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This Spring I will be speaking at the Church and Culture Conference in Wisconsin. This year’s topic is, “A Biblical Approach to Homosexuality.” A central part of my preparation is meditating on 1 Peter 3:13-17. You can watch a promo video for the conference below.

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, [16] having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 1 Peter 3:15-16

Christ said his disciples are the "salt" of the world.Update: You can see how my study progressed here with a draft of sermon on the mount terms and definitions.

What did I miss?

January 25, I plan to begin a new preaching series on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Understanding key concepts is indispensable in seeing the rich beauty of the heart of Jesus’s message. So, one of the ways I prepare for series like this one is to make a glossary of terms that I make available to our people one way or another.

If you want to help, read through Matthew 5-7 and see if you can identify any terms or concepts that need to be defined not found on my list. Here is my list thus far.

What else would help you understand the Sermon on the Mount?

Working Glossary for the Sermon on the Mount

Beatitude –

Kingdom of Heaven / Kingdom of God –

Disciples / Disciple –

Fasting –

Gentiles –

Jews –

The Law –

Light –

Macarism –

Matthew’s Gospel –

Mountain / Mount –

Oath –

Pharisees –

Synagogue –

Salt –

Making Merry About the Trinity

Chris —  December 12, 2014

Can you precisely and concisely summarize the doctrine of the Trinity? Do you know which doctrinal errors to avoid?

Sunday we will continue our Making Merry at Christmas series at the Red Brick Church. Our children will be singing  – – which always brings great joy – – but I will also be showing how if we properly understand and meditate on the doctrine of the Trinity it will give way to joy and celebration.

You will have to come to church (or listen online) to the sermon to see how I connect the dots. But it’s always a good thing to review the doctrine of the Trinity and be reminded of its basic parameters. Bernard Ramm is right when he shows how the doctrine of the Trinity is of incredible help.

. . . once a doctrine has been clarified in this manner, it has a wonderful way of explaining Scripture when turned back upon the Scripture. We wonder why we did not see it so clearly before! Yet this is the nature of progress in theology. Only by pushes and pulls, by rushes to one flank and a counter-rush to another flank, does the ‘obvious’ in Scripture become ‘obvious.’” Bernard Ramm, The Witness of the Spirit, 29.

Packer is also helpful in reminding us that the goal of the doctrine of the Trinity is not to give us comprehensive understanding of the Trinity.

“The historic formulation of the Trinity seeks to circumscribe and safeguard this mystery (not explain it; that is beyond us), and it confronts us with perhaps the most difficult thought that the human mind has ever been asked to handle. It is not easy; but it is true.” J.I. Packer, Concise Theology, 40.

The statements in the below table summarize the doctrine of the Trinity. (1) God is 3 persons. (2) Each person is fully God. (3) There is one God. For more, see Justin Taylor’s post, Trinity 101. See also this important post on the Nicene Creed.

Table 1. Summary of the Doctrine of the Trinity: “One What, Three Who’s”

  Biblical Truth Select Scripture References Heresy or Error if Denied
1 God is three persons. F & S: Jn 1:1-2 show distinctions, 1 Jn 2:1. Each must be a person for these to happen. Modalism: One God that goes by 3 different names.
HS: Coordinate relationships (Mt 28:19, Greek grammar, personal activities assigned to HS: teaching (Jn 14:26), speaking (Acts 8:29, 13:2) and other personal activities.
2 Each person is fully God. F: Gn 1:1; Mt 6:9 Arianism: The Son or the Spirit not fully God. Subordinationism: Son not equal to Father even though eternal. Adoptionism: Jesus ordinary until his baptism.
S: Jn 1:1-18; Heb 1:1-4
HS: Ps 139:7-8; Acts 5:3-4
3 There is one God. Deut 6:4; Isa 45:22 Tritheism: three different gods.

 

Denying the reality of hell may be very attractive to some.  But people who hold this position are likely to become hard, embittered people when they encounter evil.

One of the reasons that the denial of eternal punishment has been attractive in our culture is that we have been relatively protected from violent crime.  Consequently, we don’t feel a great need for justice.  If the worst thing anyone has done to you personally was to accidentally get Roundup on your grass, then you may not feel a great need for justice to be done, even if you are intellectually aware of the Holocaust.

Scripture, on the other hand, interacts with many situations where people have been gravely injured.  As I pointed out in my book Unpacking Forgiveness one of the central ways that Scripture teaches us to avoid bitterness is to rest in the truth that God will see that justice is done.  Hence, Romans 12:17-21 says that we ought not to repay evil for evil, but rather we can rest in the truth that vengeance belongs to God and that he will repay.

Similarly, in Psalm 73, the Psalmist is struggling because many seem to get away with gross sin.  The turning point for the Psalmist takes place when he considers the final destiny of the wicked (Psalm 73:17).

