Posts tagged #Exclusive Salvation in Christ

Why it is Best to Consider Yourself a Murderer

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Why it is best to consider yourself a murderer.

 

In the end, knowing that you are a murderer at heart opens the door to salvation.

 

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.[1]

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.[2]

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.[3] (RSV)

 

 What do you do when someone hits you, bumps you, insults you, or hurts you in any way? Or, make it simple, what do you think of the person who cuts you off in traffic?

When Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount he ushered in a new kingdom that turned the whole world upside down and inside out.[4] In his message he raises the standard of inter-relational ethics to impossible standards; well, at least impossible without God, but that is his point. He exposes the natural tendencies of the human heart and critiques the best that man can do with the help of laws to contain those natural impulses. Finally, he requires new attitudes that can only be found in the heart of a person who knows the love and grace of God and who has been transformed and equipped to live and love as a new creation.

Our normal human tendency, when we are slapped, is to escalate the violence. An accidental bump in the marketplace or an inadvertent word becomes an offense which leads to a grudge and becomes a feud which is passed on to the generations. The response to a slap is to find a baseball bat which leads to a bigger stick, and then a gun and finally, in the end, to murder. Murder leads to murder, family hates family, clan hates clan, and nations go to war long past the point where the original bump in the marketplace has passed into legend.

Understanding this natural tendency, God gave the ancient Israelites a higher standard of justice. In Exodus 21, the chapter right after the presentation of the Ten Commandments, God lays out a system of justice that was often summarized with verses 23 and 24, “But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” (ESV) Although the imagery is slightly gory, this simple statement is the starting point for any contemplation of justice. Rather than having an offense escalate, any system of justice should maintain a balanced system where the recompense for an offense is proportional and also satisfies the circumstance so there is no ongoing escalation of uncontrolled “repayments.”[5]
Jesus points to this view of the law as a useful starting point to overturn the self-righteousness of man. If someone hurts us, under the law, we want to pat ourselves on the back and say that we only took back what we deserved. “He slapped me, I slapped him. We’re even.”[6] At one level this is just; but Jesus has something so much greater in mind. In our normal, law-less mode we are slapped and we want to destroy our neighbor. Under the law we are slapped and after a slap back, we walk away hating each other. In the upside-down kingdom, Jesus wants us, when we are slapped, to return utter vulnerability in the hope that our response of grace will lead to a restored and improved relationship.

Jesus wants to set a new standard and a new goal. He wants the standard to be love matching God’s love and the goal to be new-found and restored relationship. In our natural state the goal is destruction and there is no hope of restoration or relationship, in fact, we don’t even seek it. Under the law we are slapped and we want to terminate the relationship on equal terms. The goal is to walk away hating each other but at least not making things worse. The best we can hope for is, “He slapped me, I slapped him, we’re even… the jerk.”

But in the upside-down kingdom Jesus wants us, in the face of an offense, to respond with love and get as compensation … nothing. Moreover, he wants us to offer more than what is expected or required. Instead of justice that is even[7], when someone hits us, he wants us to offer the other cheek also.

Let’s ponder why Jesus uses the image of a slap. Being slapped in the face is more than just painful, it is a challenge or an insult. It is an intimate gesture and a personal affront. Jesus raises the bar, using an image of a destruction of fellowship that is face to face, deliberate and coldly unavoidable. We know who struck us and we know the slap was delivered with a purpose. In return, the Godly response is not only that we don’t return the slap, which would be “just” under the law, but we don’t even try to defend ourselves against the indignity. We don’t seek to defend ourselves, because we have a new goal – restoration.

When someone strikes us, or insults us, or shuns us, or hurts us in any way, we are immediately placed at a relational crossroads. Our response will either end the relationship (or start down that road) or restore the relationship. Instead of being satisfied with the end of relationship, turning the other cheek means that we chase down the person who struck us and offer them a chance to try again and to not strike the other cheek. Our driving passion is to restore the relationship through the love of God with no immediate consideration given to what has been done to us or whether we have been hurt. There may be consequences or reparations or issues to resolve, but that is a later part of the process to be worked out later.

Even the most superficial evaluation of this upside-down way of living should stun us. Not only would this attitude transform all human relationships, but through careful assessment of our own selfish hearts, we immediately realize that this attitude is impossible to cultivate without a profound transformation, first, of our whole lives. We need a new understanding, a new perspective, one that overturns our natural way of thinking. We need our hearts totally transformed from self-centeredness to utter selflessness. Even our best actions and habits need to be re-directed as new fruit of a transformed concept of the goal of restoration. The action of turning the other cheek can only be the result of a revolutionized way of thinking and a heart that has been transformed by God.

Jesus knew this and made it clear as he ushered in the upside-down kingdom. He discusses murder as a way to reveal our hearts in a penetrating and inescapable way. We all know that murder is at the extreme end of relational destruction. Jesus uses murder because it is such an absolute that we all understand. He traps us because He he doesn’t want us to be able to somehow claim self-righteously, “I’m okay because I haven’t murdered anyone.” His new kingdom trap works like this; “If you even call someone a fool, that is the same a murder.”[8] This challenge does three things. First of all, we must realize that we are all guilty of murder – nobody can make the claim, “I’m okay.” To identify a murderer, we no longer need a dead body, the proof starts in our innermost thoughts.

Secondly, he pushes the ethical requirement off the scales (just like turning the other cheek). It isn’t good enough to not murder someone, you can’t even think ill of a person. This forces upon us a crushing implication – if we are not to think ill of a person, that means that we must think well of everyone. Jesus makes this clear when he talks about how to treat our enemies. Imagine someone who is deliberately pursuing your destruction. Not just careless, not merely thoughtless, not simply inconsiderate; the person wants to hurt you, destroy your reputation, take away your wealth and he is doing everything possible to carry out his harmful intentions against you. Jesus says, “Love that person.” <<Insert animated GIF of a jaw dropping here.>> And here is the shocker, to your enemy, to love your enemy, you can’t be careless, or thoughtless, or inconsiderate. It isn’t enough to merely not be offended – you can’t be indifferent. Your love needs to be thoughtful, purposeful, and deliberate. You need to do everything possible to carry out your loving plans to that enemy as he seeks to destroy you. Jesus wants you to pray for that person, give him your things, and invite him into your home. You don’t merely avoid your enemy, you chase after him to present your other cheek for slapping.

Thirdly, and this is true any time we see the standard of God, we are faced with our absolute helplessness and our desperate need for God’s grace to be in us and filling us. On our own we are the murderers, we are the enemy to those around us. Under the Law, the best that we can hope for is to produce a legalistic response where we restrain physical murder. But mere restraint will never free us from being murderers in our hearts nor will it free us to love anyone else no matter who they are. C.S. Lewis wrote a poem that brings this to life, As the Ruin Falls. In it he says,

 

“All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.[9]

 

This is why Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The only love that we can produce on our own is a self-centered, self-seeking, greedy love of Me. That is our natural state. Under the law we can (maybe) rise high enough to keep our external actions from revealing the inner selfishness. To love our neighbors and enemies, to turn the other cheek, to free ourselves from murder, we need to be transformed into people who are filled with the grace of God and live by it.

