Monday, February 17, 2014

Finding Freedom In Failure

I don’t now about you, but I find within myself a tremendous desire to do well. The problem for me though, is the quest to do well is a never-ending exercise in falling short. And if that’s not bad enough, the quest to do well is likely a quest for the approval of others.

Nick Lannon, writing at Liberate has provided a wonderful illustration I desperately need to remember. He relates the story of Olympic skater Jeremy Abbott taking a spectacular fall before millions of watching eyes, and then performing far better after the fall than before.

Mr. Lannon points out how freeing it is to realize that we are rescued from the outside. He writes,

“We, like Jeremy Abbott, have gone crashing to the ice too many times to keep telling ourselves that our quest for glory is ongoing. It’s over. We’ve failed. Also like Jeremy Abbott, though, we’re now free.  We can live our lives without trying to fool anyone into thinking that we don’t need saving. We do, and desperately.”

Oh that I could take it completely to heart that I am approved not on the basis of how I well I do, but on the basis of what Christ has done on my behalf.

You can read the entire article here.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Wise Words

So many of Ray Ortlund’s posts seem to just hit it out of the park for me. His latest on the speech of church leaders is must-read material.

Here’s an example:

Wisdom: Saying only Christ-honoring, life-giving things.  Always asking oneself, “Do the words I feel like saying rise to the level of wisdom?  If not, they have no place in my mouth.  Good intentions are not enough; leaders must show good judgment.  I will hold myself to a strict standard, because Christ’s honor and people’s safety are at stake.”

You can read the rest here.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Miracle or Providence?

The Gospel Coalition recently published a really helpful (for me anyway) article by Justin Holcomb titled, “How Is God Working in the World? Understanding Miracles and Providence”.

He explores how we might differentiate the ordinary supernatural work of God’s providentially ordering and maintaining the world vs. miracles which are extraordinary supernatural works that are less frequent and have special purpose in bearing witness to God.

I especially appreciate his point that a wrong view of miracles leads to a diminished view of God’s supernatural providential care over all things. He details three common ways miracles are misunderstood and then shows how each of these views mitigates against a proper view of God’s hand of providence.

It’s not a quick read, but worth the time to work through. It made me appreciate all the more the many routine, yet supernatural ways in which God is sustaining and caring for his creation.

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Reflections On Years Of Pastoral Ministry


No, not mine, but those of Sam Storms. This is a great list not only for pastors, but for anyone in ministry.

Here are some great take-aways:

  • I wish I'd known that people who disagree with me on doctrines I hold dearly can often love God and pursue his glory with as much, and in some cases more, fervency than I do.
  • I wish I'd known about the delusion of so-called confidentiality. Pity the man who puts his confidence in confidentiality. You can and must control the information that comes to you, but you can never control the information that comes from you.
  • I wish I'd known about the destructive effects of insecurity in a pastor. This is less because I've struggled with it and more due to its effect I've seen in others.

You can read them all here: What I Wished I’d Known: Reflections on Nearly 40 Years of Pastoral Ministry

Friday, May 04, 2012

What is in The Cup

This past week I was asked to share with a local Bible study group about the events leading up to the Resurrection of Jesus. Below are expanded notes of that talk.

(All scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV). Hebrew meanings are from various lexicons, such as the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology; the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament; Brown, Driver and Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, and Holladay’s Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament.)

The scene in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayerfully wrestles with his fate has long been of interest to me. Jesus is obviously a man of great courage and resolve; more than that he is a divine being, the Son of God. Yet, in the garden he struggles mightily with his calling, to the point his perspiration becomes “like great drops of blood”. How is it that the one the Gospels portray as completely in command over forces of nature could be in such agony over his future?

Reflection and study led me to notice a small but significant detail in the account of the garden prayer: the cup he entreats his heavenly father to remove. In Luke 22:39 we read:
And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation."  And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done."  And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.  And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Jesus is no weakling. What is in the cup that causes him such distress?

Searching for other passages on “the cup” leads to some sobering answers.

In Psalm 75:7-8 we discover a cup that is related to judgment, which the wicked of the earth will consume:
But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another. In the hand of the LORD is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs.
And toward the end of the Bible we find what is surely the same cup described a bit more. This time it is identified as “the wine of God’s wrath”:
Revelation 14:9-10 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
This theme of God’s wrath held in a cup is portrayed vividly in Isaiah 51:17-22:
Awake, awake! Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger.  Of all the sons she bore there was none to guide her; of all the sons she reared there was none to take her by the hand.  These double calamities have come upon you-- who can comfort you? -- ruin and destruction, famine and sword-- who can console you?  Your sons have fainted; they lie at the head of every street, like antelope caught in a net. They are filled with the wrath of the LORD and the rebuke of your God. Therefore hear this, you afflicted one, made drunk, but not with wine. This is what your Sovereign LORD says, your God, who defends his people: "See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again.
This passage raises a question, however. In verse 22, the cup is said to be “taken out of your hand”. So, what happened to the cup if Israel doesn’t have to drink it? Why is it taken out of their hand? Has something happened to prevent this judgment?

The answer comes just a little further down in Isaiah 52, beginning at verse 13:
Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.
While the identity of this servant is controversial for some, Christians generally recognize that this is a description of Jesus. Written some 700 years before the time of Christ, the passage accurately foretells what the New Testament describes in detail concerning the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

The passage in Isaiah 52:14 continues:
As many were astonished at you-- his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind.
This raises the question, how did his appearance get that way? The Gospels describe the last hours of Jesus life as a series of beatings and torture, culminating with a horrific death on a Roman torture mechanism, the cross.

Verse 15:
…so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.
These events will be recorded, proclaimed and remembered down through history, spreading from their origin in the Middle East to the “ends of the earth”.
Chapter 53:1-3 continues: (There were no chapter divisions in the original writings.)
Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Hebrew is an especially metaphorical language and a number of underlying concepts can help us understand the depth of what Jesus undergoes. For example, the word “despised” in verse 3 in Hebrew is bazah, which also means “to disdain, to hold in contempt”. The ESV word “rejected” is translated “forsaken” by the New American Standard Bible, perhaps guided by an underlying idea in the Hebrew of “left out”. The word “sorrows” in Hebrew is ma’kob , which is often translated as “pain”.

Verse 4 continues:
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
“Griefs” is Hebrew choli, sickness, and “sorrows” is again ma’kob, pain.

Verse 5:
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
The word “pierced” is the Hebrew word, chalal, which usually means “defiled” or “polluted”. The word “transgressions” is pasha, which means “rebellion”. “Crushed” is Hebrew, daka which can mean, “broken to pieces”, not unlike what we do with a pill using a mortar and pestle. “Iniquities” is avon, meaning guilt, and “wounds” is from the word chabburah, which literally means, “striking” or “blows”. (This is what is meant by the King James, “stripes”.)

In other words, the terrible penalty and pain for our wrongdoing was placed upon him, and as a result we do not suffer what is actually due us.

Verse 6:
 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.
Interestingly, the word “laid”, Hebrew, pa’ga, has the idea of “impinged” or “forced upon”. And who is it doing the “forcing”? It is Yahweh. In all translations when the word LORD appears in all caps, the underlying word is Yahweh. It is God himself who has placed the burden of sin upon his willing Son.

