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Quotes

February 08, 2015

Earlier in the week I came across a powerful quote, and one that came at just the right time, helping me formulate some thoughts I had been trying to express. This comes from John Frame’s Systematic Theology, and it challenges each one of us to understand, believe, and obey the sheer authority of God’s Word.

When God Commands, we are to obey. When he asserts, we are to believe him. When he promises, we are to embrace and trust those promises. Thus, we respond to the sheer authority of God’s word.

Adam and Eve had no way of testing what God told them about the forbidden fruit. They couldn’t work any experiment that would show them whether God had rightly predicted the effects of the fruit. They simply had to take God at his word. Satan interposed a contrary interpretation, but the first couple should not have taken his opinion seriously. They should simply have believed God. They did not, of course. They sided with Satan rather than God–or, perhaps better, they claimed that their own authority transcended God’s. That is to say, they claimed autonomy. They claimed that they themselves were the highest authority, the ultimate criterion of truth and right.

The NT praises Noah (Heb. 11:7), Abraham (Rom. 4:1-25; Heb. 11:8-19), and many others because of their faith, and their faith was grounded in God’s word. They simply believed what God said and obeyed him. So for new covenant believers: if they love Jesus, they will do what he says (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:7, 10, 14; 17:6, 17; 1 John 2:3-5; 3:22; 5:2-3; 2 John 6).

So we should think of God’s word as a personal communication from him to us. In DWG, I presented this as a general way of thinking about the word of God: the personal-word model. Think of God speaking to you as a real person would–as directly as your parents, your spouse, your children, your friends. Many in Scripture heard such speech from God, such as Noah, Abraham, and Moses.

And when God speaks, his word carries authority. This means that it imposes obligations. When God commands, he expects us to obey. When he brings information, we are to believe him. When he promises, we should embrace his promises.

If God really talked to you, as he did to Abraham, you would not (if you know what is best for you) criticize his words or disagree with him.

February 01, 2015

Last week GLH Publishing released a new Kindle edition of Thoughts on Religious Experience by Archibald Alexander. I barely got a page or two into the book before I came across such a helpful section that describes the connection between knowledge and piety—between what we know and how we practice our Christian faith. Here is what Alexander wants you to know.


If genuine religious experience is nothing but the impression of divine truth on the mind by the energy of the Holy Spirit, then it is evident that a knowledge of the truth is essential to genuine piety. Error never can, under any circumstances, produce the effects of truth.

This is now generally acknowledged; but it is not so clearly understood by all that any defect in our knowledge of the truth must, just so far as the error extends, mar the symmetry of the impression produced. The error, in this case, is of course not supposed to relate to fundamental truths, for then there can be no genuine piety; but where a true impression is made, it may be rendered very defective for want a complete knowledge of the whole system of revealed truth, or its beauty marred by the existence of some errors mingled with the truth, which may be well illustrated by returning again to the seal.

Suppose that some part of the image inscribed on it has been defaced or that some of the letters have been obliterated; it is evident that when the impression is made on the wax there will be a corresponding deficiency or deformity, although in the main the impress may be correct. There is reason to believe, therefore, that all ignorance of revealed truth, or error respecting it, must be attended with a corresponding defect in the religious exercises of the person. This consideration teaches us the importance of truth and the duty of increasing daily in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This is the true and only method of growing in grace. There may be much correct theoretical knowledge, I admit, where there is no impression corresponding with it on the heart; but still, all good impressions on the heart are from the truth, and from the truth alone.

Hence we find that those denominations of Christians which receive the system of evangelical truth only in part have a defective experience, and their Christian character, as a body, is so far defective; and even where true piety exists we often find a sad mixture of enthusiasm, self-righteousness or superstition. And even where the theory of doctrinal truth is complete, yet if there be an error respecting the terms of Christian communion, by narrowing the entrance into Christ’s fold to a degree which his word does not authorize, this single error, whatever professions may be made to the contrary with the lips, always generates a narrow spirit of bigotry, which greatly obstructs the free exercise of that brotherly love which Christ made the badge of discipleship.

