Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Charity for the Saints


We learn about this aspect of charity when we considered the teaching of Jesus on foot washing. Fervent love for the brethren is at the heart of true spirituality. "For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another" (Gal. 5:13). The self-conscious doing of good—performing acts of love—manifest the fruit of the Spirit and emulates the life of Jesus. "For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:8-10).


Monday, August 30, 2010

Charity, Fear and Pride


We often are stingy with our charity, not because we want more luxuries, but because we want more security—we're afraid. Pride is also an obstacle, since we might be happy to spend our time and money on our friends in showy ways, rather than for those who really need it. We cannot learn to love our neighbor as ourselves until we learn to trust and love God. We cannot learn to love and trust God except by learning to obey Him.

Charity is not only the spiritual duty of the wealthy. Paul writes to the Corinthians:

Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us— see that you abound in this grace also. 2 Corinthians 8:1-7

Calvin Comments: "What riches you give away, those alone shall you always have." Jesus taught us: "Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Luke 12:33-24


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Overlapping Circles



A pastoral exhortation
God made us to live in covenant and in community―we're members of one another. Covenant always involves promises, commitments, duties and responsibilities. As a result, communities are formed: church, family, friends, work, school, etc. All of these communities (or circles) connect us to one another in personal relationships and all are under the overall covenant we have with God. It's important that the various circles we find ourselves in also overlap with our other circles to some degree (if at all possible). It's dangerous when we allow ourselves to establish circles of relationships that are isolated from the other circles of our lives. It becomes too easy to compromise and live in that isolated circle in a way that's different from the other circles. There is a certain accountability that naturally occurs when our circles overlap. This is especially true if we find ourselves guarding one circle from all the others. Do your friends know your family and visa versa? Have the people at work met your spouse and children? Does everyone know where you go to church and do you feel comfortable to invite them to church events? If we're faithfully following Christ in every circle, then we'll have no management concerns when those circles overlap.

Charity and Love


"Charity" means love in the Christian sense. But love, in the Christian sense, does not mean emotion or sentimentality (though it might have these emotions attached to it). To love someone is to seek their good. It's giving them what they need (not necessarily what they want). Christian charity is different from "liking" or from "affection." We're fond of some people and not of others. Now it's easier to be charitable toward those we're fond of, and therefore, we should work to like people as much as we can. On the other hand, we should be careful that our affection for one person doesn't make us uncharitable to another person. Since our resources are limited (e.g., time, money, labor etc.), what we give to one person we cannot give to another.

It would be a mistake to think that the way to become charitable is to sit around and try to manufacture affectionate feelings. You might or might not be a sensitive person, but that doesn't excuse you from the spiritual duty of charity. Loving your neighbor is your duty regardless of how you feel about him. Remember Cain? His countenance fell when he did not obey God, but the Lord told him it would be lifted up if he would but do the right thing. As soon as we do what God says (i.e., as soon as we obey God), we find that acting charitably toward someone causes us to love him more.

The exception is when you do him good, not in order to obey and please God, but rather to show him or the world what a good person you are, or in order to put him in your debt. We must remember the teaching of Jesus: "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly" (Matt. 6:1-4).

"The worldly man treats certain people kindly because he "likes" them: the Christian, trying to treat everyone kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on—including people he could not even have imagined himself liking at the beginning." —C. S. Lewis

"Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparent trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible." —C. S. Lewis


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Charity


Charity is the public aspect of spirituality (though it is often done in secret). It is public in that it involves our interaction with others. There's no way to love our neighbors without our neighbors being involved. This is where men "see our light shine" (i.e., our spiritual light) and "glorify our Father in heaven." We might be tempted to think that the Federal and State governments are taking care of our neighbors and especially the poorour tax-dollars are doing the job―but this would be a mistake. True charity comes from the heart.

Like many other spiritual things, specific rules are not given in the Bible, but rather the general principles are laid down. We can't set the amount any person must give to another person, but it's clear that we are to be giving. It would be safe to say that we should give more than we think we can spare. If our expenditures on our own comforts and entertainments are similar to those whose income is equal to ours, then we're probably giving too little. If our charity is not the cause of sacrifice; i.e., if we do not feel a bit of a "pinch," then we should take another look. There ought to be things that we desire and would like to do but can't because our charity prevents us from those things.

G. K. Chesterton noted: "A man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man. Spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt….Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony… that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck." The truly charitable person is also a spiritual person. As John Calvin put it: "There is nothing in which men resemble God more truly than in doing good to others."


Friday, August 27, 2010

Taking Responsibility


When Christian men stop retreating, and rise up to take responsibility for their families, churches and nation, resolving first to be personally righteous before God, and next resolving to see that the righteousness of God's law is established in their own homes, churches and nation, then, and only then, will we see the covenant blessing of God poured out. The compromise of fundamental principle can never secure victory. J. Gresham Machen said: "No peace without victory."

And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 24 "Son of man, say to her: 'You are a land that is not cleansed or rained on in the day of indignation.' 25 The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured people; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in her midst. 26 Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. 27 Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain. 28 Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, 'Thus says the Lord God,' when the Lord had not spoken. 29 The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. 30 So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. 31 Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads," says the Lord God. ―Ezekiel 22:23-31

I will close with these words from Robert L. Dabney: "For God's sake, then, for your own sakes, for your children's sake, arise, declare that from this day no money, no vote, no influence of yours shall go to the maintenance of any other counsels than to those of… righteousness…"


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Voting for the Evil of Two Lessers


Only under special and compelling circumstances, in which case it is still for clearly righteous purposes, would we cast a vote for the "lesser of two evils." For example, an immediate crisis of evil can be abated by such a vote (e.g., the persecution of Christians, etc., e.g., Nero or Hitler); there are only two choices.

