Gospel-Driven Quote of the Week

June 24, 2009

“Extol and magnify God’s mercy, who has adopted you into his family; who, of slaves, has made you sons; of heirs of hell, heirs of the promise. Adoption is a free gift. He gave them power, or dignity, to become the sons of God. As a thread of silver runs through a whole piece of work, so free grace runs through the whole privilege of adoption. Adoption is greater mercy than Adam had in paradise; he was a son by creation, but here is a further sonship by adoption. To make us thankful, consider, in civil adoption there is some worth and excellence in the person to be adopted; but there was no worth in us, neither beauty, nor parentage, nor virtue; nothing in us to move God to bestow the prerogative of sonship upon us. We have enough in us to move God to correct us, but nothing to move him to adopt us, therefore exalt free grace; begin the work of angels here; bless him with your praises who has blessed you in making you his sons and daughters.”

Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, p. 240

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In Christ Alone!

January 12, 2009

“24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord… There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…,” (Rom. 7:24-25; 8:1)!

The Gospel tunes our hearts to sing! As Martin Luther said,

    “For God has cheered our hearts and minds through His dear Son, whom He gave for us to redeem us from sin, death and the devil. He who believes this earnestly cannot be quiet about it. But he must gladly and willingly sing.”

The Gospel gives rise to strong, powerful affections for Christ. It creates an explosion in the soul (cf. Lk. 1:46-55). And music assists the believer to give sounding form to this explosion!

Therefore, in light of the good news espoused by Paul above, WORSHIP!!!


The Gospel, Worship and Bible Study

October 23, 2008

In Galatians 1:1-5, Paul sets forth a powerful gospel greeting, which not only exposes the grievous sin of the Galatians but also manifests the marvelous glory of God in redemption.

Thus, deeply moved by the reality of the truths of the gospel, Paul concludes his greeting with a spontaneous affirmation of praise to God, “to whom [belongs] the glory forever and ever. Amen,” (v. 5).

Paul’s explosion in his soul has some profound implications in regards to how and why we should study the Bible.

“Why?”

First, Bible study is not simply to increase one’s knowledge but rather to increase one’s affection for God!

Paul’s spontaneous doxology in Galatians 1:5 demonstrates that the gospel was not just a theological idea. Paul was profoundly aware that he was a sinner for whom Christ died (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15). He understood firsthand what it was like to be held in bondage to sin and the shackles of legalism (cf. Philip. 3:4-6). This is why he affectionately speaks of Christ in Galatians 2:20 as one “who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Timothy George writes,

    “To contemplate who God is and what he has done in Jesus Christ is to fall on our knees in worship, thanksgiving, and praise. We study the Bible and the great doctrines of the Christian faith not out of vain curiosity, nor merely to increase our intellectual acumen and historical knowledge but rather that we might come more fully to love and enjoy the gracious God who delights in our praise. As Calvin put it so well, ‘So glorious is his redemption that it should ravish us with wonder,’” (Galatians, p. 88).

“How?”

The first question one should ask when studying the Bible is, “What does this tell me about God?”

In the quest for “relevance,” and “application”, I often hear believers insist on asking questions such as, “What is this passage saying to me?” “How does this passage apply to my daily life?” “How can it help me in my daily walk?” “What does it mean to me as I seek to apply it to my life?”

Me, me, me, my, my, my! Quite frankly, this oft repeated refrain becomes quite wearisome. It fails to recognize the profound God/Christ-centered focus of the Gospel and the Scriptures.

In Luke 24:27, Luke writes, “…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself,” (emphasis mine).

A gospel-driven life begins to reorient one’s approach to Bible study. Instead of coming to the Scriptures with a self-centered focus, seeking to find out how the Bible “applies to me,” one should approach the Bible with a God/Christ-centered focus, seeking first to discover what the Bible tells him about God.

Vaughan Roberts writes, “Sometimes we miss the point by asking too quickly, ‘What is it saying to me?’ A good first question to ask whenever we look at a passage is, ‘What does this tell me about God?’ Very often the application for us will then be obvious. The Bible is, above all, a book about God,” (God’s Big Picture, p. 65).

Vaughan, with a God/Christ-centered focus in view, concludes his book with the following three propositions, which help govern the how and why of Bible study:

  • Knowing Christ in all the Scriptures.– All the Scriptures contribute and point to Jesus Christ and God’s plan to establish His kingdom through Him.
  • Teaching Christ from all the Scriptures. With the “big picture” of Scripture in view, one should point people to Christ from any part of it, rather than just a few favorite passages.
  • Loving Christ through all the Scriptures. “It would be a terrible thing if a deeper knowledge of the Bible affected only our heads and not our hearts. The Bible is a relational book, which the Holy Spirit uses to help us grow in the knowledge and love of God through Jesus Christ,” (pp. 153-154).

