New Book on J.I. Packer and the Christian Life – S.Storms

Packer-on-Chrlife-Storms-2015Crossway has a fine series of books being published called “Theologians on the Christian Life,” edited by Stephen J. Nichols and Justin Taylor. I have referenced others here before (e.g., Luther on the Christian Life by C. Trueman); today I call attention to the latest offering: Packer on the Christian Life: Knowing God in Christ, Walking by the Spirit, written by Sam Storms (2015).

The publisher has this brief summary of the book on its website:

J. I. Packer is widely recognized as a pillar of 20th-century evangelicalism and has had a profound impact on millions of Christians living today. Now in his late eighties, Packer still exerts an enormous influence on pastors and laypeople around the world through his many books, articles, and recorded lectures—works that overflow with spiritual wisdom related to the Christian life. In this soul-stirring book, well-known pastor Sam Storms explores Packer’s legacy and profound insights into prayer, Bible study, the sovereignty of God, the Christian’s fight against sin, and more, offering readers the chance to learn from a true evangelical titan.

I started browsing and reading the book this past weekend and found the content a delight as well as edifying, not least because I have enjoyed J.I. Packer’s writings for some time. Storm handles Packer’s voluminous writings with ease and clarity, often quoting him at length – a wise and profitable thing to do!

To give you an idea of the material covered by Storms in this work, here is the table of contents as provided by Crossway:

  1. Packer the Person: A Puritan, Theological Exegete, and Latter-Day Catechist
  2. The Central Reference Point for Christian Living: Atonement
  3. Authority for Christian Living: The Role of the Bible
  4. The Shape of Christian Living: What Is Holiness?
  5. The Process of Christian Living: The Meaning and Means of Sanctification
  6. The Struggle of Christian Living: The Battle with Indwelling Sin (Romans 7)
  7. The Catalyst for Christian Living: The Person of the Holy Spirit
  8. Power for Christian Living: The Necessity of Prayer
  9. Guidance in Christian Living: Discerning the Will of God
  10. The Cauldron of Christian Living: The Inevitability of Suffering
  11. The Hub of Christian Living: Theocentricity
  12. The Conclusion of Christian Living: How to End Well

Appendix: Additional Exegetical and Theological Evidence for Seeing the Man of Romans 7 as a Christian

To give you a little taste of this work and its content, I provide these quotes from Packer himself:

If it is right for man to have the glory of God as his goal, can it be wrong for God to have the same goal? If man can have no higher purpose than God’s glory, how can God? If it is wrong for man to seek a lesser end than this, it would be wrong for God, too. The reason it cannot be right for man to live for himself, as if he were God, is because he is not God. However, ir cannot be wrong for God to seek his won glory, simply because he is God. Those who insist that God should not seek his own glory in all things are really asking that he cease to be God. And there is no greater blasphemy than to will God out of existence (p.27 – from Packer’s Hot Tub Religion, Tyndale, 1987).

You have never told God that, while you are grateful for the means and opportunities of grace that He gave you, you realize that you have to thank not Him but yourself for the fact that you responded to His call. Your heart revolts at the very thought of talking to God in such terms. In fact, you thank Him no less sincerely for the gift of faith and repentance than for the gift of a Christ to trust and turn to…. You give God all the glory for all that your salvation involved, and you know that it would be blasphemy if you refused to thank Him for bringing you to faith. Thus, in the way that you think of your conversion and give thanks for your conversion, you acknowledge the sovereignty of divine grace (p.192 – from Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, InterVarsity, 1971).

The Proper Use of Study Bibles – Dr. Joel Beeke

Source: Study Bibles for Our Hearts, Homes, and Churches by Joel Beeke | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

TTCover-Sept-2015As we continue to take a close look at the purpose and use of study Bibles through this month’s Tabletalk, we consider some thoughts of Dr. Joel R. Beeke in his contribution to the magazine.

