Archive for the 'Quotes' Category

What Providence Isn’t

This is a repost from a little over a year ago. I’ve shortened one quote and added another by John Owen that I recently read.

Providence is that continued exercise of the divine energy whereby the Creator upholds all his creatures, is operative in all that transpires in the world, and directs all things to their appointed end.

–D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

Martin Lloyd-Jones writes about what providence is not at the beginning of a chapter on Providence from the book Great Doctrines of the Bible. I’m going to attempt to summarize his brief warnings, and hopefully won’t confuse the matter.

there are people who claim special providences in their own personal lives. ‘It is most amazing,’ they say. ‘Do you know, this is what has happened to me …’—and they describe to you how certain things seem to have been arranged particularly in order to suit their special circumstances! And then, when you tell them that they cannot say things like that, they resent the whole doctrine of providence.

I’m going to bluntly postulate that this is self-centered extra-Biblical guesswork.

He never really seemed to explain just what he meant until the end (somewhat):

Be careful—it is a warning! Always be careful in your application of any particular event. Let me explain: whenever anything good happens to us or to our country we are all very ready, are we not, to say that it was undoubtedly an act of God—the providence of God. I have explained what the doctrine of providence teaches, but I would warn you that it is dangerous to particularise about any particular thing. … In 1934 German Christians—and very fine Christians among them—issued this statement: ‘We are full of thanks to God that He as Lord of history has given us Adolf Hitler, our leader and our saviour from our difficult lot. We acknowledge that we, with body and soul, are bound and dedicated to the German State and to its Führer. This bondage and duty contains for us as Evangelical Christians its deepest and most holy significance in its obedience to the command of God.’ That surely makes us think, does it not? …

Now those people were absolutely sincere; they were absolutely genuine. They were evangelical Christians, and they believed that! So I think you will agree that we must be a little cautious when we come to make particular claims. … Let us be judicious and cautious, and have a great concern for the glory and the name of God when we claim any particular event as an instance of His special providence either with regard to us or our country.

God orders things in his way for his people mainly for the purpose of our continuation in salvation. We have to be cautious in trying to determine what he’s doing and why. The same goes for affliction. We can usually only go by what the Bible says–that it’s for our continued perseverance, perfection, righteousness (Hebrews 12:4-11, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-7). God doesn’t normally indicate to us what he’s ‘teaching’ us if it’s not a consequence of sin. Nor can we usually tell exactly what he’s doing as he orders his web of a multitude of things far greater than we can ever imagine.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,
Ephesians 1:11

If this is confusing, reading the whole chapter online may help. It’s one of the better treatments I’ve read on the subject.

Extra Credit:

In a clock, stop but one wheel and you stop every wheel, because they are dependent upon one other. So when God has ordered a thing for the present to be thus and thus, how do you know how many things depend upon this thing? God may have some work to do twenty years hence that depends on this passage of providence that falls out this day or this week.

–Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

John Owen expounds on Zophar speaking to Job in Job 11:12 in Walking Humbly With God:

“Vain man would know the secrets of the counsels of God, the reason of his ways; but, in his attempts after it, he is as an ass, as a wild ass, as the colt of a wild ass;”

Not just an ass (donkey), not just a wild ass, but the colt of a wild ass. That’s pretty emphatic.

Great Doctrines of the Bible by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

How Does God Guide Us?

This is a repost from 2014:

How does the Lord guide his people? Assuring us a Christian life with a beginning, a middle and an end, with the end being the tying up of all loose ends? It is an interesting fact that the apostles, in giving much doctrinal and practical guidance, never once (as far as I can see) gave guidance with respect to Christians’ futures. They are never asked, and never offer such guidance, as to what the will of God is for their lives and how they are to discern this. This is disappointing for any one hoping, through prayer or Bible study or some other discipline, to be handed a torch which has the magical power of shining a golden light illuminating the path leading from the present to an assured tomorrow, or to the next year, or the next decade of our lives.

–Paul Helm, Helm’s Deep: Ecclesiastes and the New Testament

Don’t spend your life waiting for God to whisper sweet nothings in your ear. God has already spoken.

