Links I like

Nothing That Is Possible Can Save Us

Tullian Tchividjian, quoting David Zahl:

Auden’s meaning becomes clearer when we consider problems of a less everyday nature. The kind that keep us up at night. I was speaking with a friend recently who had just separated from his wife. He told me, “I’ve done everything I can think of. Even couples’ counseling hasn’t helped. She just doesn’t want me. It’s going to take a miracle to save our marriage.” He had pursued all the right options, and nothing had worked. The problem was simply beyond him. So it is with us. Our condition is not fixable. That is, we can empirically say that the solution to human nature has not been found in the realm of “what’s possible.” Instead, we need a miracle to save us – from ourselves, from our sin, and ultimately, from death.

No More Gender: A Look into Sweden’s Social Experiment

Trevin Wax:

If Sweden is our future, then we are in trouble. The idea of humanity as completely neutral in terms of gender is foreign to a Scriptural understanding of who we are. Human beings bear God’s image, and God made us male and female. He didn’t make us merely human. He made us gendered beings.

What’s at stake in this discussion? Human flourishing. We don’t flourish when we suppress or ignore gender distinctives. Such an existence creates a flatter, duller society. Instead, we flourish when we embrace our maleness or femaleness as God’s gift to us – intended for our joy and His glory. The differences between men and women aren’t obstacles to overcome; they’re glorious and beautiful.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few new deals from Crossway:

Also on sale:

Moral Mayhem Multiplied—Now, It’s Polygamy’s Turn

Albert Mohler:

As most Americans were thinking thoughts of Christmas cheer, a federal judge in Utah dropped a bomb on the institution of marriage, striking down the most crucial sections of the Utah statute outlawing polygamy. Last Friday, Judge Clark Waddoups of the United States District Court in Utah ruled that Utah’s anti-polygamy law is unconstitutional, violating the free exercise clause of the First Amendment as well as the guarantee of due process.

In one sense, the decision was almost inevitable, given the trajectory of both the culture and the federal courts. On the other hand, the sheer shock of the decision serves as an alarm: marriage is being utterly redefined before our eyes, and in the span of a single generation.

Who determines meaning?

Denny Burk:

How can you tell the difference between a good interpretation of a text and a bad interpretation? This is the fundamental question that every reader has to answer in trying to understand the message of scripture.

The traditional approach has been to recognize the author as the ground and the guide of textual meaning. If you want to know the meaning of the text, then you must discern the author’s intent in writing that text.

The “New Criticism” of the early twentieth century dethroned authorial intent and argued instead that meaning is a property of the text quite apart from the author. Texts have “semantic autonomy” as it were, and it is a fallacy to think that we can read the minds of authors.

From about the 1960′s until now, reader-focused methodologies have come to the fore. On this understanding, meaning cannot be identified with authorial intent or with a property that inheres in the text. Such approaches define meaning as the reader’s response to the text.

Which of these approaches is correct? Is meaning defined by the author, the text, or the reader? Recently as I was reading through 1 Timothy, I came across a text that seems to have a bearing on this question. In 1 Timothy 1:8, Paul writes, “But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” Some observations…

Links I like

What Do Protestants Protest?

R.C. Sproul Jr:

Sadly in our day, not much of anything. Luther, of course, began the Reformation by posting his 95 theses. His chief concern was the sale of indulgences. Underscoring that concern were two principle concerns—the singular authority of the Bible, and the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Luther, along with the other magisterial Reformers, argued that the Bible is our alone ultimate authority in binding our conscience with respect to our faith and practice. It denied that the church provided either a compelling interpretation of the Bible, or a second source of infallible information.

The Power of the Word

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bPXGupb0d8

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Be sure to check out this weekend’s list as many are ending today!

Too Big Not To Fail

Jared Wilson:

Like the Babelists, we build our towers, not knowing the great dangerous irony — that the stronger we get, the more vulnerable we become. The fall is prefaced by pride. The split second before the great collapse is the proudest we’ve ever been.

