Archive for the ‘Voices from the Past’ Category
Posted on March 6th, 2014 by Eric Parker
The religious consensus across our culture has dwindled so much that you would be hard pressed to find anything that a pluralistic society might agree upon. Even still, if someone is religious, then love is bound to be one of their core values. Some might even go as far as to flip the famous axiom “God is love” to say that “Love is God.” This reversal can be a dangerous error. Listen to what A. W. Tozer has to say,
The apostle John, by the Spirit, wrote, “God is love,” and some have taken his words to be a definitive statement concerning the essential nature of God. This is a great error. John was by those words stating a fact, but he was not offering a definition.
Had the apostle declared that love is what God is, we would be forced to infer that God is what love is. If literally God is love, then literally love is God, and we are in all duty bound to worship love as the only God there is. If love is equal to God then God is only equal to love, and God and love are identical. Thus we destroy the concept of personality in God and deny outright all His attributes save one, and that one we substitute for God. The God we have left is not the God of Israel; He is not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; He is not the God of the prophets and the apostles; He is not the God of the saints and reformers and martyrs, nor yet the God of the theologians and hymnists of the church.
For our souls’ sake we must learn to understand the Scriptures. We must escape the slavery of words and give loyal adherence to meanings instead. Words should express ideas, not originate them. We say that God is love; we say that God is light; we say that Christ is truth; and we mean the words to be understood in much the same way that words are understood when we say of a man, “he is kindness itself.” By so saying we are not stating that Kindness and the man are identical, and no one understand our words in that sense.
The words “God is love” mean that love is an essential attribute of God. Love is something true of God but it is not God. It expresses the way God is in His unitary being, as do the words holiness, justice, faithfulness and truth. Because God is immutable. He always acts like Himself, and because He is a unity He never suspends one of His attributes in order to exercise another.
A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 97-98
Posted on February 25th, 2014 by Eric Parker
Charles Hodge, the 19th century theologian from Princeton, comments on the free nature of our salvation based on Ephesians 2:9:
Works of all kinds, as distinguished from faith, are excluded. Salvation is in no sense, and in no degree, of works; for the person who attains the reward has earned it. But salvation is of grace, and therefore not of works, lest any man should boast. That the guilty should stand before God with self-complacency and refer his salvation in any measure to his own merit is so abhorrent to all correct feeling that Paul assumes (Romans 4:2), as an obvious truth, that no one can boast before God. To all who have any correct understanding of God’s holiness and of the evil of sin, this is understood intuitively; and therefore, a free salvation—a salvation which excludes all works as a ground of boasting—is the only salvation suitable for the relation of guilty people to God.
Charles Hodge, Ephesians, 78
Famous 16th century theologian John Calvin talked about the tension of living in this world, while not being of it:
When it comes to a comparison with the life to come, the present life can not only be safely neglected but, compared to the former, must be utterly despised and loathed. For, if heaven is our homeland, what else is the earth but our place of exile? Therefore, if the earthy life be compared with the heavenly, it is doubtless to be at once despised and trampled under foot. Of course it is never to be hated except in so far as it holds us subject to sin; although not even hatred of that condition may ever properly be turned against life itself. In any case, it is still fitting for us to be so, affected either by wariness or hatred of it that, desiring its end, we may also be prepared to abide in it at the Lord’s pleasure, so that our weariness may be fare from all murmuring and impatience. For it is like a sentry post at which the Lord has posted us, which we must hold until he recalls us…. Therefore, if it befits us to live and die to the Lord, let us leave to his decision the hour of our death and life, but in such a way that we may both burn with the zeal for death and be constant in meditation. But in comparison with the immortality to come, let us despise this life and long to renounce it, on account of bondage of sin, whenever it shall please the Lord.
Donald McKim- editor, Calvin’s Institutes: Abridged Addition, 3.9.4, 89-90
Posted on February 11th, 2014 by Eric Parker
In the last book of his famous Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis writes about heaven by speaking of the children’s experience once they get to Aslan’s country:
“What was the fruit like? Unfortunately no one can describe a taste. All I can say is that, compared with those fruits, the freshest grapefruit you’ve ever eaten was dull, and the juiciest orange was dry, and the most melting pear was hard and woody, and the sweetest wild strawberry was sour. And there were no seeds or stones, and no wasps. If you had once eaten that fruit, all the nicest things in this world would taste like medicines after it. But I can’t describe it. You can’t find out what it is like unless you can get to that country and taste it for yourself” (p. 157). In trying to describe the place itself, he says “It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking-glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different—deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if you ever get there you will know what I mean” (p. 195-196). Then a unicorn spoke up and said, “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this” (p. 196).
