The Sure Hope of the Glory of Heaven

The sure hope of the glory of heaven is made use of ordinarily by God, since the fall of Adam, as an encouragement to the practice of holiness, as the Scripture abundantly shows. Christ, the great pattern of holiness, ‘for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame’ (Heb. 12:2). And, though I cannot say that the first Adam had such a sure hope, to preserve him in innocency, yet he had, instead of it, the present possession of an earthly paradise and a happy estate in it, which he knew would last, if he continued in holiness, or be changed into a better happiness. The apostles did not faint under affliction, because they knew that it brought for them ‘a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory’ (2Cor. 4:16, 17). The believing Hebrews ‘took joyfully the plundering of your goods – knowing in yourselves that you have better and more enduring riches in Heaven’ (Heb. 10:34). The apostle Paul accounts all his sufferings unprofitable, were it not for a glorious resurrection, and that Christians would be of all men most miserable, and that the doctrine of the Epicures were rather to be chosen: ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ And he exhorts the Corinthians to be ‘abundant in the work of the Lord, knowing that their labor shall not be in vain in the Lord’ (1Cor. 15:58). As worldly hope keeps the world at work in their various employments, so God gives His people the hope of His glory to keep them close to His service (Heb. 6:11, 12; 1John 3:3). And it is such a sure hope as shall never make them ashamed (Rom. 5:5). Those that think it below the excellency of their love to work from a hope of the heavenly reward do in this way advance their love beyond the love of the apostles and primitive saints, and even of Christ Himself.

Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (Kindle Edition)

Links I Like (Weekend Edition)

Christ-Centered Accountability

Jared C. Wilson:

The most life-giving “accountability group” I was ever a part of was called a “pastor’s gospel group.” There were three of us pastors and one layman who met regularly in Ray Ortlund’s study in Nashville for prayer, confession, and sharpening. Ray introduced us to an abbreviated version of John Wesley’s famous accountability questions.

Did the Apostle Paul Target Strategic Cities in His Mission Work?

Kevin DeYoung:

Kind of, but not really. That’s the conclusion Eckhard Schnabel reaches in the book I mentioned yesterday, Paul the Missionary.

On the one hand, Schnabel agrees that “Paul certainly focused on cities rather than on villages” (282). Paul wanted to reach people wherever they lived and he wanted to reach as many as possible. And that meant going to the city. In particular, because he often started with Jews in a new region (and often started in the synagogue), Paul, by necessity, went to cities. That’s where the Jews were outside of Judea. When you read through Acts you can see that Paul’s missionary ministry focused on cities (286).

Q & A: John Piper on Racism, Reconciliation, and Theology after Trayvon Martin’s Death

Christine Scheller interviews John Piper:

You famously tweeted, “Farewell Rob Bell” in response to his promotional video for his book Love Wins. Is there a place for theological reconciliation in the body of Christ?

To say yes to that—and you should say yes—would require serious definition. When you say theological reconciliation, you can mean two people with two different theologies working their way through to a common theology. That is their way of being reconciled. That’s what I give most of my energies to. I want to persuade people of what I see in the Bible, and work towards unity in truth. Probably what would be thought when [people] ask that question is: Can two people who maintain their differences in theology then be more reconciled? So, you wouldn’t say farewell; you would say hello. The answer is that it depends on the issues.

Being a Better Blog Commenter

Justin Taylor:

I hope this can be a place where we “seek understanding” before critiquing, where we are quick to listen and slow to speak, where we judge others charitably not critically, where we encourage and build up each other rather than tearing down and destroying each other.

