Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


The Sabbath?

Another question, not mentioned in my previous post, involves the relationship of the Lord’s Day to the Sabbath command found in the Decalogue (Exod 20:8-11; Deut 5:12-15). While application of the Sabbath command to Christians today is an important topic for theological reflection, for the sake of space, discussion of the Sabbath will be bracketed in this series of blogposts. This series seeks to explore a question of what Christians are to do in regards to weekly worship, but not to fully explore why Christians are to worship (as will be argued) on one particular day in seven; if Lord’s Day worship can be established as normative for Christians on the basis of Revelation 1:10 and related texts, then further discussion may take place in different formats regarding whether Lord’s Day worship is established only on the basis of Christ’s work of redemption (specifically in His resurrection on the first day of the week and in His sending the Holy Spirit on the first day of the week), or whether Lord’s Day worship is also connected to older Sabbath patterns.

The Regulative Principle

The argument below is based upon a commitment to the regulative principle of worship. The regulative principle, an argument for which cannot be developed in this limited format, is itself based upon a particular theological understanding, as expressed by the elders of Grace Heritage Church in Auburn, Alabama:

Because the distance between God and His creatures is so great, the only acceptable way of approaching God in worship must be revealed to us by God Himself. Therefore, He may not be worshiped in ways invented by us. This principle protects us from idolatrous worship and focuses our energies on those activities through which God has called us to draw near.[1]

In the words of J. Ligon Duncan III, the regulative principle teaches that:

[T]here must be scriptural warrant for all we do. That warrant may come in the form of explicit directives, implicit requirements, the general principles of Scripture, positive commands, examples, and the things derived from good and necessary consequences.[2]

From the above quote, it is obvious that not all aspects of worship are regulated in the same way. As the Westminster Confession of Faith declares:

[T]here are some circumstances concerning the worship of God… which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the world. (1.6)

Now it is theoretically possible that setting aside a certain day (or days) for worship would be an issue left entirely to “Christian prudence.” But if, as argued in upcoming posts, there are examples from the New Testament regarding a particular day of worship and if there are compelling reasons found to understand a particular day of corporate worship being prescribed to the Christian community through “good and necessary consequences,” then— according to the regulative principle— we do not have the authority to change the day of worship based on matters of convenience.

[1]“What is the Philosophy of Worship that Unites Us?” accessed 29 July 2010; available from; Internet.

[2]J. Ligon Duncan III, “Does God Care How We Worship?” Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003), 23.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011


In Appendix D of his commentary on The Epistle to the Romans, John Murray addresses the question of whether Romans 14:5 eliminates the idea that the first day of the week has any special religious significance prescribed to it by the New Testament.[1] This question takes on particular significance today, as a number of congregations have begun to offer services on Saturday night or Friday night as an alternative to Sunday morning worship.[2] Some would seek to justify this practice from the Bible, denying the significance of Revelation 1:10 to a certain day of ongoing corporate worship for Christians, citing Romans 14:5 as proof that Christians can choose another day of the week on which to meet together for worship; for example, Jon Zens writes:

Many regard Sunday as the "Lord's Day" of Rev. 1:10, or isolate Sunday as a special day in the new covenant [era]... However, the key texts employed to substantiate Sunday worship (Rev. 1:10; Acts 20:7-11; I Cor. 16:1-3) do not provide an exegetical basis for dogmatism, and the identification of Sunday with the "Lord's Day" in Rev. 1:10 does not rest on evidence in the text itself.

The New Testament teaches that there are no "holy days" in the new age. Thus, a Christian can view every day as the same, or observe a day to the Lord (Rom. 14:5-6).[1]

The question of whether Romans 14:5 eliminates the necessity of the Lord’s Day as the proper day for Christian corporate worship gives rise to a host of interrelated questions, such as: Do the apostles distinguish the Lord’s Day from any other day as a particular memorial of the Lord’s resurrection? Is the first day of the week properly distinguished as the Lord’s Day in distinction from the way in which every day is to be lived in devotion to and service of the Lord Christ? In light of Romans 14:5, can any day at all be properly regarded as set apart with religious significance? Is weekly observance of a day commemorating our Lord’s resurrection a feature of one who is weak in faith? Should the person who regards the Lord’s Day as significant strive to attain the understanding that in the Christian institution all days are in the same category?[2] In my next few posts this week, I will seek to address these questions through careful attention to Revelation 1:10 and Romans 14:5.

[1]Jon Zens, “Some Practical Implications of Christ as our Ethical Starting Point,” As I Have Loved You, accessed 22 July 2010; available from; Internet. Tom Wells writes of Revelation 1:10 and Romans 14:5 in the same way, arguing that the reference to “the Lord’s Day” is ambiguous and that the day of worship may be changed according to “convenience.” Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel, New Covenant Theology (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2002), 251-257.

[2]Murray, 257.

[1]John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition, and Notes (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 257-259.

[2]For example, a quick Internet search revealed at least three congregations- Highview Baptist Church, Fegenbush Campus (, Southeast Christian Church (, and Highland Baptist Church ( that offer services earlier in the weekend as an alternative to Sunday services.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

"Farewell Rob Bell:" A "Dastardly" Or Apostle-like Response?

In response to the apparent universalism recently propounded by Rob Bell in the book Love Wins, John Piper responded on Twitter with what is being referred to in evangelical circles as "the Tweet heard 'round the world," writing simply: "Farewell Rob Bell." Doug Pagitt, a friend of Rob Bell, responded to Piper with the following video:

A transcript of the portion relevant to this blogpost follows:
...John Piper, who's a pastor at a church here in the Twin Cities, wrote a Tweet, and he said in his Tweet: "Farewell Rob Bell," in reference to this book and to this video.

Now, what was John doing there? Here's what I think: I think he was sending a message; I think he was sending a message-- not to Rob, because there's nothing for which he could say to Rob "farewell" about: they don't run in the same networks, they're not in the same groups; he can't kick him out of ANYTHING-- what was John saying? I think he was saying to his followers-- I think he was saying to the people in HIS network-- I think he was saying to the young 'reformers' that listen to his opinion: "If you listen to Rob Bell-- if you believe Rob Bell-- it will be farewell to YOU." I think he was saying: "Anyone who listens to Rob-- you will be OUTSIDE to me. I will say 'FAREWELL' to you."

So I think he was sending a message, and I think it's a DASTARDLY one. I think there's something really, really wrong about sending a message: "If you listen to that book, if you listen to those ideas, if you believe THAT, then it will be 'farewell' to YOU."

Now, I haven't asked John about this-- maybe he wants to respond-- but I think that's what he was up to: I think that's what was going on...
I disagree with Pagitt's overall assessment of Piper's "farewell" to Bell based on the Apostle Paul's words to the Galatian church as well as Paul's words to Timothy. I would also argue that, on closer inspection, Pagitt does not mean what he says.

