“Let us not idolize these people, learn from them, for they were simply doing in their day and generation what we seek to do in ours.” (Carl Trueman) As we approach the 499th anniversary of… More
October 29th is a day to mark off on your calendar because it is the day of the first (and from this point on Lord willing, annual) Publicans Conference. Andrew, Matt, Sam, and myself are eager to join with you and share the Word of God with you. We’re eager to sing with you. We’re eager to see you encouraged, hopeful, and stirred for the glory of God anew. Our theme for this first year is WE ARE PILGRIMS. Admission is FREE because we want to bless you with a robust God-centered day of gospel glorious-ness. So if you live in or around the Gulf coast, come join us! Here’s five reasons why you should:
From 9am-3pm we’ll be:
- Gathering to glut our souls on God
- Hearing from 4 speakers
- Engage in 2 Q&A’s
- Enjoy the fellowship and encouragement of the saints
- And get some freebies, yes freebies
Most of you know, but perhaps some of you don’t, that we Publicans are book people. We read books, we write about books, we have pictures of dead authors on our walls, and we do not feel the least bit ashamed about this. In a day when deep, clear, and communicated theology is lacking within the Church, we hope to be a light shining in the darkness. The reason why we love good books, from both living and dead authors, is because in them we grow in our knowledge of God, and the more we grow in the knowledge of God the more we abound and delightfully enjoy God. We believe our joy in God glorifies God, so we read to make ourselves happy in God. This is why we love reading Sproul and Calvin, Piper and Luther, Packer and Spurgeon, etc. Sure they’re great guys and we enjoy spending time with them through their books, but we read them not because of them, but because of God. Do not miss this.
We want to share this with you. The first 50 people who walk in the door at 8:30am on October 29th will receive 3 free books. ALSO, there will be a book giveaway during the morning session, and a larger book giveaway during the afternoon session. Free conference? Free encouragement in what matters most? Free books? Fellowship? Why would you not come?
So where are you going to be on October 29? I hope to see you soon.
Last Friday I blogged about the role of the Holy Spirit among the Trinity, today I want to continue on the Spirit but in terms of something too often neglected – the doctrine of illumination.
But before we get into what illumination is see the connecting point between illumination and revelation. The Spirit’s inspired revelation is the grounds for the Spirit’s illumination. Without revelation illumination wouldn’t happen. We can’t have illumination apart from revelation. John Owen says it like this, “Scripture is the only external means of divine supernatural illumination because it is the only repository of all divine supernatural revelation.” So what makes the Spirit’s illumination possible? The Spirit’s revelation. Thus we have the external Word of God and in the internal testimony of the Spirit that His inspired Word is true. So what is the illumination of the Spirit? It is “when the Holy Spirit externally assures believers that the Scriptures are the Word of God, at the same time the Spirit enables them to understand the mind of God through the illumination provided the His internal testimony” (Joel Beeke). It is an internal testimony, or awakening, a giving of light to the soul that was once in the dark, that results in, not super spirituality as Eastern religions speak of, but in an understanding of the revelation of God.
To show you this truth I want to describe to you the three Biblical aspects of faith.
‘Notitia’ refers to the ‘facts’ of Christianity or the content of our faith. When someone believes in something, it is because they know the basics or the facts of that particular something and they agree with them. For example when I say I believe Peyton Manning is an exciting football player to watch I say that because I know certain facts about him. His stats show that he’s undoubtedly one of the best quarterbacks of all time. Of course you may disagree with this statement because the excitement of watching a football player is largely a subjective experience rather than an objective fact. But when it comes to Christianity we move away from subjective experience and move toward objective fact. When someone comes to believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ it is because they first of all know Jesus’ teachings. But be careful. To know is not the same as believing in. Notitia is not saving faith, many people know the teachings of Jesus and reject Him as Lord. Notitia is a knowledge of the facts.
Whereas ‘notitia’ refers to the basic facts or content of Jesus’ teachings ‘assensus’ refers to the conviction that the notitia of our faith is true. It’s when someone looks at the Person and Work of Jesus and believes Him to speak the truth after examining His teaching. Think of it this way: if I were to make the claim that chocolate is the best flavor of ice cream, you would immediately begin to examine my statement and think through the qualities and characteristics of other ice cream flavors in relation to chocolate. If, after seeing the facts, you decided that I was correct and chocolate really was the best ice cream flavor of all time it means that you not only knew the facts, but that you believed those facts to be true. Or to say it another way, you mentally assented to the truthfulness of my statement. This is assensus, and yet again I must say, even this is not saving faith. Many people not only know but agree with the teaching of Jesus while remaining spiritually lost and in the dark. Recall James 2:19? Even the demons know many things to be true about Jesus yet refuse to bow the knee to Him.
Lastly we come to ‘fiducia.’ If notitia are the basic facts, and assensus is seeing those facts as true, fiducia goes further. Fiducia refers to a trust in or reliance on those facts. Fiducia is not only knowing the teachings of Jesus, not only agreeing that those teachings are true, but banking our lives on those teachings, relying on them, and trusting in them for salvation. Many men can gain a knowledge of the notitia of faith, many men can also see that knowledge as true, but no man can of His own power and will come to trust in these facts. Only the Spirit of God can do this inside the heart and soul of man.
This brings us back to our central focus here. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” Notice it says that the natural man does not accept the things of God, not because he simply rejects them, but because he is not able to understand them. Recall what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3? “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Unless we are born again natural man is not able to ‘see’ the glories of the God’s kingdom. He is blind to them. Only the Holy Spirit can open our eyes to see the kingdom and understand the things of God.
The work of the Holy Spirit in opening our eyes to see God’s kingdom and understand God’s ways is called illumination. Illumination is not the Spirit giving man a new revelation of God, but an inward work deep within our hearts that enables us to see glory and beauty in the revelation of God in His Word that has always been before us. So in inspiration the Holy Spirit gave us the gift of Scripture, so too in illumination the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of understanding Scripture. Paul speaks of this illuminating moment in 2 Corinthians 4:6 when he states that God, just as He did back in Genesis 1, says within our hearts ‘Let there be light!’ and from this we gain “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Just as God’s spoke His Word into the dark void and created the heavens and the earth, so too God spoke His Word into the dark void of our hearts and resurrected us from death to life. J.I. Packer states, “Illumination is thus the applying of God’s revealed truth to our hearts, so that we grasp as reality for ourselves what the sacred text sets forth.”
Illumination begins before conversion with a growing grasp of the truth of God’s Word and His demands of us. The Spirit convinces us of our sin and convicts us of the same, warning us that judgment is to come if we do not repent and believe in the gospel. After conversion the illuminating process continues in our sanctification as the Spirit continues to do the work of opening our eyes and hearts to comprehend what is beyond all comprehension, the love of Christ. By doing this throughout our lives the Spirit fills us with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18-19). Therefore, this work of illumination begun before conversion and continuing in our sanctification until our glorification, is a lifelong ministry of the Spirit toward Christians. Knowing that this is how the Holy Spirit operates within us to grow us in grace should prompt and move and lead and cause us to labor in the Scripture privately and publicly. While praying that the Spirit would incline our hearts to His testimonies (Psalm 119:36), open our eyes to behold wondrous things in His Law (119:18), unite our hearts with His to fear Him properly (Psalm 86:11), and satisfy us with Himself so that we would be glad and sing for joy all our days (Psalm 90:14).
To bring back our earlier terms of faith, allow me to end our discussion with two Puritan thoughts.
First, John Flavel makes a very valid point, in his book Method of Grace, when he wrote that the notitia and assensus is God’s preparatory or convicting illumination where man’s conscience and intellect are touched by grace while fiducia is God’s saving illumination where man’s will is transformed by grace to enjoy and taste God’s beauty and sweetness. Second, hear Jonathan Edwards, “God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart. God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory; and that it might be received both by the mind and heart. He that testifies his idea of God’s glory doesn’t glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it.”
Commands and Suggestions
We all know the difference between a command and a suggestion. Suggestions can be considered and heeded or not, but commands on the other hand are directives that need to be obeyed. Many times there are significant consequences to commands that are not obeyed, like that time I was told (commanded) not to touch broken glass. Well, I touched it and the result was a bleeding finger. The author of Hebrews gives us a command that has huge consequences if we don’t obey.
Commanded to Meet
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not 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” (Hebrews 10:24-25). We are commanded as Christians to come together for the purpose of stirring up one another in the faith. That is, men and women in the faith are commanded to meet together regularly so that they can disciple and be discipled. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a place where Christians could come together on a regular basis to do just that? Thankfully, there is a place like this: it’s called the church. The gathering of God’s people is necessary in pointing believers to Jesus and to stir believers to love and good works. Every Christian should be regularly attending and active in a local church. Hanging out with Christian friends is great, but this isn’t church. Listening to podcasts of great preachers is awesome, but this isn’t church. Listening to Christian music is nice, but this isn’t church. The fellowship of believers through the church that Jesus established is what the author of Hebrews is commanding that we do.
Neglecting to Meet
Hebrews 10 tells us that there are some who neglect to meet together as commanded. They do not make a habit of meeting with other Christians on a regular basis. They are not encouraging others and they are not being stirred up to love and good works. They were skipping out on this vitally important command. That was true in Biblical times and that is true of some believers today. They just don’t make it a priority to be a part of their local church. Instead, they would rather sleep-in, do homework, go to the beach, get yard work done, or a million other things that do not involve edifying Christian community. Christian community is important because it is ultimately about Jesus Christ – growing in His likeness and worshipping Him above all else. Neglecting Christian community through the local church, ultimately, is neglecting Jesus.
Life is busy which can make it difficult to see the importance of Christian fellowship. There is school and work and marriage and kids and bills and hobbies and responsibilities and deadlines. Our society is consumer driven and is always pleading for our attention. That’s just how it is, and the author of Hebrews knows that – God knows that. That’s why He commands that we meet together. He doesn’t suggest it or send an advertisement saying that it’s good idea. He’s not saying, “Everyone throughout the history of the church needs to meet together except for those who live in the 21st century. They are going to be way too busy for church. So you guys just do it everyone once in a while, when you can.” That is not what He is saying. No. He says, “do not neglect to meet together.” As busy as we are, we will always make time for what is most important to us. The questions is, is Christ’s church a priority for you?
My prayer is that we will not neglect the church, that we will be regular in church attendance, fellowship, and community. As Christians it is vital that we meet together regularly to point one another to Christ and to stir each other on in the faith. Get plugged into a Christ-centered church and seek to disciple and be discipled because ultimately, it’s about Christ!
Confess your faults one to another forgiving one another….
Confession and forgiveness are two key components of the Christian faith because they directly flow out of our life and fellowship with Christ. The entrance into the gospel is the command to repent and believe, for one to repent, one must confess wrong doing and be offered forgiveness. This is exactly what Jesus came preaching as we see in the gospel accounts especially Mark and Luke. However, it doesn’t end there, it only begins. As Christians we may recognize the foundation that this has in our relationship with God, but how much do we allow it to flow out into our relationships with others. In today’s short post I wanted to reorient us to the importance of confession and repentance in the life of a believer.
Confession opens us up to be known
When we confess our faults to other believers we allow the Lord to speak into the situation with other believers who can hold us accountable and pray for us, through the struggle. By allowing others members of the Christian community into your life you allow them to pray for you and care for you. As one pastor put it “You can’t be fully loved, if you are not fully known.” By opening ourselves up to other believers with our struggles we get to experience the tangible love of Christ all the more as we receive the forgiveness and love from others. If we are in a church that is walking in the truth of the gospel than this shouldn’t be a hard step. Unfortunately, I think many of us don’t trust the spiritual state of our churches enough to allow ourselves to open up to members of it, but this should not be the case, our churches are meant to be the place where the broken come to find the forgiveness of Christ in the lives of other broken people. The church is a place of broken sinners who have found forgiveness in Christ and a new family in the church, where we can be open about or struggles and be encouraged to walk in the Love of Christ and move deeper into sanctification, not perfection, but trust and growth.
Forgiveness frees us from the burden of sin
Along those lines, if one comes to us in confession and repentance, there is no other option but to forgive. There are not nine steps of penance they must walk through to “prove” their “sincerity” as if somehow we are the ones who hold the key to determine the actions of someone’s heart. The Lord in Matthew 18 makes it clear that forgiveness is offered freely no matter how many times one sins against you. Because, at the end of the day, no one will sin against you more than you have sinned against God. I was reminded of this recently when speaking to a church member and she talked about the forgiveness she offered to the people who killed her son. In doing so she trusted the Lord to do a work in her and also in them, understanding that they too were sinners in need of a savior, not more anger and wrath. They were broken people in need of the complete love of Christ, just as she once was. This echoed personally what I have seen in national stories like the families of those lost in the Charleston shootings who offered unconditional forgiveness to the man who killed their loved ones and prayed that he may know forgiveness and grace, or the Amish families almost a decade ago whose Children were murdered in their small school house. In each case forgiveness freed them from the bondage of sin and open the door for the gospel to be put on full display to the world around them.