What Jesus said in these verses is hard to take. Most of us see ourselves as “really a pretty good person.” Human culture shoves this concept down our throats. We are endlessly pummeled with the message that we are “basically good” from psychologists, politicians and celebrities.[10]  It is pleasant and comforting and nice when people say this to us, because it is what we want to believe anyway. However, in our more private and introspective moments we sometimes admit that we have “made mistakes.” This statement is normally linked most logically to some kind of statement like, “but everybody makes mistakes,” which is supposed to justify our littler less significant mistakes. Or if someone presses us into a corner, we admit that we “might have done something wrong,” but in the perfect extreme defense we add, “well, maybe, but I haven’t killed anyone.” And at long last, we are finally trapped by the words of Jesus.

Physical murder is not the standard anymore. It is easy for most of us to keep from actual murder. But, if you murder someone in your heart, if you look down on someone, if you dismiss or disregard someone, ignore or show indifference, you are a murderer. And ironically our primary defense reveals that this is what we do all the time. We explain away our sins by comparing ourselves to someone else. In the end, we exalt ourselves in the condemnation of others. We see that we are a little bit wrong, but that other person is the real fool. Raca! If only those people were like me! Raca! That jerk cut me off! Raca! We condemn everyone as a fool every time they don’t meet up to our standards. And when we do that, we become murderers.

Jesus wants us to see ourselves as murderers because that strips away all of our self-confidence and self-sufficiency. If you see yourself as a murderer, you realize that you are worse off than your worst fears.[11] This gives us a desperate humility. We gain a new perspective of ourselves, a new perspective of others, a new perspective on our situation, and a new appreciation of our need for the grace of God.

Your new self-perspective, crushing as it is, puts you at the utter bottom of the moral stack, where you can finally be free and stop thinking so highly of yourself. You certainly can’t look at anyone else and claim that you are somehow better. From this point of view, when someone slaps you, the indignation is gone, because you know that you are a slapper, too. Still though, it is hard being slapped. How do we overcome?

The only deliverance from our state of desperate humility is through faith in Jesus Christ. He received the Ultimate Slap, the rejection of his own heavenly Father and the punishment of all the sins of mankind. He bore every insult, bump, anger, murder, hatred, and indignation, so that we don’t have to. When we look at Jesus and seize desperately upon his nail-scarred hand, we can finally find what we need to overlook the bump, terminate the feud, and chase down our enemies to offer them another swing at our cheek.

This blog was written by Charles Fox

[1] The Holy Bible: New International Version. 1984 (Mt 5:21–22). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Blomberg, C. (1992). Vol. 22: Matthew. The New American Commentary (113). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[3] The Holy Bible: New International Version. 1984 (Mt 5:43–45). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] It is important to note that all of these principles were already revealed in the Old Testament, the difference is that the nature of the kingdom changes when the King arrives.

[5] Please note that there is NO sense of punishment in this system. Compensation and restoration is the assumed purpose of justice. The goal is never to “make him pay for what he did.” Jesus, of course, pushes that to the limit in the Sermon on the Mount. It is valuable to note that as a culture moves further and further from God, this sense of proportion is increasingly lost.

[6] Which misses the point anyway. Even this view of law should awaken us to an “Aha!” moment. How does hitting someone back accomplish anything of value? Any opportunity for reconciliation, or to show the other person their fault through our grace and forgiveness is lost.

[7] At home, the natural tendency is that everyone gets the exact same amount of cake. The proper response is that if someone takes ALL of the cake and I don’t get ANY, that is ok. As Christians, our goal is not “what is fair in my eyes,” but sacrifice for the delight of others.

[8] A spoken word is more than just noise that comes out of our mouths. What we say reflects the profoundest beliefs and commitments of our hearts. When we call a person “Fool!” we are making a pronouncement of purpose and commitment. When we denigrate another, we are saying what we think they are worth, and what they deserve, and what we would do to them if we had the means. In the context of our discussion, it makes us the enemy who wants to destroy the person, that is, we are the murderer. Jesus nails us and our narcissistic world further when he uses the word “Raca.” Raca means empty, that is, you are “Raca,” you are nothing. This passive indifference that treats someone as if they are nothing is perhaps even worse than murder. Every human is of infinite consequence, and for us to dismiss anyone as meaningless is as far from love as you can get.

[9] C.S.Lewis, Poems, “As the Ruin Falls” (1st pub. 1964), pp. 109-110.

[10] The irony is that what they are really saying is, “I am a good person,” with no basis for such a preposterous claim. Since there is no way to prove this, the only remaining logic left is to make a claim that all people are good, and it is just the rare other person who has somehow gone wrong. Five minutes in the real world dispels the fantasy that bad people are “rare.”

[11] Jack Miller would tell us in church over and over – “Cheer up! You’re a worse sinner than you dared imagine, and you’re more loved than you ever dared hope.”

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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1 John 1:9-10: Christ’s Finished Work

I John 1:9-10: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. [1]

 John continues affirming sin and grace [2] in these final verses. Verse ten makes certain that you cannot deny sin and trust God and His Bible because denying sin throws away the Bible and its Divine author. [3] Simultaneously, the second half of verse nine portrays God’s forgiveness and cleansing as completed and not ongoing. [4] John’s language communicates that we need to grow, and makes definitive that the result of confessing our sins is a once and for all cleansing, forgiving, and purifying. [5]

 This is wonderful news for us because we continue warring with sin. [6] Nothing needs to be added to Christ’s finished work. Our sanctification does not earn salvation. [7] We strive to become more like Christ out of love for Him. [8] Today if you are in Christ you can face your challenges and grow in grace knowing that your standing before God never changes because He sees Christ’s light on you. [9] May that joy empower you.

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] See blog on 1 John 1:7-8.

[3] Colin G. Kruse The Letters of John. General Editor: D.A. Carson. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), 66.

[4] Kruse, The Letters of John, 69.

[5] See Daniel B. Wallace Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament with Scripture, Subject, and Greek Word Indexes. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 473, 474, and 476. Also A.T. Robertson A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research Second Ed. (New York, NY: George H. Doran Co., 1915), 998.

[6] Romans 7.

[7] Galatians 2:20; Hebrews 8-10.

[8] Romans 8:9; Galatians 5:25; Hebrews 10:24; James 2:14-26; Revelation 3:22.

[9] Simon J. Kistemaker. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986), 243-244.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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1 John 1:5-6: God is Light

1 John 1:5-6: This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. [1]

We hear many competing stories about Who God is. Many are mistaken, some are blasphemous. John, one of the incarnate Son of God’s disciples, explains Who God is by calling Him light. God is uncreated light, Who has made Himself visible to the world through Jesus Christ. [2] Conversely, darkness in, John’s writing, is anything that opposes God. [3] But everyone is in darkness. [4] John says, “we” because “[our] lives are set against God because of a heart filled with hatred and a will inclined to disobedience.” [5]

This darkness is why Christ, the light of the world, had to come and rescue His children. [6] We cannot save ourselves because by nature we are dead in sin. [7] Christ had to rescue us, and when He rescues, God the Father no longer sees our darkness, but the light of Christ in us. [8] This undeserved gift [9] should make all of us want to live as those who are in the light. [10] This light is for all who believe that Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the light, Who reunites us to God, when our sins had separated us. [11] Living like the light does not earn salvation, but is a joyful reflection of it. [12] If you are in Christ, what sins can you put aside today? What Christ honoring actions can you take to live as one in the light, for God’s glory and your good?

