Thursday, December 31, 2009

4 Top Ten Books Read In 2009

Following the lead of several others whose blogs I frequent, I thought I'd compile a list of the most meaningful books I've read in 2009. Not to say that my opinions are authoritative in any way, but these books are those that struck me most significantly this past year. Note that 1) this list is not in any particular order, and 2) these books aren't all published this year - I've simply read them since January 1, 2009:

1. Craig Biehl, The Infinite Merit of Christ: The Glory of Christ's Obedience in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards

A very worthwhile study of a core issue in the correct understanding of justification - the infinite nature and perfection of Christ's righteousness and, indeed, his merit. This incredibly important doctrine is under attack from many quarters, both within and without Reformed circles. As I have been unashamed to proclaim time and again, the imputation of Christ's righteousness - not the mere payment of penalty but the imputation of a perfect record of heartfelt obedience and service to God in righteous holiness MUST be reckoned to everyone who spends eternity in God's courts. Modern and pre-modern deniers of this doctrine abound.... and Biehl takes the opportunity through exploring Edwards's doctrine of the perfect merit of Christ to re-emphasize the centrality of this imputed, alien righteousness to soteriology. Not to be missed.

2. John Fesko, Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine

I was very pleased to see this come out. As worthwhile as the classic book by Buchanan is, Dr. Fesko has served the church in a very significant way in putting together a new, clear and Scripturally sound testimony to the classic reformed formulations of justification, contrary to modern retellings and re-imaginings of justification by the Federal Vision crew. Especially important in this context, I think, are the chapters on Justification and the Covenant of Works, Justification and the Work of Christ, and Justification and Union with Christ.

3. Danny Hyde, In Living Color: Images of Christ and the Means of Grace

Calling us back to the plain and powerful means of Grace that God has instituted for the feeding of the flock, Danny Hyde gives a straightforward rebuttal to the common teaching that images of Jesus Christ are allowable and desirable. The way that Hyde sets the tendency of man to want to use images in order to make God more manageable (and even to rationalize this as a "good teaching instrument") vs. the means God ordained for instructing and feeding the flock - preaching the Word and administering the sacraments - very squarely addresses the contrast we must have in view as we consider the issue of images of Christ. This work was very helpful and edifying.

4. R. Scott Clark, Recovering the Reformed Confession

Scott Clark's Recovering the Reformed Confession addresses several elements in the development of churches that derive from the Reformed Confessional traditions of the UK and the Continent, and points us back to a recovery of the key distinctives of these traditions - to consider what's Reformed about being Reformed today. Clark's is a broader treatment of similar issues to those explored by Hyde in In Living Color - a firm call to the church to return to the simplicity of the God-ordained means of grace, and to the Reformed Confessions that used to define who we are. In the 20th cenutry (and before, as I'm sure Clark would agree) the churches emanating from Reformed roots have seemingly undergone a sad decline, wherein all the things that once served to distinguish the carefully laid out doctrine and practices of the Confessionally Reformed have been gradually diluted from the system. It's as though these churches have rejected the distinction of being a rich, crusty, whole grain artisan bread loaf to adopt, rather, the form of bland convenience-store white bread... all in the name of being 'relevant' and 'attractive' to the general populace. It's time to recover what's been lost, and to explore why it was our ancestors in the faith among the Puritan and Reformed Orthodox took such pains to distinguish themselves and to carefully outline what they believe Scripture teaches. Not to be missed, this book - a needed wakeup call.

5. Michael Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World

It's hard to say enough good about this book - and, perhaps, hard to convince those among the Reformed and conservative evangelical communities that their church lacks a sufficiently strong focus on the regular preaching of the Gospel. Horton drives the ball straight down the middle of the fairway in this book, and pulls no punches in asserting the absolute necessity of the preaching of the Gospel (the announcement of good news for all the people... that Christ satisfied the Law perfectly for His people, that He died, taking upon Himself the punishment due the sins of His people, and was raised in proclamation of the finished nature of his Atonement and the glorious future that awaits the saints of God because of what He has done) to both unbelievers and believers alike. Horton addresses particularly the common perception that what believers in the church is more advice on living the victorious Christian life, instead of the continual reminder that they are desperately in need each day, each moment, of the full pardon from sin that is afforded only by Jesus Christ having died in their place. A critical book, and worth the cost ten times over.

