Tonight, on the way home from hearing Dr. Sam Storms speak, I asked the children if he was a good preacher. Before I had finished the question, our youngest daughter, Hannah, quipped, "Yes, Daddy, he's 'gooder' than you!!!"
Is there a Bible verse that says something about God giving us children to keep us humble?
Thanks, Dr. Storms, for another God-centered night! May God bless you, your family, and ministry. And thanks for inspiring my daughter to keep her daddy humble!
The World From Our Window
Viewing the world through the window of the Historic, Reformed, Baptist Faith.
Tuesday, January 31
Tonight, on the way home from hearing Dr. Sam Storms speak, I asked the children if he was a good preacher. Before I had finished the question, our youngest daughter, Hannah, quipped, "Yes, Daddy, he's 'gooder' than you!!!"
As you can see by the title, the overarching theme of C. J.'s book is "keeping the Gospel the main thing." Oh, how the church needs this message today. TV give-away's, music concerts, and pop-psychology preaching have taken center stage in our churches...resulting in a circus-like worship atmosphere. My question is, "Where is Christ in all this?" He's mysteriously absent in most of our churches, much of our preaching, and many of our people! If you are a regular reader, these comments come as no surprise.
This book does what it was written to do...it takes us back to the cross. This is the center-piece of human history. It's the centerpiece of the church. It must be the centerpiece of our lives. Here are the chapter titles and themes of the book:
Chapter 1: The Most Important Truth is the Easiest to ForgetAllow me to prove to you this short book is worthy of your reading...
Chapter 2: Why the Cross Should Define Our Lives
Chapter 3: How the Cross Rescues You from the Performance Trap
Chapter 4: How the Cross Removes Guilt and Shame
Chapter 5: Basing Your Faith in Christ's Finished Work at the Cross
Chapter 6: Practical Ways to Center Every Day around the Cross
Chapter 7: Put This Book on a shelf, but Not Its Message!
On the subject of our culture's infatuation with what's new and best...I would highly recommend this book to you, and am convinced that each Christian should read it twice a year. I have given it 6.75 out of 7 stars. The .25 deduction is for it being so short...I wanted C. J. to say more...much more.
"There's nothing wrong with being new or better. Our problem is that we have come to see these two adjectives as synonymous--as if anything new is always better, and if something is better it must be new. Sadly, an obsession with new and better is as common inside the church as it is outside. The list is endless and always changing. Diet and health. Healing and miracles. Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Godly marriage. Creationism. Worship music. Evangelism. Missions. The return of the Lord. A specific form of liturgy...but we must not let any issue, topic, or cause displace the gospel from its rightful place at the very center of our lives."
On how legalism destroys the meaning of the cross...
"...here's the mistake the legalist makes. He confuses his own ongoing participation in the process of sanctification with God's finished work in justification. In other words, he thinks that godly practices and good works somehow contribute to his justification. But God's Word is clear when it says, "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law..." (Rom. 3:20 ESV). None of us can add to the finished, complete work of Jesus on the cross. He paid the price of our sins. He satisfied God's wrath."
On the Christian dealing with the feelings of condemnation because of sin...
"The Christian who desires to live a cross centered life will regularly face his or her own depravity and the seriousness of personal sin, squarely and unflinchingly. It's a reality. But the reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of sin is even greater."
On "feeling centered" Christianity, quoting D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Sinclair Ferguson (this chapter alone is worth the price of the book)...
"'Have you realized,' preacher David Martyn Lloyd-Jones once observed, 'that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?' ... Can you relate? On a daily basis we're faced with two simple choices. We can either listen to ourselves and our constantly changing circumstances, or we can talk to ourselves about the unchanging truth of who God is and what He's accomplished for us at the cross."
"Scottish theologian Sinclair Ferguson has noted, 'The evangelical orientation is inward and subjective. We are far better at looking inward than we are at looking outward. Instead, we need to expend our energies admiring, exploring, expositing, and extolling Jesus Christ.'"
Here are the vitals:
The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing, by C. J. Mahaney
Pages: 86 (it probably won't take you an hour to read)
Publisher & Date: Multnomah, 2002
Who is C. J. Mahaney? C. J. is the former pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He now serves as the Executive Director of Sovereign Grace Ministries, a church planting support organization with more than fifty churches in North and South America, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. You can visit Sovereign Grace Ministries here.
This book is available through Amazon.com for $9.99 or from Sovereign Grace Ministries for $7.00.
In honor of Super Bowl week, here's a great way to increase your church attendance. Take a look at this, you won't believe it...well, maybe you will!
No more need for Best Buy...the church has taken its place!!
Monday, January 30
This evening, Ken and I drove to Faith Baptist Church of Glen Carbon Illinois to hear well-known author and speaker Sam Storms of Enjoying God Ministries. Without a doubt, the service this evening was a mouth-watering event exposing our need to find our satisfaction and contentment in God alone. Beyond that, Dr. Storms directed our gaze away from the selfishness of our own appetites to the unquenchable appetite to find our pleasure and delight in God Himself. Preaching from Ps. 37:4 and Romans 11:33-36, Dr. Storms used the doxology Paul penned to show us the unlimited joy that we can have in a God who provides unlimited pleasure, delight, and fulfillment. Here are some quotes:
"When it comes to spiritual appetites there are no boundaries."
"Your satisfaction in God is His greatest glory."
This was perhaps my favorite - "The greatest tragedy with most Christians today is that they are bored with God."
Dr. Storms was very gracious afterwards and spent a good deal of time with Ken and me discussing ministry and theology. I hope he doesn't mind if I steal some of these comments for future messages (Bob McNutt has been accusing me of stealing some of his one-liners and posting them on this blog). I look forward to the pastor's fellowship tomorrow morning with Dr. Storms and pray that it will be a time of challenge, conviction, encouragement, and exaltation of our wonderful Savior and King!
After having read the following comments in Dever's The Deliberate Church on pages 47-48, I thought these words would be an encouragement to all of us. Here is Mark Dever...
"Most local Rotary clubs will take a persons's name off the membership roll if he fails to attend the meetings for an extended period of time. Yet many churches will allow a person to say on the membership roll for years after he or she has stopped attending! Membership should mean more in the church than it does in a Rotary club. One of the best ways to reinforce this is to teach n why membership in the local church matters. No one is saved by either church membership or attendance. But membership in the local church is a church's external, public affirmation that the member is continuing to give evidence of genuine Christian conversion.Well said, Pastor Dever. In the age of consumer-driven Christianity...this is a breath of fresh air!
Biblically if a member shows prolonged negligence in gathering with God's people, how can he say he loves them? And if he doesn't love them, how can he say he loves God (cf. 1 John 4:20-21)? Pastorally, if a member who could attend continually neglects to meet with the people of God, church leaders simply are no longer in a position to externally witness the fruit of his life, and for that reason can no longer externally afffirm his conversion by uninterrupted membership. Evangelistically, meaningless membership damages the corporate evangelistic witness of the church in the surrounding community. Members usually go AWOL to cover up more serious sin; but they are committing that sin as people who are still likely to be known by others in your community as members of your church! In other words, they are sinning in ways that make your church look hypocritical o the unbelievers in your community.
Most seriously of all, when we allow prolonged nonattenders to keep their names on the membership rolls, we actually help deceive them into thinking they are saved when their behavior is in fact calling their salvation into question. If membership is the church's public affirmation of a person's conversion, then to leave a nonattender on the rolls could very well be damningly deceptive. What's more, if you are the pastor of your local church, then God will hold you in some sense accountable for the spiritual well-being of every member of your church (Heb. 13:17). Do you really want to be held accountable for the spiritual well-being of a member whom you have not seen at church in four years--or worse, a member you've never even met? Everyone loses when we allow nonattendance to go unchecked. It doesn't serve you well, it doesn't serve the nonattender well, it doesn't serve the church's reputation well, and it doesn't serve God's reputation well. For all these reasons, it is wise to remove from the rolls tose members who have shown prolonged negligence in meeting with God's people."
