Monday, January 31, 2011

The Affliction of the Gospel

Wesley Hill is a celibate gay Christian.  And his new book, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, is absolutely breaking me.  Take this quote as an example:

..Far from being a tolerant grandfather rocking in his chair somewhere far away in the sky, God most often seems dangerous, demanding, and ruthless as he makes clear that he is taking our homoerotic feelings and actions with the utmost seriousness…We experience him both as an unwanted presence reminding us that our thoughts, emotions, and choices have lasting consequences, as well as radiant light transforming us gradually, painfully, into the creatures he wants us to be.

British theologian John Webster speaks of “the church facing the resistance of the gospel,” meaning that if the gospel brings comfort, it also necessarily brings affliction.  The gospel resists the fallen inclinations of Christian believers.  When we engage with God in Christ and take seriously the commands for purity that flow from the gospel, we always find our sinful dreams and desires challenged and confronted.  When we homosexual Christians bring our sexuality before God, we begin or continue a long, costly process of having it transformed.  From God’s perspective, our homoerotic inclinations are like “the craving for salt of a person who is dying of thirst” (to borrow Fredric Buechner’s phrase).  Yet when God begins to try to change the craving and give us the living water that will ultimately quench our thirst, we scream in pain, protesting that we were made for salt.  The change hurts.

Be sure you read what Wesley says here a couple of times.  Chew on it.  It’s wonderful.  But it’s also painful. 

My struggle is not the same as Wesley’s.  In fact my struggle is not as intense either.  And that is to my shame. Because his struggle is homoerotic desire and THAT is an abomination, Wesley has to battle.  But my struggle is different.  My struggle is with respectable stuff. So I don’t have to struggle with the same vigor as Wesley. I can fit in with my sin. 

But even though you may be fooled into thinking I have it all together, God is not.  And just as God is intensely afflicting Wesley with holiness—he is relentlessly, doggedly, pursuing me by afflicting my respectable sins with just as much fervor. 

I am thankful that God isn’t that tolerant grandfather.  I’m thankful that he loves me enough to afflict me with a painful gospel that rips my respectable life to shreds.  I am also thankful that he gives me water when I’m screaming for salt. 

You need to read Wesley’s book…Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality

Today in Blogworld 1.31.11

Reminder: Last Day for $5 Albums 

Was Jesus’ Body “For” You or “Broken” for You?

Gospel Grace, the Pursuit of Holiness, and the Charge of Antinomianism

7 Lessons on Criticism and Conflict from Spurgeon.

Can the Unregenerate Heal the Sick?

A Browns player, Alex Mack, scored a touchdown in the Pro Bowl.  Nobody really cares…but hey, at least we did SOMETHING!


Michael McKinley responds to Thabiti’s question on whether or not failing to do church discipline is sin

I’ll be reviewing this book in the next couple of weeks.  Mike Wilkerson’s new book Redemption is out, and Mark Driscoll interviews him concerning the book.

Is Christianity to blame for violence against homosexuals?

I agree with Erik Raymond that all of this friendly fire is getting old.

Where does a pastors power come from?

This one is making the rounds..not really sure to HT on this one:

Friday, January 28, 2011

Review of Defending Constantine by Peter J. Leithart

What do all of these have in common? 

The churches fixation on having political power.  Flashy programs and buildings with little dedication to Christ.  Church members and Christ “followers” that have little real commitment and look very little like Jesus.  Christians involved in war.  Lust for power and fear of suffering. 

Answer?  Constantine.  Everything changed after Constantine.  The church went from a smaller band of dedicated followers to a wide number of nominal believers.  When persecution stopped the health of the church waned.  Not only that but Constantine interfered with many important church decisions.  It is quite possible that the Council of Nicea would have never met and would have never voted on making Christ divine had Constantine not pulled a power play. 

In the minds of many, the greatest villain of church history is not a Nero, Domitian, Mao, or Hitler.  The greatest villain of the church is Constantine.  Peter Leithart has written Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom in the hopes of balancing that perspective.

Some have even questioned whether Constantine was really converted.  Perhaps, it is thought, Constantine saw the church as an opportunity to unify and expand his empire.  That may very well be the case, but Leithart labors to defend the legitimacy of Constantine’s conversion. 

Leithart does this by placing us in Constantine’s 4th century setting.  Historically speaking the church “would not have provided enough glue to stick the empire together” (84).  But Constantine, in his own words, had come to meet the true God.  And because Constantine—true to his historical setting—believed that politics and theology were “inextricably mixed” (84) his conversion would reflect this.  This explains Constantine’s involvement in church divisions.  He knew that disunity displeased God.  Without such unity the true God would not be pleased with his empire and therefore it would not be secure.

It is this type of argumentation that permeates this book.  In many places Leithart is attempting to rescue Constanine (along with Eusebius and Augustine) from the treatment of John Howard Yoder.  In fact this book could easily be called Defending Constantine: Why Yoder’s Constantine Doesn’t Exist.  Leithart shows throughout that the Constantine of Yoder is not the Constantine of history.  Furthermore, the pristine early church that Yoder exalts is probably not legit either. 

