Saturday, May 30, 2015

Confessions on the Trinity

Tomorrow is Trinity Sunday. I will preaching on the Trinity. Here are the main confessions and their sections on the Trinity. 

Belgic Confession (Continental Reformed)
Article 8: The Trinity
In keeping with this truth and Word of God we believe in one God, who is one single essence, in whom there are three persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct according to their incommunicable properties-- namely, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is the cause, origin, and source of all things, visible as well as invisible.  The Son is the Word, the Wisdom, and the image of the Father. The Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son. Nevertheless, this distinction does not divide God into three, since Scripture teaches us that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each has his own subsistence distinguished by characteristics-- yet in such a way that these three persons are only one God.  It is evident then that the Father is not the Son and that the Son is not the Father, and that likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son.  Nevertheless, these persons, thus distinct, are neither divided nor fused or mixed together.  For the Father did not take on flesh, nor did the Spirit, but only the Son.  The Father was never without his Son, nor without his Holy Spirit, since all these are equal from eternity, in one and the same essence.  There is neither a first nor a last, for all three are one in truth and power, in goodness and mercy.
Thirty Nine Articles (Anglican)
Article I: Of faith in the Holy Trinity
There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Augsburg Confession (Lutheran)
Article I: Of God
Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting; that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called and which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and yet there are three Persons, of the same essence and power, who also are coeternal, the Father the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the term "person" they use as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not a part or quality in another, but that which subsists of itself.
They condemn all heresies which have sprung up against this article, as the Manichaeans, who assumed two principles, one Good and the other Evil- also the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Mohammedans, and all such. They condemn also the Samosatenes, old and new, who, contending that there is but one Person, sophistically and impiously argue that the Word and the Holy Ghost are not distinct Persons, but that "Word" signifies a spoken word, and "Spirit" signifies motion created in things.

Westminster Confession of Faith (English Reformed)
Article II:Of God and the Holy Trinity 
1. There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal, most just, and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.
2. God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them. He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever himself pleaseth. In his sight all things are open and manifest, his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to him contingent, or uncertain. He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands. To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience he is pleased to require of them.
3. In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: the Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Two For, Two Against


A church discipline situation became public last week that had been going on at The Village Church (TVC). Matt Chandler is the pastor of this mega-church. He is also the one who took over the Acts29 network when Mark Driscoll resigned.  As I read through the documents and various blog posts, I thought about how much pastoral wisdom is necessary to exercise church discipline and to make sure to push when necessary and lay off when necessary. I have sympathy for the wife who was betrayed in an awful manner by her one flesh partner. But I also have sympathy for the elders at Village Church who are trying to give a good account to the Lord for the sheep (Hebrews 13:17). 

Here is the timeline I cam up with from the articles at this site.   I went through and read everything I could find about the case.

A husband and wife, Jordan and Karen Root, were missionaries in Asia. They were supported by TVC and were members of TVC, but they were employed by Serving in Mission (SIM). In December the husband confessed to looking at child porn for several years. The couple was immediately taken off the mission field. SIM investigated the husband and reported back to TVC. Sometime in late January the wife filed for an annulment of her marriage without consulting the elders at TVC. This was a violation of her church membership vows. On February 11th Karen sent a letter to TVC requesting to be dropped from the membership rolls. TVC refused to do so because she had violated her membership vows. Then they put her under church discipline.

TVC  and SIM removed Jordan from leadership. TVC removed all of his financial support while agreeing to support Karen until August 31st. Restricted him from certain areas at church. He must check in and be chaperoned by an approved member of TVC while at church. They alerted all the proper civil authorities. They also told all places where Jordan worked what he had done.

The church body was kept up to date throughout the process, though some of the earlier emails were vague as to the exact sin Jordan had committed. In an email on May 23rd the elders informed the congregation that Karen was under church discipline for filing for annulment without consulting the elders. This week a furor arose over Karen's church discipline and yesterday Matt Chandler issued an apology letter and agreed to remove her from the membership rolls. 

In a situation like this there are many unknown facts. Therefore clarity, especially for an outsider, is hard to come by. But based on the documents I read, which are surely not everything, here are some thoughts. 

