12.28.2010

Free Gospel, Sanctifying Gospel, Gracious Gospel, Godliness

I just read a sermon entitled "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection" by Thomas Chalmers. You can read it here. I highly recommend printing that out, taking about an hour to read it (for meditation and because the English is old), and then hopefully you will be exhorted, encouraged, and amazed as I was after reading it.

To go with the sermon, I made this graphic from a quote near the end:


Feel free to download and share. (Click the image first and then save it.)

Untitled hymn based on Psalm 61:2

I wrote this the other night after coming across this verse:
From the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:2, ESV)
The hymn follows an A-B-A-B rhyme pattern with a 8-7-8-6 syllable pattern (is that what those numbers are called?) and it has an added refrain of which I am not a big fan.
At the end of the earth I lie,
My soul walks in shadows there,
With fainting heart and weeping eye.
O God, hear now my prayer!

I plead with God to hear my call,
While doubt assails my weak heart.
My great sorrows cause me to fall.
My grief, from me depart!

And if I languish in despair,
And say, "I go to the grave,"
He leads me to the cross, for there,
The LORD my soul can save.

My woe was magnified, my sin,
Brought the Son of God to death!
In Jesus Christ God made amends,   OR   With tears I see I'm forgiven,
Through blood and righteousness.

Refrain:
Lead me to the Rock
The Rock of Ages
You're higher than I
Lead me to yourself
Faithfulness and love
Through Jesus who died
 Any thoughts? What line do you think works better in the fourth verse? Is the refrain rubbish?

12.26.2010

Joy to the world the ___ is come?

I don't believe I have made any political commentary thus far on this blog yet, but here is a little snippet I read from a brief article about Obama attending a church service recently.
The first family arrived at a chapel at Marine Corps Base Hawaii mid-morning for a multi-denominational service. The Obamas were greeted by clapping parishioners and a band playing "Joy to the World" as they were led to their seats in the front row.
Now, what is the first line of that classic Christmas-time chorus? "Joy to the world, the Lord is come."

Does anyone else find that funny? Hopefully I am not being too oblique in my humor...

Ask of God more faith

So I saw this quote on the Desiring God blog and then I made this...

12.25.2010

Shepherds/sheep

"But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise." - Psalm 79:13
"And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." - Luke 2:8-11
Just like that, a number of smelly, dirty, uneducated shepherds received the decree announcing the arrival of the Savior, the one who would save his people from their sins. The shepherds were simply going about their own business. How could they ever fathom that God would make them the first to know about the final, ultimate revelation of the great redemptive epic of history?

Is it not fitting that God would announce his message in such a manner? God first told the shepherds of the one who is the Good Shepherd, the one who would be struck for sins. It's funny: the shepherds were really sheep. And it would be my bet that those shepherds/sheep will be recounting the story of the angelic herald of the Good Shepherd forevermore.

Maybe I will ask them to tell me the story again one day.

11.30.2010

The grand secret of true obedience

Here's a a great quote from J.C. Ryle expounding on a great truth about God and loving him. This has taken me quite a while to grasp.

Love is the grand secret of true obedience to God. When we feel towards Him as children feel towards a dear father, we shall delight to do His will. We shall not find His commandments grievous, and work for Him like slaves under fear of the lash. We shall take pleasure in trying to keep His laws, and mourn when we transgress them. None work so well as those who work out of love. The fear of punishment, or the desire of reward, are principles of far less power. They do the will of God best, who do it from the heart.
 (via J.C. Ryle Quotes)

Also, I realize I haven't blogged in a while...I plan to change that when grad school ends for the semester and then in totality in May.

10.31.2010

Reformation Day

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg cathedral, marking the traditional start date of the Reformation. This day, 493 years later, I enjoyed reading a brief sermon by Luther himself.

Here's a few notable quotes from Luther on 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7.
Whatever Christians do, it should be willing service, not compulsory; but when a command is given, it should be in the form of exhortation or entreaty

Unchasity does not come within the limits of Christian liberty and privilege, nor does God treat the offender with indulgence and impunity.
Happy Reformation Day!

10.09.2010

No more hiding

“The gospel is the best news we could ever hear. The gospel is about Jesus Christ and his power to transform our lives and relationships, communities, and ultimately, the nations. Through this gospel, we are freely given a new identity — an identity not based on race, social class, gender, a theological system, or a system of rules and regulations. Rather it is a new and perfect identity based solely on faith in Jesus — an identity that defines every aspect of our lives. We are now forgiven, righteous, adopted, accepted, free, and heirs to everything that belongs to Christ. So even our sin, weakness, and failures do not define who we are. Because of this good news, we no longer have to hide from our sin and pretend that we have it all together, for God knows and loves us as we are, not as we pretend to be.”
- Neil H. Williams, Gospel Transformation, 2nd ed. (Jenkintown, Pa.; World Harvest Mission, 2006), i.

(via: OFI)

10.03.2010

The All-Sufficient Mercy of God

The Gadsby hymnal is a collection of hymns put together by William Gadsby, a Particular Baptist minister who lived from 1773–1844. Recently, certain groups have selected songs from this hymnal and put the texts to modern tunes. Here is one (#12) entitled "The All-Sufficient Mercy of God". I'm quite a fan. (Note: I'm not entirely sure what it means that the third stanza is in brackets, but I find that verse cutting and very helpful.)

All glory to mercy we bring,
The mercy that reigns evermore,
The infinite mercy we sing,
The mercy eternal adore.

The mercy converting we prize;
In mercy forgiving delight;
For conquering mercy we rise,
We rise and triumphantly fight.

[And when we are wounded by sin,
And scarcely a prayer can repeat,
The mercy that heals us again,
Is mercy transportingly sweet.]

What though in the furnace we fall,
Free mercy the Saviour proclaims;
Free mercy in Jesus we call,
And glorify God in the flames.

For mercy upholding we pray;
For mercy confirming aspire;
And mercy will bear us away
To God and the glorified choir.

 - Written by R. Burnham, based on Psalm 89:28, via The Gadsby Hymnal

10.02.2010

Internet, the Gospel, & homepages

If you don't have Of First Importance as your homepage, make it your homepage now.

I have this website as my homepage because I was born alienated from God, then saved by God, and now living in reconciled relationship with God. I need all the help I can get to remember the gospel. Oh, and the gospel isn't some abstract concept that changes people: it is Jesus.

Here's a quick and easy guide on how to change your homepage if you don't know how: How To Set Your Browser's Home Page

10.01.2010

My moral character vs. Jesus' righteousness

Father,

I don’t want to be stuck in a cycle of sin for my entire life. I feel powerless to conquer my sin. I cannot overrule it. Your word says that I should, “by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body” and not think that I will be “perfected by the flesh”, but rather “by hearing with faith.”

I judge the measure of my life’s goodness, joy, and success by my level of sin. This is a deep sin and mistrust of You. Forgive me for this and work in me faith which trusts in your Son. Let me not trust the sweetest frame. If I were ever a morally outstanding example in purity, love, and good works, let me not trust in this. Jesus is the root of my salvation, not my good moral character. Indeed, I should find it insane to trust in my own righteousness, for it is non-existent. I bring nothing to your feet by which I can commend myself. Give me a simple, one-point faith. A faith that answers to the valid charge of my sin and uncleanness by pointing simply to the slain Lamb of God, “for while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the unrighteous.”

I am saved by Jesus name, not mine. Amen.

9.30.2010

Will you be a Christian tomorrow?

