August 7, 2015

An Unexpected Evening of Evangelism Training

This afternoon I received a message that some "Christian people" (as I heard someone once refer to them) were going to meet in the city square for an evening of evangelism. I quickly made plans to go, since I was also hoping to do so this weekend. With all the people out tonight, it was amazing to also see so many Christians of various church affiliations out tonight passing out tracts, preaching, and just sharing the gospel with anyone willing to listen.

I met a young brother in Christ, A., who had come out for the first time to learn about street evangelism. I spoke with him about the gospel and some ways that I like to meet people and asked if he would like to accompany me. I later learned that he is a religious studies major who wants to specialize in evangelism. He asked me how long I had been doing this. It is amazing, but this blog was started seven years ago, so I have been going to the streets to share the gospel for more than ten years now.

Very quickly we met a young passerby, I., who was willing to stop and talk for a few minutes. A few minutes turned into something like a half an hour as this young man expressed his struggle with faith as the child of a Christian home who, now, after beginning a science major, finds himself helplessly agnostic. We connected right away and spoke for a long time. He seemed to grasp everything I said and everything I shared with him from the Bible, especially on the topic of faith. I recommended three churches nearby his campus where he could go to learn more. My prayer is that I will see him again in one of them and follow up with him.

My young partner and I had a very healthy discussion afterward about the gospel, languages and Biblical evangelism and apologetics. I also pray for his future in this kind of ministry as he learns and grows.

Then I met T. from Haiti. We spoke in Spanish, because he said his English is not so good yet. He would like to meet me again, so he asked if I will be there tomorrow. I told him I plan to be in the morning. In either case, I said, "Que Dios le cuide" (May God take care of you). My prayer for him is that God would lead him to know the Scriptures and read them more as God leads him in faith through Jesus Christ.

So much more I could say about tonight, but I am tired and I have some studying to do. I must say, I am grateful that God has been merciful and gracious to me, one so undeserving. I pray for the glory and praise of the Lord as He works a new creation in us, His people. Amen. 

July 18, 2015

Morning Good News at the Square

The good news. It was an ironic morning. I met up with a man who, in a certain aspect, resembles the governor of Pennsylvania. He is a dear Christian brother who wants others to know the God of the Bible, Jesus Christ. We grabbed some coffee and had an edifying conversation. Afterwards, we hit the street to talk to people and pass out tracks.

People are full of stories. While Tom spoke with a man who appeared to be in his seventies about his new experience in joining a church, I spoke with Luis, a quiet Puertoriqueño (Puerto Rican — Latin Americans don't refer to themselves as "Spanish" unless they are from Spain, in which case they are not Latin American, so it's best to just ask their heritage). We talked about everything from the gospel of God's grace (la buena nueva de la gracia de Dios) to family and children and church (familia, hijos, iglesia). He told me he reads la Biblia at home, so I took the opportunity to recommend a good church in the area for him to look into. God bless Luis!

There was a gentleman on the wall from SW Philadelphia. I can't remember his name, but he was a real nice guy and we talked. I should do better at remembering everyone's name.

Caleb came walking over pointing to his shirt. It said, "Play Hard and Pray Hard." He told us his basketball team, members of which were fired up for the gospel, was travelling for a tournament. He agreed to pray for us. The Biblical figure Caleb was a man of rock-solid faith. He wouldn't back down at the sight of Israel's tall enemies, but quieted the people's fears with words of encouragement (Numbers 13:30).

Tom had a sign on that wall with the question: "Are you going to heaven? Free test." So as people passed by, I asked them if they new the answer to that question. There was a young couple passing by who stopped, willing to hear the question. The young man answered, "I know I am going." He responded to my "why" question with, "Because I believe in Jesus." So I asked why he should be accepted by God as a believer in Jesus and not millions of other people who don't believe in Jesus; like Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and others. He said that was too deep a question. Of course, I pointed out that it's no deeper than the thoughts we all have concerning these things. They both seemed very eager to hear me explain the answer. My response was along the lines that the good news in Romans 1–5 shows how sinners need to receive a perfect sacrifice of blood and righteousness from Christ, who provided it on the cross and empty tomb, to make us perfect and acceptable before God. We're all in the same boat. We're unworthy due to real guilt. God's holiness requires perfection and God's Son provides it. I pray they both dig deeper into such world-tilting matters.