This book “does history” well.  It is very intentional about reading Constantine and the early church in its context.  Leithart avoids many of the fallacies that Carl Trueman has written about in his work Histories and Fallacies.  All in all his treatment of Constantine is fair.  He does not treat him as a saint or a savior but as a man—an emperor—in the 4th century that came to Christ.  A good deal of the space in the book is given to analyzing what type of Christian emperor Constantine was. 

Leithart, at least in my opinion, does a great job of Defending Constantine.  He may not be right on everything but every serious student of the early church and Constantine will now have to deal with this piece. 

There are a few disclaimers, though.  This is not simply history.  Yoder (who Leithart is defending Constantine from) falls into letting his master narrative redefine history.  Leithart is not as bad about that but nonetheless he has a theology and master-narrative that dictates his writing.  That’s expected.  We all do.  I do not agree with Yoder on everything.  But I do not agree with Leithart either. 

One particular thing that was not treated in this book was the way that Constantine changed church buildings.  Certainly, there was a movement towards an established place of worship.  But Constantine—as near as I can tell—began the movement of making them highly decorated.  It does seem that in many instances Rome was unhealthily married to the church.  Leithart, does mention that the church is just as culpable as Rome (if not more).  But most historians are not looking to blame Constantine.  We are looking to call the church towards Scripture.

And it is here that I part ways with Leithart a few times.  His reading of Constantine‘s conversion seems to be more concerned with “what did conversion look like in the 4th Century” and less “what did it look like in Scripture”.  Granted, we have to have grace with where people are historically.  But it is the Scripture and not one’s cultural context that determines truth.  This is what happens a few times. 

It seems that Leithart is occasionally more concerned with history than he is with Scripture.  He does an apt job of restoring for us the Constantine of history.  But he could probably have went further in looking at Constantine according to the Scriptures. 

Nonetheless, this book is an interesting and informative read that should be considered by every historian.  If you do not have a decent background of Rome or early church history this book may read a little slow.  It is definitely worth going through—but I will warn you that it may be a little historically technical.  But if you do have some exposure to history then you need to consider this book. 

You can buy it for only only 16.93

I received this book from IVP Academic in exchange for a review.

5 for $5 Friday’s 1.28.11

Here are 5 great CD’s featured at Amazon for only $5 bucks:

The Black Keys: Rubber Factory

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Chronicle: 20 Greatest Hits

Pink Floyd: Dark Side Of The Moon

Flyleaf ’s self-titled album

Crazy Love by Michael Buble

Today in Blogworld 1.28.11

Joel Osteen finds himself in an awkward place after his interview with Piers Morgan.  Dr. Mohler commentsAs does John Starke.

Kevin DeYoung gives some cautions for Mere Christianity.  Just because it’s a classic doesn’t mean it is infallible.  Listen carefully to DeYoung’s thoughts here.

My friend Brian has written an excellent piece relating Paul’s evangelistic fervor with his (Brian’s) son getting a wart removed.

Reading Newton’s Mail.

Nine Lessons on Compassion

(HT: 22 Words)

How to Write a Theological Paper.  I may need to keep this one handy.

J.D. Greear shares a few stories.

Facebook may be making you sad.

Pastor Porn.

7 Funny Pranks to pull in a department store.

The Pastor’s Temptation When Criticism Arrives

The Local Church and the Great Commission.

(HT: DG)

How to Write a “Message from God”

Certainly you have seen the little Facebook app, “on this day God wants you to know…” and then it is followed with a spiritual-sounding phrase that is sure to make the hair on your arm stand up.  Today, I am going to teach you how to write these.  I’m not claiming to be inspired by the Lord as I write these, so please don’t send anyone over to my house to throw stones at me.

Step One:  Think of a Cool Phrase that Sounds Enlightened

I’ll take one from Mystery Men.  On this day God wants you to know…that when you care what is outside, what is inside cares for you. 

Wow.  That sounds really enlightening.  It MUST be from the Lord.  For one, I’m really not too sure what it means.  But man did it really pinpoint what I’m struggling with.  God really knows me. 

Step Two: Time Sensitive Encouragement

Now your task is to place your enlightened phrase into the real world.  You do this by a time sensitive metaphor. 

I’ll continue with our outside/inside theme.  "It is time to stop dismissing your outward beauty.”

Step Three: God Knows Your Awesome + Spiritual Sounding Command

Here you have to bring in God.  Not so much about who He is, but more so how He feels about you.  He knows your awesome.  But today you just need to know how awesome you really are.  Then combine that with some sort of spiritual sounding command.

“God has called you beautiful, because you truly are.  He will take care of your inside, surrender to him your outside.”

Step Four: Bring it Home with God’s Promise + Final Encouragement

Here you have to match all of these wise sayings to God’s promise to further your awesomeness.  Then at the end you are further encouraged to realize your awesome (God-given of course) potential. 

“Today if you appreciate your outside, God will make the inside shine.”

So there you have it.  Here is your message from God for today.  God wants you to know…that when you care what is outside, what is inside cares for you.  It is time to stop dismissing your outward beauty.God has called you beautiful, because you truly are.  He will take care of your inside, surrender to him your outside. Today if you appreciate your outside, God will make the inside shine.”

How in the world did He know that I was struggling with self-esteem today?!?!?  Thanks for reminding me that I’m awesome, Jesus!  I’m good enough I’m smart enough and dog-gone it people like me!

