The greater reality

“Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him.  But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”  Acts 7:54-55 Ray Ortlund: We are connected with two realities simultaneously.  There is the lower reality of this world of human judgement, and there is the higher reality of the throne of God and divine judgement. The lower reality can be brutal.  It was brutal not only for Stephen but far more for those who stoned him.  Frederick Buechner, Peculiar Treasures, page 182: “Stoning somebody to death, even somebody as young and healthy as Stephen, isn’t easy.  You don’t get the job done with the first few rocks and broken bottles, and even after you’ve got the man down, it’s a long, hot business.”  Living at this level takes commitment, determination.  Those stones are heavy – heavy to throw.  One really

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Renewing the Mind

From RC Sproul: It is possible to have knowledge without having wisdom. It is not possible, however, to have wisdom without knowledge. Knowledge is a necessary precondition for wisdom. The practice of godliness demands that we know and understand what godliness requires. The Christian life is a transformed life. The transformation of life comes about, as the apostle Paul declares, through the renewal of the mind. An understanding of the Word of God renews the mind. The Word of God  expresses the mind of God to us. Our minds are to be conformed to the mind of Christ. That conformity does not automatically or instantly occur with conversion. Our conversion by the power of the Holy Spirit is not the end of our learning process but the beginning. At conversion we enroll in the school of Christ. There is no graduation this side of heaven. It is a pilgrimage of lifelong education. The pursuit of wisdom is the pursuit of the knowledge of

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Remember God

“What one thing about God in Christ speaks directly into today’s trouble? … Just as we don’t change all at once, so we don’t swallow all of truth in one gulp. We are simple people. You can’t remember ten things at once. Invariably, if you could remember just ONE true thing in the moment of trial, you’d be different. Bible “verses” aren’t magic. But God’s words are revelations of God from God for our redemption. When you actually remember God, you do not sin. The only way we ever sin is by suppressing God, by forgetting, by tuning out his voice, switching channels, and listening to other voices. When you actually remember, you actually change. In fact, remembering is the first change.” – David Powlison (HT: Of First Importance)

Piper: Why I Don’t Have a Television and Rarely Go to Movies

I find John Piper’s rationale compelling. I also appreciate his humility: Now that the video of the Q&A at Advance 09 is available, I can look at it and feel bad all over again. Here’s what I regret, indeed what I have apologized for to the person who asked the question. The first question to me and Mark Driscoll was, “Piper says get rid of my TV, and Driscoll says buy extra DVRs. How do you reconcile this difference?” I responded, “Get your sources right. . . . I never said that in my life.” Almost as soon as it was out of my mouth, I felt: “What a jerk, Piper!” A jerk is a person who nitpicks about the way a question is worded rather than taking the opportunity to address the issue in a serious way. I blew it at multiple levels. So I was very glad when the person who asked the question wrote to me. I wrote

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3 questions with Tim Keller

By Garrett E. Wishall Tim Keller serves as senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, N.Y. Question: What do pastors need to be doing to lead their flock out of idolatry and into Christlikeness? Tim Keller: The subject of idolatry is a lot more nuanced and complex than I could possibly get across in my talk at the Gospel Coalition conference. I made an allusion to the fact that idolatry sometimes is talked about in the Bible under the heading of spiritual adultery. It is also sometimes talked about under the heading of spiritual mastery and slavery. When Paul talks about those who are slaves to sin: all of those categories are actually talking about idolatry. Most preachers feel like “If I’m going to preach about idols, I have to tell people what an idol is.” What they don’t have in mind is: idolatry is at the root of all of our psychological problems, moral problems, cultural issues, our

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The Glory of Christ – seen by revelation not imagination

CHAPTER VII THE GLORY OF CHRIST IN HIS EXALTATION AFTER THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE WORK OF MEDIATION IN THIS WORLD “This is that glory which our Lord Jesus Christ in a special manner prayed that His disciples might behold. This is that of which we ought to endeavor a prospect by faith; by faith, I say, and not by imagination. Vain and foolish men, having general notions of this glory of Christ, knowing nothing of the real nature of it, have endeavored to represent it in pictures and images, with all that luster and beauty which the art of painting, with the ornaments of gold and jewels, can give to them. This is that representation of the present glory of Christ, which, being made and proposed to the imagination and carnal affections of superstitious persons, carries such a show of devotion and veneration in the Papal Church. But they err, not knowing the Scripture nor the eternal glory of the