Lastly, I talked to Angel. He came up in gold chains, covered in tats and a cigarette between his lips. If I could judge hearts, I'd say he is as great a man of faith as I  have met in a long time. His answer to the heaven question was totally Christ-centered. His testimony was that of a former gang-banging, multi-million dollar drug lord turned to Christ. He spent 15 years in prison and after reading the gospel in the Bible and meeting Christ, he became a testimony of God's power to save, speaking to youth all around. He asked me a question to test my knowledge of Scripture, and after that, we just encouraged one another with Bible stories and testimonies of God's grace. Angel in Greek is ἄγγελος meaning 'messenger.' May the Lord use Angel to continue spreading the message of Christ-exalting transformation!

I confess, I am a sinful man. Yesterday and today I spoke unkind words to family. I also confess my need for pardon and reformation through the cleansing blood of the risen Christ applied by the Holy Spirit. Thanks to Jesus Christ, I'm able to talk freely (and guilt-free) about the truth of the Bible, because it is a gift meant to be shared.
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."
(1 Corinthians 1:27-31 ESV)

May 24, 2015

Some Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Mark (part 1: Opening verses 1:1-3)

Mark 1:1-3 ESV
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (2) As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, (3) the voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'" 

Expository thoughts

The Gospel According to Mark is a book of testimony that bears witness to Jesus the Messiah. Mark opened his gospel narrative with the Greek word for “beginning” (ἀρχή). The opening word ΑΡΧΗ resembles the LXX opening word in Hosea 1:2 ΑΡΧΗ. The Greek version of Hosea speaks of the beginning of the Lord’s word as it began to come to Hosea. Mark 1:1 speaks of the beginning of the gospel as it began to be made known, in fulfillment of the predictions made by the prophet Isaiah (see Isa. 40:9; 52:7; 60:6; 61:1). In Hosea, the beginning was the beginning of the history of new divine revelation as it came to him. Perhaps in Mark, then, the beginning here means the history of the beginning of new divine revelation as it came in and through Jesus Christ. Mark referenced the book of Isaiah, but quoted a combination of Malachi 3:1, Exodus 23:20 and Isaiah 40:3. Isaiah chapter 40 is an announcement of anticipated good news which would be realized after the period of Israel’s exile in Babylon. The opening words are, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (Isa. 40:1). These gracious words anticipated the comforting good news that Jerusalem’s warfare had ended, her iniquity had been pardoned and the wrath of God had been more than satisfied by double payment for her sins (Isa. 40:2). A voice calls for the preparation of the Lord’s way in the desert wilderness (40:3). Malachi 3:1 is used in context of Isaiah 40:3 by building on the concept of a predicted messenger who would prepare the Lord’s way in the wilderness. Malachi was written at a later date than Isaiah, yet Malachi reiterates the promise of a forerunner who prepares the way for the Lord to come. Both quotations are linked to the idea as it was first presented by Moses in Exodus 23:20, where God warns the people of Israel that they must obey the voice of his angel (messenger) whom he will send before them to keep them in their way as they traversed the desert wilderness. In each of the passages just mentioned, the Lord’s way in the wilderness indicates God’s own presence to deliver His chosen people Israel. Mark seems to have traced the concept of the Lord’s forerunner/messenger from its development in the history of revelation up to the point of John. He seems to have understood these predictions to have had the ability to reach beyond the prophet’s own experience at the time of their writing, as well as beyond Israel’s experience in returning from Babylon, and to reach forward to describe the period of fulfillment when the good news would become evident. In other words, Mark understood Isaiah’s prophetic announcement of good news to have been fulfilled by Jesus the Messiah. The basic premise of Mark’s writing is this: God has fulfilled His promises of good news by sending Messiah Jesus, His Son. The beginning of this good news is the ministry work of John the Baptist, who signals its inauguration.

