30 July 2015

"Thank God for the blood of Jesus; but...."

by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Dan back in February 2011. Dan discussed various ways that the phrase "Thank God for the blood of Jesus" is misused and abused.

As usual, the comments are closed.
Jarring title? Hear me out.

As I drove to work the other day, I prayed. I was thinking about how short I fall in every area of my life: as a father, as a husband, as a Christian, as a churchman, as a blogger, as a friend, as a brother, as a citizen....

Then I said, "Thank God for the blood of Jesus" — and immediately cringed to hear myself pray it.

"Cringed"? Why? How could such an absolute core-truth of Christianity bring a wince, a recoil?

Simple: because I've heard that sort of talk used so often by folks whose concern is to paper over their ongoing, deliberate, unrepentant sin. I've heard Jesus' blood adduced to explain why it makes sense to grant a glorious eulogy to a man who apparently died an open, unrepentant homosexual clergyman; to rationalize ongoing open violence to the fifth commandment; to tut-tut open defection from the Word of God.

And so that is the background against which those wonderful words make me cringe. Listen: Jesus did not shed His blood on the cross to make us feel okay about our ongoing, deliberate, unrepentant sin. Jesus did not shed His blood to make sin okay; He shed it precisely because sin is not okay, has never been okay, will never be okay.

So what about my prayer, my praise? I went on to think just how much I needed and still need the blood of Jesus, all the time, even while striving as hard as I might (as opposed to yielding to sin, like the horrible examples I mentioned). I thought, What if God said "You pick the area of your life that I can judge you on. Pick your strongest, best, most consistent area"? What then? Easy. I'd be doomed, instantly doomed, forever doomed. No sooner would the test be distributed than I'd hear "All right, pencils down. Test over."

We're not talking about ongoing, deliberate, unrepentant sin here, either (on this subject). We're just talking about the weakness, shallowness, inconstancy, inconsistency, and fleshly carry-overs that plague believers. The ongoing reality of Romans 7:14-25. Do we need the blood of Jesus there? Oh, yes, I think we do. I know for a fact we do.

Now here's the final, biting irony: I have this fear that many of those who thank God for Jesus' blood as I mentioned — because of how good it makes them feel about their ongoing, deliberate, unrepentant sin — have not yet been touched by that blood.

Why? Because that same blood that purchases forgiveness also purchases freedom (Romans 3:27; Ephesians 1:7; Matthew 1:21; Hebrews 9:14). When we die with Him, we die to sin's lordship (Romans 6). If we are still under that unbroken domination, that lordship, we've not died that death. Though we are never and in no way justified because we do battle with sin, justification is the beginning and cause of a lifetime of such a battle. The battle is not a component, but it is an effect.

So thank God for the blood of Jesus.

Not because His blood makes my sin okay, but because His blood makes me okay with God, and delivers me from sin's guilt and power.

29 July 2015

How to Avoid Spiritual Suicide

by F. X. Turk

This is going to be the last post of my summer vacation from hiatus, and it was originally going to be on the topic of how the family has been redefined, given the state of current events.  However, let me say that the most enjoyable part of taking a summer vacation from hiatus is the feedback from the readers, on and off line.

The down-side of that is that many of the wrong sort of readers also feel like they need to let me know they are still at it.  However, that down-side helps me remember why I am on permanent hiatus in the first place: Jesus never called us to be virtual slaves to people who are more interested in arguments than truth, but he did call us to be members of the body of Christ, which involves being in real relationships with real people and finding out that our theology is only as good as the love it can create in all situations from the worst of sins to the hardest of life's trials to the joyful moments when God's blessings are evident.

To that end, I have a few words until we meet again. If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy, do me a favor and find common ground in Christ by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose. Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had: when he existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as something to be held onto, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death —even death on a cross!

If that's not the foundation of your theology, reconsider it immediately as this is the Jesus who rose from the dead, and we are to be imitators of him.  Imitating another Jesus is spiritual suicide.

How do we know?  Because as a result God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow —in heaven and on earth and under the earth— and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

So then, my dear friends, just as this has always been about you personally whether I have been blogging or on hiatus, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish even though you live in a crooked and perverse society.  Shine as lights in the world by holding on to the word of life so that on the day of Christ we will all have a reason to boast -- that none of us ran in vain, and none blogged in vain, and we are found faithful in that final day.

