Posts tagged #PCA

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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Remain in Christ by the Holy Spirit [1]

1 John 2:26-27: I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. [2]

 Regrettably, some Christian can act as if they do not need instruction or guidance. 1 John 2:26-27 states the opposite. Contextually, John tells true believers to ignore heresy because the Holy Spirit grows true believers (not new and unbiblical teaching). [3] John’s instruction helps us see that the Christ—given gift of the Holy Spirit makes all Christians, congregants and pastors alike, stand on equal footing because they all learn with the Holy Spirit’s aid. [4] The central message is “in the last three words,” calling us to “abide in [Christ].” [5] When we “remain” in Christ’s teaching, found in Scripture, by the Holy Spirit’s power we persevere in the Trinity’s providence, growing in knowledge and godliness. [6]

 Saying one prayer is not enough. Occasional church attendance is insufficient. Rarely reading the Bible is inadequate. Christians need to hear Christ-centered, biblically faithful preaching and teaching. [7] Certainly, life circumstances affect church participation and devotional life. But believers miss opportunities to mature in Christ-likeness and make themselves easy prey for deception when devoutness is absent. [8] Yes, salvation is by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone. [9] But how healthy can faith be when we minimize growth? May the Holy Spirit empower His elect to grow in the Triune God’s ways, as He has promised. [10]


This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] Simon J. Kistemaker. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986), 286. Kistemaker uses “remain,” rather than the ESV’s “abide,” hence my citing of him here.

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

[3] Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 285.

[4] Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 285-286.

[5] Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 286.

[6] Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 286.

[7] Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 285.-286.

[8] 1 Peter 5:8-9.

[9] Galatians 2:11-21.

[10] Philippians 1:6.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

1 John 2:25-25: Abide in Truth and Happiness

1 John 2:24-25: Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. [1]

 Based on the title, you might be cringing in fear that this is about to be a health and wealth devotional. But John’s message does not allow us to go that route. In fact, John’s message is much better than self-confidence, self-approval, and self-sufficiency. These verses remind Christians of the joys they will have from remaining faithful to the Gospel John taught them by the power of the Holy Spirit. [2] By continuing in a biblical understanding of the Gospel, believers have fellowship with the Triune God and enjoy “real happiness.” [3] This “real happiness” is not infatuation with whimsical desires, but rests on the tested, true, and tried Word of God that can weather any storm. [4]

 This is why good doctrine is so important. [5] When we are careless in understanding Scripture and get quickly attached to truths that seem biblical without examining them we rob ourselves of real happiness. [6] Are you struggling to understand the difficulties in your life? Are you itching for doctrines that promote yourself rather than the Gospel? Examine what you believe against the Bible so that lasting happiness can be yours. This happiness may not make you feel the way you think you should feel, but will free you from deception. Will you abide in truth and happiness that comes from God’s Word, pointing to Christ’s redemptive work on every page, or will lies consume 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] John Calvin. Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2018), Logos Bible Software, 198-199.

[3] Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 199.

[4] Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 198-199. See also Timothy Keller’s “Our Identity: The Christian Alternative to Late Modernity's Story” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ehw87PqTwKw.

[5] Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 198.

[6] Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 198.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

1 John 2:22-23: “Truly God and Truly Man” [1]

1 John 2:22-23: Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. [2]

 Throughout church history many people have denied Christ’s deity and/or humanity. [3] Even today, Mormonism claims that Jesus was once a man who became a god and we can become gods ourselves. [4] Other modern examples abound. What happens if we waver on the incarnate Christ’s being truly God and truly man? We worship a god who cannot save because he is powerless and cannot represent us. [5] John also teaches that we cannot know God the Father if we do not understand His revelation to us in His Son. [6] Loose/misguided Christology leads to eternal damnation, misunderstanding God, and creates lies. [7]

 Do you grasp how serious this is? These are not arbitrary opinions founded on subjective desires. This is eternal life or death. [8] This is the Gospel: how the eternal Son of God became man so His elect could be saved, sanctified, restored. [9] If you are a Christian, are you careful in articulating Christ so that you are presenting Him faithfully as much as possible? [10] If you are a non-Christian: do not be deceived by the many antichrists and lies about Jesus. [11] The LORD Jesus is the risen, incarnate, exalted Son of God Who saves sinners. Put your faith in Him, and you will be saved. [12]


This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] Stephen Nichols. “The Humanity of Jesus: The Ligoner Statement on Christology.” www.Ligoner.org. Accessed 1 August 2019. https://www.ligonier.org/blog/the-humanity-of-jesus-the-ligonier-statement-on-christology/.

