Christianity is not a new morality

warfield

Christianity did not come into the world to proclaim a new morality and, sweeping away all the supernatural props by which men were wont to support their trembling, guilt-stricken souls, to throw them back on their own strong right arms to conquer a standing before God for themselves. It came to proclaim the real sacrifice for sin which God had provided in order to supersede all the poor fumbling efforts which men had made and were making to provide a sacrifice for sin for themselves; and, planting men’s feet on this, to bid them go forward. It was in this sign that Christianity conquered, and it is in this sign alone that it continues to conquer. We may think what we will of such a religion. What cannot be denied is that Christianity is such a religion.

Benjamin B. Warfield, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, Vol. 2: Biblical Doctrines, 435

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Kindle3_1

Several volumes in the Perspectives series are on sale for $2.99:

Also on sale:

Finally, several volumes in Crossway’s Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition series are on sale for $2.99:

God’s gag reflex

Jesus-Reaching-Out

photo: iStock

Does God have a gag reflex? 

A few days ago, Thabiti wrote about how our discomfort (what you might call the “yuck” factor) should cause us to examine what we believe about homosexuality. Naturally, this cheesed off our friends in the “progressive” camp. Reading one response in particular was fascinating. The author asks the question: “what if Jesus had a gag reflex?

  • What if Jesus had felt revulsion instead of compassion for the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years?
  • What if he had been repulsed by lepers instead of embracing them?
  • What if he had been disgusted by the putrid smell of Lazarus’ corpse, instead of raising his friend from the dead?

In many ways, I appreciate where the author’s coming from. Who among us doesn’t praise God for His compassion and mercy? Woe to us if we overlook this essential quality of our great God and Savior…

And yet, a question remains:

Does God have a gag reflex?

The Lord is merciful and compassionate; He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love—we cannot hope to reach the end of His great love for His people!

And yet…

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him,” writes Solomon (Proverbs 6:16). What are these things? What could be so offensive to the Lord?

Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. (Proverbs 6:17-19)

What trigger’s God’s gag reflex? Prideful, malicious, schemers; liars who sow discord and encourage disunity… these the Lord hates. They are an abomination to Him.

And these are not the only things the Lord declares repugnant:

  • idolatry (Deut. 27:15)
  • the devious person (Prov. 3:32)
  • the ways and thoughts of the wicked (Prov. 15:9, 26)
  • arrogance (Prov. 16:5)
  • those who justify wickedness (Prov. 17:15)
  • scoffers (24:19), adultery and sexual immorality (Ezekiel 22:11)
  • homosexuality (Rom. 1:26-27)
  • evildoers (Psalm 5:5)
  • robbery and wrong-doing (Isa. 61:8)
  • disobedience to parents (Rom. 1:30)

All this, and much more, is disgusting to the Lord.

God hates sin.

All sin. 

All the time.

Under all circumstances.

He does not take sin lightly. Remember what Jude wrote our Lord’s response to unbelief and rebellion:

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 5-7)

Jesus, Jude tells us, led the Israelites out of Egypt—and then destroyed those who did not believe. The rebellious angels were imprisoned by Jesus. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by Jesus.  The hell prepared for the Devil and his angels (Matt 25:41) was prepared by Jesus!

Jesus really, really hates sin.

Think on that for a moment. Really let it sink in.

God—the One who made the world and everything in it, the One who holds all things together with but a word—has declared what is right and what is wrong.

Our opinions on the issue don’t matter one bit.

Woe to us, therefore, if we ever call anything “good” which God has called “evil.” Shame on us if we ever call anything “evil” which God has declared “good.”

Jesus hates sin. 

He hates it so much that He became it so those who would believe should not have to suffer its consequences.

Be compassionate, yes. Without question, embrace those who are burdened by their sin. Absolutely, shower the homosexual community with great love and affection in the name of Christ.

But do not use “compassion” as an excuse for failing to call all who sin to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven at hand” (Matt. 4:17).

Links I like

Last day to enter to win a personal library!

This week I’ve been running a contest giving away three sets of 26 books from Crossway, Baker Books, Zondervan, Thomas Nelson and many other fine publishers. If you haven’t already entered the contest, you’ve got until midnight (Eastern time)!