6. Jason Stellman, Dual Citizens: Worship and Life Between the Already and the Not Yet

Stellman takes to task the relatively common statement that all of life is Worship, and makes clear that in fact there is a need to distinguish the sacred acts of the covenant community wherein together they worship the Lord our God from the daily lives of individual Christians in the world of men. Reading this book requires one to take a step back from what is really thrust upon us culturally, I think, as Reformed Christians. The notion that all of life is worship is very tightly ingrained, I think, in part because we so highly value the sovereignty of God in our corner of Christ's Kingdom - and so we want to make sure that we recognize that the Lord is indeed over all things through dedicating everything we do to Him. One of the points Stellman makes in this book is that, no, it's not worship, merely because we have done our work as unto the Lord. The means of grace God has endowed the church with distinguish what goes on as we gather corporately from the lives we live among all men outside those corporate gatherings. Good, thought-provoking material.

7. Matthew Henry, Family Religion: Principles for Raising a Godly Family

From the venerable Matthew Henry, known to most as one of the Puritan commentators par excellence, comes an important collection of four pieces on the family. The first two primarily deal with the role of fathers and parents in raising children according to Deuteronomy 6, raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, through catechism, family worship, etc.; the second two primarily address the place of children in the covenant people of God, and the doctrine of baptism. For any parents of young children - or not-as-yet-parents, this book is an absolutely fantastic resource for consideration of the critical task of building a Christ-centered home.

8. Edward Fisher, with Thomas Boston, The Marrow of Modern Divinity

Little needs to be said about The Marrow of Modern Divinity, a work that was not without its controversy in its day, but which is still praised by many as a classic text on covenant theology. I would suggest it for anyone who'd like a solid introduction to the concepts of covenant theology. It is written in something that's reminiscent of Pilgrim's Progress, that is, it takes the form of a dialog among several characters - Nomista, a legalist, Antinomista, you guessed it - an antinomian, Neophytus, a new Christian, and finally Evangelista - the pastor. Through their dialog, the author exposits the covenant of works and the covenant of grace in a lively and edifying manner. Extremely helpful, too, are the extensive notes of Thomas Boston, which serve to expand upon and explain the dialog to the reader. The new reprint by Christian focus is very nice, and should be an attractive buy.

9. William Ames, A Sketch of the Christian's Catechism

This was an exciting find - the first of a new series of books edited by R. Scott Clark (see above) entitled Classic Reformed Theology published by Reformation Heritage Books. Ames took an interesting approach in these expositions, which are keyed to the Heidelberg Catechism's Lord's Days. It's one of very little work by Ames that's in modern reprint, and an excellent early flavor of English Puritan thought - and shows the deep connection between Ames and the continental tradition (Ames was one of those English divines invited to sit at the Synod of Dort in 1618-19). This wonderful collection contains brief expositions worthy of studying alongside the Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day by Lord's Day; each week a short section of Scripture which illustrates the theme of that Day's Catechism selection is exposited by way of several short lessons. This would make for excellent family devotional material.

(A second volume in this series, An Exposition of the Apostle's Creed by Caspar Olevianus, is coming soon - and I suspect it might make my top reads of 2010!)

10. Samuel Rutherford, The Letters of Samuel Rutherford

Finally, and last but certainly by no means least, this volume of Rutherford's Letters blew me away this year. I've not technically finished it, but it certainly makes the list. One wonders whatever happened to the art and beauty of letter writing - and why it is that Christians don't seem any longer to talk like this with one another. Rutherford can be penetrating and pastoral, direct and understanding all at the same time. These brief letters (thanks be to God for Banner of Truth's reprinting this much larger collection!) contain some real nuggets of beautiful Christian devotion... it's no wonder that Spurgeon praised them as "the nearest thing to inspiration that can be found in all the writings of men." Wonderful stuff for brief periods of devotional reading, with an easy chair and a good Scottish Ale by your side.

