Archive for November, 2009
This coming Lord’s Day we will look at 1 Corinthians 9, at High Pointe. After reading through and meditating on the text, I read Luther’s, The Freedom of the Christian. Luther lays out his thesis in two propositions which encapsulate the point of 1 Corinthians 8-11:1.
A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.
A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.
After making his case for Christian freedom, Luther concludes:
A Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian. He lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love. By faith he is caught up beyond himself into God. By love he descends beneath himself into his neighbor.
As I said on Sunday, true knowledge leads to a love for others that willingly forfeits personal rights in order to build up the body of Christ. Luther helps us get at this priority of love over freedoms.
I have written before on resources for discipling your children. Westminster Bookstore has a 48 hour special on children’s materials. Among the offers is my favorite children’s Bible, The Big-Picture Story Bible for only $9.99. If you don’t have one, buy one! If you do, then buy several and give them away! Hurry, it will be over at 3:00 p.m. (EST), Wednesday, December 2.
Now that the Christmas season has officially begun, we will be invited to join in the purchasing and accumulation of “stuff.” How will we fare in the face of such consumeristic materialism? Dave Harvey, in his chapter on “stuff” in Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, reminds us of four lies we believe about stuff that chain our hearts to this fleeting world: (1) My stuff will make me happy; (2) My stuff makes me important; (3) My stuff makes me secure; (4) My stuff makes me rich. As we have seen in this recent economic downturn, however, stuff is elusive; it is passing away right before our very eyes. So, how can we combat materialism and covetousness this Christmas? Harvey offers some wonderful counsel that we would all do well to heed.
Consider your true riches. When you consider that God has given us Christ while we were sinners, then you will see just what a treasure Christ is and how rich you are. Christ is the one who was rich and became poor for us, “so that you, by his poverty, might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Now, through Christ’s death, we are sons and daughters of God and rightful heirs with Christ of the Father’s inheritance. So, consider what you deserve (death and hell) and consider what you have received-you are rich in Christ! Nothing in this world compares!
Confess and Repent. Because our culture is consumed with materialism and covetousness we sometimes forget that they are both sin. Confess your sinful desire to be satisfied with stuff, and turn away from that desire by faith in order to find your satisfaction in Christ. The Lord is faithful and just to forgive us all our sin, including materialism and covetousness, if we simply come to him and ask forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
Express specific gratitude. Marketing strategies seek to breed discontent with what we have in order to get us to buy what we don’t need. We must be thankful for Christ and His saving grace, but we also need to be thankful for everything that God has granted us. Not only has He given us Christ, He has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). But that’s not all. As our heavenly Father He is our great provider. So, every good and perfect gift comes from Him (James 1:17). Are you thankful for the house, car, clothing, food He has provided for you? Everything you have that is good has come from His hand!
Dematerialize your life. When you realize how rich you are already and come to terms with the reality that you don’t need all that stuff to make you happy, then you will understand how much stuff you have that you don’t need. Yet, someone else may need the stuff you have-clothes, food, car, etc. So, why not give your stuff away! Find out what needs people have and fill that need if you can.
Give generously. Harvey says, “few things kill the coveting heart quicker than depriving it of stuff. Few things reflect the heart of God more than giving graciously.” I know this to be true from personal experience. Giving generously through tithes and offerings is a great place to begin growing in giving. Yet, as Randy Alcorn suggests, tithing is only the training wheels of giving. Let us ask God to give us hearts like His: hearts that give generously and sacrificially. Only then will we be free from the bondage of stuff.
Some people choose churches much like they would if they were building a house. Someone building a house might look through multiple house plans before being fully satisfied; however, if no house plan were suitable, they might ask someone to create for them a custom design. It’s interesting, though, that the most important step of building a house is probably the least talked about: the foundation. Builders know how important the foundation is, but most homeowners seem more interested in what other people will see.
Because of such a consumer-driven mindset among many American church goers today, some ministers may be tempted to “build” a church around “felt needs” and other such attractors. The apostle Paul, however, argued that the only proper foundation on which anyone can build the church is none other than Jesus Christ Himself. Although no professing Christian I know would argue with Paul on this point, the question remains, “How do we properly (biblically) build a church on the foundation of Christ?” Here is where opinions diverge. The minister of Christ has several options, but I will outline only two.
