Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sinning Boldly: Just Not So Deadly

Americans are doubtless a religious people, but we don't believe in the hard stuff any more. Certainly not in the doctrine of sin, original or otherwise, which seems to have gone missing, even among evangelicals, sometime around the time hell disappeared.

Still, we seem to gravitate, in fascination if not faith, to the Seven Deadly Sins, those transgressions classified by Catholic thinkers from Pope Gregory the Great on as particularly hazardous to our spiritual health. Perhaps it is the enumeration. (Why seven?) Or the parlor game of ranking them. (Is lust worse than gluttony? Is pride the worst of them all?) For whatever reason, books and even movies on the Seven Deadly Sins appear with some regularity—far more often, to be sure, than those on the Seven Cardinal Virtues.

What is missing from contemporary American culture is a sense that something is missing from this world. There is little awareness here of the incompleteness and unsatisfactoriness that Augustine took for evidence of another life, and that saints from Mary to Mother Teresa have taken as a charge to make this life conform to our imaginings of the next. Quoting Baudelaire, Flannery O'Connor once wrote that "the devil's greatest wile …is to convince us that he does not exist." If this is true, these are perilous days.

Say what you want about the vices of the dogma of sin, one of its virtues has always been to remind us that we—all of us—live between the animals and the gods, that one of the underappreciated challenges of human life is to somehow become a human being. Of course, there are myriad ways to avoid this task, one of the most popular being to imagine that you are in some important respect (morally perhaps?) superior to your fellow human beings. The doctrine of sin reminds us that this path leads to individual and collective ruin.

But this doctrine need not only humble us. It can embolden us, too, lend us the power to talk back to power, to remind those who denounce others—other races, other nations, other religions—as evildoers that we are all evildoers. This is a hard truth for any culture, harder still for an optimistic culture tethered only to the sky. But it is one that we ignore at great cost.

Daily Quote

Here are a few great quotes by John Owen:

"When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone; but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times and in all places."

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

"The most tremendous judgment of God in this world is the hardening of the hearts of men.”

Salvation is of the Lord

"Salvation is of the Lord" - Jonah 2:9

Salvation is the work of God. It is He alone who gives life to the soul "dead in . . . trespasses and sins," and it is He who maintains the soul in its spiritual life. He is both "Alpha and Omega." "Salvation belongs to the LORD!"

If I am prayerful, God makes me prayerful; if I have graces, they are God's gifts to me; if I hold on in a consistent life, it is because He upholds me with His hand. I do nothing whatever toward my own preservation, except what God Himself first does in me. Whatever I have, all my goodness is of the Lord alone. Whenever I sin, that is my own doing; but when I act correctly, that is wholly and completely of God. If I have resisted a spiritual enemy, the Lord's strength nerved my arm. Do I live before men a consecrated life? It is not I, but Christ who lives in me. Am I sanctified? I did not cleanse myself: God's Holy Spirit sanctifies me. Am I separated from the world? I am separated by God's chastisements sanctified to my good. Do I grow in knowledge? The great Instructor teaches me. All my jewels were fashioned by heavenly art. I find in God all that I want; but I find in myself nothing but sin and misery. "He only is my rock and my salvation." Do I feed on the Word? That Word would be no food for me unless the Lord made it food for my soul and helped me to feed upon it. Do I live on the bread that comes down from heaven? What is that bread but Jesus Christ Himself incarnate, whose body and whose blood I eat and drink? Am I continually receiving fresh supplies of strength? Where do I gather my might? My help comes from heaven's hills: Without Jesus I can do nothing. As a branch cannot bring forth fruit except it abide in the vine, no more can I, except I abide in Him. What Jonah learned in the ocean, let me learn this morning in my room: "Salvation belongs to the LORD."

cc: Truth for Life

Word of the Day

With so many good movies coming out lately my mind has been on the silverscreen. And if there is one thing I love about the movie theatre it is the...

Cinemuck: The combination of popcorn, soda, and melted chocolate which covers the floors of movie theaters.

Babe, are you sure you wanna wear those shoes to the theater? You know what Cinemuck will do to your shoes...

Friday, February 23, 2007

No More Jesus Jokes!

One of my greatest and best buddies in the entire world has just undergone the extremest of extreme makeovers. Seriously. This dude hasn't cut his hair in so long that he doesn't even remember the last time he saw a pair of scissors! Check out how hot he his over at Ryan's blog.

Lookout ladies...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The King Has Spoken

I have no idea how this happened.

Daily Quote

"Life is not worth living unless it is lived for someone else." - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Tick of the Clock

By Andrew Peterson

There is something terrible in the futility of trying to love them well as even as you lose them a little more with each swing of the pendulum. The curse of time.

A quiet wind moves the loose strands of hair that have escaped from her bows, and she smiles at you, holding out her hand to give you a drawing on orange construction paper in several crooked folds. You tell yourself to remember this. You know, even as the moment passes, that the moment is more precious than you could imagine, but even as you think to appreciate it, you realize that in trying to appreciate it something is lost. She turns and skips away, and you grieve as you tuck the folded drawing into your coat pocket, wishing you'd just watched her, loved her with your smile, wishing you'd stopped trying so hard to soak up the beauty and had instead reflected it back.

The moon is waxing, a few days from full bloom. He was giggling, hitting your rear end, coaxing you into a carpet burn wrestling match on the living room floor if only you'd put down the dishes you were clearing from the table. You roar like a bear and spin around. He squeals and you lift him over your head, telling him that he has to sleep on the back deck tonight. He thrashes and laughs, and you tug open the back door, wondering when your little boy got to be so much to handle. He used to sleep on you, his whole body the length of your forearm, and now he's kicking hard enough to make you wince. You make it out into the snap of cold air on the shadowy deck with his giggling, wriggling body, covered in fleece footie pajamas. You happen to look up and you see a moon ring. The wrestling stops because young fathers and little boys both know that a moon ring is even more wondrous than a good tickle. The rest of the family comes out, bunching up their shoulders in the wintry air. They squint up at the bright moon and see it, a giant lunar halo, quiet and electric, staring down at us like the glowing eye of God. The cold sinks in and a moment passes. The screen door whips shut behind you, the deadbolt thunks into place. The great eye still watches.

The house is asleep. You sit upstairs and try to wrestle down a few thoughts. You see each of their faces in slow motion, wish that you had the tools to harness the light and warmth that fills you whenever you look at them. You feel that you're watching a river of good things gurgle past you, that you're supposed to catch the water but you can't remember how. You reach in with timid hands, feel the water skate through your fingers, feel a pain between your heart and your stomach because the water is moving past you too quickly; the water you just tried to catch is already tumbling downstream, no longer a moment but a memory. You feel that you've been given inadequate tools for the task set before you, that you've been thrust into a new school but haven't been told where to go or what to do.

And yet. And yet it is all worth it just to dip your fingers in the quick river. That moment in the light of love changes everything; it is enough to make a sad past the prologue and a dark future the promise.

