Monday, 29 December 2008

Praying Paul's Prayers

(Romans 15:5-6) God of endurance and encouragement grant me to live in such harmony with others in the church, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together we may with one voice glorify You, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(Romans 15:13) May You, the God of hope fill me with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit I may abound in hope.

(Ephesians 1:17-19)God of my Lord Jesus Christ, Father of glory, may You give me a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, having the eyes of my heart enlightened, that I may know what is the hope to which You have called me, what are the riches of Your glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of Your power toward me.

(Ephesians 3:14-19) Father, according to the riches of Your glory grant me to be strengthened with power through Your Spirit in my inner being, so that Christ may dwell in my heart through faith—that I, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that I may be filled with all the fullness of God.

(Philippians 1:9-11) And it is my prayer that my love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that I may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to Your glory and praise.

(Colossians 1:9-12) I ask that I may be filled with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy the Lord Jesus, fully pleasing to You, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of Yourself. May I be strengthened with all power, according to Your glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to You, the Father, who has qualified me to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

(Colossians 4:12) May I stand mature and fully assured in all the Your will God.

(1 Thessalonians 5:23) May You, the God of peace sanctify me completely, and may my whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(2 Thessalonians 1:11-12) God make me worthy of Your calling and fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by Your power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in me, and I in him, according to Your grace God and the Lord Jesus Christ‘s.

(Hebrews 13:20-21) May You. O God equip me with everything good that I may do Your will, working in me that which is pleasing in Your sight.

Compiled by Victor Mason

Sunday, 28 December 2008

How to be Perfect

'For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man.'
James 3:2
To be perfect just say all the right stuff and mean all the stuff you say.
'But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?
James 3:8-11

The tounge is an indicator of the heart. What you desire is exposed in your words. We speak about whatever makes us happy. If you love God you'll speak about Him.
Get a new heart from Jesus if you don't have one already.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Driscoll on Cessationism

I'm currently reading Colin Hansen's book 'Young, Restless and Reformed' where he documents the story of the Calvinistic resurgence in the states. Chapter seven is on Driscoll and Mars Hill and as always he has something humorously offensive to say:

'...I had been basically a theological cessationist and a fan of fundamentalist straw man attacks on charismatics... It wasn't until some years later, however, that I came to see the cessationists' interpretation of 1 Corinthians 12-14 as the second worst exegesis I had ever read, next to that of a Canadian nudist arsonist I once did some research on.' (pg 145)
Is that a bit strong Driscoll? Well actually I can see his very clear point. I'm a convinced charismatic thanks to well... what I see as bad cessionist arguments as well as scriptural texts that tell us when the miraculous gifts will cease (1 Corinthians 13:8-12).
Cessionism can be misinterpreted though. I know cessainionists' who have seen more healing's and visions and are more filled with the Spirit than some of my charismatic friends. I'm glad the same God is at work in the whole of the authentic church.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

'You better watch out,
You better not cry,
You better not pout,
I’m telling you why;

Santa Claus is coming to town.'

Tonight is the night. He knows when you are sleeping and he knows when you're awake, he even knows if you've been bad or good 'so be good for goodness sake'.

Is the message of Santa good news? It's actually not. Santa works on a basis of merit; He requires children to be good before they can recieve his goodness, he wants us to be nice and kind before he is kind to us. Santa doesn't set us an example he only gives us what we deserve. If you're a bad person then Santa doesn't care about you. Your Christmas will be boring and dull without the moral merit that he demands.

Let Piper explain...

Santa's teaches religion. You can only enter his good books if you meet a standard. If Santa were God everyone would be without hope. He wouldn't let anyone into heaven because no-one is good enough. The good news for us is that peace, joy and love are given by Jesus Christ and not earnt. He says: 'Whoever comes to me I will never cast out' (John 6:37). Christ wants people good and bad to simply accept him. He doesn't require moral reformation or a good lifestyle before loving a person. He sets the standard by loving unconditionally. God's news is good to everyone and anyone who wants it. You don't need to work to get Jesus' blessing. He wants us to come broken and humble admitting that we can't live up to His standards. Christ wants us to take him at His word- simply to trust and recieve fom Him.

'For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.' (Luke 19:10) We don't deserve Jesus and we could never earn him. Christ wants us to receieve Him. 'But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name' (John 1:12).

Have a Merry Christmas!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Applying Christ to Every Text

Four ways to apply Christ by Tim Keller:

1) Theme Resolution
Certain theme run throughout scripture for example the theme of law and grace. Christ has fulfilled every theme of scripture. Christ met the demands of the law by living a perfect life and brings God's grace to us through His death.

2)Law Completion
This is preaching Christ from ethical principles. Every duty that we should perform has been completed by Christ. Every law points us to Christ because the law says to us ‘you can never fulfil me, you need a saviour' (Gal 3:24).

3) Story Insertion
The holistic narrative of scripture is the message of Jesus. Preach Christ from the story to be considered by looking for pictures of Christ in the text. For example: Jesus is the true Adam, Abel, Abraham….' Every story is about Jesus.

4) Symbol Fulfilment
Every major figure points us to Christ. The non-personal symbols point us to Christ. The entire sacrificial and temple system points us to Christ.

Read my notes from the whole lecture here.

The Westminster Conference

The Westminster Conference is a yearly gathering of Christians (mainly Pastors) for the study of Puritan and historic doctrines. I went this year and really enjoyed it. Jeremy Walker gives a brief summary of the conference; part one and part two. I might upload my notes soon.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Loving to Obey

Below are notes from a talk I gave at Olivet English Language School last Tuesday. Comments and criticisms are encouraged!

Deuteronomy 8:1,6-10
1 “Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers.
6 “Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. 7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.

Deuteronomy is a collection of sermons written by Moses for the 2nd generation of Israelites. The situation is like this: the first generation of Israelites have been released by God from Egypt - from the bondage of slavery in that land for as a nation for 430 years to the liberation of serving Yahweh.

Moses led the people with divine authority out of Egypt through the red sea and all the way to Sinai to receive the law. On the way they take a diversion through the wilderness for 40 years, complaining, grumbling and sinning against the Lord. And the Lord wipes the first generation of Israelites he destroys them. This book (the fifth book of Moses) is designed to stir up the second generation to obey God and take the Promised Land by looking back at some of the faults of the first generation.

Why should we want to obey God? What motivates us to obey?
Grace- God free love to sinners like us who don’t deserve it at all.
There are 2 types of grace that make us want to obey God:

1) Past Grace:
In Exodus 20 God says:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. “You shall have no other gods before Me….’

God entices the people to obey because He is God and He’s brought them out of slavery. He’s done so much for them. He’s been so good to them. He’s loved them when they deserved His anger.

We should want to obey because we can see change in our life. We hated God now we love Him- God did that! God changed you. We were running to Hell as God’s enemy. Now we can’t wait to get to Heaven to be with our Father forever!

God has given us the Holy Spirit and through the Holy Spirit we get gifts. We get comfort, we get led, we get taught. We get power to kill sin in our life.

2) Promised Grace:
Look at verses 8:6-10
6 “Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.
7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey;
9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.

The Israelites were promised Canaan and encouraged to obey because God was giving them a good land, it’s a beautiful land. In verse 7 Moses describes it with commodities that are precious and expensive. This is the inheritance that Christians –not because we’re good, only because Jesus is good!

God’s got a wonderful place for us. He’s prepared it Himself. He’s going to collect us Himself so that we can be with Him forever.
And the best thing about this place is Himself.
We’ll be observing and enjoying His own dazzling beauty forever. We’ll be looking at His indescribable glory forever.
We’ll be beholding our God and making a loud noise of praise to Him forever.

