Thursday, December 23, 2010

George Whitefield: What Think Ye of Christ?

Some, and I fear a multitude which no man can easily number, there are among us, who call themselves Christians, and yet seldom or never seriously think of Jesus Christ at all. They can think of their shops and their farms, their plays, their balls, their assemblies, and horse races (entertainments which tend to exclude religion out of the world); but as for Christ, the Author and Finisher of faith, the Lord who has bought poor sinners with his precious blood, and who is the only thing worth thinking of, alas! he is not in all, or at most in very few of their thoughts. But believe me, O you earthly, sensual, carnally minded professors, however little you may think of Christ now, or however industriously you may strive to keep him out of your thoughts, by pursuing the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, yet there is a time coming, when you will wish you had thought of Christ more and of your profits and pleasures less. For the charmed, the polite, the rich also must die as well as others, and leave their pomps and vanities and all their wealth behind them. And oh! what thoughts will you entertain concerning Jesus Christ that hour?

–from What Think Ye of Christ?, a sermon by George Whitefield on Matthew 22:42

Friday, December 17, 2010

Who Jesus is matters, especially at Christmas.

What you believe matters. Especially what you believe about the person and work of Jesus. There are many world-views today that portray Jesus in different manners. He is thought of as: a prophet, a nice man, a good teacher, a moral example, a crazed apocalyptic, a god among many, one who never existed, a promised Messiah, the Son of God, and many other ideas.

There are an infinite amount of questions can ask in this life. But as I think, there may be none more important one can ask and correctly answer than who Jesus is. I'm not saying that if you intellectually answer as Peter did that Jesus is, "the Christ, the Son of the Living God." That you'll have an intellectual assent into the Kingdom of God. But to claim the same thing as Peter, but understand what that means differently is fatal. Who Jesus is matters, it really does.

This question of who is Jesus has been one of the largest subjects of discussion in Church History, and the debate hasn't stopped yet.

The Apostle John wrote:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. - 1 John 4:1-6
John was serious about the person of Christ. He says that those that don't confess the true incarnation of Christ is of the Spirit of the Antichrist. (This might be really important to think about this time of year as we focus on the incarnation. Being Xmas and all. Especially when Xtians get mad at people who don't know Jesus or corporations don't allow or force their employees to talk about Christmas. Confession of the incarnation is serious business. And for Xtians, living out the incarnation is serious business. We should be in celebration of the coming of Christ for more than that time of year we support mass idolatry and yell at people for not celebrating the coming of the one who can set us free from our idols. Jesus cried out for those who didn't confess him as Lord, he didn't make websites to protest them. He share the gospel not s sarcastic "Merry CHRISTmas." Living out the incarnation is as important as how we confess it.) So how you confess Jesus and who he is shows if you're of him or of the Antichrist. The person and work of Christ are of uttermost importance.

In the 5th century the church came together at Chalcedon an discussed the person and work of Jesus to combat heresy and to define orthodoxy from the Scriptures. It has been a standard for Christian orthodoxy.
We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.
Those things matter. They still do, because they're still biblical, still orthodox, and still in need of being preached/taught/adhered in our churches. There implications are huge. They define orthodox Christianity from other groups that claim to be Christian but don't believe in the Christ of the Scriptures like Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, Modalists, and other forms of Arianism that so often creep into the church.

