by Dan Phillips It started Monday morning when I checked in through Facebook, and received a witty reply:

cbc checkin

That put an idea in my mind, and the rest, as they say… well, you know what they say. For you who don't do Twitter or were doing something else (like ministry), here are highlights — and, like SHST, I'll be adding updates probably until about noon Texas time:

Actually, this does it better:

(To be clear: 

this Michael Brown

, not the Ferguson Michael Brown)

…and finally…
UPDATES

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Your weekly dose of Spurgeon

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Speeches at Home and Abroad, page 71, Pilgrim Publications.

“The great object of our church teaching should be to educate efficient workersworkers filled with holy ardour, strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.”

I was requested to address this meeting upon the subject of Christian work, and I will now, without further apologies or salutations, proceed at once to what I have to say.

Is it not God’s chief end in the conversion of sinners, and in the sanctification of his people, to promote his own glory by making each converted man and woman his instrument for enlarging his kingdom?

Not for ourselves alone does he give us grace. The design of our heavenly Father in all his gracious work for us, and in us, is, that we should become willingly his servants here, and in perfection his servants for ever above.

Should we not all of us press forward beyond the winning of personal security, to the desire that, by our influence, example, and labours, others may be turned from sin unto righteousness, and so be plucked as brands from the burning?


TeamPyro
by Phil Johnson

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland — usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will “accidentally” swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following except was written by Phil back in April 2007. Phil addressed a common—and seriously erroneous—view of propitiation.

As usual, the comments are closed.

Too many Christians think of divine forgiveness as something that utterly overturns justice and sets it aside—as if God's mercy nullified His justice—as if God's love defeated and revoked His hatred of sin. That's not how forgiveness works.


Is forgiveness from sin grounded only in the love and mercy and goodness of God—apart from his justice? Does love alone prompt the Almighty to forego the due penalty of sin, wipe out the record of our wrongdoing, and nullify the claims of justice against us, unconditionally?

Or must God Himself be propitiated? In other words, do His righteousness and His holy wrath against sin need to be satisfied before He can forgive?

It truly seems as if most people today—including multitudes who identify themselves as Christians—think God forgives merely because His love overwhelms His holy hatred of sin. Some go even further, rejecting the notion of propitiation altogether, claiming it makes God seem too harsh. The problem with every such view of the atonement is that mercy without propitiation turns forgiveness into an act of injustice.

That is a seriously erroneous view. As a matter of fact, that very idea was one of the main errors of Socinianism.

The original Socinians were 16th-century heretics who denied that God demands any payment for sin as a prerequisite to forgiveness. They insisted instead that He forgives our sin out of the sheer bounty of His kindness alone. They argued that if God demanded an atonement—an expiation, a payment, a reprisal, or a propitiation—for sin, then we shouldn't really call it “forgiveness” when He absolves us. They claimed that sin could either be paid for or forgiven, but not both.

In other words, they defined forgiveness in a way that contradicts and contravenes justice. They were essentially teaching that God could not maintain the demands of His justice and forgive sins at the same time. They thought of forgiveness and justice as two incompatible ideas.

Scripture expressly refutes that idea. One of the most glorious truths of the gospel is that God saved us in a way that upheld His justice. Justice was neither compromised nor set aside; it was completely satisfied. God Himself was thus fully propitiated. And our salvation is therefore grounded in the justice of God as well as His mercy.

Our thoughts about such things are almost always too shallow. We take God's mercy for granted and ignore His holy justice. But a right view of God will always exalt His righteous hatred for sin as much as it magnifies His love and mercy. God's mercy is not some maudlin sentiment that causes Him to forget about His holiness and set aside His righteous anger against sin. The demands of righteousness must be fully and completely satisfied if God is ever going to forgive sin. He cannot and will not simply overlook sin as if it didn't really matter.

In other words, the gospel is not only a message about the love of God. It is that; but it is not only that. The true gospel magnifies His justice as much as it magnifies His love.

When was the last time you thought of the gospel as a message about divine justice?

“Without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).


by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland — usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will “accidentally” swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following except was written by Dan back in February 2011. Dan addressed the popular but false ideas behind the slogan “Love, not doctrine.”

As usual, the comments are closed.

Breaking news: Jesus talked about love!

