Category Archives: Christian Life

In Defense of Church Liturgy

Too frequently we hear that the contemporary worship service is a wholly novel invention. Songs, sermon, and even Sunday worship were later man-made tradition. For folks who advocate this kind of thinking, the goal is to “move back to Bible,” to the kind of informal, liturgy-free gatherings of the first Christians. But there’s a problem with this thesis: It’s not grounded in real history. We we dig below the surface rhetoric, we realize that the basic structure of ancient worship service are fundamentally similar to what Christians experiences each Sunday morning. On this, Kevin DeYoung writes:

Moreover, an examination of early church documents like Clement’s Epistle to the Corinthians (c. 95), Ignatius’ Epistle to the Smyrnaeans (c. 112), The Didache (early second century), The First Apology of Justin Martyr (c. 155), and The Apostolic Traditions of Hippolytus (c. 200) show the existence of specific worship orders in the early church, including responsive readings, Communion instructions, liturgical responses, prayer formulas, blessing formulas, and various rules for teachers and preachers.35 Our worship does not need to be identical to that of the early church, especially when we move outside the New Testament to the testimony of the church fathers, but to argue for a completely spontaneous, structureless, antiliturgical, brand-new-every-week worship service in the first centuries of the church is an argument against the plain facts of history.

Think of what we find in the New Testament: a holy meal celebrated frequently (Lord’s Supper); an initiatory rite signifying those who belong to the Christian community (baptism); a day set apart (the “Lord’s Day” mentioned by John in Rev. 1:10, probably alluded to by Luke in Acts 20:7, and referenced by Pliny and Justin Martyr); the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:18-20); the probable recitation of other hymns or confessional poems (Phil 2:6-11; Col. 1:15-20; 1 Tim. 3:16 ); the teaching and reading of Old Testament Scripture (1 Tim. 4:13); contemporary epistles commanded to be read in the churches (1 Thess. 5:27). Add to this list numerous doxologies (e.g., Gal. 1:5) and benedictions (e.g., Gal. 6:18), liturgical “amens” (1 Cor. 14:16), holy kisses (Rom. 16:16), and the “maranatha” (quite possibly a set prayer for after Communion [1 Cor. 11:26; 16:22]), and even future liturgical formulas to be repeated and sung by the saints and angels in heaven (see examples in Revelation chapters 4-5, 7, 11, 15-16, 19, 22). We see evidence of patterns and structure all over the place.

-Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck, Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion, 126-127.

For this we can be thankful. Though there have certainly been changes and adaptations in church liturgy over the millennia, by God’s grace much has remained faithful on essential matters.


Don’t Let Something Else Do Your Thinking For You: Discipleship and Biblical Interpretation

Does one need to be a Christian in order to understand the Bible? Do you need seminary training, and an advanced education to make sense out of God’s book? Or, conversely, is the Bible so clear that “even a caveman” can read and grasp it?

Some, motivated by a clear sense of the Bible’s “for everyone-ness” downplay or deny the importance of formal academic study of the Bible. Others, motivated by a clear sense of the Bible’s complexity, present Scripture as something better off left to the scholars, the new priesthood of the academy. Now, in truth, most Christians are probably willing to see some truth in both positions, yet also recognize the there are dangers in either extreme.

This is how I would, and intend, to argue.

In response to these questions, we should shy away from quick yes or no answers. A straight-forward yes or no, with no additional nuance or clarification, will distort the richness of the Bible’s teaching on this issue.

Bible Translations and Theological Language

One discussion closely tied to the issues above is that of Bible translation. Just how literal and formal should translations be? A commonly cited reason people prefer dynamic equivalent translations (like the NIV, the NLT, and others) is because some biblical words are weird, or unusual for the modern reader. Words like ‘justification,’ ‘expiation,’ and ‘propitiation’ aren’t words most people use in their everyday conversations. And for that reason some think that phrases like “sacrifice of atonement” (propitiation), made right with God (justification) and others are better inserted in contemporary Bible translations.

