The Ultimate Goal of Reading the Bible

Reading-Bible-Supernaturally-Piper-2017So, first, what does the Bible tell us is the ultimate goal of reading the Bible?

…The Bible itself shows that our ultimate goal in reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation. In other words, each time we pick up the Bible to read, we should intend that reading would lead to this end.

The way that we as individuals are caught up into this ultimate aim as we read the Bible becomes clear as we spell out six implications that flow from this proposed answer to our question. When we say that the ultimate goal of reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation, we imply that:

  1. the infinite worth and beauty of God are the ultimate value and excellence of the universe;
  2. that the supremely authentic and intense worship of God’s worth and beauty is the ultimate aim of all his work and word;
  3. that we should always read his word in order to see this supreme worth and beauty;
  4. that we should aim in all our seeing to savor his excellence above all things;
  5. that we should aim to be transformed by this seeing and savoring into the likeness of his beauty,
  6. so that more and more people would be drawn into the worshiping family of God until the bride of Christ – across all centuries and cultures – is complete in number and beauty.

Taken from the “Introduction to Part 1” of Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Crossway, 2017), p39.

In light of these thoughts, we may ask ourselves on this Saturday night: Has our Bible reading of this past week (including today) made us see and savor the infinite worth and beauty of our God, such that we are ready to fill tomorrow (the Lord’s Day) with “white-hot worship” along with our fellow blood-bought members of Christ’s bride?

Reset: Relax by Reading

Reset-DMurray-2017Yes, Dr. David Murray does indeed recommend reading (daily!) as a way to relax in the next chapter of his book Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (Crossway, 2017).

Taking us into “Repair Bay 5”, Murray points to the importance of taking time to relax in order to prevent burnout in the mad rush of life we experience in our modern culture. His call is to experience the reality of God’s Word in Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God.”

But how can we experience this stillness and silence of God’s presence with so much pressure on us from work, family, and church, so many activities screaming for our attention, and such great noise and distraction from our technological world?

Murray does indeed tell us to mute our phones and device notifications, to limit our use of social media, texting, and emails, and to shut things down in the evening and weekends. But he also points us to the benefits of reading in order to experience true relaxation. Here is part of what he says:

The last daily bump I want to recommend is reading, which may sound strange given that we are trying to rest and relax the mind. There is something about reading, however, especially reading real paper books, that can be especially health giving. In “How Changing Your Habits Can Transform Your Health,” Michael Grothaus says, ‘Reading doesn’t just improve your knowledge, it can help fight depression, make you more confident, empathetic, and a better decision maker.’

…But Grothaus’ further research revealed that such transformation through reading wasn’t weird, but was ‘the norm for people who read a lot – and one of the main benefits of reading that most people don’t know about’ (97-98).

And so Murray gives us his own reading regimen and experience:

I try to set aside thirty minutes each evening for reading non-work-related books – usually biographies, works on history or fitness, New York Times nonfiction bestsellers, and so on. It’s amazing how many fantastic books you can get through – maybe two or three a month – with just that short time every day. And for all my fellow type A’s, remember that the point is not to chalk up ‘books read’ or to use the time for sermon prep if you’re a pastor, but to relax and enjoy (p.98).

There is no question that as Christians we ought to read for a variety of reasons. But let’s not forget this one either – simply to slow down and relax. And if we are reading for the growth of our souls, for knowing and drawing near to God, then by all means let us keep our mind’s eye on Psalm 46:10.

Reset: Take Care of Your Body!

Reset-DMurray-2017We have been pointing you to a new book from local author David Murray (Puritan Reformed Seminary) published by Crossway – Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (2017). It is written with men especially in view, men in danger of burnout, as the title intimates.

After chapters on doing a “reality check” (repair bay 1) and performing a “review” of our lives (repair bay 2), Murray takes us into repair bay 3, where he taught us the practical importance of sleep (“Rest).

