Friday, May 30, 2008

How To Waste Your Theological Education

No, I am not in seminary. But by God's grace I am receiving a theological education through the Spurgeon Center. After spending a short time in Kenya a few weeks ago, I have been newly awakened to the greatness of the grace that it is not just for me to be able to have a doctrinally precise ministry equipping center at my church but to be part of a church where the full counsel of God is proclaimed, where the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that are in Christ are unfolded week after week so that all the saints might be presented mature in Christ (Colossians 2:2-3, 1:28). There is a way that Christianity is about receiving a theological education. And there are more people than we could dare to imagine who don't have access to a theological education, places where ministers of the gospel have no way to feed the sheep and build up the saints because they themselves are unequipped and untrained. Therefore, I believe that the list at the following link about how to waste your theological education is applicable to all believers who have the privilege of regularly sitting under biblical preaching.

How To Waste Your Theological Education

Yes, there is a way that Christianity is about receiving a theological education. But there is a way that it is certainly not.

Father, please spare us from this. Remove every impulse in us to waste the theological education You graciously provide for us, especially in a land full of scholars and theologians. And in its place would You please plant a passion to take the gift of a theological education to the nations that are starving for it, as sheep without a shepherd. For Christ's sake, Amen.

HT: Between Two Worlds

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Feed My Sheep

Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? ... Feed my lambs.
John 21:15
The way a pastor will love Jesus most and best satisfy his people's deepest need is one and the same: for him to unfold the meaning of all the Bible so that they might know God.

The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.
Psalm 119:130
HT: Pure Church

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Looking Behind David's Sin ... And Ours

Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.
2 Samuel 12:9
This is David's offense, right? This is the sin he has committed that has displeased the LORD (2 Samuel 11:26b) and brought the rebuke of Nathan, right? This is what is evil in God's sight, right?

Before I answer with a conclusive "yes," I must ask myself why, then, did the LORD's response to David after David essentially condemns himself begin in verse 7 and not verse 9? After Nathan relates a parable to David in which a rich man with many lambs takes the only lamb of a poor man to kill, prepare, and set before a visiting guest instead of using one of his own, David pronounces judgment over any man who would do such a thing, not realizing that the man is himself in his dealings with Uriah the Hittite and his wife, Bathsheba. And Nathan responds:
Nathan said to David, "You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.'
2 Samuel 12:7-9 (emphasis added)
And then Nathan continues to speak the LORD's words of judgment towards David.

But as I listen to the words of the LORD to David after Nathan first pronounces David to be "the man," I must ask myself why God doesn't just begin with verse 9. If the LORD had begun with the section where He asks "Why have you despised the word of the LORD...?", would you think that something was missing? My answer is that I wouldn't. So I must ask myself why God says what He says prior to that (the bolded text). Why does God list what He has done for David, how He has:
  • anointed David king over Israel?
  • delivered David out of the hand of Saul?
  • given David's master's house and David's master's wives into David's arms?
  • given David the house of Israel and of Judah?
And on top of this, God says that if all this were too little, He would have given David much more! Why does God take the time to speak of all that He has done for David and would do for David instead of just getting to the actions that David has committed?

I think the answer is that, without this, we wouldn't see the reality behind sin and what makes it so evil in the eyes of God. And to put another spin on it, we wouldn't see the reality behind sin that enables us to effectively battle and defeat it. This reality is the reason why David's sin is described:
  • by God as having despised God Himself (12:10)
  • by David as having sinned against the LORD (12:13, Psalm 51:4)
  • by Nathan as having utterly scorned the LORD (12:14)
Without in any way wanting to belittle the fact that Nathan wronged Uriah (an understatement) and Bathsheba as well, committing adultery, deceit, and murder, the issue doesn't ultimately lie in what David's actions show about David, sinner that he is, but rather the issue ultimately lies in what David's actions show about God, the Father of lights from whom every good and perfect gift comes from heaven above (James 1:17).

When David looked down at Bathsheba bathing from his palace rooftop, all he could think about was this woman that he didn't have. He had forgotten all that the LORD had graciously bestowed upon him, including three wives. It seems like this is were his sin began. Is this not why God begins His indictment of David by listing the benefits He had bestowed upon him?

