Drinking Deeply

Monday, July 31, 2006 at 2:54 PM

On Drinking

You know, even though my blog is entitled "drinking deeply," I've never posted on drinking alcohol before. Well, time to break that tradition.

The following is an edited comment posted in response to a friend's post advocating abstainance from drinking and smoking. It adequately summarizes my position on drinking. In short, I believe drinking is not a sin (but drunkeness is), simply because the Bible doesn't call it such. There does seem to be a biblical place for godly enjoyment of all that God has given us, which includes wine and fermented drink.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I’m blessed and encouraged that people are willing to use a medium which is often filled with frivolous thoughts for the glory of God. That said, I must respectfully disagree with your position.

The primary reason why I don’t agree with your assertion that “if you are a Christian, especially one in leadership in the Church, smoking and drinking, whether privately or socially, are a sin,” is because I don’t see evidence of such in the Bible.

I would like to disagree primarily with the issue of “drinking,” leaving smoking for later, but I think much of what is said regarding drinking can also be said regarding smoking.

To begin with, I think it’s important to separate drinking from drunkenness. One of them is not spoken of, the other is sinful. You define drinking as that “which is the continuous consumption of alcohol without a worthy purpose,” but you argue against even “moderation for physical, social, and economical reasons, among others” as unworthy. I’m not entirely sure that characterization is supported by Scripture. I will agree that much of what alcohol does is detrimental to society, but just because something may have a negative impact when it’s abused doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be used at all.

In the Bible, wine is talked of as a gift, Deut. 14:26; Ps. 104:15. Jesus came “eating and drinking” and people called him a glutton and a drunkard. Jesus turned water into wine at a dinner party. Yes, there are commands against drunkenness, and Jesus didn’t break any of them. But there isn’t a command against drinking in the Bible, and to say that it’s sinful anywhere and always for Christians to drink seems to go against the actions of Christ himself.

To honor God with our body requires primarily honoring God with our minds. While I am in agreement that much of alcohol abuse dishonors God, I don’t think it’s appropriate to say that even a taste of alcohol is dishonoring to God. After all, if that were the case, Jesus would not have used wine as part of the Lord’s Supper. It is primarily the mind (in spirit and in truth) that we honor God, and we do that by calling what is good, “good”, and what is evil, “evil.”

Regarding the command to be “above reproach,” that is an appropriate thing to cite for Christians, but it in itself does not make drinking sinful, but it may make drinking culturally inappropriate. Namely, because of the culture, people who drink are looked down upon, then it would behoove us to be “under the law in order to win those under the law.” But on the same token, if there is no such push in the culture, then there is no argument.

Thus I would agree with your argument – it is inappropriate to cause others to stumble, but I would disagree with your conclusion, “In short, even a small puff of smoke or a tiny sip of alcohol is a dangerous sin.” It’s only a sin if it causes someone else to stumble, as your argument establishes.
What I want to caution you about is the dangerous sin of legalism, speaking where the Bible is silent. Piper says it far better than I would when he gives a sermon on a proposed amendment to his church constitution that formerly required total abstinence from alcohol. A brief excerpt:
Legalism is a more dangerous disease than alcoholism because it doesn't look like one.

· Alcoholism makes men fail; legalism helps them succeed in the world.

· Alcoholism makes men depend on the bottle; legalism makes them self-sufficient, depending on no one.

· Alcoholism destroys moral resolve; legalism gives it strength.

· Alcoholics don't feel welcome in church; legalists love to hear their morality extolled in church.

Therefore, what we need in this church is not front end regulations to try to keep ourselves pure. We need to preach and pray and believe that "Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, neither teetotalism nor social drinking, neither legalism nor alcoholism is of any avail with God, but only a new creation (a new heart)" (Gal. 6:15; 5:6). The enemy is sending against us every day the Sherman tank of the flesh with its cannons of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. If we try to defend ourselves or our church with peashooter regulations we will be defeated even in our apparent success. The only defense is to "be rooted and built up in Christ and established in faith" (Col. 2:6); "Strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for all endurance and patience with joy" (Col. 1:11); "holding fast to the Head from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together … grows with a growth that is from God" (Col. 2:19). From God! From God! And not from ourselves.

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at 12:44 PM

Crowns (5) - Christ our work

The remaining passage that deals specifically with the term "crowns" is in Revelation 4. As I currently don't know whether it is something that is actively happening, something that will happen (like in the world, 24 nations will bow to Chris), or if the elders sitting on the thrones are actually people who've lived on earth or what, I'm going to leave that one up to the individual and take a look at other passages that deal with treasures and rewards.

There are a number of passages that can serve to highlight the idea of treasures and rewards in heaven.

There are a number of passages in the Sermon on the Mount, which speak of rewards in heaven. Store up your treasures in heaven. Give to the needy and the Father who sees in secret will reward you.

There are passages that speak of "as you sow, so shall you reap." Galatians 6:6-10, 2 Cor. 9:6-7

There is also Matthew 19:29, which speaks of gaining a hundredfold for giving up parents, family, life and so forth, for the sake of Jesus Christ.

There is also the faith in God who rewards: Hebrews 11:6

Even though these passages speak of rewards, I don't think these passages teach that there are different rewards for believers who obey more or less. Rather, I see them as reminding us of the Law and the need of Jesus Christ.

Namely, I see them as all part of the Law, bringing us to death and despair. We hear the words of Christ saying "you cannot serve both God and money" and we fall to our knees, confessing that we actually do serve money and all other sorts of false Gods.

And the Law (which is good) points us to the Gospel, which tells us that "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."(2 Cor. 5:20-21)

1 Peter 2:24
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Namely, I'm talking about "double imputation" here. Imputation is a "placing upon" and in this context, our sins are imputed to Christ. He bore our sins and took our punishment. At the same time, His righteousness was imputed to us. We now share in His perfect obedience, so that when God looks upon us, he sees "perfect."

I'm not saying that there aren't such rewards, but that these passages do not teach it. Stay tuned.

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Friday, July 28, 2006 at 4:08 PM

Crowns (4) - Christ our boast

Another group of the verses I listed earlier are those with Paul speaking of a church (or body of believers) as his crown and boast.
Philippians 4:1
Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!

1 Thessalonians 2:19
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?
For the purposes of the question, it's easy to see that these verses do not support an additional reward or crown for those who do certain things, but rather speak of Paul boasting in the churches he has planted.

But this does bring up an issue that was my first instinct when confronted with the concept of crowns, and one that I'd like to address here.

The issue is the objection, "if there were additional rewards in heaven for what we do here on earth, we undermine sanctification by faith alone, because then there would be something to boast in."

As a possible response to that objection (as I am still thinking through the issue myself, hopefully the answer will become clearer as I work through these posts), it could be said that "if there are extra rewards in heaven, they come by grace and not by works, so that there is nothing to boast in."

Like Paul, we make our boast only in the cross. Galatians 6:14 states
But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
What does this mean for the above verses that Paul writes about boasting in the crown of the church? As John Piper explains, it means that all our boasts find their source in the cross where Jesus died, and has given, through that, all good gifts. He writes:
for the Christian, all other boasting, should also be a boasting in the cross. All exultation in anything else should be exultation in the cross. If you exult in the hope of glory you should be exulting in the cross of Christ. If you exult in tribulation because tribulation works hope, you should be exulting in the cross of Christ. If you exult in your weaknesses, or in the people of God, you should be exulting in the cross of Christ.
So to answer one possible objection, it may be possible (as I haven't arrived at a definitive answer) for there to be rewards in heaven, but they are given by grace and grace alone. If they are for good works done here on earth, they are for good works done by God through us (Eph. 2:10). We, as Christians, must always confess that we are but unworthy servants, only done our duty (Luke 17:10).

