Archive for the 'Quotes' Category

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

Why Deuteronomy Is Important

Every book of the Bible is important. This is a post about some reasons why Deuteronomy is important.

I’ve recently been reading the commentary on Deuteronomy (The NIV Application Commentary) by Daniel Block in a devotional sort of way. I’ve wanted to read a commentary on Deuteronomy for a long time because of it being theologically rich, along with having a lot of questions I wanted answered, one of which I’ll write about in another post. I found this one on sale in Kindle format for under $5 (along with the commentary on Job, which was excellent).

I came across a couple of quotes in the commentary on why it’s so foundational.

Although readers of the Old Testament often assume that expressions translated as “the law of the LORD” refer to the Pentateuch as a whole, the default view should rather be that “the Torah of Yahweh” and “the Torah of Moses” refer particularly to the book of Deuteronomy. This book is the heart of the Torah that the priests were to teach and model, in which psalmists delighted, to which the prophets appealed, by which faithful kings ruled, and by which righteous citizens lived (Ps. 1).

This was the book—long neglected—that Josiah’s officials found in the temple and which provided the theological impetus for his wide-ranging reforms (2 Kings 22–23); this was the book that Ezra read to the community of returned exiles on the occasion of the Festival of Booths (Neh. 8). And as the light of Old Testament prophecy was going out, this was the book to which Malachi called his people to return (Mal. 4:4). The book of Deuteronomy provides the theological base for virtually the entire Old (and New) Testament and is the paradigm for much of its literary style. Luke 16:19–31 and John 5:19–47 illustrate the enormous stature of Moses in the tradition of Judaism at the turn of the ages. In the Torah the Jews heard Moses’ prophetic voice, and in the Torah they read what he wrote.

Later on, Block writes:

At the theological level, the Song [of Moses–or of Yahweh, as Block would prefer to call it–Deut. 32] is unparalleled within the book of Deuteronomy, if not the entire Old Testament, for its concentrated but extraordinarily lofty theology.

The Shema (Deut. 6:4) is contained there, and the verse after it, which Jesus quotes as being the greatest commandment.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Deuteronomy

Also see:
Deuteronomy and the New Testament | Scripture Zealot blog

Intimacy and Awe of Scripture

Those times when I fail to find any intimacy or awe in the text [of Scripture] (which are far more frequent than I care to admit), I find three primary culprits: I’m not reading it often, I’m not inviting the Author into my reading, or I’m not bothering to do what I read. When any of one of those three occurs, the Bible quickly becomes a dusty textbook. For those who find no joy in the Bible, I offer the following suggestions (and for those who don’t care to, I offer the following challenges): (1) Try “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so,” like the Bereans did.1 (2) Ask with the psalmist, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”2 (3) Take James’s advice to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”3 Read it, ask the Author for a sense of wonder, do what it says, and watch what happens.

–Thaddeus J. Williams, Reflect: Becoming Yourself by Mirroring the Greatest Person in History

1Acts 17:11
2Psalm 119:18
3James 1:22-25

I’ve found the benefits of reading it often after I started reading more of the Bible more consistently. Reading our Bibles often helps us to: 1.) Develop the habit of reading daily (Acts 17:11). 2.) Enables us to trust the Bible more (Acts 17:11 again). 3.) Allows the Spirit to speak to us and influence us (John 14:26, Romans 12:2, Romans 15:4, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Among many other things.

Being Content In All Circumstances

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Ecclesiastes 7:10

Contentment is a terribly difficult subject for those who’s lives aren’t what they’d like them to be. The Puritans wrote some great books on this subject, including The Crook in the Lot, The Art of Divine Contentment, and The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (quoted from below).

‘O if I had it again, I would do better than I did before.’ But this may be but a temptation. You should rather think, ‘What does God require of me in the circumstances I am now brought into?’ You should labor to bring your heart to quiet and contentment by setting your soul to work in the duties of your present condition. And the truth is, I know nothing more effective for quieting a Christian soul and getting contentment than this, setting your heart to work in the duties of the immediate circumstances that you are now in, and taking heed of your thoughts about other conditions as a mere temptation.

