Dannah Gresh: Two-ism & Sexuality #ThinkTank

Dannah Gresh, a best-selling author and sought-after speaker. Her best-selling titles include And the Bride Wore White and 2010’s best-selling CBA youth book, Lies Young Women Believe co-authored with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. She says the most important book she has or will ever write is What Are You Waiting For: The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex, which traces the Hebrew language of sexuality from Genesis to Revelation answering every question a heart could ask. She has long been at the forefront of the movement to encourage tweens and teens to be modest and to pursue purity and is the founder of Secret Keeper Girl a live tour event for tween girls and their moms.

Everything from our sexual ethic to our view of male and female is really messed up. Katy Perry… she’s ours. She’s our fruit. I don’t want to talk a lot about the sensationalism that’s out there, but I want to talk about what One-ism looks like in the church.

Here’s how I think One-ism affects our daughters. One-ism invites us to worship celebrities. This celebrity culture destroyed Marilyn Monroe and I believe it will destroy our daughters, as well. Marilyn was 30 when she was at the top of her popularity and she appealed to the 20 year olds. But marketers decided to broaden their audience and their bottom line and so in the 1980s we had Brooke Shields (“Nothing gets between me and my Calvins”). And today, we have the Tween market, something that didn’t exist a few years ago. Today, they’re marketing to seven year olds. We have Miley Cyrus—also raised in a Christian home—and products from Abercrombie & Fitch designed to sexualize girls ages seven to fourteen.

The American Psychological Association went on a rampage a few years ago, talking about dolls looking sexy and street smart. The Bratz dolls (fishnets, etc);Barbie’s gone a little bit crazy lately (the “Black Canary” comic book character Barbie). Playing with dolls creates self-control in little girls. So when they play seduce the boy, they’re just being set up for future behavior. Today, the top rated show among 8-12 year olds is Desperate Housewives, where in the 1980s it was the Care Bears. The APA says about this that when they want to buy the products, practicing seduce the boy, they’re most at risk for eating disorders, early sexual debuts, etc. By the time they’re married, they’re so broken by unhealthy body images and behaviors that they cannot function in healthy sexual relationships.

As for the boys, One-ism feeds our self-centeredness. Have you noticed that our boys are not called to be leaders—and what we have now are boys who are growing up into “adultescents,” they’re not maturing, they’re not taking responsibility.

The average age of exposure to pornography is age 11. Androgyny doesn’t just look like boys being put into Girl Scouts; it might be through emasculation, through belittling them.

So maybe in the church we need to stop focusing on counterfeits and need to focus on the truth—and I don’t think we have a great understanding of the truth in the Church. The counterfeits are everywhere and we’re not talking about the real thing. One of the worst kept secrets in the church is God’s language about sexuality, and I want to introduce you to the language of sexuality that God uses, which is found in Genesis. Reading Genesis 4, I read, “Adam knew with his wife and she became pregnant” and the Hebrew word there is yada. It means to know, to be known, to be deeply respected. Not one mention of the physical. It moves past the physical and perhaps into the spiritual. And this word shows us the two deepest needs of men and women. It shows the woman’s need, her desire, to be known. Men need to study their wives—know them, study them, understand them. Men need to be respected. And God forbid we should teach true sexuality and not live it.

There’s another word used in Scripture: Sakab—to exchange body fluids. It’s purely physical. This is what the world sells every day. Why is a different partner every night not satisfying, why is pornography not satisfying?

This is what I believe about yada and Two-ism: this word gives us a biblical foundation for what sexuality is meant to be and a grounding for the church to explain it. This word is used many times to describe the intimacy between husband and wife, but it’s used more to describe the relationship—the nearness—between God and man. (Psalm 46:10)

Yada declares God to be distinct and unknown by us, but it also draws us up to be known by him. Piper: The ultimate reason we are sexual is to make God more deeply knowable.

What’s wrong with having “friends with benefits”?

“Friends with benefits” seeks to scratch an itch without the emotional benefits. Sex releases dopamine—and what its purpose is to drive you back to the source of pleasure. “Friends with benefits” is oxymoronic. You cannot have sex with someone without it getting emotional, and when it ends, you get hurt. Oxytocin is also released during climax is sex—the purpose of oxytocin is a bonding chemical. A chemical bond is created, telling us, “You are one.”

“The desire to connect is not just an emotional feeling. Bonding is real and almost like the adhesive effect of glue—a powerful connection that cannot be undone without great emotional pain.”

Gen. 2:25; Eph. 5:13; 1 Cor. 6:16: “The two will become one flesh”

Is homosexuality a sin?

Bypassing the inflammatory passages, we need to really turn back to Genesis. One-ism declares that there is no difference between men and women, the result is androgyny. We need to get back to the image of God, helping those who struggle with same sex attraction to see that they are made a little like him.

What’s so wrong with porn?

You cannot know or be known by the pixels on a computer screen. And when the chemicals of sexual released during climax, they were bonding with their screens. When researchers asked men in NYC to fast from porn for a while to see what would happen, the result was they had sexual desire for their wives. The same happened with women.

When the Mona Lisa was stolen in 1941, those who were entrusted to protect it did nothing, assuming that it was taken out to be photographed. The greatest picture of the gospel is one man and one woman, where the husband tells his wife that she’s electrifying and she remembers to stop nagging and start respecting him. How many pictures like that do you see in your church? I’m not saying we’re not doing anything, but we seem to be asleep. Find the [girls with views like Rachel Held Evans] in your church and don’t condemn her, but love her. Build an emotional bank account in her heart so that one day she might ask you what submission looks like in your heart. Teach your daughters about what it means to be made in the image of God and turn her away from celebrity culture. Teach your sons to turn off Call of Duty on the Xbox and take up their call of duty in the Kingdom of God. That’s what we need to do. What we do in our private lives really matters.

