Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The futility of mortification for the unregenerate

Chapter VII of The Mortification of Sin in the Believer focuses on some universal truths about mortification, some general rules as it were. The author, John Owen, focuses on the inability of unregenerate persons to mortify sin. Essentially, mortification of sins is a work of the Spirit and, to those who have no interest in the Spirit, Owen determines that they are without the ability to mortify their sins.

Unless a man be a believer, -- that is, one that is truly ingrafted into Christ, -- he can never mortify any one sin; I do not say, unless he know himself to be so, but unless indeed he be so.

Mortification is the work of believers ... An unregenerate man may do something like it; by the work itself, so as it may be acceptable with God, he can never perform ... There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.

It is true, it is, it will be, required of every person whatever that hears the law or gospel preached, that he mortify sin. It is his duty, but it is not his immediate duty; it is his duty to do it, but to do it in God's way ...

A man may easier see without eyes, speak without a tongue, than truly mortify one sin without the Spirit. ... All attempts, then, for mortification of any lust, without an interest in Christ, are vain. Many men that are galled with and for sin, the arrows of Christ for conviction, by the preaching of the word, or some affliction having been made sharp in their hearts, do vigorously set themselves against this or that particular lust, wherewith their consciences have been most disquieted or perplexed. But, poor creatures! they labour in the fire, and their work consumeth ...

I say, then, mortification is not the present business of unregenerate men. God calls them not to it as yet; conversion is their work, -- the conversion of the whole soul, -- not the mortification of this or that particular lust. ...

This is that I aim at: unless a man be regenerate, unless he be a believer, all attempts that he can make for mortification, be they never so specious and promising, -- all means he can use, let him follow them with never so much diligence, earnestness, watchfulness, and intention of mind and spirit, -- are to no purpose. In vain shall he use many remedies; he shall not be healed.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Some quotes from the Application section of Jesus Christ the Same Yesterday Today and Forever

The following quotes are gleaned from the Application section of Jonathan Edwards' sermon entitled Jesus Christ the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever. They are found in the fifth sermon of the compilation called Altogether Lovely (Jonathan, Edwards. Altogether Lovely Jonathan Edwards on the glory and excellency of Jesus Christ. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997).

The need for One who would not fail: It appeared, therefore, that we stood in need of a surety that was unchangeable, and could not fail in his work. Christ, whom God appointed to this work, to be to us a second Adam, is such an one that is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and therefore was not liable to fail in his undertaking. He was sufficient to be depended on as one that would certainly stand all trials, and go through all difficulties, until he had finished the work that he had undertaken, and actually wrought out eternal redemption for us.

To those whose return to their sinful ways: Time was, when those threatenings, that Christ has denounced against sinners, were terrible things to you. And why do you make so light of them now? Is this your great Judge grown weaker than he was, and less able to fulfill his threatenings? Are you less in his hands than you were, or do you imagine that Christ is become more reconciled to sin, and has not such a disposition to execute vengeance for it as he had?

To those whose love has grown cold:There are many such here, as I charitably hope, and many of them I fear have been guilty of great declension in religion. Formerly they were lively and animated in religion, now they are dull and indifferent. Formerly their hearts went up on high after God, but now after the world. They carried themselves for a while very exemplary, but have since behaved in such a manner as to wound religion. Why will you be guilty of such a departure from your Redeemer, who changes not with regard to you? His love he formerly manifested towards you, but it does not change. It has ever held up to the same height. His faithfulness never has failed to you. Why then does your love so languish towards him, and why are you so unfaithful to him? He keeps up the same care and watchfulness towards you, to preserve you, to provide for you, to defend you from your enemies, and why will you suffer your care and strictness to serve and please Christ, and honor him, to fail in any measure?

To those who have returned to the world: How much is he neglected, how much is he dropped out of people’s common discourse and conversation! How have many of you left off earnestly following after Christ, to pursue after the world. One to pursue after riches, another to be engrossed by amusement and diversion, another by fine clothes and gay apparel. And all sorts, young and old, have gone their way wandering in a great measure from Christ: as though Christ was not as excellent now as he was then, as though his grace and dying love were not as wonderful now as they were then, as though Christ were not now as much preferable to the world, as worthy to be loved, and to be praised, to be thought of, and talked of; and as though he was not as worthy that we should be concerned to honor him, and live to his praise, as ever he was. If Christ be as much altered as the town is altered, he is altered very much indeed. Are we so foolish as to think that he, that is the same yesterday, today, and forever, is so much altered from what he was three years ago?

Christ is as accepting as He is inviting: It shows that if you come to Christ, he will surely prove to be the same in accepting that he is in inviting. Christ will be consistent with himself. He will not appear one way in calling and inviting you, and then another way in his treatment of you when you come to accept of his invitation. Christ will not appear with two faces, with a pleasant winning face in inviting, and with a frowning countenance in his treatment of persons that come at his call. For he is ever the same. You see that Christ is exceedingly gracious and sweet in his invitations. And he surely will be as gracious and sweet in his acceptance of you, if you close with his call.

Encouragement for the sick: Here is great encouragement for persons who are sick to look to Christ for healing, and for their near friends to carry their case to Christ; for how ready was Christ, when on earth, to help those that looked to him under such difficulties! And how sufficient did he appear to be for it, commonly healing by laying on his hand, or by speaking a word! And we read of his healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. Persons under the most terrible and inveterate diseases were often healed. And Christ is the same still.

His love is the same: You may from this doctrine see the unchangeableness of his love. And therefore, when you consider how great love he seemed to manifest, when he yielded himself up to God a sacrifice for you, in his agony and bloody sweat in the garden, and when he went out to the place of his crucifixion bearing his own cross, you may rejoice that his love now is the same that it was then.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Just In Time For Easter Week

From DeYoung's Blog, I've heard this clip once before, but not seen the video along with it. Nice touch.

Words, rich with meaning

I'm in the process of reading through 1 & 2 Thessalonians in my devotional time. I am also reading Leon Morris' Tyndale New Testament Commentary alongside. I recently read the first passage; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-3.


1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace.

The Thessalonians' Faith and Example

2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Morris, in his commentary, points out the significance and rich meaning of several words in this opening to 1 Thessalonians.Speaking of their "labor of love", Morris writes "Paul means more than small deeds of kindness done without of hope of reward. The word kopos denotes laborious toil, unceasing hardship borne for love's sake." That exposition put me in my place; often I look to my small deeds as heroic sacrifice for Christ. And yet, the call is to unceasing and laborious working for Christ.

Morris also discusses the steadfastness of hope. "Hypomone, rendered endurance [or steadfastness], means not a negative, passive acquiescence, but an active, manly endurance; 'not the resignation of the passive sufferer, so much as the fortitude of the stout-hearted soldier' ." I'm not here to patiently 'get through' life, but to endure with courage and strength.

Morris' explanation of key words and phrases is helping my understanding as I go through these epistles. They are powerful words, rich with meaning, inspired by the Power, and the Source of all meaning; God.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mortification of Sin in Believers - Chapter 5 Summary

Chapter 5

I. Show what it is to mortify any sin, and that both negatively and positively, that we be no mistaken in the foundation.

