Archive for September, 2008

Is Jesus there?

30 September 2008

This is the foundational question that needs to be asked when one is speaking about a Spirit-filled life or church. Lots of things pass or are claimed as works/movements of the Spirit these days, but Christ does not seem to be as prevalent as the claims are common. A (perhaps the) key work of the Holy Spirit is to point to Christ (John 15.26, 16.8-14). J. I. Packer writes

It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over on Jesus, who stands facing us. The Spirit’s message to us is never, ‘Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me,’ but always, ‘Look at him and see him, and see his glory; get to know him, and hear his word; go to him, and have life; get to know him and taste his gift of joy and peace.’

I live in Edinburgh, and the castle stands in the middle of the city elevated on a hill. Every evening it is illuminated by multiple spotlights. I never see anyone looking at the spotlights and ignoring the castle towering above them, that would be silly. The Holy Spirit has a spotlight ministry on Christ. Now, this isn’t to say we ignore the Spirit, that is too common already, but rather that we better understand one of the key roles of the Spirit. If a person or church is labelled as ‘Spirit-filled’ and Christ is not the centre of attention, then we completely misunderstand the work of the Spirit.

As an aside, it is quite interesting seeing something of the parallel hightlight ministry of John the Baptizer in regards to Christ, and the Spirit in regards to Christ.

John’s witness: Jesus is the Light (Jn 1.6-8); Jesus is preeminent (Jn 1.15); Jesus is the Son of God (Jn 1.32-34); John gave testimony to the truth, and his testimony was true (Jn 5.33-36, 10.41).

The Spirit’s witness: Jesus is preeminent (Jn 16.14); Jesus is the Son of God/Messiah (1 Jn 4.1-2, 5.6); Spirit guides you into truth and is truth (Jn 16.13, 1 Jn 5.6).

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The Great Exchange

25 September 2008

Listen to this most glorious gospel appeal by Hugh Martin:

Oh, most blessed justification, without works, freely by faith, by his grace, in the very righteousness of God! Come, O believer, and enter afresh into all the deep perfection and precision of this exchange. Bring thy sin, else there can be no exchange at all. Bring they sin and poverty, else thou are not profiting by this arrangement at all. Bring thy sin, and obtain freely perfect righteousness. The Lord requires thee not to bring righteousness, but to bring sin. sin thou hast: bring what thou hast. Righteousness thou has not: come and receive what thou hast not. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ exempts thee from having to bring righteousness: exempts thee from being paralysed by the terror of having nothing but sin:exempts thee from the despairing task and toil of finding any ground of peace with God theyself: from drawing up any terms or covenant of peace thyself: from extinguishing or putting away thy sin thyself: from bringing any righteousness theyself. Jesus Christ, the holy One, the righteous, receiveth thee, a sinner! He puts himself in thy place: he puts thee in his: and his is a place of righteousness still, even though he be in thy place of sin: for, in thy place of sin, he puts away sin by the sacrifice of himself; abiding righteousness for thee, and thou the righteousness of God in him! Most profitable, most liberal, most gracious barter or exchange, profitable unto thee a sinner, for thou givest sin and gettest righteousness–the righteousness of God.

It is difficult to take in. That which qualifies me for the offer of Christ is my sin and failure. Some may wonder ‘How do I know the offer of salvation is for me?’ The answer? Your sin, your failure, your shortcomings; these show that the offer is for you, for the offer is that of the great exchange: your sin for Christ’s righteousness.

Another Scottish minister, Samuel Rutherford, looks upon our lackings and failures in a marvelous way when writing to a friend. He says ‘I find that our wants qualify us for Christ – wants are my best riches, for I have these supplied by Christ.’

A Scot’s view on the 4th of July?

24 September 2008

Here are some sobering words from Sinclair Ferguson. In this wee article he is thinking upon some of the privileges of living in America (petrol/gas got a mention) and he finishes by thinking about the situation in Scotland.

     When we cease to worship the Lord our thankfulness has only inadequate objects – others, ourselves, or our ‘lucky stars’. Hence Paul links together not worshipping the Lord and being unthankful (Rom 1.21).
This took only one generation. In my childhood churches were as full as they are today in Columbia; now they are empty. The buildings are now entertainment centres or up-market apartments. The trend is inexorable: we
first lose the sense of the privilege of worship; then the desire to worship (the problem is within us!); true worship slowly dies.
     Eventually the world sees that the worship of God is unimportant even to church members and treats it (and God’s Word on which it is grounded) as unimportant too.
     Eventually the liberty we enjoyed is restricted and may ultimately be denied. If we squander our privileges God takes us at our word and removes them.

             Sinclair Ferguson, ‘The Fourth of July – A View from (Slightly!) Outside’

Profound. How many churches today see the problem finding its root at our worship of God? Generally, I think, the focus is given to symptoms and good intentions rather than the cause. For myself my flesh would much rather be served and worshipped instead of worshipping God. The irony is that it is only in worship of God that I can truly enjoy life and be satisfied. So long as I pursue serving myself, enjoyment and satisfaction will be elusive. Does the church, do I, live in such a way that this is communicated to those who see us? O for a greater vision of GOD.

Where is Christ?

