Drinking Deeply

Friday, March 30, 2007 at 2:29 PM

Book Review: One Thing You Can't Do in Heaven

One Thing You Can't Do in Heaven by Mark Cahill is a book seeking to encourage Christians to be bolder about evangelizing and sharing their faith. Within it, he dealt with many basic questions and fears that people had (being rejected, poor presentation, don't know what to say, etc.) and emphasized the importance and need for us to be continual evangelists. The book is sprinkled with stories of how he's shared his faith and different result is has had as he did it. The book as a whole was fairly informative and encouraging. He gave basic answers to a number of typical questions that are directed at Christians, and questions that we as Christians can (and should!) ask non-believers. There was no shying away from the difficult reality of the exclusive truth, sin, and the need for repentance. Lots of good there.

Those things said, I did have a number of issues with the book. One of them major, other two not so much.

1) The emphasis on libertarian freewill - Throughout the book, people are assumed to be spiritually able to turn to righteousness, to hear the Gospel and simply accept it. Of course, I do agree that people do turn and repent when they hear the Gospel, but I think especially in examining evangelism, it's necessary to acknowledge and recognize the sovereign work of God in transforming hearts and bringing people to their knees. I wish it could be more complete, but this doesn't cripple the book. It's funny because he quotes liberally from Calvinists (Spurgeon, A.W. Pink, Machen are ones I caught, I'm sure there are more).

2) Anti-intellectualism - This is probably the worst aspect of the book. Throughout the book the emphasis is upon making converts and not upon making disciples. He makes the repeated point that we all can share the Gospel because we all have been converted. This of course, is true in a sense. If we're a true Christian, regenerated by God's grace, we do have a sense for how we got there. We know about our sin, about God's holiness and God's grace. But unfortunately, most of us actually don't know the Gospel. And the continual impression I had was that not knowing all the answers is "a ok!" which is correct but very incomplete. And an incomplete truth posing as a whole truth is false. The need for Christians is always to know God more and better. This deepens our worship (which is the most important thing in this life and the life to come, not evangelism in this life and worship in the life to come as he claims), improves our apologetic, reveals the mind of Christ, and makes for a clearer and more comprehensive Gospel presentation.

3) Making converts and not disciples - This isn't a major point, but the whole book seems to emphasize the need for cold evangelism and I'm not entirely convinced that that's the right way to go. I wish the need for discipleship and church was mentioned. No one remembers the thing that Jesus built and died for anymore! We are so ... American!

All in all, an interesting read. Informative, but not amazing.

My recommendation: Could do better. Good at accomplishing the intent (motivating evangelism), but enough stuff I didn't like that I wouldn't recommend to new believers.

Maybe read this instead.

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at 2:18 PM

In praise of music

One of the biggest blessings for me has been that of song. By God's grace, He's wired us so that we are somehow better able to remember things when they are put to song. And by God's grace, He's raised up a generation of musicians to better do that and improve and deepen our worship of God.

This has been one song that's been in my head lately. It's really simple to sing. Only a few lines. No fancy chord progression or anything. But it's filled me with such a peace and hope.

Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus -
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
look full in His wonderful face
And the things of this earth will grow strangely dim,
in the light of his glory and grace.
I love this song. It is a continual reminder to meditate upon Jesus and who He is. It pushes me to the Word of God, that I might better know Christ as He has revealed Himself. It encourages me to stop focusing upon myself and my personal failings and the anxieties of this world, but reflect upon a God who is so glorious, so awesome, so gracious, that He sent His Son so that I might have life, joy, hope, and eternal fellowship with Him. It reminds me of the promises of God, that He for His own glory, had mercy upon me, a sinner, and having spared me from death by giving His Son, now graciously pours out all other gifts to me.

And the things of this earth grow dim, the tests, the future, the wondering, the questioning, the church, the girl problems (or lack thereof!), all held by a gracious hand of a loving God.

Ephesians 1:16-23
16I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007 at 11:36 AM

TULIP (24) - Promised, Preserved, and Protected

The second text I want to look at is also one that we've touched upon before, Romans 8:29-30
29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
I used this text previously to demonstrate that there is an effective call made by God that people are unable to resist. Today let's look at the end of the text.

I made the argument earlier that a person who goes through one step will eventually go through all of them.

Those God foreknew (aka, foreloved, as I argue in this post) are predestined to be conformed
Those God predestines (the same people whom He foreloved), he calls
Those God calls (same people yet again), He justifies
Those God justifies (need I repeat myself?), He glorifies.

The act of saving is done with God the subject, and us the direct object. God calls us and justifies us, He will also glorify us on the last day.

This our source of peace. It frees us from the anxiety of wondering if we've done the right things and prayed the right prayer. It reassures us that God, having begun the work in us, will preserve us and protect us from all schemes of man, all power of hell, so that we cannot be snatched out of the love of God. (Philippians 1:6, Romans 8:38-39)

This is the good news. The Gospel. That our God is a God that saves. He does not wring His hands hoping that we'll turn to Him, that having turned hoping that we won't turn away. This is our Lord. He smashes altars, crushes idols, and saves sinners. And those He decides to save, He saves to the utmost. He doesn't just decree the end, but He decrees all parts inbetween.

