The August Theologian: The Fountain of All Our Happiness

For He is the fountain of our happiness, He the end of all our desires. Being attached to Him, or rather let me say, re-attached—for we had detached ourselves and lost hold of Him—being, I say, re-attached to Him, we tend towards Him by love, that we may rest in Him, and find our blessedness by attaining that end. For our good, about which philosophers have so keenly contended, is nothing else than to be united to God. —Augustine, The City of God

The August Theologian: The City of Justice

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But the fact is, true justice has no existence save in that republic whose founder and ruler is Christ, if at least any choose to call this a republic; and indeed we cannot deny that it is the people’s weal. But if perchance this name, which has become familiar in other connections, be considered alien to our common parlance, we may at all events say that in this city is true justice ; the city of which Holy Scripture says, ‘Glorious things are said of thee, O city of God.’ —Augustine, City of God

Barking Mad!

[Just imagine that this video is slickly embeded so that you’ve watched it before proceeding.]

It was a solemn covenantal act when the priests of Israel put the name of Yahweh on the people of Israel in blessing them with these words. God instructed Aaron:

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

‘So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.’ ” (Numbers 6:22–27 ESV)

God’s name was placed on his people as His bride. The priests had authority to do this acting as His ministers in faithfulness to His word, but they were not to play light with this ministry. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).”

In the new covenant, the church is given the authority to baptize disciples in the name of the triune God (Matthew 28:18–20) . Thus it is that the name of God is now visibly put on the people of God, His bride.

To speak this name over a pomeranian, is blasphemous. If a bride uses her wedding vows when adopting a dog from the local pound, what does it say of how she regards her husband? By the blood of Christ, we are in covenant with Him as His bride. In Christ, we are adopted as sons. The name of the triune God—Father, Son, and Spirit—abides on us. May we cringe with righteous anger when it is so flippantly pronounced over a poodle.

Jesus shed his blood for sinners, sinners who blaspheme His name, so that those very sinners might carry that name as His redeemed. Let us not cheaply use the name Christ purchased for us at so high a price.

Teaching the Enemy How to Shoot

*This article was originally appeared on the Christ-Centered Churches blog.

The church is laughing at the salvoes of the enemy while poisoning herself with an addictive narcotic. The bad guys are outgunned but the American church is so hopped up on laudanum she couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Indeed, our opium delusion has got us teaching them how to shoot—at us. “No, that’s not the way you take out the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. You’ve got to shoot here.”

The greatest threat to the doctrine of the Word of God comes from those who own it. How many Southern Baptist Churches, who confess the authority of the Word of God, are so drunk on success-by-numbers that they’re blasting away at their own foundational documents? We survived the bullets of the moderates and liberals only to become our own greatest threat. We own the doctrines of Scripture on paper and then use that paper for target practice. We’ve demonstrated for our enemies that the way to destroy the authority of Scripture isn’t by aiming at it directly, but by setting your sights on the sufficiency of Scripture.

We say the Scriptures are sufficient, but drummers fall from the ceiling on Easter, chain saws are given away on Father’s Day, and our songs ape the world more than they eco the Word. Do we really believe the gospel is the power of God unto salvation? If so, why do we try to dress it up so much? If the gospel is power, why are our amps cranked up so loud as to obscure it? In the church band, the Scriptures are an un-amplified acoustic guitar, while our programs and production are plugged in hot and loud. Thus, the Scriptures are not the authority that drives the activity of the church, but the “vision” of the leaders who determine the next big stunt. We look not for faithful expositors of the text, but analyzers of culture who can tell us when to ride the next wave of cool.

We say the Scriptures are sufficient, but how many of our churches have a group of ladies studying Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling? Therein she writes,

“This practice of listening to God has increased my intimacy with Him more than any other spiritual discipline, so I want to share some of the messages I have received. In many parts of the world, Christians seem to be searching for a deeper experience of Jesus’ Presence and Peace. The messages that follow address that felt need.”

The experiential, the personal, and the direct are preferred to God’s holy, inspired, infallible, mediated Word concerning Christ. Many baptists excel Joel Osteen in their knack to dress up charismatic heresies in less gaudy and more acceptable garb. Extra-biblical “prophecies” usurp the Scriptures as the real authority of the church because the Bible by itself just isn’t impressive enough. We’re children who pass on God’s well refined ancient vintage for a cheap juice box with the picture of the latest superhero emblazoned on the front.