Dr. Beeke has penned the article linked above – “Study Bibles for Our Hearts, Homes, and Churches”, and has much wise advice for us to consider in using a good study Bible, as well as for studying the Bible in general.

He begins with some negative counsel, the first two of which I give here:

Do not read study Bibles upside down. Study Bibles typically feature the text of Scripture on the top half of the page and the notes on the bottom half. Thus, the top presents the words of God, and the bottom contains mere human interpretations and applications. We read study Bibles upside down when we confuse men’s words with God’s words. No matter how much you admire the people who wrote the notes, never receive their words as the absolute truth from God. Only the biblical text is inerrant.

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Prov. 30:5–6; KJV throughout). No study Bible should add to His words but should only explain and apply them.

Do not read study Bibles with your brain turned off. The temptation can be to read a verse, then look down at the note and conclude, “I see; that’s what that means,” and quickly move on. God calls us to meditate prayerfully on His Word (Pss. 1:2; 119:18, 36–37). Do not short-circuit the process of thinking carefully about the Scriptures. By their nature, study Bibles can only offer brief answers to questions. Issues may be much more complex than can be explained in a short note. Therefore, do not assume that you fully understand a matter just because you have read a note in a study Bible.

But he also gives us positive counsel, the last three of which I post here:

Discuss the Bible with family and friends. A study Bible is a great tool for leading family worship, a devotion for a small group, or a study with a friend.

Read the creeds and confessions along with Scripture. Many churches have classes to study doctrinal standards such as a confession of faith or catechism. If your church has such a class, you can use a study Bible that includes the ecumenical creeds and Reformed confessions among the helps provided. Look up the proof texts attached to a confession of faith or catechism, and study those texts in their biblical contexts. Many study Bibles have several other helpful features such as articles on archaeology, church history, and other important topics. Take time to explore your study Bible’s particular features.

Meditate on the sermon after you return home. To maximize your profit from the preaching of the Word, make notes on the sermons you hear in church and review them at home as a form of meditation. Look up the texts your pastor referenced, and use the notes in your study Bible to augment your meditations. Pray for the assistance of the Spirit, and study with the intent to obey God’s Word.

RHSBible-KJV-2014Dr. Beeke is also the editor of the newly published Reformation Heritage Study Bible (KJV). For more information on that Bible, visit the RHB website, or read this review by Prof.R. Cammenga.

 

“You simply obey. You are not less zealous, but more; not less constant, but more persevering.” – A.Kuyper

PracticeofGodliness-AKuyper-1948-2Once more we pick up where we left off last time in Abraham Kuyper’s translated work The Practice of Godliness, the first section titled “The Christian Warfare”, where the fifth chapter describes that battle as it takes place in the church of Jesus Christ. This next quotation is under the sub-heading “obedience.”

     Then, too, it no longer matters if there are no immediate results upon your efforts and protests against evil [in the church]. That makes no difference at all.

For you realize that you have no right or claim to a model church. You acknowledge yourself a humble sinner whose imperfections add to the corruption of the church.

Whether you live to see the church sink deeper into the mire, or to see it lifted to higher planes makes no difference. You are in duty bound to defend her against her enemies all the days of your life, with all of God’s children.

You obey. God bids you labor in His vineyard, and you do so with all the strength He gives you. He bids you not to sit with the scoffers and the ungodly, and you separate yourself from them. He bids you resist the onslaughts of evil upon His house, and you resist them.

When you have learned thus to obey, the battle for the Lord goes on without pause, yet calmly and steadily. It is a labor that looks not upon the results.

You are no longer striving for what you want or deem necessary; you are not impatient, not wearied with complaining or unmanned by disappointment. You simply obey. You are not less zealous, but more; not less constant, but more persevering.

And God, who is merciful, will crown your efforts, in home and heart and church, with His blessing.

Dr. Abraham Kuyper in The Practice of Godliness, (translated and edited by Marian M. Schoolland; Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1948), p.61.

