Contend Earnestly: March 2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Jehovah's Witnesses and Easter

I have been sick this week, that is why there has been little action on the blog. But, one thing had my stomach churning that I can't get my mind off of. Last week I came home to find a flyer from our local temple of Satan, otherwise known as the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah Witnesses. It had a picture of Christ on the front with a title, "The greatest love ever shown." I believe that there is no way that they can defend this with their historical heresy that comes from Arius. Namely, that Jesus Christ was only a man and not God Himself.

This post isn't long and would love for ANY JW to show me as false on this one. The claim is that the greatest love ever shown came from the cross. How do we learn from the Bible that God shows us, or demonstrates, his love for us? It comes in the following verse:

But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

This verse only makes sense if Jesus is God. To put it bluntly, this verse makes absolutely no sense if Jesus isn't God. If Jesus isn't God then God demonstrated his own love by murdering an innocent human.

How can God demonstrate his love toward us through killing a finite human? For God to truly demonstrate this love, he needs to lay down his own life, not someone else's. This verse becomes lipservice. This is no demonstration of God's love, but a demonstration of Jesus' love. You can say all you want, that Christ laid down his life willingly (which I agree with), that Jesus did this for us (which I agree with), on his own initiative (which I agree with) but if God and Jesus aren't one, how does this demonstrate God's love?

Doesn't the cross only demonstrate Jesus' love for us, and not God's? If Jesus isn't God it is like God saying, "I love you so much, I am going to kill someone else for you." Thanks. That does nothing to show God's love at all. It actually becomes a brutal slaying of someone that even the executioner, Pilate, couldn't find fault with.

But, here is the beauty. If Jesus is God, and he was part of the decision from all eternity, we don't have a brutal murder by God, but we have the eternal God literally laying down his own life, and not passing the buck to someone else.

If Jesus is God, we can believe this statement. We can see the love that God shows, not merely some man. We can see that the demonstration of this love was an amazing plan from eternity past (Revelation 13:8) that the whole of the Trinity planned and brought to determination (Acts 4:27,28).

If anyone can show me how God demonstrates his own love for us, by killing a mere human, I would like to know how.

I am up for any discussion on this one, as I believe the argument will fall well short of the biblical testimony. May our Lord Jesus Christ's name not be thrown in the mud by these that proclaim false testimony from the den of thieves.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

O Holy Night vs Above All: Which is Worse?

First, let me let everyone know that I really do like both of these songs. Actually, O Holy Night is my favorite for Christmas time. The problem is that they both have lyrics in them that are totally contrary to Scripture. I know that this, for our exclusive Psalmody, or strict RPW types, is like me throwing meat to a pack of wolves (not that these guys are into that one) but I wanted to see what everyone else thought.

One song was written in 1847 from a poem and the other came from Michael W. Smith who used to really like the pastel colors from the 80's. Now, I am actually a big fan of Michael W. Smith, or used to be, but I haven't listened to him for a while. I didn't stop listening to him for any reason besides the fact that I just don't anymore. No real reason behind it. Maybe it's because to hear Linkin Park and then have "Friends are friends forever" come on afterwards on my iPod, seemed a little weird.

So here are the lyrics that are up for grabs. What I want to know is which one do you feel are more sucky. How you like that for theological? State your reasons, give your opinions, or just laugh and say I am being too sensitive. Either way...let's hear it.

O Holy Night (I hate doing this to one of my favorites)
Oh holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.


Above All

Laid behind a stone
You lived to die
Rejected and alone
Like a rose
Trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of me
Above all

So, here are my thoughts. When O Holy Night states that Christ came and the soul felt its worth, I really am not sure what that means or if it is even closely tied to Scripture. The only time I can see that we could make an assertion of the soul feeling it's worth would be found at the time of creation when God said "it was good." But even then, the worth, the value, wouldn't be placed on us but would be Godward. If anything, when Christ came, we felt even more sinful because of the perfection in Christ laid bare in front of our eyes.

As far as Above All, I really don't know what to say here. This might be as bad as it gets. This one would definitely get my vote between the two, but that is probably because I like to sing O Holy Night at Christmas and don't want to take it off my iPod. But, to say that Christ thought of me above all, when he died on the cross? Not even close. Jesus thought of God and His glory above all. Notice that when Christ was in the garden he prays that he glorified God while on this earth and that he was going to go to the cross to fulfill God's glory, not man's. This statement might be the most egocentric lyric we could sing. To say that while Christ was dying on the cross that his thoughts were on us above everything? Hmmmm...not quite.

I think that John 17 sums it up quite nicely:

Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
John 17:1-5

So, what are your thoughts? Which one sucks more? Am I still allowed to sing O Holy Night if I just stop singing at this point? Was it rude that on Good Friday as we were singing Above All that I was singing,

Like a rose
Trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of God
Above all

I didn't sing this part loud, but I really couldn't sing the other part. I mean we are talking about Good Friday and Easter. Do we really need to sing about ourselves? I don't know...maybe I am being too picky. But, God is pretty picky too. In the Old Testament he kills people for not worshiping correctly. Sooooooo....

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter is Over...Now What?

The following passage of Scripture is possibly one of my favorites because it continually convicts me of a correct understanding of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one thing that I truly hate about both Christmas and Easter is just the plain overemphasis placed on what I receive and what I give, instead of what Jesus should receive and what he gave. We, as parents, can even get caught up in this as we give things to our children or others on these days. We can secretly take pride in being such a great giver. That is really take pride in giving...sad...but true. I had the opportunity to teach our 4 and 5 year-olds this year during the main service of Easter and was truly amazing. The first thing one of the kids asked was, "Are we doing an Easter egg hunt?" To his surprise we said, "No...but we will be painting crosses red to remember the blood that was shed for you."

We are just like this little one that asked, "what about the egg hunt?" Because we all have the traditions that we hold on to for these celebrations. I once was told by a wife of one of my leaders that she was a little upset that we were having youth group the week before Christmas this year, because, she said, "Christmas should be about family." it shouldn't be. It should be about Jesus. This morning I took my son to pre-school and I asked him the most terrifying question a parent could ask his five year old: "Caleb. What do you think is the most important thing to your mom and dad?" He, without hesitating said, "Jesus." I was glad to hear that mommy and daddy had portrayed this to our son. I did quickly add that, "yes, Jesus is the most important, and also understand that mommy and daddy love you very much too." It was a scary question, but the answer gave me some hope that we are "on the right track." So, why am I giving this long monologue? Because as Good Friday and Easter has come and gone, what should we do now? This, in my opinion, is why most Easter know...the people that only show up once a year to church, don't understand Easter. That is...Easter is an everyday worshipful experience for our Lord Jesus Christ, it is not a once a year celebration where that huge, scary pink bunny hides eggs in your yard and breaks in your house to give your child an edible bunny in a basket. It is always about Jesus. Here is where I want to get...the text. Look at how the people of Jesus responded to the first Easter. By the way, I do find it funny that because of Easter, the Jews could now eat rabbits (they were prohibited before because they 'chewed the cud'), but that is a different story.

Jesus, just opened the minds of those around to understand the Scriptures, He gives a sermon about his death and resurrection, gives them the application of the sermon, which is to evangelize and then notice what their response is, to this first Easter:

And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God.
Luke 24:50-53

Is this not the most correct response we can give in understanding Easter? The first thing we find out is that the people that were there were worshiping Christ. What is your Easter filled with? Is it filled with egg hunts and ham, or is it filled with worshiping Christ? This is not just on Easter either, but it is after you get home, take off your tacky sweater vest and get in your sweatpants. It is always worshiping Christ for what he did on that first Easter day. It is realizing that the only reason that we have hope is not laid up on anything besides what happened that first Easter. The correct response is a life of worship to Christ, because of him conquering death, the just dying for the unjust, the one who was righteous becoming sin for us so that we could become righteous and he could bring us to God. The only correct response to this is to completely worship him for it. Question is: Are our lives, lives of worship or are they filled with something else?