First, he can build according to the desires of the people. In this scenario the minister embraces the philosophy, “The customer is always right!” Having adopted this market-driven attitude, the minister must keep the “customers” happy. Although ministers who fall for a market-driven mentality are genuinely motivated by a love for God and desire to reach the lost, they will continually struggle with the temptation to justify themselves and their ministries by the numbers (How many came today?). As a result, they will be tempted to adopt the latest trends in an effort to give people what they want to hear so that they will come.
Or second, the minister can build according to the desires of God as outlined in His Word. In this scenario the minister embraces the conviction, “We must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29), for this minister knows that in the end he will answer directly to God for the ministry he has built. Also, being motivated by a love for God and a desire to reach the lost and feed the flock of God, this ministry is marked by a desire for faithfulness rather than success, the sufficiency of the Word of God rather than the latest tactics and giving people what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear.
As ministers of the gospel, our desire should be to build a church on the foundation of Christ, using eternal materials. Therefore, we should be Christ-focused, gospel-driven and Bible-saturated. However, the temptation will always be there to please people rather than God. Let us join together in praying that the Lord would continually guard us from a desire for the praises of men. Let us pray for one another that we would be bold and courageous in pointing people of “this” world to Christ and His glory. May God be merciful to us, and may we see God continue to build His church using eternal materials that will survive the fire of final judgment.
On Saturday, Tim Tebow and the senior class of the Florida Gator football team are scheduled to play their last home game in the Swamp. This has been a very special class for coach Urban Meyer, and Tim Tebow has been a very special player for both Florida and Meyer.
An AP story describes Meyer’s reaction on Tebow’s impact at Florida:
Meyer paused one more time, composing himself after he was asked about the impact Tebow has had on him. Tebow inspired Meyer to take his family on a mission trip to Central America.
“The one thing about Tim is his unselfishness, and his mission outside of college football is unparalleled as far as I’m concerned,” said Meyer, holding back tears. “The impact that he’s made, it’s almost like selflessness is now a cool thing. Kids realizing to give back and if you can brighten someone’s day, you do it. The impact that he’s made on this team is phenomenal and as coaches. It’s very noticeable behind closed doors, more than probably what you guys see. It’s a significant impact.”
What if all Christians had such an impact where we do life?
Update: Video of Meyer Press Conference
As we approach “Black Friday” (supposedly, the largest shopping day of the year) this week, it is important to be reminded of the biblical warning, “Beware of worldliness!” In no uncertain terms, the Bible repeatedly warns us against the seduction of this world. Consider these commands: “Do not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2)! “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15)! Worldliness is dangerous because it exposes our true love; it exposes the fact that we are driven by the search to satisfy our passions with things other than God. James reminds us of this fact when he explains the source of sin, saying: “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:14, ESV).
How serious is worldliness? Consider James’ rebuke: “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4)? The Scriptures could not be more clear. Either you love the world and the things of this world or you love God, for “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24, ESV). The Bible presents God as a loving, faithful God who takes a rejected and despised woman, beautifies her, showers her with fine clothing and jewelry and makes a vow (covenant) to be her husband (Ezekiel 16). Within this covenant marriage, God warns that His bride is to have no other Gods, make no idols and not bow down to any other gods, “for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:5-6).
In other words, God is a jealous husband who demands faithfulness. He promises to be all-satisfying, so when his bride seeks satisfaction in something or someone other than Him, He is provoked to jealousy, for His bride commits spiritual adultery. This covenant marriage relationship between God and His people is the basis for James’ calling the people in his congregation an adulterous people, for by their desire to find satisfaction in this world and the things of this world, they have turned away from God, their faithful husband.
This warning is necessary for the western church today. Worldliness is so rampant, so pervasive, that is has become the expected norm and has spawned the market-driven culture in which we now live. Beware of worldliness! I preach to myself and my family, and I appeal to you and your family-beware of worldliness!
How can we know if we are worldly? Here is a two part test; it is not a perfect test, but at least it is a beginning. Part 1: Take some time out this week to write out your weekly schedule; write down every activity, no matter how insignificant it may seem to you. Where are you investing your time? Part 2: On another sheet of paper, write out your budget. Now, look at your check register, credit card and bank statements, cash flow. Where are you investing your money?
I think that this two part test will expose, at least in part, where our hearts are, for where you spend your time and money reveals what you treasure, and “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Beware of worldliness!
