Saturday, December 26, 2009

Not Christmas but Easter

I meant to post this yesterday, but we were enjoying family way too much! This is a short meditation on Christmas and Easter. Happy Christmas everyone!
"The central celebration of Christianity is not Christmas but Easter. It is a great a miraculous thing that the creator of the universe should be born as a baby in Bethlehem. But a true saying worthy of all people to receive is that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim 1:15): the reason for his birth was his death and resurrection.

It is wonderful that God should visit us - and visit us as one of us. But more wonderful still is that he should die for us, for "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8). That God the Son became a man is, of course, enormously important. As the old hymn goes:

There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven and let us in.
(Cecil F Alexander, "There is a green hill far away")

God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor 5:19), so it is right to celebrate his birth with joy. But in his birth, he entered the battle, whereas in his death and resurrection, he conquered our enemy and won the war.

This victory contains the great news about God's visit to humanity. Jesus did not come just to share our experience of life, or to teach us the way to live; he came to take our sin upon himself and to bear our punishment in his death. He himself said he came to "give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). As the Apostle Peter said, "Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous" (1 Pet 3:18a).

But Jesus' 'visit' to humanity did not cease with his death. He rose again as a man, and not just as a man but as the 'Son of Man' - the man whom Daniel prophesied would rule all nations for all time (Dan 7:13-14). "For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive", wrote the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 15:21-22).

Furthermore, the risen Jesus continues as the man who rules the world. He calls all people to himself by his Spirit and announces the gospel through his servants. As people come to him by the power of his Spirit's work of regeneration, they enter the kingdom of God.

At Easter, we take time to remember with overwhelming gratitude to God that we are saved by his Son's death and resurrection. We know that the crucifixion of Christ is the power and wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:18-24). There is no message more important to preach and no song more important to sing than that Jesus died for our sins. This message was delivered by the apostles "as of first importance" - that "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried , that he was raised on third day in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Cor 15:3-4).

For those who are not saved, Easter is a strange and fairly unimpressive festival. A man dies in the first century and we are supposed to celebrate? He may have been a great man - he may have been an innocent man - he may have died a barbaric death - but what is so important about a man who died? How is this action central to history, life, eternity or your relationship to God? In contrast, for those of us being saved, the cross is not a matter of shame and foolishness but the power and wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:18).

Christmas will always be more popular than Easter with the non-Christian. It has a message that is easier to understand - a message that tells us of our importance. It is a message of birth and life. But Easter has a message that demonstrates God's wrath upon our sin. It is a message that reminds us of our mortality. It is a message that demands repentance.

And yet Easter is not a gloomy affair. We do not celebrate that Jesus died, but that he died for our sins. We do not only celebrate that he returned to life, but also that he rose to rule the universe as our Lord and king. We do not celebrate God's wrath upon our sin but the victory of God's mercy over wrath - whereby we are justified and pardoned. We do not celebrate life here on earth, but life here on earth and into eternity - the new eternal life of the kingdom of God.

Jensen, Phillip D. By God's Word: 60 Reflections for Living in God's World (Kingsford: Matthias Media, 2007), 208-211.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

This is Sin

This was pretty convicting in my devotional time this morning:
"This is sin; a refusal to listen to the voice and to the Word of God. So that if you are living your own life in a very respectable manner, and are not listening to God, you are still a terrible sinner. If you are living that little self-contained, self-satisfied life in which you really only think of God now and again, and remember perhaps morning and evenings that there is a God, and you say your prayers; if that is your attitude to God, if you are not waiting upon Him and listening for His Word, and seeking it everywhere, and living to practise it, then you are as much a sinner as the drunkard or the adulterer; you are not listening to God. That is the essence of sin."

Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn Romans Chapter 1 (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985), 139.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Preaching at Crestwood Baptist Church in Des Moines, Iowa

This is really late notice, but if you'd pray for Crestwood Baptist Church in Des Moines, Iowa and myself this morning I'd appreciate it. I'm going to be preaching on Christ the King from Psalm 2 there this morning!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Caution Your Incomes and all Your Losses

Letter LIX. To Earlston, Elder.