March 29, 2015

Koine Fun: Animals in Biblical Greek

Koine Fun: Animals in Biblical Greek is my first children's book released in the Amazon Kindle store. The concept is simple: make learning Biblical Greek fun by reading about animals named in the Koine Greek Bible!

Each page has the name of an animal and a short description of that animal in both Koine Greek and English. Reading words in context with phrases and in connection with pictures not only adds enjoyment to learning the Koine language, but also helps you internalize the language, making it stick. This book is designed for all ages, but especially with a sensitivity to young learners.

My goal is to facilitate the interest of anyone dedicated to learning the original languages of the Word of God. It is my conviction that through effectively learning the biblical languages, many in Christ's body will become better equipped to gain understanding and rightly divide Scripture in God-honoring and Christ-exalting ways. Here is a simple resource to encourage anyone on that journey. Click here to see more.

March 24, 2015

The Lord's New Commandment - John 13:34

The following is a short study on the Lord's New Commandment:

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another:
just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."
(John 13:34 ESV) 

I. What was the context of this new commandment?
  1. Jesus issued this commandment to his disciples on the night of his betrayal at his last supper before the Feast of Passover. (John 13:1-2)
  2. Before issuing the commandment, Jesus demonstrated his own service to his disciples by washing their feet. (John 13:3-10)
  3. During the meal, Jesus shared his bread with Judas Iscariot, who then left the room under Satan’s influence in order to betray Jesus. (John 13:11-30)
  4. Jesus spoke of his immediate glorification and God’s glorification through him, and he spoke of his departure and separation from his disciples, whom he denominated as his ‘little children.’ (John 13:31-33)
  5. Jesus told them that by keeping the commandment to love one another, all people would know that they were his disciples, if they have love for one another. (John 13:34-35) 
  6. Jesus carried over into the New Covenant an old commandment that was given in the Law of Moses (Leviticus 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”). He also extended that commandment to follow his pattern of self-sacrificial and self-giving love.
  7. In light of all the other commands to love our neighbors, Jesus singled out this command as new, because of its uniqueness and special connection with his death for his people and Church.
II. What was the purpose of this new commandment?
  1. This commandment was given at the time when Jesus established the New Covenant in his blood (Luke 22:20), and so it is to be a ruling principle in the Kingdom of God.
  2. Jesus stated that the new commandment was to be carried out the same way in which he had demonstrated. “Just as I have loved you . . .” (John 13:34). This shows that imitating Jesus and his love is part of its purpose.
  3. Jesus said that people would know you are his disciples by keeping this commandment (John 13:35). In other words, we demonstrate that we are following Jesus by showing love to others who are following him.
  4. The Church, as the body of Christ, is to be built up into maturity through Christ-like love. (Ephesians 4:11-16) 
  5. The new commandment gives assurance of true faith and of eternal life to those who keep it. (1 John 2:1-8) 
III. How can we obey the new commandment?
  1. We can obey the new commandment by sharing with fellow Christians according to the need. (Acts 2:45)
  2. We can obey the new commandment by bearing the burdens of others. (Galatians 6:2) 
  3. What does that look like in real life?
  4. We can obey the new commandment by not doing wrong to others. (Romans 13:10)
  5. We can obey the new commandment by encouraging one another in the faith. (Acts 14:22; Hebrews 10:25)
  6. What are additional ways in which we can love as Jesus commanded? 
IV. What are challenges to obeying the new commandment?
  1. What are some challenges to fulfilling this commandment:
  • from the home
  • from the church
  • from the world
  • from the devil
  • from our own sin

September 20, 2014

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

The more I read the gospel accounts of the life and service of Jesus, the more I learn about the Bible's unity and encouragement for everyday life.

One of my favorite stories from the gospels (and there are many!) is that of the storm on the sea of Galilee.

The Gospel According to Mark tells it this way:
"On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, 'Let us go across to the other side.' And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?' And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Peace! Be still!' And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, 'Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?' And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?'"
(Mark 4:35-41 ESV)
There are so many awesome things that can be taken from this story for encouragement. The following is just one of them. 