This blog was written by Seth Dunn.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] Simon J. Kistemaker. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986), 242.

[3] Walter Bauer, William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: A translation and adaptation of the fourth revised and augmented edition of Walter Bauer’s Griechish-Deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur, Second Ed. Revised and Augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker. (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1979). (BAGD), 757.

[4] Ephesians 4:17-24; Titus 3:3-11, etc.

[5] Kistemaker, The Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 243.

[6] Kistemaker, The Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 242. See also Luke 19:10; John 3:16, etc.

[7] Ephesians 2:1-10.

[8] Kistemaker, The Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 243-244.

[9] Ephesians 1:3-11.

[10] Romans 6.

[11] John 14:6; Ephesians 2:11-14.

[12] Titus 3:3-7; 1 Corinthians 6:9-19; James 2:14-26; Galatians 2:15-21, etc.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Hearts

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1 John 1:3-4: Real Fellowship

1 John 1:3-4: That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. [1]

 

The last blog discussed how John is trying to keep believers from leaving the church by defending his apostleship. [2] In verses 3-4, John continues to counter false beliefs about Christianity by explaining that true fellowship with God and Christians, and true joy only come through the apostles’ teaching—teaching that is affirmed by the whole Bible. [3] The crucial key to biblical fellowship hinges on knowing the Triune God in Christ: that His blood pays for the forgiveness of sins, and His continued work in our lives. [4] Any fellowship claiming to be Christian that lacks these elements is not true biblical fellowship.

 

This is why doctrine is so important! If we do not rightly understand Scripture, how can we claim to fellowship with God and His people and have His joy? [5] Whether or not you would call yourself a Christian, you need to study the apostles’ teaching. What Christ’s apostles taught is in harmony with the whole Bible, which reveals our sin and our need for a Savior. [6] What Christ’s apostles taught is that that Savior is exclusively Jesus, Who alone brings us into fellowship with God and man. [7] What Christ’s apostles taught leads to lasting joy even in suffering. [8] These things are yours only in Christ, as the apostles taught.

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] Colin G. Kruse. The Letters of John. General Editor: D.A. Carson. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), 52-53.

[3] Joel Beeke. The Epistles of John. (Webster, NY: Evangelical Press, 2006), 25-26.

[4] Beeke, The Epistles of John, 26.

[5] Beeke, The Epistles of John, 27. See also John 15:11, 16:24, 17:21; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 John 1:1, 2:24.

[6] Luke 24:39-50; Acts 2-3; Galatians 3; 1 Peter 2, etc.

[7] John 14:6; Acts 2:42, 4:12; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 1:3-10, 2:1-10, 1 John 1:5-10.

[8] 2 Corinthians 1:3-10; Philippians 4:11-13; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:3-12.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

1 John 1:1-2: For Real   1 John 1:1-2: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—  2  the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us.  [1]   If you were to write a letter to help a friend who was making a bad decision, what would your letter say? 1 John is a letter to remind Christians of the Gospel’s truth and keep them from making the very poor decision of leaving the church.  [2]  The author, John the apostle, starts his letter by affirming that he and the other apostles are eyewitnesses to the “Word of life.”  [3]  This Word of life is not an “impersonal” force, but the Son of God incarnate—the person of Jesus Christ.  [4]   Clear truths and application flow from these facts. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, is alive and is Lord as taught by His witnesses, Scripture, and history.  [5]  Because Christ reigns, His statements about being the exclusive way to salvation are true, which means everyone must follow Him or face the consequences.  [6]  But serving Jesus is not impersonal. He cares for us, understands our trials, and intercedes for us.  [7]  Christ’s loving kindness is enough to keep anyone in the church and sustain them for all of life. Are you willing to trust Him today by the power of His Holy Spirit?  This blog was written by Seth Dunn   [1]    The Holy Bible: English Standard Version  . Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016). All Scripture References will be ESV unless noted otherwise.   [2]  Colin G. Kruse.  The Letters of John . General Editor: D.A. Carson. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), 51.   [3]  Kruse,  The Letters of John , 52-53.   [4]  Kruse,  The Letters of John , 57.   [5]  Luke 24:36-53; John 19:35; Acts 4, 5:27-32, 26; 1 Corinthians 15:3-9; Hebrews 11-12:3; 1 Peter 5:1; 2 Peter 1:16.   [6]  John 14:6; Ephesians 1:3-2:16; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-2:15; Hebrews 1:1-3:6; 1 Peter 1:13-23; 1 John 2:1-3, 3:1-10; Revelation 21:1-8.   [7]  Psalm 34:18; John 11:5, 35, 17:1-26; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 4:14-16.

1 John 1:1-2: For Real

1 John 1:1-2: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us. [1]

If you were to write a letter to help a friend who was making a bad decision, what would your letter say? 1 John is a letter to remind Christians of the Gospel’s truth and keep them from making the very poor decision of leaving the church. [2] The author, John the apostle, starts his letter by affirming that he and the other apostles are eyewitnesses to the “Word of life.” [3] This Word of life is not an “impersonal” force, but the Son of God incarnate—the person of Jesus Christ. [4]

Clear truths and application flow from these facts. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, is alive and is Lord as taught by His witnesses, Scripture, and history. [5] Because Christ reigns, His statements about being the exclusive way to salvation are true, which means everyone must follow Him or face the consequences. [6] But serving Jesus is not impersonal. He cares for us, understands our trials, and intercedes for us. [7] Christ’s loving kindness is enough to keep anyone in the church and sustain them for all of life. Are you willing to trust Him today by the power of His Holy Spirit?

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016). All Scripture References will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] Colin G. Kruse. The Letters of John. General Editor: D.A. Carson. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), 51.

[3] Kruse, The Letters of John, 52-53.

[4] Kruse, The Letters of John, 57.

[5] Luke 24:36-53; John 19:35; Acts 4, 5:27-32, 26; 1 Corinthians 15:3-9; Hebrews 11-12:3; 1 Peter 5:1; 2 Peter 1:16.

[6] John 14:6; Ephesians 1:3-2:16; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-2:15; Hebrews 1:1-3:6; 1 Peter 1:13-23; 1 John 2:1-3, 3:1-10; Revelation 21:1-8.

[7] Psalm 34:18; John 11:5, 35, 17:1-26; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 4:14-16.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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Psalm 63:9-11: Future Reality

Psalm 63:9-11: But those who seek to destroy my life

shall go down into the depths of the earth;

10     they shall be given over to the power of the sword;

they shall be a portion for jackals.

