•May 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

The text is Revelation 18:20 —

Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.


The sermon by Jonathan Edwards is comprised of four headings:

1. When the saints in glory shall see the wrath of God executed on ungodly men, it will be no occasion of grief to them, but of rejoicing.

Edwards poses an argument that is counterintuitive but biblical, nonetheless.  That saints in eternity future will not only see the wrath of God executed against the ungodly; they will rejoice at the sight of it.  Edwards gives two evidences of this:

  • That the seeing of the wrath of God executed upon the damned, should cause grief in the saints in glory, is inconsistent with that state of perfect happiness in which they are.
  • The saints in heaven possess  all things as their own, and therefore all things contribute to their joy and happiness.

2. Why the sufferings of the wicked will not be cause of grief to the righteous, but the contrary.

Edwards supplies a negative and positive rationale for why this proposition is true:

  • Negatively – It will not be because the saints in heaven are the subjects of any ill disposition; but on the contrary, this rejoicing of theirs will be the fruit of an amiable and excellent disposition: it will be the fruit of a perfect holiness and conformity to Christ, the holy Lamb of God.
  • Positively – The sufferings of the damned will be no occasion of grief to the heavenly inhabitants, as they will have no love nor pity to the damned as such.

Edwards argues that God is greatly glorified in the eternal damnation of ungodly men.  Once again, his argument appears counterintuitive but is in agreement with the biblical record.

The Northampton preacher continues to unfold  how God’s redeemed will respond at the sight God’s wrath as it is unleashed on unregenerate people:

  • They will rejoice in the seeing the justice of God glorified in the sufferings of the damned.
  • They will rejoice in it, as it will be a glorious manifestation of the power and majesty of God.  God will show his own greatness in executing vengeance on ungodly men.

3. Objections Answered

Like a good attorney, Edwards anticipates objections.  The objection is stated as follows: “Why is it not an unbecoming thing in the saints in glory to rejoice when they see the damnation of the ungodly?” Five responses are offered:

  • It is now our duty to love all men, though they are wicked; but it will not be our duty to love wicked men hereafter.
  • We ought now to seek and be concerned for the salvation of wicked men, because now they are capable subjects of it.
  • Rejoicing at the calamities of others now, rests not on the same grounds as that of the saints in glory.
  • The different circumstances of our nature now, from what will be hereafter make that a virtue now which will be no virtue then.
  • The vengeance inflicted on many of the wicked will be a manifestation of God’s love to the saints.

4. The Ungodly Warned

In the closing section, Edwards offers a stern warning to unregenerate people.

  • How destitute of any comforting consideration your condition will be, if you perish at last.
  • Consider how it will be at the day of judgment, when you shall see Christ coming in the clouds of judgment, when you shall begin to wail and cry; as knowing that you are those who are to be condemned.
  • If you now repent, before it be too late, the saints and angels in glory will rejoice at your repentance.
  • If you repent before it is too late, you yourselves shall be of that joyful company.

This sermon is a vivid reminder of the reality of hell’s torments.  But it is also a powerful reminder of God’s love and grace shown to all the elect!

THE TRELLIS AND THE VINE – Colin Marshall and Tony Payne (2009)

•May 18, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Over six years ago, I read The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall trellisand Tony Payne.  The work was encouraging and helpful in those days but my second read through was far more significant.

The authors compare the local church to the trellis and a vine, the kind of masterpiece found in many backyards.  Marshall and Payne maintain, “Most churches are a mixture of trellis and vine.  The basic work of any Christian ministry is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of God’s Spirit, and to see people converted, change and grow to maturity in that gospel.”  However, a problem arises when the trellis begins to overtake the vine.  When church structure becomes more important that the actual vine, something is dreadfully wrong.  Yet in many churches, ministry structure has overshadowed the vine, the ministry that involves people who are growing because of the work of the gospel.

Marshall and Payne set out to correct the emphasis from the trellis to the vine.  The fundamental working idea in the book is this: The disciple-making agenda should be the priority of each and every disciple.  In the final analysis, the goal in every church is to grow the vine, not maintain the trellis.

The book is filled with ideas to fulfill the primary objective of discipleship.  At the heart of the strategy is a commitment to train faithful people for the work of the ministry – so disciples begin making disciples.

