‘Defending against defeater beliefs.’ Two talks by Don Carson

Don Carson gave two talks at the FIEC (Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches) Leaders’ Conference in Torquay this year. They’re entitled Defending against Defeater Beliefs. The FIEC’s website page for the first talk is HERE; the page for the second talk is HERE.

In the first session, Dr Carson briefly overviewed seven defeater beliefs that challenge, and can defeat, our own Christian beliefs. He said, “. . . it’s become a little more difficult to do evangelism, a little more challenging, not because the gospel has changed, but because the nature of the defeater beliefs that are challenging the gospel are progressively more diverse, progressively more antithetical to . . . Christianity. So let me . . . give a survey of . . . seven [defeater beliefs] with a few comments along the line and then I’ll close by returning to this point regarding the importance of the Bible storyline.”

The ‘defeater beliefs’ that Dr Carson deals with are these:

1 “There cannot be only one way to God.”

2 “Freedom is tied to our capacity for individual self-definition, . . . for individual self-identity; we choose our own self identities.”

3 “This freedom . . . includes our right to define sin for ourselves.”

4 “What I’ve learned to call the new tolerance.”

5 “Moralistic therapeutic deism.”

6 “God couldn’t possibly send people to hell – or if there is some kind of punishment, it’s for really bad blokes like Stalin, but it’s not for nice people like me.”

7 “The God of the Bible is Himself spectacularly morally flawed.”

In his conclusion, Dr Carson said, “What is required for this and all the other defeater beliefs at the end of the day is not only some individual answers . . . [but] an alternative biblical theological framework – the Bible’s storyline. . . . Ideally you want to take people from a frame of reference in which they’re holding a whole lot of defeater beliefs, which if you tackle them one by one . . . you’re likely to get smashed down one by one . . . and present instead an alternative picture, a big story, which changes all of those defeater beliefs into something else. Now, this can be done in a lot of different ways. It can be done by one-on-one Bible study to invite people into beginning to read the Bible and find out how it clashes with their own assumptions . . . .” There are quite a few resources that cover the Bible storyline. Two that Dr Carson mentioned are God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts (described HERE), and his own resource The God Who Is There. This is available as a book with a leaders’ guide, and also a video series. The videos and transcripts are available free of charge HERE; you will also find audio versions of the talks here, together with details of the accompanying book and leader’s guide for group study.

In his second talk on defeater beliefs, Dr. Carson deals with this question: how can we be sure that what we believe is true? He begins, “Yesterday I gave a brief overview of defeater beliefs and how they work and how Christians should think of them. Today I want to deal with just one such defeater belief. Someone responds to our witness by saying, “You can’t be sure of your interpretation; you can’t be sure that what you’re saying is the truth – it’s just not possible.” Now what lies behind that is a whole lot of postmodern assumptions. But sometimes when we are hit with something like that we don’t know immediately how to respond. We’ve just been sidelined. Our very dogmatism, which might be attractive to some, becomes the ground for dismissal by others. And so we need to think through how this defeater belief works, and how to begin to respond to it.”

Dr D.A. Carson is Emeritus Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

The Friday Briefing 17 (7 December 2018)

What is the greatest of all Protestant ‘heresies’ Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621), a key figure in the sixteenth-century Counter-Reformation, once wrote, “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is _______ .”What do you think that heresy is? Dr Sinclair Ferguson explains.

Australian church leaders, prepare your people for persecution
Campbell Markham exhorts leaders in the Australian churches – an exhortation equally relevant to church leaders in many other countries: “Prepare your churches for persecution, and particularly your young people. You have no time to lose. And give them the priceless gift of gospel clarity. No Christian will survive persecution if they do not have a very clear, comprehensive, and precise understanding and conviction about the gospel.”

Hidden gems Nathan Young asks why it is that some people in a local church, though having definite potential for serving in in that church, get passed over. He asks, ”Who are the hidden gems in your church?”

3 classic poems every Christian should read Leland Ryken introduces us to three classic poems which he says “should be read and cherished by Christians today”.

Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away (Communion Hymn) Stuart Townend and Keith and Kristyn Getty wrote this wonderful hymn specifically for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

What is the greatest of all Protestant ‘heresies’?

Sinclair Ferguson writes, “Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621) was a figure not to be taken lightly. He was Pope Clement VIII’s personal theologian and one of the most able figures in the Counter-Reformation movement within sixteenth-century Roman Catholicism. On one occasion, he wrote: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is _______ .” Complete, explain, and discuss Bellarmine’s statement. How would you answer? What is the greatest of all Protestant heresies?” And why does Dr Ferguson exclaim “The greatest of all heresies? If heresy, let me enjoy this most blessed of ‘heresies’!” Read Dr. Ferguson’s article HERE.

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Australian church leaders, prepare your people for persecution.

Last year an 18-year-old Australian Christian called Madeline, who worked as a contractor for the children’s entertainment company Capital Kids Parties, had her contract ended after posting a picture on Facebook with the filter ‘It’s OK to Vote No’ (in other words, ‘No’ to same-sex marriage] in the run-up to the Australian Parliament’s vote on whether to legalise same-sex marriage.

Campbell Markham writes, “We live and worship within a growing hostile environment. How are we going to go? How must we respond to this change?” His comments are, of course, relevant to Christians in many other countries.

