Is Sanctification Simple or Complex?

David Powlison answers that question in the video below. “… you often get these fads that try to put sanctifcation in a one-liner. If you just [ do this ], if you just [ do this ] then all your problems will go away…”

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One Answer to the Question, “Should Christian Men Own Guns?”

Should Christian men arm themselves with guns for self defense in the home?

Here is John Piper’s answer: no. He has four reasons. But he begins this way, “I’m bearing testimony here and not prescribing.” And that’s significant. See if you think his four-fold answer is convincing.

  • Reason 1 @ 1:04
  • Reason 2 @ 1:41
  • Reason 3 @ 2:38
  • Reason 4 @ 5:04

The First Five Books of the Bible Summarized in 90 Words

The first five books of the bible, summarized in 90 words:

We may summarize the Pentateuch [Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy] as follows.

  1. Genesis is a book of origins. It describes the beginnings of the universe and the origins of God’s people.
  2. Exodus traces the salvation of his people, who are helpless to save themselves.
  3. Leviticus calls for holiness as the only natural lifestyle for the Israelites and as the only possible response to God’s grace.
  4. Numbers is a book of wanderings in which God’s people suffer the consequences of their unbelief. But the story ends on a positive note, when
  5. Deuteronomy presents a program for renewal.

Encountering the Old Testament, p.66, formatting added.

Will Christians Love Their Spouses In Heaven?

Long distance relationship.

That’s what my wife and I were in for over a year before we got married. I lived in Southern California. She lived in Arizona. And it was terrible. It doesn’t take long to realize that it’s not the way a relationship is supposed to be.

I remember how much I would miss her; how I’d look forward to holidays like Spring break and Christmas. Just to see her. And to get rid of Skype! (Which we were both thankful for and ready to never use again)

After we got engaged, I remember thinking, “I can’t stand the long distance factor in our relationship now — I want to be with her more than anything. Will there ever be a time, in heaven for example, when I’ll have to be parted from her again? Will marriage, and the love that it creates [which I was anticipating], be done away with in heaven?” I was hoping that heaven would be some kind of continuation of that blissful longing and loving.

What bliss marriage has been! But I think now, after being married for just a few months, I’m in a better space to hear C.S. Lewis’ answer to my question, “will I love Anna in heaven the same way that I do now?”

If you’re a married Christian, or hope to be married someday, will you love your spouse in heaven? In his discussion of “Charity,” the fourth love, in his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes,

Theologians have sometimes asked whether we shall “know one another” in Heaven, and whether the particular love-relations worked out on earth would then continue to have any significance.

It seems reasonable to reply: “It may depend what kind of love it had become, or was becoming, on earth.”

For, surely, to meet in the eternal world someone for whom your love in this, however strong, had been merely natural, would not be (on that ground) even interesting. Would it not be like meeting in adult life someone who had seemed to be a great friend at your preparatory school solely because of common interests and occupations? If there was nothing more, if he was not a kindred soul, he will now be a total stranger. Neither of you now plays conkers. You no longer want to swop your help with his French exercise for his help with your arithmetic. In Heaven I suspect, a love that had never embodied Love Himself would be equally irrelevant. For Nature has passed away. All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.

We were made for God. Only by being in some respect like Him, only by being a manifestation of His beauty, loving-kindness, wisdom or goodness, has any earthly Beloved excited our love.

It is not that we have loved them too much, but that we did not quite understand what we were loving. It is not that we shall be asked to turn from them, so dearly familiar, to a Stranger. When we see the face of God we shall know that we have always known it.

He has been a party to, has made, sustained and moved moment by moment within, all our earthly experiences of innocent love. All that was true love in them was, even on earth, far more His than ours, and ours only because His.

In Heaven there will be no anguish and no duty of turning away from our earthly Beloveds. First, because we shall have turned already; from the portraits to the Original, from the rivulets to the Fountain, from the creatures He made lovable to Love Himself. But secondly, because we shall find them all in Him. By loving Him more than them we shall love them more than we do now.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, pp 137-139

What Would C.S. Lewis Say to People Who Dress Up Their Dogs?

