Friday, 17 April 2015

A failing grade of 99.99%

"...the law cannot give life because it has not power to do so.  The law does not offer assistance to obey it and does not grade on a curve.  It only announces the penalty of death for those who fail.  Even a 99.99 percent obedience rate earns a failing grade."

                                             - David Garland, New American Commentary on 2 Corinthians, p. 172

Sunday, 5 April 2015

a living hope

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Though you have not seen him, you love him.  Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
                                                                                                    - 1 Peter 1:3-9

"But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.  We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.  But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive."
                                                                                                  - 1 Corinthians 15:13-22

I spoke to an old friend today who has forgotten these truths.  I pray God gives him remembrance...all the way down.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Crown through the Cross

"Happy is he who thoroughly understands that though Christianity holds out a crown in the end, it brings also a cross on the way."
                                 - J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew, p. 79

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

God's Anti-Virus Software: Christian Meditation

When many people think of meditation, they think of the common eastern practice of emptying one's mind of everything, or of emptying one's mind of all but one word or concept, and then repeating that word as a mantra until that is the only thing in your head.  God's people have had a long practice of meditation as well, which can be traced back to very early times in the Old Testament, but it is very different from the form of meditation in which the one meditating seeks to empty his or her mind. 

When YHWH was preparing Joshua to lead Israel into conquest of the promised land, he said this to him: 
"Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you.  Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.  This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."    - Joshua 1:7-9
God commands Joshua, and through him all Israel, to be strong and courageous, to not be frightened or dismayed by their enemies or the gods of their enemies, to do all the law that God gave to them through Moses, and not to turn from it to the right hand or left.  God promises he will be with the people wherever they go and that they will have good success in their battles against the idolatrous inhabitants of the land and in taking possession of the land. 

Joshua and the people are told to not let the law of God depart from them or them depart from the law of God.  How do they keep themselves from departing from God's law?  By meditating upon it day and night.  They are to meditate upon the law of God always so that it sticks in their hearts and minds, so that they know it through and through, so that God's law is thoroughly implanted in them. 

David says in Psalm 1 that a man who delights in the law or the LORD and meditates on it day and night "is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers"  (see Psalm 1:1-3).

Psalm 119:9-16 is a wonderful description of the method and benefits of meditation according to God's Word:
"How can a young man keep his way pure?  By guarding it according to your word.  With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!  I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.  Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!  With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.  In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.  I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.  I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word." 
So rather than the common notion of meditation, to focus on emptying one's mind, Scripture teaches that Godly meditation, Christian meditation, is to fill one's mind.  And the thing we are to fill our minds with is the law of God, the Word of God, the holy scriptures.  We do this so that we will not fall into sin, so that we will not depart from God's will and God's way for us, so that we will be careful to do all God would have us do.  When temptations and messages come at us from our own sinful hearts or from an unbelieving world around us, if God's word is hidden in our hearts, we will have God's own words stored away in our inner hard-drive, a bit like an anti-virus software.  God's word hidden away in our hearts will help us filter out lies and temptations and it will point us to God's truth.

Paul tells the church to "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (Colossians 3:16). 

Far from the pagan practice of meditation, which is to empty one's mind of all things, Christians are called to a different type of meditation, one which fills the mind and heart with God's Word.  Instead of a meditation that erases the hard-drive of our mind, we are taught to download and store God's word in our hard-drives, to completely fill our mental and spiritual hard-drives with God's Word.  And we are to do this so that we might not sin against him. 

Justin Taylor quotes Joel Beeke at length on the Puritan practice of Meditation on the Scirptures.  It is well worth checking out these 22 benefits of Scriptural meditation.  It is also worth reading Beeke's whole essay, linked at the bottom of Justin Taylor's post.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

The danger of neglecting the offers of the Gospel

Below is some commentary from J.C. Ryle on Matthew 10:15: 
...we are taught that it is a most dangerous thing to neglect the offers of the Gospel.  It will prove "more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment" than for those who have heard Christ's truth, and not received it (verse 15).
This is a doctrine fearfully overlooked, and one that deserves serious consideration.  Men are apt to forget that it does not require great open sins to be sinned in order to ruin a soul forever.  They have only to go on hearing without believing, listening without repenting, going to church without going to Christ, and by and by they will find themselves in hell!  We will all be judged according to our light; we will have to give an account of our use of religious privileges: to hear of the "great salvation" (Hebrews 2:3) and yet neglect it, is one of the worst sins a man can commit (John 16:9).
What are we doing ourselves with the Gospel?  This is the question which everyone who reads this passage should put to his conscience.  Let us assume that we are decent and respectable in our lives, correct and moral in all the relations of life, regular in our formal attendance on the means of grace.  That is all very well so far as it goes, but is this all that can be said of us?  Are we really receiving the love of the truth?  Is Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith?  If not, we are in fearful danger; we are far more guilty than the people of Sodom, who never heard the Gospel at all; we may awake to find that in spite of our regularity and morality and correctness, we have lost our souls to all eternity.  It will not save us to have lived in the full sunshine of Christian privileges, and to have heard the Gospel faithfully preached every week.  We must experience acquaintance with Christ; we must receive his truth personally; we must be united with him in life; we must become his servants and disciples.  Without this, the preaching of the Gospel only adds to our responsibility, increases our guilt, and will at length sink us more deeply into hell.  These are hard sayings!  But the words of Scripture, which we have read, are plain and unmistakable.  They are all true.
 - J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, Matthew, p. 72-73.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Al Mohler on 50 Shades

Al Mohler weighs in on 50 Shades here, in his article called 50 Shades of Shame. 

Mohler reminds us that truth, beauty and goodness are inseparably joined together because they flow from and originate in God himself.  He points out that pornography warps beauty by seeking to separate it from truth and goodness.  That means that producing or partaking in pornography is an act of rebellion against God - willfully trying to separate what God has joined together.  And make no mistake, Mohler clearly considers the 50 Shades books and movie pornography and recognizes in them an attempt to normalize and popularize graphic and abusive porn to a far wider audience.