Thursday, March 20, 2008

Extremists in Everything

Adrian Warnock writes:
"Why shouldn't we have churches that are every bit as concerned about doctrinal accuracy and knowledge as John MacArthur, that love relational intimacy with Jesus as much as John Arnott, see miraculous healings that are every bit as dynamic as the ones the tele- evangelists claim to have seen, are as full of vision and purpose as Rick Warren, as skilled in leadership as Bill Hybels, as humble and committed to spiritual maturity as C.J. Mahaney, as relevant to practical life as the author of any self-help book you can think of, that impact social needs in the model of Shaftsbury, tackle political issues like Wilberforce, preach with both the passion for souls of Spurgeon and the passion for God's glory of John Piper, that hear from God as clearly as any modern prophet, are as aggressively missional as Mark Driscoll, have the apostolic drive of Terry Virgo, and yet somehow still feel as comforting as my wife's homemade apple crumble with custard?"

Amen, brother.

Spurgeon on the Internet

Charles Haddon Spurgeon is now viewed as one of the foremost Reformed preachers ever.  Today, I'd like to alert you to a website I just re-discovered: A Daily Dose of Spurgeon.  Here you can find his morning and evening devotionals and feed your soul on his preaching.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Path to Happiness

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.--2 Corinthians 7:10 (ESV)

In this verse, Paul outlines the path to happiness.  The interesting thing about this path is that it begins with sadness.  You have to walk over the rough patch of godly grief before you can walk on the streets of gold.  Essentially, Paul maps out the path to happiness as (1) Godly grief for sin leads to (2) repentance from sin which produces (3) salvation without regret (which I'm going to refer to as simply happiness).

Grief which stems from our wounded pride does not please God and is ineffectual in producing repentance.  This is, I believe, the "worldly grief" which produces death.  John Owen, in his treatise The Mortification of Sin, writes of this worldly grief: "Now it is certain that that which I speak of proceeds from self-love.  Thou settest thyself with all diligence and earnestness to mortify such a lust or sin: what is the reason of it?  It disquiets thee; it hat thaken away thy peace; it fills thy heart with sorrow and trouble and fear; thou hast no rest because of it. . . .  Would thy conscience be quiet under it, thou wouldest let it alone.  Did it not disquiet thee, it should not be disquieted by thee."

The word "godly" means either "devout and pious" or "coming from God."  If we apply both of these meanings to this verse, we see that the grief which truly leads to happiness is centered on God.  It is, in John Owen's words: "Hatred of sin as sin, not only as galling or disquieting."  Godly grief is being saddened by our grieving of the Holy Spirit.  Godly grief is mourning our part in Christ's crucifixion.  Godly grief is thinking: "This sin is like walking up to Christ dying for me on the cross--and spitting on His face."  Under this grief, a soul cannot tolerate the smallest sin and genuinely repents.

The path to happiness begins with a look at Calvary.  Until the Holy Spirit opens up the majesty of the Gospel to our souls, our grief will be worldly.  With His help, however, we can grieve for our sin in a godly way and genuinely repent.  Let us pray for the Holy Spirit to give us a godly grief for our sin--that we may have salvation without regret.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Desperate Running

But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.--Luke 24:12

When news of Jesus' resurrection reached the disciples, Peter was the first to investigate this report.  Not only that, but he ran to the tomb.  Why did Peter, a man of weak faith who had just days before denied Jesus, set out for the tomb first?  Why did Peter run to the tomb?

I believe he did this because he was out of options.  He knew that he was a sinner; after his denial of Jesus, when he saw Jesus and heard the rooster crow, he wept bitterly.  After Jesus' death, he must have despaired of his life.  He had denied the Messiah.  He had rejected the Son of the Most High God.  He knew the punishment that he deserved: death.  Early Sunday morning, though, he heard of the Jesus' victory over death.  Desperately, he ran to the tomb.  Desperately, he flew through the streets of Jerusalem.  He had no hope outside of Jesus.  Could it be true that Jesus was alive?  Peter was not left in his despair and mourning.  When he "saw the linen cloths by themselves," he marveled at Jesus' resurrection.

