Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sorting out the Law in the Christian Life

I have good friends who believe that we should obey the Torah; I disagree and believe that is rejecting the work of Christ and going back to the the old covenant and attempting to find acceptance with God by means of the law or in Paul's words, 'works of law.'  Again Schreiner is helpful summary here:

It seems that some of God's commands in the Torah continue to be binding for the people of God: prohibition against idolatry, murder, adultery, stealing and lying as well as the command to honor one's parents.  However, some commands - such as circumcision, the observance of sabbath and the practice of purity laws - are no longer to be literally obeyed.  How do we put all this together?  We must see that the Mosaic Covenant qua covenant is no longer in force but that this covenant is fulfilled in Christ. Thus, all the commands of the law, including circumcision, point to something, even if they are not literally practiced today.  Circumcision anticipates circumcision of the heart, Old Testament sacrifices anticipate the sacrifice of Christ (Rom 3:24-26) and so on.  Some of the laws of the Old Testament, however are fulfill in a rather straightforward way.   The prohibition against adultery passes over into the new era intact, without any change in content, though Paul emphasizes that the Spirit provides the strength to obey the command.  Thomas Schreiner, Paul, Apostle
 of God's Glory in Christ, p. 328.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How Salvation and Good Works Relate to Each Other in 1 Timothy

Too often I see Christians creating an unbiblical chasm in the relationship between salvation and good works.  I found Thomas Schreiner helpful on this issue.  Commenting on 1 Timothy 4:11-16, he writes,
Salvation is ultimately of the Lord, for it is his work.  And yet the actions of human beings are significant and crucial as well.  Timothy's faithfulness is necessary for him to be saved, and his faithfulness pays a role in the salvation of others.  On the other hand, such faithfulness in the life of Timothy is ultimately and finally due to God's work in his life.  Both of these strands must be held together and in the right order to grasp Paul's theology.  Thomas Schreiner, Paul, Apostle of God's Glory in Christ, p. 284.  
In other words, our faithfulness is necessary for perseverance and our faithfulness is due to Gods work in us.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Relationship of Perseverance to Assurance

The role of good works in Romans 2.  It would be a terrible mistake to conclude from Pauls' emphasis on assurance that perseverance in the faith is unnecessary. One must not cancel out the other pole of the biblical witness in order to sustain assurance. Perseverance in the faith is absolutely necessary to maintain assurance. Paul does not encourage anyone to believe that eternal life will be theirs if they persist in disobedience. The statement that God “will render to each one according to his works (Rom 2:6) is not hypothetical, nor is the assertion that “the doers of the law will be justified” (Rom 2:13). Some consign these statements to mere hypothesis or even label them as contradictory since elsewhere righteousness is said to be apart form works of law (e.g., Rom 3:20). A contradiction is unlikely inasmuch as Paul did not forget what he wrote in Chapter 2 when he added chapter 3, especially since the argument of Romans is well organized and sustained. Thomas Schreiner, Paul, Apsotle of God's Glory, p. 279-280; italics added.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Ways the Apostle John Uses the Old Testament in Revelation

Here is a rather long and technical quote that I found incredibly insightful.  If you get lost in the technical jargon, skip to the last paragraph!  The quote reinforces the brilliance and the inner logic of the biblical writers working under the inspiration of the Spirit.  It also points to the need for thoughtful reflection on Scripture with a
 biblical theological framework.