In heaven we have ‘an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved for [us]’ (1 Peter 1:4).
Thinking about Heaven ignites our hearts to want to obey God.

So what is obedience?
Obedience is the proper reaction to Grace. Obedience looks at the goodness of God and says ‘tell me what to do and I’ll do it because I love you.’

The last phrase ‘I’ll do it because I love you’ is really important.
Because If you ‘do the right stuff’ without having a heart for God- a heart that desires God and see God as beautiful then God does not accept what you do as obedience.

Obedience is never outward acts. Everything has to be done with a love for God and a joy in Him. It has to be delight more than duty. Joy is our duty!

The Pharisees obeyed, they did all the right stuff and Christ said:’ These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honour Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.’ (Matt 15:8).

Obedience is the heart-felt reaction to grace. We love Him because He first loved us! (John 4:19)

In Deuteronomy 7:7-8 God shows His love to the Israelites. He affirms that He is for them.
‘The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; 8 but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.’

God’s love doesn’t consider the ability of a person-
God’s love simply loves for one reason: love! God chooses to love.

God chose to love Israel over other nations God chooses to love us. He didn’t have to-He could have given us what we deserve: Hell- he didn’t He’s gracious and kind.
God chose to love us because He chose to!

The Context of Obedience is Love-
Obedience has to come from a heart of love because obedience is a reaction to Grace.

1) Love makes obedience enjoyable- it becomes a pleasure
Before I was saved I though of obedience as a word that was against me. God was trying to make me unhappy by getting me to obey him.
When I was saved everything that was boring to me became a joy.
His word became enjoyable to me!
Psalm 119:24 ‘Your statues are my delight’.

What makes you read your Bible? Because you know you should or because you love it? Because someone has told you to or because you know that scripture is ‘more to be desired than gold’ (Psalm 19:10)? This book is better than gold!

Jeremiah says: ‘You words were found, and I ate them, and your word was to me my joy and rejoicing of my heart’ (15:16).

2) Love makes obedience liberating – it’s not a burden
‘For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.’ (1 John 5:3).
Keeping God’s commandments used to feel restrictive- they stopped me from doing what I really wanted to do!
Now they are liberating and wonderful- it’s great to obey God and do what He wants!

1 “Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe,
that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers.

What does God want from us?
God wants universal obedience – ‘Every commandment’
We should obey all the commandments. He wants us to submit every area of our life to Him- Jesus needs to be Lord over all that we are and do.

God wants exact obedience – ‘be careful to observe’
We need to be constantly re-examining ourselves and asking: ‘is this right in God’s eyes?’ ‘Am I doing His will?’

Obedience brings blessing through the promise – life, multiplication, and possession –‘that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers.’
1) Obedience shows us that we are God’s children
If obeying God is a reaction to grace then when we obey God we are preaching to the world: ‘God has worked in this soul’.

In John 14:23 Jesus says: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him.’

John 14:15 ‘If you love me you will keep my commandments.’

2) Obeying God allows us to enter into a greater fullness of God in this life.
When we live a life that is obedient in every area we experience more of God.

If we don’t love to pray we miss out on more of God
If we don’t enjoy church we miss out on more of God
If we don’t read and study scripture with passion we miss out on more of God
If we don’t have Christian friends to help and support us we miss out on more of God

Be Careful:
Obedience doesn’t save.
If you’re not a Christian then you need to know that doing the right thing never gets anyone into Heaven – it only gets people further into Hell.
Obedience doesn’t make God say ‘Oh you’re doing well.’ We can’t please God like that. Everything good that we try and do for God is filthy rags in His eyes- disgusting and horrible.
God doesn’t want to see all your goodness because you’re not good. We’re filthy, dirty sinners.

The beauty is that one man obeyed perfectly. One man did everything right in God’s eyes. And the amazing thing is He didn’t do what was right so that He could get to God. He did it so that we can get to God. Jesus Christ chose to give the perfection that He earnt (from His perfect life) to whoever wants it.
You must come broken- admit to God that you can’t please Him- you’re a sinner. Then thank God that God loves sinners and is willing to forgive you of every sin- everything that you’ve ever done wrong in His eyes.

Obedience to God shows that grace is working; obedience never wins God to bless us.
If you put your trust in Christ- if you believe that God became a man and died for you then God is for you. And God will give you power to obey like Jesus Christ did.

The Chief End of God

Q 1: What is the chief end of God?
A: The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy displaying and magnifying his glory forever.

Q 2: Who is the most God-centered person in the universe?
A: God.

Q 3: Who is uppermost in God’s affections?
A: God.

Q 4: Is God an idolater?
A: No. He has no other gods before him.

Q 5: What is God’s chief jealousy?
A: God’s chief jealousy is to be known, admired, trusted, enjoyed, and obeyed above all others.

Taken from the Piper message 'Why God Is Not a Megalomaniac in Demanding to Be Worshiped'

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Friday, 28 November 2008

God's Satisfies us by Loving Himself

God loves Himself supremely above all other creatures. He delights in the purity of His character. He observes and analyses every emotion and mental capacity He possesses and declares it good! God is excellent, all together lovely, more beautiful than any landscape or icon. God's reaction to Himself is worship. He worships Himself loving to demonstrate His magnificence to everyone by speaking through creation. He is clearly seen through the testimony of earth.

He is a consuming fire, burning bright with radiance and indescribable light. He is the lion from the tribe of Judah; powerful, strong, the King of all creatures. He's the lamb that was slaughtered; meek and humble. He's the lamb that wanted to be slaughtered. It was His will to redeem a people to give Himself the joy of adoration. He desired worshippers to worship with His Spirit through His truth. He was willing to look guilty in the world's eyes to purchase our innocence. His cross was horrid and bloody. It was brutal and evil to nail the Son of God to splintered wood yet at the same time it works to express the greatness of His glory. He died and suffered to make Himself look wonderful. He did it to make Himself happy. For the joy that was promised to Him He endured the cross.

What do we get from God's efforts to make Himself look wonderful? We get we've always wanted: the happiness that comes from beholding beauty!

'And he [Moses] said, 'Please show me your glory.'' Exodus 33:18

Sunday, 23 November 2008

The Grace-filled Church

Tim Chester gives 7 practical ways to help create communities of grace.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

God's Love

I've just started Owen's book 'Communion with God' -it is amazing! Owen is unpacking what is to know God loves us and how to feel this love. If you're going to buy one Puritan book in the near-future buy this one!!

Here's a taste:

'The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to him is not to believe that he loves you.' (Page 13)

'Consider who it is who loves us. It is the love of him who is in himself all-sufficient and who is infinitely satisfied with himself and his own glorious excellences and perfections... His only Son, by himself alone, would be sufficient to satisfy and delight that Father. But in spite of all this, the Father will love his saints also. And the Father's love is such that he does not seek his own happiness and satisfaction only, but ours also.' (Page 28)

'When the soul discovers the excellency and sweetness of Christ in the banqueting house, it is overcome and cries out to be made partaker of his fullness. The soul is 'lovesick' - overcome with the mighty power of God's love.' (Page 43)

Friday, 21 November 2008

The Christian and the World: Staying Holy and Faithful

Here are my notes from a Bible study I gave last night at MPBC...

We have two duties as Christians with respect to the world:

1) Avoiding worldliness
1 John 2:15-17:
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

2) Engaging with the world
1 Cor 9:19-23:

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.

