“For the Sake of My Name”: Why God’s Pursuit of ‘His’ Glory Secures Our Good

gloryUnderstanding the glory of God and God’s purposes in salvation history can be hard. First, the God’s singular pursuit of his glory is hard to accept because it crushes our innate man-centeredness. Second, the glory of God is hard to understand because it requires a wide-ranging biblical theology to see how God pursues his glory in salvation and judgment.

And yet, because glory stands at the center of God’s character (Isa 48:9-11), his creation (Ps 19:1), his purposes for humanity (Isa 43:6-7), and his plan of redemption (Eph 1:6, 12, 14), it is vital to see how God’s glory relates to salvation.  Indeed, it is necessary to relate God’s glory and humanity’s redemption, because Scripture repeatedly speaks of his glory as the ultimate reason why he suspended his judgment on Israel, sent his Son for the world, and poured out his Spirit on the church.

To see how God’s glory relates to God’s loving act of redemption, let me draw your attention to a theme that runs throughout the Psalms and Prophets. It is the repeated refrain that God saves, forgives, and guides his people for the sake of his name. 

Instead of commenting on what that means in each instance, let me simply list a number of verses and draw a couple implications at the end. Continue reading

The Gospel Perfectly and Proportionately Humbles and Exalts

Why is the Gospel of Jesus Christ so vital to the restoration of mankind?

Simply put, there is no other message or medium, person or power that is able to elevate a man without making him an arrogant ogre. The gospel humbles a man to dust, and raises him to glory. Through its life-giving message of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, sinners are forgiven and given the very life of God.

This balanced work of the gospel was observed centuries ago by Blaise Pascal (1623-62).  In his Pensées (208)he observes.

Without this divine knowledge, how could we help feeling either exalted or dejected? The Christian religion alone has been able to cure these twin vices, not by using the one to expel the other according to worldly wisdom, but by expelling both through the simplicity of the Gospel. For it teaches the righteous that they still bear the source of all corruption which exposes them throughout their lives to error, misery, death, and sin; and [yet] it cries out to the most ungodly that they are capable of the grace of the Redeemer. Thus, making those whom it justifies to tremble, yet consoling those whom it condemns, it so nicely tempers fear with hope through this dual capacity…. Grace and sin! It causes infinitely more dejection than mere reason—but without despair, and infinitely more exaltation than natural pride—but without puffing us up! (cited by Tim Keller in his foreword to J. D. Greear’s book Gospel).

Pascal was followed by Charles Hodge (1797-1878), who said of the finer points of the gospel, “the doctrines of grace humble man without degrading him and exalt him without inflating him.” Indeed, this is the reason why Christians must never leave the gospel behind; it simultaneously humbles and exalts.

The gospel restores men wrecked by the Fall to reflect the glorious image of God, but it also forces them to confront the ugliness of their sin and the immensity of God’s holiness. The result? Men are most glorious when they fall face down before the King of Glory. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can effect that.

May we endlessly delight ourselves in the perfect, proportionate gospel of Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

The Glory of God In The Heavens

At Christmas time, God’s glory is seen in the babe born in the manger, but in truth, the glory of God reflects in all creation.  Psalm 104 describes this glory, and the first place to see God’s great glory is in the heavens.  Consider three ways that God’s glory is seen in the canopy that covers the earth. 

The light of the heavens.  In verses 1-2, the Psalmist describes the splendor of God which is reflected in the skies everyday.  Oh sure, entering December, we are about to embark on three or four gray months in Indiana.  But remember that while we suffer the effects of the Fall  and endure winter, there are others in the Southern Hemisphere who are enjoying spring showers and summer rainbows, orange sunsets and pink sunrises.  The earth below has various forms of artistic splendor; some places are more beautiful than others.  But above it all are the violet curtains of God’s cosmic temple, bespeckled with jewels in the night, and a blazing ball of fire in the day.

In the skies, God has put clouds, winds, and fires.  Verses 3b-4 describe this.  God has created a world that tells of his glory, power, and presence (cf. Ps 19:1; Rom 1:20).  In the original context, these atmospheric phenomenon function as messengers of this reality.  However, Hebrews 1 the author interprets “messengers” as angels and winds of fire, more than simply creation itself.  How can this be?

