Revival


Introductory Essay to John Owen’s Death of Death in the Death of Christ –J. I. Packer
It is hoped that this reprint will find itself readers of a different spirit. There are signs today of a new upsurge of interest in the theology of the Bible: a new readiness to test traditions, to search the Scriptures and to think through the faith. It is to those who share this readiness that Owen’s treatise is offered, in the belief that it will help us in one of the most urgent tasks facing Evangelical Christendom today—the recovery of the gospel.

There is no doubt that Christianity today is in a state of perplexity and unsettlement. In such matters as the practice of evangelism, the teaching of holiness, the building up of local church life, the pastor’s dealing with souls and the exercise of discipline, there is evidence of widespread dissatisfaction with things as they are and of equally widespread uncertainty as to the road ahead. This is a complex phenomenon, to which many factors have contributed; but, if we go to the root of the matter, we shall find that these perplexities are all ultimately due to our having lost our grip on the biblical Gospel.
Without realizing it, we have during the past century bartered that gospel for a substitute product which, though it looks similar enough in points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing. Hence our troubles; for the substitute product does not answer the ends for which the authentic gospel has in past days proved itself so mighty.

 

The new gospel conspicuously fails to produce deep reverence, deep repentance, deep humility, a spirit of worship, a concern for the church. Why? We would suggest that the reason lies in its own character and content. It fails to make men God-centered in their thoughts and God-fearing in their hearts because this is not primarily what it is trying to do. One way of stating the difference between it and the old gospel is to say that it is too exclusively concerned to be “helpful” to man—to bring peace, comfort, happiness, satisfaction—and too little concerned to glorify God.

The old gospel was “helpful,” too—more so, indeed, than is the new—but (so to speak) incidentally, for its first concern was always to give glory to God. It was always and essentially a proclamation of Divine sovereignty in mercy and judgment, a summons to bow down and worship the mighty Lord on whom man depends for all good, both in nature and in grace. Its center of reference was unambiguously God. But in the new gospel the center of reference is man. This is just to say that the old gospel was religious in a way that the new gospel is not. Whereas the chief aim of the old was to teach men to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better. The subject of the old gospel was God and His ways with men; the subject of the new is man and the help God gives him. There is a world of difference. The whole perspective and emphasis of gospel preaching has changed.

From this change of interest has sprung a change of content, for the new gospel has in effect reformulated the biblical message in the supposed interests of “helpfulness.” Accordingly, the themes of man’s natural inability to believe, of God’s free election being the ultimate cause of salvation, and of Christ dying specifically for His sheep, are not preached. These doctrines, it would be said, are not “helpful”; they would drive sinners to despair, by suggesting to them that it is not in their own power to be saved through Christ. (The possibility that such despair might be salutary is not considered; it is taken for granted that it cannot be, because it is so shattering to our self-esteem.)

 

However this may be (and we shall say more about it later), the result of these omissions is that part of the biblical gospel is now preached as if it were the whole of that gospel; and a half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth. Thus, we appeal to men as if they all had the ability to receive Christ at any time; we speak of His redeeming work as if He had done no more by dying than make it possible for us to save ourselves by believing; we speak of God’s love as if it were no more than a general willingness to receive any who will turn and trust; and we depict the Father and the Son, not as sovereignly active in drawing sinners to themselves, but as waiting in quiet impotence “at the door of our hearts” for us to let them in. It is undeniable that this is how we preach; perhaps this is what we really believe.

But it needs to be said with emphasis that this set of twisted half-truths is something other than the biblical gospel. The Bible is against us when we preach in this way; and the fact that such preaching has become almost standard practice among us only shows how urgent it is that we should review this matter. To recover the old, authentic, biblical gospel, and to bring our preaching and practice back into line with it, is perhaps our most pressing present need. And it is at this point that John Owen’s treatise on redemption can give us help.

( from J.I.Packer’s Introductory Essay to The Death of Death, 1959)

( continue reading the essay here )

Related Essay: The Old Cross and the New Cross – A.W.Tozer (print version)

 

 

A review of “The Radical Disciple“.  

For some forty years now, I”ve had a growing respect for the faith-tradition known as Anglican, or The Church of England. I often wonder just how many American Christians understand the debt we owe to this tradition whether we are Baptists, Methodists, Nazarenes, Episcopalians, Salvation Army (Sallies) and many other independents that came from the bosom of the English Church.

I don’t mind recording my own debt publically for men like J.I.Packer, J.C.Ryle, Charles and John Wesley, and a host of others from the Anglican Church. One such man who has blessed American churches for those forty years and especially the cause of international evangelism and missions is John Stott. It appears that his final book will be his farewell as far as his written contributions to the churches. Recently I found this great review which I will consider my own tribute to John Stott and his faithfulness to the Biblical gospel of Jesus Christ.

