Archive | Theology/Bible

Remembering OneDay 2000 and Piper’s “Seashell” Sermon

Yesterday was the twentieth anniversary of John Piper’s famous “sea shell” sermon at the 2000 Passion conference called “OneDay.” Three years ago, I shared with Sarah Zylstra my memories of the event. There was a lot that we talked about that did not make it into her final article. And there was still more that I didn’t even share with her. So I thought I would briefly recount some of those memories here. Here are my top ten memorable memories of the memorable occasion known as OneDay 2000. Continue Reading →

God’s Calling on Men to Be Protectors

Last night, John Piper participated in a panel discussion about complementarianism, and today T4G released an excerpt (see above). I really appreciate the point that Piper is making here. He is pointing out that men have a special obligation to protect and to care for women. This obligation, by divine design, is written into their nature.

Someone may object: “But doesn’t God’s image in every human being establish abuse as an offense against God? Why does gender even matter here?” Yes, God’s image does establish the offense, but it doesn’t by itself indicate greater degrees of moral culpability given a perpetrator’s motive, responsibility, and situation. Continue Reading →

Why couldn’t God just forgive us? Did Jesus really have to die?

Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to die in order for God to forgive us? Why couldn’t God just let us off the hook for our sin? Why did his very own Son have to die in our place?

These are the questions that I attempt to answer in my Good Friday message. And they are the questions that Romans 3:24-25 answers.

Sinners often ask the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” This is not a question that ever crosses Paul’s mind because he knows there are no good people (Rom. 3:23). The question that drives Paul is this: “Why is God good to bad people?” Unless you’re asking that question, you won’t understand the cross and why it was necessary.

The Innermost Meaning of the Cross

man in orange top beside eyeglasses on brown book“But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.”
-Isaiah 53:10

“God put [Christ] forward as a propitiation in His blood through faith, in order to demonstrate His righteousness.”
-Romans 3:25

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us– for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’”
-Galatians 3:13 Continue Reading →

Comfort for the Afflicted: God’s People and the Coronavirus

Our church still isn’t gathering on Sunday morning, but we are gathering around our scattered screens to sing and to pray and to hear a message from God’s word. Yesterday, I delivered a message about finding comfort in the midst of affliction. The text is 2 Corinthians 1:1-7, and you can download it here or listen below. Below the audio is an excerpt:

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Many of you have been experiencing fear and dread at the possibility of contracting COVID-19, of being hospitalized, perhaps even of dying. Some of you are fearful about elderly family members or other loved ones with compromised immune systems.

But even if you aren’t afraid of the coronavirus for health reasons, many of you are certainly worried for financial reasons. As businesses close, jobs have been disappearing. Many in our church have already lost their jobs, and others have been cut back. People don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from, so they are understandably anxious.

And as if all that weren’t bad enough, the one place that we all go every week to get ourselves sorted out—the church—we can’t even go there because gathering would put too many people’s lives at risk. So the one thing that might offer us comfort—gathering with God’s people—has been taken away as well.

The pressing question that we are all facing this morning as we come to God’s word is this. How are we going to hold up under these tremendous burdens and uncertainties? Are we going to let a flood of fear and anxiety wash over us and carry us away into a really dark place? Or will we find Christ sufficient for us in our distress?

The difference between the former and the latter is the difference between faithfulness and sin. It’s the difference between comfort and affliction. It’s the difference between depression and hope. In other words, the difference between fear and faith is all the difference in the world. And the question before us is how do we lay hold of faith without being carried away by fear?

And the answer to that question is simply this. If you want to find the path of faith and hope and light and goodness and avoid the path of fear and depression and darkness, then you have to find your comfort in Christ. Jesus is offering you comfort this morning. And it is yours for the taking, if you’ll have it.

What does it mean to “act like a man” in 1 Corinthians 16:13?

I’ve been preaching through 1 Corinthians at our church for the last couple years, and in my most recent message we came to a little phrase in 1 Corinthians 16:13 that has become a stumbling block for some readers. The underlying Greek verb (andrizesthei) is rendered variously as “act like men” (ESV, NASB; cf. CSB, KJV) or “be courageous” (NIV, NRSV, NLT). Some of those who favor “act like men” understand the text as a call to manhood. Others dismiss that interpretation by noting that the command is addressed to both men and women.

For my part, I think either translation is fine. Both of them are actually capturing something true about the original expression. The Greek word in question is built on a root that refers to adult males (aner). That means that there are at least two semantic oppositions here, not one—male as opposed to female and adult as opposed to child. As Thiselton explains, “it does not simply pose a contrast with supposedly ‘feminine’ qualities; it also stands in contrast with childish ways.”1 In other words, the root idea invokes both masculinity and maturity. Continue Reading →

A plan to read the Greek New Testament in a year

Several years ago, I created a plan to read through the Greek New Testament in a year. For the most part, it tracks pretty closely with Lee Irons’ excellent schedule for reading the Greek New Testament in a year. My plan, however, varies a little bit. Because John’s writing is simpler Greek, my schedule goes through John’s Gospel at a faster pace than Irons’. As a result, there are no readings scheduled at the end of the year from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve. These open dates at the end can be used as catch-up days. The schedule is given in two formats below.

DOC – Read the Greek NT in a Year

PDF – Read the Greek NT in a Year

If you are serious about reading, you might consider Zondervan’s reader’s edition of the Greek New Testament (pictured at top right). This volume contains the text of the UBS Greek New Testament. It provides definitions of Greek words that appear in the New Testament fewer than 30 times. This helps readers with less common vocabulary and allows them to focus on reading, comprehension, parsing, and grammatical issues. It’s available now from Amazon.com.

A postscript on a Twitter thread about choosing a college

I read an interesting little essay by King’s College professor David Talcott last week. It was the title that caught my eye: “Don’t Assume Because A College Is Christian It’s A Safe Place For Your Kid.” Talcott’s essay dealt largely with left-leaning political views on campuses, but near the end he made a comment about theological first principles:

Christian education today is still in many ways excellent and the deeply religious culture of these institutions… can be a wonderful place for spiritual growth. But on matters related to sex, gender, and politics, it is “buyer beware” and “trust, but verify.”

Parents and donors who care about Christian higher education remaining Christian for the long-term need to ask pointed questions of the institutions to which they entrust both their children and their donation dollars. We can no longer assume that everything is okay simply because the school has always been Christian and conservative.

After all, Harvard University was founded to train Christian ministers. Schools have drifted before and they can do so again. Based on the available evidence, it’s already happening.

As I said, Talcott’s article dealt largely with left-leaning political views that dominate so many campuses. But it was this last part that I felt was most important. A campus’s culture is determined largely by what its deepest convictions are, and those convictions are irreducibly theological. Continue Reading →

A Plan to Read through the Bible in 2020

In years past, my customary mode for reading through the Bible every year involved starting in Genesis and reading right through to Revelation. I estimated that about four chapters per day would get me through in under a year’s time. The method worked reasonably well, but it wasn’t without its problems. Sometimes I would miss a day (or days) and get behind, and I had no way to keep up with my progress. I needed a schedule so that I could keep myself accountable for finishing in a year.

In 2009, therefore, I did something I had never done before. I followed a Bible reading plan. I adopted Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s Calendar for Daily Readings. It provided the schedule that I needed. It also outlined daily readings from different sections of the Bible. On any given day, I would be reading something from an Old Testament narrative, something from the prophets, and something from the New Testament. Although this plan provided the accountability that I needed, I found it difficult to be reading from three to four different biblical books every day. I know that not everyone is like me, but that approach lacked the focus that my brain requires. I missed reading the Bible in its canonical arrangement and focusing on one book at a time. I wished for a schedule that would go from Genesis to Revelation in canonical order. Continue Reading →

Remember Your Chains

I was reading Ezekiel yesterday and came across a stunning statement about a positive place for shame in our lives. Ezekiel is prophesying about the future restoration of God’s people after a long period of judgment:

62 “Thus I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD, 63 in order that you may remember and be ashamed, and never open your mouth anymore because of your humiliation, when I have forgiven you for all that you have done,” the Lord God declares. –Ezekiel 16:62-63

We often don’t think about shame as having a positive role in our lives. In fact, we are often told that feelings of shame undermine emotional health and well-being. And yet here we have the Lord saying that after these sinners have been forgiven, they must remember their former sins and be ashamed of them. Why? So that they will never be arrogant again. John Taylor explains the meaning well: Continue Reading →

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