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Reruns

(37 posts)

The Bible for Dummies? (again)

Monday··2009·05·18 · 4 Comments
I seldom say (or write) anything worth repeating, but occasionally I look back and think I had the right idea and managed to communicate it not too badly; which is just my self-justifying explanation for today’s post. I hate really dislike paraphrasings and dynamic equivalent translations of the Bible. I want the Word of God, not an interpretation of it. Occasionally, I run into arguments in their favor from people who basically agree with me, but still think they are useful. The argument goes: Yes, we should have accurate translations, and these interpretive translations are not good; but for purposes of evangelism, and for young, new believers, we should use the more paraphrased versions. Then, when they are ready, we should introduce them to a good, essentially literal translation. I encountered this argument in a book I read awhile back (ironically, this one). At that time, I listed the following objections to that practice, which I still believe are valid: It has the potential to create confusion, and undermine confidence in the Word of God. What are we saying if we give a Bible one day, only to return later with another, better Bible, explaining that “some of the stuff in the first Bible we gave you isn’t quite right, but this one can be trusted“honest”? It diminishes the role of the Church in the proclamation of God’s Word. The Word of God is not meant to stand alone, outside of the Church. That is not what we mean by sola Scriptura. In addition to simply being read, it is to be explained and taught. Some of it is difficult. That is why we have pastors—preachers, teachers, shepherds—as well as congregations of mature believers: to disciple the young and immature. We are not simply to hand out Bibles and hope for the best; we are to preach it, teach it, and live it out among our neighbors. In the same vein, but far more importantly, It fails to recognize the role of the Holy Spirit in illuminating God’s Word. God chose the words he wanted us—all of us, simple and wise—to read. If God doesn’t intend for us to receive the word independent of teachers, it is even more true that he does not intend for us to receive it independent of himself. “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Corinthians 2:14). No matter how simple the translation, none of us can understand it adequately unless we are filled with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit will make the Word understood, if we bring it accurately.

Hello . . . Ms. Steinem?

Wednesday··2009·05·20 · 1 Comments
Continuing rerun week . . . I was wondering to myself (again) the other day where all the feminist are in the war on Islam terrorism. Almost exactly three years ago, I was wondering the same thing. Some Numbers to Ponder The Numbers Explained

Forgive Me, Me!

Thursday··2009·05·21 · 1 Comments
Another rerun. I don’t know if I can forgive myself . . . Christian psychobabble—I can do without it. Forgive Yourself The Gospel in Spider-Man 3 Forgive Yourself—One more thing ….

My Thoughts, Distilled

Friday··2009·05·22
Another rerun brewing . . . In which I get controversial, and a little bit smart-alecky, asking you to Ponder This . . .

Ja, dot’s a good von!

Saturday··2009·12·26
We used to tell jokes here on Saturdays. Some of them were even funny. Here’s a semi-Christmas-themed story for you, most likely appreciable by Americans of Scandinavian descent only.

Theology 101: The Trinity (recycled)

Friday··2011·11·18 · 1 Comments
I was thirty years old before I actually encountered anyone who called themselves Christians and denied the Trinity. I had heard that such people existed, but outside the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I didn’t know who they were. Then, when we moved to this small town in North Dakota, we met a character who had recently left the same church that we began attending. He was a self-styled teacher with a very overpowering personality who had managed to gather a small group of very committed disciples and formed his own “church,” renting a church building in a neighboring town. A few years ago, this little cult built its own facility just a few blocks up the street from our house. This post is, in a nutshell, what I told one of them when I had the occasion to discuss it, along with a few comments to Trinitarians who explain it badly. There is one true God, eternally existent in three persons. There is only one God. In no sense are there three. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4, and quoted again by Jesus in Mark 12:29). “Has not one God created us?” (Malachi 2:10). God is always spoken of as singular. God is always “he,” never “they.” He reigns over the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of the gods. In Luke 18, Jesus is addressed as “Good Teacher.” His reply: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” God is three distinct persons. In no sense are they one. All three exist simultaneously and eternally. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. The Father is never the Son or the Holy Spirit. The Son is never the Father or the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is never the Father or the Son. The Trinity is revealed in Scripture from the very beginning. In Genesis 1:2, “the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” Farther along in verse 26 we find God talking to himself: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” Who was God talking to? Why the plural pronouns? Four thousand years later, John the Apostle wrote of Christ: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:1–3). The Son was present in the beginning, and participated in creation. “Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ . . . And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ’My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.’ . . . He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.’” (Matthew 26:36, 39, 42). Who was Jesus praying to? Was he putting on an act, going through the motions of prayer in order to set an example for his disciples, as some have said? If so, what does that tell us about him? If true, it tells us that God is an actor, a deceiver, a manipulator who plays with our minds like faith-healers and “revival” preachers. No, Jesus, being God, is incapable of any kind of deceit. He was praying to his Father, as one distinct person to another. The Trinity is probably most clearly demonstrated at Jesus’s baptism: “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.’” (Matthew 3:16–17). Jesus was in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended upon him, and the Father spoke from Heaven—three distinct persons in three distinct places—simultaneously. God does not appear at different times and places in different roles or modes. His triunity may not be compared to the way in which we fill different positions yet remain one person, as one man may be a son, husband, father, grandfather, employer or employee, etc., all at once. That is the Modalist heresy. God also cannot be described as many Trinitarians have attempted to describe him: The Trinity is not like an egg—yolk, white, shell. The Trinity is not like an apple—skin, flesh, seeds. The Trinity is not like water—liquid, solid, vapor. The Trinity is not like time—past, present, future. The Trinity is not like space—height, depth, width. The Trinity is not any other metaphor you’ve thought of. I know, some of you can’t stand not having an explanation for everything. You are very creative and imaginative and love thinking these things up. Well, stop it! You almost persuade me to become a modalist. The Bible tells us quite clearly that God is triune. It does not even begin to tell us how that is so.

