Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Envy's Opposition to Others

Edwards:
Envy may be defined, a spirit of opposition to others' comparative happiness, or to the happiness of others considered as compared with their own. The thing to which envious persons are opposed is the comparative relation between that state of honor or happiness which others have, or may have, and their own state.
—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 219.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Art of Life

C. S. Lewis:
I think the art of life consists in tackling each immediate evil as well as we can. To avert or postpone one particular war by wise policy, or to render one particular campaign shorter by strength and skill or less terrible by mercy to the conquered and the civilians is more useful than all the proposals for universal peace that have ever been made; just as the dentist who can stop one toothache has deserved better of humanity than all the men who think they have some scheme for producing a perfectly healthy race.
—C. S. Lewis, "Why I Am Not a Pacifist," in The Weight of Glory (New York: HarperCollins, 1980), 79.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Great Original

"God is the Author of authors" (Kevin Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text? 47).

What It Is to Read

"To read is to fraternize with the great minds of the past" (Kevin Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text? 46).

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Redemption: Deliverance at Cost

In The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, Leon Morris argues cogently concerning the redemption-language background for the usage in the New Testament. Of this book as a whole, D. A. Carson recently said in a classroom exposition of Rom. 3:21-26 that the book is a "must read." He added, "sell your shirt for it" if you must. And I can see why. 

Here's Morris's summary of that redemption-language background:
We see then, that in Greek writings generally, in the Old Testament, and in Rabbinic writers, the basic idea in redemption is the paying of a ransom price to secure a liberation. Circumstances may vary, for the word applies to the freeing of a prisoner of war, or of a man under sentence of death because his ox has gored a man, or of articles in paw, or of a slave seeking manumission. But always there is the idea of payment of a ransom to secure the desired effect. 
When God is the subject of the verb we noticed a difference, for it is inconceivable that He should pay a ransom to men, and in those passages there tends to be a greater stress on the idea of deliverance than on the means by which it is brought about. Yet even here we saw that the Old Testament writers were not unmindful of the meaning of the words they were applying to God's dealings with His people, for they think of Him as delivering at some cost. Clearly the metaphor was one with point. 
—Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 29.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Christian Fellowship Worthy of the Name

Speaking of the "sinless Redeemer" and his body, the church, Lewis says this:
His presence, the interaction between Him and us, must always be the overwhelmingly dominant factor in the life we are to lead within the Body, and any conception of Christian fellowship which does not mean primarily fellowship with Him is out of court.
—C. S. Lewis, "Membership," in The Weight of Glory (New York: HarperCollins, 1980), 164.

A New and Deadly Disease

Lewis:
A sick society must think much about politics, as a sick man must think much about his digestion. . . . But if either comes to regard it as the natural food of the mind—if either forgets that we think of such things only in order to be able to think of something else—then what was undertaken for the sake of health has become itself a new and deadly disease.
—C. S. Lewis, "Membership," in The Weight of Glory (New York: HarperCollins, 1980), 162.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Starved for Solitude, Silence, and Privacy

"We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy, and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship."

—C. S. Lewis, "Membership," in The Weight of Glory (New York: HarperCollins, 1980), 160.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Fellowship with Christ

"To become a Christian means to have fellowship with Christ in all that He has accomplished for us."

—Sinclair Ferguson, The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen (Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust, 2014), 62.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

This is Wencel baby number four at eight weeks, measuring 1.6 centimeters and presenting with a heart rate of 163 beats per minute.



Almost needless to say, but always good to express, we're grateful to God for his kind and creative handiwork, and for sustaining this little life.

Christian Love

"Love of benevolence is that disposition which a man has who desires or delights in the good of another. And this is the main thing in Christian love, the most essential thing, and that whereby our love is most of an imitation of the eternal love and grace of God, and the dying love of Christ."

—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 213.

Christian Kindness

"To be kind is to have a disposition freely to do good. Whatever good is done, it is no proper kindness in the doer of it unless it be done freely."

—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 211.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Paul the Maverick

Speaking of how to view the apostle Paul, New Testament scholar Michael Bird suggests five images: persecutor, missionary, theologian, pastor, and martyr. But then he adds one more that wouldn't normally come to mind, and comments upon it.

Here's what he says:
We might now add another image: maverick. Paul was regarded by many Jewish Christians as a meddlesome nonconformist, by Jews as a blasphemous apostate, and by Roman authorities as a mischievous nuisance. There is no doubt that Paul was a controversialist and we we may even speak of his abrasive personality (cf. Gal. 2:11-14; Acts 15:35-41). 
—Michael F. Bird, Introducing Paul: The Man, His Mission, and His Message (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2008),

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Importance of Practicing What You Preach

In a section showing how "a Christian spirit disposes persons freely to do good to others," in the fourth sermon in his sermon series Charity and Its Fruits, Jonathan Edwards speaks about an essential element in doing good to others as we seek to instruct them in the things of Christianity.