The lesson appears plain: if you really want to fall, get big.

The danger of a how-to

Timothy Raymond:

Somewhere along the way, evangelicals embraced a different definition of what makes a Christian. While we once defined a Christian as someone who confesses the gospel and gives reasonable evidence thereunto, we slowly, imperceptibly but eventually, concluded that a Christian is someone who strives to follow Christian ethics. The entire ‘Christian’ core shifted from those who embrace the faith once-for-all delivered to the saints to those who live a certain lifestyle. And given this redefinition, I was being too hard on the Roman Catholics. “If my good Catholic neighbour attends church every week, reads his Bible, sings the same doxology we sing, opposes abortion, and supports traditional marriage, does it really matter if he thinks Jesus’ body is literally present during the Lord’s Supper?” I suspect the vast majority of our church members would answer in the negative.

What should I review?

I just got back from a trip to Colorado Springs (day job related). After a fantastic welcome by my kids that included Hudson nearly walking outside barefoot shouting “Car-car!” and Abigail attaching herself to me like a spider monkey, I found a wonderful present waiting for me from my friends at Crossway:

presents-from-crossway

Image via Pressgram

If you’re struggling to see all the titles, here’s the complete list:

I’m very excited to dig into these over the next few weeks, and perhaps even sharing a few thoughts.

Now, here’s where I need your help: If were going to review one, which should it be?

Where Is Jesus In The Old Testament?

And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Luke 18:31-34)

In the above video, Mark Driscoll does a really good job introducing six general categories explaining what Jesus meant when He said in numerous places like Luke 18:31-34 about how the Scriptures testify to Him (the full message has his full explanation).

1. Christophanies. These are the appearances of Jesus in the Old Testament before His incarnation. In these Jesus frequently appears as “The Angel of the Lord” (which is different than “AN angel of the Lord”). Passages to study include: Judges 2:1-5; Joshua 5:13-15; Isa. 6:1-13.

2. Types. Old Testament representative figures and institutions that foreshadowed Jesus. These include the tabernacle, the sacrificial system (now you’ve got a reason to go read Leviticus!), the prophets, priests and kings (esp. David & Solomon). Key prophetic ministries to study are Elijah and Elisha.

3. Analogous service. These are people who do things that ultimately Jesus does perfectly and completely. TIm Keller & Sinclair Ferguson do a brilliant job explaining these here.

4. Events that prophesy the coming of Jesus.This would include the Exodus—particularly the Passover—where the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. The entire book of Exodus gives us a glimpse of what Christ came to do. As the people crossed the Red Sea, they were crossing from death to life. Death awaiting them at the hands of Pharaoh’s army to life in the land God had promised. In Christ, we cross from death in our sins to eternal life with Him.

5. Titles that refer to Jesus. These are titles for God in the Old Testament that refer to Jesus. Redeemer, Savior, Lord of Glory, Husband/Bridegroom, Light, Rock, Shepherd and Son of Man are among those titles.

6. Old Testament prophecies about Jesus. Different from category 4 which are events that point to Him, these are prophecies about Jesus directly. These include Isa. 7:14-15, 52:13-53:12; Psalm 110; Deut. 18:14-22 among others.

I hope having a sense of these broad categories will help you to see Jesus as you read the Old Testament.

Who is the Master?

As I was working on a paper for my Ligonier Academy program, I had to stop and consider this passage from Peter Jensen’s book, The Revelation of God:

In the end, the Bible is the most reasonable of all books, for it conforms with reality. It is our culture that is irrational, our minds that are darkened. Just as the gospel commends itself to us by making sense of our experience, so too does the Bible. It insists on bringing moral judgment to bear on our existence, and revealing the truth about the human heart. It brings before us a standard of morality and godliness that would absolutely transform the world were we to live in accordance with its precepts. It provides a pattern of the relationship between the sexes that endorses the difference while affirming the equality. It majors on forgiveness of the wounded conscience. It gives hope for the future. Undoubtedly it cuts across many of the ideas held most dear in the culture. It is all the more important, therefore, that Christians should not capitulate to the contemporary mores. It is the difference of Christianity that will make the biggest impact, and, if indeed the Bible is the word of God, we may be sure tha tit will prove to be centred on ‘the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Cor. 1:24).