I think this is legitimate move because “messengers” and “angels” are the same word in Hebrew.  In the context of the Psalter, Psalm 104 should be seen in loose connection with Psalm 103, which concludes with three verses commanding the angels, messengers, to bless the Lord. Still, in its most immediate context, it is most appropriate to see the creation itself as a messenger of God.  As Psalm 19 Willem VanGemeren puts it,

The Lord is surrounded by his servants, whether they be created like the angels or be powers inherent in his created order (winds, lightning).  The Creator-King is, as it were, driving his chariot, symbolic of his governance of his creation.  All his created works reveal the splendor and wisdom of the Creator, because he remains constantly involved with his handiwork (“Psalms” in The Expositors Biblical Commentary, vol. 5, 659).

Now in response, someone might ask: What do the clouds, winds, and flames of fire (lightning) say to us?  Think about it: Have you ever been caught in a thunderstorm?  Or brave (or stupid) enoughto stand outside when the tornado sirens are going off?  God’s whirlwind teaches us of his awesome power and righteous judgment.  He “makes the clouds his chariot; he rides the wings of the wind!”    The power of the heavens remind us that the power of God is nearby, and more than that, interpreted by God’s word, we come to realize that all that takes place in creation is for God’s express purpose.  Just listen to Job 37:9-13

From its chamber [i.e. the heavens] comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds. By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. He loads the thick cloud w/ moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance,  to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen.

 God’s creation is never random, arbitrary, or out of God’s control.

Sun and Moon.  Finally, verse 19 tells of the sun and moon which are placed in the heavens.  Developing Day 4 of Genesis 1, the Psalmist speaks of how God formed two satellites in our solar system to govern the day and the night. Together, these two great spheres power the world, move seas, mark time, and set the schedule of our daily lives.  Even more, God’s word tells us that the consistency with which we regard the sun and moon is a confirmatory sign that God’s redemptive promises will stand.  We close with Jeremiah 31:35-36, which forecasts the New Covenant, a covenant that has been established by the work of Christ, and a covenant whose certainty is as unfailing as the sun and the moon.

Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar– the LORD of hosts is his name: “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.”

May we look into the heavens today and remember the love and mercy of our Creator and the work he has done to reconcile us to himself!

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Seeing the Glory of God in Creation: Genesis 1 and Psalm 104

Psalm 104 is an elongated meditation on God’s creative glory. It is a hymn of praise, that seems to be intentionally paired with Psalm 103.  Both begin the same way: “Bless the Lord, oh my soul!”  They are both hymns of praise: Psalm 103 is praise for God the Savior-King; Psalm 104 praise for God the Creator-King.  And both make explicit use of God’s history with Israel, especially as it is recorded by Moses.  Psalm 103 quotes Exodus 34:6-7 as it recounts the glory of God in redemption; and Psalm 104, as we will see, structures its entire praise chorus based on the creation account of Genesis 1.  It is this creative glory that we will consider today and this week.

Genesis 1 

In Genesis 1, Moses recounts the creation of the world.  Using a literary structure that highlights the creative wisdom and beauty of God, Moses gives a poetic description of creation, that is historical and accurate, even though it does not measure up to the scientific standards of our day.  (For a discussion on the genre and the intention of Genesis 1, see G.K. Beale, The Erosion of Inerrancy).

Moses describes how God in six days created the world ex nihilo. While not giving us exact information about all that was happened in creation; the testimony of Scripture is clear.  God alone is the maker of heaven and earth.  In the New Testament, Hebrews 11:3 describes creation like this, “”By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”  Likewise, Colossians says of Jesus the Divine Word, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible… all things were created through him and for him” (1:16).

Thus, in the first three days God forms the world—YHWH created light and darkness (Day 1), he separated the waters above from the waters below (Day 2), and he divided the land and the sea (Day 3).  Then he fills it.  On Day 4, the son and the moon as placed in the sky to govern, respectively, the day and the night.  On Day 5, the sea and sky are filled with sea creatures and birds.  And finally,  on the pinnacle of creation, Day 6, land animals and men and women, made in God’s image, are created.

Psalm 104

In Psalm 104, the same emphasis on God’s creativity can be found.  But even more striking is the way that the Psalmist (David?) follows the six-days of creation to worship the king of glory.  In opposition to those who see Genesis 1 as a myth borrowed from another ancient Near Eastern culture, this Psalm seems to affirm the veracity of the event.  Or at least, it gives praise to God for his creation, without questioning in the slightest the truthfulness of Genesis 1.

But more than an apologetic confirmation, Psalm 104 is a hymn of praise, and it wonderfully recounts the six days of creation.

