Jesus Transforms, Not Flowers

“At many Reformed churches, the particulars of Reformed theology overshadow the cross. The assumption seems to be that if you can master the particulars of TULIP, and are devoted to 1, 2, and 3 John (John Calvin, John Piper, and John MacArthur), then you are spiritually acceptable and everything will be right in your life. Right doctrine is essential, but no “doctrinal flower” can transform your heart. Only the beauty of Jesus transforms the heart.” (JD Greear, Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary)

This Reformed minded dude says, “Amen!” to that!

Bryan Daniels

Mass Murder Is Why A Suffering Sovereign Came

“Mass murder is why Jesus came into the world the way he did. What kind of Savior do we need when our hearts are shredded by brutal loss?

We need a suffering Savior. We need a Savior who has tasted the cup of horror we are being forced to drink.

And that is how he came. He knew what this world needed. Not a comedian. Not a sports hero. Not a movie star. Not a political genius. Not a doctor. Not even a pastor. The world needed what no mere man could be.

The world needed a suffering Sovereign. Mere suffering would not do. Mere sovereignty would not do. The one is not strong enough to save; the other is not weak enough to sympathize.

So he came as who he was: the compassionate King. The crushed Conqueror. The lamb-like Lion. The suffering Sovereign.”

John Piper

Read the rest of the article.

Suffice to say last Friday was the saddest news this nation has faced since 2001. As a father of two sons (1 a year away from kindergarten) and a public school educator the heartache was twofold for me.

I hope this reeling nation doesn’t get too obsessed over tertiary political/social issues in this time.

The only agent that can change the hardest human hearts is not of this world or public policy. Saul, David, and Moses were all once murderers turned servants of the righteous King.

The only agent that can comfort the most shattered human hearts is not of this world either. The perfect hands that were wounded on the cross are strong enough to bind our wounds forevermore.

I pray Sandy Hook turns to the “Suffering Sovereign” alone for comfort.

I pray the other broken on looking souls in America do too.

Bryan Daniels

Man Crush Confession #2: John Piper

{This is a blog series coined “Man Crush Confession.” To access my first “man crush” post go here. Please don’t be offended by my tongue in cheek use of “crush.” It is strictly an homage to a godly influence in my life}

I sat in an open cattle field in central Texas with 40,000 other young adults, fasting for the day and pledging Isaiah 26:8 as our life vision and passion. The year was 2003.

An older man, on the back-end of his fifties and sporting glasses, took the stage. He opened his bible and commenced to lay out the greatness of the person of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture. Every word dripped with blood-earnest weight, every truth was exposited in humble boldness. I had never heard preaching quite like that before. He cast a biblical vision of the holiness of God in Jesus Christ that shook me for days after. As a freshmen college student, with nothing more than unguided fervor for my young faith, I was immediately hooked.

There were plenty of other great messages and messengers at that event. But for that particular sermon my thirsty soul felt like it was drinking from a fire hydrant. He offered free copies of his new book “Don’t Waste Your Life” to all in attendance. After I received my copy in the mail I devoured it 3-4 times and was convicted and encouraged by its radical call to know Christ and make Him known more.

More Than Just Tulips

To my surprise, shortly after this, I found out the speaker, John Piper, was a Calvinist (dum da dum dum!). This perturbed me a little because the only Calvinists I knew personally were a bit contentious and parochial about what mattered in the gospel. Every seemingly harmless conversation with them circled back to the topic of predestination. But Piper was different for me. And through reading his books and using his excellent websource, DesiringGod.org, a world much bigger than five points was opened up to me. The writings of dead guys like Johnathan Edwards, George Mueller, John Owen, and Augustine became a vast plateau of gems spread about a rich church

Not West-side fool. "Westminster!"

history I had never cared to discover. And of course all these dead guys pointed back to the inspired text that revealed the Living Word, Jesus, in a fresh and glorious light.