First, I don't know that Piper was primarily thinking about his "followers" rather than about Rob Bell. Though Piper cannot "kick [Bell] out of ANYTHING," it seems to be the case that Piper believes Bell to have strayed far enough away from the gospel as to have fallen into heresy, and so the words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 1:8-9 would be applicable:

8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (ESV)

Piper's "farewell" may have been a lament that Bell has demonstrated himself to be in an "accursed" state.

Second, even if Piper was primarily thinking about his own "followers," and he was trying to deliver a warning to those individuals over whose thinking God has granted him some degree of influence, such an activity seems more 'apostle-like' than "DASTARDLY." The Apostle Paul warned Timothy, his pupil, not to give heed to "deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Tim 4:1; see 1 Tim 3:14-4:7); it is certain that if Timothy had rejected such an admonition, and had instead given heed to such things, he would have been "OUTSIDE" to Paul.

Finally, notice the message that Pagitt declares to be "DASTARDLY:" "If you listen to that book, if you listen to those ideas, if you believe THAT, then it will be 'farewell' to YOU." If that message is inherently "DASTARDLY," does that mean that there is no book, idea, or belief about which Pagitt would issue a statement like the one we read above in Galatians 1:8-9? What word would Pagitt have us give to someone who embraces an Arian view of Christ or a neo-Nazi view of race relations? Practically speaking, I can't imagine that every issue of theology and social justice is really up for constant open debate in Pagitt's clique. What Pagitt really believes is not that the message-- "If you listen to that book, if you listen to those ideas, if you believe THAT, then it will be 'farewell' to YOU"-- is inherently "DASTARDLY;" instead, he thinks that the issue over which Piper has drawn a line is not that important. But to admit this would shift the question away from whether Piper's statement was itself "DASTARDLY" to a question that Pagitt is both unwilling and unequipped to answer: namely, whether Bell is a universalist and whether universalism is really a heresy.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sermon Notes from Nahum 3:1-7, "Ninevah's Funeral Message (1)" by Tray Earnhart

[The following notes were taken at the 10:45AM service this morning at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. The sermon should soon be available to hear on-line HERE.]

Nahum 3:1-7

I. Introduction
A. God delivered a funeral sermon for Ninevah 30 to 40 years before the event.
B. God's judgment against the wicked will come to pass even if, from our perspective, it seems delayed:
1. Jeremiah 12:1
2. II Peter 3:9

II. The First Part of the Funeral Message for Ninevah: The Case Against Ninevah
A. The Charge Against Ninevah (Nah 3:1-4)
B. The Penalty Due to Ninevah (Nah 3:5-7)
C. Application:
1. America
a. Like Ninevah, America will NOT fall due to lack of military strength, BUT due to violence, greed, and immorality.
b. We will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-10).
2. Personal
a. Each of us have sowed according to the flesh and deserve to reap corruption (cf. Gal 6:8).
b. THEREFORE we must flee to Christ.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Discipline of Discernment, Chapter 2 (Study Notes)

[The following are my teaching notes for Chapter 2 of Tim Challies’ The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, which I am teaching through in a Sunday school at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. In the following outline, material placed in brackets represents material I have added for teaching.]

The Challenge of Discernment

I. Internal Influences

A. Jeremiah 17:9 [the natural state of Man after the Fall]

B. [Romans 7:21, the state of Christians, still plagued by the flesh]

II. Spiritual Influences

A. Satan questions the Word of God, Genesis 3:1.

B. Satan distorts the Word of God:

1. John 1:1 VS

2. John 1:1, New World Translation

C. But we are equipped for spiritual battle, Ephesians 6:13-18.

III. External Influences

A. Secular Worldview: Truth is viewed as a continuum, with a failure to clearly discern between good and evil.

B. A Low View of Scripture: The sufficiency of Scripture is undermined.

C. A Low View of Theology: The quest for truth about God is replaced by reliance on feelings and experiences.

D. A Low View of God: God’s holiness is ignored.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Notes on John 15:1-11.


1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

[The following observations concerning the above text were compiled with the help of a small group of Christians with whom Abby and I were studying the Bible this evening.]

I. The Father
A. The Father is the gardener, tending to the branches of the vine.
1. The Father cuts off the non-fruitbearing branches, which wither and are cast into the fire.
2. The Father prunes the fruitbearing branches, so that they bear more fruit.
B. The Father receives glory.
C. The Father loves the Son.
D. The Father issues commands.

II. The Son
A. The Son is the vine, bearing fruit through the branches [His followers].
B. The Son remains in those who remain in Him.
C. The Son reveals truth.
D. The Son receives love from the Father.
E. The Son loves His followers.
F. The Son gives joy to His followers.

III. The Followers of the Son
A. Followers of Jesus are branches:
1. being pruned by the Father (the gardener),
2. bearing fruit as we remain in:
a. the Son (the vine)/
b. the love of the Son (v. 10) [i.e., the Holy Spirit]
B. Followers of Jesus (those who remain in Him and have His words remaining in them) ask whatever we wish.
C. Followers of Jesus obey His commands.
D. Followers of Jesus experience His joy.

[When I first reviewed this Bible passage I was, due to the influence of an excellent book I have read, focused on the phrase, "apart from me you can do nothing." Abby pointed out that the key verse in this passage is, "This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples;" this verse provides a grounding for the previous paragraphs, and the following paragraph flows from this verse.]


Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Inclusivist's Reason for Missions: Your Best Life Now [?]

In his book Who Can Be Saved? Reassessing Salvation in Christ and World Religions Terrance Tiessen promotes a kind of inclusivism. In response to the question of why, if inclusivism is correct, Christians should send missionaries, Tiessen offers the following:

Although God may be saving people beyond the reach of the church’s gospel proclamation, he desires for them a fullness of life, here and now, that is impossible apart from full knowledge of Christ’s blessings and life in a community of followers of Jesus. (p. 259)

Tiessen believes that "God may be saving people beyond the reach of the church's gospel proclamation:" he expresses great optimism that people in other religions might be saved, but he writes that apart from faith in Christ [I almost typed "conscious faith in Christ," but that is surely a redundancy given the biblical definition of faith] people are missing out on "fullness of life, here and now." Therefore, Christians should send missionaries.

There is a certain sense in which it is true that faith in Christ does lead to a special fullness of of living in the present: Jesus speaks about abundant life in John 10:10 and He speaks about "here and now" blessings in Mark 10:29-30a. So there is a legitimate sense in which Jesus does offer 'your best life now.'

