B.B. Warfield – The Exultant Joy of being a Miserable Sinner

Though blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ, we are still in ourselves just “miserable sinners”: “miserable sinners” saved by grace to be sure, but “miserable sinners” still, deserving in ourselves nothing but everlasting wrath. That is the attitude which the Reformers took, and that is the attitude which the Protestant world has learned from the Reformers to take, toward the relation of believers to Christ.

There is emphasized in this attitude the believer’s continued sinfulness in fact and in act; and his continued sense of his sinfulness. And this carries with it recognition of the necessity of unbroken penitence throughout life. The Christian is conceived fundamentally in other words as a penitent sinner.

But that is not all that is to be said: it is not even the main thing that must be said.

It is therefore gravely inadequate to describe the spirit of “miserable sinner Christianity” as “the spirit of continuous but not unhopeful penitence.” It is not merely that it is too negative a description, and that we must at least say, “the spirit of continuous though hopeful penitence.” It is wholly uncomprehending description, and misplaces the emphasis altogether.

The spirit of this Christianity is a spirit of penitent indeed, but overmastering exultation.

The attitude of the “miserable sinner” is not only not one of despair; it is not even one of depression; and not even one of hesitation or doubt; hope is too weak a word to apply to it.

It is an attitude of exultant joy.

Only this joy has its ground not in ourselves but in our Savior.

We are sinners and we know ourselves to be sinners, lost and helpless in ourselves.

But we are saved sinners; and it is our salvation which gives the tone to our life, a tone of joy which swells in exact proportion to the sense we have of our ill-desert; for it is he to whom much is forgiven who loves much, and who, loving, rejoices much.

B.B. Warfield (1851–1921), from his essay, “’Miserable-Sinner Christianity’ in the Hands of the Rationalists,” in The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, vol. 7, pp. 113-114

HT Ryan Kelly (via Justin Taylor)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: The Wretchedness of Pride

…Pride is a protean thing; it changes its shape; it is all forms in the world; you may find it in any fashion you may choose, you may see it in the beggar’s rags as well as in the rich man’s garment. It dwells with the rich, and with the poor. The man without a shoe to his foot may be as proud as if he were riding in a chariot.

Pride can be found in every rank of society—among all classes of men. Sometimes it is an Arminian, and talks about the power of the creature; then it turns Calvinist, and boasts of its fancied security—forgetful of the Maker, who alone can keep our faith alive. Pride can profess any form of religion; it may be a Quaker, and wear no collar to its coat; it may be a Churchman, and worship God in splendid cathedrals; it may be a Dissenter, and go to the common meeting-house; it is one of the most Catholic things in the world, it attends all kinds of chapels and churches; go where you will, you will see pride. It comes up with us to the house of God; it goes with us to our houses; it is found on the mart, and the exchange, in the streets, and everywhere. Let me hint at one or two of the forms which it assumes.

Sometimes pride takes the doctrinal shape; it teaches the doctrine of self-sufficiency; it tells us what man can do, and will not allow that we are lost, fallen, debased, and ruined creatures, as we are. It hates divine sovereignty, and rails at election. Then if it is driver from that, it takes another form; it allows that the doctrine of free grace is true but does not feel it.

It acknowledges that salvation is of the Lord alone, but still it prompts men to seek heaven by their own works, even by the deeds of the law. And when driven from that, it will persuade men to join something with Christ in the matter of salvation; and when that is all rent up, and the poor rag of our righteousness is all burned, pride will get into the Christian’s heart as well as the sinner’s—it will flourish under the name of self-sufficiency, teaching the Christian that he is “rich and increased in goods, having need of nothing.”

It will tell him that he does not need daily grace, that past experience will do for tomorrow—that he knows enough, toils enough, prays enough. It will make him forget that he has “not yet attained;” it will not allow him to press forward to the things that are before, forgetting the things that are behind. It enters into his heart, and tempts the believer to set up an independent business for himself, and until the Lord brings about a spiritual bankruptcy, pride will keep him from going to God.

Pride has ten thousand shapes; it is not always that stiff and starched gentleman that you picture it; it is a vile, creeping, insinuating thing, that will twist itself like a serpent into our hearts. It will talk of humility, and prate about being dust and ashes. I have known men talk about their corruption most marvellously, pretending to be all humility, while at the same time they were the proudest wretches that could be found this side the gulf of separation.

