Thursday, July 2, 2015

Our Greatest Fear is Not Loss of Life, But of Reputation

I am preparing to preach on suffering. This topic led me back to John Calvin's sermon on Matthew 5:11-12, which can be found in this book. In that sermon I found this quote about how it is easier to endure death than humiliation.
Moreover we are not only encouraged to put up with personal injury and trouble, but also with criticism, slander, and false report. This is perhaps the hardest thing to bear, since a brave person will endure beatings and death more easily than humiliation and disgrace. Among those pagans who had a reputation for courage were noble souls who feared death less than shame and dishonor among men. We, therefore must arm ourselves with more than human steadfastness if we are to calmly swallow all the insults, censures, and blame the wicked will undeservedly heap upon us. That, nevertheless, is what awaits us, as St. Paul declares. Since, he says, our hope is in the living God, we are bound to suffer distress and humiliation; we will be objects of suspicion; men will spit in our face [I Cor. 4:11-13]. That is God's way of testing us. We must therefore be ready to face these things and to take our Lord's teaching here [Matt. 5:11-12] as our shield for the fight. 
Calvin understood that often our greatest fear is not loss of life, but loss of reputation.  For those of us fighting the battle against sexual immorality, gender confusion, sodomy, the traditions of men, our government, and increasing compromise in the church, we know this is true. Would you rather live branded as a bigoted, hateful, man ostracized from society like a leper or malignant sore or die a hero? I think we would all rather die heroes. But our reputation is the first thing that will be lost in this battle. In the end the question will be, Do we love Jesus more than we love our good name?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Heartbreaking and Hilarious~Martin Luther's Humor

Here are the final paragraphs from Carl Trueman's book Luther on the Christian Life.  Appropriately enough, Trueman ends with Luther's humor. Luther was many things, but near the top of the list was his ability to use humor to keep himself and those around him cut down to size. Protestant theologians have kept Luther's legacy in many ways. But we need more humor. And that is why I love Doug Wilson. He might be the closest man in modern times to Luther's humor. But even  Doug Wilson is tame compared to Dr. Martin.
And this leads me to my last thoughts on Luther. One of the most striking things about the man is his sense of humor, and one cannot possibly write a book on his understanding of the Christian life without reference to this. In general terms, of course, Protestant theologians have not been renowned for their wit, and Protestant theology has not been distinguished by its laughter. Yet Luther laughed all the time, whether poking fun at himself, at Katie, at his colleagues, or indeed at his countless and ever-increasing number of enemies. Humor was a large part of what helped to make him so human and accessible. And in a world where everyone always seems to be "hurt" by something someone has said or offended by this or that, Luther's robust mockery of pretension and pomposity is a remarkable theological contribution in and of itself. 
Humor, of course, has numerous functions. It is in part a survival mechanism. Mocking danger and laughing in the face of tragedy are proven ways of coping with hard and difficult situations. Undoubtedly, this played a significant role in Luther's own penchant for poking fun. Yet I think there is probably a theological reason for Luther's laughter too. Humor often plays on the absurd, and Luther knew that this fallen world was not as it was designed to be and was thus absurd and futile in a most significant and powerful way. 
Thus, he knew life is tragic. It is full of sound and fury. It is marked by pain and frustration. The strength of youth must eventually fade into the weakness of old age and finally end in the grave. We believe ourselves to be special, to be transcendent, to be unique and irreplaceable. And yet the one great lesson that everyone must ultimately learn in life is that they are none of these things, however much we want them to be true and however much we do things to trick ourselves into believing our own propaganda. We are fallen, finite, and mortal. We are not God. And because God is and has acted, because in incarnation, Word, and sacrament he has revealed and given himself and has thus pointed to the true meaning of life, our own pretensions to greatness are shown to be nothing but the perilous grandstanding of the absurdly pompous and the pompously absurd. 
Indeed, in light of the fact that God is God and has revealed himself in the foolishness of the cross, the tendency of us all to be theologians of glory appears in all its risible futility. That we who cannot even escape our own mortality would assume that God is like us, that we are the measure of all things, including the terrifying and awesome hidden God who rides on the wings of the storm and calls all things into being by the mere Word of his power-that we poor, pathetic, sinful creatures would be so arrogant as to assume such a thing is surely the greatest and darkest joke of all. Luther knew that the tragedy and the comedy of fallen humanity is that we have such a laughable view of ourselves: one that would aspire to tell God who and what he must be. As humans are at once both righteous and sinful, so human existence is at once both heartbreaking and hilarious. Luther cites Psalm 2:4 on numerous occasions to make precisely this point: the tragedy of humanity is that God laughs at our ridiculous attempts at autonomy. 
This is where I leave you with Luther. While the world, even the Christian world, remains populated by the self-important and the self-righteous, the figure of Luther, with his rumbustious theology and his cutting humor, will not cease to be relevant. Many of his writings have a refreshing and appropriately irreverent style to them, tearing down the pompous and the self-assured. They offer a breath of fresh air amid a forced and stale piety. And his emphasis on the objectivity of the action of God in Christ puts all things in perspective and exposes our lives outside of Christ for what they are, acts in a silly farce played out in the shadow of the beckoning grave. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Healthy Families Play

