Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Praying Mantis Perching on a Baseball at a Tigers/Royals Game

Kansas City Royals’ Brayan Pena holds a baseball with a mantodea, more commonly known as a praying mantis, on it during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers in Detroit, Monday, Aug. 29, 2011.
22 words

Mississippi Fred McDowell - When I Lay My Burden Down

Little Richard - Lucille - 1955

Why Christians grow so slowly in their faith

In his Thoughts on Religious Experience, Archibald Alexander asked why we grow so slowly as Christians.  First, he rounded up the usual suspects: “The influence of worldly relatives and companions, embarking too deeply in business, devoting too much time to amusements, immoderate attachment to a worldly object,” etc.  But then he drilled down further and asked why these things get such a hold on us, “why Christians commonly are of so diminutive a stature and of such feeble strength in their religion.”  He proposed three reasons:
1.  “There is a defect in our belief in the freeness of divine grace.”  Even when the gospel is acknowledged in theory, he wrote, Christians depend on their moods and performances rather than on Christ alone.  Then, in our inevitable failure, we become discouraged, and worldliness regains strength with nothing to counteract it.  “The covenant of grace must be more clearly and repeatedly expounded in all its rich plentitude of mercy, and in all its absolute freeness.”
2.  “Christians do not make their obedience to Christ comprehend every other object of pursuit.”  We compartmentalize our lives, and Jesus becomes a sidebar to the more compelling things of every day, like making money.  “The secular employments and pursuits of the pious should all be consecrated and become a part of their religion.”  That way, our work Monday through Friday is no distraction from Christ but more activity for Christ.
3.  “We make general resolutions of improvement but neglect to extend our efforts to particulars.”  Rather than be satisfied that we haven’t sinned hugely on any given day and therefore we must be doing okay as Christians, we should be strategizing for specific, actionable, new steps of obedience on a daily basis.
Archibald Alexander, Thoughts on Religious Experience (Edinburgh, 1989), pages 165-167.

Ray Ortlund


Norah Jones - Here We Go Again - with Ray Charles

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kinky Friedman: Rick Perry's Got My Vote

Kinky Friedman once ran against Rick Perry for the Texas governorship. So would the singer and writer vote for him for president? Hell, yes! The world’s most famous Jewish cowboy on why he wants to live in Rick Perry’s America. 

Rick Perry has never lost an election; I’ve never won one. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the world. On the other hand, I’ve long been friends with Bill Clinton and George W., and Rick Perry and I, though at times bitter adversaries, have remained friends as well. It’s not always easy to maintain friendships with politicians. To paraphrase Charles Lamb, you have to work at it like some men toil after virtue.
I have been quoted as saying that when I die, I am to be cremated, and the ashes are to be thrown in Rick Perry’s hair. Yet, simply put, Rick Perry and I are incapable of resisting each other’s charm. He is not only a good sport, he is a good, kindhearted man, and he once sat in on drums with ZZ Top. A guy like that can’t be all bad. When I ran for governor of Texas as an independent in 2006, the Crips and the Bloods ganged up on me. When I lost, I drove off in a 1937 Snit, refusing to concede to Perry. Three days later Rick called to give me a gracious little pep talk, effectively talking me down from jumping off the bridge of my nose. Very few others were calling at that time, by the way. Such is the nature of winning and losing and politicians and life. You might call what Rick did an act of random kindness. Yet in my mind it made him more than a politician, more than a musician; it made him a mensch.
These days, of course, I would support Charlie Sheen over Obama. Obama has done for the economy what pantyhose did for foreplay. Obama has been perpetually behind the curve. If the issue of the day is jobs and the economy, Rick Perry is certainly the nuts-and-bolts kind of guy you want in there. Even though my pal and fellow Texan Paul Begala has pointed out that no self-respecting Mexican would sneak across the border for one of Rick Perry’s low-level jobs, the stats don’t entirely lie. Compared with the rest of the country, Texas is kicking major ass in terms of jobs and the economy, and Rick should get credit for that, just as Obama should get credit for saying “No comment” to the young people of the Iranian revolution.
More to the point, could Rick Perry fix the economy? Hell, yes! Texas is exhibit A; Rick’s fingerprints are all over it. He’s been governor since Christ was a cowboy. The Lone Star State is booming. The last time I checked, Texas is kicking in a hell of a lot of the U.S. GDP. Unemployment is lower than the vast majority of the other states. Hell, we could probably even find a job for Paul Begala.
Kinky Friedman Rick Perry
Kinky Friedman, left, listens to Texas Gov. Rick Perry during the 2006 Texas gubernatorial debate, Smiley N. Pool / AP-pool
As a Jewish cowboy (or “Juusshh,” as we say in Texas), I know Rick Perry to be a true friend of Israel, like Bill Clinton and George W. before him. There exists a visceral John Wayne kinship between Israelis and Texans, and Rick Perry gets it. That’s why he’s visited Israel on many more occasions than Obama, who’s been there exactly zero times as president. If I were Obama I wouldn’t go either. His favorability rating in Israel once clocked in at 4 percent. Say what you will about the Israelis, but they are not slow out of the chute. They know who their friends are. On the topic of the Holy Land, there remains the little matter of God. God talks to televangelists, football coaches, and people in mental hospitals. Why shouldn’t he talk to Rick Perry? In the spirit of Joseph Heller, I have a covenant with God. I leave him alone and he leaves me alone. If, however, I have a big problem, I ask God for the answer. He tells Rick Perry. And Rick tells me.
So would I support Rick Perry for president? Hell, yes! As the last nail that hasn’t been hammered down in this country, I agree with Rick that there are already too damn many laws, taxes, regulations, panels, committees, and bureaucrats. While Obama is busy putting the hyphen between “anal” and “retentive” Rick will be rolling up his sleeves and getting to work.
A still, small voice within keeps telling me that Rick Perry’s best day may yet be ahead of him, and so too, hopefully, will be America’s.

Lightnin Hopkins & Sonny Terry - Rocky Mountain

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Wham!

Toy Story 2012 Buzz and Woody

Luther on the The Law and the Conscience

Luther, in the preface to his 1591 commentary on Galatians:
For a Christian the law ought to have dominion only over the flesh. When it is so, the law is kept within bounds. But if it presumes to creep into your conscience and tries to reign there, you must make the right distinction. Give no more to the law than is right, but say,

'You want to climb up into the kingdom of my conscience, do you, Law? You want to reign over it and reprove sin and take away the joy I have by faith in Christ and drive me to desperation? Keep within your bounds, and exercise your power over the flesh, but do not touch my conscience. By the Gospel I am called to share righteousness and everlasting life. I am called to Christ's kingdom, where my conscience is at rest and there is no law, but rather forgiveness of sins, peace, quietness, joy, health, and everlasting life. Do not trouble me in these matters, for I will not let an intolerant tyrant like you reign in my conscience, which is the temple of Christ, the Son of God. He is the King of righteousness and peace, my sweet Savior and Mediator; he will keep my conscience joyful and quiet in the sound, pure doctrine of the Gospel and in the knowledge of Christian and heavenly righteousness.'

