Sam Storms: Of the many things John writes concerning the Word, the Son of God, in John 1, one of the more important is his statement in v. 14 that he is “full of grace and truth.” Let’s be clear right from the start. God isn’t whatever you want him to be. He is who he is whether you like it or not. God is not like silly putty in the hands of those who wish to twist and shape him into something more palatable to their senses. He has always been, is now, and will forever be the same. His character and revealed will do not change when culture does or when he falls out of favor with human opinion. Jesus Christ embodies, defines, and speaks truth whether or not you think he does. Simply because you don’t like some of the things Jesus said or did does not mean they aren’t true. Truth is not what works or
John Piper: Looking at Harshness and Cheerfulness Most of us know people who are blunt. Sometimes their bluntness morphs into harshness and unkindness. If that happens often enough, we may sense that they have a kind of personality disorder, because they seem unable to express emotions other than frustration and anger. They give little positive affirmation and little praise—of anything. There is little spontaneous expression of the sort of joy that is self-forgetful and simply swept up into some wonderful experience. On the other hand, most of us know people who are always chipper, always smiling, always commending, always gentle and kind. We marvel at this. It seems wonderful and biblical. But then, over time, we may sense that something is amiss. These people never seem to notice the wrongs others do. They seem to never take note of evils and injustices in society. They are silent when others are wrestling with a difficult moral issue. They don’t give their
Chad Hall: I have had the privilege to serve as a coach to pastors for over 15 years, and I’ve noticed that it does not take long in the coaching relationship for the topic of church size to come up. I’ve also noticed that some pastors approach church growth with health and wholeness while others struggle with (and because of) church size. If you are a pastor, church planter, or key leader, you need a healthy and theologically sound attitude for dealing with church growth, size, and numbers. To help you develop such an attitude, here are five things to recognize when it comes to church size. Growth is not the only good. Some church leaders lack a biblical imagination that would allow them to envision a purpose for their church other than growth. Making growth (or big) synonymous with good is a recipe for disaster because it prevents good from being a higher value than growth. Granted, big and good are not opposites, but
Tim Challies: Some words are written down and are here for a day and then gone. Other words are so pointed, so perfect, that they stand for many years. J.C. Ryle is a man who wrote many books and pamphlets and sermons that are as powerful and relevant today as they were in the 19th century. His description of jellyfish Christianity could as easily have been written here in the 21st century. “[Dislike of dogma] is an epidemic which is just now doing great harm, and specially among young people. It produces what I must venture to call a “jelly-fish” Christianity in the land: that is, a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or power. A jelly-fish is a pretty and graceful object when it floats in the sea, contracting and expanding like a little, delicate, transparent umbrella. Yet the same jelly-fish, when cast on the shore, is a mere helpless lump, without capacity for movement, self-defence, or self-preservation. Alas! It is a vivid
Justin Taylor: John Stott on what Christians should do when they disagree with each other: The proper activity of professing Christians who disagree with one another is neither to ignore, nor to conceal, nor even to minimize their differences, but to debate them. We are “to maintain the truth in love,” being neither truthless in our love, nor loveless in our truth, but holding the two in balance. —From John Stott, Christ the Controversialist (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1970), pp. 22, 19.
Kevin DeYoung writes: If I’m not mistaken, our church has a reputation for being quite theological. I know this is why many people have come to our church. And I imagine it’s why some people have left, or never checked us out in the first place. But no church should apologize for talking about and loving theology. Now–and this is an important caveat–if we are arrogant with our theology, or if our doctrinal passion is just about intellectual gamesmanship, or we are all out of proportioned in our affections for less important doctrines, then may the Lord rebuke us. We should not be surprised theology gets a bad name in such circumstances. But when it comes to thinking on, rejoicing in, and building a church upon sound biblical truth, we should all long for a richly theological church. I could cite many reasons for preaching theologically and many reasons for wanting to pastor a congregation that loves theology. Let
Many Christians today are greatly concerned about the rising influences of communism, humanism, secularism, and social injustice. Yet those evils, great as they are, do not together pose the threat to Christianity that false shepherds and pastors do. Throughout the history of redemption, the greatest threat to God’s truth and God’s work has been false prophets and teachers, because they propose to speak in His name. That is why the Lord’s most scathing denunciations were reserved for the false teachers of Israel, who claimed to speak and act for God but were liars. Yet for some reason, evangelical Christianity is often hesitant to confront false teachers with the seriousness and severity that Jesus and the apostles did, and that the godly prophets before them had done. Today, more than at any time in modern history and perhaps more than at any time in the history of the church, pagan religions and cults are seriously encroaching on societies that for centuries
A couple of important quotes (via Todd Pruitt) from Carl Truman’s forth coming book: The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind: A movement that cannot or will not draw boundaries, or that allows the modern cultural fear of exclusion to set its theological agenda, is doomed to lose its doctrinal identity. [When] conversation rather than content becomes what is truly important, something critical is lost. Thus, as theology becomes a “conversation,” traditional notions of truth face the danger of assuming less importance than mere aesthetics or modes of discourse. Indeed, doctrinal indifferentism can creep forward in a way that ends only with the sidelining or even repudiation of orthodoxy in any meaningful sense.
