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Archive for October, 2012

Do Not be Paralyzed by Your Weaknesses

In honor of Reformation Day this week, here’s a practical post about “gutsy guilt” in Martin Luther.

By John Piper, The Legacy of Sovereign Joy

Oh, how many times we are tempted to lick our wounded pride and shrink from some good work because of the wounds of criticism—especially when the criticism is true! A sense of being weak and flawed can paralyze the will and take away all passion for a worthy cause. Comparison with others can be a crippling occupation. When it comes to heroes, there is an easy downward slip from the desire for imitation to the discouragement of intimidation to the deadness of resignation. But the mark of humility and faith and maturity is to stand against the paralyzing effect of famous saints. The triumphs they achieved over their own flagrant sins and flaws should teach us not to be daunted by our own.

God never yet used a flawless man, save one. Nor will he ever, until Jesus comes again.

In the case of our weaknesses, we must learn with the apostle, and the swans who sang his Song after him, that the grace of Christ is sufficient, and that his strength is made perfect in weakness. We must learn from the Scripture and from the history of weak victors to say, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The suffering of weak saints can make them sink with defeat or make them strong. From Paul, Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, we can learn to say, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10, KJV).

In the case of our flaws and our sins, we must learn gutsy guilt. This is what we see, especially in Luther. The doctrine of justification by faith alone did not make him indifferent to practical godliness, but it did make him bold in grace when he stumbled. And well it should, as Micah 7:8-9 declares: “Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me out to the light, and I will see His righteousness.”

Even when we have “sinned against him”—even when we “bear the indignation of the LORD”—we say to the accusing and gloating adversary, “Do not rejoice over me. . . . Though I fall I will rise.” The Lord himself, who frowns in chastisement, will be my irresistible advocate and he will triumph in court for me. He will plead my case. He will be my light. The cloud will pass. And I will stand in righteousness, not my own, and do the work he has given me to do. Oh, let us learn the secret of gutsy guilt from the steadfastness of sinful saints who were not paralyzed by their imperfections. God has a great work for everyone to do. Do it with all your might—yes, and even with all your flaws and all your sins. And in the obedience of this faith, magnify the glory of his grace, and do not grow weary in doing good.

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October 29, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life / Doctrine,Sanctification,The Christian Life | Author: Lindsay Tully @ 7:00 am | 0 Comments »

Inerrancy Part 3: Why is Inerrancy So Often Under Attack?

Even those of us who love God’s word and defend the inerrancy of it are sometimes confused by its perceived discrepancies. Vern Poythress, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary and author of Inerrancy and Worldview and Inerrancy and the Gospels, fields a few frequently asked questions about the trustworthiness of the Bible, helping us better understand and communicate these concepts.

Read part 1 and part 2 of this series.

Why is the concept of inerrancy so often under attack? How do you address it?

I am not sure of all the reasons for the attacks, but let me mention some that seem to me to be at work.

The most basic reason is sin. We fail to trust God. And this takes the form of not trusting what he says. We dishonor God and have “other gods before” him when our trust wanders among other sources. Defenders of inerrancy may be tempted to point the finger only at their opponents, but we should confess that this is a universal problem, because sin is universal. I may firmly believe in inerrancy, but still secretly want to twist the meaning of the Bible in my favor. I may firmly believe in inerrancy, but still be frightened and worried and not trust in God when I confront a family crisis or sickness or death. There is no easy remedy here. Christ died and was raised to take away sin–that is the fundamental resource for us. But we spend our whole lives as Christians growing in applying those truths to our lives, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In addition, the surrounding culture and the “subculture” of mainstream biblical scholarship may increase the difficulties and temptations. In the USA and Europe, the culture is losing its earlier Christian moorings, and becoming skeptical toward the Bible, skeptical of authority, skeptical of absolute claims, and confident in the pronouncements of science, biblical “experts,” postmodern insights, and the culturally dominant view of what makes sense. Believers who are disturbed by the trends may withdraw from interaction, but retain an uneasy feeling underneath that they do not dare to look at the difficulties, lest their own faith be destroyed. Other believers choose to interact robustly with the surrounding culture; but it takes real hardiness on their part to avoid being partly swayed by cultural assumptions. For instance, with part of their minds they may unwittingly swallow the modern view that history is bare events. Then, when they see the differences in the Gospels, they are tempted to compromise on inerrancy, even though they continue to hold on to the basics of faith. They may say to themselves, “Well, the Gospels in their core are still telling me about Jesus, and I can still believe in him, but I can’t simply trust the Gospels themselves, beyond a basic core, because they have this ‘human overlay’ of meaning.” Instead, they should reject this alternative and continue to have full confidence in the Gospels as divine words–they should see that the theological aspects in the Gospels give us aspects of divine meaning, and not a merely human “overlay” on allegedly “bare” events.