But look at the verses mentioned above. In John 10:10 Jesus says that He came that "they" [i.e., those who follow Him, as seen from the context] might have life and have it abundantly. There is a reason that Jesus orders His statement in the way He does; a person cannot have "it" [i.e., "life"] abundantly until he first has been given life. That is why Jesus first mentions the giving of life. And in Mark 10:29-30, Jesus ends His statement with a mention of eternal life for those who follow Him.

If it is true that these verses offer "fullness of life, here and now" to those who follow Christ, and that the blessings of abundance are not found outside of following Christ [for if they could also be found apart from following Christ, then we would still be left without a motive for sending missionaries at this point in Tiessen's argument], it is equally true that these verses offer life-- eternal life-- to those who follow Christ and that the blessings of eternal life are not found outside of following Christ. These things are consistently connected in Scripture: faith, life, and blessings; one cannot have the life without the faith or blessings.

On the other hand, a believer may go through seasons-- even prolonged seasons-- when the blessings of the gospel are obscured by present hardships. The Apostle Paul promises that "everyone who wishes to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim 3:12). Jesus speaks of grave hardships that will be faced by those who follow Him (see Matt 10:16-25). It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul writes, "If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied" (1 Cor 15:19 ESV). In the face of these sober warnings, the idea that Christians should send missionaries to improve the quality of life of people in other religions seems ludicrous.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Matthew 5:43-48 and God's Love for His Enemies (Part 4)

v. 45b, He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

When we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, it demonstrates that we are children of our heavenly Father. And how does love for enemies demonstrate the we are God's children? Jesus answers this question through a direct assertion concering the activity of the Almighty.

As noted before:

God sends rain even on the unrighteous ("rain" is considered a blessing, rather than a nuisance, in an agricultural society, where rainwater helps the crops to grow): God grants His enemies air, water, and food. God gives innumerable such blessings to all his enemies, when all that they deserve from Him is wrath. And to all of His enemies who trust in Jesus alone for salvation, God grants eternal life.

The quote from Jesus at the beginning of this post should not be taken in isolation. This quote comes in the first half of a book [i.e., the Gospel According to Matthew] that ends with Jesus giving His life as a ransom for many (cf. Matt 20:28). And this is the supreme way in which God has demonstrated love for His enemies: that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8).


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What is the eternal destiny of those who never hear the gospel? (3 Recommended Resources)

Recently, I have offered some articles on this blog that highlight the errors of the kind of inclusivism advocated by Rob Bell [see "Inclusivism"= The Death of Missions and Inclusivism Based on Anti-Biblical Assumptions].

The following are three of the best resources I've encountered regarding the issue of inclusivism, specifically in regard to the perennial question, "What is the destiny of those who never hear the gospel?"

What About Those Who Haven't Heard? is an interview of Christopher Morgan (the co-editor of Hell Under Fire) by Collin Hansen; this is mostly a survey of Historical Theology regarding the destiny of those who never hear the gospel.

Who Can Be Saved? A Review Article is a scholarly treatment of this question by Dr. Jim Hamilton of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Hamilton is specifically responding to the inclusivism of Terrance Tiessen.

The Man on the Island by Dr. Russell Moore is the best treatment of this subject I've encountered, as Moore examines the destiny of those who never hear the gospel with his characteristic, gospel-centered balance of scholarly precision and pastoral wisdom; this article is always in the side-bar of this blog under "Articles of Importance."


Monday, March 21, 2011

Diabolical Questions

When Rob Bell's promo video for Love Wins [which can be seen HERE] first came out, some defended Bell by saying, "Well, he's just asking questions."

(And this was typical of the Emergent Church Movement: to ask many leading questions.)

First and foremost: Christians should have remembered that the first words of the Tempter to humanity were delivered in the form of a question (Gen 3:1).

Dr. Jim Hamilton of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary also helped to expose the fallacy of thinking that questions are inherently neutral through the following monologue, written in the style of C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters. [The remainder of this post is quoted from Dr. Hamilton's blog; the original post can be seen HERE.]

In Defense of Rob Bell

A Guest Post by Bill Z. Bull

Are there not serious problems with this site, the views of its author, and is not the very title of this blog most offensive? What kind of person would take the perspectives articulated here? Is this my task, however, or should I not proceed to the burden of this post, the defense of one who has done so much good for our cause? Shall I, Bill Z. Bull, not take up the defense of Rob Bell?

You thought God told Adam not to eat of that tree? You thought he said that in the day he ate of it, dying he would die? Even if the collector of the foreskins did create this world (Really? He did? We have confirmation of this? Somebody knows this? Without a doubt?), would that give him the right to take it upon himself to make restrictions on what people could do? Even if he were so presumptuous, who is to say that he would ever follow through on his word? After all, did Adam die that day? What will you say, that we are to take Adam’s eventual death as proof that the one who claims omnipotence will do as he says? Would you consider that just? What does that mean, that this self-appointed judge is to be trusted?

Is there not a better way? Can we not imagine an arrangement we would prefer? Can we not invent a system that would be more palatable to people as sophisticated as ourselves? Would we not prefer to be led by one more like ourselves?

Should there not be a category for a ruler who, even if he said he was going to punish the opposition, would never actually do so? Would we have to conclude that such a magistrate were unworthy of trust? Could we not simply turn it into an interpretive issue? Would we not prefer one who would conduct the affairs of the universe more in the way that we ourselves would? Would we ourselves not alter the state of affairs in order to cast ourselves, for instance, in a better light? Would we not change the terms to our own advantage when necessary? Would not a ruler with such powers be preferable to one who would first presume to make rules and then be so impetuous as to enforce them?

Do I, Bill Z. Bull, not serve just the master I am describing?

Has not, in fact, the majority of the world’s population chosen to rule with us in our empire rather than serve the one who failed even to protect his own son? Does our majority not show that our cause will triumph? Shall we not prevail? More have chosen our way of thinking, does this not serve as proof that our views (however we may nuance them when the need arises, however they may “contradict” one another, and however “incoherent” they may appear on analysis) are in fact “true”? What, after all, is truth?

Shall I not come to the question that will vindicate Rob Bell once and for all?

Who defines love?

Shall we allow the one who claimed to create these predictable spheres, the one who failed to protect his own son, the one who claims to “keep his word” about punishing transgressors and then forgives those who “repent” (is that just?), shall we allow him to define this most important word, love? Would he not claim that if there were no justice mercy and love would have no meaning? Would he not explain that if he did not uphold his standards against those who refused to repent, he would be unworthy of trust, unrighteous himself, and unworthy of worship? Would he not claim some lame bromide about not despising broken spirits and contrite hearts?

