Miscellaneous Quotes (97)

quotesSee, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. — Isaiah 40:10

“Being infinite, God is inexhaustibly interesting. It is therefore impossible that God be boring.” – John Piper

“Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God.” – John Piper

“In short, I will preach it [the Word], teach it, write it, but I will constrain no man by force, for faith must come freely without compulsion. Take myself as an example. I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.” – Martin Luther

“There are two types of pain in this world: The temporary pain of discipline, or the permanent pain of regret.” – Unknown

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” – Jim Rohn

“To accept Christ’s righteousness alone, his blood alone for salvation, is the sum of the gospel.” – Thomas Wilcox

“True repentance has a distinct and constant reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. If you repent of sin without looking to Christ, away with your repentance. If you are so lamenting your sin as to forget the Savior, you have a need to begin all this work over again. Whenever we repent of sin, we must have one eye upon sin and another upon the cross; or, better still, let us have both eyes upon Christ, seeing our sin punished in him, and by no means let us look at sin except as we look at Jesus. A man may hate sin just as a murderer hates the gallows but this does not prove repentance. If I hate sin because of the punishment, I have not repented of sin; I merely regret that God is just.

But if I can see sin as an offense against Jesus Christ, and loathe myself because I have wounded him, then I have a true brokenness of heart. If I see the Savior and believe that those thorns upon his head were put there by my sinful words; if I believe that those wounds in his heart were made by my heart-sins; if I believe that those wounds in his feet were made by my wandering steps, and that the wounds in his hands were made by my sinful deeds, then I repent after a right fashion. Only under the cross can you repent. Repentance elsewhere is remorse, which clings to the sin and only dreads the punishment. Let us then seek, under God, to have a hatred of sin caused by a sight of Christ’s love.” – C. H. Spurgeon

“Go as you are to Christ, and ask him to give that tenderness of heart which shall be to you the indication that pardon has come; for pardon cannot and will not come unattended by a melting of soul and a hatred of sin. Wrestle with the Lord! Say, I will not let you go except you bless me. Get a fast hold upon the savior by a vigorous faith in his great atonement. Oh! May his spirit enable you to do this! Say in your soul, here I will abide, at the horns of the altar; if I perish I will perish at the foot of the cross. From my hope in Jesus I will not depart; but I will look up and still say, savior, your heart was broken for me, break my heart! You were wounded; wound me! Your blood was freely poured forth, for me; Lord, let me pour forth my tears that I should have nailed you to the tree. Oh Lord, dissolve my soul; melt it in tenderness, and you will be forever praised for making your enemy your friend. May God bless you, and make you repent, if you have not repented; and if you have, may he enable you to continue in it all your days, for Jesus Christ sake. Amen.” – C. H. Spurgeon

“Psalm 51 is the photograph of a contrite spirit. Oh, let us seek after the like brokenness of heart, for however excellent our words may be, yet if the heart is not conscious of the blackness and hell-deservingness of sin, we cannot expect to find mercy with the Judge of all the earth. If the Lord will break your heart, consent to have it broken; asking that he may sanctify that brokenness of spirit to bring you in earnest to a savior, that you may yet be numbered with the righteous ones.” – C. H. Spurgeon

“It was to be eaten with bitter herbs in remembrance of the bitterness of their bondage in Egypt. We must feed upon Christ with sorrow and brokenness of heart, in remembrance of sin; this will give an admirable relish to the lamb. Christ will be sweet to us if sin be bitter.” – Matthew Henry

“A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in the little things is a great thing.” – Hudson Taylor

“The Gospel teaches that to know God is life eternal. But the concept of ‘knowledge’ here is not to be understood in its Hellenic sense, but in the Shemitic sense. According to the former, ‘to know’ means to mirror the reality of a thing in one’s consciousness. The Shemitic and Biblical idea is to have the reality of something practically interwoven with the inner experience of life. Hence ‘to know’ can stand in the Biblical idiom for ‘to love’, ‘to single out in love.’ Because God desires to be known after this fashion, He has caused His revelation to take place in the milieu of the historical life of a people. The circle of revelation is not a school, but a ‘covenant’.” – Geerhardus Vos

“How completely satisfying to turn from our limitations to a God who has none.” – A.W. Tozer

