Thursday, September 21, 2017

essential and non-essential

"I am a Calvinist; I believe in election and predestination; but I would not dream of putting it under the heading of essential. I put it under the heading of non-essential… You are not saved by your precise understanding of how this great salvation comes to you. What you must be clear about is that you are lost and damned, hopeless and helpless, and that nothing can save you but the grace of God in Jesus Christ and only Him crucified, bearing the punishment of your sins, dying, rising again, ascending, sending the Spirit, regeneration. Those are the essentials… While I myself hold very definite and strong views on the subject, I will not separate from a man who cannot accept and believe the doctrines of election and predestination, and is Arminian, as long as he tells me that we are all saved by grace, and as long as the Calvinist agrees, as he must, that God calls all men everywhere to repentance. As long as both are prepared to agree about these things I say we must not break fellowship. So I put election into the category of non-essentials."

~ D Martyn Lloyd Jones, What is an Evangelical? (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1992)


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

why we love the mountains



J. Gresham Machen, professor of New Testament, apologist, author, and founder of Westminster Theological Seminary, once said, "I do love the mountains, and I have loved them ever since I can remember anything at all.”

In a 1933 lecture to ministers in Philadelphia he spoke about "Mountains and Why We Love Them."  It was subsequently published in Christianity Today in 1934.  A five-minute overview of this message is presented by Stephen Nichols here.  

I love Machen's own words on the perspective that mountains give us on history and our world:  

What will be the end of that European civilization, of which I had a survey from my mountain vantage ground—of that European civilization and its daughter in America? What does the future hold in store? Will Luther prove to have lived in vain? Will all the dreams of liberty issue into some vast industrial machine? ... Will some dreadful second law of thermodynamics apply in the spiritual as in the material realm? Will all things in church and state be reduced to one dead level, coming at last to an equilibrium in which all liberty and all high aspirations will be gone? Will that be the end of all humanity's hopes? I can see no escape from that conclusion in the signs of the times; too inexorable seems to me to be the march of events. No, I can see only one alternative. The alternative is that there is a God—a God who in His own good time will bring forward great men again to do His will, great men to resist the tyranny of experts and lead humanity out again into the realms of light and freedom, great men, above all, who will be messengers of His grace. There is, far above any earthly mountain peak of vision, a God high and lifted up who, though He is infinitely exalted, yet cares for His children among men.

~ Gresham Machen.  The complete message, "Mountains and Why We Love Them," here


Photo above is of Yosemite National Park by Christoph Bengtsson Lissalde on Unsplash. 



Wednesday, August 23, 2017

shaking free from trivialities

And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.  Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.  But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."  (Acts 6:2-4 ESV)

"Nothing is more needed among preachers today than that we should have the courage to shake ourselves free from the thousand and one trivialities in which we are asked to waste our time and strength, and resolutely return to the apostolic ideal which made necessary the office of the diaconate.  We must resolve that we will continue steadfastly in prayer, and in the ministry of the Word."  
(G. Campbell Morgan)





Monday, August 21, 2017

cannot serve two masters

Heather Phillips / Unsplash


No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24)

"The little word serve is key to this verse. It isn’t sinful to have money and property, a spouse and children, and a house or home. But don’t let these possessions control you. Rather, make them your servants and be their master. Remember what people say about kind and generous individuals: 'They are masters of their money.' Money doesn’t control them, unlike a greedy miser who ignores God’s Word and everything else God wants. A miser would rather withhold a helping hand than let go of money. This kind of greed is the mark of tightfisted, childish, and insensitive individuals. That type of person doesn’t put resources to good use or even enjoy them. They ignore eternal treasures for the sake of money. They pursue their own selfish goals and neglect God’s Word, thinking they can get around to it at a more convenient time. Meanwhile, they scramble to get everything they can, without a penny to spare for the work of God. If left unchecked, they will sink deeper and deeper into greed and jealousy, moving further and further away from God’s Word. Eventually their hearts will be filled with cynicism, and they will become enemies of God. So Christ spoke sternly when he said, 'Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.' This is the same as saying, 'The love of money makes people enemies of God.' That’s ultimately what happens when we serve wealth. Christ also said, 'For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also' (Matthew 6:21). We pursue what we love. We talk about it because that is where our hearts and thoughts are. Augustine came right to the point when he said: 'Whatever I love is my god.'”

~ Martin Luther, in Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, ed. by James C. Galvin. 


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

a new reformation

"...we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified."  (Galatians 2:16 ESV)

Because of the fundamental nature of faith... it is natural to find that in the New Testament faith, as the reception of a free gift, is placed in sharpest contrast with any intrusion of human merit; it is natural to find that faith is sharply contrasted with works.  The contrast is really implied by the New Testament throughout, and in one book, the Epistle to the Galatians, it forms the express subject of the argument. 

That book from beginning to end is a mighty polemic in defense of the doctrine of justification by faith alone; and as such it has rightly been called the Magna Charta of Christian liberty.

At the beginning of the sixteenth century the world was lying in darkness; but God then raised up a man who read this Epistle with his own eyes, and the Reformation was born.  So it may be in our own day.  Again the world is sinking into bondage; the liberty of the sons of God is again giving place to the bondage of a religion of merit: but God still lives, and His Spirit again may bring the charter of our liberty to light.

Meanwhile a strange darkness covers the eyes of men; the message of the great Epistle, so startlingly clear to the man whose eyes have been opened, is hidden by a mass of misinterpretation as absurd in its way as the medieval rubbish of the fourfold sense of Scripture which the Reformation brushed aside. Grammatico-historical interpretation is still being favored in theory, but despite is being done to it (by preachers if not scholars) in practice; and the Apostle is being made to say anything that men wish him to have said.

A new Reformation, we think, like the Reformation of the sixteenth century, would be marked, among other things, by a return to plain common sense; and the Apostle would be allowed, despite our likes and dislikes, to say what he really meant to say.

~ J. Gresham Machen, What Is Faith? (1925; Banner of Truth edition, 1991) p. 183f.





Above, lithograph of Martin Luther from an 1882 painting by F. W. Wehle.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

offering life and hope to civilization

Photo by Cassie Boca on Unsplash


"The heavens declare the glory of God, 
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork."  (Psalm 19:1 ESV)

"Let there be scientists who behold God’s glory and nature and not only impersonal processes; anthropologists who affirm the image of God is man and not only an animal ancestry; philosophers who stress that fear of God is the beginning of wisdom rather than the beginning of mythology; moralists who emphasize God’s commandments rather than the tolerances of modern culture; artists who set agape to music and poetry and who will capture our now wicked world of words for whatever is good and godly; let us have intellectual leaders who offer life and hope to civilization that has missed the way and needs to be alerted again to the incomparable greatness and grace of Jesus Christ."

~ Carl F. H. Henry, quoted by Owen Strachan in Awakening the Evangelical Mind: An Intellectual History of the Neo-Evangelical Movement.  (Zondervan, 2015)