I have heard of the mind and malice of your adversaries against you. It is like they will extend the law they have, in length and breadth, answerable to their heat of mind. But it is a great part of your glory that the cause is not yours, but your Lord’s whom you serve. And I doubt not but Christ will count it His honour to back His weak servant; and it were a shame for Him (with reverence to His holy name) that He should suffer Himself to be in the common of such a poor man as ye are, and that ye should give out for Him and not get in again. Write up your depursments for your Master Christ, and keep the account of what ye give out, whether name, credit, goods, or life, and suspend your reckoning till nigh the eveing; and remember that a poor weak servant of Christ wrote it to you, that ye shall have Christ, a King, caution for your incomes and all your losses. Reckon not from the forenoon. Take the Word of God for your warrant; and for Christ’s act of cautionary, howbeit body, life, and goods go for Christ your Lord, and though ye should lose the head for Him, yet “there shall not one hair of your head perish; in patience, therefore, possess your soul.” (Luke xxi. 18, 19) And because ye are the first man in Galloway called out and questioned for the name of Jesus, His eye hath been upon you, as upon one whom He designed to be among His witnesses. Christ hath said, “Alexander Gordon shall lead the ring in witnessing a good confession,” and therefore He hath put the garland of suffering for Himself first upon your head. Think yourself so much the more obliged to Him, and fear not; for He layeth His right hand on your head. He who was dead and is alive will plead your cause, and will look attentively upon the process from the beginning to the end, and the Spirit of glory shall rest upon you. “Fear none of these things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Zech. xii. 2, 6.) (Rev. ii. 10). This lovely One, Jesus, who also became the Son of man, that He might take strokes for you, write the cross-sweetening and soul-supporting sense of these words in your heart!

These rumbling wheels of Scotland’s ten days’ tribulation are under His look who hath seven eyes. Take a house on your head, and slip yourself by faith in under Christ’s wings till the storm be over. And remember, when they have drunken us down, Jerusalem will be a cup of trembling and of poison. (Zech. xii. 2, 6) They shall be fain to vomit out the saints; for Judah “Shall be a hearth of fire in a sheaf, and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left.” Woe to Zion’s enemies! They have the worst of it; for we have write for the victory. Sir, ye were never honourable till now. This is your glory, that Christ hat put you in the roll with Himself and with the rest of the witnesses who are come out of great tribulation, and have washen their garments and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Be not cast down for what the servants of Antichrist cast in your teeth, that ye are a head to and favourer of the Puritans, and leader to that sect. If your conscience say, “Alas! here is much din and little done” (as the proverb is), because ye have not done so much service to Christ that way as ye might and should, take courage from that same temptation. For your Lord Christ looketh upon that very challenge as an hungering desire in you to have done more than ye did; and that filleth up the blank, and He will accept of what ye have done in that kind. If great men be kind to you, I pray you overlook them; if they smile on you, Christ but borroweth their face to smile through them upon His afflicted servant. Know the well-head; and for all that, learn the way to the well itself. Thank God that Christ came to your house in your absence and took with Him some of your children. He presumed that much on your love, that ye would not offend; (Stumble; be offended) and howbeit He should take the rest, He cannot come upon your wrong side. I question not, if they were children of gold, but ye think them well bestowed upon Him.

Expound well these two rods on you, one in your house at home, another on your own person abroad. Love thinketh no evil. If ye were not Christ’s wheat, appointed to be bread in His house, He would not grind you. But keep the middle line, neither despise nor faint (Heb. xii. 5). Ye see your Father is homely with you. Strokes of a father evidence kindness and care; take them so. I hope your Lord hath manifested Himself to you, and suggested these, or more choice thoughts about His dealing with you. We are using our weak moyen and credit for you up at our own court, as we dow. We pray the King to hear us, and the Son of Man to go side for side with you, and hand in hand in the fiery oven, and to quicken and encourage your unbelieving heart when ye droop and despond. Sir, to the honour of Christ be it said, my faith goeth with my pen now. I am presently believing Christ shall bring you out. Truth in Scotland shall keep the crown of the causeway yet. The saints shall see religion go naked at noon-day, free from shame and fear of men. We shall divide Shechem, and ride upon the high places of Jacob. Remember my obliged respects and love to Lady Kenmure and her sweet child.

Yours ever in his sweet Lord Jesus,

S. R.

Antwoth, July 6, 1636.

