Author Archives: Andrew Mackie

Trust & Obey

The other day Rick Warren tweeted something that impacted me greatly:

Trust & Obey. Trust & Obey. Trust & Obey. Trust & Obey. Trust & Obey. Trust & Obey. Trust & Obey. Trust & Obey. Got it? Deut 9:23

Deuteronomy 9:23 says this:

And when the Lord sent you out from Kadesh Barnea, he said, “Go up and take possession of the land I have given you.” But you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. You did not trust him or obey him. (NIV)

The context of this passage is that the Israelites, having experienced first hand God's great saving power in their escape from Egypt, failed to trust that the Lord would give them the land of Canaan as He promised. Rather than relying on God's promise and strength, they compared their own strength to that of Canaanites and rebelled against the Lord's command to take the land. As punishment, all of the Israelites – except two faithful people in that generation, Joshua and Caleb – died in the desert.

Perhaps they failed (and we fail) to appreciate the link between trust and obedience. We sin because we lack trust in God and His promises. We take matters into our own hands because we think we know best. We do what we want because we fail to understand the depths of God's goodness and generosity. Specifically:

We chase money rather than the Kingdom because we a) don't trust God's promise to meet our needs (Luke 12:22-31) and b) fail to acknowledge that money has no lasting value (Luke 12:16-21)

We look for sexual gratification outside of marriage because we don't trust the goodness of God's gift in marriage. (Gen 2:24-25, Prov 18:22, 1 Cor 7:2-5, Heb 13:4)

We seek pleasure and comfort now because we don't trust in the surety and goodness of the the rest (heaven) that God has promised us. (Heb 4:8-16, Rev 21:1-4, Don't waste your life)

We allow our lives and conversations to be consumed with things that do not last (work, real estate, sport, tv, etc) because we do not believe that our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:18-21, 2 Cor 5:16-17, Col 3:1-3, 2 Tim 4:9-10)

We try to clean ourselves up after sin because a) we don't believe God that we can't clean ourselves (John 14:6, Mark 2:5-12)  and b) we don't have confidence (ie. don't trust Him) that Christians are already made clean. (Heb 10:19-22, 1 Cor 6:11, Rom 5:6-11)

We allow our behaviour to be shaped by the fear of man rather than the fear of God because we do not trust the Lord to sustain us through and reward us for suffering (Mark 10:28-29, Matt 10:28-33, blog article)

We fail to share the gospel because we don't believe that God takes sin seriously and has promised to judge the world. (Heb 9:27-28, Luke 6:46-49, Rom 1:18-22)

Trust & Obey. Trust & Obey. Trust & Obey. Trust & Obey. Trust & Obey. Trust & Obey. Trust & Obey. Got it?

Freedom from the fear of man

“Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in [Jesus]. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” John 12:42-43

I’m listening to a sermon by JR Vasser (as a guest speaker at The Village Church) called ‘Freedom from the fear of man’ in which my approval-seeking sin is being brought to painful attention. Speaking of these leaders mentioned in the passage above, JR says:

“These men wanted the glory that comes from men and the fear of man – they feared rejection, they wanted to maintain acceptance and approval, they wanted notoriety and attention and the thought of losing it was enough to say no to the God of the universe.”

Ouch. It also contains possibly the clearest explanation of the difference between religion and Christianity that I’ve ever heard:

“Jesus is our saviour and he’s also our model [for our behaviour]. Now you can’t get those two flipped, right? There’s an order to that. He’s our saviour and then becomes our model. Now for some of us, maybe we’ve reversed that. And he’s become a model. And your understanding of religion or your understanding of Christianity is that you try to live like Jesus. You say ‘I try to live a good life, I try to live like Jesus’ – well listen: The reason Jesus died the death he died is because you and I couldn’t live the life he lived. Are you with me? … We’re not perfect; we’re sinners, we’re fallen. We need him to die in our place to bear the judgement for our sin and we put our faith and trust in him and we are justified – declared right before God – and now we realise that we’re working from God’s acceptance, not for it.”

