Monthly Archives: March 2011

 

Mar

30

2011

Jared C. Wilson|4:20 pm CT

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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Mar

29

2011

Jared C. Wilson|12:05 pm CT

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 an endless cycle of temporarily satiating Sehnsucht. It’s endless, of course, because drugs wear off.

2. We deny it.
This approach often goes hand in hand with idolatry, and is at its core self-idolatry, as plenty of people simply say they aren’t broken, they aren’t missing anything, they don’t have that “inconsolable longing.” They’ve got a happy family in a nice house with a two car garage supported by a good job and nothing bad has happened to them, and they just don’t think they have cause to suspect they long for anything more. Of these people, John Kramp, author of Out of Their Faces and Into their Shoes, wisely reminds us, “You can be lost and not know it.” Let’s not pretend every person apart from Christ feels lost without Christ. This is probably the most dangerous position to be in.

3. We deify it.
This approach is becoming more popular in professing Christian circles, particularly among younger generations. At some point, the longing itself became more interesting than the longed-for. Idolaters of Sehnsucht don’t mind reveling in the mysteries at the expense of their Author, because mystery seems so much more interesting than revelation. Those who settle for the longing itself rather than the settler of the longing coddle their doubts, cherish subjectivity, and elevate uncertainty.

4. We delight it.
“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’” Jesus says to the woman, “you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” How do you delight the longing? By finding the receiver tuned to its frequency. Only the enjoyment of God himself makes Sehnsucht truly beautiful. Only the rest of the Savior finally solves our weariness. The cry of our hearts has one authorized interpreter, and this once unknown tongue, a lament, a barbarous yawp (thank you, Whitman), translates to a joyous yawp when spoken in its native land.

You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are not at rest until they find their rest in Thee.
– Augustine

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Mar

28

2011

Jared C. Wilson|9:15 pm CT

This Weekend: H-town

The first Gospel Wakefulness Conference is this coming weekend, Friday and Saturday, at Conroe Church of Christ in Conroe, TX. There is still time to register.

It will be my privilege to share from God’s Word over 4 sessions on the importance of gospel-centrality, astonishment, and the wonderfulness of Jesus.

If you’re in the Houston area, I hope to see you there.

On Sunday, I will be preaching on Mark 14:43-52 in both morning services at Crossbridge Church in Sugar Land, Texas.

If you’re a reader of this blog, I wonder if you wouldn’t mind taking the time to pray for me sometime between now and then. We have sickness in our home, so you could pray that I stay healthy. I’m not a big fan of air travel, so you could pray for smooth flights. I will be preaching 6 times over this weekend and talking to lots of people in between, and while I know many fellows do this each weekend, I don’t: so you could pray for my stamina and voice.

Thank you.

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Mar

28

2011

Jared C. Wilson|4:54 pm CT

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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Mar

27

2011

Jared C. Wilson|1:17 pm CT

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 to Him. He was willing, he thought, to give up anything or everything if only he might realise the desire of his heart.

“Well,” said he, amidst the profound silence and attention of the immense congregation, “what do you think it was that the Lord required of me? He did not touch me in my church, my family, my property, or my passions. But one thing I liked exceedingly—the best cigar which could be bought.”

He then told us that the thought came into his mind, could he relinquish this indulgence, if its relinquishment would advance his piety? He tried to dismiss the idea as a mere fancy or scruple, but it came again and again to him, and he was satisfied that it was the still small voice which was speaking.

He remembered having given up smoking by the wish of his ministerial brethren, when he was twenty-one years of age, for four years. But then, he had resumed the habit, for he declared during that four years he never saw or smelt a cigar which he did not want to smoke. How, however, he felt it to be his duty to give it up again, and so unequal did he feel to the self-denial, that he “took his cigar-box before the Lord,” and cried to Him for help. This help he intimated had been given, and the habit renounced.

