Charles Spurgeon, in a sermon:
Did you ever hear Mr. Woolf tell the story of Aleppo [a large city in Syria] being swallowed up by an earthquake? Suddenly awakened one morning, he scarcely knew how, he went outside of Aleppo. He turned his head a moment; and where that great city had been there was a vacuum, and Aleppo had all been swallowed up.
Who did that? Who but God!
Have you never heard of the earthquake at Lisbon, and of the population of that great city being sucked down and consumed? Have you never heard of whole islands disappearing, being suddenly submerged with the inhabitants, and not a wreck left behind?
Did you never hear of tornadoes, and of ships with hundreds on board being driven to the bottom of the sea by the force of the wind, by the raging of the storm, or rather, by the resistless voice of him whom winds and waves obey?
Why, such fearful calamities happen so frequently, that we are wont to read almost every day of some heart-rending disaster, now an explosion in a coal-pit, then a collision on the railway, a steamer sinks within sight of shore.
Though some of these tragedies are to be traced to human carelessness, and others are purely accidental, yet there remain those which no prescience of mortals could forestall, and we rightly call them ‘visitations,’ for they are utterly unavoidable.
Hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes will always occur, I suppose, as long as the world continues. Still, ‘the earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein.’ The God of Providence whom we adore baffles our little wisdom by the ills he permits, and the elements he lets loose, but I bow before him with a love that is not diminished by the convulsive shocks of nature, or the sorrows that taint our feeble race on land and ocean, at home and abroad, because I believe him to be good, immensely good, in the roughest tempests as well as in the clearest calm, though I cannot understand the way that he takes.
Source: C. H. Spurgeon’s Sermons Beyond Volume 63: An Authentic Supplement to the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Forty-Five Forgotten Sermons Compiled from the Baptist Messenger (Day One, 2009), 245–246.
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.
In his sermon, “A World Full of Idols” (March 29, 1998), Tim Keller said this:
What did he see? He saw idols under everything.
You say, “Of course he saw idols.” He was distressed because he saw idols. Go to Athens today, you’ll see idols everywhere. There’s Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty. There’s Ares, the god of power and war. There’s Apollo, the god of music and art. There’s Bacchus, the god of fraternities. You can go to all of these and say, “Of course, they were out there. They were statues. Everybody can see them.”
But that’s not what the word “see” means. The text could easily have used a simple Greek word for “see,” blepo [βλέπω] or something for “just take a look.” But the word Luke uses to describe what Paul was doing there is the word theoreo [θεωρέω], the word “to theorize” or “to get underneath.” This is the key to working out how to be a Christian in the public world.
Paul saw that underneath all the art, underneath all the business, underneath all the government, underneath all the philosophy, were idols. The real problem with the world is not the bad things, but the good things that have become the best things. He saw what we should see, and this is how it changes the way we do things, that under every personality are idols, under all psychological problems are idols, under every culture are idols, under all moral problems are idols, under all social problems are idols, under all intellectual problems are idols. …
Rather, you have to say, “Jesus Christ is my glory, is my beauty, is my goodness, is my righteousness, is my love, is my meaning.” Then what happens? You’re going to do things differently than other artists. You’re going to dance differently than other dancers. You’re going to do business differently than other businessmen and women.
Edwards scholar Harry Stout, in the introduction to Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, 1739-1742, makes this insightful comment (pages 5–6):
Edwards’ history incorporated philosophy, theology, and narrative into a synthetic whole. Earlier he had established the proposition that “heaven is a world of love,” a metaphysical state infused with the innermost being and character of the Trinity. So too, he proposed, earth was a world of pulsating divine energy, and hell a perversion of love that set in motion the cosmic supernatural conflict between God and Satan with earth as the prize. What if the story of all three — heaven, earth, and hell — were integrated into one narrative, superior to systematic theology for its drama and to earthbound historiography for its prophetic inspiration?
While Edwards was intrigued by the idea of a narrative history, this does not imply that he was uninterested in theology or even that he would not identify himself as a preacher or theologian if forced to choose. In fact, Edwards often referred to his work as “divinity,” and produced several treatises, most notably Original Sin, Concerning the End for Which God Created the World, and The Nature of True Virtue, that take on the aspect of a systematic theology. It is rather to say that Edwards early on came to sense — especially in his sermons — that the most effective way to realize the theologian’s goal of knowledge of God was to abandon the synchronic methods of formal theology and “throw” the truths of “divinity” into the diachronic form of a history.
Enter: Edwards’ History of Redemption project.
How can a Christian live out his obedient, quiet life in suburban America (1 Thessalonians 4:9–12), and also participate in radical, global, cross-cultural missions (Luke 24:45–47)?
This is an important question, but it’s also a question loaded with tensions — healthy tensions I think. It seems to me the best answer is found in the trinitiarian categories of sender and sent, or goer and sender.
Here’s how the point was articulated back in the late 1990s at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, and published as an appendix in the book, A Holy Ambition: To Preach Where Christ Has Not Been Named (2011), page 159:
Driving Convictions Behind Cross-Cultural Missions
January 1, 1996
… Conviction #13 — Our Aim Is Not to Persuade Everyone to Become a Missionary, But to Help Everyone Become a World Christian.
There are only three kinds of people: goers, senders, and the disobedient. It’s not God’s will for everyone to be a “goer.” Only some are called to go out for the sake of the name to a foreign culture (e.g., Mark 5:18–19).
Those who are not called to go out for the sake of the name are called to stay for the sake of the name, to be salt and light right where God has placed them, and to join others in sending those who are called to be cross-cultural missionaries.
In God’s eyes both the goers and the senders are crucial. There are no first and second class Christians in God’s hierarchy of values. Together the goers and the senders are “fellow-workers with the truth” (3 John 8).
So whether you are a goer or a sender is a secondary issue. That your heart beats with God’s in his pursuit of worshipers from every tribe and tongue and people and nation is the primary issue. This is what it means to be a World Christian.
Of course this all assumes (1) a commitment to a local church, and (2) a local church’s commitment to the global advance of the gospel. When those are in place, the goer and sender categories help make sense of it all.
Today on the DG blog I posted some thoughts on the link between faith and joy. Joy in God evaporates when our trust in God grows cold, was my main point. Emails and Tweets are coming in from readers wanting to know more about how to identify false securities (idols) in their own hearts. And perhaps the best list of categories comes from Timothy Keller’s book The Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything, Study Guide (Zondervan, 2010), and especially what he writes on page 40:
Why do we lie, or fail to love, or break our promises, or live selfishly? Of course, the general answer is “Because we are weak and sinful,” but the specific answer is that there is something besides Jesus Christ that we feel we must have to be happy, something that is more important to our heart than God, something that is enslaving our heart through inordinate desires. The key to change (and even to self-understanding) is therefore to identify the idols of the heart.”
After explaining the idolatry theme more closely from Romans 1:18–25, Galatians 4:8–9, and 1 John 5:21, Keller lists particular categories for personal reflection. The idol categories include the following:
“Life only has meaning/I only have worth if…
- I have power and influence over others.” (Power Idolatry)
- I am loved and respected by _____.” (Approval Idolatry)
- I have this kind of pleasure experience, a particular quality of life.” (Comfort idolatry)
- I am able to get mastery over my life in the area of _____.” (Control idolatry)
- people are dependent on me and need me.” (Helping Idolatry)
- someone is there to protect me and keep me safe.” (Dependence idolatry)
- I am completely free from obligations or responsibilities to take care of someone.” (Independence idolatry)
- I am highly productive and getting a lot done.” (Work idolatry)
- I am being recognized for my accomplishments, and I am excelling in my work.” (Achievement idolatry)
- I have a certain level of wealth, financial freedom, and very nice possessions.” (Materialism idolatry)
- I am adhering to my religion’s moral codes and accomplished in its activities.” (Religion idolatry)
- this one person is in my life and happy to be there, and/or happy with me.” (Individual person idolatry)
- I feel I am totally independent of organized religion and am living by a self-made morality.” (Irreligion idolatry)
- my race and culture is ascendant and recognized as superior.” (Racial/cultural idolatry)
- a particular social grouping or professional grouping or other group lets me in.” (Inner ring idolatry)
- my children and/or my parents are happy and happy with me.” (Family idolatry)
- Mr. or Ms. “Right” is in love with me.” (Relationship Idolatry)
- I am hurting, in a problem; only then do I feel worthy of love or able to deal with guilt.” (Suffering idolatry)
- my political or social cause is making progress and ascending in influence or power.” (Ideology idolatry)
- I have a particular kind of look or body image.” (Image idolatry)
Then he looks more closely at the first four categories:
If you seek POWER (success, winning, influence)…
- Your greatest nightmare: Humiliation
- People around you often feel: Used
- Your problem emotion: Anger
If you seek APPROVAL (affirmation, love, relationships)…
- Your greatest nightmare: Rejection
- People around you often feel: Smothered
- Your problem emotion: Cowardice
If you seek COMFORT (privacy, lack of stress, freedom)…
- Your greatest nightmare: Stress, demands
- People around you often feel: Neglected
- Your problem emotion: Boredom
If you seek CONTROL (self-discipline, certainty, standards)…
- Your greatest nightmare: Uncertainty
- People around you often feel: Condemned
- Your problem emotion: Worry
Wow, that is quite convicting. All of these false securities erode our trust in God, and when our trust in God is gone our joy evaporates and we are left with dehydrated souls. The response is to turn to Christ, and there to find all the security we need eternally and for our daily bread today.
From Puritan Richard Baxter, Practical Works (London, 1830), 2:420-21:
Penitent sorrow is only a purge to cast out those corruptions which hinder you from relishing your spiritual delights. Use it therefore as physic [medicine], only when there is need; and not for itself, but only to this end; and turn it not into your ordinary food. Delight in God is the health of your souls. … So take up no sorrow against your delight in God, or instead of it, but for it, and so much as promoteth it.
HT: Burk Parsons
Wrong. In fact a model of sanctification defined primarily as (or solely as) gratitude-for-justification, becomes very problematic. Here’s how Richard Gaffin explains it in his book By Faith, Not by Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation (Paternoster, 2006), pages 76–77:
In the matter of sanctification, it seems to me, we must confront a tendency, at least practical and, my impression is, pervasive, within churches of the Reformation to view the gospel and salvation in its outcome almost exclusively in terms of justification. …
The effect of this outlook, whether or not intended, is that sanctification tends to be seen as the response of the believer to salvation, defined in terms of justification. Sanctification is viewed as an expression of gratitude from our side for our justification and the free forgiveness of our sins, usually with the accent on the imperfection and inadequacy of such expressions of gratitude.
Sometimes there is even the suggestion that while sanctification is highly desirable, and its lack, certainly unbecoming and inappropriate, it is not really necessary in the life of the believer, not really integral to our salvation and an essential part of what it means to be saved from sin. The attitude we may have – at least this is the way it comes across – is something like, “If Jesus did that for you, died that your sins might be forgiven, shouldn’t you at least do this for him, try to please him?” [I.e. what Piper calls "the debtor’s ethic."]
With such a construction justification and sanctification are pulled apart; the former is what God does, the latter what we do, and do so inadequately. At worst, this outlook tends to devolve into a deadening moralism.
What takes place, in effect, is the reintroduction of a refined works principle, more or less divorced from and so in tension with the faith that justifies. The self-affirming works, those self-securing and self-assuring efforts, so resolutely resisted at the front door of justification, creep back in through the back door of sanctification. The “faith” and “works” that God intends be joined together in those he has restored to his fellowship and service (cf., e.g., Jas. 2:18), through uniting them to Christ by faith, are pulled apart and exist, at best, in an uneasy tension, a tension that can paralyze the Christian life and render obedience less than uninhibited and wholehearted.
Last summer I asked Richard Gaffin to explain why this gratitude-for-justification model of sanctification is misleading, and he explains in this 5-minute clip:
Born 88 years ago today, she still cracks me up:
Letter dated Oct 20, 1955: “The enclosed should help you. I don’t want it back. I am the one on the left; the one on the right is the Muse. This is a copy of a self-portrait I painted three years ago. Nobody admires my painting much but me. Of course this is not exactly the way I look but it’s the way I feel. It’s better looked at from a distance.”
Letter dated Oct 30, 1955: “I first sent Harper’s Bazaar my self portrait and can you imagine, they said: this is not exactly what we want, a little stiff, couldn’t you send us a snapshot? I also sent it to Harpercourt Brace to use on the jacket of my book. They said: this is a little odd, we don’t think it would increase the sale of the stories.”
Letter dated June 19, 1963: “In the self portrait that is not a peacock. That’s a pheasant cock. I used to raise pheasants but they got too much for me as they require attention and have to be caged. The peacocks take care of themselves. But I like very much the look of the pheasant cock. He has horns and a face like the devil. The self-portrait was made ten years ago, after a very acute siege of lupus. I was taking cortisone which gives you what they call a moon-face and my hair had fallen out to a large extent from the high fever, so I looked pretty much like the portrait. When I painted it I didn’t look either at myself in the mirror or at the bird. I knew what we both looked like.”
The following is one my favorite Easter quotes and I clip it from Russell Moore’s book Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ (Crossway, 2011). This excerpt is worth a slow and meditative read (perhaps in a sermon?) —
Part of the curse Jesus would bear for us on Golgotha was the taunting and testing by God’s enemies. As he drowned in his own blood, the spectators yelled words quite similar to those of Satan in the desert: “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:32). But he didn’t jump down. He didn’t ascend to the skies. He just writhed there. And, after it all, the bloated corpse of Jesus hit the ground as he was pulled off the stake, spattering warm blood and water on the faces of the crowd.
That night the religious leaders probably read Deuteronomy 21 to their families, warning them about the curse of God on those who are “hanged on a tree.” Fathers probably told their sons, “Watch out that you don’t ever wind up like him.” Those Roman soldiers probably went home and washed the blood of Jesus from under their fingernails and played with their children in front of the fire before dozing off. This was just one more insurrectionist they had pulled off a cross, one in a line of them dotting the roadside. And this one (what was his name? Joshua?) was just decaying meat now, no threat to the empire at all.
That corpse of Jesus just lay there in the silences of that cave. By all appearances it had been tested and tried, and found wanting. If you’d been there to pull open his bruised eyelids, matted together with mottled blood, you would have looked into blank holes. If you’d lifted his arm, you would have felt no resistance. You would have heard only the thud as it hit the table when you let it go. You might have walked away from that morbid scene muttering to yourself, “The wages of sin is death.”
But sometime before dawn on a Sunday morning, a spike-torn hand twitched. A blood-crusted eyelid opened. The breath of God came blowing into that cave, and a new creation flashed into reality… (124–125)
Let that sink in deep.