Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Godly Man's Picture Chapter 4 (Part 4)


Today we will consider the godly man as a servant of God and not a servant of men. Watson will discuss in what manner we are servants of God, and then will discuss in what manner we are to serve men, and in what manner we are not to serve men. He begins by listing seven ways that men are to be servants of God:
  1. A servant leaves all other, and confines himself to one master
  2. A servant is not independent, at his own disposal, but at the disposal of his master
  3. A servant is bound
  4. A servant not only wears his master's [uniform], but does his work
  5. A servant follows his master; thus a godly man is a servant of God
  6. A servant is satisfied with his master's allowance
  7. A servant will stand up for the honor of his master

Watson then considers why we ought to be servants of God? He gives three principle reasons. All are very obvious. First, we ought to serve God because He is the best Master. Anyone that has served God for anytime knows this to be the case. Secondly, we ought to serve God because His service is the best service. There are six privileges which Watson gives for being in God's service: Freedom, Honor, Safety, Gain, Assistance, Supplies. The last reason that Watson list for motivating our service to God is that we are engaged to serve God. We were bought with a price. As Watson says, "If any can lay a better claim to us than Christ, we may serve them; but Christ having the best right to us, we are to cleave to him and enroll ourselves for ever in his service.

Our author then moves to his second main point: A godly man is not a servant of men. He lists a threefold serving of men. First there is the civil service we owe to men. An example of this would be in our jobs. There is also the religious service we owe to men. We would fulfill our religious duties by serving men for Christ's sake. Both of these are exemplary ways of service, and we ought to be engaged in them. The third, however, is a sinful serving of men. It consists primarily of three things:

  1. When we prefer men's injunctions before God's institutions. (When the laws of man we follow above the Law of God)
  2. When we voluntarily prostitute ourselves to the impure lusts of men. (When we conform to anything just to be accepted among men)
  3. When we are advocates in a bad cause, pleading for an impious, unjustifiable act. (When we pretend to be religious all the while tickling men's ear)

What do we do if we are found to be serving men more than God? Watson urges us to look to the day of judgment. We have been like Jell-O before men and always shifting to fit a mold. The shape-shifter will not look Christ in the face on that day, and He will give a cold-shoulder. Watson also encourages us to consider the reward of serving men? What does it gain us? Put positively, we are admonished to "abandon fear and advance faith". Serve God rather than men.


Note that Watson does not believe in retirement. "A godly man is active for God to his last breath, 'even unto the end'".

What a wonderful rebuke that we are given when Watson says, "When Christians complain at their condition, they forget that they are servants, and must live on the allowance of their heavenly Master." Oh, how sinfully often do we feel that we are owed grace. Let us never complain at our condition.

Do you agree that, "It is a slander to say, 'God is a hard master'"?

In what ways may you be sinfully serving men?

Strokes of Genius:

"You who have the least bit from God will die in his debt." (p39)

"He [God] enlarges the heart in love and fills it with joy." (p40)

"It is more honor to serve God than to have kings serve us." (p41)

"[Prostituting ourselves to the impure lusts of men] is not humility, but sordidness, and it is men-serving" (p43)

"Faith is a world-conquering grace" (p44)

On to Part 5...

True or False and Who Said It?

"Our 'self' is not a simple entity that is either wholly good or wholly evil and therefore to be either totally valued or totally denied. Instead, our self is a complex entity of good and evil, glory and shame, which on that account requires that we develop more subtle attitudes to ourselves"

On Being Eliphaz

In our guys Bible study we are going through the Book of Job. I hope the guys are having as much fun with it as I am. It is teaching me a ton about the way that I counsel people. Especially people that are hurting.

Yesterday we looked at Eliphaz's first speech. It's amazing when you look at his theology. As I told the guys, if we were grading his speech for theology he would probably get about an 85 or 90%. He believed that God is just. He believes that God is self-sufficient. He seems to understand that God is transcendent but He is also loving and sends blessings. He understands that God disciplines. He also seems to know that God saves and that God redeems (although that could be debatable).

His advice to Job is pretty simple. 1) Live what you teach 2) The innocent do not perish, the guilty do. Trouble does not simply spring up from the ground. It has to be planted. You reap what you sow. 3) Repent (make sacrifice) and God will remove His hand of discipline and you'll be blessed again.

Other than a possible hint of the prosperity gospel in the end, Eliphaz's advice seems to be pretty sound. Only problem is that God rebukes him in the end (42:7-9). Why? His theology was good, yet God says that what he spoke about God was "not right". It is this:
Right theology, wrong applied, sucks. (Sorry, if you are offended by the word "sucks". I can not think of a better word that is clear and concise. I mean no offense.)

As I think about Eliphaz I see myself. Spiritually arrogant at times. He has all the answers. He has read all the right books. He has even had a "word from God" (or so it seemed). Eliphaz knows what he is talking about. He knows truth. Can you hear the hubris in 5:27? "Behold, this we have searched out; it is true. Hear, and know it for your good". Oh, the arrogance of Eliphaz. He knows Job's problem. Job is going through a hard time. Trouble does not come upon the innocent. No man is innocent. Job is not innocent. Job's trouble is coming because of his guilt.

But that's not the case. Even though Eliphaz's theology is pretty accurate it is wrongly applied. Job is not guilty. Job has done nothing wrong. This is not coming upon Job because of his guilt. Therefore, Eliphaz may have the correct theology but he applies it to the wrong situation. Do I do this? Do I look upon people as if "I know your problem"? Do I automatically assume that someelse's experience is similar to my experience, "I know what you are going through"?

Right theology, wrongly applied, sucks.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Job for the Non-Calvinist

That's the book of Job, not a job that pays you. Quick question. I am certain that I have a few readers that are not necessarily persuaded by the the arguments for Calvinism. Here is my question, and it is legit. I am not trying to trap anyone, I am trying to learn. If someone were coming from a Semi-Pelagian or Arminian perspective how do you understand the book of Job?

The basic gist of my question is that Arminians and Semi-Pelagians have a wonderful answer for the problem of evil...the fall of man, our sinfulness, our choices, etc. The book of Job does not allow for such an answer. In fact those answers are rebuked by God. The Calvinist is able to sit back read the book of Job, and say "let God do what He will". So, for my Arminian/Semi-Pelagian readers, how do you address the book of Job as a whole?

Borrowed Light: Today in Blogworld 03/25-26

I have not gotten a chance to listen to this yet, but am looking forward to it later; Dan Kimball is interviewed by C. Michael Patton. He asks some really good questions, I am anxiously awaiting to hear Kimball's responses. You can listen here.

The Thirsty Theologian tells us the fourth reason that he is a Calvinist. Today he discusses the doctrine of the Atonement. This is probably the most rejected point in the TULIP, David does a wonderful job of explaining it.

Dr. James Galyon points us to J.I. Packer's discussion of Calvinism. You can read the Intro, Point 1, and Point 2.

Ben Stein, yes that Ben Stein, discusses Creationism with R.C. Sproul. Again, I have yet to view this video, but will try to later. I am interested in what Stein has to say though.

Great discussion at Pyromaniacs started by Dan Phillips. The discussion is centered around the question of Legalism.

I would like to personally thank all four of you that have voted for Borrowed Light in the SBC Blog Madness. Apparently, in the entire tournament field I am close to the least influential. Humbling. In case you have not yet voted, you can go here and vote. Be certain not to vote for me...I'm enjoying my thrashing.

The Call

I remember waiting for THE CALL, when my grandmother was dying with cancer a few years ago. For the past week we have been waiting for it again. Tonight we got it. Nikki's grandmother passed into eternity. We are not sure that she knew Jesus. Be praying for the family, as there are several others in her family that do not know the Lord. Pray that Nikki's father (as well as her and I) will be faithful to Christ and His gospel during this crucial time.

Nikki is doing as good as can be expected, she is sleeping now. I got back up and am now working on finishing the sermon for tomorrow night. Posting might be a little slow around here. The best way to keep updated is add this website to your Google Reader. You can do so on the sidebar.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Godly Man's Picture Chapter 4 (Part 3)

It is March 24th and I am on chapter 4 and have about 200 pages to go. Anyone want to bet I do not get this finished by April 1st? Fortunately, I have already read Burroughs' (our book for April). I should finish this by the first week or so in April and then move to blogging through Burroughs excellent work.

Today we will deal with the third part of the fourth chapter in Watson's Godly Man's Picture. We will cover the topic of being like God in holiness and being reverent in our worship of God.


A godly man is like God. Could there be a more obvious statement? Yet, how many would claim to be godly yet not reflect Him in holiness? This is Watson's concern in this section. A man is not truly a Christian unless he is said to be holy. How then do we know whether or not we are holy? Watson gives two principle evidences: 1) in hating 'the garment spotted by the flesh' and 2) in being advocates for holiness.

