Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spectacular Sins

I am a fan of John Piper. I find that his ministry of preaching and writing is marked by being exegetical, weighty, gospel-centered, provocative, persuasive, God-entranced, and a host of other adjectives that all add up to good ministry. Due to this, I always look forward to reading the next book that he writes.

The latest one that I just read is entitled Spectacular Sins. The subtitle is And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ.

The Features

This is not a large book, only totaling 112 pages. It comes in paperback and has a general index and a scripture index, which I am always glad to see in any book about the Bible. It makes a good book twice as useful. The book has eight chapters, each having a sub-heading. They are as follows.
- God sovereign over human sin - The impulse behind this book
- Christ sovereign over hostile powers - All things were created for Him
- The fall of Satan and the victory of Christ - Why does God permit Satan to live?
- The Fatal disobedience of Adam and the triumphant obedience of Christ - How Adam's sin serves the supremacy of Christ
- The Pride of Babel and the Praise of Christ - How the judgement of God brings joyful acclaim to Christ
- The Sale of Joseph and the Son of God - How salvation comes through slavery
- The sinful origin of the Son of David - How the God-Man becomes the Kings of Kings
- Judas Iscariot, the suicide of Satan, and the Salvation of the World - How God conquered sin through sin

The Thesis

The stated purpose of this book is as follows:
"My aim is to show that sin and evil, no matter how spectacular, never nullify the decisive, Christ-exalting purposes of God. No, my aim is more than that. These spectacular sins do not just fail to nullify God's purpose to glorify Christ, they succeed, by God's unfathomable providence, in making His gracious purpose come to pass."

Piper does a tremendous job in showing that when God permits sin He does it for a Christ-exalting reason. All sin, then, becomes a vehicle for bringing more praise to Christ than if sin did not exist. By looking at the chapters I listed above you can see Piper's approach. The first two chapters lay some helpful groundwork in this large subject. After that, Piper then walks us down human history as laid forth in the Bible. Each chapter is devoted to a turning point in God's redemptive plan and the very course of mankind. In these histories, God was controlling the most shocking and devastating sins within the most important moments of God's plan for exalting Christ.

Notable Quotes

"If, while I am having a tender conversation with my wife, a man breaks in and kills her and all my children and leaves me wounded on the living room floor, I will need a way of seeing the world that involves more than the tenderness of God." (facing the charge of being emotionally distant and unrelated to the daily struggles of people)

"The aim of this book is not to meet felt needs, but to awaken needs that will soon be felt, and then to save your faith and strengthen your courage with evil prevails."

"Paul's antidote for wimpy Christians is weighty doctrine."

"I conclude, therefore, that God permitted Satan's fall, not because he was unable to stop it, but because he had a purpose for it. Since God is never taken off guard, his permissions are always purposeful. If he chooses to permit something, he does so for a reason - an infinitely wise reason because he is infinitely wise."

(Concerning Gen. 50:19-20 "God meant it for good") "Notice it does not say that God used their evil for good after they meant it for evil. It says that in the very act of evil, there were two different designs: In the sinful act, they were designing evil, and in the same sinful act, God was designing good."

Who Should Read This Book

There are two kinds of people who need this book, but one needs it more than another. The first person is the one who needs help in reconciling a good God with all the evil that is in the world. But the person who needs it even more is the coddled Christian. This means those who really need it are western Christians generally, and American Christians specifically. As Piper states, "Coddled people will not make good listeners when their world collapses." Coddled people don't need a big God because they have small problems. But when their wife and children are slaughtered, or a dirty-bomb full of nerve agent hits their city, or a famine descends upon them, or they are taken as spoils of war, how will they stand under such a weight of evil? Or another way to ask it is "whose version of God will hold" when such things happen. This book is for those who need to understand that the Bible is full of devastating sin of the most shocking types for the purpose of displaying God's sovereign ability to use it for glorious purposes.

The Conclusion

The book is very readable, very Bible saturated, and very God-magnifying. You come away with a sense of just how awesome God must be to use sin to destroy sin, to use Christ-dishonoring events to bring Christ honor. It is a great book for your library and a great book to give away.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Great Clip for Witnessing

I am always looking for different ways and different avenues to share the gospel with people. The internet and all of its features has opened up a whole new world of opportunities for conveying the gospel to people. The internet is a tool and like any tool, it can be used for evil or for good. I want to encourage you to use it for the greatest good of conveying the heart-changing, hope-giving, grace-conveying, God-exalting gospel of Christ.

I found this clip many months ago on youtube and think it is one of the most profound examples on pop-culture t.v. of the way people surpress the guilt they know they have. Ray Comfort takes this theological golden nugget of prime time television and uses it to explain the conscience and the way the law exposes our need of a savior. I have a video feature on my phone and recorded the clip just in case I land in that particular situation where I could show it to someone. I am not sure about how to email it, but at the least you could copy the address on youtube and send it to someone.

May the Lord show you a way to use this, and a host of other tools, for conveying the gospel.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Easter Outreach Book

In response to the release of the movie "The Passion of the Christ" John Piper wrote a book with the same name. That book was retitled "Fifty Reasons Jesus Came To Die". Since then Desiring God ministries has made that book availbe during the Easter season to churchs and individuals at a fraction of the cost for giving them away free of charge. The cost for a box of 108 books is $140 suggested donation ($1 a book and $32 for shipping).

This book is a great resource for distributing far and wide in your community. At our church, we put them in bags and hang them on doors along with an invitation to our easter services. The book has 50 well written chapters in normal Piper style that are about 2 pages long, each exalting some feature that Jesus' death secured.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Dispensationalism Q&A

Dr. Mike Vlach, assistant professor of Theology at The Master's Seminary, recently did a Q&A article for the VOICE magazine, an I.F.C.A. publication. In this articles Dr. Vlach made some helpful comments that I thought would be good to throw on a post.

- "Most books critical of dispensationalism often emphasize the dispensationalism of the early Twentieth Century and do not adequately deal the more recent dispensational scholars. Many say something like, 'Dispensationalism is a system of theology that is based on the belief of seven dispensations as found in the Scofield Reference Bible.'.... When reading some critiques of dispensationalism, one gets the impression that dispensational thought was frozen by 1950."

- "I think dispensationalists have been less than helpful when they emphasize belief in seven dispensations or doing word studies in oikonomia, as if understanding this Greek term somehow identifies the essence of dispensationalism." "Dispensationalists need to be bolder in defending dispensational beliefs. The Israel/Church distinction, premillennialism, and the doctrine of the future salvation and restoration of Israel are very well supported in Scripture. On these issues that are at the heart of dispensationalism, the dispensationalist has much to stand upon.

- "First, it is true that as a system of theology, dispensationalism began in the nineteenth century. Yet it is also true that several key elements of dispensational belief were held by the early church. A strong consensus existed in the Patristic Era (A.D. 100-451)that in the future, the coming of Elijah and Antichrist would proceed the second coming of Jesus... many of the church fathers believed in a future salvation of Israel...The early church was also clearly premillennial. Because of the early church's view on futurism, premillenialism, and a future salvation for Israel, I believe that the early church was closer to dispensationalism that it was to covenant theology."

- Concerning internal debates... "In sum, for those who are dispensationalists, I advocate neither a blanket acceptance nor blanket rejection of progressive dispensationalism, or traditional dispensationalism for that matter. Like all theological perspectives, we should accept what is biblical and reject what is not.

Friday, March 6, 2009

God Almighty - Christ Tomlin

I thought I would add a new feature to my blog that some will find absolutely pointless. I am going to add a music post whenever I run across a song that strikes me in some way. I know that some will have no interest in that and others won't like the music. But some may be encouraged by the songs in the same way that I am. Music has always moved me in special ways and without doubt God has designed it to lifts hearts in praise to Him. May that be the case with this song.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Creepy, Yet Exciting

Below I am posting some newly released video of a robotics project called "Big Dog." Though the project has been around for at least 4 years, they are still working on it to make it better and more reliable for the military. There are two things that went through my mind the first time I saw this. First, I thought it was almost creepy. There is something about seeing inanimate things doing actions that only animals or people should do that is just...I don't know... creepy. However, the second thing that goes through my mind is pure excitement about the millennium. I know you probably just reread that sentence, and are creating a new bald spot as you scratch your head confusedly looking for some connection.

Before I give you the connection, let me explain the millennium . The millennium is that period of time which follows Christ's second coming. At His coming He will conquer all His enemies and receive from the Father all the kingdoms of the world and will rule over them as the rightful and perfect king(Dan. 7:13-14). The millennium is the term given to that 1000 years spoken of in Rev. 20 when peace and prosperity fill the earth because the curse will be removed and Christ will rule from Jerusalem.

Now the connection. When I see things like the "Big Dog" I am so amazed at the sophistication and skill that was needed to create something like that. But, that is nothing compared to what we will see in the millennium. In the millennium, people will live for a very long time in a renewed world that flourishes in every sense(Isa. 32:13-15; Amos 9:13). There will be no restrictions of resources or any limitations due to a fallen and broken world. With Christ on the throne, people will rule over the earth as originally designed, but without anything to impede their potential to learn and build and draw out all the latent potential of God's creation. There will be discoveries and inventions that will make the "Big Dog" and the Space shuttle look like toys out of a cracker jack box. And that, my friends, is exciting.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Feel Good Story

Every now and then you run across a story that just makes you smile. The common grace of God is so abundant to His creation and we can feel it here. May this incredible story make you smile. If this is what God's common grace gives, how much more amazing is God's special grace to those who believe.