“This is a book you will want to read if you have had any contact with John Stott’s teaching ministry before. Though he is far too humble to say it about himself, it comes from a man who has fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith (2 Tim 4:7). He has not asked us to do anything that he has not modelled first in his own life. It is a fitting farewell from a remarkable servant of God and I pray that his vision of radical discipleship will be fully embraced by the next generation.”

– Mark Heath

Read Mark’s excellent  review of “The Radical Disciple” by John Stott (here).

A ministry-tool available: The Radical Question

The Open Secret of the Unity Vision.

The last century witnessed a monumental effort on the part of Christian leaders to promote the vision of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It grew out of , among other things, The Student Volunteer Movement which embraced the watchword, “The evangelization of the world in our generation”. This movement saw a vision of one mission incumbent on the whole Church of Jesus Christ and took serious and deliberate action to realize that vision. Their hearts were captive to a greater loyalty. The movement formally began in 1886 and according to at least one researcher, Michael Parker, had ended by 1926. (see The Kingdom of Character, American Society of Missiology, 1998).

The SVM movement

This movement is just one part of what led to the first World Conference on Christian missions at Edinburgh, 1910. Out of this conference developed the missionary thrust of the twentieth century and the ecumenical movement that became The World Council of Churches. Now thanks to the age of the internet, this same vision is entering not only a new millennium, but most definitely an important new chapter- one my friend John Armstrong calls, missional-ecumenism.

In his new book, “Your Church is Too Small“, an enormous amount of detail is made available for those that consider themselves loyal to the same vision and actively pray for and work at promoting this same vision for the whole church. Will it advance beyond what those of the twentieth century were able to take it? That will depend on the church in every place obediently becoming the church in both word and deed. The future of the church will certainly look different than the past two thousand years. But it cannot and must not forget what has gone before-certainly not the efforts, gains, and victories of the twentieth century both in terms of practicing her oneness and sacrificing herself for her mission to the world.

I cannot realistically hope that the churches will research the documents that I have over the last forty plus years. Missiology is a highly specialized discipline along with many others in the area of Christology and Ecclesiology. But with the age of the internet, ignorance of how the churches of the twentieth century saw the essence of their calling and how they went about fulfilling that calling must now be apart of any serious attempt to celebrate and promote the oneness of the world-wide church. The information is at our finger-tips for us to get up to speed on every part of the body of Christ. Just one of the beautiful things this means is that no part of the church is insignificant. In a whole new way every tradition within Christianity is reduced to a level playing field regardless of their size.

In my post tomorrow, I will introduce you to just one very important stream that we all surely need to know about. The Mennonite churches. So what about you? Are you content to just surf this web, or does it have something to do with what you have chosen to be loyal to; what you have given your heart to?

Listen to John’s introduction and see if you don’t hear this “Greater Loyalty”!

What did Christ accomplish on that hill outside Jerusalem called Golgotha?

Forgiveness of sins. The Reign of God on earth. The Community of the New Covenant. The lifting of the ancient curse on the old creation and the bestowing of blessing on the New humanity in union with Christ.

My friend John Armstrong has had a growing vision that transcends our often limited and traditional understandings that we grow up with. It has to do with nothing less than the One, Holy, Apostolic Church; the new temple that God is even now constructing stone by living stone in this present evil age.

John shares his story and his journey which he has been on in his new book, “Your Church is too small“, to be released by Zondervan in April. Here is an audio sample that will give you an idea of what he is hoping to share with all of us.

Listen to “Your Church is too small”.

Let’s expand our vision this Lenten season of the grace of God bestowed as His very own provision for our lostness.

John Armstrong’s new book (Zondervan- March 2010)

Today’s Scripture Lesson: Psalm 37

What did the wise man of Proverbs have in mind?