Verse 7:
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
“Oppressed” is nagas, “to beat or goad an animal”. “Afflicted” is anah, “humbled” or “bowed down”. The servant’s silence is reminiscent of the scene before Pilate in John 19:8-9.

Verse 8:
By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?
“Oppression” here is Hebrew, otser, meaning coercion. “Judgment” is mishpat, which carries the idea of a judicial ruling. “Stricken” is nagas, again, as in verse 7as “to beat or goad an animal”. “Transgression” is pasha, “rebellion”, as in v. 5.

The idea of being “cut off” reminds me of an article I recently read about an “anechoic chamber” which was built to insulate the interior from any sound or stimulus. Researchers discovered that humans placed in the chamber and deprived of all sounds except those of their own bodies began to hallucinate in as little as 15 minutes. The longest anyone has been able to endure thus far is 45 minutes. This is significant because this passage is telling us that on the cross, Jesus was cut off from fellowship not only from humanity, but from life itself. This, I am convinced, is behind Jesus’ cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34) This in turn reminds of Galatians 3:13: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree".

Verse 9:
And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
This is reminiscent of the garden tomb provided by wealthy Nicodemus.

Verse 10:
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
The phrase, “the will of the Lord” is literally, “Yahweh desires”. “Crush” is daka again, “broken to pieces”. “An offering for guilt” is from the Hebrew asham, a technical term used throughout the book of Leviticus to describe the guilt offering.

All this reminds me of Hebrews 4:15: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Verse 11:
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.
The word “soul”, Hebrew nephesh, is important to make note of, in light of its usage again in verse 12. The anguish is soul anguish, not merely physical.

The word “righteous” here appears in two forms, first as a noun, tzadiq, and then as a verb, “to be accounted righteous”. This is significant because the same noun/verb cognates occur in the Greek of Romans 3:23-26:
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished--  he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Isaiah 53:11 corresponds directly with Romans 3:23. The perfect righteousness of Jesus is transferred to the account of all those who place their faith in him.

Verse 12:
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
This is where the significance of the word “soul”, nephesh, is more fully revealed. What takes place on the cross is not merely a physical suffering, but an incomprehensible anguish of the soul. Jesus’ pain and suffering are physical, to be certain, but the torment of his soul is likely what he has in mind in the garden.

What was in the cup? The cup was the wrath-filled judgment of God, consisting of both the physical and psychic anguish that was due us which was instead placed upon the completely innocent servant of God, Jesus, resulting in our being counted as righteous.

This is what is meant by 2 Corinthians 5:21: He who had no sin became sin for us that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Two final “take-aways” for us:

1) Romans 6:1-2: What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? The Christian cannot continue to toy with sin. The cost to Jesus demonstrates how serious, how ugly sin is.

2) Romans 8:1: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The Christian has no fear of punishment. Why? Jesus has borne it. The cup is completely empty for those who have put their trust in Christ.

We must walk in the tension of these two truths, remembering the horror of sin, but rejoicing that the cup of God’s wrath is empty for the one who has placed his trust in Jesus. For the Christian, Jesus has emptied the cup, drinking it to the dregs.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Idols are not your friends

When I read this I knew I had to post it right away. The observations below by Justin Buzzard are well said and absolutely critical for the Christian believer to understand and act upon:

Everyone has to live for something and if that something isn’t the one true God, it will be a false God–an idol.

An idol is anything more important to you than God. Therefore, you can turn even very good things into idols. You can turn a good thing like family, success, acceptance, money, your plans, etc. into a God thing–into something you worship and place at the center of your life.

This is what sin is. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything (even a good thing) more than God.

Do you know the idols you’re prone to worship? At our church we talk about 4 root idols that we tend to attach our lives to.

CONTROL. You know you have a control idol if your greatest nightmare is uncertainty.

APPROVAL. You know you have an approval idol if your greatest nightmare is rejection.

COMFORT. You know you have a comfort idol if your greatest nightmare is stress/demands.

POWER. You know you have a power idol if your greatest nightmare is humiliation.

Read the whole thing.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Resurrection Sunday: Two must-reads

Two of my favorite writers have posted exceptional essays about the events surrounding the Resurrection:

Russell Moore:

How the Resurrection Undoes Our Need to Be Proven Right

“If you had been there to pull open his bruised eyelids, matted there together with mottled blood, you would have looked into blank holes. If you had lifted his arm, you would have felt no resistance. You would have heard only the thud as it hit the table when you let it go. You might have walked away from that morbid scene muttering to yourself, “The wages of sin is death.

But sometime before dawn on Sunday morning, a spike-torn hand twitched. A blood-crusted eyelid opened. The breath of God came blowing down into that cave, and a new creation flashed into reality.”

Thabiti Anyabwile:

Why Do You Look For The Living Among the Dead?

“Because Jesus was raised from the dead and keeps our inheritance in heaven by His power—He puts our joy safely beyond the reach of all our enemies, including the enemy of death.”

I couldn’t do my friends a better service than to point them to these two articles.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Behold Our God

Today Bob Kauflin  at Worship Matters featured a video of the wonderful Sovereign Grace song, Behold Our God, performed with a full orchestra. At our church we sang this numerous times over the course of our Advent observation, but never did we come close to sounding like this.

I still loved the song while we were singing it, but this is a great version to listen to.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Best Blog-post Title Ever

How do you top “The Next Billy Graham Might Be Drunk Right Now”?

Russell Moore, who is always worth reading, has crafted more than just a great title here. His post makes the great point that the ultimate success of the church is not dependent on what we can see, but rather on what God will do.

Here is some of Moore’s reasoning:

“The next Jonathan Edwards might be the man driving in front of you with the Darwin Fish bumper decal. The next Charles Wesley might be a misogynist, profanity-spewing hip-hop artist right now. The next Billy Graham might be passed out drunk in a fraternity house right now. The next Charles Spurgeon might be making posters for a Gay Pride March right now. The next Mother Teresa might be managing an abortion clinic right now.

But the Spirit of God can turn all that around. And seems to delight to do so. The new birth doesn’t just transform lives, creating repentance and faith; it also provides new leadership to the church, and fulfills Jesus’ promise to gift his church with everything needed for her onward march through space and time (Eph. 4:8-16).

After all, while Phillip was leading the Ethiopian eunuch to Christ, Saul of Tarsus was still a murderer.”

Not only is this a great reminder of how God is able to superintend his church, it’s gives hope to those of us who worry about our ability to adequately carry out our Christian responsibilities. After all, if he could use murderous Saul of Tarsus, surely he can use Michael of Ashland, who’s already on his side. Reminds me of one of my favorite scripture passages: For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10; ESV)

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Year’s Resolutions

Ok, so New Year’s resolutions seldom work, don’t last, and generally aren’t much worth the effort. But this list from John Piper’s beloved English Lit. Professor, Clyde Kilby, is a joy simply to read. Doing any one of them just once has got to make your year better.

Some samples:

  • At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.
  • I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their “divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic” existence.
  • Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.

Read the whole list here. It improved my already good day.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Great Help For The Battle Against Sin

This is so good I had to awaken from my blog slumber to pass it along:

“To gain entire likeness to Christ, I ought to get a high esteem of the happiness of it.  I am persuaded that God’s happiness is inseparably linked in with his holiness.  Holiness and happiness are like light and heat.  God never tasted one of the pleasures of sin.