Oh! my friends, you cannot tell how many shapes pride will assume; look sharp about you, or you will be deceived by it, and when you think you are entertaining angels, you will find you have been receiving devils unawares.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from the sermon Pride and Humility,
delivered on August 17, 1856, at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark

The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent: The Promise of Christ

Genesis 3:15 — “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” [ESV]

The Promise of Conflict

But to proceed: By the seed of the woman, we are here to understand the Lord Jesus Christ; who, though very God of very God, was, for us men and our salvation, to have a body prepared for him by the Holy Ghost, and to be born of a woman who never knew man, and by his obedience and death make an atonement for man’s transgression, and bring in an everlasting righteousness, work in them a new nature, and thereby bruise the serpent’s head, i.e. destroy his power and dominion over them.

By the serpent’s seed, we are to understand the devil and all his children, who are permitted by God to tempt and sift his children. But, blessed be God, he can reach no further than our heel.

It is not to be doubted that Adam and Eve understood this promise in this sense for it is plain, in the latter part of the chapter [that] sacrifices were instituted. From what source should those skins come but from beasts slain for sacrifice of which God made them coats?

We find Abel, as well as Cain, offering sacrifice in the next chapter: and the Apostle tells us, he did it by faith, no doubt in this promise. And Eve, when Cain was born, said, “I have gotten a man from the Lord,” or, (as Mr. Henry observes, it may be rendered) “I have gotten a man, — the Lord, — the promised Messiah.” Some further suppose, that Eve was the first believer; and therefore they translate it thus, “The seed, (not of the, but) of this woman,” which magnifies the grace of God so much the more, that she, who was first in the transgression, should be the first partaker of redemption. Adam believed also, and was saved. For unto Adam and his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them, which was a remarkable type of their being clothed with the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Promise of Christ

This promise was literally fulfilled in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Satan bruised his heel, when he tempted him for forty days together in the wilderness. [Read more...]

The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent: Divine Love

Genesis 3:15 — “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” [ESV]

“What is this that you have done?”

Verse 13: “Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’”

What a wonderful concern does God express in this expostulation! “What a deluge of misery have you brought upon yourself, your husband, and your posterity? What is this that you have done? Disobeyed your God, obeyed the devil, and ruined your husband, for whom I made you to be a helpmate! What is this that you have done?”

God would here awaken her to a sense of her crime and danger, and therefore, as it were, thunders in her ears: for the law must be preached to self-righteous sinners. We must take care of healing before we see sinners wounded, lest we should say, Peace, peace, where there is no peace. Secure sinners must hear the thunderings of mount Sinai, before we bring them to mount Zion. They who never preach up the law, it is to be feared, are unskillful in delivering the glad tidings of the gospel. Every minister should be a Boanerges, a son of thunder, as well as a Barnabus, a son of consolation.

There was an earthquake and a whirlwind, before the small still voice came to Elijah: We must first show people they are condemned, and then show them how they must be saved. But how and when to preach the law, and when to apply the promises of the gospel, wisdom is profitable to direct.

And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?”

“The serpent deceived me…”

“The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” She does not make use of so many words to excuse herself, as her husband; but her heart is as unhumbled as his. “What is this,” says God, “that you have done?” [Read more...]

The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent: Consequences

Genesis 3:15 — “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” [ESV]

Naked of God…

And what are the consequences of their disobedience? Are their eyes opened? Yes, their eyes are opened; but, alas! It is only to see their own nakedness. For we are told (verse 7) that, “the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” Naked of God, naked of every thing that was holy and good, and destitute of the divine image, which they before enjoyed. They might rightly now be termed Ichabod; for the glory of the Lord departed from them. O how low did these sons of the morning then fall! Out of God, into themselves; from being partakers of the divine nature, into the nature of the devil and the beast. Well, therefore, might they know that they were naked, not only in body, but in soul.

And how do they behave now they are naked? Do they flee to God for pardon? Do they seek to God for a robe to cove their nakedness? No, they were now dead to God, and became earthly, sensual, devilish. Therefore, instead of applying to God for mercy, “they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths,” or things to gird about them.

This is a lively representation of all natural man: We see that we are naked: we, in some measure, confess it; but, instead of looking up to God for succor, we patch up a righteousness of our own (as our first parents platted fig-leaves together) hoping to cover our nakedness by that. But our righteousness will not stand the severity of God’s judgment: it will do us no more service than the fig-leaves did Adam and Eve, that is, none at all.