All Scripture–All of It

Kevin DeYoung:

If all Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16), then there is a unity to be found across the pages of the Bible. Without minimizing the differences of genre and human authorship, we should nevertheless approach the Bible expecting theological distinctives and apparent discrepancies to be fully reconcilable.

Get Blood Work in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

The ePub and Mobi editions of Blood Work by Anthony Carter is on sale in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Atheism Remix by Albert Mohler (hardcover)
  • Building a Christian Conscience teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio and video download)
  • Preaching for God’s Glory by Alistair Begg (paperback)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

The Gospel and The American Dream

Jared Wilson:

Exile — which is the ongoing state of the Church today as it was for Israel then — presupposes that we are in Babylon, not Jerusalem. And one of the major mistakes the Church has made is expecting Babylon to act like Jerusalem, to be like Jerusalem, to even recognize Jerusalem as something ideal to be. We see this in the way Christians keep trying to convince non-Christians that America is really a Christian nation and needs to start acting like it again.

Some Things to Remember about Offering and Receiving Criticism on Twitter (Or Elsewhere)

Justin Taylor, with a few things we all need to remember.

Converted to Christ and His Church

Joe Thorn:

Evangelism is not only winning someone to Jesus by the grace of God in the preaching of the gospel. It is also winning them to the church by that same grace and gospel. The local church is increasingly being thought of as optional by professing believers. In fact when I say something like, “You can’t do all that Christ calls you to do apart from the local church” I often get pushback online.

Glorious assurance for the task of contending

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25)

Jude’s closing words carry glorious assurance for the believer. Contend for the faith that was once and for all delivered to you because that faith is in a person whose joy you will one day enter. These words end Jude’s letter because he wants his readers to receive hope and strength and delight as we contend.

contend working final front big

God is able to keep us from stumbling and in the end present us to himself utterly blameless. Indeed, God will do this very thing for every one of his children. We are “called, beloved … and kept for Jesus Christ,” (Jude 1) preserved for his purposes. No true believer can be snatched from his hand. (John 10:28–29) While Christians may sin, and sometimes in horrendous ways, God promises he will keep us from committing apostasy. We are Christ’s, and nothing can draw us away forever: “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37–39)

What assurance this gives us as we seek to contend on behalf of fellow believers! Because God preserves those who are his, we can have confidence that Christians swerving toward apostasy can be restored to the truth. We can know that no believer will ever run so fast or so far that God will not pull him back off the path of destruction. Not even the most appealing lie can capture the attention of a true Christian forever; those with ears to hear will never grow permanently deaf to the voice of Jesus.

—from Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World

Buy it at: Cruciform Press | Amazon | Westminster Books | Indigo | Vyrso (also available as part of Vyrso’s Living to Witness bundle)

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When God Says To Get Drunk

Tim Challies:

On Monday I attempted to anticipate some of the cost to the church if young Christian men continue to spend their youth embroiled in the pursuit of pornography. Solomon warns that pornography is sapping them of their strength. In their strongest and most energetic years, in the years when so many promises and possibilities lie open before them, they are giving it all away to pornography. It saps them of strength and it saps them of life.

The Sheer Weightlessness of So Many Sermons

Albert Mohler:

If preaching is central to Christian worship, what kind of preaching are we talking about? The sheer weightlessness of much contemporary preaching is a severe indictment of our superficial Christianity. When the pulpit ministry lacks substance, the church is severed from the word of God, and its health and faithfulness are immediately diminished.

Beyond Eclectic Christianity

Kevin White:

To say that I come from a mixed background is an understatement. I was raised in the Independent Christian Church movement, discipled in a rising megachurch run by one of the current promoters of Radical Christianity, and have enjoyed close brushes with Eastern Orthodoxy and most varieties of Anglicanism. I now embrace Reformed theology, but I got my first steps down that road through reading Thomas Aquinas. I spent several years self-identifying as a “generic evangelical”, and somehow I was almost completely unironic about it. I absorbed all of those influences between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five, and I have spent the time since sorting through it all.

Given that background, I could almost be a poster child for evangelical eclecticism. But a funny thing happened along the way.

