Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Radical Impact of Being "In Christ"

Another head post but well worth reflection for your own walk in Christ and with Christ.

Plato offered one solution: ascent is "natural" to the human soul, a matter of "like being drawn to like." The powerful engine driving this ascent is Plato's concept of participation, such that things "participate" in the eternal for their very existence. Housing shards of the eternal, the material sphere has an innate, "natural" longing to return to its original divine home.  The Christian must reject this pantheistic description of participation outright. At the same time, however, the Christian story itself is one of ascent. It begins and ends with the revelation of a personal, triune God who calls creation to "return" to communion with him. In the Garden of Eden, humans were called the imago Dei; the Spirit continues this ascending vocation by making those in the church "like God" or "like Christ" (I John 3:2; Rom. 8:29). What, then, is the engine that drives Christian ascent?
Calvin brilliantly synthesized the two movements of ascent and descent into one primary activity: the ongoing story of God himself with us. God has come as man to stand in for us (descent), and yet as man he also leads us back to the Father (ascent). The entire Christian life is an outworking of this ascent --- the appropriate response to God's descent to us --- that has already taken place in Christ. Thus, for Calvin, the only appropriate human ascent is a matter of participating in Christ. Calvin's theology of response, Christ as our response, having made the perfect response to God, vitalizes us to respond in his response. Ascent, then, is neither a matter of the soul's latent powers nor of conscientious Christian endeavor but of communion: it is a participation in Christ's own response to the Father, whether that be desire for God, prayer, obedience, vocation, or worship.
This hints at a different way of conceiving the divine-human relationship, such that two distinct beings are brought into a rich relationship in which their identities are not diminished but enhanced. Theological anthropology stands to be enriched precisely here,where Calvin's insistence or participatio Christi has radical implications for our notions of what it means to be human, what it means to be a "self," and what it means to be in relationship with God and others. Ascent functions as a concrete entry point into Calvin's doctrine of participation, enabling us to focus more specifically on the core element of participation that makes the best sense of his theology. [Julie Canlis, "Calvin's Ladder," 3-4]

How to Set Yourself Up for a Productive Day

Practical article form Michael Hyatt.

How many times has this happened to you? You go to bed after a long, unproductive day with the intention that tomorrow is going to be different.
How to Set Yourself Up for a Productive Day
Then you wake up the next day and fall right back into the same old trap. It feels like you’re trapped inside your own private version of Groundhog Day.
Before you know it, it is time to eat lunch and you can’t point to one significant thing you’ve accomplished.
In my experience, the best way to ensure a productive day is to set myself up for one the night before. This gives me a chance to make sure I do the most important things first.
Even if my day gets hijacked—and sometimes it does—I’ve achieved my most important tasks. I structure everything around this.
Here are five strategies I use to set myself up for the most productive day possible:
  1. Protect my morning routine. I don’t take early morning appointments. Ever. I rarely take breakfast appointments. My hours from 4:45 to 8:00 are sacred. I don’t allow them to get interrupted by anything other than the occasional flight—which I loathe. Fortunately, they only happen once or twice a year.
  2. Create a to-do list with my top three must-dos. Before I wake up in the morning, I already know what my top three must-dos are for the day. These are the non-negotiables. I am committed to making them happen no matter what. I list them in Nozbe in priority order. (These are in addition to my routine habits.)How to Set Yourself Up for a Productive Day
  3. Set up your computer with only the first programs you will need loaded. This is so important. The reason I used to get sucked into e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook, is because I had those programs open when I woke up. Now I shut them down at the end of the day. I only have open those apps I need to see when I wake up. These are the ones I will use inmy morning ritual.
  4. Set your exercise clothes out. I’m no different than anyone else. With the exception of amazing spring or fall weather, I’d rather stay inside where it’s comfortable. But I need exercise—for numerous reasons. I am always more productive when I get it. For me, that begins by setting out my exercise clothes the night before. It’s how I make my intention real to my subconscious.
  5. Get to bed at a designated time. It’s a heck of a lot easier to get up on time if you go to bed on time. I rarely go to bed after 10:00 p.m. I start getting ready at 9:00 p.m. (Yes, I have an evening ritual, too, that I intend to write about in a future post.) I personally never have to use an alarm. I have conditioned my mind and body to wake up at 4:45. I am sometimes early but never late.
Do I ever fall short of this ideal? Absolutely. It happened just this morning. I got up extra early. By 7:00 a.m., I was running ahead of schedule. I had finished my morning ritual.
I then said to myself, I’m a little ahead of schedule. I can afford to check the news before I head to the office and start writing.
Bad mistake. I got sucked into the tractor pull of the Internet. Before I knew it, I had lost an hour. Not only was I not ahead of schedule, I was behind. Argh.
Oh well, I don’t beat myself up about it. In my view there is no failure, there is only learning. What I learned was that I must, must resist the temptation to get on the Internet before my must-dos are done.
Fortunately, I’ll have another chance to practice tomorrow. And I know that having a productive day tomorrow begins tonight. It’s all in the setup.
Question: What do you need to do this evening to set yourself up for a productive day tomorrow? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

The Presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper, part 1

I am preparing for a sermon on the Lord's Supper, I found this article, "The Sacraments, part 1" by Sam Storms helpful.  This is a review of the Catholic and Lutheran position and his critique.  Tomorrow I will post the third position.  Sam has an uncanny ability to communicate theological truths in a simple and engaging way.  I know Sam and had him speak at our church prior to his going back into pastoral ministry.

The Roman Catholic Church affirms the doctrine of transubstantiation, according to which the bread and wine are literally transformed or converted into the literal/physical body and blood of Christ. This "miracle" occurs when the priest speaks the words of blessing or consecration: "Hoc est corpus meum" ("This is my body"). Drawing on Aristotelian philosophy, Rome distinguishes between the “substance” of a thing, i.e., its essence, and the “accidents” or external, physical features and appearance. The latter remains as bread and wine while the former is miraculously transformed into another substance.

The Lutheran tradition affirms the doctrine of consubstantiation. Whereas they insist that there is no change in the elements of bread and wine (Luther called transubstantiation “a monk’s dream”), the literal/physical body and blood of Christ do appear "under, with, and in" the elements. The natural elements of bread and wine become united (unio sacramentalis) with the body and blood of Christ by a supernatural work of God. They are not identical but they are inseparable and indistinguishable. Lutheran theologian Francis Pieper put it thus:

“In the Lord’s Supper we therefore receive with our mouth no more and no less than Christ’s body and blood, the body with the bread, and the blood with the wine” (Christian Dogmatics, III:356; emphasis mine).

A few comments are in order concerning both of the preceding views. First, both the Catholic and Lutheran doctrines are based on the ubiquity (omnipresence) of the physical body of the resurrected Christ. Scriptural support for this notion is lacking. Second, in the words of Ronald S. Wallace (quoting Calvin): “The logic of the angels is incontrovertible. ‘He is not here,’ they said. ‘He is risen.’ The assigning of one place is the denial of any other. His body cannot be present in two places at once. When Christ said, Me ye have not always, He spoke of His bodily presence. It is true that He also said, Lo I am with you always, but these latter words refer to His divinity and majesty, and not to His humanity or flesh. With regard to that which was born of a virgin, apprehended by the Jews and nailed to the cross, wrapped in linen clothes, laid in the tomb and manifested in the resurrection, the final word is Me ye have not always. The body of Christ which is the ‘substance’ of the sacrament is in heaven, remains there throughout the sacramental action, and will remain there till the end of the world” (Calvin’s Doctrine of the Word and Sacrament, 204). Third, if the words, “This is my body,” are indeed literal, the Lutheran doctrine is incomplete. The latter view would demand something like, “This accompanies my body.” If “this”, the bread, truly “is” the body of Christ, it ceases to be bread. The Roman Catholic view, though false, is at least more consistent on this point. Fourth, what of the statement, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood”? Will the Roman Catholic maintain that the “cup” is transubstantiated into a covenant (whatever that means)? Will the Lutherans say that the new covenant is in, under, and with the cup? It would seem that both Roman Catholics and Lutherans must concede that Jesus employs figurative language, the very thing for which they so harshly criticize others.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Image of God in the Son and in Us According to Athanasius

