It’s About Scriptural Authority, not Sexual Liberty

bibleA few weeks ago, I responded to an article in our local newspaper that suggested that the loving thing to do is to embrace others who choose to pursue same-sex marriage. I thought it was going to be kept behind a pay-wall, but apparently, it is available online now. It’s entitled “Current debate not about sex, but following Scripture.” Here’s how it begins:

I don’t consider myself a person of faith. Maybe you can relate.

I grew up in the 1980s in a fairly typical home. When I was a kid, my parents didn’t read much of the Bible to me. And when they occasionally went to church, I slept in.

As I grew older, I thought my parents’ views on sex rather prudish: “Waiting to have sex until marriage. Ha! That was good for them, but not for me.”

As a teenager, I thought that a “committed relationship” was enough to rent a room on prom night. By high school, pornography had inflamed my lust.

As for homosexuality, I was too intoxicated with my own lusts to really care about that topic. In the mid-’90s, the mantra was “don’t ask, don’t tell.” I was happy to ignore the whole thing because I was living for me.

I didn’t care about politics—or preachers. I just wanted what I wanted, and cared little what people of faith had to say about sex.

Strangely enough, that all changed when Jesus Christ saved me from my empty hedonism.

You can read the rest of it at the Columbus Republic. And yes, I do explain my first line by the end.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

The Power of the Preached Word: Kevin DeYoung, Hughes Oliphint Old, John MacArthur, and You

old1001At Together for the Gospel this week, Kevin DeYoung preached a powerful message on the unity, authority, and power of the preached word. The title was “Never Spoke a Man Like This Before: Inerrancy, Evangelism and Christ’s Unbreakable Bible” (it will be up online soon).

In his closing remarks, Kevin quoted a section of Hughes Oliphant Old’s comprehensive The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Church (the section can be found on the Pyromaniacs blog). Writing about the powerful ministry of John MacArthur, Old observed that MacArthur’s effectiveness in the pulpit has little to do with oratory skill (although, Old does admit that MacArthur has some effective means of keeping his audience attention). Instead, and to the credit of MacArthur’s view of Scripture, Old writes “Surely one of the greatest strengths of MacArthur’s preaching ministry is his complete confidence in the text.” Continue reading

Pastors, Teach Your People About Suffering

crossYesterday, I preached on the theme of suffering from Matthew 5:10-12, something that I had a chance to consider in the most recent Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. In that journal, I was asked to answer the question: How can a pastor prepare his people for suffering? My answer lists five things that pastors can do.

Below is an abbreviated response to that question.

First, pastors must highlight the theme of suffering in the Bible. Outside Eden depravity, disease, and death are normal. So, pastors must routinely address the origin of suffering, God’s solution, and the means of grace available to pilgrim saints. . . .

Second, pastors must give their people a theology as big as God himself. In other words, for people to suffer well, they must stand on sound doctrine. In particular, pastors must gird their people with a theology that strengthens faith in God’s sovereignty and hope in Christ’s victorious return. While the particulars of suffering are a human mystery, it is vital to reassure believers that their plight has purpose. . . .

Third, pastors must tie all suffering to Christ’s death and resurrection. To every form of suffering, the cross is the answer. On the cross, Jesus bore God’s wrath for our sins and he identified with humanities deepest pain—death. In this act of love, God dealt with the ultimate source of suffering and its deadly effect. For Christians, then, personal suffering is not God’s testimony against us, as it was perceived to be under the old covenant. Rather, in Christ, suffering indicates our fellowship with our Lord (Phil 3:9-10) and God’s fatherly love (Heb 12:3-11). Pastors must remind their people of this regularly. . . .

Fourth, pastors must inform their people about church history. The church victorious stands in heaven awaiting Christ’s return. The church on earth suffers and bleeds. In our Western context, Christians need to hear the stories of faithful saints. Names like Ridley, Latimer, Elliot, and Saint should be as familiar as Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. . . .

Fifth, pastors must call attention to the persecuted church. In obedience to God’s word (Heb 13:3), pastors must lead the charge in praying for and supplying aid for persecuted Christians. Yet, the ministry of the persecuted church is not a one-way street. We must also champion the persecuted church because we need to see what it means to treasure Christ above life itself. . . .

