Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cerulean Sanctum: Why Christian men don't find their purpose

Very thougtful, thought provoking article from Dan Edelen here. Very hard to read in places, and even though i'm not sure all of them are fair, it makes me glad i met my wife on a missions trip really...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Don Carson on Jeremiah

I've finally just finished listening my way through a six part series by Carson on Jeremiah. Very illuminating, encouraging, challenging, scary, difficult, excellent stuff.

A couple of things i noticed:

1) It seems that most of the problems for Israel occurred because Kings, en masse, ignored the most important command to them in the Scriptures. That is, write down and learn and read and obey this law, that you might fear God. Time and again the prophet is ignored when he has a message from God, time and again we see Kings ignore the Word of God. And so they were judged.

2) Sin hardens our heart. Early on in the book Israel is likened to a camel on heat. 'How can we give up our false gods?' she cries. Sin does this to our hearts. Although we know what is right, we don't want to do it. We'd rather protect and provide for our sin instead of giving it up. Eventually we'll be so hard giving it up won't even be an option.

3) God is jealous and personal. Israel makes a cuckold of God. Israel whores after other gods. This language wouldn't be appropriate unless God was personal, unless He was personally affected by the sins of His people, unless His anger and wrath against it was real. Why does God give up Israel? To punish them and to bring them back. He is Hosea, we all are Gomer.

4) In the middle there is grace. Chapters 30-33 are full of grace. There are 14 'restoration oracles' in this block. God will break the back of Israel's oppressors, God will save His people from a distant land, God will restore them nationally and spiritually, God will restore their honour and end their weariness. And on, and on. God is gracious because God is gracious. He will save whom He will save. That's the best news there is.

Go listen!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Driscoll on ABC Nightline

I don't mean to turn today in 'Driscoll Video Friday' but i've just spent a very profitable time watching Mark Driscoll, Deepak Chopra, Carlton Pearson and Annie Lobert debating the existence of the Devil.

I think Driscoll does very well, although i suppose i would. I thought he did pretty well not to just get up and hit Pearson on a couple of occasions. It's very, very sad to see and hear Carlton Pearson and, to an extent Deepak Chopra, falling over the same problems that can be well answered by some high schoolers i know. Very sad. I'm so sick and tired of this lazy, subjective, 'real to you' junk that these guys come up with. Also, somewhat illuminating to see that Deepak and Pearson get angrier and more defensive than Driscoll. Top work. I'm glad the Gospel is true, i'm glad that the whole of life isn't a system of enlightened feelings and knowledge. Thats very sad...and the Gospel is good news. I want it to be true...

Driscoll: Men and Marriage

There have been 23,856 page views of the sermon in the last four days. If you're a man, and you haven't watched it yet, what all have you been doing?

Be encouraged, be rebuked, be challenged, be a bit scared when he starts shouting. It's 71 minutes long including the Q and A at the end.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Transfiguration

I'm preaching on Mark 9:2-13 in Teen Church tonight, another passage thats hard to preach. As with so much of the Gospels, and i'm learning as we go though mark, so much of mark, the answers are hidden in the Old Testament.

Why do Jesus' clothes become radiantly white, more intense than anyone on earth could die them? Because in Daniel 7:9 the Ancient of Days took His seat and His clothing was white like snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool.

Why do Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus, (an odd mix in some ways, David and Isaiah might have made more sense)? Because all the law and prophets bear witness to Jesus. Jesus is the one like Moses who was promises in Deuteronomy 18:15. Israel failed to listen to Moses with great consequences, so we, if we fail to listen to Him, we will suffer great consequences.

Why did this happen at all? To show Peter that Jesus was right. Peter had just confessed Jesus as the Christ, but he still didn't seem to know what it meant. In his mind the Christ would overthrow Rome and restore the glorious Kingdom to Israel. That's what he rebuked Jesus for saying he had to die. But look Peter, this is Jesus, the glorious, beloved Son, you must listen to Him. You must.

Jesus is the beloved Son, the last Moses, the Son of Man, the Son of God. But Jesus is also the suffering servant, the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy that Mark paints Him as all the way through his Gospel.

Peter needed to know this, and listen to Jesus. And so do we.