I cannot better compare the folly of those men and women who think they will get contentment by musing about other circumstances than to the way of children: perhaps they have climbed a hill and look a good way off and see another hill, and they think if they were on the top of that, they would be able to touch the clouds with their fingers; but when they are on the top of that hill, alas, they are as far from the clouds as they were before. So it is with many who think, If I were in such circumstances, then I should have contentment; and perhaps they get into circumstances, and they are as far from contentment as before. But then they think that if they were in other circumstances, they would be contented, but when they have got into those circumstances, they are still as far from contentment as before. No, no, let me consider what is the duty of my present circumstances, and content my heart with this, and say, ‘Well, though I am in a low position, yet I am serving the counsels of God in those circumstances where I am; it is the counsel of God that has brought me into these circumstances that I am in, and I desire to serve the counsel of God in these circumstances.

–Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Monergism Ebook Edition

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

Book Cover

Grace and Grace in Prayer

In this manner these eminently wise and holy men [David and Daniel] thought themselves highly honoured in being permitted to contribute, by their prayers, to the execution of the divine purpose.

–Herman Witsius, Sacred Dissertations on The Lord’s Prayer

I see intercessory prayer partly as participating in God’s work. We can sit on the sidelines, or be active in bringing about God’s will in other people’s lives.

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Ephesians 6:18-20

With as little truth is it alleged that prayers are an insult to the goodness of God. We do not press them on the notice of God as the meritorious causes of the blessings he bestows, but view them rather as the marks and consequences of divine grace acting on our minds. The knowledge we have of what is good and desirable; the desire we have to obtain it, and the expression of that desire, accompanied by proper dispositions towards God, are themselves gifts which are usually followed up by another gift, the granting to us of the things desired, according to the saying in the Psalms, (Ps. 81:10) “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” The gifts of God become usually the more delightful to us in consequence of our obtaining them by our prayers. We then find that they came to us not by chance, but from the love of our heavenly Father, who keeps his ear open to our prayers. Hence arise comfort, joy, and filial love; Ps. 116:1, “I love the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplication.” Meanwhile, it is certain that God bestows on us many blessings for which prayers have not been offered, which we did not even feel that we needed, and by his grace anticipates our application. [Eph. 3:20]

–Herman Witsius, Sacred Dissertations on The Lord’s Prayer

I suppose you could call this grace upon grace, although not meant quite in the same way John put it in his gospel.

God blesses our time in the Bible by showing us and reminding us of his will as revealed in Scripture. Also, I find that prayer can be a way of meditating on God, especially praise and thanksgiving. God shows us ‘new’ (but Scriptural) facets of his character and what he’s done, and things to thank him for that he’s done for us individually that we might not yet have thought of. By that grace of insight, we are further blessed in growing in our life with him. Let’s remember to always ask him for these things.

Order all my ways by thy holy Word
and make thy commandments the joy
of my heart,
that by them I may have happy converse
with thee.

–Christian Love from Valley of Vision

Also see:
Complete List of Paul's Prayers | Scripture Zealot blog

Union with Christ

Martin Lloyd-Jones in his Exposition of Ephesians 2 says:

There are two ways of looking at this great statement [union with Christ]. There are some people who take a purely objective view of it. They think of it exclusively in terms of our position, or our standing, in the presence of God. What I mean is that they think of it as being something that, in a sense, is already true of us in Christ, but is not true of us in practice. […] They say that it is true of us by faith now, but actually only by faith. It is not real in us now: it is entirely in Him. But it will be made real in us in the future. Now that is what I call the purely objective view of this statement. And of course as a statement, it is perfectly true, except that it does not go far enough.

This is the way I’ve always envisioned it. Union with Christ is not only our position in Christ. It’s something that changes us, feeds us, something we meditate on, something that hopefully affects how we act as we live in union with him. If two people are married, there is usually a relationship that goes on because of it, not just a legal document that was enacted at a ceremony. It should also impel us to act in a godly manner, because he is in us and we are in him. (Acts 17:28, Ephesians 2:22, Colossians 2:6-7)

But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
1 John 2:5-6

Later he continues:

“I am the vine, ye are the branches” (John 15:5). The union between the branches and the vine is not mechanical: it is vital and organic. They are bound together: the same sap, the same life is in the stock as in the branches. But that is not the only illustration used. At the end of the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul says that the union between a Christian and the Lord Jesus Christ is comparable to the union of the various parts of the body with the whole body, and especially with the head. […]

All these blessings that we enjoy become ours because we are joined to Christ in this double manner: in the forensic, federal, covenant manner, but also in this vital and living manner. We can therefore claim that what has happened to Christ has happened to us. This is the marvel and mystery of our salvation, and it is the most glorious thing we can ever contemplate! The Son of God, the Second Person in the eternal Godhead, came down from heaven to earth; He took unto Him human nature, He joined human nature unto Himself, He shared human nature; and as the result of His work we human beings share His life and are in Him, and are participators in all the benefits that come from Him.