26 July 2015

Believing what we cannot comprehend

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 48, sermon number 2,787, "Christ's triple character."
"The Romanist has his infallibility in the Pope; where have I mine? In Christ; for, whatever he said is infallibly true; and I also have infallibility in this Book." 

If anything be but in the Bible, I never for a single moment think of questioning it. Miracles? Strong historical statements? I believe them all; I can almost go as far as the old woman who said that she not only believed that the whale swallowed Jonah, but that, if the Bible had said that Jonah swallowed the whale, she would have believed it. It says nothing of the kind, but I would go even to that length if it were a clear, positive statement of the Scriptures.

This is my Master’s Book, and I accept it all. I say, sometimes, that there are things in it that I do not understand, but then I do not want to understand everything. I do not see what good it does to have such a wonderful understanding. I would sooner not understand some things, because it gives me the more reason to show reverence to my God by believing what I cannot comprehend.

If I could comprehend God, he would not be a God to me. If I could understand all that he tells me, I would feel sure that he had either left something out of his revelation, or that there must be some mistake somewhere, for the infinite things of God cannot be grasped by finite beings. There, then, is our infallibility.

Some have gone off to bold blatant infidelity in order to get something sure; and others have turned to Popery in the attempt to get something sure; but as for us, we cast our anchor down where the cross stands above the surging billows; and there we rest. Christ says, “I am the truth.” We believe that, and we take every word he says as being infallibly true, and so we secure absolute certainty.

That is a great thing to have in these unsettled times, and a comfortable thing to have in these disturbed times. It is a very practical benefit, too; for, when we have once made up our mind thoroughly upon any point, we can say, “That is so; now we do not need to keep on bothering and questioning about that matter, and we can go on with our work, and also seek to make advances in the divine life.”

23 July 2015

The proper meaning of the word "church"

by Frank Turk

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Frank back in October 2007. Frank offered his thoughts on the Biblical implications of the word "church."

As usual, the comments are closed.
We have this funny word in our Christian vocabulary that appears in our Bibles – namely "church". Webster's dictionary says this about where we get that word:
Middle English chirche, from Old English cirice, ultimately from Late Greek kyriakon, from Greek, neuter of kyriakos of the lord, from kyrios lord, master
Which, you know, is interesting because we use "church" in the translations of the Bible in English to represent the word "ecclesia," not the word "kyriakon" – that is, it is possible that we mean the same thing by saying "church" when the NT says "ecclesia," but the word "church" doesn't come from the word "ecclesia."

Now, here's what I'm not equipped to do here: I'm not equipped to criticize guys (and women) who have spent their lives studying Greek who all agree that "church" is a fine word in English for the Greek word "ecclesia," I accept that this is the word we are going to use and, frankly, ought to use.

What I'm thinking about today is what we mean by using this word.

The over-arching theme of this series, btw, is that the believer needs the church. You need it. Part of that, of course, is that it needs you, and I have beaten that almost to death. But I was reminded of this theme this weekend as I listened to Dr. MacArthur preach broadly and enthusiastically at DGM's national conference on the theme "Stand," meaning a call to the perseverance of the saints.

At the end of his life, from a prison cell, probably through some kind of amanuensis, Paul wrote to his disciple Timothy a letter which we receive in Scripture as 2 Timothy. So this letter, whatever else we want to make of it, is Paul's last word to a young man he loved dearly and had discipled in the faith apparently from the start of the young man's faith.

Paul knew Timothy's family – his mother and grandmother, who were themselves Jewish women who had accepted Christ. And if we read Timothy at all, Paul has the highest confidence and love for Timothy – like Titus, Timothy is called Paul's "true son" in the faith.

And in that, Paul's last words to Timothy are important to us as we have to believe that he wrote these things as a farewell.

But as Paul writes, we find some very troubling things in his words. All of Asia, he says, has forsaken him for false teachers; Demas has decided that the world looks pretty good and the Gospel not so much. So in that environment, you'd think Paul would give Timothy the advice any wise man would give: run away from the bad guys and go find someplace else to start a new church – because we have to run away from false teachers, and a church with false teachers is a church where it is necessary to leave.

You'd think.

Instead, Paul calls Timothy to stand firm in the truth and preach and teach what is right in spite of fads and the tastes of men.

He didn't tell Timothy, "Dude, my method landed me in jail, so you have to try something different. Check with Demas as he has found a nice job in the world -- obviously he knows something I don't." He told Timothy to not change and not adapt and not go his own way, but instead to "endure suffering" and "continue in what you have learned" and "depart from iniquity" and so on -- but not to leave the church.

We are not called out of the church to preach the Gospel – we are called out of the world and into the "ecclesia" to preach the Gospel. Standing firm for the truth is standing where? Whatever "ecclesia" means, and whatever "church" is supposed to mean in its place in English, it is something we are called into in order that we may demonstrate who God is and what He has done.

21 July 2015

The Planned Parenthood fiasco: a few questions only we would ask

by Dan Phillips

I take it you're all familiar with the Planned Parenthood should-be PR nightmare. (If not, you could for instance check out Denny Burk's site, such as here and here and here.)

I won't add to or rehash all that. I just have a few observations presented as questions.
  1. Have pro-aborts shifted the threshold of abortability from viability to marketability?
  2. If what Planned Parenthood is selling is sold as human parts, then what was it that they killed?
  3. Given Planned Parenthood's presence in the body-marketing industry, should it be renamed "Planned Igorhood"?
  4. Or, since (A) the still-heard rationalization for abortion is "It's her body," and (B) Planned Parenthood is marketing the part of "her body" that they extracted, so that (C) Planned Parenthood, by its "logic" (?!) is selling women's bodies, should they be renamed "Planned Pimphood"?
  5. Since they are selling these poor victims as humans (even intact, God grant us repentance) does that signal a shift? That is, abortion was always premised on "It's not a human being until it's  born." Is it now, "It's not a human being until it's born...or aborted?"

Ponder those, and feel free to share profligately.

Notesee here, for a Biblical study regarding abortion.

Dan Phillips's signature

19 July 2015

What we want

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 42, sermon number 2,469, "The incomparable bridegroom and His bride."
"We do hope that we have something Christ-like about us; but oh, how little it is! How many imperfections there are! How much is there of the old Adam, and how little of the new creature in Christ Jesus!" 

Archbishop Usher was once asked to write a treatise upon Sanctification; this he promised to do, but six months rolled away, and the good Archbishop had not written a sentence. He said to a friend, “I have not begun the treatise, yet I cannot confess to a breach of my promise, for, to tell you the truth, I have done my best to write upon the subject; but when I came to look into my own heart, I saw so little of sanctification there, and found that so much which I could have written would have been merely by rote as a parrot might have talked, that I had not the courage to write it.”

Yet, if ever there was a man renowned for holiness, it was Archbishop Usher; if ever there was a saintly man who seemed to be one of the seraphic spirits permitted to stray beyond the companionship of his kind among poor earth-worms here, it was Usher; yet this is the confession that he makes concerning himself! Where, then, shall we hide our diminished heads?

I am sure we may all say, with good Mr. Fletcher, of Madeley, who was another bright example of seraphic holiness, that what we want is more grace. He had written a pamphlet on some political matter and Lord North wrote to know what he could give him in return. His answer was, “I need what your lordship cannot give me,—more grace.”

That is also true of us, we want more grace. It is to be had; and if we had it, and it transformed us into what we should be, oh, what lives of happiness and of holiness we might lead here below, and what mighty workers should we be for our Lord Jesus Christ! How would his dear name be made to sound to the utmost ends of the earth!

I fear it is but a dream; but just conceive that all of you, the members of this church, were made to be truly saintly, saints of the first water, saints who had cast off the sloth of worldliness and had come out in the full glory of newness of life in Christ Jesus, oh, what a power might this church become in London, and what a power to be felt the wide world over!

Let us seek it, let us strive after it, recollecting that it is a truth never to be denied, that only in proportion to the sanctity and spirituality of our character will our influence be for good amongst the sons of men.

15 July 2015

A Humiliating Death

by F. X. Turk

Back in 2008, Newsweek published an atrocious hack-job against Christian ethics for the sake of villainizing (of all things) traditional marriage.  Of course, we covered it here.  From my perspective, everybody wringing their hands about the current state of "marriage" in the laws of the United States ought to re-read that post, and all the comments which followed, for the sake of hitting their own reset button on this topic.

But because I am taking a little summer vacation from my permanent hiatus, I have a few more thoughts on this topic not-quite-a-decade-but-more-than-an-epoch later.

