In a recent article in Baptist Press that you can read here this issue is addressed once again. Most of this came to light in a Purdue University study that found Baptists, especially Southern Baptists struggled tremendously with the issue of obesity.
So is this a real issue? Is this an issue that deals with real sin? Should this be handled as a sinful issue? Real people have real struggles with their weight. There is no doubting that. For many this is hereditary, organic, and complex. For others, like most, it is an incredible struggle to find time to exercise and to discipline their diet for appropriate eating habits. Nevertheless, NO ONE can get around the fact that this is an issue of stewardship.
Again, if this issue is confronted it should be done so with grace and patience. Also, for the life of me, I cannot get over why we are debating things like alcohol use, hair cut frequency, bible versions, and worship styles when an issue that has taken the church by storm is right there in front of us - bodily irresponsibility. No, I am not talking about those who have legitimate health issues that can make weight loss more difficult for some. However, I am referring to the negligence that many of us have been guilty of in not caring for the body that God has given us for His glory.
The World From Our Window
Viewing the world through the window of the Historic, Reformed, Baptist Faith.
Tuesday, July 31
In a recent article in Baptist Press that you can read here this issue is addressed once again. Most of this came to light in a Purdue University study that found Baptists, especially Southern Baptists struggled tremendously with the issue of obesity.
It seems more and more pre-tribulational, dispensational theology is being driven by a series of books (see the "Left Behind" series) rather than Scripture. Frankly, this theological gobbledygook scares me ... and it should scare you, too.
See it for yourself HERE.
Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite:
"Obviously we (Christian Americans) must be connected to Israel to enjoy the Second Coming."
"You (Christians) have to embrace Israel as a part of the Second Coming."
"The Battle of Armageddon is the believers against the nonbelievers; the Christians against the anti-Christians."
"When we disappear, you (unbelievers) better worry; because if you haven't seen the Left Behind series, it's scary."
"[The antichrist] will be charismatic; he will also be one who has promoted peace for many years."
"The one who forces Israel into a peace treaty with the Arabs is the one who ... you have to watch out for--the beast."
"The nuclear and atomic bombs will cause people's eyes to be removed from their sockets, and their flesh to be torn from their bones."
"Another reason we support Israel--we have a common enemy, the Muslim."
"Satan is the one who is trying to destroy the Jewish race."
Following you will find a paper authored by Tim Gombis, a Bible prof at Cedarville University. It appears here with his permission in an attempt to bring clarity to the situation regarding the University and The New Perspective on Paul.
The New Perspective
Timothy G. Gombis, Ph.D.
What is it?
The New Perspective on Paul (NPP) is a renewed attempt to understand the historical background of the Apostle Paul, especially with regard to the nature of Judaism during the writing of the New Testament. Over the last few hundred years of New Testament study, Paul has been interpreted against a variety of backgrounds—Roman commercial practices, Roman law, Greek philosophical thought, Judaism, etc. During the past 30 years or so, the majority conviction of New Testament scholars is that the most fruitful background for understanding Paul and his thought is the Old Testament and the Jewish culture of Paul’s day. Because of the increased scrutiny of this cultural background and because of the relatively recent discovery of some ancient Jewish texts, we are able to gain a clearer picture of the nature of Jewish life and thought around the time of Paul.
This renewed look at Judaism had led to a renewed and more sustained study of the several passages in Paul’s letters where he appears to be critiquing Judaism—Romans 2-3; Galatians 1-3; Philippians 3. Nearly all scholars agree that Paul finds Judaism inadequate, or is leveling some critique at Judaism. The question that constitutes the New Perspective debate, however, is this: What is it about Judaism that Paul is critiquing, or that he finds inadequate?
So why all the fuss?
The discussions over the NPP have had very little to do with the nature of justification and other matters that impact on Christian theological formulations of salvation. What has caused much of the fuss, however, is that with this new load of background material on Judaism, those passages in Paul’s letters that mention Judaism began to receive greatly increased attention from New Testament scholars. This is only right, since we practice a historical-grammatical interpretive method. With an increase of historical data, we have more accurate lenses with which to read Scripture. The rub comes, however, from the fact that these passages are also key texts that articulate the gospel of justification by faith.
With the increased attention, what has gained greater exposure is simply what many evangelical New Testament scholars have been saying for generations about Paul’s theology. The following items are especially prominent in this discussion:
1. The timing of justification.
2. The relationship between justification and future judgment according to works.
3. The mechanics of justification.
Since many Christians have not had much exposure to some of these more complicated discussions of biblical theology in Paul’s letters, they began to assume that the new things they were hearing constituted something that can be called “new perspective theology.” This, however, is not the case. There is no such thing as “new perspective theology.” As stated above, the NPP is a focused area of study on the Jewish and Old Testament background of Paul’s letters. It is not a theological school of thought, but a study of historical backgrounds to the New Testament
What relationship does the NPP have to justification in the Bible?
None at all. There is no “new perspective view” of justification. As I said above, it’s just that since the passages in which justification is discussed are receiving greater attention, Paul’s discussions of justification have gained far greater exposure. With regard to the timing of justification, Paul teaches that at their conversion, believers receive the promise of justification, a public verdict that will be rendered by God at the day of Christ. Since this promise is based on the word of God, which is completely sure and absolutely reliable, Paul can speak of believers as “having been justified” (Romans 5, 8).
With regard to justification and a future judgment according to works, Paul does state that we all will be judged for our works in this life (2 Cor 5:10). But Paul also teaches that the works that we do as believers were planned from eternity past (Eph 2:10) and completely empowered by the Spirit. We can say, therefore, that God will judge us in the future based on what God has produced in our lives by His Spirit. Since our sins (past, present, and future) have already been forgiven, believers have no fear whatsoever of condemnation at the judgment (Rom 8:1).
With regard to the mechanics of justification, Paul teaches that justification flows from our union with Christ. That is, when believers confess their faith in Christ, God baptizes them into Christ by His Spirit so that we now stand before God with the righteousness of Christ. In fact, Paul’s language is more intense and intimate than that—he says that we become the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor 5:21).
What is important is that none of these issues are “new perspective” issues, but are historic theological discussions that have been going on for at least the last five hundred years. A big reason they are now associated with the “new perspective” is the popularity of the Christian writer N. T. (“Tom”) Wright, who also happens to be a Pauline scholar. Many Christians are reading his books on basic Christian thought and practice, so his writings on more technical exegetical, historical, and theological issues are being studied and read as well. Sadly, much of what he has had to say in more scholarly works is being misinterpreted or misunderstood by those who are trying to capture or summarize his thought.