Ask yourself the question, “why should you wake up believing in the morning?” Most of you right now believe. If someone forced you to choose you would say, “Christ is my Lord, my Savior. I trust him. I stake my life on him.” Why should it be that way tomorrow morning? Why shouldn’t you get up tomorrow morning and realize, “I don’t believe anymore at all. I don’t want to yield to him as Lord, I don’t want to commit to him, I don’t want to embrace him as my savior.” Why? If you say that the ultimate answer to that question is your sovereign free will, you’re standing on very shaky ground. The ultimate answer to that question is: God is faithful. "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."  (Philippians 1:6) God is faithful. This is the only hope that tomorrow morning that I will be a believer like I was this morning.
 - John Piper, quoted from TULIP: The Pursuit of God’s Glory in Salvation DVD

9.29.2010

Jacob's prayer


[9] And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ [10] I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. [11] Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. [12] But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”
(Genesis 32:9-12 ESV)
I find it compelling how clearly Jacob prays in a unique order. Have a look:
  1. He addresses God directly and proclaiming who God is and then recounts God’s personal call and promise (v.9).
  2. He expresses his unworthiness and gratitude towards God’s loving-kindness (v.10).
    • He notes how incredible his blessing is.
  3. He presents his request to God (v.11).
    • He asks for deliverance from his brother, who is presumably coming to attack him.
    • His request is based in fear. In one way, this displays Jacob’s failure to trust God for protection. Nevertheless, he asks God for help.
  4. He recounts God’s amazing promise of blessing (v.12).
Jacob's LORD
Jacob prays to God as the god of his grandfather and father. He is speaking to God and recognizing that God is immutable; unchanging throughout the generations of men. God was real in the lives of Jacob’s direct descendants. He is now seeing who the LORD really is; the personal, guiding, loving, gracious, powerful God who has directed and worked in the lives of Jacob’s family. Jacob is now beginning to understand who God really is and is beginning to embrace God, though Jacob himself is weak. Jacob acknowledges God as Yahweh (LORD) for the first time.

Jacob is correct in confessing his unworthiness to receive God’s blessing and yet God has given him great wealth in “deeds of steadfast love and all faithfulness” (v.10).

Promised blessings
We are not worthy of the only Son of God offering himself as a substitute in our place. The only worth we have is that we are worthy of eternal damnation and wrath. Yet, God lavishes his grace upon us. Jesus becomes the atoning sacrifice for our sins. God has worked an even greater deed for us than he has for Jacob. He has given the forgiveness of sins and the deposited Holy Spirit. (We are also likely richer than Jacob was in an absolute manner; we enjoy all the benefits of a technologically advanced age.)

God always does the good he promises. He acts out his goodness in steadfast love and dependable faithfulness. God never fails to do well, ever. God honored the prayer of Jacob for deliverance though it expressed a lack of trust in God’s care.

Bookend promises
The prayer of Jacob is wrapped up in the promises of God; so should our prayers be. God has promised our “adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23) and has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). Furthermore, God is “able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). Let our prayers be so.

9.28.2010

Not a good or bad frame

'But one day, as I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience, fearing lest yet all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, Thy righteousness is in heaven; and methought withal, I saw, with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God's right hand; there, I say, is my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, He wants my righteousness, for that was just before Him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever (Heb. 13.8). Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed, I was loosed from my affliction and irons, my temptations had fled away; so that, from that time, those dreadful scriptures of God left off to trouble me now; now went I also home rejoicing, for the grace and love of God.'
 - passage from John Bunyan, Pilgrims Progress

Do you live in misery or happiness* based on your frame of heart for any given day? Any given week? Any time of married life? Any time of material abundance? Any given "Christian life"?

I have a dare which I issue (you can call it a triple-dog dare if you wish): "dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name." Lean on his name, which may I remind you, never changes, never has, and never will. Jesus' righteousness for you does not change. You do. You change every moment. Speaking for myself, I can hardly keep a train of thought in the station of my mind for more than a few moments. So trust in Jesus.

I dare you.

*happiness does not equal joy

9.27.2010

The gospel isn't

The focus of the gospel is not on the inadequacy of mankind (including the transformation), but rather on the glory of God. I am transformed when I live in line with the gospel (Gal. 2:14)—avoiding both legalism and licentiousness—and pursuing the joy found in complete and utter surrender of my unrighteous life in exchange for his righteous life expressed graciously through every aspect of my Christian walk (Gal. 2:20).
I often make the gospel about our wretchedness above the mercy and kindness of God. This is dumb. It's also something I'm fighting through (and against) at the moment.

Let's not make the gospel about us. It's all about Jesus.

(HT on the above quote: The Resurgence)

9.22.2010

Real life conversation quote

The most important thing for me to do is be close with God personally and to walk in integrity before God.
 - A friend

9.19.2010

Update to my readers

Greetings everyone. If you've been wondering why there haven't been many posts it is because classes started for my MBA a few weeks ago and I am getting hammered with work. I will do my best to post when I can.
If anyone wants to see anything specific (more quotes, longer topical posts, etc.) let me know.

9.10.2010

Joy in the sovereign hand

Let us settle it in our minds that, whether we like it or not, the sovereignty of God is a doctrine clearly revealed in the Bible, and a fact clearly to be seen in the world. Upon no other principle can we ever explain why some members of a family are converted, and others live and die in sin--why some quarters of the earth are enlightened by Christianity, and others remain buried in heathenism. One account only can be given of all this. All is ordered by the sovereign hand of God. Let us pray for humility in respect of this deep teaching. Let us remember that our life is but a vapor, and that our best knowledge compared to that of God is unmixed folly. Let us be thankful for such light as we enjoy ourselves, and use it diligently while we have it.
 - J.C. Ryle (HT: J.C. Ryle Quotes)
I think Ryle's statement regarding how we confront the sovereignty of God is complemented well by the below quote on how we are to be affected by the sovereignty of God
From my childhood up, my mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God's sovereignty, in choosing whom he would to eternal life, and rejecting whom he pleased; leaving them eternally to perish, and be everlastingly tormented in hell. It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me. But I remember the time very well, when I seemed to be convinced, and fully satisfied, as to this sovereignty of God, and his justice in thus eternally disposing of men, according to his sovereign pleasure. But never could give an account, how, or by what means, I was thus convinced, not in the least imagining at the time, nor a long time after, that there was any extraordinary influence of God's Spirit in it; but only that now I saw further, and my reason apprehended the justice and reasonableness of it. However, my mind rested in it; and it put an end to all those cavils and objections. And there has been a wonderful alteration in my mind, in respect to the doctrine of God's sovereignty, from that day to this; so that I scarce ever have found so much as the rising of an objection against it, in the most absolute sense, in God's strewing mercy to whom he will shew mercy, and hardening whom he will. God's absolute sovereignty and justice, with respect to salvation and damnation, is what my mind seems to rest assured of, as much as of any thing that I see with my eyes; at least it is so at times. But I have often, since that first conviction, had quite another kind of sense of God's sovereignty than I had then. I have often since had not only a conviction, but a delightful conviction. The doctrine has very often appeared exceeding pleasant, bright, and sweet. Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God. But my first conviction was not so.
 - Jonathan Edwards (HT: Grace Online Library)
(Emphasis added.)

9.07.2010

The resting place of truth

"It is not he that receives the most truth unto his head, but he that receives most of the truth affectionately into his heart, that shall enjoy the happiness of having his judgment sound and clear, when others shall be deluded and deceived by them, who make it their business to infect the judgments and to undo the souls of men."

- Thomas Brooks, "Precious remedies against Satan's devices", pp. 93-94

9.03.2010

But God...

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us..."
 - Ephesians 2:4
Paul speaks of God "being rich in mercy" as an essential descriptor and characteristic of God himself; indeed, it is.

There is a turning point here. God is the actor, the unexpected visitor, the deus ex machina who changes the scene. The scene is of a world filled with spiritual corpses, following the devil who works in them in disobedience to God. God enters the scene to change these zombified children of wrath into alive, Christ-united people.

God's mercy is rich. It is like a heavy, sweet, thick dessert cake; it is like a mountain full of gold.

God's great love is the cause of our new life in Christ. This divine love is unreasonable to the mind of man, for we are not lovely. To love something is to testify to its loveliness. This love, however, is unconditional, unprecedented, and unique. It is a love that is set upon the unlovely. It overflows from an infinite God whose love reserves are great and beyond our comprehension. God focuses this radical love on us. He loves his people, the Church.

Remind yourself that God loves you.

Meditate on this love, seen in the cross of the Lord Jesus.

9.01.2010

Low living

DEVICE 8 [of Satan] By representing to the soul the outward mercies that vain men enjoy, and the outward miseries that they are freed from, whilst they have walked in the ways of sin...

The sixth remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider the end and design of God in heaping up mercy upon the heads of the wicked, and in giving them a 'quietus est,' rest and quiet from those sorrows and sufferings that others sigh under...

Canst thou think seriously of this, O soul, and not say, O Lord, I humbly crave that thou wilt let me be little in this world, that I may be great in another world; and low here, that I may be high for ever hereafter. Let me be low, and feed low, and live low, so I may live with thee for ever; let me now be clothed with rags, so thou wilt clothe me at last with thy robes; let me now be set upon a dunghill, so I may at last be advanced to sit with thee upon thy throne. Lord, make me rather gracious than great, inwardly holy than outwardly happy, and rather turn me into my first nothing, yea, make me worse than nothing, rather than set me up for a time, that thou mayest bring me low forever.
In this "chapter" by Thomas Brooks in his work "Precious remedies against Satan's devices," Brooks contrasts how the wicked often receive many temporal, worldly blessings such as riches, wealth, power, physical beauty, etc. With this wider context in mind, I feel it important to note that I strongly disbelieve that Brooks would argue that in and of themselves living a life of poverty and living low by the world's standards will bring eternal, heavenly crowns and blessings. "Mansions of glory and endless delight" are not ours forevermore by our own virtue, for we are evil; they are presented and prepared by Christ and his righteous worth. (And that's not even mentioning that Jesus himself will be our greatest pleasure in eternity future, not heaven and its many blessings as chief treasure.)

Brooks is arguing that Satan presents this lie to Christians (and I will modernize the English):
"...if you would ever be freed from the dark night of adversity, and enjoy the sunshine of prosperity, you must walk in [sinners'] ways."
Clearly, the truth is quite opposite this lie of Satan. See Psalm 1:1 below:
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...
For the Christian, they must not embark on life's journey seeking to imitate the way of the wicked who enjoy earthly prosperity. (Insert rant on prosperity heresy preachers here.) The disciple of Christ must be of the mindset that seeks a low position in their life presently rather than a life devoid of adversity, pain, trial, and suffering; for this is one device against Satan's lie. The wicked who enjoy great wealth in this world will be penniless for all eternity when their mortal bodies die. Brooks notes, and this is a most somber topic,
"God's setting them up, is but in order to his casting them down; his raising them high, is but in order to bringing them low."

8.28.2010

Great peace

The below is a sample of what I do during my devotion times throughout the week. In general I read, write, and pray for 20 minutes each. This framework has been very helpful for my personal, private times of seeking God. I hope this might be of benefit to you as you seek our Lord, Jesus Christ. Please comment and discuss the questions in italics.
_____________________________________________________________________________
    "The unfolding of your words gives light;
        it imparts understanding to the simple."
 - Psalm 119:130
    "Great peace have those who love your law;
        nothing can make them stumble."
 - Psalm 119:165
Observations:
The lover of God's law has great peace. Their peace is not small or brief. The peace that is great is possessed by lover's of God's laws. They hold and own the peace that God's law brings.

If the law serves to show us our sin (Romans 7), then how can it ultimately bring peace?

Absolutely nothing can make this person stumble. They stand secure and firm. How does one love [the] law?

Interpretation:
To love something, you must know it. Lovers of God's law know his law. God has given the Law (Sinai) and sent the Son (Bethlehem).

When a person knows and loves the God's law, they will live a more secure life and forces of temptation and challenges will not trip up their step.

If one does not have great peace, they probably do not love God's law; vice versa.

How does the law give great peace? It gives light (Ps. 119:130). The bright path, illuminated by God's law dsplays all the snares and traps laid in every place to catch the lover og God.

Application:
Read much of your Bible, because it will give light to your path.
Meditate throughout the day on God's word. Place it as the highest priority item to think about.
Love the laws that brighten my path. Light is of God. Love and praise God for his illuminating law.
Examine where I have peace and fear. Test my love, heart, and affections.
Share what has been brought in the light by God's law with others.

Question for self / accountability: What has God's law shed light on for you during this [time period]?

Prayer:
Father of lights,
   illuminate my path by your law and words.
Give my way light from your testimonies,
   the Law, the Prophets, the Songs, the Proverbs, the Gospels, the Letters.
Guide my steps,
   I am prone to wonder.
The humble will be exalted,
   the proud will be brought low.
Show me the snares which Satan lays,
   for my entanglement and downfall.
Help me dodge and avoid them,
   they long to devour me.
Make known to your Church her corporate sins,
   guide us to make war against them.
You are not the deistic Watchmaker,
   you are the sovereign I AM.
Christ, you are eternal,
   you are King eternal.
Spirit, powerfully move in this city,
   dry the wits of the wicked
   and then light them ablaze.
Give them life,
   discard little dross from Syracuse.
Drive my fear away.
In the name of the Beloved, Jesus Christ. Amen.

8.22.2010

Obligatory Anne Rice Post

In Anne Rice's Christianity Today interview, she talks a bit about who she is currently reading and why she still engages Biblical scholars and teachers. I know next to nothing about Rice - it seems like all the hubbub about her recently has more of her to do with leaving Roman Catholicism than Christianity - but she has some honest words to say that you would almost never hear coming from the atheist/agnostic front of writers and bloggers in this below excerpt methinks.
Sometimes the most conservative people are the most biblically and scholastically sound. They have studied Scripture and have studied skeptical scholarship. They make brilliant arguments for the way something in the Bible reads and how it's been interpreted. I don't go to them necessarily to know more about their personal beliefs. It's the brilliance they bring to bear on the text that appeals to me. Of all the people I've read over the years, it's their work that I keep on my desk. They're all non-Catholics, but they're believers, they document their books well, they write well, they're scrupulously honest as scholars, and they don't have a bias. Many of the skeptical non-believer biblical scholars have a terrible bias. To them, Jesus didn't rise from the dead, so there's no point in discussing it. I want someone to approach the text and tell me what it says, how the language worked.
(HT: Dane Ortlund for the initial above quote.)

However, let me offer this excerpt from the interview (on page two at the CT website link above):
CT: What will it look like to follow Christ without being part of the institutional church?
Rice: The most important thing Christ demands of all of us is to love our enemies as much as our neighbors. That is the radical core of his teaching. If we do that, we can transform our lives.
Christ reaches out to us individually. He's saying "Come follow me; I am the way, the truth, and the life." These are beautiful things. I read Scripture every day, I study it every day, I'm mindful of it every day. I don't claim to have the right interpretation of every passage, but I wrestle with it, and that's what I think he wants us to do.
What is the radical center of Christ' teaching? If you asked Anne Rice, you would hear "to love our enemies as much as our neighbors." There is a problem in this. If Jesus only came with the ultimate message of "Hey! Love your neighbor! Stop being such punks!" What does this say of Jesus' sinless life, his death on a cross, and his resurrection? On a more specific thought, what does this say of Jesus' prayer throughout John 17? Specifically, this:
[17:1] When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, [2] since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. [3] And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. [4] I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. [5] And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
(John 17:1-5 ESV)
Part of Jesus' teaching was indeed "to love our enemies as much as our neighbors." (Luke 6:27) To say this was the radical core of his teaching would fail to consider the passage in John 17, which Christ himself prayed hours before he was to be sentenced to death on a cross. The radical message of Jesus was God. Jesus came to glorify the Father in his salvific work. Christ was always pointing to the Father as the ultimate message. Is not the very essence of eternal life to know "the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent"?

