Why I’m Not Using a Reading Plan in 2012

I know that this week and next tend to be the ones where people make resolutions and goals for the year—and a typical New Years’ resolutions for Christians is to read their Bible in its entirety within the year. This is a good goal and if you’ve never read your Bible in its entirety, you absolutely need to at least once.

I read through the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation back in 2009, reading a few chapters a day until I was done. It was a tremendous experience—it helped me get a really good sense of the big story of Scripture, to see how every book fits together. I tried to do it again last year, but stalled out about halfway through the Psalms (although I still ended up reading about two-thirds of the Scriptures through the year regardless).

Sooooo if it was so great an experience the first time, why did it fall flat the next? What happened?

For me, the problem was that I wasn’t spending enough time soaking in the Word. With a strict schedule of 4+ chapters a day, I found there was very little time to stop and savor. Much of the time was spent consuming. This is not the way that I prefer to read my Bible. That’s one of the reasons that I loved the Partnering to Remember challenge that Tim Brister put together last year. Memorizing Philippians (most of which I’ve still got a solid hold on) was one of the few times in 2011 where I felt like I felt like I was really enjoying the Word in the way that I’m talking about.

So this year, I’ve decided to spend the bulk of my personal reading just enjoying a few books—mastering them and being mastered by them, as it were. What that means is I’m not going to be keeping track of how many chapters I’m reading or how many books of the Bible I get through this year. I want to do my best to really understand what I’m reading and to enjoy it. I might even try to to memorize some more.

The first book on my list? Ecclesiastes.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

The Backlist: The Top Ten Posts on Blogging Theologically

Let’s take a look back in time and see the most-read posts from October. Go check them out:

  1. Everyday Theology: God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. Everyday Theology: God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  3. The Dos and Don’ts of Book Reviews (or at least how I do them) (January 2011)
  4. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  5. Book Review: Love Wins by Rob Bell (March 2011)
  6. (Cheap) Christian e-Books for Your Kindle! (November 2011)
  7. Book Review: For the City by Darrin Patrick and Matt Carter (November 2011)
  8. 5 Ways to Get Attention in the Christian Blogosphere (November 2011)
  9. Christmas Shopping for the Bible Guy (and Gal)! (November 2011)
  10. Everyday Theology: Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words (July 2009)

And just for fun, here are the next ten:

  1. Inerrancy, the Church and the Cults (November 2011)
  2. Book Reviews (page)
  3. Book Review: Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle (July 2011)
  4. Book Review: Gospel Wakefulness by Jared C. Wilson (November 2011)
  5. Choosing a New Preaching Bible (November 2011)
  6. Another Great Book Giveaway! (November 2011)
  7. Who Writes This? (page)
  8. J.I. Packer: Nehemiah’s God (May 2010)
  9. 5 Biblical Names We Won’t Be Using For Our Next Child (November 2011)
  10. Does it Matter if Paul Didn’t Write the Pastoral Epistles? (November 2011)

Four of this month’s top ten posts are from November (which was kind of a nice surprise). It was also great to see a new entry in the top ten—The Dos and Don’ts of Book Reviews (or at least how I do them). It’s great to see that people are checking out this one (and I hope finding it helpful!). The next ten, as always, are an interesting mix—lots from November (and one from this week, even). Really great to see people engage in the discussion on choosing a new preaching Bible and glad to see the excerpt from J.I. Packer finding an audience again.

Inerrancy and Infallibility: What’s the Difference?

Over the last few weeks, Dave Jenkins and I have been looking at the big question of inerrancy. What does it mean? Where did the idea come from? What does it mean if we lose it? Today, I want to quickly look at a nagging issue that comes up again and again in conversations and debates surrounding the inerrancy of Scripture and that is the issue of infallibility.

Understanding Inerrancy: A Quick Recap

As was stated in the first post in this series, inerrancy means that the Bible is entirely truthful and reliable in all that it affirms in the original manuscripts. At the risk of oversimplifying, inerrancy means that the Bible is free from error. Because God is truthful (cf. Titus 1:2 among others), and the testimony of Scripture is that it itself is “God-breathed” (what theologians have referred to as “verbal plenary inspiration”)1 we can trust that what He has said, through authors inspired by the Holy Spirit, is true.

So that, at it’s most basic level, is the idea behind inerrancy. But what about infallibility?

Understanding Infallibility

Infallibility is closely related to inerrancy, yet distinct. In fact, infallibility is a much stronger term than inerrancy in many respects. To say that the Bible is infallible is not simply to say that it is free from error, but that it is incapable of erring. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is extremely helpful on this point:

We affirm that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses. We deny that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated.2

So, can something or someone be fallible yet still inerrant? Theoretically, yes. Here’s what I mean: It is possible for a person who is capable of erring (making a mistake) to not err. He or she is fallible, yet made no error. But what about the reverse? Is it possible for someone to be infallible, yet err?