"Attention also should be directed to what might be called John's stylistic use of OT language.  It has long been recognized that Revelation contains a multitude of grammatical solecisms.  Charles claimed that Revelation contained more grammatical irregularities than any other Greek document of the ancient world.  He accounted for this with his famous dictum, “While he writes in Greek, he thinks in Hebrew, and the thought has naturally affected the vehicle of expression (Charles 1920: 1:cxliii).
But was this intentional on the author’s part or an unconscious by-product of his Semitic mind?  It seems that his grammatical “howlers” are deliberate attempts to express Semiticisms and septuagintalisms in his Greek, the closest analogy being that of the LXX translations, especially Aquila (Sweet 1979: 16; see also S. Thompson 1985: 108 and passim).  The fact that most of the time the author does keep the rules further points to the solecisms being intentional.
Why did John write this way? Sometimes his purpose was deliberately to create a “biblical” effect in the hearer and thus to demonstrate the solidarity of his work with that of the divinely inspired OT Scriptures (Sweet 1979:16). A polemical purpose may also have been included. John may have been expressing the idea that OT truth via the church as the new Israel was uncompromisingly penetrating the Gentile world and would continue to do so until the Parousia."
GK Beale and DA Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, p. 1087.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Reaching The Unchurched Requires Relationships

Another helpful article form

“When Jesus heard this, he said, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.’ Then he added, ‘Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.” For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.’” Matthew 9:12-13 (NLT)
A friend of mine once belonged to a cult, and he told me he never once felt fear when he told people about the things he believed. But, after becoming a Christian, he said he was filled with fear when he began sharing his faith.
It’s a powerful reminder that we do not struggle “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV).
The enemy doesn’t want us to share our faith, and so he fights us with fear. But God does not give us his spirit to make us slaves again to fear; he fills us with his spirit to show us we are his children and that he is “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15-16).
Some interesting research by Sam Rainer of Rainer Research suggests that only five percent of the unchurched in America are likely to be highly resistant to the Gospel, antagonistic toward Christians, or belligerent in their conversations with and about Christians. At five percent, Sam says these “hardcore unchurched” account for about 8 million people, but he estimates the other 152 million who are unchurched are far more open to hearing the Gospel.
That being the case, we’re more likely to find people open to the Gospel than not, and the things we often fear will happen will only happen — if they happen — with a very small minority of those outside the Church.
When it comes to reaching those most resistant to the Gospel, Sam says we need to be prepared to defend our faith and to deal directly with misperceptions about Christianity. We also need to be sensitive to their hurt and anger.
Most of all — and this is true with anyone we want to talk to about Jesus — we have to develop relationships with those outside the Church. When the religious leaders expressed a concern that Jesus was making friends with the unchurched, Jesus said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. . . . For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners” (Matthew 9:12b, 13b NLT).
During your prayer time today:
•       Ask God to reveal to you two people he wants you to talk to about Jesus.
•       Ask him to prepare their hearts for hearing the Gospel.
•       Also, ask him to prepare your heart for talking to them.
Then, in faith, step past your fears and believe Jesus is already at work creating a “divine appointment” for you to talk to them. Now, watch for the way he answers your prayer.
May God anoint you this week as you share your faith.
Jon Walker’s new book, In Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work “Life Together,” is an explanation of why every believer needs to be involved in a small group and why small groups put flesh on the Body of Christ.
Jon Walker is managing editor of Rick Warren’s Daily Hope Devotionals. © 2011 Jon Walker. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Seven Helpful Hints After Seven Months Of Visiting Churches