In short, human reason in all its variety is a most useful servant of the gospel. But where reason or tradition becomes the masters of the gospel, dictating how the word of God may come to us, it serves only that evil from which God aims to free us.

Peter Jensen, The Revelation of God, pp. 177-178

As I’ve read this over and over again, I keep coming back to one thing:

At the heart of all the controversies around the Bible and its reliability seems to be one issue—control.

When it comes studying to the Bible, who is in control?

If God has revealed Himself through the Bible, then we are obliged to obey. Yet, because it seems foolish to us naturally, we seek to ignore it. We rebel against because we want control.

But the Bible refuses to obey us.

It keeps pointing out the foolishness of our minds, the irrationality of our thinking. This is why we need the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Scriptures and free us from our bondage to our desire for human autonomy and allow us to understand and obey what can often seem so paradoxical.

Thinking about this has made me consider how I read and apply Scripture with great care. Am I doing so, hoping to control it or be brought under its control?

I’m praying it’s the latter.

Everyday Theology: You Need To Feed Yourself

Who is responsible for a Christian’s spiritual health—for his or her growth in the faith, in understanding the Scriptures, and progressive increase in personal holiness?

The answer might seem obvious. It’s you, right? If you’re a Christian, you need to take ownership of your growth in understanding the Scriptures and pursuit of holiness in Christ.

But is it your responsibility alone?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a pastor say something like this:

“It’s not my job to feed you—you need to feed yourself.”

And, if I had to be honest, nearly every time I’ve heard it, it’s made my skin crawl.

Why? Well, consider John 21:15-17 with me:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep…” (John 21:15-17 ESV)

In this passage, the restoration of Peter, Jesus asks him three times:

“Peter, do you love me? Do you love me more than these other men? Do you love me?

Just as Peter denied Jesus three times, so three times Jesus asks this question. And each time, Peter responds “Lord, you know that I love you.”

Now look at the response that this love brings. Three times, Jesus gives Peter this command:

Feed My lambs.

Tend My sheep.

Feed My sheep.

This command is so imperative that Jesus gave it three times in response to Peter’s profession of love—so what does He mean?

At the risk of being obvious, Jesus means exactly what He says: “Feed My sheep.” [Read more...]

Who Are The Saducees?

We talk a lot about Pharasaicalism within Christianity. We don’t want to seem cold and legalistic in our faith. We don’t want to be judgmental… but what ever happened to the Sadducees?

Does they (or their ethic) still exist—and if so, what do they look like?

J.C. Ryle offers this insight:

We have . . . a school of men who, wittingly or unwittingly, appear to pave the way to Socianism*—a school which holds strange views about the plenary inspiration of Holy Scripture—strange views about the doctrine of sacrifice, and the Atonement of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ—strange views about the eternity of punishment, and God’s love to man—a school strong in negatives but very weak in positives—skilful in raising doubts, but impotent in laying them—clever in unsettling and unscrewing men’s faith, but powerless to offer any firm rest for the sole of our foot . . . on them has fallen the mantle of the Sadducees…

I consider the most dangerous champion of the Sadducee school is not the man who tells you openly that he wants you . . . to become a free-thinker and a skeptic. It is the man who begins with quietly insinuating doubts . . . whether we ought to be so positive in saying “This is the truth, and that falsehood,” doubts whether we ought to think men wrong who differ from us on religious opinions, since they may after all be as much right as we are. . . . It is the man who always begins talking in a vague way about God being a God of love, and hints that we ought to believe perhaps that all men, whatever doctrine they profess, will be saved.

J.C. Ryle, Knots Untied, as quoted in Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J. C. Ryle, pp. 38-39

*Socianism was a form of unitarian teaching that denied original sin, the immortality of man, the divinity of Jesus and the significance of his death as a penal sacrifice for sin.

