21 October 2015

Labour Not to Labour

Let me remind you, beloved, that this rest is perfectly consistent with labour. In Hebrews 4:11 the apostle says, “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest.” It is an extraordinary injunction, but I think he means, let us labour not to labour.

Our tendency is to try to do something in order to save ourselves; but we must beat that tendency down, and look away from self to Christ. Labour to get away from your own labours; labour to be clean rid of all self-reliance; labour in your prayers never to depend upon your prayers; labour in your repentance never to rest upon you repentance; and labour in your faith not to trust your faith, but to trust alone to Jesus.

When you begin to rest upon your repentance, and forget the Saviour, away with your repentance; and when you begin to pray, and you depend upon your prayers, and forget the Lord Jesus, away with your prayers. When you think you are beginning to grow in grace, and you feel, “Now I am somebody,” away with such spurious growth as that, for you are only being puffed up with pride, and not really growing at all. Labour not to labour; labour to keep down your natural self-righteousness and self-reliance; labour to continue where the publican was, and cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
--Charles Spurgeon,“The Believer’s Present Rest,” June 6, 1873, in Spurgeon’s Expository Encyclopedia, 13:176

HT: Matt Tully

15 September 2015

Have You No Sins?

Truly, you must go to him that can make the eyes that are blind to see, even to our Lord Jesus, by prayer, saying, as the poor blind man did, 'Lord, that I might receive my sight'; and so continue begging with him, till you receive sight, even a sight of Jesus Christ, his death, blood, resurrection, ascension, intercession, and that for thee, even for thee.

Objection: But, alas, I have nothing to carry with me; how then should I go?

Answer: Have you no sins? If you have, carry them, and exchange them for his righteousness. If you do but come to him, he will give you rest. 
--John Bunyan, The Law and Grace Unfolded, in Works, 1:572

28 August 2015

The Secret to Community

Every Christian exhortation to greater "community," which those strange creatures extroverts as well as we introverts both crave, should bear in mind the point Tozer made in The Pursuit of God. He said:
Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow.
So one hundred worshipers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become “unity” conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.
--A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Christian, 1982), 80

 Putting fellowship with one another above fellowship with God destroys both.

27 August 2015

"I Can Do That"

The things He says are very different from what any other teacher has said.

Others say, "This is the truth about the Universe. This is the way you ought to go," but He says, "I am the Truth, and the Way, and the Life."
He says, "No man can reach absolute reality, except through Me. Try to retain your own life and you will be inevitably ruined. Give yourself away and you will be saved."

He says, "If you are ashamed of Me, if, when you hear this call, you turn the other way, I also will look the other way when I come again as God without disguise. If anything whatever is keeping you from God and from Me, whatever it is, throw it away. If it is your eye, pull it out. If it is your hand, cut it off. If you put yourself first you will be last. Come to Me everyone who is carrying a heavy load, I will set that right. Your sins, all of them, are wiped out, I can do that. I am Re-birth, I am life. Eat Me, drink Me, I am your Food. And finally, do not be afraid, I have overcome the whole universe."
--C. S. Lewis, "What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?" in God in the Dock (Eerdmans, 1970), 160

17 August 2015

The Devil's Aspirations

He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them . . . --Colossians 2:15
These demonic forces are . . . superhuman, personal, intelligent forces led by a great mastermind implacable in hatred, unwearying in scheming, and terrifying in ferocity.
Wherever there is evil, it is his work. Wherever there is good, it provokes him to fury.
Sometimes he is violent as a lion, sometimes wily as the serpent, and sometimes as plausible as an angel of light. But though he and his demons are infinitely adaptable, his strategy remains ever the same: victory over the Maker, whatever the cost; the destruction of the church, however long it takes; the establishment of hell on earth.

This was the adversary that Christ had to confront and conquer, and he emerged victorious in his every encounter: in the three great temptations in the wilderness; in the poor demonized men and women who accosted him regularly throughout his ministry; in those 'works of the devil' (disease, disability, and death) which posed him a challenge at every turn; and, above all, in the last great conflict on the cross of Calvary.
Here, once and for all, Christ overthrew the dominion of Satan. 
--Donald Macleod, Christ Crucified: Understanding the Atonement (IVP, 2014), 241

13 August 2015

The Story

A beautiful depiction of the gospel from Genesis to Revelation. Magnificent.

I plan to use this with my kids, in my church, and in personal evangelism.

11 August 2015

Short Studies in Biblical Theology

Most of us tend to approach the Bible early on in our Christian lives as a vast, cavernous, and largely impenetrable book. We read the text piecemeal, finding golden nuggets of inspiration here and there, but remain unable to plug any given text meaningfully into the overarching storyline.

Yet one of the great advances in evangelical biblical scholarship over the past few generations has been the recovery of biblical theology--that is, a renewed appreciation for the Bible as a theologically unified, historically rooted, progressively unfolding, and ultimately Christ-centered narrative of God’s covenantal work in our world to redeem sinful humanity.

This renaissance of biblical theology is a blessing, yet little of it has been made available to the general Christian population. For that reason I've teamed up with my friend Dr. Miles Van Pelt, who teaches Old Testament at RTS, to work with a series of world-class authors to begin to fill this gap. I am super excited about a series of books we are in the early stages of executing called Short Studies in Biblical Theology.

The purpose of Short Studies in Biblical Theology is to connect the resurgence of biblical theology at the academic level with everyday believers. Each volume is written by a capable scholar or churchman who is self-consciously writing in such a way that requires no prerequisite theological training of the reader. Instead, any thoughtful Christian disciple can track with and benefit from these books. It is exhilarating to begin to see how the whole Bible fits beautifully together. It certainly has been for me.

