Monday, July 30, 2012

Racial Issues in the Church

Surely you've heard by now about the Southern Baptist church in Mississippi? The one which refused to allow an African American couple to be married in the church building? In 2012!

Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson were told only one day before their previously announced and planned wedding that they’d have to be married somewhere else. FBC Crystal Springs would not be available. The pastor complied. According to the article, this mess was because of only a few apparently powerful people in the church.

I personally think this is awful. Deplorable. It was a sinful action by the church. The pastor can be seen as spineless. Or perhaps wise, in not wanting to make a national scene on the day before the wedding.

What should happen here now? To the church? The pastor? Anything?

Here's a link in case you missed this.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Preaching for Revival

Rev. Al Baker,
In a day when many seem to be mitigating the preached Word of God, calling us to a neo-sacerdotalism (emphasizing the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and baptism over against the efficacy of the preached Word of God)1, we all the more need preachers who will preach for revival. How are we to do it? The church and her preacher have only two weapons — prayer and preaching. Nothing else will work. So, how do we preach for revival? First, the preacher and congregant alike must believe that revival is necessary and possible. Surprisingly, this is not even on the radar screen of many western believers. I will go further and say that the revival culture of Acts is normative, that this is always the benchmark of the church and anything short of it is dishonouring the One who gave himself for us. Second, we must pray with the intolerable burden of which I have so often spoken and written in the past. We can have revival in our day if we are willing to pay the price for it — if we are willing to pray, fast, and weep like Ezra (Ezra 10:1) and Nehemiah (Neh. 1:1-4); if we are in such anguish over the state of Christ’s church that we will pull the hair out of our heads and sit down appalled like Ezra (Ezra 9:1-3 ), that we will pull the hair from the heads of our brethren, like Nehemiah (Neh. 13:25); if we are willing to pray with deep humility, confessing and repenting of sin like Daniel (Dan. 9:1ff). Without this kind of sustained burden we have no reason to believe our prayers are effectual. We must pray prayers of supplication, intense passion (Dan. 9:3; Zech. 12:10). Third, as the preacher proclaims God’s Word he comes to his great calling hot with Christ, after hours of prayer, study, and meditation on the Word to be preached; after filling up his heart and mind with the glory of Christ, after feeling deeply and passionately the truths he will proclaim; after believing in the total sufficiency and efficacy of the preached Word through the Spirit’s anointing. He knows he must have the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit fall on his preaching. He knows his gifts, charisma, training, or experience will not bring revival fire. He labours in his preaching and every aspect of his pastoral ministry with the expectation of revival. This kind of preaching brings action. It demands a verdict. Preaching for revival affects the conscience, heart, and will. No one could listen to the Lord Jesus, the Apostle Paul, or Isaiah the prophet without being moved in heart, mind, and will. Some loved the message and embraced it fully. Others despised it and wanted to kill the purveyors of it. When the Holy Spirit falls upon such preachers and their preaching, then the devil and his minions are awakened from hell. They come after the preacher in many forms — discouragement, financial or health crises, sexual temptation, severe opposition from within the church leadership, hatred and disdain from the world. But with the Apostle Paul, the preacher and the congregation are able finally to say together, 'We have fought the good fight. We have finished the course. We have kept the faith. In the future there is laid up for us the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award to us on that day, and not only to us, but also to all who have loved His appearing' (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
Read the rest here. Rev. Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. He planted (2003) and served as Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in Hartford, Connecticut, until December 2011.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Victorious To the Uttermost

John Calvin's commentary on the Psalms. Introduction to Psalm 2:
David boasts that his kingdom, though assailed by a vast multitude of powerful enemies, would, notwithstanding, be perpetual, because it was upheld by the hand and power of God. He adds, that in spite of his enemies, it would be extended even to the uttermost ends of the earth. And, therefore, he exhorts kings and other rulers to lay aside their pride, and receive, with submissive minds, the yoke laid upon them by God; as it would be vain for them to attempt to shake it off. All this was typical and contains a prophecy concerning the future kingdom of Christ.
From Psalm 2:

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
(Psalm 2:8 ESV)
Christ, it is true, besought his Father (John 17:5) to “glorify him with the glory which he had with him before the world was;” yet the more obvious meaning is, that the Father will deny nothing to his Son which relates to the extension of his kingdom to the uttermost ends of the earth. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Love That Won't Let Go

George Matheson (1842-1906) of Scotland wrote several hymns during his lifetime. We sang one of them yesterday in worship, a hymn that was particularly timely for me.

