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Through New Eyes
August 03, 2015

One of the great joys of being a Christian is the ability we gain to look at the Bible and, through the Bible, to see the world in the way God sees it. It is like the Bible is a pair of glasses through which we gain God’s vision and God’s perspective. The Holy Spirit illumines our minds so that suddenly we see God as He really is and we see ourselves as we really are. We see God and respond with fear and awe. We see ourselves and respond with sorrow or shame—and sometimes both.

The gospel of Matthew describes several occasions from the life of Jesus when He reacted with the full force of righteous indignation, when He exemplified justified anger that was free from any hint of sin. These culminate in chapter 23 when seven times He cries, “Woe!” to the scribes and Pharisees. Seven times He points out their hypocrisy and warns them of the judgment they are calling down upon themselves.

I am following a Bible reading plan and often listen to God’s Word in place of reading it. As I listened to Matthew 23 recently, I found myself laughing out loud as Jesus unleashed on these religious rulers. If words were sticks and stones, He would have left these men battered and bruised and bleeding. Of course, these words were more powerful and painful than sticks and stones, and the scribes and Pharisees would react to them by bruising and battering Jesus.

As I pondered Matthew 23, my laughter soon turned somber because God gave me eyes to see myself in those religious authorities who had so infuriated Jesus. I saw in myself the tendency that marked them.

The Pharisee looks at God’s commands and either takes them only at face value or shrinks them down to a manageable size. He reads God’s command to Israel that His people are to tithe, that they are to give to the Lord the firstfruits of their labor. The Pharisee responds by carefully measuring ten percent of everything he owns and making a big production of presenting it at the temple. He gives his ten percent, but neglects other parts of the law. He extends the law only as far as he is able to keep it, and he thinks he has done enough.

Jesus will not stand for this. He considers all of God’s law. He shows that no man can possibly keep all of it. Keeping one command is good, but insufficient. God’s law includes the tithe, when ten percent is counted and carried to the temple, but it includes other commands as well. It requires us to care for justice and mercy and faithfulness (Matt. 23:23). Jesus meant for His disciples to see that the Pharisees were not keeping the whole law. In fact, no man can keep all of God’s commandments. No man but Jesus, that is.

As my laughter turned to sorrow, I was able to respond by looking once more to the cross, to see the One who perfectly fulfilled the law on my behalf.

Image credit: Shutterstock

August 03, 2015

Crossways excellent “Theologians on the Christian Life” series is on sale this week at $5.99 per volume: Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, John Newton, John Wesley, J.I. Packer, John Calvin, Francis Schaeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and B.B. Warfield. Here are a few more deals: Counseling the Hard Cases by Stuart Scott & Heath Lambert ($2.99); HCSB Study Bible ($2.99); God Is Red by Liao Yiwu ($1.99); The Money Answer Book by Dave Ramsey ($1.99); The Bible Answer BookThe Bible Answer Book Volume 2, and The Creation Answer Book by Hank Hanegraaf ($1.99 each).

Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert - Be sure to grab this month’s free book from Christian Audio: Rosaria Butterfield’s Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.

The Briefing is Back - Dr. Mohler’s The Briefing makes its return today after a month off. I missed it, and am glad to see its return.

When To Stop Having Children - Deepak Reju offers 15 wisdom principles on when to stop having children.

The Timmy Brothers - The Timmy Brothers and their artisanal water—this video is a near-perfect parody of all the videos out there pitching artisanal products.

Evidence for the Historical Jesus - Here’s a free, updated PDF of Gary Habermas’ book Evidence for the Historical Jesus.

Satan and Sodomy - John Piper: “The supernatural monster who orchestrates the kidnapping, enslaving, and thousand-fold drugging, selling, raping, and killing of girls around the globe, is the same one who has masterminded the murderous cultural delusion — from the highest court to the lowest porn-flick — that the practice of sodomy is delightful, not deadly.” (On a related note but by a different author, you may want to read The Darker, Dangerous Side of Homosexuality.)

While You’re Waiting on God - What do you do while you’re waiting on God? This article offers some biblical answers.

The Gospel in India - The Gospel Coalition continues their look at Christian advance around the world by speaking to a few pastors in India. This is a helpful series.

