Friday, May 29, 2009

Faith In The Gospel Begets Fear Of God

By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.
Hebrews 11:7 (emphasis added)
Servile fear is a fear that without any temperament of hope and comfort, and so it weakens the certainty of faith, rather than the security of the flesh. But now the gospel-fear is mixed with hope and joy: Psalm 2:10, 'Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.' Because our affections are apt to degenerate, therefore God would have this mixture. Hope is apt to degenerate to presumptuous boldness, and joy to grow into fond boasting; and therefore God hath required that we should allay the excess of one affection by the mixture of another, that so the spirit may be kept aweful, but not servile; and therefore in the children of God there is always such a mixture; their fear ends in reverence and caution, but not in torment; for it is overmastered by the apprehensions of God's love: 1 John 4:18, 'There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear torment; he that feareth is not made perfect in love.' The fear of the godly makes them more circumspect, but not a jot less comfortable; the more they fear, the more blessed, the more comfortabl--'Blessed is he that feareth always.' They are more wary and cautious in their walking with God, more serious in their special converses wand conferences with God. But now the issue of slavish fear is not love but torment; it is full of discomfort and dejection, and makes us anxious rather than cautious; and therefore it is good to temperate your fear, that you maby be comfortable in the use of holy duties, and your walking with God.

Out of all you see that there is a godly fear, which is the fruit of faith. There is a fear of reverence, proper to heaven; a fear in the church, that is a fear of caution; and a fear in hell, and that is despair, or a fearful looking for of the fiery indignation of the Lord.

--Thomas Manton, Works of Thomas Manton, Volume 14, p.200-201.
There is a fear that the gospel aims to cast out....
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins...There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
1 John 4:10, 18
And at the very same time a fear that it aims to create...
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, [so] that you may be feared.
Psalm 130: 3,4 (emphasis added)
God's design in the gospel isn't to remove our fear of Him. His design is to transform it. Therefore...
Since we have these [gospel] promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
2 Corinthians 7:1 (emphasis added)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The "So That" In Suffering

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:6, 7 (emphasis added)
Suffering isn't designed by God to destroy our faith but to intensify it. That will never happen, however, if we fail to look beyond the pain to the purpose of our loving heavenly Father. His design is to knock out from underneath us every false prop so that we might rely wholly on him. His aim is to create in us such desperation that we have nowhere else to look but to his promises and abiding presence.

There is, then, an alternative to cratering under the weight of distress. We need not yield either to bitterness, because things haven't gone our way, or to doubt, because we can't figure out God's ways, or to anger, because we feel abandoned. Rather, we can by his grace strive to see the "so that" in his mysterious and providential mercies. And even when we can't see it, we can trust him anyway!

--Sam Storms, To the One Who Conquers: 50 Daily Meditations on the Seven Letters of Revelation 2-3, p. 60.
Amen and Amen, brother.
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:8, 9 (emphasis added)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Subject Of The Ministry

C.H. Spurgeon's first words at the opening of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, where he would preach for many years:
I would propose that the subject of the Ministry in this house, as long as this platform shall stand, and as long as this house shall be frequented by worshippers, shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, 'It is Jesus Christ.' My venerated predecessor, Dr. Gill, has left a Body of Divinity, admirable and excellent in its way; but the Body of Divinity to which I would pin myself for ever, God helping me, is not his system, or any other human treatise; but Christ Jesus, who is the sum and substance of the gospel, who is in himself all theology, the incarnation of every precious truth, the all-glorious personal embodiment of the way, the truth, and the life.

-C.H. Spurgeon, Autobiography, Volume 2: The Full Harvest, pg. 34
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
1 Corinthians 2:1,2

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Death Is Not Dying: A Faith That Saves

Watch this amazing testimony given by Rachel Barkey to the grace of God in her life as she prepares to die of cancer, leaving behind a husband and two young children.

Lord, we do pray that in Your grace You would heal her. For we know that You are able. So we ask You to do it for Your name's sake. But thank You that even if You don't, she has shown so many of us what it means that to live is Christ and to die is gain. Thank You that she has shown us by what kind of death we most glorify You. May her reward in heaven be great as she comes into the presence of Jesus. I pray that You would make me like her, in the way she so faithfully and beautifully imitates Jesus. Thank You for this precious daughter of Yours and the glory of Christ that shines through her face. In His precious name, Amen.