Are we to believe that it would be unloving for justice to be abolished? Would we not prefer a world without justice? Are we to believe that it would be unloving for this so-called God to prove himself as unreliable as those who first took the bold step of crossing his so-called boundaries?

Has not Mr. Bell started down the right track with his questions? Has he not horns like a lamb, and yet has he not begun to speak like a dragon? Does there not appear to be the heart of a wolf under those clothes of a sheep? Have we not cause to take much pride in the steps he has begun to take?

Be honest, reader, do you not prefer the alternative vision cast here for you to the one articulated by the author of this site?

Do we not have sufficient evidence against this site’s author? Has not the author of this site claimed that hell glorifies God? How? Who would make such a claim? Has not the author of this site claimed that only those who trust in the executed criminal will be saved? What about those who never hear the gospel? Has this contemptible author not gone so far as to argue that the self-aggrandized one who claims even to sustain my own existence—me, Bill Z. Bull—glorifies himself most particularly in his displays of justice that would highlight, I spit the foul word: mercy?

Shall I not rest my case in favor of Rob Bell against all those who would hold the views espoused at a site such as this?

Do I not invite you to continue this conversation with me at Or could you not email me at


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sermon Notes from Nahum 2:3-13, "If God Be Against Us," by Tray Earnhart

[The following notes were taken at the 10:45AM service this morning at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. The sermon is available to hear on-line HERE.]

I. Introduction
A. Our society values:
1. Not offending anyone ever, even at the expense of truth;
2. Minority for the sake of minority.
B. Our society should value:
1. Not offending God;
2. Truth.
C. We must proclaim offensive parts of the gospel message:
1. Concerning Man: that we are not the center of the universe and that we are sinners;
2. Concerning Christ: that He died as a sacrifice bearing God's wrath against sinners.

II. Three Scenes of Ninevah's Destruction from Nahum 2:3-13
A. Gathering for Battle, Preparation and Panic (vv. 3-5; cross-reference: Zephaniah 2:13-15); application:
1. Could similar judgment come upon America? (We have been trying to ready a defense without consideration of the LORD.)
2. Could similar judgment come upon America's churches? (We have been trying to defend against the problems of secularism without proper consideration of the gospel.)
B. Devastation (vv. 6-10)
C. A Taunt from the LORD Against Assyria (vv.11-13)
1. The LORD declares that He is against Assyria (v. 13a).
2. This is in direct contrast with the declaration that God is FOR His people (Rom 8:31).

III. How Can You NOT Offend God?
A. Psalm 2:11-12.
B. 1 John 3:19-24.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Discipline of Discernment, Chapter 1 (Study Notes)

[Tomorrow, I begin leading a study of Tim Challies' Discipline of Spiritual Discernment in my Sunday school class at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. Below are my teaching notes. For the Sunday school class, I am focusing on the Scripture passages discussed in Challies' book. Page numbers in brackets refer to pages from the book where I have certain passages marked to read.]

Chapter 1: A Call to Discernment

I. Intro.: Solomon’s Request for Discernment

A. I Kings 3:6-9

1. Solomon’s humility: “I am but a little child.”

2. Solomon’s request: 1 Kings 3:9a.

3. 1 Kings 3:9: “understanding mind” (ESV) [“understanding heart” (KJV)]= “listening heart.”

4. The LORD reiterates and answers Solomon’s request: 1 Kings 3:11-12.

B. Psalm 72:1-4

II. The Curses That Accompany a Lack of Discernment:

A. Lack of Discernment Is Proof of Spiritual Immaturity (Heb 5:11-12a)

1. “About this we have much to say:” There is much the author of Hebrews would like to impart, and much the Hebrew Christians need to learn.

2. “And it is hard to explain:” The ‘hardness’ does not arise from the subject matter being obscure or difficult to understand.

3. “Become:” The Hebrew Christians are not “dull of hearing” due to their nature [the Christians who are being addressed have received a new nature], rather they have drifted away and have become dull of hearing.

4. “Dull of hearing:” The reason that the Hebrew Christians cannot receive in-depth teaching is not due to intellectual inferiority, but due to a spiritual lack.

5. “For though by this time:” The Hebrew Christians were not brand-new believers.

6. “You ought to be teachers:” Not necessarily pastors, but sufficient to explain to others the basics of the faith.

7. “You need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God:” The Hebrew Christians are not exercising a childlike (i.e., humble and trusting) faith, but a childish (i.e., immature) faith.

B. Lack of Discernment Is Proof of Backsliding (Heb 5:12b-14)

1. “You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child:” The picture is one of an unnaturally prolonged childhood; a child past infancy who could not handle sustenance other than milk alone would be weak and sickly.

2. “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil:” The “solid food” of more in-depth teaching is a long way off for the Hebrew Christians; they must engage in “constant practice” to train their “powers of discernment.”

C. Lack of Discernment Is Proof of Spiritual Death

1. Rom 1:28-32: focus on “foolish” [NKJV and HCSB, “undiscerning”] from Rom 1:31. [This word, asunetous, originally meant “uncompounded” in Classical Greek, and by the time of Koine Greek it was being used to mean “simple” as in “simple-minded,” hence “foolish.”]

2. 1 Cor 2:14: The “natural person” has a spiritual inability to practice discernment regarding the things of God.

[page 27]

III. Discernment Is Proof of Spiritual Life

A. Proverbs 9:10. “Insight”= “Discernment”

B. Ephesians 5:8-10. “Walk as children of light… proving what is well-pleasing to the Lord” [my translation]. In this passage, Paul commands the Ephesian church to “walk as children of light.” How are the Ephesians to do this? Basically, by practicing discernment. This command is given to those who were formerly darkness, but now have been made light in the Lord.

IV. Discernment Is Proof of Spiritual Growth

A. Mark 8:17-21. “Jesus scolded the disciples for not understanding, or discerning, what this miracle [the feeding of the multitude] pointed to [i.e., who Jesus is, what He would accomplish, and— in context— the fact that His Father would provide for His needs and the needs of His followers unto the accomplishment of that mission].”

B. Matthew 13:16-17. “In this case he commended his disciples for exhibiting a level of spiritual maturity.”

V. Discernment Is Proof of Spiritual Maturity (Heb 5:14)

[page 30]

VI. The Deposit [i.e., the deposit of the gospel message, pages 32-34]

A. 1 Tim 6:20.

B. 2 Tim 1:14.

VII. The Call (Prov 2:1-5)

A. “We are to incline our hearts to discernment and cry out for it.”

B. “Proverbs 2 is a father’s call to his son to embrace and treasure discernment.”

VIII. Key Thought [page 35]

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Friday, March 18, 2011

The Apostle's Teaching re: Divorce

10But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband 11(but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.

