Monthly Archives: March 2011

Made Much Of To Make Much Of

1 Peter 2:9:“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

Look at the lengths to which Jesus goes! Look at how he exalts us out of our lowly state. Once we were not a people; now we are. Once we were aliens; now we are a chosen race, a set-apart nation. Once we were Godless rebels; but now we know we belong to him alone.

God in Christ certainly does make much of us. But not because we are lovely. Because Christ is. Because his excellencies deserve to be shouted from the rooftops, God wants shouters.

We are made much of ultimately to make much of Christ.

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What We Do With Sehnsucht

[H]e has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. – Ecclesiastes 3:11

Sehnsucht (ZEN-sookt) — From the German. A practically indescribable longing, craving, or yearning.

We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it…– C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”

When we broke ourselves with our sin, the image of God in us was fractured, and the sound of its breaking is like a signal from our hearts sent out to deepest space in search of reception. It’s been said we all carry around a God-shaped hole. There is something missing. This is a rather static concept inferior to the German concept of Sehnsucht. Lewis writes of it best. But other artists capture it equally well and better. Poets Whitman, Eliot, Auden. Novelists Austen, Auster, James. Van Gogh and Hokusai. Rachmaninoff to Radiohead. King Solomon. There is an active ache inside of us. We are groaning with creation.

We all groan. But we deal with it different ways. What do we do with Sehnsucht?

1. We drug it. Perhaps the most common way we stifle this longing for God is by pouring false gods into it. “Every one of us is from birth a master crafstman of idols,” Calvin says. From meth to porn, shopping to Facebook, the world does not lack for anesthetics. Most people commit to …

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We Naturally Praise What We Truly Find Praise-Worthy

all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise– C.S. Lewis

“What a beautiful sunset last night! Did you see it?”

“That was such a great movie. You need to check that out.”

“My daughter did the cutest thing yesterday.”

“We had the best time at Disney World.”

“My wife is so hot.”

We can’t help but talk about the things we are most moved by. When we enjoy something, we can’t help but praise it to others.

So the reason we don’t “talk gospel” more with others is . . .

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For Freedom

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.– Galatians 5:18

From Christian World, September 25, 1874:

LAST Sunday evening, Mr. Spurgeon, before beginning his sermon, announced that he should not preach long that night, because he wished his friend Mr. Pentecost, who was on the platform, to say a few words to the congregation.

Mr. Spurgeon then gave a very earnest address on the words, “I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O Lord; I will keep Thy statutes. I cried unto Thee; save me, and I shall keep Thy testimonies.” (Ps. cxix. 145-6.) He spoke strongly and plainly upon the necessity of giving up sin, in order to success in prayer for “quickening,” and as an evidence of sincerity. Mr. Spurgeon, in concluding his discourse, said, “Now then, perhaps Brother Pentecost will give you the application of that sermon.”

“Brother Pentecost” is an “open communion” Baptist minister, of the American city of Boston. He responded at once to Mr. Spurgeon’s call, and, stepping to the front of the platform, gave some excellent remarks on the latter portion of the text, with much simplicity and force of manner.

Referring to one part of Mr. Spurgeon’s sermon, he gave us an interesting bit of personal experience. He said that some years ago, he had had the cry awakened in his heart, “Quicken Thou me.” He desired to be more completely delivered from sin, and he prayed that God would show him anything which prevented his more complete devotion …

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The Greatest Loss

A young minister, while visiting the cabin of a veteran Scotch woman who had grown ripe in experience, said to her, ‘Nannie, what if, after all your prayers and watching and waiting, God should allow your soul to be eternally lost?’

Looking at the youthful novice in divinity, she replied, ‘Ah, let me tell you, that God would have the greatest loss. Poor me would lose her soul, and that would be a great loss; but God would lose his honor and his character. If he broke his word, he would make himself a liar, and the universe would go to ruin.’

The veteran believer was right. Our only real ground of salvation lies in God’s everlasting word.