Monday, March 23, 2009

ESV Study Bible for £24.90

Those heroic fellas at 10ofthose.com have made the splendid ESV study Bible available for just £24.90 plus postage and packing. Is this not the deal of deals?

Email info@10ofthose.com to place your order...

Letting dead men teach you

Piper blogs about heart devotions and head study:

without a book or a class about what some part of the Bible means and a teacher who is ahead of you, your devotions will probably flatten out at a low level of insight. Year after year you will go over the same biblical ground and find it as perplexing as before. There will be little advance in understanding

Now, for my favourite part of any day...to the books!

Mark 7:1-23 (2)

This is a serious problem. Your greatest need, my greatest need, is to be acceptable to God. We do so much to try and appear acceptable, but Jesus says that appearances do not matter. What we can not see is more important to Him that what we can see. Jesus explains what He means in verses 14 and 15: ’and when he had called all the people unto Him he said unto them ’hearken unto me every one of you and understand, there is nothing from outside that entering into a man can defile him: but the things that come out of him, those are they that defile a man. If any man hath ears to hear let him hear.’ Jesus is keen for people to hear and understand what He is about to say. He starts of by saying ‘listen,’ then He says ‘understand,’ then He says ‘if anyone hath ears let Him hear.’ Three times he asks for people to listen in such a short period of time, what He is about to say is important. What He says turns the world upside down. It is not what we eat that is the problem. It’s not what we wear, it’s not who we hang out with, it’s not the music we listen to or the tv we watch, although we need to make wise Christian choices all of that stuff. Jesus says that there is a problem inside of us that needs fixing. He says that it is the things that come out of him, those are they that defile the man.

What makes us unacceptable to God? What is inside of us, not what is outside of us. It’s who we are that is the problem, not what we do. What we do is only a problem because it is evidence of who we are. In one sentence Jesus turns the world upside down. In one day He challenges, and changes what everyone things about people and their relationship with God. It wasn’t popular then, and it’s not popular now, but look at what He says. Those things that come out of Him, they are what defile Him. Amazing. And terribly important.

In the Old Testament people thought that God didn’t care about people breaking His law, that as long as they were in the right place at the right time they were acceptable to God. Here in Mark some people tried to keep the law genuinely believing that it would make them acceptable to God. Today, some people think that as long as they’re wearing a tie on a Sunday morning in church it really doesn’t matter what they do the rest of the week. Some people hold to the standards and traditions that we come up with because they genuinely think that God will be pleased with them. Here Jesus makes it clear that they are both wrong. It is the inside that counts.

But why? We need a bit more than that, and, it seems, so did the people with Jesus. We see in verse 17 that when He was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked Him concerning the parable. We see from this that people then were not really happy with the idea that there is something wrong inside of us. They even thought Jesus was telling them a parable rather than just preaching to them. I love Jesus’ response here. ‘are ye so without understanding also?’ He says, basically, guys, if you don’t get this you are really stupid. Don’t you understand what I’m saying? ‘whatsoever thing that enters a man from outside can not defile Him.’ It’s like Jesus is jumping up and down and yelling right now. ‘It’s not the outside that’s the problem it’s the inside.’ We need to get this, just like the disciples did and we need to respond.

So why is the inside the problem? Because that’s where the action happens. Because the inside controls the outside. What does the heart do? It produces, as verse 21 says: evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. Do you see what the problem is that Jesus is addressing? It is these things that make us unacceptable to God, not the food we eat or the clothes we wear. It’s our evil thoughts, our lying, our pride that is the problem. No amount of coat and ties are going to put these things away. These are the things, verse 28 that come from within and defile a man.

What Jesus needed his listeners in mark 7 to understand is that their problem was not outside them, but inside them. That their problems could not be solved by washing their hands, or eating the right food, or wearing the right clothes. It is a tragic thing in the church today that so many people think, and teach, that by wearing certain clothes, by being in the right place at the right time and behaving ourselves we can be made acceptable to God. What a small, unimpressive, puny ‘god’ they have created for themselves.