A Couple of Odd Things
Why were no charges pressed against the husband? In a May 23rd email Chandler says the FBI "investigation resulted in no charges being filed against Jordan." I have never heard of someone using child porn for years and not going to prison. Maybe he looked at images as a missionary and thus he was outside U.S. Jurisdiction. Also why did Karen chose annulment and not divorce? 

In Defense of Membership Vows
One complaint against TVC is that membership vows are unbiblical and create a situation that is ripe for abuse. Anytime someone makes a promise to someone else that promise can become a way for the powerful to abuse the weak. However, that does not make membership vows inherently wrong anymore than it makes marriage vows wrong. If a person joins any organization, much less covenants with other people, they expect to know what responsibilities they have and what obligations the organization has towards them. The church is the same way. What is required of me when I join a body? What obligations do the elders have towards me? This can be twisted and abused. Vows are only as good as the people making them. But members need to know what they are getting into. Too many people attend churches with no formal commitment to their local church. This is not healthy or biblical. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ten Quotes from Saved by Grace

Here are ten quotes from Herman Bavinck's book Saved by Grace. Some of these are longer than my typical quotes.
Grace comes to man, who does not will, in such a way that he does will. It works apart from us, apart from our consent, apart from our will, so that we will. 
Commenting on semi-Pelagianism, "Between its working and genuine believing such grace inserts the free will of man who accepts it and cooperates with it, but can also refuse and reject it."
Again commenting on semi-Pelagianism,"Not only do those whom God declared, according to His decree of absolute election, to be willing to save, receive grace sufficient unto faith and repentance, but also those who are not actually converted receive sufficient grace...according to the sentiment of the Remonstrants, all who live under the gospel receive or can receive grace sufficient unto faith and repentance. But whether they eventually believe and are converted depends upon human will."
How does it happen that whereas many harden themselves, others come to faith in Christ and find their redemption in Him...the cause of that, according to the teaching of Scripture, cannot lie in the individual. For by nature all people are alike. They are all born in unrighteousness and in sin their mothers conceived them...the cause thereof does not lie within the person. People do not differentiate themselves. God is the only one who makes distinction according to His good pleasure. He does so in this manner, namely that those whom He has chosen in Christ from eternity He calls effectually within history, enlightens their understanding by the Holy Spirit, penetrates their heart of hearts with effectual work of the same regenerating Spirit, opens the closed heart, infuses new capacities in the will and changes it from dead to living and from evil to good, so that like a good tree it can produce the fruits of good works. 
With regard to the fellowship of the sacraments, many are with the church who are nevertheless in reality not in the church. (emphasis Bavinck's)
Bavinck on the Roman Catholic connection between grace and the church: "God does not dispense His grace internally and secretly by the operation of the Holy Spirit. But He entrusts grace to the priest, who bestows it in the sacrament. For that reason there is no salvation outside the Church, that is to say, apart from the priest and apart from the sacrament."
The preparatory protocols leading to regeneration are actually not preparations unto, and even less a cause of, regeneration. For regeneration is a direct, almighty, and irresistible work of God under which a person remains entirely passive... a preparatory grace that in one or another respect qualifies a person for regeneration does not exist.
Within Old Testament preaching, therefore, these two elements are always bound with one another: holding firmly to the unity of the entire people [Israel] as people of God, while at the same time distinguishing within that one people between those who serve the Lord and those who do not serve the Lord.
 The operation of the Holy Spirit in regeneration is thus absolutely independent from the consent of the intellect or an act of free will. 
The Word is the effectual cause that, in God's hand and under the leading of the Holy Spirit, produces that for which it is designed and equipped.
And one:
And yet, this same Bible, which ascribes such great power to the Word, on the other hand teaches just as decisively and clearly that the Word alone is not sufficient, that it is but an instrument in the hand of the almighty God. Salvation, both in its acquisition and application is God's work and His alone.  

