No automatic advantage

  Not everyone recognizes Jesus’ authority; others sense the power but do not respond with faith. Even some who naturally belong to the kingdom, that is, the Jews who had lived under the old covenant and had been the heirs of the promises, turn out to be rejected. They too approach the great hall of the messianic banquet, lit up with a thousand lamps in joyous festivity; but they are refused admission, they are thrown outside into the blackness of night, “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12). The idea is not that there will be no Jews at the messianic banquet. After all, the patriarchs themselves are Jews, and all of Jesus’ earliest followers were Jews. But Jesus insists that there is no automatic advantage to being a Jew. As he later says to those of his own race, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given

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Kill Your Jesus Talisman

Jared Wilson: I can win any slam dunk contest through him who gives me strength. If I will ask God for the ability to do so “in Jesus’ name,” of course. When I was a kid I had a poster of Philippians 4:13 — “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” — with a photo of a guy dunking a basketball. You can bet I thought long and hard about how Jesus was gonna help me dunk on some fools. Paul wrote the letter to the church at Philippi from jail. Chapter 4, verse 13 may sound like it needs to be slapped on whatever the Christian equivalent of a PowerBar is, but Paul was not talking about Jesus being our genie, but Jesus being our satisfaction in all situations, whether rich or poor, free or enslaved, healthy or sick, successful or getting dunked on. Wherever our promised trouble-full life finds us, we will persevere only in Christ. Similarly, Jeremiah

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Come and Rest — It is Finished

Jared Wilson: This is a photo of Shiite Muslims in New Delhi, India flagellating themselves in honour of the grandson of Mohammad. As I study this image, I experience a mixture of feelings and convictions. Resonance — I understand deep in my bones the essence of this impulse. The inclination to self-abasement as justification is embedded in each one of us. These men have the courage to indulge it, to take it seriously enough to harm themselves as some form of propitiation. They know a gap between themselves and holiness must be bridged. Fear — Because of the resonance, I am fearful. For them and of myself. It is not really humility that drives self-justification but pride, and pride is not something to be indulged, even if on the surface it appears to be assaulted. Pity — I feel sorry for them for not knowing the gospel, or for having rejected it. I pity them for believing the bridge can be built by

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Real Religion

“In the fourth century Augustine advocated using the Latin word religioby highlighting its etymology re-ligare, which means ‘to join together’ or ‘to bind together’ as in a covenant bond between man and God. The wordreligion, rightly understood, joins together everything we believe as we live it out in all of life. Furthermore, if we consider the lexical definitions of the word religion, we observe that religion describes not only a person’s system of belief but also what a person practices, observes, and devotes himself to. As Herman Bavinck writes, ‘Religion must not just besomething in one’s life, but everything. Jesus demands that we love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength’.” – Burk Parsons, Why Do We Have Creeds? (Basics of the Faith Series: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2012), 10-11. (HT: Jared Wilson)

Jesus and Religion (Take 2)

. . I like what’s behind this message and what perhaps motivated Jefferson Bethke to publish it. But it is a mixture of good and bad. At first I applauded the desire to distance Jesus from made made self-righteous religion and thus preserve the gospel. But a closer look reveals some inaccurate generalising rhetoric that is plainly untrue and unhelpful. I’m grateful to Jared Wilson and Kevin DeYoung for their discerning and irenic critiques. I encourage you to read both articles. Here’s Kevin’s conclusion : I know I’ve typed a bunch of words about a You Tube video that no one may be talking about in a month. But, as I said at the beginning, there is so much helpful in this poem mixed with so much unhelpful—and all of it so common—that I felt it worth the effort to examine the theology in detail. The strengths in this poem are the strengths I see in many young Christians—a passionate faith, a focus on

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The difference between Christianity and all other religions

