28 September 2008

A Bit Lopsided

We're all lopsided or should I say, as Van Til does, we lean to one-sidedness in our spiritual lives and growth. We should be striving towards a biblical/spiritual balance. Here's a great quote on this from Van Til's An Introduction to Systematic Theology:

The unity and organic character of our personality demands that we have unified knowledge as the basis of our action. If we do not pay attention to the whole of biblical truth as a system, we become doctrinally one-sided, and doctrinal one-sidedness is bound to issue in spiritual one-sidedness. As human beings we are naturally inclined to be one-sided. One tends to be intellectualistic, another tends to be emotional, and still another tends to be activistic. One tends to be only prophetic, another only priest, and a third only king. We should be all these at once and in harmony. A study of systematic theology will help us to keep and develop our spiritual balance. It enables us to avoid paying attention only to that which, by virtue of our temperament, appeals to us (pg. 22, emphasis mine).

(HT: Miscellanies)

27 September 2008

Third Day - Revelation

Third Day's new album is quite good. I was rather let down with their last two studio endeavors but Revelation seems to be a return to their former style, sound and energy. Yeah, there’s been some whining about their appearance with the Pope last Spring but so be it. I’m not in agreement with joining the RC’s in cooperative works but Third Day playing for the Pope is not a big deal. Besides, it comports with their “come together” motif. Anyway, Take It All stands out to me as one of the better tunes on the album. Below are the lyrics and the tune is quite well done, too.

All the promises I've broken
All the times I've let you down
You've forgot them
But still I hold on to
the pain that makes me drown
Now I'm ready
To let it go
To give it away
Take it all
'Cause I can't take it any longer
All I have, I can't
make it on my own
Take the first, take the last
Take the good and take the rest
Here I am, all I have
Take it all
All the roads that lie before me
All the struggles I go through
Every second I'm reminded
That it all belongs to you
Now I'm ready
To let it go
To give it away
Ever since I died to myself
You gave a better life to me
I give you my finest moment
I give you the last breath I breathe
- Third Day

Third Day Revelation

24 September 2008

Grandpa For a Third Time

My third grandchild, Jackson Timothy Cooper, came into the world today. Praise God Mom and baby are doing well.

Westminster Wednesday #99

Q. 99. What rule hath God given for our direction in prayer?
A. The whole word of God is of use to direct us in prayer, but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called, The Lord's Prayer.

1. Do we need direction in prayer? Yes: For we know not what we should pray for as we ought, Rom. 8:26. Should we pray to God for direction? Yes: Lord, teach us to pray, Luke 11:1. Hath he given us direction in prayer? Yes: Take with you words, and turn to the Lord, Hos. 14:2.
2. Is the whole word of God of use to direct us. Yes: I will show thee that which is noted in the Scripture of truth, Dan. 10:21. compare 2 Chron. 9:23. Is the Lord's Prayer to be used as a directory for prayer? Yes: After this manner therefore pray ye, Matt. 6:9. And is it to be used as a form of prayer? Yes: When ye pray, say, Our Father, Luke 11:2
. - Matthew Henry

And from Thomas Watson:
Having gone over the chief grounds and fundamentals of religion, and enlarged upon the decalogue, or ten commandments, I shall speak now upon the Lord's prayer.

'After this manner therefore pray ye, Our Father which art in heaven hallowed,' &c:. Matt. 6: 9.

In this Scripture are two things observable: the introduction to the prayer, and the prayer itself.