Listen:  direct link to the MP3 |  transcription |  list of sermons |  The Village Podcast

More of JR Vasser’s sermons (from Apostles Church NYC) can be found here:   list of sermons  |  podcast

The NET bible

In response to my post on the Lexham English Bible, Jonathan kindly pointed me to the New English Translation (NET) bible.

Where the LEB provides some useful minor notes on translation decisions, the NET bible translation and study notes are quite extensive. Plus it covers the whole bible – the LEB is New Testament only.

The NET bible is available to view online or as a free download in a variety of formats.

The Lexham English Bible

Logos have just released The Lexham English Bible (LEB) which will be very helpful to any Christian seeking a deeper understanding of the New Testament.

The key benefit of the LEB is that it reveals the decisions made by translators in the bible text itself, allowing you to discern which of the text is (what the preface describes as) ‘a fairly literal translation’ of the original (NA27) Greek, and what are:

  • supplied words –  words that the translators added so that the Greek meaning made sense in English, and
  • idioms – phrases that are modified for English meaning (as a literal translation of the Greek would make no sense to us).

In other words, the LEB helps English speakers like you and I get one step closer to the original Greek, rather than be susceptible to any translator’s bias. Logos call it ‘your second bible’, intended to support your understanding of your primary translation – NIV, ESV, etc – and I look forward to using it in this way.

Best of all, the LEB is made available under a very generous license and is available as a free download.

Unworthy of the universe?

It’s not new, but the Dawkins-Lennox debate on The God Delusion is compelling viewing. 

In his closing remarks, Professor Lennox explains the central tenet of the Christian faith, the historical event of Christ’s resurrection. In response, Professor Dawkins says: 

“Yes, well that concluding bit rather gives the game away, doesn’t it? All that stuff about science and physics and the complications of physics and things … all it comes down to is the resurrection of Jesus. There’s a fundamental incompatibility between the sort of sophisticated scientist which we hear part of the time, from John Lennox, and it’s impressive and we are interested in the argument about multiverses and things. And then, having produced some sort of a case for a kind of a deistic god perhaps, some god the great physicist who adjusted the laws and constants of the universe, that’s all very grand and wonderful and then suddenly we come down to the ressurection of Jesus. It’s so petty, so trivial, it’s so local, so earthbound, it’s so unworthy of the universe.”

Professor Dawkins then compares this with Darwin’s achievement:

“… [that] wherever you see the organised complexity that we call life, that it has an explanation which can derive from simple beginnings by comprehensible, rational means. That is possibly the greatest achievement that any human mind has ever accomplished.”

Is this not an unusual juxtaposition? Jesus’ death and resurrection is so simple we can ignore it, but Darwin’s thesis is so simple, it’s possibly the greatest achievement that any human mind has ever accomplished. Clearly Professor Dawkins has little time for matters that do not require human intellectual achievement to arrive at them, regardless of whether they are historically accurate. Judging from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, this is not a new argument:

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.  1 Corinthians 1:20–25 (NIV)

As for the charge that Christ’s death and resurrection is unworthy of the universe, Professor Dawkins misses the point. The point is that Christ’s death on a cross is unworthy of God:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5–11 (NIV)

Jesus, in spite of being God, humbled himself for us and died on the cross in our place! This is the single most important event in all of history, far outstripping the creation of the universe and all that Professor Dawkins holds dear. He who has ears, let him hear. 

Jars of clay

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:7-18

The nature of being a Christian is to experience suffering and joy at the same time. The purpose of our lives is to be a weak vessel (the jar of clay) containing the glory of the gospel of Christ – not for our glory but for His. And at the end of the day, all we have is Christ.

Josh Patterson of The Village Church gave an excellent sermon on this topic – it can be found on this podcast (entitled ‘Jars of Clay’) or can be listened to online or read

Who was Jesus?

Easter is coming and inevitably with it comes new claims (and typically new books for sale) that promise fresh and controversial revelations about Jesus. 

It’s therefore a good time to remind ourselves of the historical accuracy of our accounts of Jesus and to look again at his identity. This excellent article from the archives of The Briefing does just that.