The Fruit of the Word

Tuesday··2012·02·21
Recent conversations with an individual who put heavy emphasis on the “work” of Philippians 2:12, and another who sees the work of the Holy Spirit through a mystical/charismatic lens has brought to mind this post, written back in 2009. I thought it worth reposting today. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Tangent: The filling of the Spirit, which is an on-going process throughout every Christian’s life, should not be confused with baptism of the Spirit, which is a one-time event that happens to every believer at the moment of regeneration. (See John MacArthur, The Baptism of the Holy Spirit.) Notice the word fruit in verse 22. It does not say that the fruits of the Spirit are, but that the fruit . . . is. The list that follows is not of fruits of the Spirit, but various manifestations of that singular fruit. These are the characteristics that flow from being filled with the Spirit. These manifestations are, it is vital to note, not works. This is not a list of things to do, as if we could produce spiritual fruit through fleshly effort. The Geneva Bible notes state succinctly: Therefore, they are not the fruits of free will, but so far forth as our will is made free by grace.1 Matthew Henry wrote: And here we may observe that as sin is called the work of the flesh, because the flesh, or corrupt nature, is the principle that moves and excites men to it, so grace is said to be the fruit of the Spirit, because it wholly proceeds from the Spirit, as the fruit does from the root . . .2 And John Gill: Not of nature or man’s free will, as corrupted by sin, for no good fruit springs from thence; but either of the internal principle of grace, called the Spirit, ver. 17. or rather of the Holy Spirit . . ; the graces of which are called fruit, and not works, as the actions of the flesh are; because they are owing to divine influence efficacy, and bounty, as the fruits of the earth are, to which the allusion is; and not to a man’s self, to the power and principles of nature; and because they arise from a seed, either the incorruptible seed of internal grace, which seminally contains all graces in it, or the blessed Spirit, who is the seed that remains in believers; and because they are in the exercise of them acceptable unto God through Christ, and are grateful and delightful to Christ himself, being his pleasant fruits; which as they come from him, as the author of them, they are exercised on him as the object of them, under the influence of the Spirit . . .3 Finally, John MacArthur: Contrasted with the deeds of the flesh is the fruit of the Spirit. Deeds of the flesh are done by a person’s own efforts, whether he is saved or unsaved. The fruit of the Spirit, on the other hand, is produced by God’s own Spirit and only in the lives of those who belong to Him through faith in Jesus Christ.4 The fruit of the Spirit is a list, then, of indications that one belongs to Christ and has therefore “crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” It is a standard of measure to which we can refer when examining ourselves in the spirit of 2 Corinthians 13:5: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” The question this passage asks us is, Are we filled with the Spirit? The filling of the Spirit is something we need continuously. D. L. Moody, when asked why this is, reportedly replied, “Because I leak.” Whether that exchange actually occurred, or is apocryphal, it certainly is true. What are we to do? We can’t fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit. Contrary to the beliefs of many, there is no one we can go to for an “anointing,” no one who can zap us with the Spirit. Consider these two parallel passages: Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. 18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Can you see the parallel? Ephesians: Colossians:be filled with the SpiritLet the word of Christ richly dwell within you speaking to one another in psalms . . . teaching and admonishing one another with psalms . . . giving thankswith thankfulness . . . giving thanks be subject to one another in the fear of Christ Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord We can see that the results of being filled with the Spirit are precisely the same as those of letting “the word of Christ richly dwell within” us. The Holy Spirit fills us as we devote ourselves to “the word of Christ.” On this parallel, John MacArthur writes, The result of being filled with the Holy Spirit is the same as the result of letting the Word dwell in one’s life richly. Therefore, the two are the same spiritual reality viewed from two sides. To be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by His Word. To have the Word dwelling richly is to be controlled by His Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit is the author and power of the word, the expressions are interchangeable.5 This truth is seen also in Christ’s High Priestly Prayer (John 17), when he prayed that the Father would “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (verse 17). So, coming back to Galatians 5, we can conclude that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are the fruit of letting the Word of Christ, which is the Holy Spirit’s voice, richly dwell within us. 1 1599 Geneva Bible, (Tolle Lege Press, 2006) 2 Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. 6 (Hendrickson, 2006), 545. 3 Exposition of the Old & New Testaments: Vol. 9 (Baptist Standard Bearer, 2006), 49. 4 The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Galatians (Moody, 1987), 163. 5 The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Colossians & Philemon (Moody, 1992), 159.

Christmas Eve, 2013

Tuesday··2013·12·24
Don’t worry. I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

Christmas Day, 2013

Wednesday··2013·12·25
Previous Christmas and Incarnational Posts

Equally Unrighteous (rerun)

Monday··2013·12·30
Seven years ago today, Saddam Hussein was hanged. What I wrote a few days later seems worth remembering. Equally Unrighteous

My Prayer for the New Year (rerun)

Wednesday··2014·01·01
One last day of slacking before getting back to regular blogging. From 2007: My Prayer for the New Year

“Operating System not found”

Wednesday··2014·06·11
As you may have surmised from the title of this post, I’m having computer problems this morning. I’m using my wife’s computer with Windows 7, which I despise. Consequently, my internet activity today will be minimal. Being in a rather grumpy mood, I will send you (in lieu of a regular post) to a collection of posts that will enable you to share in my suffering, which is an entirely biblical thing to do (2 Corinthians 1:7). Just click the angry face at the right.

Thanksgiving Day, 2014

Thursday··2014·11·27
Too busy giving thanks to blog. Since you’re here, you might enjoy some of these previous Thanksgiving Day posts.

