Thursday, December 17, 2015

We Cannot Escape It

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
Matthew 6:27
The millionaire has no advantage over the most wretched pauper in existence.
Medical knowledge and skill cannot extend life.  We think they can, but that is because we do not know.  These things are all determined by God, and thus even medical men are often bewildered and frustrated.  Two patients who appear to be in the same condition are given identical treatment.  One recovers; the other dies.  What is the answer?  The answer is that 'no man can add one cubit to his duration of life'.  It is a great mystery, but we cannot escape it.  Our times are in the hands of God, and do what we will, with all our food and drink, and our medical profession, and all our learning and science and skill, we cannot add a fraction to the duration of man's life.  In spite of all modern advances in knowledge, our times are still in the hands of God.  And so, our Lord argues, why all the fuss and bother, why all the excitement, why all this worry and anxiety?  Life is a gift from God.  He starts it and He determines the end of it.  He sustains it, and we are in His hands.  Therefore, when you tend to become worried and anxious, just pull yourself up at once and say, I cannot start, or continue or end life; all this is entirely in His hands.  If that greater thing is there in His control, I can leave the lesser also to Him.  You cannot extend your life even by one cubit; therefore recognize the utter futility and waste of time and energy involved in worrying about these things.  Do your work; sow, reap and gather into barns; but remember that the remainder is in the hands of God.  You may have the finest seed you can buy on the market; you may have the best plough and everything necessary in the sowing; but if God withheld the sun and the rain you would not have a crop.  God is ultimately behind it all.  Man has his place and his work, but it is God that giveth the increase.  This is what we must always remember, and it applies always and in all circumstances.

--Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p.391-392
David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption.
Acts 13:36

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

We Often Spoil Our Appetite...

... for righteousness.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Matthew 5:6
I suggest that if we are truly hungering and thirsting after righteousness we shall not only avoid things that we know to be bad and harmful, we shall even avoid things that tend to
dull or take the edge off our spiritual appetites. There are so many things like that, things that are quite harmless in themselves and which are perfectly legitimate. Yet if you find that you are spending much of your time with them, and that you desire the things of God less, you must avoid them. This question of appetite is a very delicate one. We all know how, in the physical sense, we can easily spoil our appetite, dull its edge, so to speak, by eating things between meals. Now it is like that in the spiritual realm. There are so many things that I cannot condemn in and of themselves. But if I find I spend too much of my time with them, and that somehow I want God and spiritual things less and less, if I am hungering and thirsting after righteousness, I shall avoid them.

--Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p.76

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Should It Really Surprise Us?

And God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of people shall come from her." Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, "Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?"
Genesis 17:15-17
The following is an imaginative reflection of part of what Abraham might have said to Sarah after this encounter with the Lord.
I know, Sarah. We are powerless to have children, now more than ever. But if we've learned anything these twenty-five years, it's that our hope doesn't rest on our power to do anything. Our hope rests on the Lord's power. Our entire lives are built on what he's promised. And the lives of our descendants must be built on his promises for generations before they ever occupy this land. Their survival will depend on them trusting the Lord's promises and not their own power. Should it really surprise us that the first descendant the Lord gives us is a reminder of this?
--Jon Bloom, Things Not Seen: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Trusting God's Promises

As those living on this side of history, it shouldn't surprise us. Through all their waiting and believing against hope (Romans 4:18), God was forging in Abraham and Sarah the faith that they would bequeath to their descendants ... including us.
When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;

When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!

How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him

Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!

How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And which every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out-
God knows what He’s about.

– Anonymous
He knows what He's about.
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.
Galatians 3:7

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Fruit Becoming the Vineyard of God

And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.
Luke 13:6
The Lord expects fruit becoming the vineyard of God. ‘The vineyard,’ saith he, ‘in a very fruitful hill’: witness the fruit brought forth in all ages (Isa 5:1). The most barren trees that ever grew in the wood of this world, when planted in this vineyard by the God of heaven, what fruit to Godward have they brought forth! ‘Abel offered the more excellent sacrifice’ (Heb 11:4). Enoch walked with God three hundred years (Heb 11:5). Noah, by his life of faith, ‘condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith’ (Heb 11:7). Abraham left his country, and went out after God, not knowing whither he went (Heb 11:8). Moses left a kingdom, and run the hazard of the wrath of the king, for the love he had to God and Christ. What shall I say of them who had trials, ‘not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection? They were stoned; they were sawn asunder; were tempted; were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented’ (Heb 11:35-37). Peter left his father, ship, and nets (Matt 4:18-20). Paul turned off from the feet of Gamaliel. Men brought their goods and possessions (the price of them) and cast it down at the apostle’s feet (Acts 19:18-20). And others brought their books together, and burned them; curious books, though they were worth fifty thousand pieces of silver. I could add how many willingly offered themselves in all ages, and their all, for the worthy name of the Lord Jesus, to be racked, starved, hanged, burned, drowned, pulled in pieces, and a thousand calamities. Barren figtree, the vineyard of God hath been a fruitful place. What dost thou there? What dost thou bear? God expects fruit according to, or becoming the soil of the vineyard.