Christ has a body such as I have, yet he never tasted one of the pleasures of sin.  The redeemed, through all eternity, will never taste one of the pleasures of sin; yet their happiness is complete. . . . Every sin is something away from my greatest enjoyment. . . .

The devil strives night and day to make me forget this or disbelieve it.  He says, Why should you not enjoy this pleasure as much as Solomon or David?  You may go to heaven also.  I am persuaded this is a lie – that my true happiness is to go and sin no more.”

Andrew A. Bonar, editor, Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne (Edinburgh, 1987), pages 154-155.

Thanks so much to Ray Ortlund for posting this originally here. If you don’t read Ray’s blog you’re missing consistently great thoughts and insights.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Things That Make You Say “Ouch”

Kevin DeYoung is among the many young pastor/theologians whose writings give me great hope for the survival of passionate, orthodox Christianity in America. Below is an excerpt of observations he gleaned from studying what the book of Proverbs has to say on the topic of relational conflict. It’s good stuff. (Though painful to notice in yourself.)

So what does a quarrelsome person look like? What are his (or her) distinguishing marks?

1. You defend every conviction with the same degree of intensity. You don’t talk about secondary issues, because there are no secondary issues.

2. You are quick to speak and slow to listen. You rarely ask questions and when you do it is to accuse or to continue prosecuting your case. You are not looking to learn, you are looking to defend, dominate, and destroy.

3. Your only model for ministry and faithfulness is the showdown on Mount Carmel. There is a place for sarcasm, but when Elijah with the prophets of Baal is your spiritual hero you may end up mocking people instead of making arguments.

4. You are incapable of seeing nuances and you do not believe in qualifying statements.

5. You never give the benefit of the doubt. You do not try to read arguments in context. You put the worst possible construct on other’s motives and the meaning of their words.

6. You have no unarticulated opinions.

7. You are unable to sympathize with your opponents.

8. Your first instinct is to criticize. Your last is to encourage.

There are more. You can read the rest here.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Read Your Bible S-l-o-w-l-y In 2011

Writing in his blog, Kaleidoscope, at the beginning of the Advent season my friend Bob Withers called attention to the genealogy in Matthew Chapter 1. He pointed out how unusual it was that four women are mentioned, who, from a Jewish perspective had major negatives associated with them. Ruth was a Gentile, and the other three, Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba (listed as “the wife of Uriah”) had serious moral defects.

With that tidbit tucked away in the back of my mind, today I renewed my annual habit of reading through the entire Bible in a year. With a little extra time on my hands because of taking a day off, I was able to read Matthew’s first chapter slowly, and reflect on that genealogy. Not only do the above mentioned women appear, but it dawned on me these were the only women mentioned in Matthew’s list. Think about it: each of the men listed had a wife who was in the line of the Messiah. Matthew, however, records only these four women. Four women who had what we would today call “issues”. Matthew, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is highlighting these four to those who would read carefully.

Reading this passage slowly allowed me to notice and rejoice in the awesome fact that God chooses and uses people who are from a human standpoint the least exemplary. And what a great hope this is for all those like me who wouldn’t make anyone else’s list of notable persons.

Prayer for 2011

To start off the New Year I thought I’d begin with a helpful prayer from Ray Ortlund:

Lord Jesus, in this new year of grace, 2011, give us eyes to see where our churches need repair, hearts to desire the experience of your glory, and above all else, the sheer grace of your felt presence coming down on your imperfect but yearning churches!

His prayer results from solid reflection on the need of our churches to experience the active presence of Christ:

“Our aim as pastors is not only that our churches will be well assembled, thoughtfully and carefully and biblically obedient.  That is important.  But our desires don’t end there.  We desire the dwelling of the risen Christ among us.  We desire his felt presence.  We desire him.

If we are not experiencing his glory coming down upon us, we need to ask if we have been disobedient in any aspect of what we have built or failed to build.  Even if we have built well, we need to ask if we have settled for mere constructional obedience.  The Lord has more for us than that.  He has himself to give.”

The whole post is well worth reading.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The True Antidote for Worry

Trevin Wax (who is always worth reading) eloquently makes the case that the real solution to worry is nothing less than the Gospel itself. Here’s a snippet that ought to make you read the rest:

So worry shows up whenever my view of God is diminished and my view of myself gets too big. I worry because my vision of God is skewed. I rest when my vision is fixed.

“Look at the birds of the air!” Jesus said. “God gives them food, even if they don’t work and earn their way.” There’s more to this parallel than a mere animal-to-human comparison about how much more God will care for us. There’s gospel here. God has given undeserved favor to the birds. He blesses them apart from their merits.

God’s grace and mercy is sustaining us too. Everything we have comes from God’s hand. Salvation belongs to the Lord. And the powerful God who saved us is the loving Father who sustains us.

Somebody say Amen.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Instant Classic

Jared Wilson hits a home run with this little parable:

“In the 1982 film Annie, the titular orphan is swept out of the vile clutches of Miss Hannigan at the inner city orphanage, where she and her friends spent their “hard knock life” mired in menial tasks, and delivered into the gleaming mansion of the billionaire Mr. Warbucks. When she first arrives, she is mesmerized by its size and beauty, and by the scores of cheerful servants. Her hostess asks, “Well, Annie, what would you like to do first?” Annie misunderstands. She says she’d probably like to start by washing the windows, and then she'll move on to scrub the floors. She’s thinking she needs to get to work. The hostess just wants to know what fun thing she’d like to start her new life doing.

Annie has not realized she is not an orphan any more.

Christian, you are a Christian. You have a new identity. You are in Christ, and Christ is in you. Let your doing emerge from your being. It will not work the other way around.”

I’d tell you to read the whole thing, but that was the whole thing. If you want more, you'll need to check out his forthcoming book, Gospel Wakefulness: Treasuring Christ and Savoring His Power, coming 2011 from Crossway.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Blogging the 2010 Ocean City Bible Conference

At last, I was finally able to post Phil Johnson’s closing session of the Ocean City Bible Conference. Phil’s talk was full of great content, and I wanted to get it right so I purchased the cd to make sure I captured his thoughts well. So much for the live aspect. Anyway, here are the links to all the plenary sessions:

Ocean City Bible Conference; Session Eight:  Phil Johnson
Ocean City Bible Conference; Session Seven: Fred Zaspel
Ocean City Bible Conference; Session Six: Paul Tripp
Ocean City Bible Conference; Session Five: Thabiti Anyabwile
Ocean City Bible Conference Session  Four: Phil Johnson
Ocean City Bible Conference Session Three: Thabiti Anyabwile
Ocean City Bible Conference Session Two:  Kevin O’brien
Ocean City Bible Conference, Session One: Thabiti Anyabwile
Ocean City Bible Conference; Pre-conference  Vernon Allen

These are well worth your time.


“Semi-Live” Blogging the Ocean City Bible Conference; Session Eight

Wednesday morning, September 15, 2010

(Disclaimer: These notes are an attempt to capture the main points of the speaker; mistakes are inevitable and I’m certain not every word and phrase was captured exactly.)

Phil Johnson, Executive Director of Grace To You.

I loved what Fred Zaspel said this morning, “We’re in glory, but we’re not there yet.”