“If Christ is not all to you He is nothing to you. He will never go into partnership as a part Saviour of men. If He be something He must be everything, and if He be not everything He is nothing to you.” – C. H. Spurgeon

“Christ is not only ‘mighty to save’ those who repent, but he is able to make men repent. He will carry those to heaven who believe; but he is, moreover, mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them. He is mighty to make the man who hates holiness love it, and to constrain the despiser of his name to bend the knee before him. Nay, this is not all the meaning, for the divine power is equally seen in the after-work. The life of a believer is a series of miracles wrought by ‘the Mighty God.’ The bush burns, but is not consumed. He is mighty to keep his people holy after he has made them so, and to preserve them in his fear and love until he consummates their spiritual existence in heaven. Christ’s might doth not lie in making a believer and then leaving him to shift for himself; but he who begins the good work carries it on; he who imparts the first germ of life in the dead soul, prolongs the divine existence, and strengthens it until it bursts asunder every bond of sin, and the soul leaps from earth, perfected in glory.” – Charles Spurgeon

“When the preferences of the church members are greater than their passion for the Gospel, the church is dying.” – Thom Rainer

“Imagine a person who comes in here tonight and argues ‘no air exists’ but continues to breathe air while he argues. Now intellectually, atheists continue to breathe – they continue to use reason and draw scientific conclusions [which assumes an orderly universe], to make moral judgments [which assumes absolute values] – but the atheistic view of things would in theory make such ‘breathing’ impossible. They are breathing God’s air all the time they are arguing against him.” – Greg Bahnsen

Charles Spurgeon, in his sermon ‘Hideous Discovery’, preached on July 25, 1886, made the following comment on evolution:

“In its bearing upon religion this vain notion is, however, no theme for mirth, for it is not only deceptive, but it threatens to be mischievous in a high degree. There is not a hair of truth upon this dog from its head to its tail, but it rends and tears the simple ones. In all its bearing upon scriptural truth, the evolution theory is in direct opposition to it. If God’s Word be true, evolution is a lie. I will not mince the matter: this is not the time for soft speaking.”

“With the Roman Catholic Church, our common convictions are many, including moral convictions about marriage, human life, and the family. Beyond that, we together affirm the truths of the divine Trinity, orthodox Christology, and other doctrines as well. But we disagree over what is supremely important, the gospel of Jesus Christ.” – Al Mohler

“Light might well be good since it sprang from that fiat of goodness, ‘Let there be light.’ We who enjoy it should be more grateful for it than we are, and see more of God in it and by it. Light physical is said by Solomon to be sweet, but gospel light is infinitely more precious, for it reveals eternal things, and ministers to our immortal natures. When the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual light, and opens our eyes to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, we behold sin in its true colours, and ourselves in our real position; we see the Most Holy God as he reveals himself, the plan of mercy as he propounds it, and the world to come as the Word describes it. Spiritual light has many beams and prismatic colours, but whether they be knowledge, joy, holiness, or life, all are divinely good. If the light received be thus good, what must the essential light be, and how glorious must be the place where he reveals himself. O Lord, since light is so good, give us more of it, and more of thyself, the true light.” – Charles Spurgeon

“One strategy of Kingdom expansion is to get married, have lots of kids, adopt the kids the world doesn’t want, preach the Gospel to all of them, and train them in the Scriptures. In a couple of generations… massive expansion. Let the world keep denigrating the family system. Let the world keep talking about overpopulation. Let the world keep treating large families like a ‘bad-thing’. Isn’t it obvious?” – Jeff Durbin

“Indulgences for sin may come from Rome, but they never come from Zion.” – C.H. Spurgeon

“I have many in this city who are my people. – Acts 18:10 … They are Christ’s property, and yet perhaps they are lovers of selfish pleasures and haters of holiness; but if Jesus Christ purchased them, He will have them. God is not unfaithful to forget the price that His Son has paid. He will not suffer His substitution to be in any case an ineffectual, dead thing. Tens of thousands of redeemed ones are not regenerated yet, but regenerated they must be; and this is our comfort when we go to them with the quickening Word of God.” – Charles Spurgeon

“Sin is not a splash of mud upon man’s exterior, it is a filth generated within himself.” – C.H. Spurgeon

“I took books to high school athletic events when I played in the band. (Heap coals of scorn and nerdliness here). I remember the books; do you remember the games?” – Al Mohler

“Between us and heaven or hell there is only life, which is the frailest thing in the world.” – Blaise Pascal

John Newton, July 1764 letter:

It is common to overcharge ourselves. Indeed, we cannot think ourselves worse than we really are; yet some things which abate the comfort and alacrity of our Christian profession are rather impediments than properly sinful, and will not be imputed to us by him who knows our frame, and remembers that we are but dust.

