Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas - Already and Not Yet ...

On this the (approximately) 2010th anniversary of the first coming of the Messiah Jesus into human history, we should take a moment to remember that the work which He began at the first Christmas, and finished at the Cross of Calvary will be fully revealed when He appears for the second time.

When He appeared the first time, He was not recognized.  Although He was God's Son and the anointed King He chose to empty Himself of His glory and to be born in the squalor of a borrowed stable; to live a life in obscurity and poverty; and to be put to a criminal's death on a Roman cross by those who had more faith in Caesar's rule than in God's.

When Jesus appeared for the first time it was not for the purpose of judging the world but for the purpose of providing sacrifice for sin, for calling men on the basis of that sacrifice to be reconciled to God, and to henceforth live their lives as subjects of the hidden Kingdom of God.

But, when Jesus appears for the second time, there will be no doubt of His identity.  And His purpose then will be to bring to an end all of the existing human governments and to replace them with the no-longer-hidden Kingdom of God.  The revolution which began at the first Christmas will be complete when we sing "The kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever."

This Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of the Savior, let us not forget that Jesus is the Present and Future King, and that the Kingdom of God, currently hidden, will one day be revealed along with its King.

May we, like Anna and Simeon at His first appearance, be prepared and waiting for His second!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Is the Sabbath Still Required for Christians?

Excellent post by Justin Taylor from an about-to-be-released book by Tom Schreiner called 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law. The specific subject of this post is on whether Sunday should be thought of as the Christian Sabbath and treated as a continuing ordinance of the Lord.

I recommend the post to your reading.

Is the Sabbath Still Required for Christians?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Great entry in Spurgeon's "Morning and Evening" today ...

Evening, October 14

“And be not conformed to this world.”

Romans 12:2

If a Christian can by possibility be saved while he conforms to this world, at any rate it must be so as by fire. Such a bare salvation is almost as much to be dreaded as desired. Reader, would you wish to leave this world in the darkness of a desponding death bed, and enter heaven as a shipwrecked mariner climbs the rocks of his native country? then be worldly; be mixed up with Mammonites, and refuse to go without the camp bearing Christ’s reproach. But would you have a heaven below as well as a heaven above? Would you comprehend with all saints what are the heights and depths, and know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge? Would you receive an abundant entrance into the joy of your Lord? Then come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing. Would you attain the full assurance of faith? you cannot gain it while you commune with sinners. Would you flame with vehement love? Your love will be damped by the drenchings of godless society. You cannot become a great Christian—you may be a babe in grace, but you never can be a perfect man in Christ Jesus while you yield yourself to the worldly maxims and modes of business of men of the world. It is ill for an heir of heaven to be a great friend with the heirs of hell. It has a bad look when a courtier is too intimate with his king’s enemies. Even small inconsistencies are dangerous. Little thorns make great blisters, little moths destroy fine garments, and little frivolities and little rogueries will rob religion of a thousand joys. O professor, too little separated from sinners, you know not what you lose by your conformity to the world. It cuts the tendons of your strength, and makes you creep where you ought to run. Then, for your own comfort’s sake, and for the sake of your growth in grace, if you be a Christian, be a Christian, and be a marked and distinct one.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Concerning sin and the obsession of Christians with it ...

It's easy as one raised in the church, and surrounded from earliest memory by the gospel of salvation from sin through faith in Jesus, to assume too much knowledge of, and engagement with these "basics of Christianity" on the part of those not raised in that environment.

The predominant worldview today is materialism (meaning that reality is understood through the lens that all of "life, the universe, and everything" is understood only by reference to physical Law, and without reference to supernatural causes).  In this worldview, there's no such thing as an absolute moral/ethical standard -- codes of morality are just individual or social constructs which have in some way evolved as useful to the survival of tribe/species.  Said more concisely, a materialist worldview leads to a relativist view of morals.

Even when people aren't themselves ardent materialists/relativists, their thinking has often been deeply colored by some of the assumptions of this worldview, with results that are very damaging to a proper understanding of the core truths of Christianity.  In order to communicate the gospel effectively we have to begin by properly defining some of these foundational concepts that don't even exist in the materialist/relativist environment that so many have been raised in.