Second. Notice that those who were there, returned to Jerusalem with great joy. Is your joy full of the knowledge of the conquering Saviour? Now, emotions are okay, but do the things of this world steal your joy? On Easter, if you drop your honey baked ham on your sweater vest, does this ruin your day? If your child eats his chocolate bunny too quickly and throws up on his sisters pink frilly dress, do the eyes of Satan come upon them? Or do we understand that these things are not the most important thing on Easter. Is our joy full because of the knowledge of Christ our Saviour? People come to church once a year for this occasion but they really miss out in an understanding that the other 364 (365 this year) days of the year are as important to our joy as this hour and fifteen minutes once a year. In John 3, John the Baptist said that his joy was full in just hearing the bridegroom's voice. We must ask ourselves, does 1 Peter 1:8 describe us?

and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,
1 Peter 1:8

Does it? Now, this joy is BECAUSE OF this one time occurrence, but doesn't only happen once a year, but is continual. And notice that it happened after they had worshiped. Once you worship Jesus correctly, the only thing that you can do, is have a joy inexpressible.

Thirdly. After worshiping Jesus, having joy inexpressible, the third is that the people went continually to the temple, praising God. One of the most depressing things about Easter is the week after. Just the week before the sanctuary was packed, with well dressed, hell bound people. The week after, the sanctuary is back to normal. The people are back to normal. But this was not the call of the first Easter. The call of the first Easter was to worship, fullness of joy and then to continually praise God in the temple. This was probably two fold for the early Christians. One was to simply praise God for what he did on Easter, but the other was to be in the temple to evangelize to their Jewish brothers. Easter always seems special when we meet together to celebrate that Christ conquered death, but every Lord's day should be special. We should always be asking our friends, family and co-workers to join us in this celebration, not just this one time occurrence. Plus, if they come on the other days, they don't have to wear that light blue cardigan, they can come in jeans and a t-shirt. They can see that the church isn't closed for the rest of the year. They can see that the church isn't like a traveling carnival, only showing up once a year and giving away candy and trinkets, with a clown in the pulpit (that one might hurt some of you that do this at your church).

Notice what the people did. They continually praised God! Continually. I can't repeat that enough. So, today, as you are at work reading this instead of doing work, like you should be doing, understand that Easter didn't stop yesterday, but is a life long love of what the Saviour did. Once we understand this, we will understand that we should be continually praising God. Go home tonight and praise Jesus with your family. Relive Easter again tonight. Gather your family again, to make sure they understood what just happened this past weekend. Make sure that they understand that we are going to talk about Easter, often, not just once a year.

We must ask ourselves, "Are we as excited as those at the first Easter?" Are we excited as must as those that Peter is speaking to in 1 Peter? Do we understand that when we truly see Easter for what it is, that we should worship, have a joy inexpressible and continually praise God?

I pray that this post would just serve as a reminder to what just took place this past weekend. It is all to point us back to the cross and the empty tomb, and without a correct response, you should just go buy another chocolate bunny for half off and feed it to your kids tonight...cause that is all Easter is, if we don't respond to it in a correct way. It is just a stomach ache with leftovers.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

10 Steps to Become a Legalist: Step 4

Before I start to have some fun with this post, I must ask that you have a sense of humor here. I am going to step on a lot of toes here. But, it's fun and I don't mind. I will mainly be focusing on home schooling vs public schooling. I was personally public schooled and I still have all my faculties and didn't sell my soul to the devil...although I was close a couple of times, but his offer wasn't quite good enough. I know many on both sides of this issue, so have at me if you will...and let's have some fun...and if you get a little mad at me, sorry, get used to it if you read these posts because they hit a lot of people in places they don't like. Including myself. Without further adu (however you spell that little word, remember I was public schooled)...let's do this and watch the carnage.

Step 4 is that you must raise your children like I do! This is a must for any parent. You must know that how you raise your children is absolutely correct and don't let anyone tell you otherwise, especially when you decide to keep them at home to learn on the couch as school starts at half past noon. You must get very dogged about this one. You must understand that homeshooling is the only way to raise your children, especially with all the little demons running around out there. I mean what would happen if they actually came in contact with a person who is a pagan? These pagans might touch them and infect them with the disease of "God hate."

You must understand that public schools are the devil. You must understand that there is no way that your child will be able to go through that and come out a Christian, but will be a flaming liberal. If you have to use Scripture to prove your point. My favorite is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, it is the Shema. It states (I'll put it in red so it looks more official):

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
Deuteronomy 6:4-9

How can a parent be diligent with their children to teach them this if they go off to school all day with the crazies? Remember that the time before school and also the time after school doesn't count, diligence can only happen between the times of about 7am to 3pm, according to my homemade Jewish calendar. It's right beside my wife's dress that she made from our old curtains. This (the time of diligence) just happens to be the time they will be at school! Also note that you can just ignore the other facts that are spoken in Deuteronomy, such as the dietary laws in chapter 14 and the ceremonial feasts in chapter 16. Also, don't worry, you don't have to write things on your forehead or put Bible verses on your front door, although most people that I know beleive that "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord" should be a staple on all front doors of believers. Why don't you have to do this? I don't know...cause I said so? Will that work? Sometimes ignoring Scripture works especially if you want to be a good legalist. Just say it with authority with a furrowed brow...that usually works.

Oh, and if your wife does all the schooling at home, that is okay too, even though no Jewish family would agree with you when applying Deuteronomy 6. The Jews took this to be the man's responsibility to do this, but the man is at work all day, and remember, diligence can only happen between 7am to 3pm, so the father obviously can't do this. So ignore that no Jew in the time of the Bible did it like this, and let the wife do all the teaching.

I just can't believe that anyone would want to send their kid to public school. I mean...there are non-Christians there. They might talk to your child. So, if your child happens to go to a public school, tell them to just run screaming if they see one of these people called, "non-Christians." Those kinds of parents that send their kids to public school must not care for their kids. It's not like they can read the material ahead of time, meet with teachers and be involved in any way. That is just crazy. Plus, the PTA really stands for Parents and Teachers for Anarchy.

And if any of these people bring up how Daniel went and had a secular education you should just say that was a one time occurrence and Daniel was lucky that Nebuchadnezzar liked him so much. Daniel wasn't really a light in the darkness, but it was like a Red Sea occurrence. You aren't going to tell your kid to try and part the Red Sea just because Moses did it, are you? Well, maybe you would if you think public school is okay.

We didn't even get to talk about Samuel going to get educated by Eli and that most Jewish boys would go to the synagogue to learn at the age of 7. I mean, how can your children learn Math unless the Math teacher is a Calvinist? 4+4=TULIP

Just remember that homeschooling isn't just a way for the legalist, but it is THE ONLY least if you are a Christian who loves your children.

