Friday, October 29, 2010
Mark 10 closes with two accounts. The first is of James and John coming to Jesus to ask for the two coveted seats of honor at Jesus’ right and left when the Lord reigns in glory as the enthroned king (10:35–45). The second is of blind Bartimaeus, who importunately cries out for mercy from Jesus, heedless of the crowd’s attempts to silence him, and is healed (10:46–52).
The two stories are intended to be mutually illuminating.
In both accounts:
- Jesus is confronted with a request (vv. 35, 48–50);
- Jesus initially responds by asking, “What do you want me to do for you?” (vv. 36, 51);
- The parties making the request clearly understand who Jesus is, prompting them to lay before him their true heart’s desire (vv. 37, 47–48).
A fourth parallel exists that is more subtle, underneath the surface of the narrative: In both cases the party making the request is suffering from blindness.
This emerges when we view the differences between the two accounts. While Jesus asks both the sons of Zebedee as well as Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?”, James and John request glory while Bartimaeus requests mercy. James and John thought they deserved honor and received a no from Jesus. Bartimaeus knew he deserved nothing and received a yes from Jesus. James and John came with a sense of entitlement, Bartimaeus—whose very name meant “son of uncleanness/filth”—with a sense of unworthiness.
James and John, while physically seeing, were spiritually blind. Bartimaeus, while physically blind, was spiritually seeing. All three men were blind; only Bartimaeus knew it.
The strange way naturally blind human beings like you and me receive true sight is by asking for mercy. All it takes is an admission of personal blindness. And what stops up mercy from flowing into the lives of blind sinners is not the blindness itself (that’s the very reason Jesus came) but stubborn denial of blindness (John 9:39–41). “If you have anything of your own,” Charles Spurgeon preached, “you must leave it all before you come. If there is anything good in you, you cannot trust Christ.” All we bring is our need. All we bring is our blindness.
How can the solution to rebellious human blindness be so fraudulently easy?
The solution is so easy for one reason—Jesus.
Jesus Christ was, in the deepest sense, seeing. He is the only person to walk this earth never to have been blinded by sin. Yet he came to the end of his life and received not what he deserved (a crown) but what we deserve (a cross). As he explained to his disciples in the wake of James and John’s request, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). On the cross, Jesus allowed himself to become blind so that you and I, blind sinners, can see again. He came “to open the eyes that are blind” (Isa 42:7) not by exhortation but by substitution.
Jesus asked the sons of Zebedee, and he also asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Crucially, he asked this question a third time, not to any human but to his own Father. “What do you want me to do for you?” (Matt. 26:39)
James and John asked Jesus for glory. Bartimaeus asked Jesus for mercy. God the Father asked Jesus to lay down his life, securing both glory and mercy for those who admit their blindness, and cling to Christ.
Dane Ortlund (PhD, Wheaton College) is Senior Editor of Bible at Crossway Books in Wheaton, Illinois, where he lives with his wife, Stacey, and two boys. Dane blogs regularly at Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology.
May the Lord grant me grace to "see" my own blindness and eschew personal glory.........
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
"You will more easily unite fire and water, than reconcile these two statements, that men are justified by faith, and that they are justified by the law."—John CalvinThere are things that coexist and things that do not. Dogs and cats I am told can. Yankees fans and Red Sox fans I'm told cannot.When it comes to how we are justified—made right before God—there are two options. The first is through obeying a law of moral performance. Many folks call this the "be good enough" option and is the burden of millions of souls at this very hour. The second option is to place your faith in Jesus's work of atonement for sin and trust that God will look on Jesus's moral performance rather than your own. This is called the "gospel" option and is offered freely.Law and gospel, moralism and grace do not coexist. Christianity is not mostly grace and little moralism. It isn't good parent, bad parent with grace softening up the law but depending on it for coercion.It is all grace or all moralism, all Jesus or all us. But it cannot be both.
The Gospel........It's not do all you can, be as good as you can be. It's actually trust in all that has been done and the goodness of another---The CHRIST.
We, these United States. are in what is, for us, hard times. Foreclosures abound. Unemployment is high. And inflation may well be warming up in the bullpen. That said, I remain somewhat surprised at the news today that a particular church in southern California has recently declared bankruptcy, that economic hardship has touched this particular spot. With tens of millions of dollars of debt, and while being sued by sundry vendors who would like to be paid, The Crystal Cathedral is crying uncle. The church, founded by Robert Schuller and now “pastored” by his daughter, was once the epicenter of a peculiar brand of American religion, the can-do, happy attitude, power of positive thinking gospel. Schuller is the grandfather, if not the godfather of the entire church growth movement, his spiritual progeny running to Bill Hybels through Rick Warren and down to Joel Osteen. He first determined to grow his church by preaching the good stuff.
