How God Views a Right Heart

When the heart is right — God can look over many things that are defective. There may be faults in judgment, and infirmities in practice. There may be many deviations from the best course in the outward things of religion. But if the heart is sound in the main, God is not extreme to mark that which is amiss. He is merciful and gracious, and will pardon much that is imperfect — when He sees a true heart and a single eye.

-J.C. Ryle, Tract: Formal Religion, Complements of: http://jcrylequotes.com/2011/12/16/how-god-views-a-right-heart/

 

Women, Stop Submitting to Men

“Unpacking a controversial scripture.

“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.”

Quote Ephesians 5:22 in a small group, a meeting, a marital argument, a dinner among friends or even a Facebook status and just watch what happens. This little line from one of Paul’s many letters is perhaps one of the most hotly debated in all of Scripture. But why is it so controversial—and what does it really mean?

Those of us who hold to so-called “traditional gender roles” are often assumed to believe women should submit to men. This isn’t true. Indeed, a primary problem in our culture and in our churches isn’t that women aren’t submissive enough to men, but instead that they are far too submissive.

First of all, it just isn’t so that women are called to submit while men are not. In Scripture, every creature is called to submit, often in different ways and at different times. Children are to submit to their parents, although this is certainly a different sort of submission than that envisioned for marriage. Church members are to submit to faithful pastors (Heb. 13:17). All of us are to submit to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). Of course, we are all to submit, as creatures, to our God (James 4:7).

And, yes, wives are called to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22; 1 Peter 3:1-6). But that’s just the point. In the Bible, it is not that women, generally, are to submit to men, generally. Instead, “wives” are to submit “to your own husbands” (1 Peter 3:1).

Too often in our culture, women and girls are pressured to submit to men, as a category. This is the reason so many women, even feminist women, are consumed with what men, in general, think of them. This is the reason a woman’s value in our society, too often, is defined in terms of sexual attractiveness and availability. Is it any wonder that so many of our girls and women are destroyed by a predatory patriarchy that demeans the dignity and glory of what it means to be a woman?

Submitting to men in general renders it impossible to submit to one’s “own husband.” Submission to one’s husband means faithfulness to him, and to him alone, which means saying “no” to other suitors.

Submission to a right authority always means a corresponding refusal to submit to a false authority. Eve’s submission to the Serpent’s word meant she refused to submit to God’s. On the other hand, Mary’s submission to God’s word about the child within her meant she refused to submit to Herod’s. God repeatedly charges His Bride, the people of Israel, with a refusal to submit to Him because they have submitted to the advances of other lovers. The freedom of the Gospel means, the apostle tells us, that we “do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Despite the promise of female empowerment in the present age, the sexual revolution has given us the reverse. Is it really an advance for women that the average high-school male has seen images of women sexually exploited and humiliated on the Internet? Is it really empowerment to have more and more women economically at the mercy of men who freely abandon them and their children, often with little legal recourse?

Is this really a “pro-woman” culture when restaurant chains enable men to pay to ogle women in tight T-shirts while they gobble down chicken wings? How likely is it that a woman with the attractiveness of Henry Kissinger will obtain power or celebrity status in American culture? What about the girl in your community pressured to perform sexual favors for a boyfriend; what is this but a patriarchy brutal enough for a Bronze Age warlord?

In the church it is little better. Too many of our girls and young women are tyrannized by the expectation to look a certain way, to weigh a certain amount, in order to gain the attention of “guys.”

Additionally, too many predatory men have crept in among us, all too willing to exploit young women by pretending to be “spiritual leaders” (2 Timothy 3:1-9; 2 Peter 2). Do not be deceived: a man who will use spiritual categories for carnal purposes is a man who cannot be trusted with fidelity, with provision, with protection, with the fatherhood of children. The same is true for a man who will not guard the moral sanctity of a woman not, or not yet, his wife.

We have empowered this pagan patriarchy. Fathers assume their responsibility to daughters in this regard starts and stops in walking a bride down an aisle at the end of the process. Pastors refuse to identify and call out spiritual impostors before it’s too late. And through it all we expect our girls and women to be submissive to men in general, rather than to one man in particular.