  • Martin Luther’s Theology of Music

    October 7, 2008

    Martin Luther

    Music is a powerful gift to the church. Martin Luther recognized the importance of this powerful gift and it is clear from his writings that he had a deep concern for it.

    In his book, Te Deum: The Church and Music, Paul Westermeyer traces the history and development of music within the Christian tradition.

    As he works his way through this history, Westermeyer includes a discussion on Martin Luther’s theology of music.

    Through his ministry, Luther brought about a reformation not only in theology but also in music. During the Reformation, Luther recovered congregational singing, whereas Zwingli denied it and Calvin restricted it (Te Deum, p. 141). Still today, many of the hymns and melodies Luther wrote (e.g., A Mighty Fortress is Our God) have stood the test of time and proven to be of exceptional value to the church.

    Luther had a great passion for music. For example, Luther sought advice from and surrounded himself with skillful musicians. He was an able amateur musician and also possessed ability as a composer. He regarded music as integral to a child’s education as well as teachers and ministers.

    Luther was often refreshed and invigorated through music. On one occasion, when he was found to have fainted in his study, his colleagues awakened him with their music and he joined in the singing (ibid, pp. 142-143)!

    “…next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise…”

    For those who had no appreciation for music, Luther in his own unmatched way writes,

      “A person who gives this some thought and yet does not regard it [music] as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs,” (p. 145).

    Luther, however, didn’t simply value music for music’s sake. There was a theological reason behind Luther’s passion for music. He considered music to be a powerful gift from the Lord to His church. He believed that the synchronization of sound and theology served a redemptive function.

    Thus, Luther held that music was next to theology and that next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise (p. 144). Westermeyer writes,

      “Luther was not simply fond of music. Luther thought music has a theological reason for being: it is a gift of God, which comes from the “sphere of miraculous audible things,” just like the Word of God. Music is unique in that it can carry words. Since words carry the Word of God, music and the word of God are closely related,” (pp. 144-145).

    Westermeyer goes on to provide four helpful insights regarding Luther’s theology of music (pp. 145-147):

    1. Music is a gift of God’s good creation.

    Luther regarded music as such a wonderful gift, he could not find words to describe it. He taught that music was to be reclaimed and refined from “perverted minds” by the church in order to “taste with wonder (yet not to comprehend) God’s absolute and perfect wisdom in his wondrous work of music.

    2. Music bears the Word of God.

    Luther’s chief concern was to bring the Word of God, particularly the Gospel, fully to bear upon the listener’s soul. Thus he wrote statements like:

    “God has the Gospel preached through the medium of music.”

    “…the fathers and prophets wanted nothing else to be associated with the Word of God as music. Therefore we have so many hymns and Psalms where message and music join to move the listener’s soul.”

    “Music and notes…do help gain a better understanding of the text.

    3. Music joins praise to proclamation.

    Luther wrote, “The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to human beings to let us know that we should praise God with both word and music, namely, by proclaiming the [Word of God] through music.”

    4. Music awakens by the Gospel (-J.F.).

    The good news of Christ’s great deliverance tunes the heart to sing. Luther stated,

      “For God has cheered our hearts and minds through His dear Son, whom He gave for us to redeem us from sin, death and the devil. He who believes this earnestly cannot be quiet about it. But he must gladly and willingly sing.”

    Christ has purchased a great salvation for His people and those who have come to experience it are compelled (i.e., Gospel-driven) to sing! Luther taught that the Gospel gives rise to strong, powerful affections for Christ or as he put it, an explosion in the soul. And it is music that gives sounding form to this explosion!

    “The good news of Christ’s great deliverance tunes the heart to sing.”

    Music, then for Luther, plays a valuable role in aiding the believer to give joyful expression for and delight in the victory of Christ’s great salvation.

    Music is a powerful and important way in which the church corporately celebrates and gives expression to the victory Christ has won. Westermeyer writes, “Bold, vigorous rejoicing tells the story of God’s victory and our deliverance. The battle is won in Christ, and we sing with jubilation,” (p. 147).


    How Do We Approach God?

    July 18, 2008

    Martin, at Against Heresies, has written a great meditation on the way in which we approach God. In his opening sentence he writes, “The litmus test of our understanding and application of the gospel is in our approach to God.” Amen!

    Read it and be blessed: Approaching God.


    True Worship

    April 28, 2008

    Here is a helpful quote regarding worship posted at Of First Importance: True Worship


    Gospel-Centered Worship

    April 28, 2008

    Dan Cruver, at eucatastrophe, has written two challenging and helpful pieces on Gospel-Centered Worship:

    Gospel-Centered Congregational Worship (Part One)

    Gospel-Centered Congregational Worship (Part Two)