Monthly Archives: February 2011

Christ at the Center of Revival

He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.– John 16:14

“In all companies, on other days, on whatever occasions persons met together, Christ was to be heard of, and seen in the midst of them. Our young people, when they met, were wont to spend the time in talking of the excellency and dying love of JESUS CHRIST, the glory of the way of salvation, the wonderful, free, and sovereign grace of God, his glorious work in the conversion of a soul, the truth and certainty of the great things of God’s word, the sweetness of the views of his perfections, &c.”

– Jonathan Edwards, A Narrative of Surprising Conversions

It is the Spirit’s raison d’etre to shine the light on Christ. The Spirit is often called the “shy” Person of the Trinity because of this. He is content — no, zealous — to minister to the Church the Father’s blessings in the gospel of Jesus. He quickens us to desire Christ, illuminates the Scripture’s revelation of Christ, empowers us to receive Christ, and imparts Christ to us even in his own indwelling. For this reason, then, any church or movement’s claim of revival better have exaltation of Christ at its center, or it is not genuine revival.

At the front end of Paul’s excursus to the Corinthians on the sign-gift charismata, he reminds us: “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ …

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Ad Hominem: or, Rob Bell Needs New PR

Without commenting either way on the whole “Is Rob Bell a universalist?” brouhaha, I would say it is rather interesting to read the endless defensive posturing of Bell’s admirers against the relentless offensive posturing of the (cue scare-quotes) “neo-Reformed.” John Piper says “Jump” and we say “How high?” We are lockstep with the Gospel Coalition. Calvinism is the Borg and we’ve been assimilated, no longer thinking for ourselves.

Does this happen? Undoubtedly. Yet a bit of self-reflection might have Bell’s many self-appointed PR managers wondering if they are doing the same. Four fingers pointing back at you and all that.*

What I mean is, it is interesting to read the accusations of mindless, lockstep fandom against some from the eager fandom of another. John Piper has “minions,” one of Rob Bell’s minions defenders said.

Just ’cause you’re not “of Cephas” doesn’t mean you’re not “of Apollos,” is what I’m sayin’.

* We should all do this introspection.

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Dearest Murktooth, my poppet, my pigsnie,

I am happy to charge you with the present task for your assigned patient. I am happy, because it is a rather easy task, evidence of your still remedial aptitude for temptations, which is itself evidence of your patient’s lack of growth. Your stagnation is your success, then, as it is so often in the infernal arts.

The task before you is this: stimulate discontent in your patient. This task is easy for not a few reasons, perhaps the chief of which is that you will have so much help from the sweet cacophony of messages from the surrounding culture, urgings and invitations to your patient to “Try this” and “Experience that,” to buy one and get more along with it, to flit about from promise to empty promise, to become a dilettante of the world’s conveyor belt of delights.One of the wonders of this onslaught of advertisement is that it doesn’t just pitch products to fulfill needs, but also pitches the needs themselves. Your work, Murktooth, is not cut out for you. It is laid out like buy-in-bulk candy for an untended baby.

Tend to your braying baby, Murktooth. Tell him that he deserves things that are designed to be indulgences. Tell him to desire things he would not have thought to desire himself, and then to see these desires as non-negotiables for his own happiness.

The clearest path to cultivating discontentment in your patient is to speak to him purely in …

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New England Then, as Now — And Now, as Then

“But what a dead and barren time has it now been, nor a great while, with all the churches of the Reformation. The golden showers have been restrained; the influences of the Spirit suspended; and the consequence has been, that the gospel has not had any eminent success. Conversions have been rare and dubious; few sons and daughters have been born to God and the hearts of Christians not so quickened, warmed and refreshed under the ordinances, as they have been. That this has been the sad state of religion among us in this land, for many years…”

This is a description of New England — of Massachusetts, specifically. Dry, spiritually parched, not much receptive to the gospel. It is a description of New England in the early 1700’s.

Then, as now, the spiritual landscape was discouraging. Then the Spirit did something extraordinary through the work of Jonathan Edwards and others in Massachusetts specifically and New England in general. This description is from W. Cooper in his Preface to one of Edwards’s works, describing the state of the place before the Spirit began His Great Awakening.

Now, as then, we are dry.

Now, as then, we only need the Spirit’s inclination to see revival.

Because of this, now, as then, things are not hopeless.

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How the Gospel Establishes the Law

This reminds me of what Theodorus long ago replied to Philocles, who was often hinting that he preached doctrines which tended to licentiousness because he enlarged diligently and frequently upon faith in Jesus Christ: “I preach salvation by Jesus Christ,” said Theodorus; “and give me leave to ask, whether you know what salvation by Christ means?” Philocles began to blush, and would have declined an answer.

