“Escalator Temporarily Stairs.”

My wife is back, and I’m thrilled that she’s home.

But I’m now in the final week of classwork before the end of the semester, and I’ve got 4 different deadlines looming on Friday. Plus, I think I may be coming down with something. No bueno.

So I’m going to beg your indulgence one more time. As much as I want to pour some more energy into this blog again, I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

So I’ll see y’all in (hopefully) a week. Expect the next post on Monday, May 4th.

If you’d prefer, feel free to subscribe to the blog (with the buttons below), and you’ll be notified the next time I post.

Thanks, friends! See you soon!

The4thDave Recommends: “God’s Greater Glory” by Dr. Bruce Ware.

This may not come as a shock to some of you (though I still haven’t really told my parents or grandparents), but I’m pretty much a “Reformed” Baptist–or what some would call (disparagingly, in their minds) a Calvinist. What this means is that I believe the Bible teaches that all people are born with a sin nature, a natural bent toward rebellion against God and His law.  Because of this, we are sinners by nature who become sinners by choice, and as such, we earn the righteous wrath of God for our rebellion. (I’ve covered this before.)

Because all men are born spiritually dead, I don’t believe we have the ability, in this state of spiritual deadness, even to turn to Jesus in repentance and faith. So God (through the Holy Spirit) must make us spiritually alive so that we can repent and believe in Jesus as our Savior, Sacrifice, and Substitute. This causes a problem for some who argue (perhaps fairly) that this means God chooses to save some but not others (or all). They argue that this would not be just of God. (My counter-argument would be that true “justice” would mean NO ONE is saved, but that’s a whole ‘nother deal.)

The sticking point in much of this debate between those who believe that God chooses us and those who believe that we must choose God is how we all understand the relationship between God’s sovereign will and human “free” will.

To tackle this subject, I would offer you, as a recommendation, God’s Greater Glory by Dr. Bruce Ware. I’m taking Dr. Ware’s Systematic Theology class this spring, so I got to read this great little book as part of that class. In God’s Greater Glory, Dr. Ware addresses the issue of divine sovereignty and providence. He looks at the different understandings of “free will” and how these definitions fit or conflict with the truths that have been revealed in Scripture. He also tackles some practical application of these ideas, including the areas of suffering, prayer, and Christian service.

This book seems to be a companion piece to his previous work, God’s Lesser Glory, which examines the serious theological problems with open theism or process theology (the idea that God is not all-knowing and experiences time and history as we do, moment by moment). However, you don’t need to have read the other book to appreciate GGG, because Dr. Ware provides a good deal of commentary on this issue as a part of the current discussion.

I’m not going to give too much away about his arguments, but I will say that he constructs a very compelling case for God’s sovereignty over all things, including human volition and behavior, yet still accounts for human dignity and responsibility. I’d never heard this issue discussed in this way, and (at risk of overstating) it has really revolutionized how I understand human responsibility and free will in this discussion.

I would recommend God’s Greater Glory to anyone who has struggled with the question of how God’s sovereignty meshes with human responsibility. Dr. Ware is an academic, so the book may be a bit dense to get through at first, but it’s worth taking your time and really considering his arguments. If nothing else, this book will turn your heart in worship and gratitude toward our great and glorious God.

Dear Jon.

I don’t know when it started, but I realized today that I’ve been harboring a secret resentment of Jon Acuff.  It’s random and stupid, I know. But I have to come clean about it.

If you don’t know who Jon Acuff is, let me sum up his career this way: he’s a famous blogger, best-selling author, and highly-regarded speaker. His books are witty and inspiring. His blog posts have been passed around by your Facebook friends—trust me, they have. He’s got a beautiful family, and from the outside looking in, it seemed like he had it all going for him.

Then, a couple of years ago, he walked away from what some would call a dream job and went solo again. He didn’t really talk about what happened, and neither did his famous former employer. And from my lowly perch, what seemed like lightyears away, I became a bit indignant. Suddenly his blog posts sounded smug instead of clever. Self-pitying instead of introspective.  I thought he was being a bit hypocritical.

Jon Acuff owed me no explanations. He has never been accountable to Dave for his life decisions. He wrote books and blog posts that had inspired me (though I rarely did more with that inspiration than think, “ooh, that’s good”). But he “got to” walk away from his day job, and I was still “stuck” in a job that, admittedly, I struggled with for several years. (And still struggle with, from time to time, though God is giving me grace to do my best and be a blessing as much as I can.)

