Posts Tagged With: John Stott

Not a Divine Afterthought

“The church lies at the very center of the eternal purpose of God. It is not a divine afterthought. It is not an accident of history. On the contrary, the church is God’s new community. For his purpose, conceived in a past eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to build his church, that is, to call out of the world a people for his own glory.”

–John R. W. Stott, The Living Church (Nottingham, UK: IVP, 2007), pp. 19-20; quoted in Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Crossway Books, 2012, p. 39.

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It’s Not a Divine Afterthought

“The church lies at the very center of the eternal purpose of God. It is not a divine afterthought. It is not an accident of history. On the contrary, the church is God’s new community. For his purpose, conceived in a past eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to build his church, that is, to call out of the world a people for his own glory.”

–John R. W. Stott, The Living Church (Nottingham, UK: IVP, 2007), pp. 19-20; quoted in Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Crossway Books, 2012, p. 39.

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Christ is the Blessed Man in Psalm 1

 

On Sundays at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church in Centennial, CO (where I serve as pastor), we are going through a new series entitled “Jesus Is ________” in which we will begin exploring the Gospel of John.  On Sunday Nights, we will look at “How Do You Measure Success?” from the book of Ecclesiastes.

To build on Sunday mornings, I started a series on Wednesday nights called “That Sweet, Sweet Song of Salvation:  Jesus in the Psalms.”  Below are the notes I handed out on Psalm 1.

1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law[b] of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish (ESV).

We tend to look at this exclusively from a moralistic standpoint:  “If you want to be blessed, then do this.”  But in reality, none of us can do this.  This is a description of the true Blessed Man, Jesus Christ. 

Before we start, we must ask, “How do we define ‘blessed’?”

  • One way that many have defined and translated this word is the word, ‘happy’ –but this is not what is intended when originally inspired.
  • R.C. Sproul: “It involves God’s favor, His willingness to come near and dwell among His people. This is the chief meaning of the Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6:22–27. The hope of Israel was that God would shine His face on the people, that there would be close, intimate fellowship between the Creator and His creatures. The New Testament expands on this, revealing that our ultimate hope is the Beatific Vision — face-to-face communion with God and His glory in eternity” (1 Cor. 13:12; 1 John 3:2).”

The Psalmist lays two paths before us: the path of the righteous and the path of the wicked.

First, the path of the wicked:

1.  The path of wickedness is a downhill path.

  • C.H. Spurgeon noted: “When men are living in sin they go from bad to worse. At first they merely walk in the counsel of the careless and ungodly, who forget God—the evil is rather practical than habitual—but after that, they become habituated to evil, and they stand in the way of open sinners who willfully violate God’s commandments; and if let alone, they go one step further, and become themselves pestilent teachers and tempters of others, and thus they sit in the seat of the scornful. They have taken their degree in vice, and as true Doctors of Damnation they are installed.”

 

2.  The path of wickedness is a fruitless path.

      • Psalmist uses the illustration of chaff, which is blown away, while the heavier and true grain remains.
      • John the Baptist warned of what would happen to the ‘chaff’ in Matthew 3:11-12; as did Jesus with the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13:24-30.
      • Martin Luther warns the church on how to treat the tares: “"From this observe what raging and furious people we have been these many years, in that we desired to force others to believe; the Turks with the sword, heretics with fire, the Jews with death, and thus outroot the tares by our own power, as if we were the ones who could reign over hearts and spirits, and make them pious and right, which God’s Word alone must do. But by murder we separate the people from the Word, so that it cannot possibly work upon them and we bring thus, with one stroke a double murder upon ourselves, as far as it lies in our power, namely, in that we murder the body for time and the soul for eternity, and afterwards say we did God a service by our actions, and wish to merit something special in heaven. . . . He concluded that "although the tares hinder the wheat, yet they make it the more beautiful to behold.”

      3.  The path of wickedness is a destructive path (v. 6).

        • Whereas they stand and sit in the way of the wicked on earth willingly, they will not stand in judgment.
        • Whereas they are in the congregation of the wicked on earth, they will not be in the congregation of the righteous in heaven.

The Path of Righteousness

1. The path of the righteous is filled with those who love God’s Word (2).

  • There is a delight in learning about God’s character.
  • John Stott notes that this delight “is an indication of the new birth.” Romans 8:7 says that the sinful mind is “hostile toward God.”

2. The path of righteousness is filled with those who yield God’s fruit (3-4).

  • Remember John 17:17-19: God’s Word is a sanctifying Word that helps us grow, mature, and bear fruit.
  • John 15:1-11: Those not abiding in the vine of Christ will not bear fruit and will be thrown into the fire. Only those in the vine of Christ will bear fruit.