Thus, to have an inform memory, to be subject to disordered, irregular, or low spirits, are faults of the constitution, in which the will has no share, though they are all burdensome and oppressive, and sometimes needlessly so by our charging ourselves with guilt on their account. The same may be observed of the unspeakable and fierce suggestions of Satan, with which some persons are pestered, but which shall be laid to him from whom they proceed, and not to them that are troubled and terrified, because they are forced to feel them.

Lastly, it is by the experience of these weaknesses within ourselves, and by feeling our utter insufficiency, either to perform duty, or to withstand our enemies, that the Lord takes occasion to show us the sufficiency, the freeness, the unchangeableness of his power and grace.
–Letters of John Newton (ed. Josiah Bull; Banner of Truth, 2007), 71

Mercy, Justice and Injustice

In this excerpt from his teaching series “The Parables of Jesus,” Dr. R.C. Sproul distinguishes mercy from injustice.

Mercy vs. Injustice from Ligonier Ministries on Vimeo.

Transcript

Now I’m going to draw a little circle here on the board. And this circle represents the concept of justice. Now everything outside this circle can be put in the negative category of non-justice—that which is not justice, but is non-justice. For purposes of illustration, I’m going to put a little boundary there, put another circle out here, and everything in this circle out here is non-justice. But there’s more than one kind of non-justice. Here we have a non-justice that is injustice, and that is unrighteous and evil. Right?

Over here we have grace, or mercy. Is there anything evil about grace? Of course not. Is there anything wicked about God’s being merciful? No. When God is gracious He does not commit an injustice; He does commit a non-justice.

So what happens is for those whom He elects and saves sovereignly, receive His grace. Those who do not receive His grace receive what? His justice; exactly what they deserve. Now, do we really believe that God is sovereign in His grace? Paul goes on to answer this question, is there unrighteousness in God?—God forbid, by no means!

Did not God say to Moses, “I will have mercy over whom I will have mercy”? God sovereignly has the right to be generous in His mercy to one without being required to give it to the other.

For whom did Christ die? (Debate)

Dr. James White v. Dr. Michael Brown

In reflecting on this “debate” Dr. White wrote:

First, I am somewhat uncomfortable with the term “debate” in this instance, for a number of reasons. This might be one of those times where “discussion” is really the better term. The actual interaction time was limited, only about 53 minutes total, after which time our discussion was driven by the audience in the main. And though we both attempted to be as brief and concise as possible, still, without specific time controls, complete equality was not possible to obtain. And particularly in the second discussion we (I think quite properly) had more actual personal interaction on a pastoral level.

Whatever term we choose to describe the discussions, they were most certainly unusual for most of Christian television anywhere in the world, and in Europe in particular. While there may be lots of panel discussions recorded for broadcast, this kind of open and honest disagreement based upon the highest view of Scripture and inspiration, by two participants, both of whom have studied the biblical languages (Michael being the expert in Hebrew, and I having the advantage in Greek), is certainly not your normal fare on what is called Christian television. On that level alone I am very pleased that these programs will be available for viewing for at least the foreseeable future.

This is not the first time Michael and I have demonstrated that you can disagree strongly and still do so respectfully…

