I Believe So That I Know

A child is told their toy is a red car by their doting parents. The child has no frame of reference for either the words, the concepts or the significance. Reinforced by repetition, the child who loves and trusts his parents, believes the object is a red car. His belief is the basis of his knowledge about toys, red, cars and numerical values. Similarly, our Father places in us the seed of knowledge about himself. That seed takes root and reaches up toward Him, seeking Him out like a plant seeks the sun. Understanding the connection between faith and knowledge is essential to evangelism, apologetics and discipleship. Faith is the basis of knowledge, not the conclusion of it. A person’s knowledge begins with faith. We believe before we know. This presuppositional framework is a design feature.

In The Light of the Mind, author Ronald H. Nash asserts that “Augustine makes it clear that man can know this present temporal, corporeal world only because he first knows the eternal, incorporeal, intelligible world of ideas that exists in the mind of God.”[1]

Man is born with seed-knowledge of God which sprouts upward within him searching for God, just as a plant shoots up in search of light while pressing roots down searching for living water. We see these concepts reflected in our pursuit of understanding in Jesus (2 Cor. 4:6; Psalm 1:3; Ephesians 3:17). The possibility for learning of the eternal God is only possible because human beings are born in possession of a seed of this truth (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Augustine argues that “before an architect builds an edifice, he must first have a model of what he intends to build. Similarly, God had a plan before he created the universe. His creation is patterned or copied after the divine ideas[2]…these rationes[3]subsist in God’s intellect.”

Marriage is one example of a created relationship that teaches eternal truths about the unity and diversity of the Triune God (Ephesians 5:32). But the idea that God creates things on earth based on a “copy,” in heaven is also seen in the building of the Tabernacle and the Temple which were copies of the true temple in Heaven (Hebrews 8:2, 9:24; Exodus 25:9, 40). Jesus is the greatest example of this poetic revelation. Jesus is the greater Adam, Moses and David. Kingship, priesthood and the prophetic office – are all types and shadows of the second person of the Trinity.

In Augustine’s theology, truth does not consist of abstract platonic concepts. Truth is personal; the person of God as revealed in Jesus Christ (John 14:6), the Logos of John 1. “Knowledge occurs when the personal God illuminates the minds of human persons to understand him and to understand the world he has made. So, Augustine maintains the Creator-creature distinction and makes our thoughts a servant knowledge, part of our discipleship.”[4]

In Anselm’s Prayer, the Proslogion, we see this connection between faith and knowledge expanded; “For I do not seek to understand so that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand. For I believe this also, that ‘unless I believe, I shall not understand’ [Isa. 7: 9].”[5]

Thus our faith is the basis or presupposition of all rational study.

How does this work? Faith is ontological. Luther wrote in The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, “Where there is the word of God, who makes promises, there must necessarily be the faith of the person who accepts those promises.”

Faith lays hold of the promises of God, as if they are solid objects and historical dates within human history. Assurance is not established on reason, or science, but on the apprehension and acceptance of the word of God. Continue reading “I Believe So That I Know”

You Get as Much as You Need

Ephesians 3:16 and 19 “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being…. to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

The ultimate goal of Christ indwelling His people is that they might experience the fullness of God.

But we don’t experience the fullness of God, do we? So, is God a liar? Is His spirit weak and ineffectual? Or, do we experience all of God that we need?

We don’t need him much, so we don’t experience Him much. How much we know of Him, how much His fullness fills us is proportional to our need of Him. We all fall into the need trap. We all know how much we needed Jesus for salvation. To enter the narrow gate. To draw near the Father. In the bloom of our first awakening to God we were all magnificently aware of our need, but now that we are through that narrow gate we get along on our own strength and understanding. The less of Him we need the less of Him we experience.Then we wonder why we lack the kind of fullness described in the New Testament.

Remember Matthew 13:58 “And [Jesus] did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.” 

God’s presence in your day to day life is directly proportional to your need of and belief in Him. Do you need Him to get up in the morning? Do you need Him at work? At the water cooler? In the laundry room and at the homeschooling table? Do you need Him to get your homework done and read to the kids? Do you need Him in the front yard? Do you need Him at the kitchen table and in the marriage bed? Do you need Him to pay the bills?

Do you need Jesus? His power. His dependence on the Father and the Holy Spirit? Do you need His Love? The Fruit of His spirit?

We are the community of need living at the foot of the throne of Grace. Aren’t we? We act self-sufficient, self-willed, all-wise, strong and good. And in that pride of life we draw farther from grace and farther from God Himself.

In reality we are bound together by our need. We are united in our need of Him and our need of one another, because His fullness lives in His Body. We receive as much as we need. So, remember every day how much you need Him.

