"5288. God can tolerate glory in the world now and then, for example, in the case of jurists and doctors, but He cannot bear it in regard to theologians. Because a glory-seeking theologian necessarily diminishes Christ, who saved the entire world with his blood. God cannot permit that; that is why ambitious theologians are soon brought down and shattered..'" (p. 289)DISCLAIMER: The views reflected in this quote do not necessarily reflect those of the author of this blog. This quote is shared in the interest of edification, education, and/or humor.
Monday, December 27, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
"3188. If someone laments that he was so troubled by a sermon that he had to leave, comfort him so: 'God receives two kinds of offerings, one is praise, and the other is a shattered heart.'" (p. 221)DISCLAIMER: The views reflected in this quote do not necessarily reflect those of the author of this blog. This quote is shared in the interest of edification, education, and/or humor.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Here is the list:
- Expository preaching identifies exactly what is at the heart of the Christian message
- Expository preaching requires that the shepherd concern himself with the intent of the Divine Author for every text.
- Expository preaching respects the integrity of the textual units given through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit
- Expository preaching keeps the pastor from riding his favourite hobby horses.
- Expository preaching requires the preacher to preach the difficult or obscure texts and challenging truths of the Bible.
- Expository preaching will encourage both pastor and students alike to become students of the Bible.
- Expository preaching gives us boldness in preaching for we are not expounding our own fallible views but the Word of God.
- Expository preaching gives confidence to the listener that what he is hearing is not the opinion of man but the Word of God.
- Expository preaching is of great assistance in sermon planning.
- Expository preaching provides the context for a long tenure in a particular place.
Monday, December 13, 2010
"905. God gave us the sun, moon, stars, the elements, and all creation, our bodies, life; and placed at our disposal all He had created; and in addition to that, nothing less than Himself. And what did He reap from all that? That He should be scorned and His Son and followers killed, etc. In vain, He created us; in vain, He nourished us; in vain, He maintains us, etc." (pp. 252)DISCLAIMER: The views reflected in this quote do not necessarily reflect those of the author of this blog. This quote is shared in the interest of edification, education, and/or humor.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Monday, December 06, 2010
"5955. First, let us remember, that because of the fall of Adam, we were driven from paradise and became homeless and destitute. Second, let us think about the Son of God who shared our exile and brought us back to our Father's kingdom from which we had been expelled. Third, that we remember the lesson of this exile and that our homeland is not upon this earth [Philippians 3:20], but there will come another life, namely the eternal" (pp. 297)DISCLAIMER: The views reflected in this quote do not necessarily reflect those of the author of this blog. This quote is shared in the interest of edification, education, and/or humor.
Monday, November 29, 2010
"453. If I were to write about the burden and responsibilities of a preacher, as I have experienced them, I would scare everyone away from it. For a good preacher must be of such a mind that nothing is dearer to him than Christ and His life; so that when he finally has lost this life, and everything, he knows Christ will say to him: 'Come here to me, my dear son.' I hope that He will also speak to me with those words on Judgment Day, for here all speak to me in an unfriendly way. I have the burden of the whole world, the emperor, and the Pope. But since I have been called to this, I must stand my ground and say: 'What I do is right.' After I was called, the devil attacked me many times and has tormented me with this argument: 'You haven't been called!' As if I had been made a doctor for nothing." (pp. 211)DISCLAIMER: The views reflected in this quote do not necessarily reflect those of the author of this blog. This quote is shared in the interest of edification, education, and/or humor.
Monday, November 22, 2010
"46. A doctor of the Scriptures should have complete knowledge and mastery of them, how they are related to each other--the Prophets, for example. Not just a certain part, as one could know Isaiah, not just one portion of the Laws or the Gospel. But now doctors spring from the weeds who do not have a correct understanding of just one passage. Jurists can humble their students, when they boast about their competence. For they have moot court and are able to practice. We, however, because we have no opportunity for exercises, cannot properly hone our students. As a result, it is experience alone that develops the theologian." (pp. 207-8)DISCLAIMER: The views reflected in this quote do not necessarily reflect those of the author of this blog. This quote is shared in the interest of edification, education, and/or humor.
Monday, November 15, 2010
"5355. Divine Scripture is a very fertile tree, and there is no branch which I have note shaken with my own hands, and knocked down a few apples."DISCLAIMER: The views reflected in this quote do not necessarily reflect those of the author of this blog. This quote is shared in the interest of edification, education, and/or humor.
Monday, November 08, 2010
"3476. Tomorrow I have to give a lecture about Noah's drunkenness. Therefore, I am going to drink enough tonight so that I can talk about this awful subject from experience. Dr. Cordatus said then: "In no case! It is necessary to do just the opposite!" Luther responded to that: One must accept the vices peculiar to each land. The Bohemians eat like pigs, the Wends steal, Germans guzzle without end. Dear Cordatus, how else would you deal with a German except by getting him drunk? Especially those who love neither music nor women?DISCLAIMER: The views reflected in this quote do not necessarily reflect those of the author of this blog. This quote is shared in the interest of edification, education, and/or humor.
Monday, October 25, 2010
"67. I have set Christ and the Pope against each other, and as a result have put myself between the door and the hinge. If I should be brought down, Christ will certainly raise me up again" (p. 392-93)
"72. The entire foundation of the papacy consists of works, the Anabaptist is based upon suffering, the true Christian, however, neither on the one or other, but always on faith alone." (p. 393)
DISCLAIMER: The views reflected in this quote do not necessarily reflect those of the author of this blog. This quote is shared in the interest of edification, education, and/or humor.
