The Exegetical Systematician: Fragmentation

The topic of Christian education may be approached from the angle of an evil of which I fear too few are aware, but one that is the bane of education at all levels. It is the bane of fragmentation. By fragmentation I mean that the pupil is not provided with what imparts a sense of unity, of wholeness, of correlation. This may most properly be called the need for, and aim of, integration. There is ground for suspicion that this directing principle is frequently absent and, therefore, those responsible for education at all levels need to address themselves to this question for self-assessment.

Perhaps the most germane example of the thesis that integration is a paramount concern of education is the place that education occupies in the fostering and development of character. It is not to be questioned that culture, however highly cultivated, has failed of its chief end if it contributes to the promotion of evil rather than that of good. The more highly educated the boy or girl becomes, the more dangerous the education acquired becomes if it is brought into the service of wrongdoing. It is easy to take the position that the fostering and cultivating of good character is not the concern of the school, that this is the function of the home and of the church. Admittedly, the home and the church are basically responsible, and it is also obvious that when the home and the church neglect this culture or are even remiss in imparting it, then the school is faced with a well-nigh impossible task. But it is apparent how devastating to the best influences exerted by the home and church will be the influence of the school if it pretends to be neutral on moral issues, or if the teaching of the school is alien to the ethical principles inculcated by home or church or both. And as it concerns integration, how chaotic for the pupil if opposing ethical norms are fostered in the same school. We know only too well to what depraved human nature inclines.

Underlying the plea for integration and co-ordination in education is the need for a unified world-view, a common conception of reality. If there is basic divergence in reference to world-view there cannot possibly be integration in education. —John Murray, Christian Education

The Penning Pastor: The Best Seminary

From A Letter to a Student in Divinity

“The chief means for attaining wisdom, and suitable gifts for the ministry, are the holy Scriptures, and prayer. The one is the fountain of living water, the other the bucket with which we are to draw. And I believe you will find, by observation, that the man who is most frequent and fervent in prayer, and most devoted to the word of God, will shine and flourish above his fellows. ” —John Newton, The Works of John Newton

John Owen: Hater of Sin, Lover of God

Here are the quotes, used and unused, from last night’s biographical address on John Owen.

If thou art, as many in this pretending age, a sign or title gazer, and comest into books as Cato into the theatre, to go out again,—thou hast had thy entertainment; farewell!  – In The Preface of the Death of Death in the Death of Christ

Heresy is a canker, but it is a spiritual one; let it be prevented by spiritual means: cutting off men’s heads is no proper remedy for it.

May it please your majesty, could I posses the tinker’s abilities for preaching, I would willing relinquish all my learnings.  – In reply to Charles II when asked why he would go hear such a tinker a John Bunyan preach

…I am going to him whom my soul has loved, or rather who has loved me with an everlasting love, – which is the whole ground of all my consolation.  The passage is very irksome and wearisome, through strong pains of various sorts, which are all issued in an intermitting fever.  I am leaving the ship of the church in a storm; but whilst the great Pilot is in it, the loss of a poor under-rower is inconsiderable.  – A letter to His friend Charles Fleetwood

I am glad to hear it; but O brother Payne! The long wished-for day is come at last, in which I shall see that glory in another manner than I have ever done or was capable of doing in this world.  – To Thomas Payne with arms uplifted and eyes heavenward on the morning of the day of his death.

The vigor, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh.  – The Mortification of Sin

Do you mortify; do you make it you daily work; be always at it while you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.  – The Mortification of Sin

…sin is never less quite when it seems to be most quite, and its waters most deep when they are still…  – The Mortification of Sin

Sin always aims at the utmost; every time it raises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin of its kind.  Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head.  – The Mortification of Sin

He that shall call a man from mending a hole in the wall of his house, to quench a fire that is consuming the whole building is not his enemy.  – The Mortification of Sin

Be much in thoughtfulness of the excellency of the majesty of God and thine infinite, inconceivable distance from him.  …Think greatly of the greatness of God.  – The Mortification of Sin

Let no man, then, pretend to fear sin that doth not fear temptation to it.  They are too nearly allied to be separated.  Satan hath put them together so that it is very hard for any man to put them asunder.  He hates not the fruit who delights in the root.  – On Temptation

The ways of our entering temptation are so many, various, and imperceptible, – the means of it so efficacious and powerful, – the entrances of it so deceitful, subtle, insensible, and plausible, – our weaknesses, our unwatchfulness so unspeakable, – that we cannot in the least keep or preserve ourselves from it.  We fail in both wisdom and power for this work.  – On Temptation

Should you go into an hospital, and see many persons lying sick and weak, sore and wounded, with many filthy diseases and distempers, and should inquire of them how they fell into this condition, and they shall all agree to tell you of such or such a thing was the occasion of it, “By that I got my wound,” says one, “And my disease,” says another, – would it not make you a little careful how or what you had to do with that thing or place?  Should you go into a dungeon, and see many miserable creatures bound in chains for an approaching day of execution, and inquire the way and means whereby they were brought into that condition, and they should all fix on one and the same thing, would you not take care to avoid it?  – On Temptation

It will never be exhausted; it is not wasted by men’s spending on it; yea the more they draw out this treasure, the more it grows and abounds!  – Indwelling Sin

Fix you affections on heavenly things: this will enable you to mortify sin; fill them with the things that are above, let them be exercised with them, and so enjoy the cheifest place in them.  They are above blessed and suitable objects, meet for and answering unto our affections; – God himself, in his beauty and glory; the Lord Jesus Christ who is “altogether lovely, the cheifest of ten thousand;” grace and glory; the mysteries revealed in the gospel; the blessed promises thereby.  Were our affections filled up, taken up, and possessed with these things, as it is our duty that they be, – it is our happiness when they are, – what access could sin, with its painted pleasures, with its sugared poisons, with its envenomed baits, have unto our souls.  – Indwelling Sin

The Danger of men’s souls lieth not in a disability to attain a comprehension of longer or more subtle confessions of faith, but in embracing things contrary unto, or inconsistent with this foundation thereof.  – The Person of Christ

Nothing renders us so like unto God as our love unto Jesus Christ for he is the principle object of His love; – in him doth his soul rest – in him is he always well pleased.  Wherever this is wanting, whatever there may be besides, there is nothing of the image of God.  – The Person of Christ

There is no greater discovery of the depravation of our natures by sin and degeneracy of our wills from their original rectitude, than that – whereas we are so prone to the love of other things, and therein do seek for satisfaction unto our souls where it is not to be obtained – it is so hard and difficult to raise our hearts unto the love of God. Were it not for that depravation, he would always appear as the only suitable and satisfactory object of our love.  – The Person of Christ

An imaginary Christ will effect nothing in the minds of men but imaginary grace.  – The Person of Christ

A God-man was necessary for our atonement because…required that there should be an obedience yielded unto God, bringing more glory unto him than dishonor did arise and accrue from the disobedience of man.  – The Person of Christ

And although the life of faith and vision differ in degrees – or, as some think, in kind – yet have they both the same object, and the same operations, and there is a great cognation between them.  – The Person of Christ

This, therefore, deserves the severest of our thoughts, the best of our meditations, and our utmost diligence in them.  For if our future blessedness shall consist in being where he is, and beholding of his glory, what better preparation can there be for it that in a constant previous contemplation of that glory in the revelation that is made in the Gospel, unto this very end, that by a view of it we may be gradually transformed into the same glory?  – The Glory of Christ

For they all grow on this root of an over-valuation of temporal things… One real view of the glory of Christ and our concernment therein will give us full relief in this matter…When we have due apprehensions hereof, – when our minds are possessed with thoughts of it, – when our affections reach out after its enjoyments, – let pain, and sickness, and sorrows, and fears, and dangers, and death, say what they will, we shall have in readiness wherewith to combat with them and overcome them; and that on this consideration, that they are all outward, transitory, and passing away, whereas our minds are fixed on those things which are eternal, and filled with incomprehensible glory.  – The Glory of Christ

No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight hereafter, who doth not on some measure behold it by faith here in this world.  …No man ought to look for anything in heaven, but what one way or other he hath some experience in this life.  – The Glory of Christ

