Making the Cross of Christ of None Effect

A few years ago I wrote down some thoughts after sitting through several hours of what I’ve chosen to call “Revivalist Evangelism.” It’s the kind of evangelism where you bring in an Evangelist and they parade around the pulpit, declaiming loudly, full of colorful stories and auctioneer diction. The more I sat in the services, the more it bothered me. So I wrote the following. I’ve let it sit a lot longer than you’re supposed to let something sit before the “cooling off period,” so I think it’s about time it saw the light of day. Continue reading

Irresistible Grace?

If you’re familiar with the dreaded Five Points of Calvinism, then you’ve heard of Irresistible Grace. It’s that point of doctrine that says that God sovereignly draws only those whom he has elected and that his drawing is—ultimately—irresistible. Not that grace is always irresistible, but that when God sovereignly chooses to, he can overcome all your resistance to him.

This isn’t an attempt to answer every question about Irresistible Grace, though. Not even close. Continue reading

Book Review: Why Johnny Can’t Preach

T. David Gordon had terminal, stage 3, colorectal cancer and decided it was now or never for him to write the book that had been brewing in his mind for the past 30 years. So his book sounds a lot like a prophet with nothing left to lose. And his topic? The shipwreck that is conservative, evangelical preaching. The cause of this shipwreck: preachers are consuming types of media which deaden their minds toward understanding texts. And this has resulted in two tragedies: preaching that’s done quite distant from the actual words of the text (poor exegesis) and preaching that rarely holds up Christ as the object of our faith, hope, and love.

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Everything’s Bigger Than You Can Imagine (or, Why I Love Astronomy)

Back in my college days, when I first had access to the internet and started poking around on NASA’s then-new collection of freely available Hubble Satellite photos, my interest was first piqued in science. What I saw started a love affair with astronomy in particular, and science in general. The kinds of pictures I saw, and the numbers they were quoting for the size of some of these stars and galaxies and distances between them just blew my mind.

Several years have passed, and I’d like to think my appreciation of those images, facts, and figures has matured even further. And it’s in that spirit that I’d love to show you some things that I think will blow your mind.

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Sort of a Sermon Recommendation: What is Romans 9 About?

For several years I’ve struggled with the implications of Reformed Theology. In the past 2 years, it’s progressed from arguing against Reformed Theology, to having conversations with people about why I can no longer agree that humans are the final arbiters of their election.

The passage that’s been the hammer that broke the rock in pieces, so to speak, was Romans 9. I talked with someone who said Romans 9 is about God’s sovereign choice over people groups, but had nothing to do with an individual’s salvation. That sounded fishy to me, so I began at Romans 8 and read through Romans 11 several times. The clear implication was that it was talking about an individual’s salvation.

See, here’s the context: if God gives huge covenant promises in Romans 8, how are we supposed to believe them if God’s Word has failed with respect to His covenant promises to Israel? Israel’s rejecting the Messiah and going to hell. How does that uphold God’s word to His chosen people? How can we Gentiles take God at His word if He can’t keep His word to the Jews?

Given that context, Paul argues that God’s word has not failed, and here’s why: not all Israel is Israel. In other words, there’s an ethnic Israel and a spiritual Israel. How can that be? Well, both Ishmael and Isaac were sons of Abraham (Jews, right?), but God chose to bless Isaac and reject Ishmael. But lest you think that was because of Hagar’s status as a slave, Rebekah’s twins, before they’d been born or done any good or evil, were likewise split. God chose Jacob and rejected Esau. Every time there have been children of Abraham (or his descendants), there has been a distinction between those who are mere biological children, and those who are children of the promise—real children of the covenant. In other words, it has always been the case that mere lineage was not a determining factor in salvation. God is able to make Jews from stones if He wants to (Matthew 3:8-9). Don’t presume that lineage guarantees salvation. Repent, or you will likewise perish.

I ask: has Paul just begun to randomly talk about the destiny of nations? Or is Paul supporting his assertion that within ethnic Israel is spiritual Israel? If he’s supporting his point that there are two Israels and ethnic Israel doesn’t guarantee placement within spiritual Israel, what context does that put the conversation in? The destiny of nations? Or salvation?

I say all this because it’s a critical context for understanding the rest of the chapter. I used to skip the beginning of the chapter because I didn’t understand why Paul was bringing Israel into the picture. But once you understand why he’s arguing on the track that he is, the entire chapter opens up. I would most of all encourage you to read Romans 8-11 and see the thought flow of Paul in those chapters. But I would also encourage you to download a sermon I listened to this week by John Piper called “What is Romans 9 About?”. It’s a very humble unfolding of the thought flow of Romans 9 and I would highly recommend it to everyone.

download this sermon

If you want a more complete exposition of Romans 9-11, listen to this series:

Sermon Recommendation: Why Expositional Preaching is Particularly Glorifying to God, by John Piper

Okay, sure, the title’s a bit intimidating. But even if you’re not a preacher, and have no aims to do expositional preaching, I think this is an amazing sermon to listen to. (I’ve listened to it at least 5 times.) This message was preached two years ago at Together for the Gospel 2006 and it absolutely shook the conference (as testified to by the other speakers’ comments, comments from my friends who were at the conference, and bloggers who were covering the conference). Piper lays out his burden for exultant, expositional preaching from pastors who earnestly sense the weight of the glory of God.

I’ve posted some good quotes below. But when you read Piper, you have to read it slowly and with gripping emphasis on the key words. This is a man who is very serious about what he’s saying.

Packer said upon hearing Martin Lloyd-Jones: “I had never heard such preaching.” And that is why today people say such foolish and minimizing things about preaching: they have never heard it… Packer said, ‘It came to me with the force of electric shock, bringing more of a sense of God than any other man I had ever known.’

John Piper

God did not ordain the cross of Christ or create the Lake of Fire in order to communicate the insignificance of belittling His glory. The death of the Son of God and the damnation of unrepentant human beings are the loudest shouts conceivable that God is infinitely holy, that sin is infinitely offensive, that wrath is infinitely just, and that grace is infinitely precious, and that the brief little life that you and I live and that everybody in our churches lives, will issue very quickly into everlasting joy or everlasting pain. This has got to grip us! There is a weight to this office. Where, brothers, is this weight going to be felt if not from you? Veggie Tales? Not in a million years! Radio? Television? Discussion groups? Emergent conversations? If not from you, in this pulpit, where?! God planned for His Son to be crucified and for Hell to be terrible so that we would have the clearest witnesses possible to what is at stake when we preach. What gives preaching its seriousness is that the mantle of preaching is soaked in the blood of Jesus and singed with the fires of Hell.

John Piper

The MP3 begins with an introduction of John Piper by C.J. Mahaney.

download this sermon

I’m also posting a clip of some comments made in the panel discussion after Piper’s message because I found them very insightful and encouraging.