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Quotes

February 12, 2012

As I was sorting through some books today, I came across a volume by Philip Schaff. As I thought of him, I just had to go looking for this quote, the one that more than any other, has outlasted him.

Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mahomet, and Napoleon; without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and schools combined; without the eloquence of schools, He spoke words of life such as never were spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of any orator or poet; without writing a single line, He has set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art and sweet songs of praise, than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times. Born in a manger, and crucified as a malefactor, He now controls the destinies of the civilized world, and rules a spiritual empire which embraces one-third of the inhabitants of the globe. There never was in this world a life so unpretending, modest, and lowly in its outward form and condition, and yet producing such extraordinary effects upon all ages, nations, and classes of men. The annals of history produce no other example of such complete and astonishing success in spite of the absence of those material, social, literary, and artistic powers and influences which are indispensable to success for a mere man.

February 05, 2012

I love this quote from A.W. Pink’s The Sovereignty of God. Employing some wonderful prose, particularly near the end of the quote, he does battle with those who claim to be Christians but who show very little evidence in their lives. He describes the sweeping nature of what Christ accomplishes in giving new life.

The new birth is very, very much more than simply shedding a few tears due to a temporary remorse over sin. It is far more than changing our course of life, the leaving off of bad habits and the substituting of good ones. It is something different from the mere cherishing and practising of noble ideals. It goes infinitely deeper than coming forward to take some popular evangelist by the hand, signing a pledge-card, or “joining the church.” The new birth is no mere turning over a new leaf but is the inception and reception of a new life. It is no mere reformation but a complete transformation. In short, the new birth is a miracle, the result of the supernatural operation of God. It is radical, revolutionary, lasting.

Here then is the first thing, in time, which God does in His own elect. He lays hold of those who are spiritually dead and quickens them into newness of life. He takes up one who was shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin, and conforms him to the image of His Son. He seizes a captive of the Devil and makes him a member of the household of faith. He picks up a beggar and makes him joint-heir with Christ. He comes to one who is full of enmity against Him and gives him a new heart that is full of love for Him. He stoops to one who by nature is a rebel and works in him both to will and to do of His own good pleasure. By His irresistible power He transforms a sinner into a saint, an enemy into a friend, a slave of the Devil into a child of God.

January 29, 2012

Francis Schaeffer coined some interesting terms—things like true truth and nothing nothing. He wasn’t just being silly; he was making important statements about the world. Here, from He Is There And He Is Not Silent is his description of nothing nothing.

We are considering existence, the fact that something is there. Remember Jean-Paul Sartre’s statement that the basic philosophic question is that something is there rather than nothing being there. The first basic answer is that everything that exists has come out of absolutely nothing. In other words, you begin with nothing. Now, to hold this view, it must be absolutely nothing. It must be what I call nothing nothing. It cannot be nothing something or something nothing. If one is to accept this answer, it must be nothing nothing, which means there must be no energy, no mass, no motion, and no personality.

My description of nothing nothing runs like this. Suppose we had a very black blackboard which had never been used. On this blackboard we drew a circle, and inside that circle there was everything that was — and there was nothing within the circle. Then we erase the circle. This is nothing nothing. You must not let anybody say he is giving an answer beginning with nothing and then really begin with something: energy, mass, motion, or personality. That would be something, and something is not nothing.

The truth is I have never heard this argument sustained, for it is unthinkable that all that now is has come out of utter nothing. But theoretically, that is the first possible answer.

January 22, 2012

I little while ago, while studying Paul’s first letter to Timothy, I came across a great little section of Philip Ryken’s commentary and I thought I’d share it with you. Ryken comments on 1 Timothy 1:17, those verses that inspired a classic hymn of the Christian faith: “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” Here is what Ryken says:

*****

Demetrius was right to be worried. The Ephesian silversmith made shrines for the goddess Artemis, and what kept him up at night—worrying about his job security—was the rapid growth of Christianity in his city.

