I have had various interactions as of late which have reminded me of what it means to be a slave to sin. It also reminds me of how important Christ is in being freed from sinful patterns.
I spoke with one man about his infatuation with a certain girl. She treats him like dirt (I might even make the argument that the dirt gets better treatment). Despite her nagging, her authoritarian brazen-ness, her tongue whippings, et. al. he says he loves her and cannot live without her.
Another man stopped me in the parking lot of Wal-Mart. We talked for an hour about what I would call his "moral schizophrenia." He recognized that he was living a particular lifestyle that was not lawful. At one moment he would be distraught at it because he knew it was not right. In the very next breath he would smile and show his great affinity for it. He wanted to be rid of it and keep it all at the same time.
While I might sight more instances, both evidence the problem of the sin nature and our enslavement to sin. In his commentary on Judges Dale Ralph Davies reminds us that sin is not just an act. It is a power. It holds a grip upon us and we cannot wiggle free from it.
Such is a slave. A slave is one who cannot extract himself from his situation. Though he may have a desire to be free, he cannot attain it of his own power.
The apostle Paul also put it in terms of a "war" that waged within him (Rom. 7:15-24). King Solomon gave it more color when he depicted it as a dog that would return to his vomit. Each image describes the same predicament.
But what is the remedy?
Psychology would tell us that there are certain ways to break "habits" or end addictions. But they do not recognize the real substance of what is going on. There is no humanly way to do this. The problem is not of human will alone. It is a spiritual issue at base. It is a problem of the heart.
My brother once made a good observation of drunks and drug addicts that participated in A.A. meetings. He said that they never really got over their addictions. Typically they just replace one sin with another. The drinking stopped, but the smoking began. The drugs were put on the shelf, but they would begin to indulge in another area.
Scripture tells us that the answer does not lie within us. It is only through the power of Christ working by the Spirit. Paul, after explaining the battle that raged within him--wanting to do differently, but being unable to do so--finally exclaimed, "What shall save me from the body of death? Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ."
In the end, it is only the power of Christ that can sever the person from their sin. Faith is essential here. We pray for release and beg him to act. We seek to resist and do all that is in our power to remain distant from the temptation (godly fellowship, accountability, exposure to the means of grace, staying away from certain places/circumstances that expose us to temptation, etc.). But in the end, we trust Christ.
Temptation may overwhelm us at times. Nevertheless, we show faith. We come to Christ and acknowledge him as our only help. As we confess our sin, we confess the Savior again and again. We plead again for his strength and wait for him to bring the victory.
The power of sin is tremendous. This is why we must have Christ. His power is the only one that can exceed it and give freedom.
For two weeks I had been helping a man who was essentially homeless. At first I had him doing some chores around the house. I gave him food and paid him a fair wage for his labors.
As our relationship progressed I saw that he had some expertise in washing, waxing and detailing cars. I encouraged him to pursue these gifts and attempt to make a business of it. I began to help him in this. I allowed him to use my supplies and hose. I made flyers for him to pass out and gave him tips on how to get a business going. I set up a website for him, a facebook page, and did a good deal of promotional work for him.
The people of Providence Church also assisted. They were kind enough to offer more than simple prayers (which they most certainly did). They brought their cars in for him to spiff up to help "get him on his feet" and they offered him a great deal of encouragement/counsel. The deacons were also ready to help in more substantial ways if his condition necessitated it.
Throughout it all I was able to give this young man a substantial amount of counsel. Each day we would work through relational problems he was having. I talked to him about the gospel and what it meant to follow the Lord. He would listen as I explained how he needed to adjust certain priorities and repent of certain lifestyles.
All this is to say that we had a great ministry going and there was true compassion being demonstrated...until Job & Family Services stepped in!
That's right. The State of Ohio gave him a food stamps card. Ever since then, I have not seen or heard from him. I've called him twice at the place he had been staying. They said that they had not seen him much. I figure that means he is shacking up with his girlfriend again, and has re-entered that volatile relationship.