12But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. 14For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. 15Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. 16For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Cor 7:10-16 NASB)


One striking, unusual feature of this passage is the "not I, but the Lord... I say, not the Lord" language that Paul employs. In using this language, Paul is not asserting that the first part of his teaching is under divine authority while the second part is under his own (lesser) authority. Rather Paul, in referring to the "Lord," is specifically writing about the Lord JESUS; the term "Lord" in the Pauline epistles, especially in instances when Paul is not quoting from the Old Testament, generally refers to the Person of Jesus, in distinction from the Father (see, for example, 1 Cor 8:6). When Paul writes, "Not I, but the Lord," he means to direct his readers to Jesus' teaching re: divorce; Paul basically reiterates His Lord's 'no' in regards to divorce. If a couple does get divorced (one can think of some highly unusual situations in which divorce would seem the only option), then they should either remain unmarried or be reconciled.

[I would argue, primarily based on the teaching of Jesus, but also on some other considerations, that once one member of the formerly married couple has either re-married-- in disobedience to the biblical command-- or has begun engaging in sexual immorality-- one thinks of the situation in which one former spouse moves in with his or her girlfriend or boyfriend-- then the other person is free to remarry: see the article from John MacArthur HERE.]

Hard Sayings of the Bible notes:
Thus, after appealing to the direct teaching of Jesus regarding the sanctity and permanence of marriage as intended by the Creator, Paul goes on... to apply the implications of that divine intention to the complex situation of marriages between believers and unbelievers. The thrust of the passage makes it difficult, if not impossible, to assume that Paul intended his words to convey a lessened sense of authority. (591)
Sometimes Bible teachers speak or write as if Paul is adding an additional exception to Jesus' prohibition of divorce: i.e., the idea that, 'Jesus prohibits divorce except for immorality, whereas Paul adds *abandonment* as a reason that a couple may get divorced.' Notice, though, that in verses 10-13 Paul is directing couples to stay together in the first place and to seek reconciliation if a divorce does take place. Just as Jesus primarily addresses those who may initiate divorce, Paul addresses believers, and tells them not to get divorced from their unbelieving spouses, so that both the spouses and their children may receive some benefit of sanctification through the believer.

However, Paul answers a specific question not raised in the earlier Gospel text: i.e., 'what if my unbelieving spouse, who does not care about the teachings of the Lord and His apostles, initiates a divorce against me?' Paul counsels: "let him [the unbelieving spouse, seeking a divorce] leave." In other words: do not engage in a long, drawn out battle of emotions and law trying to prevent the divorce from occurring; instead, act in a peaceable, Christlike manner so that you may become a means by which God saves your [former] spouse.

Application: The Need for Biblical Church Discipline

The text under consideration speaks about believers with unbelieving spouses. The situation becomes much more ambiguous, however, when the person leaving his spouse claims to be a believer. And this is where biblical church discipline is so desperately needed. The New Testament consistently assumes-- from Jesus' statements about wolves in sheep's clothing and "by their fruit you will recognize them" (Matt 7) in the first New Testament book to the warnings in Revelation about false teachers in the last New Testament book-- that some people in the congregation will claim to be believers, and even reach positions of leadership, yet they will turn out to be unbelievers. In the matter of divorce, a professing believer may choose to disregard 1 Cor 7:11b (i.e., "that the husband should not divorce his wife"). In doing so, he has sinned against his sister in Christ, and the discipline process outlined by Jesus in Matthew 18:15-20 should begin. If the professing brother remains unwilling to listen to correction once the full discipline process is completed, then he should no longer be considered a brother, but should "be to [the Church] as a Gentile and a tax collector" (Matt 18:17); in this case, it becomes clear that the abandoned Christian spouse was married to an unbeliever, and therefore she [or he, if the situation is reversed] is to seek wisdom from 1 Cor 7:12-16.

[P.S. The person who has undergone the process of church discipline to its fullest extent may still object and say, "Well, I know in my heart that I am still a Christian," but such a one should consider the words of Jesus to His Church Matt 18:18, properly translated, "Truly
, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." In context, the purpose of Jesus' words is to assure His followers that when His teaching regarding the discipline process has been carefully followed, the decision of the Church concerning the wayward member's spiritual state is reflective of God's view of the situation.]


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dorothy Sayers Classical School

[I post the following especially for any SBTS students or alumni who might be reading this. I really believe in what Dorothy Sayers Classical School is doing, and think that it is a great place to work. Hopefully, by posting this, I'm not giving away my job.]

Do you have a passion for teaching? Do you have a passion for a particular subject area? Do you have experience in a particular field? Dorothy Sayers Classical School is accepting resumes for teachers for the 2011-2012 school year. A state teaching certification is not required. Interested? Learn more about the opportunities at DSCS by attending the informational reception at SBTS on the following date:

Date: Thursday, March 31

Time: 12:00pm to 4:00pm

Place: Legacy Center 301.

Positions available in the following subjects:

1st-4th core classes (phonics, math, grammar…)

math (middle school, algebra, pre-calculus, calculus)

writing/literature (middle school, high school, senior thesis)

history (high school)

science (middle school, biology, chemistry, anatomy, physics)




child care


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Enlightening Parody of Bell Video

A parody can be a useful tool for showing how an argument is self-contradictory or for showing how the same form of reasoning used in one argument can lead to an entirely different conclusion.

Recently, Jeremy Grinnell, an associate professor at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, has offered what I consider to be an enlightening parody of Rob Bell's promotional video for Love Wins.

If you have not seen the video for Love Wins, you can watch it HERE (without viewing the video, the parody will make little sense).

Grinnell's parody, called "Justice Wins," follows:

Several years ago I was touring a holocaust museum, and I was deeply moved the images of suffering and inhuman brutality that I saw there. And near the end of the tour on the wall was a picture of Hitler standing in front of the Eifel Tower in Paris. I and many who were with me were struck by the idea of Hitler enjoying the beauties of Paris while at the same moment one of the greatest genocides the world has ever known was being carried out on his orders.

But apparently not everyone saw it exactly the same way

Sometime in the previous few hours, somebody had attached a hand written note to the picture, and on the note they had written, “It’s okay because God forgave Hitler too.”

God forgave Hitler?

He did?

And someone knows this for sure?

And felt the need for the rest of us to know?

Do the most evil and unrepentant people in history, remaining what they are, still make it to heaven?

And what of those who aren’t quite so evil as that—Child molesters, racists, drug lords.

And what of the rest of us who only yell at our children, cut people off on the highway, and cheat on our taxes?

And what makes our evil less and Hitler’s more?

Is it the number of people you hurt? Or how badly? Or whether anyone else knows? Or whether you meant to?

And what if you’re the one who was molested or your loved ones murdered because of their ethnicity?

