Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
This week I was asked by Laura Johnson (of Laura’s Family Good fame) about good theological works for youth to dig into. I reached out to a handful of fellow pastors who work with youth and asked what they give to their youth who are interested in digging a bit deeper into what they believe. When I passed this info along to Laura, she recommended putting the list on the churches website so others might benefit from it as well. A great idea! So here are the recommendations we came up with.
Greg Koukl runs a ministry called Stand to Reason. They do a lot of apologetic training with youth.
Monergism is an aggregator of reformed material. There are countless articles, books, and sermons in various electronic formats. You can easily search by topic or author. You can find articles that are introductory level, or you can dig as deep as you want. Much of what you will find here comes from days and theologians gone by.
The Gospel Coalition is a broadly reformed network of church founded by D.A. Carson and Tim Keller. You can find numerous blogs, conference messages, book reviews, discussions, etc. Similar to Monergism but with a far more contemporary bent.
The New City Catechism which has a web based interface and an iPad app is a wonderful new resource for teaching theology. It was put together by Tim Keller and company, has 52 questions in order to memorize one per week, and has videos that give some explanation to the questions and answers. They have done a great job with it.
CCEL if you have a history nut on your hands, or just someone interested in going back to original sources, the Christan Classics Ethereal Library is your resource. It is always helpful to read old dead guys dealing with many of the same issue, though they may be packaged differently, that we face today. A good reminder that there truly is nothing new under the sun.
Another helpful web resource is BibleMesh. This site has courses that cost money, but these courses are excellent.
Books (I have provided links to authors’ pages and books on Amazon where available):
Veritas Press, a Christian Curriculum Publisher, is always a good resource for finding good books to read. They take a classical approach to education, so the reading they recommend is very broad. This can be helpful in grounding ideas in the context of other ideas. They have two R.C. Sproul books on their reading list for seventh graders, Chosen by God and Holiness of God. Also R.C. Sproul has put out a series of 17 pamphlet length books. The series is called Crucial Questions and is available for free in Kindle format. Dr. Sproul’s Essentials of the Christian Faith is helpful as well.
A few really good writers who are saying really profound things in really simple ways are Donald Macleod (specifically A Faith to Live By and A Shared Life), Jerry Bridges, Tim Keller, and Kevin DeYoung (Kevin is really good at taking the big issues of theology and boiling it down to the meat and potatoes).
Louis Berkof’s Summary of Christian Doctrine was recommended by one of my friends his take on it is, “It’s not technically written for Jr. high kids, but it might be useful for a few reasons. 1) it’s got short chapters so even if the material is dense, it’s over quickly. 2) it does a great job of introducing the major themes of theology. 3) it’s almost written like a catechism so it’s easy to remember. 4) the questions at the end of each chapter help to reflect on what you read. (My pastor gave me a copy when I was 15, I still use it).”
I hope you find these resources helpful as you think about discipling your youth age kids, or growing deeper in your own faith.
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.
This verse is pretty straightforward. Sin is lawlessness. If we are going to posit sin as a reality, then there must some standard which defines sin. The standard by which sin is defined is God’s law. Sin is a rejection and violation of God’s law. We are under God’s rule or law, our disobedience to that rule is sin. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines sin as follows. “Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God” (WSC #14). Lack of conformity points to our not doing what God requires. Transgression points to our doing that which God forbids. Notice the catechism defines both of these actions in reference to God’s law. The Westminster Divines (the guys who wrote the Westminster Standards), were reiterating the point John makes in this verse. Their words are a helpful reminder that we can sin not only by doing what God says not to do (sins of commission), but also by not doing all that he commands (sins of omission). This is an important distinction because while we tend to get the import of the prohibitions, we often think of the positive commands of God’s law as suggestions for things to do if it fits well with our life.
