Wednesday, April 30, 2008

a different perspective

Thomas McCall has written a post on Justin Taylor's blog, on 'new Calvinism' from a Wesleyan perspective. it's well worth a full read, but a couple of things stood out at me:

They have a strong commitment to the authority of Scripture, and they want to know God as he reveals himself – and not as we might like him to be. They take seriously, and defend energetically, such doctrines as substitutionary atonement and the classic Protestant account of justification. Moreover, (to understate things drastically) they care about the doctrine of divine sovereignty. Ours is a context in which these doctrines are considered unimportant – ours is also a context in which these doctrines sometimes are charged with being sub-biblical and even non-Christian. What’s not to like about seeing so many people care so much about theology? And what’s not to appreciate about seeing so many people completely committed to worshiping God as he graciously reveals himself to us?

What indeed...amen! One of the things, if not the thing i love the most about my job is the chance to sit down and open up the Bible with people. There is definitely in my experience a deeper desire among students, at least, today to get to grips with and get under the Bible. To worship the God of scripture rather than the God of our imagination.

This brings me to my second cheer: these New Calvinists care about holiness. To know God is to know that God is holy. The New Calvinists get that, and they want their lives to be in step with him. They are anything but content with a soteriology that reduces redemption to a cosmic I-pass or “get out of hell free” card. No, they know that God is holy, and they know that to walk with the Holy One is to be transformed. Thus they know that the doctrine of sanctification matters, and they pursue holiness vigorously. Some of them offer testimonies in which they describe their “discovery of divine sovereignty” in language similar to the way some Christians in the Wesleyan tradition refer to a “second definite work of grace” or “second crisis experience.” And all of this for good reason: they read the Puritans and (especially) Edwards. They know that holiness matters. They get it. And I, for one, appreciate it.

Me too, the puritans are literally terrifying at times, i can't recommend them enough. Again i guess this links to the first point. if you spend time each day reading and studying and pondering the Bible you're going to be hit full on in the face with the fact that God is Holy. And that we need to deal with that. And fast.

Furthermore, it would be good if they would set themselves to the task of coming to a better understanding of the broader Christian tradition. I know that we all need this advice (well, at least I do), but it seems to me that the New Calvinists are far more interested in reading Edwards or Owen (worthy reads to be sure) than they are in mining the riches of patristic theology or grappling with the subtleties of medieval scholasticism. This is, I fear, to the detriment of the movement, and more development in this area might go some distance toward loosening the unhealthy reliance of some of these New Calvinists on what might be called the “Neo-Reformed Magisterium” (the small group of theologians and conference speakers who are sometimes quoted as the final word on any theological topic at issue... if you doubt what I say, consult Collin Hansen’s sobering observations about “Piper fiends” and those who “worship” John Piper, Young, Restless, Reformed, pp. 14, 46).

I don't understand...he seems to suggest this is a bad thing?!

No theological tradition has cornered the market on arrogance. I have been accused of it (sometimes, I fear, with very good reason). Yet there seems to be – though I’m sure that what I say here is highly fallible – an amazing quantity of it among the New Calvinists. I’ve been told that my resistance to “the doctrines of grace” (no hubris in that label?) is a sign of my probable reprobation. I’ve had the senior pastor of a fine evangelical church tell me that although we were welcome to attend, I could not expect to be involved in any way because I was not “Reformed” – even though this particular church was not confessionally Reformed at all (their official statement of faith was generically evangelical). A friend (who teaches theology in a seminary in the Methodist tradition) told me of helping an incoming student (at a seminary in the Reformed tradition) move into a neighboring house. When the incoming student – who, if memory serves, was about to begin an MDiv – discovered that my friend was a Wesleyan, he quickly said “you guys don’t think much about things, do you?” Another friend expressed doubts about aspects of Calvinism and then was rejected by a missions agency for perceived confusion about the gospel.

That is bonkers and presents us with the danger of pride. of course every flavour of Christianity needs to deal with that. So how are we to avoid pride? By discussing issues with a soft heart and an open Bible, by remembering that no one man has everything right and ultimately by rejoicing in what we share as Christians, faith in Christ, and Him crucified.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Alpha at Corinth

A funny old game sometimes evangelism, often times when i go into an alpha setting i feel ready and confident. Sometimes, sinfully because of me, sometimes genuinely because i have confidence in the Lord. Sometimes, however, it's a bit different. Today for example at Verizon, i don't think i've ever felt worse. Sick to my stomach with nerves as the hour to proclaim the Gospel approached, by heart aflame with despair as one by one people filed in. The Muslim convert, the people searching, the people treating the Gospel as just another way, the people just looking for something to do on their lunch hour.