The Means of Grace Par Excellence

Here is Herman Bavinck on the difference between the way Roman Catholics and the Reformed explained the relationship between the Word of God and the Church.
Protestants construe the relationship between Scripture and the church entirely differently than Rome. According to the latter, the church proceeds Scripture, the church was not built upon Scripture, but Scripture proceeded forth from the church. Therefore, the church in terms of its essence and existence does not need Scripture, but Scripture needs the church for its origin, collection, preservation, and interpretation. The Reformation reversed that relationship by placing the church upon the foundation of Scripture and by exalting Scripture above the church. Not the church, but Scripture as the Word of God became the means of grace par excellence. Even the sacrament was subordinated to the Word and apart from the Word it has no meaning or power. (Saved by Grace, p. 79)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Right Worship and Faithful Children

What should our priorities be as we try to raise faithful children? Family worship? Christian education?  Our example? Praying for them? Spanking?
You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:4-6)
The Westminster Shorter Catechism says this about the 2nd Commandment
Q50: What is required in the Second Commandment? 
A50: The Second Commandment requires the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in His Word.
Here is the Heidelberg Catechism:
Q: 96. What does God require in the second commandment?
A: That we in no wise represent God by images, nor worship him in any other way than he has commanded in his word.
Here is a quote from Calvin's Catechism on the same commandment: 
149. Now to what end shall we refer this commandment?
With the first commandment, God declared that He alone, and no one beside Him, should be worshiped: so now He shows us the correct form of worship, in order that He may draw us away from all superstitions, and carnal ceremonies. 
The second commandment is not just about building golden calves. It is about the right worship of God. But what is the promise attached to this commandment? We often separate  "visiting the iniquity of the fathers..." from the 2nd commandment. While the curse in verse 5 and the blessing in 6 apply to all the commandments, we must not forget the immediate context. Here is my own paraphrase based on context:
I am a jealous God, therefore I will not give my glory to another (Isaiah 42:8). I must be worshiped as I have commanded. Fathers who refuse to worship me rightly will find that I curse their children. But fathers who worship me rightly will find I bless their children to a thousand generations.  
There are many questions that follow these verses. However, I want to focus on one fact; when fathers worship God according to his Word their children are blessed by the Lord. There are long books written on what God requires in worship. I can only briefly touch on what that means here. All that I list below is not equally serious nor does failure in one area make a church not a church or a person not a Christian. Everything below is not a direct violation of the 2nd Commandment. However, over time failure in these areas can have significant impact on a child's faith.

Right worship requires weekly gathering with the saints. Worshiping at home or by video is usually a mistake. This also means that if our children are going to learn to worship rightly then they should be in worship. Leaving them out of worship is not a grievous sin, but it is hard to see how children will mature in worship if they are in a separate room.

Right worship requires living in community outside of worship. Showing up for one hour on Sunday and then not seeing a fellow church member for seven days will leave you anemic.

Right worship requires confession of sin and pleading the shed blood of Christ to cover our sins. If worship is primarily about moral improvement then it cannot rightly be called worship. If worship requires something more than the shed blood of Christ to forgive sins then it is not true worship. We do not have to confess our sins every worship service. But it must be clear that the only reason we can worship God the Father is because we have repented of our sins by the power of the Spirit and rest upon Christ's sacrifice and his sacrifice alone to cleanse us.

Right worship requires the giving of tithes and offerings. If we do not give on Sundays then we are probably not giving Monday through Saturday.

Right worship requires congregational singing, which should include singing the Psalms.

Right worship requires the faithful preaching of God's Word.  Faithful preaching means that God's Word is considered the only infallible and authoritative source of faith and practice. The magisterium, the celebrity pastor, the legalistic traditions of the elders, and the local pastor's good ideas will not suffice. Also the pastor must be competent to unfold the meaning of God's Word and to apply that meaning to his congregation.

Right worship requires faithful men to lead in worship and in preaching. There are two components to this. They must be faithful in life and doctrine. Second, they must be men.

Right worship requires that there be no images set up that Christians pray to.

Right worship requires prayer. These prayers must be offered to God through the blood of Christ by the power of the Spirit and not to anyone else.

Right worship requires a joyful awe when we enter his presence. Sloppy worship that downplays the serious joy of entering God's throne room weakens the church. It might be true worship, but it is not strong worship.  Parents, we need to model and teach a Biblical view of worship. That means joy mingled with fear as we enter God's house.