The Trellis and the Vine provides the needed corrective that has been missing from most churches.  The message is simple and challenging.  The message is biblical.  Now – its time to get busy making disciples!

THE ETERNITY OF HELL TORMENTS – Jonathan Edwards (1739)

•May 14, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Jonathan_Edwards_engravingThe doctrine of hell is under attack.  The opposition to eternal punishment is more diverse than one might expect as unbelieving philosophers and some pastors in the emergent church seek to extinguish this doctrine once and for all.

In the 18th century, people opposed hell as well.  Yet it was taught with more faithfulness and fervency than most pulpits in these days.  Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, The Eternity of Hell Torments is a fitting example of this faithfulness and fervency.

The text is Matthew 25:46 – These shall go away into everlasting punishment.  Two initial observations are advanced:

  1. The duration of the punishment on which they are here said to enter: it is called everlasting punishment.
  2. The time of their entrance on this everlasting punishment.

The doctrine as also set forth:

The misery of the wicked in hell will be absolutely eternal.

With the presuppositions and doctrine in place, Edwards moves forward by advancing four key points.

1. It is not contrary to the divine perfections to inflict on wicked men a punishment that is absolutely eternal.

Edwards argues that sin deserves such a punishment, namely, “that sin is heinous enough to deserve such a punishment, and such a punishment is no more than proportionable to the evil or demerit of sin.”

It is not contrary to God’s mercy to inflict eternal punishment on sinful men. Indeed, “It would be a great defect, and not a perfection, in the sovereign and supreme Judge of the world, to be merciful in such a sense that he could not bear to have penal justice executed.”

2. The eternal death which God threatens, is not annihilation, but an abiding sensible punishment or misery.

The Scripture never hints at the God-dishonoring doctrine of annihilation – a doctrine that surfaces in Edwards day and is even more popular now.  The argument against annihilation is clearly articulated here.

3. This misery will not only continue for a very long time, but will be absolutely without end.

Edwards utilizes several exegetical, grammatical, and biblical  arguments to point readers to the reality of eternal punishment.  “Such expressions,” says the Puritan divine, “are used to set forth the duration of the punishment of the wicked, as are never used in the scriptures of the New Testament to signify any thing but a proper eternity.”

4. Various good ends will be obtained by the eternal punishment of the wicked.

Edwards presents four good ends of eternal punishment:

  • Hereby God vindicates his injured majesty.
  • God glorifies his justice.
  • God hereby indirectly glorifies his grace on the vessels of mercy.
  • The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever.

He notes, “The sight of the wonderful power, the great and dreadful majesty, and awful justice and holiness of God, manifested in the eternal punishment of ungodly men, will make them prize his favor and love vastly the more; and they will be so much the more happy in the enjoyment of it.”


In typical Edwardsean fashion, the author concludes by setting forth three important points of application:

  1. Be entreated to consider attentively how great and awful a thing eternity is.
  2. Do but consider how dreadful despair will be in such torment.
  3. That you may effectually escape these dreadful and eternal torments, be entreated to flee and embrace him who came into the world for the very end of saving sinners from these torments, who has paid the whole debt due to the divine law, and exhausted eternal in temporal sufferings.

And Edwards directs the attention of every reader to Christ and his gospel:

Justice therefore never can be actually satisfied in your damnation; but it is actually satisfied in Christ.  Therefore he is accepted of the Father, and therefore all who believe are accepted and justified in him.  Therefore believe in him, come to him, commit your souls to him to be saved by him.  In him you shall be safe from the eternal torments of hell.


THE ART OF WORK – Jeff Goins (2015)

•May 11, 2015 • Leave a Comment

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins is a personal growth book that focuses in on the important topic of calling.  The subtitle gets at the heart of the 0718022076_bbook – A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant To Do.

Goins identifies seven characteristics that help frame a person’s life and calling.  These characteristics appear to be common themes that emerge in the lives of people who have come to grip with their calling and have subsequently moved into the deep waters of life.  The seven characteristics include:

  1. Awareness
  2. Apprenticeship
  3. Practice
  4. Discovery
  5. Profession
  6. Mastery
  7. Legacy

The remainder of the book walks readers though each characteristic and urges practical application at every juncture.