This hymn, O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go (#708 in the Trinity Hymnal) has an interesting background.

Written on the evening of Matheson’s sister’s marriage. His whole family had went to the wedding and had left him alone. And he writes of something which had happened to him that caused immense mental anguish. There is a story of how years before, he had been engaged until his fiancĂ© learned that he was going blind, and there was nothing the doctors could do, and she told him that she could not go through life with a blind man. He went blind while studying for the ministry, and his sister had been the one who had taken care of him all these years, but now she is gone. He had been a brilliant student, some say that if he hadn’t went blind he could have been the leader of the church of Scotland in his day. He had written a learned work on German theology and then wrote “The Growth of The Spirit of Christianity.” Louis Benson says this was a brilliant book but with some major mistakes in it. When some critics pointed out the mistakes and charged him with being an inaccurate student he was heartbroken. One of his friends wrote, “When he saw that for the purposes of scholarship his blindness was a fatal hindrance, he withdrew from the field – not without pangs, but finally.” So he turned to the pastoral ministry, and the Lord has richly blessed him, finally bringing him to a church where he regularly preached to over 1500 people each week. But he was only able to do this because of the care of his sister and now she was married and gone. Who will care for him, a blind man? Not only that, but his sister’s marriage brought fresh reminder of his own heartbreak, over his fiancĂ©’s refusal to “go through life with a blind man.” It is the midst of this circumstance and intense sadness that the Lord gives him this hymn – written he says in 5 minutes! Looking back over his life, he once wrote that his was“an obstructed life, a circumscribed life… but a life of quenchless hopefulness, a life which has beaten persistently against the cage of circumstance, and which even at the time of abandoned work has said not “Good night” but “Good morning.” How could he maintain quenchless hopefulness in the midst of such circumstances and trials? His hymn gives us a clue. “I trace the rainbow in the rain, and feel the promise is not vain” The rainbow image is not for him “If the Lord gives you lemons make lemonade” but a picture of the Lord’s commitment! It is a picture of the battle bow that appears when the skies are darkening and threaten to open up and flood the world again in judgment. But then we see that the battle bow is turned not towards us – but toward the Lord Himself! (Source)

Here are the words.

1 O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
2 O Light that follow'st all my way,
I yield my flick'ring torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine's blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.
3 O Joy that seekest me through pain
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.
4 O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life's glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Gift

J. C. Philpot (1802-1869) "was known as “The Seceder”. He resigned from the Church of England in 1835 and became a Strict & Particular Baptist. While with the Church of England he was a Fellow of Worchester College, Oxford. After becoming a Strict and Particular Baptist he became the Editor of the Gospel Standard magazine and served in that capacity for twenty years."

From his Meditations on Ephesians 1 & 2 comes this gem on ch. 2:8:

Now, by this grace or pure favor of God we are saved through faith, faith itself being the special gift of God; and thus the very medium by which we receive salvation, and become manifestly interested in it, is not of ourselves. The eye which sees salvation in the person and work of the Son of God, the ear which hears and receives the glad tidings, the hand which lays hold of and embraces the Savior in his atoning blood and justifying obedience, are all the special gift of God. Do we see Jesus and salvation in and through him? God has opened our eyes to see. Have we heard his blessed voice? God has given us ears to hear. Have we laid hold of him, and brought him into our heart in all his saving benefits and blessings? God gave us that faith by revealing his dear Son in us, and making him spiritually and experimentally known to our souls. Source.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Theology in Action

Rev. Al Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. He writes a weekly devotional Forget None of His Benefits