Give Your Amen to Jesus

There is an unfortunate tendency when it comes to interpreting John 3:16. John says, “whoever believes in him” will not perish. Some people think that “believing in” Jesus means nothing more than giving assent. They hang their hopes for heaven on this slender reed: “Sure, I believe in Jesus.” They mean that they believe that He exists and agree with at least some of what the Bible says about Him. But the biblical teaching about Jesus means practically nothing to them. They “believe in” Jesus in much the same way a child “believes in” Santa Claus. It is the particular legend or story with which they were brought up.

But John means much more than this when he writes that whoever “believes in” Jesus Christ will not perish. In his outstanding study of John’s Gospel, C. H. Dodd points out that this Greek construction translates a common Hebrew phrase in the Old Testament that employs a form of amen, a word that signifies something that is firmly held or established. Isaiah used it in his famous statement to King Ahaz: “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all” (Isa. 7:9b). Therefore, when John says “whoever believes in him,” he is speaking of those who give their “Amen” to Jesus, embracing Him as a trustworthy Savior and committing themselves to Him.

Richard D. Phillips, Jesus the Evangelist (Kindle Edition, location 1108)

Book Review: The Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms

The Psalms is one of the most read books in the Old Testament. It’s not hard to understand why since, in many ways, it is the most human book of the Bible. The Psalms are weighty and textured, showing God’s people rejoicing in faith and lamenting in despair. They contain some of the most comforting and provocative words in all Scripture.

Yet, because of the span of time between us and the culture in which they were written, there are a few things that gets lost in translation. When was Psalm 110 written? Why is Selah off to the side in Psalm 3:2? And what is a miktam, anyway? While there are a lot of resources out there that can help readers dig into the meat of the Psalms and clear up confusion about words, expressions and ideas, many are not terribly accessible for a popular audience. With The Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms, authors Brian L. Webster and David R. Beach provide readers with a helpful introductory level companion to this beloved section of Scripture.

In many ways, The Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms serves as an amped-up version of the introductory notes you’d find in your typical study Bible. They give a very brief overview of the background and structure of each psalm, as well its type and unique characteristics. For the average reader, this is tons of information, but it’s all valuable. There have been many times as I’ve read the Psalms where having some of this material would have been very handy.

A nice feature of the book is the “Reflections” section of each synopsis. These sections offer a devotional element as the authors share their own thoughts on the content of each psalm.

While there are a number of elements that I appreciated, there were a few things that stuck out as negatives. Some are simply preference issues (I thought the majority of the accompanying images were a bit on the cheesy side, for example). But there was one big miss for me, which is that some of the background notes lacked an appropriate connection to Christ. [Read more...]

The Children of the Law and The Children of the Gospel

The children of the Law will always persecute the children of the Gospel. This is our daily experience. Our opponents tell us that everything was at peace before the Gospel was revived by us. Since then the whole world has been upset. People blame us and the Gospel for everything, for the disobedience of subjects to their rulers, for wars, plagues, and famines, for revolutions, and every other evil that can be imagined. No wonder our opponents think they are doing God a favor by hating and persecuting us. Ishmael will persecute Isaac.

We invite our opponents to tell us what good things attended the preaching of the Gospel by the apostles. Did not the destruction of Jerusalem follow on the heels of the Gospel? And how about the overthrow of the Roman Empire? Did not the whole world seethe with unrest as the Gospel was preached in the whole world? We do not say that the Gospel instigated these upheavals. The iniquity of man did it.

Our opponents blame our doctrine for the present turmoil. But ours is a doctrine of grace and peace. It does not stir up trouble. Trouble starts when the people, the nations and their rulers of the earth rage and take counsel together against the Lord, and against His anointed. (Psalm 2.) But all their counsels shall be brought to naught. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. (Psalm 2:4.) Let them cry out against us as much as they like. We know that they are the cause of all their own troubles.