C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle, 157-196
Posted on February 4th, 2014 by Eric Parker
How can Christ have a body and yet be present everywhere in creation? Athanasius, one of the great Church Fathers, helps us to further see the glory in the mystery of the Incarnation of Christ:
The Word was not hedged in by his body, nor did his presence in the body prevent his being present elsewhere as well. When he moved his body he did not cease also to direct the universe by his mind and might. No. The marvelous truth is, that being the Word, so far from being himself contained by anything, he actually contained all things himself. In creation he is present everywhere, yet is distinct in being from it; ordering, directing, giving life to all, containing all, yet is he himself the uncontained, existing solely in his Father. As with the whole, so also is it with the part. Existing in a human body, to which he himself gives life, he is still source of life to all the universe, present in every part of it, yet outside the whole; and he is revealed both through the works of his body and through his activity in the world. It is, indeed, the function of soul to behold things that are outside the body, but it cannot energize or move them. A man cannot transport things from one place to another, for instance, merely by thinking about them; nor can you or I move the sun and the stars just by sitting at home and looking at them. With the Word of God in his human nature, however, it was otherwise. His body was for him not a limitation, but an instrument, so that he was both in it and in all things, and outside all things, resting in the Father alone. At one and the same time–this is the wonder–as man he was living a human life, and as Word he was sustaining the life of the universe, and as Son he was in constant union with the Father…. His being in everything does not mean that he shares the nature of everything, only that he gives all things their being and sustains them in it. Just as the sun is not defiled by the contact of its rays with earthly objects, but rather enlightens and purifies them, so he who made the sun is not defiled by being made known in a body, but rather the body is cleansed and quickened by his indwelling…
Saint Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 31-32
Posted on January 27th, 2014 by Jonathan
A Scripture-saturated excerpt from the letter that William Tyndale wrote to his best friend, John Frith, right before Frith was burned at the stake for his loyalty to God’s Word.
Your cause is Christ’s gospel, a light that must be fed with the blood of faith…. If when we be buffeted for well-doing, we suffer patiently and endure, that is acceptable to God; for to that end we are called. For Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps, who did no sin.
Hereby have we perceived love, that he had lain down his life for us; therefore we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren…. let not your body faint…. If the pain be above your strength, remember, Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, I will give it you. And pray to our Father in that name, and he will ease your pain, or shorten it…. Amen.
Taken from Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ (Crossway), by John Piper, p. 52
This post was originally seen on the Secret Church blog. Be sure to check it out for updates and information on Secret Church gatherings and the persecuted church.
Posted on January 22nd, 2014 by David Burnette
God often uses unlikely witnesses for His cause, and as Charles Spurgeon points out from Scripture, these are often those who were converted in their youth (Samuel, David, Josiah, Daniel, etc.). There is hope in the darkest of days, and it may just be found in the church nursery:
“The Lord hath today – I know not where – some little Luther on his mother’s knee, some young Calvin learning in our Sunday School, some youthful Zwingli singing a hymn to Jesus. This age may grow worse and worse; I sometimes think it will, for many signs look that way; but the Lord is preparing for it. The days are dark and ominous; and this eventide may darken down into a blacker night than has been known before; but God’s cause is safe in God’s hands. His work will not tarry for want of men. Put not forth the hand of Uzzah to steady the ark of the Lord; it shall go safely on in God’s predestined way. Christ will not fail nor be discouraged. God buries His workmen, but His work lives on. If there be not in the palace a king who honours God there shall yet be found there a governor who fears the Lord from his youth, who shall take care of the Lord’s prophets, and hide them away till better days come. Wherefore be of good courage, and look for happier hours. Nothing of real value is in jeopardy while Jehovah is on the throne. The Lord’s reserves are coming up, and their drums beat victory.”
– C.H. Spurgeon, Come Ye Children: Practical Help Telling Children about Jesus, 116-117
Posted on January 15th, 2014 by Eric Parker
Thomas Watson talks below about the necessity to persevere in the faith, and not grow content through our lives with mediocre spirituality.
If our love to God does not increase, it will soon decrease. If the fire is not blown up, it will quickly go out. Therefore Christians should above all things endeavor to cherish and excite their love to God. This exhortation will be out of date when we come to heaven, for then our light shall be clear, and our love perfect; but now it is in season to exhort, that our love to God may abound yet more and more.
Thomas Watson, All Things For Good, 103
Posted on January 7th, 2014 by Eric Parker
Thomas Watson, a 17th century puritan preacher, had this to say concerning repentance:
Sorrow is good for nothing but sin. If you shed tears for outward losses, it will not advantage you. Water for the garden, if poured in the sink, does no good. Powder for the eye, if applied to the arm, is of no benefit. Sorrow is medicinal for the soul, but if you apply it to worldly things it does no good. Oh that our tears may run in the right channel and our hearts burst with sorrow for sin!
Posted on December 18th, 2013 by Eric Parker
John Owen, a great puritan pastor, talks about the inexhaustible grace that is afforded because Jesus is fully divine:
If all the world should drink free grace, mercy and pardon from Christ, the well of salvation; if they should draw strength from one single promise, they would not be able to lower the level of the water of grace in that promise one hair’s breadth. There is enough grace, mercy and pardon in one of God’s promises for the sins of millions of worlds, if they existed, because the promise is supplied from an infinite, bottomless reservoir. What is one finite guilt before this infinite and eternal reservoir of grace? Show me the sinner who can spread out his sins to infinite dimensions and I will show him this infinite and eternal reservoir of grace and mercy. Beware, then, of those who would rob you of the deity of Christ. If there were no more grace for me than what is treasured up in a mere creature, I would rejoice if my eternity was under rocks and mountains, hidden forever from divine wrath.
John Owen, Communion with God, 62
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