29 June 2011

What it Means to Accept Christ as Savior from Sin

From the tenth sermon ('True Grace Tends to Holy Practice') in Edwards' 15-sermon series Charity and Its Fruits, on 1 Corinthians 13--
That act of the will which there is in justifying faith tends to practice. He who by the act of his will does truly accept of Christ as a Savior accepts him as a Savior from sin, and not only as a Savior from the punishment of sin. But it is impossible that anyone should heartily receive Christ as a Savior from sin and the ways of sin, if he is not one who sincerely has a mind to part with all the ways of sin; for he who has not a mind that sin and he should be separated cannot have a mind to receive a Savior to part them. . . .

The very notion of trusting in God is resting or having an acquiescence of mind in a persuasion of another's sufficiency and faithfulness, so as to run the venture of it in our actions.
--Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits, in Works of Jonathan Edwards, Yale ed., 8:300-1

It was the second sentence above that really arrested me--'He who by the act of his will does truly accept of Christ as a Savior accepts him as a Savior from sin, and not only as a Savior from the punishment of sin.'

The Actual Charge Sheet for Jesus' Crucifixion?

On the Same Basis

Salvation is a unity--a single piece, and yet a flowing stream. I become a Christian once for all on the basis of the finished work of Christ through faith; that is justification. But the Christian life, sanctification, operates on the same basis, but moment by moment. There is the same base (Christ's work) and the same instrument (faith). The only difference is that one is once for all and the other is moment by moment.

The whole unity of Biblical teaching stands solid at this place. If we try to live the Christian life in our own strength, we will have sorrow; but if we live in this way, we will not only serve the Lord, but in the place of sorrow He will be our song. That is the difference. The how of the Christian life is the power of the crucified and risen Lord, through the agency of the indwelling Holy Spirit, by faith moment by moment.
--Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality; as quoted in Lane T. Dennis' introduction to Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer: Spiritual Reality in the Personal Christian Life (Crossway, 1985), 8; emphases original

27 June 2011

2 Corinthians 3:5

Caspian knelt and kissed the Lion's paw.

'Welcome, Prince,' said Aslan. 'Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia?'

'I--I don't think I do, Sir,' said Caspian. 'I'm only a kid.'

'Good,' said Aslan. 'If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been a proof that you were not. Therefore, under us and under the High King, you shall be King of Narnia, Lord of Cair Paravel, and Emperor of the Lone Islands.'
--C. S. Lewis, Prince Caspian, p. 206

Interview with Ranald Macaulay

Ranald is Francis Schaeffer's son-in-law, a noble Christian and thinker in his own right, and simply a delightful man.

HT: Theoblog

24 June 2011


Stephen Altrogge's recent book on contentment is really helping me. It's outstanding.

Here's a taste.
The gospel of Christ is the fountainhead of contentment. In the gospel we have access to infinite blessings. But if we don't drink often we will always be thirsty. The moment I feel the saltwater-like thirst of discontentment, I need to plunge again into the gospel. I need to stop and stare and wonder and laugh at the goodness of God in the gospel. I need to spend time working on my gospel math, calculating the infinite distance between what I deserve and what I've received. To marvel that a prodigal like me could be embraced by the Universe Maker as a son. To imagine the gutter of misery I would by lying in if Christ had not rescued me. If i want to overcome contentment, I need to spend time wallowing in the gospel. (p. 70)

When Others Hurt You

After exhorting his people to meekness and long-suffering when hurt by others, Jonathan Edwards anticipates an objection:
Some may be ready to say that the injuries they receive from men are intolerable; that as the other person has been so unreasonable in what he has said or done, it is so unjust and injurious and ungrateful and the like, that it is more than flesh and blood can bear. . . .
Edwards answers the objection with a series of questions.
Question 1. Whether he thinks the injuries he has received are more intolerable than those which he has offered to God? whether they are more base, unreasonable, ungrateful, aggravated, and heinous; more in number or on any account whatsoever more provoking?

