Thursday, December 22, 2005

the theme of the bible is...

Ethics? Salvation? Moral Guidelines?

This Christmas, as we celebrate the entrance of the second person of the trinity into this world, keep in mind the ultimate plan of God. Not only was He born to die for our sins, but by His life and death He started the process of reversing the curse, thus bringing His people into the Kingdom of God. Think of Genesis and Revelation as bookends of the Kingdom of God. The garden of Eden was the first Kingdom manifestation with us; the Revelation speaks of the final consumation of the RESTORATION of that kingdom. Everything in the middle deals with the losing of that Kingdom, and God's work to restore it again; the birth of Christ playing the central role as the solution and the perfect embodiment of the people of God for us.

"The theme of the Bible is the kingdom of God. That is where the biblical account both starts and finishes. Salvation is the means by which the sovereign God brings sinful people into that kingdom as its willing and acceptable subjects..."

>read more of Graeme Goldsworthy's article, The Kingdom of God and the Old Testament

Friday, December 16, 2005

God leaves us, sometimes

How is this comforting? The bible says He never leaves us or forsakes us right? Right. Yet that's not what I'm talking about. Read below and be comforted knowing that those seasons when you feel far from God or especially sinful, are for a purpose.

"The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave, for a season, his own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends." - from Chapter 5 (Providence) of the Westminster Confession of Faith

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

opinion editorial, circa 33 A.D.

Excerpt from the Opinion Page,
The Palestine Conservative,
33 A.D.

Recently, Jewish conservatives were praying for God to put a Jewish Conservative into office. That man, they thought, was Jesus of Nazareth, a carpenter-turned-rabbi. But he didn't even want to accept their nomination. He kept TALKING about the kingdom, but when it came time for him to "step up to the plate" and "walk the talk", he didn't! How frustrating! This man, who obviously was gifted in leadership and who had a strong moral compass, would have been the perfect man for the job!

This country has been sliding into moral decay and decadence for several hundred years, away from it's founding father, Abraham. We needed someone to take the reins with a firm grip and steer Palestine back to God. What we got was a lynching, a crucifixion, and some rumors about a resurrection. It's sad really. He would have had the votes, it would have been a landslide victory. But I guess some people don't care about God and His law anymore.

Now his followers, who've formed a cult, are actually claiming that the Covenant is done away with! It's been fulfilled! Blasphemy I tell you. Tell me, who's supposed to obey God with no LAW! How is a country supposed to be based on a Judeo ethic, if you do away with the law?!

doctrine is practical

Doctrine Is Practical
by John MacArthur

I have in my library a book by the spiritual father of a quasi-Christian cult. He argues that doctrinal statements, systematic theology and propositional truth claims are contrary to the spirit of Jesus' ministry.

That seemed a rather bizarre notion when I first heard it years ago. But the belief that Christ is against doctrine is a notion I seem to be encountering with increasing frequency.

No idea could be much further from the truth. The word doctrine simply means "teaching." And it's ludicrous to say that Christ is anti-teaching. The central imperative of His Great Commission is the command to teach (Matthew 28:18-20).

Yet there's no shortage of church-growth experts, professional pollsters, and even seminary professors nowadays who are cautioning young pastors that doctrine is too divisive, too threatening, too heady and theoretical—and therefore simply impractical.

Impractical? I agree that practical application is vital. I don't want to minimize its importance. But if there is a deficiency in preaching today, it is that there's too much relational, pseudo-psychological, and thinly life-related content, and not enough emphasis on sound doctrine.

Moreover, the distinction between doctrinal and practical truth is completely artificial; doctrine is practical. In fact, nothing is more practical than sound doctrine, because there's ultimately no basis for godly behavior apart from the truth of God's Word.

Practical insights, gimmicks, and illustrations mean little if they are divorced from divine principle. Before the preacher asks anyone to perform a certain duty, he must first deal with doctrine. He must develop his message around theological themes and draw out the principles of the texts. Then the truth can be applied.

Romans provides the clearest example. Paul doesn't give any exhortation until he has given eleven chapters of theology.

He scales incredible heights of truth, culminating in 11:33-36, where he says, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."

Then in chapter 12, he turns immediately to the practical consequences of the doctrine of the first 11 chapters. No passage in Scripture captures the Christian's responsibility in the face of truth more clearly than Romans 12:1-2. Resting on eleven chapters of profound doctrine, Paul calls each believer to a supreme act of spiritual worship—giving oneself as a living sacrifice.