Among the most hotly contested and persistent debates in the history of the confessing church, the doctrine of election is perhaps the greatest of all. The question goes like this: Does God choose sinners to be saved and then provide for their salvation? Or, Does God provide the way of salvation that sinners must choose for themselves?
Where should one begin in his or her quest to try to understand the doctrine of election or any doctrine for that matter?
The Bible – We must begin our doctrinal constructions with Scripture. Foundationally, we should regularly be reading through Scripture so that we have the whole counsel of God as a context for theological construction. As we read the Scriptures regularly, passages will emerge that will require our study. We should meditate on those texts and study them, praying continuously for the guidance and illumination of the Holy Spirit.
Salvation History – Consider whether or not there are themes that run through Scripture. In election, for example, is there evidence that God works in a certain way (predestination, election, choosing, etc.) – i.e., Why Abel, not Cain? Why Noah, not someone else? Why Abraham, not Lot? Why Isaac, not Ishmael? Why Jacob, not Esau? What is the basis of God’s choosing (cf. Deuteronomy 7:6-8)? Then ask how these themes are carried over into the New Testament (cf. 1 Peter 2:9-10). How do these New Testament themes correspond to the Old Testament (cf. Romans 9).
Church History – Because we all have theological blind spots, it will be important that we seek to understand how others have understood and explained such doctrines throughout the history of the church. For example, in seeking to understand the doctrine of election it will be helpful not only to read John Calvin; it will also be helpful to know that in 1610 the Remonstrants or Arminian party (followers of James Arminius) rejected what the church of Holland had long confessed in the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism regarding radical corruption, divine election, particular redemption, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. The Remonstrants’ views were captured in five points. The Synod of Dort in 1618 responded to each of the Remonstrants’ objections in what has now come to be called the five points of Calvinism or TULIP – Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints.
Contemporary Conversations – Be sure to study what people are currently writing and saying. Look more at those who are for than those who are against. In other words, read those who are laying out their case and answering objections biblically, thoughtfully and humbly.
Systematic Theology – Once the hard work of looking at the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, and considering biblical themes, and reviewing church history has taken place, then we can begin to construct doctrine in order to provide a clear explanation for our day. There are many helpful works of systematic theology, but perhaps the most readable and devotional is Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Doctrine.
Don’t just hold positions blindly. Be sure to know what you believe and why. Therefore, study to show yourself approved!
Resources Specific to Election & Reformed Theology:
The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented
by David N. Steele, Curtis C. Thomas and S. Lance Quinn
*General Introduction to Reformed Theology
Chosen by God: Know God’s Perfect Plan for His Glory and His Children
by R. C. Sproul
*Helpful introduction to the doctrine of election and objections
Chosen for Life: The Case for Divine Election
by Sam Storms
*Very helpful study of specific passages related to election and looks at some problem passages
The Pleasure of God in Election
Sermon by John Piper
What is the Doctrine of Election – Grace to You
For some the doctrine of election (God’s free and sovereign decision to choose a people for salvation from the foundation of the world-Ephesians 1:3-6) is an abominable thought which produces great fear and concern. However, I propose that a clear understanding of this doctrine should instead produce hope and assurance. Allow me to share some of the reasons why the doctrine of election is so precious to me.
The doctrine of election is precious to me because it is biblical. In a display of the Father’s love for the Son, He gives a specific people to the Son (John 6:37). This truth is evident in the testimony of the book of Revelation when it declares that the only ones entering the eternal heaven are those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:27). John further testifies in Revelation 13:8, that these names were written in this book before the foundation of the world. In other words, one fruit of the Father’s love for Jesus, is our salvation. The Father made a free and sovereign decision to save a people as a gift for the Son and for His own glory from the foundation of the world (see also John 8:47; John 10:26-29; Romans 9:10-16).
The doctrine of election is precious to me because it secures my salvation. Jesus declared that all that the Father gave Him would come to Him and that He would never cast out any who came to Him (John 6:37). Jesus delights in receiving and keeping those whom the Father gives Him because He came to do the Father’s will (John 6:38-40), and the Father’s will is that Jesus not lose any of the ones that the Father has given Him but that He raise them all up on the last day (John 6:39).
The doctrine of election is precious to me because it encourages me to pursue holiness. Paul reminded the Thessalonians that “God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13, ESV). The Bible assures us that even though now we are only gradually being conformed to the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18), we will at glorification be completely conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).