Day 1. Verses 1-2 describe the formation of light. Majestic is the description: Like the priest who robes himself with beauty and glory (Exod 28:2), God clothes himself with splendor and majesty.  The language is figurative, but I believe it is meant to awaken us to the reality that the beauty of the heavens tells us something about God.  His heavens declare his glory; the skies above proclaim his handiwork.  He cannot be seen by men, but in the kaleidoscope of light that resides in the sky, we are introduced to the kind of glorious light in which he dwells.

Day 2. Verses 2-4 depict the separation of the upper chambers from the lower chambers. Just like a cosmic temple, God has created heaven and earth to dwell with his image bearers.  The colors, patterns, shapes, and images in the tabernacle were meant to reproduce much of what is seen in nature.  They are not incidental.  The macrocosm of the universe is related to the microcosm of the tabernacle/temple/Christ/church.  What takes place in the microcosm has effects for the macrocosm.  For instance, when Christ (the tabernacle of God) was crucified, the heavens (the cosmic dwelling place of God) grew dark.  Likewise, the promise of universal restoration will not happen apart from the revelation of the sons of God (Rom 8).  There is much to ponder in this reality, that God dwells with us in his creation, but is not in anyway dependent on his creation. (Again, G.K. Beale is helpful, see his The Temple and the Church’s Mission).

Day 3.  In Genesis, this day included both the division of land and sea, and the planting of vegetation.  Psalm 104 develops both of these things in verses 5-18,; plus, it shows how their creation supports men and animals which come later in the Genesis narrative.  Verses 5-9 tell of the way God commanded the waters to flee, how he made dry land.  They recount the first act of the third day. Verses 10-13 are a bridge between the sections.  They explain how God split the earth with rivers, but how these formations function to serve the animals that are coming. Verses 14-18 is the second act of Day 3.  Here the land is sown with vegetation for man and beast. The world is a cornucopia of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, spices, herbs.

Day 4. Verses 19-23 describes the way God put the sun and moon in place to give order to our seasons and the days.  Just as man is positioned to govern the animals (cf Psalm 8), so the sun and moon govern the day and night, respectively.  Like the horn blast from our local factory, which tells all the inhabits of Seymour that it is 7am; 930am; or noon… the sun and moon are messengers to us.  When the sun arises: It is time to work. Verse 23, “Man goes out to his work… until evening.”  Even more, in Psalm 89:37, Ethan speaks of the moon as a perpetual witness to God’s covenant with David.  In other words, just like the moon which testifies to God’s unchanging reign over the universes; the throne of David will stand until the moon is no more (Ps 72:7).

Day 5. Embedded in verses 17, 24 are the description of the birds and sea creatures formed on Day 5.  With freedom and beauty, God has designed birds to glide on the wind, and for humpback whales to “play” in the deep.  Who says God is prudish!  His world is filled with wonder, mystery, beauty, energy, and productivity.  He waters to earth and satisfies its inhabitants.  If a sparrow does not die apart from his will; than neither will one of his own image-bearers perish apart from his will and decree.

Day 6 is the capstone and it is described throughout verses 14-24.  In verse 14, the land animals are supplied with food; man is likewise given ground to cultivate.  Verse 15 anticipates the gladness that comes from God’s creation given to man—oil for his face, bread for his stomach, wine for his for his heart.  Verse 23 gives us instruction for man’s relationship with the world—we are to work it, mine it, grow it, organize, develop it. Verse 24 is the culminating feature of all God’s creation!  Why has God made anything?  It is to display his manifold wisdom, power, benevolence, and perfection.  The king of all the earth has filled his planet with boundless life.  Each aspect tells us something about him.

Therefore, we ought to study the creation in order to better know and love our Maker and Savior, Jesus Christ.  God has made the world good, and even under the curse of sin, its beneficence is evident.  So good is it still, that people worship the creation instead of the Creator.  Yet, we are better to follow the words of Psalm 104, to bless the Lord for all that he has given to us in creation.  For indeed, “all things were created through him and for him.”

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

The Creator and His Creation: For Which Do We Give Thanks?

Tomorrow, most of the country (USA) will sit down to enjoy turkey, dressing, and a bevy of other tasty plates.  While consumerism, multiple helpings, and televised football encroach on the meaning of the day, for intentional Christians, Thanksgiving really can be a wonderful time of year to contemplate God’s goodness, his faithfulness, and his provision.  Yet, even here, there is the temptation to dwell more on the creation given, than the Creator himself.

