Archive for the Quote Category
The Thanksgiving holiday is a great time for Christians to think about the deeply theological significance of giving thanks. Thanksgiving is one of the main things that human beings were made to offer God. In fact, we could say that it is the main thing we were made to offer God.
As creatures, everything about us—our life, our breath, every happy thing—is from God. That’s why, according to Romans 1:21, as soon as sin entered the word, unthankfulness followed: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God.” It’s also why thanksgiving is commanded for all of life: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17).
The way to be thankful is not to focus on thankfulness, but to focus on the one who gives us all things. With that in mind, praying to God a prayer of thanksgiving is always a good idea. Here’s an ancient thanksgiving prayer:.
We give you thanks, Holy Father,
for your holy name, which you have caused to dwell in our hearts,
and for the knowledge and faith and immortality that you have made known to us through Jesus your servant;
to you be the glory forever.
You, almighty Master, created all things for your name’s sake,
and gave food and drink to humans to enjoy, so that they might give you thanks;
but to us you have graciously given spiritual food and drink,
and eternal life through your servant.
Above all we give thanks to you because you are mighty;
to you be the glory forever.
Remember your church, Lord,
to deliver is from all evil and to make it perfect in your love;
and from the four winds gather the church that has been sanctified into your kingdom,
which you have prepared for it;
for yours is the power and the glory forever.
May grace come, and may this world pass away.
Hosanna to the God of David.
If anyone is holy, let him come;
if anyone is not, let him repent.
For more on the importance of thanksgiving to the Christian life, listen to Albert Mohler’s Briefing from November 25.
Recently, Justin Taylor, published a blog, titled, “Jonathan Edwards Would Like to Ask You a Few Questions.” Edwards, a philosopher, theologian, and preacher, was first a pastor. And as a pastor he had spiritual perception into the souls of the people he led.
From a sermon titled, “The Excellency of Christ,” here are some of the questions he addressed to “the poor, burdened, distressed soul”:
- What are you afraid of, that you dare not venture your soul upon Christ?
- Are you afraid that he can’t save you, that he is not strong enough to conquer the enemies of your soul? But how can you desire one stronger than “the mighty God”? as Christ is called (Isaiah 9:6).
- Is there need of greater than infinite strength?
- Are you afraid that he won’t be willing to stoop so low, as to take any gracious notice of you? But then, look on him, as he stood in the ring of soldiers, exposing his blessed face to be buffeted and spit upon, by them!
- Behold him bound, with his back uncovered to those that smote him! And behold him hanging on the cross! Do you think that he that had condescension enough to stoop to these things, and that for his crucifiers, will be unwilling to accept of you if you come to him?
- Or, are you afraid that if he does accept of you, that God the Father won’t accept of him for you?
- But consider, will God reject his own Son, in whom his infinite delight is, and has been, from all eternity, and that is so united to him, that if he should reject him he would reject himself? . . .
- What is there that you can desire should be in a Savior, that is not in Christ?
- Or, where in should you desire a Savior should be otherwise than Christ is?
- What excellency is there wanting?
- What is there that is great or good?
- What is there that is venerable or winning?
- What is there that is adorable or endearing?
- Or, what can you think of that would be encouraging, that is not to be found in the person of Christ?
- Would you have your Savior to be great and honorable, because you are not willing to be beholden to a mean person?
- And, is not Christ a person honorable enough to be worthy that you should be dependent on him?
- Is he not a person high enough to be worthy to be appointed to so honorable a work as your salvation?
- Would you not only have a Savior of high degree, but would you have him notwithstanding his exaltation and dignity, to be made also of low degree, that he might have experience of afflictions and trials, that he might learn by the things that he has suffered, to pity them that suffer and are tempted?
- And has not Christ been made low enough for you?
- And has he not suffered enough?
- Would you not only have him have experience of the afflictions you now suffer, but also of that amazing wrath that you fear hereafter, that he may know how to pity those that are in danger of it, and afraid of it? This Christ has had experience of, which experience gave him a greater sense of it, a thousand times, than you have, or any man living has.