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The Measure of Our Growth and Decay

“If I have observed anything by experience, it is this: a man may take the measure of his growth and decay in grace according to his thoughts and meditations upon the person of Christ, and the glory of Christ’s Kingdom, and of His love.” – John Owen, quoted in A Puritan Golden Treasury complied by I. D. E. Thomas (Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1989), 184. (HT: Of First Importance)

Resolutions for [good/godly] mental health

From James Grant: I remember reading John Piper’s book The Pleasures of God and the list of 10 resolutions from Clyde Kilby on how to benefit your soul and mental health. Justin Buzzard posted them this week, and it was a helpful reminder. John Piper writes about Kilby, “He pled with us to stop seeking mental health in the mirror of self-analysis, but instead to drink in the remedies of God in nature.” Here are the resolutions: 1. At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me. 2. Instead of the accustomed idea of a mindless and endless evolutionary change to which we can neither add nor subtract, I shall suppose the universe guided by an Intelligence which, as Aristotle said of Greek drama, requires a beginning, a middle, and an end.

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Defeating Doubt

“Simply put: defeat doubt by immersing your mind in the Word of God. This is the ordained means by which the Spirit will indelibly imprint on your heart the joyful and undeniable assurance that what God has said, God will do. Paul said much the same thing when he prayed that the Romans might ‘abound in hope’ Romans 15:13b). But abundant hope or full assurance only comes ‘in believing’ (Romans 15:13a) or in connection with and as a result of our faith in what God has made known. Sin-killing, Satan-silencing confidence doesn’t fall from heaven like manna, nor do we serendipitously bump into it as we skip blissfully and ignorantly down the yellow brick road to a heavenly Oz. The Spirit imparts hope and confidence and assurance by means of and only in connection with our growth in the knowledge and understanding of God in his Word.” (Sam Storms, The Hope of Glory,  p.151) (HT: Erik Raymond)

Missions: Man-Centered or God-Centered?

From Missions Mandate blog: In response to a man-centered view of missions, which makes man’s needs the ultimate motivation for missions, Dr. Dave Doran offers this analysis: While it cannot be denied that both the wonder of and biblical revelation about creation demonstrates that mankind was the pinnacle of God’s creative activity, the Scriptures are clear that “all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Col 1:16). As Paul draws his profound discussion of God’s sovereign purposes in Romans 9-11 to a close, he does so by demanding that our focus be God-centered: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (11:36). The proper biblical response to the wonder of creation is to stand in awe of His glory, not gush about how much we matter to God and how wonderful it is that God made all of this for us to enjoy life! So at the

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Repentance Unto Life

My thanks to James Grant for this excellent piece on repentance. A neglected and misunderstood doctrine. I would only add, that true repentance is also accompanied by joy; a joy from being in agreement with God. The  Shorter Catechism has a helpful definition of repentance in question Q. 87, “What is repentance unto life?” Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience. I think there are several important main points here concerning repentance. First, we acknowledge that we are a sinner: “we have a true sense of our sin.” Some people cannot get past this first point because they will not admit that they are sinners. We do not want to admit that we are law-breakers and are in

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Mortification of Sin

From The Thirsty Theologian. Sinclair Ferguson encourages us to get serious about sin: Paul’s exposition [Colossians 3] provides us with practical guidance for mortifying sin. . . . 1. Learn to admit sin for what it really is. Call a spade a spade—call it “fornication” (v.5), not “I’m being tempted a little”; call it “uncleanness” (v. 5), not “I’m struggling with my thought life”; call it “covetousness, which is idolatry” (v. 5), not “I think I need to order my priorities a bit better.” . . . 2. See sin for what it really is in God’s presence. “Because of these the wrath of God is coming” (3:6). . . . See the true nature of sin in light of its punishment. . . . Take a heaven’s-eye view of sin and feel the shame of that in which you once walked (3:7; cf. 6:21). 3. Recognize the inconsistency of your sin. You have put off the “old man,” and have put on the “new man” (3:9–10). . . .

