Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What did the cross achieve?

Each Tuesday morning a small group of us from Twynholm meets in my study at 6am to read to one another. Over the last few weeks we have been reading Jim Packer's essay, "What did the cross achieve? The logic of Penal Substitution."

This is one of my favourite articles on the cross, first given as a lecture in 1973, and most recently republished in "In my place condemned he stood"

There are several things I love about this essay.

Though rigorously theological it is not dry or abstract but deliberately devotional and doxological.

[I]n trying to beat Socinian rationalism at its own game, Reformed theologians were conceding the Socinian assumption that every aspect of God’s work of reconciliation will be exhaustively explicable in terms of a natural theology of divine government, drawn from the world of contemporary legal and political thought. Thus, in their zeal to show themselves rational, they became rationalistic.4 Here as elsewhere, methodological rationalism became in the seventeenth century a worm in the Reformed bud, leading in the next two centuries to a large-scale withering of its theological flower.

Now I do not query the substantial rightness of the Reformed view of the atonement; on the contrary, I hope to confirm it, as will appear; but I think it is vital that we should unambiguously renounce any such intellectual method as that which I have described, and look for a better one.
And what is this better method: realising that theology is not an exercise in rationalising every aspect of our knowledge of God, but of exploring it biblically and humbly.
Knowing through divine enlightenment what which passes knowledge is precisely what it means to be acquainted with the mystery of God.
Having talked about method of approach Packer then moves to view a doctrine of the atonement in 2 stages, before observing exegetical considerations.
My plan is this: first, to clear up some questions of method, so that there will be no doubt as to what I am doing; to explore what it means to call Christ’s death substitutionary; third, to see what further meaning is added when Christ’s substitutionary suffering is called penal; fourth, to note in closing that the analysis offered is not out of harmony with learned exegetical opinion.
In the section on Substituion Packer masterfully shows that every view of the atonement must have substitution at the centre, whether or not it is admitted.
Nobody who wishes to say with Paul that there is a true sense in which ‘Christ died for us’ (huper, on our behalf, for our benefit), and ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us’ (huper again) (Rom. 5:8; Gal. 3:13), and who accepts Christ’s assurance that he came ‘to give his life a ransom for many’ (anti, which means precisely ‘in place of’, ‘in exchange for’16), should hesitate to say that Christ’s death was substitutionary. Indeed, if he describes Christ’s death as vicarious he is actually saying it. It is, of course, no secret why people shy off this word. It is because they equate, and know that others equate, substitution in Christology with penal substitution.
In the section on the penal in penal substitution there are some great quotes.

This analysis, if correct, shows what job the word ‘penal’ does in our model. It is there, not to prompt theoretical puzzlement about the transferring of guilt, but to articulate the insight of believers who, as they look at Calvary in the light of the New Testament, are constrained to say, ‘Jesus was bearing the judgment I deserved (and deserve), the penalty for my sins, the punishment due to me’ — ‘he loved me, and gave himself for me’ (Gal. 2:20). How it was possible for him to bear their penalty they do not claim to know, any more than they know how it was possible for him to be made man; but that he bore it is the certainty on which all their hopes rest.

When man justifies the wicked, it is a miscarriage of justice which God hates, but when God justifies the ungodly it is a miracle of grace for us to adore [Prov, 17:15; Rom. 4:5]

Twice in Romans Paul makes explicit his conviction that Christ’s having died ‘for’ (huper) us — that is, us who now believe — guarantees final blessedness. In 5:8f. he says: ‘While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath through him.’ In 8:32 he asks: ‘He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things?’ Moreover, Paul and John explicitly depict God’s saving work as a unity in which Christ’s death fulfils a purpose of election and leads on to what the Puritans called ‘application of redemption’ — God ‘calling’ and ‘drawing’ unbelievers to himself, justifying them from their sins and giving them life as they believe, and finally glorifying them with Christ in his own presence.

Furthermore, if the true measure of love is how low it stoops to help, and how much in its humility it is ready to do and bear, then it may fairly be claimed that the penal substitutionary model embodies a richer witness to divine love than any other model of atonement, for it sees the Son at his Father’s will going lower than any other view ventures to suggest. That death on the cross was a criminal’s death, physically as painful as, if not more painful than, any mode of judicial execution that the world has seen; and that Jesus endured it in full consciousness of being innocent before God and man, and yet of being despised and rejected, whether in malicious conceit or in sheer fecklessness, by persons he had loved and tried to save — this is ground common to all views, and tells us already that the love of Jesus, which took him to the cross, brought him appallingly low. But the penal substitution model adds to all this a further dimension of truly unimaginable distress, compared with which everything mentioned so far pales into insignificance. This is the dimension indicated by Denney — ‘that in that dark hour He had to realise to the full the divine reaction against sin in the race.’ Owen stated this formally, abstractly and non-psychologically: Christ, he said, satisfied God’s justice ‘for all the sins of all those for whom he made satisfaction, by undergoing that same punishment which, by reason of the obligation that was upon them, they were bound to undergo. When I say the same I mean essentially the same in weight and pressure, though not in all accidents of duration and the like . . .’