Why work when you can get your cake and eat it too from your local tyrants?
To be sure, the young man I was assisting is culpable of sin in the matter. Yet the gods of this age should not be pardoned in the least. They are now guilty of having killed this man's desire to work and they have given him license to live a sexually promiscuous lifestyle.
People need to recognize that the state is a religion. They do not want people being exposed to Christian compassion. They will bribe them with food and money to keep them from having to honor Christ or be exposed to His Word.
Manliness is more than being male. Textbooks would like to reduce it to biology and make it simply a matter of having the right parts. Some would even say that becoming a man is as simple as a surgery and hormone therapy.
But let’s get real. The ability to use a urinal doesn’t make you a man.
It isn’t found in age either. Someone once said to me that they had to get their son a car because he was a man now that he was 16. She then went on to talk about how unruly and irresponsible the kid was. My blank stare simply said “And you want to give him keys?”
Don’t get me wrong: Puberty is a developmental milestone. But the passing of years and stubble on the chin maketh not a man.
How about sexual bravado? This seems to be the creed of every high school locker room. Prime time television certainly reinforces the notion. Do you not “come of age” once you have lost your virginity? And do you not become manlier with each erotic conquest you notch up?
Well, if that is the case, your neighbor’s dog might be more manly than you.
Truth be told, our culture has long lost the concept of true manhood.
The cultural pundits are not shy about admitting it too. The New York Times touts that we’ve entered, not an economic “recession,” but an economic “Man-cession” because women are poised to surpass men in the workforce.
One cannot help but hear echoes of the savage, Indian tribesmen who sat around smoking peyote while the women provided for house and home.
As Saturday Night Live spoofed Arnold Swartzenager in the 1980’s they also jabbed our culture of manboys. When they talked about “girly men” we inherently understood that this pertained to more than a guy’s muscular physic. It had to do with the real core of masculinity, or one’s lack of it.
Other colloquialisms like this abound in our culture. From time to time we will hear someone say that it is time to “man up,” or “put on your big boy pants.” These all express that age, physical design, and sexual prowess are myths of masculinity.
It may be unconsciously, but our culture recognizes that real manhood consists in one’s character. We inherently know that manliness has a moral component to it. It lies in his ability to demonstrate discernment, honor, and integrity.
Perhaps in the dark recesses of the Smithsonian we would come across some archaic concepts like responsibility, headship, and duty. If we did, Millennials would grunt their apathetic perplexity and return to their video games. For older folks faded pictures of grandpa (or comic book superhero) might fleetingly skip past the mind.
Why is it that real masculinity—with all its decency and selfless nobility—a thing that can only be found in dusty Jane Austin novels? Why is it that little girls do not daydream about a prince charming anymore?
It is because the foundations of true manhood have been erased from society. We no longer talk of the first man, Adam, and how God designed him. Instead we tell tall tales of how our great, great grandpa was a meaningless germ that had absolutely no dignity or moral constitution.
Neither do we talk of the True Man, Jesus Christ, who embodied the principles of sacrifice and truth, and restores in men the ideals of stateliness and unconditional love.
Above all, we do not look to the once for all, absolute standard for manhood as it is inscribed in the Bible. When we chucked the revelation of God to man, we chucked everything men should be.
To be sure, every once in a while we will catch a quick glimpse of manly virtue—just before it is eclipsed by the infernal drone of the today’s mayhem of male-dom. But overall, the idea of manhood has devolved into what we once equated with savagery and uncivilized societies.
Matt Timmons is a pastor at Providence Church in Mifflin, OH. His claims to fame include being called “a ruler of demons,” “a Pharisee,” and “an uptight preacher.”
The people over at American Vision have written a little piece criitcing some of the "transformational" hype that is common in Reformed circles. I didn't appreciate the amillennial slap or the post-mill jibber-jabber. Nevertheless, it was a good article overall.