Here's the essential element:
Persons may do good to others' souls, which is the most excellent way of doing good. . . . Men may do good to others' souls by . . . setting them good examples, which is a thing the most needful of all and commonly the most effectual of any for promoting good to others' souls. This must accompany those other means of doing good of others' souls, of instructing, counseling, warning and reproving, and is needful to give force to those means and to make them take effect. It is the most likely thing to render them effectual of anything whatsoever. And whatever warnings or reproofs are given without an answerable example, they will not be very likely to take effect. 
—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 207.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Love (3)

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
                                Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
                                From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
                                If I lacked anything.

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
                                Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
                                I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
                                Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
                              Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
                               My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
                               So I did sit and eat.

—George Herbert, The Complete English Poems (New York: Penguin, 1991), 178.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Controlled by Culture or Christ?

Commenting on the situation in Corinth that Paul is confronting in 2 Cor. 10:1ff, Professor Carson draws out this important contemporary application:
There will always be some who are controlled by a lightly "Christianized" version of their own culture: i.e., their controlling values spring from the inherited culture, even when such values are deeply pagan and not Christian. Christian language may be there; yet the control lies, not with the gospel, but with the pervasive values of the surrounding society and heritage. At that point Paul is inflexible.  
As far as Christians are concerned, wherever there is a clash between cherished inherited culture and the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is the former that must give way and accept modification and transformation. Failure at this point calls in question one's allegiance to the gospel. Unreserved commitment to the priorities of the inherited culture, with select elements of Christianity being merely tacked on, brings with it Paul's inevitable conclusion that the Jesus being preached is "another Jesus," the gospel being proclaimed is a "different gospel," and those who proclaim such an Evangel are "deceitful workmen masquerading as apostles of Christ" (2 Cor 11:4, 13) 
Moreover, those professing Christians who, like the Corinthians, show themselves to be profoundly sympathetic to this non-Christian orientation of values must at very least examine themselves again to see if they really are in the faith (13:5). 
—D. A. Carson, From Triumphalism to MaturityAn Exposition of 2 Corinthians 10–13 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 40–41.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Leader and Led Alike Both Bear the Load of Responsibility

Addressing some of the crucial lessons to be learned from Paul's passionate pen in 2 Corinthians 10–13, Professor Carson speaks to one of the more important lessons, in my estimation, for the contemporary church.

Here's his insight:
Individual Christians and local churches alike must take responsibility for the styles of leadership they follow. If it is true that Christian leaders are responsible before God for the teaching they provide, the models they display, and the directions they take, it is no less true that Christians and Christian assemblies are responsible for choosing what and whom they will emulate.  
The problems at Corinth depicted in 2 Corinthians 10–13 would never have arisen if the Corinthian church had handled the intruders in a mature and biblical fashion in the first place. That they failed to do so reflects their spiritual immaturity, their unsettling inability to perceive that the norms of their own society were deeply pagan and not to be nurtured in the church. 
—D. A. Carson, From Triumphalism to MaturityAn Exposition of 2 Corinthians 10–13 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 28.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dullness

Why do I languish thus, drooping and dull,
                    As if I were all earth?
O give me quickness, that I may with mirth
                           Praise thee brimfull!

—George Herbert, The Complete English Poems (New York: Penguin, 1991), 107.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Difficulty of Discernment

"It is always much more difficult for Christians to detect a fundamentally sinful attitude in other Christians than in pagans—especially if that attitude is endemic to contemporary society, thereby reducing or eliminating the 'shock' force of that sin."

—D. A. Carson, From Triumphalism to Maturity: An Exposition of 2 Corinthians 10–13 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 20.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Nature

         Full of rebellion, I would die,
         Or fight, or travel, or deny
That thou hast ought to do with me.
                           O tame my heart;
                   It is thy highest art
To captivate strong holds to thee.

If thou shalt let this venom lurk,
And in suggestions fume and work,
My soul will turn to bubbles straight,
                            And thence by kind
                    Vanish into a wind,
Making thy workmanship deceit.

O smooth my rugged heart, and there
Engrave thy rev'rend law and fear;
Or make a new one, since the old
                           Is sapless grown,
                  And a much fitter stone
To hide my dust, than thee to hold.

—George Herbert, The Complete English Poems (New York: Penguin, 1991), 39–40.