Question 2. Do you not hope that God hitherto has or will bear with all this, and notwithstanding all, exercise infinite love and favor? . . . Has not God long forborne to punish, and do you not hope that he either has or will blot out all your sins . . . ?

Question 3. When you hope for such long-suffering of God do you not approve of it?

Question 4. If it be excellent and worthy to be approved of in God, why is it not worthy to be imitated by you? . . . Is it well that you should be forgiven . . . but not worthy for God to desire that you should do so to your fellow creatures?

Question 5. . . . Will you go and tell God that if ever you did so intolerably you would not have him bear with you?

Question 6. Was not Jesus Christ trampled on and trod underfoot a thousand times more than ever you was? Did he turn again? Did you never tread underfoot the Son of God more than you were ever trodden? And is it a more provoking thing for men to tread on you than for you to tread on Christ?
--Jonathan Edwards, 'Long-Suffering and Kindness,' in Charity and Its Fruits, Works of Jonathan Edwards, Yale ed., 8:204-5

23 June 2011

What is Christian Accountability?

Good stuff from Mike Emlet over at CCEF.


Build the altar, then ask God to set it on fire.

Lord, Do It Again! from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

22 June 2011

It Is Love

J. W. Alexander (1804-1859), American Presbyterian pastor and churchman, and son of Archibald Alexander:
Think of this when you are tempted to discontent. What is it that really constitutes the happiness of a [church]? Is it a fine house, furniture, equipage . . . large salary, wealthy pew holders? Nay, it is love. It is the affectionate and mutual attachment. It is the daily flow of emotion, and commingling of interest in common sorrows and common joys; in the sick-room, and the house of bereavement, at the death-bed and the grave, at baptisms and communions.
--J. W. Alexander, Thoughts on Preaching (1864), 118-19

HT: Zack Eswine

21 June 2011

The Eternal Gospel

God's plan includes every tomorrow. Our lives will matter forever. How could it be otherwise? For the gospel to be good news, it must be eternal.

If the love of Jesus is no more than a little uplift for the moment, then it's only one more drug to get us through the day. And why take the Jesus drug?

But if his steadfast love endures forever, he's worth living for.

20 June 2011

We the Redeemed

'. . . in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.' --Isaiah 63:9

There is nothing like Your love
No exchange for all You gave
To be welcomed into life
So I can know the love that saves

Now forever to belong
To walk with You for all my days
There's no greater love than this
You are the Author and the Way

This is the sound of the redeemed
Rising up to praise the King
Our hope is in You
This is the sound of the redeemed
Rising up to praise the King

Glorious glorious One You have saved us
Honor and power and praise to the Savior
You are the answer

You come with power come with fire
As we lift Your name on high
Join with all the saints to sing
In bringing honor to the King

We the redeemed
Hear us singing
You are holy

19 June 2011

Packer: Pietist and Theologian

Packer, introducing the 2005 edition of Keep in Step with the Spirit:
My British peers used to think of me as a bit of an oddity, and maybe they were right. Pietists are supposed to be cool towards theology, and theologians are not expected to see the furthering of devotion as particularly their business, but I find myself to be at the same time a theological pietist and a pietistic theologian.

I call myself a pietist because I view one's relationship with God as, quite simply, the most important thing in one's life. God gave me pastoral instincts, and my desire for all theology, first and foremost my own, is that it should help people forward in faith, worship, obedience, holiness, and spiritual growth.

I call myself a theological pietist because I was always aware that biblical godliness, which is utterly radical in its moral and experiential thrust as it searches, shatters, reintegrates, and transforms us, is equally so in its intellectual impact, so that becoming mature in Christ depends directly on learning to think in terms of biblical truths and values and un-learning all the alternative ways of thought that the world offers.