The first thought is this: it's critical to keep in mind that the facts of the matter are that those who express serious judeo-christian fidelity are still the least likely to divorce.  From a merely-sociological standpoint, that item is constantly eroded by false declarations by biased advocates who are trying to poison the well against the strongest advocates for the view of marriage which made Western Civilization possible.  And let's be clear: I list among those detractors the Barna Group, which is the worst wolf among the sheep when it comes to understanding who Christians really are.

But the follow-up to that note is critical: "divorce" is a terrible measure of whether or not people are doing what they ought to do in marriage.  It's like measuring the competency of drivers by how few people they kill while driving.  Since a lot of people lately have been worried about what Jesus might have said about this subject, when the Pharisees asked him about divorce he said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery."  If what we're trying to measure is hard hearts, maybe divorce is a good key indicator.  A measure for great marriages ought to be looking for something else.

Let me suggest something to you which will make everyone angry -- which is the only good reason to take a break from hiatus anyway.  The proper measure of whether or not there are good marriages in the ranks of actual Christians ought to be whether or not husbands love their wives the way Christ loves the Church.  The rest of this post is for our primarily-male readership.  I have 4 good reasons for this, so if you're not already rolling your eyes you can at least hear me out.

First, the idea in Christian thought that the good of the marriage is the responsibility of the husband is not any kind of new idea.  That's actually the problem: it's an old idea which is somehow out of vogue, and those trying to rehabilitate it are, if I may say so, doing it wrong.  The prototype in Scripture for what we ought to mean is, of course, Jesus -- but before He did what He does, Hosea was out there doing it Old Testament style.  Let me tell you something, fellas: it doesn't matter what sort of woman your wife is.  Your marriage is not ruined because of what kind of wife your wife is.  It can only be ruined by what kind of husband you are to her.  And to put a fine point on it, it is also made into something else by the kind of husband you are.

In the example of Hosea, God tells the prophet (which, btw, this is a great object lesson for people who want God to give them a word of knowledge: if you really want to know what God knows, you are bound not to be made famous and well-regarded by it; you are likely to wind up doing something everyone else will see as a terrible idea) to "Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom."  From God's perspective, His wife -- that is, his chosen people with whom he has a covenant -- is not merely a bad housekeeper or a lousy cook.  God's covenant partner has sold what belongs uniquely to Him to everyone for money and nice dinners.  And in that circumstance, God doesn't pretend that His wife has done nothing wrong -- but He also does not pretend it is her problem to make it right.  It is His problem to make it right.  And when He makes it right, it will be Right:
I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness.
You may not like this example because God actually promises to punish Israel for what they have done, and that's fine -- I understand we are all squeemish about Old Testament modes of Justice.  But Hosea doesn't punish Gomer: he buys her out of slavery, and when she returns to her old life, he goes and does it again.  And when God tells the prophet how to reflect on this, here's what he says:
How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
    How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
    How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
    my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my burning anger;
    I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
    the Holy One in your midst,
    and I will not come in wrath.
Look: faithfulness has to come from someplace.  The foundation of the promises your marriage is based on have to come from someplace.  In an original sense, they come from God.  In the immediate sense, somebody right here and now has to start by being the ordinary means God intended for marriage.

But look at this, fellas: this is what it means in the Old Testament for God to love his people.

When we turn to the New Testament for our second example, it doesn't actually get any easier for you -- because the model of Hosea is multiplied by the moral perfection of the bridegroom.  The example of Jesus (as we read Ephesians 5) is of the perfect bridegroom who makes his bride his own flesh.  And the example Jesus sets is this: while we (the church) were yet sinners, He died for us.  At the right time, Jesus (the holy and righteous one) died for the ungodly.  Certainly: Jesus died for our sins and in that condemned our sins.  He made it clear that what we were doing was wrong -- but therefore paid the price for our sins so that we would not be put to death for them.  He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  And in case you missed it, we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Mercy and Love are the way Jesus sanctifies the church, nurtures her, takes her out of sin.

What if, in your family, you were the guy who humbled himself in obedience to God to the point of humiliating death for the sake of your wife?  Do you think your family would look and act differently, or would they just be the same ol' people just like the folks down the street who are closet egalitarians (or maybe open egalitarians) who have nice, middle class economic goals and cut their grass twice a week?

