Blog Day Monday

From around the blogosphere . . .

An encouraging gospel reminder on Who Cares?

Bonhoeffer on living together, pastor and local church, in grateful community.

On Confession By Works, that is, having the fruit of lips and life united in displaying Christ.

On the source of a tragedy and the surety of Scripture as the Word of God written.

Words for when our souls need “a preachin’ to.”

Unreached people group of the day: Bania of India. 27 million people, less than 2% evangelical, but recent spread in church planting.  Pray!

A wonderful post on 4 Things I’ve Learned About God Through My Being Born Blind by a missionary friend of mine.

May the Lord satisfy you all with His steadfast love this morning, that you may rejoice and be glad all your days (Ps 90.14).

I Need to Hear This Again and Again

The sins I had most sense of were pride and wandering thoughts, whereby I mocked God.  The former of these cursed iniquities excited me to think of writing, or preaching, or converting heathen, or performing some other great work, that my name might live when I should be dead.  My soul was in anguish and ready to drop into despair, to find so much of that cursed temper.

Vance Christie, David Brainerd: A Flame for God, 133.

All Our Excellencies are Borrowed Excellencies

As no creature (in respect of external abilities) comes under more natural weakness into the world than man, naked, empty, and more shiftless and helpless than any other creature; so it is with his soul, yea, much more than so: all our excellencies are borrowed excellencies, no reason therefore to be proud of any of them, 1 Cor. 4.7. “What hast thou that thou hast not received?  Now, if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”  What intolerable insolence and vanity would it be for a man that wears the rich and costly robe of Christ’s righteousness, in which there is not one thread of his own spinning, but all made by free grace, and not by free-will, to jet proudly up and down the world in it, as if himself had made it, and he were beholden to none for it?  O man! thine excellencies, whatever they are, are borrowed from Christ, they oblige thee to him, but he can be no more obliged to thee, who wearest them, than the sun is obliged to him that borrows its light, or the fountain to him that draws its water for his use and benefit.

John Flavel, The Method of Grace, 27, vol 2 of 6.

On Twitter

I recently joined the tweeting world.  I have heard arguments on both sides — “it’s a waste of time” and “it is helpful for this reason and seven other reasons.”  While I love the brothers on both sides, my two day experience with it has caused me to lean in the latter, more positive direction.  I’ll give two quick reasons why.  (1) Most people use it egotistically.  They use it to advance the glory of their own name with tweets like “just cut my finger nails — thought the world would want to know about it!”  So, I say, God will reign supreme over all things, Christ is redeeming all things to that end — why not advance His name and glory on the twitter feed as a show of Christ’s marvelously redemptive work.  (2) I have found myself encouraged time and again by the words of others.  How many times have you listened to a 45 minute sermon — you know it was a good sermon — but all you remember is one sentence, one heart-piercing sentence that made you stop and think and meditate and experience some helpful communion with God in His Word.  A tweet can be that one sentence.  Piper puts it like this —

The sovereign Lord of the earth and sky
Puts camels through a needle’s eye.
And if his wisdom see it mete,
He will put worlds inside a tweet.

Already I have been helped, encouraged, exhorted, challenged, and moved to pure and noble thoughts by the 140 character sentences of others.  So, these are two reasons why it is ok if you want to join the tweeting world.

For more thoughts on this go here, here, and here.

Churches Today Do Not Have This Effect

Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day.  However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect.  The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones.  We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people.  The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church.  That can only mean one thing.  If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.  If our churches aren’t appealing to younger brothers, they must be more full of elder brothers than we’d like to think.

Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 15-16.

“If You Abide In My Word, You Are Truly My Disciples”

A characteristically helpful sermon by John Piper on John 8.31.

Go here.

The Importance of Being Humble in Mind

When the mind of the hearer is good and gracious, it easily assents to the speeches of truth.

Chrysostom, Hom. 26. in Mat., quoted in John Flavel, The Method of Grace, 6, vol. 2 of 6.

Flavel’s words in accord with this allusion,

I know the agreeableness of such discourses to the pious dispositions of your souls, is of itself sufficient to make it welcome to you.  It is a treatise of Christ, yea, of the Method of Grace, in the application of Christ; than which no subject can be more necessary to study, or sweet to experience.  All goodness is attractive, how powerfully attractive then must Jesus Christ be, who is the ocean of all goodness, from whom all streams of goodness are derived, and into whom they all empty themselves?  If Pindarus could say of the lovely Theoxenus, that whosoever saw that august and comely face of his, and was not surprised with amazement, and enflamed with love, must have an heart of adamant or brass; what then shall we resemble that man’s heart unto , that hath ferverous affections kindled in it by the incomparable beauty of Christ.