- Would you have your Savior to be one that is near to God, that so his mediation might be prevalent with him?
- And can you desire him to be nearer to God than Christ is, who is his only begotten Son, of the same essence with the Father?
- And would you not have him near to God, but also near to you, that you may have free access to him?
- And would you have him nearer to you than to be in the same nature, and not only so, but united to you by a spiritual union, so close as to be fitly represented by the union of the wife to the husband, of the branch to the vine, of the member to the head, yea, so as to be looked upon as one, and called one spirit? For so he will be united to you, if you accept of him.
- Would you have a Savior that has given some great and extraordinary testimony of mercy and love to sinners, by something that he has done, as well as by what he says?
- And can you think, or conceive of greater things than Christ has done?
- Was it not a great thing for him, who was God, to take upon him human nature, to be not only God, but man thenceforward to all eternity?
- But would you look upon suffering for sinners to be a yet greater testimony of love to sinners, than merely doing, though it be never so extraordinary a thing that he has done?
- And would you desire that a Savior should suffer more than Christ has suffered for sinners?
- What is there wanting, or what would you add if you could, to make him more fit to be your Savior?
For a good entry into the life and preaching of Jonathan Edwards, consider reading, Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God, by Dane Ortlund.
Last year John Piper posted an article, “Parents, Require Obedience of Your Children.” In the eight months or so since I’ve read this, we’ve tried to implement the nine principles that Piper offers in the parenting of our children. Each time we discipline our children (who are all under the age of 6), we ask:
1) Why am I about to discipline you? (Because I love you)
– and –
2) What would happen if I didn’t require your obedience and discipline you? (You would be on a trajectory of greater disobedience and rebellion)
In these formative years of childhood, we are trying to cultivate quick obedience from our children to their human authorities, so that when they are no longer children, they will, Lord willing and by his grace, quickly obey their heavenly authority.
I am writing this to plead with Christian parents to require obedience of their children. I am moved to write this by watching young children pay no attention to their parents’ requests, with no consequences. Parents tell a child two or three times to sit or stop and come or go, and after the third disobedience, they laughingly bribe the child. This may or may not get the behavior desired.
Last week, I saw two things that prompted this article. One was the killing of 13-year-old Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa, California, by police who thought he was about to shoot them with an assault rifle. It was a toy gun. What made this relevant was that the police said they told the boy two times to drop the gun. Instead he turned it on them. They fired.
I do not know the details of that situation or if Andy even heard the commands. So I can’t say for sure he was insubordinate. So my point here is not about young Lopez himself. It’s about a “what if.” What if he heard the police, and simply defied what they said? If that is true, it cost him his life. Such would be the price of disobeying proper authority.
I witnessed such a scenario in the making on a plane last week. I watched a mother preparing her son to be shot.
I was sitting behind her and her son, who may have been seven years old. He was playing on his digital tablet. The flight attendant announced that all electronic devices should be turned off for take off. He didn’t turn it off. The mother didn’t require it. As the flight attendant walked by, she said he needed to turn it off and kept moving. He didn’t do it. The mother didn’t require it.
One last time, the flight attendant stood over them and said that the boy would need to give the device to his mother. He turned it off. When the flight attendant took her seat, the boy turned his device back on, and kept it on through the take off. The mother did nothing. I thought to myself, she is training him to be shot by police.
Click here to read Piper’s nine principles and how the gospel transforms obedience.
Russell Moore over at Desiring God has written about the culture of outrage that has seized cable news, social media, and even our churches. As he writes, Christians should be starkly different than our unbelieving neighbors in the ways we act and react, for we are not without hope:
We must learn to lament, because once we no longer lament we turn instead to anger, outrage, blame, and quarrelsomeness. The louder and more frantic the anger, the more we feel as though we’re really showing conviction and grit.
