Monthly Archives: August 2011

How Exceeding Glorious

There are three ways whereby the glory of Christ is represented unto us in the Scripture. First, By direct descriptions of his glorious person and incarnation. Secondly, By prophecies, promises, and express instructions concerning him, all leading unto the contemplation of his glory, which are innumerable. Thirdly, By the sacred institutions of divine worship under the Old Testament: for the end of them all was to represent unto the church the glory of Christ in the discharge of his office; as we shall see afterward.

We may take notice of an instance in one kind under the Old Testament, and of one and another under the New.

His personal appearances under the Old Testament carried in them a demonstration of his glory. Such was that in the vision which Isaiah had, “when he saw his glory, and spake of him,” “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim,” &c. It was a representation of the glory of the divine presence of Christ filling his human nature, the temple of his body, with a train of all-glorious graces. And if this typical representation of it was so glorious, as that the seraphim were not able steadfastly to behold it, but “covered their faces” upon its appearance, how exceeding glorious is it in itself, as it is openly revealed in the Gospel!

– John Owen, Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ

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Sexy Bits of Bacon: Something Wrong with the Appetite

I have been working lately on a chapter exploring the sin of gluttony for a Bible study I have coming out with the Threads folks next year called Seven Daily Sins. Today I remembered the discussion of sexual morality in Mere Christianity where C.S. Lewis offers the following illustration to demonstrate the folly of lust:

You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act—that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food?

Lewis is intentionally being silly to highlight the dysfunction we don’t see in our sexual lust. But I wonder if he were alive today, surfing the TV channels with you or flipping through a magazine, if he’d be astounded to see that strip-teases of food actually exist.

Perhaps he couldn’t imagine his illustration would some day reflect reality, but here we are, being tantalized and aroused by the gleaming juices of delicious steaks, the architectural splendor of some well-stacked mega-burger, the whole-life-fulfillment promised by chocolate mousse, all airbrushed and lit up and presented with expertly selected music and pitched by a celebrity or model.

Would we not think …

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Writing that Exults

Justin Taylor shares fantastic words on what words can do in service of our Savior:

In an address on Christian eloquence John Piper wrote:

The attempt to craft striking and beautiful language makes it possible that the beauty of eloquence can join with the beauty of truth and increase the power of your words. When we take care to create a beautiful way of speaking or writing about something beautiful, the eloquence—the beauty of the form—reflects and honors the beauty of the subject and so honors the truth. The method and the matter become one, and the totality of both becomes a witness to the truth and beauty of the message. If the glory of Christ is always ultimately our subject, and if he created all things, and if upholds all things, then bringing the beauty of form into harmony with the beauty of truth is the fullest way to honor the Lord.

John Calvin is an exemplary model of this. His beautiful and arresting prose, saturated with biblical truth, can capture the mind and heart more than prosaic prose which clunks to the ground.

For example, consider this section of his preface to Pierre-Robert Olivétan’s 1535 translation of the Bible.

“To all those who love Christ and his gospel,” Calvin writes:

Without the gospel

everything is useless and vain;

without the gospel

we are not Christians;

without the gospel

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To Know Forgiveness

It is sometimes difficult for the repentant to believe in forgiveness when it is not being extended to them. “If you don’t forgive me, how could a holy God?” we might think.

If you would believe you are forgiven, then, don’t look at some sinner’s jutted chin, crossed arms, and tapping foot. Look instead to the thorn-crowned brow, the nailed hands, and the feet, once nailed, that have crushed the serpent’s head. If you want to know forgiveness, look to the cross.

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The Christian Church as the Work of God

In the beginning, Christianity was simply Gospel. Ecclesiastical organization was not the cause, but the effect of life. Churches were constituted by the spontaneous association of believers. Individuals and families, drawn toward each other by their common trust in Jesus the Christ, and their common interest in the good news concerning the kingdom of God, became a community united, not by external bonds, but by the vital force of distinctive ideas and principles. New affections became the bond of a new brotherhood, and the new brotherhood, with its mutual duties and united responsibilities, became an organized society. The ecclesiastical polity of the apostles was simple — a living growth, not an artificial construction.

– Leonard Bacon, The Genesis of The New England Churches (1874), 17.

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Discussion on Preaching Today

My friend Brandon Smith recently interviewed Tony Merida and me on the subject of preaching. Tony is the pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina and an Associate Professor of Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as the author of a couple of books. As you can imagine, Tony has some really good things to say, including this:

My main focus is that that I want to take the listeners for a swim in the text. I want us to immerse ourselves in Scripture, and my desire is particularly to exalt Jesus as the hero of the Bible – and by extension as the hero of every sermon. I want people to walk away every week and say, “What a great Savior” not “What a great sermon.”

To do this, I use a five step method . . .

Go read the rest to see Tony’s five steps.

