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.

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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!

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A good look at the cross…

  On this Good Friday you should be thinking about the cross. Nothing can teach you as much about Christianity as the cross. A serious view of the cross will impact your soul. Back in the 1800’s John Brown of Scotland wrote the following rich summary of what there is to see at the cross — and how it will affect you.

“Nothing is so well fitted to put the fear of God, which will preserve men from offending him, into the heart, as an enlightened view of the cross of Christ. There shines spotless holiness, inflexible justice, incomprehensible wisdom, omnipotent power, holy love. None of these excellencies darken or eclipse the other, but every one of them rather gives a luster to the rest. They mingle their beams, and shine with united external splendor: the just Judge, the merciful Father, the wise Governor. Nowhere does justice appear so awful, mercy so amiable, or wisdom so profound.”

Now is the Son of Man glorified…

When Judas the betrayer had left the upper room, Jesus  said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” (John 13:31). In these profound words Jesus tells us that the coming crucifixion, however horrible and sad in our eyes, was truly glorifying to both God the Father and God the Son. Jesus does not speak of it as humiliation or disgrace, but as the most glorious part of His work on earth.

J.C. Ryle says that the crucifixion brought glory to the Father as “it glorified His wisdom, faithfulness, holiness, and love.”

It showed Him wise, in providing a plan whereby He could be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly. It showed Him faithful in keeping His promise, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. It showed Him holy, in requiring His law’s demands to be satisfied by our great Substitute. It showed Him loving, in providing such a Mediator, such a redeemer, and such a Friend for sinful man as His co-eternal Son.

And as Jesus said so plainly, there was glory in the cross for the Son of God as well. Ryle continues to explain [from Expository Thoughts on the Gospels—John; III.45].

The crucifixion brought glory to the Son. It glorified His compassion, His patience, and His power. It showed Him most compassionate, in dying for us, suffering in our stead, allowing himself to be counted sin and a curse for us, and buying our redemption with the price of His own blood. It showed Him most patient, in not dying the common death of most men, but in willingly submitting to such pains and unknown agonies as no mind can conceive — when with a word He could have summoned His Father’s angels, and been set free. It showed Him most powerful, in bearing the weight of all the transgressions of the world, and vanquishing Satan, and despoiling him of his prey.

As you think of the cross of Jesus, consider the glory it brought to the Father and the Son.

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Going home

“Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:1-2

Jesus is heard to say “you will be going home.” The spiritual author Octavius Winslow reflects on these verses in his Morning & Evening Thoughts for December 31st….
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GOING home! what a soothing reflection! what an ecstatic prospect! The heart throbs quicker—the eye beams brighter—the spirit grows elastic—the whole soul uplifts its soaring pinion, eager for its flight, at the very thought of heaven. “I go to prepare a place for you,” was one of the last and sweetest assurances that breathed from the lips of the departing Savior; and though uttered eighteen hundred years ago, those words come stealing upon the memory like the echoes of by-gone music, thrilling the heart with holy and indescribable transport. Yes! He has passed within the veil as our Forerunner; He has prepared heaven for us, and by His gentle, wise, and loving discipline He is preparing us for heaven.”

Enough that God is my Father, my Sun, and Shield; that He will give grace and glory, and will withhold no good and needed thing. Enough that Christ is my Portion, my Advocate, my Friend, and that, whatever else may pass away, His sympathy will not cease, His sufficiency will not fail, nor His love die. Enough that the everlasting covenant is mine, and that that covenant, made with me, is ordered in all things, and sure. Enough that heaven is my rest, that towards it I am journeying, and that I am one year nearer its blessed and endless enjoyment.”

Excerpt From: “The Works of Octavius Winslow” iBooks (ePub) edition*

*Available free (on 12/31/13) in ePub or .mobi formats at Monergism.

Review: Jesus on Every Page

I recently read this excellent book and wrote a review for the December issue of The Banner of Truth magazine (I strongly recommend you subscribe; they have a nice, inexpensive electronic subscription option). Here it is for my blog readers…
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Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament by David P. Murray (Thomas Nelson, 2013, 256 pp. paperback, $16.99
ISBN: 978-1-40020-534-9)
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Having a deep appreciation for Jonathan Edward’s wonderful book, A History of the Work of Redemption (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2003 repr.) and his grasp of the centrality of Christ in the story of the whole Bible, I was delighted to learn of Jesus on Every Page by David P. Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (Grand Rapids, MI). It is an excellent, albeit brief, presentation of Jesus in the various parts of the whole Old Testament. Dr. Murray is a native of Scotland, where he pastored two churches for twelve years prior to coming to the USA.