I'm so thankful that we've got a weapon, a sword to wield to our own hearts in this situation, so thankful that the Lord reminded me of two great passages to douse the flames and calm my heart.

Not Wisdom. God's power.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

I love these verese, they are exhilerating. It feels good, it feels right, at the moment that salvation is not about wise sounding arguments, but rather about God's power. The Gospel needs to be proclaimed, fully, reasonably, gently, and then God's power is at work. Sometimes it'll feel like we're retreating, like we're on the back foot, like it did today at the end of Alpha, but i guess thats what Christ looked like on the cross. These verese thrill my heart, and fill me with evangelistic confidence. if it was up to my skills, no one would be saved, but praise God, it's not.

Not persuasion, God's light.

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

I really need to remember these verses are true! I need to cling to the command, the logic, that since this ministry comes from God's mercy, to not lose heart. I need to not get frustrated when a Christian gives one of the clearest presentations of the Gospel ever, and someone can still turn around and say 'i don't understand'. I need to cling to the truth that all we need to do is proclaim, to preach, the present, and God, who created the universe will shine light in hearts. Again, evangelism liberation. Again, freedom from feelings of fear and inadequacy. Again, God gets all the glory and i get none. Yes! Thats how it should be. Preach the Gospel, realkly present it clearly, and pray. Thats all we can do.

I'm so thankful for a sword.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Tickets and Treasures

Dance music will always remind me of the bus to Varna. As we rolled into the Black Seaside resort last summer, someone finally had enough of Bulgarian radio and put a CD in. Varna was great, the pirate ship fights, the late night walks to the Jazz Club, the 1950s Soviet block hotel, the beach, the salt and vinegar crisps. It's Varna i remember, not the bus. Varna is the treasure, certainly not the bus ride there. The bus was the means, Varna was the end. It was a tremendous end too.

Means and ends. Tickets and treasures. For too long my view of Christ was like this, too worldly, not Biblical enough. I've seen the cross, i've seen Jesus as the ticket, and Heaven as the treasure. I saw justification as the be all and end all, and the renewed relationship with God the Father as a nice added extra, icing on the cake of Christianity. It was as if my eyes had been closed when i'd been reading long passages of the Bible. I'd reduced Jesus, the eternal, immortal Son of God, in all His glory and majesty to a stepping stone, a ticket, a bus trip, a means, rather than the end. The Gospel was about me. My forgiveness, my eternal joy, my status as forgiven.

Isn't that plain awful? Seeing Christ as a means to an end, as someone who gets me somewhere? isn't Jesus much much more than that?

Yes He is, Christ, in His death on the cross is the ticket to Heaven, and Christ, the risen, exulted, glorious Christ is the end of Heaven. To see Him, enjoy Him and give glory to the Father through so doing is the end for which God created the world.

So yes, absolutly, Christ is the means, His is the ticket. 'No one comes to the Father except though me', '(Christ) died as a ransom for many.' Isaiah tells us that 'he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities...and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.' There's no getting away from the fact that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. That Jesus, by removing all that stands in our way from a relationship with God the Father, is uniquely how we can face judgment with confidence. He is the way. Yes, He is the ticket.

But what makes Heaven so good? Jesus. In John 17 Jesus prays 'Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world' Now, that could sound to us like one of the most self centred prayers ever. Jesus wants us to be where He is so that we can see His glory. Unless there's something that makes seeing Jesus glory not a selfish thing for Him to pray but a loving thing. Psalm 16 tells us that there is a fullness of joy in His presence. So in fact seeing Jesus in His glory leads us to fullness of joy. And thats what makes Heaven Heaven. Jesus is there, and we get to walk and talk and eat and most importantly of all, worship Him forever. In this we find our joy, in the self forgetfulness that comes from seeing and worshipping Jesus for who He is.

John Piper at T4G 2008 couldn't find an analogy for a ticket that become a treasure, that is the treasure. So i don't feel bad about failing to do so. But this is the Gospel. God, is the Gopsel. It's not Heaven if Jesus isn't there. He is the ticket, and the glorious, overwhelming satisfying treasure.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

this is the woman i'm marrying

A couple of weeks agao i bought Rachel 'Marriage to a Difficult Man', a biography of Jonathan Edwards's wife, Sarah, partly as a joke due to the title, but also because i figured that if Sarah managed to be Jonathan's wife and raise 13 believing children she must be doing something right.

Imagine my surprise when this quote popped into my inbox from Rachel, saying it summed us up very nicely!