–Carl Trueman

Our pictures of life are far too often like eating fast food, or like living under the shadow of a rule book, or like staring glassy-eyed out into the third heaven waiting for “a word from the Lord”. Wisdom challenges all this. It says to us, warmly yet firmly, “Grow up!”, “Mature!”, “Move beyond childhood into adulthood!”, “Use the mind God has given you!”

Wisdom is about learning to apply the gospel to every area of our thinking and doing. We will be tempted to justify our ignorance and mental laziness by saying that we’re trusting the Lord. We may even appeal to Proverbs 3:5-6 to defend this attitude. But that’s not what Proverbs 3:5-6 is about. Rather, it encourages diligent, careful, prayerful, intelligent and enthusiastic exploration of life in the light of the gospel.

–Mark Storm, Symphony of Scripture

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
James 1:5

My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding–
indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 2:1-5

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Proverbs 9:10

Also see:
About that little voice in your heart… | Reformation21 Blog

After all of that, I would slightly disagree with the idea that God only speaks from the outside, as the blog post above says, although maybe I’m taking that too literally. I strongly believe that the Holy Spirit speaks to us from within when it comes to conviction of sin(s), God’s character, his love for us in Christ, and reminding us of what He’s taught us in the past (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to spiritual things we hadn’t realized before (Ephesians 1:18). Whenever we hear the Holy Spirit speak, we always need to confirm it with Scripture. Our hearts are too easily deceived (Jeremiah 17:9). We need to be saturated in Scripture in order to discern from within, and especially nowadays from without, what is true.

The Fear of God

Repost from September 19, 2016:

The fear of God has been one of my favorite subjects. Unfortunately, it’s very misunderstood. This may be partly because it isn’t mentioned much anymore, and many tend to understand the word fear as fright, and only fright. The fear of God is a very multi-faceted doctrine (teaching). It doesn’t just mean awe. There are some translations like the NET which have replaced the word fear with awe, and I think that really flattens out the meaning.

Although I haven’t read a book devoted to this subject, it’s mentioned very often in books, in addition to, of course, the Bible (Genesis 22:12, Deuteronomy 6:1-2, Psalms 2:11, Proverbs 9:10, Isaiah 50:10, Acts 9:31, Revelation 14:6-7, for a good representation). I’ve been learning that the fear of God starts out with the realization of our sin, and realizing what we’ve been saved from. Because believers have been saved from sin, and from God’s wrath, we want to obey God not because we’re afraid of him (1 John 4:18), but because we’ve come to appreciate how good his commands are, and to do what our Father tells us, because he’s spelled out the best way to live our lives (Psalm 119, Romans 12:2).

The dread of you makes my flesh creep;
I stand in awe of your decrees.
Psalm 119:120 REB

I will let my two favorite quotes speak about what it means, and there is a very short video below them if you’d like to watch and listen to it.

Biblical fear is not simply “alarm” or “fright,” nor is it simply “dread”; and even “awe” does not fully capture the fear that is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). Biblical fear—in its right and mature expression—is a humble and loving response to the character of God. Such fear rightly perceives the awesome and even terrifying power of God, but this perception is tempered with marveling that one so majestic is so concerned for his people.

God is infinite in power but intimate in love. He creates and sustains the universe and yet is present with us. As the earliest of biblical writers said, such knowledge is “too wonderful for me,” and its glorious revelation always takes the blood from our faces and the strength from our knees (Job 42:3). These responses may mirror the human behaviors before a tyrannosaurus, but we would be quite mistaken to say that biblical fear is anything like that fear.

Biblical fear is not merely concern for possible harm. Rather, biblical fear is proper regard for all God discloses about himself in his glory: lordship with love, infinitude with intimacy, an all-powerful hand with a redeeming heart.2 We do not have a single word that adequately translates the term for biblical fear, but we do have a clear example to remove all questions as to its basic meaning. Isaiah prophesies of the coming Messiah, saying that “the fear of the LORD” will “rest on him” and “he will delight in the fear of the LORD” (Isa. 11:2, 3 NIV).

