Marriage Mirrors God's Eternal Purposes

The marriage relationship is transparent to God’s purposes on a larger scale… no other relationship within the family so fully mirrors God’s purposes in the universe.

– J.P. Sampley, And the Two, 149, cited by Pete T. O’Brien, Letter to the Ephesians, Pillar New Testament Commentary, Ed. D.A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 411.

photo: makelessnoise

Show's Over

Depression + Gospel = Joy in Jesus

I love the real, gut level honesty in this song. The third verse and last chorus are particularly stirring.

http://listen.grooveshark.com/widget.swf

Verse 3:
I can’t perform no more
Can’t do these chores no more
I’m feeling like I’m sick, it’s silly so I quit
That’s it, I just can’t try to please the Lord no more
‘Cause really I’m sick of trying to make Him like me more
‘Cause every day I got a fight in store
I’m guilty so when I play I never like to score
No good in me and I’m sick of my plight I’m poor
They told me homie the Christian life is better
But they said to be holy and perform for His pleasure
But now I’m feelin’ torn cause the Lord is my treasure
But I fall and feel scorned when I can’t get it together
But then something clicked, it’s crazy I ignored this
But even when I slip, this ain’t based on my performance
Christ was equipped, ran the race with endurance
When His flesh was hit, His righteousness was my assurance

Last Chorus:
I know them chains had me trapped for a while
That’s in my past, I’m relaxed in Him now
Christ my Savior He cracked through the clouds
Did it perfect, listen to the claps from the crowd

(RSS readers will have to click through to listen to the embedded song)

David Brainerd on the Effects of Preaching the Doctrines of Grace

David Brainerd noted that preaching doctrine – not morality – wrought an inward change in the hearts of his hearers, causing them to lead morally upright lives. The doctrine that fueled this change was the total moral bankruptcy of man and the complete freeness of God’s effectual grace.Secondly, It is worthy of remark that numbers of these people are brought to a strict compliance with the rules of morality and sobriety, and to a conscientious performance of the external duties of Christianity, by the internal power and influence of diving truths (the peculiar doctrines of grace) upon their minds; without their having these moral duties frequently repeated and inculcated upon them, and the contrary vices particularly exposed and spoken against…

Those doctrines which had the most direct tendency to humble the fallen creature; to show him the misery of his natural state; to bring him down to the foot of sovereign mercy; to exalt the great Redeemer, discover His transcendent excellency and infinite preciousness, and so to recommend Him to the sinner’s acceptance, were the subject matter of what was delivered in public and private, and from time to time repeated and inculcated upon them…

There was indeed no room for any kind of discourses [on the precepts of morality and external duties]… My great work therefore was to lead them into a further view of their utter helplessness and the total depravity and corruption of their hearts; that there was no manner of goodness in them, no good dispositions nor desires, no love to God nor delight in His commands; but on the contrary, hatred, enmity, and all manner of wickedness reigning in them. At the same time it was necessary to open to them the glorious and complete remedy provided in Christ for helpless perishing sinners, and offered freely to those who have no goodness of their own, no works of righteousness which they have done to recommend them to God…

These were the doctrines, and this the method of preaching, which were blessed of God for the awakening, and, I trust, for the saving conversion of numbers of souls; and which were made the means of producing a remarkable reformation among the hearers in general… The happy effects of these peculiar doctrines of grace… plainly discover, even to demonstration, that instead of their opening a door to licentiousness, as many vainly imagine and slanderously insinuate, they have a direct contrary tendency; so that a close application, a sense and feeling of them, will have the most powerful influence toward the renovation and effectual reformation both of heart and life…

Cleanse first the inside of the cup and platter, that the outside may be clean also… The only effectual way to have the outside clean is to begin with what is within; and if the fountain be purified, the streams will naturally be pure. Most certain it is, if we can awaken in sinners a lively sense of their inward pollution and depravity, their need of a change of heart, and so engage them to seek after inward cleaning; their external defilement will naturally be cleansed.” (Diary and Journal of David Brainerd, vol. 2, pg. 164-166, 169, 170; emphasis his).

photo: annia316

David Brainerd on Preaching Christ and Him Crucified

David Brainerd concludes his journal (chronicling roughly 11 months during which God was producing a “great work” among the Indians Brainerd was evangelizing) with 4 closing observations, 2 of which I found to be particularly encouraging. We’ll look at the first today and the other later on in the week.