11     But the king shall rejoice in God;

all who swear by him shall exult,

for the mouths of liars will be stopped. [1]

When we started studying Psalm 63, we observed how this Psalm highlights God’s past, present, and future help. [2] As we finish Psalm 63, David’s future hope shines through. [3] Verses 9-10 show that David’s “unquenched” faith rests on God Who will bring justice, which the Lord providentially did in 2 Samuel 18. [4] Verse 11 teaches that those who “swear” (pledge their “loyalty to”[5]) God will be vindicated because the Trinity will bring justice. [6]

God’s coming justice should give us reverential pause. Because of our sins, Scripture describes all humanity like those who opposed David—as insurrectionists. [7] The only way we can receive God’s graciousness rather than His rightful wrath is to believe that Jesus alone bore the wrath we deserve. [8] If you do believe, when Christ returns He will justify you before God and your enemies, and welcome you to paradise. [9] May God use this future hope to call those who lack it to Himself and to sustain those who believe.

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software 7. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] James Montgomery Boice. Psalms, Vol. 2: Psalms 42-106. (Grand Rapids, MI: Bake Books a division of Baker Book House Co, 1996), 518.

[3] Alec Motyer. Psalms By the Day: A New Devotional Translation. (Geanies House Fearn, Tain Ross–shire IV20 1TW, Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 2016), 165.

[4] C.H. Spurgeon. The Treasury of David, Containing An Original Exposition Of The Book Of Psalms; A Collection Of Illustrative Extracts From the Whole Ranger Of Literature; A Series Of Homiletical Hints Upon Almost every Verse; And Lists Of Writers Upon Each Psalm In Three Volumes, Vol., 3: Psalm LVIII To CX. (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Pub, 1876), 79.

[5] Motyer, Psalms By the Day, 165.

[6] Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. 2, 80.

[7] Genesis 6:5; 1 Samuel 15:23; Jeremiah 17:9-10; Malachi 1; Romans 3:9-23, 8:7-8; Ephesians 2:1-10, Titus 3:1-7; 1 John 3:8, etc.

[8] Isaiah 53:4-12; John 3:16, 14:6; Acts 4:12, Ephesians 2:11-22; etc.

[9] Revelation 6:9-11, 19, 21:1-8, 22:1-5.

Apologetics in the 21st Century

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Apologetics for the 21st Century

In the open marketplace of religions, ideas, and wishes, people don’t normally rush to the “Christianity” shelf, take down the gospel, and bustle over to the cash register to buy it for dinner. By nature, shoppers avoid truth that requires them to relinquish their self-centeredness and submit to a holy, perfect, and rather demanding God, who quite selfishly, it seems, insists that everyone does things his way. The fact that doing things his way is the only path to joy, love, peace, life, freedom, sanity, and the rest of the “Top fifty Things that make life worth living” list is something that the unregenerate consumer can’t see. In the end, the remedy for this shopping conundrum is the cross of Jesus, applied by the Spirit, in response to a proffered message, and proffering that message, my friends, is our job. As shopkeepers in this trendy marketplace we have a crucial area of study and discipline called Christian Apologetics that is dedicated to explaining, defending, and proving the Christian message to reluctant consumers who are hostile, sinful, blind and rebellious, and to Christians who mostly aren’t quite as hostile, blind, and rebellious. Apologetics is the discipline that gives us what we need to divert shoppers from making a life-threatening purchase, and direct them rather, to receiving the life-giving gift.

So, let me start by saying, from my first exposure, I have always found apologetics to be the most crucial, misunderstood, irrelevant, and boring topic. This is profoundly ironic because I was brought into the kingdom, kicking and screaming at the hands of a brilliant apologist who argued past my blindness and objections. But, I’ll let you in on a secret, for reaching most people, classical, historic apologetics is a miss. The reason for the modern failure of classical apologetics is that it is always taught as though people are somehow inherently committed to some form of logic, and deep, unbiased, and careful consideration and evaluation of the facts. Most apologetics assume that people think this way:

All humans are mortal.

Socrates is human.

Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

Nice, neat, sound, clear, irrefutable. Syllogism. Statement, statement, conclusion. There. Believe in Jesus.

Let’s look at the way real people think.

I think that humans should follow their dreams.

Socrates is boring

Hold on, I need to respond to this text.

Huh? What? Wait! Are you listening? Question everything? Feelings! Emote, guess, wish. Vague. Believe whatever makes you feel good about yourself.

I was recently speaking with a twenty-something graduate student who told me, in sum, “It isn’t just that nobody follows rules of logic, it isn’t just that they have a skewed view of the facts, the problem is that we now live in a culture that doesn’t even believe that facts exist. I tell my writing students that in meaningful argumentation they need to discern the difference between facts and opinion. I point out that we can verify facts, but we can’t argue with facts. The students respond, ‘What do you mean? Of course, we question and challenge facts.’” In the 21st century, we aren’t arguing over what is true, or not. We aren’t arguing the philosophical concept, “How does one discern truth.” We are talking to a world where people don’t believe that truth (or facts) even exist.

In the old days, we would say, “The sky is blue,” and an argumentative person would say, “sometimes the sky is grey.” Hmmm… that leaves an opening for potential dialog about whether they should believe in blue skies.

Now, if you say, “The sky is blue,” the answer is, “My sky is any color I want, and why are you pushing your blue skyism on me! Stop being such a hater!”

Reality is no longer a question of history, or facts, or truth. Each person has their own reality, and each person makes their own reality, based on dreams and wishes. Jean Twenge, in her book, Generation Me (which we will be looking at closely) provides endless examples of this:

“One professor encountered the GenMe faith in self-belief quite spectacularly in an undergraduate class at the University of Kansas. As she was introducing the idea that jobs and social class were based partially on background and unchangeable characteristics, her students became skeptical. That can’t be right, they said, you can be anything you want to be. The professor, a larger woman with no illusions about her size, said, “So you’re saying that I could be a ballerina?” “Sure, if you really wanted to,” said one of the students.” (Twenge, Generation Me, 2014 – Kindle p. 113)

How do we present the gospel as a desperate necessity in a world where reality doesn’t exist?

That is what this blog series is about. Although in this blog post I am only going to introduce five general areas of preparation and discipline that we need to have in place to be successful in bringing the gospel to bear in the 21st century.

Message – Ultimately the content of our message is critical. The barest faith requires an object that must be understood and upon which the conviction of assent can be placed. There are some message minimums; God, sin, Jesus, repentance. And those minimums must be understood as they are revealed in the Bible. I won’t put the entire story here, in the midst of this summary, but it’ll be at end of this blog.

Messenger – God's salvation is not received merely by giving assent to a body of principles we need to obey, but upon a person we need to love. Certainly, the Bible is packed with endless crucial truths and requirements for life, but a person, Jesus, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It is through incarnation that God makes himself present in the life of his people. In the same way, we need to be the right people as we pass on the message to the world. This not only includes a holy lifestyle and a living faith, we need to be intimate with God through Jesus Christ and loving others the way he does. People won’t care for our message if we don’t care about them. (Much of this is the content we will be looking at in the AgapeStorm blogs.)