For women, sexual and emotional purity means a refusal to submit to “men,” in order to submit to God and to their own husband, even one whose name and face they do not yet know. Closeness with a husband, present or future, means a distance from every man who isn’t, or who possibly might not be, him.

Beauty is found not in external (and fleeting) youth and “attractiveness” but in the “hidden person of the heart” which “in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:3-4). And it will be beautiful in the sight of a man who is propelled by the Spirit of this God.

Women owe no submission to Hollywood or to Madison Avenue, or to those who listen to them. Worth and dignity cannot be defined by them. Girls, stop comparing yourselves to supermodels and porn stars. Stop loathing your body, or your age. Stop feeling inferior to vaporous glamor. You are beautiful.

There is no biblical category for “boyfriend” or “lover,” and we owe such designation no submission. In fact, to be submissive to her future husband, a woman must stand back and evaluate, with rigid scrutiny, “Is this the one who is to come, or is there another?” That requires an emotional and physical distance until there is a lifelong covenant made, until she stands before one who is her “own husband.”

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as unto the Lord. Yes and Amen. But, women, stop submitting to men.”‘

-Dr. Russell Moore, read here: http://www.russellmoore.com/2011/12/05/women-stop-submitting-to-men/

Reason to Believe Quotes

“The Old Testament, in spite of its manifestations of the wrath of God, remains a history of God’s grace and long-suffering with a rebellious people. There is wrath unparalleled in the New Testament and grace overwhelming in the Old Testament. A false dichotomy between the Testaments is foreign to the biblical writers themselves.”

“If man has in fact committed cosmic treason against God, what reason could we possibly have that God should provide any way of redemption? In light of the universal rebellion against God, the issue is not why is there only one way, butwhy is there any way at all? I know of no way of answering that question.”

“The innocent native who never hears of Christ is in excellent shape, and we need not be anxious about his redemption. The innocent person doesn’t need to hear of Christ. He has no need of redemption. God never punishes innocent people. The innocent person needs no Savior; he can save himself by his innocence.”

“For a Christian to be a Christian, he must first be a sinner. Being a sinner is a prerequisite for being a church member. The Christian church is one of the few organizations in the world that requires a public acknowledgement of sin as a condition for membership.”

“The suffering of the Christian or anyone else in this world is never ultimately an accident. All suffering is within the pale of divine sovereignty. All suffering comes within the broader context of the sovereignty of God.”

-R. C. Sproul, Reason to Believe, Complements of: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/great-quotes-reason-believe/

Articulating Your Prayers

Let us pray more, and let us pray more earnestly. Let those who never prayed begin to pray. Let those who have prayed pray better.

Pray for yourselves — that you may know the Lord Jesus, and cleave to Him — that you may be kept from falling — that you may serve your generation — that you may be sober in prosperity, patient in trial, and humble at all times.

Pray for the congregation to which you belong — that the word of the Lord may have free course in it, and be glorified — that the household of faith may become stronger and stronger, and the household of unbelief weaker and weaker.

Pray for your country — that her ministers may preach the Gospel, and be sound in the faith — that her rulers may value the Bible, and govern according to it — and that so her candlestick may not be taken away.

And pray for your minister — that he may be strong to work, and willing to labor for your good, that all his sicknesses may be sanctified, and all his health given to the Lord — that he may be ever taught of the Spirit, and thus be able to teach others — that he may be kept faithful unto death, and so be ready to depart when he is called.

Let us all pray, one for the other — I for you, and you for me — and we shall be blessed in our deed!

-J.C. Ryle, Tract: Consider Your Ways, Complements of: http://jcrylequotes.com/2011/12/13/articulating-your-prayers/

Mythology of the Mean Innkeeper

“The Christmas portions of the gospels are at once the most beloved and the most mythologized texts in the New Testament. Like works of art that have been lacquered with coat after coat of varnish, the details of the original stories are sometimes hard to see clearly. In the last few posts I suggested that a close reading of Matthew’s account (chapter two) reveals that the star may be something entirely different than a comet or supernova or planetary conjunction, as is so often taught.

