If Christ was fully God lived on this earth in human nature, what was the role of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’s earthly life? What could the Spirit of God contribute to the deity of Christ?

Alemayehu Mekonnen, Ph.D, Associate professor of missions at Denver Seminary, 2013 reviews Dr. Ware, A. Bruce, The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflection on the Humanity of Christ. Crossway, Wheaton, IL; 2013. Paperback $13.50. ISBN 13-978-1-4335-1305-3 (Photo credit http://www.amazon.com)

One would ask, if Christ was fully God lived on this earth in human nature, what was the role of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’s earthly life? What could the Spirit of God contribute to the deity of Christ? Bruce said; “The answer we must give is: Nothing! As God he possesses every quality infinitely, and nothing can be added to him. So then we ask instead this question: what could the Spirit of God contribute to the humanity of Christ? The answer is everything of supernatural power and enablement that he, in his human nature, would lack. The only way to make sense, then, of the fact that Jesus came in the power of the Spirit is to understand that he lived his life fundamentally as a man, and as such, he relied on the Spirit to provide the power, grace, knowledge, wisdom, direction, and enablement he needed, moment by moment an day by day, to fulfill the mission the Father sent him to accomplish” Pg. 30. To illustrate this point biblically, Bruce exegetes (Isa. 11:1-3) effectively.

The Man Jesus Christ sets an example of dependence on heavenly father and obedience to Him in the context of suffering. “This incarnate obedience, we might call it, was rendered often within the context of opposition and affliction, with the result often, that his obedience was the cause of much further suffering. In other words, he knew that he obeyed the Father, he was inviting only greater opposition and was putting himself in a place of increased suffering. Obedience per se was not new; rather, this kind of obedience was indeed new” Pg. 60. At a time a when “wealth and health” gospel is preached, and suffering is considered as negative in spiritual maturity or labeled with lack of faith. The obedience of Jesus Christ in the context of suffering refreshes authentic Christian and biblical outlook. “Oddly, some Christians seem instinctively to want to push away suffering. They think it best to keep suffering at arm’s length. But not only is this a mistake biblically and theologically; it is a huge mistake spiritually and practically” pg. 70.

Read the article in its entirety here- http://www.denverseminary.edu/

Mortification of Sin by John Owen (free ebook)

Photo via realtruthmatters.com

The Resurgence has posted an outline of John Owen’s Book ‘The Mortification of Sin’ made by Bob Thune. Read their article here.

For those who prefer a more thorough and analytical outline, including some of the more memorable quotes from Owen’s pen, you can download Bob Thune’s 12-page reading summary in PDF format.

You can also read the entire book here at Christian Classics Ethereal Library or ccel.org

WHY MUST WE MORTIFY SIN?

  • Because sin is always active
  • Because unmortified sin weakens and darkens the soul
  • Because unmortified sin hardens others to the gospel

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO MORTIFY SIN?

What It Does Not Mean

  • To mortify sin is not to utterly destroy it. (That’s Jesus’ job, not your job.)
  • To mortify sin is not to outwardly forsake its practice. Those who do this are just “more cunning; not more holy.”
  • To mortify sin is not to have a quiet, sedate nature. “Some men have an advantage by their natural constitution… they are not exposed to unruly passions and tumultuous affections as many others are.” This does not mean they have mortified sin.
  • To mortify sin is not to divert it. “He that trades sensuality for Pharisaism has not mortified sin… He has changed his master, but he is a servant still.”
  • To mortify sin is not to experience “occasional conquests” against it.

What It Does Mean

  • A habitual weakening of sin.
  • A constant fighting against sin.
  • Success. Victory over sin!

HOW DO WE MORTIFY SIN?

4 General Principles

  • You must set your faith on Christ. (Fill your soul with the consideration of who Jesus is and what he’s done for you)
  • You must rely on the Holy Spirit. “A man may easier see without eyes and speak without a tongue, than mortify a sin without the Spirit.”
  • You must be truly converted.
  • You must intend universal obedience. If you don’t intend to obey God in every area, you don’t hate sin; you hate the particular sin that is bothering you. Which means you don’t love Christ; you love yourself. A particularly strong, besetting sin commonly issues from a careless, negligent spiritual life in general.

9 Specific Directives

  1. Get a clear and abiding sense upon your mind of the guilt, danger, and evil of your sin.
  2. Load your conscience with the guilt of your besetting sin.
  3. Long for deliverance from the power of sin. “Longing, breathing, and panting after deliverance is a grace in itself, that has a mighty power to conform the soul into the likeness of the thing longed after… Unless you long for deliverance you shall not have it.”
  4. Consider whether you are prone toward a particular sin because of your personality or disposition. This should awaken your zeal. “So great an advantage is given to sin and Satan by your temper and disposition, that without extraordinary watchfulness, care, and diligence, they [sin and Satan] will prevail against your soul.”
  5. Consider what occasions your sin uses to exert itself, and watch against them all.
  6. Fight strongly against the first actings of your lust. “Sin is like water in a channel – once it breaks out, it will have its course.”
  7. Dwell on thoughts that humble you and remind you of your sinfulness.
  8. Know the warning signs of particularly dangerous sin patterns: persistent, habitual sin; secret pleas of the heart to leave sin alone; giving into sin without struggle; ignoring the conviction of the Holy Spirit; avoiding sin because you fear punishment. If a lust has any of these symptoms, it cannot be dealt with by an ordinary course of mortification; it requires extraordinary measures.
  9. Do not speak peace to yourself before God speaks peace to you.

Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.

Why is God just to punish Jesus for our sins John Piper

The following is an edited transcript of the audio.

Why is God just to punish Jesus for our sins when doing a similar thing would be so unjust for a human judge to do?

5PIPER12xx.jpgVery good question.

When Jesus died, he said, „Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son and glorify yourself.” And the Father came back and said, „I have glorified it [my name], and I will glorify it again.”

The way to understand Jesus’ substitutionary death under God’s wrath is that he is doing it in such a way as to glorify or magnify the infinite worth of the glory of God.

God’s glory has been trampled by people like us. Every time we prefer something to the glory of God, we demean the glory of God. And we do it every day.

Since his glory has been impugned and belittled, he has to exalt his glory by punishing sinners and saying, „My glory is infinitely valuable. If you trample my glory, you lose glory. And I restore my glory by your losing glory.”

Jesus enters in and he is able to do what no human could do. This is why there is a difference. No human ever could do this in a court of law. He is so perfect and he suffers so much, and his motives are so Godward, that when he dies on the cross, what is manifest is, „Look how valuable the glory of God is!”

If a mom stepped forward in a courtroom and said, „Let me take my son’s place. Let me take my son’s place, please.” We all know that would be unjust. She goes to the electric chair, and this son goes on to sin more.

The two differences are

  1. She’s not doing that to magnify the worth of the state—God. She’s doing it to magnify the worth of her son, and that’s not what’s happening at the cross.
  2. She’s freeing the son, untransformed, to go into the world and sin some more.

And those are the very two things that are different about the death of Jesus.

  1. Jesus dies not to magnify the sinner’s worth, but to magnify God’s worth.
  2. And he dies and changes those who escape from hell. He doesn’t just release more sin upon the world. He puts the Holy Spirit in our lives and begins to transform us into the image of Christ so that we bring more glory to the Father than if we had been left in our sin.

By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

R C Sproul – What Does „Inspiration” Mean in 2 Timothy 3:16

photo via http://www.joeyrodgers.com

R. C. Sproul: In the church, we have a doctrine called INSPIRATION.  And the english translation of 1 Timothy 3:16 uses the term inspiration. But, I think that we must make a distinction  between the use of the term ‘inspiration’ here and the way it’s used theologically in the history of the church. Because, as Dr. B. B. Warfield once pointed out so eloquently, the real meaning of this text here in 2 Timothy 3:16, has to do, not so much with the way in which God communicated His information to us through the human writers, but rather, the emphasis in this text is on the source of that information.

rc sproul 2Paul is using the word theopneust, when he says ‘all Scripture is given by inspiration’. Literally, what this means is God-breathed. And it means, that which God has breathed out, rather than that which God breathes in. Now, you notice I had to pause and breathe. In order for me to speak, I have to have breath in my lungs. And while I’m speaking, if I continue to speak and don’t take a breath while I continue to speak, pretty soon I start squeaking like a mouse and I run out of breath. I have to breathe. Because when I speak, I’m breathing out. And in order to breathe out, I must first breathe in.

Now, the force of what Paul is saying here, is that he is saying that all of Scripture is breathed out from God. When we breathe out we are involved in expiration- not in the sense of dying, but, we expire at death because we breathe out for the last time. We don’t breathe in anymore. But, to breathe out is expiration, whereas to breathe in is inspiration. So, really, if we were getting real technical here, we should translate this phrase that „all Scripture is given by expiration”. Now, so what? What’s the difference between expiration and inspiration here? Again, the point that I’m jealous to make here is that what Paul is saying, when he insists that all Scripture has been breathed out by God is that its ultimate origin is in Him. It is His word. It is His speech. He is the one who is the source of these writings.