"... Edward(s) was totally unlike the girl who fatefully caught his eye. She was a vibrant brunette, with erect posture and burnished manners. She was skillfull at small talk; he had no talent for it at all."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

1 John 1:1-4 (3)

John wants his readers to know these things, as we see in the start of verse 3. ‘that which we have seen and heard we proclaim to you’. This is why I love John. I think Luke is probably my favourite Biblical author just because of the way he organises his material, but John comes a close second. He is so keen, desperate even, for his readers to know the truth about Jesus that he makes his point again. There is evidence to slam to Gnostic heresy, there is evidence to back up the claims about the incarnation. They are that John, once again, has seen and heard Jesus. Now it’s time to do something about it. John proclaims these things to be true. And why? Look at the rest of verse three with me ‘so that you too may have fellowship with us; indeed our fellowship is with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.’

Fellowship is an interesting word in Christian circles. We tend to do the same things with Christians as we do with non Christians and call it fellowship. We have fellowship talking about football before church starts, but when we’re talking about the same things with our non Christian friends we call it something different. We can sit on the sofas and Mondial with our Christians friends and its fine because it’s fellowship, but if we find ourselves with non Christians we need some other reason to justify it. Is that what John means here? No. Fellowship in the Biblical sense means people with a common goal with a purpose. It is a community of interest and feeling. People bound by a purpose and a partnership. When I drive to football matches with my friends, we’re in fellowship with one another. John is proclaiming for partnership.

This partnership is with each other but also with Father and Son. Isn’t that amazing? That through faith in the Biblical Gospel we can have fellowship with God. This is surely what John 17:3 means when it says: ‘and this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’ Eternal life isn’t simply about getting into Heaven, the apex of eternal life is fellowship with God. There’s much much more I want to say about this, but if I start, I may never stop!

Now, the reason the Holy Spirit is missing from this equation is that John’s opponents were focussed on denying the Godhood of the Son, and thereby forfeiting the Father. Notice how Father and Son are placed side by side here. One commentator has remarked that this sentence shows us the distinction and equality between Father and Son. It’s certainly no coincidence that John brings them together like this.

So what is being proclaimed is to increase fellowship with each other. A fellowship that exists only though faith in the Son, which brings us to fellowship with the Father, which is eternal life itself.

But why? Is it just so John has more people in his club than the Gnostics? Do we just have mission weeks and run lunch bars so that we can have the biggest society on campus? So that we have more people on our team? I guess that’s often how it looks to non Christians. Well look at verse four with me ‘and we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete’ Some translations say ‘your joy’ instead of ‘our joy’ but it makes little difference to the meaning of the verse. Fellowship under and in the Godhead completes Christian joy. That’s why John writes all he’s about to write. So that his joy may be complete as this church grows in the truth of the Gospel, and so that their joy may also be complete as that happens.

This joy is inseparable from the salvation found in the Son. It’s a gift of the Father as the Son is a gift of the Father. And in the Son, in Jesus, our joy will eventually be complete. We’ll only see an echo of it now, as we learn from John 16:22-24 ‘now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.’

This letter exists for the joy of the Christian reader. This final verse sums up nicely the whole paragraph and sets up the rest of his letter well as we see the links between the strands: Johns proclamation was the historical manifestation of that which is from the beginning, the purpose of this manifestation was salvation leading to fellowship with one another, based of the fellowship with the Father and Son which leads to fullness of joy.

So no, it’s not about getting more people in our club. It’s about declaring the Kingship of Christ for the joy of people everywhere. Did you know that’s what evangelism and proclaiming the Gospel is in essence…Spreading joy? The great English pastor theologian John Stott says that we are cruel to ourselves if we go through life without knowing God. And I guess we’re cruel to our friends if we go through their life not helping them to know God. We can only do that because God has manifested Himself to us in the flesh in the man Jesus Christ. These are the things we must hold onto about the Christian faith, the things that mustn’t be obscured by exams and lazy summer afternoons. That Jesus Christ is God. That He came in the flesh. That these things are eternally important. That people must know about this for our joy and for theirs.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Beatitude Man

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I've been slowly going through the Beatitudes recently, the mighty, beautiful, scary prologue to the Sermon on the Mount. As i've said before, the Lord is in the detail, and how! There is so much in these ten verses that i've missed before. Here's just some of it!

Scripture is made up of sixty-six different books. It's not a line of pearls strung together to make nice sayings or pithy catch phrases, but a story, a reality. The same is true of Jesus' teaching in the Gospels, and that was something i'd forgotten when i'd read these verses before. The Beatitudes aren't a string of pearls, they are a line of consistent teaching. So what do they teach? Whats the point?

