20 December 2013

Thoughts on Scholarship

My brother Gavin with 8 thoughts on scholarly pursuit arising out of his doctoral work in historical theology at Fuller.

The first two:
1) Scholarship can be used for great good. It's like the army, or the press, or technological advance. It can serve the greater good and contribute to society in meaningful ways. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with it. It is, in itself, a noble and life-enriching activity.

2) Fallen scholarship, when the effects of sin run their full course, tends to produce the opposite of its true purpose. This is way of sin. It does not merely destroy God’s creation, but turns things around into their opposite. It makes family, the place designed for safety and nurturing, into a place of harm and discord. It turns the enjoyment of physical pleasures into regret and pain. It turns religion, the one thing that should humble us, into a system of producing pride and judgment. And so it goes with scholarship: the very thing which should promote knowledge can instead promote obscurity and confusion, and (in extreme cases) elaborate systems of pretentiousness and power-grabbing. Praise God that his common grace restrains this process, and his saving grace reverses it.

19 December 2013

09 December 2013

Male Friendship

Brandon McGinley:
What these four young men represent is a challenge to the common portrayal of male friendship in our popular culture.  It is difficult to find, especially on television, an example of male friendship (outside of the military or law enforcement) that is neither transactional nor idiotic.  For cheap beer, it’s the wingman trope.  In sitcoms, it’s stupid men doing stupid things in stupid attempts at liberation from wives or girlfriends.  Male friendships, we’re taught, are about finding or fleeing women; they are not valuable in themselves.

In the Tullamore Dew spot, the bride, though beautiful, is an afterthought.  The ad has already achieved its effect before she arrives on the scene.  The implicit promise that is so appealing is not that this whiskey will bring you a beautiful wife, but that it will bring you worthy friends to see you off on that marital journey.

And most men desire this friendship—this tender, warm, (dare we say it?) loving friendship—but that desire receives no affirmation in our culture.  Men’s desires are circumscribed within a perverse Venn diagram, with one circle labeled “sex,” the other “mammon.”  Such friendship seems as foreign as the virgin Irish countryside, unattainable in the normal course of life in the 21st century.

And so, lacking the vocabulary even to describe this desire, we call the ad “poignant” and “melancholy.”  But our melancholy does not derive from identification with the bittersweetness of the passage of time or a friend’s life transition.  Rather, it is the melancholy of knowing, or at least suspecting, that we will never experience that bittersweetness quite as intensely, quite as tenderly, ourselves.
My deepest friend is my dear wife Stacey. But I'd rather go bankrupt than lose the handful of brothers who are coming to mind as I reflect on this commercial. 

05 December 2013

The Foolishness of Theological Liberalism

'Bree,' said Aravis, 'I've been wanting to ask you something for a long time. Why do you keep swearing By the Lion and By the Lion's Mane? I thought you hated lions.'

'So I do,' answered Bree. 'But when I speak of the Lion of course I mean Aslan, the great deliverer who drove away the Witch and the Winter. All Narnians swear by him.'

'But is he a lion?'

'No, no, of course not,' said Bree in a rather shocked voice.

'All the stories about him in Tashbaan say he is,' replied Aravis. 'And if he isn't a lion why do you call him a lion?'

'Well, you'd hardly understand that at your age,' said Bree. 'And I was only a little foal when I left so I don't quite fully understand it myself.'

(Bree was standing with his back to the green wall while he said this, and the other two were facing him. He was talking in rather a superior tone with his eyes half shut; that was why he didn't see the changed expression in the faces of Hwin and Aravis. They had good reason to have open mouths and staring eyes; because while Bree spoke they saw an enormous lion leap up from outside and balance itself on top of the green wall; only it was a brighter yellow and it was bigger and more beautiful and more alarming than any lion they had ever seen. And at once it jumped down inside the wall and began approaching Bree from Behind. It made no noise at all. And Hwin and Aravis couldn't make any noise themselves, no more than if they were frozen.)

'No doubt,' continued Bree, 'when they speak of him as a Lion they only mean he's as strong as a lion or (to our enemies, of course) as fierce as a lion. Or something of that kind. Even a little girl like you, Aravis, must see that it would be quite absurd to suppose he is a real lion. Indeed it would be disrespectful. If he was a lion he'd have to be a Beast just like the rest of us. Why!' (and here Bree began to laugh) 'If he was a lion he'd have four paws, and a tail, and Whiskers! . . . Aie, ooh, hoo-hoo! Help!'

For just as he said the word Whiskers, one of Aslan's had actually tickled his ear. Bree shot away like an arrow to the other side of the enclosure and there turned; the wall was too high for him to jump and he could fly no farther. Aravis and Hwin both started back. There was about a second of intense silence.

Then Hwin, shaking all over, gave a strange little neigh and trotted across to the Lion.

'Please,' she said, 'you're so beautiful. You may eat me if you like. I'd sooner be eaten by you than fed by anyone else.'

'Dearest daughter,' said Aslan, planting a lion's kiss on her twitching, velvet nose, 'I knew you would not be long in coming to me. Joy shall be yours.'

Then he lifted his head and spoke in a louder voice.

'Now, Bree,' he said, 'you poor, proud, frightened Horse, draw near. Nearer still, my son. Do not dare not to dare. Touch me. Smell me. Here are my paws, here is my tail, these are my whiskers. I am a true Beast.

'Aslan,' said Bree in a shaken voice, 'I'm afraid I must be rather a fool.'
--C. S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy, chapter 14

04 December 2013

Paradoxical Childlikeness

To become like a little child, over and over again, is one of the more difficult tasks of a believer.  Our tendency, as we grow in Christ, is to become better at life. We get wiser, more loving, and more prudent; so naturally we then become less dependent. So the very work of Christ in us can make us more distant from the spirit of Christ.
--Paul Miller

HT: Wade Urig

16 November 2013

The Heart of Christ

Here are a handful of remarks from Thomas Goodwin's The Heart of Christ that struck me and helped me and calmed me down and (as Edwards would say) happified me as I read this little gem. Many of us have been walking with the Lord for years and have never latched on to who Christ actually is for sinners--how he feels about sinners who come to him. What his heart is.

There has been a remarkable recovery of the doctrines of grace in recent years, but, I think, not an accordant recovery of the Man of grace. We've recovered the formula but not the Person. The what, but not the Who.

Goodwin has a word in season for the evangelical church today.