On This Day, God Wants You To Know…

That he speaks to you through His Word and not what some fallible person has written on Facebook. 
There is an app that I continue to see pop up on Facebook.  It is called, “On this day, God wants you to know…”  And then it has some sort of spiritual sounding phrase about how awesome I am and that today I need to just realize my awesomeness.  Now, if you read this blog and also subscribe to that app on Facebook, please know that I am not judging you.  I am simply hoping to encourage you.

Can God speak through Facebook?  Well if he can speak through donkeys he can speak through Facebook.  But that doesn’t mean that I go every morning and chat with a donkey in the hopes that God will reveal Himself to me.  I know that God has revealed Himself already to us through Jesus in His Word.  So, that’s where I go.

But Scripture is more difficult to read than a 4 line snippet.  I’d rather just hear a few little words about how I’m “a being of immense power and breathtaking beauty”.  These little sayings “sound biblical” because they are written in spiritual sounding language.  But often they are not biblical.  And they are not a message from God. 

So today, I encourage you unsubscribe from this false prophet and open up God’s true Word.  It may be more difficult, but at least it’s not meaningless rubbish—it REALLY IS God’s word and God promises that it is profitable.

Be sure to check out my follow-up post where I will teach you how to write a “message from God”.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Today in Blogworld 1.26.11

I’m experimenting on something with the linkage to save me some time, so if a link is broken please let me know.

Paul Tripp on Spiritual Mustache Development.

Great question by Anyabwile: Is a Church in Sin If They Don’t Practice Discipline?

Interesting series by Michael Patton: Questions I Hope No One Will Ask.

Some people may find this offensive, hopefully not:  White Girl Sentenced to Trial as a Black Adult.

Driscoll interviews the Holcomb’s on their new book Rid of My Disgrace.

9 Lessons on Creativity

Dr. Mohler asks, Is the new MTV series child pornography?

Why Doesn’t God Save Everyone?  Sam Storms offers and answer.

Our church may do this in April.  You should consider it too.  Secret Church

Wednesday Worship Music

On Wednesday’s I will feature a few of Amazon’s $5 albums from the Christian genre.  They aren’t necessarily “praise and worship” music but they represent Christ nonetheless.

Lecrae’s newest CD: Rehab is a steal at only 5 bucks:

Jeremy Camp is always solid.  His latest offering We Cry Out: The Worship Project is certainly worth 5 dollars.

If you haven’t picked up Tedashii’s CD: Identity Crisis you need to.

I’ve never liked Casting Crowns as much as most people.  Nothing against them, just a little to “popular” for my taste.  But I still may pick this one up since it’s only 5 dollars:  Until The Whole World Hears

As much as I love LeCrae and Tedashii this John Mark McMillen CD: The Medicine may be my favorite. 

Pastor Porn

This is from a 2009 interview that Garrett Wishall conducted with Tim Keller.  The question is narrowed to “20-something pastors” because it appeared in Towers, which is Southern Seminary’s newspaper.  But what Keller says here applies to pastors and church leaders of any age.

Q: What safeguards should 20-something pastors have in place to avoid the idolatry of ministry fame and the attitude of big numbers equals success?

Tim Keller: If you know it is a danger, that is a very important start. Additionally, when you find yourself unusually discouraged because things aren’t growing or people aren’t listening to you — you have to catch yourself. You have to realize ‘This is an inordinate amount of discouragement, which reveals the idolatry of justification by ministry.’ Meaning, you say you believe in justification by grace, but you feel like and are acting like you believe in justification by ministry. You have to recognize you are making something of an idol out of ministry. When you do experience inordinate discouragement because things aren’t going well, you need to say, ‘It’s okay to be discouraged but not to be this discouraged. This is discouragement that leads to idolatry,’ and you repent.

Additionally, idols create a fantasy world. You may think that you are just thinking about ministry strategy, but it could be you’re fantasizing about success. So be careful about doing too much daydreaming about success, what you would like to see happen. Because it’s really a kind of pornography. You’re actually thinking about a beautiful church and people acclaiming you: be careful about fantasizing too much about ministry success and dreaming about it and thinking about what it’s going to look like.


Did you catch that Keller said dreaming of ministerial success is a type of pornography?  Perhaps there is some connection here with the fact that a horribly ridiculous amount of pastors also have pornography addictions.  But I think all of us may struggle with this type…dreaming of success and committing ministry idolatry. 

Evidence.  I came across this post because I’m discouraged today.  I’m discouraged because I feel as if I am working my tail off to write better, to write more, and expand my writing ministry.  It’s not happening. 

Ill be honest and say that I’m a little discouraged with other ministry stuff today too.  I feel almost unnecessary.  I’m just being honest.  And as I began to feel the weight of discouragement I remembered something I read at a prior date (I think from CJ Mahaney) about the relationship between discouragement and idolatry.  So, I did a Google search and came across this article. 

Yep.  I have idol problems and I need Jesus.  May my passion be to further His kingdom instead of my own.  Thank you Jesus for loving me enough to destroy my idolatrous heart that only rips me off with mock success.

The GCR. A Car Without Fuel?

