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Archive for October, 2008

The Lessons of the Reformers

In honor of Reformation Day today, here’s a selection from Stephen J. Nichols:

The things that matter most to us all center on the gospel. The church simply can’t afford to forget the lesson of the Reformation about the utter supremacy of the gospel in everything the church does. Elie Wiesel, Nobel Prize winner and Holocaust survivor, has dedicated his life to bear­ing witness to the unimaginable horrors and atrocities of the Holocaust. He speaks of the unspeakable. And he does so because humanity cannot afford to forget the lesson of the Holocaust. It is far too easy to forget, especially when forgetting eases our conscience. History, however, com­pels us to remember. In studying the Reformation, we remember what the church is all about, and we remember how easy it is for the church to lose its grip on the gospel.

If he said it once, Martin Luther said it a hundred times: “The church’s true treasure is the gospel.” Luther lived at a time when this true treasure had been traded for something worth far less. As a monk, he stood in a long line of succession that stretched back through centuries of theologians and churchmen who had heaped up layer upon layer of extrabiblical teaching and practice, obscuring the church’s true treasure of the gospel. Like scaffolding that surrounds and hides the beauty of a building, these layers needed to be torn down so the object that mat­tered could be seen without hindrance and without obstruction. Luther, with a little help from his friends, tore down the scaffolding, revealing the beauty and wonder of the gospel for the church once again. Luther called his own (re)discovery of the gospel a “breakthrough” (durchbruch in German).

In the process he brought about an entire revolution of church life, practice, and doctrine. Many of the doctrines that we Protestants take for granted find their crystallized expression in the thought of the Reformers. Theologians speak of the Solas, from the Latin word sola, meaning “alone.” Usually we list five Solas:

• 1. Sola Scriptura, meaning “Scripture alone”: The Bible is the sole and final authority in all matters of life and godliness. The church looks to the Bible as its ultimate authority.

• 2. and 3. Sola Gratia, meaning “grace alone,” and Sola Fide, meaning “faith alone”: Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. It is not by works; we come to Christ empty-handed. This is the great doctrine of justification by faith alone, the cornerstone of the Reformation.

• 4. Solus Christus, meaning “Christ alone”: There is no other mediator between God and sinful humanity than Christ. He alone, based on his work on the cross, grants access to the Father.

• 5. Soli Deo Gloria, meaning “the glory of God alone”: All of life can be lived for the glory of God; everything we do can and should be done for his glory. The Reformers called this the doctrine of vocation, viewing our work and all the roles we play in life as a calling.

These doctrines form the bedrock of all that we believe, and the Reformers gave these doctrines their finest expression. In addition to the doctrines we routinely believe, the Reformers also laid out for us many of the practices of the church that we take for granted. The church had lost sight of the sermon, celebrating the Mass instead. The Reformers returned the sermon to the church service. In the case of the Puritans in England, they returned it with a vengeance.

Congregations didn’t sing in the centuries leading up to the Reformation. In fact, Jan Hus, one of the pre-Reformation reformers, was condemned as a heretic for, among other things, having his congregation sing. Luther and the other Reformers restored congregational singing to the church. Knowing this should humble us every time we sing in church. We should offer our heartfelt thanks to Luther, and we should remember what Hus gave for the privilege.

Excerpt taken from The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World by Stephen J. Nichols

http://www.monkandamallet.com/

October 31, 2008 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Church History,Holidays,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life,The Gospel,The Reformation,Theology | Author: Crossway Staff @ 9:37 am | 1 Comment »

“Suffering Creates Teachable Moments for Gospel Reception”

John Piper recently wrote about how “bad times are good for missions”.

His insights compelled me to share a passage from the recently released Suffering and the Goodness of God, the first volume in Crossway’s Theology in Community series, edited by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson.

The following excerpt is from the chapter entitled “Christ and Crocodiles: Suffering and the Goodness of God in Contemporary Perspective” by Robert Yarbrough. In this chapter, Dr. Yarbrough lays out eleven theses on suffering’s significance in a world created and ultimately redeemed by God. This is from Thesis 5: Suffering Creates Teachable Moments for Gospel Reception:

Jesus did not evade the issue of suffering and neither should we. One day as he was teaching (Luke 13:1–5), he was informed of Pilate’s murder of some Galileans who were in the very act of worshiping God. We do not know all Jesus said. But we know he leveraged the shock of the hour into an object lesson, urging listeners to make a life change. He even took it a step further by pointing to a building collapse that claimed the lives of eighteen people. The lesson he drew from this tragedy was the same: Repent, lest you too perish!

There is much more to say about suffering than “Consider your ways and turn to God!” But Jesus reminds us of that standing imperative. If we dare deepen our comprehension of suffering vis-à-vis God’s goodness—cognizant that “he who increases knowledge increases sorrow” (Eccles.1:18)—we do well to seek ways to emulate Jesus’ acknowledgment of suffering as an occasion for human affirmation of God.