I'd never seen this before, but they are all linked up, it's not ten different thoughts all placed side by side because it looks nice, but rather one stream of thought about what life, what people in the Kingdom of God look like. So what do these people look like?

They are poor in spirit. Why? Because they mourn. Not in the way that David mourned over his son, but more, i imagine in the way that Jesus mourned for Jerusalem. Kingdom people are those who are humble, because they know their sin and they mourn over it. They hate it. And this knowledge of the horror of their sin leads to meekness. How can anyone be proud when they consider their sin before a holy God? I know i'm missing out half of each verse but we'll come back to why...i know they're there!

What happens to people who are like this? Who are mournful and meek, who are broken for sin. They hunger and thirst for righteousness. They will be satisfied, all those who come to Jesus and drink will never thirst again. They will be merciful, all arrogance is excluded in the face of knowing your sin, humility and mercy are close friends. These people will seek purity of heart. The whole point of Jesus' teaching here is that no one is good enough, and certainly that no one is good enough because they are good enough on the outside. So in people's hearts purity will be sought. What a dazzling reward for those who are pure in heart.

When we see God everything changes. Peace will become our default preference. We will be called sons of God with God the Father as the ultimate peacemaker. When we're like this persecution is bound to follow. If the world couldn't stand Jesus, how will they treat us?

Look at the second half of the verses...somewhere between dazzling motivational reward and natural consequence. Isn't this exactly what we long for, inheritance, satisfaction, comfort? is that that what everyones longing for everywhere? Kingdom life is reward laden.

So is that what the Beatitudes are, a description of normal Christian living? I do very much hope not. I can't imagine anyone being a Christian for more than a week before something stops them mourning over sin, or longing for righteousness, or seeking purity in heart. Of course, on one level the unfulfilled version of these verses is exactly what Christian life is that...but what about the fulfillment? Who is the man who mourned over sin, who was meek and poor in spirit, who was pure in heart, who made peace? Who is man who said that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees and Scribes we will never see the Kingdom? Who can say these things without His lifestyle reproaching Him?


It's all about Jesus! Jesus is everything we could never be. he sets the standard impossibly high, as in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, as here. He does not deny His Father, and so sets a high standard, but then wonderful, graciously, He meets that standard. Jesus is the perfect Son of God, He is the only one good enough for entrance into the Kingdom of God, the only one who met these demands...and He is our substitute.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

New Word Alive 09

Huxley, who happily appears to have started blogging again, has created a wishlist for New Word Alive 2009 and challenged other bloggers to do the same.

Here's mine:

John MacArthur (morning readings in Matthew)

CJ Mahaney
Mark Driscoll
Mike Ovey
(evenings in Philippians)

Bible Overview
The law in the New Testament
Adoption: The end of the Gospel
Explorations in Biblical Theology

Friday, April 18, 2008

Dissatisfied not discouraged

I found this video very helpful: (HT: Challies)

1 John 1:1-4 (2)

Let’s look at verses two and three together. ‘which we have heard, which have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-this life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us’. Its in these verses that we hit the crux of John’s argument in this prologue, and where he starts to strike the death knell for Gnosticism.

The Apostle claims that he has heard, seen, looked upon and touched that which was from the beginning. He is of course talking about what Christians call the incarnation, the truth that the man Jesus of Nazareth is in fact the eternal Son of God. Notice how in each of the clauses about Johns witness he ups the ante slightly. He has heard and seen that which was from the beginning. Well good, but Moses could say that, so could Isaiah, there’s nothing special or new about what John is talking about yet. Then he says he has looked upon Jesus. The phrase looked upon here has more weight in the original Greek than it does in English. Looked upon means something like to have thoughtfully observed or spent time looking at. It means to have visually examined something like an investigator at a crime scene rather than to have simply glanced at something. He’s not just seen Jesus. He’s looked at him, and he believed in him. There is weight to what John is saying about Jesus.

And what’s more they have touched it with their hands. Again a closer meaning of this phrase would be something like to have examined closely, to have investigated with your hands rather than simply to have touched. These last two clauses seem to refer to a time when the disciples would have had the time to gaze thoughtfully at Jesus and to handle Him in their seeking of the truth about Him. This time could well be post resurrection, and certainly the idea of Jesus being physically investigated reminds us of Thomas touching His wounds and believing at the end of the Gospel accounts.

These things concern the word of life. These things concern Christ. The Gospel announces and offers life in Christ. And this offer of life is only available because it was made manifest to us. That’s how John could say that he has seen and heard and handled the Christ…because He was made manifest to him and to the rest of the disciples.