An article by Thom S. Rainer I found at

Burnside Church, Wairarapa, New Zealand, 10 December 2005I’ve been on the road a bit more than usual. My job as CEO of LifeWay requires that I spend most of my time in Nashville, but I do get out to speak and preach frequently. These past seven months have been unusually heavy travel times for a myriad of reasons, but I have tried to make the most of my trips.
Though I’ve not been a church consultant for several years, I do seem to see churches through consultant’s eyes. That reality has been especially apparent as I visited many churches during the past seven months. So, even if I am the guest preacher, I enter the church grounds as a guest. I drive my own rental car, and I have to find parking and entrances just like everyone else.
So what I have found these past seven months? I could give you a fairly extensive consultation report about the churches, but I prefer to distill my words into just a few helpful hints. Each of these issues clearly needed addressing in most of the churches I visited.
  1. Please have plentiful signage on the outside and inside. You can easily forget that we first-time guests don’t have a clue where to park or where to enter. Most of the churches did not help us either. In one church the signage was so bad, I was uncertain if I was still on church property. Take another look at all your signage from the perspective of a first-time guest.
  2. Many of your websites are terrible. Please make them user friendly. I want to see the worship times clearly on the home page. I want to be able to find the church’s physical address. I want to know what the church believes. I found out a lot more about potluck meals and senior trips than I did doctrine and worship times. Most of the websites were designed for those who knew a lot about the church.
  3. Show me where guests park. I recently humorously chastised a pastor for not having parking spots for guests. He thought he had me when he took me to a place that had 12 guests parking places. I then asked him how a first-time guest would locate these spots. His meager response was telling: “Oh.”
  4. Most of us will need to find a restroom. Please make them clear and obvious. Okay, that especially applies to someone my age. It seems like, in many churches, we have hidden restrooms so well that even Indiana Jones couldn’t find them. I am thankful for a church member who gave me clear directions to the restroom; I just wish it had been the men’s room.
  5. Show me how to follow along in the Bible. I am the exception among most guests in that I always bring a Bible. But I watch preachers closely as they begin to preach from a particular biblical text. Very few told me to turn to a pew Bible. Some did put the text on the screen; that was helpful. Most made little effort to help guests follow along with the specific passage that was being preached.
  6. Help me to know how to connect to a small group. You will likely lose members who attend worship only. You will likely keep those members who are in small groups or Sunday school classes. It’s that important. Since it’s that important, it should be mentioned in every worship service, particularly for first-time guests. It was mentioned in only two worship services of the churches I attended over the past seven months.
  7. Help me know how to join the church. As a first time guest, it is not likely I will join the church my first visit. But I do want to know how someone joins the church. I would like to know the process for membership. I only heard that information from one of the churches I visited.
Though I became a bit road weary, I loved my recent excursions to churches ranging from 80 in attendance to megachurches. Indeed, I do love local churches. But many of them could make it a little easier and a little more pleasant next time I visit—or, more importantly, the next time someone from their community visits.
What do you think of my seven hints? Are they helpful? What would you add?

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Word to Those Who Preach the Word

This is the preface to James Hamilton commentary on Revelation by Ken Hughes.  It is word reading and mediating on by anyone who teaches and preaches. 
There are times when I am preaching that I have especially sensed the pleasure of God. I usually become aware of it through the unnatural silence. The ever-present coughing ceases and the pews stop creaking, bringing an almost physical quiet to the sanctuary—through which my words sail like arrows. I experience a heightened eloquence, so that the cadence and volume of my voice intensify the truth I am preaching.
There is nothing quite like it—the Holy Spirit filling one's sails, the sense of his pleasure, and the awareness that something is happening among one's hearers. This experience is, of course, not unique, for thousands of preachers have similar experiences, even greater ones.
What has happened when this takes place? How do we account for this sense of his smile? The answer for me has come from the ancient rhetorical categories of logosethos and pathos.
The first reason for his smile is the logos—in terms of preaching, God's Word. This means that as we stand before God's people to proclaim his Word, we have done our homework. We have exegeted the passage, mined the significance of its words in their context, and applied sound hermeneutical principles in interpreting the text so that we understand what its words meant to its hearers. And it means that we have labored long until we can express in a sentence what the theme of the text is—so that our outline springs from the text. Then our preparation will be such that as we preach, we will not be preaching our own thoughts about God's Word, but God's actual Word, his logos. This is fundamental to pleasing him in preaching.
The second element in knowing God's smile in preaching is ethos—what you are as a person. There is a danger endemic to preaching, which is having your hands and heart cauterized by holy things. Phillips Brooks illustrated it by the analogy of a train conductor who comes to believe that he has been to the places he announces because of his long and loud heralding of them. And that is why Brooks insisted that preaching must be “the bringing of truth through personality.” Though we can never perfectly embody the truth we preach, we must be subject to it, long for it, and make it as much a part of our ethos as possible. As the Puritan William Ames said, “Next to the Scriptures, nothing makes a sermon more to pierce, than when it comes out of the inward affection of the heart without any affectation [pretence].” When the preacher's ethos back's up his logos, there will be the pleasure of God.
Last, there is pathos—personal passion and conviction. David Hume, the scottish philosopher and skeptic, was once challenged as he was seen going to hear George Whitefield preach: "I thought you do not believe in the gospel." Hume replied, "I don't, but he does." Just so! When a preacher believes what he preaches, there will be passion. And this belief and requisite passion will know the smile of God.
The pleasure of God is a matter of logos (the Word), ethos (what you are), and pathos (your passion). As you preach the Word may you experience his smile—the Holy Spirit in your sails!
R. Kent Hughes