2 Corinthians 3:18 (John MacArthur’s favorite verse. He once wrote a book about it.)

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (KJV)

As always the context of a verse is crucial. Notice that in the early part of Chapter 3, Paul has been contrasting the old covenant with the new covenant, showing why the new is better than the old. This is one of Paul’s favorite themes. Fred Zaspel would say Paul is a new covenant theologian, and he was.

This is also one of the themes also of the book of Hebrews. First comes to this topic back in verse 6, where he answers a question he raised back in Chapter 2:16 where he asks “who is sufficient for these things?” And he gives an explicit answer for these things in verses 5 and 6 of Chapter 3. “We, the apostles of Christ, are sufficient for these things. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves. But our sufficiency is of God.” Here it is the word “able”, same word as sufficient. God has made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant.

Now one of the distinctives of Paul’s writing style, is the way he often breaks off a main thought and follows with another theme suggested by a word or phrase, so we have to pay careful attention to the context.

Here he goes from the truth that God has made him adequate as a minister of the new covenant, immediately to a short discussion about the superiority of the new covenant. And he contrasts the two covenants by these words: “…we are ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”

Now the letter is Paul’s expression for the Mosaic Law when it’s considered by itself without inherent efficacy or power to enable us to obey. The law alone apart from the Holy Spirit’s application is a dead letter. Since its dead it cannot be a source of life.

Here he says the letter kills, the spirit gives life. The letter is Paul’s expression for the Mosaic Law, when it’s considered by itself. The law alone apart from the Holy Spirit’s application is a dead letter. Only the Holy Spirit can give life. So the Spirit here means the Holy Spirit, the true giver of life and the administrator of the new covenant.

For example Romans 7:6, “But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. (KJV)

In Romans 2:29, he says that true circumcision is that of the heat and of the spirit, and not in the letter. Here he says the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.

Now Paul is not saying the law is bad, but is saying it can’t give life to sinners. It condemns those who sin. The problem is not the law, it is we who are bad. The law is our judge and executioner, it cannot be a source of life.

Throughout this letter Paul makes a contrast between letter and spirit. It cannot give life. It is the worst kind of heresy to think that by your own legal obedience that you can obtain eternal life.

But the spirit does what the law cannot do by granting life to sinners. In Romans 8:3, he said, “what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

And so as ministers of the new covenant, Paul says, we have a better message than the old, a message of life and salvation. The law was a message of death and condemnation.

Now, please understand, Paul was not teaching that people under the old covenant couldn’t be saved, nor that the way we were saved is different. Abraham, Moses David, saved by grace through faith. The whole point of Romans 4.

The new covenant makes clear what the old covenant kept veiled. The new covenant explained what was mysterious under the old covenant. That is why it was a better covenant. It brings people face to face with Christ.

In the old covenant law brought people face to face with their sin. In the new covenant, the veil is removed, that is the theme of this passage.

Look at this passage beginning in verse 7. Paul tells of Moses going on the mountain, when he went up to Mt. Sinai to receive the law, he asked to see God’s glory. In Exodus 33 describes what happened. “And he said, I beseech thee, show me thy glory. And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. “

One problem though, he said, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.”

And so as an act of mercy, God hides Moses in a cave or a cleft of the rock where Moses was shielded.

And God said, “And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.”

Remember what happened? Exodus 30:4 Moses’ face shone and the Israelites were afraid of him, so Moses face had to be veiled to hide the reflection of God’s divine glory until if finally faded away.

Paul uses that passage to teach us a great truth about sanctification here in 2 Corinthians 3:7-14.

2 Corinthians 3:7-14: “ But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ. ” (KJV)

Here’s what he’s saying: the old covenant was glorious even though so much was kept behind a veil; the new covenant is much more glorious. It is explicit, nothing hidden. The glory of the new covenant is on display for everyone to see in Christ Jesus.

To see how glorious, look forward to 2 Corinthians 4:6: For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Moses saw God’s back, we get to see Jesus’ face. We get to look at the glory of God in person face to face in Christ with unveiled faces and we are transformed into his likeness. Not like Moses who got to look one time, we get to look and look and the glory transforms us.

Let’s unpack this verse. I used to teach junior high students, taught them to diagram sentences. Part of what he does for a living today is as a book editor. Forces us to pay close attention to grammar. Secret vice, likes to diagram sentences. If you diagram this sentence you see the center, “we all are changed”.

The main sense of the passage is this: “We all, beholding the Lord, are changed from Glory to Glory.”

Let’s take that phrase and break it into its parts.

Four key elements, phrases:

1) We all (the subject); 2) Beholding the Lord (participial phrase); 3) Are changed (verb); 4) From Glory to Glory (describes how)

I) We all.

Paul is making a contrast between to old and new covenant. Moses alone got a partial glimpse of God’s glory, and the only one who saw. The new covenant a new principle is in force, the priesthood of the believer. We get to see the glory firsthand. All of us.

This is all very practical. Here’s what this is teaching: the process how Christians become like Christ. If you are seeking to grow, this is how it happens. You don’t need a priest. What you need to do is come face to face with the glory of Christ. The effect is inevitable, you will begin to reflect the light of Christ’s own glory. This is what Paul is talking about in Philippians 3:10, I want to know him and the power of his resurrection. This is a better privilege than what Moses had. We all with open face behold his glory and changed into his image. Moses was alone on the mountain, and the people were afraid. So much was left veiled in mystery, unexplained, symbols, with veiled in typology, rites and rituals; made the truth hard to comprehend. But the new covenant is different. “Christ has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”. (2 Timothy 1:10)

The truth we have now is so much more full and clear.

The full life of God’s glory is revealed for us in a new way in Christ Jesus. A manifestation of God that you can look at directly.

Even the apostles didn’t always understand this. Phillip asks to be shown the father, Jesus replies if you have seen me you have seen the father.

Hebrews 1:3, Jesus is the brightness of God’s glory.

Colossians 1:15, he is the image of the invisible God.

Colossians 2:9, in him dwells all the fullness of God bodily.

1 John 1:5, this is the true God and eternal life.

In Christ is revealed more glory than Christ ever saw. Every Christian has the privilege of seeing Christ face to face and close up.

II) Beholding the Lord

We all behold as in a glass the Lord’s glory. We get to look at the glory. It’s not a physical manifestation. But its something even better, it’s the glory of truth. It’s the same glory as Moses saw, but we actually see it in a better way.

In the OT always a physical light, but Christ, it is accommodated to the limitations of our humanness. One of the great benefits of the incarnation. We can look at the glory of God without a veil.

It’s the same glory John beheld in John 1:14, we beheld his glory, the glory of Jesus the one and only full of grace and truth. Now John had witnessed the physical glory as well, but notice how he describes Jesus in John 1:14, nothing about the physical radiance, but the glory of grace and truth. The glory we behold is not a physical perception, the same glory, visible only to those who have the eyes of faith. But its real glory and its effects are real. We behold it with an open face. We see it as in a glass, as in a mirror.

Paul uses a similar expression in 1 Corinthians 13. There, Paul’s emphasis is on the imperfect vision, but here the emphasis is on intimacy. It’s personal, unmediated, direct. The glory the Old Testament saints saw was indirect. By contrast, NT Christianity is open, explicit more intelligible. In the NT not overlaid by types, symbols, priests, rituals. It’s not mediated by priests. Under the new covenant it comes to us by words and deeds we can understand. It is made manifest for us to see and understand and study, just the way you look into a mirror. And the mirror, in which we see that glory reflected, is the scripture. Remember in James 1:23-25, it says, “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”

That’s where we see the glory of Christ. The clear vision of his glory transforms us.