Would you send money to support the candidate you are planning to vote for? Even five dollars? If you will not support him with your money, then why would you give him the currency of your vote? It's from among the judicially righteous that we must make our selections—win or lose. Once you have identified the various candidates that may be fairly characterized as judicially righteous then other factors may be considered (again, using Hebrews 5 as our standard); e.g., electability, leadership skills, party affiliation, etc.

For example, tf we have a party, or its likely nominee, who, among other things, proclaims and promotes the wicked idea that a person has the right to murder their own child in the name of a "right to privacy," or a "right to choose," then we cannot lend any
support to that effort. Abortion—and there are many others similar issues—that we cannot compromise on so that we can "win" an election? What will we have won? What will we have lost!

Shall we be intimidated by these giants? Can they continue to take for granted the votes of Christians, while marching further and further away from righteousness? When will we learn that the "odds" are never against us when we fight in the name of the Lord. The battle is the Lord's, and He will deliver them into our hands—against all odds! There are giants in the land! (Num. 13:30-33).

David and Goliath:

Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine. 41 So the Philistine came, and began drawing near to David, and the man who bore the shield went before him. 42 And when the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained him; for he was only a youth, ruddy and good-looking. 43 So the Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 And the Philistine said to David, "Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!"
    45 Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord  does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's, and He will give you into our hands." 1 Samuel 17:40-47

The cry goes up: "We can't win! We can't win! We can't win!" I respond, if we are fighting a righteous cause, "We can't lose! We can't lose! We can't lose!"


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Judicially Righteous


We may only support those who can fairly be characterized as judicially righteous. By judicially righteous I mean one who will uphold the just law of God. God's law defines true righteousness (this is how we discern good from evil, cf. Heb. 5). "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people" (Prov. 14:34). A leader may or may not be personally regenerate (though this would certainly be desirable), yet he must be judicially righteous before he can receive the positive support of believers (this is not the same thing as honoring our leaders).

Winning an election is not our primary objective. God is the one who establishes our rulers, including wicked rulers sent to judge sinful people ("For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God" Rom. 13:1). Our duty must not be confused with God's duty. Just as Paul planted, Apollos watered, and God gave the increase, our political duty is to establish righteous rulers and God's work is to establish the rulers our nation needs or deserves. If we faithfully work for a righteousness candidate who loses an election, and thereby see the election of an unrighteous ruler, we can have a clear conscience before God and rest (and even rejoice) in His righteous judgments. "Thus says the Lord: 'Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,' says the Lord" (Jer. 9:23-24). The Christian faith can (and often does) prosper under adversity in ways that it doesn't when things are going well.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Christian’s Political Obligation


The Christian's political obligation it the same obligation he has in every other area of life: "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). To think and act in harmony with God's revealed will "taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." What would God have you to do? Every person, whether President, governor, legislator or voter must carry his Christian conscience, enlightened by the Word of God, into his political duty. We must be less concerned about party expediency and more concerned about what our duty to God demands. It is the thoughtless exercise of civil duty that has led to most of our social ills and judgments (little by little). Consider this admonition and warning from the nineteenth-century theologian, Robert L. Dabney:

But when their party demands of them that they shall sustain men of corrupt private morals or reckless passions, because of their supposed party orthodoxy, let all Christians say: "Nay, verily, we would fain yield all party fidelity; but we are also partisans in the commonwealth of King Jesus, and our allegiance to him transcends all others. Unless you will present us a man who to party orthodoxy unites private virtues, we cannot sustain him." Then would their reasonable demand be potential in every party, and the abuse would be crushed. . . . Here then is a prominent duty, if we would save our country, that we shall carry our citizenship in the kingdom of heaven everywhere, and make it dominate over every public act. We must obey the law of God rather than the unrighteous behest of party, to "choose out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness, and place such over them to be rulers," or God will assuredly avenge himself for our violated allegiance to him.

Dabney continues his warning by pointing out that: "When we elect bad men we give them a hundred times more power to corrupt our children and our neighbor's children by his ungodly acts. Such men deserve obscurity, not prominence. And when you elect such men you make their bad influence your own—he is your chosen agent…And be assured, a jealous God will not forget to visit the people for the guilt thus contracted." Simply put, the Christian's obligation is always the cause of righteousness.


Monday, August 23, 2010

The “Lesser Of Two Evils”


"If to please the people we offer what we ourselves disbelieve, how may we then afterward defend our work. Our job is to raise a standard to which the wise and honest repair, recognizing that the event is in the hands of God." George Washington at the Constitutional Convention

"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness…" Isaiah 5:20

We must first recognize that political evils cannot be remedied overnight. I believe most of us are prone to expect quick solutions to complex problems. Yet, God has most often worked slowly, even generationally, throughout history both in blessing and in judgment. Our spiritual decline or apostasy as a nation has taken many generations and will likely require the same if we are to recover that which has been lost. It's often the case that things must get worse before they can get better. It seems that God's people have found their greatest motivations for labor when they were under adversity rather than prosperity.