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Marvellous Case Study in Christian Leadership

Commenting on 2 Corinthians 10–13, and speaking of how Paul handled the crisis in Corinth generated by the accusations of intruders and interlopers, Professor Carson reflects:
Probably Paul would not even have bothered to answer these and other charges had not the gospel itself been at stake. The interlopers who were leading the Corinthian church astray were not only personally ambitious, they were preaching what Paul discerned to be a false gospel, another Jesus (2 Cor. 11:4). That left Paul no alternative but to enter the fray; and the way he does this, with wisdom, wit, humor, irony, winsomeness, yet also anguish, hurt, and stunning emotional intensity, constitutes a marvellous case study in Christian leadership and the maintenance of Christian values and priorities.
—D. A. Carson, From Triumphalism to MaturityAn Exposition of 2 Corinthians 10–13 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 4.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

All Authority, All Nations, All Allegiance

The following is the corporate prayer we prayed this morning at New Covenant Church. And two great texts from Matthew's gospel shaped this prayer: Matt. 28:18-20, the Great Commission; and Matt. 22:37-40, with the great command. 

The Prayers at NCC (3/8/15)

Our Lord Jesus, Lord of glory, we are gathered this Lord’s Day in your name, “name above every name” (Phil. 2:9). Because of your obedience even unto “death on a cross . . . God has highly exalted [you]” (Phil. 2:8-9). And so we bend the knee before you, we bow before you, and confess you are “Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11). 

We are gathered in your presence, our risen King, as your blood-bought bride, ransomed from among the nations, indwelt by your Spirit. And in your majestic presence this Lord’s Day, we consider our world. We consider the powers of the earth that strut their stuff: China and Russia; Japan and Iran; India and Korea; Germany and France and Britain; and most powerful of all, the United States.

And we consider, O sovereign Christ, how you are above all earthly powers, ruling over every nation as King of kings and Lord of lords. All these “nations are as a drop from a bucket” before you; they “are accounted as dust on the scales,” like breath, without weight, “as less than nothing and emptiness” (Isa. 40:15-17).

O risen and exalted Christ, supreme over all, "all authority in heaven and on earth" is yours! (Matt. 28:18). And your potent atonement put away all our sins, and the sins of all your people—forever! By your blood you purchased us, and made us yours. And Lord of all, you have commanded us to disciple the nations, baptizing them, and teaching them (Matt. 28:19-20). Empower us, we pray, to do what you have commanded.

And so as we give ourselves to making disciples, we ourselves eagerly desire to obey all your commands. And with crystal clarity you taught us to give our utmost attention to the great command—to love God heart, soul, mind and strength (Matt. 22:37-38; cf. Mark 12:30). Fill us then, we cry out, with the fullness of your Spirit, so that we would be enabled supernaturally to love God with the very love with which you yourself loved God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit in the days of your flesh. Fill us, we pray, fill us with love divine.

And surely, Lord Jesus, if we are to make disciples and teach them to obey all you have commanded, surely you would have us teach a supreme love for God, finding ultimate satisfaction in him and his will, delighting in him and doing his good pleasure. Surely you would have us evangelize others and mentor others and serve others right up into fulfilling the great command—love for God "with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul and with all [our] mind" (Matt. 22:37).

So fill us, O risen Jesus, with a love that longs to imitate God’s self-giving love—that we might love our neighbors even as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:39), and love them with a divine love right up into a supreme satisfaction in God.

Help us, we pray, O risen Christ, to do this in the strength you supply (1 Pet. 4:11). “Not by [human] might, not by [human] power, but by [your] Spirit” (Zech. 4:6). That in everything God may get the glory (1 Pet. 4:11).

You have promised, Lord, saying, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). These words are more precious to us than jewels, sweeter than honey to our taste. Thank you for this promise, Lord. Thank you.

It is to you, Lord of all, we pray, gathered in your name.

Amen.  

(For the title of this prayer, see Douglas O'Donnell's short article on the melodic line of Matthew's gospel.)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Love and Imitation

"It is the nature of love, or at least love to a superior as such [e.g., God], even to incline and dispose to imitation. A child's love to his father disposes him to imitate his father, and especially does the love of God's children dispose them to imitate their Heavenly Father."

—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 193–194.

Now read Eph. 5:1-2; 1 Cor. 11:1; and Phil. 3:17.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

All of a Piece

Powlison:
Our struggles and temptations are more alike than different. An elderly man facing a health crisis is tempted to worry in ways similar to the high school senior waiting for the answer to her college application. Our circumstances can be vastly different, but the human heart tends to respond to hard things by anxiety, irritation, and pleasure-seeking. It is in those places we learn to cry out for mercy to the living God who hears and is near.
—David Powlison, "Where Do You Start," CCEF Now (2007): 3.

Don't Be Afraid

"'Do not be afraid' is the most frequent command in the Bible."

—David Powlison, "Where Do You Start," CCEF Now (2007): 3.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What Is a Christian?

Amid much confusion in the modern world about what it means to be a Christian (yes even, lamentably, in "Christian" churches), I offer this simple and straightforward three-fold description. It's not the only way to put it, but it's an important way: a way that gets right to the heart of the matter, as I see it, and as I believe the Bible teaches us.

