Christian Faithfulness in the Last Days – Lessons from The Gospel Coalition 2010 Conference

On Saturday, April 24, 2010, I had the privilege of attending The Gospel Coalition’s first ever Canadian conference featuring D.A. Carson and Mike Bullmore as the keynote speakers.

Dr. Carson kicked off the conference with the message Christian Faithfulness in the Last Days – The Need for the Gospel Coalition.

He began with by giving us a bit of background on how the Gospel Coalition came together as he and Tim Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian came together and realized they’d been reflecting on something similar: The centrality of the gospel was being lost in evangelicalism. “Today, people do what is right in their own eyes—with the gospel becom[ing] something assumed rather than central,” lamented Carson. The Gospel Coalition came together out of a desire “to be robust about Scripture [and] to hold up the centrality of the gospel.” And this is of the greatest import for those of us living in “the last days.”

While some have indulged in “a feeding frenzy of speculation over the end times,” Carson reminded us that, “The last days refer to the entire period between Christ’s ascension and second coming. Whether it’s three weeks or three thousand years is irrelevant. . . . All authority has been given to Jesus, and while it’s contested, the kingdom has still come. The old is passing away.”

This led to a study of 2 Timothy 3:1-4:8, first asking, “What does Paul see in the last days?” [Read more...]

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Faith Creates a Prompt Obedience

Genuine faith in God creates a prompt obedience.

“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed.”There was an immediate response to the command. Delayed obedience is disobedience.

I wish some Christians, who put off duty, would remember this. Continued delay of duty is a continuous sin. If I do not obey the divine command, I sin; and every moment that I continue in that condition, I repeat the sin.

This is a serious matter. If a certain act is my duty at this hour, an I leave it undone, I have sinned; but it will be equally incumbent upon me during the next hour; and if I still refuse, I disobey again and so on till I do obey. Neglect of a standing command must grow very grievous if it be persisted in for years.

In proportion as the conscience becomes callous upon the subject, the guilt becomes the more provoking to the Lord. To refuse to do right is a great evil; but to continue in that refusal till conscience grows numb upon the matter is far worse. . . .

Obedience is for the present tense: it must be prompt, or it is nothing. Obedience respects the time of the command as much as any other part of it.

To hesitate is to be disloyal.

To halt and consider whether you will obey or not, is rebellion in the germ.

If thou believest in the living God unto eternal life, thou wilt be quick to do thy Lord’s bidding, even as a maid hearkens to her mistress. Thou wilt not be as the horse, which needs whip and spur; thy love will do more for thee than compulsion could do for slaves. Thou wilt have wings to thy heels to hasten thee along the way of obedience. “Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from the sermon The Obedience of Faith, delivered on August 21st, 1890, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: The Kind of Faith Which Produces Obedience

It is, manifestly, faith in God as having the right to command our obedience.

He has a greater claim upon our ardent service than he has upon the services of angels; for, while they were created as we have been, yet they have never been redeemed by precious blood.

Our glorious Incarnate God has an unquestioned right to every breath we breathe, to every thought we think, to every moment of our lives, and to every capacity of our being.

This loyalty of our mind is based on faith, and is a chief prompter to obedience.

[W]e must have faith in the rightness of all that God says or does.

If the Lord be God, he must be infallible; and if he can be described as in error in the little respects of human history and science, he cannot be trusted in the greater matters.

The words of the Lord are like fine gold, pure, precious, and weighty—not one of them may be neglected. We hear people talk about “minor points,” and so on; but we must not consider any word of our God as a minor thing, if by that expression is implied that it is of small importance.

We must accept every single word of precept, or prohibition, or instruction, as being what it ought to be, and neither to be diminished nor increased. We should not reason about the command of God as though it might be set aside or amended. He bids: we obey. [Read more...]

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Faith is the Fountain, Foundation and Fosterer of Obedience

Faith is the fountain, the foundation, and the fosterer of obedience.

Men obey not God till they believe him. We preach faith in order that men may be brought to obedience. To disbelieve is to disobey.

One of the first signs of practical obedience is found in the obedience of the mind, the understanding, and the heart; and this is expressed in believing the teaching of Christ, trusting to his work, and resting in his salvation.

Faith is the morning star of obedience. If we would work the work of God, we must believe on Jesus Christ whom he has sent.

Brethren, we do not give a secondary place to obedience, as some suppose. We look upon the obedience of the heart to the will of God as salvation. The attainment of perfect obedience would mean perfect salvation. We regard sanctification, or obedience, as the great design for which the Saviour died. He shed his blood that he might cleanse us from dead works, and purify unto himself a people zealous for good works. It is for this that we were chosen: we are “elect unto holiness.” We know nothing of election to continue in sin. It is for this that we have been called: we are “called to be saints.”

