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Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

“Through the law,” he says, “comes knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). He shows here how much and how far the law helps. In other words, he shows that ‘free will’ by itself is so blind that it is not even aware of sin, but has need of the law to teach it. But what effort to get rid of sin will anyone make who is ignorant of sin? Obviously, he will regard what is sin as no sin, and what is no sin as sin. Experience shows this plainly enough by the way in which the world, through those it regards as the best and most devoted to righteousness and godliness, hates and persecutes the righteousness of God proclaimed by the gospel, calling it heresy, error, and other abusive names, while advertising its own works and ways, which in truth are sin and error, as righteousness and wisdom. With this text, therefore, Paul stops the mouth of ‘free will’ when he teaches that through the law sin is revealed to it as to one ignorant of his sin. That is how far he is from conceding to it any power of striving after the good. [Luther, The Bondage of the Will]

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Can’t resist one more quote from Piper’s Christmas devotional, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy – discussing Hebrew 8:4-10:

First… Jesus fulfils and replaces the shadows of the Old Testament.
Second… God makes the reality of Christ real to us personally by the work of the new covenant when he writes his truth on our hearts. God moves powerfully into our hearts and minds to overcome our resistance to the beauty of his reality. He writes his will—the truth of the reality of Jesus—on our hearts, so that we see him for who he really is and are willing and eager to trust him and follow him—freely, from the inside out, not slavishly under constraint from outside.
That would be the greatest salvation imaginable—if God should offer us the greatest reality in the universe to enjoy and then move in us to see to it that we could enjoy it with the greatest freedom and the greatest pleasure possible… And that is exactly what he has done.
(Dawning, p. 67-68)

God does not send Christ into the world to die for sins and leave his salvation plan there. He goes the whole way, sending his Spirit right into our hearts and grabbing us and uniting us to the Son. God does not create a possibility of salvation or a system of salvation, he actually saves. This is one of those things where once you see it you start seeing it all over the Scriptures:

  • Acts 3:17-26 – from the suffering of Christ, foretold by the prophets, through to God grabbing us by our shoulders and turning us around;
  • Ephesians 1:1-2:10 – the Father choosing us before time, Christ bleeding for us at the Cross, God raising us from the dead and opening our eyes;
  • Titus 2:14 – cross and sanctification, Christ dies for a people to grab a people who he will make zealous;
  • Titus 3:1-7 – Christ and Spirit, justification and regeneration, the appearance of the Saviour and our personal salvation & transformation – wonderfully tied together;
  • 1 Peter 1:1-9 – from before eternity to last time, Father, Son, Spirit, death, resurrection, new birth, inexpressible joy.

He saves us
all the way
to the utmost.

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We’re all aware of the challenge of the prosperity gospel in our context but perhaps there is another, more subtle threat on the horizon. Here are the notes and Powerpoint from a seminar/workshop I did at the Renew Conference at Brackenhurst yesterday (incorporating some feedback and contributions from the discussion):

More feedback welcome…

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After Church I came home and turned on the TV to listen to a sermon by one famous Kenyan preacher.

It begun with the famous “This is my Bible… I am what it says I am…”

The Topic is ‘Power of God’s Word

The text is Luke 1:26 – 39, with a particular emphasis on v37 during the reading ‘For nothing will be impossible with God.

Intro:

“The word of God is powerful.”

“God confronts every disorder in your life with an order from his mouth.”

“The word of God talks about prosperity. Though you who is watching may not like that word but it’s what the word of God says.” He then goes ahead to quote a number of passages that ‘supports’ what he’s saying:

  1. Psalm 35:27b- “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.”
  2. Psalm 37:25- “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”
  3. 2 Cor. 9:8 (though he said 1 Cor.)- “And God is able to make all grace abound in you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
  4. 4:19- “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
  5. 3 John 2- “Beloved, I pray above all things that you may prosper and be in good health, even as your soul prospers.

[Context, Context, Context… was totally ignored here.]

“You see poverty is not a sign of humility. There are many poor people who are very proud.” [I totally agree with this]

The plan of God is for you to live a good life. Christ took the curse when he died on the cross, for it’s written ‘cursed is he who earns on a tree.’ Christ took that curse so that you may be blessed. There’s no one who is cursed here. All of you are blessed.”

“He says you shall be the head not the tail.”

“God’s word is powerful, whatever he says happens. I am wearing a black jacket but when God looks at it and says yellow, that’s it… it’s yellow… it changes. It’s yellow in God’s eyes… are you with me?” [Ok, I wasn’t with him at this point, I was still struggling with this black-yellow-jacket-thingy]

It’s the word of God that matters. It’s not what I say, don’t listen to my every word… have the word of God.” [I got lost a bit here… should I listen to you or not??]

