The audio is available below if you wish to listen to it here.
Here’s a great deal on a handful of Bible commentaries. I was recently introduced to the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series. Each chapter of each volume ends with discussion and reflection questions. These would be a great for use in a small group setting or to deepen your personal study of the Bible. The series is projected to be 48 volumes. Sale price on each of these ends March 21, 2017 but these are still good commentaries.
Exalting Jesus in Galatians
Sometimes we’re tempted to think that God isn’t answering our prayers. Is this the case? Does God go silent at times, even when our circumstances tell us we need Him most?
While recently reading J.I. Packer’s book Knowing God I came upon this passage in which he speaks of the believer’s assurance in light of their adoption. He notes that the believer’s adoption is also the basis for Christian prayer and for confidence and boldness in prayer. He then concludes that this knowledge should shed needed light on the so called "problem of unanswered prayer”.
Speaking of Jesus’ instruction in the Sermon on the Mount Packer writes:
“…adoption appears in the Sermon as the basis of Christian prayer. ‘After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father… (Matt. 6:9). As Jesus always prayed to His God as Father (‘Abba’ in Aramaic, an intimate family word), so must His followers do. Jesus could say to His Father ‘thou hearest me always’ (John 11:41), and He wants His disciples to know that, as God’s adopted children, the same is true of them. The Father is always accessible to His children, and is never too preoccupied to listen to what they have to say. This is the basis of Christian prayer.”
Two things follow, according to the Sermon. First, prayer must not be thought of in impersonal or mechanical terms, as a technique for putting pressure on someone who otherwise might disregard you. ‘When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him’ (Matthew 6:7 f.). Second, prayer may be free and bold. We need not hesitate to imitate the sublime ‘cheek’ of the child who is not afraid to ask his parents for anything, because he knows he can count completely on their love. ‘Ask, and it shall be given you every one that asketh receiveth if ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?’ (7:7-11).”
Not, indeed, that our Father in heaven always answers His children’s prayers in the form in which we offer them. Sometimes we ask for the wrong thing! It is God’s prerogative to give good things, things that we have need of, and if in our unwisdom we ask for things that do not come under these headings God, like any good parent, reserves the right to say ‘No, not that; it wouldn’t be good for you—but have this instead’. Good parents never simply ignore what their children are saying, nor simply disregard their feelings of need, and neither does God; but often He gives us what we should have asked for, rather than what we actually requested. Paul asked the Lord Jesus graciously to remove his thorn in the flesh, and the Lord replied by graciously leaving it and strengthening Paul to live with it (2 Corinthians 12:7 ff.). The Lord knew best!—and to suggest that because Paul’s prayer was answered this way it was not answered at all would be utterly wrong. Here is the source of much light on what is sometimes miscalled ‘the problem of unanswered prayer’.”
Is your faith in Christ? Let God’s Word encourage you toward great faith and confidence in prayer as His adopted children.
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. -1 John 5:14-15
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. -Matthew 7:7
Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. -Isaiah 65:24
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. -Luke 18:1
I recently finished reading Life Together, a classic work from Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Christian community. It’s made it onto my list of titles I need to re-read every couple of years. Here are just ten quotes that challenged and encouraged me.
- Where the heart is not singing there is no melody, there is only a dreadful medley of human self praise.
- Holy Scripture is more than a watchword… more than “light for today.” It is God’s revealed word for all men, for all times.
- Holy Scripture does not consist of individual passages; it is a unit and is intended to be used as such.
- We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.
- “Seek God, not happiness” – this is the fundamental rule of all meditation. If you seek God alone you will gain happiness: that is its promise.
- Self-justification and judging others go together, as justification by grace and serving others go together.
- Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light. In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person. This can happen even in the midst of a pious community. In confession the light of the Gospel breaks into the darkness and seclusion of the heart. The sin must be brought into the light. The unexpressed must be openly spoken and acknowledged. All that is secret and hidden is made manifest. It is a hard struggle until the sin is openly admitted. But God breaks gates of brass and bars of iron (Ps. 107:16).
