On the New Covenant

The New Covenant was promised by God through the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31). Under the New Covenant God’s people are saved entirely by God’s grace through faith in His Chosen One, Jesus. This covenant replaces the Old Covenant which, though given by God’s grace as well, required perfect obedience to God’s Law. No fallen human being can comply with this requirement. Thus, we need something else. We need a Savior who could do this for us. In Jesus Christ, the True Israel (Galatians 3:16), the Old Covenant has been fulfilled. Believers today are counted righteous under the New Covenant because of Christ’s obedience under the Old.

The quote is taken from the “our theology” page of Kenwood Baptist Church, pastored by Dr. Jim Hamilton of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Here, the New Covenant is wonderfully articulated: both its price and application.  Jesus Christ is a great Savior!

Loving Jesus, Loving the Church, and Loving the Lost: A Post

By Robert Sagers on “between two worlds.”  Go here to read or listen.  Interesting insight.

The Best Part of Waking Up Is Not Folgers in Your Cup: A Morning Catechism to Start the Day

A post by Jonathan Parnell.  Go here to jump start your morning.

Why We Believe Children Who Die Go To Heaven: An Article

By R. Albert Mohler, Jr., and Daniel L. Akin.  Go here to read this interesting article.  What do you think?

All Prophet, No Christ: A Fly in the Ointment of a Postmodern Islamic Perspective

I never cease to be amazed by the evangelical opportunities at Starbucks.  It doesn’t really matter where the Starbucks is, or really, whether it is a Starbucks – it only has to be a coffee house, and there the nations reside. 

Today, I spent some time speaking to a man self-named, Akman.  This is the name that he gave himself after converting from what he calls Christianity (by which he means Roman Catholicism – no true biblical Christianity) to Islam.  Akman defined his name for me – one who worships God more than anybody else – he apparently hasn’t seen the ironic self-righteousness of the name.  And while I am admittedly no scholar on Islam, by God’s grace I do know something of the Gospel of God in Jesus Christ.  To this Gospel I returned again and again.

As the conversation continued, one thing became increasingly clear about his thought – which may or may not be characteristic of traditional Islam (he was somewhat of a mixture between Islam and postmodernism): Moses was a prophet, Jesus was a prophet, Mohammed was a prophet (of course, while Moses was a prophet, and Jesus was at least a prophet, Mohammed carries no characteristic of a prophet, least of all that the prophet resigned to, “Thus says the Lord”).  He was quite accepting of all the “prophets”.  One problem: despite the many prophets, there was no Christ!

Here, at least, there is great divergence between Islam and biblical Christianity.  The apostle Peter records the goal of the biblical prophets: “10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:10-12).

With regard to salvation, the prophets of old were moved by the Spirit of Christ to search diligently into who the Christ was to be, and when the Christ was to be manifest to the world.  And the Spirit of Christ revealed to them that, indeed, the Christ would come, would live a sinless life, would be crucified, would be raised, would be ascended (this is the “good news”), and would be thus preached to the nations.

This is Jesus Christ.  While He is certainly a prophet, He is much more.  In Luke 9, Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”  Their answer indicates much of the same problem as Akman was displaying.  The crowds saw Jesus as only a prophet, saying – “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.”  John was a biblical prophet, Elijah also!  The Lord then turns the question upon them: “But who do you say that I am?”  And Peter as spokesmen for the rest replied: “The Christ of God” (Luke 9:18-20).  Jesus is the Christ of God!

As the Christ, He transcends the biblical prophets (infinitely more false prophets), as much as He is the Word (John 1) that the prophets proclaimed.  And therefore, Jesus – and no other – is able not only to speak the Word of God, but being the Word of God made flesh, He is able to reveal God to sinners – and seeing Him in Christ, we thus see our inherent sinfulness and the need to be saved from sin and the wrath of God, a salvation God has made possible in His Christ by giving Him over to death for our sin, and by raising Him from the dead so that we may be made right with God – through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone!  God does not impute the righteousness of a mere prophet – for what is that before God?  No, when God makes the sinner alive, and gives him repentance and faith in Jesus, God gives the sinner the righteousness of Christ, that is, God’s own righteousness, even as He gave the believer’s sin to Jesus on the cross of His passion to be forever atoned for.  This is what the Christ of God can do, and has done. 

