We’ve tried the fields of prosperity and wealth, they have not given us the harvest we truly longed for. It is time to turn to the fallow fields, the fields we have ignored. Sow righteousness. Reap love that will not fail. God will turn up in ways that we had only ever dreamt of, and he will come with the refreshing rains of righteousness.
It is a valuable distinction to make, that money is not the root of all evil, but the love of it. Yet even here, the distinction may deceive us, or at least, our heart may. Your heart, like mine, is a powerful force. The heart sings a seductive song that the mind finds difficult to resist. Like Tolkien’s depiction of the Dwarves who loved gold above all else, the more we have the deeper we dig*. Our pursuit of wealth unearths dark places where danger has lain dormant, but is now ready to rise up and devour.
Yet, we have no need to turn to Tolkien for such truths; long has the relationship between riches and ruin been known, and there are many who have warned us of the perils. Yet we rarely listen. One such voice of reason comes through the prophet Hosea. As he delivers a message of warning to God’s faithless people, his own experience with an adulterous wife becomes the image through which God demonstrates his relenting love. As God pours out his heart to his ‘bride’ who has wandered far from him, he reveals again the lust they had for wealth.
Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built; as his country improved, he improved his pillars. Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt. The Lord will break down their altars and destroy their pillars. (Hosea 10:1-2 ESV)
“The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built.” There is a direct relationship between wealth and our lustful heart’s tendency to pursue anything else but God. Here sits the deception of our heart.
You Might also like
By Bill Muehlenberg — 8 months ago
Here I want to briefly note three new books written by him or about him. The first is a work by Alister McGrath on Packer’s life and thought. And the other two are posthumous collections of some of his writings. If you love Packer, and/or simply love the Lord, theology, the Christian life, and Puritan and Reformed thought, these books are must adds to your library.
There are some folks you just cannot get enough of. If they are authors, you always want to read more from them – even well after they have passed away. And publishers also know the value of coming out with even more books from departed but much-loved writers.
For the believer there are some very well-known Christian authors who are continuously being mined by publishers, seeking to get the very last dregs out of their corpus. C. S. Lewis would be one obvious example. Just about everything he has written – including letters to correspondents and the like – has been resurrected and published.
So too with A. W. Tozer. All of his books have been published and republished, and then the publishing houses went through all his sermons, articles, and so on. One of the newest collections of his works features his public prayers. For someone who only had around a dozen works published during his lifetime, there are now well over 100 titles all bearing his name.
One could be a bit cynical here and argue that pretty soon a collection of his shopping lists might appear. Yes, I jest, but I probably would be the first one to buy such a volume if it were released! We just cannot get enough of some of these great Christian writers.
Another author plenty of Christians just can never get enough of is the late J. I. Packer. The famous English theologian, Christian leader, and author only passed away relatively recently (July 17, 2020). See my write-up about him here: billmuehlenberg.com/2020/07/18/notable-christians-j-i-packer/
But some new volumes by or about him have already appeared. And that is good news for Packer lovers, of which I am one. I have a number of books on Packer, and at least 40 books written by Packer. And there are around 100 articles on my website about him, referring to him, or quoting him. So I am a big fan of Packer.
Here I want to briefly note three new books written by him or about him. The first is a work by Alister McGrath on Packer’s life and thought. And the other two are posthumous collections of some of his writings. Here they are:
Alister McGrath, J. I. Packer: His Life and Thought (IVP, 2020)
McGrath has already penned a full-length biography of Packer: J. I. Packer: A Biography (Baker, 1997). In this volume he looks further at his life, his writings and theology. A number of key topics and moments from his life are discussed in some 13 chapters.
Thus we learn further about his conversion, his love of the Puritans, his high regard for Scripture, his desire to always bring together theology and the Christian life, and so on. Let me share just one quote, from his chapter on “Theology and the Life of the Church.” Says McGrath:
Packer argues that it is never enough for us to know about God; true Christian theology is about knowing God – a relational and transformative process of knowing and being known, which sustains and informs the Christian life. The Christian encounter with God is transformative. As Packer, following Calvin, pointed out, to know God is to be changed by God; true knowledge of God leads to worship, as the believer is caught up in a transforming and renewing encounter with the living God. The ultimate test of whether we have grasped theological truth is thus not so much whether we have comprehended it rationally, but whether it has transformed us experientially. In an important sense, we are not called on to master theology, but to allow it to master us. This helps us to understand Packer’s intense concern with Christian piety, especially as this is expressed and sustained by the doctrine of sanctification.
