March 27, 2009

Paul in Philippi - part 1

We are in Acts 16. Paul is on his second missionary journey. He left Antioch with Silas, drew young Timothy into the journey at Lystra, and is joined by Luke in Troas. The call to Philippi is supernatural. Paul has a vision of a man from Macedonia asking him to come over and help. He answers the call and the band of evangelists heads to Philippi.

What does Paul find when he gets there? He starts by looking for a synagogue but finds none. This leads them to look for a place of prayer by the river, hoping to find a group to preach the gospel of Christ to. They succeed in finding a group of women by the riverside, including Lydia, who will become the first convert to Christ in the establishment of the church in Europe.

Paul and his companions stay in Philippi for several days, continuing to visit the little group at the riverside, teaching them the way of salvation. Conflict arises. A slave girl possessed by a spirit of divination starts raising a ruckus, focusing unwanted attention on the evangelists as they seek to establish a church in Philippi. She continues this harassment for many days. Finally, Paul has had enough. He turns and casts the spirit out of the slave girl in the name of Christ.

The slave girl's owners immediately realize their prophet of profit is fallen silent and they know who has staunched the flow of money. They drag Paul and Silas before the judges, hurling false accusations and stirring the crowd to join in the attack. They are stripped of their robes, repeatedly beaten with rods, and thrown into prison. Having received a command to guard them securely, the jailer takes extra precautions with these so-called rabble rousers, placing them in the inner prison and fastening their feet in stocks.

This is an opportunity. An opportunity to:

1) Question God's call to Philippi?

2) Doubt God's love or even existence in the
face of these current troubles?

3) Consider themselves failures in ministry?

4) Pray and sing hymns to God in full view of
the other prisoners?

Before you answer, place this in the context of current evangelical thought concerning successful Christian ministry. And no, I'm not thinking of Joel Osteen. Put it in the context of your local church and how the evangelists' mission would be judged, or how you personally might respond if you were in Paul's shoes, er... sandals.

The meta is open. Fire away.

March 26, 2009

The Cross - Section III part 1

Another section from Ryle's The Cross.

III. Let me show you why all Christians ought to glory in the cross of Christ.

I feel that I must say something on this point, because of the ignorance that prevails about it. I suspect that many see no peculiar glory and beauty in the subject of Christ's cross. On the contrary, they think it painful, humbling, and degrading. They do not see much profit in the story of His death and sufferings. They rather turn from it as an unpleasant thing.

Now I believe that such persons are quite wrong. I cannot hold with them. I believe it is an excellent thing for us all to be continually dwelling on fire cross of Christ. It is a good thing to be often reminded how Jesus was betrayed into the hands of wicked men, how they condemned Him with most unjust judgment, how they spit on Him, scourged Him, beat Him, and crowned Him with thorns; how they led Him forth as a lamb to the slaughter, without His murmuring or resisting; how they drove the nails through His hands and feet, and set Him up on Calvary between two thieves; how they pierced His side with a spear, mocked Him in His sufferings, and let Him hang there naked and bleeding till He died. Of all these things, I say, it is good to be reminded. It is not for nothing that the Crucifixion is described four times over in the New Testament. There are very few things that all the four writers of the Gospel describe. Generally speaking, if Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell a thing in our Lord's history, John does not tell it. But there is one thing that all the four give us most fully, and that one thing is the story of the cross. This is a telling fact, and not to be overlooked.

Men forget that all Christ's sufferings on the cross were fore-ordained. They did not come on Him by chance or accident. They were all planned, counseled, and determined from all eternity. The cross was foreseen in all the provisions of the everlasting Trinity, for the salvation of sinners. In the purposes of God the cross was set up from everlasting. Not one throb of pain did Jesus feel, not one precious drop of blood did Jesus shed, which had not been appointed long ago. Infinite wisdom planned that redemption should be by the cross. Infinite wisdom brought Jesus to the cross in due time. He was crucified by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.

Men forget that all Christ's sufferings on the cross were necessary for man's salvation. He had to bear our sins, if ever they were to be borne at all. With His stripes alone could we be healed. This was the one payment of our debt that God would accept. This was the great sacrifice on which our eternal life depended. If Christ had not gone to the cross and suffered in our stead, the just for the unjust, there would not have been a spark of hope for us. There would have been a mighty gulf between ourselves and God, which no man ever could have passed.