As 1 Corinthians 4 states:
7For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
Our boast is only in the cross. We are no different than anyone else. We weren't smarter, brighter, more educated. All that we have, given by grace. We didn't take advantage of our grace better, didn't come up with faith on our own, all of it was given by grace. This is for our gifts in this life, our gifts in the life to come, and for all eternity.

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at 2:51 AM

Attributes of God (8)

A walk through A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Feel free to read along and comment.

Ch. 8: The Holiness of God -

Hmmm. This was a very good chapter on God's Holiness. Having read R.C. Sproul's The Holiness of God, I, for some reason, expected this chapter to be first. And indeed, Pink places a great emphasis upon the holiness of God, pointing out that it is this, "supremely, which renders Him lovely to those who are delivered from sin’s dominion."

After reading a number of passages pointing out how God's holiness was His greatest attribute, the thing that pervaded and encompassed all His other attributes, I was reminded of a sermon on Moses and his desire to see God. The pastor pointed out that Moses desired to see God, and God said that His goodness (or the backside of it at least) would pass before him. (Exodus 33) And I thought, "hmm, I wonder how God's goodness was related to His holiness?" So I looked back at the passage, and behold, there was a ram!

Errr, let's start that again.

I looked at the passage, and what God says of Himself is not only his "goodness," but His glory. And when He passes, He proclaims a number of His attributes. His eternal nature (in his name), His mercy, graciousness, patience, forgiving, and finally justice.

So it seems all these things are wrapped up in His glory and goodness, and as Pink has argued convincingly, have Holiness wrapped up through and in all of them. Cool!

Pink goes on to point out that God's beauty is His holiness (Psalm 110:3), which I thought was really awesome. The songs that focus upon God's holiness never really stuck in my head, but if it is His holiness that is his beauty, I'll just have to respond the same way Moses does when in the presence of God, he worshipped.

God's holiness is manifested in His creation, His law, and ultimately, the Cross, where His holiness was poured out upon sin. Such a good reminder. The bigger our view of God's wrath toward sin, the bigger our view of God's love toward men. (Of course, God doesn't change, merely my perception of Him does).

Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 2:54 AM

Crowns (3) - Crowns of life

The verses all fall into a few categories. This post will deal with the first type.

The crown of reward to the ones who endure or run the race according to the rules. 1 Corinthians 9:25, 2 Timothy 2:5, 2 Timothy 4:8, James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:4 (one must read more of the context to get that one), Revelation 2:10, and Revelation 3:11 are all examples of this.

Within this group, Revelation 3:11 is distinct in that it assumes that the people already have a crown, the rest promise the crown as reward for those who endure. Now, the question of "preservation of the saints" is probably beyond the scope of what I was intending, but let me just state what I believe on it, quote a verse, and move on, taking logical conclusions of those beliefs. Of course, if one rejects "preservation of the saints," then that changes the interpretation of these passages.

I believe (or more strongly, the Bible teaches) that those whom God has chosen will endure to the end, held and preserved by the power of God so that they will never fall away. Here's a verse that I think sums it up appropriately. In Philippians 1:4-6 Paul writes, "4In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

For further reading on this, monergism.com has a great section. Vincent Cheung has a huge article that deals with it's biblical support and how it's tied into the rest of the doctrines of grace.

But anyways, with that understanding of preservation, it is just a logical corollary to understand all these passages as speaking of the gift of eternal life, given to all the elect, all of whom will run the race according to the rules and be rewarded with the crown of life, by God's sovereign and gracious hand. Thus these passages do not teach that some Christians will obey the rules and thus get a crown, while others will not obey the rules, will still be saved, but won't get a crown. Rather, all Christians will, by the power of God, endure to the end and thus get the crown of life.

All the elect will: undergo strict training, compete according to the rules, long for God's appearing, persevere under trial, be faithful, even to the point of death, hold on to what they have. Their reward will be the crown of life - eternity with the Son of God, source of all blessings.

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at 2:17 AM

Crowns (2) - Defining the question

So the issue of "crowns" arose as a result of an answer to a question at a retreat. See my previous post.

This is an attempt at defining what the question is, and what I hope to accomplish.

Without further ado:

Question: Will the elect eventually receive additional gifts (treasures/rewards/crowns) in heaven, related in some way to their conduct here on earth?

The answer the speaker at the retreat said, "yes, it is possible to be a Christian, yet not really obey God that much, so you don't get very many crowns at all. But some who obey God a great deal will have a lot (or a very big one)."

Now, having dealt with an underlying assumption that I disagreed with in my previous post, I'm going to briefly address "crowns" itself, before moving on to addressing the "rewards" question.
The speaker at the retreat rattled off a list of verses, all of which I have forgotten. But thanks to the modern wonder of biblegateway, we're able to collect a list of relevant verses. Close examination of them will reveal that there is not strong support for "crowns" as rewards beyond that of eternal life.

These verses are from the NIV, because that's the translation that I assume the speaker was using.

1 Corinthians 9:25

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Philippians 4:1
Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!

1 Thessalonians 2:19
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?

2 Timothy 2:5
Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules.

2 Timothy 4:8
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

James 1:12
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

1 Peter 5:4
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

Revelation 2:10
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Revelation 3:11
I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.

Revelation 4:4
Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.

Revelation 4:9-11

9Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

11"You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being."

As a side note, it is easy to see how someone could, if they understood Christians to fall into two groups, to see these verses and be led to believe that there are crowns as a special reward for those who obey God more (better?).

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 2:51 PM

Crowns (1) – Clearing the ground.

It is my personal guess that the concept of “crowns” arose from a different pattern of thought, one that I find to be dangerous to the Christian life. The question of “crowns” and “rewards” in Heaven of course has an answer independent from the question that I'm going to answer today, but it is necessary to clear this away first before tackling the other question.

The underlying issue that I am planning to deal with first is known as the “Lordship-Salvation” controversy. Namely, there are some people speak of accepting “Jesus as Savior” and then later accepting “Jesus as Lord” as two different “conversions” in life. Others reject this, either Jesus is Lord and Savior or Jesus is not. I am of firm belief in the latter view and I see the first one as providing false assurance, which is dangerous to one's soul.

The reason I think it's tied to the concept of “crowns” is that I was first made aware of this concept of “crowns” through someone who was asked “what about those Christians who don't do good works?” He responded that they were saved, but their crowns would be smaller.

Now, once again, it is possible to hold a belief in “crowns” (or, maybe more appropriately, that there are extra rewards in heaven for some) and still reject that it is possible to be “saved” but not “converted.”

But, I will say outright that a conversion that does not bear fruit is not a true conversion at all. Yes, you are saved on the basis of Christ's work and your union with Him through faith and that alone, apart from works. But that conversion, that union with Christ, entails a transformation of heart, so that a true Christian will inevitably bear fruit in the form of good works. They are not justified on the basis of these good works (as they are good works prepared and done by God – Eph. 2:10), but their justification results in these good works.