On Christ's words in John 14:3:
It is as if he had said, The truth is, I cannot live without you, I shall never be quiet till I have you where I am, that we may never part again. . . . Heaven shall not hold me, nor my Father's company, if I have not you with me, my heart is so set upon you. (16)
On the Holy Spirit's coming after Christ's ascension:
He shall tell you, if you will listen to him, and not grieve him, nothing but stories of my love. . . . All his speech in your hearts will be to advance me, and to greaten my worth and love unto you, and it will be his delight to do it. . . . He will tell you, when I am in heaven, that there is as true a conjunction between me and you, and as true a dearness of affection in me towards you, as is between my Father and me, and that it is as impossible to break this knot, and to take off my heart from you, as my Father's from me. (19-20)
On the disciples' forsaking Christ at his arrest and crucifixion:
God often orders it, that when he is in hand with the greatest mercies for us, and bringing about our greatest good, then we are most of all sinning against him; which he doth, to magnify his love the more. (28)
On the risen Christ speaking to his fearful disciples, who had so miserably failed him:
Poor sinners, who are full of the thoughts of their own sins, know not how they shall be able at the latter day to look Christ in the face when they shall first meet with him. But they may relieve their spirits against their care and fear, by Christ's carriage now towards his disciples, who had so sinned against him. Be not afraid, your sins will he remember no more. (30)
On Hebrews 4:15:
I have chosen this text, as that which above any other speaks his heart most, and sets out the frame and workings of it towards sinners; and that so sensibly that it doth, as it were, take our hands, and lay them upon Christ's breast, and let us feel how his heart beats and his affections yearn toward us, even now he is in glory--the very scope of these words being manifestly to encourage believers against all that may discourage them, from the consideration of Christ's heart toward them now in heaven. (48)
On Christ's love for his people:
His love is not a forced love, which he strives only to bear toward us, because his Father hath commanded him to marry us; but it is his nature, his disposition. . . . This disposition is free and natural to him; he should not be God's Son else, nor take after his heavenly Father, unto whom it is natural to show mercy, but not so to punish, which is his strange work, but mercy pleaseth him; he is 'the Father of mercies,' he begets them naturally. (60)
On 1 John 4:8:
Christ is love covered over with flesh, yea, our flesh. And besides, it is certain that God hath fashioned the hearts of all men, and some of the sons of men unto more mercy and pity naturally than others, and then the Holy Spirit, coming on them to sanctify their natural dispositions, useth to work according to their tempers, even so it is certain that he tempered the heart of Christ, and made it of a softer mold and temper than the tenderness of all men's hearts put together into one, to soften it, would have been of. (61)
On Matthew 11:28-29:
Men are apt to have contrary conceits of Christ, but he tells them his disposition there, by preventing such hard thoughts of him, to allure them unto him the more. We are apt to think that he, being so holy, is therefore of a severe and sour disposition against sinners, and not able to bear them. No, says he; 'I am meek,' gentleness is my nature and temper. (63)
On Christ as heavenly mediator on our behalf:
This superadded glory and happiness of Christ is enlarged and increased still, as his members come to have the purchase of his death more and more laid forth upon them; so as when their sins are pardoned, their hearts more sanctified, and their spirits comforted, then comes he to see the fruit of his labor, and is comforted thereby, for he is the more glorified by it, yea, he is much more pleased and rejoiced in this than themselves can be. And this keeps up in his heart his care and love unto his children here below, to water and refresh them every moment. (111-12)
On Jeremiah 31:20:
We may have the strongest consolations and encouragements against our sins. . . . There is comfort, in that your very sins move him to pity more than to anger. . . . Christ takes part with you, and is far from being provoked against you, as all his anger is turned upon your sin to ruin it; yea, his pity is increased the more towards you, even as the heart of a father is to a child that hath some loathsome disease, or as one is to a member of his body that hath the leprosy, he hates not the member, for it is his flesh, but the disease, and that provokes him to pity the part affected the more. . . . The greater the misery is, the more is the pity when the party is beloved. Now of all miseries, sin is the greatest, and while you look at it as such, Christ will look upon it as such also. And he, loving your persons, and hating only the sin, his hatred shall all fall, and that only upon the sin, to free you of it by its ruin and destruction, but his affections shall be the more drawn out to you; and this as much when you lie under sin as under any other affliction. Therefore fear not. (155-56)
Order this book and become a Christian again.

01 November 2013

Christ's Joy and Our Sin

I am devouring this little Puritan Paperback I didn't know of till Mike Reeves discussed it. It's by Thomas Goodwin, the successor to Richard Sibbes at Holy Trinity Church.
Christ's own joy, comfort, happiness, and glory are increased and enlarged by his showing grace and mercy, in pardoning, relieving, and comforting his members here on earth, under all their infirmities. 
--Thomas Goodwin, The Heart of Christ (Banner of Truth, 2011), 107

The full original title is The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth; Or, A Treatise Demonstrating the Gracious Disposition and Tender Affection of Christ in his Human Nature Now in Glory, Unto His Members under All Sorts of Infirmities, Either of Sin or Misery

31 October 2013

What Is Romans 1-8?

Romans 1–8 is what you say means everything to you, but which actually means far less to you than it should, but even that is taken care of by the very thing that you and I feel with such pathetic intensity.

Romans 1–8 is God’s answer to what he does to the bride whom he marries and finds out she’s been cheating on him with other lovers since their honeymoon—he pursues her anyway, and doesn’t stop, eventually laying down his life for her.

Romans 1–8 is God’s insistence that if you throw in the towel on your own moral resume you can have Christ’s perfect record as yours and he will take your messy record to the cross as if it was his record and be punished for your sin there, in your place. Including the sin of this week. And of this very moment, conscious or not. Everything.

Romans 1–8 is God’s honest assessment of our hopeless situation (Rom 1–3), God’s self-initiated rescue plan in his Son (Rom 3–4), and God’s determination to actually change, from the inside out, those whom he has declared righteous in his court of law (Rom 5–8).

Romans 1–8 is the news, both terrifying and liberating, that to cover your sin now is to have it uncovered on the final Day, and to uncover your sin now in contrite openness is to have it covered by Another on the final Day.

Romans 1–8 is the message that God’s love for you is not dependent on the level of intensity of your response to the sermon you heard this week.

Romans 1–8 is the reason you never have to ask forgiveness more than once. When we screw up, we tend to slather it in a litany of requests for forgiveness, which dishonors Christ by thinking a lot of requests for forgiveness will help out or speed up God’s approval of you.

Romans 1–8 is the reason we can laugh in the face of habitual failure, rejection by others, fears that don’t go away with age, joblessness, academic adversity, miserable family dysfunctions, singleness when we wanted to be married by now, kidlessness when we wanted to have kids by now, and every other darkness that washes over us when we roll out of bed in the morning. Romans 1–8 says that if you are in him, every darkness, every pain, every anguish, every relationship gone sour, every dashed hope, everything in you and in your life that makes you cringe, is all going to be reversed and rewound. You cannot lose because the more darkness now, the more light then. 