40 Minutes Later:

“Let me now go to the text quickly”

“God sent his angel to Mary. I can’t preach unless am sent. How can they hear unless someone is sent? Just as the angel was sent to Mary, I am sent to you. I can’t preach unless I am sent.” [Mmmmh!]

“The word says that 1000 shall fall on your side, 10000 on your right hand but it shall not come near you. Power of the Word- even AIDS shall not come near you.”

“He is able to heal AIDS, even cancer. ‘He sent his word & healed your disease.’ This what you need to hear.” [Wololo!!!!]

“Just as he sent his angel to Mary, he’s sent me (as his angel) to you. He’s sent me to tell you that there’s no sickness/condition that has plagued you that God can’t reverse.”

“He’s sent me to tell you that there’s no sickness that he can’t heal. He sent his word & it healed their condition.”

“He’s sent me to tell you that he’s going to turn your situation around.”

“He’s sent me to tell you that the wealth of the wicked is going to be released into your hand.” [I am so nervous here… I don’t want that ‘wealth of the wicked’]

“The angel said to Mary ‘’you are favoured among women.’ It can be anyone but it is you. Just as the Lord sent the angel to Mary, he’s sent me to prophesy favour to you.”

“Favour isn’t deserved. Favour isn’t earned, you don’t qualify for it.” [what is it?]

“Favour will give you a cheque written in USD”

“Get ready to build a house in a place you never thought you would.”

“Get ready to drive a car of your dreams.”

“Favour will do it all.”

“You are favoured among women. What you are about to carry in this season shall be great… just like Mary.” [By this time am totally lost]

“Mary then asks ‘How shall it be since I do not know a man?’ I am not connected, I don’t know people! It’s not about who you know, it’s about what God is doing.”

“I decree that what men can’t do, God will do. I prophesy that where there’s disconnection, they shall be connection.

I come as an angel to decree promotions, abundance, overflow… can I get an Amen.” [The congregants were on their feet throughout the whole sermon & he had to tell them to sit down at least twice.]

Joseph is irrelevant in what God is about to do. [This is serious ‘mis-preaching’ if there’s such a word.] The bankers, the oncologists, are all irrelevant. This thing shall not be about who you know.”

 

“In your walk with God, you must come to a time where man disappoints. God will cause men to disappoint… that’s the time when God shall step in. Where men have disappointed you, that shall be God’s appointment.” [where does this come from?]

 

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you. I sense the Holy Ghost walking on your situation. *Rababoboshaka*”

“When the Holy Spirit starts to move, this is the result *calls Fidel- name withheld (one of the pastors) for everyone to see him & witness what the Holy Spirit can do*”

“Tell your neighbour ‘This is not your auntie, your uncle, or the politician, or the person you know. This time it shall be the hand of God.’”

Conclusion:

“I prophesy as I come to an end that you shall carry that miracle- that baby. And Mary said ‘Let it be according to your word.’ I decree according to the word of God that you shall get that tender, that contract that was cancelled shall be yours. I cancel death (you shall not die but live to see the goodness of God in the land of the living). I cancel that cancer, I cancel that cirrhosis… even if you are in the ICU, I declare that you shall live… shout yeah!”

Then in conclusion “If you are watching on TV and you are not saved, say this prayer…” [Oh dear, what exactly is this prayer about? In response to what?]

 

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

What a sermon!!!! Was it:

  • Clear
  • Cutting
  • Christ-Centred
  • Careful
  • Compassionate

You tell me!!!

 

 

 

 

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Really helped by this recently:

Bishop J.C. Ryle wrote in 1879: ‘Cease to regard the gospel as a mere set of abstract propositions… Look at it as the introduction to a glorious personal Friend. This is the kind of gospel that the apostles preached… The leading subject of all their sermons was the loving heart of an actual living Christ!’
And J.I. Packer wrote in Themelios magazine in 1996: ‘The great Puritans were as humble-minded and warm-hearted as they were clear-headed, as fully-orientated to people as they were to Scripture, and as passionate for peace as they were for truth. They would certainly have diagnosed today’s fixated Christian intellectualists as spiritually-stunted, not in their zeal for the form of sound words but in their lack of zeal for anything else’.
As for me, I’m with the Puritan Thomas Goodwin who wrote: ‘I never yet took up party religion in the lump… I have found gospel holiness where you would little think it to be, and so likewise truth. And I have learned this principle, which I hope I shall never lay down till I am swallowed up of immortality, and that is, to acknowledge every truth and every goodness wherever I find it’.
(David Baker, EN, March 2014)

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2014-08-24 16.14.23

Thanking God for a good day yesterday. Here are the notes so far:

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There was a fierce debate in the 16th century about whether or not Jesus was really present in the bread and wine given in Holy Communion. Leaving that to one side, where do we expect Jesus to be specially present today? Where are we confident that we will meet him?

