Fright of one sin is not repentance of all

spurgeon

Jesus never enters the soul of man to drive out one or two sins, nor even to overcome a band of vices to the exception of others; his work is perfect, not partial; his cleansings are complete baptisms; his purifyings tend to remove all our dross, and consume all our tin. He sweeps the heart from its dust as well as its Dagons; he suffers not even the most insignificant spider of lust to spin its cobweb, with allowance, on the walls of his temple. All heinous sins and private sins, youthful sins and manhood’s sins, sins of omission and of commission, of word and of deed, of thought and of imagination, sins against God or against man, all will combine like a column of serpents in the desert to affright the new-born child of heaven; and he will desire to see the head of every one of them broken beneath the heel of the destroyer of evil, Jesus, the seed of the woman. Believe not thyself to be truly awakened unless thou abhorrest sin in all its stages, from the embryo to the ripe fruit, and in all its shades, from the commonly allowed lust down to the open and detested crime. When Hannibal took oath of perpetual hatred to the Romans, he included in that oath plebeians as well as patricians; so if thou art indeed at enmity with evil, thou wilt abhor all iniquity, even though it be of the very lowest degree. Beware that thou write not down affright at one sin as being repentance for all.

C. H. Spurgeon, The Saint and His Savior: The Progress of the Soul in the Knowledge of Jesus, 84–85

Accidental double agents in the pulpit

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You have heard it said, “Pray like a Calvinist and work like an Arminian”—or, “pray as though everything depended on God, but work as though everything depended on you.”

But I tell you, this silly nonsense should never be heard coming from the lips of a consistent Evangelical Protestant.

Ever.

The reason is simple: aside from being stupid, it’s heresy.1

This realization hit me as I continued my trek through Bruce Shelley’s wonderful Church History in Plain Language. There, as he writes about the founding of the Jesuit order, the Catholic Counterreformation, and the Council of Trent, he explains:

Luther, Calvin, and Grebel stressed salvation by grace alone; the council emphasized grace and human cooperation with God to avoid, in [Ignatius of] Loyola’s terms, “the poison that destroys freedom.” “Pray as though everything depended on God alone;” Ignatius advised, “but act as though it depended on you alone whether you will be saved.” (Kindle location 5346)

One should quickly and easily see the problem with this kind of thinking.2 Whether we’re using this concept in thinking about our own growth in godliness, encouragement to fellow believers, or in ministry to the lost, it is a failure to recognize that everything does depend on God, both in prayer and in practice.

Praying as though everything depends on God is right and true—but we also must work as though everything depends upon Him. Because everything does.

This is the truth of Philippians 2:12-13—that, as we work, God works through us. This is the reality of John 15:5—if we abide in Christ, we will bear much fruit. But apart from Him, we can do nothing. This is the fact of John 14:12—that we who believe will do the works Jesus does!3

There is no dependence upon us to get things done. God is not passive. Nor is He is impotent.

We work, knowing that it is God who works through us. We are instruments in the hands the master craftsmen, and joyfully so!

A cute soundbyte makes for a memorable quote, but if we don’t think about our words, we may also be acting as accidental double agents in the pulpit.


Photo credit: Normand Desjardins Café•Moka Personnel/Personal via photopin cc

Links I like

Preaching ‘God’ and Justifying the Self

Derek Rishmawy:

…if you can see how that can work in the self-justifying God-rhetoric of the left, isn’t there just a chance those of us on the more conservative end of things can fall prey to this too? I mean, surely, if you’ve got a Reformed understanding of the power of indwelling sin, you can’t put this past yourself, right?

Stop Pretending Everything Is Awesome

Chris Martin offers three reasons why.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

What’s the Point of Making the Bible More Beautiful?

Jason Morehead on the recent Bibliotheca Kickstarter:

There’s no denying that Bibliotheca is a true labor of love. The simple fact that, in order to create his custom typefaces, Greene taught himself traditional letterforms (he wanted to “mimic the reverence that’s given to text in Hebrew traditions”) should make that plainly clear. As a designer myself, I can’t help but applaud his attention to detail and desire for excellence. And I’m not the only one; his Kickstarter project has raised over a million dollars to date, far surpassing his original goal of $37,000.

But is this all really necessary? Must we approach the Bible like a work of art? Should we? What does hand-crafted typography have to do with “piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart?”