For (verse 8), “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife,” notwithstanding their fig-leaves, “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”

Hiding from God

They heard the [sound] of the Lord God, or the Word of the Lord God, even the Lord Jesus Christ, who is “the word that was with God, and the word that was God.” They heard him walking in the trees of the garden, in the cool of the day. A season, perhaps, when Adam and Eve used to go, in an especial manner, and offer up an evening sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. The cool of the day. Perhaps the sin was committed early in the morning, or at noon; but God would not come upon them immediately, he staid till the cool of the day. And if we would effectually reprove others, we should not do it when they are warmed with passion, but wait till the cool of the day. [Read more...]

The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent: Succumbing

Whitefield-2

Genesis 3:15 — “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” [ESV]

“You Will Not Surely Die”

The first thing he does is to persuade her, if possible to entertain hard thoughts of God; this is his general way of dealing with God’s children: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’? What! Has God planted a garden, and placed you in the midst of it, only to tease and perplex you? Has he planted a garden, and yet forbid you making use of any of the fruits of it at all?” It was impossible for him to ask a more ensnaring question, in order to gain his end: For Eve was here seemingly obliged to answer, and vindicate God’s goodness. And therefore, —

Verses 2 & 3: And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

Sin Begins to Conceive

The former part of the answer was good, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, God has not forbid us eating of every tree of the garden. No; we may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden (and, it should seem, even of the tree of life, which was as a sacrament to man in the state of innocence) there is only one tree in the midst of the garden, of which God has said, you shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”

Here she begins to warp, and sin begins to conceive in her heart. Already she has contracted some of the serpent’s poison, by talking with him, which she ought not to have done at all. For she might easily suppose, that it could be no good being that could put such a question unto her, and insinuate such dishonorable thoughts of God. She should therefore have fled from him, and not stood to have parleyed with him at all. Immediately the ill effects of it appear, she begins to soften the divine threatening. [Read more...]

The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent: Temptation

whitefield-1

Genesis 3:15 — “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” [ESV]

On reading to you these words, I may address you in the language of the holy angels to the shepherds, that were watching their flocks by night: “Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy.” For this is the first promise that was made of a Savior to the apostate race of Adam. We generally look for Christ only in the New Testament; but Christianity, in one sense, is very near as old as the creation. It is wonderful to observe how gradually God revealed his Son to mankind. He began with the promise in the text, and this the elect lived upon, till the time of Abraham. To him, God made further discoveries of his eternal council concerning man’s redemption. Afterwards, at sundry times, and in divers manners, God spoke to the fathers by the prophets, till at length the Lord Jesus himself was manifested in flesh, and came and tabernacled amongst us.

This first promise must certainly be but dark to our first parents, in comparison of that great light which we enjoy: And yet, dark as it was, we may assure ourselves they built upon it their hopes of everlasting salvation, and by that faith were saved.

How they came to stand in need of this promise, and what is the extent and meaning of it, I intend, God willing, to make the subject-matter of your present meditation.

Concerning The Fall of Man

The fall of man is written in too legible characters not to be understood: Those that deny it, by their denying, prove it. [Read more...]

Religion Saves: Birth Control, Sexual Sin and Dating

Religion-Saves-Birth

893 questions posted. 343,203 votes cast. Nine controversial subjects. The resulting sermons were then reformatted and expanded in the book, Religion Saves & Nine Other Misconceptions, released in June, 2009, through Crossway and RE:Lit.

This post will be dealing with three subjects from the book: Birth control, sexual sin, and dating.

Birth Control

Method or use of birth control is a subject that is almost always sure to bring up a great deal of heated discussion. For Catholics, to use any form of birth control would be unthinkable. At the risk of oversimplifying, it strikes me that many Catholics would believe that to use any method of birth control would actually be an attempt to thwart the sovereign will of God (this is certainly the impression we got from reading some Catholic literature on the subject).

For Protestants, however, there’s a great deal of debate on appropriate methods. In this chapter, Driscoll addresses five types of birth control: None, natural, non-abortive (barrier methods), potentially abortive, and abortive murder.

When reading, I was struck by how, with few exceptions, gently this subject was handled. Because there is a great deal of contention surrounding the various birth control that exist, it is one that requires delicacy. This is not something that Driscoll has historically been known for, but he did very well. [Read more...]

Sunday Shorts (09/06)

Dr. Albert Mohler on the TNIV Announcement

TNIV

Dr. Albert Mohler responds to the recently announced discontinuation of the TNIV translation of the Bible:

The controversy over the TNIV divided the evangelical community. Regrettably, in many cases the controversy produced more heat than light. Nevertheless, this was not always the case. This controversy brought strategic attention to crucial questions related, not only to the NIV family of translations, but to the entire project of translating the Bible into the English language. Furthermore, the controversy was directed to very real disagreements about the meaning of gender and language. These are issues of great theological, biblical, pastoral, and moral importance.