To no surprise, we find that Mr. Allen goes to an "everything goes" as far as doctrine is concerned type of church. You can read more about it here. Many of the more trendier type of churches that are "emerging" today use more subtle types of statemetns such as these: "The message of Jesus never changes, but our methods should always be changing". Hmmmm.....If that he the case, let's take a good look at some of the methods you are talking about. Do these methods take an open proclamation of the Gospel and turn it into merely a discussion that includes all sorts of false belief systems that turn Christ into nothing more than "a way" instead of "the Way"? Here is another good one: "Declaring the old truth in different ways". This is to say the least - troubling.
The fact that Mr. Allen goes to a liberal church is by no means shocking to those of us in the evangelical world. Allen has made no qualms about his openly gay lifestyle and has also openly attempted to reconcile this with "religion". The point of this is not that Allen is an open and practicing homosexual. Rather the point is that someone who wears the banner of Christianity has told him that this is acceptable and that the ultimate authority is not found in the words of Scripture, but with the rationalization of what is "good" for them in their own mind. This is a true testimony to where our post-modern culture has brought us to today.
It should come as no surprise to us that the divorce rates are climbing in the evangelical world along with an embarrassing amount of Biblical illiteracy. The average member in an evangelical church has trouble giving an "adequate" explanation of the Gospel. Sadly, we are finding the difference between the regenerate and unregenerate becoming less and less distinguishable. Again, troubling....Very troubling. Not to mention the apparent lack of an appreciation for solid doctrine that exalts the person and work of Jesus Christ and is a true exegetical message from the Word. We have very little reason to believe that this is not due to an apparent lack of an emphasis on these issues from the pulpits of America. But let us not forget, more than anything else, Chad Allen needs faith and repentance and an acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. His condition as a sinful and fallen person is no different than any one of ours was at the time of conversion. But the reality remains that the complexity of this matter grows due to the fact that he has actually been taught that what he is doing is "ok" based on a faulty understanding on the fallenness of man.
As a pastor, I find one of the most exhausting things that I do is the preparation of messages. Mainly because of the fact that it takes much labor to ensure accuracy to the Biblical text along with the practical application with an emphasis on God's grace and not on the ability of man. If this is done right, it takes much time, prayer, effort, study, attention to detail, and brokenness before the Lord. Mike Gilbart-Smith of 9Marks Ministries has written a good article on the subject of "Expositional Impostors". I encourage you to check this out.
In the meantime, all of us who hold dear the precious doctrines of Scripture should take heed to our own teaching and preaching and be sure that we are preaching the Word with diligence, zeal, faithfulness, and humility.
Over the last couple of days, a friendly dialogue has been brewing over at the Reformation21 blog. The topic? Baptism. Here's why this dialogue is so compelling: a lone Baptist is swimming in a pool of Presbyterians (I admit, that was bad)!!
Seriously though, it's going to be fun to watch this one play out. I am convinced that, on both sides, there is a great misunderstanding of the others' view. If you've wondered how in the world a fundamental Presbyterian could practice paedo-baptism, you'll find your answer here. If you're a Baptist, you'll find Justin Taylor's presentation of credo-baptism refreshing. Justin has now asked that Mark Dever join the discussion.
My question is this: if we solved the baptism issue, couldn't we all just get along as Baptyrians?
Sunday, January 29
The democratic party has officially become the party of despair, personal destruction, obstruction, and irresponsible rhetoric. In an attempt that would be unprecedented in our nation's history some desperate liberals are threatening to filibuster Samuel Alito's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court on the Senate's floor. Even democratic majority leader Harry Reid indicated that it would be next to impossible to maintain enough votes to keep the filibuster alive. Now, among others, Hillary Rodham Clinton has joined the ranks of desparity calling for an Alito filibuster. After playing the "middle of the road" game for the past two years Clinton now sees her presidential hopes lying on the radical wing of her party that wants abortion on demand and homosexual rights as the centerpiece of their party. To all of this I say - BRING IT ON!!!!
This sort of nonsense will do nothing but help Mr. Alito's chances of being nominated this week and all but diminish the democrats' attempts at recapturing the Senate and House. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised with how well Alito presented himself at the confirmation hearings and I was overwhelmed with joy to hear Ted Kennedy make a complete fool (he does this rather easily) of himself by making his irresponsible accusations that Alito had ties to racists and bigots. To top all of that off, John Kerry is trying to regain the national spotlight by calling for a filibuster as well. Talk about being a sore loser!
No, I am not someone who wraps the Gospel in the American flag. However, I am someone who prays for the leadership of our nation as Scripture commands us to do (Rom. 13). No matter who wins or loses in political races we should all have the wise and Scriptural understanding that God is completely sovereign over all things at all times. If Mr. Alito is filibustered it would in no way thwart the plans of God by any means. Though it is highly unlikely that Alito will even come remotely close to being filibustered I still look for a week of strong political hatred coming from the party that is known for nothing more than the killing and mutilation of innocent little children. Though the Republican party is a far cry from being an example of Christ-like leadership, I am still encouraged by their overall platform taking a stand against abortion.
So with all of that being said......Nice try Kerry, Kennedy, and Clinton - YOU LOSE AGAIN!
My parents taught me to be wary of fads. I've never grown a rat-tail. I've never permed my hair in the back or owned a pair of parachute pants. Maybe I'm just the victim of poor fashion awareness. Maybe not.
Fads possess amazing power. The next time you visit the mall...just take a look. Look for the one teenage guy who isn't walking around with his jeans' crotch dragging the floor (girls, too, have begun to wear their jeans in like manner). In the words of today's fad-conscious teen, "If ya wanna be a playu, ya gotta dress like a playu." (For our older readers, "playu" is slang for "player.")
Far too many churches have adopted the playu mentality. Man-made movements and theological trends continue to sweep across the American theological landscape. Too many of these are nothing more than brief, "rat-tail" fads.
Oh, we don't call them fads, we use "spiritual" language. We talk about souls and baptisms and meeting needs. We appeal to the church's desire to do something great for God. We point out the church's failure to be culturally relevant, and then promise numerical and financial (in "kingdom language") success. We bring in an expert to persuade the church that this new paradigm is a win-win proposition. Finally, after listening to the testimonies of the thousand-or-so churches who've tried it and liked it, we enthusiastically leave the theological bench to become a playu on the field of contemporary evangelicalism.
Fundamentalists (who pride themselves on being traditional non-traditionalists), too, have played this game, using a slightly different name. Bus ministries, Sunday School contests, and two-week "Revival Meetings" make you a fundy playu...and may even get your church some major ink time in the latest issue of The Church Bus News (and if you're really a playu, you'll order one of these).
The seventies and eighties witnessed the rise of the Church Growth Movement. With the nineties came the Purpose-Driven paradigm. Today's new playu is the Emergent Church.
Here is an intentionally brief smattering of emerging characteristics. Emergent churches...
value cultural relevancy over theological accuracy. They are, in their own words, postmodern in their Christianity.
value authenticity (their favorite word) and transparency over biblical spirituality.
value dialogue over doctrine.
value discussion about the Word over the preaching of the Word.
(Note: Here's a look at the emergents in their own words. For theologically accurate discussions of the emergent issues, read this and this.)
For thirty years, the church has been obsessed with being a playu. We've become fad-driven rather than gospel-driven. We've cared more about what the world thinks than what God thinks (humanism). We've embraced what works rather than what's right (pragmatism). Did we really think we could get away with it? Were we honestly convinced this new fad would do only what Christ has the ability to accomplish (Matthew 16:18)?
We haven't "gotten away with it." (1 Peter 4:17) The group of people with whom we worship each week is thinking (and acting) more and more like the world. Abortion and divorce rates in the church mirror the rates outside her walls. Our young people are abandoning the church in record numbers. How could this happen in a brief thirty-years' time?
Simple; the gospel has been neglected. The public reading of Scripture has disappeared (1 Timothy 4:13). Public prayers of confession and consecration have given way to dramatic skits. Sermons have become devotionals, sin has become a dirty word, and the Bible has become man's story rather than God's.
What the church needs today is Jesus (Revelation 3:20). We've done church too long without Him and we've preached too many sermons without mentioning His name.