And then there’s the question behind the question?

The real question… What is God like?

Because millions and millions were taught that the primary message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that God is willing to forgive everybody no matter who they are or what evils they’ve committed against the rest of us.

So what gets subtly sort of caught and taught is that God is willing to forgive the perpetrators of evil, regardless of whether or not their victims ever see justice. That God is willing to let slide things that we mustn’t.

But what kind of God is that?

Can a God so uninterested in justice be good?

How can that God ever be trusted?

How could that ever be…good…news?

This is why lots of people want nothing to do with the Christian faith.

They see it as an endless list of absurdities and inconsistencies, and say, “why would I ever want to be a part of that?”

See what we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about who God is and what God is like.

What you discover in the bible is so surprising, and unexpected, and beautiful, that whatever we’ve been told or taught, the good news is even better than that, better than we can ever imagine.

It means pure and perfect justice, no wrong accusations, no punishments that don’t fit the crime, no hidden motives, no unaccounted pains or sorrows. But overflowing compensation for anyone who’s ever been hurt or betrayed.

The good news is that “justice wins.”

[Grinnell's parody of Bell's video originally appeared HERE.]


Monday, March 14, 2011

Inclusivism Based on Anti-Biblical Assumptions

Yesterday, in a review of Love Wins by Rob Bell, Denny Burk includes some direct quotes from Bell that describe Bell's inclusivism [some have labeled Bell a universalist, because in his inclusivistic view, he seems to say that eventually-- whether in this life or the afterlife-- everyone is included in Heaven]:

“What [Jesus] doesn’t say is how, or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through him. He doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him” (Bell, Love Wins, 154).

“There is inclusivity. The kind that is open to all religions, the kind that trusts that good people will get in, that there is only one mountain, but it has many paths. This inclusivity assumes that as long as your heart is fine or your actions measure up, you’ll be okay” (p. 155).

The last phrase is key: "This inclusivity assumes that as long as your heart is fine or your actions measure up, you'll be okay."

I. The Bible teaches, contra the assumptions of Bell's inclusivism, that apart from a work of God -- a work performed by means of His gospel: a work that inevitably leads to faith in Christ -- my heart and your heart is NOT fine. The Bible is consistent in this:

A. Before the Great Deluge: "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Gen 6:5 ESV)
B. After the Deluge had subsided: "he intention of man's heart is evil from his youth." (Gen 8:21b ESV)
C. During the time of the prophets: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer 17:9 KJV)
D. During the ministry of Jesus: "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." (Matt 15:19 NKJV)

->This "heart problem" is why we need God's New Covenant work, by which he removes our old heart and gives us a new heart (Eze 11:19; 36:26). God's promise to give new hearts to His people comes in the context of freeing us from idolatry (Eze 11:18; 36:25), so the inclusivist has no grounds for saying that people following other religions may similarly be given new hearts.

II. The Bible teaches, contra the assumptions of Bell's inclusivism, that our actions, flowing from our sin-corrupted hearts, DON'T measure up:

A. Works-- even the best of works: the works of the law-- will not save anyone; God prescribes good works (at least primarily) to bring knowledge of sin: "because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin." (Rom 3:20 NASB)
B. The Law (that only list of works that even has some appearance of being salvific) requires PERFECT obedience: "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (Jas 2:10 NIV)
C. We have all fallen short of God's holy standard: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Rom 3:23 HCSB)
D. When people are actually saved, it is by faith, not by works: "For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God's gift— not from works, so that no one can boast." (Eph 2:8-9 HCSB)

->We are not "okay" because our actions do NOT measure up. Further human actions are not the means that God has ordained to make up the deficit so that we can be "okay" in God's sight; seeking to gain God's favor through our actions will only further expose our sinful condition. We need God's grace; we need Him to grant us salvation through faith apart from works. This salvation from God leaves no room for boasting so that God alone receives all the glory.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Our Lord in the Womb

Luke 1:39-44 (ESV):

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

There is no Bible text that says, exactly, "life begins at conception."
And yet there are Bible passages that make little sense if life beginning at conception is not true;
one such passage is quoted above.

Some notable phrases from this passage:

"In those days:" In the days immediately following the angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary concerning the fact that she would conceive and bear a son called "Jesus" (Luke 1:26-38). Jesus was apparently newly conceived in Mary's womb.

"the baby leaped in her womb:" Elizabeth's baby, in the womb, engages in personal action due to the presence of the Person in Mary's womb.

"the mother of my Lord:" Prior to Jesus' birth, and close to the time He was conceived, Mary was already recognized as His mother.

To have dismembered either the "fruit of [Mary's] womb" or the leaping baby in Elizabeth's womb would have certainly been murder.

The Bible clearly teaches continuity of personhood from the baby in the womb (even the newly conceived baby in the womb) with the newly born child and the fully grown adult. The Jesus that Mary carried in her womb a short time after Gabriel's announcement is the same Jesus whom she laid in a manger, the same Jesus who died on the Cross, and the same Jesus who rose on the third day.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Inclusivism"=The Death of Missions

Earlier today, Kevin DeYoung gave an excellent exegetical argument from John 14:6 arguing that, especially in the context of the entire Gospel of John, Jesus certainly taught the necessity of faith in Him for salvation. [See DeYoung's post HERE.]

In the comment section of DeYoung's blogpost mentioned above, someone called "Spera in Deo" has been attempting to defend inclusivism. Spera defines inclusivism as "Hope for the Heathen" and explains the inclusivist view of what Jesus taught as follows:

Hope for the Heathen Jesus (HHJ): Jesus believed that while God would save some A.D. adults [adults living after the coming of Christ] who do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God (perhaps because they never even heard the gospel message), he also believed that the only way for an A.D. adult who heard the gospel message to be saved by God is for that adult to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

I responded to the above comment from Spera with the following:

Doesn’t this thinking inevitably lead to the conclusion that the LAST thing that Christians would want to do is to go on missions to tell “unreached” people the gospel message? Because under the model you have proposed, it is only once the “A.D. adult” has heard the gospel message that his or her options for salvation are narrowed down to the exclusive way in Christ. And those who have never before heard the gospel would seem far more likely to reject this teaching and stick with their own system of belief (under which they might have been saved if they hadn’t heard the gospel, according to the inclusivist), therefore the “good news” wouldn’t be the only hope of salvation as much as the unique source of damnation.
If those who have not yet heard the gospel may be saved under their own belief system-- the belief system (in all likelihood) of their countless ancestors, the belief system in which they may very well find a high degree of comfort and assurance-- as long as they do not know about the Jesus they are missing, then the gospel becomes very bad news indeed.