We need to learn to find the balance between avoiding and hating sin and also making ourselves relevant out of love for the world.

2 things about the world:

1) We live in a changing world
2) We live in a constant world

If we are to adopt what Paul says in 1 Cor 9 we can say two things:
1) We need to be constant-some things should never change eg truth
2) We need to change- some things have to change if we are stay in touch with the world eg the outward appearance and arrangement of our Christianity

Paul’s Aim: The glory of God in winning souls. Paul gets himself involved in culture but not for his own pleasure in culture. Every act of engagement performed by Paul is done for the sake of winning souls
From the text:
-Paul changes his disposition to win more people for Christ ‘all things to all men’
-Paul (to change His lifestyle) must have been aware/ researched into the surrounding culture
-Paul’s focus on methods does not deny his belief in the Holy Spirit’s work
-Paul became all things to all men to remove unnecessary barriers to the gospel
There are some cultural forms that restrain people understanding the gospel. E.g. the incarnation-Christ came into the culture of the time

Engagement with the world is the concept of sinless identification with the sinful beings, showing them that the gospel is relevant and applicable and needed for their lives. It’s not compromising on truth, neglecting theology or changing the gospel so that it is acceptable in the eyes of the sinner. It is paying attention to culture to become like culture and use many methods to win many people to Christ.

Engagement requires knowledge of restraints and liberties. We must be flexible and rigid. We need to know what we can lawfully do as Christians- the things that do not break commandments. And we need to know what is prohibited. We have to have a clear view of worldliness. We can’t go against our conscience if our conscience has been soaked in scripture. We must exploit all liberty to seeing more people saved without blaspheming God in the process. Paul is not saying- to the gambler I became a gambler. People abuse the concept this way.

In order to be open to win as many as we can to Christ we must know how far closed we need to be. This is liberalism. Our openness is not theological-we do not and should not compromise the truth of scripture. Liberalism does-they say homosexuality is ok- it’s not it’s a sin. Homosexuals must repent of their sin daily as I repent of my sin daily.

The other end of the spectrum is fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is a holding onto everything- not only the essentials of scripture but also cultural values. A fundamentalist church doesn’t change-ever. It’s not looking for ways to be relevant to the society around it. They don’t spend time investing money into making literature look good or the church look welcoming and comfortable. A fundamentalist only takes notice of the preaching. Preaching is the focus. It’s the only hope for all we do. We are called to preach the word- this is the way Christ is exalted in hearts and minds. The error of the fundamentalism is that he/she doesn’t realise that there are external factors of the situation that reduce the number of people listening to the preached word. Would you go to a church without heating? Or without pews? Some might stay others would leave. We want to make sure that no-one is being pushed away by our weird cultural intricacies and characteristics. We need to paint our churches in neutral colours, have music popular to the current culture (not the same as the culture- it must be regulated by scripture but similar in style and sound), our leaflets and websites must look contemporary.

We must labour to be in the middle of fundamentalism and liberalism. Holding to the fundamentals of truth but allowing the externals or cosmetics of our Christianity to look different as time moves on, showing Brighton that the gospel is relevant.

What are the dangers of adapting to popular culture? The danger is worldliness. We need to know and re-access exactly what this means. Is dancing worldly? Can we find scripture to back up our position in condemning this? If it’s not worldly we should embrace for the sake of the gospel. If dancing is not wrong then dancing should be redeemed and used for the glory of God- not by everyone but just by some!
Is drinking wrong? What about smoking occasionally? I don’t believe these things are sinful. Therefore I would encourage Christian smokers to spread the gospel using their mutual interest.

We need to be aware that our hearts love to make any and everything and idol. Anything can be sinful. We need to be as ready to fast from culture as we to engage with it. Can we live without having a pint? If you can’t your sinning and you need to give it up for the sake of your own personal holiness. We are called to be holy and set apart. We cannot afford to sin in evangelism or get too close to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life but in order to be faithful we need to redeem as much as we can of this fallen world to use it in the worship of Christ by bringing others to know Him.

Did Jesus live out these principles? Did He fit in with the culture around Him? Yes-Christ is the ultimate example of cultural relevance. He became like us. He did everything He could to bring a message relevantly. Christ is the word made flesh. He didn’t come down in a blaze of light or glory. He came as a person to identify with us. He subjected Himself to some of the values of society- He lived a human life. We are called to live the same life because Christ said (John 20:21) ‘As the Father has sent me so I send you’. So we are to incarnate ourselves into culture become all things to all men to win them out of a sinful lifestyle and into the liberating gospel.

Questions to discuss:

In what ways are we to be servants of humanity?

Should the church change from generation to generation? Yes/No in what ways?

How should we think about methods in relation to the Holy Spirit’s work?

What is the difference between worldliness and engaging with the world?

What can we do specifically to ‘win more for Christ’ in these areas:
Social activities

What does the doctrine of the incarnation teach us about Christ’s example of relating to culture?
What are the benefits of relating to culture?

What are the dangers of relating to culture?

How does Paul’s attitude of engagement promote humility within the church?

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The Atonement Debate

“The emphasis on Yahweh’s apparent appetite for continuous appeasement through blood sacrifice, present within some Pentateuchal texts, is to be understood in the light of later prophetic writings as a reflection of the worship practices of the pagan cults of the nations that surrounded the people of Israel. However, the story of Israel's salvation is the story of her journey away from these primal practices towards a new and more enlightened understanding by way of Yahweh's self-revelation.” (Steve Chalke, page 38, The Atonement Debate)

Quotes (like the above) make me grieve. Quotes (like the one below) make me happy in God for all that He has done. He chose to become cursed.The execution of the Son was planned by the Father according to His perfect power to do whatever He pleases. It pleased the Lord to bruise Him to redeem me from judgement! He became sin for me so that I could become righteous in Him! The fair anger of God poured out on Christ for every sin I've ever committed because He loves me!! God, showing this clearly through the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant. Then the grand unveiling of the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world to break the bonds of my sin and release me to worship for eternity!

Hebrews 9:23-28
23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another— 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.


At MPBC we've just started using this resource to hold each other accountable. It's a very thorough two page pdf form that a few of us complete and then send to each other every week.

Accountability gives us the opportunity to be honest and real about the sin we struggle with. It cultivates humility as we confess our faults to each other. It helps us to pray specifically for each other encouraging us to be the church that God has called us to be.

Other benefits of accountability from Andy Naselli:

Motivation: It is an added incentive to glorify God with our whole beings in very specific areas, including our minds, bodies, families, and time-which all belong to God (cf. 1 Cor 6:18-20).

Safety: It is a safety net. If one of us starts slipping or falls hard, two other concerned Christians are right there to catch him or pick him up with biblically informed advice and love.

Consistency: It facilitates (but does not automatically result in) consistent spiritual growth.

Specificity: It requires specific answers to specific questions. If someone asks “How are you doing?” it is very easy to cover up areas of our lives by blowing smoke about something else that may not be as significant.

Thoroughness: It holistically challenges us in multiple areas, rather than focusing on just a few.

Community: It establishes intimate, healthy relationships with fellow believers, rejecting a lone-ranger mentality.