It's really not that hard. The church has been commissioned to proclaim Christ (2 Corinthians 4:5) and trust Him for the results (Isaiah 55:11). The church doesn't need playus, she needs preachers (2 Timothy 4:2). In the words of one great saint, "God's work, done in God's way, will never lack God's blessing." Fads and trends will come and go, yet Christ will remain (Hebrews 13:8). It's His church...let's treat it as such!!!
Saturday, January 28
Theological fun (is this a paradox)? Here's a great quiz that will betray your theological bent...go ahead, take it...it's a lot of fun.
You want to know my quiz results? You first...I'll give you my results in a few days!
Hint: I was 0% Modern Liberal and Roman Catholic (whew...I get to keep my job)!
PLEASE NOTE: This will remain at the top of the blog for a few days...just so no one misses out on all the fun. C'mon, post your results by way of comments...I want to know who all the liberals are (sinister laugh)!!!!!
Jerry Vines, the long time pastor of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville Florida will preach as pastor for the last time tomorrow morning. Vines should be admired for his strong stand against the liberalism within the SBC over the past several decades and did much to enhance the conservative resurgence over the past forty years or so. His expository approach to preaching should be held in high regard as well along with his strong emphasis on evangelism.
I have only met Jerry Vines on one occassion but can personally testify to his genuine humility and class that he displayed to my wife and I. Last year was the first time that I ever went to FBC of Jacksonville (for their Pastor's Conference). I found the conference to be helpful and useful though I did not take in all of the evangelism methods and practices that they promoted. I also felt that there was a bit too strong of a focus on Vines himself by many of the speakers that were there. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that this church has been greatly used of God over the years. Though I would part ways with Vines in regards to some of his methodology and soteriology, I have still appreciated his ministry a great deal. It will be interesting to see who will take his place in the near future.
This has been an incredibly busy week to say the least. Not to mention that tomorrow morning I will be teaching the first part of a two part series on Justification by Faith. That in and of itself has had me weighed down over the past week or so.
The second office of the Old Testament that was fulfilled in Christ was the office of priest. In the Old Testament the priests were appointed by God to offer sacrifices, prayers and praise on behalf of the people before God. We will look at a couple of ways that Christ fulfilled this office.
Jesus Christ was not only the offerer but also the offered. Hebrews 4:14 tells us - "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God". And not only that, but has also appeared in the presence of God for us - Hebrews 9:24 - "For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;". Unlike the Old Testament sacrifices that were done again and again, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was all sufficient (I have the ransomed in mind here) for all time - Hebrews 9:26 - "but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." Hebrews 10:4 made it very clear that the sacrifice of Christ was unique in the respect that it was unlike the sacrifice of the animals of the Old Testament. Because of this, there is no longer any need to have continual sacrifices year after year.
Jesus Christ is our continual intercessor. Hebrews 7:25 - "There He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them." (NASB) Wayne Grudem in his "Systematic Theology" makes the argument that Christ not only appears in God the Father's presence on our behalf but that He actually makes specific requests to bring specific petitions before God on our behalf. This is a role that Jesus Christ as the God-man can uniquely fulfill.
We must also be careful to understand that Christ can only be our High Priest because of the fact that He lived as a man and can now sympathize with our fleshly weaknesses and temptations (Heb. 4:15). The temptations that Christ faced were real temptations and the body that He lived in was a real body. Despite all of that, He never failed to fulfill the Father's perfect will and never succumbed to the temptation of sin like we have. Only because of that, can Christ be our perfect High Priest. Hence, we come to the conclusion that Christ is 100% God and 100% man. He still continues to intercede on our behalf as a man (albeit in a glorified body) with a real sympathy for our weaknesses that we have in our human bodies.
Yesterday evening our church came together for what we called our "Winter Banquet". All of the fixins were there that make all true Baptists happy - food, soda, and COFFEE! Also, my good friend and fellow blogger Ken Fields shared from God's Word a tremendous and compelling message on God's sovereignty from Ecclesiastes 3:1-11. Nothing entrances our view of God more than focusing on His power in all things at all times. To me, it is a great comfort to know that God was sovereign over my salvation and over the details of my life right now. Beyond that, He is completely sovereign over every detail in this universe as well. A view that makes God into nothing more than a passive and open God belittles the very power that He attests to have in the Word of God.
The people of FBC of Roxana were challenged from God's Word and I thank Ken for that. May all of us above all things, have a view of God that makes Him the Supreme King over everything.
Friday, January 27
Good news...good news. A sixth member of the Kansas City Chiefs has been selected to play in this year's Pro Bowl. You can read the story in the Kansas City Star. Congratulations, Trent Green, I wonder how many Broncos fans wish you were calling plays in the new Mile High...where they are still waiting for the second coming of John Elway...and waiting..and waiting...and waiting...for Jake Plummer to get a haircut!!!
I just finished re-taking the thelogy quiz. Joanna said I cheated the first time (I took it with my new Reformation Study Bible open!). I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news first...I am now 14% Roman Catholic (what's that they said about job security???). I'm not sure how my doctrine has changed in the last few days, but let's move on to the good news. I am still 0% Modern Liberal (maybe there's still hope for me) and 100% Reformed Evangelical (not sure if this makes me a Presbyterian at heart)! Here are my final results...
| You scored as Reformed Evangelical. You are a Reformed Evangelical. You take the Bible very seriously because it is God's Word. You most likely hold to TULIP and are sceptical about the possibilities of universal atonement or resistible grace. The most important thing the Church can do is make sure people hear how they can go to heaven when they die.|
What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com
If you haven't taken the quiz yet...do it...it only takes about 4 minutes, it's a lot of fun, and you just may get your picture to appear beside John Calvin (he's the one in the picture above...not the guy sitting beside my wife)!!!
Flying the American flag in today's school classroom has become an option...but in this San Francisco high school, endorsing the "Gay-Straight Alliance" banner is now mandatory. And if, per-chance, a teacher chooses not to wave this banner in the classroom; a trip to the Principal's office is in order.
So, could you remind me again why the American flag has taken such a hit in recent days? Oh, yeah, that's right, the American flag allegedly...
represents oppression.And so, I guess the "rainbow flag" represents...
shames the English.
flaunts freedom's superiority to communism, fascism, etc.
stirs up connotations of an Almighty God.
the oppression of Christian teachers.Our response? Let us pray for...
the shaming of those who stand for a God-ordained definition of marriage and sex.
the glorifying of sin.
the freedom to publicly endorse a religion (secular humanism, moral relativism, a.k.a., atheism).
connotations of man being his own god.
these teachers, that God would enable them to stand for the truth.And after we've finished praying, let us weep, again.
this Principal, that God would open her heart to the truth (2 Corinthians 4:4-7).
these children, that they would come to know The Truth (John 14:6).
ourselves and our children...that we would not grow weary in a dry and barren land.
Here is a well-reasoned...well-presented...well-said...well-done piece on The End of the Spear controversy. If you are willing to read one final opinion on the film and its surrounding controversy, this is the one!
Again, I will not share any more of my comments on the film and controversy...for the simple reason that my creativity gene has been on break for most of the week...and I don't think he's coming back any time soon!!
Thursday, January 26
My good friend Ken Fields this evening tried belittling my computer by insulting the amount of GB that my Dell notebook has (25). He then proceeded to test my internet connection in comparison to his and found to be lacking a great deal - end results - my computer 1181 kilobytes and Ken's a measly 380. This should be a good foretaste of the Cubs dominating the Cardinals this year!
Of course, I know that this is about the most meaningless blog entry that I have done since we began this about a month ago but I was told that my blog entries all leaned on the heavy theological side and I was encouraged to "lighten up" a bit. So this is the best I can do. Any thoughts????
There may not be a brighter intellect in modern day evangelicalism than Dr. Al Mohler of Southern Seminary (sorry, Mike Hess!!). He shares some ideas on sharpening the intellect (a much needed excercise in our modern day churches) in his latest piece at the Together For The Gospel blog.
Here's what he says...
You can read the remainder of the article here. It would be well worth your time! And God help us not be regular contributors to the dumbing down of His Church!