Today we turn to Luke’s account, famous for spawning a zillion nativity scenes with kids clothed in bathrobes and towels around their heads. The most obvious misreading of this text lies in the portrayal of an unmentioned innkeeper who heartlessly turns away the poor couple and forces them to find a stable.

Where did they stay in Bethlehem? Luke tells us that after the birth, Mary put the baby in a “manger,” or feeding trough, because there was “no room for them in the καταλυμα – kataluma” (Luke 2:7). While this term was translated as “inn” by the KJV, Luke elsewhere uses it to mean a “guest room” (Luke 22:11, the site of the Last Supper). When Luke does wants to speak about an inn, he the Greek word πανδοχειον – pandocheion (Luke 10:34, in the parable of the Good Samaritan).

Thus, Luke says nothing about Joseph and Mary being denied access to an inn and Mary having to bear the child in a barn. Historically, it is far more likely that Mary and Joseph had their child in the humble back portion of the ancestral home where the most valued animals were fed and housed, because the guest room in the family home was already occupied. In any case, Bethlehem was such a small village that it is not even clear it would have had a wayside inn. Admittedly, Jesus’ beginnings were humble, but we don’t need to mythologize them into a story about a pregnant Mom being cast out by a heartless innkeeper.

You probably know that by conflating the two separate accounts of Matthew and Luke, Nativity sets for years have included the Magi with the shepherds in that stable scene. It is obvious that Matthew states that they came to a house, not to a stable (Matt. 2:11).

I am not trying to be α cynical ‘‘Grinch,” and yes, our own Nativity set does contain the Magi! I am just asking us all to base our beliefs on the actual text of Scripture and not on centuries of religious paintings and a translation that could be improved!”

-Dr. William Varner, Complements of: http://dribex.tumblr.com/post/14163767418/mythology-of-the-mean-innkeeper

Matthew and the Young Messiah

“The following sections are five slides from a power point presentation that I give at Christmas. I focus on the way that Matthew develops the four sections of his Nativity account. Maybe it will stimulate your thinking.

I. The Four Sections of Matthew’s Nativity

These four “pericopes” are each anchored by the fulfillment of an OT statement:

Matt. 1:18-25 (Joseph) Isaiah
Matt. 2:1-12 (Magi to Bethlehem) Micah
Matt. 2:13-18 (family to Egypt) Hosea & Jeremiah
Matt. 2:19-23 (to Nazareth) the prophets

II. The Repeated Pattern in Each Section

1. A Temporal Introduction “when” “after”
Matt1:202:12:132:19
2. The word “behold” (ἰδού)
Matt 1:202:1,92:132:19
3. Appearance of an angel (φαίνω)
Matt 1:202:792:132:19
4. A Command
Matt 1:202:82:132:20
5. Instruction in a “dream” (κατ’ ὄναρ)
Matt 1:202:122:132:19
6. An OT Passage “Fulfilled” (ἵνα πληρωθῆ)
Matt 1:22-232:5-62:1517-182:23 (2:5 was a direct fulfillment)

III. Was the Star an Angel? Matt 2:1-12

Parallel with the other angelic “appearances” (Matt 2:7,9)

Stars are often symbolic of angels elsewhere in Scripture
(Job 38:7Isa. 14:12Rev. 1:209:1,212:4)

Many church fathers held this view: (Chrysostom, Theophylact, Thomas Aquinas).

Parallels better with Luke 2:8-14

IV. In and Out of Egypt Matthew 2:13-18 

Two “Fulfillments”

“Out of Egypt I called my son” Matt 2:15 / Hosea 11:1 (a typical fulfillment)
“Rachel weeping for her children” Matt 2:18 / Jeremiah 31:15 (an analogical fulfillment)

V. From Egypt to Nazareth Matthew 2:19-23 

One Fulfillment, Many Prophecies Matt 2:23 (a summary fulfillment)

“Nazareth” (Netzerat in Hebrew)
Netzer = “Branch” (Isaiah 11:153:2Jer 23:5)

Check out John 1:43-51 (“can anything good come from Nazareth?”)

Conclusion. The word “fulfill” means more than it does in a prediction/fulfillment paradigm. It bears the idea of “bring to its full meaning.” See this use in James 2:23….