Friday, May 17, 2013

Churchless Christianity

“In more than a decade of pastoral ministry I’ve never met a Christian who was healthier, more mature, and more active in ministry by being apart from the church. But I have found the opposite to be invariably true” (Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in our Holiness, 132). 

The Seven Starts This Sunday!

Our new Series, "The Seven", starts this Sunday.  I will spend a few weeks in chapter one helping us understand how to look and and read the book of Revelation and what John says to equip us to understand he book and then look at what Jesus has to say to the seven churches of Asia Minor.  You will not want to miss it!  Without any hype, I can honestly say you will not want to miss any of these sermons.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Steve Jobs Talks About Managing People

Steve Jobs was a brilliant leader whose biography is worth reading to get a glimpse of him and his tenure at Apple.  I learned much from it on how to lead and how not to lead!  This excerpt on leading people is excellent.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Book of Revelation is Not a Puzzle Book!

If Revelation is so clear, why do so many people have trouble with it?  And why is it so controversial?  We have trouble because we approach from the wrong end.  God is at the center of Revelation (Rev. 4-5).  We must start with him and with the contrasts between him and his satanic opponents.  If instead we try right away to puzzle out details, it is as if we tried to use a knife by grasping it by the blade instead of the handle.  We are starting at the wrong end.  Revelation is a picture book not a puzzle book.  Don't try to puzzle it out.  Don't become preoccupied with isolated details.  Rather, become engrossed in the overall story.  Vern Poythress, The Return of the King, p. 13.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Purpose of the Book of Revelation

All Scripture, including Revelation, has practical value for exhortation, comfort, and training in righteousness.  Paul underlines this point in 2 Tim 4:1-5 by drawing a contrast between solid teaching of the gospel and people's desire to have teachers who "say what their itching ears want to hear" (4:3)".  God gave us Revelation not to tickle our fancy, but to strengthen our hearts.  Vern Poythress, The Returning of the King, p. 11

Monday, May 13, 2013

Summarizing the Book of Revelation in One Sentence

Can the book of Revelation be understood?  Yes, it can.  Its message can be summarized in one sentence: God rules history and will bring it to its consummation in Christ.  If you read it with that main point in mind, you will be able to understand it.  You will not necessarily understand ever detail - neither do I.  But it is not necessary to understand every detail in order to profit spiritually form it.  Vern Poythress, The Returning King, p. 11.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Whose Plan Are You Following, part 3

Paul Fleming did not die from the poison of his anti-malarial medication! Instead, God brought together through him a cross section of ordinary Christians to help spread the gospel and to form New Tribes Mission (NTM).
Though Fleming was still very weak from malaria, he immediately began to show films of their work in British Malaya. Gradually he gathered around himself a group of men, many of whom had been led to the Lord through Paul Rader’s ministry. In 1942, NTM came into existence, and in the late autumn of that year, the first group of 10 adults and six children sailed for Bolivia. In 1943, the first issue of Brown Gold, NTM’s publication, was printed.
Paul Fleming once wrote: “Missionary work is often in the horse and buggy stage just because we do not use what is available in our day to hasten the advance of the gospel in the remote, untouched parts of the world.” Though they faced setbacks and even death, NTM became a pioneer in using aircraft for transporting their workers to remote tribes.
Today NTM is still moving to reach the last tribes with the gospel in Southeast Asia where Paul Fleming first had the vision and in many other parts of the world.-AL from, “The Story of New Tribes Mission” by Ken Johnston, 1985