Since this costume makes reference to a Greek/Roman myth, I think Lewis might actually like it

Since this costume makes reference to a Greek/Roman myth (Cerberus), I think Lewis might actually like it

The way that some people treat animals, dressing them up, doting over them, is (according to Lewis) a distortion of the first love: Affection. Affection is the love between a mother and a child; a professor and his student; the elderly man and his wife suffering from Alzheimers. It’s a wonderful love. It begins with the best intentions: e.g., to love animal found at the shelter. But like any other of the four loves, it’s spring loaded to turn in on itself. Each love (Affection, Friendship, Eros, and Charity) has its own unique way of doing this degenerative and ugly work. Affection, when not pruned and checked, turns itself into some form of, “Only I can give what you need.” See how this plays out, in his mind, with the way we treat animals,

If you need to be needed and if your family, very properly, decline to need you, a pet is the obvious substitute.  You can keep it all its life in need of you. You can keep it permanently infantile, reduce it to permanent invalidism, cut it off from all genuine will-being, and compensate for this by creating needs for countless little indulgences which only you can grant. [1]

There is a much better way to treat animals, according to Lewis. This way honors “the beast,” and in a way, encourages us.

…the higher and domesticated animal is, so to speak, a “bridge” between us and the rest of nature. We all at times feel somewhat painfully our human isolation form the sub-human world — the atrophy of instinct which our intelligence entails, our excessive self-consciousness, the innumerable complexities of our situation, our inability to live in the present. If only we could shuttle it all off! We must not — and incidentally we can’t — become beasts. But we can be with a beast. It is personal enough to give the word with a real meaning; yet it remains very largely an unconscious little bundle of biological impulses.

It has three legs in nature’s world and one in ours. [2]

1. C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, p.52-53
2.Ibid. 52

Justin Taylor’s Review of “What’s Best Next”

whats best next book cover 2Justin Taylor, blogger at The Gospel Coalition, has written a short review and roundup of opinions regarding Matt Perman’s new book, What’s Best NextTaylor writes,

To my knowledge, there is no one writing today who has thought more deeply about the relationship between the gospel and productivity. You will find in these pages a unique and remarkable combination of theological insight, biblical instruction, and practical counsel that would change the world if put into practice. I could not recommend it more highly.

I don’t think Taylor is exaggerating, and so I encourage you to pick up a copy on Amazon or WTS. It releases today, March 4th.

3 Reasons to Read “What’s Best Next” by Matt Perman

What's Best NextDoes God actually have anything to say about getting things done? Is it even possible to have a biblical perspective on such a practical subject like how to get things done? And should we even care about it as Christians, or is it unspiritual?

That’s the question Matt Perman wants to answer in his new book, “What’s Best Next.” It releases on Tuesday, March 4, and I want to commend it to you.

A short disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy to read and review, but am not being compensated in any way to provide a favorable review. These are my honest thoughts about what Matt has written and how it might interest you.

Here are three reasons that normal people (not just executives, managers, or productivity buffs) will enjoy this book:

1.It’s easy to read

Brevity: (Most of) The chapters are short, and this makes it a breeze to read.  A quick look at the table of contents will show you that the chapters are mostly 10-15 pages long, which means that the average reader can manage about a chapter a night. This helps.

Clarity: I would say that Perman’s writing style is informal, but precise. The most important ideas are easy to find, thanks to grayed-out boxes on the pages that highlight key terms, main points, and important quotes. This not a book that you’re going to struggle to understand. Most chapters end with a “core point,” “core quote,” and “immediate application.” I was never left wondering what to do with the stuff I’d just read.

2. It’s God-centered

It’s unfortunate, but the phrases “God-centered” and “gospel-centered” have become a bit of a buzz word in Christian circles. If you say that something is “gospel centered,” you’re in the club/circle. It’s also unfortunate that, in light of this, you can find yourself surprised when a book actually lives up to the claim, “this is a God-centered take on [insert an issue here].” What’s Best Next actually does. So, what does a gospel-centered perspective on productivity look like? Here are some quotes to give you a feel for the way it’s presented in the book:

As Christians, we are here to serve (Matt. 20:25 – 28). When we are being productive, we are actually doing good works, which is part of the purpose for which God created us (Eph. 2:10). A good approach to getting things done reduces the friction in doing good and also amplifies our ability to do good.