And so, when we talk about the doctrine of inspiration, we’re talking about the way in which God superintends the writing of sacred Scripture. That God does not just act and let people respond with their own insight and their own imagination to set forth their view of  what God has done. But, that God is working by the Holy Spirit to superintend that record to make sure that the record that is written is His word.

The Makings of a Christian Marriage

A Study By: Bob Deffinbaugh excerpted from bible.org. Click here to read the entire article. Although somewhat lengthy, it is worth the time to read these Godly principles and apply them to our marriage. May God strengthen your marriage as you read and trust in Him! One thing that stands out to me in this study is the following phrase:

We should not assume God is more glorified by a “successful” and “happy” marriage than by one fraught with difficulties. As Paul points out in Ephesians 5, a marriage in which the husband and wife play out their respective roles obediently portrays the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church.

That is a very comforting and uplifting thought! It is a truth worth holding on to when our marriages are on trial.

Introduction

Our culture shapes our thinking and conduct regarding marriage to an incredible degree…

Culture does play a very significant role in our attitudes and actions regarding marriage. The Christian must not be shaped by his culture, but by the cross of Christ, the Word of God, and the Spirit of God:

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11; see also Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:17-24).

When the Christian comes to marriage then, we dare not allow the world (our culture) to shape our thinking, our attitudes, or our actions. The purpose of this message is to consider Christian marriage primarily in light of the teaching of Peter in his first epistle.

A Definition of a Christian Marriage

A Christian marriage is one in which at least one partner is a believer in Christ, who embraces the attitudes and actions prescribed by the Scriptures in their relationship with their mate.

We generally think of a Christian marriage114 as one in which both the husband and the wife115 are believers in Christ. While this is certainly the ideal, it is not always so.116 A Christian marriage is one in which Christ is manifested through the marriage relationship by at least one of the partners. Peter’s words to wives in 3:1-6 implies that a believing wife may manifest Christ while married to an unbeliever. Who would dare call this marriage something less than “Christian?”

It is not enough for one who is married to be a Christian. He or she must also think and act in a Christian manner. The Christian’s attitudes and actions must flow from the Scriptures. A Christian marriage is not governed by the same principles which guide and govern a secular marriage. The Christian life, including the relationship of marriage, is a supernatural life. A Christian marriage does not just happen naturally; it happens unnaturally, supernaturally, as we obey the Scriptures and individually depend upon the grace of God. Christian marriage is based upon a God-given faith, hope, and love, which only the true believer possesses.

I have often heard Christians say the principles for successful relationships apply as much to unbelievers as they do to believers. If one believes this, then it matters not whether the one who goes to a “Christian counselor” is a Christian or not; they simply need to be given the right principles. The Scriptures simply do not bear this out. Rather, the Scriptures inform us that when one comes to Christ, he or she becomes a “new creation,” old things have passed away and all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Peter also speaks of a radical change which takes place when one comes from darkness to light:

13 Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober [in spirit,] fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all [your] behavior; 16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” 17 And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay [upon earth]; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, [the blood] of Christ. 20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. 22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, [that is,] through the living and abiding word of God (1 Peter 1:13-23; see also 4:1-6).

Only a believer can live the way Peter instructs us to live. We can now be holy as God is holy because we are in Christ. We can fix our hope on the glory to be revealed at the return of our Lord because we have trusted in Him for salvation. We can love one another fervently because our souls have been purified in obedience to the truth.

Paul agrees, making it clear that it is impossible for an unbeliever to do those things which the Christian is commanded to do:

5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able [to do so]; 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you. 12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:5-15).

The unbeliever sets his mind on the things of the flesh, not the things of the Spirit. As an unbeliever, he is hostile toward God and will not subject himself to God. An unbeliever cannot please God because they are only in the flesh. The Christian, however, has the Holy Spirit dwelling within him. The One who raised the dead body of the Lord Jesus to life is the One who can also make us alive to do what God requires.

In theory it is true—if he or she could and would follow biblical principles, the unbeliever would reap the benefits of doing so. The problem is that the unbeliever hates God, hates His commandments and instructions, and because he is ensnared by Satan and his own flesh, he cannot do what is pleasing to God. The biblical principles and commands we are about to enumerate are those which only a Christian can apply, in the power of God, to the glory of God, and to his or her own eternal benefit.

Having set down this preliminary definition of a Christian marriage, we will seek to articulate the values, goals, expectations, priorities and principles which are distinctly Christian.

Biblical Expectations for Marriage

 There is no such thing as “heaven on earth.” Heaven, as it were, will come down to the earth at the return of our Lord (see Revelation 21-22). But the New Testament writers give us no indication that the believer can and will experience heaven on earth. In short, Christ and the apostles speak of suffering now and glory later (Mark 10:29-30; Luke 9:21-26; 24:26; John 15:18-20; 16:33; Acts 14:22; 2 Corinthians 4 and 5; 1 Thessalonians 2:10-16; 3:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2:12; 3:12; 4:1-8; James 5:8-11). Peter constantly emphasizes our present suffering and our future hope of glory (1 Peter 1:6-7, 13; 4:12-19; 5:4, 10). Peter’s words to citizens (2:13-17), to servants (2:18-25), to wives and husbands (3:1-7) indicate that no matter what our station in life, we will not experience the bliss of heaven until we pass from this life into the glory of Christ’s kingdom.

Godliness does not insure marital bliss. Most conservative, evangelical Christians recognize the error of what has been called the “health and wealth gospel,” “name it and claim it Christianity,” or the “prosperity gospel.” We would be especially critical of the “prosperity gospel” which promises people that God wants them to be rich and all they have to do is to follow a few rules. As this works itself out through the prosperity televangelists, viewers are urged to send in their donations, assured of receiving God’s manifold financial blessings in return. We rightly recognize this not only as untrue, but “hucksterism” at its worst.

We are inconsistent, however. Many who reject one form of the prosperity gospel believe it in another form. For example, how many parents believe that if they raise up their children in accordance with biblically prescribed principles they may be assured of having godly children in the end? How many Christians believe the “key to marital happiness” is simply to follow the manual? I am afraid we sincerely, but wrongly, assume that following divine principles assures us of experiencing marital bliss. This is simply neither biblical nor true.

For several reasons, we dare not presume that God is obligated to “bless” our marriage with happiness if we but “follow the rules.”

First, these presumptions are contrary to the principle of grace. It is a mechanical and legalistic viewpoint which believes that every good we do receives a good in return in this life. The Pharisees held this view and thus believed a person’s spirituality was measured by his earthly prosperity and ease. If one were poor, he must be a sinner. If one were sick, he must have done something wrong (see John 9:1-2). Spirituality could be measured by outward evidences of prosperity (see Luke 16:15). If we really believe this, we do not believe in grace. The grace by which we are saved and sanctified, the grace by which we live, does not work this way. Grace is the principle whereby God pours out blessings on men who do not deserve them. We would not want God’s blessings to come to us any other way. Marital bliss is not guaranteed, and most certainly not on the basis of our faithfully following a system of rules or principles.

Second, these presumptions ignore the fact that we live in a fallen world. Marriage existed before sin came upon the human race. It was Satan who attacked mankind through marriage. When God declared the consequences of sin, He did so in terms of marriage (see Genesis 3). We should not expect our marriage to somehow be exempt from the consequences of the fall of man. We should expect sin to adversely affect marriage as it does everything else (see Romans 8:18-25).

Peter therefore assumes that even when a Christian wife lives with an unbelieving husband, there will be suffering (1 Peter 3:1-6). More than this, Peter assumes that when a Christian husband and wife are living together, there will still be sin and suffering (1 Peter 3:7).

Third, living godly may produce an adverse reaction from others rather than a favorable response(see 1 Peter 2:7-12; 4:1-6).

Fourth, suffering is a part of the process by which God proves and purifies our faith, for our good and His glory (1 Peter 1:6-9; 2:18-25; see also Job, Psalm 73; Romans 5:1-11; James 1:2-4).

Our expectations of marriage must not be based on the attitudes and actions God requires of our mate. It is true that the husband should “live with his wife according to knowledge, granting her honor as the weaker vessel and as a co-heir of the grace of life” (3:7). But it is wrong for the wife to expect or even demand that her husband live this way. She should certainly hope and pray that he will. The requirements God makes of one mate are not found on the check-list of the other. The wife should strive, by God’s grace, to fulfill that which God requires of her, just as the husband should endeavor, by God’s grace, to be the kind of husband God requires of him. Neither the wife nor the husband should dare make their obedience to God’s instructions conditional on their mate fulfilling his or her biblical obligations. Peter’s instructions to married couples assume they will not.

A Biblical Goal for Marriage

Our expectations are closely linked with our goals. We set goals for those things we desire, which we believe are attainable. The Christian’s ultimate goal should not be to have a “good” marriage, but to be godly in his or her marriage. A godly marriage is one in which at least one partner exhibits Christ in the marriage, to the glory of God. The Lord Jesus came as the Suffering Servant and thus became the model for both wives and husbands (as for every other saint). By human standards, our Lord’s ministry was not successful. But by divine standards, His sacrifice was not only for the glory of God but for the good of all those who would call upon Him for salvation. A godly marriage displays the excellencies of God to a lost world (1 Peter 2:9), resulting in glory and praise to Him (2:11). It also provides an opportunity for a living witness to the grace and glory of God and the possibility of salvation for those who are lost (3:1). Our goal for marriage should not be the fulfilling of our sensual appetites, but obedience and victory over lust. Our goal should not be happiness, but holiness:

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all [your] behavior; 16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY” (1 Peter 1:14-16).