Generally speaking, I don’t think this is a good idea and here’s why: Biblical understanding flourishes in the soil of discipleship. Sometimes I fear people want a Bible translation to do the work of discipleship. I’ve become increasingly convinced that it is good and healthy and right for Christians both to speak the language of their native culture as well as to have a uniquely Christian dialect. Words like ‘atonement’ and ‘justification’ are ways in which God has chosen to reveal to us precious truths. These terms are the vehicles for personal transformation. Postmoderns are correct in this right; language shapes a people. Very rarely have I met one with a thick theological and biblical accent who also despises theology. Without both a knowledge and love of “theological” language I simply do not know how to grasp a passage like this from Romans 3:21-26:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26 ESV)

The same passage as it appears in The Message just doesn’t seem to me to have the same punch:

But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public – to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now – this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.

To my mind, The Message has done the thinking for the Christ-disciple. As the Westminster Confession (I.VII) puts it:

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

What are the “due use of ordinary means”? These means are the ordinary ways we would determine the meaning of any written document. This includes studying the words of the document itself, its intended audience, grammar, syntax, word studies, and backgrounds (cultural, theological literary, political, etc.). It means picking up a commentary written by those who have done that level of research for us. Both believer and unbeliever.

Part of Christian discipleship is doing the work of wrestling with God’s word. So is an advanced education in theological and biblical studies necessary to understand Scripture? No, though it certainly can help! God have often used long, sustained periods of reflection under the guidance and direction of godly teachers to help so many in grasping the rich unity-in-diversity of the Bible. Such study helps us to understand how doctrines were historically formulated, how the Spirit has lead his Church, and often to apply God’s word to our modern challenges.

The Role of the Church

The chief environment for this study is not the library, apart from the fellowship of other like-minded Christians. That is a helpful means of getting in the content, but not the final context for Christian discipleship. We learn truths and facts in books. But we experience their life transforming power in the laboratory of lived experience.

The truths we wrestle with in our study come to life (or, rather, bring us to life) when we  “instruct one another” (Rom. 15:14), are“devoted to one another” (Rom. 12:10), honor one another (Rom. 12:10), accept one another (Rom.15:7), “Have equal concern for each other” (I Corinthians 12:25), “serve one another” (Gal. 5:13), are patient with one another  (Eph. 4:2), “bear with each other…” (Col. 3:13), “encourage one another” (I Thess. 4:18, 5:11), and love another another (1 Jn. 3:11; 3:23; 4:7, 11, 12).

Ultimately, the church, in its worship and work is the place for Christian discipleship. It is the fellowship of God’s gathered people, and the context in which we learn to observe all that Jesus commanded us.

When Grammar Changes Prayer

Shortly after my daughter turned two years old I began teaching her the Lord’s Prayer. But the version I taught her was slightly different than the one to which most of us are accustomed. Instead of praying, “And deliver us from evil,” I taught her to pray, “And deliver us from the evil one.” It’s a change of words, but one that has fairly significant theological implications.

But who am I to change the words of Scripture? Surely, tinkering with the words of Christ himself calls for linguistic and translational justification. Do I have one? I do, and it’s something I found long ago back at the beginning of my biblical studies. And it’s all about adjectives. Here it is:

Adjectives have a theological importance that is hard to rival. They can modify a noun (attributive), assert something about a noun (predicate), or stand in the place of a noun (substantival). Sometimes it is difficult to tell exactly which role a particular adjective is in.

Take the adjective (“evil”) in Matthew 6:13, for example. The King James Version (as well as more than one modern translation) translates this as “but deliver us from evil.” But the adjective has an article modifying it (tou [“the evil”]), indicating that it is to be taken substantivally: “the evil one.” [“A substantive is a noun, pronoun, or any word functioning like a noun”- source]

And there is no little theological difference between the two. The Father does not always keep his children out of danger, disasters, or the ugliness of the world. In short, he does not always deliver us from evil. But he does deliver us from the evil one. The text is not teaching that God will make our life a rose garden, but that he will protect us from the evil one, the devil himself (cf. John 10:28-30; 17:15).

—Daniel B. Wallace, quoted in William Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, 64.

I want to instill in my daughter a realization that the prayer isn’t about God delivering us from the dangers and infelicities of this life. It is a cry from the battlefield, requesting that the King rescue us from the enemy of our souls.

A Kingdom Perspective on Prayer Requests

We’ve all been guilty of it: Treating God like a slot machine or a genie. We turn to him only in order to determine what we can get from him. The Bible makes clear that we are to cast our cares before God, that he knows what we needs before we ask, and we should ask in faith, believing that we have what we have requested. And yet, it is still possible to pray selfish, negotiating prayers to God that border on manipulation. Other prayers seem trite or possibly even petty. Others still are just odd or even funny.

