June 4, 2008
There is a great Q&A with Mark Dever on how to conduct our personal devotions over at the New Attitude blog. You can find it here http://www.newattitude.org/articles/mark_dever_on_personal_bible_reading
June 3, 2008
There is a great post by John MacArthur over at the Pulpit Magazine website on the importance of being able to rightly interpret Scripture. It is worth the time to read it. You can find it here http://www.sfpulpit.com/2008/06/02/what-does-it-mean-to-me/#more-1306
May 12, 2008
I hear a lot of people today saying that Christians should set aside our distinctive doctrinal beliefs and simply “follow Jesus together.”
My response is usually, “How can we follow Jesus together if we don’t agree on the path He is walking?”
Doctrine matters. True, some doctrines matter more than others. For example, we may be able to disagree to some extent over whether Jesus will come back to this earth before, during or after the tribulation, but we must agree that He is coming back (I Thess 4:13-18)!!! We may disagree over the continuation of a supernatural prophetic gift today, but we must agree that Scripture is the only rule of faith and practice (II Tim 3:16-17)!!!
Most importantly, we must agree on the gospel. The gospel alone is of “first importance” (I Cor 15:1-4.) The gospel is the power of God for salvation and no one is saved apart from the biblical good news of the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf through His righteous life, sacrificial death and victorious resurrection!
Doctrine matters! We should all be striving to grow on a daily basis in our knowledge of the truth proclaimed by God in Scripture.
For a helpful article on why doctrine matters, read what Dr. John MacArthur has to say here http://www.sfpulpit.com/2008/05/09/why-doctrine-matters/
May 5, 2008
Have you heard of Forever Grateful Music? It is a ministry of Mark Altrogge which exists to encourage the memorization of Scripture through recording high-quality Scripture songs.
Here is a description of one of these albums from the Forever Grateful Music website: “Hide the Word combines the power of music with the power of repetition to make memorizing God’s Word easy. Each Scripture, including its reference, is made into a song. Each Scripture is repeated at least three times per song. As you play the CD while driving, doing dishes, or any other time throughout your day, you will find yourself quickly picking up the verses and recalling them from memory.”
I highly recommend these recordings (as do my three daughters, ages 15, 12 and 6.) They are an easy way to “hide God’s Word in your heart” (Psalm 119:11.)
You can learn more about Forever Grateful Music here http://www.forevergratefulmusic.com/index.htm
May 1, 2008
I remember the days when I was a kid in church and there was basically only one translation… the King James Version. Yes, I know there were other translations such as the Revised Standard Version (which everyone said was “liberal”) and Good News for Modern Man, but pretty much everyone used the King James Version.
That is not the case today. Trying to decide which Bible translation is best can give one a headache pretty fast. Flipping through the pages of a recent catalog from a Christian bookseller reveals over ten different versions of the Bible. I know in the context in which I preach there are people who use the King James Version, New King James Version, New American Standard Bible, New International Version, New Living Translation, English Standard Version and the Message.
So why do I preach from the English Standard Version (ESV)?
I didn’t start out with the ESV. I used the New American Standard Bible (NASB) all throughout seminary and for the first three years of preaching at Maranatha Baptist Church. But in January of 2008, I switched over to the ESV. My reasons were several:
1) I believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) – 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
2 Peter 1:21 (ESV) – 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
The Bible is the very Word of God, inspired by Him in the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek autographs. When I read and study and preach from Scripture, I want to be confident that the translation I am using is faithful to the original words of Scripture.
The ESV is an “essentially literal translation” of the Bible. The translators have attempted to capture the exact wording, grammar and syntax of the original text as closely as possible. This stands in sharp contrast with many other modern “translations” which utilize a “thought-for-thought” philosophy of translation (i.e. NIV, TNIV, NLT), rather than a “word-for-word” philosophy.
Yes, there are other literal translations available in the English language. The NASB, KJV and NKJV are all particularly literal. However, I prefer the ESV for the next reason listed here…
2) The translators of the ESV have taken great care to retain the literary beauty of the Bible.
