Cold Outside, Hot Inside

It is below freezing outside right now. FAR below freezing. My wife, who is a high school teacher, has her second day off from school because of the cold. I remember when I was a child, we had to wait for the bus in temperatures just as cold as these…but times have changed.

I was walking to my car this afternoon to go to lunch, and it felt like the wind off of the frozen tundra of Antioch, IL., was penetrating my bones. In that moment, I realized that there was a time when my heart was even colder toward God, than what I was experiencing outwardly. Cold and dead.

There is a coldness that is far more severe and deadly than what the thermometer can measure. Jesus says in Matthew 24:12-13, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

I believe that we are living very close to the time that Jesus was referring to in his Olivet Discourse. The love of most IS growing colder and colder. But Jesus has the power to revive our hearts and make them burn for him!

Jeremiah the prophet said, “…his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot (Jer 20:9).” When Jeremiah met the Lord, his heart was revived, and his passion for God was renewed. Is that your experience? Do you burn with fiery passion for the Lord of Hosts like Jeremiah did?

If not, ask him to warm your heart to him. Ask Jesus to take away the coldness from your attitude and give you holy heat!

The Necessity of Penal Substitution Part I

Here is a very basic understanding of what is at the heart of the meaning of the death of Jesus:

In the 19th century, the hymn writer Philip Bliss penned the following lyrics regarding Jesus Christ: “Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood; Sealed my pardon with his blood. Hallelujah! What a Savior”[1] This sublime hymn clearly articulates one of the key aspects of the Christian faith, namely the significance of the death of Jesus Christ. Understanding the meaning of the death of Jesus is crucially important for every person. Why indeed did Jesus have to die?

In contemporary culture, there are so many opposing responses to this question that it is hard for many to get to the heart of the answer. For some, the death of Jesus was a tragedy that should have been avoided. For others, it was the most loving act of self sacrifice in history, and an example that we should follow. There are those who believe that the death of Jesus was a necessary ransom to pay to the devil in order to free mankind from his grasp. Still others believe that, “Calvary may be an episode in God’s government of the world…as the argument goes, God, being holy, deemed it necessary to show to the world His hatred of sin, and so His wrath fell on Christ.”[2] And yet, there is also a current “reclaiming” by many in the Christian faith of the most wonderful doctrine of the cross, called Penal Substitution.

The great reformer Martin Luther described Penal Substitution like this, “Christ took all our sins upon him and for them died upon the cross. Therefore, it was right for him to be ‘numbered with the transgressors’…Christ bears all the sins of all people in his body. It was not that he himself committed these sins, but he received the sins that we had committed; they were laid on his own body, that he might make satisfaction for them with his own blood.”[3] This is the glorious doctrine of Penal Substitution. As another hymn writer named Isaac Watts once wrote: “Was it for crimes that I have done he groaned up on the tree? Amazing pity, grace unknown and love beyond degree!”[4]

The doctrine of Penal Substitution is at the heart of the Cross itself. Of course, penal substitution is not the only way to look at the death of Christ; in fact the Bible employs many different pictures of what occurred at Calvary. However, the overall picture would not be complete without it. In order to perceive how necessary this doctrine is, one must understand its relevance in scripture, tradition, reason, the Christian experience, and how it is personally applicable to all followers of Christ.


There are many biblical passages from both the Old and New Testaments which proclaim the doctrine of Penal Substitution very clearly, even though this doctrine has many detractors. In his book, “Proclaiming the Scandal of the Cross” Mark Baker features an author who is on record as saying that the concept of penal substitution is nothing less than Divine child abuse! This is certainly an emotional argument against the theory of penal substitutionary atonement, and one that is not to be taken seriously, for reasons we shall henceforth see.

As early as Exodus chapter 12, we see penal substitution imagery displayed in the Passover, where a lamb was to be slain and its blood smeared on the door posts of the Israelites for their deliverance. About this event, Mark Dever writes, “God does not say that the Israelites were exempt from judgment just because they were Israelites… If they would be saved, it would not be because God’s justice had no claim against them; it would be because when God saw the blood on the door frames, the blood of the sacrificial substitute, he would in grace pass over that house as he judged”[6] (emphasis mine). It is an interesting correlation that when John the Baptist first saw Jesus in John 1:29 he proclaimed, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” This is a clear reference to the substitutionary work of Christ which came to fulfillment on the cross when he “…was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.”[7]

Indeed, throughout the whole Old Testament we see type after type, and shadow after shadow and even prophesy after prophesy about the substitutionary nature of the Messiah of Israel. In Leviticus 16 the “Day of Atonement”, or Yom Kippur is described. This was the day when the sins of Israel were atoned for and in order for that to happen, there had to be a blood sacrifice. Verses 11, 15-16, and 21-22 give the basic summary of what occurred:

“Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household…He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bulls blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been…He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites…and put them on the goat’s head…the goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert.”