II. Give general directions for such things as without which it will be utterly impossible for any one to get any sin truly and spiritually mortified.

III. Draw out the particulars whereby this is to be done; in the whole carrying on this consideration, that it is not of the doctrine of mortification in general, but only in reference to the particular case before proposed, that I am treating.

I. Show what it is to mortify any sin, and that both negatively and positively, that we be no mistaken in the foundation.
  1. To mortify a sin is not utterly to kill, root it out, and destroy it, that it should have no more hold at all nor residence in our hearts.
  2. I think I need not say it is not the dissimulation of a sin.
  3. The mortification of sin consists not in the improvement of a quiet, sedate nature.
  4. A sin is not mortified when it is only diverted.
  5. Occasional conquests of sin do not amount to a mortifying of it. There are two occasions or seasons wherein a man who is contending with any sin may seem to himself to have mortified it:
[1.] When it hath had some sad eruption, to the disturbance of his peace, terror of his conscience, dread of scandal, and evident provocation of God. This awakens and stirs up all that is in the man, and amazes him, fills him with abhorrency of sin, and himself for it; sends him to God, makes him cry out as for life, to abhor his lust as hell, and to set himself against it.

[2.] In a time of some judgement, calamity, or pressing affliction; the heart is then taken up with thoughts and contrivances of flying from the present troubles, fears, and dangers.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Simplicity of God

I was reading Kevin DeYoung's blog today and came across this thought provoking post. I've copied it in its entirety for you all to enjoy. I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

“We all believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths,” says the Belgic Confession (1561), “that there is a single and simple spiritual being, whom we call God” (Article 1).

God is simple.

This is an important truth few Christians have thought about. By “simple” I don’t mean God is dim-witted. Nor do I mean that God is easy to understand. Simple, as a divine attribute, is the opposite of composite. The simplicity of God means God is not made up of goodness, mercy, justice, and power. He is goodness, mercy, justice, and power. Every attribute of God is identical with his essence.

So you cannot say love is more central to God than sovereignty, or vice-versa. Christians make this mistake all the time. You’ll hear people say, “God may have justice or wrath, but he is love.” The implication: love is more central to the nature of God. But God is a simple being, not a composite being. So he is righteousness in the same way he is love.

Herman Bavinck explains:

The simplicity is of great importance, nevertheless, for our understanding of God. It is not only taught in Scripture (where God is called “light,” “life,” and “love”) but also automatically follows from the idea of God and is necessarily implied in other attributes. Simplicity here is the antonym of “compounded.” If God is composed of parts, like a body, or composed ofgenus (class) and differentiae (attributes of different species belonging to the same genus), substance and accidents, matter and form, potentiality and actuality, essence and existence, then his perfection, oneness, independence, and immutability cannot be maintained. Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2, 176.

In other words, the simplicity of God not only prevents us from ranking certain attributes higher than others, it allows God to have “a distinct and infinite life of his own within himself” (177). He is not an abstract Absolute Idea who happens to have love, wisdom, and holiness, as if we first conceive of a being called God and then relate qualities to him. Rather, God in his very essence, within himself and by himself, is love, wisdom, and holiness. God is whatever he has, for he has nothing that he is not.

So remember, “God is simple.” His attributes do not stick to him; he is what they are.

O my! O my!

At Peter Cockrell's blog Already Not Yet, I came across this post. As I am an English teacher who has to read works of fiction that are part of my student's curriculum, I appreciate finding Christ and theology in the works that we are studying. This is a good example by Peter on just such a thing.

Among other things (serious masters reading), when enjoying a break from ministry here in Rwanda, I’m reading Kenneth Graham’s ‘Wind in the Willows.’ I love the colourful descriptions of the country-side and close friendships.

One line caught my attention near the beginning of the book, and literally took my breath away. Mole is unpacking a picnic basket, filled with all kinds of, previously un-experienced, morsels and delicacies. In shear delight he exclaims, “‘O my! O my!’ at each fresh revelation.”

It struck me that this is exactly the kind of fitting response of the believer, who, upon opening the word of God is struck over and over again with fresh revelations of the Saviour. I don’t think we begin to worship worthily until revelation of God and the gospel of Christ causes us to gasp a fresh, ‘O my! O my!’ or some such spontaneous ejaculation of praise.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mortification of Sin in Believers - Chapter 4 Summary

Chapter 4

III. That the life, vigour, and comfort of our spiritual life depend much on our mortification of sin.

Strength and comfort, and power and peace, in our walking with God, are the things of our desires. Now, all these do much depend on a constant course of mortification, concerning which observe, --
  1. I do not say they proceed from it, as though they were necessarily tied to it.
  2. In the ways instituted by God for to give us life, vigour, courage, and consolation, mortification is not one of the immediate causes of it. They are the privileges of our adoption made known to our souls that give us immediately these things.
  3. In our ordinary walking with God, and in an ordinary course of his dealing with us, the vigour and comfort of our spiritual lives depend much on our mortification, not only as a "causa sine qua non," but as a thing that hath an effectual influence thereinto.
Every unmortified sin will certainly do two things:--
  1. It will weaken the soul, and deprive it of its vigour. 1st. It untunes and unframes the heart itself, by entangling its affections. 2dly. It fills the thoughts with contrivances about it. 3dly. It breaks out and actually hinders duty.
  2. It will darken the soul, and deprive it of its comfort and peace. As sin weakens, so it darkens the soul. It is a cloud, a thick cloud, that spreads itself over the face of the soul, and intercepts all the beams of God's love and favour. It takes away all sense of the privilege of our adoption; and if the soul begins to gather up thoughts of consolation, sin quickly scatters them: of which afterward.
  • Mortification prunes all the graces of God, and makes room for them in our hearts to grow.
  • As to our peace; as there is nothing that hath any evidence of sincerity without it, so I know nothing that hath such an evidence of sincerity in it; -- which is no small foundation of our peace.
  • Mortification is the soul's vigorous opposition to self, wherein sincerity is most evident.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Piper on studying theology

I came across this quote by John Piper on Justin Taylor's blog. It comes from some comments he makes about a book entitled The Trials of Theology.

“Is studying theology perilous?”

Yes. But less perilous than ignorance.

Simple. Profound. Very True!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Christ's aims as Mediator

From the fifth sermon, Jesus Christ the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever, in Altogether Lovely (Jonathan, Edwards. Altogether Lovely Jonathan Edwards on the glory and excellency of Jesus Christ. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997).
Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, as the end which he aims at in his office. His supreme end in it is the glory of God, as particularly in vindicating the honor of his majesty, justice, and holiness, and the honor of his holy law. For this end did he undertake to stand as a Mediator between God and man, and to suffer for men; that the honor of God’s justice, majesty, and law may be vindicated in his sufferings. And he also undertook the office to glorify the free grace of God. And his special end in his undertaking was the salvation and happiness of the elect. These two ends he has in his eye in all parts of the work of his office. And these two ends he unchangeably aims at. These he sought on entering into covenant with the Father from eternity. These he has sought from the beginning of the world to this time, and these he ever will seek. He does not sometimes pursue one end, and then alter his mind and pursue another. But he ever pursues the same ends.