Clearly, a Comic Classic

Thursday··2017·09·28
I posted this once several years ago. I’m reposting it now just because it’s good, clean comedy, and still cracks me up. Johnny Carson with Jack Webb (1968)

Give Up Giving Up

Thursday··2019·03·07
I started writing a post on Lent for today (why not, everyone else is doing it), but then I remembered I had already written one (five years ago to the day). It’s not about the Lenten season itself, but rather the “fasting” that goes with it. Here it is: Having grown up Lutheran, I am accustomed to the observation of Lent. As far as I can remember, however, I don’t think anyone in my church was fasting or giving anything up. The Roman Catholics in our communities did, of course, but that was them, and I thought it was just another Papist oddity, and enjoyed pulling Slim Jims out of my pockets on Friday when everyone else was eating fish (which, let me remind you, is meat, no matter how you fry it). [continue reading]

God’s Way*

Monday··2019·03·18
In this day of pragmatism, it is good to be reminded that God has not ordained ends alone, but means as well. William Gurnall writes, The Christian’s armour which he wears must be of divine institution and appointment. The soldier comes into the field with no arms but what his general commands. It is not left to every one’s fancy to bring what weapons he please; this will breed confusion. The Christian soldier in bound up to God’s order; though the army be on earth, yet the council of war sits in heaven; this duty ye shall do; these means ye shall use. And [those who] do more, or use other, than God commands, though with some seeming success against sin, shall surely be called to account for this boldness. The discipline of war among men is strict in this case. Some have suffered death by a council of war even when they have beaten the enemy, because out of their place, or beside their order. God is very precise in this point; he will say to such as invent ways to worship him of their own, coin means to mortify corruption, obtain comfort in their own mint: ‘Who hath required this at your hands?’ This is truly to be ‘righteous over-much,’ as Solomon speaks, when we will pretend to correct God’s law, and add supplements of our own to his rule. Who will pay that man his wages that is not set on work by God? God tells Israel the false prophets shall do them no good, because they come not of his errand, Je. xxiii. 32; so neither will those ways and means help, which are not of God’s appointing. God’s thoughts are not as man’s, nor his ways as ours, which he useth to attain his ends by. If man had set forth the Israelitish army, now to march out of Egypt, surely this wisdom would have directed rather to have plundered the Egyptians of their horses and arms, as more necessary for such an expedition, than to borrow their jewels and ear-rings. But God will have them come out naked and on foot, and Moses keeps close to his order; yea, when any horses were taken in battle, because God commanded they should be [hamstrung], they obeyed, though to their seeming disadvantage. It was God’s war they waged, and therefore but reasonable they will be under his command. They encamped and marched by his order, as the ark moved or rested. They fight by his command. The number is appointed by him—the means and weapons they should use—all are prescribed by God, as in the assault of Jericho. And what gospel of all this—for surely God hath an eye in that to our marching to heaven, and our fighting with these cursed spirits and lusts that stand in way—but that we should fight lawfully, using those means which we have from his mouth in his Word? —William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth, 2002). * Originally posted March 14, 2007

For the sake of the elect*

Tuesday··2019·03·19
Erasmus feared that the teaching of a human will that is not free, even if true (which he denied), served no good purpose and would cause people to neglect their own responsibility to respond to the gospel. Luther responded: ‘What use or need is there, then, of publishing such things when so many harmful results seem likely to follow?’ I reply: It should be enough to say simply that God has willed their publication, and the reason of the Divine will is not to be sought, but simply to be adored, and the glory given to God, Who, since He alone is just and wise, wrongs none and can do nothing foolish or inconsiderate—however much it may seem otherwise to us. This answer will satisfy those who fear God. However (to say a little more than I need, since there is so much more that I can say), there are two considerations which require the preaching of these truths. The first is the humbling of our pride, and the comprehending of the grace of God; the second is the nature of Christian faith. For the first: God has surely promised His grace to the humbled: that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realises that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another—God alone. As long as he is persuaded that he can make even the smallest contribution to his salvation, he remains self-confident and does not utterly despair of himself, and so is not humbled before God; but plans out for himself (or at least hopes and longs for) a position, an occasion, a work, which shall bring him final salvation. But he who is out of doubt that his destiny depends entirely on the will of God despairs entirely of himself, chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work in him; and such a man is very near to grace for his salvation. So these truths are published for the sake of the elect, that they may be humbled and brought down to nothing, and so saved. The rest of men resist this humiliation; indeed, they condemn the teaching of self-despair; they want a little something left that they can do for themselves. Secretly they continue proud, and enemies of the grace of God. This, I repeat, one reason—that those who fear God might in humility comprehend, claim and receive His gracious promise. The second reason is this: faith’s object is things not seen. That there may be room for faith, therefore, all that is believed must be hidden. Yet it is not hidden more deeply than under a contrary appearance of sight, sense and experience. Thus, when God quickens, He does so by killing; when He justifies, He does so by pronouncing guilty; when He carries up to heaven, He does so by bringing down to hell. As Scripture says in 1 Kings 2, ‘The Lord killeth and maketh alive; He bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up’ (1 Sam. 2.6). (This is no place for a fuller account of these things; but those who have read my books are well acquainted with them.) Thus God conceals His eternal mercy and loving kindness beneath eternal wrath, His righteousness beneath unrighteousness. Now, the highest degree of faith is to believe that He is merciful, though He saves so few and damns so many; to believe that He is just, though of His own will He makes us perforce proper subjects for damnation, and seems (in Erasmus’ words) ‘to delight in the torments of poor wretches and to be a fitter object for hate than for love.’ If I could by any means understand how this same God, who makes such a show of wrath and unrighteousness, can yet be merciful and just, there would be no need for faith. But as it is, the impossibility of understanding makes room for the exercise of faith when these things are preached and published; just as, when God kills, faith in life is exercised in death. —Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will (Revell, 1957) 100–101. * Originally posted September 6, 2006

