Category Archives: Jesus Christ

The Sad Tale Of Eliot Spitzer, and What it Tells Us (and What it Doesn’t)

Eliot Spitzer, the governor of New York, has resigned after it became public that he had hired prostitutes through a “high-end clientele” business. The story is sordid, and very sad for the people whom Mr. Spitzer has let down. This would include, significantly, his wife, and, not insignificantly, the state of New York.

In looking at web coverage of this event, I came across this article in the LA Times by an evolutionary biologist. David Barash argues in “Want a Man, or a Worm?” that it is natural for males of many species to copulate with a wide variety of females from their species. Barash notes that among men who seek a number of female sex partners that “Even if, thanks to birth control technology, they do not actually reproduce as a result (and thus enhance their evolutionary “fitness”), they are responding to the biological pressures that whisper within men.” This is a good point. If one looks through most any type of human history, biblical or otherwise, one sees that men often seek out a number of women for sex. Speaking rather broadly, many men have struggled greatly to confine their sexual drive to one woman, particularly men in positions of power like Mr. Spitzer.

Here’s the fascinating thing about Barash’s opinion piece, though. Right after acknowledging this historically proven situation, he says the following: “That doesn’t justify adultery, by either sex, especially because human beings — even those burdened by a Y chromosome and suffering from testosterone poisoning — are presumed capable of exercising control over their impulses. Especially if, via wedding vows, they have promised to do so. After all, “doing what comes naturally” is what nonhuman animals do. People, most of us like to think, have the unique capacity to act contrary to their biologically given inclinations. Maybe, in fact, it is what makes us human.” One wonders why the evolutionary biologist–who has just taken numerous paragraphs to explain polygamous mammalian sexual behavior as entirely natural–suddenly becomes a moralist, and attempts to convince the reader that the natural orientation of men (to avoid monogamy) “doesn’t justify adultery“. Barash has offered us no moral framework, no higher, transcendent cause or reason by which he could justify his judgement that adultery is wrong. If biology explains all, then all that we have an “is”, an explanation for what goes on in the world, but we have no “ought”, for biology in itself cannot bequeath us morality, let alone the spirituality that would birth a moral standard. No, if we explain life in materialistic terms, then we live it, ethically, in materialistic terms, and adultery cannot be judged wrong, and Eliot Spitzer cannot be looked upon in a negative light. Yet this is exactly what even the most learned among us do, and so show us, time and again, that the Christian worldview alone gives us a comprehensive, logical understanding of man and man’s world.

Christian men are reminded by this sad event to seek self-control, or, perhaps, Spirit-control of self. It is no accident that men have sought polygamous relationships throughout history and that men seem far more often than women to destroy marriages and homes through extramarital affairs. This is not to say that women do not ever fall in such ways, or that all women possess less reproductive drive than men, but it is to say that a quick historical scan yields that men are much more likely to stray than women are. We can acknowledge, then, that there are significant “biological pressures that whisper within men”, as Barash argues. We go beyond this, however, to say that adultery involves not merely biology but spirituality. Indeed, it is our sinful nature, our errant spirituality, that drives our biology. Adam would not have cheated on Eve prior to the fall. His biology operated at a cool “faithful” then then. His fall, though, shot that temperature up to “hungry”, and won him a sinful nature, and a part of this sinful nature is the drive to commit the horrible, tragedy-inducing sin of adultery. Biology matters, yes, but so too does spirituality.

Men have been attempting to control themselves (to follow Barash’s moral guidance) for millenia, and we can all see where that’s gotten us. No, we must have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, willing us away from Internet ads and tv shows and stray glances at the mall and extended consideration and appraisal of other men’s spouses and meditation on past objects of lust and spending time alone with women who are not our spouses and so much more. We must have the Spirit, men, and we must strive for holiness, both personally and in the embrace of the local church. It is a difficult thing to be a monogamous man, armed with a sinful nature and existing in a sex-saturated world, but we can resist temptation. We’ve got to fight for holiness, we’ve got to prize Christ and find our joy in obeying Him and turning away from the world, and we’ve got to celebrate marriage and cultivate happy, romantic marriages. Only then will we avoid Mr. Spitzer’s mistake; only then will we avoid his tragedy.