There are two uses of this truth. The first is that holiness is exposes whether we are believers or not. Secondly, it ought to cause us to strive to be like God in holiness, because:
  • This is God's great design he drives on in the world
  • Holiness is that alone which God is delighted with
  • Holiness fits us for communion with God

Not only is the godly man holy but he is also a "true worshipper of God". One will not fully understand this section unless you put yourself in the historical situation that Watson found himself. The Puritans were not only fighting a battle with the Church of England being swayed toward "Romanism" but also the "Papists" themselves. In this section, you can hear the warning of Watson to his fellow nonconformist, and also his countrymen's Church of England, not to adulterate the true worship of God.

Watson may seem to come off a little strong here in regards to the regulative principle. Yet, his four consequences to "making a medley in religion" serve as fitting warnings to us today:

  1. Those who will add to one part of God's worship will be as ready to take away from another
  2. Those who are for outward commixtures in God's worship are usually regardless of the vitals of religion
  3. Superstition and profanity kiss each other
  4. Such as are devoted to superstition are seldom or never converted

In this section Watson does give a very strong defense of not adding "strange fire" to our worship. "And no wonder he is so highly incensed at it, for it is as if God were not wise enough to appoint the manner in which he will be served. Men will try to direct Him, and as if the rules for His worship were defective, they will attempt to correct the copy, and superadd their inventions".


This is not really a matter of discussion, more informative. The word calumniated on page 33 is another word for slandered. I had to look it up. Maybe I was the only one.

Does Watson's statement, "A godly man will not go as far as he may, lest he go further than he should", nullify Christian freedom or actually strengthen it?

Do you like how Watson makes holiness "God's great design for which he drives the world"? Should it not be His glory? Or is Watson correct and simply saying that his glory is his holiness?

Watson says that if God does not "see this stamp [holiness] upon us, he will not own us". Do you think he is referring to the imputed righteousness and holiness of Christ imparted to us, or is he referring to actual holiness that is produced as a fruit from our union with Christ?

In the section on worship, what are examples of things we have added to "worship"? It is my opinion that the Puritans get this correct. They understand, rightly, that true worship is about God and not us. Whenever we make it about us, or worse yet, unbelievers, we are moving from the center of worship. God has directed how He wants to be worshipped, why should we add to that? Or is this too narrow, and actually an unbiblical, way of thinking?

Watson says that, "Those who will introduce into God's worship that which he has not commanded, will be as ready to blot out that which he has commanded". Do you find this experientially true?

Strokes of Genius:

"Holiness defends the godly, and they will defend holiness; it defends them from danger, and they will defend it from disgrace." (p33)

"Where God sees his likeness, there he gives his love" (p35)

On to Part 4...

Guinness on Relevance

By our uncritical pursuit of relevance we have actually courted irrelevance; by our breathless chase after relevance without a matching commitment to faithfulness, we have become not only unfaithful but irrelevant; by our determined efforts to redefine ourselves in ways that are more compelling to the modern world than are faithful to Christ, we have lost not only our identity but our authority and our relevance. Our crying need is to be faithful as well as relevant.
-Os Guinness, Prophetic Untimeliness, page 15

In my opinion understanding Guinness' plea will determine whether missional (emerging, contextualizing, whatever title you use) churches are "successful" 15 years from now. If they uncritically pursue relevance or "coolness" at the expense of faithfulness we will be having the same dismissal of the seeker-sensitive movement.

What Guinness is saying in this book is that being faithful to be biblical gospel will bring about our relevance. Here is a question for Guinness' quote at odds with this quote by Stetzer?

"It may sound uncharitable, but we do not mean it to be so. But...many will say that theses shifts, and a book like this, do not matter. They are convinced if you just 'preach the gospel' and perhaps 'love people' that your church will reach people. They are wrong, and their ideas hurt the mission of the church. Communities across North America are filled with churches led by loving gospel preachers--most of whom, if statistics are true, are not reaching people."
Ed Stetzer, Breaking the Missional Code, page 14

Borrowed Light: Today in Blogworld 03/20-24

Wyman Richardson posts an eight-year old interview with Timothy George. (Note that the interview is 8 years old, not the person giving the interview). It is an excellent resource. I particularly like this quote: I sometimes think, "Am I a five-point Calvinist?" I like to think I'm a "66-point" Calvinist because I think it's in every book of the Bible. But, in one sense, there's only one point, and that is that God is the source of our salvation from first to last. And if you believe that, then the points become ways of understanding or explaining this or that dimension of it but not a rigid grid through which everything has to be filtered. (HT: Founders)
Find out how $20 can supply fresh water to one person in Africa for 20 years. Lord willing, I will be giving 20 bucks to this cause, consider doing the same.

Phil Johnson continues his series on contextualization. Read part two here.

For those in the Puritan Reading Challenge, Timmy Brister provides an update. The April book will be Burroughs' Rare Jewel instead of Brooks' work.

For those that do not like the "Calvinistic tendencies" on this blog, Gordan Runyan has provided you a service: Defeating Calvinistic-blogs. Feel free to cut and paste as necessary.

Sorry I didn't give you this link sooner. Tim Challies discusses becoming a better apologizer.

Great post by Rhett on Altar Calls: The New Sacrament. I have been saying this for quite some time. In fact I have wanted to put together several posts comparing modern evangelicalism (or, heck, even Southern Baptist) with Roman Catholicism.

C.J. Mahaney and Jeff Purswell again treat us to the Leadership Series Interviews. Check out the latest installment on the Early-Morning Spiritual Battles.

Dan Phillips discusses Tim Keller's way of preaching on hell. It is an interesting article. I'm not sure if I agree more with Keller or Phillips. (My style probably matches Phillips, however). Be sure to read it and check out the comments too.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tournament News, Blog Tourney, and Other Updates

It has been a difficult, exhausting, yet, inspiring Easter weekend. All good Christian bloggers should post over the Easter holiday. I didn't. My wife and I were in St. Louis at the hospital with her dying grandmother. We aren't certain that she knows Jesus. Please pray for her soul and for her body. The Lord has been patient for 80-something years. He would be just to take her at anytime. However, we pray for his mercy.

In the category of incomparably stinky news, my tournament bracket is shot. Someone must have slipped me some crack or something in my Mountain Dew. I picked way too many upsets. What idiot picks Boise St. over Louisville? Me! Dumb. Seriously, what was I thinking?

In other "tournament" news I was very stoked to find out that I made the Blog Madness at SBC Voices. I am seeded 11th in the South Division. The top 4 in each division advance. It would be a major upset for Borrowed Light to make it into the second round. With your votes we could do so. If you want to vote for us go here and vote. No way we advance beyond the second round. But even being in the sweet 16 would be a huge honor.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Embracing the Whore

I am listening to Derek Webb right now. Personally, I liked his earlier stuff better, but that is beside the point. Webb has always been a little controversial. Do you remember the whole fiasco about his use of the word "whore" on his amazing song Wedding Dress? "Well I am a whore I do confess, and I put you on just like a wedding dress, and I run down the aisle, to you". Do you remember the ban that some (actually it might have been many) Christian book stores had on Webb's album? Many of you probably have no clue what I am talking about, because you have never heard the CD, because it got pulled from your Christian music store. Here is the point. If you are Abraham Piper and you want only 22 words here it is:

Do you find it ironic that we threw the "prophet" out of our Christian bookstores while embracing the whore that he denounced?

The Godly Man's Picture Chapter 4 (Part 2)

As noted previously, this is the longest chapter in the book. Therefore , we will be breaking it up into approximately 10 different parts. Today you will be treated to the second part, where we will cover the godly man moved by faith and fired by love for God.

The Canvas:

The most oft used brush in the masterpiece of a godly man is the brush of faith. Watson goes on a passionate, almost Pauline, discourse about the preciousness of faith. Faith, says Watson, "cuts us off from the wild olive of nature, and grafts us into Christ." It also, "is the vital artery of the soul...the mother of hope...the ground of patience." It "excites to repentance" and "enlivens graces". He sums this section up well when he says, "the life of a saint is nothing but a life of faith".

As Watson encourages us to "test ourselves by this characteristic" he paints a rather bleak picture of the condition of faith in England during his time. If we have not faith we are not godly. The question, then, that Watson is asking in this section is simple; do you have faith?

Our author makes a beautiful choice placing the "fire" of love for God after faith. Can you really separate the two? As Watson says, "faith and love are the two poles on which all religion turns". And again, "As faith enlivens, so love sweetens every duty". This section is Watson's confession that he is a Christian Hedonist, and that John Piper did not invent it (wink wink). He asks such pointed questions as, "is he our treasure and centre"? "Do we love him for his beauty more than his jewels?" Then he says something that pricks my heart..."Many court him, but few love him". Watson's main contention in this section is that if we are devoid of love for God, then we cannot truly be said to be godly.