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

[3] John Calvin. Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles. Trans. and ed.: John Owen. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), 195.

[4] Jeff Durbin. “The Gospel for Mormons.” Youtube.com. Accessed 1 August 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQNObk2qAwo.

[5] Carl Trueman. “Tertullian.” (Lecture: Westminster Theological Seminary, Glenside, PA, October 8, 2015).

[6] Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 197.

[7] Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 198.

[8] John 14:6; Acts 4:14.

[9] John 1:1, 3:16; Ephesians 1:3-14; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:1-4, 1 John 3:1-10; etc.

[10] Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 195.

[11] Matthew 7:15-20; Romans 16:17-18; Ephesians 5:6-13; Galatians 6:1-10; 1 John 4:1-6.

[12] Ephesians 2:1-10.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

1 John 2:20-21: Christ’s Anointing

1 John 2: 20-21: But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. [1]

 After mentioning the antichrists who have left Christianity by denying Christ’s identity as God and Savior, John reminds believers of their God-given ability to detect deception. [2] Christians are able to tell truth from lies about the Gospel because God the Father through God the Son has anointed His elect. [3] This anointing is God the Holy Spirit abiding with God’s children because of “the Holy One[’s],” Jesus’, perfect work. [4] Because of the Holy Spirit’s presence with believers, John reminds Christians of the Gospel as they battle heresy. [5]

 As we apply this text to ourselves, believers must remember that the Holy Spirit’s presence does not mean they know everything about the Gospel. Christians should spend their lives learning and living the Gospel. [6] John means that the Holy Spirit directs us when someone lies about the Gospel, and helps us properly proclaim Christ’s death and resurrection as we are sanctified. [7] For those who deny Christ and His Word: you do not have His Holy Spirit to guide you in the truth and are lost in your sin. [8] If you confess your sin and need that only Jesus satisfies, you will receive God’s forgiveness, and have the Holy Spirit’s help for life. [9]


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), 280.

[3] Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 278.

[4] Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 279.

[5] Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 279-280.

[6] Philippians 3:12-15; Hebrews 12:1-2.

[7] Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 278.

[8] Romans 8:7-8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 2 Timothy 3:10-17.

[9] John 14:6; Acts 2:14; Romans 5:1-12; 8; 1 Corinthians 2:10-11, Galatians 5:16-26; etc.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

1 John 2:16-17: Murderous and Momentary Desires

1 John 2:16-17: For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. [1]

 In verse 15 John forbade loving what God hates. [2] John uses verses 16-17 to explain why loving worldly things is lethal to the soul. [3] (For clarity’s sake: when John says, “the world” he is not condemning God’s good creation, but desires, tendencies, and behaviors that come from Satan.) [4] Verse 16 shows us that inward desires that delight in sinful nature and adulterous lust lead to lives obsessed with status. [5] Verse 17a teaches the murderous and momentary nature of giving into ungodly desires. One scholar explains, “If [someone] places his interest in that which is here today and gone tomorrow, he reaps a harvest of instability, stumbles in the darkness of sin and, because he has cast his lot with the world, faces a similar end.” [6] In contrast, verse 17b shows the everlasting security Christians have when they keep Christ’s commandments of believing Jesus is the eternal Son of God Who Redeems sinners and to love other believers. [7] This security is for all who believe exclusively in Christ, and is their hope in all seasons. [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] John Calvin. Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles. Trans. and ed.: John Owen. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), 187.

[3] Simon J. Kistemaker. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986), 271.

[4] Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 272.

[5] Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 271-272. For the adulterous nature of lust, Kistemaker (on page 272), reminds us of Matthew 5:28.

[6] Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 272-273.

[7] Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 273.

[8] Romans 8.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

1 John 2:14-15: Undivided Love

1     John 2:14-15: I write to you, fathers,

because you know him who is from the beginning.

