29 October 2012

Something Else Great

By the way, would you admit this--that to lose the sense of man's greatness is not fatal when men think something else great instead? Man can look pretty small in the Psalms, Pindar, Aeschylus, and Lucretius: but the poetry remains glorious because God, or the gods, or Natura are great. The modern predicament is that having voted man into the chair and then lost belief in Man, there is no glory left.
--letter from C. S. Lewis to George Hamilton, August 14, 1949, in Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 2 (ed. Walter Hooper; HarperCollins, 2004), 967; emphases original

Repairing the Deformed Self

Growth in loving God repairs the deformed self. The point is not that a proper understanding of self leads to finding God but that a proper understanding of God is the only way to come (gradually) to a purified self--that is, a happy self. 
 --Ellen Charry, exegeting Augustine's thought, in By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine (Oxford University Press, 1999), 131

26 October 2012

Charity and Worry

Lewis, 1946 letter--
It is one of the evils of rapid diffusion of news that the sorrows of all the world come to us every morning. I think each village was meant to feel pity for its own sick and poor whom it can help and I doubt if it is the duty of any private person to fix his mind on ills which he cannot help. (This may even become an escape from the works of charity we really can do to those we know.)

A great many people (not you) do now seem to think that the mere state of being worried is in itself meritorious. I don't think it is. We must, if it so happens, give our lives for others: but even while we're doing it, I think we're meant to enjoy Our Lord and, in Him, our friends, our food, our sleep, our jokes, and the birds' song and the frosty sunrise. 
--The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 2 (ed. Walter Hooper; HarperCollins, 2004), 747-48; emphases original

25 October 2012


If you know Christ and him crucified, you know enough to make you happy, supposing you know nothing else. And without this, all your other knowledge cannot keep you from being everlastingly miserable. 
--George Whitefield, in a sermon on 1 Cor. 2:2 in 1739, in The Sermons of George Whitefield (ed. Lee Gatiss; Crossway, 2012), 2:238

Heaven is God

Scott Oliphint and Sinclair Ferguson:
Some time ago we heard a fascinating radio program in which a number of famous people were asked what they thought heaven would be like. A consistent three-point pattern began to emerge in their answers, although its most significant element seemed to pass unnoticed by the program makers:

1. All those interviewed believed in heaven.
2. All those interviewed assumed they would be there.
3. When asked to describe heaven, not one of those interviewed mentioned that God was there.

But it is the presence of God in holy, loving majesty that makes heaven what it is. It can even be said that heaven is the presence of God--being in heaven means living with him forever. 
--K. Scott Oliphint and Sinclair B. Ferguson, If I Should Die before I Wake (Baker, 1995), 44; quoted in Dan Barber and Robert Peterson, Life Everlasting: The Unfolding Story of Heaven (P&R, 2012), 185

24 October 2012

Unless You Turn and Become Like Children

A Philistine will stand before a Claude Monet painting and pick his nose; a person filled with wonder will stand there fighting back the tears.

By and large, our world has lost its sense of wonder. We have grown up.
--Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel (Multnomah 2005), 89-90

23 October 2012

Take Heart

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

22 October 2012

Those Non-Puritanical Puritans

Leland Ryken:
Married sex was not only legitimate in the Puritan view; it was meant to be exuberant. [William] Gouge said that married couples should engage in sex 'with good will and delight, willingly, readily, and cheerfully.'

An anonymous Puritan claimed that when two are made one by marriage they 'may joyfully give due benevolence one to the other; as two musical instruments rightly fitted do make a most pleasant and sweet harmony in a well tuned consort.'
--Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were (Zondervan, 1986), 44

'Behold, I am doing a new thing' (Isa. 43:19)

Love to see this.

September 16, 2012 from SGCLouisville on Vimeo.

Delighted In

It is written that we shall “stand before” Him, shall appear, shall be inspected.
The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God.
To please God . . . to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness . . . to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain.
But so it is.
--C. S. Lewis, 'The Weight of Glory'

19 October 2012

Rightness and Love

Love for men is not to be just a banner, not just a slogan, but it should show itself in practical ways in our lives. Our acts and our utterances in our contacts with men should show this love. We should show it by kindness in the small and large things of our daily living. The rule is that we should do to others as we desire that they should do to us. . . .