Not at all. If infallibility means being incapable of error, then it is not possible in any way, shape or form.

This again draws us back to the source of Scripture, that being God. If God is indeed perfect, always true, always doing exactly what He promises and always doing what is right, then it is impossible for Him to err. He is not only free from error, but incapable of committing it. Thus, if Scripture is truly inspired of God, if it is truly all that it claims to be, then it too is incapable of committing error. It is infallible and inerrant. 

Infallibility addresses possibility—inerrancy addresses fact. They are distinct, but they are inseparable.

The Bible is a Strange Book

The Bible is a strange book, and with every decade that passes, its strangeness becomes more apparent. it is virtually the sole survivor, in the western world at least, of the books of antiquity. Caesar, Plato and Augustine are still in print and read by any. But they have no audience even remotely comparable with the Bible. Its sayings and stories have entered the culture as no other book has. But biblical illiteracy is apparent, and where the Bible is read its message is not always understood. It is as if we have been asked to host a visitor from another culture, where the possibilities for misunderstanding are high. Such a visitor poses a threat to our own way of doing things by showing us alternatives we may never have thought of. Equally, we may judge the stranger by the mores of our own society and find him lacking for all the wrong reasons.

The human disciplines in whose name we question the integrity of the Bible do not have the last word. In many ways the Bible has always been an outsider, challenging its own contemporary culture as it challenges ours. The opening chapters of Genesis fitted no more comfortably with ancient cosmogonies than with our own; the Bible’s willingness to provide the human narrative from its origin to its destiny and to judge the meaning of it all in terms of good and evil always threatens the evaluation of those who do not have such a lofty viewpoint. But strange thous the Bible is, it is also perennial and profoundly human. The ancient wisdom of the Proverbs, the cries of the Psalms and the stories of the ‘former prophets’ speak recognizably to human experience to this day. Much of the church’s present-day unease with the Bible is all the wrong reasons, a tragic capitulation to worldliness. Like the cross, the Scripture is a paradox of God’s self-revelation — foolish to the cultured, but wise beyond all measure to those who are being saved.

Peter Jensen, The Revelation of God, pp. 203-204

Inerrancy, Inspiration and the Character of God

A few days ago, we started digging into this question of inerrancy—the idea that the Bible is completely and totally truthful in all that it says. This doctrine is one of the most critical, but is tied to a larger issue, one of authority.

If the Bible truly is inerrant, then it’s authority over how we think and live cannot be questioned (even if we are uncertain as to how we should interpret some of what it says). But why would it have such total authority—where does this authority come from? The answer is a simple and complicated one:

The Bible’s authority is derived from the character and authority of God.

Of all the ways God is described, as being merciful, faithful, full of steadfast love, there is one description that encompasses and controls all these: His holiness. God is completely and utterly perfect in all He says and does—and in His being.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts,” the angels sing. “The whole earth is filled with His glory!” (Isa. 6: 3) This holiness, this perfection, undergirds everything else that is true about God.

His love is a holy love.

His wrath is a holy wrath.

His truth is a holy truth.

And because God is holy, everything He says and does will always be completely and totally truthful.

The claim of God’s complete and total truthfulness is not something that is tucked away in an obscure part of the Bible, but rather it permeates the entire thing. It’s rare to find a book that doesn’t make an appeal to the truthfulness of God in some fashion. Some are more obvious, such as in Numbers 23:19, which boldly declares, “God is not man, that he should lie.” Likewise, as Paul reminds Titus of the assuredness of the hope of eternal life, he does so by appealing to the truth that God “never lies” (Titus 1:2). Again and again, the claim is made:

“This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true.” (2 Sam. 22:31; Psa. 18:30)

“Every word of God proves true…” (Prov. 30:5)

“The rules of the Lord are true…” (Psa. 19:9)

“…all your commandments are true.” (Psa. 119:51)

“The sum of your word is truth…” (Psa. 119:160)

“…the word of the Lord in your [Elijah’s] mouth is truth.” (1 Kings 17:24)

“…your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

These are but a few of the places where we are repeatedly and emphatically told that all that God says is truth. So, the question is, can God’s Word declare something untrue?

No. Because He is holy, He can be nothing less than perfect. Because He is perfect, He can be nothing less that completely truthful. It would be against His character to be anything less.

So we have to be really careful as we consider this question of inerrancy. Because God so strongly identifies with His written word (cf. Psa. 119:42; John 17:17), we risk impugning His character by suggesting that Scripture errs (even if we suggest that it is still infallible—a subject for a future post). And God identifies strongly with His written Word, not simply because He has ordained it be His method for revealing His character, but because He was intimately involved in it’s writing and continues to use it as His means of saving and sanctifying His people.

