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

02 May 2013

How Rich and Adequate Is the Provision

What do you say to a woman whose only son has just died? Nothing, at first. We weep with those who weep. But if they ask for counsel there is one thing above all else we can do: point to Christ, the great Sympathizer and Lover of the grieving. This is what Jonathan Edwards did for six pages in a 1751 letter to Mary Pepperrell, whose son had just died.

Those who know something of Edwards' life will note that hell had just recently broken loose over his own life.
We see then, dear Madam, how rich and how adequate is the provision, which God has made for our consolation, in all our afflictions, in giving us a Redeemer of such glory and such love, especially, when it is considered, what were the ends of this great manifestation of beauty and love in his death.

He suffered that we might be delivered. His soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death, to take away the sting of sorrow, and to impart everlasting consolation. He was oppressed and afflicted, that we might be supported. He was overwhelmed in the darkness of death, that we might have the light of life. He was cast into the furnace of God's wrath, that we might drink of the rivers of his pleasures. His soul was overwhelmed with a flood of sorrow, that our hearts might be overwhelmed with a flood of eternal joy.

Death may deprive us of our friends here, but it cannot deprive us of our best Friend. . . . Therefore, in this we may be confident, though the earth be removed, in him we shall triumph with everlasting joy. Now, when storms and tempests arise, we may resort to him, who is a hiding-place from the storm, and a covert from the tempest. When we thirst, we may come to him, who is as rivers of water in a dry place. When we are weary, we may go to him, who is as a shadow of a great rock in a weary land.
--Jonathan Edwards, in Michael Haykin, ed., A Sweet Flame: Piety in the Letters of Jonathan Edwards (Reformation Heritage, 2007), 129-30

01 May 2013

Luther's God

The final words of Roland Bainton's celebrated biography of Luther--
In his religion he was a Hebrew, not a Greek fancying gods and goddesses disporting themselves about some limpid pool or banqueting upon Olympus. The God of Luther, as of Moses, was the God who inhabits the storm clouds and rides on the wings of the wind. At his nod the earth trembles, and the people before him are as a drop in the bucket. He is a God of majesty and power, inscrutable, terrifying, devastating, and consuming in his anger.
Yet the All Terrible is the All Merciful too. 'Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord . . .' But how shall we know this? In Christ, only in Christ. In the Lord of life, born in the squalor of a cow stall and dying as a malefactor under the desertion and the derision of men, crying unto God and receiving for answer only the trembling of the earth and the blinding of the sun, even by God forsaken, and in that hour taking to himself and annihilating our iniquity, trampling down the hosts of hell and disclosing within the wrath of the All Terrible the love that will not let us go. No longer did Luther tremble at the rustling of a wind-blown leaf, and instead of calling upon St. Anne he declared himself able to laugh at thunder and jagged bolts from out of the storm.
This was what enabled him to utter such words as these: 'Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.'
--Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (Hendrickson, 1977), 401