Edwin Friedman's book Failure of Nerve is an excellent diagnosis of what ails many organizations, whether they are families, businesses, churches, schools, or government agencies. He notes that our society has become what he terms "chronically anxious." He then goes on to list five characteristics of chronically anxious systems. Here is the first sign: reactivity. When Friedman uses the term "family" or "families" he is not just talking about biological families. He is talking about all systems and organizations, such as churches, businesses, biological families, clubs, etc.  Everything indented is a quote for Friedman. I bolded certain phrases.

Reactivity As a Sign of Organizational Devolution
The most blatant characteristic of chronically anxious families is the vicious cycle of intense reactivity of each member to events and to one another...This state is not to be confused with "emotionality": dogged passivity can also be a reactive response
Members of chronically anxious families...are constantly taking and making things "personal."
The family is easily "heated up" as feelings are confused with opinions...Family members therefore are easily brought to loggerheads over the most inconsequential issues...Members of highly reactive families wind up constantly focused on the latest, most immediate crisis. 
What also contributes to this loss of perspective is the disappearance of playfulness...Lacking the capacity to be playful, their perspective is narrowed. Lacking perspective the repertoire of responses is thin. Neither apology nor forgiveness is within their ken...The relationship between anxiety and seriousness is so predictable that the absence of playfulness in any institution is almost always a clue to the degree of its emotional regression. 

This is the most striking idea Freidman proposed in this section. Loss of laughter, humor, comedy, playing is a sign that an organization is dead or dying. Christians could translate this into loss of joy. But I like the term playfulness.  It brings the proper perspective to it. Life is a comedy. The dead rise while the living are already dead. Fools are made kings and kings are thrust down. A Jewish carpenter saves the world when a Roman Caesar could not. Dead "families" are always very serious. Living ones know that the joke is on them and can laugh about it.
The most damaging effect of intense reactivity in any family is on its capacity to produce or support a leader...Reactivity, therefore, eventually makes chronically anxious families leaderless, either because it prevents potential leaders from emerging in the first place or because it wears leaders down by sabotaging their initiatives and resolve with constant automatic responses. 
As with any chronically anxious family, there is in American society today an intense quickness to interfere in another's self-expression, to overreact to any perceived hurt, to take all disagreement too seriously, and to brand the opposition with ad hominem personal epithets. As in personal families, this hardens hearts and leaves little room for forgiveness or balanced accommodation.  
With chronic social anxiety, the major regressive effect on leaders is the same as in families. They remain in a reactive stance themselves, led by each emerging crisis rather than being able to take a proactive stance that develops out of an objective perspective or principle.
Friedman's analysis is excellent and puts a name to something that we see all around us. We are a culture that reacts. Leaders react to polls. Pastors react to parishioners. Parents react to children. Husbands react to wives. You cannot lead this way. Reactivity is the opposite of leadership. Leadership means you are going somewhere and you want people to follow you. Leadership is not bouncing from one crisis or one overreaction of your constituent or one complaint from your wife or one bad experience to another. Leadership is calm, focused, and knows what direction to go. It is not sidetracked by constant little fires that arise.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Square Triangle: Same Sex Marriage and the Rejection of Scripture