Like Peter, we are desperate people.  We have no hope outside of Christ.  We have nailed the Messiah to the Cross.  We have flogged His back without mercy.  We have mocked His name; we have speared His side; we have crucified Him with our sin.  We have denied Him and have been ashamed of our faith.  We have looked elsewhere for satisfaction and worshipped other gods.  For these sins, we deserve eternal torment.  We can only despair at what we have done.  But, like Peter, our despair ends when we desperately run to Jesus.  Let us run to Jesus and put all our trust in Him; let us find true happiness in His gospel.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Why We Read Good Books

The Desiring God blog has a great post up right now on (believe it or not) J.R.R. Tolkien's quite accurate view of sadness and delight in heaven.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Death By Life

And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.--Luke 8:14 (ESV)
But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.--Luke 21:34 (ESV)

There are many ways by which one can kill oneself--almost as many options as there are suicides.  But, the by far worst way to kill oneself is to "overdose on life."  Why is this the worst way?  Because, what you think will make you happy and give meaning to your life takes away your life!

Twice in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus warns His followers to be on guard against "death by life."  The well-known parable of the Sower speaks of "thorns" (the cares, riches, and pleasures of life) choking the Word of eternal life.  After speaking of His return, Jesus commanded His disciples to "watch yourselves."  He speaks specifically of their hearts being "weighed down with dissipation [dissolute indulgence in sensual pleasure or wasteful, pointless activity] and drunkenness and cares of this life."

The cares of life are many, but they all share one thing in common: They lead away from God.  They are what Romans 8:5 calls "things of the flesh."  Riches, dissipation, drunkenness--they are pursuits of pleasure in the things of this world.  We must take care that we do not pursue pleasure in this world.

But, to quote John Piper, "You can't abandon your pursuit for joy, you have to glut it on God."  The interesting thing about Jesus' warnings about death by life is that they are not just saying, "No, no, no."  They're saying, "Look around!  There is so much more just beyond the horizon.  Don't let these pitiful pleasures kill you, keep looking to eternity and find life and happiness in Jesus!"

Do you want to live?  Then, "watch yourselves," forsake earthly pleasure, and pursue the greater pleasure of Jesus with passion.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.--John 5:39-40 (ESV)

Jesus was a counter-cultural revolutionary.  To think of Him as less is to deny that His life was lived in opposition to the ruling powers of both religion and state.  Think of His famous woes: "Woe to the scribes and Pharisees."  In John 5:39-40, Jesus pulls the rug out from under the Jewish religious leaders.  He essentially says, "What are you doing?  You think you can get to the Father by just reading the words and not believing on the Son?"

For the last few weeks, I've been noticing a tendency in my heart to subtly move towards legalism when I'm having a good day.  During my daily Bible reading time, I find it very easy to think that God is impressed by my devotion to Him.  When I think on the Cross and pray during the rest of the day, I get an inflated head and feel like I've earned my way into God's favor.

Jesus minces no words, however, for people who rest on their works (like me at these times).  Those who trust in their works for life will not receive the free, gracious gift of God: eternal life.

The Power of God's Word

Tony Reinke is, in my opinion, one of the better Christian bloggers.  His blog, The Shepherd's Scrapbook, is not only Biblical, Cross-centered, and convicting, but also beautiful.  Not many blogs can claim to be handsome, but Tony's gorgeous photographs and design provide an excellent backdrop for God's truth.

His most recent post (as of March 7th) was an excerpt from a book on Luther's theology.  Some highlights:

"When hearers were concentrating on their sinfulness, Luther emphasized that God considered them righteous, or counted and reckoned them free from sin through his verdict of “Innocent!”—no matter how they felt about themselves. . . .

"Those who see this form of forensic justification as merely a legal fiction do not share Luther’s understanding of the power of the Word of God. The reformer knew that from the beginning of the world, God determined reality by speaking.  Therefore, he was certain that God’s word of forgiveness created a new reality in the life of the sinner. The reformer could not explain the mystery of evil and sin continuing in the lives of those God had claimed as his own in baptism. But he did not doubt that when God said, “Forgiven,” the reality of human sinlessness in God’s sight was genuine and unassailable."