Clown Eucharist*

Wednesday··2019·03·20
Church historian J.  A. Merle D’Abigne writes of the condition of the Church at the time of the Reformation: At the same time, a profane spirit had invaded religion, and the most solemn recollections of the Church; the seasons which seemed most to summon the faithful to devout reflection and love, were dishonored by buffoonery and profanations altogether heathenish. The humours of Easter held a large place in the annals of the Church. The festival of the Resurrection claiming to be joyfully commemorated, preachers went out of their way to put into their sermons whatever might excite the laughter of the people. One preacher imitated the cuckoo; another hisses like a goose; one dragged to the altar a layman dressed in a monk’s cowl. A second related the grossest indecencies; a third recounted the tricks of the Apostle St. Peter;—among others, how, at an inn, he cheated the host, by not paying his reckoning. The lower orders of the clergy followed the example, and turned their superiors into ridicule. The very temples were converted into a stage, and the priest into mountebanks. — J.  A. Merle D’Abigne, The History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century (London: D. Walther, 1843), 1:37–38. Clown Eucharist, Trinity Church, New York City Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? What they were doing five hundred years ago is being done today. Why? Because the spirit of the age during the sixteenth century is the spirit of our age. People want to be entertained, to have fun, to be made to feel good. Religious leaders want to fill their auditoriums and be admired and make people happy. That is the essence of the gospel in mainstream churches today. In five hundred years, human nature has not changed. Consequently, the methods of attracting audiences have not changed. Religious leaders are still selling the same sugar-coated garbage to those who love it so. At the same time, because human nature has not changed, the genuine need of sinners has not changed. Sinners do not need self-esteem. They do not need to be entertained. They do not need to go to “church” and be religious. They need the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is not found in entertainment, fun, and games. It is found in the pages of Holy Scripture, and nowhere else. Pastors, preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. (2 Timothy 4:2). Christians, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation (1 Peter 2:2). * Originally posted September 24, 2006

Saul’s Free Will*

Thursday··2019·03·21
Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines closely pursued Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan, Abinadab and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul. 3 The battle became heavy against Saul, and the archers overtook him; and he was wounded by the archers. 4 Then Saul said to his armor bearer, “Draw your sword and thrust me through with it, otherwise these uncircumcised will come and abuse me.” But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took his sword and fell on it. 5 When his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he likewise fell on his sword and died. 6 Thus Saul died with his three sons, and all those of his house died together. 7 When all the men of Israel who were in the valley saw that they had fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook their cities and fled; and the Philistines came and lived in them. 8 It came about the next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 So they stripped him and took his head and his armor and sent messengers around the land of the Philistines to carry the good news to their idols and to the people. 10 They put his armor in the house of their gods and fastened his head in the house of Dagon. 11 When all Jabesh-gilead heard all that the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all the valiant men arose and took away the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons and brought them to Jabesh, and they buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days. 13 So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the Lord, because of the word of the Lord which he did not keep; and also because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry of it, 14 and did not inquire of the Lord. Therefore He killed him and turned the kingdom to David the son of Jesse. —1 Chronicles 10 Saul turned from God to a medium, and it cost him his kingdom, his life, and the lives of his sons. That is one of the lessons of this chapter, and probably the one that stands out to most readers. But there is another lesson in this account that is more easily overlooked. It is found in two facts: Saul took his own life. Of his own free choice, he fell on his sword, intentionally killing himself (v. 4). God took Saul’s life. As judgment for his disobedience and idolatry, God killed Saul (v. 13–14). Are these facts contradictory? Not at all. They only demonstrate that God exercises his sovereignty over the actions and wills of men. * Originally posted May 4, 2007

A Society of Christians*

Monday··2019·03·25
One of the books I am presently reading is Revival & Revivalism by Iain Murray. The following quotation refers to a revival that took place in Virginia in 1787–1790. The most important consequence of the Great Revival for the Presbyterians was the new ethos which came to prevail in the churches. Old Side prejudices lost their hold and a ‘unanimity of sentiment’ came to distinguish the denomination in the South. The main cause for this was undoubtedly the priority now given to experimental religion. Prayer was restored to its rightful place and ‘fervent charity’ came to be expected among all Christians. The same influence inevitably brought a return to biblical standards of church membership. It was no longer assumed that those who attended church from birth were Christians, nor was ‘profession of faith’ henceforth taken as sufficient evidence of conversion. Ministers and elders considered how people lived, and what they did, as well as what they said. It was understood afresh that the true usefulness of the church is bound up with her spirituality and her unity. The premature admission of men and women and young people to the Lord’s Table (communicant membership), which had formerly been too common, now gave way to a more faithful examination of candidates. The wisdom of the counsel of John Blair Smith was universally recognized: ‘He advised those who were awakened not to be too hasty in professing conversion, and urged them to examine the foundations of their hopes well before they entertained a hope they had made their peace with God . . . Generally months, and in some instances a year or more was suffered to pass before they were received into the church.’ William Hill believed that the revival ‘gave a character to the Presbyterian Church of the South for vital, exemplary piety which has pervaded several States and given a tone to religious exercises far and wide’. How this affected the churches in practical way is well illustrated by a statement of principle drawn up by one of the many new churches of the 1790s: A church is a society of Christians, voluntarily associated together, for the worship of God, and spiritual improvement & usefulness.A visible church consists of visible or apparent Christians.The children of visible Christians are members of the visible church, though in a state of minority.A visible Christian is one, who understands the doctrines of the Christian religion, is acquainted with a work of God’s Spirit in effectual calling, professes repentance from dead works, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and subjection to him as a king and whose life and conversation corresponds with his professionSealing ordinances ought not to be administered to such as are not visible Christians.A charitable allowance ought to be made for such, whose natural abilities are weak, or who have not enjoyed good opportunities of religious instruction, when they appear to be humble and sincere.Children and youth, descended from church members, though not admitted to all the privileges of the church, are entitled to the instructions of the church, and subjected to its discipline.—Iain Murray, Revival & Revivalism (Banner of Truth, 2002), 105–107. What would our churches look like today if this represented the general practice of congregations? *  Originally posted November 4, 2007

