From Jason Hood (via Dane Ortlund): This morning I’m teaching Judges and Ruth in an OT Intro course. Those are perhaps two of the easiest books to teach in the OT (which is why I’ve heard multiple sermon/talk series on both, a rarity for OT!): strong, central, themes that are easily seen, especially once we make the connection to our world and the life of the Christian today: [T]he central theme of the Book of Judges is the Canaanization of Israel. Herein lies the key to the relevance of this ancient composition for North American Christianity, for like the Israelites of the settlement period, we have largely forgotten the covenant Lord . . . . Like the ancient Israelites we too are being squeezed into the mold of the pagan world around us. Evidence of the “Canaanization” of the church are everywhere: our preoccupation with material prosperity, which turns Christianity into a fertility religion; our syncretistic and aberrant forms of worship;
Check your heart! I’m checking mine. From Desiring God.
(HT: Todd Pruitt)
John Piper explains why the so-called “prosperity gospel” is not the gospel.
John Owen on seeing Christ’s glory: It is by beholding the glory of Christ by faith that we are spiritually edified and built up in this world, for as we behold his glory, the life and power of faith grow stronger and stronger. It is by faith that we grow to love Christ. So if we desire strong faith and powerful love, which give us rest, peace and satisfaction, we must seek them by diligently beholding the glory of Christ by faith. In this duty I desire to live and to die. On Christ’s glory I would fix all my thoughts and desires, and the more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes and I will be more and more crucified to this world. It will become to me like something dead and putrid, impossible for me to enjoy. –The Glory of Christ (1684) (HT: The Gospel
I love this from Jared Wilson: There is a pastor whose Twitter feed I occasionally read, but I shouldn’t, because it absolutely drives me nuts. A large portion of my reaction is tied to my own issues, I’m sure, but I see in his broadcasts an almost pathological intention not to mention Jesus. And as I thirst for Jesus, I notice this withholding lots and lots of places in the Bible Belt. I have been and always will be doggedly suspicious of pastors who rarely (or never) mention Jesus. John Piper says, “What we desperately need is help to enlarge our capacities to be moved by the immeasurable glories of Christ.” We ministers of the gospel — and Christians at large — can fumble this commission in three main ways: 1. We speak in vague spiritual generalities. Love. Hope. Peace. Joy. Harmony. Blessings. All disembodied from the specific atoning work of the incarnate Jesus and exalted Lord. It all sounds nice. It’s
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
“…the churches are to read and reread the book in their assembly so that they may continually be reminded of God’s real, new world, which stands in opposition to the old, fallen system in which they presently live. Such a continual reminder will cause them to realize that their home is not in this old world but in the new world portrayed parabolically in the heavenly visions. Continued reading of the book will encourage genuine saints to realize that what they believe is not strange and odd, but truly normal from God’s perspective. They will not be discouraged by outside worldliness, including what has crept into the churches, which is always making godly standards appear odd and sinful values seem normal. John refers to true unbelievers in the book as ‘earth-dwellers’ because their ultimate home is on this transient earth. They cannot trust in anything except what their eyes see and their physical senses perceive; they are permanently earthbound, trusting
“For centuries the church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognising it for what it was — a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing voice of conscience, a scheme to divert attention from moral accountability. For this she got herself abused roundly by the sons of this world. “But of late she has become tired of the abuse and has given over the struggle. She appears to have decided that if she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment she may as well join forces with him and make what use she can of his powers. So today we have the astonishing spectacle of millions of dollars being poured into the unholy job of providing earthly entertainment for the so-called sons of heaven. And hardly a man dares raise his voice against it.” A.W. Tozer (HT: Todd Pruitt)
“Having absorbed the world’s values, Christianity in our society is now dying. Subtly but surely worldliness and self-indulgence are eating away the heart of the church. The gospel we proclaim is so convoluted that it offers believing in Christ as nothing more than a means to contentment and prosperity. The offense of the cross (cf. Gal. 5:11) has been systematically removed so that the message might be made more acceptable to unbelievers. The church somehow got the idea it could declare peace with the enemies of God.” – John MacArthur (HT: Allsufficientgrace)
Worship Spectacles Produce Spectators, Not Worshipers. Jared Wilson quotes Skye Jethani’s book The Divine Commodity: This philosophy of spiritual formation through the consumption of external experiences creates worship junkies — Christians who leap from one mountaintop to another, one spiritual high to another, in search of a glory that does not fade. In response, churches and Christian conferences are driven to create ever-grander experiences and more elaborate productions to satisfy expectations. Ironically, these worship spectacles, according to Sally Morgenthaler, are failing to produce real worshipers. She writes: We are not producing worshippers in this country [USA]. Rather we are producing a generation of spectators, religious onlookers lacking, in many cases, any memory of a true encounter with God, deprived of both the tangible sense of God’s presence and the supernatural relationship their inmost spirits crave. Ministries that focus on manufacturing spiritual experiences, despite their laudable intentions, may actually be retarding spiritual growth by making people experience-dependent.
More than any other message I heard at T4G last year, this one affected me the most. You can watch the whole sermon here.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” –Jesus (Matt 5:3) Poverty of spirit is the personal acknowledgment of spiritual bankruptcy. It is the conscious confession of unworth before God. As such, it is the deepest form of repentance. . . . Poverty of spirit cannot be artificially induced by self-hatred. Still less does it have in common with showy humility. It cannot be aped successfully by the spiritually haughty who covet its qualities. Such efforts may achieve token success before peers; they never deceive God. Indeed, most of us are repulsed by sham humility, whether our own or that of others. I suspect that there is no pride more deadly than that which finds its roots in great learning, great external piety, or a showy defense of orthodoxy. My suspicion does not call into question the value of learning, piety, or orthodoxy; rather, it exposes professing believers to the full glare of this beatitude.
“The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him—and of her.” -A.W. Tozer (HT: Reformed Voices)
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,
Using God for our own ends is spiritual adultary. Here’s John Piper expounding James 4:1-5. God himself is the end, He is the gospel.