Intensity: It encourages us to maintain a higher level of intensity. Although we may hold different convictions regarding the application of the gospel to lifestyle issues, we can identify with John Piper in his answer to Justin Taylor’s question, “What about your approaches to pop culture? Pastor Mark [Driscoll], you go to movies. You watch TV. You listen to modern music and go to comedy shows. Pastor John-you don’t! So John, how do you stay relevant by mainly avoiding pop culture? And Mark, as you take part in pop culture, how do you stay faithful and transformed rather than being conformed?” Piper replied, “My short answer is that I think I’m weak and therefore would probably become a carnal person if I plunged more deeply into movies than I do. That’s the first answer: Piper’s weak; he has to steer clear of certain kinds of things in order to maintain his level of intensity” (The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World, ed. John Piper and Justin Taylor [Wheaton: Crossway, 2007], pp. 152-54).

Reminder: It is a constant reminder of what is eternally important, and it cultivates a mindset that we live in between Jesus’ two victories, which parallel D-Day and V-E Day in World War II: a decisive battle (i.e., Jesus’ victory at the cross and empty tomb) has determined the war’s outcome, but one final battle remains to end the war (i.e., at Jesus’ return). We confidently expect that God will restore and consummate all things for His glory and our good, and until then, we struggle and yearn for that consummation while living for another time and another place (cf. Rom 8:17-25; 2 Cor 5:1-10; Col 3:1-5).

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

How not to treat your Pastor

If his sermon is longer than usual, “He sends us to sleep.”
If it’s short, “He hasn’t bothered.”
If he raises his voice, “He’s shouting.”
If he speaks normally, “I can’t hear a thing.”
If he’s out visiting, “He’s never at home.”
If he’s at home, “He never visits.”
If he talks finance, “He’s too fond of money.”
If he doesn’t, “Nobody knows what he’s up to.”
If he encourages mission, “He wears everybody out.”
If he doesn’t, “The church is dead.”
If he takes time with people, “He goes on and on.”
If he is brief, “He never listens.”
If he decorates the church, “He’s spending too much money.”
If he doesn’t, “He’s letting everything go.”
If he is young, “He lacks experience.”
If he is old, “He ought to retire.”
And, if he dies?
Well, of course, nobody could ever take his place.

The Epistle of Barnabas

Theology Network has recently uploaded the Epistle of Barnabas. Barnabas was one of the early Church Fathers who spent time travelling around with Paul. He was martyred in AD 61 and was thought of by some to have written the epistle to the Hebrews.

Learning to Love the Gospel

I had a great time this morning giving a devotion at Olivet English Language School. I even managed to keep it within the time limit!

Here are my notes:

We need to work on learning more and feeling more. Today I want to help us all to cultivate a greater love for the gospel. We should want more of God. We need to love and enjoy more of Him!
Philippians 3:1. Paul says: ‘For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.’
Reminding ourselves of basic truth is not a waste of time. Learning more about Scripture is great but we also need to be treasuring what we already know.
So I want to look at 1 Corinthians 15 to remind ourselves of the gospel-so that we will fall in love with it again in a fresh way!

Read: 1 Corinthians 15:1-5

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,
2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third
day according to the Scriptures,

This is the essence of the gospel
What should we expect the gospel to do for us?
1) The gospel is a picture of God’s beauty. It’s God’s love demonstrated therefore when we think about the gospel we should desire more of God.
2) If we desire more of God this will lead to holy living- a life where we hate sin and love God.

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you,
We only declare what is serious. Declaring is strong.
We need to show the world that the gospel is not a theoretically addition to philosophy. It’s not another way of life compatible with a post-modern society.
We need to be showing Brighton that the gospel deserves to be proclaimed because gospel living is the only way of living!

Colossians 1:28 says:
‘Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom’

Paul declares the gospel to the Corinthians because he loves them.
He declares the gospel because some of the Corinthians denied the resurrection from so Paul wants to correct them. He wants to get rid of their bad theology.
He does it because he really cares about the church. He is working for their good and joy.

which also you received

The Corinthians have received the gospel. Why does Paul write it again? Paul explains this gospel again because the Christian life is a gospel-centred life.
Paul is telling the church that the gospel is not the basics of the Christian life that are left behind after you get saved. The gospel is the primary focus of everything; the gospel is the whole message of scripture. Every theological fact orbits around the gospel.

We will be remembering the gospel in Heaven as we sing:
‘Worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and blessing.’ (Rev 5:12).

The gospel should be enjoyed. We love to eat our favourite food because it gives experience: Satisfaction. We know what the food tastes like because we’ve eaten it before. But we just need to taste it again because it’s so good. It’s the same with the gospel. We should be wanting to hear it again because it’s beautiful.

and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

We stand in the gospel. We are secure if we really believe that Christ died for our sins. The true Christian cannot lose their salvation.

Look at the if …if you hold fast that word which I preached to you.
When are only saved if we hold on to Christ.
Remember Lot’s wife. She turned around when fleeing from Sod and Gom and was destroyed.

What is believing in vain?
This is believing Christ for something other than himself.
Some people want Jesus just to help them out or just to make them feel God. Some people don’t want Jesus to rule over their lives.
Some only want the gifts that Jesus’ gives. True Christians want Jesus Himself. They love everything about Him!

3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
Paul gives the Corinthians the first message He received.
‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures’ is the centre of the gospel. The gospel tells us that we are more wicked and evil then we ever imagined yet more loved in Christ than we ever hoped for!
Because we are wicked Christ took our sins. Because we are loved Jesus wanted to die for us.

Galatians 3:13: ‘Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written: cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’. God condemned sin in the flesh. He was angry at Christ for our sin. We deserved to experience all of His anger in our body. He loves us that’s why He died. He loves us so much.
Our sin was punished in Jesus’ flesh.

Numbers 6:24-26 is the blessing that the Priest would say to the people:
The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
When Christ was on the cross He heard the exact opposite because of our sin.

‘The Lord curse you and abandon you, the Lord withhold His face from you and show wrath to you, the Lord take away the light of His countenance from you and give you no rest.’ This is what He went through for His children.

Christ enduring the curse for our sin isn’t the end of salvation. The aim of the cross is not the forgiveness of our sins. The forgiveness of our sins is a means to an end. God curses Christ to free us from the bondage of sin so that we can love Him. Worship and awe are the goals of the cross.
We come to the cross to be freed from sin to worship God. We get given power to break our love for sin and start adoring God.

The proper reaction is John’s reaction:
‘Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called children of God.’ 1 John 3:1

Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.
Paul got all his theology from the OT He loved the OT.
The OT shows us Christ’s death. The Bible is full of the gospel from start to finish.

4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,
God died and was buried to ascend and make a spectacle of death. Death is defeated and has been conquered. Christ made death look weak!
We have all that Christ is as Christians therefore we are more than conquers. Death serves us. It helps us.
Paul wants the Corinthians to know that their faith is empty if Christ has not risen.
We can praise God tonight that He did rise because we are not in our sins. He has taken them. People saw Him as weak-they weren’t expecting God to die!But we know that He is our conqueror defeating all our enemies to bring us into everlasting happiness which is His own presence!!

How can you believe in a God who is so narrow minded?

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Help in Suffering Properly from the Life of John Bunyan

Below are my notes from a Bible Study on the Life of John Bunyan. These notes are roughly based on John Piper's biography of Bunyan given at the 1999 Pastors Conference. I have edited Piper's message and added my own thoughts from my own reading of Bunyan.

Romans 8:18 ‘For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us’…then Paul continues in verse 36: As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’’
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.’

We all will suffer. I haven’t suffered considerably at all yet. But I know I will. God promises it to me! Suffering will work to wean me away from my hunger of the world and bring me to want more of God. I know it will happen and maybe soon. So I’ve decided to research into one man’s suffering so that we all can be taught how to suffer properly.
So that we can suffer rightly; delighting in God, clinging onto Him, not despising the day of the Lord’s chastening- for whoever the Lord loves He chastens. We’re illegitimate sons and not co-heirs with Christ if we do not know suffering (Hebrews 12:7).