Right worship requires the proper administration of the sacraments, baptism and the Lord's Supper. There is much I could say here, but I will postpone that for another blog post.

Right worship requires regenerate hearts.  Having all your body parts does not make you alive. You must be breathing. A church with all the right pieces can still be dead.  A man who takes his family to a church with all the right pieces can still be dead. We must have the Holy Spirit.

Do we want faithful children? Do we want children who are blessed by Father, Son, and Spirit? Do we want children who love God and love their neighbor? Do we want children who love the Scriptures and love God's people? Then there may be nothing more important than attending a church where the Lord is worshiped with reverence and awe. No church is perfect. We all have blind spots and flaws. But that does not mean all churches are equal. If the preaching is weak, the pastor is unfaithful, women lead, legalistic traditions trump Scripture, prayers are offered to Mary, sermons are moral improvement lessons, the Lord's Supper is absent, images are set up, or it is hard to tell the difference between your worship service and a movie then you may want to move on. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Are You Willing to Hear?

The end has come. Jerusalem is about to go down in flames. Babylon has already deported or killed thousands of Israelites. Israel, the nation of David and Solomon, is now a laughingstock. Jeremiah is the preacher of God’s word during this time of terror and fear.  Gedaliah, the governor the Babylonians installed, has been assassinated by Ishmael the son Nethaniah (II Kings 25:22-26).  The people in Israel are afraid that Babylon will now bring more vengeance upon them because of the killing of Gedaliah.

At this point in Israel’s history a group, led by Johanan the son of Kareah, approach Jeremiah the prophet. They wanted Jeremiah to ask the Lord if they should stay in Israel or go down to Egypt (Jeremiah 41:17, 42:1-6). They swear in Jeremiah 42:6 that whatever the answer is they will obey. So Jeremiah prays for ten days (Jer. 42:7) and comes back with the answer. They should stay in Israel. If they leave the Lord will follow them and bring with Him the sword, famine and pestilence (Jeremiah 42:17).  

They reject Jeremiah's answer. They hoped Jeremiah would sign off on what they had already decided to do, but he didn't. God sent back the wrong answer. In Jeremiah 43:2-3 they accuse Jeremiah of wanting them to stay in Israel so they might be captured by the Babylonians. They wanted to look holy. They went to the prophet with sincerity. "Please let us know the will of God. We will go wherever He commands and do whatever he asks." Yet, they were lying. They went down to Egypt anyway. They made the choice to go to Egypt because  in Egypt "we shall not see war or hear the sound of the trumpet or be hungry for bread, and we will dwell there." In other words, they went to Egypt because they thought things would be easier there. God swore he would destroy them for this choice (Jeremiah 44 & 46) and he did.

Four Lessons
First, you must enter corporate worship ready to hear God's word to you. Our desire to look holy, but not actually be holy is stronger than we imagine. We often attend worship and preaching not so God will rebuke us, drive us to repentance, and change us but so he will sign off on our lifestyle. We sit in the pews hoping God will confirm all of our beliefs and justify all our actions. We don't want the pastor to rebuke us. We want him to stroke us. Ask yourself, "Do I appreciate a pastor who gets under my skin?" Or "Do I appreciate a pastor who rebukes others, but lets me alone?" If it is the latter, then repentance is in order.

Second, you should privately read God's Word with an eye to how the Lord wants to change you. Often we read God's Word in order to change others. Are you reading it for your neighbor, for your child, for your spouse, for your community? If so, then your attitude is the same as the Israelites who came to Jeremiah. God's Word is there first for your sanctification. It is there to tell you go this way. Don't go that way. If you view God's Word as a tool to change others instead of God's scalpel in your own life then repentance is in order.

Third, are you ready for God's answers to your prayers? Some prayers we know he answers a certain way. When we confess our sins, he will forgive us. When we pray for sanctification, he will answer. But many of our prayers, we do not know how he will answer them. When we pray for a spouse or for a job or for healing or for the salvation of friend, we are not sure how God will answer. Do we pray, "Not my will, but your will be done?" Or do we pray as these people did, "My will be done or else?"