With that, I say this regarding Anne Rice's concept of the main teaching of Jesus: God is not man-centered. God is God-centered. If Christ came only to tell us to love - here I go repeating myself - then his work on the cross meant nothing. This is to belittle God, ignore our sin, and assume that all we need is a command to love, and that will fix the human race of all its misery and evil. May I be so bold and daring to say that this was the point of Jesus life and message: that the Father would glorify the Son through his loving, incomprehensibly gracious work of salvation wrought on this earth ~2000 years ago which was planed before time began. ( John 17:5, Eph. 1:3-10)

Comments? Perhaps I ruffled some feathers...

8.21.2010

A Request for Love

Here's a prayer inspired by Psalm 119:88 - "In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth."

Father,
  
Give me life in your steadfast love. So fill me with a vitality, brightness, radiance divine, grace and peace that I keep your testimonies. Your solemn will declared for me is my sanctification.

Holy Father, wrap me up in your love. My "love" is pitiful. I am partial, prejudiced, lacking in zeal, selfish, and altogether unlovely. But your love is perfect. Your love is kind, patient, bountiful. It knows no bounds. It lasts forever. Its strength goes unmatched. It is rich and free. It is fixed on me eternally.

Who am I that you would see my sin and rebellion and still you would fix your gaze of love on me? The love of Christ provides the sacrifice for my sins and it is great enough to cleanse me from my sins.

May the life you give me, the life in the Spirit, bring me into conformity in thought and deed to your Son. Change my heart daily and renew me day by day until the great day of my full, final, complete redemption.

Your mouth utters only truth. Open my ears to hear your testimonies, your solemn, perfect will. Your word is fixed and cannot change. You will not withdraw your love from me. As my life inches closer to the day of the LORD, may I only know more of the rich life in your Spirit.

Cause my heart to feel your love and in your steadfast love give me life.

In the name of the loving, once bled, now enthroned Son of God does my prayer ascend to you. Amen.

8.20.2010

Get Rid of Your Idols!

Are we honest and sincere in our professed desire to be true Christians? Have we given up all our idols? Is there no secret sin that we are silently clinging to, and refusing to give up? Is there no thing or person that we are privately loving more than Christ and our souls? These are questions that ought to be answered. The true explanation of the unsatisfactory state of many hearers of the Gospel, is spiritual idolatry. We need not wonder that John says, "Keep yourselves from idols." (1 John 5:21.)

- J.C. Ryle

(HT: Get Rid of Your Idols!)

8.19.2010

Wrestling with Romans 8:10

Romans 8:10
"But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness." (ESV)

1st: What is "the body"? It is the same as "the flesh" in v. 11. The body is you, your actual physical being.

2nd: Why is the body dead? Sin (begun with Adam) brings death physically. This is actually a great grace of God that he didn't allow Adam and Eve to live in their physical bodies forever. To live in a fallen, sinful body forever would be terrible and utter misery.

3rd: All physical bodies will die because of sin. (Spiritual death also comes from sin, but we will set that thought aside for now.)

4th: The Spirit - speaking of the Holy Spirit - is life because of righteousness. What does it mean for the Spirit to actually be life? Look to verse 11. The Holy Spirit of God, who is God, is the person who raised Christ from the dead and the Spirit's presence in a person is a guarantee that their physical bodies will be raised, resurrected from the dead. The Holy Spirit is the only thing that "is life" for the Christian, because he will give them eternal life in a final, fully redeemed, completed manner when he raises from the dead those who he dwells in right now.

5th: Whose "righteousness" is referred to in this verse? This foreign righteousness is the cause of the Spirit to give and be life to the one in who the Spirit dwells. So whose is it? Allow me a summary statement of the Bible, but righteousness that is given to man always finds its source in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. (See Romans 3:21-26 for a brief support of this idea.)

6th: Something that may be confusing is the fact that Paul speaks in the present tense even as he refers to resurrection life from the dead. "The body is dead" and "the Spirit is life". Don't ask me about the Greek, because I don't know it and I don't want to pretend like I do.
What Paul seems to be getting at here is that the body, right now, is as good as dead. What is guaranteed in life? Death (and taxes, as the saying goes). Everyone who reads this post will physically die. (I'm not going to speculate on Christ' return and all that jazz here as so many feel the need to comment about. :-P ) Likewise, and I think this is where the Christian really can draw all of their hope from, Paul is saying that your new, eternal, glorified life, is basically in effect right now in the manner of speaking that this resurrection is 100% promised by God. On a similar note, and for your meditation, does not Romans 8:30 say that we are - present tense - glorified according to God's promise? Food for thought.

I think that is all I have for now on this. I hope it was helpful even though much of it was simply explanatory and I didn't seek to draw a ton of applicative points out of it...although I think we can find great joy, hope, exuberance in what I talked about in the 6th point.

Oh, and this post was spurred on by a request from a fellow friend on Twitter! Looks like the internet is good for something after all. :-)

8.17.2010

The Holy Spirit: Forgotten?

John Piper gives some words on the neglect of the address of the Holy Spirit (in different facets) in today's Christian circles:

8.16.2010

Life in God's Steadfast Love

In your steadfast love give me life,
    that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.
Psalm 119:88

Observations / Interpretation:
The Psalmist is asking for life to be given to him. However, mere existence - one meaning of "life" - will not cause anyone to "keep the testimonies" of God. The psalmist thus is clearly asking for something more than mere existence. The psalmist is asking for a new vitality in living amidst pain, affliction, and persecution. The love of God will set vivification into motion in the psalmist's life.

God's love is steadfast. As eternity is infinite in time, God's love is infinite in endurance. The steadfast love of God is an unthinkably powerful force. It is indeed the only force that will bring life of any kind to man.

There is an implied lack of life when the psalmist asks for life wrapped up in the love of God. We should seek and ask the experience and live all of our life in the love of God. God is love. The Spirit of God brings "life and peace" (Romans 8:6). The live apart from God - The Holy Spirit - is to live in death, a paradox that all humans are born into until they are "born again" (John 3:3). Living in a dead state, man operates wholly in "the flesh" (Romans 8:5-8). "For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace." (Romans 8:6)

Application:
I must pray often for God to give me life in his steadfast love, for he is the sole giver of life and true love, so that I may keep the testimonies of his mouth.

I must acknowledge that the mind set on the flesh only produces death. Life is given by the Spirit alone.

Ask God for life so that I may keep his commands. Abandon all methods of obedience that stem from anything apart from God's love, grace, and life-giving. Forsake efforts of my flesh to keep God's laws.

Meditate as often as possible on the love of Christ.

Test my life, modes of thought, and actions and see if they are bringing me into conformity with God's spoken testimonies.

*Be positive* that this is the most epic movie line ever.



Regarding the title of this post: you can just call me...The Punisher.

(HT: Kevin DeYoung)

Books are Spiritual

I highly doubt I have an audience of pre-teen girls visiting my blog, but I do know a few Christian college-age women who might visit this blog, so therefore, have a listen everyone and for the love of literature and your mind, be discerning.

