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Entries in D.A. Carson (16)


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.


I'm glad it's not just me

Once upon a time, my local church took our youth group to an all-night evangelism event.  It involved going to a sports event, games and activities in the area, accompanied by all night pizza and bowling.  As a leader, I never went.  In addition to knowing that I cannot stay up all night bowling, I really didn't like this idea of evangelizing kids in the middle of the night after sports, pizza and bowling.  I was in the minority in my concern.

In D.A. Carson's book The Cross and Christian Ministry, he talks about the cross and preaching.  He specifically discusses that preaching ought not be all about performance and rhetoric.  He is referring to Paul's words to the Corinthians in 2:1-5.  One of the points he makes is that preaching is not about manipulation.  In fact, his advice is to "strenuously avoid manipulating people."  He shares something with regard to manipulation and young people:

It is the truth and power of the gospel that must change people's lives, not the glamour of our oratory or the emotional power of the stories.

Some years ago I was speaking at a large youth convention in Australia.  Never was I more impressed with the leader and organizer of these meetings than when he addressed the three or four hundred site and group leaders and quietly told them to avoid manipulation.  Ensure that the young people get enough sleep, he said. We do not want decisions just because they are so tired their stamina is worn down.  Do not put these people into emotional corners that compel decisions; such decisions are seldom worth anything. Do not shame or embarrass them in front of peers.

If I have ever dared voice my concerns for all night evanglism activities, others have been quick to defend them and point out that I am a wet blanket.  Well, judging from Carson's comments, I'm not the only one with such concerns, and if I'm going to be a wet blanket, I am in some pretty good company.