When God Loves Me Too Much

Tim Challies:

And there it was, right before me. I saw it. I longed for it. I felt that longing, that desire, in my chest, or was it my stomach? Did my heart really skip a beat? There it was, so close, but it wasn’t mine. It was there, yet just out of reach.

In that very moment the thought flashed through my mind: If God really loved me, he would give it to me.

 

Links I like

Defending Tony Dungy’s Right to Have an Opinion

Ted Kluck:

I had an opportunity to interview Dungy a few years ago and found him to be humble, gracious, and soft-spoken—exactly the kind of coach I would want my kid playing for. He’s not perfect—just a sinner like you and me and Dan Wetzel and Michael Sam. But Dungy is the kind of coach I would want to play for in that he seemed to treat every human in his orbit with a lot of respect and grace. I don’t have to tell you how rare this is in football. Dignity can sometimes be in short supply. That’s why I’m defending him (in a small way), but in a larger way defending his right to have an opinion.

Here are several of my own opinions.

Spurgeon’s lost sermons to be released

This is very exciting news for Spurgeon fans. Looking forward to owning a copy of this set someday.

Mosul’s Last Christians Flee Iraq’s Hoped-For Christian Stronghold

Kate Tracy:

Mosul, home to the Old Testament prophet Jonah’s tomb and the ruins of Nineveh, was intended by Iraq’s government to anchor a future province where Christians could govern themselves. This past weekend, ISIS gave Christians until noon Saturday to choose between the three options. “After this date,” read the ISIS declaration, “the only thing between us and them is the sword.” The New York Times reports that, while a few Christians may remain in hiding after this weekend, Mosul’s once diverse Christian community has likely come to a “real end.”

The Liberating Impossibility Of Repayment

Tullian Tchividjian:

Many of us Christians spend our lives trying to “reciprocate” for Jesus’ gift–to adequately say “thank you.” But if we turn a big enough gift into an obligation, we are crushed by it.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And for Batman fans, yesterday Amazon had several graphic novels on sale for $2.99 a piece. They may or may not be still on sale today.

What We Talk About When We Talk About ‘Birth Control’

Karen Swallow Prior nails it:

I suspect one of the greatest obstacles to constructive dialogue on the questions about birth control raised by the Hobby Lobby case is the imprecision of the terms being discussed. Perhaps, then, the first step toward finding agreement—or at least correctly identifying at the points on which we can agree to disagree—is to employ common definitions.

Being Gospel-Centered Is a Bloody Mess

Mike Leake:

Being gospel-centered doesn’t just mean that we dance in the fields of favor with the Lord. It means that…a thousand times yes…it means that. But being gospel-centered also means that we are at times necessarily afflicted by the gospel. It is not as if the deeper our understanding of the gospel goes then the easier the bloodshed will be. No, it’s likely that the deeper the gospel goes then the deeper will be the things that the gospel is transforming.

Do Christians Have Poor Cultural Taste?

Jordan Monson:

Good art has never been “have it your way.”These culprits surface again and again in Christian culture. You hear them in the car on the way home from the movies. You read them in passive-aggressive Facebook exchanges filled with proof-texts and posturing. They seem to tag-team flawlessly in any Christian conversation on art. And, if we employ these attitudes, we become what C.S. Lewis calls bad readers. In An Experiment in Criticism, C. S. Lewis’s scarcely read work on literary criticism, the distinguished author and Cambridge chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature says that the major difference between good reading and bad reading—or for our purposes, good and bad taste—is that good taste is a product of receiving art rather than using art.

God loves us because He loves us

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Word of advice: if you ever want to set a pack of Max Lucado fans, address a concern about some of this theology.

A few years ago, I reviewed his book on social justice (it was also, outside of a kids’ book I received about a year back, the last of his books I read), a book that had some good points, but was kind of weird. Strangely graphic descriptions of temple guards that read like a cross between the movie 300 and something you’d find in a non-Amish romance novel, his typical lackadaisical attitude toward doctrine, and, most alarmingly, an extremely deficient view of humanity’s real state before God.

“Of course, no one believed in people more than Jesus did,” Lucado wrote. “He saw something in Peter worth developing, in the adulterous woman worth forgiving, and in John worth harnessing. He saw something in the thief on the cross, and what he saw was worth saving…”1

Never so quickly have I underlined a phrase in a book. Oh my stars… how such a statement that runs so contrary to the gospel saw the light of day, I’ll never know (wait, that’s not true, I do know how…).

And that, of course, is what set off the Lucado fans.