[see also:] “A Discourse Analysis of Matthew’s Nativity Narrative,” Tyndale Bulletin, 58.2, 2007)”

-Dr. William Varner, Complements of: http://dribex.tumblr.com/post/13918499179/matthew-and-the-young-messiah

Street Evangelism in Six Steps

“One of the most challenging evangelistic endeavors is what I call street evangelism. This is the approaching of total strangers for the purpose of explaining the gospel to them. When many people think of evangelism, this is often precisely what they have in mind—and they are intimidated by it.

This kind of evangelism may be intimidating, but it also rewarding. There are people who exist outside of the sphere of Christian influence, and unless they hear the gospel from a stranger, they are likely not going to hear it at all. Many encounters are with people completely outside of the faith, unfamiliar with Christianesse, and ignorant of the basics of the gospel (ie., Jesus died in the place of sinners).

But that is exactly why this kind of evangelism is exhilarating. I never know who I am going to talk to. Is this person a Catholic? An agnostic? A self-righteous sinner, living on moralism? This mystery is exactly what makes cold evangelism compelling and intimidating.Here are a few steps to help you get underway:

1. Choose a location. The more people the better, because there are more opportunities, and because it is less weird. My favorite place for this kind of evangelism is on college campuses. Students often have free time, and are often open to talking about the gospel. Grace Church has groups that go out to hospitals, outdoor malls, and subway—all places near our church where lots of people congregate. We stay near our church because we often invite people to our church.

2. Start the conversation. This is the hardest part. I’m not a fan of gimmicks, but I go straight for the chase; I usually begin by introducing myself as a pastor from a church in the area. I’ll ask if they are familiar with the Bible, my church, or what it is that Christians believe. I’ll ask if they have even been to my church, or what they think of the gospel. Essentially I’m looking for some bridge to start the conversation.

3. Ask questions. I ask a lot of questions. One of the most helpful books I’ve read on this kind of evangelism is Randy Newman’s Questioning Evangelism, where he makes the simple point the more questions you ask, the more information you get. The better you get to know the person you are talking to, the more skillfully you can explain the gospel to him. I ask tons of why questions: “Why did you take that job?” “Why did you choose that major?” “Why do you think that way about church?” The more I ask, the more they talk, and the more likely they will be to listen when I explain the gospel.

4. Make the jump to the gospel. Unlike relational evangelism (with friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc.) cold evangelism is a one-shot deal. Eventually you have to make the jump to the gospel. I have found that asking if I can explain what the Bible says about an issue helps. “You said you want to help people with your life; can I explain what the Bible says about that?” “You said that church offends you because Christians are hypocrites; can I tell you what the Bible says about that?”

5. Explain the gospel. I take any question they ask—from why do Christians not believe in evolution, to what about the crusades—and answer with the gospel. A short gospel presentation includes who God is (creator and holy), who people are (sinful and in need of a savior), who Jesus is (God in flesh, sinless, substitute for sinners, who rose from the grave), and what we must do in response (turn from sin and believe the gospel in faith).

I look for any opportunity in the conversation to get to the gospel, and when I am there, I move quickly. I can explain those points briefly in one minute, and then circle back to explain each one more if the opportunity is there.

6. End the conversation. After explaining the gospel, I ask if the person has any questions. I ask if I can pray for them, if I can give them a tract that explains more, and if they want to talk more sometime in the future. I invite the person to church, and give him my contact info. Occasionally I have had people contact me months later, wanting to learn more about Jesus.

I don’t think all Christians are called to this kind of evangelism, but I think all Christians should at least try it and see if they are gifted at it. It is amazing to see how the Lord uses these encounters to open doors for the gospel, and to strengthen our own understanding of the basic tenets of what we believe.

How about you? Share a tip or two that you would add, or a question about this kind of evangelism.”

-Jesse Johnson, Complements of: http://thecripplegate.com/street-evangelism-in-five-steps/

A Blockbuster Deal

With all the drama surrounding NBA trades, I thought I’d bring back a post by Challies which he wrote in response to the 2006 Trade Deadline day for Major League Baseball.