If you want to be a legalist and send your child to public school this becomes a little more tricky. But, all you have to do is continue to see that those that homeschool seem to be born in a bubble and have their hair combed by someone stuck in the fifties. Make sure that you over analyze things and always come up with the excuse that "how can Johnny know how to handle himself in the world if he is not in it." Remember that everything happens between 7am and 3pm and you will be well on your way to understanding how this plays out. Also, learn the following phrase and you will be good, "I don't want to shelter my kids forever." You must get that phrase down if you are going to be a legalist with a child that goes to public school. It is essential. here is the truth of the matter. You can quote any verse you want at me, but none of them tell me to homeschool my child. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is my favorite passage because most take it way out of context and act like the parents can't be diligent with their children if they are going to school. Now, will parents who send their kids to public school have to be diligent? Yes, of course. I know of a parent who reads every single one of the books that will be on her child's reading list for the upcoming year. She meets with the teachers and principal. She is completely involved. She is also MORE involved than most of the homeschool parents I know. I have homeschooled kids coming to me and asking about some whacked out doctrine that they just learned from their home school teacher on video or at their co-op. So, it goes both ways. You can be either really diligent in both circumstances or just plain lazy as well. Don't assume that if you sit your kid in front of a DVD player with a teacher while your child is in bed all day that you are being a diligent and loving parent. Also, if you allow your child to go to public school don't assume that asking, "how was your day" is being diligent. Because usually your kid will usually leave out that he went to history class then skipped Math class to smoke marijuana and make out with Sally behind the bleachers.

Can we please remember Daniel. Can we please remember Samuel. Can we please remember that God has plans for everyone. Some he desires to be homeschooled, some he desires to be a light to the public school. Did you know that when your child gets out of high school and goes to that private college that their are non-Christians there and also profs who don't believe in the Old Testament? Then what? Do you know that your child might work for an atheist? Did you know that Jesus was amongst the roughest people around? Now, are we to be more careful when the children are in our houses? Yes, of course that is why we must be diligent with them to teach them the Shema. Diligence doesn't only come between the months of September to June from 7am to 3pm each day though.

I always laugh when I find that some are homeschool only people. I really can't believe it. I also laugh when I find people who are public school only parents and say that the homeschoolers are "sheltering" their children. Both of these logics are far off. Remember, I am not saying that if you believe in homeschool or public school that you are a legalist. It is when you start putting this yoke on others fiercly is when you start to the be "crazy uncle Ron." Why don't we let the Lord work in the hearts of parents on how they should raise their children and what they connotate as "diligence." I will probably send my child to public school and be on top of things. I want my child to be there to give Christian insight, to show that Christianity is still "in." That it is still here and growing. That God didn't go away and die like Nietzsche would have some believe. I am also not going to throw my child into the den of wolves and say, "good luck, be a city on a hill." I will be diligent and teach them the ways of the Lord and ask him to share that with those that have very contagious disease of paganism. But, I will tell him to watch out when they sneeze.

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Resurgence 2008 Video is Up!

The Resurgence 2008 Video content is up. I would highly recommend you checking it out and especially Matt Chandler's two sermons and CJ Mahaney's sermon on Pastoral Character and Loving People. I really enjoyed every single one of the sermons brought forth, so you can't go wrong with watching all of them. Just to let all know that the ones that were part of the main conference were, Driscoll, Mahaney, Chandler, Gilmore and of course Piper. The others were either pre-conference or post-conference. I was hoping that they would have the Q and A with Piper, Driscoll and Chandler as that was classic. Also, the famous "jackass" comment by Chandler is during his sermon, "Vision of a Church Planter." Enjoy.

Here is the link: Resurgence 2008 Video

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Monday, March 17, 2008

The Reason for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism

This is the first book that I have read by Tim Keller. I have wanted to read him ever since I heard him speak at the 2006 Desiring God Conference. He is the older and more tame version of Mark Driscoll, as far as vision for the city goes. He is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City (Manhattan) and the church that he started in 1989, that everyone said would be a bust, is now serving over 5000 congregants per week.

The book, The Reason for God, is very well done. It is what we in the Christian community would call a presuppositional apologetics book. Or to define more precisely, it is a way to give rational reasons for the Christian faith and oppose other worldviews by exposing the flaws in their thinking. Tim Keller does this very well, yet very respectively as well. The book is set up in two parts. The first part of the book is The Leap of Doubt. This first part is answering the accusations/questions that skeptics put forth, by showing not only the holes in their argument(s) but then reversing it and showing why faith in God and Jesus Christ is the better answer for the question posed. The accusations/questions are:

1. There Can't Be Just One True Religion

2. How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?

3. Christianity is a Straightjacket

4. The Church is Responsible for So Much Injustice

5. How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?

6. Science Has Disproved Christianity

7. You Can't Take the Bible Literally

The Second half, and I like how Keller puts it, is to show the clues for God. Keller does this very masterfully.

The Second half is called, The Reasons for Faith, and they are:

1. The Clues of God

2. The Knowledge of God

3. The Problem of Sin

4. Religion and the Gospel

5. The (True) Story of the Cross

6. The Reality of the Resurrection

7. The Dance of God

epilogue: Where do we go from here?

Although I don't agree fully on some of Keller's theology, I found that to be okay with what was trying to be disclosed in this book. Keller tries to take the focus off of denominational lines completely, to show forth the most important question, "Is there a God?" and the second part of this was to put forth why Christ is God and truly did die on the cross. I like how Dr. Keller puts it to one person. A lady came and told Dr. Keller that she couldn't believe the Bible because it was so oppressive to women. He told her that before she was concerned with the doctrine of men and women she needed to first ask the question, "Was Christ really resurrected from the dead?" Because the answer to that question is an eternal one, and the one about women and the Bible should be searched out only when she has answered the first.

Throughout this book, Dr. Keller, lays out simple clues to who God is, why Christ died, and why He rose again. Dr. Keller puts his heart on the line as he gives insight to his personal stories from his own congregation. He lays out what the cross means to us personally, and not just a historical valid argument. Because of this, the reader feels as though Dr. Keller is speaking directly towards them, because he cares for them. It is odd, but I couldn't put the book down and I felt Dr. Keller's passion for the King called Jesus.

I would highly recommend to any who call themselves Christians, and any who call themselves skeptics. It is definitely a book that will make you think upon the eternal aspects of life and direct you towards the clues that God has left for us to know Him. I found this to be one of the best apologetics books I have ever read.

Also, check out the website for this book, The Reason for God.

Link to buy

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Some John Piper Action

I just reviewed God is the Gospel, a book by John Piper. I thought I would wet your pallet a little bit with some excerpts. By the way, you can get the book for free in PDF here. Enjoy.

The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?

And the question for Christian leaders is: Do we preach and teach and lead in such a way that people are prepared to hear that question and answer with a resounding No? How do we understand the gospel and the love of God? Have we shifted with the world from God’s love as the gift of himself to God’s love as the gift of a mirror in which we like what we see? Have we presented the gospel in such a way that the gift of the glory of God in the face of Christ is marginal rather than central and ultimate? If so, I pray that this book might be one way God wakens us to see the supreme value and importance of “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” I pray that our ministries would have the same focal point as the ministry of John Owen, the great Puritan writer of the seventeenth century. Richard Daniels said of him:

There is one motif so important to John Owen, so often and so broadly cited by him, that the writer would go so far as to call it the focal point of Owen’s theology … namely, the doctrine that in the gospel we behold, by the Christ-given Holy Spirit, the glory of God “in the face of Christ” and are thereby changed into his image.

The implications of this for understanding 2 Corinthians 4:4–6 are enormous. “The gospel of the glory of Christ” is the gospel of the glory of God, for Christ is God. To see the glory of the work of Christ in the events of Good Friday and Easter is to see the glory of God. To love Christ for his saving work in the gospel is to love God. I am not collapsing all distinctions between the Father and the Son. Rather I am contending against all separation. I am arguing that it is not only permissible but essential to see and savor God in the glory of the gospel. That is the emphasis of 2 Corinthians 4:4, 6, and that is the aim of this book and why I titled it God Is the Gospel.