The blessing of time.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Supremacy of Christ

Oh, that the risen, living Christ, therefore, would come to us (even now) by his Spirit and through his Word and reveal to us

—the supremacy of his deity, equal with God the Father in all his attributes—the radiance of his glory and the exact imprint of his nature, infinite, boundless in all his excellencies;

—the supremacy of his eternality that makes the mind of man explode with the unsearchable thought that Christ never had a beginning, but simply always was; sheer, absolute reality while all the universe is fragile, contingent, like a shadow by comparison to his all-defining, ever-existing substance;

—the supremacy of his never-changing constancy in all his virtues and all his character and all his commitments—the same yesterday, today, and forever;

—the supremacy of his knowledge that makes the Library of Congress look like a matchbox, and all the information on the Internet look like a little 1940’s farmers almanac, and quantum physics—and everything Stephen Hawking ever dreamed—seem like a first-grade reader;

—the supremacy of his wisdom that has never been perplexed by any complication and can never be counseled the wisest of men;

—the supremacy of his authority over heaven and earth and hell, without whose permission no man and no demon can move one inch, who changes times and seasons, removes kings and sets up kings; does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; so none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

—the supremacy of his providence without which not a single bird falls to the ground in the furthest reaches of the Amazon forest, or a single hair of any head turns black or white;

—the supremacy of his word that moment by moment upholds the universe and holds in being all the molecules and atoms and subatomic world we have never yet dreamed of;

—the supremacy of his power to walk on water, cleanse lepers and heal the lame, open the eyes of the blind, cause the deaf to hear and storms to cease and the dead to rise, with a single word, or even a thought;

—the supremacy of his purity never to sin, or to have one millisecond of a bad attitude or an evil, lustful thought;

—the supremacy of his trustworthiness never to break his word or let one promise fall to the ground;

—the supremacy of his justice to render in due time all moral accounts in the universe settled either on the cross or in hell;

—the supremacy of his patience to endure our dullness for decade after decade; and to hold back his final judgment on this land and on the world, that many might repent;

—the supremacy of his sovereign, servant obedience to keep his Father’s commandments perfectly and then embrace the excruciating pain of the cross willingly;

—the supremacy of his meekness and lowliness and tenderness that will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick;

—the supremacy of his wrath that will one day explode against this world with such fierceness that people will call out for the rocks and the mountains to crush them rather than face the wrath of the Lamb;

—the supremacy of his grace that gives life to spiritually dead rebels and wakens faith in hell-bound haters of God, and justifies the ungodly with his own righteousness;

—the supremacy of his love that willingly dies for us even while we were sinners and frees us for the ever-increasing joy in making much of him forever;

—the supremacy of his own inexhaustible gladness in the fellowship of the Trinity, the infinite power and energy that gave rise to all the universe and will one day be the inheritance of every struggling saint;

And if he would grant us to know him like this, it would be but the outskirts of his supremacy. Time would fail to speak of the supremacy of his severity, and invincibility, and dignity, and simplicity, and complexity, and resoluteness, and calmness, and depth, and courage. If there is anything admirable, if there is anything worthy of praise anywhere in the universe, it is summed up supremely in Jesus Christ.

He is supreme in every admirable way over everything:

over galaxies and endless reaches of space;

over the earth from the top of Mount Everest 29,000 feet up, to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean 36,000 feet down into the Mariana Trench;

He is supreme over all plants and animals, from the peaceful Blue Whale to the microscopic killer viruses;

over all weather and movements of the earth: hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, earthquakes, avalanches, floods, snow, rain, sleet;

over all chemical processes that heal and destroy: cancer, AIDS, malaria, flu, and all the workings of antibiotics and a thousand healing medicines.

He is supreme over all countries and all governments and all armies;

over Al Qaeda and all terrorists and kidnappings and suicide bombings and beheadings;

over bin Ladin and al-Zarqawi;

over all nuclear threats from Iran or Russia or North Korea.

He is supreme over all politics and elections;

over all media and news and entertainment and sports and leisure;

and over all education and universities and scholarship and science and research;

and over all business and finance and industry and manufacturing and transportation;

and over all the internet and information systems.

As Abraham Kuyper used to say, “there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’” And rule with absolute supremacy. And though it may not seem so now, it is only a matter of time until he is revealed from heaven in flaming fire to give relief to those who trust him and righteous vengeance on those who don’t.

[This is probably my favorite excerpt from any John Piper sermon I've ever heard. The sermon is titled Sex and the Supremacy of Christ: Part 2; the script and audio can be found here.]

Jack Bauer's First Time Playing Nintendo

What more is there to say?

Sweet. Awesome. Awesomer.

Pizza? Now that's what I call a taco!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Daily Quote

"Neither be idle in the means, nor make an idol of the means." - Willaim Secker

Smells Like Tween Spirit

Middle School (6-8th grades) can be some of the most chaotic years of our lives. Some of the biggest emotional, physical, and spiritual changes can happen during these years. Which is why I love being a part of ministries that are devoted to creating a place for middle school students to come and be themselves while discovering who they truly are.

I say all this to say that I will be attending Junior High Jamboree this weekend in Salina, KS. And I'm excited to see what God is preparing in the hearts of today's tweenagers.

Please pray for me. :)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Therapeutic Theology: Part 3

What Should We Do: Teach Sound Doctrine (continued)

The Doctrine of Sin (Includes the Doctrine of Man)

"Dim or indistinct views of sin are the origin of most of the errors, heresies and false doctrines of the present day... I believe that one of the chief wants of the church in the nineteenth century has been, and is, a clearer, fuller, teaching about sin." - J.C. Ryle, Holiness

"Christianity doesn't make sense without sin. If we are not sinners, turned away from God, then there was no reason for God to become a man, and no reason for Him to die. Our slavery to sin is the thing that Christ came to free us from. That is the most fundamental Christian belief. If follows that if you have no consciousness of
sin, you simply won't be able to see the point of Christianity... Now it is possible to create a climate in which people have very little sense of sin and therefore, little chance of comprehending what Christianity is all about. We know it is possible because that is the climate that exists today." - William Kirk Kilpatrick, Psychological Seduction: The Failure of Modern Psychology

"The subject of sin is vital knowledge. To say that our first need in life is to learn about sin may sound strange, but in the sense intended it is profoundly true. If you have not learned about sin, you cannot understand yourself, or your fellow-men, or the world you live in, or the Christian faith. And you will not be able to make head or tail of the Bible. For the Bible is an exposition of God's answer to the problem of human sin, and unless you have that problem clearly before you, you will keep missing the point of what it says. Apart from the first two chapters of Genesis, which set the stage, the real subject of every chapter of the Bible is what God does about our sins. Lose sight of this theme, and you will lose your way in the Bible at once. With that, the love of God, the meaning of salvation, and the message of the gospel, will all become closed books to you; you may still talk of these things, but you will no longer know what you are talking about. It is clear, therefore, that we need to fix in our minds what our ancestors would have called 'clear views of sin.'" - J.I. Packer, God's Words
a. A clear view of sin is necessary and critical for understanding and appreciating justification.
"The plain truth is that a right knowledge of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are `words and names' which convey no meaning to the mind." - J.C. Ryle, Holiness

[The greatest need we all have isn't one we naturally are aware of or normally feel.]