Rutherford, Samuel Letters of Samuel Rutherford (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 2006), 133-135. (I edited the text for ease in reading)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope that everyone reading this was able to have a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration! I'm most thankful that God saved me from His wrath through the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. Further, I'm thankful for how God executes his decrees in creation and providence. I'm thankful for many things, but here's a few more: (1) salvation in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2) my family (3) the elders at my church who have gently and lovingly taught my wife and me more about Scripture and God's grace in the gospel (4) the deepening Christian fellowship we have had at our church and with friends both old and new (5) the great privilege it is to be an ambassador for Christ as a Christian.

Ted and Meryl Freeman had a bunch of us over to their place for Thanksgiving. We had great conversation and sang some great hymns: Now Thank We All Our God; For the Beauty of The Earth; We Gather Together; There is a Fountain; and Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing. It was great! Here's a picture of us all at the dinner table:

Below is a devotion from Charles Spurgeon's Morning by Morning that Lindsey and I read on the morning before Thanksgiving. This is a great reason to give thanks!

November 25 proclaim liberty to the captives.
Luke 4:18
No one but Jesus can give deliverance to captives. Real liberty comes from Him alone. It is a liberty rightly granted; for the Son, who is Heir of all things, has a right to make men free. The saints honor the justice of God, which now secures their salvation. It is a liberty that has been dearly purchased. Christ reveals it by His power, but He bought it by His blood. He makes you free, but it is by His own bonds. You go clear because He bore your burden for you: You are set at liberty because He has suffered in your place. Although the purchase price was great, Jesus gives it freely. He asks nothing of us as a preparation for this liberty. He finds us sitting in sackcloth and ashes and invites us to wear the fitting garment of freedom; He saves us just as we are and without any help from us. When Jesus sets us free, the liberty is perpetually enjoyed; no chains can bind again. Let the Master say to me, "Captive, I have delivered you," and it is done forever. Satan may plot to enslave us, but if the Lord is on our side, whom shall we fear? The world, with its temptations, may seek to ensnare us, but He who is for us is mightier than all those who are against us. The movements of our own deceitful hearts may harass and annoy us, but He who has begun the good work in us will bring it to completion in the end. The enemies of God and the antagonists of man may gather their forces together and come with concentrated fury against us, but if God acquits, who is he that condemns? The eagle that flies to its rocky perch and afterwards soars above the clouds is no more free than the soul delivered by Christ. If we are no longer under the law but free from its curse, let our liberty be practically displayed as we serve God with gratitude and delight. "I am your servant; the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds." (Psalm 116:16)

Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon's Morning by Morning Revised and updated by Alistair Begg (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007), 345.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Deception of a Church's Desire to be Big & Culturally Relevant

All the talk about multi-site churches and the seeker-sensitive philosophy of ministry seems to be founded on two main arguments "reach more" and "bigger". These are good intentions, but as the familiar phrase goes, "the path to hell is paved with good intentions." Here's a quote from the church growth literature that makes my stomach turn:
"Do you know where your sermon begins? If you have ever been to Disney World, you know the answer to our question. It begins in the parking lot with music, inviting pathways, interestingly named sections of the parking lot, hospitality people roaming around looking for ways to serve with a smile. It isn't long before you know you are a king and queen for the day. Why can't your parking lot say, 'Come on in. We're ready for you'?...The word edutainment is becoming a common word among clued-in educators. Sesame street began the trend in 1969 when it launched a truly revolutionary method of combining education and entertainment. The trend in children's education continues to become more entertaining with programs such as Barney and Blue's Clues."
Easum, Bill; Cornelius, Bil Go Big: Lead Your Church to Explosive Growth (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006), 98-100.
Barf! I was raised watching Sesame Street, but my folks were a blessing to my sister and me by taking us to the mountains for holidays and not Disney World. So the question is, "Would you rather have a church that's real, teaches substance and truth, and worships God in the manner that He has set up, or would you like a gimmicky plastic veneer on light substance and doctrine?" I don't know about you, but I prefer the mountains to Disney World. So, what's up with this obsession with big? Well, in 1962, years before the current debates, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones spoke relevant biblical truth with clarity to our situation:

“Nothing is so opposed to the biblical teaching as the modern idea that numbers and powerful organization alone count. It is the very opposite of the great biblical doctrine of ‘the remnant’, stated, for instance, so perfectly by Jonathan to his amour-bearer as they alone faced the hosts of the Philistines, in the words: ‘Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few’ (1 Sam. 14:6). Still more strikingly, perhaps, it is taught in the incident of Gideon and the Midianites, where we read of God reducing the army of Israel from thirty-two thousand to three hundred as a preliminary to victory (Judges 7).