Now in chapter four he has us take the “car” of our lives and pull into “repair bay 4”, which he titles “Re-create.” This is a chapter about taking care of our bodies, not now in terms of sleep and rest but in terms of proper diet and exercise. But he starts once again with a “body theology,” which is a brief exposition of 1 Corinthians 6:9-20. Part of that includes this:

Your body is for the Lord (vv.13-14). The apostle replaces a false slogan the Corinthians were using to abuse their bodies – ‘foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods’ – with a true slogan to bless their bodies: ‘The body is… for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.’

‘The body is for the Lord.’ God has given each of us a body to give back to him. He did not give us a body so that we can give it to anybody and everybody in immoral sexual relations. He did not give us a body so that we can give it to overwork or sloth. He gave us a body to give back to him. The body is for the Lord.

‘The Lord is for the body.’ He made it , cares for it, and maintains an eternal interest in it. He even took on a body, suffered in a body, and rose again in a body. he has a body to this day. The Lord is for the body. This is not of minor importance. Our future resurrection shows how much honor God puts on the body and how much we should honor in the meantime what he will honor for all time [p.75].

And then Murray goes on to apply this “body theology” with subjects such as “stand up (on posture and care for our backs),” “exercise,” and “manual labor.” Let me take a snippet from the section on exercise for our benefit, men.

Moderate physical exercise helps to expel unhelpful chemicals from our systems and stimulates the production of helpful chemicals. It strengthens not just the body but also the brain. Research has shown that walking just two miles a day reduces the risk of cognitive decline and dementia by 60 percent. And aside from the long-term benefits, exercise triggers the growth of new brain cells in the hippcampus and the release of neurotrophic growth factors – a kind of mental fertilizer that helps the brain grow, maintain new connections, and stay healthy. Exercise and proper rest patterns generate about a 20 percent energy in crease in an average day, while exercising three to five times a week is about as effective as antidepressants for mild to moderate depression [pp.78-79].

Good thoughts for us in the middle of the work week. Life is busy. Work is demanding. Time is elusive. But our bodies are the Lord’s, bought with a precious price. What are we doing to care for them the way He wills?

Reformed Piety and Practice – R. Scott Clark

Today I read the third and final featured article on this month’s Tabletalk theme, which covers the 17th century of church history. This third article is “Reformed Piety and Practice,” written by Dr. R. Scott Clark, professor of church history and historical theology at Westminster Seminary (west).

In the article, Clark contrasts the prevailing view of the Christian life as taught by and found in the Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages (the monastic life) with the view that Martin Luther and the other Reformers rediscovered and taught during the Reformation period – true, biblical piety and practice.

Below I quote a few paragraphs from his profitable description of this proper view of the Christian life, significant too as we begin a new work week on the morrow. For the full article, visit the Ligonier link at the end.

As we celebrate the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, much is rightly made about the recovery of the biblical doctrines of salvation sola gratia, sola fide. The recovery of a biblical piety and practice is less well known but no less essential to the Reformation. When Luther left the monastery, he left behind Antony’s assumptions about the world, grace, and the Christian life. He recovered the biblical and ancient (anti-Gnostic) Christian doctrine of the essential goodness of creation. He recovered the biblical and Christian doctrine that every Christian, not just the priest and the monk, has a vocation from God. According to Luther, we are not called to flee the material world. We are called to flee sin but to serve Christ in God’s world as sinners freely forgiven for Christ’s sake alone.

In that connection, he points to a number of specific “reformations” the Reformers brought to the Christian life, especially in the area of worship. That included the place of God’s written Word in the lives of God’s people.

Following Luther’s translation of the Greek New Testament into German, the Reformed theologian William Tyndale (c. 1494–1536), a martyr for the gospel, translated the New Testament into English in 1525. Ten years later, Robert Olivetan (1506–38) produced a French translation of Scripture. The Reformed devoted themselves to this work so that God’s people could have Scripture in their own language that they might read it, pray over it, and teach it to their children at home. These translations also enabled families to hold devotions during the week, and the metrical Psalters gave them God’s Word for singing at home.

