July 31, 2009

What is the Principal Exercise of Faith?

Pastor Ian Hamilton writes a brief contemplation to stir our affections for Christ. His reference to Paul in Philippians applies to our current series walking through that letter.

It is part of our humanity, and of our redeemed humanity, that we give our minds and affections to the people and places and 'things' that have most captured our imagination and impacted our lives. Think of how obsessive many men (and women) are today about football. They even talk about their favourite players as 'gods' and 'messiahs'. They cannot stop thinking about, speaking about, singing about their heroes. Their hearts rise and fall depending on the success or failure of their 'first love'. When you read the New Testament and especially Paul's Letters, you cannot help being struck by his obsession with Jesus Christ. He tells the Philippians, 'For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.' He tells them that he is 'a one thing I do man': 'One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind . . . I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.' He tells the Corinthians that Jesus is God's 'indescribable gift'. He tells the Ephesians that God the Father has blessed believers 'with every spiritual blessing in Christ'. Is it any wonder Paul was obsessed with his Saviour?

You can read the full article here.

July 29, 2009

Machen Resources

Machen is a wonderful writer. The following link will give you a page that collects many of his own works, along with the commentary of others concerning his work. Machen's example gives me courage and encouragement as he shares his wisdom.

Machen's birthday


Trueman on Owen

Carl Trueman gives a good brief overview of John Owen's life and impact. He also presses one of Owen's works for our consideration, which I now plan to read in the near future. (HT: JT)

July 25, 2009

A Walk Through Philippians - #3

It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. (Philippians 1:7, ESV)

Paul loves the Philippians. Truly loves them. In our age of busyness, constantly struggling to achieve one goal so we can get on to the next, we fly by Paul and the Philippians as merely a blur in our window while rocketing higher and higher towards a fully sanctified, devoted, and fruit-bearing life. And we miss so much.

Ok rocketboys and rocketgirls, let's turn off the afterburners for a few minutes. Re-enter the atmosphere... put on the airbrake. Sit down and take a couple of breaths.

Paul loves the Philippians. They have shared time, energy, work, labor, effort, preaching, teaching, learning, money, food, housing, prayer, concern, suffering, torture, imprisonment, criticism, poverty, questions, doubts, fears, generosity, laughter, meals, tears, sweat, illness, friends, death, life, the gospel, and ultimately Christ. Christ has been all and in all of these things with the Philippians and Paul. Through all of this, Paul loves the Philippians. That's what he's telling them. "It is only right for me to believe that God will finish the work He began in you because I have you in my heart." Paul knows God's love for the Philippians, and he knows and owns his own love for his friends.

Paul has been in trouble, both in Philippi and several times after. They never abandon him. He ministered the grace of the gospel of Christ among them, which they received full-heartedly and shouldered Paul's burdens as much as they could. What love they have shown for Christ and for Paul in sticking with the apostle through thick and thin. They put their own skin on the line in many ways to help their beloved friend.

I've held my tongue until now, but I need to say something about the trouble Paul had. Paul suffered for the sake of the gospel. Suffered. He was beaten. He was stoned. He was imprisoned. He was shipwrecked. He went hungry. He was disowned, berated, and rejected. Many of today's media superstar preachers have "trouble" also. They don't have a large enough house in an exclusive enough neighborhood. They don't have a big enough corporate jet. They don't have enough cars or garage space to hold them all. They don't have a big enough yacht. They don't have long enough retreats at lavish enough resorts. They don't have white enough veneers for their toothy smile. They don't have enough money in the bank or a big enough church. They don't have enough designer suits in their closets or enough designer shoes for their feet. They don't have enough, but it is their calling to "suffer" these things for the sake of the gospel.

They do have enough of one thing. They have enough greed to last a lifetime. No danger of running out there. In distinct contrast, Paul shows what suffering for the sake of the gospel really looks like. The Philippians show what loving their preacher and brother really looks like. Can we suffer with and love the people in our lives like this? Well, has God changed? Has Jesus scrapped the gospel since it's so much trouble and switched to delivering a message of gospel-lite, otherwise known as prosperity? God has not changed. The good old gospel is still good news. And yes, by God's grace we can suffer with and love the people in our lives like this.

While I desire that these thoughts magnify Christ and are a help to you, they can only help if they are lived by you in your life right where you're at. Today. Reading Philippians together won't make a lick of difference in your life without application to your heart and your life touching the lives of those around you. Reading Philippians without loving those around you makes the message ring empty. So turn off the touchdown-achieving afterburners and love the dear people in your life as Christ loves them. Spend and be spent for them with time, energy, work, labor, effort, preaching, teaching, learning, money, food, housing, prayer, concern, suffering, torture, imprisonment, criticism, poverty, questions, doubts, fears, generosity, laughter, meals, tears, sweat, illness, friends, death, life, the gospel, and ultimately Christ.

By His Grace. For His Glory.