The 2010 messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention voted on moving towards a Great Commission Resurgence.  I happily voted for the GCR because I am passionate about seeing the gospel spread to the nations.  (Although, I am certain that my passion should/could increase all the more). 

As excited as I am to see a Great Commission Resurgence I wonder if maybe we should call it something else—or perhaps change it’s emphasis.  Biblically, I see something else motivating Paul’s mission—and honestly something that undergirds Jesus’ Great Commission. 

I am beginning to study Romans (and am anxiously awaiting my first day of class with Dr. Schreiner to go through this letter).  Today, I began by studying the first 7 verses.  Notice verse 5:

[5] through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, (Romans 1:5 ESV)

Paul is saying that he has gracious received his apostleship (in other words his salvation and calling to ministry were by grace).  The purpose of this gift—or the purpose of Paul’s ministry—is to bring about the obedience of faith.  This is either saying the obedience that springs from faith or the obedience that is faith.  Either way, notice the purpose; “for the sake of his name among all the nations”.  What is the motivation for missions?  That Jesus may be praised. 

To this end Dr. Schreiner quotes John Stott:

“the highest of missionary motives is neither obedience to the Great Commission (important as that is), nor love for sinners who are alienated and perishing (strong as that incentive is, especially when we contemplate the wrath of God, verse 18), but rather zeal—burning and passionate zeal—for the glory of Jesus Christ.”

So perhaps what we need prior to a Great Commission Resurgence is a Great Commandment Resurgence.  If worship (passionate love for God) is the fuel of missions, a Great Commission Resurgence without a prior Great Commandment  Resurgence will be like a souped-up car that doesn’t have any fuel.  It looks nice, it has potential, and might win the acclaim of on-lookers but it won’t get you to the grocery store. 

As I look at many of the great missionaries of the past, and even those today (like David Platt) what inspires them is a deep love for Christ and an abiding belief that Jesus deserves the praise of the nations.  The missionary heart lives these sentiments of John Piper:

But worship is also the fuel of missions. Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching. You can’t commend what you don’t cherish. Missionaries will never call out, “Let the nations be glad!” who cannot say from the heart, “I rejoice in the Lord...I will be glad and exult in thee, I will sing praise to thy name, O Most High” (Ps 104:34, 9:2). Missions begins and ends in worship. 

(Piper, Let the Nations be Glad)

So while we are encouraging our churches to be actively involved in mission we had better be equally intentional about providing them fuel. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Quick Review of Histories and Fallacies by Carl Trueman

Carl Trueman is a professor of historical theology and church history at Westminster Theological Seminary.  He blogs at Reformation21 and is always an interesting read.  Because of my prior knowledge of Trueman and my passion for history I was excited to read his book on Histories and Fallacies. 

In December I was given the opportunity to either review this book or Jim Hamilton’s God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment.  I chose Hamilton’s book but a week later decided to purchase Trueman’s book.  I am glad that I did. 

This book is actually pretty difficult to review.  It’s difficult because you can actually learn a good deal of diverse things such as Holocaust denial, Marxism, and the “racism” of Martin Luther.  Trueman takes various areas of historical research and discusses them while teaching the reader how to do history. 

In the first chapter he discusses Holocaust denial and various ways that historians deny history.  In the second chapter Trueman explores the grand scheme of Marxism and shows how Grand Schemes can lead to fallacious thinking and bad history.  In the third chapter the reader is exposed to the pitfalls of anachronism.  Various historical questions are explored such as “was Calvin and Calvinist?”  and “was Martin Luther a Jew-hating racist”.  Trueman shows how such questions are off-the-mark historically.  The final chapter is a conglomeration of some of the most typical fallacies in historical research.

Obviously this book is not for everyone.  That is partially why I am only giving it a quick review.  Even though the writing is often hilarious and witty, if you don’t give much of a care about “doing history” then you will be bored out of your gourd.  But for those of us that are history nerds, and especially those of us that are charged with writing history/biographies, then this book is phenomenal. 

So, if you like history buy this book (only 12.84).  If you don’t like history keep the name Carl Trueman in mind and perhaps pick up some of us other offerings

Rating 4 out of 5 stars

If you want a sampling of this book check out Trueman on the Fallacy of America as a Christian Nation.

New Release Tuesday 1.25.11

One of the passions that I have that I rarely write about on this blog is music.  I hope to change that.  As an experiment I’ll be featuring different genres (never country) on different days and suggesting 5 titles for you to purchase. 

Today is Tuesday.  New Releases come out on Tuesday, so check out these Top 5 New Releases:

If you like folk, bluesy, type of stuff you will absolutely love this offering by Amos Lee.  If you like Ray Lamontagne this album is very similar to the stuff that he does.

The Cold War Kids are a mix between the Kings of Leon and the Black Keys. 

I’m new to listening to Luminate.  Those of you that listen to Christian music on the radio may be familiar with their hit “Come Home”.  The lead singer reminds me a little of John Mark McMillen.  Good stuff. 

Samuel Beam has an amazing beard.  This CD is only 6.99.  Enough said.


Some of you may like the Get Up Kids.  If you do, then you are unluck—you can download this entire CD for only 3.99 today.