The two unchangeable ends that Christ aims at in His office as Mediator: the glory of God as seen in his justice and the offered free grace, and, the salvation and happiness of the elect. Thus, he reconciled God to man, and man to God. What a Saviour!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Generation of Bandwagon Jumpers

Great article from DeYoung's blog. For the post in its entirety click the title of this post.

In other words, learn from good teachers, but don’t idolize them. Read your favorite authors, but read lots of other authors too. Download the gifted preachers, but honor your pastor first. Go to the great conferences, but realize that the mission of God and the promises of God are with your local church. Be thankful for strong preaching, good theology, warm hearts, and visionary leaders. But, most of all, be thankful for sovereign work of the Spirit, the redemptive work of the Son, and the unchanging, everlasting love of the Father. Let’s keep our noses in the text and our eyes on Christ and let the bandwagon go where it will.

Altogether Lovely - Jesus Christ the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever

The fifth sermon in Altogether Lovely (Jonathan, Edwards. Altogether Lovely Jonathan Edwards on the glory and excellency of Jesus Christ. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997) is Jesus Christ the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever

Here is a mind-rattling, faith-preserving, heart-warming excerpt from that sermon:
He undertook the office of a Mediator from eternity with delight. He then delighted in the thoughts of saving sinners, and he still delights in it. He never has altered from the disposition to accomplish it. When man actually fell and became a rebel and an enemy, an enemy to his Father and himself; still it was his delight to do the part of a Mediator for him. And when he came into the world, and came to his last agony, when the bitter cup that he was to drink was set before him, and he had an extraordinary view of it, so that the sight of it made “his soul exceeding sorrowful even unto death,” and caused him to “sweat as it were great drops of blood;” still he retained his disposition to do the part of a Mediator for sinners, and delighted in the thoughts of it. So, even when he was enduring the cross, the salvation of sinners was a joy set before him, Heb. 12:2.

I can fathom that in His office as Mediator, Christ never ceases to fulfill His duties. But the fact that He has always delighted in that office and those said duties is incredible. Actually, incredible falls far short; it is beyond comprehension. As Edwards explains this he goes through various stages: Christ delighted to be a Mediator in eternity past; He delighted in it when mankind fell; and He even delighted in it in His life and death. What? Seriously? He delighted in His role as Mediator when He satisfied the wrath and justice of God? He delighted becoming sin for the sinful? He delighted becoming a curse for us? Is Edwards serious? I was riveted as I read this section. And as I was reading the Scripture verse Edwards would use to make his point came into my peripheral vision. Of course! The joy set before Him! The joy set before Him! Hebrews 12:1-2 is as follows, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

Absolutely astounding! Thank you Jesus!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mean Thoughts of God

I liked this from The Puritan's Woodshop:

It is from mean thoughts of God that you are not convinced that you have by your sins deserved his eternal wrath and curse. If you had any proper sense of the infinite majesty, greatness, and holiness of God, you would see, that to be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, and there to have no rest day nor night, is not a punishment more than equal to the demerit of sin.-You would not have so good a thought of yourselves; you would not be so clean and pure in your own eyes; you would see what vile, unworthy, hell-deserving, creatures you are. If you had not little thoughts of God, and were to consider how you have set yourselves against him-how you have slighted him, his commandments and threatenings, and despised his goodness and mercy, how often you have disobeyed, how obstinate you have been, how your whole lives have been filled up with sin against God-you would not wonder that God threatens to destroy you for ever, but would wonder that he hath not done it before now.

-Jonathan Edwards, The Works of, Volume 2, From a sermon on divine sovereignty

Edwards’ sharp reproof cuts to the heart. Too often, most often, we think highly of ourselves while our perspective on God waxes cold with contempt because of our little thoughts of God. While it is true that we need to be saved, we need to be saved by God, not from ourselves, but from God Himself.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lloyd-Jones on pride and biographies

"The best way of checking any tendency to pride-pride in your preaching or in anything else that you may do or may be-is to read on Sunday nights the biography of some great saint. It does not matter which, or to which century or branch of the church he belonged as long as he was a saint ... if that does not bring you to earth then I pronounce you are ... beyond hope." (Lloyd-Jones, David Martyn. Preaching and Preachers. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publ. House, 1971. 256)

I need to read more biographies.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lloyd-Jones on preaching

"I say this because I believe, as I have been indicating, that in preaching the message should always arise out of the Scriptures directly and not out of the formulations of men, even the best men."

Interestingly and surprisingly, Lloyd-Jones is not singularly for a systematic verse-by-verse or passage-by-passage expositional preaching of Scripture. He does believe, as the above quote indicates, that all preaching should be expositional. However, he is fine with, and often participated in, preaching on topics derived from Scripture. What he was against was preaching that was initiated with man's ideas to which a preacher would add Scriptures he felt were relevant. The preacher should begin with the Word and build his sermon on it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Why We Pray

Ben Patterson on why we need to pray:

So we must pray, because the work of the church is God’s work, not ours! We must also pray because prayer actually gets God’s work done. That’s the way prayer is seen in heaven. Ponder this scene in the throne room of heaven: An angel stands before God holding a golden censer, burning incense that is mixed with the prayers of the saints on earth. These prayers go up before God, and then are mixed with fire from the altar and hurled back down on earth. The amazing result is cataclysm on earth, “peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake” (Rev. 8:5).
Now picture the saints on earth, huddled in their prayer meetings. If their experience of prayer is anything like mine can be, they may often feel their prayers are barely making it to the ceiling, or are dribbling out and rustling across the floor like dry leaves. Prayer doesn’t frequently bring with it the sensation of cosmic power unleashed, what poet Georg Herbert called “reversed thunder.” But that is exactly what is happening! The whole creation is shaken by the prayers of the saints. Something is happening as they pray. Work is being done, whether they see it or not. Deepening Your Conversation, 24-25

Impulses to Pray

Having just finished Preaching and Preachers by David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, I thought I would share a few quotes from this excellent book. Over the next few days, I will post some thoughts and ideas by Lloyd-Jones along with some thoughts of my own.

This first quote is great advice for any Christian who realizes they need to pray more often; is there any Christian who doesn't? Lloyd-Jones simply implores the preacher, and I extend this to every believer, to pray whenever they get an impulse to. It sounds pretty simple, right? But so many of us, certainly myself, don't do this. Our prayer lives would improve significantly if on every impulse, even if it is just briefly, we responded with prayer.