Let’s have a look at what John Bunyan can teach us on How to suffer well.

On quoting 2 Corinthians 1:9 where Paul says, "We had this sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God that raiseth the dead."

Bunyan comments,

‘By this scripture I was made to see that if ever I would suffer rightly, I must first pass a sentence of death upon every thing that can be properly called a thing of this life, even to reckon myself, my wife, my children, my health, my enjoyment, and all, as dead to me, and myself as dead to them. The second was, to live upon God that is invisible, as Paul said in another place; the way not to faint, is to "look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.’

In Bunyan’s preparation to suffer he saw that he wouldn’t be able to glorify God in suffering if idols were present in his life. He was intent on crucifying sin ‘even to reckon myself, my wife, my children, my health, my enjoyment, and all, as dead to me, and myself as dead to them’. The first lesson of suffering is counting it all loss for Christ. We can only have joy in Christ during suffering if we have a Christ to have joy in. If television or food or money or power or intellect is god in our day to day wealthy lives then why should God be God only in our suffering times. ‘To live upon God that is invisible’ is the starting point of counting ourselves dead to the world. If we are captivated with Him before suffering we shall be during suffering -only with a greater measure.

John Bunyan was born in Elstow, near Bedford,on November 30, 1628. His Dad was a godly man and a metal worker. Bunyan is said to have received two to four years of formal education. In 1644 his mother and sister died within one month of each other. One month after this Bunyan’s Father remarried.

At age 16 Bunyan was drafted into the Parliamentary Army were he witnessed one man dieing in front of him after being shot in the head with a bullet intended for Bunyan.
He is thought to have married at the age of 20 or 21 to a woman unnamed in his writings. They had 4 children the oldest of which was born blind.

Spiritually Bunyan described himself as having few equals: "... especially considering my years, which were tender, for cursing, swearing, lying, and blaspheming the holy name of God . . . Until I came to the state of marriage, I was the very ringleader of all the youth that kept me company, in all manner of vice and ungodliness."

During the first five years of his marriage Bunyan converted to Christ by the grace of God. He joined a non-conformist church pastored by John Gifford. His Spiritual Auto-biography Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners recalls his painful journey to the place of assurance. Bunyan wrestled on several occasions with the doctrine of election; thinking that he was a reprobate, had committed the unforgivable sin and will be condemned to Hell.

He writes: "I feared that this wicked sin of mine might be that sin unpardonable." "Oh, no one knows the terrors of those days but myself." "I found it a hard work now to pray to God because despair was swallowing me up."

His conversion experience is probably best attributed to the moment when he describes himself walking through a field:

One day as I was passing into the field . . . this sentence fell upon my soul. Thy righteousness is in heaven. And methought, withal, I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God's right hand; there, I say, was my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, he wants [=lacks] my righteousness, for that was just before him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, "The same yesterday, today, and forever." Heb. 13:8. Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed. I was loosed from my afflictions and irons; my temptations also fled away; so that from that time those dreadful scriptures of God [about the unforgivable sin] left off to trouble me; now went I also home rejoicing for the grace and love of God."

In 1655, Bunyan’s gift of preaching was discovered. As he preached people responded.
‘But I at first could not believe that God should speak by me to the heart of any other man, still counting myself unworthy; yet those who thus were touched would love me and have a particular respect for me’ and though I did put it from me, that they should be awakened by me, still they would confess it, and affirm it before the saints of God; they would also bless God for me, unworthy wretch that I am! and count me God’s instrument that showed to them they way of salvation.’

John Owen said about Bunyan: "I would willingly exchange my learning for the tinker's power of touching men's hearts.".

His wife died in 1658 leaving Buyan with four children, one of which was blind. Bunyan then re-married a woman named Elizabeth. One year after the marriage Bunyan was arrested and put in prison due to the act of Uniformity. The Act required Pastors to accept and use the common book of prayer, and become ordained by the Episcopal Church. In the August, 2000 Puritan pastors were forced form their churches.

Bunyan was not tortured in prison although he could have been executed for his offence.
Elizabeth looked after the children as a step-mum for twelve years and gave birth to two more during Bunyan’s imprisonment.

Bunyan comments:
‘The parting with my Wife and poor children hath often been to me in this place as the pulling of the Flesh from my bones; and that not only because I am somewhat too fond of these great Mercies, but also because I should have often brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries and wants that my poor Family was like to meet with should I be taken from them, especially my poor blind child, who lay nearer my heart than all I had besides; O the thoughts of the hardship I thought my Blind one might go under, would break my heart to pieces.’

In 1672 Bunyan was released form prison under the Declaration of Religious Indulgence. He was licensed to pastor his church of 120 in Bedford again.

Bunyan was imprisoned for the second time in 1675 until 1676. During this time it is said the he wrote Pilgrims Progress.

Bunyan died in the August of 1688 from a fever caught when riding from reading to London. He died without the comfort of his family in the house of Strudwick the Grocer.

What was the effect of this suffering? How did it produce or make way for a greater amount of God-centeredness in his life? These five observations are taken from a biographical lecture on Bunyan by John Piper.

So what did Bunyan’s suffering do for him?

1. Bunyan's suffering confirmed his calling to write for the afflicted church.
The most well known Bunyan book is evidently Pilgrims Progress. Published in over 200 languages, it’s said to be the second best selling book of all time under the Bible. According to Whitefield "It smells of the prison. It was written when the author was confined in Bedford jail. And ministers never write or preach so well as when under the cross: the Spirit of Christ and of Glory then rests upon them."

In the year of it’s publication (1678) the book went through three editions. I first read Pilgrims Progress two years ago last Christmas and loved it! As I presume you know the book tries to capture the Christian life by following a man named Christian on his pilgrimage to the Celestial City. From the joys of the delectable mountains pictured as the church to Christian’s verbal battles with Mr Worldly Wiseman and other characters the book remains balanced in representing the true gospel in a Puritan style.

Bunyan is said to be the author of 58 books from various genres. He wrote children’s literature, doctrinal expositions such as his book on prayer, allegory (the pilgrims progress, holy war, the Life and Death of Mr Badman). He wrote controversy (books on Quakers and baptism), poems as well as his own Spiritual Auto-biography named ‘Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners’.
All of this came from a man who had no formal education and didn’t read Hebrew or Greek. Yet he was used of God and fulfilled the example of Acts 4:13 ‘Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marvelled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.’

Apart from The Pilgrims Progress I’ve only read two other books by Bunyan, Grace and Abounding and a short book named ‘the Heavenly Footman.’ This writing seeks to give a description of the man that gets to Heaven. How does the elect person live in the world so that they will not get caught up with earthly riches but treasure Christ who is invisible? How can we press on to win the prize? It is an exhortation to push on, persevere to the end and not look back in case we are consumed like Lot’s wife. The book reminds us to not be passive in pursuing the goal of heaven as some do. We can’t rest on the doctrine of eternal security until we have made our calling and election sure.

His writings from jail and suffering indicated the joy and peace that comes from a God who Bunyan had not yet seen but yet believed.

2. Bunyan's suffering deepened his love for his flock
An excerpt from his book Christian Behaviour proves this point:

Thus have I, in a few words, written to you before I die, a word to provoke you to faith and holiness, because I desire that you may have the life that is laid up for all them that believe in the Lord Jesus, and love one another, when I am deceased. Though then I shall rest from my labours, and be in paradise, as through grace I comfortably believe, yet it is not there, but here, I must do you good. Wherefore, I not knowing the shortness of my life, nor the hindrance that hereafter I may have of serving my God and you, I have taken this opportunity to present these few lines unto you for your edification.