—- Theodore Cuyler, “Wayside Springs”


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The Gospel Wakefulness of Major Ian Thomas

The pastor who retired before I came to Middletown Springs is an ordinary, amazing guy. Welsh by birth, Pastor Roland began his work doing coffee shop ministry with young adults and beach evangelism to surfers in Australia. As a student in England, his mentor was Major Ian Thomas. I was not familiar with Thomas before Roland hipped me to him, but I’ve come to enjoy the writings I’ve found, and I particularly like his story of what I would call gospel wakefulness. Here is a taste from an online bio:

At the university Ian became a leader in the Inter-Varsity Fellowship group. If ever there was any evangelistic activity going on, this youthful zealot was “buzzing around the place, every holiday, every spare moment”! He started a slum club down in the East End of London “out of a sheer desire to win souls, to go out and get them. I was a windmill of activity until, at the age of nineteen, every moment of my day was packed tight with doing things. Thus by the age of nineteen, I had been reduced to a state of complete exhaustion spiritually, until I felt that there was no point going on.”

Then, one night in November, that year, just at midnight, I got down on my knees before God, and I just wept in sheer despair. I said, “Oh, God, I know that I am saved. I love Jesus Christ. I am perfectly convinced that I am converted. With all my heart …

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O The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

And on that note:

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Love Like Ocean Depths

“[W]hat the Bible says about the love of God is more complex and nuanced than what is allowed by mere sloganeering.”– D.A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God

What every believer in every age is challenged to do is resist the innate compulsion to flatten out the expansive love of God. His lovingkindness is everlasting. God is in fact love. We then rush headlong into sentimental distortions, self-centered appropriations, assuming that to know simply that God is love is to know simply what this love is like. “Love demands freedom,” we want to say.

Does it?

Love demands giving the loved what he or she wants. And by this, hell is maintained: a la Lewis, the doors are locked from the inside, yes?

No. If my daughter is unaware of the Mack truck bearing down on her, or she is aware that putting her finger in a light socket will electrocute her but she wants to do it anyway, do I love her if I am able to intervene but defer to her freedom? Or am I loving to tackle her out of the truck’s way, to slap her hand away from the socket?

Perhaps the latter, and since God loves everyone, it means he will some day tackle everyone, including the unrepentant and dead haters of God, out of the way. But this not only fails to maintain hell, it fails to maintain justice. Is the alternative now that God does not love everyone?

Or maybe the reality is a love …

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Lewis and Hell: How Effectual is Calvary?

In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell is itself a question: “What are you asking God to do?” To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But He has done so, on Calvary.

– C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

To say that those who are saved are saved through Christ is to say that all who are saved are saved by his atoning work. This work has already occurred at Calvary (and out of the tomb). Here is the math I’m using: If Christ has atoned for someone, it makes no sense to say they would go to hell (or a purgatorial conception of it) in the first place. If that were the case, Christ has not atoned for them. If he has atoned for them, it makes no sense to say they go to hell first, then get another chance to be saved through Christ.

Lewis intimates that at hell it is too late to be saved*, because the saving work has been done and already rejected; there is nothing more to do.I believe in the Reformed view of an effectual atonement, so I come at this subject from a different angle than Lewis, but I agree with his ultimate conclusion.

* Also in The Problem of Pain: “The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it [the …

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A God-Pleasing Despair

Do not despair if you feel the flesh battling against the Spirit or if you cannot make it behave. For you to follow the guidance of the Spirit in all things without interference on the part of the flesh is impossible. You are doing all you can if you resist the flesh and do not fulfill its demands.

When I was a monk I thought I was lost forever whenever I felt an evil emotion, carnal lust, wrath, hatred, or envy. I tried to quiet my conscience in many ways, but it did not work, because lust would always come back and give me no rest. I told myself: “You have permitted this and that sin, envy, impatience, and the like. Your joining this holy order has been in vain, and all your good works are good for nothing.” If at that time I had understood this passage, “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh,” I could have spared myself many a day of self- torment. I would have said to myself: “Martin, you will never be without sin, for you have flesh. Despair not, but resist the flesh.”

I remember how Doctor Staupitz used to say to me: “I have promised God a thousand times that I would become a better man, but I never kept my promise. From now on I am not going to make any more vows. Experience has taught me that I cannot keep them. Unless God is merciful to me for …

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