Thursday, 31 March 2011

"You Are My Righteousness, and I Am Your Sin."

Here's some words of counsel Martin Luther wrote in one of his letters as he sought to counsel another. Let us be those who do not lean upon our own righteousness, which cannot make us stand before God, but instead to lean on the perfect righteousness of Christ, which is ours through faith in Him.
Now I should like to know whether your soul, tired of its own righteousness, is learning to be revived by and to trust in the righteousness of Christ. . . . My dear brother, learn Christ and him crucified. Learn to pray to him and, despairing of yourself, say, ‘You, Lord Jesus, are my righteousness, but I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given to me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not and have given to me what I was not.’ Beware of aspiring to such purity that you will not wish to be looked upon as a sinner, or to be one. For Christ dwells only in sinners. On this account he descended from heaven, where he dwelt among the righteous, to dwell among sinners. Meditate on this love of his and you will see his sweet consolation.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Two Extremely Obvious Observations on the Book of Job

Recently I've been reading through the book of Job and have noticed again two glaringly obvious things about the book as a whole. As obvious as these things are I think that they are part of the way that the book of Job ministers to the suffering believer. So, here they are, two obvious observations on the book of Job:

1) Job is a Big Book
Suffering is not an issue that we can give short and quick answers to as we seek to care for sufferers, or grapple with suffering for ourselves. It takes time to do this. This is perhaps why Job is such a long book. One of the ways it ministers to the suffering believer is by helping them to take time in wrestling with their suffering and the questions it raises. It helps the reader to take the time to grapple with these issues and not to settle with short and quick answers.

2) Job is a Poetic Book
That is, most of the book is made up of poetry. There are very few narrative sections (See Job 1-2; 42), and even these have poetic lines in them. Poetry has an effect that prose never can. It allows us to express things that plain lines of prose would not be able to. It can minister to us in ways that prose cannot. Have you ever noticed how, for many believers, what has sustained them through the waves of suffering has been a Psalm, or a hymn that expresses biblical truth? Poetry has a way of engaging with the soul and ministering to it in ways that plain words cannot (it is interesting to note what a large proportion of the Bible contains poetry and poetic images). Therefore, another way Job ministers to the suffering believer is through the fact that it is a poetic book, it expresses the pain of Job in ways that prose cannot express, but that the suffering believer can identify with. It ministers to the soul with poetic images and devices that express things, and impress things on the heart that cannot be conveyed by other genres. For example, the poetic imagery in chapters 38-41 says "God knows everything and is in control of everything", in ways that are much more vivid than this and in ways that impress these truths on the heart in a way that simple prose cannot.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Tuesday Teaching: The God Who is There (Part 13)

Welcome to the second last talk in this Tuesday Teaching series. This week in part 13 of The God Who is There we see "The God Who is Very Angry".

Monday, 28 March 2011

Rapping Philippians

Recently I came across this song by Trip Lee. It is essentially an exposition of some of the big themes of Philippians through rap. It is very clever and a great example of someone using their musical gifts to the glory of God. Even if you're like me and wouldn't naturally class yourself as a fan of rap ('trendy' and 'me' aren't known to be found in the same sentence!) this is a very edifying listen.

Being a Single Pastor

Over at the Gospel Coalition Steve DeWitt has written a very helpful article on the blessings and battles of being a single pastor. He is writing in a context where the overwhelming majority of churches lean towards having a married pastor and to be a single pastor of a church can be viewed as being odd or abnormal. DeWitt has this to say about the benefits of being a single pastor:
But we must...recognize that a pastor’s singleness is equally valuable in different ways [to a married pastor]. Speaking from experience, singleness has its own anvil on which God shapes character and pastoral gravitas. In addition, single pastors have some tremendous gifts to share with their congregations. When I speak of my loneliness, how many hearts leap with hope identifying with my trial? When my voice quivers as I describe life lived with unmet and unfulfilled expectations, what heart can’t hear the echo? A normal red-blooded, sexual, single, Christian man battling all the normal desires yet pursing contentment in Christ is a living sermon that Jesus alone is sufficient. These strengths, combined with the greater energy and time that single pastors can pour into their churches, should lead us to conclude that singleness ought not be viewed as a negative. If Paul was serving on the search committee, I think he’d argue for it as a positive.
You can read his whole article by clicking here.

Friday, 25 March 2011

The Importance of Being Under the Ministry of the Word

Sinclair Ferguson shows the relationship between our tongues and our sitting under the ministry of the Word. May we allow the word of Christ to dwell in us so richly so that we cannot speak in any other accent.

An Infinite Fountain of Love

Yesterday in a post we saw that Jonathan Edwards recognised the biblical reality of hell. His most famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God clearly shows this. However, he also recognised the glorious realities of what the new creation shall be like for all those who belong to Christ, what those who have gone to be with Christ enjoy, and what will be tasted in fullness by all of His people in the new heavens and new earth. In a sermon entitled Heaven, A World of Love he spelt out some of these magnificent realities. He looks clearly at the character of God, and what it means for Him, as Father, Son and Spirit, to be love, and from there he spells out the implications of this for heaven. Here is an excerpt from the sermon, which gives us a refreshingly great view of God:
The Apostle tells us that God is love, 1 John 4:8. And therefore seeing he is an infinite Being, it follows that he is an infinite fountain of love, Seeing he is an all-sufficient Being, it follows that he is a full and overflowing and an inexhaustible fountain of love. Seeing he is an unchangeable and eternal Being, he is an unchangeable and eternal source of love. There even in heaven dwells that God from whom every stream of holy love, yea, every drop that is or ever was proceeds.
There dwells God the Father, and so the Son, who are united in infinitely dear and incomprehensible mutual love. There dwells God the Father, who is the Father of mercies, and so the Father of love, who so loved that world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life [John 3:16].

There dwells Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, the Prince of peace and love, who so loved the world that he shed his blood, and poured out his soul unto death for it. There dwells the Mediator, by whom all God’s love is expressed to the saints, by whom the fruits of it have been purchased, and through whom they are communicated, and through whom love is imparted to the hearts of all the church. There Christ dwells in both his natures, his human and divine, sitting with the Father in the same throne.

There is the Holy Spirit, the spirit of divine love, in whom the very essence of God, as it were, all flows out or is shed abroad in the hearts of all the church [cf. Rom. 5:5].

There in heaven this fountain of love, this eternal three in one, is set open without any obstacle to hinder access to it. There this glorious God is manifested and shines forth in full glory, in beams of love; there the fountain overflows in streams and rivers of love and delight, enough for all to drink at, and to swim in, yea, so as to overflow the world as it were with a deluge of love.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Taking Great Pains to Warn About Eternal Pain

Jonathan Edwards was a man who was keenly aware of the dreadful reality of hell, an eternal conscious torment for all those who reject Jesus. He is well known by many simply because of a single sermon he preached, entitled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, which set before his hearers in vivid imagery the reality and the seriousness of hell. Edwards has much to say to us today (and not only on the matter of hell), he said these words about why we ought to speak about hell, which no doubt were part of the reason why he preached such a sermon:
If there be really a hell of such dreadful and never-ending torments, as is generally supposed, of which multitudes are in great danger—and into which the greater part of men in Christian countries do actually from generation to generation fall, for want of a sense of its terribleness, and so for want of taking due care to avoid it—then why is it not proper for those who have the care of souls to take great pains to make men sensible of it? Why should they not be told as much of the truth as can be?
(Jonathan Edwards, The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God)
If we truly believe in hell, which the Bible clearly tells us is a terrifying reality for all those who do not bow the knee to Jesus, and if we truly love people,  then ought this not drive us to "take great pains" to warn people of it and point them to the only one in whom there is refuge from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Help...I'm Fearful of the Dying Process!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Japanese Earthquake and God's Sovereignty

I'm sure none of us can be unaware that we live in a world that is filled with suffering and calamity. Earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan, and turmoil and violence in the Middle East have filled the headlines over the last few weeks. The issue of suffering is inescapable.

One of the questions that no doubt many will be asking is how a good and sovereign God could allow such devastation. Some of us may have asked questions like this ourselves, others may be surrounded with others asking such questions. It is vital that we think through and grapple with these questions. It is also vital that we do so in a way that is honouring to God, and therefore founded on the truth of His word. The Bible is clear that God is both utterly sovereign, in control of all things (Job 42:2 -from the mouth of suffering Job), and utterly good (Psalm 119:68 - from the mouth of the suffering Psalmist). How then do these devastating events fit with these two glorious truths? What are God's sovereign and good purposes in these things?