Bunyan loved the gospel ministry counting imprisonment as a small price to pay for being a preacher of the gospel. He said:

"My heart hath been so wrapped up in the glory of this excellent work, that I counted my self more blessed and honoured of God by this, than if I had made me the emperor of the Christian world, or the lord of all the glory of the earth without it! O these words, ‘’He that converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death (James v.20). ‘’The fruit of righteousness is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise’’ (Prov. xi.30). ‘’They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever’’ (Dan. xii. 3). ‘’For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For ye are our glory and joy" (1 Thes. ii. 19,20). These, I say, with many other of a like nature, have been great refreshments to me.’’

He loved the duty of preaching and the duty of rejoicing in his congregation of 120 people.

3. Bunyan's suffering opened his understanding to the truth that the Christian life is hard and that following Christ means opposing the system of this world.
In his book The Greatness of the Soul Bunyan pleads for his readers to persevere (as he did with the book The Heavenly Footman) and not waste our lives.

The book is based on Mark 8:36-37:"What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" His purpose? "awaken you, rouse you off of your beds of ease, security, and pleasure, and fetch you down upon your knees before him, to beg of him grace to be concerned about the salvation of your souls."

Bunyan bears the mark of a Puritan by clearly illustrating the cost, commitment and sacrifice of the Christian life. As Christ put it ‘For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost.’ (Luke 14:28). Commenting on John 15:2 2 ("Every branch that bears fruit, He prunes"), he writes:

"It is the will of God, that they that go to heaven should go thither hardly or with difficulty. The righteous shall scarcely be saved. That is, they shall, but yet with great difficulty, that it may be the sweeter."

In his book The Excellency of a Broken Heart he says,
"Conversion is not the smooth, easy-going process some men seem to think . . . . It is wounding work, of course, this breaking of the hearts, but without wounding there is no saving. . . . Where there is grafting there is a cutting, the scion must be let in with a wound; to stick it on to the outside or to tie it on with a string would be of no use. Heart must be set to heart and back to back, or there will be no sap from root to branch, and this I say, must be done by a wound."

This concept has been lost in some churches. Salvation has become easy: an on the spot quick decision into the church community rather than decision that will radically transform a whole worldview and lifestyle. Salvation has often become reduced to completing a simple prayer instead of living a life characterised by hating sin and enjoying God. Raising a hand, praying a prayer, or completing a course, does not evidence salvation. Those methods can and are used by God. They can profit but I believe that they deceive more people than they bless.

It’s hard to enter the Kingdom. Luke 13:24 ‘Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.’

Salvation is identified by the endurance of sufferings with joy. This is what Bunyan found. His sufferings allowed him to experience Christ’s words when He said: "The way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matt. 7:14).

4. Bunyan's suffering strengthened his assurance that God is sovereign over all the afflictions of his people and will bring them safely home.
Denying the Sovereignty of God leads to discomfort. If we do not embrace the fact that God has appointed who will suffer (Rev 6:11), and at what times they will suffer (Acts 18:9-10), and the type of sufferings they shall endure (Acts 9:16) then we have a problem. Denying that God is sovereign over suffering (meaning he not only permits but plans the suffering) will paralyse a whole theological system and leave you with a God whose plans have been ultimately distorted and upset. This Arminian God provides no comfort for the Christian because the Arminian can’t say to the suffering saint ‘I did that for your good’ instead He will say ‘I’m sorry about this suffering or that suffering but I’m trying to make it better.’

For Bunyan the centre of his Christian understanding was found in the Sovereignty of God. Therefore the backbone of Bunyan’s joy during pain was God’s sovereignty as found in Genesis 50:20 ‘what you meant for evil God meant for good’.

The Sovereignty of God during trials brings comfort and joy! We can say ‘It’s working for my good. My Father has planned this for my exceeding weight of glory. My King leads me to suffering so that I can submit more of myself to him.’

In his book Seasonable Counsels: Advice to Sufferers this is what he says
"It is not what enemies will, nor what they are resolved upon, but what God will, and what God appoints; that shall be done. . . . No enemy can bring suffering upon a man when the will of God is otherwise, so no man can save himself out of their hands when God will deliver him up for his glory. . . We shall or shall not suffer, even as it pleaseth him."

Shall we except from God good and not evil?

"Let me beg of thee, that thou wilt not be offended either with God, or men, if the cross is laid heavy upon thee. Not with God, for he doth nothing without a cause, nor with men, for . . . they are the servants of God to thee for good. (Psalm 17:14 KJV; Jer. 24:5). Take therefore what comes to thee from God by them, thankfully."

5. Bunyan's suffering deepened in him a confidence in the Bible as the Word of God and a passion for Bible memory and Biblical exposition as the key to perseverance.
During Bunyan’s time in Prison he said this:

‘’I never had in all my life so great an inlet into the Word of God as now. Those scriptures that I saw nothing in before were made in this place and state to shine upon me. Jesus Christ also was never more real and apparent than now. Here I have seen him and felt him indeed. . . I have had sweet sights of the forgiveness of my sins in this place, and of my being with Jesus in another world. . . I have seen that here that I am persuaded I shall never, while in this world, be able to express.’’

One scene from The Pilgrims Progress captures well what it is to have faith in the promises of God. Christian has been locked away in Doubting Castle until he makes a discovery: a key in his chest pocket called ‘promise’….

What a fool I have been, to lie like this in a stinking dungeon, when I could have just as well walked free. In my chest pocket I have a key called Promise that will, I am thoroughly persuaded, open any lock in Doubting-Castle." "Then," said Hopeful, "that is good news. My good brother, do immediately take it out of your chest pocket and try it." Then Christian took the key from his chest and began to try the lock of the dungeon door; and as he turned the key, the bolt unlocked and the door flew open with ease, so that Christian and hopeful immediately came out.

The point is that Bunyan wouldn’t have had access to this key if he didn’t memorise the Bible. He had the scriptures stored is his heart, he studied scripture intently. Spurgeon puts it like this:
"He had studied our Authorized Version . . . till his whole being was saturated with Scripture; and though his writings . . . continually make us feel and say, 'Why, this man is a living Bible!' Prick him anywhere; and you will find that his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak with out quoting a text, for his soul is full of the Word of God."
I pray that God would help us to suffer well to the glory of God!

Help us Lord to suffer well!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Jesus, Bunyan, and Me

I'm being blessed by the life of John Bunyan at the moment. Christ is teaching me what it is to suffer well as Bunyan did.

I'm preparing a Bible study on his life for MPBC tomorrow night (at 730).
Here's a little quote that I intend to use. Bunyan is referring to the privilege of ministry.

"My heart hath been so wrapped up in the glory of this excellent work, that I counted my self more blessed and honoured of God by this, than if I had made me the emperor of the Christian world, or the lord of all the glory of the earth without it! O these words, ‘He that converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death' (James v.20). ‘The fruit of righteousness is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise’’ (Prov. xi.30). ‘They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever’ (Dan. xii. 3). ‘For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For ye are our glory and joy" (1 Thes. ii. 19,20). These, I say, with many other of a like nature, have been great refreshments to me.’’

Friday, 31 October 2008

Luther's First Thesis and Last Words

491 years ago today, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg.
He wanted to debate the sale of indulgences with his fellow university professors. So he wrote in Latin.