This is a very important point. Hebrews 1:1 tells us ‘Long ago…God spoke to our fathers by the prophets but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son’. This God who we could never have imagined has made Himself manifest to us though His eternal, divine Son Jesus Christ. And Jesus was not a man who became God, or attained divine attributes at some point during His life. He was not half man and half God, there wasn’t some constant inner turmoil between the divine and the temporal. Jesus was, and is, the God-man. This is a huge problem for Christianity, but when we grasp it, a huge answer to many problems.

In summing up the incarnation the German Reformer Martin Luther says ‘we should point to the whole man Jesus and say ‘that is God’. We’ve become blasé about this as Christians but just for a moment look at the person nest to you. And imagine that instead of sitting next to matt, or Mandy or Ellie, you’re sitting next to God in all His fullness. But at the same time He’s a thirty something carpenter. It is amazing. Jim Packer says ‘the really staggering claim is that Jesus Christ was God made man… The more you think about it the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is as staggering as the truth of the incarnation.’

The life was made manifest, John says in verse two. And how? Though a baby born in the middle of nowhere who grew up and lived a desperately normal life while he worked as a carpenter for thirty years. It’s crazy isn’t it? No wonder so many people have tried to deal with it by separating the two, as was going on in this church. But the clear Biblical teaching is that Jesus was everything a man should be and everything God is in one man. And, just as an aside, he almost certainly did not look like a woman with a beard as so many contemporary portraits make him out to be.

This is how God has revealed Himself to us. And we must work under this truth. So many of our friends questions are misguided away from this point. If you believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the God-man, then suddenly it becomes less of a problem to believe that He walked on water, healed the sick, fed the five thousand, died for our sins on the cross and rose again on the third day. If we can convince our friends of this then all their questions will fall into place. In Jesus the spiritual realm and the physical realm met. This is Christianity biggest problem, but its most glorious, life giving reality. Christ is Himself the life that John talks about in verse 2. This is the central confession of the Christian faith. And it’s wonderful.

What was John’s response to that in the rest of verse 2? The life that has been seen and testified to must be proclaimed. Jesus must be made known. He must be made known to combat heresy in the church, as here, and He must be made known to unbelievers, which we’ll come back to. The point that John makes in verse 1 is so important that he takes the time to restate it here, much like in the first two verses of his Gospel. The eternal life that has been with the Father since the beginning has can be testified to because it has been manifested in the historical life of Jesus.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

1 John 1:1-4 (1)

This is the first part of my script from my talk at RUCU last night:

We’re going to be looking at 1 John in the main CU team meetings this term. And I’m excited for you. 1 John is a book that can be disturbing for Christians to read, especially with it’s very clear view on sin in the Christian life in chapters 2 and 3. That’s not why John wrote it though as it’s main aim is reassurance of great Christian truths. The author is the same John wrote the fourth Gospel, 2nd and 3rd John and Revelation, John the apostle.

John Stott has written that ‘John’s Gospel contains signs to evoke faith, Johns letters tests by which to judge it’. These tests are brotherly love, a righteous life and faith in Jesus as God Incarnate. These are the three poles around which John’s first letter is written. Though this letter is meant to strengthen the church and has much to say to help strengthen Christians, it’s also written against a background of heresy. That heresy was called Gnosticism and taught that the material, the fleshly was bad, and only the spiritual was good. This obviously causes problems for anyone who believes that Christ came in the flesh and that He was good! This is why John focuses so much on the incarnation of Jesus. Gnosticism was probably the biggest heresy to threaten the church in the first four centuries AD until the rise of liberalism in the 18th Century.

So let’s turn to the first part of the first verse and see how John turns his guns against the heresy of the time. ‘That which was from the beginning’ he starts off. Immediately we are reminded of the beginning of John’s Gospel, ‘in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God’ and of the beginning of the Bible itself in Genesis ‘in the beginning God…’. John is turning the minds of his readers to what they already know about Jesus in an attempt to help them walk through the Gnostic mire.

It doesn’t matter what new thing they think they’ve come up with…what do you know about Jesus? You know that He is ‘from the beginning’. You know that there was never a time when Christ was not, and of course by implication, never a time when God was not. How ever far back you go, there is Father, Son and Holy Spirit loving each other with perfect love. That’s who God is. Isn’t that brilliantly reassuring? For an eternity past, forever and ever and ever and ever past there was God. And there was Christ out Saviour. There is nothing…NOTHING beyond or behind Him. He is the ultimate cause; He is the effect of nothing. There was no explosion that started Him. He is from the beginning. And he will be until the end. Now innate in this we see the supremacy of the Gospel over any other world view. Christ is from the beginning…is post modernism? No. Is Gnosticism? No. There’s no reason to trust these things. I’m sure that the reason for so many sins and struggles in my own life is due to a deficient view of the sheer vastness God.

