Archive for October, 2008

The work of God

31 October 2008

This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent
~ Jesus, John 6.29

What can I attribute my faith/belief to? Is it my intellect? Is it that I am better than others? Is it because it was my choice? Jesus answer is that it is because God has done it. It is the work of God, that I believe in Christ whom he sent and who I meet on the pages of scripture. All of grace. A good reminder on this reformation day, God’s works save me, not mine.


Hugh Martin on Union with Christ in his death

30 October 2008

In this manifold communion with Christ the first and leading element is communion with him in his death, in his cross. And the reason is that it was by his death that he obtained for us that promise and gift of the Spirit whereby we are united to him and made a new creature in him, called unto his communion or fellowship…But if it be directly and immediately for and by the cross that the Spirit of Christ cometh to you, then the immediate and first and central communion that you have with Christ is in his cross: ye are crucified with Christ. The cross is yours. His perfect propitiatory sacrifice in all its merit is yours. You are sanctified, cleansed, dedicated unto God, offered up and acceptable unto him by the offering of the body of Christ once for all.

From Christ for Us in a sermon entitled ‘Crucified with Christ.’

Yet another reason why a view of the atonement void of penal substitution and propitiation removes the power of the cross and leaves sinners in their sins. Without it, we cannot be united to Christ, and if we are outside of Christ we are doomed.

The gospel and its benefits

28 October 2008

The book of John is often called the book of ‘signs’. In chapters 2-12 John gives seven signs. These signs are intended to reveal to the people that Jesus is the promised one, the Messiah. In John chapter six we read about the sign of the feeding of the 5,000. The bread of life discourse follows this sign. The sign was intended to lead the people to put their trust in Jesus. The effect, however, was predominantly a desire for more food, not Jesus. When someone comes to Jesus there are many benefits gained (sins forgiven, eternal life with God in heaven, etc.), but they are just that, benefits. They are not the main thing. Jesus is.

Sadly, many times Christians (myself included) treat Jesus like the people in this passage. We want what Jesus can do for us, but we aren’t too bothered about wanting him. The Christian life and the gospel is not, principally, about what Jesus can do for us (as if you could separate his work from his person), but it is the glory that Jesus offers himself to us. To clarify, the gospel IS what Jesus has done for us, but we cannot separate from his person what he has done and offers to us, which is what so often happens. We come to him and have him! He is our treasure, not what he does for us. He is our joy, not what he gives us. He is our everything. As the hymnist writes, ‘You can have this whole world, but give me Jesus’. 

Good writing and God’s law

24 October 2008

Tredinnick again on good writing,

But writing is creativity and discipline; it is freedom within bounds. It’s freestyle drawing and engineering.

Like all things in life, true freedom is only found under the rule of the right things or person. In the case of writing, if rules aren’t followed then what I write will be rubbish. In the case of living, people think that God’s law is restrictive and prohibits fun and freedom, but the reality is that true freedom is only found there.

Augustine gold mine, and he never looked better

21 October 2008


One of the joys of living in Edinburgh is a fairly large concentration of used book shops in the city and nearby areas (it can also be a stumbling block for some). Over the last few months I happened upon two different rich deposits of Augustine. The first was much more economical, but not as pretty or long-lasting (I feel I should mention that after a bit of haggling I did manage 50% off the more robust find). It was his six volumes on the Psalms. If you have the church fathers edition, it is edited and contains only about 20-25% of the original material.

The second find was a complete set of the works of Augustine bound in 3/4 leather bindings and in exceptional condition. These were published by T & T Clark in the late 19th century. I have rarely seen all 15 volumes together, and certainly not in this presentation. They were bound by Blackie and Son. If you are at all familiar with binders of the 19th century (which you probably aren’t, with good reason) Blackie and Son were some of the best. If you run across an old leather bound volume that is in good shape, it very likely may be bound by Blackie and Son. Maybe a better way to say it is, if you run across something bound by Blackie and Son it will be in good shape, unless the owner was like a few guys I knew in seminary who would cause the books on your desk to quake with fear when they walked by.