All other religions have the equation like this:

Faith+Works = Justification (Faith and then some done will save)


Believers in a “Free Grace Theology”(their term, not mine) say this:

Faith = Justification +/- Works (Faith without works will save)


The Bible presents it like this:

Faith = Justification + Works (Saving faith results in works)


To see a biblical the rejection of “Free Grace Theology”, a simple reading of James 2 suffices:

14What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[b] is that? 17So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

What is James saying here? That if you claim to have faith yet do not have works, it's useless and cannot save you. Faith without works is dead and thus is not real faith at all. He's not saying “Oh, you just need to add works to your faith and you'll be alright,” but rather is pointing out “this person needs to hear the Gospel.”

Now, not everyone has a fully formed theology that rejects works as the natural and necessary fruit of salvation, but there are many (and I will say many), that will say that someone who claims to be a Christian yet does not bear fruit is being disobedient, but will still be saved on the last day. I find this to be giving false assurance to those who have no right to it. Those that say otherwise will be judged for their words (Ezekiel 3). The gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction. A Christianity that does not call you to deny yourself and take up your cross to follow Jesus is no Christianity at all. There isn't three classes of people in this world (those that are saved and are obedient, those that are saved but aren't obedient, and those that aren't saved at all), but rather two (Christians and the rest of the world.) As Jesus says, “You're either for me or against me.”

Yes, the call is “come as you are.” But it most certainly is not “stay as you are.”

Further reading:

Lordship Salvation



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Monday, July 24, 2006 at 12:52 PM

Attributes of God (7)

A walk through A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Feel free to read along and comment.

Ch. 7: The Immutability of God -

Taking another topic that is rarely addressed, Pink looks at the immutability of God. God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, in both directions of time. He existed and always existed. I thought it was really cool to think about, especially the encouragement to prayer. Why would we pray to a God who answered sometimes and changed his mind later? Why should we pray to a God who was whimsical in His responses? Rather we pray to the almighty, the father of lights, who never changes. Whoa.

Pink also does a good job of dealing with those verses in the Bible which speak of God repenting. Since I like it so much, I'm going to copy his words here.
Thirdly, God is immutable in His counsel. His will never varies. Perhaps some are ready to object that we ought to read the following: "And it repented the Lord that He had made man" (Gen. 6:6). Our first reply is, Then do the Scriptures contradict themselves? No, that cannot be. Numbers 23:19 is plain enough: "God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent." So also in 1 Samuel 15:19, "The strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for He is not a man, that He should repent." The explanation is very simple. When speaking of Himself. God frequently accommodates His language to our limited capacities. He describes Himself as clothed with bodily members, as eyes, ears, hands, etc. He speaks of Himself as "waking" (Ps. 78:65), as "rising early" (Jer. 7:13); yet He neither slumbers nor sleeps. When He institutes a change in His dealings with men, He describes His course of conduct as "repenting."

Basically, when it speaks of God “repenting” it's not a changing of mind, but rather a change in His dealings with men. This change was planned in His mind from eternity (as His counsels never change).

In contrast, man is whimsical, changable, mutable. Our plans change by the second, because we can never see what's ahead and need to adjust to our circumstances. Humans are unreliable and God is our rock.
Herein is solid comfort. Human nature cannot be relied upon; but God can! However unstable I may be, however fickle my friends may prove, God changes not.
God's immutability is hope for the righteous and terror for the wicked.

Deut. 7
9Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, 10and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. 11You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.

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at 1:21 AM

Crowns: Intro

At a retreat years ago, I was introduced to an idea of "crowns," namely the belief that when we get to heaven, those good works that we've done on earth will have earned us "crowns." A quick search on Biblegateway does confirm a reference to crowns.

This topic came up again the past week, and I was thinking about it. And then I was like "hmm, you know, this would make a good series of blog posts."

So what I'm planning to do is to think of as many different verses and passages that may or may not support the idea of "crowns." But before I do that, I have a guess at what may have prompted the idea of "crowns," so I'm going to address that first.

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at 12:41 AM

Marriage, Children, and Multiplication redux

So the comment thread over at my previous post commenting on Al Mohler's commentary on today's culture's view of marriage had some good discussion. Check it out. And check out how often I managed to use comment and possessive apostrophes in the last sentence too.

Some brief thoughts, since I've been asked to comment (not that my views are worth that much anyways =p).

I cannot really say that marriage without children is sinful per se.

That said, the Bible is against any and all forms of selfishness. Not that we should sacrifice ourselves until we die, but if we're living for the here and now, the Bible has promised that the here and now is all we're going to get. So I think Mohler's criticism of the culture's growing trend against children is accurate. The trend betrays a mentality that is opposed to God, His creation, and His people.

Just like I see the normative biblical lifestyle in the NT to involve church even though I don't see explicit commands for church (and I do see encouragements and promises for those who were, for some reason, separated off from the church), I agree with Mohler that the Bible assumes a married life and a marriage assumes children. (Though the Bible does also encourage those who may not have children, by choice or God's will). This is most clear, as Theocentric has pointed out, in the creation mandate, the blessings of children, the curse of barrenness, and I would also add, God's promise of faithfulness to generations and through families. The command to teach one's children, binding the law upon their foreheads and wrists, and similar passages.

That said, I am in general agreement that the primary purpose of marriage is not to have children. I find the relationship between the husband and wife to be far more important than the relationship between parents and children. This is clear in:
Genesis 2:18 - Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."

1 Cor. 7:2 - But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.

Eph. 5:31 -32 - Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
Regarding Paul, I see no evidence that he did not consider marriage normative. 1 Corinthians 7 seems to address a specific church problem, namely that people were saying that it would be best to be single, but Paul points out that "no, you guys are going to lust, if you don't have the gift chastity, then get married." I agree with the ESV's translation which pinpoints the first verse as a quotation from a letter from the Corinthian church:
1Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman."
jefe - as for intentionally childless marriages, I think the examples you bring up are appropriate exceptions, but I don't see Al Mohler criticizing them, but rather the marriages that are made with an intent to not have children from the get go (or as Jess would write, gecko =p).

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Friday, July 21, 2006 at 12:10 AM

Reading Deeply

Douglas Wilson has two excellent posts. One on the transformation when we come to the Lord's Table. A second was on the fact that the table feeds us two ways.

CADRE Comments posts an amusing piece of an atheist board getting trapped in their claims, and forcing them to eat their words when they boasted that:
We are offering a $100 reward and an appearance on our radio show where we will admit we we're wrong to the person who can set a precedent that other important historical figures exist without contemporary evidence. Provide us with the names of five important historical figures that were not written about until at least 25 years after they died (like Jesus).
Triablogue posts two interesting pieces on the idea that it is appropriate for Christians to rejoice in the sovereign judgment of nations/people.

Dan Phillips posts on the fact that his children are bolder about the faith than he is.

In news that makes me happy, I recently stumbled upon a minister decrying the recent acceptance of alternative Trinitarian names. I discovered the Calvary Chapel has removed the Purpose Driven Life from their bookshelves for theological reasons (wahoo!), and I've been charged to stop test-driving my girlfriend.

Bookwise, I just finished Revolution in World Missions (previously reviewed) as well as Christian Baptism by John Murray. Christian baptism presented the infant Baptist view, which I really appreciated. It criticized (accurately) the common cultural belief that baptism meant something different for infants and for believers and laid down a biblical defense of infant baptism (as well as a defense of sprinkling). Worth reading, a bit technical though.