An Interview with Ligon Duncan

Justin Taylor talks with Ligon Duncan, newly-elected chancellor of RTS. Here’s a taste:

After many years in pastoral ministry, at a church you dearly love (and dearly loves you!), how difficult of a decision was this for you?

It was incredibly difficult. It was overwhelming even to contemplate leaving a place and work that I so dearly love (and people who love me far, far beyond my deserving), and to take up so weighty a calling. I have served First Presbyterian Church for over 17 years, almost a tenth of her 176 years of history. My children were born, baptized, catechized, professed faith, and first communed here. They love this church. I entered into a season of serious reflection, sought wise counsel, and asked the Lord to show me the way forward. This has been the most difficult vocational decision that I have ever had to make.

When Mentoring Exposes Your Idol of Being Needed

Heather Nelson:

Life-on-life ministry comes quite naturally to many of us women as we love to care, nurture, and share emotional intimacy. Yet as in every other relationship, there is danger that I find my identity in mentoring another young woman and so become enmeshed in an unhealthy relationship. My definition of “unhealthy relationship” is a relationship where one of my idols takes the central place that belongs to Jesus. In mentoring, this can happen when my idol of being needed replaces Jesus as what I am worshiping and serving in our relationship.

Judges for You by Timothy Keller

judges-for-you

Some books of the Bible are incredibly inspiring… others are downright disturbing. Judges definitely the latter. It’s a painfully honest look at the fruit of spiritual decline and the depths of human depravity. This isn’t a book you read to get a warm-fuzzy or for moral examples.

Instead, writes Tim Keller, Judges reminds us that the Bible “is about a God of mercy and long-suffering, who continually works in and through us despite our constant resistance to his purposes.” No human hero can rescue us—we need a divine one.

That’s what Judges For You is all about.

The cycle of sin

In this book, Keller walks readers through this Old Testament book, tracing six key themes:

  1. God relentlessly offers his grace to people who do not deserve it, seek it, or even appreciate it after they’ve been saved by it.
  2. God wants lordship over every area of our lives, not just some.
  3. There is a tension between grace and law, between conditionality and unconditionality.
  4. There is a need for continual spiritual renewal in our lives here on earth, and a way to make that a reality.
  5. We need a true Savior, to which all human saviors point, through their flaws and strengths.
  6. God is in charge, no matter what it looks like.

As we read through Judges, it’s easy to see each of these themes at play in their half-hearted (at best!) following of the Lord. From the beginning, the Israelites failed to purge the Promised Land of idols, compromising their prosperity in the land—and most importantly, their commitment to the Lord. From there the cycle begins:

The nation slips into idolatry, doing evil in the sight of the Lord. Angered by their sin, the Lord hands them over to their enemies, who oppress them. The people call out for rescue, and the Lord brings salvation through a chosen leader and peace is restored to the land… at least until the judge dies. [Read more...]

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The Christian’s View of Scripture

Kevin DeYoung:

Inerrancy means the word of God always stands over us and we never stand over the word of God. When we reject inerrancy we put ourselves in judgment over God’s word. We claim the right to determine which parts of God’s revelation can be trusted and which cannot. When we deny the complete trustworthiness of the Scriptures—in its genuine claims with regard to history, its teachings on the material world, its miracles, in the tiniest jots and tittles of all that it affirms—then we are forced to accept one of two conclusions. Either the Scripture is not all from God or God is not always dependable. To make either statement is to affirm what is sub-Christian. These conclusions do not express a proper submission to the Father, do not work for our joy in Christ, and do not bring honor to the Spirit who carried along the men to speak the prophetic word and author God’s holy book.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here’s a new list of Kindle deals:

Crossway’s A Student’s Guide series is $2.99 as well:

A New Chapter For Me

Stephen Altrogge:

I am embarking on a new chapter in my life. After a lot of thought, a lot of prayer, and many conversations with Jen, I have decided to resign as a pastor at my church.

Save on Jesus on Every Page & Housewife Theologian

A couple of other really great deals to take advantage of: Westminster Books is offering Aimee Byrd’s new book, Housewife Theologian, for $6.50 (50 percent off). Reformed Heritage Books is offering a five-pack of Jesus on Every Page for $50 (a $35 savings). I’m about a third of the way through the book now and based on what I’ve read so far, it’s one you’re going to want to share.

