Archive for April, 2013

Recent years have witnessed a plethora of books and articles on the relationship between the gospel and culture, between proclamation and doing good deeds, between the gospel of Paul and the gospel of the kingdom. Some of these polarities are singularly misjudged; others are important and deserve the most patient and biblically faithful exploration. But the lesson to be learned from the passages we have been surveying in 1 Cor 7 is this: even when we are rightly developing faithful cultural expressions of art and music, even when we are digging wells in the Sahel and developing centers to help the homeless, even when we patiently and lovingly build solid marriages in line with God’s disclosure of what marriage should be, even when we connect the use of our fiscal resources to kingdom priorities, the entire fabric of our current existence stands under God’s as if not. We cannot, we must not, be entirely engrossed even in good things that God himself labels χαρίσματα, God’s gracious gifts, if those gracious gifts are tied to an order that is passing away. If we learn this lesson well, we shall better understand what it means to lay up treasures in heaven

Read the whole article at link below

http://thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/as_if_not

Psalm 31 D.A. Carson

Posted: April 30, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Biblical Studies, Christianity, Discipleship

DAVID WAS IN DEEP TROUBLE. The exact circumstances may be obscure to us, as we who live three thousand years later probe the details. But we do know that David was shut up in a besieged city (Ps. 31:21) and felt trapped. He was so threatened that he flirted with despair. And that is when he felt abandoned by God himself: “In my alarm I said, ‘I am cut off from your sight!’” (31:22)

That is the worst despair of all — to feel that God has abandoned you. It was part of Job’s torment. Job felt he could mount a case in his own defense, if only he could find God long enough to argue with him. But the heavens were silent, and the silence multiplied his despair.

We have already reflected on the fact that it was fear of being abandoned by God that kept Jacob wrestling with the unknown man in the darkness (Gen. 32:22-32) and kept Moses pressing God to abandon his threat to remain outside the camp of the rebellious Israelites (Ex. 32 — 34). In a theistic universe, there can be nothing worse than being truly abandoned by God himself. The worst of hell’s torments is that men and women are truly abandoned by God. “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

Yet the sad reality is that we who bear God’s image oscillate between fearing abandonment by God, and wanting to escape from his presence. The same David who wrote this psalm was not particularly eager to delight in the presence of God when he was lusting after Bathsheba and plotting to murder her husband. Too often we would like God to look the other way when we hanker to thumb our noses at him and insist on following our own paths, and we would like God to demonstrate his presence and his glory to us, and certainly get us out of trouble, when we find ourselves in desperate straits.

What an incalculable blessing that God is better than our fears. He does not owe us succor, relief, or rescue. Even our cries of alarm — “I am cut off from your sight!” — may have more to do with desperate unbelief than with candid pleas for help. But David’s experience may prove an encouragement to us, for he quickly pens two more lines: “Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help” (31:22).

Love the LORD, all his saints!
The LORD preserves the faithful,
but the proud he pays back in full.
Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the LORD. (Ps. 31:23-24)

 

from D.A. Carson’s blog

There is an almost overwhelming pressure on any politician with sympathy for the Christian religion or who espouses ‘Christian values’ to think of the kingdom of God as identical with the kingdoms served by politics. And many who are not politicians, including of course many bishops of the Church of England, appear to favour the same view. There were efforts made in the press to show that this was Baroness Thatcher’s view also.

However, ‘I vow to thee my country’, chosen by Lady Thatcher, is a fairly clear avowal of the two kingdoms view. Its sentiments run along with those of Charles Wesley’s ‘Love divine’, and with John Bunyan’s celebration of pilgrimage, ‘Who would true valour see’, also chosen by the Lady. There is a kingdom of this world, to the service of which Mrs Thatcher gave most of her life. And there is a kingdom of God, a kingdom that is not of this world, whose king is Jesus, which transcends earthly politics, and which is being formed gradually, quietly, gently. This is the ‘new creation’ of Wesley’s hymn – pure, spotless, and heavenly – which one day will be finished by the church’s almighty creator and redeemer.

http://paulhelmsdeep.blogspot.com/2013/04/i-vow-to-thee-my-countrythere-is.html

Psalm 29 D.A. Carson

Posted: April 29, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Biblical Studies, Christianity, Discipleship

THE OPENING VERSES OF PSALM 29 SUGGEST that a great part of what it means to “worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness” is to ascribe to him the praise that is his due: ascribe to him glory and strength, “the glory due his name”(29:1-2).