… getting things done, making ideas happen, and being productive are all ways to make a difference in people’s lives. As Christians, we ought to care about this and be excited about it, for it is not only exciting in itself, but one of the chief ways God is glorified in our lives.

And the paragraph that struck me most:

The essence of GDP [gosepl-centered productivity] is this: We are to use all that we have, in all areas of life, for the good of others, to the glory of God—and that this is the most exciting life. To be a gospel-driven Christian means to be on the lookout to do good for others to the glory of God, in all areas of life, and to do this with creativity and competence. Further, being gospel-driven also means knowing how to get things done so that we can serve others in a way that really helps, in all areas of life, without making ourselves miserable in the process through overload, overwhelm, and hard-to- keep-up systems.

Or consider Ephesians 5:17, the fundamental New Testament passage on time management. This passage speaks of time management as not being chiefly about applying correct principles to our lives but being about understanding “the will of the Lord” and doing it. Productivity is specifically about doing “the will of the Lord.” It’s about specifically orienting our lives and decisions around God’s will.

3. It’s practical

Theology ought to be the most practical thing in the world. What has more relevance to everyday life than the God who made it? In What’s Best Next, you’ll find a gospel-centered perspective on productivity that’s actually practical. This shouldn’t be noteworthy, but it is. Here are 2 things that Perman covers:

  • email. I’ve been using his system to deal with email for a few months, and have saved myself an absurd amount of time. He outlines this process in the book. If you’d like a preview you can find his blog post on it here, or get it as a pdf here.
  • weekly plans. This is one of the key ideas in the book. A whole chapter is dedicated to helping the reader figure out, “how can I plan proactively for the upcoming day/week/month so that I’m doing what I really need to do?” This is about as practical as it gets.

Get the book!

Again, I’m not getting paid to blog about this book. But I can’t recommend it to you enough. Matt Perman’s blog, which goes by the same name as the book — http://whatsbestnext.com/ — has been an enormous help to me as I figure out how to organize my life and work. My guess is that

  • if you’ve got more to do than you think you can handle
  • if you find youself fogetting important things
  • if you want to be able to more projects and tasks better

then you’re going to love this book. Pre-order it on Amazon here, or you can get it WTS books here for 4$ less!

Did Jesus Exist? Part 1: What the Greeks and Romans Said

How do we know that Jesus actually existed?

In the four Gospels we have about 300 individual and unique literary units all generated by this figure: Jesus Christ. There’s no doubt that the early church thought he existed. Their lives were radically changed because of who he was, what he did, and the things said. But how do we know that our gospels aren’t simply Christian delusion, or the result of an ancient conspiracy that went just a little better than planned? Are the Gospels the only place that we hear about Jesus?

The answer is a firm “no.” We have several written documents besides the Gospels that mention Jesus. While it’s true that the Gospels are the main place we hear about Jesus, it’s not true that they’re the only place. Other ancient witnesses testify to the existence of Jesus. And even though that doesn’t settle the question, “was he who he said he was?” it does answer the question, “did he exist to say these things?” And that’s what I want to focus on in these posts. What evidence, outside the four Gospels, do we have for Jesus’ existence?

Greco-Roman Sources

1. Tacitus

Tacitus (AD 56-117) was a Roman historian who described the persecution that Christians faced during Nero’s reign. Tacitus refers to Jesus through his latin name, “Christus.” Speaking of the Christians, he says

“They got their name from Christus who was sentenced to death during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate.”

Annals, 15.44.

Tactitus goes on to describe the way that the Christian movement was “checked,” or stopped, because of the crucifixion of Jesus. Unfortunately for the Romans, the movement “broke out” once again both in Judea and in Rome.