Regarding the Atonement Discussion

I did all I could to start the debate on the right foot, which is hard to do in less than five minutes. But I focused upon what must be the heart of any such discussion: the vital relationship between the extent of the atonement and the divine intention of the atonement. This element, together with 1) the covenantal nature of the death of Christ as the very ground and source of the New Covenant and, 2) the intimate, necessary, and glorious nature of Christ’s high priestly role and hence the connection of atonement and intercession, formed the heart of my argument. I believe a fair analysis of the encounter would confirm that these arguments were not undercut by anything Michael offered. Instead, it was plain to me that his opening arguments were based not on the provision of a biblical doctrine of atonement, but upon a general denial of particularity in salvation itself. He focused far more upon emphasizing “all” passages than upon providing any kind of positive doctrine of intentionality or accomplishment in atonement. This was not a failure on Michael’s part, it is the nature of non- Reformed soteriology in general. It simply does not go deeply into the biblical revelation at this point, for the deepest most illuminating texts on this topic (Romans 8, the Hebrews chapters) are all connected to sovereignty, election, priesthood and intercession. This is why Michael was forced (and this, to me, was the deciding moment in the debate) to divide, conceptually and practically, the atoning work of the High Priest and the intercessory work. So, Christ dies for every individual, even for those already under God’s judgment, but Michael sees how impossible it is to keep that priestly work unified, so he denied that Christ is interceding for those who are already under judgment. Now if he could just follow that thought to its conclusion and see the power of it! Instead, he seemed to wish to deny the fact that even in Israel you had the physical offspring of Abraham and the spiritual offspring of Abraham, and that it is the remnant (λεῖμμα), those who are of faith, who were in view in the sacrifices and the priestly ministrations. So he wished to insist that the sacrifice of atonement on the day of atonements was for all of Israel, and hence potential in nature. I disputed this on a few accounts, but time did not allow an in-depth discussion.

I would simply point out that 1) the offering in Leviticus 16 is limited to the covenant people of God; it did not make atonement for the Egyptians or Moabites or Assyrians. It was, by nature, covenantal and hence “limited”;

2) there is good ground for arguing for a limitation even within the Old Covenant context based upon the obedience and faith of the remnant of Israel (many bore in their bodies the covenant sign but were not of the remnant as they were not of faith); but most importantly

3) the New Testament text makes the limitation explicit in the phrase τους προσερχομενους δι αυτου τω θεω, those drawing near to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25). In any case, the powerful argument based upon Christ’s high priestly ministry, together with the inarguable fact that the ones for whom the sacrifice is offered and the ones for whom the High Priest intercedes are identical, was clearly presented and defended. I truly wonder how many who heard that program heard about these wondrous truths for the first time? What a privilege to have the opportunity to proclaim them!

Of course, if someone in the audience does not remain focused upon the topic, they may well be distracted by the other issues raised, especially by the audience interaction. Texts such as 1 John 2:2, 1 Timothy 4:10, etc., which I have discussed in depth in my published works, again show that the primary objection to particular redemption is found in a rejection of particularity as a whole, i.e., in objections to election. I can only hope that those who found those objections weighty will take the time to dig into the interactions Michael and I had previously on those topics.

Here then is Part 1:

Part 2: Questions and Answers

The Trial (Tract)

judge-gavel2THE CASE OF GOD THE FATHER AGAINST ______________________________ (FILL IN YOUR NAME)

PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: SATAN (THE ACCUSER OF THE BRETHREN – Zechariah 3:1)

DEFENSE ATTORNEY: THE LORD JESUS CHRIST (1 John 2:1)

JUDGE PRESIDING: GOD, THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGE (Psalm 7:11)

IN ATTENDANCE: A VAST COMPANY OF ELECT ANGELS (1 Timothy 5:21)

“it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” – Hebrews 9:27

You now stand before God, the Righteous Judge, faced with the charge of great and terrible acts of high treason in the courtroom of heaven.

Gabriel, the high ranking angel addresses the court saying, “All rise! The Righteous Judge is coming into His chamber!”

The Judge declares His court to now be in session and asks for all to be seated.

Without any delay, Satan stands up and addresses the court. He states that the record will show that you have broken all ten of the Ten Commandments. On countless occasions you’ve lied, you’ve stolen, you’ve used God’s name in vain, you’ve hated (which Jesus said was murder of the heart) and you haven’t put God first, before anything else in your life, just to name a few. Satan will prove your guilt on all counts.

Also, there is indisputable video evidence as well as reliable witnesses to attest to the facts in this case. Even your thought life stands as testimony against you, for the Scripture says, “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)

After the case is made against you, there is a hush in the court. The prosecuting attorney has shown that you have indeed committed acts of high treason against God. It seems inevitable that you will be found guilty. Continue reading

C.S. Lewis’ advice regarding the reading of modern books

From C. S. Lewis’s introduction to a new translation of Athanasisus’ On the Incarnation (originally written in the fourth century):

There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about “isms” and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.

This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology…

Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o’clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said. Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why—the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point. In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed at some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance. The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity (“mere Christianity” as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?”—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.

