Monday, October 26, 2009

Oh! I love typology

Have a look at this, from Tim Keller, reproduced on Jared Wilson's blog (you should buy his book)

* Jesus is the true and better Adam, who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.
* Jesus is the true and better Abel, who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out not for our condemnation, but for our acquittal.
* Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar, and go out into the void, not knowing whither he went, to create a new people of God.
* Jesus is the true and better Isaac, who was not just offered up by his Father on the mount,but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “now I know you love me, because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me, now we can look at God, taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing Him, and say,” now we know that you love us, because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from us.”
* Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserve, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.
* Jesus is the true and better Joseph, who at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold Him, and uses His new power to save them.
* Jesus is the true and better Moses, who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.
* Jesus is the true and better rock of Moses who was struck with the rod of God’s justice, and now gives us water in the desert.
* Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.
* Jesus is the true and better David, whose victory becomes his people’s victory though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.
* Jesus is the true and better Esther, who didn’t just risk losing an earthly palace, but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.
* Jesus is the true and better Jonah, who was cast out into the storm so we could be brought in.
* He is the real passover lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so that the angel of death would pass over us

Now did that make your heart leap? Did it make you want to dive into the Old Testament? I hope so.

I don't know whether it's instinctive or mechanical or both, or whether staring at the glory of God for long enough should make the mechanical academics instinctive...i don't know. I'm just glad it is, and it's true.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Satisfaction through substitution

We strongly reject, therefore, every explanation of the death of Christ which does not have at it's centre 'satisfaction through substitution' indeed divine self satisfaction through divine self substitution. The cross was not a commercial bargain with the devil, let alone one which tricked and trapped him, nor an exact equivalent, a quid pro quo to satisfy a code of honour or technical point of law, nor a compulsory submission to God to some moral authority above Him from which He could not otherwise escape, nor a punishment of a meek Christ through a harsh and punitive Father, nor a procurement of salvation by a loving Christ from a mean and reluctant Father, nor an action by which the Father bypassed Christ as mediator.

Instead the righteous, loving Father humbled Himself to become in and through His only Son, flesh, sin and a curse for us, in order to redeem us without compromising His own character. The theological words 'satisfaction' and 'substitution' need to be carefully defined and safeguarded, but they can not, under any circumstances by given up. The Biblical Gospel of atonement is of God satisfying Himself by substituting Himself for us.
John Stott, The Cross Of Christ, Pp 159-160

If you've not yet read 'The Cross of Christ' run, don't walk to your nearest bookshop and grab a copy. It's clear, it's helpful, it's heart warming. It may be the most vital book you'll ever read. Increasingly as i go through it, and as i read the Bible, i think that a defective view of the atonement leads to a defective view of God, and vice versa. If Christ death was about bearing our pain, or offering a perfect confession of our sin, we've lost the holiness of God. A holy God demands satisfaction for our sin, not someone to suffer so we know how bad it is. In and through Jesus, God became just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Christ.

Secondly, it may be fed by a poor Biblical Theology, a poor understanding of how the Old Testament is a Christian book. Read Leviticus...why are those sheep being killed? So they can empathise with us? To show us the worst excess of our sin? By way of example? They are being killed, like Christ our passover lamb was, to show that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin, that God, rightly, demands a bloody sacrifice to pay for our sins. This is not a primitive, base understanding of crime and punishment, this is not an pagan idea grafted onto Christianity...this is justice, humbling, sacrificial substitutional justice, which is probably why we dislike it so much...

Monday, July 06, 2009

Trials in James

One of my least favourite Christian ideas is the teaching that says 'when you become a Christian, nothing bad will ever happen to you again.' Kind of a prosperity Gospel lite, the idea if we behave ourselves and don't sin, y'know, too badly, God will bless us and we'll have a happy life, a great family and a good job.

Aside from being hundreds of miles away from the experience of the majority of Christians in the last two thousand years who were faithful witness of the Gospel, but have suffered terribly, it also makes not only Paul, but Jesus (!) and inadequate Christian. Was Jesus faithful to God? Yes, the only man who ever truly was. Did He suffer?

Paul was obedient, trusting, faithful, passionate and active, and yet he had danger on all sides: robbers, his own people, Gentiles, in the city, in the wilderness, at sea, from false brothers and toil and hardship. He suffered many a hungry, cold, sleepless night. This 'Gospel' is self evidently untrue.

Christians do face trials, of varying degrees probably every day. So how do we deal with them? James 1:1-11 has three answers:

We count it all as joy: 2-4
These trials produce inner strength, they produce the deep faith of a mature Christian. James says trials will make people 'perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.' Trials will make us wiser and stronger, they will deepen our dependence on Christ, they will enlarge our heart towards Him. So in them we rejoice.

We pray: 5-8
Suffering through prolonged and difficult times requires help, requires an extra dose of wisdom from God. How do we get that wisdom? Ask for it! God is good and generous. Christ loves His bride and will give her wisdom without fail, without grumbling, and without measure. Do you trust God? Then act like it and ask Him for wisdom without doubt. And He will give it to you, and you will persevere.

We focus on Christ: 9-11
This section might seem a bit random when we first read it. If James is 'the Proverbs of the New Testament,' perhaps we might wish he'd arranged his thoughts a bit clearer instead of going of on a financial tangent when he should be talking about trials. Unless, dealing with money is one of the greatest trials Christians face. Whether we are rich or poor, James has an answer for us. Focus on Christ. If you're poor, exalt, because your life doesn't equal stuff, because you have all you need in Christ, and because one day you will feast with Him, face to face. And if you're rich? Be humble, focus on Christ and remember that nothing you have now will make a difference the moment you die, remember that your pursuits can kill you, and that all you have is passing away. Poor man, rich man, focus on Jesus, who is all we need, and never fades away.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The humility to read

'The Disappearance of God' by Albert Mohler Jr recently came through my door from Monergism Books. Both cheaper and faster than amazon to the US mainland, but anyway. With it came a rather lovely looking pamphlet: 'A reader's guide to the Christian life' filled with ideas about what to read and why to read it. As well as that was a brief, unattributed article: 'The humility to read' which went like this:

I am one person in one place at one time. My experiences and perceptions are limited and coloured by the environment in which i live. Therefore, it would be profoundly arrogant of me to think that i can best grow in the knowledge of God through scripture by myself.

Certainly the Holy Spirit is graciously given to God's children to enable us to comprehend and be conformed to the truths of the Bible. Nevertheless, one of the primary means of grace God uses in the process of our transformation is the universal-historical community of believers. Within that community, God graciously provides leaders of few and leaders of many to equip the saints for the work of ministry.

It is a humbling thing for me to read a book. Most books take at least several hours of combined time to process and i have to forsake other distractions in order to focus and benefit from what i am reading. Most of all, i can't talk back. I am just forced to listen, patiently follow and receive, to think another mans thoughts after him.

One of the new desires placed into the heart of a believer is to think God's thoughts after Him. Let's pursue humility by receiving the thoughts of those who have led us and spoken the word of God to us in the most enduring of all earthly mediums: the book.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Love the Church

I don't know what your plans are for June 20th, but if you're anywhere near Reading, and not on your honeymoon, please cancal them and go to this instead. It'll be stellar.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Blogging every day in June: and other things i haven't done

There's two things you immediately notice when you walk into my dad's office. On one wall he must have about thirty or forty fishing rods, dating back to about his teenage years...i don't think he's ever thrown one away. On another wall there is shelf after shelf of A 4 diary books. These are his fishing diaries. One of the earliest memories i have is of my dad on a sunday night writing up his weeks fishing from his notebook to his diary. If you want to know where he was and what he caught on March 18th 1983, he'll be able to tell you without much trouble. Thats cool to me.

Inspired by this i thought i'd try to write at least something every day in the month before i got married. Since, in some ways at least, having something online is safer than having it on paper (harder to lose) it seemed like a great idea. Except then...well it didn't happen did it! But thats ok. Sometimes you've got it, sometimes you don't. But on the Sunday before i get married on Friday, two days before the arrival of as many English people to set foot in North Carolina since it was, well, English, it seemed good to at least record something. Maybe i'll be bitten by the bug this week. Maybe my list of to dos is already growing the other side of town at wedding HQ.