Did you know your heart was made for greatness? It wasn’t made to be satisfied by sexual impurity, or entertainment or leisure. It was made for greatness. That’s why we are thrilled by snow topped mountains, or the Grand Canyon or beautiful art or a great friendship. Because they echo something of the greatness that the heart was made for. It’s only in knowing, and getting to know Christ better, that we will know boundless satisfaction.

And that’s not the only, or even really the main reason why those three words are important in this context. We’ve already touched on it briefly but the pre existence of Christ starts to shatter the Gnostic heresy that was being proclaimed at this time. Christ’s eternality indicates inherent superiority. This is the first gun against Gnosticism.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

i love this quote

The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to Heaven, fully to enjoy God is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodation here. Fathers and mothers, husbands and wives or children, or the company or earthly friends are but shadows, but God is the substance. These are scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are streams, but God is the ocean.

Jonathan Edwards- The Christian Pilgrim

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

It's arrived! (kind of!)

The new ESV study Bible

Alpha at VzB

Verizon Business is one of the largest telecommunication businesses in the world, altough little know over here, it seems that they've bought up every third advert on US TV. Today was the atart of an Alpha course there run by RFC. God's clearly been working at Verizon in the last few months as we've had two people saved on the last Alpha course we ran as a church. This was also the first time RFC had done anything like this, so it was pretty exciting.

I'd dressed 'as a Greek' for the day, figuring that my own brand of student/hobo chic wouldn't go down too well in an office environment. Smart shoes, trousers, a polo, a sweater and a blazer. very Greek!

We had three guests. I'm never sure whether to be disheartened by the fact that we had three visitors out of an office of hundreds, or to be amazed and thankful that anyone came. I've got no idea why non Christians come to stuff like this, but i'm glad they do! Our guests were one woman, who grew up as a Christian and describes herself as a spritualist, one guy who's married to a Christian and plays music in church but came along to find out what Christianity was all about, and our final guest, a welsh guy who converted to Islam twelve years ago and more or less broke my heart. BeThinking is going to become by homepage over the next few months it seems.

Anyway we all sat down to watch lovely Nicky Gumbel tell us why Christianity wasn't 'irrelevant, boring and untrue.' I don't think i've never noticed before how little he deals with sin in this talk. In fact i don't think he mentioned the word at all (we were using the Alpha express version) but it was a good way to kick off our discussions, which were broadly discouraging, but not surprising for a first session. I'm looking forward to next week.

The lost paragraph

My brain is a messy place. The following was in my script for my talk at RUCU tomorrow on 1 John 1:1-4, about fellowship with the Father and the Son. Following advice to 'say less and say it slower' i took it out and rewrote it. Anyway, here it is sslightly more broken down and readable, an insight into my head:

And look at what this fellowship of believers looks like from a different perspective.

Those who believe the apostolic proclamation share in their fellowship with the Father and the Son. This is the fulfilment of John 17:3 ‘and this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’

You see, Christian fellowship is impossible except on the basis of fellowship between and with the Father and with the Son. There can be no deep, real Christian fellowship apart from belief in the apostolic Gospel. Because it’s faith in God through the God-man Jesus, that secures Christian community

It’s because, importantly in the context of the letter, that the Father and Son exist in eternal fellowship that we can have fellowship with each other at all. We have fellowship with God through our shared purposes borne by belief in the Son and expressed in prayer and enjoyment of Jesus. This is a staggering thing for John to be able to say, but it’s true. Faith in the Biblical Gospel brings us into fellowship with God the Father, and with His Son and with the Holy Spirit.

Us! This is amazing. Salvation isn’t mainly about forgiveness of sins or God’s wrath being propitiated, those things are infinitely necessary but they are not ultimate. Eternal fellowship with God, that is what salvation brings us.

In other news, Latin Link who own the building that we have our office in are having their selection day today. All morning a steady flow of young potential missionaries have been walking across the carpark. it's pretty thrilling stuff!

Monday, April 14, 2008


1) The drive though the mountains to get to Hafan Y Mor for new Word Alive. It was a long drive, and the Bala - Porthmadog leg was long, but ever so worth it.

2) My fellowship group. Nothing turns me on more than wrestling with an open Bible so it can be applied to our lives.

3) John Piper. That fella does not mess around.