Messagee – (I know this isn’t a word, but what else do you call the recipient of the message, if you are enslaved to having all “M” words?) We need to understand the people to whom we are talking. This is a theological task, of course, because the Bible tells us a ton about human’s, but it is also one of inquiry and investigation. Ultimately, we need to know what makes people tick, how they view themselves and the world. Why are people more afraid of the opinions of celebrities than the hand of God? How do you engage a person who has retreated into an empty phonelife? We need to know the hearts of the people God wants us to reach so we can mold the message into a compelling story that they want to hear.

Method – Ultimately, we need to be fully prepared to engage our hearers with a spectrum of content including a clear gospel message as well as arguments, facts, and quotes from C.S Lewis or other helpful authorities. But we need to be winsome and engaging. Christianity is no longer the first voice among many, it is a muted and shunned voice in a cacophony. Our approach to the lost and fearful must be bold and assertive, yet compassionate. We need to be truthful but understanding. We need to be evocative and provocative and challenging and intimate, avuncular and simple, mighty and wise. But we need to do this in a way that competes successfully with Steam, Reddit, YouTube, Instagram, Netflix, and Facebook, CandyCrush, Bejeweled, and Fortnite. Ahhhhhh!!! And, actually, we need to know how to properly use our iPhones and Facebook and the rest to share the gospel.

Milieu – We need to penetrate the soupy mire in which we live and understand it intimately and craftily. Only in this way can we be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16) The gospel is supra-cultural. It is always relevant, and it challenges the assumptions and authorities of every culture, nation, political and intellectual affiliation, and every philosophy or religion made by man. It also provides an answer to the darkness and lostness of every eon and epoch, and it can utterly obliterate the fears and enslavement that people feel as they endure their way through life. The brilliant illumination of the gospel makes the ways and schemes of mankind plain to our eyes so that we can take that light into the dark and treacherous places where people are perishing.

These five parts of 21st century apologetics will be the focus of this blog series. I can’t promise to be as perfectly methodical as a college course, but hopefully, together, we can learn how to bring Jesus to those who need him and his love.

Footnote #1 - Here you go, the message of the gospel, as promised.

Every human being is sinful by nature and therefore, appropriately, separated from God who is holy and perfect in every way. This leaves mankind in a predicament – as sinners, they are spiritually dead and essentially incapable of saving themselves or even of searching for God at all! In fact, by nature, apart from God’s gracious intervention to open our eyes and change our hearts, we are rebellious people who hate God and flee from Him. But God, out of His great love and mercy established a plan to save us that He has worked out through history and revealed through his word, the Bible. His plan is centered around and completed through and by His Son, Jesus. God sent His son, Jesus, to earth to die on our behalf and take the punishment for our sin. As a result of this amazing sacrifice, we can now be saved through faith in Jesus and in what He has done. When we are united to Jesus by faith, we are adopted by God into His family and we receive all of the promises of God, forgiveness for our sins, a new heart, and the guarantee of eternal life! We are new people, part of a family; children of God and brothers and sisters to each other.

The gospel is the power of salvation for those who believe. It is through the gospel that broken people are made new. It is through the gospel that hurting people find peace and freedom. It is through the gospel that hardened sinners receive a new heart, and it is through the gospel that confused and lost people are transformed by the renewing of their minds. A person who is united to Christ by faith has hope in this crazy world, peace in the face of chaos, and purpose in brokenness. This is the Message.

Footnote #2 – Aren’t we Reformed here?!?!?!?!?

I can’t possibly escape from an introductory blog on apologetics without bringing up Cornelius Van Til. If I don’t mention him, someone might break into my house and steal my diploma from Westminster Seminary. Someone might ask, “Why aren’t you just teaching Van Til?”

Cornelius Van Til was an early 20th century theologian and master of Apologetics. Summarizing Van Til’s model of apologetics would be an epic undertaking because he was so scary brilliant and philosophical, and I’m just not smart enough. He offered a stunning barrage of rebuttal against the classical apologetics model where the apologist uses evidence to convince someone that it is in their best interest to believe in Jesus. His basic premise, and I will receive at least 47 dozen corrections here, is that the Holy Spirit convinces people of the gospel, not us. With that being true, our approach should not be to argue about historical facts or use philosophical arguments, but rather, we need to understand each person’s belief structure, the foundation upon which they build their lives, and bring the gospel to bear on what we find there. He called this presuppositional apologetics, and he believed, and I agree, that his method puts God back in command of our presentation, and Jesus as the center of the story.

My contention would be, actually, that I have taken what I learned from Van Til and molded the pieces into something more easily accessible for normal people, like myself, who think that Socrates, although not necessarily boring, is certainly far too philosophical. Understanding the recipients (messagees) and their/our culture will help us to dig in on the presuppositions that define our hearer’s thoughts, concerns and fears. Understanding ourselves properly as the messenger who needs to be the right messenger brings our own presuppositions into focus and submits them to the scrutiny of the gospel searchlight. Our method is to engage people in their world of ideas, hopes and dreams with a message that is as eternal and unchanging as the God who wrote it.

This blog was written by Charles Fox

Posted on February 14, 2019 and filed under Exploring Christianity?.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Hearts

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Matthew 1:20-21: Not Heartbreak But Heart Rescue

Matthew 1:20-21: But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”[1]

Joseph was likely heartbroken: the woman he loved was pregnant and the baby was not his. Matthew 1:19 helps us see Joseph’s struggle as he wants to protect Mary and honor God’s design for marriage. [2] The angel’s message would have been a huge comfort to Joseph because he could still marry his love. [3] But Joseph’s marital bliss would take second fiddle in the orchestra of God’s redemption: this unexpected pregnancy would result in the Trinity’s people being saved. Bible scholar William Hendriksen teaches, “To be saved means a. to be emancipated from the greatest evil: the guilt, pollution, power, and punishment of sin; and b. to be placed in possession of the greatest good.” [4]

The good news that Joseph received is good news for all who believe in Christ. If Jesus is your exclusive means of salvation and forgiveness from sin you are liberated from the greatest evil and own the greatest good. You no longer need to live in guilt nor sin’s control. [5] You have everything you need to live as God has called you to live. [6] If Jesus is not your only Redeemer, then you lack the greatest good and are still enslaved to sin. [7] When people who say they believe in Jesus walk unrepentant in sin, they are returning to the slavery from which God freed them. [8] We all must pray to the Spirit of Christ, asking for help so that we can be rescued from sin’s heartbreak to have Christ’s heart rescue—either for the first time for salvation, or as sinning saints fleeing their former master.

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software 7. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] William Hendriksen. Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1987), 130.

[3] Hendriksen, Matthew, 131.

[4] Hendriksen, Matthew, 133.

[5] Romans 6:1-4.

[6] 2 Peter 1:3.

[7] Romans 3:9-23; 8:5-8.

[8] Romans 6:15-23; Galatians 5:1-6.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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Numbers 23:19: The Truth and Nothing But the Truth

Numbers 23:19:

God is not man, that he should lie,

or a son of man, that he should change his mind.