I found The Art of Work to be encouraging and trust that it will be of service to people who are in search of their calling.  The author has done his homework is happy to share the fruit of his labor with his readers.  The fruit of such an endeavor is bound reap a mighty harvest as readers apply the principles in this fine work.

Two notable quotes appear at the end of this work and are worth their weight in gold:

“Sometimes all the little things in life aren’t interruptions to our calling.  They are the most important part.”

“I used to think that your calling was about doing something good in this world.  Now I understand it’s about becoming someone good – and letting that goodness impact the world around you.  Which means that you won’t fully appreciate the whole story you’re living until the end.  But for now, if you are intentional and willing to appreciate the fact that you don’t see the whole narrative, you can enjoy more of the journey.”

The Art of Work is a worthy read and is certain to encourage many in the days ahead!

I received this book free from the publisher.   I was not required to write a positive review. 



THE FLIP THAT FLOPPED: The Consequences of Doctrinal Compromise

•May 4, 2015 • Leave a Comment

President Obama promised to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.”  He has inflipped many respects delivered on that promise with the unveiling of the Affordable Health Care Act and a host of executive orders that are, in the final analysis, out of step with American values.  But give credit where credit is due.  The transformation which the president promised has taken place.  Now, Americans wait for the painful consequences to set in.

In Doug Pagitt’s latest book, “Flipped,” the author sets out to fundamentally transform the classic view of God.   This transformation is creative and innovative.  It is intuitive and will attract the attention of many readers.

Pagitt sets forth three goals at the beginning of the book:

  1. To see that changing your mind, drawing new conclusions, and engaging new ideas all lie at the heart of Jesus’s message and life.
  2. To behold the big, beautiful story of God as you  find new ways to live in it.
  3. To invite readers to a full and vibrant life in God.

The basic idea that runs through this book is what the author refers to as a “flip” – which is nothing short of revising one’s views about God, Scripture, and the Christian life in general.  Pagitt adds, “The Flip at the center of this book is one that turned me around as a pastor and a Christian writer as well as my personal life and faith.”

The Flip That Flopped

Several “flips” are addressed in this work.  But the one that keeps surfacing concerns a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of God.  At the heart of this book is a commitment to panentheism.  This worldview, also known as process theology is a radical departure from the traditional understanding of God, yet is receiving a hearing in the emergent church and some liberal churches.  One might consider such a view a halfway house between theism and pantheism.  But make no mistake – panentheism is outside the scope of historical orthodoxy.

All is in God?

To be fair, the author never uses the word, panentheism.  Yet this panentheistic theme runs throughout the book.  Pagitt argues, “God is not a separate single subject … If God were not a separate being from all things in the cosmos, then we need not simply say God exists.  We can say that God is existence.  All is in God.”  Such language is the classic lingo of panentheism.

My initial impression: Surely this is a typo!  The author can’t possibly mean what he is saying.  But as I continued to read, my suspicions were confirmed.  “… All that exists is In God,” writes Pagitt.  He tries to justify this “flip” by appealing to the rationale from Acts 17:28 where Paul quotes Epimenides of Crete: “In him we live and move and have our being.

In addition to promoting panentheism, the author posits the notion of universalism: “Beyond that, the power of God that was alive in Jesus is alive in us.  In short, the fullness of God is active in humanity without assistance from any religious system.”  He continues, “Instead, we can recognize that all people live, more, and exist In God.”


Flipped is a radical departure from the biblical understanding of God.  The notion that all people “exist In God” simply fails to match the biblical data.  Much to the contrary, we find a distinction between the Creator and the creature.  Whenever one denies such a distinction he makes a dangerous theological move with several critical implications.  What are the implications of denying the Creator-creature distinction?

  • Misreads and misinterprets Scripture.
  • Compromises God’s character.
  • Compromises biblical authority.
  • Minimizes the transcendence of God and emphasizes the immanence of God in biblically inappropriate ways.

Readers should recall how God is truly presented in Scripture.  He is never presented in a panentheistic scheme – ever!  Rather, he is presented as the absolute personal God.  This absolute God is transcendent; that is to say, he is over and above the scope of the universe.  He is distinct and independent of his creation (Isa. 57:15; Isa. 40:10).  He is preeminent  (Isa. 40:25-28; 44:6-8).  Jonathan Edwards adds, “His power is infinite, and none can resist him.  His riches are immense and inexhaustible.  His majesty is infinitely awful.”  And God carries supreme authority over all.  Nothing rivals the supreme authority of God (Job 41:10; 37:9-14).