In Christ Alone, last verse -
No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow'r of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007 at 6:09 PM

Book Review: Presuppositional Confrontations

Presuppositional Confrontations by Vincent Cheung is a very readable introduction to presuppositional apologetics as contrasted to evidential apologetics. The first chapter is a brief introduction on why we need presuppositional apologetics (basically, evidence needs to be intepreted by our assumptions, so we can't just present evidence because non-Christian assumptions are wrong, but we also need to deal with those assumptions... those "presuppositions").

The next chapter (very long) is an exposition of Paul's speech in Athens in Acts 17. It demonstrates quite convincingly how Paul does not seek a common ground approach, but rather arranges a complete worldview clash, where he systematically presents the Christian gospel at the same time as demolishing the non-Christian worldview, and gives many suggestions for how we can ourselves apply such an approach to our own evangelism.

The last chapter is an encouragement to continue to do biblical apologetics and have faith in a God whose foolishness is greater than the wisdom of the wise.

For the most part, I thought the book was excellent. It was very readable and provided an excellent introduction of presuppositional apologetics and how Paul himself used a similar approach in Acts 17. It adequately refuted the idea that Paul tried to find common ground first and emphasized the uniqueness and the supremacy of the biblical worldview. It challenged and encouraged me to continue to know God so that I might make Him known better (which, by the way, is one aspect I often find lacking in books on evangelism, always seem to say "don't worry about not knowing the answer" without any encouragement to actually "know God!")

A small quibble - There were a few places in the book where Vincent Cheung seems to launch off into a particular topic that seems at best tangentally related to the text at hand. (One prominant example is his treatment of Islam's "moon God") It often reads like I'm just listening to him talk about presuppositional apologetics off the cuff rather than a thelogical discussion and comprehensive treatment of the topic at hand. He does treat the topic adequately, and the tangents are certainly informative and enjoyable, but they were surprising. It does give more of a personal feel to things, like this is something he deeply cares about rather than some academic exercise. Reminds me of reading Martin Luther =)

Apart from that, this was excellent and very informative. Makes the need for systematic theology, presuppositional apologetics, and the power of God clear. A great encouragement and emboldener, to say the least.

My Recommendation: borrow it (or download it: here)

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007 at 12:23 PM

TULIP (23) - Enduring to the End

I love this doctrine, because it reminds me and comforts me that my hope is found not in my own ability to hang on and persevere to the end, but in God's sovereign and effectual (effective) choice of me. As the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism says:
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. Christ has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
Of course, "where's the Scripture?" is the obvious question. I can go all over, to Christ's prayer in John 17, to His work in Hebrews, to the promise in Philippians 1, but I think it'll be useful to go back to texts that I've already touched upon, if just to demonstrate the unity of the five points of TULIP.

John 6 (which I've previously posted about here and here)
22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
To set the context, Jesus has just fed the 5000 with loaves of bread. Then, in usual Jesus form, He dissapears. The crowds, having been fed, wake up and go searching for him.

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus, perceiving their true intent, begins to challenge their assumptions about who he is and what that means. (He seems to have quite a way with people! =D)

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Now we get to the main body blows of the passage. Jesus declares that he is the bread of life, that those who come shall not hunger, and those who believe shall not thirst (v.35). Then he turns and address their unbelief (v.36). He declares "All that the Father gives me will come to me" (v.37a) Now, why does he say this in response to their unbelief? John makes the connection between the Father's act of giving and the crowd's act of unbelief. All that the Father gives will come. The crowd has not come (believed). Therefore, the crowd's unbelief is due to the fact that the Father has not given them to Christ.

Now, that's the unconditional election that I previously addressed, but now notice what Jesus promises to those who do come, "whoever comes to me I will never cast out." (v.37b) Jesus makes the promise that those whom God has given to Jesus will come, and they will never be cast out. Jesus accomplishes the will of the Father - to save those that God has given Him. (v.38-40)

Unless of course, we say that Jesus fails at accomplishing God's will, and God's will fails at being fulfilled, but I don't think anyone takes that position, and if they do, let me just say that there's a distinction in the Scripture between the wills of God. There's one "blueprint will" (declarative will for you theologians), where God lays out a blueprint of what's going to happen. That will is not thwarted. (Isaiah 46:10) There's another will which is his "Thou shall not-will" (prescriptive will). This is the will that is transgressed. Suffice to say that I think Jesus is not obeying commands here (or failing at obeying commands as some might charge him with!), but fulfilling God's eternal decree.

Thus, our hope rests on nothing else but the promises of God. This is our security and our hope. We bring nothing to the table but our own sin, but by the gracious hand of God, He has called us, given us to the hand of Jesus Christ, and promised us everlasting hope preserved and protected by the almighty power of Jesus Christ.

37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

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Monday, March 26, 2007 at 2:05 PM

Reading Deeply

So a few months ago, my computer started having issues with overheating, so I ended up not using it for a fairly long period of time. It was only recently that I rebooted it and pulled off a lot of links that I was going to post, so some of these are dated.