This is made all the more problematic when it’s easy to make a living out of perpetual rage, even if the only media outlet one has is a Twitter or Facebook feed. After all, nothing signals conviction and passion in this age more than the art of being theatrically offended.
But the gospel teaches otherwise.
The problem with carnal anger and outrage is that it is one of the easiest sins to commit, all the while convincing oneself that it’s faithfulness. After all, how many angry, divisive, perpetually outraged Christians are convinced that they are Old Testament prophets, calling down fire from heaven?
The prophets teach us that there is, in fact, a time to call down fire from heaven. But you had better make sure that God has called you to direct that fire to fall. If not, then you’re acting like a prophet all right — a prophet of Baal, screaming and raving for fire that never falls (1 Kings 18:29). No doubt, James and John believed themselves to be well within the spirit of Elijah when they wanted to call down fire from heaven on the Christ-rejecting villages of Samaria. Jesus wanted nothing to do with that spirit.
Rage itself is no sign of authority, prophetic or otherwise.
Read the rest here.
There are many ways in which we should not be like babies, but there is at least one way in which we must. In Sunday’s sermon, “Like Newborn Infants…,” Ryan drew out the comparison that Peter makes between infants and Christians 1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk [of the Word].” As those who are born of the Word, Christians should cultivate and feed an appetite for the Scriptures so that we long for Scripture as much as we really do need it.
Here’s how C.H. Spurgeon put it:
“Oh, that you and I might get into the very heart of the Word of God, and get that Word into ourselves! As I have seen the silkworm eat into the leaf, and consume it, so ought we to do with the Word of the Lord—not crawl over its surface, but eat right into it till we have taken it into our in most parts. It is idle merely to let the eye glance over the words, or to recollect the poetical expressions, or the historic facts; but it is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible.”
If you have struggled with Bible reading in general, read Ryan’s article, “How’s Your Bible Reading Going?,” for a reflection on some of the reasons we have a hard time sticking with the Bible. Then, pick up the Bible and feed, remembering Jesus’ own words, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
The good news of the gospel is that, in Christ, we are no longer condemned for our sin (Romans 8:1). It is also good news that we are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:17). Here’s a good word on the gospel’s life transforming purposes in our lives:
I would like to buy about three dollars worth of gospel, please.
Not too much—just enough to make me happy, but not so much that I get addicted.
I don’t want so much gospel that I learn to really hate covetousness and lust.
I certainly don’t want so much that I start to love my enemies, cherish self-denial, and contemplate missionary service in some alien culture.
I want ecstasy, not repentance; I want transcendence, not transformation.
I would like to be cherished by some nice, forgiving, broad-minded people, but I myself don’t want to love those from different races—especially if they smell.
I would like enough gospel to make my family secure and my children well behaved, but not so much that I find my ambitions redirected or my giving too greatly enlarged.
I would like about three dollars worth of the gospel, please. (pp. 12-13)
—D. A. Carson, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians (Baker, 1996)
HT: Justin Taylor
In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul exhorts Christians to grow in godliness, and gives them confidence that they can do so on the basis of God’s work in them:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
We see the same pairing of our labor and God’s work in Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
God surely is at work in us. And that’s why it is possible for us to work out our own salvation. In other words, the sovereignty of God at work in our lives does not preclude our laboring to grow in Christlikeness.
This truth brings us to the popular saying, “let go and let God.” It sounds good. It sounds dependent. It sounds humble. But it misunderstands the Bible’s teaching on how we grow. Ironically, the result is a cycle of self-dependence in the struggle to “let go and let God.”
Recently, Justin Taylor posted part of J.I. Packer’s forward to John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin. To introduce Owen’s work, Packer rehearses the influence of what is called, Keswick theology, on the early years of his Christian walk.
I was converted—that is, I came to the Lord Jesus Christ in a decisive commitment, needing and seeking God’s pardon and acceptance, conscious of Christ’s redeeming love for me and his personal call to me —in my first university term, a little more than half a century ago. The group nurturing me was heavily pietistic in style, and left me in no doubt that the most important thing for me as a Christian was the quality of my walk with God: in which, of course, they were entirely right.
