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Quotes

June 24, 2012

I caught this over at the Desiring God blog, and it was too good not to share. This is D.A. Carson’s summary of the Bible in 221 words. It has been excerpted from For Such a Time as This: Perspectives on Evangelicalism, Past, Present and Future.

God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath.

But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects.

In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:16;2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).

June 23, 2012

In The Big Fight, a new book from The Christian Book Company (edited by Richard Perkins and Tim Thornborough), Richard Coekin has a helpful section on guilt. Writing specifically to men, he highlights four different kinds of guilt men (or women) may experience.

1. Many men don’t feel guilty before God when they should!

The Psalmist observed:

An announcement is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: there is no fear of God before his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin. (Psalm 36: 1-2)

Many men don’t seek the Saviour because they don’t fear God as they should because they don’t feel guilty enough about their sin.

2. Many religious men feel guilty before God about things that aren’t wrong!

The Apostle Paul also warns us about false teachers who:

forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving. (1 Timothy 4: 3)

Many men are taught by human religions to feel guilty about thoroughly good things like getting married or eating certain food or other blessings from God eg: the food laws of Judaism, the fasting laws of Islam or the vows of Roman Catholic monks.

3. Many men rightly feel guilty before God when His Spirit is convicting them of their need for the Saviour!

Jesus said:

When he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment… (John 16: 8)

This means that Jesus’ Holy Spirit continues to convict us through the Scriptures of our guilt under God’s law, to show us our need of Him. This is our experience when we’re becoming Christians and throughout our lives as Christians. Our awareness of guilt is an encouraging sign of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in our lives. But His ministry doesn’t end with guilt.

4. Christian men shouldn’t keep feeling guilty because we are cleansed from our guilt by Jesus’ blood!

The letter to the Hebrews says:

let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience. (Hebrews 10: 22)

He’s been explaining that, like a high priest entering God’s presence with the blood of a sacrifice for the sins of his people, Jesus has permanently entered God’s presence in heaven as our High Priest with the sacrifice of His own blood shed for our sins on the cross. This means that the way is now open for us to live for ever in the presence of God without guilt, if we are “sprinkled” with Jesus’ blood through trusting in His death for our sins.

June 20, 2012

It has been a couple of months since I’ve had the privilege of preaching, and I am looking forward to stepping into the pulpit again a couple of weeks from now. It is always a joy and always a weighty responsibility. In reading Kent Hughes’ commentary on Isaiah I was challenged by his “Word to Those Who Preach the Word”—his preface to the Preach the Word commentary series for which he serves as general editor. It’s a powerful meditation on the pleasure of God in preaching.

There are times when I am preaching that I have especially sensed the pleasure of God. I usually become aware of it through the unnatural silence. The ever-present coughing ceases and the pews stop creaking, bringing an almost physical quiet to the sanctuary—through which my words sail like arrows. I experience a heightened eloquence, so that the cadence and volume of my voice intensify the truth I am preaching.

There is nothing quite like it—the Holy Spirit filling one’s sails, the sense of his pleasure, and the awareness that something is happening among one’s hearers. This experience is, of course, not unique, for thousands of preachers have similar experiences, even greater ones.

What has happened when this takes place? How do we account for this sense of his smile? The answer for me has come from the ancient rhetorical categories of logos, ethos and pathos.

The first reason for his smile is the logos—in terms of preaching, God’s Word. This means that as we stand before God’s people to proclaim his Word, we have done our homework. We have exegeted the passage, mined the significance of its words in their context, and applied sound hermeneutical principles in interpreting the text so that we understand what its words meant to its hearers. And it means that we have labored long until we can express in a sentence what the theme of the text is—so that our outline springs from the text. Then our preparation will be such that as we preach, we will not be preaching our own thoughts about God’s Word, but God’s actual Word, his logos. This is fundamental to pleasing him in preaching.

