The Christian pursuit of godliness

The Hole in Our Holiness

Kevin DeYoung talks with Justin Taylor about the Christian pursuit of godliness:

Quote: There is a lack of emphasis in the evangelical world… a lack of emphasis on sanctification, personal holiness, so I think of Hebrews 12:14 to ‘seek the holiness without which we will not see the Lord’. I don’t see that kind of urgency, I am speaking to my own heart, my own congregation and self .. that without holiness we will not see the Lord. Most people would say, „That’s absolutely right, but that’s the imputed righteousness of Christ, which we certainly believe in with all our hearts, but, that’s no way what Hebrews 12 is talking about, because the context is discipline, the verbs are active- to strive and to seek, and I just don’t hear us with that sense of urgency about holiness. There’s this category of people who will not see the Lord without holiness and I want to be in the category to ‘see the Lord’…

Justin Taylor’s final question: Somebody’s watching this. They believe they should be holy and they wanna be holy, they wanna pursue righteousness, they want to not be in bondage to sin. They love Jesus, they keep falling in the same pattern. What would you say about how to pursue holiness and how to pursue the Lord?

Kevin gives some quick bullet points (@end of video):

  • Understanding motivation and how the Bible motivates us and sometimes we can just truncate it to just 1 or 2- maybe it’s gratitude, maybe it’s just justification. But, really, there are dozens and dozens of ways in which the Bible motivates us. It motivates us because of the fear of God, because of our acceptance before God, because of Jesus’ example, because of the love of the brothers, because of our witness to the church, because it pleases God. I think we’ve really lost the sense that we can grieve the Spirit, even as believers, we can live in a way that displeases God and we’ve lost sight of the opposite, that when you seek God, when you seek holiness, when you are growing in practical righteousness God is pleased. God smiles upon that.
  • To more fully incorporate the doctrine of the union with Christ. And, thankfully, there’s a lot of good things written now about union with Christ. But, I think the central tenet about sanctification in the New Testament is to be who you are. Be who you are, in Christ, living out that new identity. So, I think there’s a lot of really important theology, and then flowing out into practical action from that doctrine.
  • Finally, I would say, very practically, that we look at what we call ‘the ordinary means of grace’. God does extraordinary things through that ordinary means.

There’s this relationship between abiding and obeying. They’re almost synonymous in the Gospels. If someone wants to obey, you abide. If someone wants to abide, you obey. So, sometimes you start living like it and the rest of the affections come behind you.

The Hole in Our Holiness from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Reclame

Sex: According to the Bible


via Justin Taylor @ thegospelcoalition.org

An attempt to think through some things taught in the Word about sex, both by direct statement and by extension and implication:

  • Sex is created by God (“by him all things were created”—Col. 1:16).
  • Sex continues to exist by the will of Christ (“in him all things hold together”—Col. 1:17).
  • Sex is caused by God (he “works all things according to the counsel of his will”—Eph. 1:11).
  • Sex is subject to Christ (“he put all things under his feet”—Eph. 1:22).
  • Sex is being made new by Christ (“Behold, I am making all things new”—Rev. 21:5).
  • Sex is good (“everything created by God is good”—1 Tim. 4:4).
  • Sex is lawful in the context of marriage (“all things are lawful”—1 Cor. 10:23).
  • Sex is to be done for the glory of God (“whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”—1 Cor. 10:31).
  • Sex works together for the good of God’s children (“for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”—Rom. 8:28).
  • Sex is a cause for thanksgiving (“nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving”—1 Tim. 4:4).
  • Sex is to be sanctified by the Word of God and prayer (“everything . . . is made holy by the word of God and prayer”—1 Tim. 4:4-5).
  • Sex can be enslaving and its entrapment must be resisted (“I will not be enslaved by anything”—1 Cor. 6:12).
  • Sex should not be an occasion for grumbling (“do all things without grumbling”—Phil. 2:14)
  • Sex should be an occasion for rejoicing in the Lord (“rejoice in the Lord always”—Phil. 4:4).
  • Sex should be an occasion of contentment in the Lord (“having all contentment in all things at all times”—2 Cor. 9:8 mg.).
  • Sex should be engaged in with holiness and honor (“each one of you [is to] know how to control his own body [KJV: “possess his vessel”; RSV: “take a wife for himself”] in holiness and honor”—1 Thess. 4:4).
  • Sex should usually not be withheld from one’s spouse (do not “deprive one another [sexually], except perhaps by agreement for a limited time,” that they might devote themselves to prayer—1 Cor. 7:5. But then they are commanded to “come together again [sexually], so that Satan may not tempt [them] because of [their] lack of self-control”—1 Cor. 7:5).
  • Sex can be both pure and impure in this fallen world (“To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled”—Titus 1:15).

