He shall glorify Me

floodlight_Dornoch_CathedralJ.I. Packer:

The Holy Spirit’s distinctive new covenant role, then, is to fulfill what we may call a floodlight ministry in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. So far as this role was concerned, the Spirit “was not yet” (John 7:39, literal Greek) while Jesus was on earth; only when the Father had glorified him (see John 17:1, 5) could the Spirit’s work of making men aware of Jesus’ glory begin.

I remember walking to a church one winter evening to preach on the words “he shall glorify me,” seeing the building floodlit as I turned a corner, and realizing that this was exactly the illustration my message needed.

When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are so placed that you do not see them; you are not in fact supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and to maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you see it properly. This perfectly illustrates the Spirit’s new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior.

Or think of it this way. It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder, on Jesus, who stands facing us.

The Spirit’s message is never,

“Look at me;

listen to me;

come to me;

get to know me,”

but always

“Look at him, and see his glory;

listen to him, and hear his word;

go to him, and have life;

get to know him, and taste his gift of joy and peace.“

– Keeping in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), p. 57.

So now we must applaud?

Douglas Wilson writes:

So the Supreme Court of New Mexico has determined that a wedding photographer does not have the right to decline a job shooting a homosexual wedding ceremony. This is obviously a hamfisted jackboot, to coin a phrase, but there are a few nuances that we believers have to work through. Because we have refused to distinguish sins from crimes, we are rapidly coming to the place where it is a criminal offense to act as though there is such a thing as sin at all.

First, the issue is not that Christians are acting like an economic transaction with a homosexual is spiritually defiling. It is not. If I had a hardware store, I would be happy to sell a hammer to a homosexual. I would be happy to sell a hammer to a homosexual couple who were going to use it to hammer up the crepe paper bunting at the reception. I don’t care. They give me ten bucks, I give them the hammer, and I am not contaminated by the exchange. If I sold them some cotter pins, I might feel an urge to explain them, but would be happy to sell them.

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness of it. The apostle Paul teaches us explicitly that we are not entailed in the sin when we live in the same world with unbelievers, rub shoulders with them, and do business with them (1 Cor. 5:10). I think Christians should be happy to do business with homosexuals. No problemo, as we bilingual people say.

But doing business is not the issue here. Christian photographers, florists, caterers, etc. are absolutely right to refuse to do such events. And the reason for this is the reason these professions are being singled out in these court cases in the first place. This is not about economic exchange, but is rather about mandated social approval. The demand is we must all applaud.

And is the reason why photographers and florists are going to be at the center of this next round of fights. The homosexual agenda is not to make us do business with them. The point is to make us approve of them.

You see, a good wedding photographer’s job is to make the event glorious, to make it look good. His job is to make the couple look happy — when his God, his Bible, his church, his wife, and his conscience all tell them that they are unhappy and miserable by definition. When he does his job well, he adorns the event. In order for him to show up and adorn such an event as this, he has to violate his conscience in order to do so. The issue is not the camera, the issue is the celebration.Some Christians think we must be absolutely separate, and think that it would be morally problematic to sell them the hammer — for is that not “enabling” them? Well, yes it is, but the apostle Paul told us not to worry about enabling. He said that we had to draw the line at approving. This is why we must not fellowship with anyone who calls himself a brother and is living immorally (1 Cor. 5:11-13). To do that would communicate approval, Paul says we must not.

Now it also happens that I also believe that a Christian hardware store owner should have the legal right to refuse service to anybody. No shirt, no hammer. No girl, no hammer. If he is being over-scrupulous, as I think he is, I still think that he ought to be allowed to be that way in a free country. Christians could take different approaches on the hammer questions. But I don’t think there really are different approaches for us on the business of celebration.

Certain businesses that surround weddings are celebratory in their very nature, and people who are good at this sort of thing are good at entering into the celebrations of relative strangers who came to them asking them to “do” their event. Christians who are good at celebrating with their customers in this way are being told that it is mandatory for them to celebrate something that God has declared must never be celebrated. And that is why this is an issue.