The entire character of the New Testament is about contemplating and reflecting Christ. This is what sanctification is all about. Not by mechanical obedience, but what conforms us to the image of Christ is receiving him, see him as revealed in scripture.

III) We are changed

We all, beholding the Lord are utterly transformed. All of us individually as we behold the glory of the Lord by faith. Moses’ experience ultimately left him unchanged. It was a receding glory. Moses was unchanged, his was a receding glory, finally faded away. But the glory of the new covenant is a better glory because instead of receding it grows draws stronger and brighter. The luster of Moses was skin deep. The light we see in Christ is inward. It is permanent, ever increasing, changes us in the most complete way.

Look at this expression, we are changed. Paul uses the Greek word which is the same as metamorphosis, changed from the inside out. Same word used of physical appearance of Jesus at his transfiguration. Different from what happened to Moses at Sinai. Moses’ face though it shone, it was dim and fading. Christ’s was not skin deep, it came from within and was totally transforming.

In the same way we are completely transformed into a real and lasting glory. Same Greek word as in Romans 12, be transformed, by the renewing your mind. Contrasts conformed with the world with being transformed from the inside out. The word conformed there speaks of a cosmetic change. Transformed describes a transformation from the inside out.

Not a superficial or cosmetic change. A real change.

Two principles at work here. First you reflect what you see. That’s what happened to Moses Happens in physical realm. Look into your wife’s eyes, you’ll see your own reflection. Our wives reflect what they see. True physically, but also true spiritually as well. Your wife, your children will reflect what they see in you.

Second, more importantly, you become like what you worship. You take on the characteristics of what you worship. Presented clearly in Psalm 115:4-8 “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.”

They are lifeless. Look what he says in verse 8: “They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.” (KJV)

If you want to become spiritually deaf, dumb, blind and lifeless, there is no more efficient way than to worship a stone idol or any idol.

Worship money, you will become materialistic.

Worship entertainment you will become trivial and worldly.

Worship power and prestige you will become cold and callous

Worship yourself and you will become hopelessly selfish.

But if you truly worship Christ you will be transformed into his likeness. Study him intently and you will accelerate the process. In fact, the process of glorification will be finally and instantly complete the moment you come face to face with Jesus in heaven.

We see this in 1 John 3, “when he appears we will be like him for we shall see him as he is.”

Which is the same thing David wrote in Psalm 17:15; “As for me I will behold thy face in righteousness. I shall be satisfied when I awake in thy likeness.”

It’s not by might or by power. Its not through sheer force of human willpower, it’s through worshiping the glory of Christ. We are changed into the same image of the one we worship. That’s the only sanctification the scriptures know about.

IV) From Glory to Glory

We sing about it, several hymns have that expression. John MacArthur explains, it is from one level to another. From one level of glory to greater and greater glory.

Paul’s emphasis is on two things, it’s being ever increasing and its permanence.

Moses’ temporary radiance was skin deep and fading, ours keeps going and going lifting us to higher and higher levels. It may seem slow and halting, may take a lifetime.

It does progress, despite setbacks. God uses even those to conform us to the image of Christ. That is God’s eternal purpose for us, he is conforming us to the image of Christ.

According to Romans 8:29, that is the purpose and the ultimate end to which God has predestined those who believed. Back up just one verse, this is what the familiar promise of Romans 8:28 is about. The reason why all things work together. Even the trials and setbacks are used to this end. God uses even your sin to purge from your life whatever is not Christlike.

Hebrews 12:10, “he chastens us for our profit that we might be partakers of his holiness.”

Verse 12-13, Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, do not despise the chastening of the Lord.

And verse 5 and 6, “And despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” It’s all part of the process of conforming you to the image of Christ.

Submit to it by taking the opportunity to reflect more deeply on the glory of Christ, and you will be changed from glory into glory.

Nothing can stop the progress. Romans 8:30 goes on to say that all who are chosen by God are called and all who are called will be justified and all who are justified will be glorified. It’s an unstoppable process. God made us for that. Why he created Adam in the first place. Sin has marred the image of man, most people feel that deficiency, sense we have lost the glory feel the utter futility of trying to regain this glory for ourselves. This is why people are obsessed with self esteem.

He represents an even greater glory than the glory that was lost by Adam.

Paul in Romans 8:18 reckons that the sufferings of this world are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us.

That glory is my greatest desire.

I’m always conscious in crowd of this size that there may be those who don’t have a saving knowledge of Christ.

If you are here and if you have never embraced Christ as your Lord and Savior, notice the context of verse 14, their minds were blinded, which veil is removed in Christ. Which is true of every unbeliever. They can’t even comprehend the glory of Christ, much less be transformed by it. Look at Chapter 4, verses 3 and 4: “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”

So what is the solution? Look at 3:16, “Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.” You must come to Christ in faith or you will never see his glory.

When you see it you will believe. You might think seeing is believing, but scripture says believe and you will see. We’re not talking about a glory we can see with our physical eyes.

Notice what Paul says in 4:18: “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (KJV)

That’s why it is so important to see the glory of Christ with the eyes of faith. It is actually a more clear and more eternal vision of glory. Faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. If you have never trusted in Jesus, I urge you to turn to him in faith.

Christ himself makes this promise in John 6:37, “the one who comes to me I will in no means cast out.” And if you are weary from the weight of your sin, and sensing your spiritual poverty, call on the name of the Lord right now.

Romans 10:13 says, “whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

That process will begin by which you will be ultimately transformed into the perfect likeness of his great glory.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

“Semi-Live” Blogging the Ocean City Bible Conference; Session Seven

Wednesday morning, September 15, 2010

(Disclaimer: These notes are an attempt to capture the main points of the speaker; mistakes are inevitable and I’m certain not every word and phrase was captured exactly.)

Fred Zaspel: Pastor at Reformed Baptist Church in Franconia, PA and an instructor in Bible and theology at To Every Tribe Ministries in Brownsville, TX.

Turn to Colossians 3, let’s read the entire Chapter:

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.” (NIV)

The great theme of the early Christian Church is the unrivaled Lordship of Jesus Christ. You see it in all of their activities. One of their favorite titles for Jesus was “Lord”. He is Lord in the sense of Yahweh, creator, and master. The center of their message was this announcement, “Jesus is Lord.”

They would say to the people of their day, “you may not have bowed the knee to him, but one day you will.” You see this pervading the entire New Testament.

We see it in this passage, “you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” This is what gives the cross its significance. When exhorting believers to virtuous behavior this is invoked.

Where did they learn this? From Jesus himself. Jesus taught that this is the question on which our eternal destiny turns.

Interesting, in the NT there is a dual sense in which Jesus is Lord. In the sense of his person, the eternal God. But in another sense, which pervades the NT, Lord by virtue of his work.

Scriptures describe it as an achieved lordship. An example is Matthew 28, where we see that all authority has been given to Jesus. As a reward for this work accomplished, Jesus has been given the universal right to judge. We see it in the Revelation, because he was the Lamb of God slain, he is worthy to be worshipped.

In John 17, God gives authority over all people.

