“Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” is too low a question. Who can find in all His life a single lack, a single failure to set us a perfect example? In what difficulty of life, in what trial, in what danger or uncertainty, when we turn our eyes to Him, do we fail to find just the example that we need? And if perchance we are, by the grace of God, enabled to walk with Him but a step in the way, how our hearts burn within us with longing to be always with Him,—to be strengthened by the almighty power of God in the inner man, to make every footprint which He has left in the world a stepping-stone to climb upward over His divine path. Do we not rightly say that next to our longing to be in Christ is our corresponding longing to be like Christ; that only second in our hearts to His great act of obedience unto death by which He became our Saviour, stands His holy life in our world of sin, by which He becomes our example?
Sincerity must be the stamp of my Christian profession. Though utterly unable to render perfect obedience to the least of the commandments, yet my desire end purpose will have respect unto them all. I shall no more venture to break the least than the greatest of them; much less shall I ever think of attempting to atone for the breach of one by the performance of the rest. They are indeed many commandments; yet-like links in a chain-they form but one law; and I know who has said, “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” However the professor may confine his regard to the second table (as if the first were ceremonial, or obsolete, or the regulation of the outward man was the utmost extent of the requirement,) I would fix my eye with equal regard to both; yet specially marking any command in either of them; that may appear most directly opposed to my besetting corruptions. Thus “walking in the fear of the Lord,” I may hope to walk “in the comfort of the Holy Spirit” and “hereby shall I know that I am of the truth, and shall assure my heart before God.”
Charles Bridges, Exposition Of Psalm 119
Periodically, the accusation of “bibliolatry” pops up in a book or a blog, usually as a shot at those who hold to a high view of Scripture. The idea that the Bible is the written Word of God, authoritative and free from error in all it teaches, is an uncomfortable one in an increasingly pluralistic and relativistic culture. It’s too… absolute, so it doesn’t sit right with many people today.
But is it fair to call a high view of Scripture—one that takes Paul’s words in 2 Tim 3:16-17 seriously, and therefore demands that all aspects of our lives be brought under Scripture’s authority—idolatry?
Can someone really make a false god out of the Bible?
As I’ve considered this question, I wonder if the accusation isn’t confused—that it’s not that people are not making an idol of the Bible; rather they are making an idol out of a preference or position?
Take the ”King James Only” crowd for example. While some might be a bit more hostile toward them, a lot of these folks are legit brothers and sisters in the faith—they’re just convinced that the only translation worth using the is the King James. While I don’t have an issue with having a preferred translation (I prefer the ESV myself, but enjoy the HCSB a great deal), where things get a bit dicey is when we start taking our preference and making it a primary issue. At that point, we risk turning our preference for a translation into an idol.
Still not bibliolatry. KJV-olatry maybe, but not Bible worship.
Then there are things like the Conservative Bible Project, which started up a few years ago to translate the Bible into modern English “without liberal translation distortions.” That… that’s just a whole mess of something that I don’t want to get into. But do they risk turning the Bible into an idol? Not exactly. They risk turning their political and/or theological position into an idol (from what I’ve read, they’re far closer to the outer fringes of conservatism than most theological conservatives). One might make a similar argument about those who put together the Poverty and Justice Bible, Thomas Nelson’s The Voice translation, or any other number of examples.
Whether it’s a theological position, political view, or translation preference—all of these can easily become idols when we try to give them authority over the Bible, rather than the Bible having authority over them.
But I don’t know if the same can be said about the Bible itself.
Truthfully, I don’t know that it’s possible for someone who truly believes what the Bible says to worship The Bible doesn’t allow for that, because it continually points us to the only one who is worthy of our worship—that is, our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. And I’m not sure that it’s possible to have too high a view of that which reveals Him to us.
But who knows? Maybe I’m out to lunch.
It’s something to think about, anyway.
An earlier version of this post was first published in October 2009.
Our church was recently hit with a high-ranking moral tragedy. It was discovered that a staff member (and close friend) was engaging in marital infidelity. I was both shocked and saddened. I didn’t see it coming. None of us did. Of all the crises I’ve faced and had to deal with over the last 17 years of pastoral ministry, this was a first for me. I have dealt on numerous occasions with husbands and wives in the throes of an extramarital affair, but never a staff member. Never someone this close to me. It’ll take me a long time to get over this one.
I enjoyed this:
This week’s selections includes Dr. Sproul’s The Psychology of Atheism teaching series (download), Surprised by Suffering by R.C. Sproul (eBook), and Jesus the Evangelist by Richard D. Phillips (eBook), among many other items. Sale ends at midnight (Eastern Time).