Here is what I mean.  For so many of us, thanksgiving can devolve into holy shout-outs for traveling mercies, physical protection, or some kind of vocational or relational blessing this year.  Don’t get me wrong, these things are all worthy of giving thanks!  However, what makes those praises any different than a conservative Mormon family, or the Islamic single who gives praise to Allah for passing grad school, or the sober agnostic who gives indescriminate thanks for three clean years?

I think at Thanksgiving it is possible to focus so much on God’s creational blessings, things we gladly share with the world, that we forget the greater blessings of knowing God.  Or to say it another way, we muffle praise for the Creator by filling our mouths and our plates with praise for the creation.  This is where the Bible comes to lovingly lifts our eyes to behold a greater vision of God, one that will give us reasons for thanksgiving that outstrip anything we might share with the Mormon or Muslim.

Exodus 33:18: A Glimpse of Glory

When Moses prayed to see God’s glory in Exodus 33:18, God responded that he would show him his goodness and his name.  Yesterday, we considered the goodness of God.  Today, we will meditate on the latter, the name of God, to see how the name of God has the potential to elicit more genuine praise and thanksgiving than turkey, dressing, and a new career ever could.

Parachuting into the text, lets notice the name of God as revealed to Moses.  Moses records in Exodus 34:5-9,

The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

Now lets unpack this glorious word with consideration to four aspects of God’s name.

God’s Name is Gracious

While he is unswerving in his demands, he is gracious in his approach to Israel.  This is true in the fact that Israel is still alive, but also in answering Moses’ prayer and descending on the mountaintop to proclaim his name.  And his name, not coincidentally, is the definition of grace.  In fact, expounding on the name he revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14, YHWH says in Exodus 34, when he passed by,  “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”   The reiteration of his proper name, stresses the continuity of his personhood and the weight of glory, but more descriptive in this apposition is the fact that the four-fold description beams of grace and love.  While God could have rightfully pronounced his name as judicial and holy, deliberate in condemnation and abounding in wrath; YHWH stresses his mercy and love.

God’s Name is Wise

This method of redeeming grace is wiser than any human religion. God’s wisdom is seen in his patience.  His name describes him as one who is “slow to anger,” which means that he is not out of control or overtaken by passion.  Yet, at the right moment, he is capable of great wrath. Wisdom knows when to be gracious, when to be just.

It has been noted by R.C. Sproul and others that God is not infinite in patience.  He is slow to anger and quick to forgive, but he is not infinite in his forebearance.  Yet, unlike short-sighted humanity, he is not confused by when to move from grace to judgment.  Moreover, as Romans 2:4 will say later, his seasons and instances of kindness and slowness to anger are motivations to repent and believe.  In this way, God manifests his inimitable wisdom. 

God’s Name is Loving and Just  

This wisdom is balanced in verse 7. He is a God of love—covenantal love.  The emphasis of this passage is on that reality.  Like a perfect husband, he is loyal to his bride.  Like a father, he loves his own—not based on condition or performance of his people; rather, his love overflows from his own delight in rescuing a people for his own possession.  Thus the love he has for us is depends solely on his choice to love us, not in our choice to love him.

At the same time, he is a God of perfect justice.  In the same place where he describes his overwhelming love, he says, “who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.” Unlike fickle judges and hung juries, God will perfectly execute judgment on the guilty and comfort for the afflicted (cf. 2 Thess 1:6-10). 

God’s Name is Glorious 

In all these ways, YHWH proves himself to be the infinitely glorious God.  He is worthy of eternal worship because of these manifold perfections.  In Exodus 34:8-9, Moses models a heart that is overwhelmed with this glory.  While he has not “seen” the glory of God’s face, he has heard his name and has been overwhelmed.  Even as he sought to look at the glory of God, verse 8 records, that he stopped looking at God’s glory to worship with head down. Moses lowers his head and repents for his own request.  In God’s presence he is overwhelmed by God’s glory.

Such a feeling should accompany the Christian’s experience.  It is not constant and it is not often, but it is real and unmistakable.  In my own life, I can think of no less than two times when I was struck by such a sense of God’s glory and it is a pride-crushing, self-forgetting experience of his manifold beauty and grace for allowing you to even know Him.  Such an experience confirms existentially what we know expositionally.  God is glorious, and thus the only appropriate way to respond is life-long, indeed eternal, worship!