Here are some pics of the volumes (I don’t quite have the skill of a number of bloggers who take stellar pictures of books, but I took them like I did). I’m looking forward to digging in to a number of them next year. For now, it’s Hugh Martin for me.


18 October 2008

The social gospel is the prosperity gospel for the poor ~ Tim Chester

What did you say?

17 October 2008

I’ve started reading The Little Red Writing Book by Mark Tredinnick as recommended by Tony Payne, and it is fabulous. He speaks about writing that ought to ‘sing’, and his book does exactly that. As a pastor and preacher, however, I found the following quote striking.

Writing that works is like the best kind of conversation you never heard. It’s talking tidied up. It’s speaking compressed, clarified, enriched and heightened by thought and art, and set down on paper.

If what you write doesn’t sound like someone could speak it, write it again so it does. If if doesn’t sound like a spoken thing, it’ll probably never be heard. Or if it is heard, it will soon be forgotten. Or if your reader can’t forget it, she’ll wish she could.

Surely there is some wise counsel in these words for preachers and our preparation for speaking.

Half-hearted Christianity

16 October 2008

Yesterday a friend posed a question that I think is entirely relevant to church culture, yet difficult to answer. He asked, “How do you preach the gospel to someone who already knows it?” One answer: Focus on Christ and appeal that they trust him and put their faith in him.

However, my guess is his question’s intention was to ask, “How do you preach the gospel to someone who thinks he or she knows it, but doesn’t?” Someone who is culturally a Christian, but doesn’t really know the gospel. I think this is a tremendously important question for preachers as so many in churches fit into this category.

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to preach on 2 Chronicles 25 and the life of Amaziah, who followed the LORD, but not with a whole heart. I closed by considering that half-hearted Christianity is not enough. I think that it might be an attempt to answer my friend’s question. Here is that section of the sermon:

You see, when you repeatedly fail and continue to fall short and don’t always do all that you ought, that’s not half-hearted Christianity. Constantly failing to be perfect is not half-hearted Christianity. Finder yourself not doing what you ought to and doing what you shouldn’t is not half-hearted Christianity. That was Paul’s struggle in Romans 7 and that’s the reality of the human condition. And this is principally because Christianity is not about your performance.

The preaching of the gospel is not an appeal to do something that will make you Christian – it is an announcement, a proclamation about something God has done in Christ that will make you a Christian. It is all about Christ and not about you.

Half-hearted Christianity means that you are happy with Christ, but you are happy with other things as well. Christ is not everything to you. You’d give him up before you give other things up. You’d gladly have Christ so long as you can add other things/people to him. When push comes to shove, Christ is displaced.  Half-hearted Christianity is not enough.

The end of ‘Why?’ and common grace

14 October 2008

As I was preparing our pizza yesterday (Monday is pizza night at the Luehrmann home), our daughter Anna was helping put the cheese on. While helping she entered into, what is now quite common, one of her ‘Why?’ interrogations. 

Anna – Why are we putting the cheese on top?

Papa – Because when it melts it helps everything stick together and not fall off the pizza.

Anna – Why does it help everything stick together?

Papa – Because it gets stretchy and sticky when it melts.

Anna – Why does it get stretchy and sticky when it melts?

Papa – Because that is the way God made it.

Anna – Why did God make it that way?

Papa – I don’t know,  you’ll have to ask him.

Anna (looking up at the ceiling) – God, why did you make cheese this way?

I think she may have to wait on that one. But perhaps a good answer is because God wanted us to enjoy melted cheese on pizza. Common grace to all men and women – melted cheese on the tops of our pizza.

Antiquarian Book?

10 October 2008

I quite enjoy old books. There is much that has not yet been reprinted, and there’s something about leather bindings that appeals. On a recent journey to T K Maxx here in Edinburgh I ran across what looked like an old book. Here it is mingled with some others in our living room.

What is so fantastic about this particular book, is that it is not a book. Here are a few close-ups of it:

Pretty nice for T K Maxx. Though, upon closer inspection you realise that this is no ordinary book, it is a safe book. Years ago I bought an old massive Bible Illustrations book for a fiver (with a lovely leather binding) with the intention of gutting it and making my own book safe. I still have the book and hope to get around to doing that, but in the mean time this surprising find will have to do.