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Filed under adultery, David Barash, eliot spitzer, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, la times, male sex drive, masculinity, new york times, sex, sex drive

The Sad Tale Of Eliot Spitzer, and What it Tells Us (and What it Doesn’t)

Eliot Spitzer, the governor of New York, has resigned after it became public that he had hired prostitutes through a “high-end clientele” business. The story is sordid, and very sad for the people whom Mr. Spitzer has let down. This would include, significantly, his wife, and, not insignificantly, the state of New York.

In looking at web coverage of this event, I came across this article in the LA Times by an evolutionary biologist. David Barash argues in “Want a Man, or a Worm?” that it is natural for males of many species to copulate with a wide variety of females from their species. Barash notes that among men who seek a number of female sex partners that “Even if, thanks to birth control technology, they do not actually reproduce as a result (and thus enhance their evolutionary “fitness”), they are responding to the biological pressures that whisper within men.” This is a good point. If one looks through most any type of human history, biblical or otherwise, one sees that men often seek out a number of women for sex. Speaking rather broadly, many men have struggled greatly to confine their sexual drive to one woman, particularly men in positions of power like Mr. Spitzer.

Here’s the fascinating thing about Barash’s opinion piece, though. Right after acknowledging this historically proven situation, he says the following: “That doesn’t justify adultery, by either sex, especially because human beings — even those burdened by a Y chromosome and suffering from testosterone poisoning — are presumed capable of exercising control over their impulses. Especially if, via wedding vows, they have promised to do so. After all, “doing what comes naturally” is what nonhuman animals do. People, most of us like to think, have the unique capacity to act contrary to their biologically given inclinations. Maybe, in fact, it is what makes us human.” One wonders why the evolutionary biologist–who has just taken numerous paragraphs to explain polygamous mammalian sexual behavior as entirely natural–suddenly becomes a moralist, and attempts to convince the reader that the natural orientation of men (to avoid monogamy) “doesn’t justify adultery“. Barash has offered us no moral framework, no higher, transcendent cause or reason by which he could justify his judgement that adultery is wrong. If biology explains all, then all that we have an “is”, an explanation for what goes on in the world, but we have no “ought”, for biology in itself cannot bequeath us morality, let alone the spirituality that would birth a moral standard. No, if we explain life in materialistic terms, then we live it, ethically, in materialistic terms, and adultery cannot be judged wrong, and Eliot Spitzer cannot be looked upon in a negative light. Yet this is exactly what even the most learned among us do, and so show us, time and again, that the Christian worldview alone gives us a comprehensive, logical understanding of man and man’s world.

Christian men are reminded by this sad event to seek self-control, or, perhaps, Spirit-control of self. It is no accident that men have sought polygamous relationships throughout history and that men seem far more often than women to destroy marriages and homes through extramarital affairs. This is not to say that women do not ever fall in such ways, or that all women possess less reproductive drive than men, but it is to say that a quick historical scan yields that men are much more likely to stray than women are. We can acknowledge, then, that there are significant “biological pressures that whisper within men”, as Barash argues. We go beyond this, however, to say that adultery involves not merely biology but spirituality. Indeed, it is our sinful nature, our errant spirituality, that drives our biology. Adam would not have cheated on Eve prior to the fall. His biology operated at a cool “faithful” then then. His fall, though, shot that temperature up to “hungry”, and won him a sinful nature, and a part of this sinful nature is the drive to commit the horrible, tragedy-inducing sin of adultery. Biology matters, yes, but so too does spirituality.

