Tim Challies's Blog, page 137
April 10, 2013
As you know by now, David and I are taking a course together and we have invited everyone else to take it with us. Together we are going through R.C. Sproul’s course on the Old Testament’s Prophets, Poetry, and Wisdom Literature. Week-by-week we are recording a podcast to share our thoughts and answer some questions.
Do accept our apologies for missing last week’s podcast. And please accept my apologies for being AWOL for this week’s episode in which David flies solo. I arrived in Orlando with an awful case of food poisoning and spent the whole first day in the fetal position (or wishing I was in the fetal position). So David hit the record button on his own and did his best to answer some of the most urgent questions from those who are taking this course with us. Listen in and I’m sure you’ll benefit from it.
I have spent the past few days in Orlando at the Gospel Coalition Conference. As it always the case when I am at a major conference, I have spent a lot of my time in the bookstore. There is something therapeutic about wading through a massive bookstore, and especially so when the bookstore is so big and so good.
Sometimes I can find myself getting a little bit skeptical about the sheer quantity of books being produced today. If all those thousands of years ago the Sage was already lamenting “Of making many books there is no end” what would he say today? There is a book for everyone on very nearly every topic. And there are times when I find myself wondering if this is really a good thing.
Help has come from two unexpected directions. The first is in my use of the program Evernote. Evernote is software for note-taking and organizing. At first I used it sparsely and hesitatingly, only putting my most important ideas into it. But over time I came to see that Evernote works better when I put everything into it, whether it is something I deem of critical importance or low importance. Rather than trusting myself to be the ultimate filter, I do better to put everything into the software and then to allow Evernote’s filters to separate what is needed from what is not. The lesson learned is that with good filters, more information is better than less information. Therefore, a greater number of books can be more helpful than fewer books, as long as we learn to filter effectively.
The second help has come from Thomas Manton, a Puritan, who tells us that people in his day were asking the same question: Do we really need more books? Here is his response:
All complain there is enough written, and think that now there should be a stop. Indeed, it were well if in this scribbling age there were some restraint. Useless pamphlets are grown almost as great a mischief as the erroneous and profane.
Yet tis not good to shut the door upon industry and diligence. There is yet room left to discover more, above all that hath been said, of the wisdom of God and the riches of his grace in the gospel; yea, more of the stratagems of Satan and the deceitfulness of man's heart. Means need to be increased every day to weaken sin and strengthen trust, and quicken us to holiness.
Fundamentals are the same in all ages, but the constant necessities of the church and private Christians, will continually enforce a further explication. As the arts and slights [expertise] of besieging and battering increase, so doth skill in fortification. If we have no other benefit by the multitude of books that are written, we shall have this benefit: an opportunity to observe the various workings of the same Spirit about the same truths, and indeed the speculation is neither idle nor unfruitful.
In more books, Manton saw more opportunities for us to learn from one another. The Holy Spirit works in each one of us very differently and what he teaches one he may not teach another, unless that person writes in a book and we read it. I can’t argue with him. There is something to this that takes direct aim at my skepticism.
This is not a call for mediocre books, of course, or for writing simply for the sake of writing. But it has helped shape my view that all of these books represent a tremendous blessing. My skepticism was misplaced.
The Kindle deals just keep coming. Here are a batch from Crossway: Scandalous by D.A. Carson ($4.99); Jesus the Son of God by D.A. Carson ($3.99); Entrusted with the Gospel by D.A. Carson, editor ($4.99); Don’t Call It a Comeback by Kevin DeYoung, editor ($4.99); Loving the Way Jesus Loves by Philip Ryken ($4.99); Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp ($5.99); The Lamb of God by Nancy Guthrie ($5.99); A Meal With Jesus by Tim Chester ($3.99).
Undermining Marriage - “Just because you are hetero-sexual does not mean that you are reflecting God's plan for marriage. You don't get a pass just on marriage because you are not Gay. The basis of a marriage reflecting God's plan is how it reflects the gospel. In other words a marriage is reflective of God's plan in so far as it reflects the marriage between Jesus the husband and the church the bride.”