We desire change without sacrifice. Compromise for immediate comfort can cause us to lose sight of long-term goals and real gain. Principle is often sacrificed for expediency. In winning the battle we may lose the war. For example, the hard demands of the Christian gospel often do not yield the kind of dramatic growth results many churches desire. So, the message of the gospel is compromised—watered down—made more palatable—so that more and more people feel comfortable in the church. In the end, the church has lost its saltiness and can no longer command the respect of those inside or outside the church. We likewise, tend to think the next election will be our salvation, but our problems are much, much deeper than the next congressional or presidential election. Even if we could elect the ideal Christian to the White House, this would not be the end of America's woes. This is not to say that this is not a proper goal, but that such a goal must be kept in its context.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Resolving Matters of Conscience


Too many Christians are anxious for a confrontation with the state. We are instructed by Paul to make "entreaties and prayers, and petitions and thanksgivings…" "for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we might lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity" (1 Tim. 2:1-2). We should also give serious heed to the command of Paul given in Romans 13:1-2, given during the reign of the wicked Emperor Nero: "Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves." When David had the opportunity to confront the evil King Saul he refrained from the confrontation (read 1 Sam. 24:3-7). See also 1 Peter 2:13-20 (Again, this was written during the reign of Nero).

Case Study #1: Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 1)

Daniel provides a great example of how believers should function in an unbelieving or apostate society. Daniel was able to serve faithfully both God and the king. In fact, like Joseph, he rose to considerable power within the state. His first crisis with the state was when Ashpenaz, the representative of the king, insisted that Daniel and his friends eat the king's food and drink the king's wine. Daniel refused and chose to obey God. Daniel did not go looking for a fight or confrontation with the king. Instead, he respectfully offered another plan, requesting that an alternative diet be substituted and tested.

Case Study #2: Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (Dan. 3)

Nebuchadnezzar commanded everyone to fall down and worship a golden image. This time there could be no room for compromise. Either worship the image or be cast into the fiery furnace. They respectfully refused and were willing to face the consequences. They resolved themselves to be faithful to God regardless of whether God delivered them or not.

Case Study #3: Daniel vs. Darius (Dan. 6)

Daniel had risen to become a provincial ruler in Babylon under Darius. Some of the other provincial rulers did not like Daniel and conspired against him. They tricked the king into signing an irrevocable law requiring that no prayers be offered to any man or god other that the king must be put into the lion's den. This law stood in direct contradiction to Daniel's obligation to God. No compromise was possible. Daniel did not even seek to hide from others his faithfulness to God. Daniel knelt and prayed to God in his open window. Undoubtedly, he knew he would be seen and arrested. He was arrested and thrown into the lion's den and was delivered by God. Daniel continued to address the king respectfully, "O king, live forever!" (Dan.6:21).

Case Study #4: The Hebrew Midwives (Ex. 1:15-22).

The Pharaoh commanded the Hebrew midwives to kill all the new born Hebrew babies and they refused to do so. "But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live" (Ex. 1:17). The midwives even lied to the Pharaoh when questioned about this and we read, "So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty" (Ex. 1:20).

Principles for Handling Issues of Conscience

We should respect and obey those who are in authority over us. When we have a conflict with the civil authorities we should seek alternative remedies to resolve the conflict—including appeals to other magistrates. We must resist or oppose the civil authorities whenever that government insists that we do something the law of God forbids or forbids us to do something the law of God requires ("We must obey God rather than men"). When it is necessary for us to disobey a civil ruler, for conscience sake, we should be prepared to suffer the civil or criminal penalties that come with such civil disobedience. Even in the midst of such disobedience we should remain respectful to the civil authorities.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

God’s Law that Applies to All Men


Any claim of the state that runs contrary to the claims of God must be resisted and opposed. This is not a resisting of the rulers per se, for we submit to them in everything where their demands are lawful (Rom. 13:2; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-14). In fact, we honor our rulers, (Ex. 22:28; Ezra 6:10; Prov. 24:21; Jer. 29:7; Acts 23:5; 1 Tim. 2:2). We honor them because we recognize that they are sovereignly appointed by God Himself, (1 Kings 11:31, 37; 12:20; 2 Kings 9:1-2, 13). It is the apostasy of the state and not the state itself that must be resisted. We are loyal citizensperhaps the most loyal citizens of the statewhen the state functions lawfully under God. It is only when the state requires us to sin against God ourselves that we resist.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Handling the Claims of an Apostate State


Most of us have heard that compromise is the art of politics. This is the notion that half-way between to extremes is the right place to be. It's politically fashionable to be considered a "moderate," and the last thing you want is to be thought of as an "extremist." (Perhaps you heard about the man that drowned crossing a river that averaged two feet deep.)

This rhetoric of moderation can easily cloud the issues for the average Christian. We want to be good citizens under the civil authorities as God has commanded us. We want to live "quiet and peaceable lives." We don't want to be thought of as "troublemakers." Nevertheless, the Christian's loyalty is always to God first. Having denied ourselves and taken up our cross, we are followers of Jesus Christ. He is not only our personal King, He is also the King of kings. All authority belongs ultimately to Christ. As a child may be i

The state itself is under God's authority. As God's people, we must first recognize that God's transcendent revealed will is the only righteous standard by which we can judge all social codes and claims. When this issue is settled in our own minds and hearts then answering these questions becomes clearer and easier. All men and all institutions are under the law of God in all times and in all places. The separation of church and state as separate institutions, operating in separate spheres with distinct purposes does not negate the fact that each is accountable to God and His righteous standards. God will use this righteous standard of His law to judge individuals, families, churches and the state.

The Herodians and Pharisees sought to entrap Christ into either completely renouncing Caesar's authority, or to acknowlede that everything was subject to it. Jesus answered them by saying: "Render to Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and to God the things which are God's" (Matt.22:21). This separation of church and state does not authorize the state to be an autonomous government. The separation of priest and king in the Old Testament did not give the king the moral right to ignore God's law (Deut. 17:18-19). The civil government is a government under God's government.