And I call myself a pietistic theologian because . . . I have found the quest for knowledge, good judgment, insight, wisdom, and the discerning of limits in dealing with divine things inescapably urgent all along; and I have had that sense of urgency increased by being made responsible for sharing the outcomes of my quest widely, for the spiritual well-being of others.
--J. I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit (rev. ed., Baker, 2005), p. 10

18 June 2011

'I saw the baby moving and trying to get away...'

Abby Johnson, employee of Planned Parenthood for 8 years, on the day she realized what Planned Parenthood was doing and decided to walk away--
My job was to hold the ultrasound probe on this woman's abdomen so that the physician could actually see the uterus on the ultrasound screen. And when I looked at the screen, I saw a baby. . . . I saw a full side profile. So I saw face to feet. . . . I saw the probe going into the woman's uterus. And at that moment, I saw the baby moving and trying to get away from the probe. . . . And I thought, 'It's fighting for its life. . . . It's life, I mean, it's alive.' . . . And then, all of a sudden, I mean, it was just over. . . . And I just saw the, I just saw the baby just literally, just crumble, and it was over. I was thinking about my daughter, who's three, and I was thinking about the ultrasound that I had of her, and I was thinking of just how perfect that ultrasound was when she was twelve weeks in the womb.
--quoted in Justin Taylor, 'Abortion: Why Silence and Inaction Are Not Options,' in Don't Call it a Comeback (ed. Kevin DeYoung; Crossway, 2011), 182-83

17 June 2011

Calvin on Remaining Sin in the Regenerate

Helpful realism from the reformer--
The children of God are freed through regeneration from bondage to sin. Yet they do not obtain full possession of freedom so as to feel no more annoyance from the their flesh, but there still remains in them a continuing occasion for struggle whereby they may be exercised; and not only be exercised, but also better learn their own weakness. . . . [T]here remains in a regenerate man a smoldering cinder of evil, from which desires continually leap forth to allure and spur him to commit sin.
In regeneration, Calvin goes on to say,
the sway of sin is abolished in them. For the Spirit dispenses a power whereby they may gain the upper hand and become victors in the struggle. But sin ceases only to reign; it does not also cease to dwell in them.
--John Calvin, Institutes, 3.3.10-11

Sin dwells, but no longer reigns, in believers.

16 June 2011

Biblical Theology on Steroids

This class better be offered again in the new earth.

15 June 2011

The Bible's Forward Tilt

In a few weeks the next installment in the Theology in Community series, edited by Robert Peterson and Chris Morgan, will be released. This one is on the deity of Christ. More info, and a viewable excerpt, here.

The conclusion to my dad's outstanding essay (the deity of Christ in the OT) contains rich biblical-theological wisdom, profitably reflected on slowly--
'And the Scripture, forseeing . . .' (Gal. 3:8). There is a forward tilt built into the Bible. It is not imposed by the dogmatist. It is embedded within. As the story moves forward from the 'unfinished symphony' of the Old Testament to the denouement of the New, its truths intensify in clarity. There is no reason why that progress of thought should not include the deity of the Christ. Not all Christian exegesis of the relevant texts is convincing in all respects, and doubtless some of my proposals here have failed to satisfy some readers. Still, 'the Scripture, foreseeing' requires the faithful interpreter to allow for the clearer light of the New Testament to dawn in the Old. I believe that is warranted in the case of the divine Christ.

Disciplined by cautious exegesis—indeed, compelled because of that caution—I must conclude that the deity of the Christ is unmistakably, if mysteriously, revealed in Old Testament texts. The key passages raise questions more than they answer questions. But that is a valid function of the Old Testament, for incomplete revelation is still revelation and a fitting preparation for the full Christ of the New Testament. Psalm 45 rejoices in One who is both royal groom and eternal Ruler. Psalm 110 esteems the son of David who also towers over David as God’s final answer to worldwide human rebellion. Isaiah 9 celebrates the birth of a child who, as our divine Warrior and endless Benefactor, will advance David’s kingdom successfully and infinitely. Daniel 7 reveals heaven's decree of worldwide, eternal authority conferred on a celestial Being who stands forth also as a man. These passages cannot convincingly be made to say less, and their assertions are consistent with the later faith of the Christian Church.