Together they free us to walk in grace
When we live in a church culture of confession and forgiveness we are free to walk in the grace of the Lord. We know that if we are having marital problems there are people who will love us and walk with us into wholeness, not condemnation or some false sense of superiority. If we are struggling with lust or pornography, we know that there are believers who rather than treating us like outcast will see the root of grace from the gospel and walk with us into knowing that our satisfaction comes from Christ not the things of this world. No matter the struggles, if we live in a state of confession and forgiveness we freely experience the grace of God, as we know there is nothing hidden in our lives that the enemy can use against us. This is because the family of God knows us and loves us, and through forgiveness and confession they are pushing us further into our relationship with Christ.
For many of us this may seem like a pipe dream, but for all of us this should be an essential goal of our relationship with Christ and other believers. We should desire to be fully known, fully loved, and fully walking in the grace of Christ as we love one another in the grace and forgiveness of Christ.
In the modern Church it is easy to see that confusion abounds regarding the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. This confusion is most easily seen in the three groups most of us fit into.
First, we have the Christians who seem consumed with the Holy Spirit. They interpret all of life through communing with the Holy Spirit, they make bold and confident assertions about what Spirit is leading them to do with their lives, and in their worship services it is commonplace to see various displays of the Spirit, such as being slain in the Spirit or speaking in tongues.
Second, we have the Christians who seem devoid of all Spirit-filled activity. They are exceedingly academic and logical in their Christian experience, their worship services seem rigid or heavily structured, and in any discussion of the Spirit’s work is looked on with suspicion rather than a deep affection or gratefulness.
Third, we have a group that has largely been a reaction to both of previous two positions. This is a sort of middle ground position which affirms the continuing presence of charismatic gifts today while at the same time denying their relevance or usefulness in public use. This position is sometimes referred to as ‘cautious continuationism.’
All three of these groups usually claim to believe in the Trinity, but in practice the first group appears to view the Spirit as supreme, the second group appears to ignore the Spirit entirely, while the third group appears to be afraid of the Spirit causing some type of public embarrassment or spectacle. Of course a question rises to the surface after seeing such a separation within the Church: ‘Who is right?’ Or maybe I should ask it like this: ‘Which group has a more Biblical Christianity?’ ‘Who has a sounder theological understanding of the Spirit?’ These are great questions indeed. Questions that must be not only asked, but answered as well. The only frustrating thing about answering such questions is that each group claims to be correct. Though this may be the case we must try to remove ourselves from our current cultural relativism which believes that it doesn’t really matter what you believe, it only matters that you’re sincere in those beliefs. To which I say, ‘Really?’ We’re fools to believe such things. Truth by definition is exclusive and cannot contradict itself. Two people cannot give different answers and both be correct at the same time. Either one of them is right or both of them are wrong.
So what then is the answer? To be fair, let me lay my cards on the table.
The historic Reformed faith, of which I am a part, has largely been perceived as academic, cold, heady, or overly intellectual in regard to the things of God. Some have described our church services as too liturgical or structured. Someone once told me there is so much order in our worship that the Spirit of God is prohibited from doing what He wants to do. Is that true? I certainly don’t think so, but clearly the person who told me this does. I hear comments like these frequently, and I often wonder at them because it is the exact opposite of what I see in Scripture and what I’ve encountered in my own Christian experience. You see, I believe the modern Church has an unhealthy desire for the extraordinary. We desire power, we desire signs, we desire wonders and miracles and mountain top experiences with God. Now, don’t misunderstand me. The extraordinary is not bad at all. But it’s not where we spend 98% of our Christian experience. Most of our experience will overwhelmingly be ordinary, and you know what? I think that’s how God intends it to be.
This desire for the extraordinary is not new with our generation, it was fully present with the disciples too. Philip said to Jesus in John 14:8, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ After all that Jesus had done and taught, Philip thought it just wasn’t enough and sought after something extraordinary so he asked Jesus to show them the Father and said that if Jesus did this that it would be enough for them. Then (and only then!) they would truly know that Jesus was God. How did Jesus respond to him? In John 14:9-11 He said, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.’ Jesus points out that Philip doesn’t properly understand the incarnation, and that Philip can find the extraordinary God he’s looking for in the ordinary looking Person of Jesus Christ.
This is what I see today. The modern Church has embraced a Philip type mindset in the Christian life and we need to be called back to the ordinary. Even as I type out those words it sounds wrong doesn’t it? I mean, when did being elected before the foundation of the world by the Father, saved by the penal substitutionary atonement of the Son, and indwelt by the Spirit become something that we see as ordinary? Are these things not the epitome of extraordinary?! Shame on us for looking for something greater.
So what do we do about this? With all these things and more seemingly up for grabs in the modern Church when it comes to the Holy Spirit, the only thing we can do is return to Scripture. With God’s help we must examine the teachings of the Word of God. While I’ll do this in this tonight let me go ahead and disappoint some of you. If you are here tonight and are looking for a solution to the charismatic gifts in the church today, you’ll be unfulfilled and I’m afraid you’ll find this a rather ordinary message (remember what I said 2 paragraphs ago?). There are much more pressing matters I want to cover. I want delve deeply into the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, trace how it develops throughout Scripture with an aim to see what the work, the goal, and the priorities of the Holy Spirit are. Once we see the big picture redemptive work of the Spirit, it is my view that these side matters (which we have wrongly made central matters) will fade in their significance.
DELIGHTED: The Spirit Among the Trinity
As theologians wrote on the Trinity throughout Church history the centrality of the Trinity has become clearer and clearer. One such model, called the psychological model came to the surface. Joe Rigney does a wonderful job of explaining this view of the Trinity stating that “in the Godhead, there is God in His direct existence (Father), God’s self reflection or contemplation of Himself (Son), and God’s love and delight for Himself (Holy Spirit)…there is God, God’s idea of God, and God’s love for His idea of Himself.” Before you write this view of the Trinity off as crazy, too perplexing, or even a kind of teaching taken from the psychologist Freud (which it’s not!), take note of the following passages. Colossians 1:15 says Jesus is the ‘image of the invisible God’ and Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus is the exact imprint (or representation) of God’s nature. This is why Jesus says when you’ve seen Him you really have seen the Father (John 14:7-11). Taking these passages together we understand that for all eternity God has had an image of Himself. This image is the exact imprint or representation of His nature. Because this image of God is the exact imprint of God it has pleased God to make known the glories and beauty of His own character to the world through this image, which is His Son.
What then do we make of the Holy Spirit in this description of the Trinity? The Spirit, in the above paragraph is described as ‘God’s love for His idea of Himself.’ Or to say it another way the Spirit is the very love and delight which the Father and the Son have in each other. This love that flows between the Father and the Son is deep and infinite and wonderful and exuberant. Jesus Himself speaks of this love when He mentions the ‘glory’ the Father gave Him because He loved Him before the foundation of the world in John 17:24. This love, flowing back and forth between Father and Son, is so substantial that it stands out on its own as the third Person in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. That love then bursts out of the fellowship of the Father and Son and pours over onto us at the moment of conversion. We see this in Romans 5:5 when it says “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” It is the Spirit who is the very love of God which, from being poured into us, brings all of God’s delight in God into the soul of man.