The gospel is the light of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. It is the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ. This is what makes the gospel good news. If the glory of God in Christ were not given to us in the gospel for our everlasting seeing and savoring, the gospel would not be good news. The emphasis could not be clearer in these verses. In wakening our souls to see and savor the glory of the gospel, Paul emphasizes above all things in these verses that the gospel gives the glory of God for us to see and enjoy forever.

And let us not fail to see the sun at broad day. We are talking about glory—radiance, effulgence, brightness. Glory is the outshining of whatever is glorious. The glory of God is the beautiful brightness of God. There is no greater brightness. Nothing in the universe, nor in the imagination of any man or angel, is brighter than the brightness of God. This makes the blindness of 2 Corinthians 4:4 shocking in its effect. Calvin says it with the kind of amazement it deserves: “They do not see the midday sun.”12 That is how plain the glory of God is in the gospel. When God declares the omnipotent word of creation and “[shines] in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” the curtains are pulled back in the window of our Alpine chalet, and the morning sun, reflected off the Alps of Christ, fills the room with glory.

The Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth … If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son … And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
1 JOHN 5:6–11

Piper, J. (2005). God is the Gospel : Meditations on God's love as the gift of himself (73). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

10 Steps to Become a Legalist: Step 3

We are really moving now. We have seen in Step 1 how to build up our pride so that we understand that, basically, everyone sucks besides you. Step 2 was a reminder that everyone must dress the way that you dress. Step 3 is going to take us to some even more practical ways to make sure that you become all you can be when declaring and raising the flag of legalism. Which, if I had thought of it, I would have made a flag and had a link to buy it from here. Not sure what it would look like, but whatever it looked like, you would hate it and find ways that it was wrong, so what is the point?

Step 3 is going to show that we need to have a Bible version picked out and ready to defend against all other heretics out there who teach from a different Bible that is in your fake leather Bible protector. It probably matches your shoes and your pocket protector, so we'll just move on before I get too many responses.

Choose any Bible. There are good reasons to own any Bible and bad reasons to own all the others. What I will tell you is that once you choose one, make sure you erase from your memory any negatives about that translation and only focus on the positives. For the translations that you didn't choose do the opposite. Forget any possibility of them being good translations and make sure you focus so much on the negatives that only the naive, immature, closed minded "Christian" would decide to choose such a poorly translated "bible."

I honestly don't even know all the arguments for each one, but I know one thing for sure: my bible is way better than your crappy bible and my daddy is stronger than your daddy too.

I have seen this argued from both sides. One side being very dogmatic about the King James Only...these guys are way cool. They are so dogmatic about the 1611 King James Bible that they believe that it was literally inspired by God as a translation. Now, these are guys that any legalist should look up to. To go this far is awesome when you are trying to become a legalist. Of course you have to make sure that you look past any errors (click here for errors) in the translation by quoting "God's word shall endure forever" until you are red in the face. Believe me, the more you quote it the more you will believe it. Wait...I should restate that from the inspired, infallible translation: the word of our God shall stand for ever. These guys are really cool too because they have decided to still use words like "thou" and "thee" when the only people that still use these words are the mechanical presidents at the Hall of Presidents at Disney World.

They will use big words, so make sure that you can get this stuff down. They will talk to you about the Textus Receptus, Byzantine and Massoretic texts. Just be ready because you will want to learn these things if you decide that this is the way you want to be the next great up and coming KJO legalist. The cool thing is that you can use words like "pisseth" and "ass" because those words are in the King James Bible. I am tempted to join their team just for those two reasons, but I already wear a suit and tie 5 days a week and really would rather not wear one everywhere I go.

I mean how cool would it to be to be able to read aloud Judges 5:10

Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way.

Or what about 2 Kings 9:8

For the whole house of Ahab shall perish: and I will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel:

Sure it reads like Yoda, but you can cuss with, if that isn't emergent, I don't know what is. Can you picture an emergent KJO dude in a suit with holes in his suit pants, just so he can yell at everyone during his conversation within his community? Rad.

The other side that you can go, if the King James isn't your style because you don't ride in a horse and buggy or grow your own wheat, is those that love their Bible and hate the King James just cause it is old. The motto becomes, "because it's old, it's out." These people are pretty cool, because they have no arguments besides, "who wants to say thee and thou?" They get pretty crazy with this and become legalists in very weird ways. They only use the Message or Good News Bible and cry out that these paraphrased bibles "opened their eyes and changed their life." Now that is something I can get behind. Once something changes your life, everything else that didn't becomes the wolf in sheeps clothing. So, what happens is that the translation becomes as big of a deal to these guys as does the KJO crazies.

Here is the secret here. To become this kind of legalist is pretty cool, because you don't have to have any training at all in any original language, in any history of Bible translation or any care for what has been handed down. Seriously, who cares what it says in the Greek and Hebrew? Just keep saying, "it changed my life" and that is all you need to hang your hat on. When someone asks you about why certain phrases are completely left out of the translation (just look at what one KJO guy has to say about it) or why it is very loose in it's translation and argues for the sake that it might just be a commentary, just ignore them and make fun of them for their "wooden" versions. Stick with the, "it changed my view of the bible and all other translations are too hard to read" mentality and you will be well on your way to seeing that your "translation" is the only one...even though you might never say that.

Plus..."the message" sounds better than having to use the word Bible...what does the word Bible mean anyways?

Here is the basic premise of this post. Get over the translation thing. Some are better than others in certain areas, but the idea that there is one translation over others is a complete joke. Choose the Bible that you feel is the closest to the original tongue and let others do the same and you will be on your way to loving God and not hating people. I believe that there are some that are better than others, and would suggest some over others, but this idea that the King James is the only way is seriously a funny thing, if so many people weren't so angry about it. Use paraphrases for what they are supposed to be for: reading, not studying. Seriously, any paraphrased version should be honest to let you know that they interpreted a passage to make it easier to read, not to get the full, original wording out of the original text. Understand this and use them wisely. I would tell people to choose from the KJV, NKJV, ESV, NASB or NIV and you will be on your way to understanding what God meant to be said. Just don't make others feel as though they are idiots for choosing the one that you decided not to.

HT: Fundy Reformed; Bob Hayton

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John Piper: God is the Gospel

John Piper called this book his most important that he has ever written. With that in mind, I decided to read it. I have a lot of respect for this man in his preaching, his ecclesiology, his missiology and especially his overall orthopraxy. As I started to read the book though, I felt like it was beginning to be a little repetitive and really didn't know how Dr. Piper was going to fill up close to 200 pages on the subject. But, I started to feel like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting when the character played by Robin Williams kept saying, "Will, it's not your fault" and Matt Damon's character, Will, kept saying, "I know." It took Will Hunting a while to get it, but he finally breaks down and understands what Williams character is trying to get across to him.

This is how I felt about this book. Dr. Piper keeps preaching that God is the Gospel until the reader gets it. This is probably why I really liked the latter part of the book, because I think I finally started to understand it in my heart and not just in my head. Because of this, the book is very well done.

The one quote that affected me the most though, came at the beginning, on page 15:

If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?

This quote is the thesis by which the entire book is based. The main Scripture that is used over and over in the book is 2 Corinthians 4:4,6

in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Dr. Piper uses these two main verses to show how understanding that God is the Gospel will affect all areas of your Christian walk. It will affect your prayers, the gifts that Christs gives you (both good and bad), evangelism, teaching, confirmation of the Spirit, etc.