In order to help us do this let me suggest a few resources that will help us. There are many more resources out there than I've mentioned here, but the following are a good place to start:

  • Don Carson's book How Long, O Lord? grapples with the issues of evil and suffering. He spends time especially looking at how we hold together the truth of God's utter sovereignty with suffering and human evil in the world. This is an invaluable book for giving us a robust biblical framework to understand suffering both on a personal and a global scale.
  • John Piper was interviewed by a radio station after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. He gives a warm, clear, and bold response to many of the questions that non-Christians ask after such events. Piper gives a great model on how to respond in a way that is loving and pastorally sensitive, yet unashamed to boldly proclaim the truth of Scripture. It is well worth a listen to, both in seeking answers to our own questions, and in helping us as we seek to answer the questions of others.
  • John Piper has also given a three-part series of talks from the book of Job entitled When the Righteous Suffer. This is a very helpful series of talks that I have heard on the issue of suffering. The book of Job is one of the most important parts of Scripture to grapple with for understanding suffering and God's sovereignty, and Piper does a great job of opening up the magnificent themes of the book of Job, and applying them to the suffering believer.
  • Christopher Ash's book Out of the Storm is a study of the book of Job and is a gem of a book. I have personally sat under Christopher as he taught through the book of Job on the Cornhill Training Course and have found it invaluable. This is a great book for getting a clear picture of the book of Job.
  • Suffering and The Sovereignty of God is a book written by various authors based on talks given at a "Desiring God" conference. A very helpful look at how God's sovereignty relates to the issue of suffering. Almost all of the authors are those who've known devastating suffering for themselves.
  • If You Could Ask God One Question is aimed at a non-Christian audience. Williams and Cooper, through Christianity Explored courses they've run, have spent years asking people "If you could ask God one question, and you knew it would be answered, what would it be?" This book gives their answers to the most frequently asked questions. They have one chapter which looks at the question "Why do you allow suffering?" It is a book well worth having on the shelf as we seek to answer those questions that come up in conversations with non-Christian friends.

How Can We Safeguard Our Marriages?

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Tuesday Teaching: The God Who is There (Part 12)

This week, as we continue our Tuesday Teaching Series The God Who is There with Don Carson, we see "The God Who Gathers and Transforms His People." Enjoy.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Doctor Introduces George Whitefield

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century. Here he takes us through the life of one of the greatest preachers of the 18th century, George Whitefield.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Who Are Your Prophets?

Taking a break from Hell just for one moment to consider the following question:


Over the last while I have been reminded of the importance of having people around you who have the insight and the permission to speak into your life. 
Those precious people who tell you to stop and think, who call you out on something sinful and who encourage you with signs of fruit.

True prophets are not 'yes-men', rather they are those who love you enough to grab you by the scruff and say the hard thing. That you need to stop and think, that you need to repent, that you need to consider another angle.


Who are the people who speak the promises of God into your life? Who, when you fail bring the gospel to bear, reminding you of the greatness of your saviour and pressing you to rejoice and not to wallow.

When I know I've messed up the last thing I want to do is pray, I want to wallow in self pity and shut myself away. My prophets force me to pray even as they pray for me; what an important ministry that is!

I am exceedingly grateful to my prophets for saying the hard things and for bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to bear on my life. Additionally I am privileged to be able to be that for them when the time arises!

So again I will ask:

And who are the people who have opened their heart to you and allowed you to prayerfully speak truth and godly counsel to them?

A Word to Preachers Before Sunday

No doubt there are many of us wrestling hard and sweating over the text in preparation for preaching this Sunday. As we prepare to preach one of the key things we must be doing in preparation to preach a passage is to be preaching it to ourselves before we dare preach it to others. We must let our hearts be affected by the glorious truths of God's word before we seek to apply them to the hearts of others.Richard Baxter said it well in this plea to his fellow preachers, which we would do well to heed:
In the name of God, brethren, labor to awaken your own hearts, before you go to the pulpit, that you may be fit to awaken the hearts of sinners. Remember they must be awakened or damned, and . . . a sleepy preacher will hardly awaken drowsy sinners. Though you give the holy things of God the highest praise in words, yet, if you do it coldly, you will seem by your manner to unsay what you said in the matter. . . . Speak to your people as to men that must be awakened, either here or in hell. Look around upon them with the eye of faith, and with compassion, and think in what a state of joy or torment they must all be for ever; and then, methinks, it will make you earnest, and melt your heart to a sense of their condition.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

"It was all the Gift of God": St. Patrick in His Own Words

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Patrick was one of the greatest missionaries that ever lived. He sacrificed his life to bring the gospel to Ireland. To celebrate Paddy's day here are some words from the man himself.

