Take away the foundation and lose everything

Inspiration-Bavinck

There are certain statements that are trigger warnings for me—at least, when I see them made by a Christian writer, speaker or pastor. References to 1 Corinthians’ famous “everything is permissible” statements (but only because I almost always see them used in the exact opposite way Paul meant them). Nearly any time someone says Jesus doesn’t judge, so we shouldn’t either (again, because, it’s used in almost the opposite way it’s meant in Scripture). And when someone calls the Bible something like a “different kind of center,” or a people group’s collective and growing understanding of God, or some other such thing… oh boy.

When those kinds of statements come up, I usually know where the author or speaker is going, and it’s always to a bad place. Why? Because they’ve lost their footing, having abandoned the foundation of the Bible’s authority: its nature as “God-breathed,” or inspired.

Herman Bavinck understood this all too well, living through the rise of late 19th and early 20th century liberalism. And he knew exactly where it would lead:

There is in fact only one ground on which the authority of Scripture can be based, and that is its inspiration. When that goes, also the authority of Scripture is gone and done with. In that case, it is merely a body of human writings, which as such cannot rightfully assert any claim to be a norm for our faith and conduct. And along with Scripture—for the Protestant—all authority in religion collapses. All subsequent attempts to recover some kind of authority—say, in the person of Christ, in the church, in religious experience, in the intellect or conscience—end in disappointment. They only prove that no religion can exist without authority. Religion is essentially different from science. It has a certainty of its own, not one that is based on insight but one that consists in faith and trust. And this religious faith and trust can rest only in God and in his word. In religion a human witness and human trust is insufficient; here we need a witness from God to which we can abandon ourselves in life and in death. “Our heart is restless until it rests in Thee, O Lord!” (Reformed Dogmatics vol. 1, 463)

This is something we’ve got to get. The arguments we’ve seen re-emerge over the last 20 years or so, the positions put forward by the likes of Brian McLaren, Rob Bell,1 and the like, are little more than the recycling of 19th century (and earlier) arguments by those who’ve attempted to revere the Bible in a sense, while undercutting the foundation of its reverence. We want to treat the Bible as having some sort of limited authority. And yet, unless we take seriously the foundation of its authority—that is, unless we truly embrace its inspired nature in its fullest sense—we’re only going to be disappointed. And worse, if we persist down this road, we’ll be lost in utter darkness.

Links I like

Spurgeon’s Sorrows

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Be sure to pick up a copy of Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zack Eswine for $5.50 (or $4.50 when buying four or more) at Westminster Bookstore.

Quoting “Heretics” Approvingly

Mark Jones (note: the quotation marks are important):

Who are Reformed Christians, theologians, and pastors allowed to read? Or, more specifically, who are we allowed to cite positively in our writings and conversations? Are we allowed to speak positively of anything N.T. Wright has written, for example, without getting accused of all sorts of things?

Consider Thomas Goodwin, an important member of the Westminster Assembly who helped craft the Westminster documents. Those he read and cited approvingly provide a fascinating test case into how a Reformed theologian from the seventeenth century regarded the writings of those from within and those from outside his own theological tradition.

Our seared conscience on abortion

Matt Chandler:

One of the things I have found so interesting around this topic in particular is when I sit across from unbelievers, they will often bring up … scientific data to prove their point. “How could I believe that? Look at this!” The reason I’m becoming more and more inclined that what we’re dealing with here is no longer sane but rather insane is the science of the matter falls on deaf ears when you speak to those who are secular around this matter.

Stress destroys your brain

Jane Porter:

But before you get stressed about your ever-shrinking noggin, know that we are talking about prolonged chronic stress here. There are plenty of healthy kinds of stress we experience in small doses—the kind you feel before an important meeting or presentation, for example, that can give you a boost of energy and adrenalin.

A Word for Writers and Publishing Houses

Joey Cochran shares a thought-provoking quote from William Bridge.

How to Write More Gooder

Kevin DeYoung:

I wish I knew better how to articulate the keys to good writing. When I write it is a very intuitive process. After the fact I can look back and tell you why I did what I did, and looking at an intern’s paper I can point out what needs to be improved, but coming up with the ten most important principles of effective writing has so far eluded me. What I can point to are a few simple practices which may help a great deal.

You might also enjoy my similarly titled eBook on this subject.

My Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal For This Year – It’s Not What You Think

Mark Altrogge:

Maybe BHAGs work for companies and even for some churches. But I would submit that the Bible encourages a different kind of BHAG. Here’s the Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal that I am going to shoot for this year: to be faithful. Better yet, I want to be faithful in a few small things.

The Bible doesn’t encourage us to pursue greatness, but to be faithful servants. To be faithful in small things.

No kingdom builders or co-redeemers required

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My day job exposes me to a great deal of literature and communication from “activist” Christians—folks who are very (VERY) heavily concerned with social injustices, sex trafficking, poverty alleviation, and other causes (which, y’know, we should be concerned about). However, whenever I read books coming from this group, or written by people trying to appeal to them, I get a little squeamish about the language used, which usually sounds something like this:

We’re to be world-changers, partnering with God in redeeming this broken world and building his kingdom. 

But if that’s true… why doesn’t it ring true to what the Bible says?

Kevin DeYoung helpfully puts words to my awkward feelings about this in Why We Love the Church. There, he writes:

We need to be careful about our language. I think I know what people mean when they talk about redeeming the culture or partnering with God in His redemption of the world, but we should really pick another word. Redemption has already been accomplished on the cross. We are not co-redeemers of anything. We are called to serve, bear witness, proclaim, love, do good to everyone, and adorn the gospel with good deeds, but we are not partners in God’s work of redemption.

Similarly, there is no language in Scripture about Christians building the kingdom. The New Testament, in talking about the kingdom, uses words like enter, seek, announce, see, receive, look, come into, and inherit. Do a word search and see for yourself. We are given the kingdom and brought into the kingdom. We testify about it, pray for it to come, and by faith, it belongs to us. But in the New Testament, we are never the ones who bring the kingdom. We receive it, enter it, and are given it as a gift. It is our inheritance. It’s no coincidence that “entering” and “inheriting” are two of the common verbs associated with the Promised Land in the Old Testament (see Deut. 4:1; 6:18; 16:20). The kingdom grows to be sure, and no doubt God causes it to grow by employing means (like Christians), but we are never told to create, expand, or usher in the kingdom just as the Israelites were not commanded to establish Canaan. Pray for the kingdom, yes, but not build it. (49)

This, I think, is something we need to remember.

When I see people running around trying to be world-changers, all I see are people running themselves into the ground. Before too long, they’re completely frazzled; burnt out. It’s a burden that’s too much for them to bear.

Fortunately, God’s never asked us to be world-changers. Instead, he encourages us to enter into Jesus’ rest, and be thankful for what has been provided today. To trust him with the needs of tomorrow. And to do the work he calls us to—which, yes, does include social action—not in order to build our inheritance, but as those secure in the goodness of its Builder.


Photo credit: justinbaeder via photopin cc

Our Lord and God, our brother and friend

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Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.—Isaiah 7:14

Let us to-day go down to Bethlehem, and in company with wondering shepherds and adoring Magi, let us see him who was born King of the Jews, for we by faith can claim an interest in him, and can sing, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Jesus is Jehovah incarnate, our Lord and our God, and yet our brother and friend; let us adore and admire. Let us notice at the very first glance his miraculous conception. It was a thing unheard of before, and unparalleled since, that a virgin should conceive and bear a Son. The first promise ran thus, “The seed of the woman,” not the offspring of the man. Since venturous woman led the way in the sin which brought forth Paradise lost, she, and she alone, ushers in the Regainer of Paradise. Our Saviour, although truly man, was as to his human nature the Holy One of God. Let us reverently bow before the holy Child whose innocence restores to manhood its ancient glory; and let us pray that he may be formed in us, the hope of glory. Fail not to note his humble parentage. His mother has been described simply as “a virgin,” not a princess, or prophetess, nor a matron of large estate. True the blood of kings ran in her veins; nor was her mind a weak and untaught one, for she could sing most sweetly a song of praise; but yet how humble her position, how poor the man to whom she stood affianced, and how miserable the accommodation afforded to the new-born King!

Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendour.


Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening (Photo via Lightstock)

When you love the world, you abuse it

do not love the world

We should not love the world because we can neither have nor enjoy its pleasures long. It may be that they will leave us, but if not, we must leave them. And the stronger affections we have toward anything, the more bitter the affliction when we leave it. Strong affections bring great afflictions to men and women. In Luke 12:19-20, we see how short a man’s time is. The fool there had built up a great estate: “Thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: Then whose shall those things be, which thou has provided?” We have many such fools in the world who store up much here, thinking they shall live long and be at ease. As some used to say, “Well, when I have made such a fortune, then I will give up the sea and live at ease.” But before that comes, “You fool, this night you are taken away from it in the midst of your pursuit of it.” So we cannot enjoy the things of this world. Therefore, seeing the time is short, as the apostle said, use the world, so as not to abuse it. Use the world you may, but do not love it, for then you abuse it. Use the world for your necessities, to further your journey to heaven, to further your accounts before God. But do not abuse it, do not love it. The time is short.

William Greenhill, Stop Loving the World, 61

Praise Him for everything!

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If you want to know Him, if you want to know His smile, if you want to know something about this living realization that God is your God and that He has loved you “with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3), that you are His child and that He will never leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5)—if you want this living witness of the Spirit, this ultimate assurance that is given through the love shed abroad in our hearts, going upward and back to Him in praise, worship, adoration, and thanksgiving, then begin to praise God for what you have.

Praise Him for everything—for the gifts of life and health and strength. Many people are ill and laid aside and cannot attend a place of worship. Do we thank God for our health and strength, our faculties, for all these gifts that He showers upon us so constantly and so freely? Thank God! David, of course, keeps on repeating this: “Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name … my mouth will praise thee with joyful lips” (Ps. 63:3–5). And on he goes, even down to the last verse where he says, “The king shall rejoice in God.”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Seeking the Face of God, 135-136


Photo credit: rustiqueart via photopin cc

Your goodness is no increase to God’s wealth

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If it were possible to make men clearly understand that justification is not in the least degree by their own works, how easy would it be to comfort them! but herein lies the greatest of all difficulties. Man cannot be taught that his goodness is no increase to God’s wealth, and his sin no diminution of divine riches; he will for ever be imagining that some little presents must be offered, and that mercy never can be the gratuitous bounty of Heaven. Even the miserable creature who has learned his own bankruptcy and beggary, while assured that he cannot bring anything, yet trembles to come naked and as he is. He knows he cannot do anything, but he can scarcely credit the promise which seems too good to be true—“I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.”

Yea, when he cannot deny the evidence of his own eyes, because the kind word stares him in the face, he will turn away from its glories under the sad supposition that they are intended for all men save himself. The air, the stream, the fruit, the joys and luxuries of life, he takes freely, nor ever asks whether these were not intended for a special people; but at the upper springs he stands fearing to dip his pitcher, lest the flowing flood should refuse to enter it because the vessel was too earthy to be fit to contain such pure and precious water: conscious that in Christ is all his help, it yet appears too great a presumption even to touch the hem of the Saviour’s garment. Nor is it easy to persuade the mourning penitent that sin is no barrier to grace, but that “where sin aboundeth, grace did much more abound;” and only the spirit of God can make the man who knows himself as nothing at all, receive Jesus as his all in all. When the Lord has set his heart on a man, it is not a great difficulty that will move him from his purpose of salvation, and therefore “he devises means that His banished be not expelled from him.”

Charles Spurgeon, The Saint and His Savior

The only man who truly comes to Christ

Decisions

No man truly comes to Christ unless he flies to Him as his only refuge and hope, his only way of escape from the accusations of conscience and the condemnation of God’s holy law. Nothing else is satisfactory. If a man says that having thought about the matter and having considered all sides he has on the whole decided for Christ, and if he has done so without any emotion or feeling, I cannot regard him as a man who has been regenerated. The convicted sinner no more ‘decides’ for Christ than the poor drowning man ‘decides’ to take hold of that rope that is thrown to him and suddenly provides him with the only means of escape.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers

Oh, to be so meek!

Oh to be so meek

If a man is truly meek, he yields himself up to all the influences of the Spirit of God. You know that, if you see a cork out in the river, if there be but a tiny ripple, it moves; if there is only a breath of wind, it goes up and down at once. But if some great ship is lying there, it does not stir, it keeps quite still. I daresay you think, “I want to be just as responsive to the divine will as that cork upon the surface of the stream is to every movement of the water. I wish to be as the feather that is wafted by the breath of God whichever way he pleases. Oh, that he did but will anything, and that I did it at once! Oh, that he did but speak, ay, oh, that before he spoke, I might catch the very glance of his eye, and do what he desires!” His promise is, “I will guide thee with mine eye;” and he says, “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding; whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.” Oh, to be so meek as to feel at once the motion of the Spirit of God upon the soul, and to yield oneself to it, as the plastic clay that can be moulded into any shape by the potter’s fingers! The Lord make us such, for these are the people whom he will beautify with his salvation!