       I write to you, young men,

because you are strong,

and the word of God abides in you,

and you have overcome the evil one.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. [1]

 If a husband told his wife, “I love you and this person I met online” would you believe him? No! Similarly, you would not believe a Christian who said they loved the Trinity but lived like the world. That is John’s message in verses 14-15. [2] John’s repetition in verse 14 reinforces the importance for spiritual fathers to continuing growing in Christ, and that young Christians only conquer through devotion to God and His Word. [3] Verse 15 clarifies that if we live in the things the LORD hates we cannot please Him. [4]

 Do you view Jesus as so holy and worthy that you want to be more like Him? Everyone could grow in this area, but if it is not a concern to you then you should be worried about your soul. Claiming to love God while walking in darkness is a dangerous lie for your soul. [5] If you are a Christian struggling to love God, pray that He would renew your love and He will gladly send His Holy Spirit to help you. Speaking to your pastor can also help, especially if there are worldly loves pulling you from Christ. If you are not a Christian, know that your love for what God hates results in death. [6] You can have life by confessing your sinful loves and need for Christ’s perfect work. When you embrace Christ, your affections for the things that are killing you will decrease, and your love for the Triune God will increase.


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] John Calvin. Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles. Trans. and ed.: John Owen. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), 187.

[3] Simon J. Kistemaker. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986), 268.

[4] Calvin, Catholic Epistles, 187.

[5] 1 John 1:5-10.

[6] Romans 6:23.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

1 John 2:12-13: Poetic Reminder

1 John 2: 12-13: I am writing to you, little children,

because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.

       I am writing to you, fathers,

because you know him who is from the beginning.

       I am writing to you, young men,

because you have overcome the evil one.

       I write to you, children,

because you know the Father. [1]

 In verses 12-14 John uses poetry to condense his thoughts, encouraging all Christians—including spiritual fathers and young men. [2] “Little children” is John’s way of addressing his readers as their pastor. [3] John reminds believers that their “[s]ins have been, are, and remain forever forgiven” because of Christ. [4] (We know John references Christ when he writes “name’s sake” because of how John uses “name” in 1 John 1:9; 2:1-2; 4:10.) [5] Next, John focuses on those who “have gained spiritual knowledge of and about Jesus Christ” (fathers), and those who have defeated Satan “and rejoice in their salvation” (young men). [6]

 Why does this matter? Have you considered the joy and calling you have if you have embraced salvation in Christ? Have you thought about the liberating news of knowing that your sins are removed as far as the east is from the west, enabling you to receive salvation and right standing before the Holy Triune God? [7] If you are a “father” in the faith, are you training the next generation for service to Christ? [8] If you are young in your faith, when was the last time you rejoiced in Jesus’ perfect work and shared it? These truths should change our lives. [9]


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), 265.

[3] Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 265-266.

[4] Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 266.

[5] Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 266.

[6] Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 267.

[7] Psalm 103:12; John 14:6; Romans 8; Ephesians 1-2; etc.

[8] Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 267.

[9] Philippians 3:1-10.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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1 John 2:9-11: Christians Loving Christians

1 John 2:9-11: Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. [1]

 Keeping up the discussion on darkness in verse 8, John teaches that when Christians fail to love each other they are in sin’s darkness. [2] One scholar explains, “Whoever hates a Christian brother breaks God’s commands, is devoid of truth, and lives in spiritual darkness.” [3] When Christians love one another in action, they are walking as Christ did (hence the analogy of light in verse 10). [4]

 Loving Christians can be trying. Many believers have been hurt by other Christians—perhaps you have been hurt. If this is true, please know that others’ sin against you breaks Jesus’ heart. Also, Christ has promised to be near you and comfort you in this season. [5] Further, in God’s providence, even in these trials the LORD is not defeated nor surprised. [6] He is so powerful and wise He can turn these sins into opportunities to grow in Him. [7] May the Triune God also guide you to a church with wise elders who can help you as much as possible. [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] Simon J. Kistemaker. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986), 263.

[3] Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 263.

[4] Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, 263.

[5] Psalm 34:18.

[6] Herman Bavinck. Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2 & 3, ed. John Bolt. Trans. John Vriend. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2011), Vol. 2 God & Creation: 173, 191, & 253. Vol. 3: Sin & Salvation in Christ: 29.

[7] Romans 8:28; James 1:2-4; 1:12-15; and The Westminster Standards: The Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism, & the Shorter Catechism. (Philadelphia, PA: Great Commission Publications, 2011), The Confession of Faith, chapter V.