You know that he appeared to take away sins,
Why did Jesus come? Jesus came to take away sins, to deal with the sins of his people. Matthew records the angel’s words to Joseph, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21, ESV). “Jesus” is the anglicized version of the hellenized name “Joshua” which means “salvation.” Jesus did not come simply to model life for us. His role was not primarily to provide an example for how to live. Jesus came to deal with the sins of his people because we could not deal with our sin on our own. With our sins on our shoulders we all stand condemned before the holy God because we have rejected his law. Our sin leaves us guilty. Jesus took away our sins. When John the Baptist saw Jesus he proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, ESV)!
and in him there is no sin.
Jesus was able to take away our sin because he had no sin of his own that he had to bear on the cross. Jesus was without sin. The author of Hebrews reminds us that it is precisely Jesus’ sinlessness that makes him an effective savior. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, ESV). Paul writes, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV). Jesus is the spotless lamb of God and as such takes away our sin.
I frequently return to this video to be reminded of the gospel. Hope you find it as encouraging as I have.
Here is a helpful video from the White Horse Inn crew on how to read your Bible.
This past week the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) met for her annual General Assembly. The General Assembly (GA) is the highest court in the PCA and is made up of all the churches in the PCA. Every Teaching Elder (TE) and a certain number of Ruling Elders (RE) from each church depending on the size of the church are entitled to attend as voting commissioners. This year around 1,500 commissioners gathered in beautiful Chattanooga, TN to conduct the business of the church.
For many men, the highlight of GA is getting to reconnect with old friends in order to catch up and encourage one another. This is certainly the case in my situation. Rev. Dr. Chris Miller, Rev. Reed Dunn, and Rev. Ted Wenger are some of my dearest friends. While I see them a few times a year, it is usually in the minutes before or after presbytery meetings. GA gives us extended time together, and this time is good for my soul. GA also allows me time to catch up with other men, such as, Rev. James Forsyth, a dear friend for seminary who is a minister in the D.C. area. Every year, the time spent with these men reminds me how deeply relational we are, and how great a need we have for deep fellowship with other believers. In addition to the great fellowship Miller, Wenger, and I were attacked by a zealous, Arminian street evangelist carrying a large, metal cross who did not appreciate our Calvinist leanings and informed us that we loved “that Presbyterian doctrine” more than we loved Jesus. I am not sure how he knew we were Calvinists, but in a moment of theological clairvoyance he sniffed us out and attacked. Oh the memories you are predestined to make at GA.
The majority of the business meeting, which begins Tuesday night with the election of the new moderator and runs through Thursday night or Friday at noon depending on the amount of business, is taken up by reports from the various GA committees. These reports are a good opportunity to hear about what is happening in our denomination through committees such as Mission to North America (MNA), Mission to the World (MTW), and Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) as well as the various institutions of our denomination such as Covenant College, Covenant Theological Seminary, and Ridgehaven Conference Center. This year the Stated Clerk awarded the first Golden Calvin, a John Calvin bobble head given to the committee with the most creative report from the previous year. In an effort to secure this award for next year, one committee report was partially accompanied by an elder performing an interpretive dance to the report.
Much of the business of GA comes to the floor through overtures made by presbyteries or through personal resolutions offered in the opening hours of the assembly. 2015 was light year with only 10 overtures coming from presbyteries (last year there were around 50). But make no mistake, as good Presbyterians, we still debated late into Thursday night. There were a number of important issues throughout the assembly, but in my estimation, the most significant issue was the personal resolution offered by Rev. Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III and Rev. Dr. Sean M. Lucas concerning repentance over sin of indifference and inaction during the Civil Rights Era. This resolution was passionately debated both in committee and on the assembly floor with the ultimate decision being to recommit the resolution to next year’s GA. The reason behind this action, which was a hard action to take because it felt like inaction, was to perfect the language of the resolution in an effort to keep it from being an overly general and hollow repentance. This was reached in committee, with unanimous vote, after some of the leadership of the African American Presbyterian Fellowship, who was brought in to the committee to help aid the discussion, helped the committee see the value of this action. I am encouraged that our denomination is aware of and seeking to deal with our failures in regard to how we have dealt with issues of race. I look forward to our denomination continuing to love Jesus and his gospel above all else and seeking to minister in light of the glorious unifying truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If you would like further information on the actions of the 2015 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America you can find numerous articles at byFaith, the online magazine of the Presbyterian Church in America. Tomorrow we will return to 1 John.
