The Christian Hedonist Takes a Wife

Our God has made another way To put his glory on display. His goodness shines with brightest rays When we delight in all his ways. His glory overflows its rim When we are satisfied in him. His radiance will fill the earth When people revel in his worth. The beauty of God’s holy fire Burns brightest in the heart’s desire.

I am a Christian Hedonist Because I know that if I kissed My wife simply because it’s right, And not because it’s my delight, It would not honor her so well. With pleasures I will praise Noël, And I will magnify my wife By making her my joy in life.

So may this blazing, God-like flame Ignite in us for his great name A holy passion, zeal and fire That magnify him with desire.
I hail him as my joy in life, And take from his pure hand my wife.

John Piper, Velvet Steel, pg.22-23.

His Righteousness For our Sins

Today is Reformation Day. 490 years ago, on October 31, 1517, a monk named Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle Church — the catalyst event which soon led to the Protestant Reformation, a movement which was an attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church back to the foundation of God’s Word alone as the authoritative rule of all life and faith, and to the foundation of faith in God’s grace alone as the source of man’s salvation. As we all know, this led to the tremendous fracture of the church as it was at the time — something completely unintended by Luther, but albeit a necessary change in order to bring about the Spiritual transformation that God so desired.

Tonight, at my church here in Louisville, we went through Romans 4 and 5 briefly during the prayer meeting, so as to set the stage for what we would be praying about during the service. Interestingly, it is also today’s ESV Verse of the Day, and my small group back at my home church in Toronto is also studying Romans 4 tonight.

1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness

Romans 4:1-5

The question that has plagued humanity for centuries is simply this: how can us, a sinful people, be right with a holy? The Apostle Paul argues that it is only by faith alone that any person could be made right before God. We must trust Him who justifies us by exchanging the righteousness of His Son, Christ Jesus death and resurrection for the unrighteousness of our sins. Traditionally, this is known as the “Great Exchange”.

Paul uses the model of Abraham to prove justification by faith alone because the Jews held him up as the supreme example of a righteous man, and because it clearly showed that Judaism with its works-righteousness had deviated from the faith of the Jews’ patriarchal ancestors. In a spiritual sense, Abraham was the forerunner of the primarily Gentile church in Rome as well.

So if Abraham’s own works had been the basis of his justification, he would have had every right to boast in God’s presence. But such would make the hypothetical premise of verse 2 unthinkable. Be that as it may, faith is not a meritorious work. It is simply the channel through which it is received and it too, is a gift. Abraham did nothing to accumulate it; God simply took His own righteousness and credited it to Abraham as if it were actually his (traditionally known as “imputation” or “imputed righteousness”). This God did so because Abraham believed in Him.

Broadening his argument from Abraham to all people, the apostle thus makes it clear that the forensic act of declaring a person righteous is completely apart from any kind of human work (contrary to what the apostate Roman Catholic Church believes). If salvation were on the basis of one’s own effort, God would owe salvation as a debt — but salvation is always a sovereignly given gift of God’s grace to those who believe. And since faith is contrasted with work, faith must mean the end of any attempt to earn God’s favor through personal merit.

-MacArthur Bible Commentary

Only those who surrender all their own claims to righteousness by their own strength and acknowledge themselves to be sinners can be justified. The great news is that for those who are graciously justified by the Father, our direction in life is completely changed. Once we have trusted in His righteousness for our sins, our direction in life — not perfection — is transformed. We will never be perfect and may still slip and sin on occasion, but the enemy has been disarmed and ultimately been defeated! While God does allows our faith to be tested (cf. Job 1:6ff), by His Spirit He works through us to sanctification towards glorification, where one day we will have new bodies that are not corrupted.

And thus, while our justification is monergistic in nature, our sanctification is synergistic. Through the discipline of His grace, He calls us to press on and train ourselves for the purpose of godliness.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:1

On this Reformation Day, let us remember how important for us to keep Sola Fide at the forefront of our lives — His righteousness for our sins.

SDG

A Review of The Doctrine of God by John Frame

This is a review of

Frame, John. The Doctrine of God. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2002.
864 pp. $39.99

Copyright © 2007 by Alex S. Leung. All rights reserved.