Slavery in the Bible

magnifying-glass5Andrew Schmidt writes:

There is a scene in The West Wing where President Jed Bartlett fires off round after round of ridicule as he pretends to apply Old Testament laws to his life. Should he put to death his staffer for working on the Sabbath, or get the police to take over? Should footballers wear gloves to avoid touching the pigskin ball? What price could he get if he sold his daughter as a slave?

How would you answer? A monologue like this is liable to make even well-informed Christians lose their nerve. We don’t always know how to respond to mockery of the Old Testament laws, especially those we no longer observe.

Meanwhile, many non-Christians are appalled that the Bible does not abolish slavery as simply and cleanly as the Universal Declaration on Human Rights does:

Article 4. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Why can’t the Bible be just as unequivocal? Well, I suggest that slavery is a more complex issue than may be suggested by Article 4, and the Bible, in refusing to be simplistic about it, says some things which force us to think very hard. It is both necessary and possible to mount a spirited defence of the slavery rules in the law of Moses, as it gets to the heart of what God sees as freedom.

The big verse
The first verse to notice is Exodus 21:16: “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death”. Paul alludes in 1 Timothy 1:10 to this verse when he says that God’s law opposes slave traders. It shows that God’s word was always against the white people who captured Africans to work on American plantations, even though tragically those white people took centuries to realize it. One of the early rumblings of the movement to end the slave trade was a pamphlet published in 1700 called The Selling of Joseph, drawing attention to Exodus 21:16.

Israelite slaves
Of course, being captured and sold has never been the only way to become a slave. The Bible also contemplates that slavery might result from poverty (Exod 21:7; Lev 25:39) or from stealing (Exod 22:3). Some of our contemporaries might say that even these sorts of slavery are unacceptable, and write the Bible off as barbaric because it fails to share our society’s zero-tolerance attitude to slavery. However, such people ought to suspend judgement until they have learned how slaves were to be treated in Israel. Continue reading

True Repentance v. Regret

spurgeon-portrait-roneySome quotes from C. H. Spurgeon to ponder:

“True repentance has a distinct and constant reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. If you repent of sin without looking to Christ, away with your repentance. If you are so lamenting your sin as to forget the Savior, you have a need to begin all this work over again. Whenever we repent of sin, we must have one eye upon sin and another upon the cross; or, better still, let us have both eyes upon Christ, seeing our sin punished in him, and by no means let us look at sin except as we look at Jesus. A man may hate sin just as a murderer hates the gallows but this does not prove repentance. If I hate sin because of the punishment, I have not repented of sin; I merely regret that God is just.

But if I can see sin as an offense against Jesus Christ, and loathe myself because I have wounded him, then I have a true brokenness of heart. If I see the Savior and believe that those thorns upon his head were put there by my sinful words; if I believe that those wounds in his heart were made by my heart-sins; if I believe that those wounds in his feet were made by my wandering steps, and that the wounds in his hands were made by my sinful deeds, then I repent after a right fashion. Only under the cross can you repent. Repentance elsewhere is remorse, which clings to the sin and only dreads the punishment. Let us then seek, under God, to have a hatred of sin caused by a sight of Christ’s love.”

“Go as you are to Christ, and ask him to give that tenderness of heart which shall be to you the indication that pardon has come; for pardon cannot and will not come unattended by a melting of soul and a hatred of sin. Wrestle with the Lord! Say, I will not let you go except you bless me. Get a fast hold upon the savior by a vigorous faith in his great atonement. Oh! May his spirit enable you to do this! Say in your soul, here I will abide, at the horns of the altar; if I perish I will perish at the foot of the cross. From my hope in Jesus I will not depart; but I will look up and still say, savior, your heart was broken for me, break my heart! You were wounded; wound me! Your blood was freely poured forth, for me; Lord, let me pour forth my tears that I should have nailed you to the tree. Oh Lord, dissolve my soul; melt it in tenderness, and you will be forever praised for making your enemy your friend. May God bless you, and make you repent, if you have not repented; and if you have, may he enable you to continue in it all your days, for Jesus Christ sake. Amen.”

“Psalm 51 is the photograph of a contrite spirit. Oh, let us seek after the like brokenness of heart, for however excellent our words may be, yet if the heart is not conscious of the blackness and hell-deservingness of sin, we cannot expect to find mercy with the Judge of all the earth. If the Lord will break your heart, consent to have it broken; asking that he may sanctify that brokenness of spirit to bring you in earnest to a savior, that you may yet be numbered with the righteous ones.”

What we should all be about….

Dr. R. C. Sproul, Jr, writes:

Sproul JrIt is false to say that what we don’t know can’t hurt us, especially when it comes to the Bible. If ever there were anything we need to know, it is the very Word of God. That said, what is in all likelihood worse than what we don’t know about the Bible is what we do know that just isn’t so. Consider the Great Commission.

Go Into All the World

This, of course, is something we ought to be infinitely familiar with. These are not just the words of Jesus, as if that weren’t enough, but the “last” words of Jesus, His parting command just before He ascends to His heavenly throne. Not only that, but, as we might expect, what He commands is of eternal consequence. Jesus doesn’t tell the disciples to wash behind their ears or to remember to send thank-you cards after Christmas. No, Jesus tells His disciples to bring in the lost, to go to the four corners of the world that all the elect might be redeemed, forgiven, adopted.

And that’s where we stop. It is not only true, but a vital truth, that the Great Commission includes the call to preach the good news, to tell others about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, to call all men everywhere to repent. It is also vitally true that this is not at all the whole of the Great Commission.

Our Gospel is Too Small

Perhaps because we are selfish, or perhaps because we live in an era of cultural decline, too many in the church have adopted a narrow view of the gospel. Jesus, I am told, came to save my soul. Once that is accomplished, my sole calling is to be used by Him to seek the salvation of others. If God should so bless, these new believers in turn have as their sole calling the winning of still more souls. The good news, under this perspective, is that Jesus came to save sinners.

Yes, of course, Jesus came to save sinners. However, He did not come just to save souls. He came to save bodies. He came to save families. He came to save churches. He came to save communities. He came to save nations. He came to save, to redeem, to remake the whole groaning creation. He calls us, the church, His bride, to be the Eve to His Adam, a help suitable to Him in the great work of dominion.

We need not leave the Great Commission to see this. The command, along with the fullness of the gospel, is there already. We are called here to make disciples of the nations. Now some might argue that this still focuses on the winning of souls. “Nations,” in this view, isn’t the political or cultural institutions of a given land. Instead, it refers to the need to take the message to the outermost parts of the world. We are not to sit on our haunches, content that we and our kindred are redeemed, but we are to cross land and sea, seeking by the Spirit to make children of hell into the children of God.

Discipling Nations in Obedience

Fair enough. Even if this part of the Great Commission is focused on soul winning, what do we do with the next part — “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded”? Jesus certainly commanded throughout His earthly ministry that we repent, that we believe on His name. But is that all that He commanded? Did He not also command us to be meek, to be peacemakers, to mourn? He commanded that we should hunger and thirst for righteousness. He, in turn, told us where to find that righteousness, reminding us that not one jot or tittle of the law would pass away. He taught us to pray that His kingdom would come on earth as it has in heaven. How would we know such was happening? Because His will would be done here, as it is there.

Our labors, then, in instructing the found, in calling them toward godliness, in pursuing obedience, are not distractions from the Great Commission but fulfillments of it. Of course, we must seek His righteousness, that righteousness that can become ours only by the faith He must first give us. But we are called also to seek His kingdom. That kingdom, as the Lord’s Prayer demonstrates, is not just an invisible realm within the hearts of believers. Rather, it is everywhere, especially where His own joyfully confess Him.

Discipling the nations, teaching them to observe all that He has commanded, then, isn’t polishing the brass on a sinking ship. It is instead cultivating the mustard seed. A failure to disciple the nations even as we evangelize them, on the other hand, isn’t to be about the most important work. It is instead to run the ship aground.

The social gospel was all social and no gospel. Mere pietism, on the other hand, is impious. We are to proclaim the lordship of Christ over our souls, over our bodies, over our families, over our churches, over our communities, over our nations, over the whole of the groaning creation. So, let us repent and preach the good news, that the kingdom of God has come, that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of the Father, and that of the increase of His government there will be no end.

This post first appeared in Tabletalk magazine, June 2012.