The second element in knowing God’s smile in preaching is ethos—what you are as a person. There is a danger endemic to preaching, which is having your hands and heart cauterized by holy things. Phillips Brooks illustrated it by the analogy of a train conductor who comes to believe that he has been to the places he announces because of his long and loud heralding of them. And that is why Brooks insisted that preaching must be “the bringing of truth through personality.” Though we can never perfectly embody the truth we preach, we must be subject to it, long for it, and make it as much a part of our ethos as possible. As the Puritan William Ames said, “Next to the Scriptures, nothing makes a sermon more to pierce, than when it comes out of the inward affection of the heart without any affectation [pretence].” When the preacher’s ethos back’s up his logos, there will be the pleasure of God.

Last, there is pathos—personal passion and conviction. David Hume, the scottish philosopher and skeptic, was once challenged as he was seen going to hear George Whitefield preach: “I thought you do not believe in the gospel.” Hume replied, “I don’t, but he does.” Just so! When a preacher believes what he preaches, there will be passion. And this belief and requisite passion will know the smile of God.

The pleasure of God is a matter of logos (the Word), ethos (what you are), and pathos (your passion). As you preach the Word may you experience his smile—the Holy Spirit in your sails!

R. Kent Hughes

June 17, 2012

I quite enjoy The Valley of Vision, that book of Puritan prayers. This one is a favorite, a perfect prayer for the Lord’s day—one that looks to the Lord of that day.

O Lord, My Lord,

This is thy day,
the heavenly ordinance of rest,
the open door of worship,
the record of Jesus’ resurrection,
the seal of the sabbath to come,
the day when saints militant and triumphant unite in endless song.

I bless thee for the throne of grace,
that here free favour reigns;
that open access to it is through the blood of Jesus;
that the veil is torn aside and I can enter
the holiest
and find thee ready to hear;
waiting to be gracious,
inviting me to pour out my needs,
encouraging my desires,
promising to give more than I ask or think.

But while I bless thee, shame and confusion are mine:
I remember my past misuse of sacred things,
my irreverent worship,
my base ingratitude,
my cold, dull praise.
Sprinkle all my past sabbaths with the cleansing blood of Jesus,
and may this day witness deep improvement in me.

Give me in rich abundance the blessings the Lord’s Day was designed to impart;
May my heart be fast bound against worldly thoughts or cares;
Flood my mind with peace beyond understanding;
may my meditations be sweet,
my acts of worship life, liberty, joy,
my drink the streams that flow from thy throne,
my food the precious Word,
my defence the shield of faith,
and may my heart be more knit to Jesus.

June 16, 2012

There is a lot of talk about what complementarianism actually looks like as it works itself out in marriage. There are endless caricatures that make it little better than slavery, but Wayne Grudem shows something very different as he offers a very helpful glimpse into the inner workings of his own marriage. He leads in love

Wayne Grudem: Someone might say, “Well, okay, fine. There’s a leadership role for Adam, and I guess that means husbands should have a leadership role in their marriage of some sort. But how does it work? How does it work in practice?”

In our own marriage, Margaret and I talk frequently and at length about many decisions. I can tell you that I wouldn’t be here tonight unless Margaret and I had talked about this and asked the Lord about it, and she had given blessing to it, and said, “Yes, I think that’s right.” Sometimes we make large decisions such as buying a house or a car, and sometimes they are small decisions like where we should go for a walk together. I often defer to Margaret’s wishes, and she often defers to mine because we love each other.

In almost every case, each of us has some wisdom and insight that the other does not have. Usually, we reach agreement on the decisions that we make. Very seldom will I do something that she doesn’t think is wise—I didn’t say never. She prays; she trusts God; she loves God. She is sensitive to God’s leading and direction, but in every decision, whether it large or small and whether we have reached agreement or not, the responsibility to make the decision still rests with me.

Now, I am not talking about every decision they make individually. Margaret controls a much larger portion of our budget than I do because all the things having to do with the household and food and clothing and house expenses and everything … she writes the checks and pays the bills. I take care of buying books and some things about the car. I have appointments during the day with students. She doesn’t get involved in that. She has her own appointments. She has her own calendar. I don’t get involved in trying to micromanage all of that. We have distinct areas of responsibility. I am not talking about those things. I don’t get involved in those things unless she asks my counsel.

