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Give Up the Ghost
September 17, 2016

There are all kinds of phrases and idioms we use day to day even though we have lost their origins. We know what they mean, we know when to use them, but we don’t know where we got them. In so many cases they come to us by way of the Bible, and especially the King James Bible. This is exactly the case with the common little phrase “Give up the ghost.”

The Expression

We use the expression “give up the ghost” to describe death—the disconnection of the soul (the ghost) from the body. Yet today we would not use the phrase in a solemn occasion (“We are gathered here today to honor our friend who gave up the ghost on Saturday”). Rather, we tend to use it humorously to describe the “death” of something that is inanimate or relatively unimportant, as in “My iPhone finally gave up the ghost.” A small-town newspaper laments, “History is strewn with towns that gave up the ghost when companies moved on” while a home renovation column in the Sydney Morning Herald begins “The vanity unit in our bathroom gave up the ghost recently, and as we are saving for a major renovation in a few years…” In this way we use it as a form of personification, to make it seem as if something has greater significance than it does intrinsically.

The Origin

The phrase was popularized by the King James Version of the Bible, though the King James drew from the Coverdale Bible. The KJV uses it in a number of passages: Luke 23:46 and John 19:30 when describing the death of Jesus and Acts 12:23 when describing the death of Herod. “And immediately the angel of the Lord smote [Herod], because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.” Most current translation render “gave up the ghost” as “breathed his last” or simply “die.” A quick check of the Greek shows that the John passage is different from the others in that it explicitly references “pneuma” or “spirit.” Thus the ESV does well to translate it differently from the other two: “he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” It is only here where “give up the ghost” is a literal rather than idiomatic expression.

The Application

Though the idiom is no longer used in modern Bible translations, it lives on in the culture around us. In this way it gives us reason to consider its significance. It is drawn most naturally from John 19:30 and, thus, from the most momentous event in human history—the death of Jesus Christ. There is much we can and should learn from it. We see that Jesus “gave up his spirit” and this reminds us that Jesus was fully human even while he was fully God. There is and was unity of body and soul, of the material and the immaterial. And then we see that he “gave up his spirit.” This reminds us of his uniqueness, for there was something active rather than passive in this “giving up.” To the end, Jesus was willingly enduring his suffering and sacrifice. Yes, he was dragged to the court and the cross, yes he was nailed to the tree, but all the while he was willing, he was still in control. He was willing to suffer in this way even while he had the power and authority to make it stop. This is consistent with what he said in John 10:17-18: “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

And finally, this little phrase is a call for us to remember that we, too, are more than bodies, more than what can be seen, touched, and killed. Though our bodies can and will be destroyed, in that moment we, too, will give up the ghost. The soul will live on until it is at last reunited to a body that is remade, restored, and perfected. This is the great promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Not surprisingly, many Christian songs express worship for these beautiful realities. “In Christ Alone” is a stirring example:

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

September 17, 2016

I’m spending the weekend down here in Little Rock, Arkansas. I’m hoping I’ll be able to meet a few of you today at The Forging Men Conference or tomorrow at Bible Church of Little Rock.

How To Get Logos 7

Purchasing Logos Bible Software can be a little bit complicated. This article explains the various options.

I Was a Teenage Pastor

H.B. Charles Jr. (a preacher I always love to listen to) on “What diving into church leadership at 17 taught me about building a ministry that lasts.” You might want to skip up to the 8-minute mark to skip the banter between the hosts.

What Is a Vector?

You’ve probably heard the word “vector” used in various contexts. This little video explains what they are and why they are so useful.

Would You Kiss Your Bride Through a Veil?

There’s a great title for an article on the importance of knowing the original biblical languages.

Stop the Revolution. Join the Plodders

Kevin DeYoung levels an important challenge.

This Day in 1575. 441 years ago today Swiss reformer Henry Bullinger died. Bullinger had arguably the greatest influence on second-generation Reformers after John Calvin. *

Don’t Be a 9Marxist!

9Marks has a kind of warning against misusing their material. “9Marks talks a lot about authority in the church—authority in preaching, authority in membership and discipline practices, authority among the elders. The thing is, sinners like us easily abuse the authority that God gives. So even as 9Marks encourages churches to avoid the squishy complacency of nominal Christianity, we also don’t want churches to err in the direction of being doctrinaire and authoritarian.”

A Family Affair

Carl Trueman looks at a situation of a mother and daughter who are in trouble for marrying one another. This leads to an examination of consent as the ultimate determiner of morality.