Our walk should be such that even the blasphemer must know inwardly that we have dealt fairly with him. Rightness and love must go hand in hand or there is no real power. Showing a man to be wrong is only the first step; the final aim must be to lead him to full obedience to Christ. In dealing with the unbeliever our final desire for him must be his salvation, no matter how hopeless that seems. No man is beyond the infinite grace of God.
 --Francis Schaeffer, 'The Secret of Power and the Enjoyment of the Lord'

17 October 2012

Not From but Through

Ultimate joy comes not from a lover or a landscape or a home, but through them. . . . They point to what is 'higher up' and 'further back.' 
--Cornelius Plantinga, Engaging God's World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living (Eerdmans, 2002), 6, drawing on Lewis, Tolkien, Augustine, Calvin, and The Shawshank Redemption; emphasis original

Bible Scholars in Their Lab Coats

The science of this world . . . has examined everything heavenly that has been bequeathed to us in sacred books, and, after hard analysis, the learned ones of this world have absolutely nothing left of what was once holy. 
--Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (Random House, 1991), 171

He who can sit with ten open commentaries and read the Holy Scriptures--well, he is probably writing the eleventh, but he deals with the Scriptures contra naturam
--Soren Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers (Indiana University Press, 1967), 1:210

HT: Jonathan Pennington

15 October 2012

He Loved Us Then: He'll Love Us Now

It is not hard for me to believe God has put away all my old failures that occurred before new birth. What is hard is to believe that God continues to put away all my present failures that occur after new birth.

We tend to view the Father looking down on us with raised eyebrows--'how are they still such failures after all I have done for them?' we see him wondering.

A Christian conscience is a re-sensitized conscience. Now that we know God as Father, now that we have become human again, we feel more deeply than ever the ugliness of sin. Failure makes the soul cringe unlike ever before.

That's why Romans 5:1-11 is in the Bible.

Lots to say about 5:1-5 and the present peace believers enjoy because of the past justification that has been secured, but here's something I'm reflecting on this week from verses 6-11.

No less than three times in these verses Paul says roughly the same thing:
While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (5:6)

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (5:8)

If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (5:10)
Three times Paul says that God did something to save us when we were hating him. Weak. Sinners. Enemies. We didn't have to clean ourselves up first. He didn't meet us halfway. He pulled us out of the moral mud in which we were drowning.

That's great news. But that's not Paul's burden in these verses. He's after something else.

What's the ultimate point Paul is driving at in Romans 5:6-11? Not God's past work, mainly. Paul's burden is our present security, given that past work. He raises Christ's past work to drive home this point: If God did that back then, when you were so screwy and had zero interest in him, then what are you worried about now? The whole point of vv. 6-11 is captured in the "since" of v. 9: "Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him . . ." It is not hard for him to hug you in your mess now that the hard part's done.

This really helps us relax.

He drew near to us when we hated him. Will he remain distant now that we want to please him?

He suffered for us when we were failing, as orphans. Will he cross his arms over our failures now that we are his adopted children?

His heart was gentle and lowly toward us when we were lost. Will his heart be anything different toward us now that we are found?

"While we were still." He loved us in our mess then. He'll love us in our mess now. Our very agony in sinning is the fruit of our adoption. A cold heart would not be bothered. We are not who we were.

Christ loved you before all worlds; long ere the day star flung his ray across the darkness, before the wing of angel had flapped the unnavigated ether, before aught of creation had struggled from the womb of nothingness, God, even our God, had set his heart upon all his children.

Since that time, has he once swerved, has he once turned aside, once changed? No; ye who have tasted of his love and know his grace, will bear me witness, that he has been a certain friend in uncertain circumstances. . . .

You have often left him; has he ever left you? You have had many trials and troubles; has he ever deserted you? Has he ever turned away his heart, and shut up his bowels of compassion? No, children of God, it is your solemn duty to say 'No,' and bear witness to his faithfulness. 
 --Charles Spurgeon, 'A Faithful Friend,' in Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon (New York: Sheldon, Blakeman & Co., 1857), 13-14 

Naperville Presbyterian Church

Along with a few others from our body, Stacey and I mention a few reasons we bless God for our church. As the boys wander around. As usual.