Michael Vick, Dogs, and the Imago Dei

This is ridiculous on a few levels:

First, it’s ridiculous because it is a huge misunderstanding of grace.  Carlson says I believe fervently in second chances…BUT…Vick killed a dog.  There are no second chances for that.  But grace isn’t about the magnitude of the sin—as if God can forgive murder so long as it’s not that of a child.

The truth of the matter is that being a Christian isn’t about second chances.  Being a Christian is about being a new creation.  It’s not a second, third, or 7.4 millioneth chance. 

Secondly, it’s ridiculous because it totally misunderstands the imago Dei.  This goes against the grain of our society, but humans are actually more important than animals.  That’s not to say that we have a free pass to abuse animals—it’s actually quite the opposite.  Our unique status as co-regents with the King of the universe means that we should actively care for creation—not kill it. 

But let’s say that somebody blows his stewardship of creation.  Like Michael Vick.  Rather than caring for creation (cute little puppies) he decides to make a quick buck, have a little “fun”, and engage in dog fighting.  Yep, that’s wrong.  But you don’t shed the blood of a MAN because he shed the blood of a DOG. 

One is created in the image of God, the other is not. 

The last ridiculous thing about this is that I’m prone to having a Tucker Carlson response to sin.  The sin of others and the sin in my own heart.  I can be tempted to treat certain sins as less forgivable.  My unpardonable sin isn’t dog murder—but there are some things that I have a hard time forgiving.  Even things in my own life that I have a hard time receiving grace for. 

I can also forget that our identity, no matter how much we mar it, is still wrapped up in the imago Dei.  No matter how far of a downward spiral, no matter how pale it becomes, people are still people that are unique and made in the image of God.  The fundamental thing about my identity is not a particular sin—it’s that I’m made in the image of God.  And for those of us that are believers we are being renewed (restored) day by day into the image of God. 

That’s why what Tucker Carlson says here is ridiculous.

Today in Blogworld 1.25.11

The Cure for Bitterness

This is one of the most simple explanations I have read concerning whether God chooses us or we choose God. 

One of Billy Graham’s greatest regrets is that he would have steered clear of politics.  Let’s hope we learn from this wisdom.

Did God condone polygamy in the OT?

Pastors will want to check out this new series by CJ Mahaney on Pastors and Personal Criticism.  Even if you aren’t a pastor it’s worthy of a read.

(HT: Challies)

Jonathan Parnell from DG interviews Mike Wilkerson on his new book Redemption.  I’ll be receiving and reviewing this book in February.  In one of my classes last semester we had the opportunity to have a phone conference with Wilkerson.  I was immediately sold on much of the way Mars Hill does “soul care” and on Mike’s new book.  I’m excited to receive it from Crossway in a few days.

Was Hosea consciously referring to the Messiah’s flight into Egypt?

I’m also excited about this new book that will be coming out in September from 9Marks:  What is the Mission of the Church?

Great words from Justin Buzzard:  Pastors, Quit Trying to Be Perfect and Let Jesus Love You.

I appreciate this counsel from Brant Hansen to young girls, essentially on choosing a spouse.

I was going to eat lunch at Taco Bell today…not now.

Dr. David Powlison - Does God get upset when we disobey? from CCEF on Vimeo.  (HT: JT)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Review of The Practice of Godliness Study Guide by Jerry Bridges

A couple years ago I read Jerry Bridges’ The Gospel for Real Life and Transforming Grace.  These two books were phenomenal and caused me to have a great amount of appreciation for Jerry Bridges—but more so a great appreciation of the Jesus he worships.  For that reason I was excited for the opportunity given me by the good folks at NavPress to review Bridges’ new small-group curriculum for The Practice of Godliness.

This curriculum has the complete text of Bridges’ book The Practice of Godliness.  Off to the side, which is really helpful, is a large blank space for notes.  Honestly, I wish more books had wider margins for notes.  I loved this particular part of the resource.  Also, at the end of each chapter there are helpful questions and biblical passages to interact with. 

I was unable to use this book in a small group setting but I did read it for my own personal use and sampled it as a pastor thinking about suggesting this as a resource for a Sunday school class.  That was one of my goals in reviewing this book—to determine whether I should encourage a class at our church to use this material.  I will be suggesting it. 

Bridges has a helpful balance of grace and the believers need to pursue holiness and godliness.  Bridges consistently reminds us that “godliness is no optional luxury for a few quaint Christians of a bygone era” (10).  For Bridges, godliness is devotion in action.  And he labors to show that godliness is more an attitude toward God and not an activity (11). 

Throughout the book Bridges relates various characteristics of the Spirit-filled life to the fear of God, our love for God (and his love for us), and a desire for God.  In the first part of the book Bridges develops the theological foundation for godliness (this is the first three sessions) and then he practically deals with the fruits of the Spirit in the next 8 sessions) and closes up the book by discussing love and painting a picture of the goal of godliness—Christ Himself. 

Often believers do not see how their character formation affects how they relate to God.  It is assumed that theology and godliness are optional and they have no bearing on our relationship with the all-loving Lord.  It is thought, how can my relationship with a God that loves unconditionally be shaped by my practice of godliness?  The two do not seem to go hand in hand.  But Jerry Bridges has once again masterfully shown us that our view of God shapes our character and our character shapes our view of God. 