Obedience is the grand object of the work of grace in the hearts of those who are chosen and called: they are to become obedient children, conformed to the image of the Elder Brother, with whom the Father is well pleased.

The obedience that comes of faith is of a noble sort.

The obedience of a slave ranks very little higher than the obedience of a well-trained horse or dog, for it is tuned to the crack of the whip. Obedience which is not cheerfully rendered is not the obedience of the heart, and consequently is of little worth before God. If the man obeys because he has no opportunity of doing otherwise, and if, were he free, he would at once become a rebel—there is nothing in his obedience.

The obedience of faith springs from a principle within, and not from compulsion without.

It is sustained by the mind’s soberest reasoning and the heart’s warmest passion. The man reasons with himself that he ought to obey his Redeemer, his Father, his God; and, at the same time, the love of Christ constrains him so to do, and thus what argument suggests affection performs. A sense of great obligation, an apprehension of the fitness of obedience, and spiritual renewal of heart, work an obedience which becomes essential to the sanctified soul. Hence, it is not relaxed in the time of temptation, nor destroyed in the hour of losses and sufferings.

Life has no trial which can turn the gracious soul from its passion for obedience; and death itself doth but enable it to render an obedience which shall be as blissful as it will be complete. Yes, this is a chief ingredient of heaven—that we shall see the face of our Lord, and serve him day and night in his temple. Meanwhile, the more fully we obey at this present, the nearer we shall be to his temple-gate. May the Holy Spirit work in us, so that, by faith—like Abraham—we may obey!

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from the sermon The Obedience of Faith, delivered on August 21st, 1890, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

Zac Smith: "If God Chooses Not to Heal Me, God is still God and God is Still Good"

 

[tentblogger-vimeo 9796056]

Update: Zac died recently and now stands with Jesus in glory. He didn’t waste his life, and he didn’t waste his cancer. Please keep his family in your prayers.

The powerful testimony of Zac Smith of Newspring Church:

In May of 2009, I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer; immediately I had surgery to remove a foot and a half of my large intestine and a lemon size tumor… The cancer had spread to my spleen and my liver. Chemotherapy was on the horizon.

I found myself very confused – why did I have cancer? Had I something wrong to cause it? Was this the result of sinful living in my past?

But quickly the confusion turned to hope… I didn’t understand why I had cancer, but I knew that God was in charge.

For three months I underwent a horrible chemo regimen. Afterwards, I had a scan done and the results were great. There was no cancer found in my body. We celebrated God’s healing and God’s failing.. but another scan a month later showed that the cancer reappeared a month later… [Read more...]

Around the Interweb (03/14)

How I found God and peace with my atheist brother

Peter Hitchens with his brother Christopher, on the left, during their 2008 debate in Grand Rapids

Meet Peter Hitchens, the brother of atheist Christopher Hitchens:

I set fire to my Bible on the playing fields of my Cambridge boarding school one bright, windy spring afternoon in 1967. I was 15 years old. The book did not, as I had hoped, blaze fiercely and swiftly. . . . [T]his was my Year Zero. I was engaged in a full, perfect and complete rebellion against everything I had been brought up to believe. [. . .] No doubt I should be ashamed to confess that fear played a part in my return to religion, specifically a painting: Rogier van der Weyden’s 15th Century Last Judgement, which I saw in Burgundy while on holiday.

I had scoffed at its mention in the guidebook, but now I gaped, my mouth actually hanging open, at the naked figures fleeing towards the pit of Hell.

These people did not appear remote or from the ancient past; they were my own generation. Because they were naked, they were not imprisoned in their own age by time-bound fashions.

On the contrary, their hair and the set of their faces were entirely in the style of my own time. They were me, and people I knew.

Read more.

HT: Jim Skaggs & Trevin Wax

In other news

Kevin DeYoung: “If you are retooling your church to fit the Starbucks model, try reading Ephesians instead.”

Mark Clement: If you want to influence culture, stop imitating it.

The Gospel Coalition 2010 Canada Conference: Join D.A. Carson & Mike Bullmore for the Gospel Coalition Ontario Chapter’s first ever conference. The theme of this event is the centrality of the gospel in authentic Christian ministry. This conference will be held at West Highland Baptist Church, 1605 Garth Street, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Click here for more details or to register.