[8] Romans 12:18.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

1 John 2:1-2: Am I a Christian?

1 John 2:1-2: My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. [1]

 Sin affects believer and unbeliever alike. [2] But when sin manifests itself in the believer’s life, it can be distressing. Thoughts like, “If I were truly saved, would I be dealing with this right now?” creep in and torment us in doubt. [3]

 What assurance is there for those tortured by doubt and scrupulosity? John helps us understand that Jesus Christ, the only perfect person on earth, defends us as the perfect lawyer before a just God. [4] 1 John 4:10 reminds us that the Father, in love, sent the Son to redeem His people. [5] Because Jesus has perfectly appeased God’s wrath, removed the “guilt of our sin” and “suppl[ied] satisfaction for sin” we need not doubt our standing as children before God. [6]

 This good news is not license to sin, [7] but freedom for obedience. The Triune God’s grace is so good we should all be motivated to flee sin and live biblical principles through the power of the Holy Spirt. [8] And when we find ourselves wrestling with sin again, we look to Him Who represents us and faithfully forgives. May the Trinity be pleased to help you trust, confess, and rest in Christ today.


This blog was written by Seth Dunn

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

[2] Romans 3:10-23; 6; 7.

[3] Simon J. Kistemaker. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James & the Epistles of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986), 241. For identity, see also John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Trans. Henry Beveridge. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2008), 253-254.

[4] Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistle of James & the Epistles of John, 254.

[5] Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistle of James & the Epistles of John, 253.

[6] Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistle of James & the Epistles of John, 252-253.

[7] Romans 6:1; James 2.

[8] Ephesians 2:8-100

Meet a Ministry Team

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Proclamation’s Blogging Ministry Team

If the Internet were a cheese, it would be Limburger, heated, slowly for hours. The smell of its presence is inescapable no matter where you go. Although the technology itself is morally neutral, the amount and type of Internet usage can be as delightful as connecting with friends or shared family pictures, as comical as <<insert your favorite silly cat video here>>, or as dark as walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. No single word can encapsulate this technological tangle, but one might try; “shallow,” “comforting,” or “insidious,” “provocative,” or “dangerous,” “threatening,” or “refreshing.” It all depends on where you go. The challenge is that the choices are many, access is easy, and the available content represents a huge spread from God-honoring to blasphemous. With a few “clicks” a person can find truth that leads to life or lies that condemn to eternal death.

The blogging ministry at Proclamation seeks to speak, into the Internet maelstrom, words of truth, guidance, encouragement, and hopefully, a little humor and insight. We seek to enlighten, investigate, and explain. Our topics range from worship to apologetics, evangelism to prayer, and even current events, (although we carefully dodge discussing politics.) At all times, at the bedrock of each word we write is our desire to bring glory to God and to fulfill the Great Commission; always with the Bible as our ultimate source of truth and understanding.

It is easy to find the fruit of our blogging ministry on our church website, (www.proclamationpca.org), by clicking on “blog,” in the top navigation of the site.

How you can help:
1) Pray for our team of writers. We want to “get it right,” which means taking time to know God, know our topics, and then, make it come alive! Pray for us to receive the spark of inspiration and the time to write.

2) Read the blogs, provide comments, and share the links. As typical aspiring (and starving) writers, we all want our words to go viral, start a revival, and transform the world. (Sorry, I couldn’t think of another word that ended -al.) More seriously, this is a ministry, and we do want God to be seen and glorified, people to be challenged, and hopefully, some to claim the name, “Christian.” And it is simple math, if 50 people in our church post the link on their Facebook page….

3) Provide feedback to our team. As always, writers are shy, mousy people who hide out typing in their private basement sancti, (What is plural for sanctum?) dreaming that someone, somewhere really cares. (Don’t tell them I said this, though.) But DO accost them after service, point out every error of punctuation or syntax, pat them on the head and make suggestions for their next blog.

This blog was written by Charles Fox

Treasuring God's Truth In Your Hearts

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

Psalm 27:10-11: God’s Shield

Psalm 27:11-12: Teach me your way, O Lord,

and lead me on a level path

because of my enemies.

Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;

for false witnesses have risen against me,

and they breathe out violence. [1]

 

Often in life we do not always understand why the LORD tests us. Job was not explicitly told why He suffered. [2] On occasion, Scripture gives us some explanations for trials. James 1:2-4; Romans 8:18-39; 2 Corinthians 1:3-10; etc. help us see some ways the Triune God is greater than suffering and can use it in believers’ lives. Arguably, Psalm 27:11-12 is one of those passages. [3] David does not get an outright answer, [4] but John Calvin explains this passage is a comfort for modern Christians. [5] Calvin teaches, “. . . this prayer was dictated for our comfort, to intimate that God can maintain our innocence, and oppose the shield of his protection to the cruelty of our enemies.” David’s suffering and prayer are recorded so Christians can see and believe that the Trinity is able to save His children.

 

Calvin also reminds us that Jesus Christ faced the ultimate suffering from lying and violent people. [6] Because of Immanuel’s murder, we are able to walk in the LORD’s ways, even when we suffer. [7] When our faith is founded on Christ’s redemptive work alone, we will face suffering, [8] and see the ways God uses suffering to refine us, and show us His power. [9] Believer in Jesus Christ, no matter what you are suffering, the Trinity’s shield is sufficient to guard you. Pray that you would believe it more.

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] Job 38-42.

[3] John Calvin. Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Vol. I. Trans. James Anderson. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), 461-462.

[4] 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), 122.

[5] Calvin, Psalms, Vol. I, 462.

[6] Calvin, Psalm, Vol. I, 461-462. See also Acts 2:14-42 (esp. v. 23), 3:11-26 (esp. vv. 13-16).

[7] 1 Peter 2:21-25, 4:12-19; 5:9-10.

[8] 2 Timothy 3:12.

[9] Calvin, Psalms, Vol. I, 461.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart.png

Psalm 27:7-8: True Prayer

Psalm 27:7-8: Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;

be gracious to me and answer me!

            You have said, “Seek my face.”

                        My heart says to you,

“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”  [1]

 

After seeing the confidence in verses 1-6 you might read this passage and think: “David, what happened?” David prays so passionately because he knows prayer communicates with the Triune God Who hears. [2] Verse 8 teaches us to listen to God’s call to seek Him, and shows David’s heart in his quick response to seek the LORD. [3]

 

When we pray we can have the same assurance that we will be heard, and should expect to be heard. [4] Do we pray that way? When pain strikes, and the way we understand the world is rocked, do we pray expecting God to answer? If this is an area where you struggle, or if you are in a hard season where you need wisdom, please pray this whole Psalm regularly. Lord willing, Psalm 27 will teach you David’s confidence, earnestness, and seeking the Trinity as you pray to the God Who hears because of His Son Jesus Christ. [5] Notice: David does not appeal to His righteousness but looks to what God has said. Pray confidently because Jesus has reconciled us who were God’s enemies. [6] Your life does not need to be in order. You do not need to be perfect. Come to Christ, and you have everything you need to pray.

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] 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 Part 2: Psalm XXVII to LVII. (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Pub, 1876), 4.

[3] Spurgeon, Treasury, 4.

[4] Spurgeon, Treasury, 4. See also 2 Kings 19:14-37; 2 Chronicles 20.

[5] Hebrews 4:14-16.

[6] Romans 5:10-11.

Introducing Generation Me

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Introducing Generation Me, by Jean Twenge

 

Lost in a Confusing Morass

Let’s introduce Generation Me: by Jean M Twenge. This book explores and reveals the cultural universe of the current young generation that is pushing into adulthood right now and reveals their character, strengths and struggles, with especial focus on helpful comparisons with previous generations; baby-boomers (both leading and trailing edge,) and Gen X. Twenge explores individuality and the rejection of rules, depression and sex, finances, jobs, education and fears. Through the use of massive studies, scholarly and popular writing, Google and culturally iconic movie quotes, she delicately opens the bomb casing of today’s twenty-somethings, (and thirty-somethings) and we get to peer inside and see what makes this generation tick. Her penetrating evaluation exposes the cultural forces that shaped and molded Generation Me, or, as Prince might say, the generation formerly known as Millennials.

The value of this book is understanding to facilitate meaningful engagement. Each generation brings its own perspective to the world, and for us to bring the gospel into the lives of each generation, we need to understand the people to whom we speak, their heart motivations, fears, and priorities, in order to garner the highest impact. Fortunately, the gospel is always relevant and penetrating to every culture, but people and cultures change. In the context of 21st Century Apologetics, this book will expand our understanding of our milieu and the messagees, those people who need to hear the gospel.