Additionally, two close friends have started blogging (well, one of them just started, and the other just agreed to let her blog be "public"), so stop by and say hello. They're even bolder about their names than I am! =)

Mike Cheng
and Jessica Luo

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Thursday, July 20, 2006 at 10:11 AM

Marriage, Children, and Multiplication

I just read this post by Al Molher commenting on deliberate childlessness today. He makes an interesting observation that many marriages choose not to have children simply because it's inconvenient. How typical of people today. All about me, all about self, why should I sacrifice?

But it did leave me with a rather amused thought. According to Darwinian evolution, this is pretty much self-correcting isn't it? These people won't have children, and so these genes won't be passed on.

His final words in these commentaries is always a call for a biblical perspective:

The church should insist that the biblical formula calls for adulthood to mean marriage and marriage to mean children. This reminds us of our responsibility to raise boys to be husbands and fathers and girls to be wives and mothers. God's glory is seen in this, for the family is a critical arena where the glory of God is either displayed or denied. It is just as simple as that.

The church must help this society regain its sanity on the gift of children. Willful barrenness and chosen childlessness must be named as moral rebellion. To demand that marriage means sex--but not children--is to defraud the creator of His joy and pleasure in seeing the saints raising His children. That is just the way it is. No kidding.

Indeed, amusing as it is, this is simply another opportunity to let our lights shine in a world of darkness. As more and more non-Christians sink into a lifestyle bent on self and refuse to have children (of course, this isn't common to all non-Christians, but I think it's a safe thing to assume that born-again Christians wouldn't hold this view), Christians can obey that first command, "be fruitful and multiply" even better, being willing to sacrifice self, and one's future, for the glory of God - the raising of God fearing children. Shining brightly in more ways than one. Having more children will make it clear that they have different values. Their children will be more prominent and able to spread these values even further.

Glory to God

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at 1:03 AM

Book Review: Revolution in World Missions

Book Review: Revolution in World Missions by K.P. Yohannan

I'll be honest, I'm usually kind of cynical toward mission organizations. I find that many of them have an unbiblical view of sin, an unbiblical view of man, an emphasis upon social work rather than the Gospel, on conversion rather than discipleship, and so on. I'm glad I read this book.

Revolution in World Missions accurately criticized all of these views while at the same time laying down a solid theological grounding for why Gospel for Asia does missions the way they do. I found the arguments compelling and convicting.

K. P. Yohannan is the founder and director of Gospel for Asia, a missions organization dedicated to training and funding native missionaries (more on what that is later). This book was written to call Christians, specifically Western Christians to repentance and encourage them to support native missionaries.

Beginning with K.P.'s personal story of a call to be a pastor and transition into a focus into missions, the author writes in an easy to read way. The book isn't a systematic theology by any means, but it is clear that the author knows Scripture well, referencing and supporting important topics with Scripture (and personal stories).

It asked Western Christians to take a hard look on where their money is going. Do we live like this world is all we've got, or do we seek to store up our treasures in heaven? Our TVs, clothing, computers, programming, books... the list goes on and on and with each chapter I was drawn in further, forced to take a hard look at the way I lived and spent my money.

It also presented a compelling argument for supporting “native missionaries,” missionaries from the target country, trained to go from village to village proclaiming the Gospel. The benefits were many. Cheaper cost (since the native missionaries typically lived just like other villagers, without need of extras flown in), more common ground, didn't carry the Western imperialism stigma that many Western Missionaries may carry, no need for additional training to reach the culture, and so forth.

Finally, and this was an excellent point, K.P. rebuked the Western church for demanding “accountability”of native missionaries, accountability that was never asked for of Western missionaries.

“The problem, is not a matter of accountability but one of prejudice, mistrust, and feelings of superiority. These are the issues that hinder love and support for our brothers in the Two-Thirds World who are working to win their own people to Christ.”

You really have to read the whole thing in order to understand his argument better, but it was convicting and compelling. This was a mission organization that I can (and will, Lord willing!) support.

If you want a free copy of the book to check for yourself, they'll ship you a copy completely free. Read it.


My recommendation: Borrow it

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006 at 11:15 PM

Attributes of God (6)

A walk through A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Feel free to read along and comment.

Ch. 6: The Sovereignty of God-

Pink continues to talk about the sovereignty of God, finally getting to the topic itself. He defines the sovereignty of God as simply the exercise of His supremacy.

Following all his other chapters, I must confess I find it repetitious a little. The first few chapters were stupendous. But the last few have all been on God's sovereignty, and I really feel like he's established it and talked enough about it. But there is some new stuff here, stuff that I found interesting to think about.

Well, this chapter he talks about the relationship between God's sovereignty and human responsibility, asserts that God is righteous in all that He does, points out that there are fallen angels, points out that human responsibility is a result of God's sovereign choice to establish rules and requirements, and not a result of free will. I'm glad he didn't try claiming "compatibilist free will" as his reason for human responsibility, but rather pointed out that people are responsibile because God holds them responsible.

“Creature responsibility begins in the sovereign ordination of the Creator.”

Finally, Pink points back to the unconditional footing that the elect are placed upon, that all conditions are fulfilled by God through Jesus Christ (who was placed upon a conditional footing, needing to fulfill the law), who has perfected for once and for all those who are His.

That was certainly a most interesting point. He points out that Christ fulfilled certain conditions (like obedience, incarnation, suffering God's wrath, nailed to a tree), and thus earned a reward per God's promise in Isaiah 53:10-12. I definitely never thought about it that way. But it certainly does make sense.

I guess in contrast, others are placed upon conditional footing, the blessings of God dependent upon their actions toward Him (in contrast to dependent upon Christ's actions).

Most interesting.

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at 3:09 PM

Yoga, Spiritual Warfare, and Christian Meditation

In Revolution in World Missions (review coming soon), K.P. Yohannan writes an interesting chapter on spiritual oppression, especially that done through yoga.

He retells the story of flipping on a TV channel to see an American yogi praising health benefits of breathing techniques and other exercises of yoga.

He writes, "What her viewers did not know is that yoga is designed for one purpose only - to open up the mind and body to receive visitations from demon spirits."

Now, at first, I was like "well, that may be true, but nothing's wrong with stretching, after all spiritual warfare (as I've written on previously) isn't in the history of places and things, but rather in the thoughts themselves."

Making that point as a side note in small group, someone else also pointed out that God redeems, taking something that may have originated as a sinful thing, and redeeming it for good, after all, it's not like foods sacrificed to idols are going to negatively impact a Christian, unless they believe it. In one sense, what they know won't hurt them... but it would be far better for them to know and reject false teaching so that they can eat in faith, rather than to be ignorant and deceived (but still eating in faith).

So I thought that was all resolved and everything, was going to make an interesting blog post on it.

But then I started doing some research. I looked at the origins. I looked at popular sites: www.yoga.com

I looked at current yoga practices.

What did I find? It's not just a stretching excercise. It's also a mental practice. And that sent warning bells of in my head. What someone engaging in yoga does is engage in meditation and emptying the mind in order to achieve oneness with self, fulfillment, energy, and all sorts of other things, apart from the sovereign working of God in the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ.

Like all things produced out of a fallen world apart from the grace of God, it is inherantly hostile to God, at odds with His revelation, seeking to rebuild a tower of Babel apart from God.

In short, practicing the mediation that yoga promotes is akin to practicing a foreign (and false) religion. One can stretch and seek flexibility for physical health, but to seek non-Christian mediation for anything (and I mean anything) will be detrimental to your spiritual health.