But a nameless visionary translated the theses into German, carried them to the printing press, and enabled their dispersion far and wide. Luther ended up with more than he bargained for, but he proved to be no coward in defending the discoveries he was making in Scripture.
Read the rest of the post by David Mathis here.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Two Sermons on Hosea

Last Sunday MPBC had the privalege of listening to my good friend Tom Brand (facebook him -he needs more friends!) preach two sermons on the book of Hosea. I was only able to hear the evening message but I can say God changed my heart through the message. View the sermon series here.

Sermons preached at MPBC feature on the right hand column of this page.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

All Things For Good: The Worst Things Work for Good to the Godly- when God hides His face

In this next section Watson deals with how desertion works for the Christian's good. Watson understands this concept from Song of Solomon 5:6 'My beloved had withdrawn himself and was gone'. 'When God withholds sweet manifestations of His favour, He does not look with such a pleasant aspect, but veils His face, and seems to be quite gone from the soul.'

'God is just in all His withdrawing. We desert Him before He deserts us. We desert God when we leave off close communion with Him, when we desert His truths and dare not appear for Him, when we leave the guidance and conduct of His Word and follow the deceitful light of our own corrupt affections and passions.'

How does desertion work for our good?
  • Desertion can only happen to the Christian. Therefore if God leaves us it is evidence that we're born again. When we don't see the presence of God in our lives we start to crave for it. The non-Christian can't experience these cravings for the Spirit
  • 'Desertion curses the soul of sloth'. In other words we are convicted of spiritual laziness when God takes His presence from us.
  • Desertion works for good because it makes the Christian desire the presence of God again. When you don't see God's presence in your life you can't take it for granted. When we understand that we are empty without God we realise that 'the lovingkindess of the Lord is better than life.' (Psalm 63:3)
  • Desertion works for our good because it makes sin seem more bitter. 'Sin made God desert His temple (Ezek 8:6). Sin causes Him to appear as an enemy, and dress Himself in armour. This makes the soul want to pursue sin with a holy malice, and seek to be avenged of it.'
  • Desertion works for our good because it makes us seek God. 'The deserted soul sends up whole volleys of sighs and groans. It knocks at heaven's gate by prayer; it can have no rest until the golden beams of God's face shine.'
  • Desertion works for our good 'as it prepares the saints for future comfort.' The angels visited Jesus after He had been fasting. Desertion makes heaven sweeter for us.

'The Lord brings us into the deep of desertion that He may not bring us into the deep of damnation. He puts us into a seeming hell, that He may keep us from a real hell. God is fitting us for that time when we shall enjoy His smiles for ever. '

Keller on the Gospel

“The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.”

-Tim Keller, The Reason For God

Friday, 24 October 2008

Interpreting and Applying Scripture

Here are my notes from last nights Bible study at MPBC. Click here to see the additional handout.

Before we start we need to understand Jesus’ Warning to the Pharisees:

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. John 5:39-40

Implications of this warning
a) It’s possible to know a lot about the Bible and not have the real meaning
b) It’s possible to know a lot about the Bible and have the original meaning and then refuse this meaning
c) Searching the scriptures is not a definite sign that we are glorifying God
d) All scripture points to Jesus
e) Life is found in Jesus through Bible study. Bible study is never an end in itself

How can we interpret to the glory of God?

What’s the difference between sinful interpretation and God-glorifying interpretation?
John 17:3- Eternal life is about knowing God; meaning eternal life is about enjoying God.
If we are not interpreting the scriptures to strengthen our worship of God we are interpreting the scriptures sinfully.

Pray for help to interpret scripture correctly

Interpreting and Applying Genesis chapters 1 and 2
To understand the Bible we first accept that scripture has one coherent meaning
On this basis we can start our interpretation.

The goal of interpretation is application. This is bringing relevant meaning from scripture to the people living in 21st century Brighton. To do this we first need to see what the original meaning of a text was at the time it was written.

1) Exegetical Statement – ‘What did Genesis mean then?’
i) How can we find this meaning?
We need to establish the author’s purpose of writing a text.

ii) Why did Moses write Genesis?
The book of Genesis had a relevant message to the audience that was hearing it.

iii) What were the concerns of Moses readers?
The readers were the 2 generations of Israelites travelling from Egypt to Canaan:

The concerns of the 1st generation:
‘Did we do the right thing by leaving Egypt and marching through the miserable wilderness?’

The concerns of the 2nd generation:
Numbers14: ‘Entering Canaan and conquering the giants will be a hard thing’

Moses wrote Genesis to address both of the issues. He didn’t write Genesis just to a record history!

iv) The Meaning of Genesis to the Israelites:
‘Leaving Egypt and possessing Canaan is God’s design for Israel.’
The Israelites were to read the stories of Genesis to see that it’s right to go onto the Promised Land.

v) The meaning of Genesis 1 and 2 to the Israelites

How did Genesis 1 and 2 teach the Israelites to leave Egypt and pursue Canaan?
Consider the parallels:
Perfect created order (Gen 1:26-2:25) with life in Canaan
The pre-created world (Gen 1:1-25) with life in Egypt

Genesis 1:2 claims that ‘The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep.’ The same poetic use of words (formless and hovering) are found in Deuteronomy 32:10-11. The parallel is therefore that the pre-created world is a symbol of Egypt and the created good order is Canaan.

Egyptians say only Pharaoh is the image of God
Babylonians say only the emperors are in the image of God
Genesis says that all people are in the image of God!

Adam and Eve are supposed to subdue and fill the earth, same for Israel in Canaan.

God’s rests after created the world. Israel can rest from their travelling once they enter Canaan. As God created the universe in a finite time so Israel’s travels in the wilderness were going to come to an end one day.

The Israelites are encouraged by the start of Genesis to pursue Canaan as it was a good place for them to be. It is not formless and void. It is a fruitful and prosperous place.

2) The Theological Statements of Genesis 1 and 2
When looking for theological statements we are looking for truths from a particular passage that will apply to all people at all times.
We have to remember that when we find truth statements from the text we are not giving the whole truth. There is one absolute truth. We are only describing part of that truth.

i) The Atlantic Ocean
It’s like the Atlantic Ocean. We can ask: ‘How many Atlantic oceans are there?’ There’s one objective, coherent ocean. But how many ways are there to describe this ocean? Multiple. You can describe the ocean in terms of location, types of water, colour, etc. We can describe the ocean in multiple ways.

ii) Partial Theological statements of Genesis 1 and 2:
God created everything in 6 days
God rested on the 7th day
There’s only one God
Man is given a higher position of authority than animals
God created the world in perfection
God created man from nothing
God and Man had a relationship

There are different ways of summarising the same absolute reality.
Many disagreements happen over emphasis not heresy.

3) Homelitical Statement
i) Contextualisation
We need to bring the Bible to Brighton. In order to do this we need information about the Bible and about Brighton. Studying scripture is not enough. We need to understand the different cultures that exist in Brighton and how they operate. When missionaries move to another country they study the culture in order to be relevant to the people. We live in a multi-cultural society. Brighton is full of people living in and under different cultural values. We need to know these cultures in order to apply the gospel in the most effective way.

Contextualisation is the method of showing the people in this city that the Bible is a necessary and relevant book for their lives.

ii) To contextualise anything we need to know the text and context. The text is scripture and the context is the culture.

ii) Exercise: Application
How would you apply the truths of Genesis 1 and 2 to these groups of people?
Arminian Christian
Avid cinemagoer
Indifferent person
Doubting Christian
Lukewarm Christian
Single Mum
High-paid city worker

How would you apply Genesis 1 and 2 to these Christian concepts?
Human worth and value

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Interpretation and Application of Scripture

Here's a helpful diagram I found today on how to apply and interpret the Bible. I'm leading a Bible study tonight at MPBC on this topic. Notes will be uploaded soon.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Learning Greek?