Here is Lloyd-Jones on prayers and their impulses:
"Above all—and this I regard as most important of all—always respond to every impulse to pray. The impulse to pray may come when you are reading or when you are battling with a text. I would make an absolute law of this—always obey such an impulse. Where does it come from? It is the work of the Holy Spirit; it is a part of the meaning of, ‘Work out your won salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure’ (Phil 2:12-13). This often leads to some of the most remarkable experiences of the minister. So never resist, never postpone it, never push it aside because you are busy. Give yourself to it, yield to it; and you will find not only that you have not been wasting time with respect to the matter with which you are dealing, but that actually it has helped you greatly in that respect. You will experience and ease and a facility in understanding what you are reading, in thinking, in ordering matter for a sermon, in writing, in everything, which is quite astonishing. Such a call to prayer must never be regarded as a distraction; always respond to it immediately and thank God if it happens to you frequently. (Lloyd-Jones, David Martyn. Preaching and Preachers. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publ. House, 1971. 170-171)

I hope this is helpful. I am going to work at this. An immediate response to an impulse to pray would be a great discipline for me.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mortification of Sin in Believers - Chapter 3 Summary

Chapter 3

II. He only is sufficient for this work; all ways and means without him are as a thing of nought; and he is the great efficient of it, -- he works in us as he pleases.

1.In vain do men seek other remedies; they shall not be healed by them.

Now, the reasons why Papists can never, with all their endeavours, truly mortify any one sin, amongst others, are, --
  1. 1.Because many of the ways and means they use and insist upon for this end were never appointed of God for that purpose.
  2. 2.Because those things that are appointed of God as means are not used by them in their due place and order, -- such as are praying, fasting, watching, meditation, and the like.

2.It is, then, the work of the Spirit. For, --
  1. 1.He is promised of God to be given unto us to do this work.
  2. 2.We have all our mortification from the gift of Christ, and all the gifts of Christ are communicated to us and given us by the Spirit of Christ: "Without Christ we can do nothing," John 15:5.

The resolution of one or two questions will now lead me nearer to what I principally intend.

The first is, How doth the Spirit mortify sin? I answer, in general, three ways:--
  1. By causing our hearts to abound in grace and the fruits that are contrary to the flesh, and the fruits thereof and principles of them. For, saith the apostle, "These are contrary one to another," verse 17; so that they cannot both be in the same subject, in any intense of high degree. This "renewing of us by the Holy Ghost," as it is called, Tit. 3:5, is one great way of mortification; he causes us to grow, thrive, flourish, and abound in those graces which are contrary, opposite, and destructive to all the fruits of the flesh, and to the quiet or thriving of indwelling sin itself.
  2. By a real physical efficiency on the root and habit of sin, for the weakening, destroying, and taking it away. Hence he is called a "Spirit of judgement and burning," Isa. 4:4, really consuming and destroying our lusts. He takes away the stony heart by an almighty efficiency; for as he begins the work as to its kind, so he carries it on as to its degrees. He is the fire which burns up the very root of lust.
  3. He brings the cross of Christ into the heart of a sinner by faith, and gives us communion with Christ in his death, and fellowship in his sufferings: of the manner whereof more afterward.

Secondly. If this be the work of the Spirit alone, how is it that we are exhorted to it? -- seeing the Spirit of God only can do it, let the work be left wholly to him.
  1. [1.] It is no otherwise the work of the Spirit but as all graces and good works which are in us are his. He "works in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure," Phil. 2:13; he works "all our works in us," Isa. 26:12, -- "the work of faith with power," 2 Thess. 1:11, Col. 2:12; he causes us to pray, and is a "Spirit of supplication," Rom. 8:26, Zech. 12:10; and yet we are exhorted, and are to be exhorted, to all these.
  2. [2.] He doth not so work our mortification in us as not to keep it still an act of our obedience.

The Holy Ghost works in us and upon us, as we are fit to be wrought in and upon; that is, so as to preserve our own liberty and free obedience. He works upon our understandings, wills, consciences, and affections, agreeably to their own natures; he works in us and with us, not against us or without us; so that his assistance is an encouragement as to the facilitating of the work, and no occasion of neglect as to the work itself.

This is the saddest warfare that any poor creature can be engaged in. A soul under the power of conviction from the law is pressed to fight against sin, but hath no strength for the combat.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Levels of Doctrine - Great post by Justin Taylor

This was posted today at one of my favourite blogs, Justin Taylor's at The Gospel Coalition.

In answer to that question, I’ve found Erik Thoennes’s perspective to be thoughtful and helpful. The following is from his first essay on Doctrine in the ESV Study Bible.

The ability to discern the relative importance of theological beliefs is vital for effective Christian life and ministry. Both the purity and unity of the church are at stake in this matter. The relative importance of theological issues can fall within four categories:

  1. absolutes define the core beliefs of the Christian faith;

  2. convictions, while not core beliefs, may have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of the church;

  3. opinions are less-clear issues that generally are not worth dividing over; and

  4. questions are currently unsettled issues.

These categories can be best visualized as concentric circles, similar to those on a dart board, with the absolutes as the “bull’s-eye”:

Where an issue falls within these categories should be determined by weighing the cumulative force of at least seven considerations:

  1. biblical clarity;

  2. relevance to the character of God;

  3. relevance to the essence of the gospel;

  4. biblical frequency and significance (how often in Scripture it is taught, and what weight Scripture places upon it);

  5. effect on other doctrines;

  6. consensus among Christians (past and present); and

  7. effect on personal and church life.

These criteria for determining the importance of particular beliefs must be considered in light of their cumulative weight regarding the doctrine being considered. For instance, just the fact that a doctrine may go against the general consensus among believers (see item 6) does not necessarily mean it is wrong, although that might add some weight to the argument against it. All the categories should be considered collectively in determining how important an issue is to the Christian faith. The ability to rightly discern the difference between core doctrines and legitimately disputable matters will keep the church from either compromising important truth or needlessly dividing over peripheral issues.

(Diagram copyright 2009 Crossway Bibles. Posted with permission.)

Another helpful resource on this is Albert Mohler’s A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity. Dr. Mohler distinguishes between first-order doctrines (a denial of which represents the eventual denial of Christianity itself), second-order doctrines (upon which Bible-believing Christians may disagree, but they create significant boundaries between believers, whether as distinct congregations or denominations), and third-order doctrines (upon which Christians may disagree, but yet remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations).

Finally, I’ve been helped by Michael Wittmer’s excellent book, Don’t Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus Is Not Enough. He classifies Christian beliefs into three categories: what you must believe, (2) what you must not reject, and (3) what you should believe. He illustrates this as follows:

In a 2008 interview with Dr. Wittmer, I asked him to explain these categories:

These categories are my attempt to describe the relative importance of Christian beliefs, distinguishing between those beliefs essential for salvation and those essential for a healthy Christian worldview.

In the book of Acts, the bare minimum that a person must know and believe to be saved was that he was a sinner and that Jesus saved him from his sin. As Paul told the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:29-31; cf. 10:43). This is enough to counter the postmodern innovator argument that we can be saved without knowing and believing in Jesus.