Many theologians through history have described the Spirit like this.
In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis expressed it like this, “The union between the Father and the Son is such a live concrete thing that this union itself is also a Person. I know this is almost inconceivable, but look at it thus. You know that among human beings, when they get together in a family, or a club, or a trade union, people talk about the ‘spirit’ of that family, club, or trade union. They talk about its ‘spirit’ because the individual members, when they are together, do really develop particular ways of talking and behaving which they would not have if they were apart. It is as if a sort of communal personality came into existence. Of course, it is not a real person: it is only rather like a person. But that is just one of the differences between God and us. What grows out of the joint life of the Father and the Son is a real Person, is in fact the Third of the three Persons who are God. This Third Person is called, in technical language, the Holy Ghost or the ‘spirit’ of God. Do not be worried or surprised if you find it (or Him) rather vaguer or more shadowy in your mind than the other two. I think there is a reason that must be so. In the Christian life you are not usually looking at Him. He is always acting through you. If you think of the Father as something ‘out there’, in front of you, and of the Son as someone standing at your side, helping you to pray, trying to turn you into another son, then you have to think of the third Person as something inside you, or behind you…God is love, and that love works through men-especially through the whole community of Christians. But this spirit of love is, from all eternity, a love going on between the Father and the Son.”
Jonathan Edwards said it like this years before Lewis did in his own Puritan manner. “The Godhead being thus begotten by God’s loving an idea of Himself and shewing forth in a distinct subsistence or person in that idea, there proceeds a most pure act, and an infinitely holy and sacred energy arises between the Father and Son in mutually loving and delighting in each other, for their love and joy is mutual, Proverbs 8:30 – “I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him.” This is the eternal and most perfect and essential act of the divine nature, wherein the Godhead acts to an infinite degree and in the most perfect manner possible. The Deity becomes all act, the Divine essence itself flows out and is, as it were, breathed forth in love and joy. So that the Godhead therein stands forth in yet another manner of subsistence, and there proceeds the third person in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, viz. the deity in act, for there is no other act but the act of the will.” Edwards went on to conclude the following about the Trinity as a whole, “The Father is the deity subsisting in the prime, unoriginated and most absolute manner, or the deity in its direct existence. The Son is the deity generated by God’s understanding, or having an idea of Himself and subsisting in that idea. The Holy Ghost is the deity subsisting in act, or the divine essence flowing out and breathed forth in God’s infinite love to and delight in Himself. And I believe the whole Divine essence does truly and distinctly subsist both in the Divine idea and Divine love, and that each of them are distinct persons.”
Since the Holy Spirit is the love which flows out from and breathes forth between the Father and the Son, see the beauty in Jesus’ words in John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” In context ‘these things’ refers to all Jesus taught in 15:1-10, but the substance of Edwards and Lewis and all we’ve mentioned before fits within this statement as well. The reason our joy is full is because the joy Jesus gives to and places within us, is none other than the Holy Spirit Himself.
So be encouraged, and behold our God. Look at the Father: infinite in His wisdom, wondrous in His majesty, and perfect in His purpose. Look at the Son: humble in His incarnation and death, exalted in His resurrection and ascension, and ever faithful in His intercession for us. And look at the Spirit enlightening in His illumination, consoling in His comfort, strengthening in His sanctifying support.
On October 5, 1703 Jonathan Edwards was born, and today 313 years later we are thankful and grateful for his life and ministry.
It’s a shame that all most Americans know of the Puritans is a few excerpts from Jonathan Edward’s famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God. It’s a great sermon, don’t get me wrong, but most American history texts that mention the Puritans at all usually only have a paragraph or two of this sermon in it. Taken out of context then, most people today believe the Puritans to be those who aim to ‘squash the pleasure and delight of anyone anywhere who is having any amount of fun.’
Nothing could be further from the truth. A simple reading of the whole of this famous sermon from Edwards shows that the reason he spoke so horrifyingly of hell was because he believed heaven to be so gloriously wonderful. Yes, Jonathan Edwards and his Puritan companions, took great delight in the many thing. It’s just that the things they took delight in really matter. And perhaps this is why we don’t understand the Puritans today, because we seem to be bent on doing the opposite by taking delight in everything that doesn’t matter. When an infinite ocean of glory is before our eyes in the pages of sacred Scripture, we fiddle around with the latest iPhone or the latest TV show on HGTV. It would do us good to step back from the pressure our society places on us to always be up to par with the latest trends and step into the world of Jonathan Edwards.
Take a moment to absorb a few of his quotes:
“God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart. God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory; and that it might be received both by the mind and heart. He that testifies his idea of God’s glory doesn’t glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it.”
“The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but the streams. But God is the ocean.”
“One new discovery of the glory of Christ’s face and the fountain of his sweet grace and love will do more towards scattering clouds of darkness and doubting in one minute than examining old experiences by the best mark that can be given a whole year.”
See the great delight this man took in God? No one talks like this anymore, and to me, that’s a shame. It’s a fresh breeze to my modern soul to see a man take such deep pleasure in God and His truth. I’m challenged and I’m comforted every time I open up a Puritan work, especially one by Edwards. This is why his picture is hanging on my wall, and this is why his work will always hold a special place in my heart (and should be in your heart as well!).
Today, on his 313th birthday, may you be refreshed by this giant among men. Here are some free resources on Edwards – enjoy!
Free Book: A God Entranced Vision of All Things
Free Book: God’s Passion For His Glory
Conference Message: Jonathan Edwards: The Life, the Man, and the Legacy
Podcast: Happy Birthday, Rev. Edwards
A Lecture Series: Jonathan Edwards
A George Marsden Lecture: Jonathan Edwards for the Twenty-first Century
After perusing around Facebook this morning I ran across an article that caught my eye. It’s from Tim Challies and it’s very good. I’ve reposted the whole article below for you to read:
We all know there are times and circumstances in which the only right course of action is to leave a church. If the church leadership has apostatized or proven themselves unqualified for ministry, if they are preaching a false gospel, if they have surrendered to the culture, we need to get out. We can leave these churches boldly and without looking back, shaking the dust from our feet.
But more often than not, we leave churches for what we might consider discretionary reasons. We don’t need to leave, but choose to leave. And we typically do this when we feel weary of the people, when we feel like they aren’t interested in us anymore, when relationships feel cool rather than warm, when we feel like we need a fresh start.