Today, I heard two really great interviews with Jon Acuff that helped me realize what an ugly jerk I was being. This is a guy who has really struggled with what it means to be a writer and have a large range of influence, and he’s wrestled with some of the lesser-known dangers and pitfalls of having a big public platform, like the need to put on a mask to keep others happy (something I am all too familiar with). He’s not perfect, and he knows that. I can hear in his answers a bit more experience and wisdom than I’ve read in his writing over the years. More humility. More grace for himself and others.

I realized as I was listening to these interviews that I actually like this guy. If we were to meet and talk for a bit, I think we’d hit it off, because he seems like a good dude. I realized I was feeling bitter and jealous of the fact that he’s only 5 years older than me but he has the kind of life I dreamed of in my younger years but never pursued. I realized I was begrudging him the fruit of his hard work, hustle, and patience.  I still want some of the things he’s achieved, but I haven’t worked nearly as hard as he has. And even if I had, that doesn’t mean that I deserve anything more than what I have already. God has been exceedingly generous to me. I need to learn to be content.

All this to say: I’m sorry, Jon Acuff.  I’ve been kind of a jerk to you, even if only in my head and heart. I’m glad you’re doing well. You’ve earned it. Keep it up.

The Lunatic You’re Looking For.

I just ran out of words on Monday.

I spent the weekend and most of Monday writing a 9-page position paper for my Systematic Theology class, and when I finally finished and submitted that, I just couldn’t bring myself to put my fingers to the keys. So that’s why there was no post Monday.

The paper was about the role of what I called “extra-Biblical personal divine communication” in the life of believers. Basically, does the Bible give Christians the expectation that we will get whisperings and mumblings (attributed to the Holy Spirit) about the daily decisions of our life?

This is a very popular belief that is actually Charismatic/Pentecostal in origin, but it has increasingly spread throughout the groundwater of the evangelical church. Even denominations that are firmly grounded on sola Scriptura and the sufficiency of the inerrant, infallible Scriptures are making allowances for potentially errant and fallible impressions that may or may not be from God and need to be tested for confirmation of divine origin.

I just don’t see that in the Bible. (Thankfully, I’m not the only one.)

But what frustrates me is just how many believers, how many pastors and theologians, how many friends whose judgment and spiritual maturity I rely upon, hold firmly to the idea that the same God, who spoke in clear and uncertain terms during the Old and New Testament period, now mumbles.

I’ve been honest about my Buzzkill tendencies, but from time to time, you start to wonder if you’re just tilting at windmills.  I mean, if this many trusted, mature, wise spiritual friends and mentors disagree with my understanding on an issue like this, perhaps I’m the one who needs to reexamine it. They may be right. I may be crazy.

On Sunday, I was introduced to a woman (we’ll call her “M.”) who came out of a Muslim background and testifies to having had dreams and visions about things she couldn’t have known otherwise, and hearing inaudible, indelible “promptings” from the Spirit. I listened for 15 minutes as she talked about how these extra-Biblical phenomena were part of her process of coming to Christ and her life as a follower of Jesus. I had no way of confirming or denying any of her stories. I couldn’t look her in the eye and say, “You didn’t hear from God, and you didn’t receive any dreams.” Maybe others can do that with confidence; I couldn’t. I just sat and listened to a very earnest fellow believer, and I wondered what this means for me, if anything.

I’m not throwing over my entire understanding of Scripture over the testimony of one person. That would be utterly foolish. But my certainty in the rightness of my convictions was shaken a bit.

If there is a point to the post, maybe it’s this: When your confirmed beliefs are worn down by going against the grain of your own religious culture, or you get knocked sideways by something unexpected that tilted your world a bit, the best thing to do as a follower of Jesus is go to the more sure word: the Bible. People change, movements shift, cultures evolve—but the Bible remains the same. That is the beauty and power of the perfect, infallible Word. It is living and active, but it is not fickle.

And if everyone around you tells you that you’re crazy for holding to your belief in what the Bible says—even if they also claim the same Scriptures—well, at least you can be crazy for the right reasons.

Half-gone.

I dropped my wife off at the airport yesterday. She flew a few states over to be with her sister and brother-in-law, who just had their firstborn. She’s going to be gone for two weeks.

I cried when I drove away from the airport. If that costs me my man-card, then cash it in, buddy. I’ll surrender it willingly. I love my wife dearly. I missed her instantly. And I wiped away tears for a few minutes as I drove down the highway.