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Religious affections Part 1.

I'm reading Edwards' Religious Affections with a member of the congregation here. We meet for coffee tomorrow to discuss part one. Here are some great quotes...

After religion has revived in the church of God, and enemies appear, people that are engaged to defend its cause are commonly most exposed where they are least sensible of danger. While they are wholly intent upon the opposition that appears openly before hem, to make head against that, and do neglect carefully to look all around them, the devil comes behind them, and gives a fatal stab unseen.(18)

That religion which God requires, and will accept, does not consist in weak, dull, and lifeless wishes, raising but a little above a state of indifference: God, in His word, greatly insists upon it, that we be in good earnest, "fervent in spirit", and our hearts vigorously engaged in religion. (27)

The holy scriptures do everywhere place religion very much in the affection; such as fear, hope, love, hatred, desire, joy, sorrow, gratitude, compassion, and zeal. (31)

There is doubtless true religion in heaven, and true religion in its utmost purity and perfection. But according to the Scripture representation of the heavenly state, the religion of heaven consists chiefly in holy and mighty love and joy, and the expression of these in most ferventa nd exalted praises. (41)

Herein appears the subtilty of Satan. While he saw that affections were much in vogue, knowing the greater part were not versed in such things, and had not had much experience of great religious affections, enabling them to judge well, and to distinguish between true and false; then he knew he could best play his game, by sowing tares amongst the wheat, and mingling false affections with the works of God’s Spirit. He knew this to be a likely way to delude and eternally ruin many souls, and greatly to wound religion in the saints, and entangle them in a dreadful wilderness, and by and by to bring all religion into disrepute.
But now, when the ill consequences of these false affections appear, and it is become very apparent, that some of those emotions which made a glaring show, and were by many greatly admired, were in reality nothing; the devil sees it to be for his interest to go another way to work, and to endeavour to his utmost to propagate and establish a persuasion, that all affections and sensible emotions of the mind in religion, are nothing at all to be regarded, but are rather to be avoided, and carefully guarded against, as things of a pernicious tendency. This he knows is the way to bring all religion to a mere lifeless formality, and effectually to shut out the power of godliness and every thing spiritual. For although to true religion there must indeed be something else besides affection; yet true religion consists so much in the affections, that there can be no true religion without them. (49)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Preaching difficult passages

In preaching through Mark's gospel, on Sunday I arrived at Mark 13. This is certainly the hardest chapter to understand in Mark's gospel. After my study on the text there were certainly various questions that for me remained unresolved.
What, for example, was the abomination of desolation? there are several well known candidates (the entry of Titus into the temple, the imperial standard, roman coinage etc, an unqualified high priest)

Then there is the question as to whether the son of Man's "coming in the clouds" is coming back to earth, or coming to the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7). I was 80% convinced that it was coming to the Ancient of Days, (i.e. the destruction of the temple was to signify that Jesus had entered the heavenly temple.)

What do you do when there are some things about which you are totally unsure, and some things about which you are not entirely sure.

The first thing is to see if it actually makes any difference at all to what the passage means.

In this case the identification of the abomination makes not a squat of difference. I am entirely convinced that it came as a sign of the approaching destruction of the Temple (answering the disciple's question in verse 4
"Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?"

Thus, it wasn't a sign for US, but for THEM, to ensure that there would not be Christians in Jerusalem at its destruction. There were none. So the reader obviously understood. They got the message and fled before it was too late.

The other issue made some difference to the meaning of that section, but not really to the thrust of the whole chapter. It is clear that there are three focuses in the chapter. 1) the time leading up to the destruction of the temple. 2) the destruction of the temple itself and its significance. 3) the last day and the final return of Christ.

All this is to say that it is OK to be honest when you are not sure about something you are preaching. It can help people to see that in order to get the main points of a passage of scripture, they don't have to fully understand every detail.

the audio of the sermon can be found here.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Prod from a member of my church

I Received an email from a member of Twynholm Baptist Church today which I take as a gentle prod to start blogging a little more regularly and faithfully.
He included a link from the Desiring God website (a great website with loads of good resources).

The link was called "Why Pastors Should Blog."

Abraham Piper, who wrote the post, gives 5 reasons.
1. To Write
2. To Teach
3. To recommend
4. To interact
5. To develop an eye for what is meaningful
6. To be known (by your own congregation).