The Crystal Cathedral is not bankrupt because its message has begun to ring hollow. Donations continue to come in at a clip of $2 million each month. The church continues to bank on the wisdom of HL Menken who told us that no one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American people. It is instead bankrupt because its rosy projections of its own future were just too grand.
My prayer is that God will do a great work through this great hardship. There is, in a manner of speaking, some wisdom in the happy thoughts of such churches. That is, Jesus really did come to give us life, and life abundant. He really does love us. He really does work all things out for our good. I believe this message is part and parcel of the gospel, right after that part about repenting and believing, and right before that part about taking up your cross daily. To pluck the happy news out from its biblical context is, in the end, to lie, to preach falsely.
We on the other hand, too often make the opposite mistake. We lie as well. We too pluck out this message of life abundant, not to preach it, but to hide it. We affirm, rightly, the need for repentance, for owning and grieving over our sin, and turning from it. We affirm rightly the horrible price Christ paid for our “free” grace. We affirm rightly that having been plucked from the fire we, as servants of the Master, should expect suffering and persecution for our faith. But we forget the fullness of the promise. We prefer to go through life as stiff-lipped Stoics, insisting on sneaking down to the servants’ quarters while our Father is preparing a feast for us, His once wayward but now forgiven sons. We refuse the ring and the robe, and think ourselves more spiritual for it.
God has blessed us. And God has blessed those saints who attend the Crystal Cathedral. He has given them opportunity to repent. He has blessed them with hardship that they might not make shipwreck of their souls. We ought not, when hearing such news snicker, giggle and rejoice, lest the Lord determine to turn his wrath on us. Instead we too ought to repent, for failing to guard the promises of God. Our Father in heaven loves us, because Christ came and suffered His wrath, because His Spirit came and convicted us of our sin. And that is a check that will never bounce.
Strong and thoughtful points here. Thought I'd share.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
I got this from my boy Matt Baird---This is a must-have shoe then, no? LOL. For all you who wish you could dunk, perhaps the dream is nigh! I don't know what these things must have in the soles, but if the NBA deems the advantage "unfair," then maybe we should ban them at street courts and playgrounds too? I won't buy em for $300, but I'll sure go and try a pair on!
Just ordered. Thought you might be interested as well. The book is great, I expect no less from this DVD. I always like to say that skeptics/atheists/agnostics often have very good and valid questions. I believe they deserve valid and thoughtful answers to those questions. The Reason for God book, in my opinion, addresses that need. I can't wait to hear some of the conversations fleshed out when my DVD arrives. $14.99 is a steal I think. Enjoy!
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
thought was a good look. Many believe that hip-hop as a genre lacks
the necessary integrity to convey the Gospel. Others think it's too
simplistic, and falls short with regard to doctrine and clarity. What
say ye? Peep here as shai linne discusses aspects of these and other
topics. Perhaps this will at least give further insight, however
brief, into this genre that the Lord is using mightily to call His own
to Himself. Enjoy!
Monday, October 18, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Wow! Just perusing the Resurgence site and stumbled upon this great resource featuring Ted Tripp. For those unfamiliar with Dr. Tripp, he is the author of a book I'd commend to all Christian parents, "Shepherding a Child's Heart." Listen (or watch) as he discusses various aspects of parenting, from a Biblical perspective. It's definitely not easy to keep some of these principles top-of-mind, so revisiting them periodically is extremely helpful. Enjoy, and feel free to comment on any of them within this post.
The Wrong Way to Read the Bible
Two opposite errors exist in approaching the Bible. One is not to read it. The other is to know it so well that you miss Jesus. Jesus pointed out this error: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).
Are you surprised to believe this error exists? We constantly talk about reading and studying the Bible as an unqualified good. But clearly, the way we read the Bible is just as important as reading it.
So how can you know if you might be reading the Bible, looking for life, but missing Jesus completely? Here are a few clues:
- You read the Bible to reinforce what you believe, not challenge what you believe.
- You imagine yourself as the type of person who believes the things you read about.
- You think the things you read are especially applicable for people you know, but not for you.
- You imagine yourself as the hero of the story, not the person or people who are unbelieving. You frequently ask in your heart, “How could these people be so unbelieving?” For instance, when you read the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert you might say, “How could those Israelites grumble about food and drink when they just saw God part the Red Sea?” But you are completely blind to how you grumble at work or home when you’re afraid of losing something.
- You love the attention garnered from your knowledge of the Bible, but give little thought to how you have applied what you have read.