Many of the historical insights into the nature of Judaism spawned by the NPP have been very helpful, leading to a more complete understanding of what Paul saw as inadequate and corrupt in that religious system. There is no reason to react strongly to the “new perspective” since there really no such thing as “new perspective theology.” All Christians are responsible to scrutinize every teaching in the light of Scripture so that we may hold fast to that which is good and cast off whatever is harmful to the truth and to the body of Christ. This process of scrutiny must not be short-circuited or bypassed out of fear or suspicion, since insights into the historical background to Scripture very well may result in greater understanding of the Bible and greater blessing for the people of God, resulting in the end in greater glory to God in Christ._____________________________________
If you have any questions or comments, please address them to Dr. Gombis via the comments section, or personally via email. Dr. Gombis will respond to your comments as time permits.
May we have a God-honoring discussion!
Teach Them Diligently - Lou Priolo
Lou lays out the theme of this book in the Preface:
"...most of today's Christian parenting resources fail to emphasize what is perhaps the most important aspect of true biblical parenting--how to relate the Bible to the disciplinary process in practical ways. Think about it. With all of your training, do you really know how to use the Bible for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness with your children? If you do, you probably will not need to read any further. If you don't it is my prayer that this little book will augment and strengthen your parenting skills as you learn how to use the Scriptures more thoroughly and effectively in your child training."The strength of this book is its practicality. It is one of, if not, the most practical books on parenting that I have ever read. This is the book I would most highly recommend for parents, second only to Tedd Tripp's book Shepherding a Child's Heart. Tripp lays a wonderful foundation for parenting by giving an in-depth look at all the relevant biblical principles. This book builds on those principles, emphasizing the use of the Scriptures in child training. If you are parent it is a MUST-HAVE, a MUST-READ, and a MUST-APPLY! [For those of you who are unfamiliar with nouthetic counseling this book would serve as an introduction to the principles of biblical counseling and lay them out for you in unmistakably distinct ways. I believe that nouthetic principles can best be illustrated in the parenting milieu, and this book is a perfect demonstration.]
Teach Them Diligently is mostly an in-depth exposition of 2 Timothy 3:16 applied to the pursuit of fulfilling God's parenting mandate in Deuteronomy 6:6-7. The first couple of chapters will be mostly review for anyone familiar with nouthetic principles and is an affirmation of what Tripp teaches in Shepherding a Child's Heart. But if this approach is new for you these chapters are crucial to understanding all of the application given in the later chapters. These principles will revolutionize the way you approach parenting!
The book really picked up for me when Priolo began to cover the four-fold uses of Scripture covered in 2 Timothy 3:16. He takes a chapter to cover each of the four uses--defining, explaining, applying and illustrating. Priolo wonderfully demonstrates the strength of the nouthetic approach by giving point-by-point instruction in the application of each principle. His illustrations come straight out of real life and every parent will connect with the situations and gain tremendous benefit from the in-depth solutions explained in detail. Here is one of the shorter examples:
Have you every caught your child in a lie?In the chapter on training in righteousness I learned the very valuable and oft-forgotten Gumnanzo Principle.
"The reason I didn't tell you the truth, Dad, is because I thought I'd get into trouble."
"Son, when we are tempted to lie, it is almost always because we're afraid of the consequences of telling the truth. In this case, you were afraid you would be disciplined for your dishonesty. And that fear is certainly well-founded. you apparently feared the consequences of telling the truth more than the consequences of displeasing God, who says that 'lying lips are an abomination to' Him, 'but those who deal faithfully are His delight' (Prov. 12:22). The word 'faithful' in that passage may also be translated 'truthful.' Do you know what the connection is between being truthful and being faithful?"
"I don't think so."
"A person who is known for telling the truth is faithful. To be faithful is to be dependable, reliable and trustworthy. People tend to trust people who are truthful and tend to be suspicious and untrusting of people who are not truthful. The Bible says in the very same chapter (v.19) 'truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment.' you see, when you tell people the truth, it may hurt them momentarily. But, as much as it hurts when you tell the truth, it doesn't hurt nearly as much and for nearly as long as it does when you tell them a lie. do you understand now why your lying is such a terrible thing from God's point of view? do you understand the extent to which it effects your relationship to others? Do you see how, when you tell falsehoods, you fail to love God and fail to love your neighbor, thus breaking the two greatest commandments in the Bible?"
The Gumnazo Principle maintains that you haven't disciplined a child properly until you have brought him to the point of repentance by requiring him to practice the biblical alternative to sinful behavior. This would involve not just asking forgiveness for the disrespect and not just identifying the sin by name (two essential steps in biblical discipline), but also would involve responding with a respectful alternative to the disrespect using the appropriate words, tone of voice and non-verbal communication.Every parent has questions concerning corporal punishment (spanking) and Priolo dedicates a whole chapter to giving very helpful, biblical answers to a number of specific questions in this area. He then wraps up the book by instructing parents in Learning to Use Life's Instruction Manual in which he offers a "crash course in biblical problem solving."
If you are a struggling parent or one unfamiliar with a nouthetic approach to parenting you may find yourself skeptical with how Priolo handles specific situations. When you read how he responds to a typical parenting situation you might find yourself thinking, "No parent talks like that." But as you see Priolo consistently illustrating the principles you will realize that there are parents who use the Scriptures like this on a daily basis. But then you might be led to think that only pastors can do this and that you will never reach this level of Scriptural training proficiency. This is where Priolo offers some tremendous resources in the appendices.
- Appendix A: Scripture Texts for Child Training lists fifty-one specific sinful behaviors and numerous Scripture references that deal with each.
- Appendix B: Questions That Help Bring Conviction
- Appendix F: Selective Bibliography of Helpful Resources
Monday, July 30
Continue reading HERE.
Bill Walsh, who guided the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl championships and six NFC West division titles in his 10 years as head coach, has died at the age of 75.
Walsh died at his Bay Area home early Monday following a long battle with leukemia, according to Stanford University.
Walsh didn't become an NFL head coach until 47, and he spent just 10 seasons on the San Francisco sideline. But he left an indelible mark on the United States' most popular sport, building the once-woebegone 49ers into the most successful team of the 1980s with his innovative offensive strategies and teaching techniques.
Walsh built one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history, and instituted the often-copied West Coast Offense.
The NFL has known few gentlemen as classy as Bill Walsh. He will be sorely missed.
