Archive for October, 2009
This week I have the privilege of preaching on the cross on Sunday night, so I am working through some resources on the atonement – some more in depth than others. Here are some thoughts I read last night from Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington in their book, The Great Exchange: My Sin for His Righteousness:
The gospel is a timeless message and therefore extremely relevant for our day and age. But it is not only relevant; it is essential, because it is the only solution ever offered by God for the perpetual sin dilemma of mankind. . . .
In recent times it has become apparent that some in the church have drifted away from the historical gospel and ventured to redefine sin and redemption and even the meaning of the cross. . . .
This gospel – that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures – is rooted in pre-creation, revealed in ancient prophecy, and fulfilled in real, time-space, dimensional history. . . .
The gospel is like an infinitely precious diamond in which there are multiple facets reflecting and refracting the brilliance of the message in various ways. But all facets of the gospel are necessarily connected to the substance of the gospel – the message of substitutionary atonement. The substance of the gospel and all its facets emanate from and draw attention to the cross, the site of the Great Exchange, where the light of the knowledge of the glory of God is seen by redeemed sinners in the face of Christ crucified (2 Cor. 4:6; 1 Cor. 2:2).
More resources on the atonement:
Christ Our Penal Substitute
by Robert L. Dabney
Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution
by Steve Jeffrey, Michael Ovey, Andrew Sach
The Atonement: Its Meaning & Significance
by Leon Morris
Every Christmas, Southern Baptist churches like ours collect what is known as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions. One hundred percent of this offering goes directly to support international missionaries and their work on the field. But why is it called the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. The Christmas part makes sense – it is collected around Christmas time, but who is Lottie Moon? The following biography taken from International Mission Board website.
Lottie Moon: December 12, 1840-December 24, 1912
Today’s China is a world of rapid change. It’s home to 1.3 billion individuals-one-fifth of the world’s population. Village dwellers flock to trendy megacities with exploding populations. And China holds its own in the world’s economy. It’s very different from the vast farmland Lottie Moon entered in the 1800s. But one thing hasn’t changed: China’s need for a Savior.
Lottie Moon-the namesake of the international missions offering-has become something of a legend to us. But in her time Lottie was anything but an untouchable hero. In fact, she was like today’s missionaries. She was a hard-working, deep-loving Southern Baptist who labored tirelessly so her people group could know Jesus.
When she set sail for China, Lottie was 32 years old. She had turned down a marriage proposal and left her job, home and family to follow God’s lead. Her path wasn’t typical for an educated woman from a wealthy Southern family. But Lottie did not serve a typical God. He had gripped her with the Chinese peoples’ need for a Savior.
For 39 years Lottie labored, chiefly in Tengchow and P’ingtu. People feared and rejected her, but she refused to leave. The aroma of fresh-baked cookies drew people to her house. She adopted traditional Chinese dress, and she learned China’s language and customs. Lottie didn’t just serve the people of China; she identified with them. Many eventually accepted her. And some accepted her Savior.
Lottie’s vision wasn’t just for the people of China. It reached to her fellow Southern Baptists in the United States. Like today’s missionaries, she wrote letters home, detailing China’s hunger for truth and the struggle of so few missionaries sharing the gospel with so many people-472 million Chinese in her day. She shared another timely message, too: the urgent need for more workers and for Southern Baptists passionately supporting them through prayer and giving.
In 1912, during a time of war and famine, Lottie silently starved, knowing that her beloved Chinese didn’t have enough food. Her fellow Christians saw the ultimate sign of love: giving her life for others. On Christmas Eve, Lottie died on a ship bound for the United States.
But her legacy lives on. And today, when gifts aren’t growing as quickly as the number of workers God is calling to the field, her call for sacrificial giving rings with more urgency than ever.
How much does High Pointe plan to give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering this year? Well, that depends on how much you give.
Unconditional election delivers the harshest and the sweetest judgments to my soul.
That it is unconditional destroys all self-exaltation; and that it is election makes me his treasured possession.
This is one of the beauties of the biblical doctrines of grace: their worst devastations prepare us for their greatest delights.
What prigs we would become at the words, “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” (Deuteronomy 7:6), if this election were in any way dependent on our will. But to protect us from pride, the Lord teaches us that we are unconditionally chosen (7:7-9). “He made a wretch his treasure,” as we so gladly sing.
Only the devastating freeness and unconditionality of electing grace lets us take and taste such gifts for our very own without the exaltation of self.
I have a confession to make. Parenting is the hardest, most humbling task I have to do. If ever I think I have already obtained the goal of the upward call in Christ Jesus, parenting helps me realize how far I have yet to go. While parenting our daughters, my shortcomings are magnified and my sins exposed. However, I want to suggest that parenting can and should be a means of our sanctification. Allow me to share some thoughts on why the humility of parenting is of great benefit to us.
Parenting exposes the progress of our sanctification. Before we ever teach our children the truth of who God is for us in Christ, we will be declaring our faith as we live it out before them. Our children are watching us, noticing our hypocrisies, lies, abuses, speech and conduct. Parenting is so hard and humbling because our family observes us when we respond to the difficulties of life, when we have conflict with our spouse and when we have conflict with one another. It is at home where living in light of the gospel counts the most, but for too many this is where it matters the least. Let us make it a priority to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ so that we may live holy lives before our family. May we as parents provide a picture of the gospel at home.
