Mining Grace

…the more happiness you have, the more I shall count myself glorified

Archive for April 2008

Resolution 4 – Jonathan Edwards

Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God, nor be, nor suffer it, if I can possibly avoid it.

– Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Hendrickson: Peabody, 2000), 1.lxii.

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This single note–the glory of God–marks not only the entirety of Edwards’s work but also the main point of the Bible and the chief end of man.

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Written by Joe Holland

April 30, 2008 at 10:41 am

It’s the End of the World and I Feel Fine

I have preached twice over the past three weeks on the topic of eschatology, otherwise known as “the end times”. These were not topical sermons. As most of you know, I have the privilege of preaching through 1 Thessalonians on successive Sunday evenings at my church. It just so happens that about halfway through Paul’s letter he gets knee deep in eschatology.

I have never been one of those guys who finds it necessary to argue my millennial position–amillennial. I find the modern fascination with prognosticating on current events and the “horns in Daniel” humorous at best. This is why I have received so much comfort and personal instruction in studying Paul’s teaching on the subject. He is relatively unconcerned with times and seasons, with horns and marks.

Paul’s teaching on eschatology is zealously Christ centered. Whether it is relating the resurrection of dead Christians to Christ’s resurrection or laying forth the promise that Christ’s blood has saved Christians from the wrath of God, Paul consistently founds his eschatology on the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is what I’ve tried to draw out as I’ve preached through 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:1.

The first sermon from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is focused particularly on the “what” of the return of Christ. The second sermon from 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 is focused on the “when” of the return of Christ.

These passages–instead of being laborious or difficult as I expected–ended up being incredibly encouraging to preach through. I hope you will find them to be so as well if you listen to them.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 – In Case of Rapture…

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 – It’s the End of the World and I Feel Fine

Written by Joe Holland

April 29, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Teaching Concerning Divine Election – Dort 1.14

“Just as, by God’s wise plan, this teaching concerning divine election has been proclaimed through the prophets, Christ himself, and the apostles, in Old and New Testament times, and has subsequently been committed to writing in the Holy Scriptures, so also today in God’s church, for which it was specifically intended, this teaching must be set forth—with a spirit of discretion, in a godly and holy manner, at the appropriate time and place, without inquisitive searching into the ways of the Most High. This must be done for the glory of God’s most holy name, and for the lively comfort of his people.”

– The Synod of Dort, 1.14

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“Election must be taught!” How many time have I heard this uttered in Reformed circles? Whatever the number is the number of times it has been said graciously is even less. Dort is incredibly sensitive and dare I say pastoral at this point. “This teaching must be set forth.” It must or God’s purposes in salvation are undermined, his glory diminished, and the bloody cross left utterly anemic. But there is an appropriate way to teach this sometimes difficult to grasp doctrine. Hear the advice of Dort. When teaching election, proceed…

  1. with discretion
  2. in a godly and holy manner
  3. at the appropriate time and place
  4. without inquisitive searching into the ways of God
  5. for the glory of God
  6. and the good of his people

What we say about God but is important but it is also important how we say it.

Written by Joe Holland

April 27, 2008 at 1:28 pm

What I Didn’t Deserve – An Update on My Week

This week–especially Monday–has been filled with unexpected trials, most of which relate to the health of my children.

Monday was my first day back in the office following the T4G conference last week.  I was planning on spending most of the day digging out of whatever had piled up in my absence.  God, however, had different plans.

  • The cough my 10 month had developed the previous night got drastically worse in a matter of hours
  • My 3-year-old dropped a metal grate on his shin splitting it open
  • My wife emailed me at work with a picture of said gashed shin–which I am not posting for the sake of anyone with a weak stomach–to get my counsel on appropriate treatment
  • We concluded it warranted a trip to the doctor’s office
  • I ran home to be with the other two children while my wife took the ill and injured to triage
  • The doctor concluded that the cut required two stitches and the cough required three days of nebulizer treatments

This, of course, required the entire family to make drastic changes to our normal Monday schedule not to mention our normal weekly schedule.  For the sake of time I’m going to leave out my 3-year-old’s roll through a fire ant mound on Tuesday.

When things calmed down Monday afternoon I started to sense in my soul a nagging sense of frustration.  “Hmmm”, I thought, “where is this coming from?”  It certainly wasn’t from my poor suffering children.  It certainly wasn’t from my incredibly caring and equally harried wife.

In an “ah-ha” and “uh-oh” moment I realized that my frustration was with God.

Monday was supposed to be the day that I caught up on work in a blaze of unparalleled productivity.  Monday was supposed to be the day that family life was business as usual.  And then I finally came to the bottom of my soul probing with this root thought, “I don’t deserve a Monday like this.  I deserve better.”

Then, freeing me from my self-pity and self-loathing, the Holy Spirit was pleased to impress upon me the truth of the gospel.  I didn’t deserve a Monday like that.

I deserved worse.

What I deserved was the just wrath and curse of God.  What I deserved was a life of sin and misery followed by eternal death.  What I did not deserve is salvation through the atoning death of Christ.  What I did not deserve is the promise of eternal life.  What I did not deserve was the abiding strength of the Holy Spirit.  What I did not deserve was a godly wife and precious children–no matter how injury prone.  What I did not deserve was to have all of my sufferings tailored made for the good of my soul and the glory of God.

In the end, Monday was a day of getting what I didn’t deserve–God’s sovereign grace.

Written by Joe Holland

April 25, 2008 at 2:27 pm

Posted in haste

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Ref Ref21

If you hadn’t noticed, the Reformation21 website and blog were..well…reformed.  Go check out the new look and new material for this month.

If you subscribe to their blog make sure you make note of two things.

  1. They have added a few new authors.  You’ll have to go look to find out whom.  I love suspense.
  2. Also, the feed has changed.  So if you are a RSS subscriber to the Ref21 blog you need to resubscribe using this link.

Written by Joe Holland

April 24, 2008 at 9:38 am

Posted in haste

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Heaven in his face

Things have been absolutely crazy since I’ve gotten back from T4G.  Blogging has had to take a back seat.  Hopefully some of the events of days past will make it into more thoughtful blog form in the coming days.  God has been faithful to keep the cross before my eyes in the midst of many difficulties.

But for now, I leave you with CH Spurgeon commenting on a Christian’s–and specifically a minister’s–demeanor.

“I commend cheerfulness to all who would win souls; not levity or frothiness, but a genial happy spirit.  There are more flies caught with honey than with vinegar, and there will be more souls led to heaven by a man who wears heaven in his face than by one who bears Tartarus in his looks.”

– C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students: Complete and Unabridged (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 170.

Written by Joe Holland

April 23, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Posted in haste

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Awareness and Assurance – Dort 1.13

“In their awareness and assurance of this election God’s children daily find greater cause to humble themselves before God, to adore the fathomless depth of his mercies, to cleanse themselves, and to give fervent love in return to him who first so greatly loved them. This is far from saying that this teaching concerning election, and reflection upon it, make God’s children lax in observing his commandments or carnally self-assured. By God’s just judgment this does usually happen to those who casually take for granted the grace of election or engage in idle and brazen talk about it but are unwilling to walk in the ways of the chosen.”

– The Synod of Dort, 1.13

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Does the doctrine of assurance tend towards spiritual laziness as some assert?  In this article, the Synod of Dort handles this question with masterful clarity, encouraging us “to adore the fathomless depths of his mercies.”  If some use assurance to justify their own sloth and sin, it is not the fault of the doctrine but a lack of understanding it.

Written by Joe Holland

April 20, 2008 at 9:45 am