Markham comments, “I expect, within the remainder of my lifetime, that Christians will be legally restricted in their ability to speak out and live out their faith in the public sphere.  . . . . I expect, within the remainder of my lifetime, that Christians will be forbidden to educate their children the way they want to. . . . . I expect, within the remainder of my lifetime, that professing Christians will begin to be barred from such professions as law, education, healthcare, the academy, and the civil service.”

Markham exhorts leaders in the church: “Prepare your churches for persecution, and particularly your young people. You have no time to lose. And give them the priceless gift of gospel clarity. No Christian will survive persecution if they do not have a very clear, comprehensive, and precise understanding and conviction about the gospel. Only the gospel will hold us up upright under the hail of persecution’s arrows.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Hidden gems.

Nathan Young writes, “Picture a small church with under 15 members, the pastor is working class, as are a couple of the core team members. . . . . This church not only has a desire to reach working class people, but also wants to train and disciple working-class people for future ministry and service. Imagine that a young woman from the local estate starts attending – she’s professing faith but is still uncertain on some theological issues and rough around the edges. She knows the community and has no problems sharing her faith. She might not be a ready-made female gospel worker, but there’s definitely future potential. The question is: why did one of the elders not see that future potential until it was pointed out to him? Of course, this small church is real – it’s New Life Church Middlesbrough, and the short-sighted elder was me.”

In answering this question, Stone makes the following observation, “In his lecture ‘The Inner Ring’, C.S. Lewis starts by talking about the character Boris Dubretskoy from War and Peace. Young Boris learns that in the army there is both the formal structure made up of officers, lieutenants and corporals, but there is a second, unspoken organisation which transcends all of that, where some people somehow belong and some people simply don’t. . . . . Could this be the problem in our churches?” I think Stone has highlighted an important point – and one that perhaps every church leader needs to consider.

Read the whole article HERE.

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3 classic poems every Christian should read.

Leland Ryken introduces us to three classic poems which he says “should be read and cherished by Christians today” – one each by John Milton (1608-1674), Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) and Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889). Along with the text, Dr. Ryken includes some commentary. Read the whole article HERE.

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Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away (Communion Hymn).

This is a wonderful hymn from Stuart Townend and Keith and Kristyn Getty. It was written specifically for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Townend writes, “When I’m preparing to write a lyric, I usually gather together everything I can find in the Scriptures on a particular theme, so I can get as comprehensive a picture as possible of what the bible teaches. And as I did that, three aspects of communion became clear: the act of remembering and celebrating Christ’s death through eating bread and drinking wine; the expression of being one in Christ through sharing in one bread and one cup; and the proclamation of Christ’s return.”

The lyrics and other information are available on Stuart Townend’s website page for this song HERE.

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‘Exodus: understanding one of the Bible’s major themes’ by D.A. Carson

The Passing of the Jews through the Red Sea from Wikimedia

The Passing of the Jews through the Red Sea painted by Wilhelm Kotarbinski (1848-1921).

The Exodus from Egypt was the key saving event in Israel’s history (see, for example, Deuteronomy 4.32-40, 6.20–25, 1 Samuel 12.6–8, Psalm 105.26-45, Jeremiah 32:20–21).

An Ask Pastor John podcast on the Desiring God website featured guest Don Carson speaking about the Exodus. The podcast’s introducer writes, “The Exodus of God’s people out of Egypt is “the greatest redemptive event in the Old Testament”, says Don Carson. To let that sink in for a moment, imagine this: If our publishing age is marked by the cross, it is because the cross the shorthand for the death and resurrection of Christ. His cross marks the centerpiece of redemptive history. But before the cross there was the Exodus. And so if the world of publishing today talks about the cross-centered life, and the cross-centered church, it would seem that a fitting analogy would be to perhaps imagine Old Testament era saints to have been inspired to write and publish books on the Exodus-centered life and the Exodus-centered synagogue. It is a major key to understand the Old Testament, and it is a major key to unlocking the meaning of the entire Biblical plotline. To explain I called Dr. Don Carson.” Hear (or read) what Dr. Carson said HERE.

I have posted a study comparing the Egyptian Exodus with the greater Exodus accomplished by Jesus Christ HERE.

CREDITS Text in quotations © Desiring God Foundation.

‘From Eden to the New Jerusalem’ by T. Desmond Alexander

In this book, T. Desmond Alexander traces some of the central themes of the Bible story. Dr Alexander explores each theme in an unusual way – by beginning at the end of the Bible, in the final chapters of the Book of Revelation. In this way, he keeps the goal of God’s plan of redemption in view as we track each theme from Genesis onwards through the Bible.

There seven main chapters, bracketed by an introduction and conclusion. Here are the titles of these seven chapters; each is followed by an outline of the chapter’s content.

Chapter 2: “From sacred garden to holy city: experiencing the presence of God. ” This is by some way the longest chapter. It develops the central theme of God’s presence on Earth. We’re introduced to the end-goal of God’s plan: Revelation 21.1-3 describes the holy city that possibly fills the whole earth, and where God lives with His people. After an overview of the Bible’s theme of God’s dwelling on Earth, Alexander shows us that New Jerusalem is a temple-city. Then we’re taken back to the beginning: he shows us that God’s first dwelling place on Earth was the temple-garden of Eden. But after their sin, Alexander explains that God deprived Adam and Eve of their priestly status in God’s temple-garden; God’s plan that, in Alexander’s words, “the whole earth should become a holy garden-city” is jeopardised. Alexander briefly looks at the escalation of sin and God’s response by sending the Flood, and at the Babel project. Alexander then traces the path that God took to restore Earth to be His dwelling place with humanity – through the Tabernacle, the Temple in Jerusalem, and the Church as God’s temple. Finally, he looks briefly at the New Testament’s references to God’s promise of His city.