There is a good discussion off the back of his post here

As someone who has been a sporadic blogger, I am fairly convinced by the arguments in favour.
However, I'd add a couple of cautions.

1) Blogging must be for the sake of building more meaningful face-to-face contact rather than replacing it.
2) Blogging must flow out of the preparation for other teaching rather than displacing it.
3) Blogging cannot be thoughtless or rushed if it is to be edifying, and the pastor must always ask whether he is fulfilling other responsibilities.

That having been said, I take the prod well from the member of the congregation who sent me the link, and shall seek to use this blog to more faithfully serve members of Twynholm.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Penny Drops late on a Friday night...

On Weekends when I'm preaching I don't allow myself to go to sleep on Friday night until I have an outline for the sermon. Some weeks this works OK... (Last week I had an outline and had written and introduction). Some weeks I really struggle to find a sermon in a text.
This coming Sunday I'm preaching on the whole of Mark 6. Through my devotional time in the text, and most of my study of it today, I could see how I could preach 3, 4 or even 6 sermons on Mark 6. I couldn't really see how I could preach one coherent message.
There are stacks of Old Testament allusions in Mark 6. (Including, I think, Exodus 12, 16, 18, 33, 34, Numbers 12, 1 Sam 16, 1 Kings 19, Esther 1, 5, 7, Job 9, Psalm 77)
So, I've gone with a uniting theme of Exodus.
My exegetical outline is

1-13 A prophet like Moses

1-6 Opposed by his own: House

7-13 An urgency like the Exodus

14-29 An enemy like Pharoah & the King of Babylon.

30-44 A Man who is the Lord

30-44 A provider like the Lord

45-52An encounter with the Lord

53-56 A land like Canaan.

My homiletic outline is:

1) The urgency of Jesus’ message (1-13)

2) The powerlessness of Jesus’ enemies (14-29)

3) The sufficiency of Jesus’ provision (30-56)

a. Food

b. Himself

c. Rest

This sermon will dv complete the first block of 6. having never preached for 6 consecutive Sudnays before, I am glad that the sermon finished with rest, and that we are taking some holiday straight afterwards. And so to bed...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wordling check on expository sermons.

Bloggers at the moment seem to be fascinated by Wordles.

I thought this might be a good way to do a rough check on an expository sermon as to whether the sermon hits the same themes as the text....

Here's the wordle of my sermon from Mark 4:35-5:43 on Sunday

Here's the wordle of the ESV text that I preached from:

Mmmn, had I made death bigger than Jesus in the sermon, when it doesn't even appear on the wordle of the text? I don't think so! I think that the whole text is about Jesus authority over the realm of death, and so many of the other words on the text world (unclean, tombs, afraid, shackles, chains, disease, demon-possessed, dead, blood) are about death, our fear of it and the shadow it casts.

Wordles are interesting, but if we just look for the biggest words, we might fail to see the whole atmosphere that is created by a text with groups of words that are associated with one big theme. The word at the centre of the theme doesn't appear in this text until the very end - the death of Jairus' daughter.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sermons now available online

So, the Twynholm website is really shaping together now, and sermons are available for download
and podcast here

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Induction service

Pictures from my induction service are available here

Friday, July 18, 2008

New Church Website

Our new website at http://www.twynholm.org/ is now up. It is still a work in progress (pretty much just a homepage at the moment.) some of the other content that will appear there is available at http://wordpress.twynholm.org/

I think the new site looks rather good... Well done Leigh and Jeffrey!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A church where people have come to faith

One of the hugely encouraging things about the church I now serve is the large proportion of the congregation who came to faith through the ministry of the church.
I have started meeting with members of the congregation and interviewing them in a similar kind of way to how I would interview someone applying for membership.
The first four I interviewed, all in their 20's/30's were all saved at Twynholm. Emma through door to door evangelism. Leigh, now her husband, through Emma's witness. Marcos through door to door evangelism. Faye, now Marcos's wife through friends in the youth group at Twynholm.
My guess is that about half of the membership came to faith here. I pray that the Lord would continue to use us to bring many more to faith.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Great quote from Spurgeon for a new pastor

Young pastor, preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace... by not gossiping with your people. So says Spurgeon (HT: DG):
It is the extreme of unwisdom for a young man fresh from college, or from another charge, to suffer himself to be earwigged by a clique, and to be bribed by kindness and flattery to become a partisan, and so to ruin himself with one-half of his people. Know nothing of parties and cliques, but be the pastor of all the flock, and care for all alike. Blessed are the peacemakers, and one sure way of peacemaking is to let the fire of contention alone. Neither fan it, nor stir it, nor add fuel to it, but let it go out of itself. Begin your ministry with one blind eye and one deaf ear.