8.14.2010

How do I know God exists?



Here's a gem from Carson on the existence of God:

"...if, as the Bible says, we have been made by God and if there had been no sin or rebellion, no one would be sitting around thinking, "Now what are the philosophical evidences for the existence of God?" Rather, we would be so full of adoration and intimate knowledge of him, and walking with him, and enjoying him by his Spirit, and so utterly convinced of him and delighting in him and finding our joy in him, that to ask the sort of question, "Does God  exist?" would be thought not only in bad taste, but just idiotic." (starting at 2:32)

(HT: Challies)

8.08.2010

Romans 8:1-4

A few friends on Twitter and I have decided to memorize Romans 8 in its entirety over the next x number of weeks. Here is the first chunk (I'm not peeking, I promise!):
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death, for God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteousness requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
- Romans 8:1-4 (ESV)
Hover over that link and make sure I memorized it correctly!

I was first seriously turned on to the idea of Bible memorization by this sermon preached by John Piper. I imagine I listened to that sermon for the first time at some point in 2009. It took a good hold of me and began my journey into Bible memorization.

The chief motivations I have had for Bible memorization are the following passages: John 15:1-7 and Psalm 119:9-11. I especially like Psalm 119:9-11 because of its ridiculous relevancy to my life and extremely straightforward point.

Do you want to fight sin? Do you want to not sin against God? Are you a young man? Do you desire to have a pure heart, a pure mind? Pure thoughts? Let me offer the biblical address to your questions:
[9] How can a young man keep his way pure?
        By guarding it according to your word.
[10] With my whole heart I seek you;
        let me not wander from your commandments!
[11] I have stored up your word in my heart,
        that I might not sin against you.
 (Psalm 119:9-11)
 Let me offer you this stream of thoughts that went through my head when I read this verse:
  • I am a young man.
  • I want to keep my life pure, because I sure know that I am impure in many things.
  • Hmm, how can I do this? [Reads verse] Ooooohhhhh....
  • Ok, looks like I need to start packing away the Bible into my heart.
Now let me offer one brief thought (and this entire post is totally stream-of-consciousness style, so forgive me): memorizing Scripture won't strictly keep you from sin. Why do I say this? Because Satan memorized Scripture. (And he probably knows way more of it than we ever will!) Therefore, just because someone - even if they are a devil! - memorizes the words of the Bible, they will not become more holy in thought and deed.

There's the rub it seems. Even if you memorize the Bible, you are not necessarily going to sin less, become more sanctified, etc. The Pharisees and Satan memorized gobs of Scripture. And yet, this verse clearly says something about not sinning and storing up God's word in your heart.

Let me offer a few brief thoughts for you to consider regarding this seeming paradox of memorization and sanctification.
  •  To grow in holiness, one must guard their their path, their way, their life (thoughts, actions, decisions) according to and with the word of God. The only offensive spiritual weapon we see described in Ephesians 6 is the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God". Be as a soldier scouting through a forest, ready to attack and kill sin at the sound of the slightest rustle of the forest. Guard your life by reciting the promises, warnings, and admonitions of the Bible throughout the day as you memorize.
  • Let your efforts towards holiness be whole-hearted. When discouraged, flee to the promises given us by our Lord. Know that he will never leave us or forsake us. Know that God is 100% for us. Know that "He who spared not his own son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32).Chase God and seek him wholeheartedly. Intently think about your life and your path and seek to stay on the way that leads to life, but it is the same path that so few find.
  • Store up the Bible in your heart, not just your mind. Merely storing and reciting words from the Bible will do nothing for you if they do not affect your heart and find their way deep into your soul. Let the words of God be as scalpels and surgical tools that are cutting away sin from a failing heart. Open your self to divine surgery.

8.06.2010

"The fire has burned on"


As sinners we deserved condemnation in our unregenerate state in spite of the struggle. But God offers pardon “to those in Christ Jesus”. This is Paul’s Gospel. The fire has burned on and around the Cross of Christ. There and there alone is safety. Those in Christ Jesus can lead the consecrated, the crucified, the baptized life.
 - A.T. Robertson

8.05.2010

Calvinism: Good or bad?

Are you:
 - A Calvinist?
 - Someone who doesn't know what Calvinism is?
 - An Arminian?
 - Anti-Calvinism?

If you fall in any of these camps (and I imagine that you will fall in one of them) then you really should have a listen to this message by Burk Parsons from the 2010 Ligionier national conference.

Here is the link: "Is Calvinism Good for the Church?"

8.04.2010

Psalm 119 Selections

(Ps. 119:57) The LORD is my inheritance. I can be staisfied in him because he has given to me that which is priceless. God "gave him up for us all" and with Jesus he will "graciously give us all things." (Rom. 8:32)

(Ps. 119:59) This verse shows us an effective call to meditation, reflection, and repentance. The psalmist pointedly considered his actions, decisions, course, and trajectory of life. As the psalmist revlected on his life he was brought to repentance. Out thoughts should often bring us to consider our heavenly Father and all the love that he has for us. We may often find ourselves "coming to our senses", much like the younger son (Luke 15:17). Take inventory of your life. Where have we wandered from God's commandments?

(Ps. 119:60) As you consider your ways and examine your heart, let your repentance be swift. Like a deer who hears an unfamiliar rustle in the bush, like a hand when it touches a hot pan, so let your repentance be quick to turn from wayward sin and to God's testimonies.

(Ps. 119:61) Even if the wicked hold you captive for a season, do not forget God's law.

(Ps. 119:64) The love of God is truly all around me.

Use this site, seriously

Do you read the Bible?
Then you need to use this site.
Prepare to get your mind blown by the depth and the scope of the resources provided here from a widely unknown website.
http://preceptaustin.org

7.30.2010

Planning Life

I just arrived back at home after class to an empty house – my parents and grandmother are at a show my sister is performing in – and I am certainly grateful for the time of quiet solitude, be it short as it is. I sat down on our couch and browsed through some of my Twitter feed and came across this tweet. Maybe it was the "what are you doing?" that caught my attention. Apparently there is a group of Chinese Christians who have been and are preaching and spreading the gospel as they walk by foot from China to Jerusalem. I didn't actually read much about this group of Christians, but hearing "what are you doing?" and then reading about the amazing life-giving, cross-bearing, unashamed preaching of the gospel by my brothers and sisters in China…this made my mind stir. And it is still stirring.
What am I going to do with my life?

Often times when I hear of Christians clearly giving up the "normal" life that 99.9% of humans will settle in and hear of the "radical" life – or what I would argue really should be ordinary for Christians – I am moved to thoughts like these:
  • "Ok, so I'm gonna move out of America, learn Chinese, and join these fellow laborers in China on this mission they have."
  • "Wait, what about my hometown, Syracuse? There are hundreds of thousands of people who are lost and under the power of sin right here in my backyard and in my life. Why not stay here? I have certainly felt burdened recently somewhat for their souls…"
  • "So does this mean I have to be a church planter? I know the church I am at now, Missio, has an awesome passion for reaching the lost. Does this mean that I am supposed to be here?"
  • "What about the people in Peru? I spent two summers there as a missionary! But wouldn't it be easier to stay where I am now? I don't know Spanish well."
  • "What about a wife? If I get married anytime soon, how in the world will that play into these thoughts?"
  • "Thus far, I have really sucked at obeying the great commission. (Matthew 28:16-20) Is this a turning point where I will actually begin to do this?"
  • "God's calling. I don't believe in God speaking audibly to people or the like kind of "being called" experiences. But what am I to do with these feelings and thoughts? Should I just make a decision and abandon my life thus far and devote all my plans to God, knowing that his purpose will prevail? (Proverbs 19:21)"
Yeah, so those are the kind of wonderful, frustrating, teetering-on-the-edge of total (22 year?) life crisis, muddy thoughts I am experiencing now. Thank God (literally) that I actually can rest on the promise of Proverbs 19:21, 16:1,9. I can make plans. God will direct my life into the specific path he will have me walk in.