Chapter 3: “Thrown from the throne: re-establishing the sovereignty of God.” Alexander first looks at God’s sovereignty over Earth and mankind’s original vocation as God’s viceroys – as royal priests. But, as Alexander tells us, “By betraying God and obeying the serpent, the royal couple dethrone God” . He then traces the way God restored His sovereignty over the whole Earth – firstly, through Abraham and through the theocracy of Israel, and then through the Man Christ Jesus. The author shows that Christ is now God’s viceroy over Earth, a role that His Church – a royal priesthood – shares. As he writes, “By living in obedience to Christ, his disciples participate in the establishment of God’s kingdom on the earth.” Finally, he briefly looks forward to the time, pictured in Revelation chapters 21-22, when God is king over the whole Earth.

Chapter 4: “Dealing with the devil: destroying the source of evil.” In this chapter Alexander explains that Satan exercises authority over this world, and outlines how he came to do so. He traces the ensuing conflict between God and Satan as it is played out in the world. He looks at Jesus’ conflict with Satan, culminating in Jesus’s death, which seems to be a triumph for Satan. But, as he tells us, “Apparent defeat is dramatically turned into victory with the resurrection of Jesus. For this reason, Jesus can subsequently proclaim to his disciples, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’ (Matthew 28.18).” Finally, he briefly looks at the end of Satan’s domination as described in Revelation 20, and believers’ spiritual warfare in this present world.

Chapter 5: “The slaughter of the Lamb: accomplishing the redemption of creation. ” Five times, the last two chapters of Revelation refer to Jesus Christ as “the Lamb”; He is referred to as a “Lamb” 28 times in all. He briefly looks at the image of Christ as the Lamb in the Book of Revelation, then back to the Passover in Exodus. He writes that “the Lamb of Revelation 5 is undoubtedly associated with the Old Testament exodus story”. He takes us through the first Passover in Egypt. He explains that the Passover ritual in Egypt provided atonement and purification, and that Jesus’s sacrificial death provides atonement and purification for all believers. Dr Alexander also writes that eating the Passover lamb in Egypt made people holy; and that eating the New Testament equivalent – the Lord’s Supper – sanctifies believers. In his words, “Like the original Passover sacrifice, his death atones for the sin of the people, his blood purifies and cleanses, and those who eat his body at the Lord’s Supper share in his holy nature.” (However, it isn’t clear why eating the Lord’s Supper sanctifies us. I can personally see a connection, however. Both the Old Testament Passover and the Lord’s Supper are covenant meals. Participating in them reaffirms the covenant bond between the Lord and His people – that is, the God’s people are committed to and belong to the Lord – and so therefore are holy to the Lord.)

Chapter 6: “Feasting from the tree of life: reinvigorating the lives of people from every nation.” Alexander writes, “we have traced how God has acted to reclaim the earth as his own and build a temple-city by gradually establishing his presence and sovereignty through the theocracy of Israel and the church. Central to the redemptive activity of God is the cross of Christ, for through it Satan is defeated and human beings are enabled to regain the holy, royal status Adam and Eve lost. Building on these observations, this chapter explores how John’s vision of the New Jerusalem anticipates human existence as we have never known it. The life to come will be truly abundant and fully satisfying. This hope is reflected in themes found in Revelation 21–22 that reappear throughout the entire biblical meta-story, in particular, the concepts of ‘holy people’, ‘tree of life’ and ‘nations’.” Alexander look briefly at God’s people as holy people in His presence. He then explores what the Book of Leviticus teaches about holiness, cleanness/purity and uncleanness/impurity. Dr Alexander writes, “To be holy is to be unblemished or unmarred; it is to be complete, perfect, whole”. So he then looks at the bodily wholeness that will be part of our holiness – bodily perfection and immortality, with access to the tree of life. Finally, he looks at the ecological transformation of our planet, and the social harmony we’ll enjoy, where peoples from all races and nations will live in unity.

Chapter 7: “Strong foundations and solid walls: living securely among the people of God.” Dr Alexander makes it clear that the New Testament builds upon what is revealed in the Old Testament. He writes, “The continuity between the Old and New Testaments is also important because it provides a greater basis for believing in the reality of the future New Jerusalem. . . . . As our study has revealed, the New Jerusalem is a natural extension of all that has been revealed in the rest of the Bible.”. He then explores the contrasts between the New Jerusalem and the other city described in Revelation – Babylon. He explains, “Babylon and the New Jerusalem represent contrasting worlds.” Babylon is a prostitute; in Alexander’s “the city of Babylon represents humanity’s obsession with wealth and power, which become a substitute for knowing God” . New Jerusalem is a bride; Alexander writes, this city “promises holiness, wholeness and love in the presence of God.”. He points out, “the book of Revelation warns us to come out of Babylon and encourages us to take our stand with Christ”.

Dr Alexander specialises in the study of Pentateuch and Biblical Theology. This book is based on his expertise in these areas, and there’s substantial theological depth underpinning this book. It bridges the gap between books written at a popular level and those aimed at such people as seminary students and scholars. The book is relatively brief (less than 200 pages of text) and accessible. The text is accompanied by many footnotes, and there’s a 9-page select bibliography at the end.

