Let It Ebb and Flow

“Another serious and very common mistake is in the effort to maintain uniform energy throughout a discourse . . . In highly passionate speaking there must be variety, alteration” (Broadus, Preparation and Delivery, p. 378).

No Theological Schadenfreude

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #158

Charity “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).

In this verse, we see that love does four things. Two of them are active, and two are responsive. In the middle of Paul’s thought, love believes all things and it hopes all things. This faith and this hope operate in tandem. “Believes all things” does not refer to gullibility, but rather refers to a non-cynical attitude. Love wants it to go in a positive direction, and does not want a crash so that it may indulge in a little theological schadenfreude, watching the triumph of total depravity once more.

It is striking that this is not a rose-colored glasses thing because this same charity bears all things, and endures all things. Love puts up with a lot, but does not do so in a way that makes it stop believing all things and hoping all things. This means that the “bearing” and the “enduring” are not done while muttering under the breath. The faith and hope are carrying a load, and the carrying of the load is not done in a way as to become grievous.

When the Bricks Start to Fall

It is worthy noting that the Lord Jesus describes one of the features of hypocrisy as being manifested in an inability to read the culture.

“Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?” (Luke 12:56).

A hypocrite does not know what is coming down because it does not suit him to know what is coming down. It is always handy to say, when things are comparatively calm, “well, that’s not my interpretation.”

But this simply reveals the narcissism of our age — as though our interpretations were in any way authoritative! Yes, yes, we know your interpretation, but is it correct?

When God shakes down a culture, He does it so that the things that cannot be shaken may remain (Heb. 12:27). This means that when the earthquake starts, and the bricks start to fall out of the building you are in, you have a moral responsibility to know where the shelters are.

True shelters are those congregations of God’s people that are not hypocritical, where the Word is faithfully proclaimed (not just taught), where the sacraments are faithfully administered, where discipline is faithfully practiced. In fact, it would be a good idea to start attending such shelters now.

Call it disaster preparedness.

Love and Truth Link Arms

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #157

Charity “rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6).

This verse comes right to the point. There is one verb, used twice. Charity does not rejoice in one thing, and does rejoice in another. Though it is the same root verb, there is a distinction. Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness (adikia), but does rejoice in the truth (aletheia). The rejoicing in the first instance is chairo and in the second synchairo. Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness or iniquity, but love rejoices together with the truth. Love and truth are partners in joy.

The common dichotomy that pits love and truth against one another as though they were adversaries is either a verbal slander or an enacted slander. In the verbal slander, someone dismisses someone who is standing for the truth as necessarily unloving, or dismisses someone who is full of love as some kind of a doctrinal compromiser.

The enacted slander happens when the dichotomy is assumed, and the person chooses which one he wants to adopt. He stands for truth, and blows all errorists away with his machine gun of thruppa thruppa theology. Or he picks love, which in his mind is an amorphous gas that fills the room with sweet and sticky acceptance. Whichever way it goes, this kind of behavior makes the task of the verbal slanderer much easier, because all he has to do is say see?

So what does love do? Love refuses to have any joy in iniquity. Love refuses to celebrate an ungodly or perverse wedding, for example. Love refuses to lift a glass of joy. Love will be accused of many things for this, and the central charge will be that this posture is unloving. This is because people are defining love out of the wrong dictionary. In the famous love chapter, love refuses to rejoice in unrighteousness. Not only so, but love links arms with the truth, and they rejoice together.

When the Word Grows

I am filling the pulpit tomorrow at All Souls in Lewiston.

The congregation here at All Souls is a church plant, and so one of the things we should consider is a theology of church planting. If we don’t have a biblical basis for what we are doing, then the mere raw fact of whatever it is we are doing will soon become our de facto theology of it. This is just another way of supplanting the Word of God with the words of men.

The Text:

“And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).

Summary of the Text:
Notice how God loves to identify with His people. Recall how, when Stephen was being stoned, Stephen looked up and saw Christ standing at the right hand of the Father. When the Lord Jesus confronted Saul on his way to Damascus, as Saul was on his way to persecute Christians, the Lord asked Saul why he was persecuting Him. And here, we are told that the Word of God increased, and how was that occurring? The Word increased through the numerical growth of the Jerusalem church.

The Baseline:
In biblical theology, church growth is normative. It is the pattern; it us the baseline. In the Great Commission, the Lord Jesus told us to disciple all the nations, baptizing them, teaching them to obey all that Jesus taught. There is absolutely no way to obey this command without long-term, generational,

On not despising small beginnings . . .

On not despising small beginnings . . .

sustained, robust growth. Growth is therefore normative, as we see in our text. We see the same thing elsewhere in Acts.

“And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord” (Acts 11:21).

What happened when God set His hand to the work? Which direction did the work go then?

“And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily” (Acts 16:5).

We see that this means qualitative growth, and not just numbers. They were established in the faith, and they also grew in number.

Yeah, But . . .

Hard Providence and Trusting God

We live in a world where rough things happen. Despite all our advances in technology, everyone in this room will still die. We still get sick. We still have financial challenges. We have the heartbreak of wayward children. We still have to deal with the perversity of sin that we can still find stirring under our own breastbone. In other words, as it says in Job, man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. How are we to respond? If we want to avoid platitudes, tough times demand tough thinking.

The Text:

“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thess. 5:18).

“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;” (Eph. 5:20).

Summary of the Text:

The context of the Thessalonians exhortation is this. Paul is delivering a rapid-fire series of exhortations to them, including esteeming your leaders, being at peace with one another, warning the unruly, comforting the feeble, and so on. He then tells them to pray without ceasing, and comes to deliver our text. Right afterward, he says not to quench the Spirit. Now this cluster of exhortations shows that Paul is not assuming that the Thessalonians are somehow living in a la-la land, where it is quite easy to “give thanks in everything.” There are tough challenges in the same breath. This is not an exhortation only for those who live under marshmallow clouds and glittery rainbows, and who cavort in the meadow with sparkly unicorns.

In Ephesians, we find something similar. Right after a warning that the “days are evil” (Eph. 5:16), leading on to a caution about drunkenness (v. 18), Paul tells them to fill up on psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and tells them to “give thanks for all things.” This is what it means to be filled with the Spirit.