Finally, we refuse to hear God's Word because often obedience is hard. Johanan and his people wanted the ease and comfort of Egypt.  And so do we. Like Israel in her desire to return to Egypt instead of press on to the Promise Land (Exodus 17:3), like the soil with roots that cannot endure persecution (Matthew 13:21), and like Demas who loved this world (II Timothy 4:10), we often choose the comfort of disobedience over the hardship of obedience. But as this story suggests that is an illusion. Disobeying the Lord always ends in destruction. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Can God Justify Calvary?

Donald Macleod's book Christ Crucified has been a great read so far. The book is solid theologically, and Macleod's writing is clear, succinct, and powerful.  Here are two of my favorite quotes so far.
From a human point of view this emphasis on the cross [in the New Testament] is baffling. Every prudential consideration suggested that these first Christian preachers should divert attention from it as much as possible. To Jewish ears, the idea of a crucified Messiah was a contradiction in terms. To Gentiles, the claim that the salvation of the world had come through a crucified Jewish criminal was an absurdity. To both Jew and Gentile, the suggestion that death, particularly death on a  cross, could bring eternal life, was blasphemous idiocy; had the early church had a professional director of communications, he would have said, categorically, "We don't do the cross! Stay on message, and focus on his wonderful ethical teaching." 

It is the cross itself that requires a theodicy. How can God justify what he did at Calvary? What gave him the right to sacrifice his own Son? Only the doctrine of vicarious punishment can provide an answer. The sword falls at the precise point where justice located the sin of the world: in Jesus own body, on the tree. The sword falls here because it is right that it should fall here; and it is right because 'in my place condemned he stood.' Otherwise the cross is a black hole; an irrational evil, the act of a capricious or malevolent deity.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Coming Division Between Christ and Family

For many generations a convert to Christianity in the West (Europe & America) did not have to sacrifice much. The reason was Western Christendom. Most of society was built on Christian laws and operated under a Christian ethic. If someone went to a revival meeting and got saved they went out into a world, that for the most part, approved of their conversion and the actions that flowed from it.  If a preacher called a man to come to Christ, that repentance rarely meant that the man would lose his family or job for believing in Jesus.

In the coming years this will change. Conversion to Christ in the West will require more sacrifice. In particular, we will find families divided. There will be other types of loss, such as jobs and money, but nothing compares to being rejected by our family. Losing family is a deep wound. New Christians will no longer find themselves in a world that basically approves of them and their actions. Instead they will find themselves in the position of many Muslims who when they choose Christ lose all. Two Muslim brothers who came to Jesus described it this way:
Faith [in Jesus] often means the total rejection of culture, ethnicity, family, and friends. To find heaven's glory in Jesus Christ, we Caner brothers lost our father. (Islam Unveiled)
Another example is Rosaria Butterfield who was a lesbian professor at a major university when she came to Jesus. In the account of her conversion she notes that not only did she lose her friends, they felt betrayed by her. They put their trust in her. They counted on her to support them. When she came to Christ, they felt like she had stabbed them in the back. While this was not her biological family, the bonds she felt with these people were as strong as natural family bonds.

Stories like these will become more common as the years progress.  We will hear of sons being rejected by fathers and fathers rejected by sons. We will hear of children raised in homosexual homes converting to Christ and being rejected by their parents. We will hear of daughters being kicked out of homes for their faith in Christ. We will hear of Muslims rejecting family members for conversion, not in the Middle East, but here in America. We will hear of close knit groups who hate a member for leaving them and following Jesus. The possibilities are endless, but the probability of families, biological or otherwise, being divided by Christ is high.

How can the church prepare for this?

First, we must remind ourselves and tell those we evangelize that Jesus demands absolute loyalty. Family is not the highest good. Jesus is. You can gain your family and lose Jesus. You can hold to all sorts of wonderful family values, like the Mormons and the Muslims, and still burn in Hell. Jesus came to separate.
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:34-38)
Family is important, but it does not trump Jesus Christ.  If we give the impression that family is more important than Jesus people will not make the choice to follow Jesus with their whole heart. They will be divided. We must declare without apology, that if the choice is Jesus or family, Jesus must win.