Has he said, and will he not do it?

Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? [1]

If you have been following the past couple blogs you may have noticed a theme: God’s dependability. We are focusing on the Trinity’s trustworthiness because that truth has profound implications for life. If the Lord speaks the truth and sticks to that trust (as Numbers 23:19 teaches) then His children will receive His blessings, can trust His help, will dwell in eternal paradise with Him, and nothing can ever change that. [2]

How can we be sure about these promises? Because God has secured them with “his blood.” [3] Jesus was crucified so Hell-bound sinners (like me and you) can receive forgiveness for the sins we committed against the Holy God. [4] Romans 8:31-39 summaries the hope the Trinity’s trustworthiness gives us. May these truths lead us into praise and submission to our Savior: [5]

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

            “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software. All Scripture References will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] Iain Duguid. Preaching the Word: Numbers: God’s Presences in the Wilderness. General Editor R. Kent Hughes. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), 279-280.

[3] Duguid, Numbers, 279.

[4] Romans 5:8.

[5] Duguid, Numbers, 280.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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Psalm 13:5-6: Faith’s Focus

Psalm 13:5-6:

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;

my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord,

because he has dealt bountifully with me. [1]

When you are troubled, where do your thoughts go? Does your mind focus on the situation? In the first four verses, King David repeatedly questions and cries out for God’s help. He sees his situation and asks how long the LORD “will hide [his] face from [him]” while his enemies overpower him. [2]

But David chooses to take his thoughts off his situation. [3] Bible scholar Derek Kidner teaches, “So the psalmist entrusts himself to this pledged love, and turns his attention not to the quality of his faith but to its object and its outcome, which he has every intention of enjoying.” [4] Christians do not hope in their ability to endure suffering, but in the One has been forsaken that His children may never be completely. [5]

Let’s go back the opening question: where do your thoughts go when you are in pain? Without the Triune God of the Bible, our best attempts to swallow pain are optimistic hopes for improvement. [6] Only in trusting in Christ’s perfect work for our salvation and forgiveness can we begin to have real hope in trouble. [7]

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] Psalm 13:1-4.

[3] Derek Kidner. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Psalms 1-72, An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms. General Ed: D.J. Wiseman. (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), 78.

[4] Kidner, Psalms 1-72, Vol. 1, 78.

[5] Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46; Romans 8.

[6] Psalm 16:4; Proverbs 1:8-19; Ephesians 2:11-14.

[7] Hebrews 11:1; Romans 8:18-39, 15:13; 1 Peter 1:3

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Hearts

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Lamentations 3:24-26: Stability

Lamentations 3:24-26

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,

“therefore I will hope in him.”

            The Lord is good to those who wait for him,

to the soul who seeks him.

            It is good that one should wait quietly

for the salvation of the Lord. [1]

As we continue studying Lamentations, we continue seeing how to have true stability. Lamentations 3:24-26 teaches that when God is the object of our hope, we have a sure foundation for life. [2] When the Lord remains the focus and security for our lives, we have abiding hope. [3]

But setting our hope on God is an incredibly difficult thing. [4] I do not know about you, but red lights can be frustrating for me: I do not like waiting for something I did not plan on. How can I, or you, expect to put my hope in God when something so small can so easily derail our focus?

Sincerely thank God that in Christ we have the perfect sacrificial Lamb. [5] Jesus never misplaced His hope, even when facing the cross. [6] Because Jesus endured, we also have hope for enduring trials and growing to make God our hope. [7] As we mature in faithfulness to God, we will see more of how He gives us stability. [8] Refusing Christianity is to refuse the Almighty’s stability that produces endurance in all kinds of trials. [9] Christians: in your pursuit of faithfulness to grow in hope, do not take the world’s counterfeit hopes that lead away from true hope. [10] Non-Christians: please consider what you hold on to for stability—if it does not have the backing of the Triune God Who created you, how long will it keep you stable?

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software 7. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] John Calvin. Commentaries on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah and the Lamentations, Vol. 5. Trans. John Owen. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1981), 408-409.

[3] Calvin, Commentaries on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah and the Lamentations, Vol. 5, 409.

[4] Calvin, Commentaries on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah and the Lamentations, Vol. 5, 409.

[5] Hebrews 8-10.

[6] Luke 22:42.

[7] Hebrews 4:14-17.

[8] Calvin, Commentaries on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah and the Lamentations, Vol. 5, 410.

[9] James 1:2-5.

[10] Ephesians 2:11-13.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Hearts

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Lamentations 3:21-23: When Grief Strikes

Lamentations 3:21-23:

But this I call to mind,

and therefore I have hope:

            The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

his mercies never come to an end;

            they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness. [1]

You may know, or even be, someone who strikes at God when grief strikes. After all, God could have prevented your pain, right? Lamentations gives us a window into the Lord’s view of suffering. This poem is written with the destruction of Jerusalem in mind. [2] If you have ever lost everything you could empathize with Lamentation’s author. But when grief strikes the author, he healthily acknowledges it while bringing to memory the hope he has in God. [3] If the lamenter focuses on his situation, he will slip into despair and rage against his only hope: the Triune Lord. [4] The Father’s “incomprehensible and wonderful kindness” in ordaining our weaknesses and circumstances to develop love for Him is our hope in “despair.” [5]

 But there is more. Do you know that God laments over the world’s brokenness? [6] He lamented enough that He went to the cross to deal with it. Christ’s sufferings ensure that His children will not eternally suffer. [7] The Son’s sufferings rescue us from despair so that we can grieve realistically and healthily. Embracing the Trinity found in the Bible is embracing hope for all circumstances.

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software 7. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] The Reformation Study Bible. General Editor R.C. Sproul. (Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries, 2005), 1131-1132.

[3] John Calvin. Commentaries on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah and the Lamentations, Vol. 5. Trans. John Owen. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1981),

[4] Calvin, The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah and the Lamentations, Vol. 5., 406.

[5] Calvin, The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah and the Lamentations, Vol. 5., 407.

[6] Ezekiel 18; 23 and 32; Psalm 34:18; John 11:35.

[7] Romans 8.

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Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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1 Thessalonians 2:13: Self Help Recovery

1 Thessalonians 2:13

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 

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If you prowl the aisles at Barnes and Noble, or, if you prefer virtual shopping, the pages of Amazon, or even if you watch day-time talk shows, you will be repeatedly confronted with our culture’s passion for “self-help” books and programs. The fact that everyone is sooooo aware they need help at all is indicative of the reality of sin in both individual lives and our culture. The cultural message, in contrast, is one of petulant independence and self-sufficiency, which we know is just wishful thinking. Self help appeals to us, we like it, it serves our pride. We want to do it all ourselves, because, as another blind cultural assertion asserts, rearing its ugly head, we want to believe that everything we need comes from within, and we can trust our own personal strength and moral compass. Human culture is committed (call it enslaved) to self-help, which is a story whose real title is, “Humanity Serves up its Own Demise.”

