A Divine Work in Boston

Some of you may not know that I, along with my family, and two other brothers, along with their families, are planning to plant a church in Boston, MA, Lord willing, by the summer of 2012, with a launch date sometime in the summer of 2013.  My prayers of late, by God’s supernatural grace, have been directed afresh towards this work and towards the brothers and sisters who have preceded us in gospel labors, that they might enter into a season of great awakening.  Thus, the following article is of particular evidence to that end.  May God be glorified in Christ.  Go here.

More Mohler, On “Must We Believe the Virgin Birth?”

Certainly fits the season.  Also happens to be quite right.  Go here.

Who Needs Marriage?: Mohler’s Response to a TIME Article

Good read.  As always, helpful and thoughtful.  Go here.

Obligated and Eager, Rom 1.14-15

I will be taking a class on Paul’s epistle to the Romans in the Spring and thought that I would go ahead and work my way through his magisterial letter.  Yesterday, I came across Romans 1.14-15, and found myself awakened by what is written there.  It is simple, really, once one looks at the passage as applied not only to Paul and his apostolic office to the Gentiles but to all Christians, having come under the banner of Christ’s commission (cf. Mt 28.16-20).  Christians, if we would imitate Paul who imitated Christ, are obligated to preach the gospel to all people everywhere without distinction.  “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish” (1.14).  An impartial obligation is the yoke of the Christian who likewise finds themselves in one or the other of the categories of men which Paul describes.  The majority of us are the “foolish” – and we should only be so thankful to God that He has caused us to know as much.  But, I was struck by two things in this verse: the obligation, and the impartiality of the obligation.

Our culture is one that despises obligation, although we have many of them to own up to everyday.  Rarely is obligation equated with a joy that produces eagerness.  This obligation is of that rarer sort.  Upon this obligation Paul writes, “So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome” (1.15).  Thus, the obligation is defined as preaching the gospel.  And, more than that, it is an obligation that is met with eagerness.  Are you eager to preach the gospel?  If not, perhaps you have failed today to understand the joyful obligation that you are under to do so.  Where the joy and weight of this obligation is not felt, the eagerness with which we ought to be preaching the gospel will seldom be our affection.  When it comes to gospel ministry, obligation, what we are constrained to do, and affection, what we are to feel, go hand in hand.  You will not have one without the other.

Concerning this obligation, we must see with the eyes of our hearts how impartial it must be.  Some of us think ourselves best equipped for one sort of man or another, either the Greek or the barbarian, either the wise man or the foolish, and so we spend our time evangelizing those people.  Good!  Let us not grow weary in evangelizing those that we have an affinity with.  However, Christians must be careful not to become partial in this obligation to preach the gospel.  The obligation, by its very nature, is universal in its practice.  What Jesus accomplished on the cross was a penal substitutionary death, an actual salvation from sin for all the peoples of the world who repent and trust in Him who died and was raised for them.  This was in fulfillment, at least in part, to numerous Old Testament passages that highlight the value of Him who was slain on the cross.  For example, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isa 49.6).  The reason that Paul was obligated to preach the gospel to all men without exception was because His Lord and Savior was of such infinite value and worth to God; and insofar as we consider the ten thousand charms of Christ, so we too will feel the obligation to be impartial in our preaching of the gospel.  Rather than thinking, “they aren’t so much like me,” we shall begin to feel, “Jesus is worthy, yes, Jesus is worthy of my eager preaching of the gospel to every tribe, tongue, people and nation!”  Thus, when we observe the impartiality of Paul as he writes of his obligation, we observe Paul’s grasp on the infinite worthiness of Christ to be impartially proclaimed.

Let us then, brothers and sisters, be all the more impressed upon by our obligation to all peoples, that for the sake of Christ they should have Him proclaimed to them; and, as we are impressed by our obligation, let us grow in our affections for the task, for God loves an eager preacher.  We are obligated; let us be eager – for His glory amongst the nations.

Quotables from John Stott’s “The Cross of Christ”: Concerning (1) the value of God’s cross-love, (2) the forgiveness of sins exclusive to Christianity, (3) Christian sacrifices, (4) Pride, (5) the Cross and Discipleship, (6) the Cross and Mission, (7) the Cross and Change through Suffering, and (8) the God who identifies with us in our Suffering

1.  On the cross and the value of God’s love:

The value of a love-gift is assessed both by what it costs the giver and by the degree to which the recipient may be held to deserve it.  A young man who is in love, for example, will give his beloved expensive presents, often beyond what he can afford, as symbols of his self-giving love, because he believes she deserves them, and more.  Jacob served seven years for Rachel because of his love for her.  But God in giving his Son gave himself to die for his enemies.  He gave everything for those who deserved nothing from him.  ‘And that is God’s own proof of his love toward us’ (Rom 5.8 NEB). . . .

2. On the cross and the exclusivity of the Christian message of forgiveness of sin:

W. M. Clow was right to draw our attention to singing as a unique feature of Christian worship, and to the reason for it: ‘There is no forgiveness in this world, or in that which to come, except through the cross of Christ.  “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.”  The religions of paganism scarcely knew the word. . . . the great faiths of the Buddhist and the Mohammedan give no place either to the need or the grace of reconciliation.  The clearest proof of this is the simplest.  It lies in the hymns of Christian worship.  A Buddhist temple never resounds with a cry of praise.  Mohammedan worshippers never sing.  Their prayers are, at the highest, prayers of submission and of request.  They seldom reach the gladder note of thanksgiving.  They are never jubilant with the songs of the forgiven. . . .