23 September 2008

At our church we are working through 2 Chronicles on Sunday evenings. It is the long sad story of the people waiting for the promised one, the king from the line of David, who is the Son of God, the prophet like Moses, being a priest after Melchizedek. As we’ve been going from king to king I’ve been trying to think about how the kings either contrast Christ, or in some way give a shadow of what is to come. Surely the longing for Christ among the true Israelites of the time must have been growing more and more intense as they witnessed repeated failure after failure. Here is what I’ve come up with so far:

Solomon – 2 Chr 1.14 – he had many horses (see Deut 17.14-17)
Christ – Mt 21.1-6 – he came seated on a donkey

Rehoboam – 2 Chr 10.12-14 – ‘My father made your yoke heavy, I will add to it’
Christ – Mt 11.25-30 – ‘My yoke is easy and light’

Abijah – appeals to God’s promises for personal safety, but he is a religious hypocrite who doesn’t care about God
Christ – abandons personal safety for the glory of God

Asa – he went from riches to rags
Christ – he went from riches to rags (2 Cor 8.9)

Jehoshaphat – bedfellows with the ungodly to gain personal safety
Christ – did not entrust himself to man b/c he knew what was in him

Jehoram – 2 Chr 21.4, 13 – put his brothers and ‘men who were better then him’ to death
Christ – saved (gave life to) his enemies and men who were worse than him so that they might be called his brothers

Ahaziah – listened to the world’s counsel instead of God’s word and will
Christ – obeyed the father even with some pretty attractive offers from the world

Athaliah – sought to destroy the royal family
Christ – gave his life to create a royal family

Joash – forsook godly counsel killing God’s messenger instead of listening to him
Christ – was God’s messenger giving God’s message and was killed for it

Next Sunday I get to preach on Amaziah who started well, but didn’t persevere. And Christ (praise the Lord!) endured to the end.

Do vs. Done

22 September 2008

I ran across a refreshing quote from Martyn Lloyd-Jones, quoted in Iain Murray’s Messenger of Grace, from a sermon on Genesis 32.24 (April 27, 1947) contrasting what so many are told to do to be a Christian instead of being told what’s been done.

The preaching of the gospel is not meant to be an appeal to men and women to do something that will make them Christian–it is an announcement, a proclamation to them about something that God has done and that will make them a Christian.

If we we move on to the issue of assurance this is a massively important distinction. Does my assurance rest in what I do or what Christ has done? One of these gives true assurance and the other anxiety and uncertainty. Surely the basis of our assurance should be no different than the basis of our salvation.

Martin once more on the Cross

19 September 2008

Who would have thought you’d read something like this in a Jonah commentary:

There are obstacles in the way of your salvation; your forgiveness, your holiness; your coming unto Jesus, your believing on his name, your walking worthy of His love;–obstacles manifold and strong. Are they almighty? One need scarcely seek an answer. Earth and hell and all creation may join their power to destroy you; but their allied forces do not make Omnipotence. Finite powers at the uttermost, they fall infinitely short of Almightiness. And can Almightiness not cope with them? Yea, verily. But where does almighty power emanate, to overthrow them? In what direction–what line–may I so place myself, as to find Omnipotence coming forth to draw me to the Lord? In the line of the Cross. In your looking unto Jesus.

Hugh Martin – Cross-centred

19 September 2008

Over the last year or so I’ve been working on a thesis in relation to Hugh Martin and the doctrine of the atonement. It has been rich. Truly he is an overlooked gem for today’s church. If you want your soul blessed, read Hugh Martin. Much of his stuff is still in print, and all of it is excellent. Probably the two easiest to find are Christ for Us and The Shadow of Calvary. Much more could be said about him, but I won’t do that now. To whet your appetite, here is a quote from a sermon entitled Heart Plagues Cured where Martin links the power and means of sanctification to the cross, echoing Walter Marshall in some respects. 

Finally, I must again ask your attention to what was briefly noticed in the former discourse, namely that it is by a believing use of the cross that you are to slay your corruptions or cure your heart plagues. In proportion as you wander in spirit from the cross your plagues and besetting sins will revive. Your right and adequate return to the cross weakens and mortifies and kills them. All sanctification is from participating in the power of the cross. It is from communion in the death and resurrection of Christ. It is by being made conformable unto his death. If the body of sin is to be destroyed and you are not henceforth to serve sin, your old man must be crucified with Christ. You must be baptized into his death. You must make his death your own. You must drink the cup which he drank of and be baptized with the baptism wherewith he was baptized. Humiliation and holiness can be found by a sinner nowhere but the cross. And they cannot be carried away from the cross. You must make the cross itself yours if you are to make humiliation and holiness yours. He gave himself that he might redeem you from all iniquity. He loved you and gave himself for you that he might cleanse you with the washing of water by the word . . . All efforts after holiness and holy self-control apart from the cross will issue in proud self-righteousness or in a paralysing sense of failure. Ah! how very much the most advanced among us needs to search the treasures, not of peace only, but of sanctifying power with which the cross is replete!

the new (old) god

18 September 2008

It’s always been around, but perhaps more public nowadays. This blog post from Al Mohler highlights the world’s worship of the creation, instead of the creator. When people reverse the order of God’s creation by putting humans, created in the image of God as the pinnacle of his creation, below the rest of creation, the fallout will be interesting if not scary. 

As an aside, there aren’t many drawbacks to living in Edinburgh. Owning the Duke of Edinburgh? I’ll leave that to your judgment.

EXPELLED!

17 September 2008

I know there is some debate on the accuracy of the Expelled movie in regards to people losing their jobs and such because of a belief in creationism, which was inevitable. That aside, here is the latest piece of evidence. Spin it how you like, this is about as clear as it gets in supporting Ben Stein’s thesis.

Perks

12 September 2008

This is just one of the perks, in my thinking, of working where I do.