Many Do Not See The Need of the Incarnation

There are so many people today who say that they do not see the need of the incarnation; that they do not understand all this talk about the Son of God having come down to earth; that they do not understand this talk about the miracles and the supernatural; that they cannot follow this idea of the atonement and terms such as justification and sanctification and the rebirth. They say that they do not understand why all this seems to be necessary. They would argue like this: ‘Isn’t it the church that has evolved all these theoretical, purely abstract ideas? Aren’t they things which have been conjured up in the minds of theologians? What have they to do with us, and where is their practical relevance?’ I would like to point out that people who talk like this do so because they have not realized the truth about sin. They have not realized the full meaning of the biblical teaching about sin. They have not realized that they themselves are sinful.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Out of the Depths (Kindle Edition, location 182-188)

Links I Like

Four Lessons Learned & Four Prayer Requests

Chris Poblete:

‘Tis a time of thanksgiving, reflection, and continued prayers. I’m often asked how I got a book published. Let’s face it – I didn’t. God did. Seriously. From beginning to end, this entire process has been a grand testimony of God’s grace in my life. Who knew that the kid who almost flunked out of English class his senior year in high school would one day be a journalism major, career writer, and eventual published author? Not I. But such is the business of our God. He has a good hankering for using foolish ones like me; after all, we serve well as public displays of his grace (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). The Two Fears: Tremble Before God Alone comes out in a few days. With the book’s release around the corner, I thought I’d share four things I learned during this whole process followed by four ways you can pray.

“Success” is a Hollow Goal

Matt Chandler:

When I exited itinerant (traveling) ministry to become a pastor, I left crowds that were in the thousands and finances that more than provided for my family, to go to a small, 160-person church that cut my annual salary in half. . . . The truth is I didn’t become the pastor of a church in the suburbs of Dallas because I had a grand vision for growing a dynamic, life-transforming, church-planting, gospel-preaching, God-centered church. I took the position because after a great deal of conversations, prayers and fasting, my wife and I felt it was the direction God, through the Holy Spirit, was leading us.

You Are Loved

Chris Vacher:

Terrified that you’ll have a Mark 16 kind of Easter? “When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.” People may come, hear the great news of the resurrection, that you have seen this and they will not believe. They may walk out totally unchanged. You need to know that there is a greater reality here. You are loved.

My Five-Year Reunion with Missional and Emerging

Ted Kluck:

And I think what we’ve found, as far as categories go, is that one can be conservative/reformed and still be “missional” if we loosely define missional as being someone who outwardly cares about any combination of the following: the poor, the city, the arts, outreach in general, impoverished peoples worldwide. If that’s our working definition, we should probably all be missional in some way, shape or form. For that matter, nobody would really say they aren’t missional, while there are many who would say they’re not emergent (and even write books by that title). So missional is sort of a catch-all that can encompass people from both groups. If we were to Venn-diagram the whole thing, “missional” would be the overlapping part in the middle with emergent/ing representing a big circle on the left, and reformed/conservative in a big circle on the right.

$5 Friday at Ligonier

This week’s $5 Friday offerings at Ligonier.org include A Habitual Sight of Him: The Christ-Centered Piety of Thomas Goodwin and the Ecclesiastes and Objections Answered teaching series by R.C. Sproul, among other offerings. Also, starting March 31, you can save 20% storewide until April 4 using code Easter20.

3 Reasons Why I’m Hopeful About the A29 Leadership Change

The last couple days have been pretty big ones as far as news about transitions is concerned. Jason Meyer was named as John Piper’s successor at Bethlehem Baptist Church (pending congregational approval), Mark Driscoll stepped down from the TGC Council and Matt Chandler has been installed as the President of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network. The news broke the night before last but remained unconfirmed until Wednesday, March 28. At the same time Sojourn announced that they’re leaving Acts 29 to start their own church planting network.

When I first read the news, honestly, I was very excited (and it’s not because I have a major beef with Driscoll). I’ve met a few guys who are part of A29 and I’ve been impressed by their passion for Jesus and seeing people grow as disciples. This is a really good thing that we all need more of, whatever network, denomination or other affiliation we’re a part of. And as I’ve reflected on the change with A29 throughout the afternoon, I’m hopeful that this could be a really, really good thing for the network. Here’s why:

1. Matt Chandler seems to bring a different kind of mindset to the table. Every time I’ve heard Chandler speak on topics like church growth, building campaigns or any of that stuff, you get the sense that it makes him a bit uncomfortable. He seems to be a guy who is much more concerned with growing people deep than just gathering a large crowd. This could be a very good thing as it could see the network become increasingly more concerned with the depth of the people and leaving the breadth to God. (Note, I know “seems” is a bit weasel-y, but my personal interactions with Chandler don’t qualify me to say much definitively about his character.)