The Implications of the Edwardsian Principle for Corporate Worship (Part III in a Series)

What is the Edwardsian principle, that is, the keystone rule of Jonathan Edwards?  If you have paid any attention to John Piper’s ministry over the last thirty years, you know it.  And I would argue that the principle itself is not original to Edwards or Piper, but is in fact derivative.  It is derivative from the Scriptures.  God is the original of it.  But what is it?  Simply this: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.  Or, God’s passion for his own glory and his passion for my joy in Him are not at odds.  Edwards writes, “The end of the creation is that the creation might glorify [God].  Now what is glorifying God, but a rejoicing at the glory he has displayed,” and elsewhere, “The happiness of the creature consists in rejoicing in God, by which also God is magnified and exalted,” and it is this magnification of His glory in the happiness of His creatures in that glory that God is committed to with unswerving zeal; thus, again, God’s passion for his own glory and his passion for my joy in Him are not at odds.

This morning I simply want to show, by virtue of Piper’s quotes on the matters, what implications this holds for corporate worship.

So — Corporate Worship: The Heart Hunger that Honors God —

The essence of authentic, corporate worship is the collective experience of heartfelt satisfaction in the glory of God, or a trembling that we do not have it and a great longing for it.  Worship is for the sake of magnifying God, not ourselves, and God is magnified in us when we are satisfied in him.  Therefore, the unchanging essence of worship (not the outward forms which do change) is heartfelt satisfaction in the glory of God, the trembling when we do not have it and the longing for it.

The basic movement of worship on Sunday morning is not to come with our hands full to give to God, as though he needed anything (Acts 17.25), but to come with our hands empty, to receive from God.  And what we receive in worship is the fullness of God, not the feelings of entertainment.  We ought to come hungry for God.  We should come saying, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps 42.1-2).  God is mightily honored when a people know that they will die of hunger and thirst unless they have God.

Nothing makes God more supreme and more central in worship than when a people are utterly persuaded that nothing — not money or prestige or leisure or family or job or health or sports or toys or friends — nothing is going to bring satisfaction to their sinful, guilty, aching hearts besides God.  This conviction breeds a people who go hard after God on Sunday morning.  They are not confused about why they are in a worship service.  They do not view songs and prayers and sermons as mere traditions or mere duties.  They see them as a means of getting to God or God getting to them for more of his fullness — no matter how painful that may be for sinners in the short run.

If the focus in corporate worship shifts onto our giving to God, one result I have seen again and again is that subtly it is not God that remains at the center but the quality of our giving.  Are we singing worthily of the Lord?  Do the instrumentalists play with a quality befitting a gift to the Lord?  Is the preaching a suitable offering to the Lord?  And little by little the focus shifts off the utter indispensability of the Lord himself onto the quality of our performances.  And we even start to define excellence and power in worship in terms of the technical distinction of our artistic acts.  Nothing keeps God at the center of worship like the Biblical conviction that the essence of worship is deep, heartfelt satisfaction in him, and the conviction that the trembling pursuit of that satisfaction is why we are together.

Furthermore, this vision of worship prevents the pragmatic hollowing out of this holy act.  If the essence of worship is satisfaction in God, then worship can’t be a means to anything else.  We simply can’t say to God, “I want to be satisfied in you so that I can have something else.”  For that would mean that we are not really satisfied in God but in that something else.  And that would dishonor God, not worship him.

But, in fact, for thousands of people, and for many pastors, the event of “worship” on Sunday morning is conceived of as a means to accomplish something other than worship.  We “worship” to raise money; we “worship” to attract crowds; we “worship” to heal human hurts; to recruit workers; to improve church morale; to give talented musicians an opportunity to fulfill their calling; to teach our children the way of righteousness; to help marriages stay together; to evangelize the lost; to motivate people for service projects; to give our churches a family feeling.

In all of this we bear witness that we do not know what true worship is.  Genuine affections for God are an end in themselves.  I cannot say to my wife: “I feel a strong delight in you so that you will make me a nice meal.”  That is not the way delight works.  It terminates on her.  It does not have a nice meal in view.  I cannot say to my son, “I love playing ball with you — so that you will cut the grass.”  If you heart really delights in playing ball with him, that delight cannot be performed as a means to getting him to do something.

I do not deny that authentic corporate worship may have a hundred good effects on the life of the church.  It will, just like true affection in marriage, make everything better.  My point is that to the degree that we do “worship” for these reasons, to that degree it ceases to be authentic worship.  Keeping satisfaction in God at the center guards us from that tragedy.

John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory, 40-42 (emphasis his).

“How Can You Tell the Difference Between Legitimate Contextualization and Unbiblical Compromise?”

The best rule of thumb in determining what’s biblical contextualization and what’s unbiblical compromise is the question: Does this make the offense of the gospel clearer? If so, it’s biblical contextualization. If not, it’s unbiblical compromise.

At first blush, cultural practices like taking off your shoes indoors or not eating with your left hand may not seem to relate to the gospel at all. But if conforming to cultural customs like these removes cultural offense, it allows us to communicate the gospel more directly. Removing these cultural stumbling blocks gives one’s hearer the opportunity to hear the offense of the gospel more clearly. In other words, good contextualization gives people the opportunity to stumble over the gospel, not culture.

On the other hand, if you adopt any cultural practices that contradict Scripture, or present the gospel in a way that minimizes the gospel’s distinctness from what someone already believes, such “contextualization” is compromise in disguise because it minimizes the offense of the gospel, and to that extent obscures the gospel.

HT: 9 Marks E-Journal