Is Sin Really All That Bad?

One would expect any Christian to answer the question posed in the title with an affirmative and immediate, “Yes!” However, the daily decisions we make often tell another story.

We’re quick to recoil when we hear of horrific acts committed against children, marital infidelity, cold-blooded murder, or, you know, other really bad sins–especially, the sins of others. Yet, it’s our own day-to-day living, in both the major and the mundane, that we are often slow to consider. At times, we fail to measure the words we speak, the attitudes we choose, or the media we consume against the standard of God’s Word. It’s often in the name of cultural engagement that we capitulate to content that has no place in the life of a follower of Christ. After all, it’s much easier to row with the current of our culture than paddle upstream.

While preparing to teach at our church’s young adult community, I was reading through Ralph Venning’s The Sinfulness of Sin. Venning, a Puritan and English non-conformist, had a steadfast desire that Christ be exalted and that any measure of sin be–as it should–abhorred. Here are a few of his remarks that struck me as I read:

“One may suffer and not sin, but it is impossible to sin and not to suffer.”

“Sin can do, without the Devil, that which the Devil cannot do without sin, and that is, undo men [and women].”

“Sin is an evil beyond the skill and power of all creation to cure and to cleanse.”

It is clearly evident that Venning has considered carefully what divine Scripture reveals in no casual terms–that sin, in any measure, is utterly and totally evil.

Contemplate the words of Christ in Matthew 5:29-30

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

Jesus makes it clear that sin is not be tolerated (see esp., Eph. 5:3, 11). Sin must be dealt with swiftly and severely. Think of it…if I were to deal with sin as seriously as Christ commands above, others would surely take notice and likely consider me both foolish and fanatical. The question is, are we willing to be obedient, or is our greater concern what others will think?

Friend, every decision you make either serves to edify or erode your heart, and must be made with the utmost care (see Prov. 4:23-27). There is no such thing as the “neutral” Christian life. You’re either, by grace, pursuing “the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Or, because any measure of sin is being tolerated, grievously, you’re moving backward.

Believer, in all of this, remember that you stand securely before the throne of grace solely on the merits of Christ by faith. Indeed, it’s in recognizing the putrid nature of our sin that allows us to view Christ in all his glorious sweetness. Therefore, in view of God’s rich grace toward us in Christ Jesus, let us make it our daily practice to make choices that will stir our affection for Christ, making no room for sin. Or, as John Owen has said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

Venning’s The Sinfulness of Sin is available for free, in PDF format, here.

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REVIEW | “Great Doctrines of the Bible”, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

9781433538797Since being introduced to systematic theology in my days as an undergraduate student in Bible school, when I come across a good volume in this field, I receive it with excitement and enthusiasm; and reference it quite frequently. By “systematic theology” meaning of course the orderly presentation, by topic, of what the whole Bible teaches on a given theological matter. And, off hand, I can think of a handful of standard systematics that I would recommend should a person inquire. Among that group, though, there is one that sticks out as unique. Where many systematics are quite predictable in the manner in which the material is presented, I have found one that communicates with a different style and tone, and is intensely practical. In that, this systematic is really simply a collection of recorded sermons on various topics within classic systematic theology. Simply, it is systematic theology preached.

From 1952 to 1955, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones presented a series of sermons/lectures on Friday evenings in one of the halls of Westminster Chapel in London. Addressing, by request of the people, various matters of doctrine, the good Doctor, would expound upon the topic in his classic engaging, reverent, and wonderfully practical manner of preaching. These talks became so well attended that they had to move into the main Chapel itself.

Lloyd-Jones is recorded as saying, “Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire.” In Crossway Books’ republication of 3 classic Lloyd-Jones volumes in one, we find this sentiment demonstrated. Great Doctrines of the Bible is a recent reprint of God the Father, God the Son; God the Holy Spirit; and The Church and the Last Things, in one bound paperback volume. Though lengthy, the content within is intensely edifying.

