Monthly Archives: July 2012

Piper in 2007: Tattoos 30 Years from Now

I have been trying to work through body tats theologically. While doing so, I ran across a small line from John Piper: “Thirty years from now today’s tattoos will not be marks of freedom, but indelible reminders of conformity.” The full quote is part of the article below:

Christ Suffered and Died to Deliver Us from the Present Evil

Galatians 1:4

[He] gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.

Until we die, or until Christ returns to establish his kingdom, we live in “the present evil age.” Therefore, when the Bible says that Christ gave himself “to deliver us from the present evil age,” it does not mean that he will take us out of the world, but that he will deliver us from the power of the evil in it. Jesus prayed for us like this: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

The reason Jesus prays for deliverance from “the evil one” is that “this present evil age” is the age when Satan is given freedom to deceive and destroy. The Bible says, “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). This “evil one” is called “the god of this world” and his main aim is blinding people to truth. “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Until we waken to our darkened spiritual condition, we live in sync with “the present evil age” and the ruler of it. “You once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). Without knowing it, we were lackeys of the devil. What felt like freedom was bondage. The Bible speaks straight to 21st century fads, fun, and addictions when it says, “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19).

The resounding cry of freedom in the Bible is: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). In other words, be free! Don’t be duped by the gurus of the age. They are here today and gone tomorrow. One enslaving fad follows another. Thirty years from now today’s tattoos will not be marks of freedom, but indelible reminders of conformity.

The wisdom of this age is folly in view of eternity. “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. . . . The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 3:18-191:18). What then is the wisdom of God in this age? It is the great liberating death of Jesus Christ. The early followers of Jesus said, “We preach Christ crucified . . . the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23).

When Christ went to the cross he set millions of captives free. He unmasked the devil’s fraud and broke his power. That’s what he meant on the eve of his crucifixion when he said, “Now will the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:31). Don’t follow a defeated foe. Follow Christ. It is costly. You will be an exile in this age. But you will be free.

 

© 2012 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

 

Also, you can hear Piper give more thoughts about tattoos at a podcast on the topic.

A book I enjoyed this year I think you too would enjoy: God’s Wisdom in Proverbs

I am reposting this notice from last year about Daniel Philip’s, God’s Wisdom in Proverbs,  as I reconsider the book of Proverbs for a course I am teaching at New Canaan Baptist Church this week. I still recommended the book, especially to those just beginning their journey of pursuing wisdom.

A book I enjoyed this year I think you too would enjoy: God’s Wisdom in Proverbs.

Wisdom Store and Proverbs

I have added a Wisdom Store page (above) for all to use, but especially for those enjoying the Understanding Proverbs course.

Memorizing Scripture

I am grateful to find that Andrew Davis’ An Approach to the Extended Memorization of Scripture remains available for free at the First Baptist Church of Durham (NC) website. This resource has been helpful to me in teaching others to memorize whole books of the Scriptures or small portions of Scripture. Davis makes a good case for the memorizing entire books of the Bible; his method makes is possible (if we will seek grace from the Lord to be found diligent). Davis writes,

“[T]his benefit does not merely bless US in our own growth and development, but it becomes a treasure trove for the growth of the church as well. The Scripture memorizer will be used mightily by God to teach and encourage other Christians, with an apt word from the perfect Word of God: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…” (Colossians 3:16) How better can you obey Colossians 3:16 than by Scripture memorization? The “word of Christ” will indeed “dwell in you richly” as you memorize it, and then work it over in your mind through meditation. Then you will most certainly be useful to God to “teach and admonish” another brother or sister. Scripture builds the Church to its final doctrinal and practical maturity (Ephesians 4:13-16), and God uses those who memorize it to do this building in a powerful and eternally fruitful way.”

 

 

Protecting Your Pastor’s Marital Fidelity

The sanctification of the believer is both an individual work and a community work. Each one of us has a personal responsibility to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind. But as a local body of believers, each church member has a responsibility to hold all other members accountable to live before God in righteousness so that the church might be holy before the Lord. For every local congregation this accountability should include walking alongside its pastor in order to help him keep his marriage vows before them and the Lord with joy. Here are some practical tips:

1. Build time off into his contract and schedule. Your pastor needs time off in order to relieve the unseen emotional stresses of his work as a laborer in crafting souls. His contract should reflect this in vacation time, study leave, personal days off, and sabbaticals. The governing or ruling board of an assembly should work to make sure the pastor uses his time off every year. Often the distress points for an overworked pastor find their locale in his home life and make for a stressful life for his family.