We own the Word of God on paper but are so delusional no one notices how absent it is. Our cool videos transform church into a self-inflicted reeducation camp. We’ve indoctrinated ourselves with bad doctrine while thinking we’re holding to orthodoxy. The walls still hold against secular humanists, but we’ve destroyed the foundation from the inside.

The Bible is the authoritative revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is all we need because all is in Christ. The Scriptures are sufficient because Jesus is sufficient. If the Word isn’t sufficient, this means we have another authority source. If the Word isn’t sufficient, this means Jesus isn’t sufficient. When we undermine the sufficiency of the Word, the authority of the Word comes down with it. When we undermine the sufficiency of the Word, the gospel comes down with it. Once the foundation has fallen, how long will the walls hold?

Certainly, the Church herself will not fall. God will build her and purify her by His Word. But good things may be lost if we do not fight the good fight. The church will endure, but ours may become apostate. Even so, I am confident of greater things. I am hopeful God is raising up many pastors to lay down the world’s cools guns and to take up once again the sword of the Word. We may be laughed at when we bring God’s Sword to the world’s gunfight, but that’s far more noble than our current hysteria.

Mogwai and Gremlins

This post was originally published August 21, 2008

Alas, a generation has arisen that is ignorant of Mogwai and Gremlins.  Mogwai are cute, furry, little, innocent creatures. There are only three rules concerning them:

  1. Don’t let them near bright light. It kills them.
  2. Don’t get them wet. They multiply; the more wet the more Mogwai.  Upon multiplying their cute, innocent disposition is done away with.
  3. Don’t feed them after midnight. They then go into a cocoon stage and morph into Gremlins .

Sins are like Mogwai. Initially we think they are cute. We play with them, tickle them, laugh at them. They become our companions. But Mogwai always end up producing ugly Gremlins, the kind of sins that devastate us. We are walking along thinking we are doing so great spiritually because of all our “I do not’s”, and sudenly a Gremlin sin pops up and we’re stunned wondering “where did that come from?” John Owen advised, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” The law of sin is always at work in us, it never sleeps; we must be ever mortifying, always realizing its seriousness, never putting our spiritual gear in neutral. We must expose our sins to the light (note: sunlight kills both Mogwai and Gremlins) and extend them no mercy however cute they may seem.

Blessings Fall Like Rain, not Missiles

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah 
that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
—Psalm 67:1-2 (ESV)

Blessings fall like rain, not missiles. The immediate power of a missile may be more impressive, but the rains’ power is the more impactful. The missile hits, and its power is soon exhausted. The rain falls, and its life-giving impact continues on for ages. Because of the rain, a fruit seed germinates, a man is later nourished by that seed, that man then works to provide for his family, his nurtured son finds a cure for some disease, many are then healed. Blessings fall like rain. Blessings are not a zero sum game. When someone else is blessed that does not mean you’re not. When God blesses the farmer, others eat, and even more benefit from those others eating. When God blesses one man on this earth He blesses them all. When God blesses Abraham, He blesses the world. Not all know God’s saving grace, but all men know varying degrees of common grace on this earth because of God’s saving grace. When God blesses His people, they are the light and salt of this earth; the earth benefits from their being blessed.

We’re saved to the praise of God’s glorious grace. Grace need not fall directly on us for us to rejoice in it or benefit from it. Grace is often like fireworks. It’s when it goes off over there, that you can most behold its glory. Our joy should be in the magnifying of God’s grace, so that wherever it falls we rejoice, “Look, more amazing grace! There, there, and there too.” When God’s grace falls on others, do not be jealous for self, but zealous for God.

The Insanity of Sin

Sin is insanity.

It is wanting light while hating to pay the bill. It is wanting rest while only working. It is wanting things to get done by only resting. It is wanting to snow-ski in the dessert and sun bath in the tundra. It wants things that cannot be because of the way things are. It wants a kingdom without the King. It wants glory without the God of all glory. Sin is looking for life in a graveyard while wanting the one who is Life to stay dead. Sin wants to exile God from the Garden, but instead we are exiled.