. . . Whether what I thought I heard was what was really being said may be left an open question, but it seemed to me that what I was being told was this. There are two sorts of Christians, first-class and second-class, ‘spiritual’ and ‘carnal’ (a distinction drawn from the King James rendering of 1 Cor. 3:1-3). The former know sustained peace and joy, constant inner confidence, and regular victory over temptation and sin, in a way that the latter do not. Those who hope to be of use to God must become ‘spiritual’ in the stated sense. As a lonely, nervy, adolescent introvert whose new-found assurance had not changed his temperament overnight, I had to conclude that I was not ‘spiritual’ yet. But I wanted to be useful to God. So what was I to do?
‘Let go, and let God’
There is a secret, I was told, of rising from carnality to spirituality, a secret mirrored in the maxim: Let go, and let God. . . . The secret had to do with being Spirit-filled. The Spirit-filled person, it was said, is taken out of the second half of Romans 7, understood (misunderstood, I would now maintain) as an analysis of constant moral defeat through self-reliance, into Romans 8, where he walks confidently in the Spirit and is not so defeated. The way to be Spirit-filled, so I gathered, was as follows.
First, one must deny self. Did not Jesus require self-denial from his disciples (Luke 9:23)? Yes, but clearly what he meant was the negating of carnal self — that is to say self-will, self-assertion, self-centredness and self-worship, the Adamic syndrome in human nature, the egocentric behaviour pattern, rooted in anti-God aspirations and attitudes, for which the common name is original sin. What I seemed to be hearing, however, was a call to deny personal self, so that I could be taken over by Jesus Christ in such a way that my present experience of thinking and willing would become something different, an experience of Christ himself living in me, animating me, and doing the thinking and willing for me. Put like that, it sounds more like the formula of demon-possession than the ministry of the indwelling Christ according to the New Testament. But in those days I knew nothing about demon-possession, and what I have just put into words seemed to be the plain meaning of ‘I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me’ (Gal. 2:20, KJV).
. . . The rest of the secret was bound up in the double-barrelled phrase consecration and faith. Consecration meant total self-surrender, laying one’s all on the altar, handing over every part of one’s life to the lordship of Jesus. Through consecration one would be emptied of self, and the empty vessel would then automatically be filled with the Spirit so that Christ’s power within one would be ready for use. With consecration was to go faith, which was explained as looking to the indwelling Christ moment by moment, not only to do one’s thinking and choosing in and for one, but also to do one’s fighting and resisting of temptation. Rather then meet temptation directly (which would be fighting in one’s own strength), one should hand it over to Christ to deal with, and look to him to banish it. Such was the consecration-and-faith technique as I understood it—heap powerful magic, as I took it to be, the precious secret of what was called victorious living.
But what happened? I scraped my inside, figuratively speaking, to ensure that my consecration was complete, and laboured to ‘let go and let God’ when temptation made its presence felt. . . . The technique was not working. Why not? Well, since the teaching declared that everything depends on consecration being total, the fault had to lie in me. So I must scrape my inside again to find whatever maggots of unconsecrated selfhood still lurked there. I became fairly frantic.
And then (thank God) the group was given an old clergyman’s library, and in it was an uncut set of Owen, and I cut the pages of volume VI more or less at random, and read Owen on mortification—and God used what the old Puritan had written three centuries before to sort me out.
John Owen helped Packer to grasp the Bible’s teaching on how Christians can fight temptation and grow in maturity. You can read John Owen’s, The Mortification of Sin, in Overcoming Sin and Temptation, a collection of three of Owen’s works on the subject of the Christian’s fight against sin.
For a summary and history of Keswick theology, read Kevin DeYoung’s interview with Andy Naselli, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the subject. For an unpacking of the Bible’s teaching on how Christians grow, listen to Ryan’s seminar, The Gospel for Christians.