Perhaps this question is inappropriate and will lead to endless abuse of Jesus' bride...with trepidation I ask it. What would you consider the state of "faith" in our nation? What about our churches? What about your church? What about your own soul?

After reading Richard Sibbes and remembering some of his quotes about "pitching matters too high", do you feel that Watson may sometimes do this? I am curious to hear a response to this from others that have read both books.

When Watson says "many court him, but few love him", how might we be guilty of "courting him" instead of loving him?

Strokes of Genius:

"A life of a saint is nothing but a life of faith" (p29)

"As faith enlivens, so love sweetens every duty" (p30)

"A godly man loves God and therefore delights to be in his presence; he loves God and therefore takes comfort in nothing without him." (p30)

"Many court him, but few love him." (p31)

On to Part 3...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Borrowed Light: Today in Blogworld 03/16-19

Nathan White tells a very heart-felt story about his confrontation with a beggar and then asks a very intriguing question.

I am very intrigued by the series that Phil Johnson is beginning on contextualization. This is a very interesting discussion that is going on in the church. It seems to be one of those things that keep coming up in my life. To be honest, I'm leaning towards what Phil is saying here. Read his introduction here.

This one is for bloggers; Timmy Brister provides live-blogging tips.

The John 3:16 Conference continues to cause a stir. Oh, we who adhere to the doctrines of grace ought to brace ourselves for the bunk that is about to come our way. Dr. Galyon has pointed us in the direction of Jerry Choice Grace. All I can say after reading Grace's article, is "wow"...I am out of my "caged"-Calvinist phase. It's okay with me if you aren't Reformed minded. I understand, I was not at one point as well. But, to totally misrepresent and be so vitriolic is neither fitting to a Calvinist or an Arminian. Read Dr. Galyon's article and tell me what you think.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that Tim Keller spoke at the Google HQ. If you get a free hour watch this:
(HT: Buzzard)

Welcome a New Team Member!

Welcome with me a new writer at Borrowed Light; Pastor Terry. Terry is the minister at FBC Palmyra. It is about 20 minutes North from where I minister. He has become a good friend in the last year. The Lord has often used Terry to temper me in my youth. All of us young pastors need a seasoned minister to keep us from going overboard. Terry was looking for a place to express his thoughts, and I figured Borrowed Light would be a great venue for that very thing. Be sure to welcome Terry to this blog.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Godly Man's Picture Chapter 4 (Part 1)

Chapter 4 is by far the lengthiest chapter in Watson's work. This is, in fact, the body of his entire book. He will here be painting the picture for us of what a godly man looks like. Everything else will be shading, touch ups, rounding, and everything else that makes a painting complete. This is the main picture. Therefore, it will take more than one post to mine this chapter. Today we will look at the godly man and knowledge.


Watson begins by comparing the natural man to the spiritual man. The natural man cannot understand the things of God, therefore he "does not see the evil of his heart" nor does he see "the beauties of the Savior". The believer, the spiritual man, on the other hand, experiences the "sweet and delicious" treasure of having the true knowledge of Jesus Christ. How do you know what type of knowledge you have? Watson gives eight "rare ingredients":

  1. It is a grounded knowledge (it is certain)
  2. It is an appreciative knowledge (it appreciates the beauty of God)
  3. It is an enlivening knowledge (it brings about godly affections)
  4. It is an appropriating knowledge (it applies Christ to the soul)
  5. It is a transforming knowledge (it changes us)
  6. It is a self-emptying knowledge (it brings us out of love for self)
  7. It is a growing knowledge (the more you have the more you desire)
  8. It is a practical knowledge (it is obedient in practice)

Watson then gives three uses for this doctrine of knowledge. The first of which is to "test ourselves" by this characteristic. By which Watson means, let us see if we have this godliness. He then gives three tests:

  • Those who are still in the region of darkness do not have godly knowledge. Watson here does not necessarily mean the darkness of sin. It seems that Watson is more concerned with darkness of being ignorant of the knowledge of God. This knowledge does indeed lead to a hatred of sin, yet, it is also much more.
  • Those who do not know God experimentally do not have godly knowledge. These are the men that know about God, yet they do not know God experientially. They have "head" knowledge but not "heart" knowledge.
  • Those that have "knowledge" but do not trust Christ do not have godly knowledge. This point is very close to the preceding, the only addition is the application of Christ. It is one thing to know that there is a Savior, it is quite another to trust in him personally. As Watson eloquently puts it, "many in the old world knew there was an ark, but were drowned, because they did not get into it."

The second use of this doctrine is to encourage the those that do not have it to labor for this good knowledge of the Lord. The knowledge that Watson is here referring to is "saving knowledge". How do we get this knowledge? It is not by our power or might, but by God's mercy.

The third use of this doctrine is for those that have found that they do, indeed, have saving knowledge. Watson says that we ought to "bless God for it". We ought to be forever thankful for the work that God has done in us.


Do you agree that, "to compare other things with God is to debase deity"?

On page 25, Watson says, "many Christians are no better than baptized heathens". Is it fitting to refer to them as Christians?

Does this knowledge of God, "usher in salvation" or is it the essence of salvation? (p26)

I find Watson's counsel to the unconverted a little lacking on page 26-27. It is right and true to speak of the work of God in the salvation of the sinner. It is even permissible to let them know that salvation is not ultimately in their hands. Yet, we are called to urge them to repentance and trusting in Christ. Watson does suggest that they "implore the help of God's Spirit". Is this fitting counsel, or ought he to urge them to repentance and belief?

Strokes of Genius:

"True knowledge animates." (p21)

"True knowledge brings a man out of love with himself". (p23)

"There is no going to heaven blindfold." (p25)

"It is one thing not to know, another thing not to be willing to know..." (p25)

"Knowledge which is not applied will only light a man to hell. It would be better to live a savage than to die an infidel under the gospel."

On to Part 2...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Together for the Madness

You've heard of the Together for the Gospel Conference, right? Jesse Phillips is inviting us to join his Together for the Madness. I am on a ridiculous losing streak. After winning the coaches bracket two years in a row, when I was in high school (about 8 years ago), I have been goose-egging it. Come join us in all the fun. If you aren't familiar with basketball, but want to have some fun I'll give you some good advice. A few really good teams this year are North Carolina, Belmont Memphis, Morgan St. UCLA, San Diego, Tennessee and Cornell. I'd pick those four teams to go pretty far if I were you. But if I were you I'd also watch more college basketball and not listen to your opponent.

Why Does This Rub Me Wrong?

Ed Stetzer has linked to a quote from Rob Zinn. Find the story here. This is one of the quotes:

"Jesus gave a commission to His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations," Rob Zinn, senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif., said in the convention's annual sermon. "We are a denomination that talks a lot but does little when it comes to evangelism... "Folks, what you did in the '40s and what you did in the '50s isn't going to win this culture to Jesus," Zinn said. "One of the things we are losing right now is our kids." While Southern Baptists must never change "the man [Jesus], the message [the Gospel] or the mission," they must be willing to change methods like the kind of music used in worship if they are going to reach a new generation in a changed culture, Zinn said. His voice cracking with emotion, Zinn said: "My heart is bursting for a generation of people who are lost and dying and going to hell. It's not about you. It's about Him [Jesus], and He loves them all."

Here is my question for you. My spidey-senses tingle when I read that quote. But just like Spidey sometimes I'm not sure why they are tingling. Is it just gas? For the life of me I can't put my finger on what rubs me wrong in this quote. Can you?

Borrowed Light: Today in Blogworld 03/12-14

There is quite a stir among my Calvinist brethren over the upcoming Jacobus John 3:16 Conference. Rhett from the Reformed Mafia, believes we are being set up for the kill. Tom Ascol continues to have hope. Dr. James Galyon has a very thoughtful response to Steve Lemke.

Frank Turk has an interesting take on the Rick Warren call to Mark Driscoll. (Hey, blogosphere, I just used the name Driscoll and Warren in the same post...can I anticipate 3,000 hits today?)

Great post at The Gate: A Reality Check, It's Not All About Me. (HT: Jared)

How do you apply the gospel to pastoral ministry? This is a phenomenal article by Rich Richardson. Seriously. Read it twice. Then apply.

John Piper offers 6 Apsects of Humility.

The Irish Calvinist (that makes it sound like there is only one guy in Ireland that is a Calvinist, doesn't it), has a wonderful post on Preaching. Here is a sample quote that rips into my small intestine: "Jesus just unfolds the Scriptures...This is a rebuke to those of us who teach and find more power in a pithy quote from a theologian than the precise and power-packed Word of God. Let’s preach and teach as men who are under the authority of the Word. May it be clear when we teach who the authority is. Sometimes contemporary preachers, particularly in the Reformed wing, tread dangerously close to a Protestant Magisterium with all of their appeals to “heroes” of the faith. If you are a preacher, does your word possess authority? If you are preaching the Word then it does. Men, preach to put God on display and make Jesus the hero."

Josh Harris and CJ Mahaney address how a pastor monitors the health of his own soul. Here is a similar article by CJ.

Very convicting statements by Dan Phillips. Here is the foundational point in his article: "Sure, God says to do ___, but I've figured out that that won't work. So I don't have to do it. And I won't. Because I'm too smart."

For those involved in the Purtian Reading Challenge, Timmy Brister offers his monthly biographical on our author of the month. This month is Thomas Watson.

Michael Patton asks, How Many Beliefs Can One Abandon and Still be Called Christian? I'm guessing the magic number is 7, but that's just because God seems to like that number. Maybe you should read Michael's article, it's probably more scholarly than my guess of 7. By the way, this article is really about what doctrines are essential to the Christian faith.

The Godly Man's Picture Chapter 3

The Canvas:

All great paintings have been copied at one time or another. So it is with this great painting that our author is discussing. The godly man can also be counterfeit. Exposing this forgery is Watson's aim in this chapter.

He begins by considering why people would even bother to content themselves with a show of godliness. His answer is that men love credit. They want the credit of being religious, and being marked down as such, yet lack the desire to actually be godly. This of course is a double iniquity and Watson will give 6 reasons why it is wrong, dangerous, and deadly:
  1. To have only a show of godliness is a God-enraging sin
  2. To make only a show of godliness is self-delusion
  3. To have only a name, and make a show of godliness, is odious to God and man
  4. To be only comets and make a show of piety is a vain thing
  5. To have only a pretence of godliness will yield no comfort at death
  6. You who have nothing but a specious pretext and mask of piety expose yourself to Satan's scorn

If this is damnable condition of those that are such posers, then how can we know whether or not we are hypocrites? Watson gives two signs. 1) When one serves God for sinister ends. 2) When there is some sin dear to a man, which he cannot part with.

What do I do if I find myself to be a hypocrite? His answer is simple. Go to Christ. And he closes by reminding us that "Two hearts will exclude from one heaven".


This is more by way of information than discussion. On page 17 Watson uses the term mountebank. It may be unfamiliar to many. It basically is a reference to a charlatan or a quack. It came from phonies selling bogus medicine.

On page 18, Watson says, "What, then, will it be to have the devil triumph over a man at the last day!" Do you think it is appropriate to refer to the devil as "triumphing" over a man?

Also, I am a little confused in what Watson is saying here. When he says at the bottom of page 18 that a mark of a hypocrite is "when there is some sin dear to a man, which he cannot part with", am I wrong in thinking that this is the lot of us all? Am I wrong in thinking that we are all in some way and in some areas all hypocritical? Then, surprisingly he says at the top of page 19, "Christian, if you mourn for hypocrisy, yet find this sin so potent that you cannot get the mastery of it, go to Christ", it appears that here he is agreeing with what I just said. Yet, he closes with this statement, "Two hearts will exclude from one heaven". It sounds as if he is saying the hypocrite will be damned. Which is it? Thoughts?

Strokes of Genius:

"What good will it do a man when he is in hell that others think he has gone to heaven" (p16)

"The wicked hate the hypocrite because he is almost a Christian, and God hates him because he is only almost one." (p16)

"He who has only a painted holiness shall have a painted happiness" (p17)

Shawn McDonald New CD

What a great surprise this morning to discover that Shawn McDonald has a new CD out. I am currently listening to it on my Yahoo Music Jukebox. (Yeah, I'm not quite in the Itunes stage of my life yet). I had no idea he was coming out with a new CD. Super! Apparently I am behind the times, there are already quite a few reviews out. Anywho, you can buy the CD for just under 10 bucks, here. (Which that site is also my image source).

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Two Recent Sermons

I apologize that I have not posted much lately. Just when it seemed that this blog was beginning to gain some momentum (as far as number of visitors) I found myself ridiculously busy, and unable to post much. Hopefully, today that will change.

There are two recent sermons that are now available online. The first one is the introduction to our new series on Colossians. The introduction and conclusion are under-developed in the written version that is available; for that I apologize. The body of the sermon is, however, very much intact. Although it was probably preached a little different than this "uncut" sermon. You can find it here.

The second sermon that is available is the one that was preached last night. It is on Colossians 1:3-8, You can find it here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Borrowed Light: Today in Blogworld 03/10-11

Trevin Wax discusses the influence of Calvinism at Southern Seminary (SBTS). I particularly like this paragraph: "Perhaps there are some who fit the category of “hyperactive” Calvinists - students who are still in the proverbial “cage-stage” of Calvinism and who are actively seeking to convert all other Christians to their doctrinal viewpoint. The problem with the hyperactive strain of Calvinism is not theology, but sin, particularly the sin of pride and arrogance. It is the same sin that lies at the root of Church Growth controversies, when a young pastor enthralled with Bill Hybels proceeds to divide a church by throwing out all hymns and organs. Immaturity and selfishness comes in all forms, not merely Calvinist."

As one that has unbelieving family members (most are "nominal" at best) this post by Chris Daukas is phenomenal: Jesus, Meet My Unbelieving Family Members

Marc Backes has an excellent point on leadership. He, like myself, spent years devouring books by leadership gurus. He has came to the same conclusion that I have: "Put the man made leadership laws down and get on your knees before Jesus and ask Him to break you and mold you. Man doesn't make a leader. Jesus breaks a leader."

I am so happy that Ligonier Ministries is now blogging. Check out their most recent interview with Sinclair Ferguson. (I really want to start reading Ferguson's stuff, any suggestions on where I should start?)

Can you really develop a sermon in 279 words? One pastor is going to apply the Gettysburg Principle. I actually think I am going to try this. If I can make a sermon this concise then I probably "get" the text. (HT: Abraham Piper)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Making Worship Comprehensible to Unbelievers

I have a confession to make. I've never really read much of anything by Tim Keller. I know he's one of the elite. I know I should read his stuff. I just haven't. At least not much. Until tonight. I dedicated time to my first article by Keller. You can read it here. It discusses Evangelistic Worship. One of Keller's points is that we ought to make our worship service comprehensible to the unbeliever. Here are his seven sub-points on how we make the worship service comprehensible:
  1. Worship and preaching ought to be in the "vernacular"
  2. Explain the service as you go along
  3. Directly address and welcome unbelievers
  4. Have quality aesthetics
  5. Celebrate deeds of mercy and justice
  6. Present the sacraments so as to make the gospel clear
  7. Preach grace
What do you think? Be certain to read the article, focus on page 4-10. Is it necessary to preach in the vernacular? Ought we change words like propitiation, to make them more "clear"? Are quality aesthetics necessary? Is this trying to be too smooth? Should the church toot her own horn, for unbelievers? Is this not letting our deeds be known before men? Are the sacraments for unbelievers, believers, or both? How will we edify the body if we "preach grace" every Sunday? Don't we need to move on from these elementary things?
I am pretty certain that I know what I believe on these issues. I am interested, though, to learn what you think? Is Keller on target? Should we even make the worship "comprehensible" for unbelievers? Isn't the service for the believer and God?

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Godly Man's Picture Chapter 2

The Canvas:

The first task in painting (unless of course you are Bob Ross) is to set the parameters for what you are painting. Watson does this in the beginning by answering "What is godliness"? If we are going to paint a picture of godliness, then it makes sense to define what we mean by godliness. Watson defines it as, "the sacred impression and workmanship of God in a man, whereby from being carnal he is made spiritual". He then lays down for us 7 maxims:

  1. Godliness is a real thing ("It is not a fancy but a fact")
  2. Godliness is an intrinsic thing ("It lies chiefly in the heart")
  3. Godliness is a supernatural thing (It comes from God)
  4. Godliness is an extensive thing ("It...spreads itself into the whole soul")
  5. Godliness is an intense thing ("It is vigorous and flaming")
  6. Godliness is a glorious thing (It is beautiful)
  7. Godliness is a permanent thing (It is a "fixed thing")


This has no life-altering quality, but the coolest word is in this chapter--bespangling. It basically means glittering. What a fun word to say. I think I should go tell my wife that her eyes are bespangling.

Did you find this statement strange: "though he is regenerate only in part, yet it is in every part"? What do you think Watson means by being "regenerate" only in part? Is that biblical? For those that are not reading the book, let me put it in context. This comes in Watson's fourth maxim. He is discussing that godliness spreads to the whole soul. It appears to me that he is saying that we are not totally regenerate (perhaps sanctified would have been a better word), yet our new nature spreads to every area of our life. What do you think?