Biblical Assumptions and Marriage

We should not assume God is more glorified by a “successful” and “happy” marriage than by one fraught with difficulties. As Paul points out in Ephesians 5, a marriage in which the husband and wife play out their respective roles obediently portrays the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church.

Peter’s emphasis, however, is somewhat different. Peter’s first epistle dealt with the problem of suffering. He taught that when we suffer unjustly and righteously as a citizen, as a slave, or as a husband or wife, we imitate Christ, the Suffering Servant. Christ submitted to earthly authorities at His expense and for our salvation (2:21-25).

It is Satan who believes that men only worship and serve God when they are the recipients of His blessings. He was convinced that when suffering came into their lives, they would deny God (see Job 1:9-11). Peter came to understand that suffering purifies our faith and results in praise and glory and honor to God as well as divine blessing for us (see 1 Peter 1:6-7). Steadfast faith in the midst of suffering glorifies God in a way which is not possible in the midst of prosperity. Job learned this lesson long ago, and Peter later embraced it as well.

We should not assume we are more spiritually blessed by a happy and trouble-free marriage than by one characterized by trials and tribulation. Our ultimate good in this life is not our happiness, but our holiness (1:15). Suffering often contributes more to our holiness than our “happiness” does (see 1 Peter 1:6-9; also Romans 5:1-11; 8:1ff.; see also Job and Psalm 73).

The world believes happiness is the good we should pursue, and that suffering is the evil we should seek to avoid. The Christian believes godliness is the good we should pursue, and that earthly suffering is the price we should willingly pay for godliness and future glory.

Biblical Priorities and Marriage

Peter learned from our Lord that marriage is a temporary and temporal relationship, not an eternal union (Matthew 22:30). He also learned that marriage, family, and earthly relationships should be subordinate to our relationship to God (Matthew 10:34-39; Luke 14:25-35). Many in Christian circles teach that while our devotion to Christ may come before our love for family, our family has priority over our ministry. It is indeed difficult to divide between our relationship with God and our service for Him.

The place of our family in our priorities is difficult because of errors at both extremes. Some seem to inundate themselves in ministry to avoid their family responsibilities. These people are really sluggards, not saints.117 Conversely, some use their family as a pretext for avoiding their spiritual obligations (see Luke 9:57-62). The subtle sin here is that in ostensibly making sacrifices to serve our family we are actually serving ourselves, for our life is tied up with our family. It is not surprising that in those texts in which Jesus called for His disciples to forsake (literally “hate”) their family as their first priority, He spoke of them “giving up their life” as well (see Matthew 10:39; Luke 14:26). Our commitment to Christ must come before all other commitments lest our devotion to Him be diminished (see 1 Corinthians 7:25-35).

Peter makes it clear that the eternal and precious takes precedence over the merely temporal (1 Peter 1:7, 13, 18-21, 23-25; 3:7) and that what brings glory to God takes precedence over what seems good to men (see 1:6-7; 2:12; 4:11-16; 5:1,4,10). Happiness is to be subordinate to holiness, and fleshly pleasures are to be subordinate to eternal blessings (1:1:13-16).

Paul speaks to the Corinthians about their preoccupation with fulfilling their personal physical appetites rather than obedience to God. In so doing, he points to the failure of the ancient Israelites (1 Corinthians 9-10). Jesus indicated to Satan that man does not live by bread alone, but rather by obedience to the Word of God (Matthew 4:4). Peter exhorts us to do likewise:

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance (1 Peter 1:14).

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11).

Later, in his second epistle, Peter will warn his readers about those false teachers who will seek to entice them by appealing to their fleshly desires (2 Peter 2:1-22).

Biblical Principles and Marriage

Contrary to many “marriage manuals” and seminars on marriage, the key to a biblical marriage is not the execution of specialized techniques applicable to marriage alone. Rather, the key to a biblical marriage is the possession of biblical attitudes and actions which apply to all relationships. Immediately after addressing Christian wives (3:1-6) and husbands (3:7), Peter sums us his teaching on submission with these general principles applicable to every human relationship, including marriage:

8 To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:8-9).

Often Christians are told how they can spice up their marriages by employing techniques devised by man. Women are taught to be as seductive as Jezebel, with the assurance that keeping her husband satisfied at home will prevent worry about outside competition for her husband’s affection. Far too often, this is at best an element of truth and a massive dose of worldly advice. The advice may be partially sanctified by calling it “Christian,” but most often it is secular and fleshly at its core. The Christian is not to live in accordance with the wisdom of this world but according to knowledge, the knowledge of God found in His Word.

In Peter’s epistle (2:21-25), as in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians (5:21-33), Christ is the model for marriage. Have you ever stopped to think that in the Bible there is no model marriage, no model family? It seems Paul was not married and may never have been married (1 Corinthians 7:8; 9:5-6). We do not even know Peter’s wife’s name or how many children they had, if any. No marriage in the Bible could be considered a model marriage for us to strive to imitate. Only Christ serves as the model for marriage, and He was never married. Nevertheless, Christ manifested by His life and sacrificial death the mindset and ministry husbands and wives should have toward each other. He sets the standard, which is perfect obedience to God. He is the example of selfless love and sacrifice for the benefit of His bride, the church. He is the One who is the standard for both the wife (“in the same way,” 1 Peter 3:1) and the husband (“likewise,” 3:7). As husbands and wives dwell together, each should live as Christ, surrendering self-interest while seeking the best interest of the other. To follow the example of Christ means we are willing to endure the pain and the penalty which results from the sins of others, with the goal of their salvation. Submission is not just seeking the best interest of another; it is seeking their best interest at our expense.

We make the most of our marriage by not making too much of it. Some people do not take marriage seriously enough; others make too much of it. They mistakenly see it as the solution to all of their problems. Peter does not speak of marriage as the key to earthly happiness. For Peter, marriage is an institution where sin will bring about suffering. But the difficulties marriage introduces into our lives are also the occasion for us to evidence Christ-like attitudes and actions. We, like Christ, can demonstrate submission and steadfast faith in the context of innocent suffering. And in so doing, God may not only use our witness to His glory and to our good, but He may also employ our suffering to bring about the salvation of one who is lost (see 1 Peter 2:24-25; 3:1, 15).

Marriage witnesses to both those on earth (2:9-12) and the angelic observers. When Paul speaks of the conduct of women in the church, he indicates that obedience to his instructions will be observed by the angels (1 Corinthians 11:10). Elsewhere, Paul speaks of the celestial beings learning from what is taking place in the church (Ephesians 3:10). Peter emphasizes the interest with which angelic beings observe the things related to salvation in the church:

10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that [would come] to you made careful search and inquiry, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look (1 Peter 1:10-12).

Marriage is an eternal investment—the more you put into it, the more you get out of it from the Lord at His return. Marriage is not about equality, regardless of popular cultural ideas and values on the subject. Marriage is about ministry. Marriage is about submission and servanthood. All too often one partner carefully “meters out” or measures the things he or she contributes to the other partner, and then very carefully measures what is given back in return. The hope is that what we get back will at least equal or even better, exceed perhaps, what we have put into it.

This principle appears to be wise and proper in monetary investments. But in marriage, it is entirely opposite of the biblical standard. We are to give, and give, and give, with no expectation of receiving from our mate in return. We are to look to God for blessings and rewards, and we are not to expect or demand them in this life. Jesus made it clear that giving with the expectation of returns is neither gracious nor godly:

12 And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you. 13 But when you give a reception, invite [the] poor, [the] crippled, [the] lame, [the] blind, 14 and you will be blessed, since they do not have [the means] to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14).

The principle our Lord lays down applies to marriage and to every other relationship. We give, not in order to get, but in order to manifest grace. And when we look for rewards, we know they also are a matter of grace and not of works.

Conclusion

I can scarcely communicate how important this message on marriage is to me. It is important because our marriages communicate a message, a message about the Lord Jesus Christ and about His relationship with His church. Marriage is a manifestation of the gospel, lived out day by day by the husband and the wife. When we mess up in our marriages, we mess up the gospel message that others see in our marriage relationship.

Sad though it is to say, many marriages are in serious trouble, and they don’t even seem to know it. Christian marriages are dissolving at nearly the same rate as the world in which we live. It is as though the gospel, the Word of God, and the Spirit of God have little power or impact on our marriages. I believe it is because we are seeking to live according to the standard the world has set and the goals it seeks to attain. We are living by the same power the unbeliever draws upon. To have a Christian marriage is to strive for the goals and standards the Bible sets, by the power which God alone provides. It is to cease striving for our own happiness and to endeavor, by His grace, to manifest godliness in our marriages, even when they fall far short of God’s ideal, and even when they bring suffering, sadness, and heartache to our lives.

Christian marriage is important because this relationship is indicative of all our relationships. The same principles which guide and govern our marriages guide and govern all our relationships. If we cannot live together with the one we have purposed to love until death parts us, how can we live in peace and harmony with our fellow-believers, or with our neighbors, or our enemies?