“I began to wonder what the church would look like if it ran on a market similar to major league sports. I wonder if it would go a little something like this:

Sun Valley, CA

Hot off the wires, the Associated Press reports a blockbuster trade. With the annual ecclesiastical trade deadline only hours away, Bethlehem Baptist Church and Grace Community Church have agreed to a four pastor deal. While early rumors indicated this might be a three-church trade involving Capitol Hill Baptist Church, the final deal is as follows:

Grace will send Pastor-Teacher John MacArthur, Minister of Music Clayton Erb and Associate Pastor, High School Ministry Eric Bancroft to Bethlehem in return for Pastor for Preaching and Vision John Piper, Lead Pastor for Operations Jon Grano and future considerations. MacArthur, widely regarded as the nation’s leading expositor, agreed to waive his no-trade clause in return for an expanded book allowance. Piper, world-class author and highly-regarded preacher, will assume MacArthur’s pulpit and radio duties. We are unable to confirm whether Piper will be expected to transition from the ESV translation of the Bible to the NASB.

While Piper was unavailable for comment, his agent read the following prepared statement: “While he was initially disappointed to hear of this trade, Pastor Piper is looking forward to serving the men and women of Sun Valley, California.” Author of more than 20 books, Piper has been serving Bethlehem since 1980. He is expected to join the staff of Grace Community Church this week. It is believed that Piper’s new contract stipulates that he will not be allowed to raise his hands in worship and will be limited to eight hyphenated words per sermon.

This trade, which had been the subject of rumors for several weeks, addresses pressing concerns in both churches. Sources who wished to remain anonymous indicated earlier this week that, while a deal was close, Bethlehem was unwilling to complete a trade without involving Phil Johnson, Executive Director of Grace To You. It appears now that Johnson, who has edited most of MacArthur’s major books, will remain with Grace To You and will edit forthcoming books by John Piper. “I am excited about supporting the God-exulting, Christ-centered ministry of John Piper,” said Johnson. Dr. Piper’s next book is expected to hit bookstore shelves later this year.

Grace spokesman Dan Dumas said, “While we are sorry to have to say goodbye to Dr. MacArthur, we know that he will be warmly received by his new church family. We look forward to many years of fruitful ministry with John Piper.” MacArthur has authored over 70 books and has been serving at Grace Church since 1969. Grano is expected to fill a newly-created position in Grace Church.

Meanwhile, in receiving Clayton Erb, Bethlehem addresses their pressing and much-publicized need for a minister of music. “We have three Associate Pastors and a Ministry Assistant, but no Minister of Music,” said spokesman Sam Crabtree. “Clayton will solidify and organize this talented staff.” The addition of a Minster of Music prepares Bethlehem for a busy Autumn and the always difficult Christmas season.

Shortly after the deal was announced, MacArthur was seen smiling as he said farewell to his former staff. He and Erb are expected to be available for duty in Bethlehem as soon as this Sunday. Bancroft, a talented and highly-rated rookie who ranks 11th in the Rookie Report’s 2006 rankings, will be groomed as a possible long-term successor to MacArthur.

Asked what would become of Piper’s decade-long series on Romans, Dumas said, “It is over. We expect Pastor Piper to begin a three-year series on Philemon beginning later this Fall.”

While this trade puts Grace near the salary cap, Bethlehem has apparently agreed to cover a portion of Piper’s salary through the 2006 season.”

-Tim Challies, complements of: http://www.challies.com/articles/a-blockbuster-deal

The Mythology of the Magi (3) That “Star”

“With the OT background for the Magi that we examined yesterday, what help can also be found in the OT for the correct interpretation of the star? The supernatural character of this brightness is implied by being described as “his star” (Mt. 2:2). I suggest that this unique shining was the glory of God described so often in the OT as the visible manifestation of God’s presence (e.g., Ex.16:1024:16-1733:2240:34). Or it may have been a glorious angel!

The incarnation of the Son was a manifestation of God’s glory (“the glory of the Lord shone around them” Lk. 2:9; “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory” Jn. 1:14). When we recognize this, it is easy to see how the choice of the word “star” was so appropriate to describe just such a supernatural and visible token seen only by a select number (the shepherds and the Magi). No wonder that “when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Mt. 2:10).