Scripture is “God-breathed,” says 2 Tim. 3:16, as God the Holy Spirit worked through the unique personalities of every author to set forth the exact message He intended for humanity. It “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). God’s Word—His written Word—has power unlike any other book ever written.

The question for us, then, is what do we do with it? Do we continue suppress the truth in our unrighteousness—do we risk impugning the character of God by suggesting that He could err? Or do we, like the Thessalonians, accept it, “not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13)?

 

Inerrancy, Inspiration and Authority: A Clearing of the Throat

Recently, I wrote about whether or not it matters if Paul wrote the pastoral epistles. As I briefly explained, what we believe about these letters is a huge issue, particularly in how it impacts our view of the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. As I wrote previously:

So, if Paul didn’t write these letters, then they would be falsified documents that would have been unwelcome in the early church.

Why? Because they would contain a lie.

More than that, they would be based upon a lie. And if these documents were based upon a lie—that is their authorship—then they absolutely cannot be trusted whatsoever, meaning you have to reject them or reinterpret what it means for something to be inspired of God. This then becomes even more problematic, in that then the entire doctrine of inerrancy evaporates, because you’re left with a position that forces you to say that Scripture errs. And if Scripture errs, then it throws your entire view of the Bible into question and in the end you’re left with either a collection of documents that you choose to trust out of preference (a subjective view) or you’re left having to throw the whole thing away because it’s not trustworthy.

This last point, that you either have to embrace a subjective view of Scripture or chuck the whole thing, is fairly contentious. It is very black and white. So, I want to begin digging a bit deeper into the issue of inerrancy to help give you a sense of why I believe it truly is a matter of the utmost seriousness.

The doctrine of inerrancy is one of the most important—and one of the most misunderstood. What do we mean when we say that the Bible is inerrant? Is it a man-made doctrine? Is it something that we have to read into Scripture, or is it something that Scripture reveals to us?

Like all the debates surrounding Scripture, like the existence of Adam & Eve, gender roles within the Church and so many others, there is another question at the heart of the issue—a question of authority. What we believe about Scripture says a great deal about who we believe to be in authority over us. If Scripture is truly what it says it is—the Word of God—then it is our ultimate earthly authority in all matters.

Before we start really digging into what Scripture says about itself, it’s important to lay a foundation for discussing the subject. And to do that, we need to understand what inerrancy does not mean. [Read more...]

Does it Matter if Paul Didn’t Write the Pastoral Epistles?

Yesterday, I read a short blog post asking the question of whether or not Paul actually wrote the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus) and if it matters. A large number of New Testament scholars, including I.H. Marshall, reject Pauline authorship of these books (an argument that’s really only emerged in the last 200 years) for a variety of reasons, primarily due to differences in style, vocabulary, ecclesiology and theology (although these last two in particular are overstated).

But a big question emerges, whatever position you take: does it really matter if Paul didn’t write these letters?

Does it affect how we read them?

Are they still inspired Scripture if we could definitively prove they’re not Pauline?

These are really important questions, ones that we should consider with the seriousness they deserve (and that includes more consideration that I could hope to give in a simple blog post). However, I want to take a second to address the question of whether or not it matters if they’re not written by Paul—because the answer is an emphatic “yes!”

It’s of drastic import to their place within the canon and to their trustworthiness if Paul didn’t write them. If Paul didn’t write these letter, then they’re pseudonymous works, and while writing under a pseudonym was fairly common within the culture of the first century, it wasn’t something commonly done in personal correspondence. It was also rejected outright by the early church itself, as Scripture itself testifies in 2 Thess. 2:2 and 2 Thess. 3:17. Paul, in this undisputed letter, says that the church of God is only to accept and trust genuine letters. So if the pastoral epistles weren’t written by Paul, they would be inauthentic.

Looking outside of Scripture to church history, we see mention of Pauline authorship of these books in the Muratorian Canon; we also see that when an elder wrote a pseudonymous work under Paul’s name he was removed from his office (see Tertullian, On Baptism, 17).

So, if Paul didn’t write these letters, then they would be falsified documents that would have been unwelcome in the early church.

Why? Because they would contain a lie.

More than that, they would be based upon a lie. And if these documents were based upon a lie—that is their authorship—then they absolutely cannot be trusted whatsoever, meaning you have to reject them or reinterpret what it means for something to be inspired of God. This then becomes even more problematic, is that then the entire doctrine of inerrancy evaporates, because you’re left with a position that forces you to say that Scripture errs. And if Scripture errs, then it throws your entire view of the Bible into question and in the end you’re left with either a collection of documents that you choose to trust out of preference (a subjective view) or you’re left having to throw the whole thing away because it’s not trustworthy.

It’s not wrong to ask the question of whether or not Paul wrote these books, but we must be diligent in our study of God’s Word in order to find the answer. There is legitimately too much at stake and on this issue, we cannot afford to be agnostic.