I've often found that being "transformational" means being artsy and all gung-ho about engaging the beat nick scene. But it doesn't ever seem to go much farther--as if the arts were the whole extent of culture.
I'm all for taking a Francis Schaeffer attitude towards the arts. Let's engage it, but let's also have a balanced view. I mean, what kind of impact are we going to have on culture if all we do is stare at some paintings, pretty up our churches with nicer decorations, and say, "Dude, Jesus would have Bob Dylan on his iPod."
True transformation means attacking the gods of the age, and the biggest god of our era. That means that the most necessary place of cultural transformation today is the life sucking monster we call the state.
But most don't go there. To do so would violate some "spiritual" duty of the church and would be to "forget the real calling of the church."
This overlaps a lot with the erroneous view of "preaching the gospel." I find that many want to talk about "the gospel" but neglect the rest of God's word (i.e. law). Or, they will say things like, "We need to bring the gospel to bear on the arts." That would be ok if they would also seek to bring the gospel to bear on the realm of economics or civil magistrate.
I am afraid we have a whole generation of men who are intent on becoming pastors simply because they read the Gospel Coalition's blog.
Frequently sermon prep doesn't "flow" well during the week. When Sunday morning comes along, there is still much to be done--an introduction, conclusion, and/or some much needed polishing of illustrations and applications.
Yet the Lord always seems to allow me to get it all done. Most of the time it ends up being presented well too.
This is never of my own doing.
So I'd like to take this moment to give the Lord the praise he is due. SDG!
One of the keys to understanding the meta-narrative of Scripture is what is typically called “progressive revelation.” Progressive revelation is part of the interpretive process wherein it is understood that God has revealed himself and his plan in gradual increments throughout history.
As we seek to understand progressive revelation, let us be sure what it is not.
What Progressive Salvation is Not
1). It should be understood that progressive revelation is not an evolution of religion or doctrine. Some maintain we see in Scripture the gradual transition from polytheism and nature worship to monotheism; the shift from cultic blood sacrifices to ethical religion. This perspective was popularized by the higher criticism that is associated with the Modernist movement of the 19th century (which is more commonly known as classic liberalism).
2) It should also be understood that progressive revelation is not a revelation of inconsistent and opposing truths at different points in history. The theological construct known as dispensationalism would be the most common illustration of this. The early dispensationalists, such as CI Scofield, postulated that God revealed himself in entirely different ways in different dispensations. The position these men advanced was more than just new information that built on old information. It was distinct and separate from that prior revelation.
A dispensation, according to Scofield, was a radically new way in which God related to his people. For instance, during the time of Moses it is believed that God related to his people by means of law. In distinction from this, dispensationalists proposed a new dispensation known as the church age wherein the Lord related to his people by means of grace. The older (sometimes called “classic”) dispensationalism went so far as to say that the saints during Moses’ time were saved by virtue of their works while the saints during the church age are saved by faith.
Contemporary (or “progressive”) dispensationalists would deny such a claim and affirm the more orthodox position—that the OT saints were saved by faith in the Messiah to come. Nevertheless, their view of progressive revelation still has some of the same incongruities. This is witnessed in the fact that both the older and the more recent forms of dispensationalism posit two different plans of salvation for two different peoples (Jews have a physical earthly kingdom, Gentiles have part in the church, the spiritual and temporal kingdom).
Progressive Revelation Explained & Illustrated
If progressive revelation is not evolutionary in nature or different in substance, how then are we to understand it? The proper view may be compared to an oak tree that grows out of an acorn. While the oak tree is obviously distinct from an acorn, it is not altogether unrelated. It is the fuller manifestation of the acorn. The essential properties of the tree are not different from that of the nut. Rather, it is simply the greater expression of all that was contained in the smaller seed form.