The doctrine of election is precious to me because it is the basis for assurance of my salvation. Because God gives a people to the Son, and because the Son receives that people and keeps them, I am assured that I will never be cast out (John 6:37), nor perish, nor be snatched out of Jesus’ hand (John 10:28). Can you imagine such assurance? The God who predestines for salvation (election) will insure that all whom He calls to salvation will ultimately be glorified (Romans 8:30).
The doctrine of election is precious to me because it encourages me to share the gospel and gives me hope for fruit in evangelism and missions. Not only does the Father give a people to the Son (John 6:37), and not only does the Son receive these people and keep them (John 6:37-39), but the Father also assures that those whom He gives to the Son will come to the Son. It is the Father’s will that everyone believing in the Son have eternal life (John 6:40), and these who believe can only come at the Father’s drawing (John 6:44, 65). Therefore, if the Father gives a people to the Son, and He assures these people come to the Son, then we can be assured that evangelism and missions will bear fruit (Acts 13:48), and we can find encouragement in our Lord’s words to Paul, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” (Acts 18:9-10, ESV).
Finally, the doctrine of election is precious to me because it moves me to make much of God through Christ (true worship) and little of myself (humility). May we understand election and may it strip us of personal pride and move us to worship the Sovereign Lord in all His glory and grace.
What is your goal in parenting? Is it to have well-behaved kids? Is it to produce good citizens? Is it to make sure your kids get a great education so that they may do well in school and land a great money-making job and have a fulfilling career?
Perhaps you have a noble, Christian goal like seeing your children profess faith in Christ. What does the Bible teach us regarding the role of biblical parenting and its goal? Allow me to answer this question by first addressing two other related issues. Before we can even talk about the goal or purpose of biblical parenting, we must understand a specific pre-requisite.
The Pre-requisite of biblical parenting: The truths of God must first be on our hearts. We cannot pass on to our children what is not first in our own hearts (Deut. 6:6). This means that moms, dads, grandparents, teachers, ALL of us must saturate ourselves in the Word of God. We must seek God and thirst after God as in a dry and weary land (Psalm 63:1). And where has God revealed Himself but in His Word? We must continually listen to and receive God’s instruction in His Word as illuminated by the Holy Spirit of God. When we stand firm in God and His Word, when we are saturated in the Word of God, when we are embracing His will, then we can share that with others; only then can we practice biblical parenting.
The Practice of biblical parenting: We must pass on what we know about God, His Word, His work and His ways to the coming generations. God has established His testimony; He has given us His word; and He has commanded that we teach these truths to our children (Psalm 78:5). As a matter of fact, we are to teach these truths to our children with great diligence, taking advantage of every opportunity the Lord grants us (Deut. 6:7).
Just what exactly should we be teaching our children? The psalmist answers: we are to teach our children God’s Word, work and ways not just for the sake of Bible knowledge but for the sake of a personal knowledge of a powerful God. We are to share with our children the praises of God; we are to remind them of His strength in delivering us from death and for daily struggles; we are to tell them of His wondrous works from creation to redemption to personal answered prayers! Do you share with your children the wonders of God’s glory and might? When we show and teach and tell our children of the awesome God of Scripture who is alive and at work in our meager lives, we are practicing biblical parenting and approaching its goal.
The Purpose of biblical parenting: That the coming generations might put their hope in God. The goal or purpose of biblical parenting is not mere Bible knowledge or well-behaved kids; the true goal of biblical parenting is that the coming generations may not forget God but instead, set their hope in God (Psalm 78:7). We should be painting such a large picture of God in our homes as we talk about Him and His strengths and His wondrous works and His glory, that our children would have confidence in God, not in this world or the things of this world. Note this well, our goal is not simply that OUR children would hope in God, but that the coming generations would hope in God-our grandchildren and great grandchildren. Can you imagine what a legacy we would leave if we passed on such truths to our children and their children.
Recommended Resource: Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God by Bruce Ware
The Bible reminds us that life is a vapor, “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). If this is the case, then how should we approach each day? In fact, how should we prepare ourselves just in case our life ends today?
As I was reading The Valley of Vision yesterday, I was greatly convicted by this phrase from the prayer titled “Morning Dedication” (221):
May I speak each word as if my last word,
and walk each step as my final one.
If my life should end today,
let this be my best day.