Romans 1–8 says that if you have a spark of faith toward Christ, an ember of trust in Christ, that’s because you have been united by grace to Christ himself. You are one with him. You are invincible. Not even you—if you are in Christ, not even you can ruin your life. All must work out for light and calm and shalom and rest and resplendence.

Conclusion: relax. Calm down, and enjoy loving your neighbor. 

30 October 2013

Radical and Human: Both

C. S. Lewis, 1946 letter:
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, 2:748

29 October 2013

Why Don't We Sing the Rich Stuff Much Anymore?

My favorite stanza from 'Praise to the Lord, the Almighty'--
Praise to the Lord who when darkness of sin is abounding
Who when the godless do triumph all virtue confounding
Sheddeth His light, chasing the horrors of night
Saints with His mercy surrounding

25 October 2013

True Preaching

In his wonderful book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire (p. 145), Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City quotes E. M. Bounds, the Methodist from Missouri who has helped us all on the subject of prayer.

A word in season to those of us figuring out how to preach.
Among the things that hinder spiritual results, fine preaching must have place among the first.
Fine preaching is that kind of preaching where the force of the preacher is expended to make the sermon great in thought, tasteful as a work of art, perfect as a scholarly production, complete in rhetorical finish, and fine in its pleasing and popular force.

In true preaching, the sermon proceeds out of the man. It is part of him, flowing out of his life.
--E. M. Bounds, Powerful and Prayerful Pulpits (Baker, 1993), 55

22 October 2013

Perhaps We Are More Like Zombies Than We Care to Admit

My oldest brother Eric teaches OT up in the barren tundra of Saskatchewan, just south of the Arctic Circle I think. Somehow finding time amid fighting off polar bears while chopping firewood, he wrote a zombie novel.

Yep, that's right.

It's called Dead Petals: An Apocalypse.

If your own reading habits traverse little in zombie novels, you might be intrigued by a few lines of explanation from Eric in this interview. He says:
The kind of preying on each other, the kind of feeding off of each other in a way that kills each other in zombie movies, that is the world we live in. It is being shown metaphorically and physically in a literal way in a horror movie, but I think that horror is real.
Beneath the nice appearance I think the real world we live in is much closer to the horrors and the beauties of the book of Revelation and to the kind of portrayal of the world we get in a zombie movie. A lot of dead, endlessly empty people feeding on each other.
All the characters are running from something, all of whom are confronted, all of whom sin and all of whom find grace.
Perhaps the eerie fascination with death that seems hard-wired into fallen people is an unexploited point of connection with the gospel. Eric believes so, and I think he is right.

And who wouldn't want to read a zombie novel by a seminary professor who teaches like this?

18 October 2013

16 October 2013

Not All Weakness Is Sin

John Newton, July 1764 letter: 
It is common to overcharge ourselves. Indeed, we cannot think ourselves worse than we really are; yet some things which abate the comfort and alacrity of our Christian profession are rather impediments than properly sinful, and will not be imputed to us by him who knows our frame, and remembers that we are but dust.

Thus, to have an inform memory, to be subject to disordered, irregular, or low spirits, are faults of the constitution, in which the will has no share, though they are all burdensome and oppressive, and sometimes needlessly so by our charging ourselves with guilt on their account. The same may be observed of the unspeakable and fierce suggestions of Satan, with which some persons are pestered, but which shall be laid to him from whom they proceed, and not to them that are troubled and terrified, because they are forced to feel them.

Lastly, it is by the experience of these weaknesses within ourselves, and by feeling our utter insufficiency, either to perform duty, or to withstand our enemies, that the Lord takes occasion to show us the sufficiency, the freeness, the unchangeableness of his power and grace.
--Letters of John Newton (ed. Josiah Bull; Banner of Truth, 2007), 71

15 October 2013

30 September 2013

The Gospel Transformation Bible

Today the Gospel Transformation Bible releases from my favorite publisher.

What is it?

It's a Bible with running notes that help us read Scripture with a pair of glasses the lenses of which are tinted with Luke 24:27. So that the deadening and burdening ways of reading the Bible we tend to grow up with might be shed. To help believers read the Bible for what it actually is. The tagline is 'Christ in all of Scripture, grace for all of life.' That pretty much sums it up.

Bryan Chapell is General Editor. And a bunch of outstanding church leaders wrote the notes.

(When, you might ask, is Crossway going to release an obedience-focused Bible to complement this grace-focused one? The answer is that the GTB is the obedience-focused one. We obey from the heart no further than we taste free grace.)

I hope the GTB helps you as you read it. It has helped me.

Here is its website.

If you'd like to download a free PDF sampler of the content, you can do so here. Our brother Tony Reinke lists his favorite 20 quotes from the GTB here.

Brief promo from a few of the contributors:

Interview with one of the dearest men I know:

27 September 2013

Consider the Outcome

Reflecting today on this photo that my dad recently shared (click to enlarge). He is receiving his seminary degree at Dallas Seminary in 1975, just a bit younger than I am now. John Walvoord, president of the seminary from 1952 to 1986, is handing the diploma to Pop. In the background you see Haddon Robinson's distinct face. On the far left, displaying his typical joyous seriousness, is my dad's dad.

In the face of both my dad and granddad you see a glimpse of Psalm 34:5--'those who look to him are radiant.' I can't read that mysterious and wonder-full text without thinking of these guys.

Granddad had just preached the sermon, from Romans 15:13, his life verse.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. 
Gramps lived that verse. So does my dad. Dad preached this very text at Granddad's funeral in California in 2007.

Looking at this photo reminds me how short life is. And how much sense joy makes, as a Christian. And what an adventure walking with Christ is. And how silly it is for me to mope through my day feeling sorry for myself. And how significant theological training is, and doctrinal integrity, and the biblical languages. And how grateful I am that God has not let me derail my life through any number of things of which I am fully capable. And how much I like Lord of the Rings. And burgers--good burgers, and shakes, in Newport Beach, California, with my family, throughout the 90s. And how nice it will be to expire some day, but also how I look forward to joy-filled, pain-filled, grace-filled life first. And how much I love my three boys.

26 September 2013

'...the righteous for the unrighteous...' (1 Peter 3:18)

Hillsong can get a bit frothy at times. Not this one--can't get a clearer articulation of penal substitutionary atonement. No hope without it.

24 September 2013

Where Feet May Fail

He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 
--Matthew 14:29-31

23 September 2013

Make Your Meetings Better

I'm really enjoying and benefiting from Patrick Lencioni's book The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business (Jossey-Bass, 2012). The first chapter is genuinely new and extremely useful, the rest of the book pretty much rehashes what he says in previous books.