Third, if we are measuring how good our marriages are, or we want to gauge them in some way, measuring the other people in our family is a fine form of legalism.  It is not a fine form of faith.  Reforming other people is for Politicians and other Charletans.  It also is a great way to create enemies.  We have a saying at our house: "You" is a full-time job.  Stick to your full-time job, and I suspect that what will happen is what God expected to happen when husbands love their wives the way Christ loves the church.  Everything else aside, the husband's job is to love his wife the way Christ loves the church.  Like his own body.  Not like a contractor.

Last, one of the most sickening things that has happened in the last 4 weeks is the way marriage has, again, been watered down in order to make sense of what has apparently happened by force of legal caveat.  Back in 2012, I was trying to help to think through what we were talking about when we said "marriage."  A highlight was this:
Now fire up your imagination for a second.  Imagine you are at dinner with some other person, and you've been thinking about this for a long time.  As the waiter leaves with your order of eats for the evening, you clench up a little, and then screw your courage to the sticking place.  You take a deep breath and you begin, "What I really want is to avoid incest, and embrace endogamy.  I want some rights and duties regarding sexual intercourse and property, and to establish a nominal division of labor.  I want a visible household economy.  And you seem like exactly the right person to do that with, at least for now.  Will you marry me?" 
Is there anyone who would really say that, or really want that?
The answer is apparently "yes" right now, except for the endogamy part.  Maybe the re-write from the script of the victors in this skirmish would be, "What I really want is for other people to celebrate all my urges, all the things I think I deserve including sexual pleasure.  I wants rights over property and to make sure someone doesn't cheat me out of it.  I also want someone to share my living expenses with in a way that the law will enforce, and a way to make them settle up like any contractor if they don't live up to their end of the bargain."

I bring it up as my last reason here because let's face it: what we ought to have makes that look like the corrupt and morally-blighted trap it is obviously intended to be.  If husbands loved their wives as Christ loves the church, when some famous idiot goes on TV and tries to make anything else look like that, what it really is gets painted with neon colors and stands out like an Easter egg on a putting green.

We ought to want to do that, gents.  We ought to want to expose the unfruitful works of darkness, exposing them to the light with the light which is Christ in us.

14 July 2015

Opportunity to help a faithful brother: Ed Komoszewski

by Dan Phillips

You may or may not instantly recognize — much less be able to vocalize — the name Ed Komozsewski. As to the latter, it is pronounced comm-ah-CHEFF-skee.

As to the former, Ed has brought us several books including his byline, of which I reviewed and recommended one called Reinventing Jesus some time ago. If you read it, you profited by it; it's quite a good book.

But also if you have read and profited from The World-Tilting Gospel, published by Kregel, you have Ed to thank. Ed is the man who sold Kregel on taking a chance on unpublished me and my baby, and helped nurse it and me through the process. Valerie and I have had the pleasure of meeting and dining with him, as well as a continued occasional correspondence.

What you pretty surely do not know is that Ed has been very, very ill for some time. His medical bills have become unmanageable, his health continues to decline, and his needs deepen.

I'd like to encourage you to help the brother out at this GoFundMe site. You will find there much more explanation from scholars Dan Wallace and Rob Bowman.

I'll let you read the details at that site. Ed's a good brother, and I hope you'll help him and his family out.

Dan Phillips's signature

12 July 2015

Ridiculed? We could only wish!

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 42, sermon number 2,463, "Why men reject Christ."

"I do not think there ever was a good reason for not believing in Christ."

I believe that the most unreasonable things in all the world are doubt and unbelief; in fact, atheists and infidels are the most gullible persons living. The modern scientist, who does not believe in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, and who pours scorn upon the New Testament, believes things infinitely more incredible than he can ever detect in Sacred Scripture.

I do not hesitate to say that the whole theory of evolution is more monstrously false and foolish than any other ever conceived beneath high heaven; and it is a marvellous thing that men should be able to squeeze their minds into the belief of an absurdity which, in time to come, will be ridiculed to children in the schoolroom as an instance of the credulity of their ancestors.

As one science, falsely so-called, has passed away, devoured by the next notion that men have adopted, so shall it be to the end of the chapter. He who will not believe God shall be the dupe of lies, but there is no good and valid reason why men should not accept the Christ.

09 July 2015

"Is my repentance deep enough?"

by Phil Johnson

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Phil back in March 2012. Phil responded to an email from someone who was concerned that his sorrow over sin no longer seemed as profound as it had as a new convert.