3. The path of righteousness is filled with those whose way is known by God (v. 6).

  • Jesus Christ is that way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).
  • Jesus Christ is that blessed Man! Beware of turning this Psalm into a moral platitude. This is a description of the Only One who could fulfill this Psalm!

The Following Week’s Study of Christ in the Psalms

April 25: Jesus is the Lord’s Anointed (Psalm 2)

May 2: Jesus is the Majestic One (Psalm 8)

May 9: Jesus is the Incorruptible One (Psalm 16)

May 16: Jesus is the Forsaken One (Psalm 22)

May 23: Jesus is the Good Shepherd (Psalm 23)

May 30: Jesus is the Forever Priest (Psalm 110)

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Tribute to John Stott (1921-2011) by the Langham Partnership

Click here to read Justin Taylor’s tribute to this great champion of the faith!

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It’s Not Enough to ‘Proclaim Jesus’

“It’s not enough to ‘proclaim Jesus.’  For there are many different Jesuses being presented today.  According to the NT gospel, however, he is historical (he really lived, died, arose, and ascended in the arena of history), theological (his life, death, resurrection and ascension have saving significance), and contemporary (he lives and reigns to bestow salvation on those who respond to him).  Thus the apostles told the same story of Jesus on three levels–as historical event (witnessed by their own eyes), as having theological significance (interpreted by the Scriptures), and as contemporary message (confronting men and women with the necessity of decision).  We have the same responsibility today to tell the story of Jesus as fact, doctrine and gospel.”

— John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts.

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The Need for Pastors to Rest

Thabiti Anyabwile writes a helpful article about the pastor’s need for rest.

Ministry veterans like Piper and John Stott among others have come to see the value of regular periods of rest.  I’m freshly grateful to God for a church family that supports my pastoral labors as well as rest from those labors.  I’m deeply thankful for a church family that understands that the church belongs to the Lord and His reign is not threatened when His under-shepherds rest.  When I’m not rested, it’s usually my fault.  I’m either over-extending myself or I’m not being effective with my time.  There are periods where the load is really heavy, but with the encouragement and support I receive I should be rested and fresh most days.

Read the rest here.

(HT: Challies)  

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Exchanging the Robes of Glory for Robes of Flesh (Philippians 2:5-11)

 

Having the Mind of Christ at Christmas

Philippians 1:27-2:11

In a recent interview with R.C. Sproul, Mark Driscoll asked the brilliant theologian what he believed would be the biggest theological battle to face in the upcoming years. After some thought, Sproul believed, “I think the biggest theological issue of our day … is Christology—our understanding of the person and work of Christ. Now, I could have come at it another way and said ‘the gospel,’ but at the heart of the gospel is the person and work of Christ—who He is and what He’s done.”[1] He went on to say that for much of church history, the person and work of Christ has been under attack—but now it’s under attack within Evangelicalism. As the person and work of Christ goes, so goes Christianity.

What is interesting is that many in our culture love Jesus. Dan Kimball recently wrote a book called They Love Jesus But Hate the Church,[2] we see that many love Jesus, but it’s the Jesus of pop culture, not the Bible. Another once wrote, “God made us in his image, and today we are returning the favor.” The same could be said about Jesus.

Some try to lessen the work of Christ by separating him from the Scriptures (“I love Jesus, but not the Bible”) or from His church (as Dan Kimball wrote in a book titled, “They Love Jesus, But Hate the Church”). Others look to cast Jesus in whatever light of their own personal preference. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, reflecting their own views, saw Jesus as a great moral philosopher but nothing else. As early America moved West, he was seen as a great frontiersman. In the late 19th century with the advent of the Industrial Revolution when the men went off to the factories to work, Jesus was portrayed with children and sheep in an almost feminine light—reflected much by the fact that women became the primary teachers of religious instruction. In the 1960’s, he was portrayed as a revolutionary and a radical against the establishment.

Today, we had a WWJD campaign, but we see the environmentalists having their own WWJD campaign (“What would Jesus drive?)[3]. Other Bible publishers portrayed Jesus as a sympathizer of America in a recently release version called the American Patriot’s Bible.[4] The point is, there is no end to how we as Americans look at Jesus. Look at how Stephen Prothero begins his book American Jesus:

Every Christmas, in towns and cities across the United States, Jesus is reborn in Nativity scenes erected on public property. Almost as regularly, civil libertarians challenge the constitutionality of these public displays of religion, forcing the courts to consider yet again how to interpret the First Amendment. Underlying this question of constitutional jurisprudence is the equally vexing matter of the religious character of the nation: is the United States a religious country or a secular state? Is it Christian? Judeo-Christian? Or, as President George W. Bush has suggested an Abrahamic nation under on Judeo-Christian-Islamic God?”[5]

What we need to make more sure of is not whether America is a Christian nation or not, but whether we as her people are Christian or not!

