Monthly Archives: August 2010

 

Aug

26

2010

Jared C. Wilson|9:01 pm CT

So Strikingly Invasive

David Powlison, in Seeing with New Eyes:

God’s hand in my own conversion was so strikingly invasive and intervening — so Ephesianic — that I have never doubted the utter sovereignty of grace to rescue the utterly perverted.

Ditto.

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Aug

26

2010

Jared C. Wilson|6:50 pm CT

Diagnosing Your Spiritual Health

Don Whitney’s 10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, from the book of the same name:

1. Do you thirst for God?
2. Are you governed increasingly by God’s Word?
3. Are you more loving?
4. Are you more sensitive to God’s presence?
5. Do you have a growing concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of others?
6. Do you delight in the bride of Christ?
7. Are the spiritual disciplines increasingly important to you?
8. Do you still grieve over sin?
9. Are you a quicker forgiver?
10. Do you yearn for heaven and to be with Jesus?

(HT: @Joel_Lindsey)

Just to add: These questions help diagnose. But “trying harder” is not the prescription.
Behold and believe.

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Aug

26

2010

Jared C. Wilson|1:54 pm CT

Hijacked by the Gospel

Philippians 3:12 (ESV)
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

“Christ Jesus took hold of me” (NIV)

“Christ Jesus first possessed me” (NLT)

“I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (NASB)

“I am apprehended of Christ Jesus” (KJV)

Preparing this week for Sunday’s message on Galatians 1:11-24 I am struck once again with how utterly supreme God’s loving plans are for us in Christ. Paul, captured always by the vision of the original capturing vision of Jesus Christ on the Damascus road, appeals again to singular transforming power of the gospel by appealing to the way it powerfully transformed him. He was headed one direction, resting in his own sovereignty over his life, but the One who had set Paul apart before his life story even began also called him in grace and was pleased to reveal the Son to him (Gal. 1:15-16), and life was never the same. Paul was writing his own life story, but Jesus stole his pen.

He got hijacked by the gospel.

F.F. Bruce writes this about Paul’s amazing about face:

It is plain that what happened on the Damascus road was no isolated mystical experience, no mere “flash” of insight or intellectual conviction, but a personal encounter, the beginning of a personal relationship which became the dominating passion of his life.

Paul’s conversion was so abrupt, enlightening, and illuminating, such a surprise and such a reversal, everything he says and does thereafter is bathed in the same blinding light. Gospel wakefulness is so powerful, its effect is sustained. It forever changes the game, flips the script.

Like C.S. Lewis getting into the sidecar of his brother Warnie’s motorbike for that fateful trip to the zoo: “When we set out I did not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did.”

I have been laid hold of. I’ve been apprehended. I was writing my own life story, and it was a tragedy despite my own best efforts. But my life story got hijacked by the good news.

“The Gospel is not just a series of facts to which we yield our assent but a dramatic narrative that re-plots our identity.” – Michael Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. — Proverbs 16:9

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Aug

25

2010

Jared C. Wilson|8:07 pm CT

Ask the Heart Questions

Paul Miller, from his excellent The Praying Life:

Abiding is a perfect way to describe a praying life. For example, many Christians who are thinking of buying a vacation home might even pray, asking God practical questions, such as “Can we afford it?” “Will it be too much work?” “Should we make an offer on this house?” These are good questions. But we seldom ask God heart questions such as “Will a second home elevate us above people?” “Will it isolate us?” In the first set of questions, God is your financial adviser. In the second set, he has become your Lord. You are abiding.

Michael is talking about “abiding” today too.

And some schmuck wrote a book about it.

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Aug

24

2010

Jared C. Wilson|12:12 pm CT

The Grounds for Good Preaching

Good gracious, John Piper, God love ‘im.

I think the way that I became a preacher was by being passionately thrilled by what I was seeing in the Bible in seminary. Passionately thrilled! When Philippians began to open to me, Galatians open to me, Romans open to me, the Sermon on the Mount open to me in classes on exegesis (not homiletics, but exegesis), everything in me was feeling, “I want to say this to somebody. I want to find a way to say this because this is awesome, this is incredible!”

So for preachers today that go everywhere but the Bible to find something interesting or something scintillating and passionate, I say, “I don’t get it. I don’t get that at all!” Because I have to work hard to leave the Bible to go somewhere to find an illustration, because everything in the Bible is just blowing me away. And it is that sense of being blown away by what’s here—by the God that’s here, and the Christ that’s here, and the gospel that’s here, and the Spirit that’s here, and the life that is here—being blown away by this, I just say, “That’s got to get out.”

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Aug

23

2010

Jared C. Wilson|9:47 pm CT

The Whole Bible is About Jesus

I have mentioned many times in the past that Tim Keller’s message “What is Gospel-Centered Ministry,” given at the inaugural Gospel Coalition Conference in 2007, is one of my all-time favorites. (Here, for instance, and also here.) It was a game-changer for me. I listen to it at least 2-3 times a year now. So I was delighted to see this video crafted by Heath McPherson appearing on Zach Nielsen‘s blog today. It is a snippet from Keller’s sermon, in which he reads mainly the “Jesus is the true and better _______” passage from Sinclair Ferguson’s Preaching Christ from the Old Testament,* augmented sweetly with music and art. Wonderful stuff.