Monday, October 18, 2010
"1540. I have three evil dogs: ungratefulness, arrogance, and envy. When all three bite, one is badly mauled." (p. 156)DISCLAIMER: The views reflected in this quote do not necessarily reflect those of the author of this blog. This quote is shared in the interest of edification, education, and/or humor.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
6. Writing and jealousy. Like cleaning your ears or picking your nose, writing is something best done in private. All writing is solitary. Even collaborative efforts are stitched together from smaller, lonelier units. All sorts of things – in fact, most of the things that really matter – must be excluded in order to write. Like a drawn bowstring, the writer draws back from the world in order to pierce it more forcefully. The selfishness of the writer is jealousy for truth.I encourage you to read all thirteen. These will be helpful for students, pastors and anyone else who has writing as a component of their life.
HT: Justin Taylor
Monday, October 11, 2010
"2224. God has given to the people this world and all its treasures, even though He knew they would be sinners. Can you imagine, then, what treasures He has for those who have become righteous through faith, of whom He knows that they will remain righteous for eternity?" (p. 109)DISCLAIMER: The views reflected in this quote do not necessarily reflect those of the author of this blog. This quote is shared in the interest of edification, education, and/or humor.
Monday, October 04, 2010
"1092. A callous heart is not moved by promises, not changed by good deeds, not frightened by threats, and not improved through tribulations." (p. 103)DISCLAIMER: The views reflected in this quote do not necessarily reflect those of the author of this blog. This quote is shared in the interest of edification, education, and/or humor.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
"2506. The joy of a religious spouse. The greatest joy is to have a religious spouse, one to whom you can entrust everything and depend upon, with whom you can raise children, and so on. God puts a lot into marriage, without the parties giving much thought to it in advance, Katie, you have a religious husband, you are an empress! Thank God for it! But only good and God-fearing people reach such a level." (p. 46)DISCLAIMER: The views reflected in this quote do not necessarily reflect those of the author of this blog. This quote is shared in the interest of edification, education, and/or humor.
Monday, September 20, 2010
"2034. If I were ever single again, I would have an obedient wife carved out of stone; otherwise I despair of ever finding obedience in any woman." (p. 44)DISCLAIMER: The views reflected in this quote do not necessarily reflect those of the author of this blog. This quote is shared in the interest of edification, education, and/or humor.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
"1006. The merits of women. In women many merits come together: the Lord's Blessing, progeny, familiarity with things, all of which are great gifts, which could well overwhelm someone. Just imagine if we did not have the female sex. The house and everything associated with the household would collapse; the state and society would fall apart. Thus, the world cannot endure without women, even if men could bring children into the world by themselves." (p. 41)DISCLAIMER: The views reflected in this quote do not necessarily reflect those of the author of this blog. This quote is shared in the interest of edification, education, and/or humor.
Monday, September 06, 2010
49. Luther values his wife, Katie. I wouldn't trade my Katie for France or Venice; first, because God gave her to me and me to her; second, that I have often experienced that other women have far more shortcomings than my Katie--although she certainly has enough, they are offset by far greater virtues; and third, because she is faithful to her marriage, that is fidelity and respect. And a wife, on the other hand, should be able to think the same about her husband." (p. 36)DISCLAIMER: The views reflected in this quote do not necessarily reflect those of the author of this blog. This quote is shared in the interest of edification, education, and/or humor.
Monday, August 30, 2010
So in the interest of sharing these gems with you, I am beginning a new feature on the blog entitled "Mondays with Marty." Each Monday I will share a quote from Martin Luther as a way of kick starting the week.These quotes will run the gamut from serious and profound to hilarious and silly, with points in between. To prepare you for this experience, it seems wise to quote from the Foreword by Paul Maier:
Fair warning to the reader: in the Table Talk, Luther is at his unwary best and not hindered by such niceties as prudence, propriety, etiquette, or convention. Some of the material is salty, saucy, and even "over the top." At such passages it would be well to remember that Luther himself did not write this material or sign-off on it. It is all recorded by his eager students, who somehow managed to eat meat and potatoes at Luther's table, yet also take copious notes on whatever he said. (pp. 6-7)Also, just to be clear, I will place a disclaimer at the end of each post to indicate that the views reflected in these quotes do not necessarily reflect my own views. So with that out of the way, we are ready for our first installment:
12. Women should be honored. The Holy Spirit honors women. Examples of that are Esther and Sarah. Among the pagans, Lucretia and Artemisia were glorified. Without women there would be no marriage. The best medicine against fornication is to get married. A woman is the best companion for life. Women bring children into the world, they raise them, and they rule the house. They are inclined to be merciful, because they are made that way by God, to bear children, to bring joy to men, to be merciful.DISCLAIMER: The views reflected in this quote do not necessarily reflect those of the author of this blog. This quote is shared in the interest of edification, education, and/or humor.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Scholars have long recognized the importance of Paul´s citations from the Pentateuch for understanding the argument of Galatians. But what has not been fully appreciated is the key role that Isaiah plays in shaping what Paul says and how he says it, even though he cites Isaiah explicitly only once (Isaiah 54:1 in Galatians 4:27). Using an intertextual approach to trace more subtle appropriations of Scripture (i.e., allusions, echoes and thematic parallels), Harmon argues that Isaiah 49-54 in particular has shaped the structure of Paul´s argument and the content of his theological reflection in Galatians. Each example of Isaianic influence is situated within its original context as well as its new context in Galatians. Attention is also paid to how those same Isaianic texts were interpreted in Second Temple Judaism, providing the larger interpretive context within which Paul read Scripture. The result is fresh light shed on Paul´s self-understanding as an apostle to the Gentiles, the content of his gospel message, his reading of the Abraham story and the larger structure of Galatians.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Pastoral Pensées: Motivations to Appeal to in Our Hearers When We Preach for Conversion by D.A. Carson
A Survey of Possible Heart Motivations
- The Burden of Guilt
- The Need for "Future Grace"
- The Attractiveness of Truth
- A General, Despairing Sense of Need
- Responding to Grace and Love
- A Rather Vague Desire to be on the Right Side of What is Right, of What is from God, of What is Biblical, of What is Clean, or What Endures
- We do not have the right to choose only one of these motivations in people and to appeal to it restrictively.