(Cheap) Christian e-Books for Your Kindle!

Here are a few great deals I’ve found for Christian books for your Kindle—If you see any that I’ve missed, let me know in the comments!

New Additions and Updates—all under $5:

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul—Free!

Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft ($1.99!)

Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears

What Did You Expect? by Paul Tripp

Redemption by Mike Wilkerson

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan [Read more...]

Another Great Book Giveaway!

Today I’m giving away a couple of great books published by Shepherd’s Press:

Red Like Blood by Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington &

Christ Formed in You: The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change by Brian G. Hedges

 Want to win these books? Enter using the PunchTab app below (RSS readers, you’ll need to click through to the post to enter) and tell me why you want to read these books in the comments.

Contest ends Friday, November 4th at midnight (Eastern Time). The winner will be chosen at random and contacted via email on Saturday.

 

Sunbathing in the Love of the Trinity: Tim Chester #T4ACon

Dr Tim Chester is a director of the Porterbrook Institute which provides affordable, Bible-college level training for church leadership and missional church in the context of your ministry (www.porterbrookinstitute.org). He is a leader of The Crowded House, a church planting network (www.thecrowdedhouse.org). He blogs atwww.timchester.co.uk. He has previously been Research and Policy Director for Tearfund UK and a part-time lecturer in missiology. He is the author of a number of books and series editor of The Good Book Guides (The Good Book Company). He is married with two daughters.

What I want to do is take you to the beach—the metaphorical beach—and I want us to sunbathe in the sunshine of God’s love… and to use that for our motives in caring for orphans.

I want you to imagine for a moment that God not Trinity, not God in three persons… as such, there is nothing he can love aside from himself. He can’t love, because there’s no one to love. He can’t relate, because there’s no one to relate to—it’s hard to even call this god a person. So why does this god create? To meet his needs. This god is deficient. This god creates to meet his emotional needs…

But I have good news for you. Turn to John 17:1-5, 20-26:

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. . . . I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.

Here we have Jesus speaking to the God who is Father, the God who is one, and speaking to him as God. . .  For all eternity, the Trinity has existed in love, not a solitary individual but a community in relationship. And not only is God loving, he is love. It defines his character. He is not on his own loving, he is loving; the Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father… The Son communicates to the Father through the Spirit. In Genesis 1, at creation he communicates with another, saying “Let us make man in our image…”

Throughout John’s gospel, Jesus says that he speaks the words his Father has given him. So if there was a time when God was not Trinity, there was a time when he was not loving, he was not Father. But he has always been loving, he has always been Father, Son and Spirit. If he were not Trinity, he would not be knowable, there would have been a time when he didn’t speak. But because he is Trinity, he is knowable, he speaks. He didn’t just drop a book out of the sky as is said with the Quran. But God did not create out of any deficiency in himself. Before the world was created, he existed within himself in community.

If we ask the question “Who is God,” we might think that God is ruler. And he is in a sense. We might think that he’s a ruler who sometimes acts in a fatherly way. But fundamentally he is Father. Salvation is adoption because he IS Father. He is not a frustrated ruler. He is Father.

The Trinity is eternally satisfied in each other. God did not create out of need. And he does not recreate his children out of need.

But think about the implications of this for us:

You can’t claim to be godly if you adopt out of need. Don’t adopt if you’re trying to adopt out of some need in you. If you adopt out of some need in you, you’re going to create all sorts of problems. Your adopted child will not be free, they will feel the pressure to meet your needs. They’ll either be constrained by your expectations or fight against them. God did not create the world out of some need because the Trinity was entirely satisfied in itself. The Father was eternally satisfied in the Son and in the Spirit… You may feel that if you just have a family they you’ll be happy. But it’s not true. You were made to have a relationship with your heavenly Father. What is a fulfilled life? It is not having a child, it is being a child of God. Eternal life is to know God in Christ. If you are adopting a child out of need, you’re making that child a god-substitute, an idol. You’re setting them up to fail. There’s no way they can be all that you need to you. Even a model child cannot fulfill you.

So what was God’s motive for adopting us as his children?

He created us to be his children and recreates us to be his children out of the outflowing of his love. The Father and the Son gloried in one another in all eternity. The light of Father’s glory is perfectly reflected in the Son. The glory of the Father shines on the Son and is reflected back onto the Father through the Son. And it’s like that for us too. We’re mirrors. We reflect back onto God what’s His. We reflect the glory that originated with him.

Look at Ezekiel 1:27-28:

And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Think about Ezekiel’s vision of the Lord—how does God appear? A rainbow. But there’s no word for “rainbow” in Hebrew. It’s just “bow.” God is hanging up his bow, and this bow, this rainbow, this war bow, perfectly reflects God’s glory because it points to his judgment being taken upon himself—it’s pointing at the Son. In John’s gospel, the Son is lifted up in glory when he is lifted on the cross.