In Daniel Chapter 7, the son of man is seen coming before the ancient of days, coming on clouds, receives a kingdom, an “everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

In Philippians 2, “ God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Peter declares in Acts 2, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

As a result of resurrection, he has entered into his glory and kingship.

There is a now and not yet. There awaits a consummation, we look forward to the day all his enemies will be placed under his feet. And yet, Christ has been installed as universal king.

This pervades the NT, and is here in Colossians. Our attention drawn to the exalted Christ at the father’s right hand. Theologians have long called this Jesus’ “session”, his being seated at the right hand of the Father, his station of honor.

What’s interesting is what Paul does with this truth. The focus is not simply Jesus seated, but our identification with him, Colossians 3:1, “you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”

The apostle Paul has as a signature phrase, “in Christ”.

Many preachers have a signature remarks. John Reisinger would frequently say, “One of the worst things in the world.” For Paul, his signature was the phrase, “in Christ”

He alludes to this in verse 3, “you died”. What’s that about? We rode piggyback with Jesus to the cross Christ and we were with him on the cross.

I remember an atheist one time pointing out to me discrepancies in the Bible. He was particularly upset that so many bad people in the Bible were considered friends of God. Well, I agreed with him. The glory of the gospel is that we are joined to Christ and our sin is dealt with. We die.

His point is not just our identification in his death, but also our identification with his exaltation. Verses 3 and 4, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

We receive this exaltation by participating in his resurrection. The hour has come when those who hear the voice of Christ will live. What is true of him becomes true of us also.

We have participated in his resurrection already. Now it’s not exactly the point he’s making that we are just joined with his death and resurrection, but that we are joined in his exaltation. We have been exalted with him to glory as well. What is true of him becomes true of us. This is what we call realized eschatology. We’ve been made part of the new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

This is not just abstract theology, this is practical as well. We march to the beat of another drum entirely. We have the first fruits of the spirit; we have the taste of glory. We have been raised into the heavenlies.

When preaching think of this, there are many times we come across passages with a rebuke. Stunned by the way people respond. For example, preaching 1 Corinthians 11, Paul tells the people, “You haven’t been observing communion.” Rebuked them. After the sermon, people thanked him for that. We who have been joined with Christ rejoice even in rebukes. This is why it is true we are not as distracted by the world. Well said in the hymn by John Peterson, “Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.”

The sad reality is, although we have been redeemed out of this present evil world, yet we still live in it. We’ve been exalted, but at the same time, though his law is written on our hearts, we still feel the tug of sin. There’s the “now and not yet”, the painful work of mortifying sin. We are not there yet in full, but we have been raised with Christ.

We must grasp this to get the full force of Paul’s exhortations in vs. 1-2. We have something of a summary of his theology here, we’re in Christ. Paul is asking, "Have you been raised in Christ, exalted?" Then live like it. If we’ve truly died with him this must be the shaping of our existence. Have you been bought by Christ? Then glorify him with your body. Is God at work in you to do his will? Then work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

Be what you are.

Remember Copernicus? Discovered the earth revolved around the sun. What’s the big deal? It was a revolution. Paul is saying here, this is a revolution, when we see that we have been raised with Christ. Verse 3, your life is now hidden. Means a clean break with sin. A new existence entirely. It used to be my thoughts were self-centered sin-centered. Now, bound up with the triune Christ. Now Christ is our life.

We must adjust our thinking. Notice how he shapes the command in vs. 2, “set your minds”? The language of our thinking, our devotion, these things should shape our lives and our thinking. Risen with Christ, exalted, we no longer have lives of our own. We now seek first the kingdom of God. We live with new values. Set our hearts on things above.

There is a preacher I’ve heard of all my life, described as “so heavenly minded he’s no earthly good.” Never met this man. Met plenty of people the opposite, so earthly minded they are no heavenly good.

Paul pressing us to live heavenly lives, to cultivate a mind for heavenly things, dwell more and more on our heavenly rescue. A radical reorientation of our lives.

All of this works its way out in practical ways. Verses 3-5, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”

An outworking of this is a total reorientation of life. That is what it is to live with, and unto the exalted Christ.

Did you notice a second motivating factor in all this?

In vs. 4 he draws our attention to what we will be. Future eschatology—Paul envisions our final future glorification.

This has been the heartthrob of the church through the ages. Is there anything we want more than the fact that our great redeemer is coming again?

My father used to teach me to pray that Jesus would come soon. I’m thankful that he instilled in me a lively awareness that Jesus is coming. As in 2 Peter 3, hastening the day. How do you hurry it up? An eager anticipation, longing for Jesus to come.

Do you ever think what that day will be like? Try to imagine what the scriptures depict. Matthew 24, when it comes, you’ll know it. To see finally the one who gave himself for us, finally to be with the one we’ve kept ourselves pure for. To see the whole world come to him to confess that Jesus is Lord.

Try this. Not only in that day will we see him in his glory, we will share with him in his glory.

Romans 8, if we’re sons, we are heirs. Think about the he “no mores” of Revelation: no more pain, no more crying. We shall see his face, and we will share his glory. That age to come has been brought forward. There is still frustration, but one day we will be what we should be. Forever done with this life of sin, then we will know what it is to set our minds on things above.

What we wish life to be: with Christ in his glory.

Therefore, let’s live like it. Orient our entire lives around him.

“Semi-Live” Blogging the Ocean City Bible Conference; Session Six

“Semi-Live” Blogging the Ocean City Bible Conference; Session Six

Tuesday evening, September 14, 2010

(Disclaimer: These notes are an attempt to capture the main points of the speaker; mistakes are inevitable and I’m certain not every word and phrase was captured exactly.)

Paul Tripp: President of Paul Tripp Ministries, he is on the pastoral staff at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Professor of Pastoral Life and Care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, as well as the Executive Director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas.

“I was a very angry man”; problem was, I didn’t know. Wife, children knew. I was a pastor. Known for skill in counseling angry men. Wife would try to help me see, but was unwilling to hear. Told wife her problem was discontent. Would defend my righteousness.

Was a man headed for destruction. In the midst of destroying my ministry and my marriage.

Was at a conference with brother, Ted, who said “we ought to make this practical for our own lives.” Began to consider questions, and saw things in the depths of my soul. I talked with my wife and said I wanted to listen. She talked for two hours, which was the undoing and rebuilding of my life. Began to see themes of anger in the word. Months later, I remember seeing my wife and thinking I couldn’t remember the last time I was angry with her.

Why tell this story? No one in this room needs to be tweaked by grace. You and I need to be fundamentally rebuilt by grace. Know why Jesus tells us not to parade our righteousness before men? You don’t have any.

Told this story around the world and have had men say, “I’m that angry man.”

Why do we deal with anger the way we do? You don’t have anger free days. Traffic makes us pound on the dash.

It takes very little. Why? Why is it no one in this room would be comfortable having their two months words played for the entire group?

Why do we struggle so?

Turn to 2 Corinthians 5. There is a stunning insight here. The Bible is the worlds best diagnostic. And because the Bible is the world’s best diagnostic, it affords the world’s best cure.

Two exegetical problems with this passage: 1) so brief and 2) so misunderstood.

Begin with verse 14: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (ESV)

Have you look with me at vs. 15, you get a purpose clause, “that those who live may no longer live for themselves.” You will never understand sin unless you understand these brief words.