Am i excited? Yes. Will i be more excited when Canon in D starts and i know Rachel's making her way down the aisle behind me? Goodness me, but a million times yes. I'm getting butterflies just thinking about it. Am i stressed about everything thats got to happen between now and then? A little bit. But not really.

A couple of unconnected things. Losing to Holland in the T20 World Cup is about as irrelevant to this summer's cricket as it can get. There's one main event in 2009, The Ashes are the only thing that matter. This whole summer so far has been ridiculous. If beating the West Indies was like training for a marathon by walking the dog, this is like training for a marathon by carrying a heavy tray of drinks up a flight of stairs. There's too much cricket. If Twenty20 is the way forward then we ought to get rid of the 50 over game completely. Play more Twenty20 to fill the gap if you want, double headers, four games in five days, whatever. In Major League Baseball each of the thirty teams play 140 (!) regular season games and no one complains. The four and five day version of the game is more important, but i can't see Twenty20 going away.

I've been reading 'Sealed with an oath' the NSBT on covenant. It's real good. It starts off talking about why there was no covenant with Adam (because creation supersedes covenant, because covenant serves God's creative purpose of international blessing rather than the other way around) and then goes on to talk about the covenants with Noah, Abraham, Israel and David before two chapters on the New Covenant. It's really helping me to read the Bible as one book, and anything that does that is worth the admission...

Monday, June 01, 2009

It's summer

My Facebook newsfeed is clogged with pictures of the Jazz Club in Reading. Sweaty undergrads and Graduands with mouths open and fingers pointing. It's not a pretty sight, but it makes me happy. But it does mean one serious thing. Summer is here. Summer, rolling meadows, endless days filled with idle distractions, getting a summer job, getting a real job, finding your tent for Forum. Summer is a wonderful time. There is nowhere better than the Chiltern Hills in June and July. I can't wait to show my wife.

Summer is dangerous though, and so without much apology, and only some editing, here's something i wrote just over two years ago... don't waste your summer, use it for Jesus:

John Piper writes this about summer:

Don’t let summer make your soul shrivel. God made summer as a foretaste of heaven, not a substitute. If the mailman brings you a love letter from your fiancĂ©, don’t fall in love with the mailman. That’s what summer is: God’s messenger with a sun-soaked, tree-green, flower-blooming, lake-glistening letter of love to show us what he is planning for us in the age to come—“things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Don’t fall in love with the video preview, and find yourself unable to love the coming reality.

What can we do this summer to set our minds, and keep our minds on the things above?

Keep reading the Bible.
I know this sounds like an obvious point, but once there is little work to be done, there is little routine to be kept to...and i need routine to keep me reading the Bible. last year my Graduand period (the bit in between finishing your finals and getting to wear a mortarboard) passed in a haze of barbeques, football and bucky 'o hare. And none of that is bad in itself, we need refreshing after working hard, but to seek refreshment away from the Bible, away from Christ is only to turn your back on what will refresh you. Sit in the sun, read slowly, read lots, read Galatians over and over again. Enjoy the birdsong, enjoy the Word.

Read good books.
I don't think i'm ever going to have as much time on my hands as i did last summer. What a great opportunity to read and read well. Reading Christian books must never become a substitute for reading the Bible, and it must never start to become a dry intellectual fact collecting exercise. But good books can make you long for more of Christ in your life, drive you back to the Bible to bathe in things you hadn't noticed before. Good books can strengthen your faith and your love for the Lord. Take time to read them and think about them and apply them.

Make the most of time with your friends.
especially if you're graduating, and all being flung across the four corners of the country. Spend time with people, enjoy time with people, sit in a beer garden, lie on the grass outside mojos. enjoy the fellowship of your Christian mates, but seek out and don't waste time with your non Christian mates. Use this time to explode for Christ in your house or hall. Use this time to be braver than you've been before. Use this time to live with your non Christian friends to demonstrate that Christ is the greatest, best and most fulfilling reality there is. Pray for them lots.