Is Our Helping Really Hurting? - I appreciate Mez McConnell’s review of When Helping Hurts since he is exactly the kind of person who would see the utility or futility of short-term missions trips. He considers it a must-read book.
It’s Easier to Criticize - It’s so obvious, but still bears mention: it is so much easier to criticize than to encourage. So we ought to be put extra effort into building up one another.
A Dead Baby - Here is the brutal reality: “Planned Parenthood, which receives more than $500 million in government subsidies, is branching out, expanding its mission beyond the provision of abortions to the defense of consumers' rights: If you pay for an abortion, you are owed a dead baby.”
Churches and Mental Illness - Ed Stetzer: “Matthew’s life was not a waste and, yes, every day had a purpose. His pain is over now, but perhaps his life and death will remind us all of the reality of mental illness and inspire people of faith to greater awareness and action.”
There is no joy in the world like the joy of bringing one soul to Christ. --William Barclay
April 9, 2013
Almost 2,000 years ago, a Christian named Paul wrote a letter to a group of people in Corinth, a city in Greece. People in that city had at one time been enthusiastic about the Christian faith, but had then begun to have some second thoughts. They had written a letter to Paul to ask something like, "You told us that this man Jesus died and then came back to life. We're pretty sure you don't actually expect us to believe that a man was dead and then alive again. That must have been some kind of a metaphor or a moral, right?"
But Paul doesn't blink. He says, "Yes, that is exactly what I am saying." In this letter to those Christians he affirms again and again that Jesus really and actually died. Paul is concerned that these people in Corinth are faltering in what they believe about the resurrection and he addresses them in an interesting way. He says, "Okay, so you think that dead people simply cannot come back to life. Well why don't we just take a moment to consider that. Let's consider the implications if that is true." He does this in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.
I find it very interesting that he approaches things in this way. You and I need to think about the implications of what we believe, or what we don't believe, or what we refuse to believe. Sometimes we have these little dangling threads in what we believe and we just haven't considered them properly. What Paul does here is say, "Let's think about what will happen if we say that dead people don't ever come back to life. Let's just ponder that for a few minutes." He begins to tug on that loose thread.We Worship A Dead Man
"If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised." If there is no resurrection, then Jesus Christ has not risen from the dead. We worship a dead man. Jesus went to the cross, he died, he was buried, and his body decayed to dust just like everyone else's. Christians are followers of a dead man.
The Christian faith is unique in claiming that its great teacher is not only a man but also God; it is unique in claiming that its great teacher not only died but was resurrected. But if there is no resurrection, suddenly the Christian faith is unique only in a few small points, but really, it is pretty much the same as every other faith. We are people who put our hope in a guru, a spiritual leader, who lived and then died. While he lived he taught us some good lessons and helped us see how to live a good and moral life. But then his time was over and he died and is gone. And now we are left trying to be like him, trying to model ourselves after him so we can be good like he was good.We Preach an Empty Message
The second consequence flows right out of the first. If there is no resurrection, Christ has not been raised. And, says Paul, "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain." If there is no resurrection, Paul has been preaching an empty message. His preaching is useless and a waste of everybody's time. He isn't talking so much about the form of preaching here -- standing in front of a church to explain and apply the Bible -- but the message. If Christ has not been resurrected, then everything he has been preaching to this church is a waste. If you deny the resurrection, you have gutted the Christian faith and the whole Christian message is destroyed.We Hold An Empty Faith
There is a third consequence that builds on these other two. "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." If Christ has not risen from the dead, our preaching is in vain. And if our preaching is in vain, anything you've learned from it and any way you live differently because of it is a waste of time. This is a necessary conclusion. You can't have it both ways.
Whatever you have done with the message that has come by way of preaching, however you have applied it to your life, is also just a complete waste. You have built your faith upon nonsense, upon something that is impossible, something that didn't actually happen. This is what the Apostle taught these people he loved. “Go ahead and deny that Jesus rose from the dead, but if you do that, you no longer have a faith worth holding to.”We Misrepresent God
Here is the fourth consequence of refusing to believe that dead men can return to life. Verse 15: "We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised." If we have been teaching that God resurrected Jesus from the dead, and if that did not actually happen, we are misrepresenting God. We are false witnesses.