I started off by asking how we could be acceptable to God. The bad news is that our problem is much worse than we thought, our problem is deep, deep, deep inside of us. The good news, the best news, is that, as we saw last week, Jesus came for people who are sick like we are sick. He came to heal us. He came to save us, to change us the way we need to be changed, from the inside out.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mark 7:1-23 (1)

I once heard a story of a woman who cooked a ham every Sunday for lunch. And every Sunday she would cut off the end of the ham and throw it away even though it was perfectly good. Someone asked her why she did this and she said because that’s what her mom had always done. So then someone asked her mom why she always cut off and threw away a perfectly good piece of ham? She said it was because that’s what her mom had always done. Then someone asked the second lady’s mom why she always cut off the end of a perfectly good piece of ham before cooking it. Turns out that it was simply because her pan was too short to hold the whole ham.

Sometimes our traditions are like that, sometimes the things we do hark back to another day which has passed, sometimes we end up saying and doing things in a certain way just because that’s what people have always done, rather than because there is any good reason for it. All so that that may be acceptable to God.

How to be acceptable to God is, obviously, the biggest question that the Bible answers, the biggest question in our lives, and the biggest question in this evenings passage. How can we be acceptable to God? In the opening five verses of our story tonight we meet a group, not for the first time, who think they know the answer to that question.

They know how to the be acceptable to God, and they think their job is to go around making sure everyone else is doing exactly what they say. We see something of their rules and traditions in verse 3 ‘for the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands, oft, eat not, holding the traditions of the elders.’ According to Jewish tradition, unless people often washed their hands, they shouldn’t be eating. And yet we read in verse one that Jesus disciples’ were eating bread with ‘defiled, that is to say, unwashen, hands.’ This would have been very upsetting to the Jewish leaders. Not only were Jesus’ disciples being unhygienic, they were surely being unholy, they were surely acting unacceptably towards God. How could they be God’s people if they were not washing their hands? I love how Mark commentates on this incident, twice in these verses he mentions that the Pharisees were upset because the traditions were being broken, not because they saw Jesus do something unBiblical. This situation is close to home sometimes isn’t it? We’ve all met people who believe in things, and defend things that we can not find in the Bible. Well that’s what’s happening here.

Jesus then spends a long time answering them, between verses 6 and 13. Lets look at what He says ‘well hath Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites as it is written ’these people honoureth me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. How be it in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups and many other such things you do.’ And He said to them
‘full well you reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.’

What was the problem that these guys had? Why were they so upset with Jesus and then Jesus so angry with them? Because they taught their opinions as if they were from God, and ignored what God Himself taught. They didn’t care about the commandments of God and were more concerned about whether or not people were washing their hands. God had called them to preach but they were acting more like fussy old women. This was not, and is not right. We see the very serious result of that in verses seven and eight. Jesus says that people worship Him in vain, He says that they honour Him with their mouths yet their hearts are far from Him. He wanted people’s hearts. He wants your heart. He’s not interested in just your church attendance record, or just how much you read your Bible, or just how much you serve, He wants your heart to be near Him. Now, He wants you to come to church and read your Bible and serve. But he only wants you to do that because your heart is near Him. If you come to church because of tradition, then Jesus says you worship Him in vain. If you would rather be almost anywhere else in the world than in that sanctuary between 11 and 12 on a Sunday morning, if you sit in church waiting for lunchtime to come, then Jesus says you worship in vain. He says that we are not acceptable to Him.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mark Driscoll interviews Matt Chandler

A great way to spend 28 minutes...you can listen here, or watch here

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rachel's Mum and i have a different view of some aspects of Church work

'so where are y'all meeting?'

'Bojangles in Vanceboro.'

'urghh, Bojanges, why can't you all play racquetball or something?'

'hey if we can not eat, we will not meet.'

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Weekend

Goodness. I love my job, i love being busy, this weekend has been the daddy...i am ready to go to bed and sleep until people start calling me Rip Van Ed.

First off on friday night we watched the ACC basketball tournament at church. Now a year ago i wouldn't have understood the big deal about college basketball, but the south eastern united states more or less closed down on friday to watch the games. And that was just a regional tournament, the national championships start on tuesday, and from thursday to sunday for the next few weekends there are games for twelve hours a day. We left church just after midnight saturday morning.