I cannot really remember when I did not love to read books. I do know that I was very eager to learn to read, and that I quickly found myself immersed in the world of books and literature. It may have been a seduction of sorts, and the Christian disciple must always be on guard to guide the eyes to books worthy of a disciple's attention -- and there are so many.
As Solomon warned, "Of making many books there is no end" [Ecclesiastes: 12:12]. There is no way to read everything, and not everything deserves to be read. I say that in order to confront the notion that anyone, anywhere, can master all that could be read with profit. I read a great deal, and a large portion of my waking hours of devoted to reading. Devotional reading for spiritual profit is an important part of the day, and that begins with the reading of Scripture. In terms of timing, I am somewhat unorthodox. My best time for spending time in the Word is late at night, when all is calm and quiet and I am mentally alert and awake. That is not the case when I first get up in the mornings, when I struggle to find each word on the page (or anything else, for that matter).
In the course of any given week, I will read several books. I know how much I thrive on this learning and the intellectual stimulation I get from reading. As my wife and family would be first to tell you, I can read almost anytime, anywhere, under almost any kind of conditions. I have a book with me virtually all the time, and have been known to snatch a few moments for reading at stop lights. No, I do not read while driving (though I must admit that it has been a temptation at times). C.J., I took books to high school athletic events when I played in the band. [Heap coals of scorn and nerdliness here.] I remember the books -- do you remember the games?
A few initial suggestions...
"What Is Reformed Theology" - Understanding the Basics
Author - R.C. Sproul
Published by Baker Books 1997 (230 pages)
About two weeks ago a good pastor friend and I (Rev. Robert McNutt) took a trip out to the Covenant Seminary bookstore in St. Louis. It was there that I splurged and purchased several books that I pray will keep me busy in the upcoming months. One of those books is the one that I will review now.
"What Is Reformed Theology" is not only a good theological resource but is also a very basic historical resource as well in looking at the very Biblical Theology that the Reformers used themselves. Sproul breaks Reformed Theology down into five basic foundational stones:
1. Centered on God
2. Based on God's Word alone
3. Commited to faith alone
4. Devoted to Jesus Christ
5. Structured by three covenants
Sproul states: "Reformed theology is first and foremost theocentric rather than anthropocentric. That is, it is God-centered rather than man-centered."
On page 17 Sproul uses two figures to distinguish Reformed theology from the man-centered view of theology. In Reformed theology you have theology as the determining force in what we believe about soteriology, Christology and anthropology etc. Whereas with a man-centered view you have anthropology, sociology, culture, religion and then finally theology that is derived from the previously stated subjects.
Among other things, Sproul spends a considerable amount of time talking about the three covenants of Covenant Theology - Covenant of Redemption, Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace. Sproul's teachings on Original Sin was also very beneficial and helpful in gaining an understanding of how we are totally incapable of gaining any merit or favor from God but that God is totally capable and gracious toward His elect that He sent His Son to die for.
A couple points of interest - Sproul's breakdown of the "five points" of Calvinism. This was especially useful and I thought that his teaching on "definite redemption" was some of the best that I have ever read on this subject. His breakdown of Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, Armianism, and Original Sin were some of the best that I have read as well (I do realize that is not saying much).
I will leave you with one of the hottest topics that has been blogged about on this particular blog - regeneration. If you buy this book for only this reason it will be well worth your read. If you can still hold to the Arminian and semi-Pelagian view of faith before regeneration after reading this book I will gladly tip my cap to you and confirm you as a lifelong Arminian.
Sproul also dives into the relationship between regeneration and dispensationalism and goes onto talk in detail about the "Lordship" controversy where many of the well-known dispensationalists of the past and of today have indicated that one can be saved without showing any fruit whatsoever of being a truly regenerate believer (e.g. Chafer, Scofield, and Ryrie). I will allow Sproul to do the talking here:
"The Reformed objection to Dispensationalism's carnal-Christian theory is based on the Reformed doctrine of regeneration. What is generated anew is the person's nature. The heart of the sinner is truly changed. Once in bondage to sin, the sinner is now liberated unto newness of life. The fruit of obedience is both inevitable and necessary; it is immediate. Obedience is by no means perfect, nor does it in any way contribute to the ground of one's justfication. Its absence, however, points to the absence of regeneration. A totally carnal person is an unregenerate person, and an unregenerate person is an unsaved person."
Amen and amen! Buy this book and read it intently and diligently. You will not regret it!
Quoting from the back cover (my younger brother, Don, taught me how to do this for book reports!!!)...
Why is there sin, rape, disease, war, pain and death in a good God's world? Every Christian asks this question--but rarely receives an answer...The Grand Demonstration penetrates deeply into scriptural teaching regarding the nature of God. Moving into territory others fear to tread, Jay Adams maintains that a fearless of biblical truth solves the so-called "problem of evil."I would highly recommend this book to anyone wrestling with the issue of God's sovereignty and the presence of evil. Adams presents a brilliant, biblical explanation of these so-called paradoxical truths.
Here is a smattering of some of the questions Adams asks and answers...always giving ample scriptural support:
Is God fair?To whet your appetite, I quote the premise of the book from its opening chapter...
Does God fulfill His will?
Is Man free? (this chapter alone is worth the price of the book)
Is the existence of evil really a problem? Is it an unsolvable mystery how evil--and its effects--can exist in a good God's world? Is there no satisfying explanation? No reason so overwhelming that upon hearing it one is compelled to say, "Ah, now I understand"? Can the Christian account for the existence of evil no better than a humanist or atheist?Again, I would highly encourage you to read this book. I will be purchasing my own copy soon (this one was a loaner from a church member). It's a quick, easy read (119 pages). Even at my slow pace I was able to read the entire book in about 100 minutes.
For too long answers to these questions given by many theologians have been equivocal, frustrating, and altogether inadequate. If God had not provided a better explanation of His ways and purposes, such answers, of course, would have to suffice.
To say that all evil is the result of the fall of Adam is perfectly true--but piteously inadequate. That response merely moves the question back a step: how could there be a fall? To suggest that Satan is the cause of the fall, again, is true, but only pushes the inquiry back an additional step: how could the devil exist in a sovereign, good God's world? That is the so-called problem of evil.
(In modern day evangelicalism)...that God planned the existence of evil and providentially brought it into human history is emphatically denied. The kind of wimpish god postulated by this errant theology is not the sovereign, all-knowing, all-powerful God of Scripture. Jehovah knows--and "declares"--the end "from the beginning" (Isaiah 46:10). There are no surprises for Him. How could there be since He planned all things from the beginning? The God of the Bible "works all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:11). Nothing, therefore, is impossible for Him to do that He wishes to do. Evil is not some run-away element in the universe, some quirk over which He has no control.
I am convinced this is a "must-read" for every pastor and parent. How do you explain 9/11...or the tsunami...or Katrina? Both Christians and non-Christians are looking for satisfying answers to these questions. And our children are growing up wondering the same things. If you want to offer them biblically sound, accurate, God-centered answers...read this book.
My rating: 6.75 out of 7 stars (the .25 deduction for a bit of "over-repetition")
Here are the details:
Title: The Grand Demonstration: A Biblical Study of the So-Called Problem of Evil
Author: Jay Adams
Published in 1991 by EastGate Publishers (119 pages)
You can purchase the book through Timeless Texts for $5.00; or through Amazon.com for $15.82.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US ... WE'RE NOW 100 POSTS OLD ... ARE YOUR EYES TIRED YET???
Wednesday, January 25
Having to keep up with sports and theology, I thought this blog was getting a bit heavy on the theology side. Therefore, in the name of balance, and for a quick breather from the deeper issues, get this...
GQ has offered its list of the 10 most hated athletes:
1. Terrell Owens
2. Barry Bonds
3. Kurt Busch
4. Curt Schilling
5. Kobe Bryant
6. Michael Iaconelli
7. Bonzi Wells
8. Phil Mickelson
9. A.J. Pierzynski
10. Lleyton Hewitt
Honorable mentions went to Alex Rodriguez, Rasheed Wallace, Randy Johnson, Jeff Kent and Danny Fortson.I must admit I was a bit surprised at one apparant oversight (and it's not Mike Hess!!!)...