Reading Titus For You by Tim Chester this week reminded me of the weird goofiness we have surround the reason why God loves us and why God saves us. Why do I describe it as weird goofiness? Simple: we have a really, really hard time taking what the Bible says at face value. Just consider the following:

In Genesis 6:5, we’re told that “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” And then He killed everyone except Noah and his family.

At the end of Judges, the writer laments, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). The context makes it clear that everyone doing “what was right in his own eyes” is a very, very bad thing indeed.

Jumping along, with incredulity and awe, the psalmist writes, “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:4)

Proverbs 20:19 declares, “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin’?”

On and on the Old Testament goes. And in the New Testament, this message gets even more intense.

Jesus declares that we are evil (Matt 7:11, Luke 11:13) and he did not entrust Himself to people because “He knew all people” (John 2:24). We love darkness and hate the light and are condemned because our works are evil (cf. John 3:16-21). Paul even goes so far as to spend the first three chapters of Romans unpacking this major issue, culminating with, “For there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Rom. 3:22-23).

Anyone else sweating a little?

Let’s be honest: that’s really bad news for us, because if we’re looking for things about us to make us worth saving—in our actions and attitudes—then we’re pretty much up a creek.

So what are we to do? Are we to just wallow in despair, or is there something we can hold on to?

Here’s a great encouragement from Chester:

“He saved us … because”. The word “because” is key. Here is the reason for our acceptance by God, the grounds of our confidence and the basis of our hope. It is worth asking ourselves: How would I complete the sentence, “He accepts me because…”?

Everyone answers that question somehow. If I think I will be saved because of something I have done, then I am not saved. I can have no confidence. Our acceptance before God is: “Not because of righteous things we [have] done” (v 5). Saving faith involves removing faith in ourselves. It involves stripping away confidence in anything except God. “He saved us … because of his mercy”. That is our true and only hope.”2

Why does God save us? Because of His mercy. His mercy shows us His glory. His mercy makes much of His name. His mercy is what sent Jesus Christ to take our punishment on the cross—not because we were lovely, not because we deserved it, not because we were worth it, but because He is so magnificent.

That’s why grace is so amazing. Why, oh, why, would you want to settle for anything less?

Links I like (weekend edition)

Reflections On My “Break-Up” With The Gospel Coalition

Tullian Tchividjian:

It’s been a much quieter week for me. Last week was loud and exhausting. And (other than Miami Heat games, Dallas Cowboy games, Ultra Music Festival, and the music in my car) I’m not a fan of either loud or exhausting. Not many are. So, I’m grateful that God has granted me a quieter week.

Still, the very public “break-up” between The Gospel Coalition and me weighs heavy on my heart. And I want to say just a few things about it now that I’ve had some time to reflect.

‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ and the Subversion of Human Nature

E. Stephen Burnett:

Marvel, when given a chance to take its unprecedented shared-universe superhero films to the small screen, chose to write stories that subvert naïve optimism about basically-decent government agencies and even human beings themselves.

What does this say about humans?

Clearly we do not believe our own press.

Concerns about the “Efficacy” of Works

Richard Phillips, interacting with a recent article by Mark Jones:

I am less eager to support the teaching of good works as efficacious in salvation, however, regardless of the Puritan gravitas attached to the idea. Now, if what we mean by the efficacy of works in attaining eternal life is James’ teaching that faith without works is dead, so that the evidence of work is needed to justify our faith, then I will of course agree. Moreover, if we mean that works are efficacious, as Owen says, “as the way wherein we ought to walk, for the coming to and obtaining of the inheritance so fully purchased and freely given,” then I will earnestly bow once again to Owen’s lucid biblical accuracy. But when we suggest that works enter into the instrumentality of salvation, so that in the consummation of our salvation eternal life is granted on the basis of good works, then I find myself expressing both objections and concerns.

Jesus Is Not a Cagefighter

Joe Carter:

Although well-intended, these ministries that focus on “ultimate fighters” are giving young men a deformed view of Biblical masculinity. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus praised the meek, a word that in the Greek is used in reference to a “tame” wild animal. The lion is able to lay down with the lamb precisely because he is not given over to his hyper-aggressive nature.

 

Links I like (weekend edition)

In the ten minutes Gmail was down…

Aaron Earls recounts the harrowing ordeal—with GIFs!

