Archive for May, 2009

Winslow was a Puritan reformer in England who appears to know the Holy Spirit well! Below is an excerpt from his work “The Holy Spirit: An Experimental and Practical View”. “Experimental theology” was quite important to the puritans of that day. In a nutshell, “experimental” is shorthand for practical experiences of grace that the believer can recognize and rejoice in. Experimental theology is somewhat of a lost discipline, and though it has almost universally fallen out of favor I find it an indispensable tool in pastoral care and discipleship. Perhaps more on that later! For now enjoy the reading!

The Spirit dwells in the believer as the ever-living Spirit of all grace and comfort. All that is really holy and gracious in a child of God is found in the work of the indwelling Spirit. All the holy breathings and desires of the soul, all the longings for God and for conformity to His will and image, all that is lovely and like Jesus in the saint, are the result of this gracious act of the eternal Spirit. The Lord Jesus Himself would direct us to this truth. John 4.14: “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” That this well of water is the indwelling of the Spirit, seems clear from the loth verse: “Jesus answered and said unto her, If you knew the gift of God,” etc.; that “gift of God” was the Holy Spirit, alluded to again still more emphatically in ch. 7. 38, 39: “He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spoke he of the Spirit, which those who believe on him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”)

Here is a gracious truth. The Spirit in every believer is a deep and living well of all spiritual blessings. He dwells in the soul “not like a stagnant pool, but like an ever-living fountain that flows at all seasons of the year, in heat and cold, and in all external circumstances of weather, whether foul or fair, wet or dry.” Nature could not produce that which the indwelling Spirit accomplishes in the saints of God. The hungering and the thirsting for righteousness, the rising of the heart in filial love to God, the sweet submission to His sovereign will, the longing for more knowledge of Christ, the constant struggling with the law of sin, the mourning over the indwelling principle of sin; all this is above and far beyond nature. It is the fruit, the precious fruit, of the indwelling spirit.
It may be, reader, that your heart is often anxious to know in what way you may distinguish between nature and grace, how you may clearly discern between that which is legal and that which is spiritual, between that which is the work of man, and that which is the work of God. In this way you may trace the vast difference- that which at first came from God, returns to God again. It rises to the source where it descended. Divine grace in a sinner’s heart is a springing well- “a well of water springing up into eternal life.” Did nature ever teach a soul the plague of its own heart? Never! Did nature ever lay the soul in the dust before God, mourning and weeping over sin? Never! Did nature ever inspire the soul with pantings for God and thirstings for holiness? Never! And did it ever endear the throne of grace, and make precious to the soul the atoning blood, the justifying righteousness of Jesus? Never! never! All this as much transcends the power of nature as the creating of a world. Is this your real state, reader? O look up! “Flesh and blood” did not reveal it to you- but the eternal God has revealed it and that by the indwelling of His own blessed Spirit in your heart.

read it all here

I have often quoted Kuyper on this blog. He is an immense intellect and passionate lover of Jesus and the glory of God. In this excerpt, Kuyper the Dutch Reformed Calvinist gives a wonderfully complex and nuanced description of the work of the Holy Spirit in the regeneration of man

The origin and awakening of eternal life are from above; not from the creature, but from the Creator, and are rooted in His free and soverign choice. And it remains not merely a choice, but is followed by a divine act equally decisive that enforces and realizes that choice.

That is God’s spiritual omnipotence. He is not as a man who experiments, but He is God who, never forsaking the work of His hands, is persistant and irresistible in the doing of all His pleasure. Hence His counsel becomes history; and the Church, whose form is outlined 203 204 in that counsel, must in the course of ages be born, increase, and perfect itself according to that counsel; and since that counsel is indestructible the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church. This is the ground of the security and consolation of the saints. They have no other ground of trust. From the fact that God is God, and that therefore His pleasure shall stand, they draw the sure conviction with which they prophesy against all that is visible and phenomenal.

In the work of grace, there is no trace of chance or fatalism; God has determined not only the final issue, leaving the way by which it is to be attained undecided, but in His counsel He has prepared every means to realize His choice. And in that counsel ways disclose themselves which human eye can not trace nor fathom. The divine omnipotence adapts itself to the nature of the creature. It causes the cedars of Lebanon to grow, and the bulls of Bashan to increase; but it feeds and strengthens each according to its nature The cedar eats no grass, and the ox does not burrow in the ground for food.