Jake Plummer...who seems to be the most hated athlete of the week (for all Broncos fans, that is...while the Chiefs fans snicker)!!!
Ahhhhh...isn't this refreshing???
Elisabeth Elliot, whose husband, Jim, was one of the five missionaries slaughtered by the Waodoni tribe, speaks concerning "The End of the Spear."
You can access her comments here.
Jim is probably best known for his well-known journal entry just days before his death...
"He is no fool, who gives what he cannot keep; to gain that which he cannot lose."
I'm all out of "The End of the Spear" comments (is that a gasp I hear?), so go read Elisabeth's!!!
HT: Sharper Iron
If you have the time (code for..."if it's important to you, make the time") take a gander at the new issue of the Reformation21 online magazine. Here is what you will find...
Table of ContentsHere you will find good reading for a relatively inexpensive price -- FREE (except for the cost of your internet connection!). WARNING: This is written from a Reformed perspective, which in my opinion, isn't a bad thing!!!
We return this month to the topic of preaching. Sinclair Ferguson gave us the first five of the Preacher's Decalogue back in November, and this month we get the last five.
A Preacher's Decalogue Part II By Sinclair Ferguson
Preaching from Lengthy Books of the Old Testament By Derek Thomas
New Testament Theology by I. Howard Marshall
Review by Robert Cara
Does Christianity Squash Women by Rebecca Jones
Review by Mary Mohler
Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell
Review by Dale Van Dyke
WCF Study Guide by Joseph Pipa
Review by John Tweeddale
Thoughts on preaching by Richard Phillips
Window on the World:
Franklinity by Philip Ryken
Wages of Spin:
I Guess That's Why they Call it the Blues by Carl Trueman
Understanding the Times:
Broken Fences by Derek Thomas
From the Pulpit
Sermons from John MacArthur, Ligon Duncan, Derek Thomas, Richard D. Phillips, Philip Ryken, Mark Dever, and John Piper, all in audio format.
Here's something I hope will be beneficial to those who, like me, think the church has somehow lost its ability to show compassion very well (see this article). This quote appears on Tenth Presbyterian's website...and in their weekly bulletin. I realize that saying compassionate things is not the same as being compassionate, but it's a start. Here's the quote...
WelcomeWould it do our churches well to adopt this statement of compassion...to print it in our bulletins...and to embrace it with our hearts?
To all who are spiritually weary and seek rest;
to all who mourn and long for comfort;
to all who struggle and desire victory;
to all who sin and need a Savior;
to all who are strangers and want fellowship;
to all who hunger and thirst after righteousness;
and to whoever will come--
this church opens wide her doors
and offers her welcome in the name
of the Lord Jesus Christ.
P. S. -- For those who are wondering if (because I quote from Tenth Presbyterian) I am now a Presbyterian...the answer is "no." Just in case you were wondering...
So what good does a blog do anyway? Will it change anyone's mind, enhance anyone's walk with the Lord, increase our knowledge of Scripture, enlighten us to new and unfound truths that we never knew before, convince us of something that we opposed before, or will it just waste our time in endless debates that have continued on for the past 2,000 years or so? God's Word is so clear that our days are few and our time should be guarded as precious and valuable. I would agree with that wholeheartedly and I would also go so far as to say that there is much in the realms of cyberspace that indeed does waste our time. However, in regards to blogging about spiritual truth, disagreements, and controversial (how you define that can be ambiguous) subjects is never a waste of time.
From my perspective, we would all be in a dangerous position if we ever got to the point where we felt that we had all of the "sub" or "secondary" or "non-essential" or "minor" issues backed into a corner and totally figured out (e.g. eschatology, regeneration, denominational persuasion, and systems of theology). When we get to the point where our minds are nothing more than robotic instruments that were molded by the presuppositions of our background, we have become nothing more than a spiritual mold.
A few questions need to be raised here - Does Biblical Theology still excite you? Do the wonderful doctrines of grace still stir your soul? Do you still stand in awe and wonder over the fact that as an undeserving, unregenerate, and law-breaking sinner God enabled you to believe and repent because of His marvelous grace? Is there still a longing in your heart for God's Word to feed you on a daily basis? What kind of anticipation do you have when it comes to worship? When taking the Lord's Table is there still a serious time of reflection, self-examination, and repentance as you remember our Lord's broken body and shed blood on behalf of those that He came to redeem?
If your answer was yes to any one or several of these questions one would have to say that great subjects and truths such as regeneration, election, the inerrancy of Scripture, the virgin birth, the Incarnation, and on and on and on could only stir your soul and not leave it frustrated and distraught over disagreements you may have with us.
Therefore, I would argue that the more we talk about grace, redemption, the resurrection, the ascension, and the wonderful work of God in the converting of a sinner's soul the more we will treasure Christ together. I often scratch my head when others argue that having a thought provoking discussion about theology is a "waste of time" or "not spending our time wisely". Nothing has transformed my personal life, ministry, marriage, and my relationships more than Biblical Theology. Biblical Theology puts Jesus Christ at His rightful place - at the center of all things (Col. 1:18; Rom. 11:36). Yes, I would agree that from time to time discussions can become rather unfruitful and to be quite frank, very unloving. However, that is not the desire that we have with this blog. Christ has given us real joy and real peace. All of us need to guard our hearts as to whether or not we have a real and sincere love for those with whom we disagree. We also need to take heed to 2 Timothy 2:24 that reminds us to be "gentle" and "kind".
But beyond all of our arguments and debates let me ask you this, is what you believe drawing you closer to a heart and mindset that is treasuring Christ above all things and being totally content in Him alone? Knowing and understanding the truth about our God's sovereignty and absolute power over all things will, I believe, enhance the condition of our hearts to look beyond our disagreements and our healthy debates to a more fervent and passionate love for Jesus Christ!
Do you ever grow weary of all the blasphemy in today's world? Do you ever feel like "going off" on all the unrighteousness...and sin...and outright, open, in-your-face immorality?
Good thing you're not God...and good thing I'm not God either (I'd be doing some major "zapping"). I can hardly stomach rapper Kanye West's latest God-bashing, self-aggrandizing stunt. See it for yourself...and weep. (HT: Slice of Laodicea)
Weep that this blasphemy graces the cover of a mainstream magazine (admittedly not known for its pro-Christian slant...but honestly). Weep for a society in which this kind of blasphemy is becoming ever-more prevalent. Weep for this man's soul, and his future home in hell apart from the redeeming grace of God. Weep for your children and grandchildren who will face the increasing demonization of all that's sacred. And weep for yourself...because, in a sense, this picture is accurate...you deserved that crown. Those thorns should've crowned your head. Not in the way Kanye West has worn them, but in the way Jesus wore them. Weep over your sin and the damnation you deserve. And weep for the grace you've been shown through the perfect Lamb of God willingly enduring what you (and I) deserve.
We can still weep can't we? Or have we become so embittered and angered against a godless society that we are no longer able to weep because of our innate craving to yell, and scream, and rant? I am convinced that today's church has lost her ability and willingness to weep (how long has it been since you wept during communion, or the preaching, or the singing?). In our communities we're known for our screaming rather than our weeping. We're known for what we're against rather than what we embrace. We've become so anti-touchy and feely that we've become a group of uncompassionate, angry protesters. And God's love has been drowned out by our anger.
I can hear your objections already. They probably sound something like this...
"Didn't you just spend two posts calling the church to protest Roe v Wade...to protest abortion and euthenasia and to become activists in the struggle for "life?" And now you are criticizing the church's inability to weep rather than her ability to stand for the truth? Didn't Jesus express some major anger when He drove the moneychangers from the temple? What gives...have you lost your mind?"Well, as far as the mind goes...that's for you to judge! Hear me out. And as for your other objections...
You're right. Jesus was passionate about protecting the purity of the temple. He was angry. In fact, He was downright livid...and not very nice about it. But, these people knew better. They were not ignorant. They purposefully defiled God's house...and Christ let them know it. So, with those who know better (i.e., those who are a part of the church), we lovingly confront them in their sin (I'm not sure we do this very well...but that's another post). God puts it this way...