This book ends up being extraordinary, when at first I found it to be kind of overemphasizing. What I didn't realize is that it wasn't the book that was overemphasizing, but it was myself who was UNDERemphasizing this great importance. Most of what we think of the gospel and of forgiveness and glorification, almost get us there, and Dr. Piper, based on Scripture, takes you the rest of the way. You will no doubt have to re-read some of the parts in the book to get the full understanding, but it is well worth it.

I highly recommmend this book to everyone. It will show you or at least confirm to you practically, what the Gospel is meant to be and that is that God is the Gospel.

The just died for the unjust so that he could bring us to God.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rain City Hymnal

I just wanted to point out a CD that I bought while I was at the Resurgence Conference. It is a compilation of hymns brought back to life. I always liked the old hymns but the only problem that I had with them is that each one took 15 minutes to sing, because the music was so frickin slow. I used to live in the country towns of Oklahoma, so to say that hymns are boring, I would have lost my first born to the local pastor. But, Pastor Tim Smith and the guys at Mars Hill have put together a great album that puts the old hymns to new music and the CD is very well done and I have very much enjoyed it. For additional information on some of the background of the CD, check out the Doxologist. The title is called "Rain City Hymnal: Volume 1" and the tracks are (not in order):

1. All Creatures: Team Strike Force
2. I'll Fly Away: E-Pop
3. Doxology: The Northern Conspiracy
4. Here is Love: Ex Nihilo
5. We Have Not Known Thee: Team Strike Force
6. Amazing Love: The Northern Conspiracy
7. I See the Mighty Power of God: Ex Nihilo
8. Softly and Tenderly: Team Strike Force
9. The Solid Rock: E-Pop
10. What Wonderous Love is This: Ex Nihilo
11. Oh the Deep, Deep: BCG
12. Man of Sorrows: Ex Nihilo

I was going to put down my favorites, but seriously I would have listed 8 out of the 12 songs. The only problem with posting this is that they have yet to get it to iTunes or any kind of distribution. You can check here to get updates on when that might happen, but for now, I am going to hoard this music and just laugh. If you want to get some other great FREE downloads of some of the old greats with new music, you can get those at the Mars Hill media download site. The bands that are very solid and continue to impress are definitely, The Northern Conspiracy, E-Pop and Team Strike Force. I highly recommend downloading their songs as they are very good.

Some of my favorite music downloads from these guys are:

The Northern Conspiracy

I Look at The Cross
The Glory of God
At the Foot of the Cross


All Creatures
Just As I Am (if you are super will hate this song...but I love it)
My Jesus I Love Thee
Oh My God
How Deep the Father's Love

Team Strike Force

How Great Thou Art

Hope you enjoy the music, as I know that it has been a true blessing for me and even my kids are digging it and they are young...5 and 2. Another fan of the music is Pastor Pete Williamson over at Oikos Fellowship in Bellingham.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Matthew 11:28-30: Our Rest: Today, Tomorrow and Forever

I had the privilege of preaching yesterday at my church as our pastor was out of town at the Shepherd's Conference. I have given an abbreviated post below on the message, but if you would like to listen to it, you can listen by clicking here: Our Rest: Today, Tomorrow and Forever. The Scripture that was covered was Matthew 11:28-30

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

Finding Rest in Christ: Come to Me

When taking a look at our Scripture in Matthew 11:28-30 it comes in two parts: it is a benefit of justification and proper understanding of our rest in progressive sanctification. This first part of the verse is pointing us to a benefit of justification.

The meaning of justification is simply: a declarative act of God by which he establishes persons as righteous

This justification is a one time happening. It is at the point that the person believes in Jesus Christ, God impugns, or clothes that person, with Christ’s righteousness as though it were their own. We see this in 2 Corinthians 5:21

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

It is sometimes called the “great exchange.” Because God exchanged our filthy sinful rags and clothed us with the righteousness of Christ. It is like a homeless man giving his filthy clothes to a king and that king wrapping the homeless man in a robe only due a prince.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:6

Not a bad deal for us. This is necessary, this great exchange, because we learn that God cannot approve of evil.

You who are of purer eyes than to see evil
and cannot look at wrong,
Habakkuk 1:13

The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD’s throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The LORD tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
Psalm 11:4-6

The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
Psalm 34:15-16

So, we see that we must be righteous to remove the wrath of the Father, but the problem is that we find that none are righteous, none are good and in Romans 3 it actually calls us useless because of our condition.

But, what is our human response to this understanding that only the righteous will enter in the Lord’s presence? Jesus gives us a subtle polemic, or refutation against those who work for salvation. He tells us simply: Come to Me.

And He then gives attention to who he is talking to: all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest

He is speaking to those who are weary and heavy laden. Those who have heard and understood the call to be righteous to remove the wrath of God. Those who know that God cannot look upon evil, and hates it.

These, weary and heavy laden, are both terms involving work. Those who are weary are those who have grown tired because of work and heavy laden are those who have large or heavy burdens placed upon them.

The Jews had 613 laws in the Torah to follow in order to please God and bring them salvation.
So the Jewish people were well acquainted with having an impossible yoke upon their necks in regards to salvation of their souls.

4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders…
Matthew 23:4

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that Eternity has been written on man’s heart. What man tries to do is fill this eternity in their hearts with other things that are finite, but that is impossible. Think of it:
wisdom leaves us in old age, our strength is weakened over time, money comes and goes, and even those that we love grow sick and die. And ultimately what we try to do is fill this eternal need, this need for our salvation, with either stuff or works of goodness.

And we continue to try and fill the eternity of our hearts with finite things, and when one thing stops working for us, we move on to another. Our anxiety and happiness are never fully dealt with and with that in thought, Jesus simply says, “come to me and I will give you rest, because I am the eternal joy that can fill your eternal want”

The text before us is taken most of the time to just speak of the Jews, who no doubt had many rules they must keep to receive heaven. It was a “do” religion. It was always continually preached that you must do this, you must do that, to be saved. Is this not what we have in all of our religions of the world?

There are really only two religions in this world, and each one begs a different question:

1. What can I do for God, or the higher being, so that I can expect heaven? It is “my good deeds have to outweigh my bad deeds”

2. What did God do for me, so I can receive mercy and grace and receive heaven as a gift which I cannot merit?

One is a terrible yoke of works on your back that must be fulfilled for God to love you and the other is taking that yoke, that burden of work, and placing it on Christ, because through him the yoke of the Law has been fulfilled.

One pastor put it as: World Religions continue to say, “Do, Do, Do”, but the cross screams out “Done”

Christ says, it is finished, I have accomplished it, now come to Me, rest in Me.

This is what 1 Peter 3:18 is saying when it says that the just died for the unjust so that he could bring us to God.

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of 2sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Romans 8:3,4

God is saying that because we could not fulfill the Law in the flesh, God fulfilled it for us through His Son Jesus Christ.

This rest now that is given to us at the end of this first verse is a rest that is to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labour in order to recover and collect his strength and of calm and patient expectation.

How can Christ promise this rest?

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
Hebrews 10:11-12

Why does Jesus not offer sins for himself? How did he accomplish the yoke of good works? By never sinning!

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
Hebrews 4:15

Further, Hebrews 7:26 says that our high priest was holy, innocent and undefiled.

Luke records Jesus crying out: It is finished! Jesus says in his high priestly prayer that he accomplished everything that he was sent for. The reason that Christ can tell us to rest is because he is the one who fulfilled all the work that was required. Jesus fulfilled the law for us, there is no reason for us to be burdened by the law.

When it says in Hebrews that he sat down, this is an implication of a finished work and a rest from the work Christ did on this earth.