David Wayne talks about how often we as Christians "kick it up a notch," when we take a secondary issue and make it a primary one and a source of division rather than dialogue. I think he's spot on, and I'm very guilty of this as much as anyone else. One caveat though, I do believe a lot of issues are a lot more essential than people would like, but I agree with the general idea. If Scripture doesn't make it a main issue, nor should we. He also shares an excellent article about speaking normally. This was spot on!

Justin Taylor gives us some good suggestions on praying for our pastor. I've found this very useful for modeling my own prayers these last few months.

Doug Wilson has a lot of great little posts. This one is about forgiveness and what actually is owed. This post was on the importance of pledging allegence to Christ. And this one was on sanctification, playing tennis with the devil.

Vincent Cheung talks on sanctification. I've been thinking about sanctification a lot. So this was really helpful.

The people over at FIDE-O posted a link to someone doing a dramatic reading of Hebrews 9 and 10. This was awesome. Watch it.

Also along the lines of New Years Resolutions (always resolving right?) I found Spurgeon's words excellent. "Father, glorify thy name!"

And Spurgeon gives us a good receipe for church growth too.

Random news, Al Gore is challenged to a debate on global warming.

Pulpit Live has some excellent posts on the sovereignty of God. Here's one on God's gracious choice. And Phil Johnson is working through a series on why he is a Calvinist, and you are too. Parts 1,2,3,4,5...

Finally, I think Frank Turk basically exploded any notion I previously had of fallible prophecy with this post. Now my position is a cessationalist in terms of revelation, very guarded continuationist in terms of miracles. Blown and tossed by the waters Mickey =p.

Bookwise, I just finished Presuppositional Apologetics by Vincent Cheung. Look for a review in a day. I've also started (and am halfway through) One Thing You Can't Do in Heaven by Mark Cahill. Review of that to come as well.

I haven't been reading too many blogs, but go and check out Mike Cheng's. He writes a lot, but there's much that is cool and worthwhile to read. He just finished a "basics of Christianity" booklet (tract?) and is starting a series on contentment. Very cool stuff.

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at 12:47 PM

Death

Ecclesiastes 7
2It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
Last week I learned of the death of Dustin Salter, an RUF pastor who ministered at TCU who had a biking accident. That same week, I learned of the death of a teenage girl in a car accident. A blink of an eye and one's life can change drastically. Death is with us all.

When Adam took of the fruit, we all died in him (Romans 5:12). And now, we live in our cursed bodies, such a perishable seed. We live in a decaying world with a decaying body, and death will one day take us all. Dust will return to dust.

But not only that, but our days are numbered by the hand of God. James tells us that life is like a mist that appears for a little while and vanishes. Who can know what day is the day that God calls him home? (James 4:13-16) All flesh is grass, here today, gone tomorrow. And all of it in the hand of God (Isaiah 40:7-8).

But a Christian's life isn't one stuck waiting for the last breath to come. A Christian's life isn't one trapped in fear and the trivialness of the physical world (see Ecclesiastes for examples). We can proclaim,
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55) With the death and resurrection of Christ, death has also been conquered. No longer a source of fear and dread, but death has become a slave of Christ, a means by which we are able to shed this crippled body and be united with Christ. That's why Paul pronounces, "to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21) Death has become gain!

But if my life isn't lived for Christ, then to die will not be gain. There is no peace for the wicked (Isaiah 48:22), on the last day, it would have been better for me to have never been born. (See also: Hell is not a place where God is not)

In following Jonathan Edwards' footsteps, I thus take his 9th resolution for my own:

Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. [2] 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with [3] every secret thing, whether good or evil.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007 at 1:40 PM

Lord's Day 24

Question 62. But why cannot our good works be the whole, or part of our righteousness before God?

Answer. Because, that the righteousness, which can be approved of before the tribunal of God, must be absolutely perfect, and in all respects [a] conformable to the divine law; and also, that our best works in this life are all imperfect and [b] defiled with sin.

Question 63. What! do not our good works merit, which yet God will reward in this and in a future life?

Answer. This reward is not of merit, but of grace. [c]

Question 64. But doth not this doctrine make men careless and profane?

Answer. By no means: for it is impossible that those, who are implanted into Christ by a true faith, should not bring forth fruits of [d] thankfulness.

[a]: Gal. 3:10; Deut. 17:26
[b]: Isa. 64:6
[c]: Luke 17:10
[d]: Mat. 7:17,18; John 15:5

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Thursday, March 22, 2007 at 5:10 PM

TULIP (22) - Preservation of the Saints

Wahoo, on to the last point. This is probably my favorite one, because of how much hope it gives to a Christian. This is hope, this is good news, this is our source of joy. This frees us from anxiety and allows us to always look forward.

Way back when I was defining everything, this is what I said:
For those God has chosen, He will also preserve them to the end, so that they will not fall away (they will remain saints).
Thus far, (and I'm jumping around a little) we have God's eternal election (U) acting in time with an irresistible call (I) producing a faith in a hostile person (T), all of which are purchased by the death of Christ (L).