The Triune God holds all things together.  In a few words, St. Paul demonstrates both the transcendence and the imminence of God: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible; whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16-17, ESV).  God is sovereign (Dan. 4:34-35).  Nothing can thwart his sovereign decrees!  He is distinct from the created order (Acts 17:24-29).  And the Bible tells us that God is wholly other (Isa. 46:9).  This is a far cry from people who “exist In God.”

God is not only absolute; he is personal.  He cares for his creation.  He is intimately involved with his creation and he delights to meet the needs of his creatures.

God is the Sustainer (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3).  He is the Healer (2 Chron. 7:14).  He is the Protector (2 Sam. 22:2).  He is the Shepherd (Ps. 23:1-6).  He is the Forgiver (Rom. 5:1).  And Scripture demonstrates the ultimate love that God expressed on the Cross when Jesus died for sinners (Rom. 5:8).

Flipped will likely attract many readers; especially readers who are committed to theological liberalism.  The author seeks to fundamentally transform the vision of God by convincing readers that  “… All that exists is In God.”  The only problem: The view presented here is dead wrong.

A.W. Tozer understood the importance of getting God right.  He rightly noted in his best-selling book, The Knowledge of God:

The gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most [awe-inspiring] fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his heart conceives God to be like … So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards decline along with it.  The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high  opinion of God.

May followers of Christ heed Tozer’s advice.  We certainly do not need to flip our views of God.  Any deviation from the biblical vision of God will have tragic consequences in the church and the culture in which she seeks to minister.  Any flip will become a flop that ignores the clear teaching of Scripture.

I received this book free from the publisher.   I was not required to write a positive review. 


GOD’S LOVE COMPELS US – D.A. Carson, Ed. (2015)

•April 30, 2015 • Leave a Comment

God’s Love Compels Us: Taking the Gospel to the Whole World, editedGod's love by D.A. Carson is a series of talks that were presented at pre-conference which was sponsored by the Gospel Coalition in 2013.

Contributors include David Platt, John Piper, J. Jack Stiles, Andrew Davis, Michael Oh, Stephen Um, and D.A. Carson.  The subjects of the talks focus on world missions.  Carson presents the case for world missions and Platt helps readers understand why the Great Commission is so great.

Each chapter stands alone and each are worth the time to read and digest.  David Platt’s chapter is worth the price of the book as he bring his usual fervor for evangelism and world missions front and center.  Platt reminds readers about the non-negotiable task before them:

But our sovereign God has given us a specific goal, and it is crystal clear: he has commanded his people to make disciples of all peoples – all the ethne of the world.  And he has given us a promise: his very presence and power of his Spirit to accomplish his purpose.

Platt admonishes readers in his exposition of 2 Corinthians 4:13-18 which includes three fundamental principles:

  1. Believe the gospel with deep-seated conviction and proclaim it with death-defying confidence.
  2. Live to extend God’s grace among more people and long to exalt God’s glory among all peoples.
  3. Continually envision eternal glory with God and joyfully embrace earthly suffering from God.

Platt educates, motivates, encourages, and challenges.  My advice: Buy the book, soak in the truth, and get in the battle by telling people about the Savior!


COUNTERFEIT GODS – Timothy Keller (2009)

•April 27, 2015 • 1 Comment

kellrTim Keller has a special gift for digging below the surface.  He applies his unique gift in the pulpit and in many of his books.

In Counterfeit Gods, Dr. Keller tackles the thorny subject of idolatry.  John Calvin put his finger on this pernicious sin in the 16th century when he said, “Every person is an idol factory.”  Keller notes that anything can become an idol – especially good things.  Keller adds, “Anything that becomes more important and nonnegotiable to us than God becomes an enslaving idol.”

The idols of money, sex, and power are the central topics of this excellent volume.  Keller notes, “The secret to change is to identify and dismantle the counterfeit gods of your heart.”

Counterfeit Gods is a convicting read and will no doubt encourage many believers to demolish their idols and cast their hope and trust in the living God.

4.5 stars


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