Holiness By Grace

Holiness By Grace by Bryan Chapell has been one of the most influential books on sanctification and living the Christian life that I have read. Chapell reminds us that not only are we saved by grace through faith, but we are also sanctified by grace through faith. To often we flee from the Grace of the Gospel to a “Christianity” that is marked by our striving in our own strength to live a holy life. This life is marked by discouragement, frustration, disappointment, shame, and guilt. Chapell reminds us that the power and motivation to live out the Christian life come from the Gospel of Grace. We aren’t performing, we aren’t trying to get God to like us or be pleased with us, or delight in us.  The joy that comes from knowing that in Christ, God delights in us and is pleased with us gives us strength and motivation to respond to what God has already done for us in Christ, instead of trying to secure it ourselves. I would highly recommend reading this book.


A strange inverse relationship

Sometimes I wonder if there is some inverse relationship between the availability/accessibility of the Scriptures and how precious they are to us.

Here’s a video of the Kimyal Tribe in West Papua, Indonesia getting the entire NT. One of their pastors said now that they have the entire NT, thier hearts are “no longer heavy. They are light!” When was the last time your heart was light over the availability of God’s word? As the plane lands, everyone is singing praises to God. When was the last time you sang praises to God because of the Scriptures?

Here’s thier pastor’s prayer (translated) when the Bibles were placed in his hands:

“O, God. O, God. The plan which you had from the beginning, regarding your Kimyals, which already existed in your Spirit, the month that you had set, the day that you had set, has come to pass today. O my Father, my Father, the promise that you gave Simeon that he would see Jesus Christ and hold him in his arms before he died; I have also been waiting under that same promise, O God. You looked at all the differentn languages in the world, and you choose which ones would be put into your Word, you thought that we should see your Word in our language. Today, the day you had chosen for this to be fulfilled, has come to pass. O God, today you have placed your Word into my hands, just like you promised. You have placed it here in our land. And for all this, O God, I give you praise.”

And in tears they accepted God’s Word into thier hands. When’s the last time your picked up your Bible in tears that you can even have one to pick up?

Let us rejoice in God’s Word in any language, in new languages, in our language, in our hands, on our electronic devices. Let it saturate our lives, yet never lose the wonder that the Creator God has spoken, that he is sovereign, and that he has chosen to loves us.

A Few Thoughts on God and Creation

What does the Bible say about creation?

1. God created the universe out of nothing.

  • Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Hebrew Bara – translated “created” means “creation from nothing” (Latin ex nihilo – “out of nothing”)

2. God created the universe by the power of his word. 

  • Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26 – “And God said” and “Let there be” or “Let the. . .”
  • Hebrews 11:3 – “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”
  • Psalm 33:6, 9 – “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. . . For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.”
  • Psalm 148:5 – “Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created.”

3. God created the universe to show his glory. 

  • Psalm 19:1 – “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
  • Revelation 4:11 – ““Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
  • Jeremiah 10:12 – “It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.”

Take Away: God created the universe out of nothing by the power of his word to show his glory.

What does creation reveal about God? 

God is the only God. God is Trinitarian. God is eternally uncaused. God is living. God is independent. God is transcendent. God is immanent. God is personal. God is powerful. God is beautiful. God is holy. God is a prophet. God is gracious. God is a sovereign king.

Transcendent – majestic and holy, far greater than his creatures.

  • Ps. 113:4 – “The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?”

Immanent – near and present, fully involved with his creatures.

  • Acts 17:27–28 – “Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.”

Take Away: Creation is distinct from God, yet always dependent on God.

How did God describe creation after he created it? 

  • Genesis 1:31 – “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”
  • 1 Timothy 4:4 – “For everything created by God is good. . .”

Take Away: The universe God created was very good.

Some Major Take Aways on the Doctrine of Creation

1. God created the universe out of nothing by the power of his word to show his glory.

2. Creation is distinct from God, yet always dependent on God.

3. The universe God created was very good.

Above are a blend of notes from Driscoll and Breshears’ Doctrine and Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. All scripture references are from the ESV.  Obviously much more could and should be said about God and creation, but I found these thoughts helpful and I pray they draw you closer to the Creator.

God is the Judge – Not Us

A “conservative Christian” group has mounted an internet campaign and boycott against JC Penny in response to their announcement that Ellen DeGeneres will be their new spokesperson. They say that by having an openly homosexual spokesperson JC Penny is taking sides in the “culture war” and offending those with traditional family values.

Controversy like this isn’t new for Ellen, who was also at the center of some “conservative Christians” boycotting Finding Nemo and Disney because Ellen was the voice of one of the fish in the movie.

A question: “Is it even our job as Christians, to judge, condemn, criticize, non-Christians?”

Paul doesn’t seem to think so. See 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 . Neither does Jesus. See John 3:17. You can also check out any of Jesus interactions with the “sinners” of his day.

What would it look like for Christians to show Ellen, and others in the world, mercy instead of judgement, love instead of condemnation? Do you think Ellen and others in the world would respond differently to Christians who did their job and left the judging to God? Would this more accurately show forth the gospel than what is happening in this situation? What is this group communicating about the Gospel or the Triune God in their approach to Ellen?

Don’t get me wrong, sin has to be addressed in the Gospel. Mine was, and yours was. And to share the Gospel with Ellen and the world will involve a discussion of their sin and a call to repentance and faith. But shouldn’t that discussion happen in the context of a loving relationship, instead of a condemning internet campaign?



Joseph is Underrated

Not many Sunday School flannel graphs, in my experience, have been dedicated to the importance of Joseph’s role in Jesus’s life and ministry. That is my poor excuse for not really thinking very deeply about Jesus’ adoption before now. But now the Lord has called me and my family to adoption, and the Holy Spirit is moving and teaching us many things about adoption.