The Loss of Art

A powerful quote from J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism, as shared in Steve Baarendse’s message at the truthXchange Think Tank, “Two-ism in Art and Literature”:

Scientific investigation . . . has certainly accomplished much; it has in many respects produced a new world. But there is another aspect of the picture which should not be ignored. The modern world represents in some respects an enormous improvement over the world in which our ancestors lived; but in other respects it exhibits a lamentable decline. The improvement appears in the physical conditions of life, but in the spiritual realm there is a corresponding loss. The loss is clearest, perhaps, in the realm of art. Despite the mighty revolution which has been produced in the external conditions of life, no great poet is now living to celebrate the change; humanity has suddenly become dumb. Gone, too, are the great painters and the great musicians and the great sculptors. The art that still subsists is largely imitative, and where it is not imitative it is usually bizarre. Even the appreciation of the glories of the past is gradually being lost, under the influence of a utilitarian education that concerns itself only with the production of physical well-being.

Adapted from J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Kindle Edition)

David Fandey: Two-ism and the Missional Life #ThinkTank

David Fandey is the founding pastor of The Fields, an Acts 29 church plant in Carlsbad, CA. Before planting The Fields, David served 9 years at Riverview Church located in North County, San Diego. He has been serving as an adjunct professor at Biola University for over ten years. David is also the Australia area director for Acts29 International. David and his wife Wilma have been married 19 years have six children.

When we talk about the missional life, we are going to have to udnerstand that mission is always cross cultural. All of us have a culture that we come from. Culture is not inherently amoral. Every culture has elements that are inherently bad and all have elements that are altogether good. But no culture is amoral. Mission is cross cultural by its very nature. Missional living means understanding the horizontal implications of the gospel in the context of the culture we’re trying to reach. To use Dr. Jones’ language, we’re bringing a Two-ist gospel and applying it into a One-ist culture.

We need to figure out what it means to live missionally in the culture in which God has placed us. To be on mission, we need to understand the culture. Sometimes we call this process exegeting the culture, attempting to understand what drives the locals—people’s priorities, motivations, the idols of their hearts… We need to ask these things and we’ll find that there are some things that we absolutely cannot stand. But we need to understand what drives the locals if we are to reach them.

We also need to examine our own culture. Are we carrying a biblical message across these bridges of culture or are we carrying an unbiblical one? As we learn to be more and more on mission, we’ll find more areas about which we need to repent and our views will be stretched. So early on in our church plant, I kept hearing “God is not a Republican!”—but I grew up thinking that he was. And so I want to shout back, “He’s not a Democrat either!” Because God’s above all that. What’s important is not [necessarily] a political position, but the gospel. I hope we can take this beautiful gospel message to this one-ist world and will begin to see the beauty of the two-ist worldview.

One of the things that I’ve so appreciated about this conference is the call to stand upon the Word of God—to allow the Word of God to be in authority over all of our cultural ideas. In John 4:1-45, we read of Jesus doing this very thing.

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria.

Now Jesus didn’t have to pass through Samaria, there were other ways to get through. The Samaritans were despised people, “half-breeds” and “quarter breeds” because of the Syrian conquest, and although they traced their origins back to Joseph through Ephraim, the Jews rejected them. But Jesus did have to pass through—as though he had a divine appointment.

So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”

This is a huge deal—a huge cultural no-no. He was breaking a huge cultural norm in asking her for a drink. But he not only asks her for a drink—a Samaritan and a woman—that was defilement. It’s huge that he says any of these, crossing any barrier possible to engage her with the gospel. And this is a question that we have to ask—what barriers are we willing to cross in order to engage with the One-ist culture for the purposes of sharing the gospel.

The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

The woman knows this is completely outside of the norm and she’s intrigued. After all, he has no container; so she responds from within her culture. She appeals to Jacob—but Jesus responds by going beyond the culture. Jesus says “everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again”—the water of One-ism will only leave them thirsty. The things of this life with which we attempt to satisfy our thirsty souls always fail us. They never work.

And this woman gets this, and she responds, “Sir, give me this water.” She wants it, she knows that what she’s after will fail to satisfy. The only thing that will bring life—eternal life—is the “water” Jesus offers our thirsty souls. Then Jesus goes on a zig-zag:

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

This just comes out of nowhere; but Jesus knows everything you’ve ever done—everything any of us have done. And so she hides, she knows what she’s done and wants to escape condemnation. But Jesus responds, stating the fact, but he doesn’t condemn. She knows she’s already condemned. And part of what we have to do is not condemn the world, but to help the world see that they’re already condemned—so they can process through the implications, like the woman:

The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Basically, it doesn’t matter where, the point is worshipping in spirit and truth. People have exchanged the truth for a lie, but God is seeking people who will worship in truth.

And the woman starts jumping and says, “I know that Messiah is coming… When he comes, he will tell us all things.”

Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.

Her witness is incredible—the woman takes off and goes to the people of her town and said, “Come see a man who told me all I ever did.”

Then there’s this conversation that’s going on in verses 31-38; the disciples are asking God what’s going on. Jesus tells them that he has had food they do not know about. And they’re like what? And Jesus says that his food is to do the will of “him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” This is our work as well—we are here to live on mission for God’s glory; that is the will of the Father. Look at what Jesus says:

Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

I want to close with a few points of application:

1. We must engage the culture and not retreat from it. Missional living is necessarily cross-cultural living. As Christians, we are living in a culture that is different from the biblical worldview. As Christians we live in the biblical worldview of Two-ism. But that is not the view of the surrounding culture. We must be humble, walk circumspectly about our own cultural biases, showing love and compassion.