The Right Means*

Tuesday··2019·03·26
Charles Finney claimed that the right use of the right means would infallibly produce converts. He was, of course, wrong. But neither does God bring revival without the use of means. This the orthodox ministers who opposed and were opposed by Finney knew. Iain Murray writes: From the general introduction to the period of the Second Great Awakening we turn to some particular observations. In the first place, if it be asked, What special means were used to promote these revivals? The answer is that there were none. The significance of this fact will be more apparent in later pages. This is not to say that the spiritual leaders of this new era held the view that the gospel could be advanced without means being employed. They were united in regarding such an attitude as a serious abuse of the doctrine of divine sovereignty. As Ebenezer Porter affirmed: The God of this universe is not dependent on instruments . . . He could fill the world with Bibles by a word,—or give every inhabitant of the globe a knowledge of the gospel by inspiration. But he chooses that human agency should be employed in printing and reading and explaining the Scriptures. God is able to sanctify the four hundred millions of Asia, in one instant, without the agency of missionaries; but we do not expect him to do this without means, any more than we expect him to rain down food from the clouds, or turn stones into bread. These men were united in the belief that God has appointed the means of prayer and preaching for the spread of the gospel and that these are the great means in the use of which he requires the churches to be faithful. There are no greater means which may be employed at special times to secure supposedly greater results. It is therefore the Spirit of God who makes the same means more effective at some seasons than at others. This has perhaps not always been as evident as it was in 1800. Sometimes revivals have coincided with the emergence of hitherto unknown preachers whose abilities have been credited with securing change. But in the case of the Second Great Awakening, nearly all the preachers prominent at the outset had already been labouring for many years. . . . The facts are indisputable. A considerable body of men, for a long period before the Second Great Awakening, preached the same message as they did during the revival but with vastly different consequences—the same men, the same actions, performed with the same abilities, yet the results were so amazingly different! The conclusion has to be drawn that the change in the churches after 1798 and 1800 cannot be explained in terms of the means used. Nothing was clearer to those who saw the events than that God was sovereignty pleased to bless human instrumentality in such a way that the success could be attributed to him alone. . . . Jeremiah Hallock, a leader in Connecticut, wrote: ‘As means did not begin this work of themselves, so neither did they carry it on. But as this was the work of the Omnipotent Spirit, so the effects produced proclaimed its sovereign, divine author.’ Asahel Hooker, another eminent Connecticut pastor, drew the same conclusion after seeing the same change among his own people: ‘It is the evident design of Providence to confound all attempts which should be made by philosophy and human reason to account for the effects wrought without ascribing them to God, as the marvelous work of the Spirit and grace.’ —Iain Murray, Revival & Revivalism (Banner of Truth, 2002), 126–128. *  Originally posted May 8, 2007

“The Word shows . . . the face of those lusts”*

Wednesday··2019·03·27
Be careful to read the Word of God with observation. In it thou hast the history of the most remarkable battles that have been fought by the most eminent worthies in Christ’s army of saints with this great warrior Satan. Here thou mayest see how Satan hath foiled them, and how they recovered their lost ground. Here you have his cabinet-counsels opened. There is not a lust which you are in danger of, but you have it described; not a temptation which the Word doth not arm you against. It is reported that a certain Jew should have poisoned Luther, but was happily prevented by his picture which was sent to Luther, with a warning from a faithful friend that he should take heed of such a man when he saw him, by which he knew the murderer, and escaped his hands. The Word shows thee, O Christian, the face of those lusts which Satan employs to butcher thy precious soul. ‘By them is thy servant warned,’ saith David, Ps. xix. 11. —William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:85. * Originally posted July 16, 2007

“Such a merchant is Satan”*

Thursday··2019·03·28
Is Satan so subtle? O then, think not to be too cunning for the devil, he will be too hard for thee at last. Sin not with thoughts of an after-repentance; it is possible that thou meanest this at present, but, dost thou think, who sits down to play with this cheater, to draw out thy stock when thou pleasest? Alas, poor wretch! he has a thousand devices to carry thee on, and engage thee deeper, till he hath not left thee any tenderness in thy conscience. As some have been served at play, intending only to venture a shilling or two, yet have by the secret witchery in gaming, played the very clothes off their back before they had done,—O how many have thus sinned away all their principles, yea, profession itself, that they have not so much as this cloak left, but walk naked to their shame! [They are] like children, who got into a boat, think to play near the shore, but are unawares by a violent gust carried down to the wide sea. O how know you that dally with Satan, but that at last you may (who begin modestly) be carried down to the broad sea of profaneness? Some men are so subtle to overreach and so cruel when they get men into their hands, that a man had better beg his bread than borrow of them. Such a merchant is Satan, cunning to insinuate, and get the creature into his books, and when he hath him on the hip, [there is] no mercy to be had at his hand than the lamb may expect from the ravenous wolf. —William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:84. * Originally posted July 11, 2007.

Cheese Couplets*

Friday··2019·03·29
If G. K. Chesterton was right, literature is in a sad state. Chesterton is supposed† to have said, “The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” Hard to believe, but I think it may be true. Sure, there may be a verse or two on cheese hidden away somewhere in a Shel Silverstein book, but I’m afraid this beautiful gift has been almost entirely, inexplicably, overlooked by the poets. I aim to rectify that. Colby is fine, but what I like better Is the lovely bouquet of an extra-sharp cheddar. For a good, tasty snack that will never miss, Try a nice dunkel bier and a platter of Swiss. My lips smack When I eat Pepper Jack. Grab a sheep and pull and squeeze— Have yourself some Roquefort cheese. Though Muenster cheese may sound quite German, It’s American, like Munster (Herman). Primost looks like peanut butter, but it’s not— It’s from the udder. Feta is a royal treat, Although it smells a lot like feet. When cheese smells bad, that means it’s good— I’d say that of my verses, if I could. And here’s a submission from the psalmist, David Regier: Give me your tired, your poor, your curdled masses Longing to be Brie. * Originally posted May 9, 2007. † I’ve never read Chesterton, and I’m too lazy to verify the quotation.

The Word Shows Thee*

Thursday··2019·04·04
Be careful to read the Word of God with observation. In it thou hast the history of the most remarkable battles that have been fought by the most eminent worthies in Christ’s army of saints with this great warrior Satan. Here thou mayest see how Satan hath foiled them, and how they recovered their lost ground. Here you have his cabinet-counsels opened. There is not a lust which you are in danger of, but you have it described; not a temptation which the Word doth not arm you against. It is reported that a certain Jew should have poisoned Luther, but was happily prevented by his picture which was sent to Luther, with a warning from a faithful friend that he should take heed of such a man when he saw him, by which he knew the murderer, and escaped his hands. The Word shows thee, O Christian, the face of those lusts which Satan employs to butcher thy precious soul. ‘By them is thy servant warned,’ saith David, Ps. xix. 11. —William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:85. * Originally posted July 16, 2007.