Maybe the Bible should come with a warning label: “Beware: reading this book incorrectly will make you twice as fit for hell as when you began.”
Don’t miss Jesus. Go to him and find life.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Friday, October 8, 2010
Get To Work vs. It Is Finishedby Jared Wilson | Thursday October 7th, 2010 » Categories: Heart Gospel Sanctification Justification
The Heart of the Gospel
The utter uniqueness of the Christian message—the heart of the gospel—is found in the three words of Christ from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Every single other religious message, without exception, is predicated on some variation of another three words that stand starkly opposed to the gospel’s three words. Religion’s three words are: “Get to work.” This is the heart of the bad news behind every approach to spirituality, enlightenment, or salvation that is not Christian.
Most Christians see this quite readily when it is pointed out. What is more difficult to see is when the gospel’s three words become supplanted by religion’s three words within the church. The edging out of gospel by religion is not just a problem for the world. It is a problem we face “in house.”
An “In House” Problem
The book of Galatians is probably the best biblical case study for this phenomenon. A group called the Judaizers was troubling the fledgling Gentile believers of the Galatian churches by adding elements of the Jewish Law—most notably, circumcision—to the qualifications for saving righteousness. In essence, by requiring religious works for entry to God’s saving graces, they had obliterated the meaning of grace itself, provoking Paul’s anger at the false teachers and exasperation with the deceived students.
What stands as a warning to us modern readers of the New Testament is how easily, how plausibly, and how effectively the Judaizers were able to accomplish the planting of a false gospel. We are not smarter than the Galatians. We are not more enlightened. The gospel Paul delivered to them is the same one that saves us today, and we are just as much in danger of “muddling grace and law,” to quote Martin Luther, and thereby “eliminating the gospel of Christ entirely.”
Muddling Grace and Law in Sanctification
Nearly every evangelical Christian would affirm, if they couldn’t express, that Christians are saved by God’s grace through their faith in Jesus Christ, apart from their own good works. But the place we most often see the muddling of grace and law is in the area of sanctification.
The implicit idea seems to be that the gospel is our entry ticket, but law keeps us in line for the ride. But this belief, Luther says, is “As though Christ were a workman who had begun a building and left it for Moses to finish.” With the authority of the God of the universe, Paul has this to say about such a concept in Galatians 3:3: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”
No, what the Christian church needs today in its imperfect fumbling back to the beauty of gospel-centrality is a stubborn un-muddling of law and grace. We cannot continue to treat the gospel as if it is the power of God for a conversion experience and not for total life transformation. Sanctification and justification are “events” in the golden chain of salvation, sure, but both are equally powered by the gospel of grace.
The Gospel Empowers Its Implications
Are Christians commanded to obey? Yes. Are there demands upon our life in service of God’s kingdom? Yes. And the enduring law of commandments, which is good, provides our blueprint for what life built in worship of God looks like. But the law itself is not able to supply what it demands. The law will not change a heart; the law will not cure the idolatry at the root of every disobedience. This is why, for instance, Paul says to Titus that it is the grace of God that “trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions” (Titus 2:11-12).
The gospel empowers its own implications.
It Is Finished
As long as we are clinging to “Get to work,” we will live powerless lives. We can no more wring life-change out of religion than we could orange juice from an apple. But if we cling to that cross, remaining aware of our own powerlessness and desperately trusting in “It is finished,” we will find the power and peace to worshipfully work in freedom and with joy.
Tullian Tchvidjian expresses it this way: “Imperatives divorced from indicatives become impossibilities . . . Gospel obligations must be based on gospel declarations.”
We will not experience freedom in religion’s three words. “Get to work” doesn’t work. We must be set free by the gospel’s three words first: “It is finished.”
John Bunyan heralds the gospel of sanctification sweetly with this bit of verse:
Run, John, run. The law commands
But gives neither feet nor hands.
Better news the gospel brings;
It bids us fly and gives us wings.
A variation of this text will appear in Jared Wilson's book Gospel Wakefulness: Treasuring Christ and Savoring His Power, forthcoming from Crossway in 2011.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Should one believe that the tweets he refers to *are* themselves the Gospel, perhaps his post would have some merit. Perhaps being a strong key word here, mind you. I do find his article interesting, in that the tweets he referenced, I'd never seen and am now very interested to know who tweeted them. This, so I may quickly begin to follow them. I am desperate to preach the Gospel to myself daily and sometimes, these 140 character implications of the Gospel add fuel to the fire that is the content itself.
If anyone knows the source of his cited tweets, Holla at me......