2. The change in focus could be very healthy for Mark Driscoll. Over the last while, many of us have no doubt seen numerous blog posts, tweets and such about renewed concerns over Driscoll’s character and fitness for his position. While I don’t want to come across as though I agree with those allegations, when I see someone running full tilt like Driscoll has been over the last few months, I do get concerned, particularly as someone who has hit the wall in the past. Cutting back, chilling out a bit and focusing on doing a few things really well is likely to be very healthy for Driscoll and (as it does for all of us) give more room for reflection and growth in maturity.

3. This could be the start of something bigger and better for A29. Perhaps this should be point 1b, but here we are. From what I can see, people seem to find Chandler much less polarizing than Driscoll. It’s not because he’s not afraid to say very hard things, but he doesn’t come with the same baggage that Driscoll does. If they do a really good job with the transition, there’s a good chance that there could be new opportunities to further glorify Jesus and be welcomed within groups that may have been leery in the past.

Looking forward to seeing how things develop over the coming weeks and praying that there will be much good fruit in the end.

Links I Like

Don’t Let The Manipulators Make You Stingy

Mark Altrogge:

Because of all the manipulation on Christian TV, I’m hesitant at times to encourage people to give to God. But God unashamedly tells us to be generous and to expect him to bless us lavishly.  We shouldn’t let the manipulators make us stingy.

Why Jason Meyer Should Be the Next Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church

Tim Brister:

I met the guy who is replacing John Piper first on a UPS tram at 3:30AM nearly five years ago. He was reading his Greek New Testament, something which I came to find he was actually memorizing. I had to meet this guy. Walking to the parking lot, we connected as I soon to find what a gracious guy Jason Meyer really is.  Jason worked third shift with me, seeking to evangelize the same people I was seeking to reach. He also pastored a small church out in the sticks, faithfully expositing God’s Word in total obscurity. He was completing his Ph.D while teaching NT Greek, and if I remember correctly, holding down a couple of other jobs. What I came to find God enabling Jason to do was nothing short of amazing.  More than that, God afforded me a year of getting to know the kind of man Jason is, which leads me to this post and Piper’s announcement.

Matt Chandler Named New A29 President

Mark Driscoll:

Seeking wise counsel, I asked Darrin Patrick and Matt Chandler to fly to Seattle in order to meet with the executive elders of Mars Hill for a full day to decide a course of action. They graciously did so, and in our time together was a rich, true brotherhood, a renewed and deepened commitment to Acts 29, and a Spirit-lead unity. Together, we decided, in light of all the complexity we’re facing, that the best thing for Acts 29 going forward would be for Matt Chandler to assume the presidency, move the network offices to Dallas, and select his Acts 29 staff.

Driscoll also announced today that he has stepped down as a council member of The Gospel Coalition.

Cheap eBooks

The Priority of the Gospel: TGC Canada Conference

The Gospel Coalition’s 2012 Canadian Conference, The Priority of the Gospel, is being held on May 29-31, 2012. Early bird registration ends April 1, so register soon!

A Personal/Professional Update and a Prayer Request

The last little while has been a bit of a whirlwind around the Armstrong house. We’re beginning to settle into life with a new baby (Hudson’s already outgrown newborn size clothes and diapers—awesome!). I’m starting to work out plans for getting the word out about my next book, Contend (the release date has been pushed back to August 1, incidentally). We’re going through some interesting changes in my day job… and there have been a couple of other changes that have happened along the way.

The first is one that I kind of subtly inserted into my review of Who Am I? last week—recently I took on an extremely part-time role with Cruciform Press, helping out primarily in social media and marketing. I’m very excited and grateful to be trying out this new opportunity and am praying that the work I do will be helpful and fruitful.