And Clark closes with these pertinent thoughts:

When, in 1517, Luther complained about the abuse of indulgences, he began a movement back to Scripture and toward a biblical understanding of piety in which Christ’s grace received in public worship overflows into private prayer and family devotions. He repudiated the error that there are two classes of Christians, and he repudiated their spiritual exercises. The Reformed followed him back to Scripture. But history tells us that there is a monk within each of us, continually looking for new ways to corrupt Christian piety, seeking to draw our eyes away from Christ, His grace, and His piety.

Source: Reformed Piety and Practice by R. Scott Clark

Reset: Reality Check and Review – D. Murray

Reset-DMurray-2017A few weeks ago I first pointed to a new book from local author David Murray (Puritan Reformed Seminary) published by Crossway – Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (2017).

I have been making my way through it, reading with profit and pain because Murray puts his finger on the problems we men get ourselves into before we “crash and burn” from overworking, stress, exhaustion, etc. In the first two chapters Murray calls us to pull the “car” of our lives into the “repair bay” for a careful checkup and diagnosis. Those chapters are titled “Repair Bay 1; Reality Check” and “Repair Bay 2: Review.”

That first chapter was especially revealing because Murray has you face several sets of soul-piercing questions about your life. Answering those questions is certainly a “reality check.” In the next chapter (“review”) he has us go deeper into the reasons why we so bury ourselves in our work, etc. Some of these reasons are theological, as the following quotes will show.

The first theological reason Murray has us face is the truth that we are God’s creatures, that is, finite, limited, dependent human beings. Here is what he says:

At the root of many of the issues we identified in chapter 1 is a wrong view of God. And it’s not just a slightly wrong view; it’s  a fundamental and foundational error, because it concerns the fundamental and foundational truth that God is our Creator. That’s the very first truth revealed to us in Scripture. And it’s first for a reason: if we go wrong there, we run the risk of going wrong everywhere else. Forgetting we are Christians has serious consequences, but so does forgetting we are human.

But then the author anticipates our objections, such that we say, “Of course I know that God is my Creator! Don’t insult my intelligence and my spiritual knowledge!” But as Murray points out, we are “creationists living like evolutionists.” Here’s how he explains that:

Lots of people call God Creator but live like evolutionists. It’s as if life is about the survival of the fittest rather than about living like a dependent creature – trusting our Creator rather than ourselves – and according to our Maker’s instructions.

To which he adds a great illustration and application:

How would you feel if you built a remote-control model car for your children, only to come home a few days later to hear that they had broken it trying to use it as a plane? You’d say, ‘I gave you a car, and I gave you car instructions; why did you ignore them and treat the car like a plane?’ Similarly, God has given us instructions about how to live as his creatures, as the finite body-and-soul beings he has made us to be. But some of us are trying to live as if we are infinite. It’s hardly surprising that we are breaking down [p39].

Good points to ponder as we start our work week.

Spiritual Warfare: The Gospel of Peace Footwear

SpiritualWarfare-Borgman&VenturaTonight we will gather again for fruitful fellowship and discussion with our Sunday night discussion group. We are continuing our study of spiritual warfare using the book Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical & Balanced Perspective by Brian Borgman & Rob Ventura (RHB, 2014). This valuable book is basically an exposition of Ephesians 6:10-18, the classic NT passage on the Christian’s spiritual battles against his spiritual enemies.

We are currently treating the chapters that explain the armor of God as laid out in Eph.6:13-17:

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Tonight we looked at the third part of the armor – ” [having] your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (v.15). In the book this is explained in chapter 7 – “The Gospel of Peace Footwear.”