Charles Spurgeon, “Beautiful for Ever”

If I were celebrating Thanksgiving…

 

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Most of those who read my blog are probably getting ready to enjoy a lovely Thanksgiving meal, followed by a football game and, perhaps, a Star Wars trailer. Lord willing, you’re not preparing to camp out in front of a store because that’d be just wrong.

Today, I will not be eating turkey with all the trimmings, nor will I be enjoying some type of delicious pie. I will be eating normal food because I am Canadian. For us, it is not Thanksgiving (that happened back in October). It is merely Thursday.

There are times when I get envious of my friends in America. It’s not because I am not happy to be a Canadian (I’m just fine with that), or anything like that. But one of the things we don’t really do well here is celebrate. We don’t have a terribly strong national identity (at least among the current generation of Canadians), and we fail to take serious stock of our history. The thing we’re most confident of, it seems, is the fact that we have “free” healthcare (if by free you mean, paid for through your income taxes rather than an insurance policy).

So when I see how American friends seem to genuinely love their country, and celebrate their history (even if they sometimes creatively edit it), I get a twinge of jealousy. But that’s kind of silly, isn’t it?

But that’s the thing about envy. Paul Tripp writes,

Envy … assumes understanding that no one has. Envy not only assumes that you know more about that other person’s life than you could ever know, it assumes that you have a clearer understanding of what is best than God does. [It] causes you to forget God’s amazing rescuing, transforming, empowering, and delivering grace. You become so occupied with accounting for what you do not have that the enormous blessings of God’s grace—blessings that we could not have earned, achieved, or deserved—go unrecognized and uncelebrated. And because envy focuses more on what you want than it does on the life that God has called you to, it keeps you from paying attention to God’s commands and warnings, and therefore leaves you in moral danger. (New Morning Mercies, November 27)

This applies as much to our national identity as it does to our personal lives.

While some Canadians have developed a distinct identity of being not Americans, others look at America and say, “I want that.” They see a form of democracy that is unique in all the western world, and wonder what it would be like to live there (even if that democracy seems to exist more in theory than in practice these days). They look at our massive social safety net and laissez-faire attitude toward everything from politics to the value of a child’s life to the government’s ongoing attempts to warp children with pervy sex-ed curricula and wonder if it’s possible to get refugee status on account of crazy.

But when all we see is what’s wrong, or what we don’t have, and our focus is only on the greener grass on the other side, we’re looking at all the wrong things. While not turning a blind eye to the problems of our nation (and there are some seriously messed up things about it), running away or wishing we were somewhere else doesn’t change where God has placed us. We could go, but our problems would follow.

We’d find new things to be envious of.

So we need a different solution. “The only solution to envy is God’s rescuing grace—grace that turns self-centered sinners into joyful and contented worshipers of God.”

Loving the world is a waste of time

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Would any man lay out gold and silver for straws, stubble, chips, butterflies, and such things as these? Those who love the world are worth more than the world, and they give that for the world which is better than the world. The best things of the world are riches, learning, and gifts. But our souls are better than all these, better than the whole word. “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). The whole world is not worth one soul; one soul is worth a million worlds. Now in laying out our time, strengths, understandings, and souls for the world and the things of the world, what expenses have we paid? We give too much for the world. The world is not worthy of our affections, understandings, strengths, and hearts. Therefore, see what the prophet said in Isaiah 55:2. He comes there with a vehement complaint. “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread?” It is not bread when you get it. It is not anything that will satisfy or in any way bring an advantage to your souls. And you spend “your labour for that which satisfieth not.” So we are at too great a cost and at too great an expense when we love the world. We labor to get the world and buy it at so dear a rate.

William Greenhill, Stop Loving the World (24-25)

Links I like (weekend edition)

Accidental discoveries that changed the world

HT: David Murray

When the Spirit Says to Put a Sock in It

Good stuff here from Douglas Wilson.

God Breaks His Silence

This study guide from Jacob Abshire looks to be very helpful. Download it for free.