The other thing that’s changed is something to do with conference season. The last few weeks have seen a number of folks asking, “Who is going to T4G”? Well, up until about three weeks ago, I’d have said, “Not me.” Things have changed a bit, however, and I’m happy to say that I will also be there in a couple of weeks. I’m extremely excited about this for a number of reasons:

  1. I get to catch up with some friends while I’m in the area (some of whom don’t live that far away from me)
  2. Spending time with the Cruciform team
  3. The conference material is undoubtedly going to be terrific
  4. It’s another place I’ve never been (although I love being home, it’s a lot of fun to experience new places)
  5. Band of Bloggers! Yes, I will indeed be there and am looking forward to meeting some of you who might be as well

As you can imagine, with all this going on, there are a lot of balls up in the air. So, if you’re so inclined, I’d greatly appreciate your prayers in managing my time well so that I’m not squandering it needlessly and compromising my ability to do all that I’ve been charged to do well and to God’s glory.

Obedience to the Truth

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart… (1 Pet. 1:22)

We are living in strange times in terms of how the church functions. We have been caught up with a fierce desire to find a way to relate to a culture that has been immunized to Christianity. We try to find new methods to reach the lost. The motivation is righteous, because we should have compassion for the lost. The danger comes when we ask the lost how they want to come into the kingdom of God, how they want to worship God, and how they want to hear God’s Word, and then tailor our method to their tastes and preferences. That is fatal. Sooner or later the church must come back to confidence in God’s way of doing God’s work, because the Bible does give us a blueprint for evangelism. It gives us a blueprint for reaching the lost and for generating spiritual growth among the people of God. The blueprint is not a matter of rocket science or Madison Avenue technology; it is a blueprint that God guarantees will not be fruitless. It is accomplished by the method of proclaiming the Word of God, which, as Peter says here, changes lives and purifies souls through the power of the Holy Spirit.

R.C. Sproul, 1 & 2 Peter: St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, p. 50 (Kindle Edition)

Links I Like

Starbucks, Boycotts, and (Not) Buying Coffee: The Need for Theological Ethics

Matthew Anderson:

Moore’s case against boycotts is compelling, yet it raises more questions about the practice than it really answers.  While Moore grants he is not opposed to all boycotts by Christians, he has left little to no room for discerning which boycotts we should pursue.  Should Christians have, for instance, boycotted BP for their gross mismanagement of the clean-up efforts on the Gulf Coast?  Or if it turned out that Starbucks was sneaking venti cups of cash into the coffers of Planned Parenthood, would a boycott then be permissible?

What’s more, there is a harder question that Moore seems to answer in the final sentence of his piece:  whether Christians should buy Starbucks, even if they do not boycott Starbucks.

Theological Cool Kids

Will Adair:

Theological cool kids are Christians that have turned all their passion in to learning about God instead of living with God. They notice the sins of everyone else (especially spouses, other Christians, and coworkers) but are hard pressed to root out their own. They know what total depravity is in others but not themselves. I know I have the tendency to be one of those guys.

Cheap eBook

I reviewed this book a couple months back for those who are curious about it; it’s well worth spending $3 on.

Ecclesiastes

Listen to R.C. Sproul’s teaching series on Ecclesiastes for free at Ligonier.org.

Gospel-Centered Parenting

Will Walker:

The big picture of parenting is the big picture of the Bible because parenting is a depiction of the gospel. Consider the language Scripture uses to describe our relationship to God: Conversion is called being “born again” (John 3:3); our salvation is called an “inheritance” (1 Peter 1:3-4); God disciplines those He loves (Proverbs 3:11-12); we are called “children of God” (John 1:12, 3:1). Our father/child relationship to God is so significant that Sinclair Ferguson says, “This is the fundamental way for the Christian to think about himself: ‘I am a child of God and his people are my brothers and sisters.’” Parenting is a picture of the gospel: to us, to our kids, and to the world around us.