Yours truly, E4Unity

Yours truly, E4Unity

I’m going to have another birthday in a few days so I guess that explains why I’m doing a little more cogitating than usual, thinking about life and how to live in a manner pleasing to the Creator and Sustainer of all life.
This phrase which comes from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament,
caught my eye and off I went looking for just what the wise man meant.
There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death”. (14:12 and 16:25)
If you have a couple of minutes I’ll try to tell you the gist of my thoughts and then tell you what I discovered, from all people, Charles G. Finney, who seems to have come to the same answer.
I always took it for granted that in keeping with so many of the wise sayings about life by the wise man of Proverbs, that this “right way” of living was in stark contrast to all those he labels as “foolish”, “wicked”, “sinner”, “scoffer”, or even “backslider”, etc. It just made sense that this expression also referred to a specific, observable class of individuals who seemed to be radically different (by observation) than these others. And yet it struck me that he says these folks, living a way that seems to them to be the right way to life, ended up instead coming to the same end- death.
So I thought about other parts of the Biblical narrative, wondering if the answer was not clearly revealed in other places both in the New as well as the Old Testaments. Could it be, I mused to myself, that this has reference to the “religious” folks- those that not only believe this is the right way to live, but actually practice a specific codified system of rules of an organized religious order? In the context of the Old Testament, the keepers of the Old Covenant-those who lived by the rule of law?
Now I’ve speant a lot of time in Paul’s letter to the Romans over the last forty years or so, and I remember that part of Paul’s thesis in that letter is that there is something that the law, as perfect as it is, just can’t produce: the right way of living before God (righteous living). So to make a long time of meditating as simple as I can, that is exactly the conclusion I came to, not only reflecting upon one book of the Bible, but reflecting on the entire story-line. The reason why the announcement to the Shepherds that Jesus had been born was such good news, “tidings of great JOY to all peoples” makes sense to me now as I prepare for Advent season. Read the following Scripture and see if you see what I see:
“2) For the law of the Spirit of life has set you  free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (3) For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,  he condemned sin in the flesh, (4) in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”  (Romans 8:2-4)
FinneyTo see what Finney said about
this in July, 1859, Go Here! (approaching his 67th birthday)

AN URGENT NEED!     John enjoying a baseball game w/ His brother

 

ACT3 President Coming To Madison County-

October 4th – 5:00-7:00pm

 (John,on the right, with his brother Thomas on opening day of the Marlins)

Dr.John H. Armstrong will be speaking at Trinity Church PCA, Richmond, to a unity celebration sponsored by E4Unity, Sunday at 5:00p.m. The web site of ACT3 ministries pretty well sums up John’s passion since 1991: “Equipping Leaders for Unity in Christ’s Mission”.

Since about 1998 John has been a personal friend and a great encouragement. Though I am a few years older, I have found in him a worthy model of what I am advocating and seeking to promote in the local area among all the churches. He will be with us to talk about his new book to be released by Zondervan in April, 2010. It is a book that he says is his own personal vision that God has been teaching him about the urgent need among American Christians. It is entitled, “Your Church is Too Small: Why unity in Christ’s Mission is vital to the future of the Church”. 

John has served the church in a number of ways for some thirty years and has authored books(twelve) that demonstrate his love for Christian churches of all the different traditions. In his sermons, lectures, and books and writing, John is focused on providing resources and counsel for Pastors and leaders. He is a capable Biblical scholar himself serving as an adjunct professor of evangelsim at the Wheaton College Graduate School.

If you are in the Lexington-Richmond area, we urge you to join us for this very profitable session regarding the church, her unity, and her mission.

For location of Trinity Church PCA  (here)

For an example of the resources ACT3 provides for the churches see the forthcoming Biblical Forum, a periodic gathering for serious Biblical theology, Oct.30,31, in the Chicago area. The theme will be, “Reading the Old Testament as Jesus Did”.

Did You Know?

Related subsequent post: Rare Letter to College Students

Endings that Bring HOPE of New Beginnings

I am hoping that you will follow the link in my Advent post to the great orientation to this year’s theme and Scriptures. If you do you will find a special surprise for your spiritual meditations: “The focus on endings to come that bring the hope of New Beginnings”.

I happen to believe that it is precisely this emphasis in the Gospel that has been tragically neglected in American Christianity and means that we have largely failed our own society by failing to include this part. And that is that the announcement of the coming to earth of God’s Promised Redeemer and thus His Kingly rule, means the utter judgement, destruction, and replacement of the world’s kingdoms and powers. And that is precisely why it is such Good News. deathbylove

In keeping with this theme, “ending that brings the hope of new beginnings”, I have started reading a new book called, Death by Love. I plan to take my time on this one because I really want to understand the main author’s view of the death of Christ. It will be the first book I have read by Mark Driscoll.

I have just started so I will let you know what I find as I go along. I always try to do a preliminary survey of a book like this before digging in- like reading the preface ( a good author will often tell exactly why she/he wrote it and what they are trying to accomplish), the table of contents, the index, the notes, and the Scripture index. I will leave you with this morsel from the preface:

One theologian has called the cross the great jewel of the Christian Faith, and like every great jewel it has many precious facets that are each worthy of examing for their brilliance and beauty… most poor teaching about the cross results from someone’s denying one of these facets, ignoring one of these facets, or over emphasizing one of these facets at the expense of the others… such narrow and reactionary theology has tragically caused the beauty of the cross to become obscured by the various warring teams that have risen up to argue for their systematic theology rather than bowing in humble worship of the crucified Jesus.