2. We are to love and not hate. The culture does not like us. In fact, the culture hates us. They would like to eradicate my “tribe.” When I hear what the surrounding culture says about us, I want to fight back; it bums my spirit when I see One-ism make in-roads. But I have to ask myself [when this happens], am I upset because of my love for people or because my team isn’t winning? A really good question to ask ourselves is do we really love the unsaved or do they just annoy the heck out of us?

3. Hold to the truth. We decided early on in our church that we would not pull any punches—we’d say what the Bible says.

4. It will necessarily cost us to live missionally. It takes time, it will drain us emotionally because lives are so messy. It will cost us because we will have to interact with sinners in order to see them saved. And if you choose to live missionally, you’ll be hit from both sides. The sinners will hate you because you’re telling them to repent and the religious will hate you because you’re a friend of sinners.

5. It will take time to see the results. In my cultural context, it’s the long-haul. It’s the long-haul view.

6. We need to live authentically. The people out there need the gospel, but I need it too.

7. Be in prayer. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2)

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

People are perishing. They need the gospel—will we repent where we need to? Will we reach out with love and truth?

Ardel Caneday: Two-ism and the Doctrine of Scripture #ThinkTank

Ardel Caneday (Ph.D., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is Professor of New Testament Studies and Biblical Studies at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has served churches in various pastoral roles, including senior pastor. He has authored numerous journal articles, many essays in books, and has co-authored with Thomas Schreiner the book The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance & Assurance (Inter-Varsity, 2001).

It is entirely fitting that we should ponder the beauty of two and the doctrine of Scripture after Dr. Jones’ presentation on the doctrine of God and Dr. Johnson’s presentation on the incarnation. The preincarnate Word spoke the word that brought the world into existence. The Word spoke the word that gave form to the formless. Thus the Word, Jesus, is the original. Romans shows us that God reveals himself not only in creation but to creation.

Belief in the incarnate Word of God is ours only as we believe the testimony of the Word concerning him. In their published effort to diminish the lofty view of Scripture that we evangelicals have received from the church fathers and reformers, replacing Sola Scriptura with Sola Experientia. As we probe the Creator/creation distinction that presupposes the formation of all Christian doctrine, we have to see how the Creator condescends to make himself known:

1. The Creator’s condescension to reveal himself. He does this by taking on our likeness by taking on our form, our likeness and our emotions—when in fact, we bear his likeness, his image. Because the entire universe is his creation, it is also the canvas of his entire revelation. (Psalm 19). Grand as the expanse of God’s creation is, more foundation to our understanding is that God formed Adam in his own likeness. The image is the nexus, the link, that gives humans inherent knowledge of God. He implanted in us an inherent awareness of the existence of God and our need for a deity. This is why Calvin says, “Without knowledge of ourselves, we have no knowledge of God and without knowledge of God we have no true knowledge of ourselves.” If we are going to be faithful to the Creator/creation distinction, we have to be aware that we are like God but also not like God. We gravely compromise the distinction when we advocate his similarity at the expense of his dissimilarity and likewise when we advocate his dissimilarity at the expense of his similarity.
Rom. 1:18-20.

Paul paints all people as being equally condemned, substituting created things for the image of God. Since the time of the so-called Enlightenment with its devotion to “rationalism,” we have come to think that humans have come to think that we have the ability to know God by our own intellectual powers. Philosophers and theologians have come to despise the image of God taking the form of a potter to shape the first man. They despise the image of God stooping to breathe life into the man’s lungs… But because God has made humans analogous to himself, he exploits this analogy to reveal himself to us. Consequently our knowledge of God and our covenantal relationship with God are derived from the fact that God has made us in his image. Consequently, we must never unduly degrade humanity as being evolved from a lower being. Equally, we must never unduly degrade humanity by confusing the Creator and creation.

2. The Creator’s condescension to give his word through human writers. The distinction between creator and creation is a foundational presupposition of our confidence in the inerrancy of the Scripture. Kant’s relegating God’s revelation to matters of religion, theologians and Christians today believe Scripture’s claims about religious beliefs as inerrant, but on matters of nature to be errant. Further, Kenton Sparks argues that because Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, he must have made errors in estimating and not done everything perfectly.

Sparks: “If Jesus as a finite human being erred from time to time, there is no reason at all to suppose that Moses, Paul, [and/or] John wrote Scripture without error.”

Sparks and those following him thus diminish the distinction between Creator and creation… leading to a view that we cannot truly know God. But Calvin says that we can truly know God, even if we cannot fully and exhaustively know him.

What Calvin affirms is that the church fathers proclaimed long ago. These church fathers understood the Creator/creation distinction that allows us to understand the inerrancy of Scripture. We are wrong to follow Sparks and those like him into believing that God has spoken only authoritatively in certain realms. They fall into the same error as that of open theism. But God’s word is condescending, it’s accommodating, analogical. Even though God makes himself known analogically, his Word is not errant, but pure and true and trustworthy.

3. Creation’s condescension to incarnate his eternal Word as the fullness of divine revelation to humanity. Because of the gulf between creator and creation, the Creator condescended to send the incarnate Word. Far more glorious [than even the glories shown to the OT prophets] is the revelation of Christ, who is the exact image of God, the exact imprint of his nature. The Lord’s self-revelation in anthropomorphisms through the pages of the Old Testament now reveals himself in the flesh in Christ. “The one who looks upon me, looks upon the one who sent me,” says Jesus. To see him is to see as much of the invisible God as the pure in heart are able to see. He has made himself visible in the incarnate Son in whom the fullness of God is pleased to dwell. Concerning the Son, the Apostle John assures us that, “” (1 John 5:20).

Many evangelicals think they are above Nicodemus, in thinking they are above earthly things. Because Scripture does not fill their ears with lofty words, they try to improve on God’s revelation. As Calvin says [commenting on John 3:2]:

Many hold the Gospel in less estimation because they do not find in it highsounding words to fill their ears, and on this account do not deign to bestow their attention on a doctrine so low and mean. But it shows an extraordinary degree of wickedness that we yield less reverence to God speaking to us, because he condescends to our ignorance; and, therefore, when God prattles to us in Scripture in a rough and popular style, let us know that this is done on account of the love which he bears to us.

