I Saw Visions of God

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Recently, my wife just ordered another magazine for our family. Interestingly, she doesn’t enjoy reading my Keil-Delitzsch commentary set or the History of the Christian Church by Philip Schaff (she must have got burned out by the endless anthology of medical books she deciphered at Boise State); but she will gobble down Christian magazines like World, etc. (and to all the female readership of SI, my wife did tell me she would delightfully interact with you all from time to time if I washed the dishes, watched our four kids, and bought her a personal computer that actually did internet). I confess. I claim no technical wizardry living in the backwoods of Idaho but only stubborn pride in archaic ways. I tell my gorgeous babe, if we weren’t living in the best state of all, Idaho, we would be in Alaska preaching to the moose.

The latest magazine among our literary stacks stuffed around the house is Creation Illustrated. Of course, when I pick up anything new, I immediately try to sniff out all the theological orientations. Are they Calvinistic or Arminian? Dichotomists or Trichotomists? Textus Receptus or Eclectic Text (adding this one for fun)? Reformed or Dispensational? A-mill or Pre-mill? Presbyterian or Baptist? Historical interpretation or contemporary thought? Yet I do acknowledge that with all my detecting and pigeonholing literary sources and associations, it can drive my wife nuts. The only questions that she asks are 1) Does this material give a clear vision of God? 2) Does the material draw me closer to Him?
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The Da Vinci Code, Part Nine: "The Mission of Jesus"

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Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, assumes that Jesus was married. He also assumes that a married Jesus is incompatible with a biblical view of Christ. We have seen that no credible evidence exists to show that Jesus ever married. We have also seen that the Jesus of the Bible could have married if He had wished. Brown’s case is so thin that it has to be measured in angstroms.

A question remains to be answered, however. If Jesus could have married, why would He choose to remain single? A biblical understanding of Jesus provides an answer to this question.

The Jesus of the Bible was not simply a great teacher, a moral leader, or a religious example. In Jesus Christ, deity and humanity are united in one person. This joining of two natures is absolutely essential to the mission of Jesus. In His own words, that mission was “to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45). He was announced as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

The apostle Paul explains the meaning of the Christian gospel by stating that “Christ died for our sins,” and that “he rose again the third day” (1 Cor 15:1‐4). Jesus’ death and resurrection are news—they are events that occurred in space and time. Those events mean something, and Paulsummarizes their meaning in the phrase “for our sins.”

The death of Jesus was “for our sins.” This implies that we were guilty of sin. People today have trouble taking sin seriously. To most people, the whole concept of sin is rather like a joke. God, however, takes sin very seriously. To understand why, we must grasp that God is in His very nature a moral Lawgiver and Judge.
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Reflections on the Imago Dei and Procreation

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Being omnipotent, our Creator had options. He could have done it otherwise. That Jehovah God passed over so many potentialities for this world, and that He called this world—the one that He had in fact made—“very good” infuses our world with significance, joy, and awful wonder. Because God had such meticulous intentions for our world, we who fear Him can profit from reflecting on His ways in creation.
One particularly significant aspect of creation is man’s being made in the image of God. Ask any well-trained Sunday school class what that means, and you will get a pretty standard textbook answer: man has intellect, emotions, will, and a sense of morality. Francis Schaeffer said that being in the image of God means being as like to God as a creature can be. Studying a little further, we find that man is like God not just in nature, but also in function: he relates, he creates (though not ex nihilo), he procreates. Human life (by “life” I mean alive-ness) in its strength, its sexuality, its virility, also reflects something about God. At the beginning of our Bibles, in two or three short verses, are ideas so big that sometimes they blend into the background of our experience. But God—through Moses’ elongated description of the sixth day—placed these ideas front and center in our Bibles. Maleness. Femaleness. Procreation. We are either male or female, and were born through procreation. And the very first command given to the Image Bearers was to have babies. Why, God? Why this way?
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Mark Dever: The SharperIron Interview

Originally Published on October 24, 2005

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Mark Dever and Jason JanzDr. Mark Dever serves as the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC where he has served since 1994.

Dr. Dever received his Doctor of Philosophy in Ecclesiastical History from Cambridge University. He also has a Master of Theology from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, from Duke University. His scholarly interests include Puritanism and ecclesiology.