"In today's world there is little emphasis on the biblical doctrine of sin... But a person with a shallow sense of sin and of the wrath of God against our sin will neither feel the need for nor understand the biblical doctrine of
justification." - Hoekema, Saved by Grace

"It must even be said that our evangelical emphasis on the atonement is dangerous if we come to it too quickly. We learn to appreciate the access to God which Christ has won for us only after we have first seen God's inaccessibility to sinners. We can cry `Hallelujah' with authenticity only after we have first cried, `Woe is me, for I am lost.'" - John R.W. Stott, The Cross of Christ

"It is partly because sin does not provoke our own wrath that we do not believe that sin provokes the wrath of God." - John R.W. Stott, The Cross of Christ

[It is only when we are aware of wrath that we appreciate grace. To appreciate grace one must understand the seriousness of sin and be convinced he is worthy of wrath and incapable of altering this condition apart form faith in the person and finished work of Jesus Christ.Ignorance of this is why so many are insecure and unsure of God's love. And the fact that our teaching about self-esteem has replaced the doctrine of sin today.
(1) The proponents of self-esteem often have a very superficial view of sin.
(2) The result is that one is misled into thinking that Christ's death is primarily a manifestation of our value to and before God.
(3) We were worthy, but only of His wrath.]

"The cross reveals the depth of our sin, not the height of our worth before God." - Michael Scott Horton, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?

"I have often heard it said, `If I had been the only person on the earth, Jesus would still have died for me.' Although our Lord could have given His life for just one person, it most certainly would not have been because that person was so valuable, but because God was so gracious. Such an occurrence should hardly, therefore, be regarded as a source of pride or self-esteem. For me to argue that Jesus would have died for me if I were the only person on the earth simply indicates that my sins alone, without the rest of you contributing your share, were sufficient to demand the severe punishment Jesus Christ vicariously assumed in my place. When faced with that reality, we ought to weep for the selfless sacrifice of our Lord instead of finding in it one more opportunity for feeling good about ourselves." - Michael Scott Horton, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?

Therapeutic Theology: Part 2

What Should We Do: Teach Sound Doctrine.

The Doctrine of God

[The biblical writers begin with God. So must we. Popular literature and teaching today begins with man and then proceeds to make God in our image according to our preference.]

"Again, it is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God's face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself." - John Calvin, Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion

[Apart from an accurate understanding of God's nature and character, idolatry and error are inevitable.]

In his book, A Call To Spiritual Reformation, D.A. Carson begins by asking the following question, " What is the most urgent need in the church of the Western world today?"

"People are starving for the greatness of God. But most of them would not give this diagnosis of their troubled lives. The majesty of God is an unknown cure. There are far more popular prescriptions on the market, but the benefit of any other remedy is brief and shallow... It does not matter if surveys turn up a list of perceived needs that does not include the supreme greatness of the sovereign God of grace. That is the deepest need. Our people are starving for God." - John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching

Jer. 2:13 says, "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water."
Jer. 6:16 says, "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."

"The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshiping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic. The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking." - A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God, Their Meaning in the Christian Life

[The greatest needs that exist today are for an accurate knowledge of God and for an experiential encounter with His greatness and goodness.]

"What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." - A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God, Their Meaning in theChristian Life

Therapeutic Theology: Part 1

It may seem strange to us that Paul would devote several chapters to demonstrating the sinfulness of all people. We might think that he should get to the good news and camp there and help people see the good news as really good. That would feel more positive than lingering as long as he does over the sinfulness of man.

But there are probably some very profound reasons for this lingering over our sinfulness. I think of two at least. One is that the gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone simply does not land on us as overwhelmingly good news until we have some deeper sense of our sinfulness and hopelessness before God. The other reason Paul may draw out his demonstration of our sinfulness is that we are so resistant to seeing it and feeling it.

This is what I would call Therapeutic Theology and it is a pervasive problem in almost every evangelical institution in America today. Below are some quotes and assessments of the Therapeutic Theology issue. [My comments will be in brackets.]

"The recovery movement has taken not only America but evangelicalism by storm. In the form of Christian (and not so Christian) books, programs, small groups, and counseling centers, it represents the highest floodwater mark of the therapeutic on the church so far. Twelve-step this and that have been given the authority of the apostolic twelve themselves, and the result has been hailed as renewal.... The triumph of the therapeutic has finally transformed psychology from a mere discipline to a worldview and a way of life. Triumphing as a social revolution, the therapeutic has gained a self-evident status and a taken-for-granted cultural authority that is rarely questioned. "Diagnosis" and “therapy" are as obvious to twentieth-century Americans as "demons" and "witches" were to seventeenth-century Americans. In law they replaced crime and punishment. In religion they have replaced sin and redemption." - Os Guinness, No God But God: Breaking with the Idols of Our Age

"Evangelicalism is infatuated with psychotherapy." - John MacArthur, Jr., Our Sufficiency in Christ

It’s Popular. It’s Defective. It’s Erroneous.

"The overall story of pastoral care in the United States has been summed up as the shift from salvation to self-realization, made up of smaller shifts from self-denial to self-love to self-mastery, and finally to self-realization. The victory of the therapeutic over theology is therefore nothing less than the secularization and replacement of salvation." - Os Guinness, No God But God: Breaking with the Idols of Our Age

"Like medicine, biology, astronomy, and physics, psychology can collect observable data, but it cannot offer any insight into the ultimate questions. Those answers are found only in the kingdom of grace, only in the gospel, which itself is found only in the text of Holy Scripture." - Michael Scott Horton, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?

Why Has The Therapeutic Movement Become So Widely Accepted?
1. A theological deficiency among pastors.
2. The lack of respect for the competence of pastors and the unquestioned reverence for and deference to psychologists and psychiatrists.
3. The biblical illiteracy that characterizes the average Christian.
4. The attractiveness of the content.
5. The failure to build churches that are relationally strong.

"The triumph of the therapeutic is therefore partly a spur to the church and partly a judgment--a further example of the "unpaid bills of the church." - Os Guinness, No God But God: Breaking with the Idols of Our Age

What's The Problem: The Integration of Psychotherapy With Biblical Theology

"Whatever reconciliation I managed to effect between psychology and Christianity, however, was always at the expense of Christianity... True Christianity does not mix well with psychology. When you try to mix them, you often end up with a watered-down Christianity instead of a Christianized psychology. But the process is subtle and is rarely noticed. I wasn't aware that I was confusing two different things. And others in the church who might have been expected to put me right were under the same enchantment as I... These attempts to make common cause with psychology are examples of `Christianity And.' It's a strong temptation to those who fear that Christianity by itself isn't enough. The trouble is that `Christianity And' edges real Christianity aside or prevents it from taking hold." - William Kirk Kilpatrick, Psychological Seduction: The Failure of Modern Psychology

"But what we see today in so much of the literature and preaching of Christian pop psychology is not integration of biblical-theological and natural-scientific knowledge, but a replacement of biblical views of humans, God, and salvation with purely secular notions, baptized with non-contextual verses from the Bible." - Michael Scott Horton, ed., Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?

