• Is God Immoral for Being Jealous?

    In the Bible God is described as a jealous God (Exodus 20:4-5). But this seems to be petty right? When we think of jealousy we think of young kids who are jealous of each other for some stupid reason. So, it goes to reason that God shouldn’t be jealous because jealousy should be beneath him right? Not quite. Here is what Paul Copan says in his great book Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God about God’s jealousy: 

    Jealousy can be a bad thing or a good thing. It’s bad to protect the petty; it’s good to fiercely guard the precious. If jealousy is rooted in self-centeredness, it is clearly the wrong kind of jealousy. A jealousy that springs from concern for another’s well-being, however, is appropriate. Yes, jealousy can be a vice (Gal. 5:20—“enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger”). Yet it can also be a virtue, a “godly jealousy,” as Paul put it: “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin” (2 Cor. 11:2). Paul was concerned for the well-being of the Corinthians. His jealousy didn’t spring from hurt pride or self-concern. Throughout the Bible, we see a God who is a concerned lover. He’s full of anguish and dismay when his covenant people pursue non-gods. In the prophetic book of Hosea, God—the loving husband—gets choked up when his wife, Israel, continually cheats on him: “My heart is turned over within Me, all My compassions are kindled” (Hosea 11:8). When can jealousy be a good thing? In God’s case, it’s when we’re rummaging around in the garbage piles of life and avoiding the ultimate source of satisfaction. It reminds me of a comic strip I once saw of a dog who had been drinking out of a toilet bowl. With water dripping from his snout, Fido looks up to tell us, “It doesn’t get any better than this!” Instead of enjoying fresh spring water, we look for stagnant, crummy-tasting substitutes that inevitably fail us. God laments over Israel: “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water”

     

    So God is jealous for us because he loves us and we are his and this is actually for our good.

    Does this help you think better of God being a jealous God?

    You may also like:

    Is the Old Testament History or Story?

    What Everybody Ought to Know About God’s Judgement

    Do You Have to Believe in a Historical Adam to Believe the Gospel?

  • The Enemy is within Part 4: The decline in the Doctrine of Scripture

    The doctrine of scripture is fundamental to our faith. If we believe that the Bible is the word of God and that God speaks and when he speaks he tells the truth then it follows that the Bible would be inerrant.  Inerrancy is basically saying that the Bible is without error. An easy thing for Evangelicals to say and believe isn’t it? Or is it?

    In recent times there has been a growing unease with the term inerrancy and we have seen this in two areas:

    1. We have seen the denial of inerrancy taught from a doctrinal point of view. We are told that the Bible never claims to be inerrant and when we see the so called contradictions we can see that inerrancy doesn’t work. Therefore, some conclude that inerrancy is theologically indefensible.
    2. We have seen the willingness of biblical scholars to accept the findings of historical critical scholarship at the expense of defending the historicity of the biblical text.  Now I am not against scholarship or even critical scholarship but when we use scholarship to say that the Exodus didn’t happen like the Bible says it did or events in the Bible that purport to be historical aren’t but they still convey truth we are on the rocky ground where we are sitting over the Bible in judgement.

    I am an innerantist and I think inerrancy is defensible because of who God is. Because we believe in a God who speaks clearly and who speaks clearly through his word (2 Tim3:16) and because God tells the truth (Numbers 23:19) I think we can safely say that the Bible is inerrant. That then means any so called contradictions need to worked out so that we harmonise them and not let them inform our doctrine of scripture because this is putting the cart before the horse theologically.

    The problem once again is influence. I am not saying that everyone in Sydney denies the historicity of the Bible but there have been number of people very influenced by these positions. History shows us that when we significantly modify our doctrine of scripture it does take a few generations for the chickens to come home to roost.

    I pray that it doesn’t, I pray that I am wrong.

     

  • The Enemy is Within part 2: The Threat of Neo-Orthodoxy

    One of the main theologians we were told interact with at the theological college that I went to was Karl Barth. For those that don’t know who Karl Barth is he was a German theologian who many think was the most influential theologian in the 20th century. He was a man who was trying to escape the trappings of theological liberalism of the 19th century. At the centre of his theology was a christocentricism that meant Christ was the starting, middle and end of all theological talk. Of late he is lauded by Evangelicals because of his disdain towards theological liberalism but I think we need to think hard before we put him on the side of the angels.

    Before we get into why Barth is dangerous I have to admit that I have only read about 1000 pages of his Church Dogmatics. Because of this, I have been told that I have not read enough to have an informed opinion on Barth. Therefore I am no specialist on Barth but I can see there are huge issues with his theology. That being said because of space I will outline two aspects of his theology where, in my opinion, he is significantly amiss.