For more on the subject of suffering, take a look at the new journal. For the rest of my answer, you can find it at the end of the SBJT Forum.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

‘My Inheritance’: A Necessary Approach to the Scriptures

goldThere is a dangerous tendency in the life of any Christian, and especially among those who labor to teach the Word, to read the Bible for the sake of someone else. I experienced this recently as I was teaching on the glories of the cross of Christ. Admittedly, my spirit was not exulting in the doctrines I was teaching as much as I was encouraging others to exult in them. Like a dutiful usher, I was leading others to find room at the table, but I was too busy to sit down myself.

It is a scary thing when we lead others to see the glories of God, all the while failing to enjoy them ourselves. Continue reading

Cultivating An Appetite for Righteousness

hungerA few weeks ago, I preached on the fourth beatitude: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt 5:6). Jesus words call attention to the fact that those who will be righteous will first hunger and thirst because of their lack of righteousness.

In my sermon, I spoke about three kinds of people:

  1. those who are self-righteous and boast of their good works;
  2. those who are unrighteous and boast in their unrighteousness;
  3. and those who are unrighteous but long to be righteous.

I argued that only the third kind of person will be justified. The self-righteous can be humbled and the unrighteous can be convicted, but only when the Spirit grieves us about the sin in our lives, will we call upon the Lord in faith and in turn be satisfied with God. (The Spirit, of course, does far more than convict us of sin—he also illumines our mind (2 Cor 2:14-16), regenerates our hearts (Titus 3:5), enables belief (Gal 5:22-23), etc.—but in work or redemption, genuine grief for sin is necessary).

With desiring righteousness in mind, I urged our congregation to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Theologically, I know that such hunger and thirst is a gift from God, but I also know that hunger and thirst can and should be cultivated in the hearts of those who have been born again. Therefore, here are six ways that you can grow in your hunger and thirst for righteousness. These six steps towards cultivating righteousness did not make it into the sermon itself; the rest of which you can listen below.


Cultivating Your Appetite for Righteousness

1. Read Scripture. If you don’t hunger for righteousness, read the Word. That’s why it’s there. The Spiritual man lives on God’s word, because the Word of God created that man’s spiritual life. Just the same, hunger for righteousness comes from the Word. If you don’t feel hungry, sit down with the Bible and watch how God renews your appetite.

2. Pray. Ask God for a greater appetite. If you read Paul’s prayers, it will not take long before you realize that he doesn’t pray the way we do. Though he’s in prison and afflicted with physical pain, his prayer requests are always centered on the Word. Likewise, when he prays, he prays that his spiritual children would have spiritual power to perceive the beauty and glory of the gospel of grace. We should pray for this too . . . pray that God gives you stronger affections for his righteousness. God will never reject the saint who prays for this.

3. Spend time around people who will make you hunger for God and his Word. This can be done through good books, through friendships with people who love God, know his word, and speak the truth to you in love. A couple weeks ago, my wife and I took day away to attend the THINK Conference at College Park Baptist Church. John Piper was the speaker, and he spent four hours teaching through the text of Philippians. It was glorious. But what caused hunger & thirst in my soul was not his Bible teaching . . . it was his Scripture memory. He opened his first session quoting the whole book, and it urged me again to keep working on Bible memorization.

4. Meditate on Christ’s return and the satisfaction you will have when he returns.  I cannot tell you how many times the thought of Christ’s return has given me strength to say ‘no’ to ungodliness.  By meditating on the glories of the new creation, and the beauty of Christ, I have found strength to say no to sin, by means of choosing the greater pleasure of knowing God. There is no greater way to crucify the flesh, than to ponder the satisfaction of knowing God. Meditating on Christ is one of, if not the, greatest tools for fighting sin. Feed yourself on him, and you will have little appetite for unrighteousness.

5. Fast. No, that’s not an imperative to run your life at breakneck speed. Just the opposite, it is the call to pull away from the world and your bodies demand for food. We fast in order to quicken our senses for spiritual need. Just as we eat food when we are hungry, we fast so as to be more aware of the appetites in our life. Fasting cultivates a hunger for God and fasting reveals those created things which are most idolatrous to us. If you are struggling to hunger and thirst for righteousness, God has a specific medicine—fasting! I don’t do this well; I need to do it better.