To quote Canon Liddon, 'Do we not already seem to catch the accents of those weighty formulae by which Apostles will presently define the pre-existent glory of their Majestic Lord?' But divorce the text of the Old Testament from the hope of a divine Messiah—'how full of difficulties does such language forthwith become, how overstrained and exaggerated, how insipid and disappointing!'
--Raymond C. Ortlund Jr, 'The Deity of Christ in the Old Testament' in The Deity of Christ (ed. Robert Peterson and Christopher Morgan; Crossway, 2011), 58-59

14 June 2011

A Pity

Is it not a pity that our hearts are not as orthodox as our heads?
--Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor (Banner of Truth,1979), 134

Sanctification by Justification

Last year I wrote a little piece on how Bavinck and Berkouwer, two outstanding Dutch theologians, viewed progressive sanctification. I argued that they share a key insight into how we grow as believers--namely, that one major way we grow in holiness is by constant enjoyment of our free justification. Berkouwer, however (and to a lesser extent Bavinck), failed to integrate his wonderful insight sufficiently with other aspects of salvation, such as regeneration and union with Christ.

I embed it here (with thanks to David Reimer and the SETS for permission) in the event that it may be helpful amid current conversations on the gospel and its connection to effort and progressive sanctification.

Thanks to Tullian and Kevin for their gracious, sharpening words this week on this crucial subject. So glad we are on the same team. And thanks for showing us that we don't have to choose between loving each other and sharpening each other.

Sanctification by Justification

Not Always What They Seem

'Get behind me, Satan!' (Mark 8:33)

'Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.' But Jesus said, 'Do not stop him.' (Mark 9:38-39)

Even the chief apostle, the one on whom Jesus founded the church, is capable of falling into patterns of thinking that align with Satan rather than God (Mark 8). Yet shortly later, the disciples are concerned that strangers are casting out demons in Jesus’ name (Mark 9).

In Mark 8 we learn that the work of Satan can be done by those close to Jesus. In Mark 9 we learn that the work of God can be done by those far from Jesus.

13 June 2011

Why a Cloud?

During the course of Jesus’ transfiguration, as he stands with Moses and Elijah, 'a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud' (Mark 9:7).

Why a cloud? Did it just happen to be a rainy day?

No, the cloud uniquely represents the presence and glory of God. The cloud shows up at important points throughout the Bible, especially in the book of Exodus. The Lord leads his people by a pillar of cloud (Exod. 13:21–22; cf. 1 Cor. 10:1–2), speaks to his people by appearing in a cloud (Exod. 16:9–10), gives his people the ten commandments amid a cloud (Exod. 19:9, 16; 24:15–18), descends in a cloud when Moses enters the tent to speak with him (Exod. 33:9; 40:34–38), and proclaims his name in a cloud (Exod. 34:5).

Throughout the Bible the cloud signifies God's glory-filled presence. In the transfiguration Jesus appears under a cloud because he is the climactic display of the glory of God. Jesus shines radiantly in Mark 9, just as Moses had (Exod. 34:30; Mark 9:3), because Jesus is the final 'prophet like Moses' spoken of in Deut. 18:15–18. At the very end of his earthly ministry Jesus would also be taken up in a cloud (Acts 1:9).

Jesus and the cloud are then explicitly brought together in the final judgment at the end of the Bible in John's vision, drawing on Daniel 7, of 'a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man' (Rev. 14:14).