There are many such stories regarding Muslims in the Middle East encountering believers and searching for the truth. They share their new faith quietly due to the harsh penalties for leaving Islam. Some meet in secret house groups while others become members of a recognized church. Local group leaders and believers face the risk of arrest, jail, torture, or death as they count the cost for following Christ. Each country has its own stories and circumstances.
Despite great obstacles, the gospel message continues to advance.
One of the most common—and frustrating—reasons I hear many Christians offer for not reading their Bibles is, “The Bible’s too hard to understand.” But there are tons of other excuses we make for how we approach (or rather, don’t) the Scriptures. Some pastors have seemingly given up preaching the BIble. Many Christians debate the extent of the Bible’s truthfulness and authority. On and on I could go. But where do these ideas come from, ultimately?
According to J.I. Packer, from no less a source than the Devil himself. I love the way Packer addresses this in his foreword to Knowing Scripture:
If I were the devil (please, no comment), one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible. Knowing that it is the Word of God, teaching people to know and love and serve the God of the Word, I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorn hedges and traps, to frighten people off. With smug conceit, no doubt, as if receiving a compliment, I should acknowledge that wise old Jonathan Edwards (1703- 1758) had me absolutely pegged when he wrote:
The devil never would attempt to beget in persons a regard to that divine word which God has given to be the great and standing rule. . . . Would the spirit of error, in order to deceive men, beget in them a high opinion of the infallible rule, and incline them to think much of it, and be very conversant with it? . . . The devil has ever shown a mortal spite and hatred towards that holy book the Bible: he has done all in his power to extinguish that light. . . . He is engaged against the Bible, and hates every word in it.
I should labor every day to prove Edwards’s words true.
How? Well, I should try to distract all clergy from preaching and teaching the Bible, and spread the feeling that to study this ancient book directly is a burdensome extra that modern Christians can forgo without loss. I should broadcast doubts about the truth and relevance and good sense and straightforwardness of the Bible, and if any still insisted on reading it I should lure them into assuming that the benefit of the practice lies in the noble and tranquil feelings evoked by it rather than in noting what Scripture actually says. At all costs I should want to keep them from using their minds in a disciplined way to get the measure of its message.
Want to see the Devil’s schemes work? Don’t read your Bible.
If we are content to watch the church go its own sweet way with just the occasional lick of devotional paint and the odd sponging-down of how we do things, then we can afford to leave theology alone. But if we want to see a true refreshing, a true renewal, a true Reformation of the church, then a deepening theology of the gospel is the only way forward.
Enjoy this great info graphic from the Good Book Company offering a timeline of Acts and the Epistles.
I was taught by many that good preaching must be practical, focusing on action. I was even told in a couple seminary classes that every point in a sermon should be a command. I appreciate the emphasis on practicality and desiring to see people moved, changed, and empowered. But we need to be careful here. This emphasis is what often pushes the how-to, can-do, you-do sermons that amount to little more than a preaching of the law without the hope of the gospel.
…the Old Testament. As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, let me give a few examples of how the Old Testament acts as a dictionary for the New Testament.
Sometimes when I look at the world’s problems—especially the problem of poverty and the need to care for the poor—I find myself asking the question, “Am I doing enough?” But in my study of the Scriptures, I’ve come to the conclusion that this may not be the right question. In fact, it might be exactly the wrong one. Here’s what I mean:
“Doing enough” can be overly simplistic. One problem with “doing enough” is that it tends to focus us on the wrong goal. We pick a dollar amount, or an income percentage, or a number of hours per month. We construct a set of checkboxes to see if we’re meeting the output criteria we have set for ourselves. Some suggest, for example, that if we all give just one percent more financially, global poverty can be wiped out forever. All we have to do, they say, is track the progress, allocate the resources, and we’re set.
When “doing enough” becomes primarily a matter of numbers, we can be sure we are focusing on the wrong thing. Alleviating poverty is about more than a certain amount of giving, whether of time or money. (More on this in future chapters.)
“Doing enough” is legalism. Worse, this “doing enough” mindset is textbook legalism—the effort to be pleasing to God through our external behavior. And encouraging people to be active in helping the poor can promote legalism like few other activities. Unless God cuts someone to the heart and instills a compassion for the poor, exhortations to “choose your fast” or “just give more money” either will be ignored or will feed one’s “inner legalist.”
If our focus is whether we are doing “enough,” it may be that our hearts are as dead as those to whom Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel preached. “We have all become like one who is unclean,” Isaiah said, “and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6).
—From Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation and the End of Poverty, pp. 58-59 (Cruciform Press, 2011).