Up until a missionary named Paul arrived, the silver trade in Ephesus had been rather lucrative. The worship of Artemis “brought no little business to the craftsmen” (Acts 19:24). But Christianity meant the end of idolatry, and this posed a threat to their livelihood. So Demetrius called the silversmiths together and said:

Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship. (Acts 19:25-27)

The silversmiths wanted to defend the honor and majesty of their queen. More importantly, they wanted to keep their jobs. So “when they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ So the city was filled with the confusion” (Acts 19:28-29). A massive protest was held in the giant theater of Ephesus. For two straight hours, as many as twenty thousand people shouted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:34).

Eventually the city clerk was able to quiet the crowd. He said: “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky?” (Acts 19:35). Yes, the whole world did know this, for the temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was 425 feet long and 220 feet broad, with 127 columns of white marble, each 60 feet high. It took two centuries to build it. Edwin Yamauchi calls it “the largest structure in the Hellenistic world and the first of such monumental proportions to be built entirely of marble.” Inside stood the ancient and enormous statue of Artemis herself.

The goodess seemed immortal, but Demetrius was right to be worried. The coming of Christ meant the end of the Artemis. She has now been tossed on the scrap heap of history. With the exception of a few scattered columns on a plan near Ephesus, the last fragments of her temple—a handful of coins and a few broken columns—are now on display in the basement of the British Museum in London.

The death of Artemis has turned Paul’s doxology into a hymn of triumph…

January 21, 2012

Earlier in the week I came across a quote by Albert Barnes who was an American theologian during the mid-1800’s. He writes about the Christian’s demeanor or deportment, the way a Christian should carry himself through life. And he says that constant levity is out-of-place in the life of the Christian.

I’d be interested in your take on it:

Christians should be grave and serious, though cheerful and pleasant. They should feel that they have great interests at stake, and that the world has too. They are redeemed—not to make sport; purchased with precious blood—for other purposes than to make men laugh. They are soon to be in heaven—and a man who has any impressive sense of that will habitually feel he has much else to do than to make men laugh. The true course of life is midway between moroseness and levity; sourness and lightness; harshness and jesting.  Be benevolent, kind, cheerful, bland, courteous—but serious. Be solemn, thoughtful, deeply impressed with the presence of God and with eternal things—but pleasant affable and benignant. Think not a smile sinful; but think not levity and jesting harmless.

I guess that final sentence says it all: a smile isn’t sinful, but a life of levity and jesting isn’t harmless either. Do you agree?

January 15, 2012

In my online wanderings this week I read an interview with theologian John Webster (and I confess, I know nothing about Mr. Webster other than what is in this interview). There was one thing in that interview that jumped out at me, especially since I have been thinking and writing a little bit about vocation in recent days. Webster is asked about ordinary Christians and offers quite an interesting answer. I’d love to get your thoughts on what he says here about the role of the few “professional” Christians.

Why should ordinary Christians care about such seemingly recondite matters as how to articulate the immanent being of the Trinity?

There aren’t any “ordinary” Christians; there are saints, a few of whom are appointed to the task of thinking hard about and trying to articulate the common faith of the church. We don’t usually need to use formal theological language and concepts in the everyday life of the church in prayer, preaching and service.

But like any other important human activity, faith has to achieve a measure of conceptual clarity if it is to understand and express itself, and part of that process is the development of abstract concepts like Trinity, incarnation and substance. What’s important is that we don’t treat such concepts as if they were improvements on the ordinary ways in which the saints express the faith; they are simply shorthand terms, a tool kit which helps us keep certain crucial aspects of the gospel alive in the mind and worship of the church. Theology and theological abstractions matter because the gospel matters, because the gospel concerns truth, and because living in and from the truth involves the discipleship of reason.

January 08, 2012

Better minds than mine (or yours, probably) have wrestled with the relationship between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. The Bibles teaches, or seems to teach, that God is sovereign over all things, and yet it also teaches, or seems to teach, that man is responsible to turn from his sin and come to God. Here are two great quotes that discuss how we can reconcile these things. 

The first comes from Andrew Fuller.

A fleshly mind may ask, “How can these things be?” How can Divine predestination accord with human agency and accountableness? But a truly humble Christian, finding both in his Bible, will believe both, though he may be unable fully to understand their consistency; and he will find in the one a motive to depend entirely on God, and in the other a caution against slothfulness and presumptuous neglect of duty. And thus a Christian minister, if he view the doctrine in its proper connexions, will find nothing in it to hinder the free use of warnings, invitations, and persuasions, either to the converted or the unconverted. Yet he will not ground his hopes of success on the pliability of the human mind, but on the promised grace of God, who (while he prophesies to the dry bones, as he is commanded) is known to inspire them with the breath of life.