Introduction

John Frame - The Doctrine of GodThe popularity of J.I. Packer’s classic book, Knowing God (1973), is evidence to the widespread desire in today’s church to reclaim the center of Christianity in the knowledge of God. In recent times, the need to understand why major disasters and calamities have occurred underscores the yearning of the society at large to understand who God is and why He does what He does, why He would allow so much suffering to occur if He is truly good. More recently, in response to 9/11 or the bridge collapse in Minnesota, many Christians are even questioning whether or not God truly had control of the events. Some have argued that God allows and uses suffering in the world to amplify the dire need in people to repent of their sins, including unbelief, and to put their trust in the atoning work of Christ on the cross. In spite of this, many still are left dumbfounded by life’s circumstances about the will of God in all these things.

This pervasive rejection of the God of Scripture in secularism and alternative spirituality and religions compels us as Christ’s ambassadors to call unbelievers to be reconciled with God (2 Cor 5:20). What this undeniably implies is that we actually know this God of whom we confess, so that we would be ready in season and out of season, to give a biblical defense for the hope we have in Jesus Christ (2 Tim 4:2; 1Pet 3:15). While postmodern epistemology may be accurate to assert that we cannot exhaustively know everything about God, we can however know with certainty everything that God has explicitly revealed about himself in Scripture. In “The Doctrine of God”, John Frame, professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, provides a concise exposition of theology proper as defined in Scripture.
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The Highest Place and the Greatest Honor

I can’t believe I found this on my portable hard-drive! Back in Toronto, I served 2 years as the Worship Coordinator for Ryerson University’s CCF (Chinese Christian Fellowship) for the school years 2003-2004 and 2004-2005.

The following was my evaluation of the 2004-2005 ministry year, the theological reflections I presented to the CCF Planning Committee and fellowship.

May this be a blessing to you, as we think through how to live lives of worship — lifestyles that puts Christ at the highest place in our lives and gives the Father the greatest honor.


In holy and divine matters one must first hear rather than see,
first believe rather than understand,
first be grasped rather than grasp,
first be captured rather than capture,
first learn rather than teach,
first be a disciple rather than a teacher and master of his own.
We have an ear so that we may submit to others,
and eyes that we may take care of others.
Therefore, whoever in the church wants to become an eye and a leader and master of others,
let him become an ear and a disciple first.
This first.

-Martin Luther, First Lectures on the Psalms II, Works II.245-246.

I think that there’s a tendency in fellowship to build up the next generation of leaders, and in so doing, we neglect our first and foremost mission that is to make “disciples.” We puff ourselves up to be “leaders” as if we have something to teach and change others. If we do this long enough via trial-and-error, I’ve personally found myself to be a failure at leadership. People don’t listen for one, they don’t learn anything, and don’t even embrace the Spirit-sanctified truth that is in our words. I think what God requires of us is what Luther said so plainly–we need to become disciples ourselves first, before we even remotely consider our role in leading others.
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Piper at Passion’s OneDay conferences

3 John Piper – Passion conferences messages from the Desiring God DVD “One Day: One Passion” are now available free online:

John PiperIt’s such a blessing to the church that Desiring God can provide these videos free to the public! I’ve seen the first couple sermons from the original Passion DVDs and saw Piper preach live at Passion06 for the talk on suffering. I highly recommend these videos if you have not seen or heard the sermons before. Certainly, seeing Piper preach live is a spiritual feast — Pastor John is so biblical and passionate in his expositional preaching that many times I just want to shrink and hide myself from how he pierces the heart and mind through God’s Word!

(HT: Desiring God blog)

Trinitarian Worship

Phil Ryken, Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church (Philidephia, PA) shares some helpful suggestions on how to stay trinitarian in the church’s corporate worship:

  1. Make sure that every element of worship is saturated with Scripture — the Scripture breathed out by the Spirit, revealed by the Father, bearing witness to Christ.
  2. Use hymnody — not just psalmody, but also hymnody — that offers explicit praise to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Trinitarian praise is characteristic of common responses such as the Doxology and the Gloria Patri, but also of many great hymns of praise.
  3. Confess the ecumenical creeds, such as the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, which are Trinitarian in their structure.
  4. Preach the whole counsel of God, so that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit receive proper attention in their biblical proportions.

How often does your church do the above?

Tenth Presbyterian Church Dr. Ryken also confesses:

“I suppose there is a danger that Christ-centered preaching may eclipse the Father and the Spirit. It should be kept in mind, however, that as our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ rightly deserves our paticular praise. To know the Son is to know the Father, Jesus said. And the work of the Spirit is to glorify Christ. So the Father and the Spirit are also worshiped when Christ is praised as our Creator and Redeemer.”