“[Here] you can see the difference between Christianity and all other religions, including no religion. The essence of other religions is advice; Christianity is essentially news. Other religions say, ‘This is what you have to do in order to connect with God forever; this how you have to live in order to earn your way to God.’ But the gospel says, ‘This is what has been done in history. This is how Jesus lived and died to earn the way to God for you.’ Christianity is completely different. It’s joyful news. How do you feel when you’re given good advice on how to live? Someone says, ‘Here’s the love you ought to have, or the integrity you ought to have,’ and maybe they illustrate high moral standards by telling a story of some great hero. But when you hear it, how does it make you feel? Inspired, sure. But do you feel the way the listeners who heard those heralds

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The Almost Christian

George Whitefield: An almost Christian, if we consider him in respect to his duty to God, is one that halts between two opinions; that wavers between Christ and the world; that would reconcile God and Mammon, light and darkness, Christ and Belial. It is true, he has an inclination to religion, but then he is very cautious lest he go too far in it: his false heart is always crying out, Spare thyself, do thyself no harm. He prays indeed that ‘God’s will may be done on earth, as it is in heaven.’ But notwithstanding, he is very partial in his obedience, and fondly hopes that God will not be extreme to mark every thing that he willfully does amiss; though an inspired apostle has told him, that ‘he who offends in one point is guilty of all.’ But chiefly, he is one that depends much on outward ordinances, and on that account looks upon himself as righteous, and despises

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Three Ways to Relate to God

“People tend to think there are two ways to relate to God – to follow him and do his will or to reject him and do your own thing – but there are also two ways to reject God as Savior.  One is the way already mentioned: by rejecting God’s law and living as you see fit.  The other, however, is by obeying God’s Law, by being really righteous and really moral, so as to earn your own salvation.  It is not enough to simply think there are two ways to relate to God.  There are three: religion, irreligion, and the gospel. In ‘religion,’ people may look to God as their helper, teacher, and example, but their moral performance is serving as their savior.  Both religious and irreligious people are avoiding God as Savior and Lord.  Both are seeking to keep control of their own lives by looking to something besides God as their salvation.  Religious legalism/moralism and secular/irreligious relativism

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Mood-changing truth!

“Jesus was not revolutionary because he said we should love God and each other. Moses said that first. So did Buddha, Confucius, and countless other religious leaders we’ve never heard of. Madonna, Oprah, Dr. Phil, the Dali Lama, and probably a lot of Christian leaders will tell us that the point of religion is to get us to love each other. “God loves you” doesn’t stir the world’s opposition. However, start talking about God’s absolute authority, holiness, … Christ’s substitutionary atonement, justification apart from works, the necessity of new birth, repentance, baptism, Communion, and the future judgment, and the mood in the room changes considerably.” — Michael S. Horton

C.S. Lewis: “Three Kinds of Men”

C.S. Lewis’s short essay, “Three Kinds of Men,” from his collection of essays, Present Concerns (pp. 9-10): There are three kinds of people in the world. The first class is of those who live simply for their own sake and pleasure, regarding Man and Nature as so much raw material to be cut up into whatever shape may serve them. In the second class are those who acknowledge some other claim upon them—the will of God, the categorical imperative, or the good of society—and honestly try to pursue their own interests no further than this claim will allow. They try to surrender to the higher claim as much as it demands, like men paying a tax, but hope, like other taxpayers, that what is left over will be enough for them to live on. Their life is divided, like a soldier’s or a schoolboy’s life, into time “on parade” and “off parade,” “in school” and “out of school.” But the third

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Al Mohler’s New Book

Al Mohler’s latest book, “The Disappearance of God”, can be ordered HERE . From the Publisher: For centuries the church has taught and guarded the core Christian beliefs that make up the essential foundations of the faith. But in our postmodern age, sloppy teaching and outright lies create rampant confusion, and many Christians are free-falling for ‘feel-good’ theology. We need to know the truth to save ourselves from errors that will derail our faith. As biblical scholar, author, and president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Albert Mohler, writes, “The entire structure of Christian truth is now under attack.” With wit and wisdom he tackles the most important aspects of these modern issues: Is God changing His mind about sin? Why is hell off limits for many pastors? What’s good or bad about the emergent movement? Have Christians stopped seeing God as God? Is the social justice movement misguided? Could the role of beauty be critical to our theology?