The Gospel Coalition is pleased to announce that registration is now open for the 2013 national conference in Orlando, Florida. The five-day event will run April 6 to 10, including a weekend conference on world missions and three-day main conference focused on the mission of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke (Monday through Wednesday). Both events will be held at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Florida. You are encouraged to attend them together, but you may also register separately. Over five days 80 speakers from around the world will aim to stir your affections for Jesus Christ, equip you to live faithfully in this world, and spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. You can view the schedule and read the talk descriptions. And in partnership with The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, you can now earn up to six hours of transferable graduate or undergraduate credit by attending the conference.
Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul – $2.99
Godspeed: Making Christ’s Mission Your Own by Britt Merrick – $2.99
The Apostle: The Life of Paul by John Pollock – FREE!
There is no sin in making little mistakes of spelling or grammar. We all make them. But in case you wanted to know (you probably don’t), or in case you wanted to mention it gently to someone else (more likely), here are ten tiny things to keep in mind as you lead in worship, prepare the bulletin, or just converse about the church service.
The media circus moved quickly from discussion of Akin’s remarks to a wider discussion about the legitimacy of abortion in a tough case. And some “pro-life” politicians took the bait, not only condemning Akin’s unfortunate remarks but also declaring their support for abortion in this particular case.
Let me be clear: Allowing abortion in the case of rape is not the way to express sympathy toward a victim of this crime. Abortion only destroys the life of another victim.
That’s why I wish the conversation with Akin had gone more like this…
Today’s post is by Andrew Hall. Andrew is the Lead Pastor of Community Bible Church in Ilderton, Ontario (a small community just outside of London). He and his wife, Melanie, have been married for over 13 years and have four kids. Andrew studied at Providence College University in Otterburne, MB and received my M.Div from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, and blogs at cruciformity.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewWHall.
Have a headache? Pop a liquid gel caplet and within 30 minutes it’s working. Hungry? Place your dish in the microwave and enjoy a hot dish in 30 seconds. Want to find and read a book? Go online and download it within 15 seconds and start reading. Want to contact someone? Text them to get an immediate response.
The blessings of living in an instantaneous society mean that we become accustomed to the immediacy and availability of everything. But the moment you are on hold on the phone for 15 minutes or wait for paperwork to come in the mail, we can become antsy. “Where is it?” “Why is it taking so long?” Impatience flares up and agitation grows.
“Behold, I am coming soon,” says the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev 22:12), and nearly two thousand years has passed. We can begin to doubt the imminent return of Christ, living like everything is continuing on as it was from the beginning of creation until now. While we don’t say it out loud, we can live in a way that says, “Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Peter 3:4).
Waiting feels very passive: standing in line, being on hold, waiting for the microwave to beep all feel like we do nothing until something happens. Is it possible that our perception of Christ’s delay in returning causes some lethargy in us as well? An impatience with God? A sense of frustration that things aren’t getting “fixed” in our lives as quickly as we would like?
It is a good thing that God is not like us and is incredibly patient. The fact that Christ has not returned is evidence of God’s great kindness toward us. We may think, “If I were God, I would eradicate all evil NOW!” Our outrage at injustice and evil in the world can cause us to accuse God of inactivity. But if we were to get rid of all the evil in the world, we would have to rid the universe of all potential evil. But what about our capacity for being mean-spirited, accusatory, assuming the worst of another? Are we ready to give an account for all of our actions?
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance,” says Peter (2 Peter 3:9). Christ has not yet come because God is kind and holds out the offer of salvation. His patience is our opportunity to be active.
Maybe God’s patience is for you. Have you turned from trusting yourself and relied upon Christ? Or maybe an opportunity to turn from sin and repent afresh (1 John 3:2-3).
Or maybe God’s patience is for someone you know and love. Have you shared with them the good news of life in Christ through repentance and faith?
Today is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2)! Believe! Obey! Share! And thank God that his patience is for our mercy!
Perhaps there is nothing the human heart craves more than true love. We are wired to love and be loved. The problem is that we don’t actually understand what love really is. We get all kinds of definitions from the culture and from our own feelings.
In fact, I think it’s helpful to think a little bit, not about what love is but what love isn’t. So here are five things love isn’t.
Justin Taylor in a deleted scene from the upcoming documentary, Hellbound?:
Here’s a trailer for the documentary:
Our older daughter, Leah, used to love creating huge Lego villages on our family room floor. She’d build houses, barns, stores, and roads, and populate the villages with little Lego people. She’d work hard to make sure that everything was just the way she wanted. Each little Lego person had to be standing in just the right place, their cars carefully parked in their little Lego garages, and any Lego animals safely resting in their corrals. In Leah’s mind, everything was perfect. This was her little Lego shalom.
Like all preachers I sometimes wonder if people are really listening when I preach. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. Especially with a bunch of white, reformed people. Most just look at you. Sometimes they frown. But that’s what I do when I listen to a preacher, and I am intensely listening (and frowning).