1 Peter 4:17, "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?"So, what was Jesus' response to those who didn't know any better? How should we react to Kanye West's blasphemy?
Matthew 9:36, "But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd."Let us be moved with compassion and weep. And rather than expecting non-Christians to live and think like us, and screaming "blasphemy" (which this is); let us preach the gospel of God's grace without condoning their sin (see Jesus with the woman at the well, see Jesus with the woman taken in adultery).
Luke 19:41, "And when he was come near he beheld the city (Jerusalem), and wept over it." (This verse precedes the account of Jesus' overturning the moneychangers' tables!!)
In my opinion, today's church has shown compassion toward those they should be confronting, and they've confronted those needing compassion.
Hmm...I wonder if this has any correlation to Roe v Wade...and returning the church to her glory of yesteryear (posts you can read here and here)?
Tuesday, January 24
Hoping this will be helpful to all, here are links to each of the parts of this series in a single post. I hope this series has been as informative and enjoyable for you as it has for me! Let us embrace this truth...and experience the joy and hope it brings!
Part 1: My own struggle with God's sovereignty and the introduction of Spurgeon.
Part 2: Spurgeon, "God ordains blessings and miseries for our good."
Part 3: Spurgeon, "Your pain is ordained by God Himself...in this find comfort."
Part 4: Spurgeon, "Here are some reasons calamity is a part of God's sovereign plan for us."
Part 5: Spurgeon, "Evil points us to God," and a final prayer.
**Spurgeon's sermons and other writings are available on CD from Ages Library. You may also access a number of resources online at The Spurgeon Archive. I would strongly encourage you to visit these sites.
Phil Johnson posted today that he is now going to a group blog instead him being the main contributor. I sincerely hope that Phil remains the main blogger on this site. I completely understand the difficulty that he faces with having to do serious study and also wanting to respond to comments and posting legitmate blogs on a consistent basis. Phil's ministry is greatly appreciated by many across the country and especially by John MacArthur himself!
In Isaiah 45:7, God explains his actions this way...
"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil (calamity): I the LORD do all these things."This text has been the foundation for a brief look at God's sovereignty...a misunderstood and misrepresented doctrine in the contemporary church. I hope it has been advantageous to take a look back at how the "Prince of Preachers" taught this concept. Here are Spurgeon's final words on Isaiah 45:7.
I would encourage you to read this carefully. Although it is a bit lengthy, your spirit will be stirred by these words...
"Doubtless, we should entirely forget God, if it were not for some of those eclipses which now and then happen. God would not have his name remembered on earth at all by the race of man if he did not make them recollect his name, when he scourged it into them with his rod. Famine, pestilence, the sword, the flood, all these must come upon us to be terrible remembrances, to make us think of the dread King who holds the thunders in his hand, and keeps the lightnings in his power. Doubtless, this is God's great design in his afflictive providences, to make us think of him. But there is another design. Some times troublous times tend to prepare the world for something better afterwards. War is an awful thing; but I doubt not, it purges the moral atmosphere, just as a hurricane sweeps away a pestilence. It is a fearful thing to hear of famine, or to hear of plague; but each of these things has some effect upon the human race. An evil generally goes to make room for a greater good. Men may bewail the fire of
"God's rods are improvers; when they are laid upon us they always mend us. God scarifies the Christian, that he may cleanse him of his weeds; he ploughs him deep that he may turn up the subsoil to the air, that the influence of the Divine Spirit may rest upon him. He puts us into the crucible and into the furnace, that the heat may burn away our dross, and may consume all our impurities. He sends us into the deep waters, that they may be like a sacred baptism to us, and may help in sanctifying us, by delivering us from our pride, our lust, our worldliness, and our conceit. Happy is the man who understands this —who knows that all things work together for good to them that love God, and believes that even an eclipse of God's countenance hath its end and design, in making him perfectly conformed to the image of Christ Jesus the Lord."
"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners: do you feel that you are a sinner? If so, he came to save you. All you have to do—and that grace makes you do—is to believe that he came to save sinners, and therefore came to save you. Mark, he did not come to save all; he came to save sinners. All men who can claim the title of sinners, Christ came to save. If you are too good to be a sinner, then you have no part in this matter; if you are too proud to confess that you are a sinner, then this has nothing to do with you; but if with a humble heart, with a penitential lip, you can say, "Lord, have mercy upon me a sinner," then Christ was punished for your sins, and you cannot be punished for them. Christ has died instead of you; believe on him, and you may go your way rejoicing that you are saved now, and shall be saved eternally. May God the Holy Spirit first teach you that you are a sinner, then lead you to believe that Christ died for sinners and then apply the promise, so that you may see that he died for you; and that done, you may "rejoice in hope of the glory of God," and your sun shall never set in an eclipse, but shall set on earth to rise with tenfold splendour in the upper sphere where it shall never know a cloud, a setting, or an eclipse."
I conclude this series with a prayer..."Lord, give us the grace to embrace your absolute sovereignty in all things. And may this grace enable us to trust you completely, love you fully, and surrender to You unconditionally. You are our God...may we think of You as such. Amen."
According to WorldnetDaily, NBC has dumped it's new blasphemic "comedy" effective immediately. According to one of the NBC execs, this decision was not based upon the show's highly controversial (code for anti-God and family values) content; but rather it's dismal ratings.
Hmm...I wonder if there's any correlation between the content and the ratings? And he's the genius behind NBC????
Monday, January 23
Following yesterday's post on Roe v Wade, I've been anxiously watching for the comments section to explode. I'm disappointed. Am I the only one who sees a problem with the pulpits in America today? OK, I realize I'm beginning to sound like a bit like Elijah, but honestly...I covet your comments on this issue...
In your opinion, what must happen to transport our pulpits back to the glory of the 1830's? What's happened to America's churches...what's changed?
You may be under the impression that because you are an evangelical, belong to an evangelical church, and are convinced that abortion and euthanasia are dreadful sins, you are not compelled to share in the blame. If this is how you feel, you're wrong! Let me prove my point:
Does "abortion" appear in your church prayer bulletin? Or "euthanasia" (which, I'm convinced, many of our teenagers would define as "young people living on the other side of the world")?
Was the 33rd Anniversary of Roe v Wade mentioned in your church yesterday? Or in your home? If not, why not? And if yes, was it more than a simple passing comment?
Does your church support pro-life groups and causes financially? And if your church does, how does it compare with your church's "food" or "fellowship" budget?
If our churches are pro-life in name only, can we expect our courts and government to be pro-life in practice?
So, again, I ask for your help and input...and by God's grace, let us combine our thoughts to call our churches back to her glory of yesteryear!!
We would like to welcome Dr. Mark Dever to the world of blogging. However, I would have to say (as much as I hate to admit this) I disagree with Mark on his evaluation of the world of blogging. Take a look at his his blog entitled "The Unbearable Lightness of Blogging" and let us know what you think. I would wholeheartedly agree with him about the need to commune with the saints of the past but there is much more than just side dishes and snacks that are offered within the context of our blogs (at least I hope from ours).
Anyone else have some thoughts on this???
On March 4th 2005 I was ordained as a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I can honestly say that it was one of the most edifying days of my life for a number of reasons. The primary one being that I was stretched and challenged to learn more from God's Word about many of the foundational doctrines that I needed to brush up on badly. But I will never forget one of the questions that I totally bombed on, and to this day, I can honestly say that I was embarrassed to say the least that I dropped the ball. The question went something like this - "How would you say that Christ fulfills the offices of prophet, priest, and king?" It sounds simple enough but it is much more profound than that. Hence, I will begin a three part blog-series on this very important subject that should be entrenched in all of our preaching.
