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Showing posts from June, 2013

Who gets the attention of Whom?: Getting Faith the Wrong Way Round in the Old Testament

Okay, so yesterday I promised an Old Testament example. Instead let me give you two. As I said yesterday, these are examples of what happens when people get the order of the relationship between faith, attention and blessing wrong.
Our first example is the more pleasant of the two – so pleasant in fact that’s it’s normally thought of as a positive story, and the sinful start tends to get skipped over. It’s found in 1 Kings 3. David has died and his son Solomon has become king, and 1 Kings 3 starts with these words: Now Solomon made a treaty with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and married Pharaoh’s daughter; then he brought her to the City of David until he had finished building his own house, and the house of the Lord, and the wall all around Jerusalem. Meanwhile the people sacrificed at the high places, because there was no house built for the name of the Lord until those days.  And Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except that he sacrificed and burned ince…

Repeat after me: "Faith isn't a work, so I won't turn it into one!"

Warning: This post may contain a high number of exclamation marks! If you are easily offended by such punctuation, you may want to look away now!

On Twitter I read the bold proclamation that “Our faith catches the attention of Jesus”! (Yes, I know, it was Twitter!) I was going to continue with the next sentence of this post something along the line of “but is that really true?”, but instead let me be more direct. That's not true at all! It might sound good (emphasis on the “might”), but it's absolute rubbish, and dangerous rubbish at that! For, if “our faith catches the attention of Jesus”, then faith has become a work!

That's why it's dangerous rubbish, because if “faith” is transformed into a “work” then we end up with salvation by works. But, you say, he said “our faith”, not “our works”! But the thing is, we can so empty the word “faith” of its true content and fill it with new content that it ends up becoming a work. And that's what's happened here!

Qualms about Incarnational Ministry

Talking about Incarnational ministry seems to be all the rage at the moment, but, I have to confess, the way it’s talked about makes me rather uncomfortable. Now, I’m sure many people express it very carefully; yet the reality is, those aren’t the people I hear expressing it. And when I hear it expressed it’s not fourteenth or fifteenth hand, mangled in transition like an extreme version of Chinese whispers. No; when I come across it it’s normally in books (which, one would assume, have not only been carefully written, but carefully edited as well). So, it is the concept of incarnational ministry I have qualms about, not just some poor distortion of it.

What? How could I have qualms about something so cutting-edge in evangelical ministry? Simply because I fear that ‘incarnational ministry’ undermines the reality of the Incarnation. Recently I read a description of incarnational ministry which rested on God being ‘the incarnational God’. It went on: ‘So incarnational is He, that He’s …

How the Early Church reacted to Church-Splitters and False Teachers

Church discipline is never an appealing topic, especially in nice British culture. Sometimes its necessary, but even then we can all too easily create a sacred/secular divide in the interests of niceness. The Early Church didn't have quite the same hangups about niceness that we do. They recognised schism (splitting the church) as a serious sin, and false teaching as a matter of eternal life and death for those who'd be led astray by it. And so they dealt quite firmly with schismatics (church-splitters) and heretics. Here's an example that tells us how the apostle John and his disciple Polycarp reacted to them:

Sonship, Inheritance, Cruciformity and Triumphalism: Wise Counsel for Charismatics and Pentecostals from Tom Smail

I’ve been reading a bit of Tom Smail lately. Although he was a prominent theologian of the early days of the charismatic renewal, I’d never come across his work until a friend recommended one of his books to me a few weeks ago. Interestingly enough, Smail worked with, and at times refers to, the (controversial in his day) former Apostolic pastor Cecil Cousen. But anyway, I’m not writing about Smail’s involvement in the charismatic renewal or his links with Cousen, but rather just to give you an extended quote of exceedingly wise counsel from Smail’s book The Forgotten Father about our inheritance as sons, which he particularly addresses to charismatics (and hence is equally relevant to Pentecostals today). Read the whole thing - it's worth it!
The phrase “fellow heirs with Christ” comes very near to defining the Christological centre of the charismatic renewal, which sees Christ as the new Adam, the ultimate man, whose new humanity spills over in the Holy Spirit to us so that we b…

