If God Is For Us…

Romans 8:31-32 — “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” esv

This is a profound application of the truth of the gospel — that by His amazing grace to us in Christ, God is for us. Such a grand truth for all believers to have and to hold. In a fine little booklet, The Heart of the Gospel: God’s Son Given for You, Dr Sinclair Ferguson lingers over this Scripture, unfolding the relationship of God the Father and God the Son, as well as the application of God’s gracious favor to Christians. heart__30386.1430240414.1280.1280

For example, Dr Ferguson says —

We must be very clear that it is not redemptive history that died on the cross for us. It was not typology that died on the cross for us, nor systematic theology, not preaching, nor the sacraments. It was the person of the Son of God in our humanity who died on the cross in an inner-Trinitarian transaction of grace between himself and the Father. He bore the holy curse of God upon his soul and prayed, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). [page 19]

Near the end of this booklet, Ferguson employs biblical theology to explain the depth of Paul’s pastoral application here, and does it in a way that is helpful and heart-warming. (Ferguson is one of the best theologians writing today, with soundness and beauty).

Paul communicates something wonderful here about the truth of the gospel. What he says can transform our Christian lives and deal with our deep-seated needs, which keep unfolding from the depths of our being and which so often give rise to a mistrust of the Father. Paul is arguing that the fruit of Christ’s death on a tree reverses the fruit of the death that came from another tree [Gen. 3]. But there is even more than that! The fruit of the liberating truth enshrined in this death on the tree of Calvary is the ultimate antidote to the lie that caused death to come from the tree in the center of the garden of Eden in the first place. Remember that God set Adam in a garden surrounded by lavish plenty, but the Serpent hissed, “Has God said that he doesn’t want you to have any of this fruit?” That was a word from hell, and we have not escaped its echoes and implications reverberating in our own hearts and lives. Some of use hear it daily: “God doesn’t really want to do you good. Look what’s happening in your life. He doesn’t really love you.” Here, in this great statement of the gospel, Paul provides the medicine for this seat-seated sickness in your soul. If he did not spare his own Son for you, then you can be absolutely sure that the Father will stop at nothing to bless you, keep you, guide you, lead you, and bring you to glory. [page 22]

Amen! Friends, cling to the truth of Romans 8:32! I also encourage you to get a few copies of this fine booklet to read and giveaway to others. Believe the good news. Spread the good news.

pdb

 

Caution: Busyness is not a virtue

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 ESV

In the Gospel of Luke, the visit of Jesus to the home of Mary, Martha & Lazarus brings about this brief but precious conversation — and an arresting statement. What is this “one thing necessary” that Jesus speaks about? busy-1446660-639x426

In directing Martha (and all of us) to turn to “the one thing necessary” our Lord points to a contrast here, that Mary had chosen better — a superior use of her time, a more important focus for her energies and cares. Jesus told Martha that she was anxious and troubled about many things. Granted, Martha was not doing anything inherently wrong; in fact she was doing much that was good! Yet, Jesus implies that her heart was tangled up, her busyness was not right. She was distracted and worried and upset in a worldly way. Our hearts can be pulled away from the Lord by busyness in respectable activities. God does not want our busyness — religious or otherwise. God wants our hearts. Indeed the greatest commandment of all of Scripture is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. (Matthew 22:37-38). This is what Mary appears to be doing — learning at the feet of Jesus, even worshipping as she took in His words of truth and life. She put first things first and Jesus was so very pleased!

Jesus points to Mary and tells Martha (and us):  that’s the better thing, that is the one thing necessary!  Oh how the world misunderstands what God requires — and how much those who are merely religious miss the most important thing. Many people think they know what Jesus wants, but will not listen to His very words here to Martha! As a famous preacher once said, it should be our first and sole business to attend to our soul’s business!

pdb

Should Christians be watching “Game of Thrones”?

John Piper gives a very candid and inspiring reply here entitled 12 Questions to Ask Before You Watch ‘Game of Thrones’.