The introduction to the Lord's prayer is, 'After this manner pray ye.' Our Lord Jesus, in these words, gave to his disciples and to us a directory for prayer. The ten commandments are the rule of our life, the creed is the sum of our faith, and the Lord's prayer is the pattern of our prayer. As God prescribed Moses a pattern of the tabernacle (Exod 25: 9), so Christ has here prescribed us a pattern of prayer. 'After this manner pray ye,' &c. The meaning is, let this be the rule and model according to which you frame your prayers. Ad hanc regulam preces nostras exigere necesse est [We ought to examine our prayers by this rule]. Calvin. Not that we are tied to the words of the Lord's prayer. Christ says not, 'After these words, pray ye;' but 'After this manner:' that is, let all your petitions agree and symbolise with the things contained in the Lord's prayer; and well may we make all our prayers consonant and agreeable to this prayer. Tertullian calls it, Breviarium totius evangelii, 'a breviary and compendium of the gospel,' it is like a heap of massive gold. The exactness of this prayer appears in the dignity of the Author. A piece of work has commendation from its artifices, and this prayer has commendation from its Author; it is the Lord's prayer. As the moral law was written with the finger of God, so this prayer was dropped from the lips of the Son of God. Non vex hominem sonat, est Deus [The voice is not that of a man, but that of God]. The exactness of the prayer appears in the excellence of the matter. It is 'as silver tried in a furnace, purified seven times.' Psa 12: 6. Never was prayer so admirably and curiously composed as this. As Solomon's Song, for its excellence is called the 'Song of songs,' so may this be well called the 'Prayer of prayers'. The matter of it is admirable, 1. For its comprehensiveness. It is short and pithy, Multum in parvo, a great deal said in a few words. It requires most art to draw the two globes curiously in a little map. This short prayer is a system or body of divinity. 2. For its clearness. It is plain and intelligible to every capacity. Clearness is the grace of speech. 3. For its completeness. It contains the chief things that we have to ask, or God has to bestow.

Use. Let us have a great esteem of the Lord's prayer; let it be the model and pattern of all our prayers. There is a double benefit arising from framing our petitions suitably to this prayer. Hereby error in prayer is prevented. It is not easy to write wrong after this copy; we cannot easily err when we have our pattern before us. Hereby mercies requested are obtained; for the apostle assures us that God will hear us when we pray 'according to his will.' 1 John 5: 14. And sure we pray according to his will when we pray according to the pattern he has set us. So much for the introduction to the Lord's prayer, 'After this manner pray ye.'

The prayer itself consists of three parts. 1. A Preface. 2. Petitions. 3. The Conclusion. The preface to the prayer includes, 'Our Father;' and, 'Which art in heaven.'

22 September 2008

Me or Thabiti, Whatchya Think?

Wow, Thabiti in a kilt. What can you say that he already hasn't? I think its time to vote. Who do ya think looks better in their kilt, me or Thabiti? His T4G lecture was outstanding but to see him in kilt, hhmmm, ok, yeah, its scary. I think I've got better knees, don't you?

20 September 2008

On Suffering

Over the last few months I’ve spent some considerable time studying suffering. We all go through it, some more, some less, and if we haven’t really suffered yet, we will. We experience it in many forms such as a losing a job, struggling with a spouse, disobedient children, a serious or even terminal illness. Our first inclination is escape. “Lord, I don’t want to go through this. Please take away the pain of ________.” We then spend time watching TV or delving into hobbies or anything that will distract us from the suffering. In one short post I cannot answer in detail what we should do when we suffer and how we should accomplish it but let me offer a few suggestions and some resources on this difficult issue.

First we should expect suffering to come our way. What does Scripture say? Let’s take a look: “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope”(Romans 5:3-4). Notice that sufferings here are assumed here. We can be “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” as Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 6:10. Moreover we find that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). But we must also remember that “this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” (2 Cor. 4:17-18). No doubt this is a difficult concept, John Piper accurately describes it as a paradox. We need to stop running from pain and suffering. Piper elaborates it this way, This design for the Christian life is so crucial that we should open our eyes to see how extensively the Bible speaks about it. Untold numbers of professing Christians waste their lives trying to escape the cost of love. They do not see that it is always worth it. There is more of God’s glory to be seen and savored through suffering than through self-serving escape. Paul puts it like this: “Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17). “Momentary” refers to a lifetime in comparison with eternity. “Slight” refers to suffering and death compared to the weight of everlasting joy in the presence of God. This is what we gain if hold fast to Christ. This is what we waste if we don’t. God designs that tribulations intensify our hope for the glory of God. Paul says in Romans 5:2 that we have access by faith into grace and “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Then he tells us in the next two verses how that hope is preserved and sweetened: “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (verses 3-4). This hope that grows and deepens and satisfies through suffering is the hope of verse 2, the “hope of the glory of God.” We were made to see and savor this glory. And God, in love, will use whatever trials are necessary to intensify our savoring of his glory. (Don’t Waste Your Life pgs 73-74.)

