Monthly Archives: May 2011

Do We Need All These Books on the Gospel?

Dane Ortlund writes at the Crossway Blog:

After all, after 2,000 years, don’t we know by now what the gospel is? Haven’t we “been-there-done-that”? Why do we need one book after another on the same old topic?

1. Because the gospel is “of first importance” (1 Cor 15:3). In describing his ministry—a ministry that communicated “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27)—Paul described it as testifying “to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

2. Because you’re going to roll out of bed tomorrow a functional Pharisee. The instincts beneath your instincts, the impulses way down deep inside you, are law, not gospel. A good night’s sleep, not a heretical sermon, is all it takes to forget the gospel of grace.

3. Because the gospel is disputed and debated today. What is the gospel? What are the implications of the gospel? What is the relationship between the gospel and the kingdom of God? How does the gospel relate to growth in godliness? What is the connection between the gospel and community? These questions need answers from different people, with different voices and different backgrounds, who love the same gospel.

4. Because the church is always one generation away from losing the gospel. Every generation must rediscover the glories of free grace for itself.

5. Because for every book exulting in or explaining or defending the gospel, a hundred more roll off the press which, wittingly or unwittingly, distract …

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What Do You See When You Look at the Church?

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Men in Cars

One thing I have noticed at the food pantry where I volunteer is that nine times out of ten a woman comes in to receive food, her male significant other waits in the car. I know this because he and I make awkward eye contact when I help the ladies carry groceries to the car.

I have mixed feelings about this arrangement. Part of me understands why they’d wait outside. It could be that they don’t figure “getting groceries” is their area. It is also a particularly male dysfunction to want to avoid asking for help. There is perhaps the shame of acknowledging they couldn’t provide for their family. I remember the heartbreaking scene in Cinderella Man when James Braddock finally breaks down to ask friends for a handout. He is a proud man who only goes there as a last resort — and when he violates his own conscience and receives government assistance he promises to pay every penny back, and does — and therein lies a good sort of pride.

But is it really a good sort of pride?

What these men are essentially saying is that they would rather their wife or girlfriend experience the embarrassment of asking for help, they would rather that she answer the personal questions required in the assistance office (How many people in the family? Does anyone have employment? What are your monthly bills? etc.), they would rather she carry the often-numerous bags of groceries by herself to the car. (Typically I carry bags for …

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How to Ask a Question Well During a Q&A Time

We’ve all been there, probably. The seating is full, the speaker we all came to hear has given a good talk, and now he or she is going to take questions from the audience. Hands are raised, people are called on.

And one or more of those chosen to ask a question spends way too much time trying to:a) Impress the speaker with the depth of his or her knowledge of the speaker’s workb) Impress the speaker and the audience with a recitation of his or her experience, background, or accomplishmentsc) Give all sorts of set-up and context for a question that really doesn’t need it.

We ought to be gracious in thinking of these “Me Monster” interlocutors, but they ought to be gracious with the rest of those present, as well.

Is this person you? Do you know that the more time you take not asking a question during your moment can be a manifestation of self-centeredness? Not to mention that it robs other people of being able to ask questions too. The longer you take, the less time there is for others.

So how do you ask a question during a Q&A time?

1. Skip the autobiography unless a concise personal note gives needed context for your question.2. Skip adulation of the speaker unless you can offer a short “thank you for speaking here today.”3. Just ask a question.

If the speaker needs more details or context, he or she can ask for them.

FWIW

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Oh, for the Spirit’s Mighty Rush!

“We seek not for extraordinary excitements, those spurious attendants of genuine revivals, but we do seek for the pouring-out of the Spirit of God. There is a secret operation which we do not understand; it is like the wind, we know not whence it cometh nor whither it goeth; yet, though we understand it not, we can and do perceive its divine effect. It is this breath of Heaven which we want. The Spirit is blowing upon our churches now with his genial breath, but it is as a soft evening gale. Oh, that there would come a mighty rushing wind that should carry everything before it, so that even the dry bones of the Valley of Vision might be filled with life and be made to stand up before the Lord, an exceeding great army. This is the lack of the times, the grand want of our country. May this come as a blessing from the Most High.”

