Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Your Daughters Hand in Marriage

On 28th June 1810 Adoniram Judson presented himself for missionary service in the East. He would go on to be a missionary to the unreached people of Burma (known as Myanmar today). The very same day he met Ann Hasseltine and fell in love. One month later he wrote to her father, asking for his daughters hand in marriage, this is what he said:
I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left is heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteous, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?
Amazingly, her father consented and said that Ann could make up her own mind. Ann accepted his proposal, being extremely willing to give up all home comforts and go with Adoniram, as his wife, to spend her days in costly sacrifice for the sake of seeing Burmese knees bow before the Lord Jesus.

Both Adoniram and Ann had their priorities shaped by the gospel and recognised that the advance of the gospel would not come without costly sacrifice for Christ's people. Therefore they were willing to sacrifice all comforts to sail to the then extremely dangerous land of Burma to proclaim Christ, that Christ might be glorified in men and women coming to have life in Him. Would that our priorities were so shaped by the gospel that we are willing to sacrifice all for the sake of Christ being magnified as more and more bow before Him in worship. If the glory of Christ is our supreme concern, then everything else must come subordinate to this and serve this end. The more we have Christ being magnified as the priority that drives everything else, then the more contentment we shall have in any and every situation, and the less we'll be concerned about our interests - our comfort, our reputation, our 'rights' etc. The more we recognise the surpassing worth of the Lord Jesus, then the more we shall be willing to pour ourselves out in sacrificing ourselves for the eternal good of others.

Quote taken from: Courtney Anderson, 'To The Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson'.

Tuesday Teaching: The Pleasures of God (Part 3)

As we continue our Tuesday Teaching series we come to the third and final part of John Piper's talks on 'The Pleasures of God'. Enjoy.

Monday, 30 August 2010

How Emphatic Evangelicalism Becomes Reductionist Evangelicalism

A thought provoking little article I found by Justin Taylor on the Gospel Coalition website.

In The Deep Things of God Fred Sanders has a very helpful discussion on the evangelical genius—and shortcoming—of emphasis, which can quickly become reductionism. This will be a longish post (I’m fighting the temptation to post the whole chapter), but I encourage you to stick with it.

Sanders starts the discussing by noting that evangelicals have always been concerned to underline certain parts of the Christian message.
  • We have a lot to say about God’s revelation, but we emphasize the business end of it, where God’s voice is heard normatively: the Bible.

  • We know that everything Jesus did has power for salvation in it, but we emphasize the one event that is literally crucial: the cross.

  • We know that God is at work on his people through the full journey of their lives, from the earliest glimmers of awareness to the ups and downs of the spiritual life, but we emphasize the hinge of all spiritual experience: conversion.

  • We know there are countless benefits that flow from being joined to Christ, but we emphasize the big one: heaven.

Sanders agrees that Bible, cross, conversion, heaven are the right things to emphasize. “But,” he writes, “in order to emphasize anything, you must presuppose a larger body of truth to select from.”

For example, the cross of Christ occupies its central role in salvation history precisely because it has Christ’s preexistence, incarnation, and earthly ministry on one side and his resurrection and ascension on the other. Without these, Christ’s work on the cross would not accomplish our salvation. But flanked by them, it is the cross that needs to be the focus of attention in order to explain the gospel. The same could be said for the Bible within the total field of revelation, for conversion within the realm of religious experience, and for heaven as one of the benefits of being in Christ. Each of these is the right strategic emphasis but only stands out properly when it has something to stand out from.

Evangelical anemia happens when the emphatic points are treated as if they are the whole story:
Instead of teaching the full counsel of God (incarnation, ministry of healing and teaching, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and second coming), anemic evangelicalism simply shouts its one point of emphasis louder and louder (the cross! the cross! the cross!). But in isolation from the total matrix of Christian truth, the cross doesn’t make the right kind of sense. A message about nothing but the cross is not emphatic. It is reductionist. The rest of the matrix matters: the death of Jesus is salvation partly because of the life he lived before it, and certainly because of the new life he lived after it, and above all because of the eternal background in which he is the eternal Son of the eternal Father. You do not need to say all of those things at all times, but you need to have a felt sense of their force behind the things you do say. When that felt sense is not present, or is not somehow communicated to the next generation, emphatic evangelicalism becomes reductionist evangelicalism.

When “emphatic evangelicalism” degenerates into “reductionist evangelicalism,” Sanders writes, “it still has the emphasis right but has been reduced to nothing but emphasis. When a message is all emphasis, everything is equally important and you are always shouting. Your powers of attention suffer fatigue from the constant barrage of emphasis.”What’s the reason for such reductionism? Sanders answers:

When emphatic evangelicalism degenerates into reductionist evangelicalism, it is always because it has lost touch with the all-encompassing truth of its Trinitarian theology.
And what’s the solution?

What is needed is not a change of emphasis but a restoration of the background, of the big picture from which the emphasized elements have been selected.
He then goes on to look at the metaphor of “the cutting edge”:

A blade is not all cutting edge. In fact, the cutting edge is the smallest part of the knife. The rest of the knife is the heavy heft of the broad, flat sides and the handle. Considered all by itself, the cutting edge is vanishingly small—a geometric concept instead of a useable object. Isolated from the great storehouse of all Christian truth, reductionist evangelicalism is a vanishingly small thing. It came from emphatic evangelicalism, and it must return to being emphatic evangelicalism or vanish to nothing.

So does the doctrine of the Trinity belong to the cutting edge of emphatic evangelicalism?
No, it does not. It constitutes the hefty, solid steel behind the cutting edge. We do not need to use the T-word in evangelism or proclaim everything about the threeness and oneness of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in every sermon. But the Trinity belongs to the necessary presuppositions of the gospel.