I suspect that much of what he prescribes for business practice will only be truly and lastingly achievable by those with a heart-sense of the gospel (e.g., vulnerability with one another, admitting personal weakness, resisting envy). But the book is chock full of common sense, and I am getting a ton of help. One way he helps me is in how to lead and participate in meetings. Here's a 20-minute video that gets at some of what Lencioni says in the book. Good stuff, for leaders of all kinds.

Union with Christ and Imputation: Not Mutually Exclusive

Con Campbell:

HT: Marc Cortez

20 September 2013

10 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer

Michael Mungor at The Chronicle of Higher Education:
In my nearly 30 years at universities, I have seen a lot of very talented people fail because they couldn't, or didn't, write. And some much less talented people (I see one in the mirror every morning) have done OK because they learned how to write.

It starts in graduate school. There is a real transformation, approaching an inversion, as people switch from taking courses to writing. Many of the graduate students who were stars in the classroom during the first two years—the people everyone admired and looked up to—suddenly aren't so stellar anymore. And a few of the marginal students—the ones who didn't care that much about pleasing the professors by reading every page of every assignment—are suddenly sending their own papers off to journals, getting published, and transforming themselves into professional scholars.

The difference is not complicated. It's writing.
Read the rest, which includes ten tips for improving as a writer, especially as an academic writer. 

05 September 2013

04 September 2013

Obeying vs. Relishing

Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), Free Church Scottish pastor known for his sermon 'The Expulsive Power of a New Affection':
There are a thousand things which, in popular and understood language, man can do. It is quite the general sentiment, that he can abstain from stealing, and lying, and calumny—that he can give of his substance to the poor, and attend church, and pray, and read his Bible, and keep up the worship of God in his family. 
But, as an instance of distinction between what he can do, and what he cannot do, let us make the undoubted assertion, that he can eat wormwood, and just put the question, if he can also relish wormwood. That is a different affair. I may command the performance; but have no such command over my organs of sense, as to command a liking, or a taste for the performance. . . . I may accomplish the doing of what God bids; but have no pleasure in God himself. The forcible constraining of the hand, may make out many a visible act of obedience, but the relish of the heart may refuse to go along with it. . . . 
The poor man has no more conquered his rebellious affections, than he has conquered his distaste for wormwood. He may fear God; he may listen to God; and, in outward deed, may obey God. But he does not, and he will not, love God; and while he drags a heavy load of tasks, and duties, and observances after him, he lives in the hourly violation of the first and greatest of the commandments.
--'An Estimate of the Morality that is Without Godliness,' in Thomas Chalmers, Sermons and Discourses, Vol. II (New York: Robert Carter, 1846), 34.

03 September 2013

A Portrait of Joy

As the final battle of Middle Earth wanes, Aragorn tends to a wounded Faramir.
Then taking two leaves, he laid them on his hands and breathed on them, and then he crushed them, and straightway a living freshness filled the room, as if the air itself awoke and tingled, sparkling with joy. And then he cast the leaves into the bowls of steaming water that were brought to him, and at once all hearts were lightened. For the fragrance that came to each was like a memory of dewy mornings of unshadowed sun in some land of which the fair world in Spring is itself but a fleeting memory.
--J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, p. 847

02 September 2013

30 August 2013

Gotta Go With Clive on This One

Jonathan Edwards, December 1722 diary entry:
The reason why I, in the least, question my interest in God’s love and favor, is, 1. Because I cannot speak so fully to my experience of that preparatory work, of which divines speak; 2. I do not remember that I experienced regeneration, exactly in those steps, in which divines say it is generally wrought; 3. I do not feel the Christian graces sensibly enough, particularly faith. I fear they are only such hypocritical outside affections, which wicked men may feel, as well as others. They do not seem to be sufficiently inward, full, sincere, entire and hearty.
C. S. Lewis, 1949 letter:
I should, myself, be wary of describing such operations of the Holy Ghost as “experiences” if by experiences we mean things necessarily discoverable by introspection. And I should be still more wary of mapping out a series of such experiences as an indispensable norm (or syllabus!) for all Christians. I think the ways in which God saves us are probably infinitely various and admit varying degrees of consciousness in the patient. Anything which sets him saying “Now . . . Stage 2 ought to be coming along . . . is this it?” I think bad and likely to lead some to presumption and others to despair. We must leave God to dress the wound and not keep on taking peeps under the bandage for ourselves.

28 August 2013

The Most Daring Feat in All the World

The prince of preachers, bringing us back to the audacity of the gospel.
To come to Christ as a saint is very easy work. To trust to a doctor to cure you when you believe you are getting better is very easy. But to trust to your physician when you feel as if the sentence of death were in your body, to bear up when the disease is rising in your skin and when the ulcer is gathering its venom, to believe even then in the efficacy of the medicine--that is faith.

And so, when sin gets the master of you, when you feel that the law condemns you--then, even then, especially then--as a sinner, to trust Christ is the most daring feat in all the world. The faith that shook down the walls of Jericho, the faith that raised the dead, the faith that stopped the mouths of lions, was not greater than that of a poor sinner who dares to trust the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ when he is in the jaws of all his sins.
--Charles Spurgeon, Faith (Whitaker House 1995), 20-21

26 August 2013

The Joy of Battle

At that sound the bent shape of the king sprang suddenly erect. Tall and proud he seemed again; and rising in his stirrups he cried in a loud voice, more clear than any there had ever heard a mortal man achieve before,

Arise, arise, Riders of Theoden! Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter! spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered, a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises! Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!
With that he seized a great horn from Guthlaf his banner-bearer and he blew such a blast upon it that it burst asunder. And straightway all horns in the host were lifted up in music, and the blowing of the horns of Rohan in that hour was like a storm upon the plain and a thunder in the mountains.

Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!
Suddenly the king cried to Snowmane and the horse sprang away. Behind him his banner blew in the wind, white horse upon a field of green, but he outpaced it. After him thundered the knights of his house, but he was ever before them. Eomer rode there, the white horsetail on his helm floating in his speed, and the front of the first eored roared like a breaker foaming to the shore, but Theoden could not be outpaced. Fey he seemed, or the battle-fury of his fathers ran like new fire in his veins, and he was borne up on Snowmane like a god of old, even as Orome the Great in the battle of the Valar when the world was young. His golden shield was uncovered, and lo! it shone like an image of the Sun, and the grass flamed into green about the white feet of his steed. For morning came, morning and a wind from the sea; and darkness was removed, and the hosts of Mordor wailed, and terror took them, and they fled, and died, and the hoofs of wrath rode over them. And then all the host of Rohan burst into song, and the sang as they slew, for the joy of battle was on them, and the sound of their singing that was fair and terrible came even to the City.
--J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, p. 820

23 August 2013


In the fourth sermon in Charity and its Fruits, a series of 15 sermons on love from 1 Corinthians 13, Jonathan Edwards preaches on the first quality ascribed to love in 1 Cor. 13:4--'long-suffering' (ESV 'patient'), makrothumia.

