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Archive for August, 2011

R.C. Sproul on Human Tragedies and Divine Purposes

Jesus had this discussion with his disciples in John 9:

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth (John 9:1).

Let’s stop right there. Let’s say you are a mother. You carry your baby to term. You’re excited in anticipation of the birth of this child. But soon after the baby is born, you discover that he is blind. Few people would respond to such an experience with joy or would react to that experience as a visitation of divine blessing. In a word, the parents in their disappointment, in all probability, would see that event, at least for them and for their child, as a personal tragedy. And certainly people would be inclined to ask, “Why, God, did You let this happen?”

The disciples of Jesus met a blind person when he was a grown adult. They knew that he had been born blind, suffering total blindness for many years. If anything seems senseless, it is the experience of a man born blind. So the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2).

Jesus immediately recognized that the question posed to Him committed a logical fallacy, for which we have a technical name. It is the fallacy of the false dilemma, sometimes called the either/or fallacy. The fallacy is committed when a person reduces possibilities or options to two and only two, when in fact there may be more possibilities. There are situations when the possibilities can legitimately and rationally be reduced to two. For instance, either there is a God or there is not a God. There’s no third alternative. It’s one or the other. You are either going to die or you are not going to die. But in this case, the disciples rushed to judgment and reduced the options to two when there was a third option they hadn’t considered. So Jesus, when He heard the question stated this way, answered by saying, “Neither.”

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3).

This man had been born blind so many years before, so that, on this particular day, God’s kingdom could be manifested through his healing. God’s purpose here was to demonstrate who Jesus was. And to this day, 2,000 years later, that blind man, who presumably is in heaven today and perhaps has been joined by his children and grand- children, sits with them and talks about how God used his blindness to demonstrate the identity of Christ. He discovered that his tragic condition was by no means senseless. It had a divine purpose that has borne witness to Christ through all history.

Excerpt modified from When Worlds Collide: Where is God When Terror Strikes by R. C. Sproul

August 31, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life,Trials / Suffering | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 12:07 pm | 1 Comment »

More Than a Momentary Defense Against Temptation

Romans 8:5-8 says: For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Setting the mind on the Spirit is not just about what you do in the moment of temptation. It is a reorienting of your thoughts, your desires, and your motivations, so that a Spirit-oriented focus becomes the established pattern of your life.

It might be helpful to imagine your thoughts as scheming inmates who are plotting a jailbreak. (The tendency of your thoughts to jailbreak is one aspect of the flesh). Your thoughts need to be trained so that they stay on the things the Spirit produces, such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22–23). Normally, your thoughts will try to escape toward jealousy, envy, anger, sensuality, immorality, and even idolatry (Gal. 5:19–21). But you have been called, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, to “take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

In daily life this means that:

  • You talk to God throughout the day.
  • You fill your mind with songs of worship and you keep directing them upward.
  • You let your thoughts dwell on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8).
  • You actively, by the Spirit, reject wrong thoughts as they come in.

Sometimes as I’m walking, a thought will pass through my mind that I know doesn’t please the Lord. I’ll immediately and suddenly say “stop it!” to that thought. In other words, I rebuke whatever thoughts are not pleasing to the Lord and redirect my thoughts so that they are once again captive to the obedience of Christ.

Adapted from Walking in the Spirit by Kenneth Berding. Learn more or read a free sample chapter.

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August 30, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life / Doctrine,Sanctification,The Christian Life | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 8:37 am | 0 Comments »

Three Purposes of God in Your Suffering

It’s a timeless question: “God, why are you letting this happen to me?” We know that suffering is a result of sin and a fallen world, but that usually feels inadequate when we’re in anguish. In 2 Corinthians 1:3–11, Paul lays out three divine purposes that can bring helpful perspective to the suffering Christian:

  1. To comfort others (v. 3–7). This not only means that we will be able to comfort those who experience similar afflictions as ourselves, but we can comfort those in all afflictions as God has comforted us. What a believer learns experiencing one kind of suffering is very transferable to other types of suffering. God’s sovereignty, trust, joy, faith apply to every type of suffering.
  2. To learn our own inadequacies (v. 8-10). Many times suffering will do this for us. We realize that we simply cannot depend on our own strength. People learn about their own insufficiency and are left with only one alternative, namely, to trust in God.
  3. To give thanks to God (v. 11). Having a brush with suffering can make a believer tremendously thankful to the Lord for his provision in getting them through the situation, providing comfort, or teaching a lesson. Suffering can also serve as a reality check, reminding us of all God has done for us that we have taken for granted.