6. Feast on the Lord’s Supper.  Now this is a little bit curious, because when we come to the Lord’s supper most of us are hungry. In our church at least, the Lord’s Supper comes near the lunch hour or just before dinner (when we observe communion at night). In those moments, most people with normal sized appetites are looking for more than a wafer & shot glass of juice. Therefore, it may seem odd to “feast” on the Lord’s Supper. What does that mean?

Simply this: When you come to the table, you are not coming for the wafer and the shot glass. No, if you have eyes of faith, you see through these things to the Lord Jesus who satisfies your soul.  He is the Bread of Life; the Living Water. His blood is the wine that quickens our hearts. He is our portion and our prize. Believers don’t come to him because they “have to.” We come to the table because we love him, and we hunger and thirst for him, his kingdom, and his righteousness. For those who know the Lord, the Lord’s Supper is a feast for your faith, even as we await the Wedding Banquet, where Christ will satisfy us in soul and body.

Surely, there are more ways to cultivate a hunger and thirst for righteousness. What would you add?

May God be gracious to us to give us an appetite for righteousness, and may he increase our hunger and thirst for him, that he might satisfy us now and forever.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

A Biblical Theology of Dessert

foodBethany Jenkins has kicked off what promises to be a fascinating blog series on—of all things—the making, selling, buying, and eating of . . . chocolate cake, apple pie, and no-bake cookies. Continuing to explore the subject of vocation, Bethany has begun this week’s series by sketching a Biblical Theology of Dessert.

Sounds tasty, doesn’t it?

In truth, I’ve never thought about dessert in the Bible. I’ve considered the importance of food—it’s blessedness in the Garden, its role in the Fall, and its place in redemption. But dessert? I like dessert, but I’ve never considered what Scriptures says about it.

So I am thankful for Bethany’s interest in brownies and her theological inquisitiveness to dive into this subject. I would encourage you to tune in to this series and to let the theology of the Bible interpret the sweets you eat.

Let me give you a taste of her article: After noting the complex relationship of sweets in the Scripture, she speaks of the three modes of eating in the Bible—ordinary, fasting, and feasting. Moving past the first, she quotes Kyle Werner and Tim Keller to explain the importance of food in our lives.

In feasting and fasting, however, we see two very different modes of eating. According to Kyle Werner, a classical composer, amateur chef, and former Gotham Fellow:

In the Bible, we see God regularly calling his people to fast and to feast. Through fasting, we learn an increased dependence on God’s strength; our physical appetite helps intensify our spiritual appetite. On the other hand, feasting reminds us of the original goodness and bounty of God’s creation, the redeeming work he is doing, and our fellowship in the body of Christ. Our regular eating routines can benefit greatly by being expanded in both directions through the extremes of these two spiritual disciplines.

In feasting we see the glorious purpose of dessert. Although it is not necessary to life for daily sustenance, dessert can give us a foretaste of the divine. In Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller writes:

The work-obsessed mind—as in our Western culture—tends to look at everything in terms of efficiency, value, and speed. But there must also be an ability to enjoy the most simple and ordinary aspects of life, even ones that are not strictly useful, but just delightful. Surprisingly, even the reputedly dour Reformer John Calvin agrees. In his treatment of the Christian life, he warns against valuing things only for their utility: “Did God create food only to provide for necessity [nutrition] and not also for delight and good cheer? . . . Did he not, in short, render many things attractive to us, apart from their necessary use?”

For more on a biblical theology of dessert, see Bethany’ whole post: “Toward a Theology of Dessert,” as well as the YouTube video included at the end of her post: “A Theology of Food” by David Kim.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

 

Nine Things You Should Know About Noah . . . and Two More

noahI love it when the Bible meets theology meets culture. Today Joe Carter triangulates those three in his illuminating “Nine Things You Should Know about Noah.”

Highlighting the facts about, Joe Carter reminds us of who Noah really is and not just who Hollywood would make him out to be. Beginning with the literary construction of the Noah narrative in Genesis 6-9, he writes,

The story of Noah is told is chiastic parallelism (or chiasmus), a figure of speech in which the order of the terms in the first of two parallel clauses is reversed in the second. If you assign the letters A and B to the first appearance of the key words or phrases and A’ and B’ to their subsequent appearance, they follow what is commonly referred to as an A-B-B-A pattern.