Give Thanks to the Creator, not Just For His Creation

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, may we not only thank God for the good things he has given us in creation, though by all means we should do that.  Do not merely offer great praise for the benefits of the gospel that secures our redemption,  though you should meditate long on those priceless realities.  But above all, and perhaps in contradistinction from every other Thanksgiving, offer thanksgiving to God for who he is and how he has made himself known to you!  Such praise is based on the greatest motivation to praise–God’s glory.  Moreover, it offers you reason to give thanks even when life has been hard this year and every fiber of your being feels like pouting or screaming.  When we behold the eternally glorious God, whose works are breath-taking and whose name is beautiful, we have endless reasons to give thanks–in empty times and full times.  This is the blessedness of contentment, but even more it is a kind of thanksgiving that can only be offered by a born-again believer.  May we offer such glorious praise to Christ his thanksgiving, and may all who know us, know that God is gracious and compassionate, loving and just, worthy of all their praise!

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

The Biblical Authors as Biblical Theologians

This morning I began reading Jim Hamilton’s new book, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment, where he begins with an apologetic for biblical theology.  In his first chapter, he makes an obvious but often overlooked point: the biblical authors inspired of God were involved in the task of biblical theology.  He writes,

[B]iblical theology is as old as Moses.  That is, Moses presented a biblical-theological interpretation of the traditions he received regarding Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, and his own experience with his brothers.  Joshua then presented a biblical-theological interpretation of Israel’s history (Joshua 24), and the same can be said of the rest of the authors of the Prophets and the Writings, the Gospels and Acts, the Epistles and the Apocalypse.  The biblical authors used biblical theology to interpret the Scriptures available to them and the events they experienced.  For the believing community, the goal of biblical theology is simply to learn this practice of interpretation from the biblical authors so that we can interpret the Bible and life in this world the way they did (41-42).

Scripture not only provides for us the record of God’s work in redemptive history, it also provides an inspired interpretation of that work.  In the Scriptures themselves, God has provided a ruled reading of redemptive history, and provides for us today a model of how we should read the Scriptures. While some might reject the notion that we can/should interpret the Bible like the apostles (cf. Richard Longenecker), Hamilton’s point is well-taken.  Biblical theology is as old as Moses, and thus God’s people have always sought interpret their experience according to the pattern(s) of redemption that have preceded them.  While we do not write down inspired Scripture today, we nonetheless can see how the Bible informs our place in redemptive history, and we proclaim to the nations how they too can be engrafted into Israel’s vine, now fulfilled in Jesus.

I look forward to reading more.  I hope to jot down thoughts and quotes along the way.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

A Display of Glory: The Wizard of Westwood, The Wisdom of God, and The Witness of Your Church

On June 4 of this year, coaching legend John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood died at the age of 99. He holds the unique place in college basketball history as the only coach to win 10 National Titles–including 7 in a row– and 4 undefeated seasons. At one point, his UCLA Bruins won 88 games straight.  He is hailed as college basketball’s greatest coach. No one has accomplished on the hardwood what John Wooden did.

But here is what is interesting: All of his exploits were accomplished by other people. As a coach, he never once, stepped on the floor, picked up the ball, or checked into the game. As a coach, he never had a triple-double, made a game-winning shot, or came through with a clutch free throw (though he could have: in his playing days, he once made 134 in a row). As a coach, he called the plays and led his team, but his authority was from the sidelines. So, his achievements, indeed his glory, was accomplished by and through others.

So it is in the church. God’s glory is not seen directly. We do not come to church to see God descend in a cloud or pillar of fire. We do not look for a mystical vision to experience God, nor do we anticipate a voice from heaven splitting the sky. That is not how God reveals himself in our age. Rather, when we speak of seeing God’s glory, Scripture calls us to see it in the life and ministry of the church.

This was Paul’s point in Ephesians 3:8-10. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul gives us some amazing insight into God’s intention for the church. And the first thing he says about the church is that it exists to display the grace and the wisdom of God.

In Ephesians 3:8, Paul says that grace was given to him as an apostle, so that he would preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. In this singular statement, you can see three keys elements of biblical theology–grace, the gospel, and glory.  Grace to proclaim God’s message, the message of the gospel, the gospel of God’s glorious riches in Christ. Paul continues and says that the reason why he was to preach the gospel of Christ was “to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.”

Here Paul uses a term that he uses only in a couple places. The term is “Mystery” and it means something that was once hidden but now is revealed. It is not something mysterious or unknowable. The word should not be associated with a Whodunit novel or the “mystery meat” at your school cafeteria. Rather, it has to do with God’s plan of redemption which has finally been revealed in Christ and the church.