So doctrine gives rise to devotion to Christ. What could be more practical? And the remainder of the book of Romans goes on to explain still more practical outworkings of one's dedication to Christ.

Paul follows the same pattern in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians. The doctrinal message comes first. Upon that foundation he builds the practical application, making the logical connection with the word therefore (Romans 12:1; Galatians 5:1; Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 2:1) or then (Colossians 3:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:1).

So we have imposed an artificial meaning on the word doctrine. We've made it something abstract and threatening, unrelated to daily living. That has brought about the disastrous idea that preaching and teaching are unrelated to living.

The scriptural concept of doctrine includes the entire message of the gospel—its teaching about God, salvation, sin, and righteousness. Those concepts are so tightly bound to daily living that the first-century mind did not see them as something separate from practical truth.

The New Testament church was founded on a solid base of doctrine. First Timothy 3:16 contains what many expositors believe is an early church hymn: "God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." There, in capsule form, is the basis of all Christian teaching. Without that, no practical application matters.

The next few verses of 1 Timothy describe what happens when men depart from the basis of biblical truth: "Some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth" (4:1-3).

In other words, lying, hypocrisy, a dulled conscience, and false religious practices all have root in wrong doctrine.

No ministry activity is more important than rightly understanding and clearly proclaiming sound doctrine. In 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, Paul commissions two young men to the ministry. His central theme is the importance of adhering to sound doctrine.

Paul charged Timothy: "In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following" (1 Tim. 4:6). "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching," Paul adds, "persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you" (v. 16).

Titus 2:10 says we "adorn [or honor] the doctrine of God" by how we live. When it comes to affirming sound doctrine, what we do carries far more significance than what we say. That's why it's disastrous when a pastor, seminary professor, or any kind of Christian leader fails morally. The message he proclaims is that his doctrine is unrelated to life. And for those whose lives he has touched, doctrine becomes merely an intellectual exercise.

True doctrine transforms behavior as it is woven into the fabric of everyday life. But it must be understood if it is to have its impact. The real challenge of the ministry is to dispense the truth clearly and accurately. Practical application comes easily by comparison.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

how do you read the bible?

Do you see the Scriptures primarily as an "instruction book" as one bumper sticker says, or do you see it as separated into different dispensations? Is the Bible a good "moral guide"? Or is there something more?

Might I suggest learning about covenantal theology. Seeing the Bible as a story of redemption with two primary covenants, the covenant of "works" with Adam, and the covenant of "grace" has given me a great perspective on the scriptures as a whole. It's kind of like seeing the box top of a puzzle, instead of only the individual pieces.

The most important benefit of reading the scriptures this way is that it focuses on what the Bible says is important, namely Christ and the redemption of His people. As Jesus said to the men on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:

"And he said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself."...

... "They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?"...

... "Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem."

Here's a great summary of Covenant Theology:

"Covenant is from the Hebrew [ber-eeth] meaning to cut, and by extension means a promise or pledge to do something. "It is an agreement upon the promises concerning the relationship between two or more parties. In Biblical terms the covenant is the prime agency of God's self-revelation in history. God reveals Himself to be the covenant God. The essence of the covenant between God and man is "I will be your God, and you will be My people." The probationary covenant of life by which man was to keep God's commandments perfectly was ultimately and consummately fulfilled by Christ, God in the flesh. The covenant of grace is that by which God's elect are attributed Christ's satisfaction by faith. An understanding of the covenant is central to understanding the history of redemption. Covenant theology is that system of theology which recognizes the successive covenants of Scripture as a unity, and the means by which God orders His creation and brings about redemption for His elect."

>Read more

Friday, December 02, 2005

sinning against our conscience

Let us stick to truth and righteousness. By God's grace let us imitate our Lord and Master, in whose mouth no deceit was ever found. Let us not be afraid of being poor, nor of being treated with contempt. Never, on any account whatever, let us do that which our conscience cannot justify. If we lose inward peace, we lose more than a fortune can buy. If we keep in the Lord's own way and never sin against our conscience, our way is sure against all comers. Who is he that can harm us if we be followers of that which is good? We may be thought fools by fools if we are firm in our integrity; but in the place where judgment is infallible we shall be approved. - C.H. Spurgeon