Men have been attempting to control themselves (to follow Barash’s moral guidance) for millenia, and we can all see where that’s gotten us. No, we must have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, willing us away from Internet ads and tv shows and stray glances at the mall and extended consideration and appraisal of other men’s spouses and meditation on past objects of lust and spending time alone with women who are not our spouses and so much more. We must have the Spirit, men, and we must strive for holiness, both personally and in the embrace of the local church. It is a difficult thing to be a monogamous man, armed with a sinful nature and existing in a sex-saturated world, but we can resist temptation. We’ve got to fight for holiness, we’ve got to prize Christ and find our joy in obeying Him and turning away from the world, and we’ve got to celebrate marriage and cultivate happy, romantic marriages. Only then will we avoid Mr. Spitzer’s mistake; only then will we avoid his tragedy.

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Filed under adultery, David Barash, eliot spitzer, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, la times, male sex drive, masculinity, new york times, sex, sex drive

One of the Most Helpful Posts on Guidance I’ve Read: Dever on Subjectivism

Update on 2/21/08: Apparently I linked to the wrong blog yesterday. Thankfully, Mark Dever caught my error and corrected it, as you can see in the comments. I’m pretty sure that this is the first time he’s ever seen this blog, so I’ll have to err more often.

I came across a very helpful little piece on guidance today. It’s by Mark Dever and it can be found at the Together for the Gospel blog.” (HT: Justin Taylor) The post is titled “The Bondage of “Guidance” and it is well worth the five minutes it takes to read it. Here’s a helpful excerpt from it:

“I do believe that God’s Spirit will sometimes lead us subjectively. So, for instance, I am choosing to spend my life here on Capitol Hill because my wife & I sensed in 1993 that that is what God wanted us to do. However, I realized then (and now) that I could be wrong about that supposition. Scripture is NEVER wrong. I was free in 1993 to stay in England, or teach at a seminary, either of which would have been delightful opportunities. I understand that I was free to make those choices. But I chose, consulting Scripture, friends, wisdom, and my own subjective sense of the Lord’s will, to come to DC. And even if I were wrong about that, I had (and have) that freedom in Christ to act in a way that is not sin. And I understand my pastoring here not to be sin. So I am free. Regardless of the sense of leading I had.”

And here’s another:

“A subjective sense of leading–when we’ve asked for it (as in James 1:5 we ask for wisdom) and when God freely gives it–is wonderful. The desire for such a subjective sense of leading, however, is too often, in contemporary evangelical piety, binding our brothers and sisters in Christ, paralyzing them from enjoying the good choices that God may provide, and causing them to wait wrongly before acting.”

This is great stuff. I’ve encountered a good many Christians who are genuinely confused about this question. In fact, I’ve been one of those Christians (and still am, sometimes). Those of us who tie ourselves up in knots over the issue of discovering God’s will go beyond the Scripture, I think. That is to say, the Bible does not expect us, I think, to perfectly know God’s will for every decision we make in our lives. It is no bad desire to want such leading–in fact, I think it shows a healthy respect for the sovereign will of God as applied to our lives–but the Bible does not prescribe any sort of process by which we may automatically discern what it is that God wants for us. We are to pray, clearly, and we are to take counsel, and search the Word, and use wisdom conformed to biblical thought patterns, but beyond these things, as Dever writes, we are free to make what we believe to be the godly choice. This is a strange concept for some of us, this idea of freedom, but we must remember that this is a gift that Christ has graciously given to us. We must remind ourselves of the scriptural truth that the blood of Christ has not subjected to us a decisional bondage, but liberated us to live freely and joyfully under the reign of Christ. Hopefully, we’ll be able to remember this truth as we live, and so free ourselves from a paralysis of will that, however well-intended, ultimately loses sight of the Christ-given gift of freedom.

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Filed under 9Marks, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, church matters blog, Jesus Christ, justin taylor, Mark Dever

One of the Most Helpful Posts on Guidance I’ve Read: Dever on Subjectivism

Update on 2/21/08: Apparently I linked to the wrong blog yesterday. Thankfully, Mark Dever caught my error and corrected it, as you can see in the comments. I’m pretty sure that this is the first time he’s ever seen this blog, so I’ll have to err more often.