In a letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus he said these words about his mission to the Irish people:
I have traded in my homeland, my family, and my very life for them - even if it means my death. If I am worthy, I will devote the rest of my days to teaching the Irish - even if some of you beyond this island despise me.
At the end of his Confession, which recounts his conversion, life and ministry, he says these words about all that he had accomplished:
My final prayer is that all of you who believe in God and respect him - whoever you may be who read this letter that Patrick the unlearned sinner wrote from Ireland - that none of you will ever say that I in my ignorance did anything for God. You must understand - because it is the truth - that it was all the gift of God.
Yes, Patrick! May God be gracious to us and raise up more men and women like this, those who do not care about their own comfort, reputation and even lives, but who are willing to throw them away in the costly service of the gospel. May he give us more sacrificial gospel workers who are willing to die to bring life to Ireland. May He grant us those who at the end of it all say, "I did nothing for God, it was all of His grace."

If you want to read more on Patrick check out Mark Driscoll's article over at the Resurgence and Eddie Coulter's article over at the Irish Church Missions website.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

How You Can Pray for Japan

Over at the Gospel Coalition John Starke has posted a report from a missionary in Japan. She gives a helpful and moving account of the state of things in Japan, the effect that the earthquake has had on the work of the gospel there, and how we can best be praying. One of the things which particulary struck me is her clear gospel shaped attitude to her work in Japan, she says:
My unbelieving family say in “love” that I should leave Japan for the United States because I have some contacts there. They assume that our goal for life is to physically preserve ourselves. But we know that our true goal is to die to the idol of self-preservation, and to be raised into God’s preservation, which is destined to victory... [What my family] cannot understand or accept is the fact that I see and taste the happiness that is given through the atoning cross of Christ. I came to Japan to die to all my self-dignity to live for Christ who loves to rescue his enemies, who alone can make me filled with all that I could hope for and far more.
You can read Starke's article by clicking here.

Rob Bell on MSNBC

For your consideration:

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Tuesday Teaching: The God Who is There (Part 11)

This week we see The God Who Declares the Guilty Just as Carson takes us through Romans 3:21-26.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Praying for Japan After the Earthquake

In light of the earthquake and tsunami that have devastated Japan, we ought to be praying for that nation. At times like this we can often find ourselves at a loss as to what to pray. We know we ought to pray, but, in light of the great shock and sorrow, we can find it a struggle to find the words.

Over at Desiring God John Piper has thought carefully in light of Scripture about how we might best pray for Japan in a way that is both glorifying to God and for the good of the people of Japan. He recently posted on his blog how he is praying for Japan. What he has written is both Bible-saturated and a great starting point for us as we seek to pray for Japan in light of the devastation of last week's earthquake. Here is Piper's prayer for Japan:
Father in heaven, you are the absolute Sovereign over the shaking of the earth, the rising of the sea, and the raging of the waves. We tremble at your power and bow before your unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways. We cover our faces and kiss your omnipotent hand. We fall helpless to the floor in prayer and feel how fragile the very ground is beneath our knees.
O God, we humble ourselves under your holy majesty and repent. In a moment—in the twinkling of an eye—we too could be swept away. We are not more deserving of firm ground than our fellowmen in Japan. We too are flesh. We have bodies and homes and cars and family and precious places. We know that if we were treated according to our sins, who could stand? All of it would be gone in a moment. So in this dark hour we turn against our sins, not against you.

And we cry for mercy for Japan. Mercy, Father. Not for what they or we deserve. But mercy.

Have you not encouraged us in this? Have we not heard a hundred times in your Word the riches of your kindness, forbearance, and patience? Do you not a thousand times withhold your judgments, leading your rebellious world toward repentance? Yes, Lord. For your ways are not our ways, and your thoughts are not our thoughts.

Grant, O God, that the wicked will forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Grant us, your sinful creatures, to return to you, that you may have compassion. For surely you will abundantly pardon. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus, your beloved Son, will be saved.

May every heart-breaking loss—millions upon millions of losses—be healed by the wounded hands of the risen Christ. You are not unacquainted with your creatures' pain. You did not spare your own Son, but gave him up for us all.

In Jesus you tasted loss. In Jesus you shared the overwhelming flood of our sorrows and suffering. In Jesus you are a sympathetic Priest in the midst of our pain.

Deal tenderly now, Father, with this fragile people. Woo them. Win them. Save them.

And may the floods they so much dread make blessings break upon their head.

O let them not judge you with feeble sense, but trust you for your grace. And so behind this providence, soon find a smiling face.

In Jesus’ merciful name, Amen.
There are a number of mission agencies with workers in Japan. In order to pray more informedly for Japan, its needs, and the work of the gospel there why not visit their websites. Both IFES and OMF have posted updates about the situation in Japan, news on their missionaries, and how to pray for Japan.