- Since the confession of sin is made in the presence of a Christian brother, the last stronghold of self-Justification is abandoned. The sinner surrenders; he gives up all his evil. He gives his heart to God, and he finds the forgiveness of all his sin in the fellowship of Jesus Christ and his brother.
- Pastoral authority can be attained only by the servant of Jesus who seeks no power of his own, who himself is a brother among brothers submitted to the authority of the Word.
- Once a man has experienced the mercy of God in his life he will henceforth aspire only to serve. The proud throne of the judge no longer lures him; he wants to be down below with the lowly and the needy, because that is where God found him. “Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate” (Rom. 11:16).
Often when I’m reading an ebook I use the highlight feature to mark passages that I’d like to review again later. This helps me pay closer attention to what I’m reading. It’s also encouraging to look back later to see what first caught my eye.
Thumbing through my copy of John Stott’s classic book Basic Christianity after recommending it to someone today I found this passage I had highlighted when I last read it. I thank God for the work of the Holy Spirit in me.
It is by the Spirit of Christ that we can be transformed into the image of Christ, as we keep looking steadfastly towards him. We thus have our part to play, in repentance, faith and discipline, but essentially holiness is the work of the Holy Spirit.
William Temple used to illustrate the point in this way. It is no good giving me a play like Hamlet or King Lear, and telling me to write a play like that. Shakespeare could do it; I can’t. And it is no good showing me a life like the life of Jesus and telling me to live a life like that. Jesus could do it; I can’t. But if the genius of Shakespeare could come and live in me, then I could write plays like that. And if the Spirit of Jesus could come and live in me, then I could live a life like that. This is the secret of Christian sanctity. It is not that we should strive to live like Jesus, but that he by his Spirit should come and live in us. To have him as our example is not enough; we need him as our Saviour.
This is one of a couple of books I’d put on my list of must reads about once a year.
When sensual pleasures tempt me,
purify and refine me;
When I desire worldly possessions,
help me to be rich toward thee.
O God the Holy Spirit,
That which I know not, teach thou me,
keep me a humble disciple in the school of Christ,
learning daily there what I am in myself,
a fallen sinful creature,
justly deserving everlasting destruction;
O let me never lose sight of my need of a Saviour,
or forget that apart from Him I am nothing,
and can do nothing.
–From The Valley of Vision, The Spirit As A Teacher.
Pick up your own copy of The Valley of Vision here.
O HOLY SPIRIT…
…Come as teacher, leading me into all truth,
filling me with all understanding;
Come as love, that I may adore the Father,
and love him as my all;
Come as joy, to dwell in me,
move in me, animate me;
Come as light, illuminating the Scripture,
moulding me in its laws;
Come as sanctifier,
body, soul and spirit wholly thine;
Come as helper, with strength to bless and keep,
directing my every step;
Come as beautifier, bringing order out of confusion,
loveliness out of chaos.
–From Valley of Vision, Spiritus Sanctus.
Pick up your own copy of The Valley of Vision here.
Kevin DeYoung’s The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness is a fresh and needed challenge to the church today.
Here are a few quotes pulled from my reading:
“You can think of holiness, to employ a metaphor, as the sanctification of your body. The mind is filled with the knowledge of God and fixed on what is good. The eyes turn away from sensuality and shudder at the sight of evil. The mouth tells the truth and refuses to gossip, slander, or speak what is coarse or obscene. The spirit is earnest, steadfast, and gentle. The heart is full of joy instead of hopelessness, patience instead of irritability, kindness instead of anger, humility instead of pride, and thankfulness instead of envy. The sexual organs are pure, being reserved for the privacy of marriage between one man and one woman. The feet move toward the lowly and away from senseless conflict, divisions, and wild parties. The hands are quick to help those in need and ready to fold in prayer. This is the anatomy of holiness.” [Read more…]