The essence of this teaching can be found in Calvin's masterpiece Institutes of the Christian Religion and also in the Westminster Confession of Faith. I'm going to focus today on Christ fulfilling the office of prophet. The fourth foundational stone of Reformed Theology is that is devoted to Jesus Christ. The WCF (Westminster Confession of Faith 8.1) stated - "it pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son to be the Mediator between God and man, the Prophet, and King, the Head and Saviour of His Church, the Heir of all things, and Judge of the world: unto whom He did from all eternity give a people, to be His seed, and to be by Him in the time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified." John Calvin developed the Reformed doctrine of the threefold office of Christ which the Westminster Confession would later adhere to. It was this threefold office (munus triplex) refers to Jesus Christ fulfilling all three of these Old Testament offices of Prophet, Priest, and King. These were meditorial offices where the people acted as go-betweens and God's representatives. The prophet represented God speaking to the people on God's behalf (e.g. Elijah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Daniel to name a few).
Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the role of a prophet. He spoke Divine revelation, revealed new truth, and spoke with absolute authority - he did not need to say "Thus says the Lord" rather we find Him saying "But I say unto you". R.C. Sproul in his book "What is Reformed Theology" states it this way:
"Jesus Christ also filled the role of the prophet. At his baptism Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit. Later God announced from heaven that Jesus is his beloved Son and that the people should listen to him. He spoke the prophetic word of God, declaring that he said nothing on his own but only what the Father had commissioned him to say.......
"His first recorded sermon (Luke 4:18-21), given in a synagogue, was based on a prophetic text. Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2, then began his sermon, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." Jesus also engaged in prophetic predictions, such as foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 24:1-28)."
Another good resource for this description would be to check out Berkhof's Systematic Theology as well as Wayne Grudem's. Both do a splendid job of entailing how Christ fulfills these Old Testament offices.
We also find that Christ is the prophet spoken about in Deuteronomy 18:15-18 which states:
"The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. 16 This is according to all that you asked of the Lord your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, 'Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.' 17 The Lord said to me, 'They have spoken well. 18 I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him." - NASB
The main thrust of the prophetic utterances of Christ's sayings were focused on Himself and the coming kingdom that He was about to usher in of which He would be totally sovereign over. Only God-incarnate could fulfill all three of these offices as succintly as Christ did and is still doing today. His ministry as a prophet is still at work today through the reading, studying, and preaching of His Word. Though there are no longer any new revelations being given to us right now, the complete revelation that God has given to us has spoken and is still speaking today (Scripture)!
Here is a worthwhile read. This article wonderfully articulates the decision-driven, shallow gospel being proclaimed from America's pulpits (and plenty of other places) today. For a long time now, I have been leary of "christening" one a Christian following their "sinner's prayer" and/or "decision." It pains me to think of the vast numbers of people who will spend eternity in hell, people whom we've convinced that, because of their "decision," are promised an eternity in heaven.
What does Jesus say? "By their fruits you shall know them." Matthew 7:16 & 20. Not, "by their prayer" or "by their decision" or "by their upraised hand." A vine needs time to produce fruit. So does a profession of faith. Why? Because just as the fruit validates life in the vine...so to will fruit validate the presence of saving faith!
God save us from the evangelical church's love affair with numbers and decisons...and may He give us a heart and vision for the gospel and its fruit!
Sunday, January 22
Yesterday (Sunday, January 22) marked the 33rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized the act of murdering children in their mothers' womb. How did our nation's highest court celebrate this anniversary week? By backing the Oregon assisted suicide law.
How did our nation stumble into this "culture of death;" a culture of killing the innocent (unborn) and helpless (terminally ill) in the name of choice (abortion) and mercy (euthanasia)? I'm not sure that we stumbled into this situation...I am convinced we plunged into this culture of death with our eyes wide open. Politicians we elected pressed for new, death-friendly laws. Judges we put on the bench began writing law rather than interpreting it. And the result?
God's name has been removed from the public square. The Ten Commandments have been replaced with moral relativism. Nativity scenes have given way to Santa and reindeer. Christmas break has been renamed, and the "pledge of allegiance" has been rewritten.
You may be wondering how this is our fault. We've voted in every election. We've removed activist judges from the bench. We've prayed, and we've given to valid causes. We've marched, and we've wept at the haunting images of aborted babies and Terri Schaivo. How could this be our fault?
America's problem isn't so much in her halls of justice or legislation. America's problem is in her churches, especially her pulpits. The gospel of God's grace has been replaced with the "gospel of self-esteem" (see the "Christian" bestsellers on the NY Times Bestseller list). The words "sin" and "commandments" have given way to words like "misjudgment" and "suggestions." We care more about how man feels that what God thinks. And who's leading our churches into this spiritual wilderness? Pastors. Pastors who are numbers-driven. Pastors who are money-driven. Pastors who are reputation-driven.
Today's American ecclesiastical weakness was yesterday's strength. **In 1831, Frenchman Alexis De Tocqueville was reportedly commissioned by the French government to come to America and search for this young nation's greatness. De Tocqueville searched for America's greatness in our halls of justice and government. He looked into our natural resources and harbors. He studied our economy and industry. Yet it was not until he entered our churches that he discovered the secret to America's greatness...
"I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers - and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce - and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution - and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great."A simple phrase from the lips of a Frenchman correctly identifies the root of America's problem. Our pulpits are no longer "aflame with righteousness." Our preaching no longer exalts God or His laws, and our teaching is non-confrontational and insipid. Yet, I believe America could be great again because I believe America's churches could be great again.
So, what must happen to transport our pulpits back to the glory of the 1830's?
We'll talk about this in the next few days. I would appreciate readers sharing their ideas and suggestions by way of comments or via email.
Until then it would do us well to repent and recommit ourselves to being "light" and "salt" in this culture of death. May God, in His grace, grant us forgiveness, and empower us to stand for His Truth.
(For further study and information, please check out these sites: Abort73.com and John Piper's 15 Pro-Life Truths to Speak.)
**PLEASE NOTE: DE TOCQUEVILLE'S QUOTE, IT APPEARS, CANNOT BE SUBSTANTIATED FROM HIS WRITINGS. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, PLEASE READ THIS.
Saturday, January 21
I know that the title of this blog entry is about as confusing as listening to an Arminian explain away unconditional electon and regeneration but please bear with me. We all know what it is like to get into a "rut" in a myriad of areas in our Christian lives - our prayer lives, evangelism, Bible study, time with family, and last but certainly not least - church life. It is a sad fact that many of our church services become as predictable as a politician's stump speech in the middle of a campaign. No, I am not saying that we succomb to a pragmatic theatrical production that belittles the power of the Gospel and does nothing more than conform our churches to the world's "felt needs". However, I am saying that we need to take a look at how many of our spiritual forefathers did worship. Also, (please give me grace here) it would not be a bad idea to see how many of our other evangelical brethren in the realms of conservative and Gospel-loving Christendom go about doing their worship.
Please do not take this as "baptist-bashing" but I do feel that when it comes to focusing on Christ, His Word, and His work we do a very sub-par job. Recently, I took a strong look at many of the hymns that we sing. Sadly, many of the hymns that were written at the turn of the 20th century have a very man-centered focus - "When We All Get To Heaven"; "A New Name Written Down In Glory (and it's mine)" (this is far from being a song that does justice to the doctrines of grace), "I'll Fly Away", and on and on and on. Please keep in mind that this is coming from someone who is far from an expert in music (though my 8 year old son is taking piano lessons if that is any consolation). How much of our music is actually focused on the character of God - His holiness, perfection, righteousness, immutability, sovereignty, and grace? If we are not focused on these attributes we have nothing more than an anthropocentric(man-centered) worship service.
One of the ways that we at FBC of Roxana have attempted to alter the inclination of becoming man-centered was by implementing public Scripture reading, public prayer, a time of confession before communion, times of public testimony, and focusing more on songs that focus on the character and work of Christ. Though we are not where I would like us to be quite yet, we have come a long way and our people have grown and benefited from it. I'm not sure why, but the evangelical community (especially in fundamentalist circles) had drifted away from these practices in the 20th century. Many of us have failed to realize that this was a total neglect of tradition. Hence, today we have a neglect of true tradition in the name of a more modern tradition. It is no wonder that our churches have become weaker. When the character of God is neglected the people cannot and will not grow in Christ. When the public reading of Scripture is replaced with theatrical entertainment we emphasize self-esteem and the feelings and pleasures of man rather than our trascendent God. This was never God's intention in regards to New Testament Christianity.