- On the other hand, we may have the right to emphasize one motivation more than others.
- Nevertheless, the comprehensiveness of our appeal to diverse motivations will reflect the comprehensiveness of our grasp of the gospel.
- To put this another way, all of the biblically sanctioned motivations for pursuing God, for pursuing Christ, say complementary things about God himself, such that failure to cover the sweep of motivations ultimately results in diminishing God.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
In sum, this is a book that will benefit every Christian. But pastors, missionaries, theological students, and everyone else in vocational ministry especially should read this book. In fact, if you can only read one book on Jonathan Edwards, make it this one. You will not be disappointed.
Monday, August 16, 2010
As a way of wrapping up my trip, I wanted to share a few things that God taught me through this trip. Some of these are things God reminded me of, while others were new. I've listed them in no particular order:
- There is great strategic value in providing theological training for those who are native to a culture. As with any short-term mission project, there is a limited amount that can be accomplished. But I believe that one thing that can be accomplished effectively is providing theological training to those who are serving in their native culture. The men and women I had the privilege of teaching will go to various parts of Zambia, Angola, and perhaps even other places in Africa with the gospel. They will be far more effective that I as a white American could ever hope to be because they are already cultural insiders. As some of you know, when I began to sense God leading me to a ministry of teaching, preaching, writing, research, etc. I always had the desire to play a part in training people in parts of the world where theological education is difficult to acquire. It was so kind of God to allow me to at last see that desire begin to be fulfilled.
- The kingdom of God often advances in small, sometimes even unnoticed, steps. We naturally gravitate towards the large steps, or the big displays of sudden growth such as outbreaks of revival. And there is no question we should pray for that. But as we wait for those large explosions of kingdom growth, we must remain faithful in what God has called us to, knowing that we often do not fully recognize what God is doing in our midst.
- The health of the Reformed Baptist movement in Zambia is strong. From what I am told, some observers even claim that the Reformed Baptist movement in Zambia is perhaps the healthiest in the world. I am in no position to make that assessment, but I can say that there are a number of strong, healthy Reformed Baptist churches that continue to birth new churches.
- Determining the best use of my time, energy, gifts and abilities is becoming increasingly difficult. I believe that my time in Zambia will prove very strategic. At the same time, I also believe that the writing projects that I basically put on hold to go will prove helpful to the body of Christ. It is this very collision between "on the field" ministry and "in the study" ministry that I continue to experience. I recognize that the answer is not to simply choose one and neglect the other. But the challenge comes in knowing which opportunities to accept and which ones to say no.
- It is not good for a man to be alone. The hardest part of the three weeks was the extended time away from Kate and my boys. This was the longest time that I have been away from them in our 14+ years of marriage, and I hope that this is a mark that will never be exceeded. I was grateful for the fellowship I had with other missionaries and their families while there in Zambia, but it is simply no replacement for my own wife and sons.
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
|From Left to Right: Me, Jose Lausu Leonardo, Donald Munachoonga, Charity Kombe, Terence Kombe, David Matolokoshi, Mercy Rukundo|
Let me tell you a little bit about each of them so you can be praying for them:
- Jose Lausu Leonardo: Jose is my only student not from Zambia; he is instead from Angola. He has already been actively involved in ministry there, helping to train people to take the gospel into the school system and reaching out into remote villages that have yet to be reached with the Gospel. He is single, but praying for God to give him a helper suitable for him.
- Donald Munachoonga: Donald is married but as of yet has no children. He asks good questions and makes perceptive comments in class.
- Terence & Charity Kombe: This married couple has a four-year old daughter. They are preparing for full time ministry, but are not sure where. Terence is also a very good athlete.
- David Matolokoshi: David is a single man who is also preparing for full-time ministry, though he was actively serving in his church before coming to TCCA. He is very thoughtful and asks good questions that make me think.
- Mercy Rukundo: Although she is rather quiet in class, she is an excellent student. Her husband Paul is a second year student here at TCCA as well. They have a son named Shalom.
Their final exam is on Thursday, and I know they would appreciate your prayers for them. Pray that God will use what they are learning to build a foundation for a lifetime of faithful love for and service to Christ. They will be taking the gospel to places that most of us will never see, and it has been a privilege to play a small part in equipping them for that task.
Friday afternoon I leave for the United States, and arrive late Saturday afternoon in Denver. Please pray for smooth travels and no delays as I am eager to see my family. Thanks so much for all of you who have prayed for me and my students during this trip.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
This past Sunday I had the privilege of preaching at Ndola Baptist Church:
From what I am told, the church has a long and proud history in Zambia. Men raised up in this church have gone many places to start new works of God both in Zambia and beyond. Because they are currently renovating the sanctuary, they are meeting in a tent on the property.
