Issue #6

Truth, John Stott, Vain, Signs, Doubting Thomas, Illusion, Matthew

Issue #6

Holding to Truth

It does not matter whether 50,000 espouse its cause,
or only five,
or only one.

Truth does not reign by the ballot box,
or by the counting of heads:
it abideth for ever.

All the tongues of men and of angels cannot make truth more true;
and all the howlings of devils and doubters
cannot transform it into a lie.

Glory be to God for this!

—C. H. Spurgeon, “An Address for Sad Times,” in Only a Prayer Meeting! (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1901), p. 146. Via The Gospel Coalition 📃.

I chose this quote for dual purposes. First, I would like to encourage you to hold to what is true. Second, I would like to encourage you to not use sentiments like this to hold fast to false beliefs.

First, in encouragement to hold to what is true. Nothing that happens in America, Canada, Europe, Japan, China, or any other nation on earth can stop the kingdom of heaven. “The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to YHWH” (Psalm 24:1). True statements are what correspond to reality and no politician or preacher’s personal “truth” can change that. It is true that God created humankind with a purpose (Genesis 1-2). It is true that humanity is broken (Genesis 3). It is true that we cannot save ourselves (Genesis 4 – Malachi). It is true that God sent Jesus to make atonement for our sins (1 John 4:10). It is true that salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8).

Second, it is also true that people hold untrue beliefs very tightly. A Christian must only look to the Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Unitarian, Muslim, or any other false religion to see that people may sincerely believe something that is false. But now let’s turn the mirror. What do I believe that is untrue? Am I holding to it so tightly that I cannot be dissuaded of it? Friends, let us hold tightly to the core tenants of our faith (2 Thessalonians 2:15), let us hold more loosely the things which are not core to our faith (God, help us discern those rightly!). Let us live charitably and listen well to our Christian brothers who believe differently than us on these kinds of matters. What if they’re right, and I’m wrong? Am I willing to be teachable?

Church History Corner ⛪️

John Stott at 100: Why Evangelicals Still Need Him | Russell Moore 📃 →

My exposure to John Stott’s work is mostly limited to his magnum opus The Cross of Christ 📚, but I recognize that his work has been profoundly influential to modern evangelical Christianity. Russell Moore writes a great article on why we should appreciate his writings. But more than just appreciation, Moore writes about how important it was for Stott to hold the line on which battles should be fought and in which areas we should seek unity and give charity despite our differences.

When peering behind some of the criticism of Stott, we can see what should have been a portent of troubling things to come. Most of the critique was not of Stott’s doctrine or practice, but his refusal to fight—which was usually defined as claiming some tribal loyalty in a controversy meant to help one faction by defeating another. And much of it was about the fact that Stott refused to employ apocalyptic rhetoric, except in reference to the Apocalypse. He knew that resentment could be a powerful social motivator. One could assemble a following by identifying villains and saying, “They think they’re better than us!”

Stott refused to descend into factionalism by refusing to step off the tightrope line that Scripture draws on so many topics:

Stott, thus, emphasized integrity—a holding together—both in doctrine and in mission. That’s why he refused to put a both/and where the Bible puts an either/or—it cannot be both Yahweh and Baal, both God and Mammon, both Jesus and Caesar worship. But he also refused to put an either/or where the Bible puts a both/and. We are to be about both grace and truth, both exposition and application, both evangelism and justice, both love of God and love of neighbor, both accountability and mercy, both conviction and kindness, both the intellect and the emotions, both denominationally rooted and globally connected.

For Further Reading:

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Explore the Scriptures 📖

How We Take God’s Name in Vain | John Piper 📃 →

Is taking God’s name in vain merely speaking curse words like “G** D***” or “J**** C****”, or does it go deeper than that? The cultural understanding is certainly that it means we should not swear, but John Piper digs deeper into the 3rd commandment to help us understand what it really would have meant to an ancient Israelite. When we understand what it meant in its ancient context, we can better live by all God’s commandments, and so we may live (Romans 10:5).