Word of the Day

connectile dysfunction: 1.) The inability to gain or maintain an [internet] connection. 2.) The inability to print, [email], or get to the internet.

Since I moved into my apartment in the Friends Village, I've been experiencing bouts with connectile dysfunction (CD).

Daily Quote

"Who you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you are saying." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Word of the Day

valentine's day: The reason so many people are born in November.

I was born on November 6 because my parents celebrated Valentine's day.

Daily Quote

"This is our receptionist, Pam . . . If you think she's cute now, you should have seen her a couple years ago." - Michael Scott, The Office

[Note to Self: Never ever say this. Ever. Especially on Valentine's Day.]


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Facebook Stalkers Unite!

Sad but true...

Every Day. Over and Over.

According the Martin Luther, we "leak" the gospel, and it needs to be beat into our heads. Every day. Over and over. We need to understand the gospel, hear it, and preach it to ourselves constantly. As Jerry Bridges writes...
So I learned that Christians need to hear the gospel all of their lives because it is the gospel that continues to remind us that our day-to-day acceptance with the Father is not based on what we do for God but upon what Christ did for us in his sinless life and sin-bearing death. I began to see that we stand before God today as righteous as we ever will be, even in heaven, because he has clothed us with the righteousness of his Son. Therefore, I don't have to perform to be accepted by God. Now I am free to obey him and serve him because I am already accepted in Christ (see Rom. 8:1). My driving motivation now is not guilt but gratitude.

Yet even when we understand that our acceptance with God is based on Christ's work, we still naturally tend to drift back into a performance mindset. Consequently, we must continually return to the gospel. To use an expression of the late Jack Miller, we must "preach the gospel to ourselves every day." For me that means I keep going back to Scriptures such as Isaiah 53:6, Galatians 2:20, and Romans 8:1. It means I frequently repeat the words from an old hymn, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness."

Daily Quote

"The heart of the gospel is redemption, and the essence of redemption is the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ." - C.H. Spurgeon

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Daily Quote

"Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider." - Sir Francis Bacon

Spiritual Birth: Event or Process?

Here is an excerpt from an interview of author Stephen Smallman conducted by Justin Taylor concerning Smallman's book Spiritual Birthline: Understanding How We Experience the New Birth. You can find the rest of the interview here.

Is spiritual birth an event or a process? What difference does the answer make to our understanding of conversion?

Spiritual birth is essentially a process, during which there may be an event or many events when the Lord becomes real to us. I think the insight that coming to Christ is really a process gives people new appreciation of the work of God in their lives over a lot longer period of time than they may have considered before. It also serves to give people much more patience as they work with others who they see being drawn to Christ.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Embracing the Love of God: Part 2

[This paper was written concerning an issue facing the Church in today's postmodern world. 2006.]

For the Love of God: A Semi-Theological Rant from a Runt On the Doctrine of the Love of God

For decades our culture has been preaching “what the world needs now is love sweet love. It's the only thing that there's just too little of." However, this sort of ideology is remarkably vague. Love for whom? Motivated by what? It fails to acknowledge anything that can truly satisfy the longings of existence; namely God, let alone holiness, joy in the Lord, obedient hearts, and the personhood of Jesus Christ. The song has just enough truth that we can feel good about ourselves as we give advice to the Almighty, but not enough to reflect on what God teaches about love.

At first thought, understanding the doctrine of the love of God seems simple compared to trying to fathom other doctrines like that of the Trinity or predestination, especially since the overwhelming majority of those who believe in God view Him as a loving being. Then again, that is precisely what makes the task of the Christian witness so daunting. Why? Because this widely circulated belief in the love of God is set within a cultural milieu other than biblical theology. The trouble here should be obvious, everyone assumes right away that he knows what love is, so all he has to do at this point is to let his knowledge of it suggest to him something of what God is; nothing could be further from the truth.[1] Nowhere among the prophets and the apostles is God like that. Nowhere in human history is he that cozy and sentimental. If he were, he’d be essentially useless in an unfriendly world, and less than praiseworthy in today’s secular milieu.

Within this milieu is a postmodern culture, and to a certain extent an emergent church, where many other and complementary truths about God are widely disbelieved. The only aspect of God’s character the this culture still believes in is His love. His holiness, His sovereignty, His wrath are often rejected as being incompatible with a “loving” God. Pop culture has so distorted and secularized God’s love, even many Christians have lost a biblical understanding of it and, in turn, have lost a vital means to knowing who God is. “The result, of course, is that the love of God in our culture has been purged of anything the culture finds uncomfortable. The love of God has been sanitized, democratized, and above all sentimentalized.”[2] If the emergent church is to remain faithful to the Christ who redeemed her, she will “worry less about who is or who is not emergent and rather more about learning simultaneously to be faithful to the Bible and effective in evangelizing the rising number of alienated biblical illiterates in our culture.”[3] Preserving the truth of gospel in today’s world will require an emergent theology coupled with a knowledge of its culture. As Ray Anderson has eloquently put it, “[T]he church that is emerging today needs to remember that without a strong biblical basis and emergent theology, it will be like a sailing ship without a rudder, drifting aimlessly or even carelessly over the open waters of contemporary religiosity.”[4]

One of the most dangerous results of the impact of contemporary sentimentalized versions of love on the church is our widespread inability to reflect upon and think through the fundamental questions that alone enable us to maintain a doctrine of God in biblical proportion and balance.[5] But precisely how do we integrate what the Bible says about the love of God with what the Bible says about God’s sovereignty, extending as it does even over the domain of evil? How is God’s love tied to God’s justice and providential care for his creation? These are difficult questions that require careful attention, and as followers of Christ, faithfulness entails our responsibility to grow in our grasp of what it means to confess that God is love. As an emerging church, our language is that of the people, our message is communicated through the culture, and our presence in the world is a means to get within arms length to embrace others with extraordinary love.[6] To this end, I will attempt to weave a critical thread through today’s emerging church, deep into the soul of God.

“God is love.”[7] It is one of the shortest sentences you will find anywhere in the Bible, and certainly one of the most familiar. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most frequently misunderstood. This is why biblical theology of love, grounded in the truth of a Trinitarian-Incarnational God, is so crucial. The biblical writers knew this and treat the love of God as a wondrous thing, wholly admirable and worthy of praise, especially surprising when the objects of his love are rebellious human beings. But what does the proclamation “God is love” actually mean? And how do we conceive of a love not restricted to our own finite understanding, but rather defined by God Himself? Understanding that there are so many passages and themes and concepts to be covered, such a brief treatment of the love of God can scarcely scratch the surface. But a scratched surface is at least a start. And knowing full well that the love of God is infinite, boundless, and far greater than “tongue or pen could ever tell,”[8] we must attempt to grasp the biblical framework in which the love of God lives and the Spirit of God moves.