God is Still Holy: A Review of Rob Bell by Kevin De Young

Over at the Gospel Coalition Kevin De Young has done the church a great service by pouring a lot of time and effort into reviewing Rob Bell's controversial new book Love Wins. De Youngs review is careful, comprehensive, clear and humble. It is a fantastic example of a clear zeal for the truth of the gospel, faithfully representing those you disagree with, and doing so in love and humility. His review is quite long, but I would strongly reccomend taking the time to read through it, once you get to the end you will see why. Whatever your thoughts are on Rob Bell and his new book, I would want to suggest that De Youngs review is a 'must read' if we want to take these things seriously. You can read his review by clicking here.

De Young summarises Bell's message like this:
Love Wins, by megachurch pastor Rob Bell, is, as the subtitle suggests, “a book about heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived.” Here’s the gist: Hell is what we create for ourselves when we reject God’s love. Hell is both a present reality for those who resist God and a future reality for those who die unready for God’s love. Hell is what we make of heaven when we cannot accept the good news of God’s forgiveness and mercy. But hell is not forever. God will have his way. How can his good purposes fail? Every sinner will turn to God and realize he has already been reconciled to God, in this life or in the next. There will be no eternal conscious torment. God says no to injustice in the age to come, but he does not pour out wrath (we bring the temporary suffering upon ourselves), and he certainly does not punish for eternity. In the end, love wins.
He summarises why the book is so troubling by saying:
The theology is heterodox. The history is inaccurate. The impact on souls is devastating. And the use of Scripture is indefensible. Worst of all, Love Wins demeans the cross and misrepresents God’s character.

He explains why it was such a difficult book to review, saying:
Love Wins is such a departure from historic Christianity, that there’s no easy way to tackle it. You can’t point to two or three main problems or three or four exegetical missteps. This is a markedly different telling of the gospel from start to finish.

His conclusion, which explains why he is writing this review, is extremely helpful. So much so that I will quote it in full here:
The tendency in theological controversy is to boil everything down to a conflict of personalities. This is the way the world understands disagreement. This is how the world sells controversy. It’s always politician versus politician or pastor versus pastor. But sometimes the disagreement is less about the men (or women) involved and more about the truth.
This is one of those instances.
I have not spent hours and hours on this review because I am out to get another pastor. I may be a sinner, but with four young children and a very full church schedule, I have no time for personal vendettas. No, this is not about a single author or a single church. This is about the truth, about how the rightness or wrongness of our theology can do tremendous help or tremendous harm to the people of God.
No doubt, Rob Bell writes as a pastor who wants to care for people struggling with the doctrine of hell. I too write as a pastor. And as a pastor I know that Love Wins means God’s people lose. In the world of Love Wins, my congregation should not sing “In Christ Alone,” because they cannot not believe, “There on the cross where Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” They would not belt out “Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood.” No place for “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” with its confession, “the deepest stroke that pierced him was the stroke that Justice gave.” The jubilation of “No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in him, is mine!” is muted in Love Wins. The bad news of our wrath-deserving wretchedness is so absent that the good news of God’s wrath-bearing Substitute cannot sing in our hearts. When God is shrunk down to fit our cultural constraints, the cross is diminished. And whenever the cross is diminished we pain the hearts of God’s people and rob them of their joy.
Just as damaging is the impact of Love Wins on the nonbeliever or the wayward former churchgoer. Instead of summoning sinners to the cross that they might flee the wrath to come and know the satisfaction of so great a salvation, Love Wins assures people that everyone’s eternity ends up as heaven eventually. The second chances are good not just for this life, but for the next. And what if they aren’t? What if Jesus says on the day of judgment, “Depart from me, I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23)? What if at the end of the age the wicked and unbelieving cry out, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16)? What if outside the walls of the New Jerusalem “are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Rev. 22:15)? What if there really is only one name “under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)? And what if the wrath of God really remains on those who do not believe in the Son (John 3:36)?
If Love Wins is wrong—if the theology departs from the apostolic good deposit, if the biblical reasoning falls short in a hundred places, if the god of Love Wins and the gospel of Love Wins are profoundly mistaken—if all this is true, then what damage has been done to the souls of men and women?
Bad theology hurts real people. So of all the questions raised in the book, the most important question every reader must answer is this: is it true? Whatever you think of all the personalities involved on whatever side of the debate, that’s the one question that cannot be ignored. Is Love Wins true to the word of God? That’s the issue. Open a Bible, pray to God, listen to the faithful Christians of the past 2000 years, and answer the question for yourself.