I was asked to preach 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 in continuation of their series through the book. I must confess to being hesitant to preach such a text, since without knowing the Zambian culture very well I was not sure how to make specific application. But the Lord was gracious, and his people seemed to genuinely be helped by hearing from God's Word about the necessity of settling our disputes within the body of Christ. Sometimes that will mean that we allow ourselves to be wronged rather than tarnish the reputation of Christ. But we follow a Savior who allowed himself to be wronged so that God might be glorified through the redemption of his people. If we are to be like our Master, there will be times when we will allow ourselves to be wronged rather than bring shame on the name of Christ.
What an encouragement to see God keep the promise of Isaiah 55:10-11
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Yesterday during my class on Jesus and the Gospels, the discussion turned to spiritual warfare. Anytime this subject comes up (no matter where I am teaching), I try to explain that there are two extremes within the evangelical church. One extreme says that any talk of demons or spiritual warfare is simply an outdated and ignorant way of thinking about things that have other, "natural" causes. According to this view, such talk was the only way that less enlightened people had of explaining things that were beyond their control such as sickness, calamity, drought, famine, etc. I would suggest that this is the default view of most evangelical Christians in the United States. The other extreme says that virtually everything that happens in a day is the direct result of activity in the spirit world. According to this view, one must be constantly alert to how the spirits/demons are at work to avoid offending them or being somehow hurt by them. This is the default view in much of Africa even among evangelical Christians.
So in the middle of our discussion one of my students, a woman named Charity, asked, "Do they go to witch doctors in the United States?" I explained that in the United States you would be hard-pressed to find a witch doctor, though I am sure that in some places you can find those who present themselves as such. It was clear that the concept of a culture where almost no one thinks of going to a witch doctor to learn why they are sick was new to her.
Satan has many weapons in his arsenal. He is perfectly content with either of the two extremes mentioned above. In some cultures (such as most of Africa and parts of Asia) he prefers to manifest his power in the spiritual realm very directly. He shows himself to be powerful through the use of witch doctors, curses, the spirit-realm, and even demonic possession. I call this the "in-your-face" approach. But just as deadly is the approach he takes in other cultures. Rather than show himself directly, Satan prefers to work with great subtlety through the apparent comforts of affluence and security. He is perfectly content to persuade people that he doesn't really exist and that everything around us has natural or material explanations. He often dulls our senses to God through the material comforts of our affluence, as we amuse or numb ourselves to the greater spiritual realities around us.
Biblically speaking there is a middle ground. Scripture is very clear that the spiritual realm is very real, and that Satan is our great enemy. He is at work in the world to thwart God's purposes and destroy his people. At the same time, Scripture also emphasizes that the sin within our own hearts is our most pressing problem. The problem is that Satan is a master at exploiting the sin that is within us.
Of course, the good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ is has conquered sin, death and Satan at the cross. He is sovereign over all things including, including the spiritual realm. Consider these passages and meditate on the good news that Christ is truly the one who rules this world:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:13-15)
and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:19-23)
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (Romans 16:20)
The devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Revelation 20:10)
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
After 36 hours of travel across eight time zones, I arrived safely in Ndola, Zambia on Sunday. Sadly, my luggage did not make the final leg from Johannesburg to Ndola, but it did arrive the next day so all is well. I have been blessed with the hospitality of American missionaries David and Terrie Wegener, joining them for several meals and getting to know them and their family. Also here from the United States is a pastor named Steve Lane, who is also an adjunct professor at Messiah College. He brought along his wife and their two sons as well.
I am staying in the home of a missionary couple from New Zealand (Timothy and Zara Woo), who are currently home on furlough. They will be returning shortly before I leave. The house is located right on the campus of Theological College of Central Africa where I am teaching. I am within short walking distance of some shops but have yet to do much exploring.
So far the class is going well. Over the course of the next few weeks I will be telling you more about each of the students, but please pray for them as they study the Gospels that their love for Christ would grow deeper.
Thanks for your prayers. I hope to post more in the days ahead. I am still adjusting to what a typical day looks like, but I hope to have that figured out by the end of this week.
Friday, July 16, 2010
- My love for Christ and his people to grow deeper as I serve Him in Zambia. Pray that God would use this time to renew my heart to see the gospel go the ends of the earth.
- My wife and two sons as they spend time with her family in Colorado while I am gone. Pray that God would bless them with rich fellowship together.
- My health. Pray that God would enable me to overcome the jet lag quickly (I begin teaching the day after I arrive) and sustain my health during my stay.
- My students. Pray that God would help them connect what they are learning in the classroom with their own relationship to God and those whom they lead.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Today we come to the end of our series on application. In case you missed any of the posts, here are the links:
Part 1 – A Theological Framework
Part 2 – We Resemble What We Worship
Part 3 – Fallen Condition
Part 4 – Gospel Solution
Part 5 – Making the Fallen Condition Personal
Part 6 – The Four Aspects of Application
Part 7 – The Levels of Application
Part 8 – The Three Orders of Application
Of course, a fundamental premise throughout this series is the crucial role of repentance and faith. When God reveals to us our fallen condition it is imperative for us to turn from it and embrace by faith the solution that the gospel offers.
To wrap things up, I wanted to try to synthesize the most helpful things from this series of posts. What follows is a list of questions that I try to ask every time I read Scripture. There are five main questions, but I have included sub-questions under each that give the bigger picture of what I am trying to get at with each question.