Instead, Christians meditate not by emptying one's mind or visualizing things, but rather delighting in the Laws of the Lord, thinking Christian thoughts about a Christian God.

As Psalm 1 reads:

1Blessed is the man[a]
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2but his delight is in the law[b] of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006 at 12:55 PM

Did Paul consider himself inspired?

I would argue "yes, as Paul was writing, he considered himself inspired and carrying the very authority of God." This is in contrast to those who would argue that Paul did not know he was inspired. Why is this important? Because it affects the way we view and interpret Scripture. I have heard the argument that Paul was just "driven by the Spirit" and that this was something that could be expected for any Christian. That we can somehow know "God's will" by direct application of the Holy Spirit. In contrast, I would argue that Paul was being directly inspired by the Holy Spirit, so some of the commands that he leaves us are not on completely solid exegetical footing, but rather use a process of starting with the "answer." That's probably unclear, but when I give my example, it'll be clearer.

Now, given, not all people who disagree on the point that Paul is inspired will take that view, but it seems to me that it has come up enough times that I feel a direct link.

There are various good arguments for this view:

The first and foremost would be that Paul introduces himself as "an Apostle of Christ Jesus, called by the will of God," in almost all of his letters (Philippians and the 2 Thessalonian epistles being exceptions). What else could he be doing but establishing authority? "I come as a messenger of Christ, listen to me."

A second argument would be Paul's encouragement to the Colossians to read his letter aloud:
15Give my greetings to the brothers[a] at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.
If we take this as a reference to the fact that the Jewish tradition has God's Word read aloud daily, then he's claiming quite a high position for his letters.

These are decent argument, but are only convincing if we're already convinced. But one argument that I think is convincing if we're not is 1 Corinthians 7:

After he has written in ch. 1 that he is an apostle called by the will of God, he writes this:
10To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11(but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

12To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you[b] to peace. 16Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?

Notice Paul's phrase: "I, not the Lord." What is he saying here? Is he denying his authority? This text is not inspired? Or rather, might it make far more sense to understand Paul as saying, "Now, this isn't an explicit command in the Bible (Old Testament), but this is what I am telling you now. Indeed we have confirmation of this when Paul closes the chapter:
39A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.
"And I think that I too have the Spirit of God."

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at 11:26 AM

A Christian perspective on self

This passage came up yesterday in Bible study and someone made an excellent observation about it.

Ephesians 3
7Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[b] God who created all things, 10so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
They pointed out the Christian perspective on self, first highlighting that Paul sees himself as "the very least of all the saints." Many of us respect and look up to our spiritual fathers, especially those who handle the Word of God. Many of us humble ourselves before them, seeking to learn from them and serve them (as they have served us).

Yet here, it was noted, Paul calls himself "the very least of all the saints." An apostle, inspired by God, called to preach to the Gentiles, and calling himself the very least. I don't think Paul is explicitly saying that he has a lot to learn from everyone (though I'm sure he was still learning from people), but more making a statement of where he sees his position - that of serving people. Elsewhere he refers to himself as a slave of Christ or a prisoner of the Lord. It could also possibly refer to his realization of how low he was before God. A face to face encounter with his sin in light of God's holiness.

But yet, even though he sees himself as "the very least of all the saints" he has a biblical perspective on the grace of God. That God, in his grace, redeemed even him, the "least." Not only so, but God has given Paul a unique charge - to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, to be a minister of God's grace. He boasts not in his education and his accomplishments, but rather in God's grace redeeming him and equipping him. He didn't say "woe is me!" and leave it at that, but "woe is me, but God's grace has redeemed me and prepared me to preach the Gospel."

Christian, you are a sinner, redeemed by grace. It is now that grace that also equips you to do your work for the kingdom and glory of God. Praise be His Holy Name, who has called us out of our sins and made us new in Christ, that we may now live for Him.

Matthew 28:
18And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

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Sunday, July 16, 2006 at 11:10 PM

Attributes of God(5)

A walk through A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Feel free to read along and comment.

Ch. 5: The Supremacy of God-

Pink here takes all that he's written previously on the decrees of God, the knowledge, and the foreknowledge of God and puts them all together to arrive at a God that is foreign to many. Decrying the fact that most people's perception of God is “too human.” Pink points out that God is not moved by sentiment but rather by principle, that Satan does not thwart God's sovereign plan, that His plans are unchanging, that the atonement saves and not just “makes possible salvation.”

“The 'god' of this twentieth century no more resembles the Supreme Sovereign of Holy Writ than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory of the midday sun.”

Quoting Psalm 2, Pink points out that God dashes the unregenerate to pieces and laughs in heaven at their rebellion. Pointing to 1 Chronicles 29,20, Pink remarks that God reigns now and not just in the Millennium. Who can turn Him? Who can change His mind? Who can hinder His purposes?

::shrug:: what else is there to say? Read the chapter.


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at 10:42 PM

Thy Mercy My God

1. Thy mercy, my God, is the theme of my song,
The joy of my heart. and the boast of my tongue;
Thy free grace alone, from the first to the last,
Hath won my affections, and bound my soul fast.

2. Without Thy sweet mercy I could not live here;
Sin would reduce me to utter despair;
But, through Thy free goodness, my spirits revive,
And He that first made me still keeps me alive.

3. Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,
Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart;
Dissolved by Thy goodness, I fall to the ground,
And weep to the praise of the mercy I’ve found.

4. Great Father of mercies, Thy goodness I own,
And the covenant love of Thy crucified Son;
All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.
All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006 at 12:26 PM

Rebuke the Question(2)

In response to my point on the need to rebuke the question, jefe wrote:

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..." (1 Peter 3).

you've got to be awful careful about a "shut down the question" strategy. first, because you very well may shut off the questioner, in which case what good have you done them? and second, because christianity is simply not about shutting down our questions. there are mysteries, yes, and scripture has no patience with arrogant posturing before god--but (more often than not) the bible is on the questioner's side. look at how much of it is dedicated to raising exactly the same sort of question you're talking about! job and habakkuk (as you point out) as well as other prophets, and many psalms, and ecclesiastes, for a few. "how can god really be just, when the world reeks of injustice?" is an honest and important question, which the bible raises as such over and over again. let's not tire of patiently engaging with it beside the askers, and wrestling with it ourselves--"To the weak I became weak, to win the weak" (1 Corinthians 9).

and I was going to respond in the comments, but then it got a little long, and I decided to put the response in a post of its own.

To begin with, that's an excellent point. Per 1 Corinthians 9, it is behooves Christians to not put undue stumbling blocks before unbelievers. This means that our tone and language should be such that the Gospel is clearly conveyed without adding to its harshness by our language. Thus we should answer with gentleness and respect.

That said, the content of our message (Christ) will be a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1). The cross will be offensive, and the demand for complete repentance will be hard to swallow. Thus, while our tone and demeanor may be kind and gentle, our message will not. It will be a stumbling block. Thus I would defend the “rebuke the question” method simply by pointing out that it is God's response. Do we claim to be kinder than God?

And interesting point where we disagree is in how we interpret the prevalence of questions of justice and evil in the Bible. You say that the Bible is dedicated to raising those very questions. I would point to God's response and say that, well yes, the Bible raises the questions, but then rebukes the questioner, demonstrating that the asking of those questions is sinful. Indeed, it borders on irrelevance to ask a question of God for which God has already infallibly revealed the answer. I don't see honest questioning here, I see outright rebellion.

