Archive for March, 2011

King David had sinned “big-time” in 2 Samuel 11. He had committed adultery with Bathsheba; brought Uriah, her husband, back from a battle in hopes that he would cover David’s sin; then had Uriah killed because of his “failure to cooperate” with his scheme (ironically, Uriah acted more nobly and admirably than David in the whole “affair”).

The king may have thought his sin was secret, but God knew all about it. Nathan, the prophet of God, paid David a visit (2 Samuel 12). Nathan told him a parable that incited the king’s wrath – “the man who has done this deserves to die” (verse 5). Four words from Nathan’s mouth would change David’s life — “You are the man” (verse 7).

I admire Nathan because he was bold. It took courage and a holy boldness to do and say what Nathan did. He knew full well that the king, even David, could have him banished or killed for saying something he didn’t want to hear. Nevertheless, Nathan trusted God and spoke His Word.

I admire Nathan because he loved God. The prophet was loved greatly by God, therefore he loved Him in return. He delighted in the Lord and was committed to Him unconditionally. Only someone to whom God was his all-in-all could confront a king with sin he thought was secret.

I admire Nathan because he loved David. Yes, he loved God, but he also loved David, too. He valued David so highly that he told him the truth precisely as God instructed him. If Nathan hadn’t have loved David, it seems he might have let the king “sleep in the bed he had made.” Instead, the Lord used Nathan’s love for David as a means of accomplishing His holy, perfect will with David (as well as Nathan).

Nathan is a man of God I admire.

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching on Ephesians 2:1-3. The summary of my sermon in the space of one sentence is — Outside of Jesus Christ, all human beings are spiritually dead, disobedient, depraved, and doomed.

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John MacArthur is someone I admire and respect tremendously. He has faithfully preached the Word of God for forty years in the same church. His involvement with The Master’s College and Seminary has been fruitful, as has the radio ministry “Grace to You.” God has graciously used MacArthur as both a mentor and model for ministry to many.

I have to admit, though, I’ve had something of a “like-dislike” relationship with his books, with the exception of his commentaries (it’s not strong enough to be considered “love-hate” by any stretch of the imagination). Don’t get me wrong, MacArthur’s books are well-written and make good, strong points on the subjects they discuss. My problem comes with the sheer number I would consider “against books” – books that oppose this doctrine or that movement. The issues raised in those books was important and necessary, but I began to wonder what John was “for,” not just what he was “against.”

When I first heard about Slave, his newest book, I hoped it wasn’t another “against” book. I’m extremely glad to report that it isn’t. Slave is a good read, well-researched, and challenging to boot. At just over 230 pages, it isn’t too long, but it’s long enough to make the point without belaboring it.

MacArthur takes a different slant on our identity as believers in Jesus Christ. Normally, when the subject is broached, the more positive aspects are emphasized tot he exclusion of anything else. The Bible says that we are forgiven, loved, blessed with every spiritual blessing, and a host of other things. The Bible also teaches that a Christian is a slave of Christ.

Time and time again throughout the pages of Scripture, believers are referred to as slaves of God and slaves of Christ. In fact, whereas the outside world called them “Christians,” the earliest believers repeatedly referred to themselves in the New Testament as the Lord’s slaves. For them, the two ideas were synonymous. To be a Christian was to be a slave of Christ. (pp. 12-13. Emphasis in original.)

MacArthur spends several chapters making the case that the Greek word “doulos” means “slave” – plain and simple. It’s his contention that “doulos” in its various forms has been mistranslated in nearly every English translation as “servant” or “bond-servant.” A slave is quite different from a servant (bond or not). Slavery in ancient Israel and the Roman empire, says MacArthur, are what biblical writers had in mind when they used illustrations and allusions based on slavery (and obviously not what took place in the 18th and 19th centuries).

Personally, the truth that I am a slave of Christ has been both convicting and comforting. I know I’m not the best or most faithful slave, but I want to be. I know, too, that my Master and Lord provides for me, protects me, directs me, and will reward me. I recognize that “it’s all about Him” – the Lord, and not me the slave.

Slave is a provacative book. I’m sure it will be pilloried by some, but John MacArthur deserves praise for this thought-provoking, faithful to Scripture book. Read it. It will be well worth your time.



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I heard a song by Francesca Battistelli the other day called “The Stuff You Use” which made a great point about God’s role in our sanctification – becoming more holy and more like Jesus Christ.

