Edification and Beauty

This book by James M. Renihan has arrested me for the past few weeks. It was riveting to hear how my Particular Baptist brothers, with a “primitivist urge to fulfill the dictates of Scripture”, “ransacked the pages of the Bible in order to establish their deeds with a heavenly authority.” (58)

I find myself largely at home with the Particular Baptists of the late 17th century, who themselves admired their Puritan brothers. Their ecclesiological retrieval is inspiring.

The book is a running commentary and synthesis of primary sources. Renihan ended each chapter with cogent summaries without rhetorical flourish.

Continue reading “Edification and Beauty”

On recognizing our malleability

“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

What does it look like to be deceived here? It means to be in denial of how malleable and pliant and vulnerable we are to outside influence.

Knowing we are deeply open to outside influence, we are to strategize what we consume and who we surround ourselves with.

The coming resurrection and final judgment motivates us to be vigilant about this.

This also relates to a good conversation question:

What influences do you most enjoy? Who most shapes you?

Humble people are cognizant and clear about who that is.

The proud pretend they have none or are reluctant to admit who they are.

The naive assume they have or need none.

Wrapping up the semester at MBTS

Dr. Todd Chipman cheerfully shepherded us students through two semesters of elementary Greek. He prayed for us often and loved his students. He encouraged us to quietly use Greek as a humble foundation beneath our preaching.
Jared Wilson made us all want to finish seminary and go pastor. His books, “The Pastor’s Justification” and “Gospel-Driven Ministry”, were good for the soul.

He taught us to keep the gospel of ongoing central importance in our preaching, identity, and pursuit of personal transformation. His temperament, speech, and wisdom were imitable.

He had us read from Spurgeon’s “Lectures To My Students.” This is easily the most memorable reading I have done here so far.
Dr. Thor Madsen took us above the clouds and stayed at cruising altitude through large stretches of the New Testament for two memorable semesters. Stacia and I marveled at what we learned on our walks back home.
Continue reading “Wrapping up the semester at MBTS”

Hear the gospel again and again

photo of herd of sheep

Older Christians with regrets need to hear the gospel again and again:

“Since therefore we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:1, 6)

“Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” (Philippians 3:9)

Over and over.

It is how our Shepherd lays us down in green pastures and restores our troubled souls.

It is how our Friend continues to wash our dirty feet.

It is how our Gardiner keep us fruitful, abiding in the Vine.

It is how our High Priest provides absolution. You are forgiven.

It is how our King gives us victory.

It is how our Groom would have us return to our first love.

Jesus would have you be fruitful today, Christian. Do not be paralyzed by memories of failure or mid/late-life regret.

Revisit the gospel which never gets old or loses its relevance.

Hear the word, confess your sins, and look yet again to our mediator:

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1)

Israel’s expanded land promise

“As the years pass, God expands the land promise to extend beyond Canaan to eventually encompass the entire world.

“The first hint is the varying descriptions of the geographic boundaries of the Promised Land throughout the Pentateuch (cf., e.g., Genesis 15:18-21; Exodus 23:31-33; Numbers 34:1-12; Deuteronomy 1:7; 11:24; 34:1-4; Joshua 1:2-4). Such variety suggests the borders of the land are intended to expand as Israel dwells there and exercises dominion over it and the surrounding nations.

“A second indication is that God promised Abram descendants more numerous than the stars in the sky or the dust of the earth (Genesis 13:16; 15:5). Even allowing for the possibility of hyperbole, the sheer number of descendants envisioned seems to demand a larger territory than the land of Canaan.

“A third indication comes from Romans 4:13, where Paul asserts that God promised Abraham and his offspring that he “would be heir of the world.” The apostle, following the lead of the prophets, sees in nascent form a promise that encompassed all of creation. The frequent descriptions of the fertility and fecundity of the land portray it as a new Edenic Paradise where God’s original purposes for creation will be realized.”

Harmon, Matthew S.. Rebels and Exiles (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology) (p. 22). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

Denying nature

man kissing woman's forehead

Like trying to smile with a full cup of water in your mouth.

Like trying to contain the smell of cooking bacon in the kitchen.

Like trying to eat a blue popsicle without coloring your lips or teeth.

Like trying not to laugh at an unexpected joke.

Like trying not to sweat when sprinting.

Like trying to hold a beach ball under water.

Like trying not to blush when you’re embarrassed.

Fighting God’s design in nature is an uphill battle. It takes reeducation and coercion and gaslighting.