I got this in an email this past week.  It is a bit heady but very insightful look at the concept of image bearing of the Son and its impact on us and our restoration to the image of God in our salvation.

A helpful way to synthesize the argument of Against the Greeks—On the Incarnation and to integrate it with Athanasius’s later and more explicitly polemical work is to focus on the trintarian-christological-anthropological nexus that forms the guiding motif of the work: only the One who is true Image can renew humanity’s being according to the image (kat’ eikona). The trinitarian ground of this nexus is the immediate relation (though we do not find the later technical vocabulary of “relation” in this treatise) whereby the Son is the Image of the Father. The soteriological consequence of this immediacy is that the Son is uniquely able to grant direct and immediate access to the Father. The statement that humanity was created according to the Image is simultaneously anthropological and christological: to be created according to the Image is to be granted a participation in the one who is the true and full Image of the Father. When humanity lost its stability, which depended on remaining in the state of being according to the Image, the incarnate Word repaired the image of God in humanity by reuniting it with his own divine imaging of the Father. Jesus Christ is therefore both eternal divine Image and restored human image. The saving union of divine and human image in Christ is characterized by immediacy. One foundational principle of Athanasius’s theological vision is this stress on the continuity of immediate connections between God and humanity and a corresponding abhorrence of obstacles and opaque mediations. As perfect Image, the Son is immediately united to the Father and transparently reflects knowledge of the Father; anything short of this immediate and transparent relation would deconstruct our immediate connection with the Father through the Son from the divine side. Through his incarnation, the Son repairs our human participation in his imaging of the Father from within the human constitution; anything short of a full incarnation would leave humans disconnected from both Father and Son. Thus, incarnation and the full divinity of the Son are both integral to the immediacy of our contact with the Father. Far from indicating inferior divinity, the human life and death of Jesus Christ extend the efficacy of is divine imaging of the Father in the face of humanity’s loss of the state of being according to the image. It is a wonderful display of the loving-kindness that belongs to the divine nature as such, the philanthrōpia that is equally shared by Father and Son. [Khaled Anatolios,Retrieving Nicaea: The Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine,(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011), 107-8.]

Friday, April 26, 2013

Checklist Sanctification

“It’s all too easy to turn the fight of faith into sanctification-by-checklist. . . . And inevitably, checklist spirituality is highly selective. So you end up feeling successful at sanctification because you stayed away from drugs, lost weight, served at the soup kitchen, and renounced Styrofoam. But you’ve ignored gentleness, humility, joy, and sexual purity” (Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in our Holiness, 34).

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Our War on Sin

“If the war on poverty is worth fighting, how much more the war on your own sin? The fact of the matter is, if you read through the instructions to the New Testament churches you will find few explicit commands that tell us to take care of the needy in our communities and no explicit commands to do creation care, but there are dozens and dozens of verses that enjoin us, in one way or another, to be holy as God is holy (e.g., 1 Pet. 1:13-16)” (Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in our Holiness, 21).