I’ve been reading Russell Moore’s Adopted for Life, and it has a killer chapter in it: Joseph of Nazareth vs. Planned Parenthood. As I thought about it, it’s mainly the focus of the worldview that differentiates these two. One has God in the sights, the other has man. One has obedience and the other has convenience. What really had the biggest impact on me from this chapter is how much God accomplished through Joseph’s simple, albeit difficult obedience.

Moore said, “When Mary tells Joseph she is pregnant, his first reaction isn’t a cheery ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.'” After I stopped laughing, reread Matthew 1, and thought through it; It’s pretty amazing what happened.

No, he wasn’t singing Christmas carols; he sought to divorce her until God came to him and explained his plan. Did God explain it all at once for Joseph? Nope – just what he needed for that time. He didn’t explain that in the coming months or so, you’ll need to take a small self-guided, self-funded tour of Egypt. That bit Joseph got when he needed it. But in the mean time, Jesus’ adopted dad was acting in obedience to his heavenly Dad.

What did Joseph accomplish? The obvious is that he protected the Christ, God in human flesh, from being killed. He fulfilled Hosea’s prophesy: Out of Egypt I called my son. (Hosea 11) Lastly, and the one that I like the most: In adopting Jesus, Joseph fulfilled another major prophesy about the Christ; namely, that he would be a descendant of David (Isaiah 16). You may agree pretty quickly as I did, but as I thought about it – well, Joseph wasn’t his biological father…

Wait a minute. The Scriptures are putting adoption on the same level as biological conception for purposes of inheritance and belonging. That probably sounds familiar, doesn’t it? When we, as Christians, place our faith in what Christ has done for us, we are adopted into God’s family and are fellow heirs with Christ (Galatians 3:29, Romans 8:16-17). [[The implications for how we are to think about, talk to, and consider adopted children in light of this truth is worth another post altogether – another time, God willing.]]

Joseph modeled obedience and in doing so he played a major role in the history of the redemption of God’s children. Did he know that he was fulfilling so many prophecies, or realize the impact of his actions on me and the world? I doubt it. Nobody’s writing songs about him. No best sellers. No ‘Hail Josephs’. Only cameos in nativity scenes for the father, the chosen father of the Savior of the world.

Have I mentioned he’s underrated?

Trinity, Person, etc, as necessary to unmask false teachers

With all the fuss of late on the Trinity and Elephant Room II, I have found it interesting that my reading of Calvin’s Institutes this year has brought me to a particular section.  Book I, Chapter 13, Section 4 is titled “The church has regarded expressions like “Trinity,” “Person,” etc., as necessary to unmask false teachers.  As you probably know nothing is new under the sun.  Enjoy the section.

4. Such novelty (if novelty it should be called) becomes most requisite, when the truth is to be
maintained against calumniators who evade it by quibbling. Of this, we of the present day have too
much experience in being constantly called upon to attack the enemies of pure and sound doctrine.
These slippery snakes escape by their swift and tortuous windings, if not strenuously pursued, and
when caught, firmly held. Thus the early Christians, when harassed with the disputes which heresies
produced, were forced to declare their sentiments in terms most scrupulously exact in order that
no indirect subterfuges might remain to ungodly men, to whom ambiguity of expression was a kind
of hiding-place. Arius confessed that Christ was God, and the Son of God; because the passages
of Scripture to this effect were too clear to be resisted, and then, as if he had done well, pretended
to concur with others. But, meanwhile, he ceased not to give out that Christ was created, and had
a beginning like other creatures. To drag this man of wiles out of his lurking-places, the ancient
Church took a further step, and declared that Christ is the eternal Son of the Father, and
consubstantial with the Father. The impiety was fully disclosed when the Arians began to declare
their hatred and utter detestation of the term μ . Had their first confession—viz. that Christ
was God, been sincere and from the heart, they would not have denied that he was consubstantial
with the Father. Who dare charge those ancient writers as men of strife and contention, for having
debated so warmly, and disturbed the quiet of the Church for a single word? That little word
distinguished between Christians of pure faith and the blasphemous Arians. Next Sabellius arose,
who counted the names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as almost nonentities; maintaining that
they were not used to mark out some distinction, but that they were different attributes of God, like
many others of a similar kind. When the matter was debated, he acknowledged his belief that the
Father was God, the Son God, the Spirit God; but then he had the evasion ready, that he had said
nothing more than if he had called God powerful, and just, and wise. Accordingly, he sung another
note—viz. that the Father was the Son, and the Holy Spirit the Father, without order or distinction.
The worthy doctors who then had the interests of piety at heart, in order to defeat it is man’s
dishonesty, proclaimed that three subsistence were to be truly acknowledged in the one God. That
they might protect themselves against tortuous craftiness by the simple open truth, they affirmed
that a Trinity of Persons subsisted in the one God, or (which is the same thing) in the unity of God.

Text copied from CCEL PDF version.  Slightly different translation than the McNeill version linked above at WTS Books which I am reading.

Interpreting the Parables in the Gospel of Mark

Dr. Hans Bayer, Professor of New Testament at Covenant Seminary, did a lecture on Interpreting the Parables in the Gospel of Mark. If you have 52 min. and 28 sec. it would be worth your time checking it out here. This is just a broad introduction to interpretation of parables in Mark, but I hope it will encourage you to spend more time in the parables in Mark.

Bayer has a forthcoming book on the Theology of Mark, that is on my “To Buy” list. Keep an eye out for it too.

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