But in every decision that we make that affects us together or affects our family, the responsibility to make the decision rests with me. If there is genuine male headship, I believe there is a quiet acknowledgement that the focus of the decision making process is the husband, not the wife. Even though there will often be much discussion and there should be mutual respect and consideration of each other, ultimately the responsibility to make the decision rests with the husband. And so, in our marriage the responsibility to make the decision rests with me.

This is not because I am a wiser or more gifted leader. It is because I am the husband. God has given me that responsibility. It is very good. It brings peace and joy to our marriage, and both Margaret and I are thankful for it. Now, I need to add very quickly, men, this does not mean that a husband has the right to be a selfish leader.

Just about three years ago, maybe four years ago now, we started the decision making process. Margaret had been in an auto accident in Chicago. As part of the aftermath of that accident, she was experiencing some chronic pain that was aggravated by cold and humidity, and Chicago is cold in the winter and humid in the summer. Chicago was not a good place for that. Some friends said to us, “We have a second house in Mesa, Arizona, if you would ever like to go there and just use it as a vacation place, we would like you to do that.”

So we did. We visited Arizona. Mesa is a suburb of Phoenix. Margaret felt better. It was hot, and it was dry. And so I said, “Wow, Margaret I would love to move here, but I am only trained to do one thing; I can teach at a seminary and that is it. There aren’t any seminaries here.” The next day Margaret was looking in the yellow pages—literally. She said, “Wayne, there’s something here called Phoenix Seminary.” One thing led to another and God was at work in that seminary, and it was starting to grow.

Then we went through a decision making process. When we were in the middle of that decision making process, on the very day that we were focusing on that, I came in my normal custom of reading through a section of scripture each day, I came to a Ephesians 5:28, “Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.”

I thought if I would move to take a job in another city for the sake of my body, if I were experiencing the pain that Margaret had, and husbands should love their wives as their own bodies—then shouldn’t I move? Shouldn’t I be willing to move for Margaret’s sake? That was really why we moved to Phoenix.

I just say that by way of illustration, husbands, headship doesn’t mean selfishness. It means being willing to give of yourself for your wife and care for her as well. God has brought … I think that was obedience to Him and God has brought blessing. But there are dangers, there are dangers of distortion in male headship and female submission to or support of that headship.

There are dangers of distortion in one direction or another. There are errors of passivity and errors of aggressiveness. I put this on a chart of husband and wife. In the middle is the biblical ideal for a husband as loving, humble headship. That’s the ideal. For a wife the ideal is joyful, intelligent submission to that headship. Intelligent, that means she is contributing her wisdom and her counsel to the decision making process.

On the right side of the chart there are errors of aggressiveness. A husband can be a tyrant. “Everybody serve me.” He’s selfish; he’s harsh, and he’s abusive. That’s an error of aggressiveness. Or a wife can be a usurper, resisting and rebelling against and being hostile toward her husband’s leadership time and again and challenging for it. When a tyrant is married to a usurper there is conflict all the time.

But there are opposite errors. There are errors of passivity. A husband can be entirely passive. He comes home from work; he clicks on the TV; he plops down in his chair, and he wants everyone to wait on him. The children are disobedient; he does nothing. He’s entirely passive. There is a hostile neighbor that needs to be dealt with and addressed, but his wife is dealing with the conflict all by herself. He is a wimp. That’s an error of passivity.

There is an error of passivity on the wife’s part. Day after day, month after month, year after year in their marriage, “Yes dear, whatever you say … yes dear, whatever you say.” She doesn’t contribute at all to the decision making process. She has no preferences, no desires. She’s a doormat. That is an error as well. That’s not the biblical pattern.

If a tyrant gets married to a doormat you get all sorts of abuse, and it’s dehumanizing for both of them, but particularly for the wife. If you get a wimp married to a usurper, well, he follows her around all day long, six steps behind just doing what she takes the leadership in. If you get a wimp married to a doormat, everything runs like the energizer bunny running out of batteries, finally. It just all goes downhill and everything goes wrong in the family. There’s nobody taking responsibility. The biblical ideal is loving, humble headship and joyful, intelligent submission.