The Bible is a literary masterpiece, as one would expect from a Book which was inspired by the living and true God. However, some translations lose the literary beauty of Scripture in maintaining a literal translation theory.
A good example of this is the NASB. From my (amateur) work in translating the New Testament from the Greek, I have found the NASB to be the most literal translation among the common English translations of the Bible (I think I prefer the NKJV in the Old Testament… the jury is still out.) However, the translators of the NASB are so literal, that often the wording is stilted or awkward. This is particularly noticeable in the poetry of the Old Testament. Read the Psalms in the NASB, then read it in the KJV or ESV and you will immediately see what I mean! The NASB, though quite literal, simply lacks the poetic beauty which is inherent in the Word of God.
The KJV is hard to beat in terms of literature. The translation work in the KJV is extraordinary. However, let’s be honest… some of the words in the KJV translation are simply not used in the English language today. I know die-hard KJV people will disagree with me, but I find it more difficult to read the KJV than other modern translations (and I read fairly well.) I can only imagine how difficult it is to understand for those who are completely unfamiliar with this older style of English.
Now the NKJV is excellent. It combines the aspects of being a literal translation of the Bible with the literary excellence of the KJV. However, I prefer the ESV for the following reason…
3) I believe the Greek text in the UBS Greek New Testament (4th edition) and the Novum Testamentum Graece (27th edition) is to be preferred over the Textus Receptus.
Although this is not a major issue and it does not affect any orthodox Christian doctrine, I believe that the Greek text in the UBS/NA27 (which, in the case of textual variants, attempts to critically examine both internal and external textual evidence to determine the authentic text) is superior to the Textus Receptus. This can be a rather technical argument… and often it is not all that edifying. If you want to read more about this, you can find some excellent articles on the Pulpit Magazine website (the first article in the four-part series can be found here http://www.sfpulpit.com/2007/01/18/a-short-kjv-detour-part-1/ )
With all this said, the reason I preach from the ESV is because I believe that the Bible is the very Word of God and I believe the ESV best communicates the literal words of inspired Scripture in a manner which reflects the literary beauty of this most supernatural book.
For more information on the English Standard Version, you can check out their website, located here http://www.esv.org/
April 29, 2008
Building on my earlier post from Dr. Sinclair Ferguson’s book “The Christian Life”, Ligonier ministries is posting chapters from Dr. John Gerstner’s book “Theology For Everyman.” I find it interesting how much his comments reflect the same thought as that of Dr. Ferguson’s…
“Christian laymen, the average persons sitting in the pew on a Sunday morning, sometimes think they need not be theologians. That, however, is a very great mistake. They do need to be theologians–at least they should be amateur theologians. In fact, that is the one vocation every man is obliged to follow. A layman does not need to be a plumber, a carpenter, a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher, a laborer, or a housewife. These are all possibilities, but not necessities. A layman may be one or the other of these as he chooses. But he must be a theologian. This is not an option for him, but a requirement!” (John Gerstner, “Theology for Everyman.”)
You can find the whole post here http://www.ligonier.org/blog/2008/04/everyone-must-be-a-theologian.html
I must admit that I am more than a little ashamed of myself for not discovering the works of Dr. Sinclair Ferguson sooner. It isn’t that I had never heard of him, I had simply never read him or listened to any of his sermons. Since “discovering” him recently, I have been reading and listening to everything I can find by him and it has been an incredible blessing.
Let me a share a little bit with you from the first page of his book, “The Christian Life”:
“When I first became involved in teaching God’s word, I tended to assume that one of the great needs of Christians is to be instructed in the ‘deeper truths’ of the gospel. It was not long before experience (of my own life) and observation (of other’s lives) taught me how mistaken I have been. I began to see that in fact the ‘deeper truths’ (if there are such things) are really the old basic truths of the gospel. Far from being luxuries, they are necessities for Christian living. The rather disturbing thought began to dawn on me that many of us who are professing Christians are distressingly weak in our grasp of the basic framework of biblical doctrine. We assume that we know the elements of the message of the New Testament, but sometimes our understanding of them is like that of a child” (Sinclair Ferguson, “The Christian Life”, Banner of Truth Trust, pg 1.)