I wonder if you are in such a place right now—you are part of a church but feeling restless, ready to move on. Maybe you’ve attended another church a time or two and are finding yourself drawn to that congregation, to those people. It’s not always wrong to leave a church under such circumstances, but before you do, I would want to ask three important questions, all of which I’ve asked many times as an elder and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church:
Here’s the first question: Have you been praying for the people of this church? Your love for others grows in direction proportion to your prayer for them. As you pray for people, you find that you love them. You are called to pray for your enemies in the hope that they will become your brothers and sisters and for strangers in the hope that they will become your friends. How much more, then, are you to pray for your fellow church members? When you don’t pray for the people in your church you may soon find your heart cooling toward them. Once your love cools you may find yourself blaming them for your discontentment when really it began within you. Before you leave a church, first determine that you will take a period of time to pray—to pray for the people specifically and by name. Then see if your heart remains cool and distant.
Here’s the second question: Have you been serving the people of this church? Your love for others grows hand-in-hand with your service to them. As you do love toward others you naturally feel love toward others. Too many Christians prefer to be served rather than looking for every opportunity to serve. They gauge their emotional response to the church by the actions others have taken or not taken toward them. Yet God’s first call to us is not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45, Philippians 2:5-11). The more we imitate Christ in his selfless service, the more our love grows warm. Before you leave a church, first determine that you will take a period of time to serve that church—to creatively seek out opportunities to serve and surprise. Then see if your heart remains cool and distant.
And one last question: Have you been with the people of this church? Have you been there on Sunday morning, and if you have, have you been all-in, looking for people to speak to, new people to meet, coffee to brew, chairs to stack? Have you been at the Sunday evening or mid-week services, or the prayer meetings, or the small groups? If everyone else in the church is getting together three times a week while you parachute for a quick Sunday morning fix, you will necessarily feel like an outsider looking in. You need to embrace the whole life of a church, not just the one main gathering. Before you leave a church, first determine that for a time you will commit to it all the way. Then see if your heart remains cool and distant.
Under many circumstances we have freedom before God to move from one church to another. In some cases this is a necessary course of action while in others it is a sinful course of action. Most of the time, though it is discretionary, depending on the particulars, the circumstances, the heart. Before you make such a move, do consider the questions: Have you been praying for the people of the church? Have you been serving the people of the church? Have you been with the people of the church? Love grows cold where there is no prayer. Love grows cold where there is no service and no togetherness. In other words, love grows cold where there is no love—no expression of love through prayer, through deeds, through fellowship.
What kind of church should you find and give yourself to? My answer is a simple one, but it needs explanation. You should go to a church with hard preaching. Let me explain. I once heard John MacArthur say, “Hard preaching makes soft people, and soft preaching makes hard people.”
Hard preaching is true preaching. Soft preaching is fake preaching. Another way to say it is hard preaching takes the Bible seriously while soft preaching doesn’t. Because the Bible is taken seriously in hard preaching, it values what the Bible values. The Bible has a high view of God, His holiness, and His Glory, while also having a low view of man and his sin, a high view of Christ’s Person and Work, and a high view of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the hearts of the elect. Thus true preaching will have these things present in it as well because true preaching goes where the Bible goes.
Soft preaching, in contrast, doesn’t value what the Bible values. It doesn’t present a high view of God, doesn’t present a low view of man, doesn’t present a high view of Christ’s Person and Work, and doesn’t present a high view of the Spirit’s work. Thus soft preaching doesn’t have anything of value in it for God’s people, because (oddly enough) pleasing people is the focus instead of pleasing God. It goes wherever it wants to and avoids the truth of Scripture.
Hard preaching is full of honest, truthful, and faithful conscience awakening plea’s from the Bible to recognize sin as sin, call us to repent, and call us to turn toward Christ with full affection and thankfulness for what He’s done and still doing in and through us. Soft preaching is full of attempts from the so-called preacher to explain away the truths of Scripture, soften the sin of man, lessen the punitive wrath of God for sin, and put all people regardless of religion on the same path to God. Thus it demeans God and exalts man.
The results of these two types of preaching may not be visible at first but overtime they are more than visible, they are disastrous. The effect of hard preaching on the human heart is a good one. You’ll find your heart softening over time to the things of God and come to hold a very high and proper view of God’s Word, God’s work, and God’s Church. The effect of soft preaching on the human heart is a bad one. You’ll find your heart hardening over time to the things of God and come to hold a view high view of self, which will lead to a low view of God’s Word, God’s work, and God’s Church. Hard preaching leads both the preacher and his hearers to repentance, while soft preaching leads both the preacher and his/her hearers to further callousness.
Hard preaching brings life to the soul and moves people toward holy living.
Soft preaching brings death to the soul and confirms people in their worldliness.
The conclusion is easy. If you want a real, authentic, living, and vibrant faith in Christ, seek a church who will give it to you straight and doesn’t tamper with the Word of God. If you want a fake, phony, showy, and fraudulent faith in a some kind of ‘higher power’, seek a gathering that will do everything in its power to increase your trust in yourself.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. – Psalm 19:1
Sometime ago I heard a pastor speaking about the size of our galaxy. It is incredible. We know that the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. Not per hour, but per second. That is fast! To travel from one side of our galaxy to the other side of our galaxy would take 100,000 years traveling at the speed of light. Yes, you read that correctly. It would take 100,000 years to travel across our galaxy if you were traveling 186,000 miles per second. That is how enormous our galaxy is. And that is just our galaxy. It is estimated that there are billions of other galaxies in our universe. Billions! Our universe is absolutely gigantic. And planet earth is nothing more than a small speck in comparison to the universe that we live in. It really is amazing to think about the vastness of our universe.
I shared the above information with some family of mine at lunch one afternoon. And I remember someone responded, “Why? Why would God create such a huge universe?” Almost as if to say it was overkill. To that my wife Rachel responded, “To show how awesome God is!” That could not be more true. As Psalm 19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” God’s glory and greatness can be seen in His creation. When we explore the vastness of the universe and we see how great and awesome it is, we should be pointed to how great and awesome God is.
Then to think that this great and awesome God not only created us and allowed us to live in His universe, but He even lowered Himself to become one of us, so that He might redeem us from our sin, is an incredibly thought. David in Psalm 8 rightly asks the question, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4)
It is truly amazing that our mighty God, who created everything and is in control of everything, would become one of us in order to save us, but He did. Philippians 2 tells us, “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5b-8).
God is great and majestic and yet He cares enough about us to come down to where we are to rescue us from our sinful state. He does this, not because we are awesome and deserve His grace, but because He is awesome and pours His grace on sinners even though we are undeserving. The God who created the sun and the moon, and the billions of the galaxies in our universe also made you and me and then died so that by faith we could live.