In this light, the central section of the psalm (29:3-9) is remarkable, for it focuses on just one element in God’s activity, viz. the voice of the Lord. “The voice of the LORD is over the waters” — possibly an allusion both to the original creation, when God simply “spoke” and the universe came into being and took form, and to the spectacular deliverance when God parted the Red Sea, but also to every storm-swept current; “the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.” The voice of the Lord is both powerful and majestic. It “breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon,” proverbial for their size and strength — an allusion to the unleashed storms that God’s voice calls forth. Indeed, this is nothing to him, for nations and mountains alike perform his bidding, and all of them hear the thunder of his voice in the storm that traverses from Lebanon in the north to Kadesh in the south.

The secularist looks at a storm and thinks exclusively of the physical properties that have brought it about. The believer understands that those properties have been built into the material world by its Creator, and that God himself speaks in thunder and lightning. The only proper response is to gather in his temple, and in a spirit of mingled awe and humility cry, “Glory!” (29:9).

Small wonder that the psalm ends (29:10-11) by focusing on the universal reign of God: “the LORD is enthroned as King forever,” whether at the time of the deluge (the Hebrew word for “flood” in this passage is found only here and in Gen. 6-11) — the very deluge that most powerfully demonstrated God’s power to deploy the forces of “nature” as he sees fit — or in the perpetual blessings and strength God confers on his people.

Isaiah foresees the day when the “Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples,” when the nations will rally to him and his place of rest will be, literally, “the glory” (Isa. 11:10). When Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was about to be sent into eternity by the furious mob, his eyes were opened, and he looked up to heaven and saw “the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55).

His is the final voice of God; he is the Word of God. “Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength” (29:1). Let all cry, “Glory!”

 

from D.A. Carson’s blog

the Bible’s sweeping story line.

Posted: April 29, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Biblical Studies, Christianity, Discipleship

Quote from Tim Keller’s Chapter in “The Scriptures Testify About Me”:

If there is one Old Testament passage that the New Testament invites us to read in a Christ-centered way as a paradigm of Christ’s salvation, it’s the exodus.

I’ll never forget nearly forty years ago sitting in R. C. Sproul’s living room in Stahlstown, Pennsylvania. Alec Motyer, a British Old Testament scholar I had never heard of, was visiting. I was on the floor with a bunch of other college and seminary students, and Sproul said to Motyer, “Tell us about the connection between the Old and New Testaments.” Motyer replied something like this:

Think about it. Think of what an Israelite would say on the way to Canaan after passing through the Red Sea. If you asked an Israelite, “Who are you?” he might reply, “I was in a foreign land under the sentence of death and in bondage, but I took shelter under the blood of the lamb. And our mediator led us out, and we crossed over. Now we’re on our way to the Promised Land, though we’re not there yet. But he has given us his law to make us a community, and he has given us a tabernacle because we must live by grace and forgiveness. And he is present in our midst, and he will stay with us until we arrive home.

Then Motyer added, “That’s exactly what a Christian says—almost word for word.” And my twenty-three-year-old self thought, “Huh.”

What can we learn from the Red Sea crossing about Jesus and our salvation? Three lessons: salvation is about getting out, but it’s about

what we’re getting out of: bondage with layers;
how we’re getting out of it: crossing over by grace;
why we can get out of it: the Mediator.

That’s how the story of the exodus connects with the rest of the Bible. We would not make these connections without the rest of the Bible, but the connections are clear when we look at the Bible’s sweeping story line.

 

HT:John Samson

“Creed”

Posted: April 26, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Discipleship

He will supply them, so pray for them

Posted: April 25, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, Discipleship, Spurgeon

“We need again Luthers, Calvins, Bunyans, Whitefields — men fit to mark eras—whose names breathe terror in our enemies’ ears. We have dire need of such! Where are they? From where will they come to us? We cannot tell in what farmhouse or village smithy, or schoolhouse such men may be, but our Lord has them in store. They are the gifts of Jesus Christ to the Church and will come in due time. He has power to give us back, again, a golden age of preachers, a time as fertile of great Divines and mighty ministers as was the Puritan age which many of us account to have been the golden age of theology! He can send, again, the men of studious heart to search the Word and bring forth its treasures! The men of wisdom and experience rightly to divide it! The golden-mouthed speakers who, either as sons of thunder or sons of consolation, shall deliver the message of the Lord which the Holy Spirit sent down from Heaven. When the Redeemer ascended on high He received gifts for men and those gifts were men fit to accomplish the edification of the Church, such as evangelists, pastors and teachers. These He is still able to bestow upon His people! It is their duty to pray for them, and when they come, to receive them with gratitude. Let us believe in the power of Jesus to give us valiant men, and men of renown, and we little know how soon He will supply them!”