Our marriages are but a rehearsal for the great marriage yet to come, our union with the Lord Jesus Christ, enjoying His presence forever:

6 And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude and as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” 8 And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright [and] clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 And he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are true words of God” (Revelation 19:6-9).

At His return, our marriage with Christ will be consummated. But for now we maintain a relationship with Him through His Word and through His Spirit. Our communion is through Bible study, worship, and prayer, which makes these essential to our lives. Our earthly marriages are a reflection of our relationship with Christ. Our expectations of God and our expectations of marriage overlap. When we expect nothing but ease, comfort, and pleasure from marriage, that is most likely what we expect from God in this life. When we are angry, frustrated, and out of submission to our mate, our relationship with God is probably similar. When we worship God and come away wondering what benefit we got from it, we probably have the same attitude toward our marriage.

Submission is an attitude which relates not only to people but to circumstances. When adverse circumstances come our way, this is often the time we strike out against others, our mate, and even God. Biblical submission accepts our circumstances as having come, first and foremost, from the hand of a sovereign and loving God, who causes “all things to work together for [our] good and His glory” (Romans 8:28). Submission then seeks to serve, in spite of these difficulties, to the glory of God and the good of others, at the cost of personal sacrifice. We sacrifice our pleasure, our happiness, our interests, looking to God alone to give us what we need even though it may not be what we want.

May God grant to each of us the willingness to be the kind of husband or wife that He wants us to be, to His glory, to the benefit and blessing of our mate and others, and to the salvation of lost sinners.


114 I am not sure the term “Christian marriage” is altogether appropriate. When the word “Christian” is used as an adjective (e.g. “Christian business”), it can be problematic.

115 Unfortunately, in light of our culture it is necessary to stipulate one final qualification: the two partners in marriage may not be of the same sex. Who would have thought, 25 years ago, one would need to specify that in a Christian marriage the partners must be male and female? There is no such thing as a Christian homosexual marriage.

116 The Scriptures are clear in teaching that a Christian should marry only another Christian (see 1 Corinthians 7:39; also 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). It is possible, however, that one has become a believer after being married. In such mixed marriages, Scripture is clear that those unions should be preserved if possible (see 1 Corinthians 7:10-16).

117 As I understand the sluggard in Proverbs, he is not a person who does nothing at all, but one who works very hard to avoid doing what he dislikes. The workaholic is, in this light, a sluggard, who works hard at one thing while avoiding another. And all the while many Christians will praise him for so doing.

The Puritan View of Holiness

Also read –

Dr. Joel Beeke (via) www.hnrc.org

The Puritans wrote a great deal about how to live a sanctified life. Little of what they preached and wrote contains anything unique or strange,measured by their doctrinal heritage. What is special about the Puritan view of holiness is its fullness and balance,rather than its distinctive shape.

The Puritan classic definition of sanctification is well known;we find it in The Westminster Shorter Catechism,questions 35 and 36:

”What is Sanctification? Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace,whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness.

”What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification,adoption and sanctification? The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification,adoption and sanctification are:

  • assurance of God’s love
  • peace of conscience
  • joy in the Holy Ghost
  • increase of grace
  • and perseverance therein to the end.”

From these two questions it is obvious that sanctification in the Puritan mind encompasses all Christian living—the entire process of being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. It is a process which begins at the moment of the new birth,and presses on throughout the entire life of the believer until his last breath. The Puritans wanted to see people growing up into strong assurance of God’s love,great peace of conscience,and authentic joy in the Holy Spirit. They said that the way to receive these blessings is through Spirit-worked sanctification. They advised their people:If you don’t seek sanctification,you not only dishonor God,but you also impoverish your own spiritual life.

What did they actually mean by sanctification? Here are four elements in the Puritan view.

Universal and moral renewal
First,sanctification for the Puritans is a divine work of renewal,involving a radical change of character. It springs from a regenerated heart,which is something deeper than any psychoanalyst or counselor could ever reach. God works in the heart,and out of the change of heart comes a new character.

This work of renewal is (using Puritan language) universal. This means that it touches and affects every area of the person’s entire life. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 4:4-5 that everything is to be sanctified—every sphere of life.

Holiness is an inward thing that must fill our heart,our core being,and it is an outward thing that must spill over into every detail of our lives. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 says,“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly;and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Many Puritans preached on that text. Sanctification is to be universal.

But sanctification is also moral,said the Puritans. By this they meant that it would produce moral fruits,the very fruits we read of in Galatians 5—love,joy,peace,longsuffering,gentleness,goodness,faith,meekness,and temperance. Had you asked a Puritan—what really do these fruits mean when you combine them all together?—he would have said that they represent the moral profile of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

That is what the Spirit is doing in sanctification. He is patterning the believer after the profile of Christ. He is reproducing Christ’s qualities in the lives of His own people. God’s people are those in whom the “Christ nature” (the sum total of all that His human life was) finds new,albeit imperfect,expression. That is the Puritan concept of sanctification.

True repentance
Second,sanctification for the Puritans consists of repentance and righteousness—the two-sided activity of turning from sin to obedience. Repentance,said the Puritans,is turning from sin,and it is a lifelong activity. We must repent every day of our lives,and as we do so,we must also turn to righteousness.

Repentance,they said,is a work of faith. Without the Holy Spirit there is no repentance. The Puritan concept of repentance goes much deeper than mere remorse,or than saying,“I am sorry.” The Puritan idea of repentance certainly starts with remorse,but it goes deeper into an essential change of life. Repentance is an actual turning. It is a hating the things I loved before,and a loving the things I hated before.

Repentance involves mortification,said the Puritans,and vivification. By mortification they meant putting the sword through sin;killing sin;putting sin to death,as the apostle says in Romans 6. By vivification they meant coming alive to righteousness,and giving ourselves more and more to practice and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.

A holy war
Third,Puritan sanctification is progressive,operating through conflict. The Puritans said conflict is inescapable in sanctification,because indwelling sin remains in the Christian,to his great sorrow. It engages him in great warfare and many battles. Indwelling sin works from the inside,the Puritans said,while the world exerts ungodly pressure from the outside. The devil,who plays the role of ring- leader,wants to take those outside pressures and use them along with the internal pressure to regain lost territory. So,although a person conquered by the Holy Spirit seeks to expand and gain the territory of sanctification universally in his life,the devil together with the world and the indwelling old nature,form a front-line of battle in the soul. A holy war is raging.

That is why Bunyan called his book,The Holy War. Sanctification involves conflict with myself,with my flesh,with the world,and with Satan. If a Christian is not battling with sin,the Puritans would say that person should question whether he is a Christian at all.

One Puritan painted this picture. He said that to be a Christian is to walk a narrow,straight path. On both sides of the path there are hedges. Behind those hedges Satan has all the powers of evil at his disposal. He uses his army of demons,and even our internal inconsistencies,and our proneness to fall into backsliding. He uses all these things as arrows,and every step we take along the spiritual pilgrimage he shoots through and over the hedge,aiming at our feet,our heart,our hands,and our eyes. Every step of the way is a battle.

Accepting a struggle
Thomas Watson said the way to heaven is “sweating work.” There is a battle raging,but the work of sanctification,happily,will advance. Sanctification is not stagnant. The Puritans employed Paul’s words of 2 Corinthians 3:18,that we will be changed from one glory to another if we walk in the Spirit. So the true Christian is one who accepts that there will be conflict,but at the same time rests in the truth that the ultimate victory is his. He may lose many skirmishes,but the war will be won,because he is in Christ. The Holy Spirit will lead him,and he will increasingly advance.

However,there is a snag,said the Puritans,because the Christian will often not be able to see any progress in himself. One Puritan said that a woman who dusts her furniture may think she has cleaned away all the dust,until the sunlight shines into her room revealing all the remaining dust. So the more the Sun of righteousness shines in our hearts,even though we may be growing in holiness (and others may see it),we shall see increasingly the motives of our heart.

The important question is not—”Do I view myself as growing more and more holy?” but—”When I look back in my life,say three or five years ago,does Christ mean more to me today than He did then? And do I think less of myself today than I did then? Is Christ increasing and am I decreasing? Am I growing in appreciation of Christ,and in self-depreciation?” This is the Puritan way of examining ourselves with regard to holiness.

Another Puritan way of evaluating progress in holiness is to ask how we are currently battling with temptation. If we are not battling the forces pressing in upon our flesh,we are backsliding. In order,therefore,to make progress the believer must pray at the throne of grace:“Help me to be strong today,Lord. Help me to be pure today. Help me to do righteousness today.” This is the constant desire of the Christian who is making progress in sanctification.

The inner,private person
Fourth,Puritan sanctification is imperfect though invincible. In this life it is never complete. Our reach will always exceed our grasp. Many people do not understand the Puritans at this point. They think that they are introspective,or that they lead us into legalistic bondage,and even into spiritual depression. This is not true.

The Puritans certainly had a very profound concept of sin and of righteousness,while many of their modern detractors have a dreadfully low concept of sin and righteousness. The Puritans felt the imperfection of their sanctification,precisely because they had God’s standard of righteousness before them. They did not compare themselves with their neighbor,but with God’s holy law. Righteousness for the Puritan was motivational in character. What lives inside of you is important. What you do and say reflects who you are within.