And great to see some outstanding teaching taking place among the women at around the 3:00 mark. 

Resurrection = The Dawn of the New Creation

There is nothing comparable to the resurrection of Jesus anywhere in Jewish literature. Certainly there are mentions of raisings from the dead, but these are always resuscitations, a return to earthly life. Nowhere in Jewish literature do we have a resurrection to doxa as an event of history. Rather, resurrection to doxa always and without exception means the dawn of God's new creation. Therefore the disciples must have experienced the appearances of the Risen Lord as an eschatological event, as a dawning of the turning point of the worlds. 
--Joachim Jeremias, New Testament Theology: The Proclamation of Jesus (trans. John Bowden; New York: Scribner's, 1971), 309

13 October 2012

The Peace of God, Dying to the World, and Suffering

Lewis, writing to Warfield Firor, December 1949, on "the peace of God" as referenced in Phil. 4:7--
Our idea of peace expresses only the negative results of it: the exclusion of care, haste, fear etc. but not the positive thing that excludes them. So someone who has never bathed might think of a swim only as absence of clothes, absence of solidity in touch with one, etc.: but not what really counts, the cool, yielding embrace of the water. But (here comes the rub) does it not come exactly in proportion as we have, in some sense, died?

I am concerned about that at present, chiefly as a result of reading William Law. It's all there in the New Testament, though. 'Dying to the world'--'the world is crucified to me and I to the world.' And I find I haven't begun: at least not if it means (and can it mean less) a steady and progressive disentangling of all one's motives from the merely natural or this-worldly  objects: like training a creeper to grow up one wall instead of another. I don't mean disentangling from things wrong in themselves, but, say, from the very pleasant evening which we hope to have over a ham tomorrow night, or from gratification at my literary success. It is not the things, nor even the pleasure in them, but the fact that in such pleasures my heart, or so much of my heart, lies.

Or to put it in a fantastic form--if a voice said to me (and one I couldn't disbelieve) 'you shall never see the face of God, never help to save a neighbor's soul, never be free from sin, but you shall live in perfect health till you are 100, very rich, and die the most famous man in the world, and pass into a twilight consciousness of a vaguely pleasant sort forever'--how much would it worry me? How much compared with another war?  Or even with an announcement that I should have to have all my teeth out? You see? And what right have I to expect the Peace of God while I thus put my whole heart, at least all my strongest wishes, in the world which he has warned me against?

Well, thank God, we shall not be left to the world. All His terrible resources (but it is we who force Him to use them) will be brought against us to detach us from it--insecurity, war, poverty, pain, unpopularity, loneliness. We must be taught that this tent is not home. And, by jove, how terrible it would be if all suffering, including death itself, were optional, so that only a very few voluntary ascetics ever even attempted to achieve the end for which we are created. Dare we gloss the text 'Strait is the way and few there be that find it' by adding 'And that's why most of you have to be bustled and badgered into it like sheep--and the sheep-dogs have to have pretty sharp teeth too'!
--The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 2 (HarperCollins, 2004), 1007-8

12 October 2012

Ministerial Confession of 1651

In the 1640s our forefathers drew up the Westminster Standards, those marvelous statements of Christian doctrine that have stood the test of time and continue to guide the church today. Rich, careful, reverent, true.

A few years later, in 1651, a group of pastors in Scotland who had accepted these documents doctrinally realized that they had another need, not in their creeds but in their hearts. They determined that they needed not only to confess publicly these doctrines but also to confess publicly their sins as leaders of the church.

Here is part of what they confessed, reproduced in Horatius Bonar's Words to Winners of Souls.
Exceeding great selfishness in all that we do; acting from ourselves, for ourselves and to ourselves.

Not caring how faithful and negligent others were, if it might testify to our faithfulness and diligence, but being rather content, if not rejoicing, at their faults.

Seldom in secret prayer with God, except to fit for public performance; and that much neglected, or gone about very superficially.