God describes non-Christians in many different ways, none of them good. In Psalm 14 he calls the unbeliever a fool, and points out that they do not seek God. They have all turned away. In Romans 8, God states that the sinful mind is hostile to God and cannot please Him. In Ephesians 2, God describes non-Christians as under the sway of Satan, sons of disobedience, and by nature, children of wrath, following the ways of this world. Paul in his sermon at Athens (Acts 17), manages to rebuke several individual belief systems within the span of a few sentences, and ends with a command for repentance. How do people respond? Some mocked, some waited, and some turned in repentance.

So yes, be patient with them, be willing to answer the questions and respond as they continue asking (and in the face of continued hardness of heart, don't cast your pearls before pigs), but don't let them get away with unbiblical thinking. Don't let them think they can challenge God and remain unscathed.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

3For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ

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at 2:42 AM

Attributes of God (4)

A walk through A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Feel free to read along and comment.

Ch. 4:

The foreknowledge of God.

This chapter discusses the rather controversial idea of “foreknowledge.” Of course, having previously discussed the knowledge of God and the decrees of God, I don't think I was very surprised to find Pink disagreeing with the Arminian perception of “election based on foreknown faith” and affirming God's sovereign decree, the total depravity of all people, the freedom of God. “False theology makes God's foreknowledge of our believing the cause of His election to salvation; whereas, God's election is the cause, and our believing in Christ is the effect.”

He begins by rejecting the dictionary definition of foreknowledge (that, “to know beforehand.”) and points out the close relationship between “foreknow” and “know.” In the Bible, “know” isn't just “to be cognitive of,” but rather is “sets favor upon,” and “love.” He then proceeds that the NT usage of the word is much the same, and then follows that up with noting that “foreknow” is always of people and not of actions. This is followed by a number of verses.

Well, this was all stuff that I had seen before, but it was good to see again, especially in defending Romans 8:29-30. After all, if we understand “foreknow” to mean “be cognitive of before” then it leads to universalism! (if we understand God as an all-knowing God).

Pink makes an interesting observation that this “foreknowledge is not causative, but instead something lies behind, precedes it, and that something is His own sovereign decree.”

I'm not actually in agreement here. I would claim that foreknowledge is causative, so I'll quote his words and state why. He cites Acts 2:23 and Romans 8:28-30 and states:

Another thing to which we desire to call particular attention is that the first two passages quoted above show plainly and teach implicitly that God’s "foreknowledge" is not causative, that instead, something else lies behind, precedes it, and that something is His own sovereign decree. Christ was "delivered by the (1) determinate counsel and (2) foreknowledge of God." (Acts 2:23). His "counsel" or decree was the ground of His foreknowledge. So again in Romans 8:29. That verse opens with the word "for," which tells us to look back to what immediately precedes. What, then, does the previous verse say? This, "all things work together for good to them. . . .who are the called according to His purpose." Thus God’s foreknowledge is based upon His purpose or decree (see Ps. 2:7).

God foreknows what will be because He has decreed what shall be. It is therefore a reversing of the order of Scripture, a putting of the cart before the horse, to affirm that God elects because He foreknows people. The truth is, He "foreknows" because He has elected. This removes the ground or cause of election from outside the creature, and places it in God’s own sovereign will. God purposed in Himself to elect a certain people, not because of anything good in them or from them, either actual or foreseen, but solely out of His own mere pleasure. As to why He chose the ones He did, we do not know, and can only say, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight." The plain truth of Romans 8:29 is that God, before the foundation of the world, singled out certain sinners and appointed them unto salvation (2 Thess. 2:13). This is clear from the concluding words of the verse: "Predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son," etc. God did not predestinate those whom He foreknew were "conformed," but, on the contrary, those whom He "foreknew" (i.e., loved and elected) He predestinated to be conformed. Their conformity to Christ is not the cause, but the effect of God’s foreknowledge and predestination.

I would disagree with this position that foreknowledge is dependent upon decree and claim that it is God's foreknowledge that leads to predestination, but taking the original definition of “know” Pink claims, namely “to set affection upon.” Verse 29 that states, “Those he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” To rephrase it, (and it seems that Pink is a little ambiguous about it), “Those that God set His affection upon beforehand, He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” This affirms what Pink is trying to defend, namely that God chooses of His good pleasure and not in response to what we do. Honestly, I'm kind of confused, because this flows directly out of his definition of “know.” Pink seems to get himself confused, stating that “God foreknows what will be because He has decreed what shall be” right after pointing out that God foreknows people and not actions.

But if we stick consistently with what Pink has already laid out, namely that “know” is “love,” then the whole thing makes sense. God foreloves, so He predestines. This is (to me) consistent with the rest of Scripture.

It's a minor point, and one that Pink gets mostly right, but I was just surprised. Well, no one's perfect. (Especially not me).

But all in all, an excellent chapter.

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Friday, July 14, 2006 at 1:40 AM

Rebuke the question

Sometimes non-Christians will ask, "well, how is it right that God cursed all of humanity for Adam's sin?" or "Why did God destroy all of Pharaoh and his army?" "Why did God command the slaughter of all the women, children, and oxen of Canaan?" "Why does Jesus curse the fig tree when it's not the season to bear fruit anyways?" "Why does he kill Ananias and Sapphira and not give them a second chance?" and so on and so on. They might even pull in current events: "Why didn't God stop 9/11?"

There are two ways of answering them. One of them is to look up a pile of commentaries, and respond, "No, God did that because they did this, and so it was right of God to do so." "No, Adam was the federal head of all of humanity, so the curse was extended to all of humanity." "No, Egypt wasn't just an innocent country, it was cursed and worshiped false Gods." and so on.

We could do that, but you know what? Even if we could answer every question they presented, they can always come up with more. The non-Christian will simply continue to press these questions. "Why?" "Why?" "Why?" To top it off, it allows them to get away unscathed when they ask questions of God. It allows them to maintain their unbiblical standard of judging and force God into it. It forces us in a position of answering questions, hoping that eventually once all the intellectual barriers come down, they will come to faith.

Instead, one simple way to solve all these issues with one fell swoop is to rebuke the question. Christianity is not just a "defensive" faith. We don't sit cowering in a corner hoping we've read enough commentaries to answer unbeliever's questions. Instead, Paul goes into temples arguing with any and all comers, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus rose from the dead and rebuking unbiblical assumptions and calling for repentance.

And this is an appropriate way to answer any and all questions of this form. When they ask, "Why did God do this?" Our first answer can always be, "Because God is God, He is the judge of what is righteous and just, and His actions flow out of His character. Why is He supposed to conform to your sinful perception of right and wrong? Who are you to question God?"

We can even attack the question asker again: What is your judge of what's right and wrong anyway? If you're an atheist, right and wrong is determined by what? By what evolves? By culture? It seems like killing thousands of people is beneficial to my survival, so that must be right as long as I can get away with it right?

Notice in the Bible, God is never apologetic about what He does. People demand audiences with him because they don't think he's doing the right thing (Job, Habakkuk) , and what happens? God says, "I am God, what are you going to do about it?" The Christian would do well to point people to these texts in Scripture and let God speak for Himself, rather than trying to come up with plausible defenses that are sometimes are simply speculations.