In the midst of that post he makes this blunt statement:

“The world does not need more cool, hip, culturally savvy, irrelevant copies of itself. That is a hoax that has duped thousands of young Christians. They think they have to be hip, cool, savvy, culturally aware, watching everything in order not to be freakish. And that is undoing them morally and undoing their witness.’

Amen.
pdb

Resurrecting dating

Over at the Desiring God blog, Marshall Segal has a wonderful article entitled, When the Not-Yet Married Meet: Dating to Display Jesus. His opening words are:

Dating is dead.

So says the media. Girls, stop expecting guys to make any formal attempt at winning your affections. Don’t sit around waiting for a boy to make you a priority, communicate his intentions, or even call you on the phone. Exclusivity and intentionality are ancient rituals, things of the past, and misplaced hopes.

I beg to differ. It’s not that this new line of thinking is necessarily untrue today, or that it’s not the current and corrupt trend of our culture. It’s wrong. One of our most precious pursuits, that of a life-long partner for all of life, is tragically being relegated to tweets, texts, and Facebook pokes, to ambiguous flirtation and fooling around. It’s wrong.
[emphasis added]

1415226_embracing_coupleAfter helpfully opening up the natural of dating (“where does marriage come from?”) he then goes on to write several paragraphs under each of these headings, explaining how one should date and how dating ought to look forward to marriage:

1. It really is as simple as they say (reminding us that “marriage really is less about compatibility than commitment”).

2. Know what makes a marriage worth having. (hint, it has to do with helping you learn more about God)

3. Look for clarity more than intimacy. Here’s the whole of this incredibly wise section (soak up that second paragraph) —

The greatest danger of dating is giving parts of our hearts and lives to someone to whom we’re not married. It is a significant risk, and many, many men and women have deep and lasting wounds from relationships because a couple enjoyed emotional or physical closeness without a lasting, durable commitment. Cheap intimacy feels real for the moment, but you get what you pay for.

While the great prize in marriage is Christ-centered intimacy, the great prize in dating is Christ-centered clarity. Intimacy is safest in the context of marriage, and marriage is safest in the context of clarity. The purpose of our dating is determining whether the two of us should get married, so we should focus our effort there.

In our pursuit of clarity, we will undoubtedly develop intimacy, but we ought not do so too quickly or too naively. Be intentional and outspoken to one another that, as Christians, intimacy before marriage is dangerous, while clarity is unbelievably precious.

4. Find a fiancé on the frontlines. (this refers to finding someone who is serving God too)

5. Don’t let your mind marry him before the rest of you can. (Here Marshall writes, “The trajectory of all truly Christian romance ought to be marriage, so it should not surprise us that our dreams and expectations, our hearts, race out ahead of everything else.”)

6. Boundaries make for the best of friends. (“Boundaries are necessary because on the road to marriage and its consummation, the appetite for intimacy only grows as you feed it.”)

7. Consistently include your community. (He says make sure other people [eg, church] are involved as you develop your relationship).

8. Let all your dating be missionary dating. (No, he doesn’t mean date non-Christians; rather, “dating that displays and promotes faith in Jesus and his good news, a dating that is in step with the gospel before the watching world.”)

Now, go read the WHOLE THING HERE for your own benefit, or to share with another. I pray for all who want God’s will for their relationships (and marriage) will think along these lines.
pdb

Thoughts on the Presidential Election

Like so many I was stunned and saddened by the election results on Tuesday night. And I am terribly sad not because my choice for office lost but because of the awful repercussion the re-election of such a liberal administration will bring to our land. Actions have consequences; elections have consequences.

Insightful analysis is made by Dr Al Mohler here; let me share a few excerpts with you (emphasis added).

Evangelical Christians must see the 2012 election as a catastrophe for crucial moral concerns. The election of President Obama returns a radically pro-abortion President to the White House, soon after he had endorsed same-sex marriage. President Obama is likely to have the opportunity to appoint one or more justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, and they are almost sure to agree with his constitutional philosophy. …
Clearly, we face a new moral landscape in America, and huge challenge to those of us who care passionately about these issues. We face a worldview challenge that is far greater than any political challenge, as we must learn how to winsomely convince Americans to share our moral convictions about marriage, sex, the sanctity of life, and a range of moral issues. This will not be easy. It is, however, an urgent call to action.