Glad to find excuses for the neglect of our duties. Neglecting the reading of Scripture in secret, for edifying ourselves as Christians. . . . Not given to reflect upon our own ways, nor allowing conviction to have a thorough work upon us; deceiving ourselves by resting upon absence from and abhorrence of evils from the light of a natural conscience, and looking upon the same as an evidence of a real change of state and nature.

Not esteeming the cross of Christ and sufferings for his name honorable, but rather shifting sufferings from self-love.

Not laying to heart the sad and heavy sufferings of the people of God abroad, and the not-thriving of the kingdom of Jesus Christ and the power of godliness among them.

Refined hypocrisy; desiring to appear what, indeed, we are not. Artificial confessing of sin, without repentance. . . . Confession in secret much slighted, even of those things whereof we are convicted.

Readier to search out and censure faults in others than to see or deal with them in ourselves. Accounting of our estate and way according to the estimate that others have of us. . . .

Not praying for men of a contrary judgment, but using reservedness and distance from them; being more ready to speak of them than to them, or to God for them.

Not preaching Christ in the simplicity of the gospel, nor ourselves the people's servants, for Christ's sake. Preaching of Christ, not that the people may know him, but that they may think we know much of him. . . .

Too much eyeing our own credit and applause; and being pleased with it when we get it, and unsatisfied when it is lacking. Cowardice in delivering God's message; letting people die in reigning sins without warning.
--Horatius Bonar, Words to Winners of Souls (American Tract Society, 1950), 24-28; language slightly updated

11 October 2012

10 October 2012

Paul's Former Way of Life

. . . the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--among whom we all once lived [anestraphemen pote] in the passions of our flesh . . . (Eph. 2:2-3)

For you have heard of my former life [anastrophen pote] in Judaism . . . I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I . . . (Gal. 1:13-14) 
These are the only two places where Paul uses these two words together. Anastrepho: Conduct, walking, living. And pote: former, once, at that time.

In Ephesians 2, he speaks of his former conduct as immorality. In Galatians 1, he speaks of his former conduct as morality. Rule-breaking, rule-keeping. Which was it?

Both. And not swiveling from one to the other--rather, at the same time. His Jewish zeal was wicked. His goodness was bad.

In coming to Christ, we leave behind both our bad and our good. We don't leave badness and come to goodness. 'Goodness,' if considered strictly as conforming to a norm, may be done in pure evil, utter Self. We leave both our badness and our goodness and come to Christ. Being good can be just as resistant to the gospel as being bad, the only difference being that goodness doesn't know it's resisting the gospel.

There's No Such Thing as Grace

09 October 2012

Surviving Sin vs. Reigning Sin

There is a total difference between surviving sin and reigning sin, the regenerate in conflict with sin and the unregenerate complacent with sin. It is one thing for sin to live in us; it is another for us to live in sin. 
 --John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Eerdmans 1955), 145

08 October 2012

For Book Reviewers

C. S. Lewis, writing to Dorothy Sayers, Nov. 21, 1949:

Dear Miss Sayers,
I did really like Mr. Kuhn's book, but does that qualify one for pronouncing on it in public? How can one praise a man's exposition of a subject when one's own knowledge of that subject is derived almost wholly from him? A pupil cannot be an independent judge of his master's knowledge. No doubt this is often ignored by critics. (I have read reviews of my own academic works which would sound very learned and judicious to the general reader but in which I could see that the reviewer's knowledge of the subject was derived wholly from me.)
--The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol. 2 (HarperCollins, 2004), 999

Sobering, True

06 October 2012

Morality Will Be Swallowed Up

Christianity will do you good--a great deal more good than you ever wanted or expected. And the first bit of good it will do you is to hammer into your head (you won't enjoy that!) the fact that what you have hitherto called 'good'--all that about 'leading a decent life' and 'being kind'--isn't quite the magnificent and all-important affair you supposed. It will teach you that in fact you can't be 'good' (not for 24 hours) on your own moral efforts. And then it will teach you that even if you were, you still wouldn't have achieved the purpose for which you were created. Mere morality is not the end of your life. You were made for something quite different than that. . . . Confucius simply didn't know what life is about. The people who keep on asking if they can't lead a decent life without Christ, don't know what life is about. . . .