The first way we glorify God is by doing nothing. Christ said “it is finished,” there is nothing left to do. We can kick off our shoes and soak in the warmth of God’s love.

The Father radiates love to the Son and the Son to the Father through the Spirit and this is what they share with others. The Father gives words to the Son, who gives words to believers. The Father sends the Son, who sends believers. The Father is one with the Son, who is one with believers. The Father loves the Son, who loves believers.

Why does God adopt? It’s out of love. Why does God love us? It’s all of grace.

God creates out of the overflow of his grace and love. And it’s the same as salvation—Jesus wants people to be where he is. And where is the Son?

Back in John 1, we read that “No one who has ever seen God, but the son… the language is that of a child resting on their Father. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father.

Owen wrote that the greatest unkindness you can do to him is not to believe that he loves you. Why? Because the whole plan of salvation is you being adopted as his child. God makes us his children, but he wants more than that—he wants us to know we are his children. God sent the Son to make us his children and sent the Spirit to make us experience being his children.

Our job is to go sunbathing—to go swimming in the ocean of God’s love. Imagine the ocean is fresh water and you’re thirsty. You dip a cup into the ocean, drink and you’re satisfied. What do you do the next day when you’re thirsty again? Do you think, “If I keep this up, the ocean is going to run out?”

That’s what we do when we come to God—we think we can drain the ocean of God’s love with our little cups. We need not fear that we can drink it dry. In fact, we can just jump in.

The Theatre for Transcultural Adoption: Bryan Loritts #T4ACon

Bryan Loritts is the pastor of Fellowship Memphis, a multi-ethnic community of faith in Memphis, TN. He is also the author of God on Paper and A Cross Shaped Gospel as well as a contributing author for the book entitled Great Preaching.



We came to Memphis because we had a passion to plant a church planting, multi-ethnic church. . . . Like any city, it’s got some scars underneath the surface.

Tim Keller says that whenever you walk into a city, you should look for the idols. And unfortunately in Memphis, that idol is racism. But we wanted to bring together a gospel-centered, Christ-centered, multi-ethnic church . . . bringing together a taste of heaven. Heaven is going to be a multi-ethnic experience. Jesus tells us to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” He’s saying that we’re to make a preview of heaven here. Like my Grandma says, true religion has shoe leather on it. It does something.

Gospel-centered people understand that because they were once orphans themselves, they have a heart for orphans, both spiritually and literally, in this world. . . .

Let me set the expectations: I am not a sociologist, I am a preacher. I want to walk you through Matthew 25:31-46:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” Then he will answer them, saying, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

William Wilberforce was at a party with his friend William Pitt. And at one point they say, “Hey, let’s run for parliament.” Wilberforce wins his seat, and for 50 years, never loses his seat. At 25, he becomes a follower of Jesus Christ, and experiences a conundrum:

“On the one hand, I am a newfound follower of Jesus Christ. On the other hand, I cannot reconcile my newfound faith with my vocation.”

I cannot reconcile leading a country that is thriving off the injustice of slavery, he thinks. So he thinks maybe will quit his position and become a pastor. But luckily he was being discipled by a man named John Newton—a man who was in the providence of God involved in the slave trade himself—that is the man Wilberforce goes to see with this conundrum. And Newton tells him that he can redeem his vocation to accomplish God’s purposes in life. These words strengthen him and he gives a six hour lecture in the parliament saying that he will not rest until he sees the abolition of the slave trade.

And they’re looking at Wilberforce, thinking, “have you lost your mind?” He’s beaten, voted down, sometimes beaten within an inch of his life… but eventually abolition is passed by parliament.

Two days ago, I sat at a pro-life banquet . . . and I came away realizing that the issue of fatherlessness and abortion is our 21st century issue of slavery. Two miles from my office is a planned parenthood center, where last year 9,000 abortions were performed. And the tragedy is that most of those were performed by African-American women who were handed down a legacy of fatherlessness.

I don’t want anyone to leave here thinking that fatherlessness is an African American issue. I need you to understand that I’m not playing victim, but I need you to know that the American history of slavery has left a legacy of broken families. The whole system of slavery was predicated on the breeding and separating of families.

Fatherlessness, broken families, orphans, have been part of the African-American families from the beginning.

Richard Pryor, the great comedian, made everyone laugh, but his story was anything but funny. His mother had him out of wedlock. His father left at an early age. His mother tried to care for him, but had to give him up because she was a prostitute. His grandmother took him in… but she ran a brothel. His earliest memories were growing up in a brothel. . . . He was once asked how he views women, and he said, “I see women as taxis, I get in and out of them all day long.” And so we have this legacy, and someone has to step in and say this curse ends here. This legacy ends now.