--John Bunyan, The Barren Fig Tree, p.13-14
What dost thou there? What dost thou bear?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

No Pain, No Gain

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained [Greek = gymnazo --> gymnasium] by it.
Hebrews 12:11
God, says this man, by doing the things that He is doing to you, is as it were putting you
into that spiritual gymnasium. He has you stripped, He is examining you, He knows exactly what you need. Now all you have to do is to submit to Him and do exactly what He tells you. Listen to the Instructor, go through the exercises, and if you do so it will give you 'the peaceable fruit of righteousness'. What does all this mean? Being interpreted it means this. The first thing we have to do is to examine ourselves and submit ourselves to the examination of God's Word. The moment any untoward [= unfavorable] event happens to us we must say: 'I am in the gymnasium. Something must be the matter. What has been going wrong? Where is my trouble?' That is the way the Christian should always react to any one of these things that happen. Is it illness, is it accident, is it a failure, is it a disappointment, is it someone's death? I do not care what it is, but on the basis of this teaching, the first thing I should say to myself is: 'Why has this happened to me, have I been going astray somewhere?' Read Psalm 119 and you will find the Psalmist says: 'It is good for me that I have been afflicted...' (Psalm 119:71) Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept Thy word' (Psalm 119:67). He had not realized that he had been slipping away but his affliction makes him think, and he says: 'I thank God for this, it is a good thing for me, I am a better man for it: I was going astray'. Therefore you and I should always in the first instance examine ourselves, and ask: 'Have I been negligent in my spiritual life, have I been forgetting God, have I become somewhat elated and self-satisfied, have I sinned, have I done any wrong?' We must examine ourselves, we try to discover the cause, we do it thoroughly. None of this as this man tells us is 'joyous', but we must search our life and examine ourselves to the very depths, however painful it may be, to see if there is some respect in which we have been going astray without our knowing it. We must face it honestly.

--Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, p. 255-256

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Good Life

In the West we have not the slightest inkling that, in reveling in affluence as we do, we are playing with fire.  This affluence so easily becomes an alternative Way, Truth, and Life, a counterfeit gospel in which to have is to be saved and to have not is to be damned.  Unfortunately, la dolce vita [= the sweet life, the good life] is not itself satisfying, not in an enduring way.  It tends to make us shallow, self-absorbed people who give ourselves to chasing what is superficial by way of styles, fads, and what is pleasurable provided there are no demands for commitments.  The styles quickly become obsolete, the fads are forgotten, and the pleasures fade like the morning mist so that this kind of life constantly has to be reinventing itself.  Those who fashion their lives around these things die of emptiness.  The pains that linger in the soul like a bad headache stay a long, long time.

It is hard to know exactly how those who have received the Word stand in relation to Christ, but they show nothing of spiritual merit in their lives despite their hearing of the Word, their born-again profession, and maybe their churchgoing.  They may show up in the born-again category in Barna's polls, but they are not in the right category in life.

--David Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lover, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World, p.90
On the contrary:
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

An Absolute Certainty

If I crave happiness, I will receive misery. If I crave to be loved, I will receive rejection. If I crave significance, I will receive futility. If I crave control, I will receive chaos. If I crave reputation, I will receive humiliation. But if I long for God and his wisdom and mercy, I will receive God and wisdom and mercy. Along the way, sooner or later, I will also receive happiness, love, meaning, order, and glory.
--David Powlison, Seeing with New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition Through the Lens of Scripture, p. 161
In other words, the good news:
I say to the Lord, "You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you."
Psalm 16:2
And the bad news:
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
Psalm 16:4

Monday, August 10, 2015

That Ugly Beast and Enemy of God

...just as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"?
Galatians 3:6
Let your faith supplant reason. Abraham mastered reason by faith in the Word of God. Not as though reason ever yields meekly. It put up a fight against the faith of Abraham. Reason protested that it was absurd to think that Sarah who was ninety years old and barren by nature, should give birth to a son. But faith won the victory and routed reason, that ugly beast and enemy of God. Everyone who by faith slays reason, the world's biggest monster, renders God a real service, a better service than the religions of all races and all the drudgery of meritorious monks can render.
--Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, p. 73

Friday, July 31, 2015

Why Are You So Afraid?