Monday, October 4, 2010
Friday, October 1, 2010
Grace and Peace
- The gospel doesn’t simply ignite the Christian life; it’s the fuel that keeps Christian’s going and growing every day.
- The gospel reminds us that we become more mature when we focus less on what we need to do for God & more on all God has already done for us.
- The gospel tells me my identity & security is in Christ--this frees me to give everything I have because in Christ I have everything I need
- Christian growth doesn't happen 1st by behaving better, but believing better--believing in deeper ways what Christ has already secured for u
- The gospel tells us we don’t need to spend our lives earning the approval of others because Jesus has already earned God’s approval for us
- When you understand that your significance & identity is anchored in Christ, you don’t have to win—you’re free to lose
- Christian growth doesn't happen by working hard to get something u don’t have. It happens by working hard to live in light of what u do have
- The world says that the bigger we become, the freer we will be. But the gospel tells us that the smaller we become, the freer we will be.
- When you are united to Christ, then all that is Christ’s becomes yours: Access to God and affection from God can never be lost
- The gospel explains success in terms of giving, not taking; self-sacrifice, not self-indulgence; going to the back, not getting to the front
- The gospel empowers us to live for what's timeless, not trendy--to follow Jesus even when it means going against what's fashionable
- Because of Christ’s finished work, sinners can have the approval, acceptance, security, freedom, love, righteousness, & rescue they long for
- The only antidote there has ever been to sin is the gospel—and since we never leave off sinning, we can never leave the gospel.
- Because of Christ's propitiatory work on my behalf I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, praise or popularity.
- Apostle Paul never starts w/ what we need to do; he always begins w/ what God has already done; to get it backwards is to miss the gospel
- The vertical indicative (what God's done for me) always precedes horizontal imperative (how I'm to live in light of what God's done for me)
- What we need practically can only be experienced as we come to deeper understanding of what we are positionally—whats already ours in Christ
- When you are united to Christ, no amount of good work can earn God’s favor and no amount of bad work can forfeit God’s favor
- Jesus came not to angrily strip away our freedom but to affectionately strip away our slavery to lesser things so we might become truly free
- The irony of the gospel is that we truly perform better when we focus less on our performance for Jesus & more on Jesus' performance for us
- The gospel tells us that what God has done for us in Christ is infinitely more important than anything we do for him.
- The world says the more independent you become, the freer you'll be; the gospel says the more dependent you become, the freer you'll be
- The Gospel frees us from trying to impress people, prove ourselves to people, and make people think we're something that we're not.
- Isn’t it ironic that while God’s treatment of us depends on Christ’s performance, our treatment of others depends on their performance?
- We need God’s gospel rescue every day and in every way because we are, in the words of John Calvin, "partly unbelievers until we die."
- Believing fully the truth that "salvation belongs to the Lord" means that you place ultimate trust in Christ’s efforts, not your own.
- Daily sin requires a daily distribution of God's grace
- The hard work of sanctification is the hard work of constantly reorienting ourselves back to our justification.
- Grace can be defined as unconditional acceptance granted to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver.
- The law tells us what God demands from us; the gospel tells us what God in Christ has done for us because we could not meet his demands.
- Being justified by God & made acceptable on the basis of Christ's righteousness not only pardons us 4 the past but empowers us 4 the present
- Paul never uses the law as a way to motivate obedience; He always uses the gospel.
- When you understand God's grace, pain leads to freedom because deep suffering leads to deep surrender!
- When we depend on things smaller than Jesus to provide us w/ the security & meaning we long for, God will love us enough to take them away.
- The gospel is the good news that God rescues sinners. And since both non-Christians & Christians are sinners, we both need the gospel.
- The gospel grants Christians one strength over non-Christians: the strength to admit they’re weak.
- The gospel frees us to realize that while we matter, we're not the point.
- The Gospel alone can turn us into people who give everything we have because we understand that in Christ we already have everything we need
- The gospel isn't just the power of God to save us, it's the power of God to grow us once we're saved.
- When we transfer trust from ourselves to Christ, we experience the abundant freedoms that come from not having to measure up.
- The gospel makes wise those who know they’re foolish and makes fools out of those who think they’re wise.
- It never ceases to amaze me that God's love to those who are in Christ isn't conditioned on how we behave but on how Christ behaved for us.
- Sin turns you inward; the gospel turns you outward. Sin enslaves you by making you big. The gospel frees you by making you small.
- In the gospel, God comes after us because we need him not because he needs us. Only the gospel can free us to revel in our insignificance.
- Mt. Sinai says, "You must do." Mt. Calvary says, "Because you couldn't, Jesus did." Don't run to the wrong mountain for your hiding place.
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