Every day pray Proverbs 30:8-9 “give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”

Come to Christ in your need. The more of Him you need, the more of Him you will recieve.

Preaching 101

I

Like any work, preaching is a craft that requires time and failure to get really good at. This thread will discuss what preaching is, what it ought to accomplish and how to develop it as a craft.

Of course, we turn to the Bible to discover what it is preachers are doing.

Nehemiah 8:1–8 And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose…They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (ESV)

So how did it work? The preacher stood on a platform before both men and women. He read the word and the people of God listened attentively. The preacher gave the sense of the words and the people understood the words.

This is preaching in a nutshell. Read the text. Explain the text clearly and the audience receives understanding.

Now let’s move into the NT. Let’s look at the master preacher.

Luke 4:16–22 …[Jesus] stood up to read. [17] And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. (ESV)

What pattern do we see in Luke 4? Jesus is handed the Scriptures from the attendant while standing. Jesus reads the Scripture. Jesus closes the book and hands it back to the attendant. Jesus sits down and begins to preach to them. At first they marvel but Jesus continues even thought he has already dazzled them. He isn’t satisfied with tickling their ears. He preaches the kingdom of God and repentance. Then we read,

Luke 4:28–29 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. (ESV)

The main thing we need to notice in these examples is how the sermon worked. The Word would be read, and then the preacher would teach the sense of the words, and preach an exhortation based on them.

But notice that Jesus’ conclusion infuriated the crowd, and they sought to kill him. That is why preaching takes a ton of prayer for boldness and wisdom. If it takes no courage to preach then you are doing it wrong, because if you go to the front lines, you can’t be surprised when the enemy starts shooting back at you. Sermons ought to ruffle feathers and mess up hair, because the preacher is a weapon in the hand of God.

Likewise, at the conclusion of Peter’s Sermon on Pentecost, we read,

Acts 2:37–38 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (ESV)

Read the word. Give the sense or the meaning of the word directed toward understanding, so that the crowd responds.

R.L Dabney, in Evangelical Eloquence, says of preaching, “its design is to evoke an act.”

Reading the word of God. Explaining the word of God. Giving an understanding of the word of God. Acting on the word of God.

This is preaching 101.

Plowing In A Straight Line

Luke 9:57–62 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

These verses are the conclusion of Jesus’ lesson that takes place throughout chapter nine. In Luke 9:1-6, Jesus sends the twelve out on a mission after giving them very specific orders and encouragement. In Luke 10:1-12 Jesus sends out seventy-two on a mission. Jesus wants the disciples to lead His people. Jesus wants them to feed His sheep and be examples of good discipleship, but the Apostles are not yet fully committed. They are not “all in.”

Jesus needs them to learn about devotion and focused obedience. Jesus needs them to internalize this lesson. He needs them to plow in a straight line. The Christian life is a long obedience in the same direction, but there is a lot that can distract us from Jesus – a lot that can keep us from being faithful and fruitful farmers.

Jesus needs the disciples to comprehend this. So, throughout Luke 9 Jesus drives this point home using varied and stark examples.

Luke 9:2–3 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.

Jesus commands the apostles to go on a preaching tour and tells them not to worry about anything; not clothing or food or where they will lay their head. He tells them how to handle rejection.

They find immediate success but very quickly we see how distractible and unfocused they can be. Continue reading “Plowing In A Straight Line”

Spiritual leadership 

Being spiritual leaders can be very difficult. What does it look like? Consist of? How do we do it? What are some fundamental principles that constitute good biblical leadership?

The basic idea of discipling anyone, in the biblical model, is to explain and model proper behavior and then allow the student to attempt to imitate it, giving correction as needed.

If you were teaching your child how to throw a baseball, you would show them how to hold the ball and rotate the arm. Then you would have them demonstrate the proper technique. Once they tried it, you would praise proper throwing while instructing them in the details that need correction. Think about how you learned to drive. Learned to dance. Learn to read. It was always instruction, modeling and imitation followed by correction.

Spiritual leadership is the same. Let your wife and children see you reading the scriptures. Let them see you quoting it and discussing it. Let them see you praying. Let them see you giving thanks, singing, confessing, etc. Under duress let them see joy. Let them see virtue. Let them hear you speaking well of your wife, your masters and authorities. Let them hear you explain your fears. Let them hear you discussing the sermon from Sunday with your wife and asking your wife questions about what she is reading or listening to. When you watch a movie, let them hear you judge it.

Then have them imitate you. Have them read the bible aloud and say the family prayers. Let them repent and praise. Correct as they go. Let them comment on movies. Let them explain their fears, ask questions and judge.