We are missing something God wants for us when we run from trials rather than stand and face them with Him. Therefore, we need to give thought to our trials. We need to embrace them knowing that our Lord has these things planned for us. We may never understand why on this side of glory we encounter the trials we do but faith kicks in to carry us ahead rather than running. I often recall a famous preacher/theologian who got terminal cancer. In his last sermon to his congregation he asked that if we really could change God’s plans, would we? That was a powerful statement that continues to echo in my mind.

So where do we start to get our heads around this? I suggest Don Carson’s book, How Long O Lord?. Carson directs us to start now developing a “theology of suffering” before serious suffering comes our way. His book is an excellent work but not for someone who may already be in the midst of suffering. For those already experiencing suffering I would suggest Piper’s book, When Darkness Will Not Lift? This work was written simply and one does not have to have a degree in theology to grasp the truth it contains. It will help those suffering profoundly. Another book from Desiring God is Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, Justin Taylor and John Piper Editors. A fine work from several contributors who have suffered and write as “fellow soldiers in the battle.” This also is not an academic work and can easily be absorbed and applied by the suffering believer. Don’t Waste Your Life has a chapter titled, Magnifying Christ Through Pain and Death that is extremely helpful. All of these can be downloaded for free from Desiring God.
You can also listen to John Piper’s address at this year’s Together for the Gospel convention. He spoke powerfully about suffering and going out of the camp, in other words, taking risks that can lead to suffering. Follow that up with the mp3 of the panel discussion where he elaborates further. I would argue, too, that we should read the Puritans. These guys knew suffering, the suffering that leads to joy. Don’t neglect them. Lastly, listen to great music. The folks at Sovereign Grace Music have a great CD for those suffering, titled Come Weary Saints.
As always, I’d like to your input.

18 September 2008


Ah my deare angrie Lord,
Since thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.
I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve:
And all my sowre-sweet dayes
I will lament, and love.
by George Herbert

17 September 2008

Westminster Wednesday #98

Q. 98. What is prayer? A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.

1. Is it every one's duty to pray? Yes: Men ought always to pray, Luke 18:1. Call a man be a good man who lives without prayer? No: Every one that is godly shall pray, Ps. 32:6. Are we to pray daily? Yes: Morning, and evening, and at noon, will I pray, Ps. 55:17. Are we to pray continually? Yes: Pray without ceasing, 1 Thess. 5:17. Are we to pray in secret? Yes Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and shut thy door, Matt. 6:6. Are we to pray when we are in affliction? Yes: Is any among you afflicted, let him pray, James 5:13.
2. Are we to pray to God only? Yes: for he only knows the hearts of all the children of men, 1 Kings 8:39. May we pray to departed saints to pray for us? No: for Abraham is ignorant of us, Isa. 63:16. Is prayer the soul's ascent to God? Yes: Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul, Ps. 25:1. Is it the soul's converse with God? Yes: Pour out your hearts before him, Ps. 62:8. Are we in prayer to ascribe glory to God? Yes: Give unto the Lord glory and strength, Ps. 96:7. And to ask mercy of God? Yes: Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find, Matt. 7:7.
3. Are we to pray to God for things agreeable to his will? Yes: If we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us, 1 John 5:14. Must we pray for pardoning mercy, and sanctifying grace? Yes: Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need, Heb. 4:16. Are God's promises to be the guide of our desires in prayer? Yes: Remember thy word unto thy servant, Ps. 114:49. And the ground of our faith? Yes: For I hope in thy word, ver. 81.
4. Must we pray in the name of Christ? Yes: Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, John 19:13. Relying on his righteousness alone? Yes: For we have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, Heb. 10:19. Must we pray in faith? Yes: Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering, Jam. 1:6. Depending on the assistance of the Holy Spirit? Yes: for the Spirit helpeth our infirmities, Rom. 8:26.
5. Must we in prayer make confession of sin? Yes: I prayed to the Lord my God, and made my confession, Dan. 9:4. And must we give thanks for mercies received? Yes: Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, Ps. 100:4.
6. Must we be constant in prayer? Yes: I gave myself unto prayer, Ps. 109:4. And humble in prayer? Yes: for we are but dust and ashes, Gen. 18:27. And earnest in prayer? Yes: Always labouring fervently in prayer, Col 4:12. Must we in sincerity set God before us in prayer? Yes: Let us draw near with a true heart, Heb. 10:22. Must we pray in charity? Yes: Lifting up pure hands without wrath, 1 Tim. 2:8.
7. Will God hear and accept those who thus pray to him? Yes: He never said to the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain, Isa. 45:19. But will the love of sin spoil the success of prayer Yes: If I regard iniquity in my heart, God will not hear me, Ps. 66:18.
- Matthew Henry