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Well, that does it. Easy enough to put together a list of excellent reads - it's been a very good year for Reformed publishing, and I can't wait to see the new titles coming along soon in 2010. May the Lord of Glory bless you as you seek His Face in the coming year. May He keep you in His favor and shine the goodness of His countenance upon you all, dear readers.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

0 Caryl: The Central Lessons of Job

In the introductory chapter of Joseph Caryl's Exposition of Job, the author outlines the basic questions answered by the book of Job, and then specifies seven central teachings of the book. The two questions that he argues Job deals with are summarized by Caryl in the following words:
"The main and principal subject of this book is contained (and I may give it to you) in one verse of the 34th Psalm: Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of all. (Ps. 34:19)

Concerning this subject there are two great questions handled and disputed fully and clearly in this book. The first is this, whether it is consistent with the justice and goodness of God to afflict a righteous and sincere person, to strip him naked, to take away all his outward comforts. Or, whether it is consistent with the justice and goodness of God, that it should go ill with those who are good, and that it should go well with those that are evil. This is one great debate, the main question throughout the book. And then secondly, here is another great dispute in reference to the former. Namely, whether we may judge of the righteousness, or unrighteousness, of the sincereity or hypocrisy of any person, by the outward dealings and present dispensations of God towards him. That is a second question here debated." (p. 6, Joseph Caryl, Exposition of Job)
As Caryl notes, the "friends" of Job answer the first question negatively and the second positively... and Job maintains, throughout, the opposite answers. In the answering of these questions, and the discussions and debates between Job and his friends, and then later the dialog between Job and the Lord Himself, we find that we may learn several important lessons, according to our expositor. These, briefly, are:
  1. How to handle a cross. When in conflict or affliction, terror or strife, Job teaches us how we are to, with patience and confidence, maintain our composure and dedication to the Lord God by whose decree all situations and circumstances come to pass.
  2. All afflictions are ordered by God's providential hand.
  3. God is sovereign over all things, to the minutest detail. He has power over us, our possessions, our lives, and we must therefore submit to Him in all things.
  4. God afflicts for His purposes only, to accomplish His ends - and sometimes such afflictions are not merely for the purposes of temporal punishment.
  5. Our best conditions - the best of our circumstances must always be taken as uncertain and not in any sense guaranteed. We therefore must learn to hold things lightly and yield all to God's wise counsels.
  6. True faith is invincible. Faith, according to Ephesians 2:8-10, is the gift of God - and is irrevocable. The faith of the elect will stand trial in the evil day.
  7. God NEVER forsakes His own. The elect shall, as noted by Christ in His Good Shepherd discourse, and His High Priestly prayer, never be lost but always retained in the strong hand of God. God is EVER faithful.
  8. God's judgments are ALWAYS just, though they be many times completely secret from us. The fact that we cannot understand God's judgments at times does not imply that He is unreasonable, capricious or otherwise inconsistent with His nature as God. We must be content with the judgments of God and always praise Him for His glorious wisdom and might and right to rule over all. (Adapted from pp. 11-13, Joseph Caryl, Exposition of Job)
These are valuable lessons, and if I learn but one of them better than I know them today, I will be glad for the efforts to work my way through Caryl's work. I hope my sharing thoughts and reflections on Caryl's Exposition are edifying and thought-provoking to you. Do feel free, as always, to let me know what you think and what Caryl's thoughts bring forth in your mind as you read this blog series. Blessings to you and yours as 2010 dawns in a few days.

Monday, December 28, 2009

0 Sola5 Radio Regular Daily Programming Stream has Begun

Ever since the cancellation of New Geneva Radio (a teaching, preaching and music ministry of a good friend's church) several years ago, the internet streaming of solid Reformed/Presbyterian teaching has been more or less missing from the internet. We have tried with our latest venture, supported by the Covenant Radio podcast, to address this lack with Sola5 Radio. Our weekly schedule is now loaded at the Sola5 Radio blog, and can be obtained directly here.

We're really pleased to offer this streaming programming, and hope that you'll find it edifying and a good alternative to the over-the-air radio that in most areas of the country and world leaves MUCH to be desired. Our daily plan includes streaming from 7am ET to 9pm ET M-F and on the Lord's Day, and 7am - 5pm ET on Saturday.