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Expelling Worldliness with a New Affection

My thanks to the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals for publishing this article by Sinclair Ferguson. Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) was one of the most remarkable men of his time—a mathematician, evangelical theologian, economist, ecclesiastical, political, and social reformer all in one.  His most famous sermon was published under the unlikely title: “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” In it he expounded an insight of permanent importance for Christian living: you cannot destroy love for the world merely by showing its emptiness. Even if we could do so, that would lead only to despair. The first world–centered love of our hearts can be expelled only by a new love and affection—for God and from God. The love of the world and the love of the Father cannot dwell together in the same heart. But the love of the world can be driven out only by the love of the Father. Hence Chalmers’ sermon title. True Christian living, holy and right living,

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The Studying Christian

An important and necessary challenge from from Mark Driscoll: In following Jesus’ command to love God with “all our mind,” the Christian life is supposed to include regular times of study and learning. The goal of such study is to have what Paul called “the mind of Christ” so that we can live the life of Christ by the power of the Spirit of Christ. Therefore, this month we will examine the contemplative spiritual discipline of study and the correlating active spiritual discipline of obedience. Study In John 17:17, Jesus prayed that we would study our Bible. He said, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” Therefore, to become more and more like Jesus we must have regular time in God’s Word. The Scriptures have much to say about the benefits of regular study. Scripture regarding study “For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees

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Become Who You Are: Indicatives & Imperatives of the Gospel

Our response to God in obedience is founded on, enabled by and persevered in, through our union with Christ. It is so important that we engage with the Bible’s imperatives in the full understanding of what is now true of the believer in Christ. My thanks to Todd Pruitt for this piece from Sinclair Ferguson, and likewise to Chad Bresson for his post on Elyse Fitzpatrick’s book ‘Because He Loves Me’. Imperative – “Indicating authority or command; urgent, necessary” (Webster’s). An imperative is a statement of what one must do. Indicative – “Designating that mood of a verb used to express an act” (Webster’s). An indicative explains what is true. It is not a command but expresses the rationale behind the command. . “The great gospel imperatives to holiness are ever rooted in indicatives of grace that are able to sustain the weight of those imperatives. The Apostles do not make the mistake that’s often made in Christian ministry. [For

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Quietness vs. entertainment

“People today are afraid to be alone. This fear is a dominant mark of our society. Many now ceaselessly sit in the cinema or read novels about other people’s lives or watch dramas. Why? Simply to avoid having to face their own existence. . . . No one seems to want (and no one can find) a place of quiet — because, when you are quiet, you have to face reality. But many in the present generation dare not do this because on their own basis reality leads them to meaninglessness; so they fill their lives with entertainment, even if it is only noise. . . . The Christian is supposed to be very opposite: There is a place for proper entertainment, but we are not to be caught up in ceaseless motion which prevents us from ever being quiet. Rather we are to put everything second so we can be alive to the voice of God and allow it

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William Carey, egotism, and eternal ennui [boredom]

Writing to his dear friend Samuel Pearce in the autumn of 1795, William Carey told him: “Egotism is tedious…” [Letter to Samuel Pearce, October 2, 1795 in Periodical Accounts relative to the Baptist Missionary Society, I (1800), 215]. In the years that followed, Carey became something of a celebrity in the UK. He was very glad he was far away from most of it. Why is egotism so tedious? Because to focus on the finite inevitably leads to boredom. But to focus on the Infinite God–infinite in glory, Infinite Beauty, infinite in kindness, infinite in goodness, Infinite Holiness–now that is a subject of which we shall never tire and it will take an eternity to plumb–and even then we shall not be done! And to be with men and women who are taken up with the Infinite God and filled with his glory and goodness and beauty–wow, what holy company, what fascinating fellowship–who would not want to be with such?

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The Value of the Word

From Chapter 7 of When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper (read the chapter for the Biblical references to these benefits): 10 benefits of the Bible: 1. The Word of God awakens and strengthens faith. 2. Through hearing the Word, God supplies the Holy Spirit. 3. The Word of God creates and sustains life. 4. The Word of God gives hope. 5. The Word of God leads us to freedom. 6. The Word of God is the key to answered prayer. 7. The Word of God is the source of wisdom. 8. The Word of God gives us crucial warnings. 9. The Word of God enables us to defeat the devil. 10. The Word of God is, therefore, the source of great and lasting joy. (HT: Justin Childers)