In another excellent article, Michael Horton writes:

Regeneration, or the new birth, is the commencement of this union. God brings this connection and baptism even before there is any sign of life–“while you were dead…he made you alive” (Eph.2:1). […] Through union with Christ, we receive his righteousness imputed (justification) as well as his righteousness imparted (sanctification).

Also see:

Union with Christ

What Providence Isn’t

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? Here is another declaration of theirs in 1933: ‘This turn of history,’ they said, referring to Hitler’s coming into power, ‘we say God has given him to us, to God be the glory. As bound to God’s word we recognise in the great events of our day a new commission of God to His Church.’

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 very careful lest we bring God and His cause into disrepute by unwise and injudicious claims. … My point, then, is this: the doctrine is plain and clear, but 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

Great Doctrines of the Bible by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

What is it to pray in faith?

What is it to pray in faith?

  1. It is to pray for that which God has promised. Where there is no promise, we cannot pray in faith.
  2. It is to pray in Christ’s meritorious name. ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do.’ John 14:13. To pray in Christ’s name, is to pray with confidence in Christ’s merit. When we present Christ to God in prayer; when we carry the Lamb slain in our arms; when we say, ‘Lord, we are sinners, but here is our surety; for Christ’s sake be propitious,’ we come to God in Christ’s name; and this is to pray in faith.
  3. It is to fix our faith in prayer on God’s faithfulness, believing that he hears and will help. This is taking hold of God. Isa 64:7. By prayer we draw nigh to God, by faith we take hold of him. ‘They cried unto the Lord;’ and this was the crying of faith. 2 Chron 13:14. They ‘prevailed, because they relied upon the Lord God of their fathers;’ ver 18. Making supplication to God, and staying the soul on God, is praying in faith. To pray, and not rely on God to grant our petitions, irrisio Dei est, says Pelican; ‘it is to abuse and put a scorn on God.’ By praying we seem to honor God; by not believing we affront him. In prayer we say, ‘Almighty, merciful Father;’ by not believing, we blot out all his titles again.

–Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer

This can be a difficult subject. Some Scripture:

Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4 NIV

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
James 4:3

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
1 John 5:14

Extra credit (verse in question is emphasized):

Bring the boy to me.” So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” 23“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” 24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Mark 9:19-24

23. Jesus gently reproves the man’s lack of faith. If you can might be better paraphrased, ‘That “if you” of yours’ (where Jesus would be quoting the man’s own words): ‘Why, everything can be done for one who believes.’ This is a statement of the great biblical principle enunciated in Mark 10:27 and Mark 11:24. But we are not called to ‘put God to the test’ by irresponsible ‘believing prayer’ for what may well be our human desire but not be his will. We are free to ask what we will, but only if it is what God wills (Mark 14:36). This is no mere theological quibble: it is a statement in another form of the need for the ‘mind of Christ’ [1 Cor. 2:16] in us, given by the Spirit. It is also a warning against taking one statement of Scripture in isolation from others, and basing presumptuous prayer on it.

–Alan Cole, Mark, TNTC

The Lord's Prayer

Benefits of Reading Old Books

I’ve been finding that the best books on suffering are books that are about Jesus, or the cross, or God’s character, or general theology. Many modern books on suffering are either about ‘secrets’ to overcoming it, or the better books need to convince us that suffering shouldn’t be a surprise, or that it’s not outside of God’s will.

The older books on theology mention a lot about affliction both because they lived in it, and because it’s mentioned so much in Scripture.

If we only look to the Bible for verses about our own inner needs and psychological comfort, or for physical needs and material things we think we need, we may be missing the broader teachings that will ultimately transform us instead of just inform us.