1 Timothy 4:13 - "Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching." (NASB)
This is another fault of which we as fundamentalists have become very guilty of over the past sixty years or so. It is sad that during a Roman Catholic mass there is more public reading of Scripture before the homilee than most of us have in our services. I know what many will say - "But we use more during the message". Yes, I would agree wholeheartedly to that, but the reading of Scripture does so much to focus the affection and attention of our hearts away from our own selfish desires and onto the wonderful and majestic God that we have come together to worship. How can we truly call our worship services "worship" when there is no realization of and confession of sin, a reading, studying or commentary, and application of God's Word, praise and adoration to God Himself, and a celebration of our Lord's death, burial, and resurrection and His victorious and triumphant return?
R.J. Krejcir has an awesome article on this very subject and does a far better job of articulating this than I could. Take a look at this and see the difference between what he talks about as true Scriptural worship and what many are doing today in the name of "relevance".
Having come to appreciate and respect the opinions of Dr. Gene Veith (of WORLD magazine and Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals fame)...here are his comments on this passionate controversy brewing within evangelical Christianity:
Finally, a movie comes out that carries the Gospel as its theme, that presents Christians and even missionaries in a positive light, that shows how Christianity can transform a culture. And yet CHRISTIANS are boycotting it because it has a gay actor.Although I do not totally agree with Dr. Veith's conclusions, I thought a presentation of "the other side" would do us all well. My point in dealing with this issue has not been to call Christians to "boycott" the film, but to call our attention to the facts surrounding it. Therefore, if you should choose to see this movie...you will do so with your eyes wide open!
People, actors make no difference to the story! Actors are people who perform characters and recite lines that someone else has written for them. I agree that this gay actor now opening his mouth should not have been hired, but I doubt that the filmmakers knew his sexual orientation when they cast him or, since this is the first venture of a tiny, Oklahoma-based Christian company founded by a man who himself is so conservative he never even went to movies, were wise to the ways of Hollywood. If this had been made by the secular movie industry, such as those that made the Narnia movie, would there be such an outcry? If one of the actors in the Narnia movie were gay--as I'm sure must be the case--would that lessen the positive impact of the movie?
I noticed NO ONE commented on my story about "The End of the Spear." Lots of you commented on the gay actor post, nearly all of you saying that having him in the movie does taint it for you. But there is nothing pro-gay in the movie, nothing negative, only morality, inspiration, and truth.
Our local newspaper did not deign to review the movie, probably because of its Christian content. We can expect the secularists to ignore it. If Christians refuse to see it because of a single casting decision, oblivious to the story as a whole, then that will be the end of the movie and probably other movies with an explicit Christian message that could follow, if this one were a success. That, of course, plays into the hands of those who oppose Christianity, including the gay militants. Such an outcome would be a shame.
For previous discussions of this issue...see this and this.
I would be the first to admit that there are many things that a pastor can do that I would consider "pastoral suicide". Let me give you some examples - firing everyone in leadership who you do not feel is qualified, changing your constitution immediately, preaching a ten part series on "limited atonement" in your first two years, making a hasty case against dispensationalism, and (gulp) coming right out and saying that you are a "Calvinist".
Being called a "Calvinist" is by far an insult from my perspective. However, we sometimes use this word a bit too loosely. Yes, I do believe in the "doctrines of grace" but I hesitate to make an attempt to convert people to what we call Calvinism. If we are truly preaching and teaching the Gospel as presented in God's Word it will be an inevitable conclusion that our people will become more inclined to take in the doctrines of grace.
John Piper has a good article on preaching and teaching on Calvinism. I especially appreciated the fact that Piper emphasized preaching on the doctrines of grace with grace, love, and patience. If I remember correctly, I didn't exactly embrace this doctrine the first time I heard someone say that "Jesus did not die for everyone" (I also do not think that pastorally that is a good way of defining "definite redemption", there are far better ways to explain this view than having irresponsible rhetoric).
Again, this all goes back to having a ministry that is centrally focused on preaching and teaching God's Word and keeping the Gospel as the centerpiece of our ministries.
Friday, January 20
For you singles who live in the Saddleback, CA area; mark your calendars, shine your shoes, and pull out your Elvis outfit. You're going to a dance...at church!
And the theme? I figured it would have something to do with David dancing before the Lord or something. Something like... "Footloosin with the King!" or "Stayin' Alive with David!" And certainly the costumes would reflect Bible era fashions...you know, like, sandals and robes and sashes! But NOOOOOOOO ... not at this purpose-driven church (you've got to click on this link to believe it...it's being held in the worship center)...
Their "singles dance" theme? Hollywood Glitz And Glam
And the costumes? Come dressed as your favorite TV or movie personality or come dressed as your own glamorous self!
Hmm...so if I went dressed up like myself, I wonder how many people would greet me with, "Hey, Mel (Gibson) are you ready to boogie down for Jesus?"
And this is what we do with our time in modern day Christianity???? God help us!
HT: Slice of Laodicea
Thursday, January 19
Here's some disturbing news...Steve Saint stands by his approval of Chad Allen portraying his father, Nate Saint in "The End of the Spear."
Steve Saint even goes as far as to say...
"I thought, 'What happens if I stand before God someday and He says to me, "Steve, I went out of my way to orchestrate an opportunity for Chad Allen to see what it would be like to live as your father did.' And then I could picture Him looking at me and saying, 'Steve, why did you mess with my plan?'"Wow...what a subjective statement! Imagine if Steve or any of us went around asking this question about everything we did. Imagine if your daughter brought a drug dealer home and used this convincing argument, "What happens if I stand before God someday and He says to me, 'I went out of my way to orchestrate this relationship, so you could reach him for Jesus.' And so, Mom and Dad, because I don't want to 'mess with God's plan,' we are going to get married."
So, what's the big deal about the theology behind these statements (assuming these comments were correctly attributed to him)?
God doesn't have to "go out of His way to orchestrate anything." I realize we have lost the historical perspective on God's sovereignty, but this is outright heretical language. Does Steve really believe this about his God? If so, his God isn't God, because He has to go out of His way to orchestrate opportunities for His creatures!
As humans, we don't have the ability to "mess with God's plan." God is God...we are not. Part of what makes God God is that man can't mess up His purposes or plans! Again, this comment presents an unbiblical view of God...as someone who needs the cooperation of humans to carry out His plan. If only Steve would read Daniel 4:35 and our recent posts from Spurgeon's sermon on Isaiah 45:7...
If Steve Saint is really concerned about giving Chad Allen the opportunity to "see what it would be like to live like his father lived" he needs to preach the gospel to him! He needs to encourage Mr. Allen to "lose His life (and lifestyle) for Jesus sake...and then he will find it (Matthew 16:25)." This is what it means to live (and die) like Steve's father!
For additional comments on this controversy, please see this and this.
One of the great blessings that we experience as a church when taking the Lord's Supper is the public and unified reading of our church covenant. It reads as follows:
Having been brought by Divine Grace to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and being born-again by His Word and the Holy Spirit, we joyfully and solemnly covenant together, as God shall enable us:
to walk together in brotherly love, to exercise a Christian care and watchfulness over one another, and to faithfully warn, rebuke, and admonish one another as the case may require;
to regularly assemble ourselves together for worship, prayer, Bible Study and the preaching of the Word, and Christian fellowship;
to pray for one another, to participate in one another's joys and with tenderness and sympathy to share one another's burdens and sorrows;
to seek divine aid to enable us to walk circumspectly and watchfully in the world, ever denying ungodlines and worldly lusts;
to strive together for the support of a faithful, evangelical, ministry among us; to support the propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world; and throughout life, amidst good report and evil report to seek to live to the glory of Him who hath called us out of darkness into light.
When interviewing potential candidates for membership (which I do personally with everyone who desires to join our church) I encourage them to familiarize themselves with our church covenant (as well as our constitution) and ask them if there is anything in these documents with which they disagree or could not adhere to. I believe that there is a special bond when we come together to not only re-examine ourselves before the Lord, to remember His broken body and shed blood, but to also recommit ourselves to the underlying mission of our church.