In terms of the book’s contents, the book retains its three-volume structure. Lloyd-Jones begins with matters of prolegomena. He deals with his method, and the perspective from which he views God’s Holy Word. He then moves through bibliology, theology proper, anthropology, angels and demons, soteriology, covenant and redemption, and Christology. The latter two volumes address exactly what their titles would suggest.

For me, this work gives some of the clearest exposition of the nature of God’s redemptive work, from a covenantal perspective, which I have ever read. Here we find that systematic theology is no way needs to be confined to the bookshelf, but can be passionately preached from the pulpit. As a teacher and preacher Lloyd-Jones work will not only serve to edify in personal study, but may also be a model of how these great doctrines may be clearly and concisely expounded.

Another advantage of this work is the Scripture index in the back of the book. After all, what is a work of theology without an index of Scripture?

Overall, what we have here is classic Lloyd-Jones. There are no surprises, only a solid, straightforward, passionate and reverent presentation of the truths of Scripture. It is a volume that will edify both the new Christian and the seasoned student of theology. It is a volume that will train the pastor and layperson in how to communicate systematic theological truth in a plain manner. I highly recommend it.

*A copy of the book was provided by the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review. I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

Book Details

928 Pages
Publisher: Crossway/Good News Publishers
Publication Date: October 2012
ISBN 10: 1433538792
ISBN 13: 9781433538797

Purchase at WTSBooks.com | $23.69 (32% off – $35.00)*

*Prices subject to change without notice.

Daniel Block on “The Shema” & NIVAC Kindle Sale

9780310492016One of the most well-known texts of Scripture in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is Deuteronomy 6:4, “The Shema”.  Though it is certainly familiar, it is by no means immune to difficulty in the translation process.  Daniel Block, Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School, in his recent (NIVAC) commentary on Deuteronomy, offers what I feel is both a helpful interpretation and clarification of the text.  He writes:

“THE SHEMA IS ONE of the most important symbols of Judaism. To this day, orthodox Jews recite verses 4–5 twice daily as part of their prayers (cf. v. 7). Despite its importance in Jewish and Christian tradition, the Shema is enigmatic. The sense of the first two words is clear. But the construction of the remainder is unparalleled in the entire Old Testament, so any interpretation, including our own, should be deemed provisional. On the surface the four words appear to be arranged in an ABAB parallelistic order, translated literally:

Chart taken from the Kindle edition of "Deuteronomy" (NIVAC), Zondervan, 2012.

Chart taken from the Kindle edition of “Deuteronomy” (NIVAC), Zondervan, 2012.

The first line could be interpreted either as a sentence, “Yahweh is our God,” or appositionally, “Yahweh our God,” though the latter creates problems for interpreting the second line. The critical word in the second part is obviously [echad], which in the overwhelming number of occurrences represents the cardinal number “one.” However, in a half dozen instances, the word functions as an equivalent to lebaddô, “unique, only, alone.” Within the immediate and the broader contexts the purpose of this statement is not to answer the question, “How many is God?” but “Who is the God of Israel?” To this question the Israelites were to respond in unison and without compromise or equivocation, “Our God is Yahweh, Yahweh alone!”

Moses’ concern here is whether God’s people would remain devoted exclusively to Yahweh or be seduced by the gods of Canaan. His exposition of the Shema in the remainder of 6: 5–19 confirms this interpretation. Answering to the Supreme Command, by uttering the Shema the Israelites were declaring their complete, undivided, and unqualified devotion to Yahweh. This is not strictly a monotheistic confession (cf. 4: 35, 39) but a cry of allegiance, an affirmation of covenant commitment that defines the boundaries of the covenant community. It consists of those who claim this utterance as a verbal badge of identity and who demonstrate this identity with uncompromising covenant commitment”[1]

All NIVAC Volumes on Sale! (Kindle Editions)

