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Entries in D.A. Carson (17)


What's in a name?

I didn't grow up in a Christian home, so the use of the name Jesus Christ was not especially revered. Neither was the name of God. I heard my relatives use both names as curse words, and as I got older, I did myself (when no adults were around, of course). Even as I used those words wrongly, I didn't feel right about it. I knew, even in my unregenerate state that those names meant something. Christ just isn't a name. God isn't just a name.

This morning, as I was studying Ephesians 1, I was noting how many times Paul talks about being "in Christ," and I saw how many times Christ is referred to. At the end of the chapter, Christ is on the throne, seated at God's right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, far above every name that is named. His name is above all names, and it's not just because of the letters used or the way it sounds when we say it.

What's in a name? An identity. And when it comes to Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, it is the identity of the one who bled and died that we could be reconciled to God and live in newness of life. When I hear people using it as a curse word, I cringe. I feel the same about the ridiculous "OMG."  I like what D.A. Carson has to say about the matter:

The reason we are not to say "Oh, God!" when we hit our thumb with a hammer or say "Jesus!" when we are disappointed is precisely because it diminishes God.  If you were to be so bold as to turn to a person who has use Jesus' name because he has hit his thumb with a hammer and say, "I wish you wouldn't use my Savior's name like that," he would probably reply, "I do not mean anything by it."  But that is the point:  he does not mean anything by it.  That is precisely why the usage is "profane," that is, common.  Using the name of God or Jesus when you "mean nothing" by it is not profane because you have spoken a magic word that you are really not allowed to use, as if only priests can say the right abracadabra.  The usage is profane beause it is common, cheap.  We are dealing with God, and we must say and do nothing that diminishes him or cheapens him.  It is at best disrespectful, ungrateful, and demeaning; at worst, it de-gods him and thus sinks again in the level of idolatry.

We bear the name of "Christian." To some, that is an ugly name; it represents things they don't believe. What we as the bearers of that name can do is wear it with integrity and sincerity, not associating it with ugly conduct or unkindness. Rather, we should wear it with gratitude for being able to claim that name. 


Commentaries don't have to be dry

Some commentaries are as dry as toast. I have looked at a lot of commentaries over the last six months, and some, while technically good, are a chore to get through (like anything in the Word Commentaries series). But good commentaries don't have to be boring. What I have found is that even commentaries that are more technical, if well-written, have little nuggets that summarize things beautifully. For example, D.A. Carson's commentary on John in the Pillar series is more technical that something in the Reformed Expository Commentary series, but it's worth pushing through the technical parts to get to the really good stuff. Carson has an excellent way of distilling truth.

The same goes for the Commentary on the Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament, which Carson co-edits with Greg Beale. I have also read a fair bit of Beale lately, and he, too, is an excellent writer. They have assembled some good writers for this commentary. Craig Blomberg (another writer I am thankful to have read) writes the commentary on the Old Testament use in Matthew. I love the way he concluded his comments on the way Matthew uses Psalm 22 in Matthew 27:45-66:

Throughout church history, Jesus' cry of dereliction has been identified as the moment of divine abandonment. Jesus, who died to atone vicariously for the sins of humanity, recognized at this point in his sufering that he no longer was experiencing the communion with his heavenly Father that had characterized his life . . . Jesus, as the sin-bearing sacrifice, must endure the temporary abandonment of the Father. Separation from God is horrible enough for any creature; "when it concerns one who is uniquely the Son of God . . . , it is impossible to assess what this may have meant to Jesus. This is one of the most impenetrable mysteries of the entire Gospel narrative" (Hagner 1995: 844-45). At the same time, Jesus still cries out to the one he no longer senses. In our worst moments of feeling abandoned by God we can do no less.

Crying out to a God we cannot sense. We have all had those moments when we may not feel God, but we have to rely on what we know to be true.

Commentaries are great for finding these little nuggets.


Rejoice in the Lord always

That is Paul's command in Philippians 4:4.  He can say to rejoice always because our rejoicing is in the Lord, who never changes.  If we rejoice in circumstance, tomorrow, circumstance may change, and then where will our rejoicing be?

There is an overflow from being one who rejoices.  It will show in our conduct and our relationships.

D.A. Carson in his book Basics for Believers says this:

God well knows that a believer who conscientiously obeys this command cannot be a backbiter or a gossip. Such a believer cannot be spiritually proud or filled with conceit, cannot be stingy or prayerless, cannot be a chronic complainer or perpetually bitter. The cure for a crushed and bitter spirit is to see Christ Jesus the Lord and then to rejoice in him. Lurking and nourished sins are always a sign that our vision of Jesus is dim and that our joy in him has evaporated with the morning dew. By contrast, the believer who practices rejoicing in the Lord will increasingly discover balm in the midst of heartache, rest in the midst of exhausting tension, love in the midst of loneliness, and the presence of God in control of excruciating circumstances.  Such a believer never gives up the Christian walk. Resolve always to rejoice in the Lord.

This is such a crucial truth, and we're slow to learn it. Even in Christian circles, we look for the quick fix, the bail out, the "thing" that will make us feel better. We may think we're rejoicing in the Lord, but it could very well be in the situation, not in His person, in what He gives us daily.  This is something I'm learning more every day; to rejoice in Him, and Him alone.



From Basics For Believers, D.A. Carson:

Genuine spirituality cannot live long with an attitude that is homesick for heaven, that lives with eternity's values in view, that eagerly awaits Jesus' return, that anticipates the day when Christ himself will "bring everything under his control" and "will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body" ([Philippians] 3:21; a theme Paul treats more fully in 1 Corinthians 15).  Thoughtful Christians will not see themselves first of all as citizens of Great Britain or the U.S. or Canada or Pago Pago.  We are citizens of heaven.  Only that citizenship has enduring significance.


What he said

In his book Basics for Believers, D.A. Carson comments on Paul's words in Philippians 3:1-9, specifically considering what was gain as loss in comparison to knowing Christ:

In the flow of this chapter, then, Paul makes these points, at least in part, to insist that the Philippian believers emulate those whose constant confidence and boast is in Christ Jesus and in nothing else.  Most who read these pages, I suspect, will not be greatly tempted to boast about their Jewish ancestry and ancient rights of race and religious heritage.  But we may be tempted to brag about still less important things:  our wealth, our status, our education, or emotional stability, our families, our political or business success, our denominational alignments, or even about which version of the Bible we use.  Be careful of people like that.  They tend to regard everyone who is outside their little group as somehow inferior.  Somewhere along the way they inadvertently - or even intentionally and maliciously - imagine that faith in Christ and delight in him is a little less important than their personal accomplishments.

I would be tempted to add a few others to Carson's list of potential bragging fodder, as I'm sure you might as well.