As usual, the comments are closed.
It's impossible to judge the depth of someone's conviction or the genuineness of a believer's penitence based on the potency of an emotional reaction alone. If the question is whether your repentance is genuine or not, I personally think what you "feel" emotionally has very little significance. Judas wept bitterly; Esau shed many tears. Neither of them truly repented. By contrast, the thief on the cross seemed almost stoically resigned to his fate. But there was enough genuine repentance in his dying plea that Jesus assured him of salvation on the spot.

It's faith, not tears, that proves the reality of repentance. David, a man after God's own heart, did sometimes weep over his sin, but not always. In that notorious instance when he sinned with Bath-Sheba, he tried for nearly a year to cover his sin without any evidence of remorse. What marked David as a man after God's own heart was his faith, not the quality or depth of emotion associated with his repentance; not even the speed of his repentance.

Few people are genuinely and perpetually sodden with the sorrow of remorse all the time. And that is a good thing. As Christians we are commanded to be joyful and always rejoicing. The very thing David prayed for at the end of that year-long rebellion was that God would restore to him the joy of his salvation. There is a legitimate joy in salvation that in the usual circumstances of life overwhelms and overshadows the sorrow of repentance. That joy is a better gauge of your spiritual health than the feelings you get when you ponder how sinful you are.

As believers, we confess that in and of ourselves we are utterly wretched, so it is fitting that we should have sorrow (James 4:9). In fact, we will never be completely finished grieving over our sin and its destructive consequences until God Himself wipes away our tears in heaven. There certainly is "a time to weep . . . a time to mourn" (Ecclesiastes 3:4).

But that same text says there is "a time to laugh" and "a time to dance" as well. We don't have to wallow perpetually in the shame of self-reproach in order to prove our repentance is real. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). After all, God's "anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning" (Psalm 30:5).

If you hate sin and love Christ and confess before Him that you are indeed a helpless sinner, then I wouldn't be over-analytical about the emotions you feel when you confess your sins. That kind of introspection will make you a fruitless Christian. Did you ever notice that qualities like regret and misery are missing from the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit? (Gal 5:22-23)

Scripture says, "Examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith"—not, "Dissect how you express your repentance to see if you have been piteous enough."

My advice to you is to cultivate faith, not an emotional response. Emotions by definition rise and fall. They are neither the instrumental cause nor the evidence, much less the ground, of our justification. Faith is the instrument of justification, and the work of Christ is the ground of it. Focus on that, and your faith will grow, your joy will increase, and your emotions will take care of themselves.

07 July 2015

Join me for Jersey Fire this weekend

by Dan Phillips

Howdy there, friends and neighbors, Dear Readers all. I hope you'll be able to join me and an assemblage of brothers this weekend AT...

What's more natural than having a Pyromaniac speak at a conference called "Jersey Fire"?

Heretofore I've only been in NJ long enough to wait for our connecting flight to Scotland, and enjoy my first Smashburger. This will definitely broaden that experience.

I'd love to meet you and hope you can come. For my two talks, I'll speak on the meaning, the matrix, and the movement of discipleship. If you've been homeschooled, you will realize that that totals out at three, which is both a different and a greater number than two. So we'll see how I cram three into two. Add to that the fact that, in those three talks, I aim to get Bibley about everything. Fast listening may be required.

Here's the details. Do join us!

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05 July 2015

Slavery abolished

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 40, sermon number 2,371, "Freedom at once and for ever."
"You have been the slave of sin long enough; you need not be sin’s slave any longer."

Christ has not come to work out for you a deliverance which will take hours, days, weeks, or months to complete; he has come to knock your fetters off with a single stroke, and to set you free at once. If his gracious power is manifested in this assembly, the former slave of sin will go out of the Tabernacle door free; not half-free, with one or two of his fetters broken, there shall be for him immediate liberty.

It does not take any time to work in the human heart the great change which is called regeneration. There may be a great many things going before it and coming after it which take up much time; but to pass from death to life is the work of an instant. It must be so. If a man is dead, and he is made alive, there can be no interval between the state of death and the state of life. There must be a second in which the transition takes place.

When a blind man’s eyes are opened, it may be that he does not see for some time very clearly; but there is an instant in which the first beam of light enters the eye, and falls upon the retina, and in which the eye become conscious of the power of light.