The problem with reading only contemporary work is that we all sound so contemporary that our talks and sermons soon descend to the level of kitsch. We talk fluently about the importance of self-identity, ecological responsibility, tolerance, becoming a follower of Jesus (but rarely becoming a Christian), how the Bible helps us in our pain and suffering, and conduct seminars on money management and divorce recovery. Not for a moment would I suggest that the Bible fails to address such topics—but the Bible is not primarily about such topics. If we integrate more reading of, say, John Chrysostom, John Calvin, and John Flavel (to pick on three Johns), we might be inclined to devote more attention in our addresses to what it means to be made in the image of God, to the dreadfulness of sin, to the nature of the gospel, to the blessed Trinity, to truth, to discipleship, to the Bible’s insistence that Christians will suffer, to learning how to die well, to the prospect of the new heaven and the new earth, to the glories of the new covenant, to the sheer beauty of Jesus Christ, to confidence in a God who is both sovereign and good, to the non-negotiability of repentance and faith, to the importance of endurance and perseverance, to the beauty of holiness and the importance of the local church. Is the Bible truly authoritative in our lives and ministries when we skirt these and other truly important themes that other generations of Christians rightly found in the Bible?

–D.A. Carson, Too Little Reading, Especially the Reading of Older Commentaries and Theological Works in a Themelios article: Subtle Ways to Abandon the Authority of Scripture in Our Lives

Themelios

Embarrassment About Bible Subjects

D.A. Carson writes about Heart Embarrassment before the Text within his article on Subtle Ways to Abandon the Authority of Scripture in Our Lives in Themelios. He’s writing about preachers, but the scary thing to me is that I could see myself as explaining some things in this way.

Not infrequently preachers avoid certain topics, in part because those topics embarrass them.

In its ugliest form, the preacher says something like this: “Our passage this morning, Luke 16:19–31, like quite a number of other passages drawn from the life of Jesus, depicts hell in some pretty shocking ways. Frankly, I wish I could avoid these passages. They leave me distinctly uncomfortable. But of course, I cannot ignore them entirely, for after all they are right here in the Bible.” The preacher has formally submitted to Scripture’s authority, while presenting himself as someone who is more compassionate or more sensitive than Jesus. This is as deceptive as it is wicked—and it is easy to multiply examples.

Contrast the apostle Paul: “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor 4:1–2).

After reading this, I hope I don’t.

The rest of the article is excellent, including a section on Too Little Reading, Especially the Reading of Older Commentaries and Theological Works. It’s hard to imagine anything by him as anything less.

Themelios

Luther and Spurgeon on Books

After using Professor Horner’s Bible Reading System for a year and a half, while also having a dry spell for reading books at the same time, I’ve realized the importance of Scripture and have been less into reading books. I’m praying that my ambition for outside reading will return, but God has been using this period in my life to show me some things.

Scripture is what changes us and shows us who God is. Some of us really love our books, but I have to be sure to keep the right priorities. I hate to admit that it wasn’t until last year that I was able to spend much more time with the Bible than with books.

“In time,” Luther opined, “my books will lie forgotten in the dust.” This was no lament on the Reformer’s part. In fact, Luther found much “consolation” in the possibility — or rather likelihood — that his literary efforts would soon fade into oblivion. The dim view he apparently took of his own writings was intimately related to the high view he took of Sacred Scripture. Indeed, his high view of Scripture resulted in a rather dim view of all other writings, not just his own. “Through this practice [namely, writing and collecting books],” he wrote, “not only is precious time lost which could be used for studying the Scripture, but in the end the pure knowledge of the divine Word is also lost, so that the Bible lies forgotten in the dust under the bench.” Making the same point in more colorful terms, Luther complained of the “countless mass of books” written over time which, “like a crawling swarm of vermin,” had served to supplant the place which should belong to “the Bible” in the life of the Church and her people. In sum, Luther judged that folk would be better off reading and hearing the Bible than reading and hearing anything which he or anyone else had written, and the last thing he wanted to be found guilty of was producing words which distracted anyone from the Word.

–Aaron Denlinger, Reformation 21 blog

All other books might be heaped together in one pile and burned with less loss to the world than would be occasioned by the obliteration of a single page of the sacred volume [Scripture]. At their best, all other books are but as gold leaf, requiring acres to find one ounce of the precious metal. But the Bible is solid gold. It contains blocks of gold, mines, and whole caverns of priceless treasure. In the mental wealth of the wisest men there are no jewels like the truths of revelation. The thoughts of men are vanity, low, and groveling at their best. but he who has given us this book has said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Let it be to you and to me a settled matter that the word of the Lord shall be honored in our minds and enshrined in our hearts. Let others speak as they may. We could sooner part with all that is sublime and beautiful, or cheering and profitable, in human literature than lose a single syllable from the mouth of God.

–C.H. Spurgeon, from the sermon “Holy Longings,” as quoted in Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke, pp. 27-28

Photo of a Bible