This has a few immediate benefits. 1) It answers a whole lot of questions all at once. 2) It pushes the debate back a step. If they disagree with the standard (God) then they have to present a different standard. Christianity will win every time. 3) It brings the nature of God's mercy to the forefront. Yes, disaster happened to them. But guess what? God was sovereign, and He could do it to you too! Repent!

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Thursday, July 13, 2006 at 12:12 AM

Attributes of God (3)

A walk through A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Feel free to read along and comment.

Ch. 3:

The Knowledge of God -

God knows everything. He knows everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen. Easy enough right? But this chapter examines what exactly that means. It means that nothing is hidden from God. Every thought. Every instinct. Every moment. Every molecule, its present, current, and future path for the rest of time.

Pink points out that it is a knowledge that is perfect and comprehensive. We may know things and forget. We may know things and be mistaken. We may know things and overlook what that implies. God doesn't. God knows, and knows forever in that perfect manner that is so distinct from our sinful sides (and even from our glorified sides) that we cannot hope to know the same way He does.

And yet Pink points out aptly that, “Yet how little do we meditate upon this Divine perfection! Is it because the very thought of it fills us with uneasiness?” How true! How many of us are comfortable with our deepest sins out in the open? Our secret lusts and desires? But they are to God, our Judge. Your sin will find you out, because it is God who watches and knows. Yike!

But for the Christian, there's always that beautiful promise, and I love how Pink gets back to the Gospel. That God knows their hearts and searches them, and is their comfort and knows what is coming. That God watches over them. And with the righteous their prayer will be heard, because it's prayed in Christ. There's a promise for peace. I don't know where I'm going. I don't know what's going to happen, but God does, and God is a God of peace, of comfort, and I can confess with Paul that I can do all things through Christ. I can be in need, or in plenty, in sadness or in joy. God is with me. God knows, and God cares.

Another thing that I enjoy of Pink is how he ties all these things back together. God's knowledge is connected to His decrees, because this knowledge isn't a passive one, but an active decree. God's knowledge is another characteristic that sets Him apart from us, that is too great for us to know. God's knowledge of all things is complete. There is no shadow of turning with God.

Nothing escapes God's sight. Nothing escapes His gaze. Glory be to the Lord of wisdom and knowledge!

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006 at 3:20 PM

Malachi

Malachi – My Messenger

So here's my attempt at summarizing the main theme of Malachi in a phrase/sentence. To that extent, I believe “My Messenger,” which is a translation of the Hebrew word “Malachi” is most fitting. Not only is the entire book a literal message from God (prophesy), but within it is contained several allusions to the role of a messenger.

God begins by declaring that He loves them. He rebukes the priesthood for not offering up proper sacrifices and instead offering up flawed sacrifices. What is the message they are sending? That it is a burden to serve God. Instead, He calls them to be a messenger to the nations, to declare His name, and His fear. He calls them to be true messengers of God, upholding the covenant of Levi. Priests are to be messengers of the Lord of Hosts to His people. Instead, they are messengers of death, spreading dung and lies among the people, and bringing them to sin and stumble.

God turns and rebukes the nation as a whole, who were faithless to the covenant they took before God. This led to them being faithless to the wives of their youth, divorcing them for pagan wives. (giving them a certificate of divorce)

And God promises to send His messengers. Of heralding (John the Baptist) and of the covenant (Jesus Christ). His messengers will bring in the day of the Lord, judging the priests, the people first.

The book continues with the message of a promise. That if we test the Lord and bring the whole tithes, He will answer and rain down blessings so we will no longer be cursed.

And finally, the words of the people have been harsh against God, they called the arrogant blessed and God one who does not hear. Instead, we are to be like those who fear the Lord, who take down His message and write a book of remembrance, renewing the covenant.

And the day is coming, a day of judgment, when the wicked will be burned and the righteous healed. Elijah is coming again.

So in summary, the book of Malachi is “My Messenger.” It is a call from God for the nation of Israel to put away their false teachings, their false practices, and be God's messengers to the nations, to be people who fear the Lord. It is a promise of God's messenger to come, in the form of Jesus Christ, who will set all the wrongs to right and judge the people. And it is a declaration of God's message of rebuke, repentance, and forgiveness for all those who fear the Lord.

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Monday, July 10, 2006 at 10:11 PM

Attributes of God (2)

A walk through A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Feel free to read along and comment.

Ch. 2: Decrees of God -


This chapter discussed God's “decree” or his purpose and determination of the future. To begin with, we confess that we are sequential, finite creatures, and God is infinite. With an infinite knowledge and an infinite understanding, His thoughts are not like ours, it does not proceed by steps. God knows all, and He knows all now. His decrees are of what is to come. Whatever is done is foreordained before time began. Yeah, we know this as God's sovereignty. =)

One thing I did kind of go “eh” at was how he depicted sin. “While God is the Orderer and Controller of sin, He is not the Author of sin. Sin could not proceed from a holy God by positive and direct creation, but only by decretive permission and negative action.” What is “permission and negative action” with God? The issue I might take with this is that it implies some outside force that causes “sin” that God “allows.” Yet, we know that it is God who is the final force, as Pink later makes clear in this section. That God has not only created man and set him upon the earth, but has “fixed all circumstances in the lot of individuals, and all the particulars which will comprise the history of the human race from its commencement to its close.” Yeah God!

What are these decrees like? They are foreseen by an all-knowing an unchanging God, and thus eternal. They are wise. Though we have but a glimpse of God's glory (manifested), it is enough for us to recognize His wisdom and trust Him with the rest (and where else can we go?! Heh). Free, in a way that nothing else can be free. Everything we do is contingent. We are dependents. If God wills, then. But with God, it's just “Let there be light.” Now that's free will for ya. Conditioned upon God and God alone. God decrees the ends, the means to the end He works faith, He works His pleasure. This is the God we worship. This is the God who has made all things, who sustains all things, who works all things for His glory.

It was really the last section that I greatly enjoyed where Pink entertains the objections against the decrees of God by pointing out that “every objection made against the eternal decrees of God applies with equal force against His eternal foreknowledge.” I agree whole-heartedly, and I don't know where Pink is on the time line, but it seems to be a direct attack on Open-Theism, people who deny God's decrees and predestination to the point where they refuse to even acknowledge God's foreknowledge (on the basis that a choice foreknown could not be free).

Then Pink makes the marvelous point “to deny the Divine decrees would be to predicate a world and all its concerns regulated by undesigned chance or blind fate. Then what peace, what assurance, what comfort would there be for our poor hearts and mind?”

Indeed, it seems almost like a psychological move. How can I comprehend being in control of my own salvation, knowing my sinful nature? How can I trust in God if He's left it “up to me?” As Paul proclaims, “we know all things work together for good for those who love Him.” How do we know? Because God has ordained it, in His wisdom, He has decreed it, and in His purpose and almighty power, He is carrying it out.

Glory to the Lord in the Highest!

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at 7:26 AM

Lord's Day 16

A day late (and a few weeks overdue!)

Q. Why did Christ have to suffer "death"?
A. Because the righteousness and truth of God are such that nothing else could pay for our sins except the death of the Son of God.

Q. Why was he "buried"?
A. His burial testifies that he really died.

Q. Since Christ has died for us, why do we still have to die?
A. Our death does not pay the debt of our sins. Rather, it puts an end to our sinning and is our entrance into eternal life.

Q. What further advantage do we receive from Christ's sacrifice and death on the cross?
A. Through Christ's death our old selves are crucified, put to death, and buried with him, so that the evil desires of the flesh may no longer rule in us, but that instead we may dedicate ourselves as an offering of gratitude to him.