So, in a moment, while I am speaking, the Lord can save you. In an instant, ye slaves of sin and Satan, he can make you free! It is the immediate abolition of slavery that I have to proclaim to you.

03 July 2015

Gurnall on the "heroic impulse," and how it is not a good thing

by Dan Phillips

[I have been reading (and tweeting) Gurnall's classic, CHRISTIAN IN COMPLETE ARMOUR, reading the Logos edition. It's a great and rich book, based on Paul's section on the spiritual war and the armor of God in Ephesians 6. Its strength is not so much in its exposition of that passage as in Gurnall's wide-ranging, instructive, and admonitory treatment of Christian living.

[In this section he is riffing on Paul's command to "stand" (Eph. 6:14), developing it by unfolding and by contrast. Specifically at this point he's been warning of the dangers of leaving the place God has given you. I reproduce this subsection whole and unedited, except for breaking it up into paragraphs, and added bolding.

[I think you will see a lot of personal application, as well as a lot of warning that applies to boastful, chest-beating, big-talking celebrity pastors — and to those simply unwilling to take on the yoke of discipleship, submit to qualified elders and local church ministry, be taught and corrected, demanding instead to be the biggest frog in the pond.]

It is an erratic spirit, that usually carries men out of their place and calling. I confess there is an heroicus impetus, an impulse which some of the servants of God have had from heaven, to do things extraordinary, as we read in Scripture of Moses, Gideon, Phineas, and others.

But it is dangerous to pretend to the like, and unlawful to expect such immediate commissions from Heaven now, when he issueth them out in a more ordinary way, and gives rules for the same in his word; we may as well expect to be taught extraordinarily, without using the ordinary means, as to be called so. When I see any miraculously gifted, as the prophets and apostles, then I shall think the immediate calling they pretend to is authentic. To be sure, we find in the word, extraordinary calling and extraordinary teaching go together.

Well, let us see what that erratic spirit is which carries many out of their place and calling. It is not always the same; sometimes it is idleness. Firstmen neglect what they should do, and then are easily persuaded to meddle with what they have nothing to do. The apostle intimates this plainly, 1 Tim. 5:13: ‘They learn to be idle, wandering from house to house, and not only idle, but busybodies.’ An idle person is a gadder; he hath his foot on the threshold, easily drawn from his own place, and as soon into another’s diocese. He is at leisure to hear the devil’s chat. He that will not serve God in his own place, the devil, rather than he shall stand out, will send him of his errand, and get him to put his sickle into another’s corn.

Secondlyit is pride and discontent that makes persons go out of their place; some men are in this very unhappy, their spirits are too big and haughty for the place God hath set them in. Their calling, may be, is mean and low, but their spirits high and towering; and whereas they should labour to bring their hearts to their condition, they project how they may bring their condition to their proud hearts. They think themselves very unhappy while they are shut up in such strait limits; (indeed the whole world is too narrow a walk for a proud heart, Æstuat infœlix angusto limite mundi; the world was but a little ease to Alexander;) shall they be hid in a crowd, lie in an obscure corner, and die before they let the world know their worth? No, they cannot brook it, and therefore they must get on the stage, and put forth themselves one way or other.

 It was not the priests’ work that Korah and his accomplices were so in love with, but the priests’ honour which attended the work; this they desired to share, and liked not to see others run away with it from them; nor was it the zeal that Absalom had to do justice, which made his teeth water so after his father’s crown, though this must silver over his ambition. These places of church and state are such fair flowers, that proud spirits in all ages have been ambitious to have them set in their own garden, though they never thrive so well as in their proper soil.

In a third it is unbeliefthis made Uzzah stretch forth his hand unadvisedly to stay the ark that shook, which being not a Levite he was not to touch. See Numb. 4:15. Alas! good man, it was his faith shook more dangerously than the ark; by fearing the fall of this, he fell to the ground himself. God needs not our sin to shore up his glory, truth, or church.

Lastly, in some it is misinformed zealmany think they may do a thing because they can do it. They can preach, and therefore they may; wherefore else have they gifts? Certainly the gifts of the saints need not be lost any of them, though they be not laid out in the minister’s work. The private Christian hath a large field wherein he may be serviceable to his brethren; he need not break the hedge which God hath set, and thereby occasion such disorder as we see to be the consequence of this. We read in the Jewish law, Exod. 22, that he who set a hedge on fire, and that fire burnt the corn standing in a field, was to make restitution, though he only fired the hedge, perhaps not intending to hurt the corn; and the reason was, because his firing the hedge was an occasion of the corn’s being burnt, though he meant it not.