Jesus is the Sum and Substance of the Scriptures

The most important thing about the Scriptures – the reason we need them above all else – is that they take us to Jesus for salvation. The chief subject of the Scriptures is Christ our Saviour.
He's the One:
Through whom the world was made.Who walked in the garden and was promised in the garden.Whom Abraham saw & in whom Abraham rejoiced.Who is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.Who redeemed Israel from the house of bondage.Whom Moses saw face to face.Who gave Israel her inheritance in the Promised Land.Of whom David sang.Whose glory filled the temple.Whom Isaiah saw enthroned in holiness.Who stood with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace.

A Sermon on Holy Scripture

Here's a recent sermon on 2 Timothy 13-17 about what the Bible is and what it does.

The Bible isn't just a book about God, but it is God's powerful, life-giving Word. As we read the Scriptures for ourselves, and as we hear them proclaimed in church, we hear the voice of Jesus Christ our Saviour who speaks to us of the great love of our Triune God and Jesus invites us to come to our loving heavenly Father through Him. These are the Holy Scriptrues which display the beauty and sweetness of the love of the Triune God and which invite us into that sweet love and fellowship through the shed blood of Jesus.

Grace and Favour

I got a quick question about asking God for favour yesterday and thought I could give a more substantial and clearer answer here. So here goes.

Here’s the question: Is it wrong to constantly ask for favour? And my answer is neither a simple yes nor a simple no, but rather, it depends! On what does it depend? It depends on us. It depends on what we mean by favour. It depends on what we’re actually asking. It’s like this: biblically to talk about God’s favour is to talk about His grace. And God’s grace is all about Christ and His Cross. When we just talk in terms of favour we can easily forget that and leave Jesus out of our thinking. But grace is Jesus, so when we remember that God’s favour is another way of talking about God’s grace, that reminds us that we’re not just talking about some principle of niceness, but we’re talking about Jesus giving Himself for us and to us. God’s favour is Jesus coming for us. God’s favour is being united to Christ. God’s favour is being blessed ‘with e…

If that's what the Bible is, then it's not a book you're avoiding!

Just to follow on from yesterday's thoughts about the nature of Scripture.  If the Bible isn't just a book about God, if it's really a book in which we meet with our Triune God, then avoiding the Bible really means avoiding God. So, if anyone says they don't need the Word, in effect what they're saying is that they don't need to meet with Christ in His Word.

The Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit does His work of illumination as we read the Bible. In fact, the Holy Spirit works powerfully through the Word to give new life (1Peter 1:23, 25; James 1:18) and to sanctify (John 17:17). So, avoiding the Bible means avoiding the Holy Spirit.

Bible Reading: Duty or Joy?

Just a brief thought on the nature of Scripture. If Scripture is the Word of the Word – Christ's Word in which He reveals Himself and the Father to us – then it's much much more than a book about God. Rather than being simply a book that tells us about God, it's a book in which we meet with the Triune God. As we read the Bible (and as we hear it read and proclaimed), by the illumination of the Holy Spirit we see Christ who takes us to the Father. So the Triune God is at work to open our eyes and reveal Himself to us. He really does meet with us in His Word.

That means Bible reading (and sermon hearing) isn't our work, but God's. In other words, it's not our effort to read a certain amount each day that's the important factor, but God who is graciously at work as we read (and hear) to open our eyes to the beauty of His love.

A Fun Video on Bad Analogies of the Trinity

After yesterday's super-long theological post, here's a bit of light theological relief for you. (If you just see a black box, click through the to blog itself to see the video.) The video's from Lutheran Satire, whose motto is "Teach the Faith by making fun of stuff"!