The words of John Stott speak heresy in the church today:
What should the contemporary church do with heretics? Is that a harsh word? I think not. A humble and reverent probing into the mystery of the incarnation is the essence of true christological scholarship. But attempted reconstructions that effectively destroy that which is supposed to be being reconstructed is christological heresy Let me defend my question further. It is based on three convictions: there is such a thing as heresy, that is, a deviation from fundamental, revealed truth; heresy 'troubles' the church, while truth edifies it, and therefore if we love the truth and the church we cannot fold our arms and do nothing. The purity of the church (ethical and doctrinal) is as much a proper Christian quest as its unity. Indeed we should be seeking its unity and purity simultaneously I do not myself think a heresy trial is the right way to approach this. Heretics are slippery creatures. They tend to use orthodox language to clothe their heterodox views. Besides, in our age of easy tolerance, the arraigned heretic becomes in the public mind first the innocent victim of bigoted persecutors, then a martyr, and then a hero or saint. But there are other ways to proceed. The New Testament authors are concerned not so much about false brethren as about false teachers, who act like wolves and scatter or destroy Christ's flock ... Is it too much to hope and pray that some bishop sometime will have the courage to withdraw his licence from a presbyter who denies the incarnation? This would not be an infringement of civil or academic liberty. A man may believe, say, and write what he pleases in the country and the university. But in the church it is reasonable and right to expect all accredited teachers to teach the faith that the church in its official formularies confesses and that (incidentally) they have themselves promised to uphold.

--From 'Is the Incarnation a Myth?' "Christianity Today" (4 November 1977).
Test the Spirits. This time of year you'll hear a lot of teaching of the coming of the Christ child. It may all measure up to the testimony of Scripture, or it may not. Weigh things against the Scriptures to see how they hold up. Ponder teaching to see if it has gospel implications. There are more important things to worry about than if the clerk at the local supermarket says "Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas." Have you pondered if all the teaching you've heard about Christ is true? Christmas should lead us to worship and thats what these teachings do. They don't just give us a stack of theological factoids to throw out when we go to a Christmas party with the pastor. They're to lead us in adoration before Christ who is the creator and sustainer of all things who humbled himself becoming tabernacled in human flesh to live among us, having a perfect life, going to the cross, dying, making propitiation for the sin of all who would ever believe, and raise triumphant over sin, death, and law on the third day. This is what studying Christology should do.

As you celebrate the incarnation this Christmas. Remember its importance matters everyday. Study the Scriptures, encourage your pastors to teach on the person and work of Christ, test the Spirits to see who is of Christ, hold to truth, and strive by means of the Spirit to live like the one whose birth we celebrate.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Is Your Theology Good News?

In one sense the whole Bible is gospel, for its fundamental purpose is to bear witness to Jesus Christ and to proclaim the good news of a new life to those who come to him. Now if the Bible (which is God's Word through men's words) is gospel, then all theologies (which are human formulations of biblical truth) must be framed as gospel also. Too much contemporary theology fails at this point. It is incommunicable. But any theology which cannot be communicated as gospel is of minimal value. For one thing, the task of formulating truth is fruitless if, once formulated, it cannot then be more readily communicated. If it cannot, why bother to formulate it? For another, Jesus taught that only those who pass on to others the truth they have received will receive any more. 'Take heed what you hear,' he warned, 'the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you'(Mk.4:24).

--John Stott, From "Culture and the Bible" (Downers Grove: IVP, 1981), p. 38.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Stott on being a wise and resourceful theologian

I love this quote I was sent this morning from John Stott. I had a conversation on a radio show chat room this past Sunday night with some fundamentalists and an Atheist. This quote brings me back to that conversation and I'm sure you can imagine why.
The fact that God has revealed himself in Christ and in Scripture does not rule out intellectual exploration. The theologian is no more inhibited from theological research because God has revealed himself in Scripture than the scientist is inhibited from scientific research because God has revealed himself in nature. Both are limited to the data (which, to oversimplify, are nature on the one hand, Scripture on the other), but within the limits that the data themselves impose, the Creator encourages us to use our minds freely and creatively. If, therefore, by the myth of God incarnate were meant the mystery of the incarnation, we would have no quarrel with the concept. The church has always acknowledged that the incarnation is a mystery beyond the full comprehension of human minds. A humble, reverent exploration of what God has revealed of himself in Christ is the essence of true christological scholarship.

--From 'Truth, Heresy and Discipline in the Church', "Christianity Today" (10 March 1978).