But any thinking convert will inquire further about this Jesus. While he may not know much more at the point of conversion than Jesus is the Lord who has saved him, he will quickly learn about Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, deity and humanity, and relation to the other two members of the Trinity. Anyone who rejects these core doctrines should fear for their soul.

According to the Athanasian Creed, whoever does not believe in the Trinity and the two natures of Jesus is damned. However, since it seems possible for a child to come to faith without knowing much about the Trinity or the hypostatic union (this is likely not the place where most parents begin), I take the Creed’s warning in a more benign way—that we do not need to know and believe in the Trinity and two natures of Christ to be saved, but that anyone who knowingly rejects them cannot be saved.

The final category is important doctrines which genuine Christians may unfortunately misconstrue. I think that every Christian should believe that Scripture is God’s Word, know its story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation, and know something about the nature of God, what it means to be human, and what Jesus is doing through his church. However, many people have been genuine Christians without knowing or believing these things (though their ignorance or disbelief in these facts significantly diminished their Christian faith).

Thus, I believe that every doctrine in this diagram is crucially important for sound Christian faith. And some are so important that we cannot even be saved without them.

Diagram posted with permission of Zondervan.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Safety, Fullness, and Sweet Refreshment in Christ

There has been 3 previous posts on this sermon by Edwards. The introductory post was first, followed by posts on the first and second propositions. This post concerns itself with Edwards' third proposition. As well as online, this sermon can be found in Altogether Lovely (Jonathan, Edwards. Altogether Lovely Jonathan Edwards on the glory and excellency of Jesus Christ. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997).

The third proposition is as follows:

There is quiet rest and full refreshment in Christ for sinners that are weary and heavy laden with sin.

Sinners, according to Edwards, fall into two categories in terms of weariness and sin; those who are wearied with sin and those who are weary of sin. The first group, wearied with sin, are "are not wearied with sin from any dislike to it, or dislike of it. There is no sinner that is burdened with sin in the sense in which a godly man carries his indwelling sin ... The unregenerate man has nothing of this nature, for sin is yet his delight, he dearly loves it. If he be under convictions, his love to sin in general is not mortified, he loves it as well as ever, he hides it still as a sweet morsel under his tongue." Rather, those weary with sin are 'awakened sinners'. "Awakened sinners are weary with sin, but not properly weary of it. Therefore, they are only weary of the guilt of sin, the guilt that cleaves to their consciences is that great burden. God has put the sense of feeling into their consciences, that were before as seared flesh, and it is guilt that pains them. The filthiness of sin and its evil nature, as it is an offence to a holy, gracious, and glorious God, is not a burden to them. But it is the connexion between sin and punishment, between sin and God's wrath, that makes it a burden." Or to put it bluntly, as Edwards can do with the best of them, the awakened sinners are "burdened with their sins, not because there is any odiousness in them, but because there is hell in them."

For Edwards, not unexpectedly, Christ is the answer to that burden. First, "He takes away the guilt of sin, from which the soul before saw no way how it was possible to be freed, and which, if it was not removed, led to eternal destruction. When the sinner comes to Christ, it is all at once taken away, and the soul is left free, it is lightened of its burden, it is delivered from its bondage, and is like a bird escaped from the snare of the fowler." And secondly, "Christ puts strength and a principle of new life into the weary soul that comes to him." Finally, Edwards pronounces that "Christ gives to those who come to him such comfort and pleasure as are enough to make them forget all their former labour and travail."

Edwards asks the sinner to consider a few things. Firstly, that "there is no remedy but in Jesus Christ." Second, "that Christ is a remedy at hand." His final consideration for the sinner is great news. "Christ is not only a remedy for your weariness and trouble, but he will give you an abundance of the contrary, joy and delight."

I will stop there, though Edwards goes on to admonish the saint in similar fashion to the sinners. He declares that "There are quiet rest and sweet refreshment in Christ for God's people that are weary. The saints themselves, while they remain in this imperfect state, and have so much remains of sin in their hearts, are liable still to many troubles and sorrows, and much weariness, and have often need to resort anew unto Jesus Christ for rest." He goes on with three specific cases in which Edwards proclaims the rest and refreshment in Christ applies; those under afflictions, those under persecutions, and those under buffetings of Satan. Okay, I'm done ... really.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Safety, Fullness, and Sweet Refreshment in Christ

Moving through the sermon Safety, Fullness, and Sweet Refreshment in Christ, we look into Proposition 2. The introductory post and the post on Proposition 1 can be seen at through corresponding links.

Proposition 2 states, There is provision in Christ for the satisfaction and full contentment of the needy and thirsty soul.This, remember, comes from the Scripture in Isaiah that compared Christ to a river: Each will be like a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.

Edwards describes 2 ways in which Christ is like a river. First, "It is said that Christ is a river of water, because there is such a fulness in him, so plentiful a provision for the satisfaction of the needy and longing soul. When one is extremely thirsty, though it is not a small draught of water will satisfy him, yet when he comes to a river, he finds a fulness, there he may drink full draughts. Christ is like a river, in that he has a sufficiency not only for one thirsty soul, but by supplying him the fountain is not lessened; there is not the less afforded to those who come afterwards. A thirsty man does not sensibly lessen a river by quenching his thirst."

Second, Christ is like a river in that a river " ... is continually flowing, there are fresh supplies of water coming from the fountain-head continually, so that a man may live by it, and be supplied with water all his life. So Christ is an ever-flowing fountain; he is continually supplying his people, and the fountain is not spent. They who live upon Christ, may have fresh supplies from him to all eternity; they may have an increase of blessedness that is new, and new still, and which never will come to an end."

Edwards continues his sermon by illustrating that men crave certain things. "The soul of every man necessarily craves happiness. This is an universal appetite of human nature, that is alike in the good and the bad; it is as universal as the very essence of the soul, because it necessarily and immediately flows from that essence." Edwards indicates another craving; "The soul of every man craves a happiness that is equal to the capacity of his nature. The soul of man is like a vessel; the capacity of the soul is as the largeness or contents of the vessel."

Edwards concludes this proposition by showing that Christ is the full provision for the full satisfaction and contentment of men.

  1. The excellency of Christ is such, that the discovery of it is exceedingly contenting and satisfying to the soul.
  2. The manifestation of the love of Christ gives the soul abundant contentment.
  3. There is provision for the satisfaction and contentment of the thirsty longing soul in Christ, as he is the way to the Father; not only from the fulness of excellency and grace which he has in his own person, but as by him we may come to God, may be reconciled to him, and may be made happy in his favour and love.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Reading Intelligently

From In Light of the Gospel:

Learning How To Learn (and Read)
March 3rd, 2010 by James Grant

One of the most important books I read in college was Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book. I would highly recommend the book for anyone who wants to grow in their reading and learning skills. Kim Riddlebarger, pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, CA, pointed out on his blog that they posted the audio links to a recent series of lectures by Ken Sample titled, “Learning Skills 101: Learning How To Learn.” These lectures are based on Alder’s book. I have provided the links below, but you can check out other lectures here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mortification of Sin in Believers - Chapter 2 Summary

Chapter 2

I. The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.

“Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

“And if this were the work and business of Paul, who was so incomparably exalted in grace, revelations, enjoyments, privileges, consolations, above the ordinary measure of believers, where may we possibly bottom an exemption from this work and duty whilst we are in this world? Some brief account of the reasons hereof may be given:”

1. Indwelling sin always abides whilst we are in this world; therefore it is always to be mortified. “Now, it being our duty to mortify, to be killing of sin whilst it is in us, we must be at work. He that is appointed to kill an enemy, if he leave striking before the other ceases living, doth but half his work, Gal. 6:9; Heb 12:1; 2 Cor. 7:1.”