Charles Spurgeon talks about this same thing in his inimitable way:

“That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory, but they are not. The fault is in our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and I find that in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other. I do not believe they can ever be welded into one upon any earthly anvil, but they certainly shall be one in eternity. They are two lines that so nearly parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.”

January 06, 2012

Here is a great, challenging quote from Martyn Lloyd-Jones. It is drawn from his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount and it does away with that false notion that the heights of Christian experience are reserved for the few and exceptional Christians who take on Christian work as their vocation.

Read the Beatitudes, and there you have a description of what every Christian is meant to be. It is not merely the description of some exceptional Christians.

I pause with that for just a moment, and emphasize it, because I think we must all agree that the fatal tendency introduced by the Roman Catholic Church, and indeed by every branch of the Church that likes to use the term ‘Catholic,’ is the fatal tendency to divide Christians into two groups—the religious and the laity, exceptional Christians and ordinary Christians, the one who makes a vocation of the Christian life and the man who is engaged in secular affairs.

That tendency is not only utterly and completely unscriptural; it is destructive ultimately of true piety, and is in many ways a negation of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no such distinction in the Bible. There are distinctions in offices—apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors, evangelists, and so on. But these Beatitudes are not a description of offices; they are a description of character. And from the standpoint of character, and of what we are meant to be, there is no difference between one Christian and another.

Let me put it like this. It is the Roman Catholic Church that canonizes certain people, not the New Testament. Read the introduction to almost any New Testament Epistle and you will find all believers addressed as in the Epistle to the Church at Corinth, ‘called to be saints.’ All are ‘canonized,’ if you want to use the term, not some Christians only. The idea that this height of the Christian life is meant only for a chosen few, and that the rest of us are meant to live on the dull plains, is an entire denial of the Sermon on the Mount, and of the Beatitudes in particular.

We are all meant to exemplify everything that is contained here in these Beatitudes. Therefore let us once and for ever get rid of that false notion. This is not merely a description of the Hudson Taylors or George Mullers or the Whitefields or Wesleys of this world; it is a description of every Christian. We are all of us meant to conform to its pattern and to rise to its standard.

December 29, 2011

I have been reading (and listening to) Tim Keller’s new book The Meaning of Marriage, easily my favorite book of 2011. One of the subjects Keller covers is the lost sense of duty in love. We have come to think that if there is any duty in love it must not be genuine. Biblically, of course, love is shown not in what you receive, but in how much you are willing to give; often you give out of a sense of duty. I’d like to share a quote in which he applies this to the marriage bed. I share this simply because I know what a struggle this is in so many marriages and I am sure that these words can help.


Modern people think of love in such subjective terms that if there is any duty involved it is considered unhealthy. Over the years, I have often counseled with people who were quite locked into this conviction. This is particularly true when it comes to sex. Many people believe that if you have sex with your spouse just to please him or her though you are not interested in sex yourself, it would be inauthentic or even oppressive. This is the thoroughly subjective understanding of love-as-passionate-feeling. And often this quickly leads into a vicious cycle. If you won’t make love unless you are in a romantic mood at the very same time as your spouse, then sex will not happen that often. This can dampen and quench your partner’s interest in sex, which means there will be even fewer opportunities. Therefore, if you never have sex unless there is great mutual passion, there will be fewer and fewer times of mutual passion.

One of the reasons we believe in our culture that sex should always and only be the result of great passion is that so many people today have learned how to have sex outside of marriage, and this is a very different experience than having sex inside it. Outside of marriage, sex is accompanied by a desire to impress or entice someone. It is something like the thrill of the hunt. When you are seeking to draw in someone you don’t know, it injects risk, uncertainty, and pressure to the lovemaking that quickens the heartbeat and stirs the emotions. If “great sex” is defined in this way, then marriage—the “piece of paper”—will indeed stifle that particular kind of thrill. But this defines sexual sizzle in terms that would be impossible to maintain in any case. The fact is that “the thrill of the hunt” is not the only kind of thrill or passion available, nor is it the best.