Because of all of this, one of the additional benefits of being chosen by a loving God before the foundation of the world is that the determining factor in us finishing the race is not us somehow maintaining our faith by our free will, but it's God hanging onto us and forging our faith in accordance to His perfect plan so it endures to the end. (P)

Now, this doesn't mean that every single person that has ever "prayed the prayer" or "signed the card" or whatever else is usually associated with conversion will endure to the end. It doesn't mean that some whom God has chosen may not stumble into particularly grievous sin (like David) and thus look like a non-believer. It means that those God has chosen will end up in Heaven. They will endure to the end, bearing good fruit and having lived a life that glorifies the Lord, all by His sovereign grace. At the end of the day, when they say with Paul, "I've fought the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7)" the very next thought will be, "all by God's grace."

The Preservation of the Saints is also known by a few other phrases -

Once Saved Always Saved - Useful, but may give the impression that "having prayed the prayer or signed the card, always saved." Many have been given false assurance through a phrase like this.

Perseverance of the Saints - This is better, as now we're told how people who are saved remain and end up. They remain saints - set apart for God, and they persevere to the end. There's hard work and long trials ahead, but they can make it. Unfortunately, it can suggest that the work in enduring to the end is primarily dependent upon man persevering.

Preservation of the Saints - Vincent Cheung argues that this is the best summary of the biblical teaching on the subject. I agree. It tells us how believers endure to the end (by being preserved, not determined by them, but by outside them), and it tells us that they are preserved as saints, so that it's not a cause for free immorality.

Ok, hopefully I can finish up this series soon.

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Monday, March 19, 2007 at 10:01 AM

Serving one another

A sister in Christ left a comment in response to my previous question, "How now can we serve one another?"

Here it is in it's entirety. I found it greatly encouraging, not to mention a bit convicting as well.

M. Z. Ahern said...

The question put to girls is, “Does this make you feel awkward?” Perhaps the phrasing should be re-thought. Should it matter whether or not a guy doing things for us that we are physically capable of doing for ourselves -- like carrying our luggage or opening a door for us or helping us with our chair -- makes us feel awkward? Should we not rather be asking, “Has he done a good thing?” If we know he has done a good thing, yet we feel awkward about it, we need to keep our feelings to ourselves and pray that God would bring those feelings in line with reality. And we need to focus on expressing appreciation, as Hannah did, for the goodness of what he has done… right?

And I would say, yes, he has indeed done a very good thing, and in doing what did he is serving and honoring women in general (not just this particular woman) in a manner that points to the glory of Christ. Keep on doing it, men! You exhibit godly, Christ-like, servant-masculinity when you do.

For most of history, these gestures would have been understood to be a way of serving and honoring women. Royalty had servants to open their doors and carry their luggage even though they were physically capable of doing these things for themselves. We are a confused people. A few have chosen to impute back-handed insults and demeaning intentions: that men do these things chauvinistically, as a way of asserting their superior strength or power. Others just wonder why it is traditional for guys to do these things that women are perfectly capable of doing for themselves.

Consider the following excerpt:

Respecting Women

A two-year-old boy should be taught to respect his baby sister because she is a girl. A five-year-old boy should be required to say “yes, ma’am” to his mother simply because she is a woman. Young boys need to be taught to stand when a woman enters the room. They should be taught to hold open doors for women. They should seat their mother at the dinner table. These are not arbitrary or random cultural practices which have no meaning. They are a constant daily reminder to males – whose lusts when unmortified always degrade women – that women must not be degraded, but rather honored. Manners are therefore a form of sexual discipleship; they are a sexual discipline. A boy who has learned to honor women everywhere will have difficulty in despising one in the back seat of a car.

…The impulses to dishonor in sexual desire are strong – our earthly members tend toward sin, Paul tells us – and so we need constant rebukes and admonitions. The cultural discipline of honoring women is very important. It is no accident that feminists have succeeded in getting women treated “equally” with men, and now that women are no longer singled out for honor, that men around them just go with their lusts. The results have not been at all favorable for women. After decades of established feminism, the end result is that far more women, in their relationships with men, are treated like dirt.” (Douglas Wilson, Future Men, Girls and Sex, p.136)

Girls, the most important reciprocal service you can give guys is graciously and appreciatively affirming them in this masculine honoring of your sex. Our cultural climate does not make this sort of honoring an easy thing for them to do. Christian men often want to do the right thing but get conflicting messages.

Thanks to the several generations before you, your generation is coming at this discussion with so many ill-founded assumptions that you may not realize just how enormous and life-encompassing the discussion is. As you think about how to practice your faith in these matters, remember to always take your questions back to First Principles, which generally means look to the Creator’s design, order, and purposes. He made us male and female. Why? Male and female do not equal each other. Genesis tells us we complement -- complete, perfect -- each other.

Remember that manners are a very tangible practice of your faith, of “theology coming out your fingertips”; remember that good manners are a matter of the Christian virtue of esteeming others more highly than oneself: being considerate of others, being kind with tone, words, gestures, and deeds.

