July 2009


Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7

The Christian, especially he who is advanced and established in the life of faith, has a fervent zeal for God–for the honor of His Name, His Word and His Gospel. The honest warmth of zeal which he feels, when God’s Word is broken, His Gospel is despised, and when the great and glorious Name of the Lord his God is profaned, would, by the occasion of his infirmities, often degenerate into anger or contempt towards those who error–if he was under the influence of zeal alone.

But his zeal is blended with benevolence and humility; it is softened by a consciousness of his own frailty and fallibility. He is aware, that his knowledge is very limited in itself, and very faint in its transforming power in his own life; that his attainments are weak and few, compared with his deficiencies; that his gratitude is very disproportionate to his obligations; and that his obedience is unspeakably short of conformity to his prescribed rule; that he has nothing but what he has received, and has received nothing but what, in a greater or less degree, he has either misapplied or misimproved. He is, therefore, a debtor to the mercy of God–and lives upon His multiplied forgiveness.

The Christian also makes the gracious conduct of the Lord towards himself–a pattern for his own conduct towards his fellow-worms. He cannot boast of himself–nor is he anxious to censure others. He considers himself, lest he also fall. And thus he learns tenderness and compassion to others, and to bear patiently with those mistakes, blemishes and faults in otherswhich once belonged to his own character; and from which, as yet, he is but imperfectly freed.

He therefore acts in character, as the follower of Him who was compassionate towards the infirmities and mistakes of His disciples, and taught them gradually, as they were able to bear it–and not everything at once.

But then, the same considerations which inspire him with meekness and gentleness towards those who oppose the truth–strengthen his regard for the truth itself, and his conviction of its importance. For the sake of peace, which he loves and cultivates–he accommodates himself, as far as he lawfully can, to the weaknesses and mistakes of other sincere Christians; though he is thereby exposed to be censured by ‘bigots’ of all parties, who deem him flexible and wavering, like a reed shaken with the wind.

But there are other fundamental points, essential to the Gospel, which are the foundations of his hope, and the sources of his joy. For his firm attachment to these, he is content to be treated as a ‘bigot’ himself! For here he is immovable as an iron pillar; nor can either the fear or the favor of man prevail on him to yield the truth of the Gospel, no not for an hour! (Galatians 2:5). Here his judgment is fixed; and he expresses it in simple and unequivocal language, so as not to leave either friends or enemies in suspense, concerning the side which he has chosen, or the cause which is nearest to his heart.

Knowing that the Gospel is the wisdom and power of God, and the only possible means by which fallen man can obtain peace with God–he most cordially embraces and avows it. Far from being ashamed of it–he esteems it his glory. He preaches Christ Jesus, and Him crucified. He disdains the thought of distorting, disguising, or softening the great doctrines of the grace of God, to render them more palatable to the depraved taste of the times (2 Corinthians 4:2). And he will no more encounter the errors and corrupt maxims and practices of the world, with any weapon but the truth as it is in Jesus–than he would venture to fight an enraged tiger with a paper sword!

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In the church where I grew up, it was not uncommon to hear pastors and leaders talk about “doing the gospel”, making it very clear that there was some action necessary where the Gospel is concerned.

This notion always struck me as very impressive and spiritual sounding, so much so that I never really bothered to ask the obvious question, What is the Gospel?

I look back now and realize that notions of “doing” the Gospel fail to really address what the Gospel is, and sadly lead many astray.  It is as though a valuable treasure has been replaced with a McDonald’s happy meal trinket and we’re not supposed to notice.

Men, do you know what the Gospel is?

Here is my explanation of the Gospel:

Your nature – that which comes from deep inside you and has been confirmed by multiple generations of your fathers and forefathers – is at war with the holiness that God demands of you.  You cannot take the first step toward God because you are simply not made that way.  You might think you are superior to others because you do some “good” things, but compared to what God requires of you, you fail miserably.  It is like thinking that you can swim faster than your child, but then realizing that the starting point of the race is Myrtle Beach and you are racing to Australia.