Jesus fears God, and he delights to do so. This means that the relationship of God the Father and God the Son ultimately exemplifies biblical fear. Since we know eternal and infinite love exists between the Father and the Son, we must understand that Christ’s fear cannot simply be terror. Perfect love must drive out that kind of fear (1 John 4:18). Jesus’ intimacy and humility with his heavenly Father reveals that his fear is proper regard for the full spectrum of divine attributes—including his wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, and love.

Bryan Chapell, The Glory of God, page 191–chapter on A Pastoral Theology of the Glory of God

Christian said, “Without a doubt the right fear can be a good thing, for as the Word says, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’”1

“How would you describe right fear?” Hopeful inquired.

Christian explained, “True or right fear can be known by three things. First, by what causes it: the right kind of fear is caused by saving conviction of sin. Secondly, a good fear drives the soul to quickly lay hold of Christ for salvation. And thirdly, this fear begins and sustains in the soul a great reverence for God, His Word, and His ways. It keeps the soul tender, making it afraid to turn right or left from His Word and ways. It makes the soul sensitive to anything that might dishonor God, grieve the Spirit, or cause the enemy to speak against God.”

John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress, Crossway Edition

1 Proverbs 1:7, 9:10; Psalm 111:10; Job 28:28

The Fear of God and A Sense of Sin from NCFIC on Vimeo.

Also see:
Saturday à Machen: Joy in the Fear of God | Bouncing into Graceland

Fear God

We’re not better than Old Testament Christians

Whom have I in heaven but thee?
and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
Psalm 73:25 KJV

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones describes how we aren’t any better than Old Testament Christians in his book Faith On Trial, a great exposition of Psalm 73.

One often finds a tendency amongst Christian people to depreciate the Old Testament. It is not that they do not believe in it as the Word of God. They do. But they tend to contrast themselves with the saints of the Old Testament ‘We are in Christ,’ they say, ‘we have received the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament saints did not know of this and they are therefore inferior to us.’ If you are tempted to think like that I have one simple question to put to you: Can you honestly use the language that this man uses in these two verses? Have you arrived at a knowledge of God and an experience of God such as this man had? Can you say quite honestly, ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee’? How prejudiced we are. These Old Testament saints were children of God as you and l are; indeed, if we read these Psalms quite honestly we shall at times feel rather ashamed of ourselves, and occasionally begin to wonder whether they have not gone farther than we have ever gone. Let us be careful lest we press the difference between the two dispensations too far and make distinctions which end by being thoroughly unscriptural.

Puritans and Football and Wisdom

I admit that the subject line is click bait–somewhat. Have you ever heard the argument that some men are more passionate about football than God by how they act when watching a game? They seem to show more emotion when watching football (or whatever the sport) than they would in church. I’ve always thought this was a ridiculous comparison.

Certainly there are many men who profess (or professors, as the Puritans might say) to be Christian that have more love for a sport than for God. But to insinuate that most Christian men, and some women, are more passionate about football than God, just because they get emotional during an event, is very unfair. It’s a matter of assessment.

I’ve always had a picture in my own mind about how this isn’t the case with me or many Christian men I know. As I was reading the Puritan Thomas Manton’s A Treatise Of Self Denial (a very popular topic these days, indeed), I found a perfect quote for annihilating this most absurd notion, despite the fact that it was written in the 1600s. Here he’s helping the reader to compare love of things or people with love for God. (Luke 14:26)

Though comparison be the best way to discover love, yet this love is not to be measured by the lively stirring acts of love so much as by the solid esteem and constitution of the spirit. Why? because the act may be more lively where the love is less firm and rooted in the heart. The passions of suitors are greater than the love of the husband, yet not so deeply rooted. The commotion may be greater in less love, but esteem and solid complacency is always a fruit of the greater love. […] A man may laugh at a toy, yet he cannot be said to rejoice more in that toy than in other things, because the act of his joy is more lively than it would be in a solid, serious matter. We laugh more at a trifle, but are better pleased at a great courtesy. [..] For instance, a man may have more affectionate expressions upon the loss of a child or an estate, than at God’s dishonour. A man may weep more for a temporal loss than for sin. [..] So a man may seem to have more lively joy in sensible blessings than in spiritual, and yet he cannot be concluded to be carnal. Why? because of the solid estimation of his heart; he could rather part with all these things than offend God; had rather want this and that comfort than want the favour of God. […] Therefore the judgment you are to make upon your heart, whether you love your relations and contentments more than God, is not to be determined by the rapid motion, but by the constant stream and bent of the heart.