You see, we believe in a works based salvation. But it is not of our works, it is solely Christ’s work!

Continuing Our Rest in Christ

If we find our rest in simply coming to Christ and giving him our yoke and our heavy burden, then what happens after that? What Jesus says is that we must take on his yoke and we will find rest for our souls. This new yoke is one that is easy and it is light. The reason is because this new yoke is not one to where we need to worry and be anxious if we are doing enough for the kingdom to enter, for it has been finished. But Jesus seems to have a little more in store for us here in this passage as Jesus says, “learn from Me”

Jesus knows that our rest starts at justification but that our life doesn’t end there on this earth.

Notice the small change of wording that Christ uses here. The first is Jesus giving us rest, because of his work. This second phrase tells us that if we learn from Christ, if we take upon his yoke after he gives us rest, that we will find rest for our souls.

This term “find” in the Greek can be seen as “to find out by practice and experience.”

This is what we call the doctrine of progressive sanctification, or the process of God working along with us through the Spirit in becoming more and more holy.

I like how Matt Chandler has put it:

We all like hearing the dramatic conversion stories of new Christians, but what is often left out is the next 10 years of struggle with our faith and this world.

I mean, listen to some of these quotes in the Scriptures:

we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;
persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
2 Corinthians 4:8-9

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.
John 15:18

Further, Peter in 1 Peter 4 tells the scattered, beaten, dying, persecuted Christians not to be surprised at the fiery ordeal among them, as though it was strange.

Also, tradition tells us that all of the original apostles, besides John, ended up being a martyr for the sake of Christ.

So, are we going to have struggles and conflict after we become Christians? The answer is yes. But, in our text Jesus tells us that after we are saved, to learn from Him and we will find rest for our souls. We will find this rest through our experiences of learning from Christ.

This is key. To learn from Christ. Just read the overwhelming verses that show us to learn from Jesus’ example: John 13:15; Phil 2:5; 1 John 2:6; 1 Peter 2:21.

I am going to give you three things that will aid you in to a continual learning experience of who Christ is and what Christ did as he was afflicted.

You will also notice that all these, that we are about to observe and learn from Christ, require us to be humble and gentle as Christ said he was in Matthew 11:29.

Greek word gentle: Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting. In the OT, the meek are those wholly relying on God rather than their own strength to defend them against injustice. Thus, meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is using them to purify His elect, and that He will deliver His elect in His time. (Is. 41:17, Lu. 18:1-8) Gentleness or meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trust in God’s goodness and control over the situation. The gentle person is not occupied with self at all. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will. (Gal. 5:23).

So, when we go through things that might upset our rest, I submit that we must learn to find our rest by doing the following things as Christ did:

1. Submission in Prayer

When you pray what are you doing? Are you not admitting that you cannot accomplish what you are asking for? Does this not cause one to be humble? When David is afflicted by the wicked, he cries out in Psalm 5:1-3

1 Give ear to my words, O LORD,
Consider my groaning.
2 Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God,
For to You I pray.
3 In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice;
In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.
Psalm 5:1-3

If Jesus was truly the God/Man we would expect the same thing in his life. Look to what Luke states:

16 But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.
Luke 5:16

Where was Jesus when he was on the eve of his crucifixion? Jesus went to pray in the Garden Think of this! How would we have responded knowing that this very night we were going to be taken and slaughtered as a lamb? When you go through serious struggles, where do you run to? Christ, our Saviour, the Creator of everything, completely omnipotent, all powerful, goes to the garden to pray. You think that Christ’s “rest” was a little disturbed? Look at this:

37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed.
38 Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”
39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”
Matthew 26:37-39

When Christ was at his lowest, when he was greatly distressed, where did he go to find rest? Jesus Christ fell on his face and prayed.

Jesus shows us this clearly: learn from Him. Take your afflictions to Jesus through prayer, and he will give you rest.

Prayer reminds us that we are not in control, but that we do believe that there is One who is in control, and we ask Him to fill our cup, because he is the only One who can. Through prayer we find rest for our souls.

2. Submission to the Word

Secondly, we don’t find rest in the wisdom of the world, but in the wisdom revealed to us in the word, by the Spirit. Again, every time you read anything for the purpose of learning you are admitting that you don’t know it all.

2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,
1 Peter 2:2

7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
John 16:7

This Helper, this Comforter, how will he comfort you? Verse 13 states that it will be through the guidance of truth:

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
John 16:13

We find that Jesus Christ while he was being tempted, when Satan was trying to take his rest from him, what did Christ do?

He quoted Scripture over and over…Satan tries in three different ways to steal Jesus’ eternal rest, and Jesus responds, “It is written, it is written, it is said”

The reason that we can take rest in the Scriptures and they are where we go to for rest is because the God of our Salvation says, that His word endures forever and that his word is truth. In this day with all the questions of truth, we have it!

Look to the cry of David’s heart for God’s word in his time of unrest:

25 My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me;
teach me your statutes!
27 Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
28 My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word!
29 Put false ways far from me
and graciously teach me your law!
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your rules before me.
31 I cling to your testimonies, O LORD;
let me not be put to shame!
32 I will run in the way of your commandments
when you enlarge my heart!
Psalm 119:25-32

So, by learning from Christ in the wilderness we understand that through the word of God we find rest for our souls.

3. Submission of our burdens to each other

So, we are called to go to the Lord in prayer, to his Scriptures for comfort through the Spirit, we are called also to go to each other to aid us in our rest. After Christ went and fasted for forty days and was in desperate need of food, Satan came and tempted him and Christ responded with the Scriptures. What some don’t see or simply overlook is how Christ was aided after the temptation.

Matthew 4:11 states:
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

We must learn from Christ in this area. Allow others to minister to us. Further after Jesus went to the garden to pray look at what happens:

41 And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray,
42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”
43 Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.
44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.
Luke 22:41-44

Jesus, the One who created the angels, allows one of his creations to come and minister to him, to strengthen him. If Jesus allows it, we must follow his example and allow others.

2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2.

This term has the idea of taking a load or a yoke off of someone back and putting it on your own. Remind you of a passage that we are looking at? As Christ took our yoke of works of the Law so our fellow Christians take our daily yokes and burdens and aid us and minister to us.

The reason a lot of us do not like to do this is usually we don’t want to bother them or we think that they will look down on us. Listen to me. Everyone is a sinner, and they doubt and have issues just like you do.

If we are to be a people who find rest in Christ, we are to be a people who allow others to minister on our behalf. When we tell others of the burdens on our back, we give them the opportunity to fulfill the law of Christ, namely to love their neighbor as themselves.

In this respect God allows us to be what are called ambassadors for Christ. We are his representatives and when we aid each other with our burdens we are physically showing them what Christ has done for them for eternity.

My father once picked up a hitchhiker and shared the gospel with him and the hitchhiker said that he had many issues and many burdens. But, he could not give them to Jesus because he had never seen Jesus. Because he had never seen Jesus, he could not believe in him. My dad responded kindly but with authority, “today, you have seen Jesus, for I am his ambassador.”

Christ shows us this truth when He comes down and yells at Saul of Tarsus and asks, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me” Who was Paul killing and persecuting? Christians. Jesus equates the persecution and killing of his people as the same as doing it to his own body.

So, when we come alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ we give them a glimpse of who Christ is. We carry their burdens, because Christ has carried ours. In this way, we are learning from Christ, and we are finding rest for our souls.