I can plan to be a CPA for a few years. I can plan to finish my MBA and then join in church planting. I could move away from Syracuse. I could get married and begin a family. I don't know which one of these (or whatever else may befall my life) I will choose and plan to live out, but I know that God's purpose will prevail. His purpose might match one of my plans. It might not. I don't know, and I don't really need to exhaust all my energy trying to figure out; I know he will lead me where he wills. But will I trust him in this? That is the question. For my knowledge is increasing, but will my faith grow as well? Will I trust him to carry me through? Will I believe?

7.29.2010

Straight From the Journal – Thoughts on my Sin & Mortification

My sin must be killed by grace driven effort. This will take place as I grow in:
- Mining the depths of the love of God
- Practicing righteous deeds and considering others above myself
- Experiencing helpful giving & receiving Christian community

My church's small group beginning soon will not cure my sin.

"Keep at the greatest distance from sin, and from playing with the golden bait that Satan holds forth to catch you." "Hate [sin] with horror."
- Precious remedies against Satan's devices – Thomas Brooks

(Proverbs 5:8) (1 Thessalonians 5:22) Abstain from every form of evil.
Forms of evil:

  • Selfish; placing one's self above the needs + the good of others. Whenever I see an inkling of self-centered energy, kill it.
  • Sexual immorality; this is chasing after the desires of a perverted sexual desire. Sex is to be a 'mingling of souls' between a man and his wife only. All other acts coming from sexual desires are immoral.
    Sexual immorality is a sin against God (Psalm 51:4) and our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18).
    It comes from the heart (Matthew 15:19).
    It is to be abstained from.
    It is a fleshly desire (Romans 13:13-14).
    It is a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:19).
    It must not be named among the saints (Ephesians 5:3).
    It is to be put to death (Colossians 3:5).
    It is not in the will of God (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
    It is full of impurities (Revelation 18:3).
Sin is the greatest disease in existence that plagues the human race. Do not dance upon the edge of the pit of sin, for I would fall into that pit.

7.28.2010

Recompense for Piety

This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts. (Psalm 119:56 ESV)
56. This was done to me. I doubt not that the prophet, under the term זאת, zoth, comprehends all God’s benefits; but as he comes before God in relation to blessings then being enjoyed by him, he speaks as if he were pointing to them. Hence, under this term is included an acknowledgment of all the benefits with which he had been crowned; or, at all events, he declares that God had borne testimony, by some signal deliverance, to the integrity of his conduct. He does not boast of meriting any thing, as the Pharisees in our day do, who, when they meet with any such matter in Scripture, pervert it to prove the merit of works. But the prophet had no other design, than to set himself in diametrical opposition to the despisers of God, who either impute all their prosperity to their own industry, or ascribe it to chance, and malignantly overlook or conceal God’s superintending providence. He therefore calls upon himself to return to God, and invites others to follow his example, and exhorts them, that as God is an impartial judge, he will always reserve a recompense for piety. Probably, too, by this holy boasting he repels the base slanders of the ungodly, by which we lately saw he was grievously assailed.

 - John Calvin on Psalm 119:56, via CCEL

7.27.2010

I’m The One


I am becoming a bigger fan of Christian rap every day it seems. Lamp Mode Recordings is an awesome label that produces some great raps and works with excellent artists.

Take a listen to this powerful song by Shai Linne, perhaps my favorite Christian rapper. Shai's songs are always thought provoking and deeply theological. He is definitely one of the best Christian rappers currently.

So have a listen to this rap and get a fresh picture of a character who we – with no exceptions – will all meet.

I am becoming a bigger fan of Christian rap every day it seems. Lamp Mode Recordings is an awesome label that produces some great raps and works with excellent artists. 

(Get the album this song is from for free here.) 

7.21.2010

Straight From the Journal – Psalm 119:49-50

(Psalm 119:49) Out hope is to be established (by God) and set on God's promises in his word. The promise of God is to give me life (Ps. 119:50). His word is that of love for me (cf. Ps. 119:41-43). All of his words to me are meant for my hope, encouragement, and that I might trust in God's enduring word.

(Psalm 119:50) He will give me live according to his word. He promises this. Life comes through the promise. The promise is in his word. His word is not the promised life, but the vehicle of the promise.

A definition of "according to":
-in agreement with
-consistent with; in conformity with
-on the authority of
-in proportion to
-contingent to

God's promises are contingent to what he actually promises. What he promises is life (Ps. 119:25,50) and he tells us this in his word.

7.19.2010

The 6 Marks of Regeneration

The 6 Marks of Regeneration

Be sure to check out this very important topic/doctrine that the blog J.C. Ryle quotes will be shedding some light on this coming week. I highly recommend subscribing to this blog. I receive a daily quote from J.C. Ryle, a famous Anglican bishop with a heart for Christ and sound doctrine, in my email every morning.

Communal life is roses and lilies

The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer . . . It is true, of course, that what is an unspeakable gift for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden underfoot by those who have the gift every day . . . Among earnest Christians in the Church today there is a growing desire to meet together with other Christians in the rest periods of their work for common life under the Word. Communal life is again being recognized by Christians today as the grace that it is, as the extraordinary, the "roses and lilies" of the Christian life. (Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community, pp. 8–10)

7.18.2010

I Just Saw 1 John 1:8 Happen

I am more and more baffled, astounded, confused, and amazed by Jesus Christ and all who he is as I catch glimpses into the depths of the sin of myself and others. The first thing I am amazed by is the sheer seeming impossibility that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would love sinners. When you even begin to truly experience and understand what sin truly is, you will always be blown away. I cannot emphasize this point enough (and trust me, I am writing with a heavy heart and baffled mind right now...if you were with me and I were conversing with you I would either be yelling or weeping as I told you of these things). And yet, a most strange thought has happened to arrive at my mind's door, and it is this:
"There is no pit so deep but Christ is deeper still."
I only recall that quote from Ray Ortlund's blog. He is quoting Corrie Ten Boom.

The deeps of my sin is eclipsed and swallowed by the deeps of Christ' righteousness and love. The well of your sin and mine combined, yea, if the whole world's sins were added into one great well, this would be but a drop in the ocean of Jesus' cleansing blood.
"[5] This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. [6] If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. [7] But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. [8] If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. [9] If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [10] If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."
(1 John 1:5-8)
"I don't consider myself a sinner."
 - Someone I know very closely
This person, who will remain anonymous, is blinded by the devil. "In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Corinthians 4:4) I confronted this person with the truth of the gospel, that "If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." (1 John 1:6)

I am simply shocked, drained, saddened, and yet not surprised by this reaction. I am in great pain because is seems to me that in my multiple conversations with this person, I always end in a confrontation of similar sorts. I am accused of calling names "according to my book" and decrying others for not knowing the Gospel.If a person cannot explain the Gospel, no, if a person cannot understand the Gospel, how can they be a partaker in it? It is my firm conviction that God enlightens the eyes of the sinner to see Jesus and what he did, how he accomplished salvation. Of course I do not believe that being able to articulate substitutionary penal atonement, expiation, propitiation and the other bedrock theological doctrines in a clear manner are requirements for salvation. The early church fathers failed to present a clear picture often of these doctrines! Yet, I am befuddled to how a person who claims to be a Christian will not know the definition of grace.