J. I. Packer, The Heritage of Anglican Theology (Crossway, 2021)
This volume is about the history and thought of Anglicanism. It is based on lectures Packer had given at Regent College over the years.
By Nicholas T. Batzig — 3 months ago
Written by Nicholas T. Batzig |
Friday, September 16, 2022
When we begin to understand the important relationship between the law of God and the gospel, we will guard against allowing any perversions of it in our presentation of the biblical teaching about justification and sanctification. We will carefully note the contexts in which these two means of revelation are contrasted in Scripture; and, we will recognize that while the law does not, in anyway whatsoever, play in to our justification before God (except insomuch as Christ kept it for us), we will seek to promote the important place that law plays in the Christian life. Believers, at one and the same time, recognize that they are neither justified nor condemned by the moral law of God and they are zealous to run the course of God’s commandments by faith working through love.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Joe Thorn, on the Doctrine and Devotion podcast, about the biblical relationship between law and gospel. This subejct is arguably the most significant for us to settle in our thinking, on account of the fact that the entirety of our salvation hangs on the right understanding of the relationship between these two aspects of the divine revelation about the will of God. Many errors have sprung up throughout church history by means of confusion about the relationship between law and gospel. Even Reformed theologians have struggled to come to a place of absolute uniformity in their understanding of the relationship between law and gospel. As Jonathan Edwards once rightly noted, “There is perhaps no part of divinity attended with so much intricacy, and wherein orthodox divines do so much differ, as stating the precise agreement and difference between the two dispensations of Moses and Christ.” To come to a settled understanding of the relationship between law and gospel, we have to first grasp the various theological categories by which the Reformed have sought to settle this questions.
The Scriptures can be divided into two, basic architectonic categories–the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace. In the Covenant of Works, Adam stood as the federal head of humanity. What he did in relation to the covenant stipulations, he did as the representative of all who would descend from him by ordinary generation. In the command not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam had a summarization of the moral law of God. Though God did not tell Adam not to kill Eve, Adam would have known in his conscience (the moral law of God being written on it at creation) that it was evil to murder a fellow image bearer. If Adam had cut down the Tree, made a bat, and killed Eve with it, he would have violated the sixth commandment. For these reasons, we can say that the Covenant of Works was a legal covenant, and that the command not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was Law.
By way of contrast, the gospel came to Adam and Eve in the Garden in the form of a Covenant of Grace immediately after their fall. God graciously gave the promise that He would send a Redeemer (i.e., the Seed of the woman) to crush the head of the serpent. God promised to send One who would be a new representative of His people and who would come to conquer the one who conquered man (Genesis 3:15). This promise was the first preaching of the gospel. It was built entirely on the free grace of God and was dependent exclusively on the gracious work of God. In contrast to the law, the gospel promised life and righteousness freely by grace. Christ is the mediator of the Covenant of Grace and came to freely provide in the gospel what God required in the law. In this sense, the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace represent the Law and the Gospel. Every man is either in Adam (as his or her federal head) or in Christ (as the representative of the new humanity).
In the course of redemptive history, another relationship between law and gospel appeared in the giving of the law at Sinai. When God entered into covenant with Israel in the old covenant, He did so by means of the covenant ratification at Sinai. Moses, as the old covenant typical redeemer, received the 613 commands from God on the mountain. In the giving of the law at Sinai there was a three-fold distinction. The 613 commandments can be categorized according to the tripartite division of moral, ceremonial, and civil law. The moral law is the essence of the morality God requires of His image bearers. It is summarized in the Ten Commandments. The ceremonial laws are those laws in the Mosaic Covenant that speak distinctly to the cultic practices of Israel. They include laws about sacrifice, priesthood, Tabernacle, and purity. The civil laws were those laws dealing with crime and punishment in the old covenant theocracy. In the New Testament, the word law (nomos) is used sometimes of the entire Mosaic economy, sometimes of the totality of the Mosaic law given at Sinai, sometimes of the ceremonial laws, sometimes of the civil law, and sometimes of the moral law. The context of each passage in which the word occurs will necessitate the way in which we are to understand its usage.
