Saturday, August 31, 2013

God is our Happiness!

IN HIS CLASSIC WORK, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote “If you want to get wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prize which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry. Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? Once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?”[1]

[1] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York: MacMillan, 1975), pg 153

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Loving the Real God!

EACH OF US come to our Christian faith with a preconceived view of who God is. He is kind, generous, in love with us, dotes over us, lavishes us with mercy and grace, is fair with everyone, and would never do anything to pain another.
It's All About the Glory of God!

This is not the biblical view of God. The reality is much richer and more complex. And until we are willing to move from this preconceived view of God to loving the real God, the God of the Bible, God as he really is, we will not grow, mature, or do much to glorify God.

Romans 9:22-23 is a good example of the richer, more complex God. Concluding a long discussion about God's sovereignty, Paul asks, "What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory---even us whom he has called not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles?"

This text is very clear. God has prepared some beforehand to be vessels of destruction. They will display the glory of his justice and his wrath. God has also prepared beforehand vessels of mercy. They will likewise display the glory of God's mercy, grace, and love. In both cases God acts sovereignly, but he does so without violating human freedom. In both cases God is interested is something greater than human happiness. In both cases God is interested in manifesting something other than love, grace, and mercy. In both cases this is the not the God we expect when we come to Christianity.

I trust you are willing to "give up childish ways" and put on the "mind of Christ." He is light years beyond us. In the words of the doxology, "Oh the depths of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are his judgments. How inscrutable his ways!" (Rom. 11:33).

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Seduced by The World

IN HIS IMPORTANT essay The Pelagian Captivity of the Church R.C. Sproul notes that almost all of our thinking about theology rises or falls on our understanding of human nature. Pelagianism is a term for the belief that people are born basically good and possess the capacity to earn God's favor. Since the fifth century, the church has condemned Pelagianism. 

Despite this fact, R. C. Sproul notes that most contemporary Evangelicals are thoroughly Pelagian. He writes, “In a George Bama poll, more than seventy percent of "professing evangelical Christians in America expressed the belief that man is basically good. And more than eighty percent articulated the view that God helps those who help themselves. These positions-or let me say it negatively-neither of these positions is semi-Pelagian. They're both Pelagian. To say that we're basically good is the Pelagian view. I would be willing to assume that in at least thirty percent of the people who are reading this issue, and probably more, if we really examine their thinking in depth, we would find hearts that are beating Pelagianism. We're overwhelmed with it. We're surrounded by it. We're immersed in it. We hear it every day. We hear it every day in the secular culture. And not only do we hear it every day in the secular culture, we hear it every day on Christian television and on Christian radio.”[1]

Brothers let us pray for one another, and let us be very clear on the consequences and affects of sin. Great issues ride upon our willingness to clear here. 

[1] R. C. Sproul, The Pelagian Captivity of the Church, pg 5, PDF version online. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Christ Pre-Eminent!

COLOSSIANS IS ALL ABOUT the pre-eminence of Christ. Here are some key verses.  

Have you ever wondered what life is all about? Col. 1:18 tells us “that in everything [Christ] might be pre-eminent.” 

If its all about Christ then obviously ministry can be summed up with 1:26 “Him we proclaim.” 

And, if its all about Christ then our future is 1:27 “Christ in you the hope of glory.” 

This also means that Christ must be life's greatest Treasure. So 2:3 reads “Christ in whom are hidden all the Treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” 

If you don't understand the Old Testament, that's OK because Christ is its sum and substance. 2:17 "The substance [of the OT] belongs to Christ."  

Do you want to grow in godliness? Sanctification occurs by 2:19 "Holding fast to the Head.” Then Paul gives us a good example of what "holding fast" looks like It means 3:1-2 "Seeking" Christ. It means "Setting your mind on the things that are above, where Christ is.”     

Blessed are those who do this. Blessed is the Christ-centered Christian obsessed with the glory of Christ.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Jonathan Edwards on Beauty

OUR WORLD and all of life, despite its besmirching by sin, is a world of great beauty. In Jonathan Edwards on 
Edwards on Beauty
Owen Strachan and Douglas Sweeney have provided a wonderful resource for the non-technical reader, one not familiar with Edwards or technical theology.

Each chapter  quotes Edwards sermons or theological treatises on various subjects. They are "The Beauty of God," "The Beauty of Creation," the "Beauty of Christ," the "Beauty of the Church," and the "Beauty of the Trintarian Afterlife." Then the authors provide connecting paragraphs explaining Edwards' approach to these subject and how he saw the beauty of God reflected through them in all of life. The end point is that all of life is about God and his beauty.

This would be a great study for small groups in our church. The chapters are short, but bristle with God-glorifying content. This book will equip you to see the beauty of God in all of life 24X7.

I recommend highly.

The Importance of Gratitude or Thanksgiving

PAUL WROTE PHILIPPIANS from prison. Most of us would grumble and complain. A Roman Prison was not a pleasant place. Bad food, surly companions, filth, rats, vermin, stench, poor lighting, beatings, torture, etc ...

Yet, in these circumstances, Paul writes the most amazing letter. It is a letter of joy. It is filled with exhortations to thanksgiving and gratitude. It contains commandments to not yield grumbling or complaining. Why? God is sovereign and God is good. Read the following texts and be amazed.

(Philippians 1:3–4) "3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,"

(Philippians 1:18) "18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,"

(Philippians 2:14) "14 Do all things without grumbling."

(Philippians 2:17–18) "17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me."

(Philippians 2:28–29) "28 I am the more eager to send [Timothy], therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men,"

(Philippians 3:1) "1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord."