Now, you have personalities and backgrounds that predispose you to make mistakes on one side or the other of this chart. For those of you, you could think perhaps about marriages you know or relationships you know. You can see people making errors in both sides of this, but those are distortions. Those are distortions of the biblical pattern.

June 10, 2012

The Puritan writer Matthew Henry must be one of the most quotable of all the Christian authors. He had an amazing ability to grab ahold of a great text or a great doctrine and to reduce it to a few sentences that beautifully sum it all up. Recently I went looking for what he said about suffering, and found a few powerful quotes. 

He never intended this world for our rest, and therefore never appointed us to take our ease in it. This travail is given to us to make us weary of the world and desirous of the remaining rest. It is given to us that we may be kept in action, and may always have something to do; for we were none of us sent into the world to be idle. Every change cuts us out some new work, which we should be more solicitous about, than the event.

The calamities of the righteous are preparing them for their future blessedness, and the wicked, while their days are prolonged, are but ripening for ruin. There is a judgment to come, which will rectify this seeming irregularity, to the glory of God and the full satisfaction of all his people, and we must wait with patience till then.

What life or light can we look for from those who have no light or life themselves? God tries what less judgments will do with a people before he brings greater; but if a light affliction do not do its work with us, to humble and reform us, we must expect to be afflicted more grievously; for when God judges he will overcome.

The reasons why the judgments of God are prolonged is because the point is not gained, sinners are not brought to repentance by them. “The people turn not to him who smites them,” and therefore he continues to smite them; for when God judges he will overcome, and the proudest, stoutest sinner shall either bend or break.

God usually gives a morning of opportunity before he sends a night of calamity, that his own people may be prepared for the storm and others left inexcusable.

And one final one: “Those who will not be persuaded now to fly to the arms of divine grace, which are stretched out to receive them, will not be able to flee from the arms of divine wrath, which will shortly be stretched out to destroy them.”

June 07, 2012

I don’t often read The Southern Seminary Magazine but recently I came across some notes I had taken on an article from all the way back in 2006. In the “President’s Journal,” Al Mohler wrote a brief commentary on “The State of Preaching Today.” He wrote “On the one hand, there are signs of great promise and encouragement. On the other hand, several ominous trends point toward dangerous directions for preaching in the future. The last few decades have been a period of wanton experimentation in many pulpits and preaching has often been redefined and reconceived as something other than the exposition and application of the biblical text.”

He offered five points relevant to the downgrade of preaching. They remain relevant six years later. Here they are:

#1. A loss of confidence in the power of the Word. Our culture is gravitating towards images as the preferred mode of communication. Words are, then, necessarily losing their power and this in turns impacts preaching. But “the audacious claim of Christian preaching is that the faithful declaration of the Word of God, spoken through the preacher’s voice, is even more powerful than anything music or image can deliver.”

#2. An infatuation with technology. “We live in a day of technological hubris and the ubiquity of technological assistance. For most of us, the use of these technologies comes with little attentiveness to how the technology reshapes the task and the experience. The same is true for preachers who have rushed to incorporate visual technology and media in the preaching event.” While technology is not inherently bad, it has allowed the visual to overcome the verbal. Yet God has chosen to be heard rather than seen so that we know God through what we read and hear.

May 27, 2012

Have you ever noticed that when Jesus told his disciples that he would be leaving them, they reacted with sorrow, but then, when it actually happened, they reacted with joy? (Compare John 16:16-20 with Luke 24:50-53) What can account for this change? In his book The Work of Christ, R.C. Sproul provides a simple answer: the disciples had come to understand why and where Jesus was going. From here he shows four great results of Christ’s ascension.

#1. Glorification. “When Jesus departed this world on the shekinah cloud, He was going back to the realm of glory. He was going to receive the glory that He enjoyed with the Father from all eternity. So, the ascension was a glorious thing. That is why, after He ascended, the disciples went back into Jerusalem and praised God in the temple. They understood that their Master was getting His glory back. His humiliation was over, and His exaltation had begun.”