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October 24, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life / Doctrine,Scripture,Theology | Author: Crossway Author @ 7:00 am | 0 Comments »

Inerrancy Part 2: How do You Reconcile the Discrepancies in the Gospels?

Even those of us who love God’s Word and defend the inerrancy of it are sometimes confused by its perceived discrepancies. Vern Poythress, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary and author of Inerrancy and Worldview and Inerrancy and the Gospels, fields a few frequently asked questions about the trustworthiness of the Bible to help us better understand and communicate these concepts. Read part 1 of this series and be sure to stop by tomorrow for part 3.

What are the most prominent discrepancies in the gospels and how do you reconcile them?

What is most “prominent” may depend on the eye of the beholder. There are certainly many apparent discrepancies, some easy and some difficult. In some ways the most prominent apparent discrepancy consists in the differences between the Gospels in the presentation of the person of Christ himself (see previous answer). These differences can be quite dramatic for someone who has never noticed them before. But many believers have not found the differences to be much of a problem. They can see the compatibility. Jesus reveals the Father (as he does in the Gospel of John) precisely in his revealing himself as king of the Jews and Messiah (Matthew) and in revealing his compassion for the outcasts (Luke), a compassion that also reveals the heart of the Father (Luke 15). Jesus also reveals the Father by casting out demons and waging war on evil, as he does prominently in the Gospel of Mark.

When people have difficulty with these differences, the difficulty often comes from their assumptions about the meaning of historical events. The world around us often assumes that real “history” is “bare” events, and all interpretation of the meaning of events is a human addition. But this is a false, unbiblical view of the issue. God has a plan for all of history, and even the details of events are included in his comprehensive plan. There is meaning in his plan, even before the events actually take place. Through the Holy Spirit God empowered the Gospel writers to write in such a way as to show the meanings of events–meanings that were already there, not meanings “invented” by the writers. Each writer had his own human individuality, but God created and raised up the writer (Ps. 139) to be just who he was, and so the differences are what God wanted, not merely what each human writer wanted.  Thus what we read in each Gospel is “the real thing,” an aspect of God’s own understanding of the events, written for our benefit. We are not getting a merely human “overlay” on bare events.

Some more specialized principles for dealing with discrepancies can be developed, once we have in place an understanding of the relation of history to God. Any account of an event, even an account given to us by God himself, is going to be selective rather than exhaustive. We will never have every detail and every angle of meaning about every detail. That means that not mentioning a detail is not an error. The Gospel writers are constantly selective, and when we lay two Gospels side by side, we regularly see details in one Gospel that are omitted in another. We can include here also the issue of details about geographical location and chronology. Often one of the Gospels describes an event without indicating explicitly when and where it took place. It is easy to assume that it must have taken place in the same location as the previous episode, and that it must have taken place at a time immediately after the episode that immediately precedes it on the page. But both of those moves are merely assumptions. They go beyond what the Gospel actually says. Consequently, we should not feel disappointed when we find that one or more episodes in one of the Gospels seems to be “out of chronological order” when compared with another Gospel. We should also acknowledge that, even when we take all four Gospels together, they do not give us enough explicit information to enable us to construct for certain a complete chronology. Of course the Gospels do indicate in some cases that one event follows another chronologically. But they do not always give us such information. Again, we can acknowledge that God is wiser than we are. God may on occasion have empowered a Gospel writer to place together material that is related thematically, rather than chronologically, so that we can better appreciate the thematic ties. God has given us what we need, not what we think we need (e.g., a single, completely chronological account).

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October 23, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life / Doctrine,Scripture,Theology | Author: Crossway Author @ 7:00 am | 0 Comments »

Inerrancy Part 1: If God Wrote the Bible, Why Are There so Many Discrepancies?

Even those of us who love God’s word and defend the inerrancy of it are sometimes confused by its perceived discrepancies. Vern Poythress, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary and author of Inerrancy and Worldview and Inerrancy and the Gospels, fields a few frequently asked questions about the trustworthiness of the Bible, helping us better understand and communicate these concepts. Stick with us for this 3 part series.

If God wrote the Bible for our benefit, why are there so many discrepancies within it?

Some apparent discrepancies can be resolved, and the resolution gives us added riches. The four Gospels present us with different emphases in the way that they present the life of Christ.

