Thursday, February 21, 2008

Excellent Analysis of American Spirituality

"American spirituality has glorified ’searching’ for spiritual meaning but de-emphasized ‘finding.’ In other words, it is good to be looking for spirituality, but it is intolerant to actually believe you have found a right faith." --Ed Stetzer
(HT: Joe Thorn)

What If There Is No Resurrection?

Last week, I was teaching a class on the resurrection and was reminded of the following convicting reflection by John Piper:

Does Life Go Better With Christ?

This is an utterly crucial question for the Christian Church, especially in prosperous, comfortable lands like America and Western Europe. How many times do we hear Christian testimonies to the effect that becoming a Christian has made life easier? I recently heard the quarterback of a professional football team say that after he prayed to receive Christ he felt good about the game again and was proud of their 8 and 8 record because he was able to go out every Sunday and give it his best.

It seems that most Christians in the prosperous West describe the benefits of Christianity in terms that would make it a good life, even if there were no God and no resurrection. Think of all the psychological benefits and relational benefits. And of course these are true and Biblical: the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy and peace. So if we get love, joy and peace from believing these things, then is it not a good life to live, even if it turns out to be based on a falsehood. Why should we be pitied?

What's wrong with Paul then? Was he not living the abundant life? Why would he say that, if there is no resurrection, we are of all men most to be pitied? It does not seem to be pitiable to live your three score and ten in a joyful and satisfying delusion, if that delusion makes no difference whatever for the future. If delusion can turn emptiness and meaninglessness into happiness, then why not be deluded?

The answer seems to be that the Christian life for Paul was not the so-called good life of prosperity and ease. Instead it was a life of freely chosen suffering beyond anything we ordinarily experience. Paul's belief in God, and his confidence in resurrection, and his hope in eternal fellowship with Christ did not produce a life of comfort and ease that would have been satisfying even without resurrection. No, what his hope produced was a life of chosen suffering. Yes, he knew joy unspeakable. But it was a "rejoicing in hope" (Romans 12:12). And that hope freed him to embrace sufferings that he never would have chosen apart from the hope of his own resurrection and the resurrection of those for whom he suffered. If there is no resurrection Paul's sacrificial choices, by his own testimony, were pitiable.

Yes, there was joy and a sense of great significance in his suffering. But the joy was there only because of the joyful hope beyond suffering. This is the point of Romans 5:3-4. "We exult in our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance produces proven genuineness, and genuineness produces hope." So there is joy in affliction. But the joy comes because of the hope that affliction itself is helping to secure and increase. So if there is no hope, Paul is a fool to embrace this affliction, and even more foolish to rejoice in it. But there is hope. And so Paul chooses a way of life that would be foolish and pitiable without the hope of joy beyond the grave. 

Piper, Desiring God, 214-15

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Motives for Obedience in the Christian Life

This morning I was rereading the chapter on Sanctification in Wayne Grudem's excellent book Systematic Theology.  At the end of the chapter, he gives a helpful and encouraging list of motives that the Bible gives for obedience in the Christian life.   I find the following ten to be particularly encouraging:

1)  To please God and express our love for Him
John 14:15--"If you love me, you will keep my commandments."

2)  To keep a clear conscience before God
1 Peter 3:16--"Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame."

3)  The desire to be a vessel for noble use

4)  The desire to see unbelievers come to Christ through observing our lives
1 Peter 3:1-2--"Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct."

5) The desire to receive present blessing from God on our lives and ministries
1 Peter 3:9-12--"Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For
“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.


6) The desire to avoid God's displeasure and discipline in our lives
Acts 5:11--"And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things."

7) The desire to seek greater heavenly reward
Matthew 6:19-21--“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust [1] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

8) The desire for a deeper walk with God
Matthew 5:8--“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

9) The desire that Angels would glorify God for our obedience
1 Timothy 5:21-- "In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality."

10) The desire for peace and joy in our lives
Philippians 4:9--"What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."

Hebrews 12:1--"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

Grudem, Systematic Theology, 757-58.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Comfort of Postmodernism at the Moment of Death?

This two minute clip from ER shows why the answer given to the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism is so important: (See Below)

Question: What is your only comfort, in life and in death?
Answer: That I belong--body and soul, in life and in death--not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil; that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Things that Confuse Me: Self-Promotion Rewarded

Last night I had a conversation with a good friend of mine who works in the business world. He mentioned to me how companies often claim that they want behavior "A" from their employees yet reward behavior "B". In other words, a company may say that what they want from their employees is loyalty and commitment to a vision, however, the person who gets rewarded with a promotion is the person who threatens to quit while the "loyal employee" is left wondering what happened. In the business world this type of behavior is probably to be expected.

The sad thing that I have been noticing is the parallel behavior that takes place within Christendom. I have certain acquaintances--who give lip service to God's sovereignty and His desire for His people to be humble--who I see scraping and clawing to make a name for themselves in churches, ministries, and broader Christendom, with no thought of how they are "getting there." The tragedy is compounded when these people are then recognized by "influential Christians" as the movers, shakers, and leaders of the next generation. These movers and shakers are then put forth by publishers and ministries as the voice of Christianity for the masses. The most disturbing thing about this is that the very people who use self-promotion to get ahead are then the spokesman for a religion founded on the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of a humble carpenter who had no place to lay his head. Why is it that we are rewarding those who "love to be first" instead of putting them under church discipline? It appears that Peter knew of the disillusionment that this could cause when he wrote:

"Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:5-7).