Parenting helps us better understand and apply the gospel. Unfortunately, much parenting has behavior modification as its ultimate goal. If this is the case with our parenting, we will necessarily be instilling in our children a works-righteousness mentality – “do this, and/or you’ll get this.” I do not mean to imply that we should not hold our children to a biblical standard or that we should not discipline our children when they transgress God’s standard. My point is simply that keeping commandments is not the ultimate goal of parenting. The ultimate aim of parenting is that our children would “set their hope in God” (Psalm 78:7) or as Paul says, that our children would become “wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 3:15).
A biblical understanding of the gospel takes into account human inability to justify ourselves before a holy God; therefore, we set God’s standard before our children to show them what God requires and to expose their rebellion. Sinfulness and rebellion against God’s standard receives God’s judgment, so when our children transgress against God’s Word, we discipline them accordingly with the purpose that they would understand God’s justice. Throughout our parenting we should continually be displaying God’s unconditional, steadfast, covenant love, grace, mercy and forgiveness so that they would see that while their rebellion deserves punishment, God forgives repentant sinners through the person and work of His own Son, Jesus Christ.
As we parent we should continually point to the greatness of our God and His works. We should share with our children God’s continual faithfulness and present Christ as the one who satisfies all our longings. Oh, may our children have a BIG view of God because we as parents have a BIG view of God. May they see our passion for God’s glory through the exaltation of Christ so that one day they too may confess that Jesus is Lord and their all in all.
After having considered the new covenant reality that celibacy is a good gift from God for the purpose of undivided devotion to Christ, this Sunday we looked at the other side of the coin – marriage too is a good gift from God.
So, if you don’t have the gift of celibacy, you are to prepare for and pursue marriage (1 Corinthians 7:7-9). At High Pointe, we want to develop a two prong vision for all our singles.
Prong 1 – To develop a culture of biblical manhood & womanhood
Our desire is to develop a culture in which (as Piper defines in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 27) men have “a benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships” and women are free “to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.”
Prong 2 – To develop a culture of brother/sister relationships where friendships may grow from which romance may blossom
This is the natural process of romance – brother/sister in Christ relationships where men and women get to know one another in Christ. As brothers and sisters in Christ get to know one another friendships will emerge. It is from these biblical friendships that romance should blossom.
WARNING 1: This natural process can take place in worldly contexts, except that they don’t begin with brother/sister relationships. They may begin as co-worker relationships or classmate relationships which turn into friendships from which romance may blossom. Therefore, the warning is that wherever and with whomever you are spending your time THAT is where friendships will develop and romance likely will blossom.
WARNING 2: Desperate men and women seek to shortcut this process. This is essentially what singles are doing when they go to bars to find dates or search the internet to find mates. Instead of following the natural process, desperate people seek to begin with romance, then back pedal to friendship.
The Big Picture
What might this look like at High Pointe? It should look like men pursuing Christ and biblical manhood, growing in the ability to lead, provide for and protect women.
It should look like women pursuing Christ and biblical womanhood, learning how to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men.
As it relate to pursuit of marriage, godly men will pursue godly women at the appropriate time and in the appropriate places.
Godly women, on the other hand, prepare themselves to be pursued by godly, worthy men at the appropriate time and in the appropriate places.
My Favorite Resource
Throughout this study, my favorite resource has become John Ensor’s Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart. I cannot say enough about it! It will be the best $10.00 you can invest if you are single.
Sad but True – How Not to Find a Man
Tim Keller has hit the nail on the head in his blog post on “pastors” who only preach. Unfortunately, some Reformed pastors think that preaching will solve all the problems of the church, so they spend most of their time working on sermons and very little time, if any, shepherding the people. Keller highlights the ministry of John Calvin as an example of proper pastoral care. Here is how Keller closes his post:
I pastor a church with a large staff and so I give 15+ hours a week to preparing the sermon. I would not advise younger ministers to spend so much time, however. When I was a pastor without a staff I put in 6-8 hours on a sermon. If you put in too much time in your study on your sermon you put in too little time being out with people as a shepherd and a leader. Ironically, this will make you a poorer preacher. It is only through doing people-work that you become the preacher you need to be-someone who knows sin, how the heart works, what people’s struggles are, and so on. Pastoral care and leadership (along with private prayer) are to a great degree sermon preparation. More accurately, it is preparing the preacher, not just the sermon. Through pastoral care and leadership you grow from being a Bible commentator into a flesh and blood preacher.
Read the entire post here.
While I’m at it, let me recommend some helpful blogs for ladies:
Radical Womahood – Carolyn McCulley
Girl Talk – Carolyn Mahaney and daughters
Discussions of the gift of singleness raise multiple questions which need to be addressed. As I have approached this subject I realize that it has the potential to evoke great emotions, and even pain. Therefore, I want to provide further resources for singles to continue pursuing this subject biblically.