Sunday, July 29
I have read all seven books in the Harry Potter series. Everyone is reading them. I have read them partly as a glance into the culture which it has bred and partly because after a time I enjoyed reading them. This will be a brief defense of why I have read the books and then some plus and minus of the literary content. I will not spoil the story and facts of the story for those who have not read it
Saturday, July 28
Should or should not Christians read the Harry Potter books? That is the question everyone is asking. The Harry Potter series has become an American subculture. Dr. Kevin Bauder has some very good observations which would be helpful to anyone debating this issue:
The worst flaw with Rowling’s work, however, is that it simply has nothing important to say. The tales are amusing, but Rowling is merely playing with the form. She offers amusement for amusement’s sake without any serious reflection upon the larger issues of the real world. She is skillful in what she does, but she does not turn her skills to good use. In this respect, she is poles away from Bunyan, Tolkien, or Lewis.Soli Deo Gloria
Does this mean that Christians must not read Harry Potter? The answer will vary with the situation. These stories are not good fare for young children whose moral base is still being formed. Even the earlier books are mildly subversive, and as the series progresses, the attitudes become uglier and the actions more violent.
(Continue reading here: Sharper Iron, "The Harry Potter Books")
"But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. Does not the ear test words as the palate tastes food? Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days. "With God are wisdom and sight; he has counsel and Understanding. If he tears down, none can rebuild; if he shuts a man in, none can open. If he withholds the waters, they dry up; if he sends them out, they Overwhelm the land. With him are strength and sound wisdom; the deceived and the deceiver are his. He leads counselors away stripped, and judges he makes Fools. He looses the bonds of kings and binds a waistcloth on their hips. He leads priests away stripped and overthrows the mighty. He deprives of speech those who are trusted and takes away the discernment of the elders. He pours contempt on princes and loosens the belt of the Strong. He uncovers the deeps out of darkness and brings deep darkness to light. He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away. He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth and makes them wander in a pathless waste. They grope in the dark without light, and he makes them stagger like a drunken man." Job 12:7-25
A couple passages of Scripture always were convincing to me concerning God's sovereign control and decree of even the evil in this world. First is the passage in Acts where Peter tells the Jews Christ was the one who they killed but who God the Father had predestined to die. The murder of Jesus was the most offensive sin ever committed by mankind. The very people who God made a covenant with all those years ago and gave special privileges to did not recognize Him and actually killed him.
The second is the book of Job. Twice in the opening chapters Job says, "God did this" and the narrator says Job did not sin with his lips. However, chapter 12 lacks no less clarity. Job responds to one of his friends "But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind" (12:7-10).
Remember Job had a difficult time accepting this doctrine practically. He knew the right words to say as we see early on but many times through out he is asking God Why? Notice God never answers Jobs questions but rather lays bare a buffet of his power and control over all areas of creation focusing on his complete control and goodness in it all. So I encourage anyone (pretty much everyone) who is struggling with this issue to read the outward questions Job asked of God and then recite to yourself God's reply.
Soli Deo Gloria
Wednesday, July 25
Whether we realize this or not, this debate is NOT going away any time soon. In an interview that was done with Dr. Steven Lawson we find it pointed out that this is much more than just a preferential issue that Christians can disagree about. Read what Dr. Lawson had to say about this crucial issue:
7. Where do you think the monergism vs. synergism debate falls on this scale? can you elaborate?
I agree with Charles Spurgeon, who once noted that days of revival in the church are marked by, among other things, the preaching on the doctrine of regeneration. Our understanding of monergistic regeneration is absolutely essential for a holy and healthy church. Even having a converted church is at stake. The debate between monergism and synergism is nothing more, nothing less, than the controversy between a God-centered world view and a man-centered paradigm. Monergism teaches that ‘salvation is of the Lord,’ entirely and exclusively. Synergism fabricates that ‘salvation is of God and man.’ In this latter view, man becomes his own co-savior, and this robs God of His glory. A monergistic view of regeneration dusts off the high ground of soteriology and gives the church a firm place to stand and serve.
You can read the rest of the interview HERE.
Ultimately, this debate really boils down to whether or not your view of God is one of Him being completely sovereign, powerful, and the ultimate determiner in man's salvation.
One encouraging thing that we have seen recently among many of the younger pastors that I am acquainted with is the embracing of regeneration being totally a monergistic work of God where regeneration precedes faith in the ordo salutus. I pray that this trend continues and that the man-centered fallacies of decisional regeneration and manipulation become a thing of the past.
If you are not a regular reader of PyroManiacs than you are missing some of the best writing I've found on the blogosphere. You are also missing the some of the absolute best Christian sarcasm there is. Here is a sample of their most recent poke at the Emerging Church. [If you are not familiar with emerging philosophy than you might have no idea what this is about.]
WARNING! Those who lack a sense of humor should not read any further!
These are just a sample. Go HERE to see all of the available posters.
Tuesday, July 24
A book I am reading had the following comment and question and I thought I would try once again to see if you, the faithful reader, would be willing to give your two (or more) cents.
A man came to his pastor and said, "I just want to be a Christian. I don't want to be a disciple. I like my life the way it is. I believe that Jesus died for my sins, and I will be with him when I die. Why do I have to be a disciple?" How would you answer that question?And that is my question. How would you answer that man? Is discipleship required for the Christian? Do Christians have to be disciples?
You will find the proof HERE. Audio clips are available, too!
No one in history has preached to more people in live audiences than Billy Graham. In late 1949, Graham launched the first of his major crusades in Los Angeles, which lasted a total of eight weeks (other notables included a twelve-week crusade in London in 1954, and a 16-week one in New York City in 1957). However, it was the Los Angeles crusade which made Billy Graham a well-known figure, due in large part to media mogul William Randolph Hearst. Graham had been preaching against Communism in some of his sermons, and Hearst liked what he heard. He communicated two famous words to his editors: “Puff Graham.” Suddenly, publications like TIME, Newsweek, A.P., Quick, and LIFE all featured Billy Graham, and he was launched into national prominence. Graham himself wrote in his autobiography that that crusade “forever changed the face of my ministry and my life.” The Los Angeles crusade was dubbed the “Canvas Cathedral” due to the temporary tents that were set up to accommodate the crowds. Its three-week run was extended to eight weeks, finally ending on November 20, 1949.
In the midst of this remarkable stretch, Billy Graham preached Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” In retrospect, it was a fascinating set of circumstances: the man who would become the most famous preacher of the 20th century preaching America's most famous sermon to a new audience many generations later.
There are numerous interesting theological, rhetorical, and stylistic questions that arise from this preaching event. For the first time since its preaching, we are able to make audio portions of this sermon available to the general public on our website for a limited time. Please join us in exploring this fascinating piece of American religious history.
NOTE: I am at Senior High Illinois youth camp this week, so my blogging will be sparse ... extremely sparse!