Because you cannot please God with your holiness, God stands ready to punish you.  We’re not talking about a spanking here; your sin is such that you fully deserve the WRATH of an ANGRY, righteous God.  The full righteous fury of God awaits the moment of your judgment.

But…

At the moment of your judgment, Jesus Christ steps forward and receives all the punishment you deserve.  He takes on your sin and receives the wrath of God, the wrath you earned by your sin.  In this Great Exchange, your sinfulness is atoned for by the only One that could bear it.

“Doing” the Gospel is nothing more than putting your faith in Jesus, and trusting that His completed work on the cross has made you right with God.  Any notion that you can do anything to merit God’s righteousness is spectacularly evil.  The work of the cross is finished, and Jesus did all the work.

We are winding up our list of principles to observe when reading the Bible.  So far we have covered:

  1. The Bible is to be read like any other book
  2. Read the  Bible Existentially
  3. Historical Narratives are to be Interpreted by the Didactic
  4. The implicit is to be interpreted by the explicit
  5. Determine carefully the meaning of words
  6. Note the presence of parallelisms in the Bible
  7. Note the difference between proverb and law

Only three more of these rules and we’ll be near the finish line.

Today we study Observe the Difference Between the Spirit and the Letter of the Law.

The Bible doesn’t have a lot of good things to say about the Pharasees.  Oh, they were the paragons of virtue in their day.  They knew the Bible, had impressive positions, they even went a little above & beyond when it came to tithing and things like that.  But Jesus wasn’t really friendly to them.  Why?

I think it has something to do with their twisted idea that they could be righteous without God’s help.  They knew the law, but their strict adherence to it demonstrated an arrogance that led to a belief that righteousness was about the rules, not about holiness.  In effect, they had a distorted view of the law and Jesus made it clear that their approach was wrong.

There is a corresponding error that is often overlooked because we have become so fixated on the error of the Pharasees.  This error is called antinomianism and it elevates the spirit of the law to a point where actual adherence to the letter of the law is considered sinful.  It is frequently a prideful response to people that dare to call sin what it is.

Rather than thinking that we should obey the spirit of the law and not worry about the letter of the law, or that we should obey the letter and forget the spirit, we should keep both the letter and the spirit.

In the last post I mentioned that Proverbs comes next.  And the next rule is about Proverbs:

Note the Difference Between Proverb and Law

This one gives me a bit of pause, but it does make good sense.  Proverbs reflect Godly wisdom; they are couplets that state a practical truism, but they do not reflect moral laws and should not be considered true for every situation.

So how does that strike you?

Perhaps you are a bit concerned that I’m not saying (well, Sproul, for what it’s worth) that every Proverb is true.  That would be exactly the point, because they convey wisdom, but being wise does not always bring about a perfect result.  We live in a fallen world, where people act the right way for the wrong reasons, good intentions get people killed, and sometimes we end up being blessed despite deserving far less.

Sproul wisely uses Proverbs 26:4-5 to illustrate his point:

Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own eyes.

If you were paying close attention, you noticed that the Bible advised you not to answer a fool, then said the exact opposite.  Essentially, there are times when you should answer a fool, and times when you should not.

Now, the Bible also contains rules for living that seem somewhat like proverbs, but they are not.  They are moral laws that must be followed all the time, unlike proverbs.

I won’t get all technical in describing the matter, but suffice it to say that you’re reading the law when you read statements that begin with “You shall…”, or “You shall not”.  That’s pretty straightforward.

But other areas of the law are “If/then” statements.  These statements teach you a principle to follow.  Such principles are applicable in a wide variety of situations.

Keep your eyes peeled, and recognize when you are looking at law and when you are reading a proverb.

This is why we live

This is why we live

H/T: Audience One Ministries

The Old Cross and the New

by A.W. Tozer

ALL UNANNOUNCED AND MOSTLY UNDETECTED there has come in modern times a new cross into popular evangelical circles. It is like the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial; the differences, fundamental. From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life, and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique-a new type of meeting and a new kind of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its content is not the same and its emphasis not as before.