The Reason for our Rest in Christ

It means coming to the one who has become everything to us. Jesus did not come into the world mainly to bring a new religion or a new law. He came to offer himself for our eternal enjoyment and to do whatever he had to do—including death—to remove every obstacle to this everlasting joy in him. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). When Jesus demands that we do things—like “Come to me”—the essence of these demands is that we experience the life that most fully savors and spreads his supreme worth
John Piper

So the real question should be “why?” We have looked at Jesus Christ taking our load and bearing it himself for our rest. We have seen that if we learn from Christ by prayer, the word and through allowing others to carry our burdens for our continual rest, then we must ask, “why?” It is one thing to know the “how”, but yet another to know the “why”.

Some might say that the reason why is because God loves us and wants us to rest in him…although this is true, it is not the ultimate reason.

16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:16

The ultimate reason for Christ to give us rest through his work on this earth, in His cross, in His resurrection and that we find rest through prayer, God’s word and the bearing of one another’s burden’s is not for our sake…but for the sake of God’s glory. It is to point continually to Jesus.

Think of this. If your burdens in your life, if the toils of this life don’t keep you down but you find rest in Jesus, people will see the glory of God and His gospel.

First we find these verses for the sake of our eternal rest in justification: So, when Jesus says come to Me, when we do, we glorify Christ, not ourselves: here are some verses to exemplify this:

Jesus endures his final hours of suffering for God’s glory (this is part of the yoke Christ carried)

27 “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.
28 “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
John 12:27-28

God gave His Son to vindicate the glory of His righteousness

25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness,
Romans 3:25

God forgives our sin for His own sake

11 For Your name’s sake, O LORD,
Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.
Psalm 25:11

It is not for us! It is all for the glory of God. Further when we find rest in our sanctification through prayer it is for God’s glory:

Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
John 14:13

The word of God is shown as the glory of God:

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

He tells us to serve or minister to each other for the glory of God

whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:11

Do you see this? What is the ultimate reason that you were pardoned from sin, given rest in justification and are also given continual rest through prayer, the word and through those ministering to you? It is all to point to Jesus Christ! It is all for his glory not our own.

Simply, this is why we are told to do all things to the glory of God. It is all for him, not us. It is greater than us. So, when you have rest, know that it is not merely for your good, but it is for the great and glorious God our Saviour Jesus Christ. Your rest is more powerful and proclaims the greatness of our God.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

God's Eulogy of Moses

Thought I would repost this from one of the first posts that I ever posted on this site. Enjoy...and have a great weekend.

Maybe you haven’t thought of it or even caught it in Scripture but God gives Moses a eulogy when he finally passes after a long life of servitude. As the recount of Moses’ death is shared with us in the final penning of the second law, or Deuteronomy, as we know it, we then come to the great calling and recounting of God’s new servant, Joshua. The item to take notice in the call of Joshua in the first chapter is God’s eulogy of Moses. Notice in Joshua 1:2;

“Moses My servant is dead”

The eulogy is not long; it is not filled with many inspiring words to lift the spirit of Israel’s new leader, but is a description that we should all desire to attain from God’s own mouth: My servant. Oh how I long to hear those words from my Creator, my El Shaddai, my Jehovah Jireh. This is how God describes Moses! Paul called himself and calls us to be bond slaves for Christ (Titus 1:1; Romans 1:1), Jesus, Himself, calls us to serve God and not mammon (Luke 16:13). He tells of a parable where at the conclusion the master is pleased with his servant in the handling of talents and says to him, “Well done good and faithful servant.” But, to actually run the race, to finish the course of our work as pilgrims on this earth and have God Almighty, say “My servant” is cause for great celebration that our work was not in vain.

Notice that God does not tell of Moses’ faults or of Moses’ great works, He simply says, “My servant.” We are told most often that when God sees one of His own, one of the elect, He only sees Christ. We are told that He imputed Christ’s righteousness on us because Christ took our shame; by His stripes we are healed. That the Just died for the unjust, that our sins were nailed to the cross, that if we confess He is faithful and righteous to forgive us. We know all this yet there is always the flesh, always the temptation from Satan that says, “But you have done so many wicked things, so many wicked thoughts, surely God cannot look at you as righteous.”

This is the same Moses that was terrified and feeble in his person as he said to God after his call:

“I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”
Exodus 4:10

Did God, after the death of Moses, bring forth his sins yet again? No, God separated those sins as far as the east is from the west, and saw Moses white as snow.

What a great promise we have from God that we are truly His sons, His heirs, because we have died and have been buried with Christ (Romans 6). Let us all strive to be, “holy as our Lord God is holy,” but when we come up short, which we will, let us have confidence that when we confess, God sees us as He sees His Son. Let us strive to have God speak our eulogy as simple and to the point that He spoke for Moses, “My Servant is dead.”

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What is Contextualization?

I was reading erik's notes from the Shepherd's Conference and was caught by this quote by John MacArthur:

“contextualization is a curse.” The sermons we preach and the messages we proclaim should transcend “zip-codes.” MacArthur said, referring to Peter in Acts 2, “Not only did he not identify with the generation, but he said you have to be saved from it.”

So, what is contexualization? Because I believe that John MacArthur is either throwing out the baby with the bath water, or has no clue what he means by it.

First, let me say that if MacArthur is simply meaning that we don't try and change the word of God to make it easier for people to follow by taking truths out of the gospel to do so, then I agree with him. Such as. We shouldn't stop using words like sin and hell or speaking about the cross just because the current culture doesn't like to talk about certain things. That would be wrong and is downright blasphemy of the Gospel.

But, for Dr. MacArthur to simply say that "contextualization is a curse" I find to be way off...and I believe that his thoughts on Acts 2 are way off...because I believe that Peter actually contextualizes the Gospel in this very passage!

What is contextualization? First, good biblical contextualization is not what was previously mentioned, but good biblical contextualization is to know the audience and culture you are speaking to and bringing it to them in ways that they would easily understand.

I not only believe that it is okay to contextualize, but I believe that it is biblical and what Christ would have us do and what Christ actually did when he was here on the earth.

If I can give you an example:

Read John 10. The whole of the chapter is a passage on the good Shepherd, which is Christ. Why would Christ use this kind of explanation to give eternal truths? Because those in that region were very familiar with the shepherd and sheep relationship. It was very easy to see the truths that were being offered because Christ used the context, the culture that he was in, to explain the unexplainable. And Christ did this through his whole tenure as lead pastor while he was on this earth. Think seed and sower, the vine dresser, etc. All culturally relevent to those in that time.

You might be saying, "Well that was Jesus, he can do what he wants, He is God." Well...first, I don't like that reasoning for the mere fact that we are called to imitate Christ (1 John 2:6) and he is our perfect example (1 Tim 1:16) to follow in all things. But, I will play along.

First Example: Paul

Everyone knew that I would go here, but look to Acts 17. Paul is in Athens to preach the Gospel and notices a bunch of gods being represented and especially one that is called, "The unknown God." What I like here is the use of correct biblical contextualizaion. Notice that Paul uses the culture around him to illustrate eternal truths. The truths are not changed, nor are they watered down. The reason we know this is because the Stoics didn't believe in the resurrection of the dead, and yet what does Paul preach?

because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
Acts 17:31

Paul, although in a different culture than a Jewish one, didn't ignore the truth but proclaimed it. But notice that he didn't ignore who he was speaking to either, but contextualized the gospel so that it would be more clear for the hearers, just as Christ did the entire time he was on this earth.

Second Example: John

I am not sure how many people know this but John contextualized actual God-breathed Scripture, and he did it with one of our favorite verses that prove the Deity of our Lord Jesus. It is found in John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:1

The term here, as most know, for the term Word is the Greek word logos. What most don't know is the usage of this word in it's historical context. The term logos was known to most Greeks as that "thing," whatever it was, that held the earth together.