Incidentally, both books are part of this week’s big giveaway. If you haven’t had a chance to enter, head over now!

Strap Yourself to a Desk and Grind

Daniel Darling:

This is a really, really good principle for today’s generation of writers. We live in an age of instant fame. And while sometimes something you write may go viral and make you instantly famous, mostly the way to success is to just work hard at producing good content while nobody is looking. The best sportswriters in America started somewhere obscure, in a small town grinding out columns about the local bowling league or something. The people whose work is being read, heard, digested are the ones who were willing to “strap themselves to a desk and grind.” There are no shortcuts to real, lasting, genuine success.

3 hindrances to hearing God’s Word

pastor

Ben Riggs blogs at pageflipping.blogspot.com, contributes to Gospel-Centered Discipleship, drinks too much coffee; not enough water and you can follow him @corduroyhat02.


When you handle God’s word with others, you encounter portions of Scripture that feel like trying to hold a screeching wet cat. Nobody wants it, not even cat people. Some accept the challenge: years of experience or their personalities thrive in it. Some dare avoid it, insisting it’s not the “right time.” In any case, whether it’s homosexuality or predestination, dust is doing to be kicked. Be sure to have been faithful when it settles. In that effort,to understand how people react to controversial issues can be helpful.

You want to exegete your Bible and your people. People’s reactions aren’t solely based on only one process: rational, emotional, or psychological, etc. People react as a whole; a collaboration tightly wound together by their personal narrative.

These are three responses I’ve encountered with a touchy topic. They aren’t exhaustive, they have kids of their own. They’re real, but unhelpful. Some are defensive. Some are offensive. All are hindrances to hearing the realities of God’s Word.

1. Put walls up

Many revert to a sort of psychological heisman, “Nope—won’t have any of that.” Or a brand of pseudo-sophisticated agnosticism, “Don’t know, don’t care.” The worst is when they appeal to a certain kind of Jesus, “I’m just good with Jesus”—as if He never said or did anything controversial or unpopular. For some, they feel like an exposed nerve from being burned the last time this came up. We need to help others see while the Gospel is immediate and central, it isn’t guaranteed to just a top layer. Just because you’ve moved toward a controversial issue doesn’t mean you’ve moved away from the realities of grace.

2. Put gloves on

Approaching a controversial topic turns some into Rocky Balboa. They’re ready to rumble, yet sorely ready to actually deal with it well. Appearing to be gracious, they put on debate gloves. What you don’t see is their theological brass knuckles hiding underneath. Sure there’s some cushion, but the real bite hides underneath- like a serpent in a pillow. A good amount of satire goes a long way here, but don’t steamroll everything with a joke. Soon enough, you’ll be the joke.

3. Glassy eyes

Lights are on, no one’s home. In an increasingly post-Christian nation, three to four syllable words that end in “-tion” are an invitation to punch out. If you’re going to use them, do so at the end of explaining what they mean. Irrelevance is a culprit. More and more, people want to know how what you’re saying coheres with reality. Thankfully, a faithful explanation of God’s Word ought to cohere nicely as Scripture is reality’s lens, critique and clarity.

Tim Keller talks about being “message-centered and receptor-oriented.” You can be faithful to the text and know your people to enter into their reactions in your exposition: expose the problems in their posture and show how the Gospel gives us better ways of thinking about tough topics.

Everyone commissioned to draw out God’s word will encounter people’s watersheds. As long as Romans 1 is the case, the Gospel will reveal God’s righteousness and confront the unrighteousness in and by any person in any culture. The difficulty is to not address it in a way that tips your hat to it, paying homage to it. You can, in an effort unravel controversial issues, but find yourself tangled up in it. Watersheds are controversial, but they can’t hold a match to the controversy of God’s Gospel, the watershed of history.

At the end of the day, the biggest watershed for any person, any culture, any nation is the Gospel.

Links I like

Cereal-Aisle Hermeneutics

David Garner:

Combating the “cereal aisle” of contemporary thought, Scripture does not put us in the place of autonomy or sovereignty. We are created, not Creator. We are stewards, not owners.

