Wednesday, September 29, 2010

So Many Gifts Offered for Our Sanctification

Below are a few links where you will find the work of some of God's gifts to His people; that is, the faithful teachers of His Word. I list these with a brief note on each in hope that they may prove, by the grace of God, to be blessings to you. They are listed in no particular order, and their contents is offered to you from their authors for no charge, except for the music Cd's.

1. A Day with Dr Don: A five part video series in which D. A. Carson (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) leads us through an overview of the Scriptures by teaching 5 key texts. 

2.  The One Sermon Series of Mark Dever (Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington DC). In his preaching, Dr Dever has covered, in one sermon per Bible book, what he believes is the central message of each book. To get to them, visit the link below and use the menu on the right side of the page.

3. Particularly Good Music for Children by Jamie Sols. The man writes meaningful songs from the Bible text and writes them believing that children are capable of learning and understanding so much more than often thought. I agree with him. I've ordered Jamie's music for my daughter.

4. A Helpful Reader's Guide for the Christian Life developed by Monergism Books containing various categories including Introductory Reading, Intermediate Reading, Advanced Reading, Classics, Children's Books, Evangelism, Study Bibles, and Reference Works. The guide also contains a great article called The Humility To Read. The guide is a one page tri-fold that you are allowed to download as a PDF. Visit the link below and scroll to the bottom of the page to download the complete version of the guide.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Jekyl and Hyde in All of Us

My daughter is amazingly sweet, and amazingly selfish. And she is a faithful fan of Tinker Bell. So yesterday evening she, her mother, and I gathered on the sofa to watch the newest Tinker Bell adventure released the same day. I had bought some Raisinettes for her and my wife to enjoy while watching the video (or bideo, as my daughter calls it). I opened the box and poured some candy into my hand for Tess. I had plans to have a few of the delicious morsels myself. Tess, however, swiped them all, telling me they were hers, and proceeded to put the whole lot into her little mouth. Selfish. Sinfully selfish.

She will also often resist her mother's efforts at taking care of her. She tells her, no no Mommy. And when asked to do something, she will sometimes become adamant in her defiance, saying, never, never, never, never!  

At other times, Tess will gladly share with her mother and me. She regularly offers me food and toys to enjoy with her. She tells me she loves me sooooooo much! She hugs me, kisses me, and walks me outside to my truck almost every morning. Sometimes she says she will miss me. And when I get home, she normally gets excited about seeing me, and greets me with her fantastic smile and stories about her day with Mommy. It's wonderful.

So why is my daughter so fickle? It's because she bears both the mark of glory and the mark of sin. She is made in the image of God (Ge 1:26ff). But that image has been corrupted by her fall in her first father Adam (Ge 3). Even in us who have the Spirit of God, the flesh lusts against that Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that we do not do the things that we wish (Ga 5:17). For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not (Ro 7:18).

I am so thankful for the remnants of God's image in my precious child. While her selfishness is sometimes grievous, her sweetness is intensely genuine. When she shares with me, or draws me a picture, or hugs my neck, or sings me a song she has made up, it is not in an effort to gain anything. She wants to be good to me because in her own limited way she loves her Daddy. I am forever grateful to God that she does. And I praise Him for the grace that are the remnants of His image within His creatures. May the goodness of God in even the unbelieving cause us to appreciate the truly Good One, in whom are no contradictions.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Smell Autumn

Walking onto the back porch of our house early one recent morning, I detected the distinct scent of Autumn. It was a scent comprised of dying leaves, football leather, hot soup, pumpkin muffins, and Samuel Adam's Octoberfest. It was wonderful. I was thinking of how so much beauty comes out of so much death. The vibrant multi-colored foliage we enjoy each Autumn is the result of leaves losing the life that previously made them green. 

The process of calling new spiritual life out of spiritual death is called regeneration. It is a work attributed to God the Holy Spirit (Jn 3; Tit 3, etc), and it precedes faith as a part of God's call to life. With the call comes the ability to hear it. The spiritually dead do not choose to be reborn. They are reborn of God. The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 4, likened regeneration to God's calling light out of darkness on the first day of creation. He also likens it to being re-made. In other words, unbelievers in the gospel of Jesus are so thoroughly dead that in order for them to believe, their spiritual vitality must be resurrected by the Holy Spirit. Dead people do not raise themselves. Nor do they consent to have God raise them. They are passive in the experience.