(Philippians 4:4–6) "4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."

(Philippians 4:10-11) "10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me....I have learned whatever situation I am in to be content." 

God gave Paul grace to rejoice and be thankful in horrendous circumstances. This should encourage us to hope that he will do the same for us in our time of need.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Man Christ Jesus

The Man Christ Jesus, Dr. Bruce Ware.

If you are like me you have noticed the exhortations in scripture to be led by the Holy Spirit. For example, “Those
who are led by the Spirit of God are Sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). But, the big question is this: what does it mean to be led by the Spirit of God? What does being “led by the Spirit” look like when the shoe leather of Christian experience contacts the pavement of life?

The Man Christ Jesus answer this question by helping us look at the humanity of Jesus Christ. Dr. Ware argues that Jesus did not live a sinless life and do mighty miracles because he was God, although he was. All of this he accomplished in the power of the Spirit. As the ideal man and the Second Adam he was the only man who has ever lived who was perfectly led by God’s Spirit, and Christ is our model. Ware devotes chapters to Christ’s wisdom, his temptations, his suffering, his death and his coming reign in glory. In each case Dr. Ware shows us how Jesus needed to be led by the Holy Spirit to fulfill God’s plan for his life.

In the same way we need to be led, empowered, and protected by God’s Spirit. Watching Christ is instructive, and this book will help you do that. It is short, only 150 pages, and the prose is readable. I recommend. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How The West Really Lost God

Mary Eberstadt
MARY EBERSTADT JUST penned a new volume, How The West Really Lost God. Eberstadt is a conservative scholar working for Stanford's Hoover Institution. I have read several of her other books. Eberstadt begins by noting that Christianity is on a precipitous decline, and secularism is on the rise in the West.

This book is an attempt to answer the question, which comes first, Christianity or the family? Is Christianity declining because the family is declining or is the family declining because Christianity is declining? Most suppose that Christianity is the horse that pulls the family's cart. The family collapses because religion collapses, or the family rises with the growth of religious belief.

Eberstadt turns all this upside down. She theorizes that religion follows the family. As the family declines religion declines. As the family rises, religious belief follows.  I did not find her argument conclusive. Yes, there is some truth that strong families strengthen religious conviction. The disconnect from extended family is one rational explanation for the secularism of the United States northwest.

But Eberstadt failed to convince me that fundamentally our world view (i.e. or religious convictions) don't ultimately govern everything about our real lives. This includes the family.

I finished the book wondering if Eberstadt really understands the power of religion when it reigns in the human heart.

It's Not About Us!

IF YOU HAVE EVER thought you were big and God was small, if you have ever been tempted to think life was all about us, here are some important scriptures to ponder. They make one pregnant point. It is not about us. Life and reality is about a big and glorious God.
A Cloud of Galaxies 

(Romans 11:36) "36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen."

(1 Corinthians 8:6) "Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist."

(Colossians 1:18) "And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent."

(Ephesians 4:6) "One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

(Hebrews 1:3) "He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power."

(Hebrews 2:10) "For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory..."

This is comprehensive language. Everything is from God. Everything is being upheld by God's sovereign power, and ultimately everything will be returned to God for his awesome Glory!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Principle of Ministry: Life From Death!

HERE ARE SOME quotes from men of God that have served the church. They distill down the basic secret of Christian ministry. They begin with a first century apostle, move to a 17th century Puritan, and to present day leaders. Enjoy!

2 Corinthians 4:11-12. "For we who live are always being give over to death for Jesus' sake; so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us but life in you."

John Flavel (17th Century Puritan): “I may say to him that snatched at the ministry, as Henry IV did to his son, that hastily snatched at the crown, He little knows what a heap of cares and toils he snatcheth at. The labors of ministry will exhaust the very marrow from your bones, hasten old age and death.’ They are fitly compared to the toil of men in harvest, to the labours of a woman in travail, and to the agonies of soldier in the extremity of battle. We must watch when others sleep.”[1]

Dave Harvey: “No man achieves ministry by pursuing his ambition. He achieves it by pursuing God’s glory…The ultimate test of a called man is whether he desires the advancement of the gospel more than the advancement of his own ministry. This is the constant daily test  for the called man.”[2]

Darrin Patrick: “Jeremiah is a picture of what it is like to be called into pastoral ministry. Ministry is more than hard. Ministry is impossible (Jer. 20:29). And unless we have a fire inside our bones compelling us, we simply will not survive. Pastoral ministry is a calling, not a career.”[3]
Dr. Thomas Schreiner: “[Paul’s] opponents insisted that signs and wonders were indications that God's Spirit was working, but Paul maintains that one must suffer for the life of Jesus to be revealed. Signs and wonders are not evil, but in themselves they do not provide a basis for legitimacy since those who are evil can also perform the miraculous (2 Thess 2:9).”[5]
Dr. Don Carson: “The leaders death means the church’s life. This is why the best Christian leadership cannot simply be appointed. It is forged by God himself in the fires of , taught in the school of tears. There are no shortcuts.”[1]

[1] John Flavel, The Works of John Flavel, Vol. 6,(Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1820, reprint 1968)  pg 568
[2] Dave Harvey, Are You Called?  Pg 45,46 (Sovereign Grace Perspectives Series)
[3] Darrin Patrick, Church Planter (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010) pg 30
[5] Thomas R. Schreiner. Paul, Apostle of God's Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology (Kindle Locations 1148-1150). Kindle Edition. 
[1] Carson, D.A., How Long Oh Lord, pg 90 (Grand Rapids, Baker, 1990)