There is more glory given to God by coming to Christ in believing, than in keeping the whole law; inasmuch as he has more eminently manifested the holy properties of his nature in the way of salvation by Christ, than in the giving of the law.   – The Glory of Christ

There is not anything that Jesus Christ is more delighted with, than that his saints should always hold communion with him as to this business of giving and receiving. For,-…1.This exceedingly honors him, and gives him the glory that is his due. …2. This exceedingly endears the souls of the saints to him, and constrains them to put a due valuation upon him, his love, his righteousness, and grace.  – Communion with God

The best biography I read of John Owen was Andrew Thomson’s Prince of the Puritans.  I have an extra copy that I will give away for free (to SLBC readers only).  Just leave a comment and state why you would like to learn about John Owen.  If by some miracle there is more than one reply if any I will choose the one I think best.

John Owen and MP3 Sermons

Listen to mp3 sermons. You will be rewarded. So many blessed teachers are available online for free it would be a shame not to sit under their preaching. Recently I recommended Piper’s biographical message on John Paton. This would be a great way to start. As I was reading through John Owen on Indwelling Sin this morning I thought the 17th century Puritan could give us some advice on listening to mp3 sermons. The help came from chapter nine of his treatise where he offers prayer and meditation as primary ways of fighting indwelling sin.

1) Don’t expect your flesh to leap with joy. “There is an aversion, as hath been declared, in the law of sin (indwelling sin) unto the immediate communion with God.” Would you rather listen to Coldplay or Sinclair Ferguson while you exercise? Sure one may pump you up, but which one will leave you with fuel for long meditation bearing joy?

2) What you lack in duration make up for in frequency. “Some are discouraged because their minds do not regularly supply them with thoughts to carry on their meditations, through the weakness or imperfections of their own inventions. Let this be supplied by frequent returns of the mind unto the subject proposed to be meditated upon, whereby new senses will still be supplied unto it.” I rarely listen to a sermon in one sitting. Mostly I listen in the mornings for approximately fifteen minutes while I take care of the dogs and eat breakfast. I listen while I do chores, walk the dogs, and work outside. All are short, stolen, precious moments.

3) Worship. This is my favorite line from the chapter:

Meditate of God with God; that is, when we would undertake thoughts and meditations of God, his excellencies, his properties, his glory, his majesty, his love, his goodness, let it be done in a way of speaking unto God, in a deep humiliation and abasement of our souls before him. This will fix the mind, and draw it forth from one thing to another, to give glory unto God in a due manner, and affect the soul until it be brought into that holy admiration of God and delight in him which is acceptable unto him. My meaning is, that it be done in a way of prayer and praise,-speaking unto God.

Begin your listening with a prayer. Pray that worship happen in your mind and heart. Pray that you have discernment to take in only what is scriptural. Pray that you have humility to learn and repent. Don’t just listen to the sermon; listen to the sermon fellowshipping with God.

Recommendations (iTunes links):

Students and adults:
John Piper
Matt Chandler
Mark Driscoll
Don’t Waste Your Life

Adults:
Sinclair Ferguson
Allister Begg
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Eat what You Serve

Please pray for me that I never serve what I have not partaken of myself. Also never expect others to taste and see that He is good while your lips smack of the world and your breath reeks of idolatry.

A man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul. And he that doth not feed on and thrive in the digestion of the food which he provides for others will scarce make it savoury unto them; yea, he knows not but the food he hath provided may be poison, unless he have really tasted of it himself. If the word do not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us. And no man lives in a more woeful condition than those who really believe not themselves what they persuade others to believe continually. The want of this experience of the power of gospel truth on their own souls is that which gives us so many lifeless, sapless orations, quaint in words and dead as to power, instead of preaching the gospel in the demonstration of the Spirit. – John Owen in The True Nature of a Gospel Church

1-29-08 Owen reading

There is more glory given to God by coming to Christ in believing, than in keeping the whole law; inasmuch as he has more eminently manifested the holy properties of his nature in the way of salvation by Christ, than in the giving of the law.  – John Owen in The Glory of Christ

I could have used this quote when going through Galatians. Even if I could approach God through the law by perfectly keeping it, it would not glorify or endear his heart as much as if I would latch onto Christ for my only righteousness.