The definitive Greek lexicon describes makrothumia as a 'state of remaining tranquil while awaiting an outcome' or 'state of being able to bear up under provocation' (BDAG 612). The word is comprised of a prefix meaning 'far, from afar' attached to a root meaning 'wrath.'

After an extended beautiful exposition of why we should be long-suffering as believers and what it looks like, Edwards lists four motivations to makrothumia. Indented paragraphs quote Edwards.

1. The example of long-suffering in Christ.
He was a meek spirit and of a meek, long-suffering behavior. . . . He meekly bore innumerable and very great injuries from men. (197)
2. The unavoidable need to be long-suffering.
If we are not disposed meekly to bear injuries, we are not fitted to live in such a world as this, for we can expect no other than to meet with many injuries in this world. We do not live in heaven. . . . We live in a fallen, corrupt, miserable, wicked world. . . . The world has even been full of unreasonable men, men who will not be governed by rules of justice, but are carried on in that way in which their headstrong lusts drive them. . . . And therefore those who have not a spirit of meekness and calmness, and composedness of spirit to bear injuries in such a world are miserable indeed. (198)
3. The untouchability of someone who is long-suffering.
He who has such a disposition and frame of mind established that the injuries he receives from men do not exasperate his spirit, or disturb the calm of his mind, lives as it were above injuries, and out of their reach. He conquers them and rides over them. (199)
4. The glory of being long-suffering.
This spirit of Christian long-suffering and meekly to bear injuries is a true greatness of soul. It shows a fine and noble valor for persons thus to maintain the calm of their minds; it shows an excellent inward fortitude and strength. . . . It is from a littleness of mind that the soul is easily disturbed. . . . He that possesses his mind after such a manner that when others reproach him and injure him . . . can notwithstanding maintain in calmness a hearty good will to his injurer . . . he herein as it were manifests a godlike greatness of soul. (200-201)
--Jonathan Edwards, 'Long-Suffering and Kindness,' in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Yale ed., 8:197-204

22 August 2013

Guard the Good Deposit

On a Friday night in September 1884, Lutheran theologian C. F. W. Walther gathered some of his seminary students together in St. Louis, Missouri. This was one of a series of Friday night talks he gave for the purpose of 'making you really practical theologians. I wish to talk the Christian doctrine into your very hearts.' On this night he said:
You can gather how foolish it is, yea, what an awful derision has taken hold upon so many men's minds who ridicule pure doctrine and say to us: 'Ah, do cease clamoring, Pure doctrine! Pure doctrine! That can only land you in dead orthodoxism. Pay more attention to pure life, and you will raise a growth of genuine Christianity.' That is exactly like saying to a farmer: 'Do not worry forever about good seed; worry about good fruits.'
--C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel: Thirty-Nine Evening Lectures (St. Louis: Concordia, 1928), 20-21

20 August 2013

Why Bainton's Here I Stand Is a Classic

Luther's principles in religion and ethics alike must constantly be borne in mind if he is not at times to appear unintelligible and even petty.

The primary consideration with him was always the pre-eminence of religion. Into a society where the lesser breed were given to gaming, roistering, and wenching--the Diet of Worms was called a veritable Venusberg--at a time when the choicer sort were glorying in the accomplishments of man, strode this Luther, entranced by the song of angels, stunned by the wrath of God, speechless before the wonder of creation, lyrical over the divine mercy, a man aflame with God.

For such a person there was no question which mattered much save this: How do I stand before God?
--Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (1950), 213-14

15 August 2013

If You Have Trouble Finding Me in the New Earth...

This is what I'll be doing.

The reason God created smallmouth bass is so that human beings made in his image can stand in a crystal clear stream and have one at the end of a medium-light spinning rod with six-pound-test line and the drag set loose.

14 August 2013

How Is David to Be Remembered?

Think of the kings of Israel and contemplate their deeds: whoever among them feared Torah was delivered from troubles; and these were the seekers of Torah whose transgressions were forgiven. Think of David who was a man of righteous deeds and who was therefore delivered from many troubles and forgiven.
--4Q398 lines 24-25, a letter written within the Jewish community at Qumran, and part of the Dead Sea Scrolls
For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin."
--The Apostle Paul, Romans 4:3-8

Intriguingly, in line 31 of this same fragment the writer of this Qumranite letter reflects on his readers' devotion to Torah (the Jewish Law) and writes that "it will be counted to you for righteousness." He uses the very same three-word string that is found in the Hebrew of Gen 15:6, speaking of Abraham's being counted righteous apart from his deeds, which Paul quotes in Romans 4:3 above.

13 August 2013

God's Sovereignty Encompasses Everything

How can we really say God is sovereign over all when there is so much chaos and pain in the world?
Nothing shall hinder his great design. God's great ends will be obtained: all his ends will be obtained, and by his own means.

After all this seeming confusion and vast succession of strange and wonderful revolutions, everything shall come out right at last. There is no confusion in God's scheme; he understands his own works and every wheel moves right in its place.

Not one mote of dust errs from the path that God has appointed it; he will bring order at last out of confusion. God don't lose himself in the intricate endless moves of events that come to pass. Though men can't see the whole scheme, God sees. The course and series of events in divine providence is like the course of a great and long river with many branches and innumerable windings and turnings which often seems to go backwards. 
--Jonathan Edwards, 1744 sermon entitled "Approaching the End of God's Grand Design," in Works, 25:121

09 August 2013

Wesley: Why the Bible Must Be a Divine Book

John Wesley's argument for the divine origin of the Bible:
The Bible must be the invention of either good men or angels, bad men or devils, or of God.
1. It could not be the invention of good men or angels, for they neither would nor could make a book, and tell lies all the time they were writing it, saying, "Thus saith the Lord," when it was their own invention.
2. It could not be the invention of bad men or devils, for they would not make a book which commands all duty, forbids all sin, and condemns their souls to hell to all eternity.
3. Therefore I draw this conclusion that the Bible must be given by divine inspiration.
--quoted in A. Skevington Wood, The Inextinguishable Blaze: Spiritual Renewal and Advance in the 18th Century, 228

07 August 2013

The Immanuel Mantra

And the mantra at work in the life of one dear church member:


06 August 2013

Are Faith and Repentance Themselves 'Works' by Which We Are Justified?