Like Paul, Brainerd saw first hand the power of preaching Christ and Him crucified. “First, I cannot but notice that I have in the general, ever since my first coming among these Indians in New Jersey, been favored with that assistance which to me is uncommon in preaching Christ crucified, and making Him the centre and mark to which all my discourses among them were directed… thus God was pleased to help me not to know any thing among them, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Thus I was enabled to show them their misery and undone state without Him, and to represent His complete fitness to redeem and save them. This was the preaching God made use of for the awakening of sinners, and the propagation of this ‘work of grace among the Indians.'” (Diary and Journal of David Brainerd, Vol. 2, pg. 159-160, 163; emphasis his)

photo: Donald Macleod

Your Best Life Now… or Later?

Earlier today I read a section from John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress that caused me to pay closer attention to the way a Christians desire to enjoy God in heaven effects the way he views material gain. Let me frame the scene for you.

While Christian is on his way to Mount Zion (having left the City of Destruction), he stops by to visit the Interpreter. The Interpreter shows Christian multiple scenes depicting some aspect of the Christian life. In one scene Christian is shown two young boys, Passion and Patience, seated in a little room. Passion demands to have all of his “best things” now, while Patience, heeding their Governors desires, is content to wait to receive his “best things” at a later time. A bag of treasure is brought to Passion, who rejoiced in it until he had “lavished [it] all away, and had nothing left him but rags.”

The Interpreted then goes on to expound the meaning of the two boys:

“These two lads are figures: Passion, of the men of this world; and Patience, of the men of that which is to come; for, as here thou seest, Passion will have all now… [in] this world; so are the men of this world, they must have all their good things now, they cannot stay till… the next world, for their portion of good. That proverb, ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,’ is of more authority with them than are all the Divine testimonies of the good of the world to come. But as thou sawest that he had quickly lavished all away, and had presently left him nothing but rags; so will it be with all such men at the end of this world.

“Then said Christian, Now I see that Patience has the best wisdom, and that upon many accounts. First, Because he stays for the best things. Second, And also because he will have the glory of his, when the other has nothing but rags.

To this the Interpreter responds, “Nay, you mad add another, to wit, the glory of the next world will never wear out; but these are suddenly gone… ‘For the things that are seen are temporal; but the things that are not seen are eternal.'”

After reading this, I couldn’t help but wonder why so many Christians – myself included – are not characterized by a present contentment that is rooted in knowing that our “best things” will be had in the world to come. In other words, why do we seek to store up treasure for ourselves both here on earth, and in heaven? When, according to Jesus (Matt. 6:19-20), these two actions are mutually exclusive.

photo: hire sandy

John Owen on Limited Atonement

The puritan John Owen presents a fantastic argument against the idea that Jesus died for all of the sins of all people (“Unlimited Atonement”), while demonstrating the reasonableness of the position that contends that Jesus died for all of the sins of God’s elect (“Limited Atonement”).

CRTA:

The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:

  1. All the sins of all men.
  2. All the sins of some men, or
  3. Some of the sins of all men.

In which case it may be said:

  1. That if the last be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and so, none are saved.
  2. That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.
  3. But if the first be the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins?

You answer, “Because of unbelief.”

I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!”

Now That's What I Call Shopping

I really like used books. I really like used book sales – especially when everything is $1 or less.

Having just returned from the used book sale at the Oberlin Public Library, I couldn’t help but share my newest acquisitions.

I went with the intention of finding and buying anything written by either C.S. Lewis or Robert Frost. Additionally,  I was hoping for anything Sherlock Holmes (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes et cetera). Unfortunately I did not succeed in obtaining any of these. But, I did come across a few other noteworthy books that I promptly purchased.

  1. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. I know it’s a famous book, and I haven’t read much fiction in a while, so I bought it.
  2. The Greatest Thing in the World, by Henry Drummond. You can probably pick this up at your local Christian bookstore for $3, but I got mine for $1.
  3. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman. From what I hear, the book is even better than the movie!
  4. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I read and enjoyed it when I was younger, so I figured I might as well own a copy of it.
  5. J.B. Phillips – New Testament. I bought this primarily because of the nice verse-less single column text setting.
  6. T.S. Eliot – The Wasteland and Other Poems. Being severely deficient in my reading of verse, I figured this might be a good place to start.
  7. The Overcoming Life, by Dwight L. Moody. Since I’m attending (God bless) the school that D.L. Moody founded, I figured that this would be worth picking up.
  8. The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer. For 50 cents, I couldn’t resist this classic.