Over and over again in Scripture we see this teaching.  A central strategy for avoiding bitterness is to rest in the truth that God will see that justice is done. In 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 Paul soberly encourages the recipients that God will make sure that justice is repaid to those who persecute them.  Or, in 2 Timothy 4:14 Paul processes an injury done to him by Alexander the coppersmith by trusting that God will pay him pack.  In Revelation 6:10 the martyred cry out asking God how long until he avenges their blood.

When Bonhoeffer was imprisoned by the Nazis, and shortly before he was hung, someone asked him how it was possible to feel love for such evil people.  Bonhoeffer replied,

“. . . it is only when God’s wrath and vengeance are hanging as grim realities over the heads of one’s enemies that something of what it means to love and forgive them can touch our hearts.”

See also:

An article about the murder of Kelsey Grammer’s sister.

What I would say to the parents of a child murdered at Virginia Tech.

Exercises to stop thinking about how you have been wounded.

*Adapted from a post on 3/18/2011.

Interacting with the problem of suffering, Christopher J.H. Wright writes:

Whereas we often ask “Why?” people in the Bible more often asked “How long?” Their tendency was not to demand that God give an explanation for the origin of evil but rather to plead with God to do something to bring about an end to evil. And that, we shall see is exactly what God has promised to do (page 27).

Fascinating article on Derrick Rose including this quote.

Internal drives aren’t easy to understand, much less defeat, even if [Rose] is healthy; Michael Jordan won every battle he fought, and he is entering middle age unhappy and lost. Derrick Rose escaped his neighborhood and his old life, but he remains a citizen of his own ambition.

Read the whole article here.

Missing Our Son at Cedarville

Chris —  October 6, 2014

CDB_3732Jamie and I continue to miss our children who are away at college. But we are thankful that they have chosen colleges like Trinity International and Cedarville. This week I wrote a guest post for Cedarville about how we are feeling these days.

A few weeks ago my wife, Jamie, and I left our son, Christopher, to begin college at Cedarville University. We smiled for final pictures outside the Dixon Ministry Center. But we cried on the way home. It is a hard transition for parents.

Our emotions didn’t stop once we pulled into our garage. A few days after we left our son at college, I walked into our bedroom and Jamie was quietly emotional. I didn’t have to ask why. We always knew our children would fly away quickly, but it seems as though it has been only a few days rather than 18 years. We picked our baby boy up at the hospital on Monday and he left for college on Friday. . .

Here to read the rest.

TDuguid Clowney Hom Diagramechnical Alert: My target audience for my blog is our church family. Whenever I consider writing a post I ask, “Would this benefit our flock?” This post is a little more technical than I would normally write. But it’s important as we go into the Job series – – and whenever I preach from the Old Testament.

One of the most important questions that any preacher must consider is how Christ is properly preached from the Old Testament. There can be no question that we should do so. After all, Jesus himself set this example:

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:27

And Paul encouraged the Corinthians that:

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 2 Corinthians 1:20

Yet this doesn’t always mean that Christ has been responsibly preached from the Old Testament. There are far too many examples of preachers making creative claims such as arguing that the tent pegs of the Tabernacle represented the nails of the cross (Duguid, 16).

I’ve recently spent time reading a very helpful booklet by Iaian M. Duguid, Is Jesus in the Old Testament?, in which he lays out principles for preaching Christ from the Old Testament. I have found the above diagram, adapted from Edmund Clowney, to be very helpful.

You have to study the diagram for a bit to see it. Yet, it is very helpful in identifying the proper path to preaching Christ – – and in avoiding errors that have so often been made.

  1. The preacher should start in the bottom left corner with the OT Text. He should avoid the shortcuts of either allegorical moralism or allegory and continue to identify the timeless truth of the Old Testament text.
  2. From the upper left corner – – the OT Truth, the preacher should then move right and consider this text within the context of the history of redemption (see Biblical Theology for a long answer – – or this video for a short one).
  3. Once we see how the Old Testament passage is fulfilled in Christ, the significance of the text for the contemporary audience can be considered.

Preach Christ!

Francis Anderson, in his splendid little commentary on Job, compares how human beings view suffering with the biblical view:

Men seek an explanation of suffering in cause and effect. They look backwards for a connection between prior sin and present suffering. The Bible looks forward in hope and seeks explanations, not so much in origins as in goals. The purpose of suffering is seen, not in its cause, but in its result. The man was born blind so that the works of God could be displayed in him (Jn 9:3). But sometimes good never seems to come out of evil. Men wait in vain. They find God’s slowness irksome. They lose heart, and often lose faith. The Bible commends God’s self-restraint. The outworkings of His justice through the long processes of history, which sometimes require spans of many centuries, are part of existence in time. It is easier to see the hand of God in spectacular and immediate acts, and the sinner who is not instantly corrected is likely to despise God’s delay in executing justice as a sign that He is indifferent or even absent. We have to be patient as God Himself to see the end result, or to go on living in faith without seeing. In due season we shall reap, if we do not give up.

The Error of Job’s Friends

Chris —  May 16, 2014

“. . . the basic error of Job’s friends is that they overestimate their grasp of truth, misapply the truth they know, and close their minds to any facts that contradict what they assume.” Derek Kidner, The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes, 61.