So let us look at some of the Scripture’s high Christological passages, this one regarding the mind of Christ at Christmas to recapture what God’s Word says about His Son!

5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

1. He created His people.

6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

In this, Christ put off the robes of glory. In John 12:37-42, we see that Jesus was the king of glory seen in Isaiah 6. Jesus was truly ‘high and lifted up’! We see from John that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Jesus was eternal (“in the beginning”—see Genesis 1:1), he had a distinct personality (he was with God), but he also was deity (“the Word was God”).

And yet he came! He was (huparcho) in the form (morphe) of God. From all eternity, this was the case and would always be the case.[6] He is so glorious that we see from Colossians 1:17 that all things were created by Him and for Him and in Him all things hold together (see also John 1:3).

You see, when we celebrate Jesus coming to earth and when we celebrate Good Friday and Easter (Resurrection Sunday, rather), we have to really understand where he came from! He’s our Creator! And we will see next week how he is the head of the church—His body!

2. He came to His people.

So seeing that He is Holy God, creator of all things—how mysterious and wonderful it is to see him who was equal with God make himself “nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:7). We sing about this in our hymnals during the Christmas season:

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see

Hail th’incarnate Deity

Pleased as Man with men to dwell

Jesus, our Immanuel.

One of the great questions unbelievers ask is, “How could Jesus become fully a man, but still be God?” It’s a valid question! We know that God is eternal, holy, without limit, all-powerful, all-knowing, immutable, and sovereign over all things. A cursory look at Jesus’ life, we see that he was born of a virgin, and he died on a cross. Is God born? Does God die? We also see that Jesus was hungry, thirsty, grew weary, was afraid—even at one point said that he did not know when He would return! No wonder so many struggle with this.

The term “made himself nothing” comes from the Greek kenoo which means to “empty oneself,” usually of one’s reputation. This is exactly what Jesus did—and he did it for the purpose of rescuing us. He exchanged being in the presence of His Father and the angels to go, shall we say, on a 33-year missions trip where he became as one of his creation.

There is a story of a missionary who described a certain tribe in Africa who, like many other tribes, had a chief. You could tell this man was the chief by a number of ways other than the great headdress and robes.

In that tribe, they had a well that provided water for the entire tribe. The well had to be a certain depth. If it was too deep, no one could retrieve it, but if it was too shallow, there would be a risk of waste—and thus, a lack of enough water for the tribe. They determined a depth that would be the ‘happy medium,’ if you will. They would have holes on the side of the well that would serve as steps. That way, the men could use them as steps to climb down into the well and get the water needed for their family.

One time, a man tried to do this, but slipped and fell down to the bottom of the well, breaking his leg. He was trapped. They needed someone strong enough to rescue this man. So they called for the chief. He examined the situation, then did something that showed why he was the chief. He took off his headdress and his robes and climbed down the well. When he reached the bottom, he put the weight of that man on his back and climbed out, bringing him to his rescue. Only the chief was strong enough to bear that weight and bring him out, showing another reason why the chief was the chief![7]

See, the chief, even though he took off those robes and headdress to condescend to that mission to rescue us, never ceased to be the chief. So too when Christ took off the robes of glory and put on robes of flesh for those 33 years, he never ceased to be God the Son. He willing laid aside some of his abilities to go on this rescue mission!

3. He cared for His people.

In Philippians 2:8, it says, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus went from the highest and most exalted place to the lowest and most despicable place. He humbled himself by being born to a peasant family in the tiny town of Bethlehem—a family soon running from Herod’s order of genocide to all males two and under. He submitted to the ravages of humanity: hungering, thirsting, fatigue, sorrow. He even submitted to his earthly parents as God the Son! And, as Paul points out, he even became “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

In Deuteronomy, the Law says, “A hanged man is cursed by God” (Deut 21:23). Now, in the New Testament, Paul says, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” The Roman cross, reserved for a criminal, has now become the symbol of the church—not a manger, not a carpenter’s bench, not a boat, but the cross. We have a cross in our baptistry, one alighting the steeple, and some may even have them hanging around your neck or on the walls in your house. Why? John Stott observes:

The fact that a cross became the Christian symbol, and that Christians stubbornly refused, in spite of the ridicule, to discard it in favor of something less offensive, can have only one explanation. It means that the centrality of the cross originated in the mind of Jesus himself. It was out of loyalty to him that his followers clung so doggedly to this sign.[8]

Jesus humbled himself to atone for our sins as our substitute. To say he died for our sins is correct. But that’s like saying, “My car runs on fuel.” It’s true, but there is so much more behind how that’s accomplished. There are so many different factors and variables at play that it’s stunning any of it took place. It’s fascinating—and well worth exploring!