4) 'he's still a Relay, he's just no on active service any more'

5) Matts home. We can have conversations that compare Biblical books to girls again. 'Galatians is like a girl you really like and want to get to know, but the more time you spend with her the less you get her'

6) Being back at church on sunday. Challies and Adrian Warnock have both written about it recently, and there's something very special about being with your local church.

7) Having a job i want to do on my day off. Sat in an empty office trying to break 1 John 1:1-4 for wednesday night at RUCU.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Atonement Hymns

How sad our state by nature is!
Our sin, how deep it stains!
And Satan binds our captive souls
Fast in his slavish chains.

But hark! a voice of sovereign grace
Sounds from the sacred Word;
“Ho, ye despairing sinners, come,
And trust upon the Lord!”

My soul obeys the Almighty’s call,
And runs to this relief;
I would believe Thy promise, Lord;
O help my unbelief!

To the blest fountain of Thy blood,
Incarnate God, I fly;
Here let me wash my spotted soul
From sins of deepest dye.

Stretch out Thine arm, victorious King,
My reigning sins subdue,
Drive the old Dragon from his seat,
With all his hellish crew.

A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
Into Thy hands I fall;
Be Thou my strength and righteousness,
My Savior, and my all.

(Isaac Watts)

Great God of wonders! All Thy ways
Are matchless, Godlike and divine;
But the fair glories of Thy grace
More Godlike and unrivaled shine,
More Godlike and unrivaled shine.

Crimes of such horror to forgive,
Such guilty, daring worms to spare;
This is Thy grand prerogative,
And none shall in the honor share,
And none shall in the honor share

Angels and men, resign your claim
To pity, mercy, love and grace:
These glories crown Jehovah’s Name
With an incomparable glaze
With an incomparable glaze.

In wonder lost, with trembling joy,
We take the pardon of our God:
Pardon for crimes of deepest dye,
A pardon bought with Jesus’ blood,
A pardon bought with Jesus’ blood.

O may this strange, this matchless grace,
This Godlike miracle of love,
Fill the whole earth with grateful praise,
And all th’angelic choirs above,
And all th’angelic choirs above.

Who is a pardoning God like Thee?
Or who has grace so rich and free?
Or who has grace so rich and free?

(Samuel Rutherford)

New ESV Study Bible

The people behind the ESV of the Bible are releasing a new study Bible later this year, heres what Mark Driscoll makes of it:

To test my hypothesis, I showed the confidential proofs to some of our newly converted, well-tattooed indie rockers and they reported that it looked “filthy” and “sick”—for those of you who wear khaki pleated pants and tuck in your shirt, this is a really good endorsement. So, thank you Crossway for the “filthy sick” ESV Study Bible.

I've never bought a study Bible before, probably because i'm a snob and a legalist, but this one looks irresistible!

New Word Alive

Just back, (well, yesterday) from New Word Alive, the new UCCF/Keswick easter conference in Pwhelli, Wales. It was brilliant. And very challenging.

1 John

Don Carson took us though 1 John on the four mornings of the conference. It was challenging, convicting, convincing and encouraging all at once. I've never seen Carson preach in the flesh before and it was an honour to so do. Here is a man as gifted as a communicator as he is a scholar, which is priceless mix. It was stirring to hear how deeply connected knowing truth, loving God's people and a holy life are when it comes to assurance, great to be reminded that Christ has indeed come in the flesh and the wonderful implications of this, and challenging to be faced once again with the moral horror of committing sin as one of God's children. Many challenges from this now, not least how to avoid repeating what he said when i preach on the prologue on wednesday night.

Humanity the Crown of Creation

Mike Ovey, another communicative scholar, led this seminar. Over just three sessions he was clearly pushed for time, but we went on a whistle stop tour of what the Bible says of humanity and Jesus and us. This linked in so well with 1 John as we were again unable to escape how terrible sin is and how we have been marred by it. What a breath of fresh air though to see Jesus as the Psalm 8 man, Jesus, our substitute fulfilling what it means to be human, Jesus as the most human man who ever lived, never marred by sin.