Millennials Don’t Need Your “Cool”

My thanks goes to CLC Publications for sponsoring the blog this week.

Flashback: Compromising God’s Standards for Sexuality

“As Christians we are adept at looking at the culture around us and seeing how it is violating God’s good standards when it comes to sexuality. Not too long ago, though, I was asked to reflect on the ways in which Christians may compromise God’s standards for sexuality…”

Open transgression of God’s law slays its thousands, but wordliness its tens of thousands.J.C. Ryle 

Free Stuff Fridays Updated
September 16, 2016

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by CLC Publications. They are giving away a great set of books for the Christian family. The Family Pack from CLC Publications contains Faith That Lasts, The Unfair Advantage and The Parent Map, and is ideal for any family looking for great, practical ways to incorporate more gospel-centered living into their lives and interactions with one another.

Enter Here

Giveaway Rules: You may enter one time. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon. If you are viewing this through email, click to visit my site and enter there.

3 Godly Ambitions for the Christian
September 16, 2016

Some of my favorite biblical commands are the ones that most counter our culture, and even our little Christian subculture. We find just such a series of commands near the end of 1 Thessalonians. There Paul tells this church to “…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands” (4:11). The ESV is nicely complemented by the NIV’s slightly different rendering: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you.”

When Paul says “make it your ambition” he indicates that this is the good, right, and honorable way for them to live their lives—and for us to live our lives. Over against all the other things we could aspire to, we are first to aspire to these, for these are matters of first importance. He highlights three godly ambitions for the Christian.

Live a quiet life. Paul first exhorts us to live a quiet life and to be content to live such a quiet life. What is this quiet life? It’s a life that is not obsessed with thrusting itself into the public eye. It’s a life that is content to be unknown and unnoticed if that is the Lord’s will. It’s a life that is measured not by popularity or platform but by faithfulness. In that way it’s also a life that avoids conflict, that avoids being contentious and is, instead, willing to forgive or overlook as a situation requires. Sure, we thrust some people into the spotlight and often for very good reasons. We need some people (like Paul!) to take on positions of prominence. But these ought to be people who have first proven their character in obscurity and who would be equally content to remain far out of the spotlight. Make it your ambition to be unknown—to be joyfully, contentedly unknown.

Mind your own business. And as you live that unknown life, mind your business. Whether in community, workplace, local church fellowship, or family, there is always a temptation to get involved in things that are not our concern. There is something in us that gives us arrogant confidence that we know how to live other people’s lives, do other people’s jobs, fulfill other people’s ministries better than they do. We are quick to get involved in things that are none of our concern. Paul says to make it our ambition to mind our own business. We need to give full attention to the few matters that belong to us and butt out of all those that do not. We love people best not by meddling but by staying far out of their affairs. Make it your ambition to stay in your lane, to humbly give your full attention to those few responsibilities God has called you to.

Work hard. And then there is the call to work hard. Each of us deals with the temptation to refuse to get involved in much of anything. Laziness haunts us. And yes, Christians can be embarrassingly lazy, refusing to “work with our own hands,” as Paul commands—to work hard at providing for ourselves and to work hard at having enough that we can provide for those who have true needs. There is great value in our work: “so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (4:12). Hard work has evangelistic value in showing unbelievers our refusal to lazily meddle and it has congregational value in that it frees us from being dependent upon others. Better still, it frees us to help those who need our help.

So, says Paul, be ambitious. But be ambitious first for the basic and lowly things. Master these few matters. Be content with these few things. This is a life that pleases God.

September 16, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include: Unseen Realities by R.C. Sproul; NIV Zondervan Study Bible edited by D.A. Carson; MacArthur Study Bible NKJV or NASB; NIV Archaeological Study Bible; Four Views of the End Times by Timothy Paul Jones; The History of Protestantism by J.A. Wylie.

Westminster Books is having a clearance sale to clear out some titles they’ve got too many of. There are some really good deals to be had.

Desiring to Rule Over Genesis 3:16

Nick Batzig lays out the different interpretation options for Genesis 3:16. 

The Invention That Changed the World

I guess there have been a few inventions that have changed the world, but this video presents one you probably wouldn’t think of.

3 Ways Spurgeon Conquered His Secret Sin

“For the past century, Charles Spurgeon’s strengths have often overshadowed his weaknesses. His biographers are largely to blame, painting the preacher as a superhero incapable of vice or vulnerability. Yet warts reveal as much as dimples do. Spurgeon had both. He experienced seasons of success, but he also harbored hidden faults — secret sins that sought to undermine his ministry.”