And remember that just because several generations before you have fumbled the torch and not passed on the reason behind most Christian traditions does not mean that very good reasons for them do not exist. One generation gets lazy and lukewarm and passes on only the doing of a tradition without any explanation of the reasons why; the next generation then loses all connection to meaning and within a generation or two, the tradition which once was a visible sign of an invisible reality, is now dropped and one more chunk of Christian capital is lost.

--Peggy Ahern

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Sunday, March 18, 2007 at 12:53 AM

Lord's Day 23

Question 59. But what doth is profit thee now that thou believest all this?

Answer. That I am righteous in Christ, before God, and an heir of eternal life. [a]

Question 60. How are thou righteous before God?

Answer. Only [b] by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and [c] kept none of them, and am still [d] inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God, without any [e] merit of mine, but only of mere [f] grace, grants [g] and [h] imputes to me, the perfect [i] satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully [j] accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; [k] inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart.

Question 61. Why sayest thou, that thou art righteous by faith only?

Answer. Not that I am acceptable to God, on account of the [l] worthiness of my faith; but because only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, is my righteousness before [m] God; and that I cannot receive [n] and apply the same to myself any other way than by faith only.

[a]: Rom. 5:1; Rom. 1:17; John 3:36
[b]: Rom. 3:22ff; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8,9
[c]: Rom. 3:9ff
[d]: Rom. 7:23
[e]: Rom. 3:24
[f]: Tit. 3:5; Eph 2:8,9
[g]: Rom. 4:4,5; 2Cor. 5:19
[h]: 1John 2:1
[i]: Rom. 3:24,25
[j]: 2Cor. 5:21
[k]: Rom. 3:28; John 3:18
[l]: Psa. 16:2; Eph. 2:8,9
[m]: 1Cor. 1:30; 1Cor. 2:2
[n]: 1John 5:10

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Thursday, March 15, 2007 at 4:32 PM

Evangelism

Sometimes we look at evangelism with the wrong point of view. We ask on their behalf "what must I to be saved?" Of course, the question in itself isn't wrong. It's asked a number of times by different people. (Matthew 19:16, Luke 10:25, Acts 2:37, Acts 16:30)

And of course, Scripture gives us answers too. Check the verses following the above passages. We can also look at Romans 10:9-13, which ends with this:
13For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Simple right? The problem is when we take this approach of asking on their behalf and we seek to give them the minimum to be saved. Out of this has flowed things like the 4 spiritual laws, various Gospel tracts, the powerpoint Gospel presentation. Now, don't get me wrong. There's a time and a place for these short presentations. The speeches in Acts are all examples of brief and to the point Gospel presentations.

But this is by no means all that evangelism must consist of. The great commission is one of many examples - (emphasis added)

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."
We see examples in Acts, where Paul isn't just taking the shotgun approach to preaching the Gospel, but presenting it comprehensively and exhaustively.

Acts 19
8And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.[c] 10This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
Acts 20
19 "You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
When we're proclaiming the Gospel, we're not exhorting our hearers to repent and believe in some entity Jesus so they have a ticket to heaven, but we're exhorting our hearers to believe God as He has revealed Himself through the Word so that they may live for Christ. There may be some topics that people may not be as interested in at first (like a careful examination of the translation of logos in John 1), but the whole counsel of God must be brought to bear eventually. We're not making converts, we're making disciples.

The entirety of the Gospel of John is an excellent example. John gives the purpose of his book in John 20:30-31
30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
But what is John's Gospel about? It's about theology in addition to the life of Christ. We learn of the deity of Christ, the depravity of man, the sovereignty of God, the purpose and plan of God, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. All of these things were written "so that [we] may believe ...and by believing [we] may have life in His name. "

So let's not make lists of "this is what's needed to affirm in order to be saved," or say things like "usually when I talk to unbelievers, I never talk about this, because it's not useful for them." The whole counsel of God is God's Word, and it's useful. There are some that are more important to cover first, but all of it is important and useful, for all of us. Christians and non alike.

Further reading -

Vincent Cheung - Earnest Seeking, Even After Conversion (check out his links at the bottom as well)

Monergism - Evangelism (there's a lot here!)

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 12:55 PM

TULIP (21) - Definite Atonement

Much of the information in this post will be based upon his sermon by John Piper. Piper said it well when he pointed out that the answer "everybody" to the question, "who did Jesus die for?" isn't wrong. People who affirm that Jesus died for all are to be commended for sticking to the language that the Bible uses to talk about Jesus' death.

Hebrews 2:9
9But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
But we can't just stop with using language that Scripture uses, but we must also mean what Scripture means. Catholics use language that Scripture uses when they say that man isn't saved by faith alone (James 2), but the disagreement of the Reformation wasn't over the usage of the terms, but over the meaning of the terms. And that makes a world of a difference. So it is with a desire not only to say what Scripture says, but also to mean what Scripture means that I post this.

So why do I say that Jesus didn't die for everyone?