Its ok to give a child feedback on their prayers – when is it OK to pray about the Seahawks and Christmas presents? Don’t teach them not to pray about the things that they are really concerned about, instead instruct them in how to do it properly in a Godly way.

Over spiritualizing our spiritual life leads to hypocrisy. God is concerned with the care of sparrows, how much more the free safety on the Seahawks D? And if that is what your son is concerned with, how should they pray about it? How might God be using a pulled hamstring? or the Second string guy? Don’t tell your children not to pray about the things that matter to them, even if those things don’t seem very spiritual – teach them how!!  If your daughter is concerned about what she is dreaming about, then let that be on the agenda. What causes bad dreams? What does praying for the protection of her imagination sound like?

Never turn your kids down when they request you to pray. Never. When you hear a siren, pray for the first responders and person who summoned the sirens – God knows the details even if you don’t – this encourages your children in their trust over His overwhelming sovereignty. When you see a policeman, pray for him. Let your children hear you giving thanks to God for them in prayer.

In homes where male leadership is emphasized, the overreaction is that the man does everything, or sons do everything. And sometimes we fail to lead because it’s a lot to do all by ourselves.  But how will your wife know how to lead the children in prayer when you’re not there? How do you know she is doing it right? Or how will your daughter lead her children, if she doesn’t start to see how a mommy or even Christians, for that matter, pray regularly?

If your children are not participating in their own faith at 8, they won’t at 18. Leading is not micromanaging. Continue reading “Spiritual leadership “

Standing On The Promises

There is unquestionably an element of understanding to faith. But there is more to it than that. For Luther, Faith is fundamentally trust. He uses the word fiducia, which means confidence. Faith is about trusting a God who makes promises, and whose promises may be relied upon.

Luther wrote in The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, “Where there is the word of God, who makes promises, there must necessarily be the faith of the person who accepts those promises.”

Faith lays hold of promise. Assurance is not established on reason or science but on the apprehension and acceptance of the word of God.

Witsius comments on Hebrews 11:1 by stating that there is ‘substance,’ or hypostasisor existence to the objects of our faith, “the properties and circumstances of things have a hypostatis, that is, really exist, and are not mere figments of our imagination. Accordingly, faith causes the thing hoped for, though not yet actually existing, to exist in the mind of the believer; who assents as firmly to the promises of God, as if he saw the blessings promised already present.”[1]

Calvin also used this term hypostasis when referring to the object of our faith. Calvin states, “Faith is the hypostasis, that the support or possession, on which we fix our foot.”[2]

Witsius also states that, “We understand by the term [faith], a principle which pervades all the faculties of the soul, and is the proper mean of uniting them to Christ, and of thus quickening, and making them holy, and happy.” [3]

The final resurrection of all men has not yet occurred, nor does it exist in itself, but faith gives it substance in our mind, because we believe God’s promise. The object of our faith; God’s promise of the resurrection, becomes a fact, a historical event just like the battle of Gettysburg.

Likewise, this principle works backward in time to lay hold of the promises of past events. Christ’s declaration in John 19:30 that “It is finished,” though stated in the past and fulfilled in the future, has substance or existence as truth in the present by faith.

Also, in communion we believe that Christ is present in the elements because He said He is, and faith in those words makes the communion, not a figment of our imagination, but something substantive and real. We believe and by believing we come to know that it is not merely bread and wine we hold. And this faith animates our spiritual life and relationship with Christ.

Faith lays hold of God’s words, objects both past and future, and makes them present.  This supports the soul, upon which it steadfastly fixes its foot and stands firm.

[1]The Apostle’s Creed, Vol. 1. Witsius, Herman. 43

[2]The Apostle’s Creed, Vol. 1. Witsius, Herman. 44.

[3]The Apostle’s Creed, Vol. 1. Witsius, Herman. 35.

Raising Children To Shape Culture

The point of saturating chidlren in the word of God and cultivating a curiosity about God in every subject of study is to prepare encultured Christians who shape culture faithfully, from the basis of the Scriptures, with Wisdom and true understanding.

Don’t let your kids get up from the school table and go on auto-pilot. The ditches are utter renunciation of the world or wholesale whoredom with it.

God doesn’t want ghettos and he doesn’t want communities that are undistinguishable from the world. God wants children, standing on the firm foundation of His word, wisely shaping culture – their work, the arts, the media, sports, politics, medicine, etc with wisdom and devotion to Him.

Sit down with your children and teach them at a young age how to engage culture. Watch their favorite program. My little pony, for example. Ask them – what kind of God rules this world? Is there sin? How is sin atoned for? Is individual or community more important? What is the show about?

Read them Pooh Bear and ask what kind of God does Pooh believe in? Continue reading “Raising Children To Shape Culture”