Taking from the story of Jesus after the resurrection on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24), it is organized into two parts, ‘My Road to Emmaus’ (chs 1-6), and, ‘Spiritual Heartburn’ (chs 7-16) — the latter title an interesting take on the original companions’ burning-heart experience and the author’s own deeper discoveries of Jesus throughout the Old Testament. At the end of the book, there are several very good study questions for each chapter, profitable for personal review or group discussion.

The subtitle of the work is unfortunate if it conjures up in one’s mind an expectation of a simplistic ‘how to’ book, for Murray skilfully handles an impressive breadth of topics. While answering the key question (and title of ch. 2), ‘What’s the Old Testament all about?’ the next four chapters in Part One engage the reader in some biblical theology, and present answers drawn from the teaching of Jesus, Peter, Paul and John. The chapters effectively display Murray’s thesis (It’s all about Jesus), as well as draw the reader further into the book. They also display Murray’s personal and conversational style of writing—a real attraction for modern readers. On the other hand, an abundance of sub-headings (five on a single page in ch. 11!) were an unhelpful distraction to this reader.

Beginning with the phrase ‘Discovering Jesus in . . .’ each of the ten chapters in the second part of the book the author explains the various genres and themes of the Old Testament as they relate to the person of our Lord. Themes handled included: Creation, Characters, Appearances, Law, History, Prophets, Types, Covenants, Proverbs, and Poems. These chapters are well-organized, brief and clear with Murray faithfully providing biblical texts as illustrations and examples along the way.

A real strength of the book is the way it introduces the fruit of impor- tant works on this grand subject by authors old and new—including Jon- athan Edwards (History of Redemption), Patrick fairbairn (Typology of Scripture), Graeme Goldsworthy (According to Plan), Christopher Wright (Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament), and, O. Palmer Robertson (The Christ of the Covenants). Those who may have given up reading Fairbairn’s tome will be thrilled with Murray’s skilful condensation of it in one ten-page chapter!

One minor criticism is that Murray often writes at too fast a pace, or moves on too quickly after making a wonderful insight, often leaving the reader wanting more. His postscript refers to the book as ‘these introductory chapters’, and one can only hope that some day a future expanded edition might be undertaken.

Don’t be fooled though! This slim volume, with its pop subtitle, is of wide-ranging value for pastors, teachers, as well as the general reader. It not only presents the content of the Old Testament in a faithfully Christ-cen- tred way, but it opens windows to several avenues of further biblical study. In our day of growing biblical illiteracy, Jesus on Every Page will ably connect the dots and fill in the blanks as to the vital importance of the Old Testament to lovers of Christ.

Learn from Judas Iscariot

On the first Good Friday, when Jesus had finished wrestling in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, His disciple Judas came to Him, leading a band of Jewish officials and armed men. “Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’” (Luke 22:48, ESV). It is a moment of spiritual treason as a disciple — one of the Twelve Apostles — betrays his master to His mortal enemies.

1158157_96927848We do well to pause and learn from Judas here. You should ask yourself some serious, spiritual questions on this Good Friday. I was led to do so after reading a couple pages in a recent book by Michael McKinley entitled PASSION, How Christ’s Final Day Changes Your Every Day (The Good Book Co., 2013). Here’s a good way to learn from Judas —

It’s worth remembering the things that Judas had seen and done. He was one of the disciples sent out to preach the gospel with power to cast out demons and heal people (Luke 9:1-2). He sat in a boat as Jesus calmed a storm with a word (8:22-25). He saw Jesus feed the 5,000 (9:10-17). He watched as Jesus raised people from the dead (7:11–17). He heard Jesus’ sermons, probably multiple times. He was personally selected by Jesus to be part of HIs inner circle. He had even had his feet washed by Jesus!

And yet… despite all of those amazing experiences, Judas turns out not to be a disciple. He is not a true follower of Jesus. In the end, he is a traitor and a liar and a thief. He is a real-life example of what Jesus warns in Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (ESV)

Judas is a chilling reminder to us that you can’t rely on your past experiences as an indication of your current spiritual condition. And so Judas’ example should cause us to pause. If you think of yourself as a Christian, have you ever stopped to think how you can be sure you really are a Christian? Why are you confident that you are a genuine follower of Jesus? Because your parents are believers? Because you go to a church and everyone there assumes you are a Christian? Because you have served faithfully in your church? Maybe even because you’ve preached sermons or led people to Christ?

Judas reminds us that nothing you have done in the past can assure you that you are truly a follower of Christ. Yes, good fruit in your life is a good sign. But look at Judas; examine the resume that he could roll out for you. He looked good on paper, but in reality he sent Jesus to His death. Nothing you or I have seen or accomplished, nothing in our pedigree or experience can ultimately makes us a Christian.

from PASSION, How Christ’s Final Day Changes Your Every Day, by Mike McKinley, pages 30-31.
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