But the truth is that we are all by nature children under wrath (Eph 2:1), rebels against our Creator, and subject to the punishment of Hell. The reason the gospel is "good news" is because out of this hopeless situation God in Christ has provided redemption through His perfect life, death, burial, and resurrection on behalf of sinners.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Dr. Russell Moore on Adoption, Election, and the Witness of the Spirit from "Adopted for Life" (Compilation)

The Witness of the Indwelling Spirit


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Dr. Russell Moore on the Doctrine of the Witness of the Indwelling Spirit from "Adopted for Life"

[In the following passage from Chapter 2 of Adopted for Life, Dr. Russell Moore gives a brief outline of a Biblical Theology concerning the testimony of the Spirit: in David, in Israel, and in Christ. Dr. Moore then speaks of the Spirit in the lives of believers; he clears up some common misconceptions about the testimony of the indwelling Spirit, and he shows how the Spirit functions in adoption.]

So how do you know you're a part of this household? [i.e., "God's household"] The Spirit of God is there.

The Spirit, after all, is the One in the Old Testament who marks out who the king is: the anointed one, called by God, His son. That's how you know that David is king and Saul isn't anymore. It's not by the royal entourage or the title or the office; Saul has all these things for a long time after he's rejected as king. It's the presence of the Spirit on David: a Spirit who empowers him to behead giants and sing songs of praise.

The Spirit also marks out who Israel is: the children of promise, raising them from the dead and announcing them as the heirs of God (Eze 37:13-14).

When the flesh can't reproduce a deliverer for the human race, the Spirit overshadows a virgin's uterus and conceives a new humanity (Luke 1:35). The Spirit descends on Jesus at His baptism as God's voice proclaims His acceptance of His beloved Son (Matt 3:17). When Jesus is raised from the dead by the power of the Spirit, God declares Him to be the Son of God in power (Rom 1:4).

If you're united to Christ, then that same Spirit rests on you (1 Pet 4:14). You share in His anointing (1 John 2:20,26-27). To have the Spirit doesn't necessarily mean that you feel especially spiritual. It just means that you agree with God that Jesus is Lord and that that's good news (1 Cor 12:3). And it mean that you agree with Jesus that our Father is in Heaven and that we can trust Him (Matt 6:9). The Spirit Himself, Paul tells the Romans, bears witness with our spirit that we are children with God (Rom 8:16). This isn't some giddy, emotional experience: a comforting whisper in our consciences that we are of Christ. The Spirit simply points us to Jesus and identifies us with Him.

Because we share the Spirit with Jesus, we cry out with Him to the same Father (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). And since what unites us to Jesus is His Spirit, not our flesh, we share a common family with all those who have the Spirit resting on them. Since there's one Spirit, there's also one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Eph 4:5-6). That's adoption: we're part of a brand-new family, a new tribe, with a new story, a new identity.


Monday, March 07, 2011

Matthew 5:43-48 and God's Love for His Enemies (Part 3)

v. 45a, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

Why should we love our enemies? Jesus gives the answer to this question above.

It is clear, especially from the wider context of the Gospel accounts and the New Testament teachings as a whole, that love for enemies does not cause us to be children of the heavenly Father. Otherwise, one who did not believe in Jesus, or whose life was characterized by all kinds of sin, would have to be considered a son of God merely on the basis of love for enemies; but this is certainly contrary what Jesus says in other places (for example: John 3:18 and Rev 21:8).

Love for enemies, instead, demonstrates that we are children of our heavenly Father. In Matthew 5:43-48, this is the clearest connection found between our love for enemies and God's love for His enemies: if, according to Jesus, when we love our enemies, we are shown to be the children of God, we must conclude that God loves His enemies in a similar way to how we are commanded to love our enemies. Otherwise, love for our enemies would in no way demonstrate that we are like God: that we resemble Him as His children.


Sunday, March 06, 2011

Sermon Notes from Nahum 1:1-8, "An Avenging God of Mercy (2)" by Tray Earnhart

[The following notes were taken at the 10:45AM service this morning at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. The audio should soon be available to hear on-line HERE. Last week, Tray focused on seeing God in His wrath from Nahum 1:1-6; this week, Tray focused on Nahum 1:7-8.]

I. Nahum 1:7
A. The LORD is good.
B. The LORD is a stronghold.
C. The LORD knows His people:
1. (Cross-reference: John 10.)
2. The LORD not only knows His people, but He takes pleasure in His people (Psa 147).
D. The statements about God in this passage are in direct contrast with what we know about Man; God alone is good and a stronghold.

II. Nahum 1:8
A. The tsunami: an analogy of what God's wrath.
B. Those who do not take refuge in God will face utter destruction.
C. (Cross-reference: Rev 21:8.)

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Saturday, March 05, 2011

Dr. Russell Moore on the Doctrine of Election from "Adopted for Life"

[In the following passage from Chapter 2 of Adopted for Life, Dr. Russell Moore does the best job I've ever heard-- I'm listening to it on audiobook-- elucidating the importance of the doctrine of election to the doctrine of adoption.]

The Gentile Christians in the early churches must have wondered what they were doing following after this Jewish king from somebody else's religion. Had they wandered accidentally into somebody else's covenant? Were they clinging to some kind of exception clause to God's main purpose with Israel? Were they parasites on the promises of God? Some of the Jewish believers-- those with consciences sensitive enough to see how uncircumcised their hearts could be too-- must have wondered something similar. Don't you know what that feels like? To wonder if you're an accidental visitor awkwardly standing in the corner of a party to which you've not been invited? What if our whole lives are like that? What if we're in the kind of situation described by humorist Jack Handey when he writes, "The crows seem to be calling his name, thought Caw" ?

This fear is exactly why the New Testament ties our adoption to God's purpose in election. We were known beforehand, the Bible says, predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers (Rom 8:29). In love, the text says, He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ (Eph 1:4-5). Paul tells us that we have not only come to know God, but rather that we have come to be known by God (Gal 4:9).

Now, I realize that the mention of words like "election" and "predestination" are making some of you tense up right now. And I understand why. But it's really not a scary concept. All Christians believe in election and predestination; these are Bible words, after all. We sometimes disagree about how God's purpose fits with other things that the Bible reveals... We often have different opinions about the finer points of this mystery. And we can live together with some tension here. It's important to know that nothing about the biblical doctrine of election is meant to cast doubt on whether you're welcome in God's household... Instead, the doctrine of election tells us that all of us who have come to know Christ are here on purpose. God was looking for us, He rejoices in us, and He cries out, "I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me; I said, 'Here am I, here am I' to a nation that was not called by My name" (Isa 65:1). That's all of us: you and me. There's freedom in that and a liberated sense of belonging.

[A related post is found HERE.]