The Racial Heresy in Southern Baptist History

Timothy Paul Jones: “The founders of the Southern Baptist Convention and of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary were zealous defenders of biblical orthodoxy. They were also heretics.” 

Seven Principles for Angry Parents Disciplining Angry Children

Here’s Kevin DeYoung: “In Ephesians 6:4, God tells fathers—though I think it’s okay for moms to listen in—to raise children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. He also warns against provoking our children to anger. So how do we do one without the other? How do we discipline exasperating kids without in turn exasperating them unnecessarily?”

This Day in 1672. 344 years ago today Puritan Anne Bradstreet, America’s first noteworthy poet, died. *

​The Seven Fears Controlling Controllers

David Murray says “Although controlling/authoritarian/obsessive people often seem intimidatingly strong and confident, at heart they are insecure people who are controlled by a number of fears.”

Highway in the Sky

I love these Wendover Productions videos. This one discusses highways in the sky.

Free OIA Summary Booklet

OIA Bible study is a wonderful tool. With this tool, anyone can get to know the Lord Jesus by learning to study his word.” Here’s a free booklet to introduce you to a great method.

Flashback: I Am An Old-Fashioned Christian

I get the books. I read the articles. I see the news. Christianity seems ready to move on. And I realize anew: I am an old-fashioned kind of Christian.

We are never more than poor beggars telling other poor beggars where there is bread.D.A. Carson

Is Your Church Messy Enough
September 15, 2016

I love my church. I love the people I gather with week-by-week. They are fun and safe and easy to be with. But who said church should be safe and easy? What if one of the marks of a good church, a blessed church, is that it’s a messy church?

I’m sure you know of the parable of The Lost Sheep in Luke 15. We call it “The Parable of The Lost Sheep” but it is actually “The Parable of the Kind and Loving Shepherd.” The sheep aren’t the point of the story. Like so many of Jesus’ parables, this parable was told in the presence of two groups of people—people who were convinced of their own badness and people who were convinced of their own goodness. And in this case Jesus was speaking primarily to those good and religious people.

The parable is simple: A sheep has wandered off from the flock and become lost. The shepherd will not rest until he has found it and restored it to himself. He goes, he searches, he finds, he restores, he rejoices. Just think about that silly, helpless sheeping, wandering lost and alone in the wilderness. Think about that tired shepherd who had to go wandering far and wide to find him. Think of the ways he could have responded when he finally tracked it down.

The shepherd finds his sheep and rebukes it: “You stupid, ignorant sheep. How dare you wander off from me?” No. He doesn’t rebuke it.

The shepherd finds his sheep and punishes it: “You dumb, disobedient sheep. I’ll teach you to wander off!” No, he doesn’t punish it.

The shepherd finds his sheep and is disgusted by it: “You are filthy and smelly! What on earth did you get into? You go clean yourself up right now and I’ll come back later.” No, he doesn’t make it clean itself up.

The shepherd finds his sheep and sells it: “I can’t have a sheep like you polluting my flock. Do you know how you made me look in front of everyone else?” No, he doesn’t get rid of it.

“And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” Yeah, that’s the one. When that shepherd finds his sheep, he cares for it. He hoists that big, heavy, dirty sheep onto his shoulders and carries it home, rejoicing all the way. He carries it home and calls his friends and throws a party to celebrate.

The point of the parable is that God loves to save the lost. He loves to save sinners. He doesn’t save those who are righteous and whose lives are all put together, he saves those who are just plain bad. He saves the messy ones, not the ones who are convinced they are clean.

If God is in the business of saving sinners, we need to expect that church will be full of sinners—those who are still wandering and those who have only just been found. If our churches reflect God’s heart for the lost, they will be full of people with problems, full of people showing the consequences of a lifetime of wandering. And this means that church may not be a safe and easy place. It may not be a place full of people who have it all together. It may be messy. It should be messy. Thank God if it is messy.

September 15, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include just a couple of new ones: How To Enjoy Reading Your Bible by Keith Ferrin and Pastors in the Classics by Leland Ryken. As always, you can find today’s deals and deals from the past few days at the Kindle Deals for Christians page.

On the ESV’s Rendering of Genesis 3:16

Denny Burk offers some thoughts on the ESV’s new rendering of Genesis 3:16.