I have observed this tendency both in myself and others to seek after that which is new and “trendy”, rather than spending time meditating on and mastering basic Christian doctrine. Dr. Ferguson states that catering to this tendency in ourselves has resulted in the prevalence of stunted growth among modern evangelicals:
“But surely many Christians have lived their lives without much grasp of Christian truth and it has made very little difference? Often that is the unfortunate truth! Our lives have been no different from our contemporaries. We have made little or no impression upon the world, for the very reason that gospel doctrine has made a correspondingly slight impression upon us” (Sinclair Ferguson, “The Christian Life”, Banner of Truth, pg 6.)
If this describes us… then where should we start?
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (ESV) – 1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
Paul feels the need here to reiterate the gospel to the Corinthians, even though they are already Christians (Paul calls them “brethren”, cf. I Cor 1:4-9.) In fact, Paul unashamedly tells them in no uncertain terms that the gospel is to be “of first importance” to them.
How well do we really understand the gospel?
Is the gospel of first importance to us?
Could it be that the reason most evangelicals are so weak in sharing their faith is that we don’t really know what we believe?
Could it be that our lives reflect the world, rather than Christ, because we are not growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ?
How should we study and meditate on the gospel?
1) Meditate on the doctrine of God. Study His attributes and works. As you read Scripture, always ask the question, “What does this teach me about God?” A good exercise is to read through the Psalms over the course of a month (5 Psalms per day will get you through in 30 days) and mark every reference to God, His attributes and His works. At the end of the month, summarize your findings. Read solid Christian books dealing with theology proper (“The Attributes of God” by A.W. Pink is an excellent primer on the person and work of God. You can find it for free on the internet.)
2) Study the nature of man. Familiarize yourself with passages such as Genesis 1-3, Isaiah 59:1-20, Romans 1-3, 5:12-21, and I John 1:8-10.
3) Study the person and work of Christ. Read through the gospels regularly. Meditate often on passages such as John 1:1-18, Colossians 1:15-20, I Corinthians 15:1-8, and Revelation 5 (this is not a comprehensive list… just a few passages off the top of my head.) Ponder the cross!!! (Read C.J. Mahaney’s book “Living the Cross-Centered Life” or the recent release by Milton Vincent, “A Gospel Primer for Christians.” For a more indepth discussion of the cross, read “The Cross of Christ” by John Stott.)
“It is one of the enigmas of our day that in a world of great opportunities, many Christians have less knowledge of Christian doctrine than children at Sunday School had in previous centuries” (Sinclair Ferguson, “The Christian Life”, Banner of Truth, pg 8.)
May this not be true of us!!!
April 28, 2008
In an online post dated January 21, 2008, Dr. John MacArthur listed 7 good reasons why preachers must preach the Word of God:
1) Preaching the Word of God lets God speak rather than man, because it declares God’s own Word.
2) Preaching the Word is the only right way to preach because it brings the preacher into direct contact with the mind of the Holy Spirit, the author of Scripture.
3) Preaching the Word is the only right way to preach because it forces the preacher to proclaim all of God’s revelation, including those truths that even many believers find hard to learn or accept.
4) Preaching the Word is the only right way to preach because it promotes biblical literacy in a congregation, not only through what is learned from the sermon itself but also through the increased desire to study
5) Preaching the Word is the only right way to preach because it carries ultimate authority.
6) Preaching the Word is the only right way to preach because only that kind of preaching can transform both the preacher and the congregation.
7) It is His own Word, and only His own Word, that the Lord calls and commissions His preachers to proclaim.
Read the whole post here http://www.sfpulpit.com/2008/01/21/why-preach-the-word/
April 17, 2008
I was excited to hear that Crossway is intending to release the new ESV Study Bible in October, 2008. This study Bible is the result of some of the brightest, conservative scholars in evangelicalism today (including three of my former professors from Phoenix Seminary: Wayne Grudem (General Editor), Paul Wegner (Old Testament), and John Delhousaye (New Testament.)
You can learn more about this upcoming release here http://www.esvstudybible.org/