(You can also download the article in PDF format)

Book Review: The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller

Every so often, I find myself reading a great deal on one or two subjects. Most recently, it’s been marriage. Prior to October, I had (I think) one or two books on the subject in my library, total. Since then, that number’s grown dramatically, with each new addition bringing certain strengths and weaknesses to the table. But there’s been one thing that’s been consistent: the books written by couples whose marriages have been tested by trial and time have been a tremendous blessing to me. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Tim and Kathy Keller is definitely among those.

Based on Tim Keller’s sermon series on Ephesians 5:22-33, The Meaning of Marriage provides a thorough and faithful look at the biblical foundations of, and the gospel’s implications on, marriage. And it truly is a breath of fresh air. So many books (even those written by Christians) offer an idealized view of marriage that’s incredibly appealing, but once you’re there, you’re terribly disappointed. Marriage becomes the search for the most compatible person, for “Mr. (or Ms.) Right,” for the mythical soulmate.

To borrow a phrase from one of Keller’s previous books, they’re looking for a counterfeit god. The extreme idealism of the modern view of compatibility, “Me-Marriage” as Keller calls it, ironically, “leads to deep pessimism that you will ever find the right person to marry,” he explains. “This is ironic. Older views of marriage are considered to be traditional and oppressive, while the newer view of ‘Me-Marriage’ seems so liberating. And yet it is the newer view that has led to a steep decline in marriage and to an oppressive sense of hopelessness with regard to it” (p. 34). [Read more...]

Links I Like

When Parents Ask the Wrong Questions

Marc Cortez:

I was at a loss. Four years at a Bible college hadn’t prepared me to face the wrath of a frustrated father. But I still should have seen the next one coming.

“Where have you been through all this? Why didn’t you see this coming? What do we pay you for?”

Why do they always blame the youth pastor?

Should Christians Boycott Starbucks?

Russell Moore:

A boycott is a display of power, particularly of economic power. The boycott shows a corporation (or government or service provider) that the aggrieved party can hurt the company, by depriving it of revenue. The boycott, if it’s successful, eventually causes the powers-that-be to yield, conceding that they need the money of the boycott participants more than they need whatever cause they were supporting. It is a contest of who has more buying power, and thus is of more value to the company.

We lose that argument.

Why I Don’t Trust My Own “Scholarship”?

C. Michael Patton:

Who do I think I am teaching eternal truths when I can’t even remember the most basic everyday temporal happenings? If I don’t really trust my memory, can I trust my theological “scholarship”? So much of what I believe and teach is built upon stories, information, and “facts” that I don’t even really know are true as I can’t, for the most part, remember exactly where they came from. I have just said some things, told some stories, and relayed some information so many times that I don’t think about it anymore. For example, in class session 4 of The Theology Program, I talk about the rise of Modernism through the story of Rene Descartes (the “father of modernism”). I tell about his “Dutch oven” epiphany. I tell about how he would not come out of this oven until he found a legitimate (indeed, indubitable) source for his knowledge. Ironically, I don’t know where I first heard this story about the Dutch oven. I am not sure about the legitimacy (much less, indubitably) of my source! I am fairly certain that I did not make it up out of thin air, but the fact remains that I don’t really remember where it came from. But even if I could remember where it came from, say, for instance, from a book, encyclopedia, or biography, this would not guarantee that the person from whom I originally received this information was accurately remembering or representing his sources. Even if it was an autobiography I have no guarantee that Descartes himself remembered things correctly.

4 Things to Remember While in Seminary

Trevin Wax:

Now, anyone who has a passion for God should also want to have knowledge about God. But there’s a point where your theological study is no longer in service to your knowing God. It’s theology for its own sake. It’s theology in service of your grades, in service of your reputation, in service of your own intellectual curiosity. Whatever the case, if your learning about God is not driven by your desire to know God personally, your mind will expand but your soul will shrink. You’ll be consumed with ideas about God instead of God Himself.