Entirely Dependent*

Tuesday··2019·04·09
Many Christians who are members of Bible-preaching, evangelical churches have been duped somehow into thinking that their perseverance in the faith is dependent on their own natural abilities to endure to the end. They have become practical deists, thinking that after God make us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) he simply left us to our own devices while he just sits back observing us through life’s difficulties, waiting to see if we will make it to the end. In his first wartime address, delivered at Guildhall in London on September 4, 1914, Sir Winston Churchill (1874—1965) said: “Sure I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer. You have only to persevere to save yourselves.” Considering what Churchill accomplished during his life, he proved this statement to be entirely appropriate. The British Prime Minister’s wartime victories demonstrated time and again his ability to persevere to the end he overcame great odds, and his self-sustained resilience enabled him to endure all the struggles of leadership during the Second World War. And while his assertion is accurate, it is accurate only insofar as it pertains to our natural human abilities. Churchill’s call to persevere in order to save oneself is by all means applicable to soldiers in wartime. It is a stern charge to fight to the end in order to overcome the enemy. Moreover, It conveys a similar exhortation found in the Bible. In Hebrews, we are called to run the race set before us (12:1). The apostle Paul likewise admonishes us to endure so that we might “reign with [Christ]” (2 Timothy 2:12). And while teaching his disciples, Christ himself said: “The one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22). In these passages and others, the Bible’s teaching is clear; we must persevere to the end in order to be saved. However, this is only one part of the biblical equation. If our perseverance in the faith is dependent upon us, we will surely fail and will by no means finish the race set before us. Moreover, our assurance of salvation will waver each and every day if we are counting on ourselves and our own natural abilities to persevere to the end (Romans 4:20; Hebrews 10:23). In order to have full assurance, we must be entirely dependent upon Christ and his Word, which he has provided for us as our only infallible rule to faith and life (Westminster Confession of Faith 1.2). In his letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul writes to the saints and faithful believers in Christ at Colossae: For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:1–3) —Burk Parsons, Assured by God (P&R 2006), 20–21. * Originally posted July 23, 2007.
Much of the reason that Christians lack full assurance of their salvation is because they do not possess a right understanding of the purpose of salvation. Most Christians think their salvation is first and foremost about them. When I begin premarital counseling with a couple in our church, one of the first things we talk about is the purpose of marriage. I usually astonish the couple when I tell them that their marriage is not about them. After the initial shock, the young man and woman usually just look at me with blank stares. I then go on to explain that marriage is first and foremost about God and his kingdom (Ephesians 5:30–32). We spend some time talking about the creation ordinance to be fruitful and multiply, and, considering the possibility that the couple may not have children in the future, I explain that their marriage is intended to bring glory to God as each fulfills his or her covenant role in the relationship. I explain that they are getting married not just to live under the same roof with the same last name, but that their relationship is to reflect the relationship between Christ and his bride (5:25–29). When the couple understands that, they have a solid foundation on which to build a loving and full marriage. —Burk Parsons, Assured by God (P&R 2006), 26. * Originally posted July 24, 2007.

Grace of Repentance*

Thursday··2019·04·11
Let us give up vain and fruitless cares, and approach to the glorious and venerable rule of our holy calling. Let us attend to what is good, pleasing, and acceptable in the sight of Him who formed us. Let us look steadfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God, which having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world. Let us turn to every age that has passed, and learn that, from generation to generation, the Lord has granted a place of repentance to all such as would be converted unto Him. —Clement of Rome, The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chapter VII. * Originally posted July 30, 2007.

Devoted to the Service of the Temple*

Thursday··2019·04·18
Devoted to the Service of the Temple: Piety, Persecution, and Ministry in the Writings of Hercules Collins is a collection of the writings of seventeenth-century Particular Baptist pastor Hercules Collins edited by Dr. Michael Haykin and Pastor Steve Weaver. At 139 pages, including a bibliography, it is a short, easy read, but one that is packed full of rich pastoral theology. The book begins with a thirty page introduction, providing a brief biography of Hercules Collins and the historical setting of his writings, followed by thirty-five short chapters, which are excerpts of his writings. This book can easily be read in one sitting, as I did, or one chapter (2–3 short pages) a day, as a devotional. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find such rich theology in any devotional book written today. We owe considerable gratitude to Dr. Haykin and Pastor Weaver for bringing us this collection of writings from this great, though lesser known, “dead theologian.” I heartily recommend it to you, and leave you with this quotation from chapter five, titled God is the Gospel: There are many good objects in heaven and earth besides thee. There are angels in heaven and saints on earth. But, soul, what are these to thee? Heaven, without thy presence, would be no heaven to me. A palace without thee, a crown without thee, cannot satisfy me. But with thee can I be content, though in a poor cottage. With thee I am at liberty in bonds. . . . [I]f I have thy smiles, I can bear the world’s frowns. If I have spiritual liberty in my soul that I can ascend to thee by faith and have communion with thee, thou shalt choose thy portion for me in this world, “For in the multitude of my thoughts within me, thy comforts delight my soul.” —Hercules Collins, Devoted to the Service of the Temple: Piety, Persecution, and Ministry in the Writings of Hercules Collins (Reformation Heritage Books, 2007). * Originally posted August 15, 2007, but the book is still available (cheap!) and worth your attention. Click the link, buy the book. You’ll thank me later.
We will return with our regularly scheduled edification after this brief rant: I recently had a conversation that went something like this: Local insipid, soulless, Christian radio station: Give your praise to the Lord / Come on everybody / stand up and sing one more / hallelujah / Give your praise to the Lord / I could never tell ya [sic] / just how much good that it’s / gonna [sic] do ya [sic] . . . Me: Man, that is one annoying, stupid song. Annoying person singing along: What’s wrong with this song? Me: Where shall I start? OK, first, the melody, if you can call it that. It sounds like it was written by an asthmatic who can only sing two measures before stopping to gasp for air. But that’s not the worst of it. The words are horrible. APSA: So, you’re against praising the Lord, now? Me: Not at all, but if you’re praising the Lord because of how much good it’s going to do you, you’re not really praising the Lord. You’re practicing self-help therapy. APSA: You’re so picky. Me: [Sigh . . .] I can’t stand it. Discernment is out. Ignorant enthusiasm is in. According to a scientific study I am about to make up, 92.7% of American Evangelicals don’t know Paul of Tarsus from Paul McCartney. They don’t know Simon Barjonah from Paul Simon. They think John Bunyan needed a podiatrist, and that Polycarp & Spurgeon are fish. If Christian radio is a fair representation of Evangelicalism at large—and, according to the study cited above, it is—then Evangelicalism is a dead movement, utterly bankrupt theologically and intellectually brain-dead. If there was a convention for truly artistically gifted CCM performers, all the participants could ride in one car. If all the Christian broadcasters who are able to distinguish John MacArthur from Joyce Meyer had a party, they couldn’t get up a Bridge game. If all the Christian publishers who know the difference between John Owen and John Eldredge went to the gym, they couldn’t field a basketball team.† If . . . [Sigh . . .] * Originally posted September 7, 2007 † I suppose “field” is the wrong word here. If all the bloggers who know anything about sports had a party, I wouldn’t be invited.
What is your attitude toward the Word of God? Do you approach it casually, or with awe and reverence? In ancient times the prophets felt the greatest fear when they received a message from God or an angel. Even Moses could hardly endure this great terror. Since the Word had not yet become flesh, they could not understand it because of its abounding glory and their own great weakness. But now, after the Word has been made flesh, it has become very captivating and is imparted to us by men of our very own flesh and blood. That, however, does not mean we should love it less or treat it with less reverence. It is the same Word as before, even though it does not come to us with terror, but with winning love. Those who do not want to love and honor it now, must at last endure all the more anguish. —Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1954), 17. * Originally posted September 13, 2007.