5 Key Realities the Bible Teaches about God’s Love

D.A. Carson teaches about God’s love.

Less Redeeming Things and More Enjoying Them

I appreciate this: “As I’ve gotten older, slightly less annoying, and, hopefully, more godly, I’ve come to see that in most leisure situations, the most godly thing to do is simply sit back and experience joy.”

The Long View: Developing Faithfulness

“Mature, steady, faithful people are a precious commodity.”

God May Postpone Your Relief for His Glory

“As you ponder God’s delay, as you wait for his answer, remember that he is with you. He will glorify himself in your waiting.”

This Day in 1648. 368 years ago today the Larger and Shorter Westminster Catechisms were approved by the British Parliament. Watch Chad Van Dixhoorn discuss the Westminster Confession. *

Shorter Sermons

Josh Buice makes a case for shorter sermons. And, in general, I agree with what he says.

Don’t Live for a Compliment from Your Husband

This is equally applicable to husbands waiting for compliments from their wives.

Flashback: A Failure of Worship

“We are neither taught nor inclined to think of addicted persons as being actively and passionately engaged in the pursuit of the good life. We tend to think of them as persons who have checked out of the game or who are positively bent on destruction. But this is not so.”

I cannot comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called.C.H. Spurgeon

Think on These Things? What Things?
September 14, 2016

What makes holy people holy? What makes unholy people unholy? To a large degree it is what fills their minds and their hearts. This is why the battle for holiness is first a battle to flood your mind and heart with the right things, the best things, and why it’s equally a battle to avoid flooding your mind and heart with the wrong things, the worst things. So let me ask you, when it comes to what you see, what you watch, what you read, what you ponder, what you enjoy, what you find entertaining, what fills your mind and thrills your heart—what is your standard? What do you invite into your mind, your heart, your life? What do you deliberately keep out? What is your standard? Here are three options, each a variation of Philippians 4:8.

Finally, brothers, whatever is false, whatever is dishonorable, whatever is unjust, whatever is perverse, whatever is repulsive, whatever is unworthy, if there is any imperfection, if there is anything unworthy of honor, think about these things—give weight and value to them, and allow them to influence the way you live. They will. They must.

Finally, brothers, whatever is reasonably accurate, whatever isn’t too outrageous, whatever is minimally unjust, whatever isn’t wildly impure, whatever isn’t absolutely vile, whatever doesn’t make you too uncomfortable, if there is anything that isn’t too far gone, if there is anything that’s not completely without virtue, think on these things—fill your mind with them, let them go down deep within, and live accordingly.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things—think about them until they fill your mind and heart and rejoice as they then work themselves out in loving behavior toward both God and man.

I ask again, what’s your standard?

Recently, at the death of Alec Motyer, a number of people wrote remembrances of the man and a common thread was his holiness. Perhaps Motyer was deeply impacted by these verses as he wrote his excellent commentary on them. As he wrote that commentary he recorded this challenge:

We are to meditate on, to prize as valuable, and to be influenced by all that is true, all that merits serious thought and encourages serious-mindedness, all that accords with justice and moral purity, all that is fragrant and lovely, all that brings with it a good word, that speaks well, whatever has genuine worth of any sort and merits praise. It is the will of God that by giving attention to things of which he approves we should shape our minds to be like his: to those who do so, he pledges his guardian peace and his own presence as the God of peace. (The Message of Philippians)

Motyer was preceded into glory by Jerry Bridges, another man who was spoken of with respect and honor for his holiness, for his desire to please God in all he did and said. Here is what he wrote in his great work, The Pursuit of Holiness:

As Christians we are no longer to be conformed to the pattern of this world but we are to be renewed in our minds (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:23; 1 Peter 1:14). Holiness begins in our minds and works out to our actions. This being true, what we allow to enter our minds is critically important. The television programs we watch, the movies we may attend, the books and magazines we read, the music we listen to, and the conversations we have all affect our minds. We need to evaluate the effects of these avenues honestly, using Philippians 4:8 as a standard. Are the thoughts stimulated by these various avenues true? Are they pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy?

So I ask one more time: What’s your standard?

Let me give the final word to Charles Simeon: “Think of their nature, that you may be apprised of their extent: think of their obligation, that you may be aware of their importance: think of their difficulty, that you may obtain help from your God: think of their excellency, that you may be stirred up to abound in them: and think of their complicated effects on the world around you, that you may make your light to shine before men, and that others, beholding it, may glorify your Father that is in heaven.” Think on these things!