For a limited time, Zondervan Academic has discounted the entire set of the NIVAC Commentary Series to $4.99 or less (Kindle ed. only).  For purchase information on Dr. Block’s commentary, click here.  The following are links to each individual volume. GenesisLeviticus, Numbers;DeuteronomyJoshuaJudges and Ruth1 & 2 Kings1 & 2 Chronicles;EstherJobEcclesiastes, Song of SongsIsaiahJeremiah, Lamentations;EzekielDanielJoel, Obadiah, Malachi;Hosea, Amos, MicahJonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah;Haggai, ZechariahMatthewMarkLukeJohnActs;Romans1CorinthiansGalatiansEphesiansPhilippians;Colossians & Philemon1 & 2 Thessalonians1 & 2 Timothy & TitusHebrewsJames1 Peter2 Peter & Jude1, 2, & 3 JohnRevelation.


[1] Block, Daniel I. (2012-08-21). Deuteronomy (NIV Application Commentary, The) (pp. 181-182). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Red vs. Black? Update

pressLast week I posted some introductory remarks about a short series of posts having to do with the inspiration and authority of Scripture, especially as it relates to the words of Jesus and Paul.  Due to a number of events, the series I hoped to accomplish in a week has been delayed.  For those who were anticipating the posts, I apologize for the delay and will be completing it shortly.  Thanks for your patience!

Let Christ Be The Diamond

Yesterday, I was listening to Reformed Forum’s Proclaiming Christ podcast during my morning commute.  While discussing presuppositions for preaching, each panelist noted some of the resources they considered helpful in learning to prepare and preach Christ-centered sermons.  One of the panelists mentioned an excellent quote by Edward Reynolds, a Westminster Assembly divine and bishop of Norwich.  For those that labor in preaching and teaching, this one is worth reading over and over…    

220px-Edward_Reynolds“Preach ‘Christ Jesus the Lord;’ determine to know nothing among your people, but Christ crucified: let his name and grace, his spirit and love, triumph in the midst of all your sermons.  Let your great end be to glorify him in the hearts, to render him amiable and precious in the eyes of his people; to lead them to him as a sanctuary to protect them, a propitiation to reconcile them, a treasure to enrich them, a physician to heal them, an advocate to present them and their services unto God: as wisdom to counsel, as righteousness to justify, as sanctification to renew, as redemption to save, as an inexhausted fountain of pardon, grace, comfort, victory, glory.  Let Christ be the diamond to shine in the bosom of all your sermons.”[1]


[1] Edward Reynolds, The Whole Works of Edward Reynolds, vol. 5 (London: B. Holdsworth, 1826), pp. 326-27. Available via Google Books: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=AJCoZ443124C

Post-Election Gospel Sanity

Now that the 2012 Presidential Election has passed, and President Obama has been re-elected to a second term of office, the opinions and reactions of many people are flooding virtually every media outlet.  Whether it is a blog, Twitter, Facebook, or any other variety of instant publication, as soon as the results were announced, the statements started to fly…some helpful, others unhelpful.

For many, the re-election of President Obama comes with grave concern.  The President’s stance on abortion, his views on the constitution of marriage, his economic policy, only to name a few, all warrant a high level of concern.  The post-election question for followers of Christ is: How are we to respond in light of the gospel and God’s holy Word?

Several pastors and bloggers have brought a level of gospel sanity to the post-election discussion and I wanted to mention a few that I have found to be particularly encouraging…

  • Scotty Smith has offered two prayers; yesterday and today, Smith posted exemplary petitions in light of God’s sovereignty and Scriptural instruction.  Here are excerpts of both:

Yesterday, Smith wrote: “On this Election Day, we bow to you and cast our votes. The brokenness in our country, hearts and world leads us to cry out, “How long, Oh, Lord? How long before you return, Lord Jesus, and finish making all things new?” Until that Day, we will seek to “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” (1 Pet. 2:7). We will seek to live as good citizens of two kingdoms—the city of man and the City of God. We will seek to adorn the gospel and serve you faith-fully, wherever you place us in the community and culture.” Keep reading…