Mr. Spurgeon, whose smoking propensities are pretty well known, instantly rose at the conclusion of Mr. Pentecost’s address, and, with a somewhat playful smile, said,

“Well, dear friends, you know that some men can do to the glory of God what to other men would be sin. And notwithstanding what brother Pentecost has said, I intend to smoke a good cigar to the glory of God before I go to bed to-night.
“If anybody can show me in the Bible the command, ‘Thou shalt not smoke,’ I am ready to keep it; but I haven’t found it yet. I find ten commandments, and it’s as much as I can do to keep them; and I’ve no desire to make them into eleven or twelve.
“The fact is, I have been speaking to you about real sins, not about listening to mere quibbles and scruples. At the same time, I know that what a man believes to be sin becomes a sin to him, and he must give it up. ‘Whatsoever is not of faith is sin’ [Rom. 14:23], and that is the real point of what my brother Pentecost has been saying.
“Why, a man may think it a sin to have his boots blacked. Well, then, let him give it up, and have them whitewashed. I wish to say that I’m not ashamed of anything whatever that I do, and I don’t feel that smoking makes me ashamed, and therefore I mean to smoke to the glory of God.”

Source for Photo and Excerpt: The Spurgeon Archive

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Mar

25

2011

Jared C. Wilson|12:07 pm CT

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”

HT: OFI

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Mar

25

2011

Jared C. Wilson|11:24 am CT

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 I have wanted to serve Thee. I have tried to my uttermost and I am a hopeless failure.” That night things happened.

I can honestly say that I had never once heard from the lips of men the message that came to me then but God, that night simply focused upon me the Bible message of Christ Who Is Our Life. The Lord seemed to make plain to me that night, through my tears of bitterness: ‘You see, for seven years, with utmost sincerity, you have been trying to live for Me, on My behalf, the life that I have been waiting for seven years to live through you.’” That night, all in the space of an hour, Ian Thomas discovered the secret of the adventurous life. He said: “I got up the next morning to an entirely different Christian life, but I want to emphasize this: I had not received one iota more than I had already had for seven years!”

It is important to stress that gospel wakefulness is not necessarily simultaneous with conversion — although it can be — but is more often than not a new and enduring astonishment over the gospel previously believed.

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Mar

24

2011

Jared C. Wilson|8:00 pm CT

O The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

And on that note:

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Mar

24

2011

Jared C. Wilson|5:55 pm CT

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 more multifaceted than we can understand with finite, fallen minds. Maybe the reality is that the God of the Bible is as transcendent as he is immanent, that his ways are inscrutable, that his love is glorious and astonishing precisely because it is too wonderful for us. Maybe the heights and breadths of God’s love do not refer merely to its size but its complexity.

In the hymn “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” we sing of the “ocean depths” of God’s love. It is deep like the ocean, and not just in fathoms and leagues, but in diversity and complexity. There are clear shallows to play in and opaque depths of mystery. There are hidden places in the ocean, places we will never see, places too deep for us to go. There are things about the ocean depths small children can understand, things marine biologists still haven’t figured out, and things nobody will ever discover to even have the opportunity to scrutinize.

And then, since we are alleged people of the Book, we know that the unfathomable oceans of God’s love do not exist in a vacuum, hermetically sealed off from all the other “things” God is and God does. God’s oceanic love occupies space in the perfect balance of the infinite universe of all his attributes.

It is a sad irony, then, that the ever-fashionable impulse to do justice to the depths of God’s love amount to a very dramatic exercise in one-dimensionalism. This is polyhedronal stuff, man. Woe to the flatteners of what is hyperspatial, multi-dimensional, intra-Trinitarian, eternal in ways awesomer than “one year after another.”

We can feel the weight of this inscrutable awesomeness in Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-19:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

We may know a love that is beyond our knowing. (We are given the amount we need in the cross of Christ, itself a comprehensible prelude to incomprehensible “subsequent glories”). But we will need the strength of Spiritual power in our insidest insides to scratch the surface of this comprehension. We won’t even come close with our cliches and sentimentality.

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Mar

24

2011

Jared C. Wilson|3:22 pm CT

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 ecstasy of heaven], or else, that it was within your reach and you have lost it forever.”

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