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Reflecting on the Righteousness of Christ

Over the past month or so I've been reading a lot of Paul's letters. I've been reading other parts of the Scriptures too. Over the past few Sundays I've heard sermons from Philippians. I'm going through a devotional in Romans with my lovely girlfriend. Along with this, I'm apart of a Bible study that has been going through Colossians. In all my Pauline reading over and over you see the same thought. You need righteousness that isn't your own.

I'm at all these different places in the different letters. In Colossians we're only on chapter one verse six and we've been studying for a month now. In Philippians I just jumped in with the church in the middle of chapter three. I've made my way to the third chapter of Romans today in the devotional I'm going through. In all these studies, I find I need Jesus. I've read all these letters countless times before. Yet the truth of the gospel remains afresh with every reading. But what stands so prominent now is the righteousness of Christ.

When you come to Philippians 3, you find a man who by the worlds standards has every reason in the world to boast. He once was of the most elite family background, was a political and religious leader of a nation, and had affiliation the best and greatest. Religiously he had all the reason to boast and was extremely pious in his own eyes and in the eyes of the people. Yet he says of all his boasting in the the flesh

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. - Philippians 3:8-11

All that Paul could have considered righteousness he considers worthless in light of what true righteousness is. Paul's ultimate goal and striving in life is to be like Christ. Paul knows we need the perfect sacrifice of Christ the make us right before the one true living God. When all is said in done, its the work of Christ and his righteousness that matter most in life. All of our piety outside of Christ is blasphemy at best. Our strivings to worship apart from Christ isn't worship at all. We need the perfect sacrifice of Christ for an aroma to rise before Almighty God, and by his perfect aroma the Father sees Christ and we stand before the throne justified in the righteousness of Christ. This is worth abandoning all and following. In the gospel of Christ is a treasure worth having. There is nothing more beautiful. It is what allows us to take all that we can boast in that is in and of ourselves and say 'worthless' apart from knowing Jesus.

The pastor this past Sunday said, "Without the righteousness of God, we are completely undone."

What a truth! Praise be to God because of Christ Jesus that we can approach God in confidence because of his perfect sacrifice on our behalf. And praise be that his righteousness doesn't just preform a justifying work, but that it causes continual transformation for those whose identity is Christ.

May we take heed to Dr. James M. Boice as he reflected on Romans 2:23:
"If you have been trusting in anything other than Jesus Christ and his death on the cross in your place, throw whatever it is completely out of your mind. Abandon it. Stamp on it. Grind it down. Dust off the place where it lay. Then turn to Jesus Christ alone and trust him only."

Hallelujah, All I have is Christ.
Hallelujah, Jesus is my life.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stott on Christ in the Old Testament

The Old Testament is a book of hope, of unfulfilled expectation. From beginning to end it looks forward to Christ. Its many promises through Abraham, Moses and the prophets find their fulfilment in Christ. Its law, with its unbending demands, was man's 'custodian until Christ came', keeping him confined and under restraint, even in bondage, until Christ should set him free (Gal. 3:23 - 4:7). Its sacrificial system, teaching day after day that without the shedding of blood there could be no forgiveness, prefigured the unique bloodshedding of the Lamb of God. Its kings, for all their imperfections, foreshadowed the Messiah's perfect reign of righteousness and peace. And its prophecies are all focused upon him. Thus Jesus Christ is the seed of the woman who would bruise the serpent's head, the posterity of Abraham through whom all the families of the earth would be blessed, the star that would come forth out of Jacob and the sceptre that would rise out of Israel. Jesus Christ is also the priest after the order of Melchizedek, the king of David's line, the servant of the Lord God who would suffer and die for the sins of the people, the Son of God who would inherit the nations, and the Son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven, to whom would be given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him for ever. Directly or indirectly Jesus Christ is the grand theme of the Old Testament. Consequently he was able to interpret to his disciples 'in all the scriptures the things concerning himself' (Lk. 24:27).

- John Stott