I was passionate about the gospel before, but my understanding lacked theological and historical depth. There was a host of saints, reformers, ministers, and revivalists who had trod the hard gospel road long before me. They had found their satisfaction and delight in the glory of God as revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that was more than enough for them (2 Cor 4:4, 6). I came to a greater appreciation of the denominational stream I was born into (Baptist); and I also discovered a newfound respect for other streams that converged at the same wonderous cross.

God used a little professor from Minneapolis to help open the wide door of Christian heritage to me.

These revelations began a massive paradigm shift within me: The gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t make much of me. The gospel of Jesus Christ makes much of God. The center of the world is not man and his worth. The center of the world is God and His glory. Piper’s missions manifesto “Let the Nations Be Glad” should be a required read for the missions and evangelistically minded. If you doubt a Calvinist can exalt in God’s sovereignty while simultaneously being sold out to the Great Commission then I highly recommend it. Piper has a solid range of works, from the devotional “Fifty Reasons Jesus Came To Die,” to the scholarly “Justification of God.” The 23% I understood of the latter book helped tie down some loose ends in my thinking about Romans 9 and Predestination (which became a four part blog series).

Your Fav Podcast Pastor Doesn’t Know You

Piper has his faults. He has annoyed many in his own camp with his close associations with Rick Warren or Mark Driscoll. He has annoyed many outside of his camp with his interpretation of biblical masculinity and femininity. But for my readership who don’t know me personally, I am coming clean to you right now about my bromance with John Piper. I’ve never met him but His ministry of the Word has reached me many times when I needed biblical encouragement, conviction, or sometimes just a swift kick in my spiritual butt.

I know there is an unhealthy pedestal e-pastors may be put on in this fast paced information age. So I better stop now before I begin to gush (that would be awkward for everyone). I do want my readers to know how much I appreciate the countless unknown shepherds who tend their small flocks well in relative obscurity. I encourage everyone reading to pray continually for and be complimentary of the man God has entrusted to them to be their pastor. We’re subject to real local elders (Heb 13:17), not rock star international conference speakers.

With that said, I’d like to hear who your longtime Man Crush Confession or secret Bromance may be (I won’t judge, promise : ))

What post-biblical era leader, living or dead, has impacted your life in Christ in a positive permanent way?

Bryan Daniels

And just for kicks:

Romans 9 and Predestination-Part 1

I guess we’ll just go ahead and jump headlong into the theological fray. No matter, our impact won’t even be a lonely raindrop in the ocean of far more superior scholarly works. In the coming days I’ll try (imperative word) to tackle Romans 9:1-24.  It will be a three four part “series” for the sake of blog brevity. It won’t be nearly a final word on the matter, but I do want to encourage everyone to observe that there are at least good reasons to take the Reformed view seriously regarding Romans 9. Of course the invitation is open to all for any comments, encouragements or critiques throughout.

There are billions of resources out there if you would like to do a much more thorough and technical study of Romans 9. I recommend thoughtfully perusing what you may find here. If you are a Greek geek you may want to try John Piper’s excellent book on the matter, “The Justification of God.” As far as this blog is concerned, what follows are just some cursory observations about a highly controversial set of passages from a guy with no formal theological training. Yet none of this material is wholly original, I’ve stood on the backs of much wiser men for all of the grammatical and historical context. Read and proceed with caution.

Let’s begin with Romans 9:1-5:

I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

Paul is rending his heart wide open here. He is heartbroken over his nation’s rejection of Christ. Even with all the national benefits of being God’s choice ethnic people, for some reason many of them have remained in their unbelief.

In Romans 9:1-5 there is a provocative question raised by Paul. Namely, why are so many in the elect nation of Israel cut off from Christ? Paul is clearly concerned about the salvation of his Israel brethren, specific individual Israeli brethren. Paul does not desire to be accursed because Israel has forfeited it’s national (or theocratic) privileges by its rejection of Christ, rather Paul is anguished because so many people in the Jewish nation are forfeiting salvation and eternal life by their rejection of Christ.

If we forget the backdrop of verses 1-5, then the rest of chapter 9 will hold no coherence for us whatsoever.