I dare not say, that every private Christian who hath in these times taken upon him the minister’s work, did intend to make such a combustion in the church as hath been, and still sadly is among us. God forbid I should think so! But, O that I could clear them from being accessory to it, in that they have fired the hedge which God hath set between the minister’s calling and people’s. If we will acknowledge the ministry a particular office in the church of Christ,—and this I think the word will compel us to do,—then we must also confess it is not any one’s work, though never so able, except called to the office. There are many in a kingdom to be found, that could do the prince’s errand, it is like, as well as his ambassador, but none takes the place but he that is sent, and can shew his letters credential.

Those that are not sent and commissionated by God’s call for ministerial work, they may speak truths as well as they that are; yet of him that acts by virtue of his calling, we may say that he preacheth with authority, and not like those that can shew no commission but what the opinion themselves have of their own abilities gives them. Dost thou like the minister’s work? Why shouldst thou not desire the office, that thou mayest do the work acceptably? Thou dost find thyself gifted, as thou thinkest, for the work, but were not the church more fit to judge so than thyself? And if thou shouldst be found so by them appointed for the trial, who would not give thee the right hand of fellowship?

There are not so many labourers in Christ’s field, but thy help, if able, would be accepted; but as now thou actest, thou bringest thyself into suspicion in the thoughts of sober Christians, as he would justly do, who comes into the field, where his prince hath an army, and gives out he comes to do his sovereign service against the common enemy, yet stands by himself at the head of a troop he hath got together, and refuseth to take any commission from his prince’s officers, or join himself with them: I question whether the service such a one can perform, should he mean as he says, which is to be feared, would do so much good, as the distraction which this his carriage might cause in the army would do hurt

[William Gurnall and John Campbell, The Christian in Complete Armour (London: Thomas Tegg, 1845), 202–203.]

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01 July 2015

Something Dreadful

by F. X. Turk

As I take a summer vacation from my permanent hiatus, I want you to think about something with me for a moment.

"Hypochondriasis" was first diagnosed as we understand it today in the 19th century.  This debilitating condition is the result of an inaccurate perception of the condition of body or mind despite the absence of an actual medical condition. An individual suffering from hypochondriasis is known as a hypochondriac. Hypochondriacs become unduly alarmed about any physical or psychological symptoms they detect, no matter how minor the symptom may be, and are convinced that they have, or are about to be diagnosed with, a serious illness. (thx, Wikipedia)

These people cannot be convinced that they are just fine no matter how many tests you run which demonstrate they are just like everyone else.  Science cannot dissuade them.  About 3% of all patients visiting their primary care physician have this problem.  The treatment, I am told, is the effort to help each patient find a better way to overcome the way his/her medically unexplained symptoms and illness concerns rule her/his life. Current research makes clear that this excessive worry can be helped by either appropriate medicine (targeting the anxiety) or targeted psychotherapy.

Diving deeper: the right treatment for this problem is not the one the patient would choose for himself or herself.  The problem is not the patient's body at all -- unless you count the state of anxiety in this person's brain over his or her perceived illness.  It would actually harm this person if we caved in to their false perception of a problem and treated them with the means they were demanding.  The right treatment is to approach their anxiety over the false self-diagnosis and resolve the problem that they are not sick no matter how sick they think they are.

This diagnosis and approach is one of those things that modern medicine simply accepts and works to treat as it presents itself -- in most cases.  But today there are some versions of this where the demands of the person with a perfectly healthy body but the feeling that something dreadful has happened have trumped the traditional medical diagnosis.  And in those cases, it doesn't matter how extreme the treatment the patient demands is: it must be rendered.  Drugs must be administered.  Every prosthesis must be added; every offending piece of flesh removed.  Organs with no functions must be implanted.  Organs in perfect health must be -ectomied. And if any of the treatments are refused, the person demanding treatment is somehow being violated, kept from a true form of self which would finally fulfill them.

That's pretty weird, right?

Now imagine a world where those people obtain the right to dictate to the rest of society what families look like and how children will be raised.