Read the full article here.

American Vice: Mapping the 7 Deadly Sins

Just when you thought you’d seen everything, the folks over at Wired actually mapped out the hot spots of the “7 deadly sins.”

It’s actually pretty neat, so check it out.

New Book from Desiring God: The Power of Words and the Wonder of God

From Desiring God:

John Piper, Sinclair Ferguson, Mark Driscoll, and other leaders from Desiring God’s 2008 national conference examine the life-altering power of our words and their impact in sharing the gospel.

Words carry immeasurable significance: The universe was created with a word; Jesus healed and cast out demons with a word; rulers have risen and fallen by their words; Christians have worshiped through words of song, confession, and preaching. Even in our technological age, politics, education, business, and relationships center on words. Since the tongue is such a powerful force—for good or evil—we are wise to ask: What would homes, churches, schools, even the public square be like if we used words with Christian intentionality and eloquence?

The Power of Words and the Wonder of Godseeks to answer this difficult question. In these chapters, derived from Desiring God’s 2008 national conference, John Piper, Sinclair Ferguson, and Mark Driscoll team with worship pastor Bob Kauflin, counselor Paul Tripp, and literature professor Daniel Taylor to help readers harness their tongues and appropriately command their silences for the glory of God and the ministry of the gospel.

In case you missed it

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

Defending Organized Religion: Reviewing Why We Love the ChurchA review of Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck’s latest collaboration, Why We Love the Church

Act Like Men A brief look at Paul’s admonishment to men in 1 Corinthians 16:13, and a stern warning to little boys who wear man-pants

Reading Different TeamsWhy blogger review programs are extremely helpful for developing a more “diverse” palette in reading.

God and the Weather: Interpreting Providence

providence

Because I’d not had the opportunity prior to embarking on 15 hours of travelling (I’m now basking in a cozy hotel room in Weybridge, Surrey, UK), I thought I’d offer some of my own thoughts on the issues surrounding the recent controversial statements made by Pastor John Piper about the Tornado that struck the Minneapolis Convention Center.

There are a few things that we can say unequivocally:

  1. God is sovereign over all things—Nations, governments, circumstances, people and even the weather. Absolutely nothing happens on this earth without either His direct intervention or His permission, be it good or bad. This is the (admittedly oversimplified) doctrine of Providence. The books of Ruth and Esther are specifically about God’s providential (unseen) hand. Psalm 147:8, 16-18, Job 37:3, 6, 10-13, Jeremiah 10:13, and Amos 4:7 all speak to His sovereign rule over nature.
  2.  

  3. Because God is indeed sovereign over all things, there is no such thing as a “random event,”according to Scripture. “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and a create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things,” says the Lord in Isaiah 45:7 (see also Lamentations 3:38 and Ecclesiastes 7:14). There are only events we understand and events we do not. However, while we may not understand the purpose of an event, God most certainly does (see Deut. 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God…”) But we have to remember that God permits all things for the good of all who love Him (see Rom. 8:28).
  4.  

  5. All sin is unacceptable in the eyes of a holy God. Murder, lying, blasphemy, pride and sexual sin (including, but not limited to, fornication, adultery and homosexual practice) are all equally wrong in the eyes of God. And all who fail to repent will stand to give an account before God for their sins. This is what Jesus was warning of in Luke 13:1-5—Disastrous events in this world foreshadow the judgement that is to come, and unless we repent, we too will fall in that judgement. That’s a big deal, gang!

That’s what we can say.

Here is what we cannot:

We cannot offer a definitive interpretation of a providential act of God, like the recent tornado. To do so goes further than we are permitted by Scripture. We can offer what we think may have been the reason, and I believe that was Piper’s intention.

Further, there are some who would call it a random act. And with all due respect, there is no Scriptural support for such an idea whatsoever. To do so is nothing short of a denial of God’s sovereignty, which, if taken away, removes our reason for trusting Him. Because we know that He is in control of all things, for the good of His people, we can trust Him.

God knows why He, in His providence, sent the tornado to Minneapolis. And He knows why He also sent one to Vaughan, Ontario the next night.

But we do not know the specific reason with certainty, but we do know that this tornado was sent for “the good of those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

John Piper: The Tornado, the Lutherans and Homsexuality

UPDATE (08/25): For my thoughts on interpreting providence, read God & The Weather.