From my earlier announcement, here is the basic plan of our programming. We hope that you'll find this edifying and a good alternative to over-the air radio - our desire is for this streaming station to be a constant source of solid instruction and exposition of the Word of God, as well as an outlet for the rebroadcast of sound Reformed programs. We'll be featuring each new Covenant Radio podcast on the Friday after it's recorded, as well as "back-issues" at other times during the week. We're also pleased to offer rebroadcasts of a sister podcast, Christ the Center, which offers edifying discussions of important issues for Reformed Christians, and Dr. Scott Clark's Office Hours podcasts, which feature discussions with professors at Westminster Seminary California. Finally, we also intend to feature rebroadcasts of the White Horse Inn radio program. Our teaching and preaching segments will feature Dr. Joe Morecraft on the History of the Reformation, Dr. Joel Beeke on Genesis and Dr. Alan Cairns on Romans. Interspersed with this will be readings from the Geneva Bible and various classical, Jazz and contemporary Christian pieces. We also plan to include teaching series such as audio from the Ligonier National Conferences, the Banner of Truth Conferences, and other Reformed gatherings. PLEASE DO give us feedback at the Sola5 Radio blog, or here. We hope to serve up an edifying and enjoyable menu, and want to make sure that what we produce is just that.

In order to connect to the online stream, you can go to the Sola5 Radio blog. You can also go directly to http://loudcity.com/stations/sola5-radio to get the stream.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

0 Caryl: The Word of God and its Fruit

I've decided as 2009 winds to a close to begin a study of Joseph Caryl's Exposition of Job, a mammoth 12-volume commentary recently republished in a very well done facsimile of the 17th century original printing (1644-1666) jointly by Dust and Ashes Publications and Reformation Heritage Books.

I have no fantasies about finishing the work in 2010, although stranger things have happened. What I do want to do, however, is work through it as the Lord sees fit, and blog my thoughts and reflections here as I make my way through this highly regarded work. There are some who find Puritan expositions such as this one cumbersome and exorbitantly verbose - but I honestly believe those who have such an opinion of THIS particular work haven't read it. I can sympathize to some extent with those who might take such a view of John Owen's work on Hebrews (which I've decided I shall be tackling next after this major reading project) but again I'd have to question there whether such criticism is worthy of an audience. In the case of Caryl's work, there is certainly an abundance of words - but they are merely, as Spurgeon wrote, evidence of a "full" exposition, and not one in which words are wasted or ill-spent. Caryl has made his exposition of Job a vehicle for teaching many of the great doctrines of our faith - and so I very much look forward to reading this work and recording my thoughts here. It is a masterpiece - perhaps not of brevity and concise commentary - but of Puritan exposition and teaching. (Note: Given that this is a 17th century facsimile, it is written in very old language. I will very lightly update Caryl's words - though when he quotes Scripture I will leave it alone, unless to make the tiniest of spelling changes to help the reader)

In the first chapter, Caryl makes an important point, one which ought to be kept in mind whenever one approaches the Holy Word of God, but perhaps particularly when one is brought to a more difficult book such as Job. He writes,
"That which God speaks concerning the whole work of Creation, we may speak concerning the whole book of Scripture, It is very good. Solomon observes that wheresoever the wisdom of God spake, it spoke of excellent things. (Prov. 8:6) And David, to quicken our endeavours and excite our diligence to the study of the word, prefers it in worth above thousands of gold and silver, and in sweetness above the honey and the honeycomb. And when he ceases to compare, he begins to admire, Wonderful are thy testimonies. And well may that be called Wonderful, which proceeds from the God of all Wonders. All Scripture is given by divine inspiration, (2 Tim. 3:16) or by inspiration from God; and I need not show you the excellency of any part, when I have but pointed at such an statement concerning the whole.