As we think about who God is and what He has done may praise and adoration flow from our lips.
Back on August 28th Andy Stanley was a few weeks into his sermon series called Who Needs God. That particular message, called For the Bible Told Me So, was Stanley’s attempt to correct what he thinks is an error in Christianity, specifically that Christians place far much emphasis on the Bible and not enough emphasis on Jesus. A few days passed by and a friend told me of the message, so I went onto the North Point website and watched it….yikes.
The further I got into the message the further my angst increased. This happened for two reasons. First, what Stanley put forth in that message was wrong and second, it was historically deceptive. I shared my grievances and was challenged to reach out to Stanley rather than just talk about it…so I did. The first time I got blocked by a general response, then someone personally responded asking me to listen to the message again, and then after I persisted to speak with Stanley I got blocked by his personal assistant who told me that I need to listen to the whole sermon series to get the gist of what Stanley is up to. I never got through. I am fully aware that I am an unknown and largely unimportant pastor in the whole scheme of things, but when did it become alright for a pastor to be so cut off from other pastors that he is unwilling to take a quick call and talk through these things?
After being unable to get through to Stanley I thought about blogging about why his message is so unhelpful and harmful to the Church and the lost, but to my great joy a few a guys already did and they’ve done a wonderful job explaining the issues. I am posting this blog today to help point out where to find all these things for yourself. Follow the links below:
Stanley’s Message: The Bible Told Me So – “If the Bible is the foundation of our faith, Christianity becomes a fragile house of cards. If the whole Bible isn’t true, Christianity isn’t true.”
Andrew Jaenichen’s Response: Do We Really Believe the Bible? – “My faith is in a risen Savior. Who came, suffered, and died as the Word of God declared would take place, and now has risen from the dead 3 days later and ascended to the right hand of the Father as testified to by the apostles. I believe because of the work of Christ in me and I am assured of His love and promises because of His written Word to us, both the Old and the New. Yes I believe in the Event and in the Words that testify to it. Both before and after its occurrence.”
Russell Moore: Signposts: Reflections On My Conversation With Andy Stanley – “At our recent ERLC national conference, I had the opportunity to sit down with pastor Andy Stanley. Andy and I have a lot of significant disagreements about ministry, but our conversation was fascinating and helped me and everyone at the conference think through some important issues. In this episode of Signposts I reflect on my time with Andy Stanley, and how our dialogue about ministry and theology sharpened my own thinking about Scripture and the church.” (audio)
Michael Kruger’s Response: Is the Bible Foundational to Christianity? – “However, the sermon itself was deeply confusing and left many questions unanswered about the proper role of God’s Word in our lives. Unfortunately, much of the confusion in the sermon was driven by Stanley’s commitment to a particular methodology about how to reach non-Christians. For whatever set of reasons, Stanley has become convinced that the Bible gets in the way. I disagree. On the contrary, the strategy of downplaying the Bible for the sake of the Gospel is a false dichotomy. The two cannot and should not ever be pitted against each other. What God has joined together let man not separate.”
Al Mohler’s Response: For the Bible Told Me So: Biblical Authority Denied … Again – “In the end, we simply have no place to go other than the Bible as God’s authoritative revelation. Christ, not the Bible, is the foundation of our faith — but our only authoritative and infallible source of knowledge about Christ is the Bible. A true defense of the Christian faith has never been more needed than now, but an attempt to rescue Christianity from its dependence upon Scripture is doomed to disaster.”
When it comes to watching the debate tonight there are many things to keep in mind. There are a lot of people who don’t want to vote for Donald Trump, but there are still a lot of people who highly doubt they can even trust Hillary Clinton, so she’s going to try to prove her credibility. As for Donald Trump there are a lot of people who think he’s completely un-Presidential, so he’s going to try to show his readiness for such a task. We should be paying attention to these things. See how they respond to questions and to one another. But, before we get lost in the political maneuvering and all that we need to remember about tonight, as Christians, we cannot forget 1 Peter 2:11-17.
Peter is writing to Christians living in Asia Minor who are beginning to suffer for their faith. In the first verse of his letter he calls them ‘elect exiles of the dispersion.’ This dispersion or ‘diaspora’ is a term used to describe believers who were scattered abroad due to persecution. That he calls them ‘elect exiles’ reminds his audience of two things. First, that he calls them ‘elect’ reminds them of God’s predestining love and His election of them to salvation through Christ. Because God sovereignly saved them they would have been encouraged to remember that God can sovereignly keep them in the midst of suffering and difficulty as well. Second, that he calls them the ‘elect exiles’ reminds them that because of their faith in the risen Christ they are truly exiles, aliens, and sojourners in this present world. They do live in the world but this world isn’t their true home. They’re to be looking ahead to the heavenly country whose Maker and Builder is God where their citizenship truly is.
These two things were meant to be encouragements to this group of suffering Christians Peter is writing to, and today these same two things are meant to be encouragements to any Christian in difficulty or suffering. We have been sovereignly elected by God from before the foundation of the world, we have been ransomed by the blood of Christ which is more valuable than silver or gold, and because of these things Peter reminds us that we have an inheritance that is ‘imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us.’ So for the Christian, at all times and especially in times of suffering, we must remember that the best is always yet to come. This raises a question: in the meantime while we’re doing life as exiles and aliens here, how are we to live? Peter begins answering that question for us in chapter 2 by calling us in 2:1 to ‘grow up into salvation.’ It’s a call toward maturity and away from immature faith. Well how do we do that? How do we mature or grow up into salvation? Our passage this morning tells us.
v11-17 answers our question about how to do life here while we’re passing through as exiles waiting to be in glory by bringing up the Christian’s conduct. v11 calls us to abstain from the things called ‘passions of the flesh’ or in other words those things ‘which wage war against your soul.’ The word abstain doesn’t just mean do ‘not do’ but ‘keep a far distance from.’ Just as a traveler doesn’t embrace the customs of the nation he’s traveling through, Christians as exiles here in this world aren’t to embrace the customs of this world. Even more, the customs and natural ways of this world wage war against our souls, which is more reason to abstain from them. The word flesh here doesn’t mean physical or bodily. ‘Flesh’ means the old sinful nature that is within us…always luring us away from God and seeking to enslave us to sin. v12a brings this same thought a bit further by extending our inner struggle against fleshly passions to a public setting. We’re to keep our conduct ‘honorable’ or good, excellent, and upright before the Gentiles, basically before the watching world. So taking v11 and v12 together the meaning is that the inner life of a Christian abstaining from fleshly lusts leads to an honorable public life from the Christian. So if you’re doing v11 and you really are abstaining from sinful lusts you’ll at the same time be living an honorable life before the world as v12 calls for. And the opposite is also true. If you’re not doing v11 and you’re not abstaining from sinful lusts inwardly you at the same time won’t be living an honorable life before the world as v12 calls for.