Well honestly, the way I see it mentioned hither and yon, you'd think there was a segment of the church which denied that statement. If so, I've yet to meet it. Certainly there are parts which aren't very good at it, but denial? Denigration? I don't think I've ever heard anyone deny or denigrate genuine, Biblical love — not the way folks have repeatedly denigrated doctrine.

Love is the mark of a disciple (John 13:34-35). In this passage, our Lord does not say that doctrine is the mark of a disciple, or that correctness is the mark of a disciple, or even that truth is the mark of a disciple. So love, some would say, clearly supplants concerns about correct doctrine.

Not so fast. Why stop there? Jesus also does not say that monotheism is the mark of a disciple. He does not say that abstaining from murderrape, or theft is the mark of a disciple. He does not say that wearing clothes or eating are marks of a disciple. He does not even say that believing in Him, in any sense, is the mark of a disciple.

So what have we established? Only that Jesus didn't say what He didn't say in this passage. Which, hopefully, all are agreed upon. We had better hope He said other things, somewhere. Because if all we had were this passage, we would not even know what this passage meant! I mean, what is love? Warm feelings? Cheesy sentimentalism? Coddling? Indulging? Unconditional approval and enabling? Indifference towards damaging (or even damning) error? Treacly benevolence?

So rather than camping on this passage as if it were the only thing Jesus ever said, without any context, what if we — oh, I don't know — considered everything Jesus said? Shall we?

So we ask: is this the only thing Jesus ever said about love, or about what should distinguish His followers? Hardly. Let's start with the latter:  “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?” Jesus asks (Luke 6:46). So right away, we know that Jesus expects obedience to His words to characterize His real followers.  Nor do we see a hierarchy, as if one may obey some but disregard others. Jesus seems to think that He is our Lord, or He is not; and if He is, what He says should produce obedience in us.

Whatever He means by “love” in John 13, then, it must be characterized and framed by obedience to His words — which, as we just saw, leads us to the rest of the New Testament, and back to the whole of the Old Testament as well.

In fact, Jesus Himself ties those ideas together, repeatedly (John 14:15, 21, 23-24, 15:10). So would He ever have tolerated a notion of love divorced from a specific, set doctrinal framework? Fantasy-Jesus, yes. Fantasy-Jesus thinks all sorts of things, largely things that will keep the world's good graces. The actual Jesus, however, the one who really lived and lives — He would never have conceived of such a view.

Love for God comes first (Matthew 22:37-40). Then, and only then, is it followed by love of neighbor. And what, pray, is love for God? The concept is explained and given full color in the Old Testament, whence Jesus mined this gold. Let's just lift a snippet:

“You shall therefore love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always.” (Deuteronomy 11:1)

Do you see it yet again? Love for God walks hand in hand with wholehearted acceptance of the full authority of all of God's words. But what is more, plugging in Deuteronomy, it means doctrinal loyalty, it means clinging wholly to the true God — which is to say as well, to the doctrinal truth about God — in the face of all opposing doctrines. It is loyal devotion to God, as His doctrine is revealed in Scripture alone.


by Dan Phillips

Last week I launched a few Tweets on a theme I've hit in the past and mean to develop more in the near future. You may have heard of it: the sufficiency of Scripture.

The specific point I was making was that, if we really believed it, we'd start there, rather than making stuff up and then testing it by Scripture. Here was one of my tweets:

Someone who doesn't follow my account (and thus understandably may not “get” where the shorthand of my tweet was coming from) responded, “So then why do we hear sermons in church instead of just Scripture readings?”

I take it that the idea is, if Scripture is enough, why say anything else? Why not just stand up and read it, and be good with that?

The question itself makes my brain itch. But the calmer DJP says “Teaching opportunity!” so, here we go.

The truth of the sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contains everything for which we need a word from God. That's what it does mean. It doesn't mean that, whenever we have a need, we whip out a Bible and read a passage at random without a moment's thought (before or after), and call it good.

The life of faith and obedience that the Bible (the Bible, the words in the Bible, the contents of what Scripture teaches) calls us to means that we read it, study it, understand it, think about it, and apply it.

So here's this “church”-thingie. What's it for? What am I supposed to look for in it? Who leads it? If I'm one of those leader-people, what am I supposed to do?

From what Scripture teaches me, I should start with the assumption that I don't have one clue, no idea whatever — unless I get that idea from Scripture itself. (If you're not clear on why that is, I can recommend something that goes to the literal heart of the matter in great Biblical detail.) So I consciously set aside my assumptions and biases and preferences, and go to the Bible, God's Word, believing that it contains everything for which I need a word from God.

So, let's fast-forward through decades of study and all, and get to the bottom-line: if Scripture is sufficient, then why do we preach sermons, in church?

Because that sufficient Scripture tells us to. See, for instance, 1 Timothy 3:2; 4:13; 5:17; and 2 Timothy 4:1-2; Titus 1:9.

See? That's how it works. It won't teach anyone who is unteachable — nothing does that. But it does give us everything for which we need a word from God.

Like to hear that opened up even further, live and in person? I know this conference that's coming up. We'd love it if you came!

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by Dan Phillips

If I were to ask what leprechauns, mermaids, and loving homosexual couples have in common, I'm pretty sure this readership would have the answer. I'd like to help you explain why you answer as you do.

What they have in common with each other is, of course, that they are all mythical creatures, living only in fantasy and imagination and every movie, TV show, and commercial in existence… or at least that's true in the latter case.

This is a truth that has obviously not reached everybody. In fact, apparently it hasn't even reached those who made the decision to become spotlight-Christians, performers whose entire career is predicated on their claim to be Christian — which is to say, lifelong and advancing students of the words of God (John 8:31-32). I have in mind here folks like Dan Haseltine, lead singer for the group Jars of Clay. Note this tweet of his:

This “loving gay couples” meme is heard so much today; it's hard not to think in response:

The whole stands or falls, of course, on the definition of “love.” If “love” means sexual arousal, well then, okey doke sport, I guess if you say so. Or if it means fondness, affection, attraction, or a hundred other emotional and even volitional states… well, how would we even have the discussion? If it's all about emotion, the “discussion” is really beside the point, isn't it? Feelings are thought…well, felt… to be self-validating. After all, you've got to follow your heart, right? And your heart is all about what you feel. Right?

Unless you start with the fear of God (Prov. 1:7) instead of the lordship of Ego. Then, everything changes.

To begin with the fear of God is to acknowledge, from the outset, the Lordship and ultimacy of God, and the dependence and fallenness of man. It is to acknowledge that our hearts cannot be trusted (Prov. 28:26 {NAS]; Jer. 17:9). It is to acknowledge that real life is only found in knowing God through His word (Prov. 3:18; 4:13; John 6:63, 68). It is to see that rebellion and unbelief are the sure way of death and misery (Gen. 2:17; Pro. 8:36; Rom. 6:23).

As we learn from God how He wants us to treat others, we learn that He wants us to love them, even if they are our enemies (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 5:44). We learn that love is not primarily about feeling. Love is about doing what is for the greatest good of the other, even if that costs us (cf. Exod. 23:4-5; Prov. 25:21). We see the grandest display of love in the Father's gift of His son for our salvation (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9).

So, you see, there never was such a thing as a “loving homosexual couple.” Nor was there ever yet a “loving adulterous couple,” or a “loving fornicating couple.” Accomplices? Yes. Co-conspirators, co-perpetrators? Sure. But loving? Never.

Love is a commitment to the good of the other — and rebellion against God is never for the good of the other. Sin against God is never for the good of the other. Turning away from life and love and forgiveness and reconciliation, and embracing guilt and wrath and doom and despair, wrapped in a straitjacket of rationalizations and distractions — these things are never about the good of the other.

Real love will point someone away from sin and death, and to Christ, the Gospel, life and forgiveness. If that
Christward call to repentant faith is absent, so is love.

This is one of those cases where the crystal-clear thinking that the fear of God teaches can stand as a bright beacon of witness to God's wisdom, in our murky, fogbound culture.

That is, if fitting in with the culture isn't our highest ambition. Which it never will be, once our own world has been tilted by the Gospel.

Postscript: this and related matters are opened more fully in “Adultery De-Glamorized,” a sermon on Proverbs 6:24-35.

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Your weekly dose of Spurgeon

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 34, sermon number 2,027, “The sluggard's farm.”

“If you are slothful, friend, look over the field of your heart, and weep at the sight.” 

May I ask you to look into your own house and home? It is a dreadful thing when a man does not cultivate the field of his own family.