Brian McLaren said it well when he said that what we need is “not a new Spirit, but a new kind of spirituality.”[9] I share in his sentiment, however, I also agree with Ray Anderson when he writes, “[W]e must take care that emerging churches do not become just another form of spirituality but a movement of God’s Spirit on the creative edge of the kingdom of God breaking into the various cultures of our present age, often in conflict with existing forms of spirituality.”[10] It is true that the glory of the Lord Jesus comes to us by way of the Spirit, who is the Lord.[11] The love of God is creative.[12] And the Spirit of God is love, joining together with the human spirit “in order to produce a Godly spirituality,”[13] one that is not so much a formula, but a test. A relationship. Spirituality not centered upon competency, but on intimacy; not about perfection, it is about connection.[14]

This framework is the truly historical, ever-present Jesus. He is the expression of God’s love for this world.[15] This is no watered-down, white bread, quiet and tamed Jesus; this is the very Spirit of God who comes to us clothed in the humanity of Christ. “Every feeling and every sensation that Jesus experienced as a complete human being became an expression of the divine being, revealing the truth of God through the humanity of God.”[16] He is “literally the exegesis of the soul of God. The character of God’s being as well as the contours of God’s love are disclosed to us through the humanity of Jesus.”[17] No amount of words could ever describe the depth of grace and truth and love that came through the person of Jesus Christ. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Every idea of Him we form, He must in mercy shatter.”[18] This is why he came. This is why he is. He is the way, the truth, the life, and love. There is no other theology than Jesus Christ. The life and love of the emerging church “depends on a personal knowledge of Christ. . .Everything depends on Christ being present to his church as a person in space and time.”[19]And dealing with theology, we must be “more than merely making the Word of God relevant to modern culture,” we must see our theology as “servant to the Word of God,” who is Jesus Christ.[20]

There are many ways the Bible speaks of the love of God, five of which I will attempt to establish here. The first being, the atypical love of the Father for the Son, and of the Son for the Father.[21] This intra-Trinitarian love of God not only separates Christianity from the rest of the monotheistic religions of the world, but is bound up in surprising ways with God’s revelation and redemption. It displays God’s work as being one with who he truly is, “and so to praise his work is to praise him. To acknowledge the Spirit of Christ is to acknowledge Christ, and to acknowledge Christ is to acknowledge the Father, one God in all his works.”[22] It is this divine self-love, manifested in the relation of the Son to the Father, that is the basis for God’s love for the world.[23] As Thomas F. Torrance writes,

“What the Father is and does, Jesus is and does. And what Jesus is and does, the Father is and does. There is in fact no God behind the back of Jesus, no act of God other than the act of Jesus, no God but the God we see and meet in him. . . Jesus Christ is the open heart of God, the very love and life of God.”[24]
Yet, if we begin with the intra-Trinitarian love of God and use that as a model for all of God’s loving relationships, we will fail to observe the distinctions that need to be maintained. As awesome and precious as the intra-Trinitarian love of God is, an exclusive focus in this direction takes too little account of how God manifests himself toward his rebellious image-bearers in wrath, in love, and in the cross.

Another way the Bible speaks of God’s love can be seen in His providential love for all that He has made. The Bible does not typically use the word love in making the connection between God and His creation, but the principle is not hard to find. Before the Fall of Man or a whiff of the stench of sin could be sensed, God pronounced all that he had made to be “good.”[25] We are the products of a loving Creator. “The Lord Jesus depicts a world in which God clothes the grass of the field with the glory of wildflowers seen by no human being, perhaps, but seen by God. The lion roars and hauls down its prey, but it is God who feeds the animal.”[26] The birds of the air find food, but that is a result of the providence of God, and not a sparrow falls apart from the sanction of the Almighty.[27]

On the contrary, if God’s love seen as nothing more than a providential ordering of everything, it is not far from the “force” seen in George Lucas’ silver-screen masterpiece, Star Wars.[28] Removed from the Jesus Christ revealed to us in the Incarnation, all manmade philosophies and crack-pot theologies crumble under the weight of a disturbingly man-centered world.

As great as Star Wars is, this world is still fallen and corrupted, stained with sin, but God’s love is still seen, shining through in His salvific stance toward his fallen world. For God so loved the world that he gave his son.[29] “The humanity of God as expressed through Jesus Christ makes God an ally of those who are bereft of love, who are betrayed and who are stricken and oppressed.”[30] This is an amazing act of a loving God that should never be downplayed or forgotten! However, it should be noted here that usual connotation given to this passage is seen as exemplifying the vastness of the earth and the bigness of God’s love; while inadvertently deemphasizing the badness of man, and the grace that flows from forthwith from God’s right hand. “God’s love in sending the Lord Jesus is to be admired not because it is extended to so big a thing as the world, but to so bad a thing; not to so many people, as to such wicked people.”[31]

The tendency we face today is to push into a theology of insecurity: a sort of “God needs me” mentality. If the love of God is exclusively portrayed as an inviting, yearning, sinner-seeking, rather lovesick passion, we may please those more interested in God’s inner emotional life than in his justice and glory, but the cost will be massive.[32]

God’s love is free. Whether in the entire nation of Israel, the church as a body, or as individuals, God manifests his love in a particular, effective, selecting love toward his elect. In the fortunate case of the elect, God sets his affection on his chosen ones in a way in which he does not set his affection on others.[33] However, this is not a license for hubris and boasting, but rather one of humiliation and gratitude. When Israel is contrasted with the universe or other nations, the distinguishing feature has nothing of personal or national merit; it is nothing other than the God’s amazing love. As Swiss theologian Karl Barth has stated,

“[S]o sovereign is He in His electing love that He loves this hostile man who is
unworthy of His love. He loves him notwithstanding his own unworthiness and hostility. He loves him just because of it. He loves him in his pride and fall. He loves him in his sloth and misery. He loves him as He takes pity on him as the sinful man.”[34]
Granted, this facet of the love of God is different than those previously mentioned, it is still precious and must be kept if we are to maintain the shape and contour of a biblical understand of the love of God.

Likewise, in the New Testament, Christ “loved the church and gave himself up for her”.[35] Over and over again we read of God’s love for his church, the Bride of Christ. In stating this, it is easy to drift toward a simple and absolute division: God loves the elect and hates the reprobate. Rightly proportioned, there is truth in this assertion; stripped of contours of complementary biblical truths, that same assertion has engendered hyper-Calvinism.

Finally, God’s love is sometimes said to be directed toward his own people in a provisional or conditional way—conditioned, that is, on obedience. This has nothing to do with the new birth into God’s family, but rather a part of the relational structure once we do come to know Him. The covenant relationship God has established with his people is a covenant of love and stipulation, blessing and curses. Nevertheless, divorced from complementary biblical utterances about the love of God, texts outlining the conditional love of God will drive us backward toward merit theology, and endless fretting about whether or not we have been good enough to enjoy the love of God.