This person to whom I was talking to asked me what "grace" meant after this person heard a song that stated "we come not by works, but by grace alone." I challenged the person to think this through and try to give me their thoughts before I replied. A response was slowly stalling and silence crept in so I asked, "What does grace mean?"

"Prayer?"

"No."

"Blessing?" I hesitated, because I thought that the grace of God was indeed the greatest blessing that has ever been given to men, but I knew this was not in the other person's thoughts. They thought that grace was something that happened before meals. I imagine I will only have a greater disdain for the improper use of vocabulary when I inevitably encounter someone "saying grace" before a meal.

"Grace is unmerited favor," I replied. More silence. The hymn which began this conversation kept playing, but the confused hush drowned out the voices of praise.

I further broke down "merit" and "favor" to the point which I could not go any further. I think I concluded with "grace is when God gives us something we don't deserve."

What baffles me most is that this person has been attending a biblical church for the past 1.5 years on Sundays alone, and yet a definition of grace cannot be given. Pastors, I have one question that comes from my desperation: What are you actually teaching? I ask this not out of anger, but rather from a maddening desperation for the biblical truth of the Bible to be preached! I could enter into a rant on the church in America right now, and I think it would be well fitting, but that is not my topic for this post.

From this point of thinking and determining what is really going on here, I conclude it mus be one of the three following scenarios or a variation thereof:
  1. I am wrong, this person is a Christian, but they are intellectually dull and very immature in their Christian life.
  2. This person is deceived by the devil, is still in "the darkness" as 1 John 1 describes, and they do not have the truth in them.
  3. I cannot draw a firm conclusion here for the spiritual realities of salvation are too mysterious and we cannot truly tell who has been born again and become a true Christian and who has not.
I am convinced that the second is true even though (because) the person in question has indeed shown anger and cruelty to me for explaining this possibility to them. It must either be this or I must have my thinking completely wrong and I must then never, ever take a judgment as to who is a Christian and who is not.

What shall I conclude? Sinners will hate the realities of salvation and the gospel. I have always been fond of saying, "Nobody like to be called a sinner."

Please pray for me that I might always be able to speak the truth in love amidst my crooked intellectual bent and at times obstinate insistence on proper communication...in other words, pray the gospel to be poured out from me even though I am a snobbish, prideful, unkind communicator.

Pray for the hardness of sinners hearts and that it may be shattered by the regenerating, life-giving love of the one true God.

A final, penultimate thought: I will be utterly and fiercely opposed to any teaching that resembles Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism for the rest of my life. I cannot accept the thought that a person can choose God after I have experienced the realities of sin and moreover seen them presented clearly in the holy scriptures.

7.16.2010

Doug Wilson on Miracles


Miracles from Daniel Foucachon on Vimeo.

I think Doug has some great points here, specifically the idea of miracles actually happening versus miracle workers existing. I wonder if he would call himself a cessationist or not?

(HT: the tenth letter )

7.15.2010

A sanctifying effect

Let us remember what we are, corrupt, evil, and miserable sinners. Let us remember who the Lord Jesus is, the eternal Son of God, the maker of all things. And then let us remember that for our sakes Jesus voluntarily endured the most painful, horrible, and disgraceful death. Surely the thought of this love should constrain us daily to live not unto ourselves, but unto Christ. It should make us ready and willing to present our bodies a living sacrifice to Him who lived and died for us. (2 Cor. 5:4. Rom 12:1.) Let the cross of Christ be often before our minds. Rightly understood, no object in all Christianity is so likely to have a sanctifying as well as a comforting effect on our souls.

- Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Mark, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1985], 344.

7.14.2010

Devotion is a verb, not a noun

The below is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to a friend. I was describing my thoughts on "devotion". It seems to me that when I think of devotion as a noun as opposed to actually setting my face towards God and asking everything of him and begging for his Spirit's help, this is when I am miserable and most often in rebellious, blatant sin. Here is what I wrote:

I would like to get in a solid, very very consistent schedule of giving myself time to be affected by God and moved closer to him each day. Often my schedule gets messed up by my family who really can't tell me any plans ahead of time, but I can get bitter regarding that point far too easily.

George Mueller put it best regarding the point of our personal devotion (verb, not a noun) to God:
     The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.
     The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished.
      For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this world; and yet, not being happy in the Lord, and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in a right spirit.
So basically I have been seeing where I fail to receive this and then be strengthened by it for my daily battles and joy.

Spurgeon also put it well with this word which distills the gospel oh so well:
 “‘Come unto me,’ he says, ‘and I will give you.’  You say, ‘Lord, I cannot give you anything.’  He does not want anything.  Come to Jesus, and he says, ‘I will give you.’  Not what you give to God, but what he gives to you, will be your salvation.  I will give you‘ — that is the gospel in four words.
Will you come and have it?  It lies open before you.”
That is exactly what I need every day. When I fail to look to Christ and look to his unthinkably generous, giving hand, my day will likely be one of misery or chasing after idols and sinning against God. The only thing that will get me through the next second is Jesus' love for me. As often as I forget this incomparable truth, I will live a poor life that is truly ironic because one would expect the person who has been given the greatest treasure imaginable to be supremely happy and joyful and to be the type of person who spends all of his time exulting in the treasure given him.

7.11.2010

True Church & Apostasy

A group of my friends from college and myself are coming together weekly to work through Hebrews this summer. I was tasked with preparing a study on Hebrews 3:7-19 aka "Apostasy Central" as I like to call it. This text clearly teaches on the nature of apsotasy, ἀφίστημι ( Hebrews 3:12), meaning "to fall away". The large group of Israelites are the historical example of apostasy the writer of Hebrews presents. The chief characteristic of the apostate, in the wandering nation of Israel and in men today is unbelief

The Israelites proved themselves to be false children of God who deplored God's good provision in leading them out of Egypt and contended, complained, and stood against God and his servant-leader Moses. These were the actions that sprung forth from their deep well of unbelief. 

What shall we say about apostate men and women in this age? How does one identify the apostate? Unbelief is the root of their sin and will be the cause of God's wrath falling upon them ( Hebrews 3:10-11 ). Apostate people will additionally display:
  • Unfaithful questioning Exodus 17:7
  • Ignorance of God's direction Hebrews 3:7-8
  • Testing of God "Massah" Exodus 17:7, Hebrews 3:9
  • Quarreling with one another, leaders, and God "Meribah" Exodus 17:7 
What shall we conclude (amidst very limited exposition)? God's wrath is against the apostate. The apostate will not enter eternal rest.

Next time we will look at the pointed (and hopefully piercing) exhortation in Hebrews 3:12-19.



7.08.2010

Straight from the journal


     Make known to me O Father the unsearchable riches of Christ. Preach to me the goodness of your Son. Give me his words, his teaching. Confront me with His holiness. I fall dead to the ground before the terrible splendor of the Messiah who is worthy of all glory, honor, and praise! I want to be with you O God! My emotions run strong now and will no doubt fade to a lame state in time, but oh how I long to feel your love overwhelm me. Let no earthly romance steal my heart from thee. I pour contempt on all my pride. Refine hate and love. Forge me into the pure, golden image of your Son! I am amazed even with what temporal blessings you lavish upon an ill-deserving rebel! Batter my heart for thee. Press me on and may I persevere and help my brethren.
     Christ, be my guide, for you have the words of life.
          Through you I pray O Savior...

7.07.2010

Planting bombs at sin's door

"Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."
- Hebrews 3:12-13

Are we devoted to sabotaging the work of Satan in this hellish world? Will we plot against the schemes of the devil as underground insurgents? Will we cultivate a hatred for an enemy whose craftiness goes unmatched? Will we suck the poison out of another's veins when they are poisoned with bitter sweet sin? Will we do so with great love? For we have been armed with a weapon that hits our enemy square in his face as we have seen how our great Commander opposed the enemy with his great sword.