Excerpt modified from Why, O God?

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August 29, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life,Trials / Suffering | Author: Crossway Staff @ 12:16 pm | 0 Comments »

“Just Say No” to Sin?

Guest post by Kenneth Berding, author of Walking in the Spirit

Do you remember the “just say no to drugs” campaign waged a number of years ago? (The slogan “just say no” continues to be used in schools across the country). The assumption of the slogan was that kids could simply say “no” whenever faced with temptation. Is that true? Can we simply say “no” whenever we are tempted?

There is a significant difference between a believer and an unbeliever who tries to answer this question. An unbeliever is utterly stuck in sin. Granted, the unbeliever can clean up a behavior he views as wrong, but is that really house cleaning? Such “cleaning” is no more than moving piles from one room to another so the guests can’t see the mess.The unbeliever’s attempt to overcome sin reminds me of the children’s arcade game where you have to hit with a huge mallet whatever blue furry head pops up. The problem with trying to deal with temptation simply by hitting it down is that the moment an unbeliever hits one popping-up head, another pops up behind or in front of him. The unbeliever simply does not have the means by which to consistently overcome sin because he or she has not been indwelt by the Spirit.

But one who has come into a right relationship with God by receiving God’s gift of grace through faith and who has been indwelt by the Spirit of God has been given whatever is needed to overcome a given temptation. “Whatever is needed” is no less than the presence and power of God’s own Spirit! And this is what we have received if we truly know him (Rom 8:9-11).So how should we cooperate with what the Holy Spirit is trying to do to sanctify us? Galatians 5:16 offers a straightforward answer: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Walking by the Spirit and carrying out the desires of the flesh are mutually exclusive ideas; you are either walking by the Spirit or carrying out the desires of the flesh. You can’t do both at the same time. In short, you need to learn how to walk in the Spirit.

Simply saying “no” to sin is like trying to remove all of the air from a cup by covering it with a plastic lid and trying to suck out the air with a straw. You can’t get it all out, even if the lid is well sealed—which it isn’t if you are an unbeliever. But if your goal really is to remove all the air from a cup, fill it up with water and you can be certain that all the air will be out! (Side note: water is one of many biblical metaphors for the Spirit, John 7:38-39). If you really want to overcome sin, then learn the pattern of living life in step with the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:16; Rom 8:4), being filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18), setting your mind on the things of the Spirit (Rom 8:5-8). The result of such “walking” will be a realization of the power you need to put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit (Rom 8:12-13).

There is more to be said about overcoming sin than what I’ve written here, but today I wanted to focus on this one key component. It is a vital message for a church culture that tends toward simplistic moralism and does not often stress what the Bible accentuates about overcoming sin by walking in step with the Spirit.

Learn more about Walking in the Spirit or read a sample chapter.

Kenneth Berding is (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary) is professor of New Testament at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University and author of numerous books. Before coming to Talbot, Dr. Berding was a church planter in the Middle East and taught at Nyack College just north of New York City. He has a heart for God and ministry, and has written many worship songs and served as a worship pastor in local church ministry.

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August 23, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life / Doctrine,Sanctification,The Christian Life,The Holy Spirit,Theology | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 6:00 am | (8) Comments »

Packing Light? Don’t Forget Your ESV Study Bible!

We’ve heard some good-natured ribbing the past couple years on the ESV Study Bible, exemplified by this tweet from @rickmead: “@drmoore BP Oil cap rumored to be made of ESV study bible – I believe it.” Or this one from @pbethancourt: “Tornado warnings in Louisville. Everyone @sbts should seek shelter under the nearest ESV Study Bible immediately.”

If you’re nodding your head in agreement the title of this post may seem odd. While impressive in dimensions, weight, and word count, the ESV Study Bible is a versatile resource to have on hand while traveling, especially when you’re limited in what you can carry.

And with the new ESV Study Bible, Personal Size, we’re creating editions that are even more portable.

Here’s a photo of the ESV Study Bible, Personal Size on a hill overlooking Jerusalem. Learn more about the ESV Study Bible, Personal Size or see how it compares the original ESV Study Bible.

August 22, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible News,ESV Study Bible,News | Author: Andrew Tebbe @ 1:00 pm | (8) Comments »