Sincere love always finds new beauties in the One beloved

 

amber-heart

If the soul be warmed with divine love, “the various discover that God makes of himself to us, will not only be matter of frequent contemplation, but of pleasing wonder.” Admiration or wonder is a noble passion, arising from the view of something that is new and strange, or upon the notice of some rare and uncommon object: Now when so glorious and transcendent a being as the great and blessed God, becomes the object of our notice and our love, with what pleasure do we survey his glories, which are so rare, so uncommon, that there are none to compare with them. We shall meditate on the surprizing discoveries that he has made of himself, till we find new matter of holy admiration in all of them. Sincere and fervent love is ever finding some new beauties and wonders in the person so much beloved.

Isaac Watts, The Works of the Rev. Isaac Watts, vol. 2, 525

 

Where is Jesus Christ?

Jesus-Reaching-Out

photo: iStock

At the Christmas break in 1963, I brought home to the Ottawa area a friend I had come to know and enjoy at the university I was attending. Mohammed Yousuf Guraya was a Pakistani, a devout Muslim, a gentle and sensitive friend. He was trying to win me to Islam; I was trying to win him to Christ. He had started to read the Gospel of John when I took him to visit the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. We enjoyed a guided tour of those majestic structures and learned something of their history and symbolism. Our group had reached the final foyer when the guide explained the significance of the stone figurines sculpted into the fluted arches. One he pointed to represented Moses, designed to proclaim that government turns on law.

“Where is Jesus Christ?” Guraya asked with his loud, pleasant voice, his white teeth flashing a brilliant smile behind his black beard.

“I don’t understand,” the guide stammered.

“Where is Jesus Christ?” Guraya pressed, a trifle more slowly, a little more loudly, enunciating each word for fear his accent had rendered his question incomprehensible.

The tourists in our group appeared to be embarrassed. I simultaneously chortled inwardly, wondering what was coming next, and wondered if I should intervene or keep my counsel.

“I don’t understand,” the guide repeated, somewhat baffled, somewhat sullen. “What do you mean? Why should Jesus be represented here?”

Guraya replied, somewhat astonished himself now: “I read in your Holy Book that the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Where is Jesus Christ?

I think my friend Guraya had felt the impact of John’s Gospel more deeply than I had. It is in line with the framework of John’s prologue (1:1–18), where the eternal Word becomes the incarnate Word, that Jesus himself claims, “I am the truth.”

D. A. Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14–17 (28-29)

A Constant, Delighting and Enduring Love

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church.” (Ephesians 5:25)

What a golden example Christ gives to His disciples! Few masters could venture to say, “If you would practice my teaching, imitate my life;” but as the life of Jesus is the exact transcript of perfect virtue, He can point to Himself as the paragon of holiness, as well as the teacher of it. The Christian should take nothing short of Christ for his model. Under no circumstances ought we to be content unless we reflect the grace which was in Him. As a husband, the Christian is to look upon the portrait of Christ Jesus, and he is to paint according to that copy. The true Christian is to be such a husband as Christ was to His church.

The love of a husband is special. The Lord Jesus cherishes for the church a peculiar affection, which is set upon her above the rest of mankind: “I pray for them, I pray not for the world.” The elect church is the favourite of heaven, the treasure of Christ, the crown of His head, the bracelet of His arm, the breastplate of His heart, the very centre and core of His love. A husband should love his wife with a constant love, for thus Jesus loves His church. He does not vary in His affection. He may change in His display of affection, but the affection itself is still the same. A husband should love his wife with an enduring love, for nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” A true husband loves his wife with a hearty love, fervent and intense. It is not mere lip-service.

Ah! beloved, what more could Christ have done in proof of His love than He has done? Jesus has a delighted love towards His spouse: He prizes her affection, and delights in her with sweet complacence. Believer, you wonder at Jesus’ love; you admire it—are you imitating it? In your domestic relationships is the rule and measure of your love—”even as Christ loved the church.

C.H. Spurgeon, A Glorious Church, delivered on May 7th, 1865, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

(HT: Randy Alcorn)

 

Shall Not The Judge Of All The Earth Do What Is Just?