#2. Coronation. “In the ascension, Jesus went up to His coronation. He did not go up simply to enter into His rest. He went up for His investiture service. He ascended to the throne, to the right hand of God, where He was given dominion, power, and authority over the whole earth. The Lamb who was slain became the Lion of Judah, who now reigns over the earth.”

#3. The Gift of the Comforter. “One of the most important reasons for Jesus’ ascension was that Pentecost might take place, that the Father and the Son might pour out the Spirit on the church to strengthen it and empower it for its earthly mission. As we all know, to witness for Christ in a corrupt world requires strength greater than our own. John Calvin said that the most important task of the church is to be the visible witness of the invisible kingdom, and for that we need the Holy Spirit.”

#4. The Ministry of the High Priest. “We have a great High Priest who offered a sacrifice for us on the cross once and for all—His own blood. That portion of His priestly ministry is finished. But His priestly work for us goes on as He intercedes for us. … Today, Jesus is in heaven, interceding for you and me, if indeed we belong to Him, and His prayers for us are equally effective. We should rejoice that He has taken up this priestly ministry on our behalf in the heavenly tabernacle.”

May 20, 2012
Jeremiah Burrough’s The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment is one of the most important and personally-impactful Puritan works I’ve ever read. Let me give you just a taste of what Burroughs has to say about contentment. Here he shares eight things that will be opposed by a true, biblical contentment.
  1. It is opposed to murmuring and repining at the hand of God, as the discontented Israelites often did. If we cannot bear this either in our children or servants, much less can God bear it in us. 
  2. To vexing and fretting, which is a degree beyond murmuring. 
  3. To tumultuousness of spirit, when the thoughts run distractingly and work in a confused manner, so that the affections are like the unruly multitude in the Acts, who did not know for what purpose they had come together. The Lord expects you to be silent under His rod, and, as was said in Acts 19:36, “Ye ought to be quiet and to do nothing rashly.”
  4. It is opposed to an unsettled and unstable spirit, whereby the heart is distracted from the present duty that God requires in our several relationships—towards God, others, and ourselves. We should prize duty more highly than to be distracted by every trivial occasion. 
  5. It is opposed to distracting, heart-consuming cares. A gracious heart so esteems its union with Christ and the work that God sets it about that it will not willingly suffer anything to come in to choke it or deaden it. A Christian is desirous that the Word of God should take such full possession as to divide between soul and spirit (Heb 4:12), but he would not allow the fear and noise of evil tidings to take such a hold in his soul as to make a division and struggling there, like the twins in Rebekah’s womb (Gen 25:22). 
  6. It is opposed to sinking discouragements. God would have us to depend on Him though we do not see how the thing may be brought about; otherwise, we do not show a quiet spirit. 
  7. It is opposed to sinful shiftings and shirkings to get relief and help. Thus do many, through the corruption of their hearts and the weakness of their faith, because they are not able to trust God and follow Him fully in all things and always. For this reason, the Lord often follows the saints with many sore temporal crosses as we see in the case of Jacob, though they obtain the mercy. It may be that your carnal heart thinks, “I do not care how I am delivered, if only I may be freed from it.” Your hearts are far from being quiet! 
  8. The last thing that quietness of spirit is the opposite of is desperate risings of the heart against God by way of rebellion. That is the most abominable. They find in their hearts something of a rising against God. Their thoughts begin to bubble, and their affections begin to move in rebellion against God Himself. This is especially the case with those, who besides their corruptions, have a large measure of melancholy. The devil works both upon the corruptions of their hearts and the melancholy disease of their bodies. 

Now Christian quietness is opposed to all these things. When affliction comes, whatever it is, you do not murmur or repine, you do not fret or vex yourself.  

May 13, 2012

We are not God. That seems obvious when we consider it and yet so often we act as if we actually are God, or gods, at least. John Piper talks about this and many of its implications in one of his meditations from Pierced by the Word. Here is what he says:


We are not God. So by comparison to ultimate, absolute Reality, we are not much. Our existence is secondary and dependent on the absolute Reality of God. He is the only Given in the universe. We are derivative. …We were. He simply is. But we become, “I Am Who I Am” in His name (Exodus 3:14).

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