Helping someone through a salvation experience

David Platt:

As we walk in the presence of Christ, we’ll have opportunities to make new disciples of Jesus. We’ll have the privilege of inviting people to turn from their sin and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. This won’t happen because of our cleverness or evangelistic prowess; it will happen because of the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

But how should we handle these moments on a practical level? What should we say and what should we do when God grants us the privilege of harvesting a new follower of Christ?

Why I am Pro-Choice

Lore Ferguson:

No one is arguing for the abortion of three and four year olds, but three and four year olds have similar decision making abilities as infants. Of course there is a small gap of maturity, but a child who cannot zip her coat or tie her shoes, whose father has to lift her to put his money in a meter to park a car she can’t drive—how limited is her ability to choose?

We cannot know how any child’s life will turn out, but shouldn’t we give them the basic right to choose? Or, less even, the ability to learn to make choices?

Oh, Oh, Ooh, Ooh, La, La, Whoa

Bob Kauflin:

…recently an increasing number of modern worship songs feature syllables like “oh, ooh, and whoa.” Generic syllables can be enjoyable to sing and can provide a musical segue that involves the congregation. They also can carry meaning as they give expression to a burst of emotion that either respond or lead into lyrics that actually say something. My good friend Matt Boswell reminded me that Paul begins his doxology in Romans 11:33-36 with “Oh,” the depth of the riches… There are times when an emotional “oh!” is the most appropriate lead in to a life-transforming truth.

But something more has been happening. Crowds are singing lengthy portions of songs using vowel sounds rather than actually singing words. Is this a good thing? Does it matter?

Looking forward to seeing how worship leaders respond to this piece.

Burning away misconceptions about “holy fire”

Lyndon Unger:

If you entered the faith via a Charismatic church (like me), one of the most quickly re-defined terms was “fire”.  “Fire” used to be what you called the results of tossing a match on something flammable, or maybe something you did with a gun.  Now it meant something way different. In Charismatic circles, there is often talk about “fire” of some sort: Holy Fire, Divine Fire, Heavenly Fire, the Fire of God, etc.  The idea of “fire” is basically paralleled with one or more of the following ideas: spiritual passion, having an emotionally intense worship/church service, really “getting serious” with God (or some form of personal revival), or some sort of outpouring of divine power on a person/church meeting/event resulting in a renewed passion of some sort (i.e. evangelism) or various “manifestations” of the Holy Spirit (i.e. euphoria, tongues, healings, prophecies, “miracles”, holy laughter, holy glue, holy vomiting, barking, crying, being slain/laid out in the spirit, visions, trances, screaming, physical pain, teleportation, etc.). I had generally gone along with the Charismatic usage of the term “fire” with regards to passion or zeal, and not really questioned it since the term is often used in non-Charismatic circles in nearly identical ways. But, as I’ve grown in my knowledge of the Lord and his word I’ve found myself continually questioning my own assumptions and understandings and going “back to the drawing board”.  When we speak of “fire” in the previously mentioned ways, are we using the term in a proper Biblical sense?

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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…

The Sincerity of Our Profession and the State of Our Hearts

The sincerity of our profession much depends upon the care we exercise in keeping our hearts. Most certainly, that man who is careless of the frame of his heart, is but a hypocrite in his profession, however eminent he be in the externals of religion. . . . It is true, there is great difference between Christians themselves in their diligence and dexterity about heart work; some are more conversant with, and more successful in it than others: but he that takes no heed to his heart, that is not careful to order it aright before God, is but a hypocrite. “And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetous.” Here was a company of formal hypocrites, as is evident from that expression, as my people; like them, but not of them. And what made them so? Their outside was fair; here were reverent postures, high professions, much seeming delight in ordinances;” thou art to them as a lovely song:” yea; but for all that they kept not their hearts with God in those duties; their hearts were commanded by their lusts, they went after their covetousness. Had they kept their hearts with God, all had been well: but not regarding which way their hearts went in duty, there lay the essence of their hypocrisy.

If any upright soul should hence infer, ‘I am a hypocrite too, for many times my heart departs from God in duty; do what I can, yet I cannot hold it close with God: ‘I answer, the very objection carries in it its own solution. Thou sayest, ‘Do what I can, yet I cannot keep my heart with God.’ Soul, if thou doest what thou canst, thou hast the blessing of an upright, though God sees good to exercise thee under the affliction of a discomposed heart.