The divine ordinance requires that by its roots the tree shall absorb the juices from the ground, and that by the mouth the ox shall take his food and convert it into blood. And He honors His own ordinance by providing food in the soil for the one, and grass in the field for the other.

The same principle prevails in the Kingdom of Grace. To man as a subject of that Kingdom, and of the moral world belonging to it, God has given another organism than to the ox, cedar, wind, or stream. The movements of the latter are purely mechanical; from the steep mountain the stream must fall. In a different way He acts upon ox and tree; and in still another way upon man. In the human body chemical forces work mechanically, and other forces like those in the ox and cedar. And besides these there are in man moral forces which God operates also according to their nature.

Upon this ground our fathers rejected as unworthy of God the fanatical view that in the work of grace man is a stock or block; not because it attributes something to man, but because it represents God as denying His own work and ordinance. Creating an ox or a tree or stone each different from the other, giving each a nature of its own, it follows that He can not violate this, but must adapt Himself to it. Hence all His spiritual operations are subject to the divinely ordained dispositions in man as a spiritual being; and this feature makes the work of grace exceedingly beautiful, glorious, and adorable.

For let us not deceive ourselves and speak any longer of a glorious work of grace if the omnipotent God treats man mechanically, as a stock or block. Then there is no mystery for angels to look into, but an immediate work of omnipotence breaking down and creating anew. To admire the work of grace we should take it as it is revealed, i.e., as a complicated, unsearchable work by which, violating nothing, God adapts Himself to the delicate and manifold needs of man’s spiritual being; and reveals His divine omnipotence in the victory over the endless and gigantic obstacles which human nature puts in His way. (more…)

Just as nothing can live biologically apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, so no man can come alive to God apart from the Spirit’s work In His discourse with Nicodemus, Jesus said this about the Holy Spirit: Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3) To be “born again” is to experience a second genesis. It is a new beginning, a fresh start in life. When something is started, we say that it is generated. If it is started again, it is regenerated. The Greek verb geniauo that is translated as “generate” means “to be,” “to become,” or “to happen.” Regeneration by the Holy Spirit is a change. It is a radical change into a new kind of being. To be regenerated does not mean that we are changed from a human being into a divine being. It does mean that we are changed from spiritually dead human beings into spiritually alive human beings. Spiritually dead persons are incapable of seeing the kingdom of God. It is invisible to them, not because the kingdom itself is invisible, but because the spiritually dead are also spiritually blind.

read the rest here

Below is an excerpt from a recently published sermon series on John’s Gospel from the great preacher and theologian LLoyd-Jones. In it he identifies a failing of evangelical ministry which I have recently become aware of in my own ministry, that being the reduction of the Gospel to simply the forgiveness of sins. As Lloyd-Jones notes, the Gospel is so much bigger than that! It is not only the forgiveness of sins but new life, not just new life but eternal life! Not just a repaired relationship with God but a living relationship with God! May God continually convict us all of the “bigness” of the Gospel and my this be reflected more and more in my ministry.

Now I want to add a few words here as an aside. I am speaking to people who in name, I have no doubt, are evangelical people and evangelically minded. I think the greatest charge that can be brought against evangelicals in the last ninety years or so, since the 1870s, is that we have grievously failed at this point. We have tended to reduce this glorious gospel, and the life that it gives, to just a question of forgiveness, as if everything happens when a person makes a decision, as though that is the beginning and the end of the gospel. The glory, the bigness, the greatness, the complete intellectual satisfaction, has not been preached and expounded as it should have been. Indeed, evangelical people have often been charged, and I am afraid it has been a true charge, of being afraid of the intellect.

read more and about the recently published work on Al Mohler’s blog by clicking here

Smith is an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Calvin College. He is a thoughtful and sharp young guy who is also quite passionate about the broad implications of the Gospel. Take the time to click to the link and read the whole thing.