1) It undermines the unity of the Triune God in salvation - Unconditional election entails the Father foreloving a specific group of people before the foundation of the world. Irresistible grace entails the Holy Spirit creating a new heart in that same group of people while they live. But if we throw out the 'L', Jesus ends up dying for all people, only some of whom will be saved.

2) It undermines the purpose of Christ - Christ is right now interceding for those that God has given Him (Hebrews 7:24-26). Christ prays for those that God has given him and not the world (John 17:9). He does not pray for those predestined to destruction, why would he sacrifice himself for them?

3) It undermines the justice of God - If Jesus dies for the sins of every single person that ever existed and will exist, why are they being punished in hell? If the debt is paid in full, what sins are there that are left to be punished in hell? And the answer of "the sin of unbelief," isn't in Scripture:

Colossians 3:5-6
5Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:[a] sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
4) It ignores the fact that Jesus died for people - Oftentimes the analogy is used of a check that's never cashed, or the ticket that's never redeemed. But Scripture never speaks of Jesus dying for an offer, dying for a possibility, but it speaks of Jesus purchasing people. (Acts 20:28, Revelation 5:9, 1 Peter 1:17-19)

5) It separates faith from the other blessings that flow from the death of Jesus - If all good things for the elect are bought by the blood of Jesus, upon what grounds does God gives us faith? Christians rightfully affirm that all blessings of this life and the life to come for the elect are purchased by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, does this not include faith as well?

Piper closes his sermon on this point with these words. I will finish my post with them.
I am not the least bit interested in withholding the infinite value of the death of Jesus from anyone. Let it be known and heard very clearly: God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that whoever believes on him—I say it again: whoever believes in him—should not perish but have eternal life. Christ died so that whoever (in this room this morning) believes might not perish but live.

And when you believe as you ought to believe, you will discover that your belief—like all other spiritual blessings—was purchased by the death of Christ. The sin of unbelief was covered by the blood in your case, and therefore the power of God's mercy was released through the cross to subdue your rebellion and bring you to the Son. You did not make the cross effective in your life by faith. The cross became effective in your life by purchasing your faith.

So glory in this, Christian. Glory that your sins really were covered when Jesus tasted death for you. Glory that your guilt really was removed when Jesus tasted death for you. Glory that the curse of the law really was lifted and that the wrath of God really was removed, and that the precious faith that unites you to all this treasure in Christ was a gift purchased by the blood of Christ.

Christ tasted death for everyone who has faith. Because the faith of everyone who believes was purchased by the death of Christ.

More reading if you're interested -

James White - Was anyone saved at the cross?

Monergism - Particular Redemption

A-Team Blog - Limited or Particular Atonement

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007 at 12:59 PM

How now can we serve one another?

Hebrews 10:
19Therefore, brothers,[c] since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Yesterday a friend threw out a question for the guys that I thought was cool to think about, so I thought I'd post it.

Q (paraphrased): How should a girl respond when a guy offers to do something that can be handled on my own? Like the other day someone offered to carry my luggage, but it wasn't really heavy at all.

Girls - Does this make you feel awkward? Should we just stop? How about opening doors and grabbing chairs? How can guys serve you in a manner that points to the glory of Christ?

Guys - No one's boasting here, what are some practices that you've tried to put into place to help serve your sisters in Christ?

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Monday, March 12, 2007 at 10:37 AM

TULIP (20) - 2 Peter 2:1ff

I've been asked to elaborate upon my view of 2 Peter 2:1ff in light of the doctrine of limited atonement.

2 Peter 2
1But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
Much of my thoughts here are parallel with Simon Escobedo III, who has an article on James White's aomin.org. It is quite a long article and a bit technical in areas, so I'm going to just post a "main points."

The first thing I notice about the passage is that Peter's emphasis isn't exactly upon the atonement. The passage's focus is not on who Christ died for or what that accomplished, but is upon the false teachers and the destructive heresies. In fact, the rest of 2 Peter doesn't seem to be focused upon Christ and the atonement at all. There is a lot of encouragement to make our calling and election sure, to be obedient, seeking to be without blemish on the last day, and so on, but nothing (with 2 Peter 2:1 the possible exception) about the calling itself, about the atonement itself, or the process of salvation. Of course, this doesn't discount that Peter may make points that are related to the atonement, but is something that we can keep in mind.

(Hebrews 7-10 is a very full treatment of the atonement, and I've touched on that text here)

The second thing I would point out is that if the passage is actually interpreted to imply that Jesus died for all people universally, then not only must we reject limited atonement, but we must also reject preservation of the saints (the 5th point of Calvinism, hopefully I'll get to that soon), as the passage is not saying that "redemption was bought" but that "people were bought." That these people had their sins paid for and they weren't saved. One might wonder what they are judged for if their sins are paid for already (remember, the claim is that Jesus bought these people).

Third, the word for "Master" (despotes) isn't the one we traditionally used for God as Savior. Strong's says it's used for master, owner, absolute ruler, from it we get despot. This word is acknowledged to never be used for Christ in a redemptive context but rather in a "Sovereign Lord" context. Master and slave, creator and created. In Jude, which often is seen as parallel to 2 Peter, we see the same sort of wording, where the "Master" part is highlighted even clearer.

