Donald Macleod has a new book out! He’s one of the best authors on the person & work of Jesus Christ – http://ow.ly/zySgf #christhaunted
“The subduing of the earth must imply the expenditure of thought and skill and energy in bringing the earth and its resources under such control that they would be channeled to the promotion of certain ends which they were suited and designed to fulfill but which would not be fulfilled apart from the exercise of man’s design and labor… The nature of man is richly diversified. There is not only a diversity of basic need but there is also a profuse variety of taste and interest, of aptitude and endowment, of desires to be satisfied and of pleasures to be gratified. When we consider the manifold ways in which the earth was fashioned and equipped to meet and gratify the diverse nature and endowments of man, we can catch a glimpse of the vastness and variety of the task involved in subduing the earth, a task directed to the end of developing man’s nature, gifts, interests, and powers in engagement with the resources deposited by God in the earth and the sea.” – John Murray
From Matthew Henry on Ephesians 5:17 — “It is a metaphor taken from merchants and traders who diligently observe and improve the seasons for merchandise and trade. It is a great part of Christian wisdom to redeem the time. Good Christians must be good husbands of their time, and take care to improve it to the best of purposes, by watching against temptations, by doing good while it is in the power of their hands, and by filling it up with proper employment–one special preservative from sin. They should make the best use they can of the present seasons of grace. Our time is a talent given us by God for some good end, and it is misspent and lost when it is not employed according to his design. If we have lost our time heretofore, we must endeavour to redeem it by doubling our diligence in doing our duty for the future. The reason given is because the days are evil, either by reason of the wickedness of those who dwell in them, or rather “as they are troublesome and dangerous times to you who live in them.” Those were times of persecution wherein the apostle wrote this: the Christians were in jeopardy every hour. When the days are evil we have one superadded argument to redeem time, especially because we know not how soon they may be worse. People are very apt to complain of bad times; it were well if that would stir them up to redeem time.”
In Colossians 4:5-6, Paul tells us to “Conduct ourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.” Literally, “Walk with wisdom toward outsiders, redeeming the time.” Wisdom toward those apart from Christ entails many things, but it certainly means that we need to have our antenna up, the way that smartphones and laptops detect WiFi hotspots – that is, we need to be scanning to see where people stand with Christ and His church, realizing that every time we are in proximity to an unbeliever (whether unchurched or churched!), there is possibly an opportunity for gospel conversation. It could be in the checkout line at the grocery store, your waitress at a restaurant, the person next to you on an airplane, the people at the next table in a coffee shop, your roommate if you’re in college, the people in your classes or study groups, your neighbor on a Saturday afternoon, the person next to you in the pew, etc. To be sure, some people are like password protected wireless networks – they’re closed to the gospel, and it may be that talking with them would be casting your pearls before swine, as Jesus puts it in Matthew 7. But perhaps the next time you see that person, he’s like an unsecured, open wireless network, and there’s a door open for the word. Paul doesn’t give a lengthy set of directions here, because he knows that every situation, every person, is different – that’s why he says that we need to walk with wisdom.
Do you have your antenna turned on to be listening and looking for opportunities? Do you see that God has providentially put you where you are at that moment, and that He wants to use you to build His kingdom? Wherever you go, whomever you meet, be thinking, “What is this person’s relationship to Christ? What is this person’s relationship to the church?”
Now, when Paul says that we are to walk with wisdom toward outsiders, that tells us something about the character of our antennas, the character of our wisdom. If unbelievers are outsiders – outside the faith, outside the church, outside Christ – then we who believe are inside. The temptation is to turn that fact into an occasion for pride and ingrownness, for looking down on those who are outside, for acting like the church is the ultimate social club or secret society that people have to jump through all sorts of hoops to join and fit in. But we who are on the inside know that that is absolutely not the case – that Jesus has jumped through all the hoops for us, that none of us fit in, that we’re all outcasts and messed up, not one of us deserves to be here, that if membership is open to me, it’s open to anyone. Actually, being on the inside means that we are in the position of humble host – therefore we must walk through this world in a posture of humility, and a posture of welcoming hospitality. Having our antenna on means being like the host who is always on the lookout to make sure that people are enjoying themselves or having a good time at their party. The host is always concerned about his guests first and foremost. The host always asks how he can serve his guests, and not demand his guests serve him. See, God tells us that because we are His, we are going to inherit the whole world; we will judge the world (I Cor. 6:2). So we approach those who are outside with gentleness and humility and grace, knowing that we could just as easily be those on the outside. When Jacob moved to Egypt after Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, Joseph brought his father into the presence of Pharaoh to present him to the king of Egypt. And Moses tells us, twice, that Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Here is this old shepherd man, in the presence of the most powerful king on earth, and Jacob blesses Pharaoh! It’s because he knew that he was the host of the planet, and Pharaoh was the guest. That’s the posture of wisdom we are to take with the world; a posture of service, a posture of humility, a posture of grace, a posture of readiness, a posture of alertness, a posture of prayerfulness, that God would grant us grace to make the most of every opportunity.
If you’re in the Jackson area and feel overwhelmed by the volume of to-dos, projects, emails, messages, etc., that are on your plate, then you need to come to the seminar I’m teaching this Thursday, from 11:30-1:30 at Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church (750 Pear Orchard Road in Ridgeland). David Allen’s book Getting Things Done has been a life saver for me, and I love sharing with others how to use his system to help collect, process, organize, review and do all the things that God has called us to do. We’ll be in the multipurpose room at the back of the property. Bring your lunch and any friends who might be interested – no need to RSVP.
“As the oak, perfect and entire, is in the acorn that buries itself in the soil, and expands and extends an ever perfect life till it becomes the gigantic monarch of the forest ; so the entire gospel of redemption was in that germinal promise concerning “the seed of the woman” which, buried in the clods of a wasted Eden, shot forth its life parallel with the growth of humanity. Now it appears as the tender twig of promise to Enoch and Noah; now the vigorous sapling to the faith of Abraham; now the refreshing shade tree leafing out in the gorgeous ritual of Moses; now the well-known pilot’s signal tree that guides the course of David and Isaiah; now putting forth its blossom of plenteous promise in the Gospel of John the Baptist; and now bearing the rich harvest of ripe fruit in the preaching of the Apostles under “the ministration of the Spirit.” Thus through all the ages, and in all the divers manners of its communication, it is one and the same Gospel, embodying the same great truths in its various stages of development.” — Stuart Robinson, Discourses of Redemption, p. 20-21
In the preface to his Discourses of Redemption, Stuart Robinson noted that a Bible Renaissance had taken place in the early part of the 19th century. But then he remarked that the Renaissance had not yet manifested itself in the pulpit, “that divinely appointed agency for the special and authoritative teaching of the Word of God to the people.” His explanation of the state of preaching in his day and the nature of true, Biblical preaching, is worth reading by pastors and preachers in the 21st century:
“With the exception of perhaps a slight increase of the expository lecture, the prevailing method of preaching is still that of theological disquisition, ethical essay, rhetorical, persuasive or emotional appeal—founded upon a shred of the Sacred Text chosen as a motto, or, at best, as suggesting simply the theological topic of the occasion. Whereas the true theory of preaching as gathered from the scriptures, manifestly assumes its purpose to be the showing of the people how to read the Word of God; and leading them to feel that ‘this day is the scripture fulfilled in their ears,’ and that these are the words of a Jesus who not only spake by holy men of old, but who is now speaking with living utterance to the men of this generation.”
May the Lord enable us to preach rightly, not using the text merely as a motto for our sermon, but unfolding the very words of God to the people of God, communicating His mind to them and teaching them how to read their Bibles for themselves.