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On the Pastor’s Literary Frequency

I recently asked pastors on Twitter if they read fiction and, if so, what they read last. I was not surprised by the smattering of replies of disinterest, avowals of “lack of time” for fiction, but I was pleasantly surprised by the majority of the responses from pastors who not only read novels, but read good novels, which is to say, literate novels. There were a few popular titles mentioned, but popularity and artfulness aren’t always mutually exclusive.

David Powlison offered some good words on pastors and the reading of literature:

Of course, we are not all wired the same, but there are an awful lot of pastors who only read objective expositional things. Human life has poetry; it has drama. Much of the Bible is much more understandable from a more literary standpoint.

And in a subsequent part:

I am a real believer that pastors need a better sense of the messiness of life. You can have your nose in the Bible, you can do all your exegesis, and you can actually miss how gritty the Bible itself is. And you can certainly miss it and develop little idealistic, plastic-smile versions of the Christian life that are not reckoning with what real life is, the things you read about in a history of World War II or in Dostoyevsky. Even in a redeemed sense of things you read in these other two novels [Cry, the Beloved Country and Gilead] that have a powerfully redemptive, overtly Christian theme to them.

Powlison is getting …

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Outsing the Enemy

In the Lord of the Rings mythopoeia, Eru is the great divine being (God) who created the world through song. Before time began, he instructed the Ainur (angels) to sing a song together that would glorify him. But one of the Ainur named Melkor decided to sing his own tune, discordant to the one glorifying of Eru. Melkor was forbidden by Eru to sing his own song, but he has been trying to ever since. The enlightened beings of Middle Earth, then, look forward to the day when all is set to right once again and all beings sing Eru’s song in harmony.

In our world, what is thought the right song is Melkor’s prideful number. It is an act of holy subversion (thank you, Trevin Wax), then, to sing the song of Light into the pervasive darkness.

Not to mix my cultural touchstones here, but this clip, probably my favorite scene in my favorite movie, is a stirring illustration to me of what holy subversion is like. The occupier Nazis’ Melkor-song is overcome by the oppressed Frenchmen’s “La Marseillaise.”

Stretch out your hand from on high;
rescue me and deliver me from the many waters,
from the hand of foreigners,
whose mouths speak lies
and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.
I will sing a new song to you, O God;
upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,
who gives victory to kings,
who rescues David his servant from the cruel sword.
Rescue …

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Assurance of Salvation

If you’ve ever heard the name Augustus Toplady, you probably heard it in the context of the great hymn “Rock of Ages,” which Toplady penned. At the Together 4 the Gospel conference last year, I had the great blessing to find myself in Tony Carter’s breakout session, in which he preached a magnificent message on “Proclaiming the Comfort of the Gospel,” in which he quoted a fair bit from Toplady’s writing on assurance. Hungry for more, I did some poking around online and found this fantastic selection. It’s in the public domain and available for free distribution, so I’m posting it in its entirety. I hope it will minister to and bless you like it had me. (I have bolded my favorite lines.)

It has long been a settled point with me, that the Scriptures make a wide distinction between faith, the assurance of faith, and the full assurance of faith.

1. Faith is the hand by which we embrace or touch, or reach toward, the garment of Christ’s righteousness, for our own justification.-Such a soul is undoubtedly safe.

2. Assurance I consider as the ring which God puts, upon faith’s finger.-Such a soul is not only safe, but also comfortable and happy.

Nevertheless, as a finger may exist without wearing a ring, so faith may be real without the superadded gift of assurance. We must either admit this, or set down the late excellent Mr. Hervey (among a multitude of others) for an unbeliever. No man, perhaps, ever contended more earnestly for the …

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Why I Said Joel Osteen Advocates Witchcraft

The other day Joel Osteen — or whoever runs his Twitter account — tweeted this: “The more you say what God says, the more you’ll experience His best. Remember to speak life over your situation today!”

I re-tweeted this statement, adding this comment: “This is witchcraft.”

A few people asked me what was up with that. What he said might be a little “out there” or “un-helpful” (as one guy put it), but witchcraft? Really?

Yes.

Defenders of the Word of Faith-type preachers and “prophets” often point to verses like Proverbs 18:21:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

Aside from the hermeneutical shakiness involved in building an entire theology out of a proverb, Word of Faith’ers misunderstand this verse. It is not saying your tongue holds supernatural power to speak matter or circumstances into existence. It is saying that it’s possible to talk yourself into trouble. In the context of what other things the book of Proverbs says about the tongue, what this guideline means is that we ought to be careful what we say, sometimes be silent, and remember that we will be held to account for our words.

There are three biblical ways words can bring life:

1. We can generally agree that the tongue is a powerful force. Just read James 3. But you don’t have to be a charismaniac to realize that words can hurt or comfort. Encouragement edifies; nagging and criticism do not. Many of us still carry wounds …

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