Ergo, no Great Apostasy

Jesus is:

  • The Ascended King who established a kingdom that cannot be shaken
  • The New Covenant mediator who gathered a people who will never turn away
  • The Priest who always lives to make intercession
  • The Good Shepherd who protects his flock
  • The Groom who nourishes and washes his Bride, preparing her for presentation
  • The Master of the field who ensures his planted seed will not be uprooted
  • The Architect who builds a new living temple that will never be destroyed
  • The Sower who plants a durable seed for perpetual growth until a giant tree gives shade
  • The Prophet who assured his word will be fulfilled, never invalidated or outlived
  • The Conquerer who subjects all things under his feet
  • The Sender who gives the Holy Spirit, to be with us until he returns
  • The Friend who does not leave us as orphans

This Jesus is unmatched. As he leavens measures of flour until it is fully leavened (Matthew 13:33), the church persists in giving God glory in Christ “throughout all generations” (Ephesians 2:21).

The unanticipated benefits of God’s word

Scripture is like a good meat rub. The Master Chef says, “Add this.”

And I think, “But how does that help the final taste?”

I don’t understand how it all works. But it’d be foolish of me refuse good counsel.

Scripture is useful for training me in righteousness. Even in ways I can’t anticipate.

  • Genealogy lists.
  • Population counts.
  • Levitical purity.
  • Tabernacle specifications.
  • Dramatic sins.
  • Imprecatory Psalms.
  • Conquest.

Learning these “make us wise for salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15). They give us a taste of what is to come, they reveal the heart of God, they teach us wisdom and the “general equity” principles for holiness, they refine our view of nature, and they prime us for recognizing the Messiah.

And they do this in a thousand ways we aren’t aware of.

“The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” (Psalm 19:8)

Humans are royalty

lion roaring on top of mountain during golden hour

Humans are royalty.

Kings and queens.

Image-bearers of Majesty.

Stately breathing effigies of the High Monarch.

We do not think too highly of ourselves in saying, “I represent the King of creation. I am a ruling representative of Nobility over the world.”

What has God given man? God has “crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:5)

God has given him “dominion over the works of [his] hands”, and put “all things under his feet.” (Psalm 8:6)

What reflective echoes and analogues we have in military pageantry, castles, thrones, courtrooms, and inaugurations!

God intends to array us with a glory that surpasses the most beautiful flowers and “Solomon in all his glory.” (Matthew 6:28–29)

What eminent creatures we are! That killing one of us calls for capital punishment (Genesis 9:6). That our rulers may carry out such a sentence as ministers of God (Romans 13:1-4).

Oh how we mighty nobles have fallen! Our fall was long. We have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

But God has forgiven us as he has forgiven King David (Psalm 51).

Our sanctification conforms us to the image of the Son (Romans 8:29).

Our glorification seats us with Christ on his throne (Revelation 3:21).

Our resurrection will be dramatic: We will shine like the sun (Matthew 13:43).

What shall we say to all this?

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:9)

May we join the elders in casting our crowns before the throne of God (Revelation 4:10).

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” (C.S. Lewis)

“Man’s greatness and wretchedness are so evident that the true religion must necessarily teach us that there is in man some great principle of greatness and some great principle of wretchedness.” (Blaise Pascal)

“There is something wrong with every aspect of our being, but we remain noble in our origin. There are… ‘rumors of glory’ found in humanity.” (https://www.bethinking.org/christian-beliefs/a-royal-ruin)

No digital territory is neutral

I am not bothered by traveling between digital geographies.

I want the freedom to do so. May there be many to choose from.

Granted, when you step inside the theme park of a Big Tech oligarch, it is not a public domain sidewalk. Nor should you force him to make it one.

No digital territory is neutral. When you set up shop on a platform you are necessarily under their company’s jurisdiction. Their rules. Using their infrastructure. Adding to their bottom-line.

It’s good for digital pilgrims start their own colonies. It is fitting that communities with fundamentally worldviews stake out their own digital property or town squares: social media, video-sharing, microblogging, podcasting platforms, marketplaces, job boards, news outlets, moderation systems, etc.

Much like a union of states, citizens can freely travel between the territories. But they should know the rules of the land they are operating in.

Perhaps in your community I can’t always use natural pronouns. Perhaps in mine you can’t promote puberty-blockers.

A friend asked me: “Why isn’t anyone trying to create a liberal Parler/Gab?”

There already is one. It’s called Twitter.