Paul reminds these people of the message he proclaimed to them right from the time he first met them. He had told them that a matter of first importance, utmost importance, is that Jesus rose from the dead. If this is not true, if God did not actually resurrect Jesus from the dead, then we are telling lies about him. We are telling lies about the Creator of the universe. If we do this, we are directly violating one of the ten commandments which says, "You shall not bear false witness." We are violating the warning of Proverbs 19:5, that "a false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape."We Are Lost In Sin
As he explains the fifth consequences, Paul will repeat his main point and then add to it. "For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins." If Christ has not been resurrected, then you and I are still lost in sin.
I can think of two possible reasons why Jesus might have died and stayed that way, why he could have died on the cross but never come back to life.
Maybe Jesus was not actually sinless. Maybe he faced the judgment of God as a sinful man, and God judged him guilty of sin, and his death was that full and final separation from God that he deserved. If this is true he was just like you and me; he was a man who was stained by sin and God was right and just to condemn him and to keep him dead. If he was a sinful person, he would not have been able to pay for his own sin, not to mention for the sin of any other person. Like you and me, he would have been a finite person who had an infinite debt to pay.
There is a second reason Jesus might have died and stayed dead. Maybe he actually was without sin. Maybe he actually did suffer the wrath of God for the sins of other people. But maybe God did not accept his work. Christ offered himself for the sin of other people, but God did not accept that offering. And God displayed that he had rejected what Christ offered by keeping Jesus dead in the grave.
Here is what Paul is saying. If either of these are true, if Jesus was actually sinful and stayed dead or if God rejected his offering and Jesus stayed dead, you and I are still dead in our sin. We still have no Savior who has conquered the death we deserve to die. We are lost. We follow a faith that has no power over sin and death.We Have No Hope Beyond the Grave
There is another tragic consequence if there is no resurrection. Verse 17 again. "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished." If there is no resurrection, then every person who has died trusting in Christ for their salvation experienced a very different reality. Instead of awaking in the presence of Jesus Christ's glory, they just faded into the black and were gone. Or even worse, they believed they were falling asleep to awake in the presence of Jesus but actually they died and found themselves in the torment of hell.
Either way, for all of Christian history God's people have had confidence that for them death is like falling asleep and waking to a far better reality. They have fallen asleep, confident that they will experience the blessing of God. Confident that it is better to be with Christ. If there is no resurrection they have been dead wrong. We have fooled people into believing a lie and all of those people are our victims.We Are Pitiful
Paul gives one final consequence for denying that Jesus rose from the dead. Verse 19, "If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." He ends with a bang. If there is no resurrection, then you and I are not hugely blessed by God, but we are just plain pathetic. We are pitiful. People should pity us for believing something so silly, so hopeless.
I love Paul’s strategy and I love his honesty. And I love his conclusion: If Christ did not rise, we have no business considering ourselves followers of Christ. If he did not rise, the Christian faith is a complete waste.
Here is another whole batch of Kindle deals: The Next Story by Tim Challies ($3.99); Worship by the Book by D.A. Carson ($3.99); For Calvinism by Michael Horton ($3.99); Pilgrim Theology by Michael Horton ($7.99); A Place for Weakness by Michael Horton ($3.99); Preaching & Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones ($3.99); Christian Beliefs by Wayne Grudem ($3.99); Politics - According to the Bible by Wayne Grudem ($4.99); Historical Theology by Gregg Allison ($5.99); Deuteronomy by Daniel Block ($5.99); A God-Sized Vision by Collin Hansen & John Woodbridge.
What We Can Learn from African Christians - I had intended to link to this article yesterday but the link somehow got messed up. So here it is again: an article on what we can learn from Christians in Africa.
Suicide and Christians - Responding to the news of Rick Warren’s son’s suicide, David Murray writes, “As well-publicized suicides tend to increase the suicide rate quite dramatically, I thought it would be good to address seven of the questions that arise in our minds at times like this.” (You may also want to check out his round-up of excellent articles on the subject).