In my many discussions with folks concerning God's decisiveness in salvation, what I have often heard expressed, although less than honestly, is the deep rooted arrogant and proposterous belief that an unbeliever has a better chance at redemption if he, and not God, is doing the choosing. Apparently we are more trustworthy than God. Apparently we are more merciful than God. Apparently, we will always do what is best for us while God may not. Apparently, we do not believe in our total depravity. The Scriptures assert repeatedly that we in fact do not choose well. We do not do what is best for us. We are not bent toward the paths of righteousness. But we all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way (Is 53). 

When preaching through Genesis 3 earlier this year, I said to my people that the problem with us is that we are madly in love with ourselves. We trust ourselves the most. We believe our own hype about ourselves. We lean upon our broken and bankrupt appraisals and deductions. We choose us, believing we have chosen God (Ro 1). Many of the "condemned already" (Jn 3) are willing to acknowledge God; but not the God of the Bible. They acknowledge the god they have dreamed up in their own twisted minds; a god with values much like their own.The natural consequence of this is rank and damning idolatry. 

Paul says that we exchange the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man. . . (Ro 1:23). In other words, we all worship. We all love something the most. We all organize our lives around what is ultimate in our hearts. And we only have two options -- the Creator, or a creature. The inevitable result of creature worship is the rule of the creature (1:25ff). All of us live for something, or someone. We have no choice. We're worshipers. Each of us submits to some lord, or to the Lord.

The first of the ten commandments forbids the worship of false gods. The second forbids the false worship of the true God. Have you noticed that it is quite normal for our idols to be good things like family (which God gives), work (which God commands), wealth (often an outcome of hard work), etc. Because of the glory of God our Creator, there is some of His glory in His creation. There are noble and admirable creatures. But none of these creatures is God; so none of them ultimately satisfy or save.
To turn from idols to God requires a change of heart (called repentance). After all, idolatry is first a heart matter. John Calvin called the sinful human heart an "idol factory". How true. This is why we are so desperate for the gospel. It is God's answer to our need for new hearts that love the Creator. But with all of its power to save (Ro 1), apart from the Holy Spirit's regenerating call, we will not repent and believe. We can't. We don't have the heart for it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Bible Tells A Story.

Last week I took my elder candidates to a conference on Biblical Theology (a reason for my extended time away from the world of blog). It got me to thinking about a cashier I spoke with at Wal-Mart sometime back. My eye caught a book in the checkout lane titled Understanding the Bible. I was particularly interested in it because I recognized the author as a professor with whom I had been acquainted. So, like the impulse item purchaser that Wal-Mart expects me to be, I threw it on the counter. 

The cashier, seeing the book, commented that she did not understand the Bible. I asked her what she meant. What was the difficulty? She gave no sensible answer. So I suggested she read the Bible like we read almost all other books -- from beginning to end. Since the Bible is a narrative, this is the best way to read it. In addition, we all like stories. I think that's because we're in one.

If you're interested in the Bible's theological story (the story is about God), I suggest beginning by taking the advice I gave to that confused cashier. Also, order a copy of Vaughan Roberts' God's Big Picture. It's a short simple portrayal of redemptive history (biblical theology). This story is given to reveal God to us. We ought to know it well.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Defending the Faith Once for All Delivered to the Saints

I've been away for a few days in New York to attend the James White versus David Silverman debate on Is the New Testament Evil? I commend Dr White's website to you, (Alpha & Omega Ministries) for apologetic resources. The site includes a number of Dr White's debates with both Christians and Non-Christians over a range of topics. I am thankful for men like James White who give their lives to do idea and word combat with the enemies of the cross. These enemies include not only atheists, but folks of other religions. In addition, Dr White debates his Christian brothers/sisters on various doctrines. I find it all both helpful and entertaining, and listening to the debate caused me to want to know my Bible better, and keep a quick and clear mind.

By the way, the word apologetics is an English translation of the Greek word transliterated apologia and refers to the systematic defense of a position using reason. It's used in Scripture texts like Acts 22:1 where Paul says, Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I now offer to you. Also, 1 Corinthians 9:3 - My defense to those who examine me is this. . . And there are other examples.

So, says Peter, Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.

Finally, I want to acknowledge my friend Adam who invited me along on the NY trip and blessed me by paying for basically all of it. When I repeatedly tried to contribute my own money, Adam would say something like "I'm being good to my pastor". Thank you again Adam. Your kindness is sincerely appreciated.