Here is my sermon from this past Sunday on the decision by the Supreme Court. My goal was to be clear. There are numerous things I do not talk about, such as how to interact with homosexuals, etc. that I hope to blog about in the future. Here is a simple outline of the sermon:

1. Basic Scriptural teaching on marriage: One man, one woman married for life, serving God and man by taking dominion over the earth and having children. This paradigm is the only proper place for sexual expression. All other paradigms, men to men, women to women, multiple spouses, being married to animals, divorce, adultery, fornication, etc. are consistently and regularly rejected by Scripture. 

2. How did we get here? Short answer: we slowly began to reject God's Word as the final source of truth in our lives. 

3. Where is here? Three things:
Sodomy is judgment. The church and our country are being judged by God. Sodomy is not just a sin it is a judgment. 

The homosexuals want us to approve of and participate in their immorality. They do not just want to commit the acts. They want us to say the acts are okay, righteous, just, natural, and good. They also want us to participate in the immorality by celebrating it with them in weddings and other events. 

We live in a country where the government actively supports the homosexual agenda. Therefore Christians need to continue to disentangle themselves from the government. 

4. What should we do about it? See this blog post for the answer to that. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Forgiveness and Holiness: Heidelberg Catechism~Lord's Day 26

In the Christian life there is constant tension between the forgiveness of our sins and holiness or to put it in theological terms between justification and sanctification. This is not a Biblical tension, but it is an experiential one. If all of my sins are forgiven in Christ then why do I need to be more holy? If I must be holy to see God then how am I not earning my salvation?  Many books have been written on the subject. The answer is that Jesus does not come to us in pieces. We do not get his work on the cross, the forgiveness of our sins, without also getting the work of His Spirit, sanctification. The Heidelberg Catechism says this well in question 70, which is part of the section for worship tomorrow. Here is question and answer:
Q: 70. What is it to be washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ?
A: It is to receive of God the remission of sins, freely, for the sake of Christ's blood, which he shed for us by his sacrifice upon the cross;  and also to be renewed by the Holy Spirit, and sanctified to be members of Christ, that so we may more and more die unto sin, and lead holy and blameless lives.
When we come to Christ we also receive His Spirit, who begins the work of sanctification. Forgiveness of sins and growth in holiness are connected because they both flow from the work of Christ upon the cross. The Christ who took our place on the cross so that we might not be condemned (I Peter 2:24) is the same Christ who gave his Spirit so that we might be holy (Acts 2:33). This same paradigm is seen in Romans where Paul talks about the forgiveness of our sins in Romans 5 and then tells us that we must put sin to death in Romans 6. Here are a few take away points from this. 

We cannot separate forgiveness of sins and holiness. Some like the holiness side and diminish the forgiveness of sins. Some like forgiveness, but do not see growth in holiness as important. The first group fears that if we preach forgiveness of sins folks will run off and live wicked lives. The second group fears works righteousness. But they are making enemies out of friends. Forgiveness and holiness both come from Christ and are part of his work for and in the Christian. 

Forgiveness of sins is freely given because of Christ's work. We cannot earn any of God's grace, It is all free. One a the great dangers in the Christian life is that as we grow we can forget that everything we have has been given to us. Slowly we begin to think we have earned God's favor. 

The Spirit is given so we might become holy. Too often the Holy Spirit is connected to outward, dramatic displays of emotion or to feelings we might have at certain points in our Christian life. We equate the Holy Spirit with emotion. But He is there to make us holy. In the trenches of everyday life the Spirit is working to make us more like Jesus (Romans 8:29).

We must strive to kill sin and lead holy lives. Many Christians are afraid of legalism, which is a legitimate fear, therefore they do not strive for holiness. But this is a failure to understand what the Scriptures teach. Holiness is not legalism. Holiness is walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). We must pursue holiness by obeying God's Word. But this too is a work of grace. Just as forgiveness of sins is free so is holiness. Sanctification is a gift of grace just like justification. 