One Puritan said,what a man is in private,that is what a man really is in the sight of God. They would want us to ask ourselves:What do you think about? What motivates you? Are you really motivated by love to God? Are you motivated by Samaritanship to others,loving them,doing good to them,and laying out yourselves for their benefit and spiritual welfare? This is the heart of a Puritan righteousness. With this high concept of holiness they naturally felt deeply their imperfections. Perhaps this is nowhere more vividly expressed than in the Westminster Larger Catechism’s questions and answers on the ten commandments. Read them if you will and notice how precise they are,how they probe the heart and how they insist you must love God and your neighbor as yourself.

When,therefore,you read about how Puritans bemoaned themselves,and when you see in their diaries how they grieved over their own wretchedness,remember they are comparing themselves to the perfect God and to His holy law. They were men and women who truly felt Paul’s groaning:“I delight in the law of God after the inward man . . . O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?” They felt their need to flee to Christ every day to be washed afresh. And that is the root of all genuine holiness. Such holiness is invincible. It will never die,but will one day be perfected in and with Christ forever.

This article was adapted from an address given by Dr. Beeke at the Metropolitan Tabernacle School of Theology in 1998,and printed in Sword &Trowel.

A W Tozer – One cause of our moral weakness today is an inadequate Christology

chart from www.1689commentary.org

THE LORDSHIP OF THE MAN JESUS IS BASIC

by A. W. Tozer


WE ARE UNDER CONSTANT TEMPTATION these days to substitute another Christ for the Christ of the New Testament. The whole drift of modern religion is toward such a substitution.

To avoid this we must hold steadfastly to the concept of Christ as set forth so clearly and plainly in the Scriptures of truth. Though an angel from heaven should preach anything less than the Christ of the apostles let him be forthrightly and fearlessly rejected.

The mighty, revolutionary message of the Early Church was that a man named Jesus who had been crucified was now raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God. „Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

Less than three hundred years after Pentecost the hard-pressed defenders of the faith drew up a manifesto condensing those teachings of the New Testament having to do with the nature of Christ. This manifesto declares that Christ is „God of the substance of His Father, begotten before all ages: Man of the substance of His mother, born in the world: perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting: Equal to His Father, as touching His Godhead: less than the Father, as touching His manhood. Who, although He be God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by the taking of the manhood into God. One altogether, not by the confusion of substance, but by the unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ.”

Even among those who acknowledge the deity of Christ there is often a failure to recognize His manhood. We are quick to assert that when He walked the earth He was God with men, but we overlook a truth equally as important, that where He sits now on His mediatorial throne He is Man with God.

The teaching of the New Testament is that now, at this very moment, there is a man in heaven appearing in the presence of God for us. He is as certainly a man as was Adam or Moses or Paul. He is a man glorified, but His glorification did not dehumanize Him. Today He is a real man, of the race of mankind, bearing our lineaments and dimensions, a visible and audible man whom any other man would recognize instantly as one of us.

But more than this, He is heir of all things, Lord of all worlds, head of the church and the first-born of the new creation. He is the way to God, the life of the believer, the hope of Israel and the high priest of every true worshiper. He holds the keys of death and hell and stands as advocate and surety for everyone who believes on Him in truth.

This is not all that can be said about Him, for were all said that might be said I suppose the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. But this in brief is the Christ we preach to sinners as their only escape from the wrath to come. With Him rest the noblest hopes and dreams of men. All the longings for immortality that rise and swell in the human breast will be fulfilled in Him or they will never know fulfillment. There is no other way (John 14:6).

Salvation comes not by „accepting the finished work” or „deciding for Christ.” It comes by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole, living, victorious Lord who, as God and man, fought our fight and won it, accepted our debt as His own and paid it, took our sins and died under them and rose again to set us free. This is the true Christ, and nothing less will do.

But something less is among us, nevertheless, and we do well to identify it so that we may repudiate it. That something is a poetic fiction, a product of the romantic imagination and maudlin religious fancy. It is a Jesus, gentle, dreamy, shy, sweet, almost effeminate, and marvelously adaptable to whatever society He may find Himself in. He is cooed over by women disappointed in love, patronized by pro tem celebrities and recommended by psychiatrists as a model of a well-integrated personality. He is used as a means to almost any carnal end, but He is never acknowledged as Lord. These quasi Christians follow a quasi Christ. They want His help but not His interference. They will flatter Him but never obey Him.

The argument of the apostles is that the Man Jesus has been made higher than angels, higher than Moses and Aaron, higher than any creature in earth or heaven. And this exalted position He attained as a man. As God He already stood infinitely above all other beings. No argument was needed to prove the transcendence of the Godhead. The apostles were not declaring the preeminence of God, which would have been superfluous, but of a man, which was necessary.

Those first Christians believed that Jesus of Nazareth, a man they knew, had been raised to a position of Lordship over the universe. He was still their friend, still one of them, but had left them for a while to appear in the presence of God on their behalf. And the proof of this was the presence of the Holy Spirit among them.

One cause of our moral weakness today is an inadequate Christology. We think of Christ as God but fail to conceive of Him as a man glorified. To recapture the power of the Early Church we must believe what they believed. And they believed they had a God-approved man representing them in heaven.

Paul’s Prophecy

Whether one believes in prophecy or not, most Christians do in fact believe that God can speak to us through His word, through other people, through situations and through events. How can we discern if it is of God or not? We must always filter it through the word of God.

Upon reading Acts 21 it seems like there might be a contradiction in what the Spirit is telling the elders there and what He is telling Pual. At first glance it may seem that the Holy Spirit is prohibiting Paul from going to Jerusalem when in fact the Spirit is warning him of what lies ahead:

From Acts 21 – IVP New Testament Commentaries

As Paul said happened in every city, the Holy Spirit predicts his coming suffering. This time the disciples conclude that the prediction is not just a warning but actually a prohibition. So Luke expresses it: through the Spirit they urged (literally, „were repeatedly saying”) Paul not to go on to Jerusalem (compare 20:23). Since the same Spirit has compelled Paul to go to Jerusalem (19:21; 20:22), we would be confronted with a contradiction if the prediction were actually a prohibition, but such need not be the case (see note). Paul, then, is not disobedient to the Spirit by disregarding the prohibition. As with all the Spirit’s predictive warnings, it is intended simply to stiffen his determination as he once again realistically counts the cost (20:22-24).

Sometimes the counsel of friends, filtered through the grid of their fears and concerns for our safety, can be misguidance. Like Paul, we must determine to „do the right thing” even when outward circumstances and projected outcome do not appear to be stamped with the blessing of God.

As the whole church, including women and children, escorts the party to the port via the beach, they kneel in a solemn prayer of committal reminiscent of the leavetaking at Miletus (20:36-38). The bonds of Christian fellowship forged in this short week are strong, and they cannot but help give strength to the apostle as he continues down the road to certain suffering. We too should never miss an opportunity, by fellowship and prayer, to strengthen the determination of fellow Christians as they face hard tests.Tyre to Caesarea (21:7-14)

Most commentators draw the conclusion that the Holy Spirit revealed only the fact of Paul’s fate, and that the conclusions drawn from this were not those which came from the Spirit, and were not the will of God for Paul.

The Pleasures of God – in Election

christianaudiobook.com

Here’s a short excerpt from John Piper’s excellent book „The Pleasures of God„:

„With a view to God’s pleasure in election, consider Luke 10:21. The reason I choose this verse is because it is one of the only two places in the Gospels where Jesus is said to rejoice.

(The other place is John 11:15 . Piper is not saying this is the only time that Jesus had joy or was glad; what he is saying is that these are the only 2 instances where it says Jesus „rejoiced„. ) Piper continues:

The seventy disciples have just returned from their preaching tours and reported their success to Jesus. Luke writes in verse 21:

In that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, „I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes: yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing before you.”

Notice that all three members of the Trinity are rejoicing here: Jesus is rejoicing; but it says He is rejoicing in the Holy Spirit. I take that to mean that the Holy Spirit is filling him and moving him to rejoice. Then at the end of the verse it describes the pleasure of God the Father. The NIV translates it: „Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.”

Now what is it that has the whole Trinity rejoicing together in this place? It is the free electing love of God to hide things from the intellectual elite and to reveal them to the babes. „I thank you Father, lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes”. And what is it that the Father hides from some and reveals to others? Luke 10:22 gives the answer: No one knows who the Son is except the Father.” So what God the Father must reveal is the true spiritual identity of the Son. When the seventy disciples return from their evangelistic mission and give their report to Jesus, he and the Holy Spirit rejoice that God the Father has chosen, according to his own good pleasure, to reveal the Son to babes and to hide him from the wise. The point of this is not that there are only certain classes of people who are chosen of God. The point is that God is free to choose the least likely candidates for his grace. Just as with the election of Abraham (the unlikely idolater from Ur) and Isaac (the miracle son of old age) and Jacob (the younger of twins), God contradicts what human merit might dictate. He hides from the wise and reveals to the most helpless and unaccomplished. When Jesus sees the Father freely enlightening and saving people whose only hope is free grace, he exults in the Holy Spirit and takes pleasure in his Father’s election”.