Russell Moore’s had enough of Pat Robertson. And frankly, I don’t blame him.
Over the last several years, Robertson’s repeatedly brought shame to himself and to the larger evangelical community for his increasingly thoughtless and foolish remarks, the most recent being his response to a woman who sent in a question on how to respond to a man who refused to marry her because she had adopted internationally.
I’m no fan of public controversy within evangelicalism. Controversy rarely, if ever, brings glory, honor and praise to Jesus. Nevertheless, there is a time to confront arrogant foolishness as Moore has done, which provoked a response from Robertson clarifying his position.
But here’s the thing that’s bothering me—Robertson should never have had to clarify his position in the first place. Why? Because he, like all of us, should have remembered the repeated, emphatic warnings in Scripture about how we use our words, among them:
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” ( Prov. 12:18)
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Prov. 18:21)
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:5-10)
We need to take these warnings seriously. Our words have incredible power—the power of death and life, the power to set ablaze the course of our lives. Our words have the power to either confirm our testimony or make a mockery of it. They either bring honor or reproach to Jesus.
Simply, how we speak matters.
We need to take great care in not being too quick to give an off-the-cuff response to anything. As much as we are able, we need to think carefully about what we are going to say in any and every situation. I realize that mistakes happen; sometimes we let something slip against our better judgment, me especially. Only the Lord is fully aware of how much folly has come from my mouth. But when we see ongoing patterns of foolish talk coming from our mouths, should we not consider seeking assistance and accountability?
For those who in very public positions, like Robertson, if we finds ourselves consistently saying things in a way that, perhaps, we didn’t intend, it may be a sign that we need to step out of the spotlight entirely. Would that not make more sense than constantly having to backpedal, issuing statements that amount to “What I said is really the opposite of what I meant.”
There is no spiritual gift of backpedaling. Jesus is not honored by it, anymore than He is honored by the rash and foolish words that require us to do so. Instead, let’s strive to use our words well, prayerfully bringing them under the control of the Holy Spirit for the sake of Christ and the good of others.
I was nearly eight years of age when I rose early on a Saturday morning to watch the premiere of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. My Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fascination was coming to a close and I needed a new fix. The Red Ranger was the fearless leader, and my friends and I would argue over who would pretend to be him and who would get stuck as the nerdy Blue Ranger. (Of course, back in my day, we went outside to play!) On top of that, I loved superhero comics and television/film incarnations, especially those starring Batman. Let’s not forget that Emmitt Smith was a superhero in his own right, seemingly invincible on the football field. I was a boy’s boy, not much different than your average boy today.
But is this superhero fixation merely a boyhood fantasy? Shouldn’t we grow out of this?
Groaning pastors, heavyhearted pastors, sighing pastors can benefit their people, as those pastors keep looking to the Lord moment by moment. But joyful pastors benefit their people far more. How can more churches and pastors get into that zone of divine blessing and power?
Pretty good take-off of Swagger Wagon from the gang at Bluefish TV:
Every redeemed soul, knowing himself reconciled with God through His Son, and quickened into newness of life by His Spirit, turns alike to Father, Son and Spirit with the exclamation of reverent gratitude upon his lips, “My Lord and my God!” If he could not construct the doctrine of the Trinity out of his consciousness of salvation, yet the elements of his consciousness of salvation are interpreted to him and reduced to order only by the doctrine of the Trinity which he finds underlying and giving their significance and consistency to the teaching of the Scriptures as to the processes of salvation. By means of this doctrine he is able to think clearly and consequently of his threefold relation to the saving God, experienced by Him as Fatherly love sending a Redeemer, as redeeming love executing redemption, as saving love applying redemption: all manifestations in distinct methods and by distinct agencies of the one seeking and saving love of God. Without the doctrine of the Trinity, his conscious Christian life would be thrown into confusion and left in disorganization if not, indeed, given an air of unreality; with the doctrine of the Trinity, order, significance and reality are brought to every element of it. Accordingly, the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of redemption, historically, stand or fall together.
B.B. Warfield, “The Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity” (as published in Sermons and Essays from the Works of B.B. Warfield)
Faith is the principle of evangelical obedience, and the promises of His grace enable us for duty, at the very time that we are commanded to it. In this view are brought together the supreme authority of the Lawgiver, the total insufficiency of the creature, the full provisions of the Savior, and the allsufficiency of “the God of grace.” We pray for what we lack; we are thankful for what we have; we trust for what is promised. Thus “all is of God.” Christ “is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” Thus “grace reigns” triumphant. The foundation is laid in grace, and the headstone will be brought forth with shoutings, crying, “Grace, grace unto it.” The Savior’s work is finished, and Jesus is crowned Lord of all forever.