16 September 2008

More on the Blues

As a follow up to my last post I found, as you may have, that BTW has posted a brief interview with Stephen Nichols on his new book, Getting the Blues. Nichols gets to the heart of it when he states, You don’t have to listen long to hear the notes of suffering, but you do have to listen closely to hear the tune of salvation. Some of these bluesmen were preachers. I actually dedicate the book to Charley Patton. He went back and forth from pulpit to jook joint, the old blues bars dotting the Mississippi Delta. He spent the last few weeks of his life in a virtual non-stop preaching marathon, presumably making up for what he perceived to be lost time. Patton sang a blues called “You’re Gonna Need Somebody When You Die.” The somebody he was talking about was Christ. As he puts it in another song, “Jesus is a dying bed maker.” During that preaching marathon of his, in the days before he died, he often sang a simple little chorus in the midst of preaching:

Jesus is my God,

I know his name.
His name is all my trust.
He would not put my soul to shame,
Or let my hopes be lost.

Some of these blues singers also spoke of Jesus in life and not just at death. Before he was Thomas A. Dorsey, the king of gospel, he cut blues records as Barrelhouse Tom. I argue that without his roots in the blues, without his blues sense of things, we would never have “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”--perhaps the chief of Dorsey’s many fine gifts to the church.

Read the entire interview here.

13 September 2008

Around the Web in Sixty Seconds

A few notables from the web in the last few days:

I would dearly love to attend the Desiring God conference this year. As I'm not I'll be looking forward to the mp3's of each speaker. This year the topic is on the Power of Words. In particular, and not just because it is Driscoll delivering it, the power of harsh language. DG has put together several interviews with the speakers and BTW has listed and linked them here.

Speaking of the Desiring God folks, they have put out some fantastic Don't Waste Your Life t-shirts. My birthday is coming up shortly - I'm gonna start dropping hints.

Carl Trueman reports that Stephen Nichols' long awaited work on the blues, Getting the Blues, is now available. I've been looking forward to this for some time. Read a bit more at Brazos Press and Amazon has it a bit cheaper.

The Exiled Preacher reviews Carl Trueman's, John Owen; Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man here. I'm currently reading this and have found it an excellent and intense read.

10 September 2008

Westminster Wednesday #97

Q. 97. What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord's Supper? A. It is required of them who would worthily partake of the Lord's Supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord's body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience, lest coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.