These five specific illustrations of love are interwoven and awesomely grounded in God and the gospel—God is the gospel. They are given principles, found in Scripture, and so interwoven that pulling one will destroy the whole. Bound up with the truth that God is love, they are grounded in God's intra-Trinitarian love. We must be careful in not viewing these ways of talking about the love of God as independent, compartmentalized, loves of God. “Attempts to formulate abstract concepts of God’s being and nature apart from what can be known of God through his actions lead us astray and even into error.”[36] If we are to think of the love of Christ aright and convey the gospel to this postmodern world, we must hold these truths together and learn to integrate them in biblical proportion and balance.

Today—as in every generation—it is stunning to watch the shift away from God as the all-satisfying gift of God’s love. It is stunning how seldom God himself is proclaimed as the greatest gift of the gospel.[37] But the Bible teaches that the best and final gift of God’s love is the enjoyment of God’s beauty.[38] The best and final gift of the Gospel is that we gain Christ.[39] This is the all-encompassing gift of God’s love through the gospel—to see and savor the glory of Christ forever.

In place of this, we have turned the love of God and the gospel of Christ into a divine endorsement of our delight in many lesser things, especially the delight in being made much of. The litmus test of biblical God-centeredness—and faithfulness to the gospel—can be summed up in this: Do you feel more loved because God makes much of you, or because, at the cost of his Son, he enables you to enjoy making much of him forever? Does your happiness hang on seeing Christ as a witness to your worth or as a way to enjoy God’s worth forever? Is God’s glory in Christ the foundation of your gladness? These are questions the bride of Christ must ask herself if she is to be faithful to her groom.

The sad thing is that a radically man-centered view of love permeates our postmodern culture and churches. From the time they can toddle we teach our children that feeling loved means feeling made much of. We have built whole educational philosophies around this view of love—curricula, parenting skills, motivational strategies, therapeutic models, and selling techniques. Most modern people can scarcely imagine an alternative understanding of feeling loved other than feeling made much of. If you don’t make much of me, you do not love me.

But when we apply this definition of love to God, it weakens His worth, undermines His goodness, and robs us of our ultimate satisfaction. If the enjoyment of God himself is not the final and best gift of love, then God is not the greatest treasure, his self-giving is not the highest mercy, the gospel is not the good news that sinners may enjoy their Maker, Christ did not suffer to bring us to God, and our souls must look beyond him for satisfaction.

This distortion of divine love into an endorsement of self-admiration is subtle. It creeps into our most religious of acts. We claim to be praising God because of his great love for us, but if his love for us is at bottom his making much of us, who is really being praised? We are willing to be God-centered, it seems, as long as God is man-centered.[40] We are willing to boast in the cross as long as the cross is a witness to our worth. We must ask, “Who then is our pride and joy?” Are we preaching and teaching and leading in such a way that people are prepared to hear that question and answer with a resounding No? How do we understand the gospel and the love of God? Have we shifted with the world from God’s love as the gift of himself to God’s love as the gift of a mirror in which we like what we see? Have we presented the Gospel in such a way that the gift of the glory of God in the face of Christ is marginal rather than central and ultimate? Can we really say that our neighbors are being prepared for heaven where Christ himself, not his gifts, will be the supreme pleasure? When we celebrate the Gospel of Christ and the love of God, and when we lift up the gift of salvation, let us do it in such a way that people will see through it to God himself. Not mainly, “Salvation is great,” but “God is great!”[41]

[1] Paul Ehrman Scherer, “Love That God Defines,” Theology Today 21, (1964): 159-160.
[2] D.A. Carson. The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, (Illinois: Crossway Books, 2000) 11.
[3] D.A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications, (Michigan: Zondervan, 2005) 234.
[4] Ray S. Anderson, An Emergent Theology for Emerging Churches, (Illinois: IVP Books, 2006) 71.
[5] Ibid. 23-24.
[6] An Emergent Theology for Emerging Churches, 17.
[7] John 4:8, 16 (English Standard Version)
[8] Frederick M. Lehman, The Love of God, 1917.
[9] Brian McLaren, Reinventing Your Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), p.13.
[10] Emerging Theology for Emerging Churches, 64.
[11] 2 Corinthians 3:18
[12] G.W. Bromiley & T.F. Torrence, eds., Church Dogmatics, Volume IV, Part 2, by Karl Barth (Edinburgh: T&T Clark Ltd., 1958, 1985) 776.
[13] Emerging Theology for Emerging Churches, 67.
[14] Mike Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality: God’s Annoying Love for Imperfect People, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2002) 13.
[15] John Vikstrom, “God’s love for this world,” International Review of Mission, (1983): 519-520.
[16] Ray S. Anderson, The Soul of God: A Theological Memoir, (Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004) 94.
[17] The Soul of God: A Theological Memoir, 23.
[18] Ibid. 61.
[19] Emerging Theology for Emerging Churches, 43, 46.
[20] The Soul of God: A Theological Memoir, 58.
[21] John 3:35; 5:20; 14:31
[22] Emerging Theology for Emerging Churches, 47.
[23] The Soul of God: A Theological Memoir, 71. (John 17:26)
[24] Thomas F. Torrance, A Passion for Christ: The Vision that Ignites Ministry, (Edinburgh: The Handsel Press, 1999) 8.
[25] Genesis 1
[26] The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, 17.
[27] Mattew 6
[28] I’m not trying to be relevant. I genuinely enjoy Star Wars.
[29] John 3:16. I know that some try to take kosmos (“world”) here to refer to the elect. This is not what I am trying to accomplish, nor is this my personal position. God’s love for the world cannot be collapsed into his love for the elect.
[30] An Emerging Theology for Emerging Churches, 94.
[31] The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, 17.
[32] Ibid. 22
[33] Deuteronomy 4:37; 7:7-8; 10:14-15
[34] Church Dogmatics, 767.
[35] Ephesians 5:25
[36] Soul of God: A Theological Memoir, 59.
[37] John Piper. God is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself, (Illinois: Crossway Books, 2005) 11.
[38] Psalms 27:4
[39] Philippians 3:8
[40] God is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself, 12.
[41] Psalms 70:4

Embracing the Love of God: Part 1

With Valentine's Day on the horizon I couldn't think of a more appropriate time to contend for the Love of God.

What keeps God's love from becoming mere maudlin sentimentality? What is the bulwark, the firm foundation, that keeps the love of God from falling into the abyss of universalism, and prohibits us from the idolatry of seeing God as the great grandfather in the sky, filled with woe and sadness at His inability to make us all happy? I suggest to you it is the balance forced upon the person who honors God's Word by handling it aright, carefully taking into consideration all that the Word says. When we lose our balance in that area, we are liable to fall into any number of serious errors.

