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Archive for October, 2012

Spreading the Joy of Calvinism this Reformation Day (One Free Ebook at a Time)

The Joy of Calvinism

The Reformation was about reclaiming a number of truths about Scripture and about God himself. Although the Reformation is commonly associated with Martin Luther and his 95 Theses, John Calvin, a pastor from Geneva, Switzerland, was also instrumental in the task. This mighty reformer is known for pointing believers to the majesty and sovereignty of God.

In celebration of Reformation Day, we’d like to share The Joy of Calvinism with you. In his book, Greg Forster encourages Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike to know God’s personal, unconditional, irresistible, and unbreakable love.

To download the free ebook of The Joy of Calvinism, click on the following format options.

  • Download ebook as a PDF file
  • Download ebook as an EPUB file [Best on Nook, Sony Reader, and Apple iBooks (iOS devices)]
  • Download ebook as a PRC (.MOBi compatible) file [Best on Kindle applications]

The download links will be live through the end of the day 10/31.

October 31, 2012 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Author: Ted Cockle @ 9:25 am | (18) Comments »

Grace’s Humbling Necessity

In his new book Grace Transforming, Phil Ryken writes:

“We begin at the beginning, with our desperate need for grace. From the moment we came into the world as helpless babies, right up until this exact second, we are utterly and completely dependent on the grace of God for everything we have, including life itself. What is more, if we have any hope of life after death—eternal life—it is only because of God’s free and undeserved grace for us in Jesus Christ.

Until we understand this, it is impossible for us to have the relationship with God that we truly need. But when we do understand this—when we understand our absolute need for Jesus—then his grace changes everything.

Past Experience, Present Need

Our need for grace may seem obvious at the beginning of the Christian life, when we first put our trust in Jesus. Then we know that if there is anything we contribute to our salvation, it is only the sin that necessitates a Savior. According to the good news of our salvation, Jesus died and rose again so that in him we would receive forgiveness for our sins and enter into everlasting fellowship with the true and living God. We are not saved by anything that we have done, therefore, but only by what Jesus has done. It is all by his grace, not by our works.

Yet grace is not something we leave behind once we decide to follow Jesus. Grace is our present need as well as our past experience. The gospel is not just the way into the Christian life; it is also the way on in the Christian life. We continually need to remember that God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:9).

In my first chapel address as president of Wheaton College I said something that took some people by surprise, maybe because it’s something that many Christians forget. I said that I don’t know of a college anywhere in the world that needs the gospel more than Wheaton does.

In saying this, I did not mean to imply that there aren’t a lot of Christians at Wheaton. In fact, every student, every professor, and every staff member on campus makes a personal profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising to find unbelievers on campus: in most Christian communities there are at least some people who do not yet have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

This is not what I meant, however, when I said that Wheaton College needs the gospel. I meant that the gospel is for Christians every bit as much as it is for non-Christians. We never outgrow our need for God’s life-changing grace—the gospel of the cross and the empty tomb.”

 

What others are saying about this book:

“Hebrews 13:9 says, ‘It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace.’ As a church planter, I needed the truths in this book to strengthen my weary, performance driven, approval hungry, externally oriented, and self-righteous heart. My pharisaical heart was exposed, and I found myself praying, ‘God, be mercy-seated to me, the sinner.’”
-David Choi, Lead Planter, Church of the Beloved, Chicago, Illinois; International Speaker

“To grasp the fullness of God’s grace is to come humbly to Christ in empty-handed spiritual poverty. That alone may be the greatest challenge for any Christian! And it’s why I so appreciate Dr. Philip Ryken’s extraordinary insights in his new book, Grace Transforming. He points us to Jesus Christ in all his saving power, reminding us that without the Savior we are nothing and have nothing. If you are seeking a fresh look at your Lord and your own desperate need of him, this is the book for you!”
-Joni Eareckson Tada, Founder and CEO, Joni and Friends International Disability Center

 

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October 30, 2012 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Author: Lindsay Tully @ 7:00 am | 0 Comments »

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 »