A good example of this is with regard to the definition of sin.  The notion of sin is, of course, absolutely central to the orthodox Christian worldview.  But the acceptance of a relativist ethic makes the gospel of Christ meaningless.

To make this concrete, ask a random sampling teenagers and young adults what "sin" is.  The first answer is usually kind of vague, although technically correct:  sin is "doing something wrong".  If you probe a little by asking "wrong according to who?" the answer will often take one of two flavors: (a) wrong according to them, or (b) wrong according to a social group of which the person is a part.

If a person has this view of sin, what does it mean to them when someone says to them that Jesus came to "forgive them" or to "save them from their sins"?

If their "sin" was the violation of their own moral code, then "salvation" only means release from whatever feeling of guilt they may have about having broken their own rules.

On the other hand, if their "sin" was breaking the moral code of their tribe or social group, then "salvation" would have to be construed as somehow "making right" the broken relationship between the "sinner" and their offended tribe.

In either of these cases, it's easy to see why people would be confused about the gospel.  In both cases there doesn't seem to be any connection between the death of Christ and the "salvation" effected.  That is, why would the fact that Jesus died 2000 years ago make me more likely to forgive myself for breaking my own rules?  And what relevance would His death have to whether I've "made up" to my social group whatever the penalty was for my breaking of their rules?   The answer is, of course, nothing.

So, the gospel of salvation from sin through Christ can only make sense when sin is understood to be a human being's lack of obedience to an absolute Law of  God.  The only one who can forgive a debt is the one to whom it is owed.  The only one who can forgive a sin is the one who was sinned against.  Said another way, the only way that God can forgive all sin is if all sin is ultimately against God!  To the extent that we deny the universality or applicability of the Law or our obligation to God for breaking it, the Christian gospel is meaningless.

On the other hand, it is only when a person knows the nature of sin, and when they understand Who they have sinned against, and what the consequence of that sin is, that they can ask for the grace of forgiveness that is given through the gift of faith in Christ.

So, why are Christians so "obsessed" with sin?  First, we're at war with sin because we've been taught to love God and to hate the things that God has said grieve Him.  Second, because we treasure the enjoyment of friendship with Him and hate the things that hinder that enjoyment.  Third, because we have been made conscious of what Jesus suffered in order to save us from our sin, and our gratitude to Him makes us desperately want to avoid sinning further.  Fourth, because the Bible teaches that the entire universe has been made subject to decay as a result of sin -- that is, all of the death and evil in the world are ultimately attributable to rebellion against God.  Fifth, because we know that sin is deceptive, and that there are many false Christians throughout history who started out believing that they were Christians but subsequently fell away because they were gradually led from their faith by compromise in little sins.

Of course, it's important to emphasize that the battle against sin is not a battle to "earn our salvation" or to root out sin in others, but rather to seek through the Spirit to put to death our sinful nature (Rom 8:13), to encourage our brothers and sisters "to press on to the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:14), and  to pray for people who don't yet know the Lord that God would "grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will" (2 Tim 4:25-26)

I should acknowledge that some people, having read the above, might concede that the Christian gospel is incompatible with a relativistic ethical framework, but would rather jettison the gospel than the relativistic framework.  More in response to that issue in a future post ...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Will the evangelical movement hold together?

Patheos has put together an interesting set of essays on the present and future of the evangelical movement.  The full range of writers (even some who, in my humble opinion, don't belong in the category of "evangelical") is represented. 

If you're at all like me you'll find lots of fodder for thinking about where the lines ought to be drawn relative to finding the right kind of unity with other churches concerning the true gospel.

You'll find the essays at

Friday, July 30, 2010

Living life in the light of the Kingdom to Come ...

How deep and solid is your faith, really?  Would you continue to trust God if doing so implied suffering or death for you or your loved ones?  Are you ready to walk the way of the Cross?  These are questions I ask myself as a sort of "ultimate test" of the state of my faith.

And, even though I know that God promises He will provide me with His presence and with the strength to face every trial I will encounter, and that He'll bring me safely home, I have to confess that I often ask myself how I could possibly face a life-or-death test like that when I fail so regularly on a day-to-day basis to put the priorities of the Kingdom of God above my own priorities.