Where Are Rob Bell’s Glasses? - John Dyer writes a little bit about Rob Bell’s new book, then says the “book hasn't generated quite the firestorm his last book did, and while I think that and the content of Bell's message are interesting, I'm even more fascinated by Bell's uncanny ability to use various media to his advantage.”
Being Gay at Jerry Falwell's University - Denny Burk: “I just finished reading what has to be one of the most riveting articles I've ever seen. The author is Brandon Ambrosino, and the title is ‘Being Gay at Jerry Falwell's University.’ Writing for The Atlantic, Ambrosino tells his story of coming out as a homosexual while he was a student at Liberty.”
It is evident that our conversion is sound when we loathe and hate sin from the heart. --Richard Sibbes
April 8, 2013
Over the past few weeks I have found myself thinking a lot about love. C.S. Lewis told us that according to the Bible there are four kinds of love: phileo, eros, agape, and storge. But I haven't been thinking of love in such neat categories and under such clear headings. (Plus, D.A. Carson declared the clean boundaries between these four terms to be an exegetical fallacy and I would not dare to contract him.) I have been thinking about all the different kinds of love I have been able to experience, I have been considering how each one is unique, and I have been pondering how together these loves point me to one that must envelop and transcend them all.
We all know what it is to love and what it is to be loved, but we also know that there are varieties of love and that each variety is a little different from the others. I love Cheetos but I love them in a different way than I love my children. I love my children but my love for them is very different than the love I have for my wife. We do not know all that love is from any single experience or any single relationship. Rather, it is experienced in many forms and displayed in many hues. God is love, which means he is the source of love, the only reason we can experience love. All I can conclude is that God has allowed us to enjoy many different loves and in the sheer variety to learn something about him.
Just one month ago my son, my oldest child, turned thirteen. With every passing birthday I find my love for him growing in depth and intensity. It is not the same love as it was on the day he was born or even on the day that he turned twelve. This love has changed, and has had to change, as he has grown into who he is and as he continues to grow into who he will be. I cannot easily define this love, but I can at least describe it. What was once the love of a father for his baby, a protective but still nurturing love, is turning into something equally protective but closer in proximity to friendship. I am his father still, but he and I are also becoming friends--friends who have common history and common interests. There is a new kind of protectiveness now. I would still throw myself in front of a bus if it would save him, but mostly that isn't the kind of saving he needs. I love him in such a way that I want to teach him how to avoid all those snares I blundered into when I was his age and when I was beyond his age. I want to protect him from his own lack of wisdom and all the pain I know must come as a result of it. It is a love that wants to teach and train and in that way to protect.
My oldest daughter is ten and I am discovering a whole new kind of love in her. I have heard of this love, the love of a father for his daughter. I see in her a love for me that is also unfamiliar. We are growing into it together. She loves me deeply and longs for my affection and approval and I love her in return. This is a love that is even more protective, the love that demands that I protect her from anyone who would harm her or try to take advantage of her. I have heard many fathers tell of the importance of being affectionate with their daughters and I am beginning to see it, to see how she longs for my hand to hold hers and my arms to surround her. Men who are wiser than I have told me that it is my love that will teach her the difference between real love and so many of its counterfeits. This is a love that is powerful and fierce and sweet and innocent and so very real.
My youngest daughter is six and we are beginning to learn who she is and how I will love her. Will she need the very same kind of love as her sister, or will she need a different shade of it? Will she need to hold my hand to feel loved, or will she need to be told or shown that love? How will she love me in return? I don't know, but I do know that I will love her deeply and that there is nothing she could do to make me stop loving her, to stop caring for her, to stop desiring the very best for her.
For eighteen years I have been learning about the love a man has for a woman and for fifteen years, the love a husband has for his wife. Those are broad categories and even within them my love for Aileen has shades and nuances that would be so different if we were any other two people. This is the love that is built upon serving and sacrificing, upon loving most by giving most. It is the love that the Bible says best displays the love Christ has for his people and it is one I would not trade for any other.