I am often tempted to worry; it’s a besetting sin that I battle regularly. As I drove home, I felt the stabbing fear that something might happen to my beloved, and I wouldn’t be there for her. It took a few minutes of prayer to relax, as I released her to the watchful eye of my Father (as if I really could take care of her better than He already does!).

It’s only going to be two weeks, and I know God will use that time to pull me aside and remind me that He is my true comfort and strength. As amazing as my wife is, she is not my God and Savior. I need this time apart to dwell in that truth. Although I have come to rightly rely on her, she is not my soul’s hope.

My head knows this is true. My heart still aches a bit. I felt all-too-suddenly why the Scriptures talk about husband and wife being one flesh, because yesterday half of my heart got on a plane and flew away.

[Regular content returns Monday. Y’all have a good weekend.]

Declaring Majesty on a Wednesday.

Happy Wednesday, friends.

No, there was no Monday post. Sorry about that. I’m afraid this one will be a short one as well. This week is the confluence of a couple of big projects/deadlines for school; plus my wife is getting ready to go visit family out of state. So all of my energies have been directed toward spending time with my books and spending time with her.

On Friday, I hope to address a recently-reposted article by Aaron Armstrong about naming names when it comes to false teachers. Next Monday, I want to provide a quick write-up of a truly excellent book by Bruce Ware called “God’s Greater Glory.”

In the meantime, let me leave you with a stunning paragraph from the conclusion of that book–something to chew on (and respond to!) between now and Friday [emphases and bracketed clarifications are my own]:

This course of action [i.e. showcasing the majesty of God] is not optional for those granted the unspeakable privilege of possessing and passing on the Grand Deposit of the Faith once for all given to the saints (I Tim. 6:20; II Tim 1:14; Jude 3). We cannot hide behind the facade of “fair and objective presentation of various views” if the one view that alone is true and glorifying to Majesty is not rendered before others as fully and exclusively Majestic. Those of us who take our places behind pulpits and lecterns are not given the option in this case of noncombatant status. Our positions have given us marching orders from on high. And unless we yearn and seek to bring about a narrowing of the distance from Majesty [i.e. so we see God more clearly in all His brilliance], we will have Majesty to contend with. If the fear of men–or better, for many of us, the fear of the Academy–renders passive or passe the fear of God, the fear of men will be granted, and “Ichabod” will in time be written atop sermon manuscripts and scholarly works. 

(from “God’s Greater Glory” by Bruce Ware, p. 211)

(If I may be so bold, I’d add to that last line, “…and conferences and coalitions and denominations.” …But what do I know?)

Something to wrestle with and be challenged by. See you Friday.

Why is it called “Good Friday”?

Why is it called Good Friday?
Because He who knew no sin became sin for us instead of
Casting the first stone. The Stone that the builders rejected
Was the stone of stumbling, the rock of offence.
They were offended who saw Him, and hid their faces,
As He was despised and rejected, acquainted with grief.
The One who would not break the bruised reed or quench
The smoldering wick was crushed according to the
Pleasure of His Father, and to that Divine Plan
The Prince of Peace bowed His holy head.

Why is it called Good Friday?
Because we who are like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us turning to our own way, doing what is right
In our own eyes, asking “Did God really say…?”
And though those who practice such things deserve death,
The great mercy of the Holy God was made manifest in
The flesh of the Incarnate Word, who tabernacled among us.
We beheld His glory, yet men loved darkness rather than light,
Because their unspeakable deeds were evil.  Into our darkness
Strode the Light of the World, the Good Shepherd of our souls
Who calls His sheep and they know His voice and come to Him,
From death to life, stumbling into light
Like Lazarus walking out of the grave, wrapped in cloths.
Why is it called Good Friday?
Because the Just Judge became the Justifier of our souls
By laying on the Righteous One the iniquity of us all
And pouring out His wrath upon the Son of Man—the wrath
That has been stored up against every wicked deed committed by
The wayward people of God—the shame of Noah, the murderous
Rage of Moses, the adultery of David, the pride of Solomon,
The hatred of Jonah, the betrayal of Peter, the bloodlust of Paul,
And even my own selfish weakness and craven man-pleasing.
Because of all these things, the holy wrath of God was poured out
Upon the perfect Christ, who did not turn away from the cup
That He was sent to drink, but received it all, down to the bitter dregs.
Why is it called Good Friday?
Without it, we would all be dead men, whose only hope is to eat and
Drink and be merry, all the days of our meaningless lives, before facing
The inevitable end and the terror of judgment.
But because He who is the Resurrection and the Life
Submitted Himself to shame and death in our stead,
And three days later, returned in victory over sin,
Having utterly defeated the greatest enemies of men.
Because He who died to save sinners was raised from the dead,
I now have hope that I will be raised up to be with Him on the last day.
Without the darkness of Friday, there would be no Easter dawn.
Without the just judgment against sin, there would be no justification.
Without the appeasing of divine wrath, there would be no eternal peace.
That’s why it’s called Good Friday.
The Son of God came and died and was raised again, so that
All who turn from sin and trust in Him would live.