(HT: Thabiti)

Friday, June 27, 2008

A month to observe before taking the pulpit

My family and I arrived at Twynholm Baptist Church at the beginning of June. The church here very kindly gave me a month to sit in the pews and observe before taking up the pulpit this coming Sunday.
Here are some reflections on why this month has been such a good thing which I would encourage every church to give an incoming pastor.

1) It has been hugely useful for me to sit in on services, elders meetings, prayers meetings etc and see a snapshot of what the church looks like before starting to lead things myself. This enables me to understand the church a great deal better, and I trust will give me more sensitivity and wisdom now I come to lead.
2) It has given a useful message to the congregation that I am a member of the church before I am its pastor, and I sit under the preaching of the word before I preach.
3) It has given me time to build relationships.
4) It has given me time to observe and reflect, so that any changes I do encourage will be thought out rather than just happen because I had to do something in a hurry.
5) It has been encouraging for my family that it has been possible to create some time in the diary to help with the set up of the home - my wife has not been left to carry furniture by herself but could call on my help without feeling she was interrupting sermon prep time. Encouraging the incoming pastor's family is extremely helpful for a church!
6) It's given me some time to read some of the church records and documents to get a little more clear picture of the history of the church than I had before I started.

But after a month, I am glad to have the privilege of beginning to preach here this Sunday. I'm starting off, as so many new pastors have, by preaching through Mark's gospel. This week's sermon is Mark 1:1-13 "The divine king", and Praise the Lord it's yet early on Friday night, and I think I have my outline...

Friday, February 15, 2008

How to choose a church

Here's a great little list of priorities in looking for a new church from Mark Dever's book, "What is a healthy church"

How To Find A Good Church

1. Pray.

2. Seek counsel from a godly pastor (or from elders).

3. Keep your priorities straight.
• The gospel must be truly affirmed, clearly preached, and faithfully lived out. A serious lack in any of these expressions of the gospel
is very dangerous.
• The preaching must be faithful to Scripture, personally challenging, and central to the congregation’s life. You will only grow spiritually
where Scripture is treated as the highest authority.
• Also very important is to consider how the church regulates baptism, the Lord’s Supper, church membership, church discipline, and
who has the final say in decision making.
• In short, read chapters 5 to 13 in this book!

4. Ask yourself diagnostic questions such as:
• Would I want to find a spouse who has been brought up under this church’s teaching?
• What picture of Christianity will my children see in this church—something distinct or something a lot like the world?
• Would I be happy to invite non-Christians to this church? That is, would they clearly hear the gospel and see lives consistent with
it? Does the church have a heart for welcoming and reaching non-Christians?
• Is this church a place where I can minister and serve?

5. Consider geography. Would the church’s physical proximity to your home encourage or discourage frequent involvement and service? If
you’re moving to a new area, try to locate a good church home before you buy a house.


Get the whole book here.

HT: New Attitude

Friday, February 1, 2008

Great post on cooperation over on the 9Marks blog

Mark Dever was speaking earlier this week at the Acts 29 conference up in Chicago.

I think he's spoken pretty boldly and wisely here:

Our differences are enough to separate some of my friends—your brothers and sisters in Christ—from you. And perhaps to separate them from me, now that I’m publicly speaking to you. And I don’t want to minimize either the sincerity or the seriousness of some of their concerns (things like: humor, worldliness, pragmatism, authority).

But I perceive some things in common which outweigh our differences—which the Lord Jesus shall soon enough compose between us, either by our maturing, or by His bringing us home. I long to work with those, and count it a privilege to work with those whom My Savior has purchased with His blood, and with whom I share the gospel of Jesus Christ. I perceive that we have in common the knowledge that God is glorified in sinners being reconciled to Him through Christ. This is not taught by other religions, nor clearly by the ancient Christian churches of the East, or by Rome, by liberal Protestant churches, by Mormons, the churches of Christ, or by groups of self-righteous, legalistic, moralistic Christians. And not only do we together affirm the exclusivity of salvation through faith alone in Christ alone—we agree on the sovereignty of God in life and salvation, the regenerate nature of church members, the importance of church membership and discipline, the baptism of believers alone, the priorities of expositional preaching, and evangelism, the importance of authority and a growing appreciation for the significance of complementarianism. These are not slight matters. And they only fire my desire to encourage you and cheer you on, until you cross that finish line that the Lord lays down for us.

For more great (and highly amusing) posts about the conference on the blog read here,
and here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

That kid Got Rhythm

Not had much time for blogging recently... but couldn't resist posting this... though it is not really relevant to the blog