Each of these relationships is dependent upon love. Yet each love is unique. And there are many more loves besides. There is the love I have for my father and mother, for my brother and sisters, for my brothers-in-law and sister-in-law, for nieces and nephews, for parents-in-law, for friends who are men and friends who are women, for the wives of friends and the children of friends. This infinite source of love gives me the ability to love each of these people, each of these kinds of people--to love them differently but to love them genuinely.
Here’s a long list of current Kindle deals: Rid of My Disgrace by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb ($0.99); Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart by J.D. Greear ($4.99); Risk Is Right by John Piper ($1.99); What Is the Mission of the Church? by Greg Gilbert and Kevin DeYoung ($5.99); The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever ($3.99); Finish the Mission by John Piper & David Mathis (editors) ($5.99); Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by John Piper ($4.99); Modest by Tim Challies & R.W. Glenn ($2.99); The Gospel-Centered Woman by Wendy Alsup ($4.99); Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung ($4.99); Words From the Fire by Al Mohler ($4.99); The Quiet Place by Nancy Leigh DeMoss ($1.99); Girls Gone Wise by Mary Kassian ($1.99); The Good Life by Trip Lee ($3.99); The Essential Edwards Collection, 5 Volumes ($9.99); Why We’re Not Emergent by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck ($4.99); The Church Planting Wife by Christine Hoover ($4.99); When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert ($4.99); On Being a Pastor by Alistair Begg and Derek Prime ($4.99); Made For His Pleasure by Alistair Begg ($4.99); He Is Not Silent by Al Mohler ($4.99); Reverberation by Jonathan Leeman ($4.99).
Who Works - Here’s an interesting chart showing who is in the workforce and who is not.
Gospel Coalition Livestream - The Gospel Coalition conference begins today. You can follow it live online. I’m down here in Orlando for the next few days taking it all in.
Rick Warren - You may have heard the sad news that Rick Warren’s son took his own life a few days ago. USA Today covers the story and says that “thousands are responding to Pastor Rick Warren’s grief with compassion but others use the moment to attack him and his Christian message.”
Learning from Africa’s Christians - Articles like this can sometimes be a little bit condescending. But not this one. Stephen Liggins suggests ways that Christians around the world can learn from their brothers and sisters in Africa.
Edith Schaeffer - The New York Times has a lengthy obituary for Edith Schaeffer.
Fal$e Teacher$ - Shai Linne risks alienating some of his audience by rapping about some of the prosperity teachers.
No man who is full of himself can ever truly preach the Christ who emptied himself. --J. Sidlow Baxter
April 7, 2013
Edward Perronet was born in England in 1726, the grandson of a French immigrant. His father, Vincent, was a clergyman in the Church of England and a close friend and associate of John and Charles Wesley. Though Edward had planned to follow his father into Anglican ministry, the influence of the Wesleys prevailed, and he became a traveling Methodist preacher.
Louis Benson records in his Studies of Familar Hymns, Second Series that Edward was a capable preacher and sincere follower of Christ. For some reason, however, he developed a strong antagonism towards the Church of England, and began to express it in his behavior and speech. This proved to be a source of trouble for the Wesleys. (Benson describes Edward as having an “irascible temper, an impatience of authority, and a touch of bitterness that grows with ‘not being understood’”) Edward eventually left the Methodist movement and settled down with a dissenting congregation, which he pastored until his death in 1792.
In addition to preaching, Edward was also a skilled writer; and in the latter years of his life he published anonymously, in a series of small books, a number of hymns he had composed. One of these books, Occasional Verses, Moral and Sacred, contains as its third entry the hymn titled “On the Resurrection,” which is now known as “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.”The Hymn
Below are the original lyrics to the hymn, as first published in Occasional Verses. The hymn was originally sung to the tune “Miles Lane,” written by a friend of Edward, William Shrubsole. Just a few years after its release Oliver Holden of Massachusets composed an alternate tune for it, “Coronation,” which is the melody most familiar to us in North America. One other melody, popular in Australia and with choirs, is “Diadem.”