Finding Your Life Calling – M.Perman

Whats Best Next -PermanOn this Labor Day holiday weekend in the U.S., we as Christians ought to be thinking about the meaning, value, and purpose of work. To assist us in this, we will take another look at Matt Perman’s book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Zondervan, 2014).

I recently read the next chapter (twelve), where Perman continues the third section of his book on “gospel-driven productivity.” We recall from our last post that this section is the “define” part, where Perman says that if being productive is knowing what’s important and doing it next, we have to define what is most important in life.

Included in this is not only laying out a mission statement (chapter eleven) but also defining our life goal. That is the subject of this twelfth chapter. This is how Perman defines one’s “life goal”:

A life goal is what most people mean when they talk about finding your calling in life. It is the chief objective you are seeking to accomplish with your life. Life goals are analogous to what James Collins calls ‘Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals’ in business and nonprofits. A life goal is a large and almost overwhelming cause toward which everything else in your life is marshaled (p.171).

Perman has some good practical points to make in this brief chapter, especially in answer to the question “What if you don’t know your life goals?” Part of his seven-pronged answer includes these last two:

6. Stay faithful in prayer! Don’t just try to figure things our on your own. As with all planning, involve God and make him the center (Prov.16:3). You are not the captain of your ship. God determines what happens to you and where your ship goes, and he is a good God who looks out for you and is eager to make your life count for his glory and his people’s good. That is always true, but if you take it for granted by not involving him in thinking through your plans and pleading with him in prayer, the course you are on will suffer: ‘You do not have, becuse you do not ask’ (James 4:2).

7. Take action and commit. You shouldn’t be thirty years old and still trying to figure out what to dow ith your life. Don’t live in your parents’ basement playing video games all day while you ‘figure out your life’s aim.’ Get involved in the world of work, get a job that is challenging and calls on the best of you, and live your life. Don’t be aimless, even while seeking to discover your chief aim in life. Do something. Not something to bide the time, but something meaningful, and you will discover your life goal on that course (p.177).

“A deep and living faith in God’s Covenant is the foundation of our quiet, watchful, patient waiting and working.” – A.Kuyper

If the Lord is to come as a thief in the night, the church should go about its daily duties in quiet devotion, until He suddenly appears. We are not to keep looking out the window, or climbing to the housetops to gaze eagerly into the distance, while neglecting our work and giving our household duties but scant attention.

Indeed we must watch. We must so live that we are ready to welcome Him at any moment. Like a Christian family that, having commended home and children to God’s care for the night, quietly goes to bed and to sleep, and awakens in the morning to resume the daily task, so the church of Christ upon earth must go on quietly, prayerfully, with its common daily tasks, until He comes, in His own time, to break off this round of daily duties.

A deep and living faith in God’s Covenant is the foundation of our quiet, watchful, patient waiting and working. For included in God’s covenant are also all the chosen who are yet to be brought into the fold, though they may now be drunkards, or thieves, or self-righteous rejectors of the truth. They are destined to be saved; and it is through the ministration of the church that they must be brought to the light and taught in the truth.

This one confession, that God is God, and that He will bring in His own, makes us patient to bear with the imperfections and weaknesses of the church, since He has seen fit to place that cross upon us. And it also keeps us humble before Him, as we must confess our own guilt. ‘The sin of the church is also my sin. I, yea even especially I, am at fault.’

…Being keenly aware of his own sins, and knowing full well that he has fanned the flames of sin perhaps more than others, the true Christian fights against sin the more earnestly and zealously.

PracticeofGodliness-AKuyper-1948-2Dr. Abraham Kuyper in the chapter titled “The Church of Jesus Christ”, found in The Practice of Godliness, (translated and edited by Marian M. Schoolland; Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1948), pp.56-57.