There still remains some wildness in the thoughts and fancies of the best to humble them; but if you find a care before to prevent them, and opposition against them when they come, and grief and sorrow afterward, you find enough to clear you from the charge of reigning hypocrisy. This precaution is seen partly in laying up the word in thy heart to prevent them. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Partly in your endeavors to engage your heart to God; and partly in begging preventing grace from God in your commencement of duty. It is a good sign to exercise such precaution. And it is an evidence of uprightness, to oppose these sins in their first rise. “I hate vain thoughts.” “The spirit lusteth against the flesh.” Thy grief also discovers the uprightness of thy heart. If with Hezekiah thou art humbled for the evils of thy heart, thou hast no reason, from those disorders, to question the integrity of it; but to suffer sin to lodge quietly in the heart, to let thy heart habitually and without control wander from God, is a sad, a dangerous symptom indeed.

John Flavel, On Keeping the Heart (Kindle Edition, location 179)

Book Review: But God by Casey Lute

“But God…”

You wouldn’t think that two little words would carry so much weight, would you? Yet, it’s on these two words that so much of the Bible—even the gospel itself—hinges. Casey Lute gets this, and in “But God…”: The Two Words at the Heart of the Gospel, he walks readers through the Scriptures to show us just how important these words are.

And important they are. Over and over again, we see in Scripture how “But God” serves as a turning point in God’s saving work among fallen humanity. Indeed, Lute writes, “It is the perfect phrase for highlighting the grace of God against the dark backdrop of human sin” (p. 5).

From the flood account of Genesis 6-8, to the Exodus and God’s preservation of His stiff-necked people, the promise of a better sacrifice in Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead, to His saving for Himself a people from among all the nations and his preservation of them until the end, “But God” lies at the heart of all God’s work in history. These words show us how God saves, the salvation He offers and how He applies that salvation to His people.

In a word, it’s grace.

Lute does an exceptional job of illustrating this reality, particularly in the earliest chapters of the book as he delves into the flood account. Often, we hear or read the story of Noah as little more than “Noah was a good man among a sea of bad men, so God used him to build the ark.” Lute is quick to observe that this is not the case. He writes:

[T]he flood story is about God’s grace. Even the first significant statement made about Noah tells us more about God’s grace than about Noah himself: “So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:7–8). The word “favor” might not seem especially meaningful to us, but the Hebrew word translated here as “favor” can also be translated as “grace.” In fact, the King James Version translators used that very word, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (p. 15)

I’ve heard a number of preachers make this point—that “favor” can be translated as “grace.” That understanding helps bring a greater understanding of the story’s place in the scope of redemptive history. It’s not that Noah was a good guy among a bunch of bad guys, it’s that he was a bad guy to whom God showed grace—and through him, God saved for Himself a remnant. It’s an amazing illustration of God’s grace that is too easy to overlook.

At this point, I’ve read or reviewed nearly every title that’s been released from Cruciform Press. In doing so, I’ve noticed a consistent pattern that is perhaps best evidenced in “But God…”.

That is the strength of brevity.

Because “But God…” and all of the publisher’s titles are held to a strict word count, their authors are not afforded room to meander. They have to get to the point, which (I know from experience) can prove difficult. But in this book’s case, the result is a refreshingly concise, yet comprehensive biblical theology of grace that left this reader more in awe of the grace of God. I’d highly encourage any reader to get a copy of this book and discover for yourselves the importance of the words “But God.”


Title: “But God…”: The Two Words at the Heart of the Gospel
Author: Casey Lute
Publisher: Cruciform Press (2011)

An advanced electronic copy of this book was provided for review purposes by the publisher.

Mike Bullmore: God’s Great Heart of Love Toward His Own #TGC11

Mike Bullmore is the founding pastor of CrossWay Community Church in Bristol, WI. Mike served for 15 years as an associate professor of Homiletics and Pastoral Theology, as well as chairman of the Practical Theology Department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL.

Dr. Bullmore addressed the conference from Zephaniah 3:9-20.

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

 

My notes follow:


[Dr. Bullmore opens reading from the beginning of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress]

I can imagine someone reading that and saying, “clearly the problem with that man is that book. What he needs to do is put it down and stop reading it… Just put that book down and pick up something else… there are magazines about celebrities and romance novels and… Christian, why would you keep reading that book unless it’s really true and all that other stuff was designed to keep you trapped in a make-believe world?”

Well, the book Christian is reading is, of course, the Bible. And this book, Zephaniah, could well be the book Christian was reading, because this book is a miniature version of [the Bible]. All the prophets are like this.