    The first issue I see is his Doctrine of Scripture. Here are some quotes taken from Church Dogmatics Book 1, 2.

    But the vulnerability of the bible, i.e. its capacity for error, also extends to its religious or theological content.”

    “To the bold postulate, that if their (writers of the bible) word is to be the Word of God they must be inerrant in every word, we oppose the even bolder assertion that according to the scriptural witness about man, which applies to them too, they can be at fault in any word, and have been at fault in every word, and yet according to the same scriptural witness, being justified and sanctified by grace alone, they still have spoken the Word of God in their fallible and erring human word.”

    Barth is clear, the Bible is in some sense the word of God but it contains errors and these errors could be historical in nature and could even extend to the theological realm. Therefore, how are we to know what the Bible writers got right and wrong about history and God? Barth is in error here because, as Evangelicals, we believe that when God speaks through his word he speaks the truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17). A denial of inerrancy or a claim that the bible is mistaken is first and foremost an attack on the ability of God to speak the truth clearly and secondly it is an attack on the Bible.

    The second issue I see in Barth is his view on the atonement.  To be clear, even though he caricatures penal substitutionary atonement at some points in book two of his dogmatics I think he actually subscribes to it. For example:

    The Son of God fulfilled righteous judgement on us men by himself taking our place as man and in our place undergoing the judgement under which he had passed.” (Church Dogmatics2,1)

    It is a great thing that he subscribes to penal substitutionary atonement. But I think he considers the atonement to be efficient for all people whether they have belief or not. In layman’s terms, Barth seems to say at some points that through the cross all people are forgiven of their sin not just those who believe. For example:

    “This human action and suffering has to be represented and understood as the action and, therefore, the passion of God himself, which in its historical singularity not only has a great general significance for the men of all times and places, but by which their situation has been objectively and decisively changed, whether they are aware of it or not.” (Church Dogmatics book  4, 1)

    Coupled with his view on predestination where he holds that “predestination consists positively of election but does not include reprobation (ie. punishment) ” (Church Dogmatics book 2, 2) We can see that there are strains of universalism in his view of the atonement. That is the atonement makes everyone right with God regardless of their belief in Jesus or lack thereof. This negates what the Bible says about hell and judgement. Now to be fair, Barth, because he wants to emphasize the freedom of God, does hold out that people will be judged and sent to hell. But how do his view on the atonement fit with the freedom of God? This is unclear.

    If you are finding Barth confusing it is because he is! It is interesting to read what different people say about him because sometimes it can seem like I am reading critiques of two different theologians. This is where I see Barth’s influence being its most dangerous. Because it seems that those who are very into Barth take on his way of communicating. It is this push and pull, this yes and yet no, way of communicating that runs through all his theology and his disciples theology that makes both him and his disciples unclear and ultimately irrelevant for the person in the pew.

    When I was at college I was told by some  of my lecturers that Barth was “Evangelical” and that he “got the New testament right” and that he was “one of a number of guys who we should base our theology on”. Coming out of college I have seen many of my brothers and sisters influenced significantly by Barth and because of the problems outlined above, and many others, I think the influence of neo- orthodoxy on some of the current crop of young Sydney ministers is a threat to the gospel in Sydney.

  • Preparing for a preaching series

    So you have been asked to give a bunch of talks for a youth group camp or maybe your pastor has asked you to preach a four week series for church. You now have about 3-6 months to prepare for the series, what do you do?

    I have developed a process for preparing for a series based on advice Don Carson gave at a preaching conference. Here is what I do if I am preaching through a book:

    1. I read and read and reread the book. I want to know the argument of the book and its main themes without going to a commentary or some other book. From this reading I usually choose the breakup of the book and the passages in consultation with the Elders at Resolved.
    2. After I have read the book I read two dictionary articles on the book or a two entries about the book in an introduction to the New or Old Testament
    3. I then read the introductions of the commentaries I am going to use.
    4. Then I may read a bunch of books on the topic(s) that the book I am preaching through deals with. For example, before I preached through Galatians earlier this year I read a bunch of stuff on Paul, the Law and justification. This helped me no end with my understanding of Galatians.
    5. While I am doing all this reading I am always on the lookout for illustrative material.