If these things be so, then let all Christians use unceasing diligence in acquiring a correct knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, and let them pray without ceasing for the influence of the Holy Spirit to render the truth effectual in the sanctification of the whole man—soul, body and spirit. “Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth,” was a prayer offered up by Christ in behalf of all whom the Father had given him.

Image credit: Shutterstock

January 25, 2015

I hate to bring bad news on the best day of the week, but I think this merits attention. In his book On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Children Abuse at Church, Deepak Reju provides a look at the techniques of a sexual predator, and focuses on the way a predator will prepare or groom an entire church so that he can take advantage of its children. His words are worth reading and worth considering.


The most common technique for sexual offenders to gain access to children is to cultivate a double life. Sexual offenders work very hard to be likable and respectable members of a church. If they are liked and respected, they earn the trust of the church community. Once they are trusted, they gain access to children. This is known as “grooming”—a process of working over the children and adults in a church in order to earn their trust.

Offenders don’t usually rush through grooming but instead take the time to develop relationships with the members of a church community. In order to win over the adults and become an accepted part of the church, they put on a persona of being useful, kind, useful, helpful, polite, and caring to adults and children alike. Author and expert Anna Salter comments,

The double life is a powerful tactic: There is the pattern of socially responsible behavior in public that causes parents and others to drop their guard, to allow access to children, and to turn a deaf ear to disclosures. But a surly and obnoxious person would have little access, no matter how proper and appropriate his public behavior was. The second tactic—the ability to charm, to be likable, to radiate sincerity and truthfulness—is crucial to gaining access to children.

Most violent offenders know enough to keep their behavior in check publicly or else their plans would be ruined. The fact that a sexual offender is not off-putting but might actually have lots of good qualities makes it very difficult to pinpoint one. Most people think of a sexual offender as all bad and can’t conceive of such a person having anything good about him or her.

Once the sexual predator has gained the trust of a significant number of people within a church, suspicions become harder to articulate. Conformity studies show that few people will publicly disagree with a majority opinion. And if the person gets enthusiastic support from church friends or church leaders, it makes it all the more difficult to speak out against them with persuasive conviction.

In reality, what is happening is that the sexual offender is regularly manipulating and pretending to be someone he or she is not. Offenders are professional liars—very skillful at what they do because they’ve done it for years. They’ve lied to everyone in their lives—church members, friends, their victims, and even to themselves—in order to justify their sinful desires and continue on the destructive path of harming children. According to most experts who work with sexual offenders, not only is their lying hard to detect, but it is often quite convincing.

If a predator is roaming around your church, he is probably not a stranger to you. More than likely, he is someone whom you already know, like, and do not see as a threat to your children.

January 18, 2015

The best writing is writing that transcends times and ages. This morning I found myself reading some brief thoughts from J.C. Ryle on the importance of self-examination, and though his words were written in the late nineteenth century, they are perfectly appropriate to our day. They offer an important challenge.

Let me counsel every true servant of Christ to “examine his own heart” frequently and carefully as to his state before God. This is a practice which is useful at all times: it is especially desirable at the present day.  When the great plague of London was at its height people [noticed] the least symptoms that appeared on their bodies in a way that they never remarked them before. A spot here, or a spot there, which in time of health men thought nothing of, received close attention when the plague was decimating families, and striking down one after another! So it ought to be with ourselves, in the times in which we live. We ought to watch our hearts with double watchfulness. We ought to give more time to meditation, self-examination, and reflection. It is a hurrying, bustling age: if we would be kept from falling, we must make time for being frequently alone with God.

I was also struck by another of Ryle’s warnings, this one against being drawn in by false teachers.

Let me entreat every true hearted servant of Christ “not to be deceived by the superficial disguise” under which false doctrines often approach our souls in the present day. Beware of supposing that a teacher of religion is to be trusted, because although he holds some unsound views, he yet “teaches a great deal of truth.” Such a teacher is precisely the man to do you harm: Poison is always most dangerous when it is given in small doses and mixed with wholesome food. Beware of being taken in by the apparent earnestness of many of the teachers and upholders of false doctrine. Remember that zeal and sincerity and fervor are no proof whatever that a man is working for Christ, and ought to be believed.  

