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He Knows

Jesus’ letters to the seven churches at the beginning of Revelation have often been a source of direction and encouragement. While each of the letters follows the same format, each shines a light on the needs of a particular congregation and calls them to greater faith and faithfulness in Christ. Each letter presents Jesus in its own beautiful light (“who holds the seven stars in his right hand…the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David…the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation…”) and calls the congregation to rest upon their Savior. The unity and diversity of these letters is a reminder that every congregation is different but every congregation ultimately has the same deepest need: to worship God and grow in faithfulness.

Maybe one of the most encouraging parts of each letter is the way they begin. After introducing the divine author of the letter, they all begin with two simple words: “I know.” Before problems are addressed or encouragement is given, Jesus tells each church, “I know.”

Oh How I Love Your Law!

Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.

Psalm 119:97

For any number of reasons, this is much easier said and sang than actually done. How do we love God’s law and love it more? Recently I’ve been blessed by a sermon series preached by one of our friends and contributors, Michael Lefebvre, on the Ten Commandments. Dr. Lefebvre mines Scripture’s historical and linguistical side of the law to give the listener a much greater appreciation for it. As I’ve listened to these sermons, I’ve often marveled at the wisdom, kindness, breadth and generosity of God’s good laws for us. With Michael’s permission, I’m glad to share them with you today. Although it would be a big commitment, I encourage you to download all of them and listen when you can.

A Concise Resource on Justification by Faith Alone from Romans 4:3-5

With the confusion that is often sown regarding the doctrine of justification by faith alone, I wanted to review and clarify in my own mind my understanding of this essential doctrine. Especially in light of just celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, writing down my thoughts is a good exercise in application. Yet I wanted to be sure this clarification came from a study of Scripture, not only just from reading what others have written about it.

Thus, I returned to the crystal clear teaching of Romans 4:3-5 on this subject. How refreshing it is! This text says, “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (NASB).

I thought I would share my thoughts with you. To that end, I offer below why this subject continues to need to be treated, a concise exegetical treatment on how to understand this text, a short summary statement on justification from my study, and then a guard produced […]

Frustrated with a Friend

Introduction

Having an interest in Hebrew and Old Testament studies in particular there are few people to whom I am more indebted than the scholar Mark Futato. His language courses are brilliant and his contribution to Hebrew studies massive. Whether thinking of ‘BibleWorks’ or ‘Daily Dose of Hebrew’, though I have never met him personally, I regard him as a friend.

I Just Happened To Be Reading

I was, however, a little troubled recently, when I picked up a new book entitled ‘A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Promised’, edited by Ligon Duncan III: this text contains many brilliant contributions from numerous outstanding authors. It was with a sense of excitement, therefore, that I eventually turned to the chapter on the Psalms.

Why I was frustrated

I really was not anticipating what I encountered next, as I lit upon a surprising comment he makes, on page 353 of this tome. It comes at the end of a lucid, succinct, informative, in many ways excellent entry: the section is headed ‘Approaching the New Testament’; he is dealing with the question of how many or which of the Psalms should be considered Messianic? Let me quote what our brother says:

“The answer can either be […]

The Importance of Practical Religion

‘The Gospel is at stake! You must not budge an inch! Peter, brothers, Barnabas, you’ve got to change your practice!’

Is that how it happened in Antioch, with Paul’s face-to-face rebuke of Peter, where he refused the spare the blushes? The truth of the Gospel was endangered by behavior that was disconnected from principle (Galatians 2.11 & 14):

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned …But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of Gospel, I said to Cephas: ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile, and not like a Jew, how can you force Gentiles to live like Jews.”

In my initial naivety, I thought that there was only one simple single principle being taught: that we should lovingly, prayerfully, firmly, yet bravely, highlight hypocrisy publicly, if the Gospel is in jeopardy – of course we should do that, no matter who it embarrasses, for the love of Christ, with the hope of restoring brothers – but to bow to peer pressure, and create confusion about the Gospel, puts souls at eternal risk, so we cannot pass the buck!

However, on reflection, principial disconnection from practice […]

A Professor’s Prayer from Matthew 23

Heavenly Father,

May it never be that your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ who is seated on heaven’s throne, should look down upon me, teaching from my professor’s chair, and tell others, “Listen to what he says, but do not follow his example” (v. 2-3).