Saturday was much the same getting to church about two, watching more of the games, hosting a Bible college choir in the evening before getting home about 830. Then we got a call that one of the older ladies in church was in a very bad way in the hospital, so we headed back to to Greenville, stayed and prayed for a couple of hours, and got back just after midnight sunday morning.

For once it was almost a relief that i'm not teaching on a sunday morning at the moment. I was just about awake enough for sunday school and kids church, but it was a struggle. Then back to the hospital then home for an all too short nap, then back to church, rounding everything off with a 15 minute parent meeting after the service.

I'm bushed right now, but thrilled at everything i'm involved in personally, and we as a church are doing. I'm excited about going to work again tomorrow, preaching on wednesday night, and twice on sunday as Rachel's dad is in Tennessee. I'm also excited about going to bed, very shortly!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Is Theology Poetry?

Piper said somewhere that in his youth his was never far from a CS Lewis book. Having spent this week reading 'The Weight of Glory,' which includes the eponymous sermon and seven or eight more, i can see why.

This morning i read 'Is Theology Poetry,' which i believe may be my new favourite, maybe even in front of 'The Weight of Glory' itself. In it Lewis is posed, and answers the question of whether people believe the Gospel because it is aesthetically, poetically pleasing rather than because it is true. I'm not sure this is a question a lot of people are asking in exactly these terms, but the way Lewis answers is very helpful in thinking about how to answer the scientific objections to Christianity.

Lewis starts answering the question by admitting that there is a poetic beauty about the Gospel, that one can see before one is saved by the Gospel. Someone can see it's a great story before they believe and treasure it. But, and here's where the contra starts, there are more beautiful stories that people believe, and, in fact, almost every dogma that people believe has a 'poetry' to it.

Science for example, is life against the void, then man against nature, then man subjugating nature, and then the suns going cold, and the void returning. That sort of 'against all odds' story is pleasing to us, it interests us. It is beautiful in it's own way. More so maybe than the Gospel. In fact it could be argued that the Gospel loses some of it's mythical poetry when the God of the universe incarnates into a man that can sleep in a rowing boat. That's not as poetic as 'God said and it was,' it's just not. Lewis also makes the point that just because Pagan religions involve some ideas that Christianity involves it neither proves or disproves the Gospel. We should expect them to if we believe in common grace. The Gospel, the man Jesus brings blurry mysticism into sharp, Christian focus.

So what of science? Lewis concludes with this, with the 'scientific position' or 'Wellsianity,' as it's also called. There are two massive problems with science. The first is that adherents to the scientific position, or maybe more the layman that follow them believe that they've answered the question that they've been asked. The problem, says Lewis, is not that their answer is wrong, but that they haven't even begun to deal with the question that Christians are asking. Not, 'how did the universe begin' (and Lewis does a good job of deconstructing pure evolution at this point) but, 'why is human thought any more important than the rustle of the win in the trees?' Science can't answer that question, it's not even trying to.

And lastly, science is to Christianity as our dreams are to the real world. Lewis can make sense of why he dreams about dragons when he is awake. The dream world fits into the real world, it is contained by it. Dreams can not make sense of the real world, it is merely affected by them. Christianity can contain science. So Lewis finishes with these famous words:

the waking world is judged more real because it can thus contain the dreaming world; the dreaming world is judged less real because it can not contain the waking one. For this same reason i am certain that in passing from the scientific points of view to the theological i have passed from dreaming to waking. Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality and the sub Christian religions. The scientific point of view can not fit in any of these things, not even science itself. I believe in Christianity like i believe the sun has risen. Not only because i see it, but because by it, i see everything.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mark 2:1-17 (2)

On first glance the second half of our text tonight doesn’t seem to have much to do with the first story, but I think there is. Jesus moves from a house in the city to a beach, people keep following Him, and He keeps teaching them, He calls Levi, who’s better known to you and me as Matthew, a tax collector, and Levi follows Him. Now we might not see anything very shocking in that, but to the Jewish leaders of the time, tax collectors were really one of the worst sorts of people. The tax collectors were seen as national traitors who had sided with Rome instead of Israel to make a few bucks. These tax collectors essentially stole from their own people to live a good lifestyle. The scribes and Pharisees would have been outraged to see Jesus calling men like Levi to Him.