Strokes of Genius:

"A man has no more power to change himself than to create himself." (p13)

"He who is good only in some part is not godly." (p13)

"He whose devotion is inflamed is godly and his heart boils over in holy affections." (p13)

"There is a great deal of difference between a stake in the hedge and a tree in the garden." (p14)

The Godly Man's Picture Chapter 1

The point of this book is simple, to paint for us a picture of what a godly man looks like. Thomas Watson will be our Bob Ross. He will begin by explaining the picture that he is going to paint, then paint it, then tell us how to paint it. It will be an exciting journey. In each section we will give a summary of the chapter (The Canvas), provide discussion, and enjoy a few especially vivid quotes (Strokes of Genius).

The Canvas:

Because forgiveness "lays the foundation for all other mercies", Watson will begin here. In a short chapter Watson provides 5 points concerning forgiveness:
  1. Forgiveness of sin is an act of God's free grace
  2. God, in forgiving sin, remits the guilt and penalty
  3. Forgiveness of sin is through the blood of Christ
  4. Before sin is forgiven, it must be repented of
  5. God having forgiven sin, he will no longer call it to remembrance

He closes the chapter with two simple points: it' s deplorable not to be forgiven and precious to have forgiveness.


What do you think Watson means when he says, "When the Lord pardons a sinner, he does not pay a debt, but gives a legacy"? What is this legacy?

Strokes of Genius:

"He who is humbled for sin will value pardoning mercy the more." (p10)

"Sin shall not be cast in like cork which rises up again, but like lead which sinks to the bottom." (p10)

"The pardoned soul is out of the gunshot of hell." (p11)

"Guilt clips the wings of prayer so that it cannot fly to the throne of grace, but forgiveness breeds confidence" (p11)

Borrowed Light: Today in Blogworld 03/07-09

Brian Thornton has an intriguing quote. Who do you think said it?

This could be a watershed decision by an appeals court in California. The court has ruled that parents have no constitutional right to homeschool their children. I can not articulate a comment on this as effective as Dr. Mohler. I would simply say, "that is just dumb". Dr. Mohler is a little more articulate, read his take here.

Great story of witnessing and faithfulness to the gospel by Timmy Brister: The Cross Isn't Sexy.

Michael Spencer, the IMonk, has compiled a list of 10 Reasons He Doesn't Read Your Blog. It would very helpful to me if my readers would read this article, and e-mail me any suggestions in how I may improve this blog.

I failed to mention this last week. Abraham Piper has a new blog called 22 Words. It is very intriguing. And it takes about 15 seconds to read each post.

There is a very important discussion going on between Rick Love, John Piper, Justin Taylor and a few others. The eye of this hurricaine is found in Love's signing of A Common Word. He gives reasons why, Piper, Taylor, and others do not quite buy it. Here is Love's latest explanation. Here is Frank Turk's (of Team Pyro) response to Love.

Trevin Wax points us to a phenomenal Spurgeon quote admonishing pastors and people alike, to read.

This is a phenomenal post by Ray Ortlund. His central thesis is this: "In the heart of God, moral fervor is beautiful. In the heart of a sinner, moral fervor is complicated." He then offers a few diagnostics to monitor whether or not he is slipping into moral fervor. Wonderful post.

There is a Real Preachers of Genius video floating around. I thought this one was pretty funny (and sadly true) also:

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Why I Am Not a Calvinist (Part 3)

I really disprove of the title of this post. It offends its author. In my mind saying I am not a Calvinist is almost like saying I do not believe in the biblical gospel. Lest I be misunderstood, I am not saying that Calvinism=the gospel. It does not. But soteriologically speaking I am a Calvinist through and through, therefore to me the issue is very near to the gospel. It pains me to think that many people read the title of this and I get lumped in with those I disagree with theologically. But I deserve the association. I am exploring in this series the truth that even though in my soteriology I may be Reformed, in my practice I am not certain I deserve such a title. Today we will discuss the second petal of the TULIP: Unconditional Election.

In the Westminster Confession (Chapter 3, Sections 3-7) it states:
By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.

These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it can not be either increased or diminished.

Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of his free grace and love alone, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto; and all to the praise of his glorious grace.

As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore they who are elected being fallen in Adam are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.

In other words before the foundation of the world God has chosen, for His good pleasure, those whom He would redeem and those He would not. It is an unchangeable decree. It is not based on His foreknowledge. It is not conditional. It's basis is in the free sovereign pleasure of the Almighty.

This is a very difficult doctrine to swallow. No doubt some of my readers will balk at such arbitrary choosing on the part of God. Yet, I must repeat that I will not discuss the merit or demerit of such a position. I do affirm what is stated here. My concern in this post is not to discuss whether this is true or not. My concern is to determine whether or not the fruits of believing this doctrine are evident in my life. Honestly some are. I am probably exaggerating my faults in some areas and diminishing my faults in others. The truth is, I am the biggest sinner I know. Growth in these areas will only come by the grace of God.

Those that believe in unconditional election ought to be marked by certain fruits. As J.I. Packer helps us see in his Concise Theology that this doctrine is primarily pastoral. As he says, "in Scripture it is a pastoral doctrine, brought in to help Christians see how great is the grace that saves them, and to move them to humility, confidence, joy, praise, faithfulness, and holiness in response". (149-150) If the biblical doctrine of unconditional election has really penetrated my soul, and if Packer is correct, then I ought to be marked by humility, confidence, joy, praise, faithfulness, and holiness. I ought to be consistently astonished by the grace of God in my life. Am I? Do I REALLY believe this doctrine?
  • This doctrine should also have a bearing on the way that I deal with believers that disagree with this doctrine. If I really believe that God dispenses salvation freely. Is it really right for me to believe that I am a Calvinist because I'm "smart and believe the Bible"? Is it possible that my interaction with Arminians (and those that are somewhere in-between) ought to be marked by humility instead of spiritual elitism? Far too often, I'm right and they are wrong. I can be way too militant in my Calvinism. Therefore, I probably ought to shut my mouth and quit debasing such a doctrine with actions unfitting to its assertions.
  • Do I believe this doctrine when I preach? Do I have a joy in my heart and a confidence that God WILL draw out His elect? Do I believe that one of those "means thereunto" that God has chosen to draw people is the preaching of His glorious Word? If this doctrine is true and it is the "due season" which the Spirit will draw then they WILL come. Ought I not to have confidence in prayer and preaching? Yet sometimes my heart is in such a melancholy state that I must not truly believe this doctrine.
  • A person that believes this doctrine ought to live a life that reflects continual astonishment at the grace of God. I ought to be overwhelmed that He chose me, for no reason other than His good pleasure. I ought to remember that He could have just as easily passed me over, and been fully justice. Yet, I secretly live my life as if I deserve mercy and as if God made a really good choice. Oh, what disgusting pride. A believer in this doctrine ought to never have pride but only a trembling joy. I have pride.
  • If I really understood this doctrine then sin would not look good. I would be so enamored by the grace of God that picked me out of hell that I would not desire to "present my members again to unrighteousness". Yet, how often do I forget the amazing grace of God?
  • One that is a recipient of such grace, and one that truly believes and understands such grace, ought to be gracious himself. I am not so certain that I am. If I really understand that grace is undeserved then I would stop giving "grace" only to those that "deserve" it. I would be seeking out sinners instead of avoiding them. I do not truly understand grace.

Here is my simple assertion. Calvinists ought to be the most humble, gracious, irenic, confident, joyous, and holy people. Calvinists ought to have speech that is seasoned with the salt of grace and praise should consistently be pouring forth from our lips. Yet what are Calvinists most known by? Our pride, our passion for truth at the expense of people, and our lack of all those graces just mentioned. I am no exception. So, until I begin to more consistently model those graces, maybe I ought not to call myself a Calvinist.

Dear God make me in attitude what I claim to be in doctrine!

Review of John Flavel--The Mystery of Providence

Author: John Flavel

Pages: 221 pages

Publisher: Banner of Truth

Price: 5.99 USD

Genre: Puritan Paperback

Quick Summary:

As it says on the back cover the purpose of this work is to, “persuade Christians of the excellency of observing and meditating upon [Providence]”. It is especially important to keep in mind the difficulties that would have attended Flavel and his congregants in 1678, when this work was first published. 16 years earlier Flavel was one of the ministers booted out of his congregation in the Great Ejection of 1662. Flavel knew heartache. Yet, Flavel also knew a sovereign God. It is the workings of this Sovereign God in the midst of such heartache that he offers this work.