No Christ, no salvation; only self-righteousness.  Let us rejoice in the biblical witness that our Lord Jesus is not only the Prophet (that is, the Word), but also Priest, and King – He is the Christ, and calls all men everywhere – even Akman (an Allah worshipper) to repent, to embrace His salvation, and thereby, to be reconciled to the one, true and living God of the Bible – Father, Son, and Spirit.  Let us read the prophets of the Bible, but let us – even as they did – look to the Christ who has been made manifest to us in the Gospel of God, the Lord Jesus Christ!  And let us pray for our unbelieving family, friends, and coffee house acquaintenances, for flesh and blood cannot reveal Jesus as the Christ, but only the Father who is in heaven, Matthew 16:13-20.

Good Article by a Good Friend

The Journey of an Unlikely Southern Baptist by Bryan Barley.  Growing up in the United Methodist denomination before becoming a Southern Baptist and attending The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I completely resonate with his well-worded sentiments regarding unity through the Great Commission Resurgence.

Quote

“No man is greater than his prayer life.”

                                                                                 – Leonard Ravenhill

As Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  It is not that we are as frozen men entirely apart from Christ, for surely men are apart from Christ who have not believed, and yet they still walk, talk, eat, drink, work, etc., but that they can do no thing eternally fruitful, no thing that glorifies God, no thing that merits any sort of righteousness with God – apart from Christ.  As He is the vine, so we do well to abide in Him.  Ravenhill is right – no man is greater than his prayer life, for it is by prayer that we tap into the life giving sap of Christ’s excellencies and the vitality of His life.

Great Sermon

By Alistair Begg on Luke 8:1-15, the Parable of the Sower which he exposes more truly as the Parable of the Seed.  Tremendous!  Download it and take a jog!

Psalm 119:1 – The Bible, Holiness, and Happiness

Christianity has recently fallen in the observer’s eye to what is now being called ‘moral therapeutic deism.’  Christian pulpits, Christian books, Christian t-shirts, Christian bumper stickers, etc. have one contemporary message: do better and be happy; or do better to be happy!  Nothing could be more antithetical to the Gospel.  The proof is seen when doing any sort of casual survey of the evangelical landscape: those who are to be indefatigably joyful are thrown and tossed by the winds of circumstance like any other unanchored, unregenerate unbeliever without a certain hope in this world.  Let a bad thing happen to them and they are quite ruined for the day.  There is no real, abiding joy – because the happiness they are taught to seek is shallow and in no way tied to a passion and pursuit of loving obedience or holiness, a holiness that is developed by one’s faithful application of the Bible.  

They are told to be happy, but they are not told why or how to be so – least of all in the midst of suffering.  God, they are told, exists to make them happy irrespective of how they behave.  So long as they try hard to be a good Christian – and what this means is left to individual speculation – they are Christians who can hold their head up high – God certainly does expect anything more.  Much of this is the infiltration of the prosperity Gospel: do good, tell yourself you’re a fine specimen, and seek to be blessed – that is, attend to health, wealth, and happiness.  “Accept Jesus,” they say,”and God will turn your life around,” “you have a problem, accept Jesus: problem solved.”  There is no mention of the condition of the soul, of sin, of repentance, of saving faith in Christ alone because Christ alone is precious – His excellencies to save, or of holiness, the obedience of faith and the food for both: the Word of God.  And this is why there is a famine of daily, abiding joy in the church – the Bible has been replaced with therapy, and holiness based upon the Righteousness and Spirit of Christ set aside for wimpy, whiny unholy moralism.  And they do not know that it is out of a Bible saturated holiness that true happiness is had.