Monday, July 23
Preaching With Purpose - Jay E. Adams
Although Jay Adams may be better known as the father of the modern nouthetic counseling movement both his doctoral degree and master's degree were in the area of preaching; and prior to the writing of this book (1982) he had actually taught more courses on preaching than on counseling. He wrote this book to "make an impact in our day significant enough to change preaching substantially." His hope was that "this textbook on preaching may be even more influential in its area than Competent to Counsel has been in counseling. There is every bit as great a need for a change in preaching as there was in counseling."
Jay says this about his central premise, "This book is not a mere restatement of past ideas and practices in contemporary language. It takes a new turn." I strongly agree that making purpose the central theme and aim of preaching is definitely a new tact, at least in light of the books I have recently read on preaching. Jay goes on to say, "I am convinced that purpose is of such vital importance to all a preacher does that it ought to control his thinking and actions from start to finish in the preparation and delivery of sermons." This entire book is dedicated to looking at every fact of preaching from the standpoint of purpose. Jay does a great job of sticking to his theme and builds a convincing and convicting case for purpose in preaching.
Jay defines the purpose of preaching as "to effect changes among the members of God's church that build them up individually and that build up the body as a whole." It is not enough to explain the text or even seek to show the relevance of the text to our current situation. Pastors must make it their overarching purpose to effect change among their congregation. Therefore they must consider every aspect of preaching with that thought in the forefront of their minds. Jay in his typical nouthetic style gives very pointed and practical admonition in the following aspects of preaching:
- Determining the preaching portion
- Determining the telos (purpose) of the text
- Analyzing the congregation
- The outline
- The introduction
- The conclusion
- Planning (How to prepare every sermon six months in advance. This idea alone is worth the price of the book!)
The Gifts of the Spirit
Use Your Spiritual Gifts
I. The source of the Corinthians’ gift.
I. God gave each of you gifts.
II. The function of the Corinthians’ gift.
II. God gave you them to use.
III. The purpose of the Corinthians’ gift.
III. God gave them to use for the benefit of others.
- One is abstract, the other personal.
- One is factual, the other is motivational.
- In one, the focus is on the Corinthians, in the other on the congregation.
When preachers who use the lecture format (inherited from the medieval scholastics through the English Puritans) realize that they must apply the passage, what they usually do is to tack on an application at the end. I say "tack on," because it does not naturally fit the lecture format. Here is how it goes: "And now what does all this have to do with us." (Usually a lecturer is deathly afraid of saying "you.") It is a little late, however, to ask that question and to apply something or other that has been discussed for 30-odd minutes in the abstract. The preacher, on the other hand, using a genuine preaching outline, applies all along the way; indeed, in one sense the whole sermon is application. The preaching format is an applicatory format by nature; nothing needs to be "tacked on."If you have heard Warren talk about preaching or taken his Purpose-Driven Preaching seminar you will recognize the almost word-for-word similarities. And this brings to light the very real danger of reading this book in the context of the present day purpose-driven, seeker-sensitive, felt-needs-oriented, church growth milieu. Those of us that have rejected the vast majority of that philosophy might come to this book and have an adverse reaction to its focus on purpose. We could come to this chapter and see the remarkably eerie similarities between what Adams and Warren say about preaching and think wrongfully that Adams and Warren have the same philosophical foundation. This could cause us to make the mistake of guilt by association, leading to the even bigger mistake of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If we make these mistakes we would miss the importance of what Adams is saying.
In response to and rejection of the felt-needs, topical, self-help preaching; many pastors, myself included, have turned to a much more expository approach modeled after the Puritans. I think we would do well to take Adams' admonition to heart and truly consider a purpose oriented preaching philosophy. This focus on purpose does not necessitate felt-needs, topical preaching. I believe it is perfectly compatible with expository preaching and when applied to an expository sermon truly helps the preacher accomplish the purpose of preaching - effecting change in the lives of those in the congregation - by forcing him to be more thorough and specific in his application of the text.
I highly recommend that every preacher purchase and read this somewhat short (158 pages) and very practical book. As I sought to apply the principles in this book to my last sermon I found myself being much more pointed and practical in my application of the text. This book has helped me tremendously and I believe it would help you as well.
Saturday, July 21
The late James Montgomery Boice, formerly the Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, offers an instructive and comprehensive description of what it means to be Reformed.
I find it necessary to revisit the issue I raised yesterday because it seems some Baptists are not comfortable using the Reformed label due to its assumed relationship to paedobaptism and presbyterian polity (some even go as far as to include eschatology and Covenantalism in their definition).
Because there is no universally accepted definition of Reformed; and because some undoubtedly read too much into the label, here is a Reformed theologian's own definition and description of what it means to be Reformed. After reading Boice's description, I see no danger in embracing the Reformed Baptist label. Perhaps Boice's words will inspire you to do the same!
What does it mean to be Reformed?Continue reading HERE.
Reformed Theology by James Montgomery Boice
Reformed theology gets its name from the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation, with its distinct theological emphases, but it is theology solidly based on the Bible itself. Believers in the reformed tradition regard highly the specific contributions of such people as Martin Luther, John Knox, and particularly John Calvin, but they also find their strong distinctives in the giants of the faith before them, such as Anselm and Augustine, and ultimately in the letters of Paul and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Reformed Christians hold to the doctrines characteristic of all Christians, including the Trinity, the true deity and true humanity of Jesus Christ, the necessity of Jesus’ atonement for sin, the church as a divinely ordained institution, the inspiration of the Bible, the requirement that Christians live moral lives, and the resurrection of the body. They hold other doctrines in common with evangelical Christians, such as justification by faith alone, the need for the new birth, the personal and visible return of Jesus Christ, and the Great Commission. What, then, is distinctive about reformed theology?
1. The Doctrine of Scripture.
The reformed commitment to Scripture stresses the Bible’s inspiration, authority, and sufficiency. Since the Bible is the Word of God and so has the authority of God Himself, reformed people affirm that this authority is superior to that of all governments and all church hierarchies. This conviction has given reformed believers the courage to stand against tyranny and has made reformed theology a revolutionary force in society. The sufficiency of Scripture means that it does not need to be supplemented by new or ongoing special revelation. The Bible is the entirely sufficient guide for what we are to believe and how we are to live as Christians.
The Reformers, and particularly John Calvin, stressed the way the objective, written Word and the inner, supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit work together, the Holy Spirit illuminating the Word to God’s people. The Word without the illumination of the Holy Spirit remains a closed book. The supposed leading of the Spirit without the Word leads to errors and excess. The Reformers also insisted upon the believers’ right to study the Scripture for themselves. Though not denying the value of trained teachers, they understood that the clarity of Scripture on matters essential for salvation makes the Bible the property of every believer. With this right of access always comes the responsibility of careful and accurate interpretation
2. The Sovereignty of God.
For most reformed people the chief and most distinctive article of the creed is God’s sovereignty. Sovereignty means rule, and the sovereignty of God means that God rules over His creation with absolute power and authority. He determines what is going to happen, and it does happen. God is not alarmed, frustrated, or defeated by circumstances, by sin, or by the rebellion of His creatures.
NOTE: Tim Challies has also posted a helpful article on this very subject HERE.
Friday, July 20
There is an ever-present danger in blogdom, and it appears I have fallen into its trap. It's this: speaking (or, typing) without knowledge of or completely understanding all the facts (Proverbs has something to say about that).
Following a friendly letter from a faculty member at a fundamentalist institution of higher learning, and carefully re-reading what I wrote, I have come to the conclusion that it is necessary for me to retract my statements concerning Cedarville University and to offer a public apology to the University, its constituents, and our faithful readers.
In THIS POST, I misread and misrepresented the reasons two Bible professors were terminated. The professors were not terminated "because (according to the institution) they were unwilling to publicly acknowledge the validity of certain Bible professors’ doctrinal views;” they were terminated because the University claims the two professors did not extend the necessary Christian charity to certain colleagues, mounting a campaign against them through their classroom presentations. [For further explanation, read THIS.]
Secondly, while the views surrounding the doctrines of justification and imputation could have New Perspective implications, the views do not necessitate holding to New Perspective ideas. I believe my wording in THIS POST gave credence to the idea that all who hold to these views do so out of loyalty to New Perspective tendencies. That is not the case.
The aforementioned faculty member graciously corrected my misunderstanding of the justification/imputation debate:
What is important to note here is that both parties to the disagreement affirm that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer. The question is over how Christ merited that righteousness. One party believes that Christ merited righteousness both through His active and His passive obedience. The other party insists that Christ merited righteousness through His passive obedience only.Concerning the idea that there will be some form of future vindication of justification in the believer's life, the faculty member writes:
This is a dispute that has nothing whatever to do with the New Perspective. It has its roots in a theological variation that one finds in some older versions of fundamentalism. Some of the older fundamentalists (Robert Ketcham, for example) reacted against the liberal emphasis on the life and ethics of Jesus. Instead, these fundamentalists chose to emphasize Jesus’ death on the cross. Ketcham used to rail against the notion that Christ’s active obedience was necessary. He would insist that we are saved by Christ’s work on the cross, and not by the ethics of Jesus’ life.
The second disagreement concerns whether justification will in some sense be vindicated or revealed in the future, or whether it terminates in the forensic declaration that has occurred in the past. Again, both parties to this dispute do agree that justification is a forensic declaration of righteousness and that it is a past event. One party, however, believes that an aspect of justification entails the revelation and vindication that the justified truly are God’s saints.Therefore, I apologize for misunderstanding and misrepresenting the doctrinal views of several professors at Cedarville, and for misconstruing the reasoning behind the professors' terminations. I ask the forgiveness of all our readers, and those at Cedarville University.
This, too, is a standard disagreement. The notion that justification entails a future vindication was boilerplate among some Puritans. It is a stock feature of certain versions of the Reformed theory of sanctification. Edwards approaches this view in Religious Affections. It has nothing whatever to do with the New Perspective equation of justification with future vindication—the New Perspective theologians mean something entirely different by this language. They do not accept justification as a forensic declaration based upon the imputed righteousness of Christ. The Cedarville theologians insist upon forensic declaration and imputed righteousness. Again, this is light years from New Perspective though.
Admitting wrong-headedness and asking forgiveness is never easy, but it is always right. Lord-willing, I have learned a valuable lesson!
NOTE: Because my desire is to clarify these issues to the best of my ability, I am willing to post a theological clarification any faculty member at Cedarville University is willing to offer us here at The World From Our Window.
Also, I will allow the comments section to remain open ... as long as the comments are gracious and Christ-like--a lesson I continue to learn!
If so, what is a Reformed Baptist? (Hint: there's one to the right!)
You will find the answers in a paper adapted from a sermon by Jim Savastio, Pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville, KY.
Here is an excerpt of this brief, but helpful explanation:
Continue reading HERE.What is a Reformed Baptist?
The term ‘Reformed Baptist’ best refers to those who adhere to the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) in practice as well as in theory.
The name ‘Reformed’ refers to the distinctive historical and theological roots of these Baptists. There is a body of theological beliefs commonly referred to as the ‘Reformed’ faith. Such great biblical truths as sola fide (justification by faith alone), sola gratia (salvation by God’s grace alone), sola scriptura (the Bible alone is the basis for faith and practice), solus Christus (salvation through Christ alone), and soli Deo gloria (the fact that God alone is to receive glory in the salvation of sinners) are all noted hallmarks of the Protestant and Reformed faith.
Yet, the Reformed faith is perhaps best known for its understanding that God is sovereign in the matter of man’s salvation. This is to say that God has, before the foundation of the world, chosen or elected certain sinners for salvation. He has done so sovereignly and according to His own good pleasure. Additionally, the Reformed faith teaches that, in time, Christ came and accomplished salvation by dying for the sins of those elected by God. Furthermore, the Reformed faith teaches that the Holy Spirit, working in harmony with the decree of the Father and the death of the Son, effectually applies this work of redemption to each of the elect in their personal conversions. As a result of this emphasis on the sovereignty of God in salvation, the Reformed faith also promulgates the ‘doctrines of grace’: doctrinal truths which set forth the total depravity of man, the unconditional nature of God’s election, the limited or particular nature of Christ’s atonement, the irresistibility of the effectual call and the perseverance and preservation of the saints.
The Reformed faith, however, touches on far more than these foundational truths regarding God’s glory in salvation. It is also concerned with God’s glory in the church, in society, in the family and in the holiness of the believer’s life. The Reformed faith has a high and God-centered view of worship, regulated by the Word of God alone. The Reformed faith embraces a high view of God’s law and of His church. In short, the Reformed faith is no less than a comprehensive world and life view, as well as a distinctive body of doctrine.
Out of this theological understanding came a great stream of confessions and creeds: the Synod of Dort, The Savoy Declaration, The Westminster Confession of Faith and The Heidelberg Catechism. Similarly, this Reformed tradition produced some of the great names of Church history. John Calvin, John Knox, John Bunyan, John Newton, the famous Bible commentator Matthew Henry, the great evangelist George Whitefield, the great American theologian Jonathan Edwards, Adoniram Judson, William Carey, C.H. Spurgeon, A.W. Pink and a host of others all held tenaciously to the Reformed faith. We must underscore that Reformed Baptists do not hold these truths because of blind allegiance to historic creeds. Nor, do Reformed Baptists hold them merely because great men of church history stood in this tradition. Rather, Reformed Baptists hold these truths because Jesus and the apostles so clearly taught them.