How can a God who loves the world permit anyone to perish this way? Jesus answers, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). The key word is condemned. The God who loves the world is also a perfectly holy judge. Abraham asked, “Shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18:25). The answer is yes! God’s holy nature requires justice. This means that we must be judged for our sins unless they can be removed, the judgment being eternal death (see Rom. 6:23).

This is where God’s love enters, because God showed His love for the world by sending His Son to die for our sins. God made a way for us to be forgiven and escape judgment, at infinite cost to Himself. This way requires that we receive God’s Son in faith, so that our sins may be transferred to His account at the cross, where Jesus died as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29b). But if we spurn God’s loving offer of salvation and refuse to believe on Jesus Christ, neither we nor God can avoid our condemnation. No unbeliever will suffer in hell because God lacked love, but “because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

People resent the thought of God condemning anyone, especially them. But we have no cause to resent God. Jesus Himself revealed God’s purpose in giving His Son to die for our sins: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). God is never mean-spirited, even in His awful wrath. He has extended love to a world that is wicked, rebellious, and already condemned. God did not send Jesus to cause sinners to perish; sinners were going to perish without Jesus having to die. But God lovingly sent His Son to pay with His own blood the sin-debt for all who believe. God is like a doctor who prescribes the healing medicine. But if we refuse to admit our sickness and refuse to take the pills, we condemn ourselves to death. So it is with all who refuse to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Richard D. Phillips, Jesus the Evangelist (Kindle Edition, location 1150)

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.

Did Jesus and Paul Preach the Same Gospel?

This question has been on the minds of many evangelicals in recent years. In considering the question, I found this passage from Michael Horton’s new book, The Gospel Commission, very helpful and insightful:

Pitting Jesus (and the kingdom motif) against Paul (and the emphasis on personal salvation) used to be a hobby of liberal Protestants. Alfred Loissy, a liberal Roman Catholic writer, once quipped that Jesus announced a kingdom, but instead it was a church that came. So on one side is Jesus, with his invitation to humanity to participate in his kingdom by bringing peace and justice, and on the other side is Paul who spoke instead of the church and personal salvation by belonging to it…

Besides revealing a seriously deficient view of Scripture, this contrast between Jesus and Paul rests on a misunderstanding of our Lord’s teaching concerning the kingdom. Jesus’s proclamation of the kingdom is identical to Paul’s proclamation of the gospel of justification. Contracting the kingdom with the church is another way of saying that the main point of Jesus’s commission consists of our social action rather than in the public ministry of the Word and sacrament. In other words, it’s another way of saying that we are building the kingdom rather than receiving it; that the kingdom of God’s redeeming grace is actually a kingdom of our redeeming works.

Jesus’s message of the kingdom as the forgiveness of sins and the dawning of the new creation was inseparable from his promise to build his church and to give his apostles the keys of the kingdom through the ministry of preaching, sacrament, and discipline. This motif of the kingdom was hardly lost in the apostolic era. It was this gospel of the kingdom that Peter and the other apostles proclaimed immediately after Jesus’s ascension (Acts 2:14-36; 3:12-16; 17:2-3). And this aws also the heart of Paul’s message (1 Cor. 15:3-4).

If the preaching of the gospel, no less than the miracles, is the sign that the kingdom has come, Paul’s message and ministry can only serve as confirmation of the kingdom’s arrival.

Michael Horton, The Gospel Commission: Recovering God’s Strategy for Making Disciples, pp. 75-76

Following God May End Badly

(Can’t see the video? Click through to the site.)

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)

#TGC11 Day 3 Reflections

Emily and I took a few minutes last night to talk about the final day of The Gospel Coalition’s 2011 National Conference:

 

The last few days have been fantastic for Emily and I. We’ve been greatly encouraged by our time in Chicago and were blessed to talk with so many great people.

More from us when we get home!

D.A. Carson: Getting Excited about Melchizedek #TGC11

In the final plenary session of The Gospel Coalition’s 2011 National Conference, D.A. Carson expounds on Psalm 110, the psalm most quoted in all the New Testament.

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

 

My notes follow:


The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter.

Rule in the midst of your enemies!

Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours.

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.

He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses, he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.