July 21, 2009

Jesus Our Mediator - Reflections from Abraham Booth

Taken from chapter 11 of Abraham Booth's The Reign of Grace. Booth writes concerning the person of Christ in his atoning work.

"It was absolutely necessary also, that our Mediator and Surety should be God as well as man. For as he could neither have obeyed, nor suffered, if he had not possessed a created nature; so, had he been a mere man, however immaculate, he could not have redeemed one soul. Nay, though he had possessed the highest possible created excellencies, they would not have been sufficient; because he would still have been a dependent being. For as it is essential to Deity, to be underived and self-existent; so it is essential to a creature, to be derived and dependent. The loftiest seraph that sings in glory is as really dependent on God, every moment of his existence, as the meanest worm that crawls. In this respect, an angel and an insect are on a level. Every intelligent creature, therefore, whether human or angelic, having received existence from the Almighty, and being continually dependent on him, as the all-producing, all-supporting first cause; must be obliged to perpetual obedience, by virtue of that relation in which he stands to God, as his Maker and Preserver. It is highly absurd to suppose it possible for any creature to supererogate, or to do more in a way of obedience to Him from whom his all was received, than he is under the strongest obligations to perform, in consequence of his absolute and universal dependence. But whatever is previously due from any one, on his own account, cannot be transferred to another, without rendering the first devoid of that obedience which it is absolutely necessary for him to have. Universal obedience, in every possible instance, is so necessary in a rational creature, as such, being dependent on God and created for his glory, that the omission of it, in any degree, would not only be criminal, but expose to everlasting ruin.

The righteousness, therefore, of a mere creature, however highly exalted, could not have been accepted by the Great Supreme, as any compensation for our obedience. Because whoever undertakes to perform a vicarious righteousness, must be one who is not obliged to obedience on his own account. Consequently, our Surety must be a Divine Person; for every mere creature is under indispensable obligations to perfect and perpetual obedience. Now, as our situation required, so the gospel reveals, a Mediator and Substitute thus exalted and glorious. For Jesus is described as a Divine Person, as one who could, without any arrogance, or the least disloyalty, claim independence; and, when thus considered, he appears fit for the task. But of such an One we could have had no idea, without that distinction of Persons in the Godhead which the Scriptures reveal. Agreeably to this distinction, we behold the rights of Deity asserted and vindicated, with infinite majesty and authority, in the person of the Father; while we view every Divine perfection displayed and honoured, in the most illustrious manner, by the amazing condescension of the eternal Son: By the humiliation of Him who, in his lowest state of subjection, could claim an equality with God. Such being the dignity of our wonderful Sponsor, it was by his own voluntary condescension that he became incarnate, and took upon him the form of a servant. By the same free act of his will he was made under the law, to perform that obedience in our stead, to which, as a Divine Person, he was no way obliged.

The necessity there was that our Surety should be a Divine Person, might be further proved, by considering the infinite evil there is in sin. That sin is an infinite evil, appears from hence. Every crime is more or less heinous, in proportion as we are under obligations to the contrary. For the criminality of any disposition, or action, consists in a contrariety to what we ought to possess, or perform. If, therefore, we hate, disobey, or dishonour any person, the sin is always proportional to the obligations we are under to love, to honour, and to obey him. Now the obligations we are under to love, to honour, and to obey any person, are in proportion to his loveliness, his dignity, and his authority. Of this, none can doubt. If then infinite beauty, dignity, and authority belong to the immensely glorious God; we must be under equal obligations to love, to honour, and to obey him; and a contrary conduct must be infinitely criminal. Sin, therefore, is a violation of infinite obligation to duty; consequently an unlimited evil, and deserving of infinite punishment. Such being the nature of our offences, and of the aggravations attending them, we stand in absolute need of a surety, the worth of whose obedience and sufferings should be equal to the unworthiness of our persons, and to the demerit of our disobedience. If to the evil there is in every sin, we take into consideration the vast number of sinners that were to be redeemed; the countless millions of enormous crimes that were to be expiated; and the infinite weight of Divine wrath that was to be sustained; all which were to be completed in a limited and short time, in order to reconcile man to God, and to effect his eternal salvation; we shall have still stronger evidence in proof of the point.

Were a defence of the proper Deity of Christ my intention, the Scriptures would furnish me with ample matter and abundant evidence in favour of the capital truth. For the names that he bears, the perfections ascribed to him, the works he has done, and the honours he has received, loudly proclaim his ETERNAL DIVINITY. But I wave the attempt, and proceed to observe,

That it was necessary our Surety should be God and man, in unity of person. This necessity arises from the nature of his work; which is that of a Mediator between God, the offended Sovereign, and man, the offending subject. If he had not been a partaker of the Divine nature, he could not have been qualified to treat with God; if not of the human, he would not have been fitted to treat with man. Deity alone was too high to treat with man; humanity alone was too low to treat with God. The eternal Son therefore assumed our nature, that he might become a middle person; and so be rendered capable of laying his hands upon both, (Job 9:33) and of bringing them into a state of perfect friendship. He could not have been a mediator, in regard to his office, if he had not been a middle-person, in respect of his natures. Such is the constitution of his wonderful person, and hence he is called IMMANUEL God with us, or in our nature."