The confession of faith embraced by Reformed Baptist churches takes its place among, and is deeply rooted in, these historic Reformed documents. In most places the 1689 Confession is an exact word for word copy of the Westminster and the Savoy. Consequently, the term ‘Reformed’ Baptist is not a misnomer. Reformed Baptists stand firmly on the solid ground of the Reformation heritage.
The name ‘Baptist’ summarizes the biblical truths concerning both the subjects and the mode of baptism. To speak of the ‘subjects’ of baptism, we refer to the truth that baptism is for disciples only. Reformed Baptists owe a great debt to the Reformed paedobaptists because their writings have shaped, challenged, warmed, and guided them again and again. Yet, the Bible is not silent about the issue of baptism. The fact that baptism is for disciples only is the clear and indisputable teaching of the Word of God. The subjects of baptism are not to be discovered in Genesis but in the Gospels and in the Epistles. Baptism is an ordinance of the New Covenant which must be understood in the light of New Covenant revelation. There is not one single shred of evidence in the pages of the Old or New Testament to support the notion that the infants of believers are to be baptized. Every biblical command to baptize and every biblical example of baptism, as well as every doctrinal statement regarding the symbolic nature of baptism, proves that it is for disciples only. The Bible is equally clear concerning the mode of baptism. The term ‘mode’ refers to the fact that baptism is properly and biblically administered by immersion in water. The common Greek word for immersion or dipping is the word used in the New Testament. The argument that the word has an occasional historic example meaning ‘to pour’ or ‘to sprinkle’ is surely special pleading. There are perfectly good Greek words which mean ‘to sprinkle’ and ‘to pour.’ Yet, the New Testament employs the word for immersion.
And while you are perusing the RBTR site, why not subscribe to the worthwhile and helpful Reformed Baptist Theological Review? And why not enroll in some seminary courses at the Reformed Baptist Seminary?
Postscript: Mike Hess has previously addressed this issue HERE.
In the latest issue of Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox Rick gives this advice to pastors:
Structurally, there are basically three kinds of churches: single-cell, multiple-cell, and multiple congregation churches. In each of these levels of growth, your role as a pastor (or leader) has to change. Before you can grow your church to the next level, you’ve got to fully understand where you are at now. This week we’re going to look at three kinds of churches and the roles of the pastors who lead them.Referring to the pastor and the church in business terms is on one of the biggest and most damaging philosophies of the Church Growth Movement. Rick does not refer to the pastor or the church in biblical terms one time throughout the entire article. Nor does he give one Scripture reference to substantiate his points. In 1975 Jay Adams appears to be a prophet when he had this to say about pastoral leadership in his book Shepherding God's Flock:
In a single-cell church, the pastor is the owner/operator. He does a lot himself: he prints the bulletin, locks and unlocks the church, sweeps up, etc. He’s the entrepreneur. In order to grow to the next level – a multiple cell church - the pastor must be willing to change from owner/operator to manager/supervisor. At this level, you add staff members. Your role becomes managing and supervising people under you. When the church grows beyond 400 people, the pastor must take on the role of executive.
The pastor must recognize that the Scriptures are the basic Management Guide for the church. Any ways or means, and goals or objectives, that do not accord with that Guide must be abandoned or modified so that they do. The practice of running off after the latest ideas cooked up in the American Management Association think-tanks must give way to more mature evaluation. The greatest danger is for preachers who are discouraged over the growth of their congregations to walk wide-eyed into the conferences held by well-meaning Christian businessmen, and buy the tempting wares that they find displayed on every shelf. These businessmen usually have little regard for the biblical principles of church government, little knowledge of the theology that undergirds the objectives of the church and little ability (or concern0 to do the painstaking exegesis that is necessary to acquire criteria by which to evaluate the world's products that they are wholesaling. Pastor, you must beware. You have a Standard of faith and practice, and you should not be surprised to find that this Standard differs radically from the latest pronouncements of the A.M.A. Why should not the church run smoothly if she seriously follows the directions of her Head and King? Should not the A.M.A. take a leaf from the church now and then?The ironic thing is that Rick is aware of these very facts. In his own Discovering Church Membership material he teaches that the church is a fellowship, family, body, and flock. He says, "We [the church] are a body, not a business! We are an organism, not an organization! It [the church] is cared for and led by shepherds." Yet somehow it seems as if Rick has trouble with harmonizing his ecclesiology (doctrine of the church) with his church growth philosophy.
Consider some facts. For one thing, the analogy of the church and a business is not exact. Indeed, while the church is likened to many other organizations in the Scriptures (a flock of sheep, a family, a kingdom), it is not compared to a business organization. Naturally there are similarities, but it is my contention that the differences (which are many) have not been taken seriously.
I agree with Rick (and I am assuming that Jay Adams would as well) that the local church structure will need to change as a church grows in size. I agree that the focus of the pastor's shepherding and leadership will change as well. The Senior Pastor (a.k.a. Lead Shepherd) will need to delegate more and supervise more as the church continues to grow. And I think that most of us can speak from experience and agree that pastors who try to be the sole shepherd of every sheep in the flock and the sole overseer of every aspect of ministry do hinder a church's numerical growth. But we must be careful and note that the Bible never refers to the pastors as owner/operator, manager/supervisor or executive. He is referred to as shepherd and overseer.
The problem is not that everything Rick is saying is wrong, but that he has adopted the philosophical undergirding of the business model. Experiential truth mixed with philosophical and biblical error is a very dangerous combination. Resulting in many undiscerning pastors swallowing ALL that he is "selling." (I speak from experience as I too once ardently held the same philosophy of pastoral leadership.)
Please don't read this as a personal attack on Rick Warren. He is just the current "spokesman" for thousands of pastors who hold to this unbiblical philosophy. A philosophy that has been around for at least thirty years.
Thursday, July 19
Shepherding God's Flock - Jay E. Adams
Jay E. Adams wrote this handbook on pastoral ministry, counseling, and leadership in "an attempt to provide a clearly written textbook that will cover various areas of practical theology (other than preaching) in an exegetically and theologically sound manner." This 537 page book is actually three books in one. Dr. Adams had originally planned to write several books in this series, but has yet to do so and in 1978 he put the three volumes that he had already written into this one book. Don't let the size intimidate you. This is an extremely practical book with short chapters written in layman's terms. Jay believes there is a danger in imbalanced pastoral preparation and wrote this book to help balance theological and practical training. This book is the practical outworking of his theological foundation.
Volume 1: The Pastoral Life
The Pastor is primarily a shepherd whose main task is overseeing the flock. "It is that oversight of congregation and member to which we shall address ourselves in this book." To be a well-prepared shepherd the pastor must consider three areas - his life, his call, and his care for the flock.