Owen for 08

I have decided to elect John Owen for 08. A year and a half ago I decided to study one theologian for 30 minutes a day for a year. In addition I would read many biographies and studies of their theologies. For the past year and a half I have been learning from and about Jonathan Edwards. We have had wonderful conversations. A February sermon and post will be dedicated to his impact upon me.So a new year was upon me. Surgeon and Owen were the contenders. I kept wavering back and forth between the two. Finally after reading Owen’s work on the person of Christ in November I made my decision. It was thoughts like these that decided my vote:

There is no greater discovery of the depravation of our natures by sin and degeneracy of our wills from their original rectitude, than that – whereas we are so prone to the love of other things, and therein do seek for satisfaction unto our souls where it is not to be obtained – it is so hard and difficult to raise our hearts unto the love of God. Were it not for that depravation, he would always appear as the only suitable and satisfactory object of our love.

It was required that there should be an obedience yielded unto God, bringing more glory unto him than dishonor did arise and accrue from the disobedience of man.

Unto them that believe unto the saving of the soul, he is, he always hath been, precious – the sun, the rock, the life, the bread of their souls – every thing that is good, useful, amiable, desirable, here or unto eternity. In, from, and by him, is all their spiritual and eternal life, light, power, growth, consolation, and joy here; with everlasting salvation hereafter. By him alone do they desire, expect, and obtain deliverance from that woeful apostasy from God, which is accompanied with – which containeth in it virtually and meritoriously – whatever is evil, noxious, and destructive unto our nature, and which, without relief, will issue in eternal misery. By him are they brought into the nearest cognation, alliance, and friendship with God, the firmest union unto him, and the most holy communion with him, that our finite natures are capable of, and so conducted unto the eternal enjoyment of him. For in him “shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory;” (Isa. xlv. 25;) for “Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation;” they “shall not be ashamed nor confounded, world without end:” verse 17.

My choice was gladdened when I read a book on his theology and life where I read an excerpt from a letter written to a friend when he knew his death was near.

I am going to him whom my soul hath loved, or rather hath loved me with an everlasting love; which is the whole ground of my consolation. The passage [passing away in death] is very irksome and werrisome through strong pain of various sorts which are issued in and intermitting feaver. All things were provided to carry me to London today attending to the advise of my physician, but we were unable to undertake the journey. I am leaving the ship of the church in a storm, but while the great Pilot is in it the loss of a poore under-rower will be inconsideralbe. Live and pray and hope and waite patiently and doe not dispair; the promise stands invincible that he will never leave thee nor forsake thee.

Finally as I began his discourse on the glory of Christ I read:

It will herein, and in the discharge of this duty, be made evident how slight and inconsiderable all these things are from whence our troubles and distresses do arise. For they all grow on this root of an over-valuation of temporal things. And unless we can arrive unto a fixed judgment that all things here below are transitory and perishing, reaching only unto the outward man, or the body, (perhaps unto the killing of it), – that the best of them have nothing that is truly substantial or abiding in them, – that there are other things, wherein we have an assured interest, that are incomparably better than they, and above them, – it is impossible but that we must spend our lives in fears, sorrows, and distractions. One real view of the glory of Christ, and of our own concernment therein, will give us a full relief in this matter. For what are all the things of this life? What is the good or evil of them in comparison of an interest in this transcendent glory? When we have due apprehensions hereof, – when our minds are possessed with thoughts of it, – when our affections reach out after its enjoyments, – let pain, and sickness, and sorrows, and fears, and dangers, and death, say what they will, we shall have in readiness wherewith to combat with them and overcome them; and that on this consideration, that they are all outward, transitory, and passing away, whereas our minds are fixed on those things which are eternal, and filled with incomprehensible glory.

I predict that Owen will trump Edwards in his impact upon my theology. I am excited to learn from him and look forward to sharing his view of God with you.