Tuesday, May 24, 2011

According to Plan

As Spurgeon once noted, we should never try to reconcile the doctrines of divine sovereignty and human responsibility simply because they were never at odds to begin with. They are, at least in holy writ, "friends" if you will.

But this does not prevent many from trying to twist and wrack the doctrine of divine election into something a bit less offensive, and a bit more logical. But Graeme Goldsworthy, in his most excellent introduction to biblical theology, warns those who would attempt to revise God's revelation:

"Election is a principle that is developed throughout the biblical history, and we should be careful not to misunderstand it or try to reshape it by human logic into a more acceptable doctrine. We cannot solve this mystery by resorting to easy solutions such as suggesting that God foresees the faith of those whom he subsequently, and on that basis, elects. Nor may we erect false, if apparently logical, objections to the doctrine such as saying that election based on God's free grace reduces us to robots or puppets on a string with no wills or power to make choices." (Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible.)

Saved to Save

Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? (Proverbs 24:11-12)

The Christian life is all about rescue. God has rescued us from His just and holy wrath, and doing so, has turned us into the instruments that He will use to rescue others from the same. As Solomon notes in Proverbs 24, rescuing others is not optional. It is an activity for which the LORD will call us to account. And note that the LORD will not accept ignorance as a valid excuse for not attempting to "hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter."

Life Together IV

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…” (Colossians 3:16a)

Although it is right and good to hold in high esteem the importance and efficacy of the Word preached, we ought nonetheless to remember the importance of ministering God’s Word to one another daily simply by speaking it to one another. To do this aright, we need to understand and apply the three things commanded by Paul in his letter to the Christians in Colosse.

Firstly, we need to be personally taking in the Word of God until it can be truly said that it “dwells in us richly.” In other words, to the extent that scripture colors the way that we look at everything, directing the way that we interact with others and even giving shape to our affections and desires. And this is only accomplished by means of a steady diet of hearing the Word read, sung and preached in the great assembly, and personal Bible reading, meditation and memorization.

Secondly, Paul reminds us the Word of God treasured up in our souls in not for our benefit alone. It is to be shared with the brethren in ways ranging from encouragement to reproof and everything in between.

And lastly Paul insists that we minister the Word of God to one another “in all wisdom.” To be sure “all of Scripture is God breathed and profitable for teaching, reproof, etc.” But to minister the Word wisely we must know, not only the content of the Bible, but the present needs of our brother or sister; particularly the unique way they need to hear the Gospel applied to their present circumstances. And the only way to do this is to live in the sort of tight-knit, knowing-and-being-known, serving-and-being-served, loving-and-being-loved community to which God calls every disciple of Jesus Christ.

As Bonhoeffer noted:

“…God has put this Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of a man. Therefore the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s sure.” (Life Together, p. 22-23)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Life Together III

One of the surest proofs of our desperate need for ongoing sanctification is our ability to turn the great blessings of God into burdensome duties. God enjoins His people take a day off once a week and we immediately begin to fret, moan and argue about all the things we can’t do and can’t get done. God assures us that children are a very great blessing and we immediately run the cost/benefit analysis in order to calculate how raising offspring will negatively affect our future, freedom and finances. Similarly and sadly, many Christians have twisted the inestimable blessing of Christian fellowship into an irksome duty to be performed and endured. But Bonhoeffer reminds us:

“The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer…It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of the Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now had had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.” (Life Together, pages 19,20)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Life Together II

As Bonhoeffer correctly notes, we modern Christians take so very much for granted:

“So between the death of Christ and the Last Day it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Christians are privileged to live the life of fellowship with other Christians. It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the Gospel in heathen lands stand alone. They know that visible fellowship is a blessing.” (Life Together, p. 18)

Life Together I

I am currently reading the new biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxes and very much enjoying it. And reading this excellent offering has sent me back to one of my all-time favorites books by Bonhoeffer: Life Together (a discussion of Christian fellowship). I have read and reread Life Together several times. But having a new/deeper understanding of the historical and theological context in which it was written is making this reread particularly sweet and edifying. Here’s a little slice from the chapter entitled Community (pages 17-18):

“It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of the cloistered life but in the thick of the foes. There is his commission, his work.”

And then commenting and querying with a quote from Martin Luther he writes:

“'The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever had been spared?'”

Stay tuned for more…

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ode to the KJV

I grew up Christian. I came down the birth canal and landed in church. I cannot remember a time when I was not being prayed with and prayed for. Growing up, I very often went to sleep to the sounds of saints downstairs in our living room praying and singing choruses lifted directly from the King James Version (e.g. "Therefore the redeemed of the LORD...") My first Bible was a KJV, read to me before I could read it for myself, and read by me for decades after that. Most of the scripture that I have committed to memory is from the KJV and most of the Bible study tools that I have acquired over the years are keyed to this wonderful translation of the origninal text. The name of this blog is a tribute to the portions of the KJV that I don't understand, but whose lyric poetry I love nonetheless.

Just like the culture that I live in, I have been profoundly shaped by the words and cadences of the KJV. The difference being that I recognize and give thanks for such, while my culture does not. Enjoy the video.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Meals, Community and Mission

I very much enjoyed Tim Chester's "Total Church" and now he has a new book describing the communal and missional potency of shared meals. Here is Justin Taylor's interview with Chester about his new book. It looks like a good read.

Monday, May 02, 2011

"An elder must be...hospitable" (Paul)

(Hebrews 13:2) Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

In 1 Timothy 3, Paul outlines the qualifications requisite for a man who would serve the church of Jesus Christ as an elder. One of the character traits listed is “hospitable” which in Koine Greek is a compound of two words, philo (brotherly love) and xenos (alien, stranger, one who is without.) We tend to think of hosting a fellowship meal for our Christian brothers and sisters as practicing “hospitality”, but as Darrin Patrick observes:

“Contrary to popular belief, this qualification doesn’t mean that the pastor and his wife should have potlucks at their house for all the people in the church. Nor does it mean that pastors’ home should be a revolving door for people in the church to come and hang out, watch network television, and “do community.” The word “hospitable” refers to the way the pastor and his family welcome those outside the faith. In other words, to be hospitable is to be a friend of sinners and thus to be like Jesus.”

Neither Boy Nor Man, Ban

“We live in a world full of males who have prolonged their adolescence. They are neither boys nor men. They live, suspended as it were, between childhood and adulthood, between growing up and being grown-ups. Let’s call this male Ban, a hybrid of both boy and man. Ban is juvenile because there has been an entire niche created for him to live in the lusts of his youth. The accompanying culture not only tolerates this behavior but encourages and endorses it. (Consider magazines like Maxim or movies like Wedding Crashers.) This kind of male is everywhere, including the church and even, frighteningly, vocational ministry.

Ban may be a frightening reality in the church, but he is the best thing that ever happened to the video game industry. Almost half (about 48 percent) of American males between the ages of eighteen to thirty-four play video games every day – for almost four hours. The average video game buyer is thirty-seven years old.” (from the Preface of Darrin Patrick’s, Church Planter)