Six Tips to Start Witnessing by Jay Lowder

photo from www.theresurgence.com

I’ve been reading a bit on how people share their faith in contemporary times and I came across this helpful post, on another wordpress blog by John Benc. It was originally posted on Charisma Magazine. Here’s Jay Lowder’s advice:

‘The biggest roadblock to evangelism is beginning a conversation. Here’s how to get started.

I know many Christians who want to share their faith, but they struggle with finding a way to begin. There is no specific formula. God wants us to be spontaneous as we trust Him to give us the words.

These suggestions will help you start the conversation:

Photography by Welden Andersen

1.  Discuss spirituality. You might ask, “Do you attend church anywhere?” Regardless of the answer, try to steer away from getting caught up in a discussion about religion or “your” church. Many people have had negative church experiences. But this can still be a great door opener. Keep the focus on Christ because religion doesn’t change lives, Jesus does.

2.  Find common ground. “Where did you grow up? Tell me about your family, where you went to school and your job.” People love to talk about themselves. Asking engaging questions about someone’s life (and being a great listener) equips you to identify needs and life experiences. This enables you to understand how your testimony relates to their situation.

3. Be sincerely honest. Say: “I’m sorry that I haven’t talked to you about something really important that has happened in my life” or “I’m so nervous to discuss this, but it’s something I feel I have to do.”  Be open about your feelings of fear and intimidation. This is especially important when talking to family members and friends: those you’ve known a long time. Sharing your faith with a family member can be difficult.

3.  Pray before a meal. Say: “I always pray before I eat, and I was wondering if you have any specific prayer request.” To some people you meet only once, such as a restaurant server, you will be amazed how offering to pray for them leads to open doors to share your faith. Numerous waitresses have broken down in tears and shared their deepest pain after I have asked this question.

5. Ask their permission. “Can I tell you an unbelievable story?” Everyone loves a good story, and this works with close friends or even casual acquaintances.  Explain candidly how you realized your need for Christ and what a relationship with Him means to you. Offer to pray with them to accept Jesus.

6. Be completely blunt. “Have you given your entire life to Jesus Christ?” Some people really respond to this approach even though it is not as common.  You don’t always have the time to develop a lengthy conversation with a passing stranger, yet the Holy Spirit wants you to share with them. In such an encounter, this may be your only chance. Swallow your fears and share your faith with confidence.’

I use these steps, in one form or another, when ever opportunity offers and I’m just so thrilled Jay has thought to put them together into this very helpful, practical and usable article.  Pray daily for boldness and opportunity to share your faith.  Remember that Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men”.  Matthew 4:19.  Ask Him to do just that and you will be amazed how the opportunities will com in your every day life.

Debate by noted Christian scholars on the Trinity

Wikipedia has a good introductory summary of how Christians describe the Trinity-

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons (Greek: ὑποστάσεις):the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial (Greek: ὁμοούσιοι). Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being (Greek: οὐσία). The Trinity is considered to be a mystery of Christian faith.

The major difference that divides the 3 major religions- Judaism, Christianity and Islam can also be traced right back to each faith’s particular understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity. Three years ago, 4 theologians met and debated, on the outskirts of Chicago at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School  (TEDS for short) of Deerfield,Illinois. They were/are former and current professors of TEDS – Bruce Ware, Wayne Grudem, Tom McCall, Keith Yandell.

The question the professors debated was-

Do relations of authority and submission exist eternally among the Persons of the Godhead?

Here is the Moderator, Dr. Chris Firestone’s introduction: There’s a real need for the Christian Evangelical community to maintain clarity and precision in its understanding of the doctrine of God, both in terms of its Christology and Trinity. This is where tonight’s debate picks up in earnest. The doctrine of the trinity is most arguably the most central and distinctive feature of the Christian faith. Questions to keep in mind as this debate proceeds-

  1. Which position best reflects the biblical witness?
  2. Which position is the most reasonable and rationally cogent?
  3. Should the biblical witness and rationale cogency be thought to conflict with one another?
  4. Should the Christians just stick with the confessional norms of the Church? If so, which position resonates with the historic position of the Church? If not, how revisionist of these norms should Evangelical Christians be?

Please set aside a good portion of time for this very important debate, as it is 2 1/2 hours long, and very well worth the time, considering the debaters, especially the most well known debater- Wayne Grudem, whose Systematic Theology Textbook sits on all of our shelves. At the introduction Dr. Chris Firestone also mentions several books written by the panelists on the subject of the Trinity that are well worth looking into as well. Enjoy!

John Piper – The Holy Spirit: Author of Scripture

via desiringGod.org

2 Peter 1:20-21

First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

On June 27, 1819, Adoniram Judson baptized his first convert in Burma. His wife, Ann Hasseltine, described how Moung Nau had responded to the Scripture: „A few days ago I was reading with him Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. He was deeply impressed and unusually solemn. ‘These words,’ said he, ‘take hold on my liver; they make me tremble.'” God spoke through Isaiah the prophet 2,700 years ago and said, „This is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word . . . Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word” (Isaiah 66:2, 5).

The Bible’s Impact in History

For two thousand years the Bible has been taking hold of people’s livers and making them tremble—first with fear because it reveals our sin, then with faith because it reveals God’s grace. A single verse, Romans 13:13, convicted and converted the immoral Augustine. For Martin Luther, a miserable monk, the light broke in through Romans 1:17. He said,

Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that „the just shall live by his faith.” Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. (Here I Stand, p. 49)

For Jonathan Edwards it was 1 Timothy 1:17. He says,

The first instance, that I remember, of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things, that I have lived much in since, was on reading these words, 1 Tim. 1:17, „Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” As I read the words, there came into my soul . . . a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense quite different from anything I ever experienced before. Never any words of Scripture seemed to me as these words did. (Works, vol. 1, p. xii)

From century to century, from Egypt to Germany to New England, the Bible has been drawing people to Christ and making them new.

The Bible as the Word of Man and the Word of God

Why? Why has the Bible had this abiding relevance and power? I believe the answer is found in our text. 2 Peter 1:20–21, „First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” This passage teaches that when you read Scripture, what you are reading does not merely come from a man but also from God. The Bible is the writing of many different men. But it is also far more than that. Yes, men spoke. They spoke with their own language and style. But Peter mentions two other dimensions of their speaking.

Speaking from God, Moved by the Holy Spirit

First, they spoke from God. What they have to say is not merely from their own limited perspective. They are not the origin of the truth they speak; they are the channel. The truth is God’s truth. Their meaning is God’s meaning.

Second, not only is what they spoke from God, but how they spoke it is controlled by the Holy Spirit. „Men, moved by the Holy Spirit, spoke from God.” God did not simply reveal truth to the writers of Scripture and then depart in hopes that they might communicate it accurately. Peter says that in the very communicating of it they were carried by the Holy Spirit. The making of the Bible was not left to merely human skills of communication; the Holy Spirit himself carried the process to completion.

One recent book by three former teachers of mine (LaSor, Hubbard, and Bush, Old Testament Survey, p. 15) puts it like this,

To assure verbal precision God, in communicating his revelation, must be verbally precise, and inspiration must extend to the very words. This does not mean that God dictated every word. Rather his Spirit so pervaded the mind of the human writer that he chose out of his own vocabulary and experience precisely those words, thoughts and expressions that conveyed God’s message with precision. In this sense the words of the human authors of Scripture can be viewed as the word of God.

Not Just Prophecy, but All Scripture

Someone might say that 2 Peter 1:20–21 only has to do with prophecy not with all Old Testament Scripture. But look carefully how he argues. In verse 19 Peter says that a prophetic word has been made more sure to him by his experience with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. Then in verses 20–21 he undergirds the authority of this prophetic word by saying it is part of Scripture. Verse 20: „No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.” Peter is not saying that only prophetic parts of Scripture are inspired by God. He is saying, We know the prophetic word is inspired precisely because it is a „prophecy of Scripture.” Peter’s assumption is that whatever stands in Scripture is from God, written by men who were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

His teaching is the same as Paul’s in 2 Timothy 3:16, „All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” None of the Old Testament Scriptures came by the impulse of man. All of it is truth from God as men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

What About the New Testament Writings?

But what about the New Testament? Did the apostles and their close associates (Mark, Luke, James, Jude, and the writer to the Hebrews) experience divine inspiration as they wrote? Were they „carried” by the Holy Spirit to speak from God? The Christian church has always answered yes. Jesus said to his apostles in John 16:12–13, „I have yet many things to say to you but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you things that are to come.”

Then the apostle Paul confirms this when he says of his own apostolic teaching in 1 Corinthians 2:12–13, „We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit.” In 2 Corinthians 13:3 he said that Christ speaks in him. And in Galatians 1:12 he said, „I did not receive [my gospel] from man nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” If we take Paul as our model for what it meant to be an apostle of Christ, then it would be fair to say that the New Testament as well as the Old is not merely from man but also from God. The writers of the Old Testament and New Testament spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit Is the Divine Author of Scripture

The doctrine that emerges is this: The Holy Spirit is the divine author of all Scripture. If this doctrine is true, then the implications are so profound and far-reaching that every part of our lives should be affected. I want to talk about those implications this morning. But for our own strengthening and for those still wavering on the outskirts of commitment let me first sketch out the basis of our persuasion.