Peter no doubt was in earnest when he told our Lord to spare Himself, and not go to the cross; yet our Lord said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan.” Saul no doubt was in earnest when he went to and fro persecuting Christians; yet he did it ignorantly, and his zeal was not according to knowledge. … It is an awful fact that, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Of all the delusions prevalent in these latter days, there is none greater than the common notion that “if a man is in serious about his religion he must be a good man!” Beware of being carried away by this delusion; beware of being led astray by “serious-minded men!” Seriousness is in itself an excellent thing; but it must be seriousness in behalf of Christ and His whole truth, or else it is worth nothing at all. The things that are highly esteemed among men are often abominable in the sight of God.

January 11, 2015

Waiting. For an imperfect and impatient person like me, it is one of the most difficult things to do—to wait with hope and patience and faith. In these few words, though, Charles Spurgeon looks to Psalm 62:1 (“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.”) and provides encouragement.

Blessed posture! Waiting truly and only upon the Lord. Be this our condition all this day and every day. Waiting His leisure, waiting in His service, waiting in joyful expectation, waiting in prayer, and content. When the very soul thus waits, it is in the best and truest condition of a creature before his Creator, a servant before his Master, a child before his Father. We allow no dictation to God, nor complaining of Him; we will permit no petulance and no distrust. At the same time, we practice no running before the cloud and no seeking to others for aid: neither of these would be waiting upon God. God, and God alone, is the expectation of our hearts.

Blessed assurance! From Him salvation is coming; it is on the road. It will come from Him and from no one else. He shall have all the glory of it, for He alone can and will perform it. And He will perform it most surely in His own time and manner. He will save from doubt, and suffering, and slander, and distress. Though we see no sign of it as yet, we are satisfied to bide the Lord’s will, for we have no suspicion of His love and faithfulness. He will make sure work of it before long, and we will praise Him at once for the coming mercy.

January 04, 2015

It is almost cliché to praise Charles Spurgeon for his ability to say in a few words when takes others so many. Yet he was a remarkably gifted man and one who used his gifts to serve the Lord. I loved reading these words which call on each of us to grow, and to grow all the more, in the knowledge of Christ.

May God the Holy Spirit enable you to “grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour.” He who grows not in the knowledge of Jesus, refuses to be blessed. To know him is “life eternal,” and to advance in the knowledge of him is to increase in happiness. He who does not long to know more of Christ, knows nothing of him yet. Whoever hath sipped this wine will thirst for more, for although Christ doth satisfy, yet it is such a satisfaction, that the appetite is not cloyed, but whetted. If you know the love of Jesus—as the hart panteth for the water-brooks, so will you pant after deeper draughts of his love. If you do not desire to know him better, then you love him not, for love always cries, “Nearer, nearer.” Absence from Christ is hell; but the presence of Jesus is heaven.

Rest not then content without an increasing acquaintance with Jesus. Seek to know more of him in his divine nature, in his human relationship, in his finished work, in his death, in his resurrection, in his present glorious intercession, and in his future royal advent. Abide hard by the Cross, and search the mystery of his wounds. An increase of love to Jesus, and a more perfect apprehension of his love to us is one of the best tests of growth in grace.

December 21, 2014

I am looking forward to Christmas this year. Though I have no great affection for the Christmas season and all its commercialization, I do love the day, and I love to celebrate it with my family. I have also been able to preach for the past couple of Sundays which has helped me focus on the unfathomable wonder of God made man. Yet of all I read and all I pondered, the sweetest might be this simple prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson. In light of all the ugliness in the world today, it seems especially timely in its call to peace, love, and deliverance from evil.

Loving Father, Help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men. Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.

Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clean hearts. May the Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake, Amen!

December 14, 2014

Whatever else we know about Charles Spurgeon, and whatever else we honor and respect in him, what always stands out to me is his unshakable confidence in the Bible. I recently came across two short quotes, both of which stand as eloquent proof of his love of God’s Word, and both of which stand as a challenge to me to imitate him in this regard.