In case you missed it

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

A review of Adrian Warnock’s excellent book Raised with Christ: How the Resurrection Changes Everything

Jude: Contending Against False Teachers

BB. Warfield: The Exultant Joy of Being a Miserable Sinner

D.A. Carson on the Drifting of Evangelicalism

On Suffering Well and The Wasted Life

Matt Chandler, center, holds hands with his son Reid, 4, left, and daughter Audrey, 7, in Flower Mound, Texas as they take a walk after a treatment for Matt's brain cancer. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

 

Yesterday, Eric Gorski from the Associated Press published a fantastic article on Pastor Matt Chandler’s battle with brain cancer. If you’ve not read it, you absolutely must.  

In the article, Gorski wrote,  

Matt Chandler doesn’t feel anything when the radiation penetrates his brain. It could start to burn later in treatment. But it hasn’t been bad, this time lying on the slab. Not yet, anyway.  

Another cancer patient Chandler has gotten to know spends his time in radiation imagining that he’s playing a round of golf at his favorite course. Chandler on this first Monday in January is reflecting on Colossians 1:15-23, about the pre-eminence of Christ and making peace through the blood of his cross.  

Chandler’s hands are crossed over his chest. He wears a mask with white webbing that keeps his head still when metal fingers slide into place on the radiation machine, delivering the highest possible dose to what is considered to be fatal and incurable brain cancer.  

Yesterday I was listening (briefly) to Tapestry on CBC Radio One while on the way to read a book and drink a warm beverage. I caught a snippet of an interview with William Lobdell, a journalist who became a Christian in his twenties, served as the religion reporter for one of the biggest newspapers in the U.S. since become an atheist.  

In talking about the Christian worldview, he said something that really caught my attention, which was that,  

Christians see this life as a fleeting moment in light of eternity. So to waste a day, a month, a year… it’s not really a big deal. They think they’ve got all eternity. But for an atheist, because we know this is all there is, we take as much joy as we can and make the most of every moment (my paraphrase).  

[Read more...]

A Faith Worth Imitating

faith-imitating

Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

 

Seven times—in 1 Cor. 4:16 & 11:1, Phil. 3:17, 2 Thess. 3:7, 1 Tim. 4:12, Titus 2:7 and 1 Pet. 5:3—we’re told to follow the example of others who are following Christ’s (imperfect as they may be).

It seems that the Holy Spirit was pretty emphatic on this point when inspiring the Scriptures.

The example of others is a critical part of our growth as Christians.

Of course, this also means that as we follow the example of others, we must be an example worth following.

I guess, then, the question for me becomes:

How am I doing with that?

Is my faith worth imitating? Am I an example that should be followed? [Read more...]

147 Million

147-million

On Monday night, Russell Moore posted the following on Twitter:

147 million orphans are out there tonight. 147 million.
Where are you?

It’s a provocative challenge, isn’t it? 147 million children without a mom and dad.

I think about my two year old girl sleeping in the other room, and I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like for her to not have her parents, and it breaks my heart to even try.

Something Emily and I decided to do a few years ago was adopt; after we saw how the foster system affected our extended family, we knew it was something we wanted to do. And after we became Christians, that desire as we read and began to understand passages like James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” For us, it was really encouraging to see throughout Scripture how God shows how much He cares for those who desperately need it. And so we want to do the same.

Now, here’s what I’m not doing: I’m not pointing my finger at anyone and saying “You’re not doing enough!”

I’m also not saying that everyone who is a Christian should adopt. But, maybe some of us should.

Maybe we need to open our homes to children living in the foster system and be a family—even for a few weeks—to a boy or girl who needs one.

Maybe we need to sponsor a child with Compassion, and provide an opportunity to have his or her life transformed by the gospel, as the church proclaims it in word and deed.

Maybe we need to volunteer with an after-school program in our community and be a positive voice in a child’s life.

There are so many things we can do. And there are a lot of who are doing these things, to the glory of God. In an act of obedience, an act of worship, they’re reaching out to care for those who are in need. Regardless of our feelings on social justice, it is a fruit of the gospel. It is a part of living out our faith. A part we’d all be wise not to ignore.

“[B]e doers of the word, and not hearers only,” James tells us.

How will we respond today?

My Heroes in the Faith

Matt at EV recently wrote about who he considered his heroes in the faith—those people whose lives have been an encouragement and a model for his own.

I’ve been thinking about that question for a few days now. I’ve answered this question in part over at Evangelical Village in an interview, looking at three people who’ve impacted my faith. There, I answered Matt Chandler of the Village Church, my friend Adam Duguay, and my lovely wife Emily. Those three have all made a huge impact on me (and one without having ever met me, thanks to the wonders of modern technology).