—Adapted from my introduction to Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, pp. 12-13.

(VIA)

What is the Gospel? Darrell Bock moderates

This is a panel moderated by Dallas Theological Seminary’s Dr. Darrell Bock.

Participants –

Length 73 minutes. Subjects discussed – gospel, word vs. works, what are we saved from and what are we saved for and how to present the Gospel.

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What is the Gospel? – Panel with Darrel Bock, posted with vodpod

“Whoever”: In 1 John (via) Justin Taylor

“Whoever”: In 1 John.

Last week I posted some notes on the “if . . . then” clauses in 1 John. John uses a similar formula with a construction translated in English as “whoever”: whoever does or does not do X, then Y is true or commanded of him. Here is a breakdown along these lines (using the ESV).

Whoever: Righteousness

2:5 Whoever keeps [Christ’s]  word in him truly the love of God is perfected
2:6 Whoever says he abides in [Christ] ought to walk in the same way in which he walked
2:10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling
2:17 Whoever does the will of God abides forever
2:23 Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also
3:7 Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous
3:24 Whoever keep[God’s]  commandments abides in God, and God in him
4:6 Whoever knows God listens to us
4:7 Whoever loves has been born of God and knows God
4:15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God God abides in him, and he in God.
4:16 Whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him
4:18 Whoever fears has not been perfected in love
4:21 Whoever loves God must also love his brother
5:12 Whoever has the Son has life

Whoever: Unrighteousness

2:4 Whoever says “I know [Christ]” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him
2:11 Whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going
3:8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil
3:10 Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother
3:14 Whoever does not love abides in death
4:6 Whoever is not from God does not listen to us
5:10 Whoever does not believe God has made [God] a liar
5:12 Whoever does not has the Son does not has life

Passion Week (E) Wednesday Events and John Piper-Judas Iscariot,the suicide of Satan and the Salvation of the World

(via) Justin Taylor from the Gospel Coalition

Holy Week: What Happened on Wednesday?

Jesus continues his daily teaching in the Temple

Luke 21:37-38

With Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread approaching, the chief priests, elders, and scribes plot to kill Jesus

Matthew 26:3-5   Mark 14:1-2   Luke 22:1-2

Satan enters Judas, who seeks out the Jewish authorities in order to betray Jesus for a price

Matthew 26:14-16   Mark 14:10-11  Luke 22:3-6

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Judas Iscariot, the Suicide of Satan, and the S…, posted with vodpod

Luke 22:1-6

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. 3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. 4 He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.

This is the final message in the series called Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ. The aim has been to show that over and over in the history of the world, the epoch-making sins that changed the course of history never nullified but only fulfilled the global purposes of God to glorify his Son and save his people.

My prayer is that, as these great historical vistas of God’s sovereignty over sin take their place in your renewed mind, they would have a profoundly practical effect in making you strong in the face of breath-stopping sorrows and making you bold for Christ in the face of dangerous opposition. Christ-exalting strength in calamity and Christ-exalting courage in conflict. I pray that the Lord will weave cords of steel and silk into the fabric of your soul.

History’s Most Spectacular Sin: The Murder of Jesus

The most spectacular sin that has ever been committed in the history of the world is the brutal murder of Jesus Christ, the morally perfect, infinitely worthy, divine Son of God. And probably the most despicable act in the process of this murder was the betrayal of Jesus by one of his closest friends, Judas Iscariot.

Judas was one of the twelve apostles that Jesus had personally chosen and who had been with Jesus during his entire public ministry. He had been entrusted with the moneybag for the whole group (John 13:29). He was close enough to Jesus at the Last Supper to be dipping bread with him in the same cup (Mark 14:20).