The authors take the position that this “preparation” is to be understood both offensively and defensively. That is, this preparation is first of all a “readiness to proclaim the gospel of peace” to sinners taken captive by Satan. This is, in part, how they explain this idea:

…God’s people today must… [go] forth into enemy quarters shod with the combat boots of the good news of Jesus Christ our Lord.Wherever we go and at every opportunity God grants, we must seek to assault Satan’s kingdom, telling men and women who are under his power (Eph.2:2) that spiritual freedom is found in Jesus [p.61].

I believe that is an important element of this weapon, one perhaps we do not emphasize sufficiently.

But secondly, according to the authors this preparation is also a defensive weapon in our spiritual battles. This is how they explain this aspect:

Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Rev.12:10) and is relentless in his attacks on us. He lives to make our lives miserable. How do we stand against such a fearsome foe? The answer is the gospel of peace. Just as the gospel is a powerful means for advancing God’s truth and delivering many from Satan’s clutches, it is also a powerful means for stabilizing us as believers, helping us to stand against his attacks. The gospel of peace, like the shoes of the Roman soldier, gives us firm footing in life and the ability to stand in the spiritual war [pp.61-62].

And they add this paragraph to show how this is so from a practical point of view:

It works practically like this: When the devil seeks to plague our consciences with guilt after we have confessed sin, we remember what the gospel of peace tells us: ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ ( 1 John 1:9). When the devil condemns us, we are to bring to mind and soak our hearts deep in the comprehensive truths of the gospel and remember that God has no dispute with us because of Christ (Rom.8:33). When the devil attacks our assurance, we must remember that we are in an unbreakable union with the living God through Jesus and that nothing will be able to ‘separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom.8:39). When the devil tempts us to sin, we must push back and resist his enticements, recalling our deliverance from such things and our newness in Jesus (2 Cor.5:17.) [p.62].

Which leads them to end with these thoughts about how important this gospel of peace is for us:

As Christians, we must live day-by-day in the gospel. That is, we must let its truths regularly pervade and control the citadel of our souls. God’s great grace and love for us in Jesus must be our firm foundation throughout our entire lives [p.62].

So then, how well are putting on and using this gospel of peace footwear? Today gives us another opportunity to receive that gospel of peace and be equipped for the battles. May God give us grace so to do.

Listen Up! How to Listen to Sermons (6)

listen-up-ashAt the beginning of this new year we continue to look at a booklet that instructs God’s people in how to listen to sermons. The booklet is titled Listen Up! A Practical Guide to  Listening to Sermons (Good Book Co., 2009), written by Christopher Ash.

So we don’t lose the “big picture”, let’s keep in front of us the seven main points Ash makes in the book – the “seven ingredients for healthy sermon listening,” as he calls them:

  1. Expect God to speak
  2. Admit God knows better than you
  3. Check the preacher says what the passage says
  4. Hear the sermon in church
  5. Be there week by week
  6. Do what the Bible says
  7. Do what the Bible says today – and rejoice!

We have considered in past weeks #s 1-5; on this Sunday morning we consider #6 – “Do what the Bible says.”

Again, you will readily note the progression of thought. Based on what preaching is, it is good and necessary to attend weekly services where the Word of God is expounded faithfully. There, in the local body of gathered believers, we are to listen carefully to God’s message to us.

But that is not enough. We must also DO what the Word calls us to do – and I might add, BE what the Word calls us to be. We must put on the character of Christ and put on the conduct of Christ. Then, we are truly Christ-like – the purpose of the preaching with regard to ourselves.

With that in mind, Ash begins this section by pointing to and quoting two important passages of God’s Word – James 1:22 and 2 Timothy 3:16, which we reference here:

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

On the basis of these passages, the author adds these pertinent comments:

We mustn’t expect sermons to entertain us. We live in a culture of entertainment; we can generally find amusement at the press of a remote control button. One reason people have stopped coming to listen to sermons is that, if they come for entertainment, they can find better entertainment elsewhere. It is rare for a sermon to rival the special effects of a Batman or a Bond…. Most preachers are bound to fail, and mistaken to try.