From J. Gresham Machen’s The Importance of Christian Scholarship. Posted by Andy Naselli. Certainly a Christianity that avoids argument is not the Christianity of the New Testament. The New Testament is full of argument in defense of the faith. The Epistles of Paul are full of argument—no one can doubt that. But even the words of Jesus are full of argument in defense of the truth of what Jesus was saying. “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?” Is not that a well-known form of reasoning, which the logicians would put in its proper category? Many of the parables of Jesus are argumentative in character. Even our Lord, who spake in the plenitude of divine authority, did condescend to reason with men. Everywhere the New Testament meets objections fairly, and presents the gospel as a
“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
(HT: Reformed Voices)
(HT: Reformation Theology)
My thanks to Jimmy Davis for this: “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ….” (Ephesians 4:15) T. M. Moore offers insight into how to speak the truth in love: There are two obstacles to be surmounted in learning to speak the truth in love. The first is that you must love the truth. If you do not love the truth you won’t care enough about it to learn it or to defend it when it is called into question or denied. To love the truth you must court it continually, engage it in conversation, take it into your heart and mind, yield all your life to it, speak of it often with others who love it, and thank the One Who gives us His truth. Before you begin to speak out on behalf of the truth, make sure you love it well. The second obstacle is
“Over half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’ Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1983 (HT: Ray Ortlund)
A preacher and an atheist walk into a bar… Preview of the first 13 minutes of the forthcoming documentary “Collision”. The film follows renowned author and anti-theist Christopher Hitchens and Pastor Douglas Wilson as they debate the topic: “Is Christianity Good For The World?”. A Darren Doane film. level4.tv collisionmovie.com
From John Piper: Here is one of the most insightful and influential quotes on preaching I ever read. It’s from Jonathan Edwards: I don’t think ministers are to be blamed for raising the affections of their hearers too high, if that which they are affected with be only that which is worthy of affection, and their affections are not raised beyond a proportion to their importance, or worthiness of affection. I should think myself in the way of my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with.
If Christianity is about public truth delivered through an external Word, then ministry and evangelism require educated leaders who can expound and apply that truth for the benefit of those under their care. By contrast, if Christianity is reduced to personal experience, then its leadership will consist of the most successful entrepreneurs and managers of extraordinary staged events. (Michael Horton Christless Christianity), p. 51 (HT: Erik Raymond)
“The cliché, God hates the sin but love the sinner, is false on the face of it and should be abandoned. Fourteen times in the first fifty Psalms alone, we are told that God hates the sinner, His wrath is on the liar, and so forth. In the Bible, the wrath of God rests both on the sin (Romans 1:18ff) and on the sinner (John 3:36).” -D.A. Carson The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, Crossway, 2000, p. 70. (HT: Reformed Voices)
. “We meet it most [a general ecumenical outlook] in the form of an all-pervasive climate of opinion which dislikes anything that is really distinctive in doctrine or in life, which demands, indeed, ever less emphasis on doctrine, on definition, or on ethical principle. . “Never was a time when polemics in any form was at such a discount. There have been periods in history when the preservation of the very life of the church depended upon the capacity and readiness of certain great leaders to differentiate truth from error and boldly to hold fast to the good and to reject the false; but our generation does not like anything of the kind. It is against any clear and precise demarcation of truth and error.” – D. Martyn Lloyd Jones (HT: Todd Pruitt)
“Much that we take for granted in a civilized society is based upon the assumption of human sin. Nearly all legislation has grown up because human beings cannot be trusted to settle their own disputes with justice and without self-interest. A promise is not enough; we need a contract. Doors are not enough; we have to lock and bolt them. The payment of fares is not enough; tickets have to be issued, inspected and collected. Law and order are not enough; we need the police to enforce them. All this is due to man’s sin. We cannot trust each other. We need protection against one another. It is a terrible indictment of human nature.” – John Stott, Basic Christianity (HT: Josh Harris)