David Schrock has written a helpful summary and brief analysis HERE.

Read the publishers’ descriptions HERE and HERE

T. Desmond Alexander is Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies in Union Theological College, a constituent college of the Institute of Theology at Queen’s University Belfast. His research interests lie primarily in two areas: the Pentateuch and Biblical Theology. He has authored and edited a variety of articles and books.

‘The One True Story’ by Tim Chester

This daily reading book is subtitled Daily Readings for Advent from Genesis to Jesus. In his introduction, Tim Chester writes, “Everyone loves the Christmas story  . . . . But the Christmas story is not just a great story. It’s the great story. It’s the story that ties together a thousand other stories. . . . . The Christmas story is the one true story because it completes and fulfils all the stories of the Bible. But it also goes on being the one true story. This is the story that makes sense of my story and your story. We were made to know God. All our longings only truly find their fulfilment in him and through him. The plotlines of our lives are meant to find their resolution in the enjoyment of God. But we’ve set our lives on other trajectories which always lead to disappointing endings. But through the Christmas story God is rewriting the story of human history, bringing it to a glorious climax. In all the busyness of Christmas, don’t miss the opportunity to discover or rediscover how you can be part of the one true story.”

Each of the 24 chapters traces a theme from the Old Testament that finds its culmination in Jesus – for example, The new Adam, The dragon-slayer, The new ark, The rock, The anointed one, The good shepherd, and The end of exile. The chapters also explore how the Christmas story connects with our stories. Each chapter ends in a meditation, and a prayer. This book is packed with Biblical insights, and will provide a rich feast for meditation through the Advent season (or, for that matter, other times of the year, too). I can thoroughly recommend it.

Read the publisher’s description HERE

Tim Chester has also written two other Advent daily reading books: The One True Light: Daily Readings for Advent from the Gospel of John (read the publisher’s description HERE), and The One True Gift; Daily Readings for Advent to Encourage and Inspire (read the publisher’s description HERE).

The Friday Briefing 16 (2 November 2018)

The Garden of Eden: a Biblical-theological framework Dr David Schrock writes, “. . . in any study of Genesis and in any study of the Bible, we must understand the way in which Eden is more than an ancient garden. It is the place where God put his royal priests to cultivate and keep the earth he gave them to subdue and rule. Though framed in ancient language and imagery, it is vital modern Christians understand these original designs—for they have impact on the way we conceive of God, the world, and mankind’s place in the world.”

Exodus in 1 Kings Dr Alastair Roberts explores how the narrative of Solomon and the division of the kingdom is linked to Adam in the Garden of Eden and to the Exodus.

Old Testament word studies: ‘Abba’, “Father” Dr Allen Ross comments, “This Aramaic word ’Abba’,”Father,” has always been a significant word in the spiritual life of believers. It was used in the Old Testament to describe the spiritual relationship between believers and God; but it became more pronounced in the New Testament in the light of Jesus’ instructions on prayer and the apostolic teachings. But today there is little clear understanding of what the description means; moreover, it is being defined and used in a way that was not intended. The word, then, calls for closer scrutiny.”

Seeing the Iranian church grow . . . in Serbia Here’s a remarkable story of how Iranian refugees in Serbia are turning to Christ.

”Speak, O Lord” – a hymn by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend The words and music of this superb hymn are by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. Here’s a recording of it being sung congregationally at the 2012 Together for the Gospel Conference.

The Garden of Eden: a Biblical-theological framework.

David Schrock writes, “God’s people dwelling in God’s place under God’s rule: This tripartite division, outlined by Graeme Goldsworthy in his book According to Plan, well articulates the relationship of Adam and Eve to God in the Garden. Yet, often when Christians read the creation account in Genesis 1–2 they miss the royal and priestly themes in those two chapters. . . . . So, in what follows, I hope to provide a brief summary of the biblical evidence for seeing the first image-bearers (imago Dei) as royal priests commissioned by God to have priestly dominion over the earth—a commission later restored in type to Israel (see Exodus 19:5–6), fulfilled in Christ (see, e.g., Hebrews 5), and shared with all those who are in Christ (see 1 Peter 2:5, 9–10). In these sections, we will focus on the temple and by extension to the purpose and work of mankind in that original garden-sanctuary.”

He then explores the theme of the garden in the Bible, focusing on the garden’s role as a priestly and a royal sanctuary. He notes how the Garden is clearly seen as a sacred temple when comparing it to Moses’ tabernacle and Solomon’s temple.

He concludes,“Therefore, in any study of Genesis and in any study of the Bible, we must understand the way in which Eden is more than an ancient garden. It is the place where God put his royal priests to cultivate and keep the earth he gave them to subdue and rule. Though framed in ancient language and imagery, it is vital modern Christians understand these original designs—for they have impact on the way we conceive of God, the world, and mankind’s place in the world.”

To help show the biblical basis for this approach to Eden, Dr Schrock very helpfully lists a number of Bible passages relating to the theme of the garden.

Read the whole article HERE. Much of the research behind this article stems from Dr. Schrock’s dissertation, A Biblical-Theological Investigation of Christ’s Priesthood and Covenant Mediation with respect to the Extent of the Atonement, which can be downloaded free of charge HERE.

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Exodus in 1 Kings.

Dr Alastair Roberts writes, “In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Exodus, Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. That the author of Kings should date the start of the building of the temple from the Exodus is noteworthy. . . . . The building of the temple on the mountain in Jerusalem is, in many respects, the climax and the completion of the process begun in the Exodus. . . . . Since its construction, the tabernacle had functioned as a sort of portable Mount Sinai, an architectural extension of the theophany that occurred there. It was also a new Eden and microcosmic representation of the wider creation . . . . Solomon’s Temple introduces a new stage of history and, once again, there are echoes of the original creation and of Eden.”

And, as Dr Roberts tells us, “Within this world, Solomon is like a glorious new Adam. He is the wise ruler of the world, who is able to name the trees and the animals (4:29-34). Indeed, when the Queen of Sheba comes to him, it is akin to Eve being brought to Adam, the moment when the story of the first creation arrived at its zenith of glory. Unfortunately, just as in the account of the original creation, it is at this point that things all start to crumble. The rest of the story of Solomon is a tragic story of the fall of the new Adam and of being removed from the peace and rest of the new Eden.”

Dr Roberts traces the sorry story of Solomon’s fall through the division of the kingdom to the day when Ahijah the prophet prophesied the doom of the northern kingdom of Israel in 1 Kings 14.7-16. In Dr Roberts’ words, “There would be a great reversal of the Exodus as Israel once again found itself in captivity. The Red Sea Crossing would be undone, as Israel would find itself cast on the far side of the great River.”

Read the whole of this fascinating exposition HERE.

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Old Testament word studies: ‘Abba’, “Father”.

Dr Allen Ross comments, “This Aramaic word ’Abba’, “Father,” has always been a significant word in the spiritual life of believers. It was used in the Old Testament to describe the spiritual relationship between believers and God; but it became more pronounced in the New Testament in the light of Jesus’ instructions on prayer and the apostolic teachings. But today there is little clear understanding of what the description means; moreover, it is being defined and used in a way that was not intended.”

Dr Ross then explores the origin and meaning of the word, and the significance of calling God “Father”. He concludes, ”What, then, does the term “Father” for God mean for use? First, to call God Father is to speak of him as the absolutely sovereign God of creation. . . . . Second, to call God “Father” is to use covenant language. In all of God’s covenants, the people are “sons” or “children” by their adoption into the covenant. . . . . Third, for us to call God “Father” is indeed to acknowledge a close personal relationship with him; it is after all a family term. It is fair to say that in Jesus’ time the word was colloquial but respectful, even in human families; but it was not a childish expression like “daddy”. To call God “Father” is to affirm that we have been born into the family of God, . . . . But he is still the sovereign and holy Lord God; and the significance of the word “Father” is one of a reverent, respectful and solemn adult address of God.”

Read the whole article HERE.

As a postscript to Dr Ross’s article, my own personal attempt to translate ‘Abba’ – in order to bring out the intimacy and the respect that is inherent in the term – is “dearest Father”.

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Seeing the Iranian church grow . . . in Serbia.

A friend of mine, Nicky Andrews, tells of a remarkable turning to Christ among Iranian refugees in Serbia. She writes, “The OM field leader of the Balkan region, Volker Sachse, doesn’t cry easily. But in the past three or four years, he has often been moved to tears by the plight of refugees he has met in Serbia; OM has played a significant humanitarian role in one of the government-run camps there since the ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe escalated in 2015. Today, however, it is tears of joy that brighten Volker’s eyes, as he describes how many refugees from Iran are turning to Jesus during a worldwide move of God amongst Iranians. “It’s a privilege for me to witness the Lord touching so many Iranians in Serbia, including in the camp where OM works,” he shares.”

There is now a need to disciple these new believers. Nicky writes, “[Volker] shares, though, that there is ongoing need to nurture the young believers towards greater maturity. “So, I’m very excited by the possibility of running an intensive discipleship training course for up to eight Iranian believers over five days, which would then be repeated for a second group of eight.” says Volker. . . . . The training would be aimed at equipping Christians to launch a church plant in the camp.”

More information about how to be involved, including how to contribute financially to the discipleship programme, is available HERE.

Read the whole article HERE.

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”Speak, O Lord” – a hymn by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

The words and music of this superb hymn are by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. This particular recording is part of an album recorded live from the 2012 Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

The lyrics are available HERE.

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‘The House of God’ by L. Michael Morales

Image © Steve Creitz, Creitz Illustration Studio

An artist’s impression of the camp of Israel in the wilderness. The Tabernacle is in the centre of the camp. Above the Tabernacle is the pillar of cloud, which was the visible manifestation of God’s presence.

L. Michael Morales writes, “When the fiery cloud of God moved from the summit of Mount Sinai to the newly constructed tabernacle, covering God’s house with smoke and filling it with His glory (Exodus 40.34), a pinnacle in God’s dealings with humanity was realized. In this majestic scene, the book of Exodus ends with a resolution, albeit temporary and intermediate, to the story of humanity’s exile from Eden narrated in Genesis 3. Moreover, the glory-filled tabernacle also foreshadowed God’s ultimate solution to that primal expulsion through the person and work of Jesus Christ.”

Dr Morales continues, “As we consider the significance of the tabernacle (and later temple) in Scripture, it will be helpful to keep two points in mind. First, the tabernacle was the house of God, the place of His dwelling. . . . . Second, the tabernacle was also the way to God, its sacrificial rituals providing the atonement and cleansing needed to dwell with God. . . . . In sum, Israel’s relationship with God was preserved and cultivated by the sacrificial system of the tabernacle, enabling the Maker of heaven and earth to dwell with His people in fellowship. To understand the depth and wonder of such a purpose, we will reflect upon the meaning of the tabernacle first within God’s goal for creation and then as the heart of God’s covenant with His people—a purpose taken up and fulfilled by Jesus Christ.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Dr. L. Michael Morales is professor of biblical studies at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Taylors, South Carolina, and adjunct professor at Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando/Dallas). He is author of Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?: a Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus. You can read the publishers details for this book, which I can thoroughly recommend, HERE.

‘Preaching Christ from the Old Testament’ by Sinclair B. Ferguson

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Dr Sinclair B. Ferguson asks, “. . . how do we legitimately preach the text of the Old Testament as those who stand on this side of Pentecost? What difference does it make to expound Genesis or Psalms as believers in Jesus Christ? Or, to put it in a more graphic way, how can we reconstruct the principles of Jesus’ conversation in Luke 24.25-27,45, and learn to follow his example of showing how all the Scriptures point to him so that hearts are ‘strangely warmed’ and begin to burn? . . . . Yet we must also preach the Scriptures without denuding them of the genuine historical events they record and the reality of the personal experiences they describe or to which they were originally addressed. How, then, do we preach Christ, and him crucified without leapfrogging over these historical realities as though the Old Testament Scriptures had no real significance for their own historical context?”

He explains, “. . . there are . . . very important principles that help us to develop Christ-centred expository skills. As we work with them, and as they percolate through our thinking and our approach to the Bible, they will help us develop the instinct to point people to Christ from the Old Testament Scriptures. The most general principle is one for which we might coin the expression fillfulment. Christ fulfils or ‘fills full’ the Old Testament. He came ‘not to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfil them’ (Matthew 5.17). As Christians standing within the light of New Testament revelation and looking back on the Old Testament, Christ himself acts as a hermeneutical prism. Looking back through him, we see the white light of the unity of the truth of Jesus Christ broken down into its constituent colours in the pages of the Old Testament. Then, looking forwards we see how the multi-coloured strands of Old Testament revelation converge in him.  . . . . We want to develop an instinct to preach Christ. This is the general principle. But it can be broken down into at least four subordinate principles . . . .”

Dr Ferguson then explains these four principles. In his conclusion, he comments, “These are general principles; they do not constitute a simple formula, an elixir to be sprinkled on our sermons to transform them into the preaching of Christ. There is no formula that will do that. . . . . But as we come to know the Scriptures more intimately, as we see these patterns deeply embedded in the Bible, and—just as crucially—as we come to know Christ himself more intimately and to love him better, we shall surely develop the instinct to reason, explain and prove from all the Scriptures the riches of grace which are proclaimed in Jesus, the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”

Dr Ferguson’s article is instructive and stimulating, and worth taking time to read and to digest – and to apply.

It’s available in 10 parts from website of The Proclamation Trust. For part 1, click HERE; for part 2, click HERE; for part 3, click HERE; for part 4, click HERE; for part 5, click HERE; for part 6, click HERE; for part 7, click HERE; for part 8, click HERE; for part 9, click HERE; and for part 10, click HERE.

An earlier version of this article is available as a single webpage HERE (the online version in 10 parts available above is a later edited version).

‘Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story’ by Nancy Guthrie

In her new book, Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story, Nancy Guthrie traces nine themes through the Bible – the wilderness, the tree, God’s image, clothing, the Bridegroom, the Sabbath, the offspring, the dwelling place, and the city. Essentially, what she gives us is a series of nine mini-overviews of the Bible story, each one tracing the story from the point of view of one of these key themes. Each of these nine mini-overviews is just a chapter in length (in fact, the main text of the book is only 150 pages in length). Guthrie succeeds in her task brilliantly. Her writing is clear and engaging. Yet the book – despite the fact that it’s so accessible and easy to read – is also theologically rich.

Guthrie’s overall thrust is that God’s plan for His world is not simply to restore what was lost in Eden before the Fall. The new creation we read about on the final two chapters of Revelation will be far more glorious than the creation we see in the opening chapters of Genesis.

There’s a discussion guide at the end of the book, which gives questions for discussing the themes presented in each chapter. There are also endnotes to explain further and to support some of what she writes.

In the introduction, after talking a little about her own personal story, Guthrie writes, “There’s another story, a story that is found in the pages of the Bible—from the book of Genesis through the book of Revelation—that shapes and defines where I came from, why I am the way I am, what my life is like day to day, and what is ahead for me in the future. It is this story that explains my deepest joys as well as the empty places where contentment can be elusive. It is this story that explains my drive to be somebody and my sensitivity to feeling like a nobody. It explains what makes me cry and why I can laugh. This story explains my desire to look good, my craving for the good life, my longing for home and security, and much more.”Guthrie continues: “And whether you know it or not, this same grand story—the story found in the sixty-six books of the Bible—shapes the world you live in, who you are, and what you want too. That’s why you and I need to know this story. It is where we find the answers to our questions about what really matters now and into eternity. This story has the power to change everything about our stories.”