Nevertheless, from time to time people will come to some preachers to be entertained. Herod enjoyed listening to John the Baptist preach, even though John condemned Herod’s wrong marriage.

…There was a time when the people loved coming to hear Ezekiel preach; somehow it was as entertaining as listening to a popular love song [cf. Ezek.33:32]….

We see this today in the Christian sub-cultures of celebrity preachers. There are a few preachers whose style and manner is so good that we can listen to them for hours. …We might shop around churches until we find a style of preaching to suit our taste, because our aim is to be entertained, rather than to be taught, rebuked, corrected and trained in righteousness.

And, having said that (are we not all convicted by the reality that this pervasive culture influences us too?!), Ash concludes with this:

However, it is a great mistake to think we have it in us to obey [the Word]. On our own we cannot obey. We are slaves to sin, unable to help ourselves. We cannot even repent without God working repentance (eg: 2 Timothy 2 v 25). It is God who opens our hearts to respond to His message, and not just at the start of the Christian life (Acts 16 v 14). We need to pray for God to open our hearts week by week to His truth (pp.18-19).

May we listen up! today with that prayer on our lips.

Joy in Our Work (Especially for Wives and Mothers) – Trillia Newbell

tt-feb-2017As we noted last week, this month’s Tabletalk is devoted to the theme of “joy.” The second featured article on this subject, “Joy in Our Work,” is written by Trillia Newbell and has especially wives and mothers in view.

She opens her article with the reality that Mondays can easily be viewed as “the most dreaded day of the week,” because, as she points out, most people “seem to dread their work.” But is there another way to face our work-week? Can we truly find joy in our earthly, mundane labors?

Yes, we can she says, also as wives and mothers. The key is to see our work in two ways: as work for the Lord and as work to be done in contentment. Here are Newbell’s thoughts on that first perspective. It is good for our wives and mothers, but also for us men to hear.

Work Is for the Lord

One of the first ways to fight our temptation to dread our work is to remember that work is ultimately for and about our creator God. We are told by the world that we must pursue work that is fulfilling and satisfying. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with loving your job or pursuing something that you are passionate about. But if that is all we are focused on, we can easily become disillusioned because work is difficult and affected by the fall. Instead, if we know that every dish washed and every load of laundry done and every diaper changed is for the Lord, isn’t that a much greater, more significant focus?

If we have children and a home, God has called us to shepherd our kids and care for our homes. When I’m focused on this work, it’s easy to think that I’m mostly serving my children and my husband, but as Paul has reminded us in Colossians: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23–24). This work of caring for children and home isn’t set apart from other work. Whatever we do, we are to do heartily, not primarily for our children, not primarily for our spouses, but for the Lord. And God graciously rewards us for our labors. We may not get paid in dollars and cents, but I imagine we won’t be concerned about that as we worship our Savior for eternity. What joy there will be on that day! Let this truth motivate you to find joy in your everyday work, knowing that God sees it and is pleased as you work for His glory. It is not worthless—there is great value and joy to be found in it.

To read her full article, visit the Ligonier link below.

Source: Joy in Our Work by Trillia Newbell

Redeeming the Time – Rev. J. Mahtani

The latest issue of the Standard Bearer (Jan.15, 2017) is once again filled with a variety of interesting and instructive articles (cf. cover below).

sb-jan15-2017-cover

One of these is found under the rubric “Strength of Youth”. Rev. Jon Mahtani, pastor of Cornerstone PRC in Dyer, IN and a new writer for this rubric, has a timely article for the new year titled “Redeeming the Time.” In it he explains and applies – especially for the benefit of Christian young people, but applicable for all ages – the Word of God in Eph.5:16, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

Here is part of what he has to say:

In Ephesians 5:16, God does not call us to buy cars, clothing, jewelry, appliances, or homes, but time. The word for “time” here however, does not refer primarily to the duration of time—the seconds, minutes, and hours going by on our clocks. Rather, “time” refers to “opportunities” in our life.