But the story gets worse for the religious guys in 15 and 16 and it came to pass that as Jesus sat at meat in his house many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and His disciples, for there were many, and they followed Him, and when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with publicans and sinners they said unto His disciples; ‘how is it that He eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners.’ I picture this like a bad hip hop video. People are drinking and partying, people are not wearing enough clothes to have decently left the house, there’s a dude wearing a white suit lying on some pillowa.. From that background we can see why the scribes and Pharisees, the religious temple guys, would have questioned Jesus once more. Maybe they’ve heard His teaching and found Him interesting, or even have some respect for what He’s saying, but they do not have a category for a man like Jesus who hangs out with tax collectors, publicans and sinners. They may not be impressed, they are certainly confused. Jesus answers them with words that we need to listen to, with words that should scare us and make us look at ourselves hard.

Verse 17 says when Jesus heard it He saith unto them, ‘they that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’ Jesus came to call sinners to repentance. Sinners. Not people who reckon they’re ok because their grades are up and they’ve opened the Bible on their own for ten minutes this week. Sinners. Not the religious types from Israel, but the sinners from Israel. The lowest of the low. We see it in our passage this evening, Jesus heals a man with the palsy, calls a tax collector and eats with sinners and publicans. All the time the religious crowd is standing on the fringes questioning and criticizing.

In our passage tonight Jesus treats a sick man by forgiving His sins, and treats sinners like a doctor. That’s why He closes in verse 17 by saying them that are whole have no need of a physician, but them that are sick. There is a greater sickness in the world than physical sickness. Being seriously ill is an awful thing and when Jesus returns all sickness will gone forever. But there is something worse. Jesus leaves us here by calling attention to our bigger need, our deeper need. The need to have our sins forgiven. He comes not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. So if we, like the religious leaders of the time here think we are righteous, think that we are doing ok, think that we don’t need any help, we need to be careful, we need to be worried, because what we’re saying is we don’t really need Jesus. But here’s the wonderful news. If you woke up this morning, or any morning feeling awful because of your sin, feeling that there is no way out for you because of what you’ve said, and thought and done. If you’re feeling right now that you’ll never, ever be as good as these church folks, then you are in exactly the right place. Then Jesus came for you. He came for you, the sick sinner, if we come to Him in repentance we have nothing to fear.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

DesiringGod.org redesigned

DesiringGod.org has been redesigned, it looks really, really good.

Abraham shares the four major redesign points:

1. Weekly Sermon Featured Front and Center
2. A More Robust Rotating Carousel
3. More Space for the Blog
4. New Place for Latest Resources

I love the new placing the the weeks sermon, its going to make it so much easier to watch online and embed video. And having the blog more prominent makes a lot of sense to...It's a lot more user friendly...

How everything is about footb...the Gospel

I've just started helping out with Rebekah's school football team. It's kinda fun and kinda different. I have to call defenders 'stoppers' and get blank looks when i tell our roving midfielder that 'you're my Steven Gerrard,' but it's good stuff. Two hours of running in eighty degree heat is better to watch than do, i can say that much.

Football is about the biggest participation sport in the States, amongst girls anyway, so a lot of these girls have been playing for years, but a lot for barely weeks (hence we lost our first two games 4-0 and 3-0 because most of our players were essentially terrified of the other team). And although it's a big participation sport, few of the girls have ever actually seen a game played by professionals before. And thats a real problem. Your strikers can talk about what they need to do, but they've got no one to copy, they didn't grow up arguing over who was going to be Alan Shearer in their lunchbreaks. Midfielders can talk about breaking down and building up, but when do they hold back and when do they break into open space? No example seems to equal no intuition.

Without a vision my people perish. Or as the ESV has it, without a prophetic vision, without revelation my people perish. Greenville Knights Girls Soccer will struggle until they study people who've played the game all their life. They need to be told, to see. To taste and see that possession is good. Without a revelation from God, how will Christians live? How will they know how to eat and drink to the glory of God, or even that they should? How will we know how to love, or how to live, or even that we should love, without the Bible. The Bible changes our categories. Just as watching Bobby Moore would help our central defenders, so reading Romans will expand our hearts. And change our hearts.