Let’s also contemplate our message. At the core, we present THE gospel; Sinful and needy mankind, loving and just God, salvation through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ; new heart, transformed life, nuanced a thousand ways. The Holy Spirit then quickens the elect, and we rejoice at the grace and mercy of God. In many ways, presenting “the gospel” is all we really need to do. That is what we are called to do. At the same time, we need to make sure that we package the core message in a way that makes sense to Gen Me. The assumptions and preconceptions and the vocabulary of earlier generations are a foreign language now. Things that were taken for granted in the past don’t even exist in the 21st century cultural dictionary.

Consider the following statement from Twenge’s discussion of Moral Individualism, where each person believes that “morality is a personal choice:” “When asked if people have a moral responsibility or duty to help others, one young person said, ‘No, not really.’” (Twenge, page 30.) On the surface this is surprising, but not alarming until you gain some context: “Today’s under-35 young people are the real Me Generation, or, as I call them, Generation Me. Born after self-focus entered the cultural mainstream, this generation has never known a world that put duty before self.” (Italics mine – Twenge, page. 2.) The eye opener here is that calling the “no, not really,” youth to a sense of duty is similar to trying to convince a blind person that they should really prefer driving a blue car over a red one. How do you appeal to someone with the Golden rule when to them, other people aren’t just irrelevant, but invisible? Right and wrong don’t even exist in a world where the only criteria for making a choice is, “What I want,” or “What makes me feel good.” In the past, people wanted proof that the gospel is truth, Gen Me doesn’t even have a concept of truth, and certainly they hold no commitment to truth as some kind of absolute “out there” that can be learned; or that is worth searching for. Their entire lives have been built on the foundation that “truth” is what you find in yourself. We need a new dictionary and a new language.

We need God’s wisdom to speak, we need God’s wisdom to understand.

It is always dangerous when looking at an age group, whether it is your own, or someone else’s to say, “That generation is, let’s say, selfish, or unapproachable, or gullible.” For example, not every 28 year old today is narcissistic. But, for the sake of those who don’t know, let’s ponder Snapchat and selfies. Snapchat is a phone application that allows you to send pictures that you take out to the Internet-connected world. As of March, 2019, over 400 million people have Snapchat accounts, sending over 90 million images every day, of which, about three quarters are selfies. Now selfies, for us old folks, are pictures that you take of yourself. As a person who grew up taking pictures of others from behind the camera, on film, this concept is inexplicable. But before we get lost, let’s ponderize and observate and summarize; there are an awful lot of people out there who are self-absorbed. (And you can multiply Snapchat by Facebook raised to the power of Pinterest plus Instagram.) We are forcibly dragged to conclude that although any individual might not be selfish, or unapproachable, or gullible, it is clear that there is a body of activity taking place in our world, in general, that gives us an indication of some driving heart issues. And more importantly, all of this picture sharing activity is closely connected to tendencies of the heart, priorities and commitments, and sin and enslavement. In the end, we need to observe careful observations and conclude intelligent conclusions. Even if a specific 28-year-old isn’t narcissistic, there are a LOT of 28-year-olds who are and every 28 year old, even the selfless ones, lives in a swamp of self-interest and self-focus.

This raises a lot of questions for a Christian. (And keep in mind that what we really long for is for everyone to share in the delight of glorifying God and enjoying him forever!) What is the impact of Snapchat? (Or social media?) Why would someone want to post selfies for friends and strangers to look at? What is in the heart of a people who would even want to put pictures of themselves “out there?” How does this daily, repetitive, irresistible activity change the heart of the person who does it? What drives this person? What are they worshipping? What happens to a culture that is so driven by endless posts and memes? How does this activity (obsession?) impinge on a person’s view of God? What does the gospel have to offer to help us understand? And ultimately, what do we do? What do we say?

This is why we need to understand our world and culture, and Generation Me offers a world of insights that will guide us.

The value of Secular Scholarship

Twenge summarizes numerous massive studies, tests, interviews, and evaluations. The data spans 60, 70, even 100 years. Often the evaluation compares thousands of young people who were teenagers in 1975 to other teenagers in 2005 and then even more teenagers from 2015. How do the responses change to the same questions as we move through the generations? Other tools give the same tests to the same body of people when they are 14, 34, and then 54, showing how perspectives have change within the same population. Her insights span the priorities presented in movies or popular songs, or what the most searched motivational phrase is on Google. The observations come from directed studies and from tracked behaviors. In the end, what the book provides is the culmination of crunching a lot of data on people past and present.

