Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lloyd-Jones on Preaching

"Now this is the very opposite of inviting people to a quest or to a search. That idea has always been popular; this notion that a Christian is someone who is seeking and searching; someone who sets out on a journey into this vast unexplored expanse of truth. What is a Christian? "Well," people say, "Christians are men and women who do not just spend their time eating and drinking and indulging their passions. They are intelligent people and they set out in the search for truth and oh, it is thrilling; it is wonderful! The uncharted ocean, the promised land, the unknown; and off you set, with this thrill and excitement on the quest for truth." This has always been very popular. People like the idea; it appeals to their spirit of adventure and there have been those who have not hesitated to say this. Their criticism of our evangelical gospel has always been that it is too certain and too dogmatic.

The poets like saying this sort of thing, do they not? They of all people, have generally fooled themselves better than others-- "to travel hopefully is better than to arrive!" says one of them.

But life is not a game; it is not a play; it is not just play-acting. Oh, life is serious and solemn; it is real and it is earnest. And that is the sort of life of the world that we find ourselves in today. So I thank God that as I look at this, I am not invited to some great experiment or to some great search or question or journey of exploration. In the midst of my failure in life, with my heart breaking and my soul bleeding, and as I am almost giving up in despair, I suddenly hear a bugle call or a trumpet sounding, and I say, What is that? And, thank God, I hear an authoritative proclamation; I hear a man saying, "Listen, I am a herald, I have a message from the Imperial Palace; I announce to you." "Preaching!"...

But let me translate that into simpler, more ordinary language. My task [as a preacher] is to tell you that the answer to all your questions is in this one book, the Bible. If I am a herald (and, thank God, unworthy though I am, that is what I am) I am not here to tell you my theories and my ideas about life, for they are no better than yours. No, I have been given a message from the Imperial Palace and here it is. And I am here to tell you with authority, with the authority of God, that all your questions have already been answered and all your problems have already been solved. You have but to listen to this preaching, this proclamation, and you will find peace and rest for your soul.

And if you should be asked to pass from time to eternity today, you will know where you are going; you will not be alone; you will be able to say with the Apostle Paul, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (2 Timothy 1:12). Thank God for preaching--proclamation, authoritative pronouncement!"

excerpts, The Kingdom of God by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, pgs. 12-14

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Reading the Bible with Opened Eyes recently interviewed John Piper:

BSM: There’s an old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”
How do you keep your familiarity with the Bible from causing
you to grow indifferent to it?

PIPER: I pray Psalm 119:18 each time I go to the Bible: “Open my
eyes that I may behold wonders in your law.” I think the point of
that prayer is that there are wonders everywhere in “the law,” in
the Bible, the instruction of God. And the psalmist is aware that he
doesn’t often feel or see wonderful things as wonderful. So he asks
to see. I do as well. I’m asking specifically that I would have spiritual
eyes to see what is wonderful as wonderful. And don’t think that it
doesn’t matter that you read glorious things without seeing them as
glorious. It matters, and therefore we should plead with God to open
our eyes.

you can read the rest of the interview here

(HT: desiringgodblog)

Friday, August 7, 2009

On Cultural Engagement

Some thoughts from the blog article of Ray Van Neste, Director of the R.C. Ryan Center for Biblical Studies at Union University in Jackson, TN, titled "Ken Myers on Cultural Engagement:"

"In the recent issue of Touchstone Magazine Ken Myers' article “Waiting for Epimenides” draws from the letter to Titus lessons for cultural engagement. This is a good article both in its handling of Titus and in its observations of the current church scene. Here are some quotes:
“A passion for Christian maturity is easily obscured when church leaders become preoccupied with the church’s cultural relevance.” (9)
“Far from looking more like their neighbors in the interest of winsomeness, they are enjoined to live lives that put their neighbors to shame.” (11; commenting on Titus 2:1-10)

“St. Paul’s letter to Titus is a bracing rebuke to much of the vague talk about cultural engagement one hears in so many Christian settings. … It recognizes that cultural moods and styles can be enemies of faithfulness.” (11)
Noting that there are often secular voices pointing out the deadening effects of cultural trends, Myers goes on to say:
"But, all too often, these prophetic voices are ignored, as American churches have emulated the most popular trends of our time to attract people who want a spiritual supplement to the cultural status quo instead of a radical critique of the conventional wisdom. Christian leaders have assumed that ‘engaging the culture’ means finding out what the majority wants and figuring out how to exploit those desires in the name of Jesus." (11)

You can visit Ray Van Neste's blog here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

To Get Us Thinking...

From Desiring God blog today: a helpful article on "Questions to Ask When Preparing for Marriage."

Photo Mircea Tudorache

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Question of Inerrancy

I was surprised and bemused a little over a year ago to run into a young Baptist youth leader at children's camp who believed the Bible contained error in what it taught. This surfaced in a conversation we had during breakfast one morning that began with my asking him what sort of books he liked to read. This young man was actually the main speaker for this camp. He became quite agitated over the topic, telling me that he used to believe the way I did about the inerrancy of Scripture, but no longer did.

Not long ago I was listening to a talk by Don Carson in which he communicated that though the battle for the inerrancy of Scripture has been fought valiantly in past decades, it has not been won. Here Don Carson speaks about 4 minutes on the topic (the video cuts off, wish it could have run a little longer!) but it's enough to get a taste for where the issues lie.
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word (Psalm 138:2)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Augustine and Pelagius For Us Ladies

"O God, command what You will, and give what You command," prayed Augustine, the 5th century bishop of Hippo, Africa, and so answered the growing heresy of the day taught by, among others, a British monk named Pelagius. Pelagius answered Augustine's thought with his own: God would never command something that is not in the ability of man to do.

This was not the first serious doctrinal conflict that had arisen in the church, but it is one of the first that provided theological labels still in use. Although Pelagius' views were condemned as unbiblical at the Council of Carthage in 418, they remained popular with many and have persisted in one form or another to this very day. Most of us in the church are unaware of these historical events and unfamiliar with the terms Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism, yet the views of Pelagius and others like him still deeply affect our understanding.

This conflict of understanding is one reason we have trouble growing and changing into the image of Christ, which is God's will for us. The New Testament words of Jesus and the apostles concerning how we are to live, and what sort of people we are to be, can seem so hopelessly beyond us that our eyes (and hearts) glaze over. We just can't apply such high standards to our own lives! Or, we determine to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get with the program of obeying God's commands. We make resolutions and "decisions" for Christ that harden eventually into a rigid lifestyle of rules. We really want to be holy, but feel it must come by our own efforts.

Either way we fall short of God's requirements. He does demand that His people be holy, set apart and conformed to the image of His Son, but He is not glorified by our own attempts at righteous living resulting in rigidity and self-righteousness. They are doomed to fail.

This is the dilemma that has led multitudes from Isaiah, to Paul, to Augustine and Luther to fall on their faces before the righteous demands of God and cry out, "God, you are holy and I am not! Command what you will--I have no say-so or argument anymore with Your holy and just law. Only, give what I need to obey Your commands!"

This is the prayer from the heart that God is waiting to hear. We have to come to the end of ourselves, and see very plainly that we will never fulfill God's righteousness by our own efforts.

This stuff really matters (thus a world-wide council convened in 418 A.D. in order to get it settled, or so they'd hoped.) And to bring it all down to our world, it matters greatly to us women; the stakes are so high that Paul says if we let the ball drop, and don't become doers of the word and not just hearers, we will actually aid the enemies of God and bring reproach to His gospel (Titus 2:5). What will we do about commands like this, which we cannot obey in our own strength and we dare not simply glaze over?

"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, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.

For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening" (1 Peter 3:1-6).

We'll fly to Jesus for help.

Lord, command what You will, and give what You command.

(learn more about Augustine and Pelagius here)

Photo by janusz l