it's not good news.  If it's not God's Word, there's no point in paying any attention to it.  But if it is God's word then that has to be more important than any cultural expression that there is." 

~ Dr. John Frame, January 27, 2016.  See video here



Btw, check out John Frame's reading shelf here.