We have already argued that this does not make suffering in itself a good thing (Thesis 1 above). But it does encourage us to enlarge our outlook to incorporate suffering into our view of what it means to come to Christ and then to honor and serve him. We do not trust in him so that we can evade suffering, nor do we present Christ as an assured means of escape from hard times. Rather we trust so that in good times and bad our lives will reflect fidelity to him and the courage that Jesus modeled and imparts. The same suffering that hardens some or drives them to faithless despair can be an occasion for the bold move of hope in Christ in spite of suffering’s disincentives to affirm and believe in God.

We do well to remain intent on enlarging our spiritual understanding so that we become tougher and wiser when it comes to absorbing and responding to suffering. As we do so we will become more effective messengers of the gospel to others whose sufferings may likewise be the occasion of making the right choice when faced with the question: should I let adversity drive me away from the Bible’s testimony to God’s good purposes and eternal promise, or should I believe that the message of Jesus and the cross are still adequate grounds for personal faith in him? It is often suffering that makes this anguished but fruitful outcry unavoidable and that also paves the way for the best, though usually not the easiest, response.

Here are the eleven theses Dr. Yarbrough teaches through this excellent chapter:

  1. Suffering is Neither Good nor Completely Explicable
  2. Suffering in Itself Is No Validation of Religious Truth
  3. Accounting for Suffering Is Forced upon Us by Our Times
  4. Suffering May Be a Stumbling Block to Gospel Reception
  5. Suffering Creates Teachable Moments for Gospel Reception
  6. Suffering Will Bring Glory to God in the Lives of Believers Subjected to It
  7. Suffering Is the Price of Much Fruitful Ministry
  8. Suffering Is Often the Penalty for Gospel Reception
  9. Suffering Nobly Borne Testifies to God’s Goodness
  10. Suffering Unites Us with Other Sinners We Seek to Serve
  11. Suffering Establishes True Fellowship among Christians

Learn more about Suffering and the Goodness of God here.

October 29, 2008 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life,Trials / Suffering | Author: James Kinnard @ 10:16 am | 0 Comments »

Total Church Conference Audio

Justin Taylor writes:

The Audio for The Total Church North America Conference 2008 have now been uploaded. Total Church is a way of thinking about church and mission in the 21st century which sees the local Christian community as integral to Christian living and Christian mission. The Christian life is ‘total church’ – our identity is communal.

Here’s a list of the sessions, complete with links:

Main Sessions

Breakout Sessions

HT: Justin Taylor

October 24, 2008 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Church Leadership,Church Ministry,Community,Discipleship,Life / Doctrine,The Church,Theology | Author: Crossway Staff @ 11:13 am | 1 Comment »

The ESV Study Bible Releases Today!

Crossway Books & Bibles is pleased to announce the release of the much-anticipated ESV Study Bible.

The ESV Study Bible was created to help people understand the Bible in a deeper way—to understand the timeless truth of God’s Word as a powerful, compelling, life-changing reality.

The ESV Study Bible combines the best and most recent evangelical Christian scholarship with the ESV Bible text. The result is the most comprehensive study Bible ever published—with 2,752 pages of extensive, accessible Bible resources. You can learn more here.

This short video features Dr. J. I. Packer, Theological Editor of ESV Study Bible, talking about his role in the project:

Online Study Bible

The ESV Online Study Bible is also now available. This site has special features that can be unlocked with a code included in every print edition of the ESV Study Bible. We are making the Gospel According to Matthew available for free so you can try the site while you wait for your print ESV Study Bible to arrive.

Recent Endorsements

“It’s always exciting when a new book immediately takes off with our customers. When that book is a Bible, excitement turns to grateful joy. Our gratitude to God, Crossway Books, and all the ESV Study Bible scholars for enabling us to make the Word of God, in the pages of this new Bible, by far the fastest selling new product in the history of Westminster Bookstore.” – Mark Traphagen, Web Sales Manager for Westminster Bookstore

“Early results indicate that this is going to be a very key item for Mardel this Christmas season.” – Dylan Hillhouse, Bible buyer for Mardel

“I believe the ESV Study Bible is the world’s best single-volume resource for reading, studying, and teaching the Bible.” – Philip Ryken, Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia

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Visit www.esvstudybible.org to view sample pages and an overview of the online companion or for more information.

October 15, 2008 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible News,ESV Study Bible,News | Author: Crossway Staff @ 12:33 pm | 0 Comments »

John Piper Interviewed on “Spectacular Sins”

John Piper’s latest book, Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ, was published last month. This book offers a penetrating look at what God wants us to know about his sovereignty and Christ’s supremacy in light of sin and tragedy.  Spectacular Sins will bolster your trust in the utter sovereignty of God and strengthen your confidence, preparing you for the inevitable trials to come.

You can now download a 40 minute interview with John Piper on Spectacular Sins.

In this interview, Dr. Piper explains why he dedicated the book to Joseph, what he means when he says that “wimpy worldviews make wimpy Christians”, why God allows Satan to live if he’s completely sovereign, and more.

October 9, 2008 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Book News,News | Author: Crossway Staff @ 1:40 pm | (2) Comments »