2. Budget annually for competent pulpit supply for him. A church should not expect a faithful pastor to preach more than 80% of the weekly sermons in the course of a year, (75% would be even better). Pastors need 20%-25% of their Sundays off from preaching so that they can do the additional study in preparing ahead for sermons and the general pastoral leading and deepening of the congregation. Pastors who are faithful in their preaching sometimes (inadvertently) borrow this 20%-25% from their families because their families are gracious to allow them to do so. But their families and marriages pay a toll for the borrowing. With very little cost to a church’s annual budget, funds for supply preachers can be available so that the pastor can have breaks from the pulpit. Seminary and Bible college faculty and students often are seeking pulpit supply opportunities.

3. Send him and his wife to a marriage retreat annually. Many parachurch marriage retreats have special tracks and resources specifically for the marriages of shepherds and their spouses. These retreats recognize the unique pressures pastors face. The general sessions often serve as good reminders of the original marriage joy—the joy before congregational pressures. A wise church would be intentional about seeing that its pastor gets to give focused attention to his marriage apart from church duties. Finding this to be wisdom, the church where I served in Texas paid for its pastoral staff’s registration to one retreat per year.

4. Provide mature women to counsel other women in the congregation. Even with every Biblical and modern precaution in place, when a woman comes alone for counseling to her pastor, it creates a dangerous scenario for sexual temptation. This scenario might be avoided if spiritually mature women in a congregation would take up the mantle to make friends with and disciple other women in the church. In some cases, a church will staff someone over women’s counseling for this task. In other places women’s small group leaders can provide this ministry. Still other churches will utilize gifted women’s Sunday School teachers and/or deaconesses. The pastor then can give his attention to men and couples without the lure of sexual temptation.

5. Ask your elders to make it their responsibility to ask him and his wife about their marriage. Those who help a church’s pastor lead the congregation should themselves have strong marriages. As they will stand in account with the pastor for the souls of the congregation (Heb. 13:17), it would be prudent of them to encourage the health of the pastor’s marriage. An act of formative discipline in this area might consist of routinely asking the pastor and his wife about their marriage.

6. Pray for his family daily. Ultimately the pastor needs the powerful working of the Lord’s grace in his marriage. Every member of a congregation should pray daily for the Lord’s love, mercy, grace, joy, holiness, and peace to be upon their pastor’s marriage and family abundantly. The benefits will come to the lives of the congregation through their shepherd’s message, model, and morale.

Eric C. Redmond, a former pastor and professor of Biblical Studies, is Bible Professor in Residence at New Canaan Baptist Church, Washington, DC. Follow Eric at his blog, A Man from Issachar, and on Twitter @EricCRedmond.

More like this

Original post of Protecting Your Pastor’s Marital Fidelity at christianity.com.

“The Single Best Book on Christian Suffering Available”

“The Single Best Book on Christian Suffering Available”. (From Justin Taylor:)

Carl Trueman on the memoirs of the Puritan Richard Baxter upon losing his beloved wife:

One of the literary jewels Dr. Packer has given the church is his edition the Breviatewhere he intersperses his own wise commentary and thoughts.  It is still available from Crossway as A Grief Sanctified and is, I believe, the single best book on Christian suffering available.  I keep a copy on my bedside table and dip into it regularly.  So much wisdom packed into so few pages.  And as we all know, even the most devoted marriage ultimately ends in tragedy.  Baxter’s bereavement awaits the marriages of us all.

Recently, I gave it to a much older Christian friend who had just lost his beloved wife of many years after a long and painful illness.  Last week, I received a brief note of thanks from him: ‘It was just what I needed,’ he wrote, ‘and I will recommend it to others.’  There can be no higher praise or greater vote of confidence for a book on bereavement than that.

Understanding Proverbs: Wise Words for a Peaceful Life

This coming week (July 23-27) I will be starting my new position at New Canaan Baptist Church by teaching through the book of Proverbs during Vacation Bible School each night.  If you are in the area and desire to learn how to gain greater wisdom for navigating all of life, and/or if you desire a more peaceful life, join us!

The miracle is that I can be found in VBS at all, for I am not fond of the minimal offerings at most churches’ VBS. However, I tend to enjoy the VBS at New Canaan; they like to study the deeper things of God and put them into practice.

