India (part 1)

These four days have been great considering previous experiences with jetlag. I spent two weeks in India at the invitation of Indian pastors with the task of teaching covenant theology. My role was to lecture on an alternative theological system, namely dispensationalism, and its problems. The lecture centered on how classical (Scofield) and revised (Ryrie) dispensationalists build their theological system on an “Israel-church” hermeneutic, which inevitably leads to a duality in the purpose that God has for His people. My rebuttal was from the book of Hebrews, which, among other things, shows the superiority of the Lord Jesus Christ when compared to Moses, the Levitical priesthood, angels, et cetera. Further, the book of Hebrews, by way of analogy, speaks of the house of Moses and the house of Christ as though they were one (chapter 3), which is an obvious problem for the Israel-church hermeneutic. Bogdan who had the great task of unpacking covenant theology in three full days taught most of the seminar. His work was excellent.

That’s technically what we did in India aside from filling pulpits on Sunday at a few churches. A few local pastors from the larger cities have been networking with other Indian pastors who are committed to evangelism and church planting. By God’s grace, this naturally led to the formation of seminars to help under-resourced pastors further understand Scripture. These city pastors have labored for years to make these seminars possible. Many of the rural pastors attending were coming from the more unreached parts of India. A few of these men told us how they had spent the last few decades ministering to unreached tribes in India who weren’t even recognized by the Hindu caste system! They were rural, tribal people whose ways of religion were animistic.

All things considered, the question might linger in your mind: Why covenant theology? The simple answer to this question is: Because the local Indian pastors asked us to.

To be continued…

Smile. It’s Monday.

Verbicide

I’m in the process of reading John Stott’s Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today. He provides these challenging words from C.S. Lewis on the subject of being verbose. It makes me want rewrite all of the papers I’ve completed this semester.  Lewis refers to it as ‘verbicide’ in his letter to a child in America in 1956:

What really matters is:

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean, and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long vague one. Don’t ‘implement’ promises, but ‘keep’ them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean ‘more people died’, don’t say ‘mortality rose’.

4. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was ‘terrible’, describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was ‘delightful’, make us say ‘delightful’ when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only saying to your readers ‘please will you do my job for me’.

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

Bow-ties, Beatles Fans, and Definitive Sanctification (I like all three)

Spoiler alert: I’m about to ask some questions because: 1) questions are cool, 2) questions are a postmodern virtue.  However, they may not be as cool as Beatles fans not liking Yoko or hipsters with bow-ties.

Is sanctification a progressive work or a definitive event? If it is a progressive work, can this work be completed before the Lord’s return?  Further, how are we to reconcile the fact that we have remaining sin in our lives with passages like:

No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.  Little children, let no one deceive you.  Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.  Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.  No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. (1 Jn 3:6-9)

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. (1 Jn 5:18)

How we answer these questions can influence things like our view of the purpose of “devotionals” and whether there’s such a thing as biblical assurance (to name a few).  The perennial question, however, is how does the NT describe sanctification? John Murray wrote, “But it is a fact too frequently overlooked that in the New Testament the most characteristic terms used with reference to sanctification are used not of a process but of a once-for-all definitive act.”  I think he’s right.  Inquiring minds can find the article here.

Thoughts on the incarnation…

Gleanings from Dr. McWilliam’s Christology class:

In the incarnation, God becomes who he had not been, without ceasing to be who He always had been.  God the Son becomes man yet while always being of the same substance (ὁμοούσιος) of the Father and the Spirit.

All of history stands in the shadow of this glorious reality:  God the Father sent His Son, Jesus, into the world in which we live.  He died, He stands risen, and He ascended into heaven.  This is the hope of the world.

Longing for this day:

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” Revelation 5:13

Τῷ καθημένῳ ἐπὶ τοῦ θρόνου καὶ τῷ ἀρνίῳ ἡ εὐλογία καὶ ἡ τιμὴ καὶ ἡ δόξακαὶ τὸ κράτος εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων

And how can you guard your heart, the citadel of your soul?

I found this article extremely edifying this morning.  I hope it does the same for you.  Here it is, in its entirety:

Pursuing a Personal Inquisition of the Heart

By Al Baker

Watch over your own heart with diligence, for from it flows the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

I have known men who began well, who began their careers and families with a steadfast commitment to honour God, to be faithful to their wives and children, and to keep a lid on their fleshly desires. Sadly, many of those men, as their careers wind down and they move into their retirement years are divorced, estranged from their children, and giving little evidence of the commitment to Christ they so long ago professed. I have often wondered, if asked to preach their funerals, what I would say. Would I tell their loved ones and friends, ‘Yes, I know he was a Christian and I can give you biblical assurance that he is now with Jesus.’ Would I be able to say that?

 

What went wrong? How did this happen? And what can I say to instruct you so that the same does not happen to you, so that you finish your race well without bringing shame to Christ, your family, or yourself? Solomon is instructing his son on how to live in the midst of a plethora of temptations, not the least of which are lurid women and bad friends. Within this context he tells his son what he must do, how he must do it, and what results from it. Note first of all his instruction. ‘My son, watch over your own heart.’ By heart he means the very citadel of his soul, the gateway to the rest of his body. A citadel is a military fortress which serves to protect an army and the people they serve. We know the heart is key to biblical holiness from what follows in the succeeding verses where Solomon speaks of the eyes, the mouth, and the feet, calling us to discipline these members of our bodies, something Paul also told the Romans to do (Rom. 6:12-13). Jesus told us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matt. 22:37). Joel says, ‘Rend your hearts, and not your garments’ (Joel 2:13). David says, ‘Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee’ (Psa. 119:11).