Dennis Johnson: Two-ism and the Incarnation #ThinkTank

Dennis E. Johnson (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is professor of practical theology at Westminster Seminary California and associate pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church. He is also the author of numerous books, including Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1,3,14)

Three simple sentences, verses 1,3 and 14 from the opening of John’s Gospel. Together they make some of the most extraordinary truth claims in all of history. Peter Jones wrote that the incarnation is a profound mystery and a stupendous miracle—this is the only place where the Creator and creation are joined in a way without confusion…

On page after page, God’s word demands that we must never confuse God with his creation. The bible is unmistakably Two-ist—always distinguishing God from his finite creation. So the incarnation should slap us awake. But it doesn’t cause much reaction for the One-ist; it’s merely the way that all things work at all times.

Strauss: “Incarnation, good idea, but not scandalous… after all, aren’t we all God incarnate?”

To grasp the claim that John 1:14 makes in all of its full force about one specific human being, about Jesus of Nazareth, we have to hear those claims against the backdrop of Scripture that the God who speaks and acts in creation is distinct from his creation. That’s what makes the incarnation so transcendentally beautiful.

The Infinite Divide of the Creator from His Creation

We want to think about five aspects of that divide:

1. He is infinitely immutable and unchangeable where all that he has created is subject to time and change. Psalm 102—“…they will perish, but you will remain.” Earth and the heavens seem pretty permanent in comparison to roses and trees and humans and even civilizations. But the psalmist says

2. Infinite in his energy where creatures are finite in theirs. “To whom will you liken God—or what likeness will you compare?” The Lord is the everlasting God; he does not grow faint or weary. Young men get tired and stumble but not the Lord.

3. His irresistible power over the powers of nature. Psalm 107:23-30;

4. The only source of salvation for his vulnerable creatures. “I, I am the Lord… and besides me, there is no other.” Isa. 45, God summons the pagan nations and orders them to testify that their idols have ever done anything for them. The Lord then offers an open infinite invitation for salvation—“Turn to me . . . To me, every knee will bow…” Only the Lord can save. And just as foolish as turning to idols is turning to finite human beings. (Psalm 136) Only the Creator can save—“Salvation belongs to the Lord,” said Jonah.

5. Only the Creator is worthy of worship. Worship is our response to whatever or whomever we ascribe the most value and honor. This is the point that Moses made in preparing the people as they prepared to enter the land. And in the New Testament, in Rev. 4:4-5, we see an expanding choir extolling God because He is holy and almighty and sovereign and the Savior of all things. Full of Worship of the true and living God. By contrast we see the dragon and the serpent demanding that people worship them. Then there’s that them toward the end of Revelation where you see the appropriate humility of God’s messengers. John falls down at the feet of God’s messengers—and both times the angels sharply rebuke him, telling him you must not do that.

So that’s the backdrop, do not confuse the Creator with his Creation.

The Scandal of the Incarnation

We confess Jesus’ incarnation so much that we fail to empathize with those who struggled with Jesus’ claims about himself as seen in the New Testament. The incarnation was scandalous because Jesus was so obviously human—he had a birthday. He grew physically but also mentally. He grew in wisdom and stature. He did not know everything; he got so exhausted that he fell asleep during a storm at sea. Jesus was so elegantly human that he wept and was angered by sin and death. He needed strength. Finally, he bled and he died.

Obviously human, plainly human—and yet he plainly claimed to be God. Calling God his Father, his hearers drew the right conclusions, and this is why they sought to kill him all the more. In John 8, they wanted to stone Jesus not because he claimed to have seen Abraham, but because he did it in a way that called to mind the language of God’s appearance to Moses in the burning bush. Jesus’ listeners were troubled by his claim to be impossibly old, but moreso because of his use of the term “I AM.”

In John 10, Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” And the Jews picked up stones to kill him for blasphemy. And what we see in all of these accounts is that Jesus doesn’t correct people, he doesn’t back peddle and say, “Oh, no no, no, you misunderstand…” He knew they grasped his daring claim, even if they couldn’t accept it.

Jesus took the authority of God in forgiving sins, something that only God can do. But Jesus also took authority in other actions as well, such as stilling the storm. Jesus acted as God in commissioning his own witnesses as well (Acts 1), calling back to Isaiah’s proclaiming that God would send his Spirit and he would send out his witnesses. Witnesses to what? If we fill in the blanks from Isaiah, to the identity of Jesus. By the fourth chapter of Acts, we find Peter standing in front of the leaders who condemned Jesus to death, proclaiming that there is salvation in no one else. And so it’s no wonder that other NT books draw the conclusion that Jesus who was so eminently human is also God.

The book of Hebrews connects Jesus to the Lord in Psalm 102 and Revelation, which boldly proclaims that the Lord alone is to be worshipped, openly, joyfully gives that worship to Jesus. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain…”

The NT presents to us the man who was Jesus, who was born and ate and slept and wept and grew up and died—who claimed to be God.

The Mystery of the Incarnation

How can we wrap our minds around this mystery? We want explanations, we want to understand how this can be. One of the great challenges of the early church was answering the question, “who is this man?” Finally, in 451 at Chalcedon, the Church affirmed the following definition which has stood the test of time:

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable (rational) soul and body; consubstantial (coessential) with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather of the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God, the Word the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning (have declared) concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

This complicated sentence shows Jesus to be human, as the NT shows him to be. And it shows him to be God, which the NT shows him to be. It doesn’t dispel the mystery.

It’s actually a good thing that we cannot dispel the mystery of how because they NT is far more concerned with declaring the why of the incarnation.