Three Pastoral Leadership Insights That Will Transform Your Church

Recently have enjoyed reading material from Derwin Gray.  Here is an article every church leader needs to read!
InsightsDear Pastor-Elder,
How are you doing?
If I may, I’d like to share three pastoral leadership insights with you that are making me a better pastor-elder, thus is making Transformation Church more effective in advancing God’s Kingdom on earth.  Maybe my experiences will help you too?  For goodness sakes, we need each other, don’t we?
Pastor-Elder, perpetually be a student of effective and gifted pastors, but please do not rob Jesus of His glory by trying to copy someone else’s preaching or leadership style.  At our disposal, in an instant, we can download a great pastor’s sermons or attend a conference with a lineup of pastoral All-Stars and have access to great leaders and what they’ve done in their ministries.  This is a blessing.  But it can become a curse if we don’t allow Jesus to take us to a place of utter desperation that causes us to rely on Him so He can innovate through us. Never forget, desperation produces innovation. The most innovative things we’ve done at Transformation Church, were birthed from the womb of desperation.
Pastor-Elder, the essence of greatness isn’t found solely in what we accomplish, but in how we EQUIP and EMPOWER those we lead to accomplish great things for the Kingdom of God (Ephesians 4:7-16).  And please, if you ever speak at a conference, don’t say, “I planted the church.”  No one person plants a church.  God uses a team of people to plant a church.  You and I may be the point leaders, but you best believe it’s, “Team Work That Made The Dream Work.”  Give public praise to your teammates.
Pastor-Elder, it’s criminal to put more emphasis on the “Weekend Worship Experience” than on pastoral care. What good is it to have buildings full of spiritually-bloodied and beaten people who rock-out at weekend service, but hemorrhage throughout the week and are too spiritually battered to be an effective witness to transform the world?  I wonder what would happen if we took the hundreds of thousands of dollars we spend on videos, stage design, smoke machines, and AV systems and invested them in pastoral care.  Please don’t get me wrong, we have great stage designs and AV system at Transformation Church.  However, my prayer for the church you serve and the church I serve is that the greatest and most powerful witness is not a weekend worship experience, but beautifully transformed people who reflect Jesus and advance His Kingdom in their spheres of influence.
Pastor, thanks for reading and listening.  I pray that together we make much of Jesus, bless His people, so they can reach and transform the world through the glorious Gospel of grace.
Marinate on that,
Pastor Derwin

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why Jesus Did Not Save Himself

The truth of the matter is that Jesus could not save himself, not because of any physical constraint,
but because of a moral imperative. He came to do his Father’s will, and he would not be deflected from it. The One who cries in anguish in the garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but yours be done,” is under such a divine moral imperative from his heavenly Father that disobedience is finally unthinkable. It was not nails that held Jesus to that wretched cross; it was his unqualified resolution, out of love for his Father, to do his Father’s will—and, within that framework, it was his love for sinners like me. He really could not save himself.  DA Carson, Scandalous, p. 30.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Man Who Could Not Save Himself Saved Others

Suddenly the words of the mockers take on a new weight of meaning. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself.” The deeper irony is that, in a way they did not understand, they were
speaking the truth. If he had saved himself, he could not have saved others; the only way he could save others was precisely by not saving himself. In the irony behind the irony that the mockers intended, they spoke the truth they themselves did not see. The man who can’t save himself—saves others. -DA Carson, Scandalous, p. 29.

Friday, April 19, 2013

What’s Necessary for Baptism?

Have thought long and hard about who to baptize, when to baptize, and re-baptizing.   Stumbled upon this quote as I again was reflecting on these issues when we baptized fourteen people a week ago!

Many of us came to faith and were baptized at a point when we did not know very much. This is good. It is expected that baptism happens early in the Christian walk when you do not know very much. So it is also expected that you will learn later more and more of what it means.
Don’t think, “Oh, I must go back and get baptized again. I didn’t know it had all this meaning.” No. No. That would mean you would be getting re-baptized with every new course you take in Biblical theology. Rather, rejoice that you expressed your simple faith in obedience to Jesus and now are learning more and more of what it all meant.  -John Piper Sermon, What Baptism Portrays

Where Does Love Originate?