I know the older language can be difficult. I shortened it (this is only part of one very long paragraph) so that it would be easier to read and hopefully see his point. Just because we act silly over something in the moment doesn’t mean that we love it more than something else. Suitors may swoon over a person they would like to enter into a serious relationship with, but the “love of a husband” is more deeply rooted. We may even show more delight in a humorous toy than in the serious matter of Biblical doctrine.

Though we should hate everything in this life relative to our love for God (Luke 14:26), and we should ‘order (or manage) our affections’, as the Puritans would say, we need to be careful to assess these things properly.

Extra credit:
The wisdom of some of the Puritans amazes me. Not all of their wisdom comes directly from Scripture, although it would all be in conformity to it. Sola Scriptura doesn’t mean ‘nothing but Scripture’. This also shows how reasonable they were. They didn’t usually take the stereotypical hard-line literal approach that we might think they would take. More in future posts.

Puritans

Richard Sibbes On Being In Christ

God cannot be comfortably thought upon out of Christ our Mediator, in whom he was ‘reconciling the world to himself,’ 1 Cor. 5:19, as being a friend both to God and us [John 15:14], and therefore fit to bring God and the soul together, being a middle person in the Trinity. In Christ, God’s nature becomes lovely to us, and ours to God; otherwise there is an utter enmity betwixt his pure and our impure nature. Christ hath made up the vast gulf between God and us [Romans 5:1]. There is nothing more terrible to think on, than an absolute God out of Christ.

Works of Richard Sibbes, Vol. 1, The Soul’s Conflict

Especially interesting to me is “God’s nature becomes lovely to us, and ours to God”. I’ll attempt to assemble Scripture to portray that, but in reverse order. (I added references in brackets above.)

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God;
Romans 8:7a

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might
2 Thessalonians 1:8-9

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:1-7

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
Psalm 84:1-2

Richard Sibbes was an English Puritan preacher (1577-1635).

Luther on Motivation to Pray

This is from Luther on the Christian Life by Carl Trueman.

For Luther, it is not the desire for reading Scripture that fuels prayer; it is reading Scripture that fuels the desire for prayer. That the Christian may not feel like praying is one of the Devil’s tricks played on weak and sinful flesh; the answer is the discipline of reading and meditation, both corporate and individual. One might draw an analogy with marital love: the husband is commanded by God’s Word to love his wife. That command is independent of how the husband feels at any given moment. He is to act in a loving way toward her, and as he does so, his love for her will itself deepen and grow. So it is to be with prayer: reading Scripture shapes people in such a way that their prayer life will deepen and grow as a result.

What is perhaps most noteworthy in all this, of course, is the routine nature of the practice of the Christian life. Nothing Luther proposes in itself is particularly exciting or novel. We live in an age mesmerized both by technique and by the extraordinary. Modern evangelicalism, particularly in America, has been shaped by the kind of revivalism pioneered by Charles Finney in the nineteenth century. Find the right techniques and one will achieve the desired spiritual results; and typically those techniques involve something unusual or impressive. For Luther, this would all have been alien and obnoxious: the Word is powerful in and of itself; and the ways in which the Word works are ordinary and routine.

I may post more quotes from this excellent book in the future.

Luther wrote a letter to his barber called A Simple Way To Pray if you’d like to read more on what he says about prayer. Another good resource is Matthew Henry’s Method for Prayer, which is a website with very brief aspects of prayer and includes Scripture with each one. You can even choose between four Bible translations.

Luther on the Christian Life

Repost: What Does “Grace Upon Grace” Mean?