What do we learn about God?
- What aspects of God's character do we see in this passage?
- What do we see God doing in this passage?
- What things, events, people, and situations is God concerned about?
What do we learn about man/mankind?
- What aspects of the image of God (longings, desires, interests, values) are reflected in this passage?
- What fallen conditions (desires, attitudes, actions, beliefs, etc.) are stated, described or implied in this passage?
- What struggles, challenges, temptations, and realities to walking with God are stated, described or implied in this passage?
- What do we learn about redemption?
- What does this passage reveal about the nature of our salvation?
- What is the "gospel solution" to the "fallen condition" that this passage states, describes or implies?
- In what specific ways has Jesus obeyed in the areas where you have failed?
What do we learn about ministry?
- What does this passage teach us about the nature of ministry (its joys, its pains, its challenges, its rewards, etc.)?
- What does this passage teach about the way I should lead/care for God's people?
- What does this passage teach about the way God's people respond to leaders?
How should I apply this text to my life?
- What does this passage indicate that I should know, think or understand?
- What does this passage indicate that I should believe?
- What does this passage indicate that I should feel?
- What does this passage indicate I should do?
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
One way to avoid this experience is to think through the different "orders" of application. What I mean will become clear as I explain each of the three orders of application:
- First Order: Those points of application that can be shown to relate directly to the main point of the passage. These should be obvious from the text to most anyone reading or hearing the passage. They are the equivalent of low-hanging fruit that is ripe for the picking!
- Second Order: Those points of application that can be shown to be a reasonable inference from the main point of the passage. These may not be immediately obvious to all who read or hear the text, but upon brief explanation should be clear. In this case the fruit is higher up in the tree but is still reachable by standing on your tip-toes.
- Third Order: Those points of application that can be shown to be a reasonable inference from an incidental aspect of the passage. These are not obvious to the reader or hearer, but with substantive explanation can be made clear. In this case the fruit is near the top of the tree and requires a good ladder or even a bucket truck to get to it.
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.For the sake of our exercise, let's say that the main point of the passage is this: We must live out our heavenly citizenship according to the pattern of the gospel. Now let's suggest some possible applications for each order:
- First Order: I must believe that my primary identity is as a citizen of God's kingdom, not the USA. This challenges the broader culture around me that finds identity in belonging to this world and one of its various subcultures
- Second Order: Because the Christian life is a fight/struggle, I need to be more intentional in my efforts to grow spiritually. These efforts must be within the context of the body of Christ, for it is in fellowship with other believers that God gives me the strength to stand firm.
- Third Order: Because persecution is a reality faced by my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, we as a church should financially support Voice of the Martyrs.
In our final post in this series, we will attempt to summarize the entire series into something that is manageable.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Our tendency, especially in the West, is to think of application in very personal terms. And in a sense, that is truly where we should begin, since our first responsibility before God when reading his Word is to respond ourselves. But application is much broader than that. There are many levels to application that we should think through:
- Non-Christian: How does the passage speak to the unbeliever? How does it call him/her to repentance and faith? How does it warn, rebuke, correct, prod the unbeliever? What does it say about the danger of the unbeliever's situation, the exclusivity of Christ, the sinner's need for a Savior, or the sufficiency of that Savior as a substitute for the sinner?
- Public: What does the passage say about our lives and roles in the public sphere, both as Christians and non-Christians (e.g., government and/or our neighborhood)?
- Christian: What is the significance of the passage for the individual Christian? How does it call him/her to deeper repentance and faith? How does it warn, rebuke, correct, motivate, comfort or encourage the Christian?
- Local Church: What is the significance of the passage for the corporate life of our local church? How does it call the local corporate body to tend to its corporate life together and corporate witness to the unbelieving community around it?
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.And now for each level I'll suggest some possible application:
- Non-Christian: (1) Since faith is a gift from God, this passage calls the unbeliever to ask God to overcome his/her doubts and give him/her the necessary faith to be saved. (2) Persisting in persecution of God's people will ultimately result in his/her eternal destruction.
- Public: (1) Persecution of Christians is evidence of a culture that is hostile to God and in danger of God's judgment. (2) Because Christians are citizens of God's kingdom, their final loyalty will be to God and not the state.
- Christian: (1) Because suffering is a gift from God it should be embraced as an opportunity for growth rather than avoided at all costs. (2) The gospel of Christ is the measuring stick by which our entire lives are to be evaluated.
- Local Church: (1) Because persecution is to be expected, we as a congregation should be preparing our people to suffer through preaching, teaching, etc. (2) Because unity is so important to standing firm in the faith, we as a congregation must pursue unity in the gospel.
In our next post, we will address the different orders of application.
Monday, June 21, 2010
For most people, when we think of the area of application, our thoughts turn to asking the question, "What does the next tell me to do?" This can be true for pastors as well, who feel the compulsion to end every sermon with two or three tangible action points that the congregants can do that week. Imagine that a pastor is creative enough to come up with three new action points each week. If he preaches 50 times in a year, the congregation has walked away with 150 things to do over the course of a year. In such a situation is it any wonder that Christians become legalists?
The answer to this problem is to take into account all four aspects of application:
- Think: What does the text want me to think? What false beliefs does the text correct? Remember that central to what God does in us as believers is transform us by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:1-2). Since we are called to take every though captive to Christ (2 Cor 10:5), it is essential that we allow God to change our understanding of who he is and the world around us.