I hope this has shown the vital importance of taking this controversy seriously. This is not just a clash of personalities, it is far more serous than that. The gospel is at stake - and when the gospel is at stake, our all is at stake. As De Young says, "Bad theology hurts real people" and can have disastarous eternal consequences.

In light of this go and read De Youngs review that we might be better equipped to contend for the gospel (Jude 3).

Friday, 11 March 2011

Japan, Tsunamis and God's Sovereign Mercy

The devastating earthquake, and the following tsunami, that has just struck Japan will no doubt leave many asking the question: "What is God up to? Where is He in all of this?"

Similar questions were asked of the Indian Ocean tsunami back in 2004. After that disaster John Piper wrote a helpful article about how we think Christianly about such calamities. It is well worth reading as we think through, both for ourselves and for the questions others will be asking us, how we respond biblically to this catastrophe. You can read Piper's article Tsunami, Sovereignty, and Mercy by clicking here.

Why does the Bible talk so much about God's wrath?

Thursday, 10 March 2011

God's Love and God's Wrath (Part 3)

We come to the third and final post in this short series getting to grips with how God's love relates to His wrath with the help of Don Carson. In part one we saw how these two, love and wrath, relate together as both being attributes of God, He is both loving and wrathful at the same time. In part two we saw the relation between the Old and the New Testaments with reference to the love and wrath of God. Now in this third part we clear up another misunderstanding of how God's love relates to His wrath as Carson helps us to understand God's relationships within Himself, as we look at how God the Father relates to God the Son.
[Another]...common misconception pictures God as implacably opposed to us and full of wrath but somehow mollified by Jesus, who loves us. Again, there is some wonderful truth here. The Epistle to the Hebrews certainly lends some support to this way of thinking, especially in its portrayal of Jesus as the High Priest, who continuously makes intercession to God for us (Heb. 7:25). All this is modeled on the Levitical worship established at Sinai. Or more precisely the system established at Sinai was meant to be, according to Hebrews, the shadow of the ultimate reality. Jesus is the Advocate who speaks to the Father in the believers' defense (1 John 2:1).
But other strands of New Testament theology must be brought to bear on this subject. God loved the world so much that He gave His Son (John 3:16). This does not mean that God was reluctant while His Son won Him over; rather, God Himself willingly sent His Son. Even though Jesus as the believers' great High Priest intercedes for us and pleads His own blood on our behalf, this is not an independent action the Father somehow did not know about, or reluctantly approved, being eventually won over by the independently originating sacrifice of His Son. Rather, Father and Son are one in this project of redemption. The Son Himself came into the world by the express command of the Father.
Thus propitiation does not mean the Son, full of love, offered Himself and thereby placated (i.e., rendered propitious) the Father, who was full of wrath. The picture is more complex. The Father, full of righteous wrath against sin and sinners, nevertheless loved us so much that He sent His Son. Perfectly mirroring His Father's words and deeds, the Son stood over against us in wrath (displayed vividly when sinners will call for rocks to fall and hide them "from the wrath of the Lamb," Rev. 6:16), and yet He was obedient to His Father's commission, offering Himself on the cross. He did this out of love both for His Father, whom He obeys, and for us, whom He redeems. Thus God is necessarily both the subject and the object of propitiation. He provides the propitiating sacrifice (He is the subject), and He Himself is propitiated (He is the object). That is the glory of the Cross.
All this is implicit in Romans 3:21-26, a great atonement passage. After devoting two and a half chapters to showing how the entire human race is cursed and is rightly under the wrath of God because of its sin (1:18-3:20), the apostle Paul demonstrates how Christ's death was God's wise plan "to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus" (3:26). God presented Jesus as a propitiation in His blood, received through faith (3:25).
Don Carson's full article can be read by clicking here.

Video Games Aren't Sinful, They're Just Stupid

A video for the guys especially to listen to. Let's give our lives to fighting a real battle, something that really counts.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Bell on Hell (The first review of his new book)

If you've been following AEN over the last couple of weeks you'll have been aware of the controversy that has been surrounding the release of a new book by Rob Bell entitled 'Love Wins'. The promotional video that he produced hinted that his book is denying the biblical teaching on hell, and promoting a form of universalism, that everybody, even if they've not believed in Jesus, will ultimately be saved.

Well it seems that this is indeed the case. Tim Challies has written a review of the book, from an advance copy that he recieved. Here is one of Bell’s quotes:

A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. . . . This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear. (preface, vi)
Tim Challies' review is very helpful and is well worth taking the time to read. He has clearly worked hard at working out what exactly Bell is saying, which can be difficult because of Bell's cryptic style. You can view it by clicking here.