Judge Not! (Revisited)

In an article titled, “Yes, We Are Judgmental (But Not In the Way Everyone Thinks),” Kevin DeYoung writes:

Evangelical Christians are often told not to judge. If there is one verse non-Christians know (after, perhaps, some reference to the “least of these”) is that’s Jesus taught people, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1). Of course, what the casual Christian critic misses is that Jesus was not calling for a moratorium on moral discernment or spiritual evaluation. After all, he assumes five verses later that his followers will have the wherewithal to tell what sort of people in the world are dogs and pigs (Matt. 7:6). Believing in the sinfulness of sin, the exclusivity of Christ, and moral absolutes does not make one judgmental. Just look at Jesus.

But this doesn’t mean Matthew 7:1 has nothing to teach conservative Christians. Like everyone else on the planet, we have a propensity to assume the worst about people, to happily pass on bad reports, and to size up individuals and situations without knowing all the facts (or even half the facts). I’m not talking about disciplining wayward church members, or having hard conversations about people caught in sin, or refusing to ever take someone’s past behavior into account, or being hopelessly naive about the way the world works, or refraining from the public exchange of ideas, or suspending all our powers of discernment until we understand something or someone with omniscience. I’m talking about the all too natural tendency to shoot first and ask questions later (or not at all).

Is there a piece of biblical wisdom more routinely ignored on the internet, not to mention in our own hearts, than Proverbs 18:17?—”The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” I’ve never been accused of serious misconduct that I knew to be patently false or horribly misunderstood. But if I am someday, I hope folks will remember the book of Proverbs. “”If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Prov. 18:13). Too often we are quick to speak and slow to listen. The world, the flesh, the devil, and the internet want us to rush to judgment, when the Bible urges us to suspend judgment until we’ve heard from both sides. It happens all the time: pastors sinfully judge parishoners based on hearsay, church members criticize pastors without knowing the whole story, citizen assume the worst about politicians whenever another Scandalgate emerges, kids attack their siblings at the first whiff of error.

Most of us go through life hearing dozens of reports and accusations about celebrities, athletes, pastors, and people we know, operating under the unwritten rule that where there’s smoke there must be a fire. And that’s often true. But arsonists also light fires. Sometimes the cloud of controversy conceals a raging inferno of wrongdoing. But sometimes the pungent smell of smoke turns out to be crumbs in the toaster. Best not to yell “Fire!” in a crowded building, only to find out later your neighbor likes crispy Eggos.

Some readers may wonder what has prompted this post. Nothing in particular. And everything. There is no fresh incident which inspired these thoughts. Rather, I’m writing because of the sin that I know lurks in my own heart and because of the way the blogosphere and twitterverse demand full scale denunciations the way rambunctious eight year-olds demand pixie sticks. Give them what they want and they will only ask for more.

As Christians we realize that sin deserves rebuke and the sinned against should have our deepest compassion. But we should also remember from the last days of our Lord that believing every accusation can be just as bad as making them. As long as there is Jesus, we have to allow that “controversial” and “accused” do not always mean “troublemaker” and “guilty.” We should use the same measure with others that we would want used with us, which means an open heart and an open mind. Do you want people assuming the worst about you? Do I want people passing along every bad report they hear about me? What if people talked about us the way we talk about others?

I’ve often been challenged in this regard by the Heidelberg Catechism’s explanation of the ninth commandment:

God’s will is that I never give false testimony against anyone, twist no one’s words, not gossip or slander, nor join in condemning anyone without a hearing or without a just cause.

Rather, in court and everywhere else, I should avoid lying and deceit of every kind; these are devices the devil himself uses, and they would call down on my God’s intense anger. I should love the truth, speak it candidly, and openly acknowledge it. And I should do what I can do guard and advance my neighbor’s good name. (Q/A 112)

Think of your tweets (as I think of mine). Think of your posts. Think of your conversation with friends. Think of what you talk about with your husband. Or how you talk about your wife. Think of your emails and texts. Think of the speech pouring out of your heart. Are we doing all we can to guard and advance our neighbor’s good name? Or are we ready to believe the worst, eager to pass out failure, and happy to pile on when the pile gets popular? If the mere assertion of wrongdoing can ruin someone’s life–if that’s the moral universe we want to sustain, one where guilt is presumed and innocence is only declared after it’s too late–then you and I are only a whisper away from seeing it all go down the drain.

“Judge not, that you be not judged.”

It may not say what everyone wants it to say. But it still says a lot. Much more than many of us want to hear.