There is a biblical mandate to proclaim the "whole counsel of God," to hold back nothing the Holy Spirit has deemed important enough to reveal in Scripture and preserve for us today. The gospel by definition includes the wrath of God, repentance from sin, denial of self, all focused upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The gospel exalts the Triune God and humbles man. It takes our eyes off of ourselves and puts them on our Creator. God gets bigger, we get smaller. God becomes Lord, we become servants, slaves. I do not see this in much of what we would call a “gospel presentation” today. I see man being made the focus of God's attention; I see God presented as seeking, equally, a "relationship" with each individual, without distinction, and experiencing rejection and failure when the creature spurns His appeal. Rather than the gospel being a command, it is reduced to a series of suggestions all based upon the improvement of man's life (rather than His own glory and authority as Creator). Sin is "messing up," it is "junk from the past," rather than a slap in the face of a holy God, bringing certain punishment unless forgiven. In other words, the focus is on man, not on the risen Christ. What is missing ends up vitiating even the good and right things that are said.

What you win them with is that you win them to. A gospel that does not challenge the sinful sovereignty of the rebel soul will fill your church with religiously hypocritical rebels, nothing more.

In no way am I saying, "You can only say God is glorifying Himself and you can't speak of God's love." What I am saying is that "neglecting the God-centeredness of the Gospel leads to great damage to all involved."

God's love is awesome. God's love is shown every day in this world. God's love in Christ glows with spectacular brilliance only against the biblically mandated backdrop of His holiness, wrath against sin, and perfect provision of salvation in Jesus Christ. To disengage God's love from His own glory, His own purposes, and His own freedom of saving as He chooses in Christ Jesus reduces it to mere human sentimentality. God's love is not in doubt: it has been proven, beyond all doubt, by an empty tomb. It has been proven in a self-giving Savior. But it is only experienced salvifically by those who bow the knee to Christ and confess His name in true faith. God's love in Christ Jesus is not experienced by those who remain lovers of their sin.

The gospel is not a bare "offer" to all people to accept God's love in Jesus: it is first a command to repent and turn, and then it is in fact a wide and broad and glorious proclamation that the love of God in Christ Jesus is freely experienced by all, Jew and Gentile, who in faith turn to Christ! But that does not mean you have to reduce the sovereign Creator to a suitor begging for acceptance by the almighty rebel! God's love in Jesus is specifically limited by divine revelation to those who are repentant and who have faith in Jesus Christ the risen Savior. To promise the love of God to those who continue in love with their sin is not only unbiblical, it is treasonous. If you do not include this in the message so as to avoid making the love of God in Christ Jesus a mere sentimental attitude on God's part you will end up filling the church with rebels who think they are right with God---wait, sorry, that's exactly what we are seeing today! The love of God and the grace of God are both powerful and purposeful. Man wants both to be general, non-specific, and, most importantly, under the control of the will of man.

Daily Quote

"The love of God is not God's making much of us, but God's saving us from self-centeredness so that we can enjoy making much of him forever. And our love to others is not our making much of them, but helping them to find satisfaction in making much of God. True love aims at satisfying people in the glory of God. Any love that terminates on man is eventually destructive. It does not lead people to the only lasting joy, namely, God. Love must be God-centered, or it is not true love; it leaves people without their final hope of joy." - John Piper

Friday, February 9, 2007

Jack Bauer Power Hour

Jack Bauer Power Hour: The timeslot where "24" is televised. Literally, an hour (minus commercials) of Jack Bauer (bad-fanny counter-terrorist agent played by Keifer Sutherland) using his power (knocking off the bad guys in bad-fanny ways).

Dude, want to head downtown, have a few beers and grab some wings?
What are you, nuts? Jack Bauer Power Hour's on! I don't even answer the phone!

How to Deal with the Guilt of Sexual Failure for the Glory of Christ and His Global Cause

[Excerpted from John Piper's talk at Passion '07]

For You and Outside of You

Colossians 2:13-14, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

Those last words are the most crucial. This—this record of debt that stood against us—God set aside, nailing it to the cross. When did that happen? Two thousand years ago. It did not happen in you, and it did not happen with any help from you. God did that for you and outside of you.

Make sure you see this most glorious of all truths: God took the record of all your sins—all your sexual failures—that made you a debtor to wrath, and instead of holding them up in front of your face and using them as the warrant to send you to hell, he put them in the palm of his Son’s hand and nailed them to the cross.

Substitutionary Atonement

Whose sins were nailed to the cross—or more precisely, whose sins were punished on the cross? My sins and yours—the sins of all who despair of saving themselves and trust in Christ alone. Whose hands were nailed to the cross—or more precisely, who was punished on the cross? Jesus was. There is a beautiful name for this. It’s called a substitution.

Paul wrote in Romans 8:3, “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.” He condemned sin in the flesh. Whose sin? Ours. Jesus had none (it was the likeness of sinful flesh, not sinful flesh). He condemned our sin in the flesh. Whose flesh? Jesus’ flesh, not ours.

Have you ever wondered what the next verse in Colossians 2:15 means? Right after saying that God nailed the record of our debt to the cross, Paul says, “[God] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” This is a reference to the devil and all his demonic hosts. How are they disarmed? How are they defeated? Don’t they prowl around like a roaring lion today (1 Peter 5:8)?

The answer is: They have many weapons. They can do much damage. But they are disarmed of the one weapon that can damn us. The weapon of unforgiven sin. Be sure you see the connection between Colossians 2:14 and 15. In 2:14, it says God nailed the record of our debt to the cross. It’s punished. It’s finished. And in the next breath he says that God disarmed the rulers and authorities. He triumphed over them. Sure, they can beat us up. They can make us see weird things on the walls of our rooms. They can shake your house and cause lying signs and wonders. They accuse you and call you a loser, but they cannot damn you. That weapon is out of their hands. Only unforgiven sin damns. And that was nailed to the cross for everyone of you who despairs of saving yourself and trusts in Jesus.

A License to Sin?

I know that there are hundreds in this room right now who see so little of the beauty of Christ in this salvation that it simply sounds to them like a license to go on sinning. If all my sins are nailed to the cross, then let’s all sin that grace may abound (Romans 6:1). Paul confronted that blindness in his own day and said, “Their condemnation is just” (Romans 3:8). The reason they will be condemned is that we are saved by grace through faith. That’s plain in Colossians 2:12, “You were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God.” This faith connects you with Jesus so that his death counts for your death and his righteousness counts for your righteousness (compare Romans 5:1, “by faith” and 8:1 “in Christ”). And this faith receives Christ. It’s not a performing. It’s not an adding to what Christ has done. It is a receiving. Saving faith receives Jesus as Savior and Lord and Treasure of your life.

And this faith will fight anything that get’s between it and Christ. The distinguishing mark of saving faith is not perfection. The mark of faith is not that I never sin sexually. The mark of faith is that I fight. I fight anything that dims my sight of Jesus as my glorious Savior. I fight anything that diminishes the fullness of the lordship of Jesus in my life. I fight anything that threatens to replace Jesus as the supreme Treasure of my life. Anything that stands between me and receiving Jesus faith fights—not with fists or knives or guns or bombs, but with the truth of Christ.