In the song, she loses her car keys, can’t find her phone, and gets a ticket for going 45 in a 35 zone. These types of things drive her crazy, but realizes God is using them. This is the stuff the gets under my skin/But I’ve gotta trust You know exactly what You’re doing/Might not be what I would choose/But this is the stuff You use/So break me of my impatience/Conquer my frustrations/It’s not the end of the world.

Francesca has hit the nail square on the head. Those are exactly the kinds of things God uses (His “means of sanctification” as it’s called in theology) to conform us to the image of His Son Jesus Christ (see Rom. 8:28-29). God uses all kinds of other “stuff,” too.

  • A frustratingly slow internet connection.
  • A flat tire on the way to work.
  • A cold that won’t go away.
  • Good intentions that didn’t bring about good results.
  • A broken relationship.
  • Too much month and not enough money.
  • Hearing news that breaks your heart.
  • A task you thought was going to be easy, but turned into an all-day project.
  • Looking like and uncoordinated blob while playing Wii.

This is the stuff God uses to sanctify us. We can trust that God knows what He’s doing, even if we wouldn’t choose it. I’m sure you can think of many more examples. Thank you, Francesca!

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I was privileged to preach on Ephesians 1:20-23 this morning. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Jesus Christ is supreme over everyone and everything, including the church, for all time.

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In the course of life, you’ve either heard or said, “Are we there yet?” We all seem to have a built-in impatience when it comes to getting or going somewhere. We want to be wherever we’re going now and not later.

unfortunately, we have the same idea when it comes to our pursuit of holiness and our walk with Christ. We want maturity and we want it now and we want it yesterday.

The apostle Paul recorded one of his many prayers for believers in Jesus Christ in the first chapter of his epistle to the Ephesians. It reads, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might” (1:16-19).

Paul made three requests to the Lord on behalf of all Christians who would read this letter, which includes those who read it today. First, that we would have an increasing knowledge of God. Second, that we would have an increasing knowledge of God’s inheritance for us. Third, that we would have an increasing knowledge and experience of God’s power at work within us.

We’re not “there yet” because we don’t fully understand or experience all that God has for us yet. We will someday, but not yet. Until that time, we need to be patient, trust God, and make every effort to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

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Tough and Tender

John Newton, the former slave trader saved by the amazing grace of God, is the example of the pastor I want to be, especially during controversy – tough and tender. Read John Piper’s article here.

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This morning, I had the honor of preaching on Ephesians 1:15-19. Here is the summary of my sermon in a sentence: Paul thanks God for the Ephesian Christians and prays that they would increase in their knowledge of God, their inheritance from God, and the surpassing greatness of the power of God that was at work in them.

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Jerry Bridges told this story when he spoke at the Spurgeon Fellowship.  The point of it is excellent.

His parents gave him a wristwatch as a gift after he graduated from high school. It looked good and told the time well the first day, but when he got out of bed on the second day and put the watch on, he found that it had lost quite a bit of time. Jerry remembered that he had forgotten to wind it before he went to bed! The watch had a mainspring that needed to be wound every day if it was going to be able to tell the time properly.

The gospel is the mainspring of the Christian life. The fact that “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21) is what powers us and keeps us going. Just like Jerry’s wristwatch, we need to “wind the watch” by reminding ourselves that if we have put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ for our salvation, He took our sins upon Himself and paid for them and He gives us His perfect righteousness as a gift.

We need to wind that mainspring every day, which is what Bridges means when he says that we should preach the gospel to ourselves every day. Have you wound your watch today?

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Yesterday, I was blessed and privileged to see and hear Jerry Bridges speak at the Spurgeon Fellowship at Western Seminary. Bridges is the author of a number of books on the Christian life and the gospel – each of them excellent. (For examples, you could read my earlier post “5 Good Books by Jerry Bridges”).

Bridges spoke on the two bookends of the Christian life. One bookend is the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ which is imputed to us through faith in Him, which guarantees our standing before God. The other bookend is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian who provides us with the power and ability needed to pursue holiness and practice godliness.

Both talks were simple, straightforward, humble, full of biblical content and the wisdom of a godly 80 year-old Christian. May the Lord give Bridges many more years of faithful and fruitful service. You can check out his books and buy them here.

By the way, you might also want to get more information on the Spurgeon Fellowship. It’s a ministry to pastors and church leaders that meets quarterly at Western. I’ve been encouraged and strengthened many times over by their efforts. May the Lord continue to bless them, too!

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