Is Conservative Enough? : Some thoughts on John Frame's "The Doctrine of the Word of God", the Trinity, & Christ

First let me say a few things. Firstly, this isn't a review. The Doctrine of the Word of God (DWG) is a big book book written by a very clever and capable theologian on a very big and important subject, so I'm not going to attempt to write a full review. Secondly, there is a lot of really good stuff in DWG. Frame not only defends key aspects of the doctrine of Scripture such as Authority, Sufficiency, and Inerrancy, but He also thinks about a lot of questions most readers have never even thought about before. Frame will certainly leave you with lots to ponder and think over. And that's good. And that's what I'm going to do a bit of in this post.

The endorsements for DWG read like a who's who of the American Conservative Evangelical world. There's Piper, Grudem, Vanhoozer, and Carson, among a host of other endorsers. And to top it all off, J.I. Packer wrote the Foreword. But I think of all the endorsements, my sentiments align most with those of Kelly M. Ka…

Wednesday Words: Prophecy

What is the gift of prophecy? D.P. Williams defined prophecy like this: ‘a Divinely generated utterance through human lips by the indwelling Spirit of God.’ 1 Corinthians 14:30 links prophecy with revelation, so it involves speaking what God reveals. But we know that Jesus is the revelation of God, so that means that if prophecy comes through revelation it must come through Christ. Revelation 19:10 makes that connection between prophecy and Christ as well: ‘For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’ Prophecy comes through Christ and points back to Christ, bringing glory to Him.

So, if prophecy involves revelation, how does it come? The Bible shows us a number of different ways. In Acts 13:2 and Acts 21:11 we see the classical Apostolic concept of prophecy: the prophecy is spoken in the first person as God’s words. That’s certainly a New Testament view of prophecy; it’s just not the only one. In Acts 2:17-18 we read about dreams and visions (and, in the wider context, tong…

Even Abraham, Moses and Isaiah need Jesus

John in his gospel makes sure to get across the message that Jesus is the revelation of God. Right from the very beginning John’s making that clear, even from the first verse where He refers to Christ as the Word. And then within a few verses John is boldly declaring: ‘No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him’ (John 1:18)! Wow! That’s a bit of a sweeping statement, isn’t it? But it’s not just John’s declaration – it’s Jesus’ too. In Chapter 14, Jesus says:
‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him... He who has seen Me has seen the Father’ (John 14:6-7, 9). Jesus makes very clear that He is the revelation of the Father. The only way to know the Father is to know Jesus, and those who know Jesus know the Father too.

Now, that’s all very well and good to say that in the …

Where'd the Father Go?

I noticed something today that I’d never really noticed before. It was an obvious fact that had been staring me in the face for years, I’d just never made a concentrated effort to look before. You see, I thought it would be useful to see what a few systematic theologians had to say about God the Father. But where should I start? Off the top of my head I couldn’t think of a section on God the Father in any of the systematic theologies I’d read through, but I thought I’d check just in case. No. So then I moved on and worked systematically through all the systematic theologies on my bookshelf. 25 of them. And two huge books on the doctrine of God (both over 800 pages). And out of all those, 1 had five pages on God the Father (in an 8 volume work!), and a few had a paragraph or two. That was all I could find on the Father qua Father.

"You and me bleed exactly the same"

It's a lovely, sunny Saturday to start off the summer, and so, popping along to the shop to get some milk this evening, I wasn't really paying all that much attention to the radio. But there was a line in a song that caught my attention: “you and me bleed exactly the same.” I've no idea what the song was, and am quite sure it was about something else entirely (it was Radio 1 after all), but (perhaps slightly influenced by spending my sunny Saturday reading Torrance on the Incarnation) it set my mind off in a theological direction. So, allow me to do a bit of theological eisegesis.
1) “You and me bleed exactly the same.”
Jesus and I bleed exactly the same. Jesus and you bleed exactly the same. When He was crowned with thorns, He bled as we would. When He was lashed by the Roman soldiers, He bled just as we would. And when the nails were hammered into His hands and feet, He bled exactly as we would. His body was a true human body of flesh and blood, just like ours (and His bo…