Before looking at the ministry of the pastor Jay looks at the life of the man who is the pastor. He deals with some very important factors:
- The cost of pastoral ministry
- The physical body
- Family life - "In no area is it easier for a minister to become discouraged and leave the ministry. Yet, in no area can he have so healthy, meaningful and fruitful a ministry as in becoming an example for his flock of a Christian husband and father. How can he begin to achieve this high calling? At the outset, the pastor must recognize that he is a husband first, a father second and a pastor third...A good home life is fundamental to a successful pastorate."
- Time management
A shepherd's care for the flock is primarily personal oversight that demonstrates concern. In this section Adams gives more practical direction in all areas of visitation with the fundamental understanding that a shepherd who doesn't know the sheep in his flock well cannot care for them effectively. He discusses house calls, family care, visiting the sick, hospital calls, and visiting in special situations.
Jay ends this first volume by giving extensive practical helps in using grief as a counseling opportunity. With many decades of experience and keen insight of the Scriptures he was able to help me see how to help someone in grief. I must say that I have dealt very poorly with this in the past and that this appendix is worth the price of the book for the pastor who has the responsibility of dealing with those in grief.
Volume 2: Pastoral Counseling
"Because I have written extensively elsewhere about counseling in general and about certain aspects of counseling in particular ( see Competent to Counsel, The Big Umbrella, The Christian Counselor's Manual), and because these books are all available, I do not intend to duplicate here what I have written there. Instead, I shall consider some aspects of counseling that pertain especially to the work of the pastor, focusing particularly upon the work of premarital counseling.Topics covered in this volume:
Pastoral counseling is a special, but not separate, area pf pastoral activity; indeed, biblically it is close to the heart of shepherding...Counseling is a work that every minister may, indeed must, perform as a faithful shepherd of Jesus Christ...Referral, except to another faithful shepherd, is out of the question...A pastor never should relinquish his own personal shepherdly care and concern for his member."
- Getting church leadership involved in counseling (elders, deacons, etc.)
- Conducting a congregational counseling program
- Counseling members of other congregations, women, older persons, disabled persons
- Evaluating and upgrading your counseling
- Taking pastoral initiative - "In God's providence, as shepherd, he may be used to detect early sings of difficulty in time to nip these in the bud. Often he is able to head off problems that otherwise, if they persisted, might lead to dire consequences."
- Premarital counseling - "Marriage counseling must be early, educational and preventive...The key here is for pastors to teach parents to teach."
"It is of utmost necessity, therefore, to recognize at the outset that good leadership, planning and management in the Church of Christ are not merely tolerated or permitted ( as one might suppose from listening to many ministers) but required and encouraged by the Holy Spirit. To put it tersely: biblical administration is spiritual.Even with a tremendous emphasis on leadership and management Jay avoids the common error of seeing the pastor as CEO and the church as a business. His fundamental premise is that the pastor is a shepherd and continues to emphasize that throughout every facet of the book. This keeps him from making the common and unbiblical assertion that the pastor of a large church must make the change from shepherd to rancher. He covers the following topics:
Planning, for instance, is the real work of the overseer. Indeed, it is so bound up with preaching, with evangelism and with pastoral care that it can never be separated from them...The two go together so closely that, ordinarily, under normal conditions, there will be little or no successful preaching, evangelism or counseling without proper planning, structure and leadership."
- Equipping, delegating, sharing, enlisting, training and
- Working with elders (paid and volunteer)
- Meetings, communication, buildings, finances and publicity
The only part of this book that I had significant disagreement with was Appendix A: Evangelism and the Pastor. I agree with Jay's three fundamental presuppositions but I disagree with how he worked them out practically. Dr. Adams takes an outdated, door-to-door, salesman-like approach that most church members today would run from. I did like how he followed up professions of faith with immediate discipleship, but the whole approach to congregational evangelism definitely needs some updating.
Overall I found this book to be extremely helpful to me in some very practical ways. If any of the topics covered are of interest to you I would recommend you buy this book. I don't consider it a must-read, but definitely a good-read.
Tuesday, July 17
The Barry Bonds Circus came to Wrigley Field last night as the San Francisco Giants took on the hottest team in baseball – the Chicago Cubs. Thankfully, I did not have to watch Bonds play in this nationally televised game. He was scratched from the lineup due to soreness in his legs. It should also go without saying that my beloved Cubbies came back in magical fashion yet again last night and won a game that back in April they were losing on a consistent basis – the one run game.
As a lifelong baseball fan it pains me to see one of the most distasteful players in MLB history inch closer to Hank Aaron’s record. To be completely honest with you, I never liked Barry Bonds. Even before the steroid allegations and suspicions I had come to have a strong disdain for the way Bonds played the game dating back to his early years with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Please do not get me wrong, I had admired many things about his abilities. He could play the outfield in his younger days with the best of them. He was an incredibly dangerous threat on the base pads. He made difficult things in the outfield look easy and was as flamboyant as he was good. Not to mention the fact that it seemed like the career of Barry Bonds was all about….well…..Barry Bonds!
Through the past seven years or so I have sincerely tried to give Bonds the benefit of the doubt concerning the dark cloud of suspicion surrounding his use of steroids. After all, when you lift weights you do get bigger…right? Your legs will increase in size, your biceps will begin to bulge, your shoulders will no longer droop down and overall muscle tone will become evident. Also, your shoe size will increase by a couple of sizes, your hat size will also increase substantially and your waistline will also increase to new proportions as well….oh….wait a minute….that’s if your on steroids…I almost forgot!
So for now….I am saddened that my favorite sport is being tarnished by this one bad apple. But in the end, I hope all will be vindicated. If Bonds is proven innocent (which I highly doubt will happen) I will gladly eat my crow. Until then, I will remain one of the suspicious ones in baseball who will refuse to give him, McGwire, or Sosa for that matter credit for what I believe they did not legitimately earn.
That's a subheading in Chapter One of John Piper's book, Counted Righteous in Christ: Should We Abandon the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness? And because my good friend and blog-mate, Mike Hess reminded us all that pastors should be readers, I have picked up this book again (it also has something to do with the present New Perspective discussion).
I quote from pages 22-23 of Counted Righteous in Christ:
"...[T]he older I get, the less impressed I am with the flashy successes and enthusiasms that are not truth-based. Everybody knows that with the right personality, the right music, the right location, and the right schedule you can grow a church without anybody really knowing what doctrinal commitments sustain it, if any. Church-planting specialists generally downplay biblical doctrine in the core values of what makes a church "successful." The long-term effect of this ethos is a weakening of the church that is concealed as long as the crowds are large, the band is loud, the tragedies are few, and persecution is still at the level of preferences.