A variation of this view is that the star was an angel, a view advocated in the patristic comments on this passage, and a view I develop in an academic article on this passage in the Tyndale Bulletin. Stars are often symbolic of angels elsewhere in Scripture (Job 38:7Isa. 14:12Rev. 1:209:1,212:4). That an angel also served to guide in the OT can be seen in the following passages that use language quite similar to Matthew’s (Exo. 14:1923:202332:34). There was, therefore, a wonderful point of contact with the Lukan Nativity because glorious angelic guidance was for both shepherds and the Magi (Luke 2:9-14).

This glory was the glory which the aged Simeon recognized as he held that baby in his arms (Lk. 2:32). This was that glory that shone through the earthly tabernacle of Jesus’ body on the mountain of transfiguration (2 Pet. 1:17John 1:14), and it is that glory with which He shall come in great power (Mt. 25:31). Jewish people refer to the glory of God as the Shekinah – a later Hebrew word whose root idea is the concept of “dwelling.” The supernatural Shekinah inspired the Magi and directed their steps to the young Messiah.

As we have seen from a close reading of Matthew 2, there is indeed a “mythology of the Magi” that embodies questionable ideas about these men. There is also, however, some marvelous theology for us to see in their visit to Jerusalem and Bethlehem so long ago. We just need to look at the passage through the lens of the Hebrew Scriptures to see their real significance.

Download the free ebook, “The First Christmas,” from the Biblical Archaeological Society website. Read the chapter on the star by Dale Allison.

(The previous posts were freely adapted from my book, The Messiah: Revealed, Rejected, Received, which is available from AuthorHouse or on Amazon.com.)”

-Dr. William Varner, Complements of: http://dribex.tumblr.com/post/14061797845/the-mythology-of-the-magi-3-that-star

Mythology of the Magi (2)

“Yesterday we looked at a few myths surrounding the visit of the Magi to the child Jesus in Bethlehem. We questioned the ideas about the sources of their knowledge of the star and the “King of the Jews” as lying in astronomical phenomena or in astrological “signs.” What is an alternative explanation for their knowledge?

It is possible that the oracles of Balaam served as the source for their expectation of a Jewish king. Of the four oracles delivered by that fascinating man from beyond the Euphrates River (Num. 22:5), the last is most expressive: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel…” (Num. 24:17). It is possible that the Magi from Persia had preserved the words of their “ancestor” Balaam and remembered his ancient prophecy when a “Star” did appear out of Jacob.

An even stronger source for the Magi’s scriptural knowledge comes from the Book of Daniel. In its Greek translation, one of the words translated “wise men” is the same as the Greek word used in Matthew 2 – magoi – ( 2:2,10,). These Magi in ancient Babylon served as a religious caste in the state religion. One of their functions was to interpret dreams — a role in which they failed miserably in Dan. 2:1-13. Note Dan. 2:13, “So the decree went out, and the wise men (Magi) were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.” Therefore, Daniel and his three friends were associated with the Magi due to their God-given ability (Dan. 1:20-21). When Daniel accurately interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan. 2:17-45), he was rewarded with an even higher position among them: “Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men (Magi) of Babylon” (Dan. 2:48).

Consider also the amazing prophecy of the “seventy weeks” in Dan. 9:24-27. Verse 26 states that “Messiah (shall) be cut off” after a total period of 69 “sevens” (483 years). Therefore, Daniel’s book provides a timetable for the coming of the Messiah. This timetable from their leader must have been kept through the years by the Magi even after Babylon was conquered by the Persians.

There must have been a growing expectancy among the Magi as the years passed by. These Magi must have been watchful since the prophecy was originally given through one of “their own” many years before. Remember that a large Jewish community continued to exist in Babylon and Persia down through the centuries. They would have cherished Daniel’s prophecies and kept alive their hope.

Some have also suggested that one of the functions of the Magi was in the role ofking-makers. It was they who went through the ritual of crowning new kings in Babylon and Persia. This would also shed light on their desire to encounter the “King of the Jews” and to “worship him” (Mt. 2:2).

Now, what exactly was that “star” that led them? Come back tomorrow!”

-Dr. William Varner, Complements of: http://dribex.tumblr.com/post/14011189562/mythology-of-the-magi-2