Many of us crave a community of fellow believers that is more like a band of special operation commandos strategizing against sin and planting bombs of righteousness. We want so much more than "accountability partners" and "disciplers". We want men and women who will come to our side and give "personal, Biblical, exhortation" as Piper notes. We want the church to be a group of ragtag saints who have a common, vile enemy and a wonderful, common Father.

"The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Go beyond and through your small groups and congregational  gatherings and let a love for the Church eternal be the rocket fuel for your battle to exhort your fellow soldiers to faith, love, repentance, and a tight embrace of the King.

7.01.2010

A new heart from heaven

8. Then follows, Harden not your hearts By which words is intimated that our rebellion against God flows from no other fountain than willful wickedness, by which we obstruct the entrance of his grace, We have indeed by nature a heart of stone, and there is in all an innate hardness from the womb, which God alone can mollify and amend. That we, however, reject the voice of God, it happens through a spontaneous obstinacy, not through an external impulse, a fact of which every one is a witness to himself. Rightly, then, does the Spirit accuse all the unbelieving that they resist God, and that they are the teachers and authors of their own perverseness, so that they can throw the blame on none else. It is hence, however, absurdly concluded that we have, on the other hand, a free power to form the heart for God’s service; nay rather, it must ever be the case with men, that they harden their heart until another be given them from heaven; for as we are bent towards wickedness, we shall never cease to resist God until we shall be tamed and subdued by his hand.

 - John Calvin on Hebrews 3:8

6.27.2010

Scripture Sunday

       Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
       If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
       Command and teach these things.
(1 Timothy 4:1-11 ESV)

This was the text from the sermon this morning at Missio Church, where I attend.
Question for the comments: What does this text teach us?

6.23.2010

Straight from the journal Wednesday


Here's some excerpts from my journal notes as I have been going through Psalm 119. The below passage is perhaps one of my favorite in all of Scripture. If I ever find myself in a situation where I want to motivate someone to actually read their Bible - because we will usually fail at all of our efforts at anything if we do not know why we work towards something - I go to this passage first. I think God's word (!) speaks for itself here...

Psalm 119:9-11
Ps. 119:9
Q: How does a young man / woman live a pure life? How do they go about purifying their path? How does one maintain moral purity?
A: The person must guard their life, thoughts, decisions, and all they do in accordance with God's revelation. The person must have a vibrant and growing knowledge of the Bible if they hope to protect their lives from sin and wickedness. Yet, it is not enough to merely have an encyclopedic knowledge of God's word, the young person must know and learn how to apply God's directions to their life.
     As the young man or woman applies God's teachings to their life, they must do so in a manner that wields the words of God like a sword against the assaults of the enemy spiritual and the enemy of one's flesh (cf. Eph. 6:17, Mt. 4:1-11).
     With the aid of the Spirit and through mortification of fleshly lusts, the Christian will learn to and indeed guard their life from sin.
Ps. 119:10 We should not expect a life of ease and ultimate clarity in our war against sin when our hearts are not seeking God with passion.
     O Lord, increase my passion for You!
     God himself must be the agent who makes firm our steps. God will establish our way as we seek, pursue, and desire him. He will keep us back from straying from his right commands for our lives. Let God be your motivation and power in the quest for holiness.
Ps. 119:11 One help God has appointed for his children not to sin is the storing up of his words in man's heart.

6.22.2010

Quote of the week

I hereunto decree that every Monday a uplifting and challenging quote that forces the reader to ponder the goodness of the gospel will be hereunto posted on this blog. 

Yes I know this is coming out Tuesday, but I was at a great concert last night a good jog away from home so I wasn't able to get this out.

The quote this week is from the blog Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology written by Dane Ortlund. I love the quote Dane mentions (a quote within a quote blogpost?!?) and his thoughts after it. What incomprehensible love the Savior has for his own.  
Everything after this sentence is from Dane's blog:

The reformer, preaching on John the Baptist's declaration in John 1, 'Behold the Lamb of God'--
May you ever cherish and treasure this thought. . . . It would be spectacular and amazing, prompting all the world to open its ears and eyes, mouth and nose in uncomprehending wonderment, if some king's son were to appear in a beggar's home to nurse him in his illness, wash off his filth, and do everything else the beggar would have to do. Would this not be profound humility? Any spectator . . . of this honor would feel impelled to admit that he had seen or experienced something unusual and extraordinary, something magnificent.

But what is a king or an emperor compared with the Son of God? Furthermore, what is a beggar's filth or stench compared with the filth of sin which is ours by nature, stinking a hundred times worse and looking infinitely more repulsive to God than any foul matter found in a hospital?

And yet the love of the Son of God for us is of such magnitude that the greater the filth and stench of our sins, the more He befriends us.
--Martin Luther, LW 22:166

Did you get that? Everything in us screams: The less the filth and stench of our sins, the more He befriends us. After all, that's how we all function on a horizontal level, with other people. But Luther is right. The more sin, the more cleansing friendship. The only thing that can stop grace is our own self-________: self-reliance, self-justification, self-improvement.

Open it up. Let grace flood in. That's all it takes. We have but to ask. Grace is spring-loaded, ready to overwhelm us as soon as we stop playing the game.

6.21.2010

Urgent Prayer Request

From my friend Stephanie's blog:
I just wanted to ask you guys to pray, pray, pray for David Camp, a young man who was in a bad car accident last Wednesday. Please pray that God will heal him, restore him, strengthen him, and be with him as he is fighting for his life. Thank you and I know David’s family thanks you too. Please go to this Facebook Group for more information.
Please pray for this young man who was in a very bad car accident and is suffering extreme physical trauma. Ask God that he would be glorified and make his face shine bright upon all who are suffering from this terrible accident.

6.20.2010

Scripture Sunday

          [3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, [4] even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love [5] he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, [6] to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. [7] In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, [8] which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight [9] making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ [10] as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
          [11] In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, [12] so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. [13] In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, [14] who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
(Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV)

I never really noticed it before, but the first chapter of Ehpesians has really three distinct parts in Paul's prayer that center on the Father (Eph.1:1-6), the Son (Eph.1:7-12), and the Holy Spirit (Eph.1:13-14). As you read through this passage, take a moment to note all the blessings we receive from the differing members of the Trinity.  

Question for discussion in the comments:
What does God do for us - how does he bless us - through his three different persons (Father, Son, Spirit)?

6.17.2010

Quote of the week: Pick up your sword and fight!

You ready folks? Are you ready for three posts in two days?!? Yeah, me neither.
Here below is a lovely quote by the great old biblical Anglican bishop, J.C. Ryle. I tend to latch onto his words mainly due to the truth in them and the content: The Bible! Biblical illiteracy in this (and previous) generations is truly astounding, frightening, and worrying. We must take up the Word!

(If you are ever interested in acquiring a book or source from which I quote on the blog, I will usually have a link below the material to a site where you can purchase the material. See below.) 
We must to be diligent readers of our Bibles. The Word is the sword of the Spirit. We shall never fight a good fight, if we do not use it as our principal weapon. The Word is the lamp for our feet. We shall never keep the king's highway to heaven, if we do not journey by its light. There is not enough Bible-reading among us. It is not sufficient to have the Book. We must actually read it, and pray over it ourselves. It will do us no good, if it only lies still in our houses. We must be actually familiar with its contents, and have its texts stored in our memories and minds. Knowledge of the Bible never comes by intuition. It can only be obtained by diligent, regular, daily, attentive, wakeful reading.
~ J.C. Ryle