Each volume in this series takes a whole-Bible theme and traces it through Scripture. In this way readers not only learn about a given theme, but also are given a model for how to read the Bible as a coherent whole.

We are launching this series because we love the Bible, we love the church, and we long for the renewal of biblical theology among scholars to enliven the hearts and minds of Christ’s disciples all around the world. As editors, we have found few discoveries more thrilling in life than that of seeing the whole Bible as a unified story of God’s gracious acts of redemption, and indeed of seeing the whole Bible as ultimately about Jesus--as he himself testified (Luke 24:27; John 5:39).

The ultimate goal of Short Studies in Biblical Theology is to magnify the Savior and to build up his church: magnifying the Savior through showing how the whole Bible points to him and his gracious rescue of helpless sinners, and building up the church by strengthening believers in their grasp of these life-giving truths.

The first volume, by Graeme Goldsworthy, has just released. He traces the theme "Son of God" through the Bible. What a delight to launch the series with a man who is as much a father of the modern evangelical biblical theology resurgence as anyone alive today.

My dad is writing the second volume, on marriage. He just sent in the manuscript and it is going to be a stellar contribution. Other volumes under contract are Tom Schreiner on covenant and Jim Hamilton on work.

Here's what Richard Gaffin said to me as we interacted about SSBT and the need for it in the church today:
Well over a century ago, Geerhardus Vos, important for his pioneering work in biblical theology done out of a conviction of the divinely-authored, God-breathed unity of Scripture, pointed out that the new creation in Christ “is not something completed by a single act all at once,” but within the context of world history as it unfolds, “is a history with its own law of organic development.” He further observed, “It is simply owing to our habit of unduly separating revelation from this comprehensive background of the total redeeming work of God that we fail to appreciate its historic, progressive nature.”
The concern to Vos in his own day is still all too prevalent in the church today. A wide-spread tendency continues to treat the Bible, in practice at least, as if it has been dropped straight down from heaven into the hands of the individual believer, a tendency that in significant ways inhibits the life and hampers the mission of the church. This series of Short Studies in Biblical Theology holds important promise of helping to remedy this situation with its goal of providing pastors and their congregations with studies of key biblical themes that will foster a growing understanding and appreciation of the redemptive-historical flow and Christ-centered focus of Scripture as a whole. I look forward with anticipation to the appearance of these volumes.

23 May 2015

Real Glory

Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.  --1 Corinthians 4:5

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality . . .  --Romans 2:6-7

I think of Sarah Smith in The Great Divorce, the shining, luminous, utterly normal, glorified human being who lived a mundane life, in Christ, built on a million small acts of love and service in this life. And reaped what she sowed in the next.

What a day it will be. A day when true honor will be unveiled.

We hear that Eastern Asia is an 'honor/shame' culture. But more deeply the entire human race is an honor/shame race, some cultures making it more explicit than others. Tonight when the Rockets play the Warriors, we will see the quest for honor, for glory, here in the West, and the terrified fleeing from shame. It's one reason the rest of us watch the NBA playoffs, to get vicarious glory through our team's triumph.

And each of us senses varying degrees of shame and honor as we move through any given day. Maybe you don't notice it much because it's like a fish in water. Felt levels of honor and shame are what we are constantly immersed in. Our entire fallen existence is one of perpetually moving away from shame and moving toward glory.

What a day that will be. An unending day.

When real significance is unveiled. When a billion unheard of Christians who never made any real money and never wrote a book and never spoke into a microphone are introduced by the Lord Jesus to the universe. What will it be like?

That strange day when every name of every famous unregenerate man is suddenly difficult to remember, slipping through the fingers of our memory, suddenly lost to oblivion. Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and Lebron James all have a chance at true glory. The window is still open. But if they persist on their current trajectories, they are actually becoming smaller and smaller, more and more deeply inconsequential with each passing day. This frothy, unsatisfying glory they've found, and which the rest of us are after, and which is so difficult to get, can be left behind for the real thing, which is free for anyone. All it requires is dying. Committing self-glory suicide. Liquidating the accounts of self-honor we're amassing and re-investing in Mark 10:43-45. Solid, substantial, permanent, invincible greatness. Not this ridiculous preening and parading, so transient, so ephemeral. Here for a moment, then gone forever.

What a day. When God brings to full blossom the seeds of resplendence planted and cultivated in this life in quietly faithful men and women who laid down their arms against God and gave up. Our jaws will drop.

What if God's assessment of things, which we always knew to be true, in our heart of hearts, will rinse this world clean once and for all? What if the glorious men and women of this world, the end of which is right around the corner, are not the glorious men and women of the next world, the end of which will never come?

I find myself reminded, even rebuked.

04 May 2015

What Is the End Result of a Christian's Sins?

God often blesses us when we are not aware of it. God lets you fall into a sin perhaps, and that drives you to the throne of grace, with outcries for help, as the apostle's word is in Heb 4:16, as a man undone utterly and forever, if God pity you not.
This prayer, though in itself a less good than thy sin was evil, yet to you is turned a far greater blessing than your sin has evil in it (as to you).

Such is his goodness. Your sin shall be pardoned, and though it be a loss in itself, yet to you, having so great a consequent and effect of it, you come off a gainer. God has blessed you with a further increase in the heavenlies, and it shall never be taken from you.
--Thomas Goodwin, preaching on Ephesians 1:3, in Works, 1:63