“Satan Entered into Judas”

On the night of the Last Supper, Luke tells us in Luke 22:3-6 that “Satan entered into Judas. . . . He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray [Jesus] to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.” Later he led the authorities to Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and betrayed Jesus with a kiss (Luke 22:47-48). With that, Jesus’ death was sealed.

When Luke tells us in verse 3 that “Satan entered into Judas,” several questions come to our minds. 1) One is whether Satan simply mastered a good Judas or whether Judas was already walking in line with Satan and Satan simply decided that now is the time. 2) Another question is why Satan would do this since the death and resurrection of Jesus would result in Satan’s final defeat, and there is good reason to think Satan knew that. 3) And the third and most important question is: Where was God when this happened? What was his role or non-role in the most spectacular sin that ever was? So let’s take these questions one at a time.

1) Satan’s Power in Judas’ Sinful Passions

When it says in Luke 22:3 that “Satan entered into Judas,” how are we to think about the will of Judas and the power of Satan? Judas was not an innocent bystander when Satan entered into him. The apostle John tells us in John 12:6 that he was a thief. When Judas complained that Mary had wasted money in anointing Jesus, John comments, “He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.”

If that sounds incredible, just think of the scandalous behavior of so-called Christian leaders today who use ministry gifts to buy $39,000 worth of clothes at one store in a year, and send their kids on a $29,000 trip to the Bahamas, and drive a white Lexus and a red Mercedes. As Judas sat beside Jesus with his pious, religious face and went out and cast out demons in Jesus’ name, he was not a righteous lover of Jesus. He loved money. He loved the power and pleasures that money could by.

Paul tells us how that works together with Satan’s power. Listen to Ephesians 2:1-3: “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air [notice the connection: dead in sins, following Satan], the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Dead in our sins, walking in the passions of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of body and mind, and therefore following the prince of the power of the air.

Satan does not take innocent people captive. There are no innocent people. Satan has power where sinful passions hold sway. Judas was a lover of money, and he covered it with a phony, external relationship with Jesus. And then he sold him for thirty pieces of silver. How many of his tribe are there still today! Don’t be one. And don’t be duped by one.

2) Satan’s Role in His Own Destruction

The second question is why Satan would lead Judas to betray Jesus. Doesn’t he know that the death and resurrection of Jesus would result in Satan’s final defeat (Colossians 2:13-15; Revelation 12:11)? There’s good reason to think Satan knew that.

When Jesus began his ministry on the way to the cross, Satan tried to turn him away from the path of suffering and sacrifice. In the wilderness, he tempted him to turn stones into bread and jump off the temple and get the rulership of the world by worshipping him (Matthew 4:1-11). The point of all these temptations is: Don’t walk the path of suffering and sacrifice and death. Use your power to escape suffering. If you’re the Son of God, show your right to reign. And I can help you do it. Whatever you do, don’t go to the cross.

Then do you remember the time when Jesus predicted he would suffer many things from the elders and the chief priests and be killed and Peter rebuked him and said, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22). In other words, I will never let you be killed like that. Jesus did not commend him. He said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23). Hindering Jesus from going to the cross was the work of Satan. Satan did not want Jesus crucified. It would be his undoing.

But here he is in Luke 22:3 entering into Judas and leading him to betray the Lord and bring him to the cross. Why the about face? Why try to divert him from the cross and then take the initiative to bring him to the cross? We are not told. Here is my effort at an answer: Satan saw his efforts to divert Jesus from the cross failing. Time after time, Jesus kept the course. His face was set like flint to die, and Satan concludes that there is no stopping him. Therefore he resolves that if he can’t stop it, he will at least make it as ugly and painful and as heartbreaking as possible. Not just death, but death by betrayal. Death by abandonment. Death by denial (see Luke 22:31-32). If he could not stop it, he would drag others into it and do as much damage as he could. It was a spectacular sequence of sins that brought Jesus to the cross.

3) God’s Role in the Murder of His Son

Which brings us now to the third and final question—the most important one: Where was God when this happened? Or more precisely: What was God’s role or non-role in the most spectacular sin that ever happened—the murder of Jesus Christ?

To answer a question like that we should put our hands on our mouths and silence our philosophical speculations. Our opinions don’t count here. All that counts is what God himself as shown us in his word. And the first thing he shows us is that the details surrounding the death of Jesus are prophesied in God’s word hundreds of years before they happen.