Men forget that all Christ's sufferings were endured voluntarily and of His own free will. He was under no compulsion. Of His own choice He laid down His life. Of His own choice He went to the cross to finish the work He came to do. He might easily have summoned legions of angels with a word, and scattered Pilate and Herod and all their armies, like chaff before the wind. But he was a willing sufferer. His heart was set on the salvation of sinners, He was resolved to open a fountain for all sin and uncleanness, by shedding His own blood.

Now, when I think of all this, I see nothing painful or disagreeable in the subject of Christ's cross. On the contrary, I see in it wisdom and power, peace and hope, joy and gladness, comfort and consolation. The more I look at the cross in my mind's eye, the more fullness I seem to discern in it. The longer I dwell on the cross in my thoughts, the more I am satisfied that there is more to be learned at the foot of the cross than anywhere else in the world.

March 24, 2009

Paul and Philippi - Your Homework

I'm working up a new series of posts examining Paul and the church at Philippi. I hope to have the first installment online this week.

I'm currently teaching through Philippians in my Sunday school class. It's a real eye-opener. I'm consistently being challenged by the Word in several areas. I want to share what I'm learning on this blog also.

In preparation, please read Acts 16 and the account of the establishment of the church at Philippi. I believe there is much potential for good interactions in the meta, so come prepared.

The Cross - Section II part 2

Where did the last month go? I blinked and [poof]...

After much delay, here is the rest of section II of Bishop Ryle's The Cross.

The Cross - Section II part 2

Reader, mark what I say. You may know a good deal about the Bible. You may know the outlines of the histories it contains, and the dates of the events described, just as a man knows the history of England. You may know the names of the men and women mentioned in it, just as a man knows Caesar, Alexander the Great, or Napoleon. You may know the several precepts of the Bible, and admire them, just as a man admires Plato, Aristotle, or Seneca. But if you have not yet found out that Christ crucified is the foundation of the whole volume, you have read your Bible hitherto to very little profit. Your religion is a heaven without a sun, an arch without a keystone, a compass without a needle, a dock without spring or weights, a lamp without off. It will not comfort you. It will not deliver your soul from hell.

Reader, mark what I say again. Yon may know a good deal about Christ, by a kind of head know ledge, as the dead Oriental churches know the facts of Christianity as well as we do. You may know who Christ was, and where He was born, and what He did. You may know His miracles, His sayings, His prophecies, and his ordinances. You may know how He lived, and how he suffered, and how He died. But unless you know the power of Christ's cross by experience--unless you have reason to know that the blood shed on that cross has washed away your own particular sins, unless you are willing to confess that your salvation depends entirely on the work that Christ did upon the cross,--unless this be the case, Christ will profit you nothing. The mere knowing Christ's name will never save you. You must know His cross, and His blood, or else you will die in your sins.

Reader, as long as you live, beware of a religion in which there is not much of the cross. You live in times when the warning is sadly needful. Beware, I say again, of a religion without the cross.

There are hundreds of places of worship, in this day, in which there is every thing almost except the cross. There is carved oak and sculptured stone. There is stained glass and brilliant painting. There are solemn services and a constant round of ordinances. But the real cross of Christ is not there. Jesus crucified is not proclaimed in the pulpit. The Lamb of God is not lifted up, and salvation by faith in him is not freely proclaimed. And hence all is wrong. Beware of such places of worship. They are not apostolical. They would not have satisfied St. Paul.

There are thousands of religious books published in our times, in which there is everything except the cross. They are full of directions about sacraments and praises of the church. They abound in exhortations about holy living, and rules for the attainment of perfection. They have plenty of fonts and crosses both inside and outside. But the real cross of Christ is left out. The Savior and His dying love are either not mentioned, or mentioned in an unscriptural way. And hence they are worse than useless. Beware of such books. They are not apostolical. They would never have satisfied St. Paul.

Dear reader, remember that St. Paul gloried in nothing but the cross. Strive to be like him. Set Jesus crucified fully before the eyes of your soul. Listen not to any teaching which would interpose anything between you and Him. Do not fall into the old Galatian error. Think not that any one in this day is a better guide than the apostles. Do not be ashamed of the old paths, in which men walked who were inspired by the Holy Ghost. Let not the vague talk of men who speak great swelling words about catholicity, and the church, and the ministry, disturb your peace, and make you loose your hands from the cross. Churches, ministers, and sacraments, are all useful in their way, but they are not Christ crucified. Do not give Christ's honor to another. “he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."