Sam Storms on Women in Ministry

I recently ran across the following on Sam Storms website regarding the role of women in ministry. Oh, that there were more Complementarians of this persuasion! (For a similar position watch this two-minute interview with Mark Driscoll on the role of women in ministry by clicking here)

"I am extremely reluctant to place restrictions on anyone of either gender or any age in the absence of explicit biblical instruction to that effect. In other words, if I am going to err, it is on the side of freedom. In my opinion, the only restrictions placed on women concern what I call senior governmental authority in the local church. I have in mind, as noted above, (1) the primary authority to expound the Scriptures and enforce their doctrinal and ethical truths on the conscience of all God’s people, and (2) the authority to exercise final governmental oversight of the body of Christ.

Therefore, unlike a number of other Complementarians, as long as the principle of male headship is honored in the above two respects, I believe women can lead worship, can lead small groups, can assist in the celebration of both baptism and the Lord’s Supper, can serve as deacons (or deaconesses), can chair church committees, can lead in evangelistic and church planting outreach, can (and should) be consulted by the local church Eldership when decisions are being made, and can provide leadership in virtually every other capacity of local church life. Women should be encouraged to pray and prophesy in corporate church meetings (1 Cor. 11) and should be given every opportunity to develop and exercise their spiritual gifts."
(HT: Enjoying God Ministries)

Monday, February 11, 2008

What Does Man Do in the New Birth?

John Piper recently preached a helpful sermon on man's role in the new birth. Click Here to read the whole thing or click here for a brief summary.

(HT: David Mathis)

Have Christians Misunderstood Heaven?

Time Magazine recently interviewed N.T. Wright on how Christians have traditionally misunderstood Heaven. Click here to read the article.

(HT: Lee Richards)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Messianic Consciousness?

No, this is not a post about Jesus' understanding of his identity.  This is a post about the longing in the human heart for the Messiah to bring fulfillment in this life and to come and put the world to rights.  This week the Phoenix Suns made a trade to the Miami Heat for Shaquille O'Neal.  What the Suns are hoping is that Shaq can bring the NBA title to the Valley of the Sun.  In other words, they are discontent with their current circumstances and are longing for that missing piece.  Will it be Shaq? In the basketball realm, perhaps.  However, if our eyes are open to the "typological" pointers all around us we will look at the Phoenix Suns discontentment and turn that into an increased longing for the Messiah and for Him to come and put the world to rights.  When we look at the world with a Christo-centric mindset even seemingly insignificant events and activities, such as sports, can serve as a means of increasing our longing for Jesus, (as well as a springboard for gospel conversations with non-believers) Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Top 10 Reasons Why the Suns Traded for Shaq

I can't believe that my Phoenix Suns traded Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks for Shaq. This move makes so little sense to me that there must be more to it than meets the eye. Perhaps, the Suns will now try to move Shaq for someone else. Or maybe the Suns will trade Amare for Kobe and reunite him with Shaq. I really have no idea why this seemed like a good move to Steve Kerr. Perhaps, Mike D'antoni convinced Kerr this was a good deal so that D'antoni can get the GM position back. Because this deal makes so little sense to me I thought I should provide a top ten conspiracy theory lists for why the Suns did this:

10. Steve Kerr made a deal with Pat Riley back in his playing days that he is now fulfilling.
9. Steve Kerr made a bet with Michael Jordan that he could make a bigger mistake than Kwame at #1.
8. Kerr really misses broadcasting and figured this was as sure as way as any to return to Marv and the Czar.
7. The Suns have one plan for the playoffs. Not win a championship, but set a nice hip check on Robert Horry.
6. The Suns had an inside scoop that Shaq has been healthy all season he just has been getting back at Riley by pretending to be hurt.
5. Mike D'antoni has been watching to many mid 90's Knicks games.
4. Tim Donagy had something to do with this.
3. Jason Kidd wasn't available
2. The Suns are going to trade Shaq for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen.
1. Steve Kerr has been playing too much NBA LIVE 2001

John Piper's Biographical Sketch

One of my favorite parts of the Desiring God Pastors Conference is the biographical sketch that John Piper does each year. He has done sketches on George Mueller, John Calvin, and Athanasius to name a few. This year he did a biography of his own father who recently died. It can be listened to by clicking here.

Desiring God Pastor's Conference

D.A. Carson's second talk "The Pastor as a Son of an Earthly Father" can be listened to here

The talk by Crawford Loritts, "The Call to Courage," can be listened to here.

D.A. Carson's third talk "The Pastor as Father to His Family and Flock" can be listened to here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday

For what its worth: - I Like Mike!

If you want to learn more about where Mike Huckabee stands on the issues click here

Desiring God Pastor's Conference Session 1 by D.A. Carson

Desiring God has made the first teaching session from their pastors conference available online.  Click here to listen to the teaching by D.A. Carson on "The Pastor as Son of the Heavenly Father."

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Understanding Greek...

If you have ever wanted to understand New Testament Greek without memorizing a lot of vocabulary and paradigms then check out these free lectures. The following is a short blog for the lectures:

"Have you ever wanted to know enough about Greek so that you could find out what the words of the Bible actually mean? Or why are the translations so different in places? Or perhaps you just want to learn enough Greek so that you can understand the better commentaries? Then this class is for you."

Learn (or Review) Greek

The following lectures by Bill Mounce are a great way to learn (or review) some basic New Testament Greek.