The Beautiful Purposes of the Incarnation

Anselm wrote one of the classic benchmarks of theology, “Why the God-man?” And I see two answers in the Bible—revelation and redemption. Remember John 1—“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw…” “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Through Jesus, we see the Father—he is the exclusive gateway to knowledge of the Father. It makes perfect sense for the author to the Hebrews to focus our attention on God’s speech:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Heb 1-3)

In his little book, J.B. Phillips, dismantles the stereotypes that we have surrounding God and then begins to construct the idea that perhaps God is far more bigger than we can imagine, who wills to be known by his creation.

But Anselm’s answer to the question that knowing our Creator intimately and personally would not be a good thing without redemption—without the cleansing and purifying from sins.

Hebrews, even in the prologue, brings that purpose. In verse three, we’re plunged into the messiness of the human problem and the rest of the epistle explains what Christ had to do to accomplish redemption. On the issue of the identity of Jesus of Nazareth rests nothing less than the fate of the human race, the redemption of human beings from all nations in all times.

Peter Jones: Two-ism and the Doctrine of God #ThinkTank

Dr. Peter Jones is the founder of truthXchange, a ministry that equips the Christian community in general and its leaders in particular to recognize and effectively respond to the rising tide of neopaganism. Dr. Jones is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and  serves on the executive committee of the World Reformed Fellowship.

My subject is two-ism and the doctrine of God and I’ll have much to say, but I want to put our subject in the larger context. Why this conference on the subject of the beauty of two?

The message of one-ism and two-ism, a simple and some say simplistic, is an attempt to understand Romans 1:25, which gives you two possibilities, either you worship the Creator or you worship creation. But at the same time as we’re trying to talk this way, some on a “progressive” track are also using this language of one and two, but in the exact opposite way.

They talk about the hermeneutic of one—this brilliant way of thinking that solves all our problems if all is one. On the other hand, two is a false doctrine that must be deconstructed—we must get to this unity of one-ism. So we have this face-off, using the same language, that are totally opposed—one calls white black, and black white—using the same terminology. IF those who are opposing Christianity are using this terminology in the totally opposite way, then I believe we are absolutely right to use this language in a correct manner.

Our subject this week is totally subversive to our culture. We’re not engaged in a culture ware, we’re involved in a spiritual war… and I believe not since the days of the early church when the believers had to hide in the catacombs has Two-ism been under so great an attack. At all levels of human existence, this idea of the binary is under attack. There’s a great commitment to the destruction of the binary. Philip Goldberg’s book, American Veda, seeks to prove that America has become Hindu. He compares the change in the way we think about spirituality and calls it the latest great awakening—comparable to the great awakening of the 18th century. The spirituality of the day is that of Advaita—”not two.” You see this in much of the spirituality of the day, including the spirituality in some of Christianity. We (the church) try not to understand the culture not through this understanding of one-ism and two-ism, but seeing the culture as a positive; the one-ist culture for some is giving the agenda to the church. But this is totally confused—you’re either with Jesus or against him. You either worship the Creator or the creation.

As I’ve been writing on this idea of One-ism and Two-ism, and seeing how this language is being picked up by those opposing us, it seems that what we’re doing this week is really important.

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1-9)

That Psalm in repeating that structure at the beginning and the end leaves little to the imagination. If you want a simple way of understanding how to carry the doctrine of God with you, remember these two simple prepositions—”in” and “above”. If you can capture that, you have the biblical doctrine of God. In those two prepositions, you see that God’s name is written into the creation and the history of his people and yet his glory is above all the heavens.

This notion of above is absolutely essential to our understanding of God’s nature—what can we say about God who is above, and what can we say about the God who is in?

1. I take above to mean radical transcendence. God is transcendent above the heavens as Creator. Genesis 1:1 presents God as before all, so that everything that exists after is created. It’s such a wonderfully satisfying truth to understand that our understanding of God makes so much sense when we talk about God in that transcendent way. This notion of God tells us that there are two very different kinds of being and it will always be that way. So this notion that we will become gods doesn’t work–it depends on not having a beginning. We won’t discover that we are divine beings, because we continue to be created. We won’t be slapping ourselves on the back and congratulating you for all that you do. God is the transcendent Creator.

We need to recapture this way of talking about God among ourselves; in our desire to be cool we’ve reduced God to our level. And we’ve lost the majesty of the God who is transcendentally other than what we are and like whom we can never be. Doesn’t this view of God take your breath away? The God who is so above all matter? This statement about God reveals a God who is life-giving. It makes us realize that from him alone comes life.

In the phrase, “God above,” God is revealed as unique. Pantheism and polytheism could not create the coherent work of the cosmos. They say the camel is a horse produced by a committee. The idea that these many gods could produce the created order boggles the mind. Thus the Lord presents himself as unique. “I am the Lord and there is none other.” If God is unique, God is unique relative to all others—that’s why we’re obliged to speak about God’s incommunicable attributes. And all this means is that there are some things about God you don’t have—and you can’t have because you’re not God.

In speaking of this idea of transcendence, we have to speak of Islam, which appears to present a radical transcendence. But I believe in spite of the appearances, that this is a false transcendence, which draws Islam toward pagan one-ism. Of course, in the classic pagan one-ism of Hinduism, there is no transcendence. In One-ist paganism, there is no need for a transcendent creator because we are all creators. But this is a constant theme that there is no transcendence. But this is not the biblical view. The biblical view is radical distinction—that God created ex nihilo (from nothing).

2. Psalm 8 also has us think about God not simply as transcendent, but also immanent. He has revealed his glory, his name is majestic IN all the earth. So we have to see God as both transcendent and immanent. And that’s the amazing thing about the biblical doctrine of God that you won’t find in any other religion; it’s not one or the other, it’s both. And as humans, we need both. We need a God who is above and beyond us, but we also need one who is not far from us. We see the glory of God in the things that have been made—including human beings made in his image. God reveals himself in the things he’s made. His name tag on creation reveals his wonder.