And therefore the whole Scripture, (whether we respect the majesty of the Author, the height or purity of the matter, the depth or perspicuity of the style, the dignity or variety of occurrences; whether we consider the art of compiling, or the strength of argument) disdains the very mention of comparison, with any other human author whatsoever. So, too, are comparisons within - e.g. book with book, chapter with chapter - dangerous. There is not in this great volume of holy counsel any book or chapter, verse or section, of greater power or authority than any other... we may fully match all Scripture together, and say, all must be received with the same devotion and affection." (pp. 3-4, Vol. 1, Joseph Caryl, Exposition of Job)
With this said, Caryl points his hearers to the fruit he hopes his exposition of (and indeed their study of) this and all Scripture will bring to them:
"Let me beseech you in the name of Christ, to take care for the carrying on of this work a degree further: I mean to translate the sense of Scripture into your lives, and to expound the Word of God by your works, Interpret it by your feet, and teach it by your fingers; (Prov. 6:13) as Solomon speaks in a different sense). That is, let your working and your walkings be Scripture explications... And therefore let the words of Christ by these verbal explications dwell richly in your understandings in all wisdom; and by a practical application, let it be held forth plentifully in your lives in all holiness. Add commentary to commentary, and exposition to exposition: add the comment of works to this comment of words, and an exposition by your lives to this exposition by our labors." (pp. 2-3, Vol. 1, Joseph Caryl, Exposition of Job)
Should this not be on our hearts and minds as we study Scripture in general? Shall it be mere learning - or shall it produce the fruit of righteousness and devotion to God in us? I know I fall woefully short in this - and thanks be to God that the glorious Gospel is indeed true... that Christ has died, is risen, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father - and that I am now righteous in Him. With that, these words from Caryl are a strong exhortation - and convicting indeed as I seek to glorify my Father in Heaven through a life lived in thanksgiving for what He has done.

May the Word of God dwell richly indeed in us - the body of Christ - that God might be glorified on Earth as He is in Heaven.

0 New Year's Blog Plan

In the coming year, in addition to topical things that come up now and then, I'm planning to blog through Joseph Caryl's masterful Exposition of Job, the 12 volume behemoth that Charles Spurgeon in his Commenting and Commentaries (found in the Banner of Truth's recent reprint of Lectures to My Students) characterized as follows:

Caryl must have inherited the patience of Job to have completed his stupendous task. It would be a mistake to suppose that he is at all prolix or redundant; he is only full. In the course of his expounding he has illustrated a very large portion of the whole Bible with great clearness and power. He is deeply devotional and spiritual. He gives us much, but none too much. Caryl's work can scarcely be superseded or surpassed.


I'm looking forward to this blog journey - as I've already found much meat in the first few chapters of Caryl's first volume.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

0 Sola5 Radio Regular Weekly Schedule begins December 28


We will continue working on the Sola5 Radio stream, featuring some of the programming that we intend to present each week. We at Covenant Radio podcast appreciate your listening to our podcasts, and hope that you'll enjoy what we're doing at Sola5 Radio. Our weekly schedule is now loaded at the Sola5 Radio blog, and can be obtained directly here.

We're really pleased to offer this streaming programming, and hope that you'll find it edifying and a good alternative to the over-the-air radio that in most areas of the country and world leaves MUCH to be desired. Roughly speaking, we'll be streaming from 7am ET to 9pm ET M-F and on the Lord's Day, and 7am - 5pm ET on Saturday.

We'll be featuring each new Covenant Radio podcast on the Friday after it's recorded, as well as "back-issues" at other times during the week. We're also pleased to offer rebroadcasts of a sister podcast, Christ the Center, which offers edifying discussions of important issues for Reformed Christians, and Dr. Scott Clark's Office Hours podcasts, which feature discussions with professors at Westminster Seminary California. Finally, we also intend to feature rebroadcasts of the White Horse Inn radio program. Our teaching and preaching segments will feature Dr. Joe Morecraft on the History of the Reformation, Dr. Joel Beeke on Genesis and Dr. Alan Cairns on Romans. Interspersed with this will be readings from the Geneva Bible and various classical, Jazz and contemporary Christian pieces. We also plan to include teaching series such as audio from the Ligonier National Conferences, the Banner of Truth Conferences, and other Reformed gatherings. PLEASE DO give us feedback at the Sola5 Radio blog, or here. We hope to serve up an edifying and enjoyable menu, and want to make sure that what we produce is just that.