I just noticed that this has become the most popular post on the blog, most likely because of search engine activity. It has surpassed Complete List of Paul's Prayers. So I thought I’d post it again after three years.

First of all, is it in the Bible? It almost sounds like a catch-phrase of some sort. Why, yes, yes it is in the Bible. You can find it in John 1:16:

For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.
John 1:16 NASB

That’s the wording I’m familiar with for some reason. KJV has “grace for grace.”

This is according to D.A. Carson (quoting the TNIV), which is consistent with what he wrote in his commentary on John, published almost 20 years earlier. 

GRACE AND LAW

John adds, “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given” (1:16). That is exactly what the text says—but what does it mean? It does not mean “grace on top of grace” or “one grace after another,” like Christmas presents piled up under a Christmas tree, one blessing after another. It means we have all received a grace in place of a grace already given. What does that mean? The next verse tells us: “For the law was given through Moses [which takes us back to Exod. 32—34]; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (1:17). In other words, the gift of the law was a gracious thing, a good and wonderful gift from God. But grace and truth par excellence came through Jesus Christ, not in the display of glory to Moses in a cave but in the display of Jesus and the bloody sacrifice on the cross. The law covenant was a gracious gift from God, but now Jesus is going to introduce a new covenant, the ultimate grace and truth. This is a grace that replaces that old grace. It is bound up with a new covenant.

The God Who Is There, pg 116, Chapter 7 — The God Who Becomes a Human Being, published in 2010

Repost – Murmuring and Contentment

This was posted a few years ago. It’s something I still constantly work on.

Murmuring–a half-suppressed or muttered complaint, which may be synonymous with grumbling–is a sin that isn’t mentioned often. Thomas Watson writes about this in The Art of Divine Contentment. I’ve been making an effort to think more positively, or less negatively, but when he uses the word murmur and explains it like he does, it’s very convicting. I can see how this is subtly insidious, and the devil would love to see a lot of it, without our ever really realizing it. I can see how profitable this would be if it could be reduced by working on it with God’s grace.

You that are a murmurer are in the [same] account of [or ‘to’] God as a witch, a sorcerer, as one that deals with the devil: this is a sin of the first magnitude. Murmuring often ends in cursing: Micah’s mother fell to cursing when the talents of silver were taken away, (Jude 17:2) so does the murmurer when a part of his estate is taken away. Our murmuring is the devil’s music; this is that sin which God cannot bear: “how long shall I bear with this evil congregation which murmur against me?” (Num. 14:7) It is a sin which whets the sword against a people: it is a land-destroying sin; “neither murmur ye as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.” (1 Cor. 10:10) It is a ripening sin this; without mercy it will hasten England’s funerals. O then how excellent is , which prevents this sin! To be contented, and yet murmur is a : a contented Christian does acquiesce in his present condition, and does not murmur, but admire. Herein appears the excellency of contentation; it is a spiritual antidote against sin.

I attempted to slightly simplify the English.

I think that letting this fester is one way that nice young people can become cranky old people. Not cranky like Carl Trueman, but truly mean and destructively negative people.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing,
Philippians 2:14 NIV

Also see: Contentment | Scripture Zealot blog

Being content
something deviating from the proper, normal, or accepted order

Stinging Quote by Sinclair Ferguson

This quote by Sinclair Ferguson, in his book Devoted to God, is one of the more difficult ones I’ve read from a contemporary Christian author. It’s an area of sin that’s often overlooked.

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath,
Colossians 3:8 ESV

Here Paul is speaking about settled hostility [anger]. […]

Paul adds we are to put away wrath. […]

But what if–as one scholar puts it–we translate Paul’s term here as ‘exasperation’? That gets under the skin! If all Paul meant was ‘rage’ we might think of others to whom these words apply, but hardly ourselves. But ‘exasperation’? Respectable impatience? Irritation when things go wrong? Surely these cannot be classed as real sin? But this is to remove God from our perspective. For the root cause of impatience and exasperation lies in our response to the providence by which God superintends our lives. At the end of the day the deep object of our exasperation is the Lord himself. For it is his sovereign purposes and detailed plans, and the way in which he has ordered our steps to bring us into the situation, that has been the catalyst of our exasperation.