We must beware of pragmatic, self-centered prayers. Biblical prayer is not magic that manipulates God, nor is it “the law of attraction” that deals with impersonal forces, drawing to us those “positive energies” that we send out into the world.

Most of us intuitively know that this is not the way we should come to God in prayer. But if God knows us better than we know ourselves, then he also know the deepest desires of our hearts. He knows it all, and therefore these desires should be included in the way we pray to him.

Sure, we recognize that there is a bad, sinful, selfish way to ask this question, and in our darker moments we run the danger of sinking back into approaching God like that cosmic genie or slot machine. But there is likewise a sincere, pious, and God-centered way of coming to God with our requests. Does the Bible provide us with a way of speaking to God about the things we want?

Thankfully, the answer is yes.  Remember the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father who is in heaven…” When we speak about prayers of request, we are talking about petitioning our royal Heavenly Father with our desires.

Scripture teaches not only that God is the sovereign king, but also that he is a loving and involved Father. And like all loving and involved Fathers, sometimes he will deny requests and petitions that in his greater wisdom and knowledge he knows aren’t good for his children. There may be a number of reasons why God may say no to our requests. God may deny our requests when…

  • we are fostering sin in our lives
  • saying yes would bring us harm we don’t foresee
  • he has something far greater in store for us
  • we pray at cross purposes with other believers
  • we pray for things where a yes” is impossible
  • we pray for things that are already determined.

Ultimately our greatest desire and prayer to God should be “your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The Kingdom is God’s grand cosmic plan for his creation; it is his will. And when we pray for this (i.e. that his kingdom would come on earth and be recognized here as it is in the heavens) we’re aligning our desires with his purposes. As John wrote, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 Jn. 5:14). When our prayers are not self-centered, and our requests are not made merely to waste on the disordered loves of our heart, we can have rock-solid assurance that God hears them with approval. Kingdom-focused prayers should be offered in faith, without doubting, ‘for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6-8).

Our narrow perspectives often cloud us from seeing things from God’s perspective, and that is why we need to have a long-term view of our lives. A “no” from God now, may produce generations and generations of blessing down the line.

Gospel Inclusivity and Same-Sex Attraction

I am incredibly thankful for people and ministries that devote themselves to minister to people who experience same-sex attraction. In fact, I’m glad whenever anyone establishes a ministry geared toward the “LGBT” community in general. After all, everyone needs the gospel! But here a crucial distinction that needs to be made and I believe is often overlook by those who embrace “homosexual Christianity.”

Here’s the distinction: Identifying as a Christian who experiences same-sex attraction (SSA) is not the same as being a “gay Christian.” The latter denotes someone who identifies as a Christ follower and nevertheless openly embraces homosexuality and sees no moral problem with it (often knowingly or unknowingly reinterpreting Scripture in order to support a lifestyle it clearly does not.

On the other hand, being a Christian who admits to experiencing SSA is quite different. A Christian who experiences SSA is someone who recognizes two things:

  • First, that regardless of their desires, they find themselves romantically attracted to people of the same gender. For these people, it probably matters little whether this attraction developed through nature or nurture—the attraction is there and is real. But, the second realization is key.
  • Second, they also embrace Scripture as God’s word and agree with Scripture’s diagnosis of homosexuality as contrary to God’s creative purposes for human sexuality, and they seek to obey God even though it hurts to do so.

To my mind, this is incredibly commendable.

In the spirit of sympathy, we should recognize a distinctive challenge for Christians with SSA. The heterosexual Christian can pursue romantic relationships before marriage (as long as in doing so they follow the other moral commandments of Scripture). The Christian with SSA cannot “date” (insert whatever term you think appropriate here) whoever they wish. This is rough. They may want something at one level (their SSA), that at another level they know that cannot do without displeasing the God they love. We need to be willing to love, support, lose sleep over, and stand with those valuable image bearers as they struggle, fight, and claw their way to mortify their flesh as an expression of their treasuring Christ.

And yet, in another sense the call to sexual mortification is perfectly normal in the Christian life. Whether we are same-sex attracted or opposite sex attracted, all people everywhere are called to submit to the lordship of Christ through their sexuality. Our sexuality is given to us as something that comes with an instruction manual (Scripture). The Creator knows how best it functions and shares this information with us for maximum earthly fulfillment and flourishing. So heterosexual desires have only one proper channel through which will bring God’s approval (heterosexual monogamous marriage), and the person with SSA has the same channel. The standard is the same. The Bible does not teach that heterosexuals can do whatever they’d like with their sexuality with homosexuals oppressed with an unfair restriction.