    If I am preaching a topical series like “Sex and Relationships” My process goes like this:

    1. Figure out the broad topics I want to hit. In the “Sex and Relationships series I wanted to preach on marriage, singleness, love for the gay community, struggling with same sex attraction, lust, sex etc. ‘
    2. In consultation with the Elders at Resolved select the passages to preach on.
    3. Read very widely on these topics from both every background I could. For example for the sex series didn’t just read evangelical books on sex and relationships. I read secular books, liberal books, evangelical books. Now if you are starting out preaching or giving talks I would say go to some books that your pastor recommends because reading widely like this can confuse you and shatter your confidence.  But if you are a trained pastor do hard work in this area.
    4. While I am doing all this reading I am always on the lookout for illustrative material.

    In doing this reading I have found that when I come to a text I already have a good idea of what the passage is about and exegesis time is cut down significantly. It also teaches me that preaching is hard work and I need to devote many hours to it!

    So that is what I do. How do you prepare for a series?

     

  • Lies the church tells us about sex: That virginity matters

    It seems like  Christians are big on virginity. Sometimes it seems like our biggest goal as Christians is to get over the marriage line with our virginity intact.

    This stance raises a whole heap of questions

    What message does this send to those have lost their virginity already? Are they damaged goods?

    What about the couple who may be technically virgins on their wedding night but have done everything but sex?

    What does the Bible say about virginity?

    When I look at the New Testament the word virginity is about as absent as good music at a Justin Bieber concert. The thing that matters in the New Testament is obedience.

    Paul says:

    Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:12-20)

    The point is not virginity but the honouring of God with our bodies. This means that wherever we are we are to honour God because of what Christ has done.

    What Paul is saying is that we should pursue gospel shaped obedience.

    That means for the person that has lost their virginity we shouldn’t give them such an asinine title like “born again virgin” but we should be saying “in light of the gospel pursue obedience”

    To the couple that are technically virgins but are doing everything but have sex we can say “your goal is gospel shaped obedience and that means you need to draw line at what you do a long way back.”

    To the person struggling with same sex attraction we say “Pursue gospel shaped obedience”

    To the teenager whose friends are sleeping together we say “Pursue gospel shaped obedience”

    We need to reframe our conversation our conversation should be really about obedience not virginity.

    What are your thoughts?

     

     

  • Guest blog: Preaching Isaiah by Barry Webb pt. 2

    Hans’ note: I had the privilege of learning from Barry when I was at Moore College. I can still remember some of the things he said in those lectures because they were profound, biblical and helped me see the beauty of the gospel more clearly. Barry is a warm, generous and beautiful man of God. If you have never read any of his work I would suggest going over to Amazon and buying anything that he has written. You will not be disappointed. These are the handout that Barry gave out when he helped my wife and the other girls who would be preaching at Moore college’s womens chapel. They were preaching on Isaiah and who better to get to talk about preaching on Isaiah than Barry Webb! If you want to read the first post click here.

    4.  General Implication for preaching from Isaiah

    4.1

    The text should not be handled in a way that denies its humanity or disconnects it from history. I assume therefore, that some attention will have to be given to the man Isaiah, his personal circumstances, and the circumstances of those to whom his words were originally directed. This means that sermons will need to have a strong exegetical base. Statements should not be taken as expressing timeless truths unrelated to the particular circumstances in which they were given. To preach with integrity the preacher will need to have settled convictions about the origins of the text and apply these consistently in his preaching.

    4.2

    The text should not be handled in a way that denies its unity. That is, particular passages should be related to their literary context, and some attention should be given to the way they contribute to the message of the book as a whole. This means that the preacher will need to have settled convictions about the basic shape of the book, its major themes, and its theological centre, if it has one. Before beginning to preach it is desirable that the preacher be able to summarise the message of the whole book in a sentence or brief paragraph.

    4.3

    Given the particular responsibility of the Christian preacher, it will be important, especially in the second half of the sermon, to trace at least some of the connections between the passage in hand and the gospel proclaimed by Jesus Christ and his apostles in the New Testament. This is where a genuinely Christian sermon on Isaiah will differ essentially from a Jewish one, or from a one which speaks merely of God and morality. Attention will need to be given here to NT quotations from Isaiah, but also to the way the broad themes of biblical theology develop as one moves from the OT to the NT.

    4.4

    Given a commitment to the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, the NT use of Isaiah will not be regarded as arbitrary, or as an unwarranted imposition on the original text. In tracing out the NT developments of his text the preacher will understand himself to be trying to ‘think God’s thoughts’ after him, and will try to help his hearers to do the same.

