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Archive for March, 2009

-Our first marriage was to the law. As a woman is freed from the obligation of marriage when her husband dies, we are free from the law because “we have died to it.”

-Our dying to the law is in the conformity of the death of Christ- the crucifying of His body. So to, our newness of life is in conformity to the resurrection of Christ- the risen, exalted, body of Christ.

-While we were alive to the law we were under the power of it.

-The law is still alive, however, we have been released from it and it’s obligation to punishment. This is because, Christ, on our behalf, answered the demands of the law and made satisfaction for our violation of it. Christ purchased for us a covenant of grace.

-We have no more to do with the law than a dead servant has to do with his master.

-The law says, “The soul that sins shall die.” However, God has taken away our sins. We have been delivered from the power of the law which condemns us for the sins we have committed.

-The law offers no grace, it stirs up corruption, and “like the sun shining upon a dunghill, excites and draws up the filthy steams.” Because the law is a covenant of works, it provides nothing to help heal our lameness or excuse our offenses against it.

-Grace promises strength to do what it commands, and pardons us when we do amiss.

-By its nature, the law is rigid and inflexible, because God has to punish sin, because He is just.

-The end of our old marriage to the law, produced fruit unto death. The end of our new marriage to Christ, produces fruit (love, good works, grace, kindness) unto God.

-Good works are the children of the new nature, the products of our union with Christ, as the fruitfulness of the vine is the product of its union with the root.

-There can not be fruit pleasing to God unless we are married to Christ. If our root is not Christ, God can not be pleased with any (good) work. This distinguishes the good works of a believer from the good works of self-justifiers. Any good work done by someone who has not died and been risen with Christ is dead. If a good work is brought forth in marriage with the law as a means of acceptance it will not be. This is because it is not done in union with Christ, whom is the root that produces fruitfulness in the vines.

-We must not rest in external services, as the carnal Jews did (do), who gloried their adherence to the letter of the law. We need to mind the spiritual part of worship: the part of worship that is empowered by the Spirit.

-The letter (law) causes fear. However we are delivered from that yoke that we may serve God in Spirit, truth, holiness, confidence and righteousness.

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Favorites in….

Science News:  Apparently I’ve been duped, according to the NYTs “Sugar is Back on Food Labels, This Time as a Selling Point”

Though research is still under way, many nutrition and obesity experts say sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are equally bad in excess. But, as is often the case with competing food claims, the battle is as much about marketing as it is about science.

Weather pix: An excellent radar image of the early spring tornado that touched down just east of Lincoln.  The slight hook extending out of the souteast corner of the large cluster is a textbook example of a radar indicated tornado.

Streaming: The videos from the recent Ligonier Ministries 2009 Conference on the Holiness of God.  Lots of good stuff here.

Blogging: Kevin DeYoung attempts to separate the Truths that Transform, the Doctrines that Damn in his 4 part series.

There are four categories of passages in the Pastoral Epistles that give us a sense for what Paul considered the core of apostolic doctrine.

Movies: Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” is coming to theater this fall.  Here is the trailer.

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Listening: D.A. Carson’s recent messages at Bethlehem Baptist Church about preparing for Christ’s return, called “How to Wait for Jesus.”

Watching:  The premier episode of NBC’s Kings, based loosely on the life of King David.

Weather pix: NASA’s Aqua satellite caught this image of a submarine volcanic eruption in the south Pacific.

Blogging: Mark Dever responds to his critics after writing in a recent essay that he sees the practice of paedo-baptism sinful.

Upcoming events: Desiring God’s 2009 National Conference has been announced, “With Calvin in the Theater of God

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False belief systems always seem to downplay human depravity.  Some even deny it altogether, insisting that people are fundamentally good.  This is a tendency of nearly all quasi-Christian heresies, humanistic philosophies, and secular worldviews. (John MacArthur, John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion Doctrine & Doxology, p. 129)

This is precisely the point that William Wilberforce makes in the second chapter of his classic book, Real Christianity.  He begins the chapter with the bold accusation that the majority of “educated, professing Christians either overlook or deny the corruption and weakness of human nature.”  Why do they do this?  Because they see sin as “petty” or “occasional”, and ultimately and inherently believe that man is good and “naturally pure.”  He continues:

Vice to them is an accidental and temporary event, rather than a constitutional and habitual disorder.  They view it like a poisonous plant or weed, which lives and even thrives in the human mind, but is not the natural growth and production of the soil. (p.10)

Ultimately then, whom Wilberforce is arguing against, is those that disagree with original sin.  And amazingly, those whom he is arguing against are professing Christians.  He argues with them by addressing Scripture and then making observations on ancient and modern civilizations.  Of Scripture he states:

The Holy Scriptures speak of us as fallen creatures.  In almost every page, we shall find something that is calculated to bring down man’s loftiness, and to silence his pretensions. (p.15)

Of civilization:

Wherever we direct our view, we discover the depressing proofs of our depravity.  Whether we look to ancient or modern times, to barbarous or to civilized nations, to the conduct of the world around us, or to the monitor within the breast, or even to what we read, hear, act, think, feel, the same humiliating lesson is forced upon us. (p. 14)

What is to be done, then, with this truth of the corruption of sin, asks Wilberforce? We must embrace it.  He says, “It is not enough to assent to the doctrine; we must feel it.”  It may cause “humiliation” and “anger and disgust” but “it is here that our foundation must be laid.  Otherwise our superstructure, whatever we may think of it, will one day prove tottering and insecure.”