Notice another note that John strikes in verse 10: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son.” What is he guarding against in that denial: “In this is love, not that we have loved God...”? He is emphasizing that the nature and the origin of love does not lie in our response to God. That is not where love starts. That is not mainly what love is. Love starts with God. And if anything we feel or do can be called love, it will be because we are connected with God by the new birth. - John Piper, Finally Alive, p. 155. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sovereign Grace in the New Birth

One of the unsettling things about the new birth, which Jesus says we all must experience in order to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3), is that we don’t control it. We don’t decide to make it
happen any more than a baby decides to make his birth happen— or, more accurately, make his conception happen. Or even more accurately: We don’t decide to make it happen any more than dead men decide to give themselves life. The reason we need to be born again is that we are dead in our trespasses and sins. That’s why we need the new birth, and that’s why we can’t make it happen. This is one reason why we speak of the sovereign grace of God. Or better: This is one reason why we love the sovereign grace of God. John Piper, Finally Alive, p. 77 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Jesus Came to Destroy the Works of the Devil, the Works of Sin

Then, in the second part of verse 8, John says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”  And the specific focus John has in mind when he says “works of the devil” is the sin that the devil promotes. We see this in the first part of verse 8: “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” So the works of the devil that Jesus came to destroy are the works of sin. - John Piper, Finally Alive, p. 65-66.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

New Birth Liberates us from Sin

Paul celebrates our liberation from slavery to sin by thanking God for it. He says in Romans 6:17, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.” We were once so in love with sin that we could not leave it or kill it. Then something happened. The new birth happened. God caused us to get a new spiritual life, a new nature that hates sin and loves righteousness. And so Paul thanks God, not man, for this great liberation: “Thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart.” Until God awakens us from spiritual death and gives us the life that finds joy in killing sin and being holy, we are slaves and cannot get free. That’s why the new birth is necessary. -John Piper, Finally Alive, p. 55-56

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Need for the Miracle of Spiritual Life

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” I said that “God made us alive” is virtually the same as the new birth. The reason Paul gives for why we need this miracle is that we were dead. “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive.”
This is what we need—the miracle of spiritual life created in our hearts. And the reason we need it is that we are spiritually dead. We are unable to see or savor the beauty and worth of Christ for who he really is. Those who are not born again do not say with Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8). -John Piper, Finally Alive, p. 55.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Kevin Ware, Luke Hancock, and Jesus

From Marvin Olasky at  A great example of Christian compassion and concern!

Luke Hancock (right) comforts Kevin Ware following Ware's gruesome injury against Duke March 31.Enlarge Image
Associated Press/Photo by Michael Conroy
Luke Hancock (right) comforts Kevin Ware following Ware's gruesome injury against Duke March 31.
One reader this morning asked if I caught the exact words of Kevin Ware—the Louisville player who gruesomely broke his leg against Duke last week—when CBS’s Jim Nantz probed for the secret of his team’s NCAA championship success Monday night.
With his teammates surrounding him on the victor’s podium, Ware said, “We are brothers, and brothers glorify the Word,” a reference to bringing glory to Christ. And while some might confuse a winning shot with glory, I suspect Ware was referring to the way Christian brothers show what difference God makes in situations of duress.
My compliments to Adam Himmelsbach of USA Today for telling such a story. Secular publications today typically ignore prayer, but Himmelsbach reported what Louisville forward (and the Final Four’s most outstanding player) Luke Hancock did when Ware was lying on the floor with a bone sticking out of his leg:
“Hancock thought back to last summer, when he suffered a gruesome shoulder injury in a pickup game. … So as Ware lay there in the first half of the Cardinals’ NCAA tournament victory over Duke on Sunday, scared and alone and stunned, Hancock ran to him. He held Ware’s hand and told him they would get through this together. He told Ware he would say a prayer for him.
“Ware didn’t respond at first, because he was in shock. Hancock took a deep breath, closed his eyes, clenched Ware’s hand and started the prayer. ‘Lord, watch over us and let Kevin be OK during this tough time,’ he began. ‘The Lord does everything for a reason, and He will get us through this.’
“Hancock said he did all he could to keep from breaking down. … Hancock gently patted Ware’s chest several times. … ‘I wouldn’t want to be alone in that situation, and I don’t think he wanted to be alone. … I just thought if I could talk to him and tell him he’ll be all right, it might help.’
“It helped more than Hancock realized, more than he could imagine. Ware said that before Hancock arrived, he was scared. After Hancock touched him and calmed him, he knew he would be fine. … He said Hancock’s presence allowed him to refocus and regain his strength. … He began telling his teammates to win the game, to win it for him. He said it over and over.”
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Seven Things Pastors’ Wives Wish They’d Been Warned About