I recollect in my early days a man who used to walk out with me into the villages when I was preaching. I was glad of his company till I found out certain facts, and then I shook him off, and I believe he hooked on to somebody else, for he must needs be gadding abroad every evening of the week.

He had many children, and these grew up to be wicked young men and women, and the reason was that the father, while he would be at this meeting and that, never tried to bring his own children to the Saviour. What is the use of zeal abroad if there is neglect at home? How sad to say, “My own vineyard have I not kept.”

Have you never heard of one who said he did not teach his children the ways of God because he thought they were so young that it was very wrong to prejudice them, and he had rather leave them to choose their own religion when they grew older?

One of his boys broke his arm, and while the surgeon was setting it the boy was swearing all the time. “Ah,” said the good doctor, “I told you what would happen. You were afraid to prejudice your boy in the right way, but the devil had no such qualms; he has prejudiced him the other way, and pretty strongly too.”

It is our duty to prejudice our field in favour of corn, or it will soon be covered with thistles. Cultivate a child’s heart for good, or it will go wrong of itself, for it is already depraved by nature. Oh that we were wise enough to think of this, and leave no little one to become a prey to the destroyer.

 


by Frank Turk

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland — usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will “accidentally” swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following except was written by Frank back in January 2010. Frank explained how and why a concrete love of neighbor (as in the Parable of the Good Samaritan) glorifies God.

As usual, the comments are closed.

There’s a way in which God is glorified which, I think, we overlook pretty regularly. And I have a passage of Scripture about that which I’d like to present and discuss:

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

Think about that: for Jesus, it was enough to say that loving God greatly (with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind) and loving men particularly (that is, the same way you love yourself) to warrant the inheritance of eternal life. There’s no mention there of resurrection or repentance, is there? Yet Christ says, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

Was Jesus preaching “sloppy agape”? Where’s the Glory of God? Where’s the law, and man’s inability? Doesn't this conversation intimate a synergistic view? How could the lawyer who was testing Him be “correct” to say that the Law demands love — in the right way, and two different kinds of love to be sure – and that this is enough to gain eternal life?

Now, think on this: the matter of loving God as it is manifest in loving people is what is at stake here. The lawyer asked the question “who is my neighbor” to “justify” himself – that is, either to demonstrate that his first question was not a trap, or to demonstrate that he is not himself a fool for asking a ridiculously simple question.

So the matter of “who is my neighbor” is about how we keep the commandment to love God and love our neighbor. And in that, Christ [as Luke tells it] gives us 3 examples of men who have some relationship with God and with an actual person.

You've heard this sermon before, I am sure: the priest avoided the man; the Levite avoided the man. But the Samaritan did not avoid the man. It seems like a kindergarten Sunday school lesson, I am sure, but let’s think about this for a minute. In John 4, the woman [a Samaritan] at the well said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans, John makes clear) That is, the Samaritans worship God apart from the Jews, and the Jews think that because of this, there is enmity between them – the Samaritans are rather less than lovers of God.

But it is the Samaritan who, as Jesus says, “proved to be a neighbor”.

Consider it: the Levite and the priest have the temple, and its sacrifices – but what do those things cause them to do? The Lawyer can cite the Sh’ma, and connect the admonition of the Sh’ma to obey God and His law to the broad command of Lev 19 which says, frankly, that you shall love your neighbor as yourself in a concrete way. Don’t lie; don’t steal; don’t cheat; care for the poor from your own portion; do not take vengeance, and do not do injustice in court. But Christ tells him that loving God requires you to love people. You can't be doing the former unless you are doing the latter.

See: God is glorified when we love. That may seem somewhat uncontroversial to some people, but there’s a reason God is glorified when we love: it is because God loves. The fact – the indisputable fact of the Bible – is that God loves men, and that love is glorifying to God.


Your weekly dose of Spurgeon

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 28, sermon number 1,653, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

“The resurrection of our Lord, according to Scripture, was the acceptance of his sacrifice.” 

By the Lord Jesus Christ rising from the dead evidence was given that he had fully endured the penalty which was due to human guilt. “The soul that sinneth it shall die”—that is the determination of the God of heaven. Jesus stands in the sinner’s stead and dies: and when he has done that nothing more can be demanded of him, for he that is dead is free from the law.