There are some people who seem as if they would not be converted unless they can see some eminent minister. Even that will not suit some of them—they need a special revelation from Heaven. They will not take a text from the Bible—though I cannot conceive of anything better than that—but they think that if they could dream something, or if they could hear words spoken in the cool of the evening by some strange voice in the sky, then they might be converted. Well, Brothers and Sisters, if you will not eat the apples that grow on trees, you must not expect angels to come and bring them to you!

Well, my Brothers and Sisters, whenever you put your hand to your brow and say, concerning anything revealed in the Scriptures, ‘I cannot comprehend it,’ lay your other hand upon your heart and say, ‘Nevertheless I believe it. It is clearly taught in the Bible and although my reason may find it difficult to explain it, and I may not be able to discover any arguments to prove the truth of it, yet I lay my reason down at my Infallible Master’s feet and trust where I cannot see.’

December 07, 2014

I continue to enjoy and benefit from Prone to Wander, a new book of prayers that was inspired by The Valley of Vision. This week I found a prayer meant to stir up delight in God, and to seek forgiveness for when we did not delight in him. Here it is.

Almighty Lord,

We find great delight in your creation and the good things you have given us to enjoy, but we rarely spend time delighting in you. We tend to enjoy you when you give us what we want, but we become anxious, fretful, and angry when life is hard and you seem unwilling to rescue us from uncomfortable or painful circumstances. We spend many days haunted by guilty fears over the sins that we have committed, forgetting the wounds that will forever scar the hands of your Son, and that plead forgiveness for us every moment of every day. We fail to bear grief and shame patiently, because we forget that you alone are our stronghold in times of trouble, and you are working all things together for our good. Father, forgive us.

We thank you for your radiant and beautiful Son, who delighted in you above all else and perfectly committed all his ways to your sovereign will. We praise you that his flawless obedience is ours through faith, and we are forever reconciled to you as your beloved children. Instead of trying to escape discomfort, Jesus chose the pathway of excruciating pain in order to purchase us. In the tomb he waited patiently for you, trusting in you for his salvation. You delivered him from death, making a showcase of his righteousness and your justice, investing him with great honor and glory. He took refuge in you, and you exalted his name above every other name. Thank you for uniting us to Christ and for loving us in the very same way that you love him.

Father, cause us to find overwhelming delight in the salvation you have given us through Christ. Stir our weak souls to arise and shake off the fearful guilt we cling to with stubborn pride. Open our eyes more and more to see our great High Priest, crushed for us, and now pleading for us before your throne. May we treasure his love and believe with all our hearts that nothing can separate us from it, not even the sin with which we continue to struggle. Give us such great confidence in the gospel that we run joyfully to you in the midst of our weakness, to hear your pardoning voice and feel the ardent and passionate embrace of our true Father. Amen.

November 23, 2014

I have been enjoying Tim Keller’s new book on prayer (Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God). There are many of prayer’s mysteries he handles with exellence and perhaps none more so than what Paul means when, in Romans 8, he writes these words: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” What are these groanings or sighs? Here is Keller’s answer.

There has been some debate over the meaning of “the Spirit’s groans.” Some believe that this is the spirit helping us when we are desperate and groaning, but it is unlikely that this is describing only times of depression. Rather, the “weakness” referred to in verse 26 is the weakness described in the preceding verses, which refer not just to times of despondancy but to our entire human situation of frustrated longings as we await the future glory (vv. 18-25, especially v.23). We know that God is working out all things for our good according to his will (v.28), but seldom can we discern what that good actually is. In other words, most of the time, we don’t know exactly what outcome we should pray for. The Spirit, however, makes our groaning his groaning, putting his prayers to the Father inside our prayers. He does so by placing within us a deep, inexpressible longing to do God’s will and see his glory. This aspiration—this “groaning” desire to please him—comes through in our petitions to God. In every specific request, then, the Father hears us praying for what is both truly best for us and pleasing to him, “and the intercession of the Spirit is answered as God works all things for our good.” The Spirit enables us to long for the future glory of God and his will, even though we don’t know the specific things we should pray for here and now.

Prayer is the way to experience the powerful confidence that God is handling our lives well, that our bad things will turn out for good, our good things cannot be taken from us, and the best things are yet to come.

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