2. Sin doth not only still abide in us, but is still acting, still labouring to bring forth the deeds of the flesh. “I shall discharge him from this duty who can bring sin to a composition, to a cessation of arms in this warfare; if it will spare him any one day, in any one duty (provided he be a person that is acquainted with the spirituality of obedience and the subtlety of sin), let him say to his soul, as to this duty, "Soul, take thy rest." The saints, whose souls breathe after deliverance from its perplexing rebellion, know there is no safety against it but in a constant warfare.”

3. Sin will not only be striving, acting, rebelling, troubling, disquieting, but if let alone, if not continually mortified, it will bring forth great, cursed, scandalous, soul-destroying sins. “There is not the best saint in the world but, if he should give over this duty, would fall into as many cursed sins as ever any did of his kind.”

4. This is one main reason why the Spirit and the new nature is given unto us, -- that we may have a principle within whereby to oppose sin and lust. “His graces, as well as his gifts, are bestowed on us to use, exercise, and trade with. Not to be daily mortifying sin, is to sin against the goodness, kindness, wisdom, grace, and love of God, who hath furnished us with a principle of doing it.”

5. Negligence in this duty casts the soul into a perfect contrary condition to that which the apostle affirms was his, 2 Cor. 4:16, "Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." “Exercise and success are the two main cherishers of grace in the heart; when it is suffered to lie still, it withers and decays: the things of it are ready to die, Rev. 3:2; and sin gets ground towards the hardening of the heart, Heb. 3:13.”

6. It is our duty to be "perfecting holiness in the fear of God," 2 Cor. 7:1; to be "growing in grace" every day, 1 Pet. 2:3, 2 Pet 3:18; to be "renewing our inward man day by day," 2 Cor. 4:16. “He who doth not kill sin in his way takes no steps towards his journey's end.”

“This, then, is the first general principle of our ensuing discourse: Notwithstanding the meritorious mortification, if I may so speak, of all and every sin the cross of Christ; notwithstanding the real foundation of universal mortification laid in our first conversion, by conviction of sin, humiliation for sin, and the implantation of a new principle opposite to it and destructive of it; -- yet sin doth so remain, so act and work in the best of believers, whilst they live in this world, that the constant daily mortification of it is all their days incumbent on them.”

There are two evils which certainly attend every unmortified professor; -- the first, in himself; the other, in respect of others:
1. In himself. Let him pretend what he will, he hath slight thoughts of sin; at least, of sins of daily infirmity. The root of an unmortified course is the digestion of sin without bitterness in the heart. When a man hath confirmed his imagination to such an apprehension of grace and mercy as to be able, without bitterness, to swallow and digest daily sins, that man is at the very brink of turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. neither is there a greater evidence of a false and rotten heart in the world than to drive such a trade.
2. To others. It hath an evil influence on them on a twofold account:--
(1.) It hardens them, by begetting in them a persuasion that they are in as good condition as the best professors.
(2.) They deceive them, in making them believe that if they can come up to their condition it shall be well with them; and so it grows an easy thing to have the great temptation of repute in religion to wrestle withal, when they may go far beyond them as to what appears in them, and yet come short of eternal life.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sin and Responsibility

From Justin Taylor's blog.

Here’s a helpful word from Tom Schreiner giving a brief New Testament overview on this question of sin and responsibility.

Even if some sins could be traced to our genetics, it would not exempt us from responsibility for such sins. The Scriptures teach that all human beings are born into this world as sons and daughters of Adam, and hence they are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). They are dead in trespasses in sins (Eph. 2:1, 5), and have no inclination to seek God or to do what is good (Rom. 3:10–11). We come into the world as those who are spiritually dead (Rom. 5:12, 15), so that death reigns over the whole human race (Rom. 5:17). Indeed, human beings are condemned by virtue of Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:16, 18). Such a radical view of sin in which we inherit a sinful nature from Adam means that sinful predispositions are part of our personalities from our inception. Hence, even if it were discovered that we are genetically predisposed to certain sinful behaviors like alcoholism or homosexuality, such discoveries would not eliminate our responsibility for our actions, nor would it suggest that such actions are no longer sinful. The Scriptures teach that we are born as sinners in Adam, while at the same time they insist we should not sin and are responsible for the sin we commit. We enter into the world as slaves of sin (Rom. 6:6, 17), but we are still morally blameworthy for capitulating to the sin that serves as our master.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mortification of Sin in Believers - Chapter 1 Summary

Chapter 1

Concerning Romans 8:13

1.Concerning the "if you mortify..."
  • the conditional is one in which there is certainty and coherence as in “If you will take such a potion or remedy, you will be well.”
  • thus there is a “certain infallible connection and coherence between true mortification and eternal life: if you use this means, you shall obtain that end; if you do mortify, you shall live.”
  • this is the main motivation of and reason for encouraging mortification

2.Mortification is a duty of believers - “The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.”

3.The principle efficient cause of the performance of this duty is the Spirit
  1. other means of mortification are vain
  2. “Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.”
4.The duty: what is meant by the body, the deeds of the body, and mortify them.

i)The body...the flesh...the old man...the body of sin
  • “The body, then, here is taken for that corruption and depravity of our natures whereof the body, in a great part, is the seat and instrument, the very members of the body being made servants unto unrighteousness thereby, Romans 6:19. It is indwelling sin, the corrupted flesh or lust, that is intended.”
  • “ ... it may synecdochically express the whole person considered as corrupted, and the seat of lusts and distempered affections.”
ii) the deeds of the body
  • the outward action is chiefly denoted but the inward causes are mainly intended
  • the causes of the deeds are to be mortified
  • Paul makes it clear that indwelling lust and sin are the fountain and principle of all sinful actions
iii) to mortify
  • a metaphorical expression - “To kill a man, or any other living thing, is to take away the principle of all his strength, vigour, and power, so that he cannot act or exert, or put forth any proper actings of his own; so it is in this case.”
  • the cross utterly mortifies the old man, but the work is to be carried on - “The intendment of the apostle in this prescription of the duty mentioned is, -- that the mortification of indwelling sin remaining in our mortal bodies, that it may not have life and power to bring forth the works or deeds of the flesh is the constant duty of believers.”
5.the promise – ye shall live
  • the life promised is opposed to the death threatened - means eternal life and perhaps Christian life as to the joy, comfort, and vigour - “The vigour, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Safety, Fullness, and Sweet Refreshment in Christ

From Altogether Lovely (Jonathan, Edwards. Altogether Lovely Jonathan Edwards on the glory and excellency of Jesus Christ. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997. 81-114)

Having given a general idea of the aims Edwards has is this sermon here, I'll move on to his first proposition. The first proposition is stated, "There is in Christ Jesus abundant foundation of peace and safety for those who are in fear and danger" (84). Edwards contends that there are two kinds of fears which men can be afflicted with; temporal and eternal. Temporal evils, of which men are afraid, can be dealt with: "But Christ is a refuge in all trouble; there is a foundation for rational support and peace in him, whatever threatens us. He, whose heart is fixed, trusting in Christ, need not be afraid of any evil tidings. "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so Christ is round about them that fear him" (84). Though these fears are real and significant, Edwards definitely emphasizes the spiritual fears over the temporal ones.

