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Archive for August, 2012

Sin Described

What is sin? Here is John Piper’s excellent description:

What is sin?

It is the glory of God not honored.

The holiness of God not reverenced.

The greatness of God not admired.

The power of God not praised.

The truth of God not sought.

The wisdom of God not esteemed.

The beauty of God not treasured.

The goodness of God not savored.

The faithfulness of God not trusted.

The commandments of God not obeyed.

The justice of God not respected.

The wrath of God not feared.

The grace of God not cherished.

The presence of God not prized.

The person of God not loved.

That is sin.

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Jesus Christ died in the place of His people – He is the substitute of all who put their faith in trust in Him. His substitutionary death paid for all of our sins. Praise God! Isaiah 53:4-6 is a passage that presents the nature of His sacrifice very clearly. In the passage below, the contrast between the Lord Jesus and us will be in boldface, making the contrast even greater.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening of our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.

All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.

The contrast between what we’ve done and what He did for us couldn’t be clearer. The sinless Savior – Jesus Christ – took on Himself all of the sins of all of His people and paid the full penalty for those sins. In return, He gave us His righteousness as a free gift through faith in Him.

Praise God for the Great Exchange – the substitutionary and sacrificial death of Christ for His people!

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I had the privilege of preaching on Genesis 11:1-9 (the Tower of Babel) this morning. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Instead of trying to make a name for ourselves, we should obey God a trust Him to make a name for us.

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Does the Bible consist of one big overarching narrative? Is there one story to be gleaned from our reading and study of the Bible? A flood of books today seem to suggest that’s the case.

But is it true? In one sense, it is – simply put, the Bible is the record (or story) of God saving, sanctifying, and sustaining His people though His Son Jesus Christ. In another sense, though, there is a lot more to the Bible than just that. Scripture contains a number of important themes that begin in the Old Testament and are fulfilled and brought to completion in the New Testament. There are a number of literary types in God’s Word, too (law, wisdom, poetry, history, and prophecy among them).

Leslie Leyland Fields wants to put the brakes on the “one story” view, especially as it excludes anything other than the narrative portions of the Bible. She says,

Somehow, in the pursuit of the larger story, we’ve empowered ourselves to reorganize, distill, edit, and rewrite the actual Scripture. We have failed to recognize that each of these activities not only interprets but also reduces Scripture. In pursuit of Story, we’ve abridged the Bible. We’ve edited out the non-narrative parts. We’ve reworded the text.

Her article, The Gospel is More Than a Story: Rethinking Narrative and Testimony, is worth reading and reflection.

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Is an electric chair the contemporary equivalent of the cross? Some claim it is as they try to explain the indignity of Jesus dying on the cross. We need to be careful about the illustrations we use, however. Glenn T. Stanton has written a thought-provoking piece you can read here – it’s worth thinking about for the glory of God.

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I had the privilege of preaching on Romans 8:28-29 this morning. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: When we look at any  particular verse or passage of the Bible we should ask this question – “How different would my life be if I really believed this?”

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Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to Him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead” (Matt. 8:21-22).

There are times when we need to have an understanding of the Hebrew or Greek in order to properly interpret Scripture (especially the statement just quoted). However, there are times when the original languages don’t shed much light. When that happens, we can consult – among other things – figures of speech that were well-known among those who heard the statement originally.

Barbara Bowen writes:

This answer appears to us very harsh and unsympathetic. We see in our mind a young man grieving for a dead father and wishing naturally to remain near him, and Jesus calls him, and the young man refuses the call.

The Palestinian understands this as being nothing in the world but an excuse, and an exceedingly common one in that country. No doubt the father was perfectly well and strong, but the son did not want to follow Christ, and as was the common custom, he answered, “No, I cannot, my father is dead and I must bury him.”

If you ask some natives even today to do anything they do not want to do, they will not answer that they do not feel well, or haven’t the time, but they will instantly say to you, “No, I cannot, my father is dead.” (Strange Scriptures That Perplex the Western Mind, p. 20).

Another source says this figure of speech can also mean, “Let me wait until I receive my inheritance.” Either way, Jesus knew the man’s answer to His call was an excuse – nothing more – and He answered accordingly.

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The story is told of the comedian of yesteryear W.C. Fields on his deathbed reading a Bible. Because Fields was never interested in the Bible, or Christianity, a friend asked him what he was doing. He said, “I’m looking for loopholes.”

I’m convinced that some of us do the same thing when we read God’s Word. We read a clear command, like “love your neighbor” for example, and begin to think of exceptions rather than how we can obey it. “Love your neighbor,” except when they’re hard to love. “Love your neighbor,” when they’re lovable. “Love your neighbor,” except when you really don’t like them. I know we do this because I do it, too. We have to confess that there are times when we’re confronted with a command and find ourselves thinking, “Do I really have to do that?” or “It can’t really mean that, can it?”

The problem for us (not God) is that we can’t treat God’s Word like that – looking for the loopholes. If we’re to take the Scriptures seriously, which we should as Christians, we need to understand and obey it. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). Don’t look for a loophole, look to obey for God’s glory.

 

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Every life is built upon a foundation. That foundation can either be sand or rock. A life built on sand will not survive the storms, but one built upon a solid foundation of rock will. What’s true of architecture is also true of theology – every life is built upon theology. A theology of sand will fail you, but a theology built upon the solid rock of the essential truths of God’s Word can, and will, withstand whatever may come against it.

That’s the point Joshua Harris makes in his book Dug Down Deep: Understanding What I Believe and Why It Matters.  This readable book is a personal theological journey, of sorts, which chronicles Harris’s trek from a kid raised in a good Christian home to the senior pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. In Dug Down Deep, he covers several essential areas of orthodox Christian doctrine – God (His existence and attributes, He is Triune); The Bible (inspired by God and authoritative); Jesus Christ (His person and work); Salvation (regeneration, in particular); sanctification (growing in holiness); the Holy Spirit (His person and work); the church (which makes the invisible kingdom of God visible); and the return of Christ.

Harris has done an excellent job of making difficult theological concepts easy to understand – simple, but not simplistic. I think his chapters on sanctification and the church are the strongest parts of the book. Dug Down Deep can be profitably read by new and mature Christians alike. I highly recommend it.

(I was given a free copy of this book to review by Waterbrook Multnomah. A positive review was not required, just an honest one.)

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Tim Challies is a blogger par excellence, but as of late he’s been preaching at the church at which he is an elder. Along the way, he’s learned a few things. About his post on the subject, he says, “This is an article about preaching that is meant to be read by non-preachers.” You can read it here.

I highly recommend it. It gives those who don’t preach a bit more understanding of those of us who do, which is a good thing. Tim’s article is similar to the idea James Dobson had when he wrote a book called What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Them. I hope it helps you understand this “strange breed” of human being called by God to preach His Word.

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