We know that it’s not good for man to be alone , but it’s also not good for God to be alone. And this is the problem that Islam faces—where God is seen as a singularity. This is where the doctrine of the Trinity is so important. The problem in Islam is that there is no point of contact between God and man. How do you know God if there’s no point of contact? Allah cannot be known in any meaningful way… I’m not a great scholar of Islam, but it seems to me that the doctrine of God creates massive problems. In the Hadith Kuzi, which Muslims declare to be the word of God, he essentially admits to needing humans. Islam is trapped between deism and pantheism. Sufis realize the problem and have denied that the creation has any true existence and any sense of transcendence is lost.

Finally, because this God’s name is “in” this creation, we can describe him as “love.” This is again where the doctrine of the Trinity is important. An impersonal, solitary God cannot love. If God is dependent upon his creatures to love, then he is not God. But love is about the Trinity first. This is not just theory. All evangelicals are Trinitarian because they’ve put their faith in the gospel and (citing Fred Sanders’ The Deep Things of God) “the Trinity is at the heart of the gospel.”

This biblical message is a jewel worth dying for. There’s nothing like it in history. Not culture war, but spirit war. Proclaiming, honoring the truth of the Trinitarian transcendent Lord—that is what I challenge you with. We find a new way of speaking in an old way of this jewel that we find nowhere else in history. In closing, let us declare together and echo the words of the psalmist: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.”

For another take, see Chris Poblete’s notes on this session at truthXchange.com

3 Things I’m Looking Forward to About TruthXchange 2012

This morning I’m on the road to (hopefully) sunny Escondido, California, to take in the TruthXchange’s 2012 Think Tank, The Beauty of Two. This will be my third TruthXchange event in as many years, and I’m very excited for the opportunity to attend. (And if you’re attending, Awaiting a Savior is going to be carried in the conference bookstore!) Here are three things I’m really looking forward to about the event:

1. The hopeful focus. While the last several years of TruthXchange events have focused on the dangers of One-ism (that is, the opposing worldview to Christianity), this year is devoted to exploring “the beauty of Two”—the beauty of the Christian worldview and the distinction between creation and Creator. It’s incredibly important to be aware of the differences between the truth and the lie, but one of the dangers of being immersed in the lie (One-ism) for too long is that you can lose sight of the wonder and majesty of God and His glory. I’m very grateful for the change in focus this year; I’m sure it will be beneficial to all who attend and the speakers.

2. The content. Last year’s conference was incredibly informative and engaging (if a bit exhausting—the days are packed!), and this year’s event promises to be as well. I’m really looking forward to sessions with Peter Jones on the Doctrine of God, Dennis E. Johnson on the Incarnation and James Wanliss on Science. No doubt the biggest challenge will be avoiding the headache that comes with mental overload (the days for this event are really long, but very worth it).

3. Seeing some good friends (and hopefully making a few new ones). I was privileged to meet Chris Poblete and Matt Ford at last year’s Think Tank and we’ve maintained a long-distance friendship since. I’m really looking forward to seeing Chris again (and hopefully getting to hang out with Matt if his schedule allows), and seeing who else I wind up getting connected with.

Throughout the week, I’ll undoubtedly be live-blogging a number of the sessions, so be sure to keep an eye out—the Think Tank begins this afternoon.

Kindle Deals for the Christian Reader (February)

Here are a few great deals I’ve found for Christian books for your Kindle (and other eReaders, too). Incidentally, for international readers, the Kindle Touch is now available for the rest of us. Since I just got the most recent non-Touch version at the end of November/beginning of December, I will try not to covet (which I know is ridiculous, by the way). Anyway, on with the list:

New Additions:

Servanthood as Worship: The Privilege of Life in a Local Church by Nate Palmer—$2.99. Get this one in PDF or ePub formats at CruciformPress.com

Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen—99¢

Redeeming Singleness: How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life by Barry Danylak—$1.79

The Da Vinci Myth vs. the Gospel Truth by D. James Kennedy—$3.03

Histories and Fallacies by Carl R. Trueman—$3.03 (really enjoying this)

From the Resurrection to His Return by D.A. Carson—$3.99

Broken-Down House by Paul Tripp—$3.99

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (2009 anniversary edition from Crossway)—$3.96

This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence by John Piper—$3.49

Forever: Why You Can’t Live Without It by Paul Tripp—$3.99/4.59 (reviewed here)

The Grace of Repentance by Sinclair Ferguson—$4.79

When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search by Chris Brauns—$5.99

ESV MacArthur Study Bible$8.54

ESV Study Bible$8.54

ESV Literary Study Bible$9.99

Still Available: [Read more…]

Book Review: Long Story Short by Marty Machowski

“Daddy, can we read from the blue book today?”

My oldest daughter asks this every night, which should tell you how much she enjoys going through Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God by Marty Machowski. Although we’d been consistent in reading stories from (more or less) age-appropriate storybook Bibles since Abigail was about 18 months old, we hadn’t yet tried out “doing devotions” with her. I had no idea how to really get started and I really wasn’t sure if she’d be interested at all. (At this point, our 2 year-old, Hannah, participate all that much, but still likes to hear the “Bible stowies.”)

When I was first recommended Long Story Short I was intrigued. This devotional covers the entire Old Testament through 78 weekly lessons, showing how it all points to Jesus. The format of each week is simple: days one and two are spent in your primary passage, day three typically looks at a New Testament passage that directly relates to the main story, day four returns to the main story for its conclusion and day five is a reading from either the Prophets or Psalms that talks about Jesus. And like the subtitle says, it really does take only about ten minutes a night to read the passage, go over the brief explanation provided in the book and wrap up with a few discussion questions.

Since November, this has been our family’s practice at dinner time; so far, it’s been a big hit. The content is solid, Abigail loves the discussion, and we’re seeing real growth in our family’s worship of Jesus in a couple of interesting ways.

First, our family devotions have caused us to address subjects that we might prefer to downplay or ignore to all of our detriment. We’ve recently been going through the story of God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). Reading through this chapter has caused us to talk about the concepts of God’s justice and the reality of eternal punishment. (And if that freaked you out, don’t worry, we kept it very age-appropriate; no nightmares at the Armstrong house!) Before this, we’d not talked in great detail about the consequences of sin—a concept that is essential to the gospel! God’s judgment for our sins was taken from us and put upon Christ, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). This is something we can’t not talk about if we intend to be honest with her about the Christian faith and the consequences of sin. And although it can be uncomfortable, it keeps us pointing back to the gospel as the source of our righteousness before God, rather than our good behavior.

Second (and this is probably more shocking to some than talking about hell with a five-year-old), it’s given us plenty of opportunities to confess our own sinfulness to our children. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s really tempting to let my kids believe that I’m above sinning. But John warns that “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). So we tell them the truth, giving age-appropriate examples of things that we did as a child or even that day to remind them that Mommy and Daddy are sinners in need of God’s grace, too.

One of the big questions that will likely cross many parents’ minds when they see this book is, “Do I want to devote the next year and a half to this?” The short answer: yes, you do. While I would assume that most parents know this, our families are our primary mission field. God has placed our kids in our homes so that we can teach and disciple them in the faith. For some of us this comes more naturally than others. Long Story Short has been a great blessing to our family in this regard and an opportunity to teach our children about God’s grace. I trust it will be to yours as well.

Title: Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God
Author: Marty Machowski
Publisher: New Growth Press (2010)

Around the Interweb

Sex-Trafficking at the Super Bowl

Justin Holcomb:

Large sporting events like the Super Bowl are prime targets for sex traffickers because of the high demand generated by thousands of men pouring into an area for a weekend of fun. The 2010 Super Bowl saw an estimated 10,000 sex workers brought into Miami. Despite efforts to crack down on sex trafficking at the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas, there was still a tremendous number of women and children sexually exploited. In the past, attempted crackdowns by law enforcement have misfired by treating prostitutes as criminals to be locked up rather than victims to be rescued, but new efforts are gaining traction: a bill moving through the Indiana legislature aims to toughen the state’s sex-trafficking law before the Super Bowl.  This year the event is actually near the Detroit-Toledo corridor, which has one of the highest incidences of trafficking in the country.

Also Worth Reading

Free Stuff: This month’s free book at Christian Audio: Trusting God by Jerry Bridges

The Elephant Room:

I’ve been intentionally pretty quiet about my thoughts regarding the hubbub surrounding The Elephant Room,

Carl Trueman on Gnosticism, Nicea and Celebrity

Kevin DeYoung shares Seven Thoughts on the Elephant Room and T.D. Jakes

D.A. Carson and Tim Keller offer the “official” TGC position on the event (note—it’s a bit technical).

Doug Wilson shares his thoughts in The Rogue Elephant Room

Finally, Zach Nielsen offers a careful rebuttal to Bryan Loritts in The Elephant Room and “Sucking Up To Whitey”

Commentary: Andreas Köstenberger provides helpful commentary on the recent Ehrman/Wallace debate

Resources: This weekend only, save 30% off site-wide at Ligonier.org with coupon code LOVE30OFF (Ends Feb. 6).

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Book Review: Forever by Paul David Tripp

Baby Dramarama

The Joyless Pursuit of Being Right

Take Every Opportunity

J. Gresham Machen: A Stupendous Theology

Charles Spurgeon: Tell Your Heart to Christ

The Top Ten Posts on Blogging Theologically in January

Tell Your Heart to Christ

In a true marriage, the husband and wife become one. Henceforth their joys and their cares, their hopes and their labors, their sorrows and their pleasures, rise and blend together in one stream. Brethren, the Lord our God has said it, “The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant” (Psa. 25:14). “Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?'” (John 14:22) There was the secret, because there is a union between Christ and his people, which there is not between Christ and the world. How joyously do the words sound—they have a silvery ring in them—”No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). Christ keeps nothing back from you. Remember another word of his: “If it were not so, I would have told you.”

Oh, how delightful! He says, “I go to prepare a place for you.” He tells them that he is going to prepare a place for them, and then he says, “If it were not so, I would have told you—I keep no secrets back from you; you are near me, my flesh and my bones. I left my Father’s house in glory, that I might become one with you, and manifest myself to you, and I keep back nothing from you, but reveal my very heart and my very soul to you.” Now, Christian, just see: you stand in the relation of a spouse, and you must tell your very heart out to Christ. No, do not go and tell it to your neighbors, nor your friends, for, somehow or other, the most sympathizing heart cannot enter into all our grief’s. There is a grief, which the stranger cannot intermeddle with; but there never was a pang into which Christ could not enter. Make a confidant of the Lord Jesus—tell him all. You are married unto him: play the part of a wife who keeps no secrets back, no trials back, no joys back; tell them all to him.

Adapted from C.H. Spurgeon, The Relationship of Marriage

The Backlist: The Top Ten Posts on Blogging Theologically

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

  1. Everyday Theology: God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. Book Review: Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll (December 2011)
  3. Marriage, Mystery and the Gospel in Real Marriage (January 2012)
  4. Critics, Criticism and Character (January 2012)
  5. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  6. Everyday Theology: God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  7. Kindle Deals for the Christian Reader (January) (January 2012)
  8. Book Review: Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian (January 2012)
  9. He Descended into… Hell? (January 2012)
  10. The Dos and Don’ts of Book Reviews (or at least how I do them) (January 2011)
And just for fun, here’s the next 10:
  1. Book Review: Love Wins by Rob Bell (March 2011)
  2. 12 Books I Want to Read in 2012 (and Think You Should, Too) (December 2011)
  3. You Might Be Killing Your Ministry (And Not Even Know It) (January 2012)
  4. Why I’m Not Using a Reading Plan in 2012 (January 2012)
  5. Who Writes This? (page)
  6. Book Reviews (page)
  7. My Favorite Books of 2011 (December 2011)
  8. Why is Narnia Okay, But Not Princess and the Frog? (January 2012)
  9. Book Review: Education or Imitation by Curtis Allen (January 2012)
  10. Lessons from Nehemiah (page)

As is fairly typical, only about half of the top ten posts of the month were actually posted in January. There’s well over a thousand articles in the archives, so it’s good that they’re finding an audience, and really glad to see that with “The Dos and Don’ts of Book Reviews” in particular. The next ten is definitely heavier with recent content (again, pretty common). If you’ve not had a chance to read these, I hope you’ll take some time today to do so.

A Stupendous Theology

It is the fashion now to place the Sermon on the Mount in contrast with the rest of the New Testament. “We will have nothing to do with theology,” men say in effect, “we will have nothing to do with miracles, with atonement, or with heaven or with hell. For us the Golden Rule is a sufficient guide of life; in the simple principles of the Sermon on the Mount we discover a solution of all the problems of society.” It is indeed rather strange that men can speak in this way. Certainly it is rather derogatory to Jesus to assert that never except in one brief part of His recorded words did He say anything that is worth while.

But even in the Sermon on the Mount there is far more than some men suppose. Men say that it contains no theology; in reality it contains theology of the most stupendous kind. In particular, it contains the loftiest possible presentation of Jesus’ own Person. That presentation appears in the strange note of authority which pervades the whole discourse; it appears in the recurrent words, “But I say unto you.” Jesus plainly puts His own words on an equality with what He certainly regarded as the divine words of Scripture; He claimed the right to legislate for the Kingdom of God. Let it not be objected that this note of authority involves merely a prophetic consciousness in Jesus, a mere right to speak in God’s name as God’s Spirit might lead. For what prophet ever spoke in this way? The prophets said, “Thus saith the Lord,” but Jesus said, “I say.” We have no mere prophet here, no mere humble exponent of the will of God; but a stupendous Person speaking in a manner which for any other person would be abominable and absurd.

The same thing appears in the passage Matt. 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many shall say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out demons, and in thy name done many mighty works? And then I shall confess to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work lawlessness.'” This passage is in some respects a favorite with modern liberal teachers; for it is interpreted–falsely, it is true, yet plausibly–as meaning that all that a man needs to attain standing with God is an approximately right performance of his duties to his fellowmen, and not any assent to a creed or even any direct relation to Jesus. But have those who quote the passage 80 triumphantly in this way ever stopped to reflect upon the other side of the picture–upon the stupendous fact that in this same passage the eternal destinies of men are made dependent upon the word of Jesus ? Jesus here represents Himself as seated on the judgment-seat of all the earth, separating whom He will forever from the bliss that is involved in being present with Him. Could anything be further removed than such a Jesus from the humble teacher of righteousness appealed to by modern liberalism? Clearly it is impossible to escape from theology, even in the chosen precincts of the Sermon on the Mount. A stupendous theology, with Jesus’ own Person at the center of it, is the presupposition of the whole teaching.

Adapted from J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Kindle Edition)

Take Every Opportunity

Just before Christmas, two Jehovah’s Witnesses who didn’t have strong English skills came to our door, hoping to win converts to their cause. They didn’t, obviously, but it was interesting to talk to them because it gave me an opportunity to start to witness to them. We talked briefly about the deity of Christ (I brought this up) and the personhood of the Holy Spirit (they brought this up) before they decided it might be better to come back another time.

To my surprise, they did indeed come back—this time with a friend who spoke English as his first language. Again, we went back into it. We spoke about a couple of about which we agreed—that the events of recent days—increased natural disasters, and so forth—would certainly suggest that the “beginning of the birth pains” of the new creation are upon us (cf. Matt. 24:8). The new guy initially stuck very close to the standard script, talking about how Abraham is the only man to ever be called a friend of God by God Himself and asking me what one must do to be right with God. I suspect he probably not expecting much of an answer beyond “be a good person.” My response was to trust in the finished work of Christ and proceeded to explain the gospel. He kept coming back to works (not as a response to grace) and then immediately jumping into their classist view of the new creation, that while some will dwell on the new earth, others—the 144,000—will dwell with God (who, incidentally, also won’t be making His home among all the redeemed).

Before too long, they went home since I think they could see they weren’t going to convince me, although I’m praying that the gospel would break forth in their hearts. The thing that strikes me as funny about this situation is that Emily and I frequently pray for boldness and opportunities to talk about Jesus. Evangelizing tends to be a bit of a struggle at times, mostly in that we can be a bit chicken. It’s only fitting then that God’s way of answering that prayer was to literally bring the lost to our front door.

If you’ve been praying that prayer—asking God for opportunities to share the gospel, to be a good witness, to evangelize—do you realize He’s answering that prayer, right now? Unless you live in a commune or in the woods, you’ve probably got neighbors who don’t know Jesus. If you don’t work at a Christian organization, you’ve probably got coworkers who don’t know Jesus. And if you live in a neighborhood like mine, you’ve got people who don’t know Jesus coming to your door to evangelize you. Do you realize that God is answering that prayer in some of the most over-the-top ridiculous ways possible? It’s not like praying that someone would give you a free car (although that happened one time)—this is about sharing the good news of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

While it’s always scary and I chicken out a LOT, it’s not hard to see that there really are opportunities all around us. The question is, will we take advantage of one?