As long as we preach Christ and confess Him to be our Savior, we must be content to be called vicious trouble makers. These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, so said the Jews of Paul and Silas. (Acts 17:6, 7.) Of Paul they said: We have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. The Gentiles uttered similar complaints: These men do exceedingly trouble our city.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Kindle Edition, location 2586)

The Power of The Resurrection

The grotto of Gethsemane, where it is believed that Jesus was arrested following Judas' betrayal. Photo by Gary Hardman

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:8b-11)

Good Friday looms and I can’t get Phil 3:8b-11 out of my mind. When Paul writes of having lost everything—absolutely everything—for the sake of Christ, he’s not playing around. He went from, by his own account, being a star on the rise among the Pharisees to one of the most hated men among the Jews of his time. Everywhere he went, he faced dramatic opposition, and was even stoned and left for dead (then he got back up and was preaching the next day—see Acts 14:19-20).

Paul went from persecuting Christians to planting churches. The Church’s greatest opponent became her strongest advocate.

What was it that motivated his single-minded pursuit of the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ? The power of the resurrection.

Paul wanted to know Christ and the power of the resurrection—which meant that he had to share in his suffering. Suffering that, if the resurrection weren’t real, would have been unbearable.

If the resurrection didn’t happen, what reason would Paul have had to turn his back on his promising career among the Pharisees?

If the resurrection didn’t happen, what reason would he have had to say, “I consider it all rubbish?”

If the resurrection didn’t happen, what reason would he have had to say, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain?”

What reason would he have had to endure beatings, starvation, imprisonment, character assassination and ship wrecks?

Nothing.

No reason.

Sometimes people wonder if a literal resurrection actually matters. Would we lose anything if Jesus was raised spiritually or just in the hearts of his followers, some ask. Paul’s testimony and Paul’s contention in the book of Philippians answers that with a resounding “Yes!”

If there were no real, physical resurrection from the dead, Paul would not have been able to endure any of this. No one would.

Without the resurrection, we lose everything. And all we have left is rubbish.

He Will Be Holy To Make You Holy

Matt Chandler on the power of the resurrection:

[tentblogger-youtube p1U62GMO2pY]

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)

James MacDonald: Not According to Our Sins #TGC11

James MacDonald is the founding pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel here in Chicago. His message comes from Psalm 25.

The audio is available for download here. Video footage can be viewed below:

My notes follow.


Not sure if this was a gift or Carson throwing down the gauntlet—“let’s see you preach Christ out of this text, yo!”

Before we can preach Christ, we first need to preach. Many are not actually heralding the Word that has been given to them. We need to preach Christ from all the Word.

4 things by way of background on Psalm 25:

  1. It’s a psalm. They’re the most quoted books of the OT in the NT. They’re quoted over 400 times in the NT. The psalms are the songbook of Jesus.
  2. It’s a poem. Ancient Hebrew poetry with two main artistic structure. It’s an acrostic and the truths come in couplets, synonymous parallelism.
  3. It’s a pattern. Prayer, creed, prayer. It’s David in pursuit of total trust in God. That’s why I’ve called this message “When You Don’t Know What To Do.” Some of it’s about learning, some is about leaning, but it’s all about building trust.
  4. It’s the plea of a broken-hearted man. Don’t ever let your study cause paralysis in remembering that this is a real life. A psalm like this can only come from someone who understood what it was like to be crushed. Many debate when this took place in David’s life, but most agree that this has to do with Absalom (see 2 Sam 3-15).

Psalm 25:1-2a: Trust God. The whole theme of the psalm. The word for “soul” means the center of the desires, but can include the whole body.

Psalm 25:2b-3: No Shame. Can his prayer be anymore clear? “Let me not be put to shame.” It may look really bad today, your heart might be in the vice of some crushing reality, but it’s not over. What we have to learn is that there is no shame. Not in the end, not when God’s done. Is there ever an excuse or reason to be betrayed? Pastors, parents, children, people don’t deserve that. [Read more...]