You take a man who has been guilty of a capital offence: he is condemned to be hanged, he is hanged by the neck till he is dead—what more has the law to do with him? It has done with him, for it has executed its sentence upon him; if he can be brought hack to life again he is clear from the law; no writ that runs in Her Majesty’s dominions can touch him—he has suffered the penalty.

So when our Lord Jesus rose from the dead, after having died, he had fully paid the penalty that was due to justice for the sin of his people, and his new life was a life clear of penalty, free from liability. You and I are clear from the claims of the law because Jesus stood in our stead, and God will not exact payment both from us and from our Substitute: it were contrary to justice to sue both the Surety and those for whom he stood.

And now, joy upon joy! the burden of liability which once did lie upon the Substitute is removed from him also; seeing he has by the suffering of death vindicated justice and made satisfaction to the injured law. Now both the sinner and the Surety are free.

This is a great joy, a joy for which to make the golden harps ring out a loftier style of music. He who took our debt has now delivered himself from it by dying on the cross. His new life, now that he has risen from the dead, is a life free from legal claim, and it is the token to us that we whom he represented are free also.

Listen! “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again.” It is a knockdown blow to fear when the apostle says that we cannot be condemned because Christ has died in our stead, but he puts a double force into it when he cries, “Yea rather, that is risen again.”

If Satan, therefore, shall come to any believer and say, “What about your sin?” tell him Jesus died for it, and your sin is put away. If he come a second time, and say to you, “What about your sin?” answer him, “Jesus lives, and his life is the assurance of our justification; for if our Surety had not paid the debt he would still be under the power of death.”

Inasmuch as Jesus has discharged all our liabilities, and left not one farthing due to God’s justice from one of his people, he lives and is clear, and we live in him, and are clear also by virtue of our union with him.

Is not this a glorious doctrine, this doctrine of the resurrection, in its bearing upon the justification of the saints? The Lord Jesus gave himself for our sins, but he rose again for our justification.


by Phil Johnson

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland — usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will “accidentally” swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following except was written by Phil back in September 2009. Phil offered his thoughts on the so-called transparency that has been en vogue in recent years.

As usual, the comments are closed.

I'm not impressed with the postmodern notion of transparency as a substitute for the old-fashioned (and biblical) virtue of humility.

The type of transparency I'm speaking of is that faux-honesty so often used as an excuse for voicing various kinds of complaints, doubts, accusations, fleshly desires, and other kinds of evil thoughts. This exhibitionistic “virtue” is often paired with a smug self-congratulatory sneer or a condescending dismissal of anyone who dares to suggest that propriety and spiritual maturity may sometimes require us not to give voice to every carnal thought or emotion—i.e., that sometimes discretion is better than transparency.

Here's a biblical case-study that goes against conventional postmodern “wisdom”: In Psalm 73, Asaph is rehearsing the confusion he felt over the reality that wicked people sometimes prosper while righteous people suffer. He says:

I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. (Psalm 73:3-12)

A note of resentment against God? A model of the very kind of transparency I decry? Sure sounds like it, huh? He continues:

All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.

Self-pity, too. Wow! Is that not a classic example of brilliant, transparent, postmodern confessional writing? The psalmist is venting his spleen, giving voice to his doubts, teaching us that it's OK to broadcast whatever doubts and resentments we maybe harboring against God. Right?

Well, not exactly. In fact, the point Asaph is making is precisely the opposite: “If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,' I would have betrayed the generation of your children” (v. 15).

In other words, Asaph confesses that if he had broadcast his doubts before resolving them, it would have been a sinful act of betrayal against God and against the children of God.

Asaph is actually testifying about how he resolved those doubts and resentments: “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end” (vv. 16-17).

He has acquired a decidedly un-postmodern kind of confident faith. He reaches a settled certainty about the very things he was tempted to doubt. Then he goes on to explain to his readers that the state of the wicked is not as comfortable as it appears to carnal eyes. He's spreading his new-found faith; not soliciting companions who share his doubts.

So this psalm is not an apologia for the sort of “transparency” whose only aim is to vent in a way that aims to legitimize skepticism; it's a condemnation of precisely that sort of intemperance.

There's nothing vague or confusing about the point Asaph is really making. As a matter of fact, the whole psalm starts with an explicit statement of his main thesis: “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.”