If you like history you will probably like the first part of this work. Flavel gives very few points of application, yet he tells numerous stories to give us evidence of Providence. This covers a little over the first 100 pages. Then, our author gives what appears to be the main body of this work; encouragement to adhere to our duty of meditating on Providence. Finally, about two-thirds of the way through the book, Flavel will appease our microwave culture by giving numerous points of application.

What I Liked:

Many people tend to like the second and third section the best. I love to hear stories and study history. Therefore, I tend to like the first section a little more. I do appreciate Flavel’s simplicity in building his argument. He does not take us through a ton of loops to overwhelm us with evidence of Providence and then exhort us to respond. He does it simply, I appreciate that. Even though the book is not filled with a ton of new information, it is so overwhelming with examples that it causes you to stop and think. That appears to be one of Flavel’s primary goals; to get us to stop and smell the beautiful garden that God has planted before our eyes. He succeeds.

What I Disliked:

My personality is not the type that enjoys sniffing at roses. If the roses are quickly changing and offering new sensory material for me to take in, then maybe I could hack it. But to spend an hour admiring the intricacies of a bed of very similar roses would, frankly, bore me. At times in reading this work I felt bored. I felt like screaming, “I get it”. Move on to something new John. This, however, is probably less the authors fault and more mine. Would this book have better served us had it been a little shorter and more pointed? I am not certain. Is it better to be overwhelmed by the evidence of Providence or is it better to be stimulated to such a point that it teases your appetite and causes you to taste and see that the Lord is good? We probably need both.

Should You Buy It?

Probably. This is not like a Bruised Reed where I will, like a puppy begging for bacon, urge you to read it. Nevertheless, it is an excellent book to read. I am going to give it a 3 out of 5 stars but it probably deserves better. If you like smelling the roses then you will love it. If you are like me and would rather take a quick glance and then move on to another bed of roses, then you probably need to read it as well. We could use a little slowing down.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Borrowed Light: Today in Blogworld 03/04-06

Google is really popular. I love Google. I use Google. But I am sure that some/many of the folks at Google need Jesus. My heart was happy to hear of Tim Keller receiving the opportunity to preach the gospel at the Google HQ. Justin Buzzard was there and blogged on Keller's message. What an awesome opportunity, I pray that the Holy Spirit preached the gospel to their hearts. (HT: Challies)

Tim Bayly asks Where Have All the Father's Gone? It's a pretty good article and makes the way for really good discussion. Maybe all of the suggestions are not the best, but it is a great article. (HT: Jared Wilson)

C.J. Mahaney points to an address by Jeff Purswell. In it he gives a humbling and earth-shattering statement to those of us that preach the gospel, "You are a standing in the very stead of God".

Eric Simmons has wonderful suggestions on how to pick a movie. His goal is to offer suggestions to help reduce these moments: "Have you ever had that really uncomfortable and convicting sense after watching a movie? You think, “Uh, that one might’ve been a mistake” or “I’m not so sure I should’ve watched that..."

Joshua Hitchcock of the Reformed Mafia gives us a great article and encouragement to not minimize the gospel. Great reminder of the Puritan culture and their refusal to minimize the gospel.

Tim Challies has a touching story about what it means to love our neighbor (even if they are a nuisance) without grumbling.

Is it possible to have masculinity without manhood? Albert Mohler comments on that question. I particularly like his closing statement: "We lie to ourselves if we believe that we can hold onto a healthy masculinity without honoring true manhood."

Michael Patton asks a very important question, Can a Christian Theology Allow for Abortion?

In our guys Bible study we are studying the Book of Job. A great question that comes out of that would be, how could I have joy if I had the afflictions of Job? C.J. Mahaney attempts to answer that question, Finding Joy in Adversity.

Calvinists beware! Many of us across the blogosphere have our ears open for the rumblings of the upcoming John 3:16 Conference. Tom Ascol throws the first challenge, encouraging us to listen and not get our tulips all ruffled. Nathan Finn also joins the conversation, here.

Perry Noble gives 5 things you should never hear from a staff member.

John Piper makes a clarification on a statement he made at The Resurgence. What is his view on Arminians in education? Find out here.

Should I find this funny?

The Mystery of Providence Chapter 13

This final chapter in Flavel's work is more of an epilogue to an impressive work, than a chapter that stands on its own. It is simply Flavel's plea for us to keep a record of our experiences of providence. You can not help but sympathize with Flavel's sentiment, when he says, "For [lack] of collecting and communicating such observations, not only ourselves, but the Church of God is greatly impoverished."

What a gold mine it would be to have stacks upon stacks of letters and diaries of many saints of old. The church has been greatly blessed by the letters of such men as Samuel Rutherford and John Newton. I cannot help but wonder the storehouse of information, experiences, and graces are robbed from the Church because of our lack of journal keeping.

What is Chapter 13 about? Simply this, do not trust your slippery memory, write down the workings of Providence, and don't be so foolish as to think that your present trial is greater than the ones in the past.

I'm going to go keep a journal now...

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

How to See in the Midst of Darkness

How may a Christian work his heart into resignation to the will of God when sad providences approach him and forebode great troubles and afflictions coming on towards him?

I know that I am supposed to trust God. But how do I do that when everything is so dark? When I am in the middle of despair, how do I trust a God that I can barely see? What do I do when I do not see the light at the end of the tunnel but only glimpses of more trouble and anguish? This is the question that will close Chapter 12.

Flavel knows his Bible. He reminds us that we cannot resign our hearts to do anything. You get the idea that he formed this question, and then begins to tear it down a little. On the heart Flavel says, "We cannot resign it, and subject it to the will of God whenever we desire so to do." It is indeed our duty, but Flavel reminds us that Jesus said apart from Him we can do nothing. Not some things. Nothing!

Clearing up this Flavel journeys towards answering the question; but he has one more stop to make. We must become like David in 2 Samuel 15:25-26. "And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city; if I shall find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me back again, and show me both it and his habitation: But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee: behold here am I, let him do to me as seemth good unto him". Until we have that attitude, says Flavel, we will "have no peace within". We must come with such submission to the Lord that says, "do with me as seems good to You". Now come the suggestions for us to consider:

  • Labor to work into your hearts a deep and fixed sense of the infinite wisdom of God and your own folly and ignorance
  • It is nothing but our pride and arrogance over-valuing our own understandings that makes resignation so hard
  • Deeply consider the sinfulness and vanity of torturing your own thoughts about the issues of doubtful providence
  • Set before you those choice Scripture patterns of submission to the Lord's will in as deep, yea, much deeper points of self-denial than this before you, and shame yourselves out of this quarreling attitude with Providence
  • Study the singular benefits and advantages of a will resigned up and melted into the will of God
  • Think how repugnant an unsubmissive attitude is both to your prayers and professions

Return to The Mystery of Providence Chapter 12

How To Be an Anchor in Shifty Waters

How may we attain an evenness and steadiness of spirit under the changes and contrary aspects of Providence upon us?

Simon's nickname was Peter. He was supposed to be the rock. And I suspect that every believer is to be rock-like. We should not be shifting amidst the various situations we find ourselves in. There is a reason that people ought to ask us about the hope that we have. We should be anchors when everything else at sea is blown by the wind and waves. But how can the Christian attain this? How can he do it in comfort? How about in sorrow? What about when he himself is doubting? This is what Flavel will now consider.

How to maintain in comfort:

  • Urge humbling and awakening considerations upon our own hearts
  • Realize that your blessing is no sign of God's special distinguishing love
  • Think how unstable and changeable these comforts are
  • Notice that they will reveal the carnality and corruption in your heart

How to maintain in calamity:

  • Note that these "strokes" are often of great use to the people of God
  • Nothing can separate you from Christ; not even this calamity
  • Remember, it will end shortly

How to maintain in doubt:

  • Consider the vanity and uselessness of your anxiety
  • The disposal and management of our affairs is wholly in the hand of the Father
  • God is faithful to every syllable of His Word, including your sanctification
  • Commit your way unto the Lord

Return to The Mystery of Providence Chapter 12

Is This For My Good?

How may a Christian discern when a providence is sanctified and comes fromt he love of God to him?

How do we know whether our situation is from the hand of God and meant for our sanctification or if something is from the hand of Satan and is meant for our destruction? That is the essential question that Flavel is addressing. To our spoiled American minds we probably think that if it benefits us then it must be from God. How could a new house NOT be from God? Of course its a blessing. Of course my refund check is a blessing. Of course my new increase in salary is a blessing. Are you sure? That is what Flavel is asking. How do we know if difficult things are means for our good or if they are meant to harm us? How do we know if good circumstances are blessings or curses?

Flavel begins by marking a difference between the believer and the unbeliever. The unbeliever even though he may enjoy things it really does him no good. "So the best things wicked men enjoy do them no good". Yet for the believer all things work together for their good. Our author humbly admits that from the nature of things we cannot discern whether it is good or bad. But we can discern if something is good or bad for us based upon its fruits. And it is these that we consider.