Prepare for whats next.
Leaving uni is really hard. Going back home for a long time is really hard. Starting a job, even one that you love is really hard. So get ready for it. Pray into it. Think about how you're going to work for Christ next year, or study even better for Christ next year, and delight in Christ with your family. Don't waste time wishing you were back at uni, enjoy the time you've got the prepare for what's happening next...doing the other things in this list should help a bit.

It's terribly easy to waste summer. When the sun comes out i really struggle to remember the eternal battle we're all in, to keep my eyes focused on Heaven and not on the earthly pleasures summer brings us. Use free time wisely for Christ...don't waste your summer.

Friday, May 29, 2009

There are a few reasons i'm not on twitter

I don't really understand how it works, it's impossible to sound like a man whilst saying 'i tweeted that' and i'd be forever writing things like 'Ed is at________ for dinner. Glad he ate first.' It's just too much bother. I am in a bit of a minority though so here's some excellent stuff on Christians using twitter:

Gethin Jones

Josh Harris (this reminds me of something that Craig Mackay said to be once: 'we're all lead worshippers.' very, very wise)
John Piper

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ruth 3-4: A step too far?

I've been following this discussion with interest. How Jesus is revealed in the Old Testament, the contents of the Luke 24 Bible study is surely one of the most, if not the most important question when it comes to reading the Old Testament Christianly. I've been thinking about this as i've been preaching through Ruth in Teen Church. Here are some thoughts on Ruth 3-4, is it a step too far?

First, I love the book of Ruth. Don't you? It's mixture of the obvious and the subtle, the tragic and the magnificent, the love the flows through it, the grace which drenches it. The fact it's so obviously the Gospel.

Chapter 3 is a great example of all of these things. It looks awful on a first reading: 'Ruth, make yourself look beautiful and go creep up on Boaz in the middle of the night when his heart is merry and no one can see you. But it's beautiful. Spread your wings over me, says Ruth, basically i want you to ask me to marry you. I want you to do for me what God does for Israel, spread your wings over me. Protect me, provide for me, lead me and guide me. Ruth comes to Boaz for redemption with nothing, just like we come to Jesus with nothing.

There are problems for Ruth and Boaz, just like there are problems for us and Jesus. Boaz wants to marry Ruth because he loves her, not because he's legally bound to. He's only a redeemer in the loosest sense of the word, redeemers were brothers of a dead husband, Boaz was an uncle or a cousin at best. He has no legal need to marry her. He wants to marry her because he loves her. This other 'redeemer' might not. That's their problem. Our problem is different, but it's still a problem. Our sin is what separates us from Jesus. Your sin, my sin, our rebellion stops us from being in relationship with the Father through the Son. That needs an answer, just like Boaz and Ruth need an answer.

Jesus is our glorious Boaz. Jesus and Boaz deal with these problems. Jesus dies on the cross, Boaz gets the other redeemer out of the way. Because Jesus loves us, because Boaz loved Ruth. not because they had to.

And then what? A marriage! Revelation 21:1-5 sees the holy city descend from God like a bride prepared for her husband. Jesus has dealt with every problem to prepare us for the Wedding of weddings. Boaz has dealt with every problem to prepare Ruth for their wedding. How Ruth must've loved and trusted in Boaz, and wanted to give her life to him, what else then can we do, but give our life, in faith, trust and joy, to Jesus.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The fall of Rome

Shaeffer's very excellent book 'how should we then live?' traces the development and decline of western thought from the Roman Empire to now. It's great, instructive, helpful and not always encouraging. Towards the end he quotes from Edward Gibbon's decline and fall of the Roman Empire, about the five steps that marked the end of the empire.

1) An increasing love of show and luxury.

2) A widening gap between the very rich and very poor, either in the individual sense or from country to country.

3) An obsession with sex.

4) A freakishness in the arts masquerading as originality and enthusiasms pretending to be creativity.

5) An increasing desire to live off the state.

Given Gibbons wrote this book between 1776 and 1788 and Shaeffer wrote his book in 1976, it could be viewed as an incredible piece of prophecy of what happens when God is left out of the equation...