Today, in light of 1 Peter 2:11-17, Scotty writes: “Father, may we fear you 1000 times more than we are either excited this morning or are quite disappointed by the outcome of the election. You alone are God; you are in the heavens and you do whatever pleases you. As your servants, may we prove the wonders of Jesus’ love this very day, and tomorrow, and the next, far as the curse is found. So very Amen we pray, in the exalted and triumphant name of Jesus.” Keep reading…

“Christians, above all people, should pray for and show respect for our President and all of our elected officials. After all, unlike those who see politics as ultimate, we recognize that our political structures are important, but temporal, before an inbreaking kingdom of Christ. We don’t then need to be fomented into the kind of faux outrage that passes for much of contemporary political discourse. And, unlike those who see history as impersonal or capricious, we see behind everything a God who is sovereign over his universe.”  Keep reading…

  • Kevin DeYoung weighed in with a prayer for the President, which he wrote for either man, before the outcome was announced:

DeYoung writes:  “Make him a defender of the unborn, a protector of marriage, and a champion for religious liberty.

Make him a man of prayer and a daily student of the Scriptures.

Give him humility to admit his faults, forgive his enemies, and change his mind.

Lead him to a firm understanding of the truth of the gospel, a resolute commitment to obey the Word of God, and a passion to promote what accords with your truth.

By your grace, heavenly Father, may our President be a better man than so many expect and a better man than we deserve.

In the name of Jesus our Lord, let it be.” Keep reading…

May we be those who join these men in praying for our nation and our President in light of the gospel and the Holy Scriptures!

Beeke on Propaganda and the Puritans

Propaganda’s new album Excellent was what it took to finally draw me into the recent swell of Christian hip-hop and rap.  After my Motownphilly days ended in late elementary school, I never really enjoyed hip-hop or rap thereafter.  However, I can honestly say that I enjoy listening to Propaganda’s latest offering.

There is one track on the album that has generated quite a stir.  “Precious Puritans”, a song that has been interpreted in a myriad of ways, is largely about the connection of the Puritans with North American slavery in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Propaganda cites how many pastors seem to quote and revere the Puritans without an understanding of their sinful actions, especially without reference to how they may be received by those of African-American decent.  You can read the lyrics to “Precious Puritans” in their entirety here.

In the blogosphere, there have been many reactions to the song.  Joe Thorn and Owen Strachen, in particular, have weighed in with posts that are worth reading.  This morning, Joel Beeke, president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, posted his reaction to the song on his blog.  I found the post extremely helpful and desired to repost it here in its entirety.

Beeke writes:

A new rap song by Propaganda has caught the attention of a number of Christians in the blogosphere (lyrics here). It styles itself as a series of questions to a pastor who loves to quote the Puritans, criticizing them for their culpability in the slavery of African-Americans. The rap repeatedly uses the phrase “your precious puritans” in a way that is ironic, to say the least. It is sad that “precious” becomes a piece of sarcasm, for the Lord Himself said to His people that we are “precious in my sight” and “I have loved thee” (Isa. 43:4).

To his credit, Propaganda promotes the gospel of Christ in other raps, and says that he has learned a lot from reading the Puritans. But his rap song forcefully portrays them as deeply flawed men, profoundly guilty for their participation in the Atlantic slave trade and slave economy.

What should we make of this? The subjects of slavery and racism are huge, difficult, and beyond the scope of a single blog post. However, I would like to offer some perspective on Propaganda’s rap song. There are three dimensions to Propaganda’s song: emotional, historical, and theological. While these are intertwined, I think it will help to look at them one at a time. Continue reading

When you hear the word “gospel”, what do you think of?

Dr. Jonathan T. Pennington has recently released an impressively endorsed book entitled, Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction (Baker Academic, 2012).  Tom Schreiner noted it as, “The best introductory book on the gospels.”  I have yet to pick up a copy for myself, but it is definitely high on my “wishlist”!

Alongside the book’s release, Dr. Pennington has launched a website: readingwisely.com.  It includes an overview of the book, a sample chapter, and some great video content.  Below is the first video to be released entitled, “What is the Gospel?”

Old Story New: Feature and Giveaway

As a parent, one of the things I must do when selecting biblical resources for my son/family is sift through the myriads of unhelpful material that makes up so much of Christian literature today.  Simply because something sits on the shelf in a Christian bookstore doesn’t mean that someone has already done the work of discerning the soundness of theology within.  In reality, there are excellent, Bible-saturated, doctrinally sound, and substantial resources available, but many times you just need to be a little more pro-active in your search.  In an effort to point you in the right direction, I’d like to make you aware of an exciting children’s series and its latest family devotional.

The series is Marty Machowski’s Gospel Story for Kids collection of children’s resources, published by New Growth Press.  Susan, Gresham, and I have enjoyed reading from The Gospel Story Bible.  It is truly a joy to read a children’s Bible that is thoroughly Christ-centered, redemptive-historical, and one that responsibly condenses and applies each story.  Alongside The Gospel Story Bible, Machowski has written a children’s curriculum that focuses on understanding how the Old Testament points to Christ.

Additionally, Marty has written two family devotionals.  The devotionals are designed around a 10-minute, discussion-based format.  In 2010, New Growth Press released Long Story Short, which worked its way through the Old Testament with the intent of working through the text in order to draw families closer to Christ.  This month (October, 2012) marks the release of Machowski’s New Testament devotional, Old Story New: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God (New Testament).

In partnership with the generous folks at New Growth Press, over the next week-and-a-half I will be posting the first week of devotions from Old Story New, an interview with Marty, giving away 2 copies of the book, and posting my review as a part of the Old Story New Blog TourBe sure to check back tomorrow for the first excerpt and instructions as to how you can enter to win a copy of Old Story New.  You may want to subscribe via RSS or email to receive the updates automatically in your inbox or reader of choice.

In the meantime, here is a brief bio of Marty as well as some of the advance endorsements Old Story New…

BIO

Marty Machowski is a Family Life Pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church, a Sovereign Grace Ministries church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, where he has served on the pastoral staff for more than twenty years. As leader of their children’s ministry, Promise Kingdom, he has worked for many years to develop curriculum and devotional material that connect church and home. His passion is equipping families to understand the Bible as one gospel story and help them share that with their children. He is the author of The Gospel Story for Kids series including Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God (OT)The Gospel Story Bible; and the Gospel Story Curriculum: Finding Jesus in the Old Testament and the forthcoming Old Story New (NT): Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God and Gospel Story Curriculum: Following Jesus in the New Testament. He and his wife Lois and their six children reside in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

ENDORSEMENTS

“Marty Machowski has done it again! This book, along with the earlier Old Testament devotional book, Long Story Short, is another masterful devotional book for families. It is simple without being shallow. It is theologically robust without being pedantic. It is comprehensive without being overwhelming. Best of all, it is doable for busy parents with children.”
Dr. Tedd Tripp, Pastor; conference speaker; best-selling author of Shepherding a Child’s Heart
“So much of the family devotional material available today does little more than use the Bible to teach half-truths and full-out moralism. The reason my wife and I love Marty Machowski’s books and the reason they have become important resources as we seek to raise our children in ‘the discipline and instruction of the Lord,’ is their consistent focus on the big picture of the Bible’s big story. Old Story New is yet another wonderful resource that we gladly commend and look forward to reading with our children.”
Tim Challies, Author; pastor; blogger
“Marty Machowski ‘gets’ families. Even more importantly, he knows how to connect them to the Bible with simple, relatable New Testament studies that make much of Jesus in every lesson. If you want your kids to see the Savior through his Word, spend some time in this exciting new devotional.”
Dave Harvey, Church Planting and Church Care, Sovereign Grace Ministries; author of When Sinners Say I Do: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage