I am looking forward to reading the latest from my friend John Crotts, pastor of Faith Bible Church in Sharpsburg, GA. His prior titles on biblical manhood and womanhood, marriage and family I highly recommend. In his newest, Loving the Church: God’s People Flourishing in God’s Family, Crotts looks at the biblical necessity that the believer be in a right, loving relationship with a local body–His Church. The book is further described below:
Loving the Church reminds us how glorious God’s family really is, and the countless ways that you can flourish within it. In recent years the family has experienced a revival within Christian culture, but with this increased emphasis on the importance of the family, less value has been placed on God’s family, the church. One of the most important relationships for all Christians is their involvement in God’s family. Loving the Church lays the vital foundation for applying his glorious plan to our own lives. Enter as friends and explore together what it means to love the church. Follow the story of five friends as they wrestle with important questions about the church. After each of their discussions about the church, the author leads the reader to understand the beauty and joy of being a member of the household of God.
There is a common refrain found time and time again in Leviticus chapters 4-6, “And the priest shall make atonement for them, and they shall be forgiven.” Atonement is the central motif in the book of Leviticus, the commands of our Lord to the priests prior to entering the Promised Land. Imagine being a part of the people of God during this time. In His grace God gave the people a number of commands to obey to remain faithful to Him and the covenant. The numerous civil and ceremonial laws, along with the moral code, the Ten Commandments, are found in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. There were many laws, and I imagine that the sins were numerous. Given the count of males was around 625,000 at this time, the priests stayed busy!
May we rejoice in the truth that Christ fulfilled the law for us (Matthew 5:17)! Further, not only did Christ fulfill the law in keeping every jot and tittle of it perfectly in glorifying the Father, but He became the once for all sacrifice for sin, and He took the position of High Priest as well.
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. [Hebrews 2:17]
 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)  he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.  For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh,  how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. [Hebrews 9:11-15]
May we worship Him who knew no sin and took our sin for us! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
One of my favorite pericopes in the Gospels found in Luke 10:38-42 — Mary and Martha. We find this story in Luke’s account alone. In it we find the following, “But Martha was distracted with much serving” (Luke 10:40 ESV). There are many things and/or movements that come along in the life of an individual and/or the church that on the surface seem to be necessary for living out the gospel life. These things are often needed, even commanded, as a part of gospel life and never the whole. The danger is that the service itself becomes a distraction to living the gospel, so much so that we miss Christ,.
In his classic Knowing God, J.I. Packer warned of such distractions:
We have been brought to the point where we both can and must get our life’s priorities straight. From current Christian publications you might think that the most vital issue for any real or would-be Christian in the world today is church union, or social witness, or dialogue with other Christians and other faiths, or refuting this or that -ism, or developing a Christian philosophy and culture, or what have you. But our line of study makes the present day concentration on these things look like a gigantic conspiracy of misdirection. Of course, it is not that; the issues themselves are real and must be dealt with in their place. But it is tragic that, in paying attention to them, so many in our day seem to have been distracted from what was, and is, and always will be, the true priority for every human being. That is, learning to know God in Christ.
May we take care that we are not well-meaning Martha’s who missed Christ, but may we be Mary’s who seek to worship Christ with our whole being.
Timothy Dalrymple of Patheos has organized an ambitious collection of essays on “The Future of Evangelicalism.” The essays will be rolled out over the next two weeks, starting today. There should be plenty for people to like and not like. Some of the articles will be helpful and with others you’ll be wondering “Why are we listening to this person on the future of evangelicalism?”An interesting and impressive collection nonetheless.
Here’s the lineup:
Transforming the Church (August 2) – Scot McKnight, Collin Hansen, Kevin DeYoung, Justin Taylor, Ed Stetzer, Matthew Anderson, Al Hsu
Transforming Culture (August 4) – Mark Noll, Marvin Olasky, Andy Crouch, Michael Gilberson, Michael Lindsay, William Lane Craig and Paul Copan, Craig Detweiler, Robert Velarde
American Evangelicals and the Variety of Christianity (August 6) – Rodney Stark, Hugh Hewitt, Rod Dreher, Adam McHugh, Marla Frederick, Soong-Chan Rah
Transforming Society, Part 1: Social Justice and the Progressive Christian Movement (August 9) – Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, Shane Claiborne, Phyllis Tickle
Transforming Society, Part 2: Liberty, Responsibility, and the New Evangelical Conservatism (August 11) – Michael Cromartie, David Theroux, Kelly Monroe, Timothy Dalrymple
Transforming the Shape of Evangelical Ministry (August 13) – Richard Foster, Bob Roberts, Rob Moll, Tom Sine
If you’re interested, check back at that link over the next two weeks to read the other articles.
As I read through the Exodus account this morning, I was once again struck by the depths of human depravity. In Exodus 32, at the very time that Moses was up on the mountain receiving the law from God to give to His people (a law, by the way, that was given by God’s grace), His chosen people were fashioning the god of their imagination. They were impatient and insubordinate and sought to find satisfaction in the moment and in themselves rather than in God.
However, what stood out to me this morning is how precise God was in giving the law along with the plans for the tabernacle and the priestly garbs. God pays attention to detail! However, notice how flippant and imprecise the people were, “So I (Aaron) said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf” (v. 24). Out came this calf! Are you kidding me? We know Aaron lied because we are told that he fashioned it with a graving tool. This shows how Aaron and the people of God chose to compete with God rather than obey Him. Consider this alongside God’s opening words to Moses on the mount:
1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. 3 And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, 4 blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, 5 tanned rams’ skins, goatskins, acacia wood, 6 oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 7 onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. 8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. 9 Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it. [Exodus 25:1-9]
What was the first item Moses was to request for contribution: gold. And what were they doing with their gold as their hearts were moved at that very moment?
3 So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt! [Exodus 32:3-4]
Of course, you might recall God’s assessment of their sinfulness:
7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. [Exodus 32:7-9, emphasis mine]
As you examine your own heart today, how does it “move” you? Are you moved to honor and glorify God as He has described in great detail in His Word? Do you worship Him as He has prescribed, or do you offer “unauthorized incense” at the altar? May we remember Jeremiah’s words,
9 The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
10 “I the Lord search the heart
and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.” [Jeremiah 17:9-10]
Are you stiff-necked today? Are you satisfied with the things of this earth or are you living for that which is above? May we live our lives as if Christ is sufficient today!
One of our church members passed along a link to Phil Johnson’s (a.k.a. Pyromaniacs) blog, “Why the Unregenerate (no matter how smart or how benevolent) Just Don’t Get It,” taken from Spurgeon’s sermon on 1 Corinthians 2:14, “Natural or Spiritual?” (thanks MC!). I happened to have the volume in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, so I pulled it and read the entire sermon. This goes out to those who somehow continue to believe that Spurgeon was not a Calvinist.
I have heard persons rail at Calvinistic doctrine, who never in their lives have read a word that Calvin wrote. If you were to offer them a small treatise in which that noble system of divinity should be vindicated, they would say, “Oh! it is no doubt so dry, I should not be able to read it.” Yet these learned gentlemen know what is inside a book without opening it! They are like some critics of whom I have heard, who, when they meet with a new volume, take the knife and cut the first page, smell it, and then condemn or praise. Many there are who do just the same with the Bible. They have heard some verses of it once or twice, they have got some idea of it, and straightway they are wise. They take to themselves their own degree of Doctor of Divinity, and they have much boldness in their unbelief. Now, of any man who should denounce the system of truth which is taught in Scripture as ridiculous and foolish, I can only say he has never taken the trouble to search it out for himself. Have not the mightiest intellects confessed that the truths of this book were infinitely above their highest flights? Even Newton, who could thread the spheres, and map the march of what else had seemed discordant planets, even he said there were depths here which no mortal could fathom. “O the depths of the wisdom of God!” This has been the exclamation of some of the most glorious minds that have ever enlightened the world. And I can say, and I know it to be a truth, that every man who reads the Word of God, and studies the divinity therein revealed—if he at first thinketh that he understandeth it, when he reads again, finds that he has only begun to know; and when he shall have searched year after year, and have become more than usually prescient in the study of the things of God, he will still say, “Now I begin to know my folly, now I began to discover that God is above me and beneath me, but I cannot grasp him, I cannot find out the Almighty to perfection, his words, his works, his ways, herein revealed to the sons of men, are past finding out.” You wise fellows who turn upon your heels, and sneer at things which have astonished minds infinitely vaster than yours, prove your own folly when you call the things of God folly. With regard to that particular form of divine truth which we hold so dear, currently called Calvinistic doctrines—there is no philosophy propounded by any sage, so profound as that philosophy. There are no truths that were ever taught so wonderful, so worthy of the profoundest research of the most expanded minds, as those doctrines of the eternal love, the discriminating grace, and the infinite power of God, co-working to produce the results which his wisdom had decreed. When every other science shall have been exhausted, when astronomy shall have no wonders left, when geology shall have no secrets to unravel, when natural history and philosophy shall have given up all their infinite treasures, there will still remain a mine without a bottom, there will still remain a sea of wisdom without a shore, in the doctrines of the gospel of the grace of God. The folly, therefore, cannot be in the doctrines themselves.