God's Love and God's Wrath (Part 2)

In seeking to understand how we ought to relate God's love to His wrath, many of us will have come across the argument that in the Old Testament God is primarily a God of wrath, whilst in the New Testament He seems to have changed His tune and is more a God of love. To say this is to misunderstand what the Bible says about God. A clear reading of Scripture shows that this is not the case. Jesus speaks about hell more than anyone else in the Bible. How then should we apprach this misunderstanding? Don Carson takles this misconception of how we ought to relate God's love to His wrath:
[One Misconception that circulates widely] that in the Old Testament God's wrath is more strikingly transparent than His love, while in the New Testament, though doubtless a residue of wrath remains, a gentleness takes over and softens the darker period: God's love is now richer than His wrath. After all, Jesus taught His disciples to love their enemies and turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39, 41).
Nothing could be further from the truth than this reading of the relationship between the Testaments. One suspects that the reason this formula has any credibility at all is that the manifestation of God's wrath in the Old Testament is primarily in temporal categories: famine, plague, siege, war, slaughter. In the here and now those images have a greater impact than what the New Testament says, with its focus on wrath in the afterlife. Jesus, after all, is the One who in the New Testament speaks most frequently and most colorfully about hell, this Jesus of the other cheek. The apostolic writings offer little support for the view that a kinder, gentler God surfaces in the New Testament at this stage in redemptive history.

The reality is that the Old Testament displays the grace and love of God in experience and types, and these realities become all the clearer in the New Testament . Similarly, the Old Testament displays the righteous wrath of God in experience and types, and these realities become all the clearer in the New Testament. In other words both God's love and God's wrath are ratcheted up in the move from the Old Testament to the New. These themes barrel along through redemptive history, unresolved, until they come to a resounding climax in the Cross. Do you wish to see God's love? Look at the Cross. Do you wish to see God's wrath? Look at the Cross.
Don Carson's full article can be read by clicking here.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

God's Love and God's Wrath (Part 1)

Many misunderstandings of the doctrine of hell have come about because people have not clearly thought through how the love of God relates to the wrath of God. Don Carson has written a helpful article looking at how these two relate to one another, and shows how they are complimentary, not contradictory. In a short series of posts, using exerpts from this article, we shall address three misunderstandings of how God's love and His wrath relate to one another. Here is the first exerpt which deals directly with the question of how the two relate: God's love and His wrath relate to each other? One evangelical cliché has it that God hates the sin but loves the sinner. There is a small element of truth in these words: God has nothing but hate for the sin, but this cannot be said with respect to how God sees the sinner. Nevertheless the cliché is false on the face of it, and should be abandoned. Fourteen times in the first fifty psalms alone, the psalmists state that God hates the sinner, that His wrath is on the liar, and so forth. In the Bible the wrath of God rests on both the sin (Rom. 1:18-23) and the sinner (1:24-32; 2:5; John 3:36).
Our problem in part is that in human experience wrath and love normally abide in mutually exclusive compartments. Love drives wrath out, or wrath drives love out. We come closest to bringing them together, perhaps, in our responses to a wayward act by one of our children, but normally we do not think that a wrathful person is loving.

But this is not the way it is with God. God's wrath is not an implacable blind rage. However emotional it may be, it is an entirely reasonable and willed response to offenses against His holiness. At the same time His love wells up amidst His perfections and is not generated by the loveliness of the loved. Thus there is nothing intrinsically impossible about wrath and love being directed toward the same individual or people at once. God in His perfections must be wrathful against His rebel image-bearers, for they have offended Him; God in His perfections must be loving toward His rebel image-bearers, for He is that kind of God.
Don Carson's full article can be read by clicking here.

Tuesday Teaching: The God Who is There (Part 10)

We come to part 10 in this 14 part journey through the storyline of the Bible. This week Don Carson shows us "The God Who Dies - And Lives Again". Enjoy.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Quote: Our Helplessness and God's Blessing

Wherever God’s people have been truly humbled before him, and have been brought deeply to feel their own impotence, and have been willing to be used as mere instruments, and to let him have all the glory, there you will find that a rich blessing has usually been bestowed.
William B. Sprague