A recent devotional is based on the text, Get up. Let us go from here. (John 14:31).
Our strength is our weakness in the Reformed Church. We are very strong in our commitment to Reformed Theology, more specifically the so-called doctrines of grace (TULIP — total inability, unconditional election, limited or particular redemption, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of God with the saints). This is a very good thing, but our strength has become our weakness. I suggest that we are far too cerebral, far too content to sit in our favourite chair and read or discuss theology. What we need are the five practical points of Calvinism. And what are they?
First, we must make disciples of all the nations. This ought to be clear enough (Matt. 28:18-20, Acts 1:8). We are to evangelize the lost and we are to bring them to maturity in Christ (Col. 1:27-29). 
The second point of practical Calvinism is — you cannot make disciples of the nations. Why not? Because people are dead in their sins (Eph. 2:1-3)! They don’t seek for God. Their throats are open graves (Rom. 3:10ff). 
The third practical point of Calvinism — you must thirst. Ask God to give you an intolerable burden for the lost, for them to know the glory of God in the face of the Lord Jesus, to see him as the altogether lovely Saviour, to bow humbly before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 
The fourth practical point of Calvinism — you must pray. Because Jesus is worthy of the praise of all the nations, because people are unable to call upon Jesus in their own strength to be saved, because we must evangelize, then does this not drive us to pray for the Spirit’s unction, power, authority, and regenerating work to fall on people! 
The fifth practical point of Calvinism — you will shine. Like Moses on Mt. Sinai (2 Cor. 3:13), like Stephen before the Sanhedrin (Acts 6:15), like God’s covenant people receiving the Aaronic benediction (Num. 6:24-26) the glory of the Lord will be on your face.
Read the rest of the devotional as Rev. Baker fleshes these points out here

John 3:16 and the Word Kosmos

Jim McClarty gives a good explanation of the text.

HT: Timmy Brister

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Machen on Adam and Original Sin & Guilt


God said to Adam that if he disobeyed he would die. What is the meaning of that death? Well, it includes physical death; there is no question about that. But, alas, it also includes far more than physical death. It includes spiritual death; it includes the death of the soul unto things that are good; it includes the death of the soul unto God. The dreadful penalty of that sin of Adam was that Adam and his descendants became dead in trespasses and sins. As a just penalty of Adam's sin, God withdrew his favor, and the souls of all mankind became spiritually dead. The soul that is spiritually dead, the soul that is corrupt, is guilty not only because of Adam's guilt but also because of its own sin. It deserves eternal punishment.
He concludes,

Man, according to the Bible, is not merely sick in trespasses and sins; he is not merely in a weakened condition so that he needs divine help: but he is dead in trespasses and sins. He can do absolutely nothing to save himself, and God saves him by the gracious, sovereign act of the new birth. The Bible is a tremendously uncompromising book in this matter of the sin of man and the grace of God. 
The Biblical doctrine of the grace of God does not mean, as caricatures of it sometimes represent it as meaning, that a man is saved against his will. No, it means that a man's will itself is renewed. His act of faith is his own act. He performs that act gladly, and is sure that he never was so free as when he performs it. Yet he is enabled to perform it simply by the gracious, sovereign act of the Spirit of God. 
Ah, my friends, how precious is that doctrine of the grace of God! It is not in accordance with human pride. It is not a doctrine that we should ever have evolved. But when it is revealed in God's Word, the hearts of the redeemed cry, Amen. Sinners saved by grace love to ascribe not some but all of the praise to God.

Read the rest here

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

True Patriotism from John Newton

Dear friend,

Allow me to say, that it excites both my wonder and concern, that a Christian minister such as yourself, should think it worth his while to attempt political reforms. When I look around upon the present state of the nation, such an attempt appears to me, to be no less vain and foolish, than it would be to paint the cabin—while the ship is sinking! Or to decorate the parlor—while the house is on fire!

When our Lord Jesus was upon earth, He refused to get involved in disputes or politics, "Friend, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?" Luke 12:14. "My kingdom is not of this world! If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight!" John 18:36. God's children belong to a kingdom which is not of this world; they are strangers and pilgrims upon earth, and a part of their Scriptural character is, that they are the "quiet in the land." Psalm 35:19.

Satan has many contrivances to amuse people, and to divert their thoughts from their real danger!

My dear sir, my prayer to God for you is—that He may induce you to employ the talents He has given you, in pointing out sin as the great cause and source of every existing evil; and to engage those who love and fear Him, (instead of wasting time in political speculations, for which very few of them are competent,) to sigh and cry for our abounding abominations, and to stand in the breach, by prayer, that God's wrath may yet be averted, and our national mercies prolonged! This, I think, is true patriotism—the best way in which people in private life may serve their country.

I consider the ungodly as saws and hammers in the hand of the Lord. So far as they are His instruments, they will succeed—but not an inch further! Their wrath shall praise Him, and be subservient to His designs!

If our lot is so cast that we can exercise our ministry free from stripes, fines, imprisonments, and death—it is more than the gospel has promised to us! If Christians were quiet when under the cruel governments of Nero and other wicked persecutors, when they were hunted down like wild beasts—then we ought to be not only quiet but very thankfulnow! It was then accounted an honor to suffer for Christ and the 'offence of the cross'!