Kathy and I were virgins when we married. Even in our day, that may have been the minority experience, but that meant that on our wedding night we were not in any position to try to impress or entice one another. All we were trying to do was to tenderly express with our bodies the oneness we had first begun feeling as friends and which had then had grown stronger and deeper as we fell in love. Frankly, that night I was clumsy and awkward and fell asleep anxious and discouraged. Sex was frustrating at first. It was the frustration of an artist who has in his head a picture or a story but lacks the skills to express it.

However, we had fortunately not learned to use sex to impress, nor to mix the thrill of the dangerous and the forbidden with sexual stimulation and mistake it for love. With sex, we were trying to be vulnerable to each other, to give each other the gift of bare-faced rejoicing in one another, and to know the pleasure of giving one another pleasure. And as the weeks went by, and then the years, we did it better and better. Yes, it means making love sometimes when one or even both of you are not “in the mood.” But sex in a marriage, done to give joy rather than to impress, can change your mood on the spot. The best sex makes you want to weep tears of joy, not bask in the glow of a good performance.

December 28, 2011

At this year’s Expositor’s Conference there was a Q&A session in which a concerned pastor asked Al Mohler about the influence of Mark Driscoll. Mohler’s answer was winsome and helpful. He helpfully balanced being encouraged that Driscoll is preaching the gospel while at the same time expressing concern at some of his emphases. As he says, we ought to be able to be grown ups about this issue and other similar ones. There is no good reason that we can’t discuss this winsomely and with discernment.

Here is a transcription of that part of the Q&A; if you’d rather listen, click here. (Note: This happened in October, long before the book Real Marriage, so do not take this as Mohler’s reaction to that book)


Question: I work with college students, mostly leading them to Christ and discipling them, and one of the big influences they have in their life right now is pastor Mark Driscoll and the ministry that he’s doing. I’d just like to hear from you just what you feel like to be some effects of sitting under him on YouTube or from his website, what kind of things that I need to be prepared for just ministering to young college students just listening to his teaching?

Mohler: You had a better question? [laughs] I told you it’s dangerous to turn left. It never works, just take that as a parable. Now I appreciate the question and I’m not going to dodge it. Here’s the thing—we ought to be grown ups, we can talk about these things, we want, together, to be a company of discerning men and we want to think about these things. 

One of the things that we need to say, first of all, is that, wherever the gospel is to be found we need to be happy about that. And I’m thankful that Mark Driscoll believes in, teaches and preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ. I appreciate and admire his boldness and his tenacity, being in a very secular place for a long period of years to preach with such boldness the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

The Gospel has implications. Pastor Driscoll and I would not agree on all those implications. I have great concerns about what I would consider to be excessive contextualization. Now I do think we need to acknowledge that all of us contextualize. I’m not here in pajamas. There’s a certain contextualization that is taking place here. I’m using the English language; if I came here speaking German, Helmut and Helga in the back would appreciate that greatly but the rest of you would probably be left out of the conversation. So, in other words, we’re always about some kind of contextualization and actually the most dangerous contextualization are things we do not think about. It’s the subconscious contextualization.

I am concerned about contextualization when it comes to, say, to reach a secular society you have to be crude, you have to be, because there’s a difference between being crude and being simple, okay. There’s also a difference between being crude and being candid. I think there’s some things, gospel ministers, actually don’t ever have to talk about, ever, because they’re simply not on the screen of a gospel application. That means an application of the gospel, not an application to be a Christian. I have to watch what I’m saying here. They’re simply not there. I think there are other things that should never be talked about in the full congregation. There are times when the men in the church need to get aside and talk about certain things that only men need to talk about and likewise women, talk about only things women need to talk about. There is a respect for modesty of gender in the New Testament that has to do with leadership, it has to do with older women counseling and teaching younger women. There is also a need in the church at times for there to be an age discrimination. There are things adults need to talk about that parents need to talk about, that children, and for that matter middle schoolers and teenagers don’t need to be a part of. There’s a matter of discernment there. 

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