That we may receive the supper of the Lord worthily, and that it may become efficacious: -
I. We must solemnly prepare ourselves before we come. We must not rush upon the ordinance rudely and irreverently, but come in due order. There was a great deal of preparation for the passover, and the sacrament comes in the room of it. 2 Chron 30:18, 19. This solemn preparation for the ordinance consists: -
[1] In examining ourselves. [2] In dressing our souls before we come, which is by washing in the water of repentance and by exciting the habit of grace into exercise. [3] In begging a blessing upon the ordinance.
[1] Solemn preparation for the sacrament consists in self-examination. 'But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat.' I Cor 11:28. It is not only a counsel, but a charge: 'Let him examine himself. ' As if a king should say, 'Let it be enacted.' These elements in the supper having been consecrated by Jesus Christ to a high mystery, represent his body and blood; therefore there must be preparation; and if preparation, there must be first self-examination. Let us be serious in examining ourselves, as our salvation depends upon it. We are curious in examining other things; we will not take gold till we examine it by the touchstone; we will not take land before we examine the title; and shall we not be as exact and curious in examining the state of our souls?
What is required for this self-examination?
There must be a solemn retirement of the soul. We must set ourselves apart, and retire for some time from all secular employment, that we may be more serious in the work. There is no casting up accounts in a crowd; nor can we examine ourselves when we are in a crowd of worldly business. We read, that a man who was in a journey might not come to the Passover, because his mind was full of secular cares, and his thoughts were taken up about his journey. Num 9:13. When we are upon self-examining work, we had not need to be in a hurry, or have any distracting thoughts, but to retire and lock ourselves up in our closets, that we may be more intent upon the work.
What is self-examination?
It is the setting up a court of conscience and keeping a register there that by a strict scrutiny a man may see how matters stand between Got and his soul. It is a spiritual inquisition, a heart-anatomy, whereby a man takes his heart in pieces, as a watch, and sees what is defective therein. It is a dialogue with one's self 'I commune with my own heart.' Psa 77:6. David called himself to account, and put interrogatories to his own heart. Self-examination is a critical enquiry or search. As the woman in the parable lighted a candle and searched for her lost groat, so conscience is the candle of the Lord. Luke 15:8. Search with this candle what thou can't find wrought by the Spirit in thee.
What is the rule by which we are to examine ourselves?
The rule or measure by which we must examine ourselves is the Holy Scripture. We must not make fancy, or the good opinion which others have of us, a rule to judge of ourselves. As the goldsmith brings his gold to the touchstone, so we must bring our hearts to a Scripture touchstone. 'To the law and to the testimony.' Isa 8:20. What says the word? Are we divorced from sin? Are we renewed by the Spirit? Let the word decide whether we are fit communicants or not. We judge of colours by the sun, so we must judge of the state of our souls by the sunlight of Scripture.
What are the principal reasons for self-examination before we approach the Lord's supper?
(1) It is a duty imposed: 'Let him examine himself.' The passover was not to be eaten raw. Exod 12:9. To come to such an ordinance slightly, without examination, is to come in an undue manner, and is like eating the passover raw.
(2) We must examine ourselves before we come, because it is not only a duty imposed, but opposed. There is nothing to which the heart is naturally more averse than self-examination. We may know that duty to be good which the heart opposes. But why does the heart so oppose it? Because it crosses the tide of corrupt nature, and is contrary to flesh and blood. The heart is guilty; and does a guilty person love to be examined? The heart opposes it; therefore the rather set upon it; for that duty is good which the heart opposes.
(3) Because self-examination is a needful work. Without it, a man can never tell how it is with him, whether he has grace or not; and this must needs be very uncomfortable. He knows not, if he should die presently what will become of him, to what coast he shall sail, whether to hell or heaven; as Socrates said, 'I am about to die, and the gods know whether I shall be happy or miserable.' How needful, therefore, is self-examination; that a man by search may know the true state of his soul, and how it will go with him to eternity!
Self-examination is needful, with respect to the excellence of the sacrament. Let him eat de illo pane, 'of that bread,' that excellent bread, that consecrated bread, that bread which is not only the bread of the Lord, but the bread the Lord. I Cor 11:28. Let him drink de illo poculo, 'of that cup;' that precious cup, which is perfumed and spiced with Christ's love; that cup which holds the blood of God sacramentally. Cleopatra put a jewel in a cup which contained the price of a kingdom: this sacred cup we are to drink of, enriched with the blood of God, is above the price of a kingdom; it is more worth than heaven. Therefore, coming to such a royal feast, having a whole Christ, both his divine and human nature to feed on, how should we examine ourselves beforehand, that we may be fit guests for such a magnificent banquet!
Self-examination is needful, because God will examine us. That was a sad question, 'Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment?' Matt 22:12. Men are loath to ask themselves the question, 'O my soul! art thou a fit guest for the Lord's table?' Are there not some sins thou hast to bewail? Are there not some evidences for heaven that thou hast to get?' Now, when persons will not ask themselves the question, then God will bring the question to them, How came you in hither to my table, not prepared? How came you in hither, with an unbelieving or profane heart? Such a question will cause a heart-trembling. God will examine a man, as the chief captain would Paul, with scourging. Acts 22:24. It is true that the best saint, if God should weigh him in the balance, would be found wanting: but, when a Christian has made an impartial search, and has laboured to deal uprightly between God and his own soul, Christ's merits will cast in some grains of allowance into the scales.
Self-examination is needful, because of secret corruption in the heart, which will not be found out without searching. There are in the heart plangendae tenebrae, Augustine, 'hidden pollutions.' It is with a Christian, as with Joseph's brethren, who, when the steward accused them of having the cup, were ready to swear they had it not; but upon search it was found in one of their sacks. Little does a Christian think what pride, atheism, uncleanness is in his heart till he searches it. If there be therefore such hidden wickedness, like a spring running under ground, we had need examine ourselves, that finding out our secret sin, we may be humbled and repent. Hidden sins, if not searched out, defile the soul. If corn lie long in the chaff, the chaff defiles the corn; so sins long hidden defile our duties. Needful therefore it is, before we come to the holy supper, to search out these hidden sins, as Israel searched for leaven before they came to the passover.
Self-examination is needful, because without it we may easily have a cheat put upon us. 'The heart is deceitful above all things.' Jer 17:9. Many a man's heart will tell him he is fit for the Lord's table. As when Christ asked the sons of Zebedee, 'Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?' Matt 20:22. Can ye drink such a bloody cup of suffering? 'They say unto him, We are able.' So the heart will suggest to a man, he is fit to drink of the sacramental cup, he has on the wedding-garment. Grande profundum est homo. Augustine. 'The heart is a grand impostor.' As a cheating tradesmen will put one off with bad wares, so the heart will put a man off with seeming grace, instead of saving. A tear or two shed is repentance, a few lazy desires are faith, just as blue and red flowers growing among corn, look like good flowers, but are beautiful weeds only. The foolish virgins' vessels looked as if they had oil in them, but they had none. Therefore, to prevent a cheat, that we may not take false grace instead of true, we had need make a thorough search of our hearts before we come to the Lord's table.

