“The Passover is the climax” by Stephen Dempster

The Passover is the climax in a titanic battle that is waged between the God of Israel and the gods of Egypt. In the plagues of Egypt there are four stages to the battle, with three trios of judgment. The sequence of natural disasters is laden with theological overtones; it is as if all creation is becoming unhinged. The critical question is: who is in charge?  Pharaoh and his magicians or Moses? Pharaoh’s gods or the God of Israel? Lurking in the background is Pharaoh’s question at the beginning of this battle: ‘Who is Yahweh that I should listen to his voice’ (Exodus 5:2)? Yahweh is none other than the Creator (Elohim).

– Stephen Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible (ed. D.A. Carson; Downers Grover, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 99.

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There is more glory by John Owen

There is more glory under the eye of God, in the sighs, groans, and mournings of poor souls filled with the love of Christ, after the enjoyment of him according to his promises— in their fervent prayers for his manifestation of himself unto them— in the refreshments and unspeakable joys which they have in his gracious visits and embraces of his love–than in the thrones and diadems of all the monarchs on earth.

– John Owen, The Works of John Owen, vol. 1 (ed. W.H. Goold; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1850-53/2013), 159.

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Q.36. What benefit do you receive from the holy conception and birth of Christ?

A: That He is our Mediator, and with His innocence and perfect holiness covers, in the sight of God, my sin wherein I was conceived.


-Question 36, Heidelberg Catechism (Edinburgh, UK; Banner of Truth Trust, original 1563, republished 2013), 29.

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Q.58. What comfort have you for the article of the LIFE EVERLASTING?

A: That, inasmuch as I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, I shall after this life possess complete bliss, such as eyes has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man; therein to praise God for ever.


-Question 58, Heidelberg Catechism (Edinburgh, UK; Banner of Truth Trust, original 1563, republished 2013), 40.

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“An absolutely indissoluble union” by J. Gresham Machen

What is it that forms the content of that primitive teaching?  Is it a general principle of the fatherliness of God or the brotherliness of man? Is it a vague admiration for the character of Jesus such as that which prevails in the modern Church? Nothing could be further from the fact. “Christ died for our sins,” said the primitive disciples, “according to the Scriptures; he was buried; he has been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” From the beginning, the Christian gospel, as indeed the name “gospel” or “good news” implies, consisted in an account of something that had happened. And from the beginning, the meaning of the happening was set forth; and when the meaning of the happening was set forth then there was Christian doctrine. “Christ died”–that is history; “Christ died for our sins” — that is doctrine. Without these two elements, joined in an absolutely indissoluble union, there is no Christianity.

–J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, original 1923, republished 2009), 23

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Overcoming Sin & Temptation – Introduction

Why read John Owen? Well for me that is easy. He is the prince of the puritans, a standard bearer of reformed orthodoxy, and one of the most insightful and thoroughly biblical writers I have read. His passion for the glory of the Triune God in the face of the Lord Jesus Christ is rivaled by none except, maybe, just maybe, Paul himself.

Why this book? I am need of a revival in my own soul of true religion and that consists of a steady gaze upon the glory of Christ revealed in the Gospel, a constant mortification of sin and vivification of the heart, plus “gospel obedience.” These are all things I see lacking in my life at this point. I am in need of renewal, as Paul says in Colossians 3:10, “being renewed in the image of our Creator.”

Why do I need revival? I have lost a great sense of the horror of my own sin and there is much apathy in prayer life that needs to be addressed. Kapic describes it better here:

Sin moves by drawing the mind away from God, enticing the affections and twisting desires and paralyzing the will, thus stunting any real Christian growth. One of the most frightening truths that Owen wants the believer to recognize is that “Your enemy is not only upon you…but is in you also.” (27)

Engaging the whole person. According to Kapic, Owen deals or engages with the whole person using the classic faculty-psychology categories of the mind, the will, and the affections. However, as Owen points out, these faculties are marred by the fall and tainted with sin. Even believers who have been redeemed by the blood of the cross still have remnants of the old man that continue to corrupt the mind, will and affections.


The goal of Calvin and of others after him, like Owen, was not the absence of affections, but rightly informed and directed affections. Affections are a gift from God to all humanity. Far too often the faculties have been “gendered” in the church, for example when people lump “rationality” with men and “emotions” with women. In addition to empirical evidence that easily contradicts such hastily drawn stereotypes, one should reject such schemas because all Christians are called to love God with their mind, will, and affections. Healthy affections are crucial to the life of faith, and numbing them cannot be the answer. In Owen’s estimation, because the affections are so import to faithful obedience, for here is “the principal thing which God requires in our walking before him…save all other things and lose the hear, and all is lost — lost unto all eternity. (28)

So what does Kapic conclude?

The goal of the Christian life is…a passionate love for God informed by the mind and embraced by the will. (28)

That is Owen’s goal for me as well. How must I achieved this? Here is what Owen has to say:

Were our affections, filled, taken up, and possessed with these things…what access could sin, with it’s painted pleasures, with its sugared poisions, with its envenomed baits, have unto our souls? (28)

Lord, incline my heart to your testimonies.

Quotes are from John Owen’s three classic works republished as Overcoming Sin and Temptation edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor. (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway), 2006.

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“Only two ways of approaching God” by Carl Trueman

Read what Carl Trueman writes about Luther’s theology of preaching and how it applies today:

From childhood upward, we are told that we are special. Sometimes this is even done in God’s name. The televangelists and megachurch pastors who talk about having “your best life now” are essentially presenting a picture of God as one who panders to the particular needs and concerns of the individual. The danger is that preaching can start to do the same–even worse, that preaching becomes sidelined because each person has to have his or her particular needs and problems addressed in a specific fashion.

Luther’s approach to preaching is a refreshing riposte to this kind of narcissistic nonsense in at least two ways. First, his application of the categories of law and gospel in his sermons captures on crucial truth: human beings, for all their uniqueness, are not unique in term of their status before God. There are only two ways of approaching God: by law or by gospel. And there are only two things one can say about any human being before God: a person is under wrath or under grace. While individuals have their own histories and circumstances, their own problems and challenges, the basic problem of where to find a gracious God is the same for all, as is the answer.

And next:

Second, Luther’s theology of preaching reminds us that the Word has power in itself because it is the Word of God. Luther understood both law and gospel as possessing moral force. They expose the heart of the theologian in everyone, of course, showing every human being to be a theologian either of glory or of the cross.

And in conclusion:

Thus, Luther’s theology of the Word and preaching stands at the center of the Christian life. There in the sermon, in the move from law to gospel, the fundamental struggle of the Christian is played out every time the preached ascends the pulpit. But this is no mere theatrical display: as the Word is preached, the Christian is torn down by the law and built up in the gospel. Preaching is a supernatural act, and that should give great confidence and assurance to every preacher tasked with the public exposition of God’s Word.

–Carl R. Trueman, Luther on the Christian Life (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2015), 96-97

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