As a pastor, I found this article helpful and true.  Most pastors and wives are not equipped for the mind field of ministry!

Husband and WifeI am especially grateful to have the opportunity to hear from pastors’ wives since much of my focus is on pastors. Our recent, informal survey simply asked the open-ended question: “What do you wish you had been told before you became a minister’s wife?”
Thank you to the pastors’ wives who were willing to give us such great feedback. And thanks to Chris Adams for doing the survey and to Amy Jordan for assembling the data.
The responses are in order of frequency. A representative comment follows each response.
  1. I wish someone had told me just to be myself. “I am a people-pleaser by nature, so for me, not being prepared to handle being a pastor’s wife with my personality was a heavy burden to carry early in our ministry.”
  2. I wish someone had prepared me to deal with criticism of my husband and me. “It was hard to deal with negative experiences, conflicts, or criticisms, especially in relation to my husband and our area of ministry. So I would harbor feelings of resentment when it came to ministry and my man.”
  3. I wish someone had reminded me that my husband is human. “I wish someone had told me that my husband could not be God for me. I was disillusioned at first to find out that he indeed is just a man.”
  4. I wish someone had told me that others were watching us (the glass house syndrome). “Even though they are watching us, we don’t need to be controlled by what they expect of us.”
  5. I wish someone had told me there are some really mean people in the church. “I was really surprised. I had to learn not to pay too much attention to them or they would get me down.”
  6. I wish someone had told me how much my husband needs me to build him up. “I need to be his cheerleader. Dealing with critics in the church is difficult. He needs to hear that I respect him now more than ever.”
  7. I wish someone had told me that my schedule will never be normal again. “Your husband will be very busy. Expect that. But come alongside him in the areas of time management and organization.”
One pastor’s wife told us that her role was like getting a job for which she never applied. She wrote this funny script in her response:
Husband: “Honey, I got you a job today.”
Wife: “Really? Okay, but I wasn’t looking for a job. I have plenty to do here running the household and raising the kids. That was our plan, right? Me stay home with the kids so you could fully dedicate yourself to the ministry.”
Husband: “Yeah, yeah. But I really need you take this job for me.”
Wife: “Well, okay, just tell me what to do and when it needs to be done by, and I will do everything I can to make it happen.”
Husband: “Well, right now there are no specific responsibilities. Basically, it’s just doing anything at church that no one else steps up to do or wants to do.”
Wife: “Oh my, that is a tall order. Okay, I’ll do it. I guess we could use the extra money anyway. Things are always tight around here on a pastor’s salary.
Husband: “Well, actually honey, there is no salary . . .”
What do you think of these seven responses? What would you add?
photo by: Ed Yourdon

Friday, April 12, 2013

Apart From New Birth, We are Unable to Come to Christ or Embrace him as Lord

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the Prophets, and they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.  (Joh 6:44-45 ESV)
Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit. (1Co 12:3 ESV)