Edwards, jotting down private ruminations in a personal notebook--
Faith is the condition of salvation because it trusts in Christ and ascribes salvation to him. Repentance is the condition because it renounces confidence in self and disclaims the glory of salvation. So neither of them justifies as a work, for the nature of the one is to renounce works, and the nature of the other is to depend on the works of another.
--Jonathan Edwards, Miscellany #620, in Works, Yale ed., 18:152

Redemptive History and Edmund

In his delightful new book Echoes of Eden, Jerram Barrs identifies the themes of creation, fall, and redemption in Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In reflecting on the theme of fall in this book, he zeroes in on Edmund.
The account of Edmund being brought under the witch’s sway is masterful, for this is indeed how evil works in our hearts and minds, appealing to our worst instincts, shrewdly summing up our character flaws and then exploiting them. She presents Edmund her treats as if they were generous gifts rather than instruments of deceit and control. The gifts of evil always have a cost (the Turkish delight and the hot chocolate drink) and do not satisfy, but rather enslave the one who receives them. Edmund begins to lie more and more and to deceive himself about the true nature of the Witch, about himself and about everyone else.

As he comes more under the Witch’s control the impact on Edmund is to make him ever angrier with his brother and sisters, meaner, more spiteful, more self-centered. All evil is like this for it destroys our humanity, making us less than who we are. We should notice too, that his deceit and betrayal do not make him happy, but rather more and more miserable. This is the true face of evil: it always reaps a harvest of destruction in our own lives and the lives of others. Choosing evil is a curse with many sorrows.

Indulging in evil has the effect of alienating, or separating, Edmund from others: from his brother and sisters, from the beavers and from all decent creatures. Choosing evil has the effect of alienating, or separating, Edmund from himself. His foolish choices make him very uncomfortable when Aslan is mentioned. In just this way all evil alienates, or separates, us from God. Edmund’s selected path has the effect of alienating, or separating, him from nature and from his proper place in this world, distorting his natural and right desire for dominion, and turning it into something mean and ugly. Like all of us Edmund was intended to rule in this world as God’s steward. Edmund becomes entranced by dreams of power. He imagines himself as king of Narnia, indulging his every whim and keeping others, especially his elder brother, Peter, in lower positions than himself. Evil has the effect of undermining his enjoyment of the beauty of creation. Just so, sin brings alienation into every area of our lives.

Yet, there is a note of hope, for Edmund is aware of what is happening in his own heart and he is not given up fully to evil. Instead we see the struggle that takes place in him, the memories of goodness in his heart, and above all his pity for the creatures enjoying their Christmas party – the squirrels, foxes and satyrs whom the witch turns to stone, even though Edmund intercedes on their behalf. It is this pity in him that gives us a glimmer of hope for his deliverance and restoration, for pity is at the heart of redemption.
--Jerram Barrs, Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts (Crossway, 2013), 100-101

05 August 2013

Jesus Redefines the Ceiling of What Is Possible (John 3)

Nicodemus: 'We know that you are a teacher having come from God. For no one is able [dunatai] to do these signs that you do unless God is with him.'

Jesus: 'I tell you, unless someone is born again, he is not able [dunatai] to see the kingdom of God.'

Nicodemus: 'How is a man able [dunatai] to be born, being old? He is not able [dunatai] to enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, is he?'

Jesus: 'I tell you, unless someone is born not only of water but also of the Spirit, he is not able [dunatai] to enter into the kingdom of God. . . . The Spirit blows where it wills. . . .'

Nicodemus: 'How is it possible [dunatai] that these things are so?'

In Jesus, all intuitive and reasonable limits and prerequisites to what is humanly possible (dunatai) are swept away as we are ushered into a new universe of possibilities in which God and his happy omnipotence of grace--not we and our puzzled 'But . . .'--defines how Life washes over us.

02 August 2013

Shrub Justification vs. Oak Justification

Thus says the LORD: 'Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

'Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.'
--Jeremiah 17:5-8

31 July 2013

Have You?

Have you tasted and seen that the Lord is good?

Have you, when you have thus been emptied of yourself and weaned from this vain world, found a better good?

Have you had those discoveries of Christ, or that sense of his excellency or sufficiency and wonderful grace, that has refreshed and rejoiced your heart, and revived it as it were out of the dust, and caused hope and your comfort to spring forth like the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain?

Has there been light let into your soul, as the light of the sun pleasantly breaking forth out of the cloud after a dreadful storm, or as the sweet dawning of the light of the morning after long wandering in a dark night, or the bright and beautiful day star arising with refreshing beams?

Have you had that divine comfort that has seemed to heal your soul and put life and strength into you and given you peace after trouble and rest after labor and pain?

Have you tasted that spiritual food, that bread from heaven, that is so sweet and so satisfying, so much better than the richest earthly dainties?

Have you felt something of the divine comfort and peace, which can't be expressed and which passes all understanding?

Have you tasted that in Christ that has turned the stream of your affections that way and filled you with longings after more of him?
--Jonathan Edwards, "Like Rain Upon Mown Grass," in Works, Yale ed., 22:315

27 July 2013

Jesus Worked a Secular Job

Sometimes, Christians will insist that the only work that is truly worthwhile, pleasing to God, and spiritual is the work of serving the proclamation of the gospel across the world. This view suggests that, if we were all truly earnest Christians, we would leave our “secular” jobs, in which we are simply making a living, providing for our families, and ruling the world, and we would all join the “sacred” work of mission.
But if we stop and think about Jesus’ life, we see that he was doing so-called secular work as a carpenter or a fisherman for many more years than he was a preacher and teacher. It would be blasphemous to suppose that during these years Jesus was living in a manner that was not fully godly and completely pleasing to his Father in heaven.
Jerram Barrs, Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts (Crossway 2013), 21

26 July 2013

Women's Immanuel Theology Group 2013-14

And for the men:

Hard to imagine a better way for busy men and women within striking distance of Nashville to deepen their hearts and knowledge of God's Word.

24 July 2013

You Never Leave a Loved One Behind When You Die

Edwards, jotting down some thoughts (a "miscellany") in a private notebook:
When a saint dies, he has no cause at all to grieve because he leaves his friends and relations that he dearly loves, for he doth not properly leave them.
For he enjoys them still in Christ; because everything that he loves in them and loves them for, is in Christ in an infinite degree; whether it be nearness of relation, or any perfection and good received, or love to us, or a likeness in dispositions, or whatever is a rational ground of love.
--Jonathan Edwards, Works, Yale ed., 13:167

20 July 2013

The More Fear, the Less Fear; the Richer, the Poorer

Edwards captures beautifully the strange but true paradox of Christian maturity:
All gracious affections have a tendency to promote this Christian tenderness of heart, that has been spoken of: not only a godly sorrow; but also a gracious joy. . . .