All hail the power of Jesu’s name!
Let Angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
To crown Him Lord of All.
Let high-born Seraphs tune the lyre,
And, as they tune it, fall
Before His face who tunes their choir,
And crown Him Lord of All.
Crown Him, ye morning stars of light,
Who fix’d this floating ball;
Now hail the strength of Israel’s might,
And crown Him Lord of All.
Crown him, ye martyrs of your God,
Who from His altar call;
Extol the stem of Jesse’s rod,
And crown Him Lord of All.
Ye seed of Israel’s chosen race,
Ye ransom’d of the fall,
Hail Him who saves you by His grace,
And crown Him Lord of All.
Hail Him, ye heirs of David’s line,
Whom David Lord did call;
The God incarnate, man Divine;
And crown Him Lord of All.
Sinners! whose love can ne’er forget
The wormwood and the gall,
Go--spread your trophies at His feet,
And crown Him Lord of All.
Let every tribe, and every tongue,
That bound creation’s call,
Now shout in universal song,
The crowned Lord of All!
April 6, 2013
4 Truths About Hell - Tom Ascol: “So, what should we think of hell? Is the idea of it really responsible for all the cruelty and torture in the world? Is the doctrine of hell incompatible with the way of Jesus Christ? Hardly. In fact, the most prolific teacher of hell in the Bible is Jesus, and He spoke more about it than He did about heaven.”
Rick Phillips Follows-Up - Yesterday I linked to an article by Rick Phillips. Today he follows up on some objections. “One of his commenters brought up an objection that I thought I might respond to here. I had written that without the Bible, the only moral consensus open to man is a wicked pagan idolatry. The objection offered was that many people who do not accept the Bible nonetheless lead loving and moral lives. We therefore can have morality without the Bible.”
7 Deadly Myths About Editing - “There's a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about editors and what they do. Here are seven of those myths that I'd like to clean up…”
7 Directives for Meditating on Scripture - Paul Tautges looks to the Puritans to find 7 directives for meditating on Scripture.
The Darkness Shall Not Overcome It - John Knight looks to current news stories and says that at times the darkness can seem overwhelming. And in the middle of all that darkness, he offers hope.
The Highlights Are Not Enough - “I have become very thankful for sports highlights shows. In just a few minutes, I can watch all the best parts of the game and see who or which team has won in the end. A three hour baseball game can be consumed in just two minutes.” But what happens when we use this “highlights” approach for teaching our children?
It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves. --C.S. Lewis
April 5, 2013
Josh Harris slapped me across the face. He did it through his book Humble Orthodoxy and a little story that is adapted from the words of Jesus in Luke 18. He tells the story “to challenge those of us who trust in the rightness of our doctrine and look down on others.” In other words, people like me.
One day two men went to church to pray.
The first man was a shallow, uninformed evangelical. Everything about him shouted of squishy theology. He didn’t know or use big theological words. He watched Christian TV and thought it was deep. He bought books from the inspirational section of the bookstore. He attended one of those megachurches where the sermons are short and the worship leaders look like American Idol contestants.
The second man who went to pray was different. He was a Christian of theological depth and substance--this was obvious by the heavy study Bible he carried with him. He only read books by long-dead theologians. He subscribed to the podcasts of all the solid, gospel-centered expository preachers who didn’t tell funny stories or make jokes in their sermons. He felt cheated if a sermon was less than an hour long.
This second man began to pray. He said, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people--doctrinally ignorant, theologically clueless, superficial in their saccharine-sweet evangelicalism. I thank you that you have made me what I am: true to good doctrine, uncompromising on teaching, orthodox to the core.”
But the first man would not even look up to heaven. Instead he beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
He follows up with this application: “If you consider yourself a person who takes doctrine seriously, do you see yourself in this story? Has a humble gratefulness for God’s mercy been replaced by a pride in all that you know? Are you prone to have contempt or a sense of superiority toward those with less knowledge? I believe Jesus would confront our misplaced confidence just as he did the self-righteousness of the Pharisees in his day.”
This is just one of the reasons I intend to read the book on a regular basis…