The Cross!

“Behold the Lamb of God” by Christopher Koelle

Dilemma wretched: how shall holiness
Of brilliant life unshaded, tolerate
Rebellion’s fetid slime, and not abate
In its own glory, compromised at best?
Dilemma wretched: how can truth attest
That God is love, and not be shamed by hate
And wills enslaved and bitter death—the freight
Of curse deserved, the human rebels’ mess?
The Cross! The Cross! The sacred meeting-place
Where, knowing neither compromise nor loss,
God’s love and holiness in shattering grace
The great dilemma slays! The Cross! The Cross!
This holy, loving God whose dear Son dies
By this is just—and one who justifies.  -D.A. Carson

This is from Carson’s Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century available as a free PDF here.

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Recommended: “Gospel Meditations For Men”

A few months ago I recommended the woman’s devotional Gospel Meditations For Women here on the blog. Since then, Gospel Meditations For Men was released which I enthusiastically ordered and read though a couple of times (also giving it as a gift to all my groomsmen this past December)! All the while I assumed that I had already recommended it here (a quick search told me otherwise).

Without further ado I want to personally recommend this devotional to you if you have not yet picked up a copy. The book consists of 31 doctrinally rich one page devotional readings written by Chris Anderson and Joe Tyrpak, and is a worthy addition to your daily devotions. Personally, I found it edifying to read in the evening before bed. These daily readings will help you walk ‘in step with the truth of the gospel’ (Gal 2:14), by helping you see and live out its many implications.

PHIL JOHNSON: “A full month of meaty, masculine meditations. This is a wonderful resource for men seeking to deepen their understanding and build spiritual stamina. Each day’s reading is a rich feast. Devotional material of this quality for men is extremely hard to come by. I’m grateful for the obvious care and energy that Chris Anderson and Joe Tyrpak have brought to this project.”

SAM HORN: “The gospel is as necessary for daily life as it is for eternal life. This profound truth is made personal and accessible in Gospel Meditations for Men. Chris and Joe have helped us to see the glory of the Shepherd in the grace of the gospel. They have walked the trail ahead of us and left us a daily summary of the glory they discovered. The soul food they have prepared is both sweet and nourishing. Thank you, brothers!”

CARL TRUEMAN: “Chris and Joe have co-authored a delightful and helpful little book of daily meditations. This is not one of those trendy Reformed ‘the Bible says all men have to act like John Wayne or cavemen with better table manners’ kind of productions. Many of the devotions are simply gospel expositions, and those which have a male specific orientation are on topics like lust, where male psychology is important.”

ANDY NASELLI : “Applying the gospel never gets old because we always need it. These fresh meditations serve men well.”

MICHAEL BARRETT: “I’ve often said that right thinking about the gospel produces right living in the gospel and that the gospel touches every sphere of life. With all my heart I believe this to be true, but the sad reality is that it is easier to say it than to practice it. The stuff of life has easy access to the mind, and life then happens without consciousness of the gospel. Gospel Meditations for Men addresses this problem with pointed and practical applications of gospel truths that are designed to generate gospel thinking that translates to gospel living. The meditations illustrate well how the gospel provides the reason as well as the power for right living before God in this world.”

TULLIAN TCHIVIDJIAN: “Chris Anderson and Joe Tyrpak understand that the gospel is just as necessary after you become a Christian as it is before you become a Christian–that it’s not simply God’s power to save us but it’s also God’s power to grow us once we’re saved. These Gospel Meditations for Men are an invaluable tool in helping you preach the gospel to yourself everyday! I highly recommend it.”

MILTON VINCENT: “Chris Anderson and Joe Tyrpak have rendered Christian men a great service in writing this book.  Every page of Gospel Meditations for Men features Christ-centered truths crisply pondered and reasoned out toward helpful encouragements and applications.  A model of robust biblical thinking, this little book is gospel gold, an ample treasury for men who long to renew their minds and be transformed by the mighty themes of the gospel.”

Check out a sample.
Get the book here for $2.50 or less!

We Are The Temple!

The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70, and there is nothing about a great Christian temple in the New Testament—a place of grandeur and majesty to which we can point our non-Christian friends and say, “Look! Aren’t you impressed? Doesn’t this show how wonderful and mysterious and beautiful and true and good our God is?” What happened to the temple in the New Testament era? There is nothing like it, because the temple has become us. We Christians have together become the temple of the Holy Spirit. When you read the New Testament, you find that it’s not our church buildings but us, Christians. We Christians have together become the temple of the Holy Spirit.

So the community we live in will be given hope by those of us who live distinctive Christian lives, not by your church or mine, not by how similar we are to those around us (a common mistake Christians can make), but by how attractively different we are. That’s why we are to live the distinctive lives that we do—because we are God’s picture, God’s billboard, in our city.

From Mark Dever’s, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, page 67.

The God-centeredness Of Eternity

What comes to mind when you think about Heaven or eschatology? Because you have undoubtedly read the title to this post, you will see where it is headed. Nevertheless, if we honestly examine our thoughts about Heaven and our culture’s ideas about Heaven (including church-culture), we will see a fundamental—yet hugely problematic—shortcoming; often, when we think about Heaven, we simply think about Heaven.

John Piper asks a crucial question of all Christians:

“If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?” (John Piper, God is The Gospel, 15).

I’m afraid that many in our churches would—though maybe silently—answer “YES!” Part of the reason for this, I believe, rests on our shoulders (as teachers and preachers) when we preach Jesus as simply a bridge or ladder to heaven. Our invitation is, “here, step on Jesus. He will take you somewhere awesome!” (only to leave Jesus, our “bridge,” lying there). Will we be disappointed to find that Jesus is the “treasure” we have been storing up?

Much of our Christian music reflects this flaw in thinking. Just think of how many songs speak of the “crystal river” or “street of gold” but never really get around to talking about the glory of God. Or, if they do, He comes across as an item in a list, rather than its shining center. The last chapters of Revelation (where these images arise) show us vividly how these images are not the point, but show us something greater! Revelation 22:1-2b says,

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city [presumably the street of gold based on 21:21]”

So the river, and the street of gold which the river somehow runs in the middle of, lead directly to (or “flow from”) the throne of God Himself! He is the point! If you were to attend the Oscars only to return with snapshots and close-ups of a vacant red carpet your friends would think you went crazy, yet this is what we do when we focus on the material splendors of Heaven as ends in themselves (I use that word Heaven broadly—I understand that Revelation 21-22 is not speaking of “Heaven” per se).

We don’t make much of the red carpet because there is something inherently spectacular about carpet which is red. We make much of the red carpet because of the fame and glory of those who walk on it. Without those who walk on it, saying, “red carpet” would mean nothing more to us than “white carpet” or, “soft carpet.” The inherent beauty then of a ‘river like crystal’ or a ‘street of gold’ only magnifies, all the more, the beauty and glory of Him to whom it leads.

When we speak of eternity we must present God as its ultimate good. Not streets of gold, or “mansions,” or health, or family reunion. This only diminishes the glory of God to our hearers. God is the point, and ultimate end of the Gospel! Even the landscape of our future home reflects this!

Loitering Outside The Holy Of Holies

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” I Peter 3:18a

Im quick to rejoice in the Cross—the forgiveness of sins, and reconciliation to God Almighty. The Gospel is an awe-inspiring thing. The curtain was torn! The insanity is that I often stand outside the Holy of Holies simply to admire the tear.

Although I’m not a fast reader, I love to read. I have a stack of books that I am either reading or eager to crack open. I like to study theology, and since the inspired Paul wrote that the Gospel was “of first importance” I have decided that my studies should reflect that.

God routinely brings my idols into the light. Idols in a Christian’s life are rarely bad things. An idol is, as Driscoll has said, “a good thing that becomes a God thing.” Theology is hardly a bad thing, but when I would rather study God than communicate with Him, I can’t help but think that my priorities are wrong. Am I loving Christology instead of Christ?

If you would rather look at a friend’s facebook page than hang out with him, there is something wrong with that relationship.

Recently while considering specifically the reconciliation that took place at the Cross, I was taken back with ironic behavior I often drift into. I will read and study books on the atonement, speak and write of the beauty of the Gospel, try to fill my head up with all the doctrines surrounding it—all the while I’m ignoring it’s point! All the historical events we call the “Gospel” happened to restore a right relationship with our creator!—we were “enemies” (Rom. 5:10), but now we are “heirs” (Rom. 8:17)! “The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51) allowing us to “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16 KJV), yet day after day I just stand outside and admire the tear. I may spend hours reading about the atonement, and only 5 minutes taking advantage of the access it gives me to my Father! This is the paradox that too often describes my Christian walk.

O God, smash my idols.

Recommended: "Gospel Meditations For Women"

A number of weeks ago, after reading a review on Andy Nasseli’s Blog, I ordered Chris Anderson, and Joe Tyrpak’s devotional “Gospel Meditations For Women” for my girlfriend Jessica.

I actually bought two copies (one for our youth library) so I  got to read through it as Jessica was. The devotional consist of 31, one-page devotional readings on how the Gospel effects and transforms our lives. While it was written for women, most of the entries were easily understood from a male point-of-view, or were not gender-specific.

Although I don’t frequent women’s devotionals, I thought it was quite a bit more theologically rich than most of the women’s (…or men’s) devotionals on the market today!

Both Jessica and I thought it was excellent and would highly recommend it for adult, or young adult women.

If you are a women looking for a good devotional, buy this one! If you are a man, buy a copy of it for your wife, or church library here! It’s cheap enough that it could be purchased for all the ladies in your Sunday-school class, or even your church. 5-stars!

Michael Horton on Gospel-Centered Preaching

God justifies the wicked” (Rom. 4:5, emphasis added). As counterintuitive as it is simple, that claim which lies at the heart of the Good News has brought immeasurable blessing—and trouble—to the church and the world. Be nice, take our the trash, stop nagging your spouse, try to spend more time with your children, don’t get into credit card debt, lose some weight, and get some exercise. Every one of these exhortations might be valid. Some of them may even find a legitimate application in a handful of biblical passages. However, it is not the big story. No wonder people—especially younger folks—are bored if this is the “news” that the church has to bring to the world. This kind of news need not come from heaven; there are plenty of earthly sages who can communicate it better than most preachers. (Michael Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life, 64)