I came across a very helpful little piece on guidance today. It’s by Mark Dever and it can be found at the Together for the Gospel blog.” (HT: Justin Taylor) The post is titled “The Bondage of “Guidance” and it is well worth the five minutes it takes to read it. Here’s a helpful excerpt from it:

“I do believe that God’s Spirit will sometimes lead us subjectively. So, for instance, I am choosing to spend my life here on Capitol Hill because my wife & I sensed in 1993 that that is what God wanted us to do. However, I realized then (and now) that I could be wrong about that supposition. Scripture is NEVER wrong. I was free in 1993 to stay in England, or teach at a seminary, either of which would have been delightful opportunities. I understand that I was free to make those choices. But I chose, consulting Scripture, friends, wisdom, and my own subjective sense of the Lord’s will, to come to DC. And even if I were wrong about that, I had (and have) that freedom in Christ to act in a way that is not sin. And I understand my pastoring here not to be sin. So I am free. Regardless of the sense of leading I had.”

And here’s another:

“A subjective sense of leading–when we’ve asked for it (as in James 1:5 we ask for wisdom) and when God freely gives it–is wonderful. The desire for such a subjective sense of leading, however, is too often, in contemporary evangelical piety, binding our brothers and sisters in Christ, paralyzing them from enjoying the good choices that God may provide, and causing them to wait wrongly before acting.”

This is great stuff. I’ve encountered a good many Christians who are genuinely confused about this question. In fact, I’ve been one of those Christians (and still am, sometimes). Those of us who tie ourselves up in knots over the issue of discovering God’s will go beyond the Scripture, I think. That is to say, the Bible does not expect us, I think, to perfectly know God’s will for every decision we make in our lives. It is no bad desire to want such leading–in fact, I think it shows a healthy respect for the sovereign will of God as applied to our lives–but the Bible does not prescribe any sort of process by which we may automatically discern what it is that God wants for us. We are to pray, clearly, and we are to take counsel, and search the Word, and use wisdom conformed to biblical thought patterns, but beyond these things, as Dever writes, we are free to make what we believe to be the godly choice. This is a strange concept for some of us, this idea of freedom, but we must remember that this is a gift that Christ has graciously given to us. We must remind ourselves of the scriptural truth that the blood of Christ has not subjected to us a decisional bondage, but liberated us to live freely and joyfully under the reign of Christ. Hopefully, we’ll be able to remember this truth as we live, and so free ourselves from a paralysis of will that, however well-intended, ultimately loses sight of the Christ-given gift of freedom.

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Filed under 9Marks, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, church matters blog, Jesus Christ, justin taylor, Mark Dever

Things Christians Overlook: The Ministry of the Spirit in the Believer’s Life is Powerful

This series attempts to touch very briefly on a few things that many Christians overlook in their daily lives. All of these things are points that I have overlooked in my own life. This is not intended to be a nasty series, a virtual poke in the eyes, but is meant to pass along a few things others have taught me that I have found helpful.

Today we look very quickly at the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus and the believer. We sometimes think that Jesus accomplished the various miracles of His ministry in His own strength. But this is not what the Bible teaches. The ministry of Christ was Spirit-powered.

John 1:32-33 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’

This text shows us that Jesus received the Spirit at the beginning of His earthly ministry. In fact, it was the Spirit’s descent that marked the beginning of Christ’s work as Lord and Savior. From this point forward, Christ accomplished all that He did through the power of the Spirit. Note that I’m not saying that it was not possible for Christ to do all His work in His own power; rather, He chose to lay His power down in order that the power of the Spirit would be manifest in Him. This is a key distinction, and a subtle one, and the subtlety makes all the difference.