… a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome

Annals, 15.44.  It’s clear that Tacitus thought of Christians as a nuisance. His words mock Christianity, “mischievous superstition,” “evil.” Tactitus’ historiographical skill and anti-Christian bent leads many scholars to believe that Annals 15.44 is the most important and trustworthy reference to Christians and Christ we have outside the Gospels themselves. There is no way that a Christian would refer to their own movement in this way.

2. Suetonius

In the early second century (100’s), another Roman historian, Suetonius, wrote,

Because the Jews at Rom caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from the city

Suetonius: The Twelve Caesars, §25. There’s a lot of debate about this section in Suetonius’ history. One of the main issues is whether Suetonius is actually referring to the Christ, Jesus. The “misspelling,” is at the root of the confusion. Is “Chrestus” a reference to Christ? Or is this another figure in Rome?

I’m inclined to say that Suetonius is referring to Christ for two main reasons:

  1. The Jews and Christians in Rome (and everywhere) did not get along. The book of Acts testifies to this. 1st century Jews and Jewish Christians had numerous irreconcilable religious differences that would have (and did) lead to many disputes and conflict. This would’ve happened in Rome only if there were someone for them to fight with: those instigated by Christ, the Christians.
  2. The majority (though not all) of writing I’ve read on this quote seems to evaluate it this way: “a garbled reference to Christ.” Once you’ve considered Tactitus’ reference to Christ and Pliny’s reference to the problems Christians are making him face, that seems to be a fair evaluation. Christians probably did exist to create these issues for government.

3. Pliny the Younger

Around the same time, in the early second century, a governor of Bithynia (in Asia) named Pliny the Younger wrote to the emperor Trajan wanting to know how to deal with Christians who wouldn’t worship Trajan. Pliny mentions “that on an appointed day they had been accustomed to meet before daybreak, and to recite a hymn to Christ as to a god.” Documents of the Christian Church, Henry Bettenson, pg 5-7, cited Four Gospels, One Jesus, pg 39 by Mark Strauss.

Darrel Bock, in his class on the “Life of Christ,” says that the evidence of opponents can sometimes be worth more than we first think. It’s especially true in this case. In Pliny the Younger, we have an enemy of Christianity with something very important to say: the Christian trouble-makers worshiped Christ as though he were a God.

A Pending Conclusion

“In summary, Greco Roman writers of the late first and early second centuries are aware that Jesus was a Judean who was crucifed by Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius, and that his followers now venerated him as a god.”

There are certain questions that historical research can (usually) answer: Did a person exist? What did they say? How were they received? These are all legitimate questions that can be addressed by going to the sources. It does seem Jesus existed. We do have a record of what he said. And we know exactly how he was received: at once with enthusiasm, and finally with blows. But there are questions that historical inquiry cannot answer: Is it true? Of how much value was this person? Were they justified in doing what they did? Once these kinds of questions are run through a text, they us up off the ground and into the air of evaluation and judgement.

But because of these 3 Greco Roman sources we have this firm ground beneath our feet: A Judean man. Governed by Pontius Pilate. Crucified. Worshiped. [1] That’s what the Greek and Roman sources tell us.

1. Four Gospels, One Jesus, pg 39 by Mark Strauss.

What Is Productivity Really About?

Matt Perman, author of the forthcoming What’s Best Next making an incredibly helpful distinction:

Myth#1: Productivity is about getting more done faster

When most people think of productivity, they think of efficiency—getting more things done in less time. While efficiency is important, it is secondary. More important than efficiency is effectiveness—getting the right things done. Efficiency doesn’t matter if you are doing the wrong things in the first place.

Truth: Productivity is about effectiveness first, not efficiency.

You can read the whole article here (over at catalystconference.com) and part two here.

The New Testament & Old Testament in 10 Minutes

These two videos has been making their rounds across the Christian blogosphere. In them you’ll see two trustworthy and articulate thinkers presenting the essence of each Testament. The essence. See, for yourself, if the Bible is an amazingly unified whole:

The Old Testament in 10 Minutes

The New Testament in 10 Minutes