Here is basic penal substitution illustrated. The bulls and goats had not intrinsic guilt of their own but they were appointed to carry the guilt of the sins of the nation on themselves. In particular, verse 22 explicitly says that the “scape goat” is the one who carries the sins on its own head. In our vernacular the term “scape goat” is usually used to describe a person who is blamed for something that someone else did. In Leviticus 16 the scape goat is “blamed” for the sins of the people and he is released into the wilderness to die as the penalty for those sins vicariously. In the same way Jesus Christ is like our scape-goat, he is legally blamed for our sins, and in return we are pardoned! The Tyndale Bible Dictionary says, “Israel understood that to bear sin meant enduring the consequences, or penalty, for sin (cf. Nm 14:33). The same penal substitution is evident in the working principle of the Messiah’s atoning sacrifice. He is the victim’s substitute to whom is transferred the suffering due the sinner. The penalty having been thus borne vicariously, the suppliant is fully pardoned.”[8]

In Leviticus 17, God is giving his Law to Moses, when a most important statement is made about how He is to be reconciled to man in verse 11, “…the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the alter; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” That word “atonement” is similar to the word “reconciliation.” In fact, the word “atonement” can be divided by its syllables to understand its meaning, “at-one-ment.” In other words, when atonement is made, reconciliation is made. The two become one again. “Objectively and once for all, Christ achieved reconciliation for us through penal substitution. On the cross he took our place, carried our identity as it were, bore the curse due to us.”[9] As Galatians 3:13 explicitly says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” The curse of the Law was laid on Christ who Paul says, became a “curse for us.” The apple of God’s eye became a rotten apple so to speak, so that other rotten apples could be made whole again.

Perhaps the most graphic and prominent portrayal of this concept of Penal Substitution is in Isaiah 53:5-6, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (emphasis mine). These verses could not be more evident about the fact that the Messiah’s role would be one of bearing the punishment that others deserve!

The Apostle Peter would later write about Jesus Christ that, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” And also…”For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit…”[10] These verses emphasize “the substitutionary nature of Christ’s death. He “suffered once for all concerning sins, the just for the unjust.” Again the note of innocent suffering is sounded: He was righteous and thus suffered not for any misdeeds of His own but as a substitute for those who were unrighteous, who justly deserved punishment for sin.”[11]

[1] Bliss, Philip. Hallelujah! What a SaviorCelebration Hymnal. orchestration ed. Nashville, TN: Word Entertainment Music, 1997.

[2]Evans, William ; Coder, S. Maxwell: The Great Doctrines of the Bible. Enl. ed. Chicago : Moody Press, 1998, c1974, S. 73

[3] Luther, Martin. Galatians (Crossway Classic Commentaries) (Crossway Classic Commentaries). 1st British ed ed. Leicester, England: Crossway Books, 1998.151.

[4] Watts, Isaac. At The CrossCelebration Hymnal. orchestration ed. Nashville, TN: Word Entertainment Music, 1997.

[5] Baker, Mark. Proclaiming the Scandal of the Cross: Contemporary Images of the Atonement. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2006. 22.

[6] Dever, Mark. It Is Well: Expositions on Substitutionary Atonement. Leicester, England: Crossway Books, 2010. 19-20.

[7] Hebrews 9:28

[8]Elwell, Walter A. Tyndale Bible Dictionary (Tyndale Reference Library). Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2008. 888.

[9] Packer, J. I.. Concise Theology (sc). Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001.

[10] 1Peter 2:243:18

[11]Zuck, Roy B. A Biblical Theology of the New Testament. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1994. 443.

Wonderful Encouragement from Brooks

The great Puritan and pastor Thomas Brooks wrote that he wanted his congregation to be, “…as the fishes, which live in the salt sea yet are fresh, so you, though you live in a uncharitable world, may yet be charitable and loving; That ye may, like the bee, suck honey out of every flower; That ye may shine in a sea of troubles, as the pearl shines in the sky, though it grows in the sea…”

No one says it like the Puritans, and out of them, no one says it like Brooks! This is the great reason I love reading ol’ Tommy Boy, his analogies are unparalleled, maybe in all of Christian literature. Just before the above quote, Brooks was talking about how satan is like a pirate: “Pirates make the strongest and hottest opposition against those vessels that are most richly laden. So doth Satan, that arch-pirate, against those truths that have most of God, Christ, and heaven in them.”