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?"
Mark 4:35-40
He rebuked them for being in that state of agitation and terror and alarm while He was with them in the boat. That is the first great lesson we have to apply to ourselves and to one another. It is very wrong for a Christian ever to be in such a condition. I do not care what the circumstances may be, the Christian should never be beside himself like this, the Christian should never be at his wit's end, the Christian should never be in a condition in which he has lost control of himself. That is the first lesson, a lesson we have emphasized before because it is an essential part of the New Testament teaching. A Christian should never, like the worldly person, be depressed, agitated, alarmed, frantic, not knowing what to do. It is the typical reaction to trouble of those who are not
Christian, that is why it is so wrong to be like that. The Christian is different from other people, the Christian has something which the non-Christian does not possess, and the ideal for the Christian is that which is stated so perfectly by the Apostle Paul in the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Philippians: 'I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content ... I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me'. That is the Christian position, that is what the Christian is meant to be like. The Christian is never meant to be carried away by his feelings, whatever they are--never. That is always wrong in a Christian. He is always to be controlled, as I hope to show you. The trouble with these men was that they were lacking in self-control. That is why they were miserable, that is why they were unhappy, that is why they were alarmed and agitated, though the Son of God was with them in the boat. I cannot emphasize this point too strongly. I lay it down as a simple proposition that a Christian should never lose self-control, should never be in a state of agitation or terror or alarm, whatever the circumstances. That is obviously our first lesson. The position of these people was alarming. They were in jeopardy and it looked as if they were going to be drowned the next moment, but our Lord says in effect: 'You should not be in that condition. As My followers you have no right to be in such a state even though you are in jeopardy'.
--Martyn Lloyd Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, p.137-138
He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.
Psalm 112:7

Saturday, July 18, 2015

To Believe This

Grace to you and peace from ... the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins...
Galatians 1:3-4
The genius of Christianity takes the words of Paul "who gave himself for our sins" as true and efficacious. We are not to look upon our sins as insignificant trifles. On the other hand, we are not to regard them as so terrible that we must despair. Learn to believe that Christ was given, not for picayune [petty] and imaginary transgressions, but for mountainous sins; not for one or two, but for all; not for sins that can be discarded, but for sins that are stubbornly ingrained.

Practice this knowledge and fortify yourself against despair, particularly in the last hour, when the memory of past sins assails the conscience. Say with confidence: "Christ, the Son of God, was given not for the righteous, but for sinners. If I had no sin I should not need Christ. No, Satan, you cannot delude me into thinking I am holy. The truth is, I am all sin. My sins are not imaginary transgressions, but sins against the first table, unbelief, doubt, despair, contempt, hatred, ignorance of God, ingratitude towards Him, misuse of His name, neglect of His Word, etc.; and sins against the second table, dishonor of parents, disobedience of government, coveting another's possessions, etc. Granted that I have not committed murder, adultery, theft, and similar sins in deed, nevertheless I have committed them in the heart, and therefore I am a transgressor of all the commandments of God.

"Because my transgressions are multiplied and my own efforts at self-justification rather a hindrance than a furtherance, therefore Christ the Son of God gave Himself into death for my sins."

To believe this is to have eternal life.

--Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, p. 9
Indeed, to believe this is to have eternal life.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Marks of the Evangelical

Martyn Lloyd-Jones on some of the distinguishing marks of an evangelical:

  • The evangelical is one who is entirely subservient to the Bible.  He is a man of one book; he starts with it; he submits himself to it; this is his authority.
  • The evangelical uses this term as a prefix and not as a suffix.  What I mean by that is that the first thing about the man is that he is evangelical.  The particular denomination to which he belongs is secondary; it is not primary.  In other words, there is all the difference in the world between talking about an evangelical Baptist and a Baptist evangelical.  I am contending that the man is evangelical first.
  • He is a man who is always watching.  They are to be discriminating; they are always to be examining; they are always to be watchful.  And so when a man ceases to be watchful, he, to that extent, ceases to be an evangelical.  The person who says, It is all right; you need not bother; we are all Christians and having a marvellous time together -- and is not watchful, is already departing from the biblical position.
  • The evangelical distrusts reason and particularly reason in the form of philosophy.  Philosophy has always been the cause of the church going astray, for philosophy means, ultimately, a trusting to human reason and human understanding.  The evangelical starts from the Scriptures.  He also reads the history of the church, and there he finds that the history proves what has been emphasized in the Scripture, that when men trust to reason and understanding they go astray.  The evangelical distrusts scholarship and is watchful of it.  That does not mean he is anti-intellectual; it does not mean that he becomes obscurantist; but it does mean that he keeps reason and scholarship in their place.  They are servants and not masters.
  • The evangelical takes a particular view with regard to the sacraments.  He recognizes only two, of course, like other Protestants, but his view of these often differentiates him, and generally does differentiate him, from those who are not evangelical.
  • The evangelical takes a critical view of history and tradition.  The evangelical believes in the principle of discontinuity.  Looking at the history of the church, he sees how the church, which was a live, spiritual body, always tended to become hardened and fossilized into a dead institution.  He realizes that this is the greatest danger, so, far from being afraid of the principle of discontinuity, he knows that he can only understand the true history of the living church in terms of discontinuity, the breaks that have taken place before the Reformation, and particularly at the Reformation, and since the Reformation.  The evangelical is not tied by the decisions of the early councils of the church.  He does not slavishly fall down before them.  He examines them, he examines everything in light of the Scriptures, even the great pronouncements of the councils and everything else.
  • The evangelical is a man who is always ready to act on his beliefs.  He studies the Scriptures; he discovers the doctrine and he can judge that it is true and can see that the people with whom he is connected do not believe it.  He says, I cannot go on like this, I am compromising my doctrine; I have got to act on the truth.
  • The evangelical is a man who always simplifies everything.  The gospel not only simplifies belief and the statement of beliefs; it always simplifies our view of church order and church government.  The evangelical does not believe in vestments, putting on copes and mitres and changing vestments for different parts of the service.  He does not believe in ceremonies and liturgies and processions.  The church buildings of the evangelical are always simple, whereas the those of the Catholics tend to be ornate and elaborate.
  • The evangelical is always concerned about the doctrine of the church.  He is concerned about a pure church.  His idea of the church is that it consists of the gathered saints.  He does not believe in a state church.  He is vitally concerned about his correct view of the nature of the Christian church.
  • The evangelical puts tremendous emphasis upon the rebirth.  You will find that as men cease to be evangelical, they put less and less emphasis upon regeneration, and they tend to put more and more upon the activity of the human will and the decision of the individual person.  But the evangelical sees everything in terms of regeneration, the action of God.  He says, I am what I am by the grace of God; and he is amazed at himself.
  • Prayer is vital in the life of the evangelical; it is his life.  You will find that evangelicals almost invariably have formed religious societies for reading the Bible, discussing it together, for prayer, and for sharing one another's experiences.
  • Evangelicals pay great attention to the way in which people live.  They are strict in their behaviour.  The evangelical is careful about his life, careful to maintain good works, to live a life above reproach, not to be a hindrance or an obstacle to a weaker brother.  The great ethic, the emphasis on holiness of the New Testament, is something which true evangelicals have always set great store by.
  • The evangelical by nature is tremendously interested in revival.  He is always longing for an outpouring of the Spirit, and the great evangelical reawakenings have always been a result of an effusion of the Holy Spirit.
  • The evangelical always gives primacy to preaching.  The church starts with preaching.  Revivals, reformations, have always been great restorations of preaching.  To the evangelical, nothing compares with preaching.
  • The evangelical is a man who is always concerned about evangelism.  The evangelical is a man who, because of what God has done for him, is anxious that others should have the same.  Not only that, he sees something of the glory and the majesty and the sovereignty of God; he believes in hell, eternal punishment; and he is concerned about those men dying in spiritual darkness round and about him.  They become a burden to him, and he is not satisfied until he has done his utmost to bring them to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus.
--Martyn Lloyd Jones, Knowing the Times, chapter 16

Saturday, July 11, 2015

God Wrote a Book

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Luke 24:27
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What Does the Narrow Gate Have to Do with the False Prophet?

