Ron Frost – A Stirring Love

Frost webRon Frost is my friend and colleague as a mentor in Cor Deo.  He also serves as a Pastoral Care Consultant to missionaries with Barnabas International.  I first met Ron when he was teaching Historical Theology at Multnomah Biblical Seminary.  Be sure to check out his blog SpreadingGoodness.org (as well as his posts on Cor Deo’s blog too).  Ron loves how some Puritans, especially Richard Sibbes, point his heart toward Christ.  So in this entry in the Incarnation Guest Series, Ron takes us to Sibbes with the hope that our hearts will be stirred too:

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Richard Sibbes, a 17th century Puritan preacher, invited his listeners to consider both the motivation of Christ’s incarnation and its implications for believers.

“He was born for us; his birth was for us; he became man for us; he was given to death for us.  And so likewise, he is ours in his other estate of exaltation.  His rising is for our good.  He will cause us to rise also, and ascend with him, and sit in heavenly places, judging the world and the angels.” [Works, 2.178]

Sibbes made the point in a sermon series on the Bible’s Song of Songs—with the figures in the book seen to be Christ and the Church.  The allegorical reading was strong on mutual marital love, something the unabashed Sibbes wanted to his audience to feel: “Affections have eloquence of their own beyond words.”

Sibbes, it should be said, also drew his marital imagery from other Bible content beyond the Song. He held the Bible to be divided by its testaments, with the Old Testament as a limited starting point that looks ahead to the marital fulfillment of the New Testament.  The latter spoke of Christ as the bridegroom coming for his bridal Church.

“In the new covenant God works both parts: his own and our parts too.  Our love to him, our fear of him, our faith in him—he works all, even as he shows his own love to us.  If God loves us thus, what must we do?  Meditate upon his love.  Let our hearts be warmed with the consideration of it.  Let us bring them to that fire of his love . . .” [2.174]

Many readers today will find Sibbes’ marital familiarity to be over the top.   But does he have a point?  Do more juridical and disaffected readings of the incarnation actually blind us to God’s motivation?  This motivation, Sibbes held, is birthed out of God’s mutual Triune love.  In marital love—leaving aside physical intimacy—God gives humanity a glimpse of the mutual devotion and delight of his own eternal bond.

With that caveat in mind let’s return to the lesson Sibbes takes from the incarnation.  God sent the Son to stir our response.  And this response explains every other feature of genuine spirituality: “our parts” of faith.

Sibbes makes the point.  We love God because he first loved us in Christ and we now get to anticipate growing in that love forevermore.

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Saturday Short Thought: Glorious Gospel

In a little while I’m heading to London to speak at a Cor Deo Delighted by God conference.  Our subtitle for the day is Glorious Gospel.  I am excited to hear the other sessions and to ponder together just how glorious the gospel really is.

What it comes down to, I suppose, is how glorious our God is, and what kind of gospel He has given us.  Too often the presentation of the gospel I hear is less than glorious.

It seems like a negotiation between a willing sinner and a reticent God.  The sinner is willing to say some words in order to gain a significant package of benefits.  And God is open to some sort of a contractual deal, but really is essentially resistant without the intervention of a kind lawyer working for us.

This is such a corruption of the truth.  God’s initiative is critical, and the extent to which He has gone to overcome the resistance of the human heart is stunning.  And as for the language of contracts, let’s dump that in the grip of His fatherly embrace!

The gospel is wondrously glorious, but it’s the kind of glory that involves His being high and lifted up, in absolute self-giving humiliation.

Let’s be sure we don’t preach a watered down, or petty, or negotiated gospel.

PS We’d really appreciate your prayers for today’s conference to go well!

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Next Week: The 10 Biggest Big Ideas

In the classroom Haddon Robinson said more than once that there are basically eight to ten big big ideas in the Bible.  He never gave us a list, but I’ll offer mine starting on Monday.  What would you include?

Simple Idea – So Helpful

This week at Cor Deo my colleague Ron mentioned something he does in preparing for sermons.  Simple suggestion to say the least, but so helpful.  Instead of cutting and pasting the text of the passage into a document to work with, he photocopies his own Bible page.

Then he can work on the photocopy at a significant level of inductive observational detail.  Then when he comes to preach from his own Bible, he’s very familiar with the layout of the text and only needs to make minimal markings on the text since he’s just been working all week on a replica of the same.

Simple.

I could leave it there, but let me add a couple of comments:

1. Too many spend too little time really soaking in the text.  It shows in the preaching.  The message is often a decent message, but the tie to the text is tenuous.  If you have a great Christian gospel message that really is the message of another text, preach the other text!  But if you’re preaching this text, then live in it and let it live in you for a while so that you are really preaching the text you say you are preaching!

2. The more our message is tied to the text we’re preaching, the less we are reliant on extraneous notes and imposed sermonic structures.  This means the listeners perceive a more natural presentation (that’s helpful), and they are more likely to follow in their Bibles (that’s helpful), so that the focus is less on your sermonic artistry and more on the inspired revelation that came from God (that’s helpful too!)

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Book Give-Away

I thought you might like to know that over on the Cor Deo site, we are giving away three copies of Experiencing the Trinity by Darrell Johnson.  It’s an invitation to join us as we read this book together.  Three recipients will be selected at random, but we ask two favours in order to qualify:

1. Please comment on any Cor Deo blog post during November (preferably something helpful to the conversation, of course)

2. Please share the link below on facebook, twitter, or via email with a few friends (whatever channel you have that will get the word out to folks including some in the UK)

Here’s the link to include (to go there now, just click on the picture above) – http://www.cordeo.org.uk/book-intro-experiencing-the-trinity/

Discover Cor Deo – 3rd of July

If you are in the UK and might be interested in Cor Deo – the new mentored training programme launching in 2011, consider yourself invited to Discover Cor Deo.  This event will be held in central London and will help to answer any questions you may have about Cor Deo, you’ll get to meet the mentors and get a taste of what’s to come in the programme.

Cor Deo is about multiplying ministry that shares God’s heart.  It is a unique five-month intensive training programme that is open to those who have a passion for God and for ministry.  Whether you are considering training for the first time, or if you are considering a refreshing season of study as part of a sabbatical or study break, please consider Cor Deo. 

The information for Discover Cor Deo can be found on the left side of the home page at cordeo.org.uk

We are actively seeking the first team of participants and spaces are limited.  Come and find out more, we would love to see you on the 3rd of July!