Unfortunately, this promise of abundant life is often taken up by those we identify with the “prosperity gospel,” a gospel of “health and wealth” associated with folks like Kenneth Hagin and Oral Roberts, or more recently, Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar. You know its scurrilous slogans, plucked from Scripture:

“You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2).
“Ask and you will receive” (John 16:24).
Jesus came “that you may have life, and have it abundantly.”
This emphasis seems to resonate with creation’s economy of abundance. Wouldn’t an economy of abundance be one that generates prosperity?

And yet I’m guessing most of us would squirm (or scream) if we had to watch the TBN network for any extended amount of time. Many of us would cringe to see Creflo Dollar positioning the Cadillac Escalade beside his pulpit as “evidence” of the anointing. And I suspect most of us would be uncomfortable with the picture of Joel Osteen asking for donations on a remote broadcast from his yacht. Indeed, it’s easy to detest name-it-and-claim-it as sanctified greed. We are rightly suspicious that this is just the wolf of consumerism in sheep’s clothing.

But how many of us are still quite comfortable with more “low grade” (or “soft sell”) versions of a prosperity gospel? For instance, how many of us buy into a logic that assumes if a Christian is wealthy, he or she has been “blessed” by God — as if material prosperity was a kind of magic, rather than the product of often unjust systems? While many of us might be quick to loudly denounce the “heresy” of the prosperity gospel, we’re quite comfortable with affirming the good of affluence. But isn’t that just a prosperity gospel without the glam?

What’s right with prosperity?

So maybe it’s fair for us to ask: What’s right with the prosperity gospel? One of the reasons this question is important is the explosion of world Christianity. As you know, world Christianity is basically charismatic Christianity, and the prosperity gospel often attends pentecostal and charismatic spirituality.

But here’s my question: Does the prosperity gospel mean something different in rural Nigeria than suburban Dallas? Is the promise of material and economic abundance received differently by those who live on less than $2 a day? The prosperity gospel (for all its failures) might be an unwitting testimony to the holism of pentecostal spirituality. In a curious way, the prosperity gospel is a testament to the very “worldliness” of pentecostal theology. It is one of the most un-Gnostic moments of pentecostalism, refusing to spiritualize the promise that the Gospel is “good news for the poor.” In this sense, we might suggest that the implicit theological intuition that informs pentecostal renditions of the prosperity gospel are not very far from Catholic social teaching or liberation theology. They are evidence of a core affirmation that God cares about our bellies and bodies. Granted, this means something very different in the comfort of an air-conditioned megachurch in suburban Atlanta (where “prosperity” signals an idolatrous, consumerist accumulation of luxury) as opposed to what “prosperity” promises in famished refugee camps in Rwanda. The former deserves our criticism; the latter, I think, requires careful listening.

read the rest here

Piper talks about his new book Spectacular Sins, which you can read for free online (click here) or buy at your local bookstore. 

Burroughs was a Puritan pastor living in England in the 1600’s (1599-1646). Below is an excerpt from his most famous work “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.” Burroughs is insightful in his examination of keeping up with the Jones, something which he calls “the fancies of men.” You can read the rest of Burroughs’ work here, or simply pick it up as a nice paperback online for around $7.

We think poverty to be such a great evil-Why? because it is so esteemed by others, rather then that people feel it so themselves, unless they are in an extremity of poverty. I will give you a clear demonstration that almost all the discontent in the world is rather from the fancies of others than from the evil that is on themselves. You may think your wealth to be small and you are thereupon discontented, and it is a grievous affliction to you; but if all men in the world were poorer than you, then you would not be discontented, then you would rejoice in your estates though you had not a penny more than you have. Take a man who can get but his twelve pence a day, and you will say, This is but a poor thing to maintain a family. But suppose there were no man in the world that had more than this, yea, that all other men but yourselves had somewhat less wages than you, then you would think your condition pretty good. You would have no more then than you have now; therefore it appears by this that it is rather from the fancies of other men than what you feel that makes you think your condition to be so grievous, for if all the men in the world looked upon you as happy, more happy than themselves, then you would be contented. Oh, do not let your happiness depend upon the fancies of other men. There is a saying of Chrysostom I remember in this very case: ‘Let us not make the people in this case to be our lords; as we must not make men to be the lords of our faith, so not the lords of our comforts.’ That is, our comfort should not depend more upon their imaginations, than upon what we feel in ourselves.