Self-examination is needful, because of the false fears which the godly are apt to nourish in their hearts, which make them go sad to the sacrament. As they who have no grace, for want of examining, presume, so they who have grace, for want of examining, are ready to despair. Many of God's children look upon themselves through the black spectacles of fear. They fear Christ is not formed in them, they fear they have no right to the promise; and these fears in the heart cause tears in the eye; whereas, would they but search and examine, they might find they had grace. Are not their hearts humbled for sin? What is this but the bruised reed? Do not they weep after the Lord? What are these tears but seeds of faith? Do they not thirst after Christ in an ordinance? What is this but the new creature crying for the breast? Here are, you see, seeds of grace; and, would Christians examine their hearts, they might see there is something of God in them, and so their false fears would be prevented, and they might approach with comfort to the holy mysteries in the Eucharist.
Self-examination is needful with respect to the danger of coming unworthily without it. He 'shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.' I Cor 11:27. Par facit quasi Christum trucidaret [It is as if he were butchering Christ]. Grotius. God reckons with him as with a crucifier of the Lord Jesus. He does not drink Christ's blood, but sheds it; and so brings that curse upon him, as when the Jews said, 'His blood be upon us and our children.' Than the virtue of Christ's blood, nothing is more comfortable; than the guilt of it, nothing is more formidable
. - Thomas Watson

08 September 2008

Should We Evangelize in Church?