And as on the one hand, these things of the Spirit of God are wise and profound, so on the other hand, they are most important, and most imperatively necessary to be understood, so that if they be not received, it is not because they are uncongenial with our necessities. There are some speculations which a man need not enter upon. I receive constantly questions upon speculations which never struck my mind before, and certainly never will again. Persons want to know what is the origin of sin; they ask ten thousand questions which, if they could be answered, would not make them a whit the better. But the things of the gospel of God, which are as important as life and death depending upon them, men are content to slur over without making any earnest enquiry, or setting themselves to ascertain their truth. O sirs! the doctrines of God teach you your relationship to your Maker—is not that worth understanding? They teach you your condition before the Most High God—should you not know that? Ought you not to have clear ideas of it? They show you how God can be just to man, and yet be gracious—is not that a riddle that is worthy to have an answer? They reveal to you how you can approach to God, and become his child; how you may be conformed to his image, and made a partaker of his glory—is not that worth understanding? They reveal to you the world to come; they put to your short-sighted eye, a telescope which enables you to pierce the darkness and to see the unseen. The doctrines of grace put into your hands the keys of heaven, and unveil the secrets of death, and hell—are not these things worth grasping? Are not the secrets of these places worth the discovery? The doctrines of grace put inside your hands powers infinitely greater than ever wizard was conceived to have wielded when he used his magic rod. By their might you can destroy your troubles; you can see your sins swallowed up; you can behold your enemies defeated; you can see death destroyed, the grave swallowed up, and life and immortality brought to light. If you, then, as a natural man, say that the things that are written in this book are foolish, it is not because they are trivial, unimportant, and despicable, for no man can ever over-estimate their value, and no soul can solemnly enough weigh them, and understand how important they are. It argues a high excess of impiety, when a man shall say that that which came from God is foolish. Perhaps blasphemy itself cannot outlive that, and yet how many have been guilty of this constructive blasphemy! Let my finger run around these galleries, and along these seats beneath; are there not many of you who have said the Bible was a dull and uninteresting book? And yet God wrote it! And what have you said? Have you not impugned your Maker? Have you not said, perhaps, that the doctrines of the Gospel were very unimportant? Can you believe that your Maker sat down to write an unimportant book, or that the Holy Ghost inspired men of old to write that which, if not nonsense, is certainly of no importance whatever? Come, bow your head and repent of this your grave offense, for an offense it is, since it is not within the compass of any modest reason to imagine that any word which God has written can be foolish, or unimportant or unworthy to be understood. I suppose it is granted by all who love the Word of God, and to those mainly I must appeal, that the reason why the natural man rejects the sinners of God is not because they are foolish; then there must be some other reason.
You can read the entire sermon here.
This week on Help and Hope (CCEF podcast): Ed Welch, Tim Lane and host Andrew Ray discuss Facebook…is it really a place to keep up with relationships? What are the benefits and pitfalls of online social media? Ray opens the interview by stating, “We live in a lonely generation.” Is Facebook beneficial in helping our loneliness? Check it out here.