- Believe: What does the text want me to believe? What false beliefs does the text correct? It is one thing to understand something, another to put your trust/faith in it. If we are going to take seriously that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rom 10:17), then we must move from simple comprehension to trust in / reliance upon the truth of what God's Word says.
- Feel: What does the text want me to feel? What sinful emotions does the text correct? While it is fashionable for people to say that no one has the right to tell them how to feel, God has absolutely no qualms about telling exactly how we should feel. The Psalms are filled with commands to rejoice, while the prophets often tell people to weep over their sin.
- Do: What does the text want me to do? What sinful actions does this text correct? While we do not want our application to consist solely of doing, that does not mean we ignore the many places where Scripture specifically tells us to do things like pray, speak the truth in love, forgive one another, etc.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.So in light of this text, let's walk through each of the different aspects.
- The Lord is near (both in that he is present with us no matter where we are and in the sense that Christ's return is imminent).
- The peace of God transcends my ability to completely understand it.
- I must fill my mind with things that are true, honorable, etc.
- I must believe that Lord is near even when he does not feel near to me
- I must trust the God's peace is capable of protecting my heart and mind from anxiety no matter what my circumstances
- I must believe that things I have learned and received and heard and see in God's Word are sufficient for my growth in godliness.
- I must rejoice in the Lord and not find my joy in the things of this world.
- I must not be anxious because God is the God of peace
- I must let my "reasonableness" be know to all people, not just those who are easy to along with.
- I must let my requests be made known to God through an active prayer life
- I must practice the things I have learned and received and heard and seen in Paul and other godly examples.
In our next post, we will look what I refer to as the different levels of application.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Let's take the example of the parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12:13-21. In the midst of this parable, Jesus warns his listeners:
Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. (Luke 12:15 ESV)So a pretty obvious fallen condition would look something like this:
We seek to find life/joy/fulfillment/contentment in the abundance of our possessionsBut this fallen condition can show up in a variety of ways. For example:
- For the person who is wealthy, it may reveal itself in the sense of pride and arrogance that believes all that they have is the product of their own hard work and has nothing to do with God's common grace.
- For the person who is poor, it may reveal itself in the constant preoccupation with acquiring more money/possessions, believing that if only they had a little more wealth it would solve the vast majority of their problems.
- Regardless of a person's wealth, it may reveal itself in working long hours at the expense of time with family, believing that life is found in providing a certain standard of living for his family.
- It may reveal itself in a person who turns to shopping or buying things to deal with the difficulties or frustrations of life, believing that buying one more thing will bring them the joy they are seeking.
- It may reveal itself in a person who is stingy and refuses to give generously, fearing that if too much is given away the desired lifestyle will not be attainable.
- In the person who is retired, it may show itself in an attitude that views the retirement years as an entitlement to be lazy or selfish in how time and resources are spent. After all, because of his years of hard work he is now entitled to spend his time and energy on whatever he wants.
The recognition that the fallen condition reveals itself differently in different people is also an important bridge to applying the text to others when you teach or preach. If you were preaching or teaching Luke 12:13-21, it would be tempting for the people in your group/audience who do not view themselves as rich to "check out" because they think the passage has nothing to say to them. But when you help people to see the fallen condition and its various symptoms, it becomes much more difficult for anyone in the group/audience to think "This passage has nothing to say to me."
As a final note on this subject, the more specific you can be, the more clearly you and the people you lead will be able to see the fallen condition at work. Try to give specific examples that reveal the presence of the fallen condition, so that when people recognize their own thoughts, attitudes and actions in what you are describing they will realize that they think, feel or act that way because they are infected with the fallen condition you have identified. The more specific you are in identifying the fallen condition, the more precision you will have in applying the gospel solution. The better you know the specific people you are leading as well as the larger cultural influences that feed the fallen condition you have identified, the better you will be able to speak God's Word into their lives. A friend of mine once referred to this as "reading people's mail." In other words, when you identify the fallen condition and how it shows up in a person's life, you want them to have that moment where they think, "That's totally how I think/feel/act." Once a person is to that point, the gospel solution will seem especially sweet.
Lord willing, next week, we will move to the different aspects of application.
Monday, June 07, 2010
the aspect(s) of the Gospel (i.e. the work of Jesus Christ) that are revealed (either explicitly or implicitly) in the text (the passage itself or the larger context) that provide the solution to the fallen conditionIn other words, what we are trying to do is apply the benefits of the gospel to the specific fallen conditions that the text has identified. By the power of the Holy Spirit we seek to determine the specific aspects of the work of Christ that overcome the area(s) of sin we have identified. Note that sometimes the gospel solution is not found in the passage itself, but in the larger context of the book or even the canon.
So continuing with our previous post, let's look again at 1 Thess 4:13-18
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.Here are the Fallen Conditions that I identified from the passage, but now I have included a corresponding gospel solution:
- Fallen Condition 1: Our ignorance about what happens to fellow believers when they die leads to sinful grief
- Gospel Solution 1: The gospel teaches us that God will gather all of his people to himself when Christ returns.
- Fallen Condition 2: When we lose sight of the hope that we as believers have in Christ, we grieve as those who have no hope (i.e. we grieve like unbelievers who have no hope)
- Gospel Solution 2: Because Jesus has conquered death through his resurrection, we who are joined with him by faith have the hope of sharing in his resurrection. Therefore, even in our grief we have an unshakable hope that death does not have the final word.