The First Step of Idolatry*

Thursday··2019·04·25
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks . . . Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts . . . to degrading passions . . . to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper . . . —Romans 1:21–28 Notice in the text [Romans 1:18–32] the steps or stages of (heathen) perversion. The first step of their idolatry is ingratitude: they were not thankful. So Satan showed Himself ungrateful over against His Creator before he fell. Whoever enjoys God’s gifts as though he had not graciously received them, forgotten the Donor, will soon find himself filled with self-complacency. The next step is vanity: they ‘became vain in their imaginations.’ in this stage men delight in themselves and in creatures, enjoying what is profitable to them. Thus they become vain in their imaginations, that is, in all their plans, efforts and endeavors. In and through them they seek whatever they desire; nevertheless, all their efforts remain vain since they seek only themselves: their glory, satisfaction and benefit. The third step is blindness; for, deprived of truth and steeped in vanity, man of necessity becomes blind in his whole feeling and thinking, since now he is turned entirely away from God. The fourth step or stage is man’s total departure from God, and this is the worst; for when he has lost God there remains nothing else for God to do than to give them up to all manner of shame and vice according to the will of Satan. In the same way also, man sinks into spiritual idolatry of a finer kind, which today is spread far and wide, ingratitude and love of vanity (of one’s own wisdom, of righteousness, of, as it is commonly said, of one’s ‘good intention’) prevent man so thoroughly that he refuses to be reproved, for now he thinks that his conduct is good and pleasing to God. He now imagines he is worshiping a merciful God. Whereas in reality he has none, indeed, he worships his own figment of reason more devoutly that the living God. Oh, how great an evil ingratitude is! It produces desire for vain things, and this again produces blindness; and blindness produces idolatry, and idolatry leads to a whole deluge of vices. Conversely, gratitude preserves love for God and so the heart remains attached to Him and is enlightened. Filled with light, he worships only the living God and such true worship is followed immediately by a whole host of virtues. —Martin Luther, Luther’s Commentary on Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1954), 29–30. * Originally posted September 17, 2007.

Luther on Works versus Faith*

Tuesday··2019·04·30
knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. —Galatians 2:16 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. —Ephesians 2:8–9 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. —Romans 2:13 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. —James 2:24 Contradictions! The Bible is full of them. How are we to make sense of this? Let’s ask Dr. Luther: Here [in Romans 3:1–20] the question arises: How can a person be justified without the works of the Law, or how can it be that justification does not flow from our works? For St. James writes: “We see how that by works a man is justified, and and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:24). So also St. Paul: “Faith . . . worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6); and: “The doers of the law shall be justified” (Rom. 2:13). To this we reply: as the Apostle distinguishes between the law and faith, the letter and grace, so also he distinguishes between the works resulting from these. He calls those deeds “works of the Law” that are done without faith and divine grace, merely because of the law, moved by either fear of punishment or the alluring hope of reward. By works of faith he calls those deeds which are done in the spirit of (Christian) liberty and flow from love to God. These can be done only by such as are justified by faith. Justification, however, is not in any way promoted by the works of the Law, but they rather hinder it, because they keep a person from regarding himself as unrighteous and so in need of justification. When James and Paul say that a man is justified by works, they argue against the false opinion of those who think that (for justification) a faith suffices that is without works. Paul does not say that true faith exists without its proper works, for without these there is not true faith. But what he says is that it is faith alone that justifies, regardless of works. Justification therefore does not presuppose the works of the law, but rather a living faith which performs its proper works, as we read Galatians 5:67. By the law is the knowledge of sin (3:20). Such knowledge of sin is obtained in two ways. First, by meditation (of the Law), as we read in Romans 7:7: “I had not know lust except the law had said, thou shalt not covet.” Secondly, by experience, namely, by trying to fulfill the Law, or we may say, through the Law as was assure to fulfill its obligations. Then the Law will become to us as occasion to sin, for then the perverted will of man, inclined to evil, but urged by the Law to do good, becomes all the more unwillingly and disinclined to do what is good. It hates to be drawn away from what it loves; and what it loves is sin, as we learn from Genesis 8:21. But just so, man, forced by the Law and obeying it unwillingly, sees how deeply sin and evil are rooted in his soul. He would never notice this, if he did not have the Law and would not try to follow it. The Apostle here only mentions this though, since he intends to treat it more fully in Chapters 5 and 7. Here he merely meets the objection that the Law would be useless if its works could not justify. —Martin Luther, Luther’s Commentary on Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1954), 59–60. * Originally posted September 19, 2007.