Pray for the Holy Spirit to grant discernment to those whom He has called to extend His Kingdom to the remaining unreached tribes.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Whose Plans Are You Following, part 2

Part two of a short biography of missionary Paul Fleming who had too many things on his own agenda to listen to the Lord. This is from the Global Prayer Digest, from the US Center for World Missions. 
He married his fiance, Cherrill Harter, and they left for the mission field in 1937. They planned to go to Sumatra, Indonesia. But when they arrived in Singapore, Paul met Dr. Robert A. Jaffray, a missionary statesman with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, who said he could not rest until he had made every effort to go where the gospel had not been preached. Carrying this burden, Paul and Cherrill went instead to the unreached areas of British Malaysia.
Converts were won and a small Bible school started. It was reported that Paul Fleming must have won 3,000 to Christ in the three years he was in British Malaya. Illness, however, stopped their work. The Flemings returned to the U.S. and discovered that Paul had been poisoned by his malaria medication. The doctors expected him to die, and Paul was nearly crushed to think that his service for God was over and his hopes of seeing the “last tribe” reached were dashed.-AL

Pray that believers will understand that God has a purpose for their lives, and they need to heed His voice.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Whose Plans Are you Following?

Proverbs 19:21 "Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails."

Today I begin a short biography of missionary Paul Fleming who had too many things on his own agenda to listen to the Lord. This is from the Global Prayer Digest, from the US Center for World Missions.  It’s very easy to allow our plans and ambitions to get in the way of what the Lord really wants for us. Do you have any “non-negotiables” that can get in the way of the Lord’s first choice?  Pray that we will allow the Lord to be Lord over all aspects of our lives, so that His purpose will prevail. 
Pray that Christ followers will obey the great Commission of Jesus and be available to go into all the world and preach the gospel to unreached people groups. Not our will, but His will be done!

Paul Fleming loved sports, especially track. But his mother, Erma, never seemed to be very excited when he brought home his ribbons and trophies. When Paul asked, “Mom, don’t you care?” she replied, “Paul, there’s only one race I want you to win and that is the race for Jesus Christ.”
Paul was born in 1910, and accepted the Lord as his Savior when he was 10 or 11 years old at the Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles. Paul’s parents’ example guided his development before and after his conversion. His mom lived with a burning desire to see each of her four children living to reach a lost world. Mrs. Fleming often visited the neighbors, introducing them to the Lord. She could also be counted on in times of sickness and grief.
Through the evangelistic ministry of Paul Rader, a former football player and heavyweight prizefighter, Paul Fleming dedicated his life to the Lord. When Paul Rader suggested that he come to live and work with him in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Paul was thrilled. He wrote, “I was able to be with a man whom I became more and more convinced really loved the Lord and loved people.” He stayed in Rader’s home, helped raise chickens on the farm, and had charge of the boys’ work. After the thrill subsided, Fleming went back to California to work for Durkees Foods. But now, he was really miserable.

Pray that those people you know who are disobeying the Lord will be discontent until they change their ways.

The Presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper, part 2

Here is the follow up from yesterdays blog.  From an article by Sam Storms, "The Sacraments, part 1."
Protestants outside the Lutheran tradition understand the words of Jesus ("This is my body . . . This is my blood") to be a metaphor (in a simile one thing is said to be “like” or “to resemble” another; a metaphor boldly declares that one thing is another). There are literally hundreds of metaphors in the Bible: "All flesh is grass" (Isa. 40:6); "The Lord is my shepherd" (Ps. 23:1); "You are the salt of the earth" (Mt. 5:13); "You are the light of the world" (Mt. 5:14); "I am the bread of life" (Jn. 6:35); “The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches” (Rev. 1:20); “the seven heads are seven mountains” (Rev. 17:9); see also Mt. 13:38; John 8:12; 10:9; 1 Cor. 10:4. I. H. Marshall explains:

“The word ‘is’ . . . can mean ‘signify’ as well as ‘be identical with,’ and there can be little doubt whatever that at the Last Supper the word was used with the former meaning. The saying was uttered by Jesus while he was bodily present with the disciples, and they could see that his body and the bread were two separate things. One might compare how a person showing a photograph of himself to a group of friends could say, as he points to it, ‘This is me.’ In any case, Jesus had done nothing to the bread which could have changed its character; all that he had done was to give thanks to God for it, not to bless or consecrate it in any way” (Last Supper and Lord’s Supper, 85-6).