Let’s be clear right up front – this book is not written from a Christian perspective; the author makes no claim to any religious or moral perspective. This should not, however, deter us in any way. Although the author doesn’t ever really say that, for example, the pervasive cultural selfishness is wrong, she does list a number of inevitable and observable consequences of selfishness and points out the painful, or positive(?) results. For example, she identifies that Gen Me tends to be more lonely because they won’t commit to relationships because they don’t want to be limited or stifled or to have their own wants put on hold or jeopardized for someone else. Is this good? Is this bad? The author doesn’t say. Another example: her conclusions about the overwhelming sexual promiscuity of Gen Me are utterly bereft of any moral sense. She assesses the empty and persistent sexual activity as a generational difference, nothing more. There it is; it just is.

And perhaps her lack of any moral center is all to our advantage. By reading this book, we aren’t just gaining penetrating insights into what is happening in our culture and the driving attitudes of an entire generation, we are also gaining a deep understanding of what a non-Christian thinks about these moral issues. What better way to build a strategy for sharing the gospel than having someone tip their hand and show us all their cards of life? The gospel is the answer to every question, but we need to know what people are asking, not asking, or ignoring.

Certainly, we should be angry that an entire generation has been misled into debilitating perspectives of self and sin. But moreover, we should be moved to pity and compassion. This generation of millions isn’t just voters or consumers, to be manipulated for political or mercantile ends, although they are particularly susceptible to this type of manipulation. They are precious souls who will either be led to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, or who will perish eternally. Understanding them and their world is critical.

The bottom line is that despite being essentially a-moral, (which is really another word for immoral, but I’m trying to make a point here,) what this book gives us is a rich and varied view of what is happening in the hearts and minds of an entire generation. The presented conclusions may be perverse, but the observations are detailed and penetrating and allow us to understand and develop Godly and wise responses. This will be the goal of our exploration of Generation Me.

This blog was written by Charles Fox

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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Psalm 27:5-6: More Than Human Victory

Psalm 27:5-6: For he will hide me in his shelter

in the day of trouble;

       he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;

he will lift me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up

above my enemies all around me,

       and I will offer in his tent

sacrifices with shouts of joy;

       I will sing and make melody to the Lord. [1]

 Those who do not believe in the Triune God of the Bible may look at these verses and think that David is deceiving himself—that the King of Israel was grasping at straws to endure suffering. Are these the words of someone pretending away pain, or looking to a greater strength than his own? The world cannot understand David’s joy because it is lost in darkness. [2] David’s hope comes from being in Christ, which allows him to “fearlessly disregard the darts of his enemies, which might have otherwise pierced him.” [3]

  Christian hope, like David’s, is insanity to unbelievers. [4] Those who are dead in their sins [5] cannot be expected to have the perseverance believers have in trials. [6] But disbelief is never a reason to lose delight in God. [7] When believers treasure their union with Christ, they have hope in suffering that goes beyond the grave. [8] Truly, when Jesus Christ is the exclusive rock of our salvation we have a more than human victory. [9]

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] Romans 3:9-23. See also John Calvin. Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Vol. I. Trans. James Anderson. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), 456.

[3] Calvin, Psalms, Vol. 1, 455-456.

[4] 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.

[5] Ephesians 2:1-10.

[6] Romans 8; Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Peter 1:3-5.

[7] Psalm 14.

[8] Calvin, Psalms, Vol. 1, 455. See also John 3:16, 36;

[9] Deuteronomy 32:4; 1 Samuel 2:2; 2 Samuel 22:2, 32; Psalm 18; 28:1; 62:7, 118:22; Isaiah 28:16; Acts 4:10-12; Romans 9:33; Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:4-8; Revelation 19-22.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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Psalm 27:3-4: God’s Presence

Psalm 27:3-4: Though an army encamp against me,

my heart shall not fear;

       though war arise against me,

yet I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,

that will I seek after:

       that I may dwell in the house of the Lord

all the days of my life,

       to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord

and to inquire in his temple. [1]

 How should God’s presence affect us? David shows us that the Lord’s presence affects fortitude, enjoyment, and desire. [2] David’s fortitude was affected because his assurance is founded on the Triune God’s steadfast love, which enables him to face his enemies fearlessly. [3] David’s “enjoyment of God’s presence assures the evident goodness and love of God.” [4] Lastly, David’s desire, in the face of danger, is to be in God’s house and know Him. [5] In his fortitude, enjoyment, and desire, David is not just imagining away his struggles. [6] The Trinity’s presence enables David and Christians to face dark adversity with hope.