I was created to live for something much larger than self; sin shrinks my life down to the smallest focus. The DNA of sin is selfishness. Sin turns me in on myself. Sin makes me a vat of personal wants, a vat of personal needs.

You see it very young. I was a kindergarten teacher for four years. The very first day of kindergarten, the exciting thing was lunch. Portable cuisine in their special lunchboxes. I was dreaming of kindergarten lunch bliss. Billy opens his box, says to Susie, “my lunch is better than yours”. He holds up piece of fried chicken, points at her lunch, says, “peanut butter”, makes Susie cry.

He has to be the center of attention, the one place you must never be.

Husbands, wives, friends, you do this all the time.

Why is it harder to spend $1000 on vacation that $1000 on missions? Selfishness.

A child came to me said she lost her watch. I asked the class who had lost a watch. Six children had lost watches. Suspected one boy, asked him. He led me to bathroom, found six watches hidden there. Why did he do this? Envy, covetousness.

One time a parent wanted to have a birthday party for her child. At the end of a decorated table with birthday girl at the end, was an enormous pile of gifts. Johnny, at end of table, holds up his party favors, starts to harrumph. The mother has enough, waxes theological: “it’s not your party”.

You and I have been born into an eternal celebration of another. It’s not our party.

When is the last time our anger had anything to do with the Kingdom of God? We’re angry because we’re not getting what we want. No wonder we’re better at conflict than peace.

We would rather win an argument with our wife than glorify him by showing unity with her.

I want, I want, I want, I want, I want, I want. Welcome to your world.

If the DNA of sin is selfishness, then sin in its fundamental form is antisocial. It puts me in toward my self. I was meant to live an others-oriented life. Meant to love God, neighbor as self. Sin turns me in on my self. I’m often angry, living a jealous craving life, inserting self in the center of the universe.

Your problem is not horizontal, it’s vertical. My problem has never been that I didn’t love Luella enough; it’s that I have never loved God enough.

If people don’t serve you they will be cursed by you. Ever gotten the silent treatment? The silent treatment is deeply theological. You have violated not the laws of God’s kingdom, but the laws of your kingdom.

If the DNA of sin is selfishness, then sin in its fundamental form is antisocial. Sin will cause me to dehumanize the people in my life. They are reduced to being either vehicles or obstacles. If you stand in the way of what I want, I will say and do things to get you back in line.

Here’s what Paul is saying. The greatest danger in the universe is you. We don’t believe the worst evil is outside of us, the worst evil is inside of me. “To the pure all things are pure.”

What’s the problem of monasticism? They let people in them. People bring their dramatic me-ism with them.

If you have people living for their own kingdom you will have unending conflict.

Play this out a little bit. Let’s say you’re parent of young children. Put them in bed, they are not sleeping. You’re probably not praying to be an instrument of redemption in the life of your children. You burst in and say “do you know what my day has been like!” You assault them verbally. Do you think your children are saying, “What a joy to live with this person?” Why are you angry? It has nothing to do with the kingdom of God. You are angry your children have broken the law of your kingdom. It needs to be said, what you do in that room is neither Christian nor parenting. You are not representing Christ. You are upset because they are not indulging the life of your kingdom. Such behavior does not lead them to Christ.

How dare we point to the arrogance of culture when it exists centered in the self.

Jesus came so that we would live no longer for ourselves, but for others. So that you could be rescued from you. There is no more pervasive idolatry than your idolatry of you.

Once I was in India doing research, in a holy city of Hinduism. In a temple, supposed to be an image of Shiva. Was a twenty foot male organ. Watched poor people grab the base of that thing, watched it being kissed. An impoverished family had walked 400 miles to go to that temple. Walking away I was praying, “Thank you God that I am not like those people,” when it hit me. I am. My idols are not overt, but covert, despised by God. That moment I prayed the best prayer I’ve ever prayed: Lord help me.

There is no in between. You are bound to the throne of the most high or bound to the throne of self. We don’t live in big moments. We live in the utterly mundane. If God doesn’t rule the mundane he doesn’t rule you because that’s where you live.

If my problem is not external and horizontal, then it is internal and vertical.

Look at the second part of the passage, vs. 16: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (ESV)

Paul says our position is to serve as ambassadors for God. All we do is represent another. You can not step in and out of ministry. That means your life is ministry. Life, marriage, work, entertainment is ministry. If you are an ambassador you are not at the center. Your glory isn’t the ultimate glory, God’s is. It also means you must represent the methods, the message, the character of the king. People don’t need your opinion.

Your job is not to turn you children into clones. They are not your servants. You must represent your Lord. He was a servant, you must be one to your family. You are to incarnate the methods, message and character of the King.

How do we work to get our children to get them to do what we want? First, we threaten. You just want your way. For a while threat works. But there comes a day when your children aren’t threatened. So we manipulate. Manipulation teaches them to love themselves. Children will do a cost-benefit analysis, asking is it worth it. How does that represent the king? Or guilt. We use guilt to motive behavior. This is not ambassadorial.

Now, this passage is most often viewed as evangelistic. But this is not an evangelistic passage. Verse 20: “therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Who is the “you”? Corinthian Christians. What does it mean for a believer to be reconciled to God? In every horizontal conflict there is a vertical element. We insert ourselves in the position of God.

His real intent is to talk about reconciliation through sanctification. You have been reconciled, but you are in need of reconciliation. What does it mean for a believer to be reconciled to God? Verse 15 is the clue. To the degree you are still in concrete specific places in your life, living for self, you need to be reconciled. Anywhere you are living for your kingdom you need to be reconciled to God.

This needs to be every ministry of the church. If it’s not, shut it down. Children’s ministry, women’s ministry, men’s ministry, your worship service. If reconciliation to God is not the goal, shut it down.

If the DNA of sin is selfishness then the only hope of civilization is grace.

Be reconciled to God.

I’m going to hurt your feelings now. There is not a person in this room that doesn’t need to be further reconciled to God. You know that by admitting what a poor ambassador you are. You want the throne instead of wishing to bow down before it.

Wish I could say it’s not my struggle, but it is. I see the pull toward the kingdom of self.

Three prayers:

First, Confession: I’m a man in deep need of help. The kingdom of self masquerades as the kingdom of God. A costume kingdom.

Second: I pray that in your grace you will send helpers my way.

Third: O Lord, please give me the humility to receive the help you send.

The main work of Jesus is targeting the kingdom of self.

Be reconciled to God.

This needs to be the work until the day that every tongue confesses that Jesus is Lord.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

“Semi-Live” Blogging the Ocean City Bible Conference; Session Five

Tuesday morning, September 14, 2010


(Disclaimer: These notes are an attempt to capture the main points of the speaker; mistakes are inevitable and I’m certain not every word and phrase was captured exactly.)


Thabiti Anyabwile: Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands.


Centered on the New Covenant


Begin with a confession. I am a dinosaur, stuck in the tar pits of technology. Don’t even own a cell phone, never sent a text message. Choose not to be on that treadmill. Now people are challenging books, now have these evil things called readers. You know what’s underneath this? Planned obsolescence. But it also teaches us about the covenants in the scriptures; the scriptures tell us the old covenant planned some obsolescence, promising a new one with better features.


Will look at Hebrews 8.

Three points to consider.

I. We have a mediator

II. He mediates a better covenant

III. His covenant is built on better promises

Hebrews 8: The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law.  They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: "See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain." But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: "The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, `Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.