The fact is that “The <<human>> heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9.) If we select some “inner voice” as our authority, we will produce a life of utter selfishness and deceit. The best we can hope for is that somehow, if we’re lucky, we won’t hurt others in our pursuit of helping ourselves.

In contrast, however, Paul commends the believers at Thessalonica, thanking God, because of the voice they choose to follow. Paul is rightfully exultant because these faithful hearers of his message (the gospel) received the Truth “as it really is, the word of God.”

So, let’s go back to Barnes and Noble. We turn the corner into the Self-Help aisle, and the Bible is sitting on the shelf. We open it, and we realize that this isn’t just “Truth” as an abstraction. The words in this book are direct from the manufacturer, the Living Person who made you, and created the entire cosmos; the One who understands your real needs and failings. These words are not mere opinion, but God himself is speaking the words you need to hear because they are the words God wants you to hear. His words are deliberate, specific, personal and powerful. Paul makes it clear that this powerful word is “at work” in you. The help that comes from God is not from within you, but it is help from God himself. Instead of promoting change from somewhere within the heart of a sinner, God’s words transform us with a purpose. With his word, God himself uses his might and wisdom to transform us into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

This blog was written by Charles Fox

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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2 Timothy 3:15-17: Navigation Our Cultural Soup

In preparation, read 2 Timothy 3 – the whole chapter

2 Timothy 3:15-17: And how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Antifa, Border walls, Caravans of illegals; this is the Alphabet Soup of difficulties that will confront you no matter which news source you choose these days. Division, Election fraud, Fake news; we are bombarded with an endless assault of concerns and threats from a cacophony of voices and experts and pundits and celebrities clamoring for our attention and trust. The voices are urgent – the call to action is unmistakable, and we need to choose – NOW! Our natural tendency is to take sides, somewhere, and align ourselves with what we consider, “The Voice of Sense,” which tends to be, as often as not, politically driven and as variable as the tides. Certainly parties and interest groups tend to have a general alignment, and many solutions suggested have merit and deserve consideration. Nevertheless. it is dangerous to put our confidence in political parties and causes which focus on symptoms and behaviors, but not the cause.

In our passage, Paul is instructing Timothy how to navigate through life, because, “in the last days there will come times of difficulty.” (3:1) His advice to Timothy has two sides; Paul reveals to us the true cause of our world’s difficulties, and a guaranteed solution to navigate and overcome those difficult times when they come.

To examine the ways that we as Christians should live faithfully in the midst of human culture is an issue that would break the bounds of this simple blog, or even a dozen blogs. Summed up in a phrase, our call includes upholding justice and truth in a world of sin, deceit, and selfishness. Our passage indicates that doing so comes with a challenge; “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” We can expect this because our world’s problems can’t be solved through headlines or legislation. Personal and cultural salvation are found in a life transformed by Truth and light, but we live in a world committed to the darkness.

The Bible explains why the times are difficult; and the painful focus is the wickedness of the human heart. Verses 2 through 9 present a massive litany of human sins; heart attitudes, really, that are at the core of every social ill; people who are lovers of self and money, proud, disobedient, treacherous, avoiding the truth, lovers of pleasure to mention a small part. The list is devastating, but it rivets us on this glorious truth; we can’t solve cultural ills through new programs or laws through parties or social reform. (Although getting those right is helpful and as people of faith, we are called to pursue what is called primary justice – establishing right (just) relationships between people.) The solution comes through the transformation of the hearts of men and women through the power of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ! No election will ever make anything great outside of the truth and justice, and renewed life, found in being united to Jesus by faith.

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This is the message that Paul uses to encourage Timothy. He says that Timothy should, “continue in what he learned and firmly believed… the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.” Those “sacred writings,” which Paul goes on to describe, are “breathed out by God” himself. And at this triumphant blast, we must pause.

God breathed! There are numerous pieces of nearly infinite depth to consider here; let’s ponder three. The first is that the Word of God, the Bible, is inspired by God. God himself, out of love for us and earnestly desiring that we understand his plan and know who he is, expressed himself through his prophets and apostles with the exact words and message he intended. Second, the word of God is profitable in penetrating and transforming ways so that any person who listens and obeys will be equipped for every good work. All that you need, all that the world needs, every answer to every sorrow and ill can be found in God’s Word. In the shifting and unsteady waves of public discourse, we are like a tempest tossed skiff, but the Word of God is the anchor that holds in the solid soil beneath the water, providing us with a solid confidence that we will never be able to find in political causes or in any other source of authority. The third is a powerful mystery; God’s Word has power because, alive and active, the Spirit of Christ dwells within the Word and indwells us when we feast on His word. The Spirit is the power of God who fills us and makes us alive and capable as we trust and act. This is the power we need to overthrow the headlines and bring hope in troubled times.

This blog was written by Charles Fox

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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Psalm 1:5-6: Consequences

Psalm 1:5-6:

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish. [1]

The previous blogs on Psalm 1 have been aimed mostly at Christians—calling them to guard their minds and live consistently with their calling from Christ. Let’s play Devil’s advocate: what happens if people do not to train their minds to follow God’s Word and live fruitful lives? John Calvin argues that those who disregard Psalm 1’s instructions will lack happy lives and face destruction. [2] Calvin teaches clean consciences from Christ are the key to true and enduring happiness, despite life’s promised troubles. [3] Further, while the wicked may seem to escape God’s wrath, and succeed in subduing their consciences, they will face the Triune God’s judgment. [4]

Why would you not want true happiness and justification? If you are an unbeliever you can cry out to Christ as your only Savior and way to God. [5] By trusting Christ as your sole means of forgiveness you will grow in holiness, develop in seeing every trial as a joy, and have access to heaven. [6] Christians: when we fail to abide by Psalm 1 we are living as if we do not want the gifts Jesus bought us with His blood. Holy Trinity, in your mercy please help all of us grow in love for you.

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software 7. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] John Calvin. Commentary on the Book of Psalms: Translated from the Original Latin, and Collated with the Author’s French Version, Vol. 1. Trans. James Anderson. (Grand Rapids, MI: 1981), 7.

[3] Calvin, Psalms, Vol. 1, 7.

[4] Calvin, Psalms, Vol. 1, 8.

[5] 1 John 1:9.

[6] James 1:1-5; Revelation 21:1-8.

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Psalm 1:3-4: Faithfulness

Psalm 1:3-4: He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

       that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

       In all that he does, he prospers.

       The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away. [1]

Psalm 1 serves as a guardian Psalm, with verses 1-2 calling people to walk on God’s path and guard their minds. [2] Verses 3-4 picture people on Christ’s path as “a luxuriant tree, ever blooming.” [3] The fact that this tree is “planted” shows God’s intentionallity and care of the tree. [4]

But the defining character and difference between the tree and the chaff is fruit. Charles Spurgeon teaches, “fruitfulness is an essential quality of a gracious man.” [5] If we claim to follow Christ, we must persevere in His way, not merely assent to His teaching. [6] May we who serve Jesus drink from His streams of grace, and be faithful where we are planted.