Here it is. Christians are those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus, who are joined to the risen Jesus, and who follow Jesus wherever he goes and directs.

So, to be a Christian—a saint, a holy one, called of God—is, first, to be one who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 1:2; Rom. 10:13; cf. Acts 2:21; 9:14). Christians call on the name of the risen and exalted Lord Jesus, seated at God's right hand, having paid for sins by his death, coming again in power and glory. That's what makes us Christians. He is preached as Lord of all, perceived to be Lord over all, and then called upon as the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Now I know that both what this calling on his name consists in and an accurate knowledge of the one who is being called upon are not at all secondary or peripheral considerations. They're crucial. And so, for example, and briefly, I'll state what is involved here: it includes consciously calling in faith and trust on the name of the one who is God become man, who died a substitute death for sinners under God's just judgment, and who rose from the grave triumphant and exalted as King and Savior and Judge of the nations—our righteousness, treasure, wisdom, new creation, everlasting hope. And so, although there much more to be said in this vein, nevertheless, one basic and compressed way of describing Christians in the matrix of right belief is by saying Christians are those who call on the name of the risen Lord Jesus (understanding that "name" in the ancient world carries with it the sense of one's character and authority; we might say, the name conveys who the person really is).

Second, to be a Christian is to be a person united with Jesus; or, which is the same thing, to be a person united with Jesus' body, the Church (1 Cor. 12:12-27; Col. 1:18). John 15:1-11 describes this union as "abiding in" Jesus as branches organically connected to a vine. The letters of Paul routinely speak of Christians being "in Christ," or being blessed "with Christ," or with some such similar expression. The occurrences of this participation language are too numerous to cite here. Reading through any of Paul's epistles will provide the perspective, but a good place perhaps to go first is Rom. 6:1-11 and 8:1-39, and then perhaps Ephesians and Colossians. Christians, then, have been joined to Jesus. And the New Testament teaches us abundantly that this happens by faith and baptism, in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.

Third, to be a Christian—a person set apart for God—is to be one who follows the Lord Jesus in faith and obedience, in child-like trust and willing submission. That is to say, Christians are disciples of Jesus, sitting at his feet as learners, hanging on his every word, doing what pleases him. We Christians thus set ourselves to "follow the Lamb wherever he goes" (Rev. 14:4). And while many texts could be cited to point out how calling Christians "followers of Christ" is an apt description, a sample from the book of Acts will do, where the first Christians are frequently simply referred to as "disciples." See Acts 6:1, 2, 7; 9:1, 10, 19, 25, 26, 38; 11:26, 29; 13:52; 14:20, 22; 15:10; 16:1; 18:23, 27; 19:1, 9, 30; 20:1, 30; 21:4, 16.

Well, now, there you have it: Christians are those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus, who are joined to the risen Jesus, and who follow him as his disciples.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

It's just my opinion, but the only place skinny jeans look good is on a toddler.

(And even with the sloppy-joe stain on the "sweet stuff" t-shirt, she still pulls off curly cuteness.)


And while I'm generally against more regulation, someone needs to act fast and make a law banning skinny jeans on young men.

(I hesitated calling them "men," but decided to be generous and charitable.)

Man under the Law

"Man under the law lives in a state of tension. He knows what is right; he approves what is right; but he lacks the power to do what is right."

—F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 331.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Christian Long-suffering

Edwards on Christian meekness, from a sermon on 1 Cor. 13:4 in his justly famous series Charity and Its Fruits:
If men after they are offended and injured speak reproachfully to their neighbor, or of him to others, with a design to make others think worse of him, to the end that they may gratify that bitter spirit which they feel in themselves for the injury their neighbor has done them, that is revenge. He, therefore, who exercises Christian long-suffering towards his neighbor bears injuries from him without revenging or retaliating, either with revengeful deeds or bitter words. He bears it without doing anything against his neighbor or gratifying a bitter resentment, without talking with bitter words to him, without showing a revengeful spirit in the manner of his countenance, or air of his behavior. He receives all with a calm, undisturbed countenance, still manifesting the quietness and goodness in his behavior towards him, both to his face and behind his back.
—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 189.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Obama a Christian? A Muslim?

I'm tired of talk about whether Obama is a Christian or Muslim. I mean, seriously? A Christian? C'mon. Not if the New Testament is the standard. And a Muslim? Really? Not if serious Muslims are the standard. Not if there needs to be a sort of serious commitment to the Quran.

So I wish the media would just quit this nonsense, and I wish (hoping against hope) that the masses could just see the obvious and move on. Obama is a secularist. Through and through. This is not difficult, people.

And in this regard he's more American than he is anything else. Secularism is his operating worldview, plain for all to see, out there in the open every day, staring at us in the face, despite the occasional nod to Christ or public respect for Islam.