Second, our churches must be a places where broken families come to be integrated into God's eternal family of brothers and sisters. Single mothers, divorced folks, people recovering from sodomy and abortion, the abused, the abuser, etc. when they trust in Christ and are baptized should find a place in our churches to serve and grow. Widows must be cared for and orphans must be adopted. If our churches cannot or will not bring in these people then we are saying biological family trumps God's family. That is a grievous sin and shows disloyalty to Jesus. Teaching this is not enough. Somehow, and it is not easy, we must create a tone, an atmosphere where broken families are welcome. Perhaps most important is to remember that we were broken (Titus 3:3) and outside of God's family (Ephesians 4:14-22), but God in his mercy has adopted us and saved us.

Third, we must maintain strong families, but not idolize them. A good Biblical home is a wonderful witness of God's grace to the watching world. We should teach and model what a good wife and husband looks like. We should teach parents to raise their children in the discipline and admonition of the Lord. We should encourage our young people to get married and have lots of children.  But all of this must be done, not as an end to itself, but as a way to glorified God and build his kingdom. If we build the family for the sake of the family then we have made the family an idol. And God destroys idols. But if we build our families so they might serve and build the church, including those who do not have families, then we are reflecting Biblical priorities.

Fourth, we should be grateful for the good relationships we have with non-Christian family members. For many, even though their family is not worshiping Jesus, they can still be friends. Of course, there is always a divide. No matter how much we love our family, if they do not trust in Christ there is chasm that cannot be crossed until they believe.  But God is kind. He gives common grace so we can enjoy their company and they our's despite their lack of faith.

Finally, we should be thankful when our biological family is Christian. My whole family believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. He could have made me choose between Christ and my family as many Christians around the world have done. But he didn't. God in his mercy has made my temporary, biological family part of my eternal, spiritual family.  The only proper response to this astonishing fact is gratitude.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Rising Valiantly Above the World's Reproaches

Reformed theology has often divided the work of Christ up into three different roles: prophet, priest, king. Here is John Calvin on the comfort which comes from understanding that Christ is king and that his kingship is permanent and heavenly, not temporary and earthly. This is from Calvin's Institutes Book II, Chapter XV.
Thus it is that we may patiently pass through this life with its misery, hunger, cold, contempt, reproaches, and other troubles-content with this one thing: that our King will never leave us destitute, but will provide for our needs until, our warfare ended, we are called to triumph. Such is the nature of his rule, that he shares with us all that he has received from the Father. Now he arms and equips us with his power, adorns us with his beauty and magnificence, enriches us with his wealth. These benefits, then, give us the fruitful occasion to glory, and also provide us with confidence to struggle fearlessly against the devil, sin, and death. Finally cloth with his righteousness, we can valiantly rise above all the world's reproaches; and just as he himself freely lavishes his gifts upon us, so may we, in return, bring forth fruit to his glory. 
What a great passage about Christ's preservation of his people, which allows us to fight to the end and give all the glory to Christ when the battle is finished.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Kevin DeYoung on Speaking to Different Groups About Sodomy

I enjoyed Kevin DeYoung's book, "What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality?" More needs to be said and studied, but the book is a good start for the average Christian who needs a primer on what the Bible teaches on homosexuality. One of the problems in conversations about sodomy is different groups require different tones. DeYoung addresses this in an appendix where he gives various ways of approaching different groups. I wish he had fleshed this out a bit more, maybe giving some examples from real life or some possible scenarios. Still it is helpful.
If we are speaking to cultural elites who despise us and our beliefs, we want to be bold and courageous. 
If we are speaking to strugglers who fight against same-sex attraction, we want to be patient and sympathetic. 
If we are speaking to sufferers who have been mistreated by the church, we want to be winsome and humble.
If we are speaking to shaky Christians who seem ready to compromise the faith for society's approval, we want to persuasive and persistent.
It we are speaking to those who are living as the Scriptures would not have them live, we want to be straightforward and earnest.
If we are speaking to belligerent Christians who hate or fear persons who identify as gay or lesbian, we want to be clear and corrective.  
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