 

To watch over one’s heart is to pursue a personal inquisition of the heart. David asked God to search him, to know his heart, to try him and know his anxious thoughts, to see if there is any hurtful way in him, and to lead him in the everlasting way (Psa. 139:23-24). And in order to pursue this personal inquisition of the heart you must know yourself well, your sinful proclivities, your patterns of recurring sin, those things that seem constantly to bring you down. A recovering alcoholic knows he cannot be around alcohol or anyone who drinks. He must stay away from them. A man who is tempted to sexual sin while on business trips must ask his friends to pray for him, even to check in with him each night in his hotel room, or if possible and practical to take his wife with him. A man tempted to spend money frivolously learns that he cannot carry a credit card with him, except perhaps his business credit card, that he must pay cash for only what he needs.

 

And how can you guard your heart, the citadel of your soul? Solomon says we do it with all diligence. I suggest three things, the first of which I have just mentioned. First, you must nightly pursue a personal inquisition of the soul. By this I mean, at the end of the day, as you prepare for bed that night, ask yourself a series of questions like these — ‘how have I sinned in my speech today, how have I sinned in my thoughts, what have I done contrary to God’s law, what are the deep seated idols that manifest themselves in sinful values, words, and deeds? And when the Holy Spirit shows you your sin, be quick to humble yourself, to confess it as sin, to ask Jesus for his grace and holiness, and once again to claim Christ’s mercy and renewal.

 

Second, you must daily pursue a personal visitation of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us to not quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19), to not grieve the Spirit (Eph. 4:30), and to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). Just as a man who offends his wife with unkind speech finds a wall of separation between them, so our sin breaks fellowship with God Isa. 59:1-2, Psa. 66:18). You are still married and you still love your wife when there is tension, but you nonetheless know things ‘just aren’t right.’ And so it is with God and our sin. Your sin brings a degree of separation from him which can lead to a lack of power over sin, a decrease in passion for Christ and his kingdom, and a downgrade of purity in thought, word, and deed. So each day, when you detect that God is far away from you, when you sense dryness or coldness to the things of God, then be very quick to repent, to ask for the Spirit’s filling.

 

And third, you must regularly pursue personal holiness for without this you will not see God (Heb. 12:14). It is wonderfully and gloriously true that no one can snatch the believer from God’s hand (John 10:28-29), that nothing will separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39), and that we are born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that we will receive an inheritance that will not fade away (1 Pet. 1:3-4). But it is also true that one who goes on sinning wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth will find that there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain, terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire that will consume God’s adversaries; that while one who sets aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses, so one will incur a stricter judgment who tramples under foot the Son of God, who ignores the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and who insults the Spirit of grace, for it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:26-31).

 

This means, my dear friend, that you should ask God to keep you from presumptuous sins (Psa. 19:13). Do not presume upon God’s grace. Your decision for Christ, your emotional experience, your knowledge of God and salvation may not mean anything. ‘You believe that God is one. You do well, but the demons also believe and tremble’ (James 2:19). Well, then, how can you know that you are a true Christian? How can you be sure that you will finish the race well? A seldom discussed, but vital principle is that your assurance of salvation goes up or down with your obedience. In 1 John 3:17-22 the Apostle says, ‘If any among you has the world’s goods and sees a brother in need and closes his heart to him, then how can the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us love, not in word or tongue, but in deed and truth. By this (by our love in deed and truth, by our obedience to God’s law) we will know that we are of the truth, and will assure our hearts before God in whatever our hearts condemn us, for God is greater than our hearts and he knows all things.’ On the one hand, the Christian knows he belongs to God because his sin condemns him. He knows he is guilty. Those about whom I worry are the professing Christians who never admit wrong doing, who never apologize, who are always in the right, who walk aimlessly and blindly through this life, giving no evidence of humility or meekness. John goes on to say, ‘Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight.’ So, on the other hand our obedience causes our confidence, our assurance that we truly belong to God, to increase. Note also that the true believer can be displeasing to God, that he may frown upon our actions, values, and attitudes, something I hear some pastors today say is impossible.

 

So my dear friend, will you nightly pursue a personal inquisition of the soul, will you daily pursue a personal visitation of the Spirit, and will you regularly pursue personal holiness? Run back to Jesus in sincere repentance, claiming his blood for your forgiveness and the Spirit’s presence and sanctifying power. You will need to do this daily, many times each day, and in so doing you will finish your race well, hearing those blessed words, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ (Matt. 25:34).


Christ’s Atonement Applied

One of Spurgeon’s more unpopular quotes:

“We are often told that we limit the atonement of Christ, because we say that Christ has not made satisfaction for all men, or all men would be saved. Now, our reply to this is, that, on the other hand, our opponents limit it: we do not. The Arminians say, Christ died for all men. Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men? They say, ‘No certainly not.’ We ask them the next question–Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular? They answer, ‘No.’ They are obliged to admit this, if they are consistent. They say, ‘No, Christ had died that any man may be saved if’–and then follow certain conditions of salvation. Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why, you. You say that Christ did not die so as infallibly to secure salvation for anybody. We beg your pardon, when you say we limit Christ’s death; we say, ‘No my dear sir, it is you that do it.’ We say Christ so died that he infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ’s death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved and cannot by an possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved. You are welcome to your atonement; you may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it.” – C.H. Spurgeon

Used by Jim Packer in his introductory essay for the following book:

Owen, John. The Death of Death in the Death of Christ: A Treatise in Which the Whole Controversy about Universal Redemption is Fully Discussed. Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1959.