I think it’s beautiful that many of you have decided to adopt across ethnicity . . . but don’t be like the Drummonds on Different Strokes. The problem with Arnold and Willis is that they were never introduced to their culture. I don’t lead with my ethnicity, but make no mistake, I am a black man—it means I do things differently.

Here’s what I want you to understand—I’m different. And no I don’t lead with my ethnicity because as Paul wrote, in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile… he is not arguing that there is no difference, but what he is saying is that at the foot of the cross, there is no extreme.

I meet so many kids who grew up in white homes who have deep-seated identity issues because their parents have not done the hard work of exposing them to their culture.

All that was not planned for, but here we go. Let’s lay down some theological points. When we come to Matt. 25, we’ve got a major problem, right? It seems like Jesus is preaching works-salvation.

Now one of the rules of good hermeneutics is that you never build a doctrine on one passage. You have to look at what the whole Bible says—and the consistent pattern of Scripture is that salvation is by faith, from Genesis [to] Romans [to] Ephesians…. So seen in its proper context, it’s not salvation by works. So what is it about?

Salvation is a mystery. Jesus is talking to some religious people who did all sorts of great things in his name—and Jesus said, “Thanks, I never knew you.”

Here’s a scary thought: There’s going to be lots of religious people in hell who preached sermons, went to conferences, were virgins….

So how do I know if I’m saved? Fruit. A changed and changing life that is directly connected to the presence of the Spirit of Christ in my life. And if the only sign I’ve got of my salvation is my praying a prayer and burning my M.C. Hammer cassettes, then can I be too sure?

One theologian says about this passage that “our passage deals not with the root of salvation, but with the fruit of salvation.” Genuinely redeemed people as a manifestation of the Spirit in me, I care for the poor, I contemplate adoption… it’s not because I have to, it’s because I get to.

I was that person! I was adopted. I was hungry… a gospel-centered person understands that they don’t sit on it, they give it away!

And for any Christ-follower to not contemplate adoption, Jesus says it’s totally incompatible with faith—it’s not I adopt, so I’m saved, it’s I’m saved, so I consider. I contemplate.

So how do I do this? Here’s my two points:

It’s going to take a deep heart for God. I’m reading through my Bible and I’m being struck by all these verses on the orphan, the widow, the alien…The Bible isn’t concerned with how they got there, it says love them. There are over 2000 verses in the Bible that talk about the poor, the widow, the fatherless. Grudem says that the Bible is the transcript of the heart of God. And I can’t claim to have the heart of God if I don’t care about the fatherless.

We’ve for so long preached a false gospel that says you can be as greedy as you want… I’ve never seen a case of church discipline for being greedy. I’ve never heard of someone being disciplined because of materialism. Materialism is so much a part of American culture that trying to explain it to an American Christian is like trying to explain water to a fish. And it’s totally incompatible with the gospel.

When it comes to adoption, economically, it’s ridiculous. The economy of it is ridiculous. And if we’re going to get there, we’ve got to learn the art of leaving margin in our budgets. We have to learn to wrestle with the issue of enough.

Wesley committed to living off of 28 pounds in a year. Whatever he made over that, he’d give away. One year, he made 1500 pounds off his books. He kept 28, gave the rest away. He learned what was enough.

We have to wrestle with this—how much house is enough. How many rounds of golf is enough…

Secondly, it’s going to take a profound love for people. My mother is the fruit of an adulterous relationship between an 18=year-old girl and a 26-year-old navy soldier. My grandmother got pregnant and we can say fairly certainly is that she contemplated abortion. We can say that because she had five. . . . Broken homes was such a part of my mother’s culture, that she remembered listening to her cousin give a tutorial on how to give yourself an abortion with a coat hanger. My grandmother was abusive . . . my mother was bounced from home to home. And my grandmother had one rule—while she was sleeping off her hangover, the kids had to go to church. And so my mother and her brothers would go to the Presbyterian church, the only black kids at the church, and an elderly family began investing in her and they brought her to faith in Christ. She came to faith because an elderly family got Matthew 25. . . . Friends, if we’re going to be a part of seeing God’s will be done here as in heaven, its’ going to take an army of families.

Delighting In God the Giver: Dan Cruver #T4ACon

Dan Cruver is the director of Together for Adoption and provides thought-leadership on the theology of adoption as a team member of ABBA Fund. Before co-founding and directing Together for Adoption, Dan was a college professor of Bible and Theology. He has also served as a pastor of family ministries. As one who has been adopted by God and has adopted two children, Dan founded Together for Adoption to equip churches and educate Christians theologically about orphan care and horizontal adoption. Dan regularly writes and speaks about the Gospel and its implications for solutions to the global orphan crisis. He is the editor and primary author of Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living Through the Rediscovery of Abba Father, wrote the foreword to Heirs with Christ: The Puritans on Adoption by Dr. Joel Beeke and is a regular contributor to The Gospel Coalition Blog.