* Correction. The passage is original to Keller, traced to a paper of his, but inspired by Ferguson and by Ed Clowney.

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Aug

23

2010

Jared C. Wilson|5:57 pm CT

The Stealth Prosperity Gospel and Spiritual Greed

The real devil in the details of the prosperity-type teaching overtaking evangelicalism is not really that it skips over the stuff about sin. Sure, it does that too, but the pernicious paradox of this stuff is that it champions “victorious Christian living” yet does not equip believers for sustainable discipleship. It emphasizes feelings and “outlook,” not the power of the Spirit, which is hard for some folks to notice since the latter is often conflated with the former (so that being optimistic or a go-getter is ipso facto being Spirit-empowered). The problem over time is that, going from victory to victory, expecting victory after victory, cultivates a contagious form of spiritual greed. (Is it any wonder that this sort of teaching often goes hand and hand with talk of financial riches and prosperity?) The real stuff of discipleship — what Eugene Peterson calls “a long obedience in the same direction” — involves hard stuff like discipline and the fruit of the Spirit. In pop discipleship discipline is replaced by steps, tips, and amazingsupercolossal breakthroughs.

When my children were tiny, we had a couple of Laws of Raising Children active in the house. The first law is that no item in the universe is more interesting than the one a sibling is currently holding. The second law is that no matter where you are (and it could be Disney World), there is some other place you’d rather be.
Getting what we don’t have, being somewhere we aren’t. That defines the childishness of the children in our house. But they are children, so they have an excuse.

Prosperity gospel then, ironically, breeds discontentment. We are never abiding with God where we are, because we always consider what we have less than what’s available (or at least less than what our neighbor has). We always think of today as less than tomorrow. But you cannot get to resurrection day without going through the cross.

There’s a fine line between contentment and complacency, also, and I think this implicit confusion is why contentment is rarely spoken of these days. It implies stagnation or laziness. But complacency is about not caring. Contentment is about caring for the needs of the moment. It is about obedience and faith. Paul was not complacent about his repeated imprisonment and torture. But, amazingly enough, he was content.

Contentment trusts God to be God. Discontent evidences our fear of everything but God — it fears for safety, for financial solvency, for what others might think of us, for even “spiritual maturity.” The content soul, however, fears God.

So the great irony of prosperity gospelism — and more people teach and believe this stuff than the walking cartoons on TBN, trust me — is that it actually cultivates its own need for itself. It is built on discontentment and greed and desire and accumulating (whether stuff or “spirituality”), and therefore it turns in on itself, self perpetuating, continuing to create the needs it promises to fill. We all know what happens when you try to fill a God-shaped void with anything not God-shaped. We all know that money doesn’t buy happiness, etc etc.
But contentment! Being content with what we’ve got, with where God has us, whether it be on top of a mountain surrounded by beauty or down in a valley walking toward a pit we cannot see — now that is true gain!

But there are no easy steps to contentment. The word “content” evokes feelings of peace and tranquility, of being carefree. And those things are true, in a sense. But the way to contentment is difficult, and the place of contentment itself may be in a harsh and barren land. That is, after all, how you know you’ve reached contentment anyway. Being content involves the tough stuff of trust and discipline and obedience and biblical love. As Chesterton said:

True contentment is a thing as active as agriculture. It is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare.

And to quote Mark Galli, we believe that “God loves you and has a difficult plan for your life.”

So how do we get it? How do we reach contentment?
We start where we are, not looking ahead to what is next. We begin with a hope for deliverance, provided we are really in need of it, but also with a trust that God is refining us through the circumstances in which He’s presently placed us. It just that — being present. Show up, in this moment, for submission to God. Trust that the cross you are bearing is not the end of His story, but accept that cross as necessary and get everything out of it that is there to get.

There are no steps or strategies. Just the Spirit and the power He gives by His good pleasure. You cannot achieve being discontent with achievements alone.

I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4.12-13

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Aug

21

2010

Jared C. Wilson|2:42 pm CT

Nothing in My Hand I Bring

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

– Luke 18:9-14

What did the Pharisee have that the tax collector didn’t? Lots.

What did the tax collector have that the Pharisee didn’t? Nothing.

The tax collector walked away justified because he “owned” his spiritual poverty, copped to the bottomlessness of his need. He brought nothing to the table.

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. — Isaiah 55:1

“Nothing in my hand I bring / Simply to the cross I cling.”

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Aug

20

2010

Jared C. Wilson|10:34 pm CT

Dynamite for Lazybones

“Here, then, is the real problem of our negligence. We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.”

RC Sproul

And laziness is idolatry. But how do you cure it?

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Aug

20

2010

Jared C. Wilson|2:17 pm CT

The 3 Best Words a Weary Heart Poor In Spirit Could Hear

“It is finished!” (John 19:30)

Has Christ perfected and completely finished all His work for us? How sweet a relief is this to against all the defects and imperfections of all the works which are wrought by us.

There is nothing finished that we do. All our duties are imperfect duties; they come off lamely and defectively from our hands. O there is much sin and vanity in the best of our duties.

But Jesus Christ has finished all His work, though we can finish none of ours. And so, even though we are defective, poor, imperfect creatures in ourselves, yet we are complete in Christ. His complete obedience being imputed to us, makes us complete, and without fault before God.

John Flavel, The Fountain of Life

HT: OFI

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