Interview with Greg Forster: Thoughts on Free Will in “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”

Earlier this year I read through Greg Forster’s, The Joy of Calvinism: Knowing God’s Personal, Unconditional, Irresistible, Unbreakable Love (Crossway, 2012). I enjoyed the book immensely and would recommend it as a very good primer for a historical understanding of Calvinistic soteriology.

Part of Forster’s argument in The Joy of Calvinism is that it would be prudent for Calvinists to become more sensitive to the way key terms of the debate are used today, as opposed to the way they were used during the 16th century Reformation debate. As such, I have invited Forster to give me his thoughts on, “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” – a work by a group of Southern Baptist church and seminary leaders that decidedly holds a different view of salvation than a Calvinistic position.

Greg, Thank you for allowing me to interview you for this blog. First, so that I might introduce you to my readers, please talk some about the subject of your PhD dissertation.

That’s sort of the academic version of asking me for my personal testimony – and in my case the two are linked because my dissertation work was instrumental to my conversion. I was raised outside the church and was a deist at the time I started working on my thesis. I wanted to write about the reconciliation of religion and politics in the context of religious freedom – how do we maintain a moral order in society if we don’t share a religion? That has always struck me as the key question of our time. I wanted to explore how we could morally justify enforcing the basic rules of social life (don’t kill, don’t steal, keep your promises, help your neighbors) in terms that people of different faiths could all agree on with a clear conscience and fidelity to their beliefs. Well, the short version is that in order to do this I had to read a lot of Christian writing, and it challenged all my highly cherished intellectual prejudices. God used that as the central way in which I came to realize the truth of Christianity.

What sort of response do you have to the SBC document, “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation?”   

My interest in this document is kind of indirect, but in a way that I hope most people will find relevant. This is an internal dispute within the SBC, so on the most immediate level it’s not really my business. I love Baptists dearly, but I am not one of them, so I have no desire to stick my nose in where I’m sure it’s not wanted. However, the document – and the public responses by people from a variety of positions – does interest me very much as someone who has studied the way public debates about Calvinism are conducted. I think this moment provides a great opportunity for us Calvinists to reflect critically about how these debates are framed. The underlying theological disputes are real, obviously, but one point a lot of people have stressed in this debate is that we seem to be talking past each other on a number of issues. I think that’s true, and I think we could all do each other a great brotherly service by bending over backwards to be clear with each other, to make allowances for the fact that different people may be using the same words to mean different things, and explore areas of agreement (or potential agreement) with the same enthusiasm we bring to areas of disagreement.

You wrote about “free will” and “free response” in your book. What do you see in this document that connects to that discussion?

The statement mentions human freedom in various forms nine times, and the same concept or related concepts are also touched on frequently using other terms, such as ability or capacity language (e.g. “capable of responding”). To affirm human “freedom” in responding to the gospel is clearly one of the central concerns, if not the most central concern, of the authors. Traditionally, Calvinists have resisted using freedom language when describing the human response to the gospel. I understand those concerns, but I think we are probably creating more confusion than clarity. This Calvinist allergy to the language of human freedom goes back to the 16th century, when the debate between Rome and the Reformers was framed on both sides in terms of two alternatives: you are born a slave to sin (the Reformation view) or you are born free to choose whether to be a slave to sin (the Roman view). It was a choice between “free will” or “enslaved will.” We Protestants denied human freedom in this context because we had to affirm that people are slaves to sin by their nature. However, starting in the 17th century or so, in the context of the Enlightenment, the language of human freedom came to carry a different meaning. The debate in that context was between those who thought human beings were morally responsible for their own actions and those who thought human beings were really just products of their genetics and environment. Now it’s a choice between “free will” or “determined will.” In that context, Christianity has to affirm free will in order to affirm that people are morally responsible for their actions. And this continues to be the way in which most people use the language of human freedom. So I wonder to what extent we Calvinists are inviting misunderstanding by our reluctance to affirm human free will, given that today, pretty much everyone other than Calvinists understands “free will” to mean “morally responsible will.” If we want to reach people, it’s our job to learn to learn and speak their language, not their job to learn ours – just like with foreign mission work. You know, even Calvin himself said that if “free will” means we are morally responsible, he agrees that we have free will.