In response to the struggles same-sex attracted Christian experience, our churches need to be places of inclusivity. But I am not advocating the kind of postmodern inclusivity that ultimately denies the reality of moral rebellion against God. What needed is gospel inclusivity. This is the kind of inclusivity that’s affirmed throughout the Bible itself. Biblical inclusivity affirms that each human being is valued and dignified by their Creator because we are fashioned in his image (Gen. 1:26). But it also includes every human being as equally fallen, in moral rebellion to their Creator apart from his grace (Rom. 3:23), and all subject to the effects of the fall (Rom. 8:20). Lastly, gospel inclusivity affirms that in Christ there is neither male or female, Jew nor Gentile, but we all have equal access to our Heavenly Father, and no one has any standing before God except the sole merits of Jesus Christ on our behalf.

Gospel inclusivity looks like a bunch of broken sinners clinging to the cross together.

This is an inclusivity that is pleasing to God, and though humbles us to the dust is ultimately what—through God’s redeeming grace—will exalt us to the heavens.

Labor, Identity, and the Gospel of Justification by Faith Alone

The gospel of justification by faith alone teaches us that we don’t have to prove our worth, value, or dignity to God and man based upon our productivity and accomplishments. Jesus lived a perfect life, one free from meaningless distractions and sloth, in order to pay the price for our petty laziness. Jesus’ work was singularly devoted to God and his kingdom, and yet he was crucified so our workaholism and other idolatries could be destroyed at their root. But he was raised to new life and lives today so his work record would be our work record.

When we believe in Jesus, his merit is our merit; therefore our identity isn’t determined by our work.

What does this mean for the way we should think about work? What practical effect does it have for the 9 to 5 grind? In the words of the apostle Paul, it means that whatever we do, we should work at it with all our heart, as if we were working for the Lord, not for human bosses or to gain accolades (cf. Colossians 3:23). If the gospel of grace really gets down into our bones it can’t fail to affect our work. That means that our work—whether we have our names on our office doors or on nametags—will be for the glory of God, for the betterment of the organizations we work for, and in service to those made in his image (cf. 1 Cor. 10:31).

Unlike so many voices we hear in our culture, we are free to strive for excellence without the pressure to prove ourselves. We will no longer regard our work like a master that must be served. And when we fail, and we will fail, we won’t be crushed—since we understand that by faith in Jesus we have passed the cosmic performance review.

The Test of Christian Maturity

Something to think about:

Christian maturity is tested by its willingness to go against the odds, to go against intellectual and practical fashions in the service of our King. It is easy enough to be a Christian when being a Christian merely requires us to be nice people. But love for Jesus, that love which is motivated by his great sacrifice, requires far more. It calls upon us to renounce what Scripture calls the “wisdom of the world,” the fashionable ideas and practices of our society, and to count them as rubbish for the sake of Christ. We honor those like Noah, who built his ark though the world scoffed; like Abraham, who set aside the evidence of his senses and the laughter of his own wife to believe that God would provide a miraculous son; like Moses, who stood up against Pharaoh the totalitarian despot to bring him the word of God; like Daniel, who endured lions rather than to worship an earthly king; like Peter and John, who told officials that “we must obey God, rather than man.”

-John M. Frame

Does God Expect the Same Things From Each of Us?

Thoughts on our gifts, callings, and duties before God:

In general, our obligations, our moral responsibilities, differ according to our gifts, our callings, our opportunities. One who has the gifts and calling to be an architect, and the opportunity to get the training and credentials necessary for that profession, has an obligation to give more attention to architecture than most of us would dream of giving. Similarly, we can say that obligations also change with maturity (both physical and spiritual). When Paul writes to Corinth asking the people to set aside some contributions for the poor saints in Jerusalem, common sense would lead us to believe that he is not addressing children of six months and under. Those who are ordained to the eldership have a responsibilities for the welfare of the church body that “babes in Christ” do not have as yet. Scripture teaches us “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48). Thus Jesus is far more critical of the Jewish leaders, who have been entrusted with much knowledge, than he is of the ordinary Jews and Gentiles who are relatively ignorant of God’s word.