The Old Testament is pregnant with the gospel. Through progressive revelation, while the gospel is initially obscured, it becomes increasingly clear as you continue to read. The gospel is in utero, if you will, but all the parts are there.

What Zephaniah tells us is that God has provided salvation, and not just as an escape from God’s judgment, but as entrance into God’s joy. Zephaniah offers three steps: [Read more...]

Your Witness Matters

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to our usefulness is the false belief that our witness does not matter. This is especially a danger if we think a previous witness has been ineffective. I suppose even John might have thought that. After all, few people went to follow Jesus after John pointed him out. But there is a detail later in John’s Gospel that helps us to understand better. John 1:28 says, “These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.” In John 10, we learn that Jesus at one time took His disciples back to that place: “He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’ And many believed in him there” (John 10:40-42). Despite his apparent failure, John the Baptist’s witness was not wasted; in God’s timing, it led many to be saved.

One person who might think poorly of her witness is a woman whose words were instrumental in my own salvation. I do not know her name and doubt that I could recognize her. One day, as I moved into an apartment, she was moving out next door. I carried one box of books to her car. After thanking me, she asked whether I was looking for a church to attend. My body language made it clear that I did not appreciate the question. So she quickly stammered, “If you are ever looking for a church, I would recommend this particular church a few blocks away.” With that, she drove off and I never saw her again. I have often imagined her kicking herself for her weak attempt to witness. But a few months later, when the Holy Spirit had prepared a way for the Lord into my heart, I remembered her words, went to that church, and, hearing the gospel there, I believed and was saved.

You may think you are just one “voice” and that your witness doesn’t matter. But if Jesus is the Word your voice brings-and if He is living in you and you know Him-then your witness is mighty to cast down strongholds and lead dying sinners to salvation.

Richard D. Phillips, Jesus the Evangelist (Kindle Edition—location 343)

The Only True Light

Many people are not interested in heaven, caring only about their present happiness. But have they compared the lights of their liking to the true light of God’s Son? There is no light other than Jesus that can lead to true joy now or to eternal life in days to come: not money, adventure, or success; not the pride of morality; not the pleasure of sin. The only true light is Jesus Christ, and God in His grace sent Him into this world to be our Savior. What will happen to those who reject Him? How will God respond if they do not receive His Son, bowing the knee and opening their hearts to believe and be saved? As John declared, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).

Richard D. Phillips, Jesus the Evangelist (Kindle Edition—location 204)

Rob Bell + Universalism = Fireworks

Update: My review of Love Wins was posted 03/09/2011.

This weekend a big stink was kicked up about the trailer and marketing copy of Rob Bell’s latest book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Indeed, the brouhaha led to Bell’s name trending on Twitter!

So as you can imagine, this thing is causing quite the commotion among Christians on the interwebs.

The issue came onto my radar yesterday when I saw Emily had been reading this post from Justin Taylor. I read the marketing copy, which after some fairly heavy-handed selling of Bell’s credentials, we get to the heart of the controversy:

Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.

The accompanying video doesn’t help much:

In his previous books and tours, Bell has often been… squishy regarding his take on the wrath of God (even going so far as to reinterpret God’s wrath as a feeling of grief mixed with a desire to reconnect and restore). Indeed, he’s been so ambiguous that it’s caused a great many pastors and theologians to ask the question: Is he a universalist?

With this book it seems we might have an answer, in much the same way Brian McLaren dropped his pretence of trying to remain orthodox in A New Kind of Christianity.

However, I don’t know if it’s safe to say that for certain because, well, the book hasn’t been released yet. Because the material is in Bell’s typically ambiguous style so it can be taken one of two ways:

  1. He is playing “Devil’s Advocate” (oh, how I loathe that term) and presenting legitimate questions
  2. The trajectory he’s been on for years has reached it’s destination and he’s outright abandoned the gospel

My hope would be the former. But if I had to be honest, my expectation is the latter. And  this is not something I find delightful or comforting.

Here’s what I would hate to see: If it turns out that he has indeed abandoned the gospel and embraced universalism (“Christian” or otherwise), that is cause to weep. Rob Bell’s influence is enormous and, if he does indeed advocate for universalism, then he will be preaching people straight into hell.

We can’t get away from the reality of hell. The Bible is clear that there will be eternal punishment for those who do not repent and turn to Jesus for salvation.

And love doesn’t win unless there’s something from which to flee.

(Thanks to Erik from J.C. Ryle Quotes for the title of the post.)