But more and more this doctrinally-diluted brew of music, drama, life-tips, and marketing seems out of touch with real life in this world--not to mention the next. It tastes like watered-down gruel, not a nourishing meal. It simply isn't serious enough. It's too playful and chatty and casual. Its joy doesn't feel deep enough or heartbroken or well-rooted. The injustice and persecution and suffering and hellish realities in the world today are so many and so large and so close that I can't help but think that, deep inside, people are longing for something weighty and massive and rooted and stable and eternal. So it seems to me that the trifling with silly little sketches and breezy welcome-to-the-den styles on Sunday morning are just out of touch with what matters in life.
Of course, it works. Sort of. Because, in the name of felt needs, it resonates with people's impulse to run from what is most serious and weighty and what makes them most human and what might open the depths of God to their souls. The design is noble. Silliness is a stepping-stone to substance. But it's an odd path. And evidence is not ample that many are willing to move beyond fun and simplicity. So the price of minimizing truth-based joy and maximizing atmosphere-based comfort is hight. More and more, it seems to me, the end might be in view. I doubt that a religious ethos with such a feel of entertainment can really survive as Christian for too many more decades. Crises reveal the cracks."
Monday, July 16
- His mind becomes lazy.
- He is arrogantly saying that he does not need to learn anything new from anyone else.
- His ministry lags up to date information on what is going on in the world of theology.
- He neglects theology itself.
- He is robbing himself of what the great saints of God have contributed to Christendom in the past and present and how this can be beneficial to his ministry.
- He is NOT becoming wiser.
- He is NOT helping his people to become wiser.
- He will inevitably watch more television.
- He will inevitably watch more movies.
- He will inevitably be prone to spend more time talking and potentially fall into the snare of gossip.
- He neglects one of the essential disciplines of being a diligent student which is an imperative for a pastor.
- He ultimately is hurting himself personally and his ministry corporately.
A very intriguing conversation took place between Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Tony Jones, the first National Director of Emergent Village. Dr. Moore has been filling in for Dr. Albert Mohler on The Albert Mohler Radio Program and interviewed Tony Jones on Friday. It is a must-listen!
Listen to the entire radio program HERE.
How many Christians are truly ignorant of topics such as Quiet Time, Bible study and Bible reading? When we speak on such topics are there really that many listeners who say, "I didn’t know that I was supposed to spend daily time with God in Bible reading and prayer! That’s a great idea! I will start tomorrow." Most of us have heard about the importance of the Word of God in our lives many times before. So when these topics come up many just tune it out. “Heard it before. No big deal. Read and study your Bible. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” Others have the guilt/frustration/despair response. "I know. I know. I mean to do it. I’ve tried to do it. I will try and start again, but I fail. Over and over I fail. I’m sick and tired of failing. Please help!"
The key question is why do we struggle so much with consistent Bible reading and study?
I believe that the vast majority of failure in having a consistent Quiet Time is found in faulty application. We fail in applying what we have read to our lives and so our desire dries up, our habits get lost and we spend much of our time vacillating between guilt, frustration and despair. If we don't properly apply the the Bible to our lives than we miss the point D.L. Moody made. "The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge, but to change our lives." When our lives don't change any belief in the transforming power of the Word of God is bound to crumble.
21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:21-25
Confess known sin in your life and ask forgiveness. This is the first action to take and this is to be done before you ever open the Bible. Sin will get in the way of any kind of Bible understanding or application. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear." (Psalm 66:18) Unconfessed and unforgiven sin is a barrier in any relationship, but especially our relationship with God. Sin is a wall that seals off any communication. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
Put on humble acceptance of Scripture! "Receive with meekness the implanted word."
What is your attitude when you hear, read or study the Bible? What is your attitude when you come to the Scriptures? Do you see yourself as the authority? "If I like it I will do it. If I agree with it I will do it. If it doesn’t require much change, effort or sacrifice I will obey it. As long as it doesn’t conflict with my dreams, goals and desires." We must come to the Scripture with the attitude of submission to biblical authority. "Whatever it says I will do. Whatever it asks of me I will give."
Are you willing to give the Bible the place of ultimate authority in your life? If not, what do you really expect to receive from the Lord and ultimately why go to the Bible at all. Aren’t you just deceiving yourself into thinking it might change your life when you will just do what you want anyway?
If you deal with sin and humble yourself then you will come to the Scripture with not only a different attitude, but also a different motivation. You won’t read out of guilt or habit. You will read for change. You will come to the Bible to see what needs to be changed. Bible study starts with observation and that is what is here in James' illustration.
The Word of God is the mirror. The reflection is not cloudy, but in crystal clear high definition. The reflection isn't distorted like a mirror in a fun house. It is a full-length mirror revealing EVERY part of us - not just the outward but also the inward!
Although self-observation is the emphasis of this passage, let me mention the danger with this. By being man-centered we can twist the intent of the Scripture. We can turn the Bible into a self-help book. The Garden of Gethsemane becomes a lesson in handling stressful situations instead of showing us the Son’s submission to the Father, the love that God had for mankind, the agony of the cross, and the depth and breadth and width of our sin.
The choosing of the twelve apostles turns into a lesson on God needing helpers and how we can help God instead of seeing the sovereign plan of God for His Church and for individual men. It does have some application to discipleship and training, but it is not a lesson on delegation for God doesn’t need us or our help.
The Bible is God’s revelation to man. Not primarily a revelation of how man can find purpose and meaning and help in this life, but primarily God’s self-disclosure of Himself to us. Of course we can understand some things about God from nature (Romans 1), but the Bible reveals Him although not fully and completely, but truly as He is. The Bible is God’s story. It starts with God and it ends with God. “In the beginning God…even so come Lord Jesus.” So before we observe ourselves we must observe God.
The only way you can see yourself as you truly are is to see God as He truly is. You will never get your anthropology – the study of man – correct if you don’t have your theology – the study of God – correct. Here are four basic questions to ask when studying the Bible:
- What does this passage teach about God?
- What does this passage teach about Man?
- What does this passage teach about the relationship between God and Man?
- Where do I and my life situation connect with these truths?
Obey immediately! "He looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like."
3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
Failure #1: Unconfessed sin – therefore put off sin by confessing and asking forgiveness.
Failure #2: Wrong attitude – therefore submit yourself to the authority of the Word of God.
Failure #3: Wrong focus – therefore begin by observing God in the passage.
Failure #4: Wrong method – therefore observe humanity in the passage and then apply the truth to your life situation.
Failure #5: Apathetic neglect – therefore depend fully and completely upon God for the power to obey immediately.