…But wait! Stop! Before you go off to buy every opportunity that comes your way, remember what a good buyer does. First, he senses or discerns the more valuable from the less valuable. Just as not every product on the market is of equal worth, so not every opportunity is equally worthwhile. Just as you cannot purchase everything online, so you cannot buy every opportunity that presents itself!

How do you determine which opportunities are most valuable? As a child of God, with the wisdom of His Holy Spirit and His word, you should know that the most valuable opportunities are measured by spiritual profit! No, we do not discern valuable opportunities by asking, “What is most fun? What is most entertaining? What feels the best? What is good for my reputation, my career, my bank account?” Instead, the golden opportunities are determined by prayerfully asking, “What is best for my soul?”

Prioritize your life. What is more valuable? Devotion time or sleep time? Bible society time or sporting event time? Church fellowship or what I already put on my schedule? Overtime at work or quality time with the family? Homework time or your primetime T.V. show? Time to pray or time to play? We may be able to see some value in all of these opportunities, but a good buyer of time first senses and chooses which is most valuable.

Why You Probably Don’t Need a Quiet Time – D. Whitney

BiblestudypicIt’s a new year! Time to establish goals, resolve to get them accomplished, and dig in with renewed zeal. Including getting your (our) spiritual disciplines in order, such as devotions. Yes, family or couple devotions, but personal devotions too.

Then, again, you probably don’t need to bother with that. Why put all that stress on yourself to spend time with the Lord in His Word and prayer? You are busy and I am busy; we can’t be in two places at one time; the Lord understands that. And besides, we are already quite mature in our faith. We know the Bible pretty well and we already pray regularly with family and church. We hear some fairly meaty sermons on Sunday each week; that’s food for the week. And isn’t it legalistic to think that if I don’t have my quiet time with the Lord I should feel guilty? This year I’m going to just relax when it comes to my spiritual life. But, man, am I going to hit the gym and get this body in shape!

That’s the tongue-in-cheek approach Donald Whitney takes in his article for the rubric “Heart Aflame” in the January 2017 Tabletalk. Which is why it has the title it does: “Why You Probably Don’t Need a Quiet Time.” But to each of these poor reasons to pass on a regular devotional time, Whitney gives a solid biblical answer. And that is why you ought to read his article. So that you can determine to have a quiet time on a regular basis in 2017.

I needed this article, and I trust you do too. Read it and be motivated to start the new year with the godly resolve to be in the Word and in prayer daily.

Here is how he ends his article:

Third, even until death, the Apostle Paul wanted to saturate his soul in Scripture. In the last inspired letter he wrote, Paul pleaded with Timothy, “When you come, bring . . . the books, and above all the parchments” (2 Tim. 4:13). These writings almost certainly included a copy of the Old Testament. If a Christian as spiritually mature as the Apostle Paul required the regular intake of Scripture until death, dare we ever think we’ve “outgrown” the need for it?

Fourth, we are called to imitate spiritual heroes. In Hebrews 13:7, God commands us to remember, consider, and imitate Christian leaders of the past. We’re told, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” The consensus of the spiritual giants of Christian history that testifies to the indispensability of a believer’s devotional life should not be forgotten nor their example forsaken.

Fifth, rightly motivated devotional habits are never legalistic. Neither the strictest obedience to the Word of God nor the most zealous pursuit of holiness is ever legalistic if one’s motives are right. The measurement of legalism is not the consistency of one’s devotional practices but the heart’s reason for doing them.

Finally, you’ll likely never be less busy. If you can’t make time to meet God through the Bible and prayer now, it’s very unlikely you will when—if—life does slow down.

Significant changes in your life may indeed be needed. But think: How can less time with God be the answer?

 

Source: Why You Probably Don’t Need a Quiet Time by Donald Whitney