Christians are not the only ones who have discussed the virtue of patience. But what distinguishes biblical teaching from that of the philosophers is the grand sense of purpose and design.
Granted pagan philosophers at times saw that affliction tests us--but to what glorious end? By contrast the Christian sees in affliction both the righteousness of God (I deserve affliction) and the purpose of God (suffering leads to glory; affliction has a purpose in the divine economy for my salvation).
Christians are crucifers, cross bearers. The cross is laid across the back of the spiritually obese. We are "fattened and flabby" wrote the lean and spare Genevan reformer. We might say, keeping Calvin's universe of discourse but employing a contemporary idiom: the cross is the spiritual lap-band surgery which alone curtails our appetite for this world.
But the Christ-forming shaping of the Christian life by afflictions serves other functions. It tests our patience and presses us into the way of obedience.
I have, for the first time, finally read through David Brainerd's Diary. I'm not sure why it took me this long to get around to it. I now understand why this man, who lived such a short life, has had such an enormous impact on the church and the world of missions. Consider a few of the statements made about Brainerd and his Diary by some of the leading pastors, theologians and missionaries of the past three centuries:
This was probably a familiar scenario either when you were a child or now as an adult. Some instruction has been given by an authority. Let’s say, for example, “Do not eat the cookies.” The cookies look really tasty. They smell fantastic. And you really really want one. Likely, you will get one after dinner, but you want one right now. No one is looking. No one would see if you just reached quickly and snagged one off the plate. You grab it and scurry off to a corner and gobble up the cookie. It is delicious and gone far too quickly.
Samuel Sewall lived with his family in Puritan America between 1652 and 1730, and he suffered in ways unimaginable to us today.
Clearly, we live in times of sexual identity chaos. Arguments that would have sounded unconscionable just a few decades ago are now plausible, and are defended, adopted, even pridefully celebrated. How did we get here? What seeds were planted that flourished into the modern thinking of sexuality as one’s primary or even sole identity?
As the idea of doctrinal and theological retrieval has risen in prominence, what then is theological retrieval? What exactly are we seeking to “retrieve”—and why?
I have been asked to put together an undergraduate elective course on the doctrine of God for Grove students for next year. There is, of course, a current (and most welcome) revival of interest in Protestant circles in classical Trinitarianism and the theology of the first four ecumenical councils, built on the back of the historical scholarship of the last thirty years in patristic, medieval, and early modern areas. We now know so much more about what the church through the ages thought about its greatest dogmas that, for orthodox Christians today, one could borrow
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (Jam. 1:27).
The evangelization of the Roman Empire is one of the remarkable chapters in the history of the church. Behind the story of Christianity’s transformation from an overlooked and misunderstood sect to the official religion of the Empire stands an important question: why did Christianity gain such prominence in the Roman Empire? It is inaccurate and simplistic to point to Constantine’s conversion and the Edict of Milan as the primary answer to this question.
Note: This post concludes Amy's series on Roman Catholic and Reformed Protestant views of justification. Find previous posts in this series below.
Does God want us to be certain of our salvation?
“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” Saint Paul wrote, “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
The theologian is often caught between a rock and a hard place, between the truth he holds dear and the society he loves and longs to see transformed by the gospel. This tension, though never easy, is right and good. It displays both a passionate commitment to the truth and a genuine concern for people and culture. However, the balancing of these two loves is precarious, fraught with pressures and temptations on two equal opposite fronts. First, and possibly more prevalent in our own time, is the pressure to adapt theology in accordance with the tastes and trends of the time.
The "New Perspective (or Perspectives) on Paul" (NPP) has come to be a mainstay within academic discussions of the apostle Paul, but it has also recently begun to attract attention within the evangelical church. Ministers and teachers cannot help but take notice of a movement making such sweeping and revisionist claims. It is for this reason that one may be grateful for the labors of the twelve contributors to this volume.
When you set up your shepherding plan you could not have imagined that your entire congregation would be hunkered-down attempting to stay clear of Covid-19.
These are times in which the flock needs to hear from their shepherds for comfort and assurance. I have urged our elders to put a priority on reaching out to their sheep, especially to those who are especially vulnerable.
I recently received this encouraging email from my friend Ken Jones, Shepherding Pastor at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama:
Henry ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia and the Birth of Christian Missions in the Hawaiian Islands
Henry ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia lived only 26 years and is seldom known outside of the Hawaii. And yet, many believe that his love for the gospel changed the course of his islands forever.
A Troubled Childhood
Guns in Church
When I was a pastor, ten years ago, I learned that a married couple, both FBI agents, joined my church. We already had two police officers in attendance, but I welcomed the news in a day when church shootings, like school shootings, were in the news. "It makes me feel safer," one person noted, even if she didn't know how rare church shootings really are (See: StatisticsImadeupbutmustbetrue.com):
Chance of being wounded by a bullet, in a church: 1 in 100 million
I'm not sure why I have such a hard time resting and heeding the fourth commandment. Maybe I'm still trying to silence my grade school teachers, who constantly berated me for laziness (Actually, I was lazy). Or maybe I just follow the American way.
Christians are frequently reminded to “remember the reason for Christmas,” meaning, of course, that we should turn our attention away from the cultural trappings and to the fact that Jesus was born to Mary in Bethlehem. But this Christmas, perhaps we should fix our attention a little more closely, not just on the details of Jesus’ birth, but on the miracle of the incarnation. In so doing, we join a great cloud of Christian witnesses, who have reflected deeply on this glorious mystery.
Looking for the Lost
There is a well-known nursery rhyme that generations of British children grew up with which begins with the words,
Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep and doesn’t know where to find them;
Leave them alone and they will come home, wagging their tails behind them.
It would be tempting to think that yet another article on suffering at this time is nothing more than jumping on the bandwagon of the current situation; but that is not altogether the case. Yes, we are facing a crisis of global proportions that is full of uncertainty; but it is neither the first, nor (to date) the worst of its kind. What it does represent, however, is yet another of those many examples in world history of God’s using a megaphone (to borrow C.S. Lewis’ imagery) to get our attention.
"The doctrines of grace together point to one central truth: salvation is all of grace because it is all of God, it is all for his glory." —James Boice
The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals delivers the truths of the doctrines of grace to the Church around the globe through in-person training and live-streaming events, broadcasting, and publishing.
One of the communicable attributes of God is his attribute of righteousness. Righteousness is the character of God where he does what is right, true, and just. To be righteous to act and judge things as they are. God is righteous and therefore has a standard for what it right and what is wrong. God’s standard is intrinsic to himself: his righteousness is an outworking of his holiness.
In a world full of uncertainty and confusion, each of us longs for the ability to navigate our circumstances well, to make a right judgment or take the right action. Sometimes we are presented with a plethora of options and we are left trying to pick the right one. In other instances, perhaps we are presented with a situation that only has two choices, but one seems like the proverbial “rock” and the other is the proverbial “hard place.” Sometimes the decision is easy, and sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes there is nothing on the line, and sometimes our very well-being may be at stake.
We probably all have bank accounts with savings, and maybe investments and 401(k)s. Wisdom would suggest that while we trust God we also should be good stewards and save. You want to have in inheritance—at the end of the road of your work life, you want to have a nest egg. This doesn’t make you greedy, in most cases it means you were prudent. But all of this should make us ask, where is my real inheritance? What is the real price? Where, or better, in whom is my true retirement.
What season did we recently enter? Spring. What comes next? Summer. Then what? Fall. Then what? Winter. And then? Spring. And so on until Christ’s Second Coming. The year’s seasons are cyclical—and somewhat predictable. So the seasons of our years should not surprise us but rather inspire our adaptability, acceptance, and appreciation.