But I’ve found it to limit myself, simply because there are so many. The Apostle Paul is a huge influence, in part because he is the greatest example of God’s grace to sinful humanity. A murderer of Christian men and women, saved by Jesus to become His instrument.

His disciple, Timothy, who was beaten to death in Ephesus for contending for the gospel.

Men like John Piper, Tom Carson, Charles Spurgeon, Chris Matthisen, and so many others all are men I look to as an example of the pursuit of holiness.

But in thinking about this subject, I came across an article by John Piper called Hero Worship and Holy Emulation. Because it deals with this very subject, I felt it would be appropriate to share an excerpt:

What is the meaning of the attention given to well-known pastors? What does the desire for autographs and photographs mean? The negative meaning would be something akin to name-dropping. Our egos are massaged if we can say we know someone famous. You see this on blogs with words like “my friend Barack” and the like. And I presume that, for some, an autograph or a photo has the same ego-boost.

However, I don’t assume the worst of people. There are other possible motives. We will see this below. But it is good to emphasize that all of this is more dangerous to our souls than bullets and bombs. Pride is more fatal than death.

When I say “our souls” I mean all of us—the signature-seeker, the signer, and the cynic who condemns it all (on his very public blog). There is no escaping this new world. The question is, How do we navigate it for the glory of Christ, the crucifixion of self, the spread of truth, the deepening of faith, and the empowering of sacrificial love?

Here is one small contribution. In spite of all the legitimate warnings against hero worship, I want to risk waving a flag for holy emulation—which includes realistic admiration. Hero worship means admiring someone for unholy reasons and seeing all he does as admirable (whether it’s sin or not). Holy emulation, on the other hand, sees evidences of God’s grace, and admires them for Christ’s sake, and wants to learn from them and grow in them.

May we not make idols of our influences; they are a poor substitute for our Savior.

Week Four: A Step in Faith

It’s a short update this week, and admittedly vague, but I actually learned the most in the fourth week of the challenge than in any of the previous weeks. This post is very much a follow up to last week’s on finding direction; if you have a moment, please do give it a read as it will give some further context to what I’m talking about here.

I’ve been contemplating on the words of my mentor regarding God ordaining the recent events of my life to draw me closer to Him, and to move knowledge from my head to my heart. Something I think that needs to happen in this is also taking action on ideas that have been in my head for more than a year.

Almost two years ago, I had a dream that didn’t make any sense to me at the time as it involved me doing things I didn’t have the skills for. This dream freaked me out for a number of reasons, the most primary being that it involved public speaking. Up until fairly recently, I was one of the worst public speakers you’d ever see. I could barely string together a sentence when people were watching. Once, my friend (and former supervisor) Richard counted more than 40 “uhs” and “ums” in a 5 minute report. In college, we always used to make fun of how awkward my hand gestures were during presentations (it was like I was beating eggs the entire time).

In January 2008, I joined Toastmasters at the request of my employer, and I’ve actually become a good speaker. Not brilliant, by any stretch, but I can definitely hold an audience’s attention. I’m honestly not ready to talk about what that dream was yet (publicly), but I can say that public speaking is no longer the issue it was for me.

This week, I’m taking a step in faith and sending an email that I probably wouldn’t have sent if it hadn’t been for Chris’ encouragement. This is a scary thing for me to do, as I don’t know what the outcome will be. Maybe nothing. Maybe something big. I really don’t know.

Only time will tell.

Blogging the Psalms: Psalm 71

Something I’ve never fully appreciated in the Psalms until recently is the revealed constant reliance on God of the authors, especially during difficult seasons of life.

It’s truly inspiring to see this, even in a song of lament like Psalm 71 these statements:

Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you (v. 4-6, emphasis added).

But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more (v. 14).

The Psalmist boldly proclaims, “You are my hope. My praise is continually of you… I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.” He does this while in the midst of trial! He does this while facing persecution from his enemies.

This is a big deal!

The psalms bring this important lesson—that despite our circumstances, despite our trials, despite our hardships, we can and should continue to praise God for all He is and all He has done—in a way that few writings can.

They show us what faith lived out really looks like:

It’s tangible. It’s deep. It’s all encompassing. And it’s awe-inspiring.

Honestly, who among us, who profess to be followers of Jesus, wouldn’t want a faith like this?

I want it. And by God’s grace, I will proclaim like the Psalmist, “You are my hope! I will hope continually and praise you yet more and more.”

For other entries in this series, please visit the Blogging the Psalms page.