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A Christless Christianity

“There really is no place for Christ in many people’s Christianity. Their faith is not actually in Christ; it is in Christianity and their ability to live it out. This kind of ‘Christianity’ is really about shadow glories of human knowledge and performance. It does not require the death to self that must always happen if love for Christ is going to reign in our hearts.” – Paul David Tripp, A Quest for More (Greensboro, NC; New Growth Press, 2007), 106. (HT: Of First Importance)

The Need For Galatians

“Because something of the old legal disposition remains in us, Galatians serves to remind us of the ever-present temptation to turn away from grace and revert back to our own merit.” I love this from John Fonville. I have made Galatians my prime study in recent years. Thanks for this John! Everyone is born a legalist by nature. Our default mode is the ancient heresy of Pelagianism (i.e., self-salvation). Even after our conversion, something of a legalist/Pharisee still remains in all of us. Ralph Erskine once wrote, “It is not easy to get the law killed; something of a legal disposition remains even in the believer while he is in this world: many a stroke does self and self-righteousness get, but still it revives again. If he were wholly dead to the law, he would be wholly dead to sin; but so far as the law lives, so far sin lives.They that think they know the Gospel well enough bewray

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Tim Keller on Religion and the Gospel

Religion and the Gospel Religion: “I obey-therefore I’m accepted.” Motivation is based on fear and insecurity. I obey God in order to get things from God When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or my self, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life. When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ‘good person’. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs. My prayer life consists largely of petition and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment. My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards,

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Biblical Authority and the Preacher

Biblical preaching is declarative not suggestive. From Al Mohler: The inaugural issue of Christianity Today, dated October 15, 1956, featured an article by Billy Graham entitled, “Biblical Authority in Evangelism.” The thrust of the article was clear — without an unhesitant “thus saith the Lord” authority in preaching and evangelism, the message lacks all authority. The only authority that matters, Dr. Graham insisted, was the authority of the Bible as the Word of God. Indeed, this confidence in biblical authority was, at least in part, the reason for the establishment of Christianity Today as the flagship journal of American evangelicalism under the editorship of Carl. F. H. Henry. Now, over a half-century after the publication of that article, Angie Ward of Leadership magazine began with Dr. Graham’s article and then asked five preachers — What, if anything, has changed? I was pleased to answer her questions and to participate in the project. She also interviewed David Anderson, pastor of Bridgeway

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Sharia Law in Great Britain?

The Archbishop and Sharia Law. Sounds like the proverbial joke! But it’s no joke. In case you feel a bit bemused confused by all the media attention given to Dr. Williams’ remarks, here’s a helpful summary of the problem from Al Mohler. The Archbishop of Canterbury has instant access to the media and his office carries a great deal of symbolic weight in Great Britain, where he is the senior cleric in the established church. That said, the current archbishop, Rowan Williams, seems to attract an unprecedented amount of controversy. As a matter of fact, the Archbishop’s current controversy now threatens his leadership, with senior figures calling for his resignation and even his predecessor lambasting his arguments. Some in the media are even questioning his state of mind, asking what many others must be thinking. What got the Archbishop in such trouble? He called the establishment of some kind of Islamic Sharia law in Britain inevitable. For the past two or three decades,

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Theologically Knowing, Spiritually Ignorant!

A great quote from Symphony of Scripture: “Jesus never said, “you shall know them by their doctrine,” but rather, “you shall know them by their fruits.” Right doctrine, though essential for salvation, is never a sure sign of salvation. The fruit of a man, which we are instructed to examine, goes beyond a good theology. It is the outward evidence of doctrinal truths blossoming to life in the heart of a believer. It is possible, said Stephen Charnock, for a man to be theologically knowing while spiritually ignorant. Let us make sure that truth is constantly flowing from the Bible into our minds, from our minds into our hearts, and from our hearts into our lives. Because truth without works is just as dead as works without truth.”