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted somewhere else.

[2] Derek Kidner. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Psalms 1-72, An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms. General Ed: D.J. Wiseman. (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), 47 and 48.

[3] The Reformation Study Bible. General Editor R.C. Sproul. (Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries, 2005), 739.

[4] C.H. Spurgeon. The Treasury of David, Containing An Original Exposition Of The Book Of Psalms; A Collection Of Illustrative Extracts From the Whole Ranger Of Literature; A Series Of Homiletical Hints Upon Almost every Verse; And Lists Of Writers Upon Each Psalm In Three Volumes, Vol., 1: Psalm I To LVII. (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Pub, 1876), 7.

[5] Spurgeon, The Treasure of David, 7.

[6] Bruce K. Waltke. The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1-15. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 286-287. See also James 2:14-26.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Psalm 1:1-2: Guard Your Mind

Psalm 1:1-2: Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. [1]

If you wanted to protect your house, one measure you might take is to hire a guard to stand outside your door. Psalm 1 functions as a guard at the front door of the Psalms, warning that we must embrace God’s truth or face “ultimate judgement.” [2] The three negatives in verse one warn against departing God’s ways, and verse two reflects the importance of absorbing “Scripture as a whole” to stay on the LORD’s path, off the way to destruction. [3]

Because Psalm 1 is God’s truth, ignoring its instructions leads to condemnation. [4] Minds that reject Scripture are doomed. [5] The “law” in verse two is the whole system of God’s teaching and faithful living. [6] The consequences for disregarding the Bible’s covenantal law by the power of the Holy Spirit are catastrophic for believer and unbeliever alike, though true Christians are spared from eternal damnation. [7] Therein is the issue: we all fail! Our only hope is to cling to the one who faithfully lived out Psalm 1: Jesus Christ. If we trust in Him as our only means of forgiveness from the Father’s just wrath, then we can grow in His counsel, maturing in His way, as we await the day when we will sit with Him in glory. [8]

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] Derek Kidner. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Psalms 1-72, An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms. General Ed: D.J. Wiseman. (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), 47.

[3] Kidner, Psalms 1-72, 48.

[4] Luke 16:19-31; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 21:8, etc.

[5] Proverbs 1:1-7; John 14:6.

[6] J.E. Hartley. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament Vol. 2. Eds: R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), Logos Bible Software, 403-405.

[7] Matthew 7:21-23; Proverbs 3:12 and Hebrews 12:5-8; Matthew 12:33-37; Hebrews 3:12-19, etc.

[8] Philippians 1:6; Revelation 22:1-5.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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James 1:22: Please Verify

James 1:22: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. [1]

 Good security guards require people to verify that they are who they claim to be. A major way to know that someone is a Christian is that he or she lives according to Scripture. [2] If we identify with Christianity but fail to obey God’s Word, we lie to ourselves and deny ourselves the opportunity to grow in Christ. [3]

 While works do not save,[4] their enduring absence in people’s lives is condemning. [5] James 1:22 specifically warns that “[t]heology must lead to practice; faith must lead to deeds (2:24).” [6] You cannot claim to follow Jesus or truly know Him if your life is not submitted to His Scripture. [7] All of us struggle and fall. [8] The Trinity helps us repent and grow in His likeness. [9] Do not hesitate to come to Christ, as a struggling but growing saint, or for the first time in conversion.

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Logos Bible Software. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] Daniel M. Doriani. Reformed Expository Commentary: James Series Eds: Richard D. Philips and Philip Graham Ryken. Testament Eds: Iain M. Duguid and Daniel M. Doriani. (Philipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2007), 51.

[3] Doriani, James, 51. See also 1 John 1:5-10

[4] Romans Galatians 2:11-21, Ephesians 2:8-10.

[5] Luke 6:46-49; Romans 2:13, 3:21-28; and James 2:14-20. For some individuals that may qualify as exceptions please see Luke 23:39-43 and The Westminster Standards: The Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism, and the Shorter Catechism. (Philadelphia, PA: Great Commission Publications, 2011), The Confession, Chapter X, section 1.

[6] Doriani, James, 51.

[7] 1 John 2:1-17.

[8] Romans 3:9-23; 7:21-25.

[9] The Westminster Standards: The Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism, and the Shorter Catechism, chapter XIII.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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Ephesians 4:29: Well Worded

Ephesians 4:29: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. [1]

 We easily see the “do not” in this verse, but there is much more than a negative. Paul commands believers to “edify” each other, which is “to carry [each other] forward” using words of “grace, comfort, advice, and everything that aids the salvation of the soul.” [2]

 Imagine how different life would be if words were aimed at benefitting souls. No generic well-wishing or simplistic sympathies, but genuine, timely communication pointing people to Christ. How do we know Paul wants people to see Christ? The best way to give grace and build someone up is to be used by God to help make Christ the centerpiece of their life. [3] Further, Christ alone had perfect speech, [4] the speech we should emulate. [5] Accordingly, if we want eternally meaningful interactions, we must speak in ways that highlight and “imitate” Christ. [6] Christians: are our words life giving or life taking? Christ-less hearts (in people who have not trusted Christ to forgive their sins) communicate corruption rather than grace. [7]

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Standard Bible Society, 2016). Logos Bible Software. All Scripture References will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] John Calvin. Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians. Trans. William Pringle. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Co, 1981), 300.

[3] John 3:16-17; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 1:3-6, 2:1-10; 1 John 4:7-21.

[4] 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:5, 3:8.

[5] Ephesians 5:4; Colossians 3:8; 3:16; 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

[6] 1 Corinthians 11:1.

[7] Matthew 12:34.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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Colossians 1:9-10: Prayer for Growth

Colossians 1:9-10: And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. [1]

What are things you pray for? If you do not pray, what would you pray for if you were to start? Paul prays that the Colossian saints would love God and walk in a manner worthy of Him. Paul’s earnest prayer is a sign that the Colossians still need to grow in their faith. [2] In order to grow in Christ and “the knowledge of his will,” the Colossians must study Scripture, which is “the only rule of right knowledge.” [3]

What are the implications of this passage for daily life? If you are a non-Christian, you are living without God’s Word, which is the only true knowledge. [4] While you are able to do beneficial things, [5] the Bible is clear that you are not living in true wisdom. This leads to your destruction. [6] Confessing your sins to God and trusting in Christ exclusively as Savior gives you true wisdom and salvation. Why wait? If you are a Christian, ceaselessly search the Scriptures to grow in godliness. [7] The Bible will lead you to God-glorifying works which are your calling. [8]

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Logos Bible Software 6. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] John Calvin. Commentaries on the Epistles to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1981), 142.

[3] Calvin, Colossians, 143.

[4] Proverbs 1:7; 2:6, 1 John 4:8.

[5] Exodus 18:1-27, Ezra 1.

[6] Proverbs 1:8-33. See also Bruce K. Waltke The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1-15. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 200-213.

[7] 1 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:3-15.

[8] Calvin, Colossians, 144. See also Ephesians 2:10 and James 2:14-26.