This is a topic I’ve long thought about posting but why reinvent the wheel, right? Tony Payne has done a great job exposing the fallacies of why church gatherings (Lord’s Day Worship services) are not for evangelism. Sounds odd to many of you? Payne in just a few paragraphs lays out the truth of the matter and I commend him for it. I was raised in a church where virtually every service was evangelistic and to some degree that led to a season of apostasy my late teens and early twenties. I’m quite, possibly overly, sensitive to this subject. Many of my friends of youth left the church never to return. They were not taught the true principles of faith, worship, love and service to Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Instead, we were hammered, week after week, to be saved or to renew their commitment to Christ. It was and is so weak and ineffective it is nearly unfathomable to me why folks return to these churches week after week. What a revelation the Reformed faith was to me when I first began to learn its teachings in my early twenties. This is true Christianity I thought and I never looked back on that weak Arminianism I was raised on again. A worship service that has all the prescribed elements will be and is, by its very nature, evangelistic. There is no need to have an "evangelistic" service or alter calls or tent meetings. Our Father can use a proper sermon on any portion of Scripture to bring about his will. It is all so unnecessary and man-centered otherwise.

Payne writes, …even if we acknowledge that there will be ‘gospel’ things happening all over the place in church, it is also important to say that evangelism is not the purpose of Christian assemblies. It is certainly not their focus. In the New Testament, churches are characteristically the fruit of evangelism, not its agent. Evangelism usually takes place outside the assembly—in the marketplace, the synagogue, the prison, and in daily gospel conversation.
More to the point, theologically, the Christian assembly is a fellowship of the redeemed. It is a manifestation, as well as an anticipation or foretaste, of the great assembly that Christ is building—the assembly of the firstborn in heaven that will be revealed on the last Day (Heb 12:22-24). The purpose of our earthly assemblies, therefore, is to fellowship together in what we already share—our union with Christ—as we listen to and respond to him together, and build his assembly by the words we speak.

This runs counter to the common (although often unspoken) assumption that one of the main aims of a church gathering is to be attractive to non-Christians—to draw them in, to intrigue them, and to evangelize them. Perhaps it's a legacy of the parish model, where those attending the Sunday assembly were often not Christians at all, and evangelism consisted of preaching the gospel to them. Or perhaps it is the influence of the seeker-service model, where the main aim is to attract and win over unchurched Harry. Or maybe it's a bit of both.

There is an important difference, it seems to me, between running a Christian gathering whose focus is on evangelizing the outsider, and running a Christian gathering that is welcoming and intelligible for the outsider, but where the focus is on fellowship with Christ, in speaking, hearing and responding to his word.

Thanks, Tony for putting this into proper perspective for us all. Read the whole article here.


04 September 2008

Westminster Wednesday #96

Sorry, I'm a day late...Nevertheless we have a crucial question this week to consider...

Q. 96. What is the Lord’s supper? A. The Lord’s supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is skewed forth; and the worthy receivers are not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.