He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head. (Psalm 110 ESV)

Most of the controlling themes in the Bible don’t resonate well with the dominate culture in the west. Think of the categories:

Covenant. Priests. Sacrifice. Blood Offering. King. Passover. Day of Atonement. Year of Jubilee.

King. We speak of King Jesus. When Jesus announced His coming, He did not announce the coming of the republic of God. The king of the Bible is not a constitutional monarch. King has very different references.

We’re not thinking in these terms alone.

Yet Melchizedek turns out to be one of the most instructive figures in the whole Bible for helping us put together our Bible and seeing who Jesus is. God has put things together in the Bible in this way for our good.

Melchizedek only shows up in the OT in two places, once in Genesis and once here. And he shows up only once in the NT and that’s it. Yet he is absolutely revolutionary in our understanding of the Bible.

So we begin with Psalm 110. [Read more…]

#TGC11 Starts Today!

I’m in Chicago today for The Gospel Coalition’s 2011 National Conference and I’m super-excited. Here’s D.A. Carson and Tim Keller talking about the big idea of this year’s event:

Look for updates throughout the day!

Also, if you weren’t able to make it to the conference, Desiring God is live streaming all the plenary sessions at DesiringGod.org beginning at 2 p.m. CDT. I hope you’ll be able to tune in!

Dispensing Grace And Peace

That Christ is very God is apparent in that Paul ascribes to Him divine powers equally with the Father, as for instance, the power to dispense grace and peace. This Jesus could not do unless He were God.

To bestow peace and grace lies in the province of God, who alone can create these blessings. The angels cannot. The apostles could only distribute these blessings by the preaching of the Gospel. In attributing to Christ the divine power of creating and giving grace, peace, everlasting life, righteousness, and forgiveness of sins, the conclusion is inevitable that Christ is truly God. Similarly, St. John concludes from the works attributed to the Father and the Son that they are divinely One. Hence, the gifts which we receive from the Father and from the Son are one and the same. Otherwise Paul should have written: Grace from God the Father, and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ. In combining them he ascribes them equally to the Father and the Son. I stress this on account of the many errors emanating from the sects.

The Arians were sharp fellows. Admitting that Christ had two natures, and that He is called very God of very God, they were yet able to deny His divinity. The Arians took Christ for a noble and perfect creature, superior even to the angels, because by Him God created heaven and earth. Mohammed also speaks highly of Christ. But all their praise is mere palaver to deceive men. Paul’s language is different. To paraphrase him: You are established in this belief that Christ is very God because He gives grace and peace, gifts which only God can create and bestow.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Kindle Edition, location 171)

Book Review: Counterfeit Gospels by Trevin Wax

What is the gospel?

It seems like such a simple question, doesn’t it? Yet, if you ask 10 different people, you might get 12 different answers.

Why is that? Why is it that there seems to be so much confusion over what all who profess faith in Christ believe is the greatest news of all?

Why have we traded something so glorious for a pale substitute—a counterfeit? That’s the question at the heart of Trevin Wax’s new book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope.

So why do we fall for counterfeits in the first place? Why are they so alluring? The reality, according to Wax, is that they’re just easier than the real gospel. Counterfeits don’t cost us anything, and indeed, they can make us quite popular in the eyes of non believers.

Yet a counterfeit gospel will always leave our souls impoverished at just the point we should be enriched. Counterfeits leave our hearts and affections for God depleted at just the time we should be overflowing with passion to share the good news with others. (p. 13)

Our acceptance of counterfeits has led to a threefold crisis within the Church. Where we should have clarity of the gospel story, we have confusion. Where we should have bold proclamation, we lack conviction. Where we should have vibrant gospel community, we instead retreat from society or become exactly like it.

I greatly appreciated reading Wax’s succinct identification of the crisis within Evangelicalism; indeed it was something of an “aha” moment for me as it described many of the frustrations I have had when speaking with fellow believers in my community. This is in no way meant to malign anyone in our city, but when churches see themselves as “homeless” because they’re between buildings or believers don’t feel like they can share their faith with someone because they don’t have any answers to hard questions that might arise, there is something wrong.

Wax quickly moves from identifying the problem to the solution, tackling each aspect of what he describes as the three-legged stool of the gospel, first by unpacking the genuine article followed an examination of the counterfeits. [Read more…]