In 1 Corinthians 12:3, Paul declares, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” He doesn’t mean that an actor on a stage, or a hypocrite in a church, cannot say the words “Jesus is Lord” without the Holy Spirit. He means that no one can say it and mean it without being born of the Spirit. It is morally impossible for the dead, dark, hard, resistant heart to celebrate the Lordship of Jesus over his life without being born again.  Or, as Jesus says three times in John 6, no one can come to him unless the Father draws him. And when that drawing brings a person into living connection with Jesus, we call it the new birth. Verse 37: “All that the Father gives me will come to me.” Verse 44: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” Verse 65: “No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” All of these wonderful works of drawing, granting, and giving are the work of God in regeneration. Without them we do not come to Christ, because we don’t prefer to come. We so strongly prefer self-reliance that we cannot come. That is what has to be changed in the new birth. A new preference, a new ability, is given. - John Piper, Finally Alive, p. 52

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Apart From New Birth We are Unable to Embrace the Gospel

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1Co 2:14 ESV)
They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to ctheir hardness of heart. (Eph 4:18 ESV)

In 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul gives us another glimpse into what this deadness and hardness implies for what we are unable to do. He says, “The natural person [that is, the unregenerate person by nature] does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” The problem is not that the things of God are over his head intellectually. The problem is that he sees them as foolish. “He does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him.” In fact, they are so foolish to him that he cannot grasp them.
Take notice that this is a moral “cannot,” not a physical “can- not.” When Paul says, “The natural not able to under- stand them,” he means that the heart is so resistant to receiving them that the mind justifies the rebellion of the heart by seeing them as foolish. This rebellion is so complete that the heart re- ally cannot receive the things of the Spirit. This is real inability. But it is not a coerced inability. The unregenerate person cannot because he will not. His preferences for sin are so strong that he cannot choose good. It is a real and terrible bondage. But it is not an innocent bondage. -John Piper, Finally Alive, p. 51-52

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What Happens in Regeneration

What happens in the new birth is not the improvement of your old human nature but the creation of a new human nature—a nature that is really you, forgiven and cleansed; and a nature that is really new, being formed in you by the indwelling Spirit of God. - john Piper, Finally Alive, p 37.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What it Means to be Children of Wrath

"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. (Eph 2:3 ESV)

Paul describes our nature before the new birth as “children of wrath.” In other words, the wrath of God belongs to us the way a parent belongs to a child. Our nature is so rebellious and so selfish and so callous toward the majesty of God that his holy anger is a natural and right response to us. - John Piper, Finally Alive, p. 49.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

7 Traits of False Teachers

"There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you." (2 Peter 2:1)

There are no "ifs, ands, or buts" in Peter's words. It's a clear and definite statement. There were false prophets among the people (of Israel in the Old Testament). That's a matter of history.
False prophets were a constant problem in the Old Testament, and those who falsely claimed to be prophets of God were to be stoned. The people rarely had the will to deal with them, so they multiplied, causing disaster to the spiritual life of God's people.

In the same way Peter says, "There will be false teachers among you." Notice the words "among you." Peter is writing to the church and says, "There will be false prophets among you." So he is not talking about New Age people on television. He is talking about people in the local church, members of a local congregation.
There is no such thing as a pure church this side of heaven. You will never find it. The wheat and the tares grow together. Warren Wiersbe writes:
Satan is the counterfeiter. . . . He has a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9), preached by false ministers (2 Corinthians 11:13-12), producing false Christians (2 Corinthians 11:26). . . . Satan plants his counterfeits wherever God plants true believers (Matthew 13:38).

Authentic or Counterfeit?