In order to connect to the online stream, you can go to the Sola5 Radio blog. You can also go directly to http://loudcity.com/stations/sola5-radio to get the stream.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

0 Sola 5 Radio is back online this week! Enjoy....


After working out some of the kinks, Sola5 Radio will be streaming, Lord willing, this week, in test mode. This is a venture of the Covenant Radio podcast, and we hope will bless you in our presentation of teaching, music and exposition of the Word. Sola5 Radio has a blog at http://sola5.wordpress.com, where program listings will be presented, and from which the stream is accessible. You can also go directly to http://loudcity.com/stations/sola5-radio to get the stream.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

0 Double Dip Day at Covenant Radio

At Covenant Radio today we're going to have two programs. The first we're recording at 2pm EST with Jim Barr, a representative of BibleWorks, and in it we plan to introduce the software package to the listeners, presenting its history, primary strengths and the niche it has in the Bible software market, etc. Bill and I both use BibleWorks a great deal and have found it to be an excellent resource for pastors and teachers who desire to study the Biblical text from the perspective of the original languages. I will be posting another couple reviews of BibleWorks here at In Principio Deus (label: Bibleworks 8 Reviews) in the coming weeks as I continue to become familiar with its analysis and study capabilities. I believe Bill will be too at his blog, The Parchment.

The second show today will actually be live, commencing at 6pm EST, and will be Part 2 of our discussion with Dr. Michael Horton of his book, The Gospel Driven Life. We are very much looking forward to resuming our conversation on this key element of the Christian faith, and invite any of you who are able to to listen in LIVE, at http://live.covenantradio.com. If you're unable to tune in live, you can, as always grab the podcast, which should be made available tomorrow. The Covenant Radio podcast can be subscribed either at iTunes, Zune, or from this direct address.

If you've not got a copy of this book, get one - it's well worth the extremely low price as a reminder of the greatness and glory of the Gospel message. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

0 Michael Horton on Covenant Radio: The Gospel-Driven Life, part I is Available

For those who didn't catch the broadcast live, the interview Bill Hill and I did tonight on Covenant Radio with Dr. Michael Horton on his new book, The Gospel-Driven Life is now up and available iTunes, Zune, or from this direct address.

This is only Part I of a two-part interview - we could have gone on easily for 2 more hours. As it was, we took an extra half hour of Dr. Horton's time than we had previously arranged, and we're glad he was able and willing to do so. The central issue Horton explores in The Gospel-Driven Life is, as you might guess, The Gospel - the good news of Jesus Christ and His finished work and completed salvation of His people. The message of the Gospel is simple - an announcement - GOOD NEWS - concerning Christ and His atoning work by which sinners are saved. Dr. Horton presents the Gospel clearly in this book, and discusses the desperate need of the church to return to that fountain of grace daily for strength for our journey. We are most certainly looking forward to December 17, 6pm EST when we'll pick up the conversation again, and invite any of you who are able to to listen in LIVE, at http://live.covenantradio.com.

Again, though the horse is dead, I'll beat it again: If you've not got a copy of this book, get one - it's well worth the extremely low price as a reminder of the greatness and glory of the Gospel message. You'll be glad you did.

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Late news:

Apparently the Gospel message that Horton presents in this book is insufficiently wise (or something?) for some internet pundits. The claim at the linked blog post is that Horton does not understand the Gospel (because he puts it simply, I suppose, in terms of the finished work of Christ for His people!) Despite what is claimed in that blog post, and fully to the contrary, Horton has, in The Gospel-Driven Life, given one of the soundest and clearest definitions of the Gospel, and a clarion call to the church to rely upon the Gospel for in it, and in it ALONE does she find her salvation. Fools stumble upon this point - but then so did the works-oriented Jews of Christ's day:
Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone,as it is written, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame." (Rom 9:32-33 ESV)

but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:23-24 ESV)
See two good comments addressing this silly controversy of Horton's clear understanding of the Gospel:

at Old Life Theological Society
at De Regnis Duobus

0 Tonight, LIVE on Covenant Radio, 6pm EST, December 3: Michael Horton and The Gospel-Driven Life

At Covenant Radio tonight, starting at 6pm EST, 3pm PST, we will be doing a special LIVE broadcast of our interview with Dr. Michael Horton on his book, The Gospel-Driven Life. (To join the live chat and get the live audio stream, go to
http://live.covenantradio.com. The chatroom will open at about 5:45pm EST)