The old cross would have no truck with the world.
For Adam’s proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather, it is a friendly pal and, if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference. His life motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasure, only now he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious movies instead of singing bawdy songs and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is now on a higher plane morally if not intellectually.

The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach.
The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into public interest by showing that Christianity makes no unpleasant demands; rather, it offers the same thing the world does, only on a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better.

The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him.
It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect.

-To the self-assertive it says, “Come and assert yourself for Christ.”

-To the egotist it says, “Come and do your boasting in the Lord.”

-To the thrillseeker it says, “Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship.”

The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public. The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.

The old cross is a symbol of death.
It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said good-by to his friends. He was not coming back. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more. The race of Adam is under death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape. God cannot approve any of the fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him again to newness of life.

That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world, it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life up onto a higher plane; we leave it at the cross. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die.

We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world.
We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. It stands always on the far side of the cross. Whoever would possess it must pass under the rod. He must repudiate himself and concur in God’s just sentence against him.

What does this mean to the individual, the condemned man who would find life in Christ Jesus?
How can this theology be translated into life? Simply, he must repent and believe. He must forsake his sins and then go on to forsake himself. Let him cover nothing, defend nothing, excuse nothing. Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God’s stern displeasure and acknowledge himself worthy to die. Having done this let him gaze with simple trust upon the risen Saviour, and from Him will come life and rebirth and cleansing and power. The cross that ended the earthly life of Jesus now puts an end to the sinner; and the power that raised Christ from the dead now raises him to a new life along with Christ.

To any who may object to this or count it merely a narrow and private view of truth, let me say God has set His hallmark of approval upon this message from Paul’s day to the present. Whether stated in these exact words or not, this has been the content of all preaching that has brought life and power to the world through the centuries. The mystics, the reformers, the revivalists have put their emphasis here, and signs and wonders and mighty operations of the Holy Ghost gave witness to God’s approval.

Dare we, the heirs of such a legacy of power, tamper with the truth? Dare we with our stubby pencils erase the lines of the blueprint or alter the pattern shown us in the Mount? May God forbid. Let us preach the old cross and we will know the old power.

We’ve covered five rules so far in this series, and Rule Six is:

Note the presence of parallelisms in the Bible

Perhaps you have read something like this:

A wise son hears his father’s instruction,
but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.

You’ve read something called a parallelism.  A parallelism is kind of poetic, but not because it rhymes or has the same meter.  It contains, as Sproul describes, a rhythm of thought.  In the verse above, we see a wise son compared with a scoffer.  It’s not hard to do yourself if you want to (Steve is a blogger that copies everyone else; Challies is a writer that blogs occasionally).

The thing about parallelisms is that they help to clarify thoughts a bit when they seem out of whack.  For instance, you might not have really thought about it, but the Lord’s prayer contains several parallelisms.  Consider:

lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil

Now, if you read this without recognizing it as a parallelism, you might be tempted to think that you are asking God not to tempt you, which is really not ever going to happen (the explicit in James 1:13 helps us understand what is implied here).  In fact, the meaning is better defined when we understand that this is a synonymous parallelism.  In other words, we are asking God to deliver us from temptation AND evil.

It would probably be helpful if we understood Greek, but since all of that is Greek to us, we have to read the Bible as best we can.  Sproul points out that the rendering of “deliver us from evil” is in the masculine gender, where “evil” is usually neuter.  Now, I had serious problems in high school English class, so I always feel uncomfortable teaching something about tenses and adjectives, and so forth (you might say I am tense about tenses), so don’t shoot me if I’m wrong on this.  But Sproul says you might understand this to mean “deliver us from the evil one”.  I’ll take his word for it.

A ton of parallelisms are found in Proverbs, and since the next rule is about proverbs, we’ll save that discussion for next time.

If I can encourage you to get Sproul’s book for yourself, I would say it is well worth the money.  He has a revised version out (don’t know when it was revised) and I’m thinking I’ll pick one up myself.


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