Holiness involves putting aside certain sins and putting on righteous actions. Too often holiness is primarily about what we don't do. We don't commit adultery. We don't cuss. We don't watch dirty movies. But in Scripture holiness is about doing the right things. Don't view your walk with God primarily by what you don't do. Are you becoming more patient, joyful, peaceful, etc.? 

Finally, all of this is pictured in baptism. Lord's Day 26 (and 27) in the Heidelberg Catechism is about baptism.  Here are questions 69 and 70 together. Baptism pictures the forgiveness of our sins and the pouring out of the Spirit so we might be holy. 
69. How are you admonished and assured by holy baptism, that the one sacrifice of Christ upon the cross is of real advantage to you?
A: Thus: That Christ appointed this external washing with water, adding thereto this promise, that I am as certainly washed by his blood and Spirit from all the pollution of my soul, that is, from all my sins, as I am washed externally with water, by which the filthiness of the body is commonly washed away.
 Q: 70. What is it to be washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ?
A: It is to receive of God the remission of sins, freely, for the sake of Christ's blood, which he shed for us by his sacrifice upon the cross;  and also to be renewed by the Holy Spirit, and sanctified to be members of Christ, that so we may more and more die unto sin, and lead holy and blameless lives.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Theologian of the Cross and the Same Sex Mirage

I just read Carl Trueman's Luther and the Christian Life. I highly recommend it. One of Luther's key ideas was that we need "theologians of the cross." That is people who understand that God works not through power and might, but through weakness, pain, and suffering. He saved us through the death of His Son on a cross as a criminal. Glory came through suffering and weakness. That is the way God works. Yesterday and today we have seen a power play by our Supreme Court. But it is a mirage. True power is not found in black robes and judges. So what should we do? How should we rise up against this tyranny?  Where is the true revolution? What does a cross shaped response look like in response to the Supreme Court's ruling? I think Luther would approve of this list because most of it is Christianity 101, which is not surprising since our marching orders do not change.

Worship God every Sunday. No matter what. Be there with God's people. Sit underneath the mighty Word. Hear again the old, old story. Do not lose confidence in the ordinary means of grace.  A theologian of the cross knows that true power is found in the sanctuary where the Lord is worshiped, the Word is preached, water is poured, and the supper is celebrated.

Don't forget the gospel. Plead the shed blood of Christ. You are a vile, wicked person. Your sins are many and great. But Christ is greater. He has removed them. Be at peace. All of your sins are forgiven in Christ. They are vile, wicked sinners. Their only hope is Jesus Christ and His blood. If we forget the gospel what will we have to offer them when they cry, "What shall we do?" (Acts 2:37)

Sing the Psalms. The time for impotent songs is over. We have been at war, but we forgot and our swords gathered rust. Now the enemy has burst through the wall and we are waking up. We need Psalm 2, Psalm 3, Psalm 9, and Psalm 56. Okay we need them all.

Read the Bible again and again. Believe every word it says without apology. Teach it to your children.

Be bold. Do not fear the world. A theologian of the cross knows that death, their greatest threat, is our greatest triumph. Why fear them when the most they can do is usher us into glory?

Be prepared to suffer. Following Christ will now cost. Rejoice when your reputation is ruined, you lose your job, friends reject you, and you are run out of town. You are starting to catch up with the prophets (Matthew 5:12) and your brothers and sisters around the world.

Love sinners, including homosexuals, but do not expect them to feel loved. Sinners do not love those who call them to repent. But love them anyway. Overcome evil with good.

If you are in a church that is compromising on human sexuality or is silent about it, leave. The ship is sinking. It is time to get off.

If you are in a church that refuses to call it members to repent, leave.  Without repentance in here, there will be no repentance out there.

If you are in a church that refuses to call sinners out there to repent, leave. You cannot worship Jesus without repentance. A church that does not call the culture to repent is a church that is not preaching Jesus.

Learn what the doctrine of lesser magistrate is. We need politicians with the balls to say no to our Federal government. We need men who will take the opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court and burn it in the street. Here is a good place to start.

Pray for your leaders (I Timothy 2:1-2).

Marry someone of the opposite sex. Stay married.  Make love. Have children. Raise them in the Lord.

Remain cheerful. Life is a comedy. If God can laugh (Psalm 2:4) then so can we. In the end, all will be well.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Counseling Begins in the Pew

Carl Trueman on why Luther thinks you should go to church.
"One could imagine a person seeking Luther's advice for, say, struggles with assurance. Luther's first question of him would almost certainly be, Are you going to church to hear the Word and receive the sacrament? If the answer came back in the negative, it is safe to assume that Luther would send the person away to attend church for a few weeks before he would consider giving him individual counsel. If the person had excluded himself from the objective means of grace, not only would spiritual problems be expected, but also Luther could really offer nothing else to help him."

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

I recently preached on Luke 18:9-14. Here various thoughts from the sermon.

The Text
The problem for the Pharisee was not perfection. He would not have thought of himself as perfect. The problem was a "I am better than you" attitude. He was comparing himself to those around him and thinking, "Compared to those folks I am a pretty good guy." The Pharisee thought he deserved to be in God's presence. He deserved a place at the table. He was not like other sinners. He was not like whores or thieves or liars. He was a good example to others. He was holier than his neighbors. Sure he he wasn’t perfect, but he was pretty good and certainly better than those guys. It reminds me of this Tom Petty song. 

You better watch what you say
You better watch what you do to me
Don't get carried away
Girl, if you can do better than me, go
Yeah go but remember

Good love is hard to find
Good love is hard to find
You got lucky babe
Yeah, you got lucky babe

When I found you-

God got lucky when the Pharisee joined up. 

Jesus makes it clear that this man trusted in his own righteousness. The word for "trusted" is often translated "persuade." The Pharisee had persuaded himself that he was righteous. He even declares in his list of what he does not do that he was not "unrighteous. But he was deceived. His view of himself was flawed. In the end he leaves unrighteous and the tax collector leaves righteous. The text does not say, but knowing the human heart my guess would be there were two reasons why he thought himself righteous. First, he compared himself to the people around him instead of  to God's law. Second, he focused on external action instead of internal affection.

The Pharisee has religious zeal. He was serious about God, worship, prayer, fasting, and giving tithes. He was the guy who would be at all the church functions, follow all the rules, make sure he gave exactly 10%, and prayed fervently in public. Using other texts he probably carefully observed the Sabbath (Luke 6:6-7), was careful who he associated (Luke 5:30, 7:39), and careful about not being tainted by the culture (Luke 11:37-38). Yet despite all his religious fervor he is condemned by God.

The Pharisee was not just worse than the tax collector. He was totally rejected by God. The tax collector was justified. The Pharisee was not. This is not a matter of degrees. The Pharisee's attitude cut him off from God. God can forgive legalism and hypocrisy, but this man did not leave forgiven.

The conservative, church going, tithing, man who was  viewed as a good example to the neighborhood and a wonderful blessing to his church goes home unrighteous while the whore who has slept with ten men and is notorious for her sexual immorality goes home justified.

Why? The Pharisee trusted in his own righteousness, believed he was a good guy, and thought God owed him salvation. The tax collector knew he was a vile sinner that could only lean on God's mercy. 

Pride is one of the greatest obstacles to salvation. Therefore one clear sign that the Spirit has given a man a new heart is humility.

External religion is nothing without heart religion.  We can do many righteous things and still be separated from God. Too many Christians in their desire to escape the navel gazing of our fathers have lost the concept of heart religion. External actions can become substitutes for internal affections. When this happens we have become hypocrites. What we see here and in other passages (Matthew 7:21-23, 15:7-9) is a man can look like a Christian and do many of the things Christians are supposed to do and yet not be saved. I wonder if we even think this is possible. Here is a man who jumped through all the hoops, yet went home condemned.  As Christians we need to remember this from time to time.

We have nothing to offer God ever. Our Bible reading, our prayers, our worship, our sexual purity, our parenting, our tithing, our hard work, our kind words, our evangelism, our submission to our husbands, our love of our wives, our homeschooling, our fruitfulness, our preaching and any other good deed cannot earn us one lick of God's mercy. At no point in time does God ever owe us.

The beginning, middle, and end of our walk with God is the forgiveness of our sins. While we do grow as Christians, we never get past God's mercy shown to us sinners by forgiving our transgressions because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.  In then end, we can only beat our breasts and say, “God be merciful to us sinners.”

Pride before God leads to contempt of sinners. Jesus makes this connection in Luke 19:9. The word translated despised or contempt is only used one other place Luke. In Luke 23:11 Herod and his men dress Jesus up and treat him with contempt. Proud Christians end up  looking down on the sinners around them. Luke is filled with examples of the Pharisees' disdain for sinners. In Luke 5:30-31 the Pharisees complain because Jesus was feasting with tax collectors. In Luke 7:39 Jesus is eating at a Pharisee's house, but the Pharisee is disappointed that Jesus allows a sinner to touch him. In Luke 19:7 they complain because Jesus went in to eat with Zacchaeus, a tax collector. Proud Christians refuse to associate with sinners. They are afraid of being tainted. They are afraid of dirtying their reputations. Jesus never excused sin. But sinners were not treated with contempt. All were called to follow him. And no matter how great or ugly the sin a person who looked to Christ for mercy found it. Unfortunately, as Christians, we are not always so kind to sinners. 

Christ's mercy does not come to those who view themselves as pretty good people who are in need of a little boost. 

Christ's mercy does not come to those who think God is lucky to have them on His side.

Christ's mercy does not come to those who trust in their own righteousness to save them. 

Christ's mercy comes to those who know they are sinners in need of repentance (Luke 5:31-31). As Luther said, "We are beggars; this is true." All of us are tax collectors, blasphemers, thieves, and whores. Once we realize that we will stop posing like the Pharisee and flee to the cross for mercy.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Tullian, What About the Sheep?

Celebrity pastors can vary in shape and form. There are men like Doug Phillips suit wearing homeschooling pastor to Mark Driscoll overbearing uber masculine pastor to Tullian Tchividjian hip, grace loving antinomian. But the one thing they have in common is that they destroy the sheep for the sake of their egos. Hear the Word of the Lord to the prophet Ezekiel:
"As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? "Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken. (Ezekiel 34:17-24)
There is a lot going on in Ezekiel 34 that connects with the coming of Christ and the New Covenant. However, there is a focus on the condemnation of the shepherds. God hates faithless shepherds. Shepherds who destroy the sheep. Shepherds who pollute the streams the flock of God drinks from. Shepherds who push and shove. We don't think of men like Tullian and Phillips as polluters, as men who muddy the waters. They look so nice. They are all sweetness and kindness and grace. But they scatter and hurt the sheep.  Pastors can and do sin. But the response of men like these to their sin, along with too many others, shows they do not understand God, his judgment, or his grace. When David sinned he cried out to God for mercy. He begged God's unconditional forgiveness (Psalm 51). When David counted his people in pride and God judged him he pleaded with God to lay His hand on himself and not on the sheep (I Chronicles 21:17). When Peter sinned he wept and was grieved (Luke 22:62 and John 21:17). What do we get when Tullian Tchividjian commits adultery?
I resigned from my position at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church today due to ongoing marital issues. As many of you know, I returned from a trip a few months back and discovered that my wife was having an affair. Heartbroken and devastated, I informed our church leadership and requested a sabbatical to focus exclusively on my marriage and family. As her affair continued, we separated. Sadly and embarrassingly, I subsequently sought comfort in a friend and developed an inappropriate relationship myself. Last week I was approached by our church leaders and they asked me about my own affair. I admitted to it and it was decided that the best course of action would be for me to resign. Both my wife and I are heartbroken over our actions and we ask you to pray for us and our family that God would give us the grace we need to weather this heart wrenching storm. We are amazingly grateful for the team of men and women who are committed to walking this difficult path with us. Please pray for the healing of deep wounds and we kindly ask that you respect our privacy.
This statement wreaks of self-centered pride and evasion. Does this sound anything like Psalm 51 or Psalm 6 or Daniel 9 or Ezra 9? The word  "sin" is not even used in the statement. Why not? What on earth would cause a minister of the gospel to commit adultery and call it an "inappropriate relationship" or say he was having "marital issues" or say it was "sad and embarrassing?" While he does not technically blame his wife, he does throws her to the wolves. He plays the coward by mentioning his wife's sins. What does her affair have to do with his repentance?  Much like "apologies" from other church leaders and our politicians, it is damage control. It is not begging for repentance. It is not the cry of the tax collector, "Lord be merciful to me a sinner." It is the calculated move of man playing the celebrity game. He talks about his "heart wrenching storm." What about the sheep, brother? What about the sheep? What about the folks at Coral Ridge who stuck with you? What about your leaders who now have to spend hours and hours looking for new pastor all because you needed "comfort?" What about all the ministers who stood up for you and promoted you and sold your books? What about your denomination, the PCA? What about your children? What about Christ and His Name? What about using the term "adultery" instead of affair? Later Tullian tweeted "Welcome to the valley of the shadow of death...thank God grace reigns here." Really? He views himself as walking through the valley of the shadow of death instead of standing on the edge of a cliff? Again, I say what about the sheep? Not what about your Twitter followers or your image or your future ministry or your restoration or your doctrine of "inexhaustible grace", but what about the sheep, those whom you will give account for on the day of judgment (Hebrews 13:17)? Please give us something that shows true repentance and real concern for those you have hurt by your sin.

Pastors, we are being judged for our failure to love the flock. We have fallen in love with ourselves and the sound of our voice. We did not mean to of course, but we have. We are more politicians than pastors. We are more celebrity speakers than preachers. We long for books and conferences and tours. Faithfulness is only a means to becoming famous. I know there are many good pastors. I sit in their company from time to time. But all of us, famous or not, must kill the longing in our souls for the applause of men. We must resist the siren song of celebrityism. We must wage war against the desire to be known. We must hate pride. We must be accountable to good, but hard men who will ask the questions we don't want to hear. And we must continue to pray that God will destroy celebrity pastors and the culture which creates them and bring us back to our work; loving, shepherding, teaching, praying for, preaching to, and rebuking the sheep placed in our care. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day 25

Our church is reciting the appropriate section of the Heidelberg Catechism each Sunday. This past Sunday we did Lord's Day 25, which focuses on the Sacraments.

Q: 65. Since then we are made partakers of Christ and all his benefits by faith only, whence does this faith proceed?
A: From the Holy Spirit, who works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the gospel, and confirms it by the use of the sacraments.

Q: 66. What are the sacraments?
A: The sacraments are holy visible signs and seals, appointed of God for this end, that by the use thereof, he may the more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the gospel, that is, that he grants us freely the remission of sin, and life eternal, for the sake of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross.

Q: 67. Are both word and sacraments, then, ordained and appointed for this end, that they may direct our faith to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, as the only ground of our salvation?
A: Yes, indeed: for the Holy Spirit teaches us in the gospel, and assures us by the sacraments, that the whole of our salvation depends upon that one sacrifice of Christ which he offered for us on the cross.

Q: 68. How many sacraments has Christ instituted in the new covenant, or testament?
A: Two: namely, holy baptism, and the holy supper.

What are some things we can learn from these four questions? Kevin DeYoung in his book The Good News We Almost Forgot gives us four points. 
First, we are not saved by the sacraments, but by faith alone...The sacraments are means of grace only insofar as we receive by faith the gospel truths promised in the elements. 
Second, the Reformers agreed, against the Roman Catholic Church, that the number of sacraments instituted by Christ was only two: baptism and the Lord's supper.
Third, the Reformers agreed that the sacraments could in no way add to or repeat Christ's one sacrifice upon the cross.
Fourth, the sacraments are signs and seals...The sacraments do not create faith; rather they confirm it, make us understand the gospel promises more clearly and assure of us of our salvation...They are holy signs symbolizing  the spiritual realities of the gospel, and seals reminding us of God's sure promises.
DeYoung closes with this:
We often forget amidst the calls for sensory worship and appeals to visual learning styles that God has  already given us His own self-appointed means of using our senses in worship. He's given us the sacraments that we might see, smell, taste, and touch the same promises of the gospel we hear proclaimed in the preaching of the Word. 
And that is why we do the Lord's Supper every week.
Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8