Four suggestions:

1. Real presence in preaching. A few examples: The elders of Israel are to go and say to Pharaoh, “The LORD… has met with us” (Exodus 3:18) – He had actually only met with Moses but as Moses preached the wonderful words of the LORD to the elders (Exodus 3:16-17) in that gospel preaching event they did truly meet with the LORD. In the last chapter of Luke’s Gospel, as Peter Adam shows, we find that we encounter Jesus not so much in the empty tomb or in mystical experience or in the Lord’s Supper but in the Scriptures – and specifically the Scriptures opened and exposed as all about Christ – that is when we experience the best sort of heart burn (Luke 24:32). In Colossians Paul describes his preaching – “Him we proclaim” (Col. 1:24-2:5) and then he continues, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him…” (Col. 2:6). The implication is that it was in Paul’s preaching of Christ they received Christ. Paul’s preaching of Christ was, as Wesley and Whitfield later put it, ‘offering them Christ’ , holding out the bread of life and saying, ‘Have Him’.

2. Real presence in mission and suffering. There is the great mission promise of Matthew 28:20 and there is the less often celebrated Philippians 3:10 – Paul’s desire to share/participate/fellowship/commune in Christ’s sufferings. And often these two come together – suffering in mission. I am always moved by reading the accounts of 19th century missionary John Paton’s suffering on the island of Tanna and especially the way that he records having the sweetest communion with Christ precisely when he was in the deepest trials and greatest danger (read page 7 of Lessons from the life of John Paton). Then I received this in a prayer letter from our friend Newton Gatambia, on mission in the UK (shared with permission):

When our Lord Jesus gives the great commission to his disciples he makes a promise to be with them/us till the end of ages. To some this may sound like a mere saying or even an incentive to motivate the disciples to ensure they take on the great commission; however this to me has been the unbreakable hook where all my hope has continually been firmly pegged, the pillar upon which all my trust has been anchored. Amidst a so fast changing youth and children culture in the West it takes more than passion to serve the Lord among this young people, it takes more than experience, it takes more than one availing themselves for the work. It indeed has wholly drawn from the faith on the promise that the Lord is indeed with me every single hour of this journey. At the time of blossoming joy and smooth sailing it is easy to not realize the existence or the significance of such a promise yet at the point of sorrow and dismay, at the point of fear and doubt there is nothing else left for us but this true assurance that the Lord is with us till the end of ages.

3. Real presence in the Church as court. As many have noted the promise of Matthew 18:19 – “where two or three are gathered in my name…” is in the context of church discipline, evidence, witnesses, judgement. The same thing seems to be going on in 1 Cor. 5 (“gathered in the name” – v4). Church discipline is not in the same category as a workplace disciplinary procedure – the Judge of the Universe is present in the courtroom.

4. Real presence in respect to our personal sin. This is perhaps the most difficult one. We don’t in any way want to say that Jesus ever sins or is comfortable with our sinning or is in any way responsible for or complicit with our sins. He is the perfect high priest, ‘holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens’ (Heb. 7:26). But the implication of 1 Corinthians 6:13-20 seems to be that, while Christ is separated from sinners in respect to his office and nature, he is genuinely united with justified sinners in a one flesh, one spirit union, even when we are sinning with our bodies. Glen Scrivener shows how this is the strongest possible motivation to cease sin and do good:

Paul writes to Corinthians visiting brothels and what does he say? Does he say, “Stop it, Jesus remains outside the brothel, arms-folded waiting for a very good display of contrition before He’ll even consider forgiving this“?  No, he says to the Corinthians “Stop it, you’re taking Jesus into the brothel with you!” (1 Corinthians 6:15-17)  And you say, “How horrible!”  Well exactly.  So don’t do it.  But don’t give up fornicating because Jesus isn’t with you all the way.  Stop it because He is. (post: Why be good?)

When did Peter crumple in repentance? Luke 22:60-62: when he suddenly realised that his Lord was present, when he locked eyes with his bruised Saviour in the very moment of his denial.

 

More on presence:

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