Abraham Believed*

Monday··2019·05·06
“I believe in God.” I have had some interesting conversations that began with that statement. Sadly, few who make it can honestly drop that little preposition: in. Most people I know will say, yes, I believe in God, but when confronted with what God has said about himself and about them, have to admit that, well, no, I don’t actually believe that. And that is the great stumbling block. Here are a few words from Luther on what it means to believe God: Abraham believed God (4:3). This must be understood in the sense that Abraham was always ready to believe God. He steadfastly believed God. This fact we learn from Genesis 12 and 13, where we are told that Abraham believed God who called and commanded him to leave his country and go into a strange land. Again he believed God when, according to Genesis 1:22ff., he was commanded to slay his son Isaac, and so forth. Whatever he did, he did by faith as the Apostle declares in Hebrews 11:8–10. So also what is stated in our text (v. 3) is said of Abraham’s faith in general, and not merely with regard to the one promise recorded in Genesis 15:4–6. To believe God means to trust him always and everywhere. —Martin Luther, Luther’s Commentary on Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1954), 66. * Originally posted September 20, 2007.

Growing through Tribulation*

Monday··2019·05·13
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. —Romans 5:3–5 Knowing that tribulation worketh patience (5:3). He who has faith indeed has all the excellent things (which are mentioned in the text), but in a hidden way. Through tribulation they are tried and purified to the highest degree. Whatever (virtues) tribulation finds in us, it develops more fully. If anyone is carnal, weak, blind, wicked, irascible, haughty, and so forth, tribulation will make him more carnal, weak, blind, wicked and irritable. On the other hand, if one is spiritual, strong, wise, pious, gentle and humble, he will become more spiritual, wise, pious, gentle, and humble, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 4:1: “Thou hast enlarged me when in was in distress.” Those speak foolishly who ascribe their anger or their impatience to such as offend them or to tribulation. Tribulation does not make people impatient, but proves that they are impatient. So everyone may learn from tribulation how his heart is constituted. Those are ignorant, childish and indeed hypocritical who outwardly venerate the relics of the holy Cross, yet flee and detest tribulation and affliction. Holy Scripture calls tribulation the cross of Christ in a special sense, as in Mathew 10:38: “He that taketh his not cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” Let everyone be sure that he is not Christian but a Turk and an enemy of Christ who refuses to bear this cross; for here the Apostle speaks of all (believers) when he says: “We glory in tribulations.” And in Acts 14:22 we read: “We must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God.” “Must” does not mean that tribulation comes by chance, or that it is a matter of choice for us, of that we may take it or leave it. In many Scripture passages our Lord is called a “Savior” and a “Helper in need,” and this means that all who do not desire to endure tribulation, rob him of his titles and names of honor. To such people our Lord will never become a Savior, because they do not admit that they are under condemnation. To them God is never mighty, wise and gracious, because they do not desire to honor Him as creatures that are weak, foolish and subject to punishment. —Martin Luther, Luther’s Commentary on Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1954), 74–75. * First published September 24, 2007

Love for God’s Sake*

Wednesday··2019·05·15
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. —Romans 5:3–5 Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts 5:5. Hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God, that is, the love which of God and works in us as unshakable adherence to Him, is shed abroad in our hearts. This love we receive by grace and not on account of our merit; and it makes us willing to endure tribulation. If men are unwilling and of an unstable mind, they do not endure it by the Holy Ghost. St. Augustine remarks on the passage: “Step by step he (the Apostle), leads us toward love, which, as he says, we have as a gift from the Holy Spirit. He shows us thereby that we must ascribe all that we might claim for ourselves to God who by grace grant us His Holy Spirit.” We must understand these words as an added motivation or instruction of the Holy Spirit, showing why we can glory in tribulation, though this is impossible by our own strength. It is not the effect of our own power, but it comes from the divine love which is given us by the Holy Ghost. Let us note: 1. It is shed abroad, hence not born in us or originated by us. 2. It is by the Holy Ghost, therefore it is not acquired by our virtuous efforts as we may acquire good habits which lie on merely moral plane. 3. In our hearts, that is, it is in the innermost course of our being, not merely on the surface, as a foam is swimming on the top of the water. Such (superficial) love is that of the hypocrites who imagine and pretend to love. 4. Which is given unto us, that is, which is not merited, for we deserve the very opposite. 5. It is called love (caritas) in contradistinction to the inert and lower form of love with which we love creatures. It is a precious and worthy love, by which we most highly esteem that which we love, as we esteem God above all things, or as we love Him with highest esteem. He who loves God merely for the sake of His gifts or the sake of any advantage, loves Him with the lowest form of love, that is, with a sinful desire. Such (earthly) love means to use God, but not to delight in God. 6. Of God, because only God is so loved. The neighbor is loved for God’s sake, that is, because God wills this. —Martin Luther, Luther’s Commentary on Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1954), 76–77. * First published September 25, 2007.

The Sanctified Mind*

Thursday··2019·05·16
and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. —Romans 6:18–19 Yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness (6:19). The Apostle when here speaking of holiness has in mind the chastity of the body, in particular, that purity which comes from the Spirit of faith, who sanctifies us both inwardly and outwardly. Otherwise it would be a pagan chastity and not holy chastity, or (true) holiness, since the soul remains defiled. First the soul must become pure through faith, so that the sanctified mind purifies also the body for God’s sake. Of this our Lord speaks in Matthew 23:26: “Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.” —Martin Luther, Luther’s Commentary on Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1954), 90. * First published September 27, 2007.

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