He writes, "But it is the other kind of fear and danger to which we have a principal respect; the fear and danger of God's wrath. The fears of a terrified conscience, the fearful expectation of the dire fruits of sin, and the resentment of an angry God, these are infinitely the most dreadful. If men are in danger of those things, and are not asleep, they will be more terrified than with the fears of any outward evil. Men are in a most deplorable condition, as they are by nature exposed to God's wrath; and if they are sensible how dismal their case is, will be in dreadful fears and dismal expectations" (84) It is key to note that men who do not know Christ may not fear God's wrath, but that is only because they are 'asleep' and not 'sensible' to their condition.

Regardless of the fear, temporal or spiritual, Edwards is confident that "there is abundant foundation for peace and safety in Jesus Christ". (85) He preaches several things in which Christ's provision for peace and safety can be seen:
  1. Christ has undertaken to save all such from what they fear, if they come to him.
  2. He is chosen and appointed of the Father to this work.
  3. If we are in Christ Jesus, justice and the law have its course with respect to our sins, without our hurt.
  4. Those who come to Christ, need not be afraid of God's wrath for their sins; for God's honour will not suffer by their escaping punishment and being made happy.
  5. Christ is a person so dear to the Father, that those who are in Christ need not be at all jealous of being accepted upon his account.
  6. God has given an open testimony that Christ has done and suffered enough, and that he is satisfied with it, by his raising him from the dead.
  7. Christ has the dispensation of safety and deliverance in his own hands, so that we need not fear but that, if we are united to him, we may be safe.
  8. Christ's love, and compassion, and gracious disposition, are such that we may be sure he is inclined to receive all who come to him. (85-91)

In the next post we will look into how Edwards reflects on the above points.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Blogging through Altogether Lovely Sermon #3

The third sermon in Altogether Lovely (Jonathan, Edwards. Altogether Lovely Jonathan Edwards on the glory and excellency of Jesus Christ. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997. 81-114) is entitled Safety, Fullness, and Sweet Refreshment in Christ. It takes for its Scripture reference Isaiah 32:2.
Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,
a shelter from the storm,
like streams of water in a dry place,
like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.

From this verse, Edwards observes 2 things:

1. The person who is here prophesied of and commended: the Lord Jesus Christ, the King spoken of in the preceding verse, who shall reign in righteousness.

2. The things here foretold of him, and the commendations given him.

Edwards, in his first observation, determines that the verse under consideration was indeed a prophecy about Christ. "This King is abundantly prophesied of in the Old Testament, and especially in this prophecy of Isaiah. Glorious predictions were from time to time uttered by the prophets concerning that great King who was to come: there is no subject which is spoken of in so magnificent and exalted a style by the prophets of the Old Testament, as the Messiah. They saw his day and rejoiced, and searched diligently, together with the angels, into those things." (81-2) In his second observation, Edwards expounds briefly what exactly this verse predicts about Jesus. " "He shall be a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest:" that is, he shall be the safety and defence of his people, to which they shall flee for protection in the time of their danger and trouble ... He shall be as "rivers of water in a dry place." ... Christ was typified by the river of water that issued out of the rock for the children of Israel in this desert: he is compared to a river, because there is such a plenty and fulness in him ...He is the "shadow of a great rock in a weary land." Allusion is still made to the desert of Arabia ... They who come to Christ find such rest and refreshment as the weary traveller in that hot and desolate country finds under the shadow of a great rock."(82-3)

After this introduction, Edwards clarifies the three propositions he intends to make in this address:

I. There is in Christ Jesus abundant foundation of peace and safety for those who are in fear and danger. "A man shall be a hiding-place from the wind, a covert from the tempest."

II. There is in Christ provision for the satisfaction, and full contentment, of the needy and thirsty soul. He shall be "as rivers of water in a dry place."

III. There are quiet rest and sweet refreshment in Christ Jesus for him who is weary. He shall be "as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." (83)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Roots and a trunk

"In other words, the strong timber of the tree of evangelicalism has historically been the great doctrines of the Bible—God’s glorious perfections, man’s fallen nature, the wonders of redemptive history, the magnificent work of redemption in Christ, the saving and sanctifying work of grace in the soul, the great mission of the church in conflict with the world and the flesh and the devil, and the greatness of our hope of everlasting joy at God’s right hand. These things once defined us and were the strong fiber and timber beneath the fragile leaves and fruit of our religious experiences. But this is the case less and less. And that is why the waving leaves of success and the sweet fruit of prosperity are not as auspicious to David Wells and Os Guinness as they are to many. It is a hollow triumph, and the tree is getting weaker and weaker while the branches are waving in the sun." (John, Piper,. God's Passion for His Glory. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 1998.78)

I want there to be a GREAT trunk and DEEP roots supporting and nourishing my religious experience. I want the experience too, but, not without the foundation.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The threshold of non-ignorability

From Ray Ortlund Jr. at Christ is Deeper Still.

“. . . with regard to this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” Acts 28:22

In the days of the apostles, outsiders disparaged the church, but they couldn’t ignore the church. Today, here in the Bible Belt, our task is to re-create those conditions. How? By planting so many gospel-centered churches that we cannot be ignored. Being “spoken against” is not a problem. Being ignored is, because this isn’t about us. It’s about Jesus.

In the corporate psychology of every city, there is a threshold of non-ignorability. Here in Nashville, the Titans cannot be ignored, country music cannot be ignored, Vanderbilt cannot be ignored. But the gospel is too ignorable.

An organic, from-below, non-big-event strategy of church-planting — some churches small, some medium, some large — but churches with the same gospel of grace, the same radical culture of gospel sociology, and Nashville will wake up one morning in eight or ten years and sense that something has changed and it cannot be ignored because it is not just another big event down at the Ryman that comes and goes but is embodied in a growing network of radiant churches that are here to stay.

Lord, help us to press the gospel forward so boldly that it reaches the threshold of non-ignorability throughout the world, for your glory alone.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Posted at Tony Reinke's blog Miscellanies today:

Literature is Life

One of the best little summaries of the value of literature in the Christian life comes from Leland Ryken’s book Windows To the World: Literature in Christian Perspective (Wipf and Stock, 2000). Here’s what Ryken writes on page 34:

“Literature is life. If you want to know what, deep down, people feel and experience, you can do no better than read the stories and poems of the human race. Writers of literature have the gift of observing and then expressing in words the essential experiences of people.