I want to put you in the real world. So here’s the question: What in the world are you talking about?

…All the deadlines, because of the very bad economy, because of the very difficult family situations seem like the real world and the reality of our adoption through Jesus Christ feels like a very distant country.

What we are doing at this conference and what we are doing right now is we are reminding ourselves what the real world is. God’s story, massive, cosmic story of adoption IS the real world. That is the story that Psalm 36 is going to usher us into:

Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good. He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil.

Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O LORD.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart! Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away. There the evildoers lie fallen; they are thrust down, unable to rise.

A British theologian named Mike Reeves in a recent sermon asks this question—what does God want from you? And I’m going to apply this context and ask what does God want from us, primarily thinking about orphan care and adoption. [quotes Psalm 82:3, Isaiah 1:23, James 1:26-27]

So what is it that God really wants from us? Are these verses our answer? What about these ones:

Matthew 2:27—what does God really want? He wants us to love him with all that we are. Psalm 126—He wants from us praise and adoration for he is good. And I could go on and on…

But I have a confession to make: I’ve set you up intentionally. That is a trick question. What does God really want from you? The question is not what does God want from us. The question is, “Who is God?”

Psalm 36:9—”For with you is the fountain of life. In your light do we see light.”

Does a fountain want anything from you?

The very nature of a fountain is that it gives and it never, NEVER stops giving. . . . The question is Who is God—and He is an eternal fountain. And he did not become a fountain when the world was created. This is the God who is fundamentally, intrinsically a giver. That’s what he is—he gives!

We can’t live the Christian life well if we think of God as primarily wanting from us.

In the context of caring for the orphan: To serve the orphan well, we must think of God, experience God, primarily as Giver.

Now why this Psalm at a conference on adoption and orphan care?

Four reasons:

  1. There is a strong connection to what the Scriptures call Sonship. Sonship has to do with the idea that we all gain the rights and privileges of the Son.
  2. Drinking from the lavish light of the fountain of God’s love for us empowers us to live on the razor-sharp edge of our world’s profound brokenness.
  3. Orphans need Christians who feast on the abundance of God’s house and drink from the river of God’s delight
  4. Christians who experience God as Giver are much better equipped to love the child who comes from or lives in the hard place

Two questions:

  1. Who is this God who takes?
  2. Who is this God who gives?

We learn about this God who takes in vv. 1-4. Here David is describing the wicked person—and he’s referring to someone living within the covenant community. And yet, this is how their minds operate. They are not serving a God who gives—they are serving a God who takes. These gods are needy. They make demands. They demand that you serve the God of comfort, or you serve the God of power… and they cannot talk, they demand everything from you. And those who make those gods become like them. This person serves this god and becomes one who takes.

You’d think that David would go from this person who takes and this god who takes and go to the person who gives. But he doesn’t do that—he goes to the God who gives.

Psalm 36:8—there’s one word in this verse, and it’s a wormhole—it takes you into a world that is bigger and richer than anything we can imagine. It transports us into what happens to be the real world. It’s the word “delight”. The Hebrew word—“Edens.” “Those who take refuge in the shadow of his wings,” he causes them to drink from the river of his “Edens”.

And what comes screaming out of this is The Fall.

Eden was the place where God created his son (small “s”) where they were supposed to enjoy eternal communion with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. God is saying that this man, this woman were to live in this love that is greater than Niagara Falls… and then you have the Fall. And there is a death sentence at the edge of Eden. An angel with a sword.

So we have a big problem here—how can David say that God can let us drink from the river of his Edens? If we try to get back in, we die. And if we die, we don’t drink. So what does David say?

The first part of verse 8: “They feast on the abundance of your house…” There was one place on earth where man could have communion with God—the Temple. That’s the house he’s talking about. But what happened there—blood had to be spilled! There is one place in heaven and on earth where God and man can meet—Jesus Christ, the God-man. Heaven and earth are brought together. In Jesus, we don’t just get Eden, we get Edens…

What we get in him, we get Eden on steroids.

God is the giver. And he has given us Jesus. In Jesus, God and man perfectly united. God is a Giver. And those who take refuge under the shadow of his wings, he gives them to feast on the abundance of his house and he causes them to drink of the river of his delights and you cannot begin to diminish the supply of his delight. All the millions and millions of people who by God’s grace have been brought to faith in Christ drink of the river of God’s delights and we can’t begin to diminish the supply of God’s delights because God is a giver!

When we think of God as one to whom we give, we end up living in a world that is not real. What orphans need is Christians who by the grace of God, by the Spirit, drink of the grace of God. That will motivate us, it will move us, to give because God is THE Great Giver.

