Martin Luther’s Three Lights

At the conclusion of Martin Luther’s masterful book The Bondage of the Will he reveals some compassionate pastoral care to those who may be struggling with the ethical implications of the biblical teaching concerning sin, grace, and free will. Keep in mind that this is some 300 pages after he has absolutely shredded any notion of harmony between free-will and the gospel. In his shredding he was, let’s just say, forceful. This is what makes this compassionate nugget at the end so compelling.

He writes:

Keep in view three lights: the light of nature, the light of grace, and the light of glory (this is common and a good distinction).

By the light of nature, it is inexplicable that it should be just for the good to be afflicted and the bad to prosper; but the light of grace explains it.

By the light of grace, it is inexplicable how God can damn him who by his own strength can do nothing but sin and become guilty.

Both the light of nature and the light of grace here insist that the fault lies not in the wretchedness of man, but in the injustice of God; nor can they judge otherwise of a God who crowns the ungodly freely, without merit, and does not crown, but damns another, who is perhaps less, and certainly not more, ungodly.

But the light of glory insists otherwise, and will one day reveal God, to whom alone belongs a judgment whose justice is incomprehensible, as a God Whose justice is most righteous …

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An Espresso Shot of Christology in The Great Commission

In giving the Great Commission to his disciples Jesus said something very clear and very loud about himself:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Princeton theologian Lorraine Boettner observes the following:

“There he placed his name at the center of the true name of God, commanded that those who believe on Him should be baptized in that name and promised to be with them always, even to the end of the world.”

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A Caricature of God.

When you open up the newspaper you often are greeted with a humorous picture in the editorial section. The sketch, called a caricature, is a picture of a person in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated in order to create a reaction.

The pictures are often comical. We have seen the common ones where President Obama’s ears, teeth, and chin are ridiculously large while his eyes and his shoulders are proportionally very small. It’s amusing and accepted.

However, people often draw caricatures of God. This is neither amusing nor should it be accepted.

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Does God Change in the Incarnation?

This quote by Spurgeon was brought to my attention this week by a dear brother. It was especially helpful in considering the immutability of God (the fact that he does not change) even in light of the incarnation of Christ.

“All creatures change. Man, especially as to his body, is always undergoing revolution. Very probably there is not a single particle in my body which was in it a few years ago. This frame has been worn away by activity, its atoms have been removed by friction, fresh particles of matter have in the mean time constantly accrued to my body, and so it has been replenished; but its substance is altered.

The fabric of which this world is made is ever passing away; like a stream of water, drops are running away and others are following after, keeping the river still full, but always changing in its elements.

But God is perpetually the same. He is not composed of any substance or material, but is spirit—pure, essential, and ethereal spirit—and therefore he is immutable. He remains everlastingly the same. There are no furrows on his eternal brow. No age hath palsied him; no years have marked him with the mementoes of their flight; he sees ages pass, but with him it is ever now. He is the great I AM—the Great Unchangeable.

Mark you, his essence did not undergo a change when it became united with the manhood. When Christ in past years did gird himself with mortal clay, the essence of his …

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Moral Revolutionaries and their Potty Talk

When you read the news lately it seems like we are caught up in a playground battle of “one-upping”. Like kids swapping tales by the swings, news agencies pushing out stories that say, “Oh, yeah, have you heard about…?”

Each day we read of new developments in this moral revolution in America. Then we read of a story in Houston that is frankly so insane that it sounds like it was made up by a kid under the monkey bars.

The city of Houston passed the now infamous “bathroom bill”. Among other things, this allows people to use the restroom of their choice, based upon their own self-chosen gender identity. This means that men who say that they are women can walk into the ladies’ room and vice-versa.

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What Do You Mean by Unconditional Love?

It is common today to hear people say, “God loves us unconditionally.” It is also common to watch people bristle when people say, “God elects us unconditionally.”

When people say that God loves us unconditionally they usually mean something like, “After conversion God loves you no matter what. Isn’t that great?”

In one sense this is true, God’s love for his people is not based upon what they do or do not do. But this does not mean that God loves us unconditionally. If God loves anyone he loves them conditionally.

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The Rock of Comfort is God Himself.

When we are afflicted by the devastating trials of this life it can feel like we are being held underwater. It’s tough to hear, hard to breathe, and frightening. We panic. We get anxious. This is understandable. Life in this broken world is filled with heart-shredding trials that leg-sweep us surprisingly.

In the midst of this it is very important to remember to focus on what we know and not what we do not know. The common question is “why?” This is something we know in part but not in full. In the context of the big picture we understand that the answer to the “why” question is that we live in a post Genesis 3 world. However, the specific nuanced answer to “why” is unknown. We don’t know precisely “why.”

But we do know who God is and how he acts. This is tremendously comforting. In fact, when Job was laid low by trial he never received the answer to the “why” question but he did get a lengthy exposition of the “who.” It may seem like a theological copout but if you are spending time “under-water” in the midst of the waves of the trial then you need something objective, you need to clasp ahold of a dock.

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Seeing and Perceiving the Sovereignty of God

In my monthly article for Ligonier I wrote about God’s sovereignty. Often people see such high theological concepts as stuffy and impractical. In this article, however, I provide a recent snapshot from our church family that shows it is far more than this. The gist of the article is this: When God’s sovereignty is believed by somebody it is perceived by everybody.

Here is the link to the full article.

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Horton: The Word Always Creates the Church

I’m really enjoying Michael Horton’s new Systematic Theology, Pilgrim Theology. A few guys at the church are going through it together and really benefiting from the simplicity and clarity that Horton offers. In his chapter on the Scripture he contrasts the Reformation and Roman Catholic understanding of Authority and Scripture…

The churches of the Reformation do not deny the ongoing authority of the church in its representative assemblies, but the key difference is this: whereas the Roman Catholic Church combines Scripture and tradition as one source of magisterial (i.e., ruling) authority, we confess that this belongs to Scripture alone, with tradition as ministerial (i.e., serving). Just as courts interpret the constitution, church courts interpret Scripture. This is why churches from the Reformation affirm the ecumenical creeds and subscribe to confessions and catechisms as communally valid interpretations of God’s Word. Yet again, it must be emphasized that this authority does not arise from the church. It arises from the canon that the church seeks faithfully to interpret in dependence on the Spirit.

To regard Scripture as the church’s constitution is to directly counter the Roman Catholic claim that the church is the mother of Scripture…

The canon, as the constitution of the church, is what constitutes a people as this people, under this government, in this body. Of course, the Reformers and their heirs never doubted that the church came before the completed canon of Scripture in history. However, they insisted that it is the word that always creates the church.

(Note: this book remains …

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Ordinary Pastor: Recommended Reading List

One of the benefits of being a pastor who blogs is that I often are able to recommend helpful resources to people. Over the last few years I have wanted to put together a reference list for people who were looking for good books. I am thankful that I now have it published on this site.

In the header at the top of the page is a menu “Recommended Reading” under that section there are several sub-lists:

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