bible

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
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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

Was Jesus’ Self-Centered? John Stott Answers

stottJohn Stott helping us to understand what Jesus thought about himself.

This self-centeredness of the teaching of Jesus immediately sets him apart from the other great religious teachers of the world. They tend to be self-effacing. He is self-advancing. They point people away from themselves, saying, “That is the truth, so far as I understand it; follow that.” Jesus says “I am the truth; follow me.” No other religious founder who dared to say such a thing would be taken seriously. The personal pronoun forces itself repeatedly on our attention as we read his words. For example:

[John 6:35 ESV] 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

[John 8:12 ESV] 12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

[John 11:25-26 ESV] 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

[Matthew 11:28-29 ESV] 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Basic Christianity, John Stott, pg 34.

The Unforgivable Sin: Is It Really Unforgivable?

(This is the second installment of two posts on the “unforgivable sin.” The first post answers the question, “what is it?” This second post answers the question, “Can I repent of the unforgivable sin?”)

This post is going to be less interesting to most people, and that’s okay with me. It’s going to answer a question that you could phrase several ways:

  • Can I repent of the unforgivable sin?
  • If I think I’ve committed the unforgivable sin, can I ask for God’s forgiveness?
  • Is there any way to “take back” blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?

A few people are at least a little bit curious about what the unforgivable sin is. Fewer still are convinced that they’ve done it, and now need to deal with the consequences. That smaller group of people is, I assume, the kind of people whose consciences are sensitive to their state before God. And for that reason there’s no way I can make light of this question. For some, even if it is a select few, the question is real: “How can I repent of the unforgivable sin if I think I’ve committed it?”

So, Can You Be Forgiven?

Here’s my answer: As long as you want to be forgiven, you can be assured that you haven’t even committed the “unforgivable sin.”

I come to that conclusion based on these things:

  1. The context (before and after material) of the passage
  2. A definition of the “unforgivable sin” based on that context
  3. A basic theological framework

1. The Context

It’s really unfair, you might even say irresponsible, to try and lift the passage up and out of it’s context. So remember the conclusions drawn from the the previous post: The situation is the Jewish Religious Leadership’s repeated, repeated, repeated, dismissal and denunciation of Jesus’ work. They saw what Jesus did on a regular basis and persisted, to the very end, to denounce his work as coming from Satan and not God. The four Gospels give us no reason to believe that they ever turned away from their unbelief and toward Christ in faith. We’re dealing with people who are Jesus’ enemies. They are not crawling at his feet for mercy. They are attacking him every chance they get.

2. A Definition Based on the Context

If you want a definition that’s both nuanced and sensitive to the context, then you can’t do much better than Craig Blomberg’s from Jesus and the Gospels (pg 280), which I referred to last time.

“In context, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit means the persistent equation of Christ’s power with the demonic by those who refuse to believe him.”

3. A Basic Theological Framework

“Theology” is a word that means “the study of God.” So a theological framework is a way of viewing the Bible that’s based on the rest of the Bible. If you see one verse that seems to say something different than the rest, you try to interpret it in light of the other truths you know about God.

So what does the whole Bible have to say about repentance? As long as a person wants to repent, they can. Sometimes (and this is getting into some deeper waters) God will, in his sovereign justice, let a person experience the results of their sin. As a result, they won’t want to. But God also, in his sovereign mercy, can show a person how they have sinned against him, and keep them faithful to him through repentance. Often, like David in Psalm 51, this will lead to an honest plea for forgiveness. As long as this person wants to (that is, God has sustained them in his mercy), they can ask for forgiveness and receive it freely.

Once again, Craig Blomberg’s comments are really helpful, “There is no evidence anywhere in Scripture that an individual who genuinely desired to repent and turn back to God is denied the opportunity. Indeed, the very consternation that causes some believers to wonder if they have committed the unforgivable sin by definition demonstrates that they have not.” Jesus and the Gospels, pg 281. John, the writer of the 4th Gospel, says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 ESV)

A Conclusion

The right question is not so much, “Can I be forgiven of the unforgivable sin?” so much as “Did I ever really actually commit it?” And unless, 1) you’re dead, and really did persist in it, or 2) God has sovereignly allowed you to experience the consequences of you sin, (unless one of those is true) you can still ask for forgiveness.

If either one of those things is true, you won’t want forgiveness.