“No,” said Theodorus, “you must permit me to insist upon a reply. Because if it is a right one, it will justify me and my conduct; if it is a wrong one, it will prove that you blame you know not what, and that you have more reason to inform yourself than to censure others.”

This disconcerted him still more, upon which Theodorus proceeded. “Salvation by Jesus Christ means not only a deliverance from the guilt, but also from the power of sin. `He gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity and redeem us from our vain conversation,’ as well as deliver us from the wrath to come. Go now, Philocles, and tell the world that, by teaching these doctrines, I promote the cause of licentiousness. And you will be just as rational, just as candid, just as true, as if you should affirm that the firemen, by running the engine and pouring in water, burnt your house to the ground, and laid your furniture in ashes.”

Indeed, both the doctrine and the grace of faith, are evidently, yea, and designedly injurious …

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GospelEPIC (or Something Like That)

I am in Nashville today for a writers’ meeting at LifeWay in support of a new gospel-centered adult Bible study curriculum edited by Ed Stetzer and Trevin Wax. Here is a bit from Ed on this work:

… [We] have not yet settled on a name for this curriculum. The working title was originally Telios and we’ve recently been calling it GospelEPIC. But, we are not 100% sure. So I need your help. Take a look at the description of this curriculum and tell us what you think we should name it. Is GospelEPIC a good choice, or would you suggest something else?


A new curriculum that will provide the basics of a biblical theology in a systematic way over the course of three years through frequent retellings of the overarching storyline of Scripture (in two formats: Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration and God-Man-Christ-Response).


1. Deep, but not Dry.

* We’re seeking to be theologically robust and yet very accessible to anyone who studies this material. We want to change the definition of “deep” to mean more than obscure Bible facts or practical tidbits for daily living. Instead, by “deep,” we mean “going deeper into the gospel and its implications until it confronts the idols of our hearts.”

* One of the ways we will succeed at providing curriculum that is deep and compelling is by elevating participants’ view of the Scriptures, so that they will subsequently engage the Scriptures faithfully on their own. We understand that how …

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Happy Birthday to My Baby

It is Becky’s thirty-(cough!) birthday today. It is difficult to put into words just how special God’s grace is to me in and through her. And that’s exactly what she is. Since our dating relationship began almost 18 years ago and through our marriage (15 years this June) she has been the single most earthly evidence of God’s ministry in the gospel to me. We have walked through much together; many times, she walked while I cowered. Still she blesses me despite my unworthiness; still she forgives, still she helps me repent, still she lavishes love.

How can I describe her? Those who know Becky know she is a force of nature. She is loud in a lovely way, adorably animated, vibrant and vivid. She feels deeply, cares greatly. She is a mother with unflagging interest in even the most mundane interests of our daughters. She finds fulfillment in fulfilling her children. A brilliant businesswoman when she had to be (and still), her ultimate desire is to take care of her family. She is the hostess with the mostess! A Loozy-anna gal, she cannot cook a small meal and so is happiest when our house is full of friends laughing, loving, and eating.

She is an endless supply of lovability. Here’s something I have appreciated relatively recently:Her eye is remarkable. Photography is a talent she has developed only in the last few years, but I remember way back when her knack for putting together an eye-catching bulletin board for the youth …

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And So Beware Innovation

The soundest and safest Christian reflection consists in “what you have received, not what you have thought up; a matter not of ingenuity, but of doctrine; not of private acquisition, but of public Tradition; a matter brought to you, not put forth by you, in which you must not be the author but the guardian, not the founder but the sharer, not the leader, but the follower.”

– Vincent of Lerins, quoted in Christopher Hall, Learning Theology with the Church Fathers (Intervarsity, 2002), 27.

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Facebook Note

Every day I receive friend requests on Facebook from folks I don’t know. I assume these are spurred mainly through the blog or my books or what-have-you. First, please know I appreciate your wanting to connect. Secondly, please also know that it’s nothing personal, but I have decided to limit my Facebook friends to people I either actually know in real life or at least have met once or connected with via the Internet for writing projects, etc.

I do, however, have a public Facebook page that anybody is welcome to “like.” If you are interested in being Facebook friends with me, that is really the best place for us to connect. You can find it here:


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Like Its Source, Awesome

“As Jonathan conceived of grace given by God, however, it was, like its source, awesome. Where some might have pictured it as a sweet and gentle stream from which to drink as one saw fit, Jonathan saw God’s grace as a tide of goodness that overwhelmed the sinner. God, if He were truly divine, could not be small; grace, if it were truly grace, could not be weak.”

– Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney, Jonathan Edwards: Lover of God (Chicago: Moody, 2010), 62.

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