But asking myself the question is a good discipline.  The question corrects me and encourages me to keep asking God for the faith to exercise in the small tests day to day, as the best way to prepare for possibly large "life-or-death" tests of faith in the future.

God grant that in the day of trial we may all be able to sincerely pray the prayer of Jim Elliott:

What is this, Lord Jesus, that Thou should'st make an end
Of all that I possess, and give Thyself to me?
So that there is nothing now to call my own
Save Thee; Thyself alone my treasure.
Taking all, Thou givest full measure of Thyself
With all things else eternal -
Things unlike the mouldy pelf by earth possessed.
But as to life and godliness, all things are mine,
And in God's garments dressed I am;
With Thee, an heir to riches in the spheres divine.
Strange, I say, that suffering loss,
I have so gained everything in getting
Me a friend Who bore a Cross.

Lord God, open my mind and heart to be willing to sacrifice all things for the sake of the Gospel.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

How God's words and men's words are different ...

Jeremiah 23:25-29 came into my mind this morning:
"I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, 'I have dreamed, I have dreamed!' How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD. Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?"
and also Hebrews 4:12
"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account."
and Isaiah 55:10-11
"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."
God's Word is very different from the words of men. Men imagine and describe. God's Word embodies His power.

Lord, grant that we your people may not speak words of own own imagining, but rather that we may speak your Word faithfully. "Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, oh Lord my Rock and my Redeemer."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

If the penalty of sin is paid by Jesus, then why do Christians die?

If you've ever engaged with the question of why Christians still have to die if Jesus paid the penalty of sin, the following post at The Gospel Coalition is interesting food for thought and discussion:

Interested in your thoughts ...

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Finitude of Man - D.A. Carson

I understand that matter can be changed
To energy; that maths can integrate
The complex quantum jumps that must relate
The fusion of the stars to history’s page.
I understand that God in every age
Is Lord of all; that matter can’t dictate;
That stars and quarks and all things intricate
Perform his word—including fool and sage.
But knowing God is not to know like God;
And science is a quest in infancy.
Still more: transcendence took on flesh and blood:
I do not understand how this can be.
The more my mind is stretched to understand,
The more it learns the finitude of man.

-- D.A. Carson

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Long Goodnight | Challies Dot Com

I was touched by the words of an old song posted by Tim Challies at his blog: The Long Goodnight | Challies Dot Com:

The song has been put to music by Matthew Smith of Indelible Grace (link to the album at Challies' blog above).

What a great testimony to the Christian attitude toward death and the life to come.

"I journey forth rejoicing
From this dark vale of tears,
To heavenly joy and freedom,
From earthly bonds and fears;
Where Christ our Lord shall gather
All His redeemed again,
His kingdom to inherit.
Goodnight, goodnight till then!

Why thus so sadly weeping,
Beloved ones of my heart?
The Lord is good and gracious,
Though now He bids us part.
Oft have we met in gladness.
And we shall meet again,
All sorrow left behind us.
Goodnight, goodnight till then!

I go to see His glory,
Whom we have loved below:
I go, the blessed angels,
The holy saints to know.
Our lovely ones departed,
I go to find again,
And wait for you to join us.
Goodnight, goodnight till then!

I hear the Saviour calling,
The joyful hour has come:
The angel guards are ready
To guide me to our home,
Where Christ our Lord shall gather
All His redeemed again,
His kingdom to inherit.
Goodnight, goodnight till then!"

Prayers from the Valley of Vision - Meeting God

A prayer from The Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers and devotions from The Banner of Truth Trust:
Great God,

In public and private, in sanctuary and home,
may my life be steeped in prayer,
filled with the spirit of grace and supplication,
each prayer perfumed with the incense of atoning blood.