From pp. 15-19 of The Deep Things of God. Again, I’ll refrain from quoting the rest of the chapter, but I’d encourage you to read the whole thing.

Welcome Mark Smith

I'm delighted to welcome Mark Smith to the 'Above Every Name' blog. Mark is joining me here as one of the team, as we seek to provide gospel centred material to promote Christ-exalting thinking and living.

Quote: Derek Kidner on Psalm 2:12

Derek Kidner in his excellent Tyndale commentary on the Psalms, commenting on Psalm 2:12, says this about Jesus:

There is no refuge from him, only in him.

Video: Trusting God in Difficult Times

Here's a very helpful exerpt from a sermon by Don Carson on Psalm 40 looking at how we can trust God in difficult times. (And in case you were wondering he wasn't playing the piano whilst preaching! Someone has taken an exerpt from his sermon and edited it with music playing in the background).

Friday, 27 August 2010

Worth a Read

Here's a list of books I've read recently or am in the process of reading that are worth sinking our teeth into and digesting:

1) 'The Enemy Within' - Kris Lundgaard.
"If God has redeemed me from sin, and given me his Holy Spirit to sanctify me and give me strength against sin, why do I go on sinning?" (pg 13) In answering this question, which every Christian asks at some stage in their Christian life, Lundgaard has sought the help of the Puritan John Owen. Lundgaard has dug deep in the mines of two great John Owen books: Indwelling Sin and The Mortification of Sin, and presents the treasures he has found in a fresh and extremely readable way.
Lundgaard's clear and concise chapters help us delve deep into understanding why it is we continue to sin, and help us to take action in the ongoing battle against sin as he brings us right to the heart of the problem. The questions at the end of each chapter make sure that we don't go away without thinking seriously through the implications, and make the book a great resource to use with an accountability group.

2) 'Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ' - John Piper.
This is the latest collection of biographical sketches to come from the pen of John Piper. He looks at the lives of William Tyndale, John G. Paton and Adoniram Judson, highlighting especially the huge sufferings that they faced in order to see the gospel advance. These three men faced exile and eventually execution for translating the Bible into the language of the people (Tyndale), sickness, danger and loss of loved ones to see foreign nations reached with the gospel (Paton and Judson). However, Piper does not merely want to tell the stories of these men, he wants us to be challenged by their example, he is constantly pressing home lessons from their lives. The overall challenge that Piper leaves us with is: if we want to see the nations come to "worship at the Saviour's feet" (Paton's phrase), then this will mean suffering for Christ's people. This was a huge challenge to me and made me think through the ways in which I must suffer in order to see the gospel advance in Ireland (where I plan to serve after my time at college, God willing), and not to shy away from such suffering but to gladly embrace it so that Christ might be glorified.

3) 'The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment' - Jeremiah Burroughs.
This great Puritan classic is centred on Philippians 4:11 - "...I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content." (ESV). Burroughs spells out in great depth what it means for us to have contentment in any and every situation and how we can come to such contentment. Don't be put off by the age or the old language of the book, whilst it might take a bit of time to get used to the slightly older English, it is well worth the effort. Here is a man who knows his Bible and knows the human heart, and skillfully applies the Bible to the heart. There have been times in reading when it seemed as if Burroughs was addressing my situation directly (even though he was writing in the 17th century!). Here is great riches to help us to glorify God, by being those who rejoice in Him in any and every situation.

4) 'At the Heart of the Universe' - Peter Jensen.
This book is a short overview of Christian doctrine with a difference - Jensen has decided to reverse the traditional order of the way what Christians believe is usually presented. He starts with the 'last things' first and works backwards. In the first section of the book he looks at the goal of all things, the end towards which God is working the whole universe. Then having established this, it helps us make sense of our existence and shows us how the rest of the themes of Scripture fit together as a whole. This is a very refreshingly Christ-centred book, and also helps us to see clearly the vital relevance of Christian doctrine for our lives and our world. A great read for someone wanting to get a grasp on the big picture of Christian doctrine, or for someone about to start at theoogical college as they prepare to study systematic theology.

Video: What is the Bible Really About?

Here's a very helpful clip from a Tim Keller talk on 'what is the Bible really about?'. It's a great remider to us to read the Bible Christ-centeredly. It is so easy to slip back into reading the Bible me-centredly.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Tuesday Teaching: The Pleasures of God (Part 2)

We continue this series of 'Tuesday Teaching' posts with part 2 of 'The Pleasures of God' by John Piper. As we said last week, the aim of these posts is to provide media of quality Bible teaching to promote Christ-exalting thinking and living.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Tuesday Teaching: The Pleasures of God (Part 1)

In order to encourage Christ-exalting thinking and living I'm going to start posting, once a week, video or audio of great Bible teaching from various preachers. God has given His church the gifts of some great teachers, and many of these resources are avaliable free on the internet - well worth making the most of. It is very important that we understand that the primary place we should be fed from the Bible is in our local church under the faithful week in week out preaching of our own pastor, who knows us, and sourrounded by our brothers and sisters to hold us accountable and encourage us to live out these truths. No internet resources can replace this. Yet God has also provided the worldwide church with the resources of other godly pastors which we can access throught the internet, and these can be a great way to continue to spur us on to gospel centred thinking and living.
To kick of these posts I'm going to post over the next few weeks a series of talks by John Piper at a 'Desiring God' conference in 2007 called 'The Pleasures of God'. Here is the first talk in the series: