Monday, June 29, 2015

humanism and arbitrary laws

It appears the momentum for political decisions being made these days in the U.S. -- no matter what the social issue -- really seems to be the logical outcome of American humanism of the second half of the twentieth century. 

Below is a quote from Francis Schaeffer, speaking in a lecture in 1982, over 30 years ago.  He saw then where this was all heading... [quote photo courtesy of Tony Felich]

Thursday, June 25, 2015

applying Scripture

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when applying what you've studied in the Word.  The questions are grouped in three areas: Learning (knowledge), Worship (heart issues), and Action (practical and relational response)...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

rich toward God?

"And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'  But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?'  So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:19-21 ESV)

In the past I have limited this reference of "treasure" only to monetary matters. As Kuyper notes below, this principle -- being rich or poor toward God -- is more expansive than just applying to money.  Read on...

To understand what constitutes riches in God, imagine for a moment that all your earthly riches had taken wings, and that bereft of all you had, you are forgotten by those who once knew you. In this utter forsakenness of soul ask yourself: What have I left? What do I now possess? This will be our state in the hour of death. We will go into eternity alone. What will we take with us? We must leave money and houses behind. We must part even from our body. There will be nothing to us but the soul, our spiritual self. Shall we be rich then? If so, it can only be in spiritual goods. When we die we are either rich in God or poor in God...

Apart from covetousness it is quite possible to enlarge one’s intellectual equipment, to cultivate the aesthetic nature, and to excel in cleverness and in achievement. All this has worth of its own, and is not acquired apart from God. But it belongs to the life of this world, and loses its significance the moment life on earth fails us. There remains of it only so much as has imparted a higher and nobler bent to our person, and has established and broadened our character and our spiritual powers, and thereby has become our property, which can not be taken from us by either catastrophe or death...

Personality that is well developed, character that is firmly established, inner strength of spirit and of will-power can be of use to us only when we can apply them to good and noble ends. Satan is the most strongly developed personality conceivable. Any one can train himself in sin. Hence the question remains: Have we developed the traits of character, and powers of personality, which are in harmony with the life of eternal blessedness? If not, at death, they will be of no use to us. Hell is full of strongly developed characters and cultivated talents...

These heavenly properties are never acquired save through fellowship with God. From God as the Source, the powers of the Kingdom must operate in us that will entitle us to heavenly citizenship. In Christ we must be reconciled to God. The Father must come and dwell with us. For then the new life will be quickened in us, which draws its nourishment from heaven and imparts higher powers, and fills the soul with all the fullness of God. Thus to be rich in God is to own God himself; to be a temple of the Holy Ghost; to carry Him, the Holy and Glorious One, in the heart wherever we go; and every evening and every morning to be refreshed in the inner man at the fountain of the Water of Life.

-- Abraham Kuyper, Near To God

Photograph of Abraham Kuyper, above: origin unknownScanned from "The American in Holland" by W. E. Griffis (published 1899).

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

the soul, a work of art

"The destruction of one’s own soul, or of the soul of his children or of others by example or willful temptation, is always the spoiling of a Divine work of art, a creation of God, which wounds him in his own handiwork, corrupting the traces of himself in it...

"We should not poison the soul by continuance in sin, but that we should favor it, and spare it, and shield it from corrupting influences, because it belongs to God on the ground that He has made it...

"The saving and uplifting power of this confession is only felt when each morning is begun anew with the vivid realization of the inspiring thought that the soul in us is a work of art, made by the High and Holy One, on which his Honor hangs, over which therefore He watches with holy jealousy..." 

-- Abraham Kuyper, Near to God.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

must we always comment

"Must we always comment on life? Can it not simply be lived in the reality of Christ's terms of contact with the Father, with joy and peace, fear and love full to the fingertips in their turn, without incessant drawing of lessons and making of rules?"  

(Elisabeth Elliot)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

known and loved

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”   

― Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

Sunday, June 14, 2015

let us have courage

"But the ways of the world are cruel. Its cruelties have assumed finer forms, but this refinement has made them more intolerable. In former days there was much that reminded people of the sanctities of life, that made them think of higher things, and kept eternity before their eyes. All this is mostly gone. In the busy life of the world today there is little to keep in memory the things that are holy and eternal. 

"In public life all thought of God is ignored. In some places church-bells are no more rung. Few days of prayer are appointed. God’s name is no more spoken. No memento mori ["remember that you will die"] any more reminds us of death. Cemeteries are turned into parks. Sacred things are scorned. That which in private conversation and in the public press gives tone to theories is the delusion that heaven reaches no higher than the stars, that death ends all, that life without God is more apt to bring prosperity than life in the fear of the Lord. The habit of doing without God in public life puts itself as a stream between God and the God-fearing soul. To hold fast by God, against the current of this stream, takes strong faith...

"But let us have courage. All things are known to God. In tender compassion He will draw near to us, and to our dear ones, that we and they may be near unto him. But in that case, satisfaction with half measures must not be tolerated. If we do, vague love for a far-away God will more than ever fail us."

- Abraham Kuyper, "It Is Good For Me To Be Near Unto God," in To Be Near Unto God (1908).

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

sermon notes and quotes

“Our God is a Consuming Fire” (Hebrews 12:25-29) Sermon outline

There are to be 3 basic responses to the truths of the book of Hebrews...

Watchfulness --  being careful not to turn away. (v 25-27)

Gratitude – being thankful for his great salvation. (v 28a)

Reverence – being pleasing to him in worship and service. (v 28b-29). 

“The God who ‘spoke to the fathers by the prophets’ (1:1) is the same God who ‘has spoken to us by his Son’ (1:2) and the same as ‘him who is speaking’ today by his Word (3:7-11; 4:12; 12:25).”  

Can Christians lose their salvation?  Of all those the Father gives to the Son, none are lost (Jn 6:39).  They will never perish and no one can snatch them from Jesus and the Father’s hands (Jn 10:28-29). The very same ones God “calls” and “justifies” are the same ones he “glorifies” (Rom 8:29).   And “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).  We are “guarded by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet 1:5).  God’s seed (life) abides in his children so that they do not desire to keep sinning (1 John 3:9). 

God’s children will persevere and overcome.  But also, God’s children must persevere and overcome.

More on the perseverance (preservation) of the saints here.

We don’t serve him to be saved.  We serve him because we are saved, and that eternally.  

“How then can I be sure I am saved?”  Jesus told a story...
Luke 18:10-14 ...  Am I aware of my sin and my desperate need for God's mercy?  Am I convinced that this mercy and forgiveness are found only in Jesus Christ and not in my good (or religious) works?

“There is always a fundamental seriousness about the men and women who are born again. I mean something like this: they are never flippant, never light, never superficial... they are fundamentally serious people... Let me hasten to add that I am not saying that they are solemn or pompous people. God forbid that anyone would think I am saying that! No, no, they are happy, they can even be humorous. But their humor never runs away with them...  [But] when someone is born again he is conscious of being dealt with, of having been humbled; he is also aware of a true repentance, and he is characterized by a fundamental seriousness.”   (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Experiencing the New Birth)

Monday, June 8, 2015

the pastor as scholar

"If I am scholarly, it is not in any sense because I try to stay on the cutting edge in the discipline of biblical and theological studies. I am far too limited for that. What 'scholarly' would mean for me is that the greatest object of knowledge is God and that he has revealed himself authoritatively in a book; and that I should work with all my might and all my heart and all my soul and all my mind to know and enjoy him and to make him known for the joy of others. Surely this is the goal of every pastor." 

-- John Piper, The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry (Crossway Books, 2011)

And here's Martin Lloyd-Jones with a similar viewpoint: 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

the same God

The God who "spoke to the fathers by the prophets" (Heb. 1:1) is the same God who "has spoken to us by his Son" (1:2) and the same as "him who is "speaking" today by his Word (3:7-11; 4:12; 12:25).

characterized by seriousness

“There is always a fundamental seriousness about the men and women who are born again. I mean something like this: they are never flippant, never light, never superficial... they are fundamentally serious people. 

"Let me hasten to add that I am not saying that they are solemn or pompous people. God forbid that anyone would think I am saying that! No, no, they are happy, they can even be humorous. But their humor never runs away with them. It is a manifestation of life; it is the showing of one of the attributes that they have received by nature...  

"We have suggested that when someone is born again, that is the most obvious thing about him; it must be, for it is the life of God in him. He is also conscious of being dealt with, of having been humbled; he is also aware of a true repentance, and he is characterized by a fundamental seriousness.”

-- Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Experiencing the New Birth (Crossway, 2015)

Friday, June 5, 2015

the church as counterculture

quotes, links on transgender

Sin is and has always been the denial of reality: the serpent in the garden not only questions God's word ("Did God really say? [Gen 3:1]) but contradicts it ("You will not certainly die" [3:4]). It is hard not to see the transgender liberation movement as a transgression: an overt rebellion against the binary divide between male and female bodies and behavior.  The sex-change operation is a radical surgical intervention into an otherwise healthy body.  As such, it is a bad improvisation in which, forgetting what happened in Act One (creation), one strikes out in one's own technologically clever (but self-determined) direction, ontologically ad-libbing, laughing all the way to the organ bank.  To perform sex reassignment surgery is to encourage the worst kind of playacting: hypocrisy.  The irony, as with all sin, is that in trying to find oneself, one loses oneself.  Those who seek to rewrite their roles make God a bit player in a drama that exchanges the gospel for the pottage of self-determination.

-- Kevin Vanhoozer, in Four Views on Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology. (Zondervan, 2009)

...policy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention. This intensely felt sense of being transgendered constitutes a mental disorder in two respects. The first is that the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken—it does not correspond with physical reality. The second is that it can lead to grim psychological outcomes...

At the heart of the problem is confusion over the nature of the transgendered. "Sex change" is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.

-- Dr. Paul McHugh on why Johns Hopkins Hospital stopped doing transgender surgery.  And here. 

...I suffered through “sex change” surgery and lived as a woman for eight years. The surgery fixed nothing—it only masked and exacerbated deeper psychological problems...

-- Walt Heyer"Sex Change" Surgery: What Bruce Jenner, Diane Sawyer, and You Should Know 

Finally..."Bruce" or "Caitlyn"?  By what name should we call transgender persons?  Should Christians Accommodate Transgender Naming?  

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

calvin's view of the church

I think that when I say that I hold to Calvin's view of the Church, I would need to specify which Calvin...

(Thanks to Harry K for sending this along!)

the preservation of God's people

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. (Hebrews 12:25 ESV)

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:30)

In considering the warning passages in the book of Hebrews it is important that they be placed within the context of what the Bible teaches about the security and preservation of God's people. 

Before we speak of our perseverance, we must think about it from God's point of view.  The key issue is, does God preserve in faith those whom he has saved?  J. I. Packer answers...

"Let it be first said that in declaring the eternal security of God's people it is clearer to speak of their preservation than, as is commonly done, of their perseverance.  Perseverance means persistence under discouragement and contrary pressure.  The assertion that believers persevere in faith and obedience despite everything is true, but the reason is that Jesus Christ through the Spirit persists in preserving them."  (J. I. Packer, Concise Theology, p. 241) 

So, the perseverance of the believer is the logical (and necessary) outcome of the full and complete salvation we have in Jesus Christ by God's grace.  Our perseverance is inextricably connected to God's ability to preserve.  In speaking of the New Covenant, God says:  "I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me." (Jeremiah 32:40) 

And Jesus said, "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." (John 10:28-29 ESV)

I believe a good overall summary of the what the Bible teaches about the preservation (or, perseverance) of God's people can be found in the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), which is almost identical with that found in the Westminster Confession of Faith...

17. On the Perseverance of the Saints

"Those whom God has accepted in the beloved, and has effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, and given the precious faith of His elect, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but they will certainly persevere in that state to the end and be eternally saved. This is because the gifts and calling of God are without repentance, and therefore He continues to beget and nourish in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the spirit which lead to immortality. And though many storms and floods arise and beat against the saints, yet these things shall never be able to sweep them off the foundation and rock which they are fastened upon by faith. Even though, through unbelief and the temptations of Satan, the sight and feeling of the light and love of God may for a time be clouded and obscured from them, yet God is still the same, and they are sure to be kept by His power until their salvation is complete, when they shall enjoy the purchased possession which is theirs, for they are engraved upon the palm of His hands, and their names have been written in His Book of Life from all eternity."  [John 10:28,29; Phil. 1:6; 2 Tim. 2:19; 1 John 2:19; Ps. 89:31,32; 1 Cor. 11:32; Mal. 3:6.]

"This perseverance of the saints does not depend on them - that is, on their own free will. It rests upon the immutability of the decree of election, which flows from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father. It also rests upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, and upon the union which true saints have with Him. - It rests upon the oath of God, and upon the abiding of His Spirit. It depends upon the seed of God being within them and upon the very nature of the covenant of grace. All these factors give rise to the certainty and infallibility of the security and perseverance of the saints."  [Rom. 8:30, 9:11,16; Rom. 5:9, 10; John 14:19; Heb. 6:17,18; 1 John 3:9; Jer. 32:40.] 

"The saints may, through the temptation of Satan and the world, and because their remaining sinful tendencies prevail over them, and through their neglect of the means which God has provided to keep them, fall into grievous sins. They may continue in this state for some time, so that they incur God's displeasure, grieve His Holy Spirit, suffer the impairment of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened and their conscience wounded, and hurt and scandalize others. By this they will bring temporal judgments upon themselves. Yet they shall renew their repentance and be preserved, through faith in Christ Jesus, to the end."  [Matt. 26:70,72,74; Isa. 64:5,9; Eph. 4:30; Ps. 51:10,12; Ps. 32:3,4; 2 Sam. 12:14; Luke 22:32,61,62.] 

-- From the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), with minor revisions by C. H. Spurgeon. 

Images above are from Pilgrim's Progress, English School, Bridgeman Art Library. "Within Sight of the Holy City" by Henry Courtney Selous. At