Tuesday, November 29, 2011
This week I will be quoting briefly from JC Ryle, that great English preacher of the 19th century whose few published books are worth more to me than a room full of gold. In his Autobiography, Ryle looks back to the days of his conversion in his early 20's and writes these inspiring words:
"It may interest my children to know what were the points in religion by which my opinions at this period of my life became strongly marked, developed and decided, and what were the principles which came out into strong, clear and distinct relief when this great change came over me … Nothing I can remember to this day appeared to me so clear and distinct as my own sinfulness, Christ's preciousness, the value of the Bible, the absolute necessity of coming out of the world, the need of being born again and the enormous folly of the whole doctrine of baptismal regeneration. All these things … seemed to flash upon me like a sunbeam in the winter of 1837 and have stuck in my mind from that time down to this. People may account for such a change as they like; my own belief is that … it was what the Bible calls "conversion" or "regeneration". Before that time I was dead in sins and on the high road to hell, and from that time I have become alive and had a hope of heaven. And nothing to my mind can account for it, but the free sovereign grace of God."
May it be the same for us.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Tragically, one of our brothers in Christ last night took his own life. Trinity Church, and Minot Air Force Base, is in mourning and the Kingdom of God on earth is bereft of a precious friend. Since the information may not yet have been released to his family, I am keeping his name in confidence. Nevertheless, you who knew him likely know of the loss. How are we, as believers, to think through and process the suicide of a fellow believer? It's a situation for which we are rarely prepared. One of the most helpful responses to the suicide of a believer was written more than twenty years ago by John Piper. I reproduce it here in full. For you who grieve today, may it bring you insight, peace and hope.
1. Saints Sometimes Feel So Bad That They Want to Die
2. It Is Sin to Fulfill That Desire by Taking Your Own Life
3. The Only Way Sin Can Be Forgiven Is in Our Relationship to Jesus Christ by Faith
4. Saving Faith Can Be So Weak That the Heart Gives Way to Grievous Sin
5. Therefore Let This Death Not Be in Vain: Let It Make Us Utterly Committed to Overcome the Enemy That Brought Him to the Grave
Friday, November 11, 2011
We're all familiar with the curse God placed upon Eve and all women who followed in her path. Genesis 3:16 says, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children." Almost exclusively, we think about Eve's curse in terms of physical pain. Indeed, every mother will testify to the reality of that. Still, could there be more in this curse? I think so.
One doesn't have to read far beyond Genesis 3 to discover more feminine pain bound up with Eve's curse. Chapter four showcases her eldest son's jealous heart inflicting its vengeance on his brother in fratricide. A mother's pain in childbirth may be great, but it is minimal compared to the agony of witnessing her children's sins - sometimes chronic sins that go on for decades and rip the family apart. How ironic: the sin which tasted so delicious (the forbidden fruit) came back to bite Eve - and all mothers ever since - perhaps most of all.
Praise God, therefore, for the promise found in Genesis 3:15 implicit in God's curse upon the serpent, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between her offspring and your offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." Eve received the just desserts of her punishment in motherly pain, but in grace Christ (the ultimate Child) came to reverse the curse. One day every tear will be wiped away (Revelation 21:4) and every redeemed woman (we trust Eve included) will say 'good-bye' to her motherly pain to the glory of God.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
We are not desperate to pray because we are self-deceived. We are blind to our depravity. We don't see ourselves as we really are. Do you want to learn to pray more? Learn of your sin. Ask God to show it to you, to give you a glimpse of your need. Ask him to show you what your sin cost him. Look at the cross again and again until you can say, "Lord, I'm so sinful, so weak, so deceived. Please, God, don't let a day go by without reminding me of this. Make me dependent."
Then, in faith, draw near knowing that you have needed cleansing but have been cleansed. Know that you have deserved wrath but have been fully loved. Sit down with your Beloved and hear him speak to you. Unburden your heart before him. Have fellowship with your heavenly husband. Be fully assured; he loves you when you pray, and he loves you when you don't. You're his bride when you hide from him, when you ignore him, when you think he doesn't really care. Run, now, to the lover of your soul.
- Elyse Fitzpatrick, Comforts from the Cross, pp. 129-130
Saturday, November 5, 2011
The desire to change [is good] but it isn't exclusively Christian. Everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, wants to change. That's why bookstores are filled with self-help books and meeting halls are filled with people trying to overcome addictions to everything from gambling to pornography to shopping....But there's a problem here for us: self-improvement isn't a Christian construct; death and resurrection are.
Paul wrote, 'For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.' (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
God isn't interested in [our] self-improvement regimens. He isn't impressed by our resolutions to do better, to get those devotions in, pass out tracts, cut down on our online time by fifteen minutes every day, or fast from the shopping channels during Lent. In fact, he isn't impressed with us at all. He's impressed by his Son. He's impressed with the perfect life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus the Christ, his beloved Son.
Here's the crux of the matter: you shouldn't hope to be impressed with yourself. Dead people don't worry about impressing others. They don't worry about anything. We need death and resurrection. We should be utterly and entirely impressed with only this: Christ died and was raised. His love was so powerful that he bent under the cruel tree, rested himself upon it, submitted to the hammer and spikes, swallowed his Father's bitter wrath, relinquished his life, and then by the power of the Spirit was raised again. All this for us! Now there's something to be impressed with!...We will not be able to fight victoriously against our sins unless we fight under the banner of the gospel and thereby detach ourselves from our hedonistic plans for self-improvement.
- Elyse Fitzpatrick, Comforts from the Cross, pp. 120-1221.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, occasionally receives searching questions on Christianity and ethics from his students and parishioners. The following question by a distressed bride-to-be caught my attention. What biblically/theologically-informed advice would you give a woman in such a situation?