Caesar was the civil magistrate. Under these circumstances the people of Palestine must pay their taxes in submission to that authority. Nevertheless, Caesar did not have the right to disregard God's law any more than King David did. What Christ said applies to both the individual and the magistrate: not only must the citizen obey the magistrate, all men, including the magistrate, must obey God. As the coin bears Caesar's image and therefore must be rendered to him; so too, Caesar bears God's image and must give himself to God.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Christian’s Dual Citizenship


God's people have always faced a dilemma: how can we faithfully serve both the civil authority and God? We have a dual citizenship in the temporal world and in the kingdom of God. What do we do when the claims of one realm conflict with the other? On the one hand, God has commanded that we submit ourselves to the temporal rulers of this world. On the other hand, the rulers of the temporal realm are often pagan or apostate from God and make claims upon us that would require us to be unfaithful to the claims of God.

This conflict between church and state is not a new problem. The Hebrew midwives were commanded by the Pharaoh of Egypt to kill all new born Hebrew males. Daniel faced the problem of being a loyal servant of his king or disobeying God's law. Under another king Daniel had to decide whether to be faithful to God or break the law and face the death penalty. Jesus was asked a question concerning the obligation of God's people to pay tribute [taxes] to the civil authorities. The Apostles were ordered by their temporal authorities not to preach the gospel. The Roman government made many demands that conflicted with the Christian faith, including Caesar worship. Throughout church history God's people have faced similar challenges of conscience, including restrictions on assembly and worship, restrictions on evangelism and preaching, and control by the state over the sacraments. The state has sought to use the church as a tool for its own propaganda and even forced abortions and other persecutions. Many times the state has sought control over family matters, including the education of our children. The state has been keenly aware of the challenge to its unlimited authority. It has recognized the fact that Christianity sets a standard—as law—above its own. The Apostle Paul was accused before the rulers of Thessalonica for "acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king—Jesus" (Acts 17:7).

So, where do we draw the line in our own day? In the next several blog posts I hope to provide some principled answers to the following questions: How do we handle the claims of an apostate state (i.e., a civil government that has abandoned the law of God as its ethical standard)? How do Christians resolve matters of conscience? Finally, given the upcoming elections in November, may we vote for the "lesser of two evils"? Perhaps I can challenge you to think through these issues for yourself.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New GCC Podcast



This is a TEST of the new Grace Covenant Podcast.


Sermon: "Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit" (Ephesians 4:25-32―5:1-2)



Go to: gcov.podhoster.com/ to sign up to receive podcast as they become available.

Let me know what you think.

Political Season Up Ahead


It's just eighty-two days to go until the midterm elections. The stakes are high as the political firestorm is about to be ratcheted up. While the church stands above it all, that does not mean she is uninvolved or that she has nothing to say. As the "pillar and ground of truth," the church has much to say and her members must be informed and equipped as they exercise their dual citizenship in both the kingdom of God and the nation. Our standing in the kingdom of God supersedes and directs our political involvement in the other realm. Over the next few day, I intend to offer some biblical advice on politics in the civil realm. In preparation for those posts, allow me to quote my friend, Pastor Douglas Wilson:

Jesus Christ has ascended to the right hand of God the Father. This does not mean that He is now on the other side of the universe. It actually means that His authority is suffused throughout the entire universe.

And this is inescapably political. Jesus is a king. Not only is He a king, but He is a king of kings—and this includes every earthly king. Not only is He a Lord, but He is Lord of lords—and this includes every earthly lord. Jesus is king. He is lord. He is president. And we, all of us, are summoned to answer to Him.

We do not have the right to cook up a secular arrangement for our civil affairs. We don't control how the nations of men are supposed to be governed—He is the king, and so He does. We do not have the right to say that in this progressive era, we have outgrown the need for divine authorization for our laws. We need divine authorization for our laws, now more than ever. This can be ascertained in a moment, simply by glancing at the kinds of laws that crawl out of our legislatures these days.

We are Christians in the first instance. Our loyalty to Jesus is fundamental and primary. And mark this, our political loyalty to Jesus is fundamental and primary.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

One-Cigar Limit (a little fun)




When I was a youth I used to take all kinds of pledges, and do my best to keep them, but I never could, because I didn't strike at the root of the habit―the desire; I generally broke down within the month. Once I tried limiting a habit. That worked tolerably well for a while. I pledged myself to smoke but one cigar a day. I kept the cigar waiting until bedtime, then I had a luxurious time with it. But desire persecuted me every day and all day long; so, within the week I found myself hunting for larger cigars than I had been used to smoke; then larger ones still, and still larger ones. Within the fortnight I was getting cigars made for me―on a yet larger pattern. They still grew and grew in size. Within the month my cigar had grown to such proportions that I could have used it as a crutch. It now seemed to me that a one-cigar limit was no real protection to a person, so I knocked my pledge on the head and resumed my liberty.

Mark Twain

Monday, August 16, 2010

Temper Tantrums








Have you seen this guy before? When a man is wrong and won't admit it he often flys off the handle. He has an argument but never a good one; a bit like the preacher who wrote in the margin of his sermon notes: "argument weak, shout here!" The hothead works himself up into a dithershutting his eyes and opening his mouthand very soon he says what he'll be sorry for. He's like watching a neighbor's house on fire with no water to put it out. As Will Rogers said, "People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing." Proverbs teaches us that "An angry man stirs up strife, and a furious man abounds in transgression. A man's pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor." Proverbs 29:22-23

Generally, people who grossly overreact to trivial events with anger are suffering from a central lack of confidence; they are very insecure in themselves and anger is their cover. Angry people interpret everything as a personal slight; an insult to their already fragile egos. As a result they know what's wrong with everyone and every institution (often collecting ammo against them). It couldn't possibly be them―don't even try to go there. We expect immature two-year-olds to have tantrums, and we have some reasonable hope that they will outgrow it, but when we see it in so-called adults, it's exceptionally ugly. Who wants to be around that?