Earlier this year a friend of mine designed a PCA Book of Church Order mobile app. I had put together a rough sketch of what I had in mind. He then took it and started putting it together. While he worked on it I sought to gain copyright approval from the Administrative Committee.
I was never given that permission, but I can say we have a rather sweet app.
Here are some of the features included in the app:
Perhaps the greatest feature though was that we were going to bring the app to the market without any cost to the PCA's Administrative Committee and reasonably priced to the PCA consumer.
Unfortunately, without the copyright, we cannot distribute the app.
I recently gave a series of lectures on apologetics, particularly in regards to Islam. I have debated whether or not I should post them because much of the material has been borrowed (and is lacking a great deal of the necessary citations). I have decided though, to make the material available as it has been in some demand.
Please note though that much of what is here is simply a conglomeration of other people's thoughts.
Lecture 1: The Dilemma of Islam
Lecture 2: Allah: Uncovered and Exposed
Lecture 3: More Examples of How Isalm Impales Itself
Lecture 4: The Sure Way of Salvation
Here is the corresponding study guide.
We have said before that history is His Story. That is especially true for the narrative of Scripture. The Bible is, in the main, a collection of stories. There are some letters, poems, and prophetic literatures, but the majority of it is history.
The key to understanding this history—and therefore all of Scripture, is to see it as one continuing story. The individual stories ought not to be viewed as isolated accounts stripped of their larger context. Neither should they be viewed as moralistic tales that help little Johnny and Suzzie to be good little boys and girls.
One of the great enemies of Christ over the years has been the many children’s Sunday School classes that have gutted the Scripture’s stories of their real value. Children grow up learning about Noah, Joseph, Jonah, and Daniel, but they never learn the significance of Noah, Joseph, Jonah, and Daniel. Even many pulpits have done a great disservice to Christ because the OT narratives have not been read in light of the purpose they serve in the larger narrative of God’s unfolding redemption.
What’s more, the average evangelical—who holds tenaciously to the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, has often done (unintentional) damage to his understanding of Biblical truth by his own faithful reading of Scripture. As he opens the Scripture to read, he picks a passage here or there. One day he reads from a gospel. The next day a Psalm. Then he highlights a few charming verses of Isaiah (after skipping a bunch of tedious sections dealing with foreign nations he knows nothing about).
Such a reading plan will never grasp the continuity of Scripture. Couple this with his reading for the purpose of a personal pep or boost of “inspiration,” and you will find that the Scriptures have been mutilated more than studied. The Bible simply becomes a heap of kindling for giving you the occasional warm fuzzy, and the God of the Bible becomes something of a “genie in the book” as the reader hopes to find personal fulfillment by its pages.
In contrast to this segmented and disorderly (not to mention blasphemous) approach to Scripture stands the drama of God’s pursuit of his people in and through his Son. The Bible should be seen as a coherent whole; a cohesion of stories that tell of redemption and faith.
SG DeGraaf might have hit it most poignantly when he titled his 4 volume devotional Bible overview “Promise and Deliverance.” From Genesis to Revelation a single line of thought is drawn out and unfolded. The thread of God’s promise to save pulls each story together to express the single tale of a great deliverance of sinners.
We only need to look at the beginning and end of the Bible to see the overarching reality of this super- narrative. The Bible begins in a garden, but it ends in a city. It begins with a heave of sorrow as man is plunged into sin. But it ends with exultation as a host that no one can number cannot ever shed a tear again. It begins with two people being cast out from the face of God, but it ends with their descendants returning to their paradisiacal home to never be separated from Him again.
What we see in those bookends is knit together by everything in between. Capturing this flow is essential to biblical interpretation and, most of all, personal edification. When this line of thought is carried through the Scripture and the individual parts begin to congeal with the larger narrative, God begins to speak. No longer is it the “genie in the book” but it is the eternal God who is seeking and saving man.
Admittedly, this is no small task. There will certainly be some stories that remain mysterious. But the overall message will nevertheless be heard.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.