3.  On the Christian’s sacrifices “of laud” consequent of Christ’s atoning sacrifice:

What spiritual sacrifices, then, do the people of God as a ‘holy priesthood’ offer to him?  Eight are mentioned in Scripture.  First, we are to present our bodies to him for his service, as a “living sacrifice.”  This sounds like a material offering, but it is termed our “spiritual worship” (Rom 12.1), presumably because it pleases God only if it expresses the worship of the heart.  Second, we offer God our praise, worship and thanksgiving, “the fruit of lips that confess his name.”  Our third sacrifice is prayer, which is said to ascend to God like a fragrant incense, and our fourth “a broken and contrite heart,” which God accepts and never despises.  Fifth, faith is called a “sacrifice and service.”  So too, sixth, are our gifts and good deeds, for “with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  The seventh sacrifice is our life poured out like a drink offering in God’s service, even unto death, while the eighth is the special offering of the evangelist, whose preaching of the gospel is called a “priestly duty” because he is able to present his converts as “an offering acceptable to God” (Phil 2.17; 2 Tim 4.6; Rom 15.16).  These eight are all, in Daniel Waterland’s words, “true and evangelical sacrifices,” because they belong to the gospel, not the law, and are thankful responses to God’s grace in Christ. . . .

4.  On pride:

There once was a nymph named Narcissus, Who thought himself very delicious; So he stared like a fool – At his face in a pool, And his folly today is still with us. . . .

5. On the cross and the Christian’s decision between comfort and suffering:

The spirit of James and John lingers on, especially in us who have been cushioned by affluence.  It is true that inflation and unemployment have brought to many a new experience of insecurity.  Yet we still regard security as our birthright and ‘safety first’ as a prudent motto.  Where is the spirit of adventure, the sense of uncalculating solidarity with the underprivileged?  Where are the Christians who are prepared to put service before security, compassion before comfort, hardship before ease?  Thousands of pioneer Christian tasks are waiting to be done, which challenge our complacency and call for risk.  Insistence on security is incompatible with the way of the cross.  What daring adventures the incarnation and the atonement were!  What a breach of convention and decorum that Almighty God should renounce his privileges in order to take human flesh and bear human sin!  Jesus had no security except in his Father.  So to follow Jesus is always to accept at least a measure of uncertainty, danger and rejection for his sake. . . .

6. On the cross and mission:

Douglas Webster has written, “Mission sooner or later leads into passion.  In biblical categories . . . the servant must suffer. . . . Every form of mission leads to some form of cross.  The very shape of mission is cruciform.  We can understand mission only in terms of the cross. . . .”

7. On the view of human suffering in light of the cross and eternity, and how God changes us through what we suffer:

“We may wish, indeed,” wrote C. S. Lewis, “that we were of so little account to God that he left us alone to follow our natural impulses  – that he would give over trying to train us into something so unlike our natural selves: but once again, we are asking not for more love, but for less . . . To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God. . . .”

8. On the God of the cross who identified with us in our suffering, the God to believe upon:

I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross.  The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as “God on the cross.”  In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?  I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world.  But each time after a while I have had to turn away.  And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness.  That is the God for me!  He laid aside his immunity to pain.  He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death.  He suffered for us.  Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his.  There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolizes divine suffering.  “The cross of Christ . . . is God’s only self-justification in such a world” as ours. . . . “The other gods were strong; but thou wast weak; they rode, but thou didst stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak, And not a god has wounds, but thou alone.”

John Stott, The Cross of Christ, pp. 210, 251, 257, 268, 280-81, 283, 315-16, 326-27, respectively.

Jesus, Virtue Embodied: A Balm Against Hypocrisy

If Aristotle regarded the ‘good man’ as the ‘canon’ in ethics, Matthew considered Jesus the ‘canon’ of Christian morality: the Messiah went infallibly right.  Investigation of Matthew’s employment of ‘hypocrisy’ tends towards the same conclusion.  One of the chief charges against Jesus’ chief opponents, the Pharisees, is that they are ‘hypocrites’.  Precisely what that means, especially the extent to which it connotes the pretense of conscious deception, has been the subject of some dispute.  One thing, however, is clear: hypocrisy involves, among other things, disjunction between word and deed.  Recall especially  the striking (Matt) 23.2-3: ‘The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do, for they preach, but do not practice.’  According to this the Jewish leaders are guilty not of erroneous doctrine but of failure to live up to their own injunctions (*I would add that while Jesus accuses the Jewish leaders for failure to live up to their injunctions, He also accuses them of setting aside the doctrine of God for the commandments of men.  Thus, they should have taught and lived according to God’s Word, but they taught God’s Word, and while minimizing it, elevated their own traditions in its place, bound men to it, but did not live according to either).  In other words, the ability to discern what should be done exists, but not the inclination or power to it.  This is why the Pharisees are the superior examples of how not to behave.  Their words outshine their deeds, as if in illustration of La Rochefoucauld’s famous dictum: ‘l’hypocrise est un hommage que le vice rend a la vertu’ (*hypocrisy is homage paid by vice to virtue).  Matthew’s Jesus, however, is the antithesis of all this.  Thus the disciples not only confront his words but study the Messiah himself: mathete ap emou (11.29, *”learn from me”) means, in effect, akolouthei (9.9, *”follow me”; cf. 4.19).  One learns not just with the ears but also, so to speak, with the feet: education is much more than heeding an infallible wordsmith; it additionally involves the mimetic (*means: characterized by imitation or mimicking) following of Jesus, who is virtue embodied.

– W. D. Davies and D. C. Allison, Matthew 19-28, 3:717 (italics theirs; some parenthesis mine, denoted with a star).