What the disciples experienced

First, consider how the disciples experienced this storm. They felt the rain and the waves pouring into the boat. They heard and felt the wind. They saw Jesus asleep in the stern in the middle of it all. They became agitated enough to wake him up and ask him if he even cared that they were all about to drown. They heard him rebuke the wind and tell the sea to be still. They saw the storm come to an immediate stop and all was calm. This made them feel even more fear pressing upon them, so that they asked, "Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?"

That question, "Who is this guy?" was inspired by their astonishment at his power to calm the storm with a word. It was a good question.

What they knew about Jesus

They already knew Jesus was the prophet that Moses predicted would lead God's people in Deuteronomy 18:15,18-19, because they acknowledged it in John 1:45. They also acknowledged that they knew Jesus was the true anointed king of Israel, the son of David called "Messiah" ("Christos" in Greek). This is acknowledged by them in John 1:41. Though they knew that, they were still shocked at how much power he displayed over the forces of nature. They had seen him heal the sick and cast out many demons with a word. But this event became another confounding moment for them.

How the account leaves us to wonder

What I love about this story is that the author Mark doesn't just answer their question. He left room for us the readers to wonder. He doesn't just write, "This, of course, happened because Jesus is the Son of God." Mark plainly revealed this fact about Jesus at the intro of his gospel, but he also gave room for readers to think about the things Jesus did and wonder about them. 

Something I like to do when I read this is think back to the Law and the Prophets, the writings of the Old Testament, and find bits of revelation about Jesus there that complement stories like this one. One of the places I go to is Psalm 65:7, where king David sings the Lord's praises by describing how God "stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples," and then adds in verse 8, "so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs." (ESV)

Then there is Psalm 88:9,
"You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them." (ESV)
Another great passage that describes God's power over the sea is this one,
"Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits' end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!"
(Psalms 107:23-31 ESV)
I love discovering these things in the Bible, because they help me understand Jesus the Messiah better, and in understanding Jesus better, I'm able to know God better, and in knowing God better, there is less to fear.

January 29, 2013

The Uncomfortable Conversation

Responses to friends or family, or even strangers, who talk to us about spiritual matters tend to result in knee-jerk reactions trying to avoid hearing or openly discussing what they have to say. But why is that?

Why do we feel so uncomfortable when someone close to us wants to talk to about the very things we all know matter most in life?

Doubtless, we all know what its like to be scolded by someone unnecessarily, or to be in the room with the person who is overly critical but will not listen to anyone else's opinion. I'm not referring to that particular kind of uncomfortable conversation. There are good strategies for dealing with people in such situations, but that's a topic for another time.

It would take quite some time to describe in detail all the answers that could be found in the Bible for why we tend to feel stressed in conversations regarding spiritual realities. Some natural reasons, of course, may be that we believe there is too much disagreement among various religious points of view. However, I believe the answer lies in questioning why we believe so strongly that agreement is unattainable.

The Bible teaches that we tend to avoid uncomfortable discussions about spiritual truth because we naturally do not like to be in the light. Just after telling Nicodemus about God's love for the world in John 3:16, Jesus also said that people hate the light and will not come into the light because they are afraid of having their sinful behavior exposed (John 3:19).

We usually react to statements like that by thinking it does not apply to us, but must be referring to other people out there somewhere. That kind of reasoning is called self-justification, which the Bible also points out as sinful. King David wrote that he wanted to be rebuked for his sin because it would help him avoid what was evil (Psalm 141:5; see also v. 4). David's son and heir to his royal throne, Solomon, wrote that people who hate correction are stupid (Proverbs 12:1) but that a wise man will love you if you rebuke him (Proverbs 9:8). Solomon also said that the prayer of the person who will not listen to God's Law is an abomination, and if they continually refuse to listen to correction, they will come to ruin suddenly without any hope (Proverbs 28:9; Proverbs 29:1). Jesus taught that unrighteous thoughts spring from a corrupt heart (Mark 7:20-22) and the apostle Paul, quoting from Psalm 14, explained that there is no one who is righteous and without sin. But when someone openly brings up similar things in a conversation, we may feel annoyed, or worse, angry.