So there you have it. I bought 8 books for $5… now that’s what I call shopping!

Book Review – The Essential Edwards Collection

The Essential Edwards Collection provides and excellent introduction to the works of one of America’s brightest (and most prolific) theologians – Jonathan Edwards. This collection is comprised of four books that deal with Edwards thought on different topics (Jonathan Edwards on… Beauty, Heaven and Hell, the Good Life and True Christianity), and one book that serves as a brief biography of the divine (Jonathan Edwards: A Lover of God).

Intended for the “uninitiated,” this series is written in extremely accessible language, to help the reader glean insight from Edwards writings. By briefly commenting on different quotes from Edwards works Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney aid the reader to understand Edwards while also demonstrating how to interact well with Edwards writings. Each chapter ends with suggestions on how a reader can connect the truths they are learning from Edwards to their every day lives (which I think is a brilliant idea!).

On a more personal level, I really enjoyed the emphasis the authors put on the importance of both the local church and the family unit.

One critique – and it is minor – is that there are a couple of typological errors (for example, one of the illuminated first letters of a section was not italicized), but, being extremely few and far between, these do not hinder the readability of the books.

I think this is a great set of books, serving as a fantastic introduction to Jonathan Edwards. To whet your appetite to explore Edwards through this collection here is a fantastic quote from Edwards, as quoted in Jonathan Edwards on Beauty (pg. 37):

All creatures do continually live upon the bounty of God; he maintains the whole creation of his mere goodness: every good thing that is enjoyed is a part of his bounty. When kings are bountiful, and dispense good things to their subjects, they do but give that which the Almighty before gave to them. So merciful and so full of pity is God, that when a miserable man, whom He had no need of, who did Him no good, nor could be of any advantage to Him, had made himself miserable by his rebellion against God, He took such pity on him that He sent His only Son to undergo his torment for him, that he might be delivered and set free. And now He offers freely, to bestow upon those rebels, complete and perfect happiness to all eternity upon this, His Son’s account. There never was such an instance of goodness, mercy, pity, and compassion since the world began; all the mercy and goodness amongst creatures fall infinitely short of it: this is goodness that never was, never will, never can be paralleled by any other.

Books provided for free by Pure Publicity for review.

1 Reason for Fasting from Facebook

Inspired by my cousins successful Facebook fast during lent last year, I have decided to do the same. Actually, I’m going to try to one up him by going without any social media for lent. That means no Facebook, Twitter, blogging, or blog reading (except for maybe the Desiring God blog, ’cause that doesn’t really count…).

As justification for this fast (because it is obviously imperative that one have a justification for every fast one partakes in) I offer up one simple word: time. In a recent study pollsters determined that I spend somewhere between 15-90 minutes per day using social media. Now, all of that time is not wasted – I’ve certainly had redeeming interactions via social media; but most of it is spent simply re-reading over the 297 new posts in my Facebook news feed, which is not a good use of time.

In fasting from social media I should gain approximately 10 to 60 additional hours to apply to things like reading good books, or doing a productive physical activity (like shoveling the driveway) or, heaven forbid (!), interacting with my family members in real life.

Hopefully I haven’t ruined the spiritual significance of my fast before I’ve even begun it (Matthew 6:17-18) – but, to prevent anyone (of my 2 readers) from thinking that the silence in all of my social media outlets was due to my death, I figured that might be a risk worth taking.

Enjoy anticipating the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection! And I’ll see (or twee) you in 40 days.

photo: the collective contents of my tweets conglomerated at wordle.net

A Biblical Basis for Calvinism – vii: Conclusion – For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.

In conclusion I want to offer one of the main consequences of believing that God sovereignty determines who will be saved, namely, joy! I know that I am naturally God’s enemy, without Him stepping in and choosing to save me I would have never chosen Him. Knowing that I did nothing to cause Him to love me, I am confident that He will continue to love me. His love for me is rooted in His unchanging nature, not on my ability to love Him. In view of how small my love for God is I can rejoice in this truth.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord… Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. – Romans 8:31-39, 11:33-36

A Biblical Basis for Calvinism – vi: Affirmations of Belief

In view of what has been said in the previous posts, I do still believe that every individual is responsible for trusting in Jesus to save them. We do make real choices and we are responsible for those choices – the Bible clearly teaches that. While I do not understand the interplay between Divine sovereignty and human responsibility in matters of choice I do believe that God sovereignly determines everything that happens and that we will be justly held responsible for our actions (see Romans 9).

