Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Lie

Way back in the day when I was in a small church youth group, the youth pastor repeatedly taught on what he called "The Lie." He would quote Romans 1:24-25, "Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen." He was a wise man. I remember very little about high school youth group except for this: The Lie is that something or someone other than God can satisfy.

In America, or at least in the world I live in, everything screams at me to find satisfaction in something other than God. I am a huge Apple fan, and to some extent have bought the line that I will be happy if I have the latest iPhone or MacBook Pro. But what about magazine covers, billboards, movie trailers, TV commercials? Do they not all scream the Lie? If you look like me you will be happy. If you own me you will be happy. If you eat here you will be happy. If you watch me you will be happy. If you read me you will be happy.

Now, I know that dressing, eating, watching, and reading are not sins in themselves. The Lie comes in when we believe that dressing, eating, watching, and reading will satisfy more than God does. That is the Lie, that something or someone other than God will satsify. As soon as we believe it, we have exchanged the truth about God for the Lie.

My current pastor has a favorite phrase which teaches a similar truth, in fact it might simply be the flipside of the same coin: God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in him. In other words, when we worship God as the most glorious of all beings, then he also shows himself to be the most satisfying. Glorifying God and delighting in God are one thing.

The reality which is opposed to the Lie is that God alone can satisfy. The Psalmist, in Ps 81:11-16, said something very similar to Paul:

11 “But my people did not listen to my voice;
Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
to follow their own counsels.
13 Oh, that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!
14 I would soon subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes.
15 Those who hate the LORD would cringe toward him,
and their fate would last forever.
16 But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

As wonderful as iPhones and MackBook Pros are, as fun as it is to sip a latte on the porch at Starbucks, as exciting as losing yourself in the latest movie, as classy as wearing the latest fashion may be, they will turn sour and false if we think satifsaction lies in them. We must look beyond them to the one true satisfaction, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as revealed in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Make sure that he had plenty of opportunities to disobey you.

There is a good deal to be said for excluding literature from school curricula altogether. I am not sure that the best way to make a boy love the English poets might not be to forbid him to read them and then make sure that he had plenty of opportunities to disobey you.

—C. S. Lewis, "The Parthenon and the Optative," On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, p. 111.

The idea was to find out whether the boy had read his books.

But there is a profound misunderstanding here. These well-meaning educationalists are quite right in thinking that literary appreciation is a delicate thing. What they do not seem to see is that for this very reason elementary examinations on literary subjects ought to confine themselves to just those dry and factual questions which are so often ridiculed. The questions were never supposed to test appreciation; the idea was to find out whether the boy had read his books. It was the reading, not the being examined, which was expected to do him good. And this, so far from being a defect in such examinations is just what renders them useful or even tolerable.

—C. S. Lewis, "The Parthenon and the Optative," On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, p. 110.


Since I began formal theological studies in 2004, I have been using BibleWorks as my preferred Bible software. I have often argued for this software over Accordance and Logos. My main arguments are that BibleWorks is faster and cheaper and provides more bang for the buck than either of the other two contenders. The only downside is that BibleWorks does not run natively on a Mac; instead, one has to use Parallels or VMWare Fusion.

Justin Taylor linked to two reviews by Keith Mathison, one on BibleWorks and one on Accordance. It seems that Keith and I have the same understanding about these software bundles.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The trouble allowing words to slip into the abyss.

To save any word from the eulogistic and dyslogistic abyss is a task worth the efforts of all who love the English language. And I can think of one word—the word Christian—which is at this moment on the brink. When politicians talk of 'Christian moral standards' they are not always thinking of anything which distinguishes Christian morality from Confucian or Stoic or Benthamite morality. One often feels that it is merely one literary variant among the 'adorning epithets' which, in our political style, the expression 'moral standards' is felt to require; civilized (another ruined word) or modern or democratic or enlightened would have done just as well. But it will really be a great nuisance if the word Christian becomes simply a synonym for good. For historians, if no one else, will still sometimes need the word in its proper sense, and what will they do? That is always the trouble allowing words to slip into the abyss. Once turn swine into a mere insult, and you need a new word (pig) when you want to talk about the animal. Once let sadism dwindle into a useless synonym for cruelty, and what do you do when you have to refer to the highly specialized perversion which actually afflicted M. de Sade?

—C. S. Lewis, "The Death of Words," On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, p. 106-107.

As old horses go to the knacker's yard...

The truth is not simply that words originally innocent tend to acquire a bad sense. The vocabulary of flattery and insult is continually enlarged at the expense of the vocabulary of definition. As old horses go to the knacker's yard, or old ships to the breakers, so words in their last decay go to swell the enormous list of synonyms for good and bad. And as long as most people are more anxious to express their likes and dislikes than to describe facts, this must remain a universal truth about language.

—C. S. Lewis, "The Death of Words," On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, p. 106.