The difficulty is probably being used for our sanctification (good) if:
  • It comes in a proper season
  • It is used to purge sin
  • It turns our hearts against sin, and not against God
  • It causes us to draw near to God
  • Rather than alienating our heart from God it inflames our love to Him
  • When it is accompanied by divine teachings

The comfort is probably NOT being used for our sanctification (good) if:

  • It does not lead us to prayer and thanksgiving
  • We acquired the comfort by sinful means
  • It makes us forget God and cast off our care of duty
  • It is used to serve our fleshly lusts
  • It swells the heart with pride and self-conceitedness
  • It takes us off our duty and makes us negligent
  • It distracts us and makes us focus on enjoyments and unaware of sins

The comfort is probably being used for our sanctification (good) if:

  • It humbles our souls kindly before God
  • We become cautious of sin
  • It engages our heart in love to God
  • It is not seen as our portion, but God alone is still our portion
  • Our souls are more ready and enlarged for duty to God
  • It causes us to break forth in prayer and thanksgiving to God

What to Do While You Wait

How may a Christian be supported in waiting upon God, while Providence delays the performance of the mercies to him for which he has long prayed and waited?

One of the most difficult things in the Christian life is waiting upon God. John Flavel is strong in his doctrine. He knows that "God appoints the time; when that appointed time is come the expected mercies will not fail". But he also knows heartache. He also knows it is difficult to wait. Therefore, he gives the believer a few directives for these periods of waiting.

Consider these things:
  • "Our sinkings of heart are the immediate effects of unbelief" (p.192)
  • "Though Providence does not yet perform the mercies you wait for, yet you have no ground to entertain hard thoughts of God, for it is possible God never gave you any ground for your expectation of these things from Him." (p.193)
  • The season in which God gives His up to Him, not you.
  • Spiritual mercies are also "dispensed to us in such measures and at such seasons as the Lord sees fit, and many of His own people live for a long time without them." (p.195)
  • "Enjoyment of your deisres is the thing that will please you, but resignation of your wills is that which is pleasing to God." (p.195)
  • "Are not those mercies you expect from God worth waitin gfor? If not, it is your folly to be troubled for the lack of them". (p.196)
  • "You have made God wait long for your reformation and obedience; and therefore you have no reason to think it much if God makes you wait long for your consolation." (p.197)

The Mystery of Providence Chapter 12

We are almost finished with The Mystery of Providence. Chapter 12, one away from the final, considers the problems associated with Providence. With reading the chapter you expect Flavel to begin discussing some of the difficult doctrines, like the problem of evil. If you are expecting something other than being humbled under the mighty hand of God, then you will be sorely disappointed in this chapter. Flavel does not address all the "intellectual" problems with this doctrine, but instead addresses the "practical" problems. Again these points are far too lengthy to consider in one post. We will link to each problem and then have discussion at the end. The problems are thus:


Can you truly say that you are afraid of offending God. Flavel's statement on p.188, "Be really afraid of offending Him", hit me like a ton of bricks. I am not so certain that I am REALLY afraid of offending Him. Maybe moderately. Is it possible to be too comfortable in the benefits of the Cross, so that I no longer tremble as I ought? I think it is.

Is there really any more sound advice than what Flavel gives on page 189, when he basically tells those inquiring into the will of God to obey that which they do know? I have seen so many instances, in my own life especially, where believers get distracted by the unknown to the neglect of that which is known.

What do you think Flavel means when he says, "But for the seasons which are of our own fixing and appointment, as God is not tied to them, so His providences are not governed by them..."? What seasons do you think are our own fixing? Can a Calvinist talk like this?

How can you argue with this? "Are not those mercies you expect from God worth waiting for? If not, it is your folly to be troubled for the lack of them". (p.196)

"You have made God wait long for your reformation and obedience; and therefore you have no reason to think it much if God makes you wait long for your consolation." (p.197) Whoa there Mr. Flavel, can a Calvinist speak of us "making God wait"?

Have you previously considered this truth? "It is nothing but our pride and arrogance over-valuing our own understandings that makes resignation so hard". Oh, what pride we must have to think that we know better than the Almighty!

Have you noticed yet how different a Puritan counsels compared to many modern "counselors"? They are quick to remind you of your own sinfulness and utterly destroy your self-help. They are quick to point out your fault and your lack of duty before such a holy God. They labor to rip every bit of self-righteousness from our souls and strip us naked before the Cross. How different is that than much of the counseling that we hear today? How different is this than the shoddy counseling that tries to re-instill our sense of self-worthiness?

Discovering the Unclear Will of God

How may a Christian discover the will of God and his own duty under dark and doubtful providences?

This would be a great chapter for teleheretics televangelists to read. More so it would be great for college students. I remember that time in my life when it seemed that every question lead to, "What is God's will for...." Who should I marry? What should I do with my life? On and on the questions went. Each day had some new occurence that would be interpreted through these questions. Because this girl like me, does this mean that God is opening up the door for me to marry her. Because I seem especially equipped at this job does it mean that God is calling me to it?

Flavel seems to make it simple. "The way we now have to know the will of God concerning us in difficult cases is to search and study the Scriptures." Well, you ask, does that mean I have to marry someone named Ruth or Rahab or Martha? How does the Bible answer these questions? What if the Bible gives "no particular rule"? Flavel then says, "there we are to apply general rules and govern ourselves according to the analogy and proportion they bear towards each other".

So, does that mean the girl winking at me means I should marry her? And this is where Flavel is very careful. "The safesty way therefore to make use of providences in such cases is to consider them as they follow the commands or promises of the Word and not singly and separately in themselves." What does that mean? It means that you probably ought not to read into Providences unless you can find confirmation in them from Scripture. Rather than interpreting the wink of the pretty girl as a sign of Providence, just interpret it as a wink from a pretty girl. Do not translate every occurence as a communication from the Lord. Only those that line up with Scripture.

Lest Flavel leave us with unsatisfying instruction he also gives us 5 general rules:
  1. Get the true fear of God upon your hearts. Be really afraid of offending Him. God will not hide His mind from such a soul.
  2. Study the Word more, and the concerns and interests of the world less
  3. Reduce what you know into practice, and you shall know what is your duty to practice
  4. Pray for illumination and direction in the way that you should go
  5. Follow Providence so far as it agrees with the Word and no further

Return to The Mystery of Providence Chapter 12

Monday, March 3, 2008

Thougts on Driscoll, Acts 29, Emergent, and those that oppose

Before I begin these thoughts I need to make 2 points of disclosure. 1) I reserve the right to be wrong. I do not propose to solve this problem, if it were so simple, that somebody like myself could solve it, then it probably would no longer be an issue. 2) I am certainly not Emergent, I do not agree with Driscoll/Acts 29 on everything, but I would not consider myself in opposition (at least to Driscoll/Acts 29). This is my humble offering to this discussion. Knowing that it can be a form of pride to take the "nobody is right in this issue" road, I timidly will take that position. Probably the most difficult thing in this discussion will be defining the issue. Usually by the time someone has nailed the proverbial jell-o to the wall, the discussion is already so confusing that the implications or application is thrown out the window. So for sake of clarity, knowing there are a gazillion other issues at stake, I will try to address only one major point: the idea of "making the gospel relevant".

Since I am not emerging/emergent I doubt I can give them a fair shake. In fact I only include them in this discussion because of their supposed association with the Driscoll/Acts 29 crowd. A true Emergent person would probably be speaking of something different by "gospel" anyway. Rather than asking, "how do we preach the gospel in such a way that someone comes to know Jesus", they are probably asking, "how do we live the gospel in such a way that someone lives a better life and has a better understanding and grows a soul-patch". I'm not concerned at this point with addressing the Emerging Church, it would be a distraction. But a distinction must be made. On issues of the gospel and soteriology ACTS 29 IS NOT EMERGING.

You will not understand this discussion until you come to that conclusion. There are some areas that Acts 29 will look like an Emerging Church. Their methodology sometimes will have the appearance of evil Emerging. But soteriologically speaking they are far from Emerging. You cannot brand them heretics. Doing so is irresponisble and just plain wrong.

On the other hand folks in the Acts 29/Driscoll crowd have the same foundational desire that Emerging Churches have; the desire to change the present structure and be relevant in their culture. The buzzword now is missional. You have to exegete your culture and figure out a way to make the gospel relevant. You do not sell out the message. But you have to make certain to speak the language of the culture. That is the mindset. Sometimes that gets a little shaky. What do you do if the culture you are ministering to eats monkey brains? Well, you eat monkey brains. What if the culture you are ministering to uses crass language? Well, you use crass language. Or do you? And here is the big discussion.