Friday, March 04, 2011

Dr. Russell Moore on the Doctrine of Adoption from "Adopted for Life"

[With so many systematic theologies and confessions of faith published by Christians throughout the centuries, what work is there left for a theologian to do? One endeavor that is, I believe, beneficial to the Church as a whole is when theologians devote themselves to a fresh, thoroughly biblical examination of doctrines that have been under-emphasized in other writings. Part of what Dr. Russell Moore accomplishes in Adopted for Life is just this: Dr. Moore elucidates and systematically presents the doctrine of adoption found in the pages of Scripture. In the following short passage from Chapter 2-- which I've picked almost at random because there is so much gold here-- Dr. Moore explains some results of God's adopting work.]

The Spirit is continually telling the people of Christ that they-- excuse me, that WE-- are blessed in Christ through adoption (Eph 1:3-5). We are all Abraham's children because Jesus is (Gal 3:28-29). Perhaps we were, at one time, Gentiles, but we aren't part of the uncircumcised order anymore (Eph 2:11). We are all now fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph 2:19). We are to exchange our old self for the new self created after the likeness of God (Eph 4:22-24). We are now brothers (Rom 8:12).


Thursday, March 03, 2011

Dr. Russell Moore on Adoption, Election, and the Witness of the Spirit from "Adopted for Life" (Introduction)

Recently, Adopted for Life was available as a free audiobook, and so I downloaded and am listening to it. (I found out about the free offer just a few hours before it was over, through a Facebook update I saw from my friend Robbie Sagers.) Giving away this book was like giving away pure gold. One of the very best parts of this exceptional book (in the opinion of this seminary graduate) is in Chapter 2, when Dr. Moore is explaining the related topics of adoption, election, and the indwelling Spirit. In the next few days I hope to post a few excerpts from this Dr. Moore's God-glorifying, joy-promoting teaching.


Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Reasons to stand for life on Saturday mornings

Every Saturday morning in Louisville from 7AM to about 9AM a group of believers in Jesus stands outside the abortion clinic on 2nd and Market to pray, preach the gospel, and provide counsel for anyone who will listen.

Last Saturday, however, I woke up feeling ill and so I was slow getting out the door. (I thought that it would probably be a bad witness if I showed up and vomited all over the sidewalk.) By the time I got downtown, all parking spaces were gone due to some kind of roadrace that was taking place. As I drove past the clinic, I prayed for my brothers and sisters standing outside the clinic, and I thought to myself that I would continue to pray when I got home.

But when I got home, I felt better and so I cooked breakfast for my family, barely giving any thought to the death mill.

(And I probably won't be able to go to the abortion clinic this coming Saturday morning either, since Abby is scheduled to work at the hospital and I will need to be home with the children.)


Perhaps you are a Christian in Louisville reading this post. Unless you have some obligation that absolutely prevents you from doing so, I would encourage you to join our brothers and sisters on Saturday mornings. You may think to yourself, "Well, I don't have to get up early on Saturday and go stand in the cold, I can pray just as easily and effectively in the comfort of my own home." I would argue that by taking such a view, you would be robbing yourself of a number of blessings.

1. You will miss an opportunity to pray fervently for life.

Last Saturday morning I drove by the abortion clinic and saw what was taking place outside. I saw women being rushed in to the clinic by the orange-vested "escorts" who volunteer for the death mill. I saw the posters placed by protesters: posters that show the grisly pictures of the dismemberment that takes place inside the mother's womb when an abortion is performed on a baby. I saw my friends outside praying, proclaiming the gospel, and pleading with mothers to make a different choice. And yet when I got home I quickly forgot all that and barely said a prayer or two in regards to the spiritual battle taking place just a few miles away. You who are reading this post, especially if you have never been in a situation such as the one I just described, will also quickly forget these words. You will NOT stand and call out to God for two hours, that He would end the evil of legalized child murder. But standing on the corner of 2nd and Market this Saturday morning, you may do just that.

Our omniscient and omnipotent Father knows what we need before we ask Him (cf. Matt 6:8), and I have called out to God in sudden distress and have seen Him immediately answer my prayers. On the other hand, the LORD normally is pleased to answer our prayers only after intense seasons of persistent prayers; we see this in the Jesus' admonition to "keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking," and in His parable concerning the persistent widow (see Luke 18:1-8). We who believe that abortion is murder and who believe that God answers prayer should eagerly accept an opportunity to stand and pray for life.

2. You will miss an opportunity to preach the gospel.
It is only by faith that a person comes to be counted as righteous in God's sight (Rom 4). This faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the message about Christ (Rom 10:17). Every Christian is to seek the opportunity to proclaim the message about Christ (summarized in passages such as 1 Cor 15:1-4) to those who have not yet come to faith, in the hope that people might believe and be saved from the punishment that they deserve due to their sins (Jude 23).

Christians in Louisville: perhaps you already have plans to preach the gospel this Saturday morning from 7AM to about 9AM at a venue other than 2nd and Market, and if so, then God bless your efforts. But I doubt that you do have such plans. So I ask you not to miss this opportunity to proclaim the gospel hope outside of the abortion clinic- a place where true hope is so desperately needed- this Saturday.

3. You will miss an opportunity to persuade mothers to choose life.

Most mothers entering the abortion clinic seem to have already firmly made up their minds that they will go through with having their babies killed. And the abortion clinic "escorts" make sure that the mothers are hurried into the death mill as quickly as possible, so that we often do not have the chance to speak with them. The great majority of the efforts to save lives at the abortion clinic seem entirely frustrated. In the times that I have stood outside the abortion clinic, I have seen maybe two women go from the abortion clinic into A Woman's Choice Resource Center, and I have only heard a handful of 'success stories' from my brothers and sisters who engage in sidewalk counseling, seeking to persuade women not to go through with abortion. But each of these 'success stories' represents a life: a life that would have been torn apart in the womb. By God's grace, if you show up on Saturday mornings at the abortion clinic, you may be a part of saving lives.

4. You will miss an opportunity to face persecution.

Christians in Louisville: this Saturday morning from 7AM to about 9AM you could [1] sleep in, relax in the comfort of your home, and spend time sitting in a cozy chair reading the Bible or another improving book. Or you could [2] come stand in the chilly air and be cursed at, ridiculed, shoved, lied about (possibly to the police or media), and you may have water thrown on you, all for seeking to tell people about hope in Christ. Choosing the first option may seem a no-brainer, except for the words of Jesus:

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt 5:10-12)

America is still a tolerant enough society that Christians can live most of our lives hardly receiving a sideways glance for believing in Christ, but Jesus promises blessings to those who suffer persecution on His behalf, and the faithful will not be quick to miss out on these blessings due to a desire for personal comfort.

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