On the other hand, maturity is lovely, attractive and confident (because it's Christ-like). It doesn't have to intimidate people or shout them down. It knows how to treat others with respect and how to live in community. It even knows how to disagree with grace. It gives and, therefore, it also receives back a blessing from God. Maturity looks out, not in. It's ready to examine itself and accept responsibility with humility. It sees the best in others and seeks to help and encourage those that are weak. Maturity builds others up instead of tearing them down. Patience and kindness are really still the loveliest of virtues.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Any Fly Can Find a Sore


"Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" ―Hebrews 12:12-15

The virtue of charity is clearly seen in a man or a woman that is pleasant, kind, and longsuffering toward the faults of others, especially those who are close to them. A husband that is tender toward his wife is a man who has come to grips with his own sins and the grace he has been shown, and therefore he can patiently help her grow in Christ because he delights in serving her. Likewise, a wife who is comfortable in her own calling possesses a confidence and peace toward her less than perfect man and can encourage his sanctification. She too finds delight in service. They are lovely to behold. This kind of charity will naturally (supernaturally?) flow outward to all those they encounter so that they become a pleasant addition to any gathering of people. They are positive contributors to the church and any other organization they are part of because they humbly look for and work for solutions to problems and difficulties, sharing the burdens and responsibilities, never shifting the blame to others.

Those who own every offence and lug it around day-after-day and year-after-year are embittered, and it shows in their face and their tone. Like a fly, it's their nature to find every sore. It's never them; it's always "the other person" who hasn't done them right, and they can sight chapter and verse. They will never truly be happy. Visible patterns always develop because charity bears one kind of fruit: "When a man's ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Pr. 16:7); and the lack of charity yields another kind of fruit: "An angry man stirs up strife" (Pr. 29:22). We can always look in a person's wake and see what they leave in the places where they've been and then we will know if charity was really in their hearts.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Conclusion on Antithesis


Greg L. Bahnsen wrote: "The entire Biblical message of redemption and the historical establishing of God's kingdom both presuppose "the antithesis," then, between the people of God and the culture of unbelief, between the regenerate and the unregenerate. Therefore, throughout history Satan has tempted God's people to compromise "the antithesis"—whether by intermingling in ungodly marriages (Gen. 5:2), or by showing unwarranted tolerance toward the enemies of God (Joshua 23:11-13; Judges 1:21, 27-36; Ps. 106:34-35), or by departing from the authority of God's word so that "every man does what is right in his own eyes," (Judges 21:25), by committing spiritual adultery with other gods (e.g. Ps. 106:36, 39; Hosea 2:2-13; 4:12; Ezek. 16:15-25), by trusting in some power other than God (e.g. Kings 18:21; Chron. 16:7-9; Is. 30:7; 31:1; Ezek. 16.26-29), or by repudiating the Messiah along with the world (John 1;10-11), or by bowing the knee both to Christ and to Caesar (cf. Acts 17:7; Rev. 13:8, 11-17).

Dr. Cornelius Van Til, said in 1969,: "The War between Christ and Satan is a global war. It is carried on, first, in the hearts of men for the hearts of men. Through preaching and teaching in the church and in the home, through the witness borne individual men everywhere, the allegiance of men is turned away from Satan to Christ. But the warfare is also carried on where you might least expect it. It is carried on in the field of reading and writing and arithmetic, in the field of nature study and history….This struggle or conflict is global in character. There is not a square inch of ground in heaven or on earth or under the earth in which there is peace between Christ and Satan. And what is all important for us as we think of the Christian school is that, according to Christ, every man, woman, and child is every day and everywhere involved in the struggle….You cannot expect to train intelligent, well-informed soldiers of the cross of Christ unless the Christ is held up before them as the Lord of culture as well as the Lord of religion. It is the nature of the conflict between Christ and Satan to be all-comprehensive."

J. Gresham Machen declared in 1924: "In the intellectual battle of the present day there can be no 'peace without victory'; one side or the other must win."


Friday, August 13, 2010

The Good News of Antithesis


God's Word tells the truth about man's condition; the diagnosis and prognosis is not good. Man is a sinner: "There is none righteous; no, not one." Man is not right with God—in fact, he is under God's just wrath and judgment. Left in that condition, he will die and go to Hell. "Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord." "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matt. 7:23).

God's Word provides the only remedy for man's condition. There are not many remedies: there is only one: "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me'" (John 14:6).

God's Word promises eternal life. "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:11-12). "…But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:20-21).

All other so-called "remedies" are snake-oil. They may seem kind and loving, but they are in reality unkind and unloving. They are counterfeits—they will kill you. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Prov. 14:12). Man may not substitute his word for God's. It is true that the Lord Jesus will "in flaming fire take vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" (1 Thess. 1:8-9). This is part of the gospel that we are not ashamed of. Jesus said, "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matt. 7:13-14).


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Socio-Political Blurring of the Antithesis


As a result of theological division, religious and political pluralism have both become the modern substitutes for the authority of God's law. We are left with an incoherent ethical system that contains the seeds for its own destruction—"…all they that hate Me love death" (Pr. 8:36). Do not be deceived by the deception of vague spirituality. We hear much about a resurgence of "spirituality" in our day. Allegedly, men are seeking for "spiritual answers." No they're not. "There is none who seeks for God; no not one."