“God has done His greatest work throughout the centuries through remnants, often even through individuals. Why is it that we forget Micaiah the son of Imlah, and Jeremiah, and Amos, John the Baptist, the mere twelve disciples; and Martin Luther, standing alone, defying some twelve centuries of tradition and all the power of a mighty church? This is not to advocate smallness or exclusiveness as if they had some inherent merit; but it is to suggest that the modern slavish attitude to bigness and organization cuts right across a central biblical emphasis. Indeed it suggests ignorance of, and lack of faith in, the power of the Holy Spirit."

Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn The Basis of Christian Unity (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2003), 75-76.

I think it's excellent that many in the seeker-sensitive, church growth, and multi-site movements want to reach more with the gospel and see their churches experience numerical growth. That said, this desire can actually become a poison. This thinking can poison our trust in Christ's power to build His church through the power of the Holy Spirit. Our lot is faithfulness and obedience, not apparent success achieved through cultural accommodation.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

How are the Qualities of Deacons Like the Qualities of Elders?

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:8, saying, "Deacons likewise (Διακόνους ὡσαύτως)," and then he lists eight (not including verse 11) qualities of a deacon. I plan on only considering what Paul meant by writing “likewise” in 1 Timothy 3:8 in this post:

What Does “Likewise” Mean Here?
First, "likewise" is linking the lists of qualities of an officer of the church, not necessarily the aspiration to pursue the office in a local church from verse 1. This is not to say that the aspiration to serve in the diaconate is not a desire to do a noble task, but the "likewise" isn't carrying the emphasis of the "desire" for the office from verse 1 to the office of deacon, "The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task." All of that being said it's implied that this next list of qualities is what Timothy was to look for in a person to fill another office in the church, namely the office of deacon. So "likewise" (“ωσαντως” or “hosautos”) links the list that follows to the previous set of qualities that were laid out about elders.

Second, "Likewise" is functioning as an adverb describing how the following "states of being" are the substance of or characteristic qualities of deacons. So there is an implied “it is be” (δεῖ εἶναι) in this phrase.(1) So the phrase would read, "It is necessary for Deacons, likewise, to be...". "Likewise" is describing how 1 Timothy 3:8-11 & 13 is related to verses 1-7 (as I mentioned above).(2) “Likewise” is not, however, transferring any of the qualities of an elder to the qualities of deacon;(3) rather, it setting up a comparison that the relation of characteristics to the deacon is similar to the relationship of the characteristics to the elder. In other words, there are two offices here and the lists that describe them are like each other insofar as they describe that office. The descriptions aren’t interchangeable. So, in the way that the former qualities describe elders, so these latter qualities that follow describe deacons. The same word also appears in verse 12 and sets off another list (of deacons' wives or deaconesses, which I hope to talk about more when I get there).

“Likewise” can also be translated as “also”, “similarly”, “the same way”, etc. By my count there are 14 qualities of elders in verses 1-7 (not including the desire to be one), so some think “likewise” may be setting a direct contrast between the qualities that are similar. I don't think that's the case though. Paul doesn't seem to be trying to make “one to one” connections and comparisons in these lists. Take a look at the following lists (if you click on the picture it will open on another webpage in a larger image):

A case may be made for a “one to one” correspondence between qualities #1 and #3 but other than that it seems that Paul is not following a direct one to one correspondence for the rest of the qualities in any particular order. The only quality that doesn't seem to be reiterated in any way in the lists of deacon and wives/deaconesses is the ability to teach. Wm. Mounce describes Paul's method here by writing, “He presents an official list in that it was intended to be followed, but it is not exhaustive, concentrating as it does on observable traits. It is, rather, an ad hoc list meant to combat the Ephesian heresy; yet in principle it is relevant today.”(4) I don't think it's helpful to think that quality #2, #4, etc. of each of the lists modify and clarify each other directly, but Paul does use some of the same descriptions more than once.

Are These Just Two Lists Describing the Same Office?
These lists are like each other, and not the same as each other. This leads to the question: “Are these lists just different ways of describing the same office?” This doesn’t seem to be the case.