Why is this significant beyond mere theological quibbling? As my father-in-law, Dr. Bruce Ware, explained in introducing me and others to this foundational idea, it shows us that in possessing the same Spirit that Christ did, we have access to the same power that Christ did. This is a dynamic truth, a life-changing truth. Do you see it? You do not live your life through a kind of vague divinity that occasionally trickles down from on high. No, you live your life as a Christian through access to the same Spirit who enabled Christ to raise men from the dead, heal the sick, walk on the waters. You do not have access to a trickle–you have access to a flood of spiritual power that will enable you to walk in godliness and truth all your days, and to be a channel of blessing to all who surround you in your daily life. As you carry the gospel to the lost, as you carry out your daily responsibilities, as you fight for holiness each hour of the day, you can call upon the Father to move in a powerful way in your life through the Holy Spirit. This is a prayer that God will answer. He will take joy in your recognition of the power of the Holy Spirit, and just as He did for Christ, He will move in your life in marvelous ways to bring His will and plan to pass in your life. Clearly, this is a truth we need to recognize. Have you realized that you don’t have to live in your own strength as a Christian? Are you calling on God to work in you through the Spirit? Or are you out there fighting your own battles, waging your own wars, struggling to grow in godliness and live a gospel-centered life?

If so, read the gospel of John, observe how John highlights the Spirit’s work in Christ’s life, and claim this same Spirit dynamism in your own life. This is one matter we cannot afford to overlook.

Further reading: Bruce Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Crossway, 2005.

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Filed under gospel of John, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, prayer

Things Christians Overlook: The Ministry of the Spirit in the Believer’s Life is Powerful

This series attempts to touch very briefly on a few things that many Christians overlook in their daily lives. All of these things are points that I have overlooked in my own life. This is not intended to be a nasty series, a virtual poke in the eyes, but is meant to pass along a few things others have taught me that I have found helpful.

Today we look very quickly at the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus and the believer. We sometimes think that Jesus accomplished the various miracles of His ministry in His own strength. But this is not what the Bible teaches. The ministry of Christ was Spirit-powered.

John 1:32-33 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’

This text shows us that Jesus received the Spirit at the beginning of His earthly ministry. In fact, it was the Spirit’s descent that marked the beginning of Christ’s work as Lord and Savior. From this point forward, Christ accomplished all that He did through the power of the Spirit. Note that I’m not saying that it was not possible for Christ to do all His work in His own power; rather, He chose to lay His power down in order that the power of the Spirit would be manifest in Him. This is a key distinction, and a subtle one, and the subtlety makes all the difference.

Why is this significant beyond mere theological quibbling? As my father-in-law, Dr. Bruce Ware, explained in introducing me and others to this foundational idea, it shows us that in possessing the same Spirit that Christ did, we have access to the same power that Christ did. This is a dynamic truth, a life-changing truth. Do you see it? You do not live your life through a kind of vague divinity that occasionally trickles down from on high. No, you live your life as a Christian through access to the same Spirit who enabled Christ to raise men from the dead, heal the sick, walk on the waters. You do not have access to a trickle–you have access to a flood of spiritual power that will enable you to walk in godliness and truth all your days, and to be a channel of blessing to all who surround you in your daily life. As you carry the gospel to the lost, as you carry out your daily responsibilities, as you fight for holiness each hour of the day, you can call upon the Father to move in a powerful way in your life through the Holy Spirit. This is a prayer that God will answer. He will take joy in your recognition of the power of the Holy Spirit, and just as He did for Christ, He will move in your life in marvelous ways to bring His will and plan to pass in your life. Clearly, this is a truth we need to recognize. Have you realized that you don’t have to live in your own strength as a Christian? Are you calling on God to work in you through the Spirit? Or are you out there fighting your own battles, waging your own wars, struggling to grow in godliness and live a gospel-centered life?

If so, read the gospel of John, observe how John highlights the Spirit’s work in Christ’s life, and claim this same Spirit dynamism in your own life. This is one matter we cannot afford to overlook.

Further reading: Bruce Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Crossway, 2005.

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Filed under gospel of John, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, prayer

A Young Preacher’s Thoughts on Preaching: Practice Makes Better

Practice does not, as we know, make perfect, necessarily. But practice does make one better.