Please keep me from calling others to Christian duty and gospel sacrifices that I am unwilling to make myself (v. 4).

Guard my heart from such things as quoting Scripture or preaching, or putting on fancy coat and tie or academic regalia, to impress men rather than to serve you, O Lord (v. 5).

Help me to sit lovingly with the lowly rather than angling to be seated proudly with the powerful (v. 6).

As I teach and preach, may my heart’s true longing not be for people to put titles before my name or initials after it, but to know you as the only true Teacher, Father, and Lord (v. 7-10).

May any greatness be measured only on the scale of being a lowly, humble, thankful servant of my great Lord whose sacrifice gave me life and a place of service in his glorious kingdom (v. 11-12).

O, Lord, may I never hear you say of me that I closed the […]

Pipe Up Pastor: Justification, Sanctification, Good Works, and Judgment

Hold up! Someone on the internet is wrong. I think. Maybe. Perhaps. At least that’s what I was told. She says it’s him. He says it’s her. He says its him. Him says its he. They say it’s them. And…them say it’s they. Confusing, right? I have to admit that’s a bit how I’ve been feeling in this last week as I’ve tried to follow a dust-up caused by some comments that John Piper made in an article entitled “Does God Really Save Us By Faith Alone?” Many are thinking through justification, sanctification, good works, and final judgment. Those are important topics and the way Piper has interwoven them has caused some push back.

What do we make of this dust-up? Well, in one way I’m hesitant to draw unnecessary attention to it. In at least a couple of the rejoinders that have been made the authors – neither of whom are unintelligent or poorly read, and both who have been immensely helpful to me personally – have entered into a rather complex and nuanced disagreement with a lot of prepositions that is, to be honest, a little confusing if not a little discouraging. I’m not opposed to complex or nuanced […]

Sinners at the Sacrament?

Let a man examine himself. These words of the Apostle Paul weigh heavily upon the hearts and minds of so many believers as we prepare to the come to the Lord’s Supper. These are weighty and heavy words that can nag at us at times as we consider the struggles with sin and the enemy within. Let a man examine himself.

But what if I am unworthy? What if I continue to sin against God’s mercy? What if I am weak in my convictions? Surely then I ought not to go to the Supper!

Thomas Watson, a 17th century English Puritan, pastors the questioning saint as to why he or she ought to go to the Table in each of these instances. May reflection on these questions and answers lead you to Christ–and lead to you to his Table to receive the grace and mercy that you seek.

OBJECTION 1. But I am sinful and unworthy, and why should I meddle with such holy things?

ANSWER. Who did Christ die for but such? “He came into the world to save sinners,” 1 Timothy 1:15. He took our sins upon Him as well as our nature. “He bare our grief’s,” Isaiah 53:4. In the Hebrew […]

Here I Stand

An old friend, knowing that I have four daughters, who love Disney princess movies, recently sent me a poem he had written in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  His poem is actually an adaptation of the popular song, “Let it Go” from the Disney movie “Frozen.”

Hearing the line, “Here I stand and here I’ll stay” from the song made him realize the entire song could be modified to describe Luther’s experience of finally coming to terms with what it means to be saved by the righteousness of Christ through faith.

Luther struggled for years to come to terms with the righteousness of God.  Finally, the Holy Spirit opened Luther’s eyes to understand what Paul meant when he wrote in Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (NKJV).

Reflecting on his experience some time later, Luther wrote, “Before these words broke upon my mind, I hated God and was […]

Theology on the Go

A pleasant and informative podcast I enjoy is called “Theology on the Go.” Found on the Place for Truth website of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Theology on the Go is hosted by Dr. Jonathan Master who conducts a brief interview on a topic that should be of interest to those in the church. A natural conversationalist with an encouraging spirit, Jonathan does a wonderful job of keeping his guests on topic and asking questions that guide the conversation from belief to beneficial practice for believers.

Recently, Jonathan interviewed yours truly regarding the marks of the church. If you would like to take a listen, you can go here.

(Also, as usual when doing things like this, I snap my fingers afterward wishing I had said something else. In this case, it is two other resources regarding the marks of the church I would recommend. You can do no better than going to Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology , especially the Eighteenth Topic in Volume 2 on the church where he develops teaching on the marks in contrast to the Roman Catholic Church. Another shorter volume that introduces the marks in a helpful way is Daniel Hyde’s Welcome to a Reformed Church: A Guide for Pilgrims.)