I also believe that we must evangelize, we must preach the gospel or else people will not be saved (Romans 10:13-15). Believing that God has chosen to save certain people encourages me to evangelize. Why? Because I know that I am totally incapable of persuading someone of the truth of the gospel, I simply cannot do that. But I can go out and preach the gospel in confidence, knowing that it is God who brings about the salvation of the hearers. Furthermore, knowing that God has other people all throughout the world that He has chosen to save who are not yet saved encourages me to go out to preach the gospel to those people so that they will be saved. God has chosen to use the preaching of the gospel as the means by which He saves people, so I gladly join in His work of saving lost people by preaching the gospel.

A Biblical Basis for Calvinism – v: TULIP

Up to this point I have not presented you with my understanding of the 5 points of Calvinism. The reason I have yet to do so is because I wanted to demonstrate that I desire to follow the teaching of the Bible. I like John Calvin – he was a brilliant guy who spent a lot of time in the Bible (as is evidenced by his 22 volume (!) commentary on the entire Bible); and I’ll agree with him insofar as his teaching lines up with my understanding of Scripture. That being said, I think that the teachings of this passage can be systematized into the 5 points of Calvinism (well, actually, I only see this passage as demonstrating 4 of those points, so we’ll leave the 5th alone).

The 5 points of Calvinism form the acronym TULIP (my favorite flower!).

T

We can summarize Ephesians 2:1-3 by saying that all people are born with an evil and corrupt nature which causes them to hate God and love sin. This is the first point of Calvinism “T,” Total Depravity.

U

Ephesians 1:5 says that God has “predestined us for adoption in Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” Ephesians 2:4 says that God made us alive in Christ “because of the great love with which he loved us,” and this He did while we were “dead in our trespasses” and following Satan. From that, I gather that God saved us because He wanted to, not because of anything we have done. He did not save us based on His foreseeing our faith in Him; His choosing of us caused us to have faith in Him. This is the “U,” which stands for Unconditional Election.

L

In the 5 points of Calvinism “L” stands for Limited Atonement, which means that Jesus’ death is sufficient to cover the sins of the whole world; but even more than that, that His death effectively purchased the salvation of those who God had chosen to save. I don’t see this passage teaching this (okay, well, I might, I’m not sure yet, I’m still thinking through the implications of the word “with” in 2:5 and its relation to 1:15-22. But that could take a while!), and so I’m not going to argue for the truth of this point, since the verses we looked at don’t explicitly mention this.

[Also, as somewhat of a tangent, the term “limited” really turns me off. Furthermore, it is important to note that you are always in some way going to be “limiting” the extent of Jesus’ atonement. Arminians will generally say that Jesus died for everyone, but that His death did not effectively save anyone (and thus His atonement is “limited” in the sense that it does not effectively save anyone). Calvinists will generally say that Jesus died for everyone and that His death effectively saved those whom God wanted to save (and thus, His atonement is “limited” in that it does not effectively save everyone). For more on this point of Calvinism, John Piper has a lecture that was really helpful in explaining both sides of the issue, you can watch, read or listen to that lecture here: http://bit.ly/4UYhaP.]

I

Ephesians 1:5 says that God “predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ,” that He determined our destiny before we existed (that’s what the word “predestined” means) and God always accomplishes His will (see Job 42:2; Psalm 33:8-11, 115:3, and 135:6; Daniel 4:34-35…) so, if God wants to save someone, He can and will overcome that persons resistance (because we frequently resist God’s work, see Acts 7:51). From that I gather that, when He wants it to be, God’s grace is irresistible, that’s what the “I” stands for, Irresistible Grace.

P

Ephesians 1:13-14 says that we have been “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,” and that the Holy Spirit is the “guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.” Ephesians 2:4-7 says that God “made us alive together with Christ… and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places,” note that Paul talks about our being seated with Christ in the heavenly places in the past tense, as if it had already happened. I believe Paul does that because he is sure that God will keep us saved. Furthermore, in this passage, the whole purpose of God making us alive together with Christ is so that “in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus” (emphasis mine). God always accomplishes his purposes (see references in the first sentence of the paragraph on Ephesians 1:5). In view of this, I believe that once God has saved someone, God will make sure that that person will not fall away from Christ (in the ultimate sense, they may fall away for a time, but God will then bring them back). We are responsible for continuing to trust in Christ’s death to make us right with God and God will ensure that we continue in our faith. This is what the “P” stands for, Perseverance of the Saints (or Preservation of the Saints).