Peter doesn’t stop here, he continues. Did you notice the reason why Peter wants us to live such an honorable life in v12b? “…so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” What? This should be strange to you. We’re accustomed to thinking that an honorable life would be seen as honorable, but in v12b Peter says the honorable life of a Christian will cause the lost world around you to think you’re an evildoer even though they can recognize your own good deeds. Notice it doesn’t say ‘if’ they speak against you, it says ‘when’ they speak against you. This is a promise. An honorable life before God will lead to being dishonored before men. Remember what Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim. 3:12? ‘All those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Does that seem odd? That the world would recognize good deeds yet still conclude us to be evildoers? Sin never does make sense does it? But even when the world labels us as an evildoer, the reason we want to be honorable is that the world would see our good deeds and glorify Christ at His 2nd Coming.
This is the principle at work here: we don’t need our own good works to be saved. We’re saved not by our own works, not even by the most righteous of our own works, but by the fully sufficient work of Christ in behalf of sinners like you and me. We praise God for the work of His Son because Jesus took the punishment for us and became man so that men could become sons of God. All of this leads to something within the heart and life of the Christian. Redemption doesn’t stay stagnant within us, no, it’s always moving deeper in and further out. Once Christ’s fully sufficient work has saved us, His work within us by His Spirit produces good works in us. Thus, a true understanding of God’s grace to us in Christ leads to holy living. These good works are cultivated in us by God inwardly (through enabling us to abstain from fleshly lusts and passions and live honorably before the world) and then those good works are put on display publicly by God so that the world sees them and glorifies God.
So here is the principle Peter has set up for us to see: God doesn’t need our good works, but who does? Our neighbor does. Because it’s by seeing our good works that our neighbors will glorify God.
Now comes the question that flows from this: what kind of good works does Peter have in mind? From chapter 2:13 to the end of his letter he mentions many kinds of good works we can and ought to engage in, and all of these are good works our neighbors can witness for themselves.
But what is the first good work Peter mentions?
What is the first good work that our neighbors are to see in our lives so that they would glorify God?
v13-17 gives it to us – our submission to governing authorities.
“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”
Peter calls us back to what is really important for the Christian as we watch the debate unfold tonight. For the Lord’s sake, we serve our neighbors by submitting to our governing authorities….when we do this our neighbors see the glory of God.
“Give me liberty, or give me death,” is this not one of the most popular phrases in all of American history? From an early age we embedded it within our very being as Americans. The very foundations for that which we believe as a country drives itself from the understanding that man has liberty, but from a Christian perspective what does liberty mean? Do we derive our understanding of Christian liberty from Scriptures or from America? Do we take time to think about Scripture and our biblical understand of who we are called to be? As Christians we do not derive our understandings of truth from our culture, but from the Word of God alone. This is all the more true when we deal with Christian liberty.
Christian liberty is one of the most beautiful aspects of our faith. And the reasons it is one of the most beautiful aspects is because in it we see that our faith is more than a set of rules. It is a faith built on a relationship with the Savior, lived out in community with other believers, all who come from different backgrounds, different cultures, different life experiences, and different salvific stories. Because we have these different backgrounds we see the faith lived out in slightly different ways, though all built on the solid foundation of Christ alone. In 1 Corinthians Paul deals with these very issues as he works through the difficulties going on within the church in Corinth.
In Corinth we have a church that greatly embraces their liberty in Christ. However, while embracing their Christian liberty they went to the extreme of no longer worshiping God by their actions, but rather satisfied their flesh at the detriment of their brothers and sisters. In chapters 8 -10 Paul puts together a lengthy discourse on what it means to live in Christian liberty. In the course of these three chapters we see that Christian liberty is advanced theology, it is more than embracing an idea that I can do whatever I want whenever I want because I’ve been forgiven by God, but rather it is an understanding that in Christ we have freedom to live out the gospel alone. The beauty of the gospel seen in our liberty is that we can lay it down. It is the fact that we are able to do these things and yet we willingly choose not to for the sake of our brothers and the cause of Christ.
In the text he begins by speaking of simple things as food sacrificed to idols, of course, for us today food sacrificed to idols is an anomaly. We don’t tend to see idols on every street corner. We don’t buy our meat from a butcher that cuts and sells his wares in honor of a god, but we do understand the principle that is at stake in these chapters. Paul is dealing with believers who were flaunting their liberties at the expense of their brothers and sisters.
This is been a charge labeled often at the young restless and reformed movement, a term derived 10 years ago in Christianity Today given to the young ministers being transformed by reformed theology. Most young reformers are products of that movement, and too many degrees we would call ourselves members of it. Unfortunately, for all the good that this movement brought back to our understanding of the grace of God, of our hope in him alone, our love of doctrine and theology, a deep abiding love for the church, and salvation…it also brought with it the un-needed baggage of antinomian Christian liberty.
Antinomian Christian liberty at its core is not reformed theology; rather it is a distortion of the truth. This view of Christian liberty is very much in step with the error that Paul is fighting in Corinth. This view finds itself, though, right in step with the American idea I can do whatever I want and I will have grace before God, a grace that should be free from consequences. Rather than embracing the love of God and out of a love for what God has done in us and through us, seeking to honor and glorify Him with all aspects of our lives and seeking to love our brothers and sisters with grace and hope, this version of Christian liberty seeks only to serve itself. It sees the purpose of the cross not for worship of God but for worship of self. In many ways it embraces an infantile faith. This is especially true when we see those who are called out for their abuse of Scripture and their abuse of the brothers and sisters running right back to their “we have liberty in Christ.” This reveals that there is a misunderstanding of the Scriptures especially in the realm of Christian liberty.
In 1 Corinthians 10:23 Paul begins with the words “all things are lawful.” Maybe some of us have simply stopped there and missed the reality that not all things were helpful for our spiritual walk nor do they build up those around us. Paul wants to remind us that the purpose of our Christian liberty is to serve our brothers and sisters and to worship God. We are called in the text to lay down our liberty when we know it is for the good of our brothers and sisters, for those who struggle with sin, for those who struggle with doubt. We do not flaunt your liberties at the expense of others.
While the vast majority reading this blog may be Americans our liberty at its core as believers is not American. Our liberty at its core is Jesus Christ alone.
He models for us the truth of what it means to live in liberty; to live in liberty according to the gospel is to give up our lives for the good of others. We lay down our rights to serve and love the family of God and reach our neighbors. The call of Christian liberty is to truly love your neighbors and walk with them in the faith. It is to know and see their struggles and to knowingly and humbly lay down your rights to help grow and bless them. Remember our liberty on this earth is but for a lifetime, while our celebration of true liberty in Christ is eternal; a liberty that has set us free from sin and death.