Internships for the Eschaton

Russell Moore on the kingdom of God--
If the kingdom is what Jesus says it is, then that means what matters isn't just what we neatly classify as spiritual. The natural world around us isn't just a temporary environment. It's part of our future inheritance in Christ. The underemployed hotel maids we walk past silently in the hallway aren't just potential objects of our charity; they are potential queens of the cosmos (James 2:5). Our jobs--whatever they might be--aren't accidental. The things we do to serve in our local churches aren't random. God is designing our lives--individually and congregationally--as internships for the eschaton. We're learning in little things how to be put in charge of great things (Matt. 25:14-23).
--Russell Moore, 'Kingdom: Heaven after Earth, on Earth, or Something Else? in Don't Call it a Comeback (ed. Kevin DeYoung; Crossway, 2011), 125

11 June 2011

The Danger of Light and Joy

At the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, the company of the ring finally, against all desire, forces itself to leave the wooded elven kingdom of Lothlorien. As they leave, 'their eyes were dazzled, for all were filled with tears' (369). Gimli the dwarf asks--
'Tell me, Legolas, why did I come on this Quest? Little did I know where the chief peril lay! Truly Elrond spoke, saying we could not foresee what we might meet upon our road. Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back. But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy. Now I have taken my worst wound in this parting, even if I were to go this night straight to the Dark Lord. Alas for Gimli son of Gloin.'

'Nay!' said Legolas. 'Alas for us all! And for all that walk the world in these after-days. For such is the way of it: to find and lose, as it seems to those whose boat is on the running stream. But I count you blessed, Gimli son of Gloin: for your loss you suffer of your own free will, and you might have chosen otherwise. But you have not forsaken your companions, and the least reward that you shall have is that the memory of Lothlorien shall remain ever clear and unstained in your heart, and shall neither fade nor grow stale.'

'Maybe,' said Gimli, 'and I thank you for your words. True words doubtless; yet all such comfort is cold. Memory is not what the heart desires. That is only a mirror. . . . Or so says the heart of Gimli the Dwarf.' (369)

08 June 2011

None Can Hurt Those Who Are True Lovers of God

Edwards, preaching on 1 Corinthians 13:4:
Love to God disposes men meekly to bear the injuries which they receive. . . . None can hurt those who are true lovers of God. . . .

The more men love God, the more will they place all their happiness in God; they will look on God as their all, and this happiness and portion is what men cannot touch. The more they love God, the less they set their hearts on their worldly interest, which is all that their enemies can touch. Men can injure God's people only with respect to worldly good things. But the more a man loves God, the more careless he is about such things, the less he looks upon the enjoyments of the world worth regarding. . . .

And so they do not look upon the injuries they receive from men as worthy of the name of injuries. Though they are intended as injuries, yet they are not borne as such, and so the calm and quietness of their minds is not disturbed. As long as they have the favor of God, they are not much concerned about the ill will of men.
--Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits, in Works of Jonathan Edwards, Yale ed., 8:195-96

06 June 2011

Knowing the Bible

Iain Murray:
An enthusiastic young man once introduced himself to a well-known Bible teacher with the words, 'Oh, Sir, I'd give the world if I knew the Bible like you do.'

The older man looked him straight in the eye and replied, 'Good, because that is what it will cost you.'
--Iain H. Murray, John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock (Banner of Truth, 2011), 17

05 June 2011

Edwards's Apologetic for the Great Awakening

Our brother Dr. Bob Smart, pastor of Christ Church (PCA) in central Illinois, has just published Jonathan Edwards's Apologetic of the Great Awakening. Doug Sweeney writes, 'I recommend this volume to anyone interested in the history of revivals in America—but especially to those with an interest in the pneumatological questions most important to Jonathan Edwards and his heirs.'

Bob spent many hours poring over the back-and-forth between Edwards and Chauncey and has a penetrating grasp of what each was arguing. The book is the fruit of Bob's recent PhD at the University of Wales.

I am strengthened personally by Bob's steady trust in the Lord, burden for a fresh outpouring of the Spirit today, tender heart, and love of the gospel. Join me in thanking the Lord for this brother and for his church-strengthening work on the Great Awakening.