Scott R. Swain, President and James Woodrow Hassell Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, writes, “One of the weaknesses of much popular Christian teaching on the Bible is the tendency to read the story of the Bible in a circular manner, as if Jesus Christ came into the world to bring us back to Eden. Nancy Guthrie charts a better course in her book. In a manner that is profoundly biblical and deeply practical, she traces nine biblical themes along a common trajectory, from their beginning in God’s good creation, through their destruction and devastation by Adam’s sin, to the ways Christ perfects, consummates, and crowns each theme by means of his suffering and glory. Let Guthrie take you by the hand and lead you through the Bible to Jesus Christ, in whom we find a better provision, a better life, a better identity, a better rest, a better wardrobe, a better spouse, a better savior, a better sanctuary, and a better city than this world in its present state could or would afford.”

Read the publisher’s description HERE. Download an excerpt HERE.

Nancy’s website page for this book is available HERE. Reproducible personal Bible study questions for personal or small group use (not the same as the discussion guide in the book itself) and a leader’s guide are available for purchase as downloads from this page.

A nine-session video version of Even Better Than Eden is also available – click HERE for more information and to view one of the sessions free of charge.

This workshop on Even Better Than Eden: How the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story with Nancy Guthrie was recorded at The Gospel Coalition’s 2018 Women’s Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana:

Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at her church, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and at conferences worldwide. She is the author or editor of a number of books, together with some video resources. She is also the host of Help Me Teach the Bible, a podcast of the Gospel Coalition.

The Friday Briefing 15 (5 October 2018)

Every story casts His shadow Watch this brief video and see how the whole Old Testament points to Jesus Christ. It is inspirational.

From beelines to plotlines: typology that follows the covenantal topography of Scripture Dr David Schrock writes, “Perhaps you have heard or repeated Charles Spurgeon’s famous axiom, “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.” The trouble is Charles Spurgeon probably never said it. Worse, the simplistic axiom fails to account for the textual shape and biblical contours of the Bible, not to mention the infelicitous way it misjudges the course of honeybees.” Focusing on the office of priesthood as an example, Dr Schrock guides us to a better understanding of how the types found in the Bible story point us to Jesus and His Church.

What did Jesus have against goats? Ian Paul throws some clear Biblical light on the well-known but often misunderstood illustration of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25.31-46)

A society without Psalms Mark Loughridge comments: “. . . the loss of biblical literacy is not merely an issue for the church and for our proclamation of the gospel, but is a felt absence by our world, a void which our culture must sense and will try to fill. This stirred my own thinking about a society without Psalms, . . . .”

At What Price Awakening? Examining the Theology and Practice of the Bethel Movement Stephen Tan calls attention to grave errors in the theology and their practices of the hyper-charismatic ‘Signs and Wonders’ movement with its epicentre at Bethel Church in Redding, California, and concerns about The Passion Translation of the Bible , which Bill Johnson, leader of the Bethel Church, enthusiastically endorses.

Every story casts His shadow.

Watch this brief video (a trailer for The Gospel Project) and see how the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ. Trevin Wax comments: “I get chills every time I watch this . . . .” From the video’s narrator: “Sixty six books. Dozens of authors. A holy canon thousands of years in the making. Consider the works…accounts of history and law. Prophecy and poetry. Verses of wisdom and letters from friends. Now. Look again. What do you see? . . . . Every story casts His shadow. Every word, every verse, bears His testimony — the Holy Messiah. Jesus Christ. Eternal King.”

The video is a trailer for The Gospel Project, published by LifeWay. The home page for The Gospel Project is HERE and you can learn more about the project HERE.

Details of The Gospel Project’s current 3-year study plan is available for download HERE. This provides, in their own words, “a chronological, Christ-centered Bible study plan for every age group in your church: preschoolers through adults. These studies are age-appropriate, easy to teach, and aligned by Scripture to help your entire church grow in the gospel together.”

The Gospel Project has also published a poster that gives a succinct summary of essential doctrines of Christianity – there are 99 of them, covering God, God’s revelation, creation, fall, redemption, the Church, and restoration. You can download it in PDF form HERE – to print it, however, you’ll need at least A3-size paper.

The Gospel Project has also published these 99 essential doctrines available in booklet form. This could, for example, be used as a kind of ‘catechism’, a teaching tool for instructing believers in the elements of the Christian faith. There’s also a companion book available, called Devotional Doctrine: Delighting in God, His Word, and His World. These are excellent resources, and both are free. They’re available in downloadable PDF form HERE. To get them, all you need to do is to sign up to receive information about The Gospel Project and other LifeWay resources. By signing up, you’ll also have access to free sessions of The Gospel Project curriculum for kids, students, and adults.

Read Trevin Wax’s article HERE.

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From beelines to plotlines: typology that follows the covenantal topography of Scripture.

Dr David Schrock comments, “Perhaps you have heard or repeated Charles Spurgeon’s famous axiom, “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.” The trouble is Charles Spurgeon probably never said it. Worse, the simplistic axiom fails to account for the textual shape and biblical contours of the Bible, not to mention the infelicitous way it misjudges the course of honeybees.”

Dr. Schrock explains: “. . . this essay will argue for a thicker reading of Scripture. It will argue that standing underneath any legitimate type is a covenantal topography, a biblical terrain that rises and falls throughout Israel’s covenant history, which all types follow in their own unique way as they run toward Christ and his Church. Therefore, in addition to the standard ‘tests’ for valid types, I will demonstrate how biblical types follow this covenantal topography from historical prototype, through covenantal ectypes, to their intended antitype — namely, the person and work of Christ. From there, by union with Christ, typology experiences a new birth, as supratypes share covenantal attributes with and carry out the offices assigned by Jesus Christ. . . . . Typology, therefore, must be understood in relationship to the biblical covenants that unify and organize the Bible. But biblical types must also, as I will argue, be seen in relationship with creation, fall, and process of redemption found in God’s covenant history.”