It is not uncommon to read in the Pauline epistles the contrast between the law and the gospel. In nearly every case, the contrast is set in the context of soteriological questions. A right understanding of the situations in which law and gospel are bring used is vital to a right understanding of the relationship between the two. Herman Bavinck has helpfully digested a number of places in the New Testament in which either law or gospel are used. He wrote,
“The law is the will of God (Rom. 2:18, 20); holy, wise, good, and spiritual (7:12, 14; 12:10); giving life to those who maintain it (2:13; 3:2); but because of sin it has been made powerless, it fails to justify, it only stimulates covetousness, increases sin, arouses wrath, kills, curses, and condemns (Rom. 3:20; 4:15; 5:20; 7:5, 8–9, 13; 2 Cor. 3:6ff.; Gal. 3:10, 13, 19).
By Fedor Minakov — 8 months ago
The Lamb that was slain is also the lion who has conquered (Rev. 5:5–6). Christ’s death on the cross is at the same time his victory over death, evil and sin. Thus, we know that even through suffering and death, God’s children one day will partake in that glorious victory of our Lord over everyone who worships the beast.
On February 24, at 5:00 AM I woke up in my Kyiv apartment. “What were those sounds? Lord, I hope it’s not missiles. Please Lord, let it be something else.” I jumped out of bed, opened a window and listened. A few minutes of silence calmed me down a bit. Maybe I had just imagined it? I picked up my phone to read the messages. My colleague Valeriy from Odessa wrote: “I hear the launch of missiles from the sea. I may be wrong, but that’s what it sounds like.” One minute later at 05:12, the silence was broken by a series of sounds that shook the building. I wrote him back, “I hear explosions here in Kyiv. I hope I am wrong, but my building is shaking.” A few more explosions, this time much louder. There was no longer any doubt Russia had begun a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
I tried to call my wife, praying that she and the kids were fine. By God’s providence and mercy, just a week before I had taken my family to Uzhgorod in the west of Ukraine because of the possibility of escalation. I did not know if her city was also under attack. Thankfully, she did not even know what was happening. My biggest desire at that moment was to see my family’s faces and hug them once again. I could only pray that it would happen. Fear, confusion, pain, and anger invaded my heart and I have been fighting against them ever since.
Should I try to find the closest bomb shelter, or is it better to stay in the building? I knew that it was highly unlikely that any nearby bomb shelter was open and ready to accept people now. I knew that ninety-five percent of the population of Kyiv had no idea what was going on and were not prepared. I wasn’t ready either. Is it even possible to prepare yourself for something like this? After another series of loud thumps, I decided to go to the closest metro station to shelter underground.
As I walked outside, I met another man who looked very confused. I asked him if he had a family and if he could give me a ride to the closest metro station. “What is going on?” he asked. I answered, “The Russians are shelling Kyiv.” He could not believe it, how could our “older brother” act so treacherously towards us? Dmytro (as I learned later) needed a few more minutes to process the information and figure out what to do next. Finally, we jumped in the car to find a better place to hide.
The Beginning Of The War?
Even though US intelligence had warned about the possibility of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia, it still came as a surprise to many people in the world, including Russians and Ukrainians. No wonder Dmytro was not ready to hear my answer. How could I even be so sure? This was not the first time I heard the “knocking” of Russkiy mir on my door.1 Back in 2014, Putin’s Russia visited my hometown, Donetsk, bringing its bombs and bullets and shells. It forced me, my pregnant wife, and children to flee. I was familiar with its real face and recognized its footsteps.
The war did not start on February 24, 2022. It started 8 years earlier when Russia annexed Crimea and occupied two eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. In the spring of 2014, Donetsk was flooded with foreigners who spoke with a distinctly Russian accent. These people organized protests against the Ukrainian government. The city was overwhelmed with waves of violence. They burned buildings and beat peaceful, Ukrainian demonstrators. Not long after this, they brought in stockpiles of weapons and so the war came to Donetsk.
The Russians were filled with hatred, but they especially hated Protestant believers. Russkiy mir is proudly Russian Orthodox. It wears a cassock, not a collar. Protestant pastors were beaten in Donetsk and its regions; some were tortured to death. While they were able, many evangelical believers gathered for prayer meetings by the Kalmius river. While pro-Russian protestors attacked and threatened us, evangelical Christians prayed for peace in Ukraine.