Q. Why does the creed add, "He descended to hell"?
A. To assure me in times of personal crisis and temptation that Christ my Lord, by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul, especially on the cross but also earlier, has delivered me from the anguish and torment of hell.


That last question is mine too. Did Christ really descend into hell? I'm not entirely convinced (and according to Grudem, he's not either).

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Saturday, July 08, 2006 at 10:05 PM

Attributes of God (1)

A walk through A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Feel free to read along and comment.

Ch. 1: The Solitariness of God -

This chapter was about the solitariness of God. What does that mean? Simply that God is unique in every way. Completely holy. Completely set apart. Who is like God indeed? God is alone in who He is, alone in His character, alone.

“In the beginning God.” I definitely never thought about it that way (and one might argue that it's simply circular to argue from this verse to say that God was alone in his eternity, but there is sufficient Scriptural evidence for it, so we'll let it pass). God dwelt alone before there was time. No earth. No heaven. No universe. God, from everlasting. Wow. And His glory was the same.

That was one point I thought was really well made, one that is so easy to forget. God's glory isn't added by my work. God's glory isn't added to when I praise Him, when I worship, when I share the Gospel. God's glory is the same from everlasting. Wow.

What we do when we pray for God's glory. What God does when He sent His Son, was that He manifests His glory. He displays it for all to see. He doesn't need to do it, He's already glorious, and He knows. But He did it as a sovereign act, determined by His good pleasure, to manifest His glory. God is all-blessed in Himself, and there is nothing we bring to the table. Nothing we can do to add to that. Merely unprofitable servants working. Even Christ has done nothing to add to that glory.

God could have continued alone without making known His glory, and He would have been just as glorified. Solitary in majesty, unique, peerless, sustains all and independent of all. It is He who reveals Himself to men, for we cannot hope to attain a knowledge of Him on our own.

This chapter was mind blowing. Thoughts and comments?

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at 9:02 PM

Malachi 4

Malachi 4: Know and remember

Look, the day is coming where all the evil-doers will be judged until they are no more. But for those who fear my name, there will be a blessing in healing, in restoration, and you will be raised above the wicked, for I will have judged them. Remember the law I gave Moses. I will send you Elijah before this day, and he will turn fathers to children and children to fathers, lest I come and judge the land as well.

After all the rebukes and the reminders of God's greatness, the book of remembrance and the call for repentance, God reminds them that one day the evil and arrogant will be judged. That the wrongs will be set to right, and the righteous will be uplifted. With this reminder, he calls them to remember the law of Moses, yet at the same time he sends Elijah, who will help them do this very thing. Is this not God fulfilling both ends of His promises once again?

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at 1:14 PM

Some of my favorite passages/stories

There are a few passages in Scripture that always get me really excited and refreshed. Some because they are of great convicting power, some because of the assurance they give, some because they serve as reminders and promises of the faith.

Top of the list would have to be Romans 8.

I love how it begins:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

I love how it builds up from no condemnation, set free by the spirit, living in eager anticipation, groans of desire, hope of the future, the promises of God. If God is for us, who can be against us?! All things work for the good of those who love God, foreknown-> predestined-> called-> justified-> glorified. After reading it I always have to go *woosh* and exhale because I'd get really excited about it.

Another one I love is the Hall of Faith. Story after story of faith, men and women of whom the world were not worthy. People who considered the reproach of Christ greater than the riches of this world. These were men and women, who in spite of their failings, lived and walked by faith. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God! Wow!

Flowing out of this are the stories of the Binding of Isaac (which I've gone through so many times, through sermons, in bible study, in Hebrew) and Samson. People whom, God called, and they answered. Always call me and lead me to cry out in a desperate plea, "Increase my faith!"

Another favorite story is Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Instead of compromising with the culture, instead of despairing because he was the only one, Elijah challenges the priests of Baal to a supernatural duel, where God reveals His glory. The priests are defeated and slaughtered, and Elijah goes from his spiritual high to fleeing from persecution. What a flip! And yet God is faithful, He has reserved for himself five hundred who have not bowed knee to Baal. What glory! What power!

And Psalms, who could forget the beauty of Psalms? Luther called it a miniture Bible. The entire thing is pretty good. heh.

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at 8:01 AM

Psalm 77

Someone brought Psalm 77 to my attention today, and something jumped out that I wanted to share. As a side note, one issue with the ESV on Biblegateway (in addition to the fact that it's mysteriously missing a few verses in the first chapter of Philippians) is that it doesn't distinguish the titles of the Psalms (which are translator inserted) from the introductory sentences (which are in the original languages, like “to David”), meh.

Psalm 77

In the Day of Trouble I Seek the Lord
To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun.[a] A Psalm of Asaph.

1I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
2In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
3When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints.
Selah

Psalm 77 begins with Asaph crying out to God. He's under some sort of persecution, some sort of attack. Maybe his cities are being waylaid, or maybe his enemies are out to kill him. It's certainly a “day of trouble” and it seems like there's something wrong, since his “soul refuses to be comforted.”

4You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
6I said,[b] "Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart."
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
7"Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
8Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
9Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?"
Selah

What's going on? He's thinking about God, but he's trapped. Has God forgotten him? Has God stopped loving him? He's so troubled that he can't sleep, can't speak.

10Then I said, "I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

(footnote:Or This is my grief: that the right hand of the Most High has changed )

If we take the translation given, this marks the turning point of the Psalm. If we take the footnote, this marks the conclusion of his meditations.

11I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.

Asaph decides to meditate not on what God hasn't done, but upon what God has done. What wonders of old, what work, what mighty deeds.

13Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?

14You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
15You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph.
Selah

What does he conclude? God is holy. God is great. God has redeemed his people. There is one thing that jumped out about this to me though, it is the character of God more than the works of God that pulls us to worship. He had just been lamenting that God had forgotten him. He had known what God had done previously. He was wondering if God had forgotten.

16When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
indeed, the deep trembled.
17The clouds poured out water;
the skies gave forth thunder;
your arrows flashed on every side.
18The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
Affirming that God is sovereign over the oceans, Steve Lawson pointed out that raging waters are often symbolic of rebellious people. (A good example would be Isaiah 17) I think it fits here. The waters saw God and they were afraid. And what does God do? God judges the waters. God pours out water from heavens, sends lightning from the skies. And the earth trembled and shook. This is what God has done in the past, and this is what God will eventually do to those who persecute Asaph. They will be judged in much the same way.

19Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.[d]
20You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

And Asaph will be delivered through the sea (rebellious people), through the waters. Even though God's footprints were not seen, even though Asaph wondered where God was, and if God had heard, the Psalm ends with faith. A faith in the unchanging character of God.

I think we can generalize this: if we're struggling with depression, with despair. If we are wondering where God has been, and if God had remembered. Yes, think of what God has done, but also think of who God is. Without and understanding of the unchanging and steadfast nature, without a conception of the faithfulness, the holiness, the goodness, that God will ultimately judge the unrighteous and set all things back to right, then to remember what God has done will only continue to drive us to despair, to wondering “Has God forgotten?” We need to rebuke ourselves and say “Why are you downcast O my soul? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” We need to remember that God is faithful, that He is unchanging, and that He has promised to carry His work to completion. That even when we can't see His footprints, He is leading us. The Lord is our shepherd, and he anoints our heads with oil in the presence of our enemies.

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