So in fact ‘exasperation’ spells spiritual danger. Yet most of us do not think of it as serious sin. In fact we may have said (even with a sense of pride): ‘I am not the kind of person to suffer fools gladly. [Matt. 5:22] I am easily exasperated by them.’ But if so we have become deaf to what we are really saying. For such exasperation is an expression of the warped and distorted old way of life in Adam. It is un-Christlike and needs to be put off. At its heart is a self-exaltation over others, and a dissatisfaction with the way God is ordering and orchestrating the events of our lives.

–Sinclair Ferguson, Devoted to God

Can you imagine what the more argumentative areas of social media would look like if everyone were to take this message seriously? The tenor would be completely transformed. We can easily slip into group-think when we’re constantly bombarded with people being overly blunt with each other. It can become normal. Even if we don’t perceive our words as very harsh–should the other person, or people watching on take it differently–our words don’t come to rest; they can float into other people’s minds as a curse (Proverbs 26:2).

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
Colossians 3:13 NLT

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
2 Timothy 2:23-24

Devoted To God Book Cover

God’s Grace Towards Everyone

This is a great quote by Michael Horton. Many are led to believe that if one becomes a believer, their life will get better. I suppose it depends on what one means by ‘life’.

‘Out of the lavishness displayed in the marvelous variety and richness of creation itself, God continues to pour out his common blessings on all people. Therefore we neither hoard possessions as if God’s gifts were scarce nor deny ourselves pleasures as if God were stingy. Believers and unbelievers alike share in the common joys of childbirth and childhood, friendship and romance, marriage and family. Unlike life under the old covenant theocracy, there is no guarantee in this time between Christ’s two advents that the lives of Christians will go better than those of non-Christians. The promise, rather, is that even calamities cannot frustrate God’s salvation of his elect, but, on the contrary, are turned to our ultimate good. [Romans 8:28-29]

It is always dangerous to interpret one’s temporal circumstances as a sign either of God’s favor or of his displeasure. […] However, believers have no right to God’s common grace any more than they do to his saving grace. God remains free to Show compassion on whomever he will, even to give breath, health, prosperity, and friends to those who breathe threats against him. The psalmist never resolves this paradox philosophically, but eschatologically—that is, by entering God’s sanctuary and recognizing that the temporal pleasures of the ungodly conceal their ultimate doom, while the saints’ temporal struggles conceal their ultimate glory: “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. . . . My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:24, 26).’

–Michael Horton, The Christian Faith, pg 352

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Timothy Keller on Prayer – Part 2 of 2

Here are eleven quotes from his book on Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. This is the best book I’ve read on prayer so far. It’s something I like to read about regularly.

[Prayer is] A personal, communicative response to the knowledge of God.

What is prayer, then, in its fullest sense? Prayer is continuing a conversation that God has started through his Word and his grace, which eventually becomes a full encounter with him.

It is remarkable that in all of his writings Paul’s prayers for his friends contain no appeals for changes in their circumstances. … He does not see prayer as merely a way to get things from God but as a way to get more of God himself. Prayer is a striving to ‘take hold of God’ (Isa. 64:7) the way in ancient times people took hold of the cloak of a great man as they appealed to him, or the way in modern times we embrace someone to show love.

Our prayers should arise out of immersion in the Scripture. [We] speak only to the degree we are spoken to. … The wedding of the Bible and prayer anchors your life down in the real God.

We must be able to existentially access our doctrinal convictions. If doctrinal soundness is not accompanied by heart experience, it will eventually lead to nominal Christianity—that is, in name only—and eventually to nonbelief. The irony is that many conservative Christians, most concerned about conserving true and sound doctrine, neglect the importance of prayer and make no effort to experience God, and this can lead to the eventual loss of sound doctrine. … Christianity without real experience of God will eventually be no Christianity at all.)

God will either give us what we ask or give us what we would have asked if we knew everything he knows.