The Scriptures prophesy that evil men will reject Jesus when he comes.

Matthew 21:42: “Jesus said to them (quoting Psalm 118:22), ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes”?’”

The Scriptures prophesy that Jesus must be hated.

In John 15:25, Jesus quoted Psalm 35:19 and said, “The word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’”

The Scriptures prophesy that the disciples would abandon Jesus.

In Matthew 26:31, he quotes Zechariah 13:7: “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”

The Scriptures prophesy that Jesus will be pierced but none of his bones will be broken.

John quotes Psalm 34:20 and Zechariah 12:10 and says, “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear. . . . For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken.’ And again another Scripture says, ‘They will look on him whom they have pierced’” (John 19:34-37).

The Scriptures prophesy that Jesus would be betrayed by a close friend for thirty pieces of silver.

In John 13:18, Jesus cites Psalm 41:9 and says, “I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’”

And in Matthew 26:24, Jesus says, “The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!”

And in Matthew 27:9-10, it says, “Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me’” (Jeremiah 19:1-13; Zechariah 11:12-13).

And not only the Scriptures, but Jesus himself prophesies, down to the details, how he will be killed.

In Mark 10:33-34, he says, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

And on that last night, Jesus looked at Peter and said, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times” (Matthew 26:34).

According to His Sovereign Will

From all these prophesies, we know that God foresaw, and did not prevent, and therefore included in his plan that his Son would be rejected, hated, abandoned, betrayed, denied, condemned, spit upon, flogged, mocked, pierced, and killed. All these are explicitly in God’s mind before they happen as things that he plans will happen to Jesus. These things did not just happen. They were foretold in God’s word. God knew they would happen and could have planned to stop them, but didn’t. So they happened according to his sovereign will.

And all of them were evil. They were sin. It is sin to reject, hate, abandon, betray, deny, condemn, spit upon, flog, mock, pierce, and kill the morally perfect, infinitely worthy, divine Son of God. And yet the Bible is explicit and clear that God himself planned these things. It is explicit not only in all the prophetic texts we have seen, but also in passages that say even more plainly that God brought these things to pass.

God Brought It to Pass

For example, in Isaiah 53:6 and 10, it says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. . . . It was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief.” So behind the spitting and flogging and mocking and piercing is the invisible hand and plan of God.

And I say that carefully and with trembling. This truth is too big and too weighty and too shocking to be glib about or to be cocky about. I choose to say that the invisible hand and plan of God are behind these most spectacular sins in all the universe—more grievous and more spectacular than the fall of Satan or any others. The reason I use these very words is because the Bible says it in those very words.

The Hand and Plan of God

In Acts 4:27-28, we have the clearest, most explicit statement about God’s hand and plan behind the horrific crucifixion of his Son. “Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand (cheir) and your plan (boule) had predestined to take place.” Those are the two words I am using: the hand of God and the plan of God.

It is a strange way of speaking—to say that God’s hand and plan have predestined something to happen. One does not ordinarily think of God’s “hand” predestining. How does a hand predestine? Here’s what I think it means: The hand of God ordinarily stands for God’s exerted power—not power in the abstract, but earthly, effective exertions of power. The point of combining it with “plan” is to say that it is not just a theoretical plan; it is plan that will be executed by God’s own hand.

This explains Isaiah 53:10: “It was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief.” Or more literally, with the King James Version, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief.” The Lord bruised him. Behind Herod and Pilate and the Gentiles and the people of Israel was Jesus’ own Father who loved him with an infinite love.

The Gospel: God At Work in Death

Why should this matter to you?  It should matter because if God were not the main Actor in the death of Christ, then the death of Christ could not save us from our sins and we would perish in hell forever. The reason the death of Christ is the heart of gospel—the heart of the good news—is God was doing it. Romans 5:8: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” If you break God’s activity from the death of Jesus, you lose the gospel. This was God’s doing. It is the highest and deepest point of his love for sinners. His love for you.

Romans 8:3: “Sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.” God condemned sin in Jesus’ flesh with our condemnation. So we are free.

Galatians 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” God cursed Jesus with the curse that belonged on us. So we are free.

2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God imputed our sin to him, and now we go free in God’s righteousness.