HT: Desiring God

The Reward Is Yet To Come

...whoever would draw near to God must believe...that he rewards those who seek him.
Hebrews 11:6
There is enough to counterbalance all the inconveniences of religion; when you sit down and count the charges, you will be no losers. The difficulties of obedience, the sorrows of the cross, shall all be made up to you in this reward; and therefore let not your hearts be faint, nor your hands shake, but 'Press on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,' Phil. 3:14. If it be a painful race, remember what is the crown; we run for the everlasting enjoyment of the blessed God. As we christians have the noblest work, so we have the highest motives; there is a reward, and a great reward.

-Thomas Manton, Works of Thomas Manton, Volume 14, p. 167

Friday, May 15, 2009

In The Morning, It's Always Leah

And in the morning, behold, it was Leah!
Genesis 29:25
The second bit of bad news is, all life here is marked by cosmic disappointment. Cosmic disappointment. I want to say something quickly. Having read this thing and thought about this passage, I want you to know that I love Leah and I am protective of her in this story. But for a minute I have to tell you that she represents something very bad. One of the most fascinating things in the narrative is the way it turns on you, because here is Jacob saying finally, finally I'm going to have happiness in this life. Finally, finally I've got Rachel. But, behold, in the morning it was Leah.

And there is a very interesting little commentary written by one of my favorite writers, Derrick Kidner, and he puts it this way. Derrick Kidner says, "But in the morning, behold, it was Leah. This is a miniature of our disillusionment experienced from Eden onwards." You know what he's saying? He's saying this is a miniature, a fact that everybody in this room needs to know, and that is this: No matter what your hopes for a project, no matter what your hopes for marriage, no matter what your hopes for love, no matter what your hopes for a career, no matter what you have hopes in, in the morning it will always be Leah. No matter what you think is Rachel, it will always be Leah. Nobody ever put it any better than C. S. Lewis in his chapter on hope. He says:

Most people if they really learn to look into their own heart [and that's what I'm urging you to do right now] most people if they really learn to look into their own hearts would know that they do want and want acutely something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love or first think of some foreign country or first take up some subject that excites us are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning can ever really satisfy. I am not speaking of what would ordinarily be called unsuccessful marriages or failures of holidays and so on. I'm speaking of the very best possible ones. There is always something we have grasped at. There's always something in that first moment of longing but fades away in the reality. The spouse may be a good spouse. The scenery has been excellent. It turned out to be a good job. But it's evaded us. In the morning it's always Leah.

Now the reason you have to understand that is because it's painful to overhear people's lives. You notice what I said. I didn't say overhear people's words, because people don't say these things out loud. But you hear it in their life. You hear it. I overhear it when I see people's choices. I overhear it when I see people's attitudes, when I see what they're doing. And that is this. You overhear people saying, essentially, Oh, I'm going to have such a career. I'm going to get myself a hunk. I'm going to get myself a babe. And I'm going to live in this place, and I'm going to live in this place, and I'm going to live in this place. And I am going to have a life. In the morning it's always Leah. This is a miniature of the disillusionment which is our lot from Eden onwards.

Eventually, it is definitely going to come through. Eventually, you're going to see it. And when you do there are only four possible ways of responding to that. There are only four ways to go, and you're going to have to choose one of them and it will totally shape the rest of your life.

1. You'll either blame the things you have and say I've got to get better ones—better woman, better man, better job.

2. Or secondly, you'll blame yourself and just hate yourself.

3. Or thirdly, you'll blame life and you'll harden yourself so you'll never hope for anything at all.

4. Or fourthly, you can blame the theory of reality and you can say if there's nothing in this world that ever is Rachel, then Rachel must be beyond this world. If there's nothing in this world that will ever satisfy me, then it means that I am made for something beyond this world.

Now there are only four possible responses. Which one is it going to be?

1. One makes you a fool.

2. One makes you a self-hater.

3. One makes you an utterly hard cynic.

4. And one makes you a Christian.
Read the entire sermon preached by Tim Keller: The Girl Nobody Wanted

HT: Between Two Worlds

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Christian Values Or The Cross?

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me."
Matthew 4:8,9
Challenging and sobering message. Christian values or the cross? Which of the two do our lives reflect? They're not the same thing.