Machen

It is usually considered good practice to examine a thing for one’s self before echoing the vulgar ridicule of it. —J. Gresham Machen

August 02, 2015

To be human is to feel guilt. At least, to be a sinful human is to feel guilt. And most often we feel guilt precisely because we are actually guilty—guilty of offenses against man and God. R.C. Sproul addresses guilt, and the right and wrong ways to approach it, in this little quote from Pleasing God.

A sad commentary on contemporary life is the frequency with which counselors seek to relieve people’s guilt problems by focusing on the removal of guilt feelings. To relieve guilt, people are told that they are victims of their environment and of the oppressive moral standards of outmoded religion. This applies not only to non-Christians, but to Christians as well. Many Christians, living with a burdensome guilt over past or present sins, tell their woes to therapists who say, in effect, “Considering the life you’ve had to lead, no wonder you’ve behaved in this way. As long as you understand that, there is no real problem.” But it isn’t true, is it? Explaining the problem does not eliminate the problem. Guilt only disappears when we are made right with God. That rightness is available at any time, for we serve a forgiving God. But He does not force His children to ask His forgiveness. They do so willingly, or they torment themselves with guilt that the therapists cannot explain away.

I was approached by a distressed college girl who was engaged to be married. She explained that she had been sexually involved with her fiancé and was feeling guilty about it. She related to me that she had gone to her school counselor who told her, “The reason you feel guilty is because you have been a victim of a Victorian ethic or a Puritan taboo. You need to understand that your behavior is perfectly normal. It is a healthy part of mature self-expression and of preparation for marriage.”

The girl then said to me, “But Professor Sproul, I still feel guilty!” I said, “Perhaps the reason you feel guilty is because you are guilty. The prohibition for fornication was not invented by Queen Victoria, nor was it the creation of the Puritans. It is God who forbids fornication. When we break the laws of God we incur real guilt. The only remedy I know for real guilt is real forgiveness.

I explained to the young woman that the price tag for real forgiveness is real repentance. Real repentance is what the individual must do himself. No one else can repent for me. I cannot repent for anyone else. I encouraged the woman to get alone with God, to go before Him on her knees. Without me. Without the counselors. Then I promised her—indeed, I guaranteed her—that in God’s sight her guilt would be removed and that she would once again be a virgin in God’s sight. Then she would be free of the fear and paralysis that come in the wake of guilt.

As Christians we must examine our lives. We must ask ourselves two basic questions: At what point am I paralyzed in my spiritual growth? Why am I paralyzed? Chances are that if we can answer these two questions accurately, we can identify those areas of fear and guilt that are in need of resolution. The grace of God—especially the grace of forgiveness—is the most potent force available to us to be freed from paralysis.

God does not want us paralyzed. He wants us to feel so secure in Him that we need have no real fear of the world and its obstacles. He wishes us to be conscious of our sins, but He takes no joy in our being immobilized by guilt. God is, like any good human parent, eager to lead us out of a life of fear and guilt so that we are free to do what is right and pleasing. What freedom is offered to us! Freedom from guilt, freedom from fear, freedom to serve and please God with everything we are. No therapist in the world can offer us such a life.

August 01, 2015

Here are some deals to start your month: The Unquenchable Flame by Michael Reeves ($2.99); Double Play by Ben Zobrist ($0.99); The Ultimate Proof of Creation by Jason Lisle ($2.99). You’ll also find a new list of books spanning all genres in their list of monthly deals.

Free from Christian Audio this month is Rosaria Butterfield’s excellent Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.

It’s Board Game Day at Amazon and they’ve got lots of good ones on sale. We love Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Smallworld, Dominion, and others. 

I rather enjoyed this article titled A Company Copes With Backlash Against the Raise That Roared. It is all about a company owner who decided to offer every one of his employees at least $70,000 per year. Who would have thought that move would make people mad?

This TED talk (which has quite a lot of rough language, especially in the tweets it displays on the screen) shows How One Tweet Can Ruin Your Life. The Internet outrage machine can destroy people’s lives.

Logos users will be interested in this New Source for Free Logos Training. I think most of us only barely scratch the surface of Logos’ power.

Jamie Brown has a massively sarcastic article about nonsensical worship music: Flammable Sound And Its Implications.

The Art of the Interchange shows the unexpected beauty in highway interchanges. Yes, I said highway interchanges.

Mark Altrogge offers some pastoral words: There Are No Accidents With God. “Wherever we find ourselves and whatever we have to deal with we can know that God in his infinite wisdom has designed it for our good and to make us like Christ and bring him glory.”