Terry Virgo, two sessions from John Piper and Richard Cunningham took us through Romans 5, 8 and 12 in the evenings. It was the first time i'd heard John Piper in the flesh and its safe to say that as he spoke God moved. Terry remined us of the relationship between justifiaction and sanctification and the need for grace at all times on the first night, and this was such a great way to start off the week. Terry was a great choice for the first evening. Then Piper took us into Romans 8 for two evenings under the title 'Treasuring Christ and the Call to Suffer'. You can tell that this is a man who has spent years in Romans with his categories being redefined and his worldview being changed. They were hard, but glorious messages to hear. I want to be able to say with Paul that whatever we suffer now is not worth comparing to the glory, joy and pleasure that is to come, i want to be able to say with John Piper, 'go ahead death, make my day'. I want my sufferings to be a loud hailer to the world of the worth of Christ. Richard Cunningham finished us off on thursday evening exhorting us to live and breath as sacrifices to Christ. To not get excited while your at a conference and then forget about it, but to always be living in the light of the Gospel, and to use our gifts accordingly. Challenging stuff.

New Word Alive could turn out to be an historic moment in British Evangelicalism, it was a joy to be there.

Adrian Warnock's summary.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Off we go

I'm off to New Word Alive (very early) tomorrow, along with around about 3000 others, for the biggest student conference in Europe. Word Alive is always one of my favourite weeks of the year...i'm looking forward to it!

See you when i get back...

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Young, Restless, Reformed

It's easy as a young 23 year old Calvinist to think that the whole world is changing. That the students i meet with have bookshelves full of Piper, Packer and Carson. That the books i read, published by crossway and endorsed by at least one of the T4G quartet are widely known and loved.

It's easy to think that people love the Bible, that they enjoy the Doctrines of Grace like they enjoy fresh air. That the Bible is changing my generation into a radically Reformed, Christ centered and mission mobilised people, who are ready to fully play their part in the great commission.

And then you read something like this from Mo, that reminds you that all is not the way it seems sometimes. The saddest thing about this article for me is that after being shocked and gutted the first time i read, i went back to it, and realised how unsuprising it was in many ways. If you've never heard Mo teach, let me say, he is as good and as engaging a preacher as i've heard. I just think the reaction of those he talks about is symptomatic of a 'Bible bad, feelings good' generation. I'm moved to ask what exactly these guys were worshipping in their singing time. Not exactly 'logic on fire' by the sounds of it.

Then Challies posted this fascinating article about new Calvinism and it's width, or lack thereof. The firgures are staggering. I can't get over the fact that The Purpose Driven Life has sold around 100 times more copies than Desiring God. That figure probably tells us all we need to know.

So what do we do in the light of these discouragments? We open our Bibles, and we preach on, we preach on.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Memoirs Of An Ordinary Pastor

I guess there are a few generally observed rules when it comes to writing a biography. The subject has to be better known that the author, or at least, well known at large. The subject is normally someone who's achieved something that the world recognises. A politician, solider, actor or footballer for example. Rarely do we see a biography about someone who was hardly heard of outside his own locale. I guess another rule of book writing is that Ed will never read a book in two sittings.

Don Carson has broken, nay smashed, all these rules with this biography of his father. I think John Piper sums it up perfectly when he says 'how can the application of a Bible saturated mind (Dons), to a Bible saturated life (Toms) produce an even more helpful story to encourage pastors? Let the mind be carried on a river of love because the life is his Father's. Then add a kind of narrative creativity. That's how'. And he's spot on. Don's love for his father is evident throughout this book, his respect for his ministry and his gratitude for his life are what knit this book together.

So who was Tom Carson? As the book tells us, an 'ordinary pastor' who spent his life working and ministering in churches often smaller than 100 in Quebec. On of the many things i never knew that this book told me was how difficult a place Quebec is, and has remained for the last fifty tears. In the forties, when Tom started Quebec was dominated by Catholicism, in the early nineties when Tom died Quebec had become one of the most secular places in Canada. A swift, polarising change that never really leveled out into large scale church attendance. Both reasons keeping people away from Tom's faithful Reformed church. Even the reason that most people have heard of Tom Carson barely made waves outside his own region in his own time. Have you ever heard of T.T Shields? Or recount the story behind the foundation of Central Baptist Seminary? Exactly!

So why should you read this book? Why did i love this book. Firstly, but not most importantly, the mixture of journals and narrative make a very interesting read and show what made Tom Carson. His humility. His poverty of spirit runs through the book like water. And it's humbling. But why else? Because there are no ordinary pastors. Tom Carson was faithful until his dying day. Faithful as a husband, father, preacher, councillor and example. Faithful to His Lord and Savior until his last breath. No one's ever heard of him outside his immediate sphere of influence, and apart from this book, it's doubtful that they ever would have done. But what a crown, what a welcome awaited him after his death.

When i finished the final chapter i closed the book, and, with tears in my eyes (i don't think it's possible to read the closing paragraphs without tears in your eyes) pleaded, begged with God that i might have a life, a ministry, a heart like Tom Carson.

And thats why you should read this book.