Here's a fun a song to make learning the greek alphabet easy.

DELTA, EPSILON, hey hey hey!

Then theres KAPPA and LAMBDA

MU and NU and XI (x-i)
OMICRON and then theres PI

RHO and SIGMA and TAU, too
UPSILON, it starts with U

PHI and CHI and PSI are fun
OMEGA and then you're done

Learn all that and then you're set
Thats the whole Greek alphabet

Monday, 20 October 2008

Why I Pray for Signs and Wonders

Imagine you're a disciple of Christ. You seen Him on earth, you ate with Him and spent time with Him. People started to associate you with Jesus as Peter was associated with Him. Jesus dies and is then resurrected. He's then seen by over 500 others (1 Cor 15:6) before ascending to heaven. After Pentecost people start to preach the crucified Christ. The evidence for this story is that the people who preach this message lived their lives along side Jesus. Some of the Christians were eye witnesses to the risen Christ but despite this the Holy Spirit still chooses to accompany their preached word with signs and words to testify to the validity of that word (Acts 14:3). You would have thought that the accounts of 500 spectators would have been sufficient to convince the unbelieving world.

God goes further than us. Why should we stop seeking signs and wonders to accompany the preached word? We shouldn't. Paul was rich in theology and miracles. He understood the purpose of both. God sometimes uses signs and wonders to testify that we are preaching the real gospel. We must expect more.

Taste and See

This is the new tract that MPBC will be using very soon for street evangelism . We give out tracts and booklets to people in Brighton every week. Please pray that lots of people will read it and be changed by the beauty of God's glory!

All Things For Good: The Worst Things Work for Good to the Godly- Temptations

Carrying on with the second chapter of the book 'All Things for Good' written by Thomas Watson.

Watson's claim is that when a Christian is tempted it works for his or hers good.
Satan is the tempter. He is responsible for all temptations but with God's input these temptation produce a positive outcome.

The section is divided into three parts:
1) Satan's method in tempting
2) The extent of Satan's power
3) The proof that these temptations work for our good

1) Satan's method in tempting
'He labours to storm the castle of the heart, he throws in thoughts of blasphemy, he tempts to deny God; these are the fiery darts he shoots, by which he would inflame the passions.'
When Satan tempts, he tempts well. He studies the person in order to make temptations appeal to our weakness. He tempts at the best time. He knows when we're not expecting him to attack us. He's always ready to do what he can to pull us back from seeing more of God's glory.

Satan sometimes uses people close to us. Job's wife told Job to curse God and die. Satan even uses people who are Christians to tempt us. He did this with Christ by getting Peter to tempt Him.

Satan loves to transform himself into an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14) to trick people into sinning in the name of Christianity. He uses scripture to validate himself. When he tempted Christ he said to him 'it is written'.

2) The extent of Satan's power
How much reach does Satan have?
He implanted evil thoughts into Judas to make him betray Christ (John 13:2). He works by exciting our existing corruption. He acts like a catalyst by making sin look more wonderful than God. He talks us into sin by using arguments that include scripture.

3) The proof that these temptations work for our good
'A tree that is shaken by the wind is more settled and rooted; so, the blowing of a temptation does but settle a Christian the more in grace.'
  • Temptation makes the Christian pray. 'The deer being shot with the dart, runs faster to the water.' Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:8 prayed to get rid of the thorn in his flesh.
  • The more someone is tempted the more someone fights against temptation. Temptation helps us to humble ourselves (2 Cor 12:7).
  • Temptation is a trial of our sincerity. The power of a saint 'is never more seen than on a battlefield, when he is fighting'.
  • Temptations work for our good because through being tempted we can comfort others who are being tempted.
  • Temptations work for our good because they stir up the passion of God for us as we are His children. 'When a saint lies under the bruising of temptations, Christ prays, and God the Father pities.'
  • Temptations make the Christian want Heaven more. When we are tempted we look forward to a place where temptation doesn't exist!
  • Temptations work for our good because 'they engage the energy of Christ'. He was tempted to comfort us as we are tempted (Heb 2:18).
Luther said: 'there are three things that make a Christian- prayer, meditation, and temptation.'

Friday, 17 October 2008

MacArthur: The Cross

Don't waste your desktop...

Make it look like this...

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Biblical Truth for the Financial Crisis

Do not toil to acquire wealth;
be discerning enough to desist.
When your eyes light on it,
it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings,
flying like an eagle toward heaven.
Proverbs 23:4-5

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?"
Hebrews 13:5-6

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
1 Timothy 6:6-10

(HT: Josh Harris)

Remembering Scripture

If you're a person who wants to start memorising scripture, a helpful method is able to download here.

Fanny Crosby loved memorising scripture...

Monday, 13 October 2008

All Things For Good: The Worst Things Work for Good to the Godly- Afflictions

After a short break I want to continue blogging on Watson's book 'All Things For Good'. Chapter two is awesome! I can't think of anything else that gives more comfort to me other than knowing that the worst aspects of life work for my good! Watson divides the chapter into 4 parts.

1) Affliction works for our good.
2) Temptation works for our good.
3) It works for our good when God hides His presence from us
4) Even sin works for our good!

1) Affliction works for our good

'In the word preached, we hear what a dreadful thing sin is, that it is both defiling and damning, but we who fear it no more than a painted lion; therefore God lets loose affliction, and then we feel sin bitter in the fruit of it. A sick-bed often teaches more than a sermon.' Watson makes the point that sin is well understood when we feel its effects. If we're going to grow in grace and power of the Spirit we need to be broken so that God can be glorified in our weakness.

'Afflictions make the heart more upright'. When people prosper their hearts tend to be divided (Hos 10:2). This is when the heart tries to have two masters- God and money. Suffering strips the person of outward blessings so that we cling on to God.

Afflictions make us more like Christ. 'God's rod is a pencil to draw Christ's image more lively upon us.' Christ was a man of sorrows He was acquainted with grief (Is 53:3). Suffering enables us to become conformed to Him (Phil 3:10).

Afflictions are destructive to sin. 'Afflictions are the medicine which God uses to carry off our spiritual diseases; they cure the tympany of pride, the fever of lust, the dropsy of covetousness.'

Afflictions loosen our hearts away from the world. 'When you dig away the earth from the root of a tree, it is to loosen the tree from the earth.' God unroots us from the world by afflicting us.

Afflictions work for good, as they make way for comfort. Our sorrow gets turned into joy (John 16:20). Our light affliction is working for our experience of glory (2 Cor 4:17).

Afflictions work for good as they make us understand the reality of who we are. God shows us that we are His Son's when He afflicts us (Heb 12:7). Afflictions magnify us because we are rewarded for our sufferings. A soldier is praised for his victories just like the Christian is rewarded for suffering.

Afflictions work for our good as they make us happy. Job 5:17 'Happy is the man whom God corrects'. Afflictions bring us nearer to God. They make us want to cling on to Him. Therefore they make us happy.

Afflictions work for good as they make way for glory (2 Cor 4:17). Afflictions don't merit glory but they prepare us for it!

'We should not so much look at the evil of affliction, as the good; not so much at the dark side of the cloud, as the light. The worst that God does to His children is to whip them to Heaven.'