Confessions of a Bibliophile – Keith Mathison

Confessions of a Bibliophile by Keith Mathison | Ligonier Ministries Blog.

bibliophile-1And here is another perspective on the value of being a lover of books and reading – only this time from a distinctive Christian perspective. I am grateful for Mathison’s clear voice concerning why we ought to be readers of good books.

For the full article (originally printed in Tabletalk magazine), visit the Ligonier link above. Here are Mathison’s closing paragraphs, which contain the heart of this thoughts.

Our God is a God who has revealed Himself in a book, in words. We learn about God and His will, therefore, by reading. We learn by reading and reflecting on His Word. We also learn by reading and thinking with the church. This means we read and reflect on the insights of our brethren, those who are still with us and those who have gone on before us. We may also learn by reading with discernment the works of those who have spent time “reading” God’s general revelation. This includes works of science, philosophy, history, poetry, and literature.

If I might offer a word of advice and encouragement to my fellow bibliophiles, it is this: As Ecclesiastes reminds us, “Of making many books there is no end” (12:12). Millions of books have been published, and thousands more are published every year. We cannot read them all, so it is best to read the good ones. If you don’t know which books are the good ones, seek the advice of mature Christians. Find recommended reading lists by churches and ministries you trust.

Finally, while we read to learn about our God and His works of creation and redemption, we must not allow a love of reading to supplant our love for Christ. If we do, our books, even our Christian books, become nothing more than idols. All the reading in the world, if it does not ultimately promote our love of Christ and our brethren, is nothing but futility.

Prayers of the Reformers (2) – M.Coverdale

prayersofreformers-manschreckThe following two prayers I recently discovered while browsing further through the wonderful collection of prayers titled, Prayers of the Reformers, compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Muhlenberg Press in 1958.

These two are from the section headed “Prayers of Petition and Supplication” (pp.50ff.), and are both attributed to Miles Coverdale (1488-1569), whom we know as one of the early translators of the Bible into English. I found both of these fitting with my earlier post on the blessedness of our communion with Christ.

This saving union with our Lord is not and never must become static from our side, but must be experienced and developed daily, as these prayers assume and express. May they be ours in this coming week, as we seek to grow in closer, intimate fellowship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.

For increase of knowledge and truth

O gracious Father, grant unto us, which through thy Son have known thy name, that in such knowledge and light of the truth we may increase more and more; that the love wherewith thou lovest thy dear Son may be and remain in us; and that thy only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, our head, may in us his members continue still to work, live, and bring forth fruit acceptable unto thee. Amen (p.50).

Draw thou our hearts

O Lord Jesus Christ, draw thou our hearts unto thee; join them together in inseparable love, that we may abide in thee, and thou in us, and that the everlasting covenant between us may stand sure forever. O wound our hearts with the fiery darts of thy piercing love. Let them pierce through all our slothful members and inward powers, that we, being happily wounded, may so become whole and sound. Let us have no lover but thyself alone; let us seek no joy nor comfort except in thee. Amen (p.55).

The Antithesis and Learning at Calvin College – John J. Timmerman

Through a Glass Lightly-TimmermanTwo weeks ago we began quoting from the fifth chapter of John J. Timmerman’s book Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987), where he describes the early years of education at Calvin College. We called special attention to his emphasis on the antithesis as it was taught and manifested at this Reformed institution.

Today I continue quoting from this section, as Timmerman describes the effect the antithesis had on learning.

The pervasive emphasis on the antithesis did not diminish the appreciation for learning or produce an index of forbidden books or a cowering from challenge. In the classroom it resulted in the search for truth from alien sources and a critical appraisal of fundamental religious options. Some teachers did this brilliantly, some rather feebly, but they all did it. Calvin College then, as afterwards, emphasized the best that had been thought and written. Although only six of the eighteen professors held doctorates, all but two of the rest had master’s degrees or their equivalent. The teachers were well acquainted with scholarly habits, and almost all insisted on rigorous work. One of those who did not compensated for it in illumination. Calvin graduates were admirably prepared for university studies beyond Calvin, and many of them enhanced its academic reputation. I think most of the students would have agreed that they were well prepared in their majors, confronted by the deep questions, nurtured in the Reformed faith, and given a genuine liberal education. There were, of course, real or self-appointed geniuses who would dispute that, but I think I state correctly the attitude of the vast majority of students (p.29, in “‘Golden Branch among the Shadows”’).