Practically speaking, in terms of one’s personal, individual, daily walk before Christ, what are some significances of holding to this view of salvation? Similarly, what difference, if any, might it make for the corporate working(s)/ministry of a local assembly of believers?

It’s hard for people to believe that Calvinism makes a big difference in the way we live out our faith, but I think that’s because we Calvinists haven’t connected our theology to our practice well enough. The Calvinist view is that Jesus saves you personally rather than creating a salvation system for people in general and then hoping you get plugged into it. This ought to make a huge difference to our practical piety for a number of reasons. It means you know that Jesus did all the effective work of salvation – you did freely choose to accept him, but your free choice was not a contributing factor to the work of your salvation. So you will find it easier to give Jesus all the glory, and to be free from fear that you might lose your salvation by losing your devotion to him. You can quit viewing the function of the worship service in terms of whipping up frenzies of pious emotion through sheer willpower, and instead come before God with self-emptying trust. You will know that God values you more than anything in the universe; he wasn’t willing to subordinate the work of saving you to any other concerns, but smashed right through all obstacles to save you, even the obstacle of your own sinful enmity toward him. And you will know that God does not just cooperate with your heart but actually works miracles inside your heart that transcend your own psychology, which means you can lean on him for sanctification instead of feeling like it’s up to you to do it in your strength.

Other than your own recent work, what are some other beginner and intermediate titles I could recommend to laymen to read on free will, free choice, free response, and the 16th century Reformation debates?

For a long time, the classic popular defense of Calvinism for the layman has been R.C. Sproul’s Chosen by God. A lot of the newer books are also good, but I’m an old-fashioned kind of guy, so I still recommend Sproul for beginners who are looking for an introduction to the formal theological defense of Calvinism. Sproul also wrote a book called Willing to Believe that is specifically about the history of the free will question in Christian theology, from the early church to the present. If you want a more well-rounded human look at Calvin the man and the debates of his time, a book that I recommend very highly is John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine and Doxology, edited by Buck Parsons.

Glimpses of a Greater Glory, available at WTS

David H. Kim’s Glimpses of a Greater Glory is soon to be available at Westminster Bookstore. It does not seem to be a devotional or Biblical Theology of the usual fare.

Publisher’s Description: The Storyline of the Bible devotional was designed to provide an overview of the narrative of the Bible–keeping you in the actual text of the Bible with connecting overviews and questions that help bridge the world of the Bible to our world today. Seeing the larger Biblical narrative can dramatically change the way you understand Christianity. Without this larger perspective, it’s easy to view the Bible as a collection of moralistic stories, subtlety leading to a self-centered faith that essentially sees the Bible as a divinely inspired self-help book. This approach gets us no where. However, when you begin to grasp the grand narrative which begins with those powerful four words, “In the beginning God…” you start to realize that perhaps this life and this world is not about me, but about a God whose plan for redemption is far greater than I can imagine or hope. This is the good news that emerges as you connect the many pieces of this life-changing drama. This devotional will not only help you see the larger narrative but hopefully the main Actor who graciously makes Himself known.

158 Pages
Published November 2011

About the Author: Rev. David H. Kim is the Director of The Gotham Initiative, at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. David has served at Princeton University as the Executive Director of Manna Christian Fellowship for over 14 years. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, his M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary, and Th.M. from Princeton Theological Seminary in Christian Ethics, and is currently pursuing his D.Min at Fuller Theological Seminary. David was also one of the founding editors of Revisions, a Journal of Christian perspective at Princeton University. He has been invited to numerous churches and universities around the world to address issues of faith and work and public theology.

The Magic of Belle Isle is Outstanding!

I just finished watching The Magic of Belle Isle via On Demand. It is an outstanding movie! It is extremely well written, and Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen are sure to be nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress for both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards. I will not give the storyline away (or some of Morgan Freeman’s great lines), but the movie concerns the power of the story of others’ lives to change our perspectives on our lives (or change the next page of the story of our lives). Do not wait to see it in theaters!  It is worth seeing On Demand on Amazon Instant Video.

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Update:  After going over the movie again with my wife and in my own private thoughts, I think Virginia Madsen will get a nod for Best Supporting Actress. She did not have a large enough role to gain a Best Actress nomination. Also, after viewing this movie, some might be concerned about what appears to be the blurring of the lines between imagination and reality. I would disagree that this is what the movie is doing; the multiple references to “my life” indicate this.