For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Matthew 7:14-20
The picture we need to have in our minds, therefore, should rather be this. The false prophet is a man who comes to us, and who at first has the appearance of being everything that could be desired. He is nice and pleasing and pleasant; he appears to be thoroughly Christian, and seems to say the right things. His teaching in general is quite all right and he uses many terms that should be used and employed by a true Christian teacher. He talks about God, he talks about Jesus Christ, he talks about the cross, he emphasizes the love of God, he seems to be saying everything that a Christian should say. He is obviously in sheep's clothing, and his way of living seems to correspond. So you do not suspect that there is anything wrong at all; there is nothing that at once attracts your attention or arouses your suspicion, nothing glaringly wrong. What then can
be wrong, or may be wrong, with such a person? My suggestion is that finally this person may be wrong both in his teaching and in his type of life for, as we shall see, these two things are always indissolubly linked together. Our Lord puts it by saying, 'Ye shall know them by their fruits.' The teaching and the life can never be separated, and where there is wrong teaching in any shape or form it always leads to a wrong type of life in some respect.

How then can we describe these people? What is wrong with their teaching? The most convenient way of answering this is to say that there is no 'strait gate' in it, there is no 'narrow way' in it. As far as it goes it is all right, but it does not include this. It is a teaching, the falseness of which is to be detected by what it does not say rather than by what it does say. And it is just at this point that we realize the subtlety of this situation. As we have already seen, any Christian can detect the man who says outrageously wrong things; but is it unfair or uncharitable to say that the vast majority of Christians do not seem to be able to detect the man who seems to say the right things but leaves out vital things? We have somehow got hold of the idea that error is only that which is outrageously wrong; and we do not seem to understand that the most dangerous person of all is the one who does not emphasize the right things.

That is the only way to rightly understand this picture of the false prophets. The false prophet is a man who has no 'strait gate' or 'narrow way' in his gospel. He has nothing which is offensive to the natural man; he pleases all. He is in 'sheep's clothing', so attractive, so pleasant, so nice to look at. He has such a nice and comfortable and comforting message.

...we must go back to the Old Testament and read what it says about the false prophets, because the type does not change. They were always there, and every time a true prophet like Jeremiah or someone else came along, the false prophets were always there to question him, and to resist him, and to denounce and ridicule him. But what were they like? This is how they are described: 'They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly (or lightly), saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.' The false prophet is always a very comforting preacher. As you listen to him he always gives you the impression that there is not very much wrong. He admits, of course, that there is a little; he is not fool enough to say that there is nothing wrong. But he says that all is well and will be well. 'Peace, peace', he says. 'Don't listen to a man like Jeremiah,' he cries; 'he is narrow-minded, he is a heresy hunter, he is non-co-operative. Don't listen to him, it is all right.' 'Peace, peace.' Healing 'the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying Peace, peace; when there is no peace.' And, as the Old Testament adds devastatingly and with such terrifying truth about religious people then and now, 'my people like to have it so.' Because it never disturbs and never makes you feel uncomfortable. You carry on as you are, you are all right, you do not have to worry about the strait gate and the narrow way, or this particular doctrine or that. 'Peace, peace.' Very comforting, very reassuring always is the false prophet in sheep's clothing; always harmless and nice, always, invariably, attractive.


They offer an easy salvation, an easy type of life always.  They discourage self-examination; indeed, they almost feel that to examine oneself is heresy.  They tell you not to examine your own soul.  You must always 'look to Jesus', and never at yourself, that you may discover your sin.  They discourage what the Bible encourages us to do, to 'examine' ourselves, to 'prove our own selves', and to face this last section of the Sermon on the Mount.  They dislike the process of self-examination and mortification of sin as taught by the Puritans, and those great leaders of the eighteenth century--not only Whitefield and wesley and Jonathan Edwards, but also the saintly John Fletcher, who put twelve questions to himself every night as he retired to bed.  It does not believe in that, for that is uncomfortable.  It is an easy salvation and easy Christian living.  It knows nothing about Paul's feeling, when he says 'we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened.'  It does not know anything about fighting 'the good fight of faith.'  It does not know what Paul means when he says that 'we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places' (Eph. 6:12).  It does not understand that.  It does not see any need for the whole armour of God, because it has not seen the problem.  It is all so easy.

