Friday, April 10, 2009

Christ Crucified: The Foundation of a Church’s Prosperity


From a sermon by Bishop J.C. Ryle, "Christ Crucified":

The doctrine of Christ crucified is the foundation of a Church’s prosperity. No Church will ever be honoured in which Christ crucified is not continually lifted up. Nothing whatever can make up for the want of the cross. Without it all things may be done decently and in order; without it there may be splendid ceremonies, beautiful music, gorgeous churches, learned ministers, crowded communion tables, huge collections for the poor; but without the cross no good will be done. Dark hearts will not be enlightened, proud hearts will not be humbled, mourning hearts will not be comforted, fainting hearts will not be cheered. Sermons about the catholic church and an apostolic ministry, sermons about baptism and the Lord’s supper, sermons about unity and schism, sermons about fasts and communion, sermons about fathers and saints,-such sermons will never make up for the absence of sermons about the cross of Christ. They may amuse some, they will feed none.

A gorgeous banqueting room, and splendid gold plate on the table, will never make up to a hungry man for the want of food. Christ crucified is God’s grand ordinance for doing good to men. Whenever a Church keeps back Christ crucified, or puts anything whatever in that foremost place which Christ crucified should always have, from that moment a Church ceases to be useful. Without Christ crucified in her pulpits, a Church is little better than a cumberer of the ground, a dead carcass, a well without water, a barren fig-tree, a sleeping watch­man, a silent trumpet, a dumb witness, an ambassador without terms of peace, a messenger without tidings, a lighthouse without fire, a stumbling-block to weak believers, a comfort to infidels, a hot-bed for formalism, a joy to the devil, and an offence to God.

It depends on what your fundamental is

I love Tim Keller's response to people who claim that all "fundamentalism" is dangerous and creates war and terrorism. This excerpt is from his conversation at the University of Chicago: “Reason for God: Exclusivity of Truth.”:

It was right after 9/11 and all the papers were talking about “this is the problem with fundamentalism.” If you’re a fundamentalist, if you really believe you have the truth, this is what happens… As I tried to show you here, everybody’s a fundamentalist in a way. I mean everybody believes fundamentals. Everybody’s got exclusive truth claims.

I remember Kathy said, “No, that’s not true. Fundamentalist doesn’t necessarily lead to terrorism. It depends on what your fundamental is.” Have you ever seen an Amish terrorist?... So why will there never be Amish terrorists? I’ll tell you why. If your fundamental is a man dying on the cross for his enemies, if the very heart of your self-image and your religion is a man praying for his enemies as he died for them, sacrificing for them, loving them—if that sinks into your heart of hearts, it’s going to produce the kind of life that the early Christians produced. The most inclusive possible life out of the most exclusive possible claim—and that is that this is the truth. But what is the truth? The truth is a God become weak, loving, and dying for the people who opposed him, dying forgiving them. Take that in the center of your heart and you will be at the heart of the solution that we have in this world and that is the divisiveness of exclusive truth claims.

So on this Good Friday, as we contemplate the death of our savior, let that truth penetrate our hearts. Think about what the truth of the cross means for your relationship with God and what it means for your relationship with your family, your friends, your enemies, your church, the world.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Thursday of the Commandment


Here is a post from Maundy Thursday last year by John Piper:

Today is Maundy Thursday. The name comes from the Latin mandatum, the first word in the Latin rendering of John 13:34, “A new commandment (Mandatum novum) I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” This commandment was given by the Lord on the Thursday before his crucifixion. So Maundy Thursday is the “Thursday of the Commandment.”

This is the commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” But what about Galatians 5:14? “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” If the whole law is fulfilled in “Love your neighbor as yourself,” what more can “Love one another as Christ loved you” add to the fulfillment of the whole law?

I would say that Jesus did not replace or change the commandment, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” He filled it out and gave it clear illustration. He is saying,

Here is what I mean by “as yourself.” Watch me. I mean: Just as you would want someone to set you free from certain death, so you should set them free from certain death. That is how I am now loving you. My suffering and death is what I mean by ‘as yourself.’ You want life. Live to give others life. At any cost.

So John says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). Was Jesus loving us “as he loved himself”? Listen to Ephesians 5:29-30, “No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”

In the horrors of his suffering Christ was sustained “by the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2). And that joy was the everlasting gladness of his redeemed people, satisfied in the presence of the risen king.

Therefore, let us see the greatest love in action during these next 24 hours. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). And let us be so moved by this love that it becomes our own. “He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” This is the commandment. This is the Thursday.