Thursday, 3 March 2011


I'm sure many of us will be familiar with the well known Rolling Stones song, "I Can't Get No Satisfaction." One of the reasons for it's popularity must have something to do with the fact that the sentiment of the song resonates with so many. No matter how hard he tries he cannot get any satisfaction. Why then is it that no matter how comfortable a lifestyle, no matter how good our relationships are, no matter how sucessful we are we will still not be content? Listen to what the Puritan wrier Jeremiah Burroughs has to say about this:
My brethren, the reason why you have not got contentment in the things of the world is not because you have not got enough of them. That is not the reason. But the reason is because they are not things proportionable to that immortal soul of yours that is capable of God himself. Many men think that when they are troubled and have not got contentment, it is because they have but a little in the world, and if they had more then they would be content. That is just as if a man were hungry, and to satisfy his craving stomach he should gape and hold open his mouth to take in the wind, and then should think that the reason why he is not satisfied is because he has not got enough of the wind. No, the reason is because the thing is not suitable to a craving stomach.

Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Preachers Q&A

Thefollowing video is a question and answer session from a recent Proclamation Trust preachers weekend. Vaughan Roberts and Adrian Reynolds answer a number of questions on preaching.

The Preachers Weekend 2011 from The Proclamation Trust on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Battling Sin and Delighting in Treasure

What do you treasure? Those things that we treasure are where we are looking for satisfaction. This is the reason why we sin, we think that it will give us pleasure. This is why we make idols out of the good things that God has created and serve them instead of Him, because we think that they will give us satisfaction. However, there is only one place we can look for satisfaction that will not leave us disappointed:
The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One. Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness. Or if he must see them go, one after one, he will scarcely feel a sense of loss, for having the Source of all things, he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight. Whatever he may lose he has actually lost nothing, for he now has it all in One, and he has it purely, legitimately, forever.
A. W. Tozer
This has huge implications for the Christian life as we battle against sin. Often when we are seeking to put to death a certain sin, we can spend our time focussed on the sin, and get into the mindset that to stop doing this certain sin is to work hard at denying ourselves a certain pleasure. However, when we understand the fullness of satisfaction that is found in knowing Christ, having Him as our delight, and treasuring Him more and more, it radically changes how we think about battling sin. Instead of seeing the battle as trying to deny ourselves a certain pleasure, we ought to see it as a battle for a greater pleasure. Sin keeps us from the all-satisfying pleasure of knowing God. Therefore, we should want to exchange the fleeting pleasures of sin, for the eternal satisfaction of enjoying communion with God through the Lord Jesus. The fight against sin is a fight for joy.

Quote: For Those Who Teach

You are required to believe, to preach, and to teach what the Bible says is true, not what you want the Bible to say is true.
R. C. Sproul

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Tuesday Teaching: The God Who is There (Part 9)

It's Tuesday morning again, which means another 'Tuesday Teaching' slot. We're continuing to work through the big picture of the Bible in what has been our longest ever Tuesday Teaching series, The God Who is There. This week Carson continues to look at John 3 as we see 'The God Who Loves'.

To Hell with Joy

You may have noticed by now that all this talk of Hell has gotten under our skin here at AEN. Simon’s post yesterday spelled out three major doctrinal consequences of denying the reality of Hell. Today I would like to add another pastoral/ doxological reason why Hell is important, and it’s this:

The reality of Hell is a source of sober joy for the Christian.

Without having read the book 'Love Wins', it is still fair to assume that Rob Bell wishes us to rethink our stance on Hell. And whether his desire is to declare it 'empty' or to erase it from our theological frameworks, the sad fact remains that to tamper with the doctrine of Hell is to tamper with Christian joy.

Time and time again in the New Testament Paul speaks of God’s work of rescuing us from judgement in doxological terms; that is, Christ’s saving us from hell compels us to worship him:

"and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."  (Col 1:12-14)
And again:
"For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." (1 Thess 1:9-11)
And again Paul recounting the mercy he received bursts with praise:
"But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Tim 1:16-17)
And finally the heavenly multitude praise God saying: 
"After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: 
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.
He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.'
And again they shouted:
The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.'
(Rev 19:1-3)
Paul new the reality of his sin but staring into the abyss he was then able to turn aside and say simply that, “…God has not destined us for wrath”. It is therefore little wonder that the chief of sinners flung himself before the throne of grace in adoration and worship.
In the same way; Hell, our rescue from it and the full disclosure of God’s righteous judgement ought to leave us abandoned to the praise of his great grace. Our voices must join the cry of the saints in worship because God has been vindicated, and we have received grace upon grace.
If you get rid of Hell, not only does the whole doctrinal house of cards come crashing down but you silence the quiet ‘hallelujah’ which resounds from the hearts of every believer who embraces the reality of Hell and allows it to magnify the salvation which is theirs in Christ Jesus.