God’s love come to us in Jesus extends to the heavens so that wherever you cry, “O wretched man that I am,” whenever you cry it, there is no far off country, no far off land where God’s giving does not supply every need you have in Christ Jesus. He is the giver. And it’s in him that we serve the orphan and the poor.

The Backlist: The Top Ten Posts on Blogging Theologically

Let’s take a look back in time and see the most-read posts from September. Go check them out:

  1. Everyday Theology: God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle
  2. Everyday Theology: God helps those who help themselves
  3. Book Review: Innocent Blood by John Ensor
  4. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur
  5. His Name was Smeagol
  6. Book Review: Love Wins by Rob Bell
  7. The Essential Edwards Giveaway!
  8. Four Things I Learned While Writing a Book
  9. (Cheap) Christian E-Books for Your Kindle!
  10. Everyday Theology: Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words

And just for fun, here’s the next ten:

  1. The Gift of Dead Mentors
  2. Book Reviews
  3. Book Review: Radical Together by David Platt
  4. Book Review: Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
  5. Who Writes This?
  6. Preaching and the Successful Local Church
  7. Twisted: Reviewing Andy Stanley’s Twisting the Truth
  8. Book Review: The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight
  9. Every Member a Minister?
  10. Join the Awaiting a Savior Blog Tour

There was a lot of good (in my opinion at least) content this month and it’s really nice to see that so much has been being read. This week’s review of Innocent Blood by John Ensor is seeing lots of traffic (you should really read that book, by the way); the four things I learned while writing Awaiting a Savior also seemed to resonate with a lot of people, something I’m grateful for. Also nice to see that some older material is continuing to pick up steam, like “Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words” (had a discussion about that the other day, interestingly enough…) and the Radical Together review.

Looking forward to seeing how October turns out. There’s a lot of great stuff coming down the pipe, including live blogging the Together for Adoption conference in three weeks and sharing the reviews of Awaiting a Savior!

That’s enough from me—now it’s your turn: If you have a blog, what were a couple of the highlights for you in the past month?

Pursue Love, but not at the Expense of Truth

But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.—Rev. 2:14-16

Although grace is surely amazing, it is also subject to distortion, especially by those who use it to excuse loose and licentious behavior (see Gal. 5:13; Jude 4). The justification comes in a variety of forms [but] perhaps the most egregious expression of such justification was stated rhetorically by Paul himself in Romans 6:1: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” God forbid!

The church at Pergamum was infested with people who thought in precisely such terms. They were called Nicolaitans. They were evidently licentious and antinomian and advocated an unhealthy compromise with pagan society. . . . The Pergamemes had welcomed them into the fellowship of the church and given them freedom to propagate their destructive ways.

There’s no indication these false teachers had openly denied the “name” to which the others at Pergamum held fast. . . . Rather, they were guilty of turning the grace of God into licentiousness. [They] had dared to insinuate that freedom in Christ granted them a blank check to sin. The fault of the Pergamemes was not so much that they had followed this pernicious teaching but that they had allowed it be vocalized in the congregation. This matter of indifference to the licentiousness of the Nicolaitans was of grave concern to the risen Lord.

But why not just live and let live? Is it really necessary that the faithful in Pergamum confront these libertines? Why rock the boat? Doesn’t Christian love call for tolerance and minding our own business?

I’ll let the words of Jesus answer those questions: “Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth” (Rev. 2:16).

Two things deserve comment. First, the repentance Jesus calls for entails immediate acknowledgment of the error in their thinking and the lack of courage in their stance regarding the antinomians. “Recognize and confess,” says Jesus, “that you are doing no one a favor by overlooking and allowing such sin in your midst! Confronting the Nicolaitans may be uncomfortable for you, even painful, but not nearly as painful as the judgment they will suffer if they remain in their sin.” This call to repentance may also include the ultimate expulsion from the church of the Nicolaitans should they choose not to respond favorably.

Second, notice that Jesus says “I will come to you” soon, but will “war against them.” The faithful at Pergamum aren’t off the hook. If they don’t repent Jesus will bring discipline against them, in precisely what form we aren’t told. But the Nicolaitans will be the focus of judgment. It is against them that Jesus will make war. Such language suggests that their lack of repentance would be evidence of a lack of saving faith. Their persistent licentiousness and morally compromising behavior undermines their claim to know Jesus in a saving way.

The Christians in Pergamum had sacrificed the ethical purity of their congregation on the altar of “love” and for the sake of some nebulous peace they feared to lose. Purity often comes at an extremely high price. But we must be prepared to pay it. Confrontation is never pleasant, but it often reaps a bountiful harvest. By all means, pursue love, but not at the expense of truth or in such a way that overt sin is left to fester and spread in the body of Christ.

 Adapted from Sam Storms, To the One Who Conquers: 50 Daily Meditations on the Seven Letters of Revelation 2-3, Kindle Edition