I. We have a mediator

Author summarizing here an argument he began in Chapter 4.

In Chapter 4 we meet a high priest who has been tempted in every way just as we are.

5:7-10 Jesus offers up petitions with loud cries and tears; became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

6:19-20 we have a sure and steadfast anchor for the soul.

7:24-25 those who draw near, he is able to save completely

7:26-28 such a high priest meets our need, one who is holy, blameless, and pure

The writer of Hebrews, in 8:1 we have such a high priest, a minister in the holy places

Who is this plural possessive pronoun? Who is this “we”? A reference to all who have trusted in Jesus. The “we” here is Christians.

The priest has been elevated to the majesty, to the presence of the Glorious One and Jesus participates in that honor. Like Daniel in Chapter 7 sees the Ancient of Days.

As in John 17:5, the great high priestly prayer.

As in Philippians 2 where Christ takes on the form of a servant, then gets a name above every other name.

For this is the high priest that has been unfolded and unveiled and set before us. He ministers before the throne of God and continues to intercede. He steps in for us, a go between, a perpetual ministry in the holy place itself.

Consider what it says in Hebrews 9:11, he goes through the more perfect tabernacle having made an appropriate sacrifice, offering himself unblemished to God.

The Lord Jesus’ most effective work didn’t occur on earth but in heaven before the father. It was done before the one who rules in heaven.

In 8:1 this is what is offered for us, “We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven..”

Where does the author put the emphasis? Is the emphasis on “have” or on “such”?

Is it on our possession or the quality of the priest? How about both?

What value is Jesus as a priest if he’s not our high priest?

What value is he to have if not “such” a high priest?

Consider Chapter 4:14, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.”

6:19, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.”

7:26, “Such a high priest meets our need--one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.”

He is who he is for our possession and benefit; our possession is our benefit because of who he is.

We do have such a high priest. The wrtiter tells us that’s his main point.

Here’s a question, do you have him? Do you hold as your own the one who has earned honor and glory and majesty? Can you use the possesssive pronoun, “we”? The good news is, he offers himself to you this morning. To make you Gods own possession, by turning to him and trusting in him alone. Do you have him? Call upon him. We have such a high priest.

II. He mediates a better covenant

O. Palmer Robertson defines a covenant as “a bond in blood sovereignly administered by God.”

Pictured for us in the OT in the sacrificial system. You don’t just willy-nilly decide to enact a covenant on your own. This covenant is sovreignly administered.

Thabiti remembers the very first time he saw his wife, said he know he wanted to marry her. This woman stood him up six times. But soon she said yes. The covenant is not two people saying yes, but is sovreignly administered. For Christ to be our high priest, we must be party to the covenant that God administered.

In addition, we need to pay attention to types and shadows. The OT priests serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: "See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”

Striking that Jesus could not minister in the earthly tabernacle in the OT system. The old covenant priests did not recognize Jesus, because they were worshipping in a copy, a shadow.

Imagine going to the airport to pick up an old fried, you only have a picture. You wait there holding a photo and he comes out and greets you. Then you leave your friend there and go home with the picture. In Israel they loved the picture more than the person.

Consider 9:23, “It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.”

Here then is a mediator establishing a far better covenant.

vs. 6, “…the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.”

If Jesus ministry is better than the old, why settle for anything less? Why settle for the old covenant? Many false saviors today. Many that our hearts manufacture. Smash the idols, embrace the real.

The kingdom is like a merchant who found a great pearl and purchased it selling everything he had. When you see this new covenant, accept it, this Jesus, this high priest.

In Philippians 3 we have the great passage where Paul gives up everything, I counting it all rubbish for the surpassing value of knowing Chirst. Like a balance sheet where he adds it up, realizes one column is garbage, nothing.

This is a joy that we can have, We have such a high priest.


III. The new covenant built on better promises.

The scripture here, vs. 6, appeals to our basic sense of self interest, calling on us to choose the better. He makes the case by quoting from Jeremiah 31.

The people of the first covenant broke his laws. He points out the peoples’ inability to keep the covenant.

Here are four promises that make this better than all that came before.

1) The law is written “on” us.

End of vs. 10. In the O.T. the law was written on stone and placed in the ark. Now the heart replaces the stone, the body becomes the ark. He writes it on us. To break the law now is to break our own hearts, in a very real sense to do violence to ourselves. More than ever we are to live before God. To turn away is to break oursleves. Our hearts to be his heart, our minds to be his mind. We live to obey him in faith, our sins should grieve us, we should love our God. In the God centered life we empathize with God’s desires more than our own.

This is like the story of Phinehas, who follows sinners into the tent and pierces them with his spear. In our natural mind, we sympathize with the couple. We naturally empathize with the sinner in his sin. But to Phinehas, God says “he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them.”

We are transformed, but Israel never did this.

2) At the end of vs. 10 he says, “I will be their God and they will be my people.”

This is the promise of a loving relationship.

I will be their God and they will be my people. Read those like marriage vows. God says “I do take these people to be my bride”.

We have this union with Christ. The Christian is a unique creature. We belong to God and God belongs to us. Finally and forever we are together. We need to keep hearing him say you are mine and you are my beloved. We respond, we love you because you first loved us.

Not like the old story of the man who when asked by his wife if he loves her, tells her, “If I changed my mind I would let you know.” Don’t be like that. God always speaks to his son and to us,  saying “I love you, you are mine and I am yours.”

Now he is not a shadow, but a real body.

Don’t you know that where God says “I do”, there is no force that can separate.

3) vs. 11 promises immediate fellowship with God.

In the new covenant, koinonia, mediation without a human teacher. We shall all know him from the least to the greatest. The least shall know him for themselves. No mediator saying, “Know God.”

Not setting aside pastors and teachers,  but these are gifts, emphasising that God is speaking for himself.

This is far better than the old covenant.

4) vs. 12 tells us he will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more

How could we enjoy fellowship if our sins were still there? His wrath would still be on us.

His promise is to remember our sin no more. We deserve condemnation, but his grace does more abound.

He forgives, and doesn’t remember. Who could stand before God if he kept a record? We can’t stand in front of the mirror ourselves just with our record keeping. When he looks upon us, he sees Jesus the great high priest and we stand before him unashamed.

What mercy, what grace. He forgives our sin at the cost of the son’s life.

He is merciful to us because he was merciless to his son.

Like the hymn, Our sins have been nailed to the cross we bear them no more—praise the Lord.


Two more things to take away.

First, these promises may be summed up another way. In Galatians 3:8, and in Chapter 4, you have received the promise, you have received the Holy Spirit. God himself is the gift of the gospel. His presence is applied by the spirit. Our souls cry, “Abba, Father”. He does this regenerating, sanctifying work. God is our inheritance, never forsaking, never leaving, having this promise eternally worked in us by the Holy Spirit


Last thing, we should notice what is most important. We tend to think the removal of sin the ultimate. It is not. It is the penultimate thing. There is something greater. Ultimately, our sins are removed for us to enjoy God himself. Our duty is to enjoy him forever.

The exhortation is, enjoy God. The god centered life is a life tasting daily that God is good. Delight in him, come to him, draw near to him, give yourself to him fully.

Enjoy God and you will find that living the God centered life isn’t as difficult as it seems at first. We have a better covenant and we are going to see Jesus.