Jude 4
4For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master (despotes) and Lord, Jesus Christ.
So how do I understand this verse? I understand it to be referring to being bought by the Master in the same sense that they were created by God and therefore He owns them. The false teachers were not bought redemptively by the blood of Jesus Christ but created by the Lord God who owns them in the same way He owns all things. I don't see an argument for the notion of a universal atonement, as if Jesus died for everyone (which somehow is able to separate "dying" from "paying for sins"). Now, I will conceed that I am unable to prove limited atonement from this passage, but I don't think that's something that I need to prove. I think the rest of Scripture is clear enough to establish limited atonement as is (as I've posted about here and here).

For a parallel in the OT (in the NASB, since the ESV uses a different word)

Deuteronomy 32:5-6 (NASB)
5"(A)They have acted corruptly toward Him,
They are not His children, because of their defect;
(B)But are a perverse and crooked generation.
6"Do you thus (C)repay the LORD,
(D)O foolish and unwise people?
(E)Is not He your Father who has bought you?
(F)He has made you and established you.
To tie it all up my last point is going to be about the inconsistency of 4-point Calvinism, so that'll be my next post.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007 at 10:44 PM

Lord's Day 22

Question 57. What comfort doth the "resurrection of the body" afford thee?

Answer. That not only my soul after this life shall be immediately taken [a] up to Christ its head; but also, that this my body, being raised by the power of Christ, shall be reunited with my soul, and [b] made like unto the glorious body of Christ.

Question 58. What comfort takest thou from the article of "life everlasting"?

Answer. That [c] since I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, after this life, [d] I shall inherit perfect salvation, which [e] "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man" to conceive, and that, to praise God therein for ever.

[a]: Luke 23:43; Phil. 1:23
[b]: 1Cor. 15:53; Job 19:25,26
[c]: 2Cor. 5:2,3,6; Rom. 14:17
[d]: Psa. 10:11
[e]: 1Cor. 2:9

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Friday, March 09, 2007 at 11:06 PM

Book Review: Pray With Your Eyes Open

Pray With Your Eyes Open: Looking at God, Ourselves, and Our Prayers, by Richard Pratt, Jr. was a study on prayer. The book was divided into three helpful sections, looking at God, looking at ourselves, and looking at our prayers. Each one was filled with chapters that helped me to understand my own prayers better and how I can deepen my prayer life. Most of the suggestions were solidly grounded in Scripture, though I must confess there were a couple I was not too sure of. But there is more than enough that is worthwhile here (and nothing that will damage someone's faith, but just some that I wonder if it will help) that I would highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to deepen their prayer life. The question/suggestions on the end weren't my cup of tea, but YMMV.

I'll be honest and say that I didn't go into the book with very high expectations, the illustrations look like they were drawn for 5 year olds and I probably could have done without them, and I didn't get rave reviews from a couple friends who had already read the book. But after reading it, I was pretty amazed by how much depth there was to the book. There was a great deal that I learned (or hope I learned! We'll see if this 'faith' leads to works!). I have seen how it has impacted my prayer life already, and I just hope it continues to be something that bears fruit in my life.

One suggestion I would make for the those who would like to read this book is to read it with a friend and have someone who can practice praying with (not that it's "fake" prayer or anything). I realized that it was very easy to read over a chapter and say "yeah, that was nice" and just move on without actually applying the suggestion. It would have been nice to slow down my reading pace and just practice some of the prayer suggestions.

Another book I would highly suggest would be Vincent Cheung's "Prayer and Revelation," which focuses much more on the attributes of God and how that impacts our approach to prayer. There is a little bit of overlap though. The suggestions that this book provides work much better with a larger foundation (always growing though!) of actually knowing who God is and why/how we pray, but it is certainly possible to read this book with much gain without having read the other one.

My recommendation: Own it.

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Monday, March 05, 2007 at 11:11 PM

TULIP (19) - The Good Shepherd

I've previously pointed out that the limited (definite) aspect of Jesus' death is necessary by the fact that Jesus' death is spoken of in Scripture as not making "potential salvation" for people, but rather it saves. Jesus died for sin. Not just for potential sins (if they have faith), but for sin. That sin is judged in the body of Christ and the payment is paid in full. Jesus saves.

The flip side of that is that not all sins are paid for, therefore Jesus does not die for all. With this post, I hope to demonstrate that Christ knew He died for a specific group of people and was explicit about who he was dying for.

John 10
11I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father."
Within this passage, Jesus points out that he is the good shepherd. One of the qualities of being a good shepherd is that he lays down his life for the sheep.

Which sheep is he laying down his life for? Jesus points out that he has a flock that contain his own sheep. (v.14) By extension, these are the sheep that Jesus is laying down his life for. Of course, we must now ask, "are all people Jesus' sheep?"