This is what we need no? This is meat and drink for us. Can my team survive without spending time studying the game they're supposed to be playing? Of course, with a struggle, with regular defeats. And so it is for us. Do we read the Bible to impress God? Of course not, we read it like hungry beggars. Why would we not want to eat? Why would we want to snack on candyfloss when you can have lovely steak?

The parable of the sowers seems to teach us that the way we treat the Word has eternal importance. We'll either bow to it, or by judged as we ignore it. We must stay in the Word ultimately because thats where we meet Jesus, the Captain of our Salvation, we must stay in the Word because it makes us wise unto salvation. And how we need to be wise!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Mark 2:1-17 (1)

In the ancient world people associated sickness and sin very closely. People thought that if a man was ill then he must be cursed by God. People thought that these people who sat at the side of the road and begged for a few pennies were not worth bothering with. They thought that God had put them there like this, and that there was nothing more than could be done for them. The crippled man, or the leper, or the blind man would be sentenced to a life of hardship and ridicule, suffering by the side of the road. An understanding of this helps us to see how odd this story, one of the better known in scripture, really is.

Looking at verses 1-4, we see the basic facts of this story as mark recorded them. Jesus’ fame had already spread. Last week we closed with Jesus preaching and saying ‘repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.’ Here, a little later on in His ministry we see that people are listening to His message. We see in verse two that Jesus had gained so much fame that when they heard He was in town ‘straightaway many were gathered together, insomuch as there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door, and He preached the Word to them.’ Jesus already had such a reputation that people were desperate to be near Him and hear Him preach. This is still the way it is in some places today.

If you go to Central America, or parts of Africa and Asia, you’ll still see people standing for hours to hear the Bible preached, waiting in the heat of the day to be prayed for and spending hours at church just to enjoy the fellowship. We see this as a fulfillment of where we left Jesus last week. He promised that as He preached the Kingdom of God would be near. And it is, the sick are getting healed, the poor are being fed, the powers of darkness were in retreat. It’s not wonder that people wanted to be near Jesus. It’s no wonder that these four men wanted to bring their friend, sick of the palsy, to Jesus.

Lets pick up the story in verse 3: and they came unto Him, bringing one sick of the palsy, who was borne of four. And when they could not come nigh unto Him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was; and when they had broken it up, they lay down the bed where the sick of the palsy lay. We’ve already mentioned the crowds who were pressing in on the house, and here we the effect of it. These men wanted to bring their friend through, but they were told, it seems, to get to the back of the line. But they’re weren’t to be put off, they wanted their friend to be near Jesus, they wanted to see Him. I love this next bit, they climbed up onto the roof, maybe ten feet, dragged their friend up with them, and dug their way in. Isn’t that cool? They must’ve thought ‘well, if they won’t pay attention to us in the line, they’ll have to pay attention to us when there’s a bed landing on their heads.’

Imagine what it must’ve been like in the house as well, you’re sitting there, it’s loud and hot and probably a bit dark, you’re trying to get near Jesus so he can touch you, or at least so that you can hear what He’s saying… And then, what’s that noise? Why’s there dust and bits of hard mud falling on my head? Good gracious, is there…there’s someone coming through the roof! I don’t know whether when they made the hole in the roof they just dropped the guy with the palsy on the floor, or whether some people jumped up to help, but somehow, he ended up on the floor, by Jesus.

And we think…that’s some effort, how can Jesus top that? Surely that’s the most surprising thing about this story. But no, Jesus is always the hero of every story in the Bible. Every story. Lets see what happens next in verses 5-7: when Jesus saw their faith, He said unto the sick of the palsy “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee”’ But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, ‘why doth this man speak blasphemies, who can forgive sin but God alone?’ What does Jesus see? Their faith. What does Jesus do? He tells the man to get up and walk… No He doesn’t! He tells him his sins are forgiven Him. And we think, well that’s nice Jesus, but you’ve missed the point, this man wants to be healed of the palsy, he doesn’t want his sins forgiven, whatever that means. His friends carried him in here; they don’t want to have to carry him out again. We’re not the only ones thinking these things. We see that there were some people there, who wondered why Jesus was talking like this. Mark tells us these guys were the scribes, they were like the record keepers in the temple, and they were probably there to report on Jesus to the Pharisees, the guys who ran the temple. These scribes, even though throughout the Gospels there are the bad guys, they’re the ones always fighting Jesus, actually ask the most important question of the story. They wonder, in their hearts, who can forgive sins but God alone?