But the very fact that the name Yahweh has a meaning reminds us that, in the Bible, someone’s name tells decisive things about the person. They are not mere labels that help you distinguish one person from another. They are expressions of a person’s reality.

The important thing to grasp from this study is that names are significant, especially when it comes to God (there is a whole study of name theology). Biblical writers sometimes refer to God as just “the name” (1 John 1:7). Keep reading to find out what it means to treat God’s name with vanity.

For Further Reading:

Signs of the Times - Gospel of Matthew Part 30 | Exploring My Strange Bible 🎧 →

Dr. Tim Mackie, the lead scholar behind the Bible Project animated videos, preaches on Matthew 24: the infamously difficult to interpret Olivet Discourse. In Matthew 24, Jesus’ disciples ask him a question:

Matthew 24:1-3 (ESV) Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

What follows is a long teaching of Jesus that has been controversial among scholars and has a variety of possible interpretations. Dr. Mackie takes a partial-preterist view of the passage. After quite a bit of careful study, I have come to agree with him that Matthew 24:4-35 is addressing the disciples’ first question of when the temple will be destroyed, and the rest of the discourse refers to the end of the age and final return of Jesus.

If you’d like another perspective, the last link of this letter is the primary commentary I recently used to study Matthew. It takes a futurist perspective of Matthew 24 where the vast majority of Matthew 24 is pointing toward the future return of Jesus our Messiah.

Christianity Is True ✝️

Doubting Thomas and Divine Hiddenness | William Lane Craig 🎧 →

In this podcast, Dr. Craig deals with an atheist who asks (paraphrased), “Why can’t we all receive the same evidence that Thomas (Doubting Thomas) does? Why can’t Jesus appear to all of us, and we can place our fingers in the holes of his hands?” This is a good question, but Dr. Craig explains that in scripture, more evidence rarely leads to obedience. He points to the ancient Israelites had a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day, and yet they still disobeyed God repeatedly.

Dr. Craig argues that God knows exactly how much evidence to give each of us such that we would reach out in belief, and won’t give us more if he knows it will not help us believe. We must also distinguish between true beliefs and right belief. We can believe that God is the creator of all and yet still not enter into a loving relationship with Jesus Christ (James 2:19). God giving miraculous evidence of his existence may be detrimental to entering that loving relationship. Truth is often felt more profoundly when we have struggled to obtain it.

TikTok Hypnotist vs. Christian Illusionist: Is Faith a Trick of The Mind? Zach Pincince & Bryan Drake | Unbelievable 📽 →

I found this debate between a Christian illusionist and a former Christian (now atheist) hypnotist/mentalist brought an interesting perspective. Both men are aware that people, or our own minds, are capable of tricking us. One has nonetheless embraced his Christian faith while the other rejected it. The discussion circles around many important topics of the Christian faith, but in a charitable way.

I was already aware of Bryan Drake because of his work on reviewing hobby board games, which are one of my favorite past-times. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find him in an apologetics debate and I thought he did well.

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Best With a Cup of Tea

The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew | Michael J. Wilkins 📚 →

I used this commentary to supplement my investigation of Matthew 15-28 for a group Bible study. I really enjoy how the NIVAC is laid out. For each chunk of the text (usually a chapter), the commentary walks through what the text itself means, then pulls out some “big ideas” from the text, then provides an application. The application sections are full of stories from Dr. Wilkins’ life and keep things interesting. The layout works well for personal devotional study.

If you tend to read topical Christian books or do “Bible in a Year” reading plans, allow me to recommend that you buy this commentary and begin a study of the Gospel of Matthew instead. Topical books and Bible reading plans have their place, and I do both, but I have found that I get so much more out of scripture by doing a deep dive with a good commentary.

Every day, read the section of Matthew that the commentary is covering. This will take you about 5 minutes. Then continue reading the commentary where you left off for 15 minutes. That’s only 20 minutes a day, and you should be able to finish one or two sections of Matthew each week.

Keep Your Mind on Things Above

I will be praying for you this week.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6)

Joel Fischer