Those are to be greatly pitied, who boast of their 'liberty'—and yet they do not consider that they are in the most deplorable bondage as the slaves of sin and Satan, under the curse of God's law and His eternal wrath! Oh! for a voice to reach their hearts, that they may know their true and dreadful state—and seek deliverance from their horrific thraldom! May you and I labor to direct them to the one thing, which is absolutely needful, and abundantly sufficient.

If I had the wisdom or influence to soothe the angry passions of mankind—I would gladly employ them! But I am a stranger and a pilgrim here in this world. My charter, my rights and my treasures, are all in heaven—and there my heart ought to be. In a very short time, I may be removed (and perhaps suddenly) into the unseen and eternal world—where all that now causes so much bustle upon earth—will be of no more importance to me—than the events which took place among the antediluvians!

In the hour, when death shall open the door into eternity—many things which now assume an 'air of importance', will be found as light and unsubstantial as a child's dream!

How crucial then, is it for me—to be found watching, with my lamp burning, diligently engaged in my proper calling! For the Lord has not called me to set governments right—but to preach the gospel, to proclaim the glory of His name, and to endeavor to win souls! "Let the dead bury their own dead—but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God!" Luke 9:60. Happy is that servant, whom his Master finds so doing, when He returns!

As you have forced me to respond—both duty and love have obliged me to be faithful and free in giving you my thoughts.

I recommend you to the care and blessing of the great Shepherd and Savior; and remain for His sake, your affectionate friend and brother,
John Newton

Calvinistic Congregationalists Reformed?

Spencer Snow has written Are Calvinistic Congregationalists To Be Counted Among The Reformed? as a response to William H. Smith's Can Baptists Be Reformed? Is This a Contradiction in Terms?

Snow writes,

Rather than restrictively placing the label “Reformed” upon only those who subscribe to the doctrines of the Westminster Standards, it seems more better and more accurate to place the tag upon the broad group of Confessional Calvinistic Protestants who hold to truths contained within the Westminster Standards/Three Forms of Unity, the Savoy Declaration, and the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith.  Those who relegate the title “Reformed” to only those of this group who practice infant baptism, infant church membership, and Presbyterian polity prove too much. 

Read the rest. I think Snow makes some sense here.

The Case For Infant Baptism

While I can affirm the validity of both paedobaptism and credobaptism, this post will reflect my understanding, albeit briefly, of infant baptism (paedobaptism).

Here is a summary from the WCF on baptism.

I. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ,[1] not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church;[2] but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace,[3] of his ingrafting into Christ,[4] of regeneration,[5] of remission of sins,[6] and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life.[7] Which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in His Church until the end of the world.[8]

II. The outward element to be used in this sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the Gospel, lawfully called thereunto.[9]

III. Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but Baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person.[10]

IV. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ,[11] but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized.[12]

V. Although it is a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance,[13] yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it:[14] or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.[15]

VI. The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered;[16] yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in His appointed time.[17]

VII. The sacrament of Baptism is but once to be administered unto any person.[18]

Now, fire away. 

Church Membership and Baptism. Three Views.

The Gospel Coalition had three pastors present their views on Baptism as it relates to becoming a church member. The preface the three part series this way:
How do baptism and church membership relate? What are the biblical bounds? Baptists debate, "Must one be baptized as a believer in order to join a local church?" Meanwhile, Presbyterians and other paedobaptists consider, "Should one who'd refuse to let his children be baptized be permitted to join?"
See what you think. Read more at each link.
As a Baptist church, we believe that baptism is a matter of obedience. Jesus instructed his followers to baptize disciples (Matt 28:19), so we baptize those who have become disciples because we want to obey Jesus. We also believe that only believers are united to the body of Christ by faith (cf. Gal 3:26-28), so only believers should be welcomed as members into the visible expression of the body of Christ, the local church. If someone is not repenting of all known sin, trusting Christ for salvation, and submitting to all his commands and teaching, we don't welcome him or her into church membership. Since we view baptism as a matter of obedience, we understand unbaptized people to be disobedient on this point.
All of this entails, of course, that those who wish to become members must at least be willing and ready to present unbaptized children for baptism. Any who refuse to do so are in violation of what we are convinced is the express command of our Lord. Church discipline always begins with gentle admonition and instruction, usually in private, leading hopefully to repentance. However, it would be unwise to admit into full communion believers who are already in principle unwilling to change their mind on the matter.
I'm a very happy baptist---though you don't need to capitalize the baptist for me. But especially in our increasingly post-Christian milieu, it is becoming more and more clear that there are so many other theological issues more central and important than the mode and timing of baptism. I am happy to let the vestiges of Christendom go, and see formal church membership as significant enough to put up with some mistaken views of baptism (provided that the leadership is securely believer baptist), so as not to exclude from local church membership converted brothers and sisters in Jesus who are plainly members of the universal church.