Psalm 34

Psalm 34:1-22 (NIV)

Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left.

I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the LORD delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.

Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The LORD redeems his servants;
no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.

Relaxed and comfortable?

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.   And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?   For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him,   saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?   If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.   In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?   It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?   For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Luke 14:25-34 (NIV)

I recommend listening to Peter Jensen’s address to CMS Summer School (2007) on this passage. 

Human Wisdom

In this world we’re under pressure to believe that human rationality is the pinnacle of wisdom and the measure by which religion (and the bible) is to be judged. The bible tells us, however, that without God there is no wisdom, only facts:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)

Christians understand this, but we still have a tendency to mix in the messages of the world – our self-worth, our strength, our will, our freedom, our rights, etc – with God’s wisdom, ending up with a poor version of knowing and serving God that ultimately short-changes us. For instance, we sing songs that say ‘Jesus, I’ll never leave you’, when the truth is more in line with Keith Green’s lyric ‘I know that I would surely fall away, except for grace, by which I’m saved’.

Another example is something that a Christian friend said recently, along the lines of

“People don’t love others because they don’t love themselves – they need to love themselves first before they can love others”. This saying probably has a degree of truth in it, but if we were to follow this advice to its logical conclusion, it would take us inside ourselves, to focus on loving ourselves more so that we can love others. The bible has an altogether different view:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:7-21

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:1-5

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 9:10

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim 3:14-17

John Piper points out that we often expect God to love us by ‘making much of us’, ie. that we want or expect love that puts us on a pedestal. But because God is God, the most loving thing He can do for us is ‘to make much of Himself’ and point us to Him, because walking through this life looking ourselves makes as much sense as visiting an art gallery and walking around looking at the floor rather than the pictures. The single most loving thing God can do for us is to point us to Himself, and the single most valuable thing we can do in response is to gaze into Him:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

If we leave all the human wisdom behind and sit at the feet of Jesus, soaking up His word and gazing into the Lord’s face, this gets stripped away. But something interesting happens here, something we don’t expect. By gazing at the Lord’s holiness we are convicted of our sinfulness but are not downtrodden because we also see God’s love, faithfulness and plan for us.

For everything that was written in the past [the Scriptures] was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1:2

God does not provide us with a legalistic ‘you’re worthless’ view of the world, He tells us the truth, – that:

  • we are desperately sinful beyond our understanding and can in no way make ourselves acceptable to Him,
  • that we can and must be reconciled to Him through his free gift of grace, and then to
  • focus on Him so that we can experience the magnitude of his grace and love, learning to love Him

In doing so we won’t attempt to find heaven here but look forward to the the real heaven, where all things will be restored. For Jesus called us to fullness – “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). Anything else is a half-baked compromise.

Can I therefore encourage us to commit ourselves to prayer, that God would give us:

  • wisdom
  • a heart to read, learn and know His word,
  • a heart to pray to Him, and
  • a heart to share His word with each other and others we know?

On that basis, and sharing the Lord’s word with each other, rather than homilies, we can renew our minds so that we:

“… not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

Transformed! This is not being a little different to everyone else, it’s being transformed. By God’s power to become utterly, totally and dramatically different to the people we were. In the previous verse (Rom 12:1), we’re ‘urged’ that “in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship”. Living sacrifices! Nothing of me, and all of Him.

At what point should we be content with our Christian walk? Surely we are to go deeper and deeper into the Lord’s love all of our days. Where is the limit of “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”? (Deut 6:5). I cannot see one. But this is not to be a discouragement but instead an encouragement to press on:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:

 “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:1-11

So yes, we have the freedom to share human wisdom with each other, but what a waste of our time together. Let’s commit ourselves to knowing God and making Him known to each other, speaking the very words of the LORD to each other so that we can be transformed.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements, and his paths beyond tracing out!

“Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?”

 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-34

My prayer for myself is that I can also live up to what we are called to.

Finally, here a some valuable sermons that have instructed me on these topics. I encourage you to listen to them.

John Piper on A Generation Passionate for Gods Holiness

Matt Chandler on The Path series (particularly 1, 2 and 3)