The Good News that Comes from the Good News (Part 2)

On Monday, we talked about 2 ways the “good news” of Jesus’s death and resurrection are really good for us.

Here are 2 more:

3. Jesus saves us from the condemnation of the Law. Throughout the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul is trying to address confusion that has been introduced to the believers in Galatia. There were some (called Judaizers) who convinced the believers that, once they became followers of Jesus, they had to become fully Jewish as well, following all the customs and rituals of the Jews and the Jewish Law. Paul tells the people in no uncertain terms that this is not only folly, it’s spiritual suicide. He asks them why, since they received Jesus by grace, they must now continue in Him by following rituals and legal standards? Like so many of us, the Galatians believed the lie that they still had to live up to a specific code in order to maintain their relationship with God, and if they didn’t, they would once again be under condemnation. On the contrary, Paul writes; Jesus came to be the curse-bearer, hung on a tree to take the curse of sin upon his own shoulders and off the back of those who would believe in Him.

Do you hear what Paul is saying here, Christian? You who were once fully and completely guilty according to the Law, you have been justified by Christ. You have been declared “not guilty” by God the righteous Judge, on account of Jesus, who bore the due penalty of your sin and paid it in full. Nothing more is owed against that debt, and the condemnation you once faced does not threaten you any longer.

4. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live out our new identity and obey our new Lord. Let’s take a look at that Romans 8 passage again. If we are now in Christ, we are no longer condemned under the Law. Because of what Christ as done for us, we can now walk in the Spirit rather than according to our flesh, our old sinful nature. This means we are able to walk according to the will and commands of God, rather than being driven by our own natural desires and compulsions. We are now able to please God in how we live, because it’s His Spirit at work in us, remaking us into the image of Jesus. Not only do we have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, who lovingly convicts us of sin and reminds us of the truth of the Scriptures, but that Spirit is also a reminder of our hope of resurrection. As Jesus was raised bodily, so we will be raised bodily on the last day. On top of all this, the Spirit Himself confirms that we are God’s children. He gives us a spirit of sonship, so that we may call the God of the Universe, the Judge whom we once had feared, “Our Father.” We are no longer slaves to sin, bound to obey its desires. We are children of God, rescued from bondage, carrying the hope of resurrection with Christ, and given the Holy Spirit as a reminder of our inheritance with Jesus.

Hear this, Christian: We have been given the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin to bring about repentance and enable us to walk in a way that pleases our Father. We are no longer slaves to our sins, chained to our old way of life. He whom the Son sets free is free indeed. Walk in freedom, by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within you, so that you may walk as children of light.

=====

There you have it. Two more reasons why the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection, are exceedingly good news.

I’ll be back on Friday with a new post of some sort or another (haven’t decided yet). In the meantime, here are my encouragements:

If you are not a believer in Jesus, I must tell you that these glorious truths do not apply to you. As it now stands, nothing will shield you from the righteous wrath of God against your sins. I am not being arrogant, friend; I’m telling you only what the Bible tells you. there is yet time to repent of (that is, to turn from) your life of sin and self-service, and to look to Jesus the risen Son of God and believe on Him–believing that He is who He said He is and did what He said He did. You don’t have another moment promised to you. Don’t presume upon the patience of God. Think on these things.

If you are a believer in Jesus, however, then these and many more promises are yours in Christ. As we make our way through (what is called by many) “Holy Week,” the week in which we commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus, I encourage you to think on these things as well. Consider that the Crucifixion and Resurrection are signs to you of the love God had for you before you knew Him, and the grace He extended to you so that you may now call Him Father. My hope is that these truths will help you sing a little louder this Sunday.