Central Lutheran's broken steeple

Wednesday, a tornado touched down in Minneapolis, Minnesota, much to the surprise of everyone (including weather forecasters). The tornado directly hit the convention center and the Central Lutheran Church at the exact time that delegates of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America were debating the acceptance of openly practicing homosexuals into the pastoral ministry of the church.

The next day, John Piper offered some possible insights into this occurrence in a post titled The Tornado, the Lutherans, and Homosexuality. This post has caused a lot of controversy over the last few days, but there are a couple of very relevant pieces we need to look at. In his original post, Piper writes:

I saw the fast-moving, misshapen, unusually-wide funnel over downtown Minneapolis from Seven Corners. I said to Kevin Dau, “That looks serious.”

It was. Serious in more ways than one. A friend who drove down to see the damage wrote,

On a day when no severe weather was predicted or expected…a tornado forms, baffling the weather experts—most saying they’ve never seen anything like it. It happens right in the city. The city: Minneapolis.

The tornado happens on a Wednesday…during the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s national convention in the Minneapolis Convention Center. The convention is using Central Lutheran across the street as its church. The church has set up tents around it’s building for this purpose.

According to the ELCA’s printed convention schedule, at 2 PM on Wednesday, August 19, the 5th session of the convention was to begin. The main item of the session: “Consideration: Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality.” The issue is whether practicing homosexuality is a behavior that should disqualify a person from the pastoral ministry.

The eyewitness of the damage continues:

This curious tornado touches down just south of downtown and follows 35W straight towards the city center. It crosses I94. It is now downtown.

The time: 2PM.

The first buildings on the downtown side of I94 are the Minneapolis Convention Center and Central Lutheran. The tornado severely damages the convention center roof, shreds the tents, breaks off the steeple of Central Lutheran, splits what’s left of the steeple in two…and then lifts.

In his post, Piper offers his thoughts on the specific purpose of this providential act of God, with some strong biblical support. [Read more...]

Sunday Shorts (08/09)

Plant a Church or a Campus?

Over at Evangelical Village (another blog I occasionally contribute to), Matt is asking a very important question: What are the benefits of planting a church versus planting a campus (ie multi-site)?

Weigh in on the discussion here (although ignore the second comment; it’s just weird).

35 Reasons Not to Sin

The Harris Brothers (founders of The Rebelution) stumbled across 35 reasons not to sin. They’re well worth thoroughly reading and meditating upon. Here’s one of that I found particularly revealing:

Because sin glorifies God only in His judgment of it and His turning of it to good use, never because it is worth anything on it’s own.

Read the entire list here.

The Gospel in 10 Words or Less

Trevin Wax, Kevin DeYoung and 10 others are attempting to summarize the gospel in 10 words or less. The approach each is taking is very interesting, with some summarizing the entire storyline, with others addressing specific doctrines that make the good news good news.

Read the responses here.

Out of the Archives: Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor

memoirs-carson“Ordinary” pastors don’t usually get press. They don’t speak at conferences. They don’t write books. Their ministries are on the whole fairly average. They work hard, they faithfully serve the flock God has entrusted to them, and generally go unnoticed.

Tom Carson was, by all accounts, an ordinary pastor. Yet, he was a most extraordinary man.

Tom worked in the most difficult missions field in Canada (Quebec), striving to make in-roads for the Gospel with its Francophone population… Read the rest of this review.

In case you missed it

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

Everyday Theology: “God wants your best life… Now!” God doesn’t want you to be happy, healthy and wealthy at the expense of your holiness.

Making Assumptions Exploring the dangers of making assumptions about the character of God.

Daniel Akin on Preaching Great questions you need to ask when preparing to preach from Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Up the (Willow) Creek: Bill Hybels The first post in a series reflecting on the recent Willow Creek Leadership Summit and the challenges made by the faculty

Making assumptions…

Generally speaking, it’s unwise to make assumptions about a person or situation. While on occasion, our assumptions turn out to be correct, they most typically wind up being hurtful or creating an unrealistic expectation.

And about no one is it more critical to not assumptions than God.

Yet, we do it all the time.

When we understate our sin, we make an assumption about God—that being, that He doesn’t really care all that much.

When we do what God commands out of obligation or fear of punishment, we make an assumption about God—that He’s capricious and mean-spirited, looking down on us and just waiting for us to screw up. And when we do, oh, boy…

Reading the parable of the ten minas in Luke 19:12-27 reminded me of this: [Read more...]