Great stuff! I would definitely recommend getting volume 1 of the Works Of Thomas Brooks on Amazon. I guarantee that you will read it to your eternal benefit. Here is the link:–1/dp/0851513034/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1390854970&sr=8-3&keywords=works+of+thomas+brooks+volume+1 

Thoughts on being older than Jesus

Ok, before you bite my head off, my title is not attempting to be blasphemous or irreverent. For the record, Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End (Rev 21:6). “Before Abraham was”, he said, “I AM ” (Jn 8:58). But what I mean is, most biblical scholars believe that Jesus laid down his earthly life on the cross when he was just 33 years old, and tomorrow I turn 34. In some ways this is pretty scary. Uncharted territory.

At 33, Jesus perfectly completed all the work that he set out to do. When he died, he said, “It is finished” (Jn 19:30). Before I go on, I need to say very clearly that the Perfect Life, Mission and Person of Jesus of Nazareth is INFINITELY more important, and INFINITELY more precious, and INFINITELY more valuable to the Universe than my own. I am but dust and ashes. And sinful pitiful dust and ashes at that!

Nevertheless, the fact that Jesus died at 33, makes my turning 34 cause me to take serious assessment of my life. How do I spend my days? How much of the precious time allotted to me is frittered away on things that will not stand on the final Day? If even the Lord deemed it not necessary for him to live to 34, I should not take my time for granted! Jesus laid down his life at exactly the right time, but I have no idea when my time will come to die. 

I know that God has a plan for me. I am SO grateful for the manifold blessings that he has poured out and continues to pour out on my life. God has been so faithful to me, even when I have not been faithful to him. Everything I have is because of his Grace, and the fact that tomorrow I turn 34 years old is just more evidence of that. 

Thank you Lord, for giving me this gift of life. I do not deserve it. I also do not deserve the eternal life that you have given me. But because of your Grace and Love, you have saved me. Hallelujah! Help me to redeem my time. Help me to live more fully and completely for YOU and for YOUR GLORY! Help me to be bold in my witness and gentle in my interactions. Help me to love and care for my wife. Oh God, it is all of Grace! In whatever time I have left, I want to know you more. I want to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord more and more until we meet face to face at last. Thank you for my birthday, my Lord! AMEN.

Adam and Eve were REAL

There is no getting around it. If Adam and Eve did not exist as real people who actually lived on this earth, then nothing in the subsequent historical record of the Bible or even the world makes any sense. Doctor Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it this way, “You cannot understand the modern world apart from the doctrine of original sin…That is why we must believe the early chapters of Genesis if we are to believe the New Testament. You cannot have a true doctrine of salvation apart from this.” 

I know it is fashionable to say that there was never an historical Adam, but if Adam did not exist, then the FALL did not occur. If the FALL did not occur, the ramifications of this are HUGE! If we accept that, then there is no explanation for why Jesus came to earth, and there is no explanation for why the world is so messed up. 

So what do you think? Is belief in the historical Adam necessary to the Christian life?

Courage In The Face Of A Fiery Death

A while ago I burned my finger on the oven pulling out a pizza. The pain was intense and dramatic. There was almost a color for that pain. As I squeezed my eyes shut all I could see was blue light and all that encompasses ME became my finger. Wouldn’t you know it, as I was running my hand under cold water and watching the blister form, I reached for a slice of pizza with the other hand and burned the BEEP out of my mouth with my first bite! Ok, so I am an idiot. I learned once again that day that being burnt really stinks. But that experience also turned my thoughts to people in history who were actually burned alive for their faith in Jesus. How is such courage possible? Am I willing to submit to the same, if I am alive when that kind of persecution comes to America?

Last week I taught a Sunday school class on Martin Luther at the “Diet of Worms.” For those of you who do not know, the Diet of Worms was not a weight loss fad in the 16th century. It was a tribunal which was convened by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V at the behest of his buddy Pope Leo X, to try the Catholic monk Martin Luther for heresy. Suffice it to say, Luther for his part had been causing quite a stir in Germany and the rest of Europe over the previous couple of years by challenging what he saw as severe abuses within the Church. So when the Emperor and co. convened this “diet” or trial, their intention was to condemn Luther and burn him the stake if he would not repent.