– C. H. Spurgeon, Sermon #1200, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, The Power of the Risen Saviour, October 25, 1874.

‘Lord save, or I perish!’

Posted: April 25, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, Spurgeon

“When you say, ‘Can God make me become a Christian?’ I tell you ‘yes,’ for herein rests the power of the gospel. It does not ask your consent; but it gets it. It does not say, ‘Will you have it?’ but it makes you willing in the day of God’s power. The gospel wants not your consent, it gets it. It knocks the enmity out of your heart. You say, I do not want to be saved; Christ says you shall be. He makes our will turn round, and then you cry, ‘Lord save, or I perish!’”

– C. H. Spurgeon

Rumor of the future

Posted: April 24, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, Discipleship

At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of the morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.

— C. S. LewisThe Weight of Glory(New York, NY: HarperOne, 2001), 43

 

HT:OFI

Psalms 26–27; D.A. Carson

Posted: April 24, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Biblical Studies, Christianity, Discipleship

“ONE THING I ASK OF THE LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple” (Ps. 27:4). This glorious stance finds parallels elsewhere. Thus in Psalm 84:10-11 the psalmist declares, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”

This is not quite the same as saying that the psalmist wants to spend all his time in church. The temple was more than a church building, and synagogue buildings had not yet been invented. This was a way of saying that the psalmist wanted to spend all his time in the presence and blessing of the living God of the covenant, the God who supremely manifested himself in the city he had designated and the temple whose essential design he had stipulated. This necessarily included all the temple liturgy and rites, but it wasn’t a fine sense of religious aesthetics that drove the psalmist. It is nothing less than an overwhelming sense of the sheer beauty of the Lord.

But there are two further connections to be observed:

(1) The psalmist’s longing is expressed in terms of intentional choice: “this is what I seek” (27:4, italics added); “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked” (84:10, italics added). The psalmist expresses his desire and his preference, and in both cases his focus is God himself. We will not really understand him unless, in God’s grace, we share that focus.

(2) The psalmist recognizes that there is in this stance abundant security for him. While it is good to worship God and delight in his presence simply because God is God, and he is good and glorious; yet at the same time it is also right to recognize that our own security is bound up with resting in this God. David wishes “to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple,” for “in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock” (27:4-5). “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God,” we read, for “the LORD God is a sun and shield” (84:10-11).

 

 

from D.A. Carson’s blog

Power only in the cross

Posted: April 23, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, The Christian Life

One moment’s believing, close contact with the cross will do more to break the heart for sin, deepen the conviction of its exceeding sinfulness, and disenthrall the soul from all its bondage and its fears, bringing it into a sense of pardon and acceptance and assured hope, than a lifetime of the most rigid legal duties that ever riveted their iron chain upon the soul.

— Octavius WinslowThe Foot of the Cross

 

HT:OFI

Psalm 25; D.A. Carson

Posted: April 23, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Biblical Studies, Christianity, Discipleship

ONE OF THE STARTLING FEATURES OF PSALM 25 is the diversity of needs David asks the Lord to address.

David is in danger of being overwhelmed by enemies and thereby put to shame (Ps. 25:2). He wishes to learn the ways and paths of God, to be taught God’s truth (25:4-5). He begs that God will forget the sins of his rebellious youth (25:7); moreover, he recognizes that there are times when his iniquity is great, and needs to be forgiven (25:11). David confesses that he is lonely and afflicted, full of anguish (25:16-17). He speaks afresh of his affliction and distress, alludes once again to his sins, and feels threatened by the increase of the enemies who hate him (25:18-19). Moreover, judging by the last verse (25:22), it is quite possible that David recognized that his own crises and failures had a bearing on the well-being of the people he served as king; so his prayer embraces them as well.