As you study the biblical teaching on singleness be sure to approach the Scriptures with humility, allowing the Spirit to challenge your paradigms and expose your idols if necessary. There are two extremes to avoid. First, singles who don’t want to be married can dismiss those who struggle with this gift. On the other hand, singles who do not wish to be single will be tempted toward bitterness if God does not deliver a spouse in your time frame. Pray for grace and ask the Lord to guard your heart from pride and/or bitterness.
RESOURCES FOR SINGLES
The Gift of Singleness
by Andreas Kostenberger
The Gift of Singleness, part 2
by Andreas Kostenberger (a response answering Debbie Maken’s critique – she authored, Getting Serious about Getting Married: Rethinking the Gift of Singleness)
Single in Christ: A Name Better than Sons and Daughters
Sermon by John Piper
Excerpt: My main point is that God promises those of you who remain single in Christ blessings that are better than the blessings of marriage and children, and he calls you to display, by the Christ-exalting devotion of your singleness, the truths about Christ and his kingdom that shine more clearly through singleness than through marriage and childrearing. The truths, namely,
1. That the family of God grows not by propagation through sexual intercourse, but by regeneration through faith in Christ;1
2. That relationships in Christ are more permanent, and more precious, than relationships in families (and, of course, it is wonderful when relationships in families are also relationships in Christ; but we know that is often not the case);
3. That marriage is temporary, and finally gives way to the relationship to which it was pointing all along: Christ and the church-the way a picture is no longer needed when you see face to face;
4. That faithfulness to Christ defines the value of life; all other relationships get their final significance from this. No family relationship is ultimate; relationship to Christ is.
Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
By John Piper and Wayne Grudem
(see especially the Foreword by Piper written especially for singles)
Singleness means different things to different people. From the world’s perspective singleness has become a time to “sow wild oats.” Singleness is a time of having fun, goofing off, enjoying multiple relationships and avoiding commitment. Unfortunately, this cultural perspective has also affected many Christian singles.
From the church’s perspective, singleness is frowned upon (see Genesis 2:18). When it comes to singles at church, we all become matchmakers. However, the Bible has a different perspective. Contrary to the world, singleness is not a time to goof off with multiple partners, and contrary to the church singleness is not bad.
Celibacy (singleness) is a gift from God which is good (1 Cor. 7:7-9). First, an important clarification – since Scripture teaches that marriage is the only place where sexual passions are to be satisfied (1 Cor. 7:1-6), then when we Christians speak of singleness, we must assume celibacy.
Second, when the Bible speaks of celibacy it describes it as a divine gift which is good (1 Cor. 7:7). The Greek word used for gift is charisma, which emphasizes that it is a gift of grace. So we can conclude that God grants a special grace to certain individuals in order that they would be able to remain single, practicing self-control in the face of sexual passions with certain victory. This seems to be the key to discerning whether or not one has the gift of celibacy. If you don’t have this divine gift of grace to practice such self-control, then you ought to marry (1 Cor. 7:9).
Third, it is also important to note that some gifts may be temporary. In other words, though it is clear from Scripture that God calls some to life-long celibacy (Matt. 19:10-12), it is helpful to understand that sometimes God calls certain people to remain celibate only for a season. This is true for all people before they marry. Since marriage is the only place where sexual passions are to be satisfied, unmarried people are called to practice self-control in this area.
Fourth, the Bible teaches that grace gifts are for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7). In other words, spiritual gifts are not given to us primarily for our own personal benefit; they are given for the benefit of the church. But the question remains, if celibacy is a gift, and gifts are for the common good, then what common good does celibacy serve?
The gift of celibacy frees men and women to serve Christ with undivided devotion (1 Cor. 7:32-35). Though marriage is good and also a gift (1 Cor. 7:7), it can divide our devotion (1 Cor. 7:33-34). The gift of celibacy, on the other hand, can free men and women from the cares of this world brought on by marriage and family (1 Cor. 7:32, 34, 35; Luke 14:26).
I say “can” because singles are still in danger of getting caught up in the worldly mindset of singleness and being bogged down by the cares of this world – pursuing a boyfriend/girlfriend, career, money, material possessions, etc.
Singleness, whether for a season or a lifetime, can liberate men and women to serve Christ in unique ways that marrieds may not be able to. So singles should ask themselves, “Where am I serving?” Consider serving the church, local ministries. Consider missions; this is a season of your lives when you are free to go and serve!
Though singles may be afraid of what they are giving up; the Bible reminds us that those who forsake marriage and family to serve Christ and advance His kingdom will receive a new family now and in eternity (Mark 10:28-31). Thus, you will have mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers in Christ. Also, you can be a father or mother in Christ as you bear godly offspring through the gospel (Galatians 3:7-9, 23-29). This is the greater work to which all of us are called: singles and marrieds.
Let us rejoice over this, that the Lord our God has saved us and called us to serve Him, single and married alike, with undivided devotion (1 Cor. 7:29-31).
Desiring God hosted an evening discussion on eschatology, in particular, millennial views. Jim Hamilton presents the Historic Premillennial position, Sam Storms the Amillennial position and Doug Wilson the Postmillennial position.
ht: Justin Taylor