In response to this question, we point back to v.14 again
v.14b) I know my own and my own know me
Well, we do know that Jesus knows everyone in a sense. But there is a specific meaning where Jesus does not know someone. Namely, that He does not love someone. (Matthew 7:21-23 is an example of this) Jesus also says that His sheep know Him, which certainly isn't true of many of the people of the world, as the Gospel of John testifies to so clearly (John 1:9-13).

On top of that Jesus makes it very clear that not all people are His sheep in verse 16
16And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
So we cannot understand Jesus saying "my sheep" in v. 14 to refer to all people as then his statement that there are other sheep not of this fold makes no sense. But maybe that just means that eventually he's going to be bringing all people into His fold. Setting aside what the question of "what does it mean that he knows his sheep in the same way that the Father knows the Son?" we can deal with that objection from the text (further in the passage).

John 10
22At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." 25Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, 26but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me,[a] is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30I and the Father are one."
Notice Jesus points out explicitly in verse 26-30 -
26but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me,[a] is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30I and the Father are one."
What does Jesus do for His sheep? He saves them. He gives them eternal life and they will never perish. Not "if they accept my offer they will never perish" but an automatic gift of God. No one will snatch them out of His hand (his sheep are already in His hand!). Those who are His sheep are saved. They will never perish and this is the promise of Christ. Hand in hand with Christ dying for them is Christ saving them.

Jesus is the good shepherd. He knows His sheep and lays down His life for His sheep. He never loses them because they are held by God's powerful hand. Soli Deo Gloria

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Sunday, March 04, 2007 at 3:01 PM

Lord's Day 21

54. What do you believe concerning the “Holy Catholic Church?”

That out of the whole human race,[1] from the beginning to the end of the world,[2] the Son of God,[3] by His Spirit and Word,[4] gathers, defends, and preserves for Himself unto everlasting life a chosen communion[5] in the unity of the true faith;[6] and that I am and forever shall remain a living member of this communion.[7]

[1]Gen. 26:4. [2]Jn. 10:10. [3]Eph. 1:10-13. [4]Rom. 1:16; Isa. 59:21; Rom. 10:14-17; Eph. 5:26. [5]Rom. 8:29-30; Mt. 16:18; Eph. 4:3-6. [6]Acts 2:46; Ps. 71:18; I Cor. 11:26; Jn. 10:28-30; I Cor. 1:8-9. [7]I Jn. 3:21; I Jn. 2:19; *Gal. 3:28.

55. What do you understand by the “communion of saints?”

First, that believers, one and all, as members of the Lord Jesus Christ, are partakers with Him in all His treasures and gifts;[1] second, that each one must feel himself bound to use his gifts readily and cheerfully for the advantage and welfare of other members.[2]

[1]I Jn. 1:3. [2]I Cor. 12:12-13, 21; 13:5-6; Phil. 2:4-6; *Heb. 3:14.

56. What do you believe concerning the “forgiveness of sins?”

That God, for the sake of Christ's satisfaction,[1] will no more remember my sins, nor the sinful nature with which I have to struggle all my life long;[2] but graciously imputes to me the righteousness of Christ, that I may nevermore come into condemnation.[3]

[1]I Jn. 2:2. [2]II Cor. 5:19, 21; Rom. 7:24-25; Ps. 103:3, 10-12; Jer. 31:34; Rom. 8:1-4. [3]Jn. 3:18; *Eph. 1:7; *Rom. 4:7-8; 7:18.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007 at 10:36 PM

Resolved but Always Resolving

Cross-posted from mochapress with light edits.

One thing that C.J. Mahaney remarked during their Q&A session was that we ought to take a couple points from Resolved to apply to our daily lives. Here's a beginning. (with subpoints)

By the grace of God I am and I strive to be...

1) Resolved, to credit all things that make me different from anyone else as from God and God alone, to remember all that I have is a gift from the Lord and to rebuke and repent of trusting in myself as if my accomplishments were mine (1 Corinthians 4:7)

1.1) Resolved, that daily I would preach the Gospel to myself, waking up and remembering how undeserving and ill-deserving I am of all that God has given me, that my sins entailed the possibility of me being crushed that very moment and shipped off to the hottest fires of hell, but by God's grace I lived another day and God has permitted me to know and taste Him.

1.2) Resolved, to answer (in my mind if not aloud) "better than I deserve" to those questions of "how are you doing today?"

1.3) Resolved, to think of myself, when hearing of or seeing other people's sins, as if I had done the same if not worse if it was not for the grace of God, that this would occasion me to confess my own sins of the same ilk (This is based in large part off of Edward's resolution 8)

1.4) Resolved, to seek true greatness found in serving my brothers and sisters, actively asking if there are things I can help with and not just being passively "willing."

2) Resolved, to seek to see Jesus Christ in all of Scripture through diligent study and meditation upon it. (John 5:39)

2.1) Resolved, to read Scripture for myself, that my first application would be for me and not for how I would use it to defend and attack other people/positions. (Evan said it well in his 3rd resolution)

2.2) Resolved, to memorize Scripture, so that I would be able preach at myself from the very Word of God even when I do not have a physical Bible handy.

2.3) Resolved, to strive when reading Scripture to see how this points me to Christ and the cross.

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