It is of course important to reflect on how the Lord God graciously helps his covenant people in an extraordinary diversity of ways. Yet here I wish to point out something a little different, viz.  how so many of the ills and crises that afflict us are bound up with each other. The various things that David mentions are not discreet items on a list. They are tied together in various ways.

For example, when David prays that his enemies will not put him to shame, he recognizes that God alone is the final arbiter, so that in the end all will be put to shame who are “treacherous without excuse” (25:3). But that means that David himself must learn God’s ways and God’s truth; he needs his own sins forgiven. He must in humility keep the covenant (25:9-10), properly fearing the Lord (25:12, 14). Because of the trouble he is suffering, he is not only afflicted but lonely (25:16) — anguish in one arena so often breeds a sense of desperate isolation, even alienation. Yet the final petitions of the psalm do not descend into a wallowing self-pity, but sum up the connections already made: David needs release from his enemies, forgiveness for his sins, relief from his affliction, and personal integrity and uprightness, all bound up with the protection of the Lord God himself.

Here is a wholesome self-awareness. Sometimes our prayers for relief from loneliness are steeped in self-love; sometimes our requests for justice fail to recognize how endemic sin really is, so that we remain unconcerned about our own iniquity. Yet here is a man who not only knew God and how to pray, but knew himself.

 

 

from D.A. Carson’s blog

Christ formed within us

Posted: April 22, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, Discipleship

True religion is a union of the soul with God, a real participation of the Divine nature, the very image of God drawn upon the soul, or, in the apostle’s phrase, ‘it is Christ formed within us.’

— Henry ScougalThe Life of God in the Soul of Man

 

 

HT:OFI

Psalm 19; D.A. Carson

Posted: April 22, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Biblical Studies, Christianity, Discipleship

GOD IS SO WONDERFULLY GENEROUS in his self-disclosure. He has not revealed himself to this race of rebels in some stinting way, but in nature, by his Spirit, in his Word, in great events in redemptive history, in institutions that he ordained to unveil his purposes and his nature, even in our very makeup. (We bear the imago Dei.) Psalm 19depicts two of these avenues of divine self-disclosure.

The first is nature, or more precisely, one part of nature, the heavenly host observed and enjoyed by all of us. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge” (19:1-2). But just as ancient peoples manufactured complex myths to explain the sun, the moon, and the stars, the shame of our culture is that we manufacture complex “scientific” myths to explain them as well. Of course, our knowledge of how things really are is more advanced and accurate than theirs. But our deep-seated philosophical commitment to the notion of random, purposeless, mindless, accidental, “steady-state origination of everything is horribly perverse — anything to avoid the far more obvious conclusion of a supremely intelligent God capable of spectacularly wonderful design. The evidence is there; the celestial host “pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.”

The second is “the law of the LORD”: perfect, trustworthy, right, pure, righteous, radiant, reviving the soul, making wise the simple, giving joy to the heart, enduring forever, more precious than gold, sweeter than honey, warning, promising great reward (19:7-11). Here too we manage to trim and silence what God has revealed. Great scholars invest wasted lives in undermining its credibility. Many people choose snippets and themes that soon constitute a grid for eliminating the rest. Cultural drift constructs new epistemologies that relativize God’s words so that they are no more revelatory than the source documents of any other religion. Worst of all, Christians invest so little time and energy in learning what they claim to be the Word of God that it falls away by default. Yet it remains an unimaginably glorious revelation.

Leviticus 16 depicts another avenue of revelation. God graciously instituted an annual ritual under the old covenant that depicted fundamental principles of what he is like and what is acceptable to him. Guilty sinners may approach him through a mediator and a blood sacrifice that he prescribes: the Day of Atonement is both ritual and prophecy (cf.Heb. 9:11 — 10:18).

Respond with the psalmist: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” (19:14).

 

 

from D.A. Carson’s blog

The Parasite

Posted: April 18, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, Discipleship, The Christian Life

“It is not sin that calls human beings to live and love, to make music and art, to work and create … to play and dance. But it is sin that undercuts and perverts them all. Sin doesn’t create things. It has no originality, no creativity, no being in itself. Sin lives off that which is good. It is a parasite, feeding greedily on the goodness of what God has made.”

– Paul Marshall, Heaven Is Not My Home