When I have this righteousness reigning fertile in my heart, I descend from heaven like the rain that makes the earth fertile. That is to say, I come out into another kingdom, and I do good works whenever I have a chance.
--Martin Luther, Galatians (Crossway, 1998), xxii

Dane Ortlund

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pictures of Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene wound up by most estimates as one of the top ten most destructive and deadly hurricanes to hit the United States since 1980. While ultimately not as powerful as many had predicted, the storm still killed at least 27 people along its path from the Caribbean to the eastern seaboard. Transportation was shut down all along the east coast, stranding residents and tourists in shelters, airports, and train stations. More than 5.8 million customers lost electricity, thousands of flights were cancelled, flooding washed out roads and destroyed homes, and evacuation orders were issued for hundreds of thousands. Gathered here are pictures from the Hurricane's path. -- Lane Turner (44 photos total)

Billy Stinson comforts his daughter Erin Stinson as they sit on the steps where their cottage once stood on August 28, 2011 in Nags Head, N.C. The cottage, built in 1903 and destroyed by Hurricane Irene, was one of the first vacation cottages built on Albemarle Sound in Nags Head. Stinson has owned the home, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, since 1963. "We were pretending, just for a moment, that the cottage was still behind us and we were just sitting there watching the sunset," said Erin afterward. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) 

To see all 44 pictures click here: The Big Picture

Bob Dylan - You Gotta Serve Somebody - Live at the Grammy's 1980

Dylan on the Grammy's, 1980.

Norah Jones - I'll Be Your Baby Tonight - (Dylan Cover)

The Nature of the Gospel and Sanctification - Interview with Mike Horton - 4

In a blog post of mine the other day I quoted Tim Keller who said that some people claim that to constantly be striking a ‘note of grace, grace, grace’ in our sermons is not helpful in our culture today because legalism is not the problem, license is. But Keller points out that unless you critique moralism, many irreligious people won’t know the difference between moralism and what you’re offering. He contends that non-Christians will always automatically hear gospel presentations as appeals to do more and try harder unless in your preaching you use the good news of grace to deconstruct legalism. Only if you show them there’s a difference–that what they really rejected wasn’t real Christianity at all–will they even begin to consider Christianity.” Do you agree with this? And how does this square with the idea that non-Christians will never be able to hear the good news of the gospel unless they first hear the crushing blow of God’s law?
Again, I’m not sure that the problem is either legalism or license: those are categories of a largely Christian culture, that thinks in theological categories. Our default setting is always legalism: the assertion of our own goodness. However, the reference point in our world today is no longer God, much less heaven or hell.  It’s the “heaven” of personal peace and affluence and the “hell” of meaningless nihilism.  “Legalism” in our culture today often takes the secular form of climbing the corporate ladder while trying to raise a family and own three homes, with anxiety about which call to return and which song to download.  It’s nihilism: the life of vanity described in Ecclesiastes.
Go back and read (or listen to/watch) R. C. Sproul’s “The Holiness of God.” Now there you can’t help but be faced with a person rather than a principle. Your questions, not just answers, change. The vertical dimension is recovered. Sure, you’d like to have a better marriage and family, but a deeper set of questions emerges—questions you never had before. Then you find that God is not a prop or resource for your life movie, but your problem.  Only then does the question, “How then can I be saved?” arise.  Only then is the gospel really good news—namely, that in Christ the Judge has become your father.
So I agree wholeheartedly that a renewed proclamation of the law in its full force and threat is needed today, but that means a renewed proclamation of the Triune God.  People need to be stopped in their tracks, no longer measuring “god” by their own sense of morality, goodness, truth, and beauty.  They need to encounter the God who is actually there, judging and justifying sinners.  If we start with the Bible’s answers, we’re too late.  We need to allow God’s Word to give us new questions first.  There is a massive place for God’s holiness, justice, goodness, and righteousness in the law to do that.  Apart from the holiness of God, neither the law nor the gospel makes any sense.
At the same time—and I take it that this is Tim Keller’s point—the gospel is just as necessary.  Otherwise, what we have is what the Puritans called “legal” rather than “evangelical” repentance: that is, fear of the law without gospel-driven hatred of sin.  It’s one thing to run from a judge; it’s another thing to hear the surprising announcement from the Good Father that he welcomes the sinner, wraps him in his best robe, puts a ring on his finger, and kills the fatted calf for the celebration. Many of our contemporaries have never met anyone like that.
Some say that union with Christ is the integrating structure for both justification and sanctification. In other words, we’re justified “in Christ” AND we’re sanctified “in Christ.”  Sanctification doesn’t depend on justification, but both depend on union with Christ. How would you respond?
There’s a long and noble history of “the marvelous exchange” in patristic and medieval theology that the Reformers picked up. Bernard of Clairvaux had an especially significant impact on Luther and Calvin, and both Reformers gave a lot of space to this theme of union with Christ as an analogy not only for justification but for all of the saving benefits we have in Christ.
Like Paul (think especially of the transition from Romans 6 to 7), Calvin emphasized that we cannot embrace Christ for justification without at the same time embracing him for our sanctification. We don’t just receive a gift, or even many gifts, but Christ himself by faith. We are united to him. He is the eschatological forerunner, head, Vine, and source for the new creation to which we now belong. The Spirit unites us to Christ by the gospel and the gospel is not only the good news that we are justified, but the good news that the Lord Christ has conquered the dominion of sin and we have been baptized into his death and resurrection. So the gospel is always the source of our sanctification, but the gospel includes freedom from both the guilt and tyranny of our sins.
But some among us suggest that because we receive justification and sanctification in union with Christ, there is no logical dependence of the latter on the former. I don’t find that anywhere in the relevant scriptural passages or in the exegesis offered by the Reformers, the confessions and catechisms, and the Puritans.  Reformed theology certainly teaches that justification provides the secure legal basis for our growing and maturing relationship with Christ (i.e., sanctification).  At the same time, we’re always returning to Christ for both.  So we have to resist the false choice between union with Christ or justification.  As much as Calvin referred to the former, he still calls justification “the main hinge on which religion turns,” “the primary article,” etc..  That runs straight through all of the great spiritual writings, sermons, and treatises of the Reformed tradition.
In the recent discussions at the Ref21 blog, Rick Phillips clarified that “Justification is logically prior to progressive sanctification.” When you say that justification is logically prior to sanctification, are you speaking of definitive or progressive sanctification?
The idea of definitive sanctification (distinct from regeneration or progressive sanctification) was first proposed by John Murray.  I agree completely with his interpretation of the passages that lead him to this position, but think it can still be covered under the new birth.  If that’s the case, then yes, the new birth precedes justification logically.  However, sanctification in no sense (however defined) is logically prior to justification, which would lead basically to Rome’s position (justification as the outcome of sanctification).
Tullian Tchividjian

Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Monsters next?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bob Dylan - A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall

A hard rain is falling right now on the east coast

Why Go To College

Three Uses of The Law - Interview with Mike Horton 3

Some recommend that we must always preach the law before we preach the gospel. How does that square with the Scriptural pattern (Ephesians, Colossians, etc.) of telling us first what Jesus has done (gospel) before we are told what to do (law)?
Yes, for example, William Perkins made that point in his book on preaching. However, in some extreme forms of Puritanism and pietism (Lutheran and Reformed), it became two distinct and often prolonged stages. You went from the “law-work” stage to “gospel assurance.” I don’t believe it’s that formulaic in Scripture. We are always hearing God’s law and gospel as distinct words throughout our Christian life.
Think of Romans. First, there’s the pedgaogical (first) use of the law in the first three chapters: all the world condemned. Then there is the proclamation of the gospel for eight chapters. Then in chapter 12 you have the transition to the third use of the law: “Therefore, brothers, in view of God’s mercies, present your body as a living sacrifice…” Even in making specific commands, the gospel soil in which they’re grounded is never forgotten.  We love because we are loved by the Father in Christ. We contribute to the welfare of the saints because we have received all of God’s riches in Christ.
The Heidelberg Catechism follows this logic: Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude. The second question and answer tell us that we know our sin and misery through the law and our salvation in the gospel. But the place where the Ten Commandments are unpacked in their didactic use is in the third section: Gratitude.  It’s only in view of our the gospel, which has done away with our guilt and the tyranny of sin, that we can respond appropriately to the law in its third use.
The danger comes when we turn back to the first use at this point, threatening believers after we have directed them to Christ alone for salvation! Often, this comes in the form of a final point where, after treating the exhortations, we ask, “Does this describe you?” The sensitive Christian conscience will have to say, “Well, no—at least, not enough.”  What then?  Is the gospel enough to save me when I don’t see enough fruit in my life? Paul’s answer is to say, “Yes, I’ve already told you [in chapters 6-8] that it DOES describe you! Now live as if you really believed it!”
I once heard a preacher say that the law sends us to Christ for justification and then Christ sends us back to the law for sanctification. This seems to indicate a law-gospel-law paradigm. Thoughts?
This relates to my point above. We have to follow the text. Some passages will pick up at a different place on the law-gospel business than our previous sermon. We don’t preach the DISTINCTION between law and gospel; we preach the PASSAGES, clearly distinguishing between law and gospel. It’s certainly true from the New Testament that Christ delivers us from the curse of the law only to wed us to himself and therefore to his commands as well as promises. It would be blasphemous to suggest that we could be married to lawlessness. To be united to Christ is to love his Word—the law as well as the gospel. Yes, we make only “a small beginning” in sanctification in this life, but as the HC also reminds us, every believer begins at the moment of conversion to turn from sin and follow Christ.
The danger of law-gospel-law, though, is that it can turn the gospel into a means to a supposedly greater end. The gospel becomes a brief rest stop where God is good, Christ is sufficient, justification is complete, and then we leave it behind on our steep ascent of sanctification. The gospel always has the last word over a believer. Always.
Tullian Tchividjian

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Norah Jones - Love Me - With The Little Willies

.Featuring is a compilation album by American Jazz artist Norah Jones. It was released on November 12, 2010 via Blue Note Records. The record includes songs by other artists which Jones appeared on, including songs by her side projects The Little Willies and El Madmo. The album includes "Here We Go Again", a duet with Ray Charles which won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 2005. The song "Little Lou, Prophet Jack, Ugly John" by Belle & Sebastian will also appear, one month after the release of the album it was originally included on, Belle & Sebastian Write About Love.

Norah Jones - Heart Of Mine (Dylan Cover)

Hurricane Force Debt

Three Uses Of The Law - Interview with Mike Horton - Part 2

Mike, what are the three uses of the law?
Reformed theology embraces these “three uses”: (1) pedagogical or elenctic—to show us our sin and drive us to Christ; (2) civil (to curb vice with the threat of temporal punishment), and (3) didactic (to guide Christian living).
In order further to drive a wedge between Lutheran and Reformed approaches, I often hear Reformed brethren point to the “third use” as a Reformed distinctive that’s denied by Lutheran theology.  This too is simply inaccurate.  It was Luther’s sidekick Melanchthon who identified the “three uses” and the Antinomian Controversy in Luther’s circle provoked the sternest rebukes from the Reformer.  As a result, the Book of Concord staunchly affirmed the third use of the law—and gives more space to it than any of the Reformed confessions.  To be sure, there are differences.  As I point out in The Christian Faith, the principal difference in my view is the eschatology of sanctification—that is, the relationship between the “already” and the “not yet.”  When both groups go off the reservation, Lutherans usually wander into an under-realized eschatology (downplaying the “already” of the new creation) and we Reformed folks embrace an over-realized eschatology (downplaying the continuing struggle with sin).  However, that’s a difference in emphasis.  In terms of basic doctrine, there is no difference between our confessions.  It’s very helpful for people on both sides actually to read the others’ confessions!
When applying these three uses, it’s important to know our audience.  Our primary audience in preaching is the covenant community.  God has pledged his grace in Christ to his congregation.  They are baptized, hear the Word, make profession of faith, receive the Supper, participate in the communion of the saints in confession, song, fellowship, prayer, and gifts.  At the same time, as under the old covenant, not all physical descendants of the covenant (children of believers) are true children of Abraham.  Some, like Esau, sell their birthright for a cheap dinner.  In our preaching, we must use the law carefully.  We still need to use the pedagogical use: showing believers that they still, even in their regenerate state, do not have the kind of righteousness that can withstand God’s judgment and must flee to Christ.  We proclaim the law to the nations as well (civil use), testifying to God’s moral will for all of his creatures.  And we exhort believers to follow God’s commands (third use).   In all of this, we have to be careful that we do not give the impression either that by following God’s commands one can receive his saving benefits in Christ or that because we are saved by grace alone, apart from works of the law, that God’s commands are no longer obligatory.
Does the law of God have the power to sanctify us? During this conversation, some have pointed out the Westminster Confession of Faith 19.6 and the Canons of Dordt 5.14 and conclude that both the promises of the gospel and the threatenings of the law carry the power to sanctify. So, when they hear you (or me) say things like “the law guides but only the gospel gives us the power to do what it says” they wonder if we disagree with those portions of our confession. How would you respond?
The law has an indispensable role in our sanctification, but it doesn’t have any power to justify or to sanctify. The law and the gospel simply do different things, but both are essential.  The gospel doesn’t tell us what to do; it tells us what God has done.  The law doesn’t announce God’s pardon and renewal; it tells us what God requires.  In a covenant of law (where perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience is the basis of blessing/cursing), the law can only condemn; in the covenant of grace, the law can no longer condemn the justified but can only guide them in the way of righteousness.  That’s why Calvin called this third use “the primary use” in the Christian life, because while the threatening of the law still drive us to Christ (first use), it must never be used to terrify the conscience of those who cling to Christ.  So it’s not only a question of whether the law is still present, but of what role the law has in determining the basis of the covenant.
The law and the gospel do different things. That doesn’t change after conversion. Think of a sailboat. You can have all the guidance equipment to tell you where to go, to plot your course, and to warn you when you’ve been blown off course. However, you can’t move an inch without wind in your sails. All of the spiritual technology in the world—tools, techniques, and guidance—will not actually drive sanctification anymore than justification. The law (in this case, the third use) directs, but it cannot drive gospel sanctification. Paul answers his own question, “Shall we then sin that grace may abound?” not by switching back to threats and principles, but rather he shows the expansiveness of the gospel as the answer to the dominion as well as condemnation of sin. Persevering on the high seas requires both God’s guidance and God’s power, but it’s the gospel that is “the power of God unto salvation.”
A more biblical analogy, of course, is adoption. As a minister, I have to ask myself whether I’m preaching the law in a given moment on behalf of God as Judge or as Father?  If I’m preaching to God’s children as if the one I’m representing is their Judge (pedagogical use), without sending them back to Christ, I’m using the law unlawfully. There is such a thing as God’s fatherly displeasure and rebukes. That’s part of perseverance.
Sometimes, over-reacting against legalism, we’re nervous about passages in Scripture that speak of God punishing his children when they transgress his will and rewarding them for obedience.  Yet these are wonderful passages.  Think of an older adopted child who is delighted when his new father disciplines him just as he does the others whom he has known much longer.  Similarly, “God is treating you as sons.  For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (Heb 12:7-8).  In this process, the law may rebuke as well as guide.
WCF 19.6 says that “believers are not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned”; yet it’s “of great use” because it does the following things: (1) “informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; (2) discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives, so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ and the perfections of his obedience.  (3) It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatening of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect from them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law.”
Very deliberately, the Confession does not say that “the threatening” of the law is an appropriate way to exhort repentant believers.  Rather, it causes us all to flee to Christ and its threats “show what even their [the believers’] sins deserve.”  When it comes to the threatening power of the law, it can extend no further than “reaping what you sow” in temporal afflictions.  The Confession also speaks of promises attached to the law.  This is not because the law itself is gospel, since the law’s promises (blessings/curses) are conditional on obedience.  However, the promises attached to the law do indeed become ours—not through the law itself, but through the gospel.  Without the law, though, we wouldn’t even know what those promises are!  That’s why this statement in 19.6 follows up with the reminder that this is not to be taken in the sense of “the law as a covenant of works.”
A quick and folksy illustration.  My dad was a professional builder (constructed houses) and an expert mechanic (built planes during WWII).  In my case, the apple not only fell far from the tree; it rolled down the hill, into the street, under a bus, and was never seen again.  Nevertheless, my dad was fond not only of letting me watch him at work, but bringing me into the process at the final stage.  “Now drive in that nail,” or “press that valve,” he would say, and then we’d go home and he’d tell my mom that I built a house or fixed the car.  Calvin talks about God “crowning his own works” when he rewards believers.  It’s not something they deserve, but something that God delights to give because he’s a good father.  Although the child’s performance doesn’t exactly rise to the level of the prize, a good father does not reward bad behavior, but good behavior.
None of this threatens justification.  In fact, justification makes it possible for God in Christ to switch from Judge to Father and reward our obedience without any reference to what we deserve one way or the other, but rather what will benefit us.  Once the person is justified for the sake of Christ alone, his or her works can also be accepted.   As the ground of acceptance before God, our best works fall short of God’s glory.  However, once we are declared righteous in Christ, God can overlook the imperfection—even sin—still clinging to our best works.  There’s nothing that God as Judge can do with our works but condemn us, but there’s nothing left for God as Father to do with our good works than delight in them.  Analogous to what my dad did with me, our Heavenly Father can say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” not only because of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness but also because, on that basis, we are already totally justified in Christ.  Even the mixed works of a justified child bring pleasure to God.  He’s too good of a Father to ignore our imperfect obedience, though even this is wrought within us by his Spirit.  This is over-the-top-amazing: On judgment day, it will not be enough that our gracious Father announces to the world what he has already declared to us: that we are perfectly righteous in Christ; he will add to this rewards for things that we didn’t even really do perfectly, completely, or without mixed motives—and that we could never have done apart from his grace.  That’s not justification; it’s ON TOP OF justification!!!
By the way, in the passage you refer to in Dort, it says, “And as it has pleased God, by the preaching of the gospel, to begin this work of grace in us, so he preserves, continues, and perfects it by the hearing and reading of His Word, by meditation thereon, and by the exhortations, threatenings, and promises thereof, and by the use of the sacraments.” Notice that it refers broadly to God’s Word here, which contains both threatenings and promises—in other words, law and gospel. It doesn’t say that the gospel contains both threatenings and promises. Similarly, we confess with the Heidelberg Catechism that the Spirit “creates faith in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments” (Q 65).
As for WCF 19.6, we read clearly that believers are “not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned,” but are still obliged to the law’s direction (third use). Even though we continue to fall short of God’s glory, we are finally free to delight in God’s law because it no longer condemns us!  (In fact, this is the conundrum only true believers face, as Romans 7 underscores: simultaneously loving the law even while we break it.) Believers still need to hear the law in its first use in order to have “a clearer sight off the need they have of Christ and the perfection of his obedience…and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve and what afflictions in this life they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law.”
What these confessions have in mind is the importance of both the law and the gospel in the Christian life. However, we have to recognize that they do different things. You never settle your confidence on your obedience to commands—even in sanctification. At the same time, when we begin to take grace for granted, the law threatens. When we start to entertain the idea, “God likes to forgive, I like to sin: what a great relationship!”, that’s when we need the law to hit us between the eyes with stern rebukes such as, “No adulterer will ever enter the kingdom of heaven.” We live in repentance every day—never in a state either of complete “victory” or complete destitution. However, those who are not repentant are not Christians. They need a good law-smacking!
In my pastoral experience, this happens more in counseling than in the pulpit.  Some people need to be uprooted from their carnal security by the terror of the law, so that they will truly repent and flee to Christ for full salvation.  At the same time, believers who are repentant and trust in Christ must never be discouraged from their confidence in Christ alone.  Calvin makes this point clearly when he writes, “Whenever the conscience trembles, it can give no place to the law.” The antinomian’s conscience doesn’t tremble—that’s the problem. That’s why the full force of its threats must be heard. However, most of those under our care are not in this situation. “The gospel promises are free and dependent solely on God’s mercy, while the promises of the law depend solely upon the condition of works,” Calvin adds (Inst. 3.11.17).  Anyone who finds shelter in Christ alone is free of the law’s condemning and threatening power.
Tullian Tchividjian

Friday, August 26, 2011

Eric Clapton/JJ Cale-After Midnight

Scotland's 10 Funniest One-liners

Every year at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, there’s a competition among comedians for the funniest joke.
The winner was by Nick Helm (who, as far as I can tell, isn’t nearly as contemplative as this image makes him seem)…

1) I needed a password eight characters long so I picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
Here are the rest of the top 10…
2) Tim Vine: “Crime in multi-storey car parks. That is wrong on so many different levels.”
3) Hannibal Buress: “People say ‘I’m taking it one day at a time’. You know what? So is everybody. That’s how time works.”
4) Tim Key: “Drive-Thru McDonalds was more expensive than I thought… once you’ve hired the car…”
5) Matt Kirshen: “I was playing chess with my friend and he said, ‘Let’s make this interesting’. So we stopped playing chess.”
6) Sarah Millican: “My mother told me, you don’t have to put anything in your mouth you don’t want to. Then she made me eat broccoli, which felt like double standards.”
7) Alan Sharp: “I was in a band which we called The Prevention, because we hoped people would say we were better than The Cure.”
8) Mark Watson: “Someone asked me recently – what would I rather give up, food or sex. Neither! I’m not falling for that one again, wife.”
9) Andrew Lawrence: “I admire these phone hackers. I think they have a lot of patience. I can’t even be bothered to check my OWN voicemails.”
10) DeAnne Smith: “My friend died doing what he loved … Heroin.”

Liberal Blame Game

Johnny Cash - Personal Jesus

Johnny Cash - Ain't No Grave [Official HD] - The Johnny Cash Project

For the complete work please visit A UNIQUE COMMUNAL WORK, A LIVING PORTRAIT OF THE MAN IN BLACK Through this interactive website, participants may draw their own portrait of Johnny Cash to be integrated into a collective whole. As people all over the world contribute, the project will continue to evolve and grow, one frame at a time. Submit your drawing to become a part of the new music video for the song "Ain't No Grave". Strung together and relayed in sequence your art, paired with Johnny's haunting song, will become a living, moving, and ever changing portrait of the legendary Man in Black.

The Danger Of Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism - An Interview with Mike Horton

The ongoing conversation regarding the nature of the gospel, the role and purpose of God’s law, the relationship between justification, sanctification and union with Christ, and how all of this impacts preaching and the life of the Christian, is super-important (see here). These are big issues. I’ve devoted my life and ministry to working these things out.
One good friend of mine who has been instrumental in helping me think these things through is Mike Horton.      Recently, I asked Mike a series of questions with regard to the issues that I mentioned above. Over the next week I’ll be posting his answers to my questions in the hopes that he might bring theological help and clarity to those of us who long to see a gospel revolution sweep the church.

In what sense has the current conversation been merely a matter of different emphases, and in what sense are there genuine disagreements?
I have only had opportunity to read bits here and there. However, I can speak to your question more generally. Sometimes it’s no more than emphasis. However, faithful preaching includes the law and the gospel—never assuming that believers know either well enough that one can be heard without the other. Of course, we do have to be sensitive to different contexts of pastoral ministry, but every believer and therefore every church is simultaneously justified and sinful. Not only at the beginning, but always, every believer needs the law and the gospel.
It would be a lot simpler if we could say that congregations tending toward legalism need more gospel and those leaning toward antinomianism need more law, but I question that this is how it works.
In the first place, I’m not sure that “legalism” and “antinomianism” are the best categories for what seems to me at least to dominate contemporary “Bible Belt” religion in the U.S. today.  Sure, there are some antinomians (in theory) who believe that you can be justified without being sanctified—even without continuing in faith. Sure, there are some who say that the third use of the law (guiding believers) is no longer in effect. In their view, referring to the Ten Commandments as normative for how we should live would be going back “under the law” in the sense that Paul condemned. I’m also sure that there are legalists out there. But the portrait of the preacher threatening card-players with the fires of hell is a distant memory, replaced by the smiling motivational speaker telling you how you can have your best life now if you follow his seven easy principles.
That’s where I think it all gets so tricky. We’re using theological categories when one of the most transformative events in our churches has been cultural: namely, what Philip Reif called “the triumph of the therapeutic.” What we’re dealing with today in the majority of cases, I believe, is not accurately described as either antinomianism or legalism, but a pragmatic and narcissistic appeal to moralism. It’s not “stop going to parties or you’ll go to hell,” but “follow these ten principles and your life will be a party.” It’s “principles for living” on any number of life management topics, mining the Bible for quotes, but for the most part ignoring the interests of the text itself.
So you can’t really call this diet antinomian: it’s full of imperatives (rules, steps, principles, motivational tips—some kind of “To Do” list). But you also can’t call it legalistic, because the reference point isn’t really salvation or damnation—or even God,  but me and my happiness or unhappiness. God only makes a cameot appearance. The whole paradigm is what sociologist Christian Smith defines as: moralistic, therapeutic deism. Say what you will about the legalists and antinomians of yesteryear, but despite their heterodoxy, they were more interested in the Triune God and in interpreting and applying Scripture than a lot of what passes for evangelical preaching today.
Can you explain the law-gospel distinction for those who may be unfamiliar with it? And why is this so important?
It’s important to recognize that in Scripture “law” and “gospel” can be used in two different senses.
First, there’s the redemptive-historical transition from “the law” as an era when the church was under the supervision of the Mosaic types and shadows, to “the gospel” as an era in which the old covenant is fulfilled and is therefore obsolete.  In thise sense, law and gospel are not opposed, even though the latter is greater than the former.
Second, “law” and “gospel” refer to radically opposed principles for gaining the covenantal inheritance.  The Mosaic covenant was strictly conditioned on Israel’s obedience: “Do this and you shall live.”  It was about long life in the land, not about everlasting life.  It was about salvation from the nation’s enemies, as a type of the deliverance from God’s wrath and the powers of darkness.  Paul’s agitators had confused these two covenants—the Abrahamic and the Mosaic—and were trying to secure the everlasting promise by way of the temporal covenant (something never intended in the Old Testament).
So in this second sense, “law” and “gospel” refer to two antithetical answers to the question, “How can I be saved?”  This is what most people have meant by the need to clearly distinguish law and gospel.  There is basic continuity between law and gospel in the redemptive-historical sense (as Old and New Testaments), but radical discontinuity between law and gospel in a covenantal sense.  That’s why the law-gospel distinction was espeically developed in Reformed theology by way of the differences between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.
Law is everything in the Scriptures that commands and gospel is everything in the Scriptures that promises God’s favor in Christ. If we confuse these, we’ll weaken the law, lowering the bar to something that we can (or think we can) actually clear, and we’ll make the gospel anything but good news.
The Triune God directs us by his law, but delivers us by his gospel. This distinction was not only crucial to Luther and Lutheranism but to Calvin and Calvinism. The gospel is never an exhortation for us to do something, but an announcement of something that God has done for us.  We are called to obey the gospel—that is, to embrace it, but the gospel itself is the good news about what God has done for us in Christ.  Beza said that “confusion of law and gospel is one of the principal sources of the corruptions in the church.”  Ursinus, primary author of the Heidelberg Catechism, said the same. So did the great Elizabethan Puritan William Perkins, as well as John Owen, Charles Spurgeon, and Charles Hodge.  On and on we could go. So when some say that that this is merely a Lutheran distinctive, it is ill-informed. It’s routine in our standard theological works and, as I said, it’s woven deeply throughout our whole Reformed system in the covenant of works-grace scheme.
It’s easy to see when law and gospel are being confused when Rome says, “Do penance and you will be saved,” or Charles Finney says, “Perfect obedience to the law is the necessary condition of present justification.”  It’s more difficult to recognize that the gentle, affirming, smiling stream of exhortations and life coaching in our day is also a form of law (not necessarily biblical) that is often presented as if it were the gospel.
The word “antinomianism” has been thrown around a lot in this conversation. Can you explain what it is?
It means, literally, “against law.” One branch of the ancient Manichean (Gnostic) movement taught this in the second century. It survived in various sects during the Middle Ages. It’s usually part and parcel of “enthusiasm”: the contrast between the Spirit speaking to me in my heart, directly and immediately, versus the Spirit speaking through an external Word, preaching, sacraments, or church officers. So it has often gone hand-in-hand with extreme forms of mysticism.
In 17th-century England, that was certainly true. Basically, the “Calvinistic” antinomians believed that the elect were justified from all eternity (otherwise their faith would be a condition of salvation). Not only in regeneration, but in conversion and sanctification, the believer does nothing (even by grace) but is always acted upon. It was the “let go and let God” philosophy that became especially prominent in the Keswick or “higher life” movement (despite its more Arminian underpinnings).  Many within this group denied the third use of the law. Because we are in Christ, the law has no place in the believer’s life.
We see antinomianism today, as I mentioned above, especially in the “carnal Christian” teaching.  However, it should be said that many very sound people (like Thomas Goodwin and John Owen) were charged with antinomianism by legalists (like Richard Baxter and John Goodwin).  The “Marrow Controversy” in early 18th-century Scotland was an example of this.  A great theological textbook, written by a formative Reformed orthodox theologian (Edward Fisher) in the late sixteenth century, was rediscovered by preachers like Thomas Boston. Yet now, this standard Reformed teaching was regarded by many ministers in the Church of Scotland as “antinomian.” That wasn’t because it actually was antinomian, but because the Church had become increasingly dominated by legalism.
Tullian Tchividjian

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I Am Not A Sith - Darth Vader - Richard Nixon mashup

22 words

Saved By Grace Alone

Why, if I believed what some preach about the temporary, trumpery salvation which only lasts for a time, I would scarcely be at all grateful for it; but when I know that those whom God saves He saves with an everlasting salvation, when I know that He gives to them an everlasting righteousness, when I know that He settles them on an everlasting foundation of everlasting love, and that He will bring them to His everlasting kingdom, oh, then I do wonder, and I am astonished that such a blessing as this should ever have been given to me! "Pause, my soul! adore, and wonder! Ask, 'Oh, why such love to me?' Grace hath put me in the number Of  the Savior's family: Hallelujah! Thanks, eternal thanks, to Thee!"

Charles Spurgeon, A Defense Of Calvinism

Norah Jones - Ain't No Grave - The Johnny Cash Project

In the 15th Webby Awards, Norah Jones singing Ain't no Grave in honor of Johnny Cash. Ain't No Grave is Johnny's final studio recording. "The Johnny Cash Project is a visual testament to how the Man in Black lives on -- not just through his vast musical legacy, but in the hearts and minds of all of us around the world he has touched with his talent, his passion, and his indomitable spirit." **

Willie Nelson, Norah Jones & Wynton Marsalis Live - Hallelujah I Love Her So

A House Of Cards

Do You Commune with the Father in Love?

John Owen:

First, then, this is a duty wherein it is most evident that Christians are but little exercised—namely, in holding immediate communion with the Father in love. Unacquaintedness with our mercies, our privileges, is our sin as well as our trouble. We hearken not to the voice of the Spirit which is given unto us, “that we may know the things that are freely bestowed on us of God” (1 Cor. 2:12). This makes us go heavily, when we might rejoice; and to be weak, where we might be strong in the Lord.
How few of the saints are experimentally acquainted with this privilege of holding immediate communion with the Father in love!
With what anxious, doubtful thoughts do they look upon him!
What fears, what questioning are there, of his goodwill and kindness!
At the best, many think there is no sweetness at all in him toward us, but what is purchased at the high price of the blood of Jesus.
It is true: that alone is the way of communication; but the free fountain and spring of all is in the bosom of the Father. “Eternal life was with the Father, and is manifested unto us” (1 John 1:2).
Let us, then—Eye the Father as love; look not on him as an always lowering father, but as one most kind and tender.
Let us look on him by faith, as one that has had thoughts of kindness toward us from everlasting.
It is misapprehension of God that makes any [to] run from him, who have the least breathing wrought in them after him. “They that know you will put their trust in you” [Ps. 9:10].
Men cannot abide with God in spiritual meditations. He loses soul’s company by their want [=lack] of this insight into his love. They fix their thoughts only on his terrible majesty, severity, and greatness; and so their spirits are not endeared.
Would a soul continually eye his everlasting tenderness and compassion, his thoughts of kindness that have been from of old, his present gracious acceptance, [then] it could not bear an hour’s absence from him; whereas now, perhaps, it cannot watch with him one hour.
—John Owen, Communion with the Triune God, ed. Kapic and Taylor (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), ch. 4.
Justin Taylor

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Norah Jones (with Wynton Marsalis) - You Don't Know Me

From the DVD "Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis play the music of Ray Charles, with special guest Norah Jones". Personnel: Norah Jones -vocal, Wynton Marsalis - trumpet, Walter Blanding - tenor sax, Mickey Raphael - harmonica, Dan Nimmer - piano, Carlos Henriquez - bass, Ali Jackson - drums

Dust My Blues - Freddie King

God’s Dupes? by Ravi Zacharias

Is the Christian faith intellectual nonsense? Are Christians deluded?
If God exists and takes an interest in the affairs of human beings, his will is not inscrutable,” writes Sam Harris about the 2004 tsunami in Letter to a Christian Nation. “The only thing inscrutable here is that so many otherwise rational men and women can deny the unmitigated horror of these events and think this is the height of moral wisdom” (p. 48). In his article “God’s Dupes,” Harris argues, “Everything of value that people get from religion can be had more honestly, without presuming anything on insufficient evidence. The rest is self-deception, set to music” (The Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2007). Ironically, Harris’ first book is entitled The End of Faith, but it should really be called “The End of Reason,” as it demonstrates again that the mind that is alienated from God in the name of reason can become totally irrational.
Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins suggests that the idea of God is a virus, and we need to find software to eradicate it. Somehow, if we can expunge the virus that led us to think this way, we will be purified and rid of this bedeviling notion of God, good, and evil (“Viruses of the Mind,” 1992). Along with Christopher Hitchens and a few others, these atheists are calling for the banishment of all religious belief. “Away with this nonsense!” is their battle cry. In return, they promise a world of new hope and unlimited horizons once we have shed this delusion of God. 
I have news for them — news to the contrary. The reality is that the emptiness that results from the loss of the transcendent is stark and devastating, philosophically and existentially. Indeed, the denial of an objective moral law, based on the compulsion to deny the existence of God, results ultimately in the denial of evil itself. Furthermore, one would like to ask Dawkins, are we morally bound to remove that virus? Somehow he himself is, of course, free from the virus and can therefore input our moral data. 
In an attempt to escape what they call the contradiction between a good God and a world of evil, atheists try to dance around the reality of a moral law (and hence, a moral lawgiver) by introducing terms like “evolutionary ethics.” The one who raises the question against God in effect plays God while denying He exists. Now, one may wonder: Why do you actually need a moral lawgiver if you have a moral law? The answer is because the questioner and the issue he or she questions always involve the essential value of a person. You can never talk of morality in abstraction. Persons are implicit to the question and the object of the question. In a nutshell, positing a moral law without a moral lawgiver would be equivalent to raising the question of evil without a questioner. So you cannot have a moral law unless the moral law itself is intrinsically woven into personhood. This means that an intrinsically worthy person must exist if the moral law itself is to be valued. And that person can only be God.
Our inability to alter what is actual frustrates our grandiose delusions of being sovereign over everything. Yet the truth is that we cannot escape the existential rub by running from a moral law. Objective moral values exist only if God exists. Is it all right, for example, to mutilate babies for entertainment? Every reasonable person will say “no.” We know that objective moral values do exist. Therefore, God must exist. Examining those premises and their validity presents a very strong argument. 
The prophet Jeremiah noted, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”(Jer. 17:9). Similarly, the apostle James said, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:22–25). 
The world does not understand what the absoluteness of the moral law is all about. Some get caught, some don’t get caught. Yet who of us would like our heart exposed on the front page of the newspaper today? Have there not been days and hours when, like Paul, you’ve struggled within yourself and said, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:15, 24). Each of us knows this tension and conflict within if we are honest with ourselves. 
Therefore, as Christians, we ought to take time to reflect seriously upon the question: “Has God truly wrought a miracle in my life? Is my own heart proof of the supernatural intervention of God?” In the West we go through these seasons of new-fangled theologies. The whole question of “lordship” plagued our debates for some time as we asked if there was such a thing as a minimalist view of conversion? “We said the prayer and that’s it.” Yet how can there be a minimalist view of conversion when conversion itself is a maximal work of God’s grace? “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). 
If you were proposing marriage to someone, what would the one receiving the proposal say if you said, “I want you to know this proposal changes nothing about my allegiances, my behavior, and my daily life; however, I do want you to know that should you accept my proposal, we shall theoretically be considered married. There will be no other changes in me on your behalf.” In a strange way we have minimized every sacred commitment and made it the lowest common denominator. What does my new birth mean to me? That is a question we seldom ask. Who was I before God’s work in me, and who am I now?
The immediate results of coming to know Jesus Christ are the new hungers and new pursuits that are planted within the human will. I well recall that dramatic change in my own way of thinking. There were new longings, new hopes, new dreams, new fulfillments, but most noticeably, there was a new will to do what was God’s will. Thomas Chalmers characterized this change that Christ brings as “the expulsive power of a new affection.” This new affection of heart — the love of God wrought in us through the Holy Spirit — expels all other old seductions and attractions. The one who knows Christ begins to see that his or her own misguided heart is impoverished and in need of constant submission to the will of the Lord — spiritual surrender. Yes, we are all gifted with different personalities, but humility of spirit and the hallmark of conversion is to see one’s own spiritual poverty. Arrogance and conceit ought to be inimical to the life of the believer.  A deep awareness of one’s own new hungers and longings is a convincing witness to God’s grace within.

Muddy Waters- When The Eagle Flies

Adios To California - John Hiatt

The Krugman Zone

A Chestertonian (and Lewisian) Vision

N.D. Wilson’s The Dragon’s Tooth releases today.
Doug Wilson reflects on the central theme of all of his son’s writing:
His is an essentially Chestertonian vision. In a recent interview, he says that his point is to show that the world is “exactly as it seems.” Lest we then nod and go back to sleep, the point is that we live in an actual world that is beyond bizzaro. To follow BBC cameramen in search of insects is to descend into the world of Dr. Seuss. If you don’t think there really are creatures with Seussian pom-poms on their heads, then you obviously need to get out more. If you have the right kind of eyes, you can see it all, right here on Mulberry Street.
Chesterton put it this way. Our Father is younger than we; we have sinned and grown old. We constantly need to be brought up short. We need to be recalibrated. We need to look at the world with refreshed eyes. So the point of the right kind of fantasy—which is what these books most certainly are—is not to tell lies about the world. The point is to confront the ever present Doldrum Lie.
Justin Taylor

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tom Waits Finds A Way To Privately Preview His New Album

…despite all the internet folks trying to ruin it for everyone.

The Finished Work of Christ: Past, Present and Future

This past week, I've been extremely blessed and encouraged through Francis Schaeffer's book, 'True Spirituality'. Throughout the book, Schaeffer expounds on the spiritual realities of a Christian. Mainly, Schaeffer points out that true spirituality is living in a conscious reality of the finished work of Christ. For many Christians, this may be a foreign concept; the finished work of Christ. However, this very concept should be the center of the Christian life, past, present and future.

By the finished work of Christ, I am referring to the completed substitutionary death of Christ on the cross, in which he bore the sins of His people by absorbing God's just wrath that was rightly reserved for sinners, thus redeeming His people from sin and restoring them unto himself, adopting us as children of God.

Most Christians are able to rightly apply this concept to their past and future. However, as Schaeffer points out, most of us fail to live by the finished work of Christ moment by moment. Think about it. Most Christians know that because of Christ's death, their past sins are forgiven. They are justified. Likewise, they know that Christ's finished work secures their eternal future with Christ. Yet, what does the finished work of Christ mean for me in my day to day life? Schaeffer spends a great deal talking about how our moment by moment reality must be based on Christ's finished work. In other words, we know our justification is based on Christ's finished work, yet we fail to see how the finished work of Christ applies to our sanctification, or our Christian life.

Schaeffer writes:

"Now just as in the conscious area of sanctification as a whole, so here in restoration everything rests upon the reality of the fact that the blood of Christ has meaning in our present life, and restoration takes place as we, in faith, act upon the face that in specific cases of sin.....It is learning the reality of the meaning of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, in our present life, and consciously beginning to act upon it"


"the blood of Christ has meaning for me in my present life when I have fallen and my peace is gone. Restoration must be first upon understanding of what Christ has done for us in this area, and then beginning to practice this moment by moment."

In our day to day struggle, living the Christian life is living in light of Christ's finished work. It is living in the reality of what Christ has already accomplished. It is living with a deep awareness that Christ's finished work is the only thing sufficient for our forgiveness. It is living with a deep awareness that because of what Christ did, we are fully adopted as children of God. It is drawing upon the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us, because of what Christ has done. All of this is based on the finished work of Christ on the cross. We must see Christ's finished work as not only the grounds for our justification (past life), but also our sanctification (present life).
All Of Grace

No Escape From The Blues / Muddy Waters

J.J Cale / Call Me The Breeze

Albert King / I Love Lucy

Bye Bye Gadhafi

Gospel-Driven Sanctification

In light of the recent discussion regarding the nature of Christian growth and sanctification (see my last post), I thought I would re-post the helpful quote below from Sinclair Ferguson. In it, he reminds us that any piety and pursuit of holiness not grounded in, and driven by, the gospel will eventually run out of gas–that imperatives minus indicatives equal impossibilities:
The first thing to remember is that we must never separate the benefits (regeneration, justification, sanctification) from the Benefactor (Jesus Christ). The Christians who are most focused on their own spirituality may give the impression of being the most spiritual but from the New Testament’s point of view, those who have almost forgotten about their own spirituality because their focus is so exclusively on their union with Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished are those who are growing and exhibiting fruitfulness. Historically speaking, whenever the piety of a particular group is focused on OUR spirituality, that piety will eventually exhaust itself on its own resources. Only where our piety forgets about us and focuses on Jesus Christ will our piety be nourished by the ongoing resources the Spirit brings to us from the source of all true piety, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Dr. Ferguson reminds us that the secret of gospel-based sanctification is that we actually perform better as we grow in our understanding that our relationship with God is based on Christ’s performance for us, not our performance for him.
Tullian Tchividjian

Monday, August 22, 2011

Johnny Shines - Evening Shuffle

Billy Boy Arnold - You've Got Me Wrong

Two Wild And Crazy Guys

The Critical Question for Our Generation

John Piper:
The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this:
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?
And the question for Christian leaders is: Do we preach and teach and lead in such a way that people are prepared to hear that question and answer with a resounding No?
J. C. Ryle:
But alas, how little fit for heaven are many who talk of going to heaven, when they die, while they manifestly have no saving faith and no real acquaintance with Christ. You give Christ no honor here. You have no communion with Him. You do not love Him. Alas, what could you do in heaven? It would be no place for you. Its joys would be no joys for you. Its happiness would be a happiness into which you could not enter. Its employments would be a weariness and a burden to your heart. Oh, repent and change before it be too late!
—John Piper, God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself (Wheaton, I: Crossway, 2005), p. 15.
—J. C. Ryle, from his sermon “Christ Is All” (on Col. 3:11), chapter 20 in Holiness: Its Names, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots (1877; reprint, Moscow, ID: Charles Nolan, 2001), p. 384.
Justin Taylor

Sunday, August 21, 2011

ZZ Top - Stop Breaking Down Blues

ZZ Top play Robert Johnson's 'Stop Breaking Down Blues' live at BBC Television Centre, London on Tuesday 6th June 1996. Billy Gibbons on guitar, Dusty Hill on bass and Frank Beard on drums. Harmonica by James Harman.

Deconstructing Moralism

A lot of conversation has been happening with regard to the nature of the gospel and it’s role in sanctification. First, Kevin DeYoung and I engaged in a healthy dialogue about this a few months ago (see here, here, here, and here) and then over at the Reformation 21 blog this week Bill Evans and Sean Lucas have had a healthy dialogue about this (see here, here, here, and here). I have intentionally stayed out of the most recent conversation because I’ve already said in many ways what I would say again if I weighed in.
Without addressing all of the important details, nuances, and perspectives, the simple fact is that if someone is giving short-shrift to the necessity of obeying biblical imperatives, it’s because they are not glorying in the indicatives of the gospel. Their problem is not first and foremost that they aren’t giving full-throat to the imperatives. It’s that they’re not giving full-throat to the indicatives. I’ve never met anyone who revels in the gospel of grace who then doesn’t want to obey God. It’s a phantom fear (see this brilliantly creative post).
Matt Richard describes well how naturally we take it upon ourselves to reign the gospel in when we fear too much of it will result in lawlessness:
I have found that as Christians we many times attribute ‘lawlessness’ to the preaching of the Gospel. Somewhere in our thinking we rationalize that if the Gospel is presented as “too free, too unconditional or that Jesus fulfills the law for us” that the result will be lax morality, loose living and lawlessness. It is as if we believe that the freeing message of the Gospel actually produces, encourages and grants people a license to sin. Because of this rationalization we find ourselves strapping, holding and attaching restrictions to the Gospel so that we might prevent or limit lawlessness. In other words, the Gospel is placed into bondage due to our rationalization and reaction to lawlessness.
Actually, both the Bible and daily experience demonstrates that disobedience and moral laxity happens not when we think too much of grace, but when we think too little of it (Rom. 6:1-4). Grace is not the enemy of radical obedience–it is its fuel! That’s all I have to say about that.
There is, however, something specific that has come up in the conversation that I do want to address. It’s the idea that since our culture is relativistic, licentious, and morally lax, is preaching grace what this culture really needs? Or, to put it another way, is preaching the gospel of grace really the means by which God will save licentious people? I mean, surely God doesn’t think that the saving solution for the immoral and rebellious is his free grace? That doesn’t make sense. It seems backwards, counter-intuitive. Given our restraint-free cultural context, what does make sense to me is that preachers in our day should be very wary of talking about grace at all. That’s the last thing lawless people need to hear. Surely they’ll take advantage of it and get worse, not better. After all, it would seem logical to me that the only way to “save” licentious people is to show them more rules, intensify my exhortations to behave.
Well, besides the fact that the Bible makes it clear that the power which saves even the worst rule-breaking sinner is the gospel (Romans 1:16), and not the law (Romans 7:13-24), there’s another reason why preaching the gospel of free grace is both necessary and effective (counter-intuitive as it may seem) even at a time when moral laxity reigns supreme: moralism is what most people outside and inside the church think Christianity is all about—rules and standards and behavior and cleaning yourself up.
Millions of people, both inside and outside the church, believe that the essential message of Christianity is, “If you behave, then you belong.” The reason they come to that conclusion is because many of us preachers have led them to believe that. We’ve led them to believe that God is most interested in people becoming good instead of people coming to terms with how bad they really are so that they’ll fix their eyes on Christ “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). From a human standpoint, this is precisely why many people outside the church reject Christianity and why many people inside the church conk out: they’re just not good enough to get it done over the long haul. (Then there are those who ignore the gospel because they’ve deceived themselves into believing that they really are making it, when in reality they’re not.)
In his article “Preaching in a Post-modern Climate”, Tim Keller makes this point brilliantly:
Some claim that to constantly be striking a ‘note of grace, grace, grace’ in our sermons is not helpful in our culture today. The objection goes like this: “Surely Phariseeism and moralism is not a problem in our culture today. Rather, our problem is license and antinomianism. People lack a sense of right or wrong. It is ‘carrying coal to Newcastle’ to talk about grace all the time to postmodern people.” But I don’t believe that’s the case. Unless you point to the ‘good news’ of grace, people won’t even be able to bear the ‘bad news’ of God’s judgment. Also, unless you critique moralism, many irreligious people won’t know the difference between moralism and what you’re offering. The way to get antinomians to move away from lawlessness is to distinguish the gospel from legalism. Why? Because modern and post-modern people have been rejecting Christianity for years thinking that it was indistinguishable from moralism. Non-Christians will always automatically hear gospel presentations as appeals to become moral and religious, unless in your preaching you use the good news of grace to deconstruct legalism. Only if you show them there’s a difference–that what they really rejected wasn’t real Christianity at all–will they even begin to consider Christianity.
As I’ve pointed out before, in Romans 6:1-4 the Apostle Paul answers antinomianism (lawlessness) not with law but with more gospel! I imagine it would have been tempting for Paul (as it often is with us when dealing with licentious people) to put the brakes on grace and give the law in this passage, but instead he gives more grace—grace upon grace. Paul knows that licentious people aren’t those who believe the gospel of God’s free grace too much, but too little. “The ultimate antidote to antinomianism”, writes Mike Horton, “is not more imperatives, but the realization that the gospel swallows the tyranny as well as the guilt of sin.”
The fact is, that the only way licentious people start to obey is when they get a taste of God’s radical, unconditional acceptance of sinners. It was the kindness of the Lord that led you to repentance (Romans 2:4). What makes you think that same kindness which flows supremely from the gospel of free grace won’t lead others to repentance?
Tullian Tchividjian

Johnny Cash - Hurt

Cash’s haunting music video for the song features faded film shots of his youthful glory days—complete with the images of friends and colleagues, once at the height of their fame, who are now dead. As the camera pans Cash’s wizened, wrinkled face, he sings about the awful reality of death and the vanity of fame: “What have I become? My sweetest friend / Everyone I know goes away in the end / You could have it all / My empire of dirt / I will let you down, I will make you hurt.” Whereas, the Nine Inch Nails delivered “Hurt” as straight nihilism, Cash gives it a twist—ending the video with the scenes of crucifixion, which, for Cash, was (and still is) the only answer to the inevitability of suffering and pain. The video of “Hurt” communicated exactly what the dying Cash seemed to understand, echoing Solomon of old: wealth, celebrity, fame, all of it is vanity in the maw of the grave. By contrasting images of the young celebrated Cash with images of the old, gasping, arthritic Cash, his “House of Cash” closed down and boarded over, the video turned then to what Cash saw as the only real alternative to his empire of dirt: the cross of Christ Jesus.
Justin Taylor


Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Blind Boys Of Alabama "Amazing Grace"


Side Effects Of Watching Wall Street Report

Make A Good Shoe

Martin Luther was once approached by a man who enthusiastically announced that he’d recently become a Christian. Wanting desperately to serve the Lord, he asked Luther, “What should I do now?” As if to say, should he become a minister or perhaps a traveling evangelist. A monk, perhaps.
Luther asked him, “What is your work now?”
“I’m a shoe maker.”
Much to the cobbler’s surprise, Luther replied, “Then make a good shoe, and sell it at a fair price.”
In becoming a Christian, we don’t need to retreat from the vocational calling we already have—nor do we need to justify that calling, whatever it is, in terms of its “spiritual” value or evangelistic usefulness. We simply exercise whatever our calling is with new God-glorifying motives, goals, and standards—and with a renewed commitment to performing our calling with greater excellence and higher objectives.
One way we reflect our Creator is by being creative right where we are with the talents and gifts he has given us. As Paul says, “Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God” (1 Corinthians 7:20,24). As we do this, we fulfill our God-given mandate to reform, to beautify, our various “stations” for God’s glory–giving this world an imperfect preview of the beautification that will be a perfect, universal actuality when Jesus returns to finish what he started.
For church leaders, this means that we make a huge mistake when we define a person’s “call” in terms of participation inside the church—nursery work, Sunday school teacher, youth worker, music leader, and so on. We need to help our people see that their calling is much bigger than how much time they put into church matters. By reducing the notion of calling to the exercise of spiritual gifts inside the church, we fail to help our people see that calling involves everything we are and everything we do—both inside and, more importantly, outside the church.
I once heard Os Guinness address a question about why the church in the late 20th century was not having a larger impact in our world when there were more people going to church than ever before. He said the main reason was not that Christians weren’t where they should be. There are plenty of artists, lawyers, doctors, and business owners that are Christians. Rather, the main reason is that Christians aren’t who they should be right where they are.
“Calling”, he said, “is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction.”
So, you’re free to stay put, right where you are.
Tullian Tchividjian