- Fallen Condition 3: Our grief when responding to death reveals that deep down we recognize that things are not the way they are supposed to be
- Gospel Solution 3: Through his death and resurrection, Jesus has inaugurated the new creation, which will culminate one day in a new heaven and new earth where there will no longer be any curse or death.
- Fallen Condition 4: We become discouraged when we contemplate the delay in Christ's return
- Gospel Solution 4: Because God was faithful to his promises in sending his Son in the fullness of time to pay for our sin during his first coming, we can be confident that God will once again send his Son back to consummate his purposes for his people.
- Fallen Condition 5: We live our lives with little or no thought of the imminence of Christ's return.
- Gospel Solution 5: When we behold the beauty of Christ our longing for his return will grow and begin to shape how we live.
In our next post, we will look at what I refer to as the four aspects of application.
Thursday, June 03, 2010
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. (Institutes 1.1.1)In my previous post, I focused on the transforming power of seeing Christ as he is revealed in Scripture. Today we will look at seeing our fallenness in the pages of Scripture. The term we will use is "fallen condition", which Bryan Chapell defines this way:
The Fallen Condition Focus (FCF) is the mutual human condition that contemporary believers share with those to or about whom the text was written that requires the grace of the passage for God's people to glorify and enjoy him (Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching, 90).As a means of expanding on this concept here are some questions I have found helpful in prompting my own thinking: (1) What sinful tendencies, habits, thoughts, patterns of behavior, feelings, beliefs are explicitly stated in the text or reasonably implied by the text? (2) What evidence of the effects of the Fall are explicitly stated in the text or reasonably implied by the text that need the redemptive work of God? (3) What God-given human longings that are warped by sin are explicitly stated in the text or reasonably implied by the text that need the redemptive work of God?
In most cases a passage has multiple fallen conditions. Let's take as an example 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.Here are just a few of the possible Fallen Conditions that emerge from this passage:
- Our ignorance about what happens to fellow believers when they die leads to sinful grief
- When we lose sight of the hope that we as believers have in Christ, we grieve as those who have no hope (i.e. we grieve like unbelievers who have no hope)
- Our grief when responding to death reveals that deep down we recognize that things are not the way they are supposed to be
- We become discouraged when we contemplate the delay in Christ's return
- We live our lives with little or no thought of the imminence of Christ's return
At this point, I then want to ask myself how I personally see these different Fallen Conditions manifest themselves in my life:
- It is only when someone I know dies that I am reminded that death is an intruder into God's creation
- Because it has now been almost 2,000 years since Christ promised to return, I can be discouraged into thinking Christ's return will not happen in my lifetime
- Because my life is usually so comfortable here in this fallen world, I find it easy to go significant periods of time without thinking about the return of Christ.
In our next post, I will consider how to apply the gospel to the fallen conditions that we discover in the text and see at work in our lives.
Monday, May 24, 2010
We resemble what we worship, whether for ruin or restoration.Think about it for a minute. Every kid growing up imitates someone they look up to. My kids love sports, so I constantly hear them say things like "Rondo goes behind the back, lays it up and in! What a shot by Rondo!" or "Pryor, sidesteps the rush, throws downfield to Posey, TOUCHDOWN!" The impulse to imitate does not stop once we reach adulthood. Have you ever noticed we tend to speak and act like the people we admire? People spend large sums of money to even dress like those whom they admire.
The reason for this pattern is that God has made us this way. By creating Adam and Eve in his image, God intended mankind to reflect his character in thought, word and deed (Gen 1:26-31). By beholding God in submissive worship they would reflect his glory. But when Adam and Eve rebelled against God, they usurped the rightful place of God as the sovereign King and placed themselves at the center of the universe (Gen 3:1-24). In other words, they committed idolatry (cp. Romans 1:21-23). This act of rebellion, however, did not change the fact that man resembles what we worship. Notice, for example, what Psalm 115:3-8 (ESV) says:
Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. 4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. 6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. 7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. 8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.The psalmist warns against the worship of idols because inevitably those who worship them become like them. Because idols are spiritually blind, deaf and dumb, so those who worship them become spiritually blind, deaf and dumb. (See additionally passages like Psalm 135:15-18; Isaiah 6:1-13; 44:1-20).
But there is a flipside to this reality. As we worship the one true God in Jesus Christ, we become like him. Although there are many texts that point in this direction, we will focus on just two. The first is 2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV):
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.Notice the progression. We as believers behold the glory of God himself in the face of Jesus Christ (see 2 Cor 4:6), and as we behold that glory we are transformed so that we more fully reflect the very glory of Christ himself. The apostle John says something very similar in 1 John 3:2-3 (ESV):
Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.Notice the progression here. When Christ appears, we as his people will be like him, because we will see him as he truly he is. In other words, the vision of Christ is what will complete the transformation to complete Christlikeness. In light of this eschatological hope, in the present believers purify themselves just as Jesus is pure.
Thus at the heart of application is the fundamental truth that we resemble what we worship. As a result, application is first and foremost a reorientation of our whole lives to Christ, a commitment to see him for all his beauty and experience the transformation that comes from seeing his glory. It is not first and foremost a list of things to do or not do.
In the next post we will look at the necessity of recognizing "fallen condition" in the biblical text and identifying how that fallen condition shows up in our own lives.