It was at the Diet of Worms that Luther took his stand, knowing full well that by doing so he would surely die. At the end of his trial, his prosecutor Johannes Eck asked Luther to state plainly whether or not he would recant his “heresies” contained in his many books. Here is what Luther said: “Since then your imperial majesty and your lordships demand a simple answer, I will give you one without teeth and without horns. Unless I am convicted of error by the testimony of Scripture or by manifest evidence…I cannot and will not retract, for we must never act contrary to our conscience….Here I stand. God help me! Amen!”

What incredible courage that statement took! Here is a man who was willing to lay down his life for the sake of the Truth of the Gospel. After the trial, Luther was “kidnapped” and whisked away by his friend Prince Fredrick the Wise, so in fact, he did not burn for his testimony but the point is that he was willing to.

It was not very much later that men like Hugh Latimer, Nicolas Ridley, John Hooper and Thomas Cranmer DID burn at the stake because of their faith in Jesus. Latimer and Ridley were tied up together, back to back, and as the fire was lit, Latimer said, “Take courage and play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” How amazing!

Think about those words, burned at the stake. The sort of suffering that that kind of death entails must be indescribable. And yet, as followers of Jesus even that is not beyond the scope of what we may be called to endure for the sake of His Glorious Gospel. Indeed, that is part of the reason the “Prosperity gospel” is really no Gospel at all. There is nothing in the Scripture which says that once we become followers of Jesus all our bills will be paid and all our dreams will come true. We are called as Christians to suffer, and it is primarily by suffering that the Gospel has always gone forth! 2 Timothy 1:8 says, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.” It is the power of God which enables us to suffer for his name. That is how Luther and Latimer and Ridley and so many others were able to endure. The power of God.

It is also easy to think, “oh well then if that time ever comes, I will just rely on the power of God to sustain me, and until then I have nothing to worry about.” But unless we are dying to ourselves every day, we will NOT have the courage to die by fiery persecution. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “…Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” If we do not take up our cross now what makes us think we will when the storm comes?

There is reward tied to our suffering for the Lord. Hebrews 11:35 says, “…There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.” Certainly this is motivation! This is why Paul wrote, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” AMEN.

So, are we suffering for the Lord in some way? In any way? If we are living for Him, Jesus promises that we will suffer, “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matt 10:22).”

The world looks at a person who never suffers as a blessed person. But if you never suffer for Jesus, that is not a sign of blessing, in fact it may be the opposite.

Books Can Be Oppressive

I love and hate my home library. Well, maybe hate is too strong a word. On the one hand, I have spent years and thousands of dollars to obtain the very best literature that the Christian Church has produced throughout its long history. It has taken a great deal of effort to sift through, and whittle down my collection to only contain the best (in my humble opinion) books on God and the Christian life. These include many that I have not read yet, but know they are good books from the testimony of history. My home library is like a sanctuary. I feel like when I am in that room in my home, I am in a holy place. That may sound very weird, but that’s how I feel. 

There are times when I wake up in the morning and walk into our spare room where my books are held, and I will just sit on the couch and stare at them. Not read them…stare at them. And therein lies the rub. Its not that my books are idols, although there may be some reading this who may challenge me on that, it is that sometimes they can be oppressive to me. What I mean is, I have too many that I haven’t read, and so often when I walk into my sanctu/brary i can hear each one calling my name, “Come here David, you know that I am a great book, I’ve been sitting here for SO LONG! Haven’t you always wanted to read The Marrow Of Theology?” “No David! Read ME! I have been on your shelf for over a year!”

The problem is that I buy more books than I am able to read with my schedule, and ironically that actually causes me to read less because when I pick up one book, 10 others are begging for my attention. The result is that I sometimes find myself reading two pages of my “book club book,” and then a page of Augustine, then a page of Edwards, then half a sermon by Martyn Lloyd-Jones before I close all four books and head off to work or bed with an excedrin headache. My wife says that this is proof positive of ADD, and maybe so, but I used to be able to read one book all the way through and enjoy it. Now I have too many to enjoy. 

I can hear my friends from church chomping at the bit to alleviate me of my “problem” by taking them off my hands, but what is the problem exactly? Is it just having too many books? I don’t think so. I think that it has more to do with having too many unread books. SO, here is my action plan. I am going to put some sort of drapes or bed sheets over my bookshelves so that I cannot see them. Then I will choose 1 book to read (in addition to my Bible), and stick with it till the end. THEN I will start another book. I feel like I need to get my confidence back that a book can be finished before starting another one. So here I am a 1:30am staring at my books…OK! Works of Thomas Brooks Vol.1, I choose YOU! Pray for me….