HT: Between Two Worlds

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In the City, For the City

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
Jeremiah 29:7
"That is not how Christians usually think about the city. Many Christians write the city off. At most, they try to establish their own fortresses within the city. But God does not tell his people to seek peace in the city; he tells them to seek the peace of the city."

Philip Graham Ryken Jeremiah, page 415.
HT: Christ Is Deeper Still

Preaching: No Small Task

Who is sufficient for these things?
2 Corinthians 2:16

Monday, May 11, 2009

God's Foreknowledge and the Exclusivity of a Husband's Love for His Wife

This post was prompted by the following excerpt from John Piper's sermon on John 3:16 yesterday.

For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined...
Romans 8:29
The word that we translate as foreknow in the Greek is proginosko. It breaks up into two parts: pro and ginosko. Ginosko means to know. And pro means beforehand. So what does it mean that God knows some people beforehand and not others? I think this will begin to make sense to us if we look at how the word ginosko is used elsewhere.
When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son.
Matthew 1:24-25
When Matthew tells us that Joseph didn’t know his wife until she had given birth to a son, what is he talking about? He’s talking about sexual relations. Joseph was not sexually intimate with his wife until after she had given birth. This is what the word ginosko means in this context. It refers to sexual intimacy.

Just to be clear, ginosko isn’t always used to refer to sexual intimacy. It’s used throughout the New Testament and often is just used to refer to knowing that something is true, to know information. But this way of using it to refer to sexual intimacy is one way that it can be used. And I think that if we use it this way, we can begin to understand what proginosko means, what it means that God foreknows some people and not others. If ginosko refers to the sexual intimacy that is an expression of love that is exclusively reserved for a particular person, then it seems to make sense that proginosko refers to the way a person would go about exclusively setting his or her love on that one person and no other. Before a man ever expresses his love to his wife through being sexually intimate with her, he must set his love upon this woman, choosing to love her exclusively in a way that he doesn’t love all women. And that is perhaps the main way that a wife knows herself loved by her husband. She knows that she is loved because he loves her in a way that he doesn’t love any other woman in the world. He sets his love upon her and no one else. Is this now why many wedding vows speak of forsaking all others? Which wife is happier? The one who knows that her husband loves all women exactly the same way he loves her or the wife who knows that, though her husband may love other women generally, she alone has his heart? There is a reason God built women that way.

And this, I believe, is what God does in foreknowing some and not others. He has set His love upon some people and not others, though He does love them generally (John 3:16). And it is because He sets His love on individuals that He chooses to elect them. Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined.
For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all the peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you that he is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers.
Deuteronomy 7:6-8
Moses says that God’s choice of Israel, His election of Israel, is interconnected with the fact that He has set His love upon Israel. In electing Israel as His people, God showed that He had set His love upon them. In not electing any other of the peoples, God showed that He had NOT set His love upon the other peoples in the same way. In other words, why did God elect Israel and no one else? Because He had set His love upon them and no one else. And why did God set His love upon Israel and no one else? Because He set His love upon Israel and no one else.
Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”
Amos 3:1-2
This is what Paul means when he speaks of foreknowledge in Romans 8:29. Before the foundation of the world, God set His love upon a group of individuals and not everyone that He would create. Why did He love them? Because He loved them. That’s as deep as we can go in the purposes of God in according to what He has revealed to us in His word. And it is this group of individuals that God has predestined, or elected, to salvation.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

By Faith...

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1
This is the definition of the word faith given by the author of the letter to the Hebrews. He will go on in chapter 11 to catalog the peculiar lives of many saints of old, calling attention to faith as the decisive means by which these men and women were able to live the kind of radical lives that they did. "By faith..." he will say again and again and again and again....

What's so interesting about each of the examples of faith that the writer gives in chapter 11 when he says "by faith" is that in none of them does he ever call attention to faith itself. But instead we only see what the faith produces. This means that the chapter isn't actually so much about faith, but rather about the kind of lives that faith produces.