This is so important to grasp. Who can forgive sins but God alone? No one. Why? Imagine for a moment that when I finish tonight I walk across the parking lot and break into Justinshouse. He's the one I’ve offended right? He’s the one who I need to forgive me. Imagine if after I’m caught Rachel comes up to me and says ‘Ed, I forgive you for breaking into Justin’s house.’ You’re going to think that’s crazy. not the one I offended, she’s not the one who should forgive me, Justin is, because he’s the one I’ve sinned against. Why can only God forgive sins? Because God is always the most offended party. God is always the one, ultimately, that we sin against.

In Psalm 51, when David is repenting for sleeping with Bathsheba he says ‘against you and you alone have I sinned oh Lord.’ And we think, well what about Bathsheba? You’ve sinned against her, and you’ve sinned against her husband, and you’ve sinned against the child in her womb, and you’ve sinned against Israel by forming your military strategy on the basis of getting a man killed. But David understands that because God is God, because He is King of the universe, because He is the most moral being in the universe, all our sin is against Him. I remember my teachers at school used to say ‘if you don’t work hard you’re only cheating yourself,’ but they were wrong. Laziness is an offence against God. Lust is an offence against God, pride is an offence against God, greed is an offence against God. No one can forgive sins but God, because God is always the one you have offended. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek forgiveness from people we’ve hurt, we should, but we need to remember that God is the one we’ve upset the most. That was supposed to be a small part of my message!

So what’s Jesus doing saying that He can forgive sins? He’s assuming the identity of God. Lots of people say that Jesus never claimed to be God, and that’s partly because they don’t understand the Trinity, but actually He did. He claimed to be able to forgive sins. That is claiming to be God. Lets see how Jesus deals with this in verses 8-11: why reason ye these things in your heart? Whether it is easier to say to the sick of the palsy ‘thy sins be forgiven thee’ or to say ‘arise, take up your bed and walk’, but ye may know that the Son of Man hath authority on earth to forgive sins.’ (He saith to the sick of the palsy) I say unto thee arise and take up your bed and go thy way into thine house.’

Jesus shows us physical evidence for a spiritual truth. It’s easier for Him to say your sins are forgiven than to say ‘get up and walk’ because there’s no way to prove whether sins have been forgiven or not, but if Jesus had said get up and walk first it would have been easy to prove Him wrong…Jesus healing the man with palsy is a visual demonstration of what He has done spiritually. The scribes, and the rest of the people there, and now us need to know that Jesus has authority on earth to forgive sins as we see in verse 10. This is such an important truth for us. We don’t need Jesus the therapist or Jesus the vegetarian or whatever; we need Jesus the forgiver of sins… We need Jesus the savior. This is an amazing story, it’s no wonder that people said, in verse 12 we never saw it on this fashion. This is something totally new, this is the Kingdom of God coming near.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Reformers Hermeneutic (or reading the Bible as if it were the Bible)

Glen points to this excellent article by Nathan Pitchford on reading the Old Testament Christianly. The literal reading is the Christocentric reading. yes! None of the Old Testament can be properly read unless it, as Luther said 'drives us towards Christ.' The point of the Old Testament is not interesting history lessons, not moralism for Kids Church, but for getting to know Jesus better.

As well as everything else, it just makes so much more sense that way!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Some random links about Psalms and Wrestling

Somehow i missed this, but Bish has posted twelve minutes of Mike Reeves on the titles of the Psalms. It was really helpful, especially as at the moment i'm near about Psalm 40 and Numbers 26!

Also, Paul has set five of the Psalms to music on his Myspace page. Paul, these are excellent...Jesus is the man!

High school wrestling is weirdly popular in North Carolina, and it seems, in Minnesota. For about four days last week, during the state championship meet the front page of the local paper was full of pictures of sweaty high school types rolling around on a mat. Piper comments on men wrestling girls (because ultimately, in high school, that's what it is), and is at his cutting best.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards...The face of true Christianty?