As I have noted already in this blog, this book is a fantastic analysis of the impact of the gospel on our lives and the problems inherent in viewing the gospel as merely the initiation of the Christian life, as is common today. Horton urges us daily to be mindful of the gospel as THE central truth of our daily walk, and indeed the totality of our lives from beginning to end - and warns against the erroneous conceptions of the gospel that are prevalent in today's church. Bill and I are very much looking forward to our discussion with Dr. Horton, and invite you to join us LIVE tonight at 6pm EST.

Also, stay tuned on this blog for more discussion of issues Horton brings up in The Gospel-Driven Life. Again, for those interested in joining in on the live chat and discussion, please see this link:
http://live.covenantradio.com. If you're unable to tune in live, you can, as always grab the podcast, which should be made available tomorrow. The Covenant Radio podcast can be subscribed either at iTunes, Zune, or from this direct address.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

0 Acts-style Evangelism

1. Proclaim the judgment of God on all mankind.
2. Proclaim the Gospel truth, which is that Christ has fulfilled the Scriptures.
3. Baptize the many who, convicted of their sin and of the truth of the Gospel, cry out in belief, throwing themselves upon God's mercy in Christ.

(adapted from p. 93 of Dr. Michael Horton's excellent work, The Gospel-Driven Life)

Why can't we do it that simply? If the Word of God is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe, why can't its simple proclamation (in the whole counsel thereof) be sufficient for us? God cannot be marketed. The Truth simply must be proclaimed, and the results left to God.

Hear more at this blog, or at Covenant Radio this Thursday as we interview Dr. Horton on the program. You can subscribe to the podcast here.

0 Having Been Brought from Death to Life

From today's reading:
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:1-14 ESV)
The message is simple enough: live as one who has been brought from death to life. Do we really hear this for what it says, though?

It's easy enough to read passages like this and think to onesself, "Sure, I am supposed to stay clear of wickedness - and as long as I'm free from sins of adultery, murder, etc., I'm good before God in this respect." However, the Lord has much more for us than that simplistic and prideful result. What does God mean when He says, through Paul, to live as those who have been brought from death to life?

As I read these words this morning, I spent a little time pondering this question, and realizing that as much as I might know that merely eschewing the truly gross sins of our age is not all God intends for us here, I slip into that mindset quite easily. What I believe we're to find in Christ is true freedom from sin, great and small... freedom truly to rest in our identity as those raised with Christ to the heavenlies, raised with Him in His resurrection, and DEAD to sin. If all we do is satisfy ourselves with avoiding the deadly seven, we're not really experiencing the freedom that we would otherwise experience. Sin in any degree must become something we are prepared at all costs to root out and cast into the fire. It has to become distasteful - rather than becoming something we like to dabble in while simultaneously excusing ourselves for it with a blithe "God understands I'm not perfect yet." Am I calling for us to be spending every second of every day morbidly inspecting ourselves for vestiges of sin? No - but if we truly begin to comprehend the magnitude of the offensiveness of sin in God's eyes, we will - I believe Scripture affirms this - naturally come to a sufficient hatred of sin that even the little things will become distasteful enough to us to cast aside.

We are to live as those whose death penalty has been commuted - whose place at the gallows has been taken by another who did not deserve the punishment we richly deserved. Knowing the righteousness with which God views us in Christ cannot - MAY IT NEVER BE, Paul says - lead to licentiousness. Rather - it must lead us to adopt a new perspective towards God's commandments and towards sin. God's commandments must become ever more lovely to our eyes, and sin ever more distasteful and ugly. We must be driven to our knees in repentance - daily repentance, as Luther cried at the dawn of the Reformation - and driven to seek a righteous path; not to earn salvation, but to joyfully revel in the salvation we have and to please our Heavenly Father who granted us Christ's righteousness and the faith to embrace it for ourselves, relinquishing all worldliness and seeking godliness in everything. From death to life. That is what journey we have been through, and what journey we are on till Christ comes again or takes us home. Let us go forth, therefore, in joy and the peace of the Lord.
 

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