Yea the most confident and assured hope, that is truly gracious, has this tendency. The higher an holy hope is raised, the more there is of this Christian tenderness.
The banishing of a servile fear, by a holy assurance, is attended with a proportionable increase of a reverential fear. The diminishing of the fear of the fruits of God's displeasure in future punishment, is attended with a proportionable increase of fear of his displeasure itself: the diminishing of the fear of hell, with an increase of the fear of sin. The vanishing of jealousies of the person's state, is attended with a proportionable increase of jealousy of his heart, in a distrust of its strength, wisdom, stability, faithfulness, etc. The less apt he is to be afraid of natural evil, having "his heart fixed, trusting in God," and so, "not afraid of evil tidings" (Ps 112:7); the more apt is he to be alarmed with the appearance of moral evil, or the evil of sin. As he has more holy boldness, so he has less of self-confidence, and a forward assuming boldness, and more modesty. As he is more sure than others of deliverance from hell, so he has more of a sense of the desert of it. He is less apt than others to be shaken in faith; but more apt than others to be moved with solemn warnings, and with God's frowns, and with the calamities of others. He has the firmest comfort, but the softest heart: richer than others, but poorest of all in spirit: the tallest and strongest saint, but the least and tenderest child amongst them.
 --Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, page 364 of Yale edition

17 July 2013

The Single Greatest Command of Deuteronomy

...and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake. (Deut 12:7)

And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male servants and your female servants... (12:12)

And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all that you undertake. (12:18)

And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. (14:26)

And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God... (16:11)

You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter... (16:14)

...because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful. (16:15)

And you shall rejoice in all the good that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house... (26:11)

...and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God. (27:7)

Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart... (28:47)

'Rejoice with him, O heavens...' (32:43)

'Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out, and Issachar, in your tents.' (33:18)

$4.5 million and Zero to Sixty in Under Three Seconds

03 July 2013

Writers, Listen Well . . .

. . . to the analogy from 7:11 to 11:16 from Jim Collins, author of Built to Last and Good to Great.

02 July 2013

Who Jesus Is (And Who He Isn't)

The final question to a brief, really nice interview on Proverbs, Stephen Altrogge asking the questions and Dad answering them--
What one thing do you hope people take away from reading the commentary? 

That Jesus is the wisest, smartest, most omni-competent man anywhere. He is not just a really, really nice religious guru for people whose lives are privileged enough that they have margin and money for recreational religious sweetness. No, he is the shrewdest man in all the universe. He out-thinks everyone. And amazingly, he offers himself, in his fullness of grace, to complete idiots like me who are willing to listen and learn.

Leadership Wisdom from the Man ESPN Called the Greatest Coach of the 20th Century

28 June 2013

I Married the Wrong Person

How do you know you married the wrong person? Because we all do. We can't not marry the wrong person--at least, according to the Hollywood ideal. Great stuff here from Tyler McKenzie. Here's how he begins:
Today my wife Lindsay and I celebrate our two year anniversary. Two years ago, we tied the knot and took the plunge. Two years ago, the cutest girl in Indiana was taken off the market! Two years ago, we launched the beginning of the rest of our lives. Two years ago…

And after two years, there’s no hiding behind the dinner-and-a-movie fa├žade of dating life any longer. I can’t buy enough flowers to conceal it. I can’t open enough doors. I can’t say enough “I love you’s.” She knows (and painfully, so do I) that she married the wrong person. 

Allow me to humbly explain (before she reads this). For quite some time now, there has been a myth floating around our idealistic individualistic society. A myth that claims that marriage will only work when you find your “smoking-hot, high-class, filthy rich, love-at-first-sight, sexually compatible, accept-me-as-I-am, Titanic-Notebook-Sweet-Home-Alabama-Twilight-esque, soul mate.”

Don’t believe me? Look at the message Hollywood communicates; look at the empirical evidence pointing to later and fewer marriages; research studies suggest this is a primary factor that holds men and women back from marital commitment – they just haven’t found their soul mate. They believe in their heart of hearts that their match-made-in-heaven is still out there, somewhere.

Much could be said about where this mindset came from, but let’s just leave it at this – Singles today (and most married couples too) are searching for super-spouses that simply don’t exist. People expect far too much from their spouse in all the wrong areas.

That’s why I know beyond doubt, at least by society’s standards, that Lindsay married the wrong person.  I’ll never be quite as smart as a New York Times Best Seller. I’ll never make a six digit paycheck. I’ll never electrify the bedroom in the way our pornographic media culture broadcasts as the norm. I’ll never understand her quite as well as we both wish I would. I’ll continue to make mistakes. I’ll get angry over silly stuff. I’ll forget to do the dishes. I’ll raise my voice when I shouldn’t. I’ll let pride get the best of me. And I’ll probably think of myself far more often than I should… Oh yeah, and my younger days as a part-time body-builder, part-time male-model, full-time Matthew McConaughey stunt double are over. I retired this January. (Are you drowning in my self-pity yet? I am.)  Look, I’m not an astrophysicist. I’m not a movie star. I’m not a billionaire. I’m just Tyler.
HT: Matt Ballard

21 June 2013

The Great Antithesis of Galatians 3

Our Natural Intuitions
The Gospel of 
works  (3:2, 5, 10)
faith  (3:2-9, 22-25)
law  (3:2, 5, 10-13, 17-24)
promise  (3:17-19, 22, 29)
flesh  (3:3)
Holy Spirit  (3:2, 3, 5, 14)
Key OT figure:
Moses  (3:15-22)
Abraham  (3:6-9, 14, 16-18)
slaves  (3:22-29)
sons  (3:7, 26-29)
justification (3:6, 8, 11, 24)
insiders only
anyone  (3:7-9, 14, 26-29)
Eternal result:
curse  (3:10-13)
blessing  (3:8-9, 14)
Social result:
disunity  (3:28–29)
unity  (3:28–29)

20 June 2013

Defeated by Life?

There are only two ways to cope. Every one of us, at every point of adversity, goes in one direction or the other. Look to yourself, or look outside yourself. Either 'take control, raise your hands, get ride of it' or 'take it to the King.' The way of strife and misery or the way of relief and sanity. Our choice.

17 June 2013

16 June 2013

From the Man Who Preached 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God'

They that find Christ [discover that] though he be so glorious and excellent a person, yet they find him ready to receive such poor, worthless, hateful creatures as they are, which was unexpected to 'em. They are surprised with it.

They did not imagine that Christ was such a kind of person, a person of such grace. They heard he was an holy Savior and hated sin, and they did not imagine he would be so ready to receive such vile, wicked creatures as they. They thought he surely would never be willing to accept such provoking sinners, such guilty wretches, those that had such abominable hearts.

But behold, he is not a whit the more backward to receive 'em for that. They unexpectedly find him with open arms to embrace them, ready forever to forget all their sins as though they had never been. They find that he as it were runs to meet them, and makes 'em most welcome, and admits 'em not only to be his servants but his friends [Luke 15:11-24]. He lifts 'em out of the dust and sets 'em on his throne; he makes them the children of God; he speaks peace to them; he cheers and refreshes their hearts; he admits 'em unto strict union with himself, and gives the most joyful entertainment, and binds himself to them to be their friend forever.