The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards is the second in the series of 'a long line of Godly men' profiles by Steven J. Lawson. The first was of Calvin, and more are promised in this spin off from the 'Foundations of Grace' series he's also working on. As far as design goes it's really hard to beat these books. They are fit. Well illustrated covers, nice sized readable fonts, endnotes at the end of the chapter rather than the end of the book. There's really no excuse for poorly designed Christian books.

'Unwavering Resolve' is a brief introduction and autobiography of it's subject. Rather than deal with a chronological overview of Edwards' life Lawson helps us to see him through the lense of several of his Resolutions. each chapter focuses in on four or five Resolutions grouped thematically, and tries to shed light on a different aspect on Edwards' life, be it his devotion to study, his discipline, his love for others or his God's glory orientated theology. It was these chapters that really gripped me.

Edwards was the last of the Puritians, and since then it's hard to find a Christian who has thought about life 'from the ground up,' in relation to the Gospel. We view Edwards as the Elizabethans viewed people from the new World, we view him as we might today view societies on Mars; odd, removed from us not so much by time and distance as by category. We hear about him, thirteen hours a day in the study, regulating his diet to the glory of God, losing a good pastorate over who can and can not take the Lord's Supper, and we think he's very strange. A quirk of a great mind and a devoted spirit. The exception.

But what if he's not supposed to be the exception. Lloyd-Jones described him as the man most like Paul. In Resolution 63 Edwards wrote that if there was to be just one true Christian found in his generation that he would have it be him. So what if Edwards is that? What if we only view him as a quirk because we are so far from Biblical Christianity today.

'Unwavering Resolve' is a great overview of the life of the finest mind America has ever produced, but it is a better challenge of what a man deeply affected by the truth of the Gospel should look like...

ESV Study Bible free online

Crossway is pleased to make the ESV Online Study Bible available free--for anyone and everyone--for a limited time through March 31, 2009.

For full access and free trial use of all the Online Study Bible features, users can create a login and password at www.esvstudybible.org/online. Email information will not be shared, nor will there be any obligation to purchase.

Crossway invites you to share this information with others--with the hope that many will benefit from this online resource and further experience the timeless truth of God's Word as a powerful, compelling, life-changing reality.


Monday, March 02, 2009

Edwards on Scripture

I had then, and at other times, the greatest delight in the holy scriptures, of any book whatsoever. . I seemed often to see so much light exhibited by every sentence, and such a refreshing food communicated, that I could not get along in reading; often dwelling long on one sentence, to see the wonders contained in it; and yet almost every sentence seemed to be full of wonders. . . . Sometimes, only mentioning a single word caused my heart to burn within me; or only seeing the name of Christ, or the name of some attribute of God. . . .

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Steadfast love in the Psalms

I'm loving my chronological Bible reading plan this year, it might be the best way to read the Pentateuch to swallow big chunks at once. I also love the Psalms, because that's where i see myself the clearest, that's where i learn to love, to praise, to pray. Last night, in Psalms i saw the joy of trusting in His steadfast love.

Psalm 32:10 tells us that steadfast love surrounds the one that trusts in the Lord. I love that word, 'trust.' Not the one who is moral not the one who never misses church or keeps up with his Bible reading plan. The one who trusts. The one who casts all of their hope, trust, and faith on Jesus. The one who throws up his hands in Godly despair at ever, ever being good enough, and flees to the mediator. The one who trusts in the Lord, he us surrounded by steadfast love. What a reward, what a promise.

We see the same in Psalm 33:22. David needs to know the closeness of the love of His Lord even as he hopes in Him. This seems like sort of that same thing. I hope in the Lord, but before that, i need to ask for His steadfast, satisfying love to be on me. I need to know that he loves me as a son, not as a servant. This love precedes our hope, our faith in Him. This precedes our hope in Him. God loving isn't a reward for our hope in Him, it's what precedes our hope in Him. It's what makes us able to hope in Him. We love Him because He loved us first.

I love grace, although i forget it every day, it's fresh air in my lungs. I love finding it all over the Old Testament, i love reading this stuff before i go to bed!