Monday, April 30, 2012

Better a believing handful than an uncertain crowd

In one of his sermons, Martyn Lloyd-Jones remarked that one of the priorities of any church should be the purity of its doctrines, its theology.  The temptation to strive in creative ways for numbers can cause us to be less vigilant with regards to theology.

But says, Lloyd-Jones, "Better a handful of people who believe that Jesus is the Christ than a crowd who are uncertain as to whether He is or not and who falsely use the word 'Christian.'"

--Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John, p. 237

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Who's a prophet, priest, and king?

Who's a prophet, priest, and king?  The likely response among Christians is a confident, "Jesus is."  That's correct.

But consider also these two passages:
  • But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  (1 Pt 2:9 ESV)
  • To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.  (Rev 1:5-6 ESV)
Who's a prophet, priest, and king?  Jesus is.  And also every true Christian, all of us who belong to Christ.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Theology of a Slave Owner: Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards, considered by many the greatest theologican America has yet produced, owned slaves.  Recently, three men discussed the question, "Can the theology of a slave owner be trusted by descendants of slaves?" at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  I highly recommend listening or watching it (here). 

Thabiti Anyabwile presents, Louis Love and Charlie Dates, respond, and the time is closed with about a 35-minute Q&A from the audience.  The Q&A is interesting, but not nearly as good as the three men's presentations.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Down, Lower Down!

Andrew Murray's slim book, Humility, ranks very high on the list of writings that have impacted me most.  Not that I have attained humility--now that would be something to boast about!--but his book, when I first read it many years ago, held before me the importance of humility, and thus it has become something I have striven for and prayed for often.

I am re-reading Humility and am renewing my appreciation for Murray's teaching.

"To many of us it has been a new joy in the Christian life to know that we may yield ourselves as servants, as slaves to God, and to find that His service is our highest liberty--the liberty from sin and self.  We need now to learn another lesson--that Jesus calls us to be servants of one another, and that, as we accept it heartily, this service too will be a most blessed one.  It will be a new and fuller liberty from sin and self.  At first it may appear hard; this is only because of the pride which still counts itself something.

If once we learn that to be nothing before God is the glory of man, the spirit of Jesus, the joy of heaven, we will welcome with our whole heart the discipline we may have in serving even those who try to vex us....  no place will be too low.  No stooping will be too deep, and no service too mean or too long continued, if we may but share and prove the fellowship with Him who spoke, 'I am among you as he that serveth' (Luke 22:27).

Brethren, here is the path to the higher life.  Down, lower down!"

(from chapter 4; emphasis added)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Jesus Commands Humility

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven....
Blessed are the meek,
   for they will inherit the earth.  (Matthew 5:3,5; all Scripture taken from the NIV)

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)

Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:4)

Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.  (Luke 9:48)

 The greatest among you will be your servant.  (Matthew 23:11)

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.  (Luke 14:11; 18:14)

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. (John 13:14)

Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.  (Luke 22:26-27)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Are we in the last days?

It is certainly one of the last times, and there are those who tell us it is the last time.  I am not prepared to argue with them; my own personal position is that I am not convinced.  I would not like to say whether they are right or wrong.  I know that many times before, people have said that it was the last time, but it was not so.  Every age is liable to think that it is the last time; every period of trial and of difficulty and turmoil in the Church and world tends to make people say, 'This is the end.'  So let us be careful.

--Martyn Lloyd-Jones, sermon on 1 John 2:18-19, 22-23 entitled, "The Antichrist"

Sunday, April 8, 2012

In some ways, it is about you

Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life starts with a great sentence: "It's not about you."  The implication is that it's about God; even your life is about God.  That's a powerful statement.  It serves as a corrective to the American way of thinking; indeed, to the strong drive in all people towards self-centeredness.  Much time and therapy could be avoided if people would believe that one sentence.

But ... in some ways, it is about you.

That's a conclusion I draw from the apostle Paul's first sermon to the worshippers in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:16-41).

The sermon breaks down into three broad section.  First, (16-22) Paul talks about how God oversaw the history of Israel from the time he chose their fathers (Genesis 12ff.) to his raising up of David as king (1 Samuel 16ff.).  His emphasis is on God's sovereign control of history to care for his people.

From David's offspring, Paul says, God, in keeping with his control of history to care for his people, brought to them Jesus, "a Savior."  In the second section (23-37) Paul demonstrates the validity of the claim that Jesus is the Savior (John pointed to himas great, he fulfills prophecy, etc.).

So Jesus came, suffered, was executed, buried, raised, and seen by eye-witnesses.  What's left?  Well, the third section (38-41), which begins, "Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you ... " (38 [ESV], emphasis added).  This section highlights the forgiveness of sins and the justification that is yours before God in Christ, if you believe (the necessity of faith is emphasized).

So what is one to conclude?  That God has orchestrated history for millennia, and that Jesus came in order to suffer and die and be raised, so that you can be reconciled to God by having your sins dealt with in the only way--a radical way--that they could be dealt with.  In some ways, it is about you.

Are you to be self-absorbed as a result?  Are you to think "I'm all that"?  In no way.  Scripture's clear that God loves us not because of anything noteworthy in us, but because he is love.

What you are to take away from this, though, is God's tremendous love for you.  It's almost cliche to say, "God loves you."  But he does; that's the inescapable conclusion of Paul's sermon in Acts 13.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Engaging Doctrine

Click here for an interview with Douglas Wilson on various issues of theology.  These 7 video clips are ostensibly about Jonathan Edwards, but they're more than that.  The video clips get at so much theology in an interesting way.  Douglas Wilson, pastor in Idaho, brilliantly debated Christopher Hitchens, and the way he approaches and explains things I find very accessible, even though we are not always on the same page theologically.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

American LionAmerican Lion by Jon Meacham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Andrew Jackson was not my favorite president when I started reading this book, and he wasn't when I finished, either. BUT I have a new appreciation for him and an admiration for his force of character, both in terms of his intimidating manner and his usual desire (though not pure) to do what was best for the country.

The big stories of his presidential career covered in the book inlude the following:
--how loyalty to him was gauged by one's attitude toward Margaret Eaton, the notorious wife of cabinet member John Eaton. Even his beloved nephew and niece, Andrew & Emily Donelson fell afoul of Jackson on this issue and left the White House for a time. Eventually the whole Cabinet was replaced, including Eaton, on this singular issue.
--how Jackson successfully waged war against the National Bank and its head, N. Biddle.
--how Jackson carefully worked on two fronts against South Carolina's threats of secession.
--how Jackson successfully overcame the humiliating decision of France to default on its loans from the U.S.

As the book progressed, I found myself liking Jackson more and more, something I did not want to do. Meacham, the author, though, was not all praise and pointed out inconsistencies and defective aspects of character.

Though he saved many people throughout his life in many ways, and though he was a public servant, he liked power and thrived on authority, expanding the powers of the presidency significantly during his time in office. He did not like to be crossed or disagreed with (usually), and he often took legitimate criticism as personal attack and/or betrayal. He was usually at odds with John C. Calhoun, his first vice-president, and Daniel Webster, and it seems his bitterest enemies were John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay.

According to the book, he was steeped in Presbyterian religion during his growing up years as an orphan, but it was only after the presidency that he seemed to have a conversion experience.

A valuable book in gaining insight into that era and the changing face of the presidency.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Accordion to Darth

HT: The Piano Guys

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Distinction in Theological Differences

Why John Piper would sit at John Stott's feet but not at Rob Bell's, though he disagrees with both

HT: Justin Taylor