So are they surprised with their entertainment. They never imagined to find Christ a person of such kind of love and grace as this. 'Tis beyond all imagination or conception.
--Jonathan Edwards, 'Seeking After Christ,' in Works, Yale ed., 22:290

14 May 2013

What Romans 8:28 Means

Things will be quiet around here for about three weeks as I head out of the country to do some teaching.

I sign off with a sentence I read this morning from Edwards which, if true, ought to root out all kinds of fear and despondency from our hearts as faltering children of God. He's reflecting on Romans 8:28.
Though it is to the eternal damage of the saints, ordinarily, when they yield to, and are overcome by temptations, yet Satan and other enemies of the saints by whom these temptations come, are always wholly disappointed in their temptations, and baffled in their design to hurt the saints, inasmuch as the temptation and the sin that comes by it, is for the saints' good, and they receive a greater benefit in the issue, than if the temptation had not been, and yet less than if the temptation had been overcome.
--Jonathan Edwards, letter to Thomas Gillespie, Scottish pastor, 1746; in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Yale ed., 2:488-89

That one sentence is worth at least three weeks' blogging.

10 May 2013

Who Jesus Is

What an amazing article from our brother Mike Reeves over at Theology Network on the Puritan Thomas Goodwin. Wow. I know nothing about Goodwin but I have ordered The Heart of Christ, given the snippets Mike provides. Sheesh. Have I been misapprehending who Jesus is my whole life?

On John 13-17 and the words Jesus gives to his disciples of his return, Goodwin writes:
It is as if he had said, The truth is, I cannot live without you, I shall never be quiet till I have you where I am, that so we may never part again; that is the reason of it. Heaven shall not hold me, nor my Father’s company, if I have not you with me, my heart is so set upon you; and if I have any glory, you shall have part of it… Poor sinners, who are full of the thoughts of their own sins, know not how they shall be able at the latter day to look Christ in the face when they shall first meet with him. But they may relieve their spirits against their care and fear, by Christ’s carriage now towards his disciples, who had so sinned against him. Be not afraid, ‘your sins will he remember no more.’ … And doth he talk thus lovingly of us? Whose heart would not this overcome?
And expounding Hebrews 4:15, he says that this text
doth, as it were, take our hands, and lay them upon Christ’s breast, and let us feel how his heart beats and his bowels yearn towards us, even now he is in glory – the very scope of these words being manifestly to encourage believers against all that may discourage them, from the consideration of Christ’s heart towards them now in heaven.
And on sinning Christians:
your very sins move him to pity more than to anger… yea, his pity is increased the more towards you, even as the heart of a father is to a child that hath some loathsome disease… his hatred shall all fall, and that only upon the sin, to free you of it by its ruin and destruction, but his bowels shall be the more drawn out to you; and this as much when you lie under sin as under any other affliction. Therefore fear not, 'What shall separate us from Christ’s love?'
This is a different religion than the one many evangelicals are growing up mentally immersed in.

09 May 2013

Opening the Way to His Fatherly Heart

Yes, justification is received with genuine human faith. But listen to Bavinck:
If for insignificant, guilty, and impure persons there is to be a possibility of true religion, that is, of genuine fellowship with God, of salvation and eternal life, then God on his part must reestablish the broken bond, again take them into fellowship with him and share his grace with them, regardless of their guilt and corruption.

He, then, must descend from the height of his majesty, seek us out and come to us, take away our guilt and again open the way to his fatherly heart. If God were to wait until we . . . had made ourselves worthy, in part or in whole, to receive his favor, the restoration of communion between him and ourselves would never happen, and salvation would forever be out of reach for us.
--Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 4:204-5

Facing the Truth

Good stuff over at the Rabbit Room from Andrew Peterson on the healthy sanity of honesty about who we really are.

The conclusion:
Jesus is making us into something. C. S. Lewis wrote that God is making us into “little Christs.” We all ache for the day when we’ll be free of our sins, our bad habits, our bitterness, the things about us that we think ugly or undesirable. But perhaps the road of sanctification will be an easier one when we recognize in ourselves the sin of self-consciousness, the sin of reputation management, the sin of lying to ourselves. To live our lives with a pretense of self-sufficiency, strength, and have-it-togetherness is to diminish the visible work of God’s grace. One of your greatest blessings to the community around you may be your utter brokenness, it may be something about yourself that you loathe, but which Christ will use for his glory. When Jesus is Lord of our brokenness we are free to rejoice in the mighty work he has yet to do in us. We are free to enter the stage in the face of the devil’s accusation, “You’re not good enough.”

The Christian’s answer: “Exactly!”

And we dance.
HT: Wade Urig

07 May 2013

True of All of Us

No one among us would like to see his true history inscribed on his forehead. . . . If the sins known to my heart were published to the world, I would deserve the gallows. To be sure, the world now respects me. But if it really knew me, it would spit on me; for I would deserve beheading.
--Martin Luther, Luther's Works 22:403

A Place I Love

Not many people realize that Crossway, where I happily work, is a not-for-profit, a 501c(3)--one implication of which is that a key to our sustained existence is support from those who believe in what we are doing.

If you have benefited from the work of Crossway, it might be worth considering whether this organization is worthy of an according token of support. It would be a meaningful way for you to partner with us in the ministry we believe God has entrusted to us, especially as we try to get back in the saddle as a company in the wake of the building being flooded two weeks ago. Here is a link by which you could do so.

I loved and respected Crossway as an outsider. I love and respect this place much more now.

06 May 2013

03 May 2013

Everything Lovely Is in Him

I am immersed in Edwards this year so the blog will be receiving a heavier dose than normal of the skinny genius who left us with a fuller picture of the beauty of God than any other human being in history (Augustine and von Balthasar rival but do not surpass him in this, I think).

In 1740 Edwards preached a sermon devoted exclusively to the children in the congregation, those up to age 14. He simplified his language but it is the same theologically rich vision of the loveliness of God.

The bulk of the sermon lists reasons why children should love Jesus. Here is the first.
There is no love so great and so wonderful as that which is in the heart of Christ. He is one that delights in mercy; he is ready to pity those that are in suffering and sorrowful circumstances; one that delights in the happiness of his creatures. The love and grace that Christ has manifested does as much exceed all that which is in this world as the sun is brighter than a candle. Parents are often full of kindness towards their children, but that is no kindness like Jesus Christ's. . . .

Everything that is lovely in God is in him, and everything that is or can be lovely in any man is in him: for he is man as well as God, and he is the holiest, meekest, most humble, and every way the most excellent man that ever was. 
--Jonathan Edwards, 'Children Ought to Love the Lord Jesus Christ,' in Works, Yale ed., 22:171-72