Apart from this clear commitment to the authoritative Word of God, political conservatism is also a false hope: R.L. Dabney wrote in 1887:

This is a party that never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward toward perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. The pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always—when about to enter a protest—very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its "bark is worse than its bite," and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent role of resistance. The only practical purpose which it now subserves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it "in wind," and to prevent it from becoming pursy and lazy from having nothing to whip…" (Discussions, Vol. 4, p. 496.)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Personal and Familial Blurring of the Antithesis


Parents, you can change the world if you will teach your children not to blur God's antithesis. Never allow your children to show disrespect for you as their parent. If you do, then you teach them that that God doesn't know what He's talking about and that they are free to disregard all authority. They are allowed to blur the antithesis. Teach them that God's Word is the only rule of faith and life. You cannot allow your children to have a sub-Christian education. Dr. Cornelius Van Til perceived the danger when he wrote: "When viewed from this absolute standpoint Christian education is not even a fraction of one percent like public education. The different conceptions of God that underlie the two educational theories cover every point on the whole front and cover them before and behind, without and within….All too often have Trojan horses come into the Christian camp"


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ten Miles Down the Road




This August marks my 10th anniversary as the pastor of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nacogdoches, TX. I had the privilege of being the overseeing pastor of the Nacogdoches church when it began as a Mission Church two years earlier. (Grace Covenant Church in Texarkana was the overseeing church.) In the kind providence of God, I was called, and accepted the call to the church Nacogdoches in the Spring of 2000. Marinell and I arrived during the last week of July, swelling the ranks to a total of 34 men, women, boys and girls. We were the "old folks" in the congregation at the ripe old age of 45. Most of the founding families are still faithfully serving the church in Nacogdoches: the Alders, Hills, St. Johns, Bertkes, and Terrells. God has also added many others along the way. It has pleased the Lord to bring some to serve with us and also to send others out to serve Him in different places.

Our giant foster home has been a place of refuge, instruction, and rejoicing; a collection of redeemed sinners with much to learn and much to be thankful for. As I survey the individuals God has brought together, I see a trophy case of God's grace; a disparate group of pilgrims who are pressing on to their high calling in Christ. Even in times of grief (perhaps especially in times of grief), to be surrounded by such faithful saints is a great comfort and brings an abiding peace. The celebrations we have had and the worship we have offered together has built a genuine community for life. I am truly grateful to be a part of this little outpost of the Kingdom of God.

As we prepare to break ground on a new church building, we look forward to even greater service among the saints of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church as well as to the community of Nacogdoches, TX. Except for the intrusion of summer temperatures, humidity and bugs, East Texas is a bit of Paradise. (Air conditioning and pest control mitigate those intrusions.) My prayer is that the next ten years will be even greater than the first ten great years. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


The Church’s Blurring of the Antithesis


I start with the Church, because this is where the problem originates. We're not "seeking a place at the table." We're making exclusive claims about God, about man, and about life. God does not negotiate with His creatures. There has been way too much compromise among pastors, teachers, seminaries, colleges, denominations, etc. The Church no longer knows how to discriminate; in some cases not even between the sexes.

Dr. Greg Bahnsen observed: "The result of neglecting the God-ordained…antithesis between Christianity and the world is, as one might naturally expect, a failure of nerve in maintaining any distinctive and unqualified religious truth, a truth which would stand out clearly against every view which falls short of it or runs counter to it. 'Nobody is wrong if everybody is right' has become the unwitting operating premise of modern theology." [Bahnsen, "At War With the Word"]

Dr. J. Gresham Machen wrote: "It may appear…that the fears of the modern man as to Christianity were entirely ungrounded, and that in abandoning the embattled walls of the city of God he has fled in needless panic into the open plains of a vague natural religion only to fall an easy victim to the enemy who ever lies in ambush there.…The liberal attempt at reconciling Christianity with modern science has really relinquished everything distinctive of Christianity, so that what remains is in essentials only that same indefinite type of religious aspiration which was in the world before Christianity came upon the scene." (Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, p.7).

"Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." James 4:4


Monday, August 9, 2010

The Claims of Christ and the Apostles


Jesus said, "He that is not with Me is against Me" (Matt. 12:30), and, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 6:14). Again, He says, "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (John 7:23); and, "For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance" (Matt. 9:13). There are the "fruitful vines" and the "unfruitful vines." Jesus said: "I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned" (John. 15:5-6). He also declared that, "no man can serve two masters" (Matt. 6:24). Those baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are His disciples and are added to the Church—there are those on the "inside" (of the church) and those on the "outside" (1 Cor. 5:12).

The apostle John describes some as, "children of God," while others are described as "children of the devil" (1 John 3:10); and again he writes: "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:12). Satan is described by Jesus as "the enemy," of the Kingdom (Matt. 13:39) and Peter refers to him as the believer's "adversary" (1 Peter 5:8). A graphic illustration of the antithesis is found in the account of Elymas the sorcerer, whom Paul denounced as "a son of the devil," because he "opposed" the apostles by trying to turn aside Sergius Paulus from the faith, and by always "perverting the right ways of the Lord" (Acts 13). Jesus calls those who oppose the kingdom of God, "the sons of the evil one" (Matt 13:38). Paul identifies them as the "enemies" of Christ's cross who mind earthly things, in contrast to the Christians' heavenly citizenship (Phil. 3:18-20). The apostle John drives home the necessity of the covenantal antithesis by commanding believers in 1 John 2:15 to, "Love not the world...If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

We either submit to the government and Lordship of Christ or else we are rebels to His government and refuse to believe and obey Him. We are either covenant-keepers or covenant-breakers. This distinction makes all the difference.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Strait Line


There are only two kinds of lines—straight or crooked. A line can only be straight one way—it can be crooked many ways. Likewise, there are only two kinds of thoughts and actions: God's thoughts and actions and all the other thoughts and actions: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Is. 55:8-9).