Blomberg’s point (in the above quote), and mine (in these 2 short posts), is that as long as there is godly sorrow and grief over “the persistent equation of Christ’s power with the demonic by those who refuse to believe him…” then there will be forgiveness. As long as you want forgiveness for misunderstanding Jesus’ message, mission, and identity, you can have it.

Free Book: Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church

Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church - A Guide for MinistryA free book from logos.com this month: Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry by Michael Lawrence.

From the Logos website: “Do you want to understand how each part of the Bible fits together to form one unified, unfolding message? Michael Lawrence helps you to do just that. This essential volume presents the substance and practical importance of biblical theology for ministry. He begins with an examination of a pastor’s tools of the trade—exegetical, biblical, and systematic theology—and commends biblical theology as the tool that should never be on the shelf. Lawrence helpfully distinguishes between biblical and systematic theology, but also emphasizes the importance of their collaboration in ministry.”

Usually, you have to go to different sections of the bookstore to find good books on biblical theology, systematic theology, ministry, the church, and the Christian life. At the very least, the relationship between theory and practice seems strained. However, this book brings these concerns together. Michael Lawrence believes that good shepherds are theologians and good theologians are shepherds. For anyone who believes that theology needs the church and the church needs theology, this will be a welcome resource. For anyone playing with the idea, it will be a compelling one.

Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary, CA

God is love. Love isn’t God.

It happens in marriage:

…when we realize we’ve married someone selfish, we discard the dream and become cynical about the possibility of love. We set ourselves up for failure by overloading love with far more than it can bear. Married love as a source of life crashes on the rocks of human depravity. … But love and relationships were never meant to be the center. Love is not god. God is love.

Paul Miller, A Loving Life, pg 38.

And it shows up in the Bible:

St John’s saying that God is love has long been balanced in my mind against the remark of a modern author (M. Denis de Rougemont) that “love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be a god”; which of course can be re-stated in the form “[love] begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.” This balance seems to me an indispensable safeguard. If we ignore it the truth that God is love may slyly come to mean for us the converse, that love is God.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, pg 6-7.

A Loving Life by Paul Miller

A Loving Life - Paul Miller

My wife and I are going to begin reading this book together in the evenings. After watching Justin Taylor interview the author, I’m really excited. Here’s what two men, Scotty Smith and David Powlison, whom I deeply respect, have said about Miller’s book:

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is the most honest, timely, and helpful book I’ve ever read about the costly and exhausting demands of loving well. And at the same time, A Loving Life is the most faithful, alluring, and encouraging presentation of God’s love for us in Jesus I’ve fed on in years. …
— Scotty Smith

“The word love is often either a vague sentiment or just another four-letter word. But in Paul Miller’s hands, the quiet, compelling reality emerges. You will witness how love is thoughtful, principled, courageous, enduring, and wise—all the things you know deep down it should be. And even more than those fine things, you will be surprised and delighted at how true love is grounded in God.”
— David Powlison

Memorizing the Bible: why and how

The 8th chapter of Romans has been called the “Mount Everest” of the Bible, the pinnacle, the high point. According to Christians both old and new (read: dead and alive), it’s the place where the truths of Christianity shine most brilliantly and clearly.

And so at the beginning of this year I begun memorizing Romans 8. It was awesome. I loved having verse 1 remind me all day long, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And I kept going. Verse 2. Verse 3. And things got less clear. I don’t know if you’ve read Romans 8 recently, but verse 2 and 3 begin talking about the “law of the spirit of life” and the “law of sin and death,” and it confused me. I memorized them, but with less fervor. And eventually (about two weeks ago) I trailed off and abandoned the whole thing.

Just last night though I was catching up on John Piper’s podcast and heard him talk about bible memorization. His points about the lost spiritual discipline of memorization were so encouraging and refreshing that I decided to pick it up again. This is part of the normal Christian life, I suppose: resolving by God’s grace to do something, doing it, becoming discouraged, encountering your fallibility, and picking it up again by God’s grace.

The Why:

The How:

Get Started with This:

http://www.fbcdurham.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Scripture-Memory-Booklet-for-Publication-Website-Layout.pdf

Some Examples:

 

Free This Month: ESV Audio Bible

This month's free audiobook

This month’s free audiobook

Every month, christianaudio.com makes one audiobook available for free. Absolutely free. All you have to do is sign up for their newsletter that lets you know what their next free book is. I sound like a salesman. But it really is this good.

This month, they’ve chosen a great one. The Bible.

Get it here.