Ephesians 3:10 says, “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places.” In other words, God’s purpose for the church is to broadcast his grace, wisdom, and power into the world. And not only to the world but to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places. In other words, angels subscribe to TBN, or at least the church channel. As 1 Peter 1:12 tells us, “angels long to look into these things.” They are watching what Christ is doing in his Church, and they are learning about God’s glory.  Because remember: Angels cover their faces in the presence of God (cf Isaiah 6:1-8). In their sinless perfection, they cannot stand to behold his glory; it is too great. And for the those fallen angels, their appreciation is even less acute.  So “rulers and authorities” watch in amazement the church, some in awe, others in honor, but all watch to see the unfolding mystery of God’s wisdom in the church, a wisdom that reflects the glory and grace of God.

Therefore, as Christ’s church, we are called to live life as though we are in the display window of Christ’s department store. How we live will determine whether or not the world and our children want anything to do with Christ or not. This is no small matter!  How we constitute, assemble, and participate in our churches is not a peripheral item on God’s agenda.

God intends for us to display his glory and wisdom in our local assemblies, so we ought to do all we can, in the power of the Spirit, to be High-Definition, 3-D Wide Screens of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and not a Black & White TV’s, with Rabbit Ears, and bad reception. Because the problem is not in the message of the gospel (cf Rom 1:16), but it may be how we receive it and display it on a weekly basis.

Here is the bottom line, if we are going to reach the lost, it means living more radical lives for Christ. And radical doesn’t mean bigger, cooler, and more events, programs, or activities. It doesn’t mean changing formats or improving advertising. It means picking up our cross daily and following after Christ– loving one another, doing life together, and carrying the message of the salvation to everyone we meet, losing our lives so that others might gain life in Christ.

If we do that, we will display the wisdom of God as all of our daily activities testify to the gospel of Christ and give off the pleasing aroma of his grace.

May God be pleased to purify his bride in our generation, as we seek to display his grace and wisdom to a watching world!

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Pascal on the Glory and the Garbage of the Universe

Graham Cole quotes Blaise Pascal in his chapter, “The Glory and Garbage of the Universe” (God the Peacemaker).  With arresting language, Pascal bemoans of our condition:

What sort of freak then is man!  How novel, how monstruous, how chaotic, how paradoxical, how prodigious!  Judge of all things, feeble earth-worm, repository of truth, sink of doubt and error, glory and refuse of the universe… 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!  (Quoted in from Pascal’s Pensees in God the Peacemaker: How Atonement Brings Shalom [Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009], 53).

So too, the ‘true religious’ preacher must preach on the wages of sin that lead to death and deform our lives, and the glorious possibilities of life found in Christ, led by his re-creative Spirit.  May we consider Pascals words and grow downward in humility and upward in adoration of the God who made us and makes us anew in Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Piper at ETS: Stealing God’s Glory, Steals the Joy of Others

For nearly three decades, John Piper has preached a message of God-centered exultation (and exaltation).  He has traveled the country proclaiming that God’s greatest interest is…God.  And if you have read him, you know of his passion for expository exaltation of this singular truth–white-hot worship of the all-glorious God.

Most recently, Piper took his message to a much more challenging audience–the ETS meeting at Providence, Rhode Island.  He presented a brief 7-point presentation, which synthesized his fundamental argument that “God is not a meglomaniac when he demands worship.”  Expansions of this argument can be found in his books Desiring God, The Pleasures of God, and Let the Nations Be Glad.  I am immensely grateful for these books and their vision of God.  One quote stuck out today as I read this theocentric mandates was this:

This [God’s Godwardness] is not megalomania because, unlike our self-exaltation, God’s self-exaltation draws attention to what gives greatest and longest joy, namely, himself. When we exalt ourselves, we lure people away from the one thing that can satisfy their souls—the infinite beauty of God. When God exalts himself, he manifests the one thing that can satisfy our souls, namely, God.

What stood out was this sentence: “When we exalt ourselves, we lure people away from the one thing that can satisfy their souls—the infinite beauty of God.”  What a convicting thought in our idol-making, idol-aspiring age: to draw people to ourselves is to steal their joy and lead them to a fallen image, namely ourselves, instead of the true Image of God, Jesus Christ.   Too often our hearts long to make much of ourselves, too often we see Christian leaders promoting themselves in ways that draw followers after themselves; yet this kind of idol-making steals glory from God and joy!  I was convicted by this brief article today and am thankful for its Godwardness.

May we search our hearts for idol-aspiring tendencies and cry out with John the Baptist (and Piper), “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

(HT: DG)