Some folks want to conflate these lists to make the case that there is only one office that Paul had in mind here. That doesn’t seem to be a plain reading of the text though. If we put too much weight on the “likewise”, and make the diaconate into the same office as an “elder” with a different name we are making Scripture say what it doesn’t say. The similarity between the two words seems to be that “elders” and “deacons” are two distinctly recognized roles in a local church. Further, the similarity or “likewise-ness” seems to be that there are qualities and characteristics that a church is to look for in a person who would fulfill these offices, not that they are the same office. This thinking, in this context, puts more weight on the adverb “likewise” than it was meant to carry. It’s also important to notice that when Paul wrote to the Philippians he wrote, “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons (Phil 1:1).” If these two offices were the same office why would Paul have made the distinction?

If these were two different ways to describe the same official role in the church, why did Paul use some of the same descriptions more than one time? As I mentioned above, the lists don’t have a one-to-one correspondence, but there are some characteristics that are identical. Paul would have been pretty redundant if these were the same office. Further, if verse 11 is talking about deaconesses then we would be including women into the teaching role of a church as well, and the previous chapter clearly outlines that women are not to be teaching or exercising authority over men (1 Tim 2:12). Mounce writes of the distinction between the offices:

“[Elders and deacons] represent two groups, as is also attested in Phil 1:1. In the [Pastoral Epistles], even though the lists of qualifications are similar, they are distinct, suggesting distinct functions. Never are the two titles interchanged in the [New Testament] in the same way as overseer and elder. In the postapostolic development of the offices, they are clearly distinct.”(5)

In a future post I hope to discuss how an elder is a type of deacon, namely of prayer and of the word. The office of a deacon is a deacon or servant of the physical needs of the church. But, again, I hope to think about that at a later time.

(1) Knight, NIGTC, 168; Mounce, WBC, 197.
(2) Knight, NIGTC, 168; Mounce, WBC, 197.
(3) Marshall, ICC, 489.
(4) Mounce, WBC, 207.
(5) Mounce, WBC, 196.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Isn’t Communism Biblical?

This is a helpful quote from R. B. Kuiper:
The members of the church at Jerusalem had all material things in common. It hardly needs to be said that this communism was something quite different from the communism for which so may clamor today. It was communism among Christians only. It was local in its scope, there being no evidence in the New Testament that it was practiced in any church other than that at Jerusalem. Even in the Jerusalem church it was a temporary arrangement. There was nothing compulsory about it, for when a member of the church sold a possession and pretended to give the whole price to the church, although actually he gave but part, Peter said to him: “Whiles it remained was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?” (Acts 5:4). And the spirit behind this communism was radically different from that which often comes to expression in present-day communism. Someone has aptly said: “The Christians at Jerusalem said, ‘All mine is thine’; communists today say, ‘All thine is mine.’”

Kuiper, R. B. The Glorious Body of Christ (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001), 150-151. Emphasis is mine.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fruit in the Bible

Here's a little section of what I was teaching on a few weeks back regarding fruit of the Spirit at church. Unfortunately, because of time restraints I had to cut this, so I thought I'd post it here. It's just a short little biblical-theological meditation on fruit in the Bible. The question that we have to ask ourselves is, "What kind of fruit does my life bear?"
Fruit is an image that we are all familiar with. Fruit on a tree implies multiple things: health, fertility of the ground, growth, sustenance, and reproduction. The kind of fruit that a tree bears says something about the tree and all of the conditions that have combined to contribute to its growth. In the Bible we first see fruit in the creation in Genesis 1:11 when God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” After God created vegetation to bear fruit in season He said it was good (Gn 1:12). The Biblical idea of fruit was then applied to the blessing of both animals (Gn 1:22), and Adam and Eve to multiply (Gn 1:28). The blessing of children is called the “fruit of the womb” at least twelve times in the Bible as well(Gn 30:2; Deut 7:13; 28:4, 11, 18, 53; 30:9; Ps 127:3; 132:11; Isa 13:18; Lam 2:20; Luke 1:42).

Next we see fruit in the garden, when God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gn 2:16-17). We know that they disobeyed God in eating this fruit and it is through this disobedience of the heart that all fell into sin (Gn 3:6). It is in the fall then that bearing fruit from the ground would become difficult and it is through the fall that bearing children would be accompanied with a whole variety of pain. In fact in addition to cursing Satan, God directly cursed the ground saying, “cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life (Gn 3:17).” Despite this curse of the ground there is grace. Again and again in the Old Testament we see that God takes pleasure in His mandate for the creation to be fruitful and multiply by opening wombs and enabling women to have children. We see that God also owned the first fruits of the field, livestock and of children. One of the reasons that the promised land of Canaan was so desirable was because of the evident fruitfulness of it.