Morality is indispensable: but the Divine Life, which gives itself to us and which calls us to be gods, intends for us something in which morality will be swallowed up. We are to be re-made. All the rabbit in us is to disappear--the worried, conscientious, ethical rabbit as well as the cowardly and sensual rabbit. We shall bleed and squeal as the handfuls of fur come out; and then, surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real Man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy.
--C. S. Lewis, 'Man or Rabbit?' in God in the Dock (Eerdmans repr., 2002), 112

05 October 2012

He's Asking for Everything

Pop, this past Sunday:
There are many reasons not to live on mission. One reason is, we’re tired already. And we’re supposed to add to our crowded, busy, demanding lives even more demand? We might think, if my life is a pie, and Jesus gets a slice of the pie, then okay, I’m willing to cut him an even bigger slice. But I decide how much he gets and how much he doesn’t get. He should be grateful he’s getting as much as he is. And the slice I’m giving him is a lot bigger than what I see in other Christians’ lives, so that makes me a pretty good Christian to begin with.

Obviously, that whole way of thinking is wrong. Where is the gospel in that? Where is the preeminence of Christ? Where is grace? Where is humility? Where is surrender? That way of thinking is what’s wrong with American Christianity today. It’s a barrier between us and the real Jesus. He is not asking for a bigger slice of the pie. He’s asking for everything. He’s asking that we do all that we do for him. The time has come not simply to give Jesus more of our unexamined lives but to subject our entire lives to a radical biblical critique. The time has come to stop making excuses for where we cut the slice of the pie and admit that every line we draw, shutting the Lord out to some extent, is us ignoring him and then blaming him for how pressured and limited we feel.

04 October 2012

Weary and Heavy Laden

'Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'  (Matt. 11:28)
You who please yourselves with being good enough now, who are not weary and heavy laden with a sense of your sins here, will be weary and heavy laden with a sense of your punishment hereafter. 
--George Whitefield, 'Christ the Only Rest for the Weary and Heavy Laden,' in The Sermons of George Whitefield (ed. Lee Gatiss; 2 vols; Crossway, 2012), 1:360

03 October 2012


In an August 1956 letter to a "Mrs. Johnson"--follow the logic here and ponder what awaits us:
No, I don't wish I knew Heaven was like the picture in my Great Divorce, because, if we knew that, we should know it was no better. The good things even of this world are far too good ever to be reached by imagination. Even the common orange, you know: no one could have imagined it before he tasted it. How much less Heaven. 
 --Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, 3:778

02 October 2012

He Only Saves Real Sinners

In 1521 Martin Luther wrote a letter to his scrupulous friend, Philip Melanchthon. At one point Luther said:
God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners.
Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong; but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin . . . the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.
No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins?

The ESV Global Study Bible

It has been a lot of fun working with Christian leaders from all over the world along with my dear colleagues here at my favorite publishing house to create the Global Study Bible, available October 31. If I could assess it objectively (which I can't), I'd say this is a unique, category-defying resource for the worldwide church.

You plop down pretty much anywhere in the Psalms and find a call for the nations to know and rejoice in Yahweh. That call fuels this project.

We created an all-new set of essays in the back by church leaders from around the world--Conrad Mbewe in Zambia, James Kombo in Kenya, Michael Oh in Japan, In Whan Kim in South Korea, Ajith Fernando in Sri Lanka, Ben Intan in Indonesia, Chee-Chiew Lee in Singapore, and others. One of the most strategic elements of this Bible is a two-page spread for each Bible book, written by international Bible scholars, explaining the global message of that book of the Bible. The GSB also adapts the study notes of the ESV Study Bible, lightly reworked for a global audience. And of course maps, charts, etc. And it will all be available in digital format for those who prefer to utilize the content that way.

That's content. The other thing is cost. We want this Bible to be as widely accessible as we can possibly make it. For that reason we created a paperback edition for $19.99. A study Bible for twenty bucks. You kidding me? We are also launching a Buy One, Give One campaign that will help send the content in the GSB to many people in the neediest parts of the world, at no cost to them.

Here's the website for the GSB. And here's a video Crossway produced with Francis Chan introducing it. Francis articulates our own heart for this resource exactly.

01 October 2012