So if all you can see in the cross of Jesus is a license to go on sinning, you don’t have saving faith. And you need to fall on your face and plead that God would open your eyes to see the compelling glory of Jesus Christ.

Daily Quote[s]

“Religion is I obey so I can be accepted. The Gospel is I am accepted so I can obey.” - Tim Keller

“How do you know you have met with God? You limp.” - D. M. Lloyd-Jones

“He will bring you down if he is going to use you.” - D. M. Lloyd-Jones

All of these quotes were used in Tim Keller's message on preaching the Gospel in the 21st century. Simply put, this is the best talk I have heard concerning the Gospel in a postmodern world.

Listen to it here.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Daily Quote

"If you really want something in life you have to work for it. Now quiet, they're about to announce the lottery numbers." – Homer Simpson

Kitten Cannon: Highest Score

To the best of my knowledge, this is the greatest and best score ever recorded on Kitten Cannon.

NOTE: Do not play this game if you: like kittens, are afraid of trampolines, take issues with using explosives, have ever had a bad experience with a missle or a balloon, have ever stepped or fallen on something sharp, or have ever been eaten by a venice flytrap.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Daily Quote

"Divisions and separations are most objectionable in religion. They weaken the cause of true Christianity ...But before we blame people for them, we must be careful that we lay the blame where it is deserved. False doctrine and heresy are even worse than schism. If people separate themselves from teaching that is positively false and unscriptural, they ought to be praised rather than reproved. In such cases separation is a virtue and not a sin." - J.C. Ryle

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Daily Quote

"If we believe in the possibility of a mealy, uninterested creator-god, then it’s easy to pass the buck on to him, leaving him to foot the bill for brokenness in the world. However, the Biblical God, the Almighty Creator of all that is seen and unseen, He’s the kind of God that such allegations simply won’t stick to . . . He is so far removed from our sleaze that all His involvement in this world is counted as grace upon grace." - Jacob Cook, UnearthingGod

EN Commercial: Robert Goulet

The idea that low blood sugar makes Robert Goulet wreck your stuff is awesome, go EN!

Monday, February 5, 2007

Bud Light Commercial

Low five.

Sierra Mist: Beard Comb-Over

Jim Gaffigan rules.

FedEx Commercial

Well said Mr. Turkey Neck.

Bud Light Slap Commercial

Yo, the pound is out man.

Live the Flavor

The other funny Super Bowl commercial.

Episcopalian Leadership: Disturbing

This blows my mind...

"Rough waters aren't new to Katharine Jefferts Schori, 52, a former oceanographer who is the Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. Bishop Katharine, as she's known, takes over a denomination rocked by controversy at home and abroad for its liberal stance on gay clergy. She talked with TIME's Jeff Chu about her mission of social justice, the relationship between science and religion and whether faith in Jesus is the only path to heaven."

[excerpts from the interview with TIME magazine]

What will be your focus as head of the U.S. church?

Our focus needs to be on feeding people who go to bed hungry, on providing primary education to girls and boys, on healing people with AIDS, on addressing tuberculosis and malaria, on sustainable development. That ought to be the primary focus.
(Is this the Gospel Jesus preached? This is the Good News of God unto salvation? What good is it for man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? Hmm...)

What is your view on intelligent design?

I firmly believe that evolution ought to be taught in the schools as the best witness of what modern science has taught us. To try to read the Bible literalistically about such issues disinvites us from using the best of recent scholarship.
(What? Apparently Bible-believing, Christian scholars who oppose the theory of evolution aren't quite up to par with the "best of recent scholarship".)

Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?

We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.
(I think Jesus may disagree with the Bishop on this one.)

*NOTE: In related news, the testosterone levels of male Americans has dropped significantly in the past twenty years.

Driscoll, Emerging Types, and Biblicist Theology

In a book entitled Listening to the Beliefs of the Emerging Churches, Mark Driscool writes a chapter concerning the emerging church and biblicist theology.

He writes,
"This chapter is my attempt to address three of the hottest theological issues in our day and to correct emerging error with biblical orthodoxy. As a devoted biblicist I am seeking to be as faithful to Scripture as possible, which explains the many Scripture references in this chapter.

I will explore what is arguably most distinctive about Christianity, namely the nature of God’s revelation, the nature of God, and the means by which God has chosen to save some sinners. The topics the publisher chose for this book are the essential elements of the Christian gospel according to the apostle Paul, who said that the second member of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, atones for our sins by his death and resurrection in fulfillment of the Scriptures."

Mark Driscoll is an important voice in the American church for our generation. I encourage you to look into this book and pray that the Lord continues to steel his heart and upholds him in faith and integrity.

You can read a excerpt of his chapter in PDF format here.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

We Are Debtors

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be.
Let that grace Lord, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

“So then, brothers, we are debtors." - Romans 8:12

These are some of the most famous hymn lyrics ever written...yet somehow it never occured to me just how much I owe to grace. As God's creatures, we are all debtors to Him: to obey Him with all our body and soul and strength. Having broken His commandments, as we all have, we are debtors to His justice, and we owe to Him a vast amount that we are not able to pay. But of the Christian it can be said that he does not owe God's justice anything, for Christ has paid the debt His people owed; for this reason the believer is in debt to love. I am a debtor to God's grace and forgiving mercy; but I am no debtor to His justice, for He will never accuse me of a debt already paid. Christ said, "It is finished!" and by that He meant that whatever His people owed was wiped away forever from the book of remembrance. Christ has completely satisfied divine justice; the account is settled; the handwriting is nailed to the cross; the receipt is given, and we are no longer in debt to God's justice. But then it follows that since we are not debtors to our Lord in that sense, we become ten times more debtors to God than we should have been otherwise.

Pause and consider this for a moment: What a debtor you are to divine sovereignty! How much you owe to His sacrifcial love, for He gave His own Son that He might die for you. Consider how much you owe to His forgiving grace, that even after ten thousand offenses He loves you as infinitely as ever. Consider what you owe to His power; how He has raised you from your death in sin; how He has preserved your spiritual life; how He has kept you from falling; and how, though a thousand enemies have surrounded your path, you have been able to hold on your way. Consider what you owe to His immutability. Though you have changed a thousand times, He has not changed once. You are as deep in debt as you can be to every attribute of God. To God you owe yourself and all you have: Offer yourself as a living sacrifice; it is but your reasonable service.

Embracing the Love of God: Winter Retreat

This past weekend was spent singing, dancing, studying, serving, resting, laughing, loving, eating, massaging, and chocolate fountain-ing at Camp Hiawatha for the Friends University Campus Ministries retreat. The theme of the weekend was "Embracing the Love of God," which was taken from the title of James Bryan Smith's book, Embracing the Love of God.

God is good. Always and forever...

If you want to catch some crazy pics of the here.

Daily Quote

"For every look at the self take ten looks at Christ." - Robert Murray McCheyne