Thanks to The Good Book Company for sponsoring the blog this week with Raising Real Kids, Not Fakers.

What Should We Do When They Stray? Nick Batzig says, “There are many difficult and painful experiences that ministers face, but the spiritual rebellion of a child of a believer weighs heavily on the heart of any true minister of the Gospel.”

Harvey

The church is not a career path. It’s a place you go to give your life away. —Dave Harvey

July 31, 2015

This week's Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Crossway. Crossway is offering 5 great prize packages this week, and each of the packages contains some of their new books. That means there will be 5 winners this week, and each of them will receive these 3 books:

Praying the BiblePraying the Bible by Donald Whitney. "When you pray, does it ever feel like you’re just saying the same old things about the same old things? Offering us the encouragement and the practical advice we’re all looking for, Donald S. Whitney, best-selling author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, outlines an easy-to-grasp method that has the power to transform our prayer life: praying the words of Scripture. Simple, yet profound, Praying the Bible will prove invaluable as you seek to commune with your heavenly Father in prayer each and every day."

Things Not SeenThings Not Seen: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Trusting God's Promises by Jon Bloom. "God is doing far more than we can see in our pain. We plead for God’s deliverance from our pain and wonder why he keeps letting it go on. We are not alone. A cloud of witnesses surrounds us and they help us understand. In these 35 creative retellings of Bible stories, Jon Bloom explores the hope and joy that Abraham, Moses, Naomi, John the Baptist, and others experienced in the painful process of discovering that God’s promises really are more trustworthy than our perceptions."

Really TeachWhat Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung. "In this timely book, award-winning author Kevin DeYoung challenges each of us—the skeptic and the seeker, the certain and the confused—to take a humble look at God’s Word regarding the issue of homosexuality. After examining key biblical passages in both the Old and New Testaments and the Bible’s overarching teaching regarding sexuality, DeYoung responds to popular objections raised by Christians and non-Christians alike, making this an indispensable resource for thinking through one of the most pressing issues of our day."

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.

July 31, 2015

I am in the enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books, and every few weeks I like to provide a round-up of what is new and particularly notable. It has been a little while since my last update and, even though this is a slower time of the year for new releases, I’ve got a few interesting ones to share with you.

Onward Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore. This one is available now for Kindle, and tomorrow in print. “As the culture changes all around us, it is no longer possible to pretend that we are a Moral Majority. That may be bad news for America, but it can be good news for the church. What’s needed now, in shifting times, is neither a doubling-down on the status quo nor a pullback into isolation. Instead, we need a church that speaks to social and political issues with a bigger vision in mind: that of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Christianity seems increasingly strange, and even subversive, to our culture, we have the opportunity to reclaim the freakishness of the gospel, which is what gives it its power in the first place.” (Buy it or learn more at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Word Filled Womens Ministry Word-Filled Women’s Ministry: Loving and Serving the Church edited by Gloria Furman & Kathleen Nielson. “The Bible is clear that women as well as men are created in God’s image and intended to serve him with their lives. But what does this look like for women in the church? Helping church leaders think through what a Bible-centered women’s ministry looks like, this collection of essays by respected Bible teachers and authors such as Gloria Furman, Nancy Guthrie, and Susan Hunt addresses a variety of topics relevant to women. Whether exploring the importance of intergenerational relationships, the Bible’s teaching on sexuality, or women’s roles in the church and the home, this book of wise teaching and practical instruction will become a must-have resource for anyone interested in bolstering the health and vitality of the local church.”(Buy it or learn more at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Urban Legends Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40 Common Misconceptions by David Croteau. “Urban Legends of the New Testament surveys forty of the most commonly misinterpreted passages in the New Testament. These “urban legends” often arise because interpreters neglect a passage’s context, misuse historical background information, or misunderstand the Greek language. For each New Testament text, professor David Croteau describes the popular, incorrect interpretation and then carefully interprets the passage within its literary and historical context. Careful attention is given to sound principles of biblical interpretation to guide readers through the process and reach a more accurate understanding of each text’s meaning. QR codes have been inserted at various points throughout the book. By scanning the code with your mobile device, you can view a video of David Croteau addressing a specific urban legend.” (Buy it or learn more at Amazon)