--Martyn Lloyd Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 500-501, 505

Monday, June 15, 2015

Love: Not What We Thought It Was

We usually recoil from the cost of love, thinking it is an alien substance, but it is the essence of love.  This is strangely encouraging because when the pressure of love builds, we think that somehow we showed up for the wrong life.  This isn't what we signed up for.  But no, this is the divine path called love.

--Paul Miller, A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships, chapter 7
Strangely encouraging, indeed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Suffering from 350 Years of Dominance and Prosperity

For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.
Hebrews 11:14

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Subtlety of Modernity

Evangelicals are antimodern only across a narrow front; I write from a position that is antimodern across the entire front.  It is only where assumptions in culture directly and obviously contradict articles of faith that most evangelicals become aroused and rise up to battle "secular humanism"; aside from these specific matters, they tend to view culture as neutral and harmless.  More than that, they often view culture as a partner amenable to being coopted in the cause of celebrating Christian truth.  I cannot share that naivete; indeed, I consider it dangerous.  Culture is laden with values, many of which work to rearrange the substance of faith, even when they are mediated to us through the benefits that the modern world also bestows upon us.  Technology is a case in point.  While it has greatly enhanced many of our capabilities and spread its largess across the entirety of our life, it also brings with it an almost inevitable naturalism and an ethic that equates what is efficient with what is good.  Technology per se does not assault the gospel, but a
technological society will find the gospel irrelevant.  What can be said of technology can also be said of many other facets of culture that are similarly laden with values.  It is the failure to see this and to see how, in consequence, evangelical faith is being transformed that is now greatly straining its connections to historic Protestant orthodoxy.  It is precisely because I reject belief in the modern world that I am able to believe in the truth that this orthodoxy seeks to preserve.  It is because many evangelicals believe in the innocence of modern culture and for that reason exploit it and are exploited by it that they are unable to believe in all of the truth that once characterized this Protestant orthodoxy.  In the current typology, evangelicals are typically moderns in their orientation; this book is insistently antimodern.

--David Wells, No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology, p. 11
This book was written in 1993.  But, over 20 years later, it reads as though it were written today.

Friday, January 09, 2015

God So Loved the Elect?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

[John Owen] conceives a hyponymous relation between world and elect here (i.e. world includes 'elect' as a subset).  This is not possible in John where the elect are defined against the world -- they are those given to Jesus by the Father "out of the world" [17:6], that is, 'elect' is a concept in John which is in opposition to 'world', defined over against it.  Owen's substitution would lead 3:16 to read "God so loved those He chose out of the world", which alters the sense of the verse significantly, in effect denying what the verse affirms, a love of the world.  World is a description of a qualitative state of rebellion against God, which does not have reference to anyone's relation to the decree of God, the latter being manifested in John by coming to Jesus, listening to His voice, believing in Him.  But when an individual does that he is, as stated above, no longer "of the world".  To make the 'world' the 'elect', even to view it as a mixture of elect and reprobate [i.e. in terms either of eternity or potentiality], is to commit a category confusion in Johannine theology, and one not without effects, not least being the complete loss of connotative meaning.  As [D.A.] Carson notes, to say that God loves only the elect and hates the rest, which is the motivation for making 'world' here equal 'elect', "would destroy the evangelistic thrust and the emotive incentive to belief based on God's love for the 'world', a love which sent the Son of God on His saving mission and robs the 'world' of excuse."

--Neil Chambers, A Critical Examination Of John Owen's Argument For Limited Atonement In "The Death of Death In The Death of Christ.", p.152-153

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Why There Must Be Duality within Humanity

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 
Genesis 2:18
The reason why the solitary existence of the man is not good is not because it forces the man to endure isolation and loneliness nor because he must face the challenges of life without human assistance--sentimental readings like these find little basis in the text--but because he has been endowed with the divine image and hence with the capacity to empty himself sacrificially into another.  Such an endowment cannot be enjoyed unless there is at least one other person.  For there to be an exchange of self-giving love, there must be duality within humanity.  As a lone human, Adam cannot manifest the divine image.

--Tim Savage, No Ordinary Marriage: Together for God's Glory, p.34-35 (emphasis added)
Biblical theology at its finest.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Only the Christian Knows This

The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus. The greatest psychological insight, ability and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is. Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man. And so it does not know that man is destroyed only by his
sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this. In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner. The psychiatrist must first search my heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth. The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness. The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God. The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ.

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as quoted by David Powlison in The Pastor as Counselor