We do not like to be judged, and so we often respond with the notion that "only God can judge our hearts...and he loves everybody anyway," so we tend to avoid talking about it. But what we forget is that God's Word is judging our hearts openly already, because that is its purpose (Hebrews 4:12). We do not need to run from that judgment like running from a fiery explosion, but we should step into it like stepping into the warm sunshine where all our blemishes can be seen for what they are, and can be healed as well.

So the next time anyone talks to you about the uncomfortable truths of the Bible, instead of shutting them down or turning away, engage with them openly and tell them how much you appreciate it, even though it may make you feel uncomfortable or you may disagree. Usually the best things in life make us feel uncomfortable at first, until we are trained by them. Exercise is never comfortable at the beginning, but we all know how much better we feel and look in the long run when we endure it. Endure the pain of those tough conversations for your own good and for the good of your loved ones. If they lead you to a deeper relationship with Christ, then you will be eternally blessed and happy for it.

December 27, 2012

Creator and Creation in Genesis 1:1

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

This verse sums up all things that exists as having been created in the beginning by God

The heavens and the earth did not always exist, they were created. God created them, but God was uncreated. God simply is what he is. 

In the beginning indicates a starting point. I take this to mean the beginning of everything, including all spiritual creations, as well as physical. God is the origin, the source of the existence of the heavens and the earth. Though they have a point of beginning, God has none. He simply is.

The heavens and the earth are dependent for their created and sustained existence, but God is independent. If we were to say that God is dependent on something, he would depend on himself. He is self-existent. That is to say, God's existence depends on God. Another way to put it is to say that he is ultimate. He is the bottom line, so to speak.

God acted in creation. He performed a work. Power, which is the ability to do something, was exercised by him, through him, and for him.

Creation was ex nihilo, or from nothing. God, who is, made something to be that was not until he caused it to be.

In speaking of reality, God is the ultimate reality, for only he simply is. All reality besides him is from him and depends on him for it to be real. All reality is therefore God's reality. In looking at this verse, it seems that all dependent reality is contained in two levels:
1) the heavens
2) the earth

Both levels exist as creaturely, that is, they are created. There is a distinction of essence between the Creator on the one hand, and the created on the other. The Creator exists apart from and independent of the created, and the created exists from and dependent on the Creator. Nothing exists apart from God, though God exists apart from everything besides himself. Therefore God is holy, separate, different, wholly other than his works of creation.

On account of this doctrine, God is to be regarded by us as sovereign, that is, he is supreme and authoritative. We look to him for all that we are and can be.

The subject of science often enters into discussions about creation from Genesis chapter one. But we must keep in mind that science, which comes from a latin word meaning knowledge, is the study of the natural world through human observation. When we speak of a natural world, we are speaking of the creation that depends on God for its existence. When we speak of human observation, we are speaking of created beings capable of knowing things by virtue of their created existence. So when we talk about science, we are talking about creation and what we can know about it. Such things are only possible because God has made them so. That is why the person who wants to separate his knowledge of God from what he can know about nature, studying it independently from him and calling that 'science', is badly mistaken. We depend on God in order to do even that. Therefore we must acknowledge our dependence on God as our Creator and Sustainer in order to know anything at all as it should be known, and by doing so, honor and glorify him.

Note, a fuller treatment of epistemology cannot be treated here, nor can a refutation of atheism, other religious traditions, or an in depth study of what other ancient cultures thought about creation be dealt with here. Those are topics for another occasion. However, I should mention that this verse comes down to us as part of God's revelation of himself and his works to us, his creatures. God communicated the knowledge of himself and his act in creation in order that we might know something about it, and therefore the message of verse one of Genesis chapter one is dependent on God's revealing it, which we believe and confess he has done.