In demonstrating his understanding of Biblical typology, Dr Schrock takes one concrete example – that of the priesthood. He writes, “. . . in what follows, I will show how the priesthood follows this covenantal topography moving from Adam to Christ through the peaks and valleys of Israel’s history. By following this one concrete example, my hope is to demonstrate a covenantal topography that all types follow as they move from the shadows of the old covenant to the substance of the new.”

Dr Schrock first present the Biblical texts and then shows the priestly office develops through the different periods of Bible history. He explains, “To give a sense of where we are going, I will first present in chart-form the biblical texts that serve as milestones for the priestly type. These priestly milestones will be accompanied by two other lines of personal milestones for the biblical offices of prophet and king. . . . . Second, I will provide hermeneutical commentary on each phase of covenant history that helps explain how the priestly office develops across the canon. These stages of development are: (1) Creation, (2) Patriarchs, (3) Law, (4) Prophets including (a) historical formation, (b) covenant-breaking deformation and (c) eschatological reformation, (5) Christ, and (6) the Church. It is the formation, deformation, and reformation in the period of the Prophets that I believe is most original to this article.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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What did Jesus have against goats?.

Ian Paul brings fresh insight into Jesus’s illustration of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25.31-46), in which he describes the Last Judgment. He writes, “The most common interpretation of the narrative allocates the people groups in the following way. The ‘least of these’ are the poor in general; the sheep are those (probably followers of Jesus, obeying his teaching here) who care for the poor rather than just having a theoretical faith; and the goats are those who neglect Jesus’ teaching. Thus this becomes a general argument of the importance of caring for the poor. But this interpretation has only been around since around 1850 (which raises issues about how we should response to ‘novel’ interpretations…) and in fact has some serious obstacles to it.”

Dr Paul lights up our understanding of the illustration of the sheep and the goats. He does this especially by taking us back to the Biblical art of shepherding that he recently heard explained by Richard Goode, of Newman University in Birmingham, at the British New Testament Conference. Dr Goode’s paper was entitled, What did Jesus have against goats? Setting Matthew 25:32-33 within the context of caprid husbandry of Roman Palestine. (You can see an abstract of this paper HERE – it’s the third paper of session 1; just click the  View abstract  button to see it.)

Read the whole article HERE.

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A society without Psalms.

Mark Loughridge writes, “When contemporary poet Edward Clarke turned 40, he set himself the task of reading through the Authorised Version of the Bible in one year . . . . As Clarke spent time in the Bible he shared that ‘one does feel enthralled to something greater’, and that while he is not a regular church goer, there was an element of spiritual catharsis in trying to think and write from the space the Scriptures provide. This, however, was no mere exercise in subjectivity, but the outcome of convictions which Clarke has developed about the 21st century and biblical literature.”

Loughridge comments: “. . . the loss of biblical literacy is not merely an issue for the church and for our proclamation of the gospel, but is a felt absence by our world, a void which our culture must sense and will try to fill. This stirred my own thinking about a society without Psalms, what our secular nation will look like without the bedrock of biblical categories through which to see the world, understand themselves, and articulate the things which most matter.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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At What Price Awakening? Examining the Theology and Practice of the Bethel Movement.

Stephen Tan, pastor of Regeneration Church, a new church in Clayton, Melbourne, Australia, writes: “”Australia for Jesus” is the motto of Awakening Australia, an event that seeks to unite every denomination under one mission: to bring revival to Australia. . . . . While revival, unity and nationwide prayer are good goals for Christians to have, I am unable to support Awakening Australia. . . . . My main contention with Awakening Australia is that it is part of a hyper-charismatic ‘Signs and Wonders’ movement with its epicentre at Bethel Church in Redding, California. In fact, the leader of Bethel Church, Bill Johnson, is the main speaker at Awakening Australia.”

Pastor Tan tells us: “If you log onto Bethel’s website (bethelredding.com), their mission is clear: to bring revival to Redding and to the whole world. They see themselves as having “a global impact” as “a revival resource and equipping centre”. They run “revival” conferences and rallies all over the world. Kingdom Invasion in Singapore draws thousands, as will Awakening Australia later this year. Bethel also runs their own ‘Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM)’ which teaches people to perform miracles and bring revival. BSSM spawns hundreds of similar schools around the world, including in Melbourne and in other cities in Australia. But what exactly does Bethel mean by revival?”

Pastor Tan calls attention to grave errors in their theology and their practices. He also voices his concerns about the Passion Translation, which Bill Johnson enthusiastically endorses. Tan comments: “What makes the Bethel movement dangerous is that their reach is extended through their music ministry. Jesus Culture and Bethel Music have created a brand of worship music that can genuinely compete with Hillsong. . . . . I fear Jesus Culture serves as a gateway drug that draws young and inexperienced Christians into a world of false teaching, unbiblical practices and spiritual disaster.”

He comments, “I am concerned that the upcoming ‘Awakening Australia’ event also fits the description and has the potential to cause much confusion and spiritual damage to thousands of unsuspecting Australians. To those who are supporting this event in the name of revival, may I ask this question: “At what price, awakening?” Is it worth pursuing awakening if it means that the gospel is compromised and that false teaching is promoted?”

Read the whole article HERE.

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