    4.5

    Given, again, the nature of the preacher’s essential task, the sermon should move from exegesis, to gospel-focused theological reflection, to application. At this point the preacher must grapple with the question of how the particular aspect of the gospel which is illuminated by the passage intersects with the present life situation of his hearers

    5. Particular issues regarding preaching from Isaiah

    5.1

    The size probably precludes consecutive exposition of the whole book, even if this were desirable in principle. Some kind of selection of passages or themes is necessary.

    5.2

    The unity of the book makes it undesirable to divide it, for preaching purposes, into the three sections normally taken as the starting point for historical-critical study (e.g. 1-39, 40-55, 56-66). This makes diversity (and a particular view of the diversity of this book) the controlling datum of interpretation, rather than the gospel. It is probably best, from a preaching point of view, to give people some way of seeing the book as a whole first (e.g. in the first sermon) and then taking up particular passages or themes in more detail in subsequent sermons.

    5.3

    Selection of passages and/or themes for inclusion in a preaching series will depend to a large extent on the convictions of the preacher about the structure of the book and its major, most distinctive themes. A series on Isaiah should, among other things, give the hearers a eel for what is Isaiah’s special contribution to the message of the Bible. Passages or themes should be chosen with this in mind, and not selected arbitrarily

    3. Planning a sermon series on Isaiah: An example

    3.1  Introductory talk or sermon:

     

    Isaiah’s Vision: God is King.

     

    • Why study Isaiah? Because of Jesus (Luke 4:14-21)
      • The world of Isaiah
      • The man Isaiah
      • The book of Isaiah
      • Why study Isaiah? To see Jesus’ glory (John 12:41)

     

    3.2  Sermons on selected passages

     

    1. The King’s Holiness Isaiah 6:1-13
    2. The King’s Wrath Isaiah 24:1-16a
    3. The King’s Trustworthiness Isaiah 37:1-20
    4. The King’s Gospel Isaiah 40:1-11
    5. The King’s Servant Isaiah 42:1-9
    6. The King’s Banquet Isaiah 55:1-8
    7. The King’s Justice Isaiah 56:1-8
    8. The King’s City Isaiah 65:17-25
    9. The King’s Mission Isaiah 66:12-24

     

    This sermon series has passages from all seven parts of the book, and touches on most of its distinctive themes: the holiness of God, the Servant as the key to God’s purposes, the new Jerusalem as the centre of God’s coming kingdom, justice as the essence of true religion, trust as the proper response to God, mission to the nations as the plan of God.

    __________________________________________________________________

    Resources

    Reid, A., and K. Morris, Two Cities: Isaiah (Sydney: Matthias Media, 1993)

    Roth, Wolfgang, Isaiah (Knox Preaching Guides; Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1988).

    Recommended.

    Williamson, H. G. M. “Preaching Isaiah.” Chapter 8 in “He began with Moses”: Preaching the Old Testament Today. Edited by Grenville Kent, Paul J. Kissling, and Laurence A. Turner. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Aca

     

  • Sometimes I don’t live in reality

    Go, my people, enter your rooms
    and shut the doors behind you;
    hide yourselves for a little while
    until his wrath has passed by.
    See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling
    to punish the people of the earth for their sins.
    The earth will disclose the blood shed on it;
    the earth will conceal its slain no longer.

    Isaiah 26:20-21

    Amongst other things I read in the Bible this morning was Isaiah 26 which is a passage chock full of imagery that speaks of God and his salvation of the righteous and his destruction of the wicked.

    But it was the two verses above that really hit me. This passage hit me again in the heart about how God is going to come back to save some people and punish others for their rebellion against him.

    That is reality

    I prayed that God would give me a renewed sense of reality and went out of my office to buy a heater and it hit me in a real way.

    The guy who I bought the heater off if he doesn’t know Jesus he is under God’s terrible judgement!

    The woman pushing that pram if she doesn’t know Jesus she is under God’s terrible judgement!

    The funky looking girl reading a book in the cafe if she doesn’t know Jesus she is under God’s terrible judgement!

    Then I thought about my friends and family, if they don’t know Jesus they are under God’s terrible judgement!

    And the only thing that can save them is the gospel!

    This is reality

    It hit me how much I really don’t live in reality. Of course I know intellectually about the reality of the coming judgement. I know intellectually about the reality that salvation if found only in Jesus. But I go through my day without ever thinking about reality. I go through the day without letting reality shape my day.

    I don’t let reality inspire me to pray

    I don’t let reality give me courage to tell my friends about Jesus

    I don’t let reality impinge on how I use my time

    I don’t let reality push me to use my money generously

     

    My prayer is that I will live in reality every moment of every day.

     

    Are you living in reality?