September 23, 2012

My Thoughts on Genesis 1:1

As an exercise in faith seeking to understand all that God has provided for me in His written Word, I began writing some thoughts down as I read Genesis 1:1. There is a lot that could be written on this verse, but my aim was simply to look at what it says and what I can learn from it. I also included a note about the first book of the Bible, of which this verse is the opening one.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 
(Genesis 1:1 ESV)

Moses began this Genesis story with a statement of fact, the fact that Elohim (God) created the heavens and the earth. The heavens and the earth include everything. The only uncreated thing is God, who alone is Creator. The beginning was when and where it all started. Nothing created is without a beginning in space and time. This verse presents some of the qualities or characteristics of the God of Israel as eternal, powerful, creative, and beyond space and time. But creation is presented as temporal and dependent. There was a time when the heavens and earth did not exist, so we say they were made from nothing.

Some clear and logical observations from Genesis 1:1 are that:
1. God is the creator.
2. The heavens and the earth are his creation.
3. The beginning was the time of creation.
4. Which leads us to understand that our existence depends on God.
5. We belong to God as his workmanship.
6. We may naturally feel awed by God when we are in awe of his created works, and so direct our worship to Him.
7. As God's creatures, we are dependent on him for the right knowledge of him and for the right knowledge of ourselves and how we ought to live.

A little about the book of Genesis:
The first book of Moses, or Genesis, was written to people who naturally were descendants of Adam and Eve, God's first created human couple. That would include all of us.

It was also written more specifically to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, three of the most prominent characters in this story. They were the Hebrews, or Israelites. Here, Moses instructed the Hebrews about their God and their beginnings. This is why Genesis is called the book of beginnings. It tells of the beginning of creation, as well as the beginnings of nations, languages, kingdoms and culture. The beginning of creation is followed by the beginning of rebellion and death, which leads to the beginning of redemption and the promise of a new creation to come.

Additionally, it is important to note that the New Testament plainly teaches that Jesus Christ created all things. In fact, the Trinity - God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, each had a role to play in creation. This is a topic for another post, but nevertheless cannot go unstated.

September 4, 2012

Jonathan Edwards' Directions for Getting Christian Knowledge

Currently, I'm studying a sermon by Jonathan Edwards, titled: "Christian Knowledge", or, under its full title: "Christian Knowledge: The Importance and Advantage of a Thorough Knowledge of Divine Truth".

Hopefully you are already convinced that it is both your privilege and duty to read the Holy Scriptures and learn to understand their message, I offer you these wise directions from Jonathan on how to do so:

Directions for the acquisition of Christian knowledge

1. BE assiduous in reading the Holy Scriptures. This is the fountain whence all knowledge in divinity must be derived.

Therefore let not this treasure lie by you neglected. Every man of common understanding who can read, may, if he please, become well acquainted with the Scriptures. And what an excellent attainment would this be!

2. Content not yourselves with only a cursory reading, without regarding the sense. This is an ill way of reading, to which, however, many accustom themselves all their days. When you read, observe what you read. Observe how things come in. Take notice of the drift of the discourse, and compare one scripture with another. For the Scripture, by the harmony of its different; parts, casts great light upon itself.--We are expressly directed by Christ, to search the Scriptures, which evidently intends something more than a mere cursory reading. And use means to find out the meaning of the Scripture. When you have it explained in the preaching of the word, take notice of it; and if at any time a scripture that you did not understand be cleared up to your satisfaction, mark it, lay it up, and if possible remember it.

3. Procure, and diligently use, other books which may help you to grow in this knowledge. There are many excellent books extant, which might greatly forward you in this knowledge, and afford you a very profitable and pleasant entertainment in your leisure hours. There is doubtless a great defect in many, that through a lothness to be at a little expense, they furnish themselves with no more helps of this nature. They have a few books indeed, which now and then on sabbath-days they read; but they have had them so long, and read them so often, that they are weary of them, and it is now become a dull story, a mere task to read them.

4. Improve conversation with others to this end. How much might persons promote each other's knowledge in divine things, if they would improve conversation as they might; if men that are ignorant were not ashamed to show their ignorance, and were willing to learn of others; if those that have knowledge would communicate it, without pride and ostentation; and if all were more disposed to enter on such conversation as would be for their mutual edification and instruction.