Remember, context is king when interpreting Scripture. The whole reasoning behind verses 6-13 are that they are the answers to the concern Paul raised in verses 1-5. What’s the concern? Namely this: Why has the overwhelming majority of Israel with all it’s historic privileges (covenant, prophets, law, patriarchs, etc.) rejected Christ and now has fallen short of the covenant promises? Has the word of God failed? Paul gives a succinct answer in the next verse, Romans 9:6:

“Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” 

Paul makes a very important distinction here between the merely ethnic Israel (circumcised in the flesh)  and the true spiritual Israel (circumcised in the heart).

Verse six is an important key to unlocking the meaning of chapter 9. Those of Arminian (free will) persuasion usually apply verses 6-13 to the collective national election of Israel, not the salvation of individual Jews. This is done in order to restrict election or predestination to nations rather than individuals. While listening to sermons on Romans 9 I’ve heard many Arminian preachers assert with vehemence, “These verses (6-13) have absolutely nothing to do with salvation!” Of course, this doesn’t make the predestination of individuals any easier to swallow for them in verses like Romans 8:28-30 or Ephesians 1:4-10, but it is doubtful those verses will be brought up in their handling of Romans 9 anyways.

Consider again the problem posed in verses 1-5 (why are so many in Israel in unbelief and going to hell?), and the response Paul gives to that problem in verse 6: Many Israelites of the flesh are not the true spiritual elect of Israel. Paul introduces similar language about the elect in Israel in Romans 2:28-29 and later in Romans 11:7:

What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened…

Given the fact that Paul’s deepest concern in verses 1-5 is about individual Jews condemned in their unbelief, verses 6-13 cannot be talking about Israel in collective or vague general terms. Verses 6-13 are not talking about a distinction of elect Israel with the rest of the world, but rather distinctions within Israel, between those are individually elect and those who are not (Romans 9:6).

In part I, I have been purposefully repetitious regarding my main argument. If we can grasp these two major points here the rest of Romans 9 will begin to fall into place for us:

1. The nature and significance of Paul’s problem in Romans 9:1-5: Why are so many who are of Israel accursed and apart from Christ?

2. Paul’s introductory answer to that problem in Romans 9:6: There is a distinction between ethnic Israel and spiritual Israel. There is distinction between those of the flesh and those who are truly saved.

With those two points established it becomes clear Romans 9 is speaking not about corporate identities, but eternal destinies. To inject a corporate understanding of verses 6-13 makes Paul’s entire argument disjointed and incoherent.

In Romans 9:6-13, Paul tries to answer the next important question that comes by implication, “What then is the distinguishing mark of those who are saved/true Israel?” In part II, we will find the answer he gives has everything to do with God’s free electing mercy and little to do with man’s free will.

Grace be with you all.

Bryan Daniels

Get off Facebook! BE A MAN!

Paul Washer is one of my favorite voices in the recent Reformed movement. He’s passionate, radical, sometimes abrasive and frequently offends his audience…probably just as a forerunner to the Bridegroom should do (just look at that rough and tumble wild man John the Baptist!) A healthy 1/3 of the sermons on my IPod are from Paul Washer with Piper, Chandler and Driscoll compiling the rest.

I know it seems hypocritical and a bit ironic to post a video rant about Facebook on a blog, especially when it is likely this will be shared via Facebook. There is more here than just an epic rant I assure you. Biblical manhood is Washer’s main focus, and I believe FB and the social media craze in general has an unhealthy grip on both young men and women. A majority of women age 18-35 check their facebook account’s in the morning before they even pee. That’s some news, folks. I share a generation that values a self-indulgent stalker tool over the basic essential bodily functions and needs.

I probably already have YOU!

Though there is much to lament about our societal fixation with the trivial (Trolololo Man, I regret to indict you), I know the Holy Spirit has the power to break through the self-inflicted distractions of our lives. I hope Washer’s message doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Godly men will not be found until grown boys repent of their wayward consumption of entertainment and social media.

And I’ll admit, I should be the first one in that line.

Bryan Daniels

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