These categorical truths, which dominate the pages of the Scripture, must take their rightful place in our study of it. We are recipients of Scripture’s meaning, not creators of it.

Learning at Starbucks Seminary

Jeff Medders:

Starbucks was a great gig. Free coffee. Insurance. And I got to meet lots and lots of people from the community. But here’s the problem: I viewed my time at Starbucks as a stepping stone. I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t take it seriously. I felt above it—God had bigger and better things for me. I viewed this grace as a chore. Mediocre employee was my speciality. I slugged through my shifts, did just enough (if that) to get by—I wasn’t working like a Christian.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Eight titles in the Perspectives series are still on sale for $2.99:

Also on sale:

Don’t ignore the yuck factor

Thabiti Anyabwile:

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our stay in New Zealand. In fact, the two weeks have been too brief. We didn’t have opportunity to visit the South Island with its breathtaking peaks and scenes. We couldn’t even see the entire North Island. But what we saw–Rangatoto, the glow worm caves, Hobbiton, and the Lord’s churches–all blessed us tremendously. So with some sadness, we leave Middle Earth for the land down under.

As we travel, another event compounds our sadness. Today New Zealand legalizes so-called “gay marriage.” Network news stations on airport televisions feature celebrations at various government buildings. Topless men wave rainbow flags. Two men deep kissing. Groups of same-sex couples cheer. Interviewees speak of their elation and their desire to have others recognize their “love.” It’s a scene reminiscent of others in the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

How many lives is our privacy worth?

David Murray:

Privacy is connected to personhood. It has to do with intimate things—the innards of your head and heart, the workings of your mind—and the boundary between those things and the world outside. A loss of the expectation of privacy in communications is a loss of something personal and intimate, and it will have broader implications.

I’m giving away a personal library!

Summer’s nearly done, the school year is gearing up again, and I want to help you kick off the fall right. That’s why I’m giving away over 20 books in partnership with my friends at Zondervan, Crossway, Moody Publishers, Cruciform Press, the Good Book Company, B&H Publishing, Thomas Nelson and more.

Here’s the full list:

  1. New addition: Grounded in the Faith by Kenneth Erisman (added 8/21)
  2. New addition: Gray Matters by Brett McCracken (added 8/21)
  3. Jesus on Every Page by David Murray (added 8/19)
  4. Finally Free by Heath Lambert
  5. The Pastor’s Family by Brian and Cara Croft
  6. Insourcing by Randy Pope
  7. Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars by Stephen Miller
  8. The End of Our Exploring by Matthew Lee Anderson
  9. The Surprising Grace of Disappointment by John Koessler
  10. Good News to the Poor by Tim Chester
  11. The Pastor’s Justification by Jared C. Wilson
  12. Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung
  13. Housewife Theologian by Aimee Byrd
  14. Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life by Michael Kelley
  15. Death by Living by N.D. Wilson
  16. Clear Winter Nights by Trevin Wax
  17. Judges for You by Tim Keller
  18. Judges: the Flawed and the Flawless (companion study guide) by Tim Keller
  19. Galatians for You by Tim Keller
  20. Galatians: Gospel Matters (companion study guide) by Tim Keller
  21. Christ in the Chaos by Kimm Crandall
  22. Modest by R W Glenn and Tim Challies
  23. Broken Vows by John Greco
  24. The Organized Heart by Staci Eastin
  25. Kingdom Come by Sam Storms (continental US only)
  26. A Neglected Grace by Jason Helopoulos (continental US only)

And don’t be surprised if you see a few extra titles added before this giveaway is done.

Enter using the handy-dandy Punchtab tool below (RSS readers, you’ll need to click through to enter).

The contest closes on August 23rd at midnight. Enjoy!

Links I like

Saving Words—a new devotional app

A while back my pal Stephen McCaskell had an idea for a new Spurgeon devotional called Saving Words. Today he’s launching an new IndieGoGo project to turn this idea into an app for the iPhone (and eventually Android). Check it out:

Stephen’s hoping to raise $6000 to get the app developed. Let’s help him make it happen, shall we?

Work Like an Arminian, Sleep Like a Calvinist?