Again, it is important to understand the author’s intent in this book and when it was written (18th century).  His intent was to delineate that which is “real” Christianity from that which is nominal, hence the full book title, A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Higher and Middle Classes in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity.

Do you agree with Wilberforce on his observation of most professing Christians?  Or may this be too harsh?  Do you think his observations apply today?

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My favorites in

Listening: Put the Fire for the Sake of Prayer.  A plead from John Piper to be diligent in prayer.

I hate the devil, and the way he is killing some of you by persuading you it is legalistic to be as regular in your prayers as you are in your eating and sleeping and Internet use. Do you not see what a sucker he his making out of you? He is laughing up his sleeve at how easy it is to deceive Christians about the importance of prayer.

Science news: NYT: Religious Thoughts and Feelings Not Limited to One Part of Brain.

There may be other elements that science is not capable of measuring.

Weather pix: A beautiful satellite photo of the nearly completely frozen Lake Superior

Politics.  John Mark Reynolds from The Scriptorium Daily. His initial essay “Love Your Neighbor and Don’t Tax Him” and then a following response to a critic called “A State Worse Than Poverty.”

Christianity and natural law teach that good men and women should help each other. This charity is best when it is private and not coerced.

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I’ve taken this title from the marginal notes given by editor James M. Houston in my 1982 edition of William Wilberforce’s Real Christianity.  Although it was originally written in England over 200 years ago, this book has plenty to say of Christianity in America today.

In the first chapter, Inadequate Conceptions of the Importance of Christianity, Wilberforce outlines the ignorance of cultural and hereditary Christianity.  He observes of those around him

The study of Christianity has formed no part of his education.  His attachment to it – where any attachment to it exists at all – is too often not the preference of reason and sober conviction.  Instead his attachment to Christianity is merely the result of early and groundless prepossession.  He was born in a Christian country, so of course he is a Christian.  His father was a member of the Church of England, so that is why he is, too.  (p. 2)

He then turns toward the view of Scripture:

Scripture everywhere represents the Gospel by figures strongly calculated to impress on our minds a sense of its value….Though…we scarcely accept this heavenly treasure even when it is poured in our lap in rich abundance.  We turn from it coldly, or at best possess it negligently as a thing of no estimation.  (pp 4-5)

In a great measure, the bulk of the Christian world knows so little, and mistakes so greatly, the foundational principles of the religion which it professes! (p. 5)

How similar this can be seen in our country today.  I cannot comment on the nature of Christianity in larger cities or along the coasts, but I could easily be quoted observing the same of the Midwestern U.S, especially those that grow up going to church regularly like myself.   This is precisely the attitude that both I carried for 21 years, and was very prevalent in those around me in small town, Nebraska.

Wilberforce ends the chapter with two philosophies that he believes under gird this behavior.  The first is that belief does not matter or “man’s opinions will not influence his practice.”  We see this everywhere in our culture today.  Science claims complete objectivity, even though bias and politics play a massive role in research funding.  And just recently, President Obama claimed that politics will finally be settled by science (objectivity) rather than political ideals, by signing the executive order on opening up stem cell research (See news article).  Wilberforce recommends

We need to remind these advocates of this fallacious principle that one’s judgement often receives a corrupt bias from the heart and the affections. (p. 6)

The second theme is “sincerity is all in all.”  How often do you hear people say “as long as you believe in something” as if it is some redeeming, feel good, nugget of truth.  Or “whatever your beliefs are, you just need to stick to them wholeheartedly.

Never indeed was there a principle more general in its use, more sovereign in its potency.  Instances can be found in secular history of persons committing greatest crimes with a sincere conviction of the integrity of their conduct.  Scripture offers us parallels.  It was to guard against the error we have now been exposing that our blessed Savior forewarned His disciples: “The time cometh, that whatsoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (John 16:2). (pp 6-7)

What do you think?  Are Wilberforce’s words accurate for our culture today?

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What is an Evangelical? The answer according to Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Part 2, and Part 3 from Kevin DeYoung

Tactics.  Greg Koukl discusses his new book Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing your Christian Convictions with Issues, Etc radio broadcast.

Is Global Warming on hold? An article from Discovery News.

Snow in the Northeast. A beautiful satellite photo of the snow cover from Monday’s snownstorm.

ESV Online free for the month of March. Check out the best selling study Bible.

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