Monthly Archives: November 2010

All Great

What is the message of the gospel?

That the greatest good (God) offers the greatest action (love) to the greatest need (wrath-owed sinners) by sending the greatest treasure (Jesus) in the greatest invitation (to everyone) into the greatest life (everlasting).

How is this not exciting?

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7 Ways to Kill the Thanksgiving Impulse in Your Life

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

– Philippians 4:5-7

This is an excellent recipe for what it itself describes: a Spiritual settling of the heart, thankfulness, closeness to God. But let’s suppose you didn’t want those things, you didn’t want to be thankful in all circumstances (as God commands through Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5). How would you design your system in order to crush any impulse of thanksgiving in your heart?

1. Freak out about everything.Let your unreasonableness be known to everyone. Be unreasonable about everything. Turn everything into drama, everything into a crisis.

2. Practice practical atheism.The Lord is at hand, which is certainly something to be thankful for. Our God isn’t just transcendent, but immanent. He wants to be known. You could therefore intellectually acknowledge God is there, but act like he’s not. Assume he has no interest in you or your life. If you pretend like God’s not there, you don’t have to thank him for anything.

3. Coddle worry.Be anxious about everything. Really protect your worry from the good news.

4. Give God the silent treatment.The best way not to give thanks is not to talk at all. That way you’ll never give thanks accidentally.

5. Don’t expect anything from God. Don’t trust him …

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The Whole Armor of God

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God . . .

– Ephesians 6:13-17

We are commanded to obey, but as we do so, we are commanded here and there to do so after having “Put on Christ” or having “put on the new self.” We best be wearing gospel armor when going about God’s business.

Notice there are no pieces of effort in the armor of Ephesians 6:13-17. The belt is the truth. What protects our vitals? Righteousness, but not that of ourselves; that is not impenetrable. But Christ’s is. Our shoes are the gospel. (They make missionaries’ feet beautiful.) When the evil one throws his darts, do we block them with the shield of our law-keeping? No, with the shield of faith. Salvation is, in this metaphor, literally on our minds. We wield not the word of ourselves, but the word of God.

This is armor given, not earned.

Put on Christ (Gal. 3:27). Don’t put on the Law. You can …

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When Does a Disputation Become Vain?

Once upon a time, when I was new in the blogosphere, I argued with anyone and everyone. I was a bit of a cage phase Calvinist, but worse than that I didn’t understand how to talk to people online, and even worse than that, I was not gospel wakened so I gave the energy of utmost importance to stuff that was good but not of utmost importance.

I don’t do that any more. It’s dumb. But one thing I do try to do is respond to my online critics. I know lots of bloggers/authors don’t do this, whether out of busy-ness or lack of interest. Some don’t do it because they consider critics not worth the time, ever. I don’t think that’s true, and in an effort not to seem “above” people who’d disagree with me, when I do have the time and think the criticism about something important, I try to respond. Sometimes it works out great. Sometimes a critic receives clarification on something they thought I was saying but really wasn’t and is appeased. Sometimes dialogue yields more understanding of each other’s stances, whether we end up agreeing or not. I would call that fruitful. It’s always good to agree or disagree with what someone actually says/thinks, not with what we think they say/think. Agreement or not, better understanding is always a good thing.

But other times . . . well, other times it doesn’t work out so well. A couple of weeks ago a blog commenter was convinced, …

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The Preemptive Strike Against Worry

Rose: “Don’t be worried, Mr. Allnut.Allnut: “Oh, I ain’t worried, miss. I gave myself up for dead back when we started.”

(from The African Queen, a film by John Huston)

The Christian has been crucified with Christ, and therefore is reckoned dead to the world, so when the world offers its problems, the Christian finds worry superfluous: he has given himself up for dead back when he started.

