Obligatory Rob Bell post

Rob Bell has a new book coming out.

LOVE WINS. from Rob Bell on Vimeo.

Here are a few articles worth your reading regarding this new book coming out:
I believe in hell. Jesus (his spoken words and in Revelation) said these things about hell:
  • Hell is "of fire" (Matthew 5:22).
  • "It is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell" (Matthew 5:29).
  • God can destroy "soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).
  • Snake-like, religious sinners are spoken of as being "sentenced to hell" (Matthew 23:33).
  • Hell is an "unquenchable fire" (Mark 9:43). 
  • Satan is said to be "tormented day and night forever and ever" in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).
  • The second death is the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14).
  • "If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15). 
  • The eternal judgment place of many is described as a "lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8).  
It is a very serious error to deny the doctrine of eternal punishment. Hell will be horrible, this is certain. God's wrath will be poured out "full strength" on those condemned to hell and they will not be apart from God, but they will be in "the presence of the Lamb" (Revelation 14:10). To be sentenced to hell is to receive the right verdict for one's sin and to face the wrath of God forever. There is only one way to escape eternal wrath and that is by being saved by the only one who could fully absorb the right penalty for sin: Jesus. 

It is not shocking that God would send anyone to hell, it is shocking that God would save people who rightly deserved hell by giving the beloved Son of God, Jesus, to atone for sins. 

Amidst all this talk about hell, I have a confession to make: I struggle with hell. I struggle not with the existence of hell, God's word makes it very clear. I struggle with the magnitude of sin and my humanist tendencies. I don't grasp the magnitude of sin as an offense against God, the being with the greatest value and worth. Denny Burk provides a helpful analogy in regard to feeling moral outrage against sin and God's value:
Sin will always appears as a trifle to those whose view of God is small. If you were to discover a little boy pulling the legs off of a grasshopper, you would think it strange and perhaps a little bizarre. If the same little boy were pulling the legs off of a frog, that would be a bit more disturbing. If it were a bird, you would probably scold him and inform his parents. If it were a puppy, that would be too shocking to tolerate. You would intervene. If it were a little baby, it would be so reprehensible and tragic that you would risk you own life to protect the baby. What’s the difference in each of these scenarios? The sin is the same (pulling the limbs off). The only difference is the one sinned against (from a grasshopper to a baby). The more noble and valuable the creature, the more heinous and reprehensible the sin. And so it is with God.

If God were a grasshopper, then to sin against Him wouldn’t be such a big deal and eternal punishment wouldn’t be necessary. But God isn’t a grasshopper, He’s the most precious, valuable, beautiful being in the universe. His glory and worth are infinite and eternal. Thus to sin against an infinitely glorious being is an infinitely heinous offense that is worthy of an infinitely heinous punishment.
I am not quite there yet. I don't realize the full magnitude of my sin or others' sin. I tend to struggle with the fact that multiple family members and friends who have died will, barring their unknown salvation to me, suffer rightly for their offense against God. I will only fully realize the heinousness of sin in the age to come.

If Rob Bell's book does advocate that hell will "be empty" as all marketing for it seems to indicate, I can only muster a hint of sympathy for him, for his denial of eternal punishment. I say a "hint" of sympathy because I realize, in my finitude, that my humanistic feelings and incomplete sense of the heinousness of sin does not override Jesus' clear words on hell. That said, assuming the worst for this book, I hope that few who call themselves Christians will be lead astray by this book and that Bell would repent of his heresy. It would be a delight to see that this book would not propagate false doctrine, but let's just say I am not getting my hopes up. All false doctrine must be strenuously opposed.


Mercy, worship, obedience

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."
- Romans 12:1

"But this exhortation teaches us, that until men really apprehend how much they owe to the mercy of God, they will never with a right feeling worship him, nor be effectually stimulated to fear and obey him."
- John Calvin, Commentary on Romans


Resting on God

Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities,
   burning into me by experience the things I know;
Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel,
   that i may bear its reproach,
   vindicate it,
   see Jesus as its essence,
   know in it the power of the Spirit.
Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill;
   unbelief mars my confidence,
   sin makes me forget thee.
Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots;
Grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to thee,
   that all else is trifling.
Thy presence alone can make me holy, devout, strong and happy.
Abide in me, gracious God.
 - The Valley of Vision, p.235


Lecrae - Just Like You

I want to be like Jesus.

Extraordinary intervention

It seems to me that the point of saying God put Er and Onan to death is to stress that there was an unusual directness about it. God interrupted the more normal processes of life and dying (which he controls) and took them away by a more direct act.
Thus we learn that it is not meaningless to believe that all events are governed by God, and yet to pray that he intervene in extraordinary ways. Governing all does not mean governing all in the same way.
 - John Piper, via the Desiring God blog, emphasis mine

It seems fair to say that God typically responds to the prayers of his saints (broadly, generally speaking) in two ways:
  1. Ordinary
  2. Extraordinary
I would argue that God ordinarily acts by sustaining creation as it was made ex nihilo 24-7, giving us our daily bread and provision, and the like. We oftentimes see God respond to prayers (or in Er and Onan's case, wickedness) in extraordinary ways. Piper makes a great point in presenting the fact that God is sovereign over absolutely everything in the universe right alongside the fact that it is meaningful to pray/expect that God in extraordinary ways.

Let all the extraordinary acts of God recorded for us be motivation to ask God to move in such ways, for his glory.


A morning hymn

Grant to your saints to see their God
In days when sight is dim, unclear
On death's dark shore with waves of fear
Be thou their calm repose

Grant to your sons and daughters heat
In final days, when love grows cold
And winds of hate, like tempests blow
Be thou their breath of life


A god above God

A woman revealed that she had had a few abortions before becoming a Christian, marrying a godly man, and giving birth to their own healthy children. She explained that she had been tormented by her sin and did not know how to get out of the pit of despair she was living in. With tears streaming down her face, she explained how she had confessed her sin of murdering her own children to God and did believe that Jesus Christ’s death had paid her penalty and secured her forgiveness. Curiously, I explained to her that while her sin was rightly grievous, I did not understand why she was not enjoying forgiveness. She said it was because even though God had forgiven her, she could not forgive herself. I explained to her that she had become her own idol and the Lord and functional god of her life. In saying Jesus had forgiven her and she could not forgive herself, she was in effect saying she was a god above Jesus. Although her lesser God, Jesus, was forgiving, her highest god, herself, was not.
This story (via: The Resurgence) greatly helped me realize what I so often do: set myself up as an unforgiving god above the true forgiving God. I am always amazed at the capacity of the human heart to create an idol of nearly anything.

And lest we fall in a cave of despair, consider these words:
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)
And how should we confront the idol of self-elevation? Smash it, as we should with all of our idols.


The beat down of prayer

And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” Luke 18:2-5

Do we pray with real need? Do we pray with impudence? Do we pray to the extent that we are beating the ears of God with our continual comings?

An essential characteristic of biblical prayer is persistence. If a widow who was disrespected and looked down upon by an unrighteous judge can receive her request through her persistence, how much more will God give justice to his saints, the elect?

Let God find us drumming his ears with expectant, faithful hearts at his coming. And he will give us justice.