Philippians Philippians (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament) by Joseph Hellerman. “The Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (EGGNT) closes the gap between the Greek text and the available lexical and grammatical tools, providing all the necessary information for greater understanding of the text. The series makes interpreting any given New Testament book easier, especially for those who are hard pressed for time but want to preach or teach with accuracy and authority. Each volume begins with a brief introduction to the particular New Testament book, a basic outline, and a list of recommended commentaries. The body is devoted to paragraph-by-paragraph exegesis of the Greek text and includes homiletical helps and suggestions for further study. A comprehensive exegetical outline of the New Testament book completes each EGGNT volume.” (Buy it or learn more at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Gods Crime Scene God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe by J. Warner Wallace. This one also releases tomorrow. “There are four ways to die, and only one of them requires an intruder. Suicides, accidental, and natural deaths can occur without any evidence from outside the room. But murders typically involve suspects external to the crime scene. If there’s evidence of an outside intruder, homicide detectives have to prepare for a chase. Intruders turn death scenes into crime scenes. Join J. Warner Wallace, former atheist, seasoned cold-case detective, and popular national speaker as he tackles his most important case … with you on the jury! With the expertise of a cold-case detective, J. Warner examines eight critical pieces of evidence in the ‘crime scene’ of the universe to determine if they point to a Divine Intruder. If you have ever wondered if something (or someone) outside the natural realm created the universe and everything in it, this is the case for you.” (Buy it or learn more at Amazon)

Malatya Martyrs of Malatya: Martyred for the Messiah in Turkey by James Wright. “On April 18, 2007, three men gave their lives for Jesus Christ. Two Turkish Christians and one German began their day simply wanting to spend time with local men they thought genuinely wanted to study the Bible. Instead, five hostile young men met their kindness and hospitality with betrayal and treachery. Very few followers of Christ in the rest of the world heard the story. Lost in the flood of news in our information age, it appeared to be just another senseless murder. But the deaths of Necati Aydin, Ug ur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske, while perhaps ignored or quickly forgotten even among Christians around the world, continue to speak. They proclaim the truth that there are still those among us committed to witnessing to the gospel in difficult locations. They speak loudly of love for Christ and obedience to Him. They testify above the din about their commitment to share Jesus own experience of betrayal and sacrifice that purchased salvation for people from every tongue, tribe and nation.”(Buy it or learn more at Amazon)

Going Public Going Public: Why Baptism Is Required for Church Membership by Bobby Jamieson. “Does everyone who joins a local church need to be baptized? What should churches that practice believer’s baptism do about those who were “baptized” as infants? This is a live question for many churches today, and it raises a host of other crucial questions: What is the meaning and function of baptism? Does baptism have any inherent relationship to the local church? How do baptism and the Lord’s Supper fit together? What exactly is ‘church membership’? To answer the question of whether baptism is required for church membership, Going Public seeks to rebuild ecclesiological foundations, digging deep into the Bible’s teaching on baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and church membership. Bobby Jamieson describes how baptism and the Lord’s Supper transform a scattered group of Christians into a gathered local church. It traces the trajectory of a church’s birth, how gospel people form a gospel polity.” (Buy it or learn more at Amazon or Westminster Books)

July 31, 2015

New from GLH Publishing is one of my all-time favorite Puritan works: Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks. It’s at just $0.99. Also consider Truth in a Culture of Doubt by Andreas Kostenberger ($2.99); The Essential Bible Companion by John Walton ($5.99); Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal by Michael Kelley ($0.99).

Exceptionally Ordinary - We need to be reminded of this often. “The assumption is that God will be really pleased if we do something massive (on a human scale) for him. Really? Do you really think God needs you or I to do anything in order to accomplish what he wills?”

The Children of Strangers - The New Yorker has a long, interesting, and sad article about a couple that adopted twenty children.

10 Quick, Important Developments On The Planned Parenthood Scandal - And still the major news outlets are quiet about it.

Our Wilberforce Moment - The comparison to Wilberforce is a strong one. Josh Howerton says that this is our culture’s Wilberforce moment, and I am inclined to agree.

When Success Outgrows Character - This is a very helpful article from Eric Geiger. “When skills surpass the process of sanctification, the trajectory is downward though everything looks great on the outside.” (I have previously written about this here.)

We’ve Got Spirit, Yes We Do - “My fear is that we can fall down that slippery slope that an awesome worship experience equals the Holy Spirit.”

New York City Transit - Did you know that much of the technology driving the New York City subway system is nearly 100 years old? Here’s a look at the past, present, and future.

Henry

Peace is such a precious jewel that I would give anything for it but truth. —Matthew Henry