From a recent episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast:

The reason I don’t like saying, “work like an Arminian, sleep like a Calvinist,” is because I think it’s misleading. . . . It is historically false to imply that Calvinism produced less work than others. The Protestant work ethic was begotten by the Reformed vision of reality, and it built the modern world we know. So my preference would be a slogan like this: “Work like a Calvinist, play like a Calvinist, sleep like a Calvinist — out-produce, out-play, out-dream everyone by trusting in your sovereign God.”

17 Problems Only Book Lovers Will Understand

If you love books (or are in denial about being a book lover) you’ll totally understand this.

Are we doing the Lord’s work?

Ray Ortlund:

Yesterday I saw yet another website dedicated to accusing a prominent pastor. This one did not strike me as savage, the way other such websites have. It seemed more mature.

But I wonder if this is doing the Lord’s work at all. Even if every accusation against this pastor is true, I am unconvinced God wants us to set up websites for such a purpose.

Laughter!

A Warning to the Wandering

Joe Thorn:

All this recent talk about millennials leaving the church isn’t a theoretical issue for me. While much of our church growth is through the millennial generation, we still see some walk away. This, of course, is not simply a generational issue but a faith issue. I am preparing to write a letter to a young man who has walked away from Christ and his church. As I have been thinking of this young man, his privilege, knowledge, and his current danger, I cam upon a piece written by John Angell James. His words of warning to the young who wander from the faith are hard and helpful. James points out that such a renunciation of Christ not only hurts the individual, but those around him as well.

Do we come on His terms or ours?

Jesus-Reaching-Out

photo: iStock

There is a kind of longing for a display of Jesus’ power that is entirely godly, submissive, perhaps even desperate. There is another kind that puts the person making the request into the driver’s seat. Some want to see Jesus perform a sign so that they can evaluate him, assess his claims, test his credentials. At one level, of course, he accommodates himself to our unbelief by performing miracles that ought to elicit faith (John 10:38). But at another level, he cannot possibly reduce himself to nothing more than a powerful genie who performs spectacular tricks on command. As long as people are assessing him, they are in the superior position, the position of judge. As long as they are checking out his credentials, they are forgetting that God is the one who will weigh them. As long as they are demanding signs, Jesus, if he constantly acquiesces, is nothing more than a clever performer.

Thus the demand for signs becomes the prototype of every condition human beings raise as a barrier to being open to God. I will devote myself to this God if he heals my child. I will follow this Jesus if I can maintain my independence. I will happily become a Christian if God proves himself to me. I will turn from my sin and read the Bible if my marriage gets sorted out to my satisfaction. I will acknowledge Jesus as Lord if he performs the kind of miracle, on demand, that removes all doubt. In every case, I am assessing him; he is not assessing me. I am not coming to him on his terms; rather, I am stipulating terms that he must accept if he wants the privilege of my company. “Jews demand miraculous signs.”

D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry (Kindle edition)

Our self-centeredness is deep

Jesus-Reaching-Out

photo: iStock

We ruefully acknowledge how self-centered we are after we have had an argument with someone. Typically, we mentally conjure up a rerun of the argument, thinking up all the things we could have said, all the things we should have said. In such reruns, we always win. After an argument, have you ever conjured up a rerun in which you lost?

Our self-centeredness is deep. It is so brutally idolatrous that it tries to domesticate God himself. In our desperate folly we act as if we can outsmart God, as if he owes us explanations, as if we are wise and self-determining while he exists only to meet our needs.

But this God says, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Indeed, the point has already been made implicitly in verse 18. One might have expected Paul to say, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the wisdom of God.” Instead, he insists it is “the power of God.…” This is not a slip on Paul’s part; the point is crucial. Paul does not want the Corinthians to think that the gospel is nothing more than a philosophical system, a supremely wise system that stands over against the folly of others. It is far more: where human wisdom utterly fails to deal with human need, God himself has taken action. We are impotent when it comes to dealing with our sin and being reconciled to God, but where we are impotent God is powerful. Human folly and human wisdom are equally unable to achieve what God has accomplished in the cross. The gospel is not simply good advice, nor is it good news about God’s power. The gospel is God’s power to those who believe. The place where God has supremely destroyed all human arrogance and pretension is the cross.

D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry (Kindle edition)