But conduct a thought experiment. Suppose the photographers in question here lose on appeal (I trust that they will appeal), and they must either get out of photography or do homosexual weddings. Suppose further they figure out a way to do such weddings, do a competent job, while at the same time communicating the fact that they do not approve at all. Suppose that all the CDs of photo thumbnails that they deliver to their homosexual customers contain files of evangelistic tracts written for homosexuals, outlining the way of repentance and the gospel of grace.

Do you think there will be lawsuits designed to make them stop that form of testimony? You bet there will be, because the point is to force us all to approve. This homosexual agenda knows what their end game is. They will not rest until they are surrounded with the sounds of mandatory and universal applause.

God and Idolatry

john-piperWhen he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. (2 Thessalonians 1:10)

People stumble over the teaching that God exalts his own glory and seeks to be praised by his people because the Bible teaches us not to be like that. For example, the Bible says that love “does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5, see NASB).

How can God be loving and yet be utterly devoted to “seeking his own” glory and praise and joy? How can God be for us if he is so utterly for himself?

The answer I propose is this: Because God is unique as an all-glorious, totally self-sufficient Being, he must be for himself if he is to be for us. The rules of humility that belong to a creature cannot apply in the same way to its Creator.

If God should turn away from himself as the Source of infinite joy, he would cease to be God. He would deny the infinite worth of his own glory. He would imply that there is something more valuable outside himself. He would commit idolatry.

This would be no gain for us. For where can we go when our God has become unrighteous? Where will we find a Rock of integrity in the universe when the heart of God has ceased to value supremely the supremely valuable? Where shall we turn with our adoration when God himself has forsaken the claims of infinite worth and beauty?

No, we do not turn God’s self-exaltation into love by demanding that God cease to be God. Instead, we must come to see that God is love precisely because he relentlessly pursues the praises of his name in the hearts of his people.

John Piper

Does 2 Peter 2:1 Deny Particular Redemption?

questionmarkredstandingDoes 2 Peter 2:1 Deny Particular Redemption?

2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.

When someone tells me that they are a 4 point Calvinist, it is almost always the case that their struggle is with the “L” in the famous TULIP acrostic, namely so called “Limited Atonement.” “Definite Atonement” or “Particular Redemption” might be better terms to use (though they destroy the acrostic TULIP into “TUDIP” or even worse, “TUPIP” – hardly good memory devices).

Concerning the letters of Paul, the Apostle Peter was right when he related that some things are “hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16). Sometimes it takes a good deal of prayer, hard work and study to determine what the Bible is teaching on certain matters. For my part, I have not always been a 5 point Calvinist and have great sympathy for those who struggle with these very vital “doctrines of grace.” I tend to think however that many do not struggle with them nearly enough.

Our traditions can be so strong that we are often blind to them in our own thinking. We all have our blind spots. Part of my own intellectual struggle with the doctrine of Limited Atonement stemmed from a faulty understanding of certain biblical texts. One of them was 1 John 2:2, another being 2 Peter 2:1. For many years, I thought that these verses were irrefutable texts that rejected the idea that Christ died to infallibly secure the salvation of a certain group (His people, His sheep, His friends, His elect – Particular Redemption) and were proof that Christ died for all people, at all times, in every part of the world (Universal Redemption). I wrote an article some time back called “The Divine Intention of the Cross” found here, in which I made a case for Particular Redemption from scripture.

I also wrote a short article on 1 John 2:2, found here, but also wanted to post a few brief comments I came across today made by Dr. James White on 2 Peter 2:1 in a comment section on a blog.

Regarding 2 Peter 2:1, Dr. White writes:

1) Derive soteriological truths from soteriological passages (this isn’t);
2) “Lord” is despotes (sovereign title) not kurios (soteriological title);
3) Is this the Father or the Son? Can it be proven?
4) “bought” (agorasanta) has no purchase price mentioned, which would be the only time that happens in the NT *if* this is a soteriological reference;
5) The passage says the Master did not *potentially* purchase these men, but that He did, in fact, purchase these men (sovereignty, not redemption). Compare Deuteronomy 32:5-6 for parallel use in the OT.
6) Derive the extent of the atonement from Hebrews that discusses it, not from 2 Peter’s reference to false teachers.