How would you recognize counterfeit Christianity?
In 2 Peter 1 we read about genuine believers. And in 2 Peter 2 we read about counterfeit believers. If you put these chapters side by side you will see the difference between authentic and counterfeit believers.
1. Different SourceWhere does the message come from?
Peter says, "We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1:16). And then he says the false teachers exploit you "with stories they have made up" (2:3). So the true teacher sources what he says from the Bible. The false teacher relies on his own creativity. He makes up his own message.
2. Different MessageWhat is the substance of the message?
For the true teacher, Jesus Christ is central. "We have everything we need for life and godliness in Him" (1:3). For the false teacher, Jesus is at the margins: "They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them" (2:1).
Notice the word secretly. It's rare for someone in church to openly deny Jesus. Movement away from the centrality of Christ is subtle. The false teacher will speak about how other people can help change your life, but if you listen carefully to what he is saying, you will see that Jesus Christ is not essential to his message.
3. Different PositionIn what position will the message leave you?
The true Christian "escapes the corruption in the world caused by evil desires" (1:4). Listen to how Peter describes the counterfeit Christian: "They promise . . . freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity, for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him" (2:19). The true believer is escaping corruption, while the counterfeit believer is mastered by it.
4. Different CharacterWhat kind of people does the message produce?
The true believer pursues goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brother kindness, and love (1:5). The counterfeit Christian is marked by arrogance and slander (2:10). They are "experts in greed" and "their eyes are full of adultery" (2:14). They also "despise authority" (2:10). This is a general characteristic of a counterfeit believer.
5. Different AppealWhy should you listen to the message?
The true teacher appeals to Scripture. "We have the word of the prophets made more certain and you will do well to pay attention to it" (1:19). God has spoken, and the true teacher appeals to his Word.
The false teacher makes a rather different appeal: "By appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error" (2:18). So the true teacher asks, "What has God said in his Word?" The false teacher asks, "What do people want to hear? What will appeal to their flesh?"
6. Different FruitWhat result does the message have in people's lives?
The true believer is effective and productive in his or her knowledge of Jesus Christ (1:8). The counterfeit is "like a spring without water" (2:17). This is an extraordinary picture! They promise much but produce little.
7. Different EndWhere does the message ultimately lead you?
Here we find the most disturbing contrast of all. The true believer will receive "a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1:11). The false believer will experience "swift destruction" (2:1). "Their condemnation has long been hanging over them and their destruction has not been sleeping" (2:3).
Jesus tells us that there will be many who have been involved in ministry in his name, to whom he will say, "Depart from me; I never knew you" (Matthew 7:21). Who are these people? Surely Peter is describing them in this passage.

Don't Be Naïve

We must not be ignorant: "There will be false teachers among you" (2:1). So how do we apply this warning?
First, Peter's plain statement reminds us that the church needs to be protected. Among the many wonderful people who come to through the doors of the church each year, some would do more harm than good.
They may seem the nicest of people, but they do not believe in the authority of the Bible or the exclusivity of salvation in Christ. We welcome such people, because they need Christ as much as we do, but we must not allow them to have influence in the church.
Second, skeptics will always be able to point to hypocrisy and inconsistency in the church. They've always done it, and they always will. One of the strangest reasons for not following Christ goes like this: "I've seen people in the church who are hypocrites." So you will not follow Christ because some people who claim to do so are hypocrites?
The existence of the counterfeit is never a good reason for rejecting the genuine. Peter essentially tells us, "Of course there are counterfeit Christians. Of course there are teachers who do the church more harm than good. What else would you expect in this fallen world? Grow up! Don't be naïve! Don't miss what's real simply because you have seen the counterfeit."
Point to 2 Peter 2:1 the next time you meet someone hiding behind this excuse.
See article here.
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Colin Smith and Unlocking the Bible just launched a new daily devotional called LIFEKeys DailyVisit Unlocking the Bible's site to request a free sample of the daily devotional, listen to the program, or browse other gospel-centered, Christ-exalting resources.
And join us next month in Orlando for The Gospel Coalition National Conference to hear Colin Smith deliver a plenary address on "Jesus Despised" from Luke 4:14-30Register here for this five-day event featuring more than 80 speakers, including John Piper, Tim Keller, Don Carson, Matt Chandler, David Platt, and Albert Mohler.
Colin Smith (@PastorColinS) is senior pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. For more resources by Colin Smith visit Unlocking the Bible.