Dr. Dever currently serves as a trustee of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; he also serves as a member of the board, vice-chairman, and chairman of the Forum for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. From 1995 until 2001, he served on the steering committee for Founders Ministries, a pastoral movement for biblical teaching and healthy church life within the Southern Baptist Convention.

In an effort to build biblically faithful churches in America, Dr. Dever serves as the executive director for 9Marks Ministries, an organization that endeavors to encourage local churches to pursue biblical health. 9Marks encourages pastors of local churches to look to the Bible for instruction on how to organize and lead their churches. Read more about Mark Dever: The SharperIron Interview

Perspectives on Fundamentalism by Dr. Richard Flanders

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[Note from the Site Publisher: Part of the goal of SharperIron is to publish news and ideas from a broad range within fundamentalism.]

Over the past decade, many fundamentalist preachers and writers have expressed serious concern over what they consider the impending demise of their movement. “Fundamentalism” is a century-old Christian movement that arose to meet the challenge of liberal theology in the churches. Courageous men (such as R.A. Torrey, James M. Gray, W.B. Riley, J. Frank Norris, Carl McIntire, “Fighting” Bob Shuler, Bob Jones, John R. Rice, and Noel Smith) spoke out against liberalism as a departure from the historic Christian faith, and paid a price to stand against it. These men and their supporters recognized that Christianity is defined by certain fundamental doctrines. They opposed any message that denied any of the “fundamentals” as a false gospel. The fundamentalist movement of the twentieth century, although consistently vilified by the religious establishment in the United States, produced many significant phenomena. The Bible colleges, the great Bible conferences, several large and effective missionary programs, thousands of new local churches, more than one new church or preacher’s fellowship, the broad evangelical movement outside the mainline church bodies, a number of successful religious publications, and literally millions of converts to Christ have been produced directly or indirectly by the fundamentalist protest.
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Come into My Heart, Lord Jesus??? A Plea for Biblical Accuracy in Child Evangelism

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Into my heart, into my heart,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.
Come in today; come in to stay.
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.

Harry Clarke, Welsh song leader for Evangelist Billy Sunday, wrote these words in 1924. Who hasn’t heard these words sung at the end of an evangelistic challenge? I’m still amazed that many Christians still sing the lyrics after they already know the Lord.

The language of “asking Jesus into one’s heart” is part of a soul winner’s basic vocabulary, at least in my experience. It is firmly entrenched, it seems, especially in children’s ministries today. Consider this recommended prayer for children given by one church:

Dear God, Thank you for making a way for us to turn from the wrong things that we have done. I know I have done wrong things, but right now I want to look upon Jesus so that you will forgive me for the things I have done. Please let Jesus come into my heart, to live forever there. I want to live forever with God. Thank you for loving me. In Jesus Name I Pray, Amen

Now, to be fair, this prayer does deal with forgiveness of sin. It acknowledges the love of God. But what it fails to do is to lead a child to verbalize trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ! Isn’t that what the Gospel is all about?

Before I try to persuade you to stop using this terminology in your personal evangelism, let me assure you of two things:
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The Neglected Posture of Conscience

Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. (Acts 15:37-39, NKJV)

There is much we don’t know about this conversation between Paul and Barnabas. But we know it didn’t end in shrugs and placid smiles. The word for “contention” (paroxusmos.) suggests feverish intensity,1 and the two men found it impossible to work together.

We also know something else. Neither Paul nor Barnabas had any direct revelation from God on the question. If the Spirit had said to either of them “take Mark” or “don’t take Mark,” there would have been no dispute. They were both deeply committed to obedience.

Compromise or stand?

So how did they handle their disagreement? Believers who disagree about questions God has not answered in Scripture usually handle the conflict in one of two ways. (1) They compromise, yielding to pressure exerted by others. (2) They stand firm and claim—either directly or by implication—that their position is the biblical one and has God’s authority behind it. But there is a third option. When emotions are hot, we tend to run right past it, never noticing it’s there. Depending on the mood we’re in, we either compromise or condemn and fail to notice that neither is the right response.

It appears that Paul, or Barnabas, or both made this mistake. Though neither of them chose compromise regarding John Mark, at least one of them chose condemnation. Otherwise the impasse would have been resolved more congenially (though it might still have required a split). Read more about The Neglected Posture of Conscience