The doctrine of the covenant is central to understanding this fundamental antithesis in mankind. It is God's Word—His covenant-law—that defines the terms of the covenant. Faith and the inescapable fruit of that faith (obedience toward that covenant-law), makes one a covenant-keeper and a receiver of the promised covenant blessings. Unbelief and disobedience to God's covenant-law makes one a covenant-breaker and a receiver of the promised covenant curses. "Choose ye this day whom you will serve."

Christianity is true or false. J. Gresham Machen's understood this when he titled his 1924 book: Christianity and Liberalism. Liberalism (or modernism) was not Christianity at all—there is no such thing as "liberal Christianity." Christianity is defined by the authoritative Bible, and those who began to challenge the Bible's veracity and authority forfeited Christianity itself. "…what the liberal theologian has retained after abandoning to the enemy one Christian doctrine after another is not Christianity at all, but a religion which is so entirely different from Christianity as to belong in a distinct category." (Machen, pp. 6-7).


Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Uncompromising Claims of God


"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters," says the Lord Almighty. Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God." 2 Corinthians 6:147:1

Holiness, or separation is required. You shall be holy…or, you shall be separate. In order to separate, we must separate from something. In order to separate, we must define and discriminate—we must have a standard. The only reliable source for that standard is the Word of God. This was so from the beginning. "You have wearied the Lord with your words; Yet you say, 'In what way have we wearied Him?' In that you say, 'Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord,'" (Malachi 2:17); "For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Hebrews 5:13-14).

God is not a democrat. There are no negations. There are no votes. He is the Creator and we are the creatures—He's God and we're not!


Friday, August 6, 2010

Male/Female Distinctions



From Pastor Jeff Niell (commenting on the antithesis posts):


"Some forms of homosexuality are of a similar nature, in that they are not just homosexuality but a philosophic problem. One must have understanding for the real homophile’s problem. But much modern homosexuality is an expression of the current denial of antithesis. It has lead in this case to an obliteration of the distinction between man and woman. So the male and the female as complementary partners are finished…In much modern thinking, all antithesis and all the order of God’s creation is to be fought against—including the male-female distinctions. The pressure toward uni-sex is largely rooted here.  But this is not an isolated problem; it is a part of the world-spirit of the generation which surrounds us. It is imperative that Christians realize the conclusions which are being drawn as a result of the death of absolutes." --Francis Schaeffer

Blurring the Antithesis


God, while He is most gracious, merciful and kind, is equally intolerant and discriminating when it comes to men and their beliefs and behavior. Men have always hated this antithesis of life that God established and have sought to blur the distinctions God has made. This is a heresy (a false belief) since if it is sincerely held, then one cannot be a Christian (another example of intolerance and discrimination). Remember the parable of the Sower and the Seed? Thorns and thistles—the cares of this world—choking out the Word of God. In the Garden the serpent challenged the veracity of God's Word and suggested that man's word (which is an expression of belief) was at least equal to God's. His tactic is to always challenge the law of God and have it replaced by man's own word—man's own law. "Hath God said?" Follow your own reason and "…ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:5). Surely God is unreasonable, harsh and unjust in His law. Surely the creature knows better than the Creator.

You see, blurring this antithesis is essential to every sin of every man, woman, boy and girl. God says, "This is what you should believe, and this is how you should behave." We say, "We will determine for ourselves what to believe and how to behave." We have become tolerant where God says we should be intolerant, and we have failed to discriminate where God says we need to discriminate. Now if this blurring of the antithesis is the foundation—the root of every sin, and sin is the failure to believe God and do what He commands—then our only hope is to restore the antithesis in the world and thereby regain the proper ethical perspective; to see the world the way God intended it to be.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

What the World Needs Now


What do we need in order to succeed in the future? What are our problems, and what, if any, remedies for those problems are available for us? It's generally conceded that we have plenty of problems, so what does the world need to solve them?

We have grown accustom the visions of all nations and backgrounds come together in global unity and peace. These are often proclaimed at football halftimes and in TV commercials. This vision is not unlike the vision of many prior decades, captured in song lyrics like: "Come on people now, smile on your brother; everybody get together, try to love one another, right now." or "This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius…harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding…" or, like the old Coca Cola ad: "I'd like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony…" or, "We are the world, we are the people…" or, "What the world needs now, is love, sweet love, not that's just for some, but for everyone…" Well, these sentiments are hard to disagree with, but are they really what we need? Can we just ignore or forget our differences? Can we simply achieve unity, peace and love by willing it to be so? Unity around what? Peace on whose terms? Love by what standard?

I would suggest that what the world needs now is much, much more intolerance and discrimination. This is our only hope, and we, as God's people, must work diligently to see that this message of intolerance and discrimination is spread far and wide. Is it really that surprising that God's message is so completely contrary to the message of the world? Allow me to explain what I mean by intolerance and discrimination. Is intolerance always a bad thing? Is it really good for us to "tolerate" everything; every behavior, and every belief? In the first place, not even the most enlightened lefty is completely tolerant (for starters, he doesn't tolerate intolerance). Where are the advocates for the tolerance of criminal behavior (especially if someone just stole their car)? Remember, it's the beliefs of the criminal that ultimately drive his behavior. And so, the most tolerant among us don't tolerate all beliefs. And what about discrimination? There was a time when we would have considered it a complement to be called a "discriminating person." Discrimination involves the ability to discern between things of superior and inferior quality. It implied a standard—a set of beliefs about the world and people—the ability to separate good from evil.