Preaching is no different than any other discipline in this regard. It is hard to be a young preacher. You read off your manuscript too much; you try to go off it and end up somewhere you didn’t mean to go; you preach way too long and observe the congregation yawning; you go too short and leave everyone a bit shocked by your brevity. What young preacher hasn’t committed these mistakes, and many more besides?

That’s why it is essential that young preachers do two things: 1) get lots of practice, and 2) get lots of feedback from skilled, faithful preachers. When I refer to lots of practice, though, don’t assume that I mean lots of practice preaching on Sunday mornings. You may get that, and if so, terrific. But most of us won’t. My advice is to find a venue that calls for you to put together messages on a regular basis. For me, the local FCA groups have afforded me a steady stream of “preaching” opportunities. Roughly 10-15 times per semester, I’ll travel to some school at 7am in the morning and speak to a bunch of youth for about 15 minutes. In these times, I try to speak off of the top of my head from a passage of Scripture while communicating the point of a given passage and the way in which the passage points to Christ. It’s pretty simple, really. Having this chance to speak publicly, though the setting is of course not a Sunday morning pulpit, has nonetheless made much more comfortable when I do have real preaching opportunities.

So my advice to my fellow young preachers is this: get out there. Use some initiative and find a place to preach or speak or teach. It doesn’t need to be prominent, it doesn’t need to be salaried, but it does need to be regular. Solicit feedback wherever possible and assess your strengths and weaknesses as a preacher. Work hard to become an organized, winsome, engaging communicator. Then, when you have a pulpit to fill, you will have already achieved a level of polish and comfort that will serve you well. Too many of us think it’s either a full-time ministry job or nothing. With your desire to advance the gospel, push yourself past malaise, past fear, and past your weaknesses to grow as a preacher of the Word of God. Practice may not make perfect, remember, but it will make better.

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Filed under Jesus Christ, preaching

A Young Preacher’s Thoughts on Preaching: Practice Makes Better

Practice does not, as we know, make perfect, necessarily. But practice does make one better.

Preaching is no different than any other discipline in this regard. It is hard to be a young preacher. You read off your manuscript too much; you try to go off it and end up somewhere you didn’t mean to go; you preach way too long and observe the congregation yawning; you go too short and leave everyone a bit shocked by your brevity. What young preacher hasn’t committed these mistakes, and many more besides?

That’s why it is essential that young preachers do two things: 1) get lots of practice, and 2) get lots of feedback from skilled, faithful preachers. When I refer to lots of practice, though, don’t assume that I mean lots of practice preaching on Sunday mornings. You may get that, and if so, terrific. But most of us won’t. My advice is to find a venue that calls for you to put together messages on a regular basis. For me, the local FCA groups have afforded me a steady stream of “preaching” opportunities. Roughly 10-15 times per semester, I’ll travel to some school at 7am in the morning and speak to a bunch of youth for about 15 minutes. In these times, I try to speak off of the top of my head from a passage of Scripture while communicating the point of a given passage and the way in which the passage points to Christ. It’s pretty simple, really. Having this chance to speak publicly, though the setting is of course not a Sunday morning pulpit, has nonetheless made much more comfortable when I do have real preaching opportunities.

So my advice to my fellow young preachers is this: get out there. Use some initiative and find a place to preach or speak or teach. It doesn’t need to be prominent, it doesn’t need to be salaried, but it does need to be regular. Solicit feedback wherever possible and assess your strengths and weaknesses as a preacher. Work hard to become an organized, winsome, engaging communicator. Then, when you have a pulpit to fill, you will have already achieved a level of polish and comfort that will serve you well. Too many of us think it’s either a full-time ministry job or nothing. With your desire to advance the gospel, push yourself past malaise, past fear, and past your weaknesses to grow as a preacher of the Word of God. Practice may not make perfect, remember, but it will make better.

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Filed under Jesus Christ, preaching