But it's clear from this chapter that this faith isn't an afterthought. What this faith is isn't something to lightly skim over. Therefore, it's worth digging deep to understand what the essence of this term is. Because, if it is that faith and that faith alone that motivated these men and women to live the kind of lives that made God not ashamed to be called their God (Hebrews 11:12), then I want that faith and that faith alone. I need to know what that faith is, not just by my standards, but by God's standards. When Paul says in Romans 14:23 that "whatever does not proceed from faith is sin," should that not grab our attention? Should that not set us on a quest to make sure that the faith that we have is the kind of faith that God wants motivating all of our thoughts, words, and actions? A verse like Romans 14:23 has that kind of staggering effect on me.

And the stakes for me have only been increased since God spoke decisively, undeniably, and irrevocably to me through Hebrews 11:24-27 (quoted in the 'About Me' box to the right) last year, issuing His call on my life to leave the privilege of being a first generation American to move back to Kenya, the country my parents immigrated from, for the sake of His gospel. If it was only by faith that Moses could refuse to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, consider the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, and leave Egypt without fear of the king, then there is no doubt in my mind that I am without a glimmer of hope if I have anything other than that very same faith that Moses had.

So I am on a quest to know what that faith is, Hebrews 11 faith that receives commendation from God. What is underneath this faith? What strengthens and stabilizes it? How does its power work? Why does God place such a high premium on it?

And I have employed the services of an able guide, a Puritan preacher by the name of Thomas Manton, who preached a series of sermons on Hebrews 11 that spans over 700 pages! I've read about 300 pages so far and he's still in verse 6! And it's sections like the following excerpt that give me great eagerness to read another 400 pages and make me want to keep on peeling back the layers of this faith:
Oh, consider, to quicken you, [faith] is the grace that bringeth God most glory, and doth you most good. Some cry up charity, because they mistake the nature of faith--they depress it, they omit what is chiefest in faith, and they speak of it as if it were nothing worth. And so others make faith a pendulous hope, and therefore cry up obedience and love.

1. It bringeth God most glory. It is notable that faith doth that to God in a way of duty, which God doth to the creature in a way of grace--it justifieth, sanctifieth, and glorifieth. It justifieth, and that is a relative word, against the slanders and contempts of the world. So it is said, Luke 7:29, 'And all the people heard him, and the publicans justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John;' it defendeth his hounour and the truth of his grace. The pharisees said, It was a foolish doctrine. How a believer justifieth God against contempt of the world and the suspicions of his own heart! Whatever conscience saith to the contrary, the Lord is just, gracious, merciful. Unbelief slighteth God and Christ, as if he were not worth the taking; the truth of the gospel, as if it were not worth credit; his worth, as if he did not deserve respect; his power, as if he were not able to save a sinking soul; it putteth a lie upon the whole contrivance of grace. Oh, how sweet were it if we could justify God against the prejudices of our own hearts! they make the blood of Christ a base thing, the Spirit of Christ a weak instrument. So it sanctifieth God: Numbers 20:12, 'Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel.' To sanctify, is to set apart for special uses and purposes; so we are said to sanctify God when we give him a separate and distinct excellency from all the powers in the world. He is not a common help and saviour, none so holy and gracious; it setteth the Lord with admiration above all created powers, for trust, fear, and dependence: Isaiah 8:13, 'Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.' When we see man is not to be trusted nor feared, but God, we set him on the highest point of eminency, aloof from the creatures. Is there any like him for pardon, for power, for holiness? So it glorifieth God: Romans 4:20, 'He was strong in faith, giving glory to God.' God doth as it were receive a new being from faith; though he be infinitely glorious in himself, yet he counteth himself glorified by the faith of the creature; he hath a second heaven in the heart of a believer, there he dwelleth by faith and displayeth the pomp of all his excellencies. Now unbelief dethroneth God, it will not let him set up a new heaven or place of residence in the conscience.

--Thomas Manton, Works of Thomas Manton, Volume 14, p.118
May we not trifle with this word that we've become so familiar with. May we not confuse this faith for something that's not it. But instead, Lord, we pray as Your apostles did, "Increase our faith!" In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Freedom Summit

Freedom Summit. May 15-16. Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Mountain View, CA.

Come. Learn. Pray. Fight.

Friday, May 01, 2009

T4G 2008 - Sweet and Awful

How Sweet and Awful Is the Place

1. How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.

2. While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
"Lord, why was I a guest?"

3. "Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there's room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?"

4. 'Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.

5. Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

6. We long to see Thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May, with one voice and heart and soul,
Sing Thy redeeming grace.

-by Isaac Watts