. . . do not be anxious about anything . . .– Philippians 4:6

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.– Galatians 6:14

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The Gospel is Awesomer Than Awesome

(19) Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. (20) Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.– Galatians 3:19-20

I preached on Galatians 3:15-22 yesterday and in my prep last week the two verses quoted above gave me the biggest headache. The first part of v.19 I could get a handle on. The second part, I understood fairly well. Verse 20′s conciseness belied the frustration therein. Galatians 3:20 is like Manny Pacquiao: doesn’t look like much, but it will tear you up. At least, it did me, anyway.

I chewed on it and chewed on it. I looked at it from different angles. I stared at it like it was one of those optical illusion pictures they sell at the mall. You know, the ones that look like a swirl of color until you get your gaze into it just right, and then you see the unicorn frolicking by a lighthouse or something? Didn’t work.

Commentaries weren’t much help. Luther has been my homeboy throughout this series on Galatians, but his comment only seemed to extrapolate further on v.19. I wanted to know what God being one had to do with intermediaries involved in dispensing the Law. It seems like the answer should be obvious. But I’m a dumb guy. I felt like a dog who’d just been handed a Rubik’s cube. (Can you …

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"Lay Off, Mr. Law"

From Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians, commenting on 3:19:

[T]he Law is not to operate on a person after he has been humbled and frightened by the exposure of his sins and the wrath of God. We must then say to the Law: “Mister Law, lay off him. He has had enough. You scared him good and proper.” Now it is the Gospel’s turn. Now let Christ with His gracious lips talk to him of better things, grace, peace, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life.

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Good Preaching Gives Good Songs Context

The argument goes like this: The hymns are outdated. Nobody talks like that any more, nobody knows what these archaic words refer to, nobody sings melodies like that any more; therefore, the solution is to ditch the hymns and sing only contemporary songs.

But I don’t think the reason hymns fell out of favor is because they became old. I think it’s because our preaching got new.

The great hymn writers could tell the gospel story with gospel words in very solid ways. But preaching over time became moralistic stories with pop psychology words in wispy ways. We stopped giving the hymns context. We would sing “Oh how marvelous, Oh how wonderful is my Savior’s love for me!” but our preacher had long stopped marveling and wondering about the cross, so the song didn’t make emotional sense. And then it stopped resonating with us on a Spiritual level.

All good hymns declare the gospel and assume gospel context. I suspect the main reason hymns don’t resonate with people much any more is because we don’t preach the gospel.

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No Such Thing as Easy Believism?

Well, there is, of course. But genuine belief is both simple and impossible.

From Walter Marshall’s classic The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification:

[P]eople are offended at the duty of believing on Christ, as too slight and easy a remedy to cure the leprosy of the soul; they would have some harder thing enjoined them, to the attainment of so great an end as this everlasting salvation. The performance of all the moral law is not accounted work enough for this end {Matt. 19. 17, 20).

However easy the work of believing seemeth to many; yet common experience hath sowed, that men are more easily brought to the most burdensome reasonable and inhuman observations, as the Jews and Christians Galatians were more easily brought to take upon their necks the yoke of Moses law, which none were able to bear (Acts. 15. 10). The heathens were more easily brought to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods (Deut. 12:31). The Papists are brought more easily to their vows of chastity and poverty, and obedience to the most rigorous rules of monastic discipline; to macerate and torture their bodies with fastings, scourges, and pilgrimage; and to bear all the excessive tyranny of the Papal hierarchy, in a multitude of burdensome superstitious and ridiculous devotion.

They that slight the work of faith for its easiness show, that they were never yet made sensible of innumerable sins, and the terrible curse of the law and wrath of God they lied under; …

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What’ll Preach That’s of the Devil

From Martin Luther:

The heart of man finds it difficult to believe that so great a treasure as the Holy Ghost is gotten by the mere hearing of faith. The hearer likes to reason like this: Forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death, the gift of the Holy Ghost, everlasting life are grand things. If you want to obtain these priceless benefits, you must engage in correspondingly great efforts. And the devil says, “Amen.”

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