Help me, defend me, until from praying ground
I pass to the realm of unceasing praise.
Urged by my need,
invited by Thy promises,
called by Thy Spirit,
I enter Thy Presence,
worshiping Thee with godly fear,
awed by Thy majesty, greatness, glory,
but encouraged by Thy love.
I am all poverty as well as all guilt,
having nothing of my own with which to repay Thee,
But I bring Jesus to Thee in the arms of faith,
pleading His righteousness to offset my iniquities,
rejoicing that He will weigh down the scales for me,
and satisfy Thy justice.
I bless Thee that great sin draws out great grace,
that, although the least sin
deserves infinite punishment
because done against an infinite God,
yet there is mercy for me,
for where guilt is most terrible,
there Thy mercy in Christ is most free and deep.
Bless me by revealing to me more of His saving merits,
by causing Thy goodness to pass before me,
by speaking grace to my contrite heart;
Strengthen me to give Thee no rest until Christ
shall reign supreme within me,
in every thought, word, and deed,
in a faith that purifies the heart,
overcomes the world,
works by love,
fastens men to Thee,
and ever clings to the Cross.

On the philosophical foundations of the Progressive movement in the United States

I ran across this article in the National Review today.

The author contrasts the theory of natural rights and limited government that underlay the foundations of the United States' political system with the philosophies and theories which animated the people who lay the foundations of the Progressive movement during the 1890's.

More on my view of where these two philosophical systems coincide and deviate from a Christian worldview in a future post.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Excellent Yarbrough Response to Kenton Sparks Biologos Essay on Biblical Inerrancy

Recently, Kenton Sparks of Eastern University posted an essay on Biologos which attacks Biblical inerrancy and advocates that evangelical churches should accept that the Bible is a broken human document requiring redemption. He does this while claiming to be a creedal evangelical Christian!

In response, Robert Yarbrough of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School posted a wonderful critique in Themelios.

Here is the essay by Kenton Sparks:

And here is the response by Yarbrough:

For those of you who are interested, there is also an excellent piece by Kevin DeYoung posted at The Gospel Coalition blog:

Happy reading, and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A remarkable story of conversion ...

I came across this story today and was reminded again of the sovereignty of God and the power of the Holy Spirit in salvation. I encourage you to read ...

Monday, March 15, 2010

New book by Wayne Grudem on the Bible and politics coming soon

I'm a great admirer or Wayne Grudem's work. As such, I was excited when I heard recently that a new book of his is to be published in September 2010. Even more so when I saw that the subject of the book is the Bible and politics. Please click on the image below for details.

Some great, theologically rich music

Friday, February 26, 2010

Food for thought on Liberalism from John Gerstner

Ran across this gem from John Gerstner's "Primitive Theology" (being excerpted and serialized by Ligonier Ministries) today at lunch. Thought it was excellent and timely when considered next to Brian McLaren's new book. I do indeed wish that Brian would just go ahead and admit that he's not a Christian as the Unitarian in this quote does.

Liberalism and Christianity are not to be confused. They are in direct opposition to one another. Everything that Christianity maintains, such as the fall of man, the sin of man, and the necessity of redemption by grace and justification by faith, is repudiated by liberalism, making it, therefore, another religion altogether. It is indeed salvation by good views rather than by good news (the gospel). One of these religions is based on a high view of man’s own character; the other is based on a confidence that man is a sinner who can be saved only by grace. These are two diametrically opposed ways of salvation.

We are grateful when liberals acknowledge this and do not pretend to be Christians. Some years ago I was giving a course on the cults at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Representatives of the different sects presented their viewpoints to my class. When I had the liberal pastor of the First Unitarian Church, the Rev. Mr. Cahill, present his views, he began in a very refreshing manner. He said bluntly at the outset of his lecture, after thanking me for the opportunity to address this class: “Dr. Gerstner is a Christian. I am not a Christian. Christianity is a religion of redemption, and your professor believes in it and is entitled to the name Christian. I don’t believe in the supernatural events of divine salvation through Jesus Christ, which I admit is the definition of Christianity. I am, frankly, not a Christian. I am a liberal, and I have a religion which is quite different from your professor’s, as he understands and I also understand.”

Most liberals do not admit they follow another religion. On the contrary, they claim to be authentic Christians. One can see why orthodox Christians are profoundly distressed by this. When somebody who denies Christ is the way of salvation passes himself off as a Christian, that is a dreadfully dangerous business. We must warn people constantly that liberalism is another gospel that is not a gospel at all. While a liberal propagates this religion as the truth, he owes it to everybody not to claim to be Christian and to admit that his views are diametrically opposed to the Christian position.

As always, interested in your thoughts.