Though obviously these six short comments are not full rebuttals to the Arminian understanding of the verse, there is enough here to hopefully whet the appetite for further study.

For anyone interested in a more thorough discussion of 2 Peter 2:1, I would recommend an article written here by Simon Escobido. Of course, John Owen’s “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ” is the classic work on this subject.

The Results Depend on God

john-macarthurTranscript excerpt from spoken at the Truth Matters Conference, 2011:

Some people say, “You know, we have to kind of change the message cause we’re not getting results. We’ve got to deal with this message because it’s not very effective.” Really? Well the next point I want to give you is this. If you really understand the glory of the gospel, you know the results depend on God. Okay? The results depend on God.

Remember the parable of the sower? What does it say about the sower? Nothing, absolutely nothing, it doesn’t say whether he uses his left hand, right hand, throw high, low, curve ball. It didn’t say anything about the sower.

What does it say about the bag he carried the seed in? Nothing, didn’t say anything about that.

What does it say about the method he used to throw it? Nothing, absolutely nothing. It’s a parable about soil, it doesn’t even say anything about the seed other than the seed is the truth, the gospel. It’s not about your technique in throwing the seed, it’s about the state of the soil. I don’t do soil work. That’s Holy Spirit work.

I love that passage in Mark, the parable where Jesus says the farmer sows the seed and goes to sleep because he has no idea how it grows. That’s right. You say, “We not getting the results.” Really, you think you’re in charge of results? I hear there’s some discussions, “We have to overcome consumer resistance.” Lots of luck. Consumer resistance is called depravity. Consumer resistance means the sinner is unable and unwilling, left to himself.

Look at (2 Cor 4) verse 3, this is so… this is so reasonable, this whole presentation of Paul makes so much sense, it just flows the way you think. Some of you are already saying, “Well, it gets discouraging. Paul, look, you’re going from town-to-town-to town, the churches are small, the churches are full of trouble. The town rejects you. The leaders reject you. The populace rejects you. They want to kill you. The Jews are after you. You’re really not having much success.

Here’s his answer. “Our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those that are perishing.” That’s a category of people. That’s the default position of the entire human race. I’m not the problem.

Well how did they get like that? Verse 4, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.”

The problem is not your technique, the problem is the heart. You have all these people coming up with pragmatical ways to do effective evangelism. Really? It’s overcome consumer resistance to make the message more palatable. We’ll say more about that in some of the other portions of Scripture. You put yourself in the position of…I wrote a book Slave, some of you seen the book Slave? Imagine trying to sell that message in a world full of slaves. By the way, a crucified Jew in Jerusalem who was rejected by His people, rejected by His leaders, who was executed as a common criminal by the Romans rose from the dead, He’s the true and living God, the only Savior and He wants you to be His slave. Oh really? And by the way, you have to reject all other masters, confess your sin, repent and turn to Him as the only source of salvation.

Who is this again? A crucified Jew? This is what Paul is preaching in the Gentile world. And you need not only to put your faith in Him, but you need to confess Him as Lord and you’re His slave.

That’s a hard sell. You can’t overcome consumer’s resistance in a pagan/Gentile world when you’re talking about a crucified Jew to Gentiles who have no Old Testament background, who have no understanding of the sacrificial system, and you’re asking them to believe that this crucified Jew is God incarnate, the only Savior, the only true and living God, the only hope of salvation and you’re supposed to become His slave. That won’t fly, humanly speaking. That’s why it says in 1 Corinthians 1, as we will see later, preaching the cross was…what?…foolishness.