The Freedom of the Will

Baptist pastor Walter Chantry has a great little essay on The Myth of the Free Will. He outlines the subject as:

I. The Myth of Circumstantial Freedom

II. The Myth of Ethical Freedom

II. The Myth of Spiritual Freedom

I like this section of point II especially, though it is all good.

But freedom of the will is cited as an important factor in making MORAL decisions. Man's will is said to be free to choose between good and evil. But again we must ask, from what is it free? And what is man's  will free to choose? 

The will of man is his power to choose between alternatives. Your will does decide your actions from a number of options. You have the faculty to direct your own thoughts, words, and deeds. Your decisions are not formed by an outside force, but from within yourself. No man is compelled to act contrary to his will, nor forced to say what he does not wish. Your will guides your actions. 

Yet this does not mean that the power to decide is free from all influence. You make choices based on your understanding, your feelings, your likes and dislikes, and your appetites. In other words, your will is not free from yourself! 

Your choices are determined by your own basic character. The will is not independent of your nature, but the slave of it. Your choices do not shape your character, but your character guides your choices. The will is quite partial to what you know, feel, love, and desire. You always choose on the basis of your disposition, according to the condition of your heart. 

It is just for this reason that your will is NOT free to do good. Your will is the servant of your heart, and  your heart is evil. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that EVERY imagination of the thoughts of his heart was ONLY evil CONTINUALLY“ (Gen 6:5). “There is NONE that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom 3:12). No power forces man to sin contrary to his will, but the descendants of Adam are so evil that they always choose the evil. 

Your decisions are molded by your understanding, and the Bible says of all men, “And their foolish heart was darkened” (Rom 1:21). Man can only be righteous when he desires to have fellowship with God, but, “There is NONE that seeketh after God” (Rom 3:11). Your appetites crave sin, and thus you cannot choose God. To choose good is contrary to human nature. If you chose to obey God, it would be the result of external compulsion. But you are free to choose, and hence your choice is enslaved to your own evil nature.

Read more here.


Five Points: Preach Them, or Not.

Should a pastor preach on the five points of Calvinsm in the normal course of his preaching schedule? Maybe, maybe not.

Geoff Thomas, pastor for many years at Alfred Place Baptist Church in Aberystwyth, England, began a series in 2008 on the five points of Calvinism. In his 43rd year of pastoring!

In his introduction on the first sermon he wrote,

Dr. Lloyd-Jones was hesitant about preaching on Sundays such doctrines as the five points of Calvinism. He was a Calvinistic Methodist and unashamed of that, but his approach was to permeate all his sermons with these truths and so to Calvinize people by showing them the greatness of our Sovereign Lord and his free redemption.  


However, when Dr. Lloyd-Jones took part in conferences and discussions he used theological and Calvinistic terms, but rarely did he do so when he preached on Sundays. People learning about Christianity must start in the infants’ school of trust in Jesus Christ before getting to the grammar school of election and the design of the atonement. 

I appreciate that wise response and have tended to take the same approach myself, but I also think times come when these truths, which are so preachable, need to be declared clearly. I do believe all five points and I want every Christian to believe them because they are the teaching of the Bible. They are historic Christianity. 

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was different from Dr. Lloyd-Jones as he asked his invited preachers to speak on the ‘Five Points’ at the grand opening of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, one point each evening for a week. London needed to hear the ‘Five Points” as it does today. 

No one would encourage a young preacher to begin his ministry with sermons on the ‘Five Points” but in one’s forty-third year one may be excused in preaching such a brief series as this for they are the neglected truths of Christianity, misunderstood, opposed and distorted by many preachers, and yet indispensable for the full health of the faith, a powerful means of evangelism and frequently used to bring revival to dying churches.

Wise words from a very seasoned pastor. He's been at his present church for 47 years. You may access his series and much more here.


Statement of Faith

Warfield_Statement_Reformed_Faith.pdf Download this file