Look at what the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says about this word logos:

Although little used in epic,32 λόγος; achieved a comprehensive and varied significance with the process of rationalisation which characterised the Greek spirit. Indeed, in its manifold historical application one might almost call it symbolic of the Greek understanding of the world and existence.

Theological dictionary of the New Testament.
1964-c1976. Vols. 5-9 edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 compiled by Ronald Pitkin. (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (4:77). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

John contextualized the very pages of Scripture so that those whom he was writing to would have a greater understanding of what, and who, he was speaking of. John did his own form of speaking of the "unknown logos" by showing that they could know the actual Logos, that became flesh.

Last Example: Peter

The last example is actually going to be shown from the very passage Dr. MacArthur tries to argue his point,
Acts 2. Do you think that Peter knew who he was talking to? If Paul uses the unknown god to show who God was to the Stoics in Athens and John uses the term "logos" to show the Logos for the Greeks to understand, then what should we expect Peter to use when he speaks to those in Jerusalem? Wouldn't Peter be smart to use their very patriarchs? It is hard to see what he is doing, but if you look closely, Peter is speaking to those in Judea (Acts 2:14) and then he uses what they would know, namely the Jewish Scriptures and patriarchs. He quotes Joel in Acts 2:16-21, then quotes David and the Psalms in Acts 2:25-28, then again quotes Psalm 132:11; 2 Samuel 7:12; and Psalm 89:3 in Acts 2:30; and finally ends with a quote from Psalm 110:1 in Acts 2:34,35. Notice that the message that he preaches is the exact message that Paul preaches in Acts 17 but with some tweaks because he is preaching to Jews and not Gentiles. In Acts 17 Paul does not quote one single Old Testament verse because he is speaking to the Gentiles so he contextualizes it to their unknown god so that they would understand.

I believe that Dr. MacArthur is making a huge mistake by saying that "contextualization is a curse," and continues to show that he is ignoring what emerging folks mean when we say we are contextualizing for the sake of Christ and His fame.

May we continue to love those who we are evangelizing and ALWAYS look for ways to contextualize the Gospel in a way that the will understand.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

10 Steps to Become a Legalist: Step 2

Well, hopefully you have the first step down and now you can move on to step two. This is where we take the pride learned in the first step and apply it. We need to learn that people need to also look like us as well. Go take a look in the mirror and then take a look at your closet, now everyone must look like that.

Remember this goes both ways. If you are one that parts your hair down the side, that is the standard, if you have purple hair then all those who have their hair parted are frickin weirdos and must hate Jesus. If you like wearing a cardigan for Jesus then all those with skulls and crossbones and weird buckles all over their clothing must be freaks that are of the world. So...

Step 1: Make sure that all Christians dress like you. Whether you dress like the businessman or you dress like the crack dealer downtown, know that the opposite of how you dress are the weirdos that don't really love Jesus. So, those people that have holes in their jeans and black Converse need to know that Jesus doesn't love the way that they dress. Jesus only loves those people who look like you do on the outside, forget the inside. Or, if you see someone in church that has a button up shirt and a tie for the sake of Christ, don't they know that they are boring and just conforming to the world's system? Here is the point. People need to dress like me to love Jesus like me.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7

I am sure that we can come up with an interpretation that will fit within our view of clothing somehow. Just say it with authority and hope that no one challenges you on it.

Step 2: If someone looks like a crack dealer, lives on the same block as crack dealers, acts like a crack dealer, they must be a crack dealer. Can you believe that some people would wear all black and like rock music? Don't they know that it is of the devil? Who cares if you have never talked to them, there is no need because you don't want to be a part of the world. If someone hangs out with them and lives amongst them they must be one of them! Maybe the Pharisees were right:

The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
Luke 7:34

I would rather watch the drunkards and crack dealers from afar instead of talking to them because I might get infected by their dirty sin. Plus, if you decide to be amongst them, what will the people in the church think? No matter that the Pharisees were the people of the "church" back in the day and decided it would be a good idea to kill Jesus.

Step 3: Why don't all pastors wear suits to church? Doesn't everyone know that we should dress our best to impress? I have heard it said that if you were to meet the President of the United States how would you dress? Then that is how you should dress for Jesus. ( mean some wouldn't dress in a suit to meet the President?!) Especially the men speaking for Jesus.

I have heard a story where a man from Africa came over and was turned to Jesus by some missionaries. He was asked in what ways would he have done it differently if he could have some input for further mission's work.

His reply was:

These preachers love Jesus, no doubt. But, after we were converted they told us that we must abandon the clothes of our tribe and put on suits and ties, cause we needed to dress correctly for Jesus. The African said, that would be the only thing I would change.

Man, this African guy needs to lighten up and understand that Jesus does care about your clothes and it should always be the clothing of the United States Business Man. Who cares if some see it as a symbol for greed, Jesus needs your money too!

Who cares that the New Testament only speaks negatively when speaking of those who dress up in fine clothes. Who cares if Jesus wore the clothes that were appropriate for his culture, for the trade that he was in and the people that he was reaching. Men like Hudson Taylor were used by Jesus but Jesus hated that Mr. Taylor decided to respect the Chinese and dress like them, he should have had on a suit and tie.

Here is the point of this post. The only time that we see glamorous robes for God's people being used is in the Old Testament when the Gospel was really a "come and see" Gospel as John Piper has put it. Not only were the priests girded up with the bling, but so were all the temples of God along with his ark of the covenant that was definitely something to gaze at. But, as we left the "come and see" gospel behind and came into the "go, seek and save" gospel we only see the act of dressing up to be mentioned in the negative, not the positive. Take a look at James 2 and 1 Tim 2:9.

We are to emulate Jesus. Jesus dressed in the culture he was in, this is why Hudson Taylor should be our hero and not our foe. Taylor was amazing in that he changed his entire look to fit in with the culture because he felt that God had called him to that people.

Here is the bottom line. Dress like the people that God has called you to be with, but don't assume that it means that you must be in a three piece pimp suit if you are serving a bunch of people that dress in jeans and t-shirts. Suits are NOT the clothing of God. I should know,I wear one everyday to work. Why do I wear a suit? Because my clients who are seniors think that I am smarter if I do and most of my clients come from an age that suits were appropriate for my field, so I play their game and deal with it. Why do I cover up my tattoos when I go to work? Because most of my clients would throw a hissie fit if they saw that I had tats. What if I were to wear my suit to youth group? I would be an idiot. What if I wore my hat on backwards to work? I would also be an idiot.

Your clothing does not glorify God, your heart does. So, if you are sporting purple hair and skulls on your t-shirts to get a reaction, you are in just as much sin as the dude in a three piece showing off his bling. So, if the preacher wears a clown suit to get attention and prove that God doesn't care about clothing, he has missed the point, because does care about the intention of why you do things.

But don't put a burden on people just because you don't like the way that they dress or look. I love when people speak out against people with purple hair and then I ask if their wives color their hair. Most of them say, "yes." So, then, it's not if we can color our hair but God is now pleased with which color we choose for our hair? That is messed up.

We need to understand that they guy rolling in a Benz needs the same Saviour that the punk rocker in the VW bus with weed smoke coming out the window does. Love who God has called you to be, who he has called you to minister to and who he has made you into and love all others and respect who God has made them to be as well. Who knows, maybe the guy with purple hair, tattoos and earrings in his nose loves Jesus? way...that is just too weird. :)

Jesus is no respecter of persons and neither should we.

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