Christians must now pray for our President, he also reminds us, citing 1 Timothy 2:1-2. You can read all of Dr Mohler’s thoughts here. (Some have labeled the election in even stronger spiritual terms, such as Tom Chantry at his blog).

Wednesday night at our church prayer meeting, I wanted to address these concerns, and move beyond political language and context. So I shared two verses from the Bible, from Isaiah 3:10-11. This was the text chosen by the puritan Thomas Watson for his farewell sermon, when hundreds of “non-conformist” pastors were ejected from their churches in 1662. This passage of Scripture gives clear words of encouragement for the righteous, and, words of woe for the wicked.

“10 Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them,
for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.
11 Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him,
for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him.”

Those who are walking uprightly, by the mercy and grace of the Lord, have much for which to be thankful! And horrible circumstances around us cannot change that. Our God also gave us Romans 8:28 in the New Testament, to emphasize His sovereignty and His good designs for His people in all circumstances. Yet, evidently, believers must be told these things. Repeatedly.

This text from Isaiah 3 also puts forward a warning to the wicked, to those who do not walk rightly with their God – such as those who destroy life in the womb, and who boldly promote immorality as marriage, etc. Things will not go well for you, says the Lord. There will be an accounting.

The New Testament text to keep in mind here, for Americans and people everywhere, is from Galatians 6:7-10

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Amen.
pdb

UPDATE: Further post-election help for Christians (“Dear Post-Election Self, Reading this letter, you know which man will reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the next four years….”) can be found from Colin Hanson here.

Tooth and Nail?

“But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” Galatians 5:15 esv

Such violence is brutish. God hath armed the beasts with teeth and claws, but man with reason and judgment; to smite with the hand is beneath a man; to smite with the tongue beneath a Christian…

Thomas Manton, Works v:400

Words for the Grieving Ones

On Thursday morning many friends will gather alongside a family as they lay to rest a much loved wife and mother, who died in the early morning hours last Monday. Only a few months ago she was in the prime of life, caring for her husband, serving children in a local school and walking faithfully with her Lord. Then the cancers came; and a grim prognosis; and a season of difficulty for this saint. Grief gained a beachhead in our hearts weeks ago, and its invasion is now in full force.

In the midst of her treatments and the dramatic changes to her body, though, her spirit was undimmed and her delight in her family and daily life continued. Her simple, bright online notes communicated a measure of the wonderful personality we knew and loved — and encouraged many of us to hold our days more precious too. In her last days, we often saw evidence of the Scripture, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 esv

I had been much in fervent prayer for this sister for many weeks, in the pulpit and in private. I also have often wondered why such afflictions came to such a choice servant in the prime of her life. Although we do not often discover the answer to such “why” questions, we are reminded in the Bible about the holy and good character of our God. For instance, just today I read further in the passage cited above (Lamentations 3) and found these words about our God:

“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. …For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” (3:25, 31-33)

That last verse in particular is instructive: We dare not judge the heart of God simply by a few of His actions. An old puritan pastor, Thomas Brooks, unfolds some implications of this text, for those wrestling with grief:

“No man can tell how the heart of God stands by his actions. His hand of severity may lie hard upon those upon whom he has set his heart as you see in Job and Lazarus. …Consider the gracious, blessed, soul-quieting conclusions that come out of afflictions. As Christ commanded the boisterous winds and the roaring raging seas — “He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm” (Matt. 8:26) — so let the conscience speak to the soul: Be quiet and still; ‘Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord’ (Psa. 27:14), and ‘Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.’ (Psa. 37:7).


May the truth of God’s Word be like a sea-wall against the battering waves of our grief. God does not willingly or wantonly afflict His children! Our sovereign Lord does all things in accordance with His perfect will, for His glory and (ultimately) for the good of His people! And “He will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.”

~ pdb