Solomon’s Advice for Bloggers

A project I’m working on has had me spending some time in the Proverbs this weekend. The wise sayings recorded are a wonderful gift to us and deserve greater attention than I think I give them at times. In my reading the other night, I was stunned at the practical warnings about how we use our words and how they relate to particularly well to blogging:

  1. The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool. (Proverbs 10:18)
  2. When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Proverbs 10:19)
  3. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth. (Proverbs 10:20)
  4. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense. (Proverbs 10:21)
  5. An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous escapes from trouble. (Proverbs 12:13)
  6. From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him. (Proverbs 12:14)
  7. There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)
  8. From the fruit of his mouth a man eats what is good, but the desire of the treacherous is for violence. (Proverbs 13:2)
  9. Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. (Proverbs 13:3)
  10. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. (Proverbs 15:2)
  11. A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4)
  12. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. (Proverbs 18:21)
  13. Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. (Proverbs 21:23)

With the first quarter of 2012 nearly gone, it might be wise for Christian bloggers to consider how well we measure up to this wise use of our words. The proverbs above exhort us to restraint, to choose carefully about what we will speak, to strive to be gentle and wise with our words. Those who are rash and senseless with their words, the Bible calls fools. While none of us are perfect and all of us miss the mark on one occasion or another, we must not take the message of these proverbs for granted. Instead, let’s spend some time today, tomorrow and this week considering how we can allow Solomon’s words to drive us to glorify Christ in our approach blogging and commenting.

Links I Like

An Agreement Between The Serpent and Jesus Christ

Joe Thorn:

Is Jesus really like a “serpent?” Not exactly. But he is like the bronze serpent lifted up by Moses. John Gill wrote some fantastic words on the “agreement between the serpent and Jesus Christ.” I have formatted it below and given subtitles, but the words are all Gill’s.

Why I Love Jesus but Reject Islam

Provocative (but enjoyable—if that’s the right term to use for this sort of thing) video:

[tentblogger-youtube 0X9c_LNwqtU]

Husbands, Love Your Wives More Than Seminary

It is ironic that I have seen seminary be the place where many have been disqualified from ministry. It is clear in Scripture that the Holy Spirit specifically appoints certain men as leaders by gifting them and putting it in their hearts to serve joyfully in the context of a local church (Acts 20:28; cf. 1 Tim 3:1ff). It’s a noble desire. It can be an all-consuming desire. But, with this desire comes the responsibility to humbly prioritize one’s life in such a way that prevents a subtle disregard for God’s written word. God has not commanded husbands to love seminary. He has commanded that we love our wives and strive to protect our marriages, even from something as noble as our ministry call. Take it from me. My projected graduation date was December 2010. I was one semester away from earning my M.Div. when I decided I needed to take my marriage seriously. It was too late at that point.

HT: JT

An Interview with Daniel B. Wallace on the New Testament Manuscripts

Justin Taylor:

What is “textual criticism?”

Textual criticism is the discipline that attempts to determine the original wording of any documents whose original no longer exists. There are other, secondary goals of textual criticism as well, but this is how it has been classically defined.

This discipline is needed for the New Testament, too, because the originals no longer exist and because there are several differences per chapter even between the two closest early manuscripts. All New Testament manuscripts differ from each other to some degree since all are handwritten manuscripts.

Do Not Neglect the Need to Reach All the Nations

It has been objected that there are multitudes in our own nation, and within our immediate spheres of action, who are as ignorant as the South-Sea savages, and that therefore we have work enough at home, without going into other countries. That there are thousands in our own land as far from God as possible, I readily grant, and that this ought to excite us to ten-fold diligence in our work, and in attempts to spread divine knowledge amongst them is a certain fact; but that it ought to supersede all attempts to spread the gospel in foreign parts seems to want proof. Our own countrymen have the means of grace, and may attend on the word preached if they choose it. They have the means of knowing the truth, and faithful ministers are placed in almost every part of the land, whose spheres of action might be much extended if their congregations were but more hearty and active in the cause: but with them the case is widely different, who have no Bible, no written language, (which many of them have not,) no ministers, no good civil government, nor any of those advantages which we have. Pity therefore, humanity, and much more Christianity, call loudly for every possible exertion to introduce the gospel amongst them.

William Carey, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens (Kindle Edition)