Capitalizing on the understanding of fruitfulness in the Old Testament, Psalm 1 applies the image of fruit to the life of a believer. David wrote:

Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. 4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

This became an image that Jeremiah used to describe virtues of a wicked man and the man who has no other security in life but the Lord (Jer 17:5-8). This idea of fruitfulness manifesting in a person’s character is further developed in the wisdom books and the books of the prophets. Jesus picks up on this imagery as well, saying, “bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matt 3:8),” also “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire (Matt 7:15-20),” and “make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for a tree is known by its fruit (Matt 12:33),” and there are many more examples of this.

The good news of the gospel is that even though we were trees planted in the soil of of this world bearing the rotten fruit of boasting in what we have and do, we can be grafted into the living vine of Jesus Christ. Believers have been given a new life of peace with God. Through being nourished from the water of life, and being grafted to the living vine of Christ by God's gift to us of repentance and faith we also see that we are given the Holy Spirit. As God sanctifies us progressively over time our lives will bear the fruit of the Spirit if we are believers. But this is a fruit that we have to fight for as well (there's a balance of God's sovereignty and our responsibility here). This is what Paul was getting at when he wrote that we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us both to will and work for His good pleasure (Phil 2:12-13). This is what James was getting at when he wrote that faith without works is dead (Jas 2:18-26). Likewise, this is what Peter was getting at when he wrote that we should make our calling and election sure (1 Pet 1:10). Paul's exhortation is still relevant that we "keep in step with the truth of the gospel (Gal 2:14)" and that we, "keep in step [or walk] with the Spirit (Gal 5:25)."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Greatest Story Ever Told - Shai Linne

I love this! The story of the Bible in 4 minutes and 32 seconds!

Here are the lyrics:

It’s the greatest story ever told.
A God pursues foes whose hearts turned cold.
The greatest story ever told.
Restoring all that the enemy stole.
The greatest story ever told.
The glory of Christ is the goal, behold.
The greatest story ever told.
It’s the greatest.

Alright check it: let’s go back in time, brethren. Divine lessons always keep your mind guessing. The glory of the Triune God is what I’m stressing. The origin of humankind was fine. Blessings were plenteous. God is amazingly generous. Crazy benefits in a state of innocence. God told the man what he could taste was limited. Not long after came our nemesis in Genesis. He scammed well, man fell, damned to hell. The whole human race—he represented it. Fooled by the serpent, man through his work, woman through birth—even the earth ruled by the curses. But instead of a wake immediately. God said her Seed would be the One to crush the head of the snake. Yo, wait what is this? Whoa, a gracious gift! In Jehovah’s faithfulness He clothed their nakedness. This was so they would know their Savior’s kiss and bliss. But first, many growing pains exist suffering in the worst form, ugly deeds. Eve’s firstborn seed made his brother bleed. Indeed things got progressively worse. Every section of the earth is been affected by the curse. And though God’s judgments against sin were gory, praise the Lord! It’s not the end of the story.

Next scene: man’s sin was extreme. God gets steamed, man gets creamed. The Lord is so Holy that He drowned them in the water. Fire in the valley of slaughter – Sodom and Gomorrah. But at the same time, He’s so gracious and patient that from one man He created a whole nation. Eventually enslaved by the mentally depraved, they cried out to the only One with the strength that He could save. He brought them out with signs and wonders – satisfied their hunger. Then He appeared on Mount Sinai in thunder. Where He laid down the law for God-ruled government. Commonly referred to as the Mosaic covenant. Sin was imputed. So for man to know he’s unrighteous, God instituted animal sacrifices. This was to show our constant need for atonement. And when it came to sin, the Lord would never condone it. And when His people disobeyed and went astray, He raised up prophets and kings to lead them in the way. But they would get foul with their idolatry—wet and wild prophecy—send them into exile. To take their punishment like a grown man. Then with His own hand He placed them back in their homeland. And while in their forefather’s land they dwelt, they awaited the arrival of Emmanuel.

