27 April 2020

You Shall Have Strength Enough

William Bridge, preaching in 1648 on union with Christ out of Galatians 2:20:
If Christ be in you, then why should you not venture upon any work or service for God, although it do lie beyond you, and beyond your strength, and expect large and great things from him?

You say, sometimes, you would do such or such a thing for God, but you have no strength to do it.

But if Christ be in you, and really united unto your soul, then surely you shall have strength enough, and you may expect large and great things from him.

Therefore, venture upon work and service for God; yea, although they do lie beyond your present strength, be not unwilling thereunto, but expect great things from God, because Christ is really in you. 
–William Bridge, "The Spiritual Life and In-Being of Christ in All Believers, in Works, 1:380

07 April 2020

Who He Is

I am gentle and lowly in heart. –Jesus

In summer 2013 I read Thomas Goodwin on the heart of Christ. I still haven't picked myself up off the ground.

Over these past seven years I've been immersed in the Puritans, especially Goodwin but also extended seasons in Sibbes and Bunyan. I've done this alongside my dear friend Drew Hunter, who has been my constant companion on this journey into the heart of Jesus under Goodwin's coaching.

When the pressure hits a certain point, volcanoes have to erupt; and I hit a point a few years ago when I couldn't hold back the urge to put on paper what Goodwin and Co. have given me--messy, faltering, fearful me.

Crossway was willing to rally around it, and today the result is released. I called it Gentle and Lowly because those are Christ's almost unbelievable words in the one place in all four Gospels where he describes his heart. It's a short book with extremely short chapters, five or six pages each, because it needs thinking time. Time for wonder. For rejoicing and repenting. For tearing down the false Jesus we've erected and letting the real Christ stand forth in glory. I was astounded in my own life at how I could do a PhD in New Testament and write books and preach sermons and yet have a profoundly domesticated view of who Jesus is without realizing it. 

Basically the book is me joining some 400-year-old men in celebrating who Jesus most deeply, most naturally is, not for the innocent but the guilty, all according to the surprising testimony of Scripture.

This book is the answer to the question, So Dane, what were your 30s all about? What did you learn? 

It is not hard to find this wondrous teaching in the Puritans, and I've found it also in Edwards, Spurgeon, Warfield, and others. But we don't know it today. It's easy to find teaching on justification or adoption or the deity of Christ or the incarnation or a hundred other historic, vital doctrines.

But who's talking about his heart?

Perhaps you'd like to reconsider Jesus. Or maybe you're barely holding on. If so you can find the book at Amazon, Christian Book, Barnes and Noble, Reformation Heritage, or Westminster Bookstore (temporarily half off), or whatever retail outlet you use. Crossway has made available the introduction and chapter 1 if you'd like to take it for a test drive. I recorded the audiobook for it and that's now available too if you prefer to listen to books. Crossway also created a 14-day podcast, adapting the content.

Fatherlike he tends and spares us
Well our feeble frame he knows 
In his hand he gently bears us
Rescues us from all our foes
H. F. Lyte, 1834

20 March 2020

The All-sufficiency of Christ Everywhere We Look

I am relishing the works of the Puritan William Bridge. I had never really known anything about him, other than the sole Banner publication of his sermon series on Psalm 42 in the Puritan Paperbacks line, A Lifting Up for the Downcast, which is an amazing book.

I'm working through volume 1 of his collected works now, and am in the midst of six sermons on John 1:16 and specifically the phrase "grace upon grace." The burden of the whole series of messages is to commend the all-sufficiency of the grace of Jesus Christ for all our needs and desires.

Here's a quote from the fourth sermon.
Beloved, if Jesus Christ were not the great Lord-Keeper of his Father's wardrobe, why should those names and titles be given to him, which you find so frequently in Scripture? Cast your eyes where you will, you shall hardly look upon any thing, but Jesus Christ has taken the name of that upon himself.

If you cast your eyes up to heaven in the day, and behold the sun, he is called "the Sun of Righteousness," Mal 4:2.

If you cast your eyes in the night upon the stars, or in the morning upon the morning star, he is called "the bright Morning Star," Rev. 22:16.

If you behold your own body, he is called the head, and the church the body, Col. 1:18.

If you look upon your own clothes, he is called your raiment; "Put ye on the Lord Jesus," Rom. 13:14.

If you behold your food, he is called bread, "the Bread of Life," John 6:35.

If you look upon your houses, he is called a door, John 10:9.

If you look abroad into the fields, and behold the cattle of the fields, he is called the Good Shepherd, John 10:11; he is called the Lamb, John 1:29; he is called the fatted calf, Luke 15:23.

If you look upon the waters, he is called a fountain; the blood of Christ a fountain, Zech. 13:1.

If you look upon the stones, he is called "a Corner Stone," Isa. 28:16.

If you look upon the trees, he is called "a Tree of Life," Prov. 3:18.

What is the reason of this? Surely, not only to way-lay your thoughts, that wheresoever you look, still you should think of Christ; but to show, that in a spiritual way and sense, he is all this unto the soul.
 --William Bridge, Works, 1:261–62

11 March 2020

8 Reminders in These Days of Panic

These are strange days, days of fear, days of hysteria—in other words, days that simply bring all our latent anxieties up to the surface, anxieties that were there all along and are now made visible to others. 

What do we need to remember in these days of alarm?
1.     The World of the Bible. Now we know how the people of God felt throughout the Bible, especially the Old Testament. The prophets and many of the psalms speak to people who are caught up in mass hysteria or subject to pandemics. Maybe the current cultural moment is precisely the hermeneutic we need to read the OT deeply for the first time, which can otherwise feel so foreign.
2.     Our True Trust. Times of public panic force us to align our professed belief with our actual belief. We all say we believe God is sovereign and he is taking care of us. But we reveal our true trust when the world goes into meltdown. What's really our heart's deepest loyalty? The answer is forced to the surface in times of public alarm such as we're wading into now.
3.     Neighbor Love. When the economy is tanking, opportunities to surprise our neighbors with our confidence and joy surge forward. Now, now is the time to be outside more, to be loving more, to be showing more hospitality. Love stands out strongest when it is needed most, rarest, expected least.
4.     Family Discipleship. Our kids’ teachers are telling them to wash their hands longer. Why? Their teachers won’t tell them but it’s because they may die otherwise. Heaven and hell are staring every fourth grader in the face. That’s why they’re being told to wash their hands for 20 seconds. We have an opportunity to instill in our kids a deeper awareness of eternity than they have ever known. There is a salutary effect to all this because heaven or hell awaits every fourth grader, either taken out by a virus next month or taken out by old age decades away--10,000 years from now, the difference between dying at age 10 or age 80 will seem trivial. This is an opportunity to disciple our families into the bracing reality of eternity.
5.     Eschatological Hope. Maybe this is the end. I doubt it. But maybe. Jesus said no one knows the day or the hour. Maybe the sight of Jesus descending from heaven, robed in glory, surrounded by angels, is right around the corner. If so, hallelujah. If not, hallelujah—we’re being reminded that he will indeed return one day. Either way, let us rejoice our way through the chaos, certain of the final outcome.
6.   Invincible Providence. No infected molecule can enter your lungs, or your three-year-old's lungs, unless sent by the hand of a heavenly Father. The Heidelberg Catechism defines God's providence as "The almighty and ever present power of God by which God upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty—all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand." That truth is like an asthmatic's inhaler to our soul--calms us down, lets us breathe again.
7.     Christ's Heart. In times of turmoil, in seasons of distress, Jesus is more feelingly with his people than ever. Hebrews tells us that Jesus experienced all the horror of this world that we do, minus sin—so apparently he knows, he himself knows, way down deep, what it feels like for life to close in on you and for your world to go into meltdown. We can go to him. We can sit with him. His arm is around us, stronger than ever, right now. His tears are larger than ours.
8.     Heaven. From heaven’s shore we will see how eternally safe we were all along, even amid the global upheaval and anxieties that loom so large as we walk through them. The dangers out there are real. The cautions are wise. Our bodies are mortal, vulnerable. But our souls, for those united to a resurrected Christ, are beyond the reach of all eternal danger. How un-harm-able we are, we who are in Christ. Be at peace. All is assured.

06 February 2020

The Covenant of Redemption

John Flavel (1627–1691), with biblically infused imagination, supposes what transpired between Father and Son to accomplish our rescue.
Father: My Son, here is a company of poor miserable souls, that have utterly undone themselves, and now lie open to my justice! Justice demands satisfaction for them, or will satisfy itself in the eternal ruin of them. What shall be done for these souls?

Son: O my Father, such is my love to, and pity for them, that rather than they shall perish eternally, I will be responsible for them as their Surety: bring in all thy bills, that I may see what they owe thee; Lord, bring them all in, that there may be no after-reckonings with them; at my hand shalt thou require it. I will rather choose to suffer thy wrath than they should suffer it: upon me, my Father, upon me be all their debt.

Father: But, my Son, if thou undertake for them, thou must reckon to pay the last mite, expect no abatements; if I spare them, I will not spare thee.

Son: Content, Father, let it be so; charge it all upon me, I am able to discharge it: and though it prove a kind of undoing to me, though it impoverish all my riches, empty all my treasures, yet I am content to undertake it.
Flavel concludes:
Blush, ungrateful believers, O let shame cover your faces; judge in yourselves now, hath Christ deserved that you should stand with him for trifles, that you should shrink at a few petty difficulties, and complain, this is hard, and that is harsh?

O if you knew the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in this his wonderful condescension for you, you could not do it.
--John Flavel, "The Fountain of Life," in Works, 1:61

I reflect on this heart of the Father and the Son in this book, releasing in two months.