Q. 1. By whose authority is the Lord’s supper instituted and appointed? A. By the sovereign authority of Christ, the king of the church, and not by the pleasure of man; 1 Corinthians 11:23. For I have received of the Lord, that which also I delivered unto you; that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed , took bread.
Q. 2. Of what parts doth this sacrament consist? A. It consists of two parts; one earthly and visible, to wit, bread and wine; the other spiritual add invisible, the body and blood of Christ; 1 Corinthians 10:16. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
Q. 3. How doth these earthly and heavenly things become a sacrament? A. By the word of institution, and blessing coming from Christ upon them; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. For I have received of the Lord, that which also I delivered unto you; that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread. And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you: This do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also be took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the New Testament in my blood; This do ye, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
Q. 4. When did Christ ordain and institute this sacrament? A. He instituted it in the same night he was betrayed; 1 Corinthians 11:28. The Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread. It could not be sooner, because the passover must be first celebrated, and, by the institution of this, abrogated; not later, for soon after he was apprehended.
Q. 5. What doth the time of its institution teach us? A. It teaches us, how great Christ’s care and love to his people is, that he makes in his ordinance such provision for our comfort, though he knew his own bitter agony was just at hand.
Q. 6. What is the general use and end of this sacrament? A. It is to confirm, seal, and ratify the new covenant to believers; 1 Corinthians 11:35. This cup is the New Testament in my blood: This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
Q. 7. What are the particular ends and uses of it? A. The first particular end and use of it, is, to bring Christ and his sufferings afresh to our remembrance; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25. This do in remembrance of me.
Q. 8. What kind of remembrance of Christ is here intended? A. Not a mere speculative, but an affectionate heart-melting remembrance of him like that of Peter, Matthew 26:75. And Peter remembered the words of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock shall crow thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly. Or of Joseph, Genesis 43:29-30. And Joseph made haste, for his bowels did yern upon his brother: And he sought where to weep, and he entered into his chamber and wept there.
Q. 9. What doth this end of the sacrament imply? A. It implies this; that the best of God’s people are too apt to forget Christ1 and what he hath endured and suffered for them.
Q. 10. What else doth it imply? A. It implies this; that none but those that have the saving knowledge of Christ, and have had former acquaintance with Christ, are fit for this ordinance; for no man can remember what he never knew; 1 Corinthians 11:28. But let a man examine himself; and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
Q. 11. What is the second particular use and end of this sacrament? A. It is to represent Christ to believers, as an apt sign of him, and of his death; and that both memorative, significative, and instructive.
Q. 12. How is it a memorative sign of Christ? A. It brings Christ to our remembrance, as his death and bitter sufferings are therein represented to us, by the breaking of bread, and pouring forth of wine; 1 Corinthians 11:26. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew forth the Lord’s death till he come.
Q. 13. How is it a significative ordinance? A. It is a significative ordinance, not only as it represents Christ’s sufferings, but the believers union with him as the Head, and with each other as members of his body; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ; The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many, are one bread, and one body, &c.
Q. 14. In what respect is it an instructive sign? A. It is an instructive sign in divers respects; namely, first, as it teaches us, that Christ is the only nutritive bread, by which our souls live; John 6:51. 1 am the living bread, which came down from heaven: If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever, and the I read that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. And, secondly, as it instructs us, that the New Testament is now in its full force, by the death of Christ the Testator; Hebrews 9:16-17. For where a Testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the Testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead; otherwise it is of no force at all, whilst the Testator liveth. Thus much of the Author, nature, and ends of the Lord’s supper.
- John Flavel

03 September 2008

On Personality Cults...

Such fan bases, such personality cults, are nothing new. They afflicted the church in Corinth, and they have been an ever-present malady ever since. Psychologists could no doubt have a field day here. Transposition of filial affection to a surrogate parent figure, a desperate need to belong to a group: both of these can offer plausible, second-level explanations for such commitment and surely contain important truths. At root, however, the problem is even more serious: the Christian, biblical perspective has to be that what we see in such relationships is idolatry. The Bible is clear that idol worshipers take on the characteristics of their idols. Worship a dumb statue and you will become dumb (Ps. 115); we might add that, if you worship a professor or teacher or pastor, you will come to be like them, warts and all, and probably in an exaggerated way. That is why so many professorial disciples sound like cheap, lightweight versions of the original. They are basically idolaters and what you see in their lives and language is the inevitable result of their idolatry. - Carl Trueman.

Read the whole article here - well worth a read.