Those who oppose Acts 29/Driscoll say that you must not use crass language just to reach the culture. That is selling out the gospel. Methodoloy matters. If you are drinking a beer with an alcoholic, you are not doing him any favors. Total abstinence is the best way to share the gospel. The lost person, must see that your life is different. Then maybe at some point he'll ask questions. "Hey, buddy, why don't you drink"? Then you can share with him that it is because of your relationship with Jesus Christ, and that you have found happiness outside of a bottle. Maybe you were once a drinker. You can use this as a launching point to share your testimony. But the best way to share the gospel is not to become like the culture. That can lead to sin.

But wait, 1 John says that "greater is he that is in me". Wouldn't we all have been in a pretty precarious position if Jesus himself had not went to these sinful places? Doesn't Jesus say, "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners?" If Jesus always stayed out of bars then why did they call him a drunkard and a glutton. And as far as offensive language is concerned have you read Ezekiel? Do you pick up on some of the language of Paul? Does he not also use, inspired by the Holy Spirit, scatalogical language? So, are we not just following the methods of Paul and Jesus? Because of Jesus and his power we are getting as close to sinners as possible. Our task is to be like Jesus and Paul, they did not run away from sinners and hope that they came to them. They went to sinners. They engaged the culture.

So who is right? Before I begin to answer that question I have to add something else to the mix. Reformed Theology. Acts 29/Driscoll claims to be solidly Reformed. Many that oppose Driscoll claim to be solidly Reformed. Many that oppose Driscoll are not Reformed and oppose him based upon this point, but missionally speaking they might agree. This is the way I see the discussion. Driscoll/Acts 29 says, we are Reformed and because of the awesome power of the gospel we believe that God calls us to engage the culture with it, whatever that means. Reformed guys that oppose Driscoll, we believe that God is powerful enough in His Word that you do not have to add to it with all of this "engaging the culture" mumbo jumbo. Just preach the Word, and God will bring the increase. The non-Reformed Driscoll opposer will either dislike his theology, or dislike his methodology. This camp believes that people are won over to Christ by what we do. If they agree with the Acts 29 methodology then they will probably change their seeker-sensitive churches into Acts 29 churches...or, hey theology doesn't matter why not just be Emerging. Or maybe they disagree with the whole alcohol issue. Maybe the methodology does not square with them. Nobody will be won to Jesus by a drinker. Then you have opposition from this side.

So who is right? All sides believe we are to engage the culture--at least in as much as that means "win lost people to Jesus". Note that I asked, "who is right", not what wins the most people. This is not a pragmatic question. If we make it so, then we will side-track this. You cannot say look at all those people Driscoll and Acts 29 is reaching. That's not a good argument, because look at all those people Joel Osteen is reaching. To which we respond, reaching with what? They key issue is this...who is most faithful to the gospel, as presented in the Word of God?

1) The gospel must be clear. It is very true that God's Word has power in itself--it doesn't need my help to accomplish its purpose. But it seems that there is a need for a preacher. (Rom. 10:14) And it appears that there is a need to preach in the "native tongue". (See Acts 8:26-40) So, there is some credence to this idea of "making the gospel relevant". But

2) Making the gospel relevant, if it is to remain biblical, must mean NO MORE than preaching the gospel in the "native" language. It does not mean that you have to make the gospel appealing. Paul models this in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. It seems as if Paul labored to make the gospel unappealing. He did not want the Corinthians to be won over by his eloquence, but instead to be won-over by the message. But, Paul did labor to be like a Jew when he was with the Jews and like a Gentile when he was with the Gentiles. What does this mean? It means that Paul laobred to speak in their native tongue. He was not doing this to make the gospel appealing, he was doing this to keep from putting up stumbling blocks. He ate monkey brains, if his hearers ate monkey brains. But it is also important to note:

3) Speaking the native language does not necessarily mean engaging in native rituals and removing ALL stumbling blocks. Paul did not allow Titus to get circumcised. Nor did he sacrifice to pagan idols. You do not become a prostitute to minister to prostitutes. But this point is where we get into arguments. Is Mark Driscoll becoming a "prostitute" to minister to "prostitutes" when he uses coarse language to minister to those with "coarse language"? Do Acts 29 guys prostitute themselves when they have a beer to minister to those that drink? These are difficult questions and ones that must not be settled in a vacuum. Despite what some may believe this is not as black and white as it would appear. Therefore,

4) The Church and the church plays a critical role in taking the gospel to the nations; or to put that another way, you are not supposed to "make the gospel relevant" by yourself. That is why we must consider, and 99.4% of the time submit, to the authority of the consensus of the Church universal and, how this will be lived out most generally, to the local church. There are times that we need Martin Luther's. But, seriously, those are going to be really really rare. As long as the Church is being the Church then even if we have a few warts, we are genuinely the body of Jesus that he is caring for. She is worth submitting to for the sake of others. So what are the implications of this?

Let's take Driscoll's language for an example. Language can be a funny thing. What may not be offensive in Calcutta may be offensive in New Hampshire. And the reverse is also true. In Missouri I can walk side by side with my wife. But I better not do that in many Muslim countries. I realize that is not an example of language, but it serves my point well. There is nothing really innately offensive about words...only the meanings that they carry.

But lets consider this through our first four points. 1) To make the gospel clear, is it absolutely necessary for Driscoll to talk the way that he does? I do not know Seattle culture, but I am not certain that speaking the way that he occasionally does is necessary. 2) Is he doing it to make the gospel clear or appealing? It appears to me that his reasoning is to make the gospel "relevant", and by that I mean appealing. 3) Is he engaging in a sinful cultural ritual? This could be debatable. I would lean towards, yes; but lets try giving the benefit of the doubt and see what happens? Let's consider it a non-issue for the moment. 4) If you post a video on youtube it better be acceptable for not only Seattle but also the Bible belt. Why? Because you risk offending the body of Christ as well as creating a needless stumbling block for an unbeliever from a different culture. And I understand that we can easily do this unknowingly. But, you cannot tell me that Driscoll has no clue that what he says may offend somebody in New Hampshire.

Should it offend them? That's not the issue. Is it central to the gospel? No. Do you need to speak that way to preach the gospel? No. You do not need to say "knockin' boots" just to put the gospel in the native tongue. The issue to consider is this, are you trying to make the gospel understandable or appealing? If you say appealing then you are on really shaky grounds. Therefore, I believe Acts 29/Driscoll should abandon the use of potentially offensive "edgy" language. There may be instances where words are not innately sinful. Maybe saying "knockin' boots" is not offensive to folks in Seattle. But it is offensive to your brothers and sisters elsewhere. Therefore, for the sake of unity, and because it is not central to the gospel--abandon the practice.

At this point it probably seems as if I am not taking the "high road" of disagreeing with both sides. It sounds like I am coming down hard on Driscoll/Acts 29. So, this is where I disagree with the opposers.

1) I do not think that Driscoll really is considering all of the ramifications of his every action. I do believe that he is far too entrenched in his culture. But, is he a heretic? No. Is he blasphemous? I really think that is too strong of a charge. And such a statement might create shock but I am not sure that it furthers the discussion.

2) In discussing these matters with Acts 29/Driscoll people, are you trying to speak in their native tongue? We will not win our brother by name calling. Is it possible that you ought to bear their burden? Ought you not gently instruct and rebuke?

3) Are there some issues that they may be right on? Are these brothers in Christ? If so are we guilty of slander? Are we not also responsible for the way that we engage in our discussion with them? Might we cause undue offense by the way that we discuss these matters? Is it really helpful to the body of Christ to call those that follow Driscoll "Kool-Aid drinkers"?

4) Things are not as black and white as you wish they were. Engaging the culture is a difficult thing. Do we eat monkey brains? Do we pick a sheep up out of a well on Sunday? How close to sinners do we get? How do I keep from being culturally anorexic? How do I keep from being culturally gluttonous? These are very difficult questions. In no way does this statement negate the absolute sufficiency of Scripture. But you cannot always point to a biblical text and determine whether or not it is okay to watch a Rated-R movie. You cannot pull out Scripture that speaks of coarse language when the coarse language of Paul's day is different than ours. There are general principles, but it is NOT as black and white as we wish. To act like it is will be dangerous, and will not engage our brothers and sisters. We cannot ignore these issues. Nor can we simply make blanket statements and hope that it all goes away.

So here is my conclusion, to this rather long post. If you are a follower of Acts 29/Driscoll then you ought to repent and cling to Jesus and His gospel. If you oppose Acts 29/Driscoll then you ought to repent and cling to Jesus and His gospel. And I just bet that as we are both draw closer to our great King we will be drawn closer to each other. Maybe we all will give up our pride in the process.


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