The Deceptiveness of Sin

The Passion of the ChristIn light of the recent conversations about Erwin McManus’ book “Soul Cravings” and its lack of a clear Gospel presented, I think it would be timely and appropriate to quote Hans Madueme on “The Deceptiveness of Sin“. (If you don’t know him, Hans Madueme, M.D., is Research Analyst at The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and a student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.)

Hans paints a very clear picture of the theological and biological implications of the noetic effects of sin:

Something is rotten in the state of the world. We do not need as witnesses the Wall Street Journal or BBC News. Just look around. We live in a dark, painful, and unjust world. Ethnic minorities are victimized. Women are second-class citizens. Children are pawns in evil chess games, now sex slaves, now victims of million-dollar advertising shenanigans. We feel the pain of brokenness in our homes and in our neighborhoods; bitter anguish permeates our world. We try to placate our cries with Zoloft or the comforts of a cigarette and one more strong drink. Our world is morbidly obese, stuffed up with the calories of injustice and unrighteousness: need we mention Auschwitz, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur? The poor remain oppressed, the foreigner denied justice. Once upon a time, people may have enjoyed happiness, peace, and justice, but for many today, misery is an intimate companion.

The situation is grim, but these are symptoms of a deeper malady, what the Christian tradition calls sin. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is more real than anything else; God is creator and all else is creation. In him we live, move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). God is also holy, morally pure and impeccable. He is light; in him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). The prophet Isaiah glimpses the high and lofty one, dwelling in a high and holy place (Isa 57:15). There is no sin in God. To behold his glory is to be utterly ruined: “For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isa 6:5). Yet mysteriously we are unclean, sick, desperately ill, and ridden with moral disease. We fall short of the holiness of God, like bent arrows missing the target. We are perverted, wicked, and unholy. We are morally crooked, defective, twisted. Committing high crimes against God, we are fools, disobeying God’s law and demeaning his character. In religious vernacular, we are sinners.

But like letter writing, this self-understanding has fallen on hard times, a myth from a pre-scientific age. Functional MRIs have taught us that “my brain made me do it.” If there is anything ‘unholy’ here, it is the waxing and waning levels of serotonin and norepinephrine (the usual neurotransmitter suspects). Behavior is a complex interplay of countless pathways in our neural systems. The quaint notion of moral culpability, presupposed by the language of sin, has no currency here. Perhaps your grandmother believed in sin, but we have reached adulthood, so we put away childish things. In short, damaged brains cause bad behavior. Or so the claim goes. Since the pastor is on a long paid leave, we can now consult the friendly neuropharmacologist—neuroethics replaces soulcare. To go deeper: we know that genes determine all that we are and do (since the genome encodes the brain). The real culprit, then, is my DNA double helix. Ergo, I need gene therapy! Maybe you find all this too reductionistic, and you prefer a more psychosocial paradigm. Here, too, there is often no conceptual room for the language of sin. Human beings are socially and historically located; we are victims of situations beyond our control—an abusive father, a poor neighborhood, low socio-economic status, childhood mental and psychological abuse, and so on. Sin is not the problem: “My poor upbringing made me do it.”

We have simply restated the ancient nature-nurture debate. Scripture and Christian tradition recognize, of course, that both nature and nurture are part of our identity. They shape us in important ways, though we cannot be reduced to either biology or sociology. These categories do not exhaust the moral significance of being human. Our moral lives transcend both nature and nurture; they are therefore not determined, though they are influenced, by them. We are moral agents made in the image of God. To make either nature or nurture tell our whole moral story is itself evidence of the noetic (intellectual) effects of sin. Intellectual self-justification and moral slipperiness reflect diminished ability to reason and think well; our noetic life is impaired. Thus we forfeit moral clarity as we think about the world in which we live, our fellow human beings, and even ourselves. We become like the man who looks at his face in the mirror and sees a remarkably fine specimen of humanity. Alas he does not realize the mirror speaks lies. In reality, his head is flattened, his stomach grossly inflated, and his arms helter-skelter. Call this the reverse ‘circus mirror’ syndrome. Such are the distorting noetic effects of sin: irresistibly, the tree looks good for food and pleasing to the eye.

Continue reading the article at The Gospel Coalition.