-John Frame

Biblical Reasons to Do Good Works

In the last chapter of his introduction to Systematic Theology, Salvation Belongs to the Lord, John Frame asks the “So what?” question. Given the rich variety of biblical teaching, how should it be put to use? So his book ends with ethics. While his comprehensive discussion on this topic can be found in his Doctrine of the Christian Life, here Frame provides his readers with three biblical reasons for a life of Christian obedience and good works:

The History of Redemption. Scripture uses basically three means to encourage believers to do good works. First, it appeals to the history of redemption. This is the chief motivation in the Decalogue itself: God has redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt, therefore they should obey.

In the New Testament, the writers often urge us to do good works because of what Christ did to redeem us. Jesus himself urges that the disciples “love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). Jesus’ love, ultimately displayed on the cross, commands our response of love to one another. Another well-known appeal is found in Col. 3:1-3:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When Christ died, we died to sin; when he rose, we rose to righteousness. We are one with Christ in his death and resurrection. So those historic facts have moral implications. We should live in accord with the new life, given to us by God’s grace when we rose with Christ. See also Rom. 6:1-23, 13:11-12, 1 Cor. 6:20, 10:11, 15:58, Eph. 4:1-5, 25, 32, 5:25-33, Phil. 2:1-11, Heb. 12:1-28, 1 Pet. 2:1-3, 4:1-6.

So the Heidelberg Catechism emphasizes that our good works come from gratitude. They are not attempts to gain God’s favor, but rather grateful responses to the favor he has already shown to us.[i]

      But our focus on the history of redemption is not limited to the past. It is also an anticipation of what God will do for us in the future. God’s promises of future blessing also motivate us to obey him. Jesus commands us, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).[ii]

This motivation emphasizes God’s control, for history is the sphere of God’s control, the outworking of his eternal plan.

The Authority of God’s Commands. Scripture also motivates our good works by calling attention to God’s commands. Jesus said that he did not come to abrogate the law, but to fuilfill it, so

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:19)

So in their preaching Jesus and the apostles often appeal to the commandments of the law, and to their own commandments, as in Matt. 7:12, 12:5, 19:18-19, 22:36-40, 23:23, Luke 10:26, John 8:17, 13:34-35, 14:15, 21, Rom. 8:4, 12:19, 13:8-10, 1 Cor. 5:13, 9:8-9, 14:34, 37, 2 Cor. 8:15, 9:9, Gal. 4:21-22, Eph. 4:20-24, 6:1-3, 1 Thess. 4:1, 2 Tim. 3:16-17, Tit. 2:1, James 1:22-25, 2:8-13, 1 Pet. 1:16, 1 John 2:3-5, 3:24, 5:2.

God’s commandment is sufficient to place an obligation upon us. We should need no other incentive. But God gives us other motivations as well, because we are fallen, and because he loves us as his redeemed children.

This motivation reflects God’s lordship attribute of authority. We should obey him, simply because he has the right to absolute obedience.

The Presence of the Spirit. Thirdly, Scripture calls us to a godly life, based on the activity of the Spirit within us. This motivation is based on God’s lordship attribute of presence. Paul says,

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Gal. 5:16-18)

God has placed his Spirit within us, to give us new life, and therefore new ethical inclinations. There is still conflict among our impulses, but we have the resources to follow the desires of the Spirit, rather than those of the flesh. So Paul appeals to the inner change God has worked in us by regeneration and sanctification. In Eph. 5:8-11, he puts it this way:

for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

In the following verses, Paul continues to expound on the ethical results of this transformation. Compare also Rom. 8:1-17, Gal. 5:22-26.

So Scripture motivates us to do good works by the history of redemption, the commandments of God, and the work of the Spirit within us, corresponding to God’s lordship attributes of control, authority, and presence, respectively.

-John M. Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord

[i] This motivation is not what John Piper calls the “debtors’ ethic,” in which we do good works in a vain attempt to pay God back for our redemption. We can, of course, never do that, and we should not try to do it. See Piper, The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in Future Grace (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1995), and the summary discussion on pp. 33-38 of Brothers, We Are Not Professionals (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2002). But gratefulness, nonetheless, is the only legitimate response to the grace God has given us in Christ.

[ii] This is what Piper calls “future grace” in the works cited in the previous note.