POSTCRIPT: I wanted to point out two books that have been very helpful in my own thinking on this particular subject. While at Wheaton I had the privilege of learning from G.K. Beale, whose work in the area of the use of the OT in the NT is superb. As part of my Ph.D. program I was first exposed to this concept that we resemble what we worship. In fact, the wording of the quote at the beginning of this post is taken straight from him. A couple of years after I finished my degree at Wheaton, Beale published the book pictured to the left, entitled We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Worship. In this book, Beale walks through in extensive detail this biblical-theological thread from Genesis to Revelation and all points in between. To make this case Beale does detailed work in the Hebrew Old Testament, Greek Septuagint, Second Temple Jewish literature and the Greek New Testament. As a result, it is not something that is easily readable, although those who make the effort are richly rewarded with a firm biblical foundation.
For those who want a much more accessible and readable book that deals with this same subject, the place to look is the book by Tim Keller entitled Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. As the title makes clear, Keller singles out three particular forms of idolatry that are prevalent in our culture. With his characteristically clear and engaging writing style, Keller sheds light on how these forms of idolatry surface in our lives and offers Christ as the one who will truly satisfy. This is a book that I would not hesitate to hand to just about anybody, even those who are not naturally drawn to reading.
Monday, May 17, 2010
In light of this, I have decided to write a series of posts on application. Today's post will attempt to briefly sketch a basic theological framework for application. Our starting point is a familiar text:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)Paul commands us to work out our own salvation, while at the same time emphasizing that it is God who is at work in us for his good pleasure. Thus application is the work of God and it is the work of the believer. So as a starting point let's look at each of these.
God's Work. Not surprisingly, all three persons of the Trinity are involved in the work of application. According to 1 Peter 1:14-17, it is the Father who calls his children to be holy as he is holy. Paul makes a similar point in Romans 8:29, when he asserts that the Father "predestined [us] to be conformed to the image of his Son." Thus the Son is the ultimate pattern of God's work in our lives. Of course, it also the Son's work on the cross that makes conformity to him even possible, as our union with him enables us to share in his death and resurrection (Rom 6:1-11). The Spirit is the one who applies the benefits of Christ's work to us, and this is true in application as well. He is the one who enables believers to put to death the deeds of the body (Rom 8:13).
The Work of the Believer. Growth in holiness does not come by waiting for God to zap us. As a starting point we can begin with Paul's paradigmatic claim in Romans 10:17 that "faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ." We are responsible to believe the good news about Jesus Christ and his work on our behalf. All proper application flows out of the gospel. Thus it is imperative that we expose ourselves to the word of God and believe what it says. It is also crucial that we pray for God to do his work in our lives; without prayer our efforts to apply Scripture quickly devolve into self-effort that is rooted in self-righteousness. We must also prioritize the role that other believers play in our lives to assist us in application. Other believers identify our blind spots and confront and/or encourage us when necessary. As we live in fellowship with other believers we are able to grow together in godliness.
Much more could be said, but this is a sufficient foundation for us to build upon. The next post will deal with what I regard as the single most important principle of application.
Monday, May 03, 2010
A Place at the Table: George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in America by John A. D'Elia
Central to the book is Ladd efforts to gain a "place at the table" for evangelical biblical scholarship at a time (1940s-1960s) when very few in the academy paid any attention to it. Ladd recognized that this was in part due to a failure by evangelicals to actually engage liberal scholarship rather than dismiss it outright. As a result Ladd was among a small group of evangelicals who pursued doctoral work in elite level Ph.D. programs such as Harvard as a means of establishing scholarly credentials that would enable them later to produce scholarship from an evangelical perspective that could gain a hearing in the broader academy. The fact that many evangelicals today have a seat at the table in the larger academy is due at least in part to Ladd.
Ladd's efforts to produce evangelical scholarship that would be received within the larger academy culminated in 1964 with the publication of Jesus and the Kingdom: The Eschatology of Biblical Realism (later renamed The Presence of the Future). Ladd hoped the book would a definitive study of the Kingdom of God in the New Testament, and the fact it was published by Harper and Row gave it a hearing in the broader academy. Ladd thought he had accomplished his goal of gaining a place at the table.
All of that changed when he read NT scholar Norman Perrin's review, which thoroughly trashed the book. Although Ladd's work was well-received by others, the prominence of Perrin within the academy meant that his review was devastating. Ladd was crushed, and as a result he spiraled downward into a depression that he never fully recovered from. The rest of his life he considered himself a failure, despite continuing to publish and teach for another ten years or so.
Before reading this book, I knew almost nothing about Ladd other than his groundbreaking work on the Kingdom of God. His New Testament Theology book remains a classic contribution to the field even 35 years later (a revised edition was produced in 1993 with some additional essays; I still use the text in my own NT Theology course). As I read the book, however, I was saddened to learn of the mess that was Ladd's personal life. D'Elia does a nice job of describing Ladd's upbringing and the effect it would have on him for the rest of his life (though I think this is overplayed at times). In his quest to gain a hearing for evangelical scholarship, he largely sacrificed his family, resulting in very strained relationships with his wife and two children. Because he set his hope on academic recognition, Ladd fell apart when he failed to received what he believed he deserved. He increasingly turned to alcohol and strongly considered divorcing his wife. The irony is that although Ladd considered himself a failure, he left behind a legacy of students who did go on to successful academic careers and gained a place at the table within the broader academy. Ladd simply did not live long enough to see this, dying in 1982.
Reading this book was a healthy reminder to me not to set my hope on academic achievement or recognition within the broader academy. I am grateful for my wife and kids who help keep me grounded and are a great source of joy in my life. I also am grateful for my local church an how it allows me to contribute to the growth of fellow believers in the gospel and how it applies to all of life.