Psalm 119:1 is one of many passages that address this reality: God cares more about our holiness than our happiness, and God has given us His Word that we may be holy even as He commands we be.  The opening verse of 176 dealing with the centrality of God’s Word in the life of His children reads this way: “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!”

That is to say, contrary to many prosperity gospel preachers and to the larger American gospel, “blessed are those who are holy,” and secondly, “who are holy insofar as they walk in the law of the Lord,” which is the means of holiness; for as God is holy, and requires that we be, in His amazing grace He has given us this to believe and behave accordingly: His Word!  Therefore, it is holiness springing up from communion with God that is the seedbed of blessedness, or covenant joyfulness.  To all prosperity preachers and weak-hearted brethren: the Old Testament concept of blessedness belongs to the language of God’s gracious promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 (as well as Deuteronomical blessing – chapter 28 – for obedience to the Mosaic law of God, certainly traced back to the promise to Abraham), a promise extended to all creatures through the faithful obedience of the one man Abraham, and his Offspring.  While the promise was certainly unconditional in that it emanated from the pure grace and mercy of God, yet it contained elements of condition in that those who partake in the promise and belong to God’s family are expected to then walk in a certain way: the way of holiness! No holiness, then no happiness, no blessedness, no true, and abiding joy.

Immovable joy, then, is most fully realized and experienced when one’s way is blameless or holy.  Now this brings us to our Lord Jesus Christ.  His way was not only blameless, as the Bible indicates our way can be, but His way was sinless quite unlike our own.  And as we have seen that the Word of God is God’s gracious provision for such a walk, no one fed upon it more than Jesus who was and is and will always be, Himself, the Word of God (John 1).  And therefore, while He was certainly a man of many sorrows and acquainted with grief, and no more so than on the cross of His passion, He was the most joyful man the universe has ever seen, indeed, it was because of the joy set before Him that He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2).  And therefore, joy is not evidenced by smiles and giggles, or health and wealth, but by a holy treasuring of the value of God that reigns supreme over any inclination to avoid pain and suffering on account of that infinite worth; by a holiness refined in the fires of God’s Word; by a holiness born of a preeminent regard and love for God and His name and glory.

It was because of an abiding joy in God that Christ resisted every temptation, willingly died upon the cross, bore His wrath for us, and was raised and ascended and now reigns, bringing in the kingdom of God.  By the reasoning of Psalm 119:1 –  “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord,” – Christ was the most blessed person to have graced the world, and yet, by that same line of reasoning, He was uniquely qualified to become a curse for us in order that we might become blessed and be a blessing to others by our proclamation of Him to the nations.  It is because He has made us new that we now can be holy – and therefore, abidingly happy.  Indeed, He has given His joy to us – God’s joy in God!  

Let us then be anchored in law of the Lord, the Word of God – it is God’s gracious provision to us for us to know Him and imitate Him, to be holy even as He is holy; and let us strive to be holy knowing that this is why He has saved us, to make us like His Son; and let us understand that Christ, sinlessly and seriously holy, was yet supremely and abidingly joyful; let us consider then that while God does desire our joy, the joy He desires is that which is the companion of Word-saturated, God adoring holiness.  “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.”

Quality of Life Rather than Quantity of Service

On Being a Pastor: Understanding Our Calling and Work has been a refreshing and convicting read for me.  Prime and Begg seem to be sitting in the room with me at times sharing their character, discipline, experiences, failures and passion, while prodding me with sharp spurs.  The following quote is one of many prongs among the spur:

Some lessons we learn slowly, and one that we have found particularly difficult is that God wants quality of life from us rather than quantity of service, and that the latter is no substitute for the former.  More important than all our preparation for ministry and our careful administration of church life is that we should live our lives for the will of God and reflect His Son’s grace and character in all our dealings with others (p. 89).