Coming to a Reasonable Faith in Scripture

Most people come to a reasonable trust in the Bible as God’s word something like this. It happens in three stages.

1. We Are Guilty Before God

First, the testimony of our own conscience, the reality of God behind nature, and the message of Scripture come together in our hearts to give us the inescapable conviction that we are guilty before our Creator. This is a reasonable conviction because the persuasion that there is a Creator above this world and the persuasion that we are guilty for not honoring and thanking him as we ought are not irrational leaps in the dark; they are forced upon us by our experience and our honest thinking about the world.

2. Jesus Wins Our Confidence

The second step on the way to a reasonable persuasion that the Bible is God’s word is that Jesus Christ is shown to us. Someone reads or tells us the story of this incomparable man who talked and acted like so much more than a man. We see the authority he claimed to forgive sin and command demons and control nature, we see the purity of his moral teaching, his utter surrender to the will of God, his brilliant calm under cross-examination, his righteous fury against hypocrites, his tenderness toward little children, his patience with the humble seekers, his innocent submission to torture, and we hear from his lips the sweetest, most-needed words ever spoken: „I have come to give my life as a ransom for many.”

And so by the self-authenticating force of his incomparable character and power Jesus wins our confidence and our trust and we take him as Savior from our sin and Lord of our life. And this is not an irrational persuasion. It’s the way all of you go about making reasonable decisions about whom you will trust in life. Will you trust this babysitter with your children, or this lawyer to give you good counsel, or this friend to keep your secret? You look, you listen, and eventually you are persuaded (or not) that here in this person is solid ground for your confidence.

3. We Follow the Teaching and Spirit of Jesus

Once the character and power of Jesus have captured our trust, then he becomes the guide and authority for all our future decisions and persuasions. So the third step on the way to a reasonable persuasion that the Bible is God’s word is to let the teaching and the spirit of Jesus control how we assess the Bible. This happens in at least two ways. One is that we accept what Jesus teaches about the Old and New Testaments. When he says that Scripture can’t be broken (John 10:35) and that not an iota or dot will pass from the law till all is accomplished (Matthew 5:18), we agree with him and base our confidence in the Old Testament on his reliability. And when he chose twelve apostles to found his church, gives them his authority to teach, and promises to send his Spirit to guide them into truth, we agree with him and credit the writings of these men with the authority of Christ.

The other way the teaching and spirit of Jesus control our assessment of the Bible is that we recognize in the teachings of the Bible the many-colored rays of light refracted out from the prism of Christ whom we have come to trust. And just as Christ enabled us to make sense out of our relation to God and bring harmony to it, so also the many rays of his truth in every part of the Bible enable us to make sense out of hundreds of our experiences in life and see the way to harmony. Our confidence in Scripture grows as we realize that Jesus affirmed it and as we realize that its teachings are as incomparable as Jesus himself. Time after time they help us make sense out of life’s puzzles: failing marriages, rebellious children, drug addiction, warring nations, the return of leaves in spring, the insatiable longings of our hearts, the fear of death, the coming into being of children, the universality of praise and blame, the prevalence of pride, and the admiration of self-denial. The Bible confirms its divine origin again and again as it makes sense out of our experience in the real world and points the way to harmony.

I hope, therefore, that one of the doctrines which we cherish at Bethlehem enough to die for it (and live for it!) is that the Holy Spirit is the divine author of all Scripture. The Bible is God’s word, not merely man’s word.

Implications for All of Life

O, that we had all day to talk about the wonderful implications of this doctrine! The Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture. Therefore, it is true (Psalm 119:142) and altogether reliable (Hebrews 6:18). It is powerful, working its purpose in our hearts (1 Thessalonians 2:13) and not returning empty to the One who sent it (Isaiah 55:10–11). It is pure, like silver refined in a furnace seven times (Psalm 12:6). It is sanctifying (John 17:17). It gives life (Psalm 119:37, 50, 93, 107; John 6:63; Matthew 4:4). It makes wise (Psalm 19:7; 119:99–100). It gives joy (Psalm 19:8; 119:16, 92, 111, 143, 174) and promises great reward (Psalm 19:11). It gives strength to the weak (Psalm 119:28) and comfort to the distraught (Psalm 119:76) and guidance to the perplexed (Psalm 119:105) and salvation to the lost (Psalm 119:155; 2 Timothy 3:15). The wisdom of God in Scripture is inexhaustible.

How precious to me are thy thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.

© Desiring God

John Piper – Men Moved by the Holy Spirit Spoke from God

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via desiringGod.org

2 Peter 1:20-21

We can sum up what we have seen so far in 2 Peter 1 with three pictures: the hot fudge sundae, a man swimming against an ocean current, and a lamp shining in the night. In 1:1–4 the main point was that God has given believers divine power to lead lives devoted to brotherly kindness and love; and that this power becomes effective in real life when we stake everything joyfully on his precious and very great promises. When we keep the hot fudge sundae of God’s promises in front of us, they exert on us a divine power to allure us on in the excellent way of love and into eternal life.

In 1:5–11 we are taught that God’s divine power is given to us not to make us lazy or limp, but to make us zealous and diligent to advance in every Christian virtue. The evil remaining in our heart and the pressures of unrighteousness in the world are like an ocean current drawing us backward toward destruction. No one who treads water in the Christian life stays in the same place. You always go back. Therefore we must stroke diligently against the current of evil desires within and innumerable temptations without. In doing this (as v. 10 says) we confirm our call and election. The genuineness of our confidence in the promises of God (by which we are saved) is confirmed by the diligence with which we stake our lives on those promises in efforts to live like Jesus.

Then in 1:12–19 Peter zeroes in on the promise of Christ’s second coming and says that this prophetic word has been made more sure by his own eyewitness experience of Christ’s majesty on the mount of transfiguration. What Peter and James and John were granted to see in the transfiguration of Christ was a partial glimpse of what Christ would be like when he comes again. And in verse 19 Peter compares that hope to a lamp shining in the night. The prophetic word of hope is our lamp in the dark night of this world. It functions just like that hot fudge sundae—to keep us on the path until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts.

In a word the chapter has said: be a people empowered by hope to lead lives of love. Let your confidence in the coming day of joy make you compassionate in the present night of woe.

Reason or Manner?

Now we want to devote the rest of our time this morning to thinking about verses 20 and 21. First let’s look at the connection between verses 19 and 20. All the modern English versions that I consulted made it harder rather than easier to understand the connection in the original Greek. They all begin a new sentence at verse 20 (and NASB even inserts a totally unwarranted „but”). But verse 20 is not a new sentence, and the version that preserves the original is the old King James, which translates verse 20: „Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.” Remember now that in verse 19 Peter is telling us to pay attention to the prophetic word about the coming of Christ as to a lamp shining in a dark place. So you can hear the connection when we boil the two verses down like this: „Pay attention to the prophetic word . . . knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation.” There is a very close connection between what we know about prophecy in verse 20 and our giving heed to it in verse 19.

Now what is that connection? I see two possibilities. First, verse 20 may give the reason why we should give heed to the prophetic word. So we could paraphrase it like this: „Give heed to the prophetic word because you know, first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation.” The other possible connection would be that verse 20 tells us not the reason but the way to give heed to the prophetic word. So we could paraphrase it: „Give heed to the prophetic word by remembering this principle first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation.” So it seems to me that in verse 20 Peter is either giving us a reason to pay close attention to the prophetic word, or is telling us how to pay attention to the prophetic word.

Whose Interpretation of What?

But which? Before we can decide that, we have to know what verse 20 means. What does Peter mean that „no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation,” or, as the RSV says, „no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation”? I think it is only fair for me to mention three ways this verse has been understood, and then show why I only accept one of these ways. First, there are excellent evangelical Bible scholars who say that verse 20 has nothing to do with our interpretation of prophecy, but rather with the prophet’s interpretation of history. In other words, when Peter says, „no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,” he means, „no prophecy ever came from a prophet’s private interpretation of historical events.” Rather, as verse 21 says, prophecies came from God through the Holy Spirit. So the connection with verse 19 would be: „Give heed to the prophetic word . . . because no prophecy is a mere private human interpretation of events; it is from God through the Spirit.” I find that understanding of verse 20 almost persuasive, but not quite.

A second very important understanding of verse 20 is the typical Roman Catholic one. They have generally said, „No, verse 20 does refer to how we interpret prophecy, not how prophets interpret history. And the point is that no private individual can interpret prophecy on his own. Rather the Scriptures have been entrusted to the church, and the individuals must look to the official pronouncements of the church to know the true teaching of Scripture.” Until twenty years ago and the second Vatican Council, that kind of thinking had kept the Scriptures concealed in Latin and had kept the average Catholic lay person in woeful ignorance of Scriptures. Much of that is changing now. But even recently I read a letter from a priest in California to a young man in our church urging him not to forfeit his connection with the Catholic church and its sacraments; and in three pages there was no reference to Scripture. And I got the distinct impression that had he used Scripture to argue for the church, he would have been compromising his principles. Because evidently it is still true for many Catholics that the church gives credence to the Scripture, not Scripture to the church. It is the same old problem of the Reformation: in practice, ecclesiastical tradition, not Scripture, is supreme. And I want us to be very aware that one of the hallmarks of our Protestant faith is that the church and its ministers are judged by Scripture, and not vice versa.