Within Protestantism, however, there are two variations:

a.         A strictly symbolic view, in which the sacrament is nothing more than a visible symbol or tangible representation of the body and blood of Christ; partaking is but an act of remembrance or symbolic declaration. There is a sense in which we may thus speak of transsignification or a change in the meaning of the elements. Prior to their use in the eucharist the bread and wine aremerely bread and wine. When acknowledged and blessed as the elements of the eucharist they take on new meaning (although their substance remains unchanged). We might also refer totransfinalization (McGrath, Christian Theology, 441) insofar as the consecration of the elements changes their purpose or the end for which they exist. McGrath explains:

“Just as a man, on setting off on a long journey from home, might give his wife his ring to remember him by until his return, so Christ leaves his church a token to remember him by until the day on which he should return in glory” (442).

b.         Other protestants, following Calvin, insist that whereas there is no literal physical presence of Christ in the elements, there is a spiritual or moral presence. The elements thus become truly a means or instrument or channel by which the sanctifying or nourishing or sustaining grace of Jesus become operative in our lives. There is truly a presence of Christ in the elements beyond the omnipresence that is always true. Thus, in saying that the words of Jesus are metaphorical, I don't deny that in some sense he was providing a pledge of his personal presence with his people that is to be recalled and experienced whenever they break bread together. William Lane explains:

"As certainly as the disciples eat the bread which Jesus hands to them, so certainly will he be present with them when they gather for table fellowship. Jesus' first gift to the disciples was the pledge of his abiding presence with them in spite of this betrayal and death” (Mark, 506).

The implication is that in spite of Christ's death and departure from the earth, the bread and wine of the Supper in some sense serve to mediate his abiding presence with those who know and love him. The elements not only point to and recall his death, they also awaken us to the fact that Christ in his saving and sanctifying power is forever in our midst. Two texts should be noted:

1 Cor. 10:16-21 - We read in v. 16, "Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?" To partake of the elements of the Lord's table is to come under his influence and power (cf. v. 20); it is to commune and share with his abiding presence; it is to experience in a special way all those saving benefits and blessings that Christ's body and blood obtained for us.

1 Cor. 10:17 also points to the horizontal dimension of this ordinance. We not only experience communion with Christ, but also with one another! It was the custom of the early church to observe the supper by using one loaf of bread, from which each believer would take a piece. Paul draws the conclusion from this practice that those who share the one loaf broken into many pieces are thereby joined together in the unity symbolized by the original loaf.

C.        Insights from 1 Corinthians 11:23-34

1)         The Lord's Supper is primarily designed to elicit or to stimulate in our heartsremembrance of the person and work of Jesus.

2)         This remembrance is commanded. Participation at the Lord's table is not an option.

3)         This remembrance entails the use of tangible elements. It isn't enough simply to say, "Remember!" The elements of bread and wine are given to stir our minds and hearts.

4)         It is a personal remembrance. We are to remember Jesus. The focus isn't any longer on the Jewish passover or the night of his betrayal or anything else. The focus is Jesus.

5)         In this remembering there is also confession. In partaking of the elements we declare: "Christ gave his body and blood for me. He died for me."

6)         In this remembering we also proclaim the Lord's death till he comes. This, then, is not merely an ordinance that looks to the past. It is an ordinance of hope that points to the future.