It may read a little slow at times but it is certainly worthy of the effort.  I’ll be looking for a Sunday school class to take this study up.  I would suggest that you purchase this curriculum for your own personal study as well. 

Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

You Need Jesus In Order to Follow Jesus

Our church is going through David Platt’s excellent book Radical in our small groups.  The first chapter is centered around Luke 14:25-33, which reads:

[25] Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, [26] “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. [27] Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. [28] For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? [29] Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, [30] saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ [31] Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? [32] And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. [33] So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-33 ESV)

I've struggled more times than once with this passage.  What really gives me trouble is the finality and broadness of Jesus’ statement: “cannot be my disciple”. 

I have heard, and read in a fair amount of sources, that discipleship is not the same as being a Christian.  In other words it is not as if you could read the verse as saying, “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be a believer”.  Therefore, what Jesus is saying in this passage is optional.  It’s a second stage.  It’s not the Rocky Balboa version of Christianity—it’s the Apollo Creed.  Not as good as Rocky but still cool enough to don a sweet mustache, red, white, and blue trunks and fight the Russian—but not quite as cool as Rocky.  You’re saved but you’re just not going to be able to beat the Russian. 

I have a hard time buying that.  In Luke 14 he is talking to the multitude.  His audience isn’t believers.  His audience is those that are mostly following but still reserved about following this new teacher.  So, Jesus isn’t telling a crowd of uncommitted followers how to reach level 2.  He is telling those on the fringe to count the cost before following Him. 

But this doesn’t help me. 

What if I’m struggling with the idolatry of putting my family first instead of Jesus?  Does this make me an unbeliever?  What if I’m finding my cross a little too heavy to bear?  Am I now on the fast track to hell?  What if I have yet to renounce everything? 

Honestly, these questions feel more like the Law than the gospel.  It makes me feel like I have to love my wife less, sell a watch or something, and maybe get the Ebola virus and then I’ll be worthy to follow Jesus.  But that’s not what Jesus is saying here.  Is it? 

That is why I find these words of Piper helpful:

On the basis of who he was and what he accomplished, Jesus made his demands.  The demands cannot be separated from his person and work.  The obedience he demands is the fruit of his redeeming work and the display of his personal glory.  That is why he came—to create a people who glorify his gracious reign by bearing the fruit of his kingdom. 

When he said, ‘The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost’, he was speaking about Zacchaeus who had just been so transformed that he gave half his possessions to the poor.  In other words, the Son of Man came to save people from their suicidal love affair with possessions (and every other idol) and to lead them into a kind of impossible obedience that displays the infinite worth of Jesus.  (Piper, What Jesus Demands from the World, p23)

In other words you need Jesus in order to follow Jesus.  Just because it is Jesus making the demands it doesn’t mean that we are able to obey without the work of His Spirit.  So as I am confronted with texts like Luke 14 I have to ask myself a few questions. 

First, is my heart one that is progressively growing in this type of obedience?  Is there evidence of the Spirit rescuing me from a suicidal love affair with possessions? 

Secondly, when I discover that I’m not renouncing everything what do I do?  Do I start looking to myself to rescue me from myself, or do I turn and look to Jesus? 

Thirdly, am I following Jesus—and doing so in an increasing measure?  Or am I just making my own “Jesus” that is following me?  Because so long as my weak faith is laying hold of a strong Christ I know that nothing can snatch me out of his hand.  But if my weak faith is laying hold of a weak self I don’t have much hope.

Today in Blogworld 1.24.11

Wise words from Jared Wilson, A Missional Way for the Pro-Life Passion

Justin and Lindsey Holcomb ask, What Does God say about sexual assault?

Colin Hansen lists the Top 10 Most Searched Bible Verses and comments on what is missing.

It is good to wait for God.  Mark Altrogge lists a few reasons why this is so.

Jonathan Leeman from 9Marks interviews Michael Horton on his new systematic theology book.  Man, the more I read about this book I may not wait until after seminary to purchase it.

5 Trends to Watch for in Evangelicalism


(HT: 22 Words)

It’s a little technical but still I find this helpful:  Did Jesus pray, Father forgive them?

9 Lessons on Commitment and the Family,

Dr. Mohler responds to Obama’s Radical Pro-Abortion President, Justin Taylor also has a response—which features a Piper video that is a must watch, I ventured a response as well although I’m certain not as articulate.

If you aren’t familiar with Robert M. McCheyne you need to be.  The good folks at DG are providing his Memoirs and Remains for free.

Tim Challies wants us to help him interview John MacArthur.

(HT: Brian)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I Agree with Obama on Abortion

I agree with President Obama on abortion:

And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.

Of course when I say that I agree, I mean that I pray our nation will be passionate about the rights of every daughter and every son…even those still in the womb. 

So, yeah.  I guess I really don’t agree with President Obama on abortion because it’s near-sighted and meaningless.  The same freedom and opportunities should be given to ALL our daughters and ALL our sons, especially those who are the weakest. 

This is somebodies son or daughter.  Ask yourself, is this being committed to their rights?  WARNING:  THIS VIDEO IS VERY GRAPHIC AND NOT FOR EVERYONE!  VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.



I would also like to say that if you have ever had an abortion, gospel healing is still available.  Yes, abortion is atrocious.  Yes, abortion is wrong.  But so is my pride, anger, and all sorts of other sins.  Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners—no matter what that sin is. 

This isn’t a political issue—it’s a heart issue.  And Christ Jesus is still powerful enough to change any heart of stone and melt it to a heart of flesh.  May you find peace in Christ.

Rethinking Constantine

What’s wrong with the church today?  Some will tell you that it goes way back to the fourth century.  In the minds of many, the greatest villain of church history is not a Nero, Domitian, Mao, or Hitler.  The greatest villain of the church is Constantine.  Peter Leithart hopes to balance that perspective.

In his book, Defending Constantine, which I hope to review sometime next week, Leither remarks:

   For Constantine and the emperors who followed him, after kissing the Son and Lord, it made sense to do homage to Jesus by supporting his Queen, the church—building and adorning cathedrals, distributing funds for poor relief and hospitals, assisting the bishops to resolve their differences by calling and providing for councils. Constantine did not always show restraint. Sometimes he took over business that belonged to the King and Queen alone. But if we want to judge Constantine fairly, we have to recognize that the Queen often had issues. A queen’s bodyguard ought to keep his hands off the queen, but what does he do when she turns harp and starts scratching the face of her lady-in-waiting?

   Once they noticed there was a Queen in their midst, some emperors and kings were often not satisfied with kissing the Son. Some could not keep their hands off her. Some wanted to steal a kiss or two from the Bride and seduce her. Plenty did, but it is important to notice the difference: adorning and protecting someone else's queen, even protecting her from herself, is not the same as raping her.   (Leithart, Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom , p188-89)

This has been an enjoyable and enlightening read thus far.  Any student of the early church should certainly read this book.  It’s available at Amazon for only 16.93 (it’s well worth that price).

Friday, January 21, 2011

Today in Blogworld 1.21.11

Justin Taylor gives us the good news and bad news about Michael Horton’s new systematic theology.  I’m not going to buy this until either I have to have it for a class or I graduate seminary, but it looks really good.

Scott Klusendorf considers Pro-Life Apologetics for the Next Generation

Follow this discussion at 9Marks on sending missionaries.

JT on Roe v. Wade.

The Danger of Following Men Instead of Christ.

Johnny Cash impersonating Elvis:

(HT: 22 Words)

9 Lessons on Courage from the Prince of Preachers.

Hopefully this is not helpful to anyone in my current church:  How to Search for a Pastor.

Win a Free Book.

Do you have Church Fatigue?

I’m excited that John Newton is starting to get so much more press.  CJ Mahaney and Tony Reinke will be reading his mail on Friday’s and providing us with insights they find.  Should be interesting.

I think Piper is right.  (Duh).  Saying what you believe is easier than saying that you are a Calvinist.

The Local Church and the Great Commission

In case you wondering, here is how to solve the Rubik’s Cube in 20 moves or less.

See it done really fast:

Trueman on the Fallacy of America as a Christian Nation

In his book on Histories and Fallacies Carl Trueman has this to say about America as a Christian nation.  In context he is discussing the Genetic Fallacy.  A great example of this, writes Trueman, is the myth of America as a Christian nation:

Many readers might well be thinking at this point that this fallacy is so obviously problematic that it cannot possibly have much force within the writing of history today.  True, its flaws are obvious; but, in fact, it does enjoy considerable vogue in some quarters.  Take, for example, the most radical wings of the Christian America movement where the argument is that America was founded by men motivated by and large by their commitment to the Christian faith and their desire to build a Christian nation.  Thus, America was and is—or at least, ought to be—a Christian nation, and her founding documents embody Christian virtues.  This leads to interpretations of the present that can engage simply in anachronistic value judgments on actions and events; or, perhaps in a more sinister way, connect America to events in biblical prophecy, God’s providential plans for the world, etc.  (Trueman, Histories and Fallacies, p159)

I may be reviewing this book later this week, but I’m not sure yet since it’s probably only meant for history nerds like myself.  But if you are a fan of history, or are considering writing history, this book is worthy of purchasing.  You can get the E-book for only 7.99

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Today in Blogworld 1.20.11

The Kingdom of God explained to a 15 year old.

Trevin Wax is asking “what counterfeit gospels are most prevalent today?”

Don’t forget to register to win a free book.

Challies comments on the strange phenomenon of nerdy white pastors bobbing to rap music.

Related to that, Piper interviews Lecrae:

Andy Naselli samples Trueman’s new book The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.

9 Lessons on Casting Vision from the Bearded One.

John Calvin on the Pursuit of Success

I appreciate Dave Miller’s Open Letter to the Baptist Press.

Adam Winters is being honest…he probably wouldn’t have supported MLK.

Driscoll is offering a free chapter of Vintage Church.

Justin Buzzard offers a few things to do with the gospel.

I went to college with John, great to hear his story:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Confession and Discipleship

…a proper confession of Jesus involves a new understanding of discipleship.  When believers confess who Jesus is, they also and inevitably confess what they must become.  Jesus is not an objective datum that, like a rock under a microscope, can be observed and examined in supposed neutrality.  The statement, 'you are the Christ,' imposes a claim on the one who says it.  The Son of Man calls those who would know him to follow him.  (James Edwards, Pillar NT Commentary on Mark, p261)

iFaith giveaway

Yesterday I reviewed Daniel Darling’s new book iFaith.  Today I will be giving you an opportunity to win a free copy of that book. 