5. Seek not to grow in knowledge chiefly for the sake of applause, and to enable you to dispute with others; but seek it for the benefit of your souls, and in order to practice.--If applause be your end, you will not be so likely to be led to the knowledge of the truth, but may justly, as often is the case of those who are proud of their knowledge, be led into error to your own perdition. This being your end, if you should obtain much rational knowledge, it would not be likely to be of any benefit to you, but would puff you up with pride: 1 Cor. viii. 1. " Knowledge puffeth up."

6. Seek to God, that he would direct you, and bless you, in this pursuit after knowledge. This is the apostle's direction, James i. 5. " If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, who giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not." God is the fountain of all divine knowledge: Prov. ii. 6. "The Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding." Labour to be sensible of your own blindness and ignorance, and your need of the help of God, lest you be led into error, instead of true knowledge: 1 Cor. iii. 18. " If any man would be wise, let him become a fool, that he may be wise."

7. Practice according to what knowledge you have. This will be the way to know more. The psalmist warmly recommends this way of seeking knowledge in divine truth, from his own experience: Psal. cxix. 100. " I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts." Christ also recommends the same: John vii. 17. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." 

Quoted from:

August 24, 2012

God's Word is full enough to occupy our minds forever

"The word of God, which is given for our instruction in divinity, contains enough in it to employ us to the end of our lives, and then we shall leave enough uninvestigated to employ the heads of the ablest divines to the end of the world. The psalmist found an end to the things that are human; but he could never find an end to what is contained in the word of God: Psal. cxix. 96. " I have seen an end to all perfection; but thy command is exceeding broad." There is enough in this divine science to employ the understandings of saints and angels to all eternity."

- Jonathan Edwards, from his sermon: Christian Knowledge

August 16, 2012

A Grace Quote from Calvin and the Law

As I read and study the Holy Scriptures, I'm struck at how much I find myself seeing in them exactly what John Calvin saw 500 years ago as he studied them. Here he describes the way the Law of God leads us to depend fully on mercy in Christ:

"But while the unrighteousness and condemnation of all are attested by the law, it does not follow (if we make the proper use of it) that we are immediately to give up all hope and rush headlong on despair. No doubt, it has some such effect upon the reprobate, but this is owing to their obstinacy. With the children of God the effect is different. The Apostle testifies that the law pronounces its sentence of condemnation in order “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom 3:19). In another place, however, the same Apostle declares, that “God has concluded them all in unbelief;” not that he might destroy all, or allow all to perish, but that “he might have mercy upon all” (Rom 11:32:) in other words, that divesting themselves of an absurd opinion of their own virtue, they may perceive how they are wholly dependent on the hand of God; that feeling how naked and destitute they are, they may take refuge in his mercy, rely upon it, and cover themselves up entirely with it; renouncing all righteousness and merit, and clinging to mercy alone, as offered in Christ to all who long and look for it in true faith. In the precepts of the law, God is seen as the rewarder only of perfect righteousness (a righteousness of which all are destitute), and, on the other hand, as the stern avenger of wickedness. But in Christ his countenance beams forth full of grace and gentleness towards poor unworthy sinners."
- John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book II.8

Note how one of the purposes of God's Law is to testify to our guilt and deserved condemnation before the absolutely Holy God. But this knowledge should not lead us to "give up all hope and rush headlong on despair." Instead, recognizing that the Law is just and true, and that we are guilty and helpless, we may find a reason to cling to Christ. Because now the cross and empty tomb make more sense to us, since it is there that Jesus paid the penalty of the Law for us, making us free.

The Law shuts mouths, so that nobody can justify themselves before God who knows all things. It forces us by its divine authority to accept a guilty verdict. But this is so that we may obtain mercy if we repent and confess our sins to God now. We may obtain mercy and find grace through faith, because Jesus Christ provides our righteousness, apart from works of the Law, as a gift which we depend fully on Him for, and not ourselves.

So next time you are tempted to despair from the high standard set by God's Law, look to Jesus. And if you do not have a high enough regard for God's Law yet, let it shut you up and show you just how much you really do need mercy.

Χάρις και ειρήνη
Grace and peace