  • Matthew emphasizes that Jesus is the king of the Jews.
  • Luke emphasizes Jesus’s compassion on outcasts.
  • John emphasizes the fellowship between the Father and the Son, and the Son as the one who reveals the Father.

The differences in emphasis can look like discrepancies if we come to the Bible with bad assumptions. But we are richer in our understanding of Christ when we use all four Gospels and understand that Christ is all of the things that all four Gospels portray.

But some things are more difficult. We have no guarantee from God that we as human beings will always have enough information to be able to “solve” everything to our satisfaction. Apparent discrepancies can challenge us partly because we don’t know why they are there. God is God, and he does not always show us why he does what he does. When he does not “explain himself,” it can be disturbing and frustrating to us. But such times can be opportunities as well—opportunities to remind ourselves that God does not exist for our benefit. He is under no obligation to tell us everything that we want to know. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29).

Right here we can already see one practical purpose for difficulties and challenges in the Bible. They can encourage our humility and sobriety. If we are seeking genuinely to serve God, God can use them to suppress our desire to complain and to think that we know better than he does how to run the world. The challenge is closely related to trust. Do we trust God on the basis of who he is, on the basis of what he has done through Christ, and on the basis of his promises, even when we cannot see why–even when, temporarily, he does not seem to be trustworthy or to be on our side? First Peter 1:6-7 talks about “trials,” in which faith is “tested by fire.” Intellectual challenges in the form of apparent discrepancies are really part of the broader biblical picture about trials. We modern people do not want to hear that–we want comfort, not trials. The Bible promises God’s comfort in the midst of trials (2 Cor. 1:4-6). Once we realize that God’s ways have this depth, we can see better what a walk by faith really means.

The Psalms show cases where saints wrestled over the apparent discrepancy between God’s goodness and the fact that he was not acting to deliver the righteous and punish the wicked (Pss. 10; 73; 89). They wrestled with a difficulty that had intellectual as well as spiritual and emotional dimensions. God called on Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Did that make sense? These wrestlings are ultimately linked to the sacrifice of Christ. Did Christ’s death “make sense”? Where was God when the only perfectly righteous man was dying an unjust death? In this one case the Bible does give us an answer, involving God’s eternal plan for Christ to be our sin-bearer. God calls on us to trust him elsewhere even when we cannot “check out” everything to our own satisfaction. Whether or not we succeed in solving a difficulty within this life, the difficulties should lead us to seek God and his wisdom.

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October 22, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life / Doctrine,Scripture,Theology | Author: Crossway Author @ 7:00 am | 0 Comments »

Video: Dangerous Calling

The video above conveys the importance of Paul Tripp’s most recent book, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry.

We’re very excited about how this book could serve many pastors and churches, but don’t just take our word for it:

“My friend Paul Tripp shines the spotlight of God’s Word into the heart of every pastor in this book, Dangerous Calling. If you have been in ministry for 20 minutes or 20 years, I commend it to you. Approach it prayerfully, passionately, and be prepared for the change God will make in your heart, life, and ministry.”
-James MacDonald, Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel; author, Vertical Church

“This book is ‘good’ in the same way that heart surgery is good. It’s painful and scary and as you read it you’ll be tempted to run away from the truth it contains. But it just might save your life. Pastors need this book. I know I really needed it. It challenged me and rebuked me even as it gave me hope and fresh faith in God for pastoral ministry.”
-Joshua Harris, Senior Pastor, Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, Maryland; author, Dug Down Deep

Gospel-centered and grace saturated to the core, Dangerous Calling is a must read for any pastor or pastor in training who needs to be encouraged by the reminder that Jesus came to do for us what we could never do for ourselves or others.”
-Tullian Tchividjian, Pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church; author, Jesus + Nothing = Everything

Dangerous Calling is a dangerous book to read. It is also a book every person in ministry should read. It will cut you to the heart and bring massive conviction if you read it with a humility and ask God to expose sins deeply hidden in your soul. It cuts, but it also provides biblical remedies for healing. I would love to put this book in the hand of every seminarian who walks on my campus.”
-Daniel L. Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Pastoral ministry is a dangerous calling, and this is a dangerous book. It will not leave you unchanged. Pastors need pastors, and by God’s grace, every page of this book will minister to your heart, your marriage, your family, and the people you serve—in ways you never thought you needed it. This book digs down into the inner recesses of our hearts to reveal our greatest idols and point to our greatest needs. ”
-Burk Parsons, Associate Pastor, Saint Andrew’s Chapel, Sanford, Florida; editor,Tabletalk magazine

Learn more about Dangerous Calling here.

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October 15, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Book News,News,Video | Author: Lindsay Tully @ 7:00 am | 0 Comments »