After 400 silent years filled with sighs and tears. In Bethlehem the Messiah appears. God in the flesh—Second Person of the Trinity. At thirty begins His earthly ministry. Baffling cats with accurate, exact facts and back-to-back miraculous acts. A stumbling block to the self righteous. But the humbled—His flock, said “There’s no one else like this.” He came from heaven to awake the numb. Demonstrated His power over nature, son. A foretaste of the Kingdom and the age to come. But the reason He came was to pay the sum for the depths of our wickedness, our wretched sinfulness. Bless His magnificence! He is perfect and innocent. Yet He was wrecked and His death. He predicted it. Next He was stretched, paid a debt that was infinite. He said that He finished it. Resurrected so the elect would be the recipients of its benefits. Through faith and penitence we get to be intimate. His grace is heaven sent, it never diminishes. Now the Holy Spirit indwelling is the evidence for heaven’s future residents who truly represent Jesus, the Author, Producer, Director, and Star of a story that will never, ever end!

(HT: Thabiti & JT)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Non-Believers & False Teachers at the Church in Ephesus

The negative and positive qualities that Paul lays out in 1 Timothy for elders and deacons are a direct contrast to the non-believers and the false teachers that Paul had been teaching about. This post is simply the list of all the qualities of the non-believers and of the false teachers that Paul (and John) taught about at the church in Ephesus (I also walk through the qualities of non-believers in John's Epistles since they were most likely written to the church in Ephesus). This sets a strong contrast (to say the least) to the qualities that he encourages Timothy to look for in elders and deacons:
  1. Some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Waybefore the congregation (Acts 19:9)

  2. Itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord over those who had evil spirits, the sons of Sceva, and they were attacked by the demons (Acts 19:13-16)

  3. Many formerly practiced magic arts, and they burned their books (Acts 19:19)

  4. Demetrius'(a Gentile) trade was threatened and he warned the Ephesians that theirs would too and that their goddess Artemis was being threatened by the Christians (Acts 19:21-41)

  5. Fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; from among your own selves [the elders] will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them (Acts 20:29-31)

  6. The Ephesian Christians once walked, following the prince of the power of the air the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:1-3)

  7. They formerly were Gentiles in the flesh, separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenant of promise. They had no hope and were without God in the world (Ephesians 2:11-12)

  8. Gentiles walk in the futility of their mind, darkened by their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity (Ephesians 4:17-19)

  9. Sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness was not to be practiced. Paul exhorted that there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, "For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord" (Ephesians 5:3-8)

  10. It is shameful even to speak of the things that non-Christians do in secret(Ephesians 5:12)

  11. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not getdrunk with wine, for that is debauchery (Ephesians 5:17)

  12. Timothy was to charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations (1 Timothy 1:3)

  13. Those who devote themselves to vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law,without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions (1 Timothy 1:6-7)

  14. The law is for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for theunholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, formurderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality,enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted (1 Timothy 1:9-11)

  15. Paul describes himself as a former blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponentof Christ (1 Timothy 1:13)

  16. Those who blaspheme or reject the gospel (like Hymenaeus & Alexander) make shipwreck of their faith (rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith) (1 Timothy 1:19-20)

  17. Women are not to teach or exercise authority over a man (when I get to the qualifications of elders and deacons I hope to discuss how this rules out that women can be elders, but not necessarily deacons) (1 Timothy 2:12)

  18. Those who will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.(1 Timothy 4:1-3)

  19. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths (1 Timothy 4:7)

  20. Good or false teachers are not distinguishable by their age. Paul encouraged Timothy to "let no one despise you for your youth" (1 Timothy 4:12)

  21. Paul describes those are falsely posing to be widows saying, "but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives" (this would particularly apply to deaconesses if we take the office of deaconess to be a biblical office, cf. Romans 16:1) (1 Timothy 5:6)

  22. He also warns of the temptation of younger widows saying, "when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips andbusybodies, saying what they should not (1 Timothy 5:11-13)

  23. Paul also describes how some of these sins are obvious or "conspicuous", but some of these are hidden sins or will "appear later" (1 Timothy 5:24)

  24. Those who teach a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has anunhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, whichproduce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain (1 Timothy 6:3-5)

  25. Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some havewandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

  26. The rich are not to be haughty, and should not trust in the uncertainty of their riches (1 Timothy 6:17)

  27. Timothy was to charge the Ephesian church not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers (2 Timothy 2:14)