Isaiah 53:5: “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities.” God wounded him. God crushed him. For you and me. And we go free.

The Cross of Christ: The Work and Love of God

The reason why this series of messages matters is this. If you embrace the biblical truth (and I pray you will) that God ordains spectacular sins for the global glory of his Son, without in anyway becoming unholy or unrighteous or sinful in that act, then you will not shrink back from the cross of Christ as a work of God. You will not be among the number of those who call the most loving act that ever was “divine child abuse.” You will come to the cross and fall on your face. And you will say: This is no mere human conspiracy. This is the work of God and the love of God. You will it receive as his highest gift. And you will be saved. And Christ will be glorified. And I will not have preached in vain.

© Desiring God

Love Wins: A ‘Theological’ Conversation on Rob Bell’s New Book at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

This is an excellent, informative, theologically rich, video discussion, on the various theological issues arising from Rob Bell’s new book ‘Love wins’. The panel includes: Albert Mohler (President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), Justin Taylor (former Crossway Managing Editor for the ESV Bible), Denny Burk (Dean of Boyce College (SBTS)  and Russell Moore (Dean of School of Theology SBTS):

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Publication Love Wins: A Conversation on Rob Be…, posted with vodpod

Getting the Creator-Creature Order Right, Justin Taylor

Getting the Creator-Creature Order Right.From the Gospel Coalition.

Many missteps in theology are on account of the implicit idea that God must be like us in some way.

(Note: After originally posting this, I read Albert Mohler’s response to Brian McLaren, and Mohler makes the point that McLaren’s piece explicitly exemplifies this kind of bottom-up methodology.)

In 2003 I read the following from Ardel Caneday and it helped me to see the importance of getting the Creator-creature relationship in the right order. This is worth reading slowly to grasp the point and the import.

Apprehension of God and relation to God are ours only in terms of analogies that derive from the fact that God made man in his own image.

God’s imprinted image is organic.

The Creator-creature analogy yields the Bible’s five primary analogical relationships within which we relate to God:

(1) king and subject;
(2) judge and defendant/litigant;
(3) husband and wife;
(4) father and child; and
(5) master and slave.

God, who made his creatures in his own image, is pleased to disclose himself to us in keeping with the God-like adornment with which he clothed us.

Here is the essence of anthropomorphism. God reveals himself to us in human terms, yet we must not compare God to us as if we were the ultimate reference point. God organically and indelibly impressed his image upon man so that our relationships to one another reflect his relationships with us.

We do not come to know God as creator ex nihilo because we know ourselves to be creative and imagine him to be greater. Instead, man creates because we are like God. God is the original; we are the organic image, the living copy.

We do not rightly speak of God as king by projecting onto him regal imagery because we think it is fitting for God. Rather, bowing before God who has dominion is proper because man, as king over creation, is the image of kingship; God, the true king, is the reality that casts the image of the earthly king.

It is not as if God looked around his creation and found marital union between male and female to be a fit pattern for his relationship with humans. “Male and female he created them” that they may “become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). The union of husband and wife is an earthly image or copy of the heavenly union of God, the true husband, with his people, the true bride. Paul understood marriage in Genesis 2:24 this way, for he cites the passage and explains, “This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32).

—A. B. Caneday, “Veiled Glory: God’s Self-Revelation in Human Likeness—A Biblical Theology of God’s Anthropomorphic Self-Disclosure,” in Beyond the Bounds, ed. Piper, Taylor, and Helseth (Crossway, 2003), p. 163; my emphasis. [The whole book is online for free.]

Do you believe in the existence of a literal hell? (I believe what’s in this video)

Justin Taylor was the first to sound the alarm. I have been following his blog and reading his commentary daily for years. His posts are uplifting and Scriptural, sometimes he quotes and writes about the saints that have gone before us, sometimes he reviews books and contemporary issues (as he is editorial director and associate publisher at Crossway Books, most recently served as managing editor for the ESV Study Bible. some awesome accomplishments for his age), but  always through a Biblical lens. Last week he correctly pointed out something about Mega Church Pastor Rob Bell that echoed through the Christian community, publishing houses and hallways of major newspapers, including the New York Times. Considering the subject – Hell (or the non existence of it) it is not that surprising. If there is no hell, maybe I don’t have to try and be so good and keep myself from all those sinful pleasures everyone else around me is enjoying?–There are deceived Christians who actually think that way and are always looking for the way out, not realizing they are already on the outside of Christ’s presence and in danger of falling away. Kevin DeYoung also wrote a piece agreeing with Justin Taylor :