With that in mind let us lay down our rights as we see the day coming when the Lord shall return. So if your brother or sister is struggling with alcohol addiction, with pornography or sexual sins, with anger, bitterness, gossip, do not lead them further into it through your “liberties,” but rather may you build them up through love and prayer. Pointing them and yourself back to the cross were our true hope is found. Where the Lord of the universe who had unlimited authority in liberty gave it all up for our sake and for our salvation.
What is the purpose of Genesis? If I asked you this what would you tell me? I recently asked a friend about this and this was his response, “The story of our beginning, of creation.” I responded and said that he was not wrong, creation is in there for sure, but I did say that he was missing something in the grand picture of Genesis.
The grand purpose of Genesis can be seen when we notice that it was Moses who wrote the book. This matters because what else did Moses write? He wrote the entire Torah as well. Most people will say that Moses wrote Exodus through Deuteronomy to prepare the people of Israel to enter the promise land, but always exclude Genesis from this purpose believing it to be written to describe the story of creation alone. This should not be done.
I think Genesis should be included with the rest of the Torah as regards to its purpose as a whole. Therefore this means Genesis was written to prepare the people of Israel to enter into the promise land along with the other books in the Torah. How? Genesis begins with Gods people dwelling safely in Eden, is then filled with all sorts of sin, and ends with Gods people dwelling in safety in Egypt.
What then was Israel supposed to learn from Genesis? That God is still with them, that God really does keep His promises, and that God really means to encourage them as they enter the land He’s giving them. No matter what sin happens to them, around them, or even from them, God will still take them exactly where He wants them to be.
How are we to be encouraged today from the book of Genesis? Rather than merely focusing on Genesis as a scientific argument for creation over evolution, we ought to be encouraged in a somewhat similar manner to Israel. God is still with us, that God really does keep His promises, and that God really means to encourage us as we live out our lives under His gracious sovereign hand. No matter what sin happens to you, around you, or even from you, God will still take you exactly where He wants you to be. His people always dwell securely and we never need fear over anything that happens in our lives.
This is the God intended purpose of Genesis.
How many of you have ever been out of the country? I have, and every time I go abroad I always look forward to one moment: walking out of the airport in the new country for the first time. Any of you know what I mean? It’s a different country, with different sights, different sounds, different smells, and an overall different feel. On one hand it feels a bit alien and strange to walk into such an unknown place, but on the other hand there’s an adventurous feel when you walk into a foreign and mysterious culture. It can be a bit of sensory overload and can feel risky at times, but I quite enjoy it.
Well, we’re about to feel the same kind of excitement and uneasiness because today I am blogging about the book of Revelation. You may feel a bit of sensory overload and it may even feel risky at times, but I assure you the book of Revelation is in the Bible to encourage us and I would even add that this book shows us the glory of Christ more than any other in the Bible.
The book of Revelation feels foreign to us mainly because it is filled with symbolism, figurative language, and prophetic apocalyptic imagery that most of us don’t really know what to do with. Now, to feel this way is ok, but to avoid Revelation because we don’t understand it is to fall into error. As a good guide would do, today I want to give you a roadmap or a foundational principle that will help you navigate through this book. This basic foundational principle comes to us from rightly answering the question: how do we approach the book of Revelation?
Answer, we should approach it literally.
Some of you just took a sigh of relief. But wait. When I mean we should approach Revelation literally I mean we should approach Revelation according to its genre of literature. Let me explain.
We should NOT approach Revelation in the same manner we approach Genesis and Exodus. Genesis and Exodus both are included in the genre of historical narrative, which means these books give us a sequential timeline or chronological account of historical events. I think many people approach Revelation in the same manner, and though Revelation shouldn’t be thought of as history, it is commonly approached as a sequential timeline or chronological account of events that are going to take place in the future. We can’t do this because Revelation isn’t narrative, it’s in the apocalyptic genre. Just as there are different ways to interpret the genre of poetry and historical narrative in the Bible, there are different ways to interpret apocalyptic literature. The same rules do not apply.
So if we’re not to approach the book of Revelation as a future chain of sequential or chronological events, how then should we approach it?
Understanding that apocalyptic literature doesn’t play by the same rules, we should approach Revelation expecting it to be filled with symbolic imagery, metaphor, and figurative language because those things are characteristic of the apocalyptic genre in the Bible. Something fascinating in this regard is that out of all the books in the New Testament, the one book with most OT allusions, quotes, references, and imagery is the book of Revelation. This means it is filled with symbolic fulfillment that goes all the way back to Genesis 1. We should also approach Revelation expecting it to have relevance and deep meaning for BOTH the present audience of the apostle John, and the universal Church throughout all of history.
So you can see the cards in my hand, my view on Revelation is that throughout its 22 chapters, the apostle John re-tells the same story 7 different times with increasing intensity every time. You can call this a progressive parallelism, or a progressive recapitulation. G.K. Beale calls is the Historical-Redemptive Approach, while others call it the ‘Iterest’ approach.
Did you know? This coming October 29 The Publicans we’ll be hosting our first ever Publicans Conference. The theme is ‘We Are Pilgrims.’ Why should you come? Simple: the Christian life is a pilgrimage, a journey, a voyage of the most exhilarating kind. It has a clear beginning and a desired end, rich with meaning for this life and the life to come. This pilgrimage is filled with joy, delight, and triumph as well as pain, fear, and danger. Courage is needed and suffering is certain, yet the Gospel moves us onward. We are pilgrims.
There will also be two large book giveaways as well as freebies for the first 50 people through the door. Check out the info below, cyou soon!
Date: October 29, 2016
Location: SonRise Community Church, 9970 Ridge Road, New Port Richey, FL 34654
8:30 – Doors open
9:00-9:15 – Welcome and Introduction
9:15-10:15 – Session 1: The Creation of a Pilgrim (Matt Noble, Ephesians 2:1-9)
10:15-11:05 – Session 2: The Life of a Pilgrim (Sam Knox)
11:05-11:35 – Panel discussion – Adam, Andrew, Matt, Sam
11:35 – Morning Book Giveaway
11:45-12:45 – Lunch Break (we’re asking that you either bring a lunch or quickly grab lunch somewhere locally, allowing enough time to return by 12:45)
12:45-1:45 – Session 3: The Privilege of a Pilgrim (Adam Powers, Jeremiah 29:7)
1:45-2:35 – Session 4: The End of a Pilgrim (Andrew Jaenichen, Hebrews 13:14)
2:35-3:00 – Panel discussion – Adam, Andrew, Matt, Sam
3:00 – Afternoon Book Giveaway
3:05 – Closing