The rewards of reading literature are significant. Literature helps to humanize us. It expands our range of experiences. It fosters awareness of ourselves and the world. It enlarges our compassion for people. It awakens our imaginations. It expresses our feelings and insights about God, nature, and life. It enlivens our sense of beauty. And it is a constructive form of entertainment.

Christians should neither undervalue nor overvalue literature. It is not the ultimate source of truth. But it clarifies the human situation to which the Christian faith speaks. It does not replace the need for the facts that science and economics and history give us. But it gives us an experiential knowledge of life that we need just as much as those facts.

Literature does not always lead us to the City of God. But it makes our sojourn on earth much more a thing of beauty and joy and insight and humanity.”

Friday, March 5, 2010

The most Valuable valuing what is of most value!

Consider how greatly valuable you are in God's estimation. He valued you with such high regard that he created you! He so highly valued your worth that He did not immediately punish you for your sins which would have be justly done. He sent His Son to the cross to die for sins of people whom He considered valuable. He is preparing a place where His own can spend eternity with Him. All this is amazing; the gracious actions of a merciful and loving God. But there something else I would like you to consider.

DICTATE FOUR of SECTION ONE, in Jonathan Edwards' "The End for which God Created the World", is this:
God's moral rectitude consists in his valuing the most valuable, namely, himself.

We like to think God makes much of us. And in some senses, as discussed above, He does. But when we take a broader perspective of the reality of things, we see God makes much of himself. Edwards goes on,
All things else, with regard to worthiness, importance, and excellence, are perfectly as nothing in comparison of him. And therefore, if God has respect to things according to their nature and proportions, he must necessarily have the greatest respect to himself. It would be against the perfection of his nature, his wisdom, holiness, and perfect rectitude, whereby he is disposed to do everything that is fit to be done, to suppose otherwise.

And so we see that God's valuing of beings takes into account their worthiness and excellency. And it is no surprises, with excellency and worthiness taken into consideration, that all beings pale in comparison.
The worthiness of others is as nothing to his; so that to him belongs all possible respect.

To him belongs the whole of the respect that any intelligent being is capable of.

So, Edwards concludes this dictate of reason with the following:
Hence it will follow, that the moral rectitude of the disposition, inclination, or affection of God CHIEFLY consists in a regard to HIMSELF, infinitely above his regard to all other beings; in other words, his holiness consists in this.

From God's Passion for His Glory (John, Piper,. God's passion for His glory living the vision of Jonathan Edwards, with the complete text of The end for which God created the world. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 1998. Print.)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The sweet taste and rational knowledge

From God's Passion for His Glory (John, Piper,. God's passion for His glory living the vision of Jonathan Edwards, with the complete text of The end for which God created the world. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 1998. Print.)

It is not in vain to do rational work, Edwards says, even though everything hangs on God’s free gift of spiritual life and sight. The reason is that “the more you have of a rational knowledge of divine things, the more opportunity will there be, when the Spirit shall be breathed into your heart, to see the excellency of these things, and to taste the sweetness of them.”(43, Edwards quote from The Religious Affections, p. 120)
I am continually reminding myself, as I read theological books and listen to gospel-centered preaching a participate in (hopefully) rational discussions about God-things, that it should be preparing me, more and more, to taste the sweetness and see the excellency of the very things I am reading, hearing, and discussing. Help me Holy Spirit! Help me to see with clarity of vision the excellency of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Help me to taste and savour the sweetness of the cross and the One who hung on it for my redemption.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Altogether Lovely - Christ Exalted, second post

Christ Exalted is a sermon in which Edwards outlines the major works of evil and the world and discusses the increase of those evils. From there, he describes how Christ is greatly exalted, exalted over ll the evils he has described. I thought I would use this second post on this sermon (the first can be read here)to show you the evils that Edwards mentions and then his description of how Christ is highly exalted above them.

I. Satan has highly exalted himself, and greatly prevailed. BUT, "Christ appears gloriously above all evil in what he did to procure redemption for us in his state of humiliation, by the righteousness he wrought out, and the atonement he made for sin. The evils mentioned, never seemed so much to prevail against him as in his sufferings. But in them, the foundation was laid for their overthrow. In them he appeared above Satan. Though Satan never exalted himself so high, as he did in procuring these sufferings of Christ; yet, then, Christ laid the foundation for the utter overthrow of his kingdom. He slew Satan, as it were, with his own weapon, the spiritual David cut off this Goliath’s head with his own sword, and he triumphed over him in his cross. " (70-1)
II. Guilt is another evil which has come to a great height in the world. BUT, "In this also Christ appeared gloriously above the guilt of men. For he offered a sacrifice that was sufficient to do away all the guilt of the whole world. Though the guilt of man was like the great mountains, whose heads are lifted up to the heavens; yet his dying love, and his merits, appeared as a mighty deluge that overflowed the highest mountains, or like a boundless ocean that swallows them up, or like an immense fountain of light that with the fullness and redundancy of its brightness, swallows up men’s greatest sins, as little motes are swallowed up and hidden in the disk of the sun. " (71)
III. Corruption and wickedness of heart is another thing that has risen to an exceeding height in the world. BUT, "In this [His humiliation] Christ appeared above all the corruption of man, in that hereby he purchased holiness for the chief of sinners. And Christ in undergoing such extreme affliction, got the victory over all misery; and laid a foundation for its being utterly abolished, with respect to his elect."(71)
IV. Many of the devil’s instruments have greatly prevailed and have been exalted to an exceeding height in the world. It has been so in almost all ages of the world. BUT, "When he ascended up into heaven, he rose far above the reach of the devil and all his instruments, who had before had him in their hands. And now has he sat down at the right hand of God, as being made head over all things to the church, in order to a complete and perfect victory over sin, Satan, death, and all his enemies. It was then said to him, “Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool,” (Psa. 110:1). He entered into a state of glory, wherein he is exalted far above all these evils, as the forerunner of his people, and to make intercession for them, till they also are brought to be with him, in like manner exalted above all evil. " (72)
V. Affliction and misery have also prevailed and risen to an unspeakable height in the world. BUT, "In his resurrection he appeared above all affliction. For though he had been subject to much affliction and overwhelmed in it, he then emerged out of it, as having gotten the victory, never to conflict with any more sorrow." (72)
VI. Death is an evil which has greatly prevailed and made dreadful havoc in this world. BUT, "Christ gloriously appears above all these aforementioned evils, in his glorifying the souls of departed saints in heaven. In this he gives a glorious victory over death. Death by it is turned from an enemy into a servant. And their death, by the glorious change that passes in the state of their souls, is become a resurrection, rather than a death." (73)

From Altogether Lovely (Jonathan, Edwards. Altogether Lovely Jonathan Edwards on the glory and excellency of Jesus Christ. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997)