What’s Your Mission in Life? God Has Already Created It – M.Perman

Whats Best Next -PermanWith chapter eleven of What’s Best Next, Matt Perman begins the third section of his book on “gospel-driven productivity.” This section is the “define” part, where Perman says that if being productive is knowing what’s important and doing it next, we have to define what is most important in life.

And that’s where having a personal mission statement is vital, he says. In the eleventh chapter, “What’s Your Mission? How Not to Waste Your Life”, Perman lays out the details of this concept. At the beginning he sets forth “four principles for creating mission statements that work” (p.153).

I appreciated what he had to say under the second principle, “base your mission on the actual purpose of life.” Here is part of it:

God has stated the purpose of life throughout the Bible in dozens of different ways. The words God uses (and that you can use) to describe it can differ, but the essence is always the same. The purpose of life is to know God, enjoy God, reflect his glory back to him, and do this in community with others through Jesus Christ.

That’s the ultimate purpose of life, both now and forever.

…One of the greatest statements of our mission in the Bible is when Paul says that his aim is always that ‘Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Phil.1:20-21). When Paul says ‘to me to live is Christ,’ he means, ‘Christ is my main end in life. I belong to him, and everything I do is for him. Nothing else matters without him (cf. Phil.3:8-14)….

Echoing this again in Romans 14:7-8, Paul states his and our purpose this way: ‘For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.’

Outside the Bible, perhaps Jonathan Edwards has captured this best: “Christianity requires that we should make God and Christ our main end; and all Christians, so far as they live like Christians, live so that ‘for them to live is Christ.’

Note that your mission is personal, not impersonal. It is not just principle-centered; it is God-centered. God – Jesus- is a person. Your mission is to live unto him – and die unto him. To serve him, love him, know him, reflect him – and do this in community with his people, with an outward focus that seeks to serve the world for its good (pp154-55).

The Prayers of J. Calvin (21)

Praying with calvin- JeremiahOn this Sunday night we continue our posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014 and now in 2015 – last on June 28), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979). Tonight we post a brief section from his twentieth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 5:10-16, which includes Calvin’s commentary on 5:14, “Wherefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.”

Here is part of his application of this passage to the church in his day and to us:

This passage ought to be carefully observed by us, lest by our ingratitude we shall so provoke God’s wrath against us, as that his word, which is destined for our food, shall be turned to a fire to us. For why has God appointed the ministers of his gospel, except to invite us to become partakers of his salvation, and thus sweetly to restore and refresh our souls?

And thus the word of God is to us like water to revive our hearts: it is also a fire, but for our good, a cleansing, and not a consuming fire; but it we obstinately reject this fire, it will surely turn to answer another end, even to devour us, and wholly to consume us (p.284).

And his closing prayer for this lecture is as follows:

Grant, Almighty God, that though thou mightest justly condemn us at this day for the gross and wicked impiety, which thou didst formerly condemn by the mouth of thy Prophet in thine ancient people, – O grant, that we may not proceed in our obstinacy, but learn with pliable minds, and in true docility of heart, to submit to thy word, so that it may not turn to our ruin, but that we may by experience find it to be appointed for our salvation, so that being inflamed with a desire for true religion,and also cleansed from the filth of depraved affections and of carnal lusts, we may devote ourselves wholly to thy service, until having put off the flesh and all its filth, we shall at length attain to that perfect purity, which i set before us in thy gospel, and be made partakers of thy eternal glory in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Amen

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