I will mention one other way of understanding verse 20. „No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation” can mean no individual should interpret prophecy according to his own personal whim. You can’t just give Scripture any old meaning you please. There is a true meaning (according to v. 21) which comes from God through the prophet, and this is our standard.

Now which of these three views of verse 20 is most likely Peter’s view? As far as the usual Catholic interpretation is concerned, it just can’t be gotten out of the text. There is not a word about who should replace the individual as the reliable interpreter of prophecy. That has to be read into the text. It can’t be gotten out of it. So for me the choice is between the first and third views. Is verse 20 saying that no prophecy is the result of a prophet’s private interpretation of history? Or is it saying that no prophecy, after it is given, should be twisted by individuals to make it mean whatever they like?

I think verse 20 is a warning not to play fast and loose with the meaning of Scripture. The reason I opt for this second view is that the false teachers which Peter has in view did apparently not deny the inspiration of the prophets, but rather twisted the prophetic writings to suit their own false teaching. We know that Peter had false teachers in mind here because the very next sentence in 2:1 says, „False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.” And the key text for understanding how these false teachers related to Scripture is found in 2 Peter 3:16. In 3:15 Peter says that the apostle Paul has written about similar things in his letters. Then he says, „There are some things in them hard to understand which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.” These last words show how the false teachers related to the Old Testament Scriptures. They don’t reject them. They don’t deny that prophecies came from God. They twist them to suit their own private purposes. Therefore, since Peter is concerned in this letter with false teachers who twist the meaning of Scripture to fit their own personal desires, the most likely meaning of verse 20 is that the prophetic Scriptures may not be handled that way. „No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,” means then, „no individual is entitled to interpret prophecy, or Scripture generally, according to his personal whim” (Kelly).

The Way in Which We Should Heed the Word

Now we can see the connection between verses 19 and 20 more clearly. When Peter says, „Give heed to the prophetic word as to a lamp shining in a dark place . . . knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation,” what he means is, „Pay close and careful attention to the prophetic word, and the first principle to guide you in how to pay attention is the principle that the true meaning of Scripture does not come from the mind of the reader.” Or to put it another way: the principle that should guide our attention to Scripture is that its meaning is objective, not subjective. The meaning of Scripture does not change with every new reader or every new reading. It cannot be twisted to mean whatever we like. It is what it is, unchanging and unending. The first principle, therefore, in giving heed to Scripture is that there is a true meaning and there are false meanings, and we must submit our minds to trace out what is really there rather than presuming that whatever pops into our minds at our first reading is the true meaning.

God’s Meaning not Man’s

Now what verse 21 does is give the reason why we can’t treat Scripture as though its meaning is whatever someone thinks it means. Interpretation of Scripture dare not be a matter of personal whim because Peter says, „no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” In a word, the reason we may not fill the words of Scripture with our ideas is that God intends that they carry his ideas. The meaning of Scripture is not like putty that we can mold according to our desires. It is the work of the Holy Spirit and carries a solid, firm, divine intention. The glorious truth of this verse is that in Scripture God has spoken and not merely man, and therefore (as verse 20 says) our aim must be to hear God’s meaning, not merely our own.

Now let me try to show how verses 20 and 21 fit into the chapter as a whole and then draw out several implications for our lives. Peter’s main aim in chapter 1 is to help us confirm our call and election (v. 10). He wants us to enjoy the assurance of our salvation. As a means to that end he reminds us that the genuineness of saving faith (v. 1) is proved by whether it produces virtue and knowledge and self-control and patience and godliness and brotherly affection and love (vv. 5–7). But he also reminds us that God has already given us the power needed to live this way (v. 3). And he has told us that this power becomes effective in our daily lives through God’s precious and very great promises. So as we keep our hearts content in the promises of God, we are guarded from sinful allurements and are drawn on in paths of righteousness into eternal life. And where are these promises to be found? Where shall we go to fan the flames of our hope? Peter’s answer in verse 19: the prophetic word of Scripture. Do you need encouragement that the day is really going to dawn—that the life of self-control, patience, brotherly affection, and love is really leading to glory? Then go to the Scriptures. Go daily. Go long. Go deep. And when you go, remember this first: these are not the mere words of men; they are the words of God. „Men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (v. 21). Seek his meaning and you will find the lamp of hope. For as the apostle Paul said, „Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by the steadfastness and encouragement of the scriptures men might have hope.”

Three Implications for Our Lives

Now I close with three brief implications of verses 20 and 21 for us. You can hang them on three words: discipline, humility, and the Spirit. Suppose that you are a platoon leader and had been trapped with your platoon behind enemy lines, and your commanding officer smuggles a coded message to you to inform you how to get out. What do you do with that message? Do you pass it around the platoon and collect everyone’s impressions and then flip a coin to decide what it means? No. You sit down and you labor to break the code. Why? Because the impressions of your platoon are not what you need. The mind of your commander makes all the difference. The interpretation of that message has one aim—what did the commander will to communicate? And to that end you submit yourself to the severe discipline of memory and analysis and construction, until you have assurance that his meaning and not your own has been found. And then you stake your life on it.

So it is with God’s Word. God’s intention comes to us in human language. „Men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke (in Hebrew and in Greek) from God.” How, then, can we know the mind of God? Answer: God has ordained that some in his family (and some outside) submit to the discipline of mastering Hebrew and Greek and breaking the code open into English and the other languages of the world. But even English is a kind of code. Children must accept the discipline of learning to read it. And adults need to submit to the discipline of learning to read it well. The more disciplined we are in construing meaning out of Scripture instead of pouring our ideas into Scripture, the better we will understand God’s promises and the more power we can have for godliness.

The second implication is humility. If you believe that the Bible is the Word of God with authority over your life, it takes a good deal of humility to interpret it correctly. The reason is simple: the Bible often requires of us that we feel and think and act in ways that go against our natural inclinations. Therefore, the only person who will own up to these uncomfortable teachings is the humble person who is broken and open before the lordship of God and ready to do whatever he says. The proud person who still wants to give lip service to the Bible will twist the Scriptures to fit his own desires. In the long run sound interpretation comes only from the broken and contrite in spirit.

Finally, humility is a fruit of the Spirit. Therefore, we have great need for the assistance of the Holy Spirit when we read the Scripture. If he does not overcome our proud heart and rebellious nature, we will never submit to the uncomplimentary truths of Scripture. We will avoid them or distort them. The work of the Spirit is not to add new information to the Scripture, but to make us sensitive and submissive to what is already there. It was through men moved by the Holy Spirit that God spoke of old in the Scriptures. And therefore today it will be people yielded to the Holy Spirit who hear his voice most clearly in the Scriptures.

Therefore, let us give heed daily the prophetic Word with all diligence and humility and reliance on the Spirit, knowing this first, „that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own private interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

© Desiring God

David Platt – Repenting of sin and returning to God

Pastor David Platt of Brook Hills Church preaches from Joel:

Throughout history there have been times among God’s people when there has been an acute, keen, humble, even an emotional sensitivity to sin. You look at Ezra. At one point he is so overwhelmed by his sin and the sin of God’s people that he falls on his face and he’s weeping. He’s unable to even lift his head before God. You look in the book of Nehemiah and you see a time when God’s people were simply listening to the word being read and that’s all it took; they heard His word, they were convicted of sin and all of the people fell down on their faces, weeping over their sin.

Then you look in church history. I’ve read about times when in the context of a worship gathering, conviction of sin would just simultaneously sweep across an entire congregation. People would fall on their faces and knees, weeping,  grieving over sin. Times where God would revive His people in a fresh way. It was a clear demonstration of the power of His Spirit.

So we see those times and then we see times in history where God’s people have been desensitized. Tp sin, in some senses, dulled to sin.; participating in religious activity but never stopping, pausing to grasp the depth of sin and to mourn over it; where sin is treated casually and worship is treated routinely.

And, as I look at the state of the contemporary church, and I don’t want to keep it that general, As pastor I want to say, as I look at the state of Brook Hills, I see us much closer to the latter than the former. A dangerous, religious dullness to sin. Desensitivity. Even we, we can sit for hours in ront of the TV or movie listening to God’s name in vain and it doesn’t even register with us. We can gossip and call it ‘ just normal’. In church, we can let our minds wander on the internet and in our imagination, in lust and impurity and think, ‘Well, that’s just the way men are  in our day. Our marriage and our divorce rate matches that of our culture. And we run after greed and status and success. and money just like everyone else around us and we NEED TO WAKE UP and pray that God will wake us up to weep over sin.To grieve over offense against God.To HATE sin. To RUN FROM IT.  I want to be a part of a people, in my own  life, in our lives, in the days ahead where sin is not treated casually. Cornelius wrote a classic book on sin in which he said: ‘The awareness of sin; a deep awareness of disobedience and painful confession of sin used to be our shadow. Christians hated sin. They feared it, fled from it, they grieved over it. God’s people agonized over their sins

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