If God’s words are his personal, active presence, then to put your trust in God’s words is to put your trust in God.

Prayer is the way that truth is worked into your heart to create new instincts, reflexes, and dispositions.

If I am in denial about my own weakness and sin, there will be a concomitant blindness to the greatness and glory of God.

We should remember Augustine’s letter to Anicia. There he says, in short, that you should not begin to pray for all you want until you realize that in God you have all you need. That is, unless we know that God is the one thing we truly need, our petitions and supplications may become, simply, forms of worry and lust. We can use prayer as just another way to pursue many things that we want too much.

It takes pride to be anxious, to know how my life should go.

“we should lay before God, as part of our prayer, the reasons why we think that what we ask for is the best thing.” This is an insightful and practical idea. [Packer’s ‘arguing with God in prayer’. –Packer and Nystrom, Praying: Finding Our Way] … This means embedding theological reasoning in our prayers.

Also see: Timothy Keller on Prayer – Part 1

Timothy Keller on Prayer – Part 1 of 2

Timothy Keller wrote a book entitled Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. The next post will have quotes from that book.

There is an excellent interview with him at Desiring God: 10 Questions on Prayer with Tim Keller.

If you don’t have time, or want to read my mumbling, I have a few quotes from it that I think are important.

I read a book some years ago by Eugene Peterson called Answering God. He makes a strong case that we only pray well if we are immersed in Scripture. We learn our prayer vocabulary the way children learn their vocabulary — that is, by getting immersed in language and then speaking it back. And he said the prayer book of the Bible is the Psalms, and our prayer life would be immeasurably enriched if we were immersed in the Psalms.

Also comparing our prayers to Paul’s.

I’ve been reading more and more about using the Bible as our prayer language or ‘phrase vocabulary’, if there is such a thing. Matthew Henry wrote about it, and I see many others who mention it. I find that many Christians conform to each other more than Scripture. I’ll leave out the examples for now.

I’m concerned about approaches to reading the Bible that say: read the Bible, but don’t think about theology, just let God speak to you. I’m concerned about that, because God speaks to you in the Bible, after you do the good exegesis and you figure out what the text is saying. Martin Luther believed you need to take the truth that you have learned through good exegesis, and once you understand that, you need to learn how to warm your heart with it — get it into your heart.

This is scary, yet at the same time maybe a little extreme. Certainly God speaks to us without us having to do exegesis on every verse of Scripture we read. On the other hand, the ‘just me and the Holy Spirit’ or ‘what it means to me’ attitude can lead people astray. It might also be a bit much to expect people who are Biblically illiterate to not just read the Bible, but be expected to understand it well. I think that’s why reading books is so important, in addition to getting teaching from preaching and Bible studies.

Without meditation, you tend to go right into petition and supplication, and you do little adoration or confession. When your heart is warm, then you start to praise God and then you confess. When your heart is cold, which it is if you just study the Bible and then jump to prayer, you are much more likely to spend your time on your prayer list and not really engage your heart.

This is interesting because I feel like I often meditate when praising and thanking, possibly confessing too.
I think it’s when I’m praising especially, that God is often directing my prayers in a Scriptural direction.

Again, this is from 10 Questions on Prayer with Tim Keller

Timothy Keller

Timothy Keller on Prayer – Part 2.

What Did Moses Do So Wrong?

On that same day the Lord told Moses, “Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession. There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people. This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.”
Deuteronomy 32:48-52

What did Moses do so wrong in the Desert of Zin that God wouldn’t let him go into the land of Canaan like the rest of the Israelites he was leading? For 40 years? And in the beginning of it all, God spent a chapter and a half convincing Moses to lead the people in the first place. (Exodus 3-4 — I’m no scholar, but a chapter and a half is like, a lot.) All I could find in plain sight is that he struck the rock when that isn’t what God explicitly stated.

The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”
Numbers 10:7-12

In his commentary on Deuteronomy, Daniel Block addresses this, with the help of another quote.