A chiasm in the story of Noah and the flood (Genesis 6.10-9.19):

A   Noah (10a)
B      Shem, Ham, and Japheth (10b)
C         Ark to be built (14-16)
D            Flood announced (17)
E               Covenant with Noah (18-20)
F                  Food in the Ark (21)
G                   Command to enter the Ark (7.1-3)
H                      7 days waiting for flood (4-5)
I                         7 days waiting for flood (7-10)
J                            Entry to ark (11-15)
K                             Yahweh shuts Noah in (16)
L                                40 days flood (17a)
M                                 Waters increase (17b-18)
N                                     Mountains covered (18-20)
O                                        150 days waters prevail (21-24)
P                                       GOD REMEMBERS NOAH (8.1)
O’                                       150 days waters abate (3)
N’                                    Mountain tops become visible (4-5)
M’                                Waters abate (6)
L’                             40 days (end of) (6a)
K’                            Noah opens window of ark (6b)
J’                           Raven and dove leave ark (7-9)
I’                        7 days waiting for waters to subside (10-11)
H’                    7 days waiting for waters to subside (12-13)
G’                 Command to leave the ark (15-17)
F’                Food outside the ark (9.1-4)
E’             Covenant with all flesh (8-10)
D’          No flood in future (11-17)
C’        Ark (18a)
B’      Shem, Ham, Japheth (18b)
A’   Noah (19)

After this literary point, Carter lists eight other facts about Noah, the Ark, the animals, and the Bible. To his nine, let me add two more theological considerations. Continue reading

Good News for Bleeding Hearts and Broken Bones

dry bonesAs I have been reading in the Psalms, I’ve noticed an interesting theme: The sorrow of sinners (and those suffering from the sins of others) affects their bodies. More specifically it afflicts their “bones.” Take a listen to some of the laments offered by David and others.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled. (Psalm 6:2)

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away. (Psalm 31:9-10 ESV)

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah (Psalm 32:3-4 ESV)

All my bones shall say, “O LORD, who is like you, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, the poor and needy from him who robs him?” (Psalm 35:10 ESV)

There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me. (Psalm 38:3-4 ESV)

As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:10)

The bodily effect of sin traces it origins to Genesis 2:17, when God said to Adam, “On the day that you eat of this tree you shall surely die.” And for most Christians the connection between sin and death is well-understood: “The wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). But what is so striking about these Psalms is the way it speaks of “bones.”

Continue reading

“For the Sake of My Name”: Why God’s Pursuit of ‘His’ Glory Secures Our Good

gloryUnderstanding the glory of God and God’s purposes in salvation history can be hard. First, the God’s singular pursuit of his glory is hard to accept because it crushes our innate man-centeredness. Second, the glory of God is hard to understand because it requires a wide-ranging biblical theology to see how God pursues his glory in salvation and judgment.

And yet, because glory stands at the center of God’s character (Isa 48:9-11), his creation (Ps 19:1), his purposes for humanity (Isa 43:6-7), and his plan of redemption (Eph 1:6, 12, 14), it is vital to see how God’s glory relates to salvation.  Indeed, it is necessary to relate God’s glory and humanity’s redemption, because Scripture repeatedly speaks of his glory as the ultimate reason why he suspended his judgment on Israel, sent his Son for the world, and poured out his Spirit on the church.

To see how God’s glory relates to God’s loving act of redemption, let me draw your attention to a theme that runs throughout the Psalms and Prophets. It is the repeated refrain that God saves, forgives, and guides his people for the sake of his name. 

Instead of commenting on what that means in each instance, let me simply list a number of verses and draw a couple implications at the end. Continue reading

Luke Short’s Long Life

sowingIn the Puritan Paperback, The Mystery of Providenceby John Flavel, Michael Boland gives the publishers introduction. Commenting on Flavel’s remarkable influence, he writes of Luke Short, a man deeply impacted by Flavel—some eight decades after Short heard Flavel!

Here’s what Boland writes:

Luke Short was a farmer in New England who attained his hundredth year in exceptional vigor though without having sought peace with God. One day as he sat in his fields reflecting upon his long life, he recalled a sermon he had heard in Dartmouth as a boy before he sailed to America. The horror of dying under the curse of God was impressed upon him as he meditated on the words he had heard so long ago and he was converted to Christ—eighty-five years after hearing John Flavel preach. (John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence11) Continue reading