The Bible Illustrates this Intolerance and Discrimination (theologically we call this "antithesis").

Examples:

  Creator                   Creature

  Covenant-keepers    Covenant-breakers

  Life                        Death

  Sheep                    Goats

  Lost                       Saved

  Light                      Darkness

  Wheat                    Chaff

  Good                      Evil

  Heaven                  Hell

This is how God describes life.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Courageous


"Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God." —Philippians 1:27-28

Courage is not the lack of fear, but rather it is doing the right thing in the face of fear. David's stand-off with Goliath is an example of this kind of courage; boldness in the face of opposition. The word translated as "terrified" has the idea of a stampede of startled horses. Peter uses a little different word to express the same idea when he writes:

And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil" ―1 Peter 3:13-17

…do not be afraid," is the Greek word phobas, where we get our word phobia. Don't have a phobia of the world or of unbelievers. As John affirms: "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5).

We live as Christians, that is, we live knowing that Jesus is already the true Lord of the world.—the King of kings and Lord of lords. Since most people don't know this yet, we are out of step with the world around us. This is why our behavior in the private and public realm must be beyond reproach—it must live up to the gospel—it must be "worthy of the gospel of Christ." We must not retreat into some kind of Christian ghetto, but rather we must encounter and confront the culture. This is true in our private, individual relationships as well as our more public relationships as students, workers, and neighbors. Wherever God places you, that is where you serve.

We are often waiting and looking for the big thing. But the big thing is right here and right now—it is next to you. It is in your studies, or your job. It is in your friendship and family. It is in you marriages and childrearing. It is everywhere; all the time. This is where we are to stand; and to stand without fear. This is where we are to stand; unified in spirit and mind. This is where we are to adorn the gospel of Christ. Psalm 31 instructs us here: "Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints! For the Lord preserves the faithful, and fully repays the proud person. Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord." ―Psalm 31:23-24


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

One Spirit, One Mind


"Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God." —Philippians 1:27-28

It is essential that all of us recognize that we are part of the covenant community—the Body of Christ. I am convinced that few Christians comprehend the full depth of this reality and truth. We are bound together—we need each other—not as half-hearted member of the church, but as those who are diligent about worship, and the sacraments, about fellowship and sacrificial service, about pursuing peace and fervently loving the brethren, about love and forgiveness―living in the context of the discipline of God's Word and God's people.

The world offers something quite different―it offers many "alternative realities"―it always has. They are lies. They offer false hope with shallow and transient happiness. As the Proverbs warn: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but the way thereof is death." We belong to Him, and not to ourselves. We have denied ourselves to follow Him, and we do not follow Him alone. We have been called out of the world and set apart, in order that we might be sent back into the world as citizens of a new kingdom, as part of a new humanity. This is part of the incarnation of the gospel—love for one another is how they will know that we are disciples of Christ. It is a sign to the world that we already are citizens of a new kingdom and serve a different King. It declares that the new world has begun and that the threats of the old one don't work anymore.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Summer Sanctus 2010 - Lectures


The Summer Sanctus 2010 Lectures Can be found here:

Grace Covenant Church: http://www.gcov.org/


Stand Fast


"Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God." —Philippians 1:27-28

As Apostle Paul Addressed the Church at Philippi, he was not sure whether he would see them again. He certainly hoped and expected that he would, but none of us can be sure of such things. While we might or might not see one another again, there is One constant witness of our life and that is God. It is Him that sees and it is Him that we serve.

The text begins with the word "only." This emphasizes the force and focus of the great objective of the Christian life. It doesn't matter whether we see one another in the future or are absent. Our call is to live a life worthy of the Gospel, to adorn the message of the Gospel, to make it lovely and attractive; to enable people to see what it does to a person, and how it changes who and what we are. We are part the Body of Christ and as such, we should be the Gospel incarnate. Paul will write in the next chapter: "Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain." (Phil. 2:14-16)


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Liturgical Evangelism


Pastor Burke Shade has pointed out how our worship service is to be a means of evangelism.

The LORD CALLS Us into His Presence

God Calls You to Worship Him: Psalm 100:1-2



Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.

The LORD CLEANSES and Restores Us

God Calls You To Confess Your Sins: Acts 2:38



Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The LORD CONSECRATES Us by His Word

God Calls you to hear his word: Hebrews 4:12



For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The LORD COMMUNES With Us

God calls you to eat and feast with/on him: John 6:35



Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst." 

The LORD COMMISSIONS and BLESSES Us

God Commissions you: Ephesians 3:6



The Gentiles are fellow-heirs and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus though the gospel.

The Benefits of this Method:

It is COMMUNAL, not individualistic. It starts with the church, and her worship as the family of God. You are calling others to join you and others in worship of God the Creator and Savior. It is warm and open, not cultic and closed. It recognizes that true evangelism has the goal of the person being incorporated into the body, which receives its life from the Head, Jesus Christ.

It is COVENANTAL, not impersonal.    It is relational, not Gnostic. You are calling to a real relationship with a personal God, not a set of ideas or philosophies. It operates in terms of calling, what is revealed, rather than election (or regeneration), which is hidden to man.

It is CREATIONAL, rather than hypothetical. It establishes presuppositionally God's authority as Creator. He has a claim on your listener, an authority to call him to worship, because he created him. It assaults his own will worship.

It is GOD-CENTERED not man-centered. Your message is of God initiating, and man responding. Your message presents God as sovereign, with man his servant. It presents salvation is of the Lord, not man and his thoughts.