The results depend on God. That’s been the joy of ministry. I’m in charge of sowing, I’m not in charge of growing. I can’t give life. God alone gives life. And I love this, watch this, verse 5, “We do not preach ourselves.” Some method that we’ve concocted, some personal stories about us. “But Christ Jesus as Lord,” and we’re calling everybody to become slaves for Jesus’ sake.

You say, “Well how in the world do you expect to have any results at all with a message like that?”

Here’s the answer, verse 6, “Oh, for God who said light shall shine out of darkness who is the one who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

Is that not the most profound verse? You know what he’s saying? He’s saying creation, God said, “Let there be light.” And He spoke it into existence. That’s the model for salvation. God steps into the darkness of the sinner’s heart and turns on the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

This is what makes ministry so thrilling. If you get all wrapped up in results, you’re going to wind up preaching yourself and your technique and your style. You’re going to get caught up in your wardrobe and your shtick and your music and your cultural adaptations.

Well, if you understand the glory of the gospel, you also understand your personal insignificance. So what have we been saying? If you understand the glory of the gospel? Just review; you understand the superiority of the New Covenant, the mercy of ministry, the necessity of a pure heart, the fact that the Scripture is to be preached accurately, that spiritual results depends solely on God. And that you are personally insignificant… insignificant.

The Worst Sinner You Know


“Unless you know yourself to be the lowest of sinners you will not see the greatness of your Savior. It is the one who is forgiven of much that loves much in response (Luke 7:41-49).”

This and other excellent insights from Joe Thorn can be found in an article if not inappropriate. So let me tell you up front that I am convinced the answer to this question, when posed to a Christian, ought to always be, “Yes. I am the worst sinner I know.” Many balk at this idea–pointing to people who are constantly overwhelmed by guilt and find no relief. Such theology can seem cruel. Yet when properly understood this leads to deliverance rather than to despair. Knowing ourselves and knowing our Savior highlights our transgressions and Christ’s glories in such a way that we are both humbled and made happy by the grace of God in Christ.

The Apostle Paul wrote of himself in a way that demonstrates what he believed about himself. First he said he was “least of the Apostles” (1 Cor. 15:9), then “least of all the saints” (Eph. 3:8), and, at the end of his life, he saw himself as the “foremost” of sinners (1 Tim 1:15). This, combined with Paul’s ongoing struggle with sin described in Romans 7:13-25, gives a picture of the Apostle’s self-image. Though now a saint he remained, in his own eyes, the worst sinner he knew due to his wicked past and even his present corruption. Note what the Second London Confession has to say about the sin nature in believers:

The corruption of nature, during this life, does remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and the first motions thereof, are truly and properly sin. – Second London Confession, VI.5

To say that you are the worst sinner you know is not to compare yourself to others. It is a confession of one’s own weakness and transgressions. What enables us to make such a judgment is that we know our sins better than we know anyone else’s. We know (at least in part) our motives, thoughts, and desires. We know not only those visible sins that others may take notice of, but also those that go unnoticed. We do not merely sense this as sinners, but we sense it primarily as saints. We feel our sins, and know the greatness of their heinousness in light of God’s patience toward us, and Christ’s sacrifice for us. In this we find deep humility. Continue reading

The Central Act of our Worship Service

al mohlerIn an article entitled, “Expository Preaching—The Antidote to Anemic Worship,” Dr. Al Mohler writes:

Evangelical Christians have been especially attentive to worship in recent years, sparking a renaissance of thought and conversation on what worship really is and how it should be done. Even if this renewed interest has unfortunately resulted in what some have called the “worship wars” in some churches, it seems that what A. W. Tozer once called the “missing jewel” of evangelical worship is being recovered.

Nevertheless, if most evangelicals would quickly agree that worship is central to the life of the church, there would be no consensus to an unavoidable question: What is central to Christian worship? Historically, the more liturgical churches have argued that the sacraments form the heart of Christian worship. These churches argue that the elements of the Lord’s Supper and the water of baptism most powerfully present the gospel. Among evangelicals, some call for evangelism as the heart of worship, planning every facet of the service—songs, prayers, the sermon—with the evangelistic invitation in mind. Continue reading