  28. They were to avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some (2 Timothy 2:16-17)

  29. They were to flee youthful passions (2 Timothy 2:22)

  30. Further, they were to have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. The Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome (2 Timothy 2:23)

  31. Paul wrote further that, "people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud,arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, mencorrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men." (2 Timothy 3:2-9)

  32. Paul further describes that evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13)

  33. Paul warned that the time was coming when people would not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they would accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and would turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

  34. Paul also described how false brethren deserted him. So another quality of someone unfit for the work of the ministry is someone who deserts true and faithful gospel preachers in their times of need (2 Timothy 4:10-17)

  35. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1 John 1:6)

  36. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8)

  37. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1 John 1:10)

  38. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:4)

  39. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness (1 John 2:9)

  40. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes (1 John 2:11)

  41. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world (1 John 2:15-16)

  42. They went out from us [or abandoned them], but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us (1 John 2:19)

  43. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son (1 John 2:22)

  44. I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you (1 John 2:26)

  45. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4)

  46. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother (1 John 3:9-10)

  47. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous (1 John 3:12)

  48. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him (1 John 3:15)

  49. Little children, let us not love in word or talk [only] but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18)

  50. Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already (1 John 4:3)

  51. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them (1 John 4:5)

  52. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8)

  53. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love (1 John 4:18)

  54. If anyone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20)

  55. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son (1 John 5:10)

  56. Whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life (1 John 5:12)

  57. The whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19)

  58. Little children, keep yourselves from idols (1 John 5:21)

  59. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works (2 John 1:7-11)

  60. I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first,does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing,talking wicked nonesense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true (3 John 1:9-12)
Eckhard Schnabel has summed up Paul's teaching in these passages well in the quote below (fyi: I added the bolded numbers and letters in brackets not the footnotes):

In his letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul discusses yet again the activities of certain Jewish Christian teachers. Paul asserts that they promote foolish controversies.[1]The comment that these teachers seduce Christians (2 Tim 3:13; cf. Tit 1:10) indicates that the “nonsense” they propagate is plausible to some degree and thus convinces some believers. Their teachings [1] focus on the Mosaic law, which the[A] interpret in an allegorical manner, [B] linked with Jewish myths and with circumcision,[2] [C] with ascetic practices related to marriage and food.[3] They [2]deny a future resurrection (2 Tim 2:18). [3] They emphasize the participation of married women in the teaching ministry of the churches with the result that they neglect their children (1 Tim 2:11-15). [4] And they possibly downplay the importance of missionary work among Gentiles.[4] [5] Their teaching implied that Jesus Christ does not occupy a central position as Savior and as Mediator between God and humankind. Paul attacks these teachers on account of their immoral behavior (Tit 1:16; 2 Tim 3:1-5), which was demonstrated, for example, in their desire to achieve financial gain through their teaching ministry (1 Tim 6:5-10; Tit 1:11). Paul warns the Christians in the churches in Asia Minor to recognize the danger that these teachers represent and to reject them, and not to become again the kind of people they had been before their conversion.[5] Paul encourages Timothy and Titus to be concerned about the quality of character of the leaders in the local churches (1 Tim 3:1-13; Tit 1:5-9). And he emphasizes the necessity of preserving the early Christian tradition in the churches.[6]

[1] Cf. 1 Tim 6:3-5; Tit 1:10; 3:9; 2 Tim 2:14-16; 2:23.
[2] 1 Tim 1:4, 7; 2 Tim 4:4; Tit 1:14; on circumcision cf. Tit 1:10.
[3] Cf. 1 Tim 4:3; cf. Tit 1:15; 1 Tim 2:15; 5:23.
[4] I. Howard Marshall, Pastoral Epistles, p. 45; cf. 1 Tim 2:4-6, 7; 4:10; Tit 2:11; cf. 1 Tim 3:16.
[5] Cf. 1 Tim 3:1-13; 5:6, 11; Tit 1:6-7; 2 Tim 2:22. Cf. Marshall, Pastoral Epistles, p. 43.
[6] Cf. 1 Tim 1:15-17; 2 Tim 1:13-14; 2:2, 8-13; 3:10, 14-17; Tit 2:1; 3:3-8.

Schnabel, Eckhard Paul the Missionary: Realities, Strategies and Methods(Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2008), 206-207.