July 15, 2009

The Painter of Creation

Last weekend I was able to spend an hour at the local Anderson Dance Pavilion on the riverfront here in Sioux City. The city keeps it wonderfully appointed with beautiful plants and flowers during the summer. Here are some of the photos that are the result. You can click on them for the full size versions. Enjoy.

July 10, 2009

A Walk Through Philippians - #2

Being confident of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: (Philippians 1:6, ESV)

Paul, having greeted, blessed, and encouraged the Philippians all in the space of the first five verses, gives them a double-dose of gospel courage. His love for them could not be more obvious. Paul surprises us a little when we see this side of him. We tend to think of him as hard and driven and always aggressively pressing forward. Rarely do you hear anyone speak of 'gentle Paul' but that is exactly who shows up in this letter of friendship to a church he helped establish. His heart is tender towards them. He is concerned for their well-being in the midst of persecution and trouble.

First, Paul expresses his own assurance in the work of God on their behalf. He is confident, sure, convinced. Now, it is an easy thing to say we are confident in God's ability, sure of His love, convinced of His concern. It is quite another to own assurance where people are involved. God can do whatever he wants when he chooses to act (we profess), as long as He is the only party to the action. As soon as people enter the picture, all bets are off. Is it any wonder that we think this way, given the shining failures displayed in the lives of Peter, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, and nearly every other biblical character, not to mention our own lives, the sin and failure we experience daily? Thinking of God and the church this way is a trap. It's not how Paul views the Philippians.

The first part of the double-dose of gospel courage he gives them is a profession of his assurance for them. Not that they are giants in the land or super-human in their devotion and purity. No, Paul's assurance on their behalf is not rooted in the Philippians themselves. Paul's assurance is rooted in God, who has begun a good work in them and will see it through to completion. Paul digs a deep well for the Philippians to draw from whenever they stumble or doubt - the well of God's providential care for them. When trouble comes, when their hearts are faint, when the accuser raises his objection, all is not lost. Paul reminds them to come to the well, draw, and drink deeply of their God. He is confident, sure, convinced of God's promised and sufficient care for the Philippians.

The second part of the double-dose of gospel courage is to set their eyes firmly on the return of Christ. Paul knows that he knows that he knows that God will continue His good work in them until the day of Jesus Christ. From our perspective, we might say "God will continue this good work in you until you die". In essence this is what Paul is saying but rather than setting their eyes on death, which is precious little encouragement when viewed in the midst of trouble, Paul displays Christ and his glorious return as the fountainhead of courage for the beleaguered church. Troubles, conflicts, and doubts fade in the light of Christ's glorious return. They are released from their battle stations only when the war is finished or they pass into glory. Until then, God is their shield and fortress.

Dear brother and sister, Christ has saved you and brought you to life. Press on in the battle until He returns. We don't know when He is coming, so set your sights today to live for Him today. Don't forestall your life by targeting some unknown years in the future when you think death will likely come calling. Live today for your Savior and Lord. I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

July 4, 2009

Haldane, Atonement, and the Watchtower

James Haldane wrote the following in his 1845 book, The Doctrine of the Atonement. He sees, as if by prescience, the tomfoolery of the Watchtower concerning the atonement, and destroys their vain imaginings with the glory of our Creator Redeemer.

No creature could have made an atonement for sin, or have magnified the law either by obedience or suffering. Had a body been prepared for the highest angel, his incarnation must have been an act of obedience to his Creator; and after all his humiliation, and all his sufferings, he would have been an unprofitable servant; he could have done no more than his duty. His righteousness, therefore, could not have extended to another; he could have had no superfluous merit, neither could he have offered himself a voluntary sacrifice; he could not have laid down his life, for no creature has power over his own life. No created being could have endured the curse of the broken law, or have stood as the substitute and surety of another; for every creature must bear his own burden. But the Creator, in whom was life, of whose sovereign will the law is but the expression, appeared in the form of a servant; by his obedience unto death, he magnified and made honorable the law which his people had broken; thus restoring what he took not away. In obedience to his Father's commandment, he laid down his life, that he might take it again, and rose to the power of an endless life, as the first-born of many brethren, to whom he was in all things conformed.

Such is the foundation which God has laid in Sion for the hope of the guilty. Such is the everlasting righteousness in which Christ's people shall stand unrebukable. It "differs entirely from the righteousness of men and angels in its AUTHOR; for it is the righteousness not of a creature, but of the Creator. I the Lord have created it. It is a divine and infinitely perfect righteousness, wrought out by Jehovah himself, which, in the salvation of man, preserves all his attributed inviolate. The Father created it through the Son, in the same was as by the Son he created the world."
J.A. Haldane; The Doctrine of the Atonement; pp 44-45