I will give you three chances to win. 

#1 Comment on this post.

#2 Comment on this post with a link to your blog, twitter account, or Facebook.

#3 Subscribe to this blog and Comment on this post letting me know that you subscribed.

You can do all three and I’ll enter your name in the drawing 3 times.  Entries will be closed this Friday at 11:59 pm and the winner will be announced on Saturday!

Today in Blogworld 1.19.10

My friend Brian has some wonderful thoughts on the new BIG Starbucks drink and how it relates to the gospel.

Frank Turk has written an open-letter to Brian McLaren

Denny Burk discusses Flame’s new Captured album. 

Really glad I don’t live here:

(HT: Brian)

Interesting discussion at Challies on the authenticity of claiming Bonhoeffer as an evangelical.  Carl Trueman weighs in.

Is small talk worthless?

12 Lessons on Character from that Spurgeon fella.

Steve McCoy has put together a primer on Reformed Theology.  Very helpful.

God Didn’t Create a Mistake:

(HT: Z)


Thanks to Dan Philips I have discovered a new website/comic strip that I absolutely love.  Check it out, it’s called Brevity.  Here are a few samples:


There are a ton more of these hilarious comics.  Check them out.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Agree or Disagree? Piper on Thinking, the Bible, and God

If we abandon thinking, we abandon the Bible, and if we abandon the Bible we abandon God.  (Piper, Think, 123)

Do you agree with his assessment or disagree?

You may also want to check out my review of Think.

Today in Blogworld 1.18.11

7 Lessons from Spurgeon on the Ministers Calling.

John Starke reminds us that Jesus really does pray for us.

How important are Baptist distinctives?  Should they be preached?  Jim Hamilton provides an answer from John A. Broadus.

This is really funny:

(HT: 22 Words)

If you have a blog I’d encourage you to sign up for this, “Washed and Waiting” blog tour.  I’ve been looking forward to reading this book by Wesley Hill since Dr. Schreiner plugged it in class over a year ago. 

I found this interesting on Unlimited Atonement.  I really want to interact with it more but I’m not sure I will have the time, nor if that is really the proper venue. 

Help me figure out which book to review.

(HT: Challies)

Calvinism, Driscoll, SBC, Alcohol

Okay this post really has nothing to do with any of these.  WAIT.  Don’t leave.  I just needed to do something to get your attention—especially you facebook readers.  I have one question, that will take only a couple seconds to answer:

What are your favorite blogs? 

I’m looking for those that many people don’t frequent.  I know about Challies, JT, The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax, Jared Wilson, etc.  What are the good ones that are overlooked?

Feel free to promote your own site. 

If you are new to this site and have your own, let me know your blog and I’ll add it to my Google Reader.

Review of iFaith by Daniel Darling

You’ve certainly heard the old adage don’t judge a book by it’s cover.  That’s the case with this one.  Don’t get me wrong the cover is slick, cool, and I think somewhat innovative.  The book is about connecting with God in a 21st century world and so it’s marketed to a 21st century person.  So what you would expect inside are Twitter-esque sound bytes, not much depth, but a helpful little guide for a popular audience.  That’s really not the case. 

This book actually packs a punch.  There are some really profound and helpful chapters.  Not that I’m surprised, Darling is a good author.  But just looking at the cover you would not expect much discussion of suffering, struggling with God and faith, and prayer as venting to God. 

So I think this book is quite wonderful.  Darling, I believe, hopes to connect with the 21st century Christian and encourage us in our prayer life.  His writing is engaging, often humorous, and wonderfully biblical.  To this end he offers 10 chapters centered around the idea of connecting with God in our digital age. 

Each chapter looks at a different aspect of prayer and its relation to our hurried existence.  Darling discusses everything from what prayer looks like in the midst of having a meltdown to the effect of sin on our communication with God.  In the final chapter he offers six practical tips for growing closer to the Lord in our digital age. 

Whenever I read a book I am typically thinking of people that I want to read it.  As I read through this I think the perfect age group would be the hurried college student, the desperate single mom, the busy teacher, or the newly converted computer geek. 

Obviously Darling’s book doesn’t cover all there is to say about prayer.  No book can.  Nor does it really deal in depth with the effects of a digital age on our soul.  Darling’s approach seems to be, “we live in a hurried digital world, lets face it, now how do we relate to God in this environment”.  I think that approach is helpful and makes this book unique. 

I really only have one minor critique.  At the end of each chapter there are helpful question, resources, and places to look in Scripture.  That is helpful.  But what is not helpful is that there is minimal citing of sources.  There are some really good quotes but I would be left doing some pretty significant legwork to track them down.  Even a bibliography in the back would have been helpful. 

But that’s certainly not a major beef.  Those that read Christian books on a popular level (and not so much academic) will greatly benefit from reading this book.  Even those of us that are more “academic” would benefit from much of Darling’s advice in this book.  You can purchase it for 11 bucks at Amazon. 

Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars

You can check out more of Dan’s writing here.


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