Was this not the same place that Adam and Eve went wrong, forgetting all in the garden that they were granted to eat because they didn't have the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

Was this not the same place that both the young prodigal and his older brother went wrong, one desiring the inheritance and the other desiring a goat to celebrate with his friends, forgetting that all that was their father's was theirs (Luke 15:31)?

Is this not where we go wrong, forgetting that He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all will also with Him graciously give us all things (Romans 8:32)?

And so we take things into our own hands to get for ourselves what we want, showing God to be a withholder of something that is good when He has told us that no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11). And in so doing, we heap scorn on His name as David did, instead of magnifying Him as the all-satisfying grace Giver that He is. This is the heart of the evil in all of our sin. We steal glory from the One who does all things for His own name's sake (Isaiah 48:11). We do all this in spite of the fact that God has told us, just as he told David, that if we are lacking in any way, He will give us what we need (Psalm 23:1, Matt. 6:31-33, Matt. 7:7-11, Philippians 4:19). Perhaps we do so because we know that if we ask God for what we want, He will not give it to us. And yet the evil in our hearts supplants the Almighty in His grace-giving power and wisdom by replacing Him with ourselves as the orchestrator of our lives. I think we can see how this plays out for David if we contrast the way David takes Bathsheba to be his wife (2 Samuel 11) with how the LORD grants Abigail to be his wife (1 Samuel 25).

In his book Future Grace, John Piper's thesis is that "sin is what we do when we aren't satisfied in God." In other words, sin is what we do when we are blinded to and forgetful of all that God is for us and has given us in Jesus and through Jesus. And satisfaction doesn't come primarily by looking to the past, but rather by looking forward to the certainty of what God will do for us and be for us from this moment forward ("If this were too little, I would add to you as much more.").

This means that the primary way that we fight against sin is by continually praying, as Paul prayed for the Ephesians, to have the eyes of our hearts enlightened, that we might know what is the hope to which God has called us, what are the riches of God's glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of God's power toward us who believe (Ephesians 1:18-19), giving God the glory in doing so by rejoicing in God's work.

We pray that God would enable us to never lose sight and esteem of the worth of what He has done for us through Christ in the gospel according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at his right hand in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:20) after the Son had lived a perfect life to be credited to our account and died a perfect death to absorb the punishment that we deserved.

And we fix our eyes on Jesus, the One who was without sin because He never lost sight of His Father's all-satisfying worth and all that His Father had given into His hands, which we see in the act before His death that most clearly symbolizes what He has done for us in taking on human flesh.
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.
John 13:3, 4

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Chrstian Hedonism: Our Best Evangelism Strategy

Our power in drawing men to Christ springs chiefly from the fullness of our personal joy in him, and the nearness of our personal communion with him. The countenance that reflects most of Christ, and shines most with his love and grace, is most fitted to attract the gaze of a careless, giddy world, and win restless souls from fascinations of creature love and creature-beauty. A ministry of power must be the fruit of a holy, peaceful, loving intimacy with the Lord.

-Horatius Bonar
God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him not just because only then do we honor Him as the all-satisfying Treasure of the universe that He is but also because when the world sees our satisfaction in Him above all else, they will notice that He is more than just One to be obeyed. He is One to be enjoyed. Nobody is looking for something or someone to obey. Everybody is looking for something or someone to enjoy. This means that not only is Christian hedonism our best evangelism strategy, it is also our best discipleship strategy.

The implications for this are staggering. Above all else, what this means is that the soul winner's and disciple maker's primary business isn't daily to talk to men, but rather daily to get his soul as happy as possible in God.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Only Way To Pay God Back

What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD ...
Psalm 116:12, 13
Overwhelmed by all the benefits he has received from the LORD, the psalmist asks how he can render back to the LORD what He has given him, how he can return what the LORD has given so generously, how he can pay God back.

And he provides for us the only answer that doesn't commit blasphemy by dishonoring God and nullifying grace. The very cup of salvation that God has placed in his hands and filled with grace, he will lift up and cry out to God to fill with more and more grace that leads to salvation.
On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.
Psalm 138:3
So what does David do in response?

He pleads with God for more strength and deliverance:
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Psalm 138:8
The only way to pay God back is to go deeper and deeper into debt by continuing to call on Him and, in so doing, let Him display Himself as the always greater grace-Giver. And nothing delights Him more. He gets the glory. We get the help, satisfaction, and joy. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. What a God, infinitely worthy of our love!
[He is not] served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.
Acts 17:25