 How has God’s presence affected your dark adversity? What is your source of fortitude, joy, and desire? Do you take solace in your capabilities? Is your joy found in materials and people? Is your desire for the struggle to just end? We can only have David’s confidence through faith in Jesus Christ. [7]

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] Willem A. VanGemeren. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary with the New International Version of the Holy Bible in Twelve Volumes: Vol. 5 (Psalms-Song of Songs). General Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corporation, 1991), 243-245.

[3] VanGemeren, Psalms, 244.

[4] VanGemeren, Psalms, 244.

[5] VanGemeren, Psalms, 245.

[6] VanGemeren, Psalms, 244, 245.

[7] 1 Peter 1:3.

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 1:7-8: Gospel Realities

I John 1:7-8: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. [1]

John unashamedly discusses sin’s reality. In fact, in verse eight John uses sin as a noun to describe humanity’s continued state of justly deserving God’s wrath for breaking His holy law. [2] Further, John argues that if any one denies sin, they are lying about their natural state (v. 6), lying to themselves (v. 8), and say God and His Word are lying (v. 10). [3] But in the Gospel sin is not the only reality: the Triune God’s redeeming grace tempers sin’s existence. [4] The Trinity’s promised cleansing in verse seven means God forgives us our sins “and cancels [our] debts.” [5]

Are the realities of sin and Jesus’ redemption ruling features in your life? Are you able to sincerely sorrow over sin while clinging to Christ’s compassionate cleansing? Even believers struggle to hold these two truths: some despair over their sins while others hardly acknowledge them. John wants us to see both because without both we will not see Jesus properly. If you are someone who struggles with these truths, please think on these passages this week: Isaiah 53:1-6; Romans 6 and 8; and Hebrews 13:8.

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] Joel Beeke. The Epistles of John. (Webster, NY: Evangelical Press, 2006), 41-42.

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

[4] John Colquhoun. Repentance. (London, England: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1965), 18-19.

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

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.

Purposeful Praise: Making Sense of Congregational Singing

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The God of Abraham Praise: Our March Doxology

Fittingly, our hymn “The God of Abraham Praise” was inspired by a Jewish doxology. Tradition holds that Methodist preacher Thomas Olivers attended a service at the Great Synagogue of London at some point in 1770, where he heard the celebrated singer Meyer Lyon leading the congregation in the Yigdal prayer. Lyon generously shared his music with Olivers, who composed a hymn to it. (Here’s a video of a modern version of the Jewish hymn.)

The text of “The God of Abraham Praise” may also be loosely based on the Yigdal. Yigdal literally means “may he be magnified,” and—as you may have guessed—it’s the first word of the prayer in Hebrew. The entire prayer is a 14th century adaptation of a creed written by the philosopher Maimonides, the most significant medieval Jewish thinker.

Whether or not Olivers intended to paraphrase the Yigdal text, the lyrics of verse 6 constitute an explicitly Christian doxology. Where the Yigdal stresses only God’s unity—his “inscrutable and infinite … Oneness”—Olivers’s hymn takes care to praise our one God in three persons: “Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!”

Verse 6 also reflects the Revelation imagery of all the saints eternally praising God before his throne in heaven. Remember “Holy, Holy, Holy,” in which we join this congregation, echoing the words of the cherubim of Revelation 4:8. Verse 5 of “The God of Abraham Praise” sets up this same scene for us: “On Zion’s sacred height his kingdom [God] maintains, and glorious with his saints in light forever reigns.” So when verse 6 refers to “the whole triumphant host,” it means all believers—past, present, and future—singing together in heaven.

The second half of the verse makes this personal: “Hail, Abraham’s God and mine! I join the heavenly lays [songs] …” The same God who called Abraham out of his city to the promised land has called us to participate in his kingdom today.

This blog was written by Corrie Schwab