Aaron Wildavsky comments eloquently:

At Meribah Moses substitutes force for faith. In his hand the rod reduces a divinely ordered act to a trickster’s shenanigans. But the import runs deeper. If Moses’ strongest leadership quality has been his ability to identify with the people, then the lack of faith at Meribah is a double one. Moses not only distances himself from God by doubting the adequacy of his work but also distances himself from the people by assuming power that was God’s. Tired of the incessant murmurings, Moses taunts the people just before he strikes the rock: “Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water from this rock?” (Num 20:10).

Instead of exhorting a stiffnecked people to greater faith, Moses condescends to their plea with an arrogant jeer. His words imply acceptance of the people’s evil (separating himself from it) rather than hope of overcoming it. “Ye rebels” assumes very much what Aaron had presumed in trying to rationalize fashioning the Golden Calf. At that point, Aaron had lamely pleaded for Moses’ sympathy: “thou knowest thy people, that they are set on mischief” (Exod. 32:22). Like Aaron’s defense then, Moses’ “Hear now, ye rebels” [Listen, you rebels] now becomes its own accusation. Similarly Moses taunts the people with rebelliousness, yet is himself rebelling when he smites the rock without authority—the authority God alone can provide. Perhaps, after all, Moses does have more authority than he, or any man, can handle.

Block also mentions that this can be a warning for leaders.

This is the type of thing that’s bothersome to us if we’re thinking soberly, but we can also believe by faith that God is good (Num 1:7) and a God of justice (Deut 32:4).

Deuteronomy

Also see:
Why I Love Deuteronomy | Monergism

Christ’s Suffering Is Beyond Our Comprehension

Regarding the suffering of Jesus, I often find myself thinking, ‘But did he have to deal with… (this, that or the other thing that he didn’t directly experience)?’ This doesn’t matter, because he suffered virtually infinitely more than we could ever suffer, in any way, no matter what. He had to. That was a revelation for me which is something God brought up while praising him. There may be some people who might comprehend his physical suffering, but much worse is the infinite aspect of it–being punished for all of the sins and sinfulness of all time (Rev 7:9), and being forsaken by his own infinitely loving Father, all after living a perfect life as a human being.

This not only demonstrates that he can identify with the depth of all of our suffering, but much more importantly helps us to begin–to whatever infinitesimally small degree–to comprehend what Christ did to atone for our sin (Rom 3:25) and bring us peace with God (Rom 5:1).

This reminded me of some concepts in The Person of Christ by John Owen (see quotes below). He writes about how no man could atone for the sins of other men. Just looking at the obedience Jesus learned–I know that I would be crushed if I had to deny myself the way he did during his perfectly lived life, which was necessary in order to be a perfect sacrificial lamb. I’m having a hard time just dealing with the relatively small losses that I’ve had, and not being able to embrace God’s will for me in those areas.

The recovery of mankind was not to be effected by any one who was a mere man, and no more, though it were absolutely necessary that a man he should be; he must be God also.

It was necessary, that an obedience should be yielded to God and his law, which should give and bring more glory and honour unto his holiness, than there was dishonour reflected on it, by the disobedience of us all.

Such an obedience could never be yielded to God by any mere creature whatever; not by any one who was only a man, however dignified and exalted in state and condition above all others. For to suppose that God should be pleased and glorified with the obedience of any one man, more than he was displeased and dishonoured by the disobedience of Adam, and all his posterity, is to fancy things that have no ground in reason or justice, or any way suitable to divine wisdom and holiness. He who undertakes this work must have somewhat that is divine and infinite to put an infinite value on his obedience; that is, he must be God.

The people to be freed, redeemed, and brought to glory, were great [in number] and innumerable; ‘a great multitude which no man can number;’ Rev. 7:9. The sins which they were to be delivered, ransomed, and justified from, for which a propitiation was to be made, were next to absolutely infinite. They wholly surpass the comprehension of any created understanding, or the compass of imagination. And in every one of them there was something reductively infinite, as committed against an infinite majesty. The miseries which hereon all these persons were obnoxious to, were infinite, because eternal; or all that evil which our nature is capable to suffer, was by them all eternally to be undergone.

The Person of Christ by John Owen