THE CROWN JEWEL of PAUL’S GOSPEL

Let Paul speak for himself: ACTS 20

Paul Speaks to the Ephesian Elders

17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them:

“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by [1] the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

FULL Gospel in this post must be understood in the same sense as Paul’s words “The whole counsel of God” has in Holy Scripture. It does not mean what it means in that tradition which today is known by this phrase. See  FULL GOSPEL Fellowship    cma_logo

As often the case, the article in wikipedia leaves something to be desired. I was ordained in the C&MA having encountered the tradition not through any local representation of it, but through my exposure to the writings of A.W.Tozer and it’s Founder, Albert Benjamin Simpson. See my humble honoring of Dr.Simpson in Saint’s Gallery. I disagree with the identification of Simpson’s work as belonging to “the holiness” movement. I have found a number of folks down through the years that have done that, but I think they are mistaken and greatly miss the “hybrid” gift from God that he represented . Dr.Simpson did not come from the holiness camp but from the Reformed, the Scottish Covenanters. He probably fits best in what we call “the deeper life movement“(Simpson called it the Higher Christian Life) but that movement is also misunderstood by most American christians today.

I’m getting away from the CROWN JEWEL of the GOSPEL- but not really. It should be clear from the above text alone, that the Apostle Paul was deeply and emotionally involved with what he believed to be his life task given to him by the risen Christ. Fulfilling that task was a matter of being “innocent of the blood of all…” before Christ when he would meet Him at the Judgement. He describes that task here as faithfully delivering to others a message that had been entrusted to him. Sound familiar? That is how Jesus himself described his mission on more than one occasion :

My meat is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work.

I can of myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and my judgement is righteous, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the Father who sent me.

(see the entire discussion of Jesus with the Jews who were seeking to kill him-Chapter 5, St.John’s gospel)

The CROWN JEWEL of Saint Paul’s life task and his Gospel was of course JESUS himself, or as Paul says, Our Lord, Jesus Christ. He describes the message which testifies to this Christ in various ways in this passage thus calling our attention to the completeness or the fullness of this CROWN JEWEL in the redemptive work of God on planet earth:” repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ”,  “the gospel of the grace of God”, “proclaiming the kingdom “.

For me this fulness, for example that shows up big time in the Ephesian letter (see Chapter 4), includes all that Christ is and has accomplished as God’s love gift to the ungodly and rebellious race of Adam. The CROWN JEWEL of Paul’s Gospel is nothing short of the perfect redemption we so desperately need in order to flee from the wrath to come. The four-fold Gospel Dr. Simpson saw with the eye of faith, he described as -JESUS as SAVIOR, SANCTIFIER, HEALER, and coming KING. It not only includes what God does for the sinner in the beginning, as he hears the Gospel and calls in faith on God to save him, repenting of not only his sins but of the entire life style of the sons of Adam living in rebellion, thereby repudiating the flesh and living according to the flesh; it includes also all that God begins to do in that believer both to will and to do His intended work of applying the full redemption which is in His Son, Jesus, and He will do this until the Day of Jesus Christ, the consumation of our salvation. He does all of this through His Son, the exalted King of Kings who is actively reigning TODAY.

I hope I haven’t lost anyone in the details-my apology to those reading this for example for whom english is not their mother tongue. You can see why I’m so excited about “The Year of Saint Paul” and the special opportunity this affords christians of every tradition to take another, serious look at this very special vessel of almighty God and the universal work of redemption that He launched in His Son Jesus Christ.

THIS YEAR, PLEASE BEGIN at THE BEGINNING

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed an Armistice Day for November 12, 1919. The United States Congress passed a concurrent resolution seven years later on June 4, 1926, requesting the President issue another proclamation to observe November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday; “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”

(From WIKIPEDIA)

This summer I had the incredible experience of going through the only official NATIONAL memorial in the United States dedicated to World War I, the Great War. I truly wish that every citizen of these United States could have that experience- especially NOW, at the point in history that we find ourselves. Most of us have been thrown into the MIDDLE of a great EPIC TALE. The subject of this tale just happens to be our National heritage. World War I just might be the event in this tale that we can still get an understanding of which in turn will help us immensely to understand just what it is we have of lately inherited and will help us to better understand what our part in the ongoing tale is and how to best prepare for the future.

Meet Joe, the Veteran. jo-the-veteran

Joseph Ambrose, an 86-year-old World War I veteran, attends the dedication day parade for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982, holding the flag that covered the casket of his son, who had been killed in the Korean War.     

Did you happen to notice this phase in the original purpose of  the day? “A day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.”   I believe that this original purpose has been kept in mind in every detail of the official Memorial to World War I in Kansas City, Missouri, and one of the main reasons why I believe every American should visit it. 

The Memorial has been “rebuilt” in recent years and an underground museum complex has been added. My congratulations to the citizens of Kansas City and to American Century Investments for under-taking this very ambitious project for the American people and their epic story.

Sample what you will see (slide show)

View the intro Video

  

Next Page »