– C. H. Spurgeon, in Lectures Delivered Before The Young Men’s Christian Association in Exeter Hall From November 1858 to February 1859

When will the Spirit gust in revival power? We don’t know. But maybe today.

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It Is Good to be Left Behind

As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matt. 24:37-44)

Now we are getting into some end times-type stuff. This is that infamous passage from whence came the Left Behind phenomenon. If, like the authors of the novels that began the merchandising blitz, you’re a pre-tribulationalist, you read this passage as Jesus, in the rapture, coming back and taking away his followers to heaven.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll be up front and confess that I am not a pre-tribulationist. Without getting too much into the various views of eschatology, …

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Once For All

Martin Luther in his Commentary on Galatians:

The monks imagined the world was crucified unto them when they entered the monastery. Not the world, but Christ, is crucified in the monasteries.

How so?

To trust in our religious devotion for justification is to be ever-striving, because we are ever-sinning. This theoretical recycling of salvation assumes Christ’s original work did not justify us “once for all” but must continue to be accessed through our efforts, treating justification like a spiritual game of Whack-a-Mole.

To taste of the heavenly gift and fall away from the gospel of justification by grace through faith is to “crucify once again the Son of God to our own harm” (Heb. 6:6).

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The Christian Literary Renaissance Will Have to Wait

The comment thread under this post by Russell Moore is frustrating. Some comments are good. Many are not. Many of those commenting identify themselves as writers of the sort of fiction Moore is questioning. Then they proceed to argue against things he doesn’t say. One Christian romance author goes off on Moore for saying fiction takes our eyes off Christ. The only problem with that is that Moore never said that.

These commenters may be writers but they’re not very good readers.

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Towards Old Veteranship in the Faith

I’ve previously picked on a portion of Lehman Strauss’ Commentary on Galatians. Now I want to share a portion I really like. A comment on one of Paul’s final lines in the letter, Galatians 6:17 — “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” — this passage really moved me this afternoon:

The subject has been fully and satisfactorily dealt with. His apostleship has been proved and the authority of the Gospel of Grace has been vindicated. Paul had become God’s chosen vessel to utter His final word against legalism. Now he will be troubled about the matter no more. He had given God’s Word, and with it the promise that the message would not return void. In his body he bore the brand-marks of his devotion to Jesus Christ (6:17). The scars testified of his loyalty to his Lord. Yes, he belonged altogether to the Lord Jesus Christ. At one time he was proud of the mark of circumcision, but now he can point to those scars received in the service of a new Master. He was not an inexperienced recruit, but an old veteran of the good fight of faith. Thank God for Paul! And more than this, let us praise Him for His matchless grace whereby we are justified in His sight.

I just loved that. Isn’t this what the Christ in us wants? Whether we are young or old, to live our lives in such a …

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Guidelines for Finding Christ in the Old Testament

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.– Luke 24:27

The Old Testament is chock-full of Jesus. How do we preach him from its pages in a way that both honors Christ and the text? First things first:

What Is Allegory?

One of the first things we ought to do is ditch the language of “allegory.” What we mean is that Jesus is symbolized by Old Testament types, but while allegory is a form of symbolism, they are not synonymous any more than animal and dog are. We armchair exegetes make this mistake all the time, referring to a literary work as allegorical when it is no such thing. The Narnia stories are the most common modern victim. We tend to do to “allegory” what we’ve done to the word “ironic.” (No, Alanis, it’s not ironic that you got a bunch of spoons when all you wanted was a knife. Just unfortunate. And weird.)

According to the classical definition, allegory occurs when the original symbol exists primarily as a vehicle for what is symbolized and maintains little to no intent of its own, and/or when what is tangible symbolizes something intangible. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory because his characters correspond to intangible virtues like courage and the like. But Aslan is not allegorical because he does not symbolize an intangible virtue like sacrifice or nobility but is meant to be Jesus, albeit in that other world.

We ought not use …

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