He is the propitiation for our sins,
John continues his explanation of our forgiveness before God saying that Jesus is the propitiation for our sin. Propitiation is a big theological word that Merriam-Webster defines as “to make (someone) pleased or less angry by giving or saying something desired” (www.merriam-webster.com). John is saying that Jesus made God pleased with us by dealing with our sin. Jesus, by his sacrifice has satisfied God’s wrath toward us because of our sin. As we saw yesterday, this is in part what it means for Jesus to be our advocate with the Father.
“Hilasmos” is the Greek word behind the english “propitiation”, and the translation of this word has led to a fair amount of debate. The debate is so intense in some circles, that the way this single word is translated (here and in other places it appears) will determine for some people whether a translation is a good translation or not. For this reason, I’ll say a little bit about the debate.
First a disclaimer – this is a complicated debate with brilliant thinkers on both sides. I am presenting a very simply version based on how I have seen it play out among those in the pew. My goal in doing this is to draw us away from knee jerk reactions to complicated issues and back toward thoughtfulness.
There are two basic translation options for the word “hilasmos”, propitiation and expiation. The former, as we have said, has to do with satisfying an offended party. For our purposes we will be more specific and say that it has to do with satisfying God and his wrath due for our sin. The latter has to do with atoning for the sin committed. Clearly, these two ideas are intimately related. Propitiation comes by expiation, that is God’s wrath is satisfied (propitiation) by Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for our sins (expiation).
When seen in this light, it seems weird that there is such a strident debate, but there is. The debate, it seems to me, is less about the word “hilasmos” and more about the character of God. Some do not like the idea of God actually being angry with sin or the idea that his wrath toward sin must be satisfied. In their minds, propitiation makes God capricious and too much like some of the cranky gods of mythology. However, God’s wrath toward sin is not capricious, it is horrifyingly consistent. Others have responded, and over responded at times, by seeing any translation of “hilasmos” other than “propitiation” as a sign of theological liberalism and an attempt to redefine God, making him soft on sin. In both situations, presuppositions are driving the bus. One group presupposes that God is not actually angry at sinners and therefore refuses to use the word propitiation. The other group presupposes liberalism in anyone using the word expiation and therefore refuses to accept such a translation.
When we consider how “hilasmos” and its cognates were used throughout antiquity we find that sometimes it meant propitiation and sometimes it meant expiation. By and large, if the offended deity was the object, it meant propitiation. If the offending condition was the object, it meant expiation. The same seems to hold true in Scripture, but with a very tight relationship between the expiation of sin and the propitiation of God. With this information in mind, we can approach the various passages of the Bible without being enslaved to either a god of our own making or a fear of the liberal boogeyman.
“Hilasmos” in 1 John 2:2 is rightly translated propitiation. When we think in the terms outlined above we see that the Father is the object of the propitiation in view. 1 John 2:1 says that Jesus is our advocate with the Father. Jesus is acting on our behalf toward the Father. The next statement is that he is the “hilasmos” for our sin. Since the Father is the object of Jesus as advocate, and nothing signals a change in relational direction, we can assume the Father is the object of Jesus as propitiation, with our sins as the subject of his propitiation. To use our earlier categories, John is saying that Jesus is the one who satisfies God, the offending party, who is angry for our sin, the offending condition.
An example of a text where “hilasmos” would be rightly translated as expiation is Hebrews 2:17 where, in the Greek, we find sin to be the object of the verbal idea.
The next clause of 1 John 2:2 is also a point of controversy, so we will take it up tomorrow.