7)         To partake of the Lord's table in an unworthy manner (v. 27) is to take it without regard to its true worth, not yours. To partake unworthily is to come complacently, light-heartedly, giving no thought to that which the elements signify. I. H. Marshall explains:

"In some Christian circles today the fear of partaking unworthily in the Supper leads to believers of otherwise excellent character refraining from coming to the table of the Lord. When this happens, Paul's warning is being misunderstood. The Lord's Supper is the place where the forgiveness of sin is proclaimed and offered to all who would receive it. Paul's warning was not to those who were leading unworthy lives and longed for forgiveness but to those who were making a mockery of that which should have been most sacred and solemn by their behaviour at the meal” (116).

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Relationship Between Endurance and Hope

Hope is vital for Christian existence, since both faith in Christ and love for other believers are grounded in hope: "We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven" (Col 1:4-5 NRSV).  Believers will not be able to take risks in displaying love for others, nor will they continue to exercise faith in the present unless they have confidence in the future.  This indissoluble link between perseverance and hope is articulated in 1 Thessalonians 1:3, "the endurance of hope."  The word hope (elpidos) here is a subjective genitive, indicating that endurance stems from hope.  Hope is the root and endurance is the fruit.  Thomas Schreiner, Paul, The Apostle of God's Glory in Christ, p. 272; Italics mine.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Power of Grace in God's Effectual Calling

The power of God's grace is communicated particularly in the word calling.  In the Pauline literature the word should not be defined as an "invitation' that can be accepted or refused.  Calling is performative, in which the call accomplishes what is demanded.  This is apparent in reflecting on a number of texts.  For instance, in Romans 8:30 Paul says that "those whom he called, these he justified."  In this verse all of those who are called are also justified.  No exception intervenes so that only some of those who are called are justified.  Every single person who is called is also justified.  Thomas The Apostle of God's Glory in Christ, p. 240-241.
Schreiner, Paul,

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Why Obedience to Christ is Necessary

Most importantly, forensic righteousness is the basis and ground of any transformation that occurs in our lives.  This means that any change in the lives of believers is rooted in the objective work of Christ by which believers are declared to be right in God's eyes.  But for Paul the work of God is a whole.  He never imagined someone who was justified yet who failed to live in newness of life (Rom 6:4).  Those who are declared to be in the right are united with Christ, they enjoy the gift of the Spirit, and they are empowered to live in a new way.  Thomas Schreiner, Paul, Apostle Of God's Glory in Christ, p. 208.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Are You Being Deceived?

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. (Jam 1:16 ESV)
The story is told of a certain African tribe that learned an easy way to capture ducks in a river. Catching their agile and wary dinner would be a feat indeed, so they formulated a plan.
The tribesmen learned to go upstream, place a pumpkin in the river, and let it slowly float down into the flock of ducks. At first, the cautious fowl would quack and fly away. After all, it wasn't ordinary for pumpkins to float down the river! But the persistent tribesmen would subsequently float another pumpkin into the re-gathered ducks. Again they would scatter, only to return after the strange sphere had passed. Again, the hungry hunters would float another pumpkin. This time the ducks would remain, with a cautious eye on the pumpkin, and with each successive passing, the ducks would become more comfortable, until they finally accepted the pumpkins as a normal part of life.
When the natives saw that the pumpkins no longer bothered the ducks, they hollowed out pumpkins, put them over their heads, and walked into the river. Meandering into the midst of the tolerant fowl, they pulled them down one at a time. Dinner? Roast duck.

Satan is described as the deceiver and deception comes in many forms.  The Greek word in James means to be led astray.  We can be deceived or led away from Christ in many ways.  We can be deceived by false teachers (Mat 24:4); we can be deceived by sin, thinking that we can live a life contrary to the gospel and still inherit the kingdom (1 Cor. 6:9-10); we can be deceived by the negative influence of the wrong people (1 Cor 15:33); or by being led astray by the love of money (2 Pet 2:15); and even be deceived into thinking we do not sin at all! (1 john 1:8).  In what ways are you tempted to be led away from Christ?  Or what ways do you see the body of Christ led away from Christ?  Let me know!