Operation Christmas Child

Not sure if y’all are aware, but this week is national collection week for Operation Christmas Child. If you’re interested in taking part in this, now’s a good time.

Mom Enough

Our new book, written by eight women, exposes the spiritual corruption behind competitive mothering, and explores how gospel grace is relevant for the daily trials and worries of motherhood. In the trenches, these moms have learned to redirect their hope and trust from the shifting sands of popular opinion to the unchanging all-sufficiency of God.

Mom Enough: The Fearless Mother’s Heart and Hope, is a rich collection of gospel truth from Rachel Jankovic, Gloria Furman, Rachel Pieh Jones, Christine Hoover, Carolyn McCulley, Trillia Newbell, and Christina Fox.

No, You Are Not Running Late. You Are Rude and Inconsiderate!

Tim asks if it’s really that simple:

In many ways am inclined to agree with Savage. I can very easily see a link between promptness and character, where people of mature character tend to be the ones who show up on time, or even a few minutes early. Here in North America we could probably lobby to make it the missing fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, promptness, kindness, gentleness… But there is always one nagging little thought in the back of my mind: Jesus was late. Or was he just on time? He certainly looked late. In John 11 he is summoned to rush to the side of his friend Lazarus. But he dawdled and arrived not 20 minutes late, but 2 whole days late. By that time Lazarus was not only in the grave, but getting pretty ripe in there. His friends were disappointed in him, assuming that he didn’t properly understand the situation, or that he didn’t properly prioritize it. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

childrens story

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”
― C.S. Lewis

How cruel unbelief is

cruel unbelief

It is one of the strange things in the dealings of Jesus, that even when we arrive at this state of entire spiritual destitution, we do not always become at once the objects of his justifying grace. Long seasons frequently intervene between our knowledge of our ruin, our hearing of a deliverer, and the application of that deliverer’s hand. The Lord’s own called ones frequently turn their eyes to the hills, and find no help coming therefrom; yea, they wish to look unto him, but they are so blinded that they cannot discern him as their hope and consolation. This is not, as some would rashly conclude, because he is not the Saviour for such as they are. Far otherwise. Unbelief crieth out, “Ah! my vileness disqualifies me for Christ, and my exceeding sinfulness shuts out his love?” How foully doth unbelief lie when it thus slandereth the tender heart of Jesus! how inhumanly cruel it is when it thus takes the cup of salvation from the only lips which have a right to drink thereof! We have noticed in the preaching of the present day too much of a saint’s gospel, and too little of a sinner’s gospel. Honesty, morality, and goodness, are commended not so much as the marks of godliness, as the life of it; and men are told that as they sow, so they shall reap, without the absolutely necessary caveat that salvation is not of man, neither by man, and that grace cometh not to him that worketh, but to him that believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly. Not thus spake our ancient preachers when in all its fullness they declared—

“Not the righteous, not the righteous—
Sinners, Jesus came to save.”

Charles Spurgeon, The Saint and His Saviour

Comfort for the persecuted

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…the persecutor is in God’s hands. He cannot do more than God lets him, and if God permits him to annoy, you may cheerfully bear it. Next, remember, if you keep your conscience clear it is a great joy. Conscience is a little bird that sings more sweetly than any lark or nightingale. Rough answers outside need not trouble you while within there is the answer of a good conscience towards God. Injure your conscience and you lose that consolation; preserve it from evil and you must be happy. Remember that by patiently enduring and persevering you will have fellowship with the grandest spirits that ever lived. You cannot be a martyr and wear the blood-red crown in these days, but you can at least suffer as far as you are called to do: grace enabling you, you may have a share in the martyr’s honors. “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

Remember, too, that if you have extraordinary troubles Jesus will be doubly near to you. This is the greatest comfort of all, for in all your afflictions he is afflicted. You will find his presence in the ordinances to be very delightful. Those stolen waters which he gives you in secret fellowship are very choice, those morsels which you get by stealth, how sweet they are! The old covenantors said they never worshipped God with so much joy as in the glens and among the hills when Claverhouse’s dragoons were after them. The living is very refreshing to the Lord’s hunted harts. His bosom is very soft and warm for those who are rejected of all men for his sake. He has a marvellous way of unveiling his face to those whose faces are covered with shame because of their love to him. Oh, be content, dear friends, to watch with your Lord.

Charles Spurgeon, A Word For the Persecuted