Giving Thanks to God for You: Sermon Prep on 1 Thess 1

Is it wrong to motivate a congregation toward holy living by holding up the Thessalonians as an example to imitate? No, I don’t think so, because Paul indicates that the Thessalonians were an example for the Macedonians and Achaians (1 Thess 1:7). Good enough. If they were examples for the people in the surrounding regions, then they can be examples for us. However, we must be careful to make clear who or what the ground of their ability to be an example is. Can this be found in the text? I think so; the ground of their becoming imitators was in the receiving of the word in tribulation and in the Holy Spirit. This is God wrought imitation, isn’t it? (Do 1 Thess 1:6-7 form a bilateral? Only if the hōste acts as a therefore. Otherwise, it might indicate the result of the action previously described.) Also, the content of Paul’s thanksgiving (1 Thess 1:2-3) is all about their work, labor, and perseverance, which are in turn respectively produced by faith, hope, and love. So then, as I am seeing it right now, faith, hope, and love, are central to the Thessalonians ability to live as examples. And their faith, hope, and love are all rooted in Jesus Christ himself (tou kyriou hēmōn Iēsou Christou).

Friday, July 24, 2009


The other night we read Luke 11:1-13 as a family. Now, to be perfectly honest this passage of Scripture has always eluded me. For those of you who get this text right away, forgive my thick-head. Even still, I didn’t get it. Fortunately, I have children who think better than I do. “Daddy, what does impudence mean?” My thought was that it meant being a jerk, or disrespectful, or insubordinate. So much for my vocabulary skills. I grabbed my trusty iPod Touch and ran the Dictionary app. Impudence means “the quality or state of being impudent.” Not so helpful. With a little more searching I found the following definitions: lack of modesty, shamelessness, characterized by impertinence or effrontery, barefaced audacity.

Now we were getting somewhere. So, the friend that came to the door at midnight and knocked was not being insubordinate, or even simply disrespectful. Instead, he was acting with barefaced audacity. He was shameless in his knocking at midnight. He was causing a scene, and seemed willing to risk anger and embarrassment in order to get what he wanted.

Jesus draws the conclusion in Luke 11:9, “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” In other words, it seems that Jesus is telling his disciples that they should pray with impudence. They should pray with barefaced audacity.

The implications from this are shocking. We are sinners. We are creatures. God is creator. And we are to pray to our creator with boldfaced audacity. Stunning! Similar passages that come to mind are the persistent woman (Luke 18:1-8) and entering the throne room with boldness (Heb 4:16).

What should the disciples (and by extension us) pray for? Luke 11:13 gives us a clue. The Father will freely give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. Our salvation and intimacy with God himself will be freely given to those who pray with impudence.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Augustin: The Typeface not the Man

I have a friend (here and here) who has introduced me to the world of typography. I am a total neophyte, but hopefully I am learning. I ran across this new typeface today, which I really like. Maybe those with a more discerning eye would disagree, but I like it and would love to print my next exegetical paper in Augustin.

Millennial Views in a Statement of Faith: Sin.

Justin Taylor quotes Mark Dever saying that having a millennial view written into a church's statement of faith is sin. Having experienced this sort of thing first hand, I find Dever's quote refreshing. I agree with Dever and believe that a long-term consequence of this sin is a severe danger to the health of the church, since it breeds an "us vs. them" mentality. It certainly divides more than it unifies.
I think that millennial views need not be among those doctrines that divide us. . . . I am suggesting that what you believe about the millennium—how you interpret these thousand years—is not something that it is necessary for us to agree upon in order to have a congregation together. The Lord Jesus Christ prayed in John 17:21 that we Christians might be one. Of course all true Christians are one in that we have his Spirit, we share his Spirit, we desire to live out that unity. But that unity is supposed to be evident as a testimony to the world around us. Therefore, I conclude that we should end our cooperations together with other Christians (whether near-ly in a congregation, or more at length in working together in missions and church planting and evangelism and building up the ministry) only with the greatest of care, lest we rend the body of Christ for whose unity he’s prayed and given himself. Therefore, I conclude that it is sin to divide the body of Christ—to divide the body that he prayed would be united. Therefore for us to conclude that we must agree upon a certain view of alcohol, or a certain view of schooling, or a certain view of meat sacrificed to idols, or a certain view of the millennium in order to have fellowship together is, I think, not only unnecessary for the body of Christ, but it is therefore both unwarranted and therefore condemned by scripture. So if you’re a pastor and you’re listening to me, you understand me correctly if you think I’m saying you are in sin if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular millennial view. I do not understand why that has to be a matter of uniformity in order to have Christian unity in a local congregation.
Read Justin's entire post to find links to sermons by Mark Dever and Tom Schreiner, as well as an article by Sam Storms on the problems with the Premillennial view.

Monday, July 06, 2009

If sin made sense, it wouldn't be sin.

Douglas Wilson writes,
But people act the way they do because of sin. And if sin made sense, it wouldn't be sin. This is the mystery of lawlessness. A man can engage in behavior that is self-destructive, knowing full well that it is self-destructive, and do it anyway, with his eyes wide open. Wisdom says in Proverbs that all who hate her love death (Prov. 8:36). When you are trying to set the paths of life before a man who loves death, and you are assuming that he is doing what he does because he actually doesn't love death, this is going to result in a very clear, cogent, and impotent teacher. The law can't save.
Read the whole thing if you want, but this paragraph was really all I wanted to post on. In other words, Wilson's original post is well worth reading, but my point is to acknowledge the irrationality of sin, namely that "A man can engage in behavior that is self-destructive, knowing full well that it is self-destructive, and do it anyway, with his eyes wide open."

I know this from first-hand experience, and I expect, with a little honesty, that you do too. So, what is the solution? The gospel, of course. The teacher, whoever that might be, must be able to preach a good-ol' come to Jesus sermon—to the dead.