Growing in the Knowledge of God

You’ve just got to appreciate how Frame links sanctification to knowing God in his “lordship attributes” of control, authority, and covenant presence:

You grow in knowledge of God as you know him more and more as Lord, as King. First, he is the one who controls all things. You will grow in your knowledge of God as you see more and more things as under his control: the present, the future, your own life, your sin, your salvation. Perhaps you think now that there is some part of your life where you are in control. You will grow in your knowledge of God when you come to see that ultimately there is no part of your life that is controlled by anyone other than God, even that little part of your life. Second, you come to know God as the one who speaks with such authority that you must obey – in every area of your life: your social life, your moral life, even your intellectual life. You will grow in your knowledge of God when you come to bring every thought captive to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Third, you come to know God as you sense more and more his presence in your life. You can’t ever escape from him. You can’t do anything that he doesn’t see. And nothing shall ever separate you from his love.

-John M. Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord, 75.

The Church as Both Sign and Promise

“The Christian community is both a sign and a promise of God’s coming liberation. We are the presence of God’s liberating kingdom in a broken world. We are the place where liberation can be found, offering a home for exiled people. We are to welcome the broken people to a community of broken people. We are the community among whom liberation is a present reality – the jubilee people who live with new economic and social relationships. We are the light of the world, a city on a hill. The challenge for us is to articulate Jesus’ message of a liberation in a way that connects with people’s experience and offers a place of liberation in the Christian community.”

-Tim Chester, Good News to the Poor, 97.

Emotion, Reason, and Redemption

Again, Frame clearly (and rightly, to my mind) rejects the notion that one human capacity is greater in either creation or redemption.

Redemption doesn’t make us more emotional (as some charismatics might suppose) or less so (as many Reformed would prefer), anymore than it makes us more or less intellectual. What redemption does to the intellect is to consecrate that intellect to God, whether the I.Q. is high or low. Similarly, the important thing is not whether you are highly emotional or not; the important thing is that whatever emotional capacities you have should be placed in God’s hands to be used according to His purposes.

-John M. Frame, Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 336.

Better Bumper Sticker Theology

I’m with Michael Bird on this one:

I’m not a big fan of bumper sticker theology: that is, sticking pithy theological slogans onto the bumper of the car. I particularly dislike the one ‘Christians are not perfect, just forgiven.’ While true at one level, it overlooks the crucial ingredient in the Christian life being the renewing power of God working in us through the Spirit. It might be better to write, Christians are not perfect, but God is at work in them through the vitalizing power of the Holy Spirit to transform these cracked jars of clay into glorious vessels of holiness, righteousness and goodness – if only bumper stickers word that big! In Paul’s writings, renewal is the process of transformation into the image of God that is realized through the operation of God’s glory and via the agency of the Spirit. The Spirit is continually at work in believers to make them less like themselves and more like God’s son.

Michael F. Bird, Introducing Paul: The Man, His Mission and His Message

A Gospel-Centered Prayer

This is taken from The Valley of Vision, by far my favorite devotional literature. Each prayer is a theological and spiritual feast for the soul. Here’s what I read this morning:

The Gospel Way

Blessed Lord Jesus,

No human mind could conceive or invent the gospel.

Acting in eternal grace, thou art both its messenger and its message, lived out on earth through infinite compassion, applying thy life to insult, injury, death, that I might be redeemed, ransomed, freed.

Blessed be thou, O Father, for contriving this way,

Eternal thanks to thee, O Lamb of God, for opening this way,

Praise everlasting to thee, O Holy Spirit, for applying this way to my heart.

Glorious Trinity, impress the gospel on my soul, until its virtue diffuses every faculty; Let it be heard, acknowledged, professed, felt.

Teach me to secure this mighty blessing; Help me to give up every darling lust, to submit heart and life to its command, to have it in my will, controlling my affections, moulding my understanding; to adhere strictly to the rules of true religion, not departing from them in any instance, nor for any advantage in order to escape evil, inconvenience or danger.

Take me to the cross to seek glory from its infamy; Strip me of every pleasing pretence of righteousness by my own doings.

O gracious Redeemer,

I have neglected thee too long,

often crucified thee,

crucified thee afresh by my impenitence,

put thee to open shame.

I thank thee for the patience that has borne with me so long,

and for the grace that now makes me willing to be thine.

O unite me to thyself with inseparable bonds, that nothing may ever draw me back from thee, my Lord, my Saviour.

It’s also available in an audio format, read by Max Mclean.

Beware of the Drift

People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”

― D.A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers