Archives For Theology

rbmw

In 1991 John Piper and Wayne Grudem edited what is one of the most influential and significant books of that decade: Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. The book’s goal was to show that egalitarianism—the idea that men and women should not have any role differences in marriage or in church—is unbiblical. Instead, Christians should embrace complementarianism–the idea that God designed the sexes to complement each other through different roles in both marriage and church life.

Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood dismantled egalitarianism for a generation of evangelicals. Grudem and Piper used a barrage of arguments, hunted down obscure Greek words, and built an air-tight case that men and women are of equal worth/value/dignity/honor, but have different roles. Continue Reading…

Here is my attempt at a very brief summary of the current debate or discussion surrounding the eternal functional subordination (EFS) of the Son to the Father.

Number 1We all know the incarnate Son submits to the Father, but is His submission something that extends to His eternal role/relationship as Son? Is the Son subordinate to the Father from all eternity? Is there authority and submission within the inner life of the Trinity, even before creation and redemption?

2Proponents of EFS say yes. Opponents say no.

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At the end of his biography of Athanasius (in Contending for Our All), John Piper extracts lessons from the manner in which Athanasius approached the importance of precise trinitarian language. If you remember, Athanasius spent his life defending and articulating the trinity. He was one of the more influential people at the Council of Nicea, and that was before he had even become a pastor. Once he assumed leadership of his church, Athanasius was exiled five times for his stance on the trinity. Piper points out that his third exile was particularly brutal, and that it was accompanied by persecution of those in his church.

All of this must have made Athanasius wonder: “Is precision in trinitarian language worth the division and bloodshed that contending for it obviously elicits?” Piper answers that rhetorical question by drawing these lessons from his life and ministry:

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Church advertisements can be interesting. I’ve seen things like, “Business healing services,” one that advertised a concealed weapons class, and “You have a friend request from Jesus: Accept? Ignore?” But one that confused me the first time I saw it was “Spirit-filled.” What does that mean? And are only some churches Spirit-filled? Or all of them? Or partially filled? What’s the difference between a Spirit-filled and non-Spirit-filled church?

Generally, the advertisement intends to mean that the Holy Spirit’s power and presence are observable in that local church. Praise God if that’s true. But, assuming accurate advertising, what ought we expect from such a church? What will that look like?

Here are 11 evidences of the Spirit’s power and presence in a local church:

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defiant-child

learningworksforkids.com

Parenting is no easy task. Charles Spurgeon once said, “He who thinks it easy to bring up a family never had one of his own. A mother who trains her children aright had need be wiser than Solomon, for his son turned out a fool.”

Thankfully, God has not left parents to grope about for advice in their exalted task. Scripture is full of guidance. However, it seems that one of the most commonly-quoted parenting verses is frequently subjected to misunderstanding.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). (ESV, NASB)

The verse is predominantly understood in a few ways.

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Having grown up in the densely populated state of New Jersey, I learned to drive in one of the more hostile traffic environments in America. Between the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway, and the occasional foray across the George Washington Bridge or the Lincoln Tunnel into some part of New York City—especially Manhattan—I’ve been in my share of close calls and quick decisions. When you add the fact that I now live in Los Angeles and use some of the busiest freeways in the country on a daily basis, it’s rather a miracle that I’m still alive. In fact, there are often times when I consciously thank the Lord while driving that I was spared from this or that potential accident. I certainly know that my passengers have improved their prayer lives while driving with me from time to time.

Because of this absolutely ridiculous vehicular heritage, I often make it a point to observe the different patterns other drivers follow and decisions they make while I’m driving. Sometimes I even think to myself, imagining what I would have done if a driver lost control or decided to change lanes abruptly, or whatever. “If he made a mistake and needed to jump in front of me, could I get out of his way?” Stuff like that.

Now, some people without the NY/NJ/LA driving heritage might think I’m going a little overboard here. And they might be right. But I realize that in certain situations I might have only a fraction of a second to react. I need to be so prepared with a sound way of avoiding an accident that my reactions are just second nature. Because in the moment, I won’t have time to think clearly and dispassionately evaluate my options. The craziness of the moment simply won’t allow it. At least not where I’m driving.

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comradesYesterday marked the 91st Comrades Marathon Race in South Africa. Since the first race in 1921 the Comrades Marathon has become one of the most famous and prestigious of all ultra-marathons. Winning the race is a coveted achievement. But there are many ways to win the Comrades Marathon.

As I discuss in The Preacher’s Payday, you can win it simply by finishing first, like Bill Rowan did in 1921 by coming in a mere minute under nine hours. You can win it five hours and 18 minutes, like David Gatebe did yesterday, setting the new record. You can win it more times than anyone else, like Bruce Fordyce did: nine times. You can even win by running against people who are not running. Yes, you can win a Wally Hayward medal if you finish in under six hours or a Bill Rowan medal if you beat his time of nine hours.

But you can also win the race by beating the real competition: pain. It is the pain and fatigue that most runners are trying to conquer, not the person in front of them. It is a challenge of body and mind, and runners are racing against themselves. And so the awards reflect this. Most races award a gold medal for 1st, silver and bronze for 2nd and 3rd, and everyone else gets a pat on the back.

But the Comrades organizers realize there is more to this race than coming first. Everyone who finishes within the twelve hour limit gets a medal. Even those who come in during the last hour, get the Vic Clapham copper medal. And as agonizing as the challenge, that medal will outlast the memory of your pain and fatigue. It is that image that the New Testament writers use to picture our awards ceremony.

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Several years ago, Justin Taylor linked to a moving and encouraging account of a pastor coming to grips with the fact that his second child, like his first, would be born with spina bifida. Amazingly, this man has found great comfort in rejecting the common notion that God will merely use this bad situation for good, rather than the biblical truth that He has ordained it for His glory and His people’s good.

Stories like these continue to confirm the reality that we must prepare ourselves to undergo suffering and trials righteously. We need to learn how to suffer well. And, as I’ve said over the past couple weeks, the way we do that is by being equipped with a theology of suffering while not yet in the midst of a particular trial.

And to that end we’ve been looking to Jeremiah’s experience with devastating suffering at the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, and hoping to glean some lessons on how to respond to suffering righteously. First, we learned that a righteous response to others’ suffering includes suffering along with our brothers and sisters who suffer. Secondly, we learned that we must acknowledge the role of sin in our suffering. Today, we find a third lesson from Jeremiah’s righteous response to suffering: we must acknowledge, and trust in, God’s absolute sovereignty even in the unpleasant and painful circumstances.

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no

humbs.dreamstime.com

Oftentimes problems with the fruit on a tree are not because of problems with the fruit on the tree. Below the soil’s surface, there is usually a sickness present. Things like fungus, poor nutrient content in the soil, insufficient watering, and pests can plague the roots and subsequently damage the tree. So goes the root, so goes the fruit. Neglect the root, neglect the fruit.

Imagine an orchardist who addressed sickly trees by only addressing the fruit. He approaches the sickly lemon tree, puts up his ladder, and inspects the lemons. Some of the lemons are flaccid, some shrunken, and others cracked open and rotten. Then, imagine, that he breaks out a syringe with store-bought lemon juice and injects the emaciated lemons to fill them out a bit. To repair the sickly, split lemons, he breaks out some band-aids and closes up those holes. Finally, he notices some fruitless branches. So, he breaks out his duct-tape and tapes some nice-looking, store-bought lemons to the branches. He steps back and notices that, for the moment, the tree looks fruitful. For the moment.

Often in our lives, we approach personal change and sanctification like that orchardist.

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I recently had the privilege of sitting down with the brothers of the Glory Books ministry and talking with Pastor Will Costello about my book, Sanctification: The Christian’s Pursuit of God-Given Holiness. It was a pleasure to be a guest on their Inner Revolution podcast and to talk about the foundational truths concerning the believer’s growth in Christlikeness. I hope our conversation will be edifying to you as well.

3:23 – Could you tell us a bit about the sanctification debate that has been going on in the last four or five years?

10:13 – You’ve contributed to this discussion in your book, Sanctification: The Christian’s Pursuit of God-Given Holiness. What did you want people to take away after reading your book?

13:15 – You describe sanctification as an internal and supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, which He accomplishes through means. A key thought in your book is that the foundational means of sanctification is beholding the glory of Christ. Can you unpack what it means to behold the glory of Christ?

22:05 – Comments on looking at Christ as the example of our holiness, as well as beholding Christ as the fuel of our holiness.

24:11 – Is it right to say it’s our responsibility to actively behold Christ, but that we are passively transformed by the agency of the Holy Spirit?

28:04 – So is it right to say that sanctification is both a gift and a reward? A reward because we have to work for it, and a gift because we can never achieve it ourselves?

31:06 – Understanding God’s role and man’s role in sanctification.

32:42 – I like that you say in the book that sanctification is glorious because it is through sanctification that God gets what He is worthy of in us.

34:33 – Sometimes people speak of sanctification negatively. They’re having a hard day and they say something like, “Yeah, well I guess this is supposed to work for my sanctification.” It’s not very joyful. And yet Scripture wants us, on the front end, to consider it pure joy when we enter various trials, because that suffering is designed to conform you to Christ. What do we need to keep in mind so that we can embrace sanctification as a wonderful thing?

39:30 – A quote from John Owen on sanctification, one of the greatest paragraphs Mike has read outside of the Bible.