Rob Bell is right about one thing: what you believe about heaven and hell says a lot about what you believe about God. That’s why theological error of this magnitude cannot go unchecked. The God of the Vimeo clip (promoting the new book)is not a God of wrath, not a God of eternal recompense, not a God who showed us love in sending his Son to be a propitiation for our wretched sins, not a God whose will it was to crush the Suffering Servant in an exercise of divine justice and free grace. Indeed, says Bell—even if he says it with a question—such a God could not be good.

Here is a short piece from Ann Arbor.com

Rob Bell, pastor of Grand Rapids’ 10,000-member Mars Hill Bible Church and author of the popular Nooma video series, has sparked a frenzy among evangelical leaders over his yet-to-be-released book, „Love Wins,” according to the New York Times.

Bell describes the dogma that “a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell,” as „misguided and toxic,” the article said.

Based on book summaries and a promotional video, Christian blogger Justin Taylor wrote that Bell “is moving farther and farther away from anything resembling biblical Christianity.” Dozens of other theologians chimed in, and the name Rob Bell quickly became of the top ten trending topics on Twitter.

The heresy of Universalism strikes again. I was shocked when watching an ABC News Nightline debate ‘Does Satan exist?‘ with Mark Driscoll, Deepak Chopra  (who does not believe in Satan or sin, and who says people should have no guilt or shame, but who also wrote a book about Jesus that bookstores promoted heavily) and Carlton Pearson , a Pentecostal who attended Oral Roberts University and Due to his stated belief in universal reconciliation, Pearson was declared a heretic by his peers in 2004 and rapidly began to lose his influence in ministry. He then switched denomination and became a Universalist.

This 6 minute Paul Washer video seems to be a very appropriate response for me. As with all Paul Washer sermons, the word of God preached by him is piercing and convicting. And I thank the Lord for young godly men such as Justin Taylor and Kevin DeYoung who in the tradition of Paul ‘are not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ’ and can call out (someone who was one of their own) blatant heresy when they see it and point people to the real Christ (through his teachings) of the Bible.

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Listen to an audio panel discussion

Universalism and the Reality of Eternal Punishment,

featuring John Piper, Sinclair Ferguson,Greg Livingstone, and others.

Some more articles on the subject (of hell):

Two good books on the subject: Faith comes by hearing, by Christopher Morgan and Jesus; The only way to God: Must you hear the gospel to be saved? by John Piper.

Gordon Fee on the Active and Passive Side of God’s Love

From a lecture by Gordon Fee, recounting the morning that he sat in his study to work on 1 Corinthians 13:4 for his commentary:

I remember the morning when I came to this passage: “Love is patient, love is kind.”

It’s actually a verb: “Love does patience.” Or better yet, the KJV: “love suffers long.”

Patience is what you show when your computer doesn’t work.

Long-suffering is what you show when people don’t work, and you’ve been around them a long, long time. That’s what it means to suffer long.

And I looked at those words and then realized that Paul was here describing God’s character. Those are exactly the words he uses of God back in Romans 2 [v. 4].

Then it dawned on me:

the first (long-suffering) is the passive side of His love;
the other (kindness) is the active side of His love.

And then I started to cry for a long time. It took me a long time to return to my computer. What if God was not like this toward us?

(via)Justin Taylor

Getting to Know Owen

Posted: 02 Mar 2011 03:00 AM PST

In many ways, the great Puritan theologian John Owen (1616-1683) was not unique for his day. This is not simply playing the contrarian. It is important to emphasize that he was one of many “hotter sort of Protestants;” one of many who bemoaned that the church in England was still “halfly reformed.” Owen’s theology was certainly not unique, but was one representative within the broader movement of Reformed orthodoxy. Many of his contemporaries had similar influence, some with even more political clout and others with seemingly more effective preaching. It is also necessary to note that Owen had his critics. Many of these critics, not surprisingly, strongly disagreed with his theology. But he also faced some disparagement for his persona: some thought he was too overbearing, too stern; and many more thought his knee-high leather boots and cocked hat were far too ostentatious for a university vice chancellor. Even today, he’s as famous (or infamous) for his long and lumbering writing style as much as almost anything else—a reputation that Owen seems to have garnered even in his own day.

All of that being said, I do think there are at least three ways in which Owen was particularly important for his time and in the church since.

Great Literary Output

His literary output was unique for its volume, diversity, and importance. The sheer magnitude of material Owen produced is staggering, especially when we today consider that it was under candlelight, with quill pen, and alongside many competitions for time and concentration (e.g., civil war, poor health, family deaths, persecution, ecclesiastical-political leadership, running an almost decimated Oxford University, etc.). His Works stretch 23 volumes in the still-in-print Banner of Truth edition, 24 volumes in the 1850-55 edition. A few of Owen’s contemporaries produced a similar amount of writing, such as Thomas Manton, whose works reach 22 volumes. But in the case of Manton, the majority of his works are published sermons. Owen’s Works contain two volumes of Parliamentary sermons, but ten-fold are the significant works of polemics, doctrinal treatise, practical theology, and one massive commentary on Hebrews with more than 1,000 pages of prefatory material and 2,500 pages of commentary (Vols. 17-23 in the Banner edition).

This and several other works have proven to be unique contributions to the church. His several works on Reformed spirituality have become somewhat movement-defining (Vols. 1, 2, and 4). Abraham Kuyper thought that Owen’s massive work on the Holy Spirit (Vol. 3) was unparalleled. Of course, even those who disagree with Owen’s view of particular redemption know that it is unavoidable to interact with the standard-bearer, The Death of Death (Vol. 10). Owen attempted at least one work on the nature and structure of theology. This Latin work, Theologoumena Pantadapa (1661), is sadly not included in the Banner edition of Works, though there is a paraphrastic English translation (Biblical Theology [Morgan: Soli Deo Gloria, 1994]). There are certainly some forgettable sections (one that defends the inspiration of the Masoretic vowel points); but it is nevertheless an important and often overlooked representative of 17th-century “Federal Theology”—a biblical-historical model of theological organization. In short, the enormity, variety, and effect of Owen’s work stands out in his day—or any day for that matter.

Leader in His Day

Owen was a prominent figure in the very “Puritan-esque” times of England’s Revolution and Restoration. He preached to Parliament the day after the king was executed for treason. With the king out of the way, the army and Parliament leaned heavily in the Puritan direction; thus, the 1650s looked to be an unprecedented time to implement many Puritan ideals. Owen enjoyed a unique relationship with Oliver Cromwell, functioning as a leading adviser to the Lord Protector on the complex and ever-changing ecclesiastical-political climate. Indeed, Owen was one of only a handful to construct several legislative proposals for settling a state church during the Protectorate—one that would be healthy, godly, effective, and uncoercive.

All the while, Owen was both vice chancellor of Oxford University and dean of one of its leading colleges, Christ Church. For almost a decade, Owen had the charge of restoring order and glory to England’s oldest university. He was also increasingly a leading figure of the growing movement of Congregational churches in England (and America). This leadership became more apparent and more needed when in 1662 the Independents were ejected from their churches and forbidden to preach publically. Many Puritans, like John Bunyan, suffered years of imprisonment. Though Owen preached and conducted house meetings during these days, he did not face similar persecution (likely because of the already well-established respect he had broadly earned). But Owen did not take such freedom for granted: he constantly pleaded for the release of his imprisoned brethren, wrote many defenses of Reformed non-conformity, repeatedly appealed to the king for liberty, and gave financial aid to many persecuted Puritans and their families.

In these latter days, he was offered the presidency of Harvard and the pastorate of the highly esteemed First Congregational Church of Boston, but he turned them down to remain in his diverse, needed work in England. Therefore, it is an understatement to say that Owen had his fingers in many pies. Whether literary, pastoral, theological, political, academic/educational, or social, his efforts were indeed diverse and he held a prominent place in each. He was not just a “jack of all trades,” but more like a “master of many.” And, whether the Puritans were “in season” (Revolution) or “out of season” (Restoration), he was not only faithful but prominent.

Long and Lasting Influence

The influence of Owen’s life and writing is also quite telling. He has not enjoyed the notoriety of a Luther, Calvin, or Edwards, but it is difficult to think of any contemporary of Owen’s who has had a broader and longer-lasting influence. A few, such as Thomas Goodwin, were indeed very significant in the mid-17th century, but they have not had the same effect on the centuries to follow. Conversely, Owen has been the focus of approximately 30 books and dissertations over the last 20 years. Four significant scholarly works on Owen were published in 2008 alone. More than a few scholars have a major academic work on Owen in process. And, of course, he’s not just of interest to scholars. His practical writings are as widely enjoyed as ever, thanks in part to the modern, unabridged versions edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor (Overcoming Sin and Temptation [Wheaton: Crossway, 2006] and Communion with the Triune God [Wheaton: Crossway, 2007]). Owen’s stock seems to be rightly on the rise, further confirming Charles Spurgeon’s commendation of more than a century ago: “It is unnecessary to say that he is the prince of divines.”

A version of this article first appeared in the Forum section of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Vol 14, No. 4 (Winter 2010).

The Difference Between Puritans and Evangelicals on Communion with God (via) Justin Taylor

Posted: 27 Jan 2011  by Justin Taylor on the Gospel Coalition Blog:

A convicting quote I return to again and again:

. . . whereas to the Puritans communion with God was a great thing, to evangelicals today it is a comparatively small thing.

The Puritans were concerned about communion with God in a way that we are not.

The measure of our unconcern is the little that we say about it.

When Christians meet, they talk to each other about their Christian work and Christian interests, their Christian acquaintances, the state of the churches, and the problems of theology—but rarely of their daily experience of God.

Modern Christian books and magazines contain much about Christian doctrine, Christian standards, problems of Christian conduct, techniques of Christian service—but little about the inner realities of fellowship with God. Our sermons contain much sound doctrine—but little relating to the converse between the soul and the Saviour.

We do not spend much time, alone or together, in dwelling on the wonder of the fact that God and sinners have communion at all; no, we just take that for granted, and give our minds to other matters.

Thus we make it plain that communion with God is a small thing to us.

But how different were the Puritans! The whole aim of their ‘practical and experimental’ preaching and writing was to explore the reaches of the doctrine and practice of man’s communion with God.

—J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness (Crossway, 1994), p. 215 (chapter 12).

How the Gospel Can Transform a Marriage (via Justin Taylor)

Gary and Betsy Ricuchi, Love That Lasts: When Marriage Meets Grace (Crossway, 2006), pp. 22-23:

  • Because of the gospel, Christians have become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Therefore, in our marriage, our past does not define us, confine us, or determine our future.
  • Because of the gospel, we are forgiven (Ephesians 1:7). Therefore we can live free of all guilt and condemnation for every sin, and we can trust that God, in his mercy, will be gracious to us.
  • Because of the gospel, we can forgive, just as Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4:32). Nothing done against us compares to our sin against God. Therefore all offenses, hostility, and bitterness between Christians can be completely forgiven and removed.
  • Because of the gospel, we are accepted by God (Romans 15:7). Therefore we are not dependent on a spouse for who we are or what we need.
  • Because of the gospel, sin’s ruling power over us is broken (Romans 6:6, 14). Therefore we can truly obey all that God calls us to do in our marriage, regardless of any circumstance or situation.
  • Because of the gospel, we have access to God through Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). Therefore we can at any time take any need in our marriage to the One who can do all things.
  • Because of the gospel, we have hope (Romans 5:1-4). Therefore we can endure any marital difficulty, hardship, or suffering, with the assurance that God is working all to our greatest good (Romans 8:28).
  • Because of the gospel, Christ dwells in us by his Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:13-14). Therefore we are confident that God is always with us and is always at work in our marriage, even when progress is imperceptible (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
  • Because of the gospel, we have power to fight and overcome remaining sin, which continues to dwell and war within us (Romans 7:19-21, 24-25; Galatians 5:16-17). This indwelling enemy represents the essence of what is called the doctrine of sin.

These are just a few of the ways the gospel can transform a marriage. Sometimes it’s not easy to live in the reality of these truths. But it is always possible—and not because of our strength or determination, but because of God’s empowering and enabling grace.

How the Gospel Can Transform a Marriage. (Gospel Coalition-Justin Taylor)

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