We were guilty before our righteous Creator. Though we could not do anything to relieve our guilt, Jesus came and paid that ransom on the cross to satisfy God’s righteous anger against us. “He made him to be sin who knew no sin,” Paul wrote the Corinthian church, “so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus was “humbled.” And that is why God calls us as Christians to humility—if they are in Christ, then they will have the mind of Christ. Look with me at Philippians 2:1-4

1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Jesus could have stayed in heaven, kept on those robes of glory and maintained his status. But he didn’t. We needed to be rescued. Michael Horton notes:

The goal of the cross was not simply to punish but to restore. If we dig beneath all the symptoms of our troubled lives and our distressed world, the root of it all is a broken covenant. That is the wound that the cosmos cannot heal, but that God has healed by establishing peace through the cross of his Son. We will never exhaust the richness of this gospel because it reverberates into every nook and cranny of our lives, our history, and our world.[9]

Do we have this mind of Christ? Do we see the cross as a route to encouragement, comfort from love, participation in the Spirit that indwells every believer in Jesus? Do we have the same mind, the same love, being in full accord of one mind? Or do we have rivalry, looking to ourselves more than others? Is that having the mind of Christ?

4. We confess Christ to the people.

Paul closes out this great passage by saying:

9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

God sent Him low (the cross) then exalted him high (the crown). Michael Emlet makes it clear that “the coming of the kingdom in Jesus Christ is the climax of the biblical story. . . . Grace comes to people at the cost of his life. The way of the cross remains the pattern for our lives until Jesus returns to bring an end to sin and suffering.”[10] He is the point of it all. He told the disciples in Luke 24:27 “all that the Law and Prophets spoke of Him.” His name is the highest, the greatest, and the one through whom every person on earth will bow in submission.

The question is, When?

The word ‘confess’ (exomologeo) means to acknowledge, to profess, to give one honor. It can mean to ‘acknowledge joyfully.’[11] But notice who is confessing: “in heaven” (yes, the angels worship and adore Him—see Isaiah 6:1-3), “on earth” (those on earth who have surrendered to Jesus), and those “under the earth” (even those in the grave and in hell?).

Now, does this mean that everyone will be saved, submitting to Jesus as Lord? Hardly! Hebrews 9:27 clearly says, “It is destined for man to die once, and after that the judgment.” When Paul begged the Philippians to “let your walk be in a manner worthy of the gospel,” he is saying, “Walk as if Jesus is your Master—walk showing who you are, a child transformed and justified by grace through faith! Live in light of the great payment He paid on the cross to take our guilt, thus having God declare us righteous!

 


[1]R.C. Sproul and Mark Driscoll, What is the Biggest Upcoming Theological Battle? Accessed 2 December 2009; available at http://theresurgence.com/biggest-theological-battle [on-line]; Internet.

[2]Dan Kimball, They Love Jesus But Hate the Church

[3]Brendan Miniter, “What Would Jesus Drive?” (November 25, 2002). Accessed 2 December 2009; available at http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/bminiter/?id=110002680 [on-line]; Internet.

[4]The American Patriot’s Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2009). Accessed 2 December 2009; available at http://www.americanpatriotsbible.com/.

[5]Stephen Prothero, American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003), 3.

[6]See Matthew Henry, Commentary on Philippians. Here is his divine nature: Who being in the form of God (v. 6), partaking of the divine nature, as the eternal and only begotten Son of God. This agrees with Jn. 1:1, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God: it is of the same import with being the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), and the brightness of his glory, and express image of his person, Heb. 1:3. He thought it no robbery to be equal with God; did not think himself guilty of any invasion of what did not belong to him, or assuming another’s right. He said, I and my Father are one, Jn. 10:30. It is the highest degree of robbery for any mere man or mere creature to pretend to be equal with God, or profess himself one with the Father. This is for a man to rob God, not in tithes and offerings, but of the rights of his Godhead, Mal. 3:8. Some understand being in the form of Goden morphe Theou hyparchon, of his appearance in a divine majestic glory to the patriarchs, and